Days are where we live

This is the longer piece:

https://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/articles/view/349

It’s 5pm Friday and I’m stood at the top of Bridge Valley Road in Bristol. I’m going to be bundled into the back of a moving van then hurled out somewhere north of the border whilst they stalk a man on a bike for two days at about 20mph.

This is because Michael Broadwith is attempting to break the End to End, Land’s End to John O’Groats record. Current incumbent Gethin Butler clocked 44 hours, 4 minutes and 19 seconds in 2001. Recent attempts have dissolved into puddles of sweat and angst, typically somewhere just north of Preston.

Four support vehicles play an elaborate game of leapfrog. The Arctic SRAM van is crammed with bikes, tyres, wheels, equipment, a larder of bike food and four hardened men. Pete Ruffhead is the team leader and sponsor and Steve Nunn from Barnet his wingman. Tim Bayley sits in front of a spaghetti of wires and screens.

Tim knows what it is like to ride along the precipice of oblivion. John Williams also knows. He is observing for the Road Records Association (RRA) and organises the Mersey Roads 24hr. But no-one knows more about long dark years of the soul than Steve Abrahams, who finished his year with 72,000 miles on the clock; further than I’ve driven in ten years.

Car two contains legendary stopwatch wielder John Pick. Riding shotgun is the serene Bridget Boon. She is amongst the strongest 24 hour riders ever. Rob Pitto and Jez Constable are on point.

In car three sits team leader Helen Simpson, wife of Michael, mother of eight month old Poppy. I find it hard taking our kids to the park at the end of the road, let alone taking them to the park 840 miles away in Scotland. Ian Boon observes in the same car. Together the Boons have got a competition record for something demented on a tandem which no-one dares try and take from them.

Dave Hill and Richard Taylor are helping. There is also a psychedelic campervan with signs that give notice that this van is doing special things. It contains Mike’s uncle and aunt, Chris and Jane Brooks and an illuminated sign saying ‘Mike’.

These are the people mad enough to drive to Scotland at 20mph with no sleep. This is the dream team, zooming through Cornwall.

Everyone is happy. Cornish towns disappear beneath the hum of tubulars and swoosh of the disc wheel. Locals peer nervously at the curious iron horse hurtling through Okehampton. The brown stuff hits the whirly thing near Bridgwater. Bicycles are 20mph faster than cars when the road is a constipated mess. Mike is on his own, without food or water.

Anxiety permeates each key stroke on the WhatsApp group: I volunteer to do a hand-up in Bristol. Then I realise my bottles are disgusting; I spot some Sea Monkeys circulating in the one I left on my bike. I smashed through my last three gels earlier in the week when I bonked massively on a 15 mile ride home from work. I run out the door to buy some. My bag sits against my back and I can feel the sweat congealing like mozzarella on a cold pizza. I just make it. Mike appears over the crest. He sees me and grabs the hand-up. He says, ‘Cheers Paul’.

I haven’t screwed it up. I will be allowed in the van.

The van is hectic. There is stuff and wires everywhere. The following cars converge. Mike is a hypotenuse heading northwards to the beat of a 220 watt drum. Steve Nunn wants a Cornish pasty, but it is 200 miles too late. Steve Abraham is traumatised from an experience with some Cornish cheese.

We pass through 259 miles in twelve hours, hurtling slowly through the leaden flood plain, the line graph of the Malvern Hills drawn with a ruler against the half-light. A policeman flashes the lights: it’s ok; he’s a big fan and has been dot-watching in the custody suite. A clubman plays the bugle at the side of the road. A short stop is called by Helen; cold soup from the tin, and not gazpacho. Mike whispers conspiratorially to Helen: “This event is ridiculous.” How do you reply? Rhetorical questions about what bears get up to in the woods spring to mind.

