Ride London was a disappointment, as previously mentioned. The fall, the rain, the closure of the Surrey Hills and (most saddening) the passing of Nigel Buchan-Swanson on Ockley Road. I have just glanced at his Just Giving page and the donations are almost at £17,000 which is lovely and the comments are both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, a fitting tribute to a guy who was doing what he loved.
As others rested and slept after that gruelling course, I was up at 3am to go to Spain to visit friends of ours at their villa in the foothills near to Lliber which is a small village 20 minutes from the coastal towns of Xabia and Calp. If you are looking for a place to stay with close access to some wonderful cycle routes then you have found it as it is within easy reach of the Coll de Rates, the popular training ground for the pros.
It’s a beautiful place, slightly out of the way so you need a car of some description but it is an ideal spot for a base and some peace and quiet (if my kids aren’t there!).
I hadn’t planned to do much last week, aside from borrowing a mountain bike to head into town for a bit of a look round, but the scenery changed that and the hills were calling so I decided to go and try one of the easier 25 mile routes in the vicinity. That said, 25 miles in August temperatures is not easy, as I found out! I planned a route that would take me on a nice long climb at a fairly low average gradient, but give me the thrill of a full on descent the other side.
As you can see there’s a lovely winding, hillside road that climbs for 7.5 miles at an average of 2.9%, with only the crest of the climb reaching ramps of over 15%. However, less oxygen mixed with a mountain bike and no proper kit made that extremely difficult. The first part of the climb had me smiling from ear to ear, it was simply stunning. The views from the road were so good that I was forever stopping to get a better picture!
The road snaked round the hillside, climbing upwards towards the summit and it got hotter and hotter! I took it fairly slowly, enjoying the signs warning cars to give cyclists at least 1.5m clearance (which they did!) and the information at every km which told you what the max gradient and metres climbed would be in the next km as well as the total distance to the summit! It was a fantastic setup for cyclists, excuse the image below as it was a grab from a video I took
The crest of the climb was, as mentioned, a real sting in the tail but the reward was amazing
I took on the last of my water and enjoyed the view as the sun beat down mercilessly on my shoulders. With the water finished, it was time to head back into Xalo and home to the villa, a 6 mile descent at an average of -5% which had me squealing with glee as I kissed the apex of the right hand corners and descended as quickly as that mountain bike would let me. It was exhilarating, I’d never felt that free, such a buzz. The only thing was that I didn’t video it, but after climbing back out of Lliber I did video the descent to the villa using my newest GoPro mount…..my mouth!
Amazing roads, friendly cyclists, friendly locals. A great little bike shop in Xalo as well as a cyclists cafe and almost guaranteed good weather. I’m glad I went on that ride to have some fun on a bike again, it was the tonic I needed and I’ll be back with my road bike and my kit……
……maybe I’ll go and hang out with the pros on the Coll de Rates!
On Sunday just gone, I stood at the Olympic Park in Stratford with thousands of other cyclists waiting to start the 2018 incarnation of the Prudential Ride London 100 mile sportive. Despite the dullened skies and the ever increasing rain, spirits were high and the famed British sense of humour shone through in the massed ranks.
I had one of the latest start times possible, 9am, which wasn’t the best for me as I’m an early bird usually and the weather was forecast to get worse.
The first 30 miles flew by and before I knew it we were wheeling through the gates of Richmond Park, that’s where my ride took a turn for the worst. I’d already noticed people’s inability to heed the instructions and keep left and it was tough to keep speed going into the small lumps that you can easily get over if allowed to keep your pace. Going up one of those lumps a fellow rider, without looking, moved straight out in front of me and clipped my front wheel, sending me spinning to the ground with a massive thud. The result? A small headache, a dented helmet, a ripped shower top, a painful right thigh, a couple of dents in the paintwork and a hugely buckled back wheel. There was no way I was quitting so I pressed on to the Hub at Newlands Corner and queued up to see the mechanic who did what he could to straighten up my wheel.
After standing in the rain for half an hour waiting for the mechanic I was on my way again, despite the damage I was looking forward to the tests of Leith Hill and Box Hill. When we got to the end of a road I was expecting a right turn to Leith but, instead, we were directed left and were told that Leith Hill was closed. Disappointed, we crawled down the other side of Leith Hill and on to Box Hill where, again, we were told the hill was closed due to a medical incident. I was annoyed and disappointed, all that training and effort was wasted and I cursed the only rain we’d had in about 3 months. In an increasingly annoyed state I made my way back to London and the finish on The Mall. It was an anticlimax, I’d finished but I hadn’t finished. I’d only done 90 odd miles because of the rerouting of the ride and the medal I was given, to me, felt worthless.
