Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Annual Dinner, Prize Presentation and Disco


Victoria Road, Bailiffe Bridge, Brighouse, HD6 4DX
Meet at 6.30 for 7.00pm

Winter vegetable soup
Creamy garlic mushrooms
Homemade salmon fish cakes

Traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding
Slow roast ‘Lamb Henry’ with minted gravy
Individual fish pie
(V) Vegetarian option

Rhubarb crumble and custard
Chocolate torte & ice cream
Cheese & biscuits

Coffee & mints
COST : £ 23.00 per person   (complimentary wine included)
Please contact Paul Gower with numbers and choices by 11th January 2014 - Latest
Thank you
Paul Gower: 01422 201533


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday 29th

Despite my best efforts to confuse everyone (including myself) several Condors did make it to Airton Cafe today. We went via The Duckpond and Winterburn getting to the cafe at about 11o'clock and just beating the rush.

Ian was keen to take an easy route back to Halifax where we had an appointment with Neil and a barrel of beer. This easy route included the Cononley B'stard and up past Aberdeen Farm to Cold Edge Road, I was relieved he hadn't fancied a challenging route. I'd like to say that, with training not officially starting till next Sunday we rode together in a disciplined ' season of goodwill ' manner but this was not to be with Ian putting in a stinging attack on the A59, Nigel clipping off the front after Carleton, getting Damian and Chris all excited, then Damian & Chris making all-out attacks on the B'stard and again up Cold Edge. Although it's not really the 'done thing' to award KOM points for Christmas week club runs I've been asked to mention that Damian got the better of Chris on both these 'hors categorie' ascents - in fact there was only Steve Thewlis and me who rode sensibly.
It was then down to Highroad Well for  a well earned pie & peas and a pint courtesy of Neil and his missus, thanks again for your hospitality.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sunday 29th and New Years Day

Sunday 29th - meet Denholmgate 9am or Keighley 9.30am for cafe ride (Airton?) and back to Halifax for a pint with Neil.

New Years Day - meet 10am Brighouse (bottom Hudds Road) for cafe stop at Holmfirth then Isle of Skye and back through Saddleworth and over to Sowerby Bridge.

Note - Sunday 9.30 Kly (not as originally blogged)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ride Report - Rileys Treat

Just four of us out for the Sunday ride, Melvin, Ian, Nigel and myself. We were resolved to have an easy ride prior to calling in at the umpteenth Rileys Treat at Pecket Well. It was good to see the Hartley's together at the front although I'm worried that Nigel is coming into top form far too quickly ( I'm hoping that he doesn't get much faster). 
We turned left from the Skipton Road at Vietnam Bridge to take the back roads through to Broughton and Elslack, then over Carleton Moor and down to Cowling before enjoying a strong tail wind up past Lunds Tower. The cafe stop at Haworth was achieved via Slippery Ford, Oakworth and Tim Lane, sounds hard work but the hardest climbs were wind assisted and a very fair all day breakfast (and exceptionally well priced) at the bakery half way down Haworth main street made the effort worthwhile.
We then went round the back of Penistone Hill and down to Oxenhope with Mel setting just the right pace into the wind over Cock Hill and down to the Robin Hood.  There was a good turn out at Rileys Treat where we were joined for a Christmas drink by the West Pennine RC, Halifax Imps, VS Cycles & Batley CC plus many  more Condors.
Thanks to Dom Turner for the photos - send me the others and I'll add them to the blog.

Merry Christmas to  smithsinsydney hope its not too hot out there and to the Daly's in New Zealand, you can keep tabs on Paul at http://www.strava.com/athletes/3146530

Christmas greetings from Oz

To all our friends in the Condor:

