It’s been an interesting week all in all particularly the trip over to Italy and Switzerland. That particular trip included one of those days in travel when perhaps you start to thinking of preparing yourself for another night away rather than getting home. I must add here a special thanks to Wilf Sinclair of Sutton CC for sending in the pic of me at Mallory Park that the web editor was able to insert in to last week’s blog.
Monday in Sheffield followed on from the weekends weather of cold, rainy and windy conditions. So it was no hardship to be behind the computer sorting the rest of the pictures from the Revolution and cyclo-cross action that I hadn’t sent to the office on Sunday. By the time I’d caught up and sent my blog for the weeks events it was getting well in to the afternoon, though it felt like the evening with the dreary weather making the daylight hours seem shorter than ever. Spent the rest of the day starting to prepare for my Italian and Swiss trip later in the week.
Tuesday I decided to go out on the bike as the weather was much improved though not the best. Did my Matlock run of 53 miles and as I climbed up towards Owler Bar from Totley I though I was going to be in for a damp ride as mist and low cloud hung over the tops. It was bad enough to have to put my lights on before I dropped down to Baslow. From there on conditions improved as I headed west through Chatsworth and on to Matlock. I’d been keeping the tempo high and giving myself a good test to see what my form was like.
My last run out had only been on Saturday morning before going to the Revolution. I’d done my Monsal and Cressbrook loop of 41 miles giving a total mileage for the previous week of around 130 miles. Having had Sunday and Monday off the bike it was good to be out pedalling. I also knew that I wouldn’t get chance to be out again until Saturday or Sunday with my schedule being as it was for the rest of the week.
Once through Matlock and Matlock Bath it’s on to Cromford and then the climb up Via Gellia. I was still feeling ok as I turned right at Grangemill and kept climbing up towards Winster. From there, there is a good descent towards Alport, though a little grippy at times making it feel hard to get the pedals over. I then link back to the main A6 and head for Bakewell. The road is good until you get past Haddon Hall and then the surface is more pitted and noticeably takes the edge off your speed. Left out of Bakewell to Ashford-in-the-Water and the road is ‘sporting’ as it kicks up before dropping down before the turn to Ashford. By now there are nearly forty miles in the legs.
The road rolls along with some good testing drags, particularly past the lake at the Thornbridge Hall estate. Along to Thirteen bends and descend towards Baslow. Left in Baslow and along to Calver before turning right and up Froggatt. It’s here that I was starting to pay for my earlier efforts. Tried to keep over the pedals up to the top before descended back in to Sheffield to finish with an average of 17.4 mph. Not too bad. I always think an average of 18 mph is good for that run, so I was reasonably happy with how I’m going at the moment.
Wednesday morning I was up early to finish packing and sorting a few things including going to get a new filter for my 80-200 zoom from Harrisons my local camera shop. I’d damaged the filter at Mallory Park as I’d had to take it off the lens as it was fogging between lens and filter in the cold, damp weather. In taking it off and putting it in my bum bag I use for carrying spare memory cards etc, it rubbed on something in the bag to damage it to the point that it was not really useable again. An expensive mistake really at £35 for a new filter. I always use a UV or skylight filter on all my lens as it’s cheaper to replace a filter than a damaged front element to a lens.
Anyway, driving back the exhaust on my car (I’d mentioned in last week’s blog) finally gave up the ghost and decided to snap at the front silencer. Very embarrassing and what’s more I had to get to Manchester for my early afternoon flight to Milan. Got the exhaust temporarily fixed at Kwik Fit so that it wasn’t too noisy and I could get the car home. I didn’t want to drive over to Manchester airport with the car in that condition and time was running short, so fortunately my dad was able to rescue the situation with a lift to the airport which I was very grateful for.
Flew to Milan Malpensa which was quite an experience. The weather over Europe was not good and descending down towards Milan it was dark, cloudy and misty. Very unnerving as there seemed no apparent reference point to where we were in relation to the ground. It wasn’t until probably 100-200 feet that lights could be seen in the mist and rain. I have to say it was good to touch down safely as conditions were not good. Met up with Alasdair Fotheringham who had flow in from his home in Granada a little earlier. We picked up the hire car and started our journey up to Zurich for our overnight stop. Alasdair did the drive up in to Switzerland.
The traffic was quite heavy and added to that it was misty and raining with the consequent road spray. Not the easiest driving conditions. As we approached the Passo del San Gottardo tunnel there was snow just starting to settle. There was also an almighty tail back of lorries in the nearside lane and then eventually we came to a stop about a kilometre from the tunnel entrance. Alasdair and I then spent the next hour at a stand still only guessing what could be wrong.
Was there an accident in the tunnel or was there snow on the other side affecting progress? Eventually we started to move and as we filtered in to the tunnel and got about half way in to the 17 kilometre pass when it became clear what the problem was. A large articulated truck had broken down and the emergency services obviously had had trouble getting the vehicle in to one of the emergency pull ins, so blocking the south bound carriageway.
