A bikepacking tour of Mont Blanc (part 2)

For the first part of our tour of Mont Blanc click here.

It was another early start, well except for Joe who managed to sleep for twenty minutes more than everyone else. Naturally the morning feast was bread, cheese and coffee. We lubed our chains and then set off on a road climb up the valley. After reaching the head of the valley in Switzerland we turned off up a fire road for the climb to ‘La Peule’. La Peule was also the name of the current cheese I was eating at that time and we were passed on the climb by an old Renault van with multiple layers of large wheels of cheese in the back. The natural assumption is that this was the farm/area it was made in. It’s good cheese too very light, yet with a strong undertone to the flavour somehow.

Joe was having a good morning, the twenty minutes of extra sleep must have worked wonders and he rode most of the initial fire road climb of the day . However all three of us would have to employ the technique of walking a bit, riding a bit for the whole ascent to the Grand Col Ferret. Having long legs must come in handy for this as I reached the top first. I quickly had to put my jacket on as it was pretty windy and much colder than in the valley or on the climb. The others quickly arrived though and we crossed into Italy. Country number three in as many days. The descent to the refuge Elena was sadly too steep to ride although the views were fantastic. I think this was the descent where we met a large group of American tourists who kept telling us we were incredible and taking our photos!
Processed with VSCOcamI’d never been to Italy before so we had a coffee at the refuge and I have to admit it was the best coffee of the trip. Fully caffeinated we raced down the fire road from the refuge and into the valley. Sadly we were going so fast and having so much fun when we hit a paved road surface that we missed the turning for our planned off road route. We tried to come up with a new off road route but after getting pretty lost and having to back track more than once we gave up and just descended by road to Courmayeur. It was really fast and fun though with those classic alpine road switchbacks. It was baking hot in Courmayeur a rapid change from the cold wind at the top of the mountain. We stopped literally across the road from a pizza shop completely through luck and then amazed the owner by ordering three or four slices each! I think it was a husband and wife team but they were really friendly despite the fact none of us spoke any Italian. The pizza was also fantastic.

We spent a long time studying the map in Courmayeur and looking at the slopes around us. The town is in a very steep part of the mountain valley and it was clear that our intended route would take us up some very steep climbs. I also consulted the GPS tracks I had and these showed an easier way north out of the town and into the Val veny. It was still a tough road climb to end the day with and again Joe seemed to be full of energy and left us in the dust. We regrouped at the top of the climb and dropped into the valley looking for somewhere to camp. Leaving the road and following the footpath along beside the river we stumbled across a wooded park/picnic area. It had benches, fire pits, water points and public toilets. It looked like a perfect free campsite. After hanging around for half an hour or so just to see how busy the area was we set up the tarps and settled in for the night. We made good use of the table that night and played poker for sweets.
Processed with VSCOcamIt was cold in the morning, the valley sides sheltered us from the sun until it was quite high in the sky so we packed up quickly and got going. Today was the day we had been dreading as in our planning it had looked like pretty much all climbing for most of the day. However that was on our original route so it was now a bit of an unknown. After continuing up the Val veny on the road it turned into a fire road leading us upwards towards the top of the valley. We were cycling on the flat floor of the U-shaped valley and although the general trend was upwards there were some respite as the road flattened sometimes and even the occasional downhill. At the head of the valley there was a final steep push to the Col de la Seigne. It however hadn’t taken us as long to reach this point as we had anticipated.
Processed with VSCOcamAs we crossed back into France we were greeted with the best descent of the trip. Sweet flowing singletrack with ace switchbacks. It raised our spirits immensely and we were all grinning when we reached the bottom. We were soon realising that in the mountains you can spend hours climbing 1000 metres in height and then if you have a good piece of trail descend the same amount in 10 minutes. We celebrated being back in France with crepes at the refuge de Mottets, trying to ignore the amorous donkey in the field next to us. Stomachs full we blasted down the valley on a wide fire road to Les Chapieux. After watching a woman leading goats through the village with a Fiat Panda (they love that car in this area) we again had a discussion regarding the route. We had already decided that the original route we had planned which was most direct was probably not passable by bike but as we were well ahead of schedule wanted to press on.

