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

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…

Banking the hours

Map reference: Bank of England Sports Club

Carbs and caffeine: smoothy and half a piece of homemade bread with peanut butter

Another chilly day, so another spin class, this time with a different instructor, very slim and curiously self contained. She has a different taste in music to the usual pop beat. It more rave/house – that really is a guess as I am way too old for the club scene. The tracks are quite mesmerising …and long. One of them committed us to seven minutes of climbing. That’s longer than Box Hill (5-6 minutes for me, I think) but rather shorter than the first hill of the Etape, The Madeleine, which is likely to take me more than two hours.

Anyway, the coach tells the class to try to lose ourselves by focusing on the beat; and watching her with her eyes closed, hair swishing around her shoulders and the sunshine strobing off the mirror behind her, I got a weirdly clubby vibe. This was heightened by the fact that she was necking Redbull. It transpires she was out until 2.30am and then up at 5.30am for her first class. Funnily, her fatigue made her a lot smilier than normal. It would have the reverse effect on me.

I watched the stats on my bike a bit today and my watts were over 300 most of the time, touching 480 on one particular sprint. Hopefully that counts as banking my biking base for the day.

Our leader’s ab sessions are renowned for being brilliantly awful. Half the class don’t stay for it. Ouch.

Note to self: don’t forget to dial up sunshine for tomorrow’s ride, it’s time to get out there and remind myself why I am doing all this…

People watching as my world spins by

Map reference: Bank of England sports Club

Carbs and caffeine: made myself a nice smoothy when I got home

Tuesday is my Jacqui day but unfortunately her boiler has blown and she had to wait for the gas man. Shame really, as there was briefly a lot of blue sky. Anyway, I settled for a spin session with Mark http://www.markreynoldsfitness.com/. The class was packed, I’ve no idea why. There was a couple I haven’t seen before, who seemed to be having a row. Her arms were crossed and she was clearly fuming and not really joining in. He was glancing sideways at her and then moved to another bike, ostensibly to let someone else have his front row seat… but I wondered. About half way through the woman suddenly perked up, took off her sweatshirt and started pedalling like mad. Maybe the endorphins kicked in.

I forgot to look at the stats on my bike, which is unlike me, but the class was the usual mix of climbing, racing; sitting and standing, followed by the dreaded abs. I was my standard beetroot colour, so perhaps that’s as good a measure as any.

The second half of my kid-free window was spent ironing, as the ironing lady was marooned by the bus strike. I drew a line at Husband’s work shirts as I can’t do them properly. I can only just manage fitted sheets and that’s because the difficult bit is tucked out of sight. I counted his shirts and I think he can get through to next Tuesday.

I also did some research on the Etape Du Tour. Last year 275 women finished, 41 in my 45-49 age group. In fact, only 81 finished in my age group or above, including one remarkable woman in the 65-69 age group. This is making me nervous. I would love to know how many started. I read somewhere that it was around 600 which, if true, means half didn’t make it. Oh dear. I suppose a challenge isn’t a challenge unless… well… it’s a challenge.

Note to self: Maybe stay away from the science bit and just keep pedalling

Who are you calling old?

Map reference: triple circuit of Box Hill from Epsom Downs. 50k and close to 1k climbing.

Carbs and caffeine: The Grey Dove, Walton-on-the-Hill http://www.thegreydovecafe.com/

Out with my old personal trainer, Neil, today. Well, he’s not old, I’m obviously the old one, and he’s the secret weapon in my training plan. I was slower than him today (I’m blaming the heavy winter wheels) but close enough in speed to force a competitive pace. And I have the advantage of knowing my way round the Surrey hills a bit, especially the cafes. I also have a car so we can drive out, do circuits and then not have to commute home. It’s early days, we don’t need to slog home. This will work as long as I can keep up. If I could only shed a decade or two (and add testosterone).

Note to self: No stretching, come on you know better. No wonder your legs ache

Get shorty

Map reference: The Ripley tea run, an old favourite, 70k, flat

Caffeine and carbs: The Nest, Ripley

Jacqui and I had big plans, today, to use part of last week’s Windsor route and create a loop from home, incorporating Elm Nursery in Sutton Green. It would be a new pitstop for Jacqui and give us another winter ride for our collection. But I spent so long last night trying to work out how to hook up the ride that I had a hurty head by the time I went to bed. And every time I closed my eyes, I found myself following the route – left, quick right and straight on – so it was not a good night. I was quite glad when it became clear in the morning that Jacqui wasn’t feeling like a long mystery tour and we decided to treat ourselves to an old favourite instead. Rob, Jacqui’s husband, came too. Obviously the lure of Nest cake works for him too.

