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Racing by the seaside. And a bit of a moan.

Sunday was Eastbourne Cycling Festival. It was brilliant – the sun (mostly) shone, and there were plenty of people who came down to the seafront to enjoy the weather, ride their bikes, and watch the racing.

There was a sportive event in the morning – I’ve had a look at the route and have one word for you: hilly. There were also a charity mountain bike ride, some running events (*raises eyebrows*), and a duathlon.

Then there was the racing. There were some junior races, the South East Regional Youth Champs, 4th category, 3rd category and E12 races. A quick glance at the sign-ups for the E12 race shows you that there were some big names racing – it was a fast paced race that took no prisoners! Cornering on this circuit looked…fun. I’m genuinely surprised there weren’t more crashes. I forget these people actually know what they’re doing.

The results of the racing will soon be posted here, if you’re interested.

As well as the crit racing there was some fun stuff going on for families – including a children’s Go Sky Ride course which looked like it was at about my level. You could make a smoothie by pedal-power, race your friends on a WattBike, watch some amazing BMX stunts – or just eat far too much ice cream. I had a brilliant day watching friends race their bikes, talking too much, and chasing balloons that were blowing away from the Team ASL360 tent.

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3rds race

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Team ASL360 tent

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Chris McNamara wins the E12

Now that’s all very nice, but I’m afraid there is a moany bit. And it involves two words which often strike up debate: podium girl.

It was hardly the Giro D’Italia, so whilst there weren’t rows of podium girls in tight dresses, bouquets of flowers and bottles of champagne, we had our own South Coast spin on the idea: an attractive young woman in denim hotpants to present the prize money – and a kiss. I have no idea if this woman was being paid, or whether she was part of the Harley Davidson sponsorship deal. She looked pleased enough to be involved, if a little out of place and awkward. So what’s my problem with her being there? I’ll try to sum it up, briefly…

Let’s discuss how many women were involved in the racing on Sunday. There was one girl in the youth race. There was one woman in the 4th cat race. And there was one podium girl. Without going into the reasons why there weren’t more women and girls racing (I’ll do that in a minute) – just think for a second about what message that is sending out, especially to the crowds of children who attended Sunday’s event. Women’s place clearly isn’t in racing – why else would they be so under-represented? But if 33% of the women involved with the racing were there to be an ornament and to kiss the men who won a race…well, maybe that’s a more fitting role for a girl.

There was no women’s race organised on Sunday. Had there been, I believe we would have seen a decent number of women on the start line. It would have been a smaller race than the men’s – but until the races are there, they cannot be filled. It is a viscous circle that needs to start with event organisers giving female racers an opportunity.

We are seeing an amazing rise in the popularity of women’s cycling in this country. The line up for the women’s races at events such as the Johnson Health Tech GP and London Nocturne serve to prove that. I know of more and more women locally who are taking up racing, or thinking about it. There’s lots going on – but the fact remains that there is still a huge inequality in women’s cycle racing. At a professional level, the difference in pay and prize money is often appalling, and at a more local level, many women’s races are still E1234 – first timers racing against the top level athletes. Things are improving, and I’m really hopeful about the future of women’s racing – but we still have a long way to go.

I don’t have anything against people wearing hotpants. In fact, I encourage it. But for as long as women’s racing is very much second place to men’s, I will continue to be insulted by the use of podium girls at races.

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Team ASL360′s Pete Morris wins the 3rd cat race

Spin Up in a Brewery

Saturday saw the second ever ‘Spin Up in a Brewery’ event, hosted by Dark Star and supported by Kinesis Bikes and Morvelo Bicycle Apparel. They had me at ‘bikes and beer’, so when I was asked to come along and have a stall at the event, I was pretty chuffed.

Sadly I had to drive over (the options for transporting a table full of bike-art goodies by bicycle are limited) but two groups of cyclists rode over from Brighton to the brewery in Partridge Green – one by road and one off-road. The hoards of thirsty riders were greeted by free beer and a huge BBQ – there was also plenty of coffee, crepes and homemade cakes if that was more your thing.

