Sunday, 8 October 2017

Oxford Island

When I mentioned life's constants yesterday, I forgot a few that are specific to Castlereagh CC and one of our legends. Retro will go off like the hammers with seemingly no concept that the ride will be over 30 mins - fact. He will also put himself in to the ground rocking and rolling over the bike, rather than tell the rider beside him to ease off (and because people know this they play to it and push the pace) - fact. Are these bad things? No, not at all, just idiosyncrasies of the bunch, that once you understand you embrace.
Today despite a touch of light rain at the start, we had nine riders - no "Lites" (I hope everyone isn't starting to hibernate - this is the ideal time of year to start riding with a cycling club and build fitness, as the group backs off a fraction). When I asked about distance and route, I got two words back which is an improvement on the usual - FLAT and WEST. I put those in to the Routemeister 2000 calculator, turned the handle and came up with an idea....
We went down and around the embankment for a change and then out our regular Sandy Lane route to Lisburn. We turned on to Route 9 past the Maze, but bypassed Down Royal and across the flatlands. Orange Lane took us parallel to the main road and eventually south of Lurgan. Poster Boy II turned off along the way - it took a while for some to notice and if I'm honest one or two may never have even recognised your presence, such is their "focus".
Through Lurgan, it wasn't long til we were queuing in Oxford Island. While it might not have the hipster cool of some of our other watering holes, you can't knock the value.... the route home was to be our regular route out - Aghalee, Aghagallon, Ballinderry, Lisburn. It would have been uneventful if it wasn't for a driver 150m up ahead of us deciding to pull out of a junction straight in to another car. Two write-offs but thankfully no serious injuries. Arriving on the scene, we checked the occupants, directed a bit of traffic and waited for the police and ambulance - we also somehow lost Retro, another of those Castlereagh constants. Civil duties done, on to Lisburn and home.
I had been hoping to call at the cyclocross in Lady Dixon Park on the way home, but stopping for the accident had us running late. A great day out. Hard enough for people to tell me sob stories in the hope of getting out of turns, but not so hard we couldn't keep the group tightly together and get everyone home. Ride of the day goes to El Pistolero - not for his athletic ability, more for hogging just about every photo I took. Great riding.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Brainchild of a Malicious Mind

When you're talking to non-cyclists or newcomers you often find they are obsessed with the distance we ride or the average speed. Old hands know those stats really don't mean a lot, certainly not in isolation.
Today's route was clearly the brainchild of a malicious mind (I gave you a flat one last week!) and although only 60m/100k, if I still kept a training diary my summary of the ride would be "4 hours - brutal hills. Steady pace with a couple of efforts. Nice coffee." I think we started with 9, reducing to 6 after 90 mins or so when Noel, Mike and Davy turned off needing to get home. We hit the hills from the start and that's how it continued, with a tough route to Bailies Mills then a traditional route to Annahilt. A left took us to Dromara and over the Boiling Wells.
Digger and Bones were sent up the road mainly as a tactic to rest my legs and keep the rest of the group together - by the state of them in Moneyslane they enjoyed it.... We turned left after Ballyward and up Dollys Brae which was a first for most of us - savage! Digger even took a detour up a lane to take a break halfway up - either that or one of his fan club lives in the area?!
Urban in Castlewellan looked after us as always (we arrived just as Dromore left and shared with Lanterne Rouge). Having surprisingly had no complaints about the outward route, I decided to continue the theme and take a hilly route home - fair play to El Pistolero who was as always giving his all and still providing the laughs. You probably had to be there to understand why "was that a STEADY?!" was so funny at the time. It was only rivalled for laughs by a comment about someone's own mum and Stuart Burns (you're getting a very weird reputation)....
We took tough roads skirting the top of Slieve Croob then started the twisting descent towards Spa. Digger and me went to the front and put it on lockdown - that doesn't mean we weren't still pushing, just that a strong steady pace keeps everyone together in a way stop start never will. We stayed there until just before Temple where El Pistolero finally turned his gun on himself and waved us on. Given a free reign we lit it up and drove all the way to Carryduff.
Another really enjoyable day and credit to the strongest and least-strongest riders in the bunch. The former for using their strength at the right times in the right ways and the later for showing true 'grinta' and digging in without a word of complaint. Cycling is suffering, if you don't like it take up golf....
Ps hope the Lough Lappers had a good safe day and I'm available for hand modelling at reasonable rates (bike matches car....).

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Let the Pictures do the Talking

On the rare occasion I do bedtime stories they don't involve Castlereagh Cycling Club, so i'll let the pictures speak for themselves - apologies to anyone expecting a tale of daring do.

