A New Year Approaches pt1: Reflections on 2016

2016 has been a pretty good year on the bike, finding a new drive and passion for it and seeing results in terms of getting faster and riding further. I have some really big plans for 2017, a lot of which revolve around bikes and like most things, I find it helps to write them down first, more chance of actually doing them!

Firstly looking back to this time last year.. I drew up a brainstorm of cycling ideas to motivate myself as at the time whilst I had progressed a lot (including first two imperial centuries) I wasn’t riding that much and didn’t have much focus or mental toughness. I was quite keen on trying Audax and really enjoyed the interesting mix of non-commercial / DIY feel, a mix of characters and bikes (from standard road fare to trikes to Moultons and recumbants). In the end I did 3 200km Audax rides, all in the Spring. I think the combination of Audax plus dodgy weather works best..

Next on the list was a tour of Scotland. I had been reading a lot about the North Coast 500 route and the stunning scenery was a must do. In the end I did a 5 day tour of just over 400km on a circular route from Inverness airport that took in a good section of the NC500 as well as a host of other stunning roads. It was a brilliant trip, even riding all day long into 50+kph winds. I wild camped for the first time (shit scary getting up in the middle of the night freezing cold to take a piss) and of course wasn’t murdered by an angry farmer / drunk local / mauled by a stray wolf.

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Strade Bianche.. Well more like I wanted to ride a bit of the Tuscan white chalk roads. I did a fair amount of riding in Tuscany, sampling both the challenging but stunning dirt roads, the fantastic climbs and twisting descents and fitted in a proper HC category climb in the 1970s throwback ski resort Monte Amiata.

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All the while taking on the near constant 35-40’c temperature and cloudless skies offering no hint of shade. A lot of sweat happened.

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Not on the list but mighty fun and has given me a real taste for it was a brief foray in the Alps on the way to and way back from Italy. I only had a couple of hours riding time on each occasion but managed to fit in the Col d’Izoard which was stunning and the Col du Telegraphe (we also drove up to the summit of the Galibier at which point the temperature was 1’c). I knew that I had to come back and the Alps will feature as a big objective in 2017.

I also really wanted to tackle some of the famous climbs in South Wales and originally planned a 3 day trip however in the end I only had time to do a single day that proved to be a real challenge ( 130km / 2,200m) on the delapidated roads, double-digit steep climbs and in particular the slightly depressing aura of the run down towns and villages you pass through. The two highlights were the two category two climbs, The Blwch and Rhigos. The views were stunning (albeit with a lot more traffic than you’d expect) and a real reward for a hard day on the bike.

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Prior to that and not really on my ‘to do’ list was the Peak District and specifically Wiggle’s Peak District Punisher sportive. This was a cracking day out, a real challenge with 2,900m of climbing over 158km. There were 20% gradient climbs, long (for the UK) 5% climbs and pretty much everything inbetween. I really enjoyed this one and will be looking to do a similar ride in the spring next year. As you can see below, there wasn’t much flat..

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I felt that overall I got stronger through the year and hopefully I can maintain that momentum to ensure I can enjoy the big challenges in store in 2017. In addition to these highlights I also got into the rather dubious pastime of mountain biking.. No baggy shorts, peaked helmets or ‘gnarly’ t-shirts yet but it is pretty good fun. I’m pretty sure it can only help my bike handling and descending skills too!

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