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 Inspirational Races in Beautiful Places 
Helwith Bridge 2012
Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:57 am la marquise
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I love the Helwith Bridge Duathlon – must be because it doesn’t involve swimming Wink

I’ve been doing it for years, either as a solo or part of a relay team. Last year I had to defer my entry as I was trying to get over a serious cough. So I stood outside in the rainstorm all afternoon recording finishing times.

This year was to be the back to basics effort. No help from a team-mate or the Race Director. I was gonna haul my arse round the course without assistance.

I was fit as a fiddle except for my gammy right shoulder, left hip and knee, a sore throat and the 10kg I should not be carrying around my middle.

We had our usual break in the journey to Yorkshire at Grantham pool, to refresh our legs and backs and justify our lunch.

Although it’s a 30 minute drive from Hawes to Helwith Bridge, the attraction of good food and a sound night’s sleep makes it worth staying at Brandymires.

On Sunday morning the weather was picture postcard perfect. A bright watery sunlight gave way to a warm clarity, outlining each rock of the skyline. And no wind.

At Helwith Bridge we met up with the usual suspects – a somewhat hung over DividedAlien, trevkingdon, Vince, and my old college pal, Jim Fisher.

After setting up my transition and making my final preparations, I was ready to go. Vince was in the middle of the race briefing. Given my past performance at this event, and that I know the route well, I was given permission to start 10 minutes early, thus slightly saving the marshals from waiting for me to finish before they could change into their pj’s and drink cocoa.

So I missed the instruction about the temporary traffic lights.

Anyway, while Vince explained how the descent into Ingleton is very steep, Trev checked his watch and I shambled off. I managed to hold off the leaders till I reached Stainforth. I was quite pleased about that. I was still the last person to finish Run 1.

But I really didn’t care. Whatever pain was happening from my neck downwards, in my head I was in heaven. I was trotting through the most beautiful countryside looking at sheep and hills and dry stone walls and autumn colours under bright blue sky and sunshine. It was a truly glorious day.

Setting off on my bike I knew I would enjoy myself. I saw a couple of mechanicals return back to transition – one guy’s headset had parted company from the rest of his bike. I pushed on, and (fairly) soon reached the stunning Ribble Head Viaduct. The day seemed to be in HD technicolour.

Over the cattle grids I pressed along the beautiful rolling road to White Scar Caves. Then I found the traffic lights. Obligingly, they soon turned green for me and I rolled on.

I took the descent into Ingleton with due caution, convinced I was last on the road, but still happy as Larry.

There is a bastard hill towards Clapham. It’s there every year. So I told myself
“This is OK, it’s hard every year, so just grind on up”.
I had a little rest and a drink at the top.

I’m glad I have a triple with some very teeny tiny gears. Those lowest ones are my best friends.

Then there’s a good descent through the village and down to the main road. Just after Austwick I was surprised when Dizo came past me. He was one of the returning mechanicals – had mended his puncture and restarted the bike leg. I reassured him that he was nowhere near last as I had been given a head start.

Blimey I hadn’t been last on the road.

But, of course, I was last now.

Coming out of Austwick is bastard hill number 2. I’m so nearly home, but this wiggly road going upwards is hitting back at me. Surprisingly, this hill is there every year too.

After a little rest I regrouped and pushed myself to finish the bike. Smiling all the while.

DividedAlien was very naughty asking me to take his club photo while I was in T2 – most competitors had completed the race. I gave DA an appropriate response (strongly negative) and pulled on my running shoes whilst trying to stave off cramp in my calves.

Everyone gave me encouraging cheers as I set off on Run 2. Spike trotted behind me as far as the first corner, telling me he was 5th solo (a relay team won, but that doesn’t count). I was still grinning from ear to ear.

Oh damn. Is he still taking photos?

I did run some of Run 2 - mainly the downward bits. I was amazed when, approaching Stainforth, Mr MinusHeadset came passed me. He had carried his bike 2 miles back to base, fixed the bike and set off again.

OK, now I really, really was last on the road.

When back up on the main road, all the finishers on their way home waved and tooted me. I was so happy I could explode. Nothing would stop me completing this course (especially as there were no time cut offs).

Spike appeared on his bike on the final downhill, and followed me to the finish.

Transition had already been packed away, and my bike and kit were already in our car. It must have been the transition fairies.

Funny how I always arrive back just in time for the prize giving…
Spike got his age group, M45, narrowly avoiding being chicked.
I won my age group, F50.

