Saturday, 29 September 2012

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Holiday week

I’ve been off all week, fairly relaxed and not done a lot.

Monday we drove out to Condor Green and rode the Millenium and Lune Valley cycle paths out to Caton.  Very nice and relaxed easy day after the previous 83 miles out to Arnside and back at quite a pace.

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Tuesday we went to see Another Place, the Anthony Gormley statues at Crosby.  We’d gone a few weeks ago but went to Formby ratehr than Crosby.  The statues were very impressive, especially the ones in the surf and those buried in the shifting sands.

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Wednesday was a bit blowy.  We went up to Silverdale to do a short walk along the coast and inland to Arnside Tower.  We had a nice sandwich and chips in the Silverdale Hotel.

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Thursday, Friday and Saturday were largely rainy or overcast.  We didn’t do much.  Today we set out for a ride but the rain came down and we cut it short.  We’ve ridden out to the pub this evening btu the weekly mileage is low.

I have finalised the details of a tour or the Scottish Borders in a few weeks, 400 miles in six days.  Hopefully the weather will improve!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Italy Day 6–Passo del Foscagno

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Italy Day 5–Stelvio South Side

Sorry for not posting for a while, life has caught up with me.  Here’s the rest of the Italy trip

Thursday was forecast to be bright and sunny but rather cool.  It sounded the ideal weather to attempt the Stevio.  We had decided to just do the south side from Bormio to the top of the pass and back.  Again it is climbing from the outset with little or no respite for 15 miles.

It was rather warmer than anticipated and we stopped outside town to shed layers.  The first section is a steady 6-7% with a final few switchbacks to a refuge where we stopped for a coffee

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There were a more switchbacks before the valley opens out into a high alpine meadow.  The gradient eases and you get a bit of a respite.

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As you approach the Umbrail turn off and the snow line, the road kicks up again with steep pitches and hairpins, the road lined with banked snow.

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The final 3k took 1/2 an hour.  Although it was cold, the sunlight was intense, glaring off the snow.

Finally, after 2 3/4 hrs we got to the top and the Coppi monument.  I was frozen, tired and very short of breath.  At 2758m this is the highest I’ve ridden for 20 years.

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After a quick lunch of pizza, we set off down.  The Stelvio is very popular with motorbikers as well as cyclists and the road was quite busy.  The bigger bikes can’t manoeuvre as easily as a bicycle and I quickly caught and passed a group of Harley’s.  As I stopped for photo’s every now and then, they would pass and I would catch up and re-pass.  In the end I overtook them 4 times before leaving them behind on the lower slopes.  It took 35mins to get down, taking it easy and stopping for photo’s.

Not a long day at 31 miles, but hard.

Evening meal:

Egg tartlet

Cuttlefish ragout

Beef Goulash

Fruit Salad & Ice cream

Creme Brule

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Italy Day 4–Mortirolo

Wednesday dawned sunny and fairly warm.  We decided to head to the Mortirolo.

First was a 20 mile, 800m drop down the valley to town of Grosotto.  It was a very pleasant ride following the old SS38 road, most of the traffic going through the tunnels of the new road. Italy 007Italy 015Italy 018

Eventually we reached the bottom of the climb.  Of the three routes up the Mortirolo, this is the hardest.  It was the route up in this year’s Giro, although I don’t think they went all the way to the top.

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In total there are 33 hairpin bends, all conveniently numbered.  Each house or farm on the way up also has its altitude on their name plate so you know exactly where you are, there’s no kidding yourself you’re nearly there.

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Part way up is a tribute to Marco Pantani, apologies for the poor picture, it was taken on the move and my camera was a bit sweaty.

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At this point my average speed had dropped from 5-6mph to 2-3 mph.  Some of the sections were brutally steep, only achievable after the respite of a flattish bend.

Eventually, after 1hr 45mins of climbing, I got to the top, in one go, no stopping.  I was knackered.Italy 028

Ian was next up a few minutes later.  He and the others had stopped to regroup a couple of times, to pick up the slower riders.

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followed by Graham and Jemima

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Alison, who got a mexican wave from some Dutch riders,

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and Karl and Chris.

We were all quite proud of ourselves.

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We dropped down the other side slightly to a Cafe where Jemima “inhaled” a plate of spaghetti, there is no other word to describe how quickly she cleared her plate.  We were still cold and tired and the weather looked like it was closing on the mountains to the north, so rather than do the Gavia as well, we set of back over the top and down to Grosio.

This was a fast switchback descent, lots of gravel in the corners, but great fun.  I raced some Dutch guys down, but after one too many hairy corners let the faster one go.  The views on the way down were stunning.

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After a long drag back up from the valley to Bormio, we arrived back at the hotel weary but satisfied.

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54 miles

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Italy Day 3–Spa

Bormio is the site of a natural hot spring and has three spa/baths.  The weather today was truly awful so we headed for the Bagni Nuovi.