The Liter Lites did a 30 mile loop in preparation for the Forestside Action Cancer Fundo on 6th August, while about 15 of us headed west.
We pulled in near Gilford to split up, reduce my stress levels and ditch the dreaded whistle. From there the majority went home via Banbridge for about 110k total Six of us decided to make the most of the sunshine and go to the Moy. That we instead ended up in Armagh somehow wasn't surprising.... The way home was a game of poker, with each rider raising the ante and pulling the odd bluff at one stage or another. Conor got to know Digger, Nitemare, Berg, Bones and Retro up close and personal, and put in a super strong ride - it was a day for big legs....

Saturday, 4 March 2017

John Moore Memorial 2017 - Results

photo by Toby Watson

A2-A3 Race

Angus Fyffe Omagh Wheelers
David Watson The Bike House CC
Richard Maybin Madigan CC
Dominic McCartan Apollo CC
Christopher McGlinchey Chainreaction Cycles
Jody Wright Phoenix CC
Stuart Henry North Down CC
Gavin McGowan Dromara CC
David Hamilton North Down CC
Keith Philips North Down CC

A3 Prizes
Stuart Henry North Down CC
David Dickson Dromara CC

A4 Race
Jonathan Kyle SMCC
Luke Joyce Kinning CC
Scott Maitland Killinchy CC
Philip Doyle Killinchy CC
Michael Boyd 0745 Rouleurs
Rory Loughran Newry Wheelers
Keith Freel North Down CC
Matthew Sinton Portadown CC

Women’s Result
Laura Blair Ballymena RC
Christen O’Neill Velo Cafe Magasin

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Fifth Week of the Lites

Fifth week of the lites, and rule number 9 was being enforced...fog hung ominously in the air, obfuscating the sun which glimmered menacingly in the sky, like an orb foretelling doom...
Thankfully things got better. We abandoned our beloved back roads in favour of the main Comber road, with lites and full fats sticking together for the first ten miles. By the time we'd made it to the comber-ards carriageway, conditions had improved considerably and we decided to split, with the heavies stoking the coals in the boiler room of the pain train and thundering up the road ahead of us.
We were delighted to have Robert, Andrew, Bryan and Jeremy joining us for our rather more relaxed approach to sunday mornings. We continued our course through Carrowdore and Millisle, then northwards to Cottage Kitchen at the Manor in Donaghadee.
We made short work of the scones and French toast on offer (apologies to the heavies who stopped there after us!) before taking the more direct route home to Newtownards. A brief stop for a puncture (hopefully that's Jeremy's quota fulfilled for a while!) didn't cause too much of a delay, and before we knew it we were hauling ourselves up over Bradshaw's Brae. Digger did it twice just for fun...
Regrouping just before Ballybean, we arrived back in Belfast around 1. 40 miles in the bank, with an average speed of 14 mph. We've come a long way since week 1! Ride of the day goes to Robert, who was making his debut outing on clipless pedals. We hope you all enjoyed today, and would love to see you again next week :)

Ice and Fog

Ice and fog dominated our conversation as we gathered at Forestside this morning. It's a kinda catch 22, those conditions mean back roads and hills are off the menu. That means more main roads and busier traffic, which we try to avoid.
As both runs we're planning to head east in search of clearer weather and salt air we decided to opt for safety in numbers and all roll out together. Credit to everyone - the Full Fats kept to a pace that suited everyone and there wasn't the slightest grumble from the Lites. It was a bigger group than we normally like together, but meant we had plenty of lights and with a bit of encouragement held two straight lines over to the left.
Opting for the Kings Road and on to Comber cut out the hills and any risk of ice. Once in Comber the sun came out and we took the opportunity to split. Seven of us dropped the hammer, and left it there all the way down to Kircubbin. A left turn on the far side took us further south and on to the east coast south of Portavogie. The pace didn't lift and everyone was contributing to keeping the pace strong.
Flashdance took a left before Ballyhalbert to head straight home, while the rest of us pressed on up the coast. Now and again the pace dropped a little, but I channelled my inner Nitemare and tried to encourage a smooth fast rhythm. The proof was in the average speed as we arrived at Donaghadee - 29.1kph despite having ridden easy to Comber....
Bullet decided to head on home, while the rest of us settled in to seats still warm from the Lites who'd eaten all but 6 scones in the place!!! Back on the road we kept it pretty direct with David riding strongly all the way. Bradshaw's was the lesser of three evils, with Retro showing he's still got it - as if anyone doubted it.
100-105k under mainly blue skies. Different, faster, flatter roads which gave us all a good workout - well done everyone.
PS we aren't at all jealous of Comrade, Poster Boy and Allen heading to Spain today - have a great time and keep it safe.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

just the Two of Us

Just the two of us, we can make it if we try, just the two of us, building castles in the sky, just the two of us, John and I....
Between work, sickness and holidays we were short handed this morning. John was downing an Altridge & Cole coffee as I arrived, so we decided to forgo a stop and aim for about 2.5 hours. It was cold but brightened up quickly and we took in some of the lesser known lanes, or in cases the well known lanes in the opposite direction.
Perfect winter training and home for 12:30 -

