BLOG: ANDY JONES
I've made the most of what should have been a quiet week to catch up on a few things at home and make the most of the fantastic weather.
Monday was yet another glorious day. A frosty start but with temperatures gathering during the day it made it feel very spring like. I spent the morning just finishing off sending the pictures from the David Millar trip I mentioned in last weeks blog. I'd left the picture selection file sending to the office FTP site over Sunday night.
Invariably there's a hiccup and not everything transmits, so I just had to recover from the error point and complete the file transmission. That completed I set about writing my blog. I spent longer than I anticipated on it and it must have been about 13:30 by the time I sent it over to be put up on the website.
In the afternoon I popped over to the photo lab I use near Eckington to collect some prints I'd requested for a couple of clients. That was almost an hours round trip as I'm on the other side of Sheffield. So by the time I got back it was getting on for 16:00. Decided to drive up the road to have a wander up over Stanage Edge.
The edge is only about five miles from my doorstep and is a one of the well known and much used edges with the British climbing fraternity. There are fantastic views from the edge across the Hope Valley to Whin Hill, Lose Hill and Mam Tor. Monday afternoon was so calm up there and pleasantly warm as it basked in the late afternoon sun. The light was beautiful too so I took a few pictures of the old millstones at the foot of the gritstone edge before scrambling up through the boulders on to the tops.
I heard the comical chuntering, cackling call of a Red Grouse before I just saw it's head pop up above one of the many a boulders nestled in the heather. Took a call from Simon Richardson at the office as I watched a very red sun disappear below the horizon. Have to say you could feel the temperature drop very quickly. The road over the tops there was also the summit to the climb from Hathersage during a stage in the 1990 Kellogg's Tour. Robert Millar (Z) and Laurent Jalabert (Toshiba) had attacked and broken clear as they headed over the top and down to the stage finish in Sheffield.
Tuesday first thing, I wandered up to my local Post Office and got the print orders I collected on Monday in the post. It was a beautiful morning once again so took the opportunity to get out for a pedal. I did me regular Matlock run and just had to watch a few of the shady sections of road for frost and ice patches.
Generally the route is good as much of it is main roads and is well gritted. Along the way I caught up with John Stevenson at the top of the Froggatt climb as I neared home. He was a teacher and head of house at High Storrs School in Sheffield when I was there. I was never taught by him but got to know him and his sons Iain and Neil a bit more when I occasionally went out with the Whirlow Wheelers a few years ago. I'd not seen John for a while so we chatted as we headed back in to Sheffield. He certainly showed a turn of speed on the descent down towards Whirlow.
Spent the afternoon up at my mum and dad's and stopped over for an evening meal too. It was also chance to wash the car as it's not that easy to get done down where I live. Another job out of the way.
Wednesday and yet another fabulous day. Again I took the opportunity in the morning to do my Matlock run. I saw John Stevenson again on Thirteen Bends as I made my way towards Baslow. He had a riding companion so I just said a quick hello and rode on. At Calver I spotted the Dipper in the river near the old converted mill buildings. I'd not seen a Dipper there for a while mainly due to the high river levels caused by the heavy rain fall we'd had a few weeks ago. The river level over the last couple of weeks has settled and is at a more normal level revealing favourite stones where the Dipper's hunt from, diving and returning to from the currents in their search of larvae and grubs.
In the afternoon I made a trip over to the Old Moor RSPB reserve in the Dearne Valley near Barnsley. I'd not been for several months. The water levels over the reserve are quite high due to the heavy rain we had the other month. Infact the reserve had been closed for a while due to flooding. Still there was a good number of Golden Plover and Lapwing about. Stayed for about an hour and set off back having stocked up on some bird food from the reserve shop. Just had time to have a quick stroll up the Mayfield lanes when I got back to Sheffield. Watched the two resident little owls on their early evening manoeuvres.
The weather on Thursday and Friday was in total contrast to that of the first half of the week. Grey, overcast with low cloud at times on Thursday giving very fine drizzle in the air. It meant a raw feel to things. Caught up on a few things around the flat which have needed doing for quite a while. My dad popped down to give a hand which was appreciated. I didn't venture out for a pedal on Thursday or Friday as I have to admit to my legs feeling tired from Tuesday and Wednesday's rides and probably too to the efforts of the previous weekends rides. A wise move really as I'd planned to ride the North-West Passage Audax with Simon, Steve and Tony on Saturday morning. The 200km audax route based around Rochdale was also going to be an opportunity to do a bit of a feature as a ride story for the Weekly.
Saturday morning and I was up just after 05:00. Simon picked me and the bike up just before 06:00 and we drove the short way over to Steve's place to pick him up along with Tony who had driven over from Totley. With four bikes securely clamped on the roof rack of Simon's Mondeo estate, there was still plenty of room for the four of us plus all the kit bags in the back. A great Peak RC team car.
