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Red Bull Time Laps Race: October 2017

A brief meeting with Ross Matheson, Marketing Executive for ASSOS UK & Ireland and before I knew it, I’d signed us up for the inaugural 2017 Red Bull 25hr Time Laps Race in Windsor Great Park.

Think ‘Le Mans 24hr’ and you’ll have a pretty good feel for what was involved: teams of four, one rider on track at any time, most laps wins. Three obvious categories of team: Men, Women and Mixed. We were Mixed: two boys, two girls and no prior experience of anything like this, besides Everesting (the notable similarities being the lack of sleep, the need for shelter, a supply of food and drink, a ‘what if?’ game plan and the need to be able to recharge lights, Garmins, phones, etc).

The unique twist was the 25th hour, since the race was run over the last weekend in October, when the clocks changed, thereby allowing Red Bull to market it as ‘The World’s Longest One day Race’. I never really knew exactly how we gained the extra hour, but now I do: if you watch your clock carefully, at 1.59am, it goes back to 1.00am. Simple. Laps completed in that hour would count double. Lovely.

Things got off to a bad start: with 150 teams of four riders, 150 people were on the track at any one time. An unlikely mix of competitors ranging from Elite category racers to weekend warriors, led to a big pile up on lap three and a race stoppage for an hour and a half! Thankfully, the restarted race passed without further incidence and Team 28, the ASSOS Equipe Team, made decent progress without mishap. In all, we completed 113 laps, a total of 735km and came 50th overall and 11th in our category. Well done to Therese Coen, Lucy Mannall and Tom Townsend – very impressive all round and it was a pleasure sharing the madness with you! A very big thank you also to our sponsors, ASSOS UK and in particular to Ross, who stayed with us throughout the event, bringing us coffee, food and welcome encouragement!

SGL, Oct 2017.

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Ventoux: October 2017

Plan A was to go to Wales in late October and explore the gravel tracks in the mountains west of Rhayader. Then Storm Brian arrived and Plan B looked more attractive. The problem was, Plan B was only loosely formed: ‘find somewhere a lot further south – warmer, drier – and then go climb some big hills’.

We checked forecasts all over Europe: Andermatt: rain. Luz St.Saveur: rain. Bormio: rain. Riva del Garda: rain. Majorca was OK, but didn’t excite us enough. Then we checked Bedoin: dry. We checked the wind: Monday: too strong. Tuesday: ride-able. Wednesday and Thursday: perfectly still. Friday: the Mistral would return with a vengeance!

We took a massive gamble, booked our flights, hire car and hotel, packed bikes and flew into Marseilles on the Monday evening. An airport out of season: no queues, luggage and bikes arrived in minutes, car upgrade and off we went, up the A7.

The wind was moving the car as we drove north in the darkness. Tom and I exchanged nervous glances.

But, thankfully, the meteo was 100% accurate and the following three days were about as perfect as late Autumn riding in Provence can get. We rode all around the mountain, discovering so much more than just Ventoux – the entire area is amazing. We rode up the mountain on each outing – once on the first day, twice on the second day and then, on the third day, we rode all three sides. The roads were deserted, the light magical and the riding perfect.

On Friday, the wind howled and we breathed a sigh of relief at the excuse to stay low and ride the Suzette loop to the north! We packed up, ate pizza and still had an hour free before setting out for the airport, so we headed for the summit in our hire car. At the Col des Tempêtes, I somehow managed to park up and open my door. I half crawled, half walked to the wall and looked over and almost lost my head! I now know what a hurricane force wind feels like and I now understand all the stories about wind and Ventoux.

SGL, Nov 2017.

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August 2017: Welsh Gravel

My cycling guilty secret: I love gravel more than any other surface. Even more than cobbles, although it’s a close run thing.

I’m currently half-way through a project to find the best 100 mile ride in Wales containing as much gravel as possible: more on that as and when I complete it!

That’s not quite what this post is about though, although it’s related. It was late August 2017 and Tom and I had an inkling to try bike-packing. I suggested we ride Lon Las Cymru – Holyhead to Cardiff – in two days, with as many detours as possible to include gravel!

What ensued was an epic 2 x 215km days, starting early and finishing in darkness, with everything from sublime gravel to barely ride-able rocks in between. Four places stood out: the marginal passage across the flanks of Cader Idris, the remarkable 10.3km gravel climb of Myndd Graean, the wilds south of Devil’s Bridge and the Roman Road across the Brecon Beacons.

Enjoy the pictures. SGL, 2017.

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