Is it Spring Yet… April

April fool!

Ade's Road Cycling BlogI was up at 4am on the 1st April to drive down to South Wales – that’s a proper April fool for you!  Clear skies were nice enough but the temperature struggled to get above zero for the majority of the journey.  As I set my turbo trainer up in the car park of the HQ at Rhinos Rugby Club I could still see my breath even though the sun was up and shining.  R25/3H starts in an industrial estate and then joins a dual carriageway with a long downhill section.  The wind was behind us and so I found myself spinning out on 56-11 whilst doing around 45mph.  Even as the road flattened 32 mph was easily achieved without pushing big power numbers.  So the first 10 miles flashed by in a fraction over 19 minutes, the cold meaning my hands were already numb.  By the turn at 15 miles the clock was showing a little over 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, the last 10 miles would be back into the headwind and slightly uphill so this wouldn’t be the day where I PB’d.  The last 10 miles I averaged 25W more than the first 10 and it took nearly 24 minutes – 5 minutes longer!  Overall I was pretty pleased with my performance.  I managed to hold position and I felt pretty strong for most of the ride, although you always die a thousand deaths when you are slogging into a headwind.  25M in 53:23, 26th from 111 riders

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© Huw Fairclough Photography


Rain, rain go away

I was on holiday the next week.  Bank Holiday Monday rained from start to finish so I ended up doing a light turbo session.  On Tuesday the forecast was mostly dry with rain in the afternoon.  I went out early for a spin and the weather forecasting computer had obviously forgotten to put the clocks forward because I got soaked in the last hour of my ride.  On Wednesday I met up with old pal Chris and we rode the Monyash Peak Audax.  Again, the forecast suggested we might get wet at the end but it pretty much chucked it down from start to finish.

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Ominous heavens – soon to open and follow us for 65 miles!

The route is quite nice but it is extremely lumpy, managing to pack around 7,000-8,000ft of climbing into 65 miles or so – meaning it comes with 2.5AAA points.

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Some of the climbs were devilishly steep, covered in gravel and running water, meaning that traction was sometimes a problem, in addition to the fact that they were hard enough anyway!

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It’s been a while since I last rode with Chris so it was great to catch up on all the news and reminisce about all the fantastic rides we’d done before.  The cafe stop was very welcome – drying clothes on a wood-burning stove whilst eating scrambled eggs on toast!

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Drying out at the cafe. Soaked again 10 minutes after leaving!

It’s also been a long time since I last rode an audax – in fact it’s been about 3 years.  I last rode this particular one 6 years ago – read about it here.  Anyway, it was great fun despite being cold and wet – hopefully we’ll do something similar later in the summer when it’s a bit warmer and drier!


Half-arsed aero testing

As if to rub it in, the skies on Thursday were bright blue and cloudless, albeit it was still cold.  The big effort the day before (266TSS) meant I was never going to do much but I’d planned to go and do some rudimentary TT aero testing.  My original plan was to use part of the Seamons club 10 course on Swineyeard Lane but when I got there the lay-bys were full of road aggregate – presumably in preparation for forthcoming roadworks.  I drove over to Chelford and used part of the J2/3 course instead – basically down the A535 to Chelford and back.  It turned out to be about 7.5 miles.  I’d planned 5 or 6 runs but after the first one my legs were hurting and I was unhappy about the amount of traffic – lots of lorries on what is a relatively narrow country road.  So I just did one run with my S-Works TT helmet and one with the Giro Aerohead.  I’m clear that as a testing protocol one run with each on a busy road is pretty flawed but I just wanted conformation of what I was seeing in races.  Namely that however aero the S-Works is (and it is) the line of sight for me means I keep sticking my head up.  So the Giro, with a much larger field of vision and higher eyeline, allows me to keep my head in position much more.  Bestbikesplit (BBS) and Mywindsock (MWS) both seemed to confirm this with an approximate CdA difference of 0.02 on BBS and 0.01 on MWS.  A very rough rule of thumb is

100g drag = 10W = 0.01 CdA = 1 sec per km

So this difference could be worth as much as 10 to 20W or about 15 to 30s on a 10.  Notwithstanding that, the improved visibility the Giro gives me is a revelation so I shall be sticking with it.


