Despite the lack of outdoor road races that are usual for this time of year (due of course to the COVID-19 pandemic), the club’s racers have nevertheless been in action and have achieved great results for the club recently.
Over six weeks in April and May, British Cycling’s South East region organised a series of online races via Zwift. This has been a tremendous success, with dozens of clubs taking part (including several triathlon clubs as well as cycling clubs) from all across the south-east area of the country, with riders of all abilities and including both women and men.
As well as the club’s road racers and time triallers that have been taking part, several other members have used these events to dip their toes into the world of cycling competition, such is the ease of entry to Zwift racing. All you need is some sort of trainer (ideally a smart one, though there are ways of racing with a non-smart trainer too) and a computer or tablet/phone. There has been something for everyone, with circuits varying from very flat to very hilly, and everything in between.
Riders were split into various categories depending on their watts/kg figures on Zwift. These categories covered the whole ability/power range and were certainly not only for “racers”, with points being awarded in each category depending on placing. Typically there were two events per week. These were mainly road races, but also included some individual time trials and one team time trial. Points were added up for each club across all the events over those six weeks, with the final results shown below.
FCCC finished in a fine 17th place with 1135 pts, beating several other local clubs. Even more importantly, the racers generally found the competition a lot of fun and great training too. Well done to all who took part! Some might have done just one race, some might have done many, but all the results counted and those points all added up to the final total.
The next series of British Cycling SE races is kicking off tonight, and again will run over several weeks. It’s very easy to get into – if you already ride on Zwift then why not give it a go? It doesn’t matter how “good” you are, if you can finish the race you will still win points, and you never know, you might end up with a whole stack of points. You also might learn a fair bit about how far you can push yourself. Contact our road race secretary Luke Stratford to find out more, and you’ll get plenty of support and encouragement from him and his friendly team of racers.
As a postscript, in between that first series and tonight’s new one starting, last week there was a small stage race run by British Cycling South region on Zwift, over three stages. Darren Roberts took part and finished in an excellent ninth place overall in the GC (shown as tenth below due to a sorting error in the table). Congratulations Darren!
If you’d like to find out more about time trials on Zwift, then please get in touch with our TT captain Vernon Schutte for more information. Or for general membership information about the club, then contact the membership secretary Steve Hammatt.
On Thursday 14 May, at 7:40pm, two club teams will be racing on Zwift in the final event for the British Cycling South East inter-club Zwift competition.
This competition has been running over the past six weeks and the club has had some excellent results. It’s been helping to scratch the competitive itch that many of the club’s racers have been experiencing due to the lack of on-road events. It’s also been bringing in some first-time racers too, due to the easy of entry (just get on your turbo trainer and race!). There will be a full report in due course, including from one of those first-timers, but right now let’s concentrate now on this blue riband event, which will close off the series in style.
Many of you will know that a team time trial features often, though not always, in the Grand Tours. It involves a team of riders in close formation in a time trial-style maximum attack event, racing against the clock to try and achieve the best time compared to other teams.
This particular race is for teams of between five and eight riders. The club has one team of seven and another team of six racing. For each team, the time that will be counted is that of the fourth member over the finish line. So it’s very much a team effort. There’s no point someone going off the front for the glory, since the fourth racer is the one who’s going to stop the clock. Each team needs to do everything they can to keep a steady pace and maximise the drafting effect (i.e. sheltering from the wind – and yes, Zwift does simulate this remarkably well) by keeping all but one team member out of that wind and rotating frequently.
You can get involved and watch this race in real time in a couple of different ways. Firstly, the organisers of these events on Zwift (WTRL) have their own coverage, since these are very popular events and they have a lot of experience in running and sharing them. See https://wtrl.racing/ttt/TTT-ZCL-Broadcasts.php for links to their broadcasts on social media and popular streaming platforms.
Alternatively, if you have a Zwift account, then you can follow the race on Zwift as follows. First, start a Zwift session on Watopia (the world that will be hosting the race – this won’t work if you’re on a different world) and then open up the profile of one of the club’s team members (e.g. time trial road captain Vernon Schutte, or road race secretary Luke Stratford) and use the “Fan View” button in the Zwift Companion app to see them in real time (you can also change the camera angle via the Zwift button for this).
One of the most common ways that new members join the club is through trying out a club ride. With our usual club rides being suspended at present, it would be natural to think that this opportunity would be unavailable to us for the moment.
However, we’re delighted to welcome aboard our first new member who tried out a club ride online, via Zwift. A warm welcome to Jodie Packham, who joined our Zwift club ride last Sunday and subsequently decided to sign up for membership.
