Saturday 30 January 2016

My Year in Cycling 2016

Gosh it's been a while.  I decided I was going to write about my ongoing cycling adventures in 2012, and managed to keep it up for about twelve months and then got sidetracked with other things.

To some extent, the things I did in 2012 where a bit more noteworthy, which included a LEJOG - (End to End) and a great road cycling holiday in southern Spain, but there's been a few great days out since then that would have deserved a mention.  Oh well, after a two and a half year absence, I'm back.  If I can remember what happened, I might go back and plug a few gaps.  There's been a number of epic one day rides and I ventured onto the velodrome (indoor track at the National Cycling Centre) for the first time in the spring of 2014.

Me feeling good after a session on the track (in Manchester)
I thought I'd keep a record of the main things I do in the cycling world each month this year.  Hopefully, that will give me a bit of motivation to try a few more things again.  After getting back into cycling in a big way at the end of 2011 and joining a cycling club for the first time at the tender age of forty one, I seemed to be on the up for a couple of seasons.  Now I seem to be going backwards, but maybe with a bit of focus and planning this year, I can make some improvements again?

As I say, depending on time available. I may even backtrack over some of the things I did in 2014/2015.  Even if I didn't do too much on the bike worth mentioning, there was watching the Tour de France in Yorkshire (Grand Départ), which was pretty epic.  Come to think of it, I rode the Stage One (...and some) a week or two before the Pro Peloton arrived in the UK.

Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club on a Wednesday night

Club Cycling also seems to have taken a back seat over the last couple of years too.  After I kicked off some Wednesday evening rides for the faster riders in the Cycling Club (the Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club) in 2014, I seemed to be conspicuous by my absence the following year when the pace hotted up a bit, and I watched the fitter riders disappear off in to the distance when there was a stiff climb thrown in the middle of the ride.  Oh well, I'll try again this year.

I ended 2015 with the gruelling Rapha Festive 500 Strava challenge, as I'd done a few times before (I failed once, but did achieve it the first time).  310 miles in a week and a day, doesn't seem like much of a challenge on paper, but considering it's between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve and I'm in the UK, it's a test.  The weather is poor, the days are short and if you are not working then you're doing the social rounds with friend and relatives, so physically fitting in 40 miles a day is tough.  Once you've missed a day, that's a pretty long ride in the winter needed to pick it up.  Anyway, I got there and recently got my fabric badge to prove it (...and to go on my Speedos!).

My Rapha Strava challenge badge collection

Getting back onto the road after that has been tough.  The winter's been extremely mild, with very little frost, snow or ice, but it's been pissing it down constantly off the back of a number of tropical storms and many places have been flooded on and off since early December 2015.  One motivation has been the Strava segment climbing challenge (...well competition) that one of my club-mates set up, and the man at VeloViewer kindly automated into one of his segment hunter features.

The Ribble Valley Grimpeur Of The Year 2016 was born one club night over the winter and has been cooking up a bit of rivalry out on the roads and online.  I've been chipping away at the various segments off the list, but it is very slow going at the moment.  Oh well, things can only get better?

The Ribble Valley Grimpeur Of The Year 2016

I'm riding high on the leader-board at the moment by virtue of riding most of the climbs, not how well I'm going up them.  However, I discovered I'm carrying a whole bundle of extra Kilos I didn't know about up 'them there hills', but that's a whole other story!

New RVCRC website for 2016

Off the bike, I've been having some fun and games with some hackers on the Cycling Clubs website.  The end result is that I'm currently doing a new one for them, which should be up and running in mid February 2016.  It'll be on a new domain name and a bit easier to manage, so hopefully between me and the other volunteers we can keep it a bit more up-to-date going forward.  Watch this space...


Thursday 21 February 2013

Fleet Moss Audax - May 2013

Fleet Moss and Supporting Audax Rides

For my sins, I will be taking part in the Fleet Moss Audax Ride that is taking place on Sunday 19th May 2013.  I did the ride last year with the cycling club that I am currently a member, the Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club, who help organise the event each year.  Last year the ride was very enjoyable, and quite challenging.  The Fleet Moss climb is very tough and has a couple of steep kicks at the end.  You really need some pretty low gears for those.  I personally was zigzagging all over the road at the latter stages of the climb just to get up it.

Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club

A View from Fleet Moss Looking Back Towards Hardraw and Hawes
A View from Fleet Moss Looking Back Towards Hardraw and Hawes
If you have ever tried or are thinking of riding a Sportive, then why don't you have a go at an Audax as an alternative?  Why not join the RVCRC (Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club) for one of three challenging but beautiful cycle rides starting and finishing at Claughton Memorial Village Hall, near Garstang in Lancashire (Grid Ref. SD 513428).

The rides are open to all cyclists (not just Audax UK members) and they will suit club-men, time-trialists, recreational riders, cycle tourists, 'born again' cyclists, young and old, male and female.  The length of the rides and the climbing involved means that cycling experience is definitely necessary.  It's important that you sure you are capable of tackling these rides before entering.

The rides are NOT races and should be ridden at your own pace. People ride them more in the spirit of an event like the London Marathon, everyone riding to their own limitations with the primary objective to 'get round'.  The three available rides offer distances of 112km (70 miles), 158km (98 miles) or 212km (132 miles) and all have the same start and finish point.

Pilgrim's Way 112km (70 miles)

Beautiful, moderately hilly ride, through (or close to) Longridge, Waddington, Downham, East Marton, Hellifield, Bolton-by-Bowland, Waddington, Chipping, Claughton. Café stop at Abbot’s Harbour.

Lunesdale Populaire 158km (98 miles)

This ride is shorter than the main Fleet Moss ride, but still a hard, hilly event.  This ride follows the Fleet Moss route to Dent, which includes the Trough of Bowland and Lamb & Tatham Fell.  After that the route goes to Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale, then Quernmore to Scorton and back to Claughton HQ. 
For Audax members this ride is worth 2.25 Audax AAA climbing points.

Fleet Moss 212km (132 miles)

This is the main ride and is a very challenging ride through beautiful countryside including the Forest of Bowland and Upper Wharfedale.  The climbs include the Trough of Bowland, Lamb & Tatham Fell, Dent & the infamous Fleet Moss.  After Fleet Moss the route takes in Wharfedale, Kettlewell, Grassington, Gargrave and Bolton-by-Bowland.  There is a final climb of Chaigley (Walker Fold) through Chipping and then the route takes the rider back to the HQ in Claughton. 
For Audax members this ride is worth 3.25 Audax AAA climbing points.

Fleet Moss

Fleet Moss Audax Profile
RVCRC (Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club) Fleet Moss Audax Profile
The hardest part of the Fleet Moss climb is on Beggarmans Roads, which is on the way from Hawes to Oughtershaw and Deepdale.  Photographs, maps and aerial views never really give the true steepness of a climb away, but the hardest part can be seen on the following view on Google Maps.

View Larger Map

If you are thinking of having a go or definitely want to take part in one of the three available Audax rides, please see the PDF document of an A4 poster that RVCRC have published to promote the event.

For further details and entry forms, please see the Audax UK web site ( or get in touch with the RVCRC event organiser by email:

The specific page on the Audax UK web site relating to the Fleet Moss 212 event is on the following URL:

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Vamos! Road cycling holiday in Las Alpujarras, Southern Spain

A Great Cycling Holiday in Southern Spain

Having recently returned from a fantastic week long cycling holiday in the south of Spain, I thought I'd write a bit about it as part of the inevitable post holiday withdrawal process.  My cycling club mate Mike and I, who both ride with the Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club (, spent seven great days with Vamos! Cycling Holidays Spain.

Vamos! Cycling is situated in a road cycling paradise in Las Alpujarras, the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Southern Spain, within the Andalusia autonomous community. Gary and Sarah Williams run very flexible cycling holidays from their beautifully renovated town house in a small town called Cádiar in the province of Granada, Spain.
I read a bit about them beforehand on the Vamos! web site (  That talked about providing a comfortable, relaxed, bike-friendly base for road cycling holidays, with plenty of fabulous food!  And after experiencing the offering, I’d say this was a pretty accurate description.

I’ve personally cycled in Spain a few times now, so I knew what to expect as far as the quiet roads and (generally) better tolerance of cyclist from the local motorists.  Previously I’ve dragged the bike along on family holidays and fit in riding around the other holiday activities.  I’ve also been fortunate enough to drive through Spain a couple of times with the bike in the back of the car, taking it out for a spin when the mood grabbed me.  However, this is the first time I’ve taken a completely bike oriented holiday and I can certainly say that it is worth doing.

