All hail to the train

Map reference: About 7 hills, Wimbledon to Dorking

Carbs and caffeine: Peaslake Village Stores, sandwich, tea and cake. Picked up delicious smoked cheese for later

This week I have a busy cycling schedule, with three weeks to go to the Dragon Ride. It started yesterday with a plan to do my 10 hills Surrey ride with Jacqui and Jen. I knew it would be a steady pace, so already had it in mind to chop a bit off the end if necessary. All was fine to Peaslake – six hills climbed, no drama. We then stopped to refuel and as we slurped the last of our tea the thunder started. There wasn’t much option to do anything but commit the shorter route to memory (I’m still carrying the map and notes I made last week) and get going. By the time we reached the top of Radnor Road, a very pretty climb straight out of Peaslake, we were soaked and rivers of sandy water were running down the road.

We pedalled on, it was freezing rain and, unbelievably for late May, as we started a long descent, the rain turned to large brutal shots of hail. I was in short bibs and it was really, really painful. I was hunched over my thighs trying to protect them, my vision was obscured by my dark glasses and frankly I yelped all the way down.

We were still in the wilderness and now all three of us shivering, soaked to the skin, with shoes full of water. The weather eased with a tantalising few glances of sunshine, and then, as we hit another descent, another freak hail storm attacked. It was ridiculously painful, and by now my legs were covered in red dots from the icy attack. We ploughed on through Coldharbour and down into Dorking.

Thankfully Jacqui was searching her mind for a solution as we looked at Box Hill in the distance, shrouded in grey. I was thinking for ways of routing around the hills, not to avoid climbing, but because it was noticeably colder up top. But with an hour and a half’s riding in front of us, Jacqui had a more fundamental idea… the train.

So we hopped on at Dorking and shivered our way to Raynes Park. Together we laughed about our predicament and the state we were in, but the child in our heads grizzled. I have seldom been more uncomfortable.

But Jen’s last words, as we parted, were to hope we were going to do the ride again on Thursday, which is the plan. She’s a ray of sunshine, and I do hope she brings more of it with her when we try again tomorrow. I’ll let you know.

Note to self: phone brother and get him in line for tomorrow’s ride. Cake, jelly babies etc etc

Beaten by 29% hill… bah

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Amusant? I’m not sure my LaPierre is going to take to this Italian bling

Map reference: out to the Surrey hills from Worcester Park, 100k, 1,200m climbing

Carbs and caffeine: cuppa at Peaslake Village Stores http://www.peaslakevillagestores.com/, new loo a blessing

Jacqui is away at the moment, so she kindly lent me her husband for our regular Tuesday slot. Rob is training for the Flanders (250k, 1,800m climbing) and so proposed ten Surrey hills and 140k. Unfortunately we set off a bit late with one thing and another and I had to cut this short to 100k and about 5 1/2 hills.

Along the way I got snowed on (yes, really) and beaten by a 29% hill (Rob tells me it is 29%, my Garmin had given up and gone back to zero). I am annoyed by this as I hopped off about 4m from the end of a longish climb. I had had to take pain killers for my back at one and a half hours, which is a setback in itself. I think my spine is still suffering from the short French bed on holiday and disastrous ride on ill-fitting saddle  last week. And then about three hours in to the ride we were on a perfectly normal hill – ranging from 10-20 percent with some false flats – and suddenly there was a ramp in front of me, with the top tantalisingly in view. It truly was a ramp, such as you see in a multi-storey car park. I’ve looked on the map, and as far as I can work out it was on Barhatch Road. Avoid it at your peril… or bring crampons.

So I am resting today; stretching and planning for tomorrow, when I intend to take LaPierre out for a joyride with a new group. One of the prep things was to use my credit at Pearsons http://www.pearsoncycles.co.uk/ to buy water bottle holders. They assure me that the titanium ones pictured above, made by Ciussi, are my best bet. They are light and strong, if strangely blingy. My bike is turning into a patchwork of European style. As long as I don’t have to get into Greek style debt to get the new brakes I desperately need, I should be fine.