It was only way after the event that I learnt of the passing of Nigel Buchan-Swanson on Ockley Road near Leith Hill. A fellow rider, riding for Macmillan Cancer Support, had suffered a fatal heart attack on the route, hence the the closures. A pang of guilt mixed with sadness hit me, guilt for all of the anger that I’d felt for not being able to complete the ride and sadness for the soul of a dedicated cyclist and fundraiser.
The ride was everything I hoped it wouldn’t be in the end, which was a sad end to something I’d wanted to do for so long.
Dedicated to Nigel Buchan-Swanson, may the giving of his life help to save so many others. I have made a donation to Nigel’s Just Giving page, if you would like to do the same the link is here
Yesterday marked one week to go until the Ride London so a pal of mine, Al (who is also taking part in this year’s ride), and I went on a recce of two of the major climbs on the route, Leith Hill and Box Hill. The climbs come at around 55 and 65 miles into the 100 mile ride so a significant amount of energy will have been expended by then. I’ve done Box Hill numerous times so I’m confident in my ability with that one but I’ve only attempted Leith Hill once before and, that time, I inexplicably had to stop for a wee about 3/4 of the way up! I wanted to do Leith Hill in one go before the big day to prevent any kind of mental barrier forming so, despite the heat, we headed on down through some of the leafiest villages that Surrey has to offer and round to the base of Leith Hill.
Strava lists Leith Hill as a climb of 2.03km at an average of 7% but the maximum gradients can hit 14.5% in places
You can see from the Veloviewer segment grab that the hill isn’t really that consistent, the gradients rise and fall a lot on the way to the top, with quite a vicious last kick to conquer. Those of you who use Zwift will know the climb inside out and it is a fair recreation of the hill, halfway up I had a lovely conversation with a couple outside their house as I went past!
I managed to finish the whole thing without needing a wee this time! It took me 10 mins 26 seconds but it’s done, complete, so I have no questions going into the ride next week.
The other important thing about the ride yesterday was to practice getting nutrition right and I have a new love to share – Veloforte nutrition bars (https://veloforte.cc/). They are superb bars to fit in your pockets, a little expensive but well worth checking out
There are three different bars
I used the Classico and Di Bosco variants on this ride and they were superb, each 70g bar is packed with 300kcal, 50g of carbs and 5g of protein. I shall certainly be taking these next week!
After all is done I am off on holiday to Spain, planning to trade the road bike for a mountain bike around the hills of Lliber a couple of times!
Yesterday, 19th July 2018, marked one year to the day since Adam and I set off for Paris on what turned out to be an amazing journey for both of us, both physically and mentally. That may sound mightily over the top but I learnt a lot about myself in those 4 days that the previous 40 years on this planet have never taught me. The long miles in the wind and rain taught me a new level of perseverance, the battle with aching limbs gave me a new mental toughness, the selfless people that I met gave me a new determination to be an all round better human being and the sight of the Eiffel Tower after four long days made me fall in love with my bike all over again. I still regard that trip as one of the most pivotal moments in my life, a change in direction and mindset that has (so far) bought a new balance to my life and made me happier as a result. Plus, obviously, we raised a lot of money for The Rainbow Trust!
Fast forward a year and I’m starting to feel the same excitement as I did before we left for Paris. A lot has happened in that year – my son, Xavier, was born in August, I watched a lot of cycling, England gave the country something to feel proud about at the World Cup and I’ve been training to complete the Prudential Ride London 100 mile sportive. Training in the last few weeks has been especially hard due to the hot weather we’ve been having, it’s been oppressive to say the least and makes solo cycling incredibly hard work. Everything has turned brown rather than green, like the whole countryside has turned to straw!
I saw these signs go up on Parliament Street during the week and that reminded me how close I am to taking on the UK’s most iconic sportive
It is probably extremely fitting, a year on, that yesterday was the day that I hit my £1,500 sponsorship target for the Ride London. We are living in difficult, uncertain times at the moment so the fact that so many people were able to sponsor me is amazing and The Rainbow Trust will use that money to do an unbelievable amount of good work.
Lastly, a major thing happened this year. I got a decent sportive photo! I actually looked pretty good in the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo, check it out!
Let me tell you I didn’t look that happy towards the end…..
…..you’re old if you catch that pop reference.
