CS Grupetto

We are a little bit different to most clubs in that we\'re primarily a group of friends who socialise off the bike, but we happen to share a common interest in cycling and cyclesport. We are based in Putney and have regular weekend rides out to Windsor and the Surrey Hills, as well as occasional trips elsewhere.

We have a wide variety of cycling interests amongst club members, from track riding to road racing, and sportives to bike polo. Several of our members have their race licences, and we\'re represented in every category including Elite

We regularly travel further afield to enjoy some of the classic races – this year quite a few of us have ridden the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix sportives, and then watched the pros follow our tyre tracks. We also try and get to see the Ghent and Berlin six day track events.

At the core of the club ethos is a desire to enjoy good rides with good friends.

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We have updated and moved our website to a new address. To see the current CS Grupetto website please click here

ARDENNES CLASSICS 2014

For me the spring classics are the most exciting races of the season. Run as one day stage races, they leave no second chances to a rider having an off day. It’s a case of risking everything, using racing guile as much as raw strength to get ahead and above all suffering to the extreme.

The beauty of the Ardennes classics, coming at the end of the 6 weeks classics season, is that the three races all take place in an 8 day window.  We left home on Friday morning taking the Eurotunnel to Calais and making or way by car across northern Europe.  First stop was in Ghent, taking the opportunity to break up the journey by visiting one of the earlier spring classic destinations.  The town centre is more or less fully pedestrianised and, as you might expect from an old Belgian town, cobbled!  No riding today, just sitting out by the canal, in the warmth of the mid-April sunshine enjoying the first of many Belgian wheat beers.  Being famous, amongst other things for its beer, the tipple of choice has to be one of the various Trappist beers.  Brewed by monks in one of 8 Trappist monasteries they are dark and strong… you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a good night.

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Moving swiftly on to the departure location for the first Ardenne classic, the Amstel Gold Race, we head for Maastricht.  The square is buzzing the night before the race with team cars lined up in front of the grand town hall where riders and press have come together ahead of the race.  We chomp down some more frites and of course a few more Trappist beers (can remember how many … but enough) in one of the many cafes that line the edges of the main square, enjoying the growing excitement for the morning depart.

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At 10am on Sunday morning the carnival is in full flow, riders are buzzing around warming up their legs, team cars poised behind the official race vehicles of the commisaires, fans are crowing close to the start line searching for the best views of the riders, marquees have popped up in the square selling all manner of cycling merchandise and tat for those who want something that says, I was there.  A complete transformation from the night before, the Europeans know how to organise a bike race!

Once the peloton has moved on all of the race infrastructure is packed down and the town is back to normal in no time.  We jump on the train from Maastricht to Valkenburg for a spot of lunch before make our way up the Cauberg to establish our base for the afternoon.  Walking up the climb is hard enough, you can only imagine how tough it is racing up at full tilt.  The first couple of times the race comes through, the break and peloton are riding comfortably, however each lap out and back to the climb gets shorter, only adding to the tension and excitement as the racing gets steadily faster.  When the lead group arrives for the final time the race explodes … Sammy Sanchez puts in the first attack at the bottom of the climb, with team mate Gilbert poised for action sitting in the wheel of the pursuers.  When they hit the steepest point of the climb Gilbert sneaks up the inside of the bend and executes a tired and tested attack that has proved successful for him before on this climb, soon putting distance between him and the rest.  Standing so close to the bunch you can see the pain etched on the faces of those who have been doing the work earlier in the day, delivering the likes of Gilbert onto the Cauberg at the front.  You didn’t need a TV screen to know who won! The extremely ‘merry’ Belgian crowd who have travelled in support of their countrymen, have been following it all on the radio are are already singing songs about Gilbert, proclaiming him as the 3 time winner of the Amstel Gold Race.

