Firstly I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope that you have a successful years pedalling in 2008.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve managed to get out on the bike quite regularly and feel I’m going reasonably well at the moment. I got out for two hours on Christmas morning. I got up early and set out just after first light. Had the lights on for the first half hour or so as it was a bit overcast.

I did my Bakewell (33 miles) run which I quite enjoyed as the roads were so quiet. Perfect. I got back just after 10:00 and had a quick shower and was ready to get a lift over to my sister and brother-in-law’s place in Manchester for Christmas Day. I’d arranged with my brother and my sister-in-law that they’d pick me up at 10:30 to go across in time for Christmas dinner.

They had come up to Sheffield from their home near Romford, Essex at the weekend and were staying at mum and dad’s. Arrived in Manchester at 11:45 after a good journey over. Mum and dad had already arrived, so it was a big family get together. My sister and brother-in-law did us all proud. Catherine, my sister, pays a lot of attention to detail in decorations and food preparation. It was a enjoyable day. They surprised me too with an experience day voucher to go gliding. Will keep you posted on that one.

Boxing Day I got out about 10:30 and did 53 miles with my regular Matlock run but there were a few interesting things to see along the way. The road along to Matlock Bath and Cromford was packed with cars and people. The road follows the river used for the Boxing Day canoe and raft race so there were onlookers shouting encouragement at every vantage point on both banks for about a kilometre stretch of the river. Quite an event.

Saw my Kingfisher at the mill pond on Via Gellia near the Bonsall turn off. It was perched in the ‘V’ of an overhanging branch concentrating on a spot of fishing.

In the fields on the approach to Bakewell I saw the local Boxing Day hunt out. They had obviously lost the scent as the hounds were circling the fencing to some woodland at the back of some farm buildings while the riders looked on.

On Saturday I got 43 miles in by doing my Miller’s Dale run I’ve mentioned before. The weather was much brighter than in the week but incredibly windy. Quite dangerous at times though it was thrilling going down the dual carriageway near Taddington with a tail wind at 50mph.

Sunday morning I’d arranged to meet Steve Gibson and Simon Owens at Ringinglow village at 09:00am. I was running to time until I noticed the rear wheel had a flat. Made a quick text to the lads to say I would be running a few minutes late and got it changed. It was probably about ten past nine by the time I got to the meet point. I appreciated them waiting as Steve was on a mission to get to Loughborough for between 12:30 and 13:30 to meet up for dinner at his future sister-in-law’s place.

The pace was brisk as we headed along Sheephill Road and on to the main Foxhouse road. We continued over the tops to Owler Bar and dropped down in the direction of Baslow. We turned off left at the crossroads on the descent so we could get across Eastmoor and over towards Crich and Ambergate. As we got to the junction where the Beeley climb meets the top roads we passed a female cyclist. We said our good mornings and then found she had tagged along. She was on a mountain bike but was going really well. It turned out that Julie, as she was called, was over from New Zealand and staying with relations in Holymoorside area a few miles away.

We found out she had done a bit of racing over in New Zealand which was evident by her style on the bike. It turned out she was a friend of Gordon McCauley too. Anyway, not knowing the area too well, she wanted to know a route that would be around two hours, so we put her in the right direction and we pressed on in our mission. The pace picked up and I went on to the front and decided to press on a bit. Quite enjoyed it, the legs were feeling good. We were soon across to Crich and dropping down to the Ripley road. Steve needed to get along to Loughborough. Simon and I said our best wishes for the New Year to Steve as he turned left and we turned right towards Ambergate.

I was starting to feel hungry now after the effort over the tops, so tucked in to a banana from the back pocket. At Whatstandwell Simon and I decided to head up towards Wirksworth and then on to Carsington. Along the way we saw the Sheffield Sports club who had stopped for what looked like a mechanical problem. I said a few hellos as we pedalled past. I used to ride out with them regularly a few years ago and still keep in touch with a few of them. Their numbers have swelled as there was a good group out with quite a few faces I didn’t recognise.

At Carsington we turned off towards Brassington and I said to Simon that this was part of the run I did with Robin Sharman for his ride story I did with him last year. We headed from Brassington towards Longcliffe and then to Grangemill, down Winster Bank to Alport and then along to Bakewell. As we came in to Bakewell I actually saw Robin Sharman out on the bike. It was quite a surprise in the sense that we had been talking about him earlier in our ride. I shouted hello. Robin texted me later and said he wished he’d had his camera on him as my face was a picture.

