Belgium……the home of cycling, cobbles and classics

A wheely good evening to you all and as I wrote this I am sat on a rather choppy ferry heading back over the channel after a great weekend in Belgium. This country really is the home of cycling like no other and absorbs everything bikes into the life of the place. Where else in the world will a car stop on a roundabout to let a bike out or cross!!!

My trip was to witness the opening classics weekend of the season and what a cracking one it was. After a delayed journey on Friday evening we got to the hotel about midnight ready for a good sleep as we knew the next two days would be full on.

Saturday dawned and it was the day all cycling fans have been waiting for, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the first cobbled classic race of the year. This race is like a mini Flanders but no easier and took on many cobbles and bergs. After getting to the start we milled round the coaches catching up with the riders and soaking up the atmosphere. The start was in Ghent and there was a great team presentation prior to the race in the famous Kuipe indoor velodrome. Not before long it was start time and we watched the men and women roll out one after the other to embark on 200 gruelling kilometres of racing. For me and Richard we then jumped in the car and got straight to our first stop out on the course to watch the race fly by. There was a break clear at this point but all was calm in the peleton . After a stop at the feed zone we went to watch the riders ascend their 9th climb of the day, the Wolvenberg. We walked about halfway up to the point where it is a 17% incline and it certainly felt steep. As the riders approached everyone pushed to the edge of this narrow road to allow the peleton to pass. It may be steep but the riders flew up as if they were on the flat, they sure know how to climb!! For us it was a quick jaunt back to the finish in Ninove and watch the climax. Zenek Stybar one of the Wolfpack jumped with 2km to go powering to victory. Unbeknown to us at this stage this would be the first half of a double header for Quickstep this weekend. After a look round the coaches and picking up a few bidons we grabbed dinner and headed back to the hotel for a well needed rest and nights sleep.

Sunday arrived and we woke to typical Flandrain weather of cold, wind and rain, perfect for another classics race. Today was Kuurne Brussels Kuurne which generally ends in a sprint but would today buck the trend?? After a hearty breakfast we headed for Kuurne to the start. Again we were able to have a great look round the teams and buses and meet many riders. Another signature on my yellow jersey was good to get and of course some mandatory selfies. The race started and they went off at a blistering pace and I had this inkling it could be one for a breakaway rider to win. After the start we went across to the feed zone which even though yielded no goodies was great to see the race pass. On our way back to the finish we stopped for a quick look round the Flanders shop in Oudenaarde. This really is the home of Flanders and cycling in this area and a recommended place to visit if you’re ever in the area. We then headed off to the finish back in Kuurne and as per my earlier thoughts a 5 man group had gone clear. Excitement was building and with 15km to go the man from Luxembourg Bob Jungels jumped clear. With the group he left behind caught by the peleton he was up against it with them chasing him like a pack of lions. He dug in, gritted his teeth and found that inner strength to hold them off and win…..a breakaway rider had won. This was back to back victory’s for Quickstep and took their tally to 13 wins already in 2019. What was also so good to see was the second place by the young Team Sky rider Owain Doull, could this be the breakthrough ride he needs? I really hope so for this talented young Welshman.

For us we had to get back to catch our ferry which as I said is where I am sat writing this. Belgium is a great country and such a fabulous place to visit. I will be back in 5 weeks for the Tour of Flanders which really is the highlight of the classics season. Until then for me more riding and training getting ready for my Paris Roubaix Challenge and Mallorca 312 rides, both in April. Until then happy riding and from me……..laters.

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2018 review and here is to 2019

A wheely good day to you all and I have to apologise for the lack of blog activity. No excuse just busy and other things (cycling!!!) taken over!! This year I will make sure there is more updates on whats happening in the Paul Ashman Cycling world and of course my instagram keeps all things updated on a near daily basis so please check that out and follow me if you do not already.

2018 was a tremendous year for cycling related things and its hard to pick a best one but I think moving up from a cat 4 to a cat 3 racer was a highlight. I worked really hard on my winter training last year to get the legs to a place where I was able to move up a level. Cat 3 racing was then a baptism of fire but I hope to move this on during 2019.

