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Club Runs Diary - 2014

Sunday 19th October

19 Riders: Niels A, Jim A, Tim B, Paul B, Tom B, Ian C, Peter C, Matt F, Luke G, Oscar H, Aman S, Mike M, Martin P, Nick S, Neil T, Mark W and guests Fraser, Paul H (one more new guy whose name I can't remember)

The aforementioned mass of riders turned up at the Pond House on a very Autumnal Sunday, roads strewn with leaves and gravel and the clouds grey, although the sun came out a bit later on into the ride. This ride was the latest instalment in Club Runs Organiser Paul B's "Smelling The Flowers" series, this basically meaning an easy pace and riding as a group altogether, even when climbing. The decision was taken to split into two groups to start with and the first group missed the first turning immediately!

We headed down a new way into the Walthams via Westborough Road (alternatively the Curry House way!) and somehow through the mysterious new roads ended up in White Waltham. Already, Jim A had broken into song! We then climbed as a group up Church Hill and then the other group met Nick S en-route and we then headed up Hawthorn Hill as a group where we picked up Ian C at the top. There were lots of new roads already at this point and we already felt in new territory in the local area! We headed through Binfield where Oscar H dropped his chain and then just as we were coming into Wokingham, Ian C punctured. The first group decided to carry on and then the second group, once Ian C had fixed it, got going again and through some more fantastical mystery roads we somehow ended up in Crowthorne where we did a bit of cyclocross as the road was blocked by a small ford of water! We then rode into Sindlesham where Ian C then punctured again. Mark W and Nick S turned off somewhere beforehand and as usual, Jim A was on hand to help fix it. Next puncture fixed, we headed towards the Ford at Twyford which was too deep and as we passed, we saw the first group in the pub nearby so we stopped for a quick drinks stop with them. Paul B noticed a little footbridge which we could use as an alternative to the ford, but after we finished our drinks, we just retraced our way the same way that we came and headed into the centre of Twyford and then into Wargrave where the "hills" began.

We came to the foot of a very narrow road which on Matt F’s Garmin, looked like where we meant to be heading (after all, it was very reminiscent of all the small, middle-of-nowhere roads that we had ridden beforehand!) and we began to climb it only to come to a woodland area at the top that was completely unrideable! We turned around and headed back into Warren Row, then descended Honey Lane into Hurley where we tackled the main "climb" of the day up to the top of the Henley Road where we passed the other group at the top who were fixing a puncture. Some riders interspersed between groups and we were now mixed up into two groups again and we rode the final part back to the Pond House still keeping the ride at a "smelling the flowers" pace.

Overall, a relaxing, social, easy-paced ride that had a couple of minor hills near the end and as Ian C put it, a "Ride of the Fords"!

Approximately 48 miles at 15mph

O.D.H.

Sunday 12th October - Inaugural 2014 Hill Climb Club Championship

16 Riders: Niels A, Tim B, Paul B, Tom B, Stephen F, Matthew F, Oscar H, Neil L, Adam M, Phil M, Martin P, Paul S, Mark W, Simon V with Ian C and Steven G helping out with timekeeping.

A fantastic turn out of 16 Riders arrived at the Pond House on quite a chilly Sunday for the very first Thames Velo Hill Climb Competition. At least it wasn’t raining as then the day could have been a totally different story! Special mention goes to Paul S, who as TT Secretary claimed that he was "allowed himself to be forced to take part"! Unlike the usual pre-ride chat at the Pond House, the sign-on sheet was passed around and riders signed on for their shot at seizing Hill Climb glory - by glory, a chance to win one of two prizes kindly provided by DNA Cycles in Maidenhead and indefinite bragging rights. Once signed on, we pinned on our corresponding number (have to do it professionally!), chatted a bit more and we then set off. Tom B who very kindly offered to use his car as the Hill Climb Mobile HQ got into his car and would meet up with us at the first hill.

We took as flat as a route as we could to get to the first hill, Pheasants Hill, in Hambleden and so we headed via Cookham into Bourne End via the hole-y main road and then the flat route into Marlow. Unfortunately there is no possible way to get to Hambleden without some-kind of an incline and we carefully climbed the rise up and then down into Medmenham, a bit of a warm-up of sorts!

Eventually we arrived at the first hill (the 30mph sign was to be the start) and some riders carried on up to have a look and Oscar H carried on only to realise that there was another 30mph sign further ahead, so he went back and got all the other riders to ride up ahead to the "actual" start. Conundrum sorted, Tom B texted to say that he had parked up at the top of the hill and was heading down and when he came down, Ian C got the finishing stopwatch as he had volunteered himself to be the Finish Timekeeper and so him and Oscar H (who was Start Timekeeper) synced the stopwatches and agreed on a time for the first rider to set off. Ian C then headed up the hill and Steven G followed suit. Just before we got started, Nick S, who was on his own ride passed by and offered his best wishes to the riders about to experience the Hill Climb pain!

Then, in true Thames Velo style, we began the first climb, Pheasants Hill. Special Thanks to Phil M, Tim B and Stephen F (hope I haven’t missed anyone out) who helped pushing off. Eventually, everyone climbed the hill and it got very mixed reviews. It was quite a steep, hard climb and there was even a downhill in one section! Paul B met up with us at the top as he had been on his own ride. Whilst we didn’t know the results yet, looking at the result sheet, everyone put in a gutsy effort, but it was Tom B who was in the lead by 15 seconds with Adam M and Phil M in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Then in joint 4th, Tim B and Matt F, 19 seconds behind Phil M. This was really close so far!

We then headed over to the next hill, Oxford Road (or as us TV’ers call it, "Windmill Hill") and carefully descended Shogmoor Lane into Skirmett. A bad driver had to turn up at some point and that was exactly what happened when Adam M nearly hit a car who was going too fast up the hill and then it nearly collided with the second group of riders descending the hill. We got to the second hill and met up with Tom B again who parked the car by the side of the road in a lay-by and this time, the 2nd hill went almost flawlessly and the riders taking part rode the next hill. Paul B rode this hill and put in a good time of 3:45 . It was quite an interesting race to watch compared to the first one as you could see the riders climb for quite a while - hammering it at the beginning and then the lactic acid kicked in as the hill crested - it was quite a spectacle! Again full honours went to Tom B who managed to extend his lead a further 8 seconds and Adam M, Phil M, Neil L and Tim B came in 2nd, 3rd and joint 4th place respectively.

We then rode the short ride over to the 3rd and final climb and we waited a while for Tom B to turn up as his SatNav had played up and took him on a "bonus Chiltern tour". Whilst waiting for Tom, we chatted amongst ourselves and had a good laugh and the sun came out - the ride was going really well so far. The third hill, Fingest Lane, again differed to the other two hills as this one had a flat section where you could build up the speed, up a short, sharp 90 degree apex, then a gradual uphill and then the final steep bit to the top. We rode the climb again, but had to wait awhile for someone to turn up to start the last two riders, Stephen F came and helped out in the end. Ian C was Finish Timekeeper again and was enjoying watching the grimaces of riders powering to the top and Paul B was on hand to take photos with Steven G taking some as well. Tom B again won the climb and beat Adam M by 20 seconds, the clear winner and Adam M came in 2nd place with Phil 8 seconds behind, then Tim B and Matt F in joint 4th.

O.D.H.

Sunday 21st September

Seventeen riders - Mark W, Rob M, Matt F, Peter C, Steve G, Ian C, Tim B, Nick S, Niels A, Mike M, John N, Dave L and guests, Anna-Marie H, Neil L, Kurt E, Neil H and one other.

Making the most of the Indian Summer, the group of riders split into two to head out to the Chilterns and onto Stadhampton (although some of the second group were only out for a short ride and left just three to continue on against the moderate cross wind).

A good pace was set on the gradual ascent of Bottle Lane and Warren Row with Rob doing plenty of time on the front alongside Neil L doing some strong pulls into the wind. After heading through Henley the group stayed together along the flatter section of Pishill before stretching out as it kicked up to the top. After descending into Watlington the group picked up the pace past Chalgrove with a bit of ‘thru & off’ until Neil H offered his highly creditable experience and got us rotating in the opposite direction into the side wind, which really made the difference.

Arriving at Stadhampton the ride paid a visit to Newington Nurseries for a coffee and cake stop where we met Nick who’d ridden out solo to join us for the ride back.

For the return journey the ride took the rolling lanes down through Berrick Salome and Ipsden before approaching the climb of Berins Hill. Throughout the ride Anna-Marie had been suffering a bit having not fully recovered from a heavy cold and the sight of the steep slope of the hill was not a welcome sight, but after digging in and battling on, she reached the top and hugged wheels back to bravely tough it out back to the Pond House.

The only incident of the day was an unfortunate tumble for Neil L who, despite his powerful riding, didn’t have the power to ride over a 2inch kerb at the pub car park and came down in a comedy crash with a bloodied elbow!

60 miles at 18.5mph average speed.

M.W.

Sunday 14th September

Eight riders - Matt F, Phil M, Mark W, Adam M, Mike M, Steve G, Luke G and Dave L.

After last weeks Surrey Hills climb fest the club embarked on what Adam aptly described (following an amusing conversation as to whether someone is either a Grimpeur, a Puncheur, a Rouleur or a Baroudeur?) as a Rouleurs' ride, all big ring climbs!

The route was the well used loop out to Benson via Marlow, up Frieth Hill to Stokenchurch, descending Aston Hill with a blast out to Benson. The climb of Frieth Hill had Adam (Grimpeur/Puncheur) showing his climbing skills alongside Matt (Rouleur/Puncheur) who is obviously still enjoying good form from his week riding the Swiss Alps, whilst the rest (Baroudeurs!) rode at a steady pace only to discover at the top that Phil had snapped his rear mech cable! Mark used his emergency mechanical skills to get the chain onto the middle of the cassette and get going again with Phil using the front mech to have just two gears, one for up, and one for down!

Arriving at Benson we were surprised to be the only cyclists making the most of the last of the good weather and enjoyed a quick coffee and cake whilst watching a narrowboat do a u-turn on the river before the route back had us climbing Gangsdown Hill and picking up part of the route for Friday's Tour of Britain stage through Nettlebed, where the chalk tributes to Cav and Wiggo etc. were still visible on the road. As Phil was riding on reduced gearing we decided not to challenge the pro's KOM's... this time!

Before descending Pishill it was decided that everyone should keep themselves on the same cassette sprocket as Phil so that we could all descend at roughly the same advantage. After spinning out on the top steeper section Matt, Mark, Adam and Phil got out of aero tucks to spin at a ridiculous cadence to get a four man pace-line going along the flatter section of the descent and proved to be an interesting training exercise, although someone had clearly clicked down a few sprockets and made holding the wheel just that little bit harder!

Approx 57 miles at about 18mph average speed.

M.W.

Sunday 7th September - Surrey Hills, Peaslake

12 Riders: Niels A, Tim B, Paul B, Ian C, Matt F, Oscar H, Adam M, Martin P, Stuart R, Nick S, Mark W and Wesley H, friend of Matt F

After a fair bit of planning, Nick S organised a ride into to the Surrey Hills, a definite change from the Chilterns, with a prescribed coffee stop at Peaslake. This was the same route as last year’s venture, only a new extended part was added on to take on the scenic Box Hill, an iconic Surrey Hill that was used in the 2012 Olympic Road Race.

The day finally came and 12 riders turned up at the Royal Legion in Ascot to take on this mammoth 98 mile route with a couple of killer climbs. One that definitely deserves a mention is ‘Whitedown Lane’, a notable inclusion on many cyclosportive routes that has 2 killer 20+% hairpins and then a long gruelling ascent up to the summit where you then drop down to a junction. It’s featured in Simon Warren’s ‘Top 100 Cycling Climbs’ in the UK with a jaw-dropping 8/10 rating (Whiteleaf in the Chilterns has a 6 and I personally find that one harder). Many emails were exchanged warning fellow riders to have the appropriate climbing gears on their bike in preparation for this gruelling climb and this really helped up-the-ante for the ride.

After having the usual chitchat we set off into the heart of Ascot, and then into Sunningdale where we met Martin P and we then headed down to the Staple Hill circuit and quickly rode down Kitsmead Lane and then on the flat for a while into Ripley where the first prescribed climb in Shere only it was being used for a car hill climb and us bikers weren't even allowed up it!!! So instead, we took the longer way to an alternative climb, Coombe Lane which to be honest proved to be one of the harder ones of the day!

After a quick descent and through Gomshall, we came to the foot of Whitedown Lane. We quickly got our climbing gears ready, however the climb has two ‘false starts’ where the road rises a bit and then drops down. You then go past a bridge and there is the first of two killer hairpins. As we were all climbing, poor Nick S had broke a spoke at the bottom of the hairpin and everyone was too focused on getting past the climb that we couldn’t possibly stop. At the top of the climb, Adam M, who was fastest up the hill, went down to go and find out some news and we asked some fellow cyclists who were passing and Nick S carried his bike up the climb. The bike couldn’t have been ridden as the tyre was rubbing on Nick’s frame so Nick S carried the bike up the climb up in true cyclocross style! Unfortunately, it was a very bad place for mobile phone coverage and everyone either had ‘No Service’ or the occasional one bar - it just wasn’t up going to happen. When Nick S arrived at the top, we suggested either him waiting there for us to call him a taxi to take him to a train station or him walking down a bit to hopefully get some phone coverage to call a taxi which Nick chose to do. We felt really sorry for Nick as there was nothing really that he could do, especially as he was organising the ride so this was a real shame. It was later found out that Nick had managed to get a lift from a fellow cyclist who lived nearby to a train station and Nick got a train back to Ascot. Whitedown Lane is quite nasty in terms of problems as last year, Clark A had dropped his chain on it. Let’s hope we can all get up it without any problems next time!

We all ploughed on into Dorking where we reached Box Hill which was absolutely jam-packed with fellow cyclists. Box Hill is also featured in Simon Warren’s ‘Top 100 Climbs’ in the UK, only with a lesser 3/10 rating, it’s more of an iconic Surrey Hill than a challenging one as the view at the top of Surrey is just sensational. Adam M launched himself up the climb and Oscar H launched an attack on the rest of the group, who’s challenge was taken up by Matt F who overtook Oscar along with Martin P and Niels A and then at the top, Oscar H dropped his chain so went from heading for 2nd position into last! Chain put back on, we rabbled on and descended the steep hill down into Dorking where we rode through the town centre and we climbed Coldharbour Lane, another Top 100 climb in the other book ‘Another 100 Top Climbs’ only we didn’t climb the entirety of it so it technically didn’t count, which was a bit of a shame.

The next couple of hills were equally as steep and energy-sapping and as we arrived into Peaslake, we couldn’t have been more deserving of a cafe stop! We found a lovely little village shop that offered great value for money, although maybe customer service was a bit of a dictatorship!!! We tucked into great cakes and pastries, coke, water and hot beverages and we were ready to go tackle the final couple of climbs.

The return journey took on a couple more climb which weren’t as steep, but due to the long mileage already covered, were equally as hard and we then passed through the pleasant town of Godalming and up-and-over the Hog’s Back in Puttenham and the route was now more or less flatfish. Apart from a quick stop as Oscar H had managed to drop his chain again, we rode quite sedately back towards Ascot. We rode through Normandy (no, unfortunately not in France!), again through Chobham, then into Ascot via Windlesham. The pace rose up as we neared the Royal Legion and Oscar H launched an ‘attack’ (well, more of an increase in pace as were 95 or so miles in and with more success compared to the Box Hill attack!) and Niels A launched an even bigger effort and the two finished together followed by the rest of the group.

Overall, a splendid day out and we took in some challenging climbs, definitely makes a change to the Chilterns which is just as hard in places. We ticked off (or ticked off again!) 2 Top 100 Climbs, so that made the ride even more rewarding and Whitedown Lane had been conquered apart from Nick S due to breaking a spoke. The coffee stop should also be of mention as it offered great products with good bang-for-your-buck. Special mention to Paul B who with Nick S, rode the route again on Wednesday - I can’t even begin to imagine how the legs must have felt on that one towards the end!

