“The West Surrey Cyclist” - January - March 2008

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Contents:

Front cover - Frank Patterson sketch of One Tree Hill, Guildford
Inner front cover - CTC West Surrey 2008
Looking Good in Our Group Shirts
Editorial front matter - very similar to previous issue
Have the magazine delivered for £4 a year
Riding Around - with Editor Geoff Smith
Wooden Crank - the Unvarnished Truth
Music and Poetry - by Paul Gillingham
News From the 79th AGM - by Geoff Smith
Organised Cycle Rides  January - March 2008 - the Rides List
Le Tour d'Anglais - by John Murdoch
Lhasa to Kathmandu - by Arthur Twiggs
Banana and Walnut Cake for Cyclists - by Vicky Warr
Eric Parr - obituary
Letters to the Editor -
  ... What Can the Matter Be? - from Emma Royds
Dates for Your Diary
Group Personalities - Fifteen - Tim Bar

Selected items transcribed from the original printed copy:


CTC WEST SURREY 2008

PRESIDENT  Rico Signore  01483 822240
SECRETARY  Jeff Banks, 6 Arreton Mead, Woking.  01483 772616  jeffbanks@btinternet.com
TREASURER  Tim Bar  01483 825691
RIDES SECRETARY  Bob McLeod, 23 Beresford Close, Frimley Green, Camberley GU16 6LB.  Phone 01252 835321
Additional committee member  Chris Jeggo 01483 870218

VICE-PRESIDENTS  Harold Coleman, Chris Jeggo, Clive Richardson, Roy Banks

MAGAZINE EDITOR  Geoff Smith, 2 Julian Close, Woking GU21 3HD.  01483 769051

ARCHIVIST  Chris Jeggo  01483 870218

AUDITOR (and Right to Ride officer)  Peter Clint, 6 Pendennis Close, West Byfleet KT14 6RX.  01932 340564

RIDE LEADERS

SUNDAY RIDERS  Geoff Smith (Jnr)  01483 426656
GUILDFORD AND GODALMING WAYFARERS  Peter Fennemore  01483 300689
MIDWEEK WAYFARERS  Rico Signore 01483 822240;  Roy Banks 01344 842676;  Barbara Cheatham 01483 760974
WOKING WAYFARERS  Paul Harris  01932 353695
FARNHAM CRN  Liz Palethorpe  01252 792187


RIDING AROUND

With Editor Geoff Smith

WITH the presentation of the wooden crank to Rico Signore (see AGM report in this issue) I am now released from my self-imposed embargo on a news item of great import in the nature of the silly things we do.

Martin Hine had mislaid his sunglasses.  He had them about his face when he rode to join a Midweek Wayfarers ride but they were no longer there as he pedalled with the group all the way to the coffee stop.

Oh well, life had dealt him another harsh blow, thought Martin, reasoning he must have left them on a bench at the start.  But why was he feeling so damned uncomfortable around the nether regions?

As he swung off the bike at Seale Craft Centre he found the specs wrapped round his saddle.  Despite the interaction with his taut buttocks over around ten miles they were intact, even though the lenses were somewhat misty and his bottom somewhat bruised.

Rico’s effort blew away all other contenders to secure him the award for the year’s biggest blunder but I am sure many will agree that Martin’s experience should not go unrecorded.  I was privileged to be present throughout and found the whole incident most illuminating.

Perhaps we should present him with a pair of new sports glasses as advertised in CTC’s Cycle.  They have photochromic lenses which change rapidly from clear to dark to match light conditions.

Martin might like the pair which boast “ergonomic wraparound design” and “superb airflow”.


WOODEN CRANK - THE UNVARNISHED TRUTH

Chris Jeggo has added pages on the history and archives website detailing our group trophies.  This includes nearly all of the Wooden Crank stories of notable blunders by West Surrey group riders.  See http://homepage.ntlworld.com/chris.jeggo/wsdahist/trophies.html


MUSIC AND POETRY

Paul Gillingham flirts with Majorca

“Not another effing bike” said the official in Outsize Packages at Stansted on receiving my plastic-wrapped bicycle for delivery to Palma.  This was the fifth he’d processed that morning, he said, so he was fed up.  It wasn’t the most auspicious start to a six-day solo cycling tour to Majorca!

