Monday, 11 May 2015

The Peak District Challenge: Day Two - Ashbourne to Huddersfield

This was always going to be the big day of the three. Day one was hilly for sure and day three, going up and down hills on tired legs was never going to be easy. But day two on National Cycle Route 68 from Ashbourne to Huddersfield was going to be a "doozy" as Ned Ryerson would say...

The second day in any of our three day escapades has always been my favourite. There's something about waking up in a hotel and knowing you need to get to the next one. Neither the start or the end, it really feels like you're doing everything under your own steam - especially with a pannier on your bike (Jon and John, the rucksack boys, you may hang your heads in shame).

So to the big day ahead, a hell of a lot of feet heading up hill, 5,688 feet in fact and a massive proportion of that going up Holme Moss. I knew of its notoriety, it was one of the big climbs when the Tour de France hit Yorkshire last year after all. Plus Spanners had ridden up it from both sides before and he'd put the willies up us (not literally, chance of bumming still low) about how hard it was going to be "no matter how hard you think it will be, it will be way harder" he said during the morning of the second day.

Not only were we going to climb Holme Moss but it was also going to hit us at the fifty mile mark that day. As the whole day was going to take us from the bottom of the Peak District to the top of the national park then we certainly weren't going to have an easy time getting to those fifty miles and to the base of that big ol' hill they call Holme Moss.

Looking back to the week before we set off on our big ride we were all excited and I poured over Strava looking at the routes and in particular the big climb. In fact a few of us were looking at it and wondering how we'd fair. Jukebox, John-J, Spanner and myself in fact had a wager. Not who would be the first to the top, that would be silly - with the amount of training and form on the last ride, Spanners was a shoe-in surely. What we did place our money on was the time we'd make it up there in. Whoever got closest to their own time won the handsome pot of £4, FOUR POUNDS. Of course we could cheat and slow our ride down to meet our time, for four quid who wouldn't? However with our pride we would certainly go for our best time, after all Strava would be there to remind us forever more how we'd done. That in fact was how we would decide how we'd done, whatever Strava said would stand - even with Neil's super quick GPS that seems to give him a second or two advantage.

The bets started coming in, Jukebox stated his claim at 24 minutes, Rich hoping to beat his PB came in at 22:29 and I maybe thought about it too much. I looked at who had ridden it before on Strava and picked someone with similar stats to me and tried to beat them. So Chris Wheeler, I came after your record. At 32:19 I backed my riding ability with my hard earned £1. Unusually, fortuitously, surprisingly John-J's bet came in one second under me, with his bet landing at 32:18. What a coincidence.

We were rudely awoken that morning or at least John-J, Jukebox and myself were as there was a bang at the door. Turns out the other members of Team Pannier were raring to go and needed the key to unlock the bikes. They'd been awake an hour by the time our alarm sounded the tune of Rocky and they were keen for the off. By the time I'd carried out the final sweep of the hotel room (everyone does that, right?), where we'd had our bikes stowed in the stairwell looked like a bike workshop.

Dodging guests trying to exit the building our workshop was in full flow. John-J had a flat tyre, Jukebox's bike needed some TLC and we all gave our bikes the once over. Spanners changed John-J's tyre with big thanks to Andy for actually bringing an inner tube. Air in here, tighten some sort of bracket there, we were ready for the off. What the day was to hold, we had no idea.

What we did know is that we needed a good feed before we set off and Ashbourne was going to be the venue for our calorie race as we aimed to get as much food down our food pipes before we set off. There was an added dimension to the day, we had a deadline to meet at the end of the day. Forget all the hills we had to climb, all the miles we had to churn our pedals through, all those towns we had to tick off, there was something more important at stake. John-J, in his own wisdom had forsaken his ticket, his excitement, his chance to witness his team at Wembley just to come on this ride. Arsenal (they're a southern team who play in London village) were playing Reading in the FA Cup semi final. The problem, or incentive depending on how you looked at it, is that the game kicked off at 17:30. So we wanted to hit the road in good time and get going. But there was no hope of getting any of us, including John-J, moving before we'd had a feed. Having searched a place to eat we were in town ready for the cafe of our choice to open bang on time at eight thirty. Only for them to come out and say they're not opening until nine. Quicker than you can say "hash brown" we were up the road eating breakfast at another great establishment.

