A good pedal this morning. Opting to turn left instead of right at Crickhowell I tackled Mynydd Llangattwg.
It's always a little daunting when you can see that where you want to be is considerably higher than where you are. Just sit and pedal, I kept telling myself.
After what seemed like an age, and after passing a shooting party I rounded the corner of the junction with very little air left in my lungs. A sheep regarded me for the fool I am.
Still more climbing to go.
After rounding a corner I could see there was no more hill to climb and shortly found myself at the summit. Where actually the views weren't that great.
I gobbled a banana down and pressed on, not entirely sure where I was going to come out.
The town before me wasn't the one I had expected to see, and was Brynmawr.
Still, I knew the way from Brynmawr back home and most of it was downhill. I checked with another cyclist, a guy riding a single speed road bike with thighs each twice the size of my own, and he confirmed the turning I should take. Some bugger was cooking bacon as I passed through Brynmawr with my stomach beginning to rumble, but I would be damned if I could find the source of the lovely aroma.
From then on it was a pretty easy run to Blaenavon and home. I did contemplate stopping for some cake and a brew in Blaenavon but decided with only 8 miles to home I might as well keep going. I was slowly building my lunch menu in my head as I pressed on.
So, to the victor go the spoils, or something similarly tenuous.
Venison, bacon and cheese burger in fried slices, with carbonara on the side, and a bit of extra bacon.
A good day of sorting out push bikes today. I've never really gelled with the full suspension Stumpjumper so that was pulled apart to sell (shout if you're interested, £200 for frame and shock) and the wheels, with the addition of a singlespeed convertor found their way onto the Reynolds 853 framed Inbred.
I also wanted to try some new bars, the marvellously named Humpert Space Bugle's.
Of course with some rubberised cork grips they matched the old brown vinyl saddle perfectly, so I removed that and the post and fitted a slightly more comfortable carbon fibre post and Ti-railed palomino saddle. Huzzah!
Gearing is 32/17 so 1:1.88 as there are a few stonking hills around here and I rather be pedalling than walking. We'll see how it goes.
From behind the shed, I found these when pruning/deforesting.
Cobra Superslots 14x6 ET12 with a PCD of 114.3mm (or pretty damn close!)
Got them for a mate for his pop top bedford rascal but they poked out a little much so he didn't want them. I've given one a quick go with some scotchbrite and it comes up ok, so I'd be hopeful for the rest. They are black on the back side and that is in good nick.
It's started to cool off now and after losing a chunk of chilis last year to a frost I'm taking no chances this year. Some plants have yielded more than others.
From top right and going clockwise- Cayenne Slim, late start and plants remained leggy with few fruits. Won't bother next year. Black Scorpion Tongue, good plant growth, and still the same again left on it. Will see how they ripen as they should be hot. Bolivian Bumpy, best plant of the year with good growth and plenty of fruit, unsure as yet as to heat levels. (at top) Fish Pepper, same as Cayenne Slim in growth, unless the fruits are anything special I won't bother again. In the centre are Sweet Banana Peppers, a surprise this year as these shown were a late crop after the plant had already yielded around a third of a pound. Delicious pickled.
So these are all now washed and will be ripened inside before I probably pickle, chutney and jam them, advantageous curries and chilis notwithstanding.
Second cyclocross race of the year for me today, and what a change in course to the previous leisure centre field slog of Brecon. The course picked through the woods of Mansell Lacy, with a couple of streams thrown in as well as three hurdles. A great mix of concrete access roads, rooty singletrack and muddy grass. I was in a better frame of mind this time and it felt good. Hard, but good.
A few pictures then.
First off cutting through the trees, I managed to avoid all of them, so my target fixation is getting better. I didn't want a repeat of the April tree visitation that left me with a broken finger. The first stream. This one had to be dismounted for and leapt across. As the race went on feet went further into the mud on the landing bank, then a scramble up the slope and remount.
From there the course wound back through more trees before another dismount due to a concrete plinth. Then a faster open section before another stream crossing, though this one was rideable.
Coming out of the other side through the gloop meant effort, and that meant angry face
Honestly, I'm a very placid person.
Soon the final lap bell was heard tolling and the wick was turned up a little. Of course that meant on the final stream crossing I got stuck, my chain came off and I had to run whilst trying to get it back on. Typical. Calm head, son.
It was muddy, it was enjoyable and roll on next weekend at Pembrey.
Brilliant, and I have to say a great big thank you to my race mum Michelle who took photos, cheered, and provided food. Thanks.
