BLOG: ANDY JONES
I took to the 'High Road' this week with a last minute trip out to Mallorca in the latter half of the week. It was to see Brad, Cav, Rog & co. with the High Road team as they build up to their 2008 season.
The week started with finishing off getting the Revolution pictures to the office and writing my weekly blog. Once that was out of the way it was down to finishing off my Roger Hammond ride story. I'd found that Roger had given so much information during the ride that it was hard to leave bits out. Anyway, got there in the end and the story can be seen in this week's Cycling Weekly (January 24).
Tuesday morning I spent starting to compile the emails I've had back from the Pinarello team members that had been out in Luchon just before Christmas. I'm putting together a ride feature for the magazine based around the two routes that were done over the five day trip there. I'd emailed all the team for a few brief quotes on their experiences and feelings of the routes they had done so I can put them in the article.
It rained all morning here in Sheffield but by the afternoon it had eased off so I took the opportunity to get a couple of hours on the bike. Did my Bakewell route as I knew I only had a limited amount of time. It was mild really and I quite enjoyed the pedal. Had to use the lights for the last forty minutes of the ride as the day seemed shorter in the grey overcast conditions.
Wednesday and I'd arranged to see Tanja Slater for a ride story around the roads close to her Preston home. We had originally pencilled in Thursday but after seeing the weather forecasts for the week we agreed to meet on Wednesday afternoon as the weather looked more favourable.
So in the morning I thought I'd set out early and get my two hour Bakewell run in again before I had to set out for Preston. The weather wasn't great with drizzle in the air as I set out. I got to Baslow and was just going up Thirteen bends towards Bakewell when I thought the back wheel was catching in the mudguard. Stopped and checked it but couldn't see where the problem was. Anyway, I got a few hundred yards further up the road and there was a big pop as the rear tyre deflated instantly. I thought oh no, it's going to mean a call to get a lift home if the tyre had split. I got the wheel off and checked the tyre to see that embarrassingly I was down to the canvas in a number of areas on the tyre. So what had happened was that the inner tube had worn in an exposed area and popped.
I put in a new inner tube and padded out the tyre with thick plastic from a bag I use to carry my tools. I put just enough air in so as to get me back home. Decided that it was best I didn't go to Bakewell and push my luck and headed back to Baslow and along the flat to Calver and up Froggatt. All was going well until I came to the corner on the main Hathersage-Sheffield road where the left turn for Sheephill Road is.
It's a bad piece of road round there and I know the line to take to avoid the potholes and bad pitted areas of road. However with the heavy rain over the last few days there was a steam of water running across the road which was hiding a new pothole which I managed to find. I hit it that hard the handle bars twisted in the stem and I punctured again in the rear tyre. I was not happy.
I eventually got home cursing my luck. It was then as I was getting myself sorted to set off to Preston that I got a call from Simon Richardson in the office asking whether I could manage a trip to Mallorca from Thursday to Sunday to see Brad, Cav, Rog & co. at the High Road team training camp. I think I must have initially sounded a grumpy old man to Simon as he proposed the trip as I still wasn't in the best frame of mind. Anyway, I said I'd go and I'd sort out my flights when I got back from seeing Tanya.
I got to Preston and the Slater residence in good time for our arranged 13:30 meet. There were a few spots of rain in the air as we set out on the ride but the weather improved throughout the afternoon and by the time we were at the top of Jeffery Hill there was some glorious sunshine to savour and enhance the splendid views from the top. It was a enjoyable afternoon and more on that story in a week or two when it gets to the Weekly pages.
I got home about 19:30, had a bite to eat and set about sorting my flights for Mallorca for the following morning. I took the EasyJet option from Liverpool with their 08:45 flight out and their 13:05 return flight on the Sunday. It meant an early start on Thursday. 05:30 was the time I left my flat for Liverpool. Arrived just after 07:00 at the car park and it was about twenty past by the time I got to the check-in desk. Perfect really.
Arrived in Mallorca to sunshine though there was a cool breeze along the shoreline at Playa de Palma close to the hotel we and the team were staying at. It was still very pleasant and a lot different from the weather back home. Simon arrived later in the afternoon from Gatwick.
We were up early Friday morning so as to catch the team as they prepared for their scheduled morning ride of 4.5 hours. The team had timetabled three groups to set out on different routes. Simon had brought his bike and he arranged to ride out with the second of these three groups. He went out with the Hincapie group and you can read about his day in his blog now on the website.
I went out with the last group and jumped in the car with High Road coach Sebastian. He had a radio link to one of the riders SRM's with a monitor on the dash so we could have a guide as to the watts the group were riding at, their cadence, speed and time out riding. It was an interesting morning learning a few training tips myself. The group were made to do various exercises along route, through and off for twenty minutes. Keep the watts down on the rises and pedal harder and faster on the descents so that the watt profile was flatter.
