Saturday, 23 July 2011

Cycling Calais to Montepellier

I will give a more detailed blog in due course, but for now a brief outline of our journey thus far.
Day 1 - ferry from Dover to Calais. We land in Calais around 10:30am and hit the road straight away. Getting out of the town takes some doing, this becomes a familiar pattern, but once we're on our way we make good time. We used Michelin maps website to plan the route, marked it on our Michelin maps and also did some crib sheets with key turns, towns, roads and junctions which prove invaluable.
Our first day is a 75 mile ride to Arras. The town is beautiful, very Northern French in architecture, reminiscent of Belgium also.
Day 2 - the big day! 120 miles and the route is pretty complicated, lots of small roads, turnings and changes of direction. I was dreading it, in terms of navigation! But other than getting on the right road out of Arras it went pretty smoothly! Our destination was Reims, and the route was pretty tough. The first 80 miles was rolling, with a slight headwind, till we got to Laon. A note to fellow cyclists, bypass the town centre which is at the top of the hill. Very pretty but a bitch to get up to, and you will see much nicer for less effort! From Laon the scenery changes from the red brick and hardness of Northern France, to the mellow pale stone and red tiles that you associate with postcard France. The terrain becomes hilly, the roads more twisting and the headwind, well more windy! For this leg of the journey there are very few shops, as we learnt to our expense, stock up well on food and drink because when The Knock comes there's no where to get a sugar fix, until you're within 10 miles of Reims. Reims itself is a lovely city, great bike lanes and good food.
Day 3 - Reims to Troyes 85 miles.
What a joyful ride! The first 10 miles were slow, as we tried to find our way out of the city. Form thereon it was a tail wind for the next 70 miles. We averaged over 17mph with panniers! Utter joy!! The champagne region is beautiful, full of rolling hills and vines, till it eventually gives way to the Seine Valley leading to the medieval city of Troyes. Troyes is stunning, a must visit place. I will post more shortly, for now I'm looking forward to more miles!
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Saturday, 9 July 2011

Chasing money

One of the downsides to having your own business is having to chase money that is owed to you. This year I am seem to be doing more chasing than usual. There seems to be a number of different recalcitrant payers.
1. The Conman; as the name implies they engage your services with absolutely no intention of paying you for those services. I tend to encounter one of these cretins a year, they often have a very high opinion of themselves, arrogant, self obsessed and parasitic. This year's was a supposedly reputable development company from North Wales, who turned out to be far from that. The cheque's in the post is a favourite line of this type of person.
2. The Dreamer; these people are well intentioned, they are looking to make money from a new venture or development but do not realise the cost of the work involved or have a plan to raise sufficient finance to keep their project on track. You would not believe how many people engage your services with no means to pay you, I wonder if they go to the supermarket and ask if they can pay fro their grocery once they get some money? With these guys you get the money eventually, but expect a bloody long wait.
3. Mr Forgetful; send an invoice, 30 days later send a reminder, then maybe a reminder phone call - at this point you may be lucky and they'll have the cheque book in front of them as you call and they'll remember to send you payment. If you're not that lucky, they'll forget and you end up going through the previous steps again and wait another month at least. Mr or Mrs Forgetful does pay, but expect to wait between 3 to 6 months.
4. Resentful; these people resent parting with their cash, resent you for having their cash, and resent how much cash the work costs. Typically you get paid after the 1st reminder, although resentfully!
5. The Bully; typical behaviour of big companies who think they can use their might and the volume of work they can provide you as an excuse to practice in dodgy payment procedure. Be wary of companies with different arms, i.e. Joe Blogs Group, who incorporate Joe blogs Building, Joe Blogs M&E etc., common practice for these outfits is to use their sub-contractors to manage cash-flow. Expect late payments, withholding money for arbitrary reasons - spelling mistake on your invoice, invoice submitted a day late for example. These companies bully and won't change, avoid them at all costs!
6. A1 Client; My favourite! Tend to be small companies or private individuals, they tend to be successful but understated, friendly and polite and always pay early! These are a delight to work for, and you can NEVER do enough for these people!!

Just a little insight into the world of small business, and if you engage someone to do work for you, pay them early or on time, you'll always get much better service in the future!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Gold for Rhian!

