A Tour of Cambridgeshire

It has been a very long while since my last post. I guess that I just don’t feel that the daily (?) commute and weekend rides are interesting enough?
However, yesterday, Sunday June 5th I did something special and almost unique for a non-pro rider. I completed the TOC Gran Fondo. This is a 129Km (we clocked around 85 miles) closed road UCI supported road race! Well, at least for those that entered the race category and top finishers in that classification automatically qualify for the UCI World amateur championships no less! And, for the rest of us… the exhilaration of riding amongst 8000 cyclists on completely closed roads with a chip timing number attached to the bike! Great.
After a cool and misty start to the day, by the time we set-off at 12:30 the sun had come out and it was warming up nicely. I was in the ‘Challenge’ grouping, which basically means that you are only interested in your own time and are not ‘competing’ We were the third group to set off after the Race and Sport groups but before the leisure group who were doing 50 miles. Immediately after setting off we were being cheered along by spectators at the side of the road and this was to continue throughout the day. I was very impressed by the way that local villagers etc. get behind this event, especially considering that most of them have the only road through the village closed from Midday to six or seven in the evening which effectively maroons them. They set out chairs and tables, get the food and drink sorted, and then make a day of it. We were cheered along, clapped, little ones were lining up for high-fives and so on. Brilliant!
The Cambridgeshire Fens are very, very flat so the pace was reasonable despite a head wind on occasion from the North East. There were a few ‘hills’ which were challenging enough for me but did add the bonus of the occasional downhill section where at one point I managed 34.5mph.
Overall it was a very pleasant day out on the bike with almost perfect riding weather, wonderful organisation and support which included police outriders, ambulances (which were necessary unfortunately for a few) and a broom wagon which thankfully we didn’t see.
It cost a little more than I would normally pay to ride my bike but was well worth it.
There were three well placed feed stations, although I did spend more time at the first one than intended due to losing touch with my riding partner who I thought was behind me but had actually gone ahead. Ah well, it was a rest stop at least.

A friend of Martin, who was the person riding with me, was in the race category (40 – 50 age group) and did actually qualify at 3 hours 40 mins.

My official chipped time was 6 hours 10 mins and 14 s! Not earth shattering but not bad for an old bloke who makes too many excuses for not riding his bike…
Ride details below:
https://connect.garmin.com/activity/embed/1199965633

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Another Year – another Christmas Eve

Well, it would appear that this Blog just gets worse each year!

I have just done a quick review and am horrified to note that I have only posted two times this year. I have been cycling, of course…  but once again, no multi day tour was completed.

As usual, work and life in general have been taking precedence and time has just slipped me by. Two sad losses in both my and the Head Gardener’s family and a lot of trips either abroad for work or to family at weekends etc. etc. etc….. I recently returned from a two week stint in Saudi which was ‘interesting’.

On the Sunday just gone, I finally went out for a CTC ride. Typically we did just under 30 miles and took all day about it, including two coffee stops and a Pub Lunch!  Hmmm….  well at least it was exercise and good company. My legs were convinced that it was more like 130 miles 🙂

Otherwise, much as last year, my cycling has mainly been the odd commute to work (fewer than there should have been) and getting out for the occasional 40 mile ride at the Weekend.

For next year I have been talked into entering the Tour of Cambridge Grand Fondo – this is just shy of 130Km and a closed road ‘event’.  The more serious entrants will be aiming for quick times and a possible qualification for the UCI amateur championships.  Personally I shall just be looking to finish!

Still, it should give me the impetus to train hard and get out doing progressively longer rides as early in the year as possible. There will be a group of us and it will be a whole new experience. I have in more recent times convinced myself that I am more of a ‘tourist’ than a ‘racer’ but after reading the latest tome from Joe Friel ‘Fast after 50’ it would seem that us aging cyclists need to ‘use it or lose it’ in a big way. Slowing down and taking it easy is apparently the wrong thing to do, instead we should be pushing harder to avoid muscle loss and expanding waist lines etc.  Easier said than done – but lets see. I can honestly say that I have noticed a creeping lack of energy on the bike and have definitely slowed down in the last decade. Joe Friel assures me that I cannot and should not view this as being inevitable but should rather fight it all the harder. Well…  I am not the most driven of characters but intend to give it a go.  I will be entering the Grand Fondo at the youngest end of the UCI category 60 – 65 age group, my big Six Oh being in July – so who knows?

