Catford CC Hill Climb

On Sunday (13th October), Adam and I ventured over to Yorks Hill near Sevenoaks to watch the 124th running of the annual Catford CC Hill Climb. While not the longest, it is the oldest continuing hill climb competition in the country and therefore has a prestige associated with it for hill climb aficionados.

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A Real Sting In The Tail Of The Catford Hill Climb

The climb itself starts at Yorks Hill Farm and extends for 0.4 of a mile at an average of 12.4%, but that really doesn’t tell the whole story. The climb is a narrow, tree covered affair with steep banks either side of the road. Rain washes debris into the road and leaves can cover a multitude of watt-sapping imperfections in the road surface. The members from Catford CC did a great job of clearing the road the day before and, thankfully, the rain looked like it would stay away.

To give an additional idea of how difficult this ride is, the course record of 1:47.6 has stood since 1983, over 35 years!

Nearly 150 riders attempted the climb on Sunday and we cheered every single one of them on to the top. Young, old, male, female – they all made it up this brute with many going on to compete in the Bec Hill Climb that afternoon! Nutters! Enjoy the slideshow!

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The overall competition was won by Calum Brown in a time of 1:49.0, the closest we’ve seen to the course record for those 35+ years. A great ride and fully deserving of the title.

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Bill Bell was the fastest male veteran, Amy Marks was the fastest female senior, Alice Gilmore the fastest female junior and Theo Tadros the fastest male junior.

The greatest thing for me was still to come, Cycling Weekly picked up my pictures on Twitter and used them in one of their online articles. I was pretty stoked about that!

It’s a great event, plenty of people on the hill to cheer the riders on and a special mention for the guy on the PA who kept us laughing throughout

IAIN

World(s) In Motion

It was September 1982, at Goodwood Motor Circuit, when the cycling World Championships were last held in the United Kingdom. 37 years later, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see the pinnacle of the cycling season first hand after being invited by Alpecin Cycling. I’d already missed some pretty sensational performances in the time trials, especially from Chloe Dygert and Rohan Dennis, by the time that I travelled up on the Friday. The rain was bouncing as I reached Leeds so I pushed on the next train to Harrogate to meet some of Cycling Twitter’s finest in the Alexandra Pub

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The Great & The Good Of Cycling Twitter

I’d not met most of these people before, only conversing with them through Twitter on our mutual love of cycling, so it was great to be able to buy a few drinks (to have mine spilt – Jamie!) and share a few laughs with a great bunch of people.

As the evening went on we headed down to the Old Swan Hotel where the Alpecin Cycling ‘Caravan’ was parked up, we’d also heard that the Dutch and USA teams were staying so I was hoping to grab a few words with Mike Teunissen to say hello and wish him all the best for the Sunday coming. As the hotel was located right by the Flamme Rouge we headed outside to watch the U23 race come by, what we hadn’t banked on was watching the end with Dutch great Annemiek van Vleuten on a mobile screen. Pretty surreal.

Our joy at Nils Eekhof winning was short-lived however, as he was subsequently disqualified for illegal drafting behind the team car on his way back to the bunch after a mechanical. A real shame for the lad.

I managed to grab a few words with Mike in the hallway after he’d given an interview to the Dutch press, we (he) had a laugh about Arsenal beating Forest in the cup and he told me he was feeling good but (and I think the quote was) “it’s all about Mathieu, eh” referring to the great Dutch hope, Mathieu van der Poel.

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Someone Had Consumed A Few Beers….

My best efforts to go to bed early in preparation for Saturday’s Alpecin ride out were, at best, incredibly poor but ride we did and we met some great people along the way

We covered 65km which was more than enough for me following a few beers and a week with a sore throat! Thankfully the rain gave way to some lovely sunshine, albeit coupled with a fairly stiff breeze. I got to ride a Canyon Aeroad CF SL which was lovely, I’d never ridden on rims that deep before and they did cause me a few issues in the wind but it was a lot of fun.

After lunch we headed into town as the Alpecin Cycling team had got us places in the UCI Hospitality Tent to watch the end of the Women’s Elite Race. Our own cycling done, we were free to sample the free food and drink including some pretty amazing pies! We watched, amazed, as Annemiek van Vleuten attacked with 100km to go and rode away from the rest of the pack, soloing all the way to the line. Our fortunate placement meant that we were on hand to see that close up!

