a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Two 'Tours' - A big one in Worcestershire and that other one in Yorkshire.

The Tour of the Abberleys is the most prestigious race for veterans in the UK and a flagship event on the LVRC calendar. The Abberleys has been going for twenty years and is a three day, four stage race in Worcestershire with an opening time trial followed by three fairly tough road stages.

Above the start of stage three, it was my first time in Worcestershire and what a beautiful part of the country it is. Tough, undulating roads for bike racing though and stage four of the Abberleys is particularly difficult with two really big climbs on the finishing circuit.

I am not going to write an I did this and then this happened post on my Abberleys weekend, partly because to be honest after a distinctly average opening time trial I went on to trail in at the back of the race on all three road stages and appeared near the bottom of the results every day. But that didn't stop me from having a brilliant weekend and really enjoying the race from start to finish, of course the best May bank holiday weather for years helped a fair bit.

To take on the organisation of any bike races is a big job so to organise four races over a bank holiday weekend is a huge task, however Mike Amery and his team of over seventy helpers ensured that the whole weekend went without a hitch despite the appearance of some last minute road works. Thanks to the glorious weather Mike was able to conduct his pre-race safety briefings outside the Great Witley village hall race HQ and with invaluable help from the Midlands Bike Marshalls the racing felt really safe all weekend.

I stayed at the Premier Inn in Kidderminster for the weekend which is about twenty minutes drive from Great Witley where the Abberleys is based. I mention this only because I had not realised until recently how bike friendly the Premier Inn hotel chain is Bikeswelcome. They don't just tolerate cyclists, they actually want our business and are more than happy for you to keep your bike in your room, unlike some places I have stayed.

Above another glorious morning in Worcestershire before the start of stage three with fellow north east rider and winner of the 'Abberleys' in 2003 and 2011 Paul Stubbs. There was a great atmosphere all weekend and as with all LVRC and TLI age related events the racing was extremely competitive  but everyone remains friendly and supportive with plenty of advice and encouragement on offer.

Above Neil Baxter and John Cann of Blumilk.com completed the north east contingent in the race and both were competitive in all four stages. I met loads of people over the course of the weekend and one of the first I got to know was Craig Moody (Giant Halifax) who was really strong riding in my race but in the 'C' category. Craig and I got talking on day one and soon realised that our sons knew each other and had raced together as Juniors, its small world cycling. It was also really good to meet blog reader and fellow cycling academic Doctor Mark Corbett from Worcester University riding for Worcester St Johns CC. Mark is an authority on the relationship between cycling bio-mechanics and muscle fatigue, a really nice guy and an excellent bike rider, click on this Link DocCorbett for more on his work. Someone else I got to know and who I took some advice from that helped me during stage four was Sean Kilroy of Cambridge Vets another classy rider who went on to finish 2nd on the final day - thanks Sean.

An impressive display of trophies for the overall and category winners at the Abberleys on display in the village hall. In my category 'E' for riders over sixty we had a race within the race and I finished 7th out of the 14 who started which I was pretty happy with to be honest, although it was more to do with my dogged determination to finish all four stages when some of the other old boys didn't, rather than anything else.

While I was away enjoying my tour in Worcestershire the sun was also brilliant for the riders and spectators at the Tour de Yorkshire. I watched the highlights every night in the Premier Inn and while it doesn't really compare with the Abberleys the TdY also looked like a well organised little tour ...


After I got home from Worcestershire I had the opportunity spend some time chatting with Tour de Yorkshire stage one winner and local hero Harry Tanfield and what an entertaining cafe stop it was. When I say 'chatting with' it would be more accurate to say 'listening intently to' as Harry was on great form and he came out with so many fascinating details and insights that I wish I had taken notes or recorded what he was saying.

Harry had us in stitches with stories of loosing his phone (during a stage), loosing a wheel after puncturing (left it in a hedge) and chasing back on for 50k after loosing contact with the peleton after his puncture while wearing the blue leaders jersey. The crash for Alex Patton in to an on-coming car while helping Harry back to the race didn't sound quite so funny, in fact it sounded horrendous.

