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  • 8 Aug 2017 16:18 | Deleted user

    By Sally McCleverty

    After a trip last year to see the Tour de France and cycle a few famous Cols, my husband and I are hooked on climbing the most famous climbs of the Tour. So this year the main aim was to climb L’Alpe d’Heuz. So here is a short resume of our trip.

     Bourg- d’Oisan

    This is the perfect place to explore this region of the Alpes. We pitched our Caravan on a campsite 30m from the base of L’Alpe d’Heuz! But we managed other climbs as well.

     

    Croiz de la Croix de Fer.

    27.km long, average gradient of 11%, climbed on a day of over 30degree temperatures.

    On the Way Up.....      

     Views from the top.......

    We really did make it!!

    On the way down.

     

    Alpe d’Huez

    13.2km long, average gradient 11%.  An amazing climb with 21 bends all with a plaque commemorating previous winners of the stage.

     

    We then continued over the top and towards Col de Glandon. We made our decent, v,v,v,v slowly in my case as it was very steep.

    Les Deux Alpes

    10km, 11% gradient, climbed on a Saturday where 100’s of mountain bikers were using the ski lifts to cycle down.

    We also climbed Col d’Ornan, 11.1km with a 9% average gradient.


    We then moved onto Chatel. This is a beautiful Alpine ski resort close to the Swiss border where I had my only opportunity to swim!!

    We did one small but very steep climb in freezing rain.

    Col de Bassacheux is not a Tour climb, but we had to do it for the views, but there weren’t any that day!!

    I did Col du Corbier on my own as my husband was ill. 6km  long with 11% gradient and amazingly Geoff Turner did it on the same day!!!

    On the way down the other side.

     

    I hope you like the pictures.

    We're hoping to go to the Pyrenees next summer......


  • 19 Jul 2017 10:31 | Deleted user
    By Sue Pople

    You know how it is…….one thing leads to another.

    Well a week ago a small group of us swam 4 km in Weirwood to raise money for the Hospice in the Weald, an event organised by Alex. Walking back to the car park, one friend suggested that we add a cycle ride onto an early morning swim. Obviously a good idea and another person said “ why don’t we add a park run “ so before we knew it, a plan was hatched to have our own Triathlon.!!

    So last Saturday morning, a small but crazy group of “Triathletes” met at Weirwood at 6.45am. This was Alex, Heather, Alan, Sue, Annie and Claire. We swam 1300m in the beautifully warm waters of Weirwood and headed back to the club house for transition. I am sure in Robs latest transition training session, there must have been a mention of showering because Heather decided that was an essential  part of the triathlon! Meanwhile Annie and Claire opted to drive to Haywards Heath to the Claire Hall park run.

    With Heather smelling fresh as a daisy, the remaining group of 4 started the ride to Haywards Heath. Alans navigational skills didn’t let us down and apart from going through a road closed section where we felt sure no one would be working, but there were men laying fresh tar, there were no problems. I will confess at this point that I have decided that my E bike is the  new love of my life, although Alex did say I have an evil snigger as I approach the hills and overtake him!

    Waiting at the start of the run, it was brought to our attention that Alex had been “uncomfortable” on the bike ride. No details required! It was then pointed out that he had his Tri suit on back to front therefore offering saddle comfort in all the wrong places. Fortunately there were nearby amenities for him to sort out his clothing !

    The park run was well organised and included a climb which was called a hill in Sussex. Nothing compared to the hills we have in Crowborough !  Unfortunately Claire had a to pull out of the run due to painful hips.

    We felt obliged to follow up the run with coffee and cake in the local high street, giving us all time to stiffen up before the ride back to Weirwood.  We just made it back before a small shower of rain, just to freshen Heather up again.

    It was a great morning but a lesson learnt……. Choose your friends carefully!

    P.S  Rob, please don’t despair!!

  • 8 Jul 2017 07:00 | Deleted user
    By Alex Cole - Shop Development Manager - Hospice in the Weald


    With the original date postponed until later in the year, Kate Walker and I had trained too hard to step back from this challenge and it was fortunate enough that we were able to recruit a support team courtesy of Freedom Tri Club, Crowborough of which I have been a member for a couple of years now.

