New Year Resolutions

It is mad to think that it is the first of January 2013 tomorrow. It only seems 5 minutes when I last wrote of my objectives for 2012.

2012 was a cracking year, the Cheshire Classic Women's Road Race came on leaps and bounds. I'd like to improve on that in April 2013.

My Time Trialling improved quite a lot. I ended up posting a 25.13 for a 10 in August, I'd like to improve on that and get into the 24s in 2013. I managed to post a 25.55 on our own club 10 circuit on the very last night, again I'd like to dip into the 24s if I can. I managed to get involved in a few 25 mile Time Trials as part of a team. I suffered on both, the last one being a 2up where I was horrific. I'd like to get involved in a couple of solo 25s next year and see how I get on.

How this will all come along I don't know. I enter 2013 with a mortgage approval under my belt and a house viewing at the start of January. It is a big time for Becky and I. Hopefully things will be ok.

I leave 2012 the lightest I've ever been, Christmas has seen me add a kilo but I'm still 3kg lighter than this time last year and definitely fitter. Hopefully I can carry this over into January and build towards the Llanberis training weekend at the end of February. I'll be taking part in the Cheshire Cat in March again too.

All the best for 2013.

Cheshire Classic Womens Road Race Launch

Well we're off! I launched the Cheshire Classic Women's Road Race last week. The launch had been on hold for a couple of months while British Cycling got everything in order but after 6 months of planning, redeveloping and rebuilding the wait was finally over. I've been pleased with the reaction, people have really got on board with what I'm trying to do. Social Media has really played a part too.

For me the best part has been the response to the help area. It was really important that the race just didn't sit there being self indulgent, I wanted it to help support other cyclists. We've introduced tips and advice from buying bikes to getting into racing. We've mixed up club members with elite riders such as Sarah Storey and Lucy Garner - that for me was really important. I didn't want "us and them".

It was then great when Breeze came on board, they help support and develop Women's cycling across the UK. The meeting I had with Natalie from Breeze was brilliant, she had great direction and totally got what we were trying to do. Being part of a race like the Cheshire Classic will hopefully inspire their members.


We also announced that Epic Cycles were coming back on board, which was brilliant. Phil Weaver is a top bloke, his daughter Molly rode a fabulous race last year. We also have a couple of other sponsors in the pipeline which we're looking forward to announcing. We are having conversations with a potential major sponsor, not only for 2013 but looking ahead to 2014.

We have been grateful to have received press coverage both online and offline. Already the local newspaper has got on board, running a full page story on page 2. Although the timing is great (coinciding with a cycling initiative they are pushing 2013) this was a major highlight for me. I struggled to even get a small column published a week before the race last year and now in December we have a full page 2 article.

Locally it was really frustrating last year. Northwich isn't a big town; there is no other event in Northwich nor the surrounding area that can boast the participation of some the UK's best elite athletes which even included a multi-paralympic medalist. What's more it is on everyone's doorstep and it is FREE to watch. If the local community gets behind the race it would really be fantastic. Hopefully we're on the right track. Fingers crossed!

Putting on mudguards

Well it's that time of year. Time to put the mudguards on. We have a tradition in the club where mudguards are worn from when the clocks go back until they go forward. It's a poignant time of year, putting on my Crud Catcher's tonight I thought back from when I took them off. It doesn't seem five minutes since I took them off in February for Llanberis. All the club runs, the Time Trials, the highs and the lows.

Now they're back on and ahead of me lies 4 months of lonely Winter months on the road. Where it takes 10 minutes to get dressed just to go out. The gasps at the first touches of cold air as you get going. Slow, long base miles. January is the worst. The beautiful, easy autumn days of October and November are over, where the thought of competition are out of sound and mind. December's build to Christmas has long bin and gone. January is tough, burning off the Christmas weight and Llanberis only a month away.

I hate putting on mudguards. They are horrible, clumsy things. They are the defining moment of the end of the season. They are the start of hard months ahead. Bring on the Winter.

Bring back Milko!


We've recently signed up to having our milk delivered by the milkman again. I have said for a while how I missed having the milkman around and out of the blue he knocked on. He said he would lose his round if he didn't sign people up. It is costing us 60p a week. 60p! For 60p a week I'm all up for supporting him

To be honest it was him knocking on the door that did it for me. We need more people with the drive and determination to sign people up. I'd rather him have 60p extra of my money than for him to be on benefits. Business is so hard at the moment when he signed up he looked delighted. I knew what it meant for him. I know how hard getting business on board can be. It gave him a lifeline to support his family. We need more hard working people like this searching for opportunities rather than soak up benefits.

I missed having the milkman deliver our milk. I know that sounds sad but for me it added character. It added to being part of a community. It was also someone you could depend upon no matter the weather. You could be up at daft o' clock in the morning but you would never be alone. Seeing the milkman in his milk float always put a smile on my face.

I didn't mind having the birds peck at the foil top either, nor the milk being frozen in the Winter because that was part of it all: you moved through the seasons. You knew it was Spring when the birds pecked at it and of course Winter when it froze. Many would get pissed off at pouring away a pint of milk, for me knowing a young bird had enjoyed a gulp of my semi-skimmed made me feel better about the day ahead. And no dirty thoughts either, I know what you're thinking.

For me though it was more about trust. Someone would deliver product while you slept while you had trust in the neighbourhood that it would be there when you woke up.

However it seems strange that so many of us have moved away from the trusty milkman. It is working out to be around 60p more a week to have our milk delivered. 60p! You probably spend more on that driving to the shop to pick it up. And yes you do drive to pick it up! For me it makes sense.

So if you're reading this, please support your milkman!

New Cheshire Classic Women's Road Race Website

I've recently launched a new website for the Cheshire Classic Women's Road Race which I'm promotor of on behalf of Weaver Valley CC.

I used a Wordpress Template from Woo Themes and tweaked it to suit. Aaron Starkie at work gave the race a fresh new look with modern branding to make it a race for the girls to feel part of.

A major new part of the website is the Women's Cycling area. As well as promoting the race I'm committed to improving the visibility of Women's cycling. Increasingly I'm seeing more and more girls of all ages out on their bikes, unfortunately many on their own. Through the race I've put together an advice area where, whether the rider is brand new to cycling or looking to get involved with a club or a race, they can find some helpful advice.

I've also added an interview section where I've invited both professional riders and members of the Weaver Valley CC to offer their own tips, advice and experiences. I really like the idea of this, the pro riders mixing in with our grassroots club members. I really do hope it is inspiring. Already I've had Sarah Storey, Lucy Garner and Hannah Walker get involved. I'll be adding more to this in the coming months.

Ultimately I hope I've greated a great platform that 1. the riders feel proud to be a part of 2. that I've made the club feel proud of the race 3. it inspires Women to get out on the bike and get racing and 4. a tool where sponsors feel they can get involved so I can invest more money back into the race.

Fingers crossed!

The Holy Grail

I've done it! A 25.

You cannot understand the emotion as I rolled along after the finish, trying to get my head together to punch in the instructions on my computer. It said 25.20, with at least 5 seconds to take off at the start and then time after the finish. I was hoping to get into a 25 but not nearly go out the other side. I just could not believe the time. When I got back to the HQ I found out it was a 25.13. I still can't believe it now.

My goal at the beginning of the season was to get into the 26s for a 10 mile Time Trial. I would never had believed in January a 25 would be achievable.

The Bike

I had a great response on Facebook and Twitter and I would like to thank everyone for their support, tips, advice and congratulations through out the year. A lot of people asked if I used a Time Trial bike or used a Time Trial helmet. I don't. I only have one bike, my Dave Hinde road bike is my Winter, Summer, Training, Race and Time Trial bike. I don't have a skin suit, I don't have a Time Trial helmet. I simply put on tri-bars and race in my kit. Until I get a house in the New Year, I won't be getting one any time soon either.

The Warm Up

The day started off pretty well. The night before Becky and I were babysitting so it was pretty relaxed, drinking lots of water. I had an hour lie in and got up earlyish to have some porridge and get out on my bike. I did a 10 mile flat route in a light gear to get the legs going, then a couple of 1 minute hard sessions on the bars. Back at home I did some stretching for half an hour, concentrating on my hamstrings and drank a litre of Electolyte. I weighed myself. I've lost 6kg since I had lost rode the course, down from 92kg to 86kg.

Once I had done some tweaks to my bike and oiled the chain I got changed and with just over 2 hours to go I had a Weetabix and headed out to the HQ. I like arriving early. Luckily I was able to park next to Rich Munro, a good friend from the club who has helped me with my Time Trialling and got me through Llanberis. He moans to me, I moan to him. I had an hour and half before my start time so I caught up with a few other people, relaxed and got ready.