That’s my ‘I’m having fun’ face. I’m also modelling my new Morvelo tee.

Once people had filled their bellies there was still plenty to do. Of course the ideal activity post BBQ and beer is to spin your guts out (hopefully not literally) on a bike: that’s where South Coast Sprints came in with their roller racing. Prizes and shouting galore! I am massively gutted that I didn’t get a go – it was so popular that by the time I went to add my name to the list, it was full. Next time.

If you didn’t particularly fancy sweating your arse off on a bike, you could instead plonk it on a hay-bale and watch some live music…

David Osborne, aka ‘Puncture Kit’

For those with a bit of pocket money weighing them down, there were lots of other nice things to buy including bicycle clothing and some awesome up-cycled jewellery and accessories. I bagged myself a Morvelo t-shirt and some bike chain link earrings from Judy, aka Beer Babe.

Wisdom

It was great to see some familiar faces, as well as lots of new ones. It’s always fun playing the ‘match the face to the twitter profile picture’ game. Thanks everyone who came and said hello.

A big thank you to Dom, James and Oli for their work organising the event, and to my partner in crime Leesi for helping me out all day. All in all, an ideal way to spend a sunny Saturday. My only regret was not trying to steal a Kinesis Race Light bike (just kidding…).

Oh, and since quite a few people have asked, I’ll be putting some badges on the online shop very soon.

The Claud & I swag pile

30 Days of Biking – take two!

If you’re a long suffering reader of Claud & I then you may remember why I started it – to document my adventures during September’s round of 30 Days of Biking. In the process I completely fell in love with cycling, and found a community of cyclists – both locally and online – who have encouraged me to keep riding my bike, and keep the blog going. It’s almost April which means time for another round of 30 Days of Biking. Lots has changed in the last 8 months or so, but there is also plenty that hasn’t: I still love riding my bike, and I still love talking about it (try and stop me!)

Riding a bike is a simple pleasure; the bicycle a simple, yet wonderful, machine. And 30 Days of Biking is a simple idea: ride your bike every day for 30 days – and share your experiences online in whichever ways you like. There’s no form to fill in, no Strava badge to collect, no certificate at the end. I like anything that cuts the crap and gets people riding a bike, and 30 days of Biking does just that.

So, what does it actually involve? Joining 30 Days of Biking means making a two-part pledge:

  1. To ride your bike every single day in April, and
  2. To share your adventures online.

Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, your own blog…wherever it may be. It’s a wonderfully simple idea: ride your bike lots, and share it with a community of cyclists online. I also love the idea that if we have enough fun, people who don’t normally ride a bike will want to get involved – that’s how I ended up here!

During April I’ll be organising a couple of social rides (have a look on the Rides page), and I’m sure others will be too. One of my most favourite memories from September’s round was a group ride in Brighton: there were road bikes, mountain bikes and hired Amsterdam style bikes – a bunch of misfits brought together.

Our 30DOB cafe ride in Brighton last September

30 Days of Biking isn’t a political statement. It’s not a bunch of eco-warriors, or road safety campaigners (not that I object to either of those groups!) or any other stereotype which may spring to mind. It’s an inclusive community who don’t care what your bike looks like, or what you look like, or how far you can ride in a day. It’s for the love of cycling: simple.

30DOB North American pals

Throughout April I’ll be cycling every day, and sharing my experiences online. Why not join me? Let’s hope for some sunshine…

Make the pledge: http://30daysofbiking.com/pledge

Puncheur

On Saturday night I set my alarm for 6.30am – something that doesn’t happen very often. The reason? My first sportive of the year – The Puncheur. You might remember I rode part of the route with Morgan, James and Mark back in November. I wasn’t well and managed 30 miles before I had to give up and go to my parents house for tea. You’ll be pleased to know I managed to finish the whole 65 mile route this time around!

The Puncheur is a challenging ride, but not one designed to inflict as much pain as possible – as seems to be the fashion with sportive events at the moment. (If I want to suffer, I will race.) The route is neither hugely long nor hugely hilly. While it includes some testing short climbs, there are no serious hills until the grand finale that is Ditchling Beacon. It also crosses some beautiful parts of this county – providing stunning views across the Ashdown Forest and from the top of the Beacon.