A couple of things stood out for me from listening to Harry's often extremely detailed and sometimes hilarious account of the TdY, one is that power and knowledge of power is everything at the top level. Harry is one of those people who have that uncanny ability to accurately recall the details of a race almost moment by moment as it happened and watts were a constant theme throughout the conversation, how many he was producing at a particular time, how long he could sustain it for and what he needed to produce at some specific and crucial moments in the race, absolutely fascinating stuff.

Not only did Harry talk about his own power numbers but he is also able to accurately assess the power capabilities of other riders, this was particularly useful during the break on stage one which as we know stayed away and from which he went on to win and wear the leaders jersey. The fact that Harry was determined to be in the stage one break and made it happen illustrates this. In his own words: "It wasn't a case of floating in to a move, it was me who initiated it from the start, got it going, drove it and got us the gap". Which leads to another thing that struck me about Harry's attitude to the race and to the World Tour 'stars' that he was racing against - he was not phased to be racing against and beating the biggest names from the biggest teams in professional cycling ... not phased at all ! Well done 'H' absolutely brilliant mate.

Equally enjoyable for me was watching #theteamthatrock the girls from BoomPods/Edco/NRG competing at UCI level for the first time in the Asda Womens Tour de Yorkshire. A brilliant performance by the team and great to see another of my friends Ellen McDermott produce an outstanding ride to finish 18th on stage one. Something tells me that we will be hearing a lot more about Ellen in the future.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Women's Cycling: Bloomers, Boompods and Barriers.


I have been meaning to do a post on women's cycling for a while as there is a lot going on in the sport at the moment and I thought good place to start would be with a very quick look back at the history and significance of women's cycling, followed by a feature on a really up to date cycling team, my friends from the Boompods/Edco/NRG squad, finishing up with a quick a look at some of the barriers to the success of women's cycle racing that are yet to be resolved. 

The role of the bicycle in the history of the emancipation of women has often been overlooked by historians, but in the latter part of the 18th century the bicycle provided women with freedom that they had never experienced before, and not only the freedom to travel but the freedom from the restrictions caused by the billowing dresses and skirts which were the fashion convention of the time. Over a hundred years ago Alice Hawkins a member of the suffragette movement caused public outrage by cycling around Leicester wearing bloomers to promote women's rights. Subsequently during the fight for the vote the bicycle became a powerful symbol of the emancipation of women.

Victorian ladies enthusiastically took to cycling, even though they had to had to deal with many social, political and material challenges to their freedom of movement. Cycling in everyday dress was potentially dangerous as long skirts would get caught in the wheels. Loose fitting trousers or 'bloomers' soon appeared which allowed much greater freedom of movement, however they caused an uproar across society with some men even signing pledges not to associate with women who wore bloomers.

The right to dress as they wished has always been at the forefront of the women's rights movement and cycling was central to it. In 1881 the Society for Rational Dress was formed in London, opposing womens's restrictive clothing. Cycling was at the heart of this movement and cycling groups began to form across the country as more and more women began to wear knickerbockers and bloomers for cycling. This was regarded by some to be an affront to public decency and the image of 'the new woman' with her bicycle and her bloomers became a figure of ridicule and scorn. 

The bicycle and cycling eventually led to a change societies attitude to health, fitness and exercise and helped to prove that women were not to quote Dr William Fowle in 1826 "feeble and helpless" American suffragette Susan B Anthony later claimed that the bicycle had "done more to emancipate women that anything else in the world"

In a future post I will be looking at some of the significant figures that have contributed to women's cycling and cycle sport over the years and also some of its current stars, but for now to bring things right up to date a look at a team from the north east of England who are really making an impact on the sport Boompods/EDCO/NRG  -  'The Team that Rock'


A couple of weeks ago I went along to a photo shoot with some of the riders from  Boompods EDCO NRG organised by PR specialist and team founder Tony McDonagh of Manilla PR A great location had been picked for the shoot, a subway in central Middlesbrough with plenty of 'industrial' back drops to use. It was, I have to say absolutely freezing, although the conditions seemed to be more of an issue for Tony and myself than for the girls. Tony is involved with team in several areas but regards his main role as being on the sponsorship side of things. 