The conditions were pretty good, sunny and a light wind. I cycled to the start with Steve Thomas, an excellent, very powerful Time Trialler also from the Weaver Valley who has had an amazing late season. I rode to the start to see if we're on or ahead of time. Unfortunately Rich had a technical and had to wait for a later time. He later posted his second fastest ever time in the 24s.

I went to warm up, to do some harder stuff to push my heartrate up and found that my legs felt sore, heavy and tired. I couldn't believe what was happening. I gave up doing much more, chosing to ride lightly and got the start with 2 minutes to go.

The Race

Any worries of the sore, tired legs soon vanished. I started off in a stupidly small gear, nerves getting the best of me. But smashed down the cogs immediately and was soon cruising at 30-33 mph. I felt good, it felt nice. I got to Chelford roundabout and felt so good that I pounced out of the saddle, leaning the bike left and right. The stretch down to the turn felt really nice. Turning over a big gear, breathing was a bit high but soon calmed down. In parts it felt like I was floating. I tore round the next roundabout and headed back for home.

The second, return leg is more up hill and last time was energy sapping. This time it was still tough in parts but I kept a good speed, never dipping under 20mph. I knew my data was good, the speed was much better than I had done before but I needed the legs. Last time I had rode the course, going through Chelford and over the railway bridge was heavy going this. This time it felt ok, I punched over Chelford roundabout again. The half a mile to the finish seemed like forever, my legs were literally gone, my heart was screaming and I just stamped on the pedals. I could hardly ride after the finish, swinging from side to side. I had dug deep.

I have one last club 10, on Wednesday and then may be a 2up 25m TT at the end of September. It will be then a month of easy riding in October before getting back on it in November building up the miles for Llanberis in February. Thanks to everyone who has supported me through 2012, especially Becky (who was joined today by Buzz the dog) who never once doubted I could do it.

Cat and Fiddle Hill Climb 2012

It's not long to go until the 2012 Cat and Fiddle Hill Climb, promoted by us lot over at Weaver Valley Cycling Club.

This year the Cat and Fiddle Hill Climb takes place on Sunday 23rd September 2012. Entry at Cycling Time Trials website.

It is a climb up the legendary Cat and Fiddle, starting in Macclesfield and finishing at the top at the pub. It's a long climb, around 8 miles in length and although the first part is steepish in parts, there are some downhill sections to take advantage of and it isn't unusual to find people riding it on tri-bars.

Last year's winner was eventual National Hill Climb Champ Gunnar Gronlund while in 2010 Raleigh's Mike Cuming picked up the win.

The race is open to entry, both cheque and online entry accepted. Entry is £8 and the start is 10am. The event is promoted for the last time this year by Steve Thomas.

Website to High Street

I saw some interesting stats today in a survey by Trimble which stated that 36% of shoppers cite convenience as the key benefit of using website for their shopping, but crowded high streets and shopping centres (20%) and busy lifestyles (15%) are also driving UK shoppers to abandon the high street.

In another point, despite a quarter of respondents saying that delivery costs online were too high, 40% were willing to pay for next day delivery and 22% would pay for delivery within a two-hour slot - can't be that high then!

Ok so these stats aren't that surprising. Those that shop online tend to be last minute shoppers, price conscious and want the right product very quickly so the high number willing to pay for next day delivery, despite concerns of costs being too high, isn't shocking. The interesting part for me are those shopping online due to crowded high streets and shopping centres.

I still find it crazy that many high street outlets, who have great websites, don't learn and alter their stores to match new ways of shopping. I visited Chester last weekend, Becky took me around a number of stores and they were virtually all the same. The worst was New Look. I've never seen so much stock littered around everywhere. It was too overwhelming. You wouldn't know where to start. This, combined with a busy Saturday, then lends it's self to a cramped shopping environment with virtually no room to walk around. Why don't they learn from their environments, they must know what the bestselling products are both in-store and online to slim down the ranges.

I believe one of the reasons people shop online is because of this cramped, claustrophobic store management style. No one wants to be spend their time in a cattle market. I also believe, especially now with people increasingly shopping online, that high street shopping has become more of an event. Speaking to many people, heading out for a day shopping on Saturday has turned more into a trip which is occasional and will be joined up with perhaps a meal out. As such I believe stores should be tailoring their environments to be create more of an experience.

One of the main reasons people shop online is the convenience to view different items across different shops, quickly and easily. Why don't stores invest in computers plugged in to the internet in-store? Coffee houses are doing mega money, in some cases I've seen more queues in Costa than in Topshop. Why not set up an area to browse while having a brew? People are going to do it online anyway.

You may ask what is the point in doing that when the competitor store is just down the road? Well if 20% don't like busy town centre environments and another 15% have busy lifestyles, I would imagine people are visiting less shops per town centre visit. If I owned a shop, I would do everything I can to keep the visitor in-store. Allow people to chose a dress and if they want to view what else is available then let them, but in your store.

Becky loves a shop around but she is also conscious of me being bored to death. An area which I've always been surprised with, that Miss Selfridge and co haven't picked up on, is catering for the lads. A small area with sofas, magazines and the football on the TV, would mean the girls could spend more time in store. If they were clever about it, they could even earn some money from promoting little gifts to buy the girlfriend or even buying the magazine which they will read.



Brits on form

Congratulations to Lizzie Armitstead, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy on their Olympic medal haul. It was brilliant to see Chris pick up his 5th gold medal to go equals with Redgrave. I believe that he can win another this year, he looks on great form and it would be well deserved for him to become the greatest ever British Olympian.

Lizzie Armitstead rode a fantastic race for Silver, Vos was always going to be strong in the sprint but Lizzie performed brilliantly under the pressure she was under to get that first GB medal. I remember her winning the Cheshire Classic in 2008, she was the only rider who sat in the saddle and powered her way up 'The Cliff' hill on each lap. She was in a class of her own that day. Lizzie is a true spokesperson for Women's cycling, I read in an interview the other day that once her career is over, she wants to support the growth of Women's cycling. I hope she returns to support the Cheshire Classic as we're doing a lot of work to help do just that this year.

And finally Bradley Wiggins. What a guy, what a race and what a year. To win by over 40 seconds in the Time Trial against the level of competition such as Tony Martin and Cancellara is just incredible, especially considering his Tour win and supporting Mark Cavendish a few days earlier. He oozed class and style. This was a guy who knew he was in form and peak condition. We won't see a British rider have a year like this for a while yet, if any cyclist come to think of it. Allez Wiggo!

26.03

Yes. Just 4 seconds from getting into that holy grail of 25. 4 seconds. It's nothing is it? Neither is 7 seconds, the time I shaved off this week, but by god it hurts.

To be honest I felt pretty poor this week, going round the course I had pretty much given up on beating last week's time. My legs felt lathargic, for some reason I couldn't get my heart rate up around the normal 185bpm either. It was wierd, I just felt at 90%.

The conditions were horrid too, there was a slight breeze but it felt like there was a headwind right round the course, it was also really muggy with no fresh air to breathe and my body just overheating like crazy. It was the first time all year I've wanted to get off the bike. Yet strangely I improved on my time.

There are two more rounds to go, plus an open event on the J2/1. We'll be diggin' deep once again next week.

Diggin' Deep

Well here we are, three quarters of the way through the club 10 season with a handful of events to go. It's mad how quickly the months whizz by. Last season my fastest time on our Weaver Valley course was 27:26, posting anything in between that and late 28s. This week I've posted a new PB of 26.10.

Each week I've knocked around 10 seconds off my time, there has only been one week where I've not beaten it. I've felt good all year, I had a strong Winter base, rarely has there been a week where I've not been out on the bike and I've engaged in a recent weight loss programme which has seen me lose 5kg.

I don't do any specific training. I always like a long ride on my own on Saturday. I don't ride easy, I'm always in the zone and it's just me versus the headwind; no chat, no hiding in wheels. I do some interval training but mainly just go as fast as I can. Then Sunday it is always about the club run which features the obligatory hill and cafe sprint.

The biggest development for me has been learning how to handle myself in a Time Trial, to notice that when the wind is behind you to push harder, if you're going down hill push even harder. Diggin' deep. It was the advice of Garry Brown in the club who told me that there is no rest in a 10, you just go flat out. Don't worry too much about the hill, save yourself for the decent and push as hard as you can.

Last year I spent most of the course wishing it could all end now. I don't think that anymore, I'm thinking how low am I, what is my heart rate and most importantly am I pushing hard enough, just willing my legs on and on.

