We we’re recently asked by GoEuro to contribute to a feature they were writing on touring destinations on their website. It was an honour to contribute. Our contribution was the Camel Trail in Cornwall, an 18 mostly off-road (tarmac and gravel sections) flat route from Bodmin to Padstow on the coast. The other contributions are pretty cool too and well worth the short read.
Also GoEuro is a handy site, it is a travel search website that allows you to compare and combine flights, trains and buses throughout Europe. GoEuro allows travellers to search to and from any destination, including towns or villages, displaying the best possible combinations of transport on the basis of price, time and convenience, thus eliminating the need to visit multiple websites to plan an entire trip.
The guys at Simpson Magazine have released a nice collection of cycling kit. From socks to climbers jersey, the range is well thought out and features a beautiful collection of geometric patterns. The full range of kit with prices and technical information can be found here.
Chris Akrigg has released a new video, The Water Cycle. From the top of the Brecon Beacons to the coast, passing streams, rivers, waterfalls and reservoirs. One of which I recognized as I pitched up a tent there back 2011. As per usual, put the kettle on and grab a cuppa, I am sure Chris would approve. Providing its Yorkshire Tea..
Tour de France 2015 has seen Chris Froome enter an elite group of riders to win two yellow jerseys. The total amount of people to ever do this is 12. Not many. Makes me think if he can attain the entry to the more exclusive group of three wins. Whilst the physical effort is ridiculously hard, just look at the amount burgers they say a rider needs to keep going. Silly really should be pizza (252 burgers). It’s the psychological that is probably the harder element. From the fatigue to the taunts and unfortunately physical abuse.
When he won one Tour, it was seen as a positive, the outsider did it. Win a second time and you’re dominating. Never mind the sheer amount of work and fortitude to bring that win, or that luck is dealing the hand. Last year saw that but 2015 brought more fraught than crashing and retiring. How do you cope with having urine thrown at you, being spat at? It’s degrading, regardless if your a world class athlete who is aware of his ability, that is not to saw precocious. Personally that toll would play on my mind and I imagine it played on Chris’s mind too. I also think it’s unfair. The victim of success.
We also have to look at the last time a team dominated the racing as did Team Sky in 2015. It was US Postal with Lance Armstrong. This is obviously still a raw and tender nerve, in France and further afield. That nerve was pushed and the irritation began to inflame. I like to think they were aware of this. A sense that, whilst unjust or unfound, the wrong people are winning. The reality is the fastest man won fair and square.
His win on Stage 10 was the decisive moment. That was a pure masterclass of tactical racing. It also makes sense, both in terms of being a clean rider and for winning the Tour. It was after a rest day and the previous stage was a hard but, short TTT – plenty of time to rest. From there on, all they had to do was defend. Not an easy task but, with a strong and talented team it was at least possible. The gamble and odds paid off, along with the pain of riding and being abused along the way. The weakness on Alpe D’huez is perhaps proof of a clean ride. As the Tour developed it was clear to see the strain was taking it’s toll on him and his physical system. That would be about right for a rider not using drugs.
Cycling is in an unfortunate situation, where the cheating and drug scandals has done nothing to fill the public with anything other than suspicion. As I’ve stated before I don’t have a problem with it, and believe the approach to the problem should be changed but, I know I’m pretty much on my own with that idea. As it is with law, innocent until proven guilty. One can only see Chris Froome as innocent. Enjoy those wins Chris.
Tour de France 2015 Fans are mostly there to cheer on the riders and enjoy the carnival atmosphere as the Tour passes through a stage course. A very small but nasty element seems hellbent on victimising Team Sky and mostly Chris Froome. Headset Press thinks this behaviour is unacceptable and disgusting. Lets start with Ritchie Porte getting punched, simply put this is violence. Imagine doing this at Wimbledon? Road racing holds a unique ground when it comes to being a spectator sport and for large parts of the course the riders and spectators are not separated. Whilst one can accept accidents, a notable one being Lance Armstrong (yes the banned cheat) coming a cropper with a spectators bag. Unfortunate but, haplessly innocent.
