Wednesday 31 March 2010


This Belgian Knee Warmers picture does it for me.......

As do Michael Barry's recent posts on 'Le Metier'

Any guesses as to the weather?


As for this man taking a hat trick, any bet would be more than a little speculative.....

Having experienced first hand on the cobbles of the Oude Kwaremont, just how tough Flandrian women on shopper bikes really are, you might be better off betting on this individual....

Monday 29 March 2010

ronde update and briefing

Systems are go for the Ronde ride on April 3rd. I've been out recceeing the route, and fine tuning organisational details. Final instructions and observations below:

Parking - please use the public car park opposite the Pendle Heritage Centre, signposted with a brown attraction sign. There should be space enough in the long stay section at the back but if it fills up, then there is enough road parking in the vicinity. Please use the honesty box provided.

Because there may be more than a few of us, the route will be signposted with the sign above. I will put them out the night before so they should still be there in the morning.....

The full route will use flouro yellow signs and the shorter route variation, flouro orange when deviating from the full route. The cue sheet has been updated, but I will give everyone a route card on the day.

Some of the climbs are very steep and I would recommend a minimum gear of 36 x 25 or similar if you have it. Road tires are fine, but the roads are rough and the cobbles rougher so if you have fatter tires then use them. Cross bikes with Landcruisers work well too.

Some of the route is over exposed hill country and I would take a windproof/racing cape. The last few weekends on the route have been lashing down, very blustery or lashing down and blustery......

The winter of 2009/2010 has been a little hard at times and the roads reflect this. There are some spectacular potholes in places, often where you want them least. Please warn others behind you by pointing them out, making sure you have avoided them yourself first of course!

Unless we have biblical snow, the ride will run whatever the weather. However, the full version crosses some very exposed moorland and if the weather is really bad we will all take the shorter route to avoid the exposure this section brings.

There is a cafe at the start and finish (in the Heritage Centre) and food stops available at Padiham, Townley Park (Burnley) and Coldwell Activity centre near Widdop. There is also a bike shop in Padiham during the fist cobbled sections (:-)).

People can opt for the full or shorter route during the ride according to how they feel - we will regroup outside Burnley and the shorter ride group will take a different route and have a cafe stop at Coldwell Activity Centre before the longer ride group pick them up, and we all tackle the final section together.

There is a bail out option from Padiham (1/3rd distance) and from Burnley (1/2 distance) - your route card will have a map showing you these.

Hope to see you on the day - Bon Courage!

Tuesday 23 March 2010


The next nineteen days are what I wait all year for. Well, apart from the 6 months of the cross season and 21 days in July around France...

Dwars door Vlaanderen - Weds 24

E3 Prijs - Sat 27

Ghent Wevelgem - Sun 28

Flanders - Sun 4

Roubaix - Sun 11

We've had the opening shots at Het Nieuwsblad and K-B-Kuurne - old timers to the fore. Milan san Remo brought a touch of Italian class, though no sunshine and another wiley old timer with a win, but this is where it all comes together. The history, the terrain, the fanatical fans. Question? Tifosi or Flandrians for most effusive supporting activities? Who knows, they are both as mad as each other.

Others can perform the pre and post race punditry far better than myself - Pave, The Service Course, Belgian Kneewarmers. Go check these sites out - there's some great insights into the whole affair.

I have a subscription to Eurosport, though it pains me to be part of Murdoch's sleazy empire, so will be watching on a TV screen.

However if you are more principled than I, Cycling Fans will usually find you a feed on t'interweb albeit in Russian, Italian or some other exotic language. It all adds to the feel of the races.

So I wish you 'Happy Watching', and if after the first few races, you are so inclined come and pretend you are in Flanders with our group ride on 3rd April. It will be mooiste - I promise.

Saturday 13 March 2010

simple pleasures once again

An invitation, a dry day, the slower pace of a Friday lunchtime - all the ingredients for a simple, pleasurable ride.

Throw in some new roads and tracks, some cobbles ( it's nearly Ronde time) and a good natter and you have the essence of bike riding, at least for me.

Dave Haygarth extended the invitation and we checked out some woodland paths, some farm tracks up and over the hills, some queit lanes and of course some pave. All on road tires, albeit with cross frames. Dave is somewhat more talented than me, so my conversational skills were slightly hampered by an acute shortage of breath, but it was great to be riding in quick minded company and in terms of a training exercise, quick legged company too. It's good to push yourself with faster riders once in a while - now I am older, my ego can take it without long term damage.......