Back in November, when out on a solo ride, I met a chap in his very late 70’s who was about to turn 80 as he told me, and he was flying up the hills and reckoned to get out two or three times a week to do 30 or 40 miles, sometimes more if ‘Her indoors’ would let him!  These are the people that inspire me most.  After recent events in my family, I know that to some extent life is a lottery and good health is not something to be taken for granted, however all being well, I hope to be cycling for another 20 years at least!

As for Touring – well, I would still like to do something in 2016 and perhaps I need to make a solid plan and book some days off work as soon as possible so that I have a concrete target to aim for rather than a vague desire.  It worked in 2012 and 2013 – so, although I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions, maybe 2016 will see me riding stronger and further than ever???

Finally, I dedicate this to my Brother Tim who sadly will not be planning a future having been taken by the Big C in November and also to his lovely Wife and family who have to carry on without him.

Live for today because tomorrow may never come.

So, to the fortunate ones; Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year to all (Not wanting to end on too  sad a note :))

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Midweek in Toronto

So… once again I am on my travels sans bike, working Monday to Friday in Toronto!  I did manage a quick ride out on Sunday morning as I was well aware that it would be my last chance for a week or so. I only did 25 miles but at least it was exercise and it was a lovely sunny day so would have been a crime to miss the opportunity.

Still no firm plans for a tour this year. Starting to become the norm which is definitely not good!  I think that a ride to the Welsh borders might be in order but I need to find a week or so when I can be off work and not doing something more pressing.

I put new tyres and brake blocks on the tourer a few weeks ago so am all set 🙂

Back to work now – home on Saturday complete with jet-lag 😦

Keep on truckin’

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Still here – just!

Look, it’s not that I am not cycling…  just that it is pretty samey at the moment and doesn’t seem worth writing about. I need to plan a longer trip sooner rather than later, it’s May for goodness sakes, almost half way through the Year!

Just read a post from Warren of the Sportswool Diaries… he and Esther are amazing, just setting off into the evening on a cool and damp Friday and spending the night bivvying in a local(ish) wood, which after their epic world tour might seem hardly worthwhile. But as Warren says, it is an adventure and the fact is that they get out and do it!!!

Ah well, I should be inspired I suppose – let’s wait and see…  My problem is that with work and family I can always find an excuse 😦  This weekend was spent clearing out the shed ready for replacing with a new one, half of the contents went to the local tip; amazing what we hoard over the years in that ‘might just need that one day’ sort of way – very worthwhile (the clear out) but now it’s back to work.

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The cold doesn’t bother me anywayeeee..

Why would one deliberately set out into a wet and cold December morning to do a Ten Mile hike? Well, if it’s Autumn in the Lake District, it can be well worth the effort and slight discomfort. Stunning Autumn colours on the Fells, all reflected in the lake water below, rainbows appearing every ten minutes and occasional blue skies and sunshine breaking through the clouds, along with good healthy exercise too. Beats working any day of the week 😜
Autumn Grasmere

Grasmere reflections

Rainbow on the fells

Reflections

A short break in the Lakes accompanied by the Head Gardener this weekend was the perfect way to spend a few days R&R. I hopefully got some good photos today but will have to wait until the SLR is plugged in at home before I can post any of them. Did about ten miles today all told, FRom Rydal (Badger Bar pub) to Grasmere village, following the lakes and the river. A Nosey around the shops followed by coffee and cake, and then a return journey back to Rydal and then onto Ambleside. Returning from Ambleside to the Badger Bar, we are now waiting for the restaurant to open at 6 pm… Starving!!!!!  This has got to be one of the best places to be in the entire World, even if it is cold and damp 😀

back home tomorrow and then back to work on Wednesday – Blah… 😢

Never mind, soon be Christmas.

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I feel oh so ashamed (with apologies to Peter Sellers)

Today I did the Harrold loop. Just shy of 40 miles and as enjoyable as ever. The weather today was ideal, for the time of year, sunny, not too cold, although tights and base layer were worn for the first time this side of Summer. The reason for feeling oh so ashamed?  This was the first ride of any kind (barring a couple of static bike sessions last weekend) for well over a Month!!!!!  No excuses, just laziness and a general malaise. Not sure why.  Tomorrow I will try to get on the bike to go to work. I have found too many reasons not to lately. I am slightly disappointed with this year in general ( bike wise) as in particular I didn’t do any actual tour of any kind. Not good for a blogger with cycle touring as the main theme, hmmmm…

Never mind, looking forward now, let’s just call it an ‘off period’.