Today I went to a kids 5th birthday party, the worrying thing for me was that it was my own child’s party. Zac turns 5 tomorrow and I’m not sure how that has happened. To see him grow and develop into a lively and energetic, yet caring and considerate boy fills me with pride but it also reminds me why I rode to Paris and why I’m doing the Ride 100.
When I cross the finish line on The Mall at the end of July, I’m hoping that Adam and I will have raised about £9,000 between us for The Rainbow Trust. That money will go towards helping families make the very best of time that they have with their children, making memories that will last forever. It’s a great motivation to know that every pedal stroke can make a big difference.
For this birthday we’ve bought Zac a new bike since he has learnt to ride without stabilizers. I’m keen for him to embrace the freedom that riding a bike can give and hope he’ll continue to ride through his life, not like his dad who got lazy!
One day I’ll get him up Box Hill but for now I’ll settle for getting his confidence up on a bike and enjoying riding. You never know, maybe one day we’ll do a charity Sportive together.
I’ve mentioned it on here before and I am completely correct, with over 16,000 attempts already this year Box Hill is one of the UK’s most popular Strava segments. So why does my Garmin hate it so much? I’ve attempted the iconic switchbacks on numerous occasions but only three have ever registered properly, see below for last Wednesday’s ‘tracking’ of my route
As you can see the GPS tracking of where I went goes completely haywire as I approach Box Hill. I have both GPS and GLONASS enabled for accuracy and this is the only place in TWO countries where I have ever had any problems. I’m not sure what I have to do to get this corrected.
……the most annoying thing is that 5 days later it worked almost perfectly.
I’ve had a pretty eventful week and a half on the bike: 60km on my birthday (including the aforementioned Garmin fail), 107km on Bank Holiday Monday (including Leith Hill and Box Hill) and then, yesterday, I completed the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo which was 157km of pain. With a head cold and after Monday’s exertion I felt pretty rough but I made it to the finish line in about 7 and a half hours so I was happy with that
I turn 41 on Wednesday. Not the most celebrated, nor the sexiest of ages but I had all the pomp and circumstance of my 40th last year so I’m happy with this year being fairly low key.
One thing I did do last year, on my birthday, that gave me a great confidence boost was to conquer Box Hill for the first time. Box Hill is an iconic climb and it seems to hold some kind of mythical attraction for cyclists, but it really isn’t that difficult (to my surprise last year). It’s 2.2k at an average of 5.2% with the iconicity coming from the two switchbacks as you climb to the cafe at the top
That day it took me 12 minutes to get to the top, partly due to the fact that I’d never done it before and partly due to me taking in the wonderful surroundings of a place that I hadn’t really been to since I was a kid. Since that day I’ve improved both my fitness and my cycling ability and my last attempt on Box Hill was 9 mins 20. I’m aiming to go back there on Wednesday to celebrate being 41 and to knock some time off that PB!
All that is a roundabout explanation of why I only went for a 26km cycle this morning despite the weather being amazing! I decided to conserve some energy for Wednesday, instead going out to improve my time on a few of the local segments that irritate me on weekly basis. Here’s two of them!
Nasty Little Rise
That is the name of the Strava segment and for good reason, maybe more so for me as it is only a couple of miles from my front door and the legs usually haven’t warmed up by that point. It doesn’t look anything much, 0.65km at 5% but it has annoyed me time and time again since I started cycling again.
I’d never managed to get under two minutes on this segment, 2:04 was my best (twice) but I knew that I was stronger and had a better bike so I was confident today and managed to knock 11 seconds off of that time – 1:53 a new PB!
Hillbury Road Full
As I have (no doubt) mentioned numerous times before, to get home from anywhere means I have to go up a hill. I really have no choice. Hillbury Road is one of those segments that looks like a lovely, gentle route home but it has an incredibly nasty sting in the tail that has done for me in the past. Not the kind of gradients that we saw on the Zoncolan yesterday but enough to leave me wondering whether I could get some kind of TUE. The whole climb is 1.8k at 5%
You can see the kicker that I’m talking about, that orangey-brown shaded left turn. Here’s a breakdown of that
It really does knock the wind out of your lungs as you try to keep the rhythm while turning into quite a tight turn
Reasons I know I’m a better cyclist?
I also rode one of my favourite segments, from Beech Farm Road to the White Bear pub in Warlingham. It was such a lovely morning I created a timelapse video of it
Looking forward to getting a longer ride in on Wednesday and really testing my new found fitness over at Box Hill