The week started with a trip down to Wolverhampton to catch up with Hugh Porter, four time world pursuit champion and now the voice of the BBC’s cycling commentary. I’d first spoken to Hugh about doing a rides story back at the Worlds in Stuttgart.
With my schedule and Hugh’s ever busy diary, last Monday was the first opportunity to get together. I arranged to meet Hugh at the Aldersley Stadium Sports complex in Wolverhampton close to his home. I have to admit to having had a few navigation problems in getting to the stadium.
Eventually I made it and Hugh and I got to setting off for his ride. Although bitterly cold and overcast, it turned out to be an interesting loop round the Shropshire and Staffordshire lanes close to Hugh’s home. We even managed a glimpse of sunshine on the return leg of the ride. Also saw three large Buzzards perched along the hedgerow tops. It’s not often you get to see them at such close quarters.
Anita, Hugh’s wife and a great sporting champion in her own right, joined us after the ride for a bite to eat at the cafe in the little village round the corner from their home. It was also chance to get my interview on tape for the ride article.
From there I left them for my return leg back to Sheffield. Traffic was not the best and by the time I got to junction 28 of the M1 I decided to take the Matlock route home to get away from the slow motorway traffic. I was also feeling tired and stopped in Beeley just the other side of Matlock for a break and an evening meal as it was about half six by now. Dropped in to the Devonshire Arms situated at the bottom of the hill where the annual Beeley hill climb starts. A pleasant country pub for a much needed break.
Tuesday and I woke to feeling a cold coming on. Not good. The morning and the afternoon turned out to be quite busy looking out and sending pictures for the office as they pieced the final pages together for the Cycling Weekly copies for the Christmas and New Year editions as well as next months Cycle Sport.
Wednesday I drove down to Stone to meet Phil Griffiths at Yellow Ltd and get a picture or two of some of the new team members for the 2008 Pinarello RT. Freddy Johansson was there along with Ben Price, Russell Downing and Malcolm Elliott. Phil had only got back on Tuesday evening after driving the van back from Luchon with all the training bikes that had been used the previous week. The van was unloaded and Russell and Malcolm took their training bikes away.
Freddy and Ben were measured up and sorted with their training bikes along with some team kit. Whilst this was all going on I got to have a chat with Magnus Backstedt who was also there having given Freddy a lift up from Wales for the day. Magnus is building up his training programme as he enters a new season with his new team Slipstream. He will go to an early new year training camp in Spain before his season gets underway with the Tour of Qatar.
It was interesting talking to him about his training programme, new team, career and what his goals are for the season. Naturally Paris-Roubaix is right up there though I really didn’t have to ask. Magnus will be 33 at the end of January and has been a pro since 1996.
Photographed Malcolm and his three new team mates individually and in a group shot wearing retro Pinarello wool jerseys.
After leaving Stone I drove down to Abergavenny to stay overnight for a meeting with the new GB women’s team the following morning. I stayed just a few miles out of Abergavenny in The Rat Trap pub B&B near Usk.
Thursday and I started out for Abergavenny in clear frosty conditions. I met up with Julian Winn, Fran Millar and the women’s team at the YHA and environmental centre there. The team headed by Nicole Cooke had been there since Monday for a training camp, team building exercise and also to get their training bikes up and running. There had been training rides each morning around the idyllic lanes and countryside surrounding Abergavenny.
I joined Simon Cope, the ex- Linda McCartney pro now coaching with British Cycling, in his team car so I could get pictures of the team out training. I later had to join Julian in his car for the end of the ride as Simon had to get back for a meeting with some Olympic Development Programme riders. The official launch is in the new year.
I set off for home around two o’clock. As ever these days traffic was bad, particularly at the junction where the M50 joins the M5. There were long tail backs down the M5 due to a lorry that had gone over the hard shoulder and in to the embankment shedding some of it’s load just north of the junction. I dropped in to the services just above the junction to get a bite to eat and let the traffic ease off a bit. Cars were even queuing around the car park there to get back on to the motorway. Once back on the road I had to stop later at Tamworth services for a break and a snooze. Arrived back home about seven thirty.
Friday was a day to catch up on getting a few things done for Christmas. Wrote and posted my Christmas cards. Had lunch with Joseph from La Bicicleta who’s bike shop is on the corner just up the road from me. Alex from the shop joined us too and we walked a short way down the road to a little eating place on Ecclesall Road. Spent the rest of the afternoon doing my present shopping in town.
Saturday and I got out for my first spin on the bike since last Sunday. The cold I’d had all week was feeling much better but I made sure I didn’t over do it. Just a gentle leg spinner to Bakewell and back. Felt better for the ride. I rode the last bit of the ride back with Mark I’ve mentioned from my Sunday runs. He’d been pedalling along to Baslow as I was heading for Calver. He turned round and joined me. Instead of heading up Froggatt we went up to Stoney Middleton and then up the climb to Eyam. Cut round the back to Grindleford and up the climb to Foxhouse before dropping back in to Sheffield. It had actually started to rain by now so we got back just in time.
Sunday and the day dawned to a heavy overnight frost. Made sure I feed the birds out in the garden area behind my flat. Some old bread, cheese and dried mealworms for the bird table. Sunflower hearts for the bird feeder. By the time I got back in to the flat there was already a couple of Magpies tucking in to the offerings. With it being frosty, I decided therefore to go for a pedal later in the morning once the ice and frost had had chance to melt a little. I set out on my ride in bright, sunny but cold conditions.
Did my Matlock run taking it steady. Met a few fog patches over the tops near Baslow and down towards Chatsworth but once I was out towards Matlock things improved again. On the way back, the views from the top of Froggatt across the Hope valley and across to Higger Tor and Carl Wark(an old Iron Age hill fort) were superb. Clear and bright. Good to be out.
All that remains is to say have a Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. I’ll catch up with the blog in a fortnight after the National Cyclo-Cross Championships.
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.