Cycling Santa’s Little Shopping Guide 2013

Cycling Shorts unleashes Santa’s Little Helpers.
Yes the panic is setting in, so much to get organised and so little time, the Cycling Shorts team have put our collective heads together to give you a list of gift ideas that won’t disappoint even the fussiest cyclist in your life.

We’ve split our choices into four perfect price parcels for commuters, kids, pro’s or fans. Click on the images or text links to visit the retailers (we’ve tried to find the cheapest deals for you). If nothing takes your fancy take a look at last years suggestions by clicking here.

 

Stitch-Mi-Lane Commuter Cowl £30Pegatin Stickers from £9.99Walz Wool Racing Caps from £19 - £23One Life ID Stickers from £9.99The Real Life Ups And Downs Of A Tour Pro from £10Chrome Industries Merino Socks £12Women's Race Training Sessions - £20 for 4 hoursDefeet Slipstream Hi-Viz Overshoes - £13.99Handle Bar Heroes £9.95Coppi: Inside the Legend of the Campionissimo £20Track Cycling Calendar 2014 by Guy Swarbrick £16.99Gecko Grip Bar Tape from £11howies Labrador T-shirt £25One23 Coloured Multi-Tool from £11Scruffy Dog Chunky Bobble Hat £26Brooks Trouser Strap from £14.66Purple Harry Bike Wash & Polish Mitt £5.99Monuments-The Handmade Cyclist Paris-Roubaix Print £25Polaris Evolution Waterproof Cycling Overshoe £25.99Speedplay Cleats from £29Brite Ride MEGA Wipes £19.99Rapha Winter Collar £25Montezuma's Doppio Pips £2.79 - Click to buyOne Life ID Band from £12.99-£18.99Stitch-Mi-Lane Wheel Cushion £28Bell Fraction Kids Bike Helmet from £16V-Sprint Espresso Coffee Set from £18.50Hannah Walker Matrix Mug £16Roths Tourleben Calendar 2014 €19.80The Pain And The Glory Best Price £11.10Rapha Winter Socks £15The Winter Cycling Survival Guide (Kindle) £1.96Rob Hayles - Easy Rider Best Price £11.55The Sufferfest Videos from $12.99The Long Race To Glory Best Price £13.40Podium Pants £25

Secret Santa

Under £30

Elena Bremer:
It would have to be a Handmade Cyclist print or 5. My personal favourite is the Monument Collection, I love the style of them and the little stories behind each print- the dog in Paris- Roubaix, the Chapel in Lombardia. You have to be a bit of a bike geek to really appreciate them! I came across Neil’s work when he provided South West Women’s Race Series with prints as prizes. A great gift at only £25 each or buy the full set of 5 for £100.

Anna Magrath:
If you are thinking about giving racing a go next season, sign up to one of the race training sessions that Cycling Shorts staff writer; Heather Bamforth is coaching – price is £20 per four hour session and is aimed at female riders who are either novices, fourth or third category riders.

Safety on the road is a hot topic at the moment, so I would suggest a OneLife ID Band, these silicone bands come with an etched metal tag with a unique URL and QR code that links to your personal profile where your “in case of emergency” can be stored and if someone enters the pin number on the back of the tag into the website your medical data can be viewed by a paramedic. It’s a highly customisable system, show as much or as little info as you want and it has multiple uses, lost property, ICE or Meditag. You can buy stickers, bands, keyrings and cards. Keeping a loved one easily identifiable in an emergency situation could save a life. If you click here you can see an example of what a profile looks like.
Remember there’s a discount of 15% with xmasgift15 until 11th December!

For the kids two items: the Bell Fraction Helmets and The fun Handlebar Heroes… Giddy Up!

For the Boys: A nice retro wool racing cap, Walz do a great quality cap for a good price, available from Always Riding from £19 to £23. Or maybe some leather trouser straps from Brooks, they have a great new range of bright metallics from £14.66.
howies do some great t-Shirts for men and women but my favourite this year is their mens Labrador T-Shirt.. a bargain at £25

Pegatin provide bike sitckers decals to the cycling stars; a great stocking filler. Choose the country flag and name and you’re ready to go! Starts at £9.99.

Why not treat the track cyclist in your life to a Track Cycling Calendar only £16.99, with photographs by top cycling photographer Guy Swarbrick… or for the track sprinter who likes their caffeine rush why not head over to V-Sprint’s website and order an Espresso Set. V-Sprint have cycling in their blood, owned by European Team Sprint Champion; Jess Varnish’s Dad. If you can’t stretch to a set of V-Sprints custom made wheels go for the coffee hit!