We arrived in the car park of the Spring Hill pub in Rochdale at just after 07:30. The event is organised by the West Pennine RC as part of the Audax UK calendar and so is held under their regulations. I paid £6 to get registered and insured on the line as a non-member and was given my start stamp on my Brevet de Randonneur card. So it was back to the car with the others and get ready for the start at 08:00.
Grabbed a few pictures just before we and probably a hundred riders set out from the car park. Temperature were below freezing but there was sunshine ahead to gradually lift the temperatures. The roads out of Rochdale were not really that pleasant. There seemed a lot of traffic for that time in the morning. The pace was reasonably brisk and soon there was a group ahead which the four of us moved up to.
Tony, a veteran of audaxs including Paris-Brest-Paris, moved up to about three from the front. I was three or four riders back again and started chatting briefly with a local rider in the group. Steve and Simon were just behind. Then just the other side of Littleborough and only 10 miles in to the ride things all went wrong. Some temporary lights at some road works caused a nervous reaction when somebody shouted "lights!" There was a touch of wheels as two riders went down in front of me, which included Tony.
I avoided the melee. Steve and Simon stopped behind me as another rider toppled to the tarmac, seemingly in slow motion. Everyone got up apart from Tony who had come off the worst. He had fallen towards the kerb and took a blow to the side of his face around the eye and cheek. He sat stunned in the road with blood dripping from his wounds.
Simon, a police sergeant, managed the scene with a calm approach as he assessed Tony's injuries. Simon and I got Tony to his feet and got him seated on some steps. Worried faces from those who had stopped looked on. Someone started phoning for an ambulance, but Simon said no need at this point. With the situation in hand we told the other riders to head on leaving Simon, Steve and myself looking after Tony.
I popped across the road to a little sandwich bar and got a sugary tea for Tony whilst Simon administered first aid with some wipes and got a wound dressing to cover the worst. (I have to say I don't know where Simon got those bits, I'll have to ask.) Steve checked out Tony's bike. The right brake lever and changer was damaged but Steve got it in a fixed gear so that it would be rideable. I'd already picked up from the road the computer sensor and pick up that had come off in the fall. With Tony coming round, he felt he could ride back to the car with us, though we all agreed he should go to A&E to check out his wounds. The side of his face had swollen up in quite an ugly and worrying manner. A picture had to be taken for posterity.
We pedalled back the ten miles back to the car, got the bikes back on board and we went straight to Rochdale Infirmary's A&E. It was still quite early and so although there were a number of people waiting, it could have been worse. Simon stayed with Tony whilst Steve and I got changed and went for a paper so there was something to read whilst we all waited. I stayed with the car and bikes as the rack wasn't lockable and Steve and Simon swapped waiting room duties. It was just under two hours before Tony and Simon emerged from A&E back to the car.
Tony's face had swollen more and his eye was beginning to close. With wounds glued, face cleaned up and finding nothing was broken it was relief all round. So, we set off home dropping in at a garage for a sandwich and some pain killers for Tony. We got back to Sheffield at just before 14:00. Simon, Steve and I decided we would go for a pedal in the afternoon. We dropped off Steve, then myself and then Simon went up to Tony's. We arranged to meet up at Tony's place as soon as, so it was about 14:35 by the time we regrouped and set off up Abbeydale Road towards Owler Bar.
We got a good two and a half hours in under bright clear blue skies. We took in some of the Buxton Hilly TT course from Rowsley corner through Youlgreave, up Brewer's Hill and on to Monyash. It was quite brisk at times and certainly tested me in places. It was also very cold, particularly coming down the descent from Sheldon. Saw Adam Blythe's mum and dad in Calver and we stopped for a quick chat. Steve's girlfriend's parents live a few doors away from the Blythe's.
They had been out for a pedal too and had just got back to their car. At the top of Froggatt, Simon went back to Owler Bar and dropped down to pick his car up at Tony's. Steve and I headed for the flying mile where I went back to Sheffield and Steve decided to pedal down the valley to Hathersage and over to Bamford and comeback over the A57 back to his place. It adds a reasonable amount to the ride for him. What a day!!
Sunday and I went out on the bike on my own as Simon and Steve had other commitments. I just did my Matlock run, the third time this week. Clear and crisp, but pleasant though. Got back and watched Sheffield United v Middlesborough in the FA cup. A goalless draw which was a bit scrappy but had it's moments. Popped up the Mayfield lanes briefly to catch the last of the afternoon sun. Saw the male and female Kestrel about.
Also spotted three brown hares and a pair of grey partridge in the upper fields. That done I joined mum and dad for an evening meal. Very nice too, particularly the stewed Lyth valley Damsons with custard.
Got back home and made a start on this blog. It always takes longer than I expect.
Catch up once again in a week.
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.