On the Monday morning after Lincoln Grand Prix I took the opportunity to have a pedal out with John Charlesworth. I?d not seen him since the beginning of April. What with me away at the Spring Classics and John taking a week’s holiday out in Mallorca there hadn?t been chance to catch up in recent weeks.

Having already sent a good selection of Lincoln race pictures to the office FTP on Sunday evening, I was ahead on things for the morning. I was up early and on the road before nine o?clock to meet John at the old Riverlin post office. It was nice to be doing a different route after having had a staple of Bakewell and Matlock runs over the last few weeks. The weather was also pleasant, although feeling cool at first, the May sun soon lifted the temperatures and spirits.

John and I headed out towards Ladybower, turning left at the lights there and continued to Bamford. Getting to the lights by the petrol station on the main Hope Valley road, it was quite a surprise to see the old Marquis of Granby Hotel all but levelled to the ground. It?s been derelict for a number of years and had looked in a sorry state and did need something doing to it. All that remained that I could see was the left wing of the building. I saw a pair of Swifts appear from under the eaves there as we set off up the Hope Valley towards Hope. I only hope they weren?t thinking of using it as a nesting site.

We turned left before Hope to head towards Bradwell. The temperature was now very pleasant and the pace was hotting up too. A friendly battle ensued as to see who could reach the crest of the climb first. John got the prime as I ran out of gas and leg speed to keep spinning the pedals. It was then on to Tideswell to drop down to the Litton turn and pick up the Cressbrook and Monsal road. Dropped down Cressbrook and took the left turn about halfway along the valley bottom to climb up to the Wardlow junction. It?s a good tempo climb rather than a power climb as Monsal is further up the valley.

I stayed with John?s pace as long as I could. The gradient picks up slightly as it comes out of the trees and with a headwind I seemed to go backwards suddenly. John was disappearing up the road. I gathered myself and got a rhythm going again and put in a huge effort to try and pip John to the junction summit. Just did it. The reward is a fast descent down to Ashford-in-the-Water passing the Monsal Head Hotel on the way. Our return leg was via Thirteen Bends, Baslow, Calver and then up Froggatt to pick up Ecclesall Road straight back in to Sheffield. A really good ride with some good efforts to test the legs and lungs.

Tuesday was spent catching up on things. I wrote my blog, sorted my accreditation application to the Criterium du Dauphine Libere by email and post. Packed one of my Nikon D2xs?s bodies and two SB-800 flash guns to be sent to Fixation for repair and service. The camera body has been in need of a new flash hot shoe for sometime. It had been damaged in a media scrum at some point and had come lose, so giving a poor and intermittent contact ever since. My flash guns had suffered in the rain during this April?s Fleche Wallone. One gun had actually stopped working altogether though it did work to a point after drying out but needed to be checked out neither the less. Sent the other one to be checked out too while I?ve the chance.

By the time I finished everything and got back from the post office it was well after five o?clock. Decided I?d get out on the bike and try and catch the chain gang that meets up near Moscar at 18:00. It was much cooler than Monday and arm and leg warmers plus gilet were the order of the day. Fortunately there was a bit of a tail wind up to the meet point and I don?t think I?ve ridden that stretch of road faster. Just made it in time.

Met the mixed club group which included Steve Gibson , Tony Grassby and Simon Owens my fellow Peak RC club mates. ?Squadra? were the thoughts that came to Simon?s mind as it was probably the first time the four of us had all been out in our club kit simultaneously. I didn?t count the total number of riders out but I guess there was around ten or eleven of us. It was my first time out with this chain gang and things didn?t feel as though they started well. I just didn?t get the feel of the change through, so I eased up and did my own thing for the rest of the evening. Rode to Castleton and then back through Hope. Stopped at the little petrol station and garage by the Woodbine Café. My rear mudguard had snapped and I needed a bit of tape to make a temporary repair. The young lady in the service cabin helped me out with a bit of electrical tape which sorted the break perfectly. Most appreciated.

Carried on up the Hope Valley towards Hathersage and found I caught the back of the Sheff Rec club just as I came in to Hathersage. I passed them on the rise out of Hathersage as I headed towards Grindleford. They had been keeping a steady pace and I was riding at a slightly higher tempo. I hadn?t meant to start anything but found I?d lit the touch paper and I was suddenly leading the line down the valley road. The pace was quite painful at times, particularly on the climb out of Grindleford and then again with the sprint for a sign just before Calver which was furiously fought out. I found I?d been tactically blocked on the inside and so I wasn?t ready for it. The run back home was up Froggatt and it was supposed to be a truce but the pace picked up again. Stayed with it and it?s the best I?ve gone up there in quite a while. Third spot wasn?t a bad result. We regrouped at the top and headed back via Sheephill Road and Ringinglow village where I left the gang. It was a good blast with some friendly banter.

