An amazing few years – thank you, Wheelbase

Wheelbase Cycling Team

I joined Team Wheelbase in 2005 and will be racing for another team very soon (more on that will follow shortly). It’s the strangest feeling to move on from wearing the black and green kit – there have been some amazing highlights in the last few years and I just wanted to reflect a little.

Basically, when I moved up to the north west again after living in Gloucestershire for ten years, I wanted a break from cycling clubs. I had worked pretty hard at times as a race organiser for a race secretary – as well as a bit of a domestique in road races (translation: I didn’t really get enough results so rode on the front a bit too much instead.) I moved here and said that I wasn’t going to join any club or team – but started to get into the top 5 in some local cyclocross races and suddenly felt like being part of things a bit more.

I joined the then “Wheelbase / Ron Hill” team in autumn 2005 and had to pinch myself riding alongside 3 peaks hero Rob Jebb as well as two team mates who have turned into real chums – Lewis Craven and Stuart Reid. I was the bottom of the pile but being part of a big name really motivated me. Some personal highlights that followed in the following years in my Wheelbase kit:

  • Recorded in a video diary on BBC Countryfile about the 3 peaks cyclocross
  • Won the North West Cyclocross League
  • Rode a few years of British Cycling National Trophy races – my highest position being 17th and the ultimate highlight witnessing Rob win the National Trophy at Bradford
  • Belting along Lakeland lanes, legs delving into the bottom of the sore drawer for the first 45 miles of the Fred Whitton Challenge with Lewis – stringing out 50 other rides, helping Rob to take the event record
  • Organising various races (mainly won by Stuart Reid!) including one in some fairly extreme snow.
  • Was on the podium as part of the winning team – and a gold medal from British Cycling for the National Cyclocross Championships in Birmingham
  • 9th place in the 3 peaks – my lifelong top ten ambition achieved
  • Various podium places in Lancashire’s rounds of the British Cycling Town Centre Criteriums, including a win in the support race in the Blackburn Grand Prix
Those are things that really stand out as highs but where I will miss things most is the craic – the banter – smalltalk, the overnighters in Premier Inn with three lads whining about how tomorrow’s race will be stuffed if they eat the wrong toast at breakfast… those are the things that made this a rounded, enjoyable experience.
Finally, Thank You to Toby, Billy, Matt and the other people who jetwashed my bikes whilst I waltzed round in the mud like a prima donna.

A reconnaissance trip, and meeting my first pen pal.

MoiA great day yesterday indulging my hobby by going to do a recce of parts of the route for the Three Peaks cyclocross, which’ll take place a week on Sunday. Whilst I’ve ridden the course 11 times, it’s always worth a recce on certain parts of the course because the nature of the upland paths are such that they change dramatically each year through erosion.

With much of the event being on private land, there are only certain parts of the course you can legally recce, and fewer of those you can legally cycle upon, but it’s worth putting in an afternoon of meticulous inspection. The lines we decided upon on the descent of Whernside two years ago are no longer appropriate, and the path has generally deteriorated at quite a surprising rate. At the extent of the Blea Moor bridleway Lewis, Stuart and I ‘hid’ our bikes in the spike rushes and continued up to the summit path of Whernside, and must have looked more than slightly off jogging along in our full cycling gear, Helmets and all.

Nearly back at the car at Ribblehead, I fell heavily for apparently no reason at all. Straight over the bars and humiliated in the grass. On going back to inspect the grass I’d just ridden over, I found a very well disguised overgrown rut. A reminder to be wary, and a whopping thigh bruise in case I tried to forget.

Penyghent We popped down to Horton in Ribblesdale for a quick recce of the Scar Road which takes riders a third of the way up – and down – Penyghent. Again, it was a wothwhile trip in that it refreshed the memory and helped us to pick a sneaky line or two for both the climb and the descent. Okay, so we’re talking seconds of difference, but if you took a bad line and crashed or punctured as a result, those seconds are significantly more.

The short excursion up this track also gave me the opportunity to finally meet one of my Flickr contacts. I discovered Andy Rushforth’s photos of the three peaks two years ago and we have since shared comments on each other’s photos regularly – this is the modern day equivalent of a pen friend – something I’ve never had. Knowing that Andy was a Horton resident, I asked him if he wanted to come out on his MTB to meet up with us and take a few snaps. I was really pleased when he said he could, and he didn’t disappoint – snapping away and having the opportunity to chat whilst Stuart fumbled fruitlessly with a split tubular on his bike.

A great day out. My pics from the phone camera here.