Posts Tagged ‘trip’

L’Eroica 2010. Spinwell for Le Coq Sportif.

October 5, 2010

What a weekend. Unbelievable, awesome, rad, mega, ace!

Having never been to L’Eroica and only having seen pictures on the internet I didn’t fully know what to expect but what came was among the best all-round cycling experience I have ever encountered. The atmosphere the whole weekend was electric, where 3000 like minded, fanatical individuals descend upon Gaiole in Chianti for two days of pure cycling nostalgia. Woolen jerseys and steel bikes aplenty, any man interested in the traditions of the cycle race can certainly find his fill here.

Day one on Saturday sees the flea market come into town, I say flea market it is a great big cycle jumble in English terms. Stretched out either side of Gaiole’s main road this jumble is big and not only is it big, it is good, very good. Everything you ever needed for your period build and all the accompaniments to go with it can be found here. Even the rarest of the rare is on the tables, it seems that the cream of Italy’s cycle merchandise dealers have landed in Chianti for the day to bless all of the hungry with their wares. You simply do not get a selection this good in the U.K.

If you are unhappy to ogle pantographed cranks and embroidered jerseys all day then you can visit the museum, where books, posters, videos and actual race bikes will greet you. Maybe taste and buy some local meat, fresh pasta, wine made in these hills, the food here is, well it’s just the absolute epitome of rustic goodness. This is, after all a cycling ‘holiday’ so it must be approached as such, take your time, see the sights, chat to the locals and the not so locals. Sometimes trying to speak to someone about your passion for cycles and cycling can be tiresome, remember though that every one here, each of the 3000 are more than happy to exchange verses on the virtue of the spoked wheel and tubed frame for they too are here for the exact reason you are.

The evenings see most people go off to their hotels or chalets to eat food and wine bought that day but we saw Le Coq’s Citroen HY van, looking fabulous in red, white and blue crank up the soundsystem for a grappa fuelled ipod party, but not after food with the stars. A sit down dinner with speeches from Italy’s cycling greats, it was like come dine with me with Fausto Coppi, yes, these were very old men.

Day two sees the cycle race along the fabled white gravel roads and Le Coq Sportif, my hosts, did a perfect job of organising cycles for everyone ( I rode a Campagnolo equipped 1977 Paletti ) and the registration procedure was just seamless. You need a number on your back, one on your bike and a stamp card and you are good to go, good to enter ‘race mode’ or ‘sportif mode’ for a day jam packed full of excitement and surprise. Depending on how your legs feel you can choose to ride either 38km, 75km, 135km or 205km but every one will be as pleasurable an experience as the next. Should you have any technical difficutlies someone will be along to help you out soon enough, such is the kinship on the road.

The roads ridden upon are made up of mainly white gravel paths called the Strade Bianche, fairly narrow in width and rutted like an ice ravaged mountain pass these roads are not to be taken softly. I have never ridden them but I can only imagine it to be like the cobbled straights of the paris-roubaix. Hang on tight, it’s going to get bumpy!

Along your way you will find a handful of food stops fully stocked up with local edible delights and alcohol too should you have the stomach.

Is it a race? Is is a ride? Who knows? But there are all levels out on the road, from the locals who hurtle past you and the vintage service car in front like a roller coaster coach direct and unrelenting to 90 year old men in full woolen suits being pushed up hills by boys half their age. This ‘race’ is legendary and I now know what the fuss is about. The moment tickets go on sale next year, I am buying one, or two.

Big thanks go to:
L’Eroica.
All the team at Le Coq Sportif. Check out their blog.
Matthew Sparkes of the Guardian
Andrew and Phillip Diprose the brothers of The Ride Journal.
The lovely gents from Hanon shop
And everyone else involved. Thank you!

Find many, many more L’Eroica images on the S P I N W E L L Flickr spot.

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Notes from the Galibier.