Bramhalls Deli and Cafe was awesome, as we devoured full English breakfasts or porridge followed by egg sandwiches if you were me and John-J. Caffeine infused, we were off and straight on to the Tissington Trail, a seen of many a triumph of mine as a young cyclist. When I say triumph I mean,
 the only proper cycling I did as a kid. We all took a while to get going that morning and as we tried to get the Team Pannier train going we all struggled to keep pace as we progressed on the false flat and the terrain steadily rose.  One thing we were able to maintain was our love of the countryside and the scenery before us. What a beautiful area to be riding in and with the weather to match we couldn't complain.

A quick stop in Parsley Hay and we were off again and as the trail finally turned in to road we felt like we were making progress. Apart from Andy, our medic on the trip aiding me in taping up by nips from runners rash we were all in good physical condition and handling the Peak District Challenge pretty well. Jon was feeling his knee a bit but certainly wasn't showing it and as we decided to stop for a bit of pain relief in Buxton everything was on track. Jon dashed in to Sainsbury's to grab a legally acceptable drug while the rest of us started to congregate outside. Andy however felt he needed to announce his arrival by shouting "I'm going" as he keeled over right in the car park. Not many people can forecast when they're going to go down on a bike but Andy, it appears, has that knack as he slowly toppled over to our right. Thankfully it was just a case of Andy not managing to get his cleat free of his pedal and he met with a (fairly) soft landing as he hit the tarmac. Of course in modern day life the first thing you do is not help him up but reach for your smart phone and capture the moment.

As he stood up we thought we were instantly in for an easy remedy for him as a guy in a flashy car left his pride and joy sat on double yellows just as a traffic warden appeared. Turns out in the Peak District even the traffic wardens are friendly as he appeared to give the guy leeway.  A lady was also permitted "five minutes" to nip in to the shops. So as Jon returned with some Ibuprofen cream we headed off without a smug parking ticket in sight.

Buxton, the home of friendly traffic wardens and Andy's interesting dismount was also the site of the literal road names as we headed out on Long Hill. Having done my research on Strava (I've not been paid for endorsement so feel free to pay me for the extra exposure of your great app) I knew there was a big climb out of this beautiful spa town yet I had expected us to have lunch by now so when we headed out on the steady rise it still left me short of breath. Spanners as usual led the way and myself and John-J led the chase not far behind, not far off the pace set by the tall man out front. Nearly matching him pedal for pedal, maybe there was a chance we could keep up with him on Holme Moss later?

We'd half considered having lunch in Buxton, we were really ready for it now and as we headed down from the miles we'd climbed we were ready to refuel. The bumpy and rocky decent certainly tested our waning reserves, I struggled to keep pace on my narrow tyres as riders such as Chef took advantage of their broader tyres. I would cycle up next to Chef on an incline and he would call me "Billy Big Wheels" and I would retort with "Jonny Fat Tyres" - it was certainly him getting enjoyment out of the term as a skidded across the track decending in to Whaley Bridge. There we were on the look out for any pub serving food. The locals were obliging in pointing out the local establishments, even if they were still discussing which pub was closer long after we'd left them.

So as we arrived at The Cock (chance of bumming hopefully not in the name), we were already aware it was the more expensive option in the town but we were hoping you got what you paid for. It certainly was the case as they served up another feast to match the previous day's lunch and the fine breakfast that morning. This time conversation was of what we'd achieved already and what was to come - rather than Neil regaling us of how hard it is for him to find proper fitting trousers and how he'd wear a skirt if it was sociably acceptable as he had the day before. As I had done previously, I took advantage of the stop to put my phone behind the bar to make sure I could record the rest of the days miles.

So it was now hanging over our heads, even if we could could not quite see it yet. Holme Moss was definitely playing on our minds and comments of "this extra chip will power me up there" were being made. However, it wasn't to be the next climb and as we hit New Mills we really were hit with a hard climb, one that I don't think any of us were expecting. At times the climb was 11% and the team certainly took the chance to prove out motto rang true as some of us pushed as it sapped the legs. In fact we'd all faired differently so far over the two days. Jukebox as on previous rides had been slow to get going on day one, John-J by his own admission starts each day strongly but petered out as the day got longer and I tend to struggle first thing in a morning as my legs take a while to get going. We'd all been trying to tackle our own shortcomings with various success, John-J trying to eat better and I'd turned to drugs in the form of caffeine to get me going early on. However sometimes no matter how you prepare on the day you cannot overcome a climb like that. If that wasn't the big climb of the day, what was Holme Moss like?