Note to self: don’t forget to switch your saddle and stem bags too… going out without tubes and gas is not smart

Riding circles…

Crop circle: The Wells estate, just outside Ashtead village

Map reference: slightly shorter than intended ride, to Ashtead and back, 50k

Carbs and caffeine: piece of cake from the musette

Husband took the afternoon off work so that we could go for a ride and we needed a trip to Ashtead anyway so that was the plan. In the morning, I dipped into some of Bealsey’s http://www.bespoke-velo.co.uk/ rides on the Garmin to make sure I was clear on the best way down. I toyed with the dodgy-dog underpass route, but in the end plumped for cutting about across Worcester Park, slipping through the Hook estate (using a route dedicated to only buses and cycle route) and slipping along the railway to the Wells estate. I don’t know who designed this area, but I’m assuming it was a sci-fi fan.

Unfortunately we were slightly late leaving so my plans to take Husband back through Fetcham and Cobham had to be canned and we did a rather dull commuter trail back through Kingston instead, largely on main roads, albeit with cycle lanes.

We were potentially going to be so late back for school runs that we didn’t even have time to stop for a coffee. Luckily I had packed a couple of pieces of cake. I didn’t actually pack them in the cotton bag that would be called a musette in riding circles, but they were in my stem bag http://www.evanscycles.com/products/topeak/tri-bag-stem-bag-all-weather-ec033777 and that’s close enough.

Note to self: remind Husband he need more clothes when he is riding with me. He was cold again…

Dijon bike takes the mustard

On tour: Team FDJ.fr have been riding Lapierre bikes, which are built in Dijon, for 13 years

Map reference: home, -3 out, no amount of layers will counteract that and it’s a turbo day on my programme anyway. 32.5k in 62 minutes

Carbs and caffeine: caffeine fix before hopping on bike. Sneaky buttery ginger biscuit once off

If my 62 minute turbo session seems strange, this is because Barclaycard called to check an odd payment to Wiggle.co.uk. Yes, Husband, after weeks of research has chosen a bike for me. It’s a 2014 Lapierre Xelius EFI 100 Compact. I am, of course, beside myself with excitement and have been researching its history.

Wikipedia tells me that Team FDJ.fr’s Thibaut Pinaut rode his Lapierre Aircode to third place and best young rider on the Tour de France last year. The Aircode is the new bike the team started riding last year. Before that they were riding the Xelius EFI, hang on, that’s my bike. Chapeau, indeed.

I am practising my French, to welcome my new partner. I do hope we get on

Note to self: It’s not about the bike?… Bah, today it is

Parallel universe

Map reference: Wimbledon to Ashtead and back, 60k

Carbs and Caffeine: Cafe Bean http://www.bikebeans.co.uk/, carrot cake

It was cold today, but dry. Having gone back into the house once to get my Garmin,  I couldn’t bear to go back in for my hat – not my helmet, I had that and would never ride without – and had to risk brain freeze. Luckily I was wearing a muffler, albeit thin, and was able to get the ears covered. They’re the bits that will actually fall off if frozen, after all.

As it was, I was warm enough, with just a bit of toe-lossage. Even my hands were relatively ok, so I think it was slightly warmer than the 4 degrees we had been warned of. And there was no wind. That was the major difference with last week’s ride. There was even some thin sunshine at some points. All in all it was a very encouraging day. I think we all felt strong. It was like one of those wonderful skiing days, when the sky is blue and the snow is perfect and you feel finally feel at one with your oh-so-parallel skiis.

Bike Beans did us proud as usual. Bealsey http://bespoke-velo.co.uk/ has managed to persuade the owner to have his holiday promo video going round on a loop on one of the televisions. Good work, Bealsey, I’m impressed.

Note to self: Why are your shins hurting? That’s a running injury. Peddling wrong again?

My Waterloo…

IWM

Map reference: Turbo session at home, 23.5k, 45 minutes

Carbs and Caffeine: managed to get first caffeine hit at Waterloo, on way to Tate Britain. No cake, none whatsoever

I’ll admit the picture above is fairly random, bear with me. My mission today was to get through one of Bealsey’s turbo sessions and then get to Waterloo by 11. I just about made it. It meant jumping on the bike straight after the school run, and then jumping in the bath – briefly – and running out of the house to get to the station. In fact I ran most of way to the station.