When is a 25 not a 25…

The next race was on Saturday and was the first of the Cheshire 25’s around J2/9.  On the morning of the race the organiser emailed to say that the dreaded roadworks (the curse of Cheshire in 2017) had struck again.  The other 25 courses in the area were also affected so the race was shortened to a 10 using the J2/3 course.  I used BBS to model the race and it predicted that if I maintained an average power of 300W then I would record a time of 22:21.  However, this didn’t take into account the fact that I had been out again on the day before – making the most of my days off work – and so was coming into the race with a Training Stress Balance (TSB) of -5, which isn’t really recommended.

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Of course the forecast was for showers but it held off, although the roads remained very wet.  At the start it was nice to meet Robin who reads the blog – it’s pleasing to know that others get something out of it as well as it serving as an aide memoire to me.

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© Ellen Isherwood

It felt really hard and grippy.  My legs were hurting and it was difficult to really know from which way the wind was coming.  Anyway, I toughed it out and apart from a slight holdup at Chelford roundabout it was a pretty straightforward run.  As it was, BBS was out by only 6 seconds – which I think is quite impressive!  10M in 22:27, 7th from 78 riders (2nd vet on standard, £20, 1st team, £10)


A win’s a win!

The VTTA NW 10 is always held on a Tuesday afternoon.  Usually it is J2/1 but this year, thanks to the interminable roadworks, saw it being run on J2/3.

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The weather was damp and cold (again) and the traffic was much worse than usual presumably due to it being a weekday rather than a Saturday.  I was surprised how many lorries and HGVs there were on what are at best minor A-roads.  I suppose I shouldn’t be as I was here testing last week and I’ve ridden this event for the last few years.  Consequently I was slightly held up a couple of times but I imagine most of the field were at some point so it’s swings and roundabouts really.  I thought I’d pushed harder going out (into the headwind) but my average power coming back was a 10W higher – it definitely didn’t feel that way.  That said, the outbound leg included the turn onto the A535, the holdups and the roundabout so maybe that dragged the average down.  Anyway, I ended up within 1W and 1s of my time on Saturday, which at least proves I’m consistent!  It turned out to be good enough to win the event, both on actual time and on standard, so I was absolutely delighted.  That’s only my second open win ever and there is a strong chance it may be my last, so I was chuffed to bits. 10M in 22:26, 1st from 43 riders (1st actual, 1st vet on standard, 1st VTTA team on standard, £40)


Who’d have thought it all those years ago…

…back in 2009 when an overweight and unfit individual got a bike on the Cycle2Work scheme and started cycling the 5 miles to work and back that one day he’d appear on the all-time fastest 100 mile TT list, albeit at number 80.

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I certainly didn’t, but a very nice morale boost all the same now that this has gone up on the timetrialling forum.


The sun has got his hat on

Finally!

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The BDCA 25 was due to run on the A25/11 course but due to roadworks ended up on the A25/11R version, which used part of the course several times.  The additional turns meant it was a bit slower, but for those of us used to J2/9 in Cheshire it was still fast!  It runs on the A50 dual carriageway and I know a lot of people don’t like DCs because the traffic is fast moving. However, compared to being passed by HGVs on narrow country lanes, I much prefer it as there is a lot of room and a lot of visibility.  Anyway, in terms of the race I went about as well as I possibly could at this time of year.  I put a lot of effort in, had decent enough power numbers and sustained them pretty well, despite my legs really hurting quite badly (my legs remained sore for most of the rest of the day too).  More importantly, it was really nice to race in relatively warm and sunny conditions after the weather we’ve been subjected to so far!  25M in 52:34, 12th from 70 riders

The week after was pretty eventful.  On a sour note I was hit by a car on my evening commute home.  It was on a straight bit of road with a cycle lane alongside queuing traffic.  At a joining side road a motorist clearly saw a gap in the traffic but not me, and so accelerated forward as I was almost level.  I was on my brakes anyway as I try to anticipate idiotic driving so I managed to stop quickly, which meant he “only” hit my front wheel, spinning the handlebars so that they hit my quadricep just above the knee.  He was very apologetic.  My bike wheel seemed pretty much okay, and all I had was some scraped skin, a growing bruise and a dead leg.  He then reversed back out of the road and only avoided hitting the car behind him because I shouted at him to stop!