I never win competitions. I can't remember the last time I won anything like a draw that I had entered. Imagine my surprise then to get a phone call telling me I had won a place on a day riding with pro cyclists from the Rapha Condor Sharp team, courtesy of Skoda.
This morning dawned bright and a little misty, and with bike loaded into the girlfriends car we headed down to the dealership to meet the team, and the other 8 lucky contestants.
Introductions were made over coffee and cake and after changing we were presented with Skoda jerseys. All going well so far.
We had a short line up photo outside the dealership and then headed out for a pedal.
Being accommodating, the team let my girlfriend go shotgun in the team support car, driven by Chris on the far right above. The route took us out of Newport and towards Caerphilly, with the intention of heading up the mountain. We went halfway up the back side of it, before turning off and down to go through Caerphilly and follow the Tour of Britain route up the steep aspect out of the town.
The middle section was a bugger.
After pausing to regroup at the top we wended back down and across some lovely lanes towards the Velodrome. In front of me here are Chris Jennings and Luke Mellor
At the velodrome we did a final group shot with everyone in their spangly jerseys, look at the shiny whiteness :-)
Then off for some grub and chinwag.
A top day out and great to meet some interesting people. The route took me to a lot of new roads, so I had better go back and explore more.
Handles for forks.
I'd snapped mine on my inherited (from my Grandpa) fork a while back, and it was somewhat annoying gardening without a good fork.
A year and a bit back I'd also cut the twisted willow in the front back and had a large staff sized piece seasoning in the greenhouse. I took advantage of the sunny afternoon to crack on with the job and so armed with a small wood saw (out of shot) a billhook and my penknife I set to the piece of willow.
The small piece to the left was cut from the bottom and would become the handle. The bark was nicely dry as you can see. So, after a good while of using the billhook as a drawknife I had a length of willow clean and free of bark.
Next up was to saw the top (large) end back to roughly the right diameter for the handle and then mark up what needed rebating so the handle would fit nicely. I also cut down the handle length, shaved and trimmed it to fit in the rebate.
At the end of the day, after a quick scrubbing over with some scotchbrite the fork looked like this-
I've collected up the shavings and cut offs to have a small fire with, and I shall use that fire to heat the fork lower up to form around the slightly bendy bottom end of the handle. For that though I shall have to wait for the neighbours to get the washing in!
Day three. This time we were riding from our hotel just outside of Arras down to Thourotte near Compiegne. It was the North side of Compiegne meaning we had further to go on day four but let's not worry about that yet.
The day wasn't off to a great start with our support driver Colleen having succumbed to a bug of some sort and being very ill. No one else was affected but it meant that the mood was pretty low for a start. Still, we had a day to do. I think that attitude really helped me all the way through; any problem would be overcome because we were going to cycle to Paris. That was the plan and that was what was going to happen. Mick took the lead from the off
and we were away.
The peloton was definitely more hushed today. As the day warmed up we cut through the countryside but talk was minimal. The route today passed through the Somme and soon we were seeing signs for the military cemeteries. Sure enough we came to a British memorial cemetery and stopped for some thoughts .
Immaculately kept amongst the rolling golds and dry greens of the surrounding fields, it certainly brought home the emotions.
I think this sums it up:
Time and thoughts passed and we had an update from Michelle on Colleen, still not well. Their plan now was to stay as long as possible in the Arras hotel and then press straight on to the Thourotte hotel. Kim was with us in her car but all our supplies including lunch, drinks etc. were in the van. We consulted maps and roadbooks to get a measure for how the day would pan out
and then time to pedal again.
The roads were still smooth and a pleasure to pedal on as our cranks turned. It was getting warmer and warmer though. Sunglasses were definitely a good move and I was glad of having shorts and not bibs on. The application of suncream first thing had also been a great idea! My poor ginger skin would have suffered otherwise. He he.
Our bellies were grumbling soon enough despite munching on whatever was stored in the jersey pockets, our route took us through Ham and sure enough we were seeing signs for Ham, and if that wasn't enough of a taunt there was also the town of Brie to contend with! Argh! Knowing that we didn't have our lunch to rely on due to the absence of the van we were happy to see Kim in a layby as twelve o'clock came and went. Thinking of how tough it was going to be to find a grocers or market open at lunchtime on a Sunday in France we asked if she could grab some bread, meat, cheese and milk for us and we would meet her in Ham. Kim took off like a scalded cat and we resumed pedalling.