Strangely I seem to perform well in windy conditions more than if it was a still evening. Perhaps it persuades me to push more?

Can I get into the holy grail of a 25 this year? I'm not sure, not that I'm going to try my best, but it would have to be a big, big performance. I'm not sure how much more I've got. We shall see!


Confused.com Burglary Experiment

Really like this idea from Confused.com. 3 members of the general public entered a competiton to legally burgle a house. The purpose was to raise awareness of home and contents insurance and how easy it was for anyone to pick the most expensive items in a house very quickly.

Simple but effective, the viral drives home the need for insurance while Confused.com win brownie points for raising awareness of the dangers of not looking after your valuable assets, ultimately saving you money on your car insurance. I really like the usefulness of the viral rather than it being funny and leftfield from the product like many out there.

Ken Block San Francisco

Love this viral from DC Shoes of Ken Block givin' it death round San Francisco. The guy has skills to pay the bills.

Wiggins and the Tour

Today's performance by Bradley Wiggins in the Time Trial was epic. To gain a 1 minute 56 second advantage on Cadel Evans this early on is incredible, especially as Evans is no slouch himself having won the Tour last year. It was poetry in motion, pure precision and power.

Bradley Wiggins is an inspiration for me. I always rode a bike, much more than playing any other sport such as Football. I spent a lot of time out on the road on my mountain bike but never had the direction to join a club. I didn't even know about racing or the velodrome until 2007! Both Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish are the reason why I ride a bike. I will never ever forget their Madison in 2008. It has to be the best race I've ever seen. They were incredible and tore the field apart. From that moment on I was determined to join a club.

I've read both their autobiographies, I think I like Cav because he is the same age as me and he has achieved so much. He shows that having guts, determination, being driven and perhaps a strong, stubborn personality can set you up well. Cav is a one off. We are witnessing history in the making, there won't be another British rider like him for a 100 years. We need to enjoy it while we can. His performance in this year's Tour (so far) without much support has been incredible. It just shows what raw talent he has.

While with Bradley Wiggins I've just always enjoyed his honesty. I've always appreciated his down to earth personality and dry humour. His autobiography is brilliant and nothing makes me more proud to have understood what he has been through and now see him look to win the Tour de France.

To see Bradley Wiggins win the Tour de France will be incredible. The first ever British rider to win the Tour. Watching today's Time Trial I had a lump in my throat, that was a big performance and I know from my experiences just how much that will have meant to him.

Emotions are running high. I loved hearing about his response to a journalist yesterday. That is pure Bradley Wiggins. Telling it the way it is. For me I don't care about the language, it is refreshing to hear someone speak out at last like that on doping instead of skirting round the question. His Tour Presentation interview was hilarious, he couldn't understand what Daniel Mangeas was saying and cut off mid-answer to say "why am I telling you this, you don't understand me either do you?"*. His run in with a cameraman after a recent finish is also worth watching. I don't know who is more feisty, Bradley or Cav!



One has to feel for Chris Froome. He could possibly win the Tour himself yet, although giving it a good go himself, understands the position of Bradley Wiggins. It is Bradley's one big chance to secure the Tour in his career. Froome has time on his side and it is a great indication of his character to be put his ability a-side and be able to support Wiggins. It also shows the sporting side of Wiggins that when Froome won on the La Planche des Belles Filles, he went over and embraced him. I just hope everyone remembers Froome's support for Wiggins in the years to come as he is an incredible talent.

And respect to Cadel Evans. He has been a true gent in his post interviews. He must wonder what he has to do to win now, his team although experienced hasn't got the youthful ability of that of Sky. One thing is for sure he will attack his heart out.

One thing worth doing is checking out Sky's website. They have some nice coverage including a tracker and the incredible photography by Scott Mitchell every day is amazing.

Come on Bradley, you're doing Britain proud!!


* I've since learnt that Bradley actually speaks fluent French, so no idea what was going on there! His love affair with the press continues!

New Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Campaign

I came across an article today that mentioned Kelloggs were returning to their old 1985 strapline "The trouble is they taste too good". It was a fantastic strapline; encouraging people to discover and psychologically planting the message to not be afraid to eat more.

Ad agency Leo Burnett are behind the return, and for me the most exciting part of the campaign is the extra elements being added to the push. "Pop-up restaurants" will feature in 156 supermarkets (including major retail outlets) to really keep the sense of "discovery" beneath the strapline alive.

Looking forward to the campaign.

New Gocompare ad with Sue Barker

Sue Barker saves the nation and kills off the GoCompare opera singer. Nicely executed by the guys over at Dare and chapeau to the client for having the balls to do it.

Warrington RC 4UP

Well following my first open Time Trial, a week later I was lining up again this time for a 25 mile 4UP Time Trial promoted by Warrington RC.

I hadn't ridden a 25 before and was sceptical that I could last the distance at Time Trial pace. I was also in a team of strong riders with the experienced Richard Munro, Pete Williams and Nigel Woods. I also didn't want to let them down, although the time is taken from the third man you don't want to be one man down too early on as you don't have as much rest and also in case of punctures.

The course was the J2/9, which starts just outside Jodrell Bank, into Chelford, down Seven Sisters Lane, along the A50 past Mangoletsi car garage, through Allostock all the way to Twemlow Lane, through Goostrey before heading all the way back up to Chelford, following the same route to finish outside Mangoletsi car garage.

Weaver Valley had also entered another, faster, team who were starting after us so we were expecting to see them round the course!

As the HQ we discussed our tactics. The tactics were one minute on the front before rotating round, no bravado, shout up and if you're struggling the team would take half a rev. We would all finish together.

As we lined up ready to go outside Jodrell Bank, it went pitch black and the heavens opened. And I mean opened. I have never seen so much rain fall in such little time. It was unbelievable. Riding along the roads instantly flooded. I was to find out later that over a month's worth of rain fell that evening.

We set off at a good pace and we were instantly working well together. Nigel did a brilliant job in motivating and shouting the turns. We owed a lot to Nigel that night. The team spirit was brilliant, constantly looking after each other and shouting each other on. But the weather, the weather was just madness. Following the rider's wheel in-front, spray poured into your face, cars passing the opposite way threw waves of water over you. As we started the second lap so much water was pouring down my front that it washed my contact lenses out leaving me to literally follow the red flashing light of the rider in front. My eyes were stinging badly.

To be honest, I was annoyed with myself afterwards as I had allowed it to play on my mind. I didn't have my mind 100% on the race. I was conscious of the conditions, the cars passing by and whether I could last the distance. Looking back I would in future lock all that out but now I was just keeping going.

We finished strongly, we did a great stretch along the back of Goostrey up to Jodrell Bank and again through Chelford. We eventually finished with a time of 1.05.34 which would place us 14th out of 30 starters. 15 of which failed to finished, including our other team who had a torrid time with punctures and suffering with the cold. Two lads even got lost and punctured again getting back to the HQ. It was just one of those nights.

Despite everything I was really pleased with the result. There were points where I knew I could have dug deeper on my turn rather than trying to wash stinging grit out of my eyes. I couldn't have worked much harder, my average heart rate for the race was 185bpm, peaking at 195bpm at points. I may have slowed the others down, they would have liked to have gone into 3 minutes, but I believe with better conditions and now having done a 25 I could help them do that.

Hopefully we can team up again, thanks to Rich, Pete and especially Nigel for their efforts. It was one to remember!

My first open Time Trial

One of my main aims for 2012 was to enter an open Time Trial. On Saturday 16th June, coinciding with my second year anniversary with Weaver Valley CC, I took part in the Manchester and District Ladies' Cycling Association, Ladies Open Handicapped and Men's Invitation 10 mile Time Trial.

The race took part on the J2/1 course which starts in a layby on the A537 road to Macclesfield, bombs through Chelford all the way up to the roundabout on the outskirts of Knutsford and back again, finishing in a layby just after Chelford roundabout.

There was a good field with paralympic gold medalist Sarah Storey and her husband Barney along with riders such as Claire Rutherford who rides for Inverse RT and took part in the Cheshire Classic in April. I was speaking to Claire and team mate Nikola Butler before the race, and they had ridden a crit in the morning, while Sarah Storey had only half an hour earlier competed in a 25 mile Time Trial, coming second!

Having had a week off the bike on holiday, putting on 2kg in the process I was concerned that I might not be fit but the start of 4pm was good, it gave me time to go out for an hour in the morning to spin my legs. I was also starting to feel an old knee injury coming on. Due to a strong right leg, combined with a tight ITB, my right knee cap was being pulled to the right. My brother sorted me out with some tape to support it which did the trick.

