Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’

Congratulations to Pete McQuade the founder of the Paris to Hayling Cycle Challenge,

Last Friday evening Meridian News ran an article on the Hayling Island Cycle Ride reaching its 30th Birthday in July this year having raised nearly 1.5 million pounds for a wide variety of worthy causes. This is an event I feel privileged and honoured to have been part of the event since the 90s until 2005 as both a participant and also as Secretary and assisting in Support & Logistics and was even especially in Route Planning under the auspices of Mad Fred.

What started my involvement? Well, I needed to give up smoking, badly. Will power alone wasn’t going to do it: I needed a challenge. Then I saw a news article on the Paris to Hayling Cycle Ride with a picture of 3 rather fetching young ladies with their bikes. ‘That’ll do it for me’ I thought and entered there and then. That first ride was one to remember, and most of it I can but I regret to say that having reached Paris I was rather thirsty and joined other riders at the Hotel Bar in Le Defence. The following events I regret to say are a blur but the next day was my first experience in Riding in France and with so many cyclists (100+) my heavy head was soon forgotten.

Having completed the event plus two or three further events I felt it was time to ‘give something back’ and became a member of the organising committee. Among many things, this did allow, me along with my new fellow cycling buddies Mad Fred, Reg the Hedge, Hobbitt, and Marko: I for my part was named Podge the Puffer on account of age (derivative of Codge), size and hill climbing abilities (almost, a famous five but commonly known as The Reccecrew). And just like the famous five, we had many, many adventures most of which entailed us either getting Lost in France or sampling French Hospitality in bars or café. We tried to document our adventures under the title of Lost in France. An extract of such an adventure is below where we to undertake a ‘recce’ of the proposed route for the coming years Paris to Hayling ride. Naturally, this was all done by bike and naturally, we had to find refreshment stops. But, it wasn’t all easy.


Normandy in France

Recce’s – they’re a doddle, pootle over to France, eat nice food, laze in bed, drink lots of wine, write a few notes.

Well that might be the Chairman’s view but he, and you, should have been with Mad Fred, Podge, Reg the Hedge, Hobbitt, and Marko, when they went to France in March to establish the route for the 5-Day Ride.

The trip to Cherbourg was uneventful. However the weather when we emerged into the darkness in Cherbourg was definitely English ! Windy but mild, and fortunately for us a tail-wind to boot ! Recce’s sometimes mean that we have to retrace our steps and Hobbitt soon found we had to do this within 2 kilometers of the ferry port – straight back into a headwind. While the rest of us munched apple turnovers and pain au chocolate he blasted back to check what turns out to be a very well surfaced and convenient cycle track leading out of the ferry port.

The job done we tackled the first climb ‘Hobbitt’s Early Riser’ – scant reward for his efforts so far. From the top of the hill to Quettenhou the quiet roads follow a plateau and river valleys, OK and one hill, but pretty soon we reached the east coast of the Contin Peninsular and while Mad Fred ploughed on ahead the rest of us piled into a great Bike Shop (well worth stopping at in July).

By the time we reassembled in a bar on the D-Day Beaches the wind was blowing into us at 90 degrees which was pretty hairy but fortunately the roads were totally deserted.  We batted on southwards until the estuary turned us inland and into the headwind for a very painfully slow crawl to Carentan. In the summer this will be a very pretty route but in March it was hell ! Over lunch in Carentan we were all falling asleep.

Moving on after a good feed however, the wind was behind us and with the sun out it was very pleasant as we bowled along towards Bayeaux for the night. We witnessed the strange sight of a large dog bounding trafficwards in the fast lane of the route national, whether the mutt survived was never known but it caused a fair degree of chaos.

We’d picked out a river valley to lead us the last 20 kilometres into Bayeaux but nothing had forewarned us of the flooding we were about to encounter. The valley floor was a giant lake, extending as far as the eye could see with little islands dotted here and there, we pushed on through it and up onto higher ground, getting wet and taking a few photos just to prove the point ! Approaching Bayeaux Hobbitt and Marko went ahead while Mad Fred and Podge planned a route around the ring road being built around this historic town. An early night was spent in Bayeaux as we had a 7am start the next day and we were spent!

