Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wellington Cycling Culture

Having spent several weeks in Wellington this year, I thought I'd write something about its cycling culture. It's a great city - the best capital city in the world according to lonely planet - and it looks great to ride around: the city centre is relatively flat, but some good hills surrounding it for training rides. I spent most of my time in the city centre or the CBD as Wellingtonians like to say (and geographers too). Here are my main observations:

1. Everyone is geared up. I have never seen so many people riding full carbon BMC bikes. And they are riding them to work!!!! I even saw someone riding to work on spinergy wheels! A couple of people have been on fixed and a few more on single free, but still nowhere near as many as the BMCs. What is it with that? Surely its not down to Cadel Evans winning the tour - he's an Aussie after all. Maybe they all just have great secure storage at work?

But its not just the bikes, everyone is also wearing proper cycling kit to work. It must be the outdoors culture or something because I've not seen many people on sit up and beg bikes wearing a suit with their trousers tucked into their socks. Lycra is de rigeur. And cycling kit here is more expensive than it is in the UK.

2. People ride like nutters but there doesn't appear - at least to me - to be much complaint about this. The one way system, particularly down Featherstone Street, combined with the wind, means I've seen people tearing along, scarily. Maybe they don't have accidents, maybe they don't have people opening car doors, but it's not how I would ride. Defensive riding seems to involve going flat out, not dominating the space around you. Even along the quay you see people going a fair speed amongst pedestrians and skateboarders. I never saw any conflicts and it would be quite easy to end up in the harbour if you had one. Maybe this has happened, but I think the attitude is different to that on the Taff Trail where it's walkers and dog walkers who like to assert their right of way.

A quiet day in Wellington...
From NZ November 2011

3. You can see bikes everywhere, they are not hidden away on bike paths. The one criticism I have of the Taff Trail in Cardiff is that I just don't see anything of Cardiff when I ride to work. It's in it's own separate world. That can be a good thing, but I don't think it helps in generating a cycling culture or awareness of cycling and cyclists. Indeed that was one of the objections to cycle paths in the 1930s when they were first mooted. So in Wellington you see people rising down the main streets but also along the quayside in vast number.

Anyway, I wish I had my bike here. I'd ride up Mount Victoria and pretend its the Poggio at the end of Milan San remo.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

I should win an Ignoble

I think I may be in line for an Ignoble award!

When this year's awards were announced recently, the one that caught all the headlines was this one about Beetles having sex with a beer bottle. The BBC reported that this way:
Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz' study of buprestid beetles began by accident one morning on a field expedition in Western Australia when they found the insects trying to mate with brown "stubbies" left by the side of the road.
"It was just co-incidental that my area of research was Darwinian sexual selection and how sex differences evolve, and here was a classic example taking place in front of my eyes where males were making mating errors.
"It was very obvious the beetles were trying to mate. These beetles have enormous genitalia, and they're large to start with - over two inches long. "The sad thing was that these beetles were dying; they wouldn't leave the bottles alone. They'd fall off them exhausted.
"It was almost certainly the visual colour - the bottle looked like a giant female. And also in the reflectance patterns - there were stipples on the bottles that resembled marks on the females' wing covers."

Ha! Well I can top that...After my ride last week I noticed something odd on my bike as I was about to put it away: a grasshopper having it off with the valve on the inner tube. Here's the evidence:

This doesnt just prove that grasshoppers are sexually attracted to inner tube valves, but also that they can withstand being spun around at high velocity for extended durations of time. On my ride I stopped twice to take a photo and leant the bike against some grass in a hedge: it must have been then that the grasshopper spotted the love of its life. The first time I stopped was about an hour away from home, the next time about 45 minutes. That's some spinning.

How do I claim my prize?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Preparing for Ventoux

Today, another comeback. First ride in 2 months: but with a clear target of Ventoux in May/June next year. There's nothing in the way. I have even spotted a nice new bike that maybe I could get for my birthday in March (?).