It’s not the first time a rider has been punched and most famously Eddy Merckx was punched during the 1975 Tour de France. It cost him his lead in the race and he never got it back – unfair. Move forward to 2015, it seems there is some sort of sentiment that Team Sky need punishing like Merckx did, for winning!? Regardless of suspicion or paranoia that they’re cheating no one deserves to be treated in such a violent way. The recent racing has been brilliant to watch, with some incredible work by Team Sky matched by the likes of Quintana and Contador. Nibali less so, he took unfair advantage over Froome on Stage 19 but, it’s still not as bad as throwing piss over him, or spitting in his face. This isn’t that kind of sport. I’ve always enjoyed the more intelligent side of the sport and the dramas involved but it doesn’t make me angry. The aggressive fans are way below par and seem to see the world of cycling in black and white and forgetting the history. I’m sure what they want from it. I can neither think of any excuse to act in such a way to hurt a rider physically or emotionally. Imagine spitting in the face of a stranger in the street, that would bring about serious consequences. So why the hell should the leader of the Tour de France be such a hated target that this should happen. It’s out of all proportion and lacks reality. It’s a sport, a spectator sport to enjoy, not incensed to the point of violent retribution for being the better rider.
Sadly given the history of the sport, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. As I’ve said before, it’s easy to criticise the riders from the comfort of being a fan and to offer your opinion. Not to the point of retribution though, just walk away, find the pure sport you believe exists and leave us fans that enjoy it all alone. For the remainder of the Tour I hope we can see positive action. Let the officials deal with any wrong doing, let the sponsors, teams, decide how to deal with it. Even if they get it spectacularly wrong. None of these nasty fans are here to run cycling but are hell bent on destroying it, yes this might seem like putting the horse before the cart but, when it comes to violent behaviour. Leave the riders alone please.
Cycle tours with groups arranged by companies can get expensive which is great but, if you’re on a much smaller budget then there isn’t much around. This is where Simple Cycle Tours comes in. They’re offering all inclusive road cycling tours without the higher price tag.
Simple Cycle Tours takes your bags at the start of the tour, puts them in a support van and meets you at the end. Not only that, they handle all the accommodation and will be nearby should something go wrong and you need a helping hand. As you would expect.
The supported cycle tour is of course not unique, there are companies offering luxury tours in the Alps etc, but if you want something to enjoy but, save some pennies for those new wheels…
The offering from Simple Cycle Tours embraces a more sociable and light-hearted atmosphere. By upping the numbers from around a dozen to fifty and providing shared accommodation in Youth Hostels, the price of a long weekend is amazingly kept to under £200. This even includes a tour jersey provided by Svelte Cycles. With a barbecue on the Friday night, the tour gatherings allow plenty of opportunity to meet other riders.
The founder, John Wilson says, “For many road cyclists, there are two choices: travel in a loop from your start-point or carry minimal kit and endure odd looks when wearing sweaty lycra in the pub. We’re looking to bring the fun and adventure back into cycling and at the same time make road cycling more accessible”.
Simple Cycle Tours have their first tour from August 21st to 23rd, staying in York on the Friday and Whitby on the Saturday. While the organisers do the hard work, riders will be left to enjoy 199 miles of beautiful landscapes through the North York Moors and Yorkshire Wolds.
I often worry that the area I live in is relatively uninspiring. Regularly featured in “worst places to live” polls, Crap Towns etc, but, as soon as you get more than a couple of miles away from the industrial decay of Middlesbrough with it’s potentially depressing cooling towers and brown boxy factory buildings akin to those seen in revolutionary Russian films, become a heroic skyline to the towns roots. By the time you are this far outside of the town you find yourself in the farmland of the Tees Valley, primarily flat with rolling gradients akin to those of the northern european classics (all be it with slightly better road surface).
