The stunning summer weather has meant that BCC members have once again been enjoying life on two wheels…
Club members were also out in force at the Eton Dorney Triathlon and Wallingford Sportive.
An incredible day! Photos and more of BCRF2018. Huge thanks to racers, sponsors, supporters, volunteers – you know who you are!
For information on the day click here.
Along with the Saturday club ride this weekend has again seen members enjoying the summer on two wheels.
On Friday the Silverstone circuit was a sea of blue and yellow with three BCC teams in the BMCC 9-up team time trial. Everyone thorughly enjoyed themselves and a huge thanks to our Performance Officer Graham for organising.
Graham was also at Herne Hill Cycling Revival in the penny farthing race where Mark Beaumont broke a 127 year old British record riding 21.92 miles in 1 hour. There was no lycra allowed and Graham is in the gold waistcoat.
Trevor was at the classic cycling festival Eroica Britannia where pre 1987 bikes take on the gravel trails of the Peak District around Bakewell. He did the 60 mile route and was the first rider to finish but not the quickest time!
Not strictly cycling related but… Club member Mathew Norman and crew won 1st place in the Nasdaq Clipper race from Panama to New York. Mathew is front third left. AMAZING result!
Huge congratulations to local superhero, Michael Broadwith, who broke the Land’s End to John O’Groats record on a bike. His “end to end” ride took a mere 43 hours, 25 minutes and 13 seconds. That’s an average speed of 20 mph. His incredible achievement also saw him smash several other records along the way. Very, very well done. Click here to read Michael’s story.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the club with riders and racers taking part in events all over the UK.
The club are also completing final preparation for the Berkhamsted Castle Revolutions Festival 2018 family day of cycling and entertainment with closed road racing and riding for everyone. Click here for details of the event on 24th June 2018.
On 23rd May BCC took over the Olympic Park velodrome. 30 of our members enjoyed riding the same boards where so many gold medals were won by Team GB during the 2012 Olympic Games.
The place is incredible, and you can’t help feeling the presence of great names like Wiggins, Cavendish, Hoy, Pendleton, Clancy, Trott, King, Archibald, Kenny and so many others who have graced this venue with their very superior presence. After just a handful of laps your whole perspective changes and suddenly it becomes clear just how super-human those characters are. Believe me, it’s hard work.
The town is getting ready for Berkhamsted Castle Revolution Festival 2018 with the Kings Arms Manager Brandon Kirby (centre) proudly exhibiting one of the event banners.
Our Performance Officer Graham (left) and Chairman Michael (right) were there to ensure everything went smoothly!
BCRF 2018 promises to be a fantastic day for all the family with lots to do while watching the races.
Our Chairman has managed to secure none other than Phil Liggett MBE to commentate over the races at the Festival. Phil has been the voice of cycling commentary for the last 5 decades, covering 15 x Olympics and 44 x Tour de France.
We are honoured to have Phil at our event – a true cycling legend who will certainly add a touch of class to our racing.
On the morning of Sunday 29th April in the freezing cold, damp and blustery weather (summer was last week – we’re back to winter now) the Berkhamsted Triathlon took place, based at the Knox Johnston sports centre.
BCC was very well represented by 6 sterling individual efforts and 6 relay teams. Each team consisted of 3 individuals making a total of 24 competitors. A fantastic turnout of over 10% of the club!
The results were quite outstanding, and everyone put in huge efforts just to be on the starting line on such a miserable day. Massive congratulations go to all who took part.
Of special note, the winning relay team comprised our very own Emily Hartwell (swim), Matt Buckle (cycle) and Rob Chambers (run). Well done indeed! Matt’s time on the bike was pipped by the always amazing Simon Pearce, whom (provisionally) took fastest time of the day, but it must be mentioned that Matt’s slightly slower time did involve him having to stop to inflate his punctured tyre! Pretty incredible.
5th place overall in the individual’s event went to ex club member Matty Earles, whose bike time was only just shy of the aforementioned Simon and Matt. A truly meritorious result Matty. Well done.
So, BCC really did seem to dominate, as we have done in the Harp Hilly 100. Let’s work on keeping this record and build on our success for next year at this very well run local event. Get training now. In the meantime, enjoy the photos…
Race Report – Mud Sweat & Gears Round 1 – Hadleigh Park – 25/02/18 – Mervyn Dempsey
The 2012 London Olympic venue of Hadleigh Park, Essex hosted the first round of the Mud Sweat and Gears cross country mountain bike series on an extremely chilly Sunday afternoon. BCC racer Mervyn Dempsey, is continuing his preparation for the 2018/19 Cyclocross season by participating in selected rounds throughout the year. Competing in the Sport Male category Mervyn finished 24th of 35 starters in an extremely competitive field.