Todays ride is turning into a favourite. Up the valleys (chilly despite the heatwave), then over Williamstown where I stopped to take a picture:

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I came back through llantrisant forest and the vale lanes. Felt OK, but lots of work to do!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Next Year - Its on!

Well, it might be.

But there seems no conceivable barrier to me getting to Ventoux next year - May time I think.

I'd better get training - and the weather this weekend looks great...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

How I nearly qualified for the points race final

Back in the day when I used to race - probably around 97 or 98 I rode the track nationals at Manchester. I entered the pursuit, kilo and points race. I took it too easy in the pursuit, but I had a plan for the points race: Id move up with 6 or so laps to go and get amongst the sprint. Hmmm...

I put quite a big gear on - 94", more I think because my chainset wouldnt take campag rings and that was all we had. The race was fast and split up. I was on the wrong side of the split, but towed - of all people - future olympic gold medallist Paul Manning back up to the bunch.

With 6 or so laps to go I was getting nervous. But then Steve Whitcombe and Phil West appeared alongside me. Great! I thought - Ill get on their wheel, Steve'll want to get into the final, itll be a great leadout. The speed wound up, but we were going nowhere. The bell rang and we sat at the back. It was an easy ride but didnt they want to qualify.

Rolling over the finish line I discovered the truth: they'd actually lapped the field whilst I was grovelling at the back. And there endeth my nationals career: the year after I broke my collar bone again weeks before the event putting paid to the rest of my cycling hopes. I could have been a contender you know....

Monday, 26 September 2011

Geraint Thomas, the Maindy Flyers & Olympic Gold

This is worth a listen - LIVE on BBC Radio Wales, Debbie Wharton talks about Geraint Thomas, how he got involved in cycling and reacts to him winning an olympic gold medal. The race is at about 24 minutes.

  Debbie on Radio Wales by GarethEnticott

Given all her expertise, its odd of course to think about how Debbie was treated when she returned from maternity leave - instantly made redundant. Its odder still to think about how Sport Wales stood by and did nothing: isnt their role to develop sport and promote women in sport. Incompetent? I think so.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Debbie Wharton on the BBC

When Debbie Wharton was Director of Operations at Welsh Cycling she took some time out on maternity leave. Turns out that was the wrong thing to do given what happened after. But whilst she was away from work she still worked. I know, cos I looked after our baby instead. A good example of this was during the 2008 Olympics when Geraint Thomas was odds on to win a gold in the team pursuit. Instead of watching it with me, BBC Wales phoned her up the day before and asked if she would come in and watch it live on the radio (on Jamie Owen's radio show) and then they interviewed her after: you can see it here.

I have the audio file too, somewhere, but Debbie may have come over a bit Sean Kelly during the interview. As she said afterwards: "I wanted to watch the race, but they kept asking me questions!". If I find it, Ill post it too.

Its interesting: this week another Maindy Flyer - Luke Rowe - has signed a contract to ride for Sky Procycling team. Unlike Geraint, Luke has a family steeped in cycling. But there's one thing they do have in common: in the 1990s and early 2000s, they, just like all the other UK professional cyclists - Mark Cavendish, Matt Brammeier, Ben Swift, Adam Blythe, and now Andrew Fenn who has also signed a contract with a pro team - were all riding the youth events on the track and road. Events like the Brite track series, the Manchester Youth Tour and the National Track Champs. It seems crazy to think that until Tom Smith - one of Geraint's contemporaries at Cardiff - wrote to Willi Tarran suggesting that they have more events for youth riders at the Nationals, that there were only a couple of events for them.

As an academic, I know that it is always difficult to disentangle the effects of different and sequential programmes. Its very easy to pin the current success of UK cycling on British Cycling's U23 academy. I have no doubt it played a role. But what has an equally, if not greater role, was a bunch of hard working volunteers who created the opportunities for youth cyclists to learn how to race and learn from each other from a young age. But for them and UK cycling would look very different now. Its a shame that doesnt get recognised more often - it'd be a great article in Cycling Weekly. But its more of a shame that at least one of those people was not afforded the respect they deserve for the hard work they did by people that knew better but lacked the guts to do anything about it.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

If the sky's the limit, what's next?