And to keep up with our news: smithsinsydney blog

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cragg Vale Spiral

Thanks to Jonathon Emberton for todays Cragg Vale Spiral, its true to say that I would never have considered riding the route had not Jonathon organised this challenge event. When I took the dog out last night it was raining hard and blowing a gale and I was certainly in two minds as to whether to set my alarm but I did and I was glad I did.
Not a bad turn out from the Condor with Steve Thewlis, Chris Smith, Garry Traviss and Old Town Stewart joining me outside the Robin Hood at 9am together with Hoppy from the Imps and VS's Dom Turner plus an array of cyclists, young and not so young on various steeds ranging from road racing machines to mountain bikes.
On the 1st ascent, into a head wind, I was soon in oxygen depth and before the barking dogs junction had lost contact with the front runners who were being towed, inevitably, by our own Padiham Chris. Stewart was going very well for a big lad who doesn't get out much and although Hoppy had been telling me he was feeling really rough, before long they both gapped me. I looked round and was surprised to see we had already lost Garry and Steve. I dug in and re-contacted Stewart and Hoppy and we worked together picking up several remnants discarded from Moto 1. It wasn't easy, the higher up we climbed the stronger the buffeting head wind was.
At the top the leading bunch kindly turned round and came back to us so we could complete the lap together, down past the Beehive and through Mill Bank to Sowerby then back to Mytholmroyd through Boulderclough and down Scout Road. Dom told me that Chris had ridden the whole of the Cragg Vale climb at the front and confided that he had difficulties keeping on his wheel.
The next ascent followed a similar pattern although heavy rain was now added to the strong head wind. The 'tete de la course' was now down to 4, Chris once again driving the pace with Jonathon, Dom and a young lad in a Team Sky top pulling away, and myself and an a guy who lives up at Turkey Lodge working well together at 100 metres (somewhere we had lost Hoppy, Stewart and others - I'm told that Hoppy had to stop to adjust his saddle pack). Chris and the break loitered for us at the summit and we completed this 2nd lap together, through Cottonstones, past The Alma and once again up to Sowerby.
 I was hoping that by the 3rd ascent Chris's speed would be tempered but I was soon disappointed, he just didn't slow at all when we hit the climb and I knew I would have to watch the same 4 pull away once again as together with Turkey Lodge we settled in to bit and bit up the longest unbroken climb in the country once again. However the mental effort of the climb was broken by observing Dom up ahead frequently losing contact, digging deep to get back on then drifting off again until he eventually failed  to get back and came back to us. I was very surprised at the summit when I looked round and he was gone. Knowing he's not one to give up easily I got down on the hooks and gave it what I could round on the top road round to Hubberton. I made a navigational error here by going through Boulderclough once again when I should have kept on the high road before dropping down to Scout Road but the now tail wind ensured I didn't lose too much time eventually finishing at the Robin Hood just minutes behind Chris, Jonathan and Team Sky.
I'm really glad I made the effort to be there and sorry I was unable to wait at the pub to greet our other finishers.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Yesterday, Wednesday, Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd

It was really good to see Nigel and Steve Barker down at the Hebden Bridge start yesterday, they've been missing for far too long, but as with all true cyclists they eventually return. They joined Padiham Chris, Oakworth Steve and myself for the club-run. As promised, and as you can see from the above profile, there was plenty of downhill but I'm not sure that starting up Mytholm Steeps was popular with everyone. With no Melvin to compete with, Chris behaved himself reasonably and responded well to the occasional advice that was necessary (ie. to slow down). Nigel was riding very well for someone who has for so long been concentrating on gourmet meals and fine wines - I'm hoping that his improved fitness will be an indication that his mono-zygotic sibling will be going the other way.
From Blackshaw Head we picked up the Season of Mists route through to Fence. Nigel and Steve B left us at the start of Sabden Ridge to go straight to the Clarion Pavilion via Sabden Fold and up to Newchurch as Steve T, Chris S and I attacked the Nick o' Pendle, although in truth attacking the climb sounds more dramatic than reality as a good tail wind blew us over the Nick and we were soon flying down the other side towards Pendleton Hall where I had the (bad) idea of turning right onto the bridleway towards Downham. Its only a couple of kilometers to the Worston-Downham lane and the 1st km was metaled but it deteriorated dramatically and then disappeared into a boggy field. We about turned and followed the sensible route to cross the A59 and onto the old road and the cycleway to Worston. The climb over Downham Moor and Pendle Side almost caused Chris to move down from the 54 chain wheel, and he actually did briefly use the 39 ring climbing up the double chevron-ed rise from Barley to Newchurch.
Disappointment soon followed as we got to the Independent Labour Party's tearooms to find that, not only were Steve B and Nigel not there, but even worse, there was no water, which in turn meant no steaming pint mugs of tea so we had to settle for washing our pork pies down with a glass of milk as we sat round the coal fire chatting to other disappointed comrades including former West Pennine man and Falcon professional Alan Mellor.
Once on the road again we picked up the Seasons of Mists run-in from Roughlee through Nelson and over Widdop to Heptonstall where we popped in to The Cross, soon to be joined by the Imps club-run (sorry for the poor photo - it was the landlords fault).
Once again mild and dry - how long can this last? - a highly recommended Tour of Pendle.

