BLOG: ANDY JONES
It's been a quieter week really and it took a while to get going. Then by Thursday onwards things seemed a bit manic at times.
I've been delving through my archives of the season to do another review of the year in pictures, this time for Cycling Weekly, so I've tried to keep a more domestic scene emphasise. On looking back on the pictures it's evident that the events I covered domestically did not have the best of weather. There's certainly not that many sunny pictures in the collection. Hopefully the review will appear over the Christmas and New Year copies of the Weekly.
Went out on the bike Tuesday and Wednesday and did my Matlock run on both days, so a good 106 mile block in. When I set off on Tuesday I didn't feel that the legs were good but they got going in the end. I think the weather helped as it was quite mild. As I came back past the river at the back of Calver mill I saw a female Goosander on the river. They are a really beautiful duck. Quite a bit bigger than a Mallard, these sleek saw bill ducks can often be seen along this stretch of river, particularly at this time of year.
The females body is a pale grey which grades to a whiter neck with a brown head with distinct cresting over the back of the head. The males at this time of year have a deep bottle green head and dark back feathers. The males body is predominantly white with the breast feathers having a beautiful salmon pink tint. The slender bills are red in both male and female. They tend to be shy birds and are always attentive to potential danger.
It made me think back to the summer when I saw a female Goosander with six youngsters in tow on Cromford Mill pond near Matlock. The little brown and white balls of fluff could have only been a few days old but they could certainly look after themselves. They were like little speed boats skimming over the surface as their legs paddled like crazy. I only saw them on a couple of occasions, so I never found out whether they survived. Beautiful though.
On Tuesday afternoon I popped up the Mayfield valley for a quick stroll up the lanes. I took my little Canon G7 with me and I'm glad I did. There was a superb sunset to end the day.
On Friday I met up with Sophie Johnson who helps out with the modelling for bike and clothing shoots from time to time. She has been a Junior National Mountain Bike champion so is quite an accomplished bike rider. Her boyfriend is U23 cyclo-cross man, Ian Field. They live in Whaley Bridge, so I picked up Sophie from their house there and we went up in to the Goyt Valley to shoot some wet weather clothing. You should see that feature make the tech pages of the Weekly soon.
Although it wasn't raining on Friday morning there had been torrential rain over night, so the roads were wet with rivers of water draining off the surrounding moors. It all seemed to work out okay for the shoot, although it was quite cold in the wind, particularly higher up the valley. Saw a flock of Chaffinch accompanied by some Brambling under the beech trees down near the reservoir car parks.
They were all pre occupied with finding food and were reluctant to fly off when I tried to pass in the car. I took it really slowly to allow them to fly to safety. The Brambling are a winter visitor to our shores coming in from Scandinavian. They are very similar to the Chaffinch and are distinguished by having orange shoulders and chest and a more brindled coloured back and crown.
When I got back home I decided to have a quick spin on the bike. Only went out for just under an hour to stretch the legs. It turned out to be quite a good work out as the wind was really strong. Dangerous at times really.
Saturday turned out to be a bit of an epic. I set out on the bike at nine with light rain in the air. I aimed to do my Cressbrook, Monsal run and as I got out to Baslow the rain was getting heavier though I've known worse. I thought it shouldn't be too bad if the weather stayed like that. How wrong I was. I went down Monsal and up the Cressbrook side towards Litton and as I got over the tops the rain was turning to snow. By the time I got on to Bradwell moor I made a decision not to ride back via Ladybower and the A57 as I normally do.
It can be quite exposed for longer periods of time that way. Instead I cut off to Foolow and in to Eyam to cut over the back and down in to Grindleford for a bit of shelter. At first I thought I might have made the wrong decision as I seemed to be battling in to a head wind which was throwing icy rain and sleet at me. My hands by now were like ice. I had gloves but they had taken up quite a bit of water to the point I could start to squeeze it out. Tried to keep my fingers moving to keep the circulation going.
There was a lot of surface water about too so my feet were getting wet and cold as well. I saw a few of the Rutland CC gang out near Foolow before I dropped down to Eyam and then on through to Grindleford. By now and I could feel the cold eating at my body. I kept a good tempo going up the climb to Foxhouse which kept my body temperature up, though my hands were suffering big time. Took the turn up to Foxhouse and there was another group of cyclist out. I think they may have been some of the Norton Wheeler gang I'd seen last Saturday. They had stopped and seemed to be waiting for someone to catch up. I acknowledged them all with a cheery, "We must be made!"
Climbing up past Foxhouse there was snow now starting to settle giving a thin layer of slush on the road. Flakes of snow were settling on the backs of my gloves. It was freezing with my hands just about having some life in them to vaguely feel the levers. Over the top and just the descent home, which is worse really as you want to get back quickly but then it increases the wind chill and you start to feel even colder.
Anyway, made it back and struggled with my gloves having to take them off with my teeth. Fumbled in my back pockets for my keys which I could hardly feel with my hands being numbed to a pink prune like state. Managed the locks on the door and ran up the stairs to start running a bath.
Peeled off all the sodden layers of clothing and stood shivering with my hands now in agony as they started to warm and come back to life. Put the kettle on for a brew for some 'central heating'. Made sure the bath wasn't too hot and jumped in. Aaahhh and Aaaaahhhh. Aaahhh for a bit of warmth and Aaaaahhhh for the pain as toes and fingers started to feel normal again. Had a large bowl of Baxter's Mediterranean Tomato soup to finish the thawing process. Lovely.
Early afternoon I popped up to mum and dad's briefly as my sister and brother in law had popped over from Manchester. Caught up on news and views and then got back home to spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening sorting and editing pictures from Fridays shoot. Sent those to the office and then made a start on the blog as I anticipated a tight schedule from Sunday onwards.
Sunday I was up early to get up to Bradford for the National Trophy cyclo-cross in Peel Park. Setting off from Sheffield the weather wasn't too bad. It was grey and overcast but at least it wasn't raining. I didn't want another day like I'd had at Mallory Park the other week.
I'd taken a route planner off the internet to get to the venue as I remember last year I'd had trouble finding Peel Park. Anyway, I still managed to take a wrong turn and ended up having to ask for directions for the last few miles up to the park. Got it cracked now, so next year no problem.
The Youth race ran under continued grey overcast conditions but as the morning went on rain started to be felt in the air as the Vets race got underway. Fortunately things started to brighten up over the break in the racing programme, so by the senior race there was some glorious sunshine to savour.
I had a slip down a bank in the Junior race which wasn't bad other than I landed in something you'd rather not. I got one of the pit helpers to jet wash the worst off. Not pleasant really and so I was a bit distracted for the rest of that race cursing my luck.
The senior race turned out to be a really good race. Local man, Rob Jebb made his move early on and opened up a gap which Ian Field and the Polish rider Mariusz Gil tried to bridge over the first half of the race. Eventually the three all came together before Field dug in over the final laps leaving Jebb chasing with Gil closing in on his wheel. Field took the honours and Jebb's gutsy ride ended with a third place as Gil got the better of him in the final lap.
Got home and the pressure was on to get pictures sorted and my blog sent to the office so I could get myself packed for a trip to France. I wanted to get to bed early as I had a very early start on the Monday morning. Half past three am to be precise. Things didn't quite turn out as planned but more of that next 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.