Stitch-Mi-Lane is a brand I’ve only recently come across, I bought one of their gorgeous Bike Twist Snoods recently and it’s getting a lot of wear this winter. I love it, really soft and cosy wool. Coming in under budget though is the Commuter Cowl at £28, or the Snug Spectator Merino Bike Bobble Hat also at £28. Want something for the living room? Why not get a Stitch-Mi-Lane Bike Wheel Cushion… my favourite is the blue and orange colourway, again a snip at £28!

For the lazy cyclist: Brite Ride Mega Bike Wipes £19.99 Or if they are feeling a little more energetic… give it a polish! Get a Purple Harry Bike Wash & Polish Mitt for £5.99, Purple Harry have a great range of cleaning products, check them out!

Hannah Walker:
Hannah Walker Matrix Mug £16
Cool little gift for someone you know who loves cycling, drawn by the amazing Marty McCrossan, this little gift won’t break the bank and it’ll help fund Matrix Fitness RA with part of the proceeds going directly to the team!!

Fancy a read… Rob Hayles: Easy Rider £16.99 – Very funny book which will keep you entertained for hours, and shows you the insights of what it takes to become a Pro bike rider! It’s one of those books you’ll read many a time and have you laughing out loud like I did on a flight to Germany!

Nick Dey:
It simply has to be the traditional Christmas undies under the tree – a three pack of Look Mum No Hands Podium Pants (£25) will bring a smile to the faces of all; simply perfect for your pedaling partner! Why not accessorise with a pair of Rapha Winter City Riding Socks (£15), in pink, of course.
What Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a book to curl up with as the kids clean and prepare your bike for the traditional Boxing Day ride. This year has seen a cycling book eruption. My particular favourites, of which I will select three (the reviews are coming – I promise you readers… and you too dear editor!) have been, in no particular order…
Long Race to Glory – How the British Came to Rule the Cycling World, by Chris Sidwells. A wonderfully written and entertaining history of the many characters and events that have paved the way for the riders of today.
The Pain and the Glory: Team Sky Giro & Tour Diary, by Team Sky, Sir Brailsford and Chris Froome. Another fine tome, packed full off Scott Mitchell’s beautiful photography and supported by a free interactive Augmented Reality App that allows readers to scan selected pictures and then to sit back gazing in wonder as Scott tells you the story behind the photograph.
One for you Kindle folk: The Winter Cycling Survival Guide: How to Cycle through your first Winter – keep warm, get fit & stay motivated (A Beginner’s Training Guide.) by Rebecca Ramsay.
There’s no finer place to circle the important cycling dates of 2014 than in the Roths 2014 Tourleben – calendar (42-42 cm). Full of great photos that capture many of the legends of cycling. You won’t see many of these in the UK. Classy and inspiring.

Cristi Ruhlman:
Here are some of my favorites. It’s so wet over here so some warm wool cycling socks or rain booties—both of which I’d love right now, just to walk the dogs!

David James: Some top quality bar tape makes a real difference to comfort when riding and with so many colours and styles to choose from it should be easy to find something just right.

Heather Bamforth:
The majority of your heat escapes via your head – do yourself a favour and buy a bobble hat – Scruffy Dog Creations are selling like hot cakes at the moment! You can find out more about this brand, which boast handmade knitwear by checking out their Facebook page. If you want to buy one right now, you can purchase them from Victor and Liberty, priced between £26 and £29

Titch Longley:
It has to be the Defeet Slipstream Hi-Viz Overshoes (Pink) RRP: £13.99

Hayley Davies:
Every cyclist needs to keep their neck warm in the winter and this Merino collar from Rapha goes down a treat for both the men and ladies alike. Available in just about every club colour you’d need, it’s understated by over delivers in warmth.
Winter Collar £25

Jon Carver:
Secret Santa could get me a set of Speedplay Cleats. I became a SPEEDPLAY disciple earlier in the year. A little odd at first but once you’re used to them they’re brilliant. The best way I’ve found of describing the Speedplay experience is to say that it’s just like having the spindle of the pedal running through the ball of your foot.
Good prices online, but do what all good riders should do… check out your local shop..£28 in mine.

