It?s been a busy week following on from getting back from the Bikeline Mersey Two Day the other weekend.
Monday morning was spent emailing the information about the eight Bike of the Weeks I photographed over the weekend. There was some interesting tech items amongst the selection. For some riders, it had been first time out of the box for their bikes, only having being built up the day before the event. I?m sure you?ll catch up with what?s new in the domestic peloton over the coming weeks with the regular Bike of the Week features. I had to admire the team kit of the PedalPower Endura RT at the weekend. The Scottish based team has McBain tartan incorporated in the design. It?s the clan tartan of Jonathan McBain the PedalPower shop owner and sponsor. A clear competitor to the argyle theme of Slipsteam?s kit!
With things done for the office, I got a timely call from Dan Duguid from the CW tech team. He was on his way up to the Peak District along with Stu Bowers and racing friend, Chris. They were travelling up from London to spend three days up in Hayfield to do the Race Bike of The Year photo shoot. Dan told me they were about an hour and a half away. I finished off and got on my way to Hayfield, about a 35 to 40 minute drive away from my place in Sheffield.
The weather forecast for the week was not good for the first half of the week. As I drove over the tops there was low cloud about with a steady drizzle in the air. Things were no better as I pulled up at the Kinder Lodge B&B in Hayfield, the base for the team over the next three days.
I met up with Dan, Stu and Chris in the adjoining bar to the B&B. With the weather not looking good, we went for a bite to eat at the Pack Horse Inn in the village. Dan invited local man Rob Hayles to join us and Stu contacted his Scott team mate Nick Craig to drop in later. Nick also lives in the village there. Dan had got to know Rob quite well after having done the Duo Normand TT together last year. In fact, Rob was able to lend Dan a pair of Speedplay pedals for the shoot, an item forgotten in setting out from London earlier. Dan can be forgiven as he had been racing at the Bikeline Mersey Two Day over the weekend and hadn?t got back home till fairly late on the Sunday.
Lunch over, we left Nick and Rob and set out to try and start getting some photographs for the feature. The weather was not looking promising but we got to the top of the Goyt Valley and managed to do some side on shots of the six short listed test bikes for the title of Race Bike of the Year. That?s all that could be achieved as the weather started to deteriorate further. On the way back we dropped in to Sophie Johnson and Ian Field?s place in Whaley Bridge. We got round too to recruiting Ian to be an extra model/rider for the bike shoot which was good.
I left the team and drove back to Sheffield as I had quite a bit of work to do still. The drive over was interesting. It was windy and sleeting over the tops. It didn?t bode well for the following day.
Getting back I fixed myself some tea and got stuck in to writing my blog for the events of the previous week. It took longer than I expected as I?d had a late night on Sunday completing images and so was feeling rather tired.
Tuesday dawned bright and clear which was a bonus considering the weather the previous evening. As I drove over to Hayfield things still looked good but you could see that the cloud cover was increasing. I picked Ian Field up from Whaley Bridge on route and we arrived at the B&B at about 09:15. The first thing we did was get the bikes out of the van to do some close up photographs of the bike details.
That done, the plan was for everyone to do a ride whilst I drove the van as support and could pass and grab photos on route. Nick Craig joined the lads for the ride and acted as a guide for the route around the Peak. I knew the roads anyway, so it worked out ok. We headed out and the weather didn?t seem too bad, but as we got towards the Snake Pass the weather started deteriorating.
A blanket of grey cloud drifted over and it was starting to rain. A brief lull in the weather allowed some individual shots to be done on the climb up past Bamford Edge before we headed down towards Hathersage. By the time we got to Hathersage for our lunch stop the rain really started to come down. Fortunately we got inside the ?Colmans Deli? just in time before the worst of it. Over teas and coffee, some excellent muffins and carrot cake, we sat it out.
The rain passed and it was back on the road again. We headed over Abney to Great Hucklow before heading across to Tideswell and Miller?s Dale. We took the road up to Wormhill and over the back roads to Smalldale to cut along a back road to Dove Holes before getting across to Chapel-en-le-Frith and taking the narrow back lanes back over in to Hayfield. What a day. Not the best weather for feature photos. The Peak District can look fantastic as I mentioned in my blog the other week. It was just unfortunate we had hit on a couple of bad weather days.
I headed back to Sheffield once more. Back home I had plenty to do sorting a pile of images for the Premier Calendar preview that is being run in this Thursday?s copy of Cycling Weekly(20th March). Again it was a very late night again. Feeling very tired.
Wednesday morning and the weather was terrible. High winds and rain. The weather forecast was for some improving conditions by the afternoon. With the weather as it was I set out later to Hayfield with the hope of some improvement for the afternoon. It gave me chance to finish sending the extra images to the FTP site from the night before.
By about 11:00 the weather in Sheffield was improving. There was even some sunshine and blue skies. I set out for Hayfield, but as I got out beyond the Hope Valley the cloud cover increased. The landscape looked great up until then. At Hayfield it didn?t look so good. We all weather watched over a coffee in the bar whilst reviewing, on my lap top, the images I?d taken over the previous two day.
