Power in Numbers

Last weekend I was lucky enough to get tickets for the UCI Track World Cup Classic at the velodrome in Manchester. It was a superb event, well organised by British Cycling and action packed. Understandably some of the biggest cheers were for the  British riders but nothing beat the atmosphere for the final of the Men’s Team Pursuit. The crowd was electric as the British quartet took to the track only to be raised as a wave of noise accompanied each revolution of the track by the team. A true team effort and with the crowd behind them a real illustration of how there is power in numbers.

More images from the day can be seen here.

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Its the final countdown

Days to go to Tour Ride 2010: 10

Okay, I couldn’t resist the obvious musically inspired title for this post but at least give me credit for sparing you the video of 80s mulletted rockers belting out the most overused track in New Year and Advertising history!

Yes, its only 10 days to the Tour Ride.  And don’t I know it.  Having said that I had a nice spin on the bike today.  Despite the gusty and ferocious wind I felt good, did a nice speed and managed the hills with comparative ease.  I’m not even going to cast a cloud over it apart from the say that the implicit gloating of poor weather for a certain ToB photographer (you know who you are) came back to haunt me as the rain did damped things a little.  But who cares, it was mainly sunny.

And in other news: the cameras have now come out of intensive care in the airing cupboard and seem to have made a full recovery – much to the relief of my bank account.  So anyone wanting a photographer can start getting back in touch.

So, it’s now almost 9 days to go.  A couple more training rides to squeeze in before the big day and plenty more thoughts to share.  Tonight I received a very nice surprise but I’ll leave you waiting to hear what that was until later in the week.

Indian summer turns monsoon

If I could start this week again I think I probably would.  It hasn’t gone to plan since Sunday evening.  I left you last time following a delightful trip into the peak district.  The weather had turned nice for the Tour of Britain as it entered Staffordshire, leaving behind the rain with our Lancastrian cousins.  Little did I realise what was to be in store on Monday.

Out of the gloom

As you can see, the weather was somewhat different.  An early start dropping Mrs AB at the station so that I had transport for the day meant a fairly leisurely drive across country to Brecon and an ever decreasing selection of radio stations to tune into (having said that I am both intrigued and impressed by some of the music that BBC Radio Cymru have to play even if I can’t understand a word). Also I was heading into the murk.  So by the time my lift had arrived at Brecon bus station and we were off towards Ystradgynlais, the windscreen were in full use.  By the time we reached Black Mountain, Monday’s mecca, the weather was awful. And here I reach the start of the problems.  With rain and wind lashing us on the climb (the non-cycling motorists must always think we are mad) and moments before the race arrived my prime camera started to play up. I raced to the car and retrieved my back-up camera and within a few minutes that to had started to play up.  I was able to get a few shots between glitches but had that overwhelming feeling that the day was a complete waste.  Several people have told me how I had a day catching up with an old friend so far from being a disaster it was a good day.  But I focus yet again on the negatives.

This also left a further headache – 2 cameras that either don’t work or work intermittently. To cut a long story shot and on the advice of Canon I now have them both sat in the airing cupboard drying out.  Hopefully this will work though the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach is a constant background sensation until I know they work.  All in all this has left me feeling at a real low this week.  No bike, no cameras – my non-work obsessions have not been part of life and so it has felt hollow.

On a brighter note my partner in crime and companion for the Tour Ride has broken his Marlon Brando cover and we are making plans for the ride.  For those of you who don’t know this is my brother Paul who is currently on the Tour of Britain with the Rapha Condor Sharp team,who themselves are having mixed emotions and fortunes over the course of this week.  By the sounds of it Paul and I are at a similar physical state which shows you perhaps how little he has done rather than how much I have done but its great to know we’ll be doing it together – and may even have a small posse of RCS staff with us (Mr Verrall and I will compare notes on climbing technique!).

So, after a coffee morning in Brum tomorrow its off out for a couple of hours riding. Here’s hoping the wind dies down, the showers hold off and the sun shines.

