LEL 2017 Day 1.

There are no winners…but instead, everyone is a winner.

Audax is not a race. Some guys and girls ride a bit faster and some are better organised…the challenge is to get to the finish within the time limit.

Having said that, as our large group blazed a trail northwards beyond the gravitational pull of the M25, through Roydon, Hunsdon, Much Hadham and Puckeridge…aided by a strong tailwind and the last decent sunshine we would see for a few days…The Wattmeister struggled to restrain himself from hubristic urges to push on.

Two guys from Leeds Mercury were doing a sterling job of towing our peloton towards the first control point at St.Ives…105 kms into the ride.

In these situations, it is only fair to contribute, so Alex, TW and Ben did their turns from Shepreth to beyond Haslingfield which included the first serious little climb of Chapel Hill…we were rewarded with a welcome  ‘thank you’ from one of the Leeds riders before a bit group of Spanish riders….clad in orange lycra… injected some spicy ‘pimento’ into proceedings…chopping us up into fragments of what was once a whole meandering collective.

We regrouped, and arrived in St. Ives control for food, drink and mini debrief.

The next leg of 67 kms passed in a blur. Still aided by the benign zephyr, our threesome stomped through Raveley and Upwood before dropping down to the pancake flat, dead straight arrow of a road to Crowland via Whittlesey and Thorney.

Exhilarating, exuberant and exultant…the only real disappointment was that we were going so fast that we couldn’t engineer a visit to the fantastic Not Just Café in Whittlesey. If you ever find yourself with (daytime) hunger pangs in this part of the Fens, then give it a try.

After Crowland, which for some reason has beguiled The Wattmeister….the old fool….the route uses Welland Bank and Cradge Bank to find a back way into Spalding, control town number 2 at 180kms.

After a couple of bowls of delicious lentil stew, (or maybe it was chicken curry, or maybe it was both), a few cups of tea, a delicate readjustment of the nether regions and seeing to a plethora of other minor necessities, like remembering to reset the Garmin, change the route sheet, put on armwarmers etc. etc., the intrepid trio set off for control number 3, at Louth, some 83 kms distant in north east Lincolnshire.

Daylight surrendered its tenancy to dusk as we romped through Pinchbeck, Gosberton, Kirton, Frampton Fen and Gypsey Bridge.  Catching and then joined by two young lads…Lou? and A. N. Other….they injected even more pace on the rollicking road to Mareham le Fen….which signalled the end of 100kms of unbroken contourless terrain.

At this point, 25 kms from Louth, it was clear that we had missed a mighty rainstorm. Deep puddles and running water reflected the slate grey sky. We passed several riders in full rain gear. After Horncastle, where, in ordinary circumstances, The Wattmeister would have stopped for a pizza…a chinese…and a kebab, we followed Green Lane to Hemingby….I mention it in particular as its course is dead straight, up a gentle hill, and it transports you painlessly into the Lincolnshire Wolds…a bucolic paradise of tiny lanes, rolling hills and quaint villages like Raithby, Scamblesby and Cawkwell. If I am reincarnated as a hobbit…then this will be my domain.

After dispatching the steep slopes of Red Hill….(but what a lie! it nearly unseated The Wattmeister!)…we arrived at Louth at 10.45 p.m…245 kms in 9.75 hours for a shower, change of kit, feed, 4 hours sleep, feed and move on at 5.30 a.m….except sleep was hard to come by what with all the farting and snoring….

for which The Wattmeister can only apologise.

 

 

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London-Edinburgh-London 2017…setting the scene

LEL 2017 can only take place due to the phenomenal efforts of the organisers and volunteers who make it happen. To them, we the riders, are indebted for their time, patience and support. Thank you one and all.

The Muswell Hill trio comprised Saville Row Alex, Baking Ben and The Wattmeister. Our combined weight was 244 kgs including filled water bottles.

Alex 68kgs plus bike/luggage 15kgs…..Ben 52 kgs plus FIXED WHEEL bike/luggage 13kgs….The Wattmeister 80kgs plus bike/luggage 16 kgs.

Alex rode a steel Casati road bike, TW and Ben opted for bikes mades from titanium tubing.

We all three opted for at least a front hub dynamo lighting system….Ben also had a rear light wired to the front hub….this set up is slightly heavier but offers exceptional reliability. Alex and TW chose to run battery operated rear lights. In addition, we all ran a form of rechargeable and/or battery operated front light of at least 300 lumens to illuminate dark narrow lanes in complete safety, and finally, we attached headtorches to our helmets in case of emergencies.