Wednesday 18th
39 places booked for the Wednesday Club Christmas do at the Stubbing Wharf - doors open at noon - turkey being served just after 12.30

Saturday 21st
Cragg Velo's Jonathan Emberton has organised the 1st ever 'Cragg Vale Spiral', a 75k ride starting from the Robin Hood at 9am. It includes three ascents of Cragg Vale with 3 different returns to the foot of the climb. Its free to enter and there's pie & peas available (and a pint) at the Robin Hood at the finish.

Sunday 22nd
Meet 9.30am Denholmgate, 10am Keighley for shortish ride and cafe stop before having a look in at 'Riley's Treat' at the Pecket Well, Robin Hood.

Monozygotic ! I thought I was reading one of Robin's blogs, seeing words I need to look up. Anyway we may be dizygotic, they didn't worry about these things in 1960 !
I took advantage of the great weather on Sunday to join the Ilkley gang around Coverdale. After a morning meandering the lanes to the fine cafe in Masham we had to face the usually wall of wind over to Kettlewell. Great fun !

I see that the National Hill Climb Champion was also out up Coverdale last Sunday, see  http://cyclinguphill.com/ 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cannon Hall & Castle Hill - and Sunday 15th - and Weds 18th

Another beautiful December day tempted what must be a wintertime record of 18 to meet at Shelf roundabout today. Due to the numbers we needed a decent sized cafe and the choice was eventually down to Wetherby or Cannon Hall with Cannon Hall winning by a short head. It was a lucky choice because, although we did drop down into the freezing inversion along the Greenway to Dewsbury we soon climbed out of it into the sun on the road up to Thornhill, whilst I understand that the cold mist loitered in the east for most of the day. With the temperature being back up to 8 or 9 degrees and only a light breeze we made our way to Cannon Hall via Blacker Hall Farm and Cawthorne.
Once refreshed at the cafe we were on the road again before 1 o'clock and returned through quiet lanes to Ingbirchworth, Farnley Tyas and Castle Hill to Huddersfield.  Grimpy was left disappointed that no one wanted to add a lap of his new LVRC road race circuit round Scammonden and Buckstones on the route home which meant, unusually, we were home during daylight hours - a dangerous precedent.

Sunday 15th December
The hard-riders section are meeting this coming Sunday at Hebden Bridge (by the park gates) at 9am. The plan is to reminisce about the good old days whilst sitting round the roaring stove drinking pint mugs of tea at the Clarion Pavillion then stopping off at The Cross at Heptonstall for a pint of Timothy Taylors Ram Tam on the way home. The circular route is less than 50 miles but  WARNING - THIS ROUTE COULD CONTAIN HILLS  (if you want more than tea and biscuits at the Clarion you need to take it with you).

