Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Black Mountain Hop


If you've made it here I hope you are interested in riding the Black Mountain Hop on Sunday 9th November.

The route is approx 80km/50miles and could climb 2,3 or 4 climbs notable 3 hills depending on our mood and the conditions. It starts is Crickhowell which is about an hour and 45 25 minutes drive from Axbridge.  

After a small ramp out of the town to warm the legs, the route climbs steadily over Gospel Pass, brushing the shoulders of Hay Bluff and Lord Hereford's Knob and revealing a view of the (distant) Cambrian Mountains.

From there we descend on "country" roads towards Hay on Wye and a gentle flat run There is then an optional "Mendip"climb before coffee/cake at the lovely Baker's Table cafe in Talgarth.

A further optional "Mendip" climb and descent deposits us at Langorse Lake where the route flattens, until we drop to the River Usk and then climb up out of Llangynidir to the second mountain pass at Cefn Onnau (Llangynidr Mountain).

From there the views of England (and/or an energy gel) will restore us for the brilliant descent to Llangattock and back to the car for home.

If you are interested in coming please email:mendip5000@gmail.com - I'll organise a meeting time and car sharing depending upon how many people are up for it.


Monday, September 15, 2014


The highest Pyrenean pass. 2115m.

Rain, almost from the off. Ailing Skip shepherded by the Rouleur. Pace knocked back to make it active recovery after launching with le Prof. Coffee in Bareges. Solo.

Donned jacket and soon passed by Thorpedo, Trev and Jon. To hang with them was 4.8. I was at 1.8. Drifted up to Superbareges hoping to see Skip and Rouleur behind. Appeared as I was on the ramps. Waited about 7k from summit as rain subsided. Photos occupied my time as the valley started to reveal. A gorgeous view to be sure. Unfinished business. Garbure a sommet.

And then.

Started last and then had to stop to sort overshoe fouling. Zoooooooom. Can only remember that I overcooked one corner almost clipping a wooden rail, had to relent for a sheep on the descent thanks to a car's brake lights and that La Mongie monstrosity echoing mountain with prefab. Once up (down?) with the Rouleur, just Thorpedo to tick off, and then cafe solo.

I tried sticking with Trev on the way to the Col d'Aspin. Those pukka pies were too much for me. Ditched overshoes and climbed the sinuous wooded route to the summit with the Rouleur, who had leapfrogged me during the SAG stop 5km out. 4.4 rising to 4.7 as we crested the col a la Hinault / Lemond, an achingly gorgeous view over the trees of the hidden valley, tucked behind the pastoral plateau we had climbed from. My favourite climb so far and sunny conditions to match.

The descent was so good. I chased Thorpedo down losing touch on occasion until we formed the ACG descending team behind Skip and Rouleur. Lovely corners and a few tasty straights, but also nice left/right flicks to play with. Oh for a closed road on that one!

The run in via Serrancolin and the D26 a repeat from yesterday, but not, as the gorgeous sun and the tow behind HC in the van brought extra smiles to the group. A wonder the place had dried out!

Coffee Stop. Mechanical stop for Guy. Reality check for me. Joined by Jon. Musketeers roule-in.

Only a football commentator would say anything as crass as a game of two halves; a weatherman would never stoop.

118km but Garmin not restarted after coffee in Serrancolin.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I had the question "why?" posed to me. When it comes to mountains the traditional responses seem to reference "because its there". That sort of works, except that most times someone climbs a mountain they have travelled from somewhere that it wasn't. Definitely the case for me today.

The day dawned colder and cloudier than yesterday. Promise of thunderbolts and lightning; very very frightening according to Trevor; no arguments from anyone else!

The first 30 km were reminiscent of a trip to Sweets, in that they were flattish and we stopped for coffee. Totally unlike it in any other way as judged by the scenery, surroundings and sense of anticipation. I tried meditating on the "why", but the distractions of the unfamiliar kept dragging me away from the abstract question.

The Col du Portillo(h)n ridden from the Spanish side was a good sharpener. Forested and with a generally acceptability surface and gradients that kept away from the painful end of the scale. 4.0 to 4.4 on the remote control until Guy passed me with about 3km to go to the summit, then 5.0 Max to get back to his wheel for the Col. The fast crowd were already engaged in photos and adjusting clothing for the descent. The mild sprinkle of rain gave an early warning of the météo to follow.

