Your friendly, local Cycling Club (Meets weekly - Sunday's 9:20 at Mulberry Green, Old Harlow)

Hello Pete

We are trying to update our Club email address list, and for past few months your email address is coming back as rejected / undelivered.

Hopefully you will read this, and if you do then can you let me have your current and correct email address please.

You can use the ‘contact’ and ‘email me’ section on the website, as this will come directly to me

Thanks

Neil 

Jaguar Stratstone (Woodford) -  ‘Ride like a Pro’ Series

Martin Perry and I decided to give this event a try as it was something new and different on the calendar.

We arrived at the Stratstone Jaguar Showroom in Woodford for registration at 9:30am.

They had laid on tea, coffee and a great range of pastries for all !! 

After registration we took time to stroll through the showroom looking at the Jaguars on display. Everyone was very relaxed, and more surprisingly, even the Jaguar Showroom Staff considering the number of bikes leaning precariously close to all the Jags !

Looking around we reckon there was about 150+ riders of very mixed ability from the mature to the very young.

Seeing these riders, Martin and I thought the ride would be pretty laboursome and slow however we were to be proved very wrong indeed ! 

We were all given a quick briefing…such as not overtake the Team Sky Jaguar lead car or the leading Sky rider.   Speeds, we were told would be a healthy 18 to 20mph. That sounded hopeful.

The Team car and lead Sky rider set off at a good pace winding around all the local roads, housing estates and local shops eventually heading off out to Barkingside, Hainault and Chigwell.

 We certainly got some inquisitive looks and stares from pedestrians as we passed on-mass following the Sky car.

Within the first half mile or less we had split the peloton down to just about 30 main riders following the car, with speeds up to 25mph.

There was literally no hanging about, so if you punctured or dropped out the back of the pack nobody was going to wait for you ! 

The route took us on to Stapleford Abbotts, Blackmore and eventually Roxwell where we actually joined up with our usual Crescent Sunday Ride route and even better, just in front of us was the Crescent !!  Martin and I spotted Kris and Co ahead.

I must say that the Crescent Boys were keeping a good pace, and it took a little while for the Sky car and peloton to get past our Club guys.

We steamed through Moreton, North Weald Bassett and on to Epping where we were told by some other riders that the speeds would increase on the way back, and they certainly did, increasing to 35mph+ on the way back towards Epping (on the flat as well).

It was an amazing feeling being swept along at speed in a tight packed bunch following the car.  

Martin and I easily managed to stay up the front behind the team car for the entire ride, even when we were jostled for positions by some ‘I think I’m a Pro rider’ sort !! 

After a fast 50 miles, we arrived back to the showroom, where there was lunch waiting for us and a free goody bag. There was even a 10% off voucher for a new jag in the bag !! 

After a good feast and some more envious look at the new Jags, we said our thanks to the organisers and made our way back home. 

What a fantastic mornings ride, very well organised, good hospitality and all free to boot !

Ride stats for both Martin and myself:

Miles:  50

Time: 2 hours  17 minutes

Average mph:  19.5mph

Top speed (on the flat): 36mph

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The Crescent have now successfully completed the Coast to Coast Ride. Riding from St Bee’s Head (on the West coast) to Robin’s Hood Bay (on the East Coast).

Taking part were:

Andy Hall, Gary, Kris, Neil, Martin Perry and Sean 

Brutal, savage and painful but amazing and also not without drama

Day 1 (Saturday 26th July)    

We all met at Martin’s house ready for the journey up to Kirkby Stephen.

This is where I was told by Andy that only one bag was allowed by the organising company Packhorse.  Having packed three bags I chose to sort things out once at our B&B. 

On arrival at Kirkby Stephen we spotted Sean sitting at a Cafe.

We were soon joined by Ron and Allison who were in the area on their touring holiday. 

Once settled into our respective B&Bs we all meet at a local pub for a meal, but not before reducing my three bags down to one with the help of Kris ! 

We all headed out for a meal at a local pub.

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Day 2 (Sunday 27th July …. St Bees Head to Richmond)

After a good breakfast we all made our way to Packhorse rendezvous which was based in the campsite where Ron and Alison were staying.

Bikes packed into the van and passengers loaded into the mini bus we set off for St Bees Head. 

Ron and Alison were there to wave us off on the Grand Depart ! 

During the 2 hour transfer to St Bees head the heavens really opened.

It was daunting proposition of rain on our first day but as our luck would have it, on arrival at St Bees the sun came out and stayed out for the rest of the weekend. 

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(The Crescent at St Bees Head)

After collecting the obligatory pebbles from the Beach at St Bees Head and the team photo we set off on our challenge with Andy in full control of the navigation. 

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(A pebble from St Bees Head)

(Gary couldn’t quite decide on his pebble !!)

Things were going well until we reached Hardknott Pass.

This hit us hard. I for one underestimated just how steep this beast was. 

From our bike wheels slipping on the first cattle grid and just after that our front wheels lifting off the ground Peter Sagan style we knew it wasn’t going to be easy  !! 

We hit our big rings and Gary shot away first followed by myself.

Kris did not have the correct gearing and eventually had to walk part way, as did Sean. 

Andy however steadily peddled away with his gearing. 

Having to be honest here, Gary and I were only about 50 metres of so from the top when Gary ground to a halt. Spotting my chance to overtake him for once I tried to take the advantage but my heart rate had increased to danger levels so I also halted next to Gary.

We only walked a few metres and then remounted, making it to the top. 

I think that Gary and I may have kept quiet about this, but seeing Andy’s head pop around one of the last bends our game was up. He had spotted us. We were caught off our bikes even if it was just for a few moments. 

The descent was also very steep, with my rear wheel slipping even on dry tarmac. Scary. Andy and Gary were waiting at the bottom and I joined them. 

Kris and Sean joined us a short while after, with the bad news that Martin’s rear derailleur had broken off on the ascent. Martin was left to walk up the climb. 

Whilst we waited at the bottom of Hardknott, a decision was made that Gary and Kris would cycle on to Ambleside, whilst Andy, Sean and I would wait for Martin. 

Sean flagged down a passing driver and was kindly given a lift back up the Hardknott where he would wait for Martin at the top. 

After a long wait, Andy and I spotted a large utility Ford coming towards us with Sean, Martin and bike on board. 

It turned out that Martin (minus gears and chain) was freewheeling down the steep descent, when his carbon wheel overheated and literally exploded on him. He was very lucky not to have been injured. 

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(Martin’s exploded Carbon Rim)

The guy in the Ford was kind enough to drive Martin all the way to Ambleside, leaving Andy, Sean and I to make our way to Ambleside. 