     

    We met early on a clear morning and reassured ourselves that it is only 4 laps, it was just the fact that each lap was 500m that was niggling at the back of our minds, but all of us too full of the team spirit to share those thoughts – positivity and support two key factors of effective teamwork and we had it in abundance.  After a few minutes of stretching both our bodies and our funny looking neoprene costumes we braved the few steps beyond  the waters edge only to discover that the sign optimistically boasting 23 degrees was not mistaken, the water was beautifully warm and suddenly its’ calmness surrounded our bodies and we set off.

     

    The water busied as the distance passed, it seems these early birds may have caught the worm but the regular and strong swimmers soon caught us! We remained calm and focussed on the mission in hand all the same - I remember counting down the laps and before I knew it I was a quarter of the way, then half way, then over half way and soon enough there was only one more lap to go  and that niggle of 500m laps had disappeared -  the end was in sight.

     

    A feeble attempt to swim faster on the home straight hardly made any difference but assured me I had used all the energy I had in my body and as my feet found the floor for the first time in 47 mins, I was greeted by Alan, the wearer of red hat that I had seen pass me early on but kept in close range knowing we were similar levels in the training pool.  A few minutes passed and Annie, our GBR age grouper popped up from the approaching pack of swim caps, then Kate, then Sue and Graham (not pictured as still swimming due to a halfway pit stop).

     

    The Stevens family (Heather, Bex and Aunty Stevens) had decided to get out of bed and join us for a photo opportunity, they then proceeded to swim the distance once we had left the water, or so they tell us! 

    I should mention that not long after we finished, our team coach Rob popped by, for many of us the first time we had seen him actually in the water, he confirmed why he is the coach,  he had swam a lap further than us despite starting later, maybe a benefit of an extra half an hour in bed, maybe the fact that he is a better swimmer!

     

    A great morning was had by all and some huge accomplishments realised, the farthest most of us had swum, not to mention raising some essential funds that go toward caring for patients and families at Hospice in the Weald.

     

    Thank you to everyone that supported and please let us know if you fancy an early morning open water adventure, we will certainly be going back for more!

  • 6 Jul 2017 13:30 | Deleted user

    By Rob Atkinson

    Due to a last minute cancellation I was lucky enough to be invited to join Guy, Alan & Dave on their Annual trip to France.  Given that Sienna was out of the country there was no requirement for any leave pass application & I naturally jumped at the chance.  It also offered the opportunity to get some decent miles in my legs prior to my next adventure (more to follow…..).

    We were headed to Thiepval, the site of the Memorial to the missing of the Somme, near the town of Albert.  A ride of approximately 140km each way.

    Dave & I met at the White Hart in Crowborough at 19:00 and headed off towards Halland to meet Guy.  Arriving a full 20mins early we were just discussing the merits of sneaking in a cheeky pint when rather disappointingly we spotted Guy (also early) on the other side of the roundabout.  The wind was strong & gusty on our way down to Newhaven, which was to set a precedent for the weekend.

    On arrival at Newhaven we met up with Alan and, having been told the ferry would be boarding in the next 10mins, eagerly joined the queue of cars & bikes.  10mins turned into 90mins as we stood in the car park, the wrong side of passport control, the terminal building in clear line of sight whilst Guy steadily turned into a Popsicle.

    We finally boarded at 11:00, found our cabin and promptly nipped to the bar for a beer before turning in….. 3.5hrs later the lights came on and the Tannoy announced our arrival in Dieppe so we wearily pulled ourselves of bed in an effort to get to the canteen before the breakfast queues got too big.

    It’s worth noting at this point that timing on the ferry is critical.  Get on early and you can beat the queues for the cabins, but on arrival your bike is buried under 100s of others & patience is required as everyone on top of you reclaims their steed (unless of course you are the shameless American who foolishly attempted to pull his bike out from the bottom of the pile, almost initiating a world record domino rally until he was set straight by your friendly Tri Club Coach).