June has seen a deluge of new cycling books in time for the Tour de France. I was going to save some of them for my flight to New Zealand, but that plan has failed. After "Slaying the Badger" and "Racing through the Dark", next through the letterbox was Richard Moore’s sequel to “Heroes, Villains and Velodromes” entitled “Sky’s the Limit”. Both these books offer an historical account of the rapid change in fortunes in British Cycling. So if this is cycling’s golden era, then in 20 years these books may prove an invaluable reminder of that time.

This latest book differs from the first in that in concentrates on the creation of the Sky pro cycling team. There have only been two other British professional cycling teams – ANC Halfords and Linda McCartney – and accounts of those (by Jeff Connor and John Deering) read like a Shakesperean farce. If ANC Halfords was the British Leyland of cycling teams, then Sky truly is the Toyota, driven by managerial logic, continuous improvement and innovation – Kaizen as the Japanese say. This then is a book about British Cycling's Performance Director Dave Brailsford’s appliance of science to road cycling following his success in the velodrome. But this is no Clive Woodwardesque book for business managers seeking ideas to improve themselves. Instead, the book works on a number of levels. Firstly, for those unfamiliar with the Sky story, then this book provides the complete background. Secondly, for those more familiar with it, then Moore provides a range of interesting anecdotes and back stories – from James Murdoch’s encounter with Bernard Hinault at Paris Roubaix, conversations in the team car, and the breakdown in relations with Scott Sunderland. Some of the most interesting parts of the book are when Moore is mixing with the background staff on the team bus with the riders, coaches and support staff. Who would have thought that Wiggin’s coach was a professional footballer? There’s tragedy, jealousy, doping and tactics: enough that hasn’t been published elsewhere to keep the ardent cycling fan happy.

But where the book works most for me is in opening up the question of how can you apply scientific rationality to road cycling: is it possible? This forms part of the narrative running through the book, but Moore leaves it up to you to think about the answer. His voice is silent on this: there is no ramming his opinions down your throat, which is perhaps the best option. As Moore describes Brailsford seems convinced of this, seeking to apply MBA lessons to the world of professional cycling: measuring and quantifying everything. In doing so, Brailsford seems to forget that a key lesson of management guru W.E. Deming is that the most important things cannot be measured. Or as Einstein put it: “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted”.

By attempting to measure everything, Brailsford makes failures (of sorts) inevitable. The more complicated you make a system, as Charles Perrow might say, the more likely it is to fail. The real surprise is that Brailsford’s epiphany comes so late. Moore doesn’t take this further to reflect on the real meaning of British Cycling’s mantra of “marginal gains”, but then this is not a book on the philosophy of knowledge. There doesn’t seem to be any definition of what is meant by a marginal gain, but it seems an odd phrase. Surely any gain is a gain and worth pursuing rather than wrapping up in a pseudo scientific discourse? Instead, a marginal gain either seems to be something which makes sense but for which there is no conclusive evidence, or a risk, a gamble – like deciding to send Wiggins off early in the Tour prologue. What the rhetoric of ‘marginal gains’ seems to do then is disguise how unproven knowledge – what we might call intuition or experiential knowledge – can sit easily alongside other scientific approaches. This is interesting, it reflects other sports scientists’ approaches, such as Paul Kochli as featured in Moore’s other recent book, ‘Slaying the Badger’. But in making this accommodation, the discourse of marginal gains privileges and maintains the air of rationalism in which Brailsford surrounds himself. It is interesting to think about how and why the idea of marginal gains survives these failures.

