Hill Climb Hitters – Men

This year’s National is on Bank Road. Last time it was held in Matlock Matt Clinton took the honours, riding fixed. This year, the big hitters have begun creeping out of the woodwork, most looking very ill, very pale and very thin.

Contenders: 

Adam Kenway: serial nearly man in the event and Metaltek Kuota firebrand. Came scorching out of the blocks to win on the Cat and Fiddle and at the Bolsover event – a modish smashfest up a closed road at night-time. Kenway took bronze on Pea Royd in 2014; this year is a similar climb and he looks in good form.

Joe Clarke: kept his powder dry but emerged off the back of a successful road season, winning his last race and confirming his Elite licence. Won on Pea Royd today (25 Sept), charging round the first corner at a ridiculous speed.

Richard Bussell: the man to beat, by all accounts. Armed with a fixed wheel weapon and determined to lose 5 kilos in 5 weeks. Came third behind Dan Evans and Ed Laverack on Porlock this morning.

James Gullen: some unbelievable time trialling this season; clearly going faster than ever before. Came second on the Stang by a couple of seconds to Tevjan Pettinger in 2013; looks in ominous shape.

Dan Evans: picked up the win at Stoke Hill near Exeter on  Saturday, second to Laverack on Porlock. Going by his win on Pea Royd in 2014, Matlock should suit. On his day, phenomenal strength and power output make him very difficult to beat. The same could be said for Bussell though.

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Tour of Britain

This year’s edition lived up to the hyperbole, it has been the best one ever. Some of the stages have been outright sufferfests; the one over the Struggle in particular somehow packed in 4000m of climbing. It was brutal. Apart from the obvious highlight of a double stage in Bristol, I enjoyed watching Ian Stannard ride away from Graham Briggs on the Cat and Fiddle, like an angry Dad dropping his precocious but weak son on a character-building ride one Sunday morning. It was savage. Briggs looked like he was sprinting, Stannard like he was popping to the shops.

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More cowbell, Dad!

Saturday’s time trial was a thrilling opportunity to catch sight of the finest riders in the sport at very close quarters. Tony Martin, Tom Dumoulin, Rohan Dennis, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Steve Cummings and lots of other super big hitters. Wiggins looked like he wasn’t taking it very seriously. In later interviews he did point out how hard it is to train for a 4 minute event on the track and then ride a lumpen shit-fest round the more scenic bits of the UK for 7 days. Nevertheless, he was in full soft-pedal mode. wig

It made it much easier to catch a glimpse of the greatest UK cyclist ever in his last race on the road. It felt significant and I was pleased to be there. in contrast, Dumoulin looked super fast.

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Surely a 15 on the V, easy peasy.

The afternoon stage coincided with a friend’s stag do. I’m too old for the mad shenanigans which happen on these sorts of days, the complex rules and the fast and loose imbibing of horrific alcoholic drinks. We gathered on the Downs, replete with banner, and cheered on Tom Dumoulin, for some strange reason. It made the Tour of Britain twitter feed as one of the moments of the day.

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We lost out in the public vote to Mark Cavendish looking at some children sat on a chair.If you zoom right in on the banner you can see the full glory of the masks, as well as my puny arm struggling to lift it.

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Everyone was excited by my watermarked face, and the strange reflection of the Vuelta in my sunglasses. It made for a strangely otherworldly experience. The sunglasses helped with the eye holes, unlike one of the masks above where you can just see an eye beadily poking through.

It was a brilliant day. I love bike racing. But I think everyone knew this already. In  other news, Marcin Bialoblocki managed to scrape 50 seconds from Alex Dowsett’s ten mile record with a 16.35. That’s 36mph. Try holding that on the flat for 10 metres, people. He repeated the feat the next day with a 44.04 for 25 miles. Quite a weekend.

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.

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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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