Enjoy it for what it is…

Cycling has been in the headlines again this week with safety at domestic level events being scrutinised after some bad accidents.

You can have the best race organisers in the world briefing the riders, have the course well marshalled and put up brilliant signage. However, if you don’t have the buy-in from other road users then you are done for.

I used to ride some events in the lanes south of Peterborough. They were roads that I trained on week after week without any other traffic. On race day there was always horses on the course and there was always some words and drama.

I asked someone I met who rode both horse and bike and they confirmed my fear that the riders came out when they saw the “Cycle Race in Progress” signs as an attempt to make a big deal and get cycling cancelled.

During lockdown one of the pubs on our local course killed off their car park to have more outdoor seating (as you could meet outdoors socially). It has proved so popular that they haven’t changed it back meaning time trialists having to hurtle towards the busiest t-junction on the course passing parked cars.

It has made the course a lot more tricky as a result.

The amount of traffic seems to be increasing again and again and I look back on my time riding dual carriage way Saturday afternoon time trials as an age that will never be back.

I wouldn’t even think about riding dual carriage way nowadays.

I think and plan any riding on A roads and only use them when absolutely necessary.

But… is my cycling relationship more negative as a result?

I am going to venture no.

This lunchtime I clipped in and after 4 minutes through the centre of town was out on the country lanes with a smile on my face… despite a howling cross wind.

On the single track I had to stop for a dog on a long lead and a walker who didn’t hear me coming but it didn’t bother me. I was out in the fresh air enjoying spring time and some miles.

Maybe its the evolution of my cycling career that makes me feel like a good ride doesn’t have to be arguing with traffic or belting down roads that probably are a bit too busy for me to cut loose.

But I feel a better rider and human as a result.

(Waits for tomorrow when I end up arguing with a driver now)

Is there too much tinkering with time trials?

It’s been a week of time trial musings for me, culminating in this post.

I watched the revised Paris-Nice time trial with a keen eye. It was really enjoyable to see how the tactics evolved and rather than weaker teams being handicapped by having to get four riders from gun to tape, they could ride it like a team sprint on the track.

What it also did was stop a dominant TTT team from monopolising the GC top 10.

Think Jumbo in an event where Primoz Roglic, Wout Van Aert, Jonas Vingegaad and Christophe Laporte could have taken the top 4 places in a race with an early shared race against the watch.

This changes that emphasis and I think (despite the domination of Tadej Pogacar) it made the race more interesting.

Would David Gaudu have been so influential in the latter days of the race had he shipped a minute in the time trial? probably not.

So its a positive and a big tick from me.

At a slightly different level to the World Tour (although in my view not much!) my own club started their seasonal calendar with a come and try it road bike 10.

We do operate on a sporting course (one for the older folk there) so with only a couple of straights there is limited impact a top time trialling rig can provide. But a look at the spread of times over a season its still enough.

This event saw juniors, seniors and masters take part with a decent spread of times but a close finish and narrower time spread over the podium.

(Picture from Fenland Clarion cc social media)

For me it was the chance to get that restored Bianchi into competition and despite its age it performed brilliantly under the stress of a block headwind on the 2nd quarter of the event.

What was great though was that the legs decided the result. And whilst to be fair, the same people topped the leader board as would have done if tt bikes were allowed, there was a real purity to this and it felt more competitive.

(Could just be my perception of course)

I am looking forward to having another crack in a couple of weeks where hopefully the wind will have died down a bit and the road might be dryer.

So in answer to the question “Is there too much tinkering with time trials”?

So far in 2023, for me the answer is definitely not.

The changes have been enhancements.

A labour of love completed…

Regular readers will know I have been pontificating about the need for a new bike.

The main target for replacement was my old Bianchi. You can read about that here .

However I made the choice of restoration and repair over chuck and buy new. It feels great.

I first raced the bike back in 2009 as you can see from the picture of my sprint finish down Peterborough Bridge Street in the Tour Series local support event.

Elsewhere that spring I rode the first Rutland CiCLE Classic sportive (below pictured trying to get up Neville Holt in Leicestershire) and found that I had a bike that was perfect for me.

The years went by and other machines came and went. The Bianchi with all its Italian elegance and beautiful components was relegated to the turbo trainer and almost… a skip.