It was worth it though. My friend Helen and I went to see Conflict Time Photography at Tate Britain. Here the picture of the Army Cyclist Corps comes in, just about. In the exhibition there was a picture of the cycle corp of HMS Hermes. Unfortunately I was too chicken to take a snap, so the picture above is of the Army Cyclist corp in 1917 (from the Imperial War Museum collection, I hope they forgive me for borrowing the image). The pictures are similar. The bikes heavily loaded and uniformed men chatting idly. It looks like the sort of convivial meeting you see at Roehampton Cafe in Richmond Park, until you remember these men were in the middle of a bloody war.

Sort of puts my worries about ‘battling’ the Alps into perspective.

Note to self: Out tomorrow, fresh air. Cold, fresh air. Layers, layers, layers …

Out, at last…

Map reference: Wimbledon to Bookham, retreat to Leatherhead and home, 60k

Carbs and caffeine: Homemade walnut and coffee cake, Bocketts farm, Leatherhead http://www.bockettsfarm.co.uk/

The weather finally went our way and Jen and I met up with Bealsey http://bespoke-velo.co.uk/ for our regular Really Helpful Club http://www.reallyhelpfulclub.com/ ladies ride. There were a few faces missing, including one whose husband had booked her into a skiing lesson with him (without asking). Post-Christmas admin took the rest, I think.

We did one of Bealsey’s wiggles through south-west London. Met the same angry couple and dodgy dog in the same underpass as before. Had the same row. Do they live there like trolls, ready to attacks any passing cyclists? (See my post Underpass Impasse, 12/07/2014).

We popped up in Fetcham. Unfortunately torrential rain popped up at the same time and we battled our way to Bookham before stopping at a bus shelter to add rain layers and give up on the glasses. A quick look at the sky told us that if we kept heading in the same direction we were just heading into more watery stuff, so we double backed on ourselves and made our way to Bocketts children’s farm. Thankfully there were no children, and the coffee and cakes were good. The cake is packed in little plastic boxes, which is a shame, it just seems so wasteful. Give me a slice off the whole cake anytime, but perhaps they are mobbed sometimes by greedy little monsters. Then I can see the efficiency in pre-cutting.

We stayed quite a long time, drying off and discussing Jen’s nutribullet http://www.nutribullet.com. Bealsey, like most cyclists, has lots of opinions on food and nutrition. Jen impressed us with the fact that she is hiding kale in her son’s smoothy. The nutribullet may go on my wishlist, as I have a fussy eater at home too.

We made our way home through Leatherhead, towards Epsom and the Hook Road Arena, and the sun joined us. Jen regained feeling in her hands somewhere around Ewell.

More tips from Bealsey today about my riding. All this winter spinning has taken it’s toll and I am riding at far too high a cadence and getting out of breath. Following Jen up the long hill near the Yehudi Menuhin school, I could feel myself dropping off. It’s obviously a combination of heart-lung capacity and leg power… and a bit of how you feel on the day.

Note to self: Don’t be disheartened, early days…

Out … And in again

Map reference: Richmond Park
Carbs and caffeine: Roehampton Gate Cafe
I’m three days late with this post, so pre-tests are finally taking their toll. That and the whole back-to-school malarkey. One down two to go on that front.
Anyway, back to Saturday. Bealsey had organised an all-comers post-festive 90k circuit to Box Hill. Unfortunately someone forgot to order the weather. I had invited my brother and was unable to stall him as his mobile phone is on the blink. So he and I had some coffee and narrowed our horizons to Richmond Park. I had invited Jacqui too, and so she headed that way too. We made no arrangement to meet her, but with us going clockwise and she going anti-clockwise we met and joined up for a final lap. Clever, eh?
By this stage my brother was freezing in his running shoes. He has a nice Cube bike but has been slow off the mark on cleats. Never again. I was feeling the frost in my winter booties, he was way beyond uncomfortable.
Jacqui headed home and Angus and I stopped at Roehampton cafe. Coffee for me and a few stolen bites of the cake I had packed for our longer run. I made Angus eat most of it as he needed fuel to reheat himself.
Strangely he then submitted himself to another lap, and I pedalled with him to Putney Bridge to see him safely on his way home.
Note to self: must persuade brother to buy into cleats… And normal cycling clothes. Baggy shorts slowing him down