Monthly Archives: July 2013

Heading south to the Sydney Plains

What a morning and what a way to wake up!!

Big Goaders received joining instructions late last night from the Fluffettes:

  1. Big Goaders – come and wake up with us in the morning.
  2. You need to be up and out for 4.25 to be in St Ives for a 4.45 departure
  3. We want you to take us to Sydney Plains to see the Lions and the Giraffes.

Well who could refuse an invite like that! There I was at 4.47am (late due to my legs not working as normal) ready to go at St Ives – Magoo, Jenna and Norman all in attendance. We took the ride to Laura via MVR, Forest Way, Spit, Parrawi and then met her after she had been doing Parrawi repeats for many hours.

From here we headed south talking about the beauty of the Sydney Plains. A place that is allegedly far flatter than the North Shore and goes on for miles and miles. Quickly given the topic the discussion got onto the Lion King. The key question was who in the ER’s would be which character in the movie. What a discussion – key conclusions as follows:

  •  SatNav – Clearly Rafiki (according to the Fluffettes). His wise words are helpful. Magoo claims that SatNav isn’t as old as Rafiki. I am not so sure.
  • Timon – This is Clutters. A youthful and mischievous individual that seems to pop up everywhere and is highly adaptable irrespective of environment ie road bike, MTB.
  • Bam Bam – The discussion was about being a power house. Like a charging elephant. Remember that elephants are also very intelligent.
  • Bullet – This one was tricky but Pumbaa came up as a joyous fun loving type of character. Also perceived to be the pin up of the jungle – perhaps he should be January in the ER calendar!!!

You can tell the intelligent conversation that was shining through as we crossed the bridge and headed South down Clarence and across to Bourke St. The endless cycle paths traversed each plateau until we came to the link to the Sydney Planes – Mascot Airlink station – a quick turn right joining the path to the biggest planes we could find. The excitement on Magoo’s face as a flying kangaroo descended above her. It was like taking a child into a sweet shop.

A rose between some thorns

A rose between some thorns – Hugh Heffner and the Fluffettes celebrating Jenna hitting her ER target 3 days early – well done Jenna.

Magoo searching for the very rare sea Hippos out near the airport

Magoo searching for the very rare sea Hippos out near the airport

The only person missing was Magoo’s ER Commuting partner – Comet – he apparently needs to hit 165km’s this week so that Team Comet and Magoo can hit 500!!!! Go Comet.

Normal returns this evening – 5.15/5.30/6pm Outbounds plus a 5.15 Fluffer return (Jenna is in the process of talking herself into this one to cap off a fantastic day)

Fluffettes – Thank you for a fab ride. Definitely one of the best ways to start a day.

Pedal safe

Big Goaders

Sunday Service: early morning gorges with Fore and Stealth

Far in the east, the edge of the world tumbles through space. The horizon — a sharp black silhouette against a thin white slice of sky — splits the night in half, hints at a distant hidden sun. Thousands of stars hang in the endless darkness above, all of history, billions of galaxies exploding forever.

All the way down here, on the surface of the planet, on this long thin stretch of road, all I can hear is the whisp of rubber on the bitumen and the regular breathing of my companions. We’re out of our saddles and climbing the last rise before the long, fast descent to the river.

Gravity toys with us as we roll over the crest, shifts its grasp, stops dragging heavily on our back wheels and starts drawing eagerly on the front. It whips up a wind; the pawls in Fore’s hub rasp like a swarm of bees in his wheels. Tears stream down my face which is pressed to the blast, scouting out lines; fingers scream in the cold air and the bitter chill. We flow through the bends like water flowing to the sea — inside shoulder tipping in, outside leg straight, inside knee hanging just so — all the way down without a hand on the brakes.

We roll up to the gate on the water’s edge only to see the ferry pulling away, shrinking into the shadows on the opposite shore, a single white navigation light blinking in the darkness.

My rear tyre is flat; repairs commence, first on land — cold hands are dull, blunt instruments — then crossing the river. The wheel is back on the bike when the ferry’s steel ramps scrape up the eastern bank (lost time: zero minutes) and right away we’re rolling again, up the eastern side of the gorge, breathing more sharply, falling into a rhythm that dispatches hairpins one after another.

It’s along here, suspended halfway between the ridge above and the tiny boats on the green water below, I realise the bush is alive with birds and the gentlest of breezes. A dog is barking. We’re flooded in warmth and morning light. Somehow, between this side of the gorge and the other, night became day, descending became climbing, cold became warm in much the same way a life passes: fleeting, easy to miss, and without ceremony.

