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.




Weaver Valley 50th Anniversary Dinner

Dave Norton, Harold Nelson, Alan Kemp & Paul Sherwen
Saturday was Weaver Valley Cycling Club's 50th Anniversary Dinner. A packed out venue in Northwich saw club members, young and old, past and present, come out to celebrate. Out of the guests we had two visitors travel all the way from Australia, one including club founder John Horsfield, the other Eric Leese.

The big guest of the night was Paul Sherwen who travelled all the way from Uganda, spending less than 24 hours in the country to be with us. Paul is an ex-Weaver Valley rider spending several years in the club from the age of 16 before moving on to Warrington Road Club and then becoming a professional, riding for La Redoute, carving out a reputation as one of the greatest ever British domestiques.

He finished the Tour de France several times, and did very well in the Spring Classics such as Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. On returning to UK, he won the British Road Race Championship. He now commentates for numerous sports channels including ITV 4 alongside Phil Liggett at the Tour de France.

Paul spoke fondly of his time with the club, out of all the clubs he had been party too, Weaver Valley was the one that had a place in his heart. He spoke about the club runs, being dropped and pushed home numerous times. He owed a lot to coach Harold Nelson who also attended the dinner and shared numerous stories of rides (battles) with Alan Kemp (a past and now current Weaver Valley rider who continues to be very successful to this day in LVRC and TLI races). It was Sherwen and Kemp who left Weaver Valley to form a successful partnership at Warrington Road Club.

Club founder John Horsfield told us how the club was formed in 1962. Having got bored (and exhausted) of riding to Wythenshaw roundabout each Sunday to join Sale Road Club on their club run, he spoke to his employer ICI about his love of cycling. He won the "Fleck award" and with the money set up Weaver Valley Cycling Club with a handful of friends including Jack Gee, Eric Leese, Dave Norton, Allan Littlemore and Malcolm Scott. Northwich Road Club had already been around a number of years ago so a new name was needed. The name "Weaver Vale" was suggested having been nicked from a local boat company however it was Malcolm Scott who tweaked it to become the "Weaver Valley" and more rounded. The club colours of royal blue and gold (now yellow) have been with us since that very first day.

It was a fantastic evening, we owe a lot to Paul Sherwen for the time and expense he took to be with us. He made the night truely special. Thanks Paul. You can follow Paul on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulsherwen

Update on the Cheshire Classic

Coverage on the main road section of British Cycling
As you may or may not know I'm promoting this year's Cheshire Classic Women's Road Race with Terry Veal on Sunday 22nd April. The race is promoted by Weaver Valley Cycling Club and is the first race on the British Cycling National Calendar.

It's been a busy 4 months, I've put our new but basic website live and introduced a Twitter feed. We've had a good response, gaining new followers everyday and the website is getting around 500 hits a month at the moment.

One of the biggest issues has been getting sponsorship for the event. Last year we had a nasty accident involving a motorist which hospitalised two riders. We have a convoy of cars with flashing lights and a dedicated first aid car however for 2012 we wanted to get National Escort Group outriders and Paramedic support.

I sent out 50 letters to cycling focussed companies around the North West and 20 to local businesses. I didn't get a reply. I tweeted about our struggle to find sponsors and luckily Epic Cycles got involved, they approached us and thanks to their money we were able to fund the National Escort Group and Paramedic support. We had a great response on Twitter and the Press Release was picked up by Cycling Weekly, British Cycling, VeloUk amongst others. I was delighted.

We have since been approached by a local business LightboxUK, and thanks to their sponsorship our prize fund is now bigger than in 2011.

I've been delighted by the coverage and response we are receiving from the cycling media. I hope this continues. Funnily enough getting local press coverage has been near enough impossible. The local paper believing that non-league football and rugby teams, out of season cricket practice and crown green bowls is more important than a major National Series race which sees the Country's top Elite riders including a current World Champion battle it out.

There has been a lot of debate about investment in Women's cycling. Until the media gives Women's cycling more column inches it won't go anywhere no matter how hard you send letters and email. I'm working hard to get sponsors on board and to make the race the best I possibly can, however sponsors don't want to spend money if they are not going to get a visible return.

Onix 2012 Bikes

Black:RH - the blue would suit the Weaver Valley kit
Lancashire based Onix Bikes have today launched their new 2012 bike range with Rob Hayles announced as advisor, test rider and brand ambassador.

I've followed Craig at Onix pretty much from day one and it's great to see where he is today. He has produce two amazing looking bikes for next year, which I know from following him on Twitter has been a tough and frustrating process. He has posted a brilliant blog on his website about this.

What I like about Onix is their open policy, they have a great personality on Twitter and have created a good following. The launch today was a great success with hundreds of people tweeting about the new range. I also loved the build up on Friday night with people sending in tweets about how they were looking forward to seeing the bikes.

It's a great illustration of how engaged with people through Social Media can really do big things for new or small brands. Craig at Onix has been refreshingly truthful and open, we've been on the journey with him and he has set up Onix rides over the year too. I've had first hand experience too with how Social Media can help with Bridgewater Riding Club (increased visibility and entries) and the Cheshire Classic Road Race (increased reputation and sponsorship).

The Bikes

Black:RH Pro. Just check out those chain stays!
Onix have produced 2 machines for the Rob Hayles Signature Range, Black:RH and Black:RH Pro. Details are currently under wraps but it looks like they will feature SRAM groupsets and wheels with carbon dropouts and BB30 bottom bracket. It also looks like there is FSA finishing kit and Sella Italia saddles.

However, what we do know is that frame looks like a beast of frame. Just look at those chain stays, they just scream power, those forks shout stiffness. The down and top tubes look pretty solid and slippery too. I can see the sprinters having a lot of fun on this. The frame is made from Toray carbon with internal cabling and is finished with matt and gloss detail. The touches of blue or red, with gloss Onix logos all over the bike are just beautiful.

I hope the bike is a success for them, it certainly deserves to be. I look forward to seeing the different specs and pricing. Word is they will be bringing a Time Trial bike out later in the year. I'll be all over that.

http://onixbikesonline.com/