Monday, 26 October 2015

Don't Call It a Comeback

Well it’s a long road back to being on a bike after a crash like the one I had, and there have been a lot of hospital appointments and physio exercises. The end isn’t her yet but I’ve been back on bikes and somehow assume you’d like to know about it.

For months the only bike I’d been able to ride was the commuter, fitted to the turbo and with increasing difficulty staying motivated to ride, no matter how many Netflix shows I tried to get into. Eventually the time came to get out in the real world again and with considerable help to load and unload the car and, it turned out, to carry my bag I headed for the woods.

It wasn’t a long or tough ride but it put me back on a bike and back in the woods:

The ride left me with mixed feelings. I’d not been able to carry a rucksack on my damaged shoulder, which would still limit my adventures, but I had ridden and broadly been able to do so with no pain. There was work to do on the strength in my shoulder and any impacts were a teeth-gritting experience, but it was a start.

I followed this up with starting to ride to work again. This was nerve-wracking as it involved the same route that I’d crashed on, and I can’t remember ever being so scared riding the streets of London. However, the week went on and my shoulder strengthened up noticeably, while I continued to be unable to wear my usual bag, I invested in a courier-style one to save the tender bits but let me carry my work stuff.

A week in to riding I took the next step, this time to the local BMX track to see how everything would stand up to a bit more dynamic riding. Keeping the wheels on the ground I was able to ride the loop and felt like the extra shoulder movement had done no harm, and was probably even helping to build strength and flexibility.

No records were broken but progress was distinctly made. I followed it with another week of riding to work, punctuated by eminently sensible breaks when after-work drinking went over a level that I was comfortable with. I made it to the weekend and repeated the BMX ride, going a little bigger and faster.

No videos here as I was too scared of the kids throwing fireworks.

So, that brings us up to date, apart from today’s ride. I headed back to Swinley with the Process to see how I got on on a rougher ride. I’m pleased to say I rode it all, with some pain through the braking bumps and impacts, and in no sort of impressive time, but it was definitely doable. I still can’t wear the bag, but I feel like I’m 80% towards being back. This good news and makes me broadly happy. The target I set myself of riding Bike Park Wales in mid November still looks achievable.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Sunday Funday

As is now becoming traditional the last two road races that we’re interested in before the Worlds both ended on Sunday.

The Tour of Britain has been a fairly routine affair. There have been brave rides and the sprints on stages one and seven were so close, first between Viviani and Cavebndish and then between Greipel and Viviani, to require serious studying of the photo finish. By the time the race reached London on Sunday the GC was all but decided as Edvald Boassen Hagen had quietly finished so consistently that he was firmly in the yellow jersey. The London course was a tight loop in the centre, taking in many of the postcard highlights and giving a race that everyone expected.

An eight man break went out, including the Tinkoff-Saxo rider Sagan (but not THAT Sagan, confusingly). This dangled about 20 seconds off the front but in the later laps the combined effort of MTN Qubeka, Sky, Lotto-Soudal and eventually Wiggins, brought it in in the penultimate lap. This set up the predictable sprint between the remaining big sprint names. With Cavendish watching from home after hitting a parked car in previous days it was a duel between Viviani and Greipel.

Greipel crossed the line first but was deemed to have deviated from his line and the win was awarded to Viviani. Boasson Hagen took the Tour win making history by being the first rider to win it twice. He was ahead of Sky’s Woeter Poels and Owain Doull, expertly manoeuvred up to third by Team Wiggins and the highest placed Brit.

For those of you who like crashes, here is why Cavendish wasn’t contesting the sprint:

The Vuelta has been a much more exciting affair. Dogged by crashes early on and by the removal of favourites for one reason or another it became an opportunity for the lesser known parts of the Peloton. This resulted in a fascinating battle between Dutch rider Dumoulin who showed unusual form in the climbs, and more established GC contender Fabio Aru. The race went down to the last day of serious competition on Saturday where Aru closed a 6 second deficit then Dumoulin had opened in a time trial on Friday to all but guarantee the win in Madrid.

Fascinating as that was I do love a side story and here was an excellent one about a bike that appears to have been stolen from Orica Green-Edge.

On that note, there’s this.

As I write there should also be some good footage on the way from the Atherton’s Red Bull Hardline event that was going off over the weekend. It looks like Ruaridh Cunningham took the win for what it’s worth in this jam-style race, with Gee breakinghis bike again despite looking super smooth. Until we get the official video here’s some Vital MTB jumps.

Big Jumps, Bigger Cases - The Learning Curve at Red Bull Hardline - More Mountain Bike Videos


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Compatibility Problems

Evidently I am a little bored and entertaining myself by getting the bikes up to speed ready for when I’m allowed and able to ride again.