The thought of a May cycle tour had sustained me through the winter and Majorca seemed a good idea.  I’d heard it was a mecca for pro-cyclists, with its winter cycling camps, and the late spring weather sounded perfect.  Besides, there were other reasons for choosing Majorca.  As a student I’d worked with a chap whose best friend was the son of the poet Robert Graves and he told stories of trips to the Graves villa in the Majorca mountains.  Years later I happened to visit Chopin’s grave in Paris and his birthplace near Warsaw and heard that he and his mistress George Sand had lived there briefly in the 1830’s.

I don’t like to plan cycling trips, but seeing where Graves and Chopin stayed gave the trip a focus, plus a bit of culture.  I knew there was a lager-lout side to Mayawka which was best avoided but on the flight over the omens weren’t good.  A dozen ‘ladies’ in identical sweatshirts boarded ahead of me.  Across their chests was the logo ‘Flirty at 30’ and on their backs a bare bum in a thong with the words ‘What a Crack’!  They were on a hen party to Magaluf - or ‘Shagaluf’ - and when spirits got too high mid-flight the steward announced the plane would be diverted if passengers didn’t sit down and obey the ‘Fasten Seat Belts’ sign.

Things got worse, however, on arrival at Palma airport.  The bike had gone missing!  Now what do you do for a cycling holiday with four panniers, a bar bag, a tent and no bike?  Not a lot, I thought, as I hailed a taxi and despondently headed for a hotel at the nearby resort, C’an Pastilla.  The next day was spent making phone calls, sending faxes, checking the ‘world tracer’ on the internet and returning to the airport, but there was no sign of the bike.

Then, a brainwave!  Round the corner from the hotel was a bike rental shop.  The nice owner refused to take a deposit and for £4 a day rented me a flat-handlebar Giant with a great range of gears to tackle the hills ahead.  The frame was too big, the seat post too high and the back tyre was bald, but these were trifling matters compared to the prospect of the road ahead.

So the next morning I was on my way.  It was a hot, sunny morning and the road was a cycle track that snakes along the beaches and bays to the centre of Palma.  I shared it with leisure cyclists young and old, joggers and roller-blading mums pushing prams, all of us enjoying the track’s superb surface and the gorgeous blue Med of the Bahia de Palma.

The track ends opposite the magnificent cathedral that dominates the Palma waterfront.  The bike was locked and off I went for a guided tour of its Gaudi-restored interiors.  The Old Town where it stands is hilly, with a maze of alleyways linked by steps, so I pushed the bike through these and soon found myself cycling along Palma’s fashionable avenues and chic squares towards the main road heading north towards the mountains of the Serra de Tramontana.

The first destination was the Carthusian monastery in Valldemossa, where Chopin and Sand lived during the winter of 1838-9.  The road was wide and almost-traffic free and I was passed by groups of racing cyclists headed in both directions.  As the road climbed higher I couldn’t help wondering how their Majorcan ancestors heaved Chopin’s piano up it in a horse and cart in mid-winter.

The monastery dominates the medieval village of Valldemossa and the winding lane up to it was heavy going on the Giant.  I was sustained, though, by gorgeous views down the valley and lunch in the village square.  The monastery was fascinating, with lots of Chopin memorabilia, including his piano.  It was amazing to think that this was where the famous consumptive wrote some the world’s best music.

Nearby in the village was the bizarre Costa Nord, owned by movie actor Michael Douglas.  There was a video showing the history of northern Majorca presented by Douglas, and I couldn’t help thinking that he placed himself in a long line of conquerors that included Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors.  Pity poor Catherine Zeta Jones, I thought, married to such an ego.