Approximately 98 miles at 16.2 mph

O.D.H

Sunday 24th August - Turn left at Wantage

A group of 14 assembled at the Pond House for this weeks club run which was a longer than usual run out to Wantage in West Berkshire and a chance for some far reaching views across the Lambourn Downs (no relation!). The group included Tim, Niels, Mark, Peter, Martin P, Luke, John, Dave L, Steve, Mike*, returning terns Switzers Paul, Ian and Jim, and guest Neil.

Neils and Dave set off early to negotiate the descent to Henley in a leisurely fashion and the remaining 12 shortly afterwards in pursuit. The main group somehow managed to pass the early starters and met them at the the top of the climb out of Henley. There was then an increase in the pace and the group split in to two groups of seven on the run up to Nettlebed and the long descent to Wallingford. The cafe beckoned so after some smooth navigation through the Hagbournes, Paul, Neil, Tim, Ian, Peter, and Luke arrived at the Garden centre cafe at Chilton. Martin decided this wasn't the cafe stop and cracked on. The second group, minus Dave who had turned for home, were not far behind and extended the already long queue in the cafe.

Now back to 12 we set off again duly replenished with cake and coffee and Pepsi (Niels took a deep breath before consuming this apparently inferior product!). Again splits started to form with guest Neil, Like Paul, Peter, Ian up the road to take on Chain Hill (seemed a bit short after Switzerland). Mark, Steve and Neil's were not far behind, but unfortunately Tim, Jim, John and Mike had missed the left turn in Wantage!!

After a couple of phone calls we agreed to head on on the picturesque rolling road through Compton, Aldworth and down the 16% Streatly Hill and up through Goring up to Crays Pond , here there was a further split with Paul deciding to do a bit more and headed back towards Henley and Luke, Peter and Neil heading on towards Sonning Common with Ian tailing off along the route. However on the approach to Sonning bridge lights Ian had navigated the route a bit better than Luke Peter and Neil who appeared from behind! They cracked on together to the A4 where LP&N took the direct route for Maidenhead and Ian headed homewards to Bracknell.

Approx. 83 miles @ 17.2 average

I.C.

Sunday 17th August

12 riders: Barry Z, Martin P, Matt A, Mike M, Peter C, Steven G, Stuart R, Tim B, Tom B, Niels A and guests Gary K, Simon V.

Even though a sizeable number of club members were on Alpine duties, but with better weather relative to the previous Sunday the turnout was respectable.

The weather: fresh westerly wind with periods of rain in the morning clearing to brighter weather with sunny intervals after midday. Temperature: 14–18C.

The route: From the Pond House the route went to Marlow, Bolter End via the Fingest Lane climb continuing north west to Stokenchurch and followed by the descent of Kingston Hil, and along the B4009 through Chinnor, north to the teastop at Orchard View Farm just outside Princes Risborough. Returning via the climb up Wardrobes (Pink Hill), Loseley Row, then up Wigans Lane (aka Rubbish Dump Hill), down Bledlow Ridge, then up Bullocks Farm Lane to Lane End and via the B482 to Marlow back to Maidenhead.

Strava mapped route

Despite the generally grey but dry weather the mood was good and further lifted by the return of Tom B after his solo collarbone mishap. Vigorous right arm ‘wind-mills’ demonstrated a full recovery. After discussion it was decided to ride as one group and ‘off’ we went at a good pace towards Marlow with Martin P at the front. With the slightly damp road surface the Quarry Wood Road decent was negotiated at each riders ‘individual discretion’ and when Steven G dropped his chain a rolling regroup took place during the climb up Frieth Road. Mike and Niels forming a chasing group with Steven.

Fully regrouped at the Frieth Road and Moor Common crossroad the descent towards Fingest Lane was approached in medium increasing to dense rain. As a result rain jackets were deployed where available. Steven G and Stuart R had earlier announced they would turn off at this point, but the rain confirmed this decision. It might have been in an effort to keep warm in the rain or maybe as a preparation for the clubs Hill Climb Championship in October concentrated effort was put in on the climb up Fingest Lane. Matt along with Barry, Pete, Gary and Simon demonstrated strength – maybe they are already now showing their intentions for the October hill climb by these ‘markers’!?

Spurred on by the rain and with Tim B at point good progress towards the West were made. In the continuing rain and just before the descent of Kingston Hill ‘check your brakes’ was declared. A wet forest road combined with areas of rough road surfaces was for some not a challenge but for others resulted in a controlled descent.

Travelling Northwards on the B4009 at moderate training speed (20+mph) the rain stopped and we were soon at Orchard View Farm for the tea stop. The establishment’s delicious cakes, tea coffee among other was enjoyed during lively discussion of the format of the Hill Climb Championship. For example, how many categories should there be? Should age, weight or other factors be taken into consideration? The lively discussion went on until the proposed category of ‘riders named Niels’ was suggested. One was in favour and the rest against. There will probably only be one category!

After the break the return route was met with clearing skies and warming late summer sunshine and the English summer landscape was enjoyed in full. Now relatively dry and warm the climb up Wardrobes again revealed great strength from new riders Pete and Barry. The climb up Wigans Lane was approached with similar enthusiasm and energy by all.

Climbing is one joy of cycling but descents on clear good roads can be another, and so was the case with the drop down Bledlow Ridge to the A40. Strava showed 50+mph as a general top speed for this fast section.

What comes down also has to go up (or something like that) and the more or less final climb of the day was up the narrow Bullocks Farm Lane. The surface is a bit rough on the first 20m, but is then replaced by decent tarmac and also rewarded with splendid views over the surrounding countryside.

From Lane End the B482 was followed to Marlow. With the wind now in our backs and a gentle decline, the speed increased and as Pete had spare energy he went off from the front with Tom B in pursuit at the head of the group. The run to Marlow was dispatched quickly.

At Marlow a couple of riders decided to go for the shorter ride back via Quarry Wood Road, but Tim declared a "TV Burn Up" was needed and therefore the flatter Bourne End option was taken by the rest of the group. The burn up would be along the A4094 Ray Mead Road and parallel with the Thames. As usual the pace gradually increased with Tim, Martin and Tom taking turns at the front. After Bourne End the direction shifted more towards the South, which resulted in frequent changes at the front as the fresh wind now came in from the front and across the right shoulder. This made being at the lead harder work and offered the option for calculations. On the final section the speed increased and as per usual Niels went for the long attack, but really! With no chance of dropping the rest the final burn up was decided between Tim and Tom. As there was no clear definition of where the finishing line was the result was a draw.

Summary: again a very rewarding days riding with a combination of climbs and flatter and faster sections. The training for the October Hill Climb Championship has clearly started!

58 miles at 17.2 mph average.

N.L.A

Sunday 10th August - Storm Chasing

3 riders: Matt F, Tim O and Niels A

With a number of club members participating in the Ride London 100 event, others on training tours in Europe and a far from optimistic weather forecast, the turnout was predictably low. However, this turned out to be an eventful training run with a broad variety of weather facilitated entertainment.

Weather background: the remnants of hurricane Bertha were forecasted to hit southern England with predicted strong winds and heavy rain. This proved to be the case.

The route: From the Pond House to Henley, Watlington via Pishill and out to Stadhampton. Returning via the outskirts of Benson and up Beggarsbush Hill and then immediately right (South) towards Hailey, up Berins Hill and following familiar roads via Stoke Row, Sonning Common, Twyford back to the starting point.

After a short conference in light rain various route options were considered, but it was decided to ‘stick to the plan’ and if needed, adapt and change.

Good progress was made into the fresh wind from the south on the way to White Whaltham were the route went North West towards Henley with Tim and Matt at the front. A cautious descent on the wet White Hill was replaced by a steady climb up Pishill. The pace set by Tim and Niels must have been to slow, as Matt started to whistle (an unrecognisable melody). With this encouragement Tim increased the pace with Matt now at his side. Niels had to drop back on the last sections of the climb, but the high pace delivered PB’s all round.

After the descent into Watlington the route followed in reverse the TV Race Spring Road race course to Stadhampton. Good pace was kept. It was briefly discussed, if we should take a tea stop at the Newington Nurseries. As Tim at the same time reported a softening front tyre, it was decided to combine puncture repair with a break (enjoyed among orchids in the greenhouse).

After the tea stop, patches of blue sky started to appear and the wind speed increased and now moving to a south westerly direction. The improved weather conditions allowed us to dry up, remove rain clothes and generally enjoy ‘the work’ into the now fresh cross wind. At the top of Beggarsbush Hill the route went due South on the narrow lane towards Hailey. This section was wet and with extended sections of gravel and farm detritus. As a result cautious and relatively slow progress was made.

After the turn due east easterly towards Berins Hill the wind had now increased to strong and from the west, this supported the increased pace and Berins Hill was attacked with speed and optimism. This climb is through dense forest, so the wind assistance quickly vanished. The initial steady gradient was replaced by a steeper middle section where the ‘out of saddle’ dancing attack position was needed. Due to the wet roads and general slippery conditions this approach was only rewarded with frustrating rear wheel spin. Needles to say Tim made fast progress, with Matt in hot pursuit and Niels bringing up the rear.

On the run to Stoke Row and Sonning Common the now solid sun provided for comfortable riding and drying roads. However, behind us very heavy and thick black clouds started to gather and a deep rumble of thunder gave warning that we were now being chased. The speed in the ‘storm’ breakaway now increased in a doomed attempt to maintain the break to the finish. Alas, a mile or so before Playhatch a thick solid gray curtain of rain approached from the south west and announced the chasing storm was about to catch the breakaway. It was decided to declare a ‘get the wet weather gear on’ break, but before we could stop, we were hit by first very strong wind and moments later very intense and heavy rain. This was one of these ‘big rain drops and instant wet to the core’ events. The storm did not last long but the intensity of the rain and wind had snapped off branches of trees and created deep pools of water across sections of the road. This made for tricky riding and at Dunsden Green we had to engage in a bit of lumberjack duties and remove a large tree branch that had snapped off and blocked the road.

Shortly before Sonning and in now lighter rain, ‘PUNCTURE!’ was declared, which this time afflicted Tim’s rear wheel. During the time it took to perform the repair the storm had now fully moved ahead of us to the east and was replaced by a crystal clear blue sky. These conditions made for a remarkable contrast & beautiful scenery for the run into Maidenhead. As the old pro, Matt ‘made the calculation’ and allowed Tim and Niels to sit at the front. Tim chatting away freely (riding well within his ability) and Niels providing only one syllable answers (riding at the very edge of his). Approaching the traditional TV burn up, Niels predictably and per tradition, and obviously not based on any rational calculation, went for a long sprint. This was included in Matt’s calculation as he effortlessly and with a knowing smile passed to take first position but with Tim in close contention.

All in all a very rewarding day of riding, providing a broad display of remarkable weather conditions - including nice summer sun to intense rain storm. From a training perspective it provided a gentle stretch for the fitter riders and a full stretch for the less so. Being chased by a storm added to the home run tempo.

61 miles at 18.3 mph average.

N.L.A

Sunday 3rd August

6 Riders: Ian C, Matt F, Oscar H, Dave L, Tony P and guest Peter C

The sun was shining and it was warm, but not too hot - perfect conditions for bike riding! A small gathering of riders turned up at the Pond House, there was no specified route as many people were away this week, so it was decide-on-the-day. Ian C suggested that we could go and watch the Python RT Summer Road Race which was commencing on the famous Drift Road Circuit, a back-breaking 10 laps! We decided to go for a small ride before going to watch it, so we decided to head down to the ever-pleasant Henley-On-Thames.

We set off from the Pond House, riding in a small, tight pack and before too long, we experienced some road rage where a driver tried to overtake and hurled profanities at us. Clearly, he has never read the Highway Code! Dave L decided to offer some ‘advice’ to the driver, but the driver was having none of it and drove off for about 10 metres, then turned into the White Waltham Airfield! Some drivers really will go to extreme lengths to save a couple of seconds!

Anyway, road rage over, we carried on into Twyford where the pace was a little bit higher than usual and then went through Wargrave into Henley, where the pace continued to rise. We then rode through Remenham and climbed Remenham Church Lane (it’s a bit steeper than I remember…!!!) and we regrouped at the top. We spotted Lucas E, who was riding up White Hill and as quickly as we saw him, vanished into the distance again. We then rode through Warren Row to the A4 at Knowl Hill at a sedate space and then tackled the meandering Butchers Lane, carefully negotiating a bunny rabbit who was perched up in the middle of the road, being attended to by another cyclist. Matt F decided to inject some more pace and the pace picked up yet again as we came into White Waltham (this early?!)

We then rode to Paley Street up the recently re-opened Church Hill and Tony P and Matt F commanded the ever-increasing pace at the front. We then overtook Tony P and Peter C, who were stood by the side of the road (it was later found out that Tony P had taken a small tumble and sustained a b it of a gash on his leg) and we then rode through Moneyrow Green up to the Drift Road. We then passed Lord Buckley’s and arrived on North Street, where we saw some marshals, who informed that the race would be passing shortly. There was a breakaway of about 10 and then a big group about 1 minute behind them - it was quite demoralising to see some riders in the group riding at race pace and still being able to chat!!!

We then thought we would try and catch the race again up near Hawthorn Hill, so we rode over, again at an ever-increasing pace where they passed us just before Hawthorn Hill, the same two groups again. Ian C turned off for home at this point and Dave L peeled off at the roundabout and the last 4 riders decided to catch the race again at the ‘straight, lumpy’ section of Drift Road. The race passed again, shortly afterward, again with the same two groups.

After the race passed, we started to head homeward bound and retraced the route back towards Holyport and Bray and we then headed back our respective ways.

No club sprint today!

To summarise, a bit of a pick-and-mix route, but still a pleasant, sunny ride nonetheless. Watching racers racing is far less taxing than racing yourself!

Approximately 42 Miles at 18.4 mph

O.D.H

Sunday 27th July – Benson

A large group assembled at the Pond House for this weeks club run. It wasn't clear I whether it was because of the weather or the clear need to burn off some calories after an excellent club BBQ at Chez Silva's the day before. A few put their hand up for a fast run which left the Oceans 13 of Jim, Stuart, Martin's P and L, Mike, Dave, Ian, Pete C, Russ, Tony, Dhana out for his first club run after trying out the CG,and first timer Bakir, all under the expert guidance of 'The Map' Niels.

We headed north out of Maidenhead and up Winter Hill and onto Quarry Wood Hill, this time for a descent of the switchback into Marlow. Some temporary traffic lights just before Marlow Bridge slowed us temporarily but we were soon through the Town, where Pete C decided to head for home. However, we remained 13 as we were joined by Charles (getting to the the Pond House for 10am is always going to be challenge for a student), and the group headed up Frieth Hill and onwards to the Ends of Lane and Bolter where there was rather a loud bang. No shout was needed to inform everyone of a puncture. We turned to see Jim weaving his quick fix magic only to realise it was him who had punctured - large tare in the tyre side wall so new tube and tyre required and duly fitted. On to Stokenchurch where Dave and Stuart turned for home and the rest put the gas on for the descent of Aston Hill.

Quick regroup and then onwards through Watlington and onwards to Benson, Neils put the hammer down with the thought of coffee at the riverside, and was closely followed by Tony and Ian. There was a sudden slowing of the traffic at one of the pinch points on the run in and Ian duly left some rubber on the road but fortunately stayed upright. Relief at the cafe with well earned cake and coffee. There were cyclists everywhere, clearly a popular cafe stop, and we briefly met the FR for a quick chat. A nice touch was the jugs of water and ice cube bowls which were made use of to keep cool and top up bottles.