The ride from the HQ was 5 miles to the start so it allowed for a good ride to get warmed up. The weather however was poor, as we lined up to start the heavens opened and the wind picked up.

I started off well, my legs felt good and I was making good time. I felt relaxed on the bars pushing a big gear, my breathing steady. The first leg is mainly downhill and soon caught my minute man. The turn at the roundabout was sketchy, I was almost at a standstill - the bike was everywhere sliding across the surface.

I pushed on however I was now heading into the wind, going uphill. I don't think I appreciated how much of a drag it was and I was using everything to get the bike home, digging deep, tongue out, ignoring my burning, screaming legs, telling my brain to keep on concentrating and not get complacent keep pushing. I rolled over the line totally empty.

My time: 26:42. I was chuffed, with the conditions and not the best of form leading into the race I would take that. It was only 4 seconds off my personal best on our club 10 course.

It was good to get the first race out of the way and I'll be hunting more to take on. There is another 10 in August on the same circuit and I'm also considering venturing to Levens near Kendal and maybe to Cockermouth to compete infront of the family.

My next Time Trial will be a baptism of fire. I'm competing in a 4-up 25 mile Time Trial on Thursday night for the club. I've never done a 25 mile Time Trial and with some strong riders. Hopefully I will be able to hang on!

Holiday in Sorrento - Review & Tips

I've just got back from a holiday in Sorrento, Italy on the Amalfi Coast near to Naples. We went in June and it was beautiful, with a full week of sunshine and temperatures around the mid to late 20s. It is perfect for couples, both young and old (we found there was a good selection from those in their mid 20s to early 30s to those old enough to have siblings who have fled the nest and are off exploring!).

We went for 5 days (Monday to Friday) and that was easily enough time. We also found it was pretty cheap, meals were really good and didn't break the bank at all. It is a good alternative away from beach holiday, there is enough to keep you occupied exploring around the city while the weather is good enough to get a tan around the pool too. It is worth saying early on it isn't a place for families, little ones would be bored and I would stick to the Balearics!

Why holiday in Sorrento?

Becky and I decided to go to Sorrento for several reasons.

The island of Capri is near by
1. We wanted a break away from Center Parcs, and within our delicate budget, to explore some other countries. We calculated on the same money we were spending at Center Parcs we could be doing much better exploring.

2. We didn't want a quick city break in June, if we were going away we wanted to explore a city but get some sun too.

3. We didn't want somewhere too big but somewhere quiet and easy to get to and handle.

3. Italy was chosen as the main destination as our favourite foods are pasta and pizza!

4. I looked into Tuscany but there would be quite a lot of driving involved, while Sicily and Capri proved to be expensive.

5. Sorrento came highly recommended on personal recommendations, backed up with some good reviews on Trip Advisor.
6. Flights from Liverpool were convenient (Monday to Friday - so we both wouldn't miss competing at the weekends) and cheap with great depature times from Easyjet.

Getting to Sorrento

Naples is the nearest airport. It is about 1 hour away from Sorrento. Unfortunately Manchester Airport didn't do any direct flights to Naples however Easyjet from Liverpool did and they were cheap as chips. The times were spot on too, taking off at 6.45am from Liverpool and 11.20am from Naples on the return. (There is nothing worse there is nothing worse than trying to find your bearings in the dark, or being chucked out of your room at 10am and hanging around all day on depature day. I'm more a "get up and get on with it" type of person).

We added on hold luggage and also Speedy Boarding which I would recommend. You get to pretty much queue jump to check in your luggage and you also get to board the plane first. If you're not a frequent flyer with Easyjet let me advise you that there is no allocated seating. It is first come first served. As such there is the most incredible cattle market rush to be the first in the queue to board the plane (I've seen people run, jump over seats and scream across the apron to get on the plane first - seriously).

The flight takes about 2 hours 45 minutes. Once at Naples, the cheapest and easiest option is taking a coach which takes you directly to Sorrento. It is brilliant and is run by a company called Curreri Viaggi. It costs 10 Euros per ticket and takes 1 hour 30 minutes. You simply walk out of the arrivals hall at the airport and it is right infront of you. You buy your ticket from the driver. The coach then drops you off in the centre of Sorrento by the train station.

A word of warning, if you suffer from travel sickness it is well worth taking some tablets, mints and water. The journey is incredible through little villages along the coastline but the road is very windy, going up and down the mountain side!
Definitely look into the coach, there are regular departures throughout the day.

Where to stay in Sorrento

Hotel Girasole - view from hotel room
I searched long and hard for hotels to stay at in Sorrento. I looked through many hotel reviews. Being a popular destination, although beautiful, many hotels were 4 star and quite expensive. I then came across Hotel Girasole on Trip Advisor and Expedia. It stood out as it was relatively inexpensive compared to most hotels in the area. It was 3 star but had incredible reviews. Looking through the photographs the hotel looked lovely with great views and also a swimming pool. If I booked direct in advance there was a significant discount available too which made it fit in with our budget.

Having stayed at the Hotel Girasole, I can throughly recommend it. It was fantastic.

It isn't central and is a good 15 minute walk however this allows the hotel to have an amazing swimming pool which is surrounded by orange and lemon trees. I booked a sea view room which happened to be on the top floor and had beautiful views to the Gulf of Naples.

The room was nicely decorated, really clean with a fridge, although no tea and coffee facilities. The room also didn't have a bottle opener, so if you're wanting to drink some of the superb Sorrento wines while you read on the balcony (they are pretty cheap from the local shops) then I would suggest taking one with you or spend 5 Euro purchasing one! The bed was comfortable and did the job. Our room also had a balcony which was brilliant; we spent a lot of time reading and playing cards overlooking the sea.

Sunset - view to the right of our room with the hotel pool
The owners were lovely, really welcoming and even prepared a packed lunch as we were leaving really early in the morning.

The cost of the room also included breakfast which was buffet continental. We ate fresh orange juice, pastries and croissants outside in a beautiful dining area under lemon and orange trees. The swimming pool also had a bar which served beers, wine, freshly made snacks and also the most incredible homemade lemon juice which was to die for.

Hotel Girasole -surrounded by lemon and orange trees

My top tips for staying at Hotel Girasole:

* Ask for a room with sea or garden view. The hotel is directly outside a very busy road which doesn't slow down until after midnight. On the opposite side of the hotel, in the pool or restaurant you wouldn't know it at all - but I don't know how anyone could stay overlooking the road!
* If you're a light to medium sleeper - take earplugs. Noise does echo around the hotel from other rooms and corridors. The hotel is nestled within a village so it does become noisy in the mornings with cockrels and the odd beeping bike.

* Don't stay if you're unfit or have a buggy. If you're the one who whizzes round to the corner shop in the car to pick up the morning paper, or have little ones in a pram then this hotel isn't for you. We had no problems with the walk as it was quite nice however it is a 15 minute walk into the centre along a very busy road. At some points you do need to walk single file.

* Taxis in Sorrento are incredibly expensive (12 euro for a 5 minute journey, 25 euro if you're wanting one at 6am) so unless you have money to burn you will be walking. We walked back to the station with our cases on Friday morning with no problem.

Hotel Girasole is a beautiful hotel, typically Italian and well worth checking out. If you're looking for hotels more in the center then do check them out first. We found that Sorrento was quite packed together, and in my opinion, I couldn't see with many of the hotels how you could get a view of the sea. The roads are very busy and can be quite noisy too with beeping bikes and cars so try to avoid road facing rooms.

What to do in Sorrento


Piazza Tasso - main square is the place to be
The weather was gorgeous, we spent a couple of days sunbathing by the pool however Sorrento has much to be explored from the harbour to the number of backstreets with little shops. Although we didn't do so, there are trips to Pompei and Capri easily available.

You will be able to cover Sorrento in a couple of days (this will also give you a few hours in the afternoon to relax too). We did sightseeing on Tuesday, relaxing on Wednesday and half and half on Thursday. That was easily enough time.

My top tips for Sorrento:

 * Eating out - you won't go wrong eating out in Sorrento. There are lots of restaurants, all offering really good food and fine wine. The pizza's are superb, all freshly made and oven cooked. They are quite big and if you're hungry would be my choice. The pasta's can be hit and miss - they are tasty but can vary in size. We found that eating out was pretty good on the wallet. On average, two pizzas, a bottle of Rose and a bottle of still mineral water came to around 30 Euro, with some restaurants offering complimentary bread and liqueur afterwards.
The more central you go the more expensive and be careful of pushy waiters. If you're found looking at the menu you can be rapidly shoehorned into a table without even saying anything. We Brits can be too polite, remember Sorrento is a competitive tourist town. Check out some reviews and ask around before hand. I printed out a Google map before hand and drew up all the places highly rated.
Il Leone Rosso - a must visit in Sorrento
My tip would be to keep central and believe the hype, if it's busy: it is good. The most expensive meal we had was at a restaurant called Parco Ibsen - it had some good reviews, looked beautiful but it was quiet and the food only ok.

