Friday, 14 June 2013
i am a big fan of stripes on clothing and had always wanted to own a stripey cycling jersey, so a few months back i went on the hunt for one and came across the suzanne jersey by café du cycliste. based out of nice on the french riviera café du cycliste offer a high quality range of clothing for both men and women. looking through their online shop they have loads of cool looking stuff but i had my mind set on stripes so opted for the suzanne jersey.
the jersey arrived a few days later beautifully packaged in its own cloth bag. the only trouble was it was during the back end of winter and here in the uk we were treated to a particularly gruelling one that dragged into the middle of spring. as much as i wanted to wear my new jersey i could not bring myself to get it splattered along the mud strewn lanes i am accustomed to riding. also the jersey is made from fine polyester so is much more suited to warmer climates. this is of course due to the dna of its côte d'azur heritage. i made the sensible decision, the jersey stayed packed away ready for the family holiday to provence, in southern france, when it would get its first outing.
my first opportunity to test the new jersey finally arrived when i hopped on my bike for a ride through the provencal countryside. first impressions were good as the jersey felt very comfortable. the polyester is soft and although the cut of the jersey is designed for performance riding it is a little more forgiving that say an offering from assos with their super tight fits. i am a stickler for detail and what i do not like in a jersey is when the back pockets are loaded and the jersey drops down over the arse, not a good look. i am happy to say that even with mini pump, keys, levers, arm warmers and camera stuffed into the rear pockets the jersey maintained its shape so top marks there.
speaking of detail it is obvious to see that café du cycliste have spent a lot of time making sure every element of their jersey is of the highest quality. fabric, stitching, zippers, labeling and internal trim all add up to a whole that is different to anything else on the market, and of course the jersey features that all important rear zip pocket. the price for all this finery €115.00.
while i was away in provence i wore the suzanne jersey multiple times and was a joy to wear. it is an exciting piece of clothing that i will always look forward to putting on. i am going to make a promise to myself though that it will not be worn out on wet days. this jersey deserves the sun, think mediterranean rather than flanders. the question i now pose to myself is what will be my next purchase from café du cycliste?
as always many thanks to betty for the images.
Posted by Jason at 14.6.13
Friday, 7 June 2013
i took part in only my fifth ever cyclo-cross race yesterday evening at oldbury court estate, a park just three or so miles from the centre of bristol. it was beautifully sunny and thus drew a fairly large field for the youth, seniors, juniors, vets (that is me 40-49) and women. everyone starts at the same time in go-cross except for the under 12's who start their on race half an hour before. the main field must have amounted to at least forty people, very good for the summer series or is this growth in numbers indicative of a renaissance in the popularity of cyclo-cross in the uk?
cyclo-cross is quite a casual affair when it comes to organisation compared with road, or so i have been told. the main organiser who conducts sign on arrived late so instead of a 7pm start the race actually started at 7.15pm. do not get me wrong i am not complaining, the organisers do a fantastic job as do the marshalls. for me a late start is all part of the charm of cyclo-cross. in any case the sun was shining so nobody minded.
they say starting position is crucial in cyclo-cross as we see with the top pro's who, depending on their uci ranking, will take up their position on the start line accordingly, with most successful at the front. the same goes with the western league. riders who have previously won or who have finished close to the top will be called to the front. as for the rest of us it is a case first come first serve to get as close to the front as possible. in all the races i have competed in so far i have purposefully placed myself towards the back. the reason for this is confidence, as i race more i hope to see an increase in my confidence. at the moment i am trying to gauge my ability against the competition and so up until now have preferred the strategy of passing others as the race progresses rather than trying to hold a position that is unrealistic. in the next race or two i will start to experiment with placing myself a little further towards the front of the starting line.
as the race started i immediately tried to settle myself into an effort that i could sustain although the first lap is always going to be more frantic than the rest of the race as people jostle for position. i was way down in the bottom third of the field at the start but as the race progressed apart from a few of the front runners who lapped me in the last lap i was only passed by a couple of people. i did manage to claw back multiple places through the race proving to myself that i have a decent level of endurance at what was essentially a near max effort.
the course itself was possibly one of the least technical, with the least amount of gradients, on par with hengrove leisure park. there was a lot of grass, no mud, and some wooded single track sections to give some extra twists and turns. being that it was a sunny evening there were plenty of people in the park and as i raced round i kept passing a couple of parties cooking sausages on their portable barbecues and drinking cold beers, it smelt so good. i am sure i was not alone in thinking what a good idea it would be to pull up and partake in the food and drink. alas there were neither any sausage nor beer hand ups!
as the race progressed into the last two thirds the field became completely split. this is my favourite time when races within the race start to form. i did not have much threat behind me and in front was a guy riding for the las vegas institute of sport. for the remainder of the race we battled it out, for a short time i took the lead from him, then maybe after one lap he took the lead back. he was quicker in the wooded sections and i was stronger on the slight uphill grassy drags. i made a tactical decision to sit on his wheel rather than have him pressing me. this status quo lasted for three or four laps until the final lap where in my mind i would come past him on the long drag up to the finish line. it did not work out like this though. i did not know for sure it was the last lap when it came. as we exited the final wooded section he took off and left me with too much work to do. just deserts i guess for sitting on instead of attacking earlier. it was all part of the race fun though and as soon as i crossed the line a couple of seconds after him we shook hands and i congratulated him.
i do not know my final placing yet but as soon as the results are posted i will update on here. my next race will most probably be at hengrove leisure park for round 6 of the western league cyclo-cross league on 19 june.
special thanks to andy stewart for the images.
