Race Reports

Ride London 10 August 2014

I used to think of myself as a fair weather cyclist.  Not any more, after having battled through the back end of tropical storm Bertha.

On 10 August 2014, "Team Fish-hook" (Jean Fish, Mike Hook and I), embarked on the Prudential Ride London 100 bike race.  Taking in the sights of London and the Surrey hills, it is the biggest cycling sportive in the UK.

It's fair to say we had been training over the preceding 2 months in the most glorious sunshine.  One barmy Sunday, I even had to stop to buy sun cream.  However, the weather had different plans for race day, forecasting torrential rain and high winds.  

When we registered at the Excel centre two days before the event there were countless people in a blind panic at the waterproof gear area.  An amused worker told me they'd cleared their entire stock of jackets the day before and had had to get an emergency delivery overnight.  Still, there was no rain to be seen outside and we were confident the forecast couldn't be as bad as predicted.  With some reluctance Team Fish-hook agreed we would pack our overshoes 'just in case'.  I don't think the reality of situation really sunk it until it was too late.

We arrived at the start line at 7 a.m. in Stratford and got into our allocated wave positions.  The role out of 24,000 riders from the Olympic Park was seamless and impressive to say the least.  There was no rain at that point and morale was high.  We were however, disappointed to learn that the organisers decided to cut out Leith Hill and Box Hill from the ride and reduce the distance from 100 to 86 miles.  Little did we know what a wise choice had been made.

The first 20 miles took in the sights of London, going through Stratford, the City, along the Embankment and out through Chiswick.  Riding through London with no traffic lights or cars is nothing short of a privilege.  It was exciting to see the Tower of London and The Eye as we sped past, and to ride under the Thames through the Blackwall Tunnel.

It was only when we reached Richmond Park that the heavens opened.  The rain was so heavy we could barely see in front of us, water was streaming down our faces and into our eyes (glasses or no glasses), and the roads started flooding.  We were wet to our skin in minutes and our brakes were pretty ineffectual.  I was then truly grateful we would not have to tackle any large descents in these conditions.  The sudden downpour caused a jam.  We were made to stop and stand in the rain for 20 minutes along with the other 6,000 rides trapped in the park.  You just had to laugh at the madness of what we were doing, voluntarily, and how far we still had to go…

The next 66 miles become much more of a blur in mind.  Time bent to feel as though it were passing both slowly and yet extremely fast at the same time.  We became acutely aware of the danger of the other swerving riders around us and our failing brakes.  It was certainly novel to be cycling through puddles that were up to a foot deep and I have never avoided cycling on drain covers so intently.  The aim of the day turned from racing into completing the event accident free.  We devised a genius plan to locate each other in the crowd and try to stay together - by someone shouting 'Fish' and waiting for the other Team members to respond with 'Hook'.  As I said, it was genius.

We did have some rest-bite from the rain and enjoyed speeding along three a breast as fast as the crowds would allow along the flat of closed dual carriageways in Surrey, and having snack breaks of ISO gels, Jelly Babies and Builder's Bars.  I should say it wasn't entirely flat -the climb at Newlands Corner warmed us up nicely.  There were friendly crowds cheering us on as we came back into London through Kingston and Wimbledon, allowing us to pretend (however fleetingly) that we were part of the Tour de France.  

We managed to stay together to sprint up the Mall and claim victory as three of the 20,709 riders across the finish line.  We may not have cycled 100 miles but we took on Storm Bertha and won.  After careful thought, it was decided that none of us would attempt the double arm raise off the bike celebration (for fear of falling on our faces).  We'd had enough adventure and mild peril for one day…

The ballot for Ride London 2015 opens on Monday, 18 August 2014.

Beacon Rouleur

93 miles !!!! seemed like a good idea when I entered months ago!

Considering I hadn't ridden that distance since I rode across Australia in 2001, I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew!!!

I went to bed Saturday night secretly hoping that it would be raining so hard in the morning that I would have an excuse not to ride!!! Well it wasn't raining in the morning but it was very windy as I made my way to Burgess Hill to the start [ by van as I didn't want to add even more miles!!!] .

Once I got signed in there was turning back and before I knew it I was on my way. After about 5 miles it was time to tackle Ditchling Beacon, followed by a fast descent down Coldean Lane. Then it was up Coombe Road , Bear Road and onto the coast road through to Newhaven before heading inland via Lewes.

The route then took us out to Laughton and continued through various villages and MANY hills heading towards Mayfield. At one point following the "arrow signs" I took a right turn and after about two miles of going down a lovely hill I realised that I hadn't seen another "arrow sign" and my fears were confirmed when I saw a sign post for Battle and Hastings!!!

A quick consultation with my map and I had to ride another two miles back up the same hill I had just flew down!! As I passed the turning I had previously come out of I realised that the wind had turned the "arrow sign" completely the opposite way!!! [ or did I have a C.R.A.F.T. moment!!] Oh well I thought what's another 4 miles on top of 93.!!!!

