Duisburg 24hr

I did it. I completed a 24 hour race. Usually very good at talking about riding, and talking about racing, I actually did some!

It was my first experience of racing in Germany and compared to the UK the course was less demanding. In fact, not demanding at all. I am used to the UK where a 24hr course is no different to a XC course, and our XC courses are much like a pro level XCO race in Germany. (having ridden AlpStadt on a practice lap). Duisburg was nothing like this. It was like a glorified tow path ride, with not a technical section to speak of. What this meant though was it was quick.

I wasn’t. All of the endurance races which I have done over the past 5 years (which, actually is very few) have ended in disaster. SITS – mud bath and DNFed. 24:12 – 12 hour torch bearer, started at midnight and crashed smashing my helmet at about 4:30am. Also DNF’ed. Brighton Big Dog last year – great great course. I managed 3 laps. Just 3. After 2.5 my chain snapped. This meant I ran about 5 miles, which destroyed me. Therefore my aim here was just to complete the race.

I rode slowly as a result. My fastest lap was actually my last.

I caught the bug again. I want to race.

Everyone is talking about cycling

Where to start.

So much has changed in my sport recently. As a kid, I watched the Tour de France, on channel 4 for just 30mins each night. I dreamt of the race, but the riders always seemed so far removed from who I was. Exotic Europeans living in countries back then I had no idea about. Even in 1994 with Chris Boardman riding in the Tour, it still seemed like anomalies. It returned to normal service almost instantly with their departure.

Now though, we have Wiggo. A British Tour de France winner who appears to be a normal bloke. No, in fact he is a normal bloke. Someone who you could imagine being in your own cycling club. Actually, I am user that there are people in your cycling club who have way bigger egos than him.

Watching Wiggins win the Tour de France, and Froome take second, as well as Cav take stages and Millar take stages brought tears to my eyes. Tears which returned watching Wiggins win Olympic Gold. Suddenly people are talking about my sport. The Olypmics track cycling is likely to bring further success. It feels a bit like I have arrived – it also feels slightly like the secret is out!

The day of the final stage of the Tour (a sprinters stage, with Wiggins overall win already assured)I rode 65miles into the Peak District. I saw so many Team Sky jerseys, as well as genuine British Cycling team members riding. Let’s hope the momentum continues – I look forward to the day I go to a bar and don’t have to request they put the cycling on!

Sorry I haven’t written for a while. I have been busy. I built a bike.

Differences

I am sat in a rental car office. This is a non airport location at a weekend. This is not my normal experience of rental cars. Normally I am at an airport with a bunch of other people who regularly rent cars. Today, no one has their full drivers licences with them. People returning cars don’t get that they just need to leave the keys. It is odd.

Yesterday the airport was the same. Holiday time. People lost, the unfamiliarity of it all. Kids everywhere. Until I got on my flight. To London. London Frankfurt flights are different. Just full of suits.

It is more relaxed flying into Manchester. The flights always have excited football fans on them on the Friday.

Why haven’t I been posting?

It is a good question actually.  I have been trying to find inspiration.  The summer is always my quiet period in terms of travel, and now it is the build period.  Eurobike is just around the corner, and I have my flight booking hat on.  August should see me visit Germany three times going to a 24 hr race, and having a week at the office, then visiting ISPO Bike in Munich, before moving on to Friedrichshafen for Eurobike right at the end of the month.  September then is seen in my the Eurobike show, followed for me by Madrid, Las Vegas, potentially an Italian show, an Austrian show and a show in the UK.  Then I have to look at October – potentially there is The Netherlands and, all pity me now, the South of France (Nice, to be exact).

 

Right now I am on my way back from head office in Germany. 

Most annoying roadside repair?

So to all the cyclists out there – what is the most annoying roadside repair?

Punctures? Not really a big deal, you should have everything with you to do that one easily enough.

Broken chain? Yes, this will ruin your day on the bike. Touch wood though, it has never happened to me on the road bike.

Bits falling off? Only your self to blame here, I’m afraid.

No, I think on a road bike, the most annoying thing is one which I had to do this week. Just before coming here (Ibiza) I replaced my bar tape and rewrapped my bars. I did this at home in Manchester, inside our apartment. The problem is, the apartment is about 20degrees inside. Fast forward to Ibiza, in he sun, and the bar tape heats up to about 40 degrees, the glue fails and it starts unravelling. Really annoying at the side of the road.

I think the most annoying repair ever.

Ibiza

This is the first time for me. Clubland, Ibiza. Despite DJing when younger I’d never been here. I wasn’t that much of a hardcore clubber I suppose. The murky drug side of it all put me off too. I have never really been one for all that stuff.

Now, at the age of 32, and with TPO’s 30th in a matter of days, we decided to come for a bit of a mixed holiday. The Balearics for me is something I associate with cycling training camps. Majorca has some of the best roads and a climate that is favourable makes it precisely the type of place cyclists like to spend a week or two at the start of the season. A bit of searching on the Weight Weenies forum, and I was told that there was enough riding on Ibiza to fill a week too. In that time you could pretty much cover the whole island. I packed the bike into the (new) bike box, and we headed to the sun for 5days beech, cycling (me), running (TPO) and relaxing in the sun. This was followed by two nights in Ibiza town doing the party thing. Fortunately, I am not at work again until Monday 2nd, so I will have some time to recover.