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It was a quite phenomenal ride, a ride worthy of the Rainbow Bands. We headed back to the Old Swan to join in the celebrations and to meet up with the rest of the Alpecin team. While we were there, Annemiek van Vleuten rode back in sporting the rainbow jersey and her gold medal to rapturous applause from the gathered fans

Not even a rogue fire alarm was going to spoil her day!

The rain returned with a vengeance for Sunday’s Mens Elite race, so much that the race was shortened and the possible attack points of Buttertubs and Grinton Moor were removed. It looked appalling from the pictures, many of us wondered whether the race would go ahead at all. We headed down to the Old Swan to see what the craic was for the day, first stop a haircut!

Ben (the barber) was a genuinely good lad, loves his bikes and racing and is a bit of an Instagram star as well as running a few barber shops in London, nice fella so give him an Insta follow @ldn_brbr

That done we were headed back towards the UCI Hospitality which we were all glad of due to the weather, but Kirsty from the event team had one more surprise for us. We had been given the chance to go out in the lap cars that follow the riders around on the Harrogate finishing circuit. This was a once in a lifetime experience and I wasn’t going to miss that. It was everything I had hoped for and more – despite the rain the crowds were absolutely AMAZING. Cycling fans are a hardy bunch and they know how to have fun while passing the time till the riders come round again!

Back in the hospitality tent I watched as Mike Teunissen followed some attacks and made his way into the front group, I started to get a bit excited about that. He looked in good shape, however with 2 laps to go his legs deserted him and he drifted back to the pack. It was that moment when MVDP made his move and took Trentin with him. We planned our move outside to perfection, securing prime real estate on the finish line….

When MVDP bonked on the Otley Road I don’t think anyone really believed it. Trentin was definitely the fastest finisher so he was definitely going to go on and win the rainbow jersey, wasn’t he? Well, Mads Pedersen had something to say about that. He sailed past Trentin, arms aloft to take the jersey at the ripe old age of 23.

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It was a great performance and a deserved win, any rider who wins in those conditions fully deserves their title. I don’t know why it was such a surprise, here’s a lad that finished 2nd in De Ronde last year.

I left Yorkshire that evening, having had a great weekend. I’d cycled, watched cycling, talked about cycling, dreamt about cycling, drank some good beer and ate some pretty nice pies.

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Even The Weather Couldn’t Dampen Spirits

As I said, I met some great people on my travels so give these people an Instagram follow:

@glorious.cc, @danevanscycling, @jess_rides_bikes, @ldn_brbr

IAIN

My Icarus Moment

Those who have read this blog, or who know me well, will know my history with cycling, how I gave up smoking nearly 6 years ago now after 20 years on the fags. It was that event that caused me to find this hobby as a means to get fit and find something to focus on. I never imagined it would lead to what my wife would term an obsession.

As I approached the end of September, which will mark that 6 year anniversary, I started to look back on how far I had progressed. I’ve done some wonderful things that I never would have believed possible; London to Paris, Brighton and back, Ride London x2 were huge achievements for me, but I couldn’t help but feel that I should be better than I am. At the top of Clarks Lane, a couple of weeks back, I slumped on my bars and gasped for some air. I’d ridden this short and gentle climb numerous times, it’s only 1.3km at a 4.1% average gradient, yet it always knocks the stuffing out of me regardless of whether its the first or last climb on my ride

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Clarks Lane is far from a beast

I made the decision there and then to go to the doctors to get myself checked out, if I had been 2 years into non-smoking I may well have felt differently but I have trained and worked hard on my cycling over the 6 year period and my gut told me that I wasn’t improving. I fully understand that my smoking could have done irreparable damage to my lungs and breathing but I wanted to get checked out, just to be sure.

This morning I went to the doctor’s surgery and sat down with him to discuss my situation. I think he was quite impressed with the wholesale changes I have made to my lifestyle and he hypothesised that I am possibly suffering from exercise induced asthma. He prescribed me a peak flow meter which takes readings of air flow out of your lungs and I have to do this when I wake up and before I go to bed for two weeks in order to collect data that may help to determine whether I need full preventative asthma medication

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A Peak Flow Meter

In addition to this he also prescribed me a Salbutamol inhaler, the substance at the centre of the Chris Froome scandal last year. This is reserved for the days where I do exercise, I’m to take it before I go out cycling and carry it with me in case I feel the need to ‘top up’.