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The next morning it’s our turn, though we won’t be riding the full 251.8km route.  Riding out of Maastricht is a revelation, virtually all roads are painted with cycle lanes, including separate cycle paths integrated into the major roundabouts.  We’ve chosen a route that takes in a handful of the main climbs from the classic route, a mini version, but in keeping with the Ardennes classic style our route is still undulating from the start and we are climbing within the first 10km.  The first notable climb reached is the Loorberg, a 3km test at 6% that winds up through the trees, allowing for a stretch of the legs.  After a short descent down into the open fields it’s not long before the next official climb at Camerig.  Slightly longer at 3.5km the gradient is steady, bringing us onto a ridge that offers fantastic views over the valley into Belgium.  Taking a short cut at the top we head back towards Valkenburg, scheduling in a quick climb of the Kruisberg which is certainly the toughest climb so far touching 20% at its steepest … welcome to the Ardennes!  Another easy 10km brings us back to Valkenburg 24 hours after the professionals.  Sweeping left onto the Cauberg it’s impossible not to stand on the pedals and give it everything to see just how fast you can get up the climb versus the pros.  It only lasts 2.5 minutes but that’s enough when a large section of the climb is 15-20%.  Thankfully the rest of ride is downhill back to hotel where further varieties of monk(ey) beer are waiting to replenish those burned calories.

The following day we travel to Spa which serves as a perfect base for reaching the next two races. Situated in the heart of the Ardennes our hotel is surrounded by forrest and only a few minutes ride away from the historic town.  The next classic is La Fleche Wallonne (The Walloon Arrow), which follows a similar diet of rolling countryside interspersed with steep climbs, the more notorious of which is the Mur De Huy (the wall of Huy). Much like the race a few days prior there is calm in the group on the initial ascent of ‘the wall’, but all hell breaks loose when it comes down to the final effort.  Sometimes spectating at a bike race can be an anti climax with the race passing by in a flash, that’s not the case here.  The climb is so harsh that even at the top level of racing team leaders are wrestling with their bikes to claw their way to the top of this climb.  Even after the winner has crossed the line and the crowds are descending from the hillside, there are dropped domestiques battling their way up through the melee, dodging fans who help with a little push and cheer.

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When it’s our turn again the next morning I’ll admit I wasn’t over enthusiastic about the final climb of the day, which was to be the Mur de Huy.  Today’s ride is a lot shorter than the last, an excuse to get a ride in and be warmed up for the final climb.  Meandering through the countryside, passing ripe fields of bright yellow oilseed rape the skies are overcast making for a muggy ride.  A couple of hours after leaving Huy we are back and approaching the foot of the wall.  Learning nothing from the last ride, again I hammed on the pedals at the first sight of ‘huy, huy, huy …’ spray painted up the road.  Initially the climb isn’t too bad, but as you take the second bend, a left hand hairpin where the gradient sharply steps up to over 25% you know this is where the real test begins.  After that point gradient does not relent until the final 100m as you exit the trees.  It was just before this marker where I tasted blood at the back of my throat, 3.5 minutes into the climb and right on the limit I don’t think I’ve ever has to push myself that hard.  You’re not given a choice… either dig in or get off, you’re not going fast enough to stay upright unless you accept the suffering and keep on pushing the pedals.

With the Mur de Huy ticked off, I categorically state that I don’t need to come back and do it again.  How anyone can do that 4 times in one ride … racing others on the way up is hard to comprehend.  That’s why I’m there though, the only way to fully appreciate what you’re watching when the pros fight it out on these climbs is to do it yourself and experience a degree of the suffering they put themselves through several times over.  Incredible.

After a day of resting in the spa we are registered to take part in the official Liege-Bastogne-Liege sportive, the day before the classic.  The early stages of the parcours are relaxed, some climbing but nothing too serious.  It’s when you turn back towards Liege that they come thick and fast, the first notable steep ascent is that of the Cote de la Redoute. Again the average grade of 8% is deceiving, the early part of the climb is gentle but it’s when the slope creeps over 20% and just stays there that it really bites.  A short breather is required at the top before pressing on into a succession of short punchy climbs. The next major test is the Cote de la Roche aux Foucons, though not as consistently tough as the Redoute it definitely helps deliver more lactate into the legs.  A short descent over the top and there’s more climbing immediately, such is the shark tooth profile of the route, half of the climbs aren’t even marked on the route card but they’re definitely there.