It was brilliant.  The first level contained several saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools and hydrotherapy pools.  Then there was the grotto area that had a number of interesting treatments, like a pair of elliptical pools that you walked through, one containing warm water, one cold.  Its supposed to be good for your circulation and certainly made our tired legs feel better.  There was also a big outdoor area with mud baths, hot tubs, more saunas, a swimming pool and much more.  My particular favourite was a eucalyptus shower followed by a sauna in a converted summer house, though the windows of which you could watch restarts and other birds.

We managed to spend 6 or 7 hours there.

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The forecast wasn’t great but  it turned very warm and sunny as we got ready.  At the last minute i swapped my rain jacket for my gillet, but did thankfully shove the jacket in my saddlebag.

The ride today was a straight out and back to the top of the Gavia.  Pretty much climbing for 25K from Bormio via Santa Caterina to the top of the Gavia and back down.  From Bormio to Sanata Caterina was about 13K an 600m of climbing.  I passed a guy on an old 5 speed carrying a bag on his back and a large carrier bag slung on the handlebars.  As we approached one of the steeper sections, this guy shot back past me.  Should I chase or let him go?  I chose to let him go, the humiliation of being overtaken would have been compounded exponentially if I failed to catch him.  This became the “Tim Diamond Challenge” whereby old people on unsuitable bikes would be pitted against me in races.  Very funny Karl, ha ha!

When we arrived in Santa Caterina the weather on the mountain tops had started to change, but didn’t look too bad.

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We set off up the remaining 13K and 800m of climbing.  Although I set off first, I was quickly overhauled by the stronger guys on the first few hairpins.  I settled into a steady tempo, 6-8 mph on the flatter bits, 4-5 on the steeper.

As I got higher, it started to rain.  Karl,Ian, Chris and Graham were waiting at about the 12mile mark.  I shouted to them that there was still 3 miles to go, Karl shouted back “and 500m climbing”.  I carried on, Ian shouted that he’d come and join me so I eased for a bit, but he never materialized.  The rain turned to sleet as we cleared the tree line.  I debated stopping to put on my rain jacket but figured I was warm enough and already wet.  I’d press on.  Then it started snowing.  The road pitched up even steeper for a bit. 

Eventually the Refuge came into view and I could get some warmth.

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Ian and Chris showed up soon after, equally wet and cold.  Then the others trickled in.

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There was a family at the refuge with two small children.   The father had told them that maybe with the snow, Santa would arrive.  Sure enough, he did!

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We waited til the snow cleared before setting off on the 15 mile, 45mph down hill back to Bormio.Italy 011

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Another short day, only 31/5 miles, but another Giro pass ticked off.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Italy Day 1

Karl, Alison, Ian and I flew out to northern Italy on Saturday.  The flight out was fairly uneventful, Ian was actually ready to go Saturday morning when I came to pick him up.  We flew to Bergamo airport, arriving to a hot and sweaty Italy with 4 bike bags and luggage.  We eventually got hire cars sorted, shuttle bus to car hire place and bikes stashed by 7 o’clock local time and were ready for the three hour plus drive north to the Alps.  Karl had a sat nav, so we planned to follow him.  Unfortunately it was playing up and we had a few interesting moments through the Bergamo suburbs in rush hour before getting on to the right road for Bormio.  It was a beautiful road in places, but soon got dark and we couldn’t really see Lake Como or the Alps as we approached.  Eventually we got to Bormio at about half ten and met up with Graham, Jemima and Chris.  The Hotel Genzianella is an Italy Bike Hotel, catering very well for cyclists of all types and is thoroughly recommended.

Bormio is at the foot of the Stelvio and close to any number of the great Giro climbs.  The plan was to build up over the week to the Stelvio, hopefully from the northern 49 hairpin side.  The weather forecast for the week is not good, rain, heavy showers, thunder storms.  Temps are near those at home – 12 – 18 degrees.  We’ll see where we get to.

Day one was planned as an easy break in day.  It was tipping it down when we got up, so we had a leisurely breakfast and set about un-bagging and preparing the bikes.  It was still tipping down when we’d finished and we decided to take an hour’s rain check.  By half ten, it had eased a bit and we set out in light drizzle to do the Torre di Fraele.  This is a 22 mile loop up to a ruined fort at which point the road turns to gravel.  There are 18 hairpins on the climb which takes you from 1215m at Bormio up to 1885m at the castle.  Beyond there, the dirt road rises up further to Lago di Cancano and Lago di San Giacomo.  The rain eased as we started climbing.  I’d plotted a route for Karl’s GPS using bikehike but the Google maps weren’t as accurate as they could be and we took a few wrong turns.  Eventually we started climbing.  Graham asked if this was the start of the hairpins.  I pointed ahead and said no!

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The climb was ok, the hairpins were about 500m apart and the slopes not too bad.  It was bitter at the top and combined with the soaking from earlier, we all got quite cold.  There was a sign on the dirt road saying there were several cafes further up so we headed on.  The first was closed, as was the second.  Karl headed up to a third, which was open.  We had a traditional pasta, potato and cabbage concoction with cheese sauce.  It was delicious and just what we needed, together with the thickest, chocolatiest hot chocolate I’ve ever had.  Too soon we back out into the now watery sunshine.  The views of the surrounding peaks were spectacular.

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We were soon down into the valley and the relative warmth.