The area around Cádiar is truly stunning.  Cádiar is positioned on the south side of the Sierra Nevada mountains and itself is relatively high up.  I reckon it’s somewhere in the region of 900 metres above sea level, but don’t quote me on that!  Gary and Sarah said that they chose Cádiar – in the heart of the Alpujarras – with cyclists in mind because of the choice of varied routes that leave the town.  There are challenging climbs, awesome descents and the odd bit of flat stuff if you travel towards the coast.

A view of Cádiar from Gary's and Sarah's town house

We spent the days cycling with our host Gary, who is very handy on the bike, and the evenings relaxing around the house always fitting in a long and hearty dinner.  The meals were prepared by Gary’s wife Sarah.  These were excellent, varied and really couldn’t be faulted on their quality or quantity.  I often sat in awe as my cycling buddy Mike polished of four of five helpings of the main course. And I thought I could eat a bit!!

The group of hungry cyclist dining with Sarah and Gary

Mike and I spent the week in the company of the Williams as well as several other guest from around the world.  Sarah collected us from the airport at Malaga and at that point we met up with Amanda and Robin.  Amanda is from America and is currently visiting Europe whilst doing more than her fair share of Triathlon training.  You can read all about them on her blog (  On the journey to the accommodation we also picked up Amanda’s American Triathlon training buddy, Katie.  The final member of the group (Paul) was picked up by Gary later on in the evening on the day of our arrival.  As we were all weary from the travelling, so turned in early, we didn’t get to meet him until the following morning for breakfast.  Not something that’s particularly in the Williams’ control, but fortunately the group mixed well both on and of the bike.  Riding, meal times and relaxing were always full of much good humoured banter.

A picture of me enjoying the cycling.  The arm-warmers etc. were just for the high parts. 

All in all, a “TOTALLY AWESOME” (…will perhaps explain this in a later post) experience that I would recommend to any cyclist looking for some challenging, traffic free riding on good quality road surfaces.  All this and the dry warm climate that makes you remember why you enjoy cycling.  Now I’ve to work out how the heck I can motivate myself to carry on riding in the bleakness of the Winter (and to be fair, most of the Summer) in the North West of England, where the motorist don’t think twice about running down the likes of Bradley Wiggins let alone mere cycling mortals such as me!

Monday 12 November 2012

Vamos! Cycling Holiday Day 2

Cherín, Adra, La Rábita, Albondón

The second day of our cycling holiday based in Cádiar (located in the province of Granada), Spain was going to be a little more difficult than the first day.  Our host, guide and ride leader at Vamos! (Gary Williams) was always pretty forthcoming with information about the ride and what it was going to entail.  We got a bit of an informal briefing about where we were heading before we set of and plenty of pointers about what we were going to face along the way.  Today, we were heading to the coast.  Back at home (for Mike, my holiday companion and I) that would generally mean an easy run, dependant on the group and the wind strength or direction, towards Blackpool or Southport.  As the base for our Spanish cycling holiday was already relatively high up in Las Alpujarras and run down to the coast was going to be a different prospect altogether.  A case of 'what goes down, must come up' this time.

The day started with the usual routine.  Not too early a start, as in that part of Spain during November the Sun wasn't rising that early.  There was little point of getting up to get around in the dark.  We ate a hearty breakfast between about nine o'clock and ten o'clock, followed it up with a few routine bike checks, such as the tyre pressures.  After that we normally rolled out at about 10 am.  It was quite a cool day, reasonably over cast at whilst there was a threat of rain, it didn't look like it would actually materialise.

Time for a Break and a Proper Look Around

A View of  Embalse de Benínar and Our Route Their
We initially head out Westward towards a little town named Cherín, but didn't stop there. We instead made a route directly South towards of lunch stop destination of Adra. On our journey to the coast the road was pretty undulating, but ultimately it was downhill all the way. This meant that we'd have to climb back to our initial altitude, at least, to get back to the accommodation. We took the ALP-603 down through Darrícal and headed towards the Embalse de Benínar (a lake or reservoir). We had a brief stop at the South end of the lake to allow a few natural breaks, a bit of landscape admiration and a general regrouping. Everybody on the holiday was used to cycling, but we were all at slightly different levels, so on the ascents or descents the group did split up a bit. A short rest for the faster ones and generally it was all back together.