In Mervyn’s words…
“2005 was the last time I took part in any sort of mountain bike race and probably the last time I did any serious technical off road riding so lap one was a bit of a shock to the system! However within a couple of laps the confidence started to return and I could start to enjoy everything Hadleigh Park had to offer! It a was long and tough race with lots of climbing and a lot of fast riders, but I’m happy finishing 24th in the end. The aim was to have fun and improve the technical skills, both achieved! Looking forward to the next one!”
Berkhamsted Cycling Club have retained the Harp Hilly Hundred Trophy for a fourth consecutive year!
The Harp Hilly is an annual 100 km reliability ride (that’s an organised ride but with no refueling stations or mechanical support) that takes in many of the well known hills in the area. The event is brilliantly organised by our neighbours, Harp Road Club, who always put on a fantastic spread at the the Hemel clubhouse. It was another neighbouring club however, namely Verulam CC from St. Albans, who were determined to loosen our grip on the title this year, fielding an impressive 45 members themselves. But with 51 riders completing the 100 km circuit, BCC again took the honours though.
Huge congratulations on behalf of the club to everyone who took part in the ride and of course to those who managed to complete the grueling course. Thanks also to Mike Plowman on his efforts in making sure we filled all our places to guarantee the win!
Photos from members of the club.
BCC received an invitation for eight members to meet up with a film crew at Ivinghoe Beacon to appear on a new TV series featuring famous people on scenic trails walking their dogs.
When the club discovered that it was World and Olympic Gold Medalist Victoria Pendleton we just couldn’t say no.
The Channel 4 ‘More Four’ series called ‘Walks with My Dog’ was aired on 25th January 2018 and the club did indeed make an appearance.
The clip below is from the hour long program.
The club wishes huge thanks to our Events Officer Jo for pulling it all together.
Former BCC member Kirstin is in the ‘the finest cycling journal in the world’ Rouleur Magazine issue 17.8 (December 2017).
The issue has a feature on the 2017 British National Hill Climb Championship in which Kristin competed at Hedley on the Hill, Northumberland.
As Kristin sums up competing in such an event… “It’s a matter of finding the maximum amount of pain you can take, then seeing how long you can hold that for. It is a very dark place to go.”
Kristin won her first race for BCC on 4th February 2017 at Hillingdon and now races for Lovelo Cinelli Race Team sponsored by our local bike shop Lovelo Cycle Works.
The club wishes Kristin all the best for the 2018 race season 🙂
(Rouleur photo courtesy of @cyclingimages on Instagram)
After a pretty quiet December, the weather was a bit milder for our annual Christmas Ride so BCC was out in force . Its become a bit of a tradition to gather at the Kings Arms for mulled wine and mince pies after the ride and look back over the year of riding with the club – thanks to the staff for managing to get out about 50 cups of their winter warmer!
Another tradition is that we are joined by a representative from the Mayors Office to say a few words. Huge thanks to Sue Beardshaw, Deputy Mayor of Berkhamsted, for coming to speak to our members..who were happy, if a little mud splattered!
From everyone at BCC, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!
On the 10th November 2017 the club hosted its third AGM at the Kings Arms. As a relatively new cycling club, BCC is already over twice the size of the average club in the UK. This year we hosted a road race, time trial, hill climb and attended dozens of sportives throughout the UK and beyond.
Our members have represented GB for different age groups at a variety of competitive events. We have cycled in 5 continents, but closer to home, we regularly see 65+ riders on our weekly club ride which divides into different routes depending on how far, high or fast our members would like to go.
Its been an incredible year, thanks to everyone at the club for making it possible, and of course to our magnificent membership!
Below are the pictures of our members who won awards this year for their contributions to the club.
From everyone at Berkhamsted Cycling Club – Happy Cycling!
Awarded to the first claim rider who has achieved the best performance results in BCC colours in the view of the Club’s Performance Coordinator.
Awarded to the Club member (excluding ExCo members) who has done the most to support the Club in the eyes of the ExCo.
Awarded to the ride leader (excluding ExCo members) who has undertaken the most ride leading on Club social rides in the view of the Club’s Ride Coordinator.
