Sven Nys – The Final Year: Vimeo on Demand

117692_550x814This beautifully filmed video will appeal to both cyclocross addicts and the uninitiated. As the title says, it’s the tale of Sven Nys’s last year of a stunning competitive career. It tells the story of an athlete, who at the age of 39 wants one more final year competing at the pinnacle of his sport. Racing against those significantly younger, was never going to be easy. As if that wasn’t hard enough, he is also trying to over come the aftermath of a divorce. The film gives the viewer an insight to how he worked with his coach and confidents, to move forward. Moments of self doubt and heart felt difficulty, show he’s only human but like a phoenix he rises from the flame and gets his reward.

This film will move your soul and for all those cross fans out there, send a shiver down your spine. I’m sitting in sunny France writing this but even I thought “Come on bring on the mud”! What a fantastic hour and 38 minutes entertainment to rock your soul. It’s available on Vimeo on Demand.

Ronde Van Calderdale

The Ronde van Calderdale! Well where to start??

This must be an easier climb because I am sitting down!

This must be an easier climb because I am sitting down! Picture by Nicole Jolly-Vanderheyden

I am writing this on Tuesday having ridden it on Sunday and I still feel pretty wrecked. My back is stiff, the stairs were kinda interesting yesterday and on Sunday night I ate everything! That sounds a bit negative but I can assure you if you like a challenge, this is for you! If it’s easy is it worth doing? Have you achieved anything? In my books no, not really!

Here we go!

Here we go! Picture by Nicole Jolly-Vanderheyden

As I look over the photos posted on the Ronde van Calderdale’s Face Book page I can’t help but smile. Videos clips of people walking, being cheered on by their mates or trying the impossible task of clipping back in, on a 20% cobbled incline are making me laugh. I truly believe that’s why people go back consecutive times. Even I am sitting here thinking, I might just have another go. It’s a bit like the Three Peaks! The attrition and struggles are remembered all through rose tinted spectacles.

A really nice touch. The locals had provided a welcome rest for the weary.

A really nice touch. The locals had provided a welcome rest for the weary.

So that’s it, I guess I will be doing it again because like all the other ‘sorry’ souls on Sunday, I love a personal challenge. This very special sportive tests your stamina, determination and sheer will power. I am already thinking how I could conquer the two cobbled climbs I never quite managed to ride up. There’s always one more thing to work on eh?

So why was it so hard? Because it’s 75 miles long, with 13 cobbles climbs some of which are 20%. All in all it has 10,000ft of climbing. I have ridden up all the climbs on the Tour of Flanders, but many of these are longer. That’s what makes them so hard. I don’t know about you, but I can only maul out of the saddle for 50/60 metres, at best! There lies the future challenge for me!

The reward. A bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale.

The reward. A bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale.

Recognising that riders will be out for a considerable time, for it’s relative distance, it’s had three well stocked feed stations. Due to the severity of the whole thing, running on empty isn’t an option. Mechanical support out on the course was provided along with the usual sad waggon etc. The route was well sign posted and the locals armed, with cowbells and words of encouragement.

Back at base, all finishers were awarded with a welcomed bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale beer, a rather fetching pair of RVC socks and some more nibbles and chocolate. The flap jack went down a treat, but being congratulated by the organisers is the thing that will stick in my mind. They really meant it because yes, we had all risen to the challenge of completing an extremely tough ride, requiring something a bit more, than just sitting in the saddle for hours. I would like to thank the organisers for a fantastic event. All money raised goes to supporting young riders in the Kirklees Academy, a worthy cause.

For more pictures and information do have a look at the Face Book Page

Ronde Van Calderdale

Find below a link to a great write up about the event in the local paper


Ronde Van Oost Lancashire

Tired but happy

Tired but happy

If you like sportives with a Belgian theme, try the Ronde van Oost Lancashire next year. Run on the same day as the Tour of Flanders, the ride is finished off with a live screening of the Belgian classic.

It takes in the most challenging roads from Clitheroe and includes cobbles, steep climbs and picturesque scenery. Those familiar with the area, will be aware of The `Muur of Colne, Spine Cop and The Padiburg. If these don’t provide enough of a challenge, there’s also climbs such as Clinkham and Brant Fell. With nearly 6000ft of climbing in 50 miles, it’s not for the faint hearted, but for those who love a tough ride this is for you. Organised by the Green Jersey Cafe, it only caters for a small number of riders, but I see that as a huge plus. Small events often mean a very friendly atmosphere with good camaraderie out on the route.

Post ride massage

Post ride massage

Pre entries this year, cost a mere £15 which included support out on the course, a well stocked feed station, sufficient signs on the route and food after. What more could you want? Big thanks to the organisers,the ladies at the feed station and staff at the cafe.

So if you fancy something a bit different to add a bit of

Food and The Tour of Flanders

Food and The Tour of Flanders

spice to your weekend, it might just be worth checking out their web site. For all those who can’t resit a bit of climbing, the next event is Le Grimpeur on the 24th of April.

Core Skills Session

Loving developing core skills with a great group of ladies. We’ve been working on balance, co-ordination, gear selection and cornering. Really looking forward to a bit of dismounting, remounting cyclocross style next time along with descending.

Here’s a little video clip showing the team in action.