We press on towards Kidderminster where revellers look up from kebabs in alcoholic confusion at the slippery sight. The van stops at Wolverhampton. I smash through my burger. John Williams throws his chips on the floor and we leave them for the locals. We are living the dream. Steve Abraham eats more cheese. Steve Nunn wants a Cornish pasty. There is the seductive promise of stronger winds, but also rain. We head out again and get as close as we can, headlights on full beam, illuminating the road. Mike is tapping it out at 21mph.

The Garmin stops working. We swap it. The new one doesn’t work. The chain unships so we swap in another Garmin and the syncopated stutter ends. We are off again, but it’s less fluid and the undulations have increased.

Stafford arrives and people cheer. The rhythm returns. The roadside presence provokes goosebumps, with whole families out to support before hurtling up the road to cheer again. People in different colour jerseys indicate the shift in district. Mike is stitching together the club colours in a thread of social history, a colourful line connecting us all in a common endeavour. Meanwhile, in the van we worry about the gilet, it’s bunched up. Marginal gains. The overshoes are a hit though; “they’re like luminous Ugg boots” says Steve Nunn. The other Steve tells a cycling story about an abscess which cannot be repeated.

And onwards through the post-industrial northern corridor of Preston and Carnforth. Dawn carefully negotiates with night and the darkest indigo pulses swirl outwards in fractals of ink. A figure in a yellow Preston Wheelers jacket is cheering. Gethin Butler is here in  fellowship. The wind picks up and flutters the feather flags of garages, drawing a fist-pump from Mike. A thumbs-up at the county marker for Cumbria, a smile. He is 40 minutes up.

The Lakeland hills loom with Shap Fell a silent shadow under a somnolent and slate grey sky. Shap is the reckoner, John Williams says it has done for many illustrious riders. A shake of the weather and the incline is enough to unsettle the legs and heart. Mike’s front light pierces through the fog of the summit, he is untroubled. Twenty seconds is enough for a layer and snack. Mike clocks Gethin. “Thank you so much…” he says.

The border beckons, and with it, the 24 hour record. The rain arrives in solid streams. Six miles are required in 14 minutes. A sprint prime. Coordinates are taken, a mark painted: provisionally an incredible 507.8 miles. Rivulets of rain arc up from the back wheel. The climbs loom like whales under the tarmac, floating up to the surface and raising the incline into enormous humpbacks of hardship. They roll and break and flumes of spray cascade down. The temperature refuses to improve but Mike pulses remorselessly onwards, now 45 minutes up on schedule. We feel good but dare not voice it.

And then the cold seeps through, ameliorated briefly by a stop for hot food. The helpers are drenched and time is slipping, back to 30 minutes up at Kelty, the pernicious fingers of cold pick-pocketing seconds and minutes. Mike is struggling. His neck hurts – it could be Shermer’s syndrome where neck muscles go beyond fatigue and refuse to help. By 1.43pm heat pads, paracetamol and ibuprofen are ready. The ride is in the balance. Optimism evaporates like heat shimmer over an arid lake bed of depression and fear. The stretch through to Perth is a purgatory and the sleep-addled support team struggle to keep things on track as the average speed plummets. Mike is broken, the record attempt is slipping through his fingers and we know it. It is over. Helen gets ready to pull the plug. Mike wants respite; he gets a bike change.

People watching refresh the tracker, hoping for more. How do you judge the moment? You know it is going to be dark, but just how dark it can get is impossible to process. Mike props up his head with an elbow on the armrest. Helen tells him to do it for 20 minutes. Then another 20 minutes. He does this for 200 miles.

A flatter bit delays the decision. There surely can’t be any more water left in the spiteful Scottish sky. The schedule is down, now only 12 minutes up, but time is haemorrhaging. A message floats across the group; “it is now only theoretically possible”, deflating any vestiges of hope.

Tim tries the hospital in desperation for a neck brace but they can’t help unless he books in. Mike’s neck might be collapsing in on itself but now is not the time to test hospital waiting times. We need fortitude and hope. Lynne Taylor provides it, calling in contacts and finding someone with a neck brace. The 1,526 feet of Drumochter Pass goes on forever; time slips away down the mountain and spirits ebb with every lost second. We know what’s coming: more horrible climbs, undulating coast roads and the effects of sleep deprivation. Previous holder Andy Wilkinson lost his way, forgetting he was even on a record ride. Ralph Dadswell had no idea whether he was coming or going; “Someone got my Dad on the phone… I wasn’t even sure it was him”. All this lies ahead.