September 9, 2010

It is 5.30pm and Army and I await the others at the foot of the mountain in Valloires, they are getting the water for their bidons and Joe has been collecting souvenirs. Suddenly the church bell tolls and Army and I look at each other in agreement, is this a sign?

It’s getting late, Kieran and I head off as we know the other three are stronger climbers. We say it’s because of their lighter bodies to make ourselves feel better.

We depart Valloires along a straight road through the town and after 1km the two and three story wooden log cabins used for après ski in the winter make way for scattered farmyards and roaming grounds for Marmottes. I can see the road unfold in front of me, it get’s steeper, I shift down a gear and my heart rate goes up.

I look down into the ravine on my right and see motorcycle tourists setting up camp next to the stream of fresh mountain water, I am jealous. The path becomes lined with empty powerbar and energy gel wrappers, I am yet to digest anything, maybe I should do so now. It’s been half an hour, I call to Kieran “have you eaten?” “No”. He grabs a handful of chewy sweets and throws them into his mouth, I grab a fig roll out my jersey pocket and commence.

We cross a bridge. This bridge signifies the difference between earth and another planet because up there, the only thing we will recognize is each other.

To my right, in my peripheral I see the entrance to the Col proper, like the dry, uninviting mouth of a hungry beast. The road becomes windy, no longer straight and unfolding, corners and hairpins obscure the view of the path, way markers indicate our remaining distance. 10km.

I hate climbing but right now I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. My breath is short. ‘Club Tropicana drinks are free, fun and sunshine there’s enough for everyone’ goes over in my head.

I have been here before, I know that soon this grassy landscape covered in moving beings like Horses, Donkeys and Marmottes will disappear in favour of nothing, nothing but dust and shards of slate.

It happens, we turn right and enter into the monster, I am tired. Army passes us, how is this possible? He has extra energy, this individual is strong, he has proved himself this week. A few kms pass and Hardy goes beyond, this man too has proved himself, small and built for mountains, he himself must have Marmotte blood in his veins. Joe remains behind us for the time being, we are no better however, he takes his time, he takes photographs.

Kieran calls “there’s the top” I see the top and wish that I had not, it is far away, it may as well be among the stars and I wonder if and when I will make it there.

The sun is disappearing behind the cold ashy peaks of this, the grand Galibier and the temperature drops, my feet become cold. I see Army and Hardy a few levels up. I don’t know how much farther on they are but they look like slow moving miniature models of themselves up there. We continue.

6km to go. Not far now but the Col still looks like a million miles away. My legs are cold but still they burn, they have rhythm, in sync with my breathing, in –out –in –out – in time with the revolutions of my pedals.

I reach around to my back and to my right jersey pocket and pull the golden packet from inside, I tear off the top with my teeth and squeeze the packet of the iced tea energy gel from bottom to top with my fingers into my mouth. It is thick and for a moment I believe it tastes good, it does not. It is sharp, like acid on the tongue. A bit get’s caught in my throat, so lacking of liquid it refuses to sink, I cough. My concentration is broken and so too am I. I look again, despairing at the summit, how so far away? I have been pushing for hours, or so it seemed.

Hairpin after hairpin, way marker after way marker but still the road stretches out before me, unrelenting in it’s gradient.

Painted letterforms on the road make up the words ‘forza Pantani’, ‘Schleck’ and ‘Go Armstrong’ on the asphalt. Legends have been up this path before me, I may be struggling, short of breath but when I reach the top I too can be great. The human is capable of many things. The pedals keep spinning.

I hear Hardy shout down from above, I take this as a way of encouragement, he is nearly there, I shout back but it sounds like a whisper “go on lad”. Army is gone, disappeared into the mountain like a camouflaged soldier. I am envious.

I see Joe behind me, he has caught up. I slow down and wait for him to pass, having someone stronger than you on your tail is demoralising, he does not pass as soon as I expect. “Gooo oon son!” bellows towards the back of my neck like the noise exiting a football fan’s mouth at a game, all British and full of excitement. I smile.

