Monday, 18 November 2013

more than Ventoux

There are more than a few things in our quest for cycling excellence that bear repetition. Reps upon reps to reach those perfect intense numbers. In the case of this particular guffer the mighty Ventoux is a perennial draw. Whereas those training reps are an attempt to iron out variation the mountain defies any averages and offers up a unique experience on each ascent

Attempts have been made on the Raid that invites the rider to ascend by each of the three routes between sunrise and sunset. It goes without saying that the Ventoux is a cruel mistress. Sunstroke dehydration wind and snow have blocked attempts at glory. The mountain remains the constant. It sits there dominating everything in the area inviting you to make an attempt on the summit on the off chance that you may be allowed to pass. This year was no exception and cyclesguff heeded the call. The original plan was the Raid but as noted in previous posts injury lack of fitness and road miles have been a painful feature in the guff year. A compromise was called for and after longing glances at local maps there was realisation that I too had been bewitched by power of the mighty Ventoux. There are in fact other climbs in the area worth visiting. A six/seven col run out followed by the ‘true Moloch’  (thanks Roland Barthes) for what proved to be an intense two day trip. The warm up as it made some sense to call it started at Montbrun with southern ascent of Col du L’Homme Mort via Ferrassieres.

 That’s Dead Man’s Hill (roughly translated) topping out nicely at 1213m with a swift and short descent to the Col de Macuegne before a further 10km descent back through Montbrun to the D159 and the Gorge Toulourenc to the Col D’Aulan at 845m. The ride through the gorge has picturesque overhanging cliffs and vistas deep into the gorge itself. Dappled sunshine adding texture to what was becoming a pleasant ride indeed.

 Col d'Aulan southern ascent
The descent off the mountain is fast with a left turn onto the D546 coming all too soon. A headwind into the valley before a right turn onto D65 in the direction of the Col de Perty. The climb starts in earnest about 10km in with a small ramp preceding a series of hairpins that snake to the 1302m summit and a pleasant increase in sunshine and temperature. From the top you can see the north side on Ventoux in its hump backed whale glory complete with radar mast to mark the blow hole. It was at this point that a school boy error became apparent. Only half of the cols complete but all of the water finished. A stroke of good fortune meant that a group of riders going the other way arrived at the col at the same time. Even better they were supported with a van that held their bags and presumably oodles of fancy kit and water. In my best plaintive French water was duly provided though I am pretty sure the man with the van spoke the international language of bike.

Ventoux from Col du Perty
The group left and in their absence it became apparent that there was a vista just beyond that was just a wee bit tasty.

The descent to Laborel is twists and turns at high speed with a brief glimpse of the hills ahead before reaching the town itself and a bar that was open and serving drinks. Aaah! A left onto D30 direction Orpierre and a swift regular descent through the valley to the junction on the D130 back direction Col de Pierre-Vesce that proved to be a bit of test as the km were beginning to stack up. The 20% ramps were a bit tricky as was the steep descent back to Laborel before an exit right for Col de St Jean which in the gradient and sinuous bends felt way longer than the 13km to the top.

bit of a provencal cliche but a distraction on the route out of the valley

Antoine has been here evidently
The descent was no less challenging with tight and steep sections and rough surface before taking a right to Sederon and beyond onto the Col de Macuegne this time counting around 7km of climbing to the 1068m summit.

descent Col de St Jean

at this point in the day even the sign looks tired
Too much faffing earlier in the day put paid to a second ascent of the Dead Man. Notice I am avoiding obvious puns here and the final run involved whizzing down the hill and a rush cross country in time to reach the hotel a shower and some dinner. 128km 2675m Climbing. So much for a quiet day.

day two

The second outing proved to be a far simpler affair if one that required a wee bit of forward planning and reassessment at intervals across the day. The forecast was for high winds between 80 and 100km per hour. For anyone who has been on the Ventoux on a so called calm day you will appreciate that this was cause for caution. The start was in Sault, that much maligned other start town for climbing Ventoux. The direction however was away from the town and Ventoux into Gorge de la Nesque. Serendipitously the road was closed for the day to allow for a bike ride running in the opposite direction. This seemed popular with the whole range of cyclists from sleek mountain goats to casual city shoppers and their offspring. The gorge proved itself another secret treasure with good road surface tunnels and stunning scenic views. 