Dave got snappy with his i-phone with good results above and below:

Thursday 4 March 2010

Ronde van Oost Lancashire April 3rd 2010

I thought I would put my money where my mouth is, rather than just taunting our London based brethren for their honest efforts at a Hell of the North. Except this is a Ronde van Vlaanderen homage, rather than the Queen of the Classics......

Either way, it has the feel and cobbles of a Spring Classic, with some beautiful North West countryside thrown in for good measure.

Come and join us on April 3rd - all are welcome. It is fair to point out that both routes are challenging and require a reasonable degree of fitness, though the Achtervolgers group will miss out some miles and a fair amount of extra climbing from the full route without foregoing the Flandrian feel. We are running it as a 'Gentleman's and Ladies' ride and will ride together and look after each other in time honoured fashion, though I suspect there may be some action on the climbs....

Further info here:

Cue sheet

Route desciption

Disclaimer: This is a social ride, not a competitive event. All riders participate entirely at their own risk and liability.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

hardly the hell of the north.......

A recent Rapha blog entry advertising an organised ride in homage to Roubaix made me realise how lucky I am up here in Lancashire, to be able to indulge in my own particular brand of compulsion, perhaps even infatuation.

Like many others, I have always had a healthy degree of cynicism and mild contempt for those individuals that hang about, often on motorway bridges looking to 'spot' Eddie Stobart lorries or perhaps coaches - it's hardly a sophisticated, grown up or even socially acceptable thing to do. At least not in polite society. It was then with some embarrassment and no little sense of irony, that I realised a few years ago that I had become one of them. The attraction, the delusion, the mania even - this monkey on the back thing - it was no different to a man in an anorack on a train platform or motorway bridge, seeking out ever more elusive targets to tick off, to list, to catagorise. I should have known it was coming, as the juvenile, pre-pubescent crossjunkie was a keen young ornithologist, ticking his way merrily through the bird species of Northern Europe.......

But it's not Steady Eddie lorries, nor trains, coaches or any other transport medium. Nor is it birds, stamps (that too was a pastime at one point). No it's cobbles now - cue images of a 12 step programme meeting 'Hi, my name is......' and the nodding assent of fellow addicts.

There it is then, by way of confession - my cobble addiction, exposed in all it's humiliating glory. Obviously people around me already knew this, but as in all things addictive, it is the addict who is the last to realise.

Anyways, going back to Rapha and their 'Hell of the North' thing.... I have to say I felt somewhat smug, superior even. Bridleways, rough roads, muddy stuff and 'bumpy terrain'!! 20 sectors of so called 'pave' in 100km. Are they having a laugh?

Put this in yer bespoke, tailored-leather-cased pipe Rapha, and smoke it! With a few minor diversions, my 40 minute commute by bike this morning incorporated no less than 7 distinct secteurs du pave, and when I say pave, I don't mean a slightly bumpy track with a little mud, I mean proper sets of cobbles, some in good repair, some with wheel sized holes.

Some long and flat, some gently rising. All good honest, working class cobbles, just like the Roubaix ones. Well, not quite as rough or long but enough for you to get the picture - apologies for my dodgy Blackberry photos:

Stretching up and into the trees, this gem is in Crawshawbooth....

Rawtenstall town centre - an entire cobbled high street with little hills off to the side....

OK, it's a back street but when the cars aren't parked on it it is about 500m of beautiful, compact sets.....

Not quite Carrefour de l'Arbre but fun nonetheless....

Industrial backdrop in Waterfoot, just like Roubaix....

There are in total around 20 sections of pave I have found within 15 miles of here - all can be linked to provide a meaningful ride. So come on Rapha - let go of the London-centric thing and come and discover the real deal for yourselves up in the grim North. If you dare....

Monday 1 March 2010

kasseien fever



It's here! The Classics season I mean....not Spring. That's still a little way off round these parts.

And to celebrate, the 27mm green Pave's are out ready for gluing, the road bike is being returned to full working order and some serious cobbled extravaganzas are being planned over the next few weeks.

Not to mention all that watching to be done, that has already started with a bang in the form of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Never did the kasseien look so good on Saturday (albeit on a live sporza feed)- it's been 2 years since I rode in Flanders and I am missing it more than ever. Those concrete slabbed roads, the lines of tall larch trees and the tight, twisty lanes under a leaden Flandrian sky and the sense of anticipation running up to a cobbled straat or hellingen.

No matter, East Lancashire has given up a few secrets this winter and I have enough secteurs du pave to creat my own little Hell of the North, in addition to an April 3rd re-run of the Ronde van Oost Lancashire.........