My Paris Roubaix.

Obviously I’m not doing the sportive like @editorsfoot and @JCoxy1. But I have come over to France to watch the iconic race.

The idea was first floated around in January, but the only person that seemed keen was Ron Southern.
So a plan was formed: he’d bring his van and we would take the bikes through the Euro Tunnel.
I duly found a hotel in Hem. Little did I realise until last week that it’s pretty much on the race route!

Finally the 11th April dawns, after I’ve seen all the statuses/tweets from the others off to do the sportive yesterday, I’m finally ready to go. And it duly heaves down with rain all day until just after we arrive at Hem. Where we see most of the Corley Cycles group ride up to the roundabout next to the hotel.
A quick trip out for food, and I spot Decathlon where I then ‘splash out’ on a pair of black B’Twin legwarmers after seeing the forecast is a bit chilly in the morning, and a black Elite carbon bottle cage (it was cheap!!!).

Back at the hotel we decide on a quick outing on the bikes as it’s dried up and the sun is out. I faff wondering what to wear – finally settling on my Garmin kit – jersey and bibs. I tried the legwarmers on and @tomstaniford will be pleased to know they fit!!

I had a quick mosey at where to go on Google Maps and decided we should be within reach of Section 4. So off we headed toward Forest-sur-Marque on the D952. The off onto the Rue de Tressin towards Tressin, through there and out to Chéreng. A decision to go south to Gruson was rewarded by a crossroad of very smooth topped lumpy cobbles and the ubiquitous Belgian fans in campers. A quick check of the map or two and we we suddenly right in front of Section 3 (labelled Pavé de l’Arbre on the map next to Gruson).
A pair of English guys on their bikes offered to take our photo (supremely cheesy grins!!) as we posed LOL!!
Then we decided to ride it. You know. Just to see how far it went. And to see if we could get to Section 4. The 5* rated pavé that’s described as worse than Arenberg this year.

Bearing in mind this is the very first time I’ve ridden on proper cobbles…

We set off, riding 2 upsides bouncing around a bit before Ron got ahead, telling me to ride on the crown of the road. I duly followed him and this is all I can describe:

Jouncing around with no let up, everything wobbling and vibrating, handlebars like 12 racehorses pulling in every direction at once. The feeling that you MUST NOT let go. You MUST NOT stop. Shades bouncing around so much you cannot actually see, the unrelenting rattling banging of my poor aliminum bike with the chain bouncing up and down like it’s demon possessed. The thought of ‘Maybe I should’ve worn gloves,’ followed by the fact that I *AM* wearing gloves. The manic grin and the giggle as two walkers stop to look. It’s quite frankly amazing and as much as I want it to stop. To long for smooth roads. I know nothing will ever quite beat this. Then 2 little turns and I’m off the cobbles with the stupidest smile ever on my face. Feeling sky high. And ridiculously unfit!

Ron and the two that took our cheesy picture laugh at me and ask if I’m ok. Of course!!

Then we ride it back again. The way the sportive rode it today. The way the race will go tomorrow. And once again, it’s epic beyond imagination

THIS IS WHY I RIDE MY BIKE.

We mutually agree to ride the signposted route back to the hotel, knowing we hit sector 2 somewhere along the line.

Then we do and Ron hares off. I keep my own pace, quickly realising this section is NOTHING like the easy smooth bobbling of Sector 3. This is rough. And potholed. And all I want to do is let go of the bars, or change a gear or get out of the saddle or something. Something to stop the bone racking crashing up and down. So I pull onto the side and ride in the dust. Hating every second of it. So back to the cobbles I go. Trying to steer around the holes and craters that line the way with these so called rocks that some errant joker calls cobbles. There’s nothing to hold them together and wheels attempt escape down every crack and cranny to only find brief purchase on dusty field grit before they spin ever onward in spasmodic jerks as I  attempt to keep my bike in a straight line. There is no ‘crown’ of the road on this section. No slightly raised, marginally smoother part. This is rough. I pull over and take a quick photo, which unwittingly turns out to be rather good. Then I find myself laughing. I’m truly enjoying this. I pedal onwards. Trainers slipping, chain vainly attempting to get itself off and throw me in a muddy ditch. Finally I think I see Ron. Only I’m not sure because I just can’t see straight. I realise he’s got a camera. But I’m smiling anyway. Because this is good. Because this is why I ride my bike…

#keepsmiling

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losing confidence

Yeah it happens, especially when I pretty much bike on my own, eat on my own, live on my own (sorry to my landlady here, who is an absolute legend and a good friend).
I have the internet, Twitter has given me some amazing friends, Facebook bores me rigid (and no doubt I bore my FB ‘friends’ rigid), and sometimes the only escape I have is my blog, oh yeah and a book or two (maybe 10).

