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White Rose Classic

It's now the half way point in the year and after a couple of good road races early in the season I've now taken a step back to prepare for the 112 mile ride that comes with being part of an Iron-distance triathlon relay team at Hever in a few weeks time. Gone are the short sharp sessions that punctuated the early season replaced with much longer and steadier rides in the hope of reminding my body what a long distance ride is. I've been riding some pretty long routes over the last week on social rides with the longest being 116 miles but until this weekend I hadn't really ridden at 'race pace' on any of them. So when I decided to ride around the White Rose Classic sportive with some friends I knew there was the opportunity to test myself against the clock. The group of friends themselves were aiming for a gold time on the longest route option available which is 112 miles with 10,000ft of climbing through the Yorkshire Dales. The gold time being 7 hours 15 minutes or an average of around 16mph taking into account stops.

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My aim for the day given the last minute decision to ride was to simply pace the others around the route as far as possible in order to get them the time they wanted. This would allow me to be on the front for a lot of the day which would be good given in the triathlon i'm not allowed to draft (who even makes these rules!).

So at 7:30am we set off from Ilkley along the first flat 10 miles at a reasonable pace of around 20mph with about 25 people on my wheel. I knew immediately that the group would split on the first hard climb of the day, Norwood Edge. This Top 100 climb covers 600ft in a mile. Immediately splitting the group. Unlike normal where I would nail the climb as hard as possible I simply kept my heart rate low. It makes more sense on a long ride to go steady up the climb, pedal down the hill and go harder on the flat in my mind.

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Over the top and into the headwind that would stay with us for another 50 miles we formed a fast group of five (Richard, Emil, Simon and Ian). The stretch after Norwood is tough with a constant drag all the way to Grassington so we started a pace-line and taking turns to keep the group together. Again, prime opportunity to do more work on the front here and see how things go. The first stop was a 30 miles for a quick convenience break where the first feed stop was on the route. I can't comment on the feed stations from this year as I didn't use any of them but in previous years they've been really well stocked with all sorts of sweet and savoury. Today though I'd be on race fuel only which consisted of four SiS energy bars and five gels, one of which was a caffeine gel for the final miles.

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After the stop is the second massive climb of the day, Fleet Moss, climbing 800ft in 1.7 miles. Here everyone climbed at their own pace and I found myself pulling away over the top to the point where I was 2 minutes ahead at the next stop. Not the best domestique skills but it's downhill for five miles so I wasn't needed. A couple of the guys made a stop this time before we pushed on out of Hawes towards Garsdale. Again into a tough headwind that started to pull on the legs of some of the group. Pacing the group along to Garsdale was possibly the hardest part of the day.

We turned out of the headwind into climb number three, Garsdale Head which is 730ft in 1.7 miles which was made even harder by the low lying cloud dropping the temperature to under 10c all of a sudden. This climb is about 60 miles in so we were over half way by now and due a tailwind at any moment. Having taken a look back as I crested the climb I realised I had once again pulled away. The group were aware at some point I would be pressing on and this seemed like the ideal opportunity leaving three of them together and me solo on the road.

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Another long drag ensued up to Ribblesdale viaduct where the pace dropped as low as 10mph. I considered dropping back to work with the group but I couldn't do that in the triathlon so no chance I'd do it now. After a few miles a left turn lead into the promised tailwind and the real fun could begin. 27mph along the sweeping country roads towards Settle passing rides along the way but never hanging around for some free draft. It really wasn't long before the final climb of the day from Settle which is 700ft in 2 miles and where all the routes converge into one long line of suffering cyclists. The tailwind certainly took the edge off this climb but given the tired legs it's always tough.

The next 20 miles are Yorkshire flat, which basically means quite lumpy but nothing that stands out on Strava as particularly tough going. Ticking over the 100 mile marker is always a great relief and you can count down to the finish at this point, or at least I did. At 110 miles you hit the hardest climb of the day, Langbar. On paper it's easier than most of the other climbs I've mentioned at 500ft in 1.2 miles but given you have so many miles in the legs already it really is a sadist that decided it should be added to the route. Heavy legs and a tired mind mean this climb seems to last forever as you pick your way around the riders who's legs quit before yours.