Entering Liege again we ride through the old industrial part of the city and turn into the Cote de St Nicolas, famous in classics gone by for late winning attacks.  I make a slightly less dramatic late attack of my own, simply to get through the climb quicker, it’s not as challenging as the earlier climbs but coming so late in the roller-coaster route it’s feels tougher than it should.  That was the last categorised climb on the card and at the top people were congratulating each other for ‘finishing’, but I’ve done this before and know about something they don’t … the Cote d’Ans.  It’s a climb no harder than anything you’d ride on a Sunday club run but if you’re mind thinks you’ve already finished it can be a beast.  Without getting ahead of ourselves we take our time descending through the town and spin a comfortable gear up the final climb back to the sports club we had left hours before, completing the third of our mini classics and celebrating with another Trappist beer … well why not?

Sunday morning and the oldest of the classics in well under way, somewhere between Liege and Bastogne. At 283km and over 4,500m climbing they’ll be on the road for a while,  so we take our time waking the legs up and head for the Cote de la Redoute, with far less apprehension than the day before.  We’re not the first to arrive and the Belgian teenagers opposite our chosen spot clearly arrived a few hours ago to secure a space and start on the lagers, each finished crate now upturned and used as a platform to stand and cheer from.  Each amateur rider making their way up by bike gets a hearty cheer, a handy push and offers of beer to help ease the pain.  A Dutch stag party have acquired a flag pole which is now being used to encourage walkers to limbo their way up the hill… well just girls actually.  They even manage to ‘limbo’ a police car!  As we are well used to now, the caravan rolls through an hour ahead of the race jettisoning useless crap from it’s windows into the crowd.  The highlight during this part of our day at the races is when spectators decide it would be funny to start throwing the unwanted marketing give-aways back into the vehicles, we clearly join in and successfully manage to hit one driver with a red rubber ball advertising some local product or other.

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Enough of that and the attention is back on the approaching race.  The break away has a slender lead as it reaches us but we see riders firing off the front of the peloton behind looking to establish a margin over the top. There’s been quite a selection in the bunch now, with only 50km to go the peloton is far slimmer than it was when it left that morning, a long line of riders squeeze their way through the crowds and cars following the race in, their jobs done for the day.  We follow the finish of the race on large screens positioned half way up the climb and once Gerrans finally leaves someones wheel to claim victory we jump in the car and make our way back to the channel.

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After a long week of riding, watching pros, eating frites and drinking monk booze we’re shattered.  But that’s the beauty of the spring classics, each day is different and you know it’s going to be an exhausting week, that’s what you go for and it wouldn’t be the same any other way.

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PARIS ROUBAIX 2014

Let’s do de cobblesh…

Paris Roubaix is my favourite classic, a race for the hardmen and a chance for the beefier boys of the peleton to put one over the skinny climbers. The ride for us mere mortals is run every two years so a bunch of the grupetto decided to pound the pave this year.

We secure the ‘naughty boys’ back seat of the bus and arrive in an industrial estate just outside Paris after a journey that had a high BantsPerMile count. A few sneaky sherberts before bed and we retired in preperation for a little warm up ride that Graham had arranged for us on Saturday,

Saturday morning and it’s flippin warm, I’d packed all my wet weather kit but neglected to bring any sunscreen. Bikes assembled and we set off for an 80k tour of the Western Front. The roads were empty, the sun was shining and the company was tip-top. It’s always sombering to stop off and pay your respects at the commonwealth war cemetries and a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by so many young men and women

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Dommy managed to lose the cleat from the bottom of his shoe when all the screws fell out but we were rescued by Grahams spot of a pretty swish bike shop in a village in the middle of nowhere. The owner of the shop fixed dommy’s cleat and we chatted with him for a bit, the usual international cyclists language of bikes, bits and rides. The ride finished with a raid on a bakery where Dommy treated us to his ‘blue steel’

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The day of the ride

It’s fair to say that there was a frisson [oooh get me french] of excitement and fear as we jumped on the coach at 5.30 to be driven to the ‘trench’. Bikes were tweaked, comfort breaks taken and Dommy ensured that he had the correct amount of cap ‘luft’ for such an auspicous ride

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There was no more avoiding it, time to ride. Arenberg is not the gentlest way to start a ride and some of the language was a bit Anglo Saxon, the cobbles at Flanders which we’d all ridden before can rattle you about a bit but these are something else. I’d ridden PR before and thought that now wasn’t the best time to let the lads know that things were going to get bumpier. Dommy lost a bidon and decided to go back for it and rode the trench twice

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The rain from earlier in the day had cleared up and we were riding in baking sunshine. The group quickly discovered that the best way to tackle de cobblesh was to just put the hammer down, pick a line and go for it. The sense of ‘floating on air’ when you hit tarmac after a pave section always makes me chuckle. At the first feed stop we discovered that a slice of saucisson makes an excellent bidon shim to stop it bouncing out of the cage on the pave – marginal gains innit.

