Sunday, 19 June 2016

Women's Tour Stage 5 - A grand day out!

I don't think you can have a better day cycling than the one we just had. The plan was to do a reasonably long ride and take in as much of the final stage of the Women's tour. First and foremost I have to say what a privilege it is to have such a prestigious sporting event in Northamptonshire.  The it's always good to ride with friends and to top the lot I ended the day riding with SuperSam. Perfect.


A group of us met at C&D Cycles at 8:30 to follow Justin's plan. We needed to be about thirty miles away in Milton Malsor by 11 to see the early stages of the race. The official start was in Northampton but the riders were prevented from racing just before this point. So we got to see the whole field in one bunch which was nice!

Very close to the peleton

Team Car

Our next aim was to make it in time to see the riders come through Rushton. We had to go through the centre of Northampton and then headed towards home. On an odd statement for me because Northampton will always be home but you know what I mean, we headed towards the Kettering end of the county. Because we were making excellent time the plan changed and we decided to watch the tour come through Rothwell. We were at least half an hour early so it was back to mine for a quick cuppa. At was at this stage we worked out that there would be time for SuperSam to get to the finish in Kettering after the riders had gone through Rothwell. He couldn't get his cycling gear on quick enough!


Sam gets a great vantage point

The breakaway

The peleton

The yellow jersey!

Making light work of the hill into Rothwell

The others quickly left Sam and I behind because he cant quite get up Bunker Hill yet. Once we were over the top he pedaled like an expert and we span along at a very respectable 15mph. As predicted Kettering was packed by the time we got there but I managed to get Sam a vantage point to see the finish. I saw a flashing glimpse but in reality had no idea who won the race or what that meant to the GC result. We saw Andy the C&D Cycles manager and a few other faces from the club but had no idea where the people we had ridden with were at that stage. It was all a bit rushed but if we'd been there earlier we would have missed the riders coming through Rothwell.

After that we tried to get near the podium for the presentations. Sam and some other kids managed to get up on a concrete plinth. He had a great view and took some good photos. I saw nothing but at least could hear. I didn't mind though, it was more important for me that the kids could see. Which is why I was particularly annoyed by some selfish adults around us who were trying tried get the kids to move. One lady in particular, who frankly looked quite a stranger to a bike, expressed her displeasure. Miserable old bat! I have to say though, that there must be a better place to have a presentation. It's odd really when you consider how well the rest of the Tour has been organised.

Waiting for the presentation

Lizzie Armistead wins the 2016 Women's Tour

Marianne Vos gets stuck in with the champers

All the winners

Kettering once again did the Women's Tour proud. After the presentation we made our way back through the trade stands. There was naturally a congregation around the C&D Cycles stand. It was there we learnt that the C&D brothers and sisters had once again been hob nobbing. This time they'd been in the Kino Lounge with Lizzie Armistead's Nan!

We moved onto the KCC stand because Sam wants to join the Cyclones, their junior cycling club. He did his best on the Watt bike but that despicable cheat James Cook put him in too hard a gear to post a winning time...actually Mr Cook was very good with Sam and I know he enjoyed the watt bike challenge.

Sam did well riding home and is looking forward to more cycling on Thursday. He's going to work on his ability on hills, maybe I should do that too!

OK then this evening's recovery will be at the Thai Garden in Rothwell. If you didn't know 'crispy duck,' is perfect recovery food and Singha is an isotonic beer!

Happy Peadaling

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Group ride, solo ride, fun, sun and a fondo!

This has been an extraordinary week for me on the bike in terms of distance, off the cuff routes, cold, sun and friendships. So it was no real surprise to me that today I decided to keep going beyond my initial intentions.

I arrived a few minutes late for the C&D Cycles Sunday group ride. This ride has always been a bit more of a challenge that a Saturday ride with longer distances and usually only the stronger riders (with the exception of me!) A small group of five consisted of Steve M, Neil Hi, Kev M, Mark B and myself. Mark expressed his relief that I'd arrived because the others were looking like mean, lean, beastly bicycling machines. (That's my tribute to the late great Muhammad Ali)

Everyone was still confused about the weather. When we set out it was still foggy and the sun didn't really break through for a couple of hours. All manner of arm warmers, baselayers, gillets, 3/4 tights etc were on show. Kev and I had the right idea though; bib shorts and summer jerseys. Neil wins jersey of the day with his athletic fit castelli, an online purchase that he confessed to Chris when we got back to C&D Cycles.