With cleanish, dry clothes on, we had a drink and lunch at the pub and plenty chat with Vince and the crew.

We returned to Hawes. I could feel my legs and hips seizing up, far more than a warm bubbly bath might relax them.

Thanks, Vince, for looking after me all race. Thanks, Spike, for looking after me all weekend.
How loud?

Wensleydale Tri 2012
Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:18 pm la marquise
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This is out of calendar order as Wensleydale Tri was before our holiday.

No matter.

Back in the times before the internet was so much as a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye, our colleague, Nobby, asked Spike to join him in a triathlon in the Yorkshire Dales. Fortunately, Spike said ‘no’, as he physically couldn’t swim the required 1000 yards, but he happily agreed to spend the weekend in the Yorkshire Dales drinking beer and hollering support. Spike watched Nobby complete the GRUELLING (natch) ordeal of a swim in a freezing cold lake, ride 42 miles up some seriously steep hills, and run 13 miles up and down Pen-y-Gent.

And thus a dream was born…

A few years later Spike did a couple of local sprint tri’s and decided that the time was ripe to try something a bit longer. He applied to enter Cambridge Olympic Triathlon, and then realised that he’d need a wetsuit.

Now, I know that Spike is the epitome of manliness and handsomeness, but his wrists have the circumference to match that of a small child. In order for a wetsuit not to drape around his arms, Spike ordered a made to measure suit. I got to do a lot of amusing measuring Wink The makers still called back to double check the wrist measurement. A package of neoprene arrived. Hurrah. A letter from Cambridge Tri also arrived, saying that the race was full. Boo.

So we now had a Spike with a new wetsuit and nowhere to play in it.

Aha! The much dreamt of Yorkshire Dales Triathlon was the very same weekend as Cambridge. It was fate. Spike entered and then rang the first B&B listed in Hawes in

And the dream became legend.

We arrived in Hawes, at the wonderful Brandymires B&B (well behaved dogs welcome, leave the kids at home, no telly) who provided us with a gorgeous room and a fantastic evening meal, with extra carbs for those who race the next day.

Spike completed the course: swim 1500m in Semer Water, ride 42 miles up and down the steepest roads Yorkshire can provide finishing at Helwith Bridge, and then a trot up and down Pen y Gent. He sported a very fetching short tri vest and speedos. Mmmmm. At the end Spike was exhausted, and so was I.

Also Spike was hooked.

Finishing the race at about 3pm, we thought we were fine for sharing the driving home, but after an hour Spike realised that he was losing concentration, so I had to drive the rest of the journey back to Ipswich, tanked up on coffee.

That was when we learnt that triathlon is a much more enjoyable experience, if you are able to take Monday off work, to stay and celebrate the prize-giving and relax with a well-deserved beer and a good meal. The next day you can drive home with no time stress.

The Yorkshire Dales Triathlon instantly became the focus of Spike’s racing year. Everything about it was just right:
* stunningly beautiful location,
* super-tough challenging course,
* grass roots atmosphere (no racking – lean your bike against a bush),
* friendly and inclusive.

Each year the same tri-widows would spend the day chatting, often arriving with additional offspring since last year. Every year we would stay at Brandymires.

Spike has missed the race in a few of the intervening years (clashing with Norseman). In Foot and Mouth year it was changed to a duathlon.

We saw its name changed to Wensleydale Triathlon, with the bike section finishing in Hawes and the run route moved to up and down Great Shunner Fell. And still the familiar faces pop up. Now we can see the finish line from our bedroom at Brandymires!

This year was as good as ever. Double-porridge for breakfast, drop the run kit at T2 and drive up to Semer Water.

Race start was delayed a couple of minutes as we all waited for a latecomer to clear transition.

Who could possibly rock up to an event this tough at 5 to kick-off?

Oh yes, of course, our very own lycra denim boy Toyota Crown.

What a numpT.

The lake was clear and still, but I couldn’t help noticing that it didn’t have the Norwegian mountains towering out of the banks.

Spike ran out the water and was immediately stripping off his wetsuit

Get on with it

TC appeared to have huge bogeys hanging out his nose

TC is evidently several months pregnant

I gave Earthling a shout as he rode off.

I also asked a number of women if they responded to WAG1 (Mrs Earthling’s TriTalk moniker). They looked at me strangely.

I returned to Hawes, eventually met up with the lovely Wag1 and a friend who lives in Harrogate. We had cups of tea, ate bacon butties and ate cake.