Awarded to the Club member who has provided the most intentional or unintentional amusement whilst cycling or engaged in Club activities, as judged by the Chairman.
Awarded to the Club rider who sets the best possible standard whilst riding with the Club, as judged by the membership, based on the published criteria.
On the 29th October four members of the club went to the Isle of Wight as a change of riding scenery to Berko and surrounding areas.
Lee Morgan (one of the four) has penned a great article on the adventure…
After meeting through the cycle club a year ago, Myself (Lee Morgan), Alex Edgar, Tommy Wong and Tom Newton decided we should test our Chiltern cycle legs abroad (well, the Isle of Wight!).
We headed down to Cowes, IOW, on a Saturday with a plan to do a quick leg loosener cycle in the New Forest on the way to Southampton.
We arrived in the New Forest nice and early. We had gone all out at McDonald’s on the way down with a minimum £10 entry buy in to get the show on the road. Alex Edgar drove down with a handy 4 bike roof rack. I must add, his road rage is nowhere near as bad as his bike rage. (Something we are working on with him to improve). It was freezing cold but clear. We had our thermal base layers on for the 4 Degrees outside! Tom N didn’t need a base layer. We were envious of his own grown merino wool carpet he expertly modeled on his chest before zipping his jersey! We hit the New Forest roads at 8am.
Credit to Tommy Wong for the video.
Soon after we started cycling we spotted as what can only be described as the happiest pig in the world. He was bounding across the road not a care in the world. It was at that point we decided we each individually needed a selfie with a wild animal. Alex got a shot with a pig, Tommy was the horse whisperer, I got up close and personal to a cow (who nearly urinated on me) and Tom N was in hunt for the illusive Donkey. We saw one but we were travelling at like 45kph down what used to be an old runway of a road that runs through the middle of the forest. A cracking segment!
Shortly after finishing our short but stunning ride in the New Forest we set off to Southampton.
The 1 hour ferry crossing to Cowes from Southampton consisted of many beers (not for Tom N who was doing Stoptober, boo). We studied every sail boat to see if we could see Matt Norman at the helm!
We arrived in Cowes, IOW late Saturday afternoon. After a quick shower at the B&B we headed into Cowes to top up our alcohol levels…. Um… I mean carb loading! The locals are very “interesting” and we ended up partying late into the night singing all the Uni ballads covered by a live band in a back street pub! We met a guy called Mark whose illustrious career as Amy Winehouse and Pearl Jam’s music producer had taken a turn for the worse and he appeared to be stuck on the Island! He was none the wiser though as apparently I was a dentist and Alex a Ryan Air pilot.
We did not need to load a GPX route to do an island loop. The Isle of Wight have kindly sign posted a short and long route all the way around the Island.
We set off first thing nursing slight hangovers. Tommy was keen to leave the B&B ASAP after sharing a bed with Alex that night. We still have no idea what happened in that room. I had the joy of sharing a room with Mr Merino Wool Chest hair himself! We immediately found the first sign for the loop and got spinning. The skies opened briefly, but the weather was fantastic.
There was a section on the ride where you are rolling up and down the cliffs, overlooking the ocean. It was truly breath-taking. (It didn’t have anything on the Mentmore loop though). The roads themselves were extremely quiet and very smooth. We did do a 2km section across a gravel canal like path. It felt very much Paris-Roubaix for that 2km’s and we were all praying the “P” word wouldn’t occur.
The Island was lumpy to say the least and you certainly needed so climbing legs for the lumps and bumps. We found ourselves taking more and more coffee stops, but they were great and the locals really seem to envy us guys who go there to cycle around their Island.
We completed the 100km loop all feeling completely shattered but agreeing that was one of the most spectacular rides we have done this year even if it did have over 1,500m of climbing. Both Tommy and Alex somehow managed to delete their Garmin activities, so if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen! Me and Tom N kindly shared our activity files with them, so don’t believe Tommy’s Power Output when you click his activity, that was all me!!!
Credit to Tommy Wong for the video.
It was such a simple and straightforward trip. It could easily been done in a day. We would highly recommend going there and give us a shout if you need some tips on accommodation, routes. (We became very familiar with Paula and her B&B. She even joined us for drinks!)
Next stop, a cycle holiday to Sri Lanka? We’ll let the singleton Alex tell our wives / wives to be that we are going to disappear for 2 weeks. 😊
Full results and pictures from our Hill Climb at Toms Hill in Aldbury on Sunday 29th October 2017. Congratulations to all the riders, some good times posted.