Over the top and roll back to Ilkley for a time of 6 hours 27 minutes on the clock. That's an average of 18mph for a route with 10,000ft of climbing so I was more than happy with that as a result and feel pretty confident that on a flatter course (8,000ft) I might be able to crack that 20mph for the triathlon.

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The White Rose Classic is organised and run by Ilkley Cycling Club. You can keep an eye out for entry opening here: http://www.ilkleycyclingclub.org.uk/white-rose-classic-2015-2

I was a bit late getting entry so donated my fee to a charity of the club's choice which the ride was supporting. Big kudos to the volunteers that run these events every year.

Cycling's Lazy Litter Louts

Anyone that follows me on Twitter will know that over the last few months I've tweeted quite a few times about how infuriating it is to see people dropping their gel packets and other rubbish on the floor whilst they're out on the their rides. I don't mean the accidental dispatch of a gel wrapped when fumbling in your back pocket but the genuine glance over the shoulder and chuck approach which so many cyclists and seemingly runners seem to have adopted recently. I know it's always been a problem but as more and more people take up cycling the problem seems to be getting worse. I really don't understand why it is though? It is really so hard to put that empty wrapper back in your pocket that you so dearly shoved in there before you started your ride? It is really so hard to stop for 30 seconds and zip the rubbish up in your saddlebag? The answer to both questions is a resounding no. No it's not difficult to do either of those tasks. So why do people feel the need to simply cast away their rubbish in some of the most beautiful parts of the world?

I'm really not too sure on the answer to that question either having always managed to take my rubbish home from races, sportive's and social rides. One such excuse I've heard is that it will make a mess of the riders back pocket having the sticky remnants of a gel in their back pocket. Well isn't that a crying shame that you didn't finish your gel and it's oozing into your pocket. Tip - Take a little plastic bag and stuff them in that once they're empty then your jersey will still look pretty crisp and at the next opportunity you can dispose of everything into the bin in one swift yet smart move.

The other fantastic excuse I've heard is that rubbish is weighing the rider down. Clearly then they forgot what was in the wrapper to start with and I can 100% guarantee that the packaged contents probably weighed you down more so if you truly believe this philosophy I recommend staying at home and sitting on the turbo just to make sure you're not carrying any excessive weight in those pockets. It's a hard life after all.

The third excuse I have genuinely happened across in the past is "Well if they pro's can do it then why can't I?" but let me reassure you that what you see on TV doesn't give the whole picture. Having spent some time in on of the cars at the Tour of Britain we passed through what was about a 500m stretch of road where the pro's were allowed to offload their gel wrappers and other rubbish. Within these 500m were a load of volunteers waiting to immediately sweep it all away into a bin bag. When you're on a sportive or a local road race I promise those volunteers won't be there and they really aren't needed so lets try and remember who we are and put that idea out of your head immediately. Equally, when a pro chucks their bottle away in the later stages of the race I guarantee that 99% of the time it's in the direction of a fan that will perform the most acrobatic of somersaults to get that bottle and it will never see a grassy verge again. I promise you now that no-one is every going to pick up your bottle and scream your name in a 3/4 road race keep your bottles on your bike. This happened in my last race and those water bottle lobs saved so much time the guy finished about 15th. Awkward.

At the end of the day there really are no excuses for purposefully throwing your litter around the countryside. I admit accidents do happen but if you genuinely choose to throw your gels / bottles / snickers bar into a hedge then you're the biggest idiot in cycling. Why? Because you're ruining every single future event that might happen on that road or circuit. Image you've just witnessed 1000 cyclists on a sportive or 50 in a road race and then you see gels scattered everywhere or your lamb choking to death on one. Then you would be the first person to get angry, call for the cancellation of the next event and ruin it for everyone else. This is exactly what is happening around the UK and more and more events are coming under pressure because of inconsideration numpties that can't carry a piece of packaging to the next feed station or the finish.

So just remember at your next sportive, race or ride that you're quite possibly ruining it for everyone else and yourself.