Loz Bywater:
Domestique: The Real-life Ups and Downs of a Tour Pro – A bumper year for cycling books in Britain – Wegelius’ tale has to be most enlightening book I’ve ever read on Pro road cycling. Click here for my review.

Leigh Marshall:
One23 Coloured Multi-Tool – £11. Perfect for fitting in your pocket or saddle bag. Small, but adds rainbow coloured functionality to an often grey wintery world. Who says multi tools need to be boring.

Stolen Goat Harris Tweed Musette £48Ana Nichoola Star Tights £55Aaron Kuehn Bicycle Typogram Print $99Rapha Cross Scarf £40British Cycling Silver Membership £38Elevate Woodworks Bike Shelf £75.41Velobici Ella Vest & Short Set £66Lezyne Hecto Drive LED Light Set from £41Rouleur Centenary Tour De France £38Louis Garneau Revo XR3 Road Shoe from £79.99Tifosi Roubaix Light Night Fototec Glasses best price £53Velocast Package £99Silver Bicycle Necklace £38Chapeau Etape Cycling Jersey BlackRed £70B is For Bike Framed Print by Anthony Oram £50Michaux Lightsaber Leather Reflective Bar Tape £55Bike Bookends £40RH+ Gloves work with Touch Screens £47 Adidas Response Womens Tour Rain Jacket £85

Santa’s Little Helper

Under £100

David James:
New club kit! Abergavenny RC have great new kit for 2014 and I would be very happy to get some for Christmas.

Hannah Walker:
Adidas Response Womens Tour Rain Jacket £85. Brilliant jacket for training in during those cold winter months or rainy days, it’s great to use as a thermal as its a very warm jacket but also keeps you dry. It isn’t that fluorescent ‘hi-viz’ that everyone hates to wear so they’re seen on the road by trucks and cars, instead it’s still a bright colour just a lot nicer and actually looks cool to wear! It’s unisex however there is a mens version with blue stripes down the sleeves!

Loz Bywater:
Rouleur Centenary Tour de France
Evocative as ever from the lovely folks over at Rouleur. Outlandish quality both in terms of its content and binding. Listen to the most recent Rouleur podcast for a review of the project.

Whilst I must admit I’m not a subscriber to VeloCast’s premium content – with this package on offer its hard not to sign up. If it’s half as good as their work for Eurosport then I’m sure it will be a triumph.

Mel MacRae:
This would be on my Santas list… Limited edition print from Aaron Kuehn. I love this picture, it’s something that I come back to time after time and it’s great for showing folks who are learning which bit is which on a bike. On sale for $99.

Leigh Marshall:
Velobici Ella Vest and Shorts Set – £66 for the set. Designed and made in the UK, this set is soft, durable and discrete. Perfect for the leisure rider, commuter & more serious cyclist alike.

Titch Longley:
Would love to get one of these from Santa – Chapeau Etape Cycling Jersey Black/Red RRP: £70.00

Heather Bamforth:
The only thing that every cyclist in the UK should have is gold or silver membership of British Cycling because this gives you up to £10 million in third party liability cover, with gold membership also giving you personal accident insurance. For peace of mind, buy your loved ones membership of British Cycling.

Jon Carver:
Louis Garneau RevoXR3 – I have two pairs of these and I defy anyone to tell me that £200+ worth of Specialized or Sidi are really worth the extra amount of money. Firm on the sole comfortable uppers and the heel retention ratchet system is superb. Currently £79.99 in Evans.

or Tifosi Roubaix Photochromic glasses. Dont fog up, protect your eyes, go from clear to black in a jiffy. every bit as smart as Oakleys every bit as good, but no poncey price tag.
£53 Amazon.

Anna Magrath:
Everyone is carting some bit of tech around these days, why not use a musette in true cycling tradition but with a modern twist. The folks at Stolen Goat have a Harris Tweed design for £48

Hayley Davies
I LOVE this silver necklace from Oliver Bonas. I never take it off!
Silver Bike Necklace £38
These have been a hit for Ana Nichoola, although you’d be lucky to get your hands on a pair they’ve been so popular. The Star Tights are great for the commuter, the easy-going cyclist and the regular club runner.
Winter Star Tights £55
I don’t want to leave the boys out – Every bike deserves to be treated like a piece of art and what better way than hung on the wall. Bike Shelf £75.41

Nick Day:
Why not let the fine folk at Rapha keep you warm and cosy with their distinctive stripy 100% merino wool Cross Scarf, £40.
I have to agree with Loz. The podcast, jersey and eBook bundle from Velocast is a must have for the pro-cycling fan. I’ve been a subscriber since the early days and honestly can’t think of a better team than Scott and John – full of panache and plenty of chapeaux! Their stock & legend is growing fast. An absolute bargain.