                                    Some of the riders: Jen Batey, Chloe Gladders, Ellen McDermott and Olivia Fawcett with Tony

The team was conceived in the autumn of 2016 based on a perception that there were lots of talented riders in the region but what was lacking was a pathway from their club participation to high level racing. Initial success came as a result of the fantastic commitment from a small group of riders in the team's 2017 debut season, helped and supported in no small part by sponsor EDCO wheels. The targets for the team were deliberately set very high in terms of the UK racing scene and as a result Boompods have rapidly become the 'go to team' in the north east where talented riders can achieve their ambitions.

                                                                                     The BoomPods/Edco/NRG squad for the TdY

This year, working with Boompods who Tony describes as "one of the most supportive sponsors a team could have" has enabled the squad to reach the ambitious levels set for them at the outset in only their second full season. It has just been announced that the team will be competing in the most prestigious event on the UK calendar the Asda Women's Tour de Yorkshire TdY which for 2018 is over two gruelling stages on the 3rd and 4th of May. Stage one is a tough 82 miles between Beverley and Doncaster and Stage two starts in Barnsley and follows an equally challenging 82 miles to the finish in Ilkley.

May is going to a be a really busy month for the team as straight after the TdY they will be competing for the first time in the televised OVO Energy Tour Series Tourseries. The team will be contesting all seven rounds of the series starting on the 10th May in Redditch right through to the final round at Wembley Park in London on the 29th May followed by the Grand Final at a location to be announced shortly.

       (above) Sarah Walker in the thick of the action on her way to 6th place at the Active Fakenham  Criterium on the 1st April.

                                       Some of the talented Boompods juniors L-R Marie Lynn, Olivia Fawcett and Anna Armstrong

                                                        A picture from the photoshoot and it's a strong look from the Boompods riders.

I know several of the girls from the Boompods squad from the north east cycling scene and because I raced with some of them at last year's Tour of Malta (my blog posts on the race here: Malta-1 and Malta-2) Hannah Farran from the team is also a good friend who I regularly train with. Above Hannah racing in awful conditions last month at the tough Oakenclough road race in Lancashire.

In the cafe last week I had chance to chat to Hannah about the team. There is a great atmosphere around the squad and one of the first questions asked her was how the team had managed to develop such a good team spirit so quickly "The team began with the ethos of 'we got this' which was originally an Instagram hashtag used by one of our sponsors, Continental Tyres, CONTI however it soon developed in to the ethos of the team. We have always played to the strengths of everyone and we like to think that one of the main reasons why we have been successful. All the riders contribute to the team in more ways that simply riding their bikes"

When I asked her about the teams racing strategy Hannah summed it up well  "The BoomPods approach is to always race aggressively and try to win but have fun doing it. Somebody recently commented that the team 'seemed to be punching above their weight'  which is probably accurate but that's because we are passionate, ambitious and most of all determined to have fun racing our bikes"


Ellen McDermott of Boompods on the grid earlier this month preparing to race against some of the biggest names in the sport at the Ronde van Gerwen Criterium in Holland (on the front row left to right) Dutch rising star Puck Moonen of Lotto Soudal, alongside 2016 Olympic Gold medalist and multiple classics winner Anna van de Breggen of the Boels Dolmans team and on the right Dutch National Champion and winner of the 2017 La Course by Le Tour de France, Annemiek van Vleuten of Michelton Scott. 

I started this post by highlighting how cycling has empowered women and has been a site of social progress throughout it's history. But it is also clear that cycling and cycle sport specifically has also been a site where women have been socially constrained. Women's cycling is in a better position today than it ever has been but two big issues still dominate the sport: under investment and an underlying culture of discrimination within the sport. 

It was announced recently that women riders in the 2019 Tour Down Under will receive the same prize money as their male counterparts, although this is a big step forward there is still a huge pay gap in the sport. There is no minimum wage for professional female cyclists and as a result female professionals are lucky if they earn half as much as their male peers. Another issue is distance and duration of races which are limited in women's races under UCI rules with road races restricted to 130 Km and time trials to 40 Km. Also lacking is equality of coverage of women's racing, more coverage would attract more sponsors which in turn would bring more money in to the sport.

Change will come for sure, but in the meantime look out for 'THE TEAM THAT ROCK' this summer having fun racing their bikes ! 

Boompods latest!                             

A good day for the Boompods today with a one two in the Tyneside Vagabonds Spring Criterium, at the Middlesbrough Sports Village. Hannah on the top step with new signing Amy Graham second and Nikki Metcalfe of Prima Team Racing completing the podium. 


