Round 5 at London's iconic Herne Hill, always a magical place with a fantastic turnout and brilliant heckling. It's always great as you get to line up with mates who often are not able to make it to some of the further afield races. This race will stand in the memory as a special one. It was my first seeded race of the season. You never forget when your name gets called out and you have to roll to the start. Obviously quicker guys are behind you but its satisfying to know that you've been able to get a few meters ahead.
Herne Hill itself, a course that is notoriously technical, lots of sharp climbs, turns and mixes of surfaces, there is always a person waiting to watch a crash, slip or wobble. You start inside the velodrome and switch in and out of it, traveling out the back into the rough land which most people don't know about.
A mix of sharp steep climbs, where the only option is to run and hurdles keep the hecklers in certain areas, hoping for that slight slip or incident. This race itself was a fast one, grass trails tend to be.
A huge thank you for everyone who came down to watch, heckle, pinch/ slap the derriere. Special mentions have to go to the ladies from 5th Floor, East London Fixed, Team Full Demin Jacket and our friends at Brixton Cycles.
Strava file below:
Find something you love, let it kill you. (Or scare the shit out of you)
Round 2 held at Bay Point Club, Ramsgate Road, Sandwich, Kent involved a bridge, a huge huge bridge with a 28% gradient and a very short run up to it. To be honest I have not got much to say about this race. I'm not a fan of heights, I continually struggles to find the right line, cornering awfully. It definitely was not my best race this season.. In contrast I would say the worst. After two laps I had considered pulling out but stubbornness made me finish.
Races like these put things into perspective. We can't ride well week in and out. There are things that scare us and we are not invincible. Anyway onwards and upwards. I'm glad this one is done.
Strava file below:
Heading down to Happy Valley near Brighton, (a place nowhere near as happy as the name suggested..) for the 4th round of the London Cyclocross League. The course was relatively flat and dry and full of long stretches, sharp turns and a few hurdles for good measure.
Still recovering from the previous weeks crash; things were understandably sore but having friends Jimmi Nicholls from Attacus (The creator of the kit I donned for the race) and Josh Ibbett from Hunt Wheels instantly lightened the mood. Jimmi a confessed coffee snob and in his words "ex racer" was attempting his first cyclocross race ever. Josh in contrast a Transcontinental winner with a palmares as long as a piece of string confessed he hasn't raced cyclocross since his uni days. I always knew he would be strong.. (He's just modest.)
The race itself, a headwind, jumps and some sharp corners. That pretty much sums it up. It was a quick course which could have easily been very different had the weather changed. There were a few nasty crashes, commonly at the hurdles. My attitude with these always is dismount, run, remount. Let's not get cocky..
Strava file below:
Ele and myself decided to get up early on our last day with one aim, to head up to the top of Stelvio for breakfast. So that's what we did, Stelvio for breakfast.
We started on the bikes around 6:30, with the aim on being some of the first on the road. We really wanted the climb to ourselves for the morning, or for as long as we could. The roads were clear, the weather was mild and the sun as it rose warmed up our spirits and legs.
There was no real rush. It was about enjoying the climb and the company. We took time to take photographs of the scenery and once at the top reminisced on what a brilliant few days it had been.
As the great Arnold Schwarzenegger says. 'I'll be back'.
Day 3- The big one. Passo Mortirolo and Passo Gavia.
Two of the 'big boys' in Italy in one day. Mortirolo, the juiced up Lance Armstrong famously said this was 'the toughest climb' he had ever done. Everyone was understandably a bit nervous about this; but equally excited to be climbing one of the Giro d'Italia's most legendary climbs. First of all you have a long descent from Bormio early in the morning to the base of Mortirolo. It was an early start with purple skies as we watched the sun rise.
We arrived at the base knowing one thing for certain, this would be a tough one. Knowing what was coming I decided to take this climb a bit easy and enjoy it. It's one I have seen on TV for years so I wanted to lap up the moment so to speak. It still didn't make it an easy one. The climb largely starts in the forests; snaking its way skywards and eventually clearing into a valley before the final few steep turns until the top.