As always Ved managed to spot a tiny pony so we stopped for an obligatory pic

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The ride continued and whenever spirits began to flag the bants would start, the sound of the grupetto singing ‘Delilah’ after the Mons-en-Pevele bought a few strange looks from some of the other riders

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Before long we were approaching the last major section, Le Carrefour de l’Arbre, 2.1 k’s of proper battering, no gutters to ride in, it was just a case of gritting the teeth and getting on with it knowing it was all going to be over soon. It always impresses me the speed of the pros and how they manage to battle it out in such close quarters when the cobbles are bouncing your eyeballs around in their sockets so much that you struggle to focus.

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A few cheeky short pave sections later and it’s the gentle roll home to the velodrome. Entering the velodorome is always an emotional experience, you know the job’s been done and you’ve seen it so many times watching the pro race. A few isotonic Julipers and it was off to visit the iconic Roubaix showers, plaques on the shower stalls commemorate past winners and cycling heroes and this year a few chancers from South London

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Graham gave it his best leMond pose while Sam opted for the chirpy “pave, what pave” pose

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Then it was back to the hotel for a well earned bit of scran and some well deserved beers. A cracking grupetto trip as always with plenty of bruises, blisters and bants. We’ll be back there in 2016 for sure

TOUR OF WESSEX 2014

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Nath’s report

After finding my ride to Brighton and back so draining, I was a bit nervous about three days worth of similar riding, but having some club mates to ride with made it much easier. Also the regular feed stops were great, as was the scenery and what I counted as a grand total of 4 sets of traffic lights, three of which were on the last day.

The first day was a cold and wet start, which persisted for most of the day. The highlight for me was Cheddar Gorge, which was really beautiful and a really satisfying climb. King Alfred’s Tower came later which was one of the hardest climbs of the whole three days and was good to get out of the way early. The lowlight was as Denny mentioned earlier, the chap getting CPR on one one of the hills. I haven’t heard, but I hope he is ok.

The second day I felt a bit tired but ok. The sun was out, which made it my favourite day out of the three. This ride took us to the Dorset coast and back, so there were some decent climbs at about the half way mark. The best I thought was a slow climb up through a military testing ground, with rusty tanks down below and big neon numbers on the hill side, with the road curving around the edge of the hill. The last 20k or so was fairly flat, so I managed a healthy pace to the finish.

As we were queueing to start on the final day, Kate said that we looked very unhappy. I don’t know about the others, but I felt it hard to drum up enthusiasm! I planned to do the longer route so head off with a peloton of riders soon after the start and stuck with them for most of the way until the first feed stop which came after the biggest climb of the tour so far over the Quantocks. At that point, average speed was 32kph. However, at that point my right knee also decided to stop working. I tried the full route anyway and then decided to turn back and head down the short route. I caught up with a few riders from Clapham Chasers, stuck with them, took a wrong turn, then rode with them until the last climb into Somerton. At this point, my knee was properly fucked. I was really gutted, as I felt relatively fit apart from my knee. I feel a bike fit coming on.

TL;DR: Nice scenery, 459km, 4,362m climbing, one buggered knee, lots of eating. Not tempted to do it again.

Denny’s [slightly shorter] report

That was a lot of fun. Rained for the first five hours. Matt crashed. He also stung his cock on a stinging nettle. Beautiful route. Loved riding up Cheddar Gorge, but not much as Nathan, he LOVES cheddar. 

GRUPETTO OPEN TRACK MEET AT HERNE HILL 2014

We’re happy to be running our annual Open Track Meet at Herne Hill Velodorome again this year – expect to see plenty of great racing, the ‘sprinters sausage’ prize and the ‘wheel of cheese’. featured race will be the Roadmans’s 25 but there’ll be plenty of racing for enduros and sprinters alike.