I turn left to avoid the tunnel, I feel a hand on my back, it is Joe. This moment of solidarity on this our final day came as Joe and I pass the 1km mark. Thank you Joe. He passes me the camera and slowly accelerates away up the final straights of this beast.

The tarmac is new, still black and the road is steep. The drop to my left is sharp, no safety barrier, I must remember this when coming down. I travel forward and at the hairpin the end of the road may as well be the end of he earth, were it flat. Where am I? I could be anywhere, Mars, the moon, not earth, certainly not earth.

I can touch the gods from up here, it is almost dark, I must hurry. I turn right around a hairpin, there is the top. I have done it. I count the pedal revolutions, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-Stop.

I unclip my cold shoes from my pedals and place my foot atop this monster’s head. I beat it, not the quickest slaying but a slaying nevertheless. Remember, this was a personal battle between me and it and I won.

Handshakes and hugs all round we congratulate each other. No time to waste though, a quick photograph and we must be on our way before night takes hold of us.

Notes from Haute-Savoie.

September 6, 2010

18 hours later and after 800 miles in a car with 4 other men we finally arrived at our destination, France’s beautiful region of Haute-Savoie, merely a stones throw away from Switzerland’s Western border.

We located our campsite on the edge of lake Annecy and quickly set up our living quarters, because despite our total lack of sleep for the past day or so we were all very eager to get out on our bikes. No time for rest.

Problem. Whilst reversing a fully laden car out of it’s parking space, Hardy touched a car to the rear which in-turn managed to pull Joe’s rear wheel out of true, quite badly. No problem. A trip to LocationVélo on the west side of Annecy lake meant we could get the wheel repaired ready for tomorrow.

We now have 5 bikes between but only 4 complete sets of wheels. So, rather graciously, Hardy, still extremely tired after our mammoth drive offered to lend Joe his wheels for day one’s riding agenda – A climb of Col de la Forclaz. This would also be myself, Kieran and Joe’s re-uniting of this, the very steep and very tough 12km long Col de la Forclaz, our most favourite local col.

No sleep for over 24 hours had taken it’s toll on me. I had to stop half way up a 14% section of the climb, riding in the hot midday sun I was utterly spent. Physically and mentally drained I lay down on a grass verge at the side of the road, jersey fully unzipped and helmet strewn to the side. I needed to cool down, I felt unwell. Water down my throat and energy gels in my system I finished this leafy climb with the others and at the top we were rewarded traditionally with Beers, Coke and an unforgettable view of the lake.

We Descend the Forclaz and head around the west side of the lake to pick up Joe’s wheel. We chat with the proprietor a while, he talks of “clipping into the wind” and the descent of the Semnoz. We finish up and head back to camp to rest and more importantly to eat. Tonight’s meal will be well deserved.

My mind is on Tomorrow. To ascend Montagne du Semnoz via the Col de Leschaux up to Crét de Chatillon. This route had me shook. Last year I remember I struggled, I had consumed all my food and emptied all the contents of my Bidons into my mouth. I was hungry and thirsty and my shoes were made of Lead. Not again.

Eggs scrambled, bread toasted and coffee brewed we sat down and ate breakfast ready for our day ahead.  Hardy and Army ( Adam ) had done a stellar job on the eggs. Cooked perfectly with parsley and bacon, these two boys have set us up and furthermore we now have a full team for today’s riding as Joe’s wheels are back, spinning straight and round. And then (as it was intended) there were five.

No bonkage this time but still not loving climbing this particular ascent, especially after Joe, Hardy and Army had dropped Kieran and I like banana skins on the road. They were gone and I was demoralised. Remind me, why do I do this? I ask myself as I solemnly climbed this baron, silent landscape. I could not answer but there was the Crét so I dug in and got up to be greeted by the happy, salty faces of four friends, a plate of Frites and a cold glass of Coke.

