Saturday, 30 September 2017

One day one photo - 30: More of gorgeous Verdon

Mercantour mountains see from La Route des Crete
Yesterday was spent going around the outer road circumnavigating the Gorges du Verdon, also known as the Grand Canyon du Verdon. Today was about doing the inner route, known as the Route des Cretes. Being based at La Palud-sur-Verdon meant that I could get onto this road quite easily. La Route des Cretes is basically a road that goes around a big rock formation within the middle of the canyon. You can only access that road from La Palud-sur-Verdon, and for about half of the route the road is one-way traffic only. That makes sense to me as the road is a bit narrow, there are numerous switchbacks where you really wouldn't want to make a mistake while going around the bends. And trying to get two vehicles, particularly campervans (of which there are many around here) to pass one another would be like playing Russian Roulette!

From La Palud, the road climbed steadily and as I got higher and higher I could see the gite where I had been staying become more and more like a dot in the distance. I could also see the Mercantour mountains and a portion of the gorge as a teaser, which looked atmospheric at this time of the morning. The place looked deserted, apart from a few people who were driving up to do rock-climbing. La Route des Cretes closes from October to March, and I was going over that road on the final weekend of the summer season so it's not surprising the area was so quiet. It was amazing to have this spectacular road all to myself! Finally the road reached its high point, at just over 1300m above sea level, before steadily dropping down. It was a lovely descent, and as there was no traffic, and no worries about vehicles coming up the other way this was bliss! Also, I could see across the gorge to the road below me, where I had ridden the previous day.  I don't know if there exists anything as beautiful, exhilarating, and spectacular as this in Europe. Having the sun shining down on me was an added bonus. This, for me is what I would call a must-do ride.

Going around the Route des Cretes is only about 23km, but it involves quite a long climb - around 7km, so it took me about an hour and a half to ride the circuit. You do need the hour and a half though, if nothing else to really soak in the lovely scenery in this beautiful, wild part of Provence.

I was glad to have ridden this today, as it was the perfect antidote to the motorway drive back to the coast, that I had to do straight afterwards!
 

Friday, 29 September 2017

One day one photo - 29: Gorgeous Gorges du Verdon



Today was a big day for me. I finally arrived at the Gorges du Verdon. The drive up from Nice had not been easy, as I was a little tired after having woken up around 2.30am to get my flight, and then hanging around Nice to wait for my bike which had failed to arrive at the same time as me.

I had passed the time going for a run, and then I got in the car to drive for around two and a half hours cross country. It was plain sailing on the motorway, but once off it the roads were very twisty and undulating. For quite a while I'd been wondering if I should have planned to come all this way out of Nice as the scenery, although pleasant, didn't seem much different from what was on the Cote d'Azur. But then I arrived in the quaint village of Comps sur Artuby, and after that the landscape changed dramatically. From pretty green hills, the peaks turned rocky and wild. The road became even more twisty and irregularly rose up and down. It became increasingly difficult for me to take my eyes off the road even for one second, as I had to concentrate that bit more.

Eventually I saw a sign that said "Point Sublime", and it was at that point I realised I was at the famous Gorges du Verdon.

So today was a lovely day, as I managed to ride the full circuit of the Gorge. I hadn't known how far it would be. The proprietor of the gite where I was staying said it would be around 100km, and Google maps suggested it would take me around 7.5 hours. I was a little nervous about being able to complete the circuit before dark!

In fact it wasn't that long. My Garmin measured the distance as 88km, and I got back to La Palud at around 4.30pm (I was out for 6.5 h hours but my riding time was more like 5 hours.) The high points of my trip were the section after Trigance, on the area known as Corniche Sublime, Les Balcons de la Mescla,  then the descent to the Lac Sainte Croix via the town of Aiguines.

At the Pont du Galetas I took a photo of the opening of the Gorges, and it turned out this is an iconic picture of the Gorges du Verdon, as it appears in many guide books and magazines whenever they talk about this geographic feature. The final climb back towards La Palud-sur-Verdon was a real slog for me, and I began to feel quite tired. Most of the main road from the lake consisted of a 14-km climb to the col d'Ayen, though I was rewarded with a 3-km downhill into La Palud. I was glad to have made the trip out to Verdon, and was happy to have done the circuit.


Thursday, 28 September 2017

One day one photo - 28: Bikes on flights headache

Although I have cycled abroad in recent years I tend to take my bike onto a aeroplanes less and less. Taking your bike onto a flight has become increasingly expensive. My flight top Nice cost £80, and then I paid a further £80 to transport the bicycle! Furthermore, there's always the worry over whether or not the airline company will get your bike to your destination without any damage, plus there's also the headache of transporting the bike cross-country if your start point and your destination are far from the airport.
Sometimes there's a worry about whether the bike will arrive at your destination at all!

In recent years I have tried to mitigate against these annoyances by hiring a bike where possible. Sometimes it can work out cheaper than taking my own bike, and the bikes on hire can even be a higher spec than any of the bikes I have at home.

Last year I travelled to Alicante and Costa Blanca area of Spain, and hired from a shop in El Campello. When in the Milan/Lake Como area of Italy I have hired from a company based in Cernobbio, and of course that Mecca for cycling, Mallorca, has no end of places that will hire out road bikes.

Today I flew to Nice and took my bike on a flight. Although There were places hiring out bikes, I found it would work out expensive, and some of the shops are not open on Monday, the day I return to London. So I had to give in and pack my bike onto an Easyjet flight.

The bike arrived intact, thank goodness. It's a shame it arrived five hours after I did! I should have known there'd be a problem when the guy in security at Gatwick Airport said to his colleague "who are we gonna get to move this to the plane?" Why I was in security is another story. The guy on the oversized baggage belt didn't want to lift my bike because he said that it wasn't a regular shape and reckoned it would get stuck in the scanning machine. Despite my point that this is something that I had done in the past without any problem, he wasn't prepared to believe me, and insisted that a porter take my bike up to a special security area where it would be taken manually to the plane.

So, lo and behold, when I arrived at Nice Airport at 9am, I experienced that heartsink moment when my bike was nowhere to be seen on the carousel. But thanks to the efforts by Wendy at baggage services I managed to get the bike later in the afternoon.

It didn't spoil my day too much. I spent the time going for a run on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice while waiting. However, it did make for a long day because by the time my bike arrived and I had gone through all the formalities etc. it was after 4pm when I set off to drive to Provence. When I arrived at my gite it was getting dark, and I was just ready to eat and go straight to bed.

Thanks to Wendy at Avia Baggage Services in Nice Airport, but Boo to Easyjet for not being on it at Gatwick.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

One day one photo - 27: Another cycling fatality

Grosvenor Road/Chelsea Bridge - a dodgy junction for cyclists
Yet another cyclist has been killed on London streets today. The 36-year-old woman, who has not been named, was hit early this morning by a truck that was turning left, at the junction of Grosvenor Road and Chelsea Bridge. She went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to King's College Hospital.

But despite the efforts by medical staff, the lady sadly passed away.
The exact circumstances of the accident have yet to be established, but once again we have another instance of a cyclist losing their life while commuting around London.

I get the impression that the transport authorities do take into account cyclist safety when planing road layouts now more than they did in years gone by. However, the problem is that safety can only be assured to a limited extent if they don't invest enough money. In the UK it is less than £1 per head, but British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman believes that £10 per person is needed in order to have a decent infrastructure for cyclists. 

I rode along that section of road earlier in the month when I was going to an orienteering event in Fulham after work. At rush hour you see many cyclists. It is definitely a favoured route when commuting, particularly as parts of it have a cycle lane.