Wednesday 18th December 
Next Wednesdays Christmas Dinner at the Stubbing Wharf should be a good 'do' with about 34 having their names down to be there. For those cycling there we will be meeting as usual at Shelf Roundabout at 10am where the day's Master of Ceremonies, John Kaye, will be guiding the peloton over the hills and valleys of Calderdale with the intention of getting us to the pub at about mid-day. The dinner is booked for 12.30.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ride Report - Sunday 8th Dec

Only two at Odsal this morning, Myself and Steve Thewlis.  We hung around for a while expecting Padiham Chris to show but eventually decided we must make a start. A tail wind helped us set a brisk pace round the Greenways to Ossett and we continued in the same vein seeking out the quieter lanes to Castleford then through Fairburn Ings and flat arable lands to Thorpe Willoughby and up to Cawood. From there the byways became a little harder as we turned into the once helping breeze.
Chris had phoned me to apologize for missing the start time and was making his way through Leeds towards York, I told him we were heading for the cafe next to the bike shop in Tadcaster and eventually found him sitting outside the cafe at quarter past twelve.  The cafe was surprisingly quiet and we were soon enjoying our lunches.
Once refreshed we headed homeward via reasonably quiet back lanes through Bramham, Shadwell, Eccup, Bramhope, Guiseley and Esholt. At Shipley I was keen to show off Yorkshire's UNESCO World Heritage Site to our red rose team mate so we turned right past Salts Mill and through the back streets of the Victorian model village. By the time we were half way up Moorhead Lane past the golf club I was wondering if this had not been my best ever idea. Of course Chris hardly seemed to notice it was up-hill, very steep up-hill, as Steve and I watched him disappear into the distance.
We had enjoyed good weather so far but by Sandy Lane the temperature dropped and rain, which had started lightly as we were climbing out of Saltaire, was getting heavier and heavier. We said our goodbye's to Steve as he headed towards Cullingworth and, once we were wet through, stopped to don rain jackets before negotiating head winds and driving rain through Egypt, the Walls of Jericho and Moscow.
Chris left me at Queensbury for 30 miles of head winds and rain.
A thoroughly enjoyable day out.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Sunday 8th January

Meet 9am Odsal Roundabout for a flatter ride than recent weeks, out towards Vale of York.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Wednesday Vets Ride

Smashing weather again today as we assembled at Shelf for a trip up the Dales, its a good job that the weather was conducive to standing around as we'd only got as far as the Yorkshire Building Society building on the Bradford ring road before Steve Stanger suffered his first puncture. Having been deserted by his neighbour he had to get his own hands dirty, but at least he wasn't short of advice. We then made our way to Shipley via Wrose and on to Esholt and up Old Hollins Hill to descend to Otley down the Chevin. A right turn at the bottom of the Chevin resulted in our 2nd delay as Neil had to scrape himself up from the road, fortunately he was more shaken than injured although his clothing wasn't so lucky.
Between Otley and Bolton Bridge we made better progress although even then we had to soft pedal as Steve had developed a slow - he changed the inner tube again at the cafe but then managed to break the valve and came in the cafe, disrupting our lunch, begging for an inner tube (Paul, come back soon, he needs you).
After the cafe stop the peloton split as a good half remembered urgent appointments at home taking the quicker route over Cringles and Ingrow whilst the rest of us followed Paul Gower over Addingham Moorside to Silsden and Keighley, then up the cobbles of Thwaites Brow and over to Harden, up to Hallas Bridge and then on to Thornton before joining the Great Northern Trail to Queensbury with JK, despite damaging a Look shoe plate whilst walking up Thwaites Brow putting in a fine performance up Station Road.
Should Boardman be allowed to say such things, see  http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest/541506/chris-boardman-mps-should-be-embarrassed-by-cycling-inquiry.html
Surely our elected leaders and policy makers know best.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Yesterdays Ride

I know how Robin felt a couple of weeks ago as I waited at Denholmegate all alone yesterday morning waiting in vain as no one came. However Mel, Chris, Steve and Richard were at Keighley so it was game on. As planned we breakfasted at Malham having made our way there via the duck pond and Winterburn. It was fine and dry and by way of a change, after breakfast, we took the road up the right side of the Cove and round the Tarn to Darnbrook and Arncliffe.
We were in the Falcon 2 minutes before our predicted time of 12.30 and enjoyed a couple of pints of gravity bitter thinking we may be joined by others but this was not to be. With about 40 miles to ride home (add another 30 on for Chris) we didn't loiter too long having a flat fast ride down through Skipton and Keighley before adding a little sting-in-the-tail by taking a left turn by the Worth View and sampling the cobbles up Hainsworth Lane. Mel missed this delight having turned for home earlier and Richard flatly refused, even though I explained to him that there are hand rails at the side of the road should anyone require them.
Chris was in his element up through Hainsworth whilst Steve and I took a more cautious approach, once at the top Steve took a right down past the 3 Acres to Crossroads whilst Chris stayed with me down to Cullingworth from where we ambled through to Queensbury on the Great Northern Trail.
A flat ride has been mooted for next Sunday, Chris is keen to have a look at the Vale of York having missed our recent forays to the east so it should be a 9am meet at Odsal unless someone comes up with a better suggestion.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sunday 1st December

