Weekend treat…

This has been a hard week for a number of reasons I wont go into so it’s nice to get to Friday evening and a delicious beer.

Posy backdrop but the drink is great

I’d not tasted this Leffe winter beer before but I am really impressed by it.

There remains a snobbery about Leffe , especially in Belgium. But as an accessible beer with a taste that can transport you back to Flanders it hits the spot.

Brune and Blonde I will drink. On draught I prefer Ruby but this one beats them all.

Its crisp, yet fruity and puts me in the mind of much pricier and stronger bottles.

So whilst I love the rarer and smaller batch products that are harder to track down and costlier to drink, this weekend I appeal to you all to show love for Leffe…

It does a job. It’s a domestique rather than classics winner but as long as you understand that it wont disappoint.

Lockdown life week 4

A fourth week in and the struggle is real.

Cycling and cyclists appear to be split into two camps here in the UK.

You have the group that are getting out and about on their bikes for hours at a time and packing in the sort of mileage that means when racing recommences there will be strong results and personal bests.

I am in the other group. Riding 5 out of 7 rides on the turbo, either in the garden or in the garage for early morning sessions and only riding on the roads for about an hour. I call our group “The Distancers”. When racing comes back we will be a long way behind.

As I am still working in a key industry for helping the country keep operable, I feel a responsibility to stay as close to home as possible and take as fewer health risks as possible to ensure I can still do my job.

A rare outside trip

You only need to read the internet news sites to see that there is an element of hostility towards people on bikes at the moment. One of the Lincolnshire road deaths last week was an elderly cyclist less than a mile from my home. Somehow that has been spun in the media as stressed drivers struggling to drive and hitting pedestrians and cyclists, as if its not their fault.

I don’t want a war with motorists.

I read some of the more militant cycling websites with real despair that these keyboard warriors represent a group and transport type.

We are all just trying to make our way through this and get out the other end alive.

I even read forums where some cyclists were criticising “new” or “lapsed” riders returning to the road for not riding as they would like them to.

It makes “Cyclists” as a group look hostile, unfriendly and unwilling to compromise and play their part in a joined up transport structure.

A truck driver was interviewed about the local deaths in my county and said that he felt some cyclists were so self involved (paraphrasing) with a few willing to pull over if it was difficult for him to pass.

Of course the comments were all about why cyclists should have to pull over etc. etc.

Whilst I am by no means perfect or the best road companion all of the time I’d like to think that on a narrow road or track (and there are plenty of those in the fens) if a fast moving vehicle is approaching I would look to let it pass when its safe by slowing and pulling to the side or pulling over where possible.

I might get a wave of thanks, I might not. However rather than inconveniencing their journey for minutes and making them angry, I have slowed us both down for seconds before we can carry on our days. It might make their decision at the next roundabout more cyclist friendly should that arise.

Food for thought.

Staying at home a better option?

I am having a real wrestle with my conscience at the moment.

Whilst i know the UK government is happy to let people leave their house once a day for a recommended one hours exercise I am still spending most of my week on lockdown at home on the turbo trainer.

Surely this is a great opportunity for me to get out there on the open roads with little or no traffic and enjoy some mind cleansing solitude?

The truth however is that the first week of lockdown i snook the bike out of the garage and went for a half hour spin, just to do something different from virtual cycling under a roof.

But something felt wrong and I can’t put my finger wholly on what it was. Sure it was 6am and the roads were usually empty of cars, but there was something more going on here. Some of that was between my ears and my mind definitely played tricks on me, but this was different.

I usually meet a couple of food service trucks servicing the hotels and restaurants here in Market Deeping, but they weren’t there as their customers were closed. The bus stops were empty and as I got out of town it started to feel a little intimidating.

What if I fell now? What if I was by the roadside injured. No one would find me for hours on this evidence, and whilst I had no intention of riding hard enough to risk a crash, it played on my mind.

Also, even if I fell and someone was passing, what right did I have to take up ambulance time and a medical professional for something I had done pursuing a hobby?

So when I got back I settled down over a coffee and the bike went away.

It has been out a few times as I have found that by leaving a little while later there is more sign of life around the fens and I have a new route that skirts the town without being too far away from civilisation.

But I am still spending more time training at home and trying to do my bit to stop the spread of the disease.

I look at Strava and wonder what some other people are up to…

Virtual Flanders fills a gap

As Sunday afternoon viewing goes it was an interesting experiment seeing the RVV Lockdown edition.

The “race” followed the classic last hour of the race route that is used on a number of platforms. I have ridden it on Tacx and even my best effort shipped over 13 minutes to the lead rider yesterday!

I am blaming the resistance on my trainer being higher than the pros… maybe.

The Lockdown version of RVV was run on BKool for reference.

The event had a bit of technical difficulty getting off the line and there was a virtual rider from the organisers who was left on the start line and was just sat there throughout.

The first climb of the day saw Remco Evenepoel break away before hitting the main road to Oudenaarde at the top. As with the real thing the riders then turn left before getting back towards the main road to the Oude Kwaremont.

There is a nasty little road climb here through a forest and I remember struggling up it when I rode out there. In fact it was one of the points that Niki Terpstra put the hammer down in his Ronde winning ride, so there is a strategic element to its positioning.

Evenepoel faded here and was joined and then passed by Greg Van Avermaet, Nicholas Roche, Thomas De Gendt and Oliver Naessen.

Alberto Bettiol was part of this group before getting dropped on the lower slopes of the Kwaremont.

The group stayed clear on the climb and the resulting main road drag before heading off down to the Paterberg.

GvA got clear on the climb and was able to ride a’la Sagan and Bettiol on the flat and fast run in to the finish.

I have to say it was interesting in a strange sort of way despite some glitches in the graphics and the roadside not being wholly accurate of the Flemish countryside I wanted to see who won.

Its a worthy winner as well in Van Avermaet. I hope that he goes on to win a ‘real’ one before his career is over and that his CCC team survive their current plight.

Winter in four pictures…

As regular readers of this site will know I have been struggling with motivation and drive over the damp and flooded winter months.

So I thought it might be nice to put a few pictures up to show its not all been bad and that there have been miles pedalled.

Ahead of the 10th Anniversary of Yaxley Riders,James shows his kit off

Despite not living in my boyhood home town of Yaxley anymore I still like to represent the village God made (!) whenever I can.

The Autumn weather was good and it was brilliant to get out there and take in some sunshine.

Christmas haul

I was lucky enough to strike cycling gold this Christmas with a Shimano cassette for my new wheels and a Kwaremont team kit.

That climb holds both painful, sad and joyous memories for me and I can’t wait for a sunny warm day to get this kit out on the roads of Lincolnshire.

My rides have been eventful as this look back across Cradge Bank the other week shows.

I was struggling to get through to report the smoke cloud of both 999 and 101 (thanks to the Fenland phone signal). Fortunately many people managed to get a call connected and despite a building burning down, no one was hurt.

The beer in Holland has improved

I wasn’t expecting much from a trip to Amsterdam in late January, the beer having been pretty bad last time.

However the city has improved its offering considerably and these were a treat. Blink and you could have been in Ghent.

So there might be plenty of dark cold mornings on the turbo to come, but even with all the current storms battering us… I want to feel spring is coming.