A bit later some athletes arrived.

TC looked shifty as he trotted out of T2, and was called back by the referee

His baggy shorts (which would be tight fitting on any normal adult) were checked for all the mandatory safety equipment.

As Spike returns into Hawes he resists the urge to turn into the B&B for a rest and a cuppa 50m before the finish line.

Spike makes it to the finish line.

They were hot and sweaty, but on the whole, pretty happy. TC kept moaning about taking too long to fix a puncture. What a numpT. They also drank tea and ate cake.

We loved the guy who came in last, absolutely ecstatic about the whole experience, dedicating his effort to the memory of his Dad.

And this is what you win if you’re the Big Cheese

Another good job done by MyTriClub Very Happy
How loud?

~   Last edited by la marquise on Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:13 pm; edited 2 times in total
Tandemming 2012
Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:08 pm la marquise
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This really is just a holiday report with photos. No races at all.

Holiday 2012

Usually we go for a tandem holiday in June, but Celtman happened then, so the holiday was pencilled in for late August.

Some things are easy: booking the bus to get us to and from France, and reserving a room at our final destination. Some things less so: getting the tandem on a train, doing a lot of cycling.
We have used European Bike Express for many years. They do the job with as good spirit as any long distance bus journey permits, and they look after the bike carefully.

Getting to the bus can be a problem. For years we could put the tandem on a train from Ipswich to Shenfield, then ride the final 15 miles to the Thurrock Services pick-up point.

A spanner was thrown in the works when First Great Eastern took over the franchise and declared that tandems did not fit in any of their trains. This was surprising, as they were, physically, the exact same trains that had happily transported our tandem on the very same journey. During this period we relied on our lovely friend ‘Jo with a Van’ who kindly transported us to and from Thurrock. We didn’t like to ask such a big favour, after all, it is a 3 hour round trip, even if she did sneak in a visit to Ikea.

The train franchise has been passed on again, and, miraculously, tandems are now accepted again. Hurrah!

I had booked for us to be dropped off at Nemours, but, given my distinct lack of cycling mojo, and hence miles, I changed our drop-off to Auxerre, making our overall trip length 50 miles shorter over the same number of days. The down-side of this is that the drop-off is now at 1am rather than 11:30 (which was the sole reason for choosing Nemours).

With train tickets and a copy of the email from the Greater Anglia Customer Support stating that tandems can travel on our desired route, we set off to Ipswich Station. No hassle at all, only smiles and helpfulness from the station staff. Soon we were cycling from Shenfield to Thurrock. It’s not a particularly nice route, but it does the job. Just the one near-head-on car smash when an impatient caravan tower didn’t care about an oncoming vehicle. Cue screeching of brakes while we tootled on.

The showers at Thurrock services have been completely redone since I had last used them. All clean and shiny. Luvverly. We stocked up on goodies from the M&S Food Store at Thurrock, plus some extra cookies as they were a bargain… The bus arrived about one hour late. Then we were held up in traffic. On arriving at Dover we were not able to board the next boat, and had to wait for the one an hour later, which was delayed a further hour due to stormy seas. Ho hum.

What a delight to be dropped off at Auxerre Premiere Classe at 3:30am! We managed to fit the tandem in the room (just), and crashed. After a thorough grazing of the buffet breakfast we set off South into the French countryside.

Sunday: Auxerre to Corbigny.

We successfully avoided the city and followed a lovely route along the riverside. A visit to the boulangerie got us bread, but we were struggling to find an open shop selling something suitable to put inside the bread.

Eventually I spied an epicerie in Mailly-la-Ville, where the lady advised me that there was a lovely picnic spot across the road. She was right – a shady woodland with benches. I walked over a narrow lock bridge, while Dave rode the tandem round the road route (tandem was too wide to manage the bridge. As he pootled towards me there was a horrible graunching sound as a twig mashed up the front mudguard:

We removed the broken guard. What rubbish workmanship: it had only lasted about 15 years. Let’s hope there’s no rain.
After eating we noticed a café nearby which had a particular attraction for Dave:

At Rochers du Saussois we met a couple of Belgians who advised us that the cycle path they had come along was good tarmac all the way. We have been caught out in the past, getting a km or so into the path to find the surface deteriorate into rocks and mud.

This was a good path. Thank you, Belgium.

We made our way to Corbigny, where we found a small hotel. We were intrigued to learn that a couple of years ago the EU declared that the local water did not meet acceptable standards, due to above regulation levels of arsenic!