Gorge de la Nesque looking north
And one turn where the Ventoux rears above the gorge sides that had thus far protected from the wind. The run from the end of the gorge at Ville sur Auzon (surely someone could have thought of something less generic for a village on a river) across to Flassan and Bedoin proved something of a test as the winds that had been forecast made their presence felt. Curiously the wind subsided in Bedoin and as the temperature warmed again it seemed like ascent was the only option. 28 degrees and sunshine on the start of the D974 or as it is known ‘Route de Ventoux’. On the Guff Glasgow thermometer that is ‘roastin’. The ascent proved a slow affair and it is true the road plays tricks with perspective since there are very few corners to regulate your relationship with the landscape. The Esteve hairpin comes early and the glimpse of the radar station at top is just plain intimidating. William Fotheringham esteemed writer and biographer (see below) talks about how the ride through the forest is harder because the surrounding trees make for an airless strength sapping experience. I can only agree amidst what proved to be a sluggish grind ever onwards. A couple a number of years younger I hasten to add passed along the way but were passed as they took respite at Chalet Reynard. I may be slow but I am not-stop. My delight lasted a few minutes at least before they to passed again just beyond the Simpson memorial. The final 6km of the ascent on the white barren rocks felt less difficult than the routes through the forest. I am not sure why this should be since the summit seems tantalisingly close but just out of reach at the same time. And having managed to get close the steepness of the final ramp preys on your mind in the kilometres leading to it. 

The indignity of falling at the very last hurdle would be hard to shake off. In the event it was just fear, not real just a symptom of the mental and physical demands of the climb. In the end the summit was clear and curiously calm and positively balmy at 19 degrees. 

An Italian man asked why this particular Scotsman was not wearing his kilt. I did try to convince him that it was a bit removed from the sartorial elegance of six panelled lycra but in retrospect maybe he had a point and it would have made for a well ventilated ascent. Needless to say the view at the top is matched only by the intensity of the feeling of having got there. Tradition dictates paying respects to Tom Simpson on the way down. His memorial surely now a monument to anti-doping. 

It is worth a cautious descent while on the white rocks section. The wind even on a calm day swirls and sets traps for the unwary. The descent to Sault has been resurfaced which made for a smooth run down the mountain to the last kick into the town for 88km 1886m climbing.

In planning my route I am grateful to William Fotheringham who in a very fine biography of Tom Simpson in Put me back on my Bike evokes, in the last chapter, something of the magic of riding on the mountain.

Also to the person(s) behind this website who lovingly describes 24 other cols Having realised that it was possible to ride other places near Ventoux the photos and descriptions made the option all the more real. They have clearly spent a lot of time effort and love on the site. Thank you and thank you for the help it provided planning the route.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sequins of events

Guff towers has been pretty hectic of late....highlights of the TdF, one lucky guffer going to watch the TdF, a trip to the big smoke for the NESTA Hands off my Bike awards and not much time to ride bikes..... So, this somewhat disjointed post will hopefully keep things ticking over.

I've been hard pressed to find a replacement for my well traveled (abused) Ortlieb Sling-it courier bag. It's looking a little ragged around the edges, but to be honest, this just adds to the appeal. If I was to replace it, something from Trakke would be high on the list. OK, the price point is on the high side - then again so are a number of inferior products that rely on a well oiled marketing machine to keep the customers coming. The price point almost becomes an insignificance when you see the time, devotion and effort that goes into the production. Add to that, the responsible approach that Trakke apply to dealing with and creating a relationship with suppliers and you have a great product. For those of us that enjoy a healthy pleasure in seeing a passion develop into a business, generating a range a products and gaining a worldwide reputation in the process, please go along The exhibition at the lighthouse for some tonic.

always good to see a lefty

You won't see many sequins on their range of kit, but a well considered dose of Harris Tweed on the Mule bag will keep those in the know happy. 