So we set off to climb the Col de Bonhomme. Our dreaded day hadn’t been that bad up until this point, this climb would change that. The initial parts were steep but manageable the top section was incredibly hard. From about a third of the way up it was too steep to ride and so tiring that we started to split it into sections. We would push for 100 metres of altitude gain by my GPS and then rest before starting the next section. At one point Nathan picked up his bike and took the shortest steepest path up the rocky trail. I just didn’t have the strength to do that so had to wind back and forth across the mountain to reach the same point. You knew paths were going to get steep when you met walkers coming down who wished you good luck!
Processed with VSCOcamEventually as clouds rolled in and with the wind having picked up we reached the refuge at the top. We went inside to get out of the wind and ordered omelettes and cokes, everyone was quiet for a little while absolutely exhausted. We were hoping that the other side of the mountain was going to be another good descent but we were sadly disappointed. The climb had taken us over three hours so a quick descent would have been good. However it was very rocky, if you had a bike with full suspension and a fair amount of balls you could probably have picked a line down. With a hardtail loaded with luggage it was walking time again. Lower down it became more rideable and then we hit slate/gravel fire road which led us down into the valley. We found some flat ground to camp on whilst trying to stay out of the Contamines-Montjoie park area where camping and fires were definitely prohibited. We seemed to get the tarps set up in record time and after a quick cuppa headed for bed. It felt really good to be well ahead of schedule but we were so tired from the day it was only 8:30pm when we turned in.

Another cold morning so packed up quickly and were in the town of Les Contamines-Montjoie before 9am. We warmed up in a bar that was open with a cup of coffee and again discussed the route and day ahead. Breakfast was proving elusive though so I just had some cereal bars whilst Nathan and Joe bought a whole rotisserie chicken to share. After this park bench feast we didn’t actually set off again until 11am. The road out of town was a nice gentle climb weaving back and forth through houses. However once off the road onto fire road the route literally went straight up the slope. It was a hard push to start the day but our spirits were still high and after a bit of up and down we reached the Chalets de Miage. I was the only person to order food but needed something more substantial for the day ahead. It was actually a really good potato omelette and it was only afterwards that I realised I had managed to conduct my entire conversation at the refuge in French.
Processed with VSCOcamThe descent from Miage to Le Champel was frustrating with nice sections we could ride and then steep rocks and roots which required pushing. The village of Le Champel also turned out to be much smaller than we anticipated consisting of about five houses. We headed out of the village on fire road again climbing back up towards an area we had identified as a potential campsite on the map. The area didn’t look great though with lots of nettles, mosquitos and a farm close by. So as we were still making good time despite starting late that day and although a short day would have been nice we decide to push on.

The other two seemed to be fairing better than me and pushed on ahead. It was quite a shock to round a bend and find Nathan washing his hair in one of the water troughs that you find all over the mountain. When the mood takes you and all that. Eventually it became apparent that we would have to continue all the way over the Col de Voza which was the final climb of the trip. It felt good to have completed it when we reached the top but it was incredibly hot now and I was really suffering. The descent the other side towards Les Houches should have been a fast ride down some steep but manageable fire road. I was so tired though I couldn’t concentrate and so ended up walking large sections as I didn’t trust myself to ride downwards on the loose surface safely.
Processed with VSCOcamOnce back on the road we investigated a picnic spot on the map as another potential campsite but it turned out to literally be a picnic table by the side of the road. So let the score stand at Italy 1 France 0 when it comes to quality of picnic areas. It seemed logical to just keep going towards Chamonix at this point and there were a couple of other spots on the map that looked promising for campsites. We also discussed paying for an actual campsite as a fall back if we couldn’t find anything for free. At another picnic spot just outside of Bossons we pushed our bikes up into the woods on the north side of the valley. It was far from ideal being very lumpy and littered with roots but I think by now we were all tired. It was also the last night out in the open and so thoughts of a bed the night after would tide us through. I tried to make some food but was so tired I managed to knock my stove and pot over twice before finally cobbling together something vaguely edible. I think we all had a bit of sunstroke and two hard days were starting to take their toll.
Processed with VSCOcamSo the final morning was upon us. Packing up our stuff had become a pretty slick routine by this point. Naturally Joe was the last one up and there was a discussion as to whether it would have been cruel or amusing to leave him to wake up on his own in the woods. We set off and rode the 2 remaining miles to Chamonix. It was tough, draining and…who am I kidding! We pulled into the square where we had started roughly 110 hours previously and high fived. Job done!