Soon on our way again and some were struggling to get going with the long climb up the A4130 towards Nuffield. Some confusion over the route ensued with a left hand turn taken by some and missed by others. On to the top of Pishill before some debate as to whether we should wait or descend? A quick phone all to establish the whereabouts of the rest of our co conspirators without luck so we decided to head on and descended at a good pace into Henley with a stop at Mr Whippy's for a cold coke. Everyone else suddenly reappeared with the exception of Bakir who had taken a shorter route option. Refreshed we carried on to Wargrave before a left turn to the A4 and on towards Maidenhead. Ian took a long turn on the front through to Knowl Hill and then turned for Bracknell along with Dhana to leave the rest to dust it up back to the Pond House (result unknown).

An estimated 53 miles from the PH at 16.7 mph av.

I.C.

Sunday 20th July – Nettlebed

10 riders, Mark, Jim, Dave, Luke on a very splendidly put together retro Colnago, Mike, Neil, Steve, Ian, and guests Pete out for the second time and first timer Simon set out from the PH on a warm and very humid day with Mark volunteering to lead us out in one group as there was no appetite for a fast group on the day.

The route initially headed south out through White Waltham and skirted the environs of Binfield before heading north again through Hurst, and Twyford, where we joined by late starters Niels and Andy(?). The usual wait at Twyford lights before riding on through Sonning and up the climb to Dunsden followed by the long gradual ascent of the Chilterns through Binfield Heath and onwards up to Nettlebed. A quick nature break, feed stop and re-group before heading on to Christmas Common then down through Turville and up over Frieth Hill and then the long descent into Marlow. One last climb to go which was the infamous switchback of Quarrywood Hill, which newbie Pete seemed to make light work of along with Mark and a few others. Niels was about to pass Ian right at the top but a quick sprint saw the order remain and I think Niels may have used some choice words at this point, possibly Danish. Then onwards through Cookham Dean and down Winter Hill back into Maidenhead.

Niels did the usual head down past the group along the Pinkneys Road and then dropped his chain. This seemed like a cunning plan to get someone else to take the lead as, without stopping, he managed to 'sort the mechanical' on the move and get the chain back on. Luckily no one fell for this and Niels was left to take the lead out along St Marks Crescent for the final run in to the PH.

Great ride, 47 miles at 17.4 mph and with two new riders who enjoyed every minute!

I.C.

Sunday 13th July – Aldermaston

7 Riders: Martin L, Martin P, Luke B, Mike M, David L, Pete C (first time) and Niels A.

Weather: fresh wind from NW, with sun and a few rain showers.

Route: a wet weather route had been selected as rain had been predicted following frequent downpours during the preceding days. The route went via Winnersh, Swallowfield and Stratfield Mortimer to Aldermaston and then back via Bradfield, following a route just South of the M4 to Shinfield and then back via Winnersh and Twyford to the Pond House, Maidenhead.

The route was influenced by the fresh NW wind which encouraged group riding out to Aldermaston. Turns at the front were shared, which resulted in a good speed and a reasonably quick ride to the Kennet & Avon Canal Tea Room, Aldermaston. The ride had started in gray weather with sports of light rain, but were replaced by good sunshine to allow for an enjoyable tea stop. On the way to Aldermaston Mike M and Dave L turned off for a shorter distance.

Restarting after the break the route went via the nice little climb up to Beenham, where Pete C showed strength and closely followed the natural climbers (Luke B and Martin L). On the approach to Bradfield, heavy clouds appeared on the horizon in front of us and cars came towards us with headlights and wipers on thereby announcing the soon to arrive shower. Fortunately, this was only short, but judging by the sizeable amount of water on the roads we had escaped the most intense part.

Turning right in Bradfield the testy but short Kiln Copse climb was consumed and with the wind now in the groups back the speed increased and averaged around 20mph on the run back to Maidenhead.

The section from Twyford to the Pond House became a tactical affair as no-one really wanted to spend energy at the front before the final burn-up. Luke altruistically did spend the longest time as lead, but not quite at lead-out man speed. However, on the turn onto the A4 the pace naturally increased, but the final sprint was abandoned as the pedestrian traffic light on final approach went to Red (it stays on red for a very long time). TV burn-up finish order: none declared.

60 miles at 17.8 mph average speed.

Garmin Route

N.L.A.

Sunday 6th July – Coombe Hill

10 Riders: Jim A, Andy B, Steven G, Oscar H, Martin L, Robert M, John N, Tony P, Mark W and guest Tim O’R

10 Riders turned up at the Pond House this morning for a ride into the Chilterns north of High Wycombe, Missenden, Chesham Butlers Cross and Chinnor. There was a bit of a divide with regards to clothing as the weather was a little bit chilly in the morning, but it would turn out to be pleasantly warm as the ride progressed. We made the decision to ride as one group as there weren’t enough riders and some were only out for a short ride anyway. We headed into Cookham at a gradually increasing pace, then into Wooburn Green where Route Master Brown led us through a quieter lane than the parallel A40. Mark W turned back at this point as he needed to get home for his daughter’s birthday and Rob M peeled off up Marlow Hill pretty shortly after.

After negotiating the many roundabouts of High Wycombe, we began the long, gradual climb up to Hughenden Valley with ‘potholes galore’. It was then onto a very pleasant little lane through the shaded woods near the Great Hampden area. After a quick nature break stop, we carried on with the ride and Tony P and Tim O’R turned back. As soon as we knew it, we passed through Roald Dahl village and again onto more picturesque, quiet lanes. With a gradual climb and a short, steep descent, we had now reached Chesham - a very nice alternative to the main road from Great Missenden.

Another gradual climb was on the cards as we climbed up to Chartridge. The rest of the lane would prove to be very ‘lumpy’, but it was still pleasant nonetheless. After a quick ‘cameo’ on the A413, Andy B advised us to drop down to the inner ring as there’d be quite a hard climb round the corner. True to his word, there was and we negotiated the climb of Dunsmore at our own pace. We were rewarded with a short, steep descent and then another rise. Whilst we had originally planned a coffee stop, the ice-cream van by Coombe Hill beckoned and it was a very worthy substitute!

Ice-Cream demolished, we then descended down the bumpy road into Butler’s Cross and into Ellesborough and we rode well as a group with Andy B and Oscar H taking a long turn on the front into Chinnor. Whilst Chinnor Hill was on the cards, we decided to ‘save it for another day’ and instead climbed Aston Hill into Stokenchurch which we took at our own pace. Andy B turned off for home at this point and the final 5 riders descended down Windmill Hill and down Frieth into Marlow. We decided to ride the flat way home via Bourne End, where we took our respective ways home - Jim A, Martin L and Steve G back in the Maidenhead direction and Oscar H and John N climbed up Wash Hill back into Burnham, not wanting to leave the club run on a ‘flat note’.

No club sprint today!

Overall, a very pleasant ride with picturesque views and quiet lanes - definitely one to use again in the future.

Approximately 69 Miles at 16.7mph

Garmin Route

O.D.H

Sunday 29th June – Brill

8 riders: Matt F, Mark W, John N, Martin P, Mark M, Dave L, Stephen G, Niels A.

With quite a few riders participating in a different races a smaller group than normal assembled at the Pond House in pleasant summer weather (sunshine and a fresh wind from North West).

With the smaller group it was decided to merge the fast and club run. In the absence of our normal routemaster Andy B (who was racing at Hillingdon in the Westerly CC crit.), Martin P stepped in as navigator for a route to Brill.

The section out was largely into the wind which overall encouraged close group riding. The route went via Knowl Hill to Henley where some riders preferred the direct route down White Hill and others the more scenic Remenham Church Lane. After this short split the group re-assembled in Henley and continued up Pishill with Matt and Mark setting a solid pace at the front. Club runs are a good opportunity to test the form (personal and relative) and this climb acted to do just that. Slowly the group got smaller as Matt and Mark grinded on from the front with Matt eventually being the first to the top. Here Dave L and Stephen G turned for home and as Mark W had left a little earlier the remaining group continued down Howe Hill to Watlington. From here the route went via Pyrton, the A40, Oakley and then up the decent climb to Brill. A short detour was made to the local windmill, where a group photo was taken and the beautiful views of the Oxfordshire country side duly enjoyed. With the two climbs and around 35 miles of heading into the fresh NW wind, a few calories had been consumed and it was an easy decision to head for the The Coffee House, Thame for energy and fluid restocking.

A light drizzle made the tea stop a bit longer than normal. However, the fresh wind and now intermittent sunshine quickly ensured dry road surfaces. From Thame the route went up the familiar Aston Hill. Matt continued to show his good form with an attack from the front and Martin P on his wheel. From the top of Aston Hill the group went at good speed down Oxford Road to Fingest and then over Frieth Road into Marlow. As Martin is preparing for multiple ascents of the Alpe d’Huez in early July (Marmotte) it was decided to drop the planned flatter route via Bourne End and instead include Quarry Wood with its (single) hairpin as the Sunday's "bonus" climb. We hope it made some small contribution to Martin’s preparations and we look forward to hear about his successes in the Alps.

All in all, a long but very enjoyable day of good and varied riding topped off with light refreshments in the sun outside the Pond House.

70 miles at 17.5mph average speed.

N.L.A

Sunday 22nd June – The Checkendon Triangle

6 Riders: Jim A, Martin P, Matt A, David L, Oscar H, Stuart R and Niels A.

In glorious summer sunshine and light easterly wind the riders assembled in front of the Pond House quickly decided on a trip to Benson in two groups, a "fast run" (Laurence wanted a bit of a blast) and the club run. The fast group of Andy B, Laurence M, Mark W, Paul A, Stephen F set off first and the club run shortly after.

The route went north out of Maidenhead and via Cookham to Marlow, where Oscar bailed (cramming for a physics exam) and then followed a familiar route and gentle climb up Frieth Road / Chalkpit Lane but at steady speed. During a short regroup at the top of the climb Nick S rolled by on his own training run. The route then took us north to Lane End and then West to Stokenchurch and along the A40 to the top of Aston Hill. From here the group turned south west to Christmas Common, where David L and Stuart R turned for home and an early lunch. It is always a rush going down Hill Road into Watlington, but even better in glorious summer sunshine and with the breeze from the east it made for an enjoyable descent. From here it was along the B4009 and at good speed to Benson for a coffee stop at the Waterfront Café, where we linked up with the fast run group.

The two groups rode together south on the A4074 and turned left up Cox’s Lane and for what Andy promised would be a glorious view across the flowering poppy fields. This was the backdrop for one of the more beautiful rides last year, but alas this year wheat was the most common crop. Still impressive, but...

To maintain the objective of "a bit of a blast" for the fast run, a separation was negotiated between the two groups and with Andy B’s final advice of turning left at (lost in the breeze) the fast group went ahead. Now, having not really heard Andy’s directions and also not stopping to plan the route ahead the club run continued straight and South of Ipsden into very unfamiliar and for the remaining 4 riders uncharted territory. As the landscape became more impressive the lanes turned worse and instead of pointing out holes or rubble the call instead went out for the rare "spot of good surface to the left". Despite the poor surface we were finally rewarded with a decent and enjoyable climb up Bottom Lane. Here Matt demonstrated his rapidly improving form by putting in an attack that stretched out the rest of the group.

We rejoined better roads at Checkendon, where Niels confidently declared Woodcote as the next point on the route back. It will remain a mystery as to what actually happened, but after 10 miles of hard riding the group were back at Checkendon. This area will now in TV history invariably be called the "Checkendon Triangle" where navigational skills will be tested to the limit. Jim now took over as trusted navigator (and rightfully so) and safely got the group back via Peppard Common, Henley, up Remenham Hill and Knowl Hill for the usual fast finish to the Pond House.

Despite the uncharted territory with sections of poor roads, navigational malfunctions, this was a very enjoyable ride. This was probably helped by the glorious sunshine and absence of punctures.

Summary: 70 miles (60 miles planned) at 17mph average speed.

NLA

Sunday 15th June – Club Run

Not wishing to miss a photo call there seemed to more riders than expected for such a dull summers day, and not going unnoticed was a very proud Tim with his splendid new Ridley bicycle. David Bailey shoot over, and there was a steady roll out with most opting for the fast run being led by Andy and Neils leading the the normal club run with John, Ian, Tony and Oscar and Dave in tow (the latter two only being out for a short ride with Maths GCSE exam on tomorrow - you're never too old they say).

Straight run along the A4 westwards to start before heading through White Waltham along Bottle Lane through Warren Row and then into Henley where, for a change, we turned left in Henley and headed up through Harpsden and looped round towards Stoke Row, along which we passed the 'fast' run who were busy fixing a puncture. We continue on in slow chain gang fashion and were soon through Woodcote and starting on the road to Goring. Niels suggested we took it easy to Goring before the big climb up Streatley Hill. Famous last words as a group of riders went past and Niels was straight on the tail and the speed soon went up again. Things speeded up even more on the descent to Goring and Ian sped off the front down into Goring and up Streatley to wait at the top for the others. The next to appear were the fast group who reported Niels had punctured on the descent (doh!).

Not long and with puncture fixed we were back together to continue on through Aldworth (home of the famous Bell PH) and onto the cafe stop at Ashampstead. Clearly ruffled by the appearance of a large group of cyclists (both groups arriving together) we waited patiently for coffee but resorted to the general shop to get the cakes in.

Break over we rolled out as one group and headed along gravel strewn lanes (result from Friday nights thunder storms no doubt) through to Pangbourne, and over to Emmer Green in between which there was a short section of busy road so we split once more into two roughly equal groups. Through to Dunsden Green and the fast descent to Playhatch through Sonning and up to the A4. The tempo was clearly starting to go up as we headed into Twyford and a wait at the lights meant the gloves were off as soon as they turned green. Ian and Steve G took turns on the front soon joined by Martin and some 'encouragement' (?) being offered by Niels from behind. Through to White Waltham where Ian turned for home which just seemed to leave Steve and Niels to fight it out all the way to the Pond House (outcome unknown).

Riding without Garmin was in some ways quite refreshing with not knowing how far or how fast. As a guess though, Approx 64 miles @ 17mph

I.C.

Sunday 8th June – Club Run

12 Riders: Andy B, Nick S, Matt F, Tim B, Mark W, Jim A, John N, Neil T, Ian C, Martin P, Mark M, Dave L.

For the first time in a long time, no guest riders joined us on today’s club run, so a bakers’ dozen of Thames Velo jerseys headed out on what has to be the hottest day of the year so far!

Before we had even started, Jim had it pointed out too him that he’d put his bib shorts on inside out, and rather than have his pad on the outside resembling a baboon’s backside, he found somewhere discreet to rectify his dressing mishap!

Heading out through Cookham and Frieth Hill via Marlow the momentum was slowed when Mark M suffered a puncture and Jim set to speedily fix it before setting off again to climb Fingest Lane and over to West Wycombe where we passed the ‘Failed Road Surface’ sign into Bottom Road where, again, Mark M was forced to stop with his second puncture. Again Jim stepped forward to work his magic and we were off into Radnage where, this time, Martin punctured and the now predictable scenario of Jim mending it whilst we all chatted.

Back on route and we headed onto Thame where we enjoyed a coffee stop at the Coffee House where the waitress obviously took pity on Andy after crashing whilst racing and served him a huge slab of carrot cake.

Heading home the wind was against us and a long pull from Nick and Mark was rewarded by an equally long pull from Matt and Andy until we reached the bottom of Aston Hill where we found that the road was cordoned off for what was assumed would be an accident. At the top we were greeted with the sobering sight of the police and the remains of a motorbike and a car to sadly confirm our thoughts.

The return was via the descent of Frieth and back through Marlow and up the switchback climb of Quarry Wood Hill and back to the Pond House.

55 miles at 17mph average speed.

M.W.

Sunday 1st June – Club Run

Seven riders – Mark W, Niels A, John N, Jim A, Lucas E and guests, Tim O’Regan and Tony (I think?).

The first day of June and a bit of welcome sun for the handful of riders for the club run who weren’t otherwise engaged in racing in one of various events or riding the Chiltern 100 sportive.

As Thames Velo had a team of four racing in the GS Henley road race on the Woodcote circuit it was decided to ride out and give some support to our club mates whilst enjoying the sun and a ride.