Bike Taxidermy £199Men's Castelli Cafe BibTights2014 Cyclo Cross World Championships around £250Woodguards £150.00 per SetBio Racer Climate Long Sleeve Jersey £109Casco Speed Airo Helmet from £199Castelli Womens Jacket £135Go Pro Hero 3 Black Edition from £190Castelli BibShorts WomensBike Taxidermy Have your memories mounted on the wall £199Ana Nichoola  Hello Yellow Commuter Cycling Raincoat £110Blanket Row Finkle Street Bag Set £165Rapha Hi-Vis Bundle £215Elite Arion Parabolic Roller £153Le Col Mizuro Mens B5 Winter Jacket £249.99Bont Vaypor+ ShoesAssos Ij Intermediate S7 Windproof Long Sleeve Jersey £179.99Retro RondeCycle Fit

Something Under The Tree

Under £250

Heather Bamforth:
I have always struggled with women’s jackets – I am totally in love with all the jackets that Bioracer make because they actually fit and are Italian made but are also well-priced. They also follow the European fashions (the brand is massive in Belgium, Holland and Germany, to name a few!) A good example is the Climate long sleeve jacket.
For readers in the UK, Onimpex are the sole distributors, so you will need to visit their website: www.onimpex.co.uk Retails in the UK for £109.

A perennial favourite, the Garmin Edge 500 is a popular choice amongst cyclists due to its size (small and therefore lightweight).

Hayley Davies:
I love being able to relive the best parts of my season back, and there’s no better way to capture the moment than with a GoPro. The built in WiFi also allows you to connect your camera to the GoPro app on your smartphone. The app allows you to control the camera, play back your recordings and allow share you content.

Anna Magrath:
So your trusty steed has gone to the bicycle graveyard in the sky… you can still have those memories, hang the memories pride of place above the mantelpiece hunting lodge stylee (but with less actual death involved). Bicycle Taxidermy have the answer…. Love it!
This is one for the boys, you can’t beat the quality of Le Col clothing, any man would be happy to receive a stylish Mizuro B5 Winter Jacket, worth the price tag of £249.99.

For the girls… Ana Nichoola hits the list yet again with her fabulous “Hello Yellow” Commuter Cycling Raincoat. Too good just to use for cycling!

For the city cyclist who likes to travel around town with their iPad in understated style. New Yorkshire brand Blanket Row bring you their Finkle Street Bag and iPad sleeve set. This set is hand tooled from quality leather, it sits comfortably across your body, on your shoulder or slide both arms through the adjustable strap and it sits neatly on your back while riding. There’s plenty of room inside for your other accoutrements, it’s a very adaptable bag and currently comes in Red, White and more traditional dark chocolate brown. popular with bot men and women. I’m seeing them pop up everywhere. £165

Titch longley:
It has to be – Assos ij. intermediate_s7 Windproof Long Sleeve Jersey – around £179.99

Hannah Walker:
Bont Vaypor+ and Bont Vaypor Shoes £225
The coolest and comfiest shoe around! With the option to ‘heat mold’ the shoe to suit your feet these shoes are the bees knees with regards to the quality for money. They are well made, cool, comfortable and will last you a long time (if you a person who takes care of their belongings). Now with the option to have a ratchet fastener (buckle) or a dual dial retention system the shoe is suited to everyone. If you want to look like the next Bradley Wiggins look no further as he won the 2012 Tour de France in a pair of these!

David James:
What about a cheap as chips trip to the World Cyclocross Champs in 2014. The £250 would bring fantastic memories and start lots of conversations off for years to come.

Jon Carver:
This is on my list. Do a bit of track? Do a bit of testing? Do a bit of Road? Just like being a tart and don’t care what the club bore calls you?
You need The Casco Speed Airo helmet. First all round helmet for TT,Track and road. Comes with a visor too. Should knock out at around £240 so still under budget, but currently available at Amazon for £199.99.
Want one!

Nick Dey:
A long weekend of vintage steel, cobbled climbs and fantastic Flandrian festivities – the Retro Ronde van Vlaanderen is calling you! One of the most magical events there is. Beer and racing Friday, several cobbled Crit’s on Saturday and the Ronde on Sunday. Be quick, as registration is open and numbers are limited to one thousand.
Book your pedaling pal a full cycle fit at, er, www.cyclefit.co.uk. Two hours spent one-to-one with a fully qualified technician should see them riding in blissful comfort. It changed my cycling experience completely.

