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Bicycle Bats, tender noses and Raleigh Grifters

News just in – there is no news. I haven’t touched my bike, looked at my bike thought about my bike or been within 20 feet of my bike. Sorry I tell a lie – the fuse blew on the bathroom lights and I banged my head on the front wheel as I stumbled in my towel past the bicycle that hangs like a mocking bat from my garage ceiling (see previous blog).

I know at some point I’ll get into trouble for not blogging about actual cycling in a cycling blog but I’m going to have to risk it – I’ve got away with it for three years now. I’m very comfortable with being in trouble as I’m married to a teacher.

At this point I usually enter my pleas of mitigation as to why I’ve done nothing – busy at work, fell off the bike, memory loss, community service obligations etc. This week I’m going to be truthful – I couldn’t be bothered. I’ve been at the Whitehaven Festival all weekend volunteering and I got back with feet that were throbbing like a cobblers thumb and a sunburned nose. Now I bet Sir Bradley Wiggins doesn’t miss training due to a tender pink nose but I’m nothing if not a trail-blazer in the world of excuses.

In this series of blogs I’m going to post a photograph of me in different locations in West Cumbria as I up my training intensity every week until the Rivers Ride. If I haven’t trained due to sunburn, mouth ulcers or midge bites, I’ll post a tenuous cycling photo. This week – me and Louis Walsh who once owned a Raleigh Grifter. Until next time, yours in (thinking about) cycling.

Cavendish Masterclass

Millar, Cavendish and Stannard on the podium

Want to know my most recent moment of sporting embarrassment, of which there have been many over the years? Read on…

In the meantime, back to the latest blogging…
Despite the rise and rise of cycling on these shores, opportunities to watch top level professionals “in the flesh” are relatively few. The Tour of Britain – coming to Cumbria the day after the Rivers Ride – is, of course, one. The National Championships, which were held over the weekend in Glasgow,
are another.

The road race took place over a tight city centre circuit and three quarters of the Moss family were persuaded to make the trip. Not that this member of the family took any persuasion.
Notoriously unsporty Mrs M travelled as did daughter Rebecca. Both enjoyed themselves. Or so they told me.

Scattered through the field were a series of riders just days away from the Tour de France – three of whom, Mark Cavendish, Ian Stannard and David Millar – were the three podium finishers. I was among the crowd six deep at the finish and caught the briefest of glimpses of a high speed Cavendish, alarms aloft, celebrating his moment of doing what Cav does better than anyone else.

When anyone asks what was the greatest sporting moment I’ve seen, the answer is that it was Jimmy Glass’ moment of glory. The goalkeeper scoring in the last minute of the last game of the season to see Carlisle United avoid being relegated from the Football League. These moments are rightly rare – the powerful additive drug that pulls us back to sport. That briefest flash of flying Manxman wasn’t too far short of “the Jimmy Glass moment” on my personal “Mossometer”.

Yes, I was a bit excitable. I had been throughout the afternoon. In fact, discerning that I knew more about cycling than at least some of those watching, I committed the sin of cockiness, by offering opinions and analysis to anyone who would listen. I even recognised the riders well enough to shout out their names. Not that I did, until the moment Team Sky’s Ben Swift , riding solo, swept past. I wanted to encourage the lad. I did. Loudly. “C’mon Ben, keep it up”.

Great. Apart from the fact that it was actually Luke Rowe, Ben’s Sky team-mate. He must have heard me. By this time he was way down the road and I had no opportunity to make good. My face matched the pink of the Giro d’Italia cap I was wearing. (Pretentious moi?). Scanning the watching spectators, it didn’t appear as though any of them could tell their Lowes from their Swifts either. But I kept quiet after that. For a while.

Why's my name not on the list of riders?

As to my own cycling accomplishments – using the term in the loosest conceivable sense – this weekend will be the third century ride of the year. May brought the Drumlanrig Challenge and the Fred Whitton. On Saturday we have the Virgin Money Cyclone in Newcastle. While the Fred is reckoned to be just about the toughest, this is one of the biggest. Naturally unsociable (my wife tells me), I don’t really like lining up with thousands of others, but once you’re out in rural Northumberland, the constantly rising and falling route soon breaks things up.

After last weekend’s return to cool temperatures and strong winds, surely we’re due a decent day….surely..