The next exhibit was a sound and light show featuring the yacht owned by the Habsburg Archduke Ludwig Salvatore.  He had lost his kingdom in 19th Century Italy and spent the rest of his life searching for paradise, which he found on his yacht sailing around the Balearics.  He wrote books galore on Majorca and bought up great tracts of land, which has preserved the coastline from tacky development.  One of his estates, S’Estaca, is now owned by ... yes, Michael Douglas.

The road from Valldemossa to Deia winds through the mountains, with gorgeous views across the Mediterranean.  In Deia, a gentrified medieval village, I found myself pushing the bike up a steep path to the village church where Robert Graves lies in a simple grave, following in the footsteps of his old friend Ava Gardner and recent visitors like Claudia Schiffer and Richard Branson.

From Deia the next stop was Soller and then beside the track of a historic tramway to Port Soller.  Standing high on the cliffs is a lighthouse with the ‘refugi’ hostel where I spent the night.  The guests were mainly walkers, but there was one other cyclist, a German in yellow lycra, who trains in the Ardennes.  He was on his sixth cycling tour of Majorca and said it’s the best place in the world for cycling.

After breakfast on the cliff top watching the sun rise above the Med I set off for a day in the mountains.  On the outskirts of Soller a group of a hundred cyclists of all ages passed by on a rally.  Beyond Soller the coastal road climbed steadily for 20 kms through pine forests with twists and turns.  There was little traffic, but occasional groups of bikers screaming round hairpin bends with knees scraping tarmac.  You could hear them coming, but on one right-hand chicane I was caught unawares and thrown into a gully and against the cliff wall, sustaining minor injuries.

At another point I pulled off the road to admire the view and crashed to the ground from the too-high saddle.  Shortly after, the back tyre punctured.  The scariest section of the road, though, was going through a mountain tunnel.  The bike had no lights, it was almost pitch black, it was uphill and the wind was funnelled against me.  But there was light at the end of the tunnel and after emerging I was hurtling downhill for the first time in miles, glad to be alive.

The German cyclist I’d met earlier mentioned the monastery at Lluc as a good place to stay, so I headed there.  It is a huge complex in the mountains and has been Majorca’s most important place of pilgrimage since the 13th century.  My monk’s cell was a large, airy, beamed room with en-suite, and the superb restaurant was the former monks’ refectory.

Next morning, after coffee and croissants, I set off for Es Pla (the plain), freewheeling downhill for ten miles, which more than made up for yesterday’s climb.  From the village of Calmari the tiny road led through stone villages and along miles of dry-stone walling enclosing olive groves with the gnarled trunks of thousand-year-old trees.

Villages and small towns with names like Biniamar and Binissalem attest to the Arabic origins of this part of Majorca.  It was early afternoon and the villages were empty and silent, apart from swallows swooping overhead.  Cafés were open, though, so I stopped for lunch and a San Mig under shady plane trees in a village square and, a few villages later, ice-cream and café con leche.  This really is ancient Majorca, unchanged in centuries, and a far cry from the tourist ‘Shagaluf’.

I was now following one of Majorca’s ten official ‘Cycle Routes’ which would eventually take me back via Algaida, Llucmajor and the coast to C’an Pastilla and Palma.  Along the way were cycle signposts and, every so often, large-scale maps of the island with the routes marked on them.

That evening back on the Playa de Palma the beer-bellied Brits and endless bars like ‘Barmy Army’ and ‘Flying Haggis’ presented the other face of Majorca.  The next morning I returned the bike to the rental shop and collected the gear I’d left there, with profuse thanks to the proprietor who had saved my cycle tour.  Then it was a bus into Palma and another to the airport.

Before checking in I thought I’d better check at the Ryanair office and there, still wrapped in plastic, was my bike!  It had arrived the previous day, the man said!

Back home I wrote to Ryanair, enclosing receipts for additional expenses.  I hardly expected compensation, but wanted to know what happened - whether the bike was lost by the baggage handlers of Stansted or Palma or by Ryanair.  No such luck!  There was no acknowledgement, let alone a reply!  Majorca, though, is a wonderful place for cycling.  I’d certainly go again, but whether I’d take my own bike next time is another matter...!