The best meal we had, also happened to be the cheapest. In fact we ate at this restaurant twice. If you're visiting Sorrento make sure you check out Il Leone Rosso, it is in a little side street, the next block down from the train station and just down the road from the main square. The pizzas were incredible and the price unbelievable. We had a 1 litre bottle of Rose, 2 large pizzas, 2 coffees, 1 litre of still water together with a free starter and limoncella liqueur and it came to 25 Euro. 25 Euro!! Good service too, well worth checking out.


Sightseeing bus for 12 Euro is well worth it.
* Sightseeing bus - there is a red sightseeing bus which you will probably recognise from cities around the UK. We've been on one in Edinburgh. It is basically a 1 hour 40 minute journey around the countryside of Sorrento. For 12 Euro each it is well worth the money. The bus leaves from the train station and the scenery is stunning. You also get a 10 minute stop for photos overlooking Capri. We went early doors (around 10am) which was good to not only avoid the crowd (the trip after ours at around 11.30am was packed) but also the hot midday sun.


Davide Galato - well worth checking out for ice cream fans
* Have a drink, people watch and play cards in Piazza Tasso - it is the main square, you won't miss it but have a drink, sit back, relax and watch the World go by. Be it people watching or laughing at the mad driving of the Italians, it is brilliant. Everyone goes to Bar Fauno but can be hard to get a table, however we really enjoyed the bar in the corner surrounded by a hedge. If you like ice cream, make sure you check out Davide Galato with nearly 30 choices of flavours to choose from.

 Conclusion

Sorrento - little side streets to explore
Sorrento is well worth putting on the list. 5 days to a week maximum is all you need. It is ideal for couples not so for families. It offers opportunities to grab some sun, the weather is very mediterranean with a nice cool breeze. It is easy to get to from Naples and perfect if you're looking to get a taste of Italy.

I still think I prefer Spain, Menorca in the Balearics in particular. I found the Italians to be quite rude and obnoxious. They have a very serious attitude problem, wierdly I found that they love setting rules. You couldn't have a laugh with them and the "bums on seats" focus spoilt what could have been a beautiful town. In Spain I made friends, in Italy I was just another person.

That said Sorrento proved value for money, a lot less than a holiday in Spain was going to cost. It is well worth checking out.


John Boote Memorial Road Race 2012

This Sunday is the John Boote Memorial Road Race. Promoted by ourselves at Weaver Valley CC, riders complete 13 laps of the Weaverham/Acton Bridge circuit as used by the Cheshire Classic earlier in the year. Race starts at 9am.

There is a full field and it looks like it will be a good race with some of the regions top riders rolling up to take on 13 hits of the cliff!

John Boote Memorial Road Race Start List

1 Darran Acton Lancashire RC 4th
2 Anthony Allan Macclesfield Wheelers 3rd
3 Michael Ashurst Champion System/Maxgear/Kyklos 2nd
4 Stephen Baillie R Whitfield Heating & Plumbing RT 3rd
5 John Bamford Lancashire RC 3rd
6 James Warren Bill Nickson Cycles RT 2nd
7 Stephen Booth Tunstall Whls CC 4th
8 Luke Boulton Teamwallis CHH Racing Team 2nd
9 Jack Bowyer Teamwallis CHH Racing Team 2nd
10 Luke Dabbs University Of Manchester CC 3rd
11 Andy Daley Vita Cycle Team 4th
12 Simon Deeley High On Bikes 3rd
13 Diggle Kuota – Spinergy – GSG 3rd
14 Chris Edwards Liverpool Mercury (Dolan) CC 2nd
15 Christian Ellis Wheelguru 3rd
16 Steven Fidler Team-Elite/Paul Bethell Electrical 2nd
17 Eric Fitton Bangor University 3rd
18 Richard Flynn GMP Racing 3rd
19 Jimmy Froggatt Wills Wheels Cycling Club 3rd
20 Michael Fugaccia Liverpool Century RC 2nd
21 David Giles Matrix Fitness – Prendas 2nd
22 Wayne Greenhalgh Champion System/Maxgear/Kyklos 2nd
23 Paul Griffin Rhyl Cycling Club 4th
24 John Guy High On Bikes 3rd
25 Ian Holbrook Stone Whls CC 3rd
26 sean hughes Liverpool Century RC 2nd
27 Henry Hunter Teamwallis CHH Racing Team 2nd
28 Matthew Jones New Brighton CC 2nd
29 Matt Limacher Champion System/Maxgear/Kyklos 2nd
30 Jason Livesey Dirtwheels Cycles 3rd
31 Mark Lovatt Planet X 2nd
32 Robert McDonald Fibrax Wrexham Road Club 4th
33 Gareth McGuinness Energy Cycles 2nd
34 Andrew Newby Weaver Valley CC 4th
35 Robert Palmer Stretford Whls CC 3rd
36 Ryan Pike High On Bikes 2nd
37 Francis Pilkington Bill Nickson Cycles RT 2nd
38 Christopher Quin Macclesfield Wheelers 2nd
39 Michael Rawson Champion System/Maxgear/Kyklos 2nd
40 Paul Ray Ribble Valley CRC 2nd
41 Jeff Vernon Birkenhead North End CC 2nd
42 John Rigby Champion System/Maxgear/Kyklos 2nd
43 Graeme Rose Dirtwheels Cycles 2nd
44 James Rushton Aire Valley Racing Team 3rd
45 Adam Sant St Helens CRC/D.Sparrow Plumbing & Heating Services 4th
46 Nick Shaughnessy Patron 2nd
47 Stephen Smith Vita Cycle Team 2nd
48 Matthew Smithson Clay Cross Road Team 2nd
49 David Spencer Fibrax Wrexham Road Club 3rd
50 Mark Tickle Leigh Premier RC 4th
51 Jason Tonge Lancashire RC 3rd
52 Christopher Wade Aire Valley Racing Team 3rd
53 Thomas Walsh Lancashire RC 3rd
54 Stephen Warner Liverpool Mercury (Dolan) CC 3rd
55 Anthony Weston Liverpool Century RC 4th
56 Dan Whelan Maxgear RT 2nd
57 David Williams Kuota – Spinergy – GSG 2nd
58 Kristian Zentek Weaver Valley CC 4th
59 Tony Workman Lancashire RC 2nd
60 Alastair Young Gosforth RC 4th

**Reserves: List in order of application received**
61 Roy Sumner Port Sunlight Whls CC 2nd
62 Matthew Love Private 2nd
63 David Crowley Bill Nickson Cycles RT 3rd
64 Andrew leigh Velocity Race Team 2nd
65 Robert Lockhart Cyclesport International RT 3rd
66 Karl Freeman Team Wheelguru 2nd
67 Doug Arnold Liverpool Century RC 4th
68 William Thomas Velocity Race Team 2nd
69 Kevan Underhill Weaver Valley CC 4th
70 Michael Cripps Army Cycling Union 2nd
71 Philip Gray Kuota – Spinergy – GSG 3rd


First solo 10 - 27.46

Wednesday was the first solo club 10 of the season. Conditions were pants to say the least, what started out as light rain turned into massive droplets as we started. It didn't put folks off and we had a good 12 start on the line.

Many say wet conditions can be good. The wind can be quite still and also the rain brings more oxygen. I certainly felt good on the bike although I started off way too fast. I was bombing along only for the last quarter (and the more lucrative part of the course for me) to not get my best riding on it as the legs faded. Still I clocked a 27.46 which is close to my fastest ever on the course from last year. Hopefully I can improve on that during the year. The fastest rider was Alistair Stanway, smashing out a 24-25.

Needless to say I was soaked to the skin, pouring out water from my shoes afterwards. Great fun though!

Club 10s

Spring is here and so are the lighter nights which only mean one thing. Club 10s. Last year was my first season of pounding a 10 mile circuit around Lach Dennis, Allostock & Peover in the heart of Cheshire. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to getting stuck in again.

I've had a good pre-season with Llanberis and Cheshire Cat. I did loose 7kg but I've but one or two back on recently due to not being out on the bike. It was a strange thing really, I went through a bit of a dip where I lost motivation to get on the bike. I lost one weekend to organising the road race and then last weekend the bad weather alongside helping Becky with the horse lost me. A quick 20 miles during the week was all I had.

