Monday 30 March 2009

cheshire cat

I'm never a big fan of large organised group or public rides - partly because I am not hugely sociable (a 'sociable loner' like Robert Millar?), partly because I am always (unnecessarily) slightly nervous riding in a large group and partly because I like to do my own thing. I ride on my own almost exclusively and it is strange though almost always pleasant to have company from time to time. Whilst Flanders with it's 17,000 riders was a little excessive, the sold out 1600 strong Cheshire Cat sportive promised to be reasonably busy. However, there was a group of old and new friends meeting up to ride together and this was for me the raison d'etre for the whole affair. And the chance to do my first century in over 15 years.

Leaving aside any puns about weather, smiles and the Cheshire Cat, it was a stunning day. The sub zero temperatures on leaving home with Mark warmed up slightly to leave a cold but cloudless day with sunshine for the whole event. Sometimes warm, sometimes very cool, it was a perfect, indeed rare spring day made better by a great route maximising use of quiet Cheshire lanes and hilly Peak terrain.

There were the usual groups coalescing and dissolving constantly for the first flat miles as people found their pace and we managed to stay pretty much together, regrouping at the first 2 feed stations. The route was nicely judged as it turned from the flat Cheshire Plains and headed toward the hills north of Stoke and the eponymously named Mow Cop Killer Mile. Coming soon after a feed station, it was a bit of an effort to get going on this but it was fun heaving up it's 1 in 3/1 in 4 gradient and Ella (4) loved the celebratory medal given to those who got up without a foot down, and passed onto her when I got home.

Mark at the top of Macc forest

From then on the route became more like the terrain myself and Mark are used to riding in, as the hilly edge of the Peak made itself known, north of Leek. The section toward and out of Macclesfield was sublime in the Spring sunshine and the climb up through Macc Forest was harder for me and many others than the Killer Mile itself. A final effort up the Swiss Hill cobbles in Alderley (easier than the Paterberg in Flanders?) led to a flat run in as I towed Mark to the finish. He'd only been riding and training for 3 months prior to this 100 mile test and finished in fine shape considering the minimal preparation undertaken. Onwards and upwards!

I was trying out road tubs for the first time too and whilst comfortable gluing and riding cross tubs, was wondering how I would get on. I needn't have worried - they were extremely comfortable and trouble free, and the braking with road calipers and cork pads really progressive. I had 2 forms of puncture solving technology so although this aspect went untested, felt reasonably reassured that I would be able to continue in the event of any trouble bar a big tear or blowout. Seeing as I dont carry spare clinchers either that would have been game over whichever way.

Fred Whitton is the next stop, via an unoffical Lakeland Loop next month, so time to get serious on those miles and those hills.

The crossjunkie blank look after 90 odd miles

Wednesday 25 March 2009

ronde cue sheet

UPDATED for 2011:

Full ride details, GPS exports are available on Ride with GPS. Click here

Cue sheet available for print on Ride with GPS page.

Alternatively,for a handy A5 size Cue Sheet, simply right click on this document and click 'Fullscreen' before printing using button on far right. Then cut out and laminate/protect to take out with you on the ride.

Note of caution: the distances on the A5 cue sheet below don't entirely match the distances on Ride with GPS. Please bear this in mind if switching between both.


Ronde Cue Sheet -

Wednesday 18 March 2009

ronde van oost lancashire route description

Update: The 2013 Ronde will be on Sat March 30. Details to follow soon.

The Ronde starts and finishes at the beautiful Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford, a Grade II listed farmhouse dating back to the 15th Century. There is a car park on the opposite side of the road with an honesty box and a cafe and art shop within the Centre making it a lovely base for a day out.

The full route on ridewithgps

Pendle Heritage Centre

Whilst the cobbled sections of the route are certainly a little contrived, I hope they add to the overall experience. They are indeed optional as the route is easily followable by missing out these slightly nadgery sections but I urge you to check up on the directions and photos and include them for the nearest thing to a full-on Flanders experience you will get this side of the Channel.

From the start at the Heritage Centre, the route begins climbing almost immediately leaving Barrowford and heading for Pendle Witch country -

A series of short, but sharp climbs criss cross the area and mimic the multiple crossings the Flandrian Ronde makes up the local escarpment.