Cristi Ruhlman:
I think a good gift is always some fresh cycling clothing as a great mid priced gift.  A new Castelli jacket or a fantastic lined pair of ladies (or men’s bibs) something you’d love to have but really “don’t need”

Leigh Marshall:
Woodguards – £150 per set. These super stylish mudguards are handmade in Edinburgh from re-claimed timber and brightly coloured formica. A piece of lovingly crafted art

Invisible Bike Helmet €399Frog Bikes For Kids from £100 - £300Van Hool Tailor Made CoachStages Power Cranks £599-£799Brompton Folding Bike £865 - £1,475Isla Children's - age 2 to 16 - Bikes £129 - £500Canyon Ultimate CFSLX9.0 LTDTacx Ergotrainer Flow T2200 Includes Computer and Front Wheel Stand from £292Cipollini RB1K Bike from $3130Lotto Belisol BusCarnival By Brian Echerer Glass Recycled Bike GearsInvisible Bike Helmet €399The Bicycle Academy Frame Building Course from £360Sage by Heston Blumenthal the Barista Express 1700 Watt Coffee Machine £549.99Factor BikeKathleen King Zommin Thru - $1,800Airstream Race Air (Triple E) With Di2 best Price £4532.49Trainer Road The Sufferfest Videos from $12.99Go4Cycling Flanders WeekKurt Kinetic Rock and Roll II Turbo Trainer £399

Santa Baby

Dream Gift… The sky’s the limit!

David James:
Similar to last year – I would love to give some bikes to those children who miss out over Christmas. Can you imagine their faces if they received a new Isla Bike or one of the new Frog children’s bikes. To see that would be a memory to last for ever. I borrowed a Brompton from my work this year as they have a couple for staff to use, but if they weren’t available, if I was having something myself I would be very happy with one of those.

Leigh Marshall:
I would buy/own a Scottish women’s UCI registered cycle team. The team would race road, track, mtb & cyclocross.

Jon Carver:
Cippolini RB1K Full Super Record Group other than pedals Which would of course be Speedplay… plus, if you get something like this, give Chris Froome one of your old bikes to help him get African riders racing, or donate to www.re-cycle.org.

Hayley Davies:
Unless you’re millionaire, I can’t imagine there are many cyclists with the Vis Vires Factor Bike on their list… wonder if it comes in my size. Although, for that price, you’d hope it was made to fit!

Loz Bywater:
Canyon’s stock continues to rise as it now supplies two teams at World Tour level and with bikes that look like this you can see why.

Titch Longley:
I’ve just taken my nephew on a Balance Bike Building Course and we have great fun, but I’d love a full on Frame Building Course From The Bicycle Academy £360+ depending on which course.

Nick Dey:
Dreams may come true… Nico and his team at www.go4cycling.com offer a sublime and unrivaled week in Flanders during which you will be waited on hand and foot, ride with legends like Johann Museeuw and Team BMC, participate – with your own support and feed stations – at the Amateur Tour of Flanders, wander the service course and meet the teams as they set up, play Belgium hopscotch as a VIP as you track the pro’s during not just the Ronde but also the Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix (unless Specialized have forced the town to change its name!) it doesn’t end there. Check out their website and then check you bank account. They do offer an amazing weekend too, along with almost every major event you can think of.
My personal ‘best bike’ as test ridden at Eurobike 2013 was the Airstreeem Race Air (Triple E) with Di2. It was fast, very fast, and agile, balanced, smooth and fun. In fact any Airstreeem bike would make me grin.
Here’s my final suggestion: the new Kinetic Rock & Roll indoor trainer – A fantastic bit of kit. I would recommend mashing it up with a few of the excellent, often hilarious, but always leg crushing, training vids from www.thesufferfest.com, a Garmin ANT stick and speed/cadence sensor, and a subscription to www.trainerroad.com. Keep your eyes peeled for a full review of this set up soon. A revolution in indoor training is born!