NEWS FROM THE 79th AGM

By Geoff Smith

::  Membership as allocated by postcodes within the West Surrey area is 1,098 compared with 1,179 in the previous year.

::  The Benstead Cup for all-round attendance, support and riding performance at DA events was awarded to Clive Richardson.  Other awards included:  Ladies Benstead Shield, Roberta Shore;  Keith Parfitt Pot (organisers and marshals), Mark Waters;  Bill Inder Trophy (Sunday attendance), Clive Richardson;  Bert Bartholomew Plate (oldest DA rider in 100-mile reliability ride), Geoff Smith (Snr).

::  The Wooden Crank for the biggest blunder of the year went to the President, Rico Signore.  This was for a crash which led to him ending a proposed End-to-End ride in Bristol.  In his own words at the meeting, “a post jumped in my way while I was reading instructions”.

::  Riders at group events were Bicycle Icycle, 15;  50 miles Reliability, 42;  Stonehenge 200km 34;  Danebury 150km 20;  Elstead 100km, 39;  Tour of the Hills, 187;  Tour of the Greensand Hills, 10;  September Reliabilities, 100 miles, 3;  75 miles, 3;  50 miles, 8;  30 miles, 3;  Tricyclathon, 5.

::  Treasurer Tim Bar reported that total net assets had decreased to £3,132 from £3,250.  There had been fewer participants in some events.  The 25th anniversary Tour of the Hills medals, given free of charge to riders, had cost £450.  Donations totaling £250 had been made to local hospices.  Magazine and rides list costs had risen by £100.  (Ed’s note:  Production costs actually decreased by £65 in the previous year thanks to subsidised printing charges which regretfully have now ended.)

::  Jeff Banks started a discussion about spending on promotion for main events and increasing entry charges for them.  Generally speakers agreed with Tim Bar that it was preferable to maintain the existing character and charges of these rides and maintain a gap between them and expensive cyclo-sportives.

::  On my count, 28 attended the AGM at the Bird In Hand, Mayford Green, Woking, on October 27th.  Many dispersed afterwards but others were joined by partners to make 27 at the lunch afterwards.

FRIENDS WE ALL MISS
Extracted from Secretary Jeff Banks’ written report

“Cycling with the West Surrey can sometimes seem like a casual arrangement.  Many of us look at the weather when we roll out of bed on a Wednesday or a Sunday morning and maybe study the day’s route or our domestic work duties before deciding whether to clamber on to our bicycle.

“One thing we are assured of and perhaps have taken for granted is that if we make the meeting point someone will have taken the trouble to organise our enjoyment and will be there to greet us.

“But what of those people who merely turn up to join in the rides or are quick to raise their hand when help is required?  These people are the stuff of our community and we all need our periodic nourishment and stimulation from their welcoming warmth, their friendship, and their company.

“It comes as no surprise (but without adding any comfort) that from time to time members of any community are wrenched from it, leaving those behind with a sense of loss and an unfillable space.  Many of us will long continue to remember Ian McGregor, Marion Thompson and George Alesbury, all of whom contributed in their many ways to the West Surrey DA and all of whom passed away in 2007.”

CAMPAIGNING

Reporting from Guildford Cycle Forum, Keith Chesterton said county council funding for cycle projects had increased by around 7 per cent a year in recent years.  Work to improve the bridge over the A3 at Stoughton had not been as much as cyclists had hoped (although Mark Waters reported improvements to the lighting) and the forum had failed to secure routing of the National Cycle Route 22 between Shere and Newlands Corner on a dedicated track alongside the A25.  Instead it was to go via Shamley Green - “a bit like going from London to Birmingham via Crewe”.

But the Downs Link in the area had been greatly improved and a new cycleway had been constructed linking Effingham and East Horsley.

Mark Waters asked whether a mass gathering of cyclists should be organised to ride slowly up the A25 from Shere to Newlands Corner to draw attention to the need for a dedicated cyclists’ route there.