After crossing from Pendle and into Burnley, a long scenic descent skirts with the Ribble Valley before swinging back toward Padiham. Here the first cobbled climbs of the day await in Padiham centre first up Mill Street and then the ancient Double Row - sit down and try to use a biggish gear with as much speed as possible! These are good warm up for the really hard cobbled sections later.

Mill St cobbles

Entrance to Double Row cobbles

Double Row cobbles

Leaving the conservation area of Padiham the route swings west toward Blackburn and over into Hyndburn. The landscape is more open and at times industrial, leading toward the Brickworks climb between Clayton-le-Moors and Huncoats where Accrington brick became famous. On through the shallow ford and climb at Mill Hill before a long run toward the outskirts of Burnley.
Though the climbing now is not steep, the height gain is appreciable as can be seen from the profile as the southern fringe of Burnley passes by, dropping down to the corner of Townley Park and a possible cafe stop if you fancy a small diversion -
The landscape begins to become more traditionally Pennine as we head above the narrow valleyed mill towns of Todmorden and Hebden - watch though for the descent off Long Causeway into Hebden. It is very steep, very bumpy and contains several hairpin bends. There are good cafes in Hebden to break up the ride.

I discovered the Packhorse climb in Hebden on a shopping trip with the kids. It is brutal to ride, probably impossible in the wet or damp, a throwback to the days when mules and horses lugged huge bails of cotton and wool around the area, providing great wealth to these small mill towns. Enjoy it and turn left at the top to almost immediately turn right to begin the climb to Hepstonstall. This too is cobbled in it's upper section and combined with the Packhorse climb makes for a very tough ascent -

Packhorse cobbled climb up from Royd Terrace

Packhorse cobbles

Town Gate, Hepstonstall

Now the countryside opens up as the route wends its way along narrow lanes toward Widdop Moor and back from Calderdale toward the Burnley and Pendle towns. The scenery here is stunning with wide open moorland, big views and some short sharp climbs here to sap the legs before a steep descent toward Colne. Save a little for the final hard section up from Colne's South Valley on cobbled back streets, finishing with a 1 in 4 cobbled monster up Chapel St to Colne's central spine. This is similar to the Muur and Kapelmuur sections (well sort of) of the real Ronde, which also form the penultimate cobbled sections of the Flandrian classic. Dropping off this into the North Valley, it is worth the small diversion of Langroyd Rd for the cobbled Dickson St and Montague Street, throwbacks to a bygone age.

Entrance to cobbled climb off Shaw St up to Duke St

Chapel St - it is as steep as it looks!

Last section of cobbles up Dickson and Montague St

Montague St - the Bosberg of Colne (without the woods)

Your day is almost done now, save for a beautiful section along narrow lanes above the lake with panoramic views, and the final climb after the canal and back to your starting point. Make sure you get back before the cafe closes!

If you come and ride it, please let me know and give some feedback. I hope you enjoy your day and get a real flavour of the area, cobbles and all.

the ronde is here!

After much shenanigins with mapping and the like, I bring you the final version in a couple of different formats to make it as user friendly as possible.

The profile looks like this:

It's a ride of 3 halves really (!)- short sharp climbs at first descending back to the lowest point on the route, some mostly rolling climbs before a long descent and the hardest section of the whole ride containing the biggest and steepest climbs including one bordering on 1 in 3.

For those that like to GPS I understand the route can be downloaded in bikeroutetoaster:

I have also mapped it in mapmyfitness but it keeps on crashing my entire system when I try to mix html and composition views so I will post it separately - see below.

Please note there are some glitches with the mapmyfitness version - it covers the whole route but records the distance incorrectly as 35 miles. The cue sheet appears OK but I cannot verify it's accuracy. Unless you cannot get the version above to work I would avoid it to be honest.

There is an accurate (proofread) Cue Sheet available through bikeroutetoaster but I will be posting a full guide over the next few days with photos and general info.

