MyWindsock shows my 6th windiest ride of all time…

With all of the surrounding stuff that has been going on in my world I have approached the 2023 cycling season with an unusual style.

After years of structure and planned training, my current commitments mean I am reverting to riding when I can at the intensity I want.

This won’t send the local club 10 timekeeper to the opticians when he stops his watch as I cross the line (“James did what time?!!!!“) but it will help get me beyond posting some of the challenging pieces about my dysfunctional relationship with the sport that have increased in volume during and post pandemic.

After not fancying the rain on Saturday and running 5k instead, I was determined to beat the 11.2mps wind on Sunday and just got on with it.

I clipped in to the pedals on the Ridley and trundled out of town into the teeth of the wind coming from the south-west.

Its about a 6km trek between villages which has very little hedge cover.

Fortunately for my legs and morale there is a right turn along the river bank with a rutted single carriageway road.

It broke the headwind a bit and also gave me time to ride down the sort of road that has grass growing down the middle and moss in the potholes. For a northern classics fan it felt a bit Roubaixish

Despite the gusting gale I promised myself I would not get stressed about cadence and speed and just knuckle down and enjoy it.

I crossed the main local ‘A’ road on a footbridge before a stiff cross wind into the village of Helpston.

This is a well known spot with most like bike racing and club runs either starting or finishing here.

Going anti-clockwise to the race routes I climbed up through the cover of trees onto the heath before heading back into the wind all the way to Castor.

The descent into the cobbled streets here was sketchy thanks to a buffeting gust or two that hit my right collar bone and send me towards the left gutter.

It was the sort of morning that any open gap in the hedging for a farm gate had to be approached with caution.

The good news about the direction of wind travel was that the climb back out of Castor was tail wind and despite winter bike, winter wheels and treaded tyres I managed to pull the bars tight and get up it out of the saddle.

I didn’t trouble the Strava KOM though.

As I headed back towards Helpston via Marholm I was left with the choice of cutting back towards the railway crossing and home… or.

Head back into the cold, icy wind towards the A47 road before cutting back to Barnack.

I took the second option and tacked along the twisty road to the most southerly point before getting a bit of wind assistance back towards the “Hills and Holes”. If you are not local, google it !

There was some relief as I climbed out onto Stamford Road and followed the line of the railway track back into Helpston and re-traced my steps to the foot bridge back into Glinton.

Once there it was a cross wind home. I just imagined I was in the 2015 Gent-Wevelgem!

So I might have only just managed 54km in the 2 hours (and 3 minutes) I was out, but it felt great to get up this morning and feel the tired legs. They feel like souvenirs of a morning in the gusty wind.

Roll on spring, for sure… but if I can get a few more rides in like this over the coming weeks the 2023 season might not be lost on me.

Returning to the virtual race track

2023 marks the third year I have been using the virtual Rouvy platform for online riding and racing.

In 2022 I rode their multi stage spring classics and Vuelta events. These were both individual time trials that you had a certain amount of days to complete the rides and their system would take your stage time and add it into an overall general classification.

Placings equalled prizes with kit and nutrition being given out or discounted for successful riders.

Both were brilliant and I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a 2023 classics event with Flanders, Wevelgem, Liege and the Amstel covered.

(hint, hint)

Saturday after what is becoming an annual festive bout of coronavirus, I peeked out of the curtains before declaring that I would be on the turbo and not out on the road.

As I powered up the laptop and started spinning my legs I saw a 9 minute countdown to a race up Alp D’Huez and immediately signed up. I was going all in…

The route downloaded quickly and for those of you who have been in Bourg D’Oisans for real starts just outside Seb Pizza!

The mix of real world video and CGI avatars makes Rouvy different from the likes of Zwift and RGT and the peloton was soon off and making its way out of town towards the Casino supermarket.

We hopped over the roundabout and past the camp site to the left turn that signals the start of the climb and the intense and steep drag to the first switchback.

I went way too hard here to try and keep up with the leaders and see some clear air off the front. My logic being that if I could lead for a few metres that would be success!

I didn’t make it and when the 8 and 9% gradients bit I found myself slipping back from the front as I tried to get into my groove.