You can get up to date news on our facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/GrupettoOpenTrackMeet?ref_type=bookmark

 

 

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race programme for the day

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Joining the Club de Cingles 2014

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Two years ago I went on a last-minute cycling holiday to Provence and ended up cycling up two of the sides of Mont Ventoux. I knew then that I wanted to come back to complete the three sides ‘officially’ and join the Club des Cinglés.

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I was accompanied for this challenge by Henry, a close friend of mine, and Dan, a fellow Grupetto member, who wanted to ride up it once….or maybe twice, but not three times.

We booked a three person apartment in the ‘Carpe Diem’ campsite in Vaison which was very basic and small but cheap and served its purpose perfectly…..once we’d found the hidden toilet roll.

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Henry has a good sized van which seats three so we placed our fully built up bikes in the back, stacked our suitcases and drove down to Provence via the Eurotunnel in a single day. Unfortunately for Henry, neither Dan or I have a licence so he had to drive the whole way having had to get the sleeper train from Scotland the night before! We supplied the ‘entertainment’ for the 14 hour trip.

The next morning we went to the local market to buy saucisson, Comte, olive oil and some other bits for lunch. The weather was great but there was a gusty wind, not a great omen for the following day.

Before lunch we got out on the bikes for a 40k recce of the area. We actually ended up riding 6k up Ventoux from Malaucene just to remind the legs what climbing felt like, followed by the beautiful road between Maulacene and Bedoin, which takes in the Col de la Madeleine (no, not that one). The wind on the way back was pretty severe, especially as we were trying to save any legs we did have.

Lunch was fantastic – the local produce combined with the ‘carb-loading’ attitude meant a large amount of bread and a fair few saucisson were consumed. We spent the rest of the afternoon winding round the back roads of Provence, popping into notable vineyards that had been recommended to us. It was a great way to spend the afternoon and, now I’m back, my only wish was that I bought more cases!

In the evening we had a relaxing pizza in Vaison watching the sun go down. The summit of Ventoux had been shrouded with cloud all day, but as the day rolled round to dusk this started to gently slip away.

A beautiful bright morning greeted up when we woke up. We had planned to be at Maulacene for 8.15 to start the first climb, but even with thorough preparations the three of us managed to lose an hour somewhere.
We drove to Bedoin with the van so we had emergency food plus spare wheels and clothes if we needed them for the second and third ascents. Henry and I waved goodbye to Dan as we needed to get cracking and he wasn’t on as tight as schedule as us. We used the 10k ride to Malaucene as a warmup, which included a beautiful climb of around 200m, which provided the perfect warm-up.

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The first ascent was great, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect and I felt pretty good once my body was over the shock that I was going to be climbing for a long time. There is a tough middle section of that climb where it lifts from 7-8% to 11-13% but strangely that was where I really found my rhythm and my body starting responding well to my efforts.
It really flattens out after that and I started feeling great. I knew I was on decent time if I kept this pace so I had a gel which had me feeling strong up to the top. A large amount of snow in the corner of one hairpin made me laugh – it was a strange feeling to be at a comfortable temperature in just bibs and jersey but with my breath visible in front of my face.

I climbed the first side in in 1 hour 29 mins, knocking 10 mins off my previous time – I had set 1 hour 30 as a sort of target so I was pleased with that. Henry came in just a few minutes later. It was pretty nippy up there so we got our ride cards stamped, layered up and hit the descent to Bedoin. This was the first mountain descending I had down on a carbon braking surface which took a bit of getting used to, but halfway down that side I was confident enough to start throwing myself into corners and enjoying myself. It was very busy with riders and cars coming up (the cars seemingly full people going up to Chalet Reynard for lunch) which meant a few hairy moments on corners but nothing dangerous.