The whole trip was amazing and we spent four more days in Chamonix after completing the tour of Mont Blanc. I did some running/walking up the hills and it was just incredible getting so high up so easily and looking back from where you had come. Looking back the tour of Mont Blanc was hard, perhaps one of the toughest rides/journeys I have completed. The terrain really isn’t suited to loaded bikes but I am glad that we attempted and completed it. I’m not sure that even on a full suspension mountain bike carrying limited gear I could have ridden much more of the route, I’m just not that skilled. The tour of Mont Blanc is a very popular walking trip and I possibly would like to go back one day and see if I could run/walk around the route in a shorter time!
Processed with VSCOcamFinally a few thanks and a personal recommendation:
Thanks to Joe and Nathan for being great travelling companions.
Thanks to Restrap for the prototype bikepacking luggage we used/tested. It worked and I didn’t break anything, success.
Thanks to Will at Schwalbe UK for the Nobby Nic rear tyre. No punctures, good grip and even on the road it rolled well.
Finally a personal recommendation for Alpkit whose drybags, Hunka XL bivy and Rig 3.5 tarp I bought earlier in the year and used on the trip. Their kit is good value for money but also does the job, just what you need.

A bikepacking tour of Mont Blanc (part 1)

So the best ideas are sometimes formulated in the pub and this trip was no exception. The idea was simple, to do a tour of Mont blanc starting and finishing in Chamonix. We knew that there were organised trips where someone would guide you around and you stayed in hostels and refuges but that sounded expensive. We figured we would just wild camp in bivvy bags and carry our luggage with us, it couldn’t be that hard. So after booking the flights we sat down with the two maps that covered the area we were touring in and worked out a rough route/itinerary for a 6 day trip clockwise around Mont blanc mostly using the popular walking trail. In addition I had managed to get the GPS tracks from someone who had actually taken a guided tour around the route which did come in handy.Processed with VSCOcamWe flew to Geneva and got a transfer to Chamoix which takes about an hour and a half. Switzerland/France greeted us with the craziest thunderstorm that I had ever seen! Some brilliant fork lightning but weirdly very little actual thunder. Upon arriving in Chamonix we started putting our bikes back together at the train station. Naturally having managed to get in front of the storm the heavens opened so we all quickly scurried under the overhang at the front of the station to finish the task. Suddenly deciding to ‘wing it’ on our first night and camp from the off didn’t seem quite such a good idea. However the rain eased off and we cycled out of town and found some woods to camp in. It was late and gone midnight, so it was a quick set up and to sleep.

I learnt an important lesson that first night that I should pull the opening of my bivvy relatively tight around my head. I awoke to find a brightly coloured slug in front of my face which had left slimy trails across the top part of the inside of my bivvy! We packed up and bleary eyed stumbled out of the woods with our bikes much to the surprise of a woman walking her dog.Processed with VSCOcamFrom this point forward the routine of cycle touring kicked in. There are three things that are important in the day ahead after you wake up in the morning. Finding food, deciding where you are cycling to that day and then finally where you are going to camp that night. Our first visit to the supermarket went fairly well and also marked the start of my bread and cheese diet. I can highly recommend pain au chocolat and Emmental as a culinary combination. We also established that everyone just filled their bottles up from the fountains in the town and that water was going to be easy to come by as we travelled around the mountains.

Having got our bearings we set off up the valley from Chamonix towards Argentiere. We were going to just follow the road but due to having the GPS track and my Garmin Oregon on my handlebars I realised there was an off road path that led along the side of the valley to Le tour. We were easing ourselves in gently on the first day and at Le tour would be getting the lifts up to the top of the Col de Balme. However before we reached that point the alps greeted us with some steep slopes and our first pushing of the trip. I also managed to over shift my chain into my rear wheel which alarmingly bent one of the spokes. It didn’t go out of true though and never happened again, the spoke also stayed intact for the rest of the trip too thankfully. In fact it was the only mechanical we had on the whole trip which was pretty amazing. We did have some descending as well as climbing on this portion of the trip which was fun and fast bringing a smile to our faces.Processed with VSCOcamThe lifts from Le tour to the Col de Balme were interesting. The first was a cabin type and after I clearly had no idea how to fit my bike into the space the helpful attendant just lifted my rear wheel in the air and wedged the bike into it floor to ceiling. The second lift was the seat type with a bike rack on one side which the attendant loaded your bike onto. I had my heart in my mouth all the way up. Nothing to do with the height we were off the ground but the angle my loaded touring bike was leaning at on the bike rack! At one point I even moved one seat across to see if I could balance the lift better and tip it back towards me, it didn’t work. We however reached the top without incident and after cycling the short distance to the border crossed into Switzerland.

