It only happens when it rains

Days to the Tour Ride 2010: 3

I’m starting to think its something personal.  For the past few weeks, every time I’ve mounted my steed the heavens have opened.  Not just this but the clearer, milk-like sun filled skies have been toying with me, tantalising close whilst I am being soaked.  It’s not just on the bike, it also seems a perfectly acceptable metaphor for one other aspect of my life where I feel like the umbrella that I’m protected by is actually deluging rain whilst its sunny all around me.  Some would call it character building.  I’d say it has become more than a mild annoyance and reached the stage of moderate irritation. Call me paranoid but I’m now sat at the desk with cloudy yet bright skies outside dancing around taunting me.

At least I can’t be called a whimp, a poser or a fair weather cyclist.  This morning I had my last spin before the big event – in the rain! I’m as prepared as I’ll ever be.  Sunday will be a challenge but I will be its equal and as long as I finish before sunset it will be a success.  Some last-minute fine tuning to the bike and I am sorted.  I’m now in a very strange limbo.

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.

Some mild precipitation and a Spear & Jackson No 3

Some of my readers may have missed the reference to Eric Olthwaite in yesterday’s post, or seen it and been completely perplexed.  I too was in this state when my father-in-law first mentioned it and so I owe it to you and to Eric to enlighten you with this video.

Some of you may notice a similarity though I hope my OCD tendencies haven’t reached this level and that the content of my conversation is somewhat more interesting. Now where did I put that spade.

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.

I can’t stand the rain on my window

But when it comes to riding the bike I have to say I actually do like it.  So it is with predictable certainty that the weather forecasters were yet again wrong.  I’m not sure where the “south” currently extends to but it seems to have encompassed the Black Country and South Staffordshire for the past week – not something that I find any comfort in whatsoever.  But I digress.  With the support (or should I say coercion) of Mrs AB I’ve been out for a shortish afternoon ride in the rain.  No longer can I be called a fair weather cyclist.  No, I actually quite like riding in the rain once I’ve got over that bit of getting myself out of the door and putting bum to saddle.  Its nothing new, when I used to run, I preferred Peter Kay’s fine rain. Somehow then I ran better.  And its pretty much the same on the bike.  The only snag is that my survival isn’t solely based on pushing on but also the ability of other road users to help me out by acknowledging my presence and behaving accordingly.  Today was not a good ride for that. So yesterday’s maybe is a have done of which I’m quite chuffed.  I’m sat here with a nice hot cuppa and have recovered quite quickly.  Next step is a long ride this weekend to get those base miles up before the big one in just over 4 weeks.  I’ll keep you posted.