That section near Chelsea Bridge though, is a pinch point, and as a cyclist I had to weave around cars as there was no space for me to ride in a straight line. I guess that was an accident waiting to happen, particularly as some cyclists weave up on the inside of vehicles.

I hope that the local authorities will take this junction, and other dicey junctions into account when reviewing road policy.

My thoughts go to the family of the young lady who was killed.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

One day one photo - 26: I'm doing a cyclosportive!

There was a time when I used to do loads of cyclosportives - all the well-known ones in the UK such as the Dragon Ride, Fred Whitton, Etape du Dales etc, and I travelled abroad to do quite a few as well - L'Etape du Tour, La Marmotte, La Quebrantahuesos. I didn't mind just jumping on a plane and going to do one in some local village where there would be no other British people there, and it was a sportive hardly known outside of that country.

I remember that being the case when I took part in an event called La Vencoise about 10 years ago, in the hills just outside Nice. There were probably around 400 entrants, all from the local area and based in the village sportshall.

The organiser was very pleased to see someone who had travelled from so far away, and when I was signing in they were really impressed to see a UK cycle racing licence. As I didn't have a car I got there by catching a train from Nice to St Laurent du Var, and then cycling the remaining 8 miles uphill to a place near Tourettes sur Loup. It was funny because when I was riding back from there to get the train to Nice, a lot of the competitors that passed me in their cars beeped and waved at me as they overtook, or even leaned out to say bonjour. I think I was about the 10th fastest woman in my race, but he still gave me some flowers and a bottle of wine. It seemed to be one of those days that they would recall as "the day a young lady from London turned up to do our race!"

Happy days. I have wanted to return there and do the event again, but have not managed to. I hope to do so again though. There's always a nice feeling at these cycle events, and can they are much more personable than the large scale high profile events.

In the meantime I have entered a cyclosportive in the same general region, called La Mercantour. This is more towards Menton, and goes over the col de Madone and the col de Braus, which are biggies on that side of the mountains. It's again a small local event, with a couple of hundred people.

These days I hardly do any cyclosportives. I did the Etape Loch Ness last year, after I was invited there, and then just the Ride London 100 for the last couple of years. Hopefully I will be able to get through this, and the long climbs of the Alpes Maritimes won't have me spat out of the back of the pack too early!



Monday, 25 September 2017

One day one photo - 25: Kentish Spin

I try and get out into the local lanes on my bike regularly, though trips away and other writing jobs means that I end up cycling elsewhere and not managing to get out enough in my local area.

Then typically, when I do so the forecast is for rain, and I find myself having to hurry to get home before the deluge arrives. Or if the weather is not rainy, the roads are damp, so it means when I have to ride over those infamously steep hills of the North Downs I have to do even the 20% gradients in the saddle, as out-of-the saddle efforts just cause a back-wheel spin.

Today was one of those nice sunny days where there was wall-to-wall sunshine, and everyone in South London was out. I never stopped waving and saying hello to folks. I also saw a big group of guys from my club, Penge Cycling Club. I didn't join the ride as I couldn't quite make the start, and also I had a specific route that I wanted to do, and needed to be back in time to run the Southern Road Relays. But I gave a hello to them, and hope to be out on a ride quite soon.

This route is one that I call my quick Kentish Spin. It's not long, but it is still a good work-out as it includes the long drag up Layhams Lane, a short, sharp, steep ramp up Saltbox Hill, and another short, sharp, steep ramp up Cudham Lane. Then you can breeze home via Downe (aka Nigel Farage's hangout) and Keston before returning home. Although this is ride goes about 12 miles out of London, and is still within the M25 London orbital motorway, you still feel very much like you are in the countryside.

I find it amusing how people from other parts of the country often ask how I could possibly find anywhere to ride when living down in London. Surely, it must be nicer to live in Yorkshire or Cheshire than in London if I want to get in nice quiet country lanes? Well the answer is, not really! It's not difficult to find nice country lanes, or even steep hills. They are all there, within half an hour of me leaving the house, and that's one of the great things about riding these roads - their proximity as well as their natural beauty. Of course, cycling in Cheshire and in Yorkshire is lovely too. But I have to get on a train to get up there!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

One day one photo - 24: Southern Road Relays


Years ago, when I took part in running races I was doing events where I would just run individually. The only relay race I recall doing were some cross country races at a place called Horsenden Hill in Perivale, north-west London. They were traditionally the season opener.

Apart from those, the only other relays I did were sprint relays, i.e. 4 x 100 when I was at school, and then a few triathlon relays.

But it seems that relay races have become quite common now, and I find them fun. I have done the cross country one at Reigate Priory, and a road one in Wimbledon Park. There are relay races also at Nonsuch Park in Sutton, and at Beckenham, plus the Sparrows Den in West Wickham. My favourite ones though, are at Crystal Palace. Earlier in the summer I did the Dino Dash Relays, which is one where they raise money to restore the dinosaurs and the subway in Crystal Palace Park. That usually takes place at mid-summer, so it makes for a pleasant bright evening spent with a lot of local runners.

Then today's race was the Southern Road Relays, held at Crystal Palace. That one involved running clubs from all over the south of England. At times like this I feel quite lucky to be able to just rock up at a race which is barely a 5-minute bike ride away, while others would have had to travel all morning to get here. Apparently this event is normally held at Aldershot, but it had to be relocated to Crystal Palace. Aldershot's loss is my gain, as I probably would not have travelled to Aldershot to do it!

Anyway, it was a fun race, though I have no idea where my team finished as I was in the C-team. Our A team got a top 10 placing, which is good for the club spirit.

Note that my club for this event was Serpentine. That is my first claim club, so the default is to run for them, though I race for South London Harriers, my second claim club for the local cross country league races, and other local races where Serpentine don't have representation. It's nice to have that variety, though I do sometimes have a job trying to remember which running vest I should take to which event!


Saturday, 23 September 2017

One day one photo - 23: Cycle Show

You know you're at the back end of the year when a) cyclocross gets going in earnest, and b) all the cycle shows take place, with cycle firms showing off their 2018 models. I have never been to Interbike in Las Vegas, or to Eurobike in. But I do tend to go to the ones in London, and sometimes the triathlon show in Manchester.

So today I went to the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, for the Cycle Show. I would normally have gone on the Thursday when it's trade/media day. On those days there is more space, so you can photograph things without people photobombing your picture. Also, exhibitors and media folks have more time to press the flesh and network a little.

However, because I also have a full-time copywriter job to hold down in London I can't always get the time off during the week. So today was just going to be a quick tour around the show and see how far I could get through the crowds.

It actually wasn't too bad. I met Claire from Condor Cycles, Duncan who I had been dealing with from Raleigh, but he has recently left to join the animal world - pet heallth and accessories to be precise! Then there was the VeloVixen team, who had a dedicated women's cycling hub, with various talks being given. It was a nice surprise to catch up with Emily Chappell - cycle tourer extraordinaire, author, and director of the Adventure Syndicate. And of course it is always nice to meet more marketing managers and put names to faces - like Holly from Canyon, and Carola from Cube.

This year's edition of the show seemed busier than in previous years. The other thing that I noticed was just how much electric bikes seem to have come on. A couple of years ago there were just a few manufacturers that were displaying them. But now everyone seems to have something electric. Apparently it's the way forward. I have never thought of using one myself, and I must admit that I haven't seen that many on the road when commuting. So it's debatable how much demand there really is for them. I guess that debate is for another day (or another post.

But anyway, I was glad to have been able to optimise on the three and a half hours I whizzed around the NEC. And I look forward to trying out some of the novelties I saw.

