Thursday, 22 July 2010

NCC Take to the Boards...

The day I had been looking forward to had finally arrived, today 15 of the North Cheshire Clarion descended upon the wooden boards of the Manchester Velodrome in an attempt to emulate our Team GB cycling heroes in a one hour taster session. The icing on the cake would have been a glimpse of Sir Chris if by some remote chance we bumped into him but alas that wasn't to be...

Arriving at the 'drome we picked up our shoes from reception, got in a quick change and headed up the ramp to grab our hire bikes which were all set up with our names on the top tube so it was just a matter of finding your bike and walking it up into the 'D' enclosure in the centre of the track and hanging it up. The previous hirers were still riding so that gave us newcomers a chance to have a look around to see what we had coming. My first impression was just how steep the boards are; 42.5 degrees on the bends I read somewhere on the Velodrome website, looks very steep indeed and would soon find out just how steep.

Our hour comes and we are called onto the track. We are split into two groups, those who have already ridden a taster session and those who haven't - I was a haven't. The alreadys were told to ride above the blue line, the highest line in single file with just a couple of feet between bikes at a fast pace for 15 minutes. This group wanted its accreditation so were given this task to perform.

Us newbies were given a brief speech about the 'do's and the dont's' and was set off to ride a few laps of the azure which is a bluish band on the first 3 feet of the boards. The only worry for me and probably all of us was not to forget that we needed to keep pedalling or else the horror story is a floor head-butt as you fly over the bars. A couple of laps of this and I was ready for more, I found it surprisingly easy to come to terms that you do not lean into the bends as you would do on the road and just let the bike find its own path with NO leaning; I did nearly come a cropper though when after a few laps I attempted to ease up slightly by trying to coast only to be immediately reminded by my legs being forced to keep pedalling that this idiot is riding a fixed wheel bike - the first and last time that I forgot...

We are pulled over after a few minutes of this and just the act of stopping presents another new challenge because of the fixed wheel and NO brakes - yup you read that right you cannot brake simply because there are NO brakes on a track bike. You are also told to never clip in or out unless you are stopped and holding onto the hand rail that rings the inside of the track so that means picking a spare spot ahead amongst the other parked bikes then plan to slow down just enough to cruise onto that spot and grab that spare patch of hand rail without falling over, it's a bit like an aircraft trying to land on an aircraft carrier, well maybe that's an exaggeration but you get my drift...

Next we are told to go up to the black line and do as the other group were doing but keeping a bikes length apart. After 10 minutes of this the line sort of fell apart and we were all doing our own thing. Next the highlight of the night, the mock race, an individual pursuit of 2 laps (500 metres) but as a team affair with each individual result counting for the team. So two teams on opposite sides of the straight are lined up to race each other. On my side Antnee is first to go racing Phil J on the other side. Next it was my turn. I clipped in and with a shove set off to race Gaz who was shoved off on the opposing straight to race me. Into the first bend I went with a full bore all out effort that lasted for the duration of the two laps accompanied with shouts from our coach to "stay on the black line" as I drifted on occasion. The bell was rung for the 2nd and last lap ding ding, I powered into the last two bends and over the finish line - I won I was told... I really enjoyed that and two laps was just about right for me in this sprint, I was really out of breath come the finish line and it took me a further half a lap to come to a stop.

After the mock 'race' we had five minutes left to ride the boards and I took the opportunity to ride high into the bends which was scary indeed for the first bend but just as long as I didn't think about being so high and kept the speed up I was OK. I enjoyed riding high and fast through the bends and powering down the straights only to climb back up high into the next bend and repeat - hard work but utterly exhilarating. The weird thing on the bends was overtaking someone on the outside by a gap of say 6 feet and yet their head is at your foot level...

So a great evening was had by all and I thoroughly intend to be a regular visitor to the Velodrome I enjoyed it that much...