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Ice Planet Hoth

Lite Run - A much bigger turnout this morning than I'd expected, given that we'd been thrust into climes to rival those on the ice planet Hoth. With no tauntauns to bail us out, we had to rely on windbreakers and nimbly spinning legs to keep us warm.
It was unanimously agreed to stick to main roads which would be less frosty. Not so unanimous were the ideas bandied about - Moira, Donaghadee, Ballynahinch....eventually we decided to head up the main road for Saintfield (vapin' all the way!), then head for Killyleagh before turning north and stopping at McCanns in Balloo (we're becoming regulars).
On the way, a dropped bidon saw Martin pull off some major drift before taking a tumble onto the side of the road. Thankfully he managed to scrub off most of his speed before hitting the deck and his only complaint was of a bruised bum cheek.
Rims was suffering with cold hands, making gear changes very difficult, but soldiered on until the coffee stop where Poggio and Cameron kindly insisted that she take a pair of undermitts. The extra layer made a world of difference - thanks everyone for looking out for each other :)
While at the café, I witnessed my first indoor tube change courtesy of Resurrection, and could only laugh at the misfortune of Stephen and Martin - both ordered tea which came in one communal pot, but were sat at opposite ends of a long table! Had we had retro to throw into the mix, pandemonium would surely have teleporting teapot patent is already in the works.
The journey home was a shorter leg; all of us went fairly directly to our respective homes - some via the main Comber road, others via Moneyreagh, and the rest on the greenway where we caught up with Jeremy.
Another great run, and a glowing testament to the moral fibre of the club - everyone helping and supporting everyone else. We clocked up 40 miles at 14 mph...longer than expected but everyone fared ok. Ride of the day goes to Rims, who suffered with the cold but never gave up, and who is definitely getting stronger week on week!
Hopefully see you next week for more of the same (36-40 miles at a steady pace), minus the ice ❄

Shiver Me Timbers

Full Fat Run - Shiver me timbers it was cold this morning. Coming down the northern passage dodging icebergs set the tone for the route - salty sea dog roads.
There was a great turnout for the Lite run and seven shipmates for a longer voyage. As we set sail, my only advice to the Beast was to watch for ice - we would later learn it wasn't the only slippy substance on the roads. The wind wasn't strong, but roughly south easterly. We stuck to main roads through Saintfield and Crossgar to the Quoile Bridge. With the frost easing and a mostly uphill trajectory we decided to get off the main road and climb through Raholp and on to Strangford that way.
When we arrived hoping to drop anchor, we found the cafe temporarily closed. Flashdance and Bullet decided to head home while the rest of us debated the options. Retro fancied Portaferry, but with the boat on the other side a 15 min wait made Ardglass a better option. Down to five and with a really high tide, we took in the views out through Kilief and Ballyhornan to coffee in Doyle's Bistro.
There may be a prize for the best caption for the photo below - "Retro on the pull again" and "We're gonna need a bigger boat" were the best we could do while scoffing sodas.
A direct hit back to Downpatrick and Crossgar lifted the pace, before we finally had the confidence to head back in to the lanes to Derryboye. The ice was fine, but oil or diesel on a right turn brought down Retro. Thankfully we had slowed for the junction and he's made of strong stuff. It definitely didn't slow him on route to Ballygowan where he came off the wheels and took a well deserved 30's - way to leave your worries behind.
A final trip round the lanes and home. Great riding by Chris today, who is really getting stronger. More main roads than usual, but still some beautiful scenery and a couple of short efforts. Thanks to Chris and Martin for the extra photos.