Having a voice chat going (via Discord) during these online rides makes things very sociable, with people able to chat even more easily than on a normal club ride (no need to move up or down in the group to say something to another rider). Zwift’s “Keep Together” feature for group rides means that no-one gets dropped unless they choose to do bow out, and “getting home” on your own if you do decide you’ve had enough is as easy as stepping off the trainer.
If you’d like to find out more about our online rides, then members can check out our Social Rides forum, and non-members can email [email protected] for details.
Everyone will be aware that group riding outside isn’t allowed at the moment. Solo rides are ok though, and with a spot of nice weather it’s of course an appealing option to go riding on your own.
If you don’t want to ride alone then another, more social, option is a Zwift club ride, on a turbo trainer at home. If you don’t know what Zwift is then there’s a great opportunity to find out a lot more from our upcoming online club night on Friday 3 April, where Cycling Weekly journalist (and club member) Alex Ballinger will be talking about Zwift.
This morning the club organised a group ride on Zwift, and seven club members were able to ride “together” around New York. The magic of Zwift keeps everyone together, no matter how much power they might be putting out on their turbos. This means that everyone can get a good workout (or a nice gentle ride if that’s what they want), while keeping in a group but still being able to move about, as you can see in the attached screenshots. As long as you keep pedalling and don’t stop completely, you stay with the group. Big thanks to Vernon Schutte for getting this going for the club.
To make this even more social, we’ve been using an app (Discord) on our mobiles for voice chat. So everyone is able to talk to each other while riding, just like on a regular ride.
If you’re a club member and you’d like to join in, then look out on our social rides forum for details of the next Zwift club rides. Or if you’re not a member and would like to find out more, then email [email protected]
I’m nervous about even posting this! Having just read about the club launching the GoRide scheme for riders aged 5-11, and then reading about Adam Dart’s superb 6th place in his first ever road race this morning, this is certainly a great news day for a great Club. Still, here goes…
The Club Night of the Year grows from strength to strength. We promised bigger and better this year, and wow did you make that happen: over 90 of you filled the Meade Hall for a non-stop evening of fun, food and photo opportunities!
After Dick Poole delivered the President’s welcome, the buffet opened and what a terrific selection of hot food. I had warned the Meade Hall that cyclists were a hungry bunch and the chefs didn’t disappoint. Chilli, pizza, hot dogs, burgers, chicken, all sorts of accompaniments, veggie options and all dietary requirements taken care of.
The next highlight was a really engaging talk from special guest and 5x National Champion, Ian Field. Ian told us all about how he got into cycling at school, through the junior and senior ranks, how he chose cyclo cross over road racing and how that brought him success in National and International races. Ian really has led the way in men’s cyclo cross in the UK over the past ten years, inspiring lots of new riders to take up the sport – including a certain Tom Pidcock who asked Ian for advice on a club ride one morning in Yorkshire! Some of you will know Ian from coaching days that he has delivered for us and for the Army recently. It was really great that Ian was so happy to chat to people all evening.
The traditional trophy presentation came next. It was extra pleasing to see competitive and non-competitive trophies awarded, for on-road and off-road riding – a real reflection of how the club is thriving in many areas – something that Ian noted in his talk too. (I think I’ve sent pictures to all trophy winners now, but please drop me an email at [email protected] if not and I’ll send you a hi-res photo – courtesy of Ian Stuart who took all of the formal photos).
I was just about to start the Grand Prize Draw when several people pointed out that the dessert buffet was open. No contest! The build-your-own ice creams were great, but the prizes were even better: a holiday from Spectacular Cycling, vouchers for the Meade Hall, Precise Performance and Silvester Brothers, a signed National Trophy jersey from Ian Field, a helmet from Handsling Bikes, some Oakley shades from Spokes, some socks, some prosecco and a cake kindly donated by Cakemeister, Steve H.
And as if that wasn’t enough already – we were then treated to the world premiere of The Green Shield Tramps! Club member Stuart Jackson and the band got us out of our seats to some foot-stomping and crowd-raising songs – and were cheered to an encore!
This is how Club Nights of the Year should be! Something for everyone. Lots of “non-cycling” friends and family enjoying themselves. Thanks to everyone that came – some of you from a long way away, some of you moving other engagements to get here.
We’re excited to announce that we are launching kids’ cycle coaching sessions, starting on Saturday 25 April, at Alderwood Leisure Centre, Aldershot, GU12 4AS (just off the A331).