Pack it in and put it in the bin.

 

NYERRL Round 3 - Almost!

Yesterday was round three of the North Yorkshire Evening Road Race League or NYERRL for short. This is an eight race series across North Yorkshire on a Thursday night organised by a lot of the local clubs. There are not only BC points at stake but also point towards the league itself which when collected over the course of the eight races lead to individual and team prizes. Therefore having won round one and missed round two I was keen to get into the mix and grab some more points in both categories. As with most races these days I was able to find the course on Strava and take a look at what to expect. In a nutshell that was going to be pain and suffering. The course is 11 miles long and about 800ft of climbing per lap which meant that over a 44 mile race we would be climbing 3,200ft. I told myself that wasn't too bad given some of the training I'd done already but knew plenty of strong riders would be lining up on the night. One particularly nasty climb is Bulmer Bank which although Strava says it averages 7% definitely has sections steeper as the 14% road signs would suggest. Reviewing the circuit I wasn't as worried about the climb as I was about the descent later in the circuit where the average descent speed was 40mph. I'm not the happiest person going flat out downhill but I'd have to be in the race.

Training rides helping prepare for the hills.

Lining up at the start line we had nine people from my team and the organising club AlbaRosa and then six of the guys from FTR that I train with plus a few other familiar faces. This meant that for the first time this season both of the teams I spend most time with would finally be going head to head. I also noticed that series leader Matt from Prologue was there and this would be one man i'd want to watch just incase he tried to extend his lead any further.

Lap 1 - Another reasonably fast neutralised start ensued and we were rolling up and along to the first ascent of Bulmer Bank. FTR were sat on the front keeping a nice tempo and leading us along nicely whilst I sat mid-bunch. I remembered that there is a steep and narrowing descent into the climb and didn't want to be caught behind any crashes so pushed my way to the front, jumped out of the saddle and put on a bit more speed. I wanted to be down and climbing before anyone had the chance to get in my way and so did quite a few other people. The first ascent was reasonably steady and in all honesty so was the rest of the lap as we rolled around towards the start. The first major ascent was nearly 40mph and having being a bit too cautious until I knew the road slipped back and settled in the bunch for a while again. Julian from FTR made his trademark move and had a little dig off the front on the first lap to test the water but no-one seemed interested in joining him so he rejoined the bunch.

No in-race selfies allowed.

Lap 2 & 3 - Much of the same again really as we would press on through the false flat before Bulmer Bank in the hope of shelling a few more people before going reasonably steady up the climb and then rolling around the latter half of the circuit. As has become customary I stayed in the bunch keeping an eye on everyone I knew incase anything happened. During the course of these two laps our team was whittled down to five riders and FTR had there full six still, despite Joe being forced into a gutter on the climb and having to chase back on. At the end of lap three I looked back over my shoulder and there was nobody else there. We had about 30 people out of the initial 60 going into the last lap.

Recovery!

Lap 4 - Nobody seemed very keen to keep the pace high after team mate Jimmy came back off the front and so the bunch stuck together for much of the last lap. As it turned out one rider had gone solo off the front and had a healthy 40 second lead over the bunch. We didn't know this or for some reason no one chose to chase it down so this rider would go on to win the race. The rest of us would contest the other nine points places available. Swiftly moving down the outside with a mile to go I shouted at the guys from the team to get up there and hit the pace hard. Five of the team on the front to drill the pace in what must momentarily have looked like a pretty scary but extremely well disciplined sprint train until the pace suddenly slowed and we were engulfed. No problem, time to wheel surf and see what happens. Matt was back alongside me and pushing through the gaps now as people began to reel out their uphill sprint. Slightly boxed in I made the best possible attempt to nail it up the hill as hard as possible but finished just outside the points in 11th place.

Two FTR and one Alba in the top ten. Not a bad night for everyone on the whole and plenty of lessons to learn ahead of the next race. One things for sure though, despite the parcours and the 23mph average I felt comfortable all the way around so finally things are falling into place.

