Tour of Britain

August 30, 2006

this year’s tour of britain got underway yesterday, and just as happened last year a breakaway succeeded and the stage winner now has over 2 minutes over his rivals and could possible now have won the tour on the first day.

this is a problem with the tour of britain that the organisers need to address. with no time trials and a very flat course this year the race looks like being one long yawn in the style of a late summer chain-gang.

the organisers really needed to have put some challenging long climbs into the race near the end of stages to really break up the field. however, any climbs that are there seem to be of the steep, short variety that no one is going to lose time on; and even if you do get shelled out the back, due to where the climbs are you can get back into the field before the finish.

what i don’t understand is why such great cycling country as the scottish mountains, wales and the peak district were ignored by the officials in favour of flat (and dull) stages as we have seen this year. i realise that the organisers are limited to the length of the tour at the moment (until the UCI promote the race to protour standard) and often have their hands tied as to where the race goes due to officialdom and police “reservations” but that is no reason to make the race so easy and dull.

everyone knows that races are decided in the mountains, that is why they get the biggest crowds. the real strongmen can distance their rivals and often put in a race-winning surge once the gradient steepens. but on the flat, with a couple of exceptions, the race is pretty much up for grabs. this makes for dull racing.

if british cycling want to promote the sport to a larger audience in this country then they really need to start by making the premier uk race more interesting by introducing more “real” climbs and better finishing venues – finishing in big cities, while it may be what the sponsors want (big crowds, etc), will never generate the results and spectacle of a mountain-top finale.

snake pass

August 23, 2006

the snake is a climb that i do about 4-5 times a week as it is on my doorstep. it is just over 3 miles long and has an average gradient of around 7%.

the climb proper begins at the royal oak pub:

the first part is pretty steep and can initially tire you out if you attack it too agressively.

the climb then flattens out on the first corner before going back up to about 8%:

then the road seems to get heavy and drags on your legs:

around the middle of the climb the gradient slackens off a bit but still takes it out of you (looking down the road):

but if you look to your right you get a nice view of the reservior:

then the road seems to just go on and on:

before kicking up about 2/3rds of the way in:

then it really flattens off toward the top and the bleak moors:

i usually take around 20 mins to go up here, but pushing it i can do the climb in around 17 mins. if you are going up the snake you need to beware of the motorcyclists who go up around 100mph (seriously) and the chavs in their ford fiestas who are always sure to shout something stupid as they pass you. 🙂 😕

on the 10th of september there is a hill climb TT event organised by my club.

Look CX7

August 19, 2006

these pedals have recently had a massive drop in price, from over £200 to around £50-60. as i do like a bargin i invested. 🙂


they have been around a while and have been used by a lot of the top pros due to their adjustability and light weight. i was surprised when they arrived in a large parcel (these are little pedals for gawd’s sake) but opening it i discovered that i had bought more that just some pedals, but a total pedal system designed to increase comfort and therefore power.


there are 5 changable plates which come with the pedal which mean that you can change the angle at which your foot sits on the pedal, a similar idea to lemond wedges.


i opted to put the -1.5 degree plates on after giving the others a try. a slight minus angle seems to suit my style.

i must admit to being a bit overwhelmed with all the options with this pedal. you can change the q-factor by 10mm each side, the foot seating by +/-3 degrees, the tension of the spring which holds the cleat, and the red cleats have 5 degrees of float (or you can go for the black ones if no float is your thing).

for the last year i have been using time rxs and have been generally happy with them – apart from a constant clicking i once had when the axel loosened and i didn’t notice it, i spent an hour taking my bottom bracket apart though :?. the difference between the two pedals for me was the clipping in/out (which i found to be easier with the time pedals) and the feel of the pedal.

inspite of all the technology which look have employed here i still find i get “hot” feet more often than with the time setup. however, it is early days and before i run back to my trusted time setup i shall give the looks a bit more of a chance. however, i hope i get more wear out of the look cleats than i have in the past (which was one of the reasons i changed to time) otherwise when these ones wear out the pedals may find themselves adorning my training bike 😕

phil & friends

August 19, 2006

the phil & friends cyclesportif is fast becoming a major day out for british cyclists. you can choose between either a 100km or (if you really want to give your legs some punishment) 150km route. i chose the 150kms. 😕

for me this is a local ride and i do many of the climbs often during my training (however not all on the same day) and as i know the roads and route i didn’t think it would be too much trouble.

i was up at 6am for the 1 hour drive to the start at stannington. the weather was looking ominous. i had been anxiously checking weather reports all week, often checking one report against another hoping for one of them to say “sun, sun, sun!”, but no luck. the best i could expect was heavy cloud, at worst severe rain. 😦

arriving at stannington i notice that i am at the head of a convoy of cars, cars with bikes on the roof. it must look something like a poor man’s tour de france entourage to the locals, who frankly are not used to this volume of traffic at 7am on a sunday morning. 🙂

as soon as i get out of the car the rain begins. first it isn’t too bad, the sort of thing that usually just necessitates a flimsy rain cape. i meet up with some other riders from my club and we make our way to the signing-on point at the local village hall. bike-porn aplenty is stacked outside – time, look, litespeed, trek, campag record, dura ace, scott, carbon, titanium, you name it, it is here! obviously some of these boys are not going to be messing about! 🙂

i prop my bike up against some of the others and go and sign on. 5 minutes later i come out of the hall to find the rain getting harder and the wind has now picked up, 😦 luckly, as i was walking out of the front door i grabbed my rain jacket and some overshoes, thinking “just in case…”. good job i did, i will be needing them.

