Sunday, September 8, 2013

Popping the cherry

There's a hill near me known in cycling circles as The Tumble, and to everyone else as the Blorenge. It's not a massive hill but its no slouch either.
I've been putting off climbing it for a while, too long really. It had been on the back of my mind since Thom over at Mamnick lay down the Mamnick Challenge. What with work, 'cross training and cross races coming through it just didn't look like I'd have the time to get my challenge ride in.
But then serendipity came smiling and with a low turnout on the Sunday club the opportunity presented itself. To deal with the Blorenge first though is to not tell the full story.
The route had been penned mentally for a while as said and with the forecast turning out favourable today was the day. First on the list was out to Crickhowell and then hang a left up to Mynydd Llangattwg. This would be my third time up there and as a climb it's good. Right up until the last kick to the junction. I had company in Paul and Adrian from the club and we celebrated with Jelly Babies (are you listening Mr Brailsford?) at the summit. After soaking up the fantastic scenery it was time to move on. Hanging a right there we cruised back down to Llangynidr, over the beautiful old bridge then on the nose pelt down to Crickhowell and some hearty brownie and coffee in the Number 18 café there.
Onward again with sustenance in our bellies and as we came back through the lanes we had managed to dodge the promised showers.
There was that tingle then of possibility.
'Fancy a run up there, then?' Paul said.
We had come into view of the Blorenge and I laughed in response.
'Yeah fuck it why not'.
As the junction approached I bade my club companions farewell and turning right began to go up The Tumble.
There's a cheeky humpback bridge over the canal, then onwards still further and as a 3 series comes tearing past ready to steam up the hill, the hairpin presents itself.
The 3 series brakes hard with downshifts barking as it swings hard right and with a short squeal of complaint from the tyres it tucks in and hurtles upwards.
Meanwhile I carry on spinning and plodding. Glasses tucked on my cap covered head, bill still positively flipped up and jersey only a smidge open.
Some climbs show themselves from the off, some hide little surprises, others like this one show you sections at a time. Mentally broken down to start-finishes.
Spin spin spin.
Other riders notes and recollections come to mind; Adrian's tactic of dismounting at the cattle grid in the damp, Paul's hatred of false flats. Pete's general dislike of the place in general. Which is surprising seeing as he's actually a reasonable climber.
Up and up we go.
The crags to the left pass and the view to the right grows.
I find the climb in three stages, and with markers on the road ticking off I'm well into the third and final one. In what seems like no time Keepers Pond is passing by on my left and I can see the Lamb and Flag pub over on the tip to the right.
There we are then, at the summit. No bloody ice cream van today though which is a shame.
I tuck into my last 4 jelly babies and snap a few photos.
The old trusty steed;
Sugarloaf and Abergavenny in the distance with the rain cloud we dodged;
and over to Bristol and England;
With the wind beginning to whistle and my tummy starting to grumble it's time to tuck in and whisk downhill back home.
Stats then; 50 miles, a smidge over 4,500ft climbing. 2 decent hills and a personal challenge ticked off.

Monday, September 2, 2013

First blood

First cyclocross race of the season for me on Saturday. The interesting site of Blists Hill Victorian Village up in Ironbridge. Organised by Nick Jeggo of Newport CC it was a cracking course with a mix of everything and some bloody horrid steps.
Earlier in the day I had competed in and won the club hillclimb, so perhaps a 'cross race wasn't the best evening pasttime. Still I couldn't turn up a chance to ride somewhere like that. A reasonable start and the 3 or 4 laps in the days earlier efforts began to show with a nagging groin cramp that bit into my lower back. I had to pull in and stretch for a minute or two and lost a good few places. Not that I was ever in the running to take a victory, but I wasn't going badly!
After the pain had eased and I could bend my leg again I was off and really enjoyed the different aspects of the course.
Oh and the first blood bit? Well on an overtake on two riders down some steps going through an alley, the middle rider I was passing moved over into me and I got squished into either a Victorian bakery or a candlestick makers! Cue a rather battered pair of knuckles and little finger! Massive thanks to my friends Alex and Claire who came along to watch, cheer and then let us sleep on their floor, and to Michelle for being a great pit crew with my spare wheels and drink. Thankfully I didn't need my spares although a lot of people did puncture.
Good times for the first race.