Just went for a short spin on Wednesday morning with John to Castleton and back to ease out the previous evenings efforts. Not a bad morning with sunny intervals but feeling cooler. On the way back we spotted several Lapwing chicks in the boggy field that adjoins the side of the road at Moscar. Funny little things. Balls of fluff on stilts with ‘Zabel’ like flat tops all being watched over by anxious parents. I went back later in the afternoon to see if I could get a picture or two. No such luck as they had disappeared in to the longer grass out of sight. However, I got some pictures of Cowslip and Red Campion near Bradwell that I?d spotted on the previous days ride, so my trip out in the car wasn?t wasted.

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Thursday I sorted a few things around the flat which included taking my old bed and a spare old bed from my second bedroom to the city?s recycling tip. Dad was about to give a hand and we?d hired a van for the morning to get the job done which had also included bringing an old, but much newer, bed down from my mum and dad?s place to replace my old one. Another job done.

Gave a bit of much needed time to cleaning my winter bike in the afternoon. Took off the damaged section of rear mudguard as it was now broken in three places.

Went out on the bike with John later and we did our Cressbrook route which is pretty lumpy. From my place you climb all the way to Foxhouse, over the ‘flying mile?, then drop down Froggatt. Along the valley to Baslow. Up Thirteen bends. It’s a sporting run from there to Ashford-in-the-Water. Climb out of Ashford to Monsal Head Hotel. Drop down Monsal and then climb up the Cressbrook side to continue to Litton. Drop down to the main road to climb up to Tideswell. A sporting, rolling few miles over Bradwell moor follows and then it?s down to Bradwell and then along valley to turn up to Bamford. It?s a good climb there up towards Ladybower. A right at the lights to climb up to Moscar (grippy and I was feeling dizzy at this stage with the effort). Over the crest of Moscar and descend to Riverlin. John turned off there and then I have the steady climb back into Sheffield.

Drop down Ranmoor and ride along by the park at Endcliffe and it?s then a short climb up the terrace side road to my flat. 42.65mls from doorstep to doorstep and I averaged 20.1mph. A personal best by a long way. When I’ve done it on my own I think 18mph average is the best I’ve ever done. John and I were doing just over a 21mph average at one point. John was absolutely nailing it and looking silky smooth. He could have left me for dead at a couple of points but dropped back to bring me back on. Have to say it was a really good ride. You do get a real buzz.

On Friday morning whilst I was having breakfast I heard about the Lancaster bomber flypast taking place that morning at 10:30 over the nearby reservoirs. It was to mark the 65th anniversary of the German dam bombing missions of the Second World War. I?d been to the 50th anniversary flypasts back in 1993 where the Red Arrows had also joined in the display schedule over the dams there on that day. Seeing the syncro-pair doing opposition rolls over the twin Derwent dam towers was quite something.

Anyway, decided I?d have a pedal up to the dams to see all the action. Took my Canon G7 to try and record it all.

It was a cool morning with slightly overcast skies. It?s only 12 miles or so to the dam walls at Fairholmes where the main ceremonies were taking place and I arrived with the sound of the last post being played marking the end of the remembrance service. Shortly after, the sound of the four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines bounced off the Derwent valley hill sides as the Lancaster came in to view, passing low between the twin dam towers on its first of four flypasts.



The Lancaster squadron flight crews used to practice over these Derwent Valley dams during the war before going out on their missions over Germany. One of those pilots and the last living Lancaster pilot from those times was flown from his home in New Zealand to join and witness the ceremony. What memories he must have had.

The final pass from the Lancaster was quickly followed by two Tornados from the current 617 Dambuster squadron making their first pass in the wake of the Lancaster. They came round for a second time, but with wings swept back, at a much faster approach speed. They were overhead before I really had chance to lift the camera. You saw them before you heard them as they banked and disappeared down the valley.

Superb.

A Hurricane and Spitfire then made their two passes before a Dakota DC-3 made the final three passes of the morning to close proceedings.

Spent the afternoon sorting out a new external hard drive to back up my ever expanding picture library. I finally ended up with a portable drive at 250GB as the first hard drive I bought over the afternoon wasn’t compatible with my computer. It was a 1TB model to be used with a home hub which I don?t have. I?d seen it had a USB socket and thought I?d be able to still use it. It turned out it was not for the transfer of data from computer to drive, but drive to drive as I came to understand it. That went back and the only USB2 compatible model available was the aforementioned portable. Still it will do for now and I?ll look into another hard drive model at a later date.

Saturday was a day of sorting and not much to report other than I finally got my flights booked to get to the start of the Tour de France in July. Got a morning FlyBe flight from Manchester to Exeter on the Wednesday before the start weekend of the Tour. It then allows me to get the afternoon FlyBe flight from Exeter to Brest which gets in at around 15:20. Perfect. I?ll pick up a hire car there which I?ll return at Lyon when I leave the Tour after the Alpe d?Huez stage for my flight home. I?ve booked that flight too now which is from Lyon to Manchester direct with BMI.