Mike Admires the View and Contemplates His Next Photo

A Time for Everybody to Get a Photo

The Riders Regroup Near Embalse de Benínar

View Across Embalse de Benínar
A break also offered an opportunity to take a few snapshots for the photo albums, scrapbooks and blogs.  There was certainly plenty of picturesque scenery all around.  As it was getting into Winter, some of the high peaks could be seen sporting a snowy cap.  After viewing the lake, we continued Southward and picked up another road (the ALP-461) which took us closer to Adra.  We met a junction near Berja (to the West of San Roque), but didn't get that far East.  Instead, we picked up the ALP-103 that would take us the rest of the way to the coast, over and along the valley of the Rio Grande.  The roads we now pretty flat and we passed a lot of agriculture and many giant greenhouses that are common in the area.  As we passed near La Alquería we followed the course of the Rio Adra, which was lined with tall large grasses, like bamboo.

At Our Own Pace on the ALP-461 on the Way to Adra

Three of the Group Climb the ALP-461 Together

One of the Guests (Robin) Give Gary Our Guide Some Tips!
When we arrived at Adra, the weather hadn't improved any.  It wasn't quite as cold, but it was still very overcast and it looked like it had been raining a bit.  We traversed the Calle Natalio Rivas a couple of times until we chose a suitable lunch venue.  I don't think the establishment we took lunch at was Gary's or his local friend Ramon's first choice, but at least it was somewhere to get refreshments.  It was nothing too heavy, we'd eaten well the night before and there was also plenty to go around at breakfast, so there was no point in further loading up ahead of the climb back to the start point.  After a reasonable break, which gave us enough time to consume some toast etc. and a few coffees, we were back out cycling again.

A Lunch Stop in Adra on the Coast
A Quick Stop in Adra for Coffees and Toast
After lunch we head Westwards along the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.  This area was very familiar to me, as I had stayed further West along the coast a couple of years before and had driven on the AP7, which also followed the coastline.  We eventually arrived at a place called La Rábita and this is where the long climb homewards began.  Gary was classing the run up along the A345 as part of the day's main climb, but it was pretty much uphill all the way from the coast.  It was just a very gradual drag for what felt like quite a few miles, but was only actually about one, up along this road.  We had a stop at the top of a long straight at a Repsol fuel station to grab a few supplies.  This mainly consisted of water for our drinking bottles.  

After this, the road looped around a place call Albuñol and continued to gradually climb. Our guide reckoned that the main climb of the day was about 16 Kilometres (roughly 10 miles) continually up and this didn't take into consideration these early slopes.  Oh my Lord!!  This climb was going to be a killer.  We arrived at a large roundabout on the outskirts of Albuñol (the North side) and Gary was prepared to accept that this was the start of the climb proper.  Looking at the ride on Strava later, this climb was marked as the Puerto de Albondón.  It wasn't the steepest of climbs, but it was relentless.  It's marked on the Strava web site ( as a HC climb, which means in racing cycling parlance that it is so big that it's beyond categorisation.  The HC actually stands for Hors Catégorie, which is a French term used in cycle races (most notably, the Tour de France) to designate a climb that is incredibly tough. 

A Roadside Garden on the Puerto de Albondón

We probably weren't to far into the main climb and I was doing OK, there was quite a way to go though.  I'd done the cycling club's hill climb recently, exactly a week before, but that was only a five or six minute effort.  This ascent was going to take over an hour.  I just wasn't used to riding uphill for that length of time.  In the UK, even on hilly day, you are usually able to recover on false flats or downhill sections before the next climb.  Here, I was just not going to be afforded that luxury.  On the middle section of the climb some of the stronger riders began to pull away.  I wasn't feeling to great at this point, but I just kept grinding out a rhythm as nest I could.  I often felt like I could do with a few more gears, which wasn't good, as I was riding a bike with a compact chainset.

