a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Dealing with danger: The Normalisation of Risk in Cycling.

I haven't posted much cycling sociology recently so this week I thought I would use some research to try and explain how cyclists deal with the ever present risk involved in cycling on the roads and the liklehood of crashing. Also included for added value is a selection of some of my own painful mishaps. Some of the first research on this topic was done back in 1999 by an eminent American sociologist called Edward Albert. The data that Albert used was gleaned from interviews with racing cyclists, accounts of cycling accidents and articles related to cycling accidents from cycling magazines. As a result Albert's findings are as relevant and valid today as they were in 99.

Edward Albert was an experienced amatuer racer himself and as such his research was conducted as an 'insider'. He decided to carry out his research after a minor racing crash caused him to question his own willingness to continue to risk injury. He was encouraged by his team mates to get back on the bike as soon as he could and that was the starting point for his study. Crashing is just one of those things that happens in cycling that you have to accept, especially in races and as the saying goes 'there are only two types of cyclist - those who have crashed and those who will crash' and I certainly fall in to the former category.

When 2017 came to an end my annual mileage on Strava fell a few hundred miles short of what woud have been my biggest ever year. The reason for the shortfall was that I hardly did any riding in May following a crash in a race on May 1st and I spent the next few weeks recovering from three fractured ribs. In a similar way that a crash caused Edward Albert to question his future participation, I too re-considered the next steps in my cycling career following this accident. (See my see my post on age related racing here LVRC/TLI)

When the inevitable happens cyclists have developed a way of dealing with it and several layers of taken for granted meaning inform the short question on the 'T' shirt in the above picture. The mock concern for the bike can be understood as a way of glossing over the way that accidents, when they do happen represent a sobering reality and remind us of our vulnerability and this can be quite disconcerting (as it was for Albert and myself). Even if a rider is injured concern for the bike represents a demonstration of commitment to the sport, an acceptance that crashes are inevitable and an assertion that they will ride again and that nothing less would be expected by their peers. An obvious variation on this question is the seemingly insensitive enquiry from a friend - 'never mind about you - is the bike OK?' which again is an affirmation that that as a serious cyclist there can be no question that the fallen rider will be back on the bike ASAP.

Sometimes accidents happen due to the conditions and even though half expected they can still come as shock. In his research Albert found that the resolve to ride again was a constant theme in accident accounts. He found that crashes were regarded as opportunities to exemplify the core values of the sport and the inherent toughness of its participants. This response to crashes is a symbol that affirms a claim to membership and serves as a right of passage in to the social world of cycling. These values are repeatedly demonstrated in professional and amatuer racing alike, as almost regardlesss of the severity of the crash, there is an expectation that the race will go on and that fallen riders will try to continue.

On other ocassions accidents are due to the actions of idiot drivers which is what happened to me when I had my 'Big One'. I was struck by a car while out training, resulting in an acromioclavicular dislocation of the shoulder and some titanium souvenirs. An additional bonus was the pleasure of the turbo for the next 151 days, and no unfortunately the bike wasn't OK, in fact it was a total write off.

In his research Albert described the car/bike relationship as 'the elephant in the room' of cycling. He observed that many cyclists see their relationship with motorists as contentious and adversarial. It's certainly true that any experienced rider that you speak to will have a stock of stories relating to encounters with drivers who, intentionally or unintentionally, had put them at risk. In his research Albert found that these accounts tend to have a matter of fact quality about them and are regarded as merely having conversational value, even though an account might begin with a comment such as 'I nearly got killed the other day'. This type of comment as every regular cyclists will understand is intended to defuse the reality of riding on the roads so as not to interfere with future participation. Since we have all experienced incidents of this type these comments also serve to attribute a taken for granted quality to near death encounters.

Crashes in races are generally theroized as ordinary occurences too, something to be expected and the expression 'thats bike racing' is often used to normalise crashes. When a crash occurs in a race it is usually construed as being attributable to somebody or something. Sometimes crashes occur simply due to equipment failure as in the incident above of a tubular tyre rolling from the rim. (Picture from my friend Steve Craig). 