Chatting with a bar owner, we found that everyone still drinks the water, including her children, as it hasn’t changed. She also recommended a bistro. Good recommendation, especially as the waiter bore an uncanny resemblance to Roger Hammond.

Monday: Corbigny to Luzy

On Monday morning we set off through the Foret de Montreuillon, with the intention of seeing the aqueduct. I am partial to an aqueduct. Unfortunately, we cycled under it without realising till we were a couple of km past it.

Finding open food shops in France on a Monday can be very tricky. We snuck up on a supermarket at Moulins-Engilbert and stocked up on lunch. We didn’t find a suitable picnic spot till we got to St Honoré les Bains.

The tourist office there booked us a room at Luzy. Luzy was pleasant enough, but it probably not a ‘must visit’ location on your holiday itinerary.

Tuesday: Luzy to Cluny

We were picking our route carefully, attempting to avoid roads we had already travelled in previous trips. We mark our routes with highlighter pens on the map. Some areas are getting quite bright. We decided to head East through Perrecy les Forges and St Bonnet de Joux.

At Cluny we went to the tourist office to book a room. We were told that if they call the place, they would charge us €2.45 for the phone call, and recommended that we went to the place ourselves, as it was only across the square. We did just that, and were soon comfortable in a gorgeous chambre d’hote adjacent to the medieval abbey square. After the usual clean up and fussing of resident cats, we had time to stroll around town.

Our host recommended Brasserie du Nord for dinner. There was the potential of a major international incident when they ran out of chocolate mousse. Fortunately total disaster was averted by the presence of fondant au chocolat. Close one, that.
We had to slum it at breakfast the next morning:

Wednesday: Cluny to Quincié-en-Beaujeulais

From Cluny we headed South and, after buying picnic supplies, took on Col de Crie. At the summit was a shaded picnic table. O Joy!
A cyclist came along to refill his bidon at a drinking fountain that we hadn’t even noticed. With the usual chat, he told us there was a gorgeous Chambre d’Hote at Quincié. We thanked him for the information, but privately considered that was only 20km away, and we needed to cover a bit more distance to keep on schedule.

This had to be a perfect spot – table, shade, clean water, and a downhill for digestion. There was also, bizarrely, a huge tourist office at the col. It was evidently used by school groups for nature walks. The girls in the office were helpful and charming. They must have tried calling a dozen Chambres in good locations for our plans. But each was full, or the lady was ill, or the children were ill, or the rabbit was ill, or they were on holiday or the nearest restaurant was 5km away.

So we said, ok let’s try the one at Quincié. Sure enough, they had a room and a meal.

We got the directions: go to the village, turn right and it’s 3km along the road – “You’ll see the sign”.

We followed the directions and even found the sign to Domaine Romarand. We started climbing. There was a gorgeous looking building. Hmmm. It looks rather closed and has no Chambre d’Hote sign. We continued climbing.

“Ooh, look at that beautiful old stone building. It must be that one.”

It wasn’t. More climbing. Past some more houses. Through a wood. And then, further up the hill, was a fabulous old farmhouse and a Chambre d’Hote sign.

Our host met us and helped us put the bike away. After a quick shower we enjoyed a refreshing dip in the pool

The room was lovely, the company delightful, and the food both plentiful and excellent.

There was also the wine. This was, after all, a Beaujeulais Villages appellation controllé vineyard.
That was a good evening.

The next morning we were sent off, with some home grown tomatoes for our picnic.

Thursday: Quincié-en Beaujeulais to Pont-de-Chéruy

Discussing how to cross the Rhone and skirt round Lyon, our hostesse, Annie, suggested that we head East to go through the Etang region. We had been through this area some years ago, and it seemed a reasonable idea. And we didn’t have a better one. This has the advantage that every time we pass a pond, we get to say ‘etang’ in a stupid accent.

We avoided the motorways and crossed the big river at Belleville, heading East to the ancient city of Pérouges for lunch. The skies were grey and unpicnicky, so we nipped into a restaurant for a meal including the galettes, for which Pérouges is famed. They’re pretty much like shortbread.

Hauling a loaded tandem round cobbled streets, whilst wearing cleated shoes, isn’t great.

So we made our daily visit to the tourist office to book our room for the night. All sorted, we set off down a steep hill.

There was a loud and unpleasant Twannnggg! The drum brake cable had completed its final stop. The ride to the hotel was taken rather gingerly.