We all met up at Ambleside and Martin headed off to find a bike shop.

A quick bite to eat courtesy of a Tesco Express, and we set off leaving Martin to sort out his bike. 

By this time we were running several hours late, so we set off in haste. 

During a quick stop in Kirby Stephen for some bags of chips and cans of Coke, we spotted Martin driving past. He had managed to get his bike repaired and was on his way to the next B&B stop at Richmond. At least he could join us for the 2nd day now. 

Special thanks go out to Ghyllside Cycles of Ambleside for sorting out Martin’s bike !!

The last 30 miles from Kirkby Stephen to Richmond was a steady drag, having to cross the Pennines. We all knuckled down trying to take in some scenery on the way, but the main focus was attempting to chain gang our way as fast as we could to get to Richmond before dusk. 

We arrived at Richmond at about 8pm, where Martin had already sorted out our cases and B&B arrangements. The only thing left for us to do was take a shower and then head out for a well earned beer and curry!! 

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(Curry and Beer…and some bizarre Naan Breads !!)

Day 3 (Monday 28th July …Richmond to Robins Hood Bay)

After a hearty breakfast we mounted the bikes, clipped in the pedals and set off, with just 70 or so miles to do.

Martin was our super domestique this day, as he ground away on the front pulling us all along for many miles until we reached the hills. 

We were well up on our time so we took a break for coffee and cake in Stokesley. 

Andy warned us that this day would be the hardest and he was right, as there were many short sharp STEEP climbs all the way the Robins Hood Bay, but all were tackled with relative ease. 

We stopped at the town Pooley Bridge for a short while to check maps etc.  I decided I needed a comfort break, but the loos only accepted 20p. The lads just said go behind a tree, but I protested that I needed the privacy of a proper loo!! This was when a kind lady approached me with a 20p saying that she didn’t like to see me suffer !!  Bless her and thank you that lady !! You saved my day there. 

With no disasters or bike failures we made very good time.

Andy instructing us to keep together as we wheeled into Robins Hood Bay at about 2pm. 

Well after two days and about 192 odd miles we had made it. 

The only thing left to do was to make our way down the steep hill to the small fishing village at the bottom and throw our pebbles into the sea. 

That done and the official photo we settled down for a few well earned beers. 

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(The Crescent at Robins Hood Bay)

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(The pebble now at Robins Hoods Bay)

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(Martin, Gary, Sean and Kris at Robins Hood Bay. Mission completed)

The Packhorse mini bus collected us a 4pm and we got driven back to Kirby Stephen for the last night. 

We met up with Ron and Allison at the camp site where they had tea & biscuits and / or beer waiting for us. 

We all met up for a pub meal that evening and next morning set off for home. 

We all agreed that it had been really great few days and a great achievement.  

Tour de France Stage 3 (Cambridge to London)

Some of the Crescent members headed out to the village of Moreton to see the 3rd state of the Tour.

My wife and I arrived in Moreton at 9am, maybe a little too early but we had a good position on the corner, the weather was lovely, and the great atmosphere in the village already abundant.

A while later we saw Martin Perry and family arrive on their bikes, and an eagle eyed and determined Martin managed to get a seat right outside The White Hart Inn !

Gary, Ron and his wife and Ati all arrived on their bikes, stayed a while but then head off to another vantage point further outside of the village.

Martin Farrington and his wife were also somewhere in the crowds.

Both Pubs were open from 7am, so at least we could get coffee, or even a early beer !

It later came to light that the White Hart ran out of most beers by midday and also Buns for the Burgers !

They really had not worked out just how lucrative this particular day was going to be, as the village was packed.

About 12:30, the Tour Caravan passed through throwing out a range of useless goodies.

About 2:30pm the two riders in the breakaway appeared, and then the main peloton a few minutes after that.

The crowds cheered as they passed and then within 20 or so seconds they had passed and gone.

After the event, my wife and I had booked a table in the White Hart, as had Martin Perry, Martin Farringdon and Ron, and coincidently we were all seated in the same area. It was just like a mini Crescent Dinner gathering !

Another great day out.

The breakaway……..

The Peloton enters Moreton……….

The main peloton………..

and then they were gone ! ………

Hang on… is that Gary, Ron and Ati in the breakaway ?

The Crescent rides the Tour de France 3rd Stage route

Report by Neil Thompson

Sunday 6th July saw ten Crescent members tackle the 3rd stage of the Tour de France

(Note that we would not be going all the way to the Mall in London, but actually ending up at the Fox pub, Matching where we had agreed to meet up with Eric). We would end up doing about 75 miles or so of the route.

The ten intrepid members were Andy, Gary, myself (Neil), Kris, Dave, Ron, Martin Farrington, Martin Perry, Mike Childs and Steven Burroughs.

Mike and Steven are relatively new members to our Club so it was great to see them come along and enjoy the day with us.

We all met at Sawbridgeworth Station to catch the 08:34am train to Cambridge, in the pouring rain !

Doubts were already being raised as to whether we should bother as the rain looked to be set in for the day, but we all boarded the train in the end.

It was obvious that we were not the only people with the same idea about tackling the route, as the train already had quite a few bikes on it, and even more at Cambridge Station.

Arriving Cambridge at 09:30am, it was still pouring. Again more doubts, and the thought of just jumping on the next train back home seemed appealing!

However, the Crescent are made of hardier stuff, and thus we all set off, rain jackets firmly in position.

The rain actually soon stopped and the rest of the day was fine.

It was great to see so many villages and individual houses had made a real effort with decorations etc.

We even got a few cheers along the way !

Shame though that some drivers were not in the Tour de France spirit as we did experience a few incidences of car / bike rage !

Generally the group stuck together, and if we did drop a few out the back, we were soon back together after waiting up along the route.

We stopped for refreshments at Bosworths, Finchingfield. Coffee and home-made fruit cake hit the spot.

Finchingfield was getting ready for the Tour, with a huge marquee on the green, and even one local pub charging a whopping £150 a ticket for all day celebrations.

Moving onwards we eventually headed into Chelmsford turning left at The Hare Public House and onto Roxwell, which had really gone to town with the celebrations…great to see.  Through Fyfield and then to Moreton (again great decorations everywhere in Morton, and a party at the White Hart Inn as we passed. It was packed out)

Now this was where I started to drop off the back of our group, and was soon on my own. Knowing that we were not going to follow the route all the way, I turned off, assuming (wrong decision again!) that the guys had turned off the route also. 

I eventually ended up at the M11 / A414 roundabout, near Harlow Garden Centre!!  I had no choice but to negotiate the busy roundabout, and then cycle down the A414 passing Church Langley.