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Not a long day, 22 1/2 miles, but rewarding considering the weather. 

Evening meal:

Tuna & bean salad

Green and white tagliatelli and duck sauce

Fish soup

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Monday, 7 May 2012

Isle of Man 2012

This weekend was our third May Bank weekend Isle of Man cycling trip.  As per previous years the plan was to ride up to the Heysham ferry on Friday, ride the island Saturday and Sunday and ferry/ride home Monday.

Due to some ferry issues, we were on a faster boat (2 hrs rather than 4) but at an earlier time.  We had top be at the ferry for 11:30, which meant leaving at 7:30.  We got most of the gear laid out on Wednesday and Jayne did most of the packing Thursday before heading out to her bowling club.  I finished off the packing and prepare a meal for my sister and Mum who were coming to house sit for the weekend.

Friday’s weather forecast wasn’t great but it dawned pretty clear and dry.  We headed out expecting Karl and Alison to catch us by the Cartford bridge.  This year’s group was quite different from previous years.  With the regulars of me, Jayne, Karl, Alison and Ian were Mark (Birdy) and first timer Pete.  Only 7 this year.

No sight of Karl and Alison by Cartford and we pressed on.  As we passed Condor Green, Karl texted saying they were at Cartford.  This was repeated for the rest of the morning, but they never caught up.  Jayne and I arrived at the ferry terminal in plenty of time.

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We were a bit worried about the others arriving as check-in closed at 11:30 and they still hadn’t arrived.  Jayne asked if she could check them in but no, they had to be there.  Eventually Alison, Birdy and Pete arrived, Ian had a puncture about 2 miles away.  Fortunately the boat was late due and took a lot longer to unload due to it not usually going to Heysham where they didn’t have the gear to unload foot passengers properly.  Eventually we were on and despite the hour delay, we were in Douglas much earlier than usual.  Karl and Alison were cooking that night.  There was some discussion about starter aesthetics.

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Saturday was forecast to be sunny but cold.  On the day it was very sunny and warm if you could keep out of the bitter northern wind.  A guy on the ferry had recommended a ride that was hard but very pretty.  It included a 1 in 4 section but took in a very pretty set of valleys. We decided to give it a go.  It got off to a bad start as we had to turn around at the start of the first hill because we had left our stare tube and tools behind.  Eventually we got onto the climb.  The road was lined with wild primroses.

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It was incredibly steep and exposed.  Guess which way the prevailing winds blow!

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Down the other side was exhilarating and a bit scary because of the wind.  At the bottom Pete found he had a puncture probably due to hitting the cattle grid at 40+ mph.

After another short climb we drop down towards Kirk Michael.  You can see Scotland and Ireland while only moving your head slightly.

Scotland

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And Ireland (honest!)

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The road didn’t pan out as expected.

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Eventually we mad it to Peel, where we saw a seal.  The ride back took us past the Tynwald, the Manx parliament and possibly the oldest continuous government in the world.

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We decided to avoid the ford, going via the foot bridge.

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We were once again diverted by the closed road junior bike racing and eventually made it home after 45 miles and several thousand feet of climbing.  It was our turn to cook and we did Tarragon Chicken which went down very well.

For Sunday the main group decided they would ride out to the Calf of Man and maybe risk getting the train back.  Jayne and I were worried about getting the tandem on the train and didn’t fancy the 4000ft of climbing in 40 miles that the full route would require.  Instead we headed once more to Laxey, this time armed with out English Heritage membership cards to get free entry.  The weather was fine as the guys set off after some last minute maintenance.

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Jayne and I set out in full sunshine in the opposite direction for Laxey.  Soon it became apparent that the Laxey weather wasn’t going to be good.  We got ourselves in to the Laxey Wheel grounds but there wasn't much cover from the hail.

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The site is fascinating, and includes a huge moving rail viaduct that moves a mine pump that is 100+ yards from the wheel.

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Eventually the weather improved and we got back in the same bright sunshine the others had enjoyed all day.  The guys cooked stuffed mushrooms, roast lamb and chocolate sponge pudding, delicious.

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The weather forecast for Monday was horrendous.  We packed on Sunday night expecting the worst in the morning.  It was actually not too bad, quite windy, overcast but not actually raining.  After breakfast and tidying up, we headed in ones and twos down to the ferry.  The crossing was uneventful apart from occasional trips to the deck to experience the howling wind, we were worried about the final 35 miles home.  My sister texted just as we came into dock saying that the weather had deteriorated and the forecast was so bad that they were going to head home rather than wait for us.  It didn’t bode well, but apart from the very strong winds, the rain stayed off for most of the way home.  We had one problem where the road past the Golden Ball pub was flooded by the high tide.

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This is not unusual, put we’ve managed to avoid it in previous years.  Eventually, we got home, tired but pleased with our weekend’s riding.

As I sit here writing it up, the rain is tipping down so we were pretty lucky with the weather, apart from the hail!

Over the weekend we did 144 miles on the tandem, some very hilly, I’ll try to post elevation charts in the week.  In addition to the 55 miles commuting, not a bad week at all.

Cheers

Tim