Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Cumbrian Cracker

The weather round here is a bit depressing, though nowhere near as bad as for those who've had their homes flooded. The dampness doesn't help when things clear out and frosty mornings return as everything is so wet that you get patches of ice here and there as Cath found out last week when she took a tumble on a bend near home.

This Sunday we headed over to the Lakes for the Cumbrian Cracker Sportive. This used to be known as the Christmas Cracker but bad weather (read snow) for a couple of winters led the organisers to move it slightly earlier in the year. Not that this guarantees good weather of course. As we drove over it was raining heavily and there were lots of short flooded sections of the A65 but by the time we got to Grasmere it was fine, if cold.

There was a large group from Skipton CC so we headed off together at about 9:45 apart from Cath who had set off a few minutes earlier. First up was Red Bank - as soon as we got to the steep bit I dropped to bottom gear and attempted to spin up it, OK until the 25% section when it became the usual grind. One of the group had a flat tyre at the top so after sorting that out we dropped down to Elterwater when someone else had a puncture! Fortunately this was the last of the mechanicals.

By the time we got through Coniston and were heading down the east side of the lake there were just three of us on the front and with the twisting roads soon lost sight of the others so after a bit of slowing down to see if they'd catch up, they didn't, we pressed on. The fast bit of the course is along the Holker Mosses and with a bit of teamwork we made good progress though by the time we got to Allithwaite and the climb up the hill there, my legs were feeling quite tired.

Cath was at the food stop in Cartmel when we arrived - she'd set off about twenty minutes before us - she was outside as the place was packed. By the time we got our food she was cold and ready to go. After about ten minutes the rest of the gang began to arrive in various small groups.

Getting cold ourselves we set off about ten minutes after Cath. The other two dropped me on the final part of the climb up to Bigland but I managed to pick them up on the descent and we remained together until just before the finish. We didn't catch up with Cath until Satterthwaite so she'd made good time. With just the pull out of Grizedale left we pressed on, got our photos taken and blasted down to Hawkshead. Shortly after this a determined group passed us so we jumped on to the back of them and blasted along the road towards Ambleside, we were doing over 20mph up the hills! 

All that was left was the small road round Loughrigg Terrace and the main road back to Grasmere. I got dropped here and it was only the speedy gang catching up after they'd had a stop that got me going again - though it was a bit of a cheat hanging on the back without doing any work. My final time wasn't brilliant - 4:33, slower than last year's 4:06 but we'd had the mechanicals so not too bad. Sat in the village hall with a cuppa I was just wondering where Cath was when she appeared in the meal queue, she'd not really lost that much time.

Once partially refreshed we headed back to the car and home.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Ice and Grit

It's been a quiet few weeks since the clocks went back, I suppose it's the start of the annual depression :-) 

The bearings and cones finally arrived for my wheels so everything now feels a bit smoother. I need to get hubs/rims, etc ordered so I can build my summer wheels but I'm still waiting for replacement gear and brake cables to arrive which is my next job. The current set have been on the bike since new - about 6000Km and are towards the end of their servicable life.

The weather plays a large part in what you can do at this time of year - it's usually either clear and cold or warm and damp. Last Sunday was a case in point as there were patches of ice on untreated roads so the club ride ended up on main roads (or at least well used B-roads). By the time we got back to Broughton, most of the group headed back to Skipton which left three of us to head down to Colne for a longer loop. Unfortunately for me, the other two were fast and it was a hard fifteen miles or so until I broke off and headed home.

This Sunday was clear but not as cold as the previous week and eleven of us set off up Wharfedale from Skipton. No point in going too quick at this time of year as you chill quicker than you generate heat, even with three layers on, so it was a steady 13mph or so up the dale. The climb out of Halton Gill is one of the steadier in the Dales - certainly it's no Park Rash or Fleet Moss - and after a break at the top for the two minute silence at 11am we dropped down to the cafe stop in Settle. Some needed to get back early so there were only seven left for the  back half of the ride through Rathmel and Wigglesworth to Gargrave which was somewhat quicker than the ride out. Then it was just the climb back home and give the bike a thorough clean: the bottom bracket had been clicking all day and it was filthy with road grime even though I've only done 500Km since fitting it. One of the downsides to winter riding I suppose.