Passing a small town with a thermometer on the Pharmacy, we could see it was 30'C. That's quite warm. Plenty warm enough to be pedalling in on low supplies and an emptying belly. We had a call from Kim to say that there were no shops open, but that there was a market running in Ham, and there were food vendors. Result. So hungry right now.
After circling Ham and passing through the busy streets of traders and buyers we found Kim and shortly after found the first available food stall and began eating.
I can't describe how ready I was for mystery meat in a wrap. Once the first course was consumed we wandered through a little more and found another bar selling possibly the best chip butties ever; baguette with sausages and then chips on top.
Blooming lovely and so needed.
Off again, but not for too long as all the water and pop consumed at lunchtime had to make an exit again in short time.
As we were moving further South the countryside was changing. Although there were still plenty of fields, the built up areas were turning up quicker each time with less space between them.
Noyon was the last big town on our list before we got to our destination for the day, and once through it the countryside was a little greener, hinting at what we would experience the next day. It was getting harder though, no doubt about that. A day of riding in sun, with limited supplies really took its toll on me and as we approached the hotel I was pretty much spent for the day.
Once at the hotel and sorted out we had a quick meeting in the foyer to talk through how Colleen was doing (getting better) and how we were going to approach tomorrow, the final day. With plans made and bellies rumbling we headed into town to get some grub.
Sunday night wasn't the ideal night to find somewhere to eat, especially in a small town. The pizzeria we had expected to find was missing, presumed closed. Luckily there was a small bar with a takeaway pizzeria attached. We got beers in and consulted the menu, wrote down our orders and presented it to the lady running the pizza ovens. The poor lady had a look of shock at the order for seven pizzas and three salads, as well as dealing with the normal clientele orders. Beers were drunk, and plenty of water in my case, and soon enough our table was awash with pizzas with silence descending as we dived in.
So good to eat! Jay, Aidan and myself had the largest pizzas and despite best efforts we still had a slice each remaining after our stints. Back to the hotel with pizza baby bellies. Kit was laid out for the next morning, food and drinks were prepared and alarms were set as it was going to be an early start...
Mileage for the day was 65
Had a good day today. Left at 8ish this morning to pick some ebay tyres up from Oxford. Nice chap who'd bought a Tenere complete with new Metz Karoo's, done a few hundred miles on them and then swapped to Tourances. They'll do me for winter. As I was up that way my mate Dave had asked if I wanted to go to the Adventure Overland show near Daventry. It was a new one on me but looked ok so we met up there just before lunch. The stuff on show was mainly 4/6 wheels such as this rather orange Pinzgauer.
Mmm lovely, and just the thing for the school run I'm sure :-)
In the previous post I mentioned my love for axes, well there was a stand with my beloved Gransfors Bruks axes on.
Yes, I picked most of them up, and after some time on the stand and some meaningful looks from Dave I put them down and backed away. Next time, next time.
There were plenty of stoves and wood burners floating around. As someone who likes a good fire and has built a few burners in the past it was interesting to have a look around some different designs.
I particularly liked the swing out plate on this one. Good for cooking on or just having a blaze.
This was a slightly different take on it, with a larger, flatter area for cooking on but less volume for burning.
There were plenty of overland 4x4s, both in the camping field and also on display. There were a pair of cracking Carawagons based on Land Rovers. More details here but the basics are the background vehicle was built in 1968 and the pop up roof is made of duralloy which means it can bend and then flatten.
A great bit of design I thought, with consideration to materials. Inside was pretty spacious all things considered.
You can see the curvature of the pop up roof, amazing that it flattens back out.
There were many, many different takes on roof tents, awnings, side tents...Some of the offerings were GRP based, and seeing as we've seen an old take on how to do it, here's a modern take.
Hmm. I think I prefer the classic.
Onto the bikes then. Well there weren't that many there really. I had the pleasure of meeting Austin Vince, and his Mum as I purchased a copy of Mondo Enduro. I'd last read it when my mate Barry had lent me his copy as I lay in a hospital bed last year. It really is a great read, and the DVDs are well worth a watch. With travelling by bike on our minds Dave and I also purchased a copy of In Search of Greener Grass from Graham Field who was there with his KLR.
Wandering around the parking areas I came across possibly the widest bike I have yet seen.
A very orange (what is it about orange?) GS1100 with some 1150 parts on it by the look of things. It was vast.
Well, that sums it up. Interesting show to look around, I was disappointed that there were no cycling related stands, despite being advertised, also it was very much car/truck related with not a lot of motorcycle stuff on display.