Cristi Ruhlman:
I went to an event that was at the local art gallery. Bike Art at the Dairy Center in Boulder Some great and inspiring bike art as well as some fantastic gift ideas for the high end.
Carnival by Brian Echerer – Glass and recycled bike gears $700 available at his Etsy shop.
Illustration by a friend of mine Kathleen King – Zommin’ Thru $1800

Anna Magrath:
You may have seen we’ve covered the development of the Hovding Invisible Cycling Helmet on Cycling Shorts and it’s finally hit the market, it’s still pricey at this stage but what a great invention! Yours for €399 Euros.
All cyclists love proper coffee, the stronger the better, get cafe quality coffee with the new Sage Coffee Machine by Heston Blumenthal

Hannah Walker:
Simply a Team Sky bus with all the mod cons, gadgets and extra fittings to make a long transfer as comfy as possible! Imagine rocking up to a womens tour series or national series in one of them or even your local club run (you could have your cafe stop in it at the end of the ride with your club/team mates), instead of it being wrapped in Team Sky change it to Epic-Scott colours! It’d certainly turn some heads and be very cool! Maybe Team Sky will be selling it soon as surely they’ll want a new one in the not so distant future??

Heather Bamforth:
First up we have Stages power cranks, for people who want to have a go at power but might not be able to afford the SRM version. From £599 at most bike retailers – there is a Shimano version and SRAM version too – here is the link to the ones that Evans are selling.

At the other end of the spectrum is a Van Hool tailor made coach for your trips to races and events – imagine the envy when you rock up to your local circuit race in one of these bad boys!!!

Incidentally, Lotto Belisol were selling their team bus (admittedly with 817,000 km on the clock), so if you are interested: www.lottobelisol.be

 

Nothing takes your fancy here? Well take a look at last years suggestions by clicking here.

 

 

 

Cwmheulog Hill-Climb

‘Cheering on a Competitor’ – My daughter Megan takes on the climb – Image ©David James

When I wrote my first blog for Cycling Shorts I was quite worried when I would be able to write a follow up. Well here I am one day after my “Ponderings from the Velodrome” went online and I find myself with about five hours to kill as I’m on a rapid return journey to Manchester by train.
As I get on the train in Abergavenny I am quite excited to be able to wear my new adidas Sennheiser headphones which were a present from Becky, so my first job is to select some appropriate music on my iPod and make a choice; either continue reading Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage, someone who I am really pleased to say I share a birthday with, or get my note pad and pen out and start scribbling. The fact that you’re reading this gives away the winner!

I did suggest last time that I would write about organising my first ever hill-climb and the thrills of cyclocross, but as the hill-climb was such a success and as I have been hassled ever since to make it an annual event, I am going to stick to just the one subject.

When as a family we first joined Abergavenny Road Club nearly ten years ago I remember one of the first ever road events we went to watch was the club’s Hill-Climb Championship. Living in Abergavenny we are fortunate to have many fantastic road climbs in close proximity to the town, the most famous of which is ‘The Tumble’. This climb has been used on many major events over the years; I can remember watching the Milk Race going up there many years ago and more recently, watching at the toughest part of the climb the last time the National Road Championships were held in the town in 2009.

‘Marking Up the Road’ my son Gareth on the right and my daughter Rachel’s boyfriend Luke on his hands and knees – ©Image David James

The club’s hill-climb used to start just as the road up The Tumble comes out of the trees about half way up the climb and was about one mile in length. In those early years I can recall about twenty riders taking part. I remember the winner the first time I watched, Nick Kenwright, someone who I believe had represented GB. Last year only two riders took part! Whether this drop in competitor numbers is because of the toughness of the climb, because there has been an increase in traffic, or for some other reason, the club’s committee decided we had to do something to rejuvenate the competition.

As we are good friends with Wiggle rider Ben Simmons who has been winning a few Red Bull Hill-Climbs around the country I thought it would be good to try something similar. I suggested to the club committee “Why not use the hill up to our house? We can get a road closure and all the kids can take part as well.” And so the inaugural ‘Cwmheulog Hill-Climb’ was born.

As we live up a dead-end lane, first thing was to get all the neighbours on board: job done! Next up was to speak to Monmouthshire County Council about the road closure. As a local authority Monmouthshire are a pleasure to work with and do everything they can to help with cycling in the county: job done!

Now the question was should I widely advertise the event or just keep it local and see how it goes? Keep it small scale was the consensus of opinion, so I sent out a leaflet with all the details and asked people to email or ring me to let me know if they were coming in order that we could provide free food for all competitors and spectators. With one day to go only one email had been received and I was starting to think it was going to be a big flop. That was until the night before the event when I was made aware that the email address I had put on the leaflet had been misspelt! How could I be so stupid?

