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7:00 pm SCC 10 Mile TT
SCC 10 Mile TT
Jun 20 @ 7:00 pm
Sign on from 6:45 pm. First rider off at 19:01. Please bring exact cash £ 5 per rider.  ALL COMPETITORS MUST HAVE A HELMET – CTT REG (15), A WORKING FRONT AND A REAR RED[...]
7:00 pm SCC 15 Mile TT – Cancelled
SCC 15 Mile TT – Cancelled
Jun 27 @ 7:00 pm
Event Cancelled — proximity to Open TT
8:00 am Open 10 Mile TT @ Course D33/10
Open 10 Mile TT @ Course D33/10
Jun 30 @ 8:00 am – 11:00 am
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7:00 pm SCC 10 Mile TT – Cancelled
SCC 10 Mile TT – Cancelled
Jul 4 @ 7:00 pm
Event falls between our Open 10 and the rearranged date of the Bickerstaffe Road Races.
9:00 pm SCC Bickerstaffe Road Race
SCC Bickerstaffe Road Race
Jul 6 @ 9:00 pm
After the disappointment of the original race being cancelled we are pleased to announce that the event has been re-scheduled to be held on SATURDAY JULY 6th. Let’s hope no storms are forecast. Thanks again[...]
6:30 pm SCC 10 Mile TT
SCC 10 Mile TT
Jul 11 @ 6:30 pm
First rider off at 19:01. Please bring exact cash £ 5 per rider.  ALL COMPETITORS MUST HAVE A HELMET – CTT REG (15), A WORKING FRONT AND A REAR RED LIGHT  FIXED TO THEIR MACHINE [...]
6:30 pm SCC 10 Mile TT
SCC 10 Mile TT
Jul 18 @ 6:30 pm
First rider off at 19:01. Please bring exact cash £ 5 per rider.  ALL COMPETITORS MUST HAVE A HELMET – CTT REG (15), A WORKING FRONT AND A REAR RED LIGHT  FIXED TO THEIR MACHINE [...]
6:30 pm SCC 15 mile TT
SCC 15 mile TT
Jul 25 @ 6:30 pm
First rider off at 19:01. Please bring exact cash £ 5 per rider. ALL COMPETITORS MUST HAVE A HELMET – CTT REG (15), A WORKING FRONT AND A REAR RED LIGHT FIXED TO THEIR MACHINE[...]

Alps Trip 2018

By Geoff Caton

Day 1

Despite the best endeavours of Eurotunnel we made it to Bourg d’Oisan on time and still on

good terms with one another.

Was it only last week that G swept round the final bend to seal an epic victory on the Alpe? Of course it was, but you already knew that. What is perhaps less well known is that 31 years ago Eddie O’Brien also swept up the Alpe like a gazelle (use your imaginations a little). Eddie had to be pressed into telling us how he rode up on a 44/12, and battled through crowds on Dutch Corner who threw him bottles of Leffe which he caught between his teeth, quaffed, was instantly revitalised as he swept to victory.

Eddie O'Brien and Colin Hardy climb to Villard Reculas for a crepe

Eddie O’Brien and Colin Hardy climb to Villard Reculas for a crepe

Eddie pointed out to the newbies, as he calls us, that when he was last here the surface was entirely cobbled and the climb averaged 18%; he very much regrets that the climb has since been tarmaced, flattened to a mere 8%, and now has 21 bends to give the riders regular rests.
Eddie’s knowledge of the course was immediately apparent as he big ringed the first two hundred metres (a 10% gradient) to send shockwaves through the peloton, stunned by the display of raw animal power. Eddie then settled down and within a further two hundred metres had assumed a place close to the rear of the peloton which he managed to defend until the end of the climb.

And then it rained, so we went and sat in a cafe and watched the Tour…..we could have stayed at home.

Day 2

It’s always difficult to predict what will happen on these trips and today amply illustrated this.

Pete Scott and Chris Stone breeze up the Galibier

Pete Scott and Chris Stone breeze up the Galibier

I’m afraid I have to once again refer to Mr O’Brien whose old school approach continues to give consternation to the rest of the group. Having sat in the wheels of the Gruppetta for the whole of the climb of the Lautaret, Eddie suddenly emerged from the bunch, slipped into the big ring, zipped up his top, raised his arms aloft and proved that old racers never

die…..they just continue to have no scruples or moral code.