The sessions will run from 2pm till 4pm, and cost £30 for one child, or £50 for two, for a six-week block of sessions.
Kids from 5-11 can be catered for. If they can ride a bike without stabilisers, then they can join in. They need to bring their own bike and helmet etc.
The sessions will be run by the club’s team of British Cycling-trained coaches, led by our very experienced head coach Nigel Fletcher.
The aim is to build cycling skills in a fun, safe environment, as part of British Cycling’s Go-Ride scheme for young riders. Cycling is an essential part of growing up, and we want to help more young people to discover the fun of cycling and to develop lifelong skills. Most of the Great Britain Cycling Team started off at Go-Ride clubs!
Spaces are limited, and Go-Ride coaching sessions typically end up with waiting lists, so don’t hang about if you might be interested.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are pleased to announce that we are releasing an additional 20 tickets for the Club Night of the Year. Get them while they’re hot! Email Scott at [email protected].
Lots of people are bringing friends and family this year, so have a think if you know anyone that would be interested in this prize list:
One priceless jersey, signed by multiple National Champion Ian Field £600 Holiday One pair of Oakley sunglasses One Helmet £100 Precise Performance voucher One intriguing cake One pair of socks Two Meade Hall vouchers One Silvester Brothers bronze service
Ladies and gentlemen, cyclists and non-cyclists, friends and family … tickets for this year’s Club Night of the Year are now on General Sale.
Remember, the first prize in the Grand Prize Draw is a holiday worth £600, courtesy of Spectacular Cycling . We also have a voucher for £100 from Precise Performance, a free service at Silvester Brothers bike shop, vouchers from VivaVelo, and more prizes to be announced. As if that’s not enough, our guest speaker is the one and only, five-time national cyclo-cross champion, Ian Field! We also have awards and trophies to hand out, and the world premiere performance for local band, The Green Shield Tramps. All of this for just £18.50 per head! Oh and did I mention the hot buffet and desserts?
When my front brakes stopped working, I did start to wonder whether this was such a great idea. But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s go back to the beginning …
Mark Garner came up with genius plan of buying cheap bikes (maximum price of £30) and then riding a route with a set of mystery “Top Gear”-style challenges along the way, and finally donating our machines to a bike-reuse charity at the end. Four of us assembled for the challenge at the Bridge on a wet Saturday morning just before Xmas – Mark Garner, Duncan Coombes, Luke Stratford and your author, Steve Hammatt. Tom Garner also came along to help out with the event.
I’d managed to pick up a very decent Scott mountain bike for just £20 (amazing what you can find on Facebook Marketplace amongst the tat). So I was well under the target price and should be picking up some bonus points for that. Suitably decorated with tinsel and lots of fairy lights, I drove down to the bridge with my steed (not fancying the extra work of pedalling a heavy bike to the Bridge and back when I didn’t know what horrors challenges lay ahead). However, I found myself out-Xmas’ed by Duncan, who had gone full Elf!
Duncan had previously pulled out of the challenge because he had been needed for work, only to then find at the last minute that he wasn’t needed after all. So although he hadn’t picked up a cheap bike, he came down on one of his own bikes with the promise to donate some money to the charity (details of the charity at the end of this article).
You’ll also see above Mark’s very impressive (and very heavy) old-school fixie, complete with handy basket. This was apparently his back-up bike, having failed to dislodge a stuck seat post on his original cheap bike and destroyed the frame in the process – oops! Luke brought an old mountain bike of his own that he had previously used for cycling to the station (for challenge purposes assumed to have cost £30).
The weather was initially unkind to us and we started off with heavy rain. We waited a while for it to abate, but we had no luck with that so set off for our adventure anyway. Through the airfield we went, and I started to try and get used to my unfamiliar mount (just one brief trip round the block before this). It felt heavy, and the position was a lot more upright compared to my usual road bike, but it seemed pretty good for the price and the gears were working well (my triple front chainring would come in useful later!).
Mark’s chain came off on the way over – minus points for a mechanical! My front brake started to lose effectiveness too, and I started to be concerned that I’d have to pull out. Luckily, it turned out to be simply that one of the brake block holders had slipped down the caliper, which was easily fixed with an allen key.
We headed onto the Army ranges at Ash Vale, which was a new experience for me. I knew they were there and available to cycle on, but hadn’t actually visited before. The rain stopped when we arrived, so that let us begin to dry out. On to the first challenge!
Mark announced we’d be riding a mini time trial on some tarmac’d paths. We went together for a sighting lap, so that we knew where we were going on the short loop. There were some dog walkers about, so Tom went down the path a bit so that he could warn any walkers (and we took care around them too, of course anyway) and take photos.