A disturbed night’s sleep deliberating what to do, so first thing Saturday morning I’m in Tesco Abergavenny with my youngest Megan buying 120 sausages (half fat!), 120 fingers rolls and 25 garlic baguettes thinking I can always put the surplus in the freezer.

‘Hoping For A Top Quality Competition’ – Image ©David James

5.00pm comes around and the barriers and road closure signs are in place and there’s already a steady stream of cyclists and spectators making their way up the hill to signing on at our house.

51 competitors, 39 youth riders and 12 adults signed on to compete and there was a great deal more than that ready to provide vocal support. It wasn’t a case of putting surplus in the freezer, but raiding it for more supplies!

What can I say about the racing other than I know all too well what it’s like to ride up our hill, so every single person who gave it a go deserves a shout out. The spectators made for a brilliant atmosphere, ringing cowbells, cheering and shouting encouragement to every single rider.

It would be amiss of me not to mention that a youth rider, Evan Davies from Maindy Flyers who completed the climb in 1min 10secs, set the fastest time. Fastest adult was Abergavenny Road Club member James Woodier with a 1min 14secs ride and is the 2012 Abergavenny Road Club Hill-Climb Champion

Other notable facts from the night – all the food went! My wife Christine and Stephanie Best, one of the club coaches and a great volunteer, didn’t leave the kitchen as they slaved over the cooker!

It seems pretty certain with all the feedback I’ve received the hill-climb will become an annual event. Even Ben Simmons and Amy Roberts who were both there as spectators seem eager to get their best wheels out next year! I’ve also tapped up Magnus Backstedt to compete and he said he might as long as it is no more than a minute long!

So watch this space for an event next year that should be a lot bigger and even better. Before I get the go ahead though, Christine said she wants guarantees we are getting caterers in as she is not going to be missing out on all the fun.

Thanks again for reading, now back to Rough Ride.

David James

 

 

Ponderings from the Velodrome

Newport Velodrome – ©Dave Gratton AKA SunflowerDave (on Flickr)

For someone who always has a lot to say for himself, thinking what to write about is more difficult than I thought! I should hasten to add, that’s not because I can’t think of anything, it’s because I’ve got so many ideas running around in my head it’s so difficult to chose.

So my decision has been made for me because for the first time in weeks I have an hour or so to spare to put pen to paper (yes, I am actually writing this on paper) as I’m sitting in the stands watching my daughter Ffion take part in a Welsh Cycling youth track session. So the subject: the importance of good cycling facilities, specifically Newport Velodrome.

The difference this sporting facility has made to Wales is difficult to quantify, but if you look at the numbers of riders both before and after this facility was built who are at or on their way to the top of the cycling tree, it’s obvious that its impact has been massive! The same can be said of Manchester Velodrome and I am sure it will be the case with the Olympic Velodrome; we should also consider Herne Hill and the riders that have benefitted from that facility. What it shows it that good facilities really do make a difference to the progression of riders coming through the ranks, whatever their cycling discipline. Of course we also need champions to inspire youngsters into the sport, but we’ve got such a conveyor belt going at the moment there is no worry about these facilities being under used.

So what memories have I taken from Newport Velodrome over the last 8 or 9 years that I’ve been making the 30-minute drive from Abergavenny to get here?

Well I might as well start with my number one memory and also because “why shouldn’t women’s cycling be given priority over men’s for a change?” If I can find the photo to accompany this when I next go hunting in the attic I’ll post it at a later date, as even now I find it quite hard to believe. Picture this: a women’s keirin with six riders on the start line. In amongst the six, the current senior World Champion wearing her stripes Clara Sanchez. Also on the start line I think it was Sandie Clair. Next up to them, a few star struck young girls from the UK including two from Wales, my 13-year-old daughter Becky and Katie Curtis. I can’t recall another current senior world champion ever racing in Newport, so that line-up is implanted very firmly in my head. By the way, it was France first and second with Becky coming in third to the disbelief of the French coach, especially when finding out Becky’s age.