'Padiham' Chris accepts his trophy at the AudaxUK Presentation from guest of honor, Idai Makaya (who completed this years London-Edinburgh-London on an ElliptoGO  (hope it hasn't given Chris any silly idea's). Thanks to Daniel Webb for the photo.

This Sunday's ride was planned last Sunday; we said we would go up to Malham for a cafe stop then go over Darnbrook to The Falcon at Arncliffe for a swift pint. For anyone wishing to give Darnbrook a miss we should be at the pub for about 12.30, nice easy ride home from Arncliffe straight down to Skipton and Keighley.  Meet 9am Denholmgate 9.30 Keighley.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday Vets Ride

Another good turnout and another good day weather-wise. By the time I had got to Shelf Roundabout it had been decided that we would make another attempt to find Knaresborough (see 2 weeks ago). With Grimpy and Hoppy banned from the front we achieved this objective and found our usual cafe closed, however a very good alternative was found only yards away.

The return journey was made via The Beryl Burton Way to Knox; Pennypot Lane and Otley. The skyscapes were impressive but my colleagues on the road were reluctant to wait as I struggled to resist the urge to stop and take a few snaps on my phone. I cracked at Farnley and just had to stop and take the above photo. The chase was then on, not only didn't they wait for me to record the image but I'm convinced that they must have upped the pace, my thanks go to Lumby who loitered up the Chevin allowing me to regain contact (he's also asked me to point out that the mileage on the above route map is my distance and another 10 miles or so should be added for him as he has a longer ride to the meeting place).

From Shipley the hardmen took the scenic road home through Saltaire and the Golf Club climb, even adding a new section to our usual roads - Harrop Edge and Ten Yards Lane.

We now have about 30 takers for the Vets Christmas Dinner on the 18th, ages ranging from 27 (Padiham Chris) to mid 80's (Gordon Turner), rarely seen Condor legends who have booked their chairs include Eric Walker, Slim Sullivan and Mick Hellawell.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Grimpy’s Beer Ride?

Haute Route Alps 2013 Geneva to Nice August 18th to 24th

                                           Smiling for the camera as I’m climbing the Col De Rosemont 

In between trading and getting ready for my first cross I thought I would relax and bore your socks off with my recollections of the haute route event. Cross- reminds me of criteriums after the first lap you are wishing for the end?  Whoops I made it 13th in O50’s a reasonable start and it says I was 1st O60 – need to go faster- back to HR.
They say it’s the toughest longest, hardest, even a race for the first 100 or so. It has over 800km timed sections plus added kilometers to the start of each timed sector. 20 major cols a few over 2500m (Col de I’seran, I.Izoard, Bonette (highest paved road in Europe) etc. For all the info just check out http://www.hauteroute.org 
The sort of event Mel, Chris and Pete would relish. Although unlike Simons London/ Edinburgh ride its split in 7 days so plenty time for beer & sleep. You just have to take your time and breath in the scenery and keep ahead of the lantern rouge. Easy?

