Monday, May 21, 2012

Tours with a Mercian

G S Gazzetta Leisure Tours

Cycling at its best is such a social sport and as I became a little more confident of my ability I started to ride with others. The last blog article described a typical ride with the Derby CTC. But I enjoy talking about cycling as well as being in action, and so I joined GS Gazzetta.

"G S " stands for "Gruppo Sportivo", "Sporting Group " - a classic Italian cycling reference relating to members of a cycling club. G.S. Gazzetta membership is OPEN and is registered with British Cycling. The members of G.S. Gazzetta are truly international giving the club the great advantage of sharing unique knowledge and love for cycling. Founded in the spirit of the Italian " Gruppo Sportivo ", membership to G.S. Gazzetta is open to all cyclists, regardless of location, status or ability.

Members of GS Gazzetta are spread far and wide and the majority of them never meet up face to face. But through Twitter I met Mark who lives  a mere 50 miles from me and so we decided to go on a ride to-gether, the first ever ride of the Midland Branch of GS Gazzetta.
It needs to be understood here that cyclists can be classified into one of four categories:
Professionals; Club Racers, Club Cyclists and , finally, Pedal Pushers. It seems to me that the vast majority of the GS Gazzetta peleton belong to Category 2 ( sportif riders are included here ) whilst I am very firmly embedded in Category 4, whilst Mark is definitely in Cat 2.
Whilst the language of cycling may be the same between these different categories, the interpretation is very different indeed as was amply demonstrated in this ride, a leisure ride.

Ready to Depart           
And so last Saturday I loaded my dream Mercian Vincitore Special onto the car and set off for the land of Mow Cop, Teggs Nose and the other Alsager mountains. Mark had asked me what sort of ride I fancied and what distance and pace I could manage. We had settled upon around 75km at a leisurely pace with just a couple of very minor hills. I should have been more specific!  For a club cyclist *around* 75km means anything between 75 and 150km and in pedal pusher terms an average speed of 25k/hr for over 100km is definitely not leisurely!

Teresa had provided me some advice on the need to refuel and hydrate when out on hard rides and to be fairly disciplined about it. Thank goodness I took her advice  and so I was fully equipped with snack food, sugar boosters and liquid.  We started off by going up hill, which in my innocence I took to be the first of the two *minor climbs *. Wrong!  A minor climb to a pedal pusher is a virtual downhill doddle to a proper cyclist. This was going to be a hard ride. Having done about 10k and ascended the first of the Strava Categorized climbs the sugar boosters were in action.  Of course, one of the benefits of climbing mountains is the coasting down the other side. Wrong again.  Someone needs to teach Mark the benefits of freewheeling when you are already travelling at 60+ km/hr.

Mark the Super Domestique
He was however proving to be an excellent super domestique and as he towed me along the stretch towards our lunch stop it was exhilarating to be travelling at an average of greater than 32km/hr for km after km.  A new first for me.

We stopped at Audlem for lunch at a great cafe with plenty of character and a favourite haunt for cyclists who kept on arriving as we were there. It seems that cafe stops are not normally part of Mark’s agenda, another huge difference between cyclists and pedal pushers.  I should say that we had already done three climbs by lunch and so I was expecting a flat journey back, but that of course neglected the definition of a * climb * by a proper cyclist.  So i was wrong again!

We covered 3 counties on our ride; Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire and some of the scenery was magnificent despite the glowering sky which threatened to soak us at any moment.


Beeston Castle

Having found a flat bit Mark pointed out to me Beeston Castle and proposed this as our next point of call....not to stop and admire you understand, not even a pit stop, more an opportunity to gather evidence of our visit. I understand now why they build castles atop mountains. The invading cyclists are cream crackered by the time they reach the summit.

After conquoring the castle

I would have liked to tell you about the afternoon tea stops..but there weren’t any, just a 70 km sprint home where Mark’s wife was much more understanding and soon had the kettle on.

To demonstrate the differences between youth and a  pensioner, my average heart rate during the ride was 138bpm with a maximum of 166, noting that my ABSOLUTE maximum should be <169bpm. Mark meanwhile cruised along in sub recovery mode with an average of 118bpm and a slight bit of effort raising it to 162bpm at one point.

It was a great day for me, and Mark provided sterling work as a super domestique. Thanks!

I must look out for other opportunities of GS Gazzetta Leisure Tours, but first I need to draft some Rules of Engagement

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