it is 8am. pouring with rain, blowing a gale and cold. 😦 the riders for the 150km route are anxious to begin, but before we go, the great phil liggett has some words of encouragement for us (i bet he isn’t going to be riding up winnats pass later this afternoon 🙂 ) …and we’re off!

the ride begins with some quick descents and in this weather you need to be really careful to make sure you don’t end up in a ditch. gravel seems to be everywhere and i am, frankly, a little concerned that either i will end up sliding on it or someone else will and will take me down with them. however, i’m cold and i need to put some work in to get a bit of warmth going on and for once i am looking forward to the climbs. due to the efforts i have been putting in i discover that my clubmates are nowhere to be seen and i have made it (rather unwittingly) to near the front. i am still cold though. that rain that is painful on the face as you ride into it and the cold which seems to creep into your bones on every descent are making me rather depressed and my morale drops quickly. i resolve on quitting the ride in glossop – still about 40kms away. still i am near the front and not going too badly.

the first major climb of the day is the 20%er in strines. i do this quite often so i know how to go up it without having a heart attack (i.e. very steadily) and i take my time even more today as there are cyclists weaving in and out of one another as the struggle up painfully slowly. when we get to the top there seems to be a general concensus that a “comfort break” should be taken at the top. quite an image to apssing motorists – 20 cyclist lined up peeing into the grass at the side of the road!

from there it is a quick (and cold) descent into langsett where you join the main road and ride towards holmfirth. i seem to be alone as i am riding. head down, not taking notice of anything except the road and trying to ignore the weather i had ridden away from the group i was in. glancing around, however, i notice someone coming up to join me. “fantastic” i think, as i believe that i will be able to share the work with another cyclist which will make my life easier in this wind. as he has made the effort to come up to me i let him sit on my wheel for a mile or two. but, when i gesture for him to take a turn up front he doesn’t come through. this sucks. not only am i cold, wet and struggling against the wind but i now have some bugger sucking my wheel who will probably try to ride away from me on the next climb. 😦 so i pull into the middle of the road and shout to him to come through. i am met with the reply “i’m trying”. mmmmmmmm. is he really or is he just after a free ride. so i put a dig in and ride away from him quite easily. he must be knackered.

it is around this point that i realise i am taking the whole thing too seriously. while i did intend to use the day as a kind of long training exercise, in this weather it is pointless, so i decide to slow down and allow the guy back on my wheel.

another long (and cold) drop into holmfirth leads up to the bottom of the holme moss climb. mt ventoux-esque with its transmitter at the top, this is a climb which is no fun at the best of times, let alone on a wet, windy day. a slow slog to the top, passing some, being passed by others. at the top there is low cloud which gives it the appearance of some b-horror movie location. then another quick descent (teeth chattering) to woodhead before a short climb past the reservoirs and into glossop where i turn off and go home. but not for good (a mistake) 😦

i change into some dry gear and swap to my training bike as my other one is wet through, have a cup of tea and some crisps and set off again.

having spent over an hour at home taking in the delights of dryness and warmth i am now riding with the older guys and the tourers (this ride is also an audax event) and the conversation is a lot better than with the carbon-fibre speed merchants i was riding with initially. it has now stopped raining but as i am riding up chunal (10% for about a mile) i suddenly begin thinking that it was unwise to try to finish the ride. the hills seem really tough, more than usual and i am beginning to sweat like a pregnant nun. still, i press on, up another climb out of hayfield (sometimes home of david millar) and up yet another climb to rushop edge. here i see some of my clubmates at the side of the road repairing a puncture, they too have stopped for a warm and a cup of tea at a local cafe. so we are all together again as we ride towards the main challenge of the day, winnats pass.

winnats pass is a horrible climb. there is no other word for it. a mile long and up to 25% in places. but before you even get to it the road is going up at about 10% for a bit, so if you push it here you will certainly blow before the top. the climb proper begins at the cattle grid opposite the entrance to the caves. a deceptive climb, often you push too hard as the gradient is not immediately apparent due to the surroundings; many (including cars) are forced to stop. it is chaotic as i go up: riders grinding up, stopping, trying to get clipped in again on that gradient, cars coming to a standstill as they try to avoid the cyclists, the walkers, the sheep and other cars. i am forced to stop once as a gust of wind comes down the gorge and literally stops me in my tracks. at the top we have a cup of tea some friends have kindly driven out to give us and prepare to finish the ride off.

i was thinking that after winnats the ride was pretty much easy. however, i had forgot how much the undulating roads in this part of the world take out of you, especially when you have already got 60 miles in your legs and a lot of hard climbs. still, we press on and eventually make it to monsal head. a short, sharp climb and we got to the cafe at the top. i am feeling bloody awful by this time and realise that i really need to eat something. an egg mayonaise sandwich suffices and again we press on. the sandwich, however, is not doing a very good job, and near hathersage i have had it. total bonk. 😦 i feel dizzy and not too well and quickly drop off the back of the group. i am not too concerned about this as i have done 95% of the ride and all the climbs. so i retreat to a nearby garage and gourge myself on chocolate and coke while i await a lift home.

all in all, a nice day out, which could have been nicer if the sun had decided to put in an appearance. sorry that i have no pictures of the actual ride but i wasn’t getting a camera out in the rain and by the time it had stopped i didn’t really feel like being the cycling david bailey. 🙂