The best thing about the Crét de Chatillon is the descent, the climb is awful, I do not like the terrain but the descent, now that, I love. It starts open with beautiful vistas of Mont Blanc and the ranges out to the East and soon after you go over the highest point of the mountain pass, you immediately find yourself travelling at speeds of up to 60kmh through dense forest. The scenery changes quickly like a natural kaleidoscope of colours green, shadows hurtle past on the tarmac beneath as if one were stationary, my nose exhales breath of excitement and euphoria and in exchange inhales the smell of pine and cool mountain air, a perfect trade. Corners are banked, cars are sparse and apart from the odd mountain cow we are left to trickle down the side of La Semnoz, alone and for what seemed like an eternity. Wheels in motion, man and machine in perfect harmony with these alien surroundings. This place to me is like Heaven.

Fig rolls don’t go down, energy gels taste like shit and that night, Hardy’s Pasta Carbonara with Lemon was to my palette like what a gold medal is to a champion.

The sun rises behind us from over the mountains. It get’s warmer. Map unfolded, we plot a route East heading to the Col de la Croix Fry and Col des Aravis. We seem anxious, these mountains we have never seen and the lines on the map indicate some suffering at 2pm.

We leave Veyrier-du-lac and head up over the bump of a Col du Bluffy. Instantly to your right the precious view of Lac D’Annecy becomes obscured by the sight of La Tournette and Dent du Cruet. Covered in trees growing slanted on their sides these two brother hills have chalky peaks piercing their green coats like shark fins through water. We continue forward, pushing on pedals up the D909 to Thonês and Manigod and begin our long ascent up the Col de la Croix-Fry.

Despite the sun on the back of my neck my cap remains forward, visor directed towards the ground so I can’t see too far ahead. I see what looks like my cat Banton playing in the grass to my right , my concentration is broken and I feel the pain in my legs again, I ask myself the question. Finally I arrive at the top where I join my friends in eating our previously  made sandwiches containing  a fine slice of jambon and grated Comté fromage. I am getting cold, sitting here in sweat sodden layers, I remove my jersey and put it out to dry next to our table. Eating has made me feel better especially being as it wasn’t another fig roll. We check the map, refill our bidons at the restaurant and get moving towards the Col des Aravis.

After a short decent we meet the base of the Aravis. Stowaways go folded back into jersey pockets and it’s down to business, but business it was not as we had done all of the hard work on the previous climb. Just a few grassy hairpins with white peaks high to my left and to my right and we had bagged another.

I attempt to stretch my legs, cramp. We keep going, dissapearing off the horizon into the valley, one by one we traverse down the mountain into the gorge below. It flattens out a little and I pull over. There are walls of rock cascading up into the sky either side of us and down to my right in the ravine I see the clearest water flowing around massive diagonal shards of slate that look like they had been dropped there just seconds before. I don’t know where I am but right now I don’t care.

What followed was some of the most exhillirating riding I have ever encountered, the Gorges de L’Arondine, the D909 Southbound is otherworldly, like that of a computer game. Space invaders or Mario Kart. Cornering. I hear the sound of running water above and below. A waterfall, we are inside it, yet dry. Magnificent.  I have helium in my tyres. Beside me is Adam, behind is Joe, Kieran and Hardy and together we descent slightly, riding maximum to the mouth of the ravine towards Ugine, faverge, Doussard, Talloires and finally Menthon saint-Bernard and home to Veyrier-du-lac.

Tired and wired I go into the lake for the first time to soothe my legs. Tonight we pay for dinner and I’m having the Steak Haché. Kieran forgot his comb, he uses a fork and we realise our camp is a mess. Tomorrow we must clean up, before we drive South to the Giant.
To be continued.

Such an amazing time had by all, I can recommend this region to everyone interested in riding on the continent, it’s quite a journey but so, so worth it.

More photographs and my account of climbing the beastly Galibier up soon.

Impending Doom.

August 23, 2010

It’s coming. The suffering is around the corner and I cannot wait. The 2010 leg of the annual alpine adventure for the SFRT begins next week in Annecy, France.