Both times in real life I had ground up the climb in my smallest gear. For this I wanted to try and save that for later on if needed and ride a lower cadence and standing out of the saddle a bit more.

This was working well for about three turns and I was solid in the top 10 until a poorly timed gear shift saw my chain come off and a kink wrap itself into the rear mech.

I jumped off and watched in horror as some avatars zoomed past.

The chain went on before skipping off a second time and needed a bit of work to get it back on and running smoothly (I have now taken the bike off the turbo and given it a proper bit of TLC). It didn’t take the 20+ minutes of time I shipped to the race winner though, however much I might want to claim that.

Once I was back going and the adrenalin had died down I found a rhythm where I was about 70-80% of FTP but always felt I had a little something if needed.

A couple of riders zoomed past me and I passed a couple but I was always in my zone and in control of my ride.

Again with parallels to my real life ride I was able to pace myself into the final 4kms (from the dual carriageway and bus stop) into town and take a couple of places back.

My final position was 15th place which I would have, of course, taken at the start line.

You can see from my notes that I was a bit gutted about the chain but it was a brilliant start to the build up to on the road racing and I hope to report on some more events soon.

Thanks Rouvy for hosting.

Diegem – Classic racing under the lights…

The best racing of the year came with only hours to spare.

Floodlight cyclo-cross seems to be a thing nowadays, more so than ever.

Last night was festive fun at the highest level as the big three traded the lead before the final corner decided the outcome.

No spoilers from me.

But during the race Mathieu Van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock traded the lead through heavy mud and tough single track.

If you’ve not watched it, please get on GCN+ and enjoy…

Best race of the year?


Not right for Mathieu but it looks spectacular

Mathieu Van der Poel finished well down in the weekends cyclo-cross race in Val di Sole.

The so-called “snow cross” delivered a course packed with rock hard white stuff.

Van der Poel took a view that there was a bigger picture to his season and visibly eased off, just ensuring he got round in one piece, as opposed to racing at the pointy end.

After his Antwerp crash last weekend that looked a wise strategy. Eli Iserbyt crashing hard mid race and looking in real distress after being wrapped in a spectators coat before being carried away from the course.

There were positives though. Lots of super competitive racing and some amazing optics which shows the course in its full glory.

I think that the organisers will be looking for softer, more powdery snow in 2023 to avoid getting a reputation of having a course that’s a rider breaker.

Here is the on bike course recon ride that shows you just how slippy it was.

ProcyclingStats Favourite 15

Our friends at ProcyclingStats have given users of the site an additional feature to go alongside the mountain of data, quizzes and games on their website.

The favourite 15 gives you an opportunity to pick your favourite riders. Your picks will roll up to provide the top 500 riders of all time.

Full transparency… Here is my list above.

I am really happy with the list and think it reflects my love of the sport and of some of the key characters within it.

Naturally there is a bit of a bias towards British riders, based on my nationality. But there are some proper old school and hipster choices as well.

I am planning to explain the why is upcoming posts.

You can then decide if I was right to add Chiappucci at the expense of Miguel Indurain!!

Review – BZ Optics PHO bi-focal photochromic glasses

With a UK distributor local to myself in the fens, I have seen a fair few pairs of BZ Pho glasses doing the rounds and have been intrigued to try a pair out.

BZ are Australian by birth but with a interesting feature for those of us of a certain vintage or optical ability!

The test pair came in a neat pouch with the bi focal lens in my prescription. That’s right, there is a strip at the bottom of the lens which matches my reading glasses. Ideal for reading a Garmin, or as BZ also promote, reading the cafe stop menu.

It’s not great to have to admit that sometimes my eyesight isn’t perfect so to have bi-focal lenses in a pair of cycling specific frames is a brilliant innovation from BZ.

Throw in the fact that the glasses have photochromic lenses that adapt to the amount of natural light and we are looking at a really interesting product with features that outshine some of the other, bigger, established brands.

Would I say the double lens style fits in with 2022’s trend for massive cycling specs?

No, but that is no bad thing. Alternative doesn’t mean bad and the weight and performance of these glasses should put them on your radar… even without a shiny “O” on the arms.