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The route (click for larger image)

Having had a few really mild, sunny days last week, it was tempting to think that the Puncheur might be my first chance to ditch the leg warmers and enjoy a Spring-like ride. As the week went on, and pictures of snowflakes began to appear in the weather forecast, it became obvious that this would not be the case. Sunday arrived and it was seriously cold. And so the usual rigamarole of layers and thick socks and overshoes and hats went on, before chucking myself and Claud into Gill’s car.

Gill and I arrived, with bikes, and made our way to sign up at HQ. We met some familiar faces and chatted to some friends – one of the nice things about taking part in such a local event.

About to set off

We had our timing chips scanned and set off. It took quite some time for my legs to get warmed up in the cold. My brain seemed to take some time to warm up too (I don’t think it works before 9am) so I was grateful for the clear signposting at every junction.

I chatted to some friendly folks en route, and was passed by some speedy guys from local clubs, including the blurs of Mark, Marc and Dan who slowed down for 2 minutes to talk to a slow coach.

Despite the freezing cold, I really enjoyed the ride. I wasn’t even *too* nervous about the ever closer Ditchling Beacon. On that subject, somehow I have gone 6 months of writing this blog and cycling around Sussex every week without having yet cycled up that infamous hill. Some may argue I have deliberately avoided it. Either way, there was no getting out of it this time. Being stubborn is both a blessing and a curse: when ascending a massive hill it appears to be the former. I distinctly remember saying out loud to myself half way up the climb: ‘you’re not f****ing giving up now’… and indeed, I did not. I was very slow, but I got up in one go and I’m pretty happy about it.

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At the top of the beacon.

Having finished the ride I took a few minutes to rest my somewhat achy legs and enjoy the gorgeous view from the top. I’m usually terrified of fast descents but I was so pleased to have finished that I rode back down the beacon to the event HQ with a big grin on my face. There was hot pasta, yummy cake and some delicious hot chocomalt recovery drinks from Apres (an awesome Brighton company).

All in all, not a bad way to spend a chilly Sunday morning. I’ll be back next year.

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www.puncheur.co.uk

London Bike Show & Nocturne Series

There was a moment when I wondered if I’d make it to London at all, but I did, and it was well worth the snowy journey. I’m not going to bore you with exhibition talk, but here are a few of my highlights…

1. Surviving the snow. Not dieing is always a plus. There was a moment, when the snow was stuck to the windscreen and the screen-wash was frozen, that I did ponder on my chances.

2. Elite Women’s Crit – Friday. This was brilliant. It made me want to join in. And anyone who says women’s racing is boring…well you should have watched this. Clemence Copie of HWCC won the crit, with Alice Bahns of 23C Orbea in second, and Louise Mahe of Team MuleBarGirl in third.

3. Elite Men’s Crit – Saturday. I bloody love watching these guys race. First place was taken by Ian Bibby of the Madison Genesis team, which had been launched earlier in the day. Second place belongs to Pete Hawkins of IG Sigma-Sport, who came off his bike very early on, sustaining a nasty looking bit of road rash. All the more impressive that he placed 2nd.

4. Looking at all the pretty bikes. And talking to nice people. It was great to see some familiar faces, and a chat to a few new ones. I resisted (nearly) all temptation, and left after two days at the show only having bought two things…a discounted jersey, and a pair of socks!

5. I’m gutted that I had gone home by this point, and didn’t get to see the race, but despite that the biggest highlight has got to be seeing three Team ASL360 guys on the podium for the Juniors Race. The race was won by Dan Gardner, a local lad from Scaynes Hill. Smiles all round.

White Chalk Hills UCX (film)

WHITE CHALK HILLS UCX is the brain child of Vélo Morphē.

Not a sportive, not a race & not an event. The White Chalk Hills UCX was put together by a couple of creative cyclists who had an idea of what would make an epic bike ride, and wanted to share it. Almost 5000ft of climbing, on and off road, made up the 46 mile route.