Many thanks for all the volunteers and supporters for coming along too – it makes a big difference to be cheered on.
Finally, a massive thank you to Ashmei Cycle Clothing for allowing us to use their lovely building again – and of course, for the first place KOM and QOM jerseys from their new range – quite brilliant prizes!
|1st||Rory Wells||Velo City 10||Male Senior||2.11|
|2nd||Thomas Saminaden||Gregarios Superclub Ciclista||Male Senior||2.12|
|3rd||James Scrivener||Reading Cycle Club||Male Senior||2.18|
|1st||Karine Jones||Verulam Cycle Club||Female Vet||2.51|
|Joint 2nd||Samantha Fawcett||Lovelo Squadra Donne||Female Senior||2.54|
|Joint 2nd||Helen Reynolds||Hemel Hempstead Cycle Club||Female Vet||2.54|
|1st||Joe O’Brien||Lee Valley Youth Cycle Club||Male Junior||2.41|
|2nd||Christy Durbin||Tri-Force Triathlon Club||Female Junior||3.23|
|3rd||Finn O’Brien||Lee Valley Youth Cycle Club||Male Junior||3.56|
|1st||Issy Zimmerman||Verulam Cycle Club||Male Vet||2.21|
|2nd||Dave Nicholas||DRCC||Male Vet||2.36|
|3rd||Daniel Powell||Berkhamsted Cycle Club||Male Vet||2.43|
|Andy Ashwell||Berkhamsted Cycle Club||Male Vet||2.47|
|Martin Jones||Verulam Cycle Club||Male Vet||2.45|
|Rich Jones||Velo City 10||Male Vet||2.47|
|Deborah Beare||Icknield Road Cycle Club||Female Senior||2.56|
|James Taylor||Berkhamsted Cycle Club||Male Senior||2.26|
|Andy Ward||Icknield Road Cycle Club||Male Vet||3.23|
|William MacAlpine||The Bike Loft||Male Senior||3.21|
|Martin Webb||Icknield Road Cycle Club||Male Vet||3.50|
|Jodie Janes||Pedal Works||Female Senior||3.23|
|Tim Salmon||Watford Velo Cycle Club||Male Senior||2.47|
|Dan Neal||Aylesbury Cycle Club||Male Senior||2.28|
|Nick O’Brien||Grupetto||Male Vet||3.05|
Click on the image below for more pictures of the day
Our local bike shop Lovelo put on a fantastic end of season sportive that had 55+ BCC members riding. Following is one man’s account of the ride penned by Simon McQueen…
I’d been watching the weather forecast and predicted wind speeds since the start of the week. Storm Brian was still hanging around like a boisterous gate crasher who’d already intimidated the Saturday club ride into submission. So, at 6:30 on Sunday morning I was creeping round the house trying not to wake the family whilst gathering bits of kit from various rooms. Why do I never do this the night before? Once downstairs, kettle on, I’m checking emails and messages to double check the ride was still happening. I hadn’t ridden on Saturday, except for an MTB excursion with the family, so I was going out regardless. No news was good news.
Porridge consumed, tires pumped, bidons filled and jersey pockets stuffed I ventured out to confront Brian. I always arrive at any ride about ten minutes early to give me time to grab a double espresso from Costa (other multi-national corporate coffee outlets are available). Having necked my speed in a cup I headed to the start point at Amersham House. Registration was quick and easy. Once signed in I went off to fumble with safety pins and my allotted number trying not to puncture my spare tube with a carelessly placed pin.
I did overhear a couple of riders I’d never seen before grumbling that there was no pre-ride coffee available, “Wiggle give you coffee and snacks.” You can’t please everybody, maybe they’ll be satisfied when every LBS has been forced out of business by online giants.
8am came, and off we went en masse up The Witch. Unusually the fast group showed some restraint and stayed at the back of the pack almost to the top before Keith could no longer contain himself and headed straight for his preferred position at the front. Naturally the rest of us followed and we were off hammer and tongues pushing 40kph by the time we reached the golf club. Brian, it seemed was on our side, for now anyway, gifting us with a 20mph tail wind. We flew down into Nettleden and then up the first cheeky little climb. Once over the top we were seriously moving, averaging around 40kph. Happy days. However, this was going to be a ride of two halves. Somewhere between Hexton and Barton le-Clay our pal Brian turned against us. In the space of a few km our 20mph tailwind had become a 20mph headwind. Now we had a 60km grind ahead with a few spiteful little climbs thrown in. Brian was doing his best to make even going downhill hurt. At 80km I cracked and fell off the back of the front group. It was just Brian and I now, both pushing in opposite directions. It was a very lonely half hour. At the start, I’d attempted to load the route onto my Garmin just to be thwarted by the digital wheel of doom. Thanks to the incredibly thorough job the Lovelo team had done in signposting the route I wasn’t getting lost anytime soon. I tried and failed a few times to get gels and energy bars open and into my mouth. Every time I got close to eating, the road would twist and turn or ramp up for another sharp little climb.