I was concerned going into last night's two-up that I may have lost some form, my head certainly wasn't in the right place however as soon as I got on the bike it all went away. It felt great. Isn't it strange how you feel once the adrenaline and endorphines start pumping?!

I was paired up once again with Al Silver. We did an awesome time last year in the late 25s however that was on a calm late Summer's evening. This was early season and there was a stiff headwind along the part of the course which is the most troublesome with a long incline.

We started off great, I felt comfortable and around the course we took a good amount of turns on the front. I knew we were doing ok as up ahead we were catching our minute men, however it was around this time we were overtaken ourselves by Richard Munro and Kevin Campbell. It was exactly the same spot Richard overtook us last year.

They must have gone full gas at the start as from there on we managed to keep with them, pulling ahead at times and riding alongside them - god knows what the cars behind were thinking. It was a battle! The remaining quarter of the race was just that with even a joint sprint at the end!

We finished with a time of 27.10 which put us in 5th place. Hopefully we'll be back for the second 2-up later on in the year. From next week it's back to solo efforts!

Organising the Cheshire Classic

September 2011. It is the Weaver Valley CC AGM and Terry Veal has announced he is stepping down from organising the Cheshire Classic after 30 years. As I'm not going to be any use to the club racing, and as I quite enjoy marketing and organising events through what I've achieved with Bridgewater Riding Club, I decide to volunteer. I like what is happening with Women's cycling, there is a nice community and the riders are really developing.

I believe there is great potential and hopefully I can help raise the profile of Women's cycling and put on some events to remember in the process. But this wasn't just any normal race either. This was a British Cycling National Series race, with elite riders coming from around the country, as far as Essex and Aberdeen. This was a race full of heritage, with past winners such as Mandy Jones, Nicole Cooke and Lizzie Armitstead. This was a race built up by Terry. And I was up for the challenge.

Sleepless nights

Fast forward to 6am on Sunday 22nd April and I'm up driving to reece the course for the sixth time in the last couple of weeks. I only slept 2 hours on Saturday night and the week leading up to the event was no better either. A horrific nightmare kept repeating on me about a car crashing into a whole side of the bunch. Terry and I also had notice leading up to the event that there would be a doping control at the event, that too was playing on my mind. Getting everything going was one thing, but also making sure the facilities were ok for doping control was another.

For me, there is an incredible amount of responsibility. As event organiser you are responsible for the safety of 70 women to get round 10 laps of a 7.7km course, which contains narrow country lane and fast bypass. Ok, I can't help it if something does happen, but you don't half worry.

Setting targets

2012 was to be Terry's last year and after 30 years I wanted him to go out on a bang. My main priority right from the start was to ensure the safety of the riders while also adding in a new incentive to spice the race up a bit. Terry and I agreed that the National Escort Group would be a great edition, having talked to Ian Shearer at NEG, we sorted out the amount of outriders needed and that he would also come on board as a paramedic. My second aim was to raise funds to include an intermediate sprint halfway round to break the race up.

Sponsorship - I feel for team managers

It was then down to raising sponsorship to pay for it all. This is when it first dawned on me how hard it was going to be. I've worked in sales previously for a good 4 years, which included cold calling in the early days, and raising sponsorship for the race was much harder. I sent out hundreds of letters and emails of which I got a couple of replies to try again next year, and thanks to those who did reply. I concentrated on local companies, major companies particularly those in sport around the North West and major national companies involved in cycling and Women's cycling.

After months of work we finally got three sponsors on board in the form of Phil Weaver at Epic Cycles, John Keen at Lightbox UK and Dave Hinde from Dave Hinde Racing. They were magnificent and not only allowed us to pay for the NEG but altogether gave us a prize fund over £1000. Three times as much as the previous year.

The Race

Happily the race passed without a hitch. It was one of the best races I've been involved with. Really positive and towards the end really fast. A couple of breakaways tried to get away but it was eventually a break from Sarah Storey and a junior called Molly Weaver. Sarah Storey picked up the win, which was great having been placed second and third in previous years. She has a special place within the club, not only as a fond supporter of the race but she also spoke at our club dinner a couple of years back. I think everyone spoke about Molly Weaver at the end, a junior in her second year of racing to have the maturity to follow the break and stay with Sarah for two laps was great riding. She has a natural talent.

One rider also stood out for me, Frankie White. She got dropped on the first lap due to a mechanical. 10 laps on your own is murderous but she kept on going. That showed incredible determination and great spirit.

Of course none of the race is possible without the invaluable support of the club, we have over 30 members of Weaver Valley CC helping out for free, missing their Sunday ride. Humbling.

Social Media

We also moved to a new HQ as found by Terry which was well recieved by the riders but for me the biggest investment in the race was our new website and Twitter feed. It allowed us to communicate with the riders, they communicated with us and we kept them involved by being open about the race. We were open and updated riders on the course map and condition, accomodation, line up, prize fund and any coverage we were receiving from the race.

After the race it was amazing to receive the amount of tweets and blogs about the race. It was really heart warming to see riders, spectators and the press getting involved with the race - there were hundreds of images and even video being posted. For me it was the icing on the cake and the best result of 8 months hard work.

Needless to say I've submitted our expression of interest to British Cycling for 2013 - bring it on!!


Shimano RS80 Wheel Review

Dave Hinde said that these were the best wheels £400 could buy and he wasn't half wrong.

Along with adding a Deda Blackfin fork, these Shimano RS80 Wheels are the best upgrade I've made to my bike. They roll along beautifully, pretty stiff and are incredibly forward going.

Previously I had a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Equipe's. They did a good job but over time they started to loose stiffness and the stickers had to be replaced at least 3 times which frustrated me to no end. They seemed slightly sluggish uphill too - not needed when you're 88kg!

I actually wanted a pair of Shimano RS80 wheels originally following a couple of good recommendations in the club but Dave didn't have a pair in stock.

Anyway now I've got a pair the difference is huge. The roll up quickly, react well with you when you need acceleration on climbs or sprints and are altogether a really nice wheel. They are made of alloy but have a carbon laminate for increased stiffness. They make a lovely purring sound when rolling along country lanes.

The weight is spot on too. Lighter than the Mavic Ksyriums at 1521 grams a pair. I also noticed they are slightly larger, wider at the inner rim and deeper in depth too. They seem ready for some action straight from the off.

If you're in the market for some new wheels and have around £400 to spend, I would totally recommend these wheels, in my opinion they are worth more and £400 is a steal!

2 months on from the bike fit

At the start of February I had a professional bike fit with Pedal Precision who are based at the Velodrome in Manchester. You can read more about the session in another post however in short the main change was lowering my handlebars and extending the hoods to stretch out my back.

The results have been fantastic. Combined with a new set of Shimano RS80 wheels, I totally believe it has helped me achieve a 200 mile weekend to Llanberis in February, complete the Cheshire Cat including the ascent of Mow Cop and altogether becoming more comfortable, stronger and faster on the bike.

I feel more assured on the bike, more planted, more confident. Little injuries and niggles are now no more, combined with good stretching and light warming up, I've not had any problems for the past 2 months. The changes were made to encourage me to keep my upper body particularly my hips still, allowing my legs to do more work and channel more power down to the pedals. I certainly feel a lot stronger on the bike.

If you're struggling on the bike, even just slightly, need a second opinion or looking to get some extra gains it was well worth it. I would highly recommend Richard at Pedal Precision.

Cheshire Cat 2012 Review

This is now my fourth Cheshire Cat, I first entered back in the day when they were held at Knutsford Leisure Centre and you had to go down the day before to sign on. The refreshments back then were a plastic cup of orange squash, how quickly times have moved on! I also entered in 2010 and last year too.

Getting Started

Last year there was some trouble with people starting and finishing (ie: 3000 people tried to set off at the same time meaning massive queues and upset people). This year they had implimented a new queueing system where you were put into coloured pens with a set start time. Everyone got a coloured sticker to put on the bike and this was strictly adhered to. It meant everyone set off on time with little waiting around and the roads were pretty quiet because of it too. Everything is sent in the post so you could just roll up and get going.

The Route

This year there was a new route for the 75 and 100 mile options which would take us over Gun Hill. I have to say, even though the gorgeous weather helped, the route was much better than previous years. The scenery was stunning. The climb of Gun Hill, after the first feed station and before Wincle, was a good addition as it is a legendary climb in the area used by the Tour of Britain.

