BLOG: ANDY JONES
National Hill Climb at Cheddar Gorge
Another busy week all in all. Being based in Sheffield I send my pictures via a FTP system to the CW office in Croydon. This generally means that Monday morning is always a day of making sure pictures are sent and received at the office FTP site ready for selection. So Revolution and Riber Hill climb pics from the weekend were the order of the day. It's also a chance to catch up with Tom and Timo on the picture desk with a quick phone call to run through what I've sent. As well as pictures, I emailed over my Brian Rourke Cat'n'Fiddle Challenge write-up. That should be in this Thursday's November 1st issue.
Tuesday I spent typing up the taped Les West interview I did when I caught up with him for a CW Rides story. Got most of the quotes typed up ready to start putting the story together. Took advantage of the beautiful autumn weather and got out on the bike for a couple of hours late afternoon. Did one of my favourite routes going over Ringinglow to Hathersage. Along the valley to Grindleford. Up to Eyam and through to Foolow. Cut across to Tideswell and dropped down in to Miller's Dale. Climbed out the other side and up to Taddington. Dropped down to Ashford-in-the-Water and across to 'Thirteen Bends'. Left to Baslow to go left at the roundabout and along to Calver. Turn right at the Bridge Inn and take the lane through to the Froggatt climb. Over the 'flying mile' and drop down Ecclesall Road and home. 43miles.
Wednesday, spent all day doing the Les West story, which took a while to get it going. There's always a bit of research to do on these things too, be it about the area you are in or more details on the rider you're featuring. It always takes longer than anticipated. Got there in the end for it to be emailed late evening for the Thursday morning deadline, so no ride today. But on Thursday I got out on the bike mid-afternoon, but what a contrast to Tuesday's weather. A bit damp and misty though fortunately not too cold. 41mls.
On Friday I drove up to Leyland in Lancashire to meet and photograph Paul Kelly who will be featured in a Fitness/Health article in a couple of weeks time(Nov 15th issue). I'll let the article tell the story but I will say he is quite an inspirational person considering the circumstances he'd encountered. The traffic driving back was horrendous. Took over three hours.
Saturday I went out for a pedal with a friend of mine, Simon Owens for a steady 53mls. The weather didn't look promising at first. The roads were damp from overnight rain and as we climbed over the moors just out of Sheffield we disappeared in to the mist. As we got the other side of Stanage and dropped down towards Yorkshire Bridge there was hazy sunshine struggling through across the Hope Valley. Beautiful. Took a few of the back lanes to finally end up in Eyam for a cafe stop at the Peak Pantry on Simon's recommendation. A nice little cafe. Cakes galore and a good pint mug of tea. A winner.
Saturday afternoon I drove down to Somerset for an overnight stop for Sunday's National Hill climb up Cheddar Gorge. I've been down to the Bristol area before but never detoured across to see the gorge. It was nearly nine o'clock and of course dark by the time I got there. Even so I drove up the climb to get an idea of what it was going to be like. As I got half way up there was a guy on his bike going full bore up the climb for his course recce. I tracked behind him and clocked him doing a good 17-18mph. Don't for the life of me know who it was, but congratulated him on a good effort. I got to my hotel and made sure my watch and phone clock went back an hour to GMT.
On Sunday morning we woke to grey skies and strong winds. Got to the hill early as I wanted to make sure I was parked up before the hill was closed off. I took a wander up the hill to the points I was able to make out the previous night and met a nice gentleman by the name of Terry Parsons, a local man from Wells to the east of Cheddar. Speaking with him I discover his wife is from Sheffield and learn that Wells is a city too. Saw the resident Peregrine fly over the castellated gorge top as I wandered back to the car to get my cameras ready. The weather was now closing in with the wind swirling around the start area and heavy rain making for a very grey morning. After the first twenty riders or so had set off up the climb, the rain eased and it stayed dry for the rest of the event. However the skies were still leaden which made it a real test to get pictures. I was at 3200 iso 1/400th @ f4 with the long lens. Tried some side on pics and even that was 640 or 800 iso at 1/125th@ f5.6 with flash and things were still looking dark. The landscape pictures were testing too. Around 1600 iso 1/250th @ f4. Anyway, I managed to get something from the day. There was a good crowd on the 'S' bends in the steepest section of the gorge just before the half way point. Some very vocal encouragement along with 'Allez Horns' echoing up the gorge.
The prize presentations at the hall of the caravan park a mile down the road brought another challenge. Cool damp conditions outside to warm humid conditions inside are not good for the camera and my cameras view finder misted up completely. Fortunately the lens didn't fog inside which it can do in those situations. David Duffield was on hand to do all the medal presentations with local man James Dobbin taking the men's title and Caroline Kloiber the women's. Then it was time for the long drive home. Made a very quick stop in Cheddar for a sandwich and coffee before setting back, and I couldn't leave without buying some Cheddar cheese from the factory shop in the village.
Well, that's about all for last week. Catch up with you 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.