Broom or Bust

Broom or Bust - Hedging Your Bets

There’s a reason for this picture – it struck a cord, one I will get around to playing in just a moment.  This weekend has been devoid of training and full of socialising. Yes, Friday lunchtime was taken up with a relaxing lunch in Tettenhall with a very good friend.  Friday night was relaxing, perhaps too relaxing given the beer, red wine and port. Saturday morning was lazy. Saturday lunchtime was spent in Bridgnorth and by Saturday eveing I’d made it to Bishops Wood to see an old school friend.  Finally this morning I did my neighbourly duty and took our neighbour’s youngest son along to the Tour of Britain and more snapping. So no time for the bike. But maybe that is a benefit in disguise.

Over said drinks on Friday night the fact that the cycling has become yet another element of stress was discussed by us al.  And in truth it has.  I’ve commented on it here before but there’s a constant striving for a perfection. The “perfect” training plan will always be a dream when fitted into the reality of life’s pressures. And so, yes, I am here, with 2 weeks to go, not riding and potentially under prepared.  Put it another way, I’ve got out on my bike a whole lot more than I did last year and at times have been enjoying it.  If only the second perspective was the default way of looking at life and things would be a lot easier.  Oh for this brain rewiring to be complete and work!

Today could almost be called training.  For the past week I’ve been thinking of heading to Gun Hill, the potential scene of my downfall in a fortnight(?). But with that in mind I opted for the 2nd category climb of Ramshorn.  Now this is a strange affair: a 4 mile climb complete with descent in the middle; easy a the start, easy at the finish but a kick like a mule after the middle descent.  I was told by a local cyclist that it is actually worse then Gun Hill.  I am feeling less confident by the minute.

And so to the picture. I snapped it as the rear of the race convoy was held up as one of the Team Ireland boys had a bike change.  I looked at it and it seemed odd, a real oxymoron.  But I suppose it is also the way of looking at the Tour Ride to come. I can either be swept up by the negativity or focus on the finish line and meet my challenge.

Until then its another date with the 2010 Tour of Britain in my old South Wales stomping grounds and a rendezvous with another good friend.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking on that.

Wet socks weigh me down

I was due to update you on progress yesterday but I’m afraid the brief sunny interlude in an otherwise autumnal wet and windy day saw a trip to the great British garden centre and the fact that a ride in said weather had sapped me of most strength meant a slight postponement. To my avid reader I apologise and I hope the suspense wasn’t to much.  Yes, yesterday was truly aweful for the cyclist.  It was big ride time and having consulted various meteorological soothsayers online was convinced it would be dry, warm but a little breezy, mainly coming from the south east.  As riding into the headwind would also mean riding into Birmingham I’m sure you will agree that neither is an attractive proposition on its own and together a positive nightmare.

So, starting out under overcast skies I headed south to south-west towards the Severn valley and a rendezvous with Bewdley.  So far so good. Until I reach Alveley and as I approach a motley crew of club runners some shelter under a tree, others scatted on the side of the road as a fellow pedaller fixes a puncture, what should fall from the sky but some mild precipitation.  Only the mildness doesn’t last and as I descend some otherwise fast, smooth roads into Arley the rain just gets heavier. By this time I’m drenched. I’m half tempted to turn around with saddle pack between my legs and beat a sorry retreat home.

But no, my stubborn streak or determination, depending on your perspective, sees me through. Into Bewdley, over Habberley Hill, past the secret tunnels of Drakelow (as featured in Bollocks to Alton Towers no less!) and back through the soaked lanes of South Staffordshire. Three counties in three hours.  And all the time the broken cloud and watery sun toyed with me, tantalisingly close yet never quite reaching me.  And so I returned home wet. Very wet.

Still I shouldn’t complain – if I do I’ll end up sounding more and more like Eric Olthwaite – having been to the Newport Nocturne on Saturday night it could have been a lot worse, as illustrated below.

Cobbles plus Drizzle equals Danger

Crash, Bang, Wallop: What a Picture

A great night out and a slightly arty perspective on the night can be seen by clicking on the picture above (it takes you to my Flickr set so it is safe!).

So, less than 3 weeks to go now. Its all getting too close.