For navigation, Ben and The Wattmeister preferred a laminated series of route sheets, with Alex and TW also making use of a Garmin 810 with downloaded GPX files.

Our kit contained spare inner tubes, multi-tools, batteries, portable charging packs, spare clothing as necessary, food, (spare reading glasses for The Wattmeister), suncream and bum cream and legal medicines such as paracetomol and ibuprofen gel.

1443 riders were taking part. The first group left at 05:00 a.m and the last batch were due to go at 16:00 p.m

We departed from Loughton at 13:00 p.m on Sunday 30th July with 1440 kms/890 miles in front of us….our closing time back in Loughton was Friday, 4th August at 09:40 a.m….just under 5 days in total.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

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It’s Not About the Bike

Thursday 3rd August.

It is about 8 in the morning. The rolling hills of north west Lincolnshire…yes, hills…have been replaced by the broad expanse of the Fens for which the county is best known.

The landscape offers no cover from an unrelenting headwind.

I am a human parachute, but not one sewn from the finest silk, more like offcuts sellotaped together…. a mish mash of unravelling thoughts and worn body parts.

I don’t know it at this time, but in 40 kilometres everything has to come together to get me out of bother.

Logic, charm, patience, skill, memory, communication….they don’t always flow at the best of times.

Pop! A rear spoke snaps in Bunker Hill, near New York, Lincolnshire. Bunker ‘Flipping’ Hill…New York…even the road signs are taking the piss.

Dismounting, I tape the loose spoke safely out of the way with electrical tape (what planning!) and adjust surrounding spokes using the spoke key on the brilliant Topeak Hexus multi-tool so that the wheel runs relatively straight.

Should get me to Spalding…I have a spare, just need the right tools. My God it is windy, a struggle to hold 16 kms per hour. The parachute has  metamorphosed into a dried out husk. Must make a quick stop at the convenience store in Gypsey Bridge for nourishment.

Sitting on the wall, smashing jelly beans, coffee and crisps into the raging furnace, a big group cycles past. I have taken my shoes off! Need to get into this group. It’s an opportunity to take some cover but requires a desperate chase to get on. The wind is my enemy, but the crossroads at Langrick are my friend….I hide in the peloton.

We take turns on the front for 15 kms and catch a group of strong Germans…one guy is towing the whole peloton into the hooley….what a superstar. At the control I thank him profusely…he looks bemused.

The mechanic is just leaving the control…he has packed up his tools. Hard luck for me but he is probably as whacked as I am. But, another wonderful volunteer, Vince,  has turned up with a comprehensive toolset. I need a chainwhip and cassette lockring tool…YES! he has them….but he is also tired and a bit tetchy and dealing with someone else….and, he has no spanner big enough to turn the lockring tool….but, the chainwhip handle is fitted with exactly the right size hex fitting. I just cannot use both ends at the same time!

I sit on the floor, deflated, aware that something can be done if only I had the wit to think of it. I have the spoke and 99% of the tools, but my brain is fried….Vince softens….he sees my predicament….and suggests that I stick a screwdriver in the back of the cassette to hold it firm instead of using the chainwhip, (while I untighten the lockring with my teeth….no, that last bit really didn’t happen)…. and use the chainwhip handle to loosen the lockring.

Vince, thank you…out of the mental maelstrom we found a solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Respecting the Jersey

There has been much debate over recent ‘transgressions’ in the pro peloton. Who can forget Tom Dumoulin’s unfortunate episode in the Giro d’Italia? He needed a shit and it looked like his rivals took advantage of the situation by riding off with the toilet paper.

Put yourself in Tom’s Sidi shoes (before the event). Imagine descending the mighty Stelvio at 80 kmph on a bike, wearing the leader’s pink jersey, surrounded by TV cameras whilst managing a turtlehead.

How was he going to wipe his bum? Not on his jersey, that would be disrespecting the maglia rosa……no, The Wattmeister can reveal that his mitts paid the ultimate price…..it is OK to disrespect mitts.

Fast forward to the frenzy of last Sunday’s Stage 9 of the Tour de France. On the final climb of Mont du Chat…..a mountain that the legendary Eddy Merckx declared was the hardest he had ever ridden in a Grand Tour….yellow jersey wearer Chris Froome raised his arm for assistance from the SKY team car. He wasn’t looking for a push but he may have needed toilet paper….who knows?

Anyway, precisely 0.1 second after his arm was raised, Fabio Aru decided that this would be a good moment to attack. Aru literally passed under the outstretched armpit of the leader, and, having recently had a nose operation to improve his breathing, was in a great position to endorse Froome’s choice of anti-perspirant deodorant.