Eventually, gasping and swallowing I got some carbs inside me.
Somehow, don’t ask me how, I managed to close the gap with my ride companions. They did stop at the second feed station for a few minutes which helped. Reunited at last I was soooo glad to have a wheel to hang onto while I recovered. The psychological 100km barrier ticked over on my Garmin and the feeling that home was within touching distance was a welcome distraction from sore legs. Now the discipline became not to look down too often so that it was a nice surprise that another 2km had passed. Then came Hudnall Lane. It always comes at the end of a ride, and although not steep, it drains every last ounce of energy from knackered legs and I hate it for that. The silver lining was that the climbing was now done.
Once we got to Little Gad we thought lovely, a straight cruise down into Northchurch. That was too optimistic. When we reached the Aldbury turn a cheeky little yellow and black sign directed us down Tom’s Hill. 30 seconds of freewheeling was a lifesaver, even Brian had taken pity and was pushing us along again. The legs were spinning nicely again now and as we approached the Tring road I was begging the signs to point left and not up the hill to Wiggington. The cycling Gods were onside. Left into Cowroast and through Northchurch. We’d hardly seen traffic all morning and now we had to share the road with the four wheeled unfortunates. Zipping past the metal boxes we were poised to turn into Lovelo. No one there. Another 60m through Tesco car park and back to Amersham House and a beaming smile from Tim Warrell. “Did you enjoy that?” he asked with a glint in his eye.
It was a great ride and a great route. Signposting beyond good. Brian? He needn’t bother showing up next year. After a burger and a coffee and the post ride chat I was starting to get cold. Here’s where I make a confession. I couldn’t face the climb up Swing Gate, so I called my wife for a lift home. Looking forward to next year.
Earlier in the year a few riders from the club decided it would be a good idea to tackle the infamous Stelvio pass. Following is a fantastic article by Simon McQueen and well worth a read…
THE GRAND DEPART
After a text from Keith F explaining that our mini bus driver was incapable of navigating the vehicle and trailer in any other direction than forward, preferably in a straight line I set off to meet the rest of the gang on Berko high street. Simple enough one would think. Not when Passo de Swing Gate Lane needed to be negotiated. If you’ve ever walked a 23kg bike box down a 13% gradient you’ll have felt my pain. This was to be the first hair raising descent of the trip.
Slightly sweaty and relieved at 5am on the nose I boarded the bus. The Bormio 8 were now assembled. Now the only thing standing between us and cycling heaven were the M25 and Heathrow airport check in and security. Check in was smooth for most with the exception of Rich H who got clobbered for 65 notes for being 2kg overweight, his bike box that is, I’m not implying he’s fat (have to make that clear as he is a lawyer). Ironically, Neill F’s box was the same weight and he got away with it. This of course made Rich very happy.
Anyhow, to cut a long and tedious bit of the story short, all was fine and we made it to Milano, hired van and car were collected and eight blokes and eight bikes were on their way to Bormio.
After three hours driving through almost continual tunnel and a lunch stop on an industrial estate we arrived, checked into our apartments and unboxed the beasts.
22 SEPT. RIDE DAY 1. BORMIO-UMBRAIL-STELVIO-BORMIO MY BIRTHDAY RIDE
Up bright and early, breakfasted, nervous toilet visits complete we set off through Bormio only to be slowed down by a mechanical. Miles W’s rear mech wasn’t indexing. Espresso break number one. After some head scratching and chin stroking Miles, showing outstanding roadcraft, tweaked his nipples and all was good. We were on our way at last. There was no gentle start to the ride to get the legs warm and blood pumping. We started climbing before we’d left town. Having found our way to the foot of the Passo Umbrail as a group enjoying some chat and banter, aka taking the piss out of Henrik, we all began to settle into our own rhythms as the climb proper started. Unsurprisingly Keith took up his favoured position at the front with Rich on his wheel. As they pulled a couple of hundred meters away from me I remember thinking, “either Rich has been on the EPO or he’s being a bit optimistic”. As the climb went on my perception of time and distance became blurred. After the first few km the inevitable happened and Rich dropped off Keith’s wheel and dropped back onto mine. We rode together for the rest of the climb occasionally chatting but our focus was on breathing in a steady rhythm to the beat of an imaginary tune and letting cadence follow.