The exhibition also has an example of Uula Jero's wonderful bikes  (sorry I lost the pic!). However, all is not lost as here's a pic of something that is also of interest. 

We covered one of their bikes sometime back.

A wee trip to big smoke earlier in the month included a stay at the wonderfully appointed easyhotel, I even had a window. Thankfully, good coffee and grub could be found just across the road at Look Mum no hands!  Little did I know that the Rich Mitch exhibition outside in the court yard would present an image that would make a gambling man loose a few quid on how many stage wins.

can't remember where this was taken, but it was close by
And finally, lets not forget customer service;  in an age of faceless web transactions it's a pleasure to receive a wee call with an update - to Ann at Endura, cyclesguff salutes you.

Stay upright

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

the mountain goes...

With the cycling season now at full speed and for those glued to the Tour you may have noticed the array of National Championship jerseys on the roads of Corsica and Nice. The date is now pretty much standardised to the weekend before the Tour so allowing national champions to show off there newly won jerseys should they dare to race 6 days before the Grand Depart. For those of us mere mortals who have to wait in line for our club and team kit we might wonder how the clothing sponsors cope with that short lead in. Still in what was a test event for the commonwealth games in Glasgow in 2014 the city was closed by a swathe of cycling that cut across the city centre from Glasgow Green to the West End. With a fair wheen of top notch riders out there it seemed only right and respectful to go out and witness the spectacle. The start was pretty busy and full of the cycling glitterati including the legendary Brian Palmer. Both the women and the men’s races followed a similar pattern. The elite of the elite women came to the front after 3 laps and stayed there slowly but surely distancing everyone else. In the men an outrageously fast first lap laid the foundations of a cut and by lap three the 6 remaining riders were the ones left to ride out for the win. What a thrill to see this in our own city and to have another chance in 2014. Lizzy Armitsted placed herself to the front for the whole race, took the initiative on the return from the west end and soloed to a fine win. Mark Cavendish glued himself to David Millar's wheel for the dizzying series of laps and after some skirmishes on the final nippy wee hills on lap proved himself a worthy champion when he sprinted home for the win.

tight corner ahead

very tight

'me and cav had an agreement'

'me and davy didn't really talk beforehand'

admiring glances all round

tough at the top

Saturday, 29 June 2013


I'm wondering how many times Orica Greenedge bus will be typed in.........

Friday, 21 June 2013

Road Rash

Not surprisingly, the level of interest in kit and spec of bikes leading up to le Tour has resulted in the usual frenzy of marketing and hype. It seems that we can't get enough of those expertly applied 'prototype' stickers crying out for attention and fighting for the limelight in the comics and web. This guffers go to Tour knowledge bank - Cycling weekly Tour edition isn't any different. Add to that, the recent news of the big players investing in their own wind tunnels and links with experts from other, but related industries will no doubt result in even more aerowave frenzy leading up to and during Le Tour. 

All of this got me thinking.....what will the probike spec be for this weekend's British Road Racing championship in Glasgow? Well, I would suggest that 36h rims (something like an open pro that benefits from a touch of flex and compliance) and 28c section tyres would be a good start. It's fair to say that the route has benefited from some road repairs, but in places, it's still pretty rough - the hell of the west! It will be interesting to see what plans and road repairs the council has in place for the next big road event in 2014. Just watch this space, the six year long Glasgow Council Tax freeze will come to an end.