For the readers of this blog who do not understand cycling etiquette, this is NOT the done thing. It is more important to respect the leader’s jersey than it is to win the race…this is not a joke.

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Muswell Hill Peloton Q&A

Doc is one of MHP’s founding fathers. His palmarés is extensive having participated in some of the world’s most gruelling cycle sportives and lived to tell the tale in his own inimitable style.

Cycling is not his only forte, he was voted Muswell Hill Peloton’s funniest man in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

All this has been achieved around a busy professional life which is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the nation.

1. What is your greatest achievement on a bike?

Riding without stabilisers. (June 1st 2017).

2What is your favourite everyday word?

Pneumonoultramyscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. 

3. As a pulmonary consultant, have you ever administered Triamcinolone to combat asthma?

No comment.

A job with Team Sky beckons.

4.Black pudding or bubble and squeak?

Bubble and squeak.  

5. What would be your choice of alternative career?

Own a jazz club.

6. Where and when were you fastest?

Riding away from a pack of wild dogs in the desert in a peasoup fog.

7. Have you ever used Google to make a diagnosis?

I prefer Wikipedia.

8. What is your favourite saying….clue…(in the face of others’ adversity) ?

Always help a friend in need.

Not the immortal, “…it’s every man for himself…”?  

Overheard on the road to the Stelvio … June 2nd 2013.

9. Whose turn is it to pay for coffee, Doc’s or The Wattmeister’s?

Trick question…..it is always Doc’s turn.

10. Has Strava had an influence on your cycling?

Yes, it is great, but I have heard that it can become an obsession with men of a certain age Wattmeister.  

Touché, legend!

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The Swank of the Crank

“Look at my shiny teeth”, announced The Big Ring to no one in particular, “all 53 of them…I’m so strong”.

The Little Ring let out a barely audible creak. He was bolted to The Big Ring, on the inside, always in the shadow of his bigger colleague…a captive audience…and had heard it all before.

“There’s my reflection in The Shard”, screamed The Big Ring, “I’m so fast you can barely see me!”

The Wattmeister pedalled on, the rumbling of his stomach drowning out the swank of the crank. His thoughts focussed on a Full English Breakfast.

“Yeah little brother, we’re in Regents Park. I’ll show them! I’m so very strong. I can catch anybody!”, ranted The Big Ring.  “Give me The Power Wattmeister!”

Round and round went The Big Ring and The Little Ring, linked together in a spinning dervish.

“I’m the Greatest, the Strongest, the Fastest, why are you even here?” asked The Big Ring of his little brother, “you’ve only got 39 teeth, and they ain’t even shiny, they National Health style amalgam teeth. Lucky no one can see them!”

The Little Ring sighed. It was the same story every week. The Big Ring lacked emotional intelligence. Like Donald Trump, he blustered, boasted, threatened and ridiculed his partner. Big Ring would have sacked Little Ring if he could just undo those chainring bolts.

But he always forgot one thing.

As the road climbs sharply up Swain’s Lane, The Wattmeister engages with Little Ring….

“You’ve gone very quiet big brother. Where’s all your shiny teeth now? They’re all covered in lube and shit. Eat this slope Big Ring….why don’t you?”

What goes around, comes around.

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Muswell Hill Peloton Q&A.

Our first interview is with the rider formerly known as Sloe (sic) Bethan. Fiercely proud of her Welsh heritage, she has cycled to a high level in international events (one time over 1300 metres),  and wears her Muswell Hill Peloton kit with great honour.

1. Where is your favourite ride?

Anywhere outside of London as long as the hills are not too steep.

2. What do you carry in your saddlebag?

Air canisters, lifeline CNC C02 inflator, inner tube, haribo, a multitool and A REAR MECH HANGER ……(haribo….must look that up).

3. Ride a tandem….front or back?

Front.

4. Which professional or amateur rider, past or present, do you most admire?

That is easy, The Wattmeister of course!

5. If you could ride one pro race, which would you choose?

Amstel Gold Race Tour 240km (I’ve heard there is a free bottle of Amstel beer at every food station, plus it is in the Netherlands and there are no hills….. right?) Haha…is this a joke? Why haven’t I done it?

6. Take the wind or sit in the wheels?

Sit in the wheels.

7. Full English Breakfast or a bowl of muesli?

Muesli (unless I get taken out for breakfast, than a full english with a bucks fizz or two).

Get under 3 minutes on Muswell Hill and it’s yours!

8. Toast or fried bread?

Toast.

9. Is Doctor Who clean?

Dr Who is squeaky clean, although if he was to start cycling he would probably succumb to hard core prescription drugs:  beconase and lemsip day tablets.