Mark and Tim led the group out through the Walthams and up and over Playhatch towards Woodcote. Tim was full of stories of his recent exploits racing the eight stage An Post Ras in Ireland and before long we were approaching the familiar sight of red flags, marshals and ‘cycle event’ signs as we began riding the Woodcote circuit in reverse.

As the race had recently passed, we were able to descend to the open windswept landscape and reach the junction of Wallingford Road where we waited for the race to pass where we shouted out our encouragement to Laurence, Tom, Paul and Mickael before heading on to climb the long drag up the A4074 and back in time to catch the race at the finish line.

After a quick chat with the lads who had raced we basically retraced our route back where, at Cannon Hill we encountered the not much seen Mr Mike Mills out for a spin, who joined us back at the Pond House for a catch up before we all headed off for our rides home.

Approx 50 miles at 17mph average speed.

M.W.

Sunday 25th May – (TVFR) Fast Run

Nine Riders: Mark W, Rob M, Matt F, Anastasia W, Tim B, Luke G plus guests, Andrew B, Kurt and Neil.

With our regular ride organiser temporarily side-lined, Mark W stepped in at the last minute and played it safe with a well trodden route out to Benson.

Seven riders opted for the faster ride and just before Marlow we picked up Kurt and Neil who had planned on joining the ride en route. Heading out we had the benefit of a tailwind but after descending Aston Hill the run through Watlington to Benson had Rob and Matt doing some strong pulls on the front to battle the side wind.

After a pleasant coffee stop at Benson, Andrew decided to hang on and wait for the second group to ride back with them whilst the rest of us pressed on. By now we were riding into the wind and Mark, who'd been shaking off a chest infection, began to suffer on the front on Gangsdown Hill and must have been hallucinating as, out of no-where, Andy B appeared and informed the group that the road at Nettlebed was closed and diverted us back on track before disappearing again!

Deciding that Stonor was probably going to be flooded after the recent rain we headed over Christmas Common and descended Dolesden Lane and the Hambleden Valley back to Henley where Neil took more than his share of turns pulling strongly on the front (I later found out that he is Neil Hoban, ex-pro and former Olympian!).

Despite the wind a decent pace was maintained back through Warren Row and the along the A4 to finish again at the Pond House.

60 miles at 19.1mph average speed.

M.W.

Sunday 25th May – (TVCR) Club Run

11 Riders: Niels A, Ian C, Pete C, Lucas E, Oscar H, Martin L, Neil T and Guests Tony P, Andrew B (from HWCC) and Matthew A. With Andy B for the return trip.

Another sunny day for a Thames Velo Club Run and 10 riders turned up at the Pond House, with 3 new faces - Andrew B, Matthew A and Tony P, who’s been out with us before. Ian C was sporting a new Kuota Kuraro with all the trimmings. With normal Route Master Brown away this week, Mark W stepped up to the challenge for route duties. The proposed route was out to the Benson Riverside Cafe, a favourite for Thames Velo. The route would take us up Winter Hill to descend Quarry Wood Hill into Marlow, up to Frieth then to Stokenchurch where we would then descend Aston Hill and follow the B4009 into Benson. The return trip would be via Nettlebed, Pishill, Henley, Warren Row for a final burn-up back to the Pond House from Knowl Hill.

We set off via Courthouse Road up to Pinkneys Green where we then went up the ever-pleasant Winter Hill up to the summit of Quarry Wood Road Hill, which we then carefully descended. After a quick regroup in Marlow, we set off up Frieth Road where Pete C turned off for home. Lucas E took some long turns at the front up the climb. As usual, this was a scenic, gradual climb and we had a bit of a tailwind on our backs. As we reached the top, Niels A suggested rather than heading up to Lane End, having a bit of climbing practice (the Chiltern 100 is next week after all!) and head up Fingest Lane. So that’s exactly what we did! Oscar H and Lucas E got to the front and started to have a bit of a race up the climb with Niels A in hot pursuit. As the gradient got steeper, Oscar H switched to the inner ring and dropped his chain, taking a ‘slow-motion’ tumble into the bushes. The rest of the riders negotiated the climb and Niels A came down to help Oscar H get the chain back on and put a bent shifter into place.

We all regrouped at the top of the climb and Niels A encouraged riding more closely together as a group. Within 30 seconds of setting off, Oscar H dropped his chain again as he was switching back to the big ring so another stop was required! Problem solved, we set off again sticking closely as a group up to Stokenchurch where we then realised that Tony P was missing. Niels A and John N went down to go and find him - it was later found that he had punctured on the way up.

We carried on riding through Stokenchurch and then descended Aston Hill into Lewknor where another disaster struck! Martin L had lost his rain jacket so had to head off back up Aston Hill to find it - it was later found that he had lost it near Lane End and was in the end, happily reunited with it! As for the rest of the group, we started doing some through-and-off into Watlington where the pace increased and we then rode well as a group into Benson with a nice tailwind on our backs. Usual service was in order at the Benson Riverside Cafe with the chocolate cake proving to be a hit among many riders. Ian C discovered a loyalty card at the till, might be worth using for future visits. Andrew B, who had ridden with Fast Group to Benson decided to ride with the normal group for the return route back.

We then set off for the second half of the ride and arrived at an almost instantaneous climb of Beggarsbush Hill which we climbed at our own pace. Then out of nowhere, an Andy Brown figure appeared out of nowhere and joined the back of the group. We regrouped at the top of the climb and then climbed the next climb, Gangsdown Hill and we made a left turn through the woods as the road into Nettlebed was closed. The pace increased and both Andy’s took long turns at the front of the group. We then arrived at the summit of Pishill where we regrouped and as Niels A and Matthew A arrived, Oscar H thinking they were going to roll on started to descend the climb. Some high speeds were reached as we descended Pishill into Henley and a team comprised of both Andy’s sped off into the distance taking the honours. Another group comprised of Lucas E, Ian C and Tony P followed with Niels A, Matthew A and Oscar H leading the back.

After a regroup at the bottom, we then headed down the bumpy Fair Mile into Henley. Neil T turned for home at this point. Rather than head up White Hill or through Wargrave, we decided to take the more scenic approach heading through Remenham and up the climb to Warren Row where we all regrouped. Lucas E decided to make his own way back home. The speed increased as we formed two groups and we reached quite a high speed up to Knowl Hill. We then regrouped as to allow everyone a chance to compete in the final sprint.

A team of Andy B, Andrew B, John N, Niels A and Oscar H started to make a break with Tony P and Matthew A not far behind. With Oscar H slipping to the back of the group, he made a punt to get to the front with John N getting on his wheel. Then Niels A got on the front with Oscar H in hot pursuit. The ‘fun’ came at the A404 junction. John N went deep on the inside and got a small break that Andy B managed to get on the back of. Oscar H missed completely so he was out of the running. Niels then opened up a gap which Andrew B closed. The whole spectacle came to a halt when there was a red light at the final 150m stretch. John N timed the start after the regroup best, however Andrew B managed to comfortably outsprint John N with Andy in 3rd and Niels in 4th. Oscar H then came a short moment later, then Tony P and Matthew A. Drinks were all around at the Pond House.

A great, sunny club run and the Riverside Cafe is always a good destination to refuel. It was great to see some new faces and to unexpectedly cross paths with Andy B who came back to the Pond House with us. Some suitable hills included as preparation for next week's Chiltern 100.

Approximately 55 miles at 17mph

O.D.H

Sunday 18th May – (VCR) Veterans Club Run

8 riders – Pete C, Russell C-S, John N, Martin P, Aman S, Niels A and guests: Amrit S and Matt A

During a Britsh spring, weather conditions can change rapidly. The previous Sunday had served up very blustery (you could easily fly a big iron kit) and cold conditions for the successful Thames Velo Road Race. However, for this Sunday the weather was treating us to wonderful early summer sunshine and light winds from the South. After a series of club runs in windy and wet conditions these benign weather conditions had to be enjoyed to the maximum and therefore created a relaxed mood for the club run.

The route tracked from The Pond House, Wargrave, Henley, Hambleden valley to Fingest, then up Dolesden Lane (climb), Christmas Common, across to the A40 and down Kingston Hill to the B4009 and through Chinnor for a Tea Stop at Orchard View Farmshop (Stockwell Lane). The return route went via Princes Risborough, Wardrobes Lane (climb), Loosley Row and back down via Lee Road and Wigans Lane (climb - aka Rubbish Dump Hill), down Bledlow Ridge to the A40 West for a few clicks followed by Bullocks Farm Lane (climb) to Lane End and then familiar territory down Frieth Road to Marlow and via Quarry Wood Road (climb) back finally to The Pond House, Maidenhead.

The initial pace through to Fingest was medium to high and ensured all were fully warmed up for the first climb of Dolesden Lane. The climb was attacked with enthusiasm and swiftly dispatched. Amin had researched the route to Christmas Common and put in a determined Strava attack at North End (result still unknown).

At Christmas Common Amin and Amrit had to turn back and as Pete had left earlier we were now down to the veterans (excluding guest Matt).

On most club runs there is an underlying desire to put in 'work', but on this run the weather was just too nice and had to be enjoyed and as a result the mood changed to "let’s relax and gently roll". The drop in pace was also enforced by the knowledge of 4 more climbs to come. The gentle pace allowed for full enjoyment of the wonderful conditions on the ride to the tea stop at Orchard View Farm. Here we linked up with the depleted fast run.

The Orchard View Farmshop can be recommended for the nourishing baked beans (home made apparently - Ed)on toast and especially tasty rhubarb cake. It might have been the good food, nice weather, veteran mood, knowledge of the 4 climbs to come or a combination of them all, but the usual brisk tea stop was replaced by a longer but very enjoyable lunch break where the discussions ranged from British Cycling’s business model to the cleaning power of aged Swarfega.

Now well behind schedule, is was on to Princes Risborough and up Wardrobes Lane. This is a nice climb with a kick towards the end, but as it is well covered by trees towards the end it could be enjoyed in the shade. By now Russell had developed a front derailleur problem and decided to take a short cut from Loosley Row back to the Pond House.

Next on the agenda was Wigans Lane up to the top of Bledlow Ridge and then down to the A40. The descent towards the A40 has good visibility and in the "tucked-in" position produced the highest speed of the day (75km/h).

After negotiating a Sunday afternoon traffic jam on the A40 at West Wycombe caves, it was westward and then up the narrow Bullocks Farm Lane. This was a new sector for the veterans and as it looked (very) less travelled, a map check had to be made. After positive verification the group started the climb. Surprisingly, quite a few cars were making the journey down, but they all very kindly made space so we could freely labour up this average 9% climb (for this we thank you).

At the top of the climb and near Lane End it was now onto familiar territory via Frieth Road down into Marlow and then up Quarry Wood Road for the last climb of the day followed by a gentle roll to the Pond House for cool refreshments in the sun. Well done to Matt for sticking with the plan and all the climbs.

Summary: a beautiful ride in the best of British summer weather conditions, which turned a club run into a gentle veterans excursion (except the climbs) in the Chilterns. Distinction goes to Martin for getting a few yards shy of the 100 mile mark for the day. EDIT - Oops ... 161.6km for Chairman Martin

66 miles at 15 mph average

N.L.A.

Sunday 4th May – Club Run

Riders: Niels A, Tim B, Andy B, Tom B, Ian C, Matthew F, Steven G, Oscar H, Aman S, Martin L, Dave L, Adam M, John N, Martin P and Neil T

To quote Mark W from a previous club run report - “Riding bikes is fun and when it’s sunny, it’s sublime!” - this was most certainly the case today! After being plagued with miserable weather for the past two weeks, the sun was shining today and there wasn’t any rain in sight! 15 riders turned up to the Pond House eager to make the most of the sun. The route was the second instalment of Route Master Brown’s ‘Scenic, New Roads’ Series, the first being a trip out to West Berkshire a couple of weeks back that was very well received. The route would take us to Henley, Stokenchurch and then Haddenham for a prescribed coffee stop to the Little Italy Cafe, then up through the scenic climbs (and new roads) of Cuddington, Ashendon and Dorton before looping back to Thame. Then, the usual way back to Stokenchurch and back to Marlow and then the Pond House. As this was a ride to be enjoyed, it was decided to stick as one big group.

As usual, we set off down the Bath Road into Altwood, ‘testing’ out the newly resurfaced roundabout under the A404 bridge. We then sped through White Waltham and up-and-over the new Milley Bridge. We then crossed the Bath Road into Wargrave and then after a ‘taster climb-and-descent’ we arrived in the ever-pleasant Henley. After a quick wait at the traffic lights, we continued on up Fair Mile and into Stonor. It was at this point that we rode through a huge, muddy puddle and Oscar H, imitating Anastasia W’s usual ploy, got covered in it! The first proper climb of the day was the climb of Balham’s Lane up to North End and the changing of gears sounded as we headed up the climb. After a quick regroup and nature break stop at top, we carried on into Christmas Common where the Cannondale duo of Matthew F and Adam M controlled the pace at the front. We then arrived at the summit of Kingston Hill, where Tom B, Dave L and Aman S peeled off for home. We carefully descended the steep and technical descent of Kingston Hill into Sydenham and we then rode well as a group through Towersey into Haddenham where we stopped for coffee/coke and cake at the Little Italy. The Little Italy was a lovely coffee stop that actually felt like an Italian coffee shop. We sat down in the back garden to have our refreshments and Niels A and Oscar H ‘guarded’ the bikes at the front.

Coffee and Cake completed, we decided to split into two groups, the normal group comprised of Niels A, Ian C, Oscar H, Martin L, John N and Neil T and the faster group of Tim B, Andy B, Matthew F, Steven G, Adam M and Martin P. It wasn’t the traditional fast group, just a little bit faster so we were only about a minute or two behind each other. Niels A resumed his Route Master duties for the normal group whilst Andy B led the faster group. We now headed on the glorious ups and downs to and through the historic Cuddington where Oscar H had a bit of ‘hill practice’ and we then cycled past some scenic views as we headed up the glorious climb to Ashendon to which we were rewarded with the cool descent down into Dorton, passing the manor pertaining to Edward the Confessor.

We then passed through Thame where we then started a bit of ‘through and off’ up until we got to a closed road. We ‘authorised’ ourselves to head down the road as it was open a little further up and we then came to a set of temporary traffic lights. They weren’t changing (most probably operated by a sensor) and Martin L decided to try all sorts of ways of getting the lights to change. As they still weren't changing, we then thought, “To hell with it!” and we rode down the opposite way minding the road works. We then came to the next climb of the day, Aston Hill and some of us got a bit ‘racey-racey’ going up it! Martin L and Oscar H took to the front trying to make a gap and this worked until Niels A managed to overtake and breakaway. Oscar H then followed Niels A and managed to get in front only then to be pipped by Niels A at the top.

We quickly regrouped at the top, just seeing the Fast Group leaving our famous regrouping site. The rest of the riders took a controlled climb up Aston Hill and we then headed down into Ibstone, picking up some good speed and we carefully negotiated the descent of Windmill Hill. On now through Fingest, Ian C, Martin L and John N decided to pick up the pace a bit with Oscar H in the middle and the Bianchi duo of Niels A and Neil T riding at a more controlled pace at the back. We then passed through Frieth and descended into Marlow.

Now onto the final climb of the day, Quarry Wood Hill, where once again, there was a bit of a race to the top. Martin L and Ian C got to the front and then just before the hairpin, Oscar H overtook with Niels A in hot pursuit. The hairpin was a little more challenging than usual (probably as it was more towards the end of a ride). Oscar H continued to breakaway and as he got to the final incline, a grinning Niels A made a dash only to be countered by Oscar H who picked the pace up even more to just beat Niels A to the top.