    It was still dark when we set off but as the sun rose we found ourselves riding on quiet roads through rolling countryside, with the wind at our backs.  The weather was cloudy, but warm – perfect conditions for a long ride.  As such we made good progress despite Garmin Express routing us down some rather suspect cart tracks which proved somewhat challenging on road bikes, surprisingly there were no mechanicals and the consensus of the group was that diversions were preferable to any further off roading.

    We arrived at the memorial at about 13:00.  It was a peaceful spot on a prominent hill in the centre of what had been the British Sector of the Somme during WW1.  The sheer number of names on the memorial was humbling to say the least, to think of the lives lost in conflict over such a short period of time.  As an ex-serviceman myself I found it to be a poignant experience & an opportunity to remember friends & colleagues.

    Our hotel was in the nearby town of Albert, which was another 6km from the memorial.  After a late lunch we checked in and immediately showered before going to bed to catch up on the sleep missed the night before, with the exception of Dave who instead opted to sit in the bar and fuel himself with coffee whilst chatting to a Harley Davidson owner from Fairwarp (small world).

    Dinner was typically French, al fresco in the town square with live entertainment from a local group of Bagpipers!?!?! Wine was excellent, as you would expect in France.

    The following morning was damp and blustery, the windspeed had increased & the forecast was for gusts in the region of 45km/h, only this time we would be cycling straight into it! Gone were the smiling faces & casual two abreast cycling of the day before as we formed an echelon, taking turns at the front to push through the wind.  The effect was so huge I found myself freewheeling behind Guy occasionally touching the brakes to stay behind him whilst his legs were spinning constantly to maintain momentum.

    About 10km all was well until… ‘twang, clank, clank, clank’ something was definitely wrong with my bike & I braked sharply, the others narrowly avoiding piling into the back of me.  On inspection, I had broken a spoke in my rear wheel, probably as a result of our off road antics the day before, which was now resembling a banana – our hearts sank, we still had 130km to go!?!  Luckily by releasing the rear brake cable I could ride on it albeit slightly more cautiously than previously.  This lasted until 30km to go when my tyre punctured due to a slight rubbing on the frame wearing it through to the inner tube.  As any avid GCN watcher will know this can easily be fixed temporarily using a 20Euro note to line the tyre and I was able to limp home the final few miles to Dieppe in time to eat before the ferry (I have subsequently discovered the existence of a ‘tyre boot’ which is far more economical than 20euros).

    The crossing home was spent swapping cycling ‘war’ stories in the bar, whilst Alan kept a watchful eye on his mobile phone for any news of the now imminent 4th Grandchild.  Thanks must go to Graham for collecting us from Newhaven at short notice as Sue was otherwise indisposed at the hospital.

    Congrats to Alan & Sue on the arrival of Harry.

    Thanks to guy for organising the trip, I would definitely recommend next year’s soiree to anyone considering it.

  • 6 Jul 2017 10:54 | Deleted user

    By Bex & Heather Stevens

    In June 2017, the Stevens Sisters (with their brother and co) jumped on a plane or two and headed for the Arctic city of Tromsø, Norway to embark on our first ever sporting event abroad. We were initially inspired after hearing friends of friends had entered, and the fact that this was the world’s northernmost certified marathon!

     

    We flew from Heathrow with a short stopover in Oslo before arriving in Tromsø approximately five hours later. We had a lovely Airbnb booked in a village called Ersfjordbotn, which was approximately a 20 minute drive from the town centre. To be able to open our front door and see a backdrop of mountains, fjords and waterfalls was something very special. It was so scenic it could have been a Microsoft desktop background!

    We arrived the day before the run and after missing the official ‘Pasta Party’ we decided to have one of our own. Carb loading is always a highlight of pre-race preparation!!