We wait for Helen to make the call. We support and help. “He is begging me not to make him go on because he feels unsafe. I believe in him so much but he can’t hold his own head.”

And we cry.

Over Drumochter, finally, and there are nine miles of descent until Aviemore. It seems so close, but it’s a long way to the finish 145 miles away. Mike resorts again to the “Rodin’s Thinker” position and makes it safely down. A full stop is planned at the Black Isle, a chance to regroup and assess. Helen remembers holidaying in Inverness with Mike. She has a plan. Mike loved Inverness. He knows it is riding distance to the finish. There is soup, porridge, a complete kit change. Everyone sets out to sell the deal.

The gloom lifts slightly, the van is warm, the kit is nice, the food replenishes and the stop is like a “Formula 1 team but better” says Helen. But the fear and anxiety of everything that went before remains.

Mike jettisons the neck brace – he can’t breathe. Faced with a choice of breathing or holding his neck, he chooses the latter. Suddenly, a minute has been clawed back. It feels significant. Tired minds struggle to reconcile the figures, but we agree it leaves the small matter of a six hour hundred needed for the record. We’ll ignore the 37 hour 740 that went before. It might be possible. People are staying awake. The internet is going bananas. GO MIKE!

He can’t look up, he is exhausted, but he thinks he can do it. Now is not the time for regrets; this is the moment on which the ride turns. Mike knows he can tap it out. He knows it is on. Somehow he ekes out time, stealing it from the monstrous hands of fatigue and pain. He gives a thumbs-up at Invergordon. No-one knows how he is still going. He has Helmsdale, Berridale and the coast road to go.

The late night revellers of Helmsdale are intrigued: “What… since 8am on Friday? But it’s Sunday. I don’t get it. 43 hours??” They are thrilled and excited by the incomprehensible. ‘GO MIKE!’ they shout. He rips up the climb. He is relatively heavy and relatively fast and hits the climb of Berridale next, his interior monologue is working, just not his neck. Later on he recalls his thoughts: “I thought, bloody hell, this is me, in this moment, and I’m climbing up Berridale and I’m going to nail this record. I have to remember it because it is a perfect moment in life where I’m actually living the moment that I wanted to live in incredible intensity.”

And we all feel it, but we don’t express it at the time or later. We are living a moment in time with perfect intensity and something special is happening and we are all a part of it. This is what days are for; days are where we live. Only the coast remains; “climb after climb after bloody climb,” says Mike. Steve Abraham stands at the side of the road, he runs alongside:

“You can do this Mike, you got this Mike, you’ve got it, you can do it…”

And we realise absolutely he’s going to do it. It is a feat beyond the imagination, a triumph of strength and determination, of support and fellowship. Everyone moves forwards to take up position in John o’ Groats.  Mike rolls in as low-key fireworks explode gently. John Pick does his second job of the trip; pressing the stop button, some 43 hours, 25 minutes 13 seconds after he pressed the start button.

It’s 4 O’Clock in the morning. People are shattered. Pete Ruffhead grins, broadly, tears are never far away. Helen holds Poppy. No-one knows how or what to do, how to move, where to stand, what to say, they share a look, an 840-mile stare. Mike is propped against the car door, eating food. Tentative plans are made for a celebration later. Mike wonders where people are going, what they are doing. No-one really knows.

“Well done Mike. Get some sleep”, says Ian.

“What are you doing now?” asks Mike.

“Er. I dunno. What can you do in John O’ Groats?” says Ian.

 

The Team

The Bike: Michael Broadwith, number 85.

The Touran: Helen Simpson, Poppy Broadwith, Dave Hill, Richard Taylor, Ian Boon (observer).