I have to admit to not riding the UCX, mostly due to lack of suitable bike. (I did go for the Belgian beer and frites though..) There are whispers of more rides from Vélo Morphē, so I’m keeping my ears open.

This is why we ride our bikes.

White Chalk Hills Ultracross 2012

Filmed and produced by Gavin Peacock.

……..

Read more about the day here.

Mulled Cider Festive Ride

Saturday 8th December at 12:00

We ride our bikes, and then we drink mulled cider and eat mince pies. Simple. What better way to get in the festive spirit?

Photo (c) Josh Thornton

We’ll meet at the Peace Statue on Brighton Seafront at midday and ride a loop that finishes back in Brighton. We’ll be riding at a sociable pace.

This is the route. 25 miles: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/157104001

All types of bikes and types of people are welcome, so long as you are nice :-)

Oh, and it’s free.

RSVP here.

Winter Solstice 100 RR

Winter Solstice 100 RR, December 21st – 22nd

This looks to be another exciting ride from those folks at Vélo Morphē.

It costs nothing to come along to this ride, and in that line of thought you are expected to be self sufficient (bring your own food & drink/spare light batteries/tubes etc). You are responsible for your own safety. It’s basically a ride with friends, but you’ll get to meet some new faces too. Saying that, there’s going to be vehicle support so you’ll be able to chuck some of your stuff in the van.

Taken from the VM blog:

“In the spirit of White Chalk Hills UCX and the Dunwich Dynamo we propose an A to B road ride heading east from Winchester to meet the rising sun on the sunshine coast and breakfast in Eastbourne.”

I’m in, are you?

Full details here.

White Chalk Hills UCX

White Chalk Hills UCX, December 30th

This promises to be a fantastic ride. An Ultracross challenge across beautiful Sussex. On-road, off-road, bostal climbs and mud. Not for the feint hearted, mind you. I will be going along for the Belgian beer and stories at the end – but my legs, my bike and my (complete lack of) off road experience are not up to the ride itself. If you have a CX bike or mountain bike and fancy an epic day out, don’t miss this.

In the words of the chaps at Vélo Morphē:

“We have to make it clear, what follows is NOT a race and NOT an event.  It is simply a suggestion of what will make a great UltraCross route in East Sussex, and a time and date which would seem to us as good a time as any to do this.  If you choose to do this at that time you are doing so of your own free will.”

 For full details of the UCX click here

Keep up to date via twitter: @velomorpha

Stanmer Park Cyclocross

Today I was up bright and early to lend a hand setting up for the cyclocross at Stanmer Park. Nothing that begins at 5.45am ever starts well, but it was a brilliant day in the end.

***

05:45

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Huh? Wha? Urghhhh….

 

06.45

Rain. Lots of rain. It might stop if I wait a bit.

 07:00

More rain. Run out of excuses not to leave. Time to harden up.

 

07:03

Trains are nice and dry, aren’t they.

 

07:30

Sinking mud underfoot. A few kilometres of plastic tape. A few hundred plastic stakes.

 

09:30

Soaked.

10.00

A change of shoes and a cup of coffee

10:30

People with bikes! Lots of them! Oh yay!

 

13:00

C’MON!

IT’S A RACE YOU KNOW!

MY MUM CAN RIDE FASTER THAN THAT! (etc, etc.)

14:00

Muddy people. Muddy bikes.

Belgian beer. Gin.

Smiles all round.

Gavin took some excellent photos of the race today, which you can see here.

Knog Muddy Hell

Last night I went up to London to check out Muddy Hell (“The Scariest Cyclo-X Race of the Season”) at Herne Hill Velodrome.

This was the first time I’d seen any cyclocross, other than on a computer screen. I turned up with a friend and a bag of beers – which was definitely a good move. Beer jackets deployed, we managed not to freeze to death. There was an atmosphere of fun right from the start, and I don’t think it was just the fancy dress. Everyone was having a brilliant time: riders and spectators.