Do my legs really look that out of proportion!?!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

North Cheshire Clarion club run Saturday 17 July 2010

No Sunday ride for me this week so I thought I would try out the Saturday club run. The Saturday run is designed to be shorter and a little slower than the Sunday run to encourage people into the club so rather than going solo as was my intention for today, I thought I would give it a go.

The weather wasn't the best today with rain forecast, not heavy just a little light rain however not long into the ride the rain jackets came out in time for the torrential downpour we had at one particular point - XCWeather really got it wrong today, I'm so glad I came out on my winter/rain bike complete with guards but this is July and supposedly the height of summer, we shouldn't have to come out with winter rain jackets and over-shoes but that unfortunately was the case today, it's just not cricket...

The pace was nice and slow for the seven of us but not too slow 15.4 mph average isn't that bad considering the route took us through a lot of built up areas and heavy rain with the resulting spray and water on the road. Not much in the way of hills today so this type of route and the comfortable pace is ideal for an introduction into the club and anyone wondering if they could hack it in a club run should try it, you won't be disappointed... unless it rains that is - insert :rolleyes: gif here...

I would have gotten my camera out today but the rain wouldn't allow it unfortunately so no ride shots. The weird thing with this weather is just how localised it can be, driving home out of wet Warrington back into Widnes and Runcorn just a few miles west, it was as dry as a bone lol...

My Stats
31.5 miles, 2hrs 2min, Av Speed 15.4, 881 ft climbing (Garmin)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

North Cheshire Clarion club run 11 July 2010

Re-reading my club ride reports I've come to the conclusion that they can make for some tedious reading at times, the majority of people reading this blog will know exactly what goes on on a club ride so why the need to go into blow by blow or mile by mile details, no need at all...

So starting today I'm keeping my reports short and getting more personal - unless something out of the ordinary happens that is. Today I wanted more miles than the advertised 45 miles so set off early riding instead of driving to the start point in Stretton. Quite a bit of wind, the weather looked very changeable and with dark clouds everywhere it did look like rain however looks can be deceptive and I'm glad to say no rain spoiled our ride. Quite a few riders out, I think 16 today. The route was a mix of hills and flat with a cafe stop at Summertrees in Willington and then onwards over The Yeld and back home through Frodsham. 52 miles for me back to the finish at Stretton, 45 for those that drove there. I still wanted more miles so rode on with a bunch of the guys heading home along the A49 leaving them as I turned off to head home-wards through Walton Gardens as they carried on towards north Warrington. Today compared to last weeks 70 mile ride my legs felt more tired with riding into the energy sapping wind, much more so in those extra 16 miles I tagged onto the end of the ride riding solo directly into the 12-17 mph winds.

A good much more sociable ride than these last few weeks. As a club billed as 'inclusive' we seem to have forgotten somewhat that sociable aspect of our rides, an aspect that does attract riders of varying ability's and fitness levels to come join us with the promise of being looked after so today there was a concerted effort to get back to basics resulting in no-one riding off into the distance, no-one getting left way behind although in fairness no-one got left behind prior to today and no sprints in potentially dangerous conditions.

My Stats
68 Miles, 4 hrs 31 min, Av Speed 15 mph, 3230 ft climbing (Garmin)

Sunday, 4 July 2010

North Cheshire Clarion club run 4th July 2010

Today was the clubs 'long' ride and it was decided that the Eureka Cafe at Two Mills in Chester was the cafe destination of choice. I was the route planner for this ride and I was bricking it slightly as the only other time I had been to the Eureka was with another club over a year ago and as a 'guest' I was just enjoying the ride rather than taking much notice of the route, however I did record the route on my Nokia phone which I was able to extract and save out as a gpx file. So with that info I was able to build a route from Stretton to incorporate the cycle lanes around Chester to get us there and back.

So how did it all work out? Well setting out from Stretton we did a little local loop to get some early extra miles in which included a little hill that warmed us all nicely, then it was off through Acton Bridge before heading into the northern parts of Crowton and then onto Hatchmere. Here we split off into two groups as even though this was billed as a 'long' ride there was also a shorter 45 mile option for those that wanted to get home a little earlier. Two members headed for the Delamere cafe whilst the remaining nine of us continued on towards Mouldsworth.