The Arctic Van: Steve Nunn, Pete Ruffhead, Steve Abraham, Tim Bayley, Paul Jones, Jon Williams (observer).

The Camper: Chris and Jane Brooks (Aunt and Uncle).

The TK Chariot: John Pick (timekeeper), Bridget Boon (observer), Rob Pitt, Jez Constable.

It’s 5pm Friday and I’m stood at the top of Bridge Valley Road in Bristol. I’m going to be bundled into the back of a moving van then hurled out somewhere north of the border whilst they stalk a man on a bike for two days at about 20mph.

This is because Michael Broadwith is attempting to break the End to End, Land’s End to John O’Groats record. Current incumbent Gethin Butler clocked 44 hours, 4 minutes and 19 seconds in 2001. Recent attempts have dissolved into puddles of sweat and angst, typically somewhere just north of Preston.

Four support vehicles play an elaborate game of leapfrog. The Arctic SRAM van is crammed with bikes, tyres, wheels, equipment, a larder of bike food and four hardened men. Pete Ruffhead is the team leader and sponsor and Steve Nunn from Barnet his wingman. Tim Bayley sits in front of a spaghetti of wires and screens.

Tim knows what it is like to ride along the precipice of oblivion. John Williams also knows. He is observing for the Road Records Association (RRA) and organises the Mersey Roads 24hr. But no-one knows more about long dark years of the soul than Steve Abrahams, who finished his year with 72,000 miles on the clock; further than I’ve driven in ten years.

Car two contains legendary stopwatch wielder John Pick. Riding shotgun is the serene Bridget Boon. She is amongst the strongest 24 hour riders ever. Rob Pitto and Jez Constable are on point.

In car three sits team leader Helen Simpson, wife of Michael, mother of eight month old Poppy. I find it hard taking our kids to the park at the end of the road, let alone taking them to the park 840 miles away in Scotland. Ian Boon observes in the same car. Together the Boons have got a competition record for something demented on a tandem which no-one dares try and take from them.

Dave Hill and Richard Taylor are helping. There is also a psychedelic campervan with signs that give notice that this van is doing special things. It contains Mike’s uncle and aunt, Chris and Jane Brooks and an illuminated sign saying ‘Mike’.

These are the people mad enough to drive to Scotland at 20mph with no sleep. This is the dream team, zooming through Cornwall.

Everyone is happy. Cornish towns disappear beneath the hum of tubulars and swoosh of the disc wheel. Locals peer nervously at the curious iron horse hurtling through Okehampton. The brown stuff hits the whirly thing near Bridgwater. Bicycles are 20mph faster than cars when the road is a constipated mess. Mike is on his own, without food or water.

Anxiety permeates each key stroke on the WhatsApp group: I volunteer to do a hand-up in Bristol. Then I realise my bottles are disgusting; I spot some Sea Monkeys circulating in the one I left on my bike. I smashed through my last three gels earlier in the week when I bonked massively on a 15 mile ride home from work. I run out the door to buy some. My bag sits against my back and I can feel the sweat congealing like mozzarella on a cold pizza. I just make it. Mike appears over the crest. He sees me and grabs the hand-up. He says, ‘Cheers Paul’.

I haven’t screwed it up. I will be allowed in the van.

The van is hectic. There is stuff and wires everywhere. The following cars converge. Mike is a hypotenuse heading northwards to the beat of a 220 watt drum. Steve Nunn wants a Cornish pasty, but it is 200 miles too late. Steve Abraham is traumatised from an experience with some Cornish cheese.

We pass through 259 miles in twelve hours, hurtling slowly through the leaden flood plain, the line graph of the Malvern Hills drawn with a ruler against the half-light. A policeman flashes the lights: it’s ok; he’s a big fan and has been dot-watching in the custody suite. A clubman plays the bugle at the side of the road. A short stop is called by Helen; cold soup from the tin, and not gazpacho. Mike whispers conspiratorially to Helen: “This event is ridiculous.” How do you reply? Rhetorical questions about what bears get up to in the woods spring to mind.