After a quick regroup at the summit, Martin L decided to carry on as he needed to get back and we then began the last part of the ride. After riding steadily down Winter Hill, Niels A then attempted a breakaway only to be countered by Oscar H and Ian C. We then rode into Pinkneys Green where Niels A made a successful breakaway only to be halted by a car turning into Courthouse Road. John N then ‘appeared out of thin air’ and managed to make the turn before anyone else could and Niels A and Oscar H then closed down the gap, overtaking John N. We got to the final turning at the roundabout near the Pond House and Oscar H and Niels A drew with John N in 3rd. Ian C and Neil T arrived shortly after. The Fast Group were waiting at the Pond House already. The best way to finish a ride is to sit down and chat with drinks at the end and that’s exactly what we did

Overall, a fantastic follow-up in Andy B’s ‘Scenic, New Roads’ series! It was a great route filled with scenic landscapes and there was a good mix of climbs too.

Approx 75 miles at 16.8 mph (a Century for Tim B, Martin P and Neil T and Well Done to Stuart R for completing the Classic Oxfordshire Sportive!)

Garmin Route

O.D.H.

Sunday 27th April – Club Run

Riders: Andy B, Tom B, Niels A, Anastasia W, Matt F, Steve G, Mark W, John N, Dave L, Ian C and guest, Tim O’R.

The plan for today was to ride out to Great Milton and inspect the road for pot holes or other obstacles in preparation of our annual spring road race in two weeks’ time.

The earlier rain cleared as we all arrived at the Pond House and the sun had just about come out enough to give the false hope that the day wouldn’t be as wet as forecasted after all!

By the time we’d descended Quarry Hill, where Matt suffered a puncture, the sky was darkening and the wind picking up to make the prospect of a dry ride unlikely, and by the time we’d passed through Marlow and began climbing Frieth the rain had set in.

Undeterred, we dropped down into Turville and climbed the steep section of ‘Windmill Hill’ and on towards Stokenchurch, by which time John, Ian and Dave decided to head back, leaving a cosmopolitan group of eight, made up of an Irishman, South African, Dane and, now they have minority status, a Cornishman in Mark, to enjoy a face stinging rainy descent of Aston Hill, and then on through Pyrton to join the race circuit at the top of Clare Hill.

For our race director, Tom, this was his first chance to ride the race circuit, so a useful opportunity to familiarise himself with its parcours, and for Tim, who is planning on racing the race himself, a first chance to get a feel of it.

By now we were about halfway around our ride and at the furthest possible point from home, so what better time for the rain to decide to ‘chuck it down’! Despite being now completely soaked, spirits were still high and we picked the pace up through the Miltons and past Chalgrove with a bit of ‘through and off’ to complete the reccy of the race circuit.

Turning for home we climbed Hill Road out of Watlington and, by the time we’d descended Stonor and back towards Henley, the rain had stopped and were soon on the A4 enjoying a strong pull on the front from Matt and Tim, before Niels made his customary long attack for the sprint, but with Tom jumping on his wheel, he was able to enjoy a pull to the finish and to take the honours.

64 miles at 17.5 mph average speed.

M.W.

Sunday 20th April - Club Run

Riders: Andy B, John N, Oscar H, Neil T, David L and Niels A.

Weather: Fresh 15 mph Easterly, 9 - 11C and heavy rain as the day progressed.

It was always going to be difficult to match the previous Sunday’s excellent club run in glorious spring sunshine made even more enjoyable by Andy B's partial re-creation of the Thames Velo Classic TLAW ("Turn Left at Wantage") route. For this Sunday Andy had planned a route further to the South and for a good part into new territory. However, the forecasted rain kept the turnout low.

Irrespective of the gathering clouds, the group set of from the Pondhouse and with the wind largely on the back, good progress was made. John had given notice that he would only be out for a short ride and left near Hare Hatch. Via the descent from Kenton’s Lane, the route followed the A321 to Henley. En-route we met another ride and had a brief chat about the merit of single file versus two abreast group riding. Outcome: inconclusive.

Forewarned by the darkening clouds, Oscar and David decided to turn back. Neil had turned up in full summer kit but decided it was better to at least put on a rain jacket.

The normal route out of Henley was replaced by one more to the South East, including a climb up Chalk Hill and then following a very scenic route via Kidmore End, then south towards Caversham where Neil decided to leave as this was close to home. So far we had avoided the rain and dark clouds to the south, but the roads were in several places very wet following earlier downpours. The group was now down to Andy and Niels, who continued towards Goring Heath along the very picturesque lanes to Whitchurch. Not only is the landscape beautiful, but the undulating roads made for excellent cycling.

As the Whitchurch Bridge over the Thames was still under repair, we had to walk across the temporary footbridge to Pangbourne. From here the route went up Pangbourne Hill.

Now, you can ride your luck for some time (good tailwind, avoiding direct rain and so on), but on the descent towards Bradfield it started to run out. Under speed Niels had an instantaneous noisy deflation of the front tyre, but he did manage to bring the bike to a safe stop. Careful examination did not reveal an offending hole, so it was therefore diagnosed as a pinch puncture. Andy demonstrated how to remove and replace a tyre without the use of levers, and when Niels was packing up the torn inner tube, Andy spotted the newly inserted inner tube coming out through a cut in the tyre sidewall. Applying an improvised boot of several puncture repair patches and putting Andy’s "no levers" demonstration to good use, we were soon back on the road, albeit with greatly reduced tyre pressure (later measured to 40 psi), as this was all the boot was able to support.

At this time the rain slowly started and at Bradfield it was decided to cut the trip short and head for home via the short but sharp climb (up to 16%) on the road to Theale. Now we were heading directly into the wind and with steadily increasing rain, the return trip turned into a long, cold and energy sapping experience. Not even passing by AWE Burghfield could distract us from the increasing cold and as we reached the 'clear water in the shoes' stage navigational errors were made. Finally back on track at Mortimer the route went through Swallowfield and Arborfield Cross and with Andy taking some very long and determined pulls at the front good progress were made. It is enough to say that this ride produced a couple of very cold, very wet and tired riders.

Distance: 114km / 71miles at 27 km/h (17 mph) average speed.

Despite the rain, cold, technical malfunction it was still a good day out. This is the second rain failed attempt to visit the Kennet & Avon Canal Tea Room. As this is a great route another try to complete has to be made.

N.A.

Sunday 13th April - Fast Run

10 riders – Andy B, Matt F, Rob M, Steve G, Anastasia W, Mark W, Adam M, Clark A, and guests: Tim O’R and Anna-Marie H.

Riding bikes is fun, and when it’s sunny, its sublime!

The routes for our rides always take in pleasant locations and good roads to ride but today’s was a rare trip down to West Berkshire and the Berkshire Downs for a special treat taking in some stunning scenery. The Fast Run set off along familiar roads towards Wallingford via Henley (Rob peeling off for an earlier finish and later Steve dropping back to join the club run), but from there we were reliant on Andy to guide us along fantastic twisting roads and through picturesque villages.

The open exposed fields of fragrant yellow rapeseed allowed great views towards the strangely attractive Didcot power station, but also allowed the strong westerly wind to force the riders into a tight group to gain maximum shelter behind the riders pulling on the front. Special mention should go to Tim and Anastasia who, despite being the most compact riders in the group, seemed to spend longer on the front than most! After a pleasant coffee stop where Adam regaled us of his exploits riding Flanders the week before, we set off again, passing the science-y place thing-y where they do something with electrons... and stuff (sorry Tom, I wasn’t very good at Physics!), and kept a good pace along the road to Wantage with some through and off.

At Wantage we took an innocent looking left hand turn where Andy advised a prudent change into the little ring and began the first steep ramp of Chain Hill. The climb is made up of a series of plateaus and steep ramps which allows a little time to enjoy the stunning views across West Berkshire.

After the climb we turned to have the wind at our backs and enjoyed some idyllic riding roads through East and West Ilsley. With the rolling roads the pace picked up and a mini race ensued with plenty of short attacks and chasing of wheels whilst powering up the short sharp ramps.

A short stop to fix Clarky’s puncture and we were off again and down Streatley Hill and up and over towards Sonning and back through Twyford and along the Walthams. As ever, the pace began to build and on the approach to the Pond House the group were still all together for a (first time in my experience) bunch sprint! Clarky looked to come first just nudging Anastasia off top spot with the rest all coming in together behind.

A slightly longer than normal ride but riding as a tight group at a steady pace makes for an enjoyable and efficient ride and the sunshine only added to the joy. We won't mention the blow out that shredded Anna-Marie’s tyre on the way home, but a quick phone call managed to call the dad-taxi to collect her.

80 miles at 19mph average.

M.W.

Sunday 13th April - Club Run

A large group of riders assembled at the Pond House on a gloriously sunny day with the prospect of a longer club run out to West Berks. Leaving the fast group to go on their way the remaining riders were Niels, Stuart, Ian, John, Luke, Pete, Dave, and first timer Mark. Neils, Ian and Stuart had all downloaded the route so between us should be able to stay on the right track.

The route out took us through White Waltham, up Bottle Lane to Knowl Hill, through Cockpole Green and the fast descent into Henley. Pete and Dave turned off here and the rest headed out of Henley on the main road to Wallingford. The electron beam from the 3 billion volt particle accelerator at Harwell, to which we were heading towards, was against us as this point as well as the climb up to Nettlebed, and everyone was taking their turn on the front to battle this negative energy. Luke turned for home as the group headed down into Wallingford where they picked up Steve G who had dropped back from the fast group.

Onwards and westwards through the Hagbournes, and then passing to the south of Didcot with the view of the cooling towers and across the A34 at Chilton and into the garden centre cafe for coffee cake sandwiches etc. Steve decided to retrace his pedal turning and head for home as were weren't even half way yet and when was the nasty electron beam going to assist and be in our favour? The answer was another 8 miles up the road after passing through Wantage and then up the lung busting 15% climb of Chain Hill. The climb was worth it with the top at the highest point on today's route offering stunning views across the Berkshire Downs. Here, we were into West Berkshire Brewery territory, the home of 'Good Ol' Boy' best bitter.

Sterling effort was being done on the front by the clubs very own Good Ol' boys John, Niels and their apprentice(?) Ian. The route then went through the picturesque villages of West and East Ilsley, Compton and then Aldbourne, the location of one of the best pubs in the UK, former CAMRA national pub of the year, The Bell. The pub has been run by the same family for well over 100 years. Their food consists of hot crusty rolls with fillings such as salted beef of old England which comes in a high calorie slab like form ideal for the hungry cyclist. It was then down the hairy descent to Streatley followed by the long climb up again out of Goring (with the weir back to its stunning best after the subsidence of the long winter rains). Then back onto more familiar territory through Cane End, Gallowstree Common and then onto Dunsden Green.

On the descent from Dunsden there was a very hairy moment with a speeding fiesta coming up the hill on the wrong side of the road. It swerved to avoid our tight knit and well matched group but lost control and swerved back across the the road behind us went over the hedge and landed on its roof! Needless to say we went back up the hill thinking 999 was going to be needed only to find 4 youngsters clambering out through the hedge relatively unscathed. It could have been a lot worse, and luckily no one was seriously hurt.

The descent to Sonning was then more of a freewheel, realising we too had had a lucky escape, before the climb back up the hill across the A4 and into Twyford where the pace started to pick up. Stuart turned for home and the rest hacked onwards each taking a turn on the front, although as the wind seemed to be against us once more we let Neils take it a bit longer. All together through the traffic lights up to the A4 and then Ian make a break for it only to be tracked closely by Neils who sprinted past at the last roundabout to take the honours. John and Mark not far behind. Mark had found the ideal substitute for his cancelled Sportive.

80 scenic miles covered at 16 mph.

I.C.

Sunday 6th April - Fast Run

7 Riders - Andy B, Paul B, Laurence M, Charles P-S, Rob M, Mark W, Nick S.

The weather had a distinct 'Flandrian' feel to it with grey skies and wet roads which seemed appropriate seeing as today the Ronde Van Vlaanderen was being raced in Belgium.

We kept to fairly local roads to allow a short 'escape' route should the rain return with a vengeance, and also to make sure that we were able to reconvene in time at Tom and Becky’s, who were hosting a get together to watch the Tour of Flanders after the ride.

A steady pace kicked off the ride until Charles had issues with a spoke and a good thirty minutes wasted trying to get him back riding, during which time the regular club run had passed us, so once back and running, the pace was picked up to compensate for the delay.

A fair headwind out towards Twyford made the going tough and Laurence spent most of the time pulling on the front, with the rest taking shorter turns to keep him company, before turning back towards Ascot where, with the wind at our backs, we still took it in turns to keep Laurence company pulling on the front!

At some point around Winkfield, Charles felt the going tough and dropped off, whilst at Virginia Water, Mark headed home early with a buzzing freewheel that was making duck quacks on every descent.

The rest carried on to climb Prune Hill and back down Crimp Hill before heading back to Maidenhead to join the club run and enjoy frites and mayo along with a good selection of Belgium beers courtesy of Tom and Becky!

55 miles at 19.5mph average speed

M.W.

Sunday 6th April - Club Run

7 Riders: Niels A, Paul A, Ian C, Lucas E, Oscar H, Martin P and guest, Brian, a friend of Paul A’s.

Looking at the weather forecast for the days running up to Sunday, one could guarantee today was going to be a washout, but after some moderate showers in the early morning, the rain decided to go elsewhere for the rest of the day. The roads were very wet and slippy with many puddles dotted around here and there, but apart from that, the weather managed to hold up, providing 7 riders with a damp, grey, murky club run. As usual, there was the usual array of different clothing styles ranging from Niels A and Oscar H being in full Winter gear (although albeit the overshoes for Oscar H!) to Lucas E wearing bib shorts. Whilst the weather wasn’t sunny, it was still fairly 'warm' with temperatures averaging around 13 degrees so perhaps full-on Winter gear wasn’t the best idea! The route posed by Route Master Brown today was a 58 mile route around the 'local' area so that if the heavens were to open, one could head back home (or earlier to Tom’s to watch the Tour of Flanders) if required. The route would take us down to Holyport, down Drift Road where it then loops back around to Shurlock Row, then to Twyford, Binfield, Virginia Water and then heading back for Flanders.

With Route Master Brown leading the Fast Group, Acting Route Master Abildgaard led the normal club run and we gave the Fast Group a brief moment to start pedalling and we set off down the Bath Road, looping around the Maidenhead Bridge roundabout and taking a left down into Bray, with Niels A and Paul A leading the front of the group. We then rode through Fifield and came to the ever-familiar Drift Road where we passed the Fast Group, who were attending to Charles’ broken spoke. On now through Winkfield and Jealotts Hill, we then came to the bottom part of the HCC234 circuit which we rode in reverse up until Shurlock Row where we headed straight on to the usual road towards Twyford. Call that a detour!

We then rode down into Hurst and then back towards Shurlock Row again, only turning off to Binfield just before. All the lumpy roads that were corners-galore could now be ditched for 8 miles as we were now on a pleasant, smooth straight road that we would follow up to Ascot. We were then welcomed into Binfield by a BMW who blasted his horn at us. We were rewarded with a smooth downhill only to then find a uphill in Warfield and we quickly exchanged our greetings with Stuart R who was partaking in a 30 mile ride with his wife for a Charity Event. We then arrived in Ascot where Paul A and guest Brian peeled off for Windsor Great Park to cool down, so we were now down to 5 riders. The pace picked up now as it had gone 12.30 (the start time of the Tour of Flanders) and we discussed ‘editing’ the route a little bit, but we were adamant to finish it!

We then rode through the ever-pleasant Virginia Water and passed the 'Welcome to Surrey' sign - too bad it was only a brief visit today! We then arrived at the first and only climb of the day, Callow Hill. Lucas E stormed up the climb with Oscar H in hot pursuit who then overtook Lucas E only for Lucas E to overtake Oscar H twenty seconds later. There was a bit of a confusion as to where the ‘finish line’ was as they kept changing who was at the front. Niels A participated in a 'controlled' climb leading Martin P and Ian C up it at a steady pace. We then arrived at the summit of Crimp Hill, where we stopped for a nature break, only it wasn't the best place at all to stop as cars kept coming left, right and centre! Nature break done, we descended Crimp Hill, carefully negotiating the sharp corners on the way down.