Just got back from Pontevedre and the ETU Age Group Champ's. It was very hot out there, but a lovely part of the world. Galicia is a bit like a hot Scotland! We were lucky our race kicked off at 8am, it was cool for the swim & bike, whilst the run was pretty shaded throughout. Phew!
We flew with Portugal's national airline TAP, who were excellent! Like how flying used to be prior to the budget cattle shed airlines. We booked a car with Car Trawler, an online company. They were shite, avoid them like the plague, we were messed around for 2 hrs before finally getting a car with Eurocar who were excellent.
Night before the race we had to rack our bikes. We spent 2 hrs queuing in 38 degree heat, with one person admitting people into transition it took for bloody ever, not the best way to prepare for a race! We missed most of the elite men's race as a consequence. What a pisser!
Race day itself was excellent though, brilliant organisation and a fantastic route. The swim was nice and warm, which was a bonus considering the amount of time I spent in there! The bike was great, closed roads, 10km up, 10km down, then repeat. Onto the run around the old town of Pontevedre, nice and shady, with one hill in the middle of the circuit, which we did 4 times. For me, I had a poor swim, followed by a good bike (missed out on the fastest bike split by 1 second), then a fairly solid run. I crossed the line knowing I had more in the tank, it's frustrating when you don't leave everything out on the course.....perhaps I can put it right at the Welsh Champ's in Llandudno in 2 weeks.
Rhian had an awesome race, winning her age group and the women's race outright for the second year running! Her winning margin was nearly 10 minutes!! Absolutely chuffed for her!

Catching Up

Ok, so I never quiet got round to finishing my post about the French trip! Been busy!! In brief we had a rest day in Troyes then headed back on to the road Dijon, a stunning city. From Dijon we headed to Grenoble it was a long day in the saddle but non the less enjoyable. We would have liked to of gone through the Alps to the coast, via Sisteron and Gap, but we were concerned about time so headed the flat route out to Montelimar, the home of nougat! There's an excellent bike path heading out of Grenoble running adjacent to the river. It goes on for miles! I only wish the UK would embrace this kind of facility instead of crappy bike paths stuck on the pavement. Our final day's riding was from Montelimar to Montpellier, it turned into an epic 120 miler! Ouch! Montpellier was awesome, we bagged a hotel 5 minutes walk from the city's Olympic pool. The pool is fantastic, excellent design and great fast water! All in all, we managed around 800 miles on the bike in 10 days, plus a couple of long runs and a few swims to keep ticking over.
Next up was the inaugral Ironman Wales. That's me and Rhi on the sea front in Tenby, minutes after finishing. I can honestly say that it was one of the best days of my life. Completely awesome experience, I was grinning like a loon all the way round! Managed to finish the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run in just over 11 hours 20 minutes. Having trained for short course all season, Ironman was done off the back of 6 weeks specific long course training. So I was particularly chuffed! Big thanks to Rich Brady for getting me there.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Llanberis Slateman

The inaugural Llanberis Slateman was an absolute cracker! We registered on the Saturday and the weather in Llanberis was horrendous. Blowing a hoolie and teeming with rain, we were praying for better weather the next day.
Sunday morning and the rain had died off, but the wind was strong with gusts of 70kph! I opted with a deep dish rear wheel with a shallow profile front wheel off my training bike in the hope I wouldn't get buffeted too much. The lake temperature was 10.9C. In previous races I have really struggled in the cold, so I was a little concerned how it would affect my race. In an effort to combat the cold I opted for a compression T shirt under my wetsuit and copious amounts of warm up oil all over!
The swim itself was bloody cold and I came out of the water 2 minutes down on what I expected. I chucked a windproof jacket on in transition to beat the chill and out of transition. The mount line was pretty congested so I hopped onto the pavement, ran an extra 100m, jumped on and got going to the Llanberis Pass. The Pass went in a blur, the cold was affecting me slightly, with my top heart rate down by around 10bpm from usual. The tail wind from Pen Y Gwryd to Capel made for quick riding, before swinging into a harsh cross\head wind in The Ogwen Valley. It was savage! Down onto the small chain ring and tucked as aero as possible. Halfway down the valley I saw Rhian, leading the womens race, and local talent Arthur Connell. I knew I was at the business end of the race and needed to get time on the quicker runners. From Tregarth to Llanberis it was a block headwind! As we hit Pentir my mate Big Al "Hincapie" Roberts, riding for a relay team, came past me and offered a few well needed words of encouragement. It was just what I needed and gave me a boost for the final leg. We both got into transition at the same time, Al's race over and me out onto the run. What a run. Pain. Hills. Pain. As I headed onto the run a relay runner bounded past me then another local talent, Gareth Jones of Revolution Cycles Bangor, passed me. I kept my own pace as he initially pulled away, than as my legs came back to me, I was back on his shoulder. We ran side by side for the next 5km, pushing each other on, trying to close down a runner in the distance. We pulled the lad back on a particularly nasty ascent, I was suffering. Then I sensed Gareth slipping back, and it was me and the lad we'd chased down. With 1.5km to go there was a steep descent, I was cramping horribly in my quads, and trying not to let on. We hit the flat with 750m to go and the guy opened up a 200m lead in an instant, I had no answer to that!
I finished 7th overall which was fantastic, I am genuinely very very chuffed. Rhian was fastest woman, delivering an absolutely brilliant performance! Big Al Hincapie's team placed 2nd in the team comp' which was a great result.
A great race and a great atmosphere, hats off to Tim and the team for delivering a first class event that even the weather couldn't put a dampener on!
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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Under Starters Orders