With that climb done and the miles showing on our bike computers we knew it wasn't long now until the big last ascent in to the clouds. We looked to Rich to tell us when Holme Moss was just around the corner so we could take on snacks and prepare ourselves physically and mentally. It may sound OTT but we're just very basic, amateur cyclists and this was our Alpe d'Huez, we were going to give it all we had left. I think we were equally excited and nervous, relishing the chance to test ourselves on a big climb.

With what we felt was half an hour to go we stopped by a river and refuelled with liquids and any sort of energy food we could put in our faces. Jackets were stripped off, sugar inhaled and the camp was quiet, not downbeat, just concentrated on the 2.9 mile climb ahead of us. My Dad had sent me a text earlier in the day to tell me how he'd climbed Holme Moss in the rain when he was fifteen on a bike with only three gears, an achievement he was very proud of. This seemed to only back up my thought that this was quite a challenge ahead of us.

The route we'd taken had meant we were on a trail leading to the foot of the climb and myself and John-J found ourselves at the back of the team. Waiting for us once, we just couldn't hold pace with the rest, whether it was the head wind or the change of terrain we yo-yo'd off the back. I still felt confident of myself coming to the ride and wondered if I could keep pace with the ever strong Spanners.

At the end of the trail we came together as a group and Jukebox, the eldest in the group as he's often reminding us, gave us a talking to. He told us how we were going on a major, risky road, where many people have been hurt on their bikes and how there are markers all the way down the road of previous collisions. Feeling like a student being told off in class when it was someone else's problem I half listened. Was he talking more to John-J who had been cavalier to say the least in his cycling proficiency, often riding wide in to the road and making some of us wince. These London boys hey, not used to our northern ways. Either way I wasn't going to get told off later as I looked out for those markers as we headed down the main road. I kept in as the cars rushed past.

The turn off at the start of the ascent came and we grouped together just around the corner. At that point I sat on Spanners wheel and hoped he'd pace me to the top. Starting off at a decent rate we hit the climb. I turned to see who else was on our wheel and there was Andy sat right on my shoulder with the rest of the team not far behind. Rich asked/offered for me to come through at the front and I came through briefly as I struggled to keep the pace going. The road kept on rising and so did my heart rate and breathing. It was warm but not overly and yet the exertion made it fell hot.

We started to progress through the climb and soon we were to move around to our right as we reached the end of the first section that was laid out before us in the distance. Rich, back in front again, turned to say the top is just around the corner. "Yeah, right" I said but my mind thought "really?" it had been hurting but surely we weren't near the top already? Maybe Rich had made it sound harder than it was, maybe I'd misjudged how much we'd already done. I wished, I hoped that Rich was right, soon I was about to find out...

He was lying! Around the corner I saw a massive climb in front of me, I saw what looked like to my inexperienced mind a climb resembling Mont Ventoux, one of the worst climbs on the Tour de France. Oh my. I kept Spanner's wheel for a bit but steadily he started to pull away from me, I tried to keep him just in front of me but he steadily pulled away from me as I battled my pedals. There's only so many times you can tell your legs to shut up, as you fight them to give you more power. Andy taught me one cycling phrase that I instantly knew what it meant and now it was very appropriate. The Dead Man's Click. When you go to find that lower gear and, click, you're already in that bottom gear. I had nowhere else to go but pound along in the gear I had.

Soon Rich was heading off in to the distance and I was equally looking back to see who was chasing me as to how far I was off Spanners. The road flattened a bit and I tried to kick, suddenly confident that I could pull him back a bit with the swagger a Jelly Baby can give you.  But to no avail. The gap seemed the same up to Rich as it was back to whoever was on my heels. A guy on a road bike passed me (no panniers I note) and the road swung around to the left. I could see a hairpin at the top of that rise, would that be it? Pressing on, I finally managed to kick on up to and around that hairpin, alternating getting out of my saddle to push those thighs - something I hadn't managed to master enough on that hill.