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Canal walk – Grand Union Canal

Well, first things first, I am back to the commute today and not before time… tomorrow would have been a whole Month off the bike!!! Oh the shame 😦
Once again, work and other commitments got in the way and I was in Canada for the middle two weeks of the month of August, plus all of the messing around before jetting off and then the Jet lag on my return – even with the good weather, there has been no cycling.
To be fair I could have been a wheel on the Sunday just gone (31st) but I decided instead to give my new camera an outing – obviously this could have been done on the bike, but as I would be encumbered with camera bag, tripod etc. instead I went on a walk along the River Great Ouse and the Grand Union Canal, all of which is almost literally on my doorstep.
The river walk is lovely at this time of year and before very long it is very easy to forget just how close the M1, the A5 and the general busyness of life is and to get lost in the peace and quiet of the countryside.
As I had the camera with me, I was taking it slower than I normally would, even on foot and I scanned the area for likely shots. I found some Teasels (not sure what the correct plant name is) growing near a fence and tried to get some close up shots against the summer sky.

Taken on canal walk

Taken on canal walk

 

Along the river Great Ouse

Along the river Great Ouse

Further along the river is an Iron Trunk Aqueduct that carries the Grand Union canal over the river

On canal walk - river Great ouse

On canal walk – river Great ouse

Canal walk

Canal walk over the Iron Trunk Aqueduct

This is a busy time of year on the canal, even though Summer is almost a memory and the children are back at school, there are a large number of barges heading in both directions and a lot of folks out for a stroll on the canal path.

The early part of the day seemed to be undecided as to exactly what the weather should be like – with some darker clouds hovering and even a hint of rain in the air, however by the afternoon it was well and truly sunny and warm as I headed along to the canal locks and then on to the old bridge at Cosgrove.  The bridge looks ancient, seemingly medieval but was in fact built over the canal in the 1790’s by a landowner who insisted on Gothic beauty over the more standard utilitarian look favoured by the canal engineers..

Grand Union canal

Grand Union canal

Canal walk

Gothic style Bridge – Canal walk

At the locks the canal opens out into a turning pool and the local cattle make good use of the gentle slopes to get down from the fields and partake of the water.

Canal walk

Canal walk

The variety of designs to be found on the barges varies greatly from plain and simple to outright bling – often in the style that was popular in the heyday of barging for a living – Italianate views of imaginary castles, roses, and lots of colourful swirls and lines.

Canal walk

Canal walk – Barge detail

Canal Barge

Life on a barge – peace and quiet ???

All in all, it was a very pleasant day out and although not as energy sapping as a good 60 mile bike ride, I was still feeling exercised and was glad to get home and put my feet up before getting the Dinner on in time to greet the Head Gardener on her return from work.

Today (Tuesday) I am now looking forward to a ride home from work in the sun. Better make the most of it as the nights are definitely drawing in now.

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Thank goodness for sunny days and the CTC

After another period of relative inactivity on the bike, a mixture of work and family priorities and if I’m honest, a general malaise caused by that infuriating self perpetuating laziness that creeps up on you… I finally made it onto the weekly Sunday ride run by the local CTC.
The morning was bright and sunny and though a little cool to begin with it had a lot of promise. Just after 9-am I set off for the short two mile jaunt down to the start point in Stony Stratford. Given the promising weather it seemed odd that only a handful of riders turned up, perhaps they were all indoors watching the Commonwealth games cycle racing? As we stood chatting, (these rides never leave on time), we heard a sudden and very loud hissing sound as one of the group suffered a sudden deflation of his front tube! (ooer missus!) It appeared to be a defect in the area of the seam as there was no sign of an actual puncture. Following a quick running repair, we all set off in pursuit of the ride leaders, our resident tandem team, Mike and Pip.
Many of these rides follow well travelled routes but are none the worse for that and we headed out of Stony up towards Wolverton before turning left through Old Wolverton and out through Haversham. From there it was Hanslope, Ashton and a stop for Elevenses at the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne. After a short break for coffee and cake (it’s all about the cake!) we continued along the mainly quiet country roads via Whittlebury, Silverstone and eventually another stop for lunch at Castle Ashby, about half way at just over thirty miles.
Soup, a savoury cheese scone and a coffee later, we were back on the road, retracing our path for a mile or two before looping further south towards Buckingham, Stowe and eventually back through Deanshanger, Stony Stratford and home. A distance of just over sixty miles and a very good and enjoyable ride. Not a fast ride, just a great day out with enjoyable company and a great way to spend a Sunny Summer’s day.