We started the climb from Grosio, The actual climb to the summit starts at Grosio and is 14.8 kilometres long at an average of 8.3% (height gain: 1222 m). Some of the turns kick in at 15% plus so it's definitely a lung burster.
Upon reaching the top there was a short 200m roll down to our first cafe stop. What a stop this was with beautiful views.
The remaining descent was fast towards the base of Passo Gavia. The temperature had really ramped up in the latter half of the morning through to lunch. There was concerns that climbing this big one could be a crippler. It was, for different reasons. The climb really starts at Stadolina, riding along a mix of A roads and through cobbled towns.
As we climbed, it started to become noticeable that the temperature was decreasing, the skies became overcast and the heavens opened. 2600 odd meters in the rain were going to be tough.
The rain came, and came and came, along with the thunder. Gavia itself is a steep long climb, with worsening road surfaces as you get up higher and higher making getting out the saddle slippy at points.
As you reach closer to the summit, the roads open up and the elements start to hit you from all points. Climbs like this often seem like you are cycling to the gates of hell at points when the rain hurts as it hits your arms, the body steaming as you are sweating but soaked through to the skin. You know the moment you stop you will start to feel the cold instantly. You've just got to keep ploughing. Still that sense of achievement is priceless. Reaching the top, cheering your mates in, the hot chocolate, laughs and sense of 'what just happened?' make it worth it. One of the toughest climbs and days in the saddle.
The Descent back to Bormio,
It can be summed up very quickly. Sharp turns, bad road surfaces, glaciers, a cold snap that runs through your body. It was a case of layer up and hold on. (You can't help but admire the rural nature of this climb compared to any others in Italy. It really is its own beauty and the beast.)
One more day (well half a day.) Enough for one more climb in the morning.
The 'rest' day.
We were supposed to be taking it easy today, after our previous ride and what was in store for day 3. Competitiveness and excitement always takes over and wins. The Passo Torri di Fraele, or the Mini Stelvio as it is also known was our first climb of the day. We rolled out towards Stelvio for this one, remembering what we had achieved the previous day. It quickly became a race to the top. Ripcor vs Crondall Rouleurs. How quick could we get to the top. Ripcor Won. The climb itself has many similarities to Stelvio. The sharp hairpins with long stretches. A fantastic and quiet climb often missed by many people. Check it out if you go!
Lunch, it had to be one thing. Pizza. We descended into the centre of Bormio and of course decided to have pizza for lunch. A few of us then decided we had the legs for one more local climb, Bormio 2000. This climb. A bugger. It isn't the longest, but there is some steep points in this one as you cycle up to the ski lift. The afternoon became cold with some slight showers.
This one, broke me. A hard effort in the morning, jet lag well and truly setting in from Australia. Tired legs and out of food and water. I arrived at the top drained, but taken back by the view. It was still worth it.
Bring on Day 3
'This one should be fun' they said. It was.
An undulating track with a real mix of terrain. Trails in the woods, hills, grass fields, jumps, gravel stretches and undulating corners. This was going to be a fast one. Feeling not quite so aero as the last race due to a damaged skinsuit, and struggling to get over the dreaded man-flu I knew this one would be tough. The short sharp up hills zig zagging over one field didn't particularly suit me but I thought lets have fun with this.
This race had some of the big hitters arrive at the start, guys racing in the nationals lined up with the 80 plus riders in the senior race. The best thing about Cyclocross is that there is always some to chase, and always someone chasing you. It's an intimate race where you are battling yourself more than anything.
The forest section of each lap was fast narrow and winding, overtaking here was tough but do-able depending on how brave you really were. There was often some one on your wheels on the slippy trails here and you simply needed to keep the power down. This then opened up into the ups and downs through the fields, eventually leading to a sharp hill, some flat grassland and the jumps. My attitude to jumps are lets not make a fool of myself and crash. Some people think differently here. For me it's easier to dismount, run and remount. I can make the time back elsewhere.
