Thursday, 17 August 2017

Time Trial Training 15 August 2017

In the absence of all Timelords and Time pups in Staffordshire on recumbent tricycle tandem inspection duties (yes we bought it...) the reins of power were last night in the firm grip of Mr Ian Scott. A small but perfectly formed field of four riders and three watchers were also present.

One PB for Jack - chapeau.

Results below copied from Facebook:

Next week the Time-lordly duties will once again be in the hands of Mr Scott as the new owners of the Yellow Peril, as it is now known, take it to Scotland for secret speed trials.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Time Trial Training 1 August 2017

Tonight saw the debut of the Timelord's newest two wheel acquisition viz the Thorn Voyager tandem which was stoked for a one lap time prior to the arrival of the main field by wicked step-daughter Sally with the added advantage of time keeping by Mrs Timelord aka Mum. (no bias there at all..)

Both tandem and stoker acquitted themselves admirably and the Timelord was pleased with the set up of the new machine. Unfortunately the stoker is buggering off back to Mexico tomorrow so that seat is once again vacant....any volunteers?

One further new face joined us tonight - welcome to Jamie who put in a time that placed him 10th overall for the season thus far.

A considerable wind was blowing but this did not prevent Richard from reducing his PB time for the second week in a row in search of that sub 19 minute Holy Grail. Chapeau and keep at it.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Tracking the ultra-Imps

This weekend two Imps set off on ultra-endurance rides: Matthew Cockerham on the Transcontinental race, and Chris Bullock on London-Edinburgh-London. Best of luck to both! Their progress can be followed here:

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Teddy Wheeler’s Marseille Adventure, or The Tour Book-ended. by Eddie Energy!

So it started thus. A face book post from the Tour De France popped up. “Apply” to be a digital reporter for the Tour De France.”  As my daughter Siarlot (pronounced Charlotte, it ‘s Welsh to go with the surname) had studied journalism and French at uni, and was currently doing a masters in journalism it seemed right up her street. As a fan of the Tour since she was about 12 it was a no brainer that she apply.
She duly sent in her application. After weeks of waiting she eventually got an email to say she had not been successful on this occasion, but that was not to say her application was not good, it was. So as a thank you we’d like to offer you 2 VIP wristbands for a stage of your choice.
She asked me if I’f be her plus one, as it was me that got her into it in the first place. I was straight on the internet looking at which stages we could get to for a weekend. This proved ridiculously difficult, as no scheduled flights, trains or buses managed to fit ! We could get there and not back, or we could get back but not there. At least with not breaking the bank! I quickly asked my boss from leave of absence, which was duly given! This made things a little easier.
I managed to procure  £49 tickets on the Eurostar to Marseille, and then tickets from Leeds for£16! The stars seemed to have aligned. A quick search on came up with a suitable aparthotel. So I told Siarlot to apply for VIP wristbands to Marseille. Her contact at the TdF saying this was a good choice. It also meant we’d see all the riders start and finish. Teddy also would be able to bookend the Tour with both Contre le Montres. The implication with these wristbands was that we would have access all areas, so Teddy would be an “in” to schmooze with riders, Directeur Sportifs, and “ancien courrirs!”
As the Thursday before the off approached, Teddy was duly handed over, and the excitement built. The journey fro Calderdale to Leeds for leg 1 was a bit fraught with traffic delays, but we got to the station with 15 minutes to spare! The journey had begun. After an overnight at Kings Cross YHA, which was hugely disappointing for the money we paid, the only good thing being its proximity of 5 minutes swift walk to Eurostar check-in!
The direct train to Marseille was scheduled to leave at 07:19, and you had to be there 30 minutes before departure, passport control, and security checks were done and dusted in about 15 minutes! So we sat down for a brew, which was too hot, so took it on board, and had with our own pain au chocolat! We left bang on time, and were soon racing past Stratford Olympic Park, the Kent Countryside and Ashford. In 90 minutes we rolled into Marne Le Vallee for a quick deposit of families to Disneyland Paris. Then off again! Up until now the scenery passing the window was typical flat Northern France. South of Paris it soon perked up, with rolling hills, reminiscent of the Ribble Valley. Onwards south through increasingly hilly terrain. The Morvan, Massif Central,and the Ardeche going past the window. We sat on the west side, to avoid being in the sun, and having the scenery “lit.” It seemed that in no time we were rolling into Marseille. The sun was up, it was not ‘till we stepped onto the platform we realised it was so hot! Teddy was quite taken aback and the wall of heat!
Having done a little research we knew to get an RTM 72 hour travel pass which would get us about on the metro, trams and buses. So finding out where to buy them and where the metro was, we headed underground and in 15 minutes we were checking in to the hotel. This is where my “concern” started to manifest itself. For about a week I had been suffering mishaps and it seemed like I was on a run of these!
Our room number was 13! The department of France was 13! The door key wouldn’t work so in the end after arriving at 14:45 we were in the apartment at 15:40! Phew!
There didn’t seem to be any buzz or atmosphere about the tour at all which was a tad concerning, had we got he dates wrong? On the way to the Carrefour we saw a TdF van so felt a little relieved!  We filled our bags with French goodies, and went back to the hotel, had a meal of Croque Monsieur and Salad washed down with a very quaffable Bouche De Rhone! Teddy was well trained!
It was then we decided as it was now cooler outside, a mere 26 degrees at 19;30 we would head up to the Notre Dame De Gare  Basilica. N our arrival we came across all the tour paraphernalia of barriers, no parking signs and arrows! We also came across the Tissot timing lorry. It was then we realised this was to be no ordinary time trial!  22 km with a “narsty” little climb near the end. Imagine Starting in Todmorden, hammering down the Valley road, only to go up Midgley road, come down through Midgley and Luddenden, and then finish at the Dusty Miller! We returned to the hotel in time to watch the highlights on ITV4!