Right to Ride officer Peter Clint said the cycle lanes around the new Centrium flats development in Woking town centre were largely completed although an enforcement order might be necessary to have the job satisfactorily finished.  The eagerly awaited cycle path between Byfleet and West Byfleet, to be built by the developers of the Broadwater estate, had not materialised even though the development itself was proceeding.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Consternation all round followed the Secretary’s information on and interpretation of CTC plans to end the designation of outfits such as ours as “district associations” (DAs) and status of sections within them.  Indeed, proposals in a planned new constitution handbook from head office could mean the end of the designation of “Cyclists’ Touring Club” itself in favour of the branding of the stand-alone initials “CTC” as the national organisation representing all cyclists.

Basically at a local level we would all become “groups”.  There could be any number of them in West Surrey for instance - as long as they all have a chairman, secretary and treasurer (any of whom could also take on stipulated roles as welfare officer and registrations officer).

As Americans might put it, there is a “way to go” before this happens.  Meanwhile, the meeting indicated approval of a name change to CTC West Surrey for our currently defined group.  The committee will get on with rewriting our rules, which will be published on our website and given publicity in the magazine before a move is made towards adopting them if necessary.

Adoption?  Approval?  What is necessary and/or desirable?  - Who knows?  But change, maybe big, maybe small, is definitely coming...

In the course of discussion, the magazine came in for some unexpected but appreciated praise.  Former secretary Derek Tanner feared that possible changes to the DA’s stature and income from head office could affect the future of “the biggest asset this DA has, the DA magazine”.


LE TOUR D’ANGLAIS

By John Murdoch

I blame Bob McLeod.  Yes, I know that it was I who first saw that cyclists were being given the opportunity to ride the first proper stage of the Tour de France, from London to Canterbury, and I idly thought, “that seems like a good idea”.  But when I ’phoned Bob and asked whether he was interested, he could always have said “no”, and that would have been it.  However, he allowed the visions of glory to push the reality of pain to the back of his mind, and instead said “yes”.  Now, unfortunately for me, there was no going back.

So, what was the appeal?  Not the £40 entry fee for an Audax ride (sorry, a Cyclosportive);  not the distance of 119 miles, more than I had ever cycled before in a single day;  not even the scenic delights of Dartford.  The real attraction was that it WAS the route of the Tour de France, and that we would be cycling exactly the same route as our sporting heroes (and, as it turned out, villains) just one week later.  There are few sports where such close association is realistically possible.  How many amateur footballers get to play at Wembley, how many tennis players walk out with racquet in hand on to the Centre Court at Wimbledon?  As a prospect, it did not detract that we would be sharing the experience with around 5,000 other cyclists, as this would just add to the sense of occasion.

The fact that the entry was as many as 5,000 led to a real need for slick and professional organisation, which I felt we were entitled to expect from the size of the entry fee.  So, how did it measure up?  Well, there was a requirement to sign on in person on the Saturday, no doubt to avoid chaos on Sunday morning, with such early starts.  Bob and Pauline, like the troopers they are, kindly volunteered to go up to London on the Saturday, and to register for both of us, picking up the transponders which we then fixed to our bikes, so that we would be timed automatically.  They may have regretted this generosity of spirit, having to queue for over 90 minutes, and then being delayed by London traffic on the way back.  A long day, just to register for an event.

However, it did mean that proceedings were smooth on the Sunday morning, apart from the need to get up at 4.30 to travel to Greenwich for our allotted 7.15 start time;  it could have been worse, the first riders were away at 6.00.  The arrangements were that batches of 500 riders were dispatched in 15 minute “windows” from 6.00 onwards, which meant approximately 30 every minute.

I must say that riding with so many others around me was a culture shock.  I am never too happy in a bunch, and the style of riding around me made me even less comfortable, not to say dismayed at the attitude and poor riding standards of many others around me.  We were naturally riding on open roads, and started by travelling on main London roads at about 7.30 on a Sunday morning, so there was a reasonable amount of traffic around.  I held the naïve assumption that the normal traffic laws applied, but I was disabused of this notion when stopping at a red light, and being sworn at by a number of riders who hurtled across the junction, forcing cars to stop, and telling me that my actions were “dangerous”;  they had not expected me to stop, and felt that they could easily have crashed into me.