We press on towards Kidderminster where revellers look up from kebabs in alcoholic confusion at the slippery sight. The van stops at Wolverhampton. I smash through my burger. John Williams throws his chips on the floor and we leave them for the locals. We are living the dream. Steve Abraham eats more cheese. Steve Nunn wants a Cornish pasty. There is the seductive promise of stronger winds, but also rain. We head out again and get as close as we can, headlights on full beam, illuminating the road. Mike is tapping it out at 21mph.

The Garmin stops working. We swap it. The new one doesn’t work. The chain unships so we swap in another Garmin and the syncopated stutter ends. We are off again, but it’s less fluid and the undulations have increased.

Stafford arrives and people cheer. The rhythm returns. The roadside presence provokes goosebumps, with whole families out to support before hurtling up the road to cheer again. People in different colour jerseys indicate the shift in district. Mike is stitching together the club colours in a thread of social history, a colourful line connecting us all in a common endeavour. Meanwhile, in the van we worry about the gilet, it’s bunched up. Marginal gains. The overshoes are a hit though; “they’re like luminous Ugg boots” says Steve Nunn. The other Steve tells a cycling story about an abscess which cannot be repeated.

And onwards through the post-industrial northern corridor of Preston and Carnforth. Dawn carefully negotiates with night and the darkest indigo pulses swirl outwards in fractals of ink. A figure in a yellow Preston Wheelers jacket is cheering. Gethin Butler is here in  fellowship. The wind picks up and flutters the feather flags of garages, drawing a fist-pump from Mike. A thumbs-up at the county marker for Cumbria, a smile. He is 40 minutes up.

The Lakeland hills loom with Shap Fell a silent shadow under a somnolent and slate grey sky. Shap is the reckoner, John Williams says it has done for many illustrious riders. A shake of the weather and the incline is enough to unsettle the legs and heart. Mike’s front light pierces through the fog of the summit, he is untroubled. Twenty seconds is enough for a layer and snack. Mike clocks Gethin. “Thank you so much…” he says.

The border beckons, and with it, the 24 hour record. The rain arrives in solid streams. Six miles are required in 14 minutes. A sprint prime. Coordinates are taken, a mark painted: provisionally an incredible 507.8 miles. Rivulets of rain arc up from the back wheel. The climbs loom like whales under the tarmac, floating up to the surface and raising the incline into enormous humpbacks of hardship. They roll and break and flumes of spray cascade down. The temperature refuses to improve but Mike pulses remorselessly onwards, now 45 minutes up on schedule. We feel good but dare not voice it.

And then the cold seeps through, ameliorated briefly by a stop for hot food. The helpers are drenched and time is slipping, back to 30 minutes up at Kelty, the pernicious fingers of cold pick-pocketing seconds and minutes. Mike is struggling. His neck hurts – it could be Shermer’s syndrome where neck muscles go beyond fatigue and refuse to help. By 1.43pm heat pads, paracetamol and ibuprofen are ready. The ride is in the balance. Optimism evaporates like heat shimmer over an arid lake bed of depression and fear. The stretch through to Perth is a purgatory and the sleep-addled support team struggle to keep things on track as the average speed plummets. Mike is broken, the record attempt is slipping through his fingers and we know it. It is over. Helen gets ready to pull the plug. Mike wants respite; he gets a bike change.

People watching refresh the tracker, hoping for more. How do you judge the moment? You know it is going to be dark, but just how dark it can get is impossible to process. Mike props up his head with an elbow on the armrest. Helen tells him to do it for 20 minutes. Then another 20 minutes. He does this for 200 miles.

A flatter bit delays the decision. There surely can’t be any more water left in the spiteful Scottish sky. The schedule is down, now only 12 minutes up, but time is haemorrhaging. A message floats across the group; “it is now only theoretically possible”, deflating any vestiges of hope.

