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.

capture

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.

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Tour of Britain: Merrivale

The Tour of Britain took in some of the lumpier terrain of Devon this morning and afternoon in a stage that went from coast (well, Taw estuary) to coast, up and out of North Devon before hitting the National Park and climbing up Merrivale. The stage started in Barnstaple, outside the Atheneum. It seemed strange watching on the terrorbox this evening, the peloton was a psychedelic ribbon strung across Barnstaple bridge. It seemed more odd than it might otherwise because i was born there and spent some incredibly tedious and empty years hanging out in the nether regions of a town described by Ross Noble as ‘the toilet of the universe.’ It’s hard to imagine that Ivan Basso, Mark Cavendish and Sammy Sanchez would be charging up Sticklepath Hill. I’m sure they found it equally momentous.

I headed down to Merrivale on the top of Dartmoor to watch the peloton climb up. Prior to the arrival of the race there was a hillclimb organised by Tavistock Wheelers. It was a team event and the Bristol South CC outfit consisted of myself, Tavis Walker and Glyndwr Griffiths. We were fairly close together in the end, Tavis was 1st with 6.45, Glyn 2nd with 6.56, and I was 4th with 7.04. When the pros came up later their times were a bit slower – Tom Moses, riding for the GB academy team put in a 7.33. Anyway, they were riding tempo for over a hundred miles. I can forgive them. A particularly rapid young rider beat me to the final podium place by one second. We won the team prize by 3 minutes from the next best outfit. The prizes were terrific, some local ale, a pint glass, champagne, a trophy, meal vouchers, free cake, all sorts. Hats off to the local club and all involved in running the event, especially the Tavy contingent, but also the Yogi who turned out en masse. It was a great first race for the BSCC Hill Climb Dream Team.

Watching the pros come up the hill was a fantastic experience, especially with Ivan Basso in the lead group. The atmosphere and general feeling engendered on the hill from the massed ranks of eager spectators was comparable with anything I’ve seen in Europe. It was amazing to be there.

glyn recovers with a garage pasty
Basso! In Devon! With Sanchez!
Devon boy John Tiernan Locke shows the peloton a clean pair of heels
Devon boy Jeremy Hunt
Pain

It will be great if Tiernan-Locke can keep hold of the golden fleece at the end of hostilities tomorrow. Fingers crossed….

Tour of Britain

The Tour of Britain starts in a couple of weeks time. It promises to be an extended lap of honour for Lord Bradders of Wigginton, not to mention Sir Mark of Cavendish. I’m really excited; it’s the first one i’ll be able to actually watch since 2006. Time flies, and I can’t quite believe it’s been 6 years.

Martin Pederson won. Famous names in the top ten included Pozzato, Nuyens, Rogers, and a young Andy Schleck in 8th.

Mark Cavendish as a stagiare for T mobile, being interviewed prior to the Bradford stage start.
Nick Nuyens, classics winner
Brian Holm and Malcolm Elliott
rogers and vandevelde hanging out in Bradford

Milling around at the start is the best way to get up close to the riders and teams. This year i’ll be watching it from the top of Merrivale Hill on Dartmoor where i’ll be competing in a team hillclimb in the morning to celebrate the race coming through. The evening before i’m doing the Barnstaple town centre crits which herald the start of the next day’s stage from the sleepy North Devon borough.

It’s a great time to be a cyclist.

 

 

Base Club Holderness (and the Fellowship of Cycling Old Timers)

today i managed to take the bike out around the holderness peninsula. it was eerily quiet with barely any traffic. it’s a flat part of the world so my 68″ gear was more than adequate. i saw one other cyclist on my travels, at first i didn’t think it was a club cyclist, from afar i couldn’t tell. he was up the road and i was going to turn left, but in a moment’s decisiveness  i opted to follow him and chased after in the hope that i might at least get a picture of a fellow cyclist on the deserted wolds to illuminate my blog. in the end, i got far more than that. he was riding a 1959 lugless Higgins tricycle, wearing plus fours with a sign wrapped kit bag on the back.

lugless higgins
Fellowship of Old Timer Cyclists

we rode side by side for about 5 miles and chatted about cycling in general. He still youth hostels with his chums and we talked about watching the tour of britain, a conversation which started via some mutual admiration of Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish in Bradford as a stagiare

We traded anecdotes starting with mine concerning seeing Cav as a stagiare at Bradford in 2007 or thereabouts, and ending with his story about watching the ToB ascend Birdlip near Cheltenham (i know the hill having ridden it with Mike this year) on Owen Blowers’ birthday. Blower was riding off the front and as he neared the top they were waiting and sung happy birthday to him. By my reckoning this puts the date at around 1959, when Blower was BAR holder.

He called me ‘lad’ frequently, which made me feel like i was considerably younger than my 35 years. we also greeted the few people we saw on the road (running or walking) with christmas cheer. It transpired that Brian (for this was his name) is a member of a group called The Fellowship of Cycling Old Timers, a group i had no idea existed. they go away for hostelling weekends, meet for festivals and ride during the week when the roads are quiet. i felt like i’d been let into some sort of secret world.

it was a great experience, affirmative and heart-warming on christmas eve to be cycling with a stranger and yet have a close affinity and lots to talk about. he met his chums at Sproatley, at which point we parted ways. i rode on on my own, as i had done before our chance meeting, but this time feeling somehow more wistful and reflective.

happy christmas, up the league!