The second surprise came at the top of the Galibier (notice how I just nonchalantly throw in the names of these epic climbs as though they were nothing more than a gentle meander to Cedar) when Chris Stone said ‘Hey mucker do you fancy doing the Croix de Fer?’ I responded

Top of the Galibier

Top of the Galibier

that I did, but another day as we had just climbed 7000 ft and had planned to sashay our way down the mountain for an afternoon in the Cafe de Paris. I was also surprised because, to be frank, Chris had toiled somewhat on the climb up the Galibier and looked incapable of the 28km, 5000+ ft climb of the Croix de Fer. Concerned that Chris would be unable to make it home before lights out (basically whenever Mr Hardy has emptied a bottle of Aperol) Pete Scott and I agreed to shepherd him round.
It was an error. Descending the Galibier, Chris told us that he had ‘forgotten’ that the route to the Croix de Fer involved the climb of the Col de Telegraph but he felt sure we would be happy to add another ascent to our palmares. We were ecstatic, as you might imagine but we persevered.

Chris Stone crests the final bend on the Col de L'Izoard

Chris Stone crests the final bend on the Col de L’Izoard

A further surprise was in store. Chris was tasked with purchasing lunch from the local supermarket…..he returned with 8 Twixes and 3 large bottles of coke. When questioned about the nutritional content of these items Chris replied ‘Should I have got Mars bars?’
And so to the Croix de Fer. I can confirm that this is a beast of a climb which teases you by ascending 500 metres and then descending 300 metres….on two occasions. It ramps up to 12/15%; has many cafes that are closed and few that are open; had minimal shade for the 30 deg heat; and few other cyclists at 7pm…I wonder why?
But there was one lovely surprise for me. Halfway up the climb, in block capitals, the immortal words ‘Go G Go’, had been pained in 6ft high gold lettering on the tarmac. As the tears were welling in my eyes at the thought that the rest of our party had driven up the climb to offer these words of encouragement, I was immediately deflated by Chris’s suggestion that perhaps the ‘G’ referred to Geraint Thomas who apparently had passed this way last week on his way to winning on Alpe d’Huez. But why couldn’t he allow me to dream?

We eventually got Chris to the top of the Croix de Fer, where we found a French cyclist who was clearly bonking and asking for food. Big hearted as ever Chris provided him with a sugar lump and suggested that it should get him home. He then shot off the front for the first time today and disappeared down the Col de Glandon, swooping down it’s glorious straights like a bird of prey about to pounce on a frightened rabbit. I have resisted the temptation to say that he dropped like a …..

Then we drank several beers, ate some steaks, despite Chris insisting that Red Bull was what we needed, and decided that tomorrow could be a rest day.

Day 3

Rob Coppel looks askance as Colin Hardy refuels with Aperol

Rob Coppel looks askance as Colin Hardy refuels with Aperol

Today was a rest day…..a mere 5000 ft of climbing to the Villiard Notre Dame and Col d’Ornon, followed by lunch in the sun.

It’s on these transition days that some riders take their chance to get their sponsors name to the fore, and today it was the turn of the quickie brickie, Ray Lyon, to register his place in the annals (for those unsure what this word means please check a dictionary before registering any complaints) of the club. Determined that today he wouldn’t yet again be Eddie O’Brien’s whipping boy, he made a shrewd tactical move on the ascent of the Col d’Ornon by placing himself firmly at the rear of the peloton, thus saving energy for the explosion that was about to come.

Simon Kirwan

Simon Kirwan

And what an explosion on the descent! Like a man possessed, whooping and hollering, he gradually swept past a toiling Will White, a floundering Steve Crossen, a bemused Simon Kirwan and finally the (ex) king of the downhill descenders, Colin Hardy. At speeds often approaching 70kph Ray almost forced two cars off the road, turned hairpin bends into straight lines and lost even more hair, as with ever increasing reckless abandon he swept towards Bourg d’ Oisians and the ultimate prize……for the first time ever Ray is top of an SCC Strava leaderboard. Meanwhile, Mr Hardy is consoling his loss of status as the downhill king with a bottle of Aperol in the Cafe de Paris…..and he’s receiving wonderful support from Messrs O’Brien and Scott, who have generously foregone an evening playing snap in the Big House, and have promised to stay by his side through the long dark night ahead.

Day 4

Today is a public holiday in France in celebration of Eddie O’Brien’s 52nd birthday…..yes, with his distinguished features and subtly greying temples he could pass for 60 but he rally is just a babe. In recognition of his birthday and preference for flat climbs we decided to take a day off from the high mountains and stick to the valley floor……until we spotted a sign for the Pas de la Confession……

There are many sinners in our party and it was agreed that this would be a useful opportunity for some members of the group to unburden their souls and consciences and to become at peace with themselves over past misdemeanours.