My suggestion is to book yourself in a ride on 5 April at the same time as the real Ronde, tape it on Eurosport and come home to a couple of well earned Belgian brews and the pros in action in Flanders.

mapmyfitness version of ronde

Monday 16 March 2009

ronde nearly there ....... still

The weight of expectation is heavy on my shoulders as I try and box off this bloody route - struggling with online mapping sites that dont work properly or produce nonsense Cue Sheets. I'm trying to make it into a classic route that is still user friendly and not so esoteric that someone outside the area can't come and ride without getting lost all the time. So, technology willing, it will be loaded up in time for the real Ronde to one of the generic route mapping sites, GPS enabled for techy people and with a separate cue card on the blog for those wanting to use a proper map. The real Ronde is April 5th so the clock is ticking..........

Friday 13 March 2009

rabobank shred the paris-nice peloton on stage 3

I watched this with awe - brutal, clinical and yet a beautiful example of the art of cycling. It was blowing a hooly, and lashing with rain. The stage had been hard from the word go and was entering a section of villages with twisty roads, interspaced with long straights bordered by open fields. Cross winds ripped across these fields as Rabobank came to the front at 45km to go and simply attacked on mass in an incredible display of force. Within a few kms the peloton was shredded and Yellow Jersey Contador was isolated and in the 4th group on the road. Watch the gaps just go as tired, cold riders simply cannot make it on to the wheel in front. An awesome display of strength and grit putting 5 Rabos into the lead group of 20. It nearly, but not quite, paid off with a stage victory. Contador reacted to the danger, jumping on his own across the groups and toward the front but lost 1 min 20 in the end, putting the attentive and astute Chavenel (Quick Step) into Yellow. Ouch.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

monte paschi eroica march 2008 - spartacus attacks!

This was only the second running of this unusual Spring Classic held in Italy, finishing in the ancient town of Siena. Inspired by Roubaix, Flanders and the retro sportive held on the course in the Autumn, the organisers use 7 sectors of 'strade bianchi' or white gravel roads to create a tough one-day race destined to become a classic.

A large group had been away most of the day, splintering to leave only Ryder Hesjedal (Slipstream) up front. A chasing group is closing in fast as they enter the final sector of' 'sterrati' gravel road. Cancellara (aka Spartacus) has been doing his charging bull thing in previous sectors and takes off in pursuit of Hesjedal..........

Ballan and Cancellara continued to hold on to their slender advantage for the next 8 kilometres, setting up for a slightly surreal, narrow urban showdown in the last km........

Monday 9 March 2009

superprestige overzicht 2008 - 2009

That's overview to you and me. Nice little round up of all the maddest fans and best crashes of the Superprestige series.

And a lot of Sven winning.

Superprestige overzicht 2008-2009 from jef cleemput on Vimeo.

Saturday 7 March 2009

cross roller racing

This has been around for a while now but I hadn't seen the video till now. Not sure what to make of it but it is definitely different. Any one prepared to put on a round of the North West Cross League doing this? Mmmmm.

RAPHA Cross Roller Race - Oregon Manifest 2008 from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Friday 6 March 2009

ronde development

We're getting there.........

Cafe, toilets, parking at start/finish

53 miles, well over 6000ft of climbing

17 Flanders-like climbs, 4 of which are cobbled including 2 which are 1 in 4 or steeper!

Mostly small lanes, or reasonably quiet roads.

A shortish but very tough day out.

Route maps and description/guide to follow shortly.

Wednesday 4 March 2009


A local and heinous cobbled secret location

I need a diversion (as well as an excuse to continue this blog) now the cross season is over. My diversion last year was a trip to Flanders by way of a 40th Birthday recognition, as well as a more direct immersion in the cycling sub-culture that is the Spring Classics.

This year is no different, and to fill the void left by the abscence of cross races to watch or ride, I find myself returning to the medium that in many ways is closely allied to the challenging surfaces of cross - cobbles. Actually, I do not restrict the definition purely to cobbles, embracing not just cobbles but any road surface that is less than perfect - that is marked, pitted, potholed, gravelly,muddy, covered in organic matter etc. Basically anything that would frighten a time triallist silly, but presents the kind of challenge that Flandrian lanes, bergs, hellingen, Italian white gravel lanes a la Eroica, or Roubaix cobbles deliver in abundence.

The area in which I live is beautiful and conveniently hilly, with badly maintained, winter scarred roads. It also has a past firmly rooted in the Industrial Revolution and for a cyclist yearning for the true Belgian experience (that'll be me then), the presence of cobbles in many places makes it impossible not to draw parallels.

