A CX Winter

Bundling everything in the car and heading off to Shrewsbury, it looked like pre riding the National Trophy course at Shrewsbury on the 10th December could require some wet weather gear. Needless to say it didn’t disappoint. 

Arriving before 2pm, I had a walk around before they opened the course, it was damp underneath, and having kept an eye on the weather, I was sure it would cut up after a few people had been around it – especially if the forecast rain arrived.

After getting the bike out, I was one of the first on. With my relative inexperience, I took it slowly, finding ruts hidden under the slightly long grass, and very bumpy in the woods. Letting people past me as I rode slowly around, considering how to approach each section. Remembering how and when to shift my weight, and how to ride a cx bike! Several times I didn’t approach banks fast enough or with enough speed, but repeating them soon helped my early mistakes. I did sit and watch for a long time at the big bank just before the finish, watching kids and adults find their way around the corner and onto the off camber. It still held the upper line that was trampled into it at the Nationals back in January, although it was slightly overgrown but cutting in quickly the more people rode it. I rode it once, twice, dabbing each time to keep the momentum going. Chuckling when I got it wrong, as did the kids around me. Several times I had conversations about how to approach it with different teenagers and adults. Some rode the high line, some took it wide and went low. I eventually realised I’d be quicker running it. Especially with my remounting needing some (a lot) of work.

Then the rain came. I’d ridden the course a few times. Struggling with one of the off cambers from the tarmac. I still loved it! The course was much more suited to me than the big hill at Cyclopark. However I decided now was a good time to get the worst mud off my bike and pack it away. As I did this the Murray family arrived, so I headed down to see how the more experienced Keith and Sam rode the bank. Even Ellis rode it better than I did! Fair play!

Sam Murray

Ellis Murray #doitforthefamily taking the wide line

Sam and Keith riding different lines. Foot out, flat out

I knew by the time I got to the hotel that I had a cold setting in. Throughout a meal in the evening I felt progressively worse.
Sunday dawned. It’d be raining most of the night. Had I felt well, I would’ve been quite excited about riding a proper muddy course. I felt so flat that by the time the Murrays arrived, I knew I wouldn’t be riding. 

The waterproofs went on and I headed to the pits, where after two laps of the Vets race – Keith was on half laps changes as the course was wet, sticky mud. especially in the woods. 

Gary and I on pit duty for the Murrayator

Next up Sam. Riding his bike down to the pits was a lot easier than his dads! But equally the pits were getting muddier and more crowded as bike change after bike change happened. Paths were trodden between one side of the pits and the other. Everybody equally intent on their rider and shouting encouragement.

I briefly helped Bruce Dalton out, until a crash saw him DNF, and was quickly on bike change duty for both Scott Chalmers and Scot Easter, both far enough apart that I could help out one then the other before heading to the other side of the pits to do the same even half lap.

All too soon, the frantic muddy afternoon was done and I was heading home with a full blown cold.

Calais and East Kent.

I was planning on heading to the East Kent league race on Sunday 18th December, so when Keith mentioned Calais cx on the Saturday, I thought I might as well combine the two as I was staying with family in Deal on the Saturday night.

Taking the ferry to Calais was easy, and cheap. The cx course being held at the Stade du Souvenir a mere 9 minute drive from Calais port. Day was dawning, as I left Dover in thick fog and emerged into a stunning morning at sea.

Arriving at the Stade du Souvenir, I was delighted by the course laid out. And pre rode half of it in jeans and trainers. As you do. This put me in mind of enquiring about races close to Calais just for the experience!

Lots of banks to ride down and run up. Long sweeping grassy turns. It was going to be fast racing. No rain, dry and well laid out. Everyone was so welcoming, the French helping out with bike changes and so much friendliness even though I speak little French! 

Warm and dry, it was great fun helping out both Sam and Keith, and cheering Kris on. Even if mechanicals were order of the day. Snapping a chain downhill is a new one though! Problems aside, it was a great day out!

Murrayator

Low light providing some cracking shots

Kris riding the high line

All to soon I was heading back across the sea to a warm welcome in Deal.

East Kent CX at Ford Manor Farm was a far cry from the day before. Muddy, one blinking huge hill and sections so loamy and soft they were unrideable. One practice lap had me on my knees, and I was hugely glad Phil Booth also turned up – even though getting a bike built on the day is not the best idea!

