Based at the Birches Valley Visitor Centre, the aim of the course is to develop women’s confidence to enjoy riding off road. In a relaxed, no pressure atmosphere the morning session will cover elements such as cornering and riding berms, braking techniques, riding easy drops as well as lifting the front and back wheel over roots and small rock steps.
After lunch, the group will set off on a guided ride to apply their newly acquired skills on the numerous tracks and trails found on Cannock Chase.
For more details or any questions please contact me using the email above. Payment can be made using PayPal or cheque.
At 7:30 am on a cold wet morning, I set off with 4,499 other hardy souls to ride the Paris Roubaix Challenge. In a nutshell it’s a sportive run the day before the professional Spring Classic, in April. Starting from the sleepy town of Busigny, it offers 170 km of mixed terrain, including all the cobbled sections, that the pros ride. For those of a nervous disposition there are shorter options available. Would I do it again? You bet I would! I loved it, for all it’s attrition and the range of emotions that make up the Paris Roubaix classic.
The first sector of cobbles are like an obstacle course. Bottles, some still attached to the cage, pumps, saddle bags and spare tubes lay strewn across the track. After a while you realise that your eye balls are rattling in your head and the crown of the cobbles, just doesn’t look in focus any more. At one stage I swear my head just hurt from the constant jolting. The mud, grass, tussocks and stones at the side become a seductive alternative. After this experience, I wouldn’t bat an eye lid, if someone suggested I rode my best road bike through my local woods.
All too soon the Trouée d’ Arenberg appeared in the distance. There’s a sense of impending doom and excitement. Camper vans are squashed into every available space, there are hoards of spectators lining the route. Cyclists nervously look around, plucking up the courage to enter this legendary section. I was beside myself, I was there! This is the iconic bit, that you always see on T.V. These are the cobbles I had been watching ‘Cobbles Cancellara‘ hack along during those Sufferfest, four minute intervals.
A liberal covering of greasy mud, ensured the full Arenberg experience. I scooted around some poor soul receiving medical attention, in the middle of the track. The challenge is to find the smoothest line and avoid riders and debris on the floor. I pedalled as though my life depended on it, moving from the crown of the track, to the off camber and sometimes even ploughing through the mud at the side.
When I think back, the whole thing really makes me smile. What type of perverse person, would ever think that this was a good route for a road race? After this classic section you kind of think you’re in the clear, but there are still many miles to cover and more pavé to rattle over. The last part just becomes ‘mind games’. Your hands feel sore and your arms pulverised. Signs for Roubaix, pick the spirits up and a lap of the legendary track, makes you realise it was all worth it.
Here’s a list of the changes I made to my bike to help both machine and body make it to the finish. I am pleased to say I finished both puncture and blister free!
* Double taped handle bars
* Tight fitting bottles cages which always keep the bottle under tension
* Vittoria open pave 27mm tyres
* Fi zik Antares versa saddle with a groove
* Spare tubes, pump, tools etc stowed in deep back pockets
* Pearl Izumi gel padded track mits
The only other thing I would suggest that you consider is; the long option from Busigny to Roubaix is a point to point route. There is a bus to transport both you and your bike to the start from Roubaix at 5:30 a.m, but it fills up very very quickly. Ideally you need a driver to drop you off in Busigny. The drive from Busigny back up to Roubaix takes about an hour and a half.
On reflection, it was a tough, amazing experience, requiring determination, a bit of courage and preparation. I can’t encourage you enough, to have a go. Can you have the same thing on your bucket list every year??
Well that’s next Easter sorted out for me!
As the end of cross season draws near I find myself thinking about new challenges for the year, I love planning. It motivates me and keeps me focused. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how determined you are, sometimes we all need something to get our backsides out of the door!
I want to have some personal challenges sprinkled with a few competitive ones. Cross has been really motivating and exciting, but it’s time to focus on a few other things before September rolls around once more. So here is my list for the year. fingers crossed I get entries 🙂
Paris – Roubaix sportive – 170km including enough cobbles to rattle all my fillings out.
The Fred Whitton Challenge – 112 miles in the Lake District with the best ups and downs the Lakes has to offer.
The 3 Peaks Cyclocross Race- a torturous course taking in the three biggest peaks in Yorkshire. A true test of fitness, skill, tenacity and sheer bloody mindedness. A determined effort to put all back issues behind me, literally, will get me in the position to accept an entry. Many fingers crossed for this one. It’s mad, it’s hell, but has a special place in my heart.
Mary Townley loop – didn’t make it this last year. Set in beautiful countryside. A 47 mile off road loop above the Pennine Bridleway, with a frightening number of gates to negotiate. What the hell! All that jumping on and off will do me good!
Return to cross racing in September with renewed vigour and determination to have fun and achieve my personal best! So what’s on your list? You might just inspire someone else!
As I find myself with only 3 cyclocross races left this season, there’s a bit of unease! What now Phelan? I love planning and having things mapped. Is there anything wrong with that? Well I think not, because goals keep you motivated. So here are mine.
Full season of cross, achieving my personal best at this stage
Good ride at the National Marathon Champs
A ride I am pleased with in the 3 Peaks Cyclocross race
Ride the Ronde van Vlaanderen
Mary Townley Loop
Cheshire Cat Sportive, riding up Mow Cop
Run along the Kinder Plateau
Have fun riding with friends in the Peaks
Well that’s a start for me. Anything else will be a bonus. If the competitions all go ‘pear shaped’ which sadly sometimes they do, targets based on personal non competitive goals will carry me through.
So what’s on your agenda?
A much debated question to which the answer may be dependent on what you can buy. The ‘die hard ‘ cyclocross riders, looking to the continent for their lead, still can’t see a place for them in traditional cross races, but what about us weekend warriors? I know I am not the first person to suggest this. Sure they add weight, but do the disadvantages out weigh the benefits? I still wasn’t really sure about this myself until this weekend.
This Sunday I nipped over to the Yorkshire Cyclocross League race near Sheffield to ride a challenging course in the mud. It had all the usual features plus some interesting downhill grass sections with turns at the bottom. Looking at the mess of other people’s bikes, I thought I’d ride the ‘disc bike’. Did I have leaves stuffed under the brake straddle wires? No ! Did I have to drag the brakes down the slope in order to take the speed off? No! I ripped down and slammed them on and off at the bottom. For me ‘it’s a ‘no brainier’ ! I can stop at the last minute with my hands on the hoods and in difficult conditions, only used one bike. May be its a good option if you haven’t got a spare bike in the pit. Might just get you round with a bit more.
I have included a link to an article published in Velonews. See what you think. May be its a case of ‘horses for courses’?
What a fantastic league this is turning into! At least 36 women put their front wheel on the start line. A mixture of abilities means there’s something for everyone and you can have your own race within a race. Entries are taken on the day or you can pre enter if you are a British Cycling member. It’s short, it’s sharp and you can be home for tea time! Why not give it a go in a non threatening, fun environment. You never know, it might just be the thing you’re looking for !