Friday, 22 September 2017

One day one photo - 22: Ofo Bikes

We have had a bike sharing scheme in London since 2007 when the Santander bikes (aka Boris Bikes) were introduced, They have proven to be a hit, since there's a lot of usage. Certainly, the docking station close to where I work constantly has people picking up and dropping off bikes.

But now, it seems like the bike sharing principle is expanding a little and going on to what might be the next step in their evolution - bike sharing without a docking station. Basically using an app to find out where the nearest bike is, unlocking it via the app or a QR code, and then when you reach your destination you just drop off the bike right where you end your ride.

Sounds great. That's what Ofo Bikes are doing, and that is what they explained at their launch party in Islington.

Their operations manager gave a quick presentation on what they are about, and how the bikes hail from China where this sort of bike share is commonplace over there.
They don't really see themselves as competitors to the Santander bikes which are focused more on Central London. Ofo aim to have a presence in the outer neighbourhoods of London and also in other towns across the UK.

Right now the company is doing a soft launch of the Ofo bikes where they are currently available in Cambridge and in Hackney. Over the coming months the company will be talking to different London boroughs and city councils outside of London in order to gradually roll out the bikes elsewhere. As there are no docking stations, planning permission is not needed, however the company still needs to have backing from the council as these bikes are just going to be left randomly on the pavement - something that won't be great for passers-by. It is also one of the reasons why another company that launched a similar type of scheme a couple of months ago has not had much success.

The striking yellow bikes look a bit  more elegant than the clunky red Santander bikes, though I like to think that they will match the robustness of their older cousins. They are also lighter, making them easy to ride and also to gain momentum. Also there's a basket, which is pretty handy as no one travels around empty-handed there. So there are a few plusses. The main downside that I found was there is only one gear. At the moment they are available in Hackney, which is practically all flat. However, on a gradient they will be tough to ride up, so by the time the Ofo bikes are rolled out to places like Hampstead or Crystal Palace they will have bikes with a few gears!


I think there is definitely a place for these bikes. Santander bikes are very useful, particularly for those quick journeys around Central London, which are quicker than taking a bus or the tube. Having a bike sharing scheme that extends into the nearby surburbs would definitely be useful, and may, as their hope is, get more people into cycling as a leisure activity.

All in all, it was a good evening, and I hope that the Ofo bikes will become as commonplace as the Santander bikes.


Thursday, 21 September 2017

One day one photo - 21: Oakley Sunnies

I have a penchant for eyewear. I don't know where it comes from. Many women like to spend money on dresses, handbags and shoes. For me, it's glasses. As I am a little short-sighted I wear prescription glasses, so when I have my yearly check-up I use that as an occasion to get a pair of specs - even if my vision is still the same as it was last year. I guess getting a new pair of glasses is my guilty pleasure.

My latest guilty pleasure is pair of Oakley Reverie Prizm sunglasses, which I have been testing.

Testing is a hard word to use this summer, given that by the time I received them the best of the summer had already gone. That had happened in May, and in the typical British way, when the actual summer was due in July, the weather took a downward turn, and we had more cloudy, rainy days than sunny days!

I have managed to wear the glasses a few times though. I wore them during the Ride London 100 even though there wasn't much sun. But keeping them on demonstrated my optimism, not just for the weather, but for my performance during the 100-mile cyclosportive!

I also wore them during a ride across the South Downs, to get to Brighton. And of course, I couldn't not wear them on my recent cycle ride to Paris, where looking stylish is de rigueur!

What I like about these sunnies is the purple hue on them which gives a warm feel to the glasses. Also they don't feel weighty on my face. I almot forget that I have them on. I have done a few running races too, where I forgot to take them off before the race, but they did not feel cumbersome in anyway when I got into the thick of the final dash for the finish line.

The main thing I like about them is that they are sports glasses, but they don't look ostentatiously like sports glasses, so they don't look out of place when I'm off the bike.

All in all, the Oakley Prizm sunnies are a good buy, as you don't need to have a pair of glasses for sports and another pair when you're in civvies. These do the job for both settings.

I am going to the south of France soon, where I am sure the sun will be shining there! (If not, what hope is there for us!) So I look forward to getting a bit more wear out of them this summer.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

One day one photo - 20: Orienteering

You probably know already, dear reader, that I like running and regularly take part in running races. And sure, I enjoy doing them. Running is something that I have done since I was a child, and I couldn't imagine a life without running.

You could say that cycling is my passion, where running is more just like my daily bread. In order to curb the monotony of running I vary the places I go and the surfaces I run on. From where I live I can get out to South Norwood Country Park, which is all off-road and flat, I can do Crystal Palace Park, which is multi-terrain and hilly, or I can do South Norwood Lakes which is multi-terrain, gently undulating, and in the winter time can even make for a good cross-country running course as the grassy field holds the rain well! Then there's Betts Park, which is really close by and is good for a quick leg stretcher. Sometimes I travel out to places like Richmond Park, Banstead or Dorking and run on the hilly trails around there, and enjoy the sights around the Surrey Hills.

So I have managed to keep my running interesting by varying the places I go to. More recently I have also managed to vary how I run. In the last few years I have discovered orienteering. It was always something I was a little afraid of doing. Those maps looked like a mixture of Greek, Arab and Sandscript! Years ago, when training for a half marathon I wanted to do a rehearsal race, and the only event I could find was an orienteering event which involved 12 miles of running. I hadn't a clue how to read the map, and ended up just running round the course with a group of sympathetic guys who knew what they were doing.

We got round the checkpoints so quickly that I ended up winning the prize for first female! I was in shock, and felt such a fraud.

Since then, and while with my ex-boyfriend who was big on orienteering I managed to learn a bit about it, and have carried on going to the odd race. I did a few while I was in Macclesfield, and have been doing the ones organised by the South London Orienteering and Wayfarers Club (SLOW). The one I did today was a Street-O in Fulham, which you have to find clues to things on lamp posts and pillar boxes within a particular neighbourhood. I was pleased with my result. For once I didn't come last!

Whatever, my result I do enjoy doing this activity. It gives an added dimension to my running, and jazzes up my run. Also, when an event is advertised s 5km I generally end up running twice that distance! But hey ho, it's all good training!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

One day one photo - 19: Annemiek van Vleuten, World Champion!


The World Road Cycling Championships are currently taking place in Bergen, Norway. It's almost a week of competitions ranging from team time trials - done in riders' trade teams, through time trial races, junior, under 23 and senior men's and women's championship races in time trials and in road races.

The women's time trial was won by none other than Annemiek van Vleuten, and I was so pleased for her. Van Vleuten is the woman who had that nasty crash in the women's road race at the Rio Olympics last year. She was in the lead at the time of the crash and looked like she was on the way to winning the race. The crash looked horrific, but Annemiek luckily escaped with concussion and a few cracked vertebrae. I say "escaped" because her injuries could have ended up a lot worse. For the Dutch racer the hardest part was dealing with the fact that she could have won and then lost out completely.

I spoke to Annemiek a couple of months agao when I was writing a fitness article for Cycling Weekly magazine. What I noted from her was how determined and resolute she was about getting back into racing and pursuing her racing objectives. When I spoke to her in July she had already been out to Bergen and done a reconnnaisance of the course. She was extremely focused on going for the win.

I asked her how she was able to get over the trauma of what had happened to her in Rio and she said that her aim had always been to focus on the objective. She also said that she had had to deal with difficult times when her father died almost 10 years ago after a long illness. Having to cope with that, and seeing her mum have to cope with the loss of her husband had taught her to be resilient.