I Abandon my Bike for a Few Minutes on the Approach to Albondón
I got to a point around the town of Albondón where I just needed a bit of a breather.  Fortunately, there was a bit of a garden or viewing area at the side of the road.  I took the opportunity to dismount and give my legs a rest under the pretence of taking a few pictures.  I don't really like stopping on a climb, but this one wasn't going well and I just needed a breather.  I really wasn't stopped too long.  It could only have been a couple of minutes and then I was back on the bike and trying to further progress up the climb.  I have a few thoughts about taking a layer off, or maybe the arm warmers, but whilst we were warm from the effort the temperature around us was falling as the road arose up to the clouds.

A View Back Towards the Coast from Albondón

A View of Albondón from the Roadside Gardens

At the end of the day, whilst the slow pace I was capable of climbing this hill wasn't great, I have to accept that my body just wasn't used to this kind of effort.  Eventually I was over the hardest part of the climb and hit a section of flat road.  I had a stop to put my raincoat on ready for the later descent back to Cadiar.  This was somewhere around the junction of the A-345 that we we riding on an the adjoining GR-5202.  After that, there was a little bit more climbing, but then I was on the homeward stretch.  As it was cold, and we all knew the way back to the accommodation, there was little point hanging around for the other rider and getting a chill, so everybody carried on at their own pace.  It was fantastic, to be finally heading back for the warmth, a shower and some sustenance.

Looking back at the ride from the Garming GPS data, it was obviously a very hard day.  We'd done almost seventy miles, and whilst that wasn't by any means an unfamiliar distance, it was very unusual to be doing so much climbing, so it felt like we'd ridden an awful lot further.  The ride was uploaded to Strava, to be presented with the message “There are no achievements on this ride.”  There were no surprises there.  It had taken me about an hour and a half to the the ten mile measure section (Strava segment) of the climb and that meant I'd been travelling at an average speed of a might 6.6 mph.  Oh well, I got there in the end.  It was an achievement, but the latter half of the ride could not be described in any way as enjoyable.

To date, the Puerto de Albondón is the longest single climb I've ever done. It was about 3,250 feet of climbing taking us to an altitude of four thousand meters. I have previously done other rides in Spain, and pre me having a Garmin, so it's possible I have done a longer climb before. I just don't have any way of measuring it. I'm sure that I have climbed to higher altitudes before, but possibly it was split up into a few smaller climbs. Whilst I didn't enjoy this one on the day, I'd love to go back a knock a few tens of minutes off my time on a warmer day. Maybe next year?

Sunday 11 November 2012

Vamos! Cycling Holiday Day 1

Vamos! Cycling Holiday Day 1

Cherín, Laroles, Mecina Bombarón

We arrived a Vamos! on Saturday 10th November 2012 and got settled in.  We set up the bikes and unpacked etc.  There was probably enough time in the afternoon to get a short ride in, but with a full week of riding in the mountains immanent, it didn't seem like it was necessary (or even a good idea).  We'd been up since about 4.30am to travel to the airport, so chilling was the best idea.  Our hosts ensured that we were suitably watered and feed ahead of our first day.

A cyclist lives here (...or something like that!)

The following morning we arose for a our breakfast at 8.30am (nothing to outlandish there).  the first meal of the day was generally at 9 and it was all taken at a leisurely pace ahead of the day's riding.  We'd normally take an hour to get through the meal and that would leave about 30 minutes for the final prep before getting on the bikes.

Day one was really about finding our feet, so it was a relatively short ride.  Thinking back, of all the rides this is the one I remember least about.  We followed an approximately circular route out from our base in  Cádiar.  Along the way we visited the towns/villages of Cherín, Laroles, Mecina Bombarón.  The ride recorded on my Garmin 200 and uploaded to Strava can be seen below.

It was relatively cool, but considering we were pretty high up in the hills on the edge of the mountains it was much warmer than England at this time of year.

Having previously said that it was an easy day, there was several thousand feet of climbing involved and the climb up to the cafe stop at Laroles was over 6 miles.  I personally set off too quick, trying to follow the ride leader's (Gary's) local friend Ramon up the climb.  I was soon passed by the others on the ascent and after that, plus missing the cafe, I was the last one up.  I had a nice tour of the village though!

At the Cafe in Laroles with my new cycling buddies Katie & Amanda

We enjoyed the warmth of the cafe with a few of the local's and, other than one person, we just had a hot drink for the ride back to the house.  After the ride I had a bit of a wander around the local vicinity to get a feel for the place just before dusk.