I managed to get a second lap in before we lined up. Well at least I started warmed up! Three times up this hill in one lap. Thankfully the one off the start was rideable! Mucky and loamy, I had no problem with grip with Conti CycloXKings on, even approaching the long straight downhill at speed. However on the second lap I pulled a muscle in my backside, rendering the last hill walkable in mincing little steps. No thanks to the 40cm planks at the bottom too!

Alright Matt. Stop laughing when you’re taking pictures! Photo credit Matt Nunn

The tight off camber downhills got progressively slicker and I point blank refused to fall off or skid out through the tape!
However this is why I love cx….

Overdressed and too damn stubborn to give up

#keepsmiling 

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It Takes Time…

Isn’t that a song? SO…

Tour De France update:
Right, I pick Melissa up early Sunday morning from Heathrow. Drive to Folkestone. have coffee. Get on the Eurotunnel. Over to Calais, Have coffee. Drive to Pau for check in Monday at the 1st hotel. Have caffeine. Watch Le Tour finish in Pau. Have a drink or several. Find out where everyone is.
Tuesday: Coffee. Breakfast. Tweet. check out and drive to 2nd hotel in Pau. Wander around. Take pictures. Tweet. Blog.
Wednesday:Coffee. Breakfast. check out of hotel. Drive to somewhere near the Tourmalet. Annoy people on Twitter with incessant tweeting ‘wish you were here? nah nah na na nah.’ Meet up with Twitter friends. Have coffee with coffee. Incessant road chalking (including hashtags). Get excited by the caravan coming past. Try not to fall down the mountain whilst fighting for freebies. cover my ears as the screaming starts. Cheer on anyone riding a bike. Shout ‘Allez’ rather a lot. Pretend I speak French. Set up tent and camp.
Thursday: drive like an idiot to Cote De Burs. Repeat Tweeting, Chalking, getting excited by the Caravan and cheering on anyone on a bike. Pretend I speak French, Dutch and Italian. drive to feedzone for Friday. Oh lots of coffee.
Friday: Plenty of coffee. Sleep. Food. Chalking. Cheering. Fight everyone for bidons and musettes. Crash and burn. Caffeine. Camp somewhere. Tweet.
Saturday: drive to Paris and park early. Coffee. Stretch legs. Check in hotel. Catch train to Chartres. Watch some of Time Trial. Catch train back to Paris. Blog. Tweet. Facebook. Get changed. Find Verity. Party with the Team Sky Fans.
Sunday: work out where to meet Team Sky Fans. Coffee. Coffee. Breakfast. Tweet. go to Champs Elysees. Be there stupidly early. Get madly excited. Coffee. Meet lots of people. Pretend to speak French, Dutch, Italian and German. And possibly Flemish. And Welsh. Watch race…… haven’t figured out the next bit, but may include partying…..
Monday: drive to Calais. On Eurotunnel. Folkestone. Coffee x 3. Home.

Except we have a problem. Melissa needs to be back to Heathrow by 11am. Whats the cheapest way of getting back?

hope you enjoyed 🙂

Ciao xx

Logistical Nightmare

How I would love to win the Lottery, or the Euromillions, it would make life so much easier!

I’ve been trying to work out exactly where Melissa and I are going in France. This includes when I pick her up from Heathrow early(ish) on Sunday 15th. I still have to book the Eurotunnel, and have left it this late due to lack of funds and trying to work out the timing. Also from Heathrow, I have to navigate the M25 and M26, which hopefully won’t be overly bad on a Sunday morning! This means I have to give ourselves a bit of extra time to get there (in case of the flight being late, or some hold up on the motorway) and we also need to ‘check in.’
Then from Calais, it’s some long drive to Pau – and although using the motorways over there would be quicker, the tolls are extortionate! And some thing I can’t really afford! This means staying mainly on the Nationale and Departmental routes – and also means I’ll need to print the route out! Gah!
The  http://www.autoroutes.fr/en/routes.htm is the route planner I’m using, as both RAC and AA route planners for Europe are rubbish. Thank god the French version is pretty good! It says driving time of just over 14 hours, so with a break or two, is more likely to be 16!
Say we get to Calais for 11am. Add another 16 hours. That is about 6am we can get to Pau. We obviously will have to stop, but we also need to get to Pau early enough so that we can find the hotel, park up and eat/sleep etc. Oh bearing in mind, the Stage that day finishes in Pau, so I expect it to be heaving, even early on!