It is this resilience and determination that has helped to have the amazing year that she has had, with victories in classics races, the women's Giro d'Italia, La Course by the Tour de France, and now the World Championships.

Seeing people get back on the horse after a setback, and ride to victory is inspirational.


Monday, 18 September 2017

One day one photo - 18: Nasturtium

I have entitled this post "nasturtium", but in fact it can relate to other produce I have reaped from my garden or my allotment (as you can see from the photo), as I have had the same problem.

It's that time of the year when my crops are ready (even more than ready) to be harvested, and I have ended up with so much stuff I don't know what to do with it! Last year I had around eight pumpkins, and I only recently finished them!

This year I have had a number of courgettes - usually aroud four per week. There is also sweet corn to look forward to as well. I think I should have picked them already, but I haven't yet managed to get down to the allotment.

Some might say that having lots of produce is a nice problem to have, particularly as a packet of seeds for these crops only costs a couple of pounds. I realise I do have to get organised though.

Nasturtium has been the real star. Last Autumn, there was so much of the stuff that I didn't have to buy any salad for around two months, and that was even with me eating the stuff for lunch and for dinner! Sadly I was not able to pull up the leaves quickly enough, and one day after we had a frosty night I woke up the following morning to find them all drooped, damaged, and inedible. That was a shame. This year, the challenge is to try to avoid that happening again, though it will be more of a challenge as I have had even more nasturtium grow. It's not just on one flower bed in my front garden, like last year, but also a few rows in my allotment too.

So I am really on the hunt for as many recipes as I can find. So far I have put them into a quiche, into a fish pie, and also had them as a salad. I also intend to make an alternative pesto with them.

Sadly I can't put them into a spiralizer like I have done with the courgettes, but I hope to find some equally exciting dishes to make with these leaves that some people dub a superfood, in the same vein as watercress.

As a cyclist who is going to have to battle the elements over the coming months, I think that I can't have too many superfoods, so anything that will help my immune system, and stop me from getting the dreaded lurgy will be a good thing.


Sunday, 17 September 2017

One day one photo - 17: Herne Hill Cyclo Cross


London League cyclo cross has begun and round 2 took place today at Herne Hill. I was sorry to miss round 1 which was held at Stanmer Park near Brighton as I had other work to complete. Then I wasn't able to compete at Herne Hill (my local venue) as I had to rest up after yesterday's exertions in cold water, so had to take precautionary measures.

Herne Hill feels like a spiritual home of cycling for me. In the past I have spent a lot of time at the velodrome, a lot of people that I have met in cycling were folks I saw at the velodrome, and there are just a lot of good people there.

The last time I raced there was at a cyclo cross race during the summer league. The course was such fun. In fact, I think the course builders should win a prize for the most innovative course in a tight space!

Of course, tight space means technical circuit, and it certainly is! I have learned to go around the 180 degree turns, tight zigzags and the latest "spiral of doom". So in fact, I quite enjoy racing on this course, and it seems the spectators enjoy watching it soon. There is always a great atmosphere when cyclo cross rounds take place at Herne Hill.

That big steep run-up - Photo by John Mullineaux
The one bit of the course that I can't get used to is the really steep run-up, which I end up taking from a standing start, when I am already heaving for breath - that's where the crowds are thickest, just when you are feeling at your worst.

I just have to take the hill, Frank Spencer style with my legs going all over the place, sweat pouring down my face, and dribbling. But hey, that's cyclo cross and it seems like the spectators love it! For me, this part of the course epitomises cyclo cross racing at Herne Hill.

I will definitely be out to do future rounds, hopefully the next one at Herne Hill, and entertain the crowds with my clumsy antics!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

One day one photo - 16: Swimming in the Serpentine

So D-day came! I did my one-mile swim for Swim Serpentine. It was basically one lap of the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, London.
The organisers of this event also do the London Marathon and Ride London, two events which are extremely well organised. And this event was no exception.

There was a dry changing room, a heated wet changing room for after the swim, a bag drop area, and even a hot-tub at the finish line.

Each wave had about 200 people, and they set people off every half hour from 9am until 4.30pm. So that's a lot of swimmers! Once in the water there was enough space to swim without bumping into each other. I was just glad, for once to have people around me when I was swimming. It certainly helped with sighting!

As mentioned in a previous post, I am not a great swimmer. I had swum a mile back in the days when I did triathlons 15 years ago. But in this "modern" era I had only got up to swimming 1200m, and had only done that once. So it was going to be a new discovery for me.

My aim was just to keep a steady pace, stay warm (I wore an extra neoprene vest under my wetsuit, and a neoprene hat under my hat.) Things were fine initially, especially as there were still quite a lot of people behind me.

But, as expected I began to slow down in the last 500m, and the people that I passed at the start of the race overtook me towards the end of the race. In fact, at one point I had to stop and tread water just to have a rest.

A lifeguard in a canoe asked me if I was okay, which I was. I just asked him where the finish line was, so that I could properly distribute how I would use my energy so that I could cross the finish line in a reasonable state.

Hyde Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon is full of people - and even more so when an event is taking place! So there was no shortage of spectators and people taking photos.

So it was important for me to look presentable and not staggering all over the place when I got out of the water. I think I achieved that.

In fact I came out feeling quite motivated, wanting to do another one of these.

Well, I spent enough money on open water swimming gear, so I really should get my money's worth and get out and swim as much as I can, from here on in.

Also, if you do the London Marathon, Ride London 100 and the 2-mile distance of Swim Serpentine you get a special London Classics medal, and you may even get into the Hall of Fame. I have already done Ride London 100 and the London Marathon, so all I need to do is get back and swim 2 miles next year - only 2 miles! I think training of that will have to start now! 


52 - Cycling Voices - 16: Annia Modlinsky

Annia Modlinsky is a fellow club cyclist I met about three years ago when I was based up in Macclesfield and joined Manchester Wheelers cycling club. It's a big club, with a lot of female members and they organise women's rides in different parts of Cheshire. I met Annia while we were on a ride in Tatton Park, a favourite hang-out for the local cyclists in the North West. (I call it a Northern version of London's Richmond Park!)

I was impressed by Annia's determination to get into cycling, as it was quite new to her at that time. She's made lots of progress and is doing some pretty decent times in her time trials.

Annia Modlinksky, aged 42

From: Matanzas, Cuba

Lives: Timperley, near Altrincham, Cheshire

Occupation: Self-employed manicurist (including nail extensions), and pedicurist

I started club cycling four years ago because I wanted to take my cycling to a more competitive level, meet other cyclists, including women and be more involved in the cycling community in the Manchester area.

I am originally from Cuba and was born in a town called Colon, Matanzas province. I have lived in Manchester since 1998 when I came from Cuba with my ex-husband, a Mancunian, whom I met over there.

My childhood was lovely, and my education in Cuba was great. It is not a developed country but I had the basics. Life in Cuba can be as tough or as easy as you make it, and as Cubans we are brought up to believe in ourselves, smile, and be friendly.

I didn’t do any competitive cycling at all when I lived in Cuba, just cycling to get from A to B. Cycling is not such a popular sport, as people are more interested in baseball or basketball. 
At the time when I lived in Cuba, there were no cycling clubs. Perhaps some have formed in the last 15 years, but I don’t know of any. In any case the number of professional cyclists in Cuba is pretty low. Some people are interested in cycling but it is difficult to pursue as an elite sport due to the lack of facilities needed to develop.