As usual thanks must go to organisers AlbaRosa CC, the BC commissaires and traffic management for making the race happen but also to Science in Sport and Madison Clothing for their continued support.

Motivation

It's been two weeks since my last race and it's still another until my next so I've had a lot of time to reflect on where my riding is going and what I want to be doing with the rest of the year. Keeping yourself motivated can be pretty tough as an amateur when you're not racing every week in summer and it has to come second to your working life. I don't get paid to race and definitely don't expect I ever will in all honesty. So over the last couple of weeks I've been focusing on training for the races I want to do as well as doing something different to make sure I don't lose motivation. The biggest killer of motivation is definitely a DNF or "losing your legs" in a race and can leave you pondering for ages about what went wrong. The obvious response from most people is to see it as demotivating and then train even harder to make up for whatever excuse they told themselves made them off the pace that day. I chose to take a different approach for once and simply accepted I wasn't having a great day against a truly superb field. In doing so I didn't feel demotivated and quickly got back into the rhythm of training as normal.

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I find training alone pretty demotivating too as you pick your way through the mountain of numbers trying to hit sweet-spot or hold threshold for so many minutes. That's why I train with about ten other guys that I've known and raced with for the last three years. We don't go out number bashing (unless our name is Jamie) but instead go out to make training fun and a little bit different. On a Tuesday night we'll head out after work and do a race simulation on some quiet roads where almost anything goes. These are great ways to keep the excitement levels up as if you're feeling great you can just solo off the front and attack hard but then when you're feeling rough you can cling onto the back and still get a good session. Obviously an attack off the front and sprint for victory are all anyone realistically wants. We still do a traditional Thursday Chaingang too but again, the last few miles are every man for himself which is great fun.

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So having nailed the training I had a look at what else I can do to ensure I don't get bored on the bike. This is where for me the social riding gives a very welcome break from training and breaks the week up even further. On a Wednesday there is a post-work social with coffee followed by a tempo ride on the flat lands so we can soak up the sunshine and moan about being stuck inside all day. These are great because you get to catch up with people you wouldn't necessarily ride with in a race focused scene. Equally, on a weekend some of the racing guys can be convinced to ride socially too as long as we make it as hilly as possible and the coffee is of international standards. The other great thing is that because I'm not racing full time I can sneak in a few more cake stops so have a handy list of good cafes to choose from on these rides.

That's a lot of riding that I do during the week already around racing, training and socialising. In the past this has caused me to lose my motivation through riding too much. That's why I've added in a lot more rest days this year. I'll try at least once, if not twice a week to not bother with the bike and catch the train to work or work from home eating all of the snacks in the pantry. Just a day off the bike without a thought about it can be a great escape and means when you next sit in the saddle your legs and head probably feel pretty good so you end up riding better than you anticipated and feel happier anyway.

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We all have little slips in motivation every so often but it's how we tackle these, if we want to, that makes the difference between a good season and a bad one. Thankfully with a little help from my friends I've been able to make the right changes so that I don't get so bored of the "eat, sleep, train, repeat" mentality but instead realise that there are so many more aspects to cycling that can get lost amongst the wannabe pros.

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So after my two week break, a lot of cake and plenty of training I'm heading into this week ready for my next race and not worrying about the numbers or outcome. What will be will be and as long as I enjoy the ride it doesn't really matter what the numbers are on the night.

I wouldn't mind a second win though...

First Road Race and First Win

I've not raced a bike in over two years in a real race environment. Okay, I've done plenty of 'race simulations' with the FTR guys I now train with, but it's nothing like a real race with over forty riders in the field. Equally, I've never ridden a road race before, having picked up my Cat 3 licence in 2013 doing criterium races. This meant that in my first race of the season last night, I was feeling a little apprehensive to say the least. I've spent all winter cutting back on the junk miles of last season when my only goal was miles and instead focused on speed and power with the guys but even so, something never quite makes you feel comfortable before a race. Race day itself was spent frantically checking the weather forecast in the desperate hope that the impending rainstorm, or even snowstorm, would suddenly vanish from skies. It didn't. Once I was comfortable it was going to rain, I packed my full winter gear and headed out for the race. Unfortunately I was running late from a work meeting so in the truly glamorous heights of cycling had to get changed in the toilets at the village hall. Numbers pinned on, bottle filled, bike prepped and ready for a warm up I looked down and there were five minutes until the race started - damn.