We arrived at Pont-de-Chéruy early enough for the hotel lady to direct us to a large bike shop. Actually, she walked most of the way with us.

They had the mudguards we required, but not a cable long enough for a tandem. They lent us tools to sort the mudguards, and recommended a bike shop in the next town, on our route, where they were sure to have a long cable.

One can feel quite nervous on the back of a tandem with no drum brake.

Friday: Pont-du-Chéruy to La Bouretière

The ride to Bourgoin-Jallieu is quite industrial,but mercifully flat. The trusty Garmin guided us safely to Veloland. The super long cables were absurdly cheap. Monsieur was happy to help fit the cable and supply the casing free – tandem-mates-rates.

Meantime I played with the dog who rolled over playing dead when I scrubbled his ears.

Feeling considerably more secure we went South. I was getting quite excited as we were nearly on home territory.

We stopped for lunch in Beaurepaire. Two seconds after we got inside the heavens opened. By the time we had polished off a very pleasant lunch, the skies had cleared up nicely.

By this stage no maps were needed. This is a road well-ridden. Just through Lens-Lestang we took a break at Christians Rainbow House.

Last year it was raining so hard when we came by we were soaked through. Today it was pleasant enough for a photo stop.

At Hauterives we took the right turn onto the D187. Only 6km to go, but we know that 5.5 of them are uphill. The thought of hugs, rabbits, dogs, washing machine helped inspire my pedalling, but not half as much as the promise of home-brewed aperetifs and the slap up feed.

All were there.

We parked the bike in the official bike rack

This spacious area is well guarded:


It was a dry, but cold and windy day, so not appropriate for a ride to Lac du Champos for an outdoor swim. Instead we rode to L’Abbaye de St Antoine, which I love. Unfortunately the waffle shop had vanished. The ice cream shop was open , but it really wasn’ t an ice cream day.

The Temptation of St Antoine sounded a great name for a restaurant, and, sure enough, they served up good nosh.

I was keen to try out a new spa at Le Grand-Serre. We had tried to call to book places, but the phone was always engaged. Oh well, at least that means they’re in. We followed the signs. And climbed. And climbed. And climbed.

Eventually we arrived at the spa. I walked in while Dave parked the bike. It had a lovely calm feeling.

I was looking forward to being truly warmed through to the bones in the steam room. But it was not to be. The spa had a private booking for a hen party.


We cycled home, including a challenging climb, and made do with a steaming shower.

Sunday: La Bouretière to Valence Sud

Before leaving we had to pose for the traditional photo

Noel presented us with a bottle of apple juice, though the contents were rather closer to their home-made Vin aux Noix. Mmmmmm

Isa got a hug

And Goulie (yes, that is the dog’s name) got some tickles

Goulie was no longer a puppy when we met in 2004. He has slowed down considerably in the last couple of years. It did feel like I was saying good-bye. Sniff.

We attempted to lunch at the posh restaurant, recommended by Noel, in St Donat sur l’Herbasse, but they looked at our cycle gear and declared they were full.

A café nearby served a good steak with ravioli – much cheaper and just what we really wanted.

We took the same route as last year, crossing the Isère at Beaumont Monteux. We arrived at the open air swimming pool at Beaumont-lès-Valence and bought the final tickets of the season. The attendant recognised us and was happy for us to bring the tandem indoors.

Even at the end of the season, open air pools are bracing and refreshing. At least it wasn’t too busy.

I called the bus to check whether they were on schedule. Pretty much every homeward journey has been at least one hour late, and there was no point in leaving the pool before we needed to.

To my amazement they asserted they were on time, and may even be a little early.

“oh yeah” I thought.

But with this information, we reckoned we should at least be ready on time. So, after a good shower, we pedalled slowly to the meeting point, trying not to work up any kind of sweat. We were planning what kit we’d have to move to which bag, in order to take the correct stuff into the coach.

As we pulled into the street, the bus pulled in from the other direction. They were 25 minutes early.

I hastily grabbed all we’d need for the journey, while the tandem was fixed in the trailer.

The journey home was an absolute dream. All passengers at the later pick-ups were ready when the bus arrived. We have become accustomed to being woken up with

“Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s 8am and we’re just approaching the Port of Calais, so you need to get your passports ready.”

Imagine our surprise when the announcement was

“It’s 10 to 6….”
We were chucked off the bus at Thurrock by 9am, and were soon on a train to Ipswich eating strawberries with a very jolly works outing.

Home by lunchtime.
How loud?

~   Last edited by la marquise on Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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