I am so glad I had second thoughts and thanks to a number of people (most notably Bristows Cycles of Peterborough) and a lot of hard work across the winter I am now back on the bike and loving every minute.

I am even going to enter some local early season events on it.

Raced first in 2009 and then re-born in 2023. Its a great story.

That bike has been with me for 3 house moves, 1 wedding, 2 child births and 3 jobs… And we are still going strong as you can see below…


FRAME – Bianchi Nirone alloy2009

GROUPSET – Campagnolo

WHEELS – Campagnolo

FINISHING KIT – FSA cranks and Prologo saddle

One hit with little wonder…

It’s a very different me who is sitting down to evaluate my 2022 cycling season. Read my personal 2021 review here.

Work, travel and things opening back up post covid 19 mean that I have attached a number to my jersey and bike only once in the whole year.

That’s still a bigger total than some campaigns when I had tiny children or was moving house. But’s its still less than both of the lockdown seasons where I at least managed to get five or six socially distanced club 10s in (see below in April 2021)

The training has been the same, if not harder and better. But the time to make it just 6 miles down the road to join up with Fenland Clarion on a Wednesday just hasn’t been there.

That might change in 2023. We will just have to see.

The positive news for this year came back in May.

Knowing that my midweek trips to Leeds would last most if not all of the midweek racing season I took the plunge and entered the ‘Rutland Border Epique’ sportive.

This is neither the time, nor the place, to debate the definition of sportive. For me though its a mass participation timed event.

So for some the time matters and, like me on the day, riders will look to get around the course as quickly as possible.

That I did, as you can see from the picture above closing in on the 100km mark.

Rutland is not terrain you can just go hard at from the first metre although I sure as hell tried. The suffering you can see above is the manifestation of that after over three and a quarter hours in the saddle.

I loved it though. It was a proper days riding in proper hills and with great riders round me pushing my level up.

I blew spectacularly on a 20% climb just after this picture was taken and coasted in (but with the 11th fastest time ;0) ) before heading home for a well earned pint of something Belgian.

I have written on my website in the past about how my riding should be best targeted. This is the chart that I keep coming back to..

Ride what you want when you want and somewhere in the middle of the mix you will find your cycling self!

So in short 2022…

Weather – Glorious

Riding – Brilliant and challenging

Competitive events- not enough but the one I did was great

Outlook – More time trials and sportives to come

Can’t wait.

“The climbs were harder than you’d think and longer than you’d hoped”…

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and after spluttering into the mic of the friendly chap on the finish line about how most Clarion clubs share the red black and yellow colour scheme, I rode away wishing I had something profound that I could have said.

Something, that after the Rutland Border Epique could drift on the strongish wind over the nearby market in Melton Mowbray to get shoppers to stop and think “he sounds clever“.

I have thought of those words and they are the post title.

Apologies that I have been so tired that it’s taken me until the following Thursday for them to come to me though.

But now the quote has formed in my mind… how apt it is.

I know Southern Rutland well especially the area near Oakham and the south shore of the lake which are regular roads for me to shred my legs on.

This event intrigued me as it started in Melton Mowbray before heading north towards Nottingham ahead of a right turn towards Belvoir castle and Grantham. The route then headed into the stiff southerly back to Oakham before a sting in the tail heading back north to the finish.

The final hour came with its challenges

After being part of a decent hard working group from the start, I hung back behind a car and a big group on the way up to Belvoir. I got back on during the descent, but there were a couple of riders missing having headed off up the road.

I formed an alliance with new riding buddy for the day Paul lasted over the lumps and bumps ahead of the feed. But that last 8kms before refreshment had me struggling and despite thinking I should stick with someone as long as possible, I urged him to go ahead and not wait for me.

Due to a bit of traffic and a motorcycle club run I managed to miss the feed and found myself pressing on towards Cottesmore and Greetham alone and with the wind really starting to punish my legs.

The sight of my wife and kids cheering me on from a layby got me back towards Oakham and then the dream scenario of a tail wind started to come to fruition.

But I guessed that the toughest climbs were to come when we arrived in Wymondham and took in the sharp steep drag past the bike shop and up towards the Colsterworth – Melton Road.

The family had made it across to that point but could see that I was fading fast with 80km in my legs (in one ride for the first time since 2016).