Sunday, 22 January 2017


Thanks to roadworks I arrived late this morning, just as the mothership was leaving Forestside. Tagging on the Lites or heading back to bed would've been a pleasure, but I suspect the mothership wouldn't have given me that option and may well have come to my house to ask if I was coming out to play....
Nine of us headed up the Saintfield Road. I discovered the destination was Newcastle, but they were relying on me to be the brains of the operation and to get us there - that isn't a compliment for any of us. We were joined by Alan or Tantastic as he might be known for a while, who graduated from riding with the Lites. Sam also joined us which was a bold move as he hasn't ridden that sort of distance in a fair while.
We'd headed that direction two weeks ago, so I tried to call some different roads. I'd been warned of more road closures ahead and wanted to keep us away from any diversions that would be busy. The roads had a common theme, they were narrow, lumpy and tough making everyone work hard. We dropped down from Drumaroad towards Maghera, where four riders turned off - based on current fitness I should've gone with them, but I like to suffer.
Suffering is what cyclists do more than anything. People ask why and what enjoyment we get from it, which isn't always easy to answer. I guess a lot of it is the knowledge that it gets us to where we want to be. If we want to be fitter and stronger we have to hurt ourselves, dig deep and trust our bodies will adapt. Those that have done it as long as Nitemare and me, also know it's a rite of passage - don't give it, unless you can take it and with that long experience we're fairly confident that at some point in the not too distant future we'll be giving it....
Anyway, we made it to Newcastle and dug in to refreshments in Nikki's Kitchen. Out to Bryansford and over to Castlewellan wasn't too bad. Then the pressure went on and my legs feel off. We kept the route simple and the rotations rapid. A big congrats to Alan on a great ride and thank you to everyone for pacing me home - the attack in to Carryduff was just the final throws of a dying man. A special thanks to Nitemare for a couple of shoves near home which I was very grateful for (two weeks ago I was giving them out).
I think it was Nietzsche that said "if a suffering cyclist cries and his team mates weren't there to see it, did he really suffer" - thanks for being there to see it!

Lite's Third Installment

Plenty out this morning for the third installment of the lites run - a very special welcome to Selina and Linda who made their debut appearances with the club.
Following the full fats' lead from yesterday, we headed for donaghadee via Bradshaw's Brae. After plying ourselves with French toast, bacon, poached eggs and hot chocolates, we were ready to hit the road again.
Home via the Movilla road, with Danny taking half home by the Comber greenway, while the rest of us battled our way over the carriageway drag to Dundonald. 34 miles in the bank, and home for a sleep (provided significant others don't have errands for us to run!)
Ride of the day goes to Linda, who was suffering at the halfway point but dug in deep to make it home. A huge thanks to all the club members who were on hand to offer help, advice and support to others throughout. Hopefully see you all again next week!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Choose Life

Choose life. Choose a bike. Choose Campagnolo. Choose a flat white and a scone or maybe pancakes. Choose a line and hold it. Choose quiet roads. Choose good friends. Choose to climb, choose to descend, choose to sprint. Choose a wheel, carefully... Choose riding out in to a headwind. Choose to be the bigger man and ignore the occasional ignorant driver. Choose karma. Choose the big ring, and line them out in the gutter. Choose the service revolver. Choose to feel alive. Choose to smile, choose to laugh, choose to try harder. Choose the healthy option, but know you've done the work to deserve the dirty one. Choose to respect cyclists, drivers, pedestrians, runners and horse riders. Choose another flat white. Choose Mallorca, choose Gran Canaria. Choose big legs. Choose good kit. Choose Bioracer. Choose post-ride naps longer than the training. Choose to do it all again tomorrow.
Choose cycling and not wondering who the **** you are on a Sunday morning. Choose not sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing junk food in your mouth. Choose your future. Choose life....

Thanks to Bridewell Coffee for making us welcome and to Digger, Scotty, Comrade and Nitemare for pulling me round.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Get on and Pedal

If the Beast had 15 in the Lite group and I had 7 in the E-Lite group, that meant 22 out in total. The roads were damp, but we didn't get any rain and even managed to find some sunshine.
As last week I found the simplest way to start proceeding was to get on and pedal - we could sort out the fine details once we knew who we had with us and what everyone wanted to do. The notional plan was to keep it pretty short. Some needed home early and some of us wanted to catch a little of the final Kinning's Cross League at Stormont. If we bumped in to the Lites at Balloo that would be a bonus and a minor miracle.
How we got there is a bit of a mystery to me, which isn't good seeing as I was calling the route. Road closures and the wind played a part, as did the absence of Retro sprinting up the hills! We basically took the Killynure Rd to Saintfield and then back roads south to Annacloy. More lanes to Scabby Road and north to Balloo.
With a twisty route and a puncture we hit Balloo a bit later than planned. A quick democratic vote, which Noel lost (sorry dude) saw us decide not to stop for coffee. Another quick democratic vote, with Hannibal won saw us keep on the main road in to Comber - great training.
There we jumped on the greenway and back to Belfast. At Stormont we arrived shortly after the ladies race finish, bumping in to our own Nitemare and Bioracer's Ken and Chris - great to meet you. The Lites arrived a bit after us and Martin took the photos below - thanks.
Less than 3hours, but a good 75k-ish with a mixture of speed and bergs - perfect January training. Speaking of Bergs, Santa made a late call to the Berg household with a delivery of Italian goodness - can't wait to get back to the dark side.

