Results – Training

VC Bristol and the Newport Velodrome experience

Report by Phil Davies

It had been talked about for a while and interest now was getting near fever pitch, VC Bristol was going to hit Newport Velodrome in a big way to experience, the thrills of the indoor track and fixed wheel cycling with no brakes!

30th December was the first available date and everyone was happy, but we did have a couple of months to wait. With the humorous banter on the VC facebook page and numerous conversations at Webbs of Warmley the time flew by, Christmas seemed to come and go and before we knew it we were all heading over to Newport.

This banter had now turned into serious questions about “how steep is the banking”, “will I slip in the corners”, “what is it like riding a bike without brakes” – all these questions and more were about to be answered.

On arrival, hire bikes were collected, everyone changed into their club kit and then we all gathered in the track centre ready for our briefing. Chris Davis was coaching the session and with the mixed abilities and talents of riders was going to have a very busy and probably exhausting time – to control the Chris Hoy, Laura Trott wannabes and new to track riders safely can’t be easy?

Chris split us into 2 groups, those who had ridden the track before and those who had not. First up on to the track were the more experienced track riders, after a safety briefing and explanation as to what we were going to do we were off. Riding the blue line and changing on the front every lap or so for our warm up the pace was nice and steady, we kept this up for a good 10-15 minutes and all the while Chris was keeping his eye on us. As we came round the next time Chris asked us to “up” the pace and change from the front to rear of the group every half lap, this was now turning from a warm up to an exercise and all of a sudden in less than 3 laps the pace was quite hot. Beads of sweat were now starting to appear on the brows of many, the close group formation was holding well and speeds were increasing lap on lap – somebody had to blow soon. Charley was next on the front and the pace was stepped up another level – no slouch is our Charley when on the track and our lovely formation was slowly bring ripped to pieces. This was now a “full on” hard session and riders were pulling out every half lap and within a few more we were all done, Chris blew the whistle to advise riders the exercise was over and for us to make our way off the track. Pulling into the track centre and once everyone had recovered, the smiles starting appearing and the whole crazy experience was the topic of great conversation!

Next up were “new to track” riders and those who had a only done a small amount of track cycling, Chris gave a briefing and explanation as to the exercise and then off we went. I led the group out as everybody was going to be following myself around different parts of the track, the point in this was to let the riders experience riding high on the banking close to the barriers and moving across the track in different areas. Well what can I say apart from ‘fabulous’, once everyone was on my wheel the whole exercise went superbly and all rode fantastic.

We rode from the black to the blue, to the red, to the blue and then all the way to the top skimming the barriers all the way round, everyone stayed on the wheels and I’m sure we looked like members of the 2012 Olympic squad in training!! The time flew by during all this fun and before we knew it Chris was calling us back down for a rest, the smiles were unbelievable and all those doubts of riding high on the banking were gone in a flash.

The whole evening was flying by now with the 2 groups taking it in turns to complete different exercises Chris was setting them, all riders were getting a good workout and also gaining valuable experience at the same time. The track centre was alive with giggles, banter and fast talking conversations about riding on the boards, track bikes and everything velodrome orientated – Fun was being had by all.

Being quite a regular to the velodrome, one thing which was really nice to see and something which is not very common on my visits was everyone in their club jerseys, to have all the riders wearing the VC Bristol kit was fabulous. A constant blur of white circled the track all night.

Looks like the next trip to Newport will be high on the agenda of things to organise and I’m sure everyone will be there just itching to have another go. A very big “Thank you” goes out to Chris for coaching the session and keeping us all under control and also to Ron Bradley for helping along the way – Thanks again chaps.

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Bryan Chapman Memorial 600km Audax

Words: Henry Orna

Early on Saturday 25th August, I set out from Bristol to ride the Permanent version of the Bryan Chapman Memorial 600km audax. This end-to-end of Wales (from Chepstow to Menai Bridge and back) runs every year in May as a calendar event, this year over 100 people completed it. A friend and myself decided to tackle the newly-created Permanent version – A Permanent being an audax route you can ride at any time, gaining proof of passage and timing by getting shop or ATM receipts at the nominated control towns. A few days beforehand my friend decided he was not fit to ride, he was having some achilles trouble after riding the London-Edinburgh-London 1400km – fair enough excuse for sure. I decided to go ahead and ride solo.

The calendar event of the Bryan Chapman mainly uses good Welsh A and B roads, with long steady climbs and descents. The Permanent version uses some of the same, but also is quite a different route – a lot more country lanes going against the grain of the hills, meaning sharper inclines and slower going. A couple of weeks beforehand I had found out the cheap sleep stops of the Youth Hostels at Pen-Y-Pass and Dolgellau were full up, it being the Bank Holiday weekend. So the plan became, ride right through Saturday night, and take it from there. In total I had around 670km and 10,000 metres of climbing to do. And a maximum time limit of 42hrs 43min to ride the 617km from Chepstow-Menai-Chepstow.