The valley below us was misty and instead of following the switchbacks ahead which looked very tantalising we instead headed left towards the Croix de Fer and an alternative route which we had drawn on the map back in the UK. I’m not sure if this was a good idea or not, we were able to ride the route in places but in others it was sketchy shale paths with steep drops to one side that left no margin for error. Further on the route became so steep with jumbles of rocks/roots plus the ever present drop that we soon realised we would be walking our bikes down parts of the mountains as well as up them. To be honest between the three of us our skill level wasn’t brilliant and a loaded bike handles very differently to one without luggage. An ill judged front brake tap at the wrong time causes the forks to dive a lot more when you have a sleeping bag and clothes strapped to your handlebars! The steepness that the mountain dropped away at the side of the trail also didn’t really inspire confidence to just ‘give it a go’.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetEventually we reached a much wider fire road and sped down into Trient. It was also at this point that it started to rain. We knew we had to push on despite the weather and after some riding it was pushing again up the other side of the valley to the Col de la Foclaz. Col de la Foclaz is actually a small village and by small I mean tiny. One shop, a few houses, a public toilet and a hotel, I did discover that Swiss public toilets are very nice though. We considered getting some hot food from the hotel but the price of meals in Switzerland was really expensive. We bought some food in the shop and sheltered from the rain under the guttering whilst we ate it. The rain eased and eventually stopped but we were a bit apprehensive as to whether there would be more to come when we camped that night.

Heading out of Forclaz involved an hour of pushing up a steep narrow path over muddy roots. It was tough going and everyone was tired by this point but the path eventually led us out onto an area of flatter ground where it looked like we would be able to camp. Up ahead though we spotted a hut at the top end of the flat area and the consensus was that we would be daft not to check it out. The hut was deserted but locked, however it had a large lean to/covered area on one side with tables and benches and an area where we could lay down the bivvy bags to sleep. To be honest with the weather looking dodgy it was perfect, cover from the rain, a table with somewhere to sit and an already used fire pit out the front for our evening blaze. The view wasn’t bad either.Processed with VSCOcamWe were up and at ‘em early on the second day proper. Camping sleep is different to sleeping snug in a bed at home and you tend to not only wake in the night a fair bit but rise early in the morning. The whole trip we tended to go to sleep around 9pm European time and be up at 7am. Except Joe, he was always last to rise and we usually ended up waking him up so we could get packed up and going again. Mornings in the mountains were misty and felt cold until the sun burnt the mist away. Therefore getting up, getting everything packed and back on the bike and the wheels turning was the best way to warm up. We had a short but steep push to the top that morning and the sun greeted us as we reached the peak of the trail. Nathan who was at the front was almost taken out by a deer before we reached that point though, it was incredible. I have no idea how it managed to run down the steep side of the mountain across our path.

The descent was similar to the day before some singletrack we could ride and some steep paths we couldn’t. It was nice to reach the valley floor as the temperature rose and we stopped in the town of Champex for lunch. It was pretty idyllic eating lunch (bread and cheese!) by a beautiful lake whilst a brass band practised outside the bar across the street. We pressed on up the valley initially on the road and then off road some more. Climbing on loaded bikes was hard in the heat and so we had to stop often to rest. However the trade off for carrying our camping gear was knowing that we didn’t need to be in a particular place by a certain time and could stop when we wanted. We reached the town of La Fouly mid-afternoon but discovered that cafes/bars don’t serve food at that time.Processed with VSCOcamThere was a supermarket so we bought provisions and pressed on until we were the other side of Ferret. We found a really good flat camping spot in some woods by the river and rigged a shelter using all three of our tarps. This trip really highlighted to me that if you aren’t travelling alone working together to create a shelter works much better than everyone doing their own thing. We also worked together on dinner that night and managed to cook scrambled eggs, beans and mushrooms on the fire. The other two also had sausage which I naturally declined as a vegetarian. It was great to get a hot meal in our stomachs. We washed the pots in the river built the fire back up from the embers and relaxed.
Processed with VSCOcamContinue to part 2

Battle hymns for the recluse youth (hostel)