Vamos' town house - a welcome site after a ride

Cádiar is a mountainous village that has preserved it´s Morisco feel and character. It was formed from three neighbourhoods (Cádiar, Narila and Yátor), and is situated between Sierra Nevada and Sierra de la Contraviesa. In the village centre there are various monuments worth visiting, including las ermitas de San Blas, San Sebastián and Santa Rita. The iglesias parroquiales are also worth seeing, built at the turn of the 16th century.

Local crafts are of great importance in Cádiar. Specialties include ceramics, items made from esparto grass and forged products, and there are many shops where you can purchase these.

You are here! A local tourist map near where the rides began

The day was finished off with a very large and tasty meal to help the riders fuel up for the next day.  Meals were prepared by Sarah in the Vanos! town house.  After that the group discussed the ride, got to know each other a little better and chilled out before bed.

A view of Cádiar from the main road (A-348)

Sunday 22 July 2012

IRONMAN UK - Bolton 2012 - Cycle Course

IRONMAN UK Bolton - 2.4 mile swim / 112 mile bike / 26.2 mile run

I decided to get up and out quite early on what turned out to be quite a nice summer's day in what was otherwise one of the wettest summers on record.  I'd been out and watched the masochistic athletes cycle their way around the West Pennine Moors (several times) the year before, and fancied going and having a look at them torture themselves again, armed with my new camera.  Apparently the event was returning to Bolton for the 4th year, and had qualifying slots for the 2012 World Championships in Kona Hawaii available.  The organisers said, "IRONMAN UK continues to offer a world class event, in the heart of the beautiful North West Countryside", and I wouldn't argue with that.  Compared to some of the places you might be fortunate enough to cycle, it's probably not the most challenging, nor the most picturesque, but it's pretty good.  Considering that it's a stones throw away from some of the North West's main towns and cities, such as Bolton, Blackburn, Manchester and Preston, the area provides a very pleasant backdrop for any cycling endeavours and affords some pretty good views of the entire North West of England on a clear day.

My First Sight of the Competitors on Moss Lane near Wheelton

I train in the area fairly regularly and it's pretty tough going.  It's really humbling to watch all the competitors cover the 112 mile bike course, including the climbs I often ride, several times (they do three laps of a circuit)  knowing that they've been up from the crack of dawn, have done a long outdoor swim and will follow the bike ride with a marathon run.  Incredible!  I have threatened to have a go, but I'm too soft, and pretty useless at swimming and running.  If it was just the cycling, I'd get round, but otherwise I'm not so sure.

A String of Riders Climbing Towards Wheelton from the Hoghton Arms

The field is quite varied.  There seems to be a good number of very experienced and serious competitors, but there are also many that appear to be taking on the challenge for the first time and attempting to raise money for charity in the process.  I was even more humbled when I was passed by athletes that were missing various limbs.  Doing an event like this when you've got all your body parts in full working order is one thing, but it  must be even more challenging when you are missing arms or legs.  

Not Everybody Bicycles the Bike Leg! Chapeau!
The riders follow the bike course route, after a leg from their swim in Pennington Flash, which travels in an anticlockwise direction around the west side of the West Pennine Moors.  The course passes through Adlington, Rivington, Belmont, Abbey Village, Wheelton, Euxton, Eccleston, Heskin Green and Heath Charnock on it's way and the riders complete three laps.  I normally take several vantage points to view the race and do about half a lap of the course in a clockwise direction (opposite way to the Triathletes).  There are quite a few good spots, for taking photos, where you can see more of the riders as they are naturally slowed when climbing the hills.  I found decent places in Wheelton (as the riders climbed from the Hoghton Arms), Abbey Village, Belmont and finally Buckshaw Village (near Euxton).

A Group of Riders Cycling out of Abbey Village

Powering up the Hill from Abbey Village
Probably one of the best points to see the competitors, on the bike leg, is in the village of Belmont.  There's a good atmosphere here.  There was a reasonably large crowd and all the riders got plenty of cheers and other forms of encouragement.  There is a really good vibe and everybody is in extremely good spirits.  I'd defy anybody to come away from watching the race without have a great big smile on their face.

