Riding after a lengthy layoff

I have been riding more lately. It’s not been easy. It involves a painfully slow pace and a horrid experience, a sense that I’m not in the easiest cog when I have been for ages and it’s still only a false flat. In summary, i find it an undignified experience.

I rode towards the Mendips on Sunday. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a sportive. It was like I’d never been away. All I can say is if you’re struggling to ride and carting a few extra pounds around the midriff, then mixing it with the sportivistes on Blagdon Hill does wonders for the self-esteem. Even at a staggeringly low speed I managed a healthy dose of chopper-drops. My increase in confidence was dented slightly by a failure to get away from a really big chap who clung on up Rhodyate. At least he was wearing club kit.

Back to the drawing board. More miles, less food.

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Cycling and Eating

My avowed intention to do more cycling is continually undercut by other things. However, yesterday I made it out on the bike for a round trip to the Ethicurean near Wrington, with Will, an erstwhile touring partner. Will went full Mercian whereas I rode the mountain bike on account of having errands to run in the morning prior. It was good training.

The Ethicurean is a walled-garden and restaurant set in gently rolling countryside with a view of the Mendips. It’s a splendid place and the setting is bucolic and tranquil. It was the nicest way to spend an afternoon.

Will and I made grandiose plans to arrange a tour that only takes in high-end eateries. It could work.

 

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Hill Climbs are Coming

Hill Climb season is nearly here. For those of you interested, you can read about the definitive history of the event in all its insane colour and agony.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Corinthian-Endeavour-Story-National-Championship/dp/1874739765/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1470296238&sr=8-1&keywords=a+corinthian+endeavour

Praise has been almost universal. Some people have questioned the intensely technical discussions of gear inches and shit like that, which I recognise as a valid comment, although it’s hard to avoid in a discussion of the sport. There was also a question raised by Jack Thurston regarding a tendency to over-denigrate the more materialistic elements of the sport (i’m forever railing against expensive bikes and expensive sportives) and I think this is a valid criticism; it’s not really needed in the book and is something best reserved for this blog. It’s a learning curve, and writing a book has been both a fantastic experience, but also completely nerve-wracking. I’m hoping my next book will be better. It has the working title

“King Alf: how one complicated and fascinating character took on the blazers and lost, and then won, and then lost again, then won”

I can stress that this is not going to be the final title. I’m currently wading through around 6 hours of transcripts and it’s throwing up gem after gem after gem.

Meanwhile; the other book:

“It takes considerable narrative skill to create a compulsive read out of eighteen chapters concerning a few minutes of ascendancy and jones has this ability in spades.”
Washing Machine Post

“The rest of the text is littered with occasional lines that cause you to pause: “The clock ticks audibly on the wall within the silence of reminiscence, the seconds so palpably less precious now, in conversation, than they ever were in the race.” Give Jones a smaller canvas than seventy years of hill climbing champions and I think he is capable of astounding the reader.”

Feargal Mackay, Podium Cafe

“Just read your book; it’s excellent!”

Chris Sidwells, Cycling Weekly

“There is obviously a nod to other writers, such as Tim Krabbe e.g. ‘The Ride’, but PJ writes in his own inimitable style – with a conviction of a potentially great cycling writer. It is certainly a unique, distinctive style – somehow quite in harmony with the British hill climb tradition.”

Tejvan Pettinger, Cycling Uphill

“A Corinthian Endeavour is a superb read and a must for anyone who loves bike racing and the history of the sport from the early days to the present day.”

Larry Hickmott, VeloUK.

“The beautiful use of description and imagery of the courses and landscape brings them to life. The comparison of the contour lines of an OS map becoming like a thumb print providing the arena for the race comes to mind. Just brilliant.”