Overall then a good read, but one wonders what Moore's next book might be. Here's an idea: as much as Sky and the National Lottery have contributed to the success of British Cycling, the riders who have come through that system were helped and encouraged by a number of volunteers and enthusiasts. Youth racing in the late 1990s really was amazing. Telling their story probably wouldnt fly with the publishers, but the people that made that happen deserve the upmost credit.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Maindy Flyers 10 years on

Its now exactly 10 years since Debbie Wharton left the Maindy Flyers to go to work for British Cycling in Loughborough. A lot has changed since then, but her legacy remains. Here are some pictures from her leaving party:

Monday, 6 June 2011

Slaying the Badger in the Dark

In Richard Moore's excellent account of the 1986 Tour de France, Paul Kochli - the cycling coach is quoted as saying that cycling isnt an endurance sport - its a game. According to Kochli, we need to "play cycling". Arguably (and perhaps ironically for Kochli) professional cyclists have forgotten about that amongst its increasing specialisation and rationalisation. For a sports scientist to say that cycling is all about tactics and intuition, and being 'ahead' of the race (the analogy he uses is of a surfer anticipating the break of the wave) seems incongruous. Its not something you'd have heard Peter Keen or Dave Brailsford saying.

Yet it seems to make perfect sense, expoing LeMond's shortcomings and Hinault's brilliance. The implication is that LeMond is a bit of a wheelsucker, which is hard to argue against in the portrayal of the race. The other disconcerting fact about LeMond was that he always sleeps with a pillow between his legs - Moore never asks why, and perhaps its left best unasked! But I dont want to run down LeMond. He was my hero: I rode around the north Devon countryside in full Z kit and yellow Giroin the early 90s.

Really its Paul Kochli who's the star of the book, along with Andy Hampsten who provides some incredible insights and anecdotes. The best of these is when he attacks at the foot of a climb to set up LeMond. What Kochli shouts to Hampsten as he drives alongside him is incredible but ultimately unsurprising for Hampsten is surfing the wave. Hampsten looks like a rich but untapped mine of cycling anecdotes - his story should be told in more depth.

The book raises some other issues relating to current debates on race radios. Despite Kochli's insistence on learning to feel the race and be impulsive, in the mountains he seems to be constantly alongside his riders in his car giving instructions - just like Guimard and the other DS's. Why this seems to be OK in the mountains, but race radios are not OK for controlling flat stages is an interesting question. But that's not what the book is about - its about reliving the drama of the '86 Tour and it does that in style.

David Millar's autobiography on the other hand is much darker and complex. It raises so many questions that go answered, but in retelling his story to a wider audience I'm sure he'll be rewarded at sportswriters awards - that sort of masochistic writing seems to go down well. The book is not out until June 16th, but they were selling copies at the Hay Festival so I bought one and read it other the weekend. For those familiar with cycling there's probably not much new here: the account of a young pro getting on a plane to a race 'allume' - lit up by amphetimines is startling though.

In a systemic doping culture, Millar seems to have the emotional characteristics that will inevitably drag him under - thats not a criticism of him, but the reasons why he succumbs and others don't could be explored more fully. Millar, with the help of Steve Peters - the British Cycling psychologist, who curiously also has a new book out - explains it all in relation to his family background. The moment he describes taking EPO appears incredibly straightforward, there's even little sense of decision making other than to say it seemed easier to take it than not to take it.

My main criticism though is in the anonymity he gives Massimiliano Lelli - known as "l'equipier". It was quite easy to work this out with a quick Google search, but who "le Boss" is remains a mystery. Its perplexing because Lelli's identity is already known, whilst Jesus Losa the sports Doctor who supplies Millar with much more EPO is named without hesitation. Its also perplexing given that the book is an attack on omerta. Maybe there was a reason for this, but for me the effect was to almost conjure up a mystical but stereotypical dark side - an underworld complete with the usual shadowy characters ("Le Boss"). In fact, the systemic doping problem Millar describes seems far from that, far from secretive in which those that are 'prepared' apologise to those that werent when they beat them. Everybody knows whats going on, even the anti-doping officers.

There were some other things I was a little disatisfed with - there is no real account of why his tax problems emerged. Others will criticise his attitude towards Lance Armstrong and lack of discussion about the doping issues surrouding Contador. But there are interesting issues here: the simple fact that anti-doping officers had never even spoken to a doper before is an eye-opener for example.

