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.