Around the corner I was there, a very slight rise up to the summit sign, out of the saddle I gave it everything I could to reach Spanners and his camera. Straight off my bike I felt the cold, I grabbed my jacket and food as we both turned to see who it was behind me. John-J had climbed consistently well so far and in fact Spanners had though the guy on the road bike was him at one point making him push even harder. Our eyes fixed on the top of that hairpin. Would Andy, hot on my heels early on be the next one to claim the 'Moss scalp? With no more than the gap between me and Spanners a head appeared over the rise. It was Jukebox. Going strong we willed him on to the finish. He was followed, with a similar gap, by John-J and then came Chef and Andy - crossing side by side across the summit finish. We'd done it, quite an achievement when added to the day before and the fifty miles previous that day - especially with that climb out of New Mills.

We regrouped, had photos and then my phone died! Had I lost my Strava tracking and therefore my bet? None of us had an idea at that point how we'd done on the hill and the bet was whatever Strava said. Phone or no phone I'd made it up that hill without stopping, I was pretty happy. What a team.

Every uphill is followed by a downhill and boy had we earned it. We followed the winding hill down and headed through Last of the Summer Wine country as we appreciated heading up Holme Moss "the easy way" if there is such a thing. There were still a good few miles to go and it was hard to take as we put our all in to the climb. We still had that FA Cup deadline to hit. John was superstitious about updates and so we pressed on not knowing the score as the first half kicked off and finished without the hotel in sight.

Luckily it was mainly downhill and Chef and Spanners knew where we were going so there weren't any map delays. Suddenly I was in familiar territory and it was nice to see some sights of my childhood from visiting my grandparents as a kid and coming to watch the mighty terriers. Heading towards the football ground I started to recite some Huddersfield Town chants and my Wednesday and Gooner supporting team mates sang their own versions. We did have some inkling of what was happening in the match as John had received one text message from a friend celebrating a goal. It was starting to become clear we were going to struggle to get to the hotel and a TV screen before ninety minutes would be up. We were half hoping for extra time so we could at least witness some of the game.

Spanners taught us elements of riding that he had learnt during his time in his cycling club, he explained how we needed to ride closer together on the main road so people could pass easier and two abreast to reduce the distance to pass even further. This was added to the "car down" and "car up" shouts. This was in order to know on smaller roads if a car was coming "down your throat" or "up your bum". Terms I tried to take on and use appropriately.

There were no need for those calls as we headed up the final road to our hotel, a quiet, wide road we worked our weary legs towards rest and sustenance. We arrived to be greeted by a very friendly lady at Travelodge, a greeting we'd earned. Now we had to find a TV and luckily extra time, as the game stood at 1-1. While myself and Jukebox struggled to get in and out of the shower, to get dressed and to check-in back home, John-J was glued to the edge of the bed watching the end of the game. Thankfully our success on the road was matched by Arsenal's on the pitch and we were able to celebrate both. As planned we headed out in to Huddersfield to celebrate with food and beer. Unlike we planned we only made it across the road to the pub on site. Our tired legs and heads could take us no further. We had a slap up three course meal of prawn cocktails and pizzas, I think our tastes were stuck in the eighties rather than Huddersfield. We shivered our way back across the car park and headed to bed, the party room watching match of the day, the early night room not even managing that. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Team Pannier: The Jersey

Every team needs a jersey to be taken seriously and it was about time we took our Lycra seriously if we were going to be good looking MAMILs (middle-aged-men-in-Lycra). So we thought about what made Team Pannier, Team Pannier. All-you-can-eat breakfasts at the Premier Inn (or Purple Palace as it's become known) was definitely right up there on the list along with endless supply of sugar in the form of Maoam. Add to that our high-tech, state of the art, servicing methods using a bath and the biggest can of WD40 and our sponsorship is nearly complete. The piece de resistance is on the back, just above our well toned bum cheeks - Sudocrem - it soothes, heals and protects. E by gum do we need that!

There is the matter of the cycling club's logo (yes, we are a cycling club now, we're on Strava don't you know). Hours of design work from Jukebox went in to designing the logo and text to accompany it. A focus group was formed and it passed with flying colours. Little touches such as our nicknames and nationality flags were added to the side of the jersey - it turns out Essex use the same flag as the rest of us.