However, we all survived unscathed, which is more than can be said for one rider who came off at the bottom of the very first mild hill, and was being treated by paramedics.  It was far from the only serious accident that I saw that day.  The route was initially uninspiring, at least until Rochester, passing by Dartford and through Gravesend.  After about 25 miles I was surprised to be passed by Bob, who I knew had set off about 10 minutes after me.  He enquired whether he might possibly be going too fast too soon, to which there was a simple answer - even I was averaging over 17 m.p.h., and we had another 95 miles to go.  Oh, the impetuosity of youth, Bob.

We cycled together for a few miles, but it was difficult to keep together in such large groups, and I ended up by going ahead, no doubt helped by Bob’s surfeit of comfort breaks.  Oh, the incontinence of age, Bob.

We then headed off through Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells along mainly A roads, before heading east through the lanes.  It was here that the diabolical road manners of my fellow cyclists embarrassed me further.  We were clearly causing traffic chaos, with riders spread out across the road, and little chance for drivers to overtake.  One did manage to pass a small group of cyclists, but then had to slow again when coming up behind another bunch.  Those recently overtaken showed a complete lack of courtesy, in my opinion, by overtaking the car again.  It is little wonder that we saw a number of examples of road rage by drivers, egged on by cyclists’ “hand signals”, about the only ones on show during the day.  Understandable, even if unacceptably, I saw some truly dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

I felt that my pace was high all through the event, but that did not stop me being overtaken by very many faster riders, including club teams drafting each other at speed.  My amusement came when I was “zapped” in this way just before the final climb at 100 miles, the quaintly named “La Cote de Farthing Common”.  That group then split on the climb, trying to push high gears, and I twiddled past them all;  the old CTC guys can clearly still teach the youngsters a thing or two, and not just about etiquette.

The final 15 miles were a delight, along a Roman road, often gently downhill, with the wind behind.  I time-trialled on my own at 20 - 25 m.p.h., but was still overtaken again by the reassembled team, going at much faster pace.

Still, I was delighted to have finished such a long ride in reasonable shape, and very surprised to have done so in 7 hours 35 minutes, at an average of 16.3 m.p.h. for 119 miles.  Bob came in a little while later.  It was all an experience that I will look back on with great pleasure and satisfaction, but that does not mean that it was not tarnished on the day by the attitude and behaviour of many of my fellow cyclists.  I have seen nothing in the subsequent reports in the cycling media to indicate that there were any problems, all pieces were glowing, but in my opinion this ignores the reality.  I simply do not wish to believe that my fellow cyclists typically behave with such arrogance to other road users, so one has to consider whether the event appealed predominantly to the ultra competitive and socially blinkered, or whether the herd mentality prevailed and lowered the standards of otherwise reasonable cyclists.

In future, I think that I might head abroad for other events of this nature, where roads are closed.


LHASA TO KATHMANDU

By Arthur Twiggs

How many of us of a certain age have been fascinated by Tibet as a child or even the notion of Tibet and its inaccessibility and the dominance of its monastic culture or been amazed by pictures of the Potala Palace perched on its hill above the city in the altitude-enhanced brilliant sunshine.  Impressions and desires renewed recently by Michael Palin and films such as Seven Years in Tibet.

When D and C (wife and daughter) suggested last year that they wanted to do an “eco-holiday” to a remote Fijian Island this year and that I wouldn’t like it really, it would be all camping etc. etc, would I ??? (more about camping later), the opportunity to go to Tibet and cycle as well suddenly became a reality.  Timing and the route was the main reason why Redspokes was chosen, as well as the fact that with them you have to ride up the passes as well as down them, not the case with all companies doing this route.