We then rode through Datchet and Eton where Oscar H and Ian C took turns at the front. As we were rode through Eton Wick, Oscar H reached for his bottle, had a drink and then reached to put it back, only to misjudge where the cage was and it dropped on the floor. As he was at the front, the remaining 4 riders swerved to miss it, 3 succeeded but Martin P ran the bottle over - it’s a miracle how he managed to stay on the bike! We quickly pulled to the side so that Oscar H could retrieve the bottle, but the bottle then got ran over and smashed into, quite literally, smithereens, by a load of cars. Oscar H managed to retrieve as much of the contents as he could to chuck in a nearby bin and we then regrouped. Luckily, the bottle only cost £2!!! With half a bottle of drink either on the road or in the bin, Oscar H resorted to a Vanilla Coke giving him a ‘power-up’ for the final sprint. Crisis now over, we then continued our way through Eton Wick into Dorney, a quick cameo by Buckinghamshire! We then took a left by Jubillee River and passed Dorney Lake.

Ian C and Lucas E picked up the pace now at the front with Oscar H in hot pursuit and Martin P and Niels A restraining themselves at the back (that’s very unlike Niels!) As we got to the Bath Road junction, Ian C and Lucas E successfully managed to get through the lights and Oscar H just missed by a matter of seconds. Martin P and Niels A managed to catch Oscar H up but as the lights changed, Oscar H then went for it in a bid to catch Ian C and Lucas E up, but failed. Further on up the Bath Road, Lucas E and Ian C took turns on the front, but when they reached Castle Hill, Lucas E used his climbing skills to take the sprint honours (Tom’s house) with Ian C in a respectable 2nd place. Oscar H then came shortly, closing the gap a little bit but not enough, to take 3rd with Niels A and Martin P taking 4th and 5th place respectively. Now to watch the Tour of Flanders and eat Beef Stew and Chips! Many thanks to Tom and Becky for their generous hospitality.

Overall, a very damp, grey, murky, but generally a rather flat ride that took in some of the 'local' sights. Hopefully the weather will improve for next week, club run weather has generally been very hit-and-miss lately, it’s either been Summer or extreme Winter!!! Many Thanks to Niels A, who is continuing to consolidate his position as a Route Master!

Garmin Route

Approx 58 miles at average 16.8 mph

O.D.H

Sunday 30th March

10 Riders: Niels A, Jim A, Tom B, Matthew F, Steven G, Oscar H, Laurence M, John N and guests Luke G and Tony

Contrasting to last week, the sun was shining this week and temperatures ranged from 17-22 degrees compared to a cold 5-8 degrees last week. A good number at the Pond House this week and with Route Master Brown away, we were left with two decisions regarding the route - ride down to support a women's race near Chobham on the Valley End and Staple Hill circuits or conquer last week's route. As Acting Route Master Abildgaard still had remembered last week’s route as he was one of two people (the other being Luke G) to have ridden it, the consensus was to have a second go! As we had only 10 riders, we decided to ride as one group. We waited a little longer than usual for any riders who may have forgot that the clocks moved forwards (it would later be found out that Charles had fallen culprit to this and ultimately decided to go on his own ride).

We then set off, through the usual territory of Altwood and into White Waltham where the speed was already up a notch from usual! (evident from Oscar H and Niels A’s PB’s on Strava!!) We rode briskly through Shurlock Row into Twyford where Matthew F spotted that Oscar H’s saddle was right down. We quickly stopped in Twyford to effect the required re-tightening operation and then rode through Charvil into Sonning. The first gradual climb of the day was Playhatch, which had been closed as of late due to flooding. Laurence M and Tom B raced off into the distance with Oscar H, Jim A and Steven G at the back. At the top of the climb, Jim A and Steven G turned back for home. After a quick regroup in Dunsden Green, we set off through picturesque shaded woods up to Stoke Row, then Nuffield. This was then rewarded by a thrilling descent into Wallingford. So far, a definite contrast to the wet conditions of last week - when only 2 riders were left at this point!

We rode sedately through Wallingford and we were then met by another gradual climb in Cholsey up to the main road. It was at this point that Tom B asked Niels A if there would be any "stops" to which Niels A replied that we would be stopping by Streatley Hill in case anyone fancied "venturing" up! We then rode past the daunting sign saying '2 Miles to Streatley' and before we knew it, we were in Streatley. There was a bit of confusion as to where the hill was, as a couple of brave riders wanted to tackle it. It was a bit unclear as to what happened as we were all split up and once we had regrouped, we carried on into Goring. Streatley Hill lives to fight another day! As compensation, we now tackled an unpleasant gradual climb up to South Stoke, where Laurence M took to the back to 'haul' the slower riders up. It was at this point that Oscar H decided to open his bottle of Coke up, but it was discovered that it was Diet Coke - hardly an energy pick-me-up!!! We regrouped at the top and looped back into Stoke Row again and down into Rotherfield Greys. The up was rewarded with a down as we descended into Henley, which was ever pleasant as always. Oscar H was beginning to show signs of 'hitting the wall', 'bonk','running out of steam' ... and the gloomy White Hill had yet to be climbed! We tackled the hill, which didn’t get the best reviews from some riders and we all regrouped by Culhams Lane.

The pace picked up now, as the feeling of "We’re nearly home" began to sink in and Oscar H decided to ride at his own pace as he had 'completely gone' by this stage. The pace picked up as the group entered into Knowl Hill and Laurence M made the first break for it, which was counter-acted by Matthew F and John N who then formed a group of their own, leaving the other riders eating their dust! Laurence M made another break and was successful, claiming top honours followed by Matthew F in second position and John N in third. The other riders shortly followed, who were then followed by Oscar H, not long afterwards.

Overall, a very picturesque route filled with many gradual climbs, Niels proving yet again his admirable leadership skills.

Route now conquered!

Approximately 56 miles at 17.7 mph

O.D.H

Sunday 23rd March

7 Riders: Mark W, Martin L, John N, Ian C, Nick S, Niels A and guests Luke G

Last Sunday the club run was blessed with glorious spring sunshine, blue skies and light winds, which all in all made for goldilocks spring cycling weather. However, the conditions for this weeks club run had changed markedly and returned to more normal early spring conditions. Basically rapidly changing weather conditions with temperatures between 5 to 8C. Mainly gray at the start, deteriorating to showers/hail, to be replaced by sun, followed by more showers/hail and so on. A common denominator throughout was a brisk westerly wind.

Before the start, there was a quick discussion with RouteMaster Andy around the format and a quick vote decided for two versions, respectively the Fast Run to meet the racers training needs and the Club Run for general 'mileage' build.

The planned route was from The Pond House went to Twyford, Sonning, up Playhatch, via Binfield Heath up to Stoke Row, across to Nuffield, down Nuffield Hill to Wallingford and on to Cholsey, down to Streatley/Goring and North to the start of the gentle climb up to Woodcote wards, back to Stoke Row, down to Henley, up White Hill and back to the Pond House via Warren Row. A medium length route with gentle climbs.

As usual, the fast group was given a head start and moments later the Club Run set off (Ian C joining us on the way to Twyford).

Mark is in very good form and put in long and determined turn at the front. John joined Mark with contributions from Ian as well. This all demonstrated a solid return on investment in the Spanish training camp. The steady pace maintained while heading straight into the brisk westerly wind underlined this.

Nick and Niels stopped for a quick natural break at the start of Playhatch and with help from Martin quickly re-joined the group at Binfield Heath. Then it was up the gentle 5 mile rise to Stoke Row with Mark setting the pace. Luke was staying with the group as if he had been riding for many years.

Just before reaching Stoke Row Niels had a puncture (on a brand new tyre as well). This was very poor timing as skies had darkened and the clouds opened up for a concentrated hail/rain shower. An intransigent tyre and by now unfriendly weather made this a long and cold wait.

Now, Thames Velo has during club runs in very different weather conditions conducted various cycling related experiments. For example the 26th January very very wet, cold and windy run delivered proof that mudguards does not protect the trailing rider from spray, different tyres deliver different amount of spray (water and grit) onto the trailing rider and there is no such thing as water resistant cycling clothing. If it rains you will get wet! Yesterdays run provided a different experiment and learning point. Basically, it is difficult to find the right type of clothing for changeable March weather. To much makes you overheat when the by now strong sun comes out. However, too few clothes quickly makes you cold after exposure to hail/rain and wind. The riders yesterday had either been conservative (winter gear) or optimistic (light spring gear) the group was now divided into two. The latter was after the forced stop, very cold and the former relatively comfortable.

As a result the group split into two with the 'cold' heading for home and the now diminished group (two) continuing as per plan. This did deliver a rewarding run with a fast decent of Nuffield Hill and beautiful views of the Thames at the crossing of respectively Wallingford and after Streatley.

The flat to gentle climb after Cholsey was rewarded with bright sunshine, but as it was straight into the wind and across very open landscape this sapped energy, however on joining the A417 on the way into Streatley the good road surface made for enjoyable riding on the undulating road. At Streatley it was very briefly discussed to include the climb out to the west, but the suggestion was rejected as it was not 'in the plan'.

With the aid of the wind now more or less from the back, the gentle climb up to Woodcote, then onto Stoke Row, down to Henley and back to the Pond House was covered with reasonable pace and with decent periods of sunshine. Jersey's was zipped up and down and gloves were taken off and on to match the changing weather conditions.

In summary, a day where it was difficult to find the right clothes, but nevertheless a good day out. The route was good and varied and should be re-used in the future (and maybe include a little diversion up Streatley Hill!)

Route: http://connect.garmin.com/course/5999832

57 miles at average 15.6 mph

N.L.A.

Sunday 16th March - Fast Run

Riders: TomB, StephenF, MattF, PaulB, PhilM, ClarkA, TimB, MarkM, initially AnastasiaW, LaurenceM, PaulA, AndyB

As starts to the club run goes, this has to be one of the most unusual, because within 2 miles of the start, there was a loud, almost explosive, pssst sound of a puncture at Pinkney’s Green. Of course, this may not be that remarkable, but whilst PaulA quickly started work on attempting to “refill” his tyre, with something akin to steaming foaming glue, did the murmurings of “he’s riding tubs” start to dawn. And hereby lays a new club run rule – stick the clinchers on! Laurence, grinning like a wild cat, kindly offered a spare wheel and raced off “not far” to get one. So with the usual club run having gone past and AndyB providing directions for Tim to get to Frieth, Andy followed Laurence to help, albeit only half-way, when Andy realised how far “not far” was. When Andy returned to the scene of the puncture, Paul had gone! Laurence then turned up, sans replacement wheel! What was going on! A quick phone call to locate Paul, followed by a plan, then Laurence raced off “not far” for a second time, this time with Paul’s wheel, to get a spare for the ever so apologetic Paul. Finally, phew, after 40 minutes had gone past, the 3 set off, with little hope of catching, but hey, they were still going to try.

So we had, in a bizarre way, a slightly faster-fast run of LaurenceM, AndyB and PaulA. On the flats and slight declines it was Laurence doing monster watts at the front, with Andy then taking to the front whenever it went up, and with Paul, whom I’m sure will not mind me saying, hanging in as best he could! Whether out of pleasure or purgatory, or perhaps even both, Paul’s slightly audible “yeah, I’m ok”, was enough to keep his “domestiques” going. The pace was quick, and the only thing hampering us was a tractor, and a tractor that needed mudguards at that!

With a mile or so from the cafe, Laurence charged off, whilst Andy stopped as he heard a familiar shout from the side of the road. It was PaulS taking his family out for the day as a result of the weekend ride email (I’ll be sticking up leaflets in the tourist office soon!)

When we arrived at the café, which was highly praised by all, it was great to see everyone there – and what a vibe it was too; seeing so many happy patient TVers full with cake and caffeine! After queue’s and cake we then formed two groups again and set off on the lovely descent into Chesham, albeit with a lonesome rider attempting to take us on. Riding the climb out from Chesham, a quick through and off formed to make light work of the head wind, and we were soon into Great Missenden. At this point, Andy deviated from the route as we descended instead into the scenic Holmer Green and the blast back along the smooth main roads to Amersham, Beaconsfield and Cookham. From there, everyone went there quickest way back apart from Mark and Andy who stopped at Jenners Café waiting for the club run to arrive. Despite the early mishap, it was a great day had by all, and perfect weather for riding in the fabulous Chilterns.

70 Miles at 18.6mph, with a fair bit of climbing.

AB

Sunday 16th March - Regular Run

11 Riders: Niels A, Paul B, Steven G, Oscar H, Martin L, Dave L, John N, Martin P, Neil T, Anastasia W and guests Luke G and Adam M

The sun decided to make another reappearance as 11 riders turned up at the Pond House. We were promised a more ‘hiller than late’ route from Route Master Brown and that promise was certainly delivered! As usual, we gave the fast group a moment to speed off into the distance and then we set off, heading into Furze Platt where the Fast Group had stopped to fix a mechanical, so we went into the lead! On now up Winter Hill to the summit of Quarry Wood Hill where Coach Lambourne turned off to do his own ride. As usual, utmost care was taken to negotiate the killer 20+% hairpin of the hill and we then stormed down the run-up into Marlow, where members of the Fast Group, quite literally, flew past. As we came onto the Marlow bridge, Martin P had a mechanical, so John N stopped to help and the rest of us rolled on gently waiting at the bottom of Frieth Hill. Several members decided to roll on and meet at the top. The gradual ascent was ever-glorious and we passed many bikers participating in the Marlow Duathlon as we climbed. We kept our eyes peeled for Mickael M who was participating but we didn’t cross paths. We regrouped at the top and we were now joined by Anastasia W, who had originally been in the Fast Group.

On now through the picturesque Fingest Lane, we now came to the next climb of the day up to Bolter End. Anastasia W picked up the QOM jersey at the top of the climb as she stormed up it, followed by Niels A in hot pursuit. After a quick regroup at the top, we cycled through West Wycombe territory passing the scenic Hellfire Caves, where we met the next climb up to Bledlow Ridge. Many of us switched down to the inner ring and got out-of-the-saddle to tackle this next climb and as we reached the summit, we were rewarded by a cool, fast descent. Steven G turned for home. On now through Longwick, where Chairman Martin P had to make an emergency stop as a bee had entered his helmet, luckily not stinging him like some TV’ers experienced last Summer. Problem sorted and we pressed on with a bit of ‘through and off’ suggested by Anastasia W. Unfortunately, this was marred by a junction. Ater the junction, we tackled many ‘lumpy’ climbs and descents on the Chiltern 100 route. We passed through Ellesborough into Wendover where we welcomed by a driver blasting his horn at us. To ‘return his kind gesture’, we indicated to turn right, but discovered the turning was a little later up the road, so we spent a little more time in his tracks - he looked very ‘disappointed’ to see us go as we turned off the road!

We had now reached Wendover Woods and tackled the long, shaded climb up to the top - the thought of Coffee / Coke and Cake on our minds as we climbed. We reached the cafe stop and were met by the Fast Group who were tucking into their refreshments. Niels decided to make a little ‘nest’ for himself as he tucked into his refreshments with Anastasia W deciding to get closer to nature as well, next to him. The entire club decided to join them soon after.

Break now over, we negotiated the easy downhill section into Chesham with Anastasia W and a combination of Martin L and Niels A commanding the pace at the front. Our efforts were shattered as we passed Paul B, who had punctured, and Adam M (who had originally gone on the Fast Group at the beginning of the Post-Cafe stop) so we lent our services to help fix it. This was Paul B’s second puncture in the matter of a couple of days! It was at this point that Anastasia W needed to head for home. On now through Chesham, we lowered the pace a bit as we tackled the gradual climb and sharp drop into Great Missenden, where we were met by…you guessed…even more climbs! Luke G made short work of the climbs as he took to the front, helped by his new Continental Gatorskin tyres - clipless pedals and some hard training and I think Thames Velo may well have another racer in the future! Martin P and Neil T decided to ease off a little and we all regrouped in Penn. We rode sedately into Beaconsfield and we then went on the A40, turning onto Broad Lane. John N assumed leadership position as we were now in his specialist territory! Paul B sped off as he needed to get home. We carefully negotiated the steep descent of Kiln Lane and then arrived in Cores End. The pace picked up now as we cycled by the Thames and the sprint begun to Jenner’s Cafe. Unfortunately, no one really knew how far the cafe was from Cookham, so at the beginning, the pace was more of a 'softening up', but when it was in sight, Adam M tried to make a break for it which was replied by John N putting in a sneaky move to the front with Niels A in sight behind. Adam M managed to counter John N's move and won the sprint with John N in 2nd position and Niels in 3rd.