The next morning was the day of the stage. Teddy was in the back pack and Siarlot was in her Yellow, Green, white and polka dot dress!  I put my imps jersey on, and immediately took it off as it was too hot! It went in the back pack along with the sharpie for autographs onto the shirt! We made our way to the Orange Velodrome, now home to Marseille Football Club, who were in Scotland to play Glasgow Rangers. He eventulayy made our way to the VIP invitation wagon, and this is where things did not quite go to plan. By now it was at least 28 degrees, possibly 30! We were given tickets for the stadium but no wristbands...”They were inside!” Siralot’s French was put to good use. No VIP wristbands on the inside, back to the invitation wagon for some remonstrating... at least we were not in the same boat as an American who had paid $500 for VIP tickets...but by this time it was too hot to argue as they were being adamant, despite our pleas and protestations. We sacked it off, and took our front row seats, whilst coveting the leather and legroom in the block next to us, as well as the open bar and specialities de la region...Despite the cards dealt to us we were going to make the most of it! We were in the shade, all day, it was going to be too much hassle to come and go, though we probably should have done. The silver lining was when Siarlot was asked not to speak English so quickly, and she just clicked straight into French, the TdF girl’s face was a picture...she was not expecting that. Obviously with the benefit of hindsight we knew what we should have said!
Anyway,the caravan duly set off and returned, only then did we realise that we could not get right up to it, and no freeby tat was issued inside the stadium! Not even a speedboat! It was certainly a bigger caravan than we had in Yorkshire, and both of us wondered how Kleber Tyres would get away with lobbing 265/R16s into the crowd!
In and amongst the caravan were riders returning from their recces, all of AG2R, Roman Bardet looking fresh, but perhaps a little subdued. Chris Froome snuck in, turned around and went back out to look at the approach into the stadium.
We shouted,”Over here Chris!” He turned and smiled!
Not long after the departure of the caravan it was time for La Course pursuit race, which was quite exciting until one realised that Lizzy Diegnan was not likely to catch Annemiek van Vleuten. It was an odd race, as perhaps they could have had the Izoard stage, then a ladies time trial, then a handicap start in Paris? It did not get much coverage in the stadium; we had to put up with Tiller girls, BMX tricks and a really cheesy compere trying to animate the crowd.
Only until Annemiek came back into the stadium did the crowd react, as they did when Lizzy came back in, at 60 KPH! Quite an achievement for both of them when you consider Annemiek’s crash at the Olympics and some of the stuff Lizzy had had to endure recently!
Their podium ceremony was soon over, and Teddy was getting a little attention, though not as much as we hoped, we thought he would be an ice breaker for the people around us, but they may well have been Parisian, they certainly had the accent! Luke Rowe was up on the bif screen, and was off, with very little pomp or circumstance! Still we gave him a big cheer of “Cymru Am Byth!” Then riders were popping off at minute intervals, until later on, when it was two minutes. It was quite surreal to actually see all the riders left in the tour, though we were disappointed at the lack of G, Porte, and Pinot etc. etc...but that’s the gamble you take if you go to what is in effect the last competitive stage.
Obviously whenever a French rider set off there was a huge cheer, as there was when they returned, but Luke Rowe had  massive cheers on his return! Other popular riders included, Contador, Taylor Phinney, Boassen Hagen and the unrelated Martins. The biggest cheer though, for a non GC contender, went to Thomas Voekler, the stadium erupted on his departure, and if there had been a roof on the stadium, they would have sent it into orbit!
Imperceptably as we went up the order the sense of excitement and anticipation was growing, Maciej Bodna had been in the hot seat for some time! Finally we were at the top 10, now we were talking. The crowd were more focused, the KoM end of the stadium, who were partying like the Dutch Corner on the Alpe D’Huez were getting more and more vocal. They even had a live band in and amongst! So imagine the tune to Seven Nation Army and a crowd of 10,000 singing “ Ohhh, Roman Bardet!”, there were plenty of other Raman Bardet chants too.