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Salbutamol Inhaler

This is my ‘Icarus moment’ (for those who are unaware, Icarus is a Netflix documentary where Bryan Fogel explores doping to win a cycling race), however mine is completely legal! I am at the point where I know my abilities inside out, I really do think I will be able to spot any changes in performance and overall condition from the introduction of this medication. I’m thoroughly therapeutically exempt, I have the signature! Flippancy aside, I am both interested and excited to see what happens and whether my cycling improves as a result. Clarks Lane will be my ‘control’ segment, I know how to ride it and changes will be easy to spot.

Last thing on this, the UK NHS service is a wondrous and amazing thing. Anybody trying to tamper with it or dismantle it should be ashamed.

IAIN

Made It Ma! Top Of The World’s!

In three week’s time the best of the best in world cycling will descend on Harrogate to battle it out for the right to wear the rainbow bands in the respective disciplines until they are fought for again in Aigle-Martigny in September 2020.

The good news for me is……..I’ll be there! Following on from Alpecin Cycling’s event at the London stage of the Tour of Britain last year, this year they are hosting an event at the World Championships and I could not be happier that they’ve invited me! I’m hoping to catch the Mens U23, Women’s Elite and the Men’s Elite races as well as donning the Alpecin colours once more for a ride out around the Harrogate finishing circuit.

I was intrigued, therefore, when Zwift finally released their Harrogate World Champs course into the¬† public domain today. A stomach complaint put paid to my chances of an outdoor ride so I decided to take a leisurely spin round the new course. It is completely what you would expect from a UK based course, hardly any flat sections you are either going up or down and nowhere in between. No lengthy, steep climbs, this is one for the puncheurs with a decent engine. There are long drags at 2-3% that don’t seem like much but will sap the energy of the riders as well as a couple of short, sharp, stinging lumps to get over

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The Typical Zwift Start/Finish Greets You In Harrogate

Out of the start/finish you turn right onto Otley Road and it becomes clear that this is not going to be an easy cafe ride

I can only imagine how a UK road surface will make these drags sap energy as the pros go round their seven circuits, any inclement weather and this will get ten times worse!

The Zwift course is well designed, looks great and is fun to ride.

The sprint to the finish line is another uphill drag so it won’t be a pure sprinter that wins the rainbow bands this year. Indeed, the corner that turns into the finish is an absolute brute. There’s not an easy run in to set yourself for the final sprint, this will all be about positioning. This could be the one downside for MVDP, this is top level cycling and the likes of Sagan, Alaphilippe and Gilbert will know immediately where they need to be. MVDP will have the backing of a strong Dutch team and I’m sure Mike T can help to put him in the right place.

The other thing I found out today is that I have a broken smart trainer. The cadence keeps dropping out or is ridiculously high and the watts definitely aren’t correct. Looks like that direct drive trainer is nearer in my future than originally expected!

IAIN

Ride 100 Photos

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Ride 100 – A Reflection Mk II

I did it, I finished the full Ride 100. After last year all I wanted was to be able to finish the whole route without incident and, thankfully, that wish came to pass.

The morning began very early for me with a 3:45am alarm call. A quick shower and a hearty breakfast later, I was on my way from my AirBnB in Walthamstow to the start line at the Olympic Park. It wasn’t the dull, rainy day of last year and for that I was extremely happy as we edged closer to our wave start time of 6:28am

Anyone who has done this ride will know that the ‘hype man’ at the start asks the riders on the front of the wave for a song to be played out as you start, kudos to the person on the front of my wave who chose Sabotage by the Beastie Boys!

The route out of East London doesn’t change at all really, down the Limehouse Link then following the river till a sharp right takes you up past the back of Green Park and through Knightsbridge on your way out to Hammersmith and on to Chiswick Bridge. The adrenaline pumps and you seem to eat up the miles very quickly. I found that starting in an early wave provided me with a lot of faster wheels to hang onto for a bit which made the whole experience quite easy and I covered the first 20 miles in under an hour. In actual fact, that pace never really relented until the bottom of Newlands Corner. The difference this year was the weather, the fact that it was dry meant that I took in a lot more of the sights and sounds as we pedalled out of town. It also meant that I noticed when I was overtaken by Dani Rowe, Jazz Carlin and a man dressed as a cow.

Newlands Corner is the first real sharpener for the legs. It’s not the most difficult but it has an awkward profile, preceded by a 1 mile drag up Ripley Lane. I had bypassed all the previous feed/water stations with the intent of making this my only stop, that was the correct decision at 50 miles in. I also made a point of messaging Mike Teunissen to tell him he’d have a tough time beating my undoubted Newlands KOM in the pro race later that day! He was up for the challenge!