Ghost rider on the Muddy Hell course

Beer tent

I had the pleasure of talking to BLIXA of Vélo Morphē after his race. Once he’d cleaned the mud out of his mouth with a Belgian beer, he answered my questions.

Mud everywhere, freezing cold to your bones, bike buggered from all the mud and body bruised from falling off – it sounds like a whole lot of pain. Was it really “hell” or is the suffering all part of the fun?

Riding Cyclocross really is the best fun you can have on a bike. Road riding is all about style, finesse and panache, the history and the suffering. Cyclocross is about the fun, suffering, mud, friends and beer.

Can you describe the course? It looks huge, and I’m pretty sure we couldn’t see all of it from the beer tent..

The course was winding and ‘technical’ – it flowed from the arena, then across the velodrome track to a sharp bank drop, then an off camber single track. It was extremely muddy and very treacherous. The course wound back in on itself, again and again as it went round the perimeter of Herne Hill velodrome. There was a steep bank climb which was then followed by some steps, before making its way back into the arena where there were the ‘whoops’ and the ‘barriers’ to skip over before the final hurdle of that ramp and jump.

Anything else to add?

That was probably the most fantastic thing I’ve ever taken part in.

BLIXA, aka The Raven Man. [Photograph (c) Nick Hussey of Vulpine Apparel]

“Muddy”. They didn’t lie.

Perhaps it was because I couldn’t feel my limbs due to the cold, or perhaps it was the beer I was drinking, but watching everyone race through the thick mud and in the icy rain made me wish I’d brought a bike and joined in the horrific suffering fun for myself. I want a go!

There’s no CX bike in my life at the moment, but I think it’s time I sorted that out. Bring on next year…

Demon Cyclist, AKA me. I told you it was cold.

Annoyingly I didn’t manage to get any decent photos of the riders, but you can check out the official photos here.

And an excellent video of the night by Olly Townsend here.

Day 30 – Cycletta Brighton

For the final day of 30 days of biking I took part in the 80k route of Cycletta Brighton. I’m going to update this with a proper review of the ride, but I am having an insanely busy couple of days, so have not yet had the chance to write anything.

Here are some photos until I update this post tomorrow.

Ok, so I never updated this – sorry! You can read my review of the ride on the Cyclosport website, here.

Day 29 – Dark Star Hop Fest ride

This morning I dragged my hungover body onto my bicycle for a bike ride…to a brewery! (Hair of the dog and all that.) The ride was organised as part of the Dark Star Hop Fest.

Brighton must have known I was suffering because it kindly surprised me with a beautiful, sunny morning. A whole bunch of us met at The Evening Star pub, in whose cellar Dark Star first started brewing beer in 1994.  We set off in two groups (one fast and one slow, I’ll let you guess which I was in..)

The route we took was along the coast to Shoreham and up through Steyning and Ashurst to Partridge Green. It was a route not short on pretty views, including the River Adur, the Sussex Downs (of course), the old cement works and limestone quarry in Shoreham, and a whole bunch of green, green fields.

On arrival at the Dark Star brewery there was FREE BEER and a free t-shirt. Perhaps I am easily pleased, but I think that’s a pretty sweet deal. There were a load of guys from the brewery around if anyone wanted a conversation about the complexities of brewing, or the differences between Centennial, Liberty, Cascade and Citra hops…

It was good to chat to some other cyclists over lunch at The Partridge, just down the road from the brewery itself.  After lunch (and a few more pints for some) we all headed home in various directions. My route was 33 miles all in all, which I’ll take as a warm for tomorrow’s 50 miles at Cycletta!

In conclusion then, beer and bicycles were born to be friends.

Not a bad Saturday at all :-)

The ride there

Freebies!

Posing with my pint and t-shirt..

Beer!

That’s actually a pint of coke. I didn’t want to wobble off my bike.

Hopfest banner at The Partridge

 (Thanks to @themanfromicon for a few of the pictures and for keeping me company on the ride back to Brighton!)

Oh and kids – don’t drink lots of beer and then ride a bike (vice versa is fine..)