Expect a visit from Ukad, Bethan.

10. Has Strava changed your life?

YES! “If its not on Strava it didn’t happen”.

Many thanks to Bethan for answering these probing questions and well done for replying correctly to trick question number 4.

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Three Score Update

A slew of riders from Muswell Hill Peloton are careering towards their 60th birthday celebrations. Old Grey Socks, Dick the Miller, Faustino S, Iron Mike, The Wattmeister and Big Mig will all be visiting “treble top” within the next eighteen months.

Outwardly, there are no signs of deterioration. Old Grey Socks still resembles a young Tony Curtis, (and sprints like an old Austin Marina)…….Dick the Miller continues to raise the age group bar in Ironman events, and has the tattoos to prove it…….Faustino S was politely asked NOT to enter the Giro D’Italia this year lest he embarrass the professionals with his climbing abilities…… Iron Mike’s lungs and legs are the bellows and anvil of the peloton ….The Wattmeister continues to talk a good ride…..and Big Mig’s comeback from a broken collar bone has kept the trolls busy on Twitter.

A number of other colleagues are chasing hard in the over 55s age group.

Pistol Pete, always able and willing to bite the golden bullet of pain….The Wizard, whose power output over two hours can illuminate a small town in Pembrokeshire…..Killer Kay, voted the best legs in Muswell Hill, (special award from Barker’s Pet Shop).

In order to celebrate the SIX O milestone, MHP will be organising a week long trip in June 2018 with the intention of climbing the magnificent Grand Colombier 4 times in one day, and, hopefully energised by this experience, continuing on to Bedoin in order to join the club of  the Madmen and women of Ventoux by ascending the Giant of Provence three times in one 24 hour period.

colombier

This seems a fitting challenge for the mature and resolute rouleurs of the MHP.

In addition, they will all receive their telegram

from

The Wattmeister

 

 

 

 

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Early Morning in the Gym

Spring is in the air. Fragrant strains of lilac, clematis and belle etoile tease the olfactory senses.

The mornings are light once again.

Resisting the temptation to ride to the exclusion of all other activities, The Wattmeister complements his frequent two wheeled outings with visits to the local gym in the company of Bullethead, Kap, Caveman and Grendel.

Bullethead warms up on the Wattbike. He rides it like a garbage truck crushing its load. It is difficult not to feel deeply sorry for the Wattbike.

Meanwhile, lean Kap sashays over to the BodyMax cable pull machine, handcuffing and ankle-cuffing himself to the structure as part of  a provocative and bizarre full body workout accompanied by A capella sound effects.

Caveman begins his workout with 100 burpees and star jumps. This is just a warm-up. Then, like Hercules, he proceeds to heft unimaginable weights until exhaustion sets in…..exhaustion from the observer’s  perspective.

Grendel arrives a bit later. It is less of an arrival and more of a claiming of territory. She growls at The Wattmeister, who obediently diverts his gaze and makes way for her on the Smith machine which spontaneously shudders as she marches towards it.

Skinny Wattmeister gazes at himself in the mirror, (a proper workout). In comparison to his muscular colleagues, he lifts weights like a weak baby kitten.

As he enters the weights room, leaving behind the shell of a Wattbike, Bullethead displaces air like a blue whale displaces water in a paddling pool.

Caveman and Kap acknowledge him with primal grunts between repetitions while Grendel flexes her sternocleidomastoids in the revisionist flirtatious manner of a peacock.

They all ignore The Wattmeister. If there was sand, they would kick it in his face.

 

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Tim’s Template

A bit of context.

Back in 2002 when The Wattmeister was a fledgling long distance cyclist….a raw novice, barely out of the plimsolls and scarf school of sartorial elegance, he entered his second 400 kms audax. Some lessons had been learned from his first experience over the distance in 2001, but, as the cliché goes, we never stop learning.

It was about 6 o’clock in the morning and about 250 kms into the ride. The Wattmeister was half-heartedly grovelling his lonely way up a steep little hill somewhere near Liphook in East Hampshire. There was still 30 kms to ride until the next audax control in Ewhurst and  his rumbling stomach boomed out a scratchy accompaniment to the dawn chorus.

His spirits needed a lift. Along came salvation in the form of experienced audaxers Tim and Pauline Wainwright. He jumped in their slipstream and unashamedly took a tow for the best part of 90 minutes. Tim and Pauline’s navigation was faultless, the pace was just perfect, and the company was reassuring in every way.

