Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Day at the Races

Ride: Goodword West Dean circuit
Present: Al, Jon, Julie

We kicked off from Jon's house just after 6.00pm on a hot and sunny evening, a delay due to Julie's forgotten socks being averted when, quite miraculously, some of Jon’s (freakishly large, Ed.) socks fitted her perfectly. After a few weeks off we were keen to get back in the saddle and raced past Goodwood circuit, up past the Royal Oak in Lavant onto the Chalkhill lane. The 2.5 km uphill towards the Trundle was particularly hard in the heat and sun but the view on top was well worth it; affording great views of Chichester, Bognor and its environs (above left). The Isle of Wright particularly stood out on such a clear evening.

After this short break to recover, we rode eastward past the Trundle and on to Goodwood. In the hot weather it was hard to imagine the near-Siberian conditions we encountered earlier in the year with Billy-Bob when we made the same journey in 2” of snow! Just past the Goodwood race course (above right) we cycled downhill towards the pub. Much to Jon’s annoyance he soon realized that the newest recruit, Julie was speeding past him; he is now officially the slowest down-hiller in the TCA!

At the Fox, Chalton we enjoyed a couple of pints of Liber- ation bitter (Suthwyk) and crisps (left). Much to the dismay of the TCAUK committee members though Julie still prefers fizzy lager!

The next section of the trip was a new route; part track and then bridleway to the north of the Chalton. We stopped off near Broadham House to admire further views, including a field full of rabbits and a great view of some roe deer. We then cycled alongside the edge of Singleton Forest and into Nightingale Forest, which was strewn with many of confusing tracks. In true Bowman style, we got a little lost with no batteries in the GPS but (unlike days of old when Billy-Bob himself was custodian of the map, Ed.), we soon worked out exactly where we were, where we went wrong and efficiently joined the official route once more. At this point Al participated in some in-the-saddle Hare chasing, a challenging sport indeed - Hares 1 - 0 Al!

Back on the correct track we rode through ‘the land that time forgot’. The overgrown grass was as high as the handlebars and tree branches covered the track. We soon lost sight of each other but regrouped at the top before enjoying a long downhill section, joining our regular ‘Chicester Route #1’, albeit in the reverse direction. At the bottom we stopped at the familiar charcoal burning stoves (below left) which were still smoldering away. We also chanced upon a badger at very close quarters crossing the road leading down to the Selsey Arms. It was about 9.00pm at this point, by which time we were beginning to slow. We therefore took the flatter route to West Lavant rather than up over the top of the trundle again, picking up the normal route along Goodwood Circuit. We got nice views of young fox cubs playing in the last light of a balmy evening as we approached West Lavant, then Jon cycled home ahead to put on the rice for the Hungarian Goulash (God bless ‘im, Ed.).

(Posted by: Jon)

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Maungatautari Mission

32km cycle, 12km fell run, 15km cycle and 10km kayak: multisport madness but Billybob was up for it (and besides he had told his boss Ian he would be there so there was no backing out) –bugger. The MM event is really a beginners foray into multisports but there were a plethora of iron men, hairy women and hyperactive youngsters all ready to gear up and take on this local quasi triathlon event on a cold but sunny winters morning.

The event held south of Cam- bridge (left) started at 8:20am for initial race briefing which stated that space blankets, whistles and a compass were required for the fell run otherwise instant disqualification would result. Our team did not have a compass as Ian was adamant that this was not required, and he managed to convince the race martial to relent.

The race was away at 9am and saw Ian (right) disappear into the distance on his Specialised racing road bike with super slicks, while Paul was taken to checkpoint 1 by the support crew (Ian’s wife Diane and Stef) in Ian’s shaky Toyota truck laden with bikes and energy bars.

