Cycling through 2016

So almost the end of 2016 and my Just Giving pages from this year will close soon.

It has been a fairly quiet year cycling wise although I have travelled more miles this year than before by bike. Even so, I am no fitter or faster on a bike now than I was at the start of the year, so maybe I am just riding my bike and not training with any structure. I don’t use heart rate monitors or power meters as I am just not that serious about it. Yes I love cycling and taking on some sportives and challenge events, but that’s what they should be to me, a challenge.

That’s my explanation for it anyway and if these events were not a challenge, why would anyone sponsor me to complete them?

Some highlights of the year;

  • Etape Loch Ness – a stunning ride around the Loch on closed roads with a tough old climb in the middle of it. Who knows what the weather will be like either, driving up to Inverness through snow falls, to end up with a gorgeous sunny afternoon after the event. I don’t know what there is not to like about this event.
  • Dunwich Dynamo – Riding 200km through the night along with 2,000 others to finish on the beach at sunrise. Follow the lights they say and that is about it, through the dark and countryside, all you can see are the lights from bikes up ahead. Late night / early morning food stops at pubs along the way, it really is the stuff of legends.
  • Tour o the Borders – a top class, closed road event which takes you through stunning scenery on beautiful Borders roads, but then I would say that as this is my home region so I might be a little biased.
  • Coffee Morning Bike Ride – My own idea, my own event. For a first attempt, we managed to get some 35 riders along to do either a 20km or 50km route around Stevenage and North Herts, whilst raising funds for both Macmillan Cancer Support and a local charity, Cancer Hair Care. To me it is equally as important to help these small local charities, many of whom fill the gaps left by the large national charities to their local communities. We will be back to do this in 2017, hopefully with a 100km route as well.

The big down side to this year unfortunately was the Ride London Surrey 100. Yes it is great to cycle through central London on closed roads but it is just too big and there are far too many who treat it as a race, not paying attention or showing any consideration for other cyclists taking part, an example of this being the cyclist in front of me taking pictures on his phone of a young girl laying prone on the road as her head was held still. Why would anybody feel the need to picture that, it beggars belief it really does.

I am also stepping down as the Chair of the Stevenage and North Herts Macmillan fundraising group. It has been a real highlight for this year to see the new group come together and give so much time and enthusiasm to raising money to help those suffering from cancer, I’m sure that the group will go from strength to strength from now on too.

As for 2017, I will be cycling, I want to do London to Paris in 24 hours, now that would be a challenge. Maybe also take on a Monument, but let’s see. I’d better get on the turbo and find some cycling legs again.

Volunteers Week

Over the last week Macmillan in the East of England have been celebrating the volunteers within the region who do a whole variety of things in order to help the charity continue to provide the service they do to those suffering from cancer, their families and friends.

I have pinched the next paragraph from Macmillan. Ian, a volunteer from Hertfordshire and Secretary for the Stevenage & North Herts fundraising group says;

Whatever time you can give to charity it is very much appreciated. Whether you get involved a little or a lot we’re all appreciated the same. We, volunteers, do more than we think we do to help fundraise, bring awareness to the charity and yet it’s so rewarding for me“.

We all have our reasons for wanting to help, whether it’s giving minutes or months, hours or days, the time volunteers give really does matter. But what do Macmillan do for us in Stevenage and North Herts?

Macmillan Cancer Support provide medical, emotional, financial and practical support to people living with cancer and their friends and family.

Every day in Hertfordshire 15 people are diagnosed with cancer. In Stevenage there are 2,500 people living with or beyond cancer. By 2030 that number is expected to rise to 4,700.

We are lucky enough to have 98 Macmillan Professionals in our county to help those people, however we still need your help to raise more funds and provide more services to help the ever increasing number of people who need support.

There are so many different ways in which you can volunteer for Macmillan and give your time.  If you would like to see what volunteering opportunities are in your area please visit;

http://volunteering.macmillan.org.uk/

Rocking the Macmillan polka dots!

I was born up in the Scottish borders, but this was only my second trip to Inverness, the first time was last year for the same event, the Etape Loch Ness.

This year the event promised to be bigger and better, with another 1,000 riders taking part on the this closed road sportive around Loch Ness. So, over 4,000 cyclists descend on Inverness for an early Sunday morning start.

Each time I have driven up from Hertfordshire,  a 1,000 mile round trip in itself. Each time it has been snowing when driving up over the Cairngorms, on the approach to Inverness. By the time I reach the Highland capital the weather has cleared but it was still bitterly cold, with a biting wind, just what you want for a cycle ride.