Well it's May and I'm starting my season later than usual this year, with The Llanberis Slateman on the 22nd of May. I'm blinkin' excited and can't wait to get going!!!
The ETU Championship's are in Pontevedre, Spain at the end of June and as long we can get our flights sorted we'll be on the start line, under starters orders.
The Welsh Assembly Elections have just been and gone, and I'm ashamed to say I forgot to vote! With that being said, I'm sick and tired of politicians trotting out the same tired party politics and treating the electorate like fools. Let's have some positivity guys, I'm sure people would be far more interested in what you've done, what you can do and what you believe in rather than what your opponents won't do, haven't done or done wrong. Now they're under starters orders, let's hope they run a good race!
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Monday, 14 March 2011

Majorca and beyond

Just got back from a great training camp with the guys n girls from Rhos CC. I'm pleased to say my lack of winter miles was evident and I got my arse kicked each and every day! Great motivation!!
If anyone fancies cycling in Majorca, I recommend you base yourself in Puerto Pollenca, in the North of the island. The Pollenca Park is a cracking hotel with bike storage, spa, 33m pool and decent food. If you're going to hire a bike, Probike Hire Mallorca is just down the road from the hotel and Bruce and the guys there are very helpful. Be warned if you fly BMI Baby and you're taking a bike - they charge €15 per kg over 18kg on bikes, so if you're using a hardcase (like we did) you're going to get stung! Thieving gits, springs to mind!
The weathers improving and the trainings getting faster; roll on summer!
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Sunday, 6 February 2011

Bike, swim, bike........

The muscle spasm in my back is now slowly revovering, which means I can slowly get back to doing some training.
The weather was horrendous today, gale force winds and heavy rain.....but I'm desperate to get some miles under my belt!! So Rhi and I  hit the road and headed up the Conwy Valley. The A470 was closed due to flooding, we opted for the "back" road to Llanrwst via Trefriw. Now the Police did stop to warn us that the road was flooded, but it can't be that bad can it? First flood - a couple of inches deep, second and third flood upto the pedals, fourth upto the ankles, then finally round a bend and the road went straight into the river!! Now I like open water swimming, but not that much!
Talking of Llanrwst, we're chuffed to say the Llanrwst Sprint Triathlon is back on for 2011, on Sunday September the 4th. See you all there!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A Legend Retires

Yesterday Lance Armstrong rode his last race in the pro' peleton in the Amgen Tour Down Under. For me he is one of the most inspirational sportsmen ever, and certainly the most inspirational of our generation.
To have beaten cancer and then to win the worlds hardest race, the Tour De France 7 times, gives hope to millions of cancer sufferers world wide. It's truly a tale of the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
It seems, at the moment, to be popular to question his achievements, to doubt whether a man could achieve what he is without some sort of illegal assistance, but I for one don't care. What I see is a man, who came back from the brink of death, to the very pinnacle of his sport, to which I can only stand back and applaude. Chapeux Lance, chapeux.
In the meantime check out this great interview by Welsh Cycling legend Geraint Thomas and LA himself. Funny!

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Monday, 24 January 2011

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Well it's been ages since I last posted, in fact over a year! Been feeling a little sorry for myself today, as I have a muscle spasm in my lower back, which is a) very painful and b) means I am unable to train. Pah!! But having read Irish Triathlete, Bryan Keane's Blog, I realise I shouldn't be down at all. Bryan got hit by a car on a training ride last year, and his outlook and humour on his road to recovery is quiet inspirational. Read more here, it's VERY funny!
In the meanwhile, i'll console myself with Twitter and spending money on sport kit online. Always gauranteed to ease any ache or pain!
As they say in Abertawe, ciao for now:)