Sebastian doesn't really deal in distance, it's time that matters. As he said, your muscles don't know how far they have gone, only how long they have worked for. A good point and I'd not really thought of things like that. We saw the whole of the CSC team pass in the opposite direction at one point near Porreres. There were waves and greetings shouted from the teams as they passed by. In Porreres we saw Andreas Kloden pass by too. Eventually, we ended up on Sant Salvador, for me one of the best climbs on the island. The riders stopped briefly at the bottom before setting off to make there individual efforts up the slopes. An Italian TV crew from RAI appeared and filmed Marco Pinotti up the climb. Sebastian and I followed in the car. Seb paused alongside each rider to check progress while I took pictures from the window.
We regrouped at the top for refreshments. Local man and new team member Reynes admired the view from the top which is fantastic. It was a beautifully warm sunny, clear day and you could see right across the island. Servais Knaven's computer was reading temperatures of 22 degrees on the climb. How's that for January? Pinotti was interviewed by the camera team that had followed before we all descended back for the route back to the hotel. In the last twenty minutes there was the call to do 10 minutes through and off in the little ring at high cadence. An enjoyable day.
As we got back to the hotel I met Pete and Neil from the Halesowen RC at the bike storage, shop, workshop and boutique below the hotel.
They were there within a group of Halesowen and High Wycombe riders that had arrived earlier in the week for their annual island get together. The Barceló Pueblo Park hotel is an ideal base for a biking holiday, particularly at this time of year. The facilities at the hotel are part of one of the seven Max Hurzeler holiday stations on the island. There's everything you would need for your holiday (or High Road Pro Team camp). You can even hire a decent road bike if you don't fancy taking your own.
Up early again Saturday morning. I sorted out hiring a bike(including pedal type you ride) for the day which was 18 euros plus a small charge of 5 euros for bike cleaning work afterwards. It should have been 10 euros but it was discounted as I only had the bike for the day. Bike hire prices do come down if you hire the bike for three or more days, so it makes it quite competitive. I stowed the bike in the bike lockup in the workshop area as there was still work to be done.
I went out in the car with Brian Holm and Tristan Hoffman as they would be following team group three with Cavendish and Hammond in it for the days training ride. The team hadn't got team cars on the island so we were in a hired Ford Fiesta. With spare bike wheels in the boot, a cool box along the back seat and Brain and Tristan in the front, there wasn't a lot of room to manoeuvre. Taking pictures from the rear door window was made worse by it only winding down half way due to the door shape. The whole team set out together before splitting in to groups at Valldemossa. Once there our group headed for Soller and Puig Major. The descents were lethal and immense caution was taken on the damp hairpin bends on the road to the bottom of Puig Major.
On the climb, Brain stopped at points for me so I could get pictures. I also hung out the window and got pictures of Mark Cavendish and Roger Hammond as we paused alongside before passing them on this testing climb. Everyone regrouped at the top for fuel and liquid. The thing was that I'd arranged to meet Simon at the top so he could give me a lift back to the hotel and we could get out for a ride on the bikes ourselves. He wasn't there. He was at the top of Soller. We were sure that we were told they would go up Soller but as it turned out (unbeknown to me) they had gone through Soller town and then up to Puig Major and so I had to call Simon to pick me up from the summit there. I said my thanks to Brian and Tristan for the lift and found a spot to wait for Simon as the team disappeared down the road for the rest of their six hour ride.
Simon arrived after about twenty five minutes. We got back to the hotel at about 14:30 in the end. We had a bite to eat and then I got ready while Simon did an interview with Bob Stapleton the High Road team owner. While I waited for Simon to finish his interview, I spent half an hour pedalling up the seafront before meeting Simon for a pedal. It was a brisk hour and a half as Simon describes in his day 2 blog on the website. It was a good blast in late afternoon sunshine. We saw Hammond and co. coming back from their ride as we headed out and Erik Zabel was out in another group we spotted. Enjoyed it and can understand why so many cyclists come across for some winter sunshine.
Sunday and again we were up early though the team had a more relaxed morning's programme. Grabbed a few photos as they readied themselves for a complete team ride of around two hours. There was a good relaxed atmosphere with plenty of banter. Once the team had left at 10:30ish in to another beautiful sun kissed morning, it was up to my room to grab my bags and check out of the hotel. Simon gave me a lift to the airport and I was there for 11:00 as it was literally 10 minutes from the hotel door. Checked in and sat in the departure lounge doing a bit of work on my laptop before my flight.
Arrived back in Liverpool at 14:30 local time to mild but damp conditions. By the time I got to the car and on the road to Sheffield it was 15:00 but was home by about 16:50. Appreciated an invite for tea at mum and dad's. Very welcome after a day's travelling.
Catch up again soon.
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.