“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.

A lull in the action

Last April was so full on you can’t even imagine.

Understanding what was happening in the pandemic and carrying on working whilst some of my friends and colleagues were furloughed around me was harrowing.

I turned the emotion, and need to have thinking time into a challenge of riding every day during that month.

This was a particular challenge with the UK restrictions at the time as it was unclear if you could leave your house and how far you could go.

The majority of the miles were done on the turbo trainer with other riders less than 7km from home on a looping circuit.

2020 was warmer so the virtual highway was a better, less challenging place

As well as relaxing my brain, it challenged my powers of resilience and motivation.

Fast forward to April 2021 and its been a whole different proposition.

The stress of late summer 2020 job hunting followed by being locked down again and having months of the children home from school has left me craving something different this month.

Rest.

So far I have ridden 2 of the club 10 mile races this season and am about a minute away from where I was last year.

My usual attitude to that would be to throw more miles and more intensity into those efforts. My initial reaction was to start checking the credit card balance to see if funds were sufficient to go back on the merry-go-round of training with a power meter.

But then I stopped to think.

Every time I have started a way off where I wanted to be in a season I have reacted by trying even harder.

Most of those years I have struggled to keep racing past August.

So for me 2021 is about a different approach. More of a gamble and more of a test of patience. But I am hoping for results that show it was worth it.

This week I have barely travelled 20 miles by bicycle as of yet. And all of that has been virtual miles out of the icy cold northerly wind that has chilled us for weeks here. The smile is slowly coming back to my lips through the grimace of the effort.

All of the data charts and graphs show that fitness wise I am starting to dip.

But they all measure three metrics and one of those going down is a positive.

Fitness, form and fatigue are the three, and whilst its great to see that my heart rate and turbo trainer power data shows the final measure, fatigue, is in decline, meaning I am ‘fresher’, its the benefit to my mind I am most interested in.

After all cycling is our hobby, not our profession. So for me to know be back at the stage where I want to get out on my bike and have fun, not be a slave to data and numbers, is the best win of the season.

Regardless of what it does to my times in races.

Personal Emotion in cycling

Can cycling be emotive on a freezing cold Wednesday evening on a stretch of gravelly road between Peterborough and Rutland?

For me it was when I saw a familiar car and face beaming out at me as I suffered to get into a rhythm.

I might be closing in on 50 and celebrating 30 years since I starting bike racing in this same “Bluebell Series”, but seeing my Mum watching still makes me find an extra couple of KM/h.

It’s a long and complicated tale of parental support on cold road sides for decades. My parents love the sport and have enjoyed my journey through it. There have been endless pasta meals at 5am on a weekend before a long time in the car and then huddled up with a flask waiting for me to get to the finish or whatever race it was. There were only minimal complaints from them!

But, there is also the part where my best days and biggest results coincided with a period of serious ill health for my Mum. This meant I rode Flanders and had my best finish in the Tour of Cambridgeshire gran fondo without her being there to join in the celebratory beers and pizza.

And that still hurts even today and 6 years on.

So, still suffering with ill health, when she makes the effort to watch a race (safely socially distanced and in the car) I feel duty bound to make the effort to give my absolute best in return.

Last night was no exception.

I paid for the effort and the near 10 mile head wind ride home after the race in freezing temperatures was a challenge but nothing like the one she has been through to be able to come and show me her support.

I just want to say thank you.

Midweek Fenland 10 hosted by Fendrien

I have busy creating routes and adding to the online virtual presence of Fenland Clarion (my club) events.

This is on Rouvy as that is my platform of choice and I am hosting my first race in the traditional Wednesday evening slot.

It is at 6pm (1800hrs) Uk time and I would like you to ride.

Here is the link to register.

Back at the club 10

I think like most of the planet emerging from lockdown, there was an element of nervousness in me as I threw a Fendrien jacket over my club skinsuit and fixed the lights to my time trial bike before heading off to the start of the race last Wednesday.

I didn’t know how I would feel or what my performance was like. Things that help you understand performance, such as power meters had been sold last summer to keep things ticking over at home so this was a real step into the dark for me.

The first drama was some light drizzle as I crossed the A16 and got on the country lanes, that was followed by the East Coast Mainline stopping me for two trains at the crossing. This was stuff that in previous years would have phased me, it would have affected my concentration and added to the nerves of bike racing.

This year though, it just feels so nice to be out there that I took it all in my stride as part of the experience. It’s like lock down has actually given us more time to do things and think about what’s going on.

I collected my number, socially distanced of course, and fixed it to my new number belt. Yes I know I look like a triathlete, but skin suits aren’t cheap so any avoidance of pin damage is fine by me!

I stashed my jacket and bottle in the undergrowth near the car park and started to get my act together as other riders were arriving.

My start time was nice and early so I was able to do my 10 miles (25:15) and get back to the finish before layering up and riding home.

This reminded me of when my kids were first born and I did little in the way of training. With that in mind I rode the St Ives (Cambs) CC 10s mid week as where I lived meant I could easily ride out to the event and back for extra miles, usually it was a 50km evening. Those tired rides home with my lights twinkling and the fens looking splendid were some of the best I can remember.

The same applied here and as I waited for another 2 trains at the crossing going home I reflected on a successful evening for the club and enjoyed those last 8km home without sprinting for village signs or eyeballing the heart rate numbers on my computer.

And if a weekly stress relieving ride home each Wednesday is as good as my truncated cycling season gets this year, that will do just fine.

I would like to go a bit faster in the race though!