Back in the saddle

In my last blog I talked about getting back in the saddle following my accident, and I hoped that it would soon follow. I’m pleased to say that since that point I’ve been back on the bike and have done a number of rides.

I won’t lie, before I set off on the first of these rides, I was a little nervous – What if I fell off? What if I no longer liked it? What if I simply couldn’t remember how to ride a bike?

Thankfully after just a couple of minutes I was well and truly back in the saddle and back in love with cycling and none of those concerns were valid. Even more thankfully, my back suffered no pain at all, and the ride was a reasonably paced meander to help keep my fitness up.

I realised two things when back out on the bike – firstly, that I really do enjoy a cycle ride – both the uphill and downhill sections (though I did those at a much slower pace than was previously the case – lesson definitely learned), and secondly that there isn’t a better way of seeing some of this area’s fantastic sights.

My first ride took in Dent before a coastal jaunt to St Bees; but since then I have cycled through the Wasdale Valley, Ennerdale Valley, Croasdale, the Solway Coast and visited many of the areas small towns and villages – including a memorable stop for a truly giant and utterly undeserved ice cream in the sun at Allonby.

I’m pleased to report that my rides are getting both longer and faster, both of which will be crucial when it comes to finishing the Rivers Ride. At the moment, I feel confident that if I continue to progress sensibly, I will have no trouble completing it.

I should point out that when I say ‘no trouble’, I mean no new trouble relating to my back. The struggle to get up the Lakeland passes will be just as real as it was last year and on every other ride where I’ve experienced them.

In future blogs I might tell you about my laughable bicycle maintenance attempts and my experience of cycling through a ford. That’s if I want to embarrass myself further, anyway.

Chairman’s Charity Cheque

L-R: CCF Chief Executive Andy Beeforth with Cllr Norman Clarkson

Cllr Norman Clarkson, Chairman of Cumbria County council in 2012-2013 today presented a cheque for £4,520 to Cumbria Community Foundation’s Chief Executive, Andy Beeforth.

The money was raised through charitable events during Cllr Clarkson’s year in office including an event hosted by Cllr and Mrs Clarkson at Muncaster Castle last October, supported by local organisations and companies.

Cllr Clarkson said: “All money raised has been held in the Chairman’s Good causes Fund and now my term of office is over I am delighted to present it to Cumbria Community Foundation for the benefit of vulnerable young people who are leaving the care system in the county.”

Andy Beeforth said: “This money will help build the Fryer Fund at the Community Foundation which specifically supports young people leaving care.  The money will receive a 50% uplift through the Government’s Community First scheme.  We’d all like to offer our warmest thanks to Norman and Yvonne for their hard work and supporting in raising these much needed funds”.

Wet, Wet And Wet. Why Cycling is Such Fun!

Year three of the Rivers Ride…and I’ll be back for my third spin around the West Cumbrian circuit. But I’ll level with you, I had to think long and hard about it. Why? Well, the 2012 ride was the most wet and miserable day imaginable.
It poured all day. Chucked it down. And then some. It was only after the event that I learned riders were being turned back from Newlands and Honister passes, due to the appalling conditions. I’d somehow made it over a little before that decision was made. Made it over after a fashion. It was awful. I didn’t see another cyclist and now I know why! It’s a cliche about roads being turned into rivers, but that’s what Newlands Pass resembled.

So, given organiser Andy Beeforth has personally guaranteed a dry, sunny and pleasantly warm September Sunday for 2013, I’m willing to give it a go. Andy’s a chap you can trust. He told me so.

Also, the lure of riding a chunk of a Tour of Britain stage just a day pefore the pro-peloton proved a key selling point. I suspect they won’t find Honister as horrible as I do, but I know they won’t exactly enjoy it.

The Rivers Ride 2012 has since been trumped on my league table of wet misery by this year’s Fred Whitton Challenge, reckoned by most to be the toughest one-day sportive. It includes all of the main Lake District passes.

Driving, freezing rain in the latter stages forced some riders to abandon. There were cases of hypothermia. Shivering lycra figures huddled in silver survival blankets at the end created a scene reminsicent of a casualty clearing station. I knew I wasn’t in a good state over the closing miles. I’ve never been as close to quitting a ride. Arguably a triumph of obstinacy over good sense, although my wife would say simply riding the Fred Whitton amounts to that. And a puncture coming down Wrynose didn’t help. My tyre/wheel combination is ridiculously tight fitting at the best of times. How I managed to change it with shivering, shaking hands, and shivering, shaking everything else…well, I don’t know. So, that’s 2013’s grim horrible ride out of the way. Everything else will be fun, fun, fun! Excepting, possibly, Honister.