Millar seems still to divide opinion in the cycling world, which seems strange if you accept doping is a systemic cultural problem. The wider public may appreciate the wider message of the book. But there is an important message here for all cyclists, an important reminder about a terrible era in cycling, one that must not be forgotten: as Millar reminds us, its only be realising what the past held, that its possible to move forward. Putting personality before substance is the wrong approach: we ignore the message at our peril.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Millar at Hay

David Millar was at the Hay Festival talking about his new book last Friday. You can listen to what he said here (quality not excellent, but passable)

David Millar at the Hay Festival

sport + equality = loose talk

I heard this the other day: “sport has to be run by sport for sport”. Fantastic rhetoric. But what does it mean? Shouldn’t sport be run for society given the amount of government funding it receives? Hasn’t sport got obligations to ensure equality and other public goods? Hasn’t the government got obligations to ensure “full accountability and transparency”. Or is it all talk?

Talk of equality, transparency and accountability in sport is meaningless, it appears to be deluded, a facade in which government funders seek to maintain an air of equality lest they be embarrassed by reality.

I give you this recent example:

Imagine someone – female – highly successful in what she does. She’s turned around how an organisation runs itself – how it identifies and nurtures talent. This brings rewards: prizes from the government, but also offers of new employment in another country. She takes the job but really wants to contribute her expertise to her own country. Nevertheless, she leaves and does a good job, working to develop new coaching and development structures. The new organisation values her and her skills. So, when she has a baby the organisation treats her superbly, as you would expect. Then an opportunity arises to return to home. This is where it starts to go wrong. Back home things aren’t as they seem. The new organisation is well meaning – most of them, but some not. There’s bullying. It continues whilst she is pregnant. People stand by, government officials stand by and do nothing. But she gets on with the job, bringing in much needed investment, new equipment, trying to turn things around. But it’s not until someone from her previous organisation pays a visit that the problems are dealt with…for the time being.

First day back after maternity leave a new boss demands she sign a new contract, signing away pay, rights and working conditions. There is no discussion. It becomes clear that the new boss doesn’t think she should be working there. A ‘re-organisation’ is planned and she is asked to re-apply for her job. The government official whose job it is to keep an eye on the organisation stands by watching, refusing to speak to her: emails, phone calls go unanswered. The interview comes: her experience means the questions are easy to respond to in detail. But it was a set-up: the job goes to the colleague who’d covered her maternity leave. Even he knows his experience is limited and apologises. No thank yous are offered. The government official sat in the interview refuses to provide any feedback, any explanation. The organisation tells her she hadn’t made a significant contribution to its goals.

Meetings with solicitors follow. There’s a clear case of sexual discrimination and wrongful dismissal they say. A tribunal hearing follows. Its very stressful. The judge urges settlement. Eventually one is hammered out but it does no-one much favour: its scant justice seeing your work derided. The organisation agrees to make a statement about the value of her work but changes its mind. They repeat the line that she didn’t make any contribution. They refuse to write a reference. The financial compensation such that is provides no justice. It means that the organisation teeters on the edge of bankruptcy; but for her, it is the end of the line – unless she moves away again, her career is finished. Her career is finished. The government look on and do nothing. There is no going back: she is ignored by former colleagues and friends. There is no enjoyment looking for justice.

A while later a meeting follows. A request to speak to the head of the government organisation that oversees her former employer is granted. She retells her story. The government sympathises: equality is their top priority they say, but won’t intervene in these cases. So much for their commitment to equality. There’s no apology, no punishment for the organisation, just words: we’re hoping this won’t happen again they say. And what about the victim she thinks? Just empty words and hollow promises.