Photo courtesy of Pete Riley

Oh well, no warm up but I guess I can do that in the race right? We lined up for the safety briefing and I was joined by seven riders from my own club and three from the guys I train with at FTR. Plenty of familiar faces at least and a good indicator for where I should be in the bunch. Following a quick race briefing we set off behind the lead car for a few neutralised miles to get everyone safely down Pot Bank in such a big group. It turns out that a neutralised zone isn’t necessarily that steady and despite not having had time to warm up this was certainly doing the trick. I made sure I was mid-bunch when the flag went down and the race rolled out, following the wheels and letting others stick their nose into the wind. If I’m honest the rest of the race followed this theme for me as I put to use the advice given to me by Jamie “sandbag” Tweddell and simply conserved my energy. After a 150 mile ride at the weekend I assure you energy levels were reasonably low.

The first half lap was fairly uneventful as a brisk northerly headwind held the bunch at bay along the drag that is Pennypot Lane. Unfortunately by the end of Pennypot Lane the beautiful sunshine which had signalled the start of the race had drastically turned into a snowstorm. This slowed the bunch down even further as nobody could really see where they were going. Less than one lap in and everyone was soaked to the bone and shivering. My legs were pretty cold despite full winter bib tights and I honestly thought they were going to stop working on our first pass of the finish line.

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It turns out my legs were working pretty well, much to my surprise. The finish line is on a hill and with the prime group up the road it was up to someone to drag us all up the hill. This is where I took the opportunity to warm up and hit the front, pushing the pace up the climb. Looking around the bunch there were still a lot of familiar pink tops and FTR kits through-out that meant the people I knew were still around me. The group came back together on the descent and onto lap two.

Heading back up over the Pot Bank climb I dropped off the back as my cold legs refused to work but Julian from FTR was there to shout some moral support and drag me back to the bunch. Once again, I sat back into the bunch and began to analyse the situation. Looking behind me I found there was nobody there and that this group of about 25 was pulling away from everyone else. Team-mate Tim and I saw this as less people to worry about at the finish.

It was still snowing hard towards the end of lap two and this forced even more people to pull out of the race as they began to suffer in the cold or couldn't pull the brakes anymore. It honestly isn't fun racing down a hill at 35mph and trying to work out if you're genuinely pulling the brakes or not. The bunch was down to about 20 as we headed into the village and at this point my last remaining team-mate Tim decided to call it a day; racing when you can't feel your hands isn't ideal and to be honest, anyone starting the race and riding for that long in the snow deserves some kudos.

Photo courtesy of Pete Riley

So onto the final lap and the final ascent of Pot Bank. This is where the fun starts. The group were slow up the climb this time as everyone began to think of the sprint. It’s a well-known fact I can’t sprint so I was hoping for a good group to head up the road early. Lots of small attacks came along Pennypot Lane as riders clearly had the same idea but nothing was looking to stick. Once again I sat in and had another quick chat to Julian about who was left. Suddenly a rider in black was away solo and pulling out a gap on the group. He would stay away for much of the rest of the race, alone, with no-one willing to chase.

Heading onto the finish straight, two miles long, everyone lined out and began to reel in our breakaway leader. There were 15 people in this group so the odds weren’t looking too bad. 1.5 miles to go and in typical "Ward" style I hit the front in what I thought was an idiot move. I made sure not to push too hard at this point in the hope someone else would pick up the pace; they didn’t. Fine, let’s just self-manage and see what happens. One mile to go and I’m still on the front and pulling in the solo breakaway. Half a mile to go and I’m still on the front but suddenly two riders came flying past. No time to lose I jumped onto their wheel and closed the gap before anyone else could. One of the riders lost momentum, tired from the chase.