Sometimes race crashes are unattributable and are simply chain reactions which result in what Albert describes as 'reaction accounts' of what ocurred, with each rider justifying his own actions simply as a reaction to what other riders did. Participants can formulate their own accounts of what happened and following race crashes riders will often comment that some of the riding was 'sketchy' or 'scarey' or make comments such as 'I knew something was going to happen'. After races in which a crash (or crashes) have occured small groups of riders gather to discuss what happened and in doing so both exempt themselves from any blame and at the same time re-affirm their own 'thats racing' belief. 

Here we go again, this one was a racing accident and its time for the obligatory post crash A&E selfie followed by ten of the NHS's finest stitches. The location of the Middlesbrough Cycle Circuit was clearly considered very carefully by the planners, its almost right next door to a hospital - handy that.

Another racing crash, I am the rider in green in the centre of the picture but this one happened behind me and I avoided the carnage which made a nice change.

Its not just when racing that crashes happen. If you are a regular on group rides then almost inevitably a crash will occur at some point as result of the inexperience, carelessness or stupidity of other riders and all three were evident in another one of my 'get downs' which happened on a group ride from Puerto Pollensa in Majorca. (See my post here PollensaCycling for a more recent Majorca trip that I managed to get through without falling off) 

We were riding along a straight road in pairs in a group of about a dozen riders when a local rider, lets call him Pedro decided that it would be a good idea to move to the front along the inside. I was riding on the inside of the group and as he passed me he hooked my bars and took us both down in to a rock filled drainage ditch at the side of the road. This had the effect of spoiling a really good day out and certainly wasn't the ideal thing to happen on the first day of the family summer holiday. 

Pedro was carted off in an ambulance with what turned out to be minor abrasions. Me being the idiot I am decided it would be a better idea to press on with the group and ride the 30 miles back to Pollensa. When I finally got back I struggled to even get off the bike and I am not sure how I managed the stairs to our first floor apartment, turns out climbing stairs is bit tricky with a fractured pelvis. In the above picture a bit of Spanish road rash and some good old British holidaymaker ingenuity as the apartment sweeping brush is transformed in to a crutch using my ruined cycling shorts - Top Tip here folks, always take a roll of black electricians tape with you when you go on a cycling holiday to Majorca.

The next day I was supplied with some proper crutches from the hospital at Muro and we hired a wheel chair so I could 'enjoy' being pushed around the resort for the rest of the week. This was the nearest I got to the beach on that holiday but I did manage to struggle to the bar a few times, purely for medicinal purposes obviously.

The overall conclusion that can be drawn from Albert's research and this post is that road cyclists do not court risk for it's own sake. Rather, due to the inherently risky nature of the activity we have accepted the dangers and incorporated them in to our subculture as taken for granted normal occurences, an unfortunate but central element of what we do and of what it means to be a cyclist.

So to all you lucky blog readers who have never had a 'get down' - just stick with it people it's going to happen eventually, it's just a matter of when.


Reference: Albert, E. (1999) Dealing With Danger: The Normalization of Risk in Cycling. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 34(2), 157-171.


Sunday, 17 December 2017

The cyclocross scene in the north east - winning isn't everything

Next month sees the culmination of the UK cyclo-cross season the HSBC UK National Cyclocross Championships to be held over the weekend of 13/14th of January Hetton Nationals. The championships are at Hetton Lyons Country Park in the north east and promoted by Hetton Hawks Cycling Club I have been wanting to do a post on the CX scene in the north east for a while so I thought I would do it now before the big event in January. 

Ian Field five times British Champion in action at last years National Trophy event held at Hetton Lyons Country Park

Another great shot from last year's national trophy event at Hetton

The well established Cyclocross North East (CXNE) series, backed by British Cycling, is the high profile side of cross in the North East. CXNE has it's origins in the North East Cyclo Cross Association which was established in the 1950's. More recently the energetic team at CXNE have undertaken a re-branding exercise and introduced chip timing technology to bring the sport right up to date. CXNE take their resonsibility as organisers very seriously and insist on high standards of behaviour to ensure that their Sunday cyclo-cross races are safe enjoyable and that the racing takes place in a positive environment. Each event is organised by volunteers and designed to test riders technical, physical, tactical and social skills and winning is not regarded as the main priority.