A Crowd of Spectators at the Black Dog in Belmont
Competitors Ride Through the Onlookers Outside the Black Dog
You just need to be a bit wary of the traffic, as one of the lanes of the Bolton Road (A675) is still open to motor vehicles, so they can be passing behind you if you're on the east side of the road.  Otherwise, there are plenty of good spots to take in the race and (if you're not driving there), you could maybe have a few pints at the Black Dog Inn on the corner, where the athletes get onto the Bolton Road towards Hoghton after descending from the climb after Rivington.

Climbing Out of Belmont - The Bike Course is Pretty Undulating
The Competitors get Plenty of Encouragement from the Onlookers
I'm honestly not sure whether you can successfully go and watch the race on the top of the highest climb, on Rivington Road passing Winter Hill, as the way from Belmont appeared to be blocked by the Marshals.  Maybe if you get there early, you could make your way up from the Rivington side?

Spectators line the Road in Belmont
Even Watching Gets Too Tiring for Some Spectators!
Later, I was going to have a go at the bike course to capture the course data on my Garmin 200 cycling computer, but it looks like somebody had already done this and saved me the job. 

The course itself looks like this, which was taken from a PDF of the OFFICIAL 2012 RACE PROGRAMME.

Bolton Ironman - 22-07-2012 - Bike Course
As the riders will be on their bikes for many hours, and will pass a specific point on the circuit three times, it's  possible to have a break and go away and do other things for a while and still get back to see the racing.  I popped home for a bit and then went off to Buckshaw Village to have one last look at the riders and take a few more photos.  You get a few comments whilst taking pictures, although I think that it was maybe because one or two of the competitors thought I was an official photographer or something.  Some of the more serious competitors keep their heads down and power by, but some of the charity riders give you a big smile, a wave or even compose themselves enough to strike a pose. 

A Real "Ironman" Poses for me in Buckshaw Village

A Group of Competitors Passing Through Buckshaw Village
OK, I'm biased and only made time to go and see the bike leg, but I'm sure the Swimming and Running are  equally worthwhile watching.  All in all a great day out in my local area and a spectacle that's free to watch anywhere on the route.  If I don't summon up the bottle to have a go myself in the future, I'll certainly be back again in 2013 as a spectator.

I finished the day with hundreds of images of the cycling part of the race, but unfortunately I'm not sure that any of the competitors will have ever seen them.  There not the greatest, I'm no photographer, but there are quite a few decent shots.  After I'd weeded out the blurred ones, and my efforts where the shutter lag meant I'd completely missed the subject, I posted the rest up on Google+

The full set can be seen in my IRONMAN UK - Bolton - 22 July 2012 gallery >

Bolton, England | Sunday, 22 July 2012

Saturday 21 April 2012

AshWarP: LEJOG (End to End) Ride Done - Going Home

Travelling Home from Wick

The LEJOG (End to End) ride completed the night before, it was a strange feeling to be no making plans for setting off to ride our bikes long distances whilst we consumed breakfast.  We figured we still needed to help our bodies to rebuild after the big effort of the last 9 days, so we tucked into yet another big cooked breakfast.  We had been staying in the Norseman Hotel ( in Wick and there breakfast offering was ample, in a running buffet style, so it seemed rude not to eat heartily.

With the important task of nourishment out of the way, it was just a case of rounding up the gear, which was luckily all dry this time after using the bin liners in the pannier bags.  Packed up and ready to leave and ready to check out of the hotel we decided to have a wander around town and, smart phones in hand, see what options we had for the journey home.  Unlike the car hire to Penzance prior to our departure, we hadn’t decided how we would get home.  We both obviously needed to get home, but with it being a Friday the immediate pressure was off.  Other than the wedding Paul’s was going to attend on the Sunday, we didn’t need to rush home for anything on the weekend (apart from meeting back up with the WAGs).

The Spot in Wick  - Looks Like Just a Toy Shop
We visited the train station in Wick and had a look at our options.  The lady working there was extremely helpful and looked into everything for us.  She even looked at what was going to work best for us, considering we had the bikes, from both a cost and timing point of view.  She seemed to be struggling to get a guaranteed connection at Inverness that would have room for us to put the bikes on.  She suggested us seeking an alternative way of getting the bikes home separately and then our train options would be better.  That sounded like a good plan.  The lady recommend a local toy shop/bike shop that often offered a courier service for the bikes.  Obviously, being one of the larger towns in the area and with a number of accommodation options, Wick seemed to a common place for people riding their cycles End to End to stay.  From that point of view, the locals were all used to seeing cycling tourists and offering them services, help and advice.