The gravel sections, normally a point I can ride well, became a weakness early on. My back wheel was clipped and down I went, quickly followed by another racer who'd clipped the back wheel but continued to ride over me. Many a firm word was said, an apology, a dust off and the race carried on, even with blood streaming down the largely grazed buttock and leg.
But that's Cyclocross. It fucking hurts sometimes, things brake, we get filthy. But its still one of the best ways to race in cycling.
Photos by Ant Harris, Chris Lanaway and John Mullineaux
Strava file below:
A few days in Italy, it would be rude not to be in search of the up. On a ride organised by Traverse Aravis a group of Ripcor riders ventures on this search for all the clims that Italy and The Dolomites have to offer.
The Dolomites are a mountain range located in northeastern Italy. They form a part of the Southern Limestone Alps and extend from the River Adige in the west to the Piave Valley in the east. Also known as the "Pale Mountains", they take their name from the carbonate rock dolomite, itself named for 18th-century French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, who was the first to describe the mineral.
Day 1- Stelvio and Passo Umbrail
Our first day in Italy was a big one, the legendary Passo Stelvio, climbing out of Bormio and descending into Switzerland for lunch, before climbing back into Italy via Passo Umbrail.
Stelvio; with its elevation of 2757 meters, and roughly 25km in length is a big one to get the legs turning over. From leaving the chalet we were climbing up with the 48 hairpin turns creating the wall effect as you look up the mountain climb. It's one that appears to go on and on, but the scenery does not disappoint as you head higher and higher nearing the cafe at the top.
Upon reaching the top and taking a much needed coffee stop, the descent was quick, flowing and equally as beautiful. We descended into Switzerland with some riders having to stop intermittently to cool down their carbon rims from over heating. A huge bonus of disc brakes is not having any concerns of this.
Arriving at the base we knew one thing. It was a case of heading back up.. The Swiss side of the Dolomites was green, luscious and full of farm land as we waited at the base of Passo Umbrail for lunch served by Michael from Traverse Aravis
Once we were fueled up, the climb began again. Steeper than Stelvio and having already climbed a huge amount in the morning, the legs were quickly burning winding through the forests. Finally we joined back on to Passo Dello Stelvio with the descent of what we climbed ahead of us before rolling back into Bormio.
Day 1 complete.
Strava file below.
It's the 18th September, a surprisingly warm start to the day (compared to the previous day for Round 2 of the London cyclocross League. Round 2 was held at Penshurst Off-Road Club, Penshurst, Kent and promoted by Addiscombe CC.
This race normally is later in the calendar and is often very muddy but having it early in the season made it A quick down hill course with some steep climbs.
Preparation went well until the skinsuit zipper broke when a 'convenience brake; was needed. Thankfully a spare jersey is always bought to races!
Cyclocross racing is very much a completely different way of racing to anything else I have been used to. Similarlly to time trailing, you are racing your own race against the clock with the aim to get as many laps in as possible in the allotted hour of racing. What is so nice about it is the respect each rider shows eachother and the much more relaxed and fun attitude. You are all in it for the same reasons, to have fun and try and better yourself on each lap.
The course itself contained many sharp turns. These tended to be at the end of long straights where you can start to get some power down, then having to sharply stop to take the corner. The race was on the side of a hill; meaning what goes down equally must go up too. The climbs were short and steep. At the base of the valley was a bomb crater with a sharp drop and raise on the opposite side.
A slight sprint to the finish made each lap quick. All in all a fantastic race with many strong riders racing. Chapeau to all! Strava link below:
Photos provided by John Mullineaux
After a long journey to the other side of the world having qualified for the finals in the Tour of Cambridgeshire earlier in the year, it was race day. The race started at 7am on a brisk and surprisingly cold Perth morning. Our age category contained a strong line up of cyclists from all over the world. Ex pros, rising stars, racers and club riders. The talent on the table was clear; but equally it was amazing to see some people who were there for the experience and to race for their country.