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Sometimes retirement sounds really good!

International travel for work is really not conducive to a good cycling routine.
I am currently sitting in Pittsburgh airport waiting to fly to JFK and then back to Heathrow, then home. Having spent a busy week working it will be Lunchtime Saturday by the time I get home. I have tried to keep up with the TDF but it’s not easy out here….. Hopefully will catch up on Sunday.
I hear it has been very hot back home so hopefully I can get back to the commute next week as well.
Ah well at least it pays the bills!
Back to some sort of normality tomorrow.

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Walking in Welsh Wales

A week away from home and without the bike, however the Head Gardener and I are enjoying a short break in Sunny South Wales and this week will be mostly walking.
Most of Yesterday was taken up with the drive from Milton Keynes to Ferryside near Carmarthen. The nature of the route meant that we were mostly on the M4 motorway, but apart from the bottleneck that is the bridge over the River Severn, it was a very quiet run. We arrived around 5pm in glorious sunshine and after briefly settling in to our digs for the week, we headed off onto the nearby coastal path. This being the longest day, June 21st, we did not have any worries about time and daylight so had a very pleasant walk of around two hours that saw us spending a little time on Ferryside beach as well as covering some of the actual Welsh Coastal path. After returning to our cottage, we enjoyed a late al fresco dinner and a glass of wine whilst enjoying the evening air and the sun going down.
Today, Sunday, we headed out again after a leisurely breakfast onto the coastal path but this time in the opposite direction, roughly east towards Kidwelly. Once again the sun was up and the day was very warm. The Welsh Coastal path is not heavily trodden in these parts and neither is it overly ‘maintained’ which means that in places it can be rough and / or overgrown. This gives it a more ‘natural’ feel and you can debate on whether or not that is a good thing or not!
Another odd thing about this coastal path is that it doesn’t necessarily stick too close to the actual coastline, often crossing farmer’s fields and using farm tracks and country lanes. However, it’s undulating nature means that there are many views over towards the Sea and the estuaries that make up the area around Carmarthen bay. There isn’t much in the way of shade along the route, this being mostly over open countryside, so it was a great relief to first spend some time in the 12th / 14th Century church in Llansaint and then a little while later drop down into a small wooded valley that had a quiet little stream running through it. After climbing back out of the valley we crossed more fields before eventually meeting up with the road to Kidwelly. A narrow and twisting road, surprisingly busy for it’s size, we had to keep well to the side, stopping occasionally for passing cars, before after a half mile or so getting back to a ‘proper’ path. On the approach to the town the thing that stands out most is the imposing looking castle that sits on a hill above the town. We arrived around two hours after setting off having covered about five and a half miles or so and headed straight for the castle. We spent a good hour or more looking around what is a very interesting site, very complete with battlements and towers to be climbed and around eight hundred years of history, including the often turbulent changes of ownership and allegiances, this being Wales of course.
On the way out of the gate house, the only remaining section of the old town walls, we found a nice little coffee shop and so finally got to sit down for a while indulging in coffee along with delicious apple pie and ice cream before setting off once again for the return journey. The return trip was the exact reverse of the one we had made earlier, though none the worse for this. It is often the case on walks of this nature that you see views on the return leg that you didn’t see on the way out, and so it proved here. The views across to the coast were stunning in the still bright but steadily lowering sunshine and another odd effect that we often notice; the return route seemed a lot shorter and quicker, yet in reality it was the exact same distance and was covered in just under two hours, so much the same as the outward journey.
We were pretty weary on our return after spending what had been the best part of seven hours out in the hot sun and only sitting down once during the coffee break, so were glad to finally kick off the walking shoes and head indoors for a cooling bath and a well earned supper.
A fantastic day out and a good start to our holiday. Tomorrow we head for Pendine beach, famous for it’s D Day landing training preparations during WWII and also the scene of many a land speed record attempt. We will most likely spend time walking the seven mile long beach as well as visiting the land speed museum where apparently there are some amazing examples of actual cars used, including one that remained buried in the sands for many years after a failed and deadly attempt.
Feeling that good tired feeling that you get after a day of exercise out in the open air, and have just watched a gorgeous sunset, so off to bed now. Need to rest for tomorrow! I took a number of ‘photos on my ‘good’ camera (SLR), but also got one or two on the iPhone. These have yet to be Synced to the ‘cloud’ on my photo stream but I will possibly add them here later once they appear!

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