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At the bottom we grabbed some food and Nuun tablets from the van, refilled our bottles and got our cards stamped again before hitting the second ascent.
The climb out of Bedoin starts really gently before hitting a wall of 10 percent, which lasts for 10 sapping kilometers.
Starting this section Henry was tapping out a solid rhythm which I was struggling to maintain. This was the hardest part of the whole day – I was really struggling to keep plugging away as the gradient is unrelenting. It’s the warmest side to climb as it’s shielded from the wind by the surrounding forest. Without a breeze to keep me cool the sweat was literally pouring of me.
There is nothing to do but grit your teeth and keep going, ticking off the KM signs as they come. This was where riding with someone else really helps – a bit of chat and companionship through the pain. About 2kms from the end of this section I suddenly felt stronger, much as I had on the tough section of the first climb.
For me, mountain riding is hugely psychological. When you feel good there is almost no better feeling (well, in cycling anyway) but when you feel low it’s hard just to keep going. You just have to know that when you get through the tough patch it will at some point get easier.

Exiting the forest you Cycle past Chalet Reynard and into the ‘lunar landscape’. The gradient actually lessens from the forest section but you then have to contend with the gusting winds. We were lucky that the wind was fairly benign (compared to how it often is) but unfortunately the summit had become wreathed in swirling cloud.

I had a gel and continued to feel good, but this was where Henry really started to hurt (so he told me afterwards) and he started drifting away. I would love to say I dropped back and gave him my wheel, but in the mountains you just have to climb how you can climb at that point. We had agreed before starting to ride at our own pace and treat anytime spent together as a bonus, so I don’t think he minded.

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There were numerous riders climbing toward the summit at the same time including a big group from the ‘Flandrian’ club. They were having a great time, and as I passed them one said something to the effect of ‘Grupetto? You’re not in the Grupetto!’ and all his mates (and I) laughed. Well, it felt funny at the time.
I managed to keep a good pace while riding into the cloud. The temperature did drop a bit but it wasn’t uncomfortable.

At the top there are a few market stalls selling biscuits, sweets and, of course, saucisson. I’d run out of bars so I filled up with biscuits for the both of us. Henry was 4-5 mins behind me, and once we had recovered (a can of coke helped) we got going before a chill set in.

As we descended to Chalet Reynard we prepared ourselves for the long descent to Sault on a notionally poor (well, by French standards) road surface. Instead of that we were treated to possibly the smoothest blacktop I’ve ever ridden on – they had just resurfaced the entire road, almost the entire 26 kilometers. It’s a great descent and very different from the other two as it’s much shallower, you actually have to pedal down this one. At this point I really wished I had a standard chainset on as I kept spinning out on my 50t chainring. However it was still great fun, with some superb corners to test you. Nearing the end of the descent we left the trees into a field and I was enveloped by a cloud of lavender scent. It’s a shame that neither of us were using Raphas ‘Eau de Provence’ chamois cream!

We stopped for a baguette in Sault then had a slightly frustrating search for the bike shop, who then stamped our cards with a cheery smile.

The climb back up started in the open lavender fields, with nasty headwind for the first section of the climb. Once we got into a rhythm the kilometers just ticked along and as the road wound it’s way around the mountain we happily had the benefit of the wind pushing upwards. The road really flattens out near end and I had the slightly unusual sensation of riding uphill at over 30kph. Soon enough we were nearing Chalet Reynard for the second time, and this time the cloud had lifted around the summit. This gave us a nice mental boost as we had envisaged riding into a rain cloud (or worse), however the real struggle of the day was just starting.
The wind was much stronger this time which made switchbacks really nasty. Cycling up a 8% incline into a block headwind is quite a challenge, especially considering the 4,500 metres we had already done. However from here you can see the summit so the pain is almost over.
With 3kms to go my legs and body felt totally empty. The rest of the climb was one of the toughest times I’ve experienced on a bike. There were groups of family and friends cheering on their loved ones and they were giving every rider going past a huge amount of encouragement which kept me smiling. When I finally made it to the top, body shaking with the effort it was so beautiful (and warm!) that I tried to take it all in. The views from the summit are breathtaking (not that I had much breathe left). We both took photos but, as is always the way with these panoramic views, you lose so much of the scale and majesty. I just tried to soak up as much as I could while I was up there.
I sent Dan a text saying we had finished and he replied instantly saying he was in Malaucene with a beer. We didn’t hang around long after that!

This descent was almost empty of cars and riders. This is my favourite descent in the world…….and I knew a cold beer was waiting at the end of it. Henry had an worrying moment where we were speeding down a long straight at nearly 90kms an hour when his bike had a speed wobble. I was behind him and it looked like his bike was trying to shake itself apart. He managed to control it and slow down without any trauma but obviously he took it a bit easy after that. I was very happy on my sturdy metal bike at that point!

