Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!

Please support my 2015 BP MS150 ride!
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Although this blog was originally created by Andy Brickell and continues to be updated by him, the design and layout of the page is credited to his daughter, Mary-Claire Brickell. She's pretty awesome.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"It's not the miles in your ride..."

It's the ride in your miles, as Miss Mae West might have said if she were a cyclist.  Our last ride was a good example - not particularly long, but quite a workout thanks as ever to our old friend the wind.

The Mules were riding in Montgomery County, which is too far and way too redneck for me (all the worst truck vs bike incidents seem to happen there) and both Kevin and I were short on time, so we opted for an early start and a blast round Waller County.

Northwest Cycle Club were assembling for their normal Saturday ride when we pulled up.  No Mules in sight except for Mike who was riding with NWCC anyway.  We started out in low 40's temperature but no wind to speak of.  The sun was out and helped warm us a little except when we hit shade.  This had Kevin pondering the benefits of Agent Orange, as he was a little under-dressed.

Kevin was struggling to get going, due to a lot of exercise earlier in the week, including one of his monster pool workouts and a weights session where he worked his legs.  As a result I was able to burn him on all the climbs (and did so gleefully).

Although the flags were lying on their staffs on the way out we still made excellent time and got to the gas station with an average speed of 18+mph.  Mike was there already, having got dropped by his group and taking a short-cut to catch up.

Back at it, and I found it hard to hit my cadence for the first mile or two.  I need a break on these rides but this one seemed to have done more harm than good.  We took the scenic route back via Prairie View A&M and it has a couple of interesting climbs, where once again I mugged my riding partner shamelessly.

Seemingly from nowhere a strong wind dead out of the east had sprung up and we began to struggle.  For once I was able to convince Kevin to share the load, and we ran into the wind changing out the lead every half-mile.  Of course Kevin kept biting off chunks of my turn, and because he was pulling faster than me his time at the front was shorter, so I got less of a breather.  But we held it together pretty well all the way back, completing 46 miles at 16.4 mph average.  No-one was complaining about a lack of a workout this week!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ice cold in Hockley

"Ice Cold in Alex" was a gritty 1958 WW2 drama starring the ever-troubled John Mills and a few other old standbys of the era.  The "Ice Cold" of the title refers to the beer that Mills is forever talking about drinking in his favourite watering-hole in Alexandria, Egypt, if only they can cross the Sahara in a rickety Army ambulance.

Flash forward to 2014 and a chilly, foggy morning at Zube Park where Kevin and I met up with sundry Mules for a ride.  Paddy was back from Perth full of miles - he's done more than 600 already and wants to ride 6,000 this year.  It was a treat to see Mike, who has returned to Houston from a brief stint in the UK, and Britt, a young buck who hasn't been doing much lately.  Gene was there too with his wife Yvonne - the couple with the best bikes on the team.

Kevin's car was showing 41 degrees and we know it runs on the warm side!  I wasn't expecting it to be so cold and the fog didn't help.  Was I to be Ice Cold in Hockley all the way round?  Kevin went with the full Monty including overshoes and full finger gloves - I was cold for sure but didn't want to overheat so I pulled on arm and leg warmers but but left it at that.

Prior to rolling out, Paddy held an impromptu safety briefing to talk about last week's wreck and how to avoid one in future - good advice, well received.

Off we went with the fog still pretty thick and boy was I cold.  The damp air didn't help at all.  We had barely started when Yvonne pulled over with a mechanical - her DI2 electronic shifters weren't shifting, probably due to a flat battery, so she baled out.

We pushed on, trying to keep to 17mph without much success.  Paddy took us on a variant of the usual route that was new for Kevin and me.  It eliminated Business 290 which was great but had us on a couple of pretty busy roads.  But soon enough we found ourselves on familiar territory, heading for the gas station.  The group was starting to split, mainly due to John, a new Mule and a somewhat slower rider.  Kevin, Britt and I hung back with him while Paddy and Gene pushed ahead.

After a break we headed out on the scenic route via Prairie View A&M University.  Kevin had been quietly grumbling that he wasn't getting a work out, so he was looking forward to the three climbs.  I was also feeling strong and managed to ambush him on the first, putting on a big spurt just ahead of him.  Round one to me, but he got his revenge on the next two.  Fool me once, shame on you..

Another new routing to avoid the Buc-ee's traffic took us down a nice smooth road before we picked up Old Houston for the final run home.  I managed a small sprint for the last hundred yards, mainly because by now I was in serious need of a pee!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A hard day at the office

Today we finally got to do the much-postponed Pattison-Bellville ride with Larry.  Sadly it turned out to be a tough day, with a challenging route, screaming head winds and a nasty wreck that took out some of the speediest Mules ahead of us.