Pre- Start Stress
Major problem the organizer’s needed a 10 page questionnaire completing with a doctor’s certificate stating I was fit to ride over 2000m? The local shelf health Centre (requesting pound notes) insisted I had an examination with blood tests etc. Resulted in the doc. signing the form whilst adding the comment ‘subject to riding sensibly and not overexerting himself, I should survive---‘ .?  Surprise surprise I was accepted.  I booked the event through sports international.
The Sports international Team
All told we have 14 in the group, which included, a South African, American, and Canadian (farmer spends winter in Mexico and summer racing in Italy) all with female support an Australian (John Irvine) another farmer, quite a decent guy for an Aussie, we had lots of banter on the trip having similar styles and ability.
He been away from Oz for around 6 weeks mainly with is son who his a top young rider hoping to join a European team next year.
Rest of the crew were English and yes I can confirm the sport is the new golf, two helicopter pilots, a freelance photographer and a teacher come specialist record collector.  
We are split into two teams. I’m in team 2.
On arrival in Nice its build the bike up, get it through examination and collect your kit, which included bags, haute route team clothing and lights?
Just complete in time before our get together at a local auditorium for a lecture on the event, explaining route, procedure, Mavic support etc.
The Event.
Have to be at the start line at 6.30, one end of lake Geneva (adjacent to that big hose pipe). It’s a beautiful sunrise with I’m told 600 riders ready for the first stage to MEGEVE. We are off at 7.00 in groups of around 100 riders at only 1min intervals, each with motorbike escorts. I remember riding in the same direction with Brian years ago to Evian, the first 25 km or so are neutralized, it’s then through the timing mat and up the first col then down to Morzine to climb the col de Joux Plane (often used in le tour). We arrive in Mevege via the old cambloux road well inside the time limit although I had to stop twice for cramp in my right calf, reliving it with stretches. Unfortunately that Aussie Irvine passed me whilst I’m stopped. It’s noted. Me think’s I need to change my climbing technique to lower gears and staying in the saddle. I did and amazingly didn’t get cramp again?

Stage 2  Megeve to Val d’lsere (8.00 start)
Breakfast at 6.00. I got down for 6.30----
Highlights?  Col des Saisies, Col Du Roselend, Bourg St. Maurice to Val d’ Isere.
No flat at all today you are either going up for 20km or down. The first section is fine climbing through pines to the ski station on top of Saises. On arrival we get an amazing view of Mount Blanc. Dodgy descent a major crash I get the impression some go down thinking the roads are closed? Me I’m slow, I take my time always mindful of the big drops and for some reason the height seems to effect my balance, maybe its because I’m an old? Any excuse, shit Irvine passes me like I’m stopped.       
Eventually arrive at the foot to find an immediate sign directing us up Rosemont.
It’s a nice gradual climb after a feed station at midway we climb to a plateau and around a turquoise lake, then upwards to the summit.
Descend to Bourg St Maurice and on to Val d’Isere via a twisty side road upwards through pines, after a brief section on the main road we turn right eventually climbing up to the Val d’Isere reservoir, I can see that scot/aussie (Irvine) ahead and just pip him to the finish timing mat.  We are around 2 hours inside the cut off and head to our ski hotel lodge for the night. Nice pad.
At around 18.00 each evening you are invited to the days briefing one in French other English. We are lucky as our rep Dave goes and gets the low down on problems and tomorrows start time etc. Advised 7.00 am start, temperature around 4C – dam cold and early. Breakfast at 5.00. Starts about 500m away.
I arrive at 5.45 and scoff my breakfast down but unlike rest this old bugger is ready, the youngsters come down in casuals so have to go back an get changed, (like on autumn tour= ala J.K.). After eats it’s bring bags down for loading into the velocipede and ride down to the start village. We are dressed in almost winter gear including full gloves and you need it.

Today’s stage 3 takes us from Val D’Isere to Serre Chevalier, via Col De I’Iseran, Mount Cenis and Col De I’Echelle. around 164Km  
When we start its still dark but as we climb the sunrises and the views on the I’seran down to Val D’Isere 
are out of this world.

                               Near the top of I’Iseran with gloves, over shoes its cold (roads almost as bad as UK?)