OTP Tuesday..Bollinger morning again

A carbon copy of conditions for the second best way to start the day, with ERs accumulating at all the right places for their saunter along the OTP. Once more there were multiple pelotons departing various suburbs around the very limits of sensibility to ply their way into town by some of the most circuitous routes available.. So ERs tramped LCNP, Akuna Bay and Northern Beaches, ( i think the MTBs took a rest day ) but needless to say kilometres of pedal power were nailed to the strava wall with gusto and panache.

The OTP accommodated the faithful in its magnificence, sun rise hung for a poets eye on departure, blinded by the light at Archer/Chatswood and illuminating the city for a view across the bridge that the great unwashed on the trains never get to see.

9C has to be perfect riding conditions, just cool enough to have to layer up, but gulping in fresh air and needing to keep pedalling to stay warm, it just makes the ride invigorating, without being uncomfortable.

Yup one of these days this riding lark may just catch on..

As we climb out of the depths of winter, with some really interesting spring classics on the cards, now would be a great time to encourage that friend or acquaintance to maybe join in and give this cycle to work thing a try..membership drive if you will but now there are so many people on the ride at all levels of fitness and ability we truly can offer something for everyone.

The B&T may be getting some competition, YHC noticed some people standing outside what was Bistro Lily next door..they are doing lunch and dinner but seeing us out the front of B&T they said if we put in bike racks and a heater for the forecourt perhaps the ERs would switch venue.. ( actually I made that last bit up ) but they were interested to see how much morning traffic is walking past..

All good for the multitude of return rides..Sydney fine one day perfect the next..

Have a great day all


Mont Ventoux Ride Report

Mes Amis de les Coureurs Facile –

Mont Ventoux, “le Geant de Provence”, otherwise known as every cyclist’s worst nightmare. Almost 2000m altitude but starting at a couple of hundred metres, making it one of the longest climbs in European cycling. Added to that a nasty 7.5% average for the last 16 kms and we knew that we were in for a treat.

The day started well, or really the night before. Dr Nige arrived in Cavaillon in the afternoon closely followed by Turnip in his astonishingly ugly Nissan. The arrangement was to have dinner with the Captain’s entourage in L’Isle sur la Sorgue the evening before for full rider briefing and isotonic and carb loading in advance of the assault on the MV. Wilson had done a great job checking us into “Le Bouchon” restaurant. Introductions made. The Captain arrived not merely fashionably late, but with “parisien panache” at some 2 hours after the peloton had polished off a three course nosh up with all the trimmings and deux bouteilles de rose … well if Johnny Hallyday can pull it off so can the Captain.

The day itself started early pour moi and the Cavaillon posse. 43 kms to the foot of the Ventoux meant a savage 5.45am reveillon. I thought i could hear Madame Demi say a “bonne chance ma Cherie” as I tiptoed out the door, but I suspect it was a “get out the feckin door you ijit and don’t wake me at this hour ever again on holiday …”.

Quick sprint to the rallying point via Maubec to L’Isle sur la Sorgue to pick up Wilson and then through the back roads to Bedoin. Interesting accordion tactics noted in the peloton, Wilson pulling hard on the front, three donkeys on the back wondering just how much time it would take before Wilson turned round to see three specs at the rear ambling along 10kms slower enjoying the dappled early morning sun … glorious ride nonetheless got us to the village to greet WBA installed at the Town Hall ready for … erm coffee, buns, croissants etc, shopping. anything it seemed but a ride.

On the stroke of 9am a bugle sounded, the crowd stood still, a haze of yellow and red lycra in the distance and the unmistakable sight of the Captain, Aussie flag billowing, leading out a flotilla of the north shore’s finest thru the streets of Bedoin. “what are you all looking at?” he addressed the crowd. “It’s Jeff Thomson” someone ventured. Close, but no cigar. However at least they had not mistaken the Australian flag for some rag from far flung colony of the Mother Island…

With the encouragement of knowing we were being led by the fastest larrikin bowler the world has ever known, we set off at a gallop – well a trot to conquer the Ventoux. Captain knew it was a good day early doors when he spotted someone spraying a name on the road in front of the ER peloton. “C, A, P … ” he ventured. “C R A P” i think was more what the erstwhile street artist had in mind. The Captain, encouraged, asked “are we there yet?”. Not quite it seemed.

Slowly the vineyards gave way to some gentle slopes and then some less gentle ones. and then cruising through an otherwise unassuming village, the road turned rudely to the left and into a 10% ramp as if to say “show time”.

Pretty soon the riders as opposed to the Easy Riders disappeared into the throng. Matt, Simba and Wilson haring up the slopes with points to prove. “,and what about the Captain?” I muttered to myself … but any idea that we would cruise along with the Dear Leader and his drapeau encircled by ER domestiques quickly disappeared. Probably just as well. The Ventoux is just endless and everyone needs to and indeed does take it at their own pace and in their own time – which means about 2 hours or so for mere mortals – or 45 minutes for crack addled ones.