This year I feel I am slightly better prepared, although more mentally than physically. We also have more members that now make up the 2010 Spinwell Factory Racing Team which obviously means more fun… Oh and more slaps for the person at the back of the bunch, now he won’t be 3rd, but 5th! Shit.

Cret de Chatillon – I am coming for you.

Graeme Obree Geneva to Nice.

June 17, 2010

Once over the top, another amazing 1000m descent had Stuart and I in aero tucks on the long straights, and on the ragged edge of grip into the switchback sections. Cars by now were just an inconvenience to be drafted until we could out-sprint them into the bends. Taking a hand off the bars to give a thumbs up to any drivers that got out of our way as we swept past at 50mph-plus was exciting.

Great read and a few great shots too, especially loving the Galibier shots. My, my the sign that used to say ‘Col du Galibier’ now resembles something outside of a skateboard shop. Enough stickers, already!

Read more.

London to Paris

October 12, 2009

Massan at 1m 45s – I hate using these abbreviations but I LMFAO!

Specialized ride to Vegas.

October 12, 2009

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It’s not light yet. There’s a breeze stirring the trees above Furnace Creek and a couple of sleepy crows are cawing halfheartedly about the coming day. They’d be wearing black again, a bad choice in one of the hottest places on earth. Much to my delight the Specialized peloton would be back in pink.

A real nice write up this, well worth a read and the photography is absolutely on point.

Le Lac D’Annecy Dans ses Montagnes.

September 12, 2009

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Up until last weekend never had the tyre of a wheel I owned touched the ground of Europe or more importantly the surrounding area of Lake Annecy, that is to say that never had I ridden my bicycle outside of these shores so my preparation for our trip was somewhat minimal. A few 40s, 50s and even a 75 miler was what I had under my belt before last week, however all of the aforementioned distances were lacking in something, something rather important for the person looking to conquer the cycling down south in France…And that something is hills.

Because of my background I believed I would really struggle on these Cols, that for whatever reason my body would not be up to the standard of what these types of roads demanded but I was surprised and this trip has taught me a very good lesson but more of that later.

Our first morning was spent cycling a Lap of Lake Annecy. It was a beautiful way to start the week and we couldn’t wait to get out. This lap of the Lake was used as part of a time trial in this years Tour and it was the constant reminders painted onto the road surface of names such as ‘Contador’ ‘Lance’ and ‘Schleck’ that woke me up into the excitement of what awaited us in the forthcoming week. So after our 16 hour car journey the day previous and a strange nights sleep in a sloping field of cows I sighed and thought gleefully to myself “Aaaaah that’s it, we are here”.

Later on that day after yet another espresso off the camp stove we decided to venture out and upwards. Upwards to the Col de La Forclaz which was approx eight miles away. At this point I would like to say I had never in my life climbed a large hill, a Col, a mountain or anything such like so the climbing of Col de la Forclaz would be interesting.

Now I go back to what I mentioned earlier about that important lesson I had learned… Our bodies are far more capable of difficult tasks than we think. I got up that Col I did, my first one actually. It was tough at times sure it was, but I was getting up regardless. After what seemed like 10 litres of shed sweat in the mid-day sun, enough air in and exhaled from my lungs to fill a hot air balloon and my thighs feeling like someone was holding a flame to them I reached the summit and Joe was there to congratulate me and Kieran’s congrats followed shortly after. Amazing.

I used to hate ascending, in my mind ascending had me beat but the more we climbed the more I got a buzz out of it. The absolute sense of achievement I felt on the summits was unparalleled. To know that I wanted to give up ( on several occasions ) and didn’t was a surprise. Not that I had no faith in myself, I did but I had never experienced hills like these and it hurt real bad. At every point where the road steepened on these climbs it would have been very easy for me to have simply stopped but this is something I now know I am capable of… overriding my brains urges to quit because of pain and to carry on, because I can and because my body is more than capable of it.