Hence the seeds of a Ronde van Oost Lancashire were born last year when I began to search out some of the steeper or more extensive cobbled streets to practice for the real thing in Flanders.

I began to think more about a route that pays homage to the real Ronde earlier this year - it requires multiple short sharp climbs, some tarmacced, some cobbled as well as some flatter faster sections of cobbles. The route of the Ronde van Vlaanderen itself is not necessarily an obvious nor classic one (and it varies slightly each year) - it ducks and dives around the area simply using the escarpments of the Flandrian hills to provide the challenge of the famous hellingen or hills. So too for my Ronde, using the rolling hills of this corner of Lancashire, some urbanised, some still very rural.

The Ronde profile is somewhat spiky after a pan flat start:

I've elected to avoid the flat start (there isn't any flat round here anyway) and get straight to the heart of the affair:

I begun riding and recceing sections of the route with cobble-sceptic friend Mark last weekend and will continue to tweak and refine it hopefully to give a memorable day out on a bike. There is still some debate for me whether to include a particular cobbled climb that I think is harder than the infamous Koppenberg! This unfortunately would take the route away from its heartland and towards a neighbouring county as well as adding distance so we shall see. The ultimate aim is to post the route here when it has been tweaked (over the next few weeks), with a downloadable Cue Sheet to allow others within striking distance to come and discover a little bit of Flanders in Northern England.

Monday 2 March 2009

ronde van oost lancashire - coming soon!

It occured to me whilst preparing for the Tour of Flanders sportive last year that East Lancashire where I live is really quite like Flanders - no, really, bear with me. Cobbles, short sharp hills, pissy weather conditions, rough roads.......even if the beer is not as good.

Coming soon then, a series of narrative posts documenting the design of the first ever Ronde van Oost Lancashire - my homage to the Ronde van Vlaanderen with around 18 or so classic climbs, cobbles, narrow lanes, 50 odd miles in length and with over 6000ft of climbing!

cross is finished - long live the classics!

I know we've long finished getting muddy of a weekend here in the North West, but the real cross season (at least in Euroland) finally spluttered to a halt just over a week ago with Sven Nys taking 3 out of the 4 big post worlds races. Niels Albert and his new rainbow jersey was there or thereabouts in all of them but only picked up the 1 win along the way.

I managed to acquire and watch around 35 Euro races over the season (thanks Ed in the Netherlands) so feel qualified to make a few observations about the state of cross in the motherlands......

Over the season it was clear that Nys has lost little of his dominant strength and power, picking up the World Cup, the GVA Trophee and the Superprestige titles with a season long show of consistency. He did not have it all his own way though as both Boom and Albert peaked at specific points and were able to beat him several times. What has changed though is that the races are generally closer and not the (too) common Nys solo efforts to win from early on that were actually a bit boring to watch. Bart Wellens appears no longer to be the force he once was and entertains spectators mostly with gritty comebacks into minor placings from the regular shocking starts he seems to get. Those Flandrians love a fighter and he fulfills this role handsomely, though not too successfully in terms of actual wins.

Nys is clearly far from finished and justifies his position as highest paid rider, even if that has caused some ructions along the way around start monies and made life a little harder for some of the more lowly pros on the circuit.

Boom says he has given serious cross up and has gone to the full Rabo ProTour squad to ride the Classics and some stage races. Apparently a petition has started in the Netherlands and in Belgium even(!), to bring him back. Don't hold your breath though. It falls to Albert to take up the fight against Nys for the next year or two, though Thys Al has improved loads this season and may yet get stronger and stronger. Just ignore Nys comments about a combined cross and mountain bike world cup lasting most of the year and with both discplines to count toward a final standing - sounds loopy to me but maybe it is the future of cross to bring in a different audience from a different discipline?

Time will tell but for now I can't get cobbles out of my head - I watched Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Volk) and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne over the weekend. Just when cross finishes, those crazy Belgians plug the gap with cobbles, bergs and more gritty, muddy racing. Class. This time of year belongs to the Flandrians and I can't get enough of it!

Even the Spring Classics outside of Flanders still feel Flandrian on account of the huge numbers of crazy fans (at Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne Liege, Amstel Gold etc), with the exception of Milan San Remo which feels surprisingly Italian for some reason......