Simon and I stopped in Bakewell for a cuppa, a teacake and a slice of fruit cake for me as well. Finished the ride by going down Thirteen bends to Baslow, along to Calver and turning off up Froggatt. Saw the whole Merlin team out on a run as we left Bakewell. They looked very professional in all their team kit. By the time Simon and I got home we had around 75 miles on the clock. A good enjoyable ride.

Monday (New Year’s Eve) I had a rest day and spent much of the day finishing off the Hugh Porter ride story I’d been writing up over the previous two days. The story can be seen in this week’s copy of Cycling Weekly (Thursday, January 10). I didn’t go out New Year’s Eve night, so I was up at a reasonable time on New Year’s Day. The weather was a bit misty and murky but I set out anyway at about 10:00.

I had a bit of a route in mind so I had put a banana and two Kellogg’s Oatbakes in the back pocket. Had two bottles of dilute fruit juice on board too. Set out on a similar route to that I’d done on Sunday, but by the time I got to Whatstandwell I carried on along the main road to Cromford. Went up Via Gellia (saw the Kingfisher again) and carried on to Newhaven. Went right at the T-junction and then left after about a mile to drop down towards Hartington. Just before Hartington I turned right and went along Long Dale and up then right up to Parsley Hay.

Over the tops to Monyash and continued through to Taddington. Dropped down Miller’s Dale and up the other side to Tideswell. Over Bradwell Moor and down in to Bradwell to Brough. Right at the lights to take the Hope Valley road to the Marquis of Granby turn up to Bamford. Up to Ladybower and then right at the lights to join the main road back to Sheffield. A total of 77 miles done in 4 hours 24 mins. That’s around a 17.5mph average. No stops and just ate and drank what I had with me. Felt really good, it was just one of those days when the legs felt good all day.

Wednesday and the weather was misty again along with rain for most of the morning. I used the time to catch up with a few work things. By the afternoon the weather was starting to pick up so I got out at 13:00 for a couple of hours. Went to Bakewell and back, 33 miles. The temperature had dropped considerably from the previous day and you could understand why snow had been forecast to arrive overnight.

I think the birds knew the weather was on the change too as there seemed a lot of activity as flocks of small birds like Long Tailed Tits flitted with their metallic bubbling calls from hedge to hedge in search of food. Another indicator was when I passed the Thornbridge estate and I saw five male Goldeneye ducks taking shelter on the small lake there. This, I think, is quite unusual as I only normally seem to see these birds in small numbers when I’ve been to bigger inland waters such as Carsington Water and Fairburn Ings.

Generally these wary diving ducks are only seen over the winter months as they move down from there breeding areas in more northern Europe. They are in top condition at this time of year. The male duck has a dark glossy black/green head with a dominant white spot between the bill and it’s golden coloured eye, hence the name. The body is a brilliant white with a black back which gives to black banding as it meets the white body. One of my favourite ducks.

Got back in time for a quick shower and a dash for a dental appointment at 15:30. I’d not been for 18 months having had to cancel previous appointments due to work commitments. Fortunately nothing too major to report.

Thursday and I woke to a light dusting of snow outside. Very cold too. This was in complete contrast to Friday when temperatures were much milder again. Unfortunately this gave for misty conditions. Still, I did my regular Matlock run of 53 miles in the morning. The afternoon I spent catching up on some work and contacting the office about the weekends jobs at Champions Night and the National Cyclo-Cross Championships. I also prepared and filed some pictures to send to the office FTP site ready for next week’s news columns.

On Saturday morning I made sure I got a decent ride in, so I did my Matlock run (53 miles) as I’d done on Friday. Got back and finished sorting my bags ready to set out for Nottingham and the CTT Champions Night to be held at the East Midlands Conference Centre. I was staying over at the Gateway Hotel in Nottingham for the event and arrived there at around 16:30.

2007 British Best All Rounder Kevin Dawson

I checked in and then got changed in to my suit, got my cameras together and headed off to the evening’s venue. The EMCC is actually in the grounds of Nottingham University and I think I’m right in saying that it’s the third occasion it has been held there since the venue changed from the Derby Assembly Halls. This social gathering to honour all the previous years TT Champions always has a certain buzz about it. Dinner for the 250 plus guests was at 18:00 with a menu of Seasonal Minestrone Soup to start, Fricassee of Chicken with Dry Sherry and Wild Mushroom for main followed by Honeycomb Toffee Cheesecake with fruit smoothie. Very enjoyable.