One last touch of class, our club motto, in Latin - yes you've read it right, we're a classy bunch us. Just in case you've not genned up on your second tongue recently and wondering what "superbus" means, there can only be one phrase that sums us up:
"Never too proud to push"

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Peak District Challenge: Day One

The riders came from Buckinghamshire, Somerset, West Yorkshire and converged on South Yorkshire one Friday morning. Meeting up with the locals in the Spoon cafe Andy, John-J, Jukebox and I sat down to fuel up with caffeine and the best processed meat the world can provide. As we filled up and discussed the days important geekness of Star Wars trailers and the weather. At this point John-J explained to us everyone's misunderstanding of the weather. In particular he pointed out how no one understands the "chance of rain" percentages. 40% chance of rain it seems meant to some that it was going to rain for 40% of the time, to others it meant it was going to rain in 40% of the country and to others it meant it was slightly less likely to rain that it was to stay dry. Armed with this knowledge we headed off to the start line at Neil's house hoping for a dry run.

As a new sextet we had a slightly delayed start planned so that we could all get to the start in time and do the morning school runs. Even that time got pushed back and as we manoeuvred four cars on to the drive, filled our water bottles and squeezed in to some overly tight Lycra. Andy surveyed the scene and proclaimed the chance of bumming to be 50%. Let's hope that wasn't 50% of us to be bummed during the day.

10:45 we set off and with a hilly 50ish mile ride ahead of us we had flash backs to our first Team Pannier ride and finishing at 10pm. As we rode out of South Yorkshire and straight in to Derbyshire we started to understand the pattern the weekend was to take. Up and down hills, we were battling the pedals from the get-go and questioning Spanners each time the route took us up hill. He'd somehow landed himself as the guide for the weekend and no one wanted to head up a hill unless they were sure we didn't have to back track.

There were a few stops nearly straight away as we sorted out our kit. A bit more air in a tyre here, a cleat needed fixing there - Spanners to the rescue in both cases although I don't think putting air in your own tyres gets you any commendations. With the late set off and the stop start first few miles it really was starting to feel like our slow paced first trip, at some point we were going to have to get some miles under our belt.

Having planned day one's route, Spanners (or Maps as he could probably be called on this trip) was the right man to lead us and without the chance to ride from Cock Hill through the grounds of Chatsworth House he'd planned a little shortcut. Cutting through the caravan park (chance of bumming up to 60%) we could then dash past the stately home and head off to Bakewell. Sadly we were told by the caravan park's maintenance guy there was no chance of us cutting through, it just wasn't possible. So we did a lap of the park, getting very strange looks from the holiday makers "Maureen it's not Lycra Tuesday is it?" I'm sure one guy was muttering as he paused, tea bags in hand.

So with one detour already could we be at the start of a long trek to Ashbourne? Back on track and turning right at Chatsworth we ended up going through a church's grounds and carrying our bikes down the steps to again retrace a few misdirected yards. Already we were getting used to each section either being uphill or downhill and it was no surprise as the road began to rise. It was however a surprise as the road deteriorated and the signs saying the surface wasn't suitable for vehicles didn't lie. It made it tough going as we dodged ruts and rocks at the same time as the altitude kept rising. We pushed on and eventually the surface got its self together and so did we as we rested at the top of the twenty minute climb.

Heading around Bakewell there was another climb (trust me you won't get as bored of us talking about the climbs as we did of climbing them) and a bit of a dodgy descent on another rocky, unsuitable for vehicles surface. Bringing up the rear on the descent, understandably was Jukebox. Having had a bad fall when out training on his mountain bike with Spanners and Andy he was not too keen to have any more broken bones. Nor had Andy (our medic for the trip) brought any custard creams, which he used to distract Neil as he treated him for his injuries at the time.

Crossing the main road and heading off on a quiet side road Andy, with knowledge of the local area, questioned whether it was the right way. We were assured it was the right route but as we progressed it became clear we hadn't headed off to the right as planned and soon we were climbing a really steep hill. With the thought in mind that we were going the wrong way it made the 10% incline even harder to get through. The climb thankfully wasn't straight out in front of us and the false hope that each corner would be the top helped as we climbed out of the valley floor. Pulling away slightly three of us, including John-J whose build certainly suited the climbs, turned at the top to see Jukebox complaining (and this time not at my bad choice in blue Lycra and my "woman like, child bearing hips"). He was not only naffed off about the hill but also claiming he had a puncture. I say claiming as both tyres were clearly in tact. As I pointed this out he quite rightly explained that he'd stopped to pull off half the wood attached to his wheel so he could finish the climb. With that he showed us the rest of the splintered wood attached to his tyre which instantly deflated as he removed the tyre.