The next night was the first Seamons Club 10 of the year.  Although it was a very pleasant 20C or so, it was windy and it felt very difficult, not least because I was pretty fatigued from training.  I was pleasantly surprised to manage 1st place (by only 1 second!) so that was nice, especially as I didn’t feel great.

On Saturday it was the Runcorn Cycling Club 10 and the 3rd race where the sun was out.  Seriously, you are spoiling us!

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It was still windy though and sections of the exposed Rainford course were a grind but I was happy with my race – power was okay, position felt good and only minor hold-ups at a couple of roundabouts.  When I started this game a few years back I never thought I’d be missing out on the podium (and a prize) because an Olympic gold medalist and former World Champion pursuit rider had beaten me by 27 seconds (Steven Burke MBE) but that’s the beauty of this sport. 10M in 22:36, 4th from 84 riders

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© Sam Carmichael


Normal service resumed…

The rain came back with a vengeance after the Runcorn 10.  I got soaked on my Sunday training ride and again during the week commuting to work.  And it was cold too.  At the moment my training is following the following rough timetable (including very short commute to and from work Monday to Friday)

  • Monday – easy turbo session
  • Tuesday – turbo – hard intervals
  • Wednesday – club 10
  • Thursday – turbo – hard intervals
  • Friday – off
  • Saturday – race
  • Sunday – 3hr-ish outdoor ride including hill efforts

Every 4th week is a recovery week where I substitute easy sessions for the hard intervals.

So my efforts in the club 10 on a Wednesday are usually on the back of a decent amount of fatigue – reflected in my power usually being about 10W down on what it should be – in fact I’ve noticed there is a correlation between how negative my TSB is and how many watts under my “normal” power I end up.

The final club 10 of the month was cold and damp, although we managed to dodge the rain.  I performed pretty much as expected but it’s always useful to try new things – for example I’m trying different clothing combinations to see if there is a difference.  As I mentioned earlier, anyone who does proper aero testing will balk at this because you need several iterations in similar conditions but it’s the best I can manage.  Anyway, I came 3rd overall and got a bit more data.  This may be the last Seamons Club 10 for a while as the course is scheduled for surface dressing over the next few weeks.  Then, a month later, it’s scheduled to be dug up again for gas works.  Only in the Britain!

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On Saturday the clouds were ominously dark and the temperature had dropped by 10˚C over the course of the week, just in time for the East Lancs RC open 10.  The J2/1 course is arguably the fastest course in Cheshire, assuming you don’t get stopped at Chelford roundabout and avoid the myriad of pave-like potholes, but the wind was also quite blustery.  Once I got started, however, it did feel quite quick.  I was aiming to have a negative power split because I was told the wind was harder coming back, so I was concentrating on keeping my pacing correct and my position as tight as possible.  It seemed to work because once I had turned for home I felt I had plenty left so I was able to push very hard on the inbound leg.  By the time I crossed the finish line I had recorded my best 10 power for some time – at least 2 years on a Cheshire course – and a course best for J2/1.  It was good enough for 4th place and I was definitely the fastest 50+ category rider.  The prize for 4th actual was less than the prize for 1st 50+, but under the “one rider, one prize” rule I ended up with the lesser prize, which is somewhat bizarre and if I am completely honest, a tiny bit annoying. 10M in 21:17, 4th from 83 riders (4th actual £10, 1st team, £20)

I managed to get out and about quite a lot more during April so I managed 663 miles outdoors with 37,653ft ascent at around 17.2mph average, which used up around 24,132kcals. This meant less time on the turbo so I spent 20 hours and 7 minutes using a further 14,012kcals. Total for the month was 3,176 TSS

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Audax

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Audax bikes outside the café

I’ve not done an audax for some time but I have noticed that I’m getting a lot of hits to this site looking for specific audaxes.  I’m sure visitors already know this but all my audax rides are tagged, so you can click on the menu to the top right of this screen, scroll down to the tags section which is under my Instagram pics, and then select “audax”.  Alternatively, click on the following link for the same result

https://ade2010lejog.wordpress.com/category/audax/

I hope people find these useful although they aren’t meant to be detailed guides.  One of the main reasons I started writing this blog was because I knew I would forget rides and places I’d visited.  It’s been great fun reading some of the older posts again, and I hope they are in some way useful to others.