Mow Cop

Of course the Cheshire Cat wouldn't be the Cheshire Cat without Mow Cop. The Killer Mile sees those that get to the top without putting their foot down get a medal back at the HQ. It's a tough ask, it climbs at around 16% until the final 200 metres elevates up to 25%. Last year I managed to get to the bottom of the 25% part, this year I wanted to go all the way. And I did. I kept it steady at the beginning, keeping my breathing deep and steady. Although my wheel slipped a few times I kept on going and found I was climbing well. Eventually I got to the 25% part and off I went. Out of the saddle, pushing down as hard as I could I found I was moving up pretty easily and before I knew it I was over the top! It was a great, great feeling - although my heart at over 200bpm was saying different!

Hills, Hills, Hills

After Mow Cop you're into the lumpy stuff for around 20 miles. After a decent into Congleton, you're just as quickly climbing out over Biddulph Moors and Bridestones; this is a horrific climb out. It is mind numbingly boring and (for me anyway) very slow going. The route then rolls up and down until the first feedstation. After a quick stop you're onto Gun Hill, the first steep bit caught many out thinking this was it, only for it to descend before starting a bit later on. I've never climbed Gun Hill before, it isn't a bad climb, tough in parts but is over pretty quickly. You then have a few miles rest before you enter Wincle. Wincle is notorious for it's couple of tough sharp climbs. Your heart and lungs definitely get a good work out for sure.

Loving The Flat

The best thing about the Cheshire Cat is that all the hills are over and done with early on. After which it is flat out back home. I love the second part into Goostrey. We do it on club runs quite a lot and you just thrash it out. I caught the tail end of a fast group where we rolled along at around 25mph. The run back to Crewe, takes you into Nantwich which is again pretty flat but a bit boring. As you reach Church Minshull your legs are on fire and you're just willing them along. I unfortunately had the pleasure of riding with James Risk, a promising youth rider (ex-Weaver Valley and now Sportcity Velo), who gave me a lesson in how to rip someone's legs off. I don't think we went under 20mph all the way home.

I arrived back at Crewe exhausted but over the moon. Risky had done a great job pacing me back home. The goody bag at the end had some nice gifts such as free High 5 waterbottles, gels, wind buff and helmet and a Purple Harry shoe sanitizer.

If you're looking for some good early season miles, which are testing but not too testing, then add this to your diary. The Cheshire Cat is a must for any cyclist.

Has The Times Cycling Campaign Woken The Bees?

Two abrest. One of many agitations.
The Times has recently run a wonderful campaign which highlighted the need to correct our highways to protect cyclists. In it was an 8-point manifesto calling for cities to be made fit for cyclists which included lorries to be fit with sensors, improvements to road junctions, better cycle routes, better training and introduction of 20mph limits.

However, I'm of the belief that no matter how good the campaign was intended to be it has unfortunately awoken a nest of imbecile that we unfortunately have to cope with in this country.

Today I heard the news that a club member has been deliberately knocked off his bike. The incident happened on his way home from Barnton to Warrington. Along a country lane he was squeezed by a car coming towards him. The next is what you, as a cyclist, have nightmares about. The car turned around and followed him. As the club member slowed down, the driver swerved and deliberately knocked him off his bike. As he lay on the floor the car reversed back running over his bike. Luckily he managed to unclip or he would have gone over his legs. Fortunately he remembered the registration number and the case has been reported to the police.

For the cynical of you out there, no I wasn't there personally, neither was anyone else, however I have roomed with this club member and I would very much doubt there was any aggravation. Especially to the sort that someone would knock someone off his bike and then commit, what could be assumed as,  attempted murder.

Agitated Drivers

Since the campaign I've noticed an increase in the number of agitated drivers. You normally get the odd one on a Sunday club run. From my experience, you can even bracket the driver, they are normally male, in fact all male, driving a decrepit vehicle like an old Volvo estate, a group of individuals in a white van or someone in a Jaguar XF or BMW. The most common feature of the driver is that they tend to be fat. I'm not being condescending either here. I believe the main problem from driver harrasment comes from those that don't participate in sport. They don't understand nor are they bothered. Until the government better encourages sport to all ages we will always be in this problem.

Llanberis

Since the campaign, I noticed, especially on our training weekend to Llanberis, that drivers were becoming increasingly agitated. Riding single file with plenty of room to overtake, drivers were insistent to exploit their anger for what reason I don't know. On a quiet road with no traffic with no problems to overtake, we had car windows down and even at one point a car door open. Fortunately these morons don't have the brain to understand that we can't understand what they are saying driving past at 30 mph anyway. In some cases, traffic going the other way, driving past without any delay or obstruction gave us the wanker sign.

I have never known such abuse, it was wierd, definitely out of the ordinary. I can only attribute it to The Times campaign. It has not only supported the cyclist but at the same time affected them. I believe it has rattled the cage of those who perhaps were frustrated by cyclist but have now joined the backlish of mindless moron inept of understanding the concerns of a cyclist.

A Misunderstanding

It is obviously a mis-understanding between those who cycle on the roads of the UK and those who don't. The main agitation is those cyclists who run red lights. I totally disagree with this practice and I believe any cyclist should be fined for doing so. I also believe it should be mandatory for a cyclist to wear a cycling helmet.

However drivers need to be aware of the problems we cyclists face, skirting around massive potholes and the need to keep momentum being the main problems. We all know fuel consumption in a car increases massively when stopping and starting, well it is the same for a human. The majority of us are clipped into our pedals, which allows us to travel efficiently to avoid you any disruption, unclipping and reclipping is a difficult situation, as such cycling lanes would aid any disruption to you.

Two abreast

One of the major problems I would imagine is cyclists riding as a group, two abreast. We can ride single file, but this would mean the group would be twice as long and twice as hard to overtake, especially on winding county roads, due to the length of the group. The likelyhood of drivers being able to overtake cyclists single file on country roads with an oncoming car would be nil anyway. With two abreast drivers can overtake us easily despite a probably 10 to 20 second delay. Cyclists also ride two abreast as it needs two people on the front to look out for potholes and to point them out to our fellow group members.

We do everything we can to avoid disrupting the flow of traffic. I just don't get the problem but it needs to stop as the situation with my club mate has confirmed today it is getting serious. It shouldn't be us against them, we should be us working together.

Llanberis 2012

2 days. 96 miles on the way out, 84 miles on the way home. Over 4000 feet of ascent. 

This is the Weaver Valley Cycling Club annual training weekend to Llanberis. It is a vicious weekend away on unrelenting roads through North Wales taking in Kinnerton, Ruthin, Denbigh high street, "The Sportsman" over the bleak Denbigh moors, Betws-y-Coed, Capel Curig and then Pen-y-Pass into Llanberis. The return home skips "The Sportsman", heading through the forest back into Ruthin.

It is a big weekend. The last big weekend before the season starts in March, the chance to get nearly 200 miles in the legs in one weekend. Llanberis is talked about for months in advance. After 22 years it is full of legend, there are stories of those who battled to reach the hotel first but mainly stories of those who survived. Those who didn't get in the van. Those who battled cold, wind and rain to get to the hotel. While all who take part are from the club, those that do are mainly from a competitive background, lean, fit and have been on a bike for many years.

Training

I had a taste of Llanberis last year but this year was going to be my first big go of it. My training started in November, long rides in the legs with trips to the Cat and Fiddle and Mow Cop, this continued through December to Mid February. As well as club runs I put in long rides on my own, on little breakfast and no energy bars, to get my body used to using energy stores. I also lost weight. I lost 6kg, which put me in at 89kg, still heavy but would make difference.

The nature of the event is that it is every man for himself, a raw, character building training weekend. There is no club run etiquette, if you get dropped you're on your own; which if this is on the Sportsman, you have a very lonely and hard 40 miles to Llanberis in front of you. I got dropped last year on the way home through Betws-y-Coed and it was incredibly hard going.

Leading Up To The Event

Leading up to the event, four of us, Richard Munro, Andy Risk and Al Silver agreed that we would stick together. We would wait, re-group and ride at a steady pace. I owe a huge amount to these 3 guys. They were incredible. Not once did any of us get left behind, we stuck together and worked our way steadily to Llanberis. We were joined by several others (including my room-mate to be Nigel Woods) while others left us to battle on their own. We were last in, having left at 8am we arrived at 4.30pm.

The Saviour: Richard Munro

Our saviour was Richard Munro. I've only really got to know Rich this year through doing Club 10s on Wednesday nights. We both drive to the finish, get ready together and as such we normally talk afterwards (normally about how crap we have both done, if a sports councillor wanted business there would not be a more perfect opportunity!). Rich is a great guy, always encouraging, even after a bad run he had nothing but praise. A lean, powerful guy who produces good Time Trial results. He is never afraid to offer advice, from when to keep it easy on a club 10 due to wind direction to sitting in the wheels on a ride to save energy. His encouragement got us through the weekend. He sat at the front of all the climbs, keeping his pace steady so we could all sit on his wheel. On the way home he was helped by Kevan Underhill. Thanks guys!

