on the organising of the cyclogrot

I went up to the very top of the Mendips this week for the express purpose of helping Sir Steve of Green to organise the BSCC CycloGrot Race. It took place at the Mendip Raceway. I had planned to ride out but extreme cold put the kibosh on that idea. Instead I stuck on the thermals (well, a pair of running tights with no gert chamois, i knew they’d come in handy one day) and drove out.

It was a crystalline blue day, utterly engrossing and beautiful. We marked out the course with an excess of tape. Glyndwr “The Hobbit” Griffiths and James “Tools of the Trade” Cuff were the other loyal helpers. Towards the end an additional helper turned up on some kind of modish winter bike. It was a bike-salesman’s dream. It had 11×1 or whatever the single ring thing is called, with alternate teeth. They had a name too, something like Gak Cogs or some strange deviant orthography. It had disc brakes. Hell, it even had bolt-through axles and shimano DI2. It was quite the modern bike. I felt a bit inadequate on my mid-80s Mercian which i wasn’t actually on because it was way too cold.

I got through three rolls of professional quality barrier tape, right up to the point when the additional helper took my roll and began taping instead of me. I felt a little bit embittered by his johnny-come-lately attitude, and felt validated when he failed to tape two stakes at the end of a bit of chicanery.

As a result of all this organising, or at the least, the helping of the organising, I did not reach my 150 mile target for the week, bottoming out at 110 instead. That aside, things have been going well and I’m down to 76kg from 79kg at the start of the year, mileage is up to 463 for January, with 10,000 metres of climbing ticked off. Onwards and upwards.

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Prehistoric Velodrome in the Mendips
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Glyndwr and Steve up sticks
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It’s Steve’s race. He found this place. Stay Gold. 

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Cuff didn’t get the bobble hat memo. Shame. 
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The dark and subversive mind of the cyclogrot race organiser. 
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The Roubaix Showers of the Mendips
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Keep on moving

I’m wary of using the phrase “back on the bike”, because over the past two years it hasn’t been true. There have been a couple of false dawns, times where I’ve ridden a little bit more than usual. However, this year I’ve bucked the trend and managed to up the mileage, and get some of my previous discipline back, i.e riding when you know you can, because there won’t be other opportunities. I think last year my longest ride was about 45 miles and I managed no more than three of these. The rest were 6 mile commutes. As a direct result my weight went up by around 10-11 kilos, to where it is now, just shy of 80kg. I don’t feel particularly corpulent, but I am 6″1, so it’s not an unhealthy or corpulent weight. My waist has ballooned out from 30″ to 32″, and this has been the most costly expansion in terms of work clothes. Rather than buy a new wardrobe, I’m trying to lose some of this weight so i can squeeze into my older gear.

Thus far, I’ve managed 326 miles this year, I’m aiming for 150 miles per week. The elevation is racking up, I’m on about 6,500 metres. I’ll carry on and see what happens. It’s good to be riding, to be out on the Mendips, and to be feeling the dullness in the legs.

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“feel it”

I’ve never done a panel talk before. It vaguely exciting, like a poor man’s question time. The topic of this one was pain and suffering. Most of my contributions were based around the narrative of pain, versus actual pain, among with some reflections on authenticity and masculinity. Basically, life was easier for grandparents because they worked really hard (therefore it was immeasurably harder). Nowadays work is not often physically demanding, therefore we displace our desire to be tested onto other things. Endurance or short distance cycling is a useful and vicarious proxy. It can actually hurt though, and watching it hurt other people is a lot of fun. There were some other esteemed people on the panel, Pip Adkins, who organises the Bristol Grand Prix, Martin Hurcombe who is an academic and interested in cycling and culture, and Jason Yon, who works for the secret squirrel thing and is an engineer. It was nice to be involved and I really enjoyed it. 

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“Feel It” Festival @Circomedia this weekend

I’m participating in a symposium (a new one on me) this weekend as part of Bristol University’s “Feel It” festival. The small bit I’m involved in is called “Show me your scars: the cult of suffering in cycling” and promises to be a discussion of the metaphorical cult of suffering. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. Certainly I don’t actually want to show any scars to anyone. I have an appendix scar. I have some road rash, if that counts, a nice weal on my shoulder from  an argument with a car. That sort of thing.

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I’m not really sure why I was asked, possibly because I’m the only person stupid enough to try and write a book about a really horrible but scenic event. Further details here:

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/blackwell/images/feel-it/A%20LORES%20PROGRAMME.pdf

In the spirit of the event, here are some people experiencing literal pain on bikes. Be warned, some of these have a baroque splendour to them, especially the ‘ooof the tree… followed up with a rock to the chops’ variant. What a corker. The old ‘rag-doll drop over the last ramp’, that’s a beaut as well.

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National Championship

The big event is this weekend in Matlock Bank. The Startsheet is out, and it’s a total mess. There’s not a lot else I can add to it. I’ve seen more sense in a sheepdog’s breakfast. Setting out a hill climb field is an Artform, not a Science. I’m surprised that Matlock CC and the CTT chose to turn their back on the way that things are done in favour of a methodology plainly unsuited to the discipline. This video recently surfaced of the complex field placing and selection meeting held by the CTT:

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Nevertheless, I’m sure it will be a great day. I’m picking Joe Clarke for the win, followed by Bussell and then Evans. Lou Bates for the ladies, followed by Fiona Burnie and then Maryka Semenna. It will be a cracking few hours in the centre of Matlock.

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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.