Tim tries the hospital in desperation for a neck brace but they can’t help unless he books in. Mike’s neck might be collapsing in on itself but now is not the time to test hospital waiting times. We need fortitude and hope. Lynne Taylor provides it, calling in contacts and finding someone with a neck brace. The 1,526 feet of Drumochter Pass goes on forever; time slips away down the mountain and spirits ebb with every lost second. We know what’s coming: more horrible climbs, undulating coast roads and the effects of sleep deprivation. Previous holder Andy Wilkinson lost his way, forgetting he was even on a record ride. Ralph Dadswell had no idea whether he was coming or going; “Someone got my Dad on the phone… I wasn’t even sure it was him”. All this lies ahead.

We wait for Helen to make the call. We support and help. “He is begging me not to make him go on because he feels unsafe. I believe in him so much but he can’t hold his own head.”

And we cry.

Over Drumochter, finally, and there are nine miles of descent until Aviemore. It seems so close, but it’s a long way to the finish 145 miles away. Mike resorts again to the “Rodin’s Thinker” position and makes it safely down. A full stop is planned at the Black Isle, a chance to regroup and assess. Helen remembers holidaying in Inverness with Mike. She has a plan. Mike loved Inverness. He knows it is riding distance to the finish. There is soup, porridge, a complete kit change. Everyone sets out to sell the deal.

The gloom lifts slightly, the van is warm, the kit is nice, the food replenishes and the stop is like a “Formula 1 team but better” says Helen. But the fear and anxiety of everything that went before remains.

Mike jettisons the neck brace – he can’t breathe. Faced with a choice of breathing or holding his neck, he chooses the latter. Suddenly, a minute has been clawed back. It feels significant. Tired minds struggle to reconcile the figures, but we agree it leaves the small matter of a six hour hundred needed for the record. We’ll ignore the 37 hour 740 that went before. It might be possible. People are staying awake. The internet is going bananas. GO MIKE!

He can’t look up, he is exhausted, but he thinks he can do it. Now is not the time for regrets; this is the moment on which the ride turns. Mike knows he can tap it out. He knows it is on. Somehow he ekes out time, stealing it from the monstrous hands of fatigue and pain. He gives a thumbs-up at Invergordon. No-one knows how he is still going. He has Helmsdale, Berridale and the coast road to go.

The late night revellers of Helmsdale are intrigued: “What… since 8am on Friday? But it’s Sunday. I don’t get it. 43 hours??” They are thrilled and excited by the incomprehensible. ‘GO MIKE!’ they shout. He rips up the climb. He is relatively heavy and relatively fast and hits the climb of Berridale next, his interior monologue is working, just not his neck. Later on he recalls his thoughts: “I thought, bloody hell, this is me, in this moment, and I’m climbing up Berridale and I’m going to nail this record. I have to remember it because it is a perfect moment in life where I’m actually living the moment that I wanted to live in incredible intensity.”

And we all feel it, but we don’t express it at the time or later. We are living a moment in time with perfect intensity and something special is happening and we are all a part of it. This is what days are for; days are where we live. Only the coast remains; “climb after climb after bloody climb,” says Mike. Steve Abraham stands at the side of the road, he runs alongside:

“You can do this Mike, you got this Mike, you’ve got it, you can do it…”

And we realise absolutely he’s going to do it. It is a feat beyond the imagination, a triumph of strength and determination, of support and fellowship. Everyone moves forwards to take up position in John o’ Groats.  Mike rolls in as low-key fireworks explode gently. John Pick does his second job of the trip; pressing the stop button, some 43 hours, 25 minutes 13 seconds after he pressed the start button.

It’s 4 O’Clock in the morning. People are shattered. Pete Ruffhead grins, broadly, tears are never far away. Helen holds Poppy. No-one knows how or what to do, how to move, where to stand, what to say, they share a look, an 840-mile stare. Mike is propped against the car door, eating food. Tentative plans are made for a celebration later. Mike wonders where people are going, what they are doing. No-one really knows.

“Well done Mike. Get some sleep”, says Ian.

“What are you doing now?” asks Mike.

“Er. I dunno. What can you do in John O’ Groats?” says Ian.