London Edinburgh London – MadeGood Films Documentary

Readers of this blog will know that in 2013 I completed Audax UK’s London Edinburgh London ride.  It was a fantastic adventure and you can read about it here

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Summary

As I mentioned in the blog, there was a documentary film crew following several riders, including Steve from Saddleworth Clarion.  The official documentary will go on sale on 1st June 2016 for £7.99.

It’s a great film which really captures the trepidation leading up to it, the excitement of starting the event, and then the slow breakdown that occurs during hundreds of miles of riding with very little sleep.  I’m not on any commission but I’d encourage you to buy it if you are interested in endurance cycling or good documentary film making.  It’s definitely worth a watch if you are planning to ride LEL in 2017. It’s worth a watch if you aren’t. You may even enjoy the small cameo from my good self and Chris – we are available for other cycling related bookings!  Chapeau, MadeGood Films.

Spring into the Dales 2015

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Spring into the Dales was my first ever audax back in 2010, and I’ve ridden it a few times since then.  It’s a scenic route and I’ve been blessed with some lovely spring weather in the past.  Today, however, was not one of those days.  Due to a slight route issue I added a mile on and started at the back of the field.  The first few miles is a big climb out of Hebden Bridge up and over to Oxenhope, which allowed me to reel in the majority of the riders in front.  By the summit I was very hot in my five layers (yes 5!) but by the bottom of the descent I was cold again, and the intermittent drizzle had turned into something more persistent.  At the first control I put a 6th layer on in true Pablo style but by now was getting wetter and wetter, and colder and colder.  At the second control in Gargrave my first pair of waterproof gloves were soaked, so I put my second pair on (I’ve learned my lesson on audaxes many times!).  These were meant to last me until the cafe control at 58 miles but had given up the ghost within the hour, such was the rain.

The wind had been carrying me to this point but as I turned East I was subject to some vicious crosswinds, and then south directly into the face of it.  At Rossi’s in Keighley I was so cold I could barely get my phone and money out to buy the hot coffee and cake I desperately needed.  My third pair of gloves went on and I was back out into it with the final climb back up from Oxenhope over the tops to Hebden Bridge.  Gloves No. 3 proved about as waterproof as a tissue and within a couple of miles my hands were freezing.  The wind was gusting badly now, across and into me as I climbed up the hill.  At times it was downright dangerous and a couple of times I was nearly blown into the verge, despite leaning into it at a precarious angle.  Downhill was probably more scary and I don’t think I’ve come down that hill any slower.  Thankfully the wind receded along with the altitude and I got back to the HQ shivering with unfeeling fingers but happy to finish.  It was cheering to be greeted by Peter marking cards but I didn’t stay long as I wanted to get home and get into dry clothes.  Not my best day on a bike!

Stats : 72.3 miles in 5hrs 5mins and 16s at 14.2mph average.  5,484ft ascent (definitely more – Garmin doesn’t work well in the rain!), 3,251 kcal used.  Average HR 128bpm

Strava ride here

Newport 200k Audax 2015 – Sooo Cold!

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It turns out the weather forecast these days is pretty accurate.  Unfortunately.  It was freezing cold but the skies were clear when around 70 hardy souls set off from Cheadle.  Apparently 42 people did not start, which is unusual for hardy audaxers although perhaps sensible.

In true Pablo-stylee I was wearing 5 layers but it was still freezing, especially my fingers and toes.  In fact the temperature didn’t get above freezing as far as I could see and it was quite a nervy ride because of the ice on the verges and edge of the road.  After the first control at 30 miles or so it started to gently rain.  White rain.  Otherwise known as snow.  Riding due south directly into the teeth of the headwind, the snow was being blown hard into my face, and it stung. And stuck to my beard!  And it was getting worse, starting to stick to the fields and, worryingly, the road.  Luckily (!?) after 5 miles or so it turned to heavy rain.  By now my feet, encased in waterproof Sealskinz overshoes over Northwave Fahrenheit waterproof boots over Sealskinz waterproof socks, were soaking wet with icy water.  My hands, encased in Sealskinz waterproof extreme winter gloves, were also soaking wet with icy water, and I was slowly losing the feeling in them, and any coherent movement.