What is clear is that performance wise the Pho’s do the trick. I have tested them in various states of light and had good success with seeing both my Garmin and the road without issue.

To go full on bi-focal and photochromic you will need just over £100 which isn’t a massive amount of money in the current cycling spectacles market.

BZ also offer loads of retro fit goodies like mirrored lenses and a darker photochromic option with bi-focal strips for high summer dual vision.

You can read more about the range and order by visiting their website here…

Cyclo cross Euros a joy to watch

Regular readers will know that the Namur cyclo cross course is one of my favourites.

Read my previous pieces on it by clicking here.

There is always drama and excitement on those cobbles and forested tracks. So when the 2022 European championships were revealed to be headed there I nodded in silent approval.

Without giving out spoilers the races delivered. Building nicely across the weekend to the Elite mens which was ran off under biblical rain leading to some comical moments. It also led to insane bike handling skills and incredible balance.

All under the watchful eye of a hillside castle and roman amphitheatre. Don’t let the Koppenberg or Koksijde know but I might be dumping them for another love.

I only wish the riders had been in trade team rather than national team kits. Just to see how Jens Adams Chocovit team kit (all white) coped.

(Note : Adams didn’t even ride in the Belgian kit being a late non-starter)

Whilst I think its fair to say that we are all watching the ‘cross awaiting messrs Van Aert, Van der Poel and Pidcock, these opening weeks of the season should not be dismissed.

The racing has been awesome.

Sunglasses remain my thing !

I first wrote a piece in 2020 on this website about how many pairs of cycling sunglasses I had bought in the 21st century to date.

Since then its been 5 pairs out and 4 pairs in the collection, with my Oakley obsession coming back to the fore.

Oakley Radarlock2022 (Gifted)
100% Speedcoupe (Maroon)2021 £20 (Ebay)2022 Ebay
Oakley M2 Prizm2020 £56 (Oakley sale)
Oakley Sutro2021 (Gifted)
Bloc Titan (4 lens system)2020 (£45 using 20% code)2021 Facebay
Bolle Vortex white 2019 (£10 Ebay)2021 Facebay
Bolle Vortex Red2019 (£10 Ebay2021 Facebay
Galibier Surveillance (Tortoiseshell)2019 (£35 full price)2022 Ebay
100% Speedcoupe (White)2019 (£40 using 60% off)2019 Facebay
Oakley Jawbreaker2017 (£100 deal Wiggle)
Oakley Radarlock XL 2015 (£45 Ebay)2019 Facebay
Nike Roadmachine2016 (£30) 2018 Facebay
Oakley Fastjacket L 2015 (£35 Ebay)2019 Facebay
BBB Select 2014 (£35 Wiggle) 2017 Ebay
BBB Adapt 2014 (£45 from Bristows Cycles)2017 Ebay
Oakley Jawbone2010 (free after Oakley website error)2012 Facebay
Oakley Radar 2008 (£120 Wiggle)2012 Facebay
Tifosi Q32004 (provided for product review)2008 Ebay

Its been some journey with a large number of brands and models (some twice!) playing the part of making me look more pro! (or as pro as I can look!).

when you think I have had 4 bikes that I have raced on in this same time period there is clearly something going on here. A psychologist might say I am hiding some inner guilt behind my eyes.

I reviewed the Galibier model on the site and was loathed to sell them to be honest. I just felt that as time went on they were less and less comfortable for riding in and were a bit of a luxury for off the bike wear.

I hope their new owner loves them as much as I did at the start and is getting lots of use out of them.

The Bolle pair of pairs was reviewed here. The brand remains dear to my heart but again it was a case of too many pairs and that they were better being sold so they get used. The buyer had two Sons riding a bit event so they were perfect for them and I was happy to sell.

8 of the pairs I have bought have been Oakley. Even though I still hear people saying that they aren’t as good as they were, the M2’s as the only new pair purchased have made a real impression.

It’s quite a list but in my defence a lot of them have been bought on a promotion or second hand… so I feel little guilt !

Enjoy this update and you never know, a new pair to review might soon be incoming.

To be continued…