This led to a great outpouring of crimes committed….people who had been mortally offended by unkind words on club rides; of wheelsucking over many years; half wheeling to win a trophy at the annual club dinner; of inner tubes changed with bikes inverted. These were the only confessions I can print here….however, I have a book planned for later in the year which might best be described as ‘smoking hot’.

One confession was extracted from myself (a surprise I know) when I was forced to admit that my description of this 3000 ft climb with an 8% gradient as a ‘short kick up’ might possibly have been a trifling misleading…..indeed as we reached the Pass, with it’s stunning views of Alpe d’Huez far below us,some suggested that I suffer a similar fate to those fifthteenth century French maidens who were frequently despatched to their deaths from the Pass for losing their honour.

Rob Coppel on the Balconies

Rob Coppel on the Balconies

And so on to The Alpe and it’s curvaceous corners shimmering straights and a headlong dash to The Balconies….a stunning traverse across the side of the valley with its gruelling gradients and searing sunshine….well life isn’t always a bowl of cherries. Once the summit was reached and we had completed our daily ration of 5000 ft of climbing the mood improved as we spotted the Ferme de Cedre, with a mountain stream cascading into a well in it’s courtyard, far below us. Tired legs were invigorated, the downhill boys appeared like magic mushrooms, and soon we were tucking into the finest apple pie in the Alps.

On the final run in Will White finally spotted the two things he desired most…..4 miles of flat tarmac and a Frenchman 50 metres ahead of him. Finally we all understood why we had brought our big rings with us. The pace was ramped up…..23….24…..25…..26….as the Frenchman vainly endeavoured to make a break for it, but he was no match for the Cannondale Kid, who allowed him his head before serenely sailing past him whilst affecting not to break sweat. So excited was Will that he also flew straight past the Big House and was last seen heading towards Grenoble.
A couple of photos today….the birthday boy with a butterfly on his head (don’t ask) and of greater interest, the view from somewhere high up on the valley side.

Day 5

Today was the Queen Stage of our tour and the climb of the Col de la Madeleine which turned our thoughts wistfully to home and that other Madeleine (lest there be any doubt, Maddy) we all know so well…..the climb was fiery, the finish explosive and sunshine radiated from its summit as we gazed over a stunning meadlowland vista. When I conveyed these observations to her father Peter, he provided an alternative description of life with Maddy but I prefer my perspective on one of our club’s finest riders. The Madeleine is a quite stunning climb that winds elegantly through alpine villages; never too steep, never too easy; serenaded by crashing mountain streams and the sounds of cowbells playing ‘You’ll never walk alone’. If you only do one climb in the Alps, do the Madeleine.

Will White arrives at Villard Reculas

Will White arrives at Villard Reculas

As I sped gracefully off the Madeleine, leaving our ex-downhill champion Ray Lyon desperately trying to latch on to my wheel before he gave up with that classic downhillers excuse ‘my chain’s off’, and the temperature soared to 35 deg, for the first time this week I sensed murmurings of discontent in the camp. Apparently a number of the group felt that attempting the Lacets might be a climb too far. So we had a quick discussion and I decided it wouldn’t be.

And what a wise decision! As we gazed up from the valley at what appeared to be a heap of tarmaced spaghetti tumbling down the hillside the excitement mounted and we charged into the first Lacet at a rip roaring 10 kmph determined to show the rest of Europe what they’re losing with Brexit. The climb is a mere 2 kms long but manages to incorporate 19 hairpin bends. Suffice to say we raced out of the last hairpin at 6kph, heads spinning like tops, dehydrated and not speaking to one another….fortunately our chief nutritionist, Chris Stone, once again came to the rescue and revitalised the group with 24 cornettos. If you’re thinking of omitting a climb in the Alps, skip this one.

Tonight it’s the cycling quiz….I may publish the results tomorrow.

Day 6

Eddie and Pete searching for Steve Crossen

Eddie and Pete searching for Steve Crossen

Bourg d’Oisians was at fever pitch this morning as the Alpe d’Huez half ironman triathlon was taking place. The town was transformed. Gone were the beer bellies on bikes to be replaced by lithe, intense looking young athletes with watches the size of dinner plates, tri-bars on their bikes and gallons of water seeping from camel packs. The race organisers asked that we leave town early…..not to avoid the crowds but to prevent us ruining the image they wished to preserve.

Alas we made the mistake of leaving town via the triathlon start area, which confused Steve Crossen (not an unusual state of affairs this week), who on seeing a wheel to jump on…..did so…..and immediately found himself drafting behind the elite competitors…..until they began the ascent of Alpe d’Huez. As we had planned to ascend the Croix de Fer he realised his error, thanked the organisers for the free gels and drinks, and quickly rejoined us on the Croix de Fer.