We met up in Kathmandu towards the end of September and flew with China Airways to Lhasa with mountains of luggage including hire bikes resulting in a huge bill for excess baggage in spite of protracted negotiations at check in.  Three days were spent in Lhasa becoming acclimatised to the altitude, which affected us all in different ways - one unfortunate chap did not recover at all and went home before even starting the cycle journey.  All of us, however, were surprised at our reaction to something as simple as climbing the stairs in the hotel.

The first glimpse of the Potala Palace was magical as expected, and the guided tour through the few rooms open to the public revealed incredible gold tombs and statuary.  Greater Lhasa now is very much a Chinese city with the Tibetan culture confined to the Johkang area and Potala.  On the third day, several of us braved the Lhasa traffic to visit some of the outlying monasteries by bike, including the home of the hand-slapping, debating monks at the Sera monastery.  Finally we all braved the Lhasa traffic and set off towards Kathmandu but heading off on the road to Beijing instead because our lead vehicle got stuck in traffic.  We eventually escaped the city and had an easy run down the valley of the Lhasa river to cross the bridge over the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) to our first campsite in a grove of small trees.  Unfortunately, the site was carpeted with dried grasses harbouring deadly thorns, which plagued us with punctures for the next three days and saw us mending punctures in the evening by head torches at the next campsite.

We were not able to use the Southern Friendship highway as it was being upgraded to transport an “Olympic” torch from Mt Everest to Beijing next year and could not be used by our support vehicles, however, we did cycle up the first pass on this route to see the Namdrok Tso or Scorpion Lake.  This truly is a beautiful spectacle as the lake waters reflect turquoise, green and blue depending on the sunlight with a range of snow-capped mountains in the background.  The surface of this lake is more than 500m above the Yarlung Tsangpo and the Chinese have built a hydroelectric power station, which is gradually draining the lake, which will eventually disappear.

Two more long days in the saddle, including a ride through a spectacular rocky gorge with the huge river thundering down below, brought us to Xigatse, Tibet’s second city, and a rest day in the Yak Hotel and another monastery visit.

A few days later we came to the first high pass, the Gyatso La, after an interminable climb up a narrow valley leading to open moor just below the snow line in a bitterly cold head wind.  A plaque at the top in Chinese and Tibetan characters amid the fluttering prayer flags included the number 5248, presumably the elevation in meters.  The next day saw the end of tarmac roads and the Chinese police checkpoint as we entered the Qomolongma (Mt. Everest) National Park.  We had already got used to being filmed and videoed by Chinese tourists from their Toyota Land cruisers - now we would have to eat their dust as well.  The day also included the second 5000+ m pass - the Pang La - a staircase of dusty hairpin bends climbing inexorably up towards the snow line again.  Good intentions to try and count them all failed with everyone as the sheer determination to reach the top extinguished all other thoughts and emotions.  This time, however, we were rewarded with magnificent views of the main Himalayan chain - the closest being Mt Everest and Cho Oyo, tantalisingly obscured with drifting cloud.  Following an awesome descent through more hairpins and rocky gorges we camped beside the river flowing from the Rongbuk glacier at the foot of Mt Everest.  This was the first of several really cold campsites during the next few days due to the higher elevation and cold winds from the mountains.  The next day we camped beside the Rongbuk monastery amidst several other groups of camping trekkers and cyclists, and a few of us braved the icy winds from Everest to walk across to the new hotel and enjoy a “cold” beer in the relative comfort of the lounge and warmth of a yak dung cooking fire.  The next morning our tents were covered in hard ice but the sun came out as we walked up to the Chinese checkpoint at the base camp itself.

There followed several more days cycling westwards on dirt roads at elevations mostly over 4500m with the hot burning sun during the day and bitterly cold nights until we reached the last high pass - the Thang La - also at 5000+ m.  Thus began the long-awaited 4500m descent into Nepal, although this was not plain sailing due to terrible head winds in one 40km valley, road works, blasting, rain and mud through most of the steepest section of the descent and chaos and queues to cross the Friendship bridge at the border.

We certainly enjoyed the final few days cycling through the steamy forests of Nepal, and even the “sting in the tail” on the penultimate day involving 1500m of climbing to cross into the Kathmandu valley was a “piece of cake” for all of us after our exertions at higher altitudes.


