Monday, 22 November 2010

Boudica's last battle...

6.30am - Its cold and dark, I'm scrabbling about trying to find my thermal socks and an extra layer of insulation. Soon I'm outside wondering if it might rain later? I put lights onto the winter bike and set off - 7.15 sharp - its still dark but not for long now. I get to Measham and realise I've forgotten my bidon, no chance of going back so I call in to a petrol station and buy a bottle of lucozade sport!

I'm on time arriving a Gary's and we are quickly on our way to Burton-on-Trent to meet up with Mercia Cycling Club. Today's ride is tantalisingly entitled 'Boudica's Last Battle' No one seems entirely sure where that means we will be heading?

Eleven of us set off and soon we are climbing up towards Rosliston - we lose our first rider here, Alan has a problem with his freewheel hub and has to abandon for the day. We press on and as we pass through Botany Bay, Neil punctures. He urges us to continue and assures us he will meet us at the first cafe stop. We ride on at a comfortable pace through Lullington and Clifton and then up through the Thorpe Estate winding our way towards Atherstone. We stop for breakfast at the Co-op and tuck into bacon, egg, fried bread, beans and sausage!!! - very welcome on this cold morning. A couple of cups of coffee provides a caffeine boost and with Neil back with us, plus the addition of Norman (he finally made it!) we set off again.

The ride leader today is Ian who has a strong interest in history - He leads us, via a network of backroads, to Mancetter and then gives us a short talk on the possible site of Boudica's last battle against the Roman leader Seutonious - Of course no one can be absolutely sure about this - and there are two or three other sites that also have some claim to the title. Incidentally 'Boudica' is the correct spelling and pronunciation, not 'Boedecia' - which apparently is the latinised version. Anyway the whole thing was most interesting.

We set off back towards home heading through Stoke Golding and Daddlington towards Sutton Cheney - We now stopped at another historic battle site - this time on the outskirts of Market Bosworth - The Battle of Bosworth field took place in 1485 and marked the end of the wars of the roses - King Richard III was killed in the battle. We enjoyed a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee here in the impressive Tithe Barn Restaurant.

After this it was time to head for home, it was getting colder now, I left the main group and looped around Congerstone and Carlton adding a little to the journey to increase my mileage - Total covered today - 68 miles

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Sunday Morning...

What a fantastic evening, Paul and Kate !

The next day was Remembrance Day, Paul and I had an important job to do......

We had to ring the bells for The Netherseal St. Peter's Remembrance Service. So along with the rest of the band, Mary, Teresa, Barry, Ruth, Sarah, Cheryl and David, we rang the traditional Whole Pull and Stand with half muffled bells. This was a challenge to our bell handling skills, but everybody managed to complete the ring successfully. Whole Pull and Stand is rung at funerals and creates a very sombre atmosphere which helps set the mood for quiet contemplation.
Later at 11 o'clock the congregation along with others, assembled at the War Memorial for the two minute silence and the reading of the names of those who fell in battle in the two World Wars. A few minutes that are very poignant and so relevant to today.

At one point a large group of cyclists passed by and through the village. A couple of minutes later they returned and joined in with the service.

No training today..........I'll restart again tomorrow.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Dinner party...

All ideas of training and a healthy lifestyle went out of the window on Saturday evening! Kate and I hosted a dinner party with Gary & Val and John & Jane as our guests for the evening. We cooked a nice meal of baked Camembert with a fig and walnut dressing followed by Fillet Steak with a mushroom gratin, Rosemary and garlic potatoes and french beans plus a trio of deserts including Chocolate mousse, Small Lemon meringue tarts and Raspberry, blackcurrant and cream pastries with a raspberry sauce

Then there was the cheese!!! - not good for us athletes - Roquefort, Swaledale Old Peculiar, Eppoise, Gorgonzola, Lincolnshire Poacher and Manchego

Worst of all the wine!!!! - Arrrgh - we managed to get through 11 bottles including a nice dessert wine - oh and there was a few beers and G&T's as well!

Here's a clip of our audition piece for the next series of the X-Factor!

Thankfully we managed a shortish ride earlier in the day - 26 miles - so at least the guilt can be tempered a little.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Friday afternoon..

After a busy week it was kind of a relief to find myself with Friday clear: No crazy deadlines, no meetings, no pressure at all really - so, after posting a few things onto Ebay it seemed logical to make the most of the reasonable conditions and get out there! - I managed 30 miles, all the way battling against the wind - which was ferocious - you don't really notice it in a car, but it really makes a massive difference on a bike, easy routes become hard, the hills seem steeper, your legs hurt more quickly and generally you tire faster.... Oh well it's Friday, the pub beckons!!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Thanks Greg and Emma !!

I have just got a pledge from a work mate friend of mine, Greg and his wife Emma. Greg and I along with a small team from our works had the pleasure ten years ago to have a go at The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. A 26 mile walk around the Yorkshire Dales, climbing Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. In 12 hours !!!!

We all managed the challenge and raised a bit for the British Heart Foundation. The celebrations at the end of the walk were memorable. I should mention another key member of the team that day, Basil, Greg's dog. He was the only one ready to do another 26 miles when we had all finished.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Bells and Bikes....

The autumn malaise is an insidious disease that infects many cyclists, whether you are a racer or a weekend warrior, it sucks the hard-earned fitness from your legs, heart and lungs, it leaves you feeling sluggish and soft... slow and dreary.
I have had this feeling all week - burdened with the day to day distraction of work deadlines plus the inclement weather I hadn't been out for a week.