 

The Team

The Bike: Michael Broadwith, number 85.

The Touran: Helen Simpson, Poppy Broadwith, Dave Hill, Richard Taylor, Ian Boon (observer).

The Arctic Van: Steve Nunn, Pete Ruffhead, Steve Abraham, Tim Bayley, Paul Jones, Jon Williams (observer).

The Camper: Chris and Jane Brooks (Aunt and Uncle).

The TK Chariot: John Pick (timekeeper), Bridget Boon (observer), Rob Pitt, Jez Constable.

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Michael Broadwith LEJoG record

This isn’t the post about the record, it’s simply advance warning that I’m going to write a post about the record but need a few days to process what actually happened.

Here is a report I wrote:

https://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/articles/view/347

Here are some pictures I took:

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Sporting Cyclist

I’ve been wading through various back issues of Sporting Cyclist, one of Jock Wadley’s magazines from the 1950s onwards. As ever, when researching, I end up getting sidetracked by almost everything else and not finding the elusive thing I’m looking for.

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Coppi and Bartali out shootin’
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TdF Chrono goes RTTC village hall

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Brassknocker in the Lewis GP, 1959
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Eileen, Beryl, Millie
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Brian Robinson
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Dave Keeler End to End record attempt
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Eagle of Toledo
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Elliott, Robinson, Brittain, Coe

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Interstellar Overdrive

After last week’s shenanigans involving getting my bongo weapon out in the balmy sunshine and showing it off to all and sundry, this week has been more sedate. There is much talk of the Hollyoaks Late storyline, suffice to see it seems to involve wanton abuse of random animals and a cast of North Africans. One day it’ll be dramatised, featuring Hugh Grant as Joe Hollyoaks and Ben Whishaw as a hapless puppy, down on his luck and down on all fours.

It has been an amazing run of weather, so I’ve been out and about commuting and general riding through the sunny mornings and close evenings. The ride to work is hilly. It makes a perfect hour long training ride, three times a week. But it is tiring. This veteran status isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, recovery times get longer and  weight loss is much harder.

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I have been enjoying the Giro. My mum loves the cycling, that she does. Today I carefully managed to manipulate naptime of a sleeping child, then had two screens running simulataneously, one showing ‘UK Freight Trains at Speed’ and the other showing the Giro Time Trial. With this elaborate set-up I managed to catch 3 hours of the race. My mum came in during the last, pivotal three minutes.

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Granny Hath Arrived

“What’s this?”

The Giro.

Who won yesterday?

No-one won yesterday.

Why didn’t they win yesterday?

It was a rest day.

Why is he in pink?

It’s the pink jersey. It’s like the yellow, jersey, but pink.

So why is it pink? Why isn’t it yellow?

Because they have pink instead of yellow. Like in yorkshire, where it’s blue instead of pink, or Spain where it’s red instead of blue, but pink in Italy.

So this is a hill climb is it?

No.

Oh it’s not a hill climb. (Yates crosses the line) So he’s beaten all the riders?

No he came 22nd. 

But he’s winning the race?

Yes. 

But he came 22nd? And he’s beaten all the other riders? So he’s won the race?

No

It’s like watching Interstellar, being utterly engrossed for three hours and and just prior to the final head-bending elliptical loop of space where everything is resolved in comes Granny to ask why that man is touching a bookshelf  in  space with weird strings and making dust and the world is curved and his daughter is older than his granny and old people are talking about dust-storms and you have to explain it whilst also giving a primer in quantum theory and the nature of time and space and a traditional narrative arc.

Granny did bring an excellent bit of signage though which I have put up on the wall. I don’t think Belle will notice. However, she might accidentally end up in the garden when needing a wee.

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Suddenly I’m lurching off to the right. I can’t work out why.

Lastly, my new shoes have arrived. That’s another tale for another day.

Do You Even Race, Bro?