This presented a problem, despite having brought a spare inner tube Neil, like most of us, he had no idea how to replace it. Of course we had Spanners and quicker than you could say "tyre levers", he had Neil's bike on it's back and the inner tube removed. In no time at all we were up and running and cursing Spanners, not for his bike maintenance skills but his directions. Lucky for him, and us, despite not being on the planned route (a big no-no, I'm told) we hadn't climbed needlessly. With a bit of traversing across the top of the hill we were able to join up with the designated route and climb the last bit of yet another hill. We even got some sympathy from some back packers who discussed between them that we were worse off than them as we were cycling up the hill carrying our stuff.

Andy's local knowledge looked to come in handy again as we started to look for food. just off from where we heading was the village of Winster. Andy knew there was a decent pub there and so off we headed. With a nod to his cycling club rides Rich sprinted for the village sign with the ever competitive Andy. Andy feigning tiredness and defeat, he nearly stole victory as he kicked again only to be pipped by the seasoned cycling club member.

With the pub not serving food, we took directions from a local to the nearest establishment serving food. The Miners Standard was out the top of the village (why did it always have to be the top end) and eventually with some retraced ups and downs we climbed up through the steep village. Chef led a breakaway group, carrying their bikes up some steps that got them the extra few yards and a bit closer to lunch.

Arriving at the pub we didn't hold out much hope, it looked all right but we've had plenty of average meals on these rides served by miserable hosts. Not this place, lovely home cooked food (including the chips) was washed down with beverages as we were kept company by welcoming locals and friendly serving staff. It passed Chef's tough taste tests and we devoured the calories.

Despite the early climbs we were in good fettle and, as became the norm, we all checked our Strava apps had been started again as we set off. Rich assured us we weren't off the official route and heading downhill (woo hoo!) we carried on our trek towards Ashbourne.

Without really knowing the route we'd not taken in how much we'd achieved that morning and the late lunch actually marked a good proportion of the days toughest ascending done. Soon we were seeing road signs for Ashbourne which were met with hollers and whoops. There was one slight problem, as we ticked off the miles on the "official route" the amount of miles on the road signs weren't going down. Our fixation with doing what we'd set out to do was no clearer shown than when we reached a junction. Straight on was a cycle path, going straight in the direction we were pretty sure we were heading. To the left was the designated route, the preplanned miles that we needed to achieve. Spanners (or Maps) pointed out left down the road and then right was all mapped out on Strava, straight on was a risk, would it go the way we wanted? We backed him and took the road route, 200 yards later the routes merged and it became a redundant argument as we headed to Carsington Water. We probably spent more time debating it than it took us to ride the distance.

Carsington Water was a relief to get to, it was to be a nice jolly around the lake before the final straight to our Travelodge bed. Well that's how it's supposed to be. It turns out it's not as flat as you might imagine and when you're going around in a circle on tired legs each climb can certainly play with your mind. By now John-J's early form on the hills was waning and he explained later his knowledge of wind speed was messing with his mind. Turns out wind carries quicker across water and not only we were hitting rolling hills but heads winds. Add to that my chain dropping off and we were beginning to space out on what was supposed to be an enjoyable scenic tour around a lake.

As we all convened for a snack Andy lightened his panniers by handing out his super powerful (and heavy) home-made cycling snack involving oats, peanut butter and, well I don't think anyone knows what else. However it powered us on and finally we were actually following the road signs and flying down the road to our beds for the night. Stopping for a quick photo by the road sign we were at last ticking off the final landmarks of the day. A lovely descent in to the town say us finishing in a respectable time not long after five, we'd certainly take that as a first day on the bike.

With room allocation already sorted - the two triple rooms had been named as the party room and the early night room after mine and Jukebox's early night on the last ride - we separated and headed off to clean the grime of the day away.