It wasn't long before I was huffing and puffing at the back but the others patiently waited for me at appropriate times. I was actually having a good ride for me, as evidenced by the PR's I picked up on Strava, it's just the others are faster. I'm also playing catch up for not riding enough this winter and for riding a lot this half term (230 miles Monday to Sunday this week, more than any months this year to date!) A bit like Ali, I've realised I need to suffer now to succeed later.

As per usual there was a lot of banter on the ride. For your own protection I can't tell you what the Prince of Profanity and the South African cultural attache to Kettering are discussing. It was just very funny and very naughty. Oh and of course we mentioned Nat's taxi ride at least once every five minutes...

Predictably we didn't follow Steve's planned route. Not a navigational error this time, there was a road closed near Wellingborough. This allowed us to sample the exotic delights of Raunds. Let's face its not a proper C&D ride without a trip to Raunds. We also saw other club members out and about in Andrew C and Neil Ho. One complimented us on our pace and the other as typically cheeky about it. Neil Ho is responsible for the funniest ever comment on an unclipping fail fall. So I will excuse his cheek for now.

Looking at my Strava feed today it's stuffed full of friends doing sportives. The closed road Tour of Cambridge is possibly the most popular. We also got caught up in some Sportive action at times. It's funny when you're on your own ride and on a Sportive route because it confuses marshals and the feed station people! Neil and I discussed the relative merits of Sportives. They are good due to organised routes, so you don't have to do your own navigating. Feed stations and start finish areas are also organised to make life easier. However at £30-40 they'e not cheap. Some of the club are into Audax riding which is apparently like a Sportive except they're way cheaper and you need to do your own navigating. Most Audax people will tell you that they're nicer people than Sportive riders. They also do longer rides. Which brings me to the last option. Organise your own ride! This week I've done two Sportive length rides, it does require you to be more self sufficient but also shows you don't have to part with hard earned cash to enjoy a good long ride. So is there any point doing a Sportive? Well yes, I think so. For starters they can be the focal point of your riding year. Having a goal gets most people in the saddle. They're also an opportunity to ride unknown roads without the worry of getting lost and needing to call a taxi. Finally some of the Sportives are so iconic they're part of a bucket list: Ride London, Etape Caledonia, Dragon Ride etc.

My target for the day was 100km because I'm trying to move up the league table in our work based 'Road to Rio,' challenge. After a quick coffee at C&D Cycles with the good hospitality of owner, Chris, I headed towards home with Mark. I was undecided if I wanted to top up to 60 miles (my brain switches between units of measurement,) because those quick lads had worn me right out. Mark also helpfully pointed out that this Month the Fondo challenge on Strava was 115km (70 miles.) I looked down at my cycle computer and saw 50 miles. Oh flip it I thought...why not. A quick text to the Queen of Cakes and she gave her blessing to me staying out a bit longer and I was wracking my brain to squeeze out another 20 miles. It took some jiggery pokery but I managed to get home almost exactly on 115km. Thankfully Strava behaved itself and agreed to distance and boom June Grand Fondo complete!

June Gran Fondo
Okay. Not only have I been allowed another great day in the saddle but Mrs Lindsley is currently preparing that most English of delicacies, Toad in the Hole. It's nearly there so I should finish up quickly. I really am a very lucky man!

Happy Pedaling

Friday, 3 June 2016

Fun Friday Solo Ride

I'm not blogging absolutely everything these days but this ride really does deserve a write up. Not because of any epic athleticism on my part but due to the quality of the route and the many features.

Rushton Hall

For starters within the first ten miles I'd already passed the impressive buildings of Rushton Hall and Pipewell Hall. Rushton Hall has featured in my blogs before but if you haven't seen it check out this link Gunpowder plot, Charles Dickens, Triangular Lodge...pretty stunning!