The support crew waited at the café, Paul drinking coffee and eating a few muffins, essential fuel for the Stage 3 and 4. Ian arrived in at 1hour 15mins, not bad for 32km on undulating roads and only 25 mins behind the front man. The scene was awash with bikers screaming into the checkpoint, some handing over their bibs to team mates for the fell run stage. Ian quickly downed an energy drink (a formula which he kept secret from Billybob!), swapped his shoes for a pair of white trainers and kissed his wife goodbye before legging it off over Mt Maungatautari – crazy fool!

The Support team sped off to Checkpoint 2 (left) the other side of the mountain, only to get lost on one of the roads and take a 10km detour! Paul panicked, with images of Ian waiting at the hand-over point before he got there. He need not have worrie; the first runner over took 1 hour 15mins. Paul was expecting Ian in at the 1 h 45m mark but alas 2 hours passed and Billybob had already kitted up twice and eaten two more bananas; still no sign of Ian... no compass my ar*e!

Finally, after 2hr 30 mins(!), Ian arrived looking like the swamp monster from the deep. He was knackered and hardly had enough energy to hand the sweaty mud stained bib to Billybob who sped off on his finely tuned mtn bike customised with new slick tyres, not in the least daunted by all the other lanky riders who were on their sexy road bikes.

By now all the riders and runners were so spread out Billybob (right) was cycling alone (well that was his excuse). The slick tyres made a hell of a difference though and Billybob put in a top time of 36mins. Such was his speed he got to the final transition before his support crew had readied his kayak for the final and last leg!

The 10km paddle was what BB (left) feared the most; his rented boat handled like a barge and made paddling the Karipiro River like walking through treacle with skis. The respectable time that they had first hoped for was slipping away and then lost completely when BB had to get out of his kayak mid river to straighten his rudder which kept making him go in circles. The last few minutes were blood, sweat and tears as Billybob had to wrestle his kayak (now full of water) out of the river and run up the hill to the finish line.

Final time for the day was 6:14:09. A good time for the duo (right) or so they thought until they heard the solo winner came in at 3hrs 50mins! Of the 18 two-person teams Paul and Ian came... last... nice (although, it should be noted, not the last of the all the competitiors to finish). [full results here, Ed.]

(Posted by: Paul)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 08, 2006

SPECIAL FEATURE: The Kingsmead "Railway Embankment Challenge"

Ride: Hambledon Route # 1, June 8th 2006
Present: Al, Jon

Work commitments (Al) meant that we had to abandon plans for a Chichester ride this week, and a later start than usual found us opting for our 'old faithful' Hambledon Route #1. However, 'Route #1 has previously been described therefore this post will focus on a specific technical exercise which forms a significant piece of TCA folklore - the dreaded Railway Embankment Challenge...

It should be explained that while Hambledon Route # 1 is only a gentle, medium distance (13.5 mile), Grade 3 ride, there are two elements of the ride that are on one's mind as soon as the decision is made to go: The wicked down-hill section through The Forest of "B****rd" Bere, and the Embankment Challenge at Kingsmead, where we leave the disused railway to join the road near the (TCA-blacklisted) Roebuck Inn. In fact an unusually sober mood often descends on the party during kitting up as each individual focuses on the task in hand and steels themselves for the rigours of these challenges; like a team of bobsleighers going through the series of turns in their mind at the top of the run.

After the abrupt climb to the top of 'Cams Hill' the ride settled into to a steady pace as we joined the King's Way bridleway, through Shere Copse and then down towards Long Road, joining the road for a while before using The Driftway (Track) and Crookhorm Lane to get to the White Lion at Soberton (above). The weather was perfect, warm and sunny 26C, a beautiful evening for a pint of Palmers overlooking the village green. However, our contemplation of the imminent task in hand was disurbed somewhat by the arrival of an over-friendly gentleman with an accordion, dressed in white with bells on his legs, a brightly coloured hat and a waistcoat made of rags. He seemingly felt some sense of camaradarie since he owned a bike (bought for £3), or maybe because we were the only people at the pub. The peace was shattered further with the arrival of several other (expletive deleted) morris dancers and maybe half a dozen fair-weather mountain bikers. Since we felt we had nothing in common with either the bell-jangling, stick-waving (expletive deleted)ers, or the contemptible shiney-biked, neatly-pressed t-shirt brigade we downed our pints and pressed on before our bearded 'friend' could strike up his squeezy box.