Chepstow-Usk-Rhayader: I got to Chepstow a few minutes after 6 am, collected an ATM receipt and set off up a hill (naturally) out of town. This leg passed smoothly, enjoyed the very long but very shallow climb of the A479, followed by the endless descent into Builth Wells. Stopped just before Rhayader at a roadside cafe for the only sit-down meal of the ride, jacket potato.

Rhayader-Borth-Barmouth: Straight out of Rhayader I turned off at the sign for Aberystwyth Mountain Road. This meant the start of the serious climbing, but also the long traverse of the Elan Valley that I had been looking forward to. The valley starts gently and gradually opens up, the landscape gets wilder, every view is better than the last. This place really feels like a wilderness, doesn’t seem like you are in the UK at all.

In the small seaside town of Borth, the classic local shop meal of sandwich/crisps/milkshake, then inland and out towards the next coastal town of Barmouth. Across the Afon Mawddach estuary at Barmouth on the low wooden bridge which also carries the railway. Again stood outside a supermarket eating, it was busy with holiday makers. A lady shouting at her dogs. A guy wearing some kind of dress or sarong. Some lads old enough to know better came up “How much is your bike worth mate?” they weren’t smiling “Never you mind” I said, nor was I. They weren’t looking for a showdown, just inquisitive I guess, “Come on let’s go to the pub” and off they went.

Barmouth-Caernarfon-Menai Bridge: Leaving Barmouth with the evening sun coming through the clouds, there was a grandstand view of the mountains up ahead. I knew I should make it over Snowdonia with some light left for the views. Sure enough I made the climb to Rhyd-Ddu with the sun low in the sky, dazzling in the eyes and making the valley and mountains look like they were made of gold! OK, a little poetic license there. By the time I got down to Caernarfon it was dark.

I had gotten out the battery pack and charging lead for my GPS unit but realised I had brought the wrong lead. My GPS was running out, but I still had the paper route sheet on the handlebars to navigate from. At the 24hr petrol station at Menai Bridge I stocked up on supplies, as I knew I wouldn’t pass an open shop until morning. Had a chat with a guy and his girlfriend, she refused to believe I was riding back to Bristol – surely I lived round the corner and was just having them on! He had done an Ironman triathlon himself and did believe me, with a handshake and best wishes I set off.

Menai Bridge-Llanberis-Betws Y Coed-Dolgellau: Going up Llanberis Pass, I could make out the black shapes of the mountains looming up all around but not see any detail. It was completely still and quiet. Once or twice I heard a bird of prey. Despite getting warm on the climb, I could feel that the temperature had dropped, it was a clear night. As I had thought, it would not be possible to stop for rest, it was too cold. I set music playing in my earphones, I concentrated on that and the miles ticked away. Most of the night was on main roads, no navigation issues. I got into Dolgellau around 7 am. Nothing was open, apart from a bar playing music, looked like a lock-in from the night before. I decided not to knock on the door for coffee.

Dolgellau-Newtown-Llandrindod Wells: Out of Dolgellau the route headed up a long and steep lane. Half way up I had to get off and walk the rest, but at least I had properly warmed up after the chilly night. The sun was out. Then some nice smooth A road, before being pitched into some stunning countryside that reminded me of Cornwall. That and the fact that the lanes either went up, or down, never flat. Shortly before Newtown I got dozy so I laid down in a field and set the alarm for 1 hour. But in 30 min I was awake and feeling surprisingly refreshed, especially after an early lunch in Newtown. Newtown to Llandrindod Wells was a blast along the A483, after the long but very steady rise out of Newtown, the road seemed to be downhill all the way or flat, most enjoyable.

Llandrindod Wells-Hay on Wye: I had been making good time, I was seeing myself getting home early evening. This leg was only 35km, however that proved to be deceptive. This section was pretty but some of the most challenging riding I could imagine. The majority of hills, and they were constant, were too steep to ride on my fixed gear (I was using 67″), I did a lot of walking. The road surface in some of the lanes was very poor. A couple were gated roads across farmland, public rights of way but clearly never used by cars, only sheep. Some steep descents I had to inch down on the brakes, or get off and walk down. A signpost mentioned on the route sheet no longer existed, so I got lost and spent quite a while searching around in what seemed like a Bermuda Triangle of lanes. When I was finally spat out of this maze at Hay on Wye it was 7 pm. For a moment I wished there was a train station there. Then common sense took over, I had 75km and nearly 6 hours to do it in, not a problem.