The pace of the opening of the race was rapid, chasing down breakaways down the highway leading to the hills, the point where the race would start to spread out. 2 laps of the hills with a finish at the top of the Zig Zag, this was going to be a tough race with the 2000 meters of climbing over 155km.
Sadly a puncture 80km put my race to a halt. I sat by the side of the road and fixed it as quick as I could with an attempt to latch onto anything I could. It became a lonely race, head down pushing hard to simply set the best possible time.
Race finished. An average speed of 35km. It was a tough one, but an incredible opportunity to represent Great Britain, Ripcor and most importantly The PACE Centre.
All the Focus Ambassadors were bought together for a clinic with Michael Kluge.
Kluge is a multiple German champion and amateur world champion in cyclo-cross in 1985 and 1987 and professional world champion in 1992.
In 1992 Kluge set up the bicycle manufacturing company Focus Bikes in Cloppenburg, Germany.
We were given a masterclass in mountain biking skills and handing, with Michael analysing and accessing how we did.
The day also involved filming with The Bike Channel and became an opportunity for all the Ambassadors to meet and ride together.
Mark Cavendish: The Manx Missile: 48 Grand Tour Stage wins, 30 Tour De France Stage victories, 3x Madison World Champion. A cycling legend in his own right. Rise Above is a sportive around the roads he learnt to cut the cloth in his profession, where trained whilst a youth cyclist in the British Cycling Academy. What better way to celebrate the amazing season he has been having than riding these roads.
We started early in Chester with the initial stages of the sportive on closed roads before heading out into the Welsh hills.
As the sun came up the amount of climbing we were about to contend with started to become a reality. Over 2400 meters across just shy of 170km became a long day in the saddle.
The route included a timed climb of Horseshoe Pass.
(Bwlch yr Oernant, "Pass of the Cold Stream") is a mountain pass in Denbighshire, north-east Wales. It separatesLlantysilio Mountain to the west from the 565 metre (1,854 feet) mountain and Marilyn Cyrn-y-Brain to the east. The A542 road from Llandegla toLlangollen runs through the pass, reaching a maximum height of 417 metres (1,368 ft). The road travels in a horseshoe shape around the sides of a valley, giving the pass its name.
This route dates from 1811, when a turnpike road was constructed across the area. As with the rest of the roads in the Clwydian Range, it is not uncommon for sheep to gather in the road, sometimes causing problems for drivers. The road is also frequently closed in winter due to snowfall or landslides.
The Pass is well known for the Ponderosa cafe at its highest point and the scenic views along the road. Both the cafe and the pass itself are extremely popular with cyclists & motorcyclists. There are many walks and routes in the immediate area that are popular with hikers, and there are a number of campsites nearby.
The route itself was equally rewarding and challenging. Meaning you could attack the hills as hard as you liked. All feed stops were also well stocked up. All in all a fantastic sportive in a beautiful part of the world.
Here's the Strava file!
We started our coast to coast adventure with the intention of tackling 4 National Parks and areas of outstanding beauty across Northern England, these being The Lake District, The North Pennines, The Yorkshire Dales and The North York Moors. There was always going to be plenty of stunning views and climbing to tackle along with some steep descents.
The journey started early.. On a sleepy train at 5am to head to Lancaster. Arriving to be welcomed by local coffee shop 'The Hall'. Well woth a stop for a flat white and croissant.
Once other members of the team arrived on different times we started to head out on our casual first day. We departed Lancaster with the Lakes on our minds, heading towards Silverdale and to Milnthorpe for the custom of dipping the wheels into the sea. (Or the estuary. It was close enough)
From this point, the roads took us into the Lakes. We were lucky enough to be joined by one of the chaps from The Cold Dark North for part of what was his 'commute'.