Tom Hanlon

 

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Bretagne

I’ve just returned from a brief and idyllic week at a farmhouse in  Brittany with family. This involved lots of croissants, bread, wine and beach visits. I also took my bike (started early) and managed to squeak in a few rides, both with Penny and also with the father-in-law. Riding a bike in France is the single most elemental thing you can do on a bicycle. Even when the terrain isn’t that affecting, the experience is fantastic. I think it’s to do with the way that I have elevated France as the cultural and geographical embodiment of cycling. To others, it might seem more like a slightly dull ride through endless fields of artichaut.

Penny had a few rites of passage moments, the first of which was riding her islabike in France, the second of which was pedalling furiously away from an angerly chien Francais.

We didn’t do any ‘epic’ rides. It was more sedate, a couple of 25 mile loops (not with Penny). The north coast of Brittany is largely flat with a few ups and downs. There wasn’t anything to trouble my choice of 68″ gear, aside from one stinky climb near a Zoo Parc, but with a bit of forcing and a hand held on my stomach to prevent double hernias from erupting forth, I made it in one piece.

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And if I only could, I’d make a deal with God

I present the following exchange as cast-iron evidence that the bike boom has approached hitherto unforeseen levels of cross-cultural and pan-generational contamination. wp-1468692963875.png

My Mother has taken up a new role, that of armchair commentator and cycling expert. She was keen to see whether Porte had the legs or not. She also informed me of the rules affecting different stages. Fortunately, I was watching at the time of the first spoiler. You’ll also notice that I called it correctly.

Froome did himself proud. Running uphill in cleats is hard work. The last time I did any running in cleats I resembled the proverbial quadruped on frozen water.

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Froome seemed much more balanced. In fact, he seemed more balanced off the bike than he is on it.

froome

The internet went a bit batshit crazy in the aftermath of this stage. However, misplaced ire from modish, bike boom zealots aside, it’s a fantastic representation of everything the Tour is about; a hallucinatory spectacle and an intense and unpredictable narrative.

 

 

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Echelons

I love echelons. They’re just about my favourite thing in the whole of bike racing. One minute everyone is happy and all is well. The next, chaos is come again and the desperate scramble for position begins. Lusty sidewinds at the right time in the Tour reshape the riders and the race in a matter of moments. It’s thrilling to watch.

echelonsToday was a beautiful representation of the form. Not only can you see two fully formed echelons at the bottom of the screen, each with riders desperate to make up time, but you can see riders caught in nomansland between the lead bunch and the rest. Even better still, you can glimpse  the chaos as everyone tries to stay at the front; it’s a spiralling bundle of madness, underpinned by a neat diagonal. And best of all is the string of riders on the edge of the road, the veritable coup de bordure in full force. Joyous.

Here’s Etixx QS smashing the race to bits in a crosswind…

And here’s High Road Columbia smashing the race to bits in a crosswind…

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Like I said

Something cycling related happened today. Having a three year old child (or ‘the tiny dictator’ as she is sometimes named) is a strange experience. She has started using idiomatic expressions. Which means I’ve started noticing the idiomatic expressions I use, and now can’t be sure if I’m speaking in my own idiomatic idiolect, or have been reduced to a burbling recantation of a three year old’s first phrases. 

Anyway, like I said, something cycling-related happened today. On the way home I noticed a clubmate stood at the side of a main road with a clipboard. It was a strange sight. She was waiting for a tandem trike end to end record attempt to come through in her capacity as CTT observer. It was about as old school and as niche as you can get. Even more niche than hill climbs. 

At the bottom of Bridge Valley Road I bumped into the legendary George Keene, now recovered from a broken pelvis caused by a stray dog and back out on the bike, confounding the surgeon who pinned it in January that an 84 year old could recover so quickly. He was also waiting for the pair. Apparently they’d been spotted coming over Redhill at 5pm. I hazarded a guess that descending Redhill on a tandem trike would be quick. Not unlike sitting in the cab of an articulated lorry with shonky brakes. 

They came through in the end, a couple of hours down on schedule, aiming for three days. I gave the hardy trio a cheer. It looked like they needed it. It’s bonkers. 

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