In the last couple of years when I have visited Cuba I have been cycling, and it is quite a contrast to cycling in Manchester, as you would expect! I have gotten used to cycling in the cold, rain, and wind in Manchester, whereas in Cuba I have to cope with 70–80% humidity and extreme heat, especially between May and July. For that reason my rides have to start at around 5:30/6:00 am and I get in a one-and-a-half hour bike ride, if staying in the town. Otherwise, I head towards the beach where I can ride for a little longer.

The other difference is that the roads in Cuba are less congested than in Manchester. Even in Havana it is reasonably easy to get around by bike. Car drivers are more cycle friendly than in Manchester, and there is plenty of space on the road for cyclists.

Nowadays I do time trialling. I started doing them last year and enjoyed it so much I decided to focus on that, training for them over the Winter to get me ready for the Spring and Summer events. What I really enjoy about time trialling is reaching a high speed on my bike on the aero bars. It’s a great feeling!  It’s hard, but very rewarding once you finish a race.

In Summer I usually try and do a training ride at least three times a week. My rides are generally short with interval efforts, either on my own or ride with friends.  In Winter I try to keep up with the rides, weather-permitting, but I prefer to use my turbo trainer. The sessions are tough, but all worthwhile to keep me fit for Summer rides and events.

I love the scenery that Cheshire possesses. There are many narrow lanes but they are generally pretty, quiet and full of friendly cyclists.  I can’t really say the same about cars, in terms of being cycling friendly but it is getting better. I have my favourite Cheshire routes and never get bored of riding them again and again. Artists Lane in Alderley Edge and The Brickworks, near Bollington have become addictive to ride! They are tough hills, but not impossible. You always get a good feeling when you reach the end of both.

As a woman riding on my own, I have to be prepared for the encounters that cycling can have. I never leave my saddle bag behind without my essentials: inner tubes, tyre levers, money (small change), mobile phone.  Also, a small air pump, bottles of water, and a few packets of cereal bars. 

Manchester Wheelers, where I am a member, is a great club to belong to and cycle with.  They have cycling events going on all year round to choose from. I have done a few events with them this year and last year, and they were all good fun.

Being a single mum is hard, but I try to be as well-organised as possible. Taking care of my daughter and providing for her is my top priority.
I have just started studying full-time, which makes it even busier for me to find the spare time to ride my bikes. On top of that I run a small part-time business from home, so every single day for me is a challenge. 

My eight-year-old daughter, Lara had learnt to ride a bike by the time she was four. I guess she didn’t have much of choice, having both parents completely devoted to cycling! However, she’s not really into cycling unfortunately.

She has travelled with myself and my ex-husband in the past to watch many cycling events and races, including The Tour of France.  She has been a spectator in many of the events I have taken part in, and even been with me when I was marshalling at the club events.

Being a single mum means that she sometimes has to sit beside my turbo trainer reading a book whilst I do a session, and she has even mentioned that she would like to try the turbo one day. But she has shown no interest in taking part in a race yet. Football seems to be her inclination at the moment.

Having said that, Lara cycles to school, and does off-road leisurely rides. She has even ridden some long distances with her dad. They did a two-day cycling trip to Southport last year, which involved doing about 30 miles a day. At that time she was seven years old, which is fantastic for her age. 

For me, the most important thing is that Lara enjoys practising a sport, no matter what. There are many ways to be competitive and I think she is too young to be pushed towards cycling. I think interest will drive competition and she will only work that out herself. She might one day realise that cycling is more fun than what she thought, and the ambition to practise it at a competitive level might start from there. 

Cycling is my passion. I have met some wonderful people on the way, and they have even taught me to dress up according to the weather, and how to keep fit and healthy! My bikes are always at the ready to sneak in a ride at any time of the day when I get a spare moment. I can’t believe my bikes have taken me to places I only previously dreamed of going to.










Other Cycling Voices

Rebecca Charlton

Ayesha McGowan

Peggy Crome

Gema Fernandez Hernando

Giorgia Bronzini

Tracy Moseley

Geraldine Glowinski

Emily Chappell

Michelle Webster

Grace and Lucy Garner

Hannah Bussey

Carolyn Hewett-Maessen

Caroline Martinez

Niusha Doyom

Maria David

Friday, 15 September 2017

One day one photo - 15: Trafalgar Square


This is a central point on my commute into work, whether I cycle or take the train. On a bike I skirt around the edge of it when I get to the end of Whitehall.

After getting off the train at Charing Cross, I pass through the square, which I find as beautiful as ever, and puts me in an uplifted mood at the start of my day. First thing in the morning there aren't many people around, so it is easy to walk through and you can also appreciate the architects and the statues. Going home in the evening is a little different though. By then, the square has filled up with tourists, and what we've got even more are buskers.

You get the usual person with their guitar playing an Oasis classic, or something by Eric Clapton. Often you get people that are pretty rubbish - people who sing out of tune, others who just shout to get the crowd to gather around and do a silly dance and the tourists cheer and clap, even take photos! (It's amazing how folks people are, and how easily people lap up that stuff, just because they're on holiday!)

However, for once I saw someone who could play, and he looked pretty good - a classical violinist playing pop songs. His rendition of "Clocks" by Coldplay was particularly good, and led to spontaneous applause by tourists and commuters alike.

If only all buskers in Trafalgar Square performed to the same quality as him! I think they should audition buskers before they can perform, just like they do in the London Underground!


Thursday, 14 September 2017

One day one photo - 14: Royal Parks lunchtime bike ride

Working in Central London near the different Royal Parks means that I can usually get out a couple of times a week and do some kind of sporting activity.

I usually run, and I also get my bike out (naturally). I am not quite sure which is the best park to use for this. Years ago when I worked in Westminster I would go around St James's Park, but I stopped going there because the traffic lights and pedestrian crossings meant that you would have to suddenly decelerate after riding a short stretch, and tourists randomly crossing the road along Horse Guards Road made for a high risk situation.

I then found Hyde Park as you could get a good work-out going south to north on the Broadwalk, which is slightly uphill. The stretch along North Carriage Drive is on the road and has no traffic lights. Then the rest of loop has a cycle lane that is part of the Cycle Superhighway network so you could get up a good speed with only minimal stoppages along South Carriage Drive, and just a brief slow-down just before the Broad Walk. That seemed ideal as the stoppages were just right for me to get a quick breather during my laps.

Cycle training in Regent's Park
Unfortunately things have changed there now. In their wisdom Royal Parks have decided to put speed bumps on the Broad Walk, and put a 10mph speed limit. Furthermore, they have made the Broad Walk shared use, basically giving pedestrians carte blanche to wander into the cycle lane! Also, different events going on in Hyde Park mean that cyclists get diverted onto the pavement on North Carriage Drive, so overall you end up sauntering around Hyde Park, and not getting a beneficial work-out. And it does nothing to help my Strava segments either!

So today, I tried out Regent's Park. I know that club cyclists tend to meet up and do a chain gang around the Outer Circle. I didn't do any chain gang, but I just went there and rode fast laps. There's quite a nice atmosphere as a number of other cyclists train on that circuit too, and there are sections where you can get in some hard intervals over a long stretch. However, there are a few traffic lights in rapid succession in the area near Baker Street and Marylebone Road.

The worst thing about this circuit though, is the ride back to the office. On the straight road from Park Crescent to Piccadilly Circus, a stretch of less than a mile, there must easily be 10 sets of traffic lights, making the homeward ride seem interminable. And the traffic fumes can't be great for my lungs either!

I can't really say which Royal Park provides the best cycle circuit, but I think that for the time being I will just alternate between the three Parks. I guess, having traffic lights will be good interval training!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

One day one photo - 13: Cycle to work day


There are a few days of the year which are designated as cycle to work or bike to work day. There is a global one in May which is promoted by Strava, one that is part of Bike Week in June, and the one today is promoted by Halfords and Cycle Scheme. I am not sure which is the official one. For me, every day (or at least 3 times a week) it's bike to work day!