I was due to start at 06.43 on the Sunday morning and was joined this year by a couple of fellow Macmillan L2P riders. A chilly start but there was the odd rider out in t-shirt and shorts, clearly much hardier than I am.

Having now ridden a few of these large sportives on closed roads, I know that with Loch Ness riders will stretch out very quickly on the roads and there will always be plenty of space on the roads (unlike with some other mass participation events) but you still have to keep alert to other cyclists. The Etape has a brisk pace to it as it skirts the western shore of the Loch heading south to Fort Augustus.

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The ride then starts in earnest as we hit the climb of Glen Doe. It’s a 5 mile climb going up in 3 steps, with much of it at around 10% gradient. For most of us this is a tough climb and the temptation is there to get off and walk. But I can’t do that, so I keep the pedals turning, so slowly at one point that my garmin kept bleeping, thinking that I had stopped. With three steps to the climb there is some respite on the way up but the effort is worth it for the views at the top and then the descent down the other side. Apart from a couple of bends at the top it is almost dead straight so you can let the brakes go and just head down at top speed.

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Now heading back north along the eastern shore of the Loch there are a couple of “cheeky” climbs that do catch a few riders out but the sun was shining and it had turned into a gorgeous day. So push on back to Inverness, knocking 15 minutes off my time from the previous year too. This was my first outing in the polka dot jersey too!

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The Etape is a very friendly event, in such a beautiful part of the country. What is not to like about it? Roll on 2017 for the hat-trick.

One Down – 9 To Go!

The Ten to Tackle for Macmillan Cancer Support are up and running, or cycling, having completed my first event of the year, the Stevenage and North Herts CTC Start of Summertime Special.

Each year Stevenage and North Herts CTC organises a series of events to celebrate the start of summertime. These events usually run on the day that the clocks change, but are sometimes pushed back a week due to other events. There are 3 different routes to choose from and I opted for the 110km route. 200km seemed a bit too far so early in the year (but I am planning one of these rides later on).

This was my first audax event and I arrived at Fairlands Valley lakes in Stevenage for the start to find the Mayor, Mayoress and Sky News all in attendance. I had no idea it was such a big event but a report into cycling published the day before had brought the TV crews along to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to cycling.

This event was different to the usual Sportive. We have a route sheet telling us where to go, there were no arrows stuck on lampposts to guide us round. There were various points that we had to “check in” and get our brevet cards stamped just to prove we had completed the route, the primary objective being to just ‘get round’.

My guide for the day was a 70 year old cyclist. He used to race he told me on the way round but now sticks to a slower pace of cycling, but he was going fast enough on the flats. He led the way and I helped him up the climbs en route, so mission accomplished and the first of my Ten to Tackle completed.

Next up, my return to the Etape Loch Ness in 10 days time!

Macmillan Cancer Support in Stevenage & North Herts

There have been a few changes to the volunteer fundraising groups in Stevenage and North Herts over the last few months but there are, we hope, some exciting times ahead for fundraising in this part of Hertfordshire.

The Stevenage group had been running for years and had raised many thousands over this period mostly through their collections whilst the Letchworth group were only just starting out, raising funds through events. What was the Stevenage & District group and the relatively new Letchworth fundraising group, have now joined forces to become the Stevenage and North Hertfordshire fundraising group.

The aim of the group will be to hold collections and events in order to raise much needed funds for Macmillan Cancer Support and I am delighted to be appointed as the Chair of this newly formed group. The Committee members from the previous groups will prove a hard act to follow given their sterling service over the years.

But what does Macmillan do for the people of Hertfordshire?

In short, they work alongside the NHS and other health and social care partners to improve the lives of people affected by cancer. In Hertfordshire there are currently over 100 Macmillan health and social care professionals. These include Macmillan nurses and other healthcare professionals at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Hemel Hempstead Hospital and Watford General Hospital, along with several local hospices and Community NHS Trust across the County. We can also now benefit from the new £3 million Lister Macmillan Cancer Centre at the Lister Hospital, which opened in 2014 to provide much needed facilities for people in the region, which were sadly lacking previously.

Hertfordshire has a Welfare Benefits Service providing local clinics at hospitals and offering financial help and support across the whole county.

There are also a range of information services across Hertfordshire, with several Information and Support Centres, together with a Mobile Information Unit which will shortly be visiting several locations across the county giving the public quick and easy access to free cancer information and support.

More than one in three of us will get cancer. For most of us it will be the toughest fight we ever face. Now, more than ever, we need people like you to join our team and help us make sure no one faces cancer alone.

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/get-involved/all-ways-to-help.html