    After a good sleep in broad daylight (which takes a little getting used to) we decided to hire a car after learning that buses from Ersfjordbotn were somewhat on the infrequent side. We drove into Tromsø to pick up our race packs and soaked up the atmosphere by supporting some of the children races in the afternoon. After some exploring, we decided to rest our legs in a nearby pub. The good news was that we didn’t drink alcohol. The bad news was we accidentally ordered this alternative pre-race nutrition…

    The marathon commenced at 8.30 pm and the half-marathon at 10.30 pm. It was a fairly small scale event with a couple of thousand participants. The conditions were perfect for running: it was not too cold, there was no wind and the sun even made an appearance. There was also a light misting of rain which meant we were fortunate enough to see a rainbow. It was impossible not to take a photo or two.


    The half marathon course followed the same route as the last 21km of the marathon. It went through the town centre and thankfully the snow-capped mountains remained at a safe distance! The course was described as ‘relatively flat’ and certainly compared to Crowborough it was! However it was tough and undulating in places which meant we both suffered from stiches at various points. We found that taking some deep breaths and doing side stretches seemed to resolve this.

     

    While there were not a huge number of spectators, the ones that were there were very supportive. We saw many waving international flags from balconies reflecting how far and wide people had travelled to take part. The crowds were shouting something sounding like ‘HEY-YA!’ as we passed which was extremely encouraging, despite not knowing what it meant.

     

    Overall, the race was very well organised, there were plenty of water stations (although it was important to master the art of drinking from plastic cups on the move – there is a secret technique!) and it was a fantastic novelty to be running in the glorious midnight sunlight.

     

    We were both happy to finish in 1.55 and our splits showed that our pacing was consistent throughout. Although no PBs were set, this was definitely an ‘experience’ race. It was too picturesque not to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the views. Would we recommend it? It’s not every day you get to run at midnight and watch the sun set over a mountainous backdrop; it’s without a doubt worth the trip.




  • 23 Jun 2017 09:56 | Deleted user
    By Graham Anderson

    So, what is Nightrider.....?

    It's an annual overnight charity cycling event which takes place in 3 UK cities, London, Bristol & Liverpool.
    After several years I'd finally persuaded someone to do Nightrider with me, so here I was on a humid Saturday evening at the Olympic Park with my sister-in-law, Mandy & her friend, Sue ready to set off with around 3000 other mad people to cycle around the streets of London. We'd done our training, bikes were prep'd and we'd selected what to wear, taking Alan's advice to take our wet weather jackets as there was a chance of rain in the early hours of Sunday morning - thanks Alan for the use of your rack by the way!

    We'd opted for 100km distance so we're following the yellow route (not pink which was the 50km route), and were told "it's not a race" at the briefing 2 mins before 11pmwhich was our start time. Yeah, like that phrase exists in the mind of a triathlete !!
    We quickly set off on the count of 3,2,1 go….. knowing the next group were only a couple of minutes behind, in an array of white and red flashing lights, proudly wearing our green hi-vis Nightrider vest tops. The first 4km was around the Velo Park, long sweeping corners, sprints, hairpins, bridges and no traffic, a perfect start to get us going before hitting the roads. And then we were off to Hackney, following the yellow & pink routes signs at this stage ....but where are those signs? a quick retrace & we found a lamp post where the signs had been spun around, we should have taken a left turn. So after rearranging the sign we were back of course and off to Highbury, then Holloway where the routes split so it was yellow signs from now and on and we were off towards Hampstead Heath, our first hill and first of the organised stops. We'd completed the first section, 16km and 535 ft of climbing.

    Off we set again after a quick tour of the facilities, toilets, snacks, with water bottles filled up, all very organised, there was even a first-aid tent & bike mechanics too. Next stop was the Imperial War Museum in Southwark. The route took us through Camden, followed by a short stretch along the canal (on the road) by Little Venice & then we weaved our way down to Kensington & Chelsea, passing the Royal Albert Hall, Victoria & Albert museum, around Sloane Square over Lambeth Bridge & finally reaching stop no2. We'd completed 25km and 444 ft of climbing in this section. 

    Another quick stop & we were off again looping back across Westminster bridge, past Big Ben up to Buckingham Place, cycling along the Mall under the union jacks at at 3am on a Sunday morning was quite surreal. At Trafalgar square we looped back along Pall Mall across to the Ritz and then off to Piccadilly Circus along Shaftesbury Avenue, Covent Garden, Smithfields, Cannon Street and over Blackfriars bridge and to Southwark for stop 3 where we exchanged our first voucher for a hot drink and cake!