This left just me and another guy up front with around 400 metres to go and a chasing group behind. Not one for looking back we pushed on and I fell back into second wheel. Realising that I suddenly had some legs left I took one last look up the road and shot out from behind rider one to sprint for the line and cross with a reasonable enough gap for a small celebration.

Job done. First road race. First win.

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It's fantastic to get a win and there are always people to thank when you do. Unequivocal thanks go to FTR Race Club for keeping me on track and making me work hard in their training sessions. Secondly, thanks to the organisers Ilkley CC - every single one of their volunteers had to endure that snowstorm without moving so I can only imagine how cold they must have been.  Further thanks must also go to Science in Sport for keeping me energised and Madison Clothing for keeping me warm and have supported me throughout 2016.

One win under the best and 30 points to go until Cat 2. It's not going to get easier and I doubt I'll match that victory for a while!

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/559410156

A Weekend in London

I've just got back from a long weekend in London after being soigneur for Sarah at the London marathon. Whilst Sarah was resting or racing I took the opportunity to head out on the bike and get in some pretty big miles. All in all I managed 220 miles this weekend and having spent nearly 15 hours in the saddle I felt like i'd had a pretty good experience of what it's like to ride around London. I spent my Saturday with the 10,000KM.CC doing a 120 mile ride to the Blue Egg Cafe in Essex with 30 others on a chilled out ride and then on Sunday hooked up with Emily and her friends at VeloSport CC for a ride into the Surrey hills. Both of the rides were epic for different reasons. The Blue Egg ride was the most miles I've done this year and covered all sorts of surfaces including a Paris-Roubaix parcours or two which were pretty interested but much fun in amongst the chain reaction of punctures. The weather held out all day and we had a lot of laughs through-out. Sunday on the other hand was pretty cold and wet but much hillier but still a great laugh once I'd managed to catch up with the club after running a bit late and doing an urban TT. Over the two days I gathered a few thoughts about riding around London.

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Firstly and probably most controversially I found riding around London a relatively stress-free experience. Okay, so it was the weekend and I've not had to ride around London in rush hour but the traffic was still pretty heavy. Despite this I didn't feel unsafe at all and actually felt more at ease than I do in Leeds. I'm not really sure what it was but drivers seemed a lot more used to sharing the road with bikes and left plenty of space, let me out from behind stopping buses and generally obeyed the cycle boxes at traffic lights. Not once over the weekend was I cut up, beeped at or cut up. This was the case across the inner city roads and even down the A3 where I ended up doing a pretty swift TT in the hunt for some friends on Sunday.

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My second experience of note had to be the cycling superhighway that now snake across London roads in a slick blue line sweeping around bus-stops along most of the major routes into London. The CS5 I think it is from Stratford is pretty nicely segregated from the traffic and meant that even on a busy Saturday afternoon we were able to cruise through towards the city centre. Admittedly the lanes weren't without their fair share of rubbish and glass which you find yourself dodging quite a lot and for some reason quite a lot of the lane was closed with not obvious reason so there were a few niggles but, on the whole these lanes felt safe and are again easier to negotiate than the red lines drawn onto the Leeds roads.

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Once you've navigated your way around and out of London, which I did struggle with a tiny bit you're greeted with some pretty epic roads. I joined the 10,000KM.CC on Saturday for a 120 mile ride into the Essex countryside and then VeloSport CC on Sunday into Surrey for 70 miles. It's not the shortest ride out of the sub-urban twists and turns but it's worth it for what lies outside the M25 in the form of a plethora of small and silent country lanes filled with fellow cyclists. I'd always imagined being so close to London that the roads around the city would be filled with annoyed drivers but I swear I only saw a handful of cars all day whilst we were in the countryside. It's almost as though someone drew a line around the M25 and all the cars disappeared.

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Finally, whilst the cars did disappear the cyclists certainly didn't and I soon discovered there are literally a billion cycling clubs in London. It seems that if you're not already in a club then you've probably set one up. I lost count of the endless number of clubs over the weekend that I saw on my travels. I guess that there is the demand for all of these clubs which is fantastic for cycling but how on earth do you decide who to ride with? I guess that each club offers something different so you can join two or three maybe. The two I hooked up with (10,00KM.CC and VeloSport CC) were both friendly and welcoming which was a relief and meant I was able to have some company on the rides over the weekend.