From Bayeaux to Caen is quite a nice spin and with a sunny morning it was very pleasant – even with having to contend with ‘Podge’s Puffer’ which is a nice little climb. But there’s always a ‘but’ and in this case it was a slight confusion over where we were going. Marko and Hobbitt were under the impression that they were to meet up with Mad Fred and Podge in……..(‘Lost in France bit’)…..but the latter didn’t share the same view and after an hour of ‘being lost’ we met up, funnily, in a bar (turned out we were never more than a kilometer away from each other). Ploughing on towards Caen we encountered the floods once again, only this time the water was at least a metre deep and right across the road we used to exit Caen last year on the ride to Gorron, and which this year we wanted to use to enter Caen. Podge and Hobbitt vainly attempted to cycle through it, once to see how deep it was, and after proving to themselves that you cannot do a U turn on a cycle loaded with your luggage and up to the axle in water,  once again to pose for the camera. Time to retire to the bar and plot a way around it !

Mission completed we moved on, narrowly avoiding a very serious involvement with the local cycling club who were turning out in force for an afternoon road race. Pukka bikes and riders who understandably ignored the pannier-laden Recce Crew. The skies grew darker and Mad Fred’s unfair admonishment of the French for having moved road numbers and planted a farm in the way of us only served to contribute towards the impending gloom, it was going to rain, and there was going to be lots of it !

We became wetter and colder and more and more miserable so an executive decision was made in the bar – head for Troarn, find a hotel and dry out !

Success with this raised our spirits, helped by a few bottles of red wine, glasses of calvados, and a hot supper. By midnight we felt in reasonable shape to get up at 6am and battle on towards Le Havre, but it was still raining…..!

Sunday morning at 6am and it was still dark, this was the morning after the clocks were altered and to be quite honest we weren’t sure what time it really was. We snuck out of the hotel (having paid the previous night) only to encounter half a dozen Frenchmen having an early coffee and brandy in the hotel bar.

The road from Troarn to Pont l’Eveque is as boring as hell – long, straight, slow hills, and more flooding – anywhere flat seemed to be under masses of water. Mad Fred was some way behind us when we got to Pont l’Eveque and stopped at the first bar – rule number one is if you get separated stop in the first bar and wait, leave your bikes on prominent display so they can’t be missed by the estranged recce crew member. Rule number two is that Mad Fred doesn’t know about rule number one, so we lost him, again.

Reunited we plodded on towards Honfleur where we needed to recce the route off the Pont d’Normandie (BIG bridge to you and Podge who moaned and groaned his way to the top), and onto it for the 4-Day Ride. At the top of the bridge a helpful instrument told us the wind was 40kph, and the temperature was wavering between 4c and 5c. It felt, and was, cold !

Things brightened up once we were over the bridge and pedalling along the nice quiet roads on the industrial approach to Le Havre and with an hour to spare before the ferry left we found an extremely nice restaurant for lunch. Well 2/3 of our lunch, we didn’t have time for the dessert so we’ll go back for that in July. We did have time for 2 courses, and a litre of wine each – hell we’d deserved it, over 200 miles though some pretty miserable weather, now it was time to relax !

Onboard the ship we bumped into Syme and Michelle, two former riders who’d just enjoyed a romantic weekend and now had to face reality in the shape of a hammering in the bar. We failed miserably in the onboard quiz, drank loads of Guinness, a couple of bottles of wine, and a few brandy’s, and wobbled off the ship into the Ship and Castle by the Ferryport. None of us remember much after that !


And, if you want to enjoy such adventures though with less wind and rain, and if the ride continues beyond 2015, I can’t recommend it highly enough..

The Colnago Ge Dream still performs as well as it did in July last year and with little or nothing done to it. I love my Colnago. I need to get back on my Colnago: maybe my Colnago needs a sister or brother like a C50 or C60. In fact, I’m sure it does.

Having had my long awaited Cardioversiuon only to be told it had failed and my heart was still bouncing about like a good’n I was [naturally] a little depressed but, depression solves nothing so I wallowed for a short while then looked at what I needed to do to ensure the 2nd attempt was a success. Weight loss was the obvious answer and I have made a start on that , having lost 8 lb. already but I still had another 20+ lb. to shed.

Against all this, I have had to endure[!] watching the Vuelta (Tour of Spain) and now the start of the Tour of Britain. I so, so wanted get back on my bike. Well, this weekend, as result of numerous events, was the 1st weekend Debbie and I had where we actually had no commitments whatsoever. And by way of bonus, the weather was good. That was it, I had made my mine up I was going to try a bike ride.

Saturday came, Saturday went: no bike ride, but lawns cut, so not so bad. Sunday was my last chance but the morning found me feeling tired, physically so a morning ride was out. Come the afternoon however I was going to do it. I got my bike out, pumped up the tyres, heart rate now 150 bpm so I sat down and go my breath back. Maybe I’ll just ride to the end of the road and back. “Go for a ride” said Debbie “And when you get back, we’ll sit down and have a Desperado”. That did it.