So here's a pic of me on my usual ride in to work, on Westminster Bridge, in one of my favourite outfits. For those interested it is the Hotness jersey and Knock-out armwarmers from Primal. I love how this ensemble makes me highly visible, and the traffic just gives way to you as the motorists probably look at the colours thinking, "What in God's name is that!?!"

It is only really while I am on the road that I feel happy to wear such zany colours, and it's great that there's a company that brings out such designs!

As for my bike-ride into work, it was a bit of a slog today as it was quite windy - not quite Hurricane Irma, but there was a strong head wind. Although there were lots of people out riding, sadly there was no big guy for me to draft off and tow me along. Everyone was just skinny - not much good to me! I may have to head further west, where there are more rugby players. Maybe one of them will be cycling to work!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

One day one photo - 12: Open water swimming gear


A couple of years I hired a Zone 3 wetsuit and really enjoyed using them, so this year I decided to invest in my own, and have had made good use of it. As there are lots of places to go open water swimming these days it is worth having one. This is quite a contrast to 15 years ago when I had a wetsuit for triathlons. Back then there weren't many official outdoor places to swim, and it was a case of going to covert places. (I remember going to Rydal water in the Lake District while on a trip up there once, following a recommendation from a guy in a sports shop in Ambleside. It was all a bit clandestine!)

Hampstead Ponds has been a popular venue for a long time, though that is the wrong end of London for me. There was also Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, but the swimming club banned wetsuits!

Nowadays there are loads of places. With my wetsuit I have been to Royal Victoria Docks, Shepperton and Serpentine Lido. There are other places I have not got round to going to yet, but would like to - Diver's Cove near Merstham, and West Reservoir at Stoke Newington.

The only thing is that at this time of year, as I found when I swam last Wednesday in the Docks, the water is that bit colder. That means that my body uses more energy to stay warm, and given that I am not a great swimmer I would rather use that energy to swim. So last Wednesday when I swam I got really tired, and even ended up wheezing for the rest of the evening and the following day.

In an effort to avoid getting the same problem at Swim Serpentine I have ordered a a neoprene vest to wear under my wetsuit, and a neoprene hat to go underneath the official event swimming hat. It's not cheap - the vest cost around £45, and the hat cost £15. But I think it will be worthwhile for the next week, and it will even be useful for doing open water swimming during the winter months - something that I might be mad enough to do!


Monday, 11 September 2017

One day one photo - 11: New phone!


I hadn't actually planned to get a new phone, even though I had been due for an upgrade for many months. Unfortunately I lost my beloved Sony Xperia Z3 Compact at Peterborough motorway service station yesterday on my way back to London.

It was the classic, getting my hands full carrying McDonald's and then putting the phone down and forgetting to pick it up. I am not sure if someone stole it, because not long after I realised it was lost I borrowed a phone to ring my number and it was going to voicemail even though the phone was fully charged. So I like to think that a do-gooder picked it up and handed it in somewhere, and switched it off in the process. Trying to know where it was handed in to brings images of a needle and a haystack!

So good old EE sorted me out with a new device, not before I almost left them. But in the end my 20-year loyalty to (what was previously known as Orange) has counted for something. So now I have a rather nice looking Samsung Galaxy S7, and a matching Samsung tablet - an S2.

I hope the phones are good. Reviews have been positive. It's ironic that I get this phone just as lots of noise is being made about the iPhone X is being released. I must say, I really can't bring myself to get an iPhone. I just don't understand what is supposed to be good about Apple products, and I really think that when so many people have an iPhone, it must surely be for the poser value rather than it's actual functionality. I am quite happy to be "untrendy"! No doubt the iPhone phones work well enough, but if someone can convince me of why I would need to spend four times the amount that I have just spent on my latest phone, and iPhone X has four times more functionality and quality than my phone then I just might give the Apple offerings a little consideration!


Sunday, 10 September 2017

One day one photo - 10: Ride with Yorkshire Lass CC

Photo: Andy Jones

Today was a whistle-stop trip up to North Yorkshire, where I met with a club to do a Ride With feature for Cycling Weekly magazine. Today I was up with the Yorkshire Lass Cycling Club. I have been in touch with the founder members of the club for about a year now, for different quotes for articles I've done, as well as to do a feature on their women-only charity cyclosportive.

It was great to finally meet Judith and Kate plus a number of the other women in the club. The club only formed in 2015, but they have a very good membership, and are a well-known club in the area.

I found their club run to be very well organised. The roads that we went on around Wetherby and the Vale of York, were pleasant and quiet. Also they weren't too challenging for me given that I was feeling a little tired after my 5am start from London!

It was good to catch up with Andy Jones, the photographer, a Yorkshireman himself - and someone who I have worked with for a few years now, on many projects. As ever, he was very efficient at getting us organised and taking candid photos that showed the riders in a good light. I am a bit embarrassed to have been on the front in this picture he took. The journalist is not meant to be so prominent. Sorry for photo-bombing, Andy! But hey, it looks good though, I must say!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

One day one photo - 9: Brexit Shexit!


It's been over a year since the UK voted to leave the EU, and we are 18 months out from officially leaving the EU. However, it doesn't look like the UK Government has got its act together on what is meant to be going on, and how we will leave. Some of the fundamentals such as remaining part of the customs union, and allow freedom of movement of EU citizens is not finalised. However, the UK still wants to negotiate trade deals even though the other important matters, including the Irish question - have yet to be decided!

Meanwhile, there's a massive swathe of people, including the UK Government who hadn't actually wanted to leave in the first place. How do you effect something that you don't actually want to happen, and that you hadn't expected to be doing!

This is all borne out by the regular protests that take place on Parliament Square, or on Millbank, opposite the Palace of Westminster. I pass them on my ride home from work. I get used to hearing what they have to say and it is now just a regular fixture along the way, like the traffic, the road furniture and the hundreds of tourists.

But the protest that was on today, was particularly noteworthy as it was a mass rally that took up all the space on Parliament Square. It was organised by the Liberal Democrat Party, and there were various speakers including Bob Geldof (of Live Aid fame) and a local Member of Parliament, Tom Brake.

I don't know how effective these protests will be, but it certainly shows that Britain is not overwhelmingly ready to leave the EU. I hope somebody hears that, and officials act accordingly.

Friday, 8 September 2017

One day one photo - 8: Helping people with blood cancer

For Swim Serpentine I am raising money for Anthony Nolan, a charity that supports people with different blood cancers, including leukaemia.

I take part in many events over the course of a year, and I generally do so because I love doing sport and it also gives my keep fit regimes a bit more meaning. I also like to push myself out of my comfort zone (which will be the case when swimming one mile in Swim Serpentine).

However, at a couple of events per year I link what I'm doing to charity. I usually enter the event myself and then choose a charity to raise money for, and just raise whatever I raise. I would rather not put myself under the pressure of having the charity buy the place only for me to have to raise £2,000!



So this time I will be raising money for Anthony Nolan. It is a charity that has more meaning for me. They are always appealing for bone marrow donors for those suffering from blood diseases, and in particular people of black and asian origin as it is particularly difficult to find a match.

As well as that a family friend died from leukaemia suddenly a year ago. It was really shocking how she deteriorated so quickly - within a couple of weeks of the diagnosis she had passed away, just at the age of 50, leaving behind two teenage boys. I also remember the big campaign that was on during the late nineties to find a donor for a young black boy in London called Daniel De Gale. He luckily found a donor and lived for a number of years following the transplant, but he passed away aged 21 due to other blood complications.