At the turn I didn’t bother with a cafe stop – I ate a couple of bars and headed north aided by the now stronger tailwind.  A change of gloves ave me another 20 miles of dry hands before the waterproofing failed and it was back to icy fingers.  By now the snow on the way down had properly stuck.  The fields were pure white, vision was difficult through a storm of snow, and the road was reduced to slushy tyre-tracks.  Worrying stuff.  But again, after a few miles it disappeared and it was just back to the rain.

I stopped at a service station shop in Middlewich and was that cold I couldn’t really move my fingers sufficiently enough to unzip my phone holder and get my money out.  Luckily, all the drivers queuing to pay for petrol were really cycle-friendly and understanding…

My fingers seem to have recovered several hours later, and I did notice that I still have the requisite number of toes, so that’s good.

Ride stats : 124 miles in 7hrs 23m at 16.8mph average.  2,612ft ascent, average HR 132bpm and 4,982kcals energy used

Strava ride here

Mere 200 2015

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After a few weeks of icy/snowy/miserable weather I was going a bit stir crazy inside on the turbo.  Whilst it’s a great tool for structured and focused training, it’s no substitute for being out and about on the bike.  With a break in the bad weather forecast, the Mere 200 looked like it would be a good opportunity to get some road miles in – my total so far in 2015 being the lowest since I started recording.  I was feeling a little trepidation as the last decent distance I’d done was at the start of November, with most everything else being about power and intensity I wasn’t sure if my legs would stand 128 miles.

I heard there was a record field, with entries closed at 120.  That’s probably due to both the popularity of cycling and audaxing at the moment, but perhaps also that this is a PBP year.  It was cold as we set off at 8am, but not unduly so, and the initial pace of the pack meant I warmed up quite nicely.  In fact the group went off really quickly, considering the first 60+ miles were into the wind.  For a while I sat in, taking it easy because the temperature was hovering around freezing and Cheshire roads are notorious for black ice.  Riding up the side of Tatton Park I was glad of the pack as it made a long and exposed road a bit easier.  A couple of times at the top of hills I found myself at or near the front, but soon got overtaken as I picked my way carefully along the lanes.  However I did manoeuvre myself to the front at Acton bridge so that as we approached Delamere forest I could get in and out of the control quickly.  I was glad I did as the queue quickly formed behind.

The section from Delamere to Malpas was essentially me and a small group riding hard into the headwind.  People were dropping off as the road went upwards and by the time we went through Malpas I was on my own with a couple of riders (Alan and Charlotte) who were both very strong.  The route takes a turn onto the A525 at a point 8 miles from Ellesmere.  It’s always a windy section and so we took turns to pull on the front to the eventual control.  This section has, in previous years, almost reduced Chris and I to tears with the strength of the wind but it didn’t feel that bad.  After a fuel stop at the garage (pun intended) we set off back towards the Raven café, where I had beans on toast and a large mug of tea.  Thankfully there were no signs of flooded lanes like in previous years so no wading was required!

Life was much easier on the way back with a bit of a tailwind, and progress was duly brisk.  A couple of information controls were all that stood in the way and it wasn’t long before we were close to home.  The temperature had increased from freezing in the morning to nearly 10 degrees, and for the most part the skies were clear.  It did start to cloud over and close in, and we finished with the slightest of drizzle but before it was fully dark at just after 4pm. A lovely day all in all.

It was great to get out and about after being stuck inside and I was pleased that whilst my average HR was below zone 1, I managed an average speed pushing 18mph.  I felt strong all day, especially into the wind.  This is a new feeling and I like it!

Ride stats : 128 miles in 7hrs 9m at 17.9mph average.  4,964ft ascent, 4,507kcals energy used.  Average HR 127bpm.

Strava ride here

Cheshire Safari Audax

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Last year I was due to ride the 200km version but a business trip to India put paid to that.  Apparently the roads were icy and so given my training plan I decided I’d do the later-starting and shorter 160km Safari this year, albeit rounding it up to 200km by riding there and back.  It was a chilly start as I rode through Manchester to the start at Cheadle, but the sky was clear and it looked like being a fine day.  Met Graeme at the start, plus Chris and then Pablo, Nikki and Michelle arrived late.  Plenty of other North Cheshire riders were milling around plus some familiar faces from the audax community.