Uran got a massive cheer when he left, but you could sense the next rider up was perhaps a little special?
When Bardet left the timing hut, 90% of the crowd went crazy! By this time AG2R had been giving out flags and other freebies (which we duly acquired) and, so the crowd had no problem waving their AG2R flags! Today there were hundreds of them, teddy even had a go at waving them.  Then two minutes later an altogether very different reaction, and interstingly from different parts of the stadium. Around us in the so called invited guests area was where the biggest numbers of boos came from, but it was peppered with some cheers. In the KoM stand there was a lot of respectful clapping, as there was from the other end. On the opposite side, there was also quite a bit of cheering. 5, 4,3 2, 1 off...even more boos and cheering.
Some French people I have spoken to, and their media, do not hold back, they are convinced “” Il est un dopeur!” Then they make a syringe mime into their arm. The press just question how is it possible, he muct be doping, look at Armstrong. Not one questions the wins of Hinault, Anquetil or Mercx! The bottom line is until a team can take Sky by the scruff of the neck and give as good as they get, and look back to days gone by when the Maillot Jeune was attacked throughout the day, or with long range attacks, Sky will dominate!
Anyway, whilst the top three were out, others kept returning, and with greater speed. I just managed to film Aru returning, the last 75m done in about what seemed a second, but was nearer to 10. By this time the KoM end were getting louder and louder, as everytime we saw Bardet a huge cheer went up. Then the screen split and you saw Froome and Bardet, side by side at the midway checkpoint! Froome had definitely closed the gap on Bardet. There was very little time left to the finish, if they could I am sure the crowd would have tried to blow a headwind on to Froome and a tailwind on to Bardet! Suddenly the big screen oictures cut to Uran, coming down the Prado Boulevard, and round some tricky corners, and he is seen to overcook one of the last bends into the stadium. I have never heard nor seen 40, 000 people put their hands to their mouths and scream, “Ohhh!”  Needless to say the crowd once again roared encouragement to him. I set the stop watch on my wrist watch, and waited for Bardet, who entered the stadium to a deafening crescendo of noise in support, but just behind him was Froome, you could sense the palpable sense of loss amongst the crowd, the stopwatch on my phone reading 3.8 seconds! Uran had finished 3 minutes and 41 seconds earlier according to my watch.  That was it, Froome had won his fourth Tour.
Much of the crowd left post haste, but many of us, upped sticks and marched to the end of the stadium where the presentations were taking place. Including a very excited Columbian couple, who despite being told not to just led us through the VIP area (where we should have been all along!) Our patience was rewarded as the podium girls accompanied their charges to the podium for the presentations, in front of just the press. We called out to them all, but only Chris Froome looked up, and smiled. Perhaps the sight of Teddy Wheelers was enough to raise a smile, he looked a bit like a zombie!  
Presentations over, he just headed back to the hotel, all of us saying what a good day it had been, and how we should have, when calmed down, gone back and tried harder to blag the  VIP tickets we had been promised!
That was it really, until next year. We had a very pleasant Sunday mooching round the Vieux Port, having contemplated for 10 seconds whether to hire the Marseille version of a Boris bike, and cycle to TT route.
All in all an almost excellent weekend, made better in that Siarlot was mistaken for a native French speaker several times, Chris Froome smiled at us twice, Teddy Wheelers raised a few smiles where he went, and enjoyed the few photo opps that were available.
Would we go again, to Marseille yes, amazing city. To the TdF?  Definitely!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Time Trial training July 25th 2017