There was one major climb of the day, Gummer's How which hit roughly 20% at one point. A great leg stretcher to start how we mean to go on. After this we continued into the start of the Lake District finishing the day at Blawith.
Day two, we departed the house we were staying at early doors to take advantage of quiet roads. 160km with 2775 meters of climbing. We all anticipated this day heading straight through The Lake District and into the North Pennines.
The first major climb of the day. The aptly named 'The Struggle' a road that runs from the village of Ambleside up to Kirkstone Pass. One gent wished us luck at the bottom, as the rain came down and the mist closed in whilst we climbed.
The view from the top, even though covered in mist was still rewarding.
The climbing didn't stop as we headed into the North Pennines with brutal 20mph headwinds to battle against. As you pass through The Lakes on day two, be sure to recover from The Struggle at Helvellyn Country Kitchen and again at Hartside Top Cafe, the highest cafe in England. The climb up Hartside, is a long one but equally stunning.
From the top of Hartside we are graciously greeted with a 20km descent. Any climb is worth a 20km descent. One last climb for the day, greeted by the 20mph headwind to battle through. This proved a tough, long climb where you could simply get your head down and hope.
Our day finished in Kirkby Stephen. Fletcher House is a wonderfully welcoming spot to rest your head and lock up your bike while mentally and physically preparing for the final leg of your journey.
182km and 2770 meters of climbing infront of us and the coast in Scarborough. Another big day of climbing from the set of. Number 78 in the 100 best climbs, Lamps Moss. One way to get the legs warmed up.
The majority of the rest of the day involved rolling hills, some of steep gradients as we ventured through the Yorkshire Dales towards The North York Moors.
Long straight roads, lined with heather greeted us as we travelled into the Moors. With the scenery we had seen on this adventure its understandable how all of them are National Parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty.
80km into day three sees you arrive into Northallerton, a small town between The Dales and The Moors. If you're lucky enough to be passing through Monday to Saturday, a myriad of local bakeries and cafes await. Sunday's offer a reduced choice, but there are still plenty of options on the high street.
We stopped briefly in Whitby for a refuel and headed towards Scarborough. As we headed close to Scarborough traffic lights appeared and we could sense the end of our epic adventure. Lots of climbing, all the weather you can think of. Great memories and renewed friendships.
To celebrate Ripcor's 10th anniversary, we decided to do the first ride founders Treve Ripley and Sean Cornell rode together London (Loch Fyne in Ascot) to Paris.
Day 1- Loch Fyne to Newhaven
We started early doors outside Ripcor's dedicated clubhouse, AKA Loch Fyne in Ascot. Teams were sent off in waves to keep disruption on the roads to a minimum. Long flowing roads with a few climbs and multiple punctures lead to my group arriving at Newhaven last, but we made it in time for the ferry, which was our main worry.
Day 2- Dieppe to Beauvais
Day 2, we compared shoes early on and set off from Dieppe loosely following an old railway line which runs straight into Beauvais. Long straight roads were our friends for the day, leading past fields of crop and animals.
Occasionally met by small villages, farmer's shops, coffee stops and chateaus, there were plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the scenes around us.
We arrived in Beauvais accompanied by yet more beautiful architecture and a great bar to prop up in until the rest of riders arrived.
Day 3- Beauvais to Paris
Our final day, the homeward stretch into Paris, the opportunity to celebrate Ripcor's 10 years with all groups riding the majority of the ride together, Teams leading out their strongest sprinters for the town sign sprints, regular coffee pauses and chats and banter all the way.
Coffee stops were frequent, in an attempt to extend our final glory day of riding into the French capital. a moment to mix up with people you may not have seen much on previous days. The roads into Paris became congested and busy, but the excitement levels were high. All 37 of us made it on one piece (just) to achieve a ride set out by the two founders 10 years ago.
We agreed to ride it as a team. That was the plan.