Sunday, 8 April 2018

Learning a lesson: From the Cavern Club to the Pain Cave

Here is something I learned recently: Spending the day before a bike race on the drink in Liverpool  after abstaining from alcohol for several weeks in order to perform better in bike races is not conducive to peak performance the following day in the bike race that you have travelled to Liverpool to compete in ... well surprise, surprise (as Cilla used to say)

I haven't raced on Merseyside before but I have visited Liverpool a few times and enjoyed the city every time. When I mentioned to my wife Sue and daughter Ellie that I was racing nearby we decided to make a weekend of it so they could get in some Sunday morning retail therapy in Liverpool One while I was at the bike race - good plan. The only snag is whenever we are in the city it's become a bit of a tradition that we 'pop' in to the Cavern Club. So pop in we did, but I was absolutely adamant that I was only going to have one ... or possibly two beers, famous last words !

If you are ever in Liverpool a visit to the 'The Most Famous Club in the World' should be on your list of things to do. The Cavern with its vaulted cellars, memoribilia covered walls and intimate atmosphere has been at the heart of the Liverpool music scene for over seventy years and everyday of the week there is live music from mid-afternoon until late in the evening. One of the acts performing at the Cavern this time were the Pre-Amps a young 4-piece band from Newcastle Upon Tyne. They specialise in covers from the 50s and 60s, from The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Small Faces, their set was brilliant, a real retro experience and they had the place absolutely bouncing. I even got up and did my best Mersey Beat Dad dancing, oh it was special! (video available on request) 

After a short stop-over back at our hotel we spent the evening down at Albert Dock. A really nice meal at the impressive Gusto restaurant and inevitably a couple more drinks and by the time we hit the fresh air to stroll back I had come to the inevitable conclusion that - yes, it was going to hurt in the morning for sure.

The race was the Town Green Masters at Bickerstaffe about thirty minutes from Liverpool city centre giving me just enough time to eat my breakfast banana and drink some petrol station Costa en-route. The race was organised by Brian Rigby of St Helens CRC who along with his team had put in a lot of work preparing for the race, as it was a new circuit that had taken three years to get sanctioned. I was particularly impressed with the colour coordinated bike rack they provided me with for my Ribble Aero 883, nice touch that I thought

This was a British Cycling event with two races on the same circuit, a 40+ Masters and my race the 50+ Masters. This was the only BC organised race that I am doing this year as I have previously posted that my season will be mainly focused on age group racing organised by the TLI and LVRC where I will be competing in the 'E' Category (60+) so even before my over indulgence in the Cavern I wasn't particularly optimistic about my chances in this race (just as well) especially as the start sheet included quite few BC 2nd Cat riders.

A picture from the day by my cycling photographer friend Ellen Isherwood. I think this was on lap two and although I appear to be breathing quite hard I was still reasonably 'comfortable'. You can see more of Ellen's great cycling pictures on her Instagram gallery @ellenisherwood 

The race was six laps for a total distance of approximately forty miles. The circuit was fairly flat but with no hedges or trees so it was very exposed. The first three laps were spent with the race mostly in one long line with some huge turns done by one particular rider, John Agnew from Lune CC although he was making the race hard he didn't manage to cause a split. During the early laps my heart rate was a few percent higher than I wanted it to be but I was managing to hold a reasonable position and not in any danger of being dropped - then the attacks started. There was a bit of a lull on lap four and I moved up to about tenth to try and get maximum shelter and create a bit of 'sliding space' and it was at this point that I started to believe that I might actually survive and get round in the bunch. My confidence was misplaced though as a couple of minutes later a big attack went on the right hand side of the road and I was immediately grovelling to get on to a wheel - any wheel ! A little gap opened up which soon became a couple of bike lengths and that was it, the bunch was disappearing in to the distance. If you have ever been 'out the back' in a bike race you will know that it seems like just a few seconds after you have been dropped the bunch appear to slow down and for a brief moment you think you can regain contact - you can't and I didn't ! That was it, resigned to the last two laps solo, you can see my race data here Strava.

                                                                     Picture Credit @ellenisherwood

No need to look for your's truly in this picture as I had already been off-loaded by this point, but you can see that a few people were hurting on the exposed sections of the circuit. Although it wasn't particularly windy it still had an effect when the strong men at the front decided to put the pressure on. When I though about it later I didn't remember seeing any of these fellas in the Cavern Club the day before... funny that. 