With every meter of elevation gained the visual rewards just got better with every hairpin switching the direction of view. Rivers and waterfalls cascaded down the mountains on the other side of the valley and peaks rose all around us. A glance upwards gave a great and ominous view of the road zig zagging up the mountainside.
Gradually, gradually the snow line was creeping closer and with it the sense that we must be getting close to the mythical sign denoting the summit. Grinding up every ramp and then spinning out of the bends as the hairpins gave a moment of relief as they catapulted us around and onto the next ramp and so on. Towards the last few km of the climb the gradient became much more forgiving and the road straightened out. Rich and I hadn’t seen any of the rest of the group since Keith disappeared into the distance. As soon as we were starting to feel that the summit was within touching distance Miles pulled up alongside us and then predictably passed us and pulled away. Not quite holding his wheel the welcome sign of Keith standing by the Umbrail sign came into view. Climb one, tick. Once regrouped at the top I think it’s fair to say that the Umbrail had lulled us into a false sense of security. This alpine climbing malarkey wasn’t so tough after all.
After the obligatory selfies and group snaps at the top to prove we’d been there and not on a four-day drinking holiday, we crossed the Swiss border, which I didn’t realise at the time, and began our descent. Leaving the snowy peaks behind us we began swooping down through bend after bend, the snow line giving way to pine forest and then into Swiss chocolate box pastures where Heidi and Milka cows would
feel totally at home. Descending was much harder than I thought, I wasn’t expecting it to be so physical. By the time we were in the foothills my hands and arms were aching from constant breaking at each bend and the wind-chill had cut through my clothes and chilled me to the bone. Tom B and I came to the end of the descent together. The road began to be flanked by houses and buildings and then came to a brake squealing end at a T-junction onto a small high street. Left, or right? Tom and I knew that Neill and Rich were behind us and the others had gone on towards our lunch destination. Hoping that the chaps at the rear had the route or at least knew which way to turn, we waited for them to show up. A few minutes later four clueless cyclists were gathered. There was only one thing for it, I phoned Miles. Despite terrible reception directions were received. We set off to the right to find the others waiting for us a few km down the road. Lunch by this time was definitely calling, the angry glint in Keith’s eyes said it all. Keith is filled with pent up rage when his belly is empty.
Before reaching the restaurant that Miles had found and booked (amazing, who’s that organised?), we approached a manned border crossing back into Italy. We all had passports in our jersey pockets but they just proved to be a bit of extra weight as the guards shouted “cyclismo”, and waved us straight through.
After a welcome lunch of pasta and full fat cokes followed by more espressos it was time to saddle up again. Please don’t ask the names of either the town or the restaurant, I haven’t a Scooby, but I’m sure Miles can fill in the blanks upon request.
The next section of the ride was pretty much flat, but rather than blast along the pace was controlled, subdued even. Collectively we seemed to have unspoken agreement that this was the time to save energy in anticipation and trepidation of what was coming next.
At the foot of the classic Stelvio climb we passed an old couple on e-bikes who worryingly pointed at us laughing. The film Deliverance momentarily sprang to mind. As you start a climb like the Stelvio, it’s easy to think what’s the big deal? This isn’t so hard. The gradient is nothing compared to Whiteleaf, but Whiteleaf is over in a few minutes. The Stelvio felt relentless. I’d never done a climb longer than a couple of miles before, but Stelvio felt like it would never stop. There is a point on the climb when it stops being a physical battle and becomes a battle of will. There’s a point when your legs are too f***ed and sheer bloody-minded determination is the only thing that keeps you grinding forward ticking each slow-motion kilometer off one by draining one. This was one of the best birthdays ever!
Tom B and I were together up front at the start of the climb, I don’t know when Tom dropped off my wheel but I found myself alone as the road began to makes its ophidian patterns on the mountainside. Snaking bend after snaking bend all numbered just to remind you how far away the top still was. On some corners the names of the greats would be daubed in colourful graffiti ‘Nibali, Pantani, Coppi. We were doing what they had done, only much much slower and with no pressure other than making it to the top.