(19/06/13 - I placed 20th from 38 - Severn Road Club)
Posted by Jason at 7.6.13
Tuesday, 4 June 2013
i have been lucky enough to climb the slops of mont ventoux on three occasions, the first time being in 2006. it was a baking hot day in mid-july. i had drank far too much red wine the night previously with my good friend chris, making preparation far from ideal. the plan was to ascend the ventoux sometime during mid-afternoon. i remember laying about in the shade for most of the day taking in as much water as i could and having myself a good lunch of pasta to prepare for my efforts.
no matter how much i prepared though i could not shake the hangover from the night before. hangover or not though chris and i got onto our bikes just after two in the afternoon and we both started to climb the mountain. just a few kilometres from the top amid the bareness of sandy coloured rocks my hangover disappeared and I crested the summit in just over two hours. chris and I got ourselves together briefly then proceeded to descend back down the mountain and straight to the main bar in bedoin for celebratory beers and to watch on their big screen where carlos sastre, floyd Landis and oscar pereiro were battling it out in the tour.
the black and white photo on this post (a scan from a poor quality print) captures me aboard my faithful old cannondale r800 on that hot july day in 2006 as i am just about to about to make the final turn up to the top of the mountain, my body completely spent from the effort.
the next two ascents were very different to the first and were made during my recent trip to france which started in mid may of this year. the first ascent was using the same classic approach from bedoin but everything was different. i was older, fitter, lighter and i had drunk far less wine the night before. the morning of the ride i was feeling much stronger. the weather was different too, unlike that hot and humid july day this day was mild at the base with a temperature of around 20 celsius. as i neared the top it was a different story with literally freezing temperatures making conditions very challenging especially with only a short sleeve jersey, bib shorts and fingerless gloves for protection.
my next effort and where all of these colour photographs come from (thank you Betty) was a different route starting in the little town of malaucène. i had never ridden this route before so did not really know what to expect except that it might be a little 'easier' judging by some of the online research i had done.
it was 'easier' in a number of ways. firstly the weather was much kinder and although it was only six celsius on the summit, the ride up was achieved in beautiful sunshine with only a little wind, my legs were feeling stronger too. also the online research had indeed been correct. although there were tough sections where i had to use the smallest sprocket and dig a little deep, there were many kilometres of 'only' four or five percent gradients which felt comfortable. i made sure to spin as quickly as i could up these lesser gradients eager to get to the top as quickly as my legs would take me. there was also extra motivation with betty and my daughter isabella up on the road at the same time, with betty dashing out of the team car briefly from time to time to take a photo. this all added up to me climbing the mountain roughly five minutes quicker than from the bedoin route a few days prior.
the spectacular views of the alps. every so often i would glance to the side to see the view of those majestic white peaks in the far distance. for me the views and the slightly calmer gradients suited much better and without having yet ridden the third way from sault i have to say the route from malaucène is my current favourite. i noticed there were many less riders going up from malaucène too, of course the ride from bedoin will always be the most popular. tom simpson's infamous ascent and many other iconic tour memories will always make this the case.
the next instalment of mont ventoux history will be made on sunday 14 july with a mammoth 242km tour stage culminating in a summit finish of mont ventoux. the route runs south from near lyon and in the very later stages passes through malaucène and then on to bedoin, connected by a beautiful mountain pass road. thankfully for the riders a rest day follows the stage. as for my time cycling around the provence region, it was a wonderful experience that I can definitely recommend to any cyclist. for sure I will be heading back there in the not too distant future to make that third ascent out of sault and to discover much more of provence's natural beauty.
Posted by Jason at 4.6.13
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
today i woke up and decided i would ride from the village i am staying in, saint-pierre-de-vassols, near bedoin, to sault. not a big distance by any means and fairly routine, so i thought. it turned out to be a ride i will never forget along the gorge de la nesque. starting at villes-sur-auzon the road, carved into the edge of the gorge, progressively snakes it's way some 22km along the most breath taking and awe inspiring road i have ever ridden. it must surely be one of, if not, the grandest of canyons to be found in france. if there is ever a rides to do before you die book created, this ride through the gorge de la nesque must surely feature.
Posted by Jason at 29.5.13