Chris started the agreeably winding descent and I gave chase, although quite why wasn't clear. There is something very "proper" about coming down a mountain pass on a road bike. Gravity showed its usual love of me and I did my best to ensure that I was still with the Thorpedo  at the bottom. This is mostly a case of keeping up and keeping on the road, using any available clues to judge what's around the next corner. We reached the first junction in Bagnères du Luchon and the group reassembled with the kind of grin that might easily be the answer to the day's question.

After topping up bottles in Luchon, it was off and up the Peyresourde. There were fewer signs to keep one posted of progress and the climb started with a warning shot of its slightly stiffer grades interspersed with big ring sections. 4.4 to 4.7 in the heat, rising to 5.0 more frequently as the combination of 10%+ and sunny conditions combined to test the riders.

With Chris and Jon way up the road and no one in sight behind I had time to flit between the gorgeous scenery and the question on my mind. This turned out to be less "why" than "how". Constant minor adjustments on the saddle and bars, gear changes to reflect the gradient and remembering to eat and drink so that the task in hand didn't get out of hand. The was a sense of us baking in the relatively sparse shade as Trev passed me on a long straight section. all thoughts of keeping with him were over in a few minutes as the pain started to call from my legs. There are three more days to go my brain reminded me, and you can't go at that rate even if you wanted to.

When the final hairpins came into view they looked like they belonged to another mountain altogether. They really make a pass into something Guyconic, planting your efforts in the terroir montagneuse, more than just an extended ascent of an English hill. 5.2 and hang the consequence.

The vista from the summit told a tale of foreboding; up ahead storm clouds they gather! Our stay in the mountain refuge eating omelette chips and crêpes was perhaps a little longer than I needed, a feeling made physical by the cooling perspiration soaked jersey and my concern that my choice of waterproofing layers for the descent were far from adequate for what was coming.

This time I set of first but Chris soon passed me and I reflected that I probably descend better following him than trying to lead. There were hairpins and some very fast straight sections on this side and I felt more comfortable as we progressed despite some heavy drizzle. Once regrouped however the next 20 minutes of biblical downpour showed that I had been very much mistaken not to purchase the waterproof that Dave was giving a premier outing. Thankfully the rain was warm-ish, or that might just have been me frantically pedaling to make sure I didn't falter. Note to self for tomorrow.

As we hit our host's favourite D26 I nearly made a hash of a corner in Hachete. The air temperature was noticeably warmer through the initial rises and falls off this pretty, undulating lane, and I felt an enormous sense  of well-being despite the damp arm warmers and lycra. Perhaps I have found out the answer to the question in the place I had least expected; a lane not dissimilar to the day to day riding from home really gave the opportunity to reflect on a job well done and smile.

6.10 riding time.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Col des Ares

Don't rush. Plenty of time for that later.

Do push just a little. Keep it steady 4.0 to 4.4.

Trev and Jon have gone ahead. Joining our Chris.

Mind flits back to the stats. How long should it take?

One Chris passes to join another.

Why is there perspiration in only my left eye?

Don't forget to look at the view.

Is that Dave behind? How much longer to go?


That may only be Cat 3, but the descent is a Cat1 smile.

55km. 850m climbing.

Saddle needs tweaking. Perhaps the bars and cleats too?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Last Film

In the last film I saw, the male lead was taken by a well known comic actor, playing a serious role as a minor political figure. Both actor and character were challenged to cast themselves in a new light by the piece.

I'll try to use this as my guide for the next few posts here, remaining factual and hopefully a little more linear than I might have been in the past.

*clears throat*

I have escaped; away from the daily duties and the commute that whittles me sharper each day. I'm not a renegade, even though I may be tempted to renege on my commitment to return. Merely an absentee, with leave to go.

It's called a holiday stupid!

Stupid perhaps, but how to take a holiday from the literary aspirations and the warmed pew in pseuds corner? I bet you can guess.

I am bound for the Pyrenees to join with mes amis de route for a five ride tour around the Luchon Valley and what appears to be a positive assault on our waist lines by our host.

I have taken the opportunity to catch up with my old friends and neighbours, who made a different kind of escape from the UK six years ago; permanent escape. Chose their own release date and everything!

Right now I am enjoying the comfort of his home in the sun, hearing tales of the French education system and the perils of engaging building contractors in a language other than your first one. Plus ça change and all that.

I am also meeting one of the family for effectively the first time as he is six years old. On one hand he resembles the eldest child of the house, but on another he is all châteaux, flitting between languages in a way that challenges my schoolboy French. 100% live wire, earthed en la France.

Relaxing prior to the cycling is fantastic, but is that really the first move of an escapee? We shall see.