Angry with myself for going wrong yet again, I was determined to get to the Fox Pub, which I did about 30 minutes or so later than the rest of the guys. After some ribbing about my sense of direction (lack of), it was great to rest up and discuss the successful day over a well earned pint.  

Thanks must go out to Martin Perry for suggesting this ‘event’ and rallying the troops, and also for getting the train tickets in advance.

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Coffee & Cake at Bosworths, Finchingfield.

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 Photo opportunity along the route !

 

Report by Andy Hall

 I took part in my first Dragon Ride in 2007 when the entry was about 1,500 people over two distances, the start and finish location a sports centre in Bridgend and entries could be placed up to two weeks before the event. Now if you don’t enter in the first six hours of entries opening you won’t get into the event. 

It is just phenomenal to see how this jamboree has expanded into the UK’s premier sportive. 

Now the entry list is 4,500 people with five circuits, 200 miles for the brave, 140 miles for the almost brave, 95 miles for the sensible people, 40 miles for the come and try it and a womens only event – something for everybody. 

The event has also moved location, to Margam Park outside Port Talbot, with a tented village of showers, food, sponsors tents and a continuous live feed from the PA system, how things have changed.  This event is now becoming the UK’s Etape.

For me this year it was the sensible route of 95 miles, the Medio Fondo as it is referred to, but there is nothing Medio about the route. 

The 95 mile route takes in the icon climbs of the Bwlch mountains, Rigos and two assents of the Brecon Beacons, the second assent over the Devils Elbow, a short stiff climb of 15% for probably a distance of 500 metres.

So how was it for me,?  Well the weather turned out to be sunny, surprisingly good considering that all week the forecast had been for continuous heavy showers.  The first five miles of the circuit were on super smooth roads, and with a strong tail wind the average was 25mph, things could only slow down as they did ascending the Bwlch, Rigos and Breacon Beacons. 

And so for the infamous Devils Elbow.  The approach to this climb is along a long valley road, that probably only the farmer uses the remaining days of the year. The road gently climbs with no visible sign of how you are going to exit the valley until you see the two switch backs making the elbow.  On the climb itself you notice a hushed silence, bar the heavy breathing, people concentrating all their power into the legs and after 10 minutes or so its over the crest and down hill ride, bar two small climbs all the way home to Margam Park.

So what’s the difference in the event from seven years ago, apart from the number of people taking part.  Well the general public come out and support you, the organization is more professional, signs are out warning of dangerous bends, poor road surfaces and ambulances, support vehicles are place strategically throughout  the course and finally the feed stations are something to treasure with choices of foods and drinks to suit all tastes.

Would I take part again – yes with everybody else, so if you are thinking about entering don’t think too long on the day entries open otherwise you won’t have an entry.

Finishing time          5 hours 39 minutes

Position                     36 out of 1774 finishers

 

 

Report by Neil Thompson

Just a quick brief report on the Chiltern 100

Andy Hall, Gary Hubbard, Martin Perry and me (Neil) took part in this tough Sportive.

We all met at Bovingdon Airfield at an early 6:30am on Sunday 1st June

The weather was on our side all day, with all of us choosing to wear the bare minimum kit, so to speak ! 

A quick bike check, equipment check and a couple of calls of nature and we all started together at 07:15 

Unfortunately a very early puncture halted Gary, Andy also stopping to assist but telling Martin and me to carry on, which we duly did. 

I was soon settling into a nice pace (considering this was my first distance Sportive since my operation last October). 

Much of the ride was tough and routine, but with some VERY steep climbs, in fact exactly as Gary had previously commented (from past experience), unrelenting climb after climb for 110 miles. 

Surprisingly, I didn’t see anything of the other guys until with about 40 miles to go, Andy caught up with me, but no sign of Gary or Martin. 

Andy and I stayed together for quite few more miles, but eventually due to my suffering legs, and Andy’s strong and consistent cycling, he pulled away from me (or was I getting slower ?) 

Teaming up with little groups of cyclists along the route helped pull me along at a decent pace, right until the end. 

Crossing the line was the usual emotional feeling of  having just suffered a gruelling 110 miles ! 

I spotted Andy resting up and chilling out on a chair, having crossed the finishing line some 25 minutes before me. I joined him until Gary and Martin finished. 

It must be pointed out that Gary insists he did an extra 7 miles due to getting lost or something like that ! 

I was very pleased with my day and my time, and in fact all of us finished in the top 300 out of 2000 cyclist taking part, so we all did pretty well. 

Results:

Andy:  6hrs 43mins (Average speed 16.35mph and 3.40min per mile)

Neil:  7hrs 9mins (average speed 15.37 mph and 3.54min per mile)

Gary:   7hrs 44mins (average speed 14.21 mph and 4.13 min per mile)

Martin:  7hrs 50mins (average speed 14.02 mph and 4.16 min per mile)

Just to say that the Crescent Wheelers are now members of the British Cycling Federation.

Andy Hall registered us a couple of weeks ago.

This registration gives us visibility on the British Cycling Website when prospective new members are looking for a local cycling club in and around Harlow.

Here is the link to British Cycling:

http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/

  1. Click on the CLUB tab at the top.
  2. Click on CLUB FINDER
  3. Type in your area (Harlow)
  4. Two 2 clubs will show, one of which is the Crescent.

There are links to the Crescent Website from here and also a email contact directly to the Club Website 

Thanks Andy for sorting

There were two Crescent Christmas Dinner arranged this year:

Bosworths, Finchingfield on Saturday 30th November 2013

(Kindly arranged by Eric)

I think if memory serves me correctly there at least 40+ members attending this dinner.
A great turn out indeed, and really great to see so many of our members who live much further afield !

We all agreed that Bosworths coped very well with the influx of the Crescent almost taking over their whole restaurant !
The food was good, wholesome and plentiful to say the least. 

Later in the afternoon I gave a quick speech thanking some key members for their input and help on compiling the Club History earlier this year and highlighted the fact that we have attracted about 5 or so new members into the Crescent purely from our new website.

Thank you also to all who came up to chat to me during the afternoon.
It is reassuring to know that these monthly (or so) emails reach out to you all.

I will endeavour to continue this whenever the Club has some worthwhile news to report, whether it be events, website updates etc

Andy Hall also gave a quick speech and presented me with the Crescent Cosy Cup for my efforts throughout the year working on the website and attracting the new members. That came a surprise, so thank you Andy!

I must says that I will not stop there as next year is hopefully ripe for new members what with the Tour de France starting in the UK and also Stage 3 sweeping very close by us all as the peloton makes its way into London, in fact taking in a few miles of our Sunday Club route !