Unsurprisingly, our road racer Luke won the TT. Duncan put up a good fight too, so it was down to myself and Mark to avoid last place. I ended up slowest – not a great start but I was having fun.
On to some off-road riding now, across the ranges. With all the rain recently it was very muddy, and my lack of off-road riding experience didn’t help, but I took it steadily. We followed a decent track for a while, seeing a few other riders and walkers, and then took the track directly across the ranges in the direction of Tunnel Hill. Others will know that it’s basically moorland over there, and quite rough. While this was its own (non-points-scoring) challenge for me, especially with the mud, gravel and large puddles, I also did love the scenery and exploring a new area.
Mark told us that there would be a hill climb next. Gulp. He seemed to take pleasure in telling us that the hill was known locally as “Death Star Climb”. Double gulp. Just as we pulled up to the top of the climb, with the start point down the hill and along the path, there were lots of minus points for Luke – he lost his chain and he punctured as well! He was going to head home, but Mark pulled out a suitable tube from his handy basket and Luke was back in action again after a short delay.
It wasn’t a good start for me. I couldn’t even ride down the climb and had to resort to walking! My lack of off-road skills were no doubt to blame. It was very steep and gravelly. I was probably going too slowly and felt that I couldn’t keep proper control of the bike and was going to fall off through sliding. I felt pretty dumb, but it helped somewhat to hear that Duncan (who does go off-roading) also found it very hard to descend.
We all got down to the bottom in one piece and decided who would go first. Me? Ok, well, better get it over with. We had a bit of a run-up to get some sort of speed up before hitting the hill. I of course use the word “speed” in the loosest possible sense, when applied to my own effort. I got part-way up (thanks to my granny ring), but then ended up losing so much speed that standing on the pedals I was spinning my rear wheel in the gravel and going nowhere, so I got off before I fell off. Wow, even pushing my bike off was very hard and I was overtaken on the way up.
Luke was a superstar and rode the whole way up the climb, finishing with the quickest time. Mark came second with the “slightly unconventional” technique of walking/running/pushing his bike up the entire climb!
After catching our break (where’s the oxygen?!), we rode over to the Tunnel Hill road and went down and left to the canal. The next challenge beckoned – a braking distance test.
We found ourselves a straight bit of reasonable track, starting from a bridge over the railway. Initially we thought of riding four abreast and then braking at a specific point, but it was clear that the track wasn’t wide enough for that. Two abreast it was then, with winners facing other winners and similarly with losers.
First off was me vs Duncan. He had disc brakes vs my V-brakes, so unsurprisingly he won. Next Luke (again, discs) vs Mark (ancient fixie with rim brakes) – a predictable result. For the 3rd/4th place playoff, I lined up vs Mark and won – wow, I actually won something on a bike (sort of). The final was going to be interesting – discs vs discs, Duncan vs Luke. It was a close one, but Luke was victorious thanks to a side-skidding stop.
We headed in the direction of home, riding along the canal tow path. Part of the canal had been drained down for lock gate inspection work. Luke, in his wisdom, decided that this would be a good opportunity to try riding across the canal, something that you can’t do very often.
Big mistake. He didn’t realise that there was a thick layer of silt at the bottom of the canal, his bike stopped as if he’d hit a brick wall and he somersaulted over the handlebars landing in the silt! He did land feet-first but they ended up stuck deep in the silt (as was his bike), and he needed a nearby walker (interestingly, looking for freshwater mussels) to help him get out. Oh how we laughed! He managed to get himself back onto the tow path, with very muddy tyres.
After the comic interlude, we carried on back through Frimley Green, The Hatches and back to the Bridge, then just down the road to the pub to tot up the scores, work out the placings and have some well-needed refreshments.
Mark awarded some more points depending on how much people had paid for their bikes, and we voted on who had the most festive bike/costume – first place to Duncan on that one, with me as runner-up. Mark also went through any mechanicals and deducted points for those.
The final scores saw Duncan take the win, with (to my amazement) me in second, Luke third and Mark bringing up the rear.
Big thanks to Mark Garner for coming up with the idea for the event, and thanks to Tom for helping run it – it was a lot of fun. We’ll definitely run this again, though next time we’ll avoid making it quite so close to Xmas when it’s difficult for a lot of people to get the spare time.
The charity that our bikes are being donated to is called Re-Cycle. They take second-hand bikes and send them to rural communities in Africa who need them for getting to school, collecting water and other essential activities. Halfords at Farnborough Gate is a collection point.