The Croix de Fer is a 30k climb, our longest of the week, with spectacular scenery accompanied by the sound of marmots chirruping and the somewhat bizarre sight of a farmer cycling down the col with a horse ?, attached to his saddle post, trotting rapidly as it tried to keep up with him. And I thought I’d seen everything.

Stunning shot of SCC riders on the Lacets de Montvernier

Stunning shot of SCC riders on the Lacets de Montvernier

There are some negatives, and today it was the turn of some unruly English louts who seemed to take great pleasure in throwing Anglo Saxon insults at us from their works van and insisting that riders from ‘Stockport are ****’. It’s a real shame that these people ruin our reputation abroad.

And so to the descent. Last week Romain Barnet set a record of 19 min for the steep 10 mile descent……could anyone from SCC match the Frenchman’s 30 mph freefall? Cometh the hour, cometh Colin Hardy. Fully fuelled with Aperol he launched himself from the summit like a human ballistic missile, no risk was too great, no corner too tight, as he danced down the mountain like a ballerina on a tightrope to hit the finish line in 26 mins. Not as quick as Bardet? Colin claims he was quicker and we concur because…..Bardet had the considerable advantage of closed roads. Once we factored in the adjustment for this using the equation:

Downhill Disadvantage = Body weight x Cars per hour + farmers with horses……is 7 mins 1 sec

Colin’s adjusted time became 18 min 59 sec and takes him to the top of the leaderboard and, with one day’s riding remaining, a strong contender for our downhill trophy.

Many of you have texted me privately to ask about our accommodation, so to vary the images from Southport cyclists at the top of yet another Col, here are some shots of the Big House.

And finally, who did win our Big Cycling Quiz? Take a look at the photo of the winners proudly wearing their prize…. a pair of Alpe d’Huez socks…..but can you identify the three members of the winning team?

Day 7

The limited edition kit looking good from the rear

The limited edition kit looking good from the rear

Well, we almost made it. Almost, but not quite as Day 7 saw the cracks in the camp widening and some frankly unacceptable behaviour and breaches of basic cycling etiquette. Suddenly minor niggles became festering sores, and I’m not referring to Chris forgetting to apply his Assos cream before each ride.

The split began with an argument as to which ride to do, one group opted for St Christophe….a solid 30k that gently follows a meandering stream through meadows into the uplands. The other group decided to tackle the mighty Col d’Izoard……a TDF classic and a beast of a climb. Everyone was happy until Strava intervened, and the post ride analysis showed that those riders who had done the gentler, but no less challenging St Christophe ride, had actually recorded 3000 ft more ascent than those who had ridden the Izoard! The smell of controversy and rat drifted through the Big House as all garmins were handed in for checking, drugs tests were administered, altimeters consulted and maps poured over until finally the culprits cracked. They, and their bikes, had taken a chair lift to the top of Alpe d’Huez! We have alerted the Strava Police to the disgrace these miscreants have brought down upon our fine club and we can only hope that club members will be able to retain their memberhip.

Ray Lyon and Steve Crossen battle for honours on the Col du Lautaret

Ray Lyon and Steve Crossen battle for honours on the Col du Lautaret

Equally sadly I have to report that on the Izoard Rob Coppel was having a nightmare as he punctured on the fast and furious descent; whilst some members sped on, others took the role of Good Samaritan and went to his aid. And thank goodness they did as inspection of his spare tube revealed it to be flatter than Pete Scott’s singing. Rob struggled manfully to put the new tube and tyre on but then confessed he hadn’t done this before. Fortunately the ex Irish safe-breaker, Eddie ‘The Thumbs’ O’Brien came to his rescue and using only his teeth and left thumb he levered the tyre on and Rob was on his way.

But it wasn’t all bad news today…..because we have yet another new downhill champion…..Will White. Riding like a man who has had his credit card stolen from him, Will took himself to the top of the all time list in the Strava 65-70 age group for the descent of the Izoard as he slalomed down the 20k course. Oh tragedy if were Strava to enforce their threat and expel all SCC members because of the foolish actions of a few.

Finally from the Big House, I’m pleased to announce that the Best New Rider Award goes to:

Steven Crossen celebtates his ride up Alpe d'Huez

Steven Crossen celebtates his ride up Alpe d’Huez

Steve Crossen

Steve has tackled every climb with unfailing good humour, with his GoPro emerging from his helmet like an iron cross, his legs whirring like a humming bird on speed, frequently off course and rarely on message.

But seriously, the Alps are very tough when all you have to train on is Ashurst Beacon, and Steve has impressed us all with his determination to summit every Col and to enjoy every moment. Chapeau Steve.



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