My mum, who died suddenly from a blood disease three years ago, also struggled with problems with her white blood cells and had to regularly have bone marrow assessments.

So for me, doing something to help in the fight against blood cancer and other blood diseases. So as I battle to get through the 1-mile (1600m) in the Serpentine I know that this will be nothing compared to the suffering and anguish that people with vblood diseases and their families will go through. If you want to make a donation, however small, you can do so via my Anthony Nolan fundraising page. Thanks.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

One day one photo - 7: Swim Serpentine

I have decided to take the plunge, literally! Earlier on this summer I took part in the Great London Swim in Royal Victoria docks. It was a well organised event, and I quite enjoyed the experience. There was a choice of distances and I opted to do 800m (half a mile), as that was a distance I knew I'd be able to get through without too much difficulty. My main issue would be how long I would take. In the end I took around 22 minutes, and I wasn't last - a big improvement on what I did at the Crystal Palace triathlon, where I took almost half an hour to do 750m and I had the slowest swim split out of all 1,000 competitors in the race!

After that I decided to do more open water swimming events. So the Swim Serpentine at Hyde Park, London was the next on my list. (I had hoped to do the Great Scottish Swim in Loch Lomond, but I was actually in France at that time.) I would have like to do 800m on at Swim Serpentine, but I was a bit late getting my entry in, so I am doing the one-mile option. It's going to be a challenge. I swam 1200m last Wednesday at the open water swim session in Victoria Docks a few days ago.



It was in the early evening and initially the sun was shining and I felt good. But later on, the sun went down and I had difficulty sighting the buoys in the water. There weren't many people in the water so I had no reference. Then I got quite cold, it became windy and I could feel myself being tossed around in the wind. My lungs were just rasping as I was breathing and although I made a lot of effort to stay calm, I was subconsciously panicking. In the end I found my way back to the start/finish gantry, and a life-guard in a boat was there to help with the sighting in the semi-darkness. It was only after I got out of the water that I was aware of how difficult I had found the experience. In fact I was quite chesty when I got out and had to use my asthma inhaler - the first time I've had to do so in a long time.

I like to think that the conditions in the Serpentine will be a lot more clement - at least it will be daylight. I will also wear an extra hat and gilet just to protect against the cold.

Some may say I'm mad for doing this, but I just love the challenge - and hey, the Serpentine is just around the corner from where I work. It would be rude not to do it!

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

One day one photo - 6: Wanton Furious Cycling

We are now "back to school" after the summer break, and the roads are busy again with the school runs, and my commute by bike is no longer a smooth cruise through the streets of London. Over the summer the Charlie Alliston case dominated the headlines. In fact, today it was even raised as a question in Parliament during Prime Minister's questions.

Charlie Alliston
For those who don't know, 20-year-old Charlie Alliston (who was 18 at the time) collided with a pedestrian while he was cycling along Old Street. Sadly, the pedestrian, 44-year old Kim Briggs, died from injuries she sustained in the collision a week later. My thoughts go to her family.

Alliston was riding a track bike with no brakes and was cruising along at around 18 miles per hour at the time of the impact. Kim Briggs, who was out walking during her lunch hour, stepped out into the road while looking down at her mobile phone. Unfortunately Alliston was unable to take evasive action in time when the mother of two stepped into his path. Also, at the time of the accident (and before Kim Briggs died) Alliston was very angry with the pedestrian and took to social media ranting about her, saying that she had "learned a lesson"

This case was high profile because it is unheard of for a cyclist to knock down and kill a pedestrian, so such a case has never been to court before. The charge against him, "causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving" is part of a very old law, the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. Alliston's sentence has not yet been delivered, but the Act says that a prison sentence would not exceed two years - which is pretty lenient considering that he killed someone. That must be heartbreaking for the family of Kim Briggs.

Kim Briggs
I think the process against Charlie Alliston has been fair because he was riding a bike that was not legal for the roads in this country. He was even known to practice riding "Alleycats", a type of bike discipline in which cyclists get from A to B as quickly as possible with no regard for the Highway Code.

It also seems, as was raised during Prime Minister's Questions, and also the campaign led by Kim Briggs' widower, that there is no law against cyclists who cause harm or death by dangerous cycling. This does need to be reviewed (and that was Prime Minister Theresa May's response).

What has been concerning is the bile poured on cyclists as a whole. This case has been reported as would be expected, but it has led to a lot of negative review articles and comments being made about cyclists who ride around London. Sure, there are reckless cyclists and they should be punished. Most cyclists are not like that, though. Just like there are reckless motorists too, and they should be punished. But it is a shame that people use cases like the Charlie Alliston/Kim Briggs incident as a way to beat other cyclists with. I hope, in the fullness of time people will come to realise that there are cyclists, and there are just reckless people on bikes.  


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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

One day one photo - 5: Bike testing

Raleigh Mustang Comp

I am currently testing a Raleigh Mustang Comp gravel bike. It's the next one up in the family of Mustang bikes. Last year I had the Raleigh Mustang Sport, which I enjoyed riding. This year I am hoping the Mustang Comp is just as good, if not better. On paper it should be a better ride given the spec. The Mustang Comp is lighter than the Sport, and it is lighter than this 2018 model is lighter than the 2017 model. The main thing that I am getting used to is the gear set-up. There is only one chain ring, meaning that the cassette has A LOT of sprockets, with the largest ones being proper dinner plates! It's great that all the shifting is being done with my right hand, and just using the one small shifter (with it having a SRAM Groupset) but it still feels like there's something missing. Also I am not sure how this affects the chain or the indexing of the gears.

Maybe it is all okay and I have nothing to worry about. After all, the bike has been riding well. I rode the bike over the trails of the South Downs, and on the roads of  Northern France, including the cobbles in Central Paris. With the rack and mudguards supplied this has made it a handy touring bike and a commuting bike - something which I have also been using it for when going to work. I must say I do like the colour scheme, with the green, yellow and white flourishes - something that people have commented on when they see it.
I look forward to enjoying a few more miles with the Mustang Comp.


Related Posts
Raleigh Mustang Sport 



52 Cycling Voices - 15: Rebecca Charlton

For many, Rebecca Charlton is someone that needs no introduction! But I'll introduce her anyway - TV presenter, journalist, commentator, voiceover artist, ride captain for Hot Chillee, author, ooh and bike rider! When I first met Becca, about 10 years ago she wasn't doing all of these things. She was certainly bike riding and getting into journalism. Over the years she has worked hard to move up the rankings, and now works alongside all the movers and shakers in the cycling world.

Despite all this, Becca remains very down-to-earth and for me she is still the girl that I used to train with at the sessions at Herne Hill Velodrome on a Wednesday evening or a Saturday morning, back in the days when the velodrome was constantly under threat of closure, the facilities were very spartan, and it was a big deal to get more than four women turning up at the track league.

Rebecca has been a stalwart of cycling for many years and I am very pleased and thank her for telling her story for this series.

If you want to see Rebecca presenting you can catch her at the 24-hour cycle relay race and festival of cycling, Revolve 24 at Brands Hatch motor circuit on 16th/17th September. 


Rebecca Charlton

Lives: London

From: Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

Occupation: TV presenter and journalist


(Copyright: Daniel Gould)
My family introduced me to cycling when they took my stabilisers off and I have never looked back.

We were massively into cycling. The whole family would go to cyclo-cross races every weekend in the winter and track in the summer. It was a huge part of our lives growing up.