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BONGO

I went down to the Lake yesterday, for to enjoy the evening air and partake of cycling in triangular perambulations. It ended up being quite a long day; I rode to work full-bongo, even if my strava suggests that it was anything but a full bongo ride. I left the bongoweapon in the classroom and it successfully distracted nearly all of the children from the job in hand, namely, the furtherance of a successful education, rather than the pursuit of carbon things. I then rode to the Lake, did the Lake and then rode home again, by which time I was in distinct danger of dropping myself.

It was great fun. It was a balmy evening where nothing really mattered and everyone was out to ride their bikes as quick or as slowly as they wanted to, without fear of anything other than ridicule and club-style abuse. The headline event was the three-way bongo-battle betwixt the young pretender, Josh “POC-TASM” G, Mr Nick Greipelthighs and erstwhile teen hearthrob, Joe Hollyoaks.

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This is taken from Joe’s showreel for Hollyoaks Late. It was a risqué storyline which I can’t repeat on a family blog. 
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Sir David of Braidley was doing the honours at the side of the road. Club TTs are where it’s at.

They all smashed the 19 minute barrier. I ended up just the wrong side of 20 minutes, which I was more than happy with. I think my PB is 18.25 or something stupid, but I was possible more chuffed to not experience abject disgrace on an evening such as this, whilst returning to the scene of many battles as a slightly jaded and greying sage. I rode well and dispensed wisdom to various people. It is a role I think I might grow into.

Midweek Club TTs are the staple of British time-trialling, the life and soul. It’s about camaraderie, and can be the first, and sometimes the last, taste of competitive cycling. They are lovely things. I was reading Chris Boardman’s book today. Jens Voigt was staying over in the GAN days and they both went out to the Wirral Velo evening ten and did 19 minutes on their road bikes. I would love to have been there. It’s a good book, I recommend it. It’s all the better for Gary Imlach doing the edit.

Today I went to try and get some new commuting shoes. These should be cheap and sturdy. I already have a pair, but they are black and lace-up, two reasons as to why I shouldn’t have bought them. I feel like a football player now summer has come, and for that reason I find it upsetting. The fact that they fit beautifully is very much beside the point. I went to a well-known shop on the edges of the motorway to try on shoes. I said I wanted…

“A pair of your cheapest road shoes please for commuting.”

To which they replied;

“Yes that’s fine, we have a range. Have you ever worn a road shoe before?”

I BEG YOUR PARDON??

Imagined, but not stated:

“Yes, but only the once, when I was racing against Bradley Wiggins. Did you not see that race? National Championships 2014.”

Not imagined, but stated:

“Yes, I have.”

I didn’t buy them. They were very nice, but not nice enough. After trying a few shops, I came to the conclusion that shops no longer stock road shoes in a range because it isn’t worth it because everyone buys them on the internet.

This shop also had the new specialized allez, which I have been eyeing up as a potential fast and relatively light commuting bike. It looked very nice. It has eyelets across the board. No wait, it has eyelets at the back, and rack bosses. The front fork has no eyelets. It’s effectively the world’s first cut-and-shut bike on the open market. Specialized did a fork recall after some american hurt hisself. They replaced all the forks with non-eyeletted forks. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Or as the wife said, “Who signed that off?”

Madness.

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Good to see the horns are catching on. This is Ed’s version. It’s a remix, if you like, a sort of care in the community version, to show that club 10s are inclusive and you can ride them in the little ring, even with a shonky horn. Go Ed!
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Testing Times

I’m planning on riding round the lake tomorrow. It’s something I used to do a long time ago when i was thinner and faster. I’m now fatter and slower. The bike is ready. I stuck some Alf stickers on there. I’m aiming for sub 23 minutes for the 8.6 miles. That’ll give me bragging rights over myself.

I’m going to use my Strada skinsuit because it’s big and baggy. I’d love to use my BSCC one but I tried it on earlier and got it halfway up my ankle before giving up. It was like trying to stuff a turducken into a peperami wrapper.

The Alf book is done, now sitting with Adrian Bell for his final run through. Fingers crossed. It should be out in July.

 

 

 

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