An alternative to the CXNE events are the races run on a Saturday by NECCL (North East Cyclo-cross League) who are affliated with TLI Cycling TLIcycling- see my previous blog here on age group racing Age Is Just a Letter. These races are run on a much smaller budget and offer an alternative, slightly more low key but equally well organised race series. The NECCL races are popular because of the sheer simplicty of the events which are raced on a wide variety of courses. Both organisations offer competition that is friendly and family orientated and the lucky cyclo-cross riders of the north east have a massive choice of events to choose from. If they are prepared to double up on a weekend and race Saturday and Sunday between September and January a keen cyclocross rider in the region could potentially do a 25 race season without travelling much more that 60 miles from home. It doesn't have to be expensive either, the NECCL keep the cost of racing as low as possible with seniors racing for just £7.00 (if they are TLI members) under sixteens race for £3.00 and the under twelves pay just a £1 - great value.

A team that typifies everthing that is good about the north east cyclo-cross scene are the boys from the Pedallling Squares Peleton. The team only got together this season and are very easy to spot in their pink/black/white kit, designed by Adrian Murphy from Pedalling Squares - Cafe/Bar/Kitchen

In their first season the guys have very quickly developed a really good team spirit. I was chatting to Philip Addyman from the team (third left - above) and he commented that "the atmosphere in the team is just right: not too serious and no pressure, yet everyone is quietly motivated to do their best."

Above Philip Addyman battling it out with someone who definitely is a winner, north east cyclocross star and U23 GB International Anna Kay who will be racing on the road for Storey Racing in 2018. Here racing at the NECCL Saturday 2nd December event at Gypsies Green Stadium in South Shields.

Another picture of Anna Kay left competing today at the Telenet UCI World Cup at Namur in Belgium  Namur-UCI-CX  and top right twin sister Megan (who by coincidence works at Pedalling Squares PSQ) racing cyclocross in the colours of Hetton Hawks. Confirming that cyclocross in the north east really is a family affair, bottom right we have dad Bill also a keen racer getting airborne on his MTB.

I also got the opportunity to talk to Stuart Whitman from the Pedalling Squares Team (above) and I asked him what it was about the team and the NE cyclocross scene that he enjoyed. 
"Cracking camaraderie! We don't take ourselves too seriously and go racing because we really enjoy riding round muddy fields for an hour in the freezing cold ! Don't get me wrong we race to win, but learning, failing and persevering makes us better people. We are also realistic and we support each other and have a laugh. The NE scene is great because of the family atmosphere at the races and the way that it encourages people to get in to racing, especially the youngsters. Having two strong leagues is obviously a key factor as we are spoiled for choice when it comes to different venues and we have really varied terrain to race on, from common land in the suburbs to farm land in the hills"

Team morale is clearly high in the Pedalling Squares squad no doubt helped by great backing by Eric from PSQ.  At a recent, very cold race he brought along thermos flasks of coffee and flapjacks for the riders when they finished, nice touch. Rumour has it that this handsome Pedalling SquaresCC  key ring in a gift box was recently awarded to one of the team for a 5th place finish ... its just a rumour though.

The final round of the NECCL series was held yesterday at a very nippy Hetton Lyons Country Park. on a course that was still partially frozen. The team from Pedalling Squares were well represented with Eddie Halstead (above) on the grid toughing it out in shorts and looking very cool and calm before the start. A good day for the PSQ squad with Philip Addyman making it on to the third step of the podium - well done Phil, got to be worth a key ring surely?

Just to prove I have actually done a bit of cyclocross myself, above pre-beard when I was racing for Adept Precision NEHS and clearly loving it? I have to come clean at this point though and admit that my cyclocross career only extended to two races. This picture was taken on my cyclocross debut at Preston Park in Stockton. I suffered like a dog for the whole thing and was lapped by everone in the field after somehow managing to bend my chain on the first lap. I thought, don't let it put you off, so I entered another one. The course for my second race included log obstacles, a really steep hill and even a massive muddy puddle that they expected us to ride through ! That was it for me - the cyclocross bike went on E bay and somebody got a cracking bargain ... apart from the bent chain of course.