My afternoon and evening were spent making a start on this blog.

Sunday morning and I arrange to get out for a ride with Simon Owens. He only lives up the road so he dropped down to my place for a nine o?clock start. It was a nice bright morning though there was a chill in the air meaning arm and leg warmers plus gilet were once again the order of the day.

We headed up Ecclesall Road and up to Foxhouse to drop down to Grindleford and then took the little lane into the back of Eyam village. We passed under the start/finish timing banner for the Eyam half marathon taking place that morning and continued through the village and on up to Foolow. To be different we headed to Windmill and then took the back lanes to Wheston. As we dropped down Dale Head I spotted a field on the left with an abundance of the rich crimson pyramidal blooms of the Marsh Orchid. Fabulous looking flowers made all the better in the morning sunlight.

From Dale Head it was over to Smalldale and Peak Dale where the revised route of Tour of the Peak classic used to finish. Over the old finish line it was down past Buxton golf course and in to Buxton itself. We headed out up to Long Hill and took the left down the hair raising descent of Goyt Lane taking us down in to the Goyt Valley. It?s where I?d been earlier in the year doing the race bike shoot for the ?Weekly?.

Passing round Errwood Reservoir it was up the one way road up Goyt?s Clough, over Derbyshire Bridge and up to the main Cat?n?Fiddle road. Crossing straight over we took the Dane Head road over Axe Edge Moor to join the Axe Edge road itself. Dropped down to Dove Head and came out on the Buxton mountain TT course. It was here, dropping down the hill the way the TT would come up, that the spare inner tube I carry under my saddle came loose.

It dropped such that it jammed under the brake caliper causing the rear wheel to lock. What were the chances of that happening? I was doing over thirty miles an hour and the skid mark I left on the road was 20 metres or so. It tore a hole in the tyre a couple of inches long and I finally came to a stop as the inner tube went bang! Simon rolled back to where I?d stopped and the initial prognosis didn?t look good. There seemed no side wall integrity to the tyre. Anyway, Simon had a spare section of old tyre to cover the area of damaged tyre. With that and bandaging the area of new inner tube with a length of the old tube around the point were the tube would be positioned under the area of damaged tyre, we made a reasonable repair that would at least get me to the nearest bike spares shop we knew of at Parsley Hay on the Tissington Trail.

Our route from my mishap took us through Hollinsclough to the top end of Longnor. Left there to Glutton Bridge and right to Earl Sterndale we were soon at the Peak National Park?s bike hire point at Parsley Hay. Not before time as the wall of my tyre was now bulging alarmingly. Parsley Hay is a great facility and is very popular at the weekends. It was great to see so many people out pedalling along the Tissington Trail, the refurbished old track bed of what was the railway line from Ashbourne to Buxton. It?s ideal for families to enjoy a cycle together in safety as was evident by the number of people passing through.

The bike hire section of the complex has a small spares shop and information centre adjoining it and I was hoping they had a 700c tyre in stock to get me home. As it turned out they only had a used knobbly cross/hybrid tyre which was a 700c x 28mm. Rather chunky but I gave it a go and with a bit of tweaking I managed to just make it fit the clearances of my Dolan winter bike frame.

After thanking the Peak National Park personnel for helping me out and downing a welcome cuppa accompanied by a chocolate sponge cake from the little café there, it was back on the road home. It was feeling quite chilly now but the climb up towards Monyash soon got some warmth back in to the system. From Monyash it was on towards Sheldon and dropping down to Ashford-in-the-Water and taking the back lanes to Hassop. It was then straight along to Calver cross roads, up Froggatt and back in to Sheffield via Ringinglow village. Simon saw one of his colleagues in the village there, Sergeant Tim Rowe on his Police mountain bike.

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We had a quick chat with him before making the final descent back home. Got to my door with 69 miles on the clock. An enjoyable mornings pedal even with all the complications.

On getting back I got myself sorted for a trip I?ve been meaning to do for a while. I?d been watching the weather systems over the last couple of weeks and saw that the beginning of the coming week was looking ideal for a visit to the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland. It?s a seabird ?Mecca? during the breeding season from May to July and so is one of the best times of the year to visit this tiny archipelago. So, I booked a place on one of the boats that go out to the islands from Seahouses for Monday morning and booked a room for Sunday night at the Rock Farmhouse B&B I?d used for my short Northumbrian break last November. To be continued…

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More from the Farne Islands and the National ’10′ time trial next week.

Andy

Andy Jones is Cycling Weekly’s resident photographer, and has covered pretty much every major cycle race there is, from downhill mountain biking to the Tour de France. You can see many of Andy’s photos in our online Gallery section.