Dressed in Khaki Shorts and Caribbean shirt complimented with brown sock and black & grey cycling shoes, I looked every inch a supreme cyclist (none of my cycling kit fits me at the moment). And so, I donned my cycle hat and I was off. After all this time off my back, getting back just seemed so natural and better still, even though I hhd neglected her of late, the Colnago behave and operated like a dream.

Muy intent was to do 3-miles but as I drew close to home I veered off, determined to another two. Heart rate was surprisingly average but my chest ached so I wasn’t going to push myself. After about 1.8 miles I turned left off the main road and stopped to let tractor go by. He signalled his thanks then slowed does so that I could catch and draft him, but the heart wouldn’t allow so I gave a thumbs up to say thanks then waved him on. All in I did 4.8 miles which given the circumstances isn’t so bad. Let’s just hope this is the first of many progressively longer rides.

RideSlide

Property of PodgeThePuffer (PtP) – Unauthorised use is very, very naughty.

Go Podge, Go

To start with

Technically, my first bike was some nondescript bike that I first managed to ride without falling off. My reward for completing a full length of the road with putting my feet down or crashing was 6d (about 2.5p in new money), enough for a bag of chips from the chip shop and still have change, but having no further recollections of such a steed, my [First Bike] was therefore my Raleigh/Hercules (my memory is misty), complete with 3-speed sturmey archer gears chrome rims and full leather saddlebag. I rode it to and from school, day in and day out.I even got knocked off by a couple of motorists, though in those days, the motorists were horrified by what they had done and would do all they could to make sure you were ok. By the second summer however, it was time to upgrade my bike so I bought some cow horn handlebars, removed the saddlebag and mudguards and went off-roading into a place known locally as Anmore Dell which was about 100 yards in diameter and 50 to 75 feet deep. This was a great big hollow which was slowly being filled in by lorries but in the meantime made a great playground offering as it did, cycle paths down through the shrubs and trees into a great wide expanse of ups and downs, ideal for my new off-roader.

The ‘hollow’ offered more than a place to ride bikes mind you. Being half filled with water most of the time, it was also a great place to play ‘war at sea’. Using a couple of old car roofs, we never knew how they came to be there, we would upturn them and use them as rafts to out manoeuvre one another until tired of paddling with sticks and bars we would once more return to shore. As our war games became more ambitious however, so did the dangers, culminating when one of my friends showed off his sugar bomb that he’d made (we’d been shown how to make them earlier at school, but I’m not about to divulge such information again) and decided to let it off. One flash, one loud bang, one cloud of smoke, one big fire, which took us what seemed an eternity to put out, and we were one happy bunch. With that, we returned to our bikes and spurred on by adrenalin of the ‘bomb’ we started creating ramps to jump our bikes over. First jump, no more than a foot high, I came tearing down the hill, hit the ramp, soared into the air and landed on my front wheel just before coming off and rolling into the water. I was wet but I would dry, I was dirty but I would clean up (a nice puddle and sandpaper always saw to that) before going home but the bike was not so good. The forks had bent back making the bike impossible to ride: The wheel had buckled making the bike impossible to ride: The handlebars were bent in all directions making the bike impossible to ride. But, ride it I did, the full half mile back home where I just knew I was in for a ‘not very nice time’, which did turn out to be the case.

Come to think of it, I got a thick ear then. Why is it that I’m always getting thick ears. No wonder one of them is a bit cauliflower like.

I remember sulking (believe me, this old Podge can still sulk for England) for weeks after that day not only because I’d been chastised by my father for trying to use my Hercules Push Bike to simulate the great jumps over ramps that I’d seen Dad doing so many times before, albeit on a motorbike – I should point out that he was part of the Royal Marines Motorcycle Display Team and was a regular motorcycle trials competitor – but also because the bike had been thrown away and not replaced. I now walked to school, day-in, day-out, a distance of about 3-miles each way.

Actually, it was only a couple of weeks as my Dad had taken it to his barracks where it was made good once more. But it was never the same bike again though it still took me to school and back and it did take me and my paper bag round on my paper rounds, 2 every morning and 2 every evening. Eventually though, the bike caved in and once more, I was relegated to walking and winter was approaching!