At the Hatchmere crossroads we were joined by approx 10 members of the Seamons CC. We all got a bit intermingled with some of our guys sprinting off the front but the remaining four of us were stuck behind them however that wasn't a bad thing as the Seamons lot didn't hang around striking up a fair old pace of 20 -25 mph for the full length of Ashton Road. The young guys in our little group also didn't hang around as at the first opportunity they were off sprinting past them to rejoin our leading group. I being an old git was quite happy to remain with the Seamons lot and rejoined our lot at the next cross roads.

The next stage was to the west of Mouldsworth on yet more quiet country lanes and then the part I was worrying about - the actual finding of the start of the cycle track because as I remember we joined it in the middle of a housing estate in NE Chester somewhere. I needn't have worried though as my gps route was spot on and no-one had moved the cycle track, it was still just off Kingsway - much to my relief...

The cycle track itself for the first few miles through Blacon was fairly busy with dog walkers, pedestrians and kids so the pace was fairly slow until we reached a stretch that dipped into and out of Wales that was pretty quiet and was able to push the pace up once more. The next stage was over the bridge by RAF Sealand on the A550 and it's here that it got a little tricky as we were now back on busy roads. Riding an underpass under a busy main road I was sure we were on the right route and I was reassured when we were joined by a bloke from the Port Sunlight club who was also heading to the Eureka. So riding with this guy I was able to see that that my gps route was spot on and we were on the right track.

Next the Eureka itself. I had been there once before as I might have already mentioned so knew what to expect however this time unlike the last time when it was chocka it was fairly empty which meant virtually no waiting for our beans on toast. The cafe itself? no great shakes - it's basic, it's functional and it's cheap which is OK by me however the toilets are a throw back to pre-political correctness, anyone who's been in there will know what I mean...

After the cafe it was the return leg. A busy main road or two to get across, another cycle track but this time not so well kept or wide and with gates every couple of hundred yards to traverse and then it was west of Mouldsworth again but on different lanes and onto the climbing hairpin of Cob lane which I think everyone enjoyed at whatever pace they chose to climb it - the climbers out on the front belting up it and us older ones climbing at a much slower pace.

Next it was New Pale Road and up onto the top of Frodsham hill up past the telecommunication towers, riding up roads that as a club we have never ridden before and then a fast descent into Frodsham and onwards for the last few miles back to Stretton. Ride over, 70 miles completed.

So to summarise. We did lose our way on occasion but nothing much, just a missed turn here or there but a quick about turn had us back on track, the pace was good, a good mix of fast and slow and the best thing was no rain despite the miserable forecast of heavy rain and lots of wind, lot's of wind yes but no rain and the sun did briefly come out. The lanes were mostly car free, the first cycle lane was smooth and wide the 2nd not so and the terrain was varied which I liked a lot.

The Sprint
Again there were sprints but not for me today I wasn't interested I had other things to worry about, namely the route, however that didn't stop the 'young uns' from having a go. The only sprint I was involved in indirectly was the very last one of the day to the 30 sign in Stretton. I was riding on the front with Ade and I could feel Martin behind (sounds wrong that) getting twitchy for this sprint, he must have known there was a 30 coming up. I wasn't interested but mentioned the 30 sign around the next bend to Ade and the fact that the 'young uns' were just waiting for someone to make the jump. Ade sorted his gearing out just in time as 'Nitrous Oxide' Dave came from absolutely no-where bombing past us all - that was the switch, off in pursuit of Dave went Ade, Martin and his mate who does in fact have a name - John, Edit - no got that wrong he's a Peter. My thoughts was that Dave had gone way too early and yup coming around the bend there was Dave who'd given up the sprint; Ade went on to beat the 'young uns' to the win, well done that man :-)

My Stats
70.6 miles, 4hrs 36min, Av Speed 15.3, 2864 ft climbing