 


The Chequers, Matching Green on Saturday 7th December.

(Kindly arranged by Andy Hall)

About 15 of our regular cyclists, including several of our new members were present and what a great afternoon it was, with much wine and banter ensuing throughout the meal.
We all agreed that this was not a bad choice of venue, although rather lacking in the real Ale stakes!

Andy presented the Ram Shield and the Crescent Cup, whilst Kris duly handed over the Skoda Trophy.

The Ram was awarded to Martin Perry as the best newcomer to the Club. Well done Martin.

The Crescent Cup and Skoda Trophy were kindly awarded to me !!

The Crescent Cup for my efforts in competing in the Dragon Ride for the last 6 or 7 years, and the Skoda Trophy for my sheer panic and stress whilst at the Manchester Velodrome last January !!  Thanks guys!!

Earlier this year and before deciding to join the Crescent Wheelers Abi took part in a 4 day London to Paris Bike Ride. All the more impressive when you think that before this Abi hadn’t even considered cycling as a hobby !

A long report, but a very good read…enjoy !

Note that some photos are in this report, but for the full set please click on this link to ‘Flickr’ : 

http://flickr.com/gp/crescentwheelerscyclingclub/Js51X8/

Report by Abigail Hockham

Team Thickbroom: Abigail Hockham, Lisa Petre, Marion Benton, Mark Payne, Joseph Illes, Trevor Williams.

It all started one late winter’s evening in the office when Joe and Lisa came up with the bright idea of doing a challenge for charity - who would have thought that one silly idea plucked out of thin air would have changed my life.

The following morning, an email was sent around which caused a few chuckles amongst colleagues. I honestly didn’t think they were being serious, but they were. Lisa was in, Joe was in, Mark and Marion were both excited by the idea, I kind of went along with it and the biggest surprise was Trevor who said “sign me up”. Team TB6 were soon formed.

Our names were on the London to Paris 2013 list and there was no going back. The charity we had chosen to cycle for was Muscular Dystrophy - a muscle degenerating disease. We had chosen this charity in-particular as Lisa had a brother had sadly died from this, so completing this ride was especially important to her.

What better way to start off our training than with a detailed spreadsheet - we’re accountants for goodness sake, it’s what we do best. The office became very competitive very quickly. For the first few months we trained on our own in our own spare time and recorded our mileage, whether it being on the gym bike or on the roads, on the spreadsheet. Soon enough, we began cycling as a group - which err didn’t last long! Mark was very competitive and always shot off in the lead. Marion, Lisa and I were close behind. For the one off time that Joe came, he was at the back whinging about the uncomfortable saddle. And Trevor was not far from Joe and determined as ever.

The months soon went by; November, December, January, February, March… It was hard work training through the winter months in the rain, wind, snow and hale, but we knew that if we were to stand a chance in cycling over 300 miles, we had to get as much mileage in as possible. By April, the weekends became exhausting and repetitive. 6am wake up calls to cycle to Cambridge and back on a Sunday in the pouring rain. And the home made flap jacks and never ending jelly babies just became unappealing. It was getting to the point of “I just want this ride out of the way”.

When we saw the money rolling in from family, friends and clients, it lifted our spirits to push on. We had managed to get ourselves in a few local newspapers The Harlow Star and the Mercury, which encouraged more sponsorship.

Anyway I am sure you are itching to find out how the ride actually went!

Day 1) London to Calais via Dover - May 8th 2013

The starting point was Crystal Palace 6.30am and there were a total of 133 cyclists. The girls, Marion, Lisa and I had booked a hotel the night before nearby so that we could get a good night’s sleep and familiarise ourselves with where we had to be.

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We signed in, loaded our suitcases on the SkyLine van, Kenny gave a briefing and then we set off early in the pouring rain - told to follow the orange arrows. Lisa and I just went for it trying to cover as many miles as possible early on to be sure that we wouldn’t miss the ferry later on. We soon got talking with the other cyclists and we made a friend Alice who we continued to cycle with over the 4 days. Lisa and I were worrying about how far behind the others were but didn’t stop long at the first water stop to wait. The second stop was lunch, which we made extremely early as the food wasn’t even ready. While we were waiting, the rest of the ‘team’ soon caught up and we had our first group photo. Marion introduced Lisa and I to Pete who became another team member that we would be cycling with over the 4 days. Mark and Joe didn’t seem to be enjoying the weather or the Kent hills very much. And Joe was particularly unhappy after taking on such a challenge with next to no training and then got a puncture which almost tipped him over the edge. Alice whispered to Lisa and I, “He really doesn’t look happy and you and your team don’t seem to care very much”. By day 2 Alice’s opinion on the matter changed when she realised that we wasn’t completely heartless.

We soon arrived in Dover. The first members of Team Thickbroom to arrive were the girls Marion, Lisa and I with our new team members Alice and Pete. The ladies back at HQ in Waltham Cross were pleased that the girls were showing the boys up. We felt relieved that we had made the ferry on time, but as the clock was ticking we were getting worried for our other team mates who we hadn’t seen since lunch. The SkyLine crew informed us that people were being picked up on the ‘Love Bus’ so that they wouldn’t miss the ferry, which caused us concern.

Just as we thought they were not turning up, Joe and Mark arrived feeling exhausted. Joe collapsed on the floor wishing it was over, and Mark was just pleased that his knee hadn’t played up once (after enduring endless physiotherapy sessions in training). Trevor soon followed in with his partner Natasha - they had been encouraging each other all day to keep going. We were very pleased that we all made it without having to resort to the bus.

We were soon aboard P&O ferries having a well deserved rest and nosh up, before having to cycle a further 5 miles or so to get to our first night’s kip in the Holiday Inn in Calais. This was a great opportunity to speak to other cyclists on how they were finding the ride. Everyone was saying the same - do not like rain.

 Day 2) - Calais to Abbeville - 9th May 2013.

 Up early for a 7am start.The girls were at breakfast very early, taking in as many calories as possible. The boys strolled down half hour or so later believing sleep is the key to succeeding. After loading ourselves with croissants, bacon and coffee, we had the task of finding our bikes amongst 133 and then packing our suitcases and chucking it on the van for a second time. Lisa why did you pack so many handbags and shoes?! We are cycling not clubbing!

We hadn’t even done 5 miles and Mark was having gear problems, Lisa’s chain kept coming off, Joe had fallen off and it was windy and raining - again. Doesn’t look like a good start to day 2 but at least we didn’t have the pressure of a ferry to catch.