The first point of note is Great Ayton and specifically Suggitt’s; an ice-cream parlour/cafe which will regularly have piles of bikes chained to the railings outside. The decor is half greasy spoon with moulded plastic seats fixed around tables and part old fashioned sweet shop with large tubs of cola cubes and the like stacked on shelves awaiting selection. It may seem early in the route for a snack but treat yourself.
Pushing on out of Ayton the Cleveland Hills loom large over you and the task ahead becomes apparent. The route climbs and descends the face of the hills a number of times over road, gravel and dirt. This begins with a climb of Battersby Bank, a mile and a half of 7% gradient which ramps up to 16%, the climb is all on road which at the time of writing was being resurfaced. Battersby bank takes you up onto the Cleveland way, a double track moor road, followed by a fast single track descent strewn with sheep, opening up to more double track this time covered with rock slabs and rocks the size of babies heads. As you loose your hard earned altitude you will pass through a farm containing the worlds loudest cockerel who will happily serenade you on your merry way.
Gravel may well be all the rage in the industry and what follows next is the reason for it. A rapid 5 mile rip which despite being primarily uphill flies past all too quickly, the views here are truly magnificent as the wood lined track opens up allowing you to trace the line of the route just ridden.
The climb to the carpark and viewing point at Clay Bank is short but savage with a 30% then 20% section, tenderising your legs before the technical offered loop at the top. The route follows the line of an old dry stone wall which now makes up the surface of the track one wrong placed wheel and its a short trip OTB. Once you have skipped over the sandstone you are given the rest bite of almost 3 miles of descending back down into the Tees Valley and into Stokesley with various cafes to stock up on coffee before the final roll back towards the town via the rural lanes.
Watching the Tour de France 2015 I’m reminded why I so often enjoy it, it’s the scenery filmed from helicopters. Simply put it’s relaxing. Let’s face it, watching live stages on the TV when the action is low is akin to watching snooker or darts in the interval periods – boring. Year after year though, I sit there in front of the TV, admiring the scenery and most especially those aerial shots. Even with all the will in the world, one could never see this much of France, or have a birds eye view over it as the peloton rolls through. Those long shots, where the alpine gives way to high mountains, rolling fields of sunflowers, the Brittany coast, castles and chateaus – it’s all there, day after day as the race courses across the country.
All of this wouldn’t be possible without the helicopters of the Tour de France and without them filming, the lull in the stages would be just that bit less enjoyable to watch purely from the ground. I know most of us criticise the commentary at times but, often than not I learn something of the area they’re passing through and the historic landmarks, I see no reason not to be educated and entertained at the same time. Needless to say I have a lot of admiration for the pilots that fly and film the Tour from above and the video here highlights what they do and how they operate. So next time your watching the tour, take a little time to admire the scenery.
Cyclists have an affinity to coffee, it’s probably the only stimulant that would never be scorned by us. For good reason it’s so tasty! What you put your coffee in (or other tipples of repute) is as much a practical choice as it is a personal choice. I’ve still got my Transformers mug from the 1980’s but, if you’re not so lucky to have Optimus Prime on yours then I suggest you go for the Bunyan Velo x Porcelain Rocket Camp Mug. They worked together to design a 12oz mug that is fit for coffee at breakfast, in the camp or lodge. In fact it’s so good I threw my priceless Transformers mug in the bin and ordered one. Be quick though as these are limited edition.
The finer details:
Patterned with icons from an old map of Oregon dug up by our friend Gabe at Limberlost.
Constructed of steel and enameled in Poland by the amazing people at Emalco.
Limited to a hand-numbered edition of 225!
The Red Hook Criterium recently took part in London for the first time and we were cycling around Edinburgh. Luckily Sean McGowan (@f.stopper) was there to capture some fantastic shots. For more photographs and more from Sean, visit his Exposure.
“The Red Hook Crit began life in 2008 as a small race to celebrate the birthday of David Trimble. No sponsors, no prizes and no sanctions. It has since grown into a huge event and seven years, 16 races and 3 venues later, the event arrived at the Greenwich Peninsula, London for the first time.”