Compatibility across Shimano products had been my friend a week ago, but let me down this weekend as I discovered that my hope to simply swap in a new chainring to the hardtail was scuppered by a difference in bolt-hole placement between the worn out Deore Hollowtech ring coming off, and the Alivio Hollowtech II one I intended to put on.

Undeterred and with a slight wobble in the bottom bracket anyway I carried on, pulled the cranks and removed the bottom bracket. I find removing these parts of a bike strangely satisfying, especially when I reap the rewards of my previous sense. Last time I did this on this bike I’d had no end of trouble removing a seized bottom bracket, requiring serious leverage and bolts to remove it. When I fitted the new parts I’d been very diligent about greasing everything and it paid off this weekend as everything came off the bike beautifully.

The bike is ready for the new parts I ordered when they arrive and another bike ready to be ridden as soon as I am.


Monday, 7 September 2015

The World of Racing

We are rapidly approaching the end of the cycling season and that actually means packed weekends as the last events are levered into the calendar.

This weekend that meant more Vuelta action, the start of the Tour of Britain and the Mountain bike World Champs.

The Spanish Tour has developed into something of a 2014 Tour de France as a large chunk of favourites have gone. Nibali was disqualified for taking a tow from a car Sagan left after being hit by a motorbike, and at the end of last week Froome crashed into a roadside barrier and broke his foot. He finished the stage but was clearly unable to walk on the foot and also went home. Quintana is apparently suffering from illness and is decidedly not figuring. The race is being fought out by the likes of Aru and the Spanish threat of Rodriguez and Valverde, with Dumoulin the surprise high finisher. It’s an interesting and very hard race in this edition. On Saturday Quintana finally looked good again, and Dumoulin tried to limit losses to what he can gain back through his stronger time trialling. Sunday saw more of a recovered Quintana and a climbers contest on a steep finish with Purito getting the win ahead of all the GC challengers. This puts Aru still in red but being seriously challenged.

In a similar part of the world Andorra hosted the MTB world champs. The story on Saturday was around established names in the cross country. The Men’s race was a predictable affair quickly establishing itself as a battle between Schurter and Absalon. Building on his strong season it was the Swiss rider who had the better day and took a tough win. The women’s race offered an intriguing win for Ferrand-Prévot who is now World Champion on mountain bike, cyclo-cross and on the road.

On Sunday it was the gravity riders who stepped up and there were British riders defending titles in both the men’s and women’s races. Manon Carpenter could only manage second, but it was no real surprise to see Rachel Atherton finish off her dominating season with the title. The men's race was a bit more open, an early good time was set by Michael Jones from Wales, and it was only in the last few riders that this got challenged. Minaar was the first to take the lead with a typically controlled ride, beating Syndicate team mate Josh Bryceland. The defining ride of the day would be from a delighted Loic Bruni who took his first international win as Brosnan, Gwin and Atherton crashed on the hill. Bruni has been threatening to step up to winning, and chose the biggest single race in the calendar to do it.

The Tour of Britain started it’s thoroughly northern affair in Anglesea with a sprinters stage. It shows the status of the race that the result was a photo finish between three of the world's best, with Viviani taking it by centimetres from Cavendish and in front of Greipel.


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Armchair Cyclist

From my sofa where I sat injured for weeks this summer I was at least able to appreciate some of the cycling that was going on elsewhere.

Most obviously for every summer was the Tour de France. The start coincided with my crash so that my routine could include watching the live coverage each day, and I was treated to one of the best races I can remember. It had everything from rising stars to riders coming of age (in particular Geraint Thomas) and a real fight for the race. It wasn’t even completely decided as they took on the Alpe d’Huez on stage 20 and the racing would go to the line as Quintana fought to try to overcome the gap that hindsight may well have put down to inattentivness in the first, flat, week.

In Grand Tour terms we’re now well into the last of the season and the Vuelta a Espana will pick up today after the first rest day and smash straight into a brutal stage that should really sort the pack. Perhaps here we’ll see if Froome can tempo ride towards a double, or if it’ll go on as an exciting race defined by new faces and crashes. De Moulin is in red for now with a strong lead, but he is not known as a climber. At least everyone seems to have forgiven or forgotten the neutralised first TTT stage that appeared to have been planned to ride on the beach.

Follow the Vuelta highlights on ITV4 at 7pm each night and also look forward to the Tour of Britain, which starts on Sunday and is now maturing into a race where it’s no surprise to see some of the biggest names in the game.

So plenty going on to keep this currently armchair cyclist going. Even if tomorrow’s National Cycle to Work Day will be a bit ironic in my head at least.