Overall, a fantastic route supplied by Andy B and the climbs just kept on coming! Niels A did a sterling job of keeping the group in check and guiding us through the route - surprised at how his phone battery kept up!

Approx 62 miles at 16.2 mph

O.D.H.

Sunday 9th March - Fast Run

9 Riders: Andy B, Mark W, Matt F, Steve G, Lucas E, Steve F, Rob M, Laurence M and guest rider, Anna Marie Hughes from Bike Pure/Le Mond/Aspire Velotech RT

A wonderful sunny Spring day and with the option of riding the normal club or the fast run, nine riders decided to take the faster option and to see, for some, how their form has improved after a weeks training in Spain, whilst others were 'recovering' from the previous days racing.

Heading out through the Walthams and via Wargrave to Henley we picked up Laurence who’d already done a 50 mile training ride and started the rise up towards Nettlebed where Matt had to chase on having dropped his magnetic 'designer' bidon!

As we climbed, the familiar buzz of disc wheels could be heard from the competitors racing the Maidenhead CC Hilly 30 TT descending at speed, and amongst them Anastasia in a purple skinsuit tucking in as aero as possible on her road bike (I understand she came in as first woman, so great result). At this point Steve G decided to ease off and drop back to wait for the normal club run whilst Andy and Rob got to the front and quickened the pace from Nettlebed over Christmas Common to Stokenchurch where we caught a glimpse of Russ in Velo kit and managed a quick shout of support as he dug in on the TT.

Down towards Lane End Rob kept the pace high despite saying he was going to ‘pop’ but as we turned into Frieth the familiar “pssst” of a puncture from Anna Marie gave a bit of recovery as we stopped to repair it. It also gave us a chance to chat with Anastasia who had finished her TT and was passing on her way back to the HQ. It’s a real pleasure to have young riders of the quality of Anastasia and Anna Marie choosing to ride with us and they are both exciting prospects for British cycling and for the future of women’s cycling in particular.

Having fixed the puncture it was down Frieth to Marlow where Lucas (another talented young rider) decided to peel off having put in a very strong ride whilst the remainder turned to head back to Henley. Anna Marie had to make a brief stop for a mechanical adjustment which created a gap in the group, but Andy and Laurence dropped back and the three efficiently relayed themselves back on to the front group to ride into Henley where Laurence said goodbye.

Heading back through Wargrave we were soon on the A4 where the pace was cranked up for the ‘burn-up’ back to the Pond House. Rob and Andy did the initial pulls until Mark came through to take a turn to a little chuckle from Andy who no doubt thought he was about to embark on a replication of his ‘epic breakaway’ in Spain (for those that don’t know the story I believe Rouleur magazine are in the process of writing a piece on it and a moody Rapha style film is being discussed).

Unfortunately for Mark and Andy bad timing on the roundabout put paid to their glory but for Rob, Matt and Anna Marie a red light caused a commissares decision to DQ Matt ultimately giving the honors to Anna Marie.

A superb day for a ride!

57miles at 19.9mph

M.W.

Sunday 9th March - Club Run

7 Riders: Niels A, Nick D, Oscar H, Martin L, John N, a 'cameo' from Nick S and newcomer Luke

It was the first sunny day in a long while and 5 riders gathered at the Pond House to ride the H29/18 circuit in reverse. There were a full range of clothing style’s present - ranging from Nick D wearing full winter-gear (he must have been baking hot!) to Oscar H wearing full Summer clothing! We gave the faster group a moment to get a headstart and then we set off, through familiar roads to White Waltham. We then turned left up Church Hill, negotiating the ‘taster-of-a-climb’ with ease. We then passed briskly through Paley Street, picking Martin L up on the way before turning right into Howe Lane, where we followed the HCC234 circuit for a moment. Nick S joined us in Shurlock Row for a moment before departing in Twyford, who was out on his own ride. The pace then picked up as we rode sedately through Wargrave into Henley, which was pleasant as always.

We quickly stopped in Henley, as Luke decided whether to carry on riding with us or not and he chose to stay with us. Good choice! We also decided whether to keep to the route or alter it as there were signs that the A4130 was closed. We then set briskly along the badly-surfaced Fair Mile and then instead of going up Pishill, we went up the dual-carriageway on the A4130 where we saw plenty of time-trialists undertaking the Hilly 30 TT. We remembered to keep our eyes peeled for Anastasia W and Russell S as they were competing and John N said he saw Anastasia resplendent in purple kit! Just like Pishill, the A4130 is a long, gradual climb but not as unpleasant as Pishill and it has a FAR better road surface! We climbed steadily up the climb whilst the time-trialists were zooming down it. Luke demonstrated his climbing skills as he stormed up the climb. We then arrived at Nettlebed where the road was closed at the town. Lucky for us as we were turning right!

Oscar H and Nick D took a turn on the front as we cycled along and Martin L tried to draft behind a bus that overtook us - he got quite far! We arrived at the summit of the infamous Pishill where we stopped to refuel. Russell S, who was competing in the time trial raced past us and looked rather relaxed as he sped along. Martin L decided to turn for home at this point and so 6 riders decreased to 5. We set a quick pace on the road to the summit of Aston Hill with Niels A and Nick D commanding the pace at the front. A quick heads-up that the end of the road is absolutely filled with nasty potholes!

We then pressed on through ‘Old-Stokey’ and the pace quickened as the gradient was now predominantly downhill. The pace continued to quicken up until Oscar H called ‘Puncture!’ only for it to be a false alarm! We started to set the pace back up again and we turned right in Lane End to the long downhill section of Frieth Hill, where we passed a lot of tired time-triallists who were making their way back up to the HQ. We quickly descended Frieth and arrived into Marlow, where Nick D decided to head for home so he could be in time to watch the footy. Rather than head back to the Pond House (which would have severely cut the mileage!), we pressed on back in the direction of Henley. We negotiated the climb up to Danesfield with ease, but Oscar H got caught on the temporary traffic lights, so a quick regroup was in order. We then descended the hill down into Medmenham very quickly and we managed to get the pace going again all the way to Henley, although the road surface did not work in our favour!

White Hill was the final climb of the day and boy, was it the worst one! Niels A sped up the climb, as did Luke and John N and Oscar H took it a little more ‘gently’ up the climb where we all regrouped on the turning to Culhams Lane. We rode sedately through Warren Row into Knowl Hill. It was at this point that Niels A and Oscar H warned Luke that the speed may get a little ‘feral’ on the Burn-Up back to the Pond House.

The pace went up dramatically as soon as we hit the Bath Road and Niels A and John N took turns on the front whilst Oscar H and Luke sat in. As we passed the H10/2 entrance, Niels A took off at full speed with Oscar H drafting behind him. We got to the A404 roundabout where John N made a ‘sly manoeuevre’ and got into the middle of them and then at the first roundabout of the final Burn-Up, John N made another ‘sly manouevre’ as he sped across the roundabout with Niels A. A car then negotiated the roundabout, blocking the way. It was the end of the sprint for Oscar H. Luke then sped past Oscar H putting in a bid to get back to the front, but it was too late. Andy B and Rob M who were at the Pond House after completing the Fast Club Run observed the final part of the sprint with Niels A just pipping John N to the finish. Luke then turned in to the Pond House with Oscar H behind him. A rather roundabout-traffic dependent final sprint, which Andy B and Rob M can testify to, so this won’t count in the official (or unofficial) record of winners!

Overall, a great route to ride for the beginning of Spring and to see the time-trialists undertaking the Hilly 30 TT. Hopefully Spring is now finally upon us, after the harsh Winter season us cyclists have had to endure!

Many Thanks to Niels A for leading the club run with great ease!

Approx 52 miles at 17.2 mph

O.D.H.

Sunday 16th February

16 Riders: Niels A, Steve G, John N, Andy B, Jasper C, Tom B, Laurence M, Paul B, Clark A, Matt F, Mark W, Lucas E, Martin P, Tim B, Ruth M, Big Al.

After severe flooding, heavy rain and near hurricane force winds over the first part of the weekend, it was a great relief to have beautiful clear blue skies and a warm sun to raise the spirits for the club run.

In order to avoid any flooded areas along the Thames, Andy B led the ride up towards Beaconsfield and through Penn to Hughenden Valley where we climbed Naphill to give those that are off to Spain next week a taste of the delights of the Spanish "ramps" that await. Although the road surface out there should be in a significantly better condition!

After descending Woodway Hill we cut across the Upper Icknield Way and down Bledlow Ridge Road where we passed the Willesden Reliability Ride coming up the hill to the shout of, “Up the Velo” from Mr Inder who was hobnobbing it with popstar and cyclist, Martin Fry from ABC!

The route took us to Chinnor where a planned coffee stop at the Orchard Café was aborted due to it being closed, so we headed onwards to Watlington through sodden roads for an alternative stop at a pub, where Martin managed to order cake over the bar but failed with the Earl Grey tea, much to the bemused look of the landlady!

The sun just about managed to keep us warm as we sat in the pub garden but Tom, Laurence, Clark and Jasper decided they needed to get back quicker, and by quicker, I mean 'quicker', so their offer to join them was graciously declined by the saner members of the group.

Straight after the coffee stop the immediate climb of Hill Road out of Watlington gave the legs a quick warm up with Andy and Matt reaching the top first, Matt effortlessly shifting through his new electronic gearing, and then it was the run over Christmas Common and down towards Henley via Rotherfield Greys where Paul and Andy gave a huge pull into the wind.

Crossing the bridge at Henley we took the road to Wargrave, thankfully flood free and headed back to Maidenhead via the A4.

Approx 60 miles at 17mph average speed

M.W.

Sunday 9th February

It’s always great riding with quality riders each week, but we were blessed this overcast and blustery morning. There were 12 riders present, ranging from recent club trophy winners to the young superstars of the future.

Riders: PaulB (TV club champion), IanC (Meritorious Performance), AnastasiaW (TV/RP Racing Team), MattF, LucasE, JohnN, NickD, JasperC, AndyB (Contribution to Club), and eminent guests Anna Marie (Bike Pure/Le Mond/Aspire Velotech RT), Sasha (RP Racing Team) and the instantly likeable CX racer Tim on his cross-bike (23c tyres).

Today's ride was to be a recce of the Great Milton circuit, used for the TV Road Race in May, in order to check the roads and to give us time to patch up potholes and clear obstacles; we found a few!

With the dulcet tones of Tim describing his unusual group-set (there's nothing happier than a happy Irishman!) and AndyB optimistically saying that the weather will improve (hmm!) and with a loose promise that there'll be a tailwind home, we set off into a strong headwind towards the Walthams. Pairs took turns at the front, but respect to Tim and Sasha for making it light work before we turned right to Hare Hatch. On Wargrave Road the pace picked up thanks to shelter from swaying trees, however, we came to a dramatic stop just before Henley. The Thames had burst its banks and formed a lake across the road. It was deep, but not to Jasper and Matt as they listened to their inner child and went for it; the sensible one’s took to the pavement. Well a presumed pavement because it was impossible to see one! Despite bow waves from a disparaging Audi driver adding to the unnerving challenge, we made it across, some wetter than others. It wasn’t just Sasha that didn’t want to go back that way.

Henley was eerily quiet, hardly a soul to be seen, perhaps everyone was sandbagging their houses? After a quick chat for shorter options, we waved farewell to Nick and Sasha (Sasha having raced at Longcross the day before). It was then along the Fairmile and up to Pishill. Quoting Picasso, “The older you get the stronger the wind gets – and it’s always in your face”. The climb felt exactly that, the wind got stronger, AndyB got older. Tim remained ageless by finding a sweet spot for a few moments (IanC found it too because he thought there was a tail wind!). The pair controlled the pace whilst everyone else hunkered down. Near the top the inevitable happened, a procession, probably in youngest order, rode past the pair strongly, easy as pie, to the top; more a show of strength than a hill race.

A quick regroup then we set off down Howe Hill at speed. Although we didn’t get very far as Matt dropped and tangled his chain midway leaving only a couple of working gears. Returning to the group, there was Anastasia having a cosy sit down, having what looked like her feet massaged - it turned out to be Tim tightening and cleaning cleats! We set off before a cleat cleaning queue formed.

Thankfully, Watlington’s roads had been resurfaced, but that didn’t mean any less water, and alas, no fix to the roundabout on Cuxham Road. Over bumps and puddles we went and headed briskly to the junction for Clare Hill. Turning right, we were on the Milton circuit and immediately we saw a crater in the road - a category 1 defect! We did gain a tail wind though, hurray, and as convenient as the tail wind was, we weren't going to match PaulB's heroics of racing up it! At the top we were rewarded with a fantastic view of the Chilterns. Glorious in whatever weather. PaulB continued telling us wonderful racing stories as we let the wind take us back down to Tetsworth.

Along the A40, the group took it steady, crossing the finishing line and to the Milton Common roundabout. Here, we found out how little shelter there is on the circuit! This was going to be tough! With Anastasia crying out thru-and-off we worked together, with varying affects, to get to Stadhampton. Being a passenger on a thru-and-off can be tricky, so to Chalgrove we tried a 30 second thru-and-off (with some cheating), but psst! IanC suffered his first ever club run puncture riding over a pot hole. A quick change and the convenient use of John's Co2 (Ian is a convert!) we were off again and soon found ourselves back in Watlington, albeit Matt nearly taking a left for another lap (only 7 to go!).

During a quick chocolate stop, a shower doused those not quick enough for the shelter. Thankfully that was the last of the rain and we set off for Aston Hill. Lucas and John eased up and went at their own chosen pace. Anastasia and Tim led the climb and then it was onwards to Cadmore and Lane End with PaulB easing up to wait for John and Lucas. A rapid descent of Frieth Hill, and along Marlow High Street we approached Quarry Wood road where Jasper sped off because of time. The road was closed and having had enough of a soaking we headed to Bisham and up on the A308; which proved tough for Matt as his bike had called it a day as it became a disgruntled fixie. Finally, it was heading into Maidenhead where we went our separate ways; for Anna Marie, in fantastic team kit (looks the business!), it turned out to be a 93 mile ride in tough conditions after racing at Hillingdon the day before (real dedication). Good luck to the young ladies present today, and to your teams; women's cycling looks to have a healthy future.

A.B.

Sunday 2nd February - Fast Club Run

Sunshine and smiles were the order of the day at the Pond House this Sunday morning. It is uncertain as to whether the popular trip to Benson brings out the sunshine or in fact sunshine means going to Benson. One thing for certain, is that it takes a lot for Martin P to miss them, and seeing him roll in presented even bigger smiles. Great to see you back Martin.

There was a quick call and showing of 11 muted hands for the faster run. Takers were LaurenceM, TomB, MickaelM, RobM, MattF, AndyB, JasperC, MarkW, AnastasiaW, PaulB, SteveG.

