I’ve had an interesting week, which included – as I mentioned in last week’s blog – a trip over to Switzerland.

Monday was a day to put the finishing touches to my Luchon ride feature I’d started the previous week. I’d worked on it over the weekend too, so it was just a matter of polishing off the final paragraphs and a few information details. Saw two large skein of geese fly over the flat during the morning.

I love to hear their calls as they stay in touch with each other on their travels. Fantastic sight, a real call of the wild. With the Luchon feature ride story almost done, I’d arranged to go out for a pedal with John Charlesworth who I’d not seen for months. He’s coming back from a knee problem which involved keyhole surgery to shave a bit of cartilage from his right knee. It’s been a long road but gladly John’s on the mend and getting the miles in. We met at one o’clock outside Somerfields at the end of my road. It was a pleasant afternoon and we did the Matlock run I regularly mention. It was a good even tempo ride and time to catch up on all the news and views.

Got back and started to get ready for the following days trip to Switzerland.

Tuesday morning I made time for a pedal before setting off for Liverpool airport and my flight to Geneva. I’d arranged to meet John at Somerfields at nine forty five. We rode out to Bakewell together, which included a testing effort up Thirteen Bends on the approaches to Bakewell.

I’ve mentioned Thirteen Bends before and it’s a relatively even gradient climb that rises from just after Baslow before levelling out just before the main drop in to Bakewell. It’s probably around half a mile and can be done in the big ring and is a good test to see where your form is. I kept the tempo high up the drag in the 53×21 at around 17mph. Think I may have gone too hard initially as the final couple of bends really did start to hurt a bit and the speed dropped to 14 or 15mph over the top. A good test though as there was a bit of a head wind.

I left John to pedal on from Bakewell as I made the turn for home. Called in at my local fish monger on the way back. Bought a whole trout for dinner. Very nice it was too, really fresh.
Set out for Liverpool airport at around two thirty. I usually go over the A57 Snake Pass to pick up the M57, M60 and M56 motorways to Runcorn. However, with all the wet weather the Snake Pass has had land slips which has caused the road to drop away.

The heavy rainfall causes excessive pressure as water penetrates the bedding planes of the Carboniferous shale measures. The shales then slip along their bedding planes causing land movement and in turn the road goes with it. The geology on the A57 is similar to that seen around Mam Tor at Castleton. There used to be a road there until the regular land slips made it impossible to keep a viable road over the ‘Shivering Mountain’.

So my journey took me over Winnatts pass to Sparrowpit and pick up the A6 to Stockport and then join the M60 to get along to the M56. By the time I got to the airport carpark it was about twenty to five, about an hour longer than it normally takes. I was stressing a bit I have to admit as my flight was at six. It all worked out ok and I checked in at five. Check in closed at five twenty. Fortunately the airport was quiet and I went through security smoothly and even had chance to grab a sandwich before boarding.

Arrived in Geneva about twenty minutes early to that scheduled. We had a good strong tail wind. I phoned Alasdair Fotheringham who I’d be working with to check whether there was a hotel shuttle bus. It turned out it was not due so I got some Swiss francs from the cash point and got a taxi to the hotel. Met up with Alasdair in the hotel restaurant for a light bite at about half past nine.

Wednesday dawned to grey overcast conditions. The high pressure weather system over Europe causing a blanket of grey cloud to stagnate over the area. At least it was dry. Unfortunately I cannot disclose the featured rider we had come to interview and photograph. All will be revealed in a month or so. Anyway, set out from the hotel with Alasdair for our ten o’clock meet with our subject.

While Alasdair drove, I hung out of the window and stopped at various points to grab pictures as our man pedalled through the vineyards and hills around Geneva and Lausanne. It’s a nice area and the roads are good. He was out five hours, but Alasdair and I left him to carry on after three hours while we went for a bite to eat. We arranged to met our man at four back at his apartment for the interview.

Had a pleasant lunch in a small fish restaurant on the shores of Lake Geneva. I particularly enjoyed watching the bird life bobbing about on the lake as we ate. I had chance to have a wander along the lake side after lunch and check out what else was about. There was a large group of Tufted ducks near one jetty. A group of Pochard a little further along the lake, but the main action was at a slipway between these groups of birds where Black Headed Gulls, Mallards and a Mute Swan were being fed by local families out for an afternoon stroll. But amongst this noisy gathering were four or five pairs of Goosander.

Goosander

I’ve mentioned these birds before in my blog when I see them on the river at Calver and the mill pond at Cromford. They are usually shy birds and will skulk off if they catch sight of you coming their direction. However, these lake Geneva birds were up for coming up close for their share of the offerings of old bread and patisserie. It gave me a chance to grab a few pictures. The light wasn’t good at all but still I gave it a go as it was chance to get up close to these beautiful saw billed ducks. Used my 1.7x converter on my 80-200 for the shots. Minimum of 1/400th sec shutter which was pushing it a bit to get what I did. See what you think. I love the female Goosanders spikey feathered crest.