So it was off on a tour again this weekend, however it was a bit different to what I’ve been doing recently. Back to the lightweight option and strapping as little as possible to the road bike. This trip had been in the pipeline since January or February when Sam at work had invited me to join him and some of his friends on a trip starting in York and heading out west to the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire. We were staying in youth hostels as the two other members of the group Chris and Tim work for the YHA. I hadn’t stayed in a youth hostel since university so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
20140627_132924The plan was to set off from York at lunchtime on Friday so in a fit of enthusiasm I decided to ride there from home. This would have made perfect sense were it not for the fact that the actual planned route for the day passed within about 8 miles of my house. However extra miles in the legs is generally good. Less good as there was a headwind all the way to York and I got lost navigating into the city centre. The headwind however did mean that we had a tailwind as we left York together and headed west.
20140627_151214The destination for the day was Haworth and Tim was going to join us there. It was a nice ride on generally familiar roads. The weather for the weekend wasn’t forecast to be great and when we stopped in Otley to refuel late in the afternoon the rain started. It didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits though and we set off over the south tip of Ilkley moor to Keighley and then on to Haworth. Naturally the main road from Keighley to Haworth would have been far too boring so we took in the cobbled and at times 20% climb of Hainsworth lane for a bit of ‘fun’. It seemed a lot harder than the last time I rode it but Strava says it was a new personal best so I must have been going faster despite the damp conditions. Sam’s comment was that there was no shame in walking any hill steep and slippy enough to warrant a hand rail! Once the climb was conquered it was all downhill to the YHA in Haworth. It’s a really impressive building and I have to admit it was good to have a comfy bed, hot showers and a drying room to get clothing dry at the end of a days ride.
20140627_181757The hostel in the morning also did a decent breakfast for £5 where you could pretty much eat as much as you wanted. So loaded up with Weetabix and a cooked breakfast it was time to set off for Lancashire. The first part of the day involved a steep descent followed by a climb to cross the valley to Oakworth. After that it was along the tops on a really nice smooth rolling road before descending into Pendle district. It became apparent that Chris and I were fairly evenly matched in terms of fitness and that Sam and Tim were happy to pootle along a bit behind and catch us up at the top of hills.
20140628_111542The first major climb of the day was the Nick of Pendle which was steep but relatively short, stupidly I hadn’t started my GPS on the descent into Sabden so stopped to do it halfway down. This put me behind everyone else and try as I might I just couldn’t catch Chris by the top of the hill. After we had regrouped the descent over the other side to Clitheroe was sketchy to say the least. Corners, newly ‘dressed’ roads (i.e. gravel), traffic and a cattle grid on a corner. We all got down safely though and stopped in Clitheroe for a pastie.
20140628_114824After a few more miles we came to the second big climb of the day which was Birdy brow. I rode up this hill last year and on that occasion found I couldn’t shift into the inner ring at the bottom so then had to chase everyone up the hill after fixing the problem. This time I was in front and the hill felt a lot harder than before. The two teeth difference between running a compact 50/34 chainset last year and a 52/36 this year seemed to make a big difference. Once over the top there were a few more lumps and bumps before a lunch stop at the Cobbled corner café in Chipping. After lunch it was decision time as our options were 45, 47, 61 or 66 mile routes.
20140628_150912We decided to split up with Sam and Tim taking the more direct 47 mile route to Slaidburn whilst Chris and I headed off around the back of hills and through the Trough of Bowland to complete 61 miles to the same destination. It has to be said that the Forest of Bowland is pretty lumpy. A couple of short steep climbs directly after lunch certainly seemed to take their toll and I was feeling pretty tired at this point. However the view from the other side of the hills was fantastic the landscape dropping away to the west coast. The drizzle had lifted so you could see Blackpool, the lake district and the Isle of Man. Eventually we had to turn back into the wind which was gruelling at first but as we entered the Trough of Bowland it became more sheltered. I also seemed to get a bit of a second wind on the climb through the Trough possibly as my body had managed to process the large lunch I’d had. The descent after the climb was again a bit hairy mainly due to having to squeeze through a 1.5 metre gap between a sheep sat on the road and a car parked looking at it! After a final push we reached Slaidburn before the hostel opened at 5pm so joined Tim and Sam in the pub.
20140628_170906After we had all slept for about 9 hours there was sadly no buffet breakfast at the Slaidburn hostel. We had thought ahead though and bought ready brek from the village shop the day before so that gave us some initial energy to get us going on the journey home. The night before in the pub we’d planned a route that would take us to Skipton without a huge amount of climbing as people were starting to tire. At Skipton the plan was for us all to go our seperate ways. Sam to get the train home and Tim to cycle to Haworth to reclaim his car. Myself and Chris could then press on towards Leeds and he could take a left turn and head back to York. The weather was a lot better on Sunday and we made good time on the 25 miles or so to Skipton. There were a few climbs between Airton and Hetton which I had somehow completely removed from my memory after riding them on last years White Rose Classic. However with relatively fresh legs everyone seemed to cope with the climbs pretty well. At Skipton we had a nice lunch and said our goodbyes.
20140629_101237Chris had decided to join me heading over the gated climb to Bolton Abbey and along the Wharfe valley as he hadn’t ridden those roads before and it was really pleasant zipping along in the sunshine at around 18mph. After passing the rugby club at Ilkley we picked up Lars and his son and gave them a tow. This meant that when Chris turned left at Askwith for the drag up and over the moor towards Harrogate I had some company and a good chat down through Otley to the base of the Chevin. Even with three days and over a hundred miles in my legs the final spin up the main road and into Leeds seemed a breeze and I actually felt much better than on Saturday afternoon. The rolling road down the Wharfe valley was so much less taxing on the body than the sharp ups and downs of the day before.