We hadn’t even made it to the first stop when Lisa had noticed a strange looking bulge on her front tyre. We stopped a SkyLine van to have a quick look and they said, “Oh you are going to need a real mechanic for this one - you can not continue cycling until this has been fixed”. Brilliant. The mechanic had been called for us and in the mean time we had taken some photos for our big sponsor Natterbox, and sat munching flapjacks. As time went on, Joe and Mark caught up and continued on - feeling pleased that the boys were now in the lead. Trevor and Natasha then came past wishing us luck. We were officially in last place. The mechanics came and replaced Lisa’s front tyre (not happy that her tyres were no longer matching) and we set off again, determined to catch up with some other cyclists.

We were making good progress and we couldn’t have been very far from lunch when there was a loud bang from in front of me - Lisa’s back tyre had blown up before my eyes. Some quick thinking from Pete, who bodged a repair on the rear tyre, stuck a new inner tube in, put some air in and off we set again. We must have been about 3 miles from lunch, when Lisa’s back tyre went yet again. We were starting to feel impatient and like we were getting absolutely nowhere. Lisa and I made the decision of telling Pete, Alice and Marion to continue cycling to lunch as it was only a few miles away and we would walk until the mechanic came. Lisa and I made a pact the day before London to Paris had began to stick together no matter what. So, we walked. Before long, the mechanic came and replaced Lisa’s back tyre. Hooray!

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Marion, Pete and Alice cheered when we cycled in to lunch. We also met the rest of the team who shared their day with us. Joe had a cleat failure and was dying from exhaustion so had to retire to the Love Bus for the rest of the day (after falling asleep at the side of the road - which to this day he denies). Mark was feeling positive - having no knee complaints and just kept going. Trevor was full of complaints, but still cycling nevertheless.

Now by day 2 the girls of TB6 had a big problem they needed to address - toilets. Not a toilet in site and we were drinking gallons of water throughout the day. Alice and the rest of the women cyclists were comfortable in going for a wee in a bush. Marion, Lisa and I just did not have the confidence to do this and found it very unladylike. However, we were determined to get past this. So, day 2 lunch we went for it - and I won’t say anymore, it was a horrible experience (*cough* Lisa and the stinging nettles).

After lunch, we made great progress and eventually made it to the hotel in Abbeville. Tough day, but proud to have overcome all obstacles.

Day 3) Abbeville to Beauvais - 10th May 2013

Our bikes were left outside all night with 133 others in the pouring rain, and it was still raining. I was feeling very unmotivated for day 3 but the night before we were promised warm weather and sunshine so fingers crossed. The girls had taken their word for it and we put the shorts on.

Not even a mile in and the rain was coming down and it was coming down hard. Personally, this was the worst day for me.

By lunch time I was beyond depressed, shaking from the cold and hugging the tea urn in tears just wanting a little warmth. The SkyLine crew were fab - they lent me a thick coat and scarf while I had my lunch and drank my tea. It felt good to be warm once more. Though, it didn’t last long when the coat was removed and I was told to set off in the rain again. Not a happy bunny to say the least.

I just wanted to be back at the hotel and out of the rain. We tried talking to each other about holidays, families, and home to keep our minds off of the cold - and though it was working for the others, it was not working for me. I cycled on ahead getting my speed up to 23mph (hard to believe I know) but I figured the harder I pedalled the warmer I would be and I would get to the hotel quicker!

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I turned my head and looked back and the others were no where to be seen, and then I realised - the rain had stopped and I was no longer shivering. I got myself up the next hill and waited for the others to catch up as I couldn’t abandon my team. They caught up and were impressed by my sudden change in speed. Pete said to me, “did the skyline crew put something in your tea?!”, in which I said “no, I’m just cold!”

As the afternoon continued, the rain hit hard again, and we had to make an unexpected stop at a local cafe in a French village. Some other cyclists had the same idea. While I dried out my cycling jersey and gloves under the hand dryer in the loos, the others got some hot chocolates in to warm us up. We got chatting to some professional cyclists who had come from Scotland for the challenge. We felt proud of ourselves that we were near the front with these guys - they said they were used to cycling in poor conditions.

Sadly, we had to get back on the bikes and pedal on. We were nearing the hotel when Lisa had a brainwave to take a detour and explore Beauvais - so we did. And what a great idea! The rain had stopped by this point and so we went to see the big cathedral and explore.

We made it back to the hotel in time for dinner. Joe and Mark were the first members of our team back, taking the tactic of “just keep cycling and don’t stop”, and Trevor and Natasha were yet to arrive. They were also finding day 3 a struggle after getting a puncture. Eventually we all made it back and no one had to resort to the Love Bus.

The food on night 3 was poor to say the least. Fortunately though, there was a McDonalds just around the corner and so after dinner Lisa had persuaded me to go with her to satisfy her chip craving - we were caught out by the Skyline Crew. Busted!

Bikes given a well deserved pat, and we off to bed for another night’s sleep - only 1 more day to go!

Day 4) Beauvais to Paris - 11th May 2013

 This is it, the last day - and it’s still raining!

There was a strong smell of deep heat lingering around the hotel on the morning of day 4. We slowly made it down to breakfast, after lugging Lisa’s heavy suitcase on the van for the last time. Mine and Marion’s were not so heavy. We fueled ourselves with more pain au chocolats, rubbed our quad muscles with Marion’s special ‘massage stick’, a quick team Natterbox photo and we were off for the final time.

Day 4 was highly competitive between the boys and girls of Team Thickbroom (minus Trevor who was just happy to complete each day). We knew the boys had a head start so we kept our speed up in hope of overtaking. By the first water stop we had caught up with them but while we refilled our water bottles and got some multi-grain bars down our necks, Joe and Mark got a head start.

By lunch time the sun had come out and we were feeling positive. The food laid out by the caterers on day 4 was also by far the best out of the 4 days. After devouring a plate of pasta, pastries, wraps, ham, cake, chocolate brownies and washing it down with a nice cuppa Tetley, we were soon off again.

Pete was having a minor cleat trouble, Lisa’s chain was continuing to come off and Joe’s wheel didn’t have long to live. Marion and I were meanwhile talking to our bikes letting them know just how much we love them and politely asked not to cause any problems.

Despite a few minor issues, we made it to the last stop which was about 3 miles away from Paris. Here, we were all given blue London to Paris 2013 t-shirts to wear and a briefing for the last couple of miles. When the time had come, all 133 of us had to cycle together into Paris where we would finish by the Eiffel Tower.

The more confident cyclists were videoing the final cycle in to Paris on their phones. I wasn’t even comfortable drinking from my water bottle while cycling along - let alone taking a video. Out of nowhere, Marion’s husband and daughter came cycling in to the group which was very emotional for her. As we made our way around the Arc de Triomphe, and over the French cobbles I looked at Lisa and she cried. I turned around and Joe was still moaning about his wheel, saddles sores and hand blisters (we did suggest a pair of gloves - but you can’t tell him).