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Some members of Team Ineos (not the pros) were out with Dave Brailsford for the ride

The descent off Newlands is a lovely fast sweeping road but it only lulls you into a false sense of security as the long drag from Gomshall through Abinger to Holmbury St Mary awaits at the bottom. It was here that the difference in capabilities of the cyclists started to become evident. I had seen enough last year to be ultra aware of my surroundings and other riders this year, but I can honestly say that it was the (obviously) more experienced riders with their matte black everythings that were causing the most danger to everyone else on the road. I witnessed multiple incidents of undertaking, diving into corners and a complete failure to give space to other riders. I liked to refer to these riders as being from the ‘Wanker Wave’. The ride captains in the Continental kits weren’t much better to be honest and they exerted no effort or control over any dangerous riding. Rant over but, if you read this and you’re from ‘Wanker Wave’ have a word with yourself, most people out there were riding for charity so don’t get pissy because you’re not getting another meaningless Strava PB.

Talking of PBs, next up was Leith Hill. I’ve ridden Leith Hill a few times and it is tricky enough on a quiet day, the volume of people turning into it on Sunday made it quite clear that this was never going to be up there with the quickest times it has ever seen. I struggled with it if I’m honest, not through difficulty but through pace. On the left of the narrow ascent road it was slow going and on the right there was a steady stream of faster riders, much faster than me, so I struggled to find a line where I could go at my own pace and I found that extremely difficult. On the odd occasion there was a gap in the faster riders I managed to hop round a few slower riders but for the most part I just had to sit in and pedal slowly up the hill. I found the same thing on Box Hill later in the ride, sheer volume of cyclists made it very difficult to go at your own steady pace.

I hadn’t planned on stopping at the top of Box Hill as I knew, from there on in, that Wimbledon Hill was the only little lumpy bit left but I started to feel a twinge of cramp in my thigh so I pulled in past the observation point and had a rest and some food.

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A shameless selfie at the top of Box Hill – I actually look quite happy!

The rest of the ride went by quite quickly and without incident. I stopped at Wimbledon to talk to my pal Ben and then again on Putney Bridge when I spotted Al, but moved on quickly and I finally crossed the finish line on The Mall in a time of 6 hours and 23 mins. I had hoped to do it in under 6 hours but the sheer volume of people made that difficult and I was pleased just to finish.

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Velographic

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I’ve entered the ballot for next year but I think I need to look for a different challenge for 2020!

IAIN

Ride London Registration

As with last year, registration and the collection of numbers for the Prudential Ride London involves a visit to the ExCel London. The registration event opened on Thursday 1st August and runs through to 5pm on Saturday 3rd August, the day before the race. It is accompanied by a small bike show which include stands by some major manufacturers as well as talks on a main stage with special guests – this year Fabian Cancellara is making an appearance, one of the greatest cyclists ever and my buddy from a previous Rouleur Classic show!

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Me and Fabs, Rouleur Classic London – November 2017

I went on the Saturday last year but, obviously, that was incredibly busy as cyclists from all over the country finished the working week and descended onto the capital for the event. This year, I took some time from work and went to the event today (the Friday) hoping for a slightly more relaxed experience and it definitely was that. I took my eldest son, Zac, with me as his interest in cycling and bikes is growing quickly.

The show seems to have grown as the event has gained more and more popularity, but the interactive nature of the show was a different level this year with plenty to keep everyone entertained for a few hours. Zac particularly liked the Evans Cycles¬†pedal-powered ‘Scalextric’ set which we had several goes on!

We also had a go on a superb mini velodrome that had been installed at the back of the arena. That was Zac’s first ever experience of anything with that kind of setup and he coped with it pretty well, he told everyone on the way home that he’d beat me!

There was also a full Zwift stand, including treadmill for the running element. Zac was too small for the bikes so the friendly man on the stand challenged Zac to run 1km in exchange for a Zwift water bottle, Zac didn’t need asking twice!

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The people manning the stands were all brilliant. Friendly, engaging and genuinely happy to take the time to stop and chat and have a bit of a laugh and a joke. They were also excellent with Zac, he had a great time and is now pressing me for a racing bike! (YES!)

Only two things to do before coming home:

A) Check the route again

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B) Have a champion’s photo on The Mall

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I’m planning on heading into London tomorrow to catch the Classique Women’s Race before getting an early night, my start time is 6:28am so I have to be strict with my planning! Weather looks ok so hopefully we’ll get a good run and I can hang around to watch the pros race finish. Allez!

IAIN