Christmas 1967

It was a cold Christmas Day with a very heavy frost outside, my Father (I was 14 by now) told me to come with him in the car to Uncle Bills though he didn’t actually say why. Uncle Bill lived about 8-miles away so the journey did’t take too long and were soon inside with Uncle Bill and Aunty June having a nice hot cup of chocolate and mince pies. I was then taken out into the garage and there before me was a beautiful Falcon Black Diamond Racing Bike, and yes, you guessed, it was all mine. There was however a catch. I had to ride it home. Now I had come, and had been allowed to come, dressed for a car ride with just a shirt and jumper as defence against the cold. I certainly didn’t have any gloves but I didn’t care. I had my new bike with drop handlebars, butterfly wheel nuts and a double clanger which gave me 10 gears. With absolute glee, I hugged Dad and Uncle Bill, said my goodbyes and set off on the 8-mile ride back home. I have no idea how long it took I just know that most of the ride was a blur, initially with excitement but soon replaced with bitter coldness and fingers that were so painful it was difficult to change gear or even brake. But, eventually I got home, close to tears with pain and with joy. Dad of course was home already and thought it was all very funny. I didn’t care how funny it was: I didn’t care how cold I was: I didn’t care that my fingers were almost dropping off: I didn’t care that snot and tears had frozen around my face. All I cared about was my new bike. This bike was NOT going to have cow horn handlebars and it certainly wasn’t going to go jumping. No, this bike was for serious riding – I was going to be the new Eddy Merckx.

I rode my bike everywhere; I rode my bike all the time; I became a regular sight around my local village doing my lap after lap trying to get faster and faster: at one point even the local policeman would ride next to me on his motorbike, telling me how fast I was going. Then my need for adventure grew once more but this time, my adventures were, not how high could I jump but how far could I cycle in a day, and how quick. Denmead to Arundel was a cracking route and a flat route. Denmead to Heathrow was another good route but very, very hilly and we never did reach Heathrow anyway.  My favourite route was Denmead to Alresford where another uncle and aunty of mine was the river keeper and house keeper for a Colonel who ‘owned’ a stretch of the River Alre: That was a hilly route as well.

And so, with the Falcon Black Diamond, my love affair with cycles and long distance cycling was born. And yes, I did like cycling up hills. I hated cycling up hills, just as much as I do today, but I still love cycling up hills: Only a cyclist would understand.

And now, I yearn for just one more ride. 😦

PS: The Falcon was eventually stolen by a [trusted] ‘friend’ while I was working at holiday camp.

PPS: I never became the new Eddy Merckx, but on this day the 20th July, Eddy wine his first Tour de France and, as it it happens, Armstrong (Not Lance) and Aldrin first landed on the Moon.

PPPS: None of the aforementioned uncles and aunties were actually Uncles & Aunties. We just called them so.

PPPPS: No more PS’s 🙂

Clearly, the World Cup isn’t over. They haven’t even finished the first round, but England is already out of the tournament with one more [seemingly pointless] game to play. As I understand it, this is the first time England has been knocked out of the World Cup this early since 1958 (ish). As always, the media big up (to excess) the chances of our national team getting through to the semi-final or even the final and maybe, just maybe, winning the tournament. Once again, the media, having placed all the players at the top of the highest pillar they can find will no doubt be looking to knock them off. So, why are we, England, out of the World Cup so early? Is because the team were rubbish? is it because individual players were rubbish? No: quite simply, it’s because the other players, on the occasion were better. That’s the way it is and we should deal with it.

The one shining light of course, at least from my perspective, is the imminent arrival of the Tour De France, starting, once more, in England: The last time was London 2007. This time, it starts (The Grand Départe) from Leeds in Yorkshire and over three days will make its way to London via Harrogate, York, Sheffield and Cambridge. From there it will return to its Mother Country to follow a clockwise route around France before finishing in Paris.

Some say, and I am one such person, that Cycling, and in particular, the Grand Tours, has to be one of the, if not ‘The’, toughest sporting event out there. Day in, day out, each rider cycles 100+ kilometres for up to 3-weeks, including some of the toughest climbs in the Alps and the Pyrenees.

With Bradley Wiggins wining the Tour de France in 2012 and and Chris Froome winning the same in 2103, and not forgetting of course Mark Cavendish winning the Green Jersey in 2011, even winning the final stage, in Paris, over 4-consecutive year, we can proudly say that we are a force to reckon with in the world of cycling. And, at last, the media are now giving increasing air time / page space to the sport. This is great stuff for me.