Supressing our nervous anticipation as best we could we settled into the saddle for the cruise down the disused railway line towards Kingsmead and the Embankment. Reaching the familar bridge (SU 584 134) which marks our exit from the railway line we paused as we had done many, many times before to gather our thoughts for a final time. In less benign conditions this bridge has sheltered us from rain, wind, snow and mud and we have derived some warmth from this dry shelter on freezing nights. Tonight though conditions were perfect; we both knew that there would rarely be a better opportunity to beat the embankment!

The challenge of the Railway Embankment is to leave the disused railway using the steep path to the road above without feet touching the ground. As easy as this might sound it is a stiff technical exercise - the path is about 60 degrees, with a double s-bend getting ever steeper closer to the top. Problems are often compounded by the combination of claggy mud, slippery rocks and overhanging vegetation. After what is surely several hundred attempts between us, only the founding Fathers, Paul and Al have ever successfully completed the challenge (Paul on his last attempt before moving to New Zealand!). This is the sternest test for any potential TCA member and the gold standard to attain before progression to full membership.

Here is a photographic illustration of the challenge:

1. Jon revs up for his run from the tunnel

2. Al starting the ascent through the undergrowth

3. The final push to the top...

4. ...or the humiliating walk of shame!

5. The postmortem breather at the top.

Having taken on the Railway Embankment Challenge the ride continued as usual over the A32, up the hill through the Forest of Bere (dodging the Scout's annual cycle outing) and (thankfully without incident) down the infamous freshly-sanded descent towards the Traveller's Inn in Newtown. For the second visit in a row Al was greeted by a rather ill-tempered dog (on this occasion a mean looking bulldog), while Jon slipped through unnoticed. For a second visit in a row we were also able to order from the outdoor bar (above) and sat in the garden reflecting on another successful ride, toasting absent members and conversing over our mutual distaste for morris dancers.

After the pleasant ride back to Hambledon down the country lanes (lights still redundant) we made it back to base at about 9.30pm. TCA dinner was chicken curry prepared by Tee, watching the obligatory Big Brother update followed by yet another World Cup preview program. As for the Railway Embankment Challenge - come and have a go if you think you're TCA enough!

A toast to absent members...

(Posted by: Al)

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Coastal Loop

Ride: Hambledon to Portsmouth Harbour via Hill Head and Lee-on-Solent
Present: Al, Tee

Not an officially sanctioned TCA ride but since (a) we cycled and (b) we went through Titchfield surely some sort of mention is warranted! We set of on a warm, sunny day from Hambledon with a mind to get a pot of tea and a slice of cake in the tea shop in Wickham. With this objective achieved by lunchtime we pressed on via Knowle lane (stamping grounds of yore for the TCA) towards Titchfield. We had a brief stop for our packed lunch of cheese and tomato sandwiches on the beach at Titchfield Haven with the masses who had also hit the coast to enjoy the warm weather.

With the on-shore breeze on our backs we followed the coastal road by way of Hill Head, Lee-on-Solent and Stokes Bay towards Gosport before crossing the harbour by ferry to Portsmouth (below). This was a bargain since you only pay for one bike with a tandem! Tee’s parent’s house in Copnor provided a convenient stop for a rest, a cup of tea and a refill of our drinks bottles before the final push home: There is no easy route home from here so we opted for our usual route through Cosham towards the QA hospital before pushing the tandem up Portsdown Hill. Fortunately the remaining leg of the journey was mostly downhill, through Swanwick and Worlds End (we use a little back-road which joins the main B-road at the Chairmakers Arms).

After a good day in the saddle we got home at about 6pm but we neglected to take the GPS so can only estimate that we did around 30 miles. We also neglected to stop for a beer at one of the many descent boozers along the way... very poor form for the TCA!

(Posted by: Al)

Labels: , ,