                                                                Picture Credit @ellenisherwood

The race was decided on a sprint from a small group of six who had escaped on the final lap. The winner was Andy Bennett of Omnipex Bio Race RT with Simon Deplich of Team Chronomaster/Leisure Lakes Bikes second and Karl Smith of Bott Cycle Team third.

Another Sunday another race

                                                           Picture Credit: @ellenisherwood

Above - Today (08/04) I raced in a TLI road race race at Bashal Eaves near Clitheroe in Lancashire which was round one of the eight race Lapierre Series. So I was racing in the Ribble Valley on my Ribble Aero 883 for Team Ribble. I arrived at the race fresh after a good week of preparation, clear headed and raring to go, managed to sneak in to the top ten and picked up some series points - I even did a few turns on the front !


Sunday, 25 March 2018

Home town heritage.

This week a look at the cycling heritage of my home town Stockton-on-Tees, a town with a history going back to 1138 which if you have nothing better to do you can read about HERE on Wikipedia. I won't bang on too much about the town's history but before I get on to the cycling stuff I have to mention a couple of notable events from Stockton's past:

In 1827 the friction match was invented in Stockton by local chemist John Walker, unfortunately he didn't bother to take a out patent on his invention and he didn't actually make any money from it - so maybe old John wasn't such a bright spark after all - not impressed? What about the first ever rail journey by a steam engine? In 1822 George Stephenson's Locomotion Number One travelled between Stockton and nearby Shildon, an event that was to change the world for ever, now you must admit that was a biggy.

                            One of John Walker's giant matches and my Giant bouncey bike on Stockton-on-Tees riverside.

Before I get to Stockton's cycling heritage first a little bit of historical context just to set the scene. The earliest years of the existence of the bicycle saw not only the development and manufacture of a new machine and form of transport but also the rapid development of a brand new sport. 

The first recorded bicycle race in England was held in the meadow of the Welsh Harp Inn, Hendon near London in 1869. Bicycle racing soon became a regular attraction at horticultural shows and athletic meetings which frequently also included exhibitions and sales of new bicycles.

Stockton's Clubs

The first cycling club in Stockton-on-Tees was formed in 1878 at a meeting held at the YMCA in Dovecot Street. The club badge was the Stockton emblem of the castle and anchor and the club uniform was designated as a cardinal blue blazer and a straw hat with a blue band. The joining fee was fixed at one shilling and sixpence and the Stockton Cycling Club was born.

The bikes of the time were Ordinary's, also known as Penny Farthings or High Wheelers. The cost of an Ordinary was about £4 which probably put them out of the reach of most working class people. However, the Stockton Cycling Club owned a bicycle, there is a reference in the club minutes that it was donated by a Mr H Newburn and this machine could be borrowed by members to practice on for a small charge.

The Ordinary was not easy to ride and somebody had to hold it steady to start a novice rider off. There must have been a certain amount of enthusiasm to practice riding as the club decided to acquire a wooden machine (which presumably was cheaper) which the members could use for free, and a rule was introduced that only those who had learned to ride on the wooden machine could mount the High Wheeler.
On Good Friday 1878 a trial run was organised to the nearby hamlet of High Leven to make sure that all those who intended to ride on the Easter Monday were capable. The first official 'Club Run' from Stockton-on-Tees took place on April 4th 1878 and went to Mount Grace Priory, Stokesley and Great Ayton, a route that is around thirty miles with a few lumps along the way and a fairly tough ride on an Ordinary I would imagine.

Stockton Cyclists in 1910 wearing their straw hats and blazers. There is still a thriving cycling club in the town and Stockton Wheelers which formed in 1916 currently has over 300 members. You can find out about their current activities HERE - SWCC

Stockton Wheelers members of all ages enthusiastically getting proceedings underway at the annual Stockton Cycling Festival which this year is over the weekend of 15th-18th July, full event info HERE Stockton-Festival
Stockton's Bike Brothers

Any account of Stockton's cycling heritage has to include a mention of the towns well known bike builders the Taylor brothers. Jack Taylor started making light weight racing bikes in 1936 and was later joined in the business by his two brothers, Norman and Ken. In 1942 Jack bought a plot of land in Church Road in Stockton and despite war time restrictions which meant that they were only allowed to use £100 worth of building materials the brothers managed to build their own workshop on the site.
Above the Taylor brothers outside their Stockton factory, each of the three brothers invested £20 in to the business and with it they bought as much bicycle tubing as they could afford from the Reynolds Tube Company.