Another great trip out on the bike with good company and covering 187 miles over the three days put my cycling total for the week past the 300 mile mark. Always a good achievement. I definitely will use youth hostels again in the future too. The facilities are good and if you’re trying to travel light they provide most of the things you need. You can hire towels for a couple of quid a night for example. I also think that if I was doing a longer camping trip then I would probably try to stay in a hostel at some point to get clothing dry if the weather was bad.

Barf

Apologies we’ve all been busy again which means neglecting our little corner of the internet. However this weekend we all got together for another night out under the stars. I guess when planning this trip we didn’t really think about the fact it was the solstice which meant we had plenty of daylight and not many stars.
Solstice3We decided to revisit the route Carl and I did in fairly inclement weather the other month as on that trip we never actually made our intended destination. What a difference good weather makes. Our pace was much quicker and there were no raging torrents to ford!
IMG-20140622-WA0008Solstice2The Yorkshire countryside really is beautiful and it’s always nice to get out and about where there aren’t many people. Although our route was relatively ‘cheeky’ we didn’t come across any issues (aka people telling us we couldn’t ride). In fact at one point we met the land owner who suggested we ride down ‘his’ road rather than the bridleway so as not to disturb nesting birds. Cheers Duke! Our destination was Simon’s seat and the views were magnificent and well worth the fact you have to push the last mile or so to the top.
Solstice5 Solstice6 Solstice7Once we had reached the summit it was time to head back down to find somewhere less exposed to camp for the night. Walls and fences on each side with clear ‘no public access’ signs were a touch frustrating as we didn’t want to be too brazen about camping somewhere we shouldn’t be. However a track with no signs threw up a nice little area of woodland for a secluded wild camp.
image[6]Despite not falling in a river this time for some reason Carl was inexplicably sick after eating his dinner. To be honest we still don’t know why. Bad beanfeast or ill advised application of insect repellent? Everyone was pretty tired after a long, hot day in the saddle with a fair bit of climbing so we turned in pretty early. I think I was last to fall asleep and I remember it was still pretty light when I did. It’s also a bit odd being under a tarp in some woods and being able to hear cheering for the World Cup football game on TV somewhere else in the valley.
image[4]As usual we were had to be back fairly early on Sunday but even with these constraints we managed to do a bit of exploring on the way back and also retrace a few steps so it wasn’t just the usual roads home. We all arrived home safely with a only insect bites, nettle stings and bramble scrapes to show we had actually left.
IMG-20140622-WA0002 image[8]All in all a successful trip out with some great weather and good company. It’s nice when things go completely to plan. Well almost.

I love cyclocross.

Tonight was my first ‘cross race in a while and I fell in love all over again. 45 minutes of pain, suffering and fun! The course had ups (so many) and downs (too few), roots, mud and boards.

After 2 laps I missed my pedal trying to remount and had a comedy sideways crash into a hedge. After 35 minutes of racing I felt like I was done and I had nothing left. However upon hearing that bell for the final lap it was head down, all out, final push. I was determined that the guy in front of me was not getting back to that line before me and with half a lap to go I passed him and then opened up a gap to make sure he didn’t.

Job done, the results will show me in the bottom quarter of the field for sure but I finished and I wasn’t last. I ask you in what other cycling discipline can you turn up on a bike with one gear made of bamboo and not come last?
Otley 2014Photo thanks to Sam Gate.