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So on the whole I had a great weekend meeting loads of new people and actually found London a lot easier to ride in than I expected. I'm looking forward to heading back in a few months for the Dun Run again and hopefully catching up with a few more people next time i'm down.

The Tour De Yorkshire - Where to Watch

As many of you might have seen myself and a few friends took the opportunity to ride the 2016 Tour De Yorkshire route over Christmas which gave us a bit of an insight into where we might want to watch the race and where we thought things might get exiting. So rather than keep that to ourselves I thought I would share some of the places I think it would be ace to watch the TdY over the weekend. Incase you missed all of the press coverage you'll already know the race covers three stages in three days across Yorkshire with a dedicated ladies race across the full Stage Two from Otley to Doncaster with a massive £10,000 prize fund. So, where would I watch?

Stage One - Beverley to Settle

The first stage is certainly one of two halves - a flat and fast start across the Yorkshire wolds towards Knaresborough before a lumpy second half from Ripley to Settle. Whilst we're not very pro we did find that getting from the start to half way point didn't take too much time which means it will take the pro's even less; a flat and fast start will most likely be on the cards. Therefore on Stage One we'll be looking to get a spot on the one big climb of the day "Cote De Greenhow Hill". This is a 2.5 mile climb with a current KOM of 11:02 held by my friend Andy. The bottom of the climb is still and tree lined but quite straight so there's a good opportunity to watch the riders attack up the first half of the climb where it's at it's steepest. Alternatively you can head all the way to the top where you'll be able to see the riders swoop over the second half of the climb and along the moors towards Settle; this is a spot for the longest viewing.

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If you're heading up to Yorkshire and don't fancy being road-side so you can catch more of the action then I thoroughly recommend heading to Harrogate's Prologue Performance Cycling Cafe; this place does some of the best cake I've ever found in a cafe and has a massive TV screen where they will more than likely be showing the whole race. It's the perfect blend of cycling, coffee and cake. If you fancy the cafe and the roadside action then watch the climb through Bedlam before riding to the cafe to catch the stage win.

Stage Two - Otley to Doncaster

This is by far the most action packed day of the Tour De Yorkshire with both a ladies race headed by Lizzie Armitstead and the mens race on the same 136km route. If you're a pro-spotter then you'll definitely want to head to the market town of Otley to sneak some signatures and souvenirs before the race kicks off. Once it does you'll definitely want to be on Cote De East Rigton where the road narrows out up a steep bank meaning the riders will string out. If you do head here though be careful not to block the riders way as they start fly by. This is the spot where I imagine most of the Leeds cycling clubs will be hanging out and cheering the riders through.

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Unfortunately we didn't find any cafes on the second day but what we did find was a stunning village called Hooton Pagnell which is quite possibly the postcard picture for Yorkshire. We'd recommend being here just for the village alone but there are a few twists and turns to slow the riders down long enough for a good glance. Equally, the Cote De Conisborough Castle has the potential to be an awesome stand point as the narrow climb loops around the castle and flings the riders down the other other side giving you a view twice.

Day Three - Middlesborough to Scarborough

Quite possibly the hardest stage the organisers could have chosen to end the Tour on with 198km and a massive 2,560m of climbing! This means that the race could quite possibly be blown right open on the final day, after what will have been a fairly flat two days previously, helping to keep the time gaps down in the standings. You're spoilt for choice on this stage with which epic hill you should watch on but it came down to two for me.

The first is Cote De Blakey Ridge which is over seven miles long. It's certainly not a steep or tough climb by any account but if the wind is blowing and it's raining I guarantee the drag to the top will cause some problems for the riders. There is a pub quite far up called the Lion Inn which has a large car park and some of the best pub food in the North Yorkshire Moors. I would park here, have a steak pie and then watch the riders climb up the whole road from bottom to top. You can quite literally see for miles! It's cold up there though even on a good day so pack a jacket.