Hay on Wye-Monmouth-Chepstow: Leaving Hay I was soon on foot again as the lanes to Craswall that run parallel to the Gospel Pass twisted steeply upwards. However it was then a long flat and downhill fast blast in the dusk through lanes to near Abergavenny. Up, up, up again, then down into Monmouth. After all the tricky lanes crammed into the second day of the ride, Monmouth to Chepstow is a kind final section along the A466 Wye Valley, well known to Bristol cyclists of course. I was starting to see things, the dark shapes of overhanging trees looked like cartoon figures. I used the music in my earphones to focus. To wake myself up I rode as fast as I could up the final hill from Tintern Abbey, and then the ride was done, bar the spin back to Bristol.

This is a great route. Having done both, I was a little surprised at how much harder it was than the calendar event of the Bryan Chapman, but also was not disappointed by the breathtaking scenery. Would I do it again some time in future – yes. On fixed again – no, I’d like to ride all the hills properly. On my own – This was an adventure that took me close to the limit, we all come back from that “other place” feeling refreshed and stronger, company would make it even better no doubt.

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An insight into Velo Club Bristol

Surviving the Club Run!

When I completed the registration form to join the Velo Club Bristol back in 2011, I did so with a shaky hand. Not due to excessive drinking the night before, but what on earth was I thinking! I wanted to improve my cycling skills but imagined you had to be an elite cyclist to join. I spoke with Si, at Webbs of Warmley, who was so enthusiastic about the club, how they had a few female members but were looking for more to join, so I thought why not. When I left the shop, I started panicking…. what have I done!!

I remember turning up on a chilly Sunday morning at 8.30 am, stomach churning, and introduced myself to the boys. Oh great, the only girl here and these guys have defined quads that looked like they’d gone to Chris Hoy’s gym. I really wanted to go home. They chose the route and off we set. There were only 6 of us out that day, but I was assured that many more usually turn up, weather dependent.

Our route took in the sights of Castle Coombe, none of which I really saw due to continually being spat out of the back and having asthma episodes due to the effort of keeping up…. Or not, in this case.  I have to commend the boys, they were very patient with me and waited at EVERY junction. I did keep apologising for not keeping up, however, they were very gracious.

When we finally got back to the shop, I really did think that would be the last time I went out with them because I just wasn’t good enough. I hurt from head to toe and I just about made it through my front door before collapsing on the floor of my hallway and just lay there for about half an hour because I couldn’t move. It was pure agony!

Lying there in a state of shock and pain had me thinking, if it hurts this much, why do they go back time and time again and punish themselves? Surely there must be some enjoyment? So, not being the sort of person to quit I went back the following week.

Guess what, I got spat out time and time again and hurt from head to toe every week. I was the only girl for a long time and thought I’d continually have to prove myself. But the strange thing is, the more you go, the stronger you get and the more you learn. Doesn’t hurt any less but the training you put in during the week helps with surviving the endurance ride at the weekend. The speed is dependent upon whom is out riding. Sometimes it’s steady and you’re able to keep up, but it has its moments of mad mini sprints. You choose to go with them or catch them up at the next junction.  I make no bones about it, I hate hills, always have, always will. I get spat out royally but have learned to appreciate that they do indeed make you a stronger rider and I now have the ability to hang on with the group on the flats.

Some of the greatest things you’ll learn by going out on a club ride is knowing who’s wheel to sit on to get the most shelter from the wind, or where to sit in the peloton to recover. You’ll get advice from your team on what gear is best to use for certain roads/hills etc. and best of all you get to socialise with everyone on the ride as you yo-yo back and forth from front to back. There is always someone to offer advice and most importantly you’ll enjoy the experience.
We have some fantastic girls in our club who are exceptional riders. Everyone has to start somewhere and with the right mind set there’s no reason why any newcomer should feel intimidated on our club ride.

Having found my forte to be at the track (no hills!), the club run is essential to my training. Some weeks are better than others but rest assured the group do slow down to allow you to catch up should you start lagging behind and if you’re lucky, a helping hand on your back to push you up the hills! After 450 miles of riding in 8 days in Mallorca recently, along with 13 asthma episodes, you’re probably wondering why I still go back after being spat out and chewed up…..It’s because a wise person once said just get on your bike and enjoy riding it. Don’t think about it, just do it – I now fully appreciate what they meant!

Emma Sainsbury-Munn

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Bike Bath Report

23/24th June 2012

VCB riders were in action on Saturday 23rd June as part of the Bike Bath event.  Gavin Thomas triumphed over 500m and 1000m in the Rollapaluza event on Saturday evening (report to follow) whilst at the other end of the spectrum Rob Sutton took part in the 100mile sportive event earlier that day.

The route started from the centre of Bath and followed the back-roads down towards Chew Valley and Blagdon lakes before the first major climb up Burrington Combe.  The next part was a loop around the Somerset levels followed by a climb back up onto the Mendips via Cheddar Gorge.  The final part of the ride followed the Colliers Way for a short distance before a leg-breaking climb up onto Combe Down and then an easy freewheel back into Bath.

The event was low-key but well organised with good signage throughout.  Rob completed the ride in 06:08:25.

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