I couldn't write a blog post on the NE cyclocross scene without including a picture of this lad, one of the most popular riders in the region, my friend and team mate at Ribble Pro Cycling eleven year old Joel Hurt. Here is Joel winning a cross race and definitely looking like he has been riding through muddy puddles ... way tougher than me is this fella ! 

UK Blog Awards 2018
Thanks for reading and also for your continued support. Almost unbelievably the blog has now had over 200,000 page views and has been nominated in the Sport and Fitness category of the UK Blog Awards 2018. If you would like to vote just follow this link: UK Blog Awards 2018 this bundle of theraceforthecafe merchandise will be going out to one lucky voter. Thanks again - Tony

Sunday, 3 December 2017

7 Winter days - what an Elite rider did and why he did it.

This week the focus is winter training. This post co-written with my son Jack is a bit longer than normal but there is some good stuff here that should be helpful. Jack is an Elite rider, a British Cycling Go-Ride coach and in his 'spare' time is the Boss and founder of Ribble Pro Cycling. Jack is also my coach and my main training partner, although the word partner is slightly misleading as it might conjure up a picture of us riding along side by side happily chatting through the monotonous steady winter training miles - that is definitely not what we do. Why no conversation? you might wonder, well two main reasons, firstly I am not strong enough to ride alongside Jack (more on that later) and secondly due to his work commitments his training time is severely restricted so his rides are very focussed. Sometimes apart from 'Bonjour' when we meet there is hardly a word exchanged until the training is done and we stop at our favourite cafe on the way home for a coffee.                                                                                                                                               
Saturday 11th November 2017 - Endurance

On Saturday the 11th we caught up with friends and former team mates by joining the Adept Cycling Saturday ride, above Jack in blue on the left at the rear of the group. For the first 30 minutes we rolled along in a big group of 15 or so riders before five of us formed a smaller group to do a longer ride and things got significantly harder. We took on a rolling route around some lanes that we had not ridden for a while which made a nice change but it was quite 'grippy' at times. Below Jack's Strava entry for the ride and link here Endurance with Adept

Jack: Endurance ride with a small group; cafĂ© stop after 2 hours 30 minutes followed by 45 minutes at a higher intensity to up TSS (training stress score). I use the Training Peaks  software Training Peaks to monitor all of my training as it gives me access to a huge database of information to compare previous sessions and performances. I look at the performance manager tool daily to gauge training stress over the shorter and longer term in conjunction with listening to my body and amending sessions depending on how I am feeling on any given day. 
Note: TSS is a composite number which takes in to account the intensity and duration of the training undertaken, providing an estimate of the overall training load and associated physiological stress produced by the training session.

                                                      Above - Jack's Training Peaks Performance Manager Chart (PMC) 

Jack: The purple line is ATL (acute training load) indicating short term training effect. The blue line is CTL (chronic training load) indicating the long term effects of the training done over the previous 6 weeks.The yellow line is TSB (training stress balance) the difference between CTL and ATL from the previous day.

Sun 12th December - Resistance efforts.

We took advantage of a gap in the weather to do a two hour ride with a strength building focus. This was a session where I was 'hanging' on Jack's wheel throughout. At least the efforts were completed and we had made it to the cafe before Jack picked up a puncture. Above - changing the tube outside our favourite cafe The-Mockingbird-Deli-Yarm

Jack: This was a shorter conditioning ride with 3 x 5 minute resistance efforts @ 260w, alternating 3 minutes @ 55-60rpm followed by 2 minutes @ 95-100rpm. Training to power allows me to control and monitor each training session and maximise every minute on the bike which is really important when trying to juggle work and other commitments. Resistance efforts help to develop seated power and muscular endurance. Maximum of five minutes in duration and at a power just under my CP20 (20 minute critical power - an all out effort only sustainable for 20 mins) alternating time at 50-55rpm with time at 95-100rpm afterwards to focus on pedalling technique.

Monday 13th November - Rest

Jack: I always have one day off the bike a week for mental as well as physical recovery. During the first phase of winter training I incorporate some off-bike resistance work, mostly unloaded using bodyweight exercises that work on the posterior chain muscle groups and help to address any imbalances.