Below is some of the many other great trips I attended and rode throughout the 2018 year:

  • 7 days cycling in the Alps
  • first visit to Mallorca, what a cycling Mecca!
  • Tour de Yorkshire sportive
  • Exmoor Beast (doesn’t get any easier)
  • Many trips to watch racing with Paris Roubaix being one the many awesome weekends away
  • Tour of Britain
  • Once again a super night at the Rouleur Classic
  • Bike packing solo around Belgium
  • A year of successful cycling camps for PAC and the business growing further
  • Trips to many cyclocross races with a highlight the floodlit Super Prestige in Diegem

So yes quite a year but I have to say 2019 is shaking up to be a corker with some cracking things to look forward to. I will keep some under the hat but I will let on to three special rides I am doing. In April I will be taking on the cobbles in the Paris Roubaix challenge and just two weeks later riding the Mallorca 312. This is regarded as one of the toughest sportive rides out there covering 312km around the island with a 14 hour cut off time limit. If that wasn’t enough July will be the turn of Lands End to John O Groats to raise money for charity. Nearly 1000 miles in 10 consecutive days.

So as you can see a special 2019 ahead. I will keep you more updated and until next time laters one and all. Cheers Paul.

Bike Packing Adventures…..

A wheely good evening to you all and as I sit here 5 days after my debut bike packing adventure to Belgium I still cannot believe I have done my first solo trip. All I can say is if you have never tried it then do it as it is an absolute must!!! When I was planning the trip I did not really know what to expect and the packing was a key thing, too much and extra weight is incurred and too little and I would be shopping over there. As it was I got this part down to a tee and I had just what I needed.

As i boarded the ferry at Dover there was one thing I really wanted more than anything, dry weather and bar the last 500 metres 4 days later in Dunkirk I got my wish. My first day took me up to the Dunkirk beaches and then over to Ypres my first stop over point. This was an evening ride and left me with 40 miles in the dark to Ypres. I met Tom Coley on the ferry who was also doing a similar thing to me all be it a longer trip and was great to become friends with a virgin bike packer like myself. The B&B was a welcome sight that evening and although only covered 55 miles on day one it was a challenging day with the night ride.

Day 2 I woke to gorgeous blue skies and sun streaming through the window and today was going to be a great day. First off I rode north to Tynecot cemetery. This is the largest one place that commonwealth soldiers are buried and was a moving experience to say the least. Having served in the Army myself it really brought home to me just what all those men went through serving our country those 100 years ago. After spending some time here I headed south to watch the Great Centenary War Race. The line up for the inaugural edition was good and a chance to see the pros racing on foreign soil. After watching the race in various point including race past Christmas point memorial I got back to the centre of Ypres for the finish. That evening I stayed for the incredible last post ceremony under the Menin gate before another late night ride to get to my next stopover in Avelgem. Arriving at 11pm I was met by Andy my host who I had met through warmshowers.com bike packing website. That day I had put nearly 100 miles in the legs with a fully loaded bike and was ready to sleep and that I did very well in the caravan accommodation in his back garden.

Day 3 again I woke to blue skies and bright sun, just what I needed for this days ride. Today allowed me to ditch all the bags and ride the bike in its naked state, this was needed as 105 miles of Belgian lanes, bergs and cobbles awaited me. Andy had put a great route together for me for this day and it encompassed all the famous areas of this part of Belgium. First up the Koppenberg, followed closely by the Kruisberg, Muur, Taienberg, Kwaremont and finally after 99 miles the 19 percent slopes of the Paterberg. All these climbs are steep brutal narrow cobbled climbs and the cobbles make it a challenge beyond any words one can describe. The one thing that was going for me was it was dry, I really would not want to do this in the wet!!! This ride was just superb and gave me the chance to fulfil my ambition of riding these immense roads. On getting back to base after some 8 hours in the saddle there was only one thing for it…….a piping hot bath and a couple of chilled blonde beers. Bring on day 4!!!!

So day 4 arrived and this was my final day of my mini adventure and the journey home awaited. I had 8 miles ahead to get me and my bike back to Dunkirk and today was dry but windy!!!!! The wind was battering me from all ways and the last 45 miles down the coast was a block headwind. Of course I would rather have had it behind me but it actually served as a really good training tool and allowed me to work on concentrated continuous power output. As I went through the likes of Middlekierk, Nieuwport, De Panne and Dunkirk all I could do was hope the rain stayed away. I knew from social media the UK was battered by storms all day and these were due to come across the channel to Europe so I kept pedalling and as I said earlier beat the rain by the skin of my teeth. All that was left was a ferry and drive from Dover back home to Swindon.