Two new riders tonight with Jack Chamberlain and Clegg Senior riding a soon to be ex-Timelord's Pinnacle prior to buying it off him! (Soon I'll have no bikes at all and I'll have to buy another one...)

Lewis rode another two up this time partnered with Martin G to produce a sub 19 minutes time.

Of the remaining riders we saw another three PBs from Nikola, Richard (two laps) and Eddie (one lap).

A pleasant evening weather wise with virtually no wind and just enough sunshine.

Our total of individual riders this year has now reached 30 to match 2016. Let's see if we can beat the 39 from 2015. (I suppose I could have a go....mmm)

Monday, 24 July 2017

Paul's 24, a supporters tale

As with most foolish ideas, it was during a night in the pub that Paul decided to sign up for a 24-hour Time Trial. Alcohol was also partially responsible for my decision to join his support team. The Mersey Roads 24 is the only 24-hour event in the CTT calendar, and is therefore by default, also the National Championships of this category. The motivation for Paul was to better the club record 24 result, set in 1979 by one A.W. ‘Bill’ Fielding with a distance of 425.43 miles.

The Friday evening before the ride was spent in the company of Paul, Holly, Tom and Matt Cockerham – preparing bike and rider for the weekend. Holly and Paul went off to a well known supermarket - known for making life taste better - to stock up on food, while the rest of us got to work on 24 hour proofing Paul’s TT bike. This mostly involved pipe, electrical tape and cable ties.
Earlier in the week, Tom had spent a productive day producing a spreadsheet for measuring lap times, splits, average speeds, distance gaps and so on. What made calculating distances so much of a  headache was the fact that a TT of this length required a course so complicated it made programming a seven way set of traffic lights look like childs play. There was the start circuit from the HQ, the day circuit, the rush hour circuit, the night circuit, the return circuit and the final circuit. So far, so confusing, and I’d pretty much resigned myself to being helpful in some other way that didn’t involve a calculator. So I helped make 27 sandwiches.

Paul's shopping spree, possibly too bread based?

One other thing that Tom planned was a 120km bike ride that the support team could ride at their leisure when they weren’t on Paul duty, a ride report for which will not be forthcoming as it quickly became apparent that there would be no time for that sort of self-indulgence.

On Saturday morning a fleet of three cars left Halifax, carrying between them five people and six bikes, five of which would not get ridden. Not to worry though, as the TT bike more than made up for the lack of mileage of the others.