Note: See my post on training principles and the importance of recovery here Simple Steps

Tuesday 14th November. Two hours with 30 minutes @ tempo.

Tuesday was intended to be a two hour session but time constraints caused it to be a bit shorter. The main element of the ride was a 30 minute block at 'tempo' (see below). Jack retained his BC Elite licence this season by accumulating over 400 points, I on other hand am a 62 year old 3rd Cat who didn't pick up a single point, as a result we are a couple of levels apart - three to be precise ! For my strategy to address this issue next season see my post here  Age Related Racing.  My objective for these sessions is to hold on to his wheel for the duration of the effort - sometimes I manage it sometimes I don't. This means that on the majority of our rides Jack is effectively training solo and as result getting maximum benefit from his limited time on the bike. For a closer look at the ride follow this link Jack Rees | Team Ribble - Strava

Jack:  Aerobic conditioning underpins the ability to develop a deeper level of fitness. This is perhaps a slightly older school of thought but one that works well for me, the deeper the level of condition the more stable and consistent my form is during the race season. This was a conditioning ride with a 30 minute block of Tempo at 262w. Tempo/sweetspot is a time efficient zone, boosting training stress and increasing anaerobic threshold. 

Wednesday 15th November. Group endurance.

On a rare Wednesday off Jack wanted a 4 hour endurance ride so we met up with a few friends including Will Corbett from the Ribble Pro Cycling team. Next tear Will be moving in to the team's senior squad and riding his first season as an under 23. Will has developed through the team’s structure and had some impressive results as a junior, he is now able to take and respond to higher training loads and is just about to start training with power which no doubt will help him too improve even further. Also joining us was full time pro rider and former team mate Ben Hetherington who also developed through Jack's team structure. You can read the full story of the evolution of the team here Not Just Racing For The Cafe . Ben is an extremely strong rider who is training hard for his second season with UCI Continental team Memil Pro Cycling Memil . Also pictured from our regional team a good friend and one of my regular training partners Dave Atkinson who was short of time so could only stay with us for an hour or so before heading back. The rest of us decided on an out and back route in to the Yorkshire Dales with most of the climbing coming in the first half of the ride.

                      Jack on the left, Will Corbett in blue along with Dave Atkinson and Ben Hetherington on the right.

Jack: A day off Work, so did a 75 mile endurance ride with a group of four. We did 5 minute turns focusing on seated climbing. I like to train solo or like this in small groups so that I can control the intensity. Ideally I try to back up conditioning days like this with more conditioning the following day to increase training stimulus but if that’s not possible I try to complete the next day at a higher power output. 

Above in the Yorkshire Dales climbing up to the village of Downholme on a climb called Wallburn Head, a 1.2 mile ascent with an average gradient of 4%. I am grimly trying to stay in contact with Jack and Will while Ben was clearly not under any pressure as he dropped back to do a bit of Instagramming, training with pro's - they make it look easy !

Thursday 16th work on the bike

One of the advantages of Jack's job as a British Cycling Go-Ride Coach is that occasionally he can combine working with riding his bike. On a Thursday evening he works at the Middlesbrough cycle circuit coaching the best Junior and Youth A&B category riders in the region which makes for a fairly intense hour.  

Jack: On bike coaching at the Regional CCT (Club Cluster Training) some unstructered efforts above 400w+ when working with the group of riders. Some Vo2 / neuromuscular efforts during the session too. It's good to include some very high intensity efforts within the overall week. These efforts complement the more aerobic focused training, increasing FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and helping to retain an element of sharpness even during the “off-season” CTT Coaching

Friday 17th Getting it done.

Below Jack's TT bike or as he calls it 'The Goat', not sure if that's an affection nick name to be honest. Jack did this ride solo, I think I must have been washing my hair or painting my nails or something. I am not a big fan of 'The Goat' either truth be told, riding behind him when he is on it is grim and makes it extremely difficult for me to hold his wheel, there is definiely not much shelter to be had sitting in behind 'Aero Boy'.