I soon forgot my mishap and was making my way to the timing chip check point at Mayfield. A quick pit stop here and then it was only another 30 odd miles back to Burgess Hill!!! The hills and wind had been relentless so far and the same pattern continued all the way back to Burgess Hill and the finish.

My riding time was 6hrs 53mins 41secs which gave me a Silver Standard, missing out on the Gold by approximately 10 mins, which I reckon was the extra 4 miles I done!!!!



Spring Time Classic

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I did  this ride last year but opted for the Challenge route 54 miles, so this year I was going for the Classic route of 71 miles!!

At registration I met up with Jeff Woodall, Andy Miles and Graeme Fitzjohn. Jeff and I were doing the long ride and Andy and Graeme were doing the 54 mile route. The ride started at 8.30 am from Burgess Hill, although it is not a race, everyone is timed over their respective course.


The weather was kind as well, mild, a bit cloudy with a slight wind.  We all started together but Jeff was after a personal best time and went off like a rocket, not to be seen again til we met up in the food hall at the finish!!!

I stuck with Andy until my chain came off after I went through the ford at Pillow Mounds Hill. I don't know how Graeme and Andy got on during the ride as I never saw either of them again.

The Classic route takes in Ashdown Forest and travels into parts of Kent and Surrey. There are five notable hilly sections on the route with Pillow Mounds Hill being the first, where you have to cross a ford before starting the climb. Once I got my chain back on I got stuck into the climb and completed that without any problems. The miles went by and then it was Kidds Hill, known locally as "the Wall". I have been up here several times but it is still a sit in the saddle and grind away type of hill and kicks again very steeply just before the summit.

By now I was well warmed up and looking forward to the Col du Groombridge [ Groombridge Hill ], this one has no run up and must be shown respect. These hills certainly cut down your average speed!!!Del Kidds Hill.jpg

I arrived at Hever [ which was the timing stop ] in 2hrs 43 mins. had a quick pit stop, picked up a bit of food and was on my way again. As I was leaving the feed station I checked my bike computer but alas it was no longer attached to my bike!!! Obviously I had been travelling so fast that it must have flown off!!! 

Having  made my way back via Hartfield , Forest Row and onto West Hoathly the next thrill to look forward too was looming up, the infamous Cobb Lane!!! It is short but has a 20% gradient and can be a cleat breaker as it's known as "the walk of shame" as many riders are forced to walk it!!! To make matters worse the official photographer is always there to record the " shame or the agony"!!! Well it was not the "walk of shame" for me but it was agony!!! 

Then it was on through Ardingly to what I thought was the final set of hills by the reservoir, short but steep. But there was yet another hill to climb up Deakes Lane into Ansty and then crack on to Burgess Hill to the finish.

I met up with Jeff in the food hall and found out that he had problems with his bike at one of the feed stations which delayed him somewhat and that had put paid to him achieving a "Gold Standard".

Challenge 54 miles

Andy Miles            3hrs 46 mins Silver

Peter Court            3 hrs 51 mins 40secs     Silver

Graeme Fitzjohn    4hrs 7 mins 15 secs       Bronze

Jon Webster            4hrs 27mins 5 secs       Bronze

Classic 71 miles

Jeff Woodall             5hrs 15 mins 46 secs    Silver

Del Hastings             5hrs 20mins 46 secs     Silver

I've got to say that was one of the toughest rides I have done!!! I have also sent an email to the organisers to ask why the Gold Standard for over 60's was 4hrs 55mins and yet the Gold Standard for the Winter Classic [ which was 77 miles but only an undulating course] for over 60's was 5hrs 30 mins which I completed in 5hrs 15mins. 


Del Boy



Burgess Hill Winter Classic


Woke up Sunday morning to the wind blowing like mad and thought do I really need to be doing this ride!!

On arrival at Cyprus Hall Burgess Hill to sign on I found out that the ride would be 77.2 miles not the 75 miles I thought!!! Oh well what's a couple of extra miles!!

Unfortunately there was nobody else from MSTC doing the long ride so I was on my own!! There were a number of other like minded people doing the ride but all looked a lot younger than me! Anyway having signed on I started at 08.36 and headed out West through Ashurst, West Washington, West Chiltington, Billingshurst, Wisborough Green, Loxwood and onto Ellens Green, which was basically the turn round point.

I stopped very briefly to get my timing chip swiped and to refuel. The journey to here had been uneventful, although there was a lot of surface water in places at least it wasn't raining!! But the wind was just terrible which reduced the average speed somewhat!

After a few minutes at this stop I headed out on the return journey saying to myself "it's only another 35 miles" and if you looked at the map the right way up it was all down hill !!!!!! Who was I kidding!!!

The ride back went through Broadbridge Heath, Barn's Green, Southwater, West Grinstead, Ashurst, Partridge Green, Alborne, Hassocks, HurstpierPoint, Keymer and back to Burgess Hill to the Cyprus Hall.

Well it wasn't down hill coming back and the wind was bloody worse!!! But at least it didn't rain!!!