It was going well and I was passing other riders and no one had passed me. I had brief and breathy conversations with Dutch and Italians as I passed them. I knew at some point my time at the front of our merry band would come to an end. For ages, I’d been thinking how long will it be before Keith or Miles passes me. Sure enough Miles appeared at around hairpin 34. We stuck together until 30 before Miles took a last look over his shoulder and disappeared up the mountain like a ferret up a trouser leg.
Upwards and onwards watching the snow line all the time wishing it closer. The most daunting moment came when I rounded a bend and the finish comes into sight. You can see it and as the crow flies it’s not that far, but on the hair pinned ramps going on and on above there was still a lot of distance between me and it. I was starting to feel twinges of cramp in both legs which was worrying me.
It had been sunny at the bottom but as the top got closer the sky took on the colour of granite and the temperature was beginning to drop. By now I was counting the km markers painted on the road. ‘5km’. I’m going to make it. 4,3,2. 1km was a long time coming and by now I could really feel the acid burn in my legs. As I passed 500m to go my right thigh cramped up really badly and I had no choice but to jump off, lean the bike against the wall and stretch it out. 30 seconds and back on, legs feeling OK I made sure I passed the two Dutch guys who’d passed me whilst I was hopping about with cramp. 100m to go and I can see Miles snapping away as I pass (great pics Miles), a final shallow bend up to the tacky souvenir stalls and that’s it, Passo della Stelvio climbed. My first feeling was an overwhelming sense of relief, followed with a holy shit, I just did that, sense of elation, high as a kite. I hooked up with Miles, threw on layers as I was already starting to shiver and we took pictures and waited for the next arrival. Shortly Keith joined us followed by Henrik who had had an amazing climb and was looking really strong. Neill was next turning on the style, standing on the pedals and making an effort for the line. By this point the cold was getting too much so I followed Miles in search of warmth and coffee.
In the dingy, under heated cafe the Bormio 8 gathered. One final descent back down the Urbrail, the way we’d come up in the morning was all that was between us and beer and hot water.
Even with Gazetta de la Sports stuffed inside my Gabba I found it bitterly cold going down. At one point, I was shivering so hard I was finding the bike difficult to control at speed as my shivering infected the front wheel. Beautiful as the ride back into Bormio was I was glad to get back to the town. I was just too cold. As I got lower patches of sinking sun appeared between peaks giving brief pools of warmth on the road and taking the edge off my hypothermia.
Back on the streets off Bormio I headed straight for the cafe where we’d had coffee in the morning. I leaned my bike up against those already assembled there and went in for beer. Seven off the eight made it to the cafe. Neill missed the turn into Bormio at the bottom of the pass and ended up in a different town. The silver lining to this tale of woe is that he got first dibs on the shower.
A steak dinner with litres of beer and bottles of red wine later sleep was calling fore tomorrow cometh Passo de Gavia.
23 SEPT. RIDE DAY 2. MORNING – BORMIO-GAVIA-BORMIO
After doing all the usual morning stuff we were back on the road. The Bormio 8 rides again. A different direction out of town but like the previous day, the climb started immediately. The road was wide and populated by towns in the early stages but very gradually thins as if it’s losing weight with the effort of the climb. In a repeat of the previous day, as the climb started to bite we all found our own internal drum beats to ride to. Miles, Keith and I grouped together for a while. I couldn’t tell you exactly how far into the ride we were before Keith dropped us, occasionally reappearing two or three hairpins above us until he was gone from sight altogether.
Amazingly my legs were feeling pretty fresh but not fresh enough to hold onto Keith and later Miles. Miles and I rode most of the way together but I dropped off a little way before the steepest section, a 16% leg wrecker. Up until then the climb had been tough but steady, pleasure definitely outweighing pain. The narrowing winding road with steep drops were giving great views down into and across the valley, the peaks on the other side like a mirror image of the ones we were climbing.
The steep kick upwards made my leg muscles remember how much work they’d done the day before and resented being called upon to put in another heavy shift.
With a mixture of standing and sitting, a few pedal strokes of one and then the other. Not pretty but it gets you there I hit the last of the steep bit and then ‘happy days’ 4% and the road straightens. I’m on the big ring! 25kph. Not many km to the next mythical sign, where I was sure Miles and Keith would be by now relaxing in the sunshine. On the left a war memorial revealed itself from behind a curve. My heart skipped for a second, could this be the end? No bikes and the road is still rising. Another curve and I could see distant people, motor
bikes, a couple of buildings, bikes and the sign.