The riding throughout the rest of the week consisted of many more climbs, steeper climbs, longer climbs, legendary climbs and climbs that would reveal to you some of the sheer beauty of what this planet has to offer. Take the view of Mont Blanc from the Cret de Chatillion… It took all the food in my jersey pockets, all the electrolyte replacement in my bidon and all the willpower I had inside of me to get up there that day but for the view alone it was totally worth it.

With climbs come descents. Descents! This stuff is exhilaration bottled, twenty minute journeys downhill through forests at fifty miles per hour is what I had endured hours of ascending for, I had earned it and I was made for it. Hairpins, shallow corners, undulations, change in light conditions and road surface, the sound of my ears rushing by the still air surrounding, my stowaway jacket flapping ferociously behind me all added up to something quite magical and it has me addicted.

I learned about fuel and hydration because without those you really could not continue, about having the correct attire because not only is it important to look good but you must also feel good. I fully realise and know now what I look for and need in a bike and with mine it is currently a new set of tyres to help me around those ‘hairy’ hairpins quicker and safer because next time the road may not be so clear and there may be a car there waiting to meet me, perhaps bonnet first. I learned that a correct fitting bike is absolutely imperative as regularly after approx 2 hours in the saddle I experienced some serious fatigue in my lower back and across my shoulder blades and this is something I need to look into, so next time the agony will only be in my legs and not in my back.

The elusive 100 miles I longed to clock still defeats me, I have still not gained it but I tell you this. It now means nothing to me as some 50 mile journeys over and through some seriously beautiful natural landscapes are worth 500 miles of any A roads through bland grey cities. I just want to ride more and more and I am already thinking about next year, did somebody mention Spain?

Thanks go to Joe Hall for the instigation and the motivation throughout, to Kieran Young for his enthusiasm and sunny disposition and to the lady camp site proprietor for her good use of the English language. To Aussie Rik who looked like Jo mangle “dude that is not your tent and it will break like that”, to the bar next door for the chips when they were needed ( Yes Kieran! ) and to the expensive fish fillets that were truly earned after that epic day. To Fig rolls the superfood, the in-jokes and tales on the jetty, to the Rapha Merino base layer and to the Lake for making our mornings worth rising early for. To the Cafe and Boulangerie in Veyrier for making the best coffee and baguettes in the whole of Annecy, Veyrier and Menthon Saint Bernard and finally to Col de la Forclaz for truly opening my eyes to the mountains.

Day one.

Morning – lap of Lac D’Annecy / 20 miles
Afternoon – Climb of Col de la Forclaz ( 1157m ) Via Veyrier and back / 17 miles

Day two.

Climb of four Cols on the west side of Lac D’Annecy / 46 miles.
Col de Bluffy ( 613m )
Col de Leschaux ( 936m )
Montague Semnoz( 1704m )
Cret de Chatillion ( 1790m )

Day 3

Recovery ride up Col de la Forclaz ( for the second time ) / 17 miles roundtrip.

Day 4
Tour du Glieres and Tour du Bargy / 85 miles.
Annecy – Col de Bluffy – Thones – Le grand Bornand – Col de Columbieres – Col de Fleuris – Scionzon – La Roche sur Foron -Thoron Glieres – Annecy le Vieux – Annecy – Veyrier

Day 5
Recovery ride up Col de la Forclaz ( for the third time ) 17 miles roundtrip.

Day 6
Alpe D’Huez ( 1815m ) 15 miles roundtrip.


View the full FLICKR set.

Nike rides out.

July 31, 2009

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Fixed gear bikes. English countryside. Hills. Lots of hills. Unexpected hills. Flat tires. Wrong turns. Fish and chips. Cows.

Starting in London, the crew mounted their bikes en route to Dieppe, France. The first challenge was first to get out of the cramped downtown city, with threatening cars and unknown traffic signals. With London superboy, Superted leading the pack, they navigated their way out easily and soon found themselves breathing fresher air and seeing greener pastures.

Read more of the road trip here on Nike Sportswear.


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