Months later and more news. The organisation is awarded more money by the government. Something of a surprise: how does this fit with commitments to equality? Two new members of staff are appointed. Higher salaries. Males. Discrimination and performance related pay do mix it seems. But maybe this is an ironic apology: its good to know that it takes two men to do the job she did by herself.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Duw its hard

Longest hide of the year so far with some big hills too. Got blown up to Merthyr in torrential rain only for the sun to come out whilst climbing up to Dowlais top. The open cast mine and land fill didnt make the view anymore attractive and the moor road across to Fochriw was windy and hard. The descent to ystrad and onto Caerphilly was fine but then came the big challenge - rather than go around the mountain I was going to go up it... I engaged 34x25 at the railway station and just rode up - 5mph. It was hard going but not excessively so. It will be interesting to see the Tour of Britain go over it in September. The descent into Cardiff was OK, but got stuck behind some cars doing 45mph and my top gear was not that big. Legs tired for the rest of the day mind.

Saturday, 7 May 2011


The year's first rainy ride: not so bad really, only one heavy downpour. No GPS art either but still a nice ride. Good to have the traffic lights with me down the A48 from Culverhouse Cross. Got stuck behind a horse lorry around Newton, I think they must have been lost because they were going to get stuck at some point in those lanes.

More GPS art

Yesterday was the dog, today it looks like a dog's head. Perhaps. Anyway this was a good ride - again, managed to find a great training route which Ive never ever done before. Windy on the way back to Cardiff, but a nice ride.

GPS Art - the dog

So here's my ride today - it looks like a dog! Strange how you can find some really good training routes when its not important any more. Im liking the climb up into Pentyrch and the climb through Llantrisant forest is also good.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

strange hills

Here's my ride today done in nice weather but a chilly easterley breeze which I felt on the way home. The end looks like a proper mountain stage although the two climbs are only about 200m high. Curiously, the hardest was the last one, although the climb up to Pentyrch has an arrow on it on the OS map. They are both similar climbs starting of gradually but then getting steeper towards the top. The main difference is that the Pentyrch climb comes out into the village whereas Castell Coch is just in the woods all the time. Next time Ill continue over to Efail Isaf and back through treforest.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

no flat and a squeaky saddle

This was a nice ride through the lanes. I worked out what the noise my bike has been making these past rides - i had thought it was the carbon forks (which would have been worrying), then I thought it was the bottom bracket (I put out a lot of power...), but finally worked out that it was the saddle rails creaking. Will have to do something about that, its slowing me down as its embarrassing. According to the Garmin site, this ride had no flat in it which maybe explains the average speed of only 16mph, but I think I might do this ride again in future with a loop up around Miskin estate just to get it up to 60km.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

tour finish?

Here's todays ride which varied between 59km (garmin) and 61Km (endomondo) I prefer the endomondo version with the 27kmh ave speed.

I finished the ride by going up Caerphilly mountain. This year the Tour of Britain is coming over the mountain and finishing in the town. Really, they should have the courage to finish on top and make it like the Mur de Huy. And this approach is the best, coming past Castell Coch (very scenic) and up through the woods - scene of the Welsh Schools hill climb in the past won by riders like Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe (good talking point for the commentators) - and then drop down into the town and come up the main mountain road. That would sort them out.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The benefits of twitter

Here's the ride I did today. Im not sure how long it was exactly because I stopped a couple of times, but I was going pretty well. When I got to the barrage to come back into Cardiff, the bridge was up to let some boats out so I checked my twitter and saw that Geraint Thomas was going down to Maindy Track. So I went down there and had a nice chat with Geraint who I (along with some other people) used to take out training and around the country to all sorts of cycling races about 12 years ago. I even got some free energy gels and was interviewed by ITV Wales which was great!

Bike route 923830 - powered by Bikemap 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The lost stage of the Tour of Britain

Or why the Tour of Britain has never had a team time trial.

Today's announcement that the Tour of Britain is to have a split stage with a time trial is nothing new. It was meant to happen 12 years ago on the Prutour, but thanks to Royal intervention it never happened, and this year's stage to Caerphilly will be the closest the tour has come to Cardiff ever since.