In the post-war years Jack Taylor hand-built bikes were in great demand. At its peak the company employed nine people but by 1986 only the three brothers remained. Even then interest in their bikes was still high and the BBC made a short film about the brothers and their bikes called appropriately 'The Bike Brothers' - you can watch it on Youtube  HERE  TaylorBrothers

                                                      A classy Jack Taylor lightweight with its distinctive curved seat tube - remind you of anything?  

I wonder if renowned bike designer Gerard Vroomen  (definitely not from Stockton) who founded Cervelo in 1995 with his partner Phil White was inspired by a Jack Taylor in his youth ? Vroomen is now part owner and head of design at 3T  and responsible for their Strada model (above) check out his blog HERE GVBlog there is some good cycling stuff on there.

Stockton's Finest.

Any blog readers who can remember the UK racing scene between the mid 70s and the 90s will know of Stockton cycling legend Paul Curran who began his career with Stockton Wheelers aged 14. Paul went on to win virtually every big race on the British calendar, not to mention the Commonwealth Games Road Race in 1986 along with the team time trial. On the continent he won stages of the Tour of Normandie and the Circuit des Mines. Paul was a genuine all-rounder who could win on the track, in time trials and on the road. You can see all Paul Curran's major results here PC-Wiki

Above - Paul Curran competing at the World Amatuer Road Race in 1985, his career came to a premature end in 1996 when he suffered serious injuries in an accident with a motorcycle at the Tour of the Pennines. Paul still lives in Stockton, still rides his bike and is still involved in the cycling scene in Stockton as Chairman of Stockton Wheelers and running a bike shop in the town PaulCurran-Cyclesport.

So, Stockton on Tees, my hometown and a pretty good place to live if you are a bike rider and I haven't even mentioned the nearby iconic training routes of the North Yorkshire Moors, the Yorkshire Dales and Upper Teesdale ? I will do a blog post sometime.  

And Finally - #UTA - Up the Anchors

Another big event in Stockton's sporting heritage happened yesterday when Sockton Town FC won the second leg of their FA vase semi-final against Marske United and are off to Wembley on Sunday May 20th for the Buildbase FA Vase final.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Carnival day - race day - new bike day

Escaping the worst of winter weather even for a week is really good for moral even if returning just in time for the arrival of 'The Beast from the East' MetOffice was a bit of a shock to the system. Following a short blogging break to catch some sun and put the finishing touches to my winter training this week's post is a bit of a mixed bag - some Lanzarote pedalling the Arrecife Carnival, Croft circuit racing and the first view of my new race whip.

I upgraded my IPhone to the 8+ just before we went away, and I am really glad I did as the new camera is superb, the picture above was my first try using the new 'portrait mode'

This time last year I wrote a blog post on training in Lanzarote in which I described the island as 'a tough place for bicycle practice' - well guess what? ... it still is. I won't spend too much time rambling on about Lanza in this post, just a bit about my training which will lead nicely in to the second part of this post and the two opening 'races' of my 2018 season. If you want to read a bit more about cycling in Lanzarote here's the link to last years post LanzaTraining.

My plan for the week was to ride for about twelve hours in total over six days and taper a bit towards the end of the week, we were returning home on Thursday 15th and my first race was Saturday February 17th so I wanted to be reasonably fresh when I got back. My training plan was to do a three day block starting with a three hour endurance ride followed by two days of approx two hours incorporating some race specific efforts. I collected my pre-booked hire bike from the excellent Free Motion bike store Free-motion the day after we arrived and just did an easy ride to make sure the bike was OK and to flush the flight out of my legs, a gentle pedal along the cycle path from Puerto Del Carmen to Arrecife was ideal.