Jack: I aim to ride the TT bike at least once per week during November and December, usually a 25 mile loop spending as much time as possible in the TT positon. Included in this ride are 2 x 10 minute blocks at 230w to increase the TSS of the ride
The Goat story, back when cycling was based more on panache rather than aerodynamics and numbers Alejandro Valverde not so affectionately referred to his TT Bike as “The Goat” as it sat in the corner of his apartment and was never ridden. This attitude has of course now been turned completely on it’s head in the pro ranks with the GC riders and TT specialists riding the TT bike for up to 7 hours a week throughout the year.

Saturday 18th November: A long work day so no time to train.

Above new for the coming season Jack's Ribble 883 Aero with power meter.

Sunday 19th November: Lumpy for strength and condition

This was a tough Sunday morning ride for me for sure. We rode north on quite a tough route, no really big climbs but a lot of long drags. On the return leg we had a long straight run south along the B6275 a road that was originally built by the Romans - apparently. Its a great section of road to ride with a tail-wind but on this day we had a strong cross wind from the west which meant grovelling on Jack's wheel was even harder than normal. Jack wanted three hours to the cafe in Yarm which we almost got but then after our coffee he decided that we should go the long way home and do a 'test' on the way back, great idea... not. Below and through the link my Strava entry.  Lumpy for Strength and Endurance

Jack: Another ride for conditioning, a heavy frost overnight so did a big main roads loop. As it was a stand-alone ride following a rest day I rode at a higher base intensity than I would normally during a block of training. I didn’t do any specific efforts in the first part of the ride just kept the pressure on. Stopped after 2hours 55 minutes of riding for coffee. After the cafe stop I did a 45min loop home included within that was a block of 10mins @ 240w and shorter threshold block as a benchmark test @ 311w. Threshold a very time effecient effort level,  start with short blocks and build as the winter progresses and fitness improves. Good to compare power figures with efforts of the same duration from different periods of the year – benchmark every week, month etc.

Jack's seven training days over this nine day period added up to 316 miles 16 hours 44 minutes of training with an accumulated TSS of 913. If you want to get in touch with Jack he is easy to find on FB, Instagram or Twitter.


Sunday, 19 November 2017

CTT National Hill Climb Championships

Riding up a hill fast in Northumberland - not me obviously I was just watching!

This year's CTT National Hill Climb Championships was held at Hedley on the Hill in Northumberland and promoted by an enthusiastic team from local club G S Metro led by Ben Lane (below) and what an excellent job they did of organising this prestigous event. It was my first experience of spectating at a hill climb and it turned out to be terrfiic day out. Arriving at Hedley on the Hill there was ample car parking in a field at the top of the hill for £1 - can't argue with that. There was also a pop-up cafe with seating which was doing a good trade also with very reasonable prices. From the car park it was two minutes walk to the finish of the climb then a slow wander down the hill to find a good spot to watch the action. An enthusiastic crowd lined the entire course and it seemed like every club in the region was represented. Lots of spectators were in fancy dress and the support for the riders was incredible with people blowing whistles, horns and even handlebars, ringing cow bells, or banging on anything that would make a noise from wocks to bike wheels.

Event organiser Ben Lane above of GS Metro and his team had a big job on their hands promoting the event with over 240 riders on the start sheet. Organisation of the championships was fantastic and all the riders and spectators that I spoke to on the day and since have been full of praise for Ben and his team from G S Metro. Above Craig Berry of the promoting club gets the event underway as first rider off posting a respectable 5.44.

Allen Valley Velo adding some colour to the event, not sure if he rode home in his costume? This picture was taken near the finish of the climb which was probably just about the perfect type of hill for the competion with a a few turns and a really steep bit in the middle and long enough to make it around a five or six minute effort for many of the competitors. Also and crucially the course was completely closed to traffic thanks to the efforts of organising club GS Metro and having plenty of marshalls in place allowed the spectators to actually stand on the road without impeding the riders.