    Feeling suitably refreshed, with another 19km & 488 ft of climbing under our belt we set off on the fourth of the five sections which would take us to Dulwich park. This was the hilliest section, taking us briefly along the Thames and then a sharp right up maze hill with Greenwich park on our right and then on down to Lewisham, before the long climb up through Sydenham and almost down to Crystal Palace, phew this was almost on par with some of our Thursday night climbs! And then as always, what goes up comes down, and we enjoyed a lovely (apart from the speed bumps) decent to Dulwich Park. Another 18km & 674 ft of climbing this time.

    For the final section, 22km & 425ft of climbing, we decided to go at our own pace and meet at the finish. The thought of a bacon butte, medal and "it's not a race" resounding in my ears, I'm afraid got the better of me and the weariness of the long night disappeared as I sped off. Passing through Camberwell and Bermondsey and then crossing the Thames a fourth time, I should have stopped and taken a photo of Tower Bridge, ah well! I was catching many tired nightriders during this section until I linked up with another equally competitive cyclist and we ended up draughting off each other for the final 10km, bouncing over the Wapping cobbles, ah those cobbles! Through Canary Wharf, no green signs here, far too posh! just a few security guards waving us directions! Docklands across the A13 up to Bow & finally into the Olympic park to be met with a cheer as we passed under the start/finish arch again.

    A great evening & over £700 raised for charity.
  • 23 Jun 2017 09:55 | Deleted user
    by Guy Davies

    The final push, legs hurting, sweat running in to your eyes, looking at the hill gradient on the screen.   Checking your perceived rate of effort, cadence, and heart rate, almost there. Considerably warmer  than when we started, when you could see your breath. A pile of cloths by your side.   And times up. Alan turns the music off the blue tooth in his garage and clicks the Dragon Ride DVD   out of the TV. A little chat after in the warm down. I have to admit I was thinking I couldn’t sit on a  turbo for 11 hours to complete that ride it would boar me stupid.  
    It’s dead easy to do an hour, if you have a bunch of mates around you, banging music, and a wee chat in the easy breaks.  
       
