I think I’ve got me a hill-climber…

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Josh, my ten year old son, averaged 12mph on a 62 mile charity ride today. The Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge starts on the outskirts of Newcastle and heads into the wilds of Northumberland. We did the ride in 5 hours 28 minutes.

At the 45 mile point we climbed the sharp climbs at Ryal. The steepest one has a 30 percent gradient. Many people choose to walk this. Josh powered up, overtaking a surprising (and surprised…) number of roadies.

He was almost hyper-ventilating by the top, but refused any help from me. He received an enormous amount of encouragement from riders along the way. The bulk of kids were on the 31-mile ride (we saw no kids on this, the middle distance ride). Josh said he would have liked to have done the 100 mile ride.

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It was at the top of the first climb I realised I’ve got a natural born climber on my hands. From the last of the ‘Ryals’, it’s six miles to Stamfordham, the last check-point of the day and a chance to sit and rest. Josh was having none of that: he wanted to steam on back to Newcastle.

He faded slightly in the last mile but before that was going at a fair old lick, not too far shy of what would what be a normal riding pace for me.

After the coasting through the finish gate and collecting our t-shirts and other event freebies we bought a plate of chips each and scoffed them before we rode the five miles back home. The total trip distance was 72 miles. It was a great way to spend some time with my son in advance of Father’s Day. And Josh did, he made my day…

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Enough already!

If you think there’s plenty of my writing on the web already – BikeBiz.com, Bikeforall.net and QR.tv – you won’t be interested to know I’ve now got a monthly column on BikeRadar.com.

In the style of fellow blogger and BikeRadar columnist The Fat Cyclist, I’ll trail the column here but won’t spill all the beans.

The first piece is about a particularly hard Northern training ride, preparation for the two sportives I shall be doing this year.

The pain of the climb was long gone. This was cycling at its most sublime. To appreciate the good times, you have to suffer the bad.

And I’m not suffering enough at the moment. I need to suffer a lot more. On 11th May I’m riding the Fred Whitton Challenge, 114 miles over every major col of the Lake District. This will be my third ‘Fred’. My goal, as always, isn’t a stellar time, it’s merely to ride every inch of the route. At just under 100 miles ridden you’re faced with the twin terrors of Hardknott and Wrynose, tough climbs with fresh legs, murderous with jelly ones.

It’s on rides like these you know you’re not a cyclist for the pleasure of it, it’s the pain you seek out. Click to read the full piece …

And this is the video mentioned in the column, Phil Liggett riding in his eponymous Challenge.

The training starts now

Oh, dear. My name has now appeared on the Fred Whitton Challenge website. This means I’ve got to start cycling more. A lot more.

The Fred Whitton cyclo-sportive is 112 miles of pain. After 90 miles of Lake District verticals you reach the base of Hardknott Pass. As if that wasn’t enough, you then have to haul yourself over Wrynose, too.

Online discussions about the event light up from now until May 11th. I’ve done two of these rides to date and my gearing advice is this: fit a triple as a minimum and think about fitting an MTB block on the back as well…

Cyclo-sportives may be super successful in the UK, but not all are welcomed by the locals. The Etape Caledonia event, due to be staged on closed roads in the Scottish Highlands, has spawned a NIMBY protest group, ACRE, short for Anti-Closed Road Event. The May 18th event was staged for the first time last year and – shock, horror – the riders have a great ride cos the roads are free of cars. For a few hours. ACRE calls such a short-term road closure ‘highway robbery.’

“If it means roads being barred to vehicle traffic, [ACRE] supporters believe the council should say ‘No’ to any sort of mass cycle event.

ACRE supporters positively welcome eventing cyclists, athletes, motorists, rallyists or any other specialist road users at all times of the year to our heartland. But the closure of roads that interfere with the workings of our fragile, seasonal economy, and the freedom of movement of citizens with no alternative means of access or communication, is deemed to be highway robbery.”
ACRE, January 2008