Once out the other side it was pretty much plain sailing. The weather had improved. No rain and the skies were breaking up to let the moonlight through from behind the clouds. It gave for some memorable views with the snow capped mountains having a bluey moonlit hue in the darkness.
As we passed the numerous lakes up to Zurich it was like fairyland. The lights from the various buildings on the shoreline twinkled and reflected in the calm lake surface. We eventually arrived at our hotel on the shores of Lake Zurich at five to eleven, a four and a half drive. It was straight to reception and into the restaurant with seconds to spare to order a meal before the kitchen finished at eleven o’clock. What a journey. Fantastic hotel with very pleasant and helpful staff. We even had our rooms upgraded to have a lake view, not that I really got to appreciate that on our tight schedule.
It was an early start with breakfast at seven and away by eight to get across to see Emma Pooley at her home just in a quiet suburb away from the centre of Zurich. Got there at nine as arranged. I won’t go in to too much detail here as all will be clear in the pages of Cycling Weekly and Cycle Sport. I can say we did a ride up in to the hills with Emma with Alasdair driving and me hanging out of the car window taking pictures or going on ahead and me dashing from the car in to muddy fields to get pictures from a static point.
Fortunately the weather was kind in that it remained dry though very overcast and grey. Not the best for pictures really. We got back to Emma’s and Alasdair did his interview. It was just after eleven when we parked up and we were only there an hour at Emma’s but we got back to the car to find it had a parking ticket. 40 CHF. It was the quietest neighbourhood with plenty of parking as everyone had gone to work. Even so, there it was. Apparently you have to get a parking permit from the town hall for the day.
I did the drive back towards Italy and to our next appointment with Charly Wegelius at the Mapei centre near Varese. As we came out of the Gottardo tunnel we were treated to a misty and snowy winter wonderland. There was sleet in the air which turned to rain as we got lower and it didn’t stop raining all day.
Not the best driving conditions. Got to the Mapei centre at about four o’clock and met up with Wegelius in one of the labs. The Mapei centre is dedicated to sports science and a lot of cycling pros past and present have been through it’s doors along with world cup ski-ing stars and athletes. I have to say it was very interesting and hopefully Alasdair’s piece will be in the magazine soon giving all the background and detail to the centre’s facilities.
There was just chance for Charly to take us to a couple of his local haunts afterwards before we had to leave him and we made our way into Varese to find our hotel for the night. Varese will be next years world road race venue and used to host the start of the Tour of Lombardy up until recently. Got to the hotel at about eight o’clock. A long day.
My flight back home on the Friday was at eleven thirty and Alasdair’s was at twelve thirty so we aimed to get to the airport for ten o’clock. That we did and we parked up in the car rental return where I said my goodbyes and left Alasdair to finish the hire car details. I got to the check-in desk only to find that the 11:30 flight had become the 13:45 flight. A long day ahead was awaiting.
As I checked in I got a meal voucher and then wandered up to one of the lounges. Malpensa airport has some great display cabinets of model aircraft covering aircraft types through the ages, small, large, military, commercial, fixed wing and rotor. That passed away half an hour or so. Finally, I wandered over to the restaurant and redeemed my meal voucher before going through to security and in to departures.
Started some work on the computer editing pictures. Kept an eye on the departure updates to see that the flight had been delayed another hour. Worked on the computer until the battery died and it was about time to get to the departure gate. There I found the flight had been delayed a further fifteen minutes for an estimated departure of three o’clock.
Three o’clock passed and it wasn’t until nearly twenty to four that we passed the gate and were shuttled to our remote stand on a wet and now dusky Milan afternoon. All aboard and the captain came over the intercom to explain the delay. Apparently the early morning flight from Manchester was not fit to fly for the scheduled service link. The replacement aircraft had no crew so that couldn’t come over until a crew had been flown in from Belfast to Manchester to bring the replacement flight over. Anyway, all aboard and we got a slot just before four o’clock to take off and leave a rainy Milan.
Got in to Manchester at ten past five local time. There was a short delay to get to the terminal because we had to be parked on a remote stand and be shuttled to the airport buildings. Think that’s the first time I’ve had to do that at Manchester and guess it was because we had come in late and out of schedule. I was quickly through customs and the bags were already there at baggage reclaim. Walked to the train station between terminal 3 and 1 and got the 17:52 to Cleethorpes which stopped at Sheffield at 18:10. Perfect. I was home for 19:30 after a short taxi journey home from the station in Sheffield.
Saturday was drizzly and generally miserable all day so I didn’t venture out on the bike. Just caught up on domestic things and sorting my expenses claim for the last few weeks work so I’m up to date.
Sunday was much improved weather wise and arranged to meet Steve (Gibson) and Simon(Owens) at nine at the Round House in Ringinglow village for a pedal. It turned out to be a very enjoyable ride out to Hartington and back. Had a tea stop at the farmhouse I’ve mentioned before in Hartington. We all sampled a teacake followed by an excellent slice of home baked Bakewell tart. Couldn’t have been better and all set in the cosy farmhouse kitchen. Arrived back home with 71 miles on the computer with a good 17 mph average.
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.