    Fast forward six months. Early morning news says warming up, sunny spells. A peak out of the
    curtains and it’s hard to make out the grey horizontal line of smoke from the Port Talbot steel works from the grey steel works the grey sky the grey town the grey sea, and grey feeling in my gut. The only change in the grey atmosphere was the white horses smashing on the beach.  
    The weather man says it’s going to clear up and the wind stop. Much the same as Michael Fish in 87. Like 140mls in one hit wasn’t enough we had decided to ride to the start, a further distance of 7mls.  In most big events the atmosphere is tangible at the start, a mixture of anticipation, excitement and  fear. This was decidedly lack lustre. A group of about 50 of us left our start gate, heading back along towards Port Talbot in to a cross wind and strait away a working peloton got together, rolling ball, two lines, up the outside through and off ,30 seconds on the front then the next man comes up and leads off. I hit the front as the group approached a roundabout, it felt just like “the tour” everyone lined out behind, sweeping  
    round the bends full tilt, but as we turned the roundabout, I’m smack in to a head wind. A glance at the smoke stack showed the smoke horizontal. Lucky I’m only up front for 30secs or so, , well a bit longer, well ok they’ll be past me in a moment. I press on and glance back the two lines had become one and every one, my son-in- law sitting second wheel included very happy to tuck in, thanks very much. There is no way I’m going to sit up with a long group like this behind so tapped out a rhythm for a good 4miles till we turned in land and Andy my son in law swept by to take a turn pulling without trying, the wind hard at his back . Making a feeble effort to hide his smirk.  
    The next 10 miles were rolling hills and dismal ex-mining villages. The slope became a ramp and the ramp turned in to a hill. The summit obscured by the thickening cloud, which as we climbed became heavy mist then light rain, becoming driving rain. The summit of the hill to our windward side fell away and we took the full force of the gale hitting us side on. We turned back on our self at a hair pin and to our relief gave us a slight lift up to the summit of the next hill. Then a final hairpin as we rounded the top, straight back in to the wind. The wind turbots’ looking like roman coulombs with nothing attached to the top as they disappeared in to the blanket of rain and cloud. Can’t be sure but a recon about 6.7 klms of climbing covered. Apparently the hill is called Bwlch, which for those of you that don’t talk welsh means Bwlch??  
    The decent required all your whit’s about you, while it was tempting to let go the breaks seeing the riders on front suddenly swerve sideways across the road as the cross wind caught them meant only the hardy or stupid tried to make up time on a decent. We did see 2 people who had had bad falls as a result of being hit by cross winds.  
    The 4 food stations, that, on the web site were hailed as better than average were pretty dismal. They boasted a good selection of savoury foods that turned out to be cold roast potatoes. None of them had adequate stands for bikes, so bikes were just left lying on their sides all over the car parks.  Toilets were portaloos with long queues. And only one had a building where you could get out of the rain. In the others riders were squashed under the tents trying to get out of the intermittent rain. Roads rolled up and down with very little traffic. The views on many occasions were genuinely breath taking. Rain and wind came and went first too hot then too cold. A glance at the strip of masking tape I had stuck to the cross bar had all the key points marked on it like feed station distances, foot of the major climbs cut off times etc. A handy tip for those of you doing long Sportives or distance riding in new territories. Next leg stretcher before the Devil, is Rhigos another 7.8klm climb at about 8%. Just put the brain in to neutral and let the legs do what they do best. The Devil’s elbow was due up at the 97k mark, in 2 klms time. So Andy and I backed off a little to save ourselves. The main part of the hill its self is not to long but a bit of researched showed on the first hair pin the inside track shot up to 40% gradient and the outside a mere 25% . So do I cut the corner and go for broke and try to steel time on Andy? Or cruse around the outside? I’m mad but not insane. There were some incredible riders who just flew past us going up the Devils elbow. There was one guy who was very very. Very very what I’m not sure? He was on his phone riding with one hand, just sat up like he was on a Sunday outing. Very confident and strong or very stupid. The hill is only about 1.7 of a kilometre but the two hair pins are a killer, under different circumstances I may have stepped off but no one even looked like cracking and wasn’t going to be the one. Did you see that old boy having to walk? poor old git shouldn’t be doing this sort of stuff at his age. NOT this time pal.

    Approximately 90 klms further on of ups and downs, plenty of rain and even stronger wind we  
    started a climb. Like many others you’re never sure how long they are going to be you see one false summit after another. With the rain on my glasses I remember glancing at the sheep on the face of the steep hill in front and thinking how do they manage to stay on such a hill face and not slip off. As we approached the sheep almost appeared to be in a line heading towards the summit. Closer still, must be the rain on my glasses they looked as though they were odd colours, they were plenty of white but red and blue and pink. Seeing the hair pin in front and the trajectory of the road from it made it clear these stoic sheep were in fact stoic riders. Oh Shit. This cruel assent went on for another mile. One of the great cycling climbers always said the bigger the hill the better the view, I was slightly disappointed not to be able to see America from here but then it was cloudy. As we summated the black mountain the wind slapped us right on the face again. The race brief claims at this point the remainder of the 60 klms is down hill to the finish, apart from one hill at 200k mark. We consumed our last energy bars gulped down water, came off the round about to read. “Warning Hill” 1.7klms long max gradient 17% average 8.5%. How’s that for a warm down after 200ks?  
    Wind up the legs, spin spin spin, save your heart from busting, and your home and dry.
    The finish line / encampment was as disappointing as the other feed stations. More than half of it was packed down. Medals were handed out, very matter of fact and the promised re-go recovery drink that was offered was a packet of powder. Find your own water mate.  
    The extra seven miles back to the hotel seemed a doddle. Round trip on the day 155 miles.
    A great challenge but I can think of a lot of better organised ones I would do again before I resorted to this one again.  
    Fifth in my age group but to be honest there weren’t that many daft enough to enter.
    Still, another tick in the chuff list.  


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