Week 2 of the Lites

Week 2 of the lites runs got off to a flying start - with Danny and the Forestside group joining us, we had 15 bodies to put to work.
 Mike 's ankle bracelet wasn't going to hold him back, so we set off up the Saintfield Road at a steady pace. Reaching Carryduff, we turned left down the Comber Road and towards Moneyreagh. El Pistolero's guided historical tour furnished us with more information than we'd counted on, but it's sparked an interesting idea for a series of club runs later in the year - watch this space...
Through Ballygowan and down the Moss Road into Balloo, where we stopped at Mccanns. With a collective IQ in the triple figures (at least) we finally figured out how to get in, and availed of the caramel squares and pies on offer.
2017 marks the emergence of a new Retro...already stunned at his being amenable to a lite run ("I don't feel like burying myself today"), we were absolutely flabbergasted when his staple pot of tea was abandoned in favour of an Americano. Old habits die hard though, and it was only after a waitress had passed by several times announcing the arrival of a coffee, in an increasingly bewildered tone, that he acknowledged that it was in fact his.
Meanwhile, Bobby took exception to the local youths and Resurrection jumped on the "which wah are we going home?" bandwagon. I only realised he was winding me up halfway through the third explanation...
For a fourth and final time, then....the route home went via the Craigarusky Road, bringing us out into the south end of Comber. Danny, Lois, Paul and David headed home via the main road while the rest of us tackled the drag back up to Moneyreagh.
Schoolbus mode well and truly engaged, we started dropping riders back home one at a time. First Resurrection, then Mike, then Neil...the rest of us split at Crossnacreevy, with a couple of us stopping at Stormont on the way home to catch some CX action and meet up with our friends at Bioracer.
All in all, another successful run! 32 miles at 14 mph, with everyone sticking together well throughout. Joint ride of the day award goes to Stephen, who looks very strong on his second outing, and to Resurrection and Bullet, who haven't been out with a group for a while.
Thanks again to everyone who made it out, and hopefully see you next week 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

30 at Forestside

It was brilliant and mildly overwhelming to see almost 30 people down at Forestside this morning, with lots of new and old faces. With The Beast taking the part of the good guy looking after the Lite run, I was cast as the villain intent on merciless torture of those brave enough to sign up for the longer run - turns out despite the horrific looks, I'm not a natural villain, I'll need to work on it....
With so many people, the simplest solution was to split the herd quickly and give Stuart the opportunity to brief the Lite run. Our group agreed we'd head south in to the wind and make a brief appearance at the Irish Cyclocross Champs in Tollymore - how we'd get there and back was loosely worked out in my head, but as always I had a few possibilities so I could tailor the route for the weather and riders.
We took the main road up to Ballynahinch and tried to maintain a steady effort level up and down hill - we still have a little work to do on that.... left took us to Spa and the start of the hills. Strava explains the route better than I can and makes up for the fact I can't remember road names. To meet our objective of keeping the pressure on downhill, Digger and Retro hit the front on the long descent and strung it out.
On to Maghera where Flashdance turned for home, and then in to Newcastle via the Burrendale. A lap of the front and out the Bryansford Road to Tollymore. We arrived at the cross during the practice and while most of the group took in the atmosphere at the start/finish, Digger and me took in a little of the course down to the lower field - smart no, fun yes... It was soon time to head and we went straight across to Castlewellan. Straight laterally, very much not straight vertically with a nasty climb in the middle.
Coffee at Urban, where we decided to take a simpler than planned route home. The clock was ticking and legs were getting tired. James displayed his intimate knowledge of the Wizard of Oz and we soon had the Strawman, Tinman, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy cast. Apparently I was the Good Witch. I don't remember her, but I'm guessing she wasn't a looker.
Near Drumaroad, we decided to split the group and let those in a hurry home head on - I hear Digger stretched a few legs.... Poster Boy, Chris and me took it steadier and probably had a slightly more enjoyable trip back through Spa and out by Ballycreen.
A really successful day all round. A major thanks and well done to Stuart for bringing the Lites back. Apologies for my photography, I really need to check the settings on my phone, but me and technology are not the best friends. Here's to next week!