The View From Here - a blog

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  • Here are a couple of photos from the ICC to trip to the TdF (in Epping)

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  • Also as a nice postscript to that first year, we did way of the roses and someone dropped out so someone we didn't know - James - took his place, first time we'd ever met him. Fast forward a decade and I was his best man last year. Two other early ICC members were groomsmen.

  • 06/03/2023 – One Ride to Verulam All

    The Verulam CC Reliability Ride (VRR) is the last event I rode before lockdown and the first one I took part in when things opened up. And this year my calendar seemed to open up with a VRR-sized space at just the right time. Why would I do this again? It’s usually cold, the course is really challenging and the start is out in Redbourn.

    Last year I had puncture after puncture. That wasn’t going to happen this year. I shod my bike with 30mm Challenge Strada Bianchi tyres - full on Spring Classic mode. Richard chose a modern classic in blue with 28s and mudguards. Sensible bikes were the order of the day.

    This bike loves being in the big ring a little too much

    With 4,500ft of elevation, plenty of technical sections and the roads full of potholes, mud, water and gravel, this is probably the toughest of the Chilterns Classics series. This year the course is tweaked and it’s 68.6 miles (down from 70.1 last year), but it still includes some leg, back and spirit breaking climbs.

    I drove up and met up with Richard, who had ridden up from Islington. He was looking for a big day and I was just looking to get round. There were a few others planning to be there, but it was a complicated weekend with another train strike to manage. Despite the VRR field being mainly composed of local riders, I felt there were fewer taking part.

    I don’t get bored of saying this. It’s only 12 quid. Yes, it costs just £12 to enter and while there are no food stops or aid stations, you get hot drinks, pastries and a pile of bars to grab at the start and then shed load of sandwiches and cake at the end. It’s cycling’s grassroots, old fashioned and quite timeless in its low-key and friendly ways.

    How did it go, I hear you ask? Well, I set out at 9am behind a group of about 30 keen-looking riders. Placing myself strategically towards the rear of this pack, I was looking for a group to drop off the back and ride at a mellow pace that I could comfortably get involved in. No such luck. They were going at it hammer and tongs. Averaging 245w over the first three miles was not something I could sustain over the full distance of the course. That’s my hour power, my race pace, not something I could stay with. I dropped back. Please note I was not dropped. I. Dropped. Back.

    Richard mixed it up with the big group for another mile before realising I had “tactically fallen back.” We pressed on, still going at a fair lick. There is a lot of amazing woodland on this ride and a few decent vistas, too. We ploughed through the Ashridge Estate and then past Albury and the Musette Café. I had earmarked the No 2 Wine and Cheese Deli in Wendover for a pit stop and it did not disappoint. We took on toasties and coffees, just as well as a pair of climbs were about to hit us in 5 miles' time.

    The view from the deli as two more arrive in Wendover

    Whiteleaf and Wardrobes. They sound innocent, sweet even, but they are buggers. Whiteleaf - #23 in Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Climbs book – is a half mile that averages 10% and tops out at 20%. No sooner have you go down the other side of Whiteleaf than you hit the 0.87 miles of Wardrobes Lane, which although averaging a more modest 8.9%, it tops out at 13.4%. And Wardrobe is sneaky. It hides its steeper section where the road turns sharply left. Round that bend and you hit the 13.4% part. Not such a brute as Whiteleaf, but riding these two back to back is makes you really glad to close the door on Wardbrobes, so to speak.

    Richard had some kind of diagonal weird crossover going on with his chain just as we began Whiteleaf. It went back into place. Phew. Whiteleaf done. Then he was well ahead of me on Wardrobes Lane. It was only when we’d got past the top, I understood why. He couldn’t get in the small chain ring. He necessarily had to blast his way up. Mr May is something of a grinder, rarely using the small ring. “Perhaps there were too many cobwebs?” I quipped. Maybe. After 5 mins of failed fettling, he decided to call it a day and big ringed it to High Wycombe train station. Having ridden up, he ended up logging 75 miles. Not so shabby.

    Endless rolling hills await

    I wasn’t expecting to see any more groups on the road, but within a minute of Richard’s departure, a pair of riders came by. They were both local and on the VRR. Great. They knew the route really well and I was happy to be guided. I locked in on a rear wheel and went into wheelsucker mode. Their pace was a little below what we’d been doing, but still strong enough. It took 20 miles for me to step up and take a turn on the front. When I looked back, I’d lost them. I really, really wasn’t riding hard. I hoped nothing untoward had occurred and rode the last 5 or 6 miles to the finish. I later learned they ran into another rider they knew and eased off for a chat.

    After refuelling at the HQ and uploading my data, I was quietly and tiredly delighted. Compared to last year, I’d ridden faster, kicked out more watts and hadn’t had a single puncture. Strava gave me 128 achievements. And I had hit my maximum heart rate on Whiteleaf. Blimey! If reliability rides are in any way accurate as traditional early season fitness and form tests, then I am starting to get excited about what I can achieve this year.

    If you want to ride the route, you can drive up or take a train to Harpenden (3.5 miles) or St Albans (5.4 miles).

    Next week (12/03/23) is the Berkhamstead CC Spring Classic, which starts from Aldbury at the Musette Cafe. Get a train to nearby Tring if you fancy it.

  • Good day out. The bike was clearly determined to not allow even a momentary breach of Rule #90. Those who live by the big ring,...

    If you want to try one of these rides:

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The View From Here - a blog

Posted by Avatar for Sir_Shannonball @Sir_Shannonball