Washed and changed we headed in to town. To save on weight in our panniers we'd certainly all sacrificed one thing or another. I was heading out in my white running training that I had ridden in looking like I still was in the 1990s. Andy and Rich however had ridden in cleated cycling shoes and clearly Rich had changed from his magazine and electric toothbrush carrying days (the electric toothbrush may be an exaggeration). As we met in reception to go out they greeted us in shorts and flip-flops. Fair play to them they were braving the cold to aide a quicker summit of the mountains the next day.

The walk in to town wasn't too bad and because of our prompt finish and quick turnaround at the hotel we were the first at the recommend curry house in town. Or so we thought we were, despite it being before seven it turned out the empty Indian restaurant was fully booked. Not being the quickest northern lads I don't think it occurred to us that our appearances might not have fitted with the recently opened fine dining establishment and they may not want our custom. It was also funny how they sent us down the road to a not so salubrious bring-your-own venue and also pointed out Bargain Booze across the road.

When our food finally arrived at the said recommended place it certainly went down well and with food in our bellies we headed back to get a night cap by the hotel before heading to beds. Party room or not we were all in bed before eleven and, unlike the Giro de Nottingham, we were all looking forward to the BIG challenge the next day including the climb up Holme Moss.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Team Pannier Ride Again: The Riders

Finally it was time to hit the road again, dust off those panniers, brush out those Harvest Valley crumbs (OK no one has enough time to do that) and stock up on enough sugar to fire us up a gazillion hills. This time we were to hit the climbs, as Spanners and myself concocted the hilliest way to head from Sheffield to Ashbourne, at the bottom of the Peak District and then head up through the national park to Huddersfield and then back to Sheffield again. Sheffield of course being like Rome "built on seven hills" the mantra everyone repeated whenever someone starts to point this fact out.

It's starting to get like Avengers Assemble at Team Pannier. Riders from across the country coming together at different times. Each rider has their own alter ego and their own strengths. It might be useful to remind you of the team and also to introduce the new comers.

Rich AKA Spanners has really stepped up his cycling involvement over recent years. Already the man with the most knowledge about the workings of our vehicles he now knows what it's like to be part of a cycling club.

Training - Thanks to the wonders of Strava we could track how each team member was getting on in their preparation for our next ride. Spanners was consistently out on his bike and regularly top of the leader-board for who had done the most miles and climbed the most feet. That included a mental ride, longer and higher than any one day we had planned in the most unimaginable weather.

Jon AKA Chef is the bulldog of Team Pannier, head down and powerful, churning out the miles. His cooking skills have come to our rescue in the past as we've been left to fend for ourselves in the less salubrious venues.

Training - While his appearances on Strava have been limited, they have also been impressive as he's been training for, and taking part in, a half marathon. Only a week before he completed the hilly Sheffield course in a cracking time.

The singer of the team, Neil keeps us entertained with his apt tracks throughout our rides. Over the years we've gone from the cool tracks to amazingly catchy kids songs as we've all had kids during our time on the bikes. What would it be on this ride?

Training - As with Chef, Jukebox was training for the Sheffield Half. Despite lots of running miles stacked up on Strava he hadn't had the time to get much time on the road. Would his running fitness translate to the road, had he and Chef had time to recuperate before the big ride?

I'd love to say I got this name because I was the youngest of the original team but it was in fact that I was handed a small child's horn as the three other members unveiled much bigger and noisier versions.

Training - A mix of training fitting in between the others, with a half marathon under my belt a little while before the ride giving me enough time to top it up on the road. Jack of all trades, master of none?

Having ridden an unofficial Team Pannier ride with myself and Jukebox last year on the ride-that-should-never-have-been John kind of knew what he was getting himself in to. Although hopefully it was going to be a different beast this time (the ride not John) without a constant head wind. With three Jo(h)ns in the Team I'm calling him John-J (as in @johnjsills) until he earns his own nickname.

Training - John packed the riding in right before the off, catching up his miles in the final week before we set off. With a largely flat route last time which John thought was hillier than he expected how would he get on with the hills of the Peak District?

The true newbie to Team Pannier, Andy had only done day rides with some of the team. How would he put up with our singing, cooking and small horn instruments?

Training - Andy had been commuting to work so surely he was good but he'd been ill and hadn't managed to be out on his bike. He'd even missed football so he must have been ill. Still, like all of us he'd managed to squeeze in one or two rides before the big off.