At the end of the descent there is a shop called ‘Ventoux Finisher’ where we got our final stamp. They sell a special Club des Cingles jersey there but the design is pretty awful so neither of us bought one – €50 is a bit steep for something you wouldn’t wear! We had a beer in the sun then had to cycle a final 10k with some more climbing to get back to the van in Bedoin.

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It was a day I’ll always remember. We had incredible luck with the weather – the day before the wind was twice as strong and the summit was covered in cloud the whole time.

We had some superb, challenging riding, beautiful scenery, great food and drink and the company was alright too. In the evening we even managed to have a slightly drunken heated debate about doping. The boxes were ticked.

Sam mixes it with Jody Cundy

In September I was lucky enough to win a competition through work to ride the track none other than Jody Cundy MBE.

A bit of background. Jody was born with a deformed foot and at the age of three his parents had to make the difficult decision to have it amputated. This didn’t deter Jody, even with a prosthetic limb he was sport mad, but from the age of ten swimming took over as his main activity, and soon enough he was breaking records for all age groups. At sixteen he won gold in the world swimming championships, knocking four seconds off his personal best. After this he represented Great Britain at three Paralympic games, winning three gold and two bronze medals. In 2005 persistent shoulder injuries started to get the better of Jody, and one day at an open day at Newport velodrome he decided to have a go (at this time he was based in Swansea). His potential was spotted by one of the coaches there, and within two weeks was on the boards at Manchester, beating the times of the then paracycling team. The rest, as they say, is history. Ten gold, two silver and two bronze medals in Paralympic and world championships, but Jody is probably more famous for his outburst following disqualification from the 1k time trial.

Having to be in Manchester for 9am meant an early start (4:30am!) but I got there bang on time. I got changed ready to meet up with the other four competition winners in the track centre for 9:30am. I was first out and immediately spotted Jody’s bike hanging up on the rack. Other winners than emerged, followed by Jody. We had a thirty minute chat, where he showed us his gold medal from Beijing and the bronze from London, then got given our bikes and got set up.  The next ten minutes to be honest were a bit boring as the instructor had to go through all the details about riding a track bike, cranks keep turning, stopping, look over your shoulder before moving up or down the track, etc.  We were then lead out onto the track by Jody, it was immediately obvious that one of the people was totally unfit (he hadn’t ridden a bike in twenty years), the lady of the group was very nervous, but the rest of us were pretty capable riders.  So we were left to our own devices for fifteen to twenty minutes while Jody and the instructor worked on the other two.  Everyone then came into the track centre again for a few minutes rest and a chat with Jody before going back onto the track, where now everyone was able to ride the blue line (halfway up the track) while me and the two others could ride right up the top of the bank.  After 20 minutes or so we came back in for a rest/chat, then it was time to do a (sort of) flying 250 metre TT, timed from the start/finish line for one lap.

Sam Day and Jody Cundy MBE

We started at the very beginning of the final straight, holding onto the wall on the track centre.  Jody went first, he got up to speed so quickly, then his pace along the back straight and the final bend was electric.  It was absolutely amazing to see.  I went off third, gave it the full beans, and found out after that I’d clocked the best time. Apart from Jody’s obviously, he was about two and a half seconds quicker.

After the TT and rest/chat we did through and off for about half an hour, the pace started quite slowly, but went quicker and quicker, and the unfit bloke soon pulled in.  Sounds a bit naughty to say, but I was hoping that the woman would do the same because Jody, I, and the two other blokes would have been able to put the hammer down.  Then it was time to pull in for a rest and chat before a final ten minutes on the track for a warm down.  Unfortunately (!) for me Jody asked if I wanted him to show me the lines he would take during the three warm up laps for a flying 250m sprint, plus the sprint itself. I couldn’t exactly say no.  Riding around the top of the boards inches behind Jody at about 30mph before sweeping down to take the black line around the track is something that will live with me forever.  Here is a Paralympic gold medallist and World Champion leading me round the boards at Manchester velodrome, the home of British Cycling. Once the flying lap started I gave it everything, no idea what time I did, but I was going pretty quick!