I plugged away on the last couple of climbs unzipping my jersey and snatching off my arm warmers. But I was literally and in the cycling sense cooked.

A couple of riders came flying past, Paul included after a sugar filled cake stop, but I wasn’t in a position to tag on to any trains.

Even the downhill back into town and the finish in Melton was now back against the wind so I just hung in and made it to the line as best I could.

My mind was scrambled and my legs like jelly. That explains my boring chat to the finish commentator, I suppose.

What I have to say is that this was a first class event. Brilliantly organised and marshalled. I saw no trouble from horse riders or motorists, some achievement with the start and finish in the centre of a busy town on market day.

I will be back in 2023 with hopefully more adequate climbing legs and a time to beat.

The raw detail and a new pb for relative effort !

Fenland Clarion Velogames league

Not sure if there is much interest in fantasy cycling games but I just joined the Velogames classics one. Really easy to join but hard to pick a pick within budget.

I am hoping this line up will get me from Strade to Liege without having to make transfers.

I have started a FCCC league so feel free to join in..

https://www.velogames.com/ < to register

League code to join is 140233727

Going round again…

2022 sees my 31st season as a cyclist commencing.

I would love to say I am going into it with confidence and clear objectives in mind but after Christmas Covid and a February knee injury I am not.

Throw in the country opening up and the chance to ride out to local events after work being impinged by commuting in the car and it feels like 2022 will be a ‘grab it whilst you can‘ type season for me.

One thing that is certain is my signing up with Fenland Clarion CC once again.

My time with the club has seen me a rider, committee member, social secretary, website editor and the clubs stash of stock kit is currently in the base of my wardrobe.

Despite some dalliances with other clubs and teams (Peterborough CC/I-Team-Wheel2Wheel/St Ives CC-Plastribution) over the years, mainly based on geography, I have been either 1st or 2nd claim with Clarion since 2004, and before that a spell in both the early and late 1990s.

It’s not a case of “why change a winning formula“, as I don’t really ever win.

It’s more feeling comfortable in my surroundings and with my club mates that ups my participating and brings that element of competitiveness to my riding.

picture by Lisa Jan – Ketton October 2021

Our level is always friendly and we have an environment that is always encouraging. I am 47 now so my chances of turning pro are now receding (!) so I think I will be in the yellow, red and black for the duration now.

As for aims and objectives. I am writing this looking at my data from a weekend of tough riding, and I am not close to where I was at this time last year. It might be that my focus changes to a couple of key sportives this summer and I have a go at getting prepared properly to ride them, despite my current high octane lifestyle.

Whatever way I go, I will be posting about it on here during the year.

Have a great season.

To buy or not to buy?

As a result of looking to sell my carbon aero TT bike (check Facebay for more details if you are looking) there is a chance I might be going out to market to look for a new bike.

As I close in on 50 years of age an aggressive racing machine is nice, but not essential. So I have been looking at a number of potential machines in alloy and around the £1000-£1500 mark.

A diverge E5 or Trek Domane al3 are in the frame.

However… I now have a new plan.

2009 Tour Series local club support race in Peterborough, England.

This wonderful Bianchi via Nirone cost me £550 in 2009 and has been with me to France and Spain before then being dumped on a turbo as more shiny bikes came into my life.

But now I am looking at it as a potential restoration project.

Its a wonderfully comfortable and responsive frame in the only colour I think Bianchi should sell bikes in, celeste.

The crankset is FSA but the rest of the components are Campagnolo, and people don’t say that enough nowadays.

I have no issue with Shimano, nor Sram. But there is something about a bike with Campag that automatically makes it feel like a classic.

So what should I do readers?

Should I sell this bike on in its hour of need, along with the TT bike to fund a new steed?

Or should I take the proceeds from when I sell the carbon fibre machine and invest it in some new wheels, new headset, saddle and other upgrades around the Bianchi frameset?

In my mind I already know what I should do!

Let’s see what happens!

30th Anniversary season in the can

Thanks to Lisa Jane for the image.

This season has been a lot about resilience and making the best of the time and opportunities to ride my bike.

There has been ill health in the family, along with uncertainty and anxiety about opening up and going back into offices and schools across the whole household.

This is still an ongoing situation so the chance to finish work in my bedroom/office and ride out to a club event at the start of April was a real relief.