Once at the top, most of the ERs managed to find themselves an uncomfortable spot on the shingle over the final 500m flag. Well done Drastic who correctly called Danny the B as the ER with the camera in the photo circulated by the Captain’s media people. The other ERs were on the fence just out of shot looking for indispensable items from the Caravan such as ‘early booking discounts with Ibis Hotels”, small sachets of washing powder and keyrings from the Police Nationale. Rumour has it that there was also a race going. To absolutely no one’s surprise Froome sauntered up about 4 hours before everyone else, made some grimaces as if it weelly, weelly, hurt and then raised his arms aloft -and smiled that faint smile of his that says “yes, i weelly did it all on my ownsy”.

ERs on Ventoux

From left to right is Wilson and Matt (with their recently scavenged Carrefour Caps from the freebies caravans) and Simba in the back to front LCL cap

The post-race descent down to the village was more enthralling it has to be said. weaving past spectators making their way down at 3 kph, police motor bikes at 60 kphs and a flotilla of camping cars stuffed with beery Belgians made for a unnerving/thrilling experience (delete as appropriate).

A quick beer in the village to fire the Captain up and off we headed for the return trip via Carpentras where the Captain’s Directeur Sportif was waiting in camping car with chilled Bollinger ’98. To all our astonishment the peloton was led out at some 45 kph for the next 10 kms by the Captain. Clearly the bidon he had grabbed from a Cofidis rider contained something the same magic potion that propelled Froome to victory and Asterix to vanquish the Romans. No one mentioned that the Mistral was blowing on our backs at about 1000 kph which meant big smiles at the end of the trip to deposit the Captain’s entourage. Our secret isn’t it?

The rest is a blur of heat and haze, a sun-drenched romp through the back roads of the Vaucluse, and until eventually we reached the tour village, I mean the in-laws at about 8.30pm. given a 5.45 start it was one hell of a long day – 135 km round trip with 2000 climbing in the middle. Big shout outs to the Captain for leading the way and providing entertainment for the the rest of us – to Matt and Simba for reminding us old buggers that we are as, yes, old. Wilson, WBA, Danny, Dr Nige for excellent company. But the real hero of the day was Dave Turnip. What an example. Smashed hip. Recent operation. No fitness to speak of. Doctor says “no” to riding to the North Turra shops and back, and here is on a massive ride – and quite hairy in it own way. smile as wide as the Tasman Sea – and leading the peloton back down the road at the end of a massive day in fine fettle at 30+ kph. David – well done mate. As my the great Magoo would put it, “Legend”.

happy days

a bientot


Etape du Tour 2013 Report

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. In my mind’s eye i was going to finish the Etape du Tour arms aloft, having mastered a course that all the Facebook experts had declared to be the easiest Etape of them all. Instead i arrive at the summit of the Semnoz at a limp, legs smashed, jersey and shorts sweatlogged, an unedifying spectacle turning the pedals at a cadence that equated to 4kms per hour. There were riders who finished the course walking their bikes up who were going faster than I was … But as we Easy Riders know, finishing is not something; it is everything. And i finished. Just.

It all seemed so promising at the start. 6.30 am installed in a local cafe for “petit dej” waiting for the first wave of riders – of 13,600 – to scream past at 7 am. Wilson and I numbered in the 9000s were not due at the starting gate until 7.45. Plenty of time to survey the scene, take in the magnificent backdrop at Annecy, as picturesque a spot as one can find in Europe. I turned to a gnarled looking local sitting out on the terrace: “Beautiful day for a bike ride” i say breezily. “Oui, mais Il y aura beaucoup qui vont soufrire” he muttered. Hmm, suffer? with this beautiful weather? On the easiest etape ever …? come off it. Time to get going.

the scene at the start looked like a surreal version of one of those historical reenactments of 19th century battles – thousands of lycra clad Mamils with the odd scattering of females and younger colts lined up across acres of fields and streets. Eventually i bump into Wilson. He mutters about lack of rides in recent weeks. Who doesn’t? But we relax in the early morning sun ready for the off.

Eventually we reach the start gate, and head off at a canter. Disobeying all the sensible advice from ER about starting at a reasonable pace, i find myself tearing along at 30+kph for the first hour. Pretty soon the first of the three cat 3 climbs heave into view. I’m clipping along nicely, though note the HRM is saying “too fast”. Ah bugger it. Good weather, good company. Keep it going. we start in the 9000s but pretty soon we overtake some of the 8000s, 7000s, and 6000s. It’s all pretty encouraging. The last i see of Wilson is on the Col de Leschaux after about 40kms. He looks in great nick, weaving in and out of traffic.