So after that it was a shower, lunch and a good chinwag with Jody for about an hour. During the chat I was presented with a signed skinsuit from Jody as the result of wining the time trial, a massive bonus on what was already a massive day.

I could obviously say that he is a top bloke, blah, blah, etc. But he really is.  So easy to talk to, very honest with what he was saying, and listened to everything everyone had to say. I tried to get Jody to sign up to become a Grump, but he said he couldn’t as he wouldn’t be able to keep up with us on the club run…..

Sam Day and Jody Cundy MBS

Keirin

Yesterday saw riders from Grupetto compete in the inaugural Keirin meeting at London’s famous Herne Hill Velodrome. Pictures of the full day can been seen in the galley but here is a sneak preview.

 

Membership enquiries

Recently we have been getting a lot of enquiries about membership and our membership policy so to help make things a little clearer please see the clubs current position on the new membership page.


Ventoux

Nic on Ventoux

I went to Mont Ventoux today.

We were staying in Vinsobres, so myself and a riding companion called Billy set off to Malaucene around 10am. It was about 15 miles but we took it very gently. There we met up with another friend who was staying in Vaison, had a quick coffee then started the ascent.

I found it fairly easy going for the first 6km, I got into a good rhythm and was feeling in good shape. This didn’t last however, as the middle section of the climb is a grinding 12-14% for about 4km. I was regretting my decision not to fit a compact chainset! It was hard going but it did relent eventually and even rewards you with a gentle 5% section which certainly relaxed the legs before the final onslaught.

Climbing from this side the you don’t see much of the lunar landscape until you hit the last 2k. As you ascend the temperature drops steadily until it was actually cold. I was working hard enough to not feel it until I stopped, but it was bloody freezing up there with harsh gusting winds.

I made it up the 21k in 1 hour 39 mins which I was pretty pleased with. The other guys I rode with took a but longer so I had a good rest in the cafe which I had retreated to while they caught up. We had some lunch (steak sandwich, nice) then descended to Bedoin (but not without stopping to place a Grupetto and cap bottle at the Tommy Simpson memorial).

The wind had ramped up during the morning and made the descent pretty hairy – to the point where I felt I was going to be blown over at one particular moment. It was not fun for the first 5k – it was gusting so you couldn’t predict when it would hit. It turned a fantastic descent into a self-preservation exercise!

The wind lessened as we lost altitude and the temperature steadily rose. It was a beautiful summers day when we arrived in Bedoin. During lunch I had made my mind up to turn round and climb Ventoux again from the Bedoin side. I bought some gels and bars in case I bonked and set off back up. It’s a nice gentle start to the climb for a good few kilometers. However once it raps up to 9%, it sits there for a long, long time. Here I started to struggle a bit physically as my lower back started to ache painfully (probably due to my lack of core strength).

Halfway up the 22k climb seemed a big psychological point for me, and as I approached Chalet Reynard (16k up) I shoved down an energy gel to help boost me up to the top.

Unfortunately I hadn’t bargained on the wind which was even worse than it had been on the descent. When it gusted directly into me (which happened frequently) I pretty much stopped pedalling as it was just wasted effort – a few seconds later I could continue on. Up near the top the temperature was dropping quite fast – but again as I was working pretty hard it was ok as long as I didn’t stop.

As I approached the summit, a rider stopped on the corner of the final bend. I didn’t take much notice of him until a gust of wind literally blew him and his bike up and over into the road. He was a bit shaken but fine, however it demonstrated the power of the wind up there.
This side took me longer – 1 hour 50 mins. I stopped briefly at the summit before an awesome descent back down to Malaucene. It took 30 mins, with an average of 28mph, and I managed to hit 50mph at one point. Not too technical, with wide open roads, hardly any traffic and amazing scenery. I sported a huge smile all the way down!

I celebrated with a quick Grimbergen in Malaucene before trudging back to our Gite in Vinsobre into a block headwind. Not the most fun end to the day but I arrived back just as dinner was being served!

As far as my cycling experiences go it was tough but rewarding. I will go back soon and do all three sides in a day (to join the Club de Cingles) – I feel like could have managed it this time, however the weather conditions and time were against me. Something to aim for in the future!

 Ventoux certainly is worthy opponent.