I have this Sportif (LadyCat at Newbury Racecourse) on Sunday. I have no idea of anyone who is doing this – in fact some people have turned their noses up (fellow cyclists) – ‘oh well if I was there I would be doing the Magnificat, not the LadyCat.’ Er yeah, thanks for that, I’ve only just got started in the expensive lycra clad world of road cycling. I don’t have ‘kit’ that matches my bike – and to be frank I don’t care. I don’t have cleats – can’t afford them. I’m quite frankly a bit worried – I’m not overly fit, I’m kinda hoping I can get through it!

And it’s not just the cycling, I’m fair worried about doing this TdF thing. I don’t actually know if I can afford to do it, although the hotel in Paris is booked, as are the hotels in Pau.

Maybe it comes down to money, I don’t earn very much at all, and I don’t care who knows that. Working with racehorses pays a shitty weekly wage that barely covers the cost of living. Wonder how I afford my TdF trip? Pool Money. Please don’t tell me to move back to Andover unless you can give me the months rent upfront (mostly in excess of £400).

So for those of you sporting brand new, up to date kit/bikes/cars, lucky aren’t you! Please don’t shove it in my face – I do a more dangerous job than any of you!

A rant is a rant I suppose, but I’m still under confident about this Sportif issue! I doubt it really matters in the long term…

Somewhere I’m smiling 😛
Ciao

Quiet Friday… yeah really!

Good Friday isn’t a day off for me, it’s still work as usual, although for the afternoon we do start an hour later. I even fell asleep in my car at lunchtime – I can’t really go home and go back again as it’s a 30 minute drive! One day, maybe, I’ll bike to work – probably best avoided as the quickest route would be through Overton and Whitchurch – extremely busy ‘rat runs’ at the best of times, or down the A303, and believe me that’s NOT going to happen!

I still got home at the same time as usual, only to get a text from a friend of mine. Did I want to go for a ‘wee’ ride on the bike? Yep, too right! Now I can’t tell you exactly where we went, but it involved the War Memorial park cycle route, Old Basing, across the A30 by the Hatch pub, through Mapledurwell, er somewhere, somewhere, back across the A30, somewhere somewhere, Lychpit, back through Eastrop Park, then we parted ways and I hit the one way system at the top of town. Er, yeah, ok might sound like a load of gobbledgook, but I could cycle it again without a map!! And even though the weather wasn’t warm, there wasn’t much wind, just very cloudy.

We swapped bikes in the War Memorial park, I got on his ‘Soft tail’ mountain bike, and he had a go on my Trek Lexa. It’s a good job we a roughly the same height, although I felt like a kid on a Chopper with a raised seat.

‘How do the gears work?’ We both asked each other, ‘Where’s the bloody brakes?’ He asked me.
I was laughing so much I could barely peddle to catch up. Both of us agreed we prefer our own bikes, and duly swapped back before we left the park.

Now that time of night on any day of the week would usually result in endless cars cutting through on their rat runs home, but it was sooooo quiet. It was unbelievably quiet, needless to say I would be a bit wary of cycling that way on a normal weeknight, especially on my own.

It was great to ride with someone else, even if they do snigger at me puffing up the little hills! And it was great that the roads were so very quiet. However my knees didn’t like me much when I carried the bike up the stairs into the flat, but they seem to be ok now.

So 30 days of biking is turning out to be better than I thought! I did 13.3 miles in 1 hour 7mins, although in all honesty it was a leisurely ride as both of us were chatting away, although I still had a good sweat because I was wearing too many layers!!

Ciao for now 🙂

It’s not windy!

Now a certain event at work just proved that I’m slowly getting fitter. We have a circular gallop, which today we went round four times. When we stop I’m usually blowing pretty hard, but today, nothing. I wasn’t even out of breath! HAHAHA result! I was ridiculously pleased with myself…

It’s been pretty nippy outside all day, so again wearing four layers of clothes (on my top half!) I set off down the hill and along Winchester road. I had aimed to start around my usual block, but then go a bit further, so feeling pretty good, I pushed up to the top of the slight hill past B&Q and turned left. Mistake, BIG mistake. Headwind – quite a blustery headwind. Christ I was not liking this one bit, but I persevered, all the way to the next roundabout, then uphill again, and I almost made it to the next roundabout, but realised I wouldn’t have the strength to nip across there like usual. I got on the pavement, and tiredly made my way under and through to the other side. Feeling a bit better by then, I decided to hit the one way system at the top of town, and drop down Sarum Hill, then up past BCOT and back through the houses. That part went fine, and feeling ok I turned up the hill to home….. straight into the headwind…..

I made it up the hill in lowest gear……

Actually driving home, I hadn’t even noticed the wind, and looking out the window now, it just appears as if there is a slight breeze.

Just goes to show – whatever stage of fitness you are at, wind does NOT help! Thats also why they called off Stage 2 of the ToB (Tour of Britain) last year….

Keep smiling 😉