The Ride: For Me

For me: until Llanberis I had never done anything over 65 miles. I completed the full 96 miles there and 68 of the 84 on the way back. The way to Llanberis is the hardest. For me, the first half of the Sportsman and the drag from Betws-y-Coed to Capel Curig were the worst. The Sportsman starts at the bottom of Denbigh High Street, and while steep it isn't the worst as you can concentrate up to the traffic lights at the top. After those lights, until you are up into the moors, is the worst. It just goes on and on. You are on the limit, climbing for a good hour. Once on the moors you can sort yourself out.

After a lovely decent into Betws-y-Coed, the drag into Capel Curig was just energy sapping. You unfortunately ignore the beautiful surroundings, your eyes instead fixed on the wheel in front. You grind out a small gear along a road which winds and winds. After a quick cafe stop, the final 10 miles to Llanberis is straight forward. The Pen-y-Pass, which takes you up into Llanberis, isn't as bad as I thought it would be. It is a tough little climb but it has a smooth road and you can get a good cadence up it. The road leading up to the pass, though, is long. I was sat on the front and with 90 miles already in the legs we were reduced to a painful 9 mph.

After a restless night (I think the effort from Saturday combined with litres of electrolyte and energy gels had an adverse effect on me) I set off on Sunday with good legs. Within 10 minutes of setting off from the hotel you are faced with Pen-y-Pass from the opposite side. It takes some climbing. Exhausted, at the top I had a gel. The straight forward decent into Betws-y-Coed then turned into a nightmare. I felt sick all the way down and following the climb out of the town I had to get into the van. Having pulled myself together I rejoined everyone at the stop at Ruthin for the final half home.


A great weekend

It was a great weekend. I need to review my nutrician plan however it was great to get 160 miles in the legs. It was amazing to complete the 96 miles on the Saturday. I think my recent bike fit paid dividends as I had no problems at all. My legs felt fresh the whole weekend and I felt comfortable on the bike.

To Andy Risk and Al Silver. Chapeau! They managed full distance there and back. For Al this was his first there and back, it was great ride. Am I envious? Yes and disappointed in myself too. I had the legs but my body let me down. I would have loved to have done the full distance with them.

A big thank you must also go to Graham and Ann Gregory for organising the weekend, Steve Thomas, Elaine Mossman, Caroline Fearon, Lyndsey Taylor and Dave Hinde for their support in cars and vans. Dave especially got me back to rights back to Ruthin. Cheers.




Bike Fit Manchester - Pedal Precision

If you're suffering on the bike chances are it hasn't been set up properly. Although not "suffering" I have been feeling uncomfortable on the bike for several months, find that I'm always getting home feeling sore after a long ride. I've also noticed that my quad and hamstrings are getting tighter and tighter, with some niggles especially in my hamstrings. Although deep tissue massage courtesy of my brother and stretching has helped it keeps coming back.

With a long training weekend coming up and the 2012 season just round the corner I thought a professional bike fit with Richard Salisbury at Pedal Precision would be a good idea. His bike fit clinic is based at the velodrome in Manchester.

A bit about Pedal Precision

I was put onto Pedal Precision by Phil Jones. I was interested to find out that Richard set up Pedal Precision following being in a period of rehabilition from a serious illness himself (much like how my brother got into Sports Therapy). Richard has competed up to 1st cat level previously and has worked in bike shops from which he fitted numerous bikes and, as well being qualified, is well placed to offer advice for cyclists.

The Session

The session was really good. Richard spent 2 hours going through everything including using video cameras to record me cycling on the bike and analysing it on his computer. Now being useless I forgot to take some pictures of my own so I've borrowed these off Richard's website (if you're reading this Richard I hope you don't mind).

Feet

The first thing was to look at my feet, and having examined them he found that on my downstroke my feet have tendency to tilt to the outside before going flat on the backstroke. This was only a minor problem which was cured by putting a couple of layers of tape on one half of my sole to even out the tilt to make my feet flatter.

Cleats

The next thing was to set up my cleats. I had bought a fresh pair ready for the occasion. This actually took quite a while which was interesting to make sure everything was ok. Once setup I was quite happy to notice his markings her near to my original marks, so I wasn't too out.

Saddle Height & Position


The last thing to do was look at how I sat and pedalled on the bike. He hooked up my bike to the turbo trainer and I spun away for the next hour. My saddle height was pretty much spot on which was good to hear. Richard moved my saddle down slightly. At 89kg you won't be surprised to hear I'm not the most agile of people. Because my saddle was flat, my body was fighting with sitting back to stay in the natural position on the saddle while also leaning forward onto the handlebars, this would then put strain on the legs and genital area. Pointing it downwards slightly would ease off the pressure and allow me to sit better on the saddle.

Headset & Handlebars

The most interesting part of the session was the adjustment of the height and length of the handlebars. Richard reduced the height of my handlebars and extended the length to the hoods. This was because my back wasn't in a nice smooth curve. It went up sharply, went wierd in the middle and then nice and smooth at the top. These small adjustments will flatten and curve out my back. By doing this it will allow me to sit in the saddle allowing me to direct more power down into the legs.

Extras & More Stretches

After checking everything was ok, Richard advised that my ITB (a thin strip of muscle at side of your leg from your pelvis down to your knee) were tight on both sides and this would affect smooth movement of the legs. He will also be providing me with some exercises to improve my deep core, this is because my body loves what my legs are doing. So my body is moving backwards and forwards with my pelvis and really with cycling you want your body super still. Improving my deep core will keep my body still and allowing my legs to do all the work.

Conclusion

If you're having trouble, feeling uncomfortable, unsure or just want a health check it is well worth the investment, even for peace of mind. I'll report back in the next month with how I'm getting on but Richard was great to work with, a relaxing influence, reassuring and good to talk to.

You can follow Richard on Twitter @pedalprecision and you can visit his website at www.pedalprecision.com


Proposal at London Zoo

Good friends of mine, Michelle Rogers and Jamie Roberts got engaged on Valentines Day but it wasn't your ordinary proposal. As Michelle played around with the penguins Jamie came out from behind the enclosure and proposed. The proposal I believe was filmed for a documentary later in the year and was captured by London Zoo CCTV. The dream proposal all came about after Jamie won a competition. Afterwards both families were waiting in the zoo to celebrate!

The video started being Tweeted around the web and before long The Telegraph picked up on the story. They've since had a number of radio and magazine interviews.

Jamie and Michelle are like two peas in a pod. I'm sure it was a day to remember for the two of them and I wish them all the very best!

Paul Carrack Tour


As a birthday treat I was bought a couple of tickets to see Paul Carrack in concert on his current tour at The Lowry, Salford.

You will probably know Paul Carrack more from his period with Mike & The Mechanics where he teamed up with Genesis' Mike Rutherford, pushing out hits which included "Living Years", "Looking Back Over My Shoulder", "Another Cup of Coffee" and "Beggar on a Beach of Gold". Brilliant songs.

But that is just the starting point. As well as a strong solo career, the first ever track he wrote (while part of band Ace) was "How Long" (featured in the video on the right above). I think if you can write a song that good as your first song you can quite comfortably walk into work the next day and hand in your notice. Nearly 30 years on "How Long" still sounds fresh. He has written songs for The Eagles and Crowded House, worked with Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, played keys for Roxy Music and replaced Jools Holland (no mean feat) in Squeeze.

Paul's career is simply quite sensational; a true British music gem. He released an album last year where his tracks were re-worked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, demonstrating another part of his incredible talent. His voice is amazing, full of range, warmth and emotion, uncomparable to any other British artist. His library of songs, and dare I say it, could only be compared to those of Tower Of Power. Beautiful, soulful ballads are mixed alongside funk.

The concert was excellent, not even a parody of errors thanks to his technical team could put him off his stride. His voice surrounded us in the theatre, the two non-stop hours whizzed by as he played a range of old solo tracks, his current single & tracks from his forthcoming album later in the year. He also added in afore mentioned tracks from The Eagles, Crowded House, Squeeze and of course Mike & The Mechanics. The band was excellent, the bassist and the guy on the sax were especially on form.

If you like soul, jazz, funk or motown make sure you check out Paul Carrack's tour next time round. It is well worth the effort.

His current tour sees him visit over 40 venues around the UK and runs to the end of February. His album is released in June later in 2012. He currently has a 4 track EP called Time to Move On, available on iTunes.

I've put a couple of sessions he did for Smooth Radio below.