So my bike packing adventure was over and wow it was superb. I have already started to plan the next one and I seriously am considering the Trans Continental in 2020. If you have never done this try it as you will not look back. And all it leaves me to say is ride safe, stay safe and keep those pedals turning. Laters!!!!

Hold your line, sock doping, sand bagging and more…..

Good Morning and a wheely good welcome back here at the home of Paul Ashman Cycling. I am writing this about 40,000 feet up in the air en route to Majorca where the Sa Calobra and co awaits. Life here has been busy as ever with school work, club rides, holiday workshops and racing (more on this in a later blog).

 

As the title of this blog suggests cycling conjures up many words and phrases that to non cyclists is like a foreign language. However it is these that make our sport so special and unique and what brings that bond between all lycra lovers. My first time I heard ‘hold your line” with maybe an extra expletive in as well was when I started racing. It can be heard ringing out through the peloton making sure riders don’t deviate across someone else’s path and cause a crash. And there is another word, peloton, probably the most famous word in cycling. Simply meaning the group of riders grouped together riding a race or even a club ride. Riding in a peloton is the first many of us will get to ride in a group and feel that slip stream effect being in someone else’s wheel.

 

So sock doping, what is this I hear you ask? Well socks are fast becoming a very important fashion accessory of any cyclist. A stylish and sometimes loud pair of sock compliments a black outfit and gives it that oooozing of class. A collector of socks or one who loves to show off their socks can be classed as one of these sock dopers. I myself and am partial to a nice pair of socks and only this week will be displaying a couple of new pairs out in the sunnier climates of Majorca.

 

Allez allez allez can often be heard ringing out from fans high up in the mountains on a grand tour. This phrase is simply a shouting of encouragement to the riders as they climb some of cycling races great climbs. These riders encounter mountains that we only see on postcards. We cannot imagine the pain they go through but that vocal shout of belief from the fans must go a long way to help ease the suffering.

And then of course there is sand bagging. Literally sitting in the wheel and not working and then making that break for victory on the last lap. I guess you could call it tactics or just playing the game. Whatever it’s the final result that matters and being on that top step of the podium.

So as I sit here on the plane it gives me chance to think about what’s happening in the PAC world. All is good as I approach the first anniversary of the business. More kids on bikes, moved up to cat 3 racing and developing myself and the business within cycling. All it leaves me to say until the next time is happy riding one and all and of course stay safe. I’ll be back soon with that race update and maybe a few cheeky Majorca pics.

Until then…….laters!!!

Can’t beat a Sportive 🚴🏻👍

A wheely good evening to you all from sat on a minibus on the M5. I am currently on my way back from a weekend at the Tour de Yorkshire. The highlight of the weekend was today’s sportive which with the glorious Yorkshire sun and countryside made it an epic ride.

Lots of people take part in sportives up and down the country every week and never fail to enjoy them. They are not competitive but equally when riding in a group there is always that edge to have the fastest climb up a hill or best average speed. Today’s ride was set in the glorious Yorkshire dales and took in the final part of the pro route which made it feel that extra bit special. It started and finished in Leeds and came over the finish line of the official race which made it feel very professional and like we were pros hehe!!

The route was exceptional and the organisation second to none. As for the hills…….wow!!! 6500 feet of elevated climbing over 129km made it a very tough one and a ride that worked the legs. If you have never done a sportive get out and do one as they are fun, challenging and most of all a chance to ride your bike in a professional setting with many others all wanting the same thing, a great day out on the bike. Here are a few pictures from the day and until next time happy riding and get booked on a sportive.

Another Paris Roubaix ticked off….

A wheely good evening from Paul Ashman cycling aboard a P&O ferry heading back from France. The last three days have seen me taken in arguably the greatest one day classic there is, the cobbled Paris Roubaix race.

It all started early hours Friday morning when we were picked up at 2:30am as we had a 6:00am crossing across the channel. We left the white cliffs behind us bathed in sunshine and this was the shape of things to come as for the whole trip it didn’t drop below 18 degrees and we had wall to wall sun.

Friday we decided to head to the Ardennes and take in the first day of the Circuit of Ardennes classic race. This is a second tier race but still had a good field of riders. The Ardennes is a truly beautiful part of Belgium and a new area for me to visit. The race itself had a gruelling first stage with no less than seven categorised climbs and a classic sprint finish in the small town of Bazeilles. We got to see