And there it was the Eiffel Tower. We had made it. We had to keep reminding ourselves of what we had just done because it felt so unreal. 6 accountants with no training and 127 other cyclists with their own stories to tell had all cycled from London to Paris, over 300 miles in 4 days.

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Some further info:

Day 4 was Marion’s birthday which made it extra special.

Lisa had cycled this with a broken toe, which she had broken just 2 days before the ride. She refused to get it checked out due to not wanting to be told she couldn’t cycle. As a result, she had torn her Achilles heel and to this day she is no longer allowed to ride.

Collectively Team Thickbroom have raised well over our £20,000 for Muscular Dystrophy.

5 months on and I am still cycling:

When I said this event has changed my life, I wasn’t joking. Before being signed up to London to Paris, no one would have got me on a bike. I wasn’t really into fitness and I found cycling too much hard work.

Now I continue to enjoy my bike rides and have invested in a nicer bike and cycling shoes. I am also enjoying going out with the Crescent Wheelers Cycling Club on a Sunday, but they can’t expect me out in the rain due to me gaining a phobia of rain after a 4 day ordeal with it.

Will there be any more crazy bike rides?

I can’t say there won’t be because doing London to Paris is by far the proudest achievement of mine to date. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.

 

Autumn Leaves – A sportive virgin’s perspective

Report by Ian Vanner

The idea of riding the cyclo-sportive ‘Autumn Leaves’ had been kicked around for some time, indeed last year there was going to be club representation into double figures, but the weather had intervened and on the day only Sean rode it.

This year we still had seven entries do the ride, the usual sportive riders plus Ron and me.

It had occurred to me that I had never ridden anything like a hundred miles for nearly seven years and really thought that I should do some distance training, which brings its own problems in terms of time commitments, so I tried two methods over sixty miles; hard out for thirty and recover on the way back or a steady 15 miles/Hr for the whole sixty. To my surprise there was only a difference of 1.5 miles/Hr and I felt a lot better using the latter method always thinking that, on the day, I could join up with a bunch and be pulled along. On this basis the strategy was set, one stop, tap out 15 miles/Hr and arrive back in reasonable condition !

Despite a fantastic forecast which promised Autumn sunshine for the whole ride, when the day arrived there was a foggy humid feel in the air which wasn’t going to vanish quickly.

Various pressing engagements prevented four of the riders attending and so it was left to Kris, Ron and I to represent the club.

After a briefing the time came and we were off somewhere in the middle of the entrants, at the first roundabout Kris was gone trying to keep up with his mate who had gone off even faster, attaching himself to the back of a club training run, the Crescent Sunday run in different guise!

For the first three or four miles Ron and I were passed by at least three of these groups including Braintree Velo, but we were going to stick to our strategy and tap out the distance hoping to catch or be caught by some riders of a similar pace so that we could ride in a bunch. After a short climb during which one rider dropped his bike off the tarmac onto the verge and another one rode into the ditch, I decided this probably was not the best strategy and working together, Ron and I were making good progress my average speed was 14.9 miles/Hr.

We passed the first stop at Matching Green with a top up of water and a comfort break for Ron (that’s P C for having a p##s) this was good news, roads we were familiar with and the speedo topped 15 miles/Hr average, we even passed Braintree Velo who had a puncture. Unfortunately the mist had made the roads a bit wet in this part of the world.

As we approached the sweeping left-hander coming in to Canfield, we were signalled by a rider to slow down, we guessed he had come off and indeed where a tractor had left mud on the road it had dissolved into fine slurry which was clearly very slippery, we took it steady and got through with no further problems. Approaching Elsenham we met a couple of riders with whom we could work and the miles were going better-speedo up to 15.5 miles/Hr average.

All going well until the approach to Thaxted and Ron punctured, 15 mins delay and back on course but re-passed by Braintree Velo. The roads were dry, flat and reasonably well surfaced average speed going up, nobody was going past us now and from time to time we would catch a few stragglers, work with them and usually go past. The strategy had worked as we came to the second feed stop, which was about 64 miles in.

We decided to go straight through, just as we were leaving we met Kris’s mate Steve who had come off at the aforementioned corner, but we hadn’t seen him then. He only stayed a couple of miles before doing his own pace to the finish leaving Ron and I to work together to our own finish. With 10 miles to go we saw Braintree Velo stopped for another puncture and we passed them for the last time.

My speedo had now reached its maximum of 16.7 miles/hr but the final hilly section and tired legs would have the last say and see us both in at 16.4 miles/Hr average giving us a chip time of 5Hrs 51 mins but a time excluding the puncture of 5Hrs 36Mins. If I take the latter time this would have given me a third place in the over 60 group. The tougher competition of the over 50 group meant a midway point for Ron. Age has precious few advantages so I am going to enjoy them when I can.

What had I learnt and would I do it again?

The first point that I got right is a steady high cadence will see you through. There are a large number of people who think they can ride but really can’t.

The best analogy is old Crescent including former members on Crack Cocaine trying to ride together.

Would I do it again? Perhaps

Results: 

Kristian De Havilland:  5Hrs 17 mins

Ian Vanner / Ron:  5 hrs 36 mins (excluding the puncture!)

Chiltern One Hundred:   Sunday June 2nd 2013 

(Report by Sean Loughran)

As far as I was concerned this was to be my L’etape du Tour or Marmotte this year…the Crescent had not entered any big events abroad this year so this was to be the big one for the year, myself and Gary were going for Gold in this one! 

Well to be honest I felt that Gary was well capable of doing it because he was in pretty good shape and on the other hand this year since Christmas was a bit of a write off for me.

Arriving at Gary’s at 6.35am we wasted no time loading the bikes and off we went, it was a beautiful morning the forecast was good, sunshine all day though temperatures were not going to be too high, perfect conditions for our assault on the Chilterns.

There was a new starting point this year in Chesham and we reached this way before schedule which Gary being a stickler for time was more than happy with.  We took our time getting ready and I had time to ring John Day, a chap I befriended on my first Marmotte in 2011, as I rang, Gary spotted him directly in front of us in the car park, not only were we on time but we would not waste time scouting around for John before the start. 

John was really quite keen to cycle with us because he was preparing for a Sportive in the Alps in July.  He had bought a brand new Canyon bike which weighed practically nothing and he also looked in great shape.  As is the case with many cyclists he suffers from some form of OCD checking tyre pressure, bars, gels then again before he finally got going!

