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.


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