On the 31st July a budding group of 4 Ripcor Riders were lined up at the start of the Prudential Ride London 100. We entered as a team through the British cycling scheme allowing affiliated clubs to enter a team to race together and aim for the best time.
The Route; 100 miles of closed roads through London, into Surrey and back into the city finishing on The Mall outside Buckingham Palace.
The Elevation; There were a few major climbs, Leith Hill, Box Hill and Wimbledon Hill (chucked in at the end providing the main challenges over the 100 mile loop.
The Weather; Dry, slightly windy but warm. Much better than previous years with the 2013 rendition having the aftermath of a hurricane to deal with.
With thousands of riders taking part in what is known as the largest festival of cycling the roads, even though closed were busy with riders able to take up the full width. One major incident caused us to be delayed for roughly an hour and lead to a bit of impromptu cyclocross along a public footpath.
Leith Hill is always a challenging climb but with this number of riders along the relatively narrow lane added to the need to keep your head sharp, similarly with Box Hill but things seemed more leisurely by that point for our team.
We finished the 100 mile route in 5 hours dead, crossing the line next to eachother, a tremendous effort for all involved and great fun. We will be back next year!
On the 26th June on what was a chilly start to the day, but fresh, dry and a great start to a Sunday out in the hills of Surrey.
The route itself is 166km and heads out into the North Downs offering stunning views over the Kent and Surrey countryside and Biggin Hill, then the route heads towards Reigate and Dorking where you get to tackle a timed climb of Box Hill. The route climbs 1098 meters and has a max elevation of 275 meters. Finally you return into London for a spin around the iconic Herne Hill Velodrome, a place where Sir Bradley Wiggins himself trained as a kid!
Heres my ride:
In collaboration with Focus Bikes, 9 different cyclists were selected from a mix of backgrounds and disciplines to ride and race some of the German bicycle brand's bikes. As a fan of Focus already this became too good of an opportunity to turn down. Each rider has been setting their own personal #focuschallenge which you can follow through that hashtag.
Get ahead of the disc brake revolution, and your opposition, with the Focus Izalco Max Disc Dura Ace Road Bike 2016. A race ready disc equipped road bike, rather than just disc brakes added to an existing model, this is a showcase of German engineering at its very best.
The phenomenal Izalco Max P2T 10 Disc Carbon fibre frame weighs just 790 grams, with the Izalco Max P2T 10 Carbon T4 fork adding a mere 325 grams. Thanks to their revolutionary Rapid Axle Technology (RAT), this slight weight increase over the calliper version also comes with a stiffness increase. RAT gives the excellent strength and lateral stiffness of thru axles with the fastest wheel-change system ever.
The carbon fibre fork comes from one seamless piece gives superb lateral stiffness for performance, with the necessary shock absorption to remove the vibrations coming from the road to boost comfort. The tapered headtube adds stiffness. The lengthened chainstays additionally contribute to the handling.
Having worked with the AG2R La Mondiale team, Focus now individually designs each frame size so that all of them offer the perfect balance of stiffness to weight that their engineers desire. The professional touch continues with the internalisation of cable routing, with all the necessary space for electronic groupsets.
Superb quality is continued with the Shimano Dura Ace 9000 eleven speed parts. More carbon fibre is added by the FSA SL-K crankset that allows efficient power transfer. Weight is also saved with the inclusion of a stylish Fizik Cryano handlebars and exceptional Antares R5 Manganese saddle that is comfortable and pressure relieving.
Finally the DT Swiss R23 tubeless ready wheels offer you the snappy response you would want from this bike that is undeniably ready to race. Thankfully, should you just want it to rack of some fast miles of recreational riding, then the carbon seatpost adds another level of comfort to that already provided by the saddle and excellent frame design.
As part of the preparation and training for the Richmond 24, James Berry and myself ventured out to ride London to Brighton, and back through the night. It's well known I am not the biggest fan of night riding and this hilly 220km route is not one for the faint hearted and equally challenging as the sun starts to set hitting the country lanes.