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The second climb has to be the Cote De Grosmont, which if we rode the right way up it hits an painful 33% in sections and nearly brought us to a halt. The picturesque village of Grosmont is a great point to base yourself before quite literally climbing your way out the village to a good vantage point.

The cafe of the day here has to be Yorks Tea Room in Thirsk; this little cafe loves everything about cycling and has plenty of memorabilia on the walls to prove it. The owner is exceptionally friendly and the last few times I've been really looked after well, including helping get my kit dry on the wettest hundred miles of my life. It's not far into the overall stage but it does mean you can catch a glimpse of the peloton whilst sipping your coffee before finding the TV coverage to see all the action.

Where are you watching?

It's going to be a pretty exciting race over the three days with plenty of places to watch. Do you have anywhere in mind that I've missed off my list? Share them with us so we can all find the best place to watch.

Also don't forget to cheer on the Yorkshire riders such as Lizzie Armitstead, Tom Moses, Russ Downing and Josh Edmondson. Of course the teams haven't announced their rosters yet but we're hoping to see the riders there....

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Commuter Miles make for Summer Smiles

It can be pretty difficult to get in all the miles we want to every week on the bike when other things such as work and family life take priority but I believe that it's possible to make up the miles and benefit just as much by commuting to work during the week rather than trying to squeeze in a training session after work. Admittedly, not everyone is in a position to be able to ride to work but if you're in a position to even think about it I whole heartedly recommend trying it. My straightforward commute is a 14 mile journey in each direction and contains nearly a 1000ft of climbing so is a pretty handy training commute. Most people have much smaller commutes but it's quite easy to extend a cycle commute and make it a bit longer to reap the benefits each day; just recently I extended mine to 27 miles. So I started to think about the advantages and disadvantages of commuting to work.

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The most important advantage to commuting is that you've managed to get in some free miles each day around work. You have to get to work anyway so why not do it the fun and healthy way by riding into the office? The other great thing about this is that if you have a family you've saved up the all important brownie points by not having to go out and train on an evening, and this could mean you get more time to ride on a weekend.

The other great advantage is the training benefit you'll get each day and the variety of ways to get into work. The possibilities are endless when it comes to commuter training as there is just so much choice. When you cycle to work with a rucksack or panniers the extra weight forces you to push that little bit harder so next time you're on the racing bike it'll feel a million times easier. The added weight also makes for good fun when you play "Catch the commuter" - a great training exercise where when you see a cyclist further up the road you push harder to catch them and wish them a good day. If you're lucky like me you'll find someone to regularly commute with that can push you each day and add to the fun. Admittedly, my commuting friend Simon is still to come round to the idea of backpack hill sprints to work yet...

One of the great advantages to commuting has to be the views you'll get each day. There is nothing better than riding to and from work during a sunrise or sunset and appreciating the world around you each day. It's guaranteed to make you happier as you start or end the day and is a nice little addition to the endorphins you'll already have from riding.

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Of course, riding to work is all well and good, but it helps to be prepared and in order to avoid the potential disadvantages of cycling to work there are a few important things to remember.

Firstly, there is guaranteed to be a day that you decide to ride to work only for the heavens to open and you get utterly soaked so it's definitely worth wrapping your clothes and valuables in a carrier bag to make sure they're extra waterproof as well as putting everything in a rucksack with a waterproof cover. There is still always a small chance things will get wet so if you have a locker or drawers at work it's worth having some spare underwear and socks just incase. I would also find a radiator too just incase you need to dry some soggy kit - computers don't like being dressed in lycra.

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Furthermore, you're pretty much guaranteed to break into a sweat so it's always a good idea to keep a towel at work and check there is somewhere to shower on a morning as there would be nothing worse than attending that all important meeting caked in mud and sweat. Of course once you've had a shower you'll want to put a crisp suit or similar that you've ironed in advance so you won't want it creasing on the way to work. I find that rolling up your clothes rather than folding them helps to keep them crease free and ready to go, and leaving my suit at work for the week makes a massive difference.

So really, commuting is a pretty positive experience on the whole if you manage to plan ahead and pick a good route to ride. Give it a go, you might enjoy it!