I’d decided beforehand I’d ride at a pace that got me to the first cafe first to avoid the queues, and then back before I needed lights.  After riding with Chris at the front for a while the plan went slightly wrong when I got overtaken by everyone in Tatton Park after the bracket holding my mudguard on sheared off and the guard jammed between the stay and the wheel.  After trying to fix it for a few minutes it went in the bin.  Another stop to make sure nothing else was rubbing and I needed to ride hard to pick the group back up.  As I spotted the group in the distance I saw Pablo pull over to mess with his saddle.  I think it needed adjusting up to be level with the 38 spacers at the front. I left him to it and made my way past the group and then rode off the front through Frodsham and eventually picking up the leading few near the Eureka cafe, and I rode there with Ste from the club.

Fortified with beans on toast we set off back, the route taking us past Chester zoo.  I saw a camel.  The weather had turned out really nice – clear, crisp and not-too-cold.  After another brief stop for cake we arrived back at the HQ at around 3-20pm, which meant I made it home for about 4-15pm – job done.

Ride stats : 124 miles in 6hrs 59mins at 17.7mph average.  3,868ft ascent, 4,964kcals energy used.  Average HR 135bpm.

Strava ride here

Season of Mist 2014

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Season of Mist has 2.5 audax altitude award points so you know exactly what’s in store for you.  Today was a clear, cold and crisp morning – the type of autumn morning that is made for bike riding.

After the formalities of signing on and drinking coffee you are literally thrown into the first big climb of the day from the off.  Over a mile of climbing at 10% average, including a pavé section, up through Heptonstall to get the legs and lungs working.  I’d learned my lesson from previous rides so was near the front when we set off and when we hit the hill I made my way to the lead group.  This is where I first found my climbing legs have been damaged somewhat by a season of flat time trials.  Despite riding a PB time up the hill the lead group dropped me and rode away.

Apart from having to skirt the land that time forgot (Burnley) on the way out and way back, the route was pretty much all fantastic scenery and rural all the way.

Other notable climbs included Nick o’ Pendle and Waddington Fell.  I thought I’d give both a decent go but was some way off my best times, further driving home to me that I’m not the mountain goat I used to be.

I saw a few people from the audax scene that I’d not seen for a while, which was nice, but best of all was the weather.  I love riding on crisp, bright autumn days and it had warmed up enough to be comfortable.  At the end, I was more crawl than climb up the final hill to Widdup, and my legs were starting to cramp and ache.  You cannot help but love cycling on days like this – I had a brilliant day!

Ride stats : 62.5 miles in 4hrs 15mins at 14.7mph average.  7,622ft of ascent, 3,192kcals used, average HR 141bpm

Strava ride here 

Dales Delight 2014

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The Dales Delight audax is a fantastic rollercoaster ride through Lancashire, the Yorkshire Dales, a bit of Cumbria and back again.  It’s the 3rd time I’ve done this and it never fails to disappoint as you are transported through some of the most stunning scenery in the country.  Even wet and cold weather didn’t put a dampener on things.

It has some absolutely leg-shattering climbs too.  If you discount the “rolling” start (audax code for hilly) then the first real climb comes after a descent under a Settle-Carlisle viaduct, down a valley and back up the Coal Road – starts off steep and keeps going!

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Viaduct

Then there’s the climb over Swaledale after the first control – something I’d forgotten about and which is another long and challenging climb, starting steep and then flattening but still going up.  The descent into Thwaite to the second control is not the best of the day but still exhilarating enough.

From the control it’s straight up Buttertubs North side – which I’m told is opposite to the Tour de France route.

The descent is fast and furious – and check out the cyclist coming up the other side at 04:17 – I don’t know who was more surprised, him or me!

Past the farmers fields advertising parking space for when the Tour comes and into Hawes, the route is then out and up Fleet Moss.  This is a challenging climb because the wind whistles down and you can see it in the distance, mentally challenging you and sapping the will from your legs

The descent from Fleet Moss takes you onto one of my favourite roads in the country, running alongside the Ribble I think.

After Litton, there is one more big climb – in the rain and wind – note the old style 1 in 6 sign at the start!

Followed by a difficult and dodgy descent!

Ride Stats : 126 miles in 8hrs 10mins at 15.4mph average.  Total ascent 10,067ft, energy used 5,240kcals.  Average HR 130bpm

Strava ride here

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