BANANA AND WALNUT CAKE FOR CYCLISTS

A recipe from Vicky Warr

250g butter
225g fruit
2 whole eggs plus 1 egg white
4 large bananas (ripe).  The riper the bananas the better
375g self-raising wholemeal flour (ideally wholemeal)
90ml milk
200g walnut pieces or walnut halves, chopped
1tsp vanilla essence
225g unrefined castor sugar

  1. Heat oven to 180degC/350degF/gas mark 4
  2. Line a 1kg loaf/cake tin with baking paper
  3. Whisk the butter and sugar together for five minutes until white and fluffy.  Add the eggs and egg white and whisk rapidly.  The mixture will split at this point.  Don’t worry - it’s supposed to
  4. Add the mashed banana, then carefully fold in the flour
  5. Now add the milk, vanilla essence and walnuts, and mix well.  Then pour this mixture into the prepared loaf tin
  6. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes or until it is cooked in the middle (test with a knife).
  7. When ready, remove from the oven and cool for ten minutes.  Then lift the cake from the tin using the baking paper and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy and go cycling.

(Vicky is a personal trainer who occasionally rides with the West Surrey.  I would welcome more recipes for cyclists from readers - Ed.)


ERIC PARR

Eric, who died in November in his seventies, will be remembered by many as an enthusiastic West Surrey and Charlotteville cyclist who made the most of his small stature in speedy hill climbing and time-trialling.  He cycled in many parts of the world with CTC holiday groups and was once known as “Shaker Parr” after demonstrably feeling the cold at the end of an early-season time trial.


Letters to the Editor

WHAT CAN THE MATTER BE?

I am a sporting spinster of a certain age who wishes to take up bicycling and am seeking advice on the delicate matter of saddle comfort.  Would any of your readers be able to help?  Perhaps you would be so kind as to publish this letter in the hope of eliciting the appropriate advice.

I am, Sir, Yours faithfully

Emma Royds

1 Carnsitt Down
Cossitt
Herts


DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

JANUARY 1st:  New Year’s Day rendezvous for all riders, rides groups, supporters and friends:  Seale Craft Centre (all morning).

FEBRUARY 22nd:  Derek Tanner presents his latest underwater and adventure film show, Lightwater Hall.  For tickets, phone 01276 474553 or email annederekin-avshow22feb08@yahoo.co.uk   Donations on evening in aid of RNLI and CTC Cyclists Defence Fund.

MARCH 30th:  Bicycle Icycle 70km, 10am from OS186/SU959434  Godalming  (Mark Waters 01483 414307 or 07732 520819).

APRIL 20th:  Reliability Ride 50miles  (Phil Hamilton 01483 772008).  Pyrford Common car park, Woking, or Meadrow car park, Godalming, starting 8am - 9am.

MAY 18th:  Stonehenge 200, 207km, Danebury 150, 150km, Elstead 100, 115km, and six other shorter rides, Elstead Youth Centre from 8.30am  (Mark Waters, as above).  Full details in next issue.

JUNE 1st:  Scoreathon route-finding/treasure hunt  (Keith Chesterton 01483 563392).  More details in next issue.

AUGUST 17th:  Tour of the Hills 110km, Tour of the Greensand Hills 53km, Shere Village Hall  (Tim Bar 01483 825691).  Full details in a future issue.

SEPTEMBER 7th:  Reliability Rides 100miles, 75miles, 50miles, 30miles, Pirbright Village Hall car park 8am - 9am  (Rico Signore 01483 822240).

SEPTEMBER 21st:  Tricyclathon fun event  (Clive Richardson 01428 724390).

Please send details of local upcoming events to the Editor, with an event contact name, phone number, and email address.  A preliminary news item, advertisement, or background article about the event, will also be welcome to be considered for inclusion in the mag.


And finally....

GROUP PERSONALITIES - FIFTEEN

Tim Bar
Shows superstar
Organisational skills
For the Tour of the Hills


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