The Col de Revard the cat 1 climb before the serious stuff looms ahead. a nice steady climb of 800m or so, 5-6%. folks lined up on the roads villages en fete. Beautiful ambience. However the nagging in my back reminds me that i should have taken an anti-flammatory before heading out. Oops. Stop for water seems to calm things down. Up and over and into the valley between the Revard and the Semnoz, the final “ball-busting” climb: 11kms at an average of 8.5% with long ramps at 10-11%.

From having been pleasantly warm, it is now hot – something like 30-32 at a guess. Keep drinking. The shorts caked now in salt serve as a useful reminder. So do the first twinges of cramp. I need to slow, take the rest of the course nice and easy. I head into the food station reminding myself that except for a croissant and some bread i haven’t eaten anything “real” for 4-5 hours. All good, i head back out ready for the Semnoz.

The Semnoz is completely unheralded in cycling circles – it’s rarely featured in the TDF, though of course features as the last mountain finish this year. Everyone seemed to think it was “tough” but perfectly manageable. With this in mind, i entered the village at the foot of the climb “nonchalent – pas de probleme”. The villagers knew better: “courage monsieur” – “allez. Il faut y aller maintenant”. hmm, three deep on the barriers, the villagers were out in force to witness “le spectacle”.

Straight out of the village the semnoz ramps at 10% for the first 3kms – in what i thought must be around 34 degree heat now. sultry, humid, sun bearing down. After a couple of kms i feel cramp in the stomach of all places. Have i eaten too much? Or too little? whatever it is, it’s a horrible feeling. The cramp is also getting worse and the back is really twanging in that “i really have to stop” voice. the 10%ers give way to 6-7%. but i’m feeling rough and welcome the next and last water stop. I wander around a bit hoping somehow that the knot in the stomach will give way. It doesn’t. There are 3 or 4 bodies wrapped in silver foil being tended to be the ambos. Sun beating down, sweat dripping, i hear a little voice in my head, unmistakably Norman. It says: “stop being soft”. Alright already. Back on the bike.

The rest of the 7kms is a blur of sensations: elation that i can ride for 300-400m followed by intense bouts of weariness and nausea. By now half the peloton has given up on the 8-9% ramps and is walking up – a lycra clad retreat from Moscow. I get on and off may be another 5 times. I get back on again. The big challenge is to get the mind off the pain, indeed off the ride. If only i had my turbo soundtrack with me … so i just engage the guy riding next to me in small talk. He’s thinking like I am: if we just natter away we can do the last 3kms without thinking. This is 90mins into the climb and the worst is yet to come – the final 3kms average 10%. It’s torture. It’s roasting, and worst of all those who have finished are whizzing down the other side of the road shouting “allez, allez”. If i had had a shotgun i would have taken a few out. However the strategy seems to be working. We talk our way up, up, forever up, until passing the final bend. My arms are not aloft. They are limply clutching the handlebars. I dribble over the line at 4kph. It feels feeble. and it probably looks a lot worse. On the other hand, it’s over. Done. Finished.

A mix of emotions washes over one on these occasions. On the one hand, one should feel proud and happy that one has set out to do what one wanted to do. I didn’t have a finish time in mind, but worked out that 6 hrs 30mins would be par for me. I finished in 7 hr or so riding time – but with nearly 9 hours completed, due to stops. On the other hand, i’m also frustrated, even disappointed. After all the training, including some tough climbs in the weeks previously, i know i could have, should have done better. Now 24 hrs later i realise that this is – well, cycling. This is why we get up earlier and earlier, and ride for longer and harder. It is a sport of the infinitely disappearing horizon. Just when one thinks one is approaching ‘form’, something comes along to knock you back. So you start over. Now all i’m thinking about is the next Etape – such a wonderful event. Brilliantly organised and presided over by literally thousands of cheery French locals only too delighted to help, cheer, sing. Such passion – for the anonymous mamils gliding past. I’ll be back – and next time I’ll do …. better.

I’ll finish there – but whilst I have the mike, big thanks to coachs Browney and Norman for their sage help and advice over recent months. Shout outs too to my regular “training partners” BT, Falsh, and BG for coming out in all weather on sunday mornings – and for the flambies. But its ER itself i have most to thanks – 5 years ago a pal in the UK asked me if i would do the Etape with him. I shook my head “no way – too tough”. Well, that’s not the ER way – “only as fast as the slowest rider”. Too right. Anything to keep the pedals turning …

A bientot.