We set out of the car park towards registration and straight away we hit our first steep climb, this was to be a much more serious challenge over 105 miles later.  Registration was quick and efficient the start was pretty much on time; we jumped the queue slightly and we were on our way by 8am. On the cards was 105 miles, 2,620 metres of climbing with approximately 21 hills, best described as up and down up and down all day long. 

Pretty soon we hit the first hill at Berkhamstead and it was here that I was to have a familiar and recurring vision for the rest of the day particularly on the hills, that of Gary and the tanned super slim John racing each other up each of the hills and in the process dropping me every time. 

At Pedley Hill I began to feel the pain big time and then at Bison Hill the two boys disappeared from view; good grief I thought this is going to be one hell of a struggle; the Big Dipper a few weeks earlier didn’t do me much good! 

All I can say is thank God for the descents; it was on these that I went flat out to catch the two of them.  I was killing myself on the uphill as well as the downhill. 

I was really impressed with John, he was certainly in good shape, doing very well on each climb though it was our man Gary who was doing most of the big turns at the front.  This was the case for the long drag up to Ivinhoe Beacon climb which I was really not looking forward to as I sat in behind Gary.  It is a hill that for some reason or other that I feel very familiar with, and to my great relief I was able to go with the two climbers virtually all the way before they did their little sprint before the top.  This gave me a bit of a lift in my mind though we were a long way from the finish I felt that my legs just might be able to cope.

No Gears!!

As we passed through Tring we were still going well, it was at this point last year that both I and Gary punctured pretty much destroying our times, thankfully this did not happen this year.  There was quite a steep climb out of Tring up to Aston Hill with a good descent which allowed me to catch up again; around here I thought that this is the story of my life at The Crescent “Chasing Gary”.

It was around Whiteleaf Hill and the Wardrobes climbs that I really suffered, the little legs were really struggling even to catch them on the down hill. 

Then I had my one incident.  On a long straight stretch of road I managed to drop my chain, I jumped off quickly and had it on in a matter of seconds.  As riders passed me by one chap caught my eye in the distance, he was coming straight towards me; OK I thought he is probably going to swing around me soon; any second now; BANG! straight into the back of my bike. 

What an idiot!  He apologised over and over blaming it on the state of exhaustion that he found himself in after the previous couple of hills.  I was ok with him though I did say that it is a bad idea to look at the road rather than straight ahead, we had a bit of a laugh, I told him to take a bit of a rest then I got down to chasing Gary and John who were well up the road missing all this commotion. Using up a bit of adrenalin I was able to catch up telling them about the blind cyclist. 

Next came Bedlow Ridge another climb which had a really steep gradient, down the gears I went, big ring to small ring then down to the smallest gear and spin.  However this was not happening, I was getting to the small ring but I was at least two to three gears from my easiest gear!!  I realised that the blind cyclist had drove into my derailleur messing up the gears.  This is going to be the end of me I felt, I will never get up these steep hills without my little gear.  I jumped out of my saddle and stood on the pedals all the way up, no bother; I actually felt ok at the top of this climb in comparison to some of the previous ones, I did this for the rest of the hills, strangely enough I think the blind cyclist did me a small favour, I was spinning far too much!  We raced down into Chinnor and there was no let up even though we were on the home run, the constant up and down remained. Gary began to set a quicker pace now and my heart was really pumping; it was just the three of us, as was the case all day.  We were unable to find a group that we could use to conserve energy or should I say a group that Gary could conserve his energy. 

In my mind I felt that Gary could achieve the Gold standard so I decided to push the pace on a bit taking the front with about 10-15 miles to go.  The race home was on, it wasn’t long before Gary took the front again, and the speed was now too much for John who dropped back saving his energy.  We were now going pretty hard I was trying to do my bit because of my lack of work earlier, we hit Firth hill just outside Great Missenden at speed then suddenly our speed just plummeted downwards, crawling to the top we picked it up again racing towards Chesham thinking about getting these best possible time.  Soon we hit the last climb before the end and Gary gave it one last fling shooting off up the hill, on the other hand I hit the wall my legs finally gave in, turning to jelly, what a day.

Gary came in at a time of 6 hours 31 minutes 36 seconds; I came in at 6 hours 31 minutes 55 seconds; the Gold standard for our group was 6 hours 25 minutes we just missed Gold by around 6 minutes!! However well done to John Day who at a time of 6 hours 33 minutes 37 seconds achieved a Gold for his age group (6:35).

Farewell ……..

It is with regret that I am signing off now as a fully fledged member of the Crescent Wheelers and I must say to all the Club Members that I have really enjoyed my time at the Crescent.

I joined in 2009 and to be honest it was the perfect club for me; everyone was welcoming and I was not hammered with the pace to begin with, though everyone was willing to wait until I got my cycling legs. 

Indeed I spent most of my first years tucking in behind Gary and Andy and anyone else who was willing to give me a tow; HANG ON A MINUTE I am still doing that today!! Does that mean I have still not found my cycling legs??

Nevertheless I was certainly pushed on over the years by the Crescent and I gradually developed a passion for cycling and I think that I have got better and stronger even if this means being able to hang onto the fast boys. 

I had the opportunity through the various Sportives that we entered together to push myself to the limit and in some cases I was able to exceed expectations. 

Finally I would like to thank me auld mate Gary for towing me along many a road around Essex…..Cheers Gary.

With this in mind I have made a date with Gary for the Chiltern 100 in 2014, barring any unfortunate incidents it is the Gold standard or nothing, how is this going to happen? 

My training route is already mapped out in the North Yorkshire Moors for our attack. 

It would be great to see a few other Crescent boys there as well!

 

 

Essex Spring Lambs 2013 (Sunday 7th April)

Report by Sean Loughran

I woke up at about 5.30am on the morning of the 7th April for my third Essex Roads Spring Lambs, three in a row and possibly my last.  For the first time I wasn’t really looking forward to it, mainly because this year I had put in the least amount of miles since joining the Crescent Wheelers due to the fact there was going to be no trip to France this year to climb any big crazy mountains!!   What sort of shape was I in and how long could I hang onto Gary’s back wheel were the questions that I was asking myself on the way to Billericay on this cold and sunny Sunday morning.

I arrived and quickly hooked up with Gary, things were looking ominous already, I spotted that his pins were freshly shaved!  He means business today I thought.  We decided to put our arm and leg warmers on because it was blooming cold and the forecast was that it was not going to heat up at any point throughout the day.  After registration and a quick cuppa we met up with Kris and Neil at the start gate, I was glad to see them a bit of company will be nice I thought over the first 30 to 40 miles before it inevitably breaks up.