Heading out across the Switchback, with Rob and Tom setting the pace, subplots started to form. LaurenceM encountered his first mechanical with a dropped chain and a lonely, club-less rider (ahh), raced past (without saying hello) took his opportunity whilst we slowed slightly. Once Laurence was back on we closed the gap quickly as the rider faded, however, we turned left up Dean Lane to save his blushes. Midway up the bumpy lane, SteveG eased up to be collected later by the usual club run. It was then down the zig-zags, and into Marlow. PaulB, still acclimatising to riding on the road, took it more carefully and with a stop for mudguard adjustment found the group had disappeared into the distance. The next climb was up to Frieth, which surprisingly was the first time for Laurence and Tom. To continue the theme, at the lower point of the climb another club-less rider (ahh) raced past (again not saying hello) giving it the full out of saddle body swagger to beat us to the top. Tom feigned a response with chuckles amongst the group. As it proved, we didn’t have to try at all, as the rider bailed out on the next junction just metres ahead, almost collapsing off his bike (to even more chuckles)! During the climb the group became 7 as MarkW dropped off, and AnasatasiaW peeled off for home and for an urgent shopping quest for chocolate (having been out at the crack of dawn, the Benson cakes were just too far away!).

Despite Laurence nearly being taken out by a Range Rover and horsebox (was that deliberate?) we kept up a brisk pace and were soon at Stokenchurch and even sooner enjoying the charge down Aston Hill. At the bottom the wind was on our noses so thru-and-off was called for as we tackled the headwind to Watlington. Just after, Jasper waved the white flag and said that he’d meet us at the café. It was then a rapid descent to Benson and to the Waterfront café, with a cry from Tom "Oh we’re here already". It was the first time that Mickael had been to the café, and I think it satisfied his culinary needs (tough ask for a Frenchman), and with Matt asking the assistant “Which cake is best?” we got the best expression and shrug of the day. Matt and Andy needed no invitation and finished off the coffee and walnut cake – sorry club run.

As we sat, in an almost surreal scene, outside in glorious sunshine by the Thames in February, we saw the trickle of droppees appear, bizzarely in reverse order. Unfortunately, they hadn’t been mopped up by the club run. I do believe PaulB rode passed the café and Jasper must have gone a different way to get there! With the fast run nosh devoured, the club run soon arrived – did we look that tired when we turned up? Deals and transfers saw the club run acquire Mark, Jasper and PaulB and the fast run signed coffee-free Lucas.

Heading out through RAF Benson and up Beggarsbush Hill, Laurence’s bike started making all sorts of dramatic noises. A quick check at some temporary lights proved forlorn and Laurence clanked on undeterred driving the pace up Gangstree Hill to Nettlebed, with Tom chatting lucidly beside him (how does he do it?). Using RobM's words, the rest of us “chewed stem”, but impressively, we were altogether as a group. Turning left to Cookley Green, Lucas began to feel the burn but dug in deeply as we regrouped at the top of Pishill. Andy started the charge down but capitulated soon after when Laurence (still clanking), Mickael and Rob put the afterburners on. Matt and Andy did a modest 2-up into what was still a surprising headwind (where was the tail wind today?). During a quick regroup at the bottom we were overtaken by NickS (he did say hello) and was soon followed by a group of Kingston Wheelers (whom didn't say hello) - how can a fast run be overtaken by so many? Anyway, another quick stop to check over Laurence’s bike, more shrugs, but not much could be done but carry on, as is. Lucas to his credit, decided he wanted further hills so headed up Remenham and then the most direct route back. We eventually caught NickS in Wargrave, and he joined us for a while but faced friendly banter and chuckles about Zone 2 training whilst leading. The fast run then got to the A4 and inevitably, the pace progressively ramped up. Rob set the pace first, followed by Andy, then Mickael, then Andy again and then it seemed to go ballistic when Mickael, Laurence and Tom attacked, but we all held on thanks to Rob. Impressively, Lucas appeared at the A404 roundabout just as we raced passed. With Mikael as lead-out in the final metres, he didn't have much chance, so Tom and Laurence went for honours. The first passed the lamp post was ....

Fast run 56miles. Average speed 19.1mph with some climbing. Loved every noisy second of it.

A.B.

Sunday 2nd February

14 Riders: Niels A, Jim A, Ian C, Steven G, Oscar H, Martin L, Mark M, John N, Nick S and a welcome return from Martin P, back from injury and for the first half of the ride we had Lucas E and in the second half, we were joined by Paul B, Jasper C and Mark W

The sun was out for the first time this year and 11 hardy riders set off from the Pond House for a venture up to The Waterfront Cafe in Benson. We set off up through familiar territory up to Furze Platt and into Cookham. The first climb of the day was Dean Lane and we rode up at a steady pace apart from Lucas who demonstrated his climbing skills and decided to have a bit of "hill practice". We then came to Quarry Wood Hill which we descended, carefully negotiating the killer 20+% hairpin in the middle.

A quick regroup in Marlow, we arrived at the second climb of the day, Frieth Hill, which got mixed reviews. The climb up to Frieth is very gradual, calm and not particularly testing, but a couple thought it was worse than usual. Lucas once again vanished into the distance with an unknown rider and there were two evenly-sized groups who steadily negotiated the climb, observing the lovely countryside. We regrouped towards the top where we stopped to refuel. We then pressed on towards the crossroads where Lucas was waiting for us, quite pleased with his fast climb.

Niels A and Oscar H led the group into Lane End with Lucas powering ahead again and we once again all regrouped in Lane End. We then rode up the main road into Stokenchurch with Niels A and Steven G leading the front of the group and we then reached the thrilling descent of Aston Hill, albeit not before coming across an angry motorist! The group rode steadily on the B4009 towards Benson passing through Watlington and minding some nasty potholes. It was also at this point that Jim A ... you guessed right ... broke into song, lifting the spirits of many riders who were eagerly awaiting coffee and cake.

We arrived at the Waterfront Cafe in Benson where the fast group were just finishing and so we relaxed with coffee, cake and a good chat. Paul B, Jasper C and Mark W decided to leave the fast group and join the normal group whereas Lucas E decided to ditch coffee and cake entirely and teamed up with the fast group!

It was time to set off and we headed to the next, almost instantaneous climb of the day, Gangsdown Hill. After we tackled this, the pace turned from steady to brisk and we rode into Nettlebed, but Martin P and Oscar H missed the turning so the group waited for them to turn round and join on. Nick S headed for home. Niels A and Oscar H led the group and commanded the pace from Nettlebed to the summit of Pishill where we stopped for a nature break (how ironic!). The group then sedately descended Pishill dropping Oscar H. It really is an advantage to be fairly heavy to swiftly descend Pishill! We regrouped at Fair Mile and the group rode briskly through Henley (where Jasper C peeled off), then into Wargrave and onto the A4.

The pace quickened and Ian C had regained his legs for the final sprint. We rode swiftly through Knowl Hill where the pace got to full throttle on the Burn-Up to the Pond House. The club sprint honours were taken by Niels A and Paul B, who "offered" to agree on a draw.

It was great to finally be blessed with good weather and the Waterfront Cafe is always a good destination. A ride of two halves, a steady first half to the cafe and a brisk return home.

Approximately 56 Miles at 16.3mph

O.D.H

Sunday 26th January

6 Riders: Andy B, Matt F, Phil M, Stuart R, Niels A and guest Adam.

A week in cycling and meteorology can be a long time. Last Sunday the club run attracted a total of 25 riders, who enjoyed the almost spring like sunny weather conditions, however, this Sunday the weather had changed to very windy (SW), cold (5-7C) and rainy and the pleasant weather was by now a very distant memory.

The rain started as a drizzle at around 9 and slowly built into a gentle rain at the 10 o’clock starting time. After a brief discussion at the Pond House it was agreed to follow the wet weather route towards Risely and Wellington. As most riders had travelled some distance to reach the starting point, it was an already cold and wet group that set off following the route to Twyford, Winnersh, Arborfield and towards Swallowfield.

This was straight into the by now strong wind. With the now steady rainfall the only option to attempt to stay warm was to ride hard. All put in good work at the front and solid progress was made. This is a relatively flat route, but the strong head wind turned it literally into a long power climb. Just before the turn from Swallowfield Road onto Church Road towards Swallowfield, Stuart turn off for a sensibly arranged Sunday lunch and Niels was hit by a rear wheel puncture . Stopping in cold, windy and wet conditions is rarely a pleasure, but as the group by now was wet from top to toe it was a shivering bunch at the road side. Andy and Adam made the sensible decision to ride up Farley Hill to keep warm and Matt and Phil lent a very welcome and helping hand for the repair. With the support of compressed CO2 this was reasonably quickly completed. Niels learnt the painful lesson, and even tough warmed by Matt, that wet hands and discharging CO2 canisters (even fully insulated) can be a tricky combination. This was illustrated by the canister freezing onto his hand.

The original planned longer ride was shortened and via Risely refuge was sought in the cafe at the Wellington Farm Shop (route master Andy’s encyclopaedic knowledge of English country side roads is a rare gift in these circumstances). We were here greeted by a warm wood burning stove and hot beverages and ample cakes were eaten with great delight. Andy’s shiver started to subside, Phil slowly got colour back into his face and Matt and Adam warmed up by virtually sitting on top of the stove.

The dry and warm surroundings of the cafe were replaced by the return to the road, where the intensity of the rain was now at its highest, and underlining the old cycling proverb ‘it is a short warm a cafe stop gives on a cold, wet and windy winters day!’. The return run to the Pond House was the reverse of the route out. The main difference was that the wind was now in our backs and the rain slowly easing.

Swift progress was made and after saying goodbye near Waltham Saint Lawrence to Phil, who peeled off towards Bracknell (and again back into the wind again!) the remaining group stayed together until the last section down the A4 to the Pond House. Very predictably Niels went long only for Matt, Andy and Adam to pass and finish in that order. Adam seemed to keep a bit back, and it is this reports opinion that this was out of pure first club run politeness. Next time it is probably going to be ‘no gifts!’

Summary:

Incidents/technical malfunctions: 1 puncture

64 km / 40 miles at 28.9 km/h (18.0 mph) average speed.

Despite the weather a strangely enjoyable ride with a slower but hard slog out into the wind (28.2 km/h (17.6mph) average speed) and a faster run back (32 km/h (20.0 mph) average speed).

N.L.A.

Sunday 19th January

A beautiful sunny day attracted a group of 25 riders for the club run and on times like these I often wonder what thoughts go through Andy’s mind as he rolls up to lead the ride.

Sensibly Andy instructed that we would ride the route in two groups and the first group headed out closely followed by the second. After passing Twyford Andy did an admirable attempt to ride between the two groups to give direction but somewhere around Winkfield the two groups took slightly different routes, and although we were never far away from each other, the rides became two separate club runs.

At this point Oscar pulled up with a snapped rear mech cable and after a temporary fix to get him back home, he headed back while the rest of the group carried on through Sunningdale. Here we caught a glimpse of Mickael out enjoying the sun and apparently the other group also spotted him, so we were never far away from each other. We also saw Nick S out training and Tim from the other group heading home with a mechanical problem. There seemed to be Velo jerseys everywhere!

With the sun drying out most of the roads it felt good to be out riding and we even had a group of Kingston Wheelers compliment our club kit saying it looked really retro, at least I think that it was meant as a compliment! After passing over Chobham Common we headed back towards Egham and climbed the only significant rise of the day in Prune Hill before making our way towards Windsor where a few stopped to enjoy a quick coffee on Eton Bridge.

The other group had also headed into Windsor where it was all back to Niels’ place for coffee and croissants which has me reminding myself to stay close to Niels at all times in the future!

I’m sure our club run leader will be self critical of today’s ride, but with the sun out and good company I don’t think there were many complaints on a good days riding.

53 miles at 16.8mph average speed.

M.W

Sunday 12th January

Andy B, Lucas, Oscar, Niels, Matthew, John, Steve G, Anastasia, Russell, Ian, Tom, Neil, Pete, Mark M, Stephen

The ‘frosty’ start this morning offered the day’s first challenge, getting in to the Pondhouse car park without falling off, luckily, everyone managed that successfully.

With a decent number of riders, and a story of a crashed Maidenhead’er, we set off out of Maidenhead towards Burnham, effectively retracing the route Oscar and I took earlier. Not wanting a 5 mile club run, we carried on out to Dorney at a fair pace, meeting Anastasia and slightly losing Russell. Fortunately the ice wasn’t too much of a problem, the closest to a fall being myself hitting John when reaching a sudden stop at a Zebra crossing. Into Windsor, and a chance to stretch our legs on very small climb round Windsor Castle. The group split coming out of the town centre but soon regrouped near the bottom of the first competitive climb, Crimp Hill. Tom, Andy & Matthew were keen to create a breakaway which I just managed to join the back of. Andy led the early stages setting the tempo but waved the rest of us through giving Tom a chance to break. Matthew and I tried to close the gap but to no avail. Tom took the honours with me and Matthew in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

After the madness, we regrouped and carried on out to Longcross with the pace fluctuating while waiting for certain people. During the drag, Oscar and I discussed how an icy Prune Hill wouldn’t be all that fun to descend. The reasonable pace carried on out through Sunningdale to Ascot where there were a suspicious number of extremely happy drivers who couldn’t help but blast their horns and shout ‘encouragement’ at us. The 2nd competitive climb of the day was, I assumed, going to be won by Anastasia but having to sprint from the back of the bunch I didn’t see Tom sneakily mount a charge to go over the top unnoticed, Tom again took the climb and with it the KOM jersey. Me and Anastasia finished off the podium spots.

Back through Binfield and Neil peeled off with Ian following suit in Shurlock Row. The pace was surprisingly sedate back home with the sprint starting in Maidenhead. However, we met Dave on route who seemed to be looking for a slightly shorter club run so caught us up on the way back. Tom (no surprises there) pulled away again but despite my best gritted teeth faces and bike rocking, I couldn’t pull him back and allowed pretty much everyone else to sail past in the remaining places.

At the Pondhouse, Steve and a couple of other including Andy decided to go out on another 20k or so due to the half decent weather and the early finish. The rest of us headed home (shock horror.)

44 Miles at a 16.8mph average

L.E.

Sunday 5th January

15 Riders: Andy B, Niels A, Tim B, Matt F, Rob M, Phil M, Ian C, Oscar H, Martin L, Nick D, Steve G, Mark W, Anastasia W, Jasper C and guest, Ian.

The first club run of the New Year and thankfully a day without too much rain but plenty of wet roads!

With the Imperial Winter Series still in session the talk was about yesterday’s racing, and sadly Clark’s excellent sixth place was overshadowed by the fact that our chairman, Martin, was involved in a nasty accident in the E123 race that ended up with him in hospital with a number of broken ribs and a damaged elbow.

However, with our thoughts with him, we set off towards the Walthams on a route designed to get some winter miles in but not too far from home with rain forecast for the afternoon.

Not counting yesterday’s crash there was some very good news from Anastasia in that her immense talent has been recognised and she has signed up with a team and will be moving on to bigger and better things this year! We’re proud of her and hope that riding with Thames Velo has helped her on her way a bit. Also, talking of our younger riders, Oscar has had his golden blonde locks cut which, according to Niels, will make him much more aerodynamic so maybe he’s next?!

Passing through Virginia Water a rider from Kingston Wheeler rode alongside us and made a nice gesture by asking after Martin from yesterday’s crash. This was followed by an unwelcome gesture when a ‘white van man’ forced his way past us and nearly took out Anastasia (doesn’t he know she’s the next Marianne Vos?!).

On towards Chertsey our route was temporarily thwarted when we encountered a deeply flooded section of road under the M25 bridge, so to avoid a knee high soaking we double backed only to find that Niels had somehow managed to tie his chain in knots! So after a bit of cub scout-esque untying we again set off along the beautifully smooth Guildford Road towards Chobham and Windlesham.

By now the weather had turned damp again and the temperature a little cooler. Luckily, as we approached Ascot train station someone decided to better their Strava segment time and a bit of a race to the top got the warmth back and flowing.

Closer to home, a few peeled off for Bracknell and Windsor while the main bunch headed back to Maidenhead through Shurlock Row and the Walthams. Matt took to the front to increase the pace and put in a massive pull with Anastasia on his wheel. With the Pond House in sight, Jasper jumped to go for the sprint but Andy waited his moment and kicked at the last to nip by and take the win.

50 miles at 17.4mph average speed.

M.W.