For those that don’t know, I love cycling. I was even lucky enough to have been part of the Paris to Hayling Cycle ride that clashed with the Tour in Rouen and was even luckier to be in the same hotel as Team Mapei and Deutsche Telekom in 2002. I’ve had my own cycling epics such as two 1000 mile rides: Bilbao to home via Paris, and Montpellier to home, again, via Paris (the latter being just 5-months after coming off my bike and breaking my arm, dislocating my shoulder and splitting my knee down to the cap). I’ve cycle the Pyrenees, I’ve cycled the Ventoux. I’ve had more bikes than I should probably admit, I’ve wrecked many as well. So yes, I do love cycling but right now, I’m sad 😦

Sad #1

My health is preventing me from cycling (lungs 47% effective) and me fear is that it will stop me altogether and as I’m writing this, the sun is suing and there’s hardly a breath of wind and I have a Giant, A De Rosa and a Colnago desperate to be ridden but my lungs won’t allow me and I fear that soon they will prevent me altogether. So, to stave off  such a happening, I’ve set myself two personal challenges.

  1. to cycle from Ligueil (south of the Loire Valley) to home, in September, and for as many after as possible,  and;
  2. to do the London to Brighton bike ride in 2015, at least.

Sad #2

With the increasing level of interest being levelled at our cyclist, I’m concerned that they [the media] will start to do what they already do to footballers and tennis players, to our riders: that is to build them up, place them on a plinth only to knock knock down again, almost with glee, if they fail to meet the expectations of said press.

Britain has the most amazing cyclists at the moment and with every reason to believe that more are on their way. You only have to drive out in the evenings and at weekends to see the increasing number of young cyclist, male and female, that are out there and enjoying the freedom that cycling brings and hopefully, laying the foundations for a glittering cycling career.

So, my hope for the future is that the media support our athletes, even footballers, not just in our hopes for their success but also in those inevitable times when perhaps they aren’t quite as successful as we’d hoped.

I hope for success in the Tour. It would be great to win another jersey. I hope I continue to cycle. And I hope the media contain themselves. But most of all, I hope I prove I can still cycle so that I can get a Colnago C60, a fitting tribute to my 60th year. Equally, I hope on hope that somebody is able to offer me, to buy of course, a Colnago Spider PRAL Frame / bike, purleeeeeeease.

Go Podge, Go

1614 to go

So, 06:45 Sunday Morning: His Podgeness rises from his pit to have an early breakfast before seeking out his trusty Colnago Geo Dream Bicycle  ready to venture out for his first ride a for a long time now.

At 09:00, His Podgeness makes his second cup of coffee (no milk, no sugar) and a cup of tea to take up to the slumbering Mrs Me.

At 09:45, His Podgeness makes a second cup of tea for Mrs Me as she still hasn’t arisen, only to find that she stirred after all and threatening to come downstairs to shatter the peace and solitude. Hmmm, thinks Podge, maybe I should wait and give her company over breakfast.

At 10:30, the decision is taken to go to Waitrose to get some BBQ provisions – the day is after all beautifully hot and sunny. So, His Podgeness puts his bike away and readies for shopping.

12:15, His Podgeness and Mrs Me return laden with food and wine, sits down and has a cup of tea. Podge gets his bike out again.

12:45, Master Matthew rises from his pit after a heavy night out on the tiles celebrating his birthday. No ride just yet, have to give Matt his pressies.

13:30, Master Nicholas arrives from his night out, no reason, just a night out.

14:00 discussions switch to grass cutting; His podgeness seeks out some appropriate attire for cycling while Mrs Me dress’s for mowing.

14:30, at the hint of grass cutting, Master Mathew and Mistress Alice (Matt’s superior half) slope off to the pub arranging to meet Master Nicholas at the local cinema.

The Momentous Moment Arrives

14:50, His Podgeness finally, sets of on his bike: there really should be a fanfare here at the moment but such temptations are to be resisted.

15:15, Master Nicholas helps Mrs Me out with the grass cutting by taking the mower round to the font garden for her (she’s already cut the rear garden), then he also slopes off.

15:40, His Podgeness returns. Sweating like he’d been on a trek through the Amazon Jungle and barely able to lift his leg over the saddle to dismount. “I did it” he announces, “I completed my first ride of the year”

Unauthorised use of this image is VERY naughty. @ Podgethepuffer

Unauthorised use of this image is VERY naughty. @ Podgethepuffer

That’s good said Mrs, I’ve cut the grass. Go and have a shower and then we can both sit down for a nice glass of wine. Perfick, just perfick.

Ride stats:

Distance: – 9.3 miles / Average Speed: – 10.6 mph / Average heart rate: – 156 bpm.

And so, there we have it, 8 hours after getting up, His Podgeness eventually went for ride.

Go Podge, Go