Tim was an audax stalwart. His article in the audax quarterly magazine Arrivé on how to construct a riding plan for the 2003 edition of 1200kms Paris-Brest-Paris randonnée gave an insight into the character of the man. It was full of good advice imbued with common sense and punctuated with positive encouragement for the inexperienced. The Wattmeister made good use of this most sound of templates.

Alas, Tim died on March 1st. By all accounts he was riding his bicycle. Both he and Pauline inspired me to do much more than I ever thought I could. RIP and thank you Tim.

 

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The Personal Stylist

It happened all of a sudden. The Wattmeister had taken great care to balance the weight of the daily supplies between two Sainsbury’s ‘bags for life’. 

The negotiations regarding the purchase of these bags were as complicated and protracted as the Brexit process. The crux of the deal revolved around the central questions of :

…. bags for whose life?

The life of the bag? The life of the bag buyer? The life of Sainsbury’s?

Never has more thought gone into spending 2 shillings. two bob or a florin, (10 pence to you youngsters).

Anyway, we have gone off course. TW was strolling down Dukes Avenue in Muswell Hill, executing alternate bicep curls with aforementioned shopping bags whilst replaying in his mind Saturday morning’s magnificent ‘A’ group sprint victory.

Distracted and still euphoric, he spied  what appeared to be an elderly cyclist struggling up the hill towards him. As the pale figure came ever closer, he realised that it was none other than Pistol Pete on his way home from work.

Now, in real life Pistol has a similar physique to Bernard Hinault, The Badger, 5 times winner of the Tour de France. That is to say broad shouldered, deep chested…..reminiscent of an old fashioned rugby union fly half.

However, as he approached, his silver Castelli windproof rain jacket had the peculiar effect of ageing him, making him seem slight of build. Some might think that this is ‘a good thing’, however, knowing Pistol’s robust physical and mental condition,  the Wattmeister felt cheated that he hadn’t immediately recognised the great man known also as….Beast of Becherel .

And so, after first telling Pistol about Saturday’s victory in great detail ,the idea was born to reinvent himself as a Personal Stylist for the discerning cyclist.

Never again be mistaken for an old dude, or dude-ess. The Wattmeister will help you to choose colours and fabrics to suit your build, physique, complexion and riding style.

Ride your bike with complete confidence that you look the part and the bike looks the part. Never again be ashamed to catch your reflection in those lovely mirrored buildings up the West End.

Here is an example of what to avoid.

20160524_075303

 

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The Comeback….part 2

Nowadays it is quite a task to make a booking with the GP. Decades ago, in the tupperware party era, before amphetamines and alcohol had been replaced in the peloton by triamcinolone and EPO, the process seemed much easier.

On this occasion, prior to the consultation, The Wattmeister was required to undergo a chest x-ray and a blood test to check for ‘abnormalities’. Hah! Due to the early hour of the appointment, he had had to forgo his normal breakfast of Kenalog’s* shredded wheat.

A few nervous edgy days passed before the test results arrived in the GP’s possession. All the while, TW trained at a very low level, under the radar, nay, practically underground. When revealed, the results were good, even good enough to load onto Strava. Kidney function, prostate PSA, red blood cell, white blood cell and cholesterol figures all proved to be ‘outstanding ‘, (TW’s description, not the doctor’s).

“Just to be sure, take this spray”, suggested the doctor, writing a prescription on brown paper packaging, “it has a steroid component which will alleviate your symptoms, help you to lose weight, gain lean muscle and will almost certainly assist you in the Regents Park sprint.”

“But is it race legal doc? I have only ever taken pan y agua….I don’t want to  cheat! (Get caught).”

“That’s what they all say! It most certainly is. I will write you a therapeutic use exemption** certificate which allows you to race on drugs which are normally banned in competition”, he explained.

In less than 48 hours, TW had stopped coughing, lost 2 kgs of fat and was posting times on the Wattbike that Iron Mike could only dream of. What kind of magic was this?

Two weeks later, and after 10 weeks in the wilderness, the comeback was completed with a hard fought sprint victory over The Lion King, Long Tom, Judge, Cup-a-Soup, Iron Mike and The Man from Iceland.

Back at the coffee shop, the whispers were shriller than ever, but the language was different….lean, vascular, stoked, impassioned. How could such improvement be wrought in such a short space of time?

In his victory speech to the assembled crowd outside the Muswell Hill branch of Planet Organic, (Speakers’ Corner of the North), The Wattmeister proclaimed:

“Get real folks, there’s no such thing as a fairytale.”

  • *     Kenalog….trade name for an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid.
  • **   Acronym TUE.

 

 

 

 

 

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