Saturday was bright but with a faint chill in the air - it would have been a good morning for a ride, however Gary and I had other commitments - we were scheduled for bellringing at Netherseal Church - ringing a quarter peal of Bob Doubles, 6 bell band with me on the treble, bell 1, and Gary ringing the tenor bell 6 - 45 minutes or so non-stop - it needed total focus and concentration - thankfully we had the expert guidance of John Heaton from Derby Cathedral to guide us and point us in the right direction should our attentiveness waver. It did and he did, so that we were able to complete the tricky task - I was amazed how quickly the time passed - it felt like only ten minutes to me - that's only my second quarter, but my first on the leading bell. A good start to the weekend then.

At 8.00am on Sunday morning I peered out and was greeted by a glorious morning. Bright sun, clear sky and calmness - no excuses today. On with the gear.

I venture out and quickly realise it's colder than it looked from inside, back inside then for thicker gloves, an extra T-shirt and a buff to go round my neck. Then I'm off - heading for The Odd House at Newton Burgoland to meet with Gary. I move at a reasonable pace, it feels good, but no climbs yet! The morning cold stabs at my eyes and claws at my ears - extremeties are feeling it - hands and feet are uncomfortable - I think it will get better once I expose them to some sun - after all it's not freezing!

I meet with Gaz and we pedal to Shackerstone, nice comfortable pace, the sun is doing its job now and I've warmed up a bit. We continue through Congerstone and up toward Market Bosworth, following the Sustran Cycle Path past the Yachting Lake to Far Coton and then through some lovely scenic lanes and villages to Daddlington. We loop back over a couple of canal bridges and head for Sutton Cheney, then on to Cadeby - by now its quite warm while we're pedalling, we try a couple of faster bursts to get the heart rate up and soon we are back in Market Bosworth. We head through town and back to Congerstone turning left and heading to Bilstone and Twycross. We pause to take a photo (herewith) as we start off again we are overtaken by a couple of serious looking racers, the first one is moving fast, up on the pedals, he's flying up the long drag that faces us. The second is riding a specialist Time Trial bike, carbon framed, very aerodynamic and he's got aero handle bars as well - he looks the part but he isn't moving as easily as the first guy - in fact we catch him as he struggles to push himself up the hill - turns out he is a triathlete, he's already swum a mile and run 10K this morning - now he's on a 30K bike ride and then he'll be done for the day!

We leave him and his mate at the top of the hill, we head back to Snarestone, this is a fast road, a good surface and not too busy on this fine Sunday morning - we blast it - hard as possible for a mile or two, soon the legs are burning with the build up of lactic acid, it's hurting now and weakness overcomes the previous feeling of strength! - We take it easy for the last half mile to Snarestone, and up the next hill back towards the Odd House.

It was blissful riding in the main - we thought that if this was one of the stages on LeJog we would have covered 50 miles by midday - easy on for the 100 in the day. It suddenly felt good.

Total mileage 48

Friday, 5 November 2010

Latest Sponsor....

A big thank you to Martin Clempson of Aurora Graphics   for his brilliant offer of some sponsorship for our quest. Martin's company produce high quality large format printing, banners, signs etc etc. I've worked with him for years on loads of different projects, big and small and it's always been a pleasure. Thanks Martin.

Monday, 1 November 2010

A ride to Freedom....

I woke up on Saturday morning with a hangover - Damn! - I knew I should have been more careful on Friday night - it was the Pokey Hole ( and this month saw the visit of Wishbone Ash. Some of you will remember them - early 70's Prog Rock - Afghan Coats, flared loons, beads, patchouli oil - oh yes - I was there! - And I admit, it brought back memories - so much so that when we got home it was out with the old albums (Argos, Pilgrimage) along with a bottle of Southern Comfort. I don't need to go into any further detail do I? - In fact I can't, it all got.... kinda hazy man??
So, Saturday started badly for me. But having commited to todays ride with Mercia Cycling Club I had no option but grin and bear! We set off from Netherseal at about 10.20am riding at a fast pace into Burton on Trent. We met up with some of the club guys at the Abbey Arcade and set off heading towards Branston. The weather was idyllic - more like a warm spring morning than early autumn. The sun was strong, no headwind to worry about and the roads were dry and clean. We were traveling along at about 12.5mph - Gary and I both commented that we felt we could ride all day at this easy pace.
Soon we were out into open countryside and it was superb. The sun was low in the sky but emitting such heat that I was worried I had overdressed and that I would suffer from being too warm. We passed a cottage where the owners had been pruning and tidying their garden - there was a garden bonfire and the sight and smells were perfectly evocative of the time of year.
We gathered up some other riders along the way and passed through Hoar Cross on our way to Abbots Bromley. This is a village that has long been a favourite of mine - it hosts the annual 'Horn Dance' an ancient fertility ceremony that lasts all day long in early September and consists of a group of men dancing around the village with Stag antlers on their heads. No sign of them today though, we were headed for The Freedom Brewery, for a guided tour and to sample some of their wares.
The co-owner Ed greeted us and made us welcome and we quickly quaffed a half pint of their excellent Pilsner - then it was on to the brewery proper where Ed explained the various processes. After that we enjoyed a pleasant buffet lunch with further beer sampling!

We set off back for home at about 3.00pm - the air feeling chilly now and the first 5 miles proved to be a struggle - in fact the whole journey back was considerably harder than the outward stage - delayed reaction to the effects of the night before perhaps??? - We pedalled back through Barton under Needwood, up the considerable climb from Walton on Trent and then onwards to Coton in the Elms, Grangewood and finally Netherseal - A total ride of 50 miles - As I pointed out to Gary, that's half what we will need to be doing every day for 10 days when we tackle LeJog - He didn't really have a suitable answer!