Lots of riders today, including some of the strongest Mules.  We started as a group but didn't tay together for long.  The first few miles are due north and slipped by pretty easily with the tail wind.  Once we turned west our speed dropped dramatically.  A strong cross-wind can be almost as challenging as a head wind, and we couldn't really ride en echelon like the pros because the road was busy and the shoulder only one bike wide.  On top of that, once we crossed the Brazos the terrain became much more challenging.  This is on the MS route and there are usually a few people pushing their bikes by this point.  The Mules of course were well ahead, but Paul as ride director dropped back to check we knew the route.  I suspect Kevin and Larry could have hung with the speedsters if they wanted but they were good enough to stay back with me.

Paul had previously found a quiet country road that runs parallel to 529, starting just after the river.  He and the rest of the speedsters  were waiting for us at the turn and we regrouped but not for long - this was a short section dead into the wind with hills and they got ahead pretty rapidly.

At the next turn we saw Gene (he of the fabulous Pinarello) stopped by the side of the road, looking a little shaken.  Not sure what had happened but he had a scrape on his leg.  He had been with the fast group but was happy to ride with us.  A little further on he realised that his gears weren't shifting properly (and he has the super-duper electronic ones too!) and he couldn't get to his lowest gears, not good news with hills in front of us.

The main road into Bellville has a lot of rollers and the country road had even more (they don't have the same limits on grade), but the trees on both sides knocked down the wind a bit.  We more-or-less kept together  - Larry and Kevin took it easy on the descents, allowing me to catch up - but Gene found his second wind and blew ahead despite his lack of climbing gears.

One in the outskirts of Bellville we relaxed a bit, at least until the Austin County sheriff's deputy coming up behind us put on his siren and issued Larry a stern lecture about riding two-abreast (which I though was legal, and we weren't doing it anyway, and it was on a quiet country road...).

Paul had dropped back again and guided us the rest of the way to the Valero station in downtown Bellville, where the Mules were taking a well-earned break.  Gene decided to rejoin the fast group and headed offf with them.  Larry, Kevin and I hung out a bit longer, then headed out too.

The climbs had not got any smaller!  It was definitely a struggle to keep up and it didn't help when I overshifted and threw my chain off halfway through.  Larry and Kevin were in front anyway and left me for dead, but were good enough to wait for me a little further on.

Back on to 529 and I was really struggling, so much so that I rode en echelon with Larry for a bit of relief, and to hell with the traffic.  As we approached the Brazos I pointed out to Larry that the deputy's jurisdiction ended at the river, where we cross the county line into Waller county.  "Free at last, free at last" he declaimed as we zipped over the bridge.  Odd to think that we're more comfortable in Waller county, which is basically redneck central.

And then we made the turn south!  I tried to hang on to Kevin and Larry but I was at my limit and had to call them back several times.  Then Larry spotted a wreck ahead and as we got closer I realised it was the Mules.  A SAG vehicle for another ride had stopped to render assistance and it was needed.  Patty was sitting on the ground with a wad of tissue held to her mouth and blood on her legs.  Meggin  was holding her but she had clearly gone down too.  Catherine was sitting in the front seat of the SAG waggon, looking shocked.  Meggin is a physician's assistant so I knew Patty was in good hands while they waited for the ambulance.  The three of us set out for home (6 miles away), planning to come back with cars for the bikes if needed.

Back at the start we weren't needed, thanks to the SAG waggon getting people where they needed to be.  Patty was on her way to hospital, Catherine was heading home with Flo and Barry was looking ruefully at his bike, which had sustained a broken chain stay in the carnage.  He's a strong rider with a beautiful bike, sadly no more.  He had scraped his knee and landed on outstretched hands, bruising up his fingertips.  Apparently they had been in a paceline, someone made a mistake and the chain reaction brought everyone down.  Happens all the time in pro cycling, of course.  I suspect that the strong wind and rider fatigue also played a part.

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Bear Creek - Terry Hershey loop

Daily commute to work

Daily commute to work
This isn't quite right but it's close. 9.5 miles, about 40 minutes.

Terry Hershey Park

Terry Hershey Park
10 miles of safe, paved cycling bliss - except for all the foot traffic

The Sealy ride

The Sealy ride
45 miles through very pretty Texas countryside. Looks benign but there's a very hilly section at mile 35.

The Katy ride

The Katy ride
It's on the Katy prairie - flat, flat, flat