Each rider is allowed to have one support car, which is permitted to drive out and assist in such circumstances as the rider requiring food, clothing, spare wheels etc. Tom’s Golf Estate was nominated, due to its large boot space.

For the moment though, Paul and his number one bike were with Holly, and so she was able to see him off at the start, or at least would have if not for a miserable marshall who made her drive off.
Meanwhile, Tom, Jack Chamberlain and I were busy erecting our tents at the campsite near to the roundabout where we’d be supporting Paul. Once this was done we assembled at said roundabout at Prees Heath Services and waited for the first arrival of Paul. Here we were joined for the day by Nikola Matthews and Ian Scott, who had also come to support Paul.

Waiting for the first bag drop

Our first musette pass with Paul went well, we’d packed him a sandwich and some snacks, along with a drink. We saw that the two bottles he’d had in his rear bottle cage were gone, so we’d assumed he’d finished them and deposited them before we met him. As it transpired, the bottles had both fallen out of the rear saddle cages we’d fitted the night before, and were deemed useless. So straight away he was down to one bottle cage. Unfortunately we found this out after already spending twenty minutes walking down the grass verge of the A41 looking for discarded bottles.

Looking good, feeling good

It wasn’t long after first seeing Paul that the heavens opened and we were in for a half hour downpour. At this point we hadn’t set up our base, so we had to find somewhere inside to shelter to discuss our action plan. All three of the truckers cafes were shut so our final option was ‘The Raven Hotel’ a pub very much at the ‘The League of Gentleman’ end of the scale. Another man supporting a TTer was in there and had considerably more experience of this than us, and he gave some tips to us which, if anything, made us feel even more unprepared.

This is what he had to contend with

Once the rain had subsided, we set up our base on the busy strip of grass which was support HQ. Compared to the well organised row of gazebos with tables set out with neat food parcels, workstands with spare TT bikes and wheels, boxes of spare clothing and charts posted showing feeding schedules and maps of the course, our set up seemed a little amateur. Tom teemed his versatile pole and tarpaulin combo with Jack’s pop up tent to make a sort of sprawling shelter which would come to be affectionately known as the slug. It proved a surprisingly homely shelter though, once you’d got used to your head becoming part of the structure if you sat under it.

Well deserved rest stop, no he isn't taking a natural break

Paul did one more high speed pass with a feed bag, but the next time he stopped to say he’d found it almost impossible to unwrap his sandwiches and eat them whilst moving along at 25 mph. The sandwiches were making his mouth dry and his single bottle cage limitation wasn’t providing him with enough liquid. The second downpour of the day was also underway, and all we could provide was another jersey, which we simply put on top of the other, soaking jersey.

How there were no punctures I'll  never know

A lap or two later I asked him how he felt, riding through the downpour. ‘Fucking fantastic’ was his reply. OK fair enough, it was a daft question.

 Luckily for us, the night shift was soon to arrive and we were to witness a masterclass in ride support. Adrian and Victoria arrived at about 10pm, the former kitted out in Dickies heavy duty trousers and a desert camouflage jacket, teamed with the familiar yellow (sorry, gold) and blue of Imps kit. They were equipped with a gas stove, soup, rice pudding, tea and the sort of things Paul could easily digest and consume on the go. After the first few hours Paul didn’t know what food he wanted or required, and we weren’t being helpful by suggesting the eleven different sandwich flavours we had in stock. Adrian’s technique of having two different food items available and saying if he didn’t want one he’d have to have the other, proved to be just what Paul needed at the time. Another item Adrian brought was a foldable shovel, apparently in case Paul required an emergency ‘comfort break’. We left it at that.

Rice pudding with Jam or rice pudding without jam?