Here's the story:

In 1999 I was working for Cardiff County Council's Leisure section. One day I was hauled into a meeting simply because I was known to be a racing cyclist. The meeting was with Mick Bennett and some other guy who were planning the route for the next edition of the Tour of Britain - then the Prutour. The idea was that there would be a split stage: a road stage coming in from Caerphilly way in the morning, and then they wanted an individual time trial stage in the afternoon. The problem was the route for the time trial - as a local cyclist surely I'd know a way into and out of Cardiff that wasnt going to cause much traffic chaos? I did, but that was quickly shot down by the Police inspector also in the meeting. The problem was that the time trial had to start in the same place as the road stage finished. If the road stage finished in the Bay, then the time trial could head up the dual carriageway and back - dead easy for road closures, but alas "too busy" for the police. Other options were floated: Mick Bennett liked the idea of going round Roath park lake, but this was too far away and the residents would have gone nuts.

Somehow the idea of a team time trial came up. I cant remember how, but it made much more sense given the logistics and road closures required for an individual TT. The next thing I ended up in a car with Mick and the other guy looking at routes into and out of the city. I suggested that the easiest way into and out of the city was along the Wentlooge flats which could get you into the Bay area relatively easily. Starting at Rumney/St Mellons, the route could go out to Newport, cut down onto the flats and back along Rover way and up to City Hall. It would have looked something like this:

Bike route 916749 - powered by Bikemap 

Mick was quite excited, even if the scenery wasnt to his taste, but it looked like a goer. But alas, it wasnt to be. Unbeknown to anyone, the day of the stage was already marked down for a royal visit - the Queen was coming to open the new National Assembly for Wales. There was going to be no Prutour for Cardiff this year and the stage ended up going to Swansea instead, whilst the ITT ended up in Portsmouth.

The council were told that the tour would visit the following year, but by then the Prutour was no more. The city was to have hosted a stage finish the previous year, but that stage was cancelled after a police motorcylist was killed whilst closing the roads. Since then, the new Tour of Britain hasn't come to Cardiff either: the stage finish into Caerphilly will be the closest it has been, probably since either the Milk Race or one of the stages of the Kelloggs tour.

Monday, 18 April 2011

2nd ride of the year

Somewhat amazed by this ride. It was quite easy really considering this was the first time over 30 miles in 8 months. Maybe I dont need to bother with this training lark. It was nice of RCT to lay on my own personal cycle lane along the dual carriageway by Miskin. Next time I'd go up that hill around the back of the hospital and possibly come back via Efail Isaf and Pentyrch. The lane I went off down Llantrisant road was interesting but not very well maintained. Last time I came down the road from Tonyrefail was in August 2003, just before Martha was born, after going up Llanwonno, then over Aberdare to Maerdy and then up the steep hill out of Porth to Trebanog. I wont be doing that in a hurry again.

This was the first ride using Endomondo...I was being tracked from home on the way back

Monday, 11 April 2011

first ride in 8 months

On my road bike that is. And pretty good it was too - 30 miles and 16mph ave speed. Pretty good. Watched Paris-Roubaix afterwards too.

Bike route 897706 - powered by Bikemap 

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Comeback 2.0

Almost two years on and no sign of reaching Ventoux... Last year the fitness was there, but not the time - see the rides I was doing below. At the moment, the fitness isnt there and probably not the time either. So it looks like next year will be D-Day, hopefully around may-june time. But now its April I can start training...Im still riding to work everyday (approx 50 miles a week) and now its getting warmer again Ive taken Evan out a couple of times - he's fallen asleep both times. Last week's ride was quite a journey and its great to see that the last stretch of Taff trail between Nantgarw and Ponty has been tarmacced. Now the nights are drawing out there should be more chance of some of these rides again.

Bike route 875490 - powered by Bikemap 

Friday, 1 April 2011

Three Cols

What a ride this was to draw training to a close once I realised that I wouldnt be going to Ventoux in 2010. Three big climbs, the first being the best.. I had raced up the Tumble before; this time I found it incredibly boring - I had never realised that most of it, and the hardest bit was in the trees - and once out of them there wasnt much left.. The descent was nuts though...

Bike route 652290 - powered by Bikemap 

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Through the Beacons

Another of the rides that I started in Sennybridge, this was cracking. It went up through the eppynt ranges where the SAS and army train - I passed a big group waiting to go off on a hike and went past the mock Balkan village built on the side of a hill. The climb back towards Brecon was fantastic - much better than the tumble. And it all started with the weirdest road in the area: a dual carriageway countrylane up a steep hill.

Bike route 626972 - powered by Bikemap 

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A Dream Come True

When I lived in Swansea a ride over the black mountain was always great. But the south side is the easiest and the least attractive - Id always wanted to do the ascent from the north side but from Swansea it meant a long flat ride up to Llandeilo first and I never got round to it...until now and the great idea of driving to Sennybridge and riding from there. The route I took follows the old roman road - its quite a desolate place up there, and then you drop down to the start of the climb. The climb really is great - a couple of weeks later the Tour of Britain came over it and the race blew apart. I'd say the bottom is the hardest - its not steep, but its quite difficult to get a rhthym going. Once out of the trees and round the first hairpin then you can start to get it going quite well. The last hairpin is quite wide and the road surface is good. It gets hard again, but going over the top you get moving again. I found the second climb by accident but basically it goes back over the black mountain rather than following the main road past the Crai reservoir. Its a bit uneven with some ups and downs and I was having a bit a bad patch here - the long ride up the Swansea valley was pretty boring, although I did see Adam Jones - the Welsh international prop - ambling through Ystalafera. I recovered on the descent though and stormed back into Sennybridge very happy.

Bike route 624275 - powered by Bikemap 

Highest Road in Wales

Many people think the Bwlch y Groes is the highest through road in Wales. Not so its actually Hay Bluff or the Gospel Pass, but its almost in England so maybe people discount it for that reason. Ive never been to the Bwlch, but the view from the top here is spectacular, and the climb is not that hard - steep at the bottom, but if you take your time its easy enough. In that respect, its a bit of let down - nowhere near as hard as the climb from Machynlleth. The descent is also rubbish - too narrow to get up any speed and sheep and grockels everywhere. I blew spectacularly coming out of Abergavenny despite (or perhaps because of) overdosing on jelly babies. For that reason, I may be biased against this climb.

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Sunday, 2 January 2011

Amazing ride part 2

I rode halfway home from our annual holiday in Borth. The route was amazing. The climb out of Machynlleth is probably the highest altitude gain in Wales - you go from pretty much sealevel in Mach to over 500 metres by the top and the last sections of the climb are insane. The road back down to Llanidloes is hard - it should be downhill all the way you think but there are some steep sections up and down. Then the last bit to Rhayader was err eventful. I came across some triathletes and shot straight past them going uphill in the big ring (!) only for my chain to snap on the following descent - what was that about? I wasnt even peddling. I had a link extractor, but managed to break it whilst fixing the chain. The tri-guys shot past (thanks!) and then I had to soft pedal the last 8 miles, worried that the chain was going to snap again.

Bike route 586226 - powered by Bikemap 

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Amazing Ride Part 1

I decided to ride half the way to Borth for our holiday. I had thought about going all the way, but the ride from Cardiff to Rhayader is uninteresting - but it gets interesting from there so jumped out of the car there. I had always wanted to go across the back road via devils bridge to Aberystwyth - it looks interesting on a map and I wasnt disappointed. The climb out of Rhayader was hard (it would be) but then the next couple of miles were amazing scenery across the common and then diving down into a steeply sided valley before climbing back up and down to Devils Bridge and onto the main road to Aber.

Bike route 586384 - powered by Bikemap 

Holiday Rides

Borth is a strange place. It is no Croyde, it has similarities with Westward Ho! but is more likeable. But it must be a great place to live if you are a cyclist - the training landscape is great - flat rides and hilly rides that are not too busy. Unfortunately, there's nothing else and its miles from anyway else, but nevermind. If I lived there, then this would be one of my staple training rides. Im not sure Id finish every ride by going up the mega steep 1:4 hill out of Borth, but it was an experience.

Bike route 586373 - powered by Bikemap 

And if I was a tester, then Id do this ride a fair bit too. Boringly flat in places, but fast:

Bike route 586353 - powered by Bikemap