Crazy fool rides again………

I am a fool. There, I admitted  it. Every year I sign up for the Rivers Ride and every year I say I’ll get fit and every year I don’t and then every year I do a blog and then every year it’s about my tale of doing very little training and then every year I struggle round the long ride and then every year I come last and it takes a month for my body to recover.   And so we begin the 2013 Gary McKeating version of Groundhog Day on two wheels.   My bike has been hanging from its cycle hook in the garage (available from Halfords in the ‘once a year daft fat cyclist’ section) since last September. This frees me up a bit of floor space to only trip over the exercise bike I bought 2 years ago and the dumb-bells I bought 3 years ago and the twirly thing you kneel on to do your abs (I think) that I bought 4 years ago. I’ll do the ceremonial lift it down from the ceiling  shortly into its pre Rivers Ride position nearer the garage door which enables my wife to initiate her pre Rivers Ride ‘had you not better get some practice in’ mantra as I eat a KitKat.   The GB cycling coach, Dave Brailsford at the Olympics last year talked about ‘marginal gains’ – the little improvements that gave his team the edge.  We should learn from the best so I’ll be talking a lot over my blogs about marginal gains. This week I’ve cut down from four finger KitKats to two finger KitKats. Next week I plan to stop eating twice as many two finger KitKats than four finger KitKats. I’m getting good at this already!   Until next time…

13 Weeks and Counting…..

It’s Rivers Ride time again and time to share my pre-event training.  Three years ago I would have described myself as a cyclist; now it would be more accurate to say I’m someone who owns a bike.  I’ve twice completed the long day out but am attracted by the Foundation Flyer in 2013.  This year I reached the age of 45 and seem to have spent more time enjoying the great food and beer available in Cumbria than the fabulous cycling opportunities.

I feel put to shame by my colleagues who have been throwing themselves into impressive feats of physical endeavour including; Keswick to Barrow walks, Hell on the Harbour side, new careers in running and endurance horse riding.  So congratulations to Alex, Annalee, Ellen, Glenys, Judith, Nicola and Tara.

On Sunday my training began in earnest in the fabulous sunshine with a ride that took in Isel Bridge, Setmurthy woods, the shore of Bassenthwaite and the longer than I remembered hill from Castle Inn to Ireby.  I guess it was about 25 miles and in the morning sun was an absolute joy.  My target for getting in some sort of shape is 13th July when I’m in the second leg of a fantastic beer bottle baton relay when we will join the four magnificent routes over a 24 hour period.  Wish me luck!

Neighbourhood Care Independence Programme Launch

Managed by the Cumbria Community Foundation and funded by Cumbria County Council, the Neighbourhood Care Independence programme provides a range of practical help and advice services for people aged over-18 who need extra support from time to time.

Support available from the Neighbourhood Care Independence Programme includes: General information and advice on a wide range of issues Handyperson support for minor DIY tasks Short-term support after a spell in hospital Linking you to Friendship Groups other social activities Advice on where to buy or hire equipment to aid daily living, such as wheelchairs, commodes, lid openers, toilet seats and grab rails Hearing-aid maintenance and support ‘drop ins’ Support for Carers

Volunteering Opportunities If you would like to become involved in the Neighbourhood Care Independence programme, and are able to give some of your time and skills to help people in your community, a range of volunteer opportunities and roles are available. Training and on-going support will be provided.

Age UK West Cumbria, as lead for the west partnership, is planning to launch NCI with some volunteer week events in and around west Cumbria on 6th and 7th June.

Cumbria Third Sector Consortium are hosting the following events as part of volunteer week:

• Barrow: Monday 3 June – The Forum 2 – 4pm
• Millom: Tuesday 4 June – Millom Network Centre, 12-2pm
• Carlisle: Wednesday 5 June – Foxys, Brunton Park,  12-2pm
• Kendal: Thursday 6  June -Kendal Town Hall, 12-2pm
• Penrith: Friday 7 June – Parish Centre, St Andrews Place, 2-4pm

For advice on any of these services, or to volunteer, call:

0844 967 1885 for Carlisle, Eden, Barrow and South Lakeland
0844 384 3843 for Allerdale and Copeland.

You can also download the booklet for more information.