My dad had raced on the road and track since he was a school-boy, my brother raced in the age category above me on the track and off-road and my mum would often race too. I remember the festival vibe of a mountain bike race - we’d travel up the day before, race on the Sunday and watch the elite categories after the youth and junior races. The trials legend that is Martyn Ashton would always be there doing tricks. I was in absolute awe watching him, and so to work with him recently was a special moment. 

As a child, I raced on the velodrome as an under-10 but dabbled in mountain biking, cyclo-cross and BMX too. Every Saturday morning we’d be at Preston Park track for training, and there again for racing on Wednesday as my dad ran the Brighton track league. I found I had quite a natural sprint and was happy to be able to beat all the boys!


I raced a bit of everything but in my age category it was always against the boys. I represented my school in the national hard track championships at Herne Hill (see attached photo - number 78) and remember being really excited that there were four other girls in my category, four! 

Some of the names from that day have gone onto become quite handy on a bike...(number 16, a certain Bradley Wiggins!). 

Nowadays, I report on the Revolution Future Stars championships and the girls' racing is so highly competitive and fielded by the best youths in the country. It’s so brilliant to see how much things have changed. When I raced my first national track championships at the age of 12 in Manchester Velodrome, Hugh Porter was very surprised to be commentating on a girl in the pursuit. That’s how different things were back then.

Once I got my teens things changed a little as in my mind I began to think it wasn't cool to be seen on a bike at that time, and I was tempted to stop riding. I was a very feminine teenager - into my hair, make-up and fashion but I'd scrub it all off before a bike race. It was like leading a double life - one with my school friends, and the other in the cycling world. I never would have asked my friends to come and watch me!

I’m so proud to be a cyclist now, and can’t imagine feeling like this today. To an extent I think I was lacking the kind of female role models we have today. Don’t get me wrong, I looked up to some incredible women who were racing at that time, but I wasn’t surrounded by many cycle racing girls like me in my immediate environment. 

I got into journalism because it was something I'd always wanted to do. From the age of about 5 I wanted to be a press packer, and being a magazine editor or a TV presenter really appealed to me.

I love talking to people, learning what makes someone tick, and what drives them. I’m often told I’m a good listener and I think that’s the most important aspect of the job and the most enjoyable.


Interviewing Laura Kenny for Eurosport
I obtained a degree in journalism from Bournemouth University, specialising in broadcasting which has always been my passion. 

From there I worked on the features desk in the Heat magazine office, and did a stint in a local radio station, Juice 107.2 in Brighton. 

I was racing at Newport Velodrome at that time, when a friend mentioned he knew a publisher who was launching a new cycling magazine and it all went from there. 

Fast forward ten years or so and I have presented on Eurosport, Sky, Channel 4, ITV and BT Sport alongside carrying out my deputy editor role at Time Inc magazines (which I left a year ago to go freelance). Since then, I have been represented by my brilliant agent Emma Wade, and it’s been an exciting 12 months. 
I am lucky to work alongside so many talented TV personalities, riders and producers that I could write you a long list here. I think it's so important to have a good rapport with your co-host, co-commentator or presenting team, and the cycling world is a particularly enjoyable environment to work in


Commentating with Matt Stephens
In the last couple of years I have started commentating too and have learned so much from working with the brilliant Anthony McCrossan. 

He was the man who teamed me up with Matt Stephens and Sharon Laws who are not only incredibly talented riders and broadcasters, but never fail to make me giggle. 

Covering the Tour de France is the biggest buzz for any cycling reporter. My first full Tour was unbelievably ten years ago back in 2007, kicking off of course in London. It's hard work, full on, exciting, stressful at times, but the ultimate dream job for anyone with this level of passion for cycling. You learn a lot behind the scenes - I was harnessed on to a publicity caravan float, watched the leaders’ jerseys printed each day behind the podium, and got to know many of the international journalists in the press room. 

The most interesting person I've interviewed has to be Katie Archibald. She's always so insightful, sharp and entertaining, I always look forward to our chats as they’re usually unpredictable!

When it comes to interviewing pro racers I'd say my ability as an interviewer not only comes from my journalistic background but also from the fact that I know exactly what it's like when you haven't performed. as you wanted in a race, or when you are gearing up to race. The last thing you want to do is talk to anyone about it! 


(Copyright: Carys Kaiser)
If a rider is warming up or rushing to change a gear in between track races at the velodrome I appreciate the pressure they're under and so am unlikely to stick a microphone in their face at that moment. 

It's about mutual respect. It's part and parcel of the ups and downs of being a pro cyclist, and I have a huge amount of empathy and appreciate what's going through a rider's mind. 

Live television is the most fun aspect of my job because you can't always predict what's going to happen. People accidentally swear on camera, or don’t say what you’d expect, but rolling with it is all part of that adrenaline! Once when I was interviewing someone I couldn't get on my chair as it was a high stool that kept swivelling round. I ended up hanging half off it for the whole interview!

I think women are in an incredibly healthy place within the cycling media and I am regularly working alongside such respected females when it comes to cycling coverage. Within print journalism you have Hayley Ferguson, now editor of Bike Biz, Danielle Welton at the helm of Casquette magazine and Hannah Bussey, a brilliant tech and features writer and a very handy rider.  
Working with talented women in Cycling (Copyright: Emma Tunbridge)

There are of course many, many more women in the industry I haven't mentioned too. It’s a far cry from the days where I was working in a predominantly male populated environment. When I was on the presenting line-up for the Revolution series with Sian Welby and Lizzie Deignan that was the first time I'd been a part of an all-female team on Channel 4's sport coverage, that was a great moment. 

My advice to anyone wanting to get into cycling journalism is to be ready to work hard, unpredictable hours. You need to be able to take constructive criticism and feedback, and to be adaptable and know your subject. But above all keep knocking on doors and keep telling people how passionate you are, and it will pay off!


Stage races include early, sleep mornings and waiting around! 
These days cycle ‘training' has really gone on the back-burner now that I’m focused on my job as a presenter,  which includes a lot of travel without my bike. With racing so highly competitive now, it’s hard to dip in and out, quite rightly! But I still spend a lot of time on the bike, sometimes with pro riders, for which I need an amount of fitness for! 

I tend to go for time-poor training now, including HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) on a Wattbike or stick my running kit in my bag and get out for some hill reps on foot. 

When I’m at home I always try to get down to Herne Hill Velodrome, and I get out on the road whenever I can too.


At Herne Hill Velodrome (Copyright: Emma Tunbridge)
When cycling I never go out without my ID. My dad was hit by a car and left in an induced coma two years ago. It's really made me place importance on carrying something with an emergency contact number, ID and allergies on it as so many of us lock our phones these days. It's not a nice thought but well worth sticking in your jersey pocket or on a wrist band. 

I like to do a other sporting activities too. I’ve got really into the Park Run even though I’m pretty slow. I really don’t think it matters and I’m not ashamed to say it at all. I think everyone should enjoy getting as active as they can even if you’re coming in last. Park Run is a great work-out and it’s free, thanks to the incredible volunteers across the country. All you need to do is download your barcode and turn up to your nearest registered park. I’m also into mountaineering and hiking and I’ve racked up a few triathlons too!


(Copyright: Roo Fowler)
I'd say the key to looking and feeling great when cycling is confidence. It doesn't matter whether or not you're wearing the latest and greatest kit or if you're built like a mountain goat but if you're comfortable and happy in your own skin you'll ride better, and feel good in the process.

Find clothing that fits you well, makes you hold your head high and motivates you to get out and ride. 

Surround yourself with people that support you and make you smile, whatever your ability on the bike. Confidence shines through. 



Facebook: @rebeccacharltonjournalism     Twitter: @beccacharlton       
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