Black headed gulls

After the arranged interview later it was back to the airport and to drop off the hire car and get the arranged hotel shuttle bus back to the hotel. Had a flight at ten twenty five on the Thursday morning back to Liverpool.

Thursday and I had breakfast with Alasdair before getting the shuttle bus to the airport for my flight. Got back to Liverpool behind schedule as there was a strong head wind back. Infact there were strong winds everywhere which made the landing tricky coming back in. The pilot did a superb job. I heard later that Manchester airport had suffered cancellations due to the high winds, so I think I was lucky getting back as scheduled. Took a different route back from the airport. Used the M56 until junction 6 which is the Wilmslow junction. From there it’s the route I use when I cycle back over from my sister’s place in Sale.

You drive/cycle under the runways at Manchester airport, up to Wilmslow and then head for Prestbury, Bollington, Pot Shrigley and on to Whaley Bridge, Chapel-en-le-Frith, over Rushup, down Winnatts to Castleton and back over the tops in to Sheffield. A much better run. On the drive back the temperatures dropped towards Sheffield, particularly over Stanage and Burbage. There was even a dusting of snow. My temperature gauge read 2 degrees over the tops above Sheffield.

Thursday evening was an evening out at the Scotsman’s Pack in Hathersage for my dad’s 70th birthday. Picked mum and dad up and drove over to the pub where we met my sister and brother in law. Had a good meal and presented dad with his birthday present. A Canon G9 camera. Very nice. Would just like to take this opportunity to say to my dad many happy returns for last Thursday.

Friday and I spent the day sorting my Switzerland pictures. I’d already made a start on the flight back the previous day. Also sorted a route map to go with the Luchon story and some specific pictures to go with it too. Didn’t go for a pedal due to finishing things very late in the day and also my back was playing up. It went in to spasm in the morning as I put a pullover on and felt very uncomfortable. I think it was due to bad posture and lifting bags from the previous day that brought it on. I should know better.

It snowed overnight Friday into Saturday. There must have been a good two centimetres over the carpark area behind my flat. It was icy too I noticed when I went out to feed the birds and had to break the ice on the bird bath. Topped up the feeder with sunflower seeds and but some bread out along with a bit of cheese. The blackbirds love the cheese. As soon as I was back in the flat the birds were down tucking in. Mistle thrushes, blackbirds, magpies, blue tits, a robin and the ever greedy wood pigeons. The youngsters from the neighbouring flats had a great time in the snow and even managed to build a reasonable sized snowman.

Got out on the bike just after mid-day. The roads had improved and so I arranged to meet John at 12:30 at the old Riverlin post office. It was a beautiful afternoon. Blue skies and snow all around. We road up to Ladybower and on to Brough for the turn up to Bradwell. Went over Bradwell Moor to Tideswell, down Miller’s Dale and up the other side towards Taddington. Went down towards Ashford-in-the-Water and through Bakewell. Along past Haddon Hall to Rowsley and turned left to Beeley and on through Chatsworth Park. Dropped in to Baslow and then along the river to Calver and up Froggatt and home. It was just three hours for me or 51 miles. A good solid ride at a good tempo. Very enjoyable.

Later in the afternoon I took a stroll up the Mayfield valley. Something I’d not done for a while. I saw two brown hares racing across the snowy fields there. Looked cold. I heard the Tawny owls and the Little owls but didn’t manage a glimpse of them.

Sunday, I met up with the gang for the Ranskill run. Steve was away in Lanzarote, so there was Simon, Tony and John Charlesworth. There was a good stiff headwind out towards Balborough and Clowne. The through and off started and I have to say I didn’t feel on top form, though not as bad as a couple of weeks ago. I just didn’t quite have it and I lost contact after thirty five minutes. I kept the gap constant for about another five minutes but then just settled in to my rhythm. Still I managed a 19mph average to Ranskill and was told getting dropped was justice for the picture I had used in last week’s blog. John was on form apparently as he took the sprint for the Ranskill sign. So it was a quick bite to eat before we all set off back.

Crosswinds and headwinds were battled against on the run back but still I arrived home with 71miles on the clock with an 18.1mph average. I didn’t do the Riverlin bit this week and left that section to the others as I left them all near the Whicker. As John said to me, “It had been two hard days in the chair!” and I didn’t really need an extra seven or eight miles.

Spent the afternoon sorting a few pictures and catching up on washing and ironing. I’ve another trip this week, this time to Spain.

News from Spain 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.