Anyway, after an hour or so we headed out in to the Peak as time was running out to get the rest of the pictures we needed. We just headed up in to the Goyt Valley by the reservoirs going by Whaley Bridge on route to pick up Ian Field to help out once more. The weather improved briefly to allow some time to get some more pictures. I say improved by meaning it had stopped raining but there was still a stiff breeze which made it feel pretty chilly. Still it had been pretty chilly in Mallorca last year when we were doing the equivalent shoot.
We heard before we saw a Chinook helicopter fly over the valley. The distinctive heavy resonating throb of the rotor blades on this giant twin rotor-ed military helicopter reveals it?s presence long before it comes in to view.
Pictures done as best we could we headed up the Goyt Valley past Derbyshire bridge and up to the Cat?n?Fiddle road. There was just an opportunity at the top of the valley to grab one or two more pictures before we retired to the Cat?n?Fiddle pub for a hot drink and some soup. It was quite timely as the weather closed in again. There were 47mph gusts of wind drilling hail and sleet against the pub windows.
I know they were 47mph winds as the pub has a TV screen giving live updates and info from the pubs very own weather station. Winds as high as 59mph had been recorded during the day. The outside temperature was 1 degree centigrade giving a wind chill of below freezing. It was good to be inside thawing out over a homemade tomato soup accompanied by hot crusty rolls.
On the drive back to Hayfield I spotted my first Curlews of the year, returning back on to the uplands to breed after a winter away on our coastal estuaries. This large wader with distinctive long curved bill is a charismatic bird of upland Britain in the spring and summer. It?s haunting, piping call a real call of the wild. The Northumberland National Park uses the bird as it?s emblem.
Thursday and first thing I burnt the photo shoot images to a DVD and got them in the post to Stu. After doing a bit of food shopping and catching up on one or two other things I got out on the bike. It was the first opportunity I?d had since Friday the week before. I did my Cressbrook run, a ride I?d not done for quite a while. I have to admit to the legs not feeling the best, they seemed to feel heavy and lacking in power. I could still feel the effects of my damaged ribs but very much improved as I could take good lung fulls of air. Got back home with a good average of over 17mph for the 41mile route I do.
In the afternoon I set off in the direction of Doncaster to try and catch up with Adrian Chiles and Alan Shearer?s Super Cycle challenge in aid of the BBC?s Sport Relief campaign. For those of you who are not perhaps familiar with Adrian he is the presenter of ?The One Show? on BBC1 and ?Match of the Day 2? on BBC2.
Doing ?Match of the Day 2? was how Adrian teamed up with ex-Newcastle United and England footballer Alan Shearer, with Alan doing the expert punditry. With them both having done a bit of cycling in the past, notably Adrain having cycled from London to Croatia in 1992 and more recently a ride from Cardiff to Edinburgh they came on the idea of riding 335miles in two days.
Adrian Chiles and Alan Shearer arrive at the Hawthorns
Alan Shearer signs a football for a fan
West Brom mascots Baggie Bird and Baggie Bird jnr pose with Adrian Chiles
Their epic two day route from Newcastle to London via West Bromwich had started at 08:00 at St. James Park, home of Newcastle United where Shearer had finished his football playing days. Using busy ?A? roads I caught up with the ride convoy on the A19 just the other side of Doncaster. There were five other riders with Chiles and Shearer to give support along with a motorcycle outrider and several support vehicles including one with a large electronic sign warning of the advancing convoy.
I made a U-turn and tried to catch up and pass the convoy. It was in Doncaster itself that I finally got past them at one of the numerous sets of traffic lights. I decided to get up the route a little further to try and catch a picture or two. It was too difficult to stop in Doncaster itself. I got just the other side of the A1 turn off and stopped in a lay-by on the Conisborough road. I waited a while and thought they should be here by now.
I know the traffic was bad but even so they should have come past me by now. It was getting very dusky by now, so I gave up and thought I?d try driving back to the Holiday Inn I had passed. Perhaps they had stopped there for a break. No sign there, so I drove back home picture less. Frustrating after I?d seen them all come through Doncaster.
I watched ?The One Show? when I got back where all was revealed. They had indeed stopped in Doncaster but at some other hotel. Infact unknown to me it was a scheduled two hour stop so they could have a shower and change of kit and do a piece for ?The One Show? programme going out at 19:00 on BBC1. The programme finished with us seeing the riders setting out from their stop to head the last fifty miles of their 185 mile day to finally finish for the day in Burton-on-Trent.
Undeterred, I was up at 05:00 on Friday morning to have another go at catching up with the Super Cycle challenge. I set off at around 05:40 for ?The Hawthorns? home of West Bromwich Albion football club. Chiles is a life long fan of his home town club, hence the detour to take in the hallowed turf of ?The Baggies.?
Chiles and Shearer set off from the Hawthorns to resume their mammoth fund-raising ride
I arrived at the ground at just after 07:30 and parked up. There were a couple of local press photographers there, a reporter and a radio car from the local BBC radio station. The ?Baggie Bird? club mascots were there too and I got to have a chat with them as we waited for Chiles and Shearer to arrive. Got to chat about the teams recent FA cup quarter final win which will see them play Portsmouth at Wembley in the FA cup semi-finals at the beginning of April.