I was really lucky when I set of to do my endurance ride as five minutes after I left our apartments I met a group of Irish riders (above) who I started chatting too and who were happy for me to join them, although they were doing a considerably longer ride than I had planned. A grand set of County Wicklow lads they were too, I felt a bit sorry for them to be honest as this was their last day on the island and the first decent one. Their time in Lanza had coincided with the worst weather there for over twenty years, rain, hail and really low temperatures - so much for the luck of the Irish.

Arrecife Carnival

Another picture using portrait mode on the Iphone 8+. While we were in Lanzarote the Arrecife Carnival was in full swing and we saw it advertised as the next best carnival to Rio, which I thought was a bit of a bold claim to be honest. But it really did live up to the billing and was an absolutely cracking day out.

Above picture by my wife Sue of some of the spectators at the carnival, we plan on visiting the carnival again next year - but next time we are going to join in and go in fancy dress ... apparently.

Race 1 - February 17th

If you are out the back of the bunch it is a big help if you are riding with a mate. Above working with someone that I have raced with a lot Paul Sill from Manilla Cycling.

My season stated on Saturday the 17th February after getting back from Lanzarote on the Thursday. Although my intention this year is to compete almost exclusively in age group racing I decided to enter the last two rounds of the Velo 29 Winter Series at the Croft motor racing circuit which is only about 15 miles from home. These are handicap races run under BC rules open to all categories from 4th Cat to Elite and three groups set of at one minute intervals. The 4th Cat group are of first followed by the group that I start in of 2nd/3rd Cats and finally the 'scratch' group of 1st Cats and Elites. I would normally only race with 3rd/4th cat riders so these are not races that I expect to do well in or even survive in the bunch but they are excellent training, especially if I ride there, race and ride home.

This wasn't the best season opener I have ever had if I am honest and due to poor positioning in the bunch and lots of attacking (and partly due to having spent the previous seven days on the beer) I was dropped along with a few others after five laps. Our little group rolled round taking turns for the next five laps until the bunch caught us again and we hung on at the back until the just before the finish - not a great start to my season but could have been a lot worse.

Race 2 - February 24th

Richard Jones from RibbleProCycling. tests his legs at the Velo 29 Winter Series. Richard had just  got back from a tough ten days of training with the team in Calpe, Spain. You can read all about the team's training camp here Ribble-Training Camp 

                              Above - Early laps, still in the bunch mixing it with the young guns and trying to look composed.

Race two was also at Croft and as the weather was good I again opted to ride to the circuit and do a few warm up efforts on the way. In this one, although the average speed was nearly two miles an hour quicker the pace of the race was much more even and I was still 'reasonably' comfortable in the bunch with twelve of the fifteen laps gone. We had been caught by the scratch group at this point and the attacks had started, particularly on the cross-wind section of the circuit. I wasn't so much dropped but caught on the wrong side of a split in the bunch (well that's my story anyway and I am sticking to it) I did the final three laps in a little group and overall I was pretty happy how I felt and quite encouraged by my ride.

Above - My Strava HR analysis from the 24th at Croft shows that for 97% of the race I was in Z4 or above with 2 minutes 46 seconds in Z5, which is a lot of Z5 for me these days. It was probably during this Z5 period when the high HR alarm on my Xplova X5 Evo cycling computer was bleeping madly that some young comedian in the bunch behind me asked "Here mate is that your Pacemaker going off" - funny, very funny.

I rode in plain kit for my first two races in part because they were really only training days for me and also because my team bike was not due to be delivered until the end of February. My 'proper' season opener is on 18th March - see my post here AgeGroupRacing so that will give plenty of time for a few training rides to get my position dialled in on my new Ribble Aero 883

My friend and accomplished sports photographer Richard Sharpe of SI Events Photography who took these racing pictures is an ever present at Croft circuit - you can see more of Richards excellent work here. SIEvents
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 New bike day

My Ribble Aero 883 Custom arrived right on schedule on the 28th of February and I am just a little bit pleased with it. Ribble supplied me with the custom frame and fork and I sorted the rest, so you can't currently buy this specification. You can however spec your own 883 Aero on the Ribble bike builder Build your Ribble here and if you want the custom paint job you can buy the Ribble Aero 883 Pro Team Edition - see it here Pro883 the exact bike that the RibbleProCycling Team are using this season, complete with SRAM Red Etap and Zipp 404 wheels, without a doubt the best looking bike in the UK peloton - go on you know you want one.

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