The route/course has also created a fair amount of discussion and in some quarters, discontent. For those that feel a mega crit is not doing service to the riders, spectators and showing the wonderful countryside that surrounds Glasgow, cyclesguff would like to suggest visiting the carpark on the Crow Rd on the 22nd June. The Robert Millar sportive will be passing by, here's a description from the organiser's site:

The Robert Millar Sportive features some of the best climbs in Central Scotland including the ‘Tak Ma Doon’ and the ‘Crow Road’

This will undoubtedly be one of the classic Sportives on the UK calendar. We have selected a route taking riders through the beautiful scenery of the Trossachs National Park whilst also tackling many of the roads Robert trained on when he was a member of The Glasgow Wheelers including some of the most challenging climbs in central Scotland, the ‘Tak Ma Doon’, ‘Top of the World’ and ‘The Crow Road’. This is a beautiful route starting and finishing in the village of Fintry, travelling through Stirlingshire, negotiating the private road around Loch Katrine and climbing over the Crow Road and Kilsyth Hills for the 95 mile event. We think this is destined to become one of the best sportives in the UK and will be a test for the best. This is fitting in that it celebrates a legend that is Robert Millar whose feats as a cyclist inspired many of the cyclists now competing at international, world and professional level.

Prior to this weekend's champs, a few of modern day pro's may even be spotted training on those roads paying tribute and wishing for the same success that Robert Millar had in 1995.

Stay upright and let's hope for some fantastic racing

Monday, 13 May 2013

not going out


As we may have said before those commitments and injury things have limited the Guff outings so far this year. Also it won't have escaped the attention of those watching the Classics last month that Spring has come very late to Europe. Not been much fun weather wise in these parts recently or at the Giro for that matter. Indoor training is the activity to turn to it seems but something tells me that it is possible to overdo the turbo stuff. Time for a new tyre me thinks. Better still, time for some fresh air.

double ouch

Thursday, 25 April 2013

the mountain comes...

Well a few short sharp climbs actually. It's been a bit quiet in the world of Guff of late. Injury, family commitments and one of our number distracted by running that resulted in a 3.08 time in the Paris Marathon. (not bad for a mere distraction surely)
Anyway to get to the point because we are clearly rusty in the posting expertise too it is more than just a pleasure to report that the British National Road Race Championships will be running in Glasgow this summer. 23 June to be precise and the route runs past the Guff door. A reward, no matter how undeserved for waiting around for cycling to come to us.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


If previous Red Bull events are anything to go by, fun and games will no doubt be the order of the day.

Stay upright

Friday, 18 January 2013

a book review of sorts

there are many things we do to ourselves in the name of our sport and an awful lot of them have to do with adding layers to the layers of pain we already feel. So too recently when laid up with injury your fellow guffer thought it would be a good idea to read The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton, From Lance to Landis by David Walsh which in turn prompted a re read of Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage. These can make miserable reading about a period in our cycling history that leaves us as enthusiasts feeling distinctly queezy.

I am struggling to think of another sport that would, despite the apparent ineptness of its governing body, take out its leading athletes. (I use the word in abroad sense) If there is a silver lining to all this doping crap in our sport it could just be the fact that cycling is further ahead than any other sport in rooting out the cheats.

In this context it is very difficult to ignore the orchestrated interview from one Mr Armstrong today as he attempted to manipulate his public image (again) and dare I say it in his own interests with little regard to anyone else and especially not our sport. He is no doubt a divisive character and splits opinion in the guff peleton. ( A fact that did not stop us riding when he turned up in Paisley in 2009)

Having read the above publications written by people who have endured Mr Armstrong aggression and bullying since 1999 three issues come to light that in my humble opinion remain troubling. In the first instance Mr Armstrong doped from the get go from the time he rode for Motorola. So far so unusual. More troubling is that the stuff he put in his body may just have been responsible for the cancer and thirdly that the cancer should have been detected in the doping tests that he gave. In the light of interviews where he just manages to admit the first and in the absence of more demanding interviews, there remain more questions than answers. The deficit raises uncomfortable issues for cycling's ruling body, race organisers and doping control. Without wishing to sound conspiratorial Mr Armstrong's was no lone gunman who acted alone.

It can be difficult at times like these to raise your spirits but we should remember that in this instance, despite the damage, that this is old news relating to 1999 to 2005. In the period since we can look to more worthy individuals he says hopefully such as Sastre, Evans and Wiggins. And look to a future where doping culture is neither imagined or tolerated.

There is this other photo from the day that I am glad to say came out since I was shaking with excitement in the company of one of Scotland's greats.

Take a bow Mr Obree