With the late finish on the first leg of the challenge, it meant the riders had had less than four hours sleep before they were back on the road again. Understandably they were running a little behind schedule on their 150 mile second day leg. Finally they arrived at the ground some 40 minutes behind their 07:30 scheduled arrival.
They rode straight round the car park and rolled down the ramp to the pitch edge and were greeted by a small gathering of well wishers along with the local press. Chiles was greeted by the ?Baggie Bird? mascot and then promptly toppled over and nearly domino-ed Shearer. Fortunately, Chiles managed to just save himself and joked that he and Shearer were now equal. He was referring to Shearer having fallen over in a similar manor along the route on Thursday.
They both looked very tired but seemed in reasonable spirits. The stop at the ground was a chance for the group to have a cuppa up in the hospitality suites in the stands. It was also chance for the Specialized sponsored bike support team to check out the bikes and take off the lights they had needed from their early morning start. For the tech record, Chiles and Shearer used Specialized Roubaix framed bikes. A 58cm for Chiles and a 56cm for Shearer. Both were equipped with compact Ultegra chain sets with 172.5 crank arms for Shearer and 175?s for Chiles. Chiles had gone for a Taupe saddle while Shearer for an Alias model. Both had MTB angled stems giving a very upright riding position, much needed for the time they were spending on their bikes. Science in Sport provided the bottles, energy drinks and gels.
I chatted to Brendan Fox of Sports Tours International while I waited for the departure of the riders. Brendan was there to present Adrian and Alan a cheque for £1000 from the company to add to the Sport Relief total. There were two young lads there too who had dropped by on their way to school. One was a keen ?Baggies? fan and was in awe of being able to be so close to the pitch.
I think he would have quite liked to have had a kick around on the pitch with the football he had brought along to get signed by Shearer. ?I?ve never been so close to the pitch.? he said. ?I?m normally sitting up where that ?A? is in the Smethwick end stand there. That?s were all the harden fans get some good chanting going.? The football was duly signed by Shearer when he returned to pick up his bike and his school mate got his camera phone out and got someone to take a picture of them both with Shearer. That was something to show their mates when they got to school.
The planned stop at the ground was shortened with the riders having been behind schedule. They rolled away again just before 09:00 leaving the Hawthorn ground gates to a small gathering of well wishers all witnessed and recorded by a TV crew. I managed to grab a few pictures before jumping in the car to follow them down the A45 towards Coventry. Just another 115 miles or so to go! The roads were busy but I managed to get by them a few times to be able to stop and grab some shots of their progress. I left them at the roundabout with the A46 as they headed for the A423 to Banbury and onwards to London.
I picked up the M69 and got myself on the M1 and was back home before 12:30 feeling very tired myself.
Downloaded my pictures and sent them to the office with a little news piece for the website. That done I could have done with a snooze, but got myself out on the bike for an hour and a half. The weather was quite Spring like and much calmer than the earlier part of the week. Very pleasant and thought Chiles and Shearer had been very lucky with the weather for their Super Cycle. Spotted a Chinook helicopter flying up the Hope valley as I pedalled up the Froggatt climb. Could well have been the one I saw on Wednesday in the Goyt valley.
Tuned in to watch the Sport Relief programme on BBC1 at 19:00 to see Adrian Chiles, Alan Shearer and their five support riders arriving at the BBC Television Centre in London more or less on time. The weather had obviously deteriorated on their final leg in to the capital with rain dampening the roads but not their spirits. Congratulations to them all on their epic ride.
Saturday and I had a few things to catch up on. Burnt to DVD some images for a couple of business opportunities and got them in the post. Completed my Tour of Flanders accreditation which had to be in on Saturday. That done it was time to catch up on some domestic duties before making a start on my blog. Whilst washing up I watched a female Blackbird doing a spot of nest building in the Mahonia shrub below my kitchen window. Moss and a selection of fibres were busily being ferried down in to the depths of the shrub. Will have to keep an eye on developments there.
Didn?t get out on the bike. Low cloud and drizzle all day. Not the best. Hope to get out on Sunday as forecast is much better.
Sunday was indeed a better day weather wise, though the overnight rain didn?t really pass over until after 10:00. Went out on the bike at around 11:30. It was windy and unusually, there was a tail wind on the way out. I did my Matlock run and got to Cromford in 1:10:00 and average of 19.8mph for the 23miles to that point. As I went up the Via Gellia climb there were two cyclists ahead. They were going really well.
I put in a long effort to try and catch the first rider in my sights. He unfortunately punctured and stopped. I checked he was ok for spares, before trying to make some headway into the other rider I?d seen. It wasn?t until the top of Winster that I got up to him. I paid for my efforts later as I went in to a stiff head wind on the rest of the return leg. My legs felt a little chewed by the time I got back.
Watched some of the Australian F1 GP when I got back and finished writing this blog.
Catch up in a week.
Andy Jones is Cycling Weekly’s resident photographer, and has covered pretty much every major cycle race there is, from downhill mountain biking to the Tour de France. You can see many of Andy’s photos in our online Gallery section.