Another slight kick up at the end wasn’t going to slow me down now. I actually managed an effort to stand up and sprint for the line. Passo de Gavia, I rip off your head and spit down your neck.
Once the company was assembled, photos taken, rich hot chocolates and Mars bars consumed we turned tail and went back the way we’d come. Feeling warmer and more confident the descent was such fun. We more or less managed to stay together as group gliding effortlessly through the hairpins. Dare I say it, we looked quite pro, only half the speed and twice the age. That was until we had a comedy of errors moment. As we reached Bormio’s neighbouring towns Henrik hit a bump in the road. It was like Buckaroo. His seat pack flew off in one direction and a bidon in another. I slammed on the brakes ready to go and recover some of the contents of Henrik’s handbag. My sharp braking set off the emergency alert on my Garmin which had decided I’d crashed. F***, f***, f*** it’s sending an alert to my wife! Pootling along trying to disable the damn thing I rode like a fool straight into Henrik’s stationary bike while he was reattaching his bits. I needed food but humble pie wasn’t what I had in mind. After profuse apology, we got going just as the rain was starting to fall. We arrived back in a damp and virtually deserted Bormio.
After a quick hunt around the cobbled streets we sat out the rain and ate pasta. By the time the bill was paid the rain had cleared. Time for another bit of climbing. A mere 12 km long this time. Eating pasta for lunch really seemed to do the trick because if possible my legs felt stronger than in the morning. The usual,order of things was soon established with Keith setting a testing pace at the front with Miles and I close behind. Even Miles commented on Keith’s effort as we hung onto him.
A half dozen or so hairpins from the end Miles found his legs and popped off the front. Keith was still strong but slowing. I needed a back stretch so stood out of the saddle to relieve my lower spine and told Keith to plough on. To my surprise, now seated, I was still within meters of Keith and gaining. Keith had done all the work and Miles and I were going to summit before him. Oh, cruel world. Once at the top, I’m sure the climb has a name but I’ve no idea what it is, we attempted to ride around the lake before heading down. That plan was scuppered by the road turning into gravel track. Nothing for it. Pub time. After a roller coaster ride back to Bormio we abandoned our beloved bikes unsecured in the busy street and went for large beers and more cycling (on TV).
Back at the apartments we refueled on several bottles of Chianti, beers, take-away pizza and Lemoncella shots. With alcohol bravado we discussed the idea of the Mortirolo in the morning for our last ride.
24 SEPT. RIDE DAY 3. BORMIO 2000
Morning came, and the weather had been wet overnight. Radio silence from the apartment downstairs. Thankfully the Mortirolo looked like it was off the table. A quick group chat later and we’d decided on the Bormio 2000, the ride the pros do on their day off. My legs were definitely tired today. Turning left from our abode, as usual, the climbing was immediate. We ascended zig zagging under the ski lift. The roads were rough and frost damaged in places as well as wet. For me this climb was great fun but also a knackered grind. All my efforts felt spent for now so I just plodded up the 9km climb, Rich a 100m in front and Neill 100m behind. I was counting down the km on my Garmin so when 9km ticked over I was expecting to see the end. No such joy, another two hairpins and then a rough concrete surfaced car park but no bikes. At the far end I spotted Rich’s back wheel disappear around a corner up a steep ramp. I followed and found myself face to face with an orange plastic palm tree. Just what you expect at a ski lift station. Final photo call. Once we’d all had our David Bailey moments we did our final cautious descent into Bormio. A final hot chocolate was calling. We parked up in the town square and went to a cafe where we ordered the thickest richest hot chocolates ever and sausage rolls that turned out to be Apple strudels. Whipped cream with sausage rolls would have been an acquired taste.
And that is the end. Obviously, there were bikes to pack and flights to catch but I doubt you want to hear about that. We’ve
done the good stuff and my fingers ache.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect before I wrap up. What did we learn? Compact, not semi on the Stelvio. Keith becomes psycho-Keith when he’s hungry. Disable Garmin emergency alert setting. Miles is an organisational genius.
Henrik isn’t really Danish, he’s a Glasgow NED. Put eight blokes together with one common interest and they get on really well, have a laugh and are all great company. And apparently, I snore like a happy lion. Oh, and another thing, the Passo de Swing Gate Lane climb. Mrs Parkes-McQueen kindly left the car at the foot of the hill, the midnight ascent was a breeze.