I suspect the summit temperature was around 0C. The descent is initially dodgy, it’s so cold I pass riders freezing and stopped, rubbing body parts, me thinks they need P.G’s recipe (massage with fish & chip paper). Into the vaniose national park through beautiful scenery. Up Mont Cenis pass a lake and on the longest descent of the event (around 35km) into Italy we arrive at Suzy. What a temp change around 30C.
So its strip off and shuff everything in pockets and up my jersey. Guess I look like those images of domestiques carry many bidons?
 We now have a 35km gradual climb back into France to start the last serious ascent of the col De I’Echelle.  It’s a narrow road, no traffic, steep +10% in places. I climb the steep sections in bottom gear 27 x 34. A long gradually descent follows through the world heritage town of Briancon and onto Serre Chevalier.
Bugger me Irvine’s already arrived, pleased to say he’s been back at least 15mins before me. Still I do give him 20years but we will not dwell on that, wait for the time trial?
The digs are well I wont rush to go back although the foods OK. And we have plenty time to down a few beers.
The next day’s stage is from Serre Chevalier to Pra loup.
Highlights were the Co de I’Izoard, Col de Vars and the finish up to Pra Loup ski resort.  The I.Izoard lunar landscape was different otherwise another day with 3 major climbs. We have two nights in Barcelonette at the bottom of the Pra Loup climb. After a few beers it’s in bed at around 10.00 ready for the time trial up la Bonette.
Stage 5 Time Trial up La Bonette
The format is start individually at 20 sec intervals in reverse position order (I’m in the 350 to 400 position pool) on a time trial ramp through the timing mat.

                                                             Near 14% summit had to get out of saddle?

The climbs approx. 24km long around 7% average gradient.
I set myself a target of 2 hours, J. Irvine’s around 20 places behind me saying he’s not going to kill himself?
I start slowly 20 sec’s in front his a German youngster he eventually finishes 1 min ahead of me. Checking my Garmin I show around 1hr 49mins. Irvine say’s he’s under this time? In the evening I check the times on the Internet and as I recall I finish in 288 position, ok, better still I’m 1 min ahead of Irvine. Time for some banter and beer.
Dave (sports int. rep.) informs us police have requested neutralized sections on two descents tomorrow due to terrain and road conditions.
Stage 6 Pra Loop to Auron, highlights are: Col de La Cayolle, Col De Valberg, Col de La Couillole and the climb to Auron.
The Cayolle climb is the first and days longest up a very narrow road through unspoilt moorland countryside. After the Valverg we descend through very deep gorges, around hairpins with sheer drops with limited safety barriers plus the road surface is abysmal. No wonder it’s neutralized although most descents were to me anyway. Before the final climb into Auron we have a long very gradual ascent, a group passes me and I get sucked along, with around 20Km to go I have a front wheel puncture.  I can’t find the cause, no flint/cut in tyre? Eventually I insert new tube and I’m away again. I arrive in Auron and head for the end of stage meal which todays in a sports hall. Scoff it down sort myself in another ski type chalet hotel for the shower, evening meal and beer.
Dave advises us we start the final stage at 7.00 again so its breakfast at 5.00. Seemingly we have to make Nice for around 12.00 to avoid a storm and the Col De St Martin climb will be eliminated to ensure we get back to Nice early.
Final Stage: The first 50 km are under police and marshall’s motorbike escort. With a gradual decent most of the way we are moving well. Eventually we hit the timing mat to start riding proper which leads into the Col De Vence climb. The gradient isn’t severe but it goes on for about 20km when to my surprise we hit the summit we have finished the final timed section of the event.
We descend down to a small town whose main square is taken over by the haute route organization. We collect our medals and parifanalure.
Eventually we are on the main coast road to nice were we go through another finish area at the end of the Promenade des Anglais in bright sunshine no sign of the promised storm.
How did the old bugger do?
My overall time for the 7 stages: 34 hours 50mins 47secs, position I think was 344 about 12 hrs. behind the ex pro winner. The organization stated that a French man was the oldest finisher (70 years old) maybe I was?
I think i finished 8th in the O60’s section. But I managed to get round without getting into the red at what might best be described at a reasonable club run pace. His it the toughest multi -stage sportive?  I doubt it but I enjoyed the experience, ride, digs and the beer at each stage arrive.
Now if my ramblings have created a desire but you want something tougher then enter one of next years cent col challengers (they do 50,000m climbing and 200km per day, is it over 10days), check them out on the rapha web site, you might need financial support?  – this should keep Peter happy.
Cheers old buggy JG