I was sitting between John Hatfield and Richard Meadows. Both were distinguished at the presentations later in the evening, with John taking the honours for his age category in the 24hr and Richard for taking the Junior BBAR. Congratulations to them both and all the other prize winners over the evening. The guest of honour was Peter Whitfield, cycling author of ‘The Condor Years’ and ’12 Champions’.

He spoke eloquently but was rather scathing of Cycling Weekly and it’s lack of coverage of CTT events, which judging from the reaction of those gathered was the universal sentiment. I’d been spoken to by several people over the evening including those at my table about why this was. I did my best to mediate and offer some balanced explanation of the direction of the Weekly’s content. Anyway, I said I would pass on people’s thoughts and opinions to the office which I shall do.

Gave Dave Taylor (regular TT reporter for the magazine) a lift back to the hotel and finally got to sleep at about 01:00 when the bass thud of the function downstairs finally stopped.

Felt a little tired Sunday morning, but was up early for a 07:30 breakfast. Wanted to get on the road for the days National Cyclo-Cross Championships in Sutton Park. I finally left the hotel car park at 08:40 after defrosting the car. It was a beautiful bright crisp morning and it was quite a pleasant drive down to Sutton Coldfield and in to Sutton Park. Along the way I saw three or four Buzzards perched on top of shrubs.

They were surveying the motorway verges from their lofty positions. It’s a sight that is becoming increasingly more common as they join the ranks of the regularly seen Kestrels that hunt and hover by our motorways.

Arrived in Sutton Park at about 09:45. Kitted up and headed off to see Larry Hickmott for my photo bib for the finish line. Got a programme and start list and had a wander round some of the course to work out the best spots for my days pictures. The first event was the women’s race at 11:00 held over 40 minutes duration. It seemed quite a small field as they charged up the still frosty tarmac of the start/finish straight.

Helen Wyman takes the women’s National Cyclo-Cross Championship

It was Gabby Day that made the first dart from the pack but by about the first half lap Helen Wyman had moved to the front and the field was already splintering. Day did manage to bridge back and re-take the front albeit briefly. Wyman showed her good current form in World Cup events by moving ahead once again and then staying away to comfortably take the title. Local girl, Isla Rowntree put in a sterling performance to take bronze.

The interlude between the women’s event and the Junior race at 12:30 was a chance for a bite to eat before getting back to it. The junior event proved a really good race and developed in to a close battle between defending champion Alex Paton and a rising star in Andrew Williams. It was nip and tuck all the way until the final lap when Paton managed to put a bit of daylight between himself and Williams to successfully defend his title.

It had been glorious sunshine all day, but as often happens at this time of year by mid afternoon and the start of the Men’s Elite event, high cloud had cut off a now watery winter sun. This didn’t dull the racing action though as the touch paper was ignited at 14:00. Stu Bowers, CW’s tech man lead the charge up the tarmac strip to the first corner. When I saw the race next Crawforth was holding the front with Oldham, Bowers, Hammond and Booth in the line.

Oldham then took the front before Hammond started to make a move and put in a dig that opened up a reasonable distance from the chasing pack. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that the un-gridded Killeen was smoothly moving up the field and was soon contesting within the lead group chasing Hammond. Hammond must have fallen or made an error as the next time I saw the race they were all together.

Hammond, Killeen, Oldham, Booth, Crawforth, Jebb & co. hammering over the firm grassy parkland. The crowds were fantastic particularly around the trees in the bowl of the old quarry just before the finish straight. You could see the riders descend in to the zone and then two of three minutes later see them twist through again over the hurdles before climbing out of the quarry and then rapidly descending to the turn in to the tarmac home straight. Fantastic stuff.

The race then split again with Killeen driving on the front with Hammond on his wheel leaving Oldham & co. to try and re-group to bridge back. Killeen and Hammond stayed away, the pace incredible. Hammond took the front in the final lap as he and Killeen disappeared in to the quarry section. I dashed to the finish line along with all the spectators to see Hammond a few minutes later just out sprint Killeen to take his eighth senior National Cross title. A great race.

It was about 16:00 by the time I got out of the car park as it was slow progress to get to the Town Gate exit. Nose to tail. Anyway, got going but had to have a break at a services on the way as I was feeling very tired. Got on my way again and arrived home just after 18:00. Downloaded a finish line picture to send to Frazer Snowdon for the website and ordered a Chinese.

That done, I had a snooze whilst watching the end of the Stoke v Newcastle F.A. Cup match and then got to work on the pictures from the weekends events. Worked till midnight and decided I’d get up early to finish off and send my images to the FTP site in the morning.

So, I’ve caught up on all the news for now. 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.

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