As for other memories of female competition in Newport, between 2006 and 2007 the Youth and Junior Track National Championships had such strong fields the racing really was fantastic to watch. Seeing Becky, Lizzie Armistead, Joanna Rowsell, Jess Varnish, Laura Trott, Dani King…(I could go on) racing against each other with Hugh Porter getting very excited on the microphone really was brilliant. Looking back now I honestly think you could see then who was going to make it to the top and they weren’t all winners. The look of determination in a rider’s eyes is something I believe is what sets them apart and that is something you can spot at a young age. If someone happens to win a Youth National Championship on the way to the top that’s nice, but ultimately you need to look at the bigger picture and remember it’s not a sprint, it takes a lot of time and effort to win at elite level. And that’s what people will remember; senior champions not 11-year-old ‘superstars’!

On that last point, some really bad memories for me have been watching young girls of Under 12 and Under 14 level attempting to break a National Record as if it was the be all and end all. They have been all kitted out with the best equipment money can buy and their parents have been shouting so loudly at them as if they were doing it themselves, but why? Many of those I have watched are either no longer riding or just riding now and again. And why provide the best equipment at such a young age? Good equipment yes, but keep the very best as a reward and as an incentive when they are racing at international level. I really would like to see some sort of equipment specification cap on all youth riders to make it more of a level playing field and to give them something to aim for.

While I’m in the process of airing my concerns, the other thing that really worries me is that young riders seem to be specialising on one cycling discipline at ever-younger ages and training to the detriment of their education. Youth sport should not be like that. If I could single out one young rider who has got the balance right and sets an example for other to follow it is Elinor Barker and look where she is now! Elinor has given most forms of cycling a go, but over the time I’ve known her and the family her education has come first. She’s obviously had coaching, but it has been Elinor’s drive and determination to succeed that has won her the Junior World Time Trial and of course her supportive parents (I believe there could be another reason and the same applies to Becky as well; both Graham, Elinor’s dad and myself are ardent Newcastle United followers and maybe it’s because the girls have never seen us celebrate the winning of a trophy that they are doing their bit to cheer us up!).

On the male side of things, at the same time as that outstanding crop of girls I mentioned the boys’ fields were also amazingly strong and they provided fantastic racing to watch. Jason Kenny, Peter Kennaugh, Alex Dowsett, Luke Rowe, Adam Blythe, Andy Fenn…(once again, I could go on) are just a few of the names that cycling fans would recognise from the Olympics and pro-peloton this last year. Despite many outstanding races and individual performances the one that stands out still after these years is Andy Fenn’s Youth 500 metre time trial. Here was someone mixing it up with the best youth riders this country had to offer in all the circuit races around the country and he was winning the endurance and pursuit events on the track. In the 500 metre time trail he was up against all the best youth sprinters in the country including current BC Academy sprint member Peter Mitchell. I can still picture him going around the track now. I seem to recall I was sitting in the stands next to Iain Dyer, National Sprint Coach and Trevor King, father of Dani and a few others and the first thing that came to my mind was that here was the person to follow in Jason Kenny’s footsteps. Well I was wrong on that front, but I really think he has the potential to be the next big road sprinter from GB. I am not saying that Andy will be another ‘Cav’, because I am not sure there’ll be another in my lifetime, but I am sure that he’ll be winning many races and stages over the next few years. Another rider I’ve watched in Newport in a similar mold to Andy is Sam Harrison, although he’s got a few years to catch up yet.

As recent as last winter I was sitting in the stands of Newport Velodrome watching the annual ‘Winter Track League’, which mixes all abilities up into different races, both male and female. In Wales we are very lucky indeed to not only have Elinor Barker coming up into the senior ranks, but we also have Amy Roberts. To see both Elinor and Amy mixing it up with the men in the ‘A’ league really is a great sight and I am really excited about the prospect of those two girls representing Wales and GB around the world over the next few years. The girls often found themselves riding in amongst elite men, well not just elite, but professional riders. Last year watching Luke Rowe, Magnus Backstedt, Jonny Bellis and many more on a Tuesday night with the rain hammering down on the velodrome roof, whilst sipping a cup of tea, is fascinating, enjoyable and a relaxing time in amongst my hectic lifestyle.

I have never been in Newport Velodrome with a full stand of spectators, but with the success of this last season and the accessibility of cycling stars to the general public I think I might get to see that over the next couple of years. What Newport needs is the right event to fill the stands, something that has got my mind running wildfire again! Now, if that event gives equal precedence to the women riders or better still star billing, wouldn’t that be amazing?

…Next time, whenever that will be, I’ll probably write about organising my first ever hill-climb and also about the importance and thrills of cyclocross.

Thanks for reading.

David James

Twitter: @Dai_Cwmheulog
 
 
 
 

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