Pipewell Hall

Pipewell Hall is only a couple of miles from Rushton and unlike it's more famous neighbour I know very little about it. It's pretty hidden too, so the image above is all I've seen of it apart from gatehouses in the village. There are some pretty amazing facts about Pipewell. For starters Richard I held his midlands parliament there and it holds the smallest church in Northamptonshire! In more recent history the Hall was owned by the Lloyds family as in Stewarts & Lloyds who were massive in the Corby steel production when that was a thing. Now, like most of these places, it's a wedding venue!

A few miles on from that I passed East Carlton Park on my way into Middleton. East Carlton is one of Northamptonshire's many excellent country parks. However it also has a massive House in the grounds. Predictably called East Carlton Hall you can read the wikipedia link here The house was at one point also in the possession of Stewart's and Lloyds and now the park has artifacts to commemorate our long gone steel industry. 

The thing I find most fascinating is that during the last century the Northamptonshire landscape would have looked quite different in places due to the steel industry. From where I live in Rothwell, through to Corby, giant buckets took an aerial route carrying iron from many open cast mining quarries. I walk my dogs through woods most days which are a former ironstone quarry. You can find parts from the bucket line but I've yet to find a picture, so I only know about because people have told me.

Another place I went through was Lyddinton. Great pub, the Queen of Cakes and I had a superb meal there once and to top it all it was half price night. Anyway there's a realpoint of interest I've pictured before. I now know the 'hole in the wall,' thing is the "Bishop's Eye," and is part of the Grade 1 listed Lyddinton Bede House. More here:

Finally on this little local history tour I had a good view of Rockingham Castle despite not braving Rocky Hill on this occasion. I've also mentioned Rockingham before but if you want more you can check out their own website

 Right enough of this history malarkey let's talk cycling shall we. I didn't plan this route as such I just went out with the intention of getting some good hill practise in (and boy do I need the practise.) My only real aim was to make sure I went up Cottingham Hill because we missed that on Monday. I'll also summarise the pain slopes for those who like a bit of uphill  (I don't, I like downhill but due to Newton and Einstein and all those other smartarses one has to follow the other!)

View over the Valley at Bringhurst

The first incline that got me huffing and puffing was at Rushton. It's a dishonest hill that looks insignificant and then drags on a bit more than you'd expect. I hate his type of hill, I prefer my hills to look like they'd hurt if in fact they're going to hurt. After that it's pretty easy bordering on exhilarating, especially the descent into Middleton. The next hill of note is Bringhurst. By hill of note I actually mean anything that makes me breathe hard and gets me out of the saddle. I realise we haven't got any big climbs in Northants. There are some Cat 4's but even they are bizarre, for example Scaldwell is Cat 4 and is easier than ride in a taxi. Anyway Bringhurst, proper hill, just what I was looking for!
Red phone box in Bringhurst

There's a bit of up and down before getting to Eyebrook Reservoir but nothing hard. Eyebrook itself is very nice. As a bonus I managed not to run over any twitchers of which there is an excess. I'm all for a bit of ornithology but what is it with their camouflage gear and telephoto lenses?  

Beautiful Eyebrook Reservoir

Coming out of Eyebrook is the climb through Stoke Dry. A hill of much significance and my first visit to granny gear. I know my limits and for me this is get low and grind it out. At the top I had the banana break pictured above. Then it was a lovely whoosh through Lyddington and onto Gretton. The aforementioned Cottingham Hill was next and it is pretty lung busting for a fat lad like me. During these climbs I berate myself for not sticking to the diet and then when I get home I decide I deserve a pork pie for all my hard work! The descent through Cottingham into Middleton was ruined by a horse. They have a right to the roads too just if I've gone to the bother of getting up a hill without either EPO or a hidden motor then they could at least never go downhill ever. 

As far as my inexpert climbing legs were concerned this next bit was total overkill. I went to Ashley, did the climb from Ashley to Stoke Albany and then onto Wilbarston. Really good hill training...I hope. My last hill of the day was at Harrington as used as the QOM for the last ladies tour.

So there you are I did what I set out to do. I'll never be the best climber, I'm always going to prefer downhills but hey I'm trying. It's back to the very flat again tomorrow because SuperSam has sailing, I do like a spin round Pitsford though! The downside is another Saturday ride missed with C&D Cycles CC. I think they're off to see the flying Scotsman go across the 'Welland Owd' viaduct tomorrow. Here's a picture of that iconic structure on an actual sunny day when we rode that way!

Happy Pedaling!