                                                                                                              Picture courtesy of Dean Reeve

My friend and training partner Hannah Farran heading for a 6.02 in the colours of the Edco Continental team who for next season will be Boompods Edco Velo8. VeloUK/NEWS The national champs was the final event in Hannah's hill climb 'season' having gone straight in to an eight race hill climb campaign on the back of a full season racing on the road, a tough way to end your year that's for sure. There was a very strong field of forty five female competitors on the day but while doing a bit of reading before writing this post I was a bit surprised to discover that the CTT National Hill Climb was only opened up to female competitors as recently as 1998 and the first women's championship wasn't awarded until 2003. If that wasn't bad enough there were no second and third place prizes awarded until 2012 ! hard to believe, but true.

I have previously written about influence of technology on cycling here Technological Fetishism  and here Are you a prisoner of Strava? but the hill climb as a race seems like a bit of a throwback to another time in this age of technology. It is a very simple event, start at the bottom of the hill and ride to the top as fast as you can, fastest time wins, mind you I would be surprised if most of the rides didn't end up on Strava before the end of the day. Above - roared on by the hugely enthusiastic north east crowd Joscelin Lowden the 2017 Ladies Champion who clocked a blistering 4.53 on the 1.1 mile course to take the title.

Not just loads of my north east cycling friends to catch up with at the hill climb but also a really good turn out of some of  my cycling photographer friends who were capturing the action and enjoying the event. Above two of my team mates from Ribble Pro Cycling our team photographer Dean Reeve along with DS John Reeve. Also in this shot on the right is Ellen Isherwood another well known and talented cycling photographer and also a friend of the team. Follow this link Ellen Isherwood to see a great gallery of Ellen's images from the event. 

Possibly because the nature of the hill and that the spectators were really close to the action or maybe just because this is what hill climbs are always like? It was that sort of event where you were so close to the competitors it almost felt as if everyone present was part of the championships. At the top of the hill I got the chance to chat with hill climb specialist Niall Patterson of Velo Club Cumbria who had just posted a super fast 4.20 on his heavily modified Cannnondale. 

Some precision Black and Decker work on the saddle and chain ring on Niall's HC machine. Not sure how much weight Niall has saved with his modifications but he is not finished yet as he told me that next year he plans to strip the paint of the frame too. Just in case you are thinking: wouldn't he be better just loosing a bit of weight ? from what I could see there wasn't much more scope to do that, Niall looked lean to me - very lean. 

The hill climb might be a simple event but the impact of technology is still evident on Niall's bike. Garmin Vector pedals are surely not the lightest option, but having his power data available during his effort was clearly a compromise that even a serious competitor like Niall was happy to make.

                                                                            Picture courtesy of Larry Hickmott @ Velo UK

Above another one of my friends and former team mate Shaun Tyson of Adept Precision RT. Shaun clocked a 4.53 in the male vet category and after his ride he did what a lot of the other competitors seemed to do, stayed around to spectate and cheer on the other riders. Shaun is not just quick up a hill, he regularly gets on the podium in time trials, crits, road races and even in the odd mountain bike endurance race.

Above Craig Zadoroznyj a well known Yorkshire based cycling photographer and a good friend of theraceforthecafe.com gets on with the business of taking his trademark action shots. To see Craigs fantastic images check out his website here Craigzadphotos. If you look closely at the above pic you might also spot Ace the pug all wrapped up keeping warm while patiently waiting for Hannah Farran's ride. (I promised Hannah I would give Ace a mention)

Final picture for this week is appropriately of the 2017 National Hill Climb Champion Dan Evans of Assos Equipe UK on his way to winning the event in 3.54 and knocking 15 seconds off the course record in the process. Great image by another north east cycling photographer Darran Moore really capturing the fantastic atmosphere on what wasn't just a cracking day out at Hedley on the Hill but also a great advert for north east cycling. 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A day shooting in the Peak District - not guns... pictures.

                                                                 The Peak district doesn't look like this at all - its much nicer!