Once we’d handed over we drove back to our tent and had an enjoyable hour before bed sat around drinking beer and discussing the day.  Holly and I had drawn the short straw and were appointed to be the early relief team, arriving back at support HQ at 5.30, having packed as much as possible into Holly’s car. Paul was still going, though his pace had dropped as tiredness was setting in. His stops were getting longer and more frequent as he battled with tiredness and the constant drizzle overnight. Adrian and Victoria had been reliably keeping Paul ticking over with a supply of hot, digestible foods and drinks. We had a lot to live up to.

No I don't want any more bloody rice pudding!

Seeing Paul arriving in such a state of tiredness was an uncomfortable sight, and it was hard to maintain the ‘cruel to be kind’ attitude, trying to decrease the length of his stops and ask him to speed up a little on the circuit. At 7 o’clock he was unable to clip out of his pedals and after stopping, fell sideways into the grass. One circuit later and something had to give, Paul was worried that if he did another circuit he’d fall of his bike, his speed was slowly decreasing and he couldn’t keep his bike above the required 17.7mph to get the record. We negotiated a half hour sleep stop, in the hope it’d refresh him for the final few hours. We popped him into the pop-up tent and zipped up the door. In our haste, we’d not thought about giving him a blanket and, on waking him up, he was freezing cold. It took a further half hour to re-warm and refuel him with coffee, sugar and flapjacks, which meant a full hour off the bike. Not ideal, but necessary.

Warming him up

At one point, another rider flew past shouting ‘I WANT PARACETAMOL AND IBUPROFEN ON THE NEXT LAP’, ‘what did he say?’ one of his support team asked the other ‘I think he said he met Paris Hilton for a photograph and an egg bap’. Sorry, I had to share this…

After collapsing off his bike

The day was getting warmer now and it became easier to raise Paul’s spirits as we could tell him he had only 4,3,2,1 hours to go.  Paul was soon moved onto the final circuit, which was a 17 mile ride away. This gave us time to pack up all the cars with tents, gazebos, bikes, clothes and food and drive to Mersey Roads HQ.

Trying to keep up with Tom’s spreadsheet and calculate what distance Paul had ridden so far was proving difficult, and matters weren’t improved when occasional updates provided by Mersey Roads saw distances that didn’t match with ours. Unhelpfully, we’d be telling Paul he was up on the record, then down, then at record pace, then we’d realise again he was down etc. Not the sort of simple communication and certainty that Paul needed. Though I’m not sure how much difference this made in the end. Just keeping legs moving is hard enough after so long.

Not long now!

The sun was out now and the four of us were sat on our camp chairs on the side of the road, enjoying the warmth and cheering on all the riders as they went past. Paul was managing to drink a fair bit and was eating here and there. He was almost there.

We should have got t-shirts printed with 'P','A','U' and 'L' on them

We were all grateful when his final lap came. Annoyingly, one of the timekeepers he had to get to was beyond the HQ, so he was forced to do almost another lap. We didn’t know this and so Tom went off to find him in his car, managing to pick him up and save him the final half a mile back to HQ.

Provisional results show Paul managed over 408 miles. Although he didn’t break the record, it highlights how good a record it is, that the distance of 425 miles A.W. Fielding set in 1979 would have clinched 7th place in this year’s National Championships, even with all the advances in technology, aerodynamics and nutrition. Paul came in 13th, which considering the standard of the other riders, the support they had, the experience they had, and the weather conditions on the day, is an amazing achievement. What a credit to the club he is and if he does ever want to have another go, I’d love to learn from our mistakes and try and beat it again!
Good day's work
Thanks to Ian Scott, Holly Norris and Tom Brabbin for photos.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

PAUL CRE'S 24 HOUR ATTEMPT (the abbreviated version)

Although I am sure a full report will appear once everyone has recovered for being up all night this is just to report that The Big Yan successfully completed his first Mersey Roads Club 24 Hour TT with a distance of 408.72 (this might be subject to confirmation but I'm sure it's close enough for now.)

Congratulations to the man himself and to all those who went over to support him through what looked like a lot of unpleasant weather.

provisional finishing details: