“The West Surrey Cyclist” - July - September 2009
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Front cover - back to the January design
Inner front cover - Welcome to Our World - as in previous issue
CTC West Surrey 2009 - very similar to previous issue
Editorial front matter - very similar to previous issue
Riding Around - with Editor Geoff Smith
Ride Leaders and Insurance - by Dane Maslen
The President’s Page - by Chris Jeggo
Organised Cycle Rides July - September 2009 - the Rides List
A Pilgrim’s Story - Part 3 - by Derek Tanner
Cartoon - “Spooning - On the Stile” - two early 20th-century cyclists
Riding All of the Tour de France (concluded) - by Ian Callaghan
It’s All or Nothing - by Dane Maslen, Secretary
Volunteer Needed for Our Most Prestigious Event
Magazine Subscriptions - A Willingness to Belong
Reliability Ride - The Event (26 Apr 09) - by Phil Hamilton
Dates for Your Diary (none new since last issue)
West Surrey CTC Group Cycling Shirts - available from Peter Clint
I AM SURE as you read this that you will be in the midst of all of the joys of mid-summer. But there is always a downside; all that extra riding too often means all those extra punctures.
So how is it for you? How do you repair yours? No, I do not want chapter and verse in this magazine, written as it is for true specialists - you need turn to our esteemed CTC Cycle for that (December-January issue). What I want to know is, do you tackle one puncture at a time or go for the conveyor belt principle?
The theory is that you should stockpile several punctured inner tubes and then settle down with a DVD on the TV to repair them in bulk. That way a tube of adhesive will maintain its stickiness until the contents are exhausted, rather than lasting for one or two punctures over several weeks or months before giving up the ghost and surrendering its adhesive properties to the thin air of which it sees too much.
I get the point. Doing one puncture at a time is frankly daft - all that fiddling about for just one measly hole. Wait until you have, say, ten in as many tubes, squeeze out all the juice from the adhesive tube knowing it will definitely do the job sticky-wise, and luxuriate in the knowledge that you have done a good mass production job in not much more time than it would have taken you to do just one solitary repair.
Yet in more than 20 years of cycling I have never actually put this to the test. Has anybody? Look at it this way: say you get one puncture a year. That would mean spending an evening with ten defective tubes, bowl full of water to produce bubbles and splashes to locate the holes, towels becoming ever more soggy as you dry the tubes, sundry patches, adhesive, dusting powder, sending clouds of dust all over the room as you roll up the repaired tubes. But you would do this perhaps only once in five years. That has to be good, doesn’t it?
So why have I yet to meet anyone who actually does it? Could it have something to do with no cyclist on earth being that well organised? Or that no one is prepared to have piles of holed tubes left lying around for heaven knows how long?
Perhaps at our next AGM the West Surrey group should appoint a puncture repair officer or team to whom all of our holed tubes should be directed. He/she or they could experiment with this mass production idea and report back. It could open up a whole new social activity for our group, and it could raise money too. Any volunteers?
I HAVE yet another puncture puzzle to place before you. Can anyone tell me how to safely and properly remove the plastic film from the front of an applied patch without compromising said patch’s purpose in life?
The perceived wisdom is to “crack” said film once the patch is in place on the tube, then peel it off from the centre outwards. Am I the only one who has a problem with that? Time and again the only way I can get it off is to start peeling at the edge, thus risking peeling patch away from tube at the same time. It is the “cracking” that is the problem; I do not seem to be able to crack it.
Perhaps I should just leave the stubborn film on, get inner tube and tyre on to the wheel, and ride away regardless, worrying not about the unnecessary extra weight.
YOU will have gathered I feel something akin to love for my folder. I know it to be true as I have to confess to a senior moment which kind of proved it. Heading into town for a spot of shopping, I said to my wife: “We won’t be long.” The “we” of course referred to me and my Brompton.
WHAT do you think of cycle-trainers? An old friend of mine powers one up daily in his kitchen of all places, spinning merrily away while presumably watching his pots boil.
The wife of one of our group had been known to exercise on hers in the garage but this came to an abrupt end when she punctured. Can any of our usual experts advise how on earth this could happen?
MANY female riders readily admit to relying on their men to keep their bicycles in condition and happily confess they know absolutely nothing about mending a puncture or even pumping up a tyre (I hesitate in these troubled times to use the word “inflation”).
One lady member of our group cut short her ride at coffee to ride directly home, worried stiff about the screeching noise coming from her bike and convinced a flat would soon manifest itself. She made it and the husband wasted no time in looking at the bike. There, lodged between the tyre and front fork, was a holly leaf. OK, we have all been there, but I am a bit desperate for copy at the moment. Please read on...
I ASKED in the previous issue for readers to nominate and advise me of favourite local stretches which, whatever the season, cause our hearts to be uplifted when we are fortunate enough to be cycling in them.
I have mentioned it since, while riding around some delightful spots with our group, but so far the reaction has been zilch. Oh well, you can’t win them all. It seems we will just continue to enjoy privately our favourite bits of countryside in West Surrey and beyond.
But more importantly for the future of the magazine this past quarter has produced next to no offerings on anything from you, our loyal if somewhat complacent readers.
Our secretary has produced a couple of pieces not unconnected with his official position, and one ride organiser has furnished me with the results of his annual event. As I write, the President has just contributed but there has been nothing else.
Thankfully, there is sufficient in the stockpile to produce what I hope is the usual interesting mag. After the April-June 2009 issue was published, one reader opined that I had written most of it. This was not true but it was a good job I had put in a fair wad. Otherwise, the stockpile would have nigh on disappeared, and where would that have left us now?
Had there had been nothing in reserve I would have been rambling away in this section even more than I am doing now. So, with an urgent request to you all to do something constructive - write something constructive - for the mag, we had better get on ...
Insurance is not the most exciting of subjects but it can be an important one. I’m sure I’m not alone in originally joining the CTC simply for the third-party insurance cover. That insurance does not, however, cover the extra third-party risks one is potentially exposed to when leading a ride (e.g. someone has an accident, blames the leader’s choice of route and sues the leader). That cover is provided separately and only to members who have been registered by their local group with CTC HQ as ride leaders.
As Registration Officer I’m responsible for registering our ride leaders. Because of the very flexible organisation of many of our rides, especially the Woking Midweek Wayfarers, we have registered numerous members as ride leaders to ensure that even someone who leads only very occasionally is properly insured.
We are obliged to provide our ride leaders with relevant CTC information about leading rides. Therefore I recently sent an email with various attachments to those leaders for whom I had an email address. If you were not one of its recipients but do lead rides, even if it is only very occasionally, please contact me: either I don’t have an email address for you or you’re not registered as a ride leader. In the former case I’d like to have your email address so that I can send you the information (if you don’t have an email address, we’ll have to do it the hard way). In the latter case I need to correct the omission.
We have recently noticed an important issue. The insurance factsheet states, “You are covered provided ... you are aware of all participants on the ride, either through collection of name and CTC membership number or by completion of an entry form.” When queried about this, CTC HQ replied “You need to know who is on a ride and whether they are a CTC member. Membership number is one way of establishing the latter.”
The committee feels that it is important that ride leaders should be properly covered by insurance, so in view of the above we have decided to recommend that all ride leaders should check membership cards before each ride. If riders do not have membership cards with them, they should complete Guest Entry forms (a maximum of five guests can be present on a ride) and the ride leaders should then pass these forms on to a committee member so that we can monitor how many times a guest rides with us (CTC guidelines suggest it should be no more than five times). All ride leaders would be well advised to carry a couple of copies of the Guest Entry form with them. It was one of the attachments to the email I sent out.
Please take your memberships cards on club rides as we are now recommending ride leaders to check them before each ride (see above). You might find this a pain. The ride leaders will undoubtedly also consider it a pain, and the committee knows that it is a pain, but we believe that ride leaders have a right to be properly protected by the CTC’s insurance cover. Unfortunately for this to happen the ride leaders need to know who is a member and to get non-members to fill in a Guest Entry form. Thank you for your cooperation in complying with yet more ridiculous bureaucracy.
DUE to various circumstances beyond my control, this is my first opportunity to thank you for doing me the honour of electing me President of CTC West Surrey for the current year.
While there is still time, I’d like to persuade you to have a go at the Benstead Cup this year. This competition dates back to the earliest days of the group, and deserves better support than it has received in recent years. The cup is awarded to ‘the best all-round cyclist’ in the group, a phrase which has been interpreted variously over the decades. Each year’s rules are usually designed so that no one type of group activity predominates in the scoring, and so that there is as little bias as possible in favour of the seriously athletic.
Summarising this year’s rules published in the January magazine, you must
The Sunday Riders have complained that the previous Tricyclathon has been regarded as ‘their’ competition rather than one for everyone in the group. To dispel this impression the hill climb has been dropped, leaving the light-hearted free-wheeling and speed judging competitions. What matters when whizzing downhill? Is it tyres, hub bearings, or something else? How do you get your times equal for two laps of a short circuit in opposite directions? Ride as fast as possible, stay in one gear and try to keep your pedalling rhythm constant even if that means braking downhill, ‘riding normally’, or something else? Some people theorise about such things (who, me?) while others just turn up and have a go. And why not? It’s fun! The results usually produce some surprises, too. You could win even if you think competitions are not for you. Coffee and cakes at Seale Craft Centre. Lunch at ‘The Good Intent’ afterwards? Need I say more to persuade you to turn out?
Burgos is the ancient capital of Old Castile, a major milestone on the route of St James and the centre of the “reconquest”. The massive cathedral dominates the centre of the medieval town and is said to be the “queen of gothic cathedrals”. The pilgrims’ route leaves the town via the “Puerte de St Juan” before crossing the lepers’ bridge and past the statue of Calzado De La Domingo - the famous builder of much of the pilgrim route. Next comes the magnificent portico of the restored “Hospital del Rey” and on to the exquisitely simple village of Hontanas (translated as impressive place), where we found a most impressive lunch. A little further on are the remains of San Anton’s Hospital; destroyed by fire in 1835. The remains, which still crowd across the road, are impressive, and we are becoming totally overwhelmed by the pilgrim experience.
But in a few kilometers the campsite at Castrojeriz was closed for painting and we pressed on now starting to cross the Meseta, ahead of us 200km of featureless landscape, one of the much talked about dreads of the journey between the pilgrims on the route. Late in the afternoon the village (5 houses, church, 50 sheep and 2 dogs) of Boadilla de Camino arrived. Not obvious from outside, one house contained a 48-bed hostel and we ended up sharing a room with a paraplegic and his girlfriend - he was handcranking the route on a recumbent with his wheelchair in tow -
Next day was bright and sunny with a nippy wind which buffeted us continuously and we struggled to get the speed above 10kph. Crossing the canal and then Fromista (said to be the most perfect example of a Romanesque church) made for breaks in the boredom, as did a coffee and the church portico depicting the day of judgment in Carrion de los Condes. We overtook the recumbent and passed grown men pushing their bikes against the wind. Stopping at the church where the Knights Templar are said to have buried “the goose that laid the golden egg”, a German couple that we had met at breakfast emerged from a taxi. All alone and with the taxi gone, we promised not to report their sins and left them, to complete our ride into Sahagun. Despite the conditions we had made 76km in the day but it could have been the low point of the tour. Eventually we found the campsite, got some food and settled down waiting for the local children to stop playing outside.
Next morning was cold and damp and the wind had not eased. As we packed we thought we saw a tandem with a double wheel trailer pass by. Coffee at Castrovega and lunch at Mansilla de las Mulas, both of which we struggled to find on our map, and we had to make a climb out of the basin on to the ridge overlooking Leon. This brought us back on to the lorry-filled main road and at the next opportunity we diverted on to the walking route as the lesser of two evils. Fortunately this brought us to a signpost to the campsite on the outskirts at the top of the 6km descent into Leon. It was Fiesta week in Leon and being Sunday we played tourist around (another) magnificent cathedral, the HQ of the Knights Santiago, Gaudi’s “Casa Botines” and the roadside stalls of the fiesta, before retreating to the campsite for a ham, egg and chips dinner.
It’s a depressing slow climb in the traffic out of Leon and we were admiring the futuristic Sanctuary of La Virgen del Camino when the recumbent came by. A few minutes swapping anecdotes, we were pleased they had conquered the meseta section. The bakers at Villadangos sold “pilgrims biscuits” and we shared ours with a Dutch cyclist and his wife who were seeking refuge from the traffic on the main road. They left, having decided that their bikes would not take the strain of joining us on the offroad path. We routed via the famous medieval bridge across the river at Hospital de Orbiga, where we found a pilgrim restaurant and shared a table with an Austrian who worked as an au-pair in London.
Arriving tired in Astorga at gone 7pm our guide book suggested we sought “Residencia Santa Maria de Los Angeles”, where we were given our own room and hoped we never disturbed them, after a visit to the local bar, as we crept back in past the chapel just before curfew. A visit to Gaudi’s Maison and Museum of the Camino was made the next morning, and the architecture of the cathedral will go well up our ‘memorable moments’ list. In a few kilometers comes the restored village of Castrillo de Polvazares. We could have been the only people there. Even the owner of the rustic bar seemed surprised as we walked in for a drink.
We were now gearing up for the mountain section and as we were settling down to it came across an old man carrying his bike. As good pilgrims we effected a repair and bid him farewell, not noticing that we had turned the wrong way. We were wondering why our navigation prompts were not lining up when we unexpectedly came across a campsite about lunchtime. We had been expecting to overnight in a refuge and had run down our food stocks for the forthcoming climb, but we were in luck as just around the corner the local workmen were piling into the café for lunch. We followed, ate as much as we could and backtracked to the campsite for a lazy afternoon, taking the opportunity to replace our suspect tyre.
The sun came over the hill at 0800 next morning and went back in again. After 6km we were back on route and the refuge where we had planned to stay provided a hearty breakfast. The climb started right outside the front door. As we approached the abandoned village of Manjarin, the warden in the refuge rang the summoning bell and, as good pilgrims, we stopped for complimentary tea, biscuits and a stamp in our passports. The next 10km then took us down the switchback road through El Acebo (where there is a memorial to a German cyclist who died in the attempt) and into Molinaseca where we were the only people for lunch. As we were eating, a local arrived carrying his bike - seeking help to repair it - but this time the damage looked too daunting to tackle with the tools and time we had available.
We passed through Ponferrada (named after the iron bridge across the river) and picked up the yellow camino signs out across country, eventually arriving in Cacabelos where the refuge consisted of about 40 twin-bedded sleeping compartments arranged around the walls of the church courtyard. The bar in town sold Murphys! The walkers were banging around at 0530 but for us the warden became almost aggressive in helping us leave by the 0800 deadline.
Villafranca is famous for being the point where pilgrims who were too ill or weak to complete the journey would be given an absolution in consolation. (The reason why soon became obvious.) After coffee we were about to turn out on to the notorious NV1 road when a local riding a spluttering moped beckoned us behind the crash barrier and pointed us down a nicely surfaced track. From there we climbed through tiny villages, just us and walkers. We broke the 1,000-mile barrier as we entered Galicia. Occasionally we could hear lorries grinding from tunnel to stilts on the main road above us. All too soon the 20-tooth granny rings had to come out. All cognitive functions were disengaged as we settled into a steady rhythm at 4.5kph for the next 8km. Our guide book told us that armies had died crossing these hills, and we could imagine them dragging themselves forward, scanning ahead for the summit of the col. It came in the form of a roundabout at the top of the main street in Pedrafita. All roads led down - except one, ours! The granny rings groaned on for another 5km to the mountain top village of O Cebreiro.
Ian has cycled with the West Surrey intermittently throughout his life, so there are many in our group who are thrilled with his success in this spectacular venture. In the previous issue we followed him into the Pyrenees and up to his first rest day. He now tackles the Alps and then takes us to the end in Paris. - Editor
A number of long transition stages across the sweltering southlands of France followed. Here the temperature rises to over 40 degrees and the terrain offers no shade or respite from the beating sun. There are very few waymarks or notable sights to see and we still don’t know how we made it across these stages - they appear somewhat of a blur now, only a few weeks afterwards - we simply battled, knowing that we had to get to cooler climes soon. The only problem was that with these cooler climes came big climbs - the Alps. It was in this region that Ian’s parents Peter and Liz took over from Team Kate.
The Alps are a different beast to the Pyrenees - the climbs are not as steep but they go on for miles, and miles, and miles. The average length of the big climbs in the Pyrenees had been about 14km, in the Alps this was about 21km. This meant going upwards for about 2 hours - sometimes 3 hours. I have never known such a mental challenge as this.
To pootle along on the flat for three hours without stopping is no problem - you look about, you chat, you drink, you think. To grind uphill for three hours without stopping is a different prospect altogether. You struggle to breathe, your legs turn over so slowly that you can see the spokes rotating in your front wheel as your head drops downwards as you put in the effort to keep the bike moving forward. The kilometre markers pass by at such infrequent intervals you think someone has stolen them (sometimes they have!) All you want to do is stop, but pride won’t let you - for many cyclists you haven’t climbed a mountain unless you’ve done it non-stop.
We climbed out of France into Italy over the 2,744m Col d’Agnel. It was in Italy we were treated to our second rest day which was spent with Malcolm and Steph, a couple who had contacted Ian through the Bristol Evening Post and offered us accommodation. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time and it was with some reluctance that we set off again to climb back into France over the highest road pass in Europe, the Cime de la Bonette-Restefond (2,802m). This is over twice the height of Ben Nevis and the air starts to get thin at that height! What a silly thing to do on your holiday, eh?
Stage 17 was the day of reckoning for us and would decide whether we could finish this mammoth undertaking. 210km from the town of Embrun in the heart of the Alpine valleys to the summit of Alpe d’Huez, one of the most feared climbs of the Tour. This is where the Tour is frequently won or lost for the professionals and the site of many famous Tour moments, including Lance Armstrong’s “look” at Jan Ullrich before destroying the field in 2001 to win his then 3rd of 7 consecutive Tours.
Once again leaving before dawn, we barely spoke as we suffered along the valley floor as the sun gradually crested the high mountains and began to warm the valleys. We were suffering emotionally and physically and we both wondered how we would cope. We had already cycled over 1600 miles with only two days off in 17. On we went, slowly climbing the Col du Lautaret and the famous Col du Galibier which tops out at 2,645m getting steeper all the way to the top - this is the most evil way to build a mountain road! The only thing keeping us going at this point when our legs were feeling weak and powerless was the thought of those we were doing this for. It sounds like a cliché, but believe us when we say it. The sound of Matt shouting and grunting to himself to keep going was a vocalisation of this.
The highlight of the descent saw us overtake a Porsche (we are that quick!) before a lunch stop in the valley floor before the second climb of the day over the 31km long Col de la Croix de Fer at 2,067m. The heat was horrendous and the climb went on for ever. Ian was overheating to such an extent he was pouring water over himself to keep himself cool. As we each found a “comfortable” rhythm, the distance between us grew until we could no longer see each other. On and on it went, snaking along rock-walled hairpins until Ian dragged himself over the top to find Matt half dead at the side of the road! The gaggle of cyclists at the top was incredible. So many out to conquer one of the famous climbs of the Alps.
We didn’t meet anyone planning to ride three in a day though!
And so only one more climb to go. With almost nothing left in the tank at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez and following a descent involving some nasty short climbs, we stopped to refuel and replenish water supplies. Carlos Sastre climbed Alpe d’Huez in 39 minutes this year and won the Tour as a result of his efforts. Rounding the first corner and hitting the 11% gradient we knew we would not be challenging this time! On and on and on we struggled, barely being able to focus. Each of us was in our own little world, separated by a margin of several minutes, barely noticing Liz and Peter at the side of the road cheering us on.
Ian says that “As I rode to the finish line I saw Matt and my parents waiting and I was spurred on to sprint the last few metres.” It really was a staggering feeling that words struggle to convey. We had completed the toughest day of cycling in our lives! We knew we could complete the Tour now!
The remaining four days passed by with Ian succumbing to some heatstroke from the efforts of the mammoth Stage 17. He couldn’t eat anything, but this close to the end there was no way he was stopping. So with barely any nutrition inside him he carried on going until his body decided: “OK, you win, I’ll let you eat something!” The power of mind over matter is quite phenomenal. At home, you’d stay in bed feeling sorry for yourself - but we had set out to do this, and do it we would!
So to Paris and the dénouement to our Tour de France.
From cold dark winter nights spent on the turbo trainer in our respective flats, to the Brecon Beacons, the Southern Uplands of Scotland, the Cotswolds, the Campsies and Majorca; on to Brest, through the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and the Alps and now, after 2,200 miles (and another 3,300 miles in training) we were riding through the Foret de Meudon and catching our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.
Again, it is a feeling you can’t replicate in words - I constantly find myself coming up short - it was simply the most fantastic moment. Sheer unadulterated joy. And as we rode up the Champs Elysees we realised our dream. All our support teams were there - and some extra family friends! We cracked open champagne on the finish line in front of the Arc de Triomphe with people crowding round wanting to have their photos taken with us! The smiles in the photos don’t convey the pride, the sense of achievement and the incredulity of having achieved what we had achieved. Even several weeks after finishing, I still can’t quite believe that we have cycled the Tour de France.
We recorded all our times, speeds, distances for the ride, 3500km in 145 hours of pedalling - but really they are inconsequential - we have ridden the greatest bike race in the world and we have raised money for two fantastic charities, CLIC Sargent and Macmillan Cancer Support.
And we have realised a dream. The question now is: What next?
IN MY role as group secretary I occasionally receive emails, typically from companies advertising a service (e.g. We run cycling holidays in X. Would any of your members be interested?) that might be of interest to some members. We are not in the business of providing free advertising in the magazine or on our website but it would be a pity if there were indeed people potentially interested and these emails were getting no further than me.
If you would like me to forward such emails to you, please let me know. Note that it is an “all or nothing” decision on your part. It is not practical for me to keep track of who wants to receive what sort of email.
After several years of sterling service Tim Bar will be stepping down as organiser of the Tour of the Hills after this year’s event. The Tour of the Hills is the club’s flagship event and we make a useful profit from running it. It’s therefore essential that we find a replacement for Tim. He and other former organisers are willing to give his successor every assistance, so please contact a committee member if you would be willing to take on this role.
I LIKE to think the best way of introducing newcomers to the many delights of our group is through what you are reading right now, our magazine. But sometimes I think I am the only one who requests newcomers to provide their names and addresses with, if they are willing, £4 for an annual subscription to the mag. I then remit to the magazine distributor, Phil Hamilton. All done and dusted with maximum speed and not much effort. Everybody happy.
You can do the same. In all of our rides in our various sections and special events, new riders are eager to learn all about us, as we did when we started with the group. I am sure they appreciate a friendly approach and they are usually more than willing to hand over their contact details and the princely sum of £4. It is all symptomatic of a willingness to belong. - Geoff Smith, Editor
A cool start gave way to bright sunshine by mid-morning, and many riders shed layers at the Kirdford control, where biscuits and squash were in good supply.
With only 26 entrants, of whom 24 completed the course within the prescribed 5 hours, I am left wondering if the event has “had its day”. If you have any ideas to increase the popularity please let me, or a committee member, know.
The following riders qualified for DATC points:
|A Byrne (Ms)||D Gadd||J Gillbe||P Hackman|
|P Hampson||A Holbrook||C Jeggo||B Merryfield|
|C Moore (Ms)||J Morris||L Palethorpe (Ms)||C Richardson|
|B Ross||H Schiller||C Shales||P Sheamur|
|R Shore (Ms)||R Signore||G Smith (Jnr)||J Spence (Ms)|
|R Taylor||A Twiggs||A Warren (Ms)||D Wood|
All West Surrey participants and helpers will be awarded the relevant club points.
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 8 December 2009.