So the team Boss said to me 'do you fancy a day out in the Peak District riding the latest bikes from Ribble and wearing some of their new winter kit ?' - just a bit ! was my reply about a millisecond later. So that's how I found myself in a car park at Castleton in the Peak at 8.00 o clock on a cool but bright morning last week meeting the other 'models' and the photo shoot production team from  Ribble . The above picture from the shoot courtesy of the design team at Ribble is your's truly riding the Limited Edition Sportive-Racing-Green which is a lovely bike and great value, winning the Cycling Plus Magazine Bike of the Year Award in the 'Best Value' category. See the full bike here

My first ride of the day though was the Ribble Matt Black 872 carbon road race model. The guys at Ribble had done a great job of setting the bike up for me and all I had to do was add my own pedals and a Garmin mount. I felt really comfortable straight away on the 872 it felt as if I was riding my own bike, just as well as five minutes after leaving Castleton I was climbing the famous Winnats pass on cafe legs! See the full bike here

We started the day with some pictures of the soon to be released Ribble Nuovo winter clothing range and combined getting the shots with a nice cafe stop at Tilly's Tea Room in Castleton, a very civilised start. The staff at Tilly's really looked after us and we had a coffee and warm Bakewell tart (and very nice it was too) while Sean the photographer got the shots he needed.

After the cafe and straight on to Winnats Pass, my first ever visit to the Peak and I can see why it is such a popular cycling destination. Winnats is a tough bit of road though, no question about it, the climb cuts through a limestone ravine and the average gradient is about 10% although there is a significant section near the top at 20%. The climb ascends through a sort of natural amphitheatre with steep slopes on either side, from where this picture was taken. The traffic was light when we made our first ascent at about 10.00 am but it built up as the day progressed and later it was really busy although it was half-term week so there were probably more visitors than usual in the Peak. 

Andy Roberts who works at Ribble as a technician is a talented BMX rider and turned out to be no slouch on a road bike either. He took the ascent of Winnats in his stride riding the Ribble Gran Fondo Disc Gran-Fondo and then descended like a pro giving the Gran Fondo's  brakes a really thorough test in the process. Andy also acted as team mechanic for the day although his services were not really required as the bikes all performed faultlesly so he could just enjoy the day riding the bikes that he normally spends his days working on. See the full bike here

To get the some good riding shots Sean Hardy the photographer had to perch in the back of a car while we climbed as a group. All in a days work for Sean who specialises in cycling photography. His next assignment was to be with the Movistar Team in Pamplona, Spain capturing images of their first team get together and new kit launch. Have a scroll through Sean's website to see some of his incredible cycling images HardyCC The pictures on this post are all just phone shots captured by the team on the day, I can't wait to see what Sean's pictures are like.

The day was a real team effort with four models/riders and a team of four from Ribble taking care of the fairly complicated logistics, organising bikes and kit and picking out the best locations. Rebecca Brejwo, Joe Davenport and the irrepresible Hope Cooper did a brilliant job and the day went without a hitch.

James Vickers Head of Marketing at Ribble astride the Aero 883 the bike that the newly launched Ribble Pro Cycling Team Ribble will be competing on during the 2018 race season. I got the opportunity to ride the 883 for the first time on the day as James and I did some motor pacing behind the car with Sean taking pictures. I can confirm that in addition to looking incredible the 883 is very stiff and very fast. See the full bike here

Athena Mellor pictured on the Ribble 872 Matt Silver See the full bike here. Athena had stepped in to do the photo shoot at very short notice but she was a total professional throughout the day and great fun to work with. Athena has lots of experience of long distance cycle touring and she is also a very talented writer, check out her travel blog  athena-mellor/riding-new-zealand-by-bike

As the light started to fade we just had enough time to go off-road and capture some images of Ribble's latest cyclocross model the CX5 James is an accomplished cyclocross rider and really put the bike through its paces. Above James explains to Athena and I the key features on the CX5 along with some of the finer points of cyclocross riding technique while Sean captures some more pictures focussing on the soon to be released Ribble Nuovo winter clothing range.

One of the final phone shots of the day is of James skillfully ascending near Mam Tor on the CX5 See the full bike here It was quite a long day as we didn' finish shooting until 7.15 (in the pub The Rambler Inn at Edale - nice) but what a brilliant day out it was, everyone got stuck in and we all got on really well and as someone commented as we parted to go home there hadn't been a single moan from anyone all day. Having said that we had spent a beautiful day in the Peak District having a laugh with a great bunch of people riding nice bikes and wearing nice kit - what's not to like? 
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