It didn’t matter so much that we were all still having to distance and not mingle before or after the event. The key thing in those early weeks were the single digit temperatures which made the racing tough and the ride home in the dark chilly at best.

My tradition after riding a club 10 is a midweek pizza and beer to celebrate and this has been respected in 2021 and become a really key part of our life.

It was great to be up and running and despite not really looking like I was going to make inroads into my personal bests the training felt good.

As we moved into the summer the easing of lockdown, if anything decreased the level of certainty I had about stuff and the arrival of coach Darren Kelly in my corner was much needed.

He was able to provide me with direction and structure in my training which added an element of cross fitness with some running sessions. I was already playing rugby as well which we were able to keep in the diary.

Having some goals and long term targets in my mind made the work hard but enjoyable and knowing that someone has taken the time to plan the training session you are doing made it much easier to get out and push myself.

I am still working with heart rate and not power so there will be a limit to how far I can go, but we are not there yet. Not by a long way.

As the summer progressed there were a number of interruptions to my season. I started to travel to Yorkshire from Lincolnshire for work and road closures on our time trial course saw some cancellations.

It made the events that were on more of an occasion including an open 10 mile time trial south of Peterborough on the roads I grew up riding and had ridden and trained on from my teenage years. I always feel special riding over there and this hot and sunny day was no different.

As the season drew to its close a sheared bolt on my tt bars caused me some issues on a tough night on our back up course, but I put that behind me before riding the last event all out.

The time wasn’t quite where I wanted it but as I put my lights on and rode home there was a certain sense of satisfaction at a season well ridden. As with all members of our club it had been about resilience, dedication and adaptability. Mentally it had been a lot tougher than I’d anticipated when going through it all. But now I can look forward to a cycling future and what it holds.

How would I view year 30 against year 1?

Well I won a lot more medals in my first year than this one, but cycling has for a long time been more about what I can put in rather than what I take out, so I am pretty Zen about that.

My original plan had been to knock it all on the head when I turn 50, but let’s see.

I will write a post looking back over the last 3 decades at some point soon. Its all processing and formulating in my mind at the moment.

Until then, enjoy the end of the road season and stay safe across the winter.

My 30 year relationship with the midweek club 10

Wednesday night was a real landmark occasion for me.

It concluded the season of local club time trials that came 30 years after my first.
This season ended with cold weather which was very much in keeping with how the series started back in April.

Back in 1991 I was a teenager on a Dawes with some bright yellow Scott TT bars that my hero Greg LeMond used.

My hair was long and under my Bolle glasses was a young kid trying to find his way in a tough, unforgiving, grown ups sport.

The Bluebell series is a local cycling institution. It has run in this format for decades with a name evoking the early season flowers that add a blanket of colour to the heath which the race both starts and finishes on.

My first time was 30:08. No-where near the first page of the results I seem to remember but it was a start point and benchmark for my 10-mile career. The next week I was 2 minutes faster and with the handicapping system managed to build a healthy series lead across that summer.

I seem to remember the weather being warm and sunny every Wednesday evening of the series and I was comfortably in the 26s before the final round.

It was mentioned in the local paper and I was super nervous.

On that golden August night, I recorded a 27:30, one of my worst of the season but just clung on to take the trophy by the skin of my teeth.

For that reason, the Bluebell is the competition that I love the most and feel most passionate about. It brings people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities together to bomb around a beautiful course before (post covid) a nice chat and a brew on the heath.

Fast forward to 2021 and as I rode home from the event Wednesday with the daylight fading to the extent you could see my lights starting to take effect, I took some time out (ok a train was coming on the crossing, so the gates were down) to ponder my life in cycling.

There have been downs as well as ups, and my geography has meant that despite it being 30 Bluebells since I started riding, its probably only 23 that I have taken part in (winning again in 2004).

But despite everything, this is something that we can cling on to and cherish as a little piece of sporting history of our own and on our own doorsteps.

2021 Fenland Clarion club 10 on Helpston heath

With so many other factors in my life to come in to play, its too early to say whether there will be a campaign from me to celebrate 31 years after my first. But wherever you are, please support you club local weekly 10-mile time trial.

Forget about the crucial revenue it generates for the club and the competitive racing it provides. Think more about the camaraderie, friendship, and benefits for the soul.