Well lets just put it this way – the roads are awesome. Too twisty to be fast in a car, so locals seem to stay below 80km/h most of the time. I have ridden along country lanes, with the sun shimmering on irrigation tanks, a perfect mirror of the brilliant blue cloudless sky. I have seen farmers rebuilding a dry stone wall. I have seen the coastline, beaches, boats. I have seen hairpin bends, and the type of twisty yet smooth road descents where you go as fast as you dare, the tyres and your faith in your brakes being the only limiting factor – the mountains in the north really did give me what I was looking for, as the pass climbs from sea level to 270m in a very short distance. It was a case of selecting the granny gear and grinding. All of your effort going into climbing in autopilot mode, while the sweat of the 35degree heat glares down on you. I drank litres of fluid. Perhaps 4 – 5 litres a day. I got up at 7:00 to avoid the heat. I once more fell in love with my bike again.

It is true to say that traveling with a bike is a pain. You need to hire a car or get a larger taxi – you need to pack it properly and cross your fingers that nothing will happen. You need to be prepared for it to be destroyed. I ride a lot of bikes though, and honestly, there is nothing like riding your own one on the sort of roads you kid yourself you ride. The sort of roads which are the image in your head. The type of roads where Armstrong and Ullrich would have duelled. Yes, it isn’t the Alps or the Pyrenees and they certainly are on my list, but please don’t dismiss Ibiza if you have a week to spare. Particularly if your own pretty one is with you. The parties in the evening, riding in the morning and sleep all day is a sweet way to pass the time.

Just a word of warning. Do not burn the candles at both ends too much. It could be messy.

My rides were as follows:
45.3km 422m climbed
62.2km 802m climbed
81.4km 971m climbed
28.0km 245m climbed
85.2km 1072m climbed

So 302km with 3512m climbed. Not too bad, given this is a holiday and I went clubbing all night between the first and second ride!

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Emergency landing

Holiday time, and off to Ibiza. I decided that I was fed up of the summer which we were being inflicted with in Northern Europe. Cold, wet and simply unpleasant. I managed to talk The Pretty One into agreeing to my bringing the bike. A new bike box was purchased and an evening wasted trying to pack the bike.

The flights were booked on a budget airline. When traveling with a bike I always try to do the most direct routing. Jet2 was the airline selected. It all got off to a bad start with checking in the bike. Apparently there was a 20kg weight limit for sports equipment. Given that to book the bike onto the flight you have to phone their sales line (on a premium rate number – thieving tactics being fully deployed) you would have thought they would mention this. The box weighed in at 30kg, and they promptly requested 120gbp per flight for the box. Given that the charge for the box already paid was 70 for the round trip, my opinion of most budget airlines hasn’t changed. They are out to scam you at the first given opportunity. We should have read the small print though. After negotiations with the supervisor, the charge was reduced to 40gbp. I paid. It will be point one of many on my letter to Jet2.

We boarded the flight. A 737-800. It is a while since I have flown a 737. They are normally the domain of airlines I don’t fly. European airlines usually fly Air Bus short haul. Yes, Lufthansa and BA have some ancient 737s on their fleets, but they aren’t deployed in my routes.

So Jet2 was a new airline for me. I must admit the cabin was fairly pleasant. Alternating red and grey leather seats. Not the super economy feel of Ryan Air. Leg room was good too.

So the flight began, and it was lumpy. Not massive, cabin shaking turbulence but enough to make it uncomfortable. The seat belt lights remained on About 30 minutes in, there was a call put out for the ‘senior cabin crew to come to the flight deck’. It struck me as unusual. Almost immediately there was another announcement.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen this is the captain speaking. Unfortunately there is a technical problem with aircraft. We will be returning to Manchester, where we will make a precautionary landing. Please remove all loose items from the cabin and ensure your hand luggage is returned to the overhead bins, or is pushed right forward under the seat in front of you. Please ensure your seatbelt is tightly fastened and follow the instructions of the cabin crew precisely’.

His voice was tense.

For me, precautionary landing means emergency landing. The cabin crew came to the overwing windows and checked the engines for fires.

The cabin however remained jovial. I suppose that is the way we cope. Of course there were the typical idiots mouthing off. Suggesting this was more likely with Jet2 than with another airline. That, I don’t believe. Some were abusive, and subsequently not allowed to take the replacement flight. Good.

The landing was hard. It would be. We were overweight. Aircraft are not designed to land with a full load of fuel. It puts a lot of stress on the airframe, and also requires the entire length of the runway.

It was very hard though. Positive. And there were fire engines there waiting, racing us down the runway. My friend in air traffic control tells me that this is standard procedure for an emergency landing. The plane came to a halt slowly, then was taken to a stand away from all over aircraft. It was circled by fire crews.

Eventually we were let off. I had called the ATC friend, who had informed me that the aircraft had suffered dual autopilot failure.

Jet2 were pretty good. A new flight on a repaired aircraft was arranged to take off at 19:30 (from an original 14:30 departure) however due to removing people from the flight, and then not being able to find their luggage, the crews hours were exceeded. The cabin crew were also up against it. The water runs never reached the middle of the plane (front and back were watered) and the free soft drinks also never got to us. We were fortunate that we had brought our own food and used the Jet2 food vouches to purchase food and drink we could consume during in the wait. We eventually took off at 21:45 or 22:00. Even once in the air, Jet2 were still expecting everyone to pay for any food. This was disgraceful. £5 worth of food was supposed to sustain you for an additional 6 – 7 hours.

The flight was then uneventful. However the rental car office was closed, so there were out of pocket expenses.

As for Jet2 – well, shit happens. For the most part, it was only the inability of the cabin crew to stand up to more boisterous passengers which let them down. The insistence on sticking to the rules meant the service recovery was lacking (no free food or drinks beyond the legal requirement). I will see how much they respect the rules when I invoke the EU law on delays and compensation.