The Lapierre Cheshire Cobbled Classic

Enjoying a well earned class of Leffe

Enjoying a well earned class of Leffe

As a fully fledged Belgian, not to take part in a sportive promising a hilly 100km ride, with five cobbled sections, would have just been crazy! As it also includes the infamous Corkscrew climb, with a gradient of 45%, this was not going to be a day for the faint hearted!

The event started in the gorgeous Lyme Park, near Disley, home of the gorgeous Mr Darcy. With feed stations stocked with Belgian chocolate and waffles, along with the usual carbo gels, it was like being in Belgium for the day. All good fun with hills to rip your legs off and cobbled tracks to test your skills.

It really was a fantastic day. As expected there was lots of fun on the Corkscrew, with people busting a gut to try and get up it. It took me three attempts just to find the smoothest line. I remember thinking, ‘What the hell are you doing woman, playing here when you’ve still got miles to go?’.  The boys were spurred along with the promise of their own body weight in Leffe, if they got to the top. Apparently sixty tough souls made it, in stark contrast with the previous year, when in wet conditions, no one made it!. See it does stop raining in the Peak District, honest!

The remaining cobbled sections, with the toughest climb at 20%, seemed a doodle in comparison. Eventually we left the hills of Derbyshire and made our way over to Alderley Edge, and the delights of the Cheshire cobbles, notably Swiss Hill. All too soon we were swinging round to the finish, to be welcomed back with a glass of Leffe and our very own cobble to take home!

Debating the best line!

Debating the best line!

The severity of the climbs is not to be underestimated and I have to say having a 11-32 on the back, was a good choice for me. It made the whole thing much more enjoyable. My days of mauling are over! As for tyre choice, I put my Vittoria Open Pavés back on. I love riding on these, having got round Paris Roubaix puncture free. It always makes me smile as I hack as fast as I can over the rough stuff, cyclocross style. ‘Hell’s teeth woman you’re on your road bike. It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of determination and the right kit.

I’d like to thank Francis Longworth and his team for a fantastic day. At £25 it’s an absolute steal and gets you into the National Trust Parkland for free. I enjoyed it so much that I am going to have a spin around the Lapierre White Roads Classic, inspired by the Strade Bianche, on July 12th. A bit of Italiano down in Oxfordshire, sampling some of the gravel and chalk roads of the Ridgeway. Some people will do anything for an espresso and a glass of prosecco at the finish!

Paris Roubaix Challenge

Starting off in Busigny in the rain.

Starting off in Busigny in the rain.

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.

Near Busigny

Near Busigny

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.

Roubaix Velodrome

Roubaix Velodrome

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!

Goals For 2015

As the end of imagecross 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!

A Cautionary Tale For Us All

This is not meant to be the definitive guide to achieving all our goals, because things happen we can’t always control. It is however a little tale of woe from a busy person, trying to deal with a big work load, whilst hanging on to ‘ the person she wants to be’. I wonder how many other people wrestle with this dilemma over and over again? Many I’ve no doubt, as we live in a world of increasing pressure but without health and happiness we are no good to anyone.

So there I was looking forward to riding Kilo to Go’s Tour of the Peak and one little slip in the bathroom, the day before, left me in agony. Always optimist I knocked back more anti inflammatories than I care to remember and laid on the bed with a massage and muscle stimulation machine on my back. Convinced that if I boxed clever I was still going to ride the next day, I even sat in a jacuzzi for 30 minutes. By the evening my spine resembled a question mark and I hobbled along like Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques. The fact that my bike really could have done with a clean was neither here nor there. This girl was going nowhere on the sunniest weekend of the year so far.

Next day marooned on the bed, I had time to reflect on my downfall and I could hear the words from at least a week before ringing in my ears! ‘ You’re hip is looking out of alignment and your shoulder’s dropped. Have you booked your appointment with the physio yet?’ Of course I hadn’t! I was up to my neck in end of term assessments and couldn’t see ‘the wood from the trees’. So there went the one thing in my life that keeps me sane, when the going gets tough. Guess sometimes you just have to walk away from things, say enough is enough, for both your physical and mental health.

Note to self: book an appointment with Martin Earley every two months whether you feel you need it, or not because you probably do. Work will still be there when you are dead and gone!

Tour of the Black Country

Cheers Team V Sprint

Cheers Team V Sprint

As I am now a fully fledged cobble obsessive, I just had to try this sportive. What a great day I have had! It had it’s perverse moments and punctures but heh, that’s all part of the fun. The 100km route took in a mixture of bridleways, roads and the infamous Waltonberg cobbled climb. At 22% the Waltonberg is not for the faint hearted but for me was a high light of the trip. I have been well and truly assimulated into the ‘cobble lovers’ club.

Sticking with the Paris- Roubaix theme, the feed stations had a distinct French feel with crossiants and pain au chocolate. The finish even included a sprint round the velodrome Roubaix style.

I have to say the whole experience made me smile. We had played at being Paris- Roubaix riders for the morning and the final icing on the cake was a flute of bubbly as we went over the line.

What a great, well organised event that offered something different. I will most  definitely be there again next year. Can’t really recommend it enough!

The voice off my telly, Huge Porter. What an absolute pleasure.

The voice off the telly, Huge Porter. What an absolute pleasure.