It was the same laborious process to start off, everyone filtering one at a time though a small gate and then through the timer to start the clock running.  Neil was through first, unfortunately setting his timer off then having to wait on the rest of us!!  However I don’t think he had to wait too long.  Pretty soon we were all on the road together the usual formation with Gary at the front!  Ok I thought here we go again, stick to Gary’s back wheel for as long as possible, this was a strategy which worked for me in the past and I wasn’t going to try a new one, well not until I can tow him on a Sunday run.  Pretty soon we were at the first roundabout and a right turn out of Billericay, I glanced behind and I could just about see big Kris a good distance behind already, I looked at my speedo 25mph;  this is going to be brutal my legs were sore already.    

The long haul out of Billericay was on and I was clinging on to Gary’s back wheel, and when I say clinging on I mean it, it was a fast pace and soon we ticked off Kelvedon Hatch, Toot Hill, and Matching Green.  All this time up to Matching Gary was his relentless self, pumping away with me at the back.  It seemed that this was going to be the way for the rest of the day; no-one seemed to be on his pace, a few really quick groups past at speed but thankfully he let them go.  It was on the familiar roads of Matching that I was about to call time and tell Gary to go on, I was really suffering.  We past the first feed stop and it was then that a group who must have stopped there came up behind me and sat behind,  Gary was now towing a group of about 15.  After a while the big chap behind asked if I was going to give him a rest; “No chance I said he has been towing me for the last 35 miles, I only slow him down.”  It was then that the group under the big chaps leadership went to the front, Gary tucked in around the middle and YES I stayed close to the back.  This was much better,  a good group going at a pace I was comfortable with, believe it or not I even did a turn at the front, finally I was getting my second wind and I was enjoying myself.   I was in good form nicely following at the back when all of a sudden pssssssstt, yip a flat friggin tyre.  It went down quickly, I looked up Gary was close to the front of the group, there was no point in shouting at him, anyway I didn’t want to shout my day was done I felt, in seconds they disappeared up the road towards Takeley.  I got off stiffly and began to slowly change the tube.

About a minute later all I could hear was “You better effin remember this!!”  It was Gazza, “Bloody hell man you should have kept going I said, to be honest I didn’t know if I was happy to see him back, but I knew the miles would be a lot easier with him than struggling on my own.  It took about 10 minutes to change the wheel, and then off we went, in 30 seconds my chain was off!! Gary wasn’t too happy by now you might guess.  Pretty soon we were on the exposed roads around Stansted, going up around Bambers Green there seemed like a gale force wind and my legs were going again, the lack of miles were showing now but as usual I was determined to hang on for as long as possible.  Gary on the other hand was in great shape and I think since I have joined the club it is the strongest I have seen him.  Once again I was hanging on, Dunmow, Saffron Walden, Stebbing and Felsted came and went.  Every Spring Lambs in Felsted I feel terrible, however I also know that we have turned the corner and we are on our way back with about 35 miles left to Hannikins Farm.  We pass the second feed stop no stopping for us!  Eventually we reach North Hill and Gary slows, he is human after all, I nip past him as he drops into the small ring I pull him up the hill, well it was the least I could do for all the work he had done up to now!  Nevertheless normal service resumed after we got to the top, once again Gary went to the front and stayed there for the rest of the way to Rosebay Avenue and Hannikins Farm.

The Crescent Wheelers conquered Spring Lambs at a good speed, on a very cold day we went around the 95 miles at a time of 5 hours 21 minutes finishing 73rd and 74th out of 371 riders not too bad seeing Gary had to do 85% of the work, ok maybe 95%.  Big Kris came in at 5 hours 54 minutes finishing 168th and Neil came in at 6 hours 20 minutes(**  see addition report ‘How NOT to ride a Sportive’) finishing 233rd, though he did an extra 10 mile as well!!  Even though I was completely knackered at the end I still had that good feeling when you finish one of these Sportives and of course I have to give a big thanks to the machine Gary for dragging me round.

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Sean tackling North Hill

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Sean and Gary on North Hill

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Sean and Gary

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**How NOT to ride a Sportive !!  (by Neil Thompson)

Yes, an appalling Essex Road for me finishing 233rd.  

Starting off really well and feeling quite strong ready for the day, I soon took a wrong turn and unfortunately in doing so dragged along a handful of other unknown riders with me that were hanging onto to my wheel  !!  A few miles down the road I realised that there were no other riders in sight in front and no cyclist debris on the road, you know tell tale signs like discarded banana skins, energy sachets etc.  I made the decision to about turn after quickly speaking to a jogger who confirmed that no, he had definitely seen no cyclists on the road this way. 

Much to the annoyance of the other riders behind me, we about turned and tried to catch up with the back end of the main group. This we managed (eventually).  I started to build up my momentum again and decided to pass the first feed station without stopping as this would (so I thought) give me at least 100 or so places advantage.

That was soon wasted because, yes I went wrong yet again down some lonely (but rather pretty country lane !).  More wasted time and extra miles after turning back and retracing my route.

By this time I was getting in a bad mood with myself, the Sportive, the day, the weather …just about everything !!

I knew I was back on route as I started to pass some riders mending punctures and who had entry number on them as my other fear was to follow some random Sunday cyclist instead of the Sportive riders….if I only knew that that was to come later !

Calming down slightly, I plodded on, but with my energy and enthusiasm waning fast.

My last off-route excursion that day was indeed by spotting a distant rider and thinking (wrongly) that he or she was in the Sportive !   I ended up down some rough farm track and narrow lane. Cursing to myself a few times, but obviously loud enough for these two heads to peer over their garden hedge.  A quick apology for my language, the old couple kindly told me that yes, indeed there had been hundreds of cyclists going up this lane about an hour ago, but in the opposite direction… how could I have gone so wrong ??? A quick thank you and another apology I set off yet again.

I was fed up now and decided to call it a day and head back to my car.

That is when I decided to use my Garmin (I know I know how one can get lost with a Garmin you my well ask). Well the Garmin at least got me back on route (eventually), and I made my way back to the finish instead. 

My thoughts were, well I have paid for the event, I need the miles in my legs for the upcoming Dragon Ride, and I wanted to see my Crescent mates at the finish, so I plugged away.

I crossed the finish line and saw Gary, Sean, Kris and his mate enjoying a nice cup of tea and cakes. Oh how I could have just sat there for the rest of the day eating cake !!

Well I certainly wasn’t last to finish by any means that day, and although the ‘official’ time was 6hrs 20mins, I did achieve my goal of at least finishing the event….even though it was more like an extra 15 miles added to the route !!

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Neil….a pained, tired, troubled (and lost !!) Crescent cyclist