It was the right decision as the weather was distinctly dodgy, with gusty winds knocking us about and tree litter strewn all over the roads. Outside the Black Swan near Cobham, there was a branch across the road that could have been laid out by a sabateur if I had a suspicious mind.

At least I was warm enough, in part due to my new gilet, bought second hand for a bargain £5. Unfortunately, this evening Husband tried it on and he says it fits him perfectly and being white will be good for his commute. So I can say goodbye to that. I shall have to go back to my source…

Note to self: Do not leave nice kit lying about where it can be seen…

Castle train-ing

The twins: French bulldogs at Elm Nursery

Map reference: Windsor to Wimbledon, via Ripley

Caffeine and Carbs: Elm Nursery Farm Shop, 01483 755559, http://www.elmnursery.co.uk

Much excitement today as we all piled on the 9.12 from Putney to Windsor. Especially exciting for me as I had already been (admittedly in the car) to Raynes Park station, two schools in Kingston, done half an hour of car park duty, raced home, bolted to the garage and swung my leg over the pre-prepped bike and off down the hill.

But it really did feel like a school outing. Bealsey (Bespoke-Velo) guided us onto the cycle carriage, roughly in the middle of the train. A couple of women clearly thought we were showing off in our silly Lycra outfits, and who can blame them really. No one wants their carriage invaded by four exciteable women (and one laid back Aussie) on a brief escape from their daily routine.

We alighted at Windsor. Alighting being the exact opposite of what it felt like in cleats, and rummaged in all our weird pockets for our tickets at the gate.

And we were off. Up the high street and then on into Windsor Park. Past a king-on-horse statue whose creator killed himself for forgetting the stirrups (I haven’t checked this nugget from Bealsey) and onto a loop that took in a lovely new cake stop for me, Elm Nursery. We got a very friendly welcome and the cakes were fabulous. Why do I keep forgetting to photograph the cakes? They disappear so fast, maybe. I did photograph two resident French bulldogs, one half blind. Eventually I’ll find my way through the Microsoft filing system and post them here.

Then it was on past Ripley, a flooded Cobham, Esher and on and on (90k today) until we finally popped up, miraculously in Wimbledon again. I shall study the map. I don’t know how we got there, I really don’t.

Note to self: Don’t get angry at technology, it can hear you

Lucky break in the weather

Map reference: Wimbledon to Walton-On-The-Hill

Carbs and Caffeine: The Grey Dove Village Cafe, Walton. thegreydovecafe.webs.com

I am very relieved to have tested my winter wheels, especially as I had had my doubts about my husband’s fitting of them. I was worried that, since he had also changed the cassette, the chain wouldn’t fit. But it seems I was wrong. In making the swap he discovered that I had been riding the wrong cassette for my summer sportives, the Dragon Ride and Etape Cymru. How we laughed. I tell you, I’m going to insist on all the gears possible for the Etape Du Tour. Oh yes, I hope you are reading this, Husband.

Anyway, with our sensible winter-ride heads on, Jacqui and I decided to repeat the route that Bealsey (Bespoke-Velo) showed me the week before. Jacqui downloaded the map I had recovered from my basic Garmin to her more advanced Garmin and we were off. There’s a lot of weaving but it’s a good route through south-west London and I am going to try to commit it to memory. I’d much rather do this than go round and round Richmond Park for fear of traffic. After about an hour we were out in our familiar Headley and Box Hill area. There was flood litter all over the roads. My winter tyre has a large gash on the back wheel which I worry about. The occasional flat is inevitable, but you always think, please not this week. And today, my prayer was answered. We had a lovely ride, round the back of Box Hill, up the zigzag and past our normal tea stop at the top. We had a few mouthfuls of soggy jam bagel as we went, but were desperate for our cup of tea as we carried on. After another 15 minutes or so we finally got to Walton-On-The-Hill, a really lovely village. Several good looking pubs, some interesting shops and a beautiful church. And the Grey Dove. My second visit, I can recommend it. Good coffee (I can drink any tea, but coffee has to be good). The homemade cakes were delicious too. Bakewell tart this time for me. The place was full, as it was last time, it’s obviously a badly kept local secret.

Note to self: Must see if I can follow a route using my Garmin 500. It is supposed to be possible….