I arrived in one piece after a very tough ride. My timing chip time was 5hrs 14 mins 43 secs [the Gold Standard for my age group OAP was 5hrs 30 mins] so I was well pleased with that, especially as my actual riding time was 5hrs 7 mins on my computer.

Will I be back next year??? Of course I will!!!!

Brighton 2 Brighton Sportive


Ladies & Gentlemen.


Another month and another race - this time the Brighton to Brighton Sportive organised by SRS Events and running in a big loop from Hove Lawns out westwards to Shoreham, Henfield, Partridge Green and all points west.


I missed this race, last year, after having an altercation with a straw bale, on a bend, at the Blenheim Triathlon and once again ending up on the slab and under Dave Rickett's scalpel. Peter Court, Graeme Fitzjohn and Woodyboy all did it in 2012 and were quick to appraise me of what a good event I had missed. This year it was Jeff's turn to sit it out, after introducing an aerial forward roll into his cycling skills and shattering both his cycling helmet and his left scapula when re-introduced to terra firma. So Graeme/Peter whose sitting it out next year??


Anyway, after months of training where Peter and I had dragged Graeme around Sussex every Sunday morning to the point where we knew he could ride for 5 hours+ and cover over 75 miles, we found Sunday dawning clear and bright. Down on Hove Lawns the foolhardy assembled good and early with a gentle 15 mph wind blowing from the east (fun out, in yer face coming back). Registration and collection of the timing chip was painless and Peter, Graeme and I were joined by the ever youthful, ever cheerful Del Hastings, replete in Club colours. Rupert Robinson showed up, forming part of an Evans Cycling team and being hardcore that he is, nothing less than the Classic (101 miles) for him. We satisfied ourselves with the 83 miler (Challenge).


Once registered, there was no holding back and we were out onto the seafront road swishing along towards Shoreham at a rapid pace and on really quite good road surfaces!


After months of training, and with peletons everywhere, it was relatively easy to latch onto groups but the quick pace (circa 37kph) was probably a bit too much and eventually the four amigos settled into a rhythm but it was clear that Graeme & Del were happier at a less frantic cadence and so we split. The roads were lovely, the drivers considerate and with the wind at our backs we hurtled across Sussex and Surrey before arriving at the turning point (47 miles) at Kirdford. At this point Peter and I parted company, on his orders, as I was despatched after the only rider to have been through. I just saw him as he headed out, as we headed in and so I set chase after the man in SKY kit on a black Boardman.


After weeks of cycling as a training group, it felt odd to out on my own trying to chase down the lead man. Matters were not helped just towards Billingshurst were a lady driving a Range Rover seemed to take exception to my being on the road and tore up behind me with her horn blaring  and gesticulating at me as she shot by. Being the shy and sensitive sort did I a) burst in to tears: or b) scream wildly back and give the full repertoire of hand signals? Well it was probably at this moment, I completely missed a right hand turn and shortly later found myself at a roundabout at which time, with no arrows to assist, I did that unheard of thing for a bloke and stopped to look at the map. Now this was easier said than done, as the print was small and my reading glasses were 30 miles away in Burgess Hill but I reckoned (or guessed) that I had to head south, so I cycled on into Billingshurst and hung a right onto the A29. About a mile later (and later looking at a map realising I added over a 2 miles to my journey) I came to a roundabout and "eh voila!" there were the signs. The hunt was back on!!


Well the rest of the journey flew by. At Ashington I locked onto the Worthing Excelsior boys and they saw me to Steyning and then it was the Club Sunday Tea shop route in reverse until Edburton where it was along the foot of The Downs towards The Devil's Dyke -  and there was my quarry! I had trouble closing him down as we pedalled up the Dyke but once I was on the flat it was just a question of time before I caught him at Shirley Drive. The run down to Hove sea front was fine but the lights were a pain. I crossed the finishing line in a PB needing to beat 6 hrs to achieve Gold, so doing it in under 5 hrs was a massive result.


It was lovely to wait on the line and see the boys come safely home and as we left the Lawns, Rupert was just returning to. Definitely one for next year.


I have had a trawl of the results and as far as I can see 8 Club Members took part:

  • Rupert Robinson (M41) - 6.11.49 GOLD - 101 miles
  • Paul Newsome (M26) - 4.51.29 - GOLD - 83 Miles
  • Andy Miles (M54) - 4.51.55 - GOLD -(included an extra few miles because I felt like it)
  • Mike Jaffe (M49) - 4.57.14 - GOLD
  • Peter Court (M52) - 5.06.06 - GOLD
  • Del Hastings (M67) - 5.30.20 - GOLD (time included 12 mins helping Graeme change an inner tube)
  • Matt Gibson (M39) - 5.59.59 - SILVER
  • Graeme Fitzjohn (M48) - 6.00.50 SILVER (included the 12 minute inner tube change!!)


Well done to all involved and see you all soon when the Turbo sessions start.




Ps Really pleased to see that I am as tranquil as ever and that the competitive streak has disappeared.