We head of to the recommended shop.  It was called “The Spot” and did a large range of toys, models and games along with a range of everyday family cycles.  The man in the shop (Brian) suggested he could do each bike for £50 (fifty pounds), which included both the packing up and shipping of the bike directly to our doors.  We figured that we would need the bikes for a few days when we got home, and tot be fair we both have other bikes if needed, so letting somebody else take care of getting them home seemed like a great idea.  It’s one thing taking the wheels off and putting them in the back of a car, it’s another thing altogether rushing between connecting trains etc. with a bike in tow.  That bit sorted, we head off back to the train station to sort out our tickets and route home before getting the bikes back to the shop, so that Brian could organise the shipping for us.

On the way back to the train station, Paul suggested we look at splitting our journey between the train and bus an the journey home.  We hadn’t got a final price, but the cost of getting home on the train had been stacking up and considering that we’d already parted with fifty quid to remove the hassle of travelling on public transport with bikes, we needed to consider the cost.  Now that we were on foot and travelling with just our pannier luggage our options did open up a bit.  Paul had a look at the Megabus web site on his phone and reckoned that we could pick one up at Inverness and then get back to Preston (we have a big bus station there - was once the largest terminal in Europe, I think) with perhaps one or two changes on the way.  This seemed like a reasonable plan and would definitely save us a few quid compared to making the entire journey by train.  It probably wasn’t going to be a quick and would involve a bit more stopping, but at least we’d be sat down all the way and could rest a bit as we travelled.  We booked the mega bus online and then went back to the train station to sort out the train from Wick to Inverness.

The bikes dropped off with Brian, the travel arrangements sorted and checked out of the hotel, we set off the get on the train.  It wasn’t going to be too far to the first stop in Inverness and we were going to have a reasonable stop there to wait for the connection with the mega bus.  We picked up supplies at the local co-op and got on our way.  The train journey was fairly pleasant.  The train was pretty quiet and the scenery out of the window was good, but not spectacular.  It was a dry, but not overly bright day at this point and it was interesting to pass through a good number of the towns and villages we’d cycled through the day before.

Once in Inverness the weather had taken a turn for the worse.  We had a bit of time to kill, so we stocked up on more supplies, from another co-op, for the rest of the bus ride into the night and grabbed some reading materials (cycling magazines) to read whilst we were on the move.  However, the supplies this time did include a few cans of the local beer.  As we were walking around the rain was coming into my leaky trainer again.  Now that carrying things wasn’t as much of a problem, I set off to investigate what I could purchase as an alternative, more suitable footwear, in the local shops.  We got settled in another Wetherspoon’s first and it set off alone for a bit to explore.  Fortunately, I discovered the local Sports Direct and was soon in position of a nice pair of ’cut-priced’ Karrimor walking boots.  I returned to the Wetherspoon’s pub to meet up with Paul, had a few beers and dined out of burger and chips again.

We departed from the pub and had small wait outdoors to get on the appropriate Megabus.  I can’t remember too much about the journey on the bus, other than the early scenery.  I suppose because a lot of it was in darkness later on, as I don’t think we got back to Preston until something like three or four in the morning.  We did travel along the A9, which a totally different route to the one we’d cycled and that did afford us nice views of the Cairngorms into the early evening until dusk.  We had a change quite early on at Avimore (I think) and then a bit of a stop on the outskirts of Perth at Broxden Park and Ride.  Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed the alcohol on the bus, so we’d had to stash that in the hold with the luggage!  By the next stop at Glasgow, it was quite late at night and completely dark, so it was a case of trying to rest as much as we could and keep our lift from Preston informed (my girlfriend Rachel) as to how we were progressing.  I can never sleep properly sat upright on public transport.  I do doze a bit, but always feel worse when I wake up.  We were totally shattered at the end of the journey, and it was a great relief and pleasure to see Rachel in the bus station car par in Preston.

Our adventure over Paul and I parted ways at his home on the way back to mine.  It was great to be back, but it was a real anti-climax to be not thinking about were we would next be cycling to.  Oh well, maybe next year we can do something similar?