Join British Cycling

Each month one of our club riders will be writting a Blog on their experiences with the club.

Read Dave Shore's write up about Velothon Wales:

 

Velothon, Wales 8th July 2017

 

 It seemed like a good idea at the time. On a cold November night in 2016, I was convinced by our ever-enthusiastic coach to sign up for this 140km closed road event in South East Wales. When, later, I nearly cracked on the 20% ramps of Caerphilly mountain, it suddenly felt like a less sensible decision.

 

Three riders from Phoenix Velo took on the 140km (88 mile) course;  Matt, Alan and me. The day dawned bright and clear and an early start was needed in order for us to meet before we were shepherded into the holding pens for the Grand Depart. At 07.26 precisely (I could be wrong) we set off with the other 1,000 riders in our wave. Concentration needed to be high as there are always inexperienced group riders in an event like this, capable of causing an accident through lack of roadcraft. Soon, however, we had left the inner city streets behind and were making good progress on the traffic-free roads.

 

When we reached a stretch of dual carriageway, the three of us were comfortably maintaining 20mph pace, when we heard a loud shout “On your right!” We gave way to a peloton of pink-jerseyed Pontypool Wheelers but only for a few moments. Alan and I looked at one another, both thinking “I want a piece of that”. After a short burst of effort, we joined the back of their group and covered the next 9 miles to Newport at nearly 25mph.

 

The first significant climb took us past the Celtic Manor Hotel and golf course and 20 odd miles of gentle rolling countryside brought us to our first feed stop in the beautiful town of Usk. Support from the locals was astonishing – there were people ringing cowbells (like on a mountain stage of The Tour), grannies rattling saucepans with metal spoons, claxons, piped music and a constant hubbub of cheering voices and smiling faces.

 

Our route then took us close to Abergavenny, to the foot of The Tumble Mountain. Both Alan and Matt had ridden up this iconic climb before so knew what to expect. As a novice, on the other hand, I was in for a big surprise. If you say it fast enough “5km at an average of 10%” doesn’t sound impossible but this translates into nearly 30 minutes of continuous climbing in your lowest gear. It was tough – very tough. Plenty of very able-looking cyclists just gave up and either rested or walked up the hill. I rode up the Tumble with a local lad (let’s call him Gareth) who seemed to be riding at exactly my speed / cadence. “Nearly there, Boyo” he said reassuringly, “Just round the next bend and we’ll be there, look you.”

 

The next bend revealed another mile of exposed tundra and rocks. “I thought you said we were nearly there!” I said to Gareth, accusatively. “ I lied!” was his response. “ Look, those effing sheep are going faster than us.” And he was right.

 

After cresting the summit and rejoining Alan and Matt, who had got there before me, we rode a very technical downhill section through Blaenavon, then a long, gentle but fast decent to Ponypool and the second feed station.

We managed to join various small groups of riders who were pressing on and so kept our average speed up. Caerphilly Mountain, the final big challenge, loomed before us. The route took us through the crowd-lined streets of this little town, past the castle and the High Street shops, where there was amazing vocal support, with free food and drink generously on offer.

 

 Caerphilly Mountain just chews you up and spits you out. With its 20% ramps, interspersed with 7% “flat sections”, it is a regular climb on the Tour of Britain and I found it much more challenging than The Tumble, which is longer but much less vicious. As I alluded to earlier, I almost gave up on the final ramp but Alan was nearby to steady the ship with advice on cadence, breathing and generally manning-up!

 

We crested the hill and enjoyed a (mostly) downhill ride back to Cardiff and the finish line.  Matt felt able to ride off faster but Alan and I crossed the line together, shaking hands, a job well done. Our “chip time” was 6 hours exactly, Strava time 5 hours 23minutes.

 

 

I said it then, and I will say it now – it was one of my most enjoyable days riding a bike, ever. The course was very challenging, the organisation of the event was exemplary, and the local support was amazing. Just do it!

Book your places now folks!

 

 

 

 Last Summer

New member Michael has written about his first ride in club kit:  For the first time ever, on Sunday morning  I set of for a bike ride in club colours.  Proud to wear a Phoenix Velo jacket, with ink still wet on the membership form, I’d entered an organised ride.  Despite it not being a race, turning up to an event with 300+ cyclists is daunting for a newbie.  Team colours and expensive bikes aplenty.  Fair play to the organisers, hosts, and fellow cyclists, I loved it. 

On arriving, I felt like a star with fellow club members saying hello and introducing themselves through the myriad of other cyclists.  The friendly conversations made it easy to team up with those considering a similar pace.  The fact a 60 mile cycle was at the top end of my experience, and speeds expected to be slow, was not an issue.  Accompanied with a work colleague at a similar fitness level we departed in a smallish group.  Within 5 miles this filtered down to three cyclists working together.  For the next 35 miles we had an experienced rider with us.  She understood the pace we needed, offered technical advice and moral support, along with computerized navigation.  With 40 miles done the legs were tiring, and the agreement was made to let Nicky go.  Despite her running 14 miles the day before, she quickly disappeared out of site.  The route was well signposted, and with a few more hills, and miles, later, we were relieved to reach the finish.  Despite the cold temperature, and a stiff breeze, that was 57 miles traversed quicker than planned, new friends made, and a new club jacket worn in.  Feedback suggests £1600+ was raised for Zoë's Place by the event.

In January Rob wrote his life on a bike so far:

If someone this time last year had that I would be cycling over 100 miles a week, taking part in 70 plus mile Sportives I would have laughed at them! 

 Seriously though since taking up cycling in around June last year I have come on leaps and bounds. I still have a long way to go to reach my goals but it's been a good start! 

 In May last year I became ill and was in a position where I lost 2 stone in weight and could hardly eat anything. I had zero energy or appetite and was pretty much housebound. I had an old mountain bike and decided that enough was enough and decided to go out on it with the intention of getting some fresh air and do a mile or two and build it up.  A mile lead to 2 then 10 and I eventually hit 80 miles in a day. 2015 is going to the year where I bag my century all being well. 

 I attended Sky Rides for a couple of months and the cycling bug really took hold! I purchased a Cyclocross bike after being recommended it by one of the coaches Clair. She invited me out on one of the Phoenix Velo's club runs. I'd been very hesitant about joining a club being a newbie and not knowing much about cycling and the maintenance of them. I was worried that cycling clubs would be clicky and full of wannabes thinking they were competing in the Tour de France every weekend. 

 

Phoenix Velo is perfect for me. What's great is that every single person in the club has been very approachable, friendly and helpful, even helping me with maintenance issues such as changing my brake pads.  Everyone has been great and are really knowledgeable, an all round good friendly group. There are too many nice people in the club to name everyone in this blog post. What I really love about the club is that people don't take things too seriously. Yep it's nice to learn new things and challenge yourself, but at the same time, cycling in my view is about meeting a bunch of like minded people to have a laugh with. There is certainly a fair bit of good natured banter flying around. Already I have been christened with the name ‘Windsock’ by a certain northern bloke as my orange jacket would flap around in the wind!  We even have a Postman Pat in the club! 

 I work from home and have found the exercise and social side of  joining Phoenix Velo to have given superb! It's allowed me to venture off into the beautiful Warwickshire and Leicestershire countryside and explore places I didn't know existed. 

 My goals this year is to first bag the century and potentially do a 150 mile day ride with the help of fellow members and to do the Morecambe to Bridlington 170 mile coast to coast in a weekend. Yearly I would love to do 6000 miles which is around 100 miles a week which I think is achievable. All in all I can't recommend Phoenix highly enough to new and intermediate riders to join.