Melissa – as soon as we check in, I will probably crash out for a few hours! Or overdose on caffeine!

So by Monday, we are there in Pau. Check In. sleep (for me). Get to the finish. Annoy people (possibly).

Tuesday is the last rest day at Le Tour. Great, have a lie in! Er we have to move the car to the hotel we are staying in on Tuesday night. Then I will possibly sleep again, and blog, and take far too many pictures, and email the parents!

Wednesday’s Stage starts in Pau. I am not missing this!

Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night have yet to be decided. But we have a tent!

Saturday and Sunday, we are booked into a hotel in Paris. We have a choice on Saturday, catch the train to watch them finish the Time Trial in Chartres, or go to the Team Sky Fan Party (TSFP), a 15 min walk from our hotel (er, that is a guess! It might not be that far!) The TSFP have a place to watch it all on a big screen and have a party afterwards! This, technically, will be the only night I can drink!

Sunday, we will be on the Champs Elysees, at the Team Sky Fan corner (although I like all the teams! I am not just a Sky fan!) and will be watching them finish.

Currently I have been invited to 3 parties on the Sunday night!

Monday we have to leave Calais fairly early as I expect the M26 and M25 to be a nightmare!

This has been a headache trying to organise this, but I’m so looking forward to it! It WILL be amazing!

Thanks to Andy for offering us a place to pitch our tent, we might see you on the Tourmalet  yet! Thanks to the kind invites to the parties (from various people) and the sheer amount of help I have received from Twitter and Wheelsuckers!

I still have to sort out various bits and bobs – where the hell do I get breathalyser kits from? And Iestyn, my lovely brother, can I borrow a laptop?!?!

Take care and keep smiling 😛

planning a TdF trip!

Hi people! I haven’t kept the blog updated recently as I couldn’t finish the #30daysofbiking last month, and being so knackered when I got home that it seemed like too much effort to write a blog!

In the meanwhile, it has been decided that me and my best friend (@v_girlracer) are going to the Tour de France (easier to refer to as TdF) from the 7th of July to the end.

Now this might interest you, or it might not. And I’ve already been told we are mad for doing it! Well no one ever described me as sane….

So, where to start?
Buy maps, one big fold out road map and a big spiral detailed map of France. Get highlighters. Green for the start and orange for the finish of each stage (from 7th July onwards!). The exact route hasn’t been confirmed yet, and we are still waiting for it to come through.

Ah forgot to say, we are doing this with very little money! We won’t be booking hotels every night, in fact probably just the last 2 nights!

Now we have highlighted stage starts and finishes – @v_girlracer is brilliant at finding them – and now we have to start our route planning. This means avoiding toll roads, as we simply don’t have the money to pay for them! So it looks like our first leg – Calais to Belfort might well take us through Brussels and Luxembourg! And according to the AA route planner, its quicker than the toll roads!

We wanted to take a campervan, so we could take our bikes, but it looks like it’s too expensive, so we will probably be leaving our bikes at home and travelling in my car. This means tents!

We’ve also looked at rules of the road in France, haven never driven abroad, and found out the stuff we have to take. Reflective jackety things (we have plenty – my Tour of Britain one might come in handy *joke*), a warning triangle (my landlady has one) etc etc.

So today, we are going to start to highlight the routes we are going to take, have a look at booking on the Eurostar, and finding a cheap twin room in Paris for the last 2 nights…. easier said than done!

I’ll probably be blogging about this from now until we get back in July! I’m madly excited to go and do this!

So I’m off out on my bike in a bit, after a coffee, then I’ll be waiting for @v_girlracer to appear. We’ll also have the #giro on, so if you follow me on twitter – @elzrocks – then I’ll be tweeting about that as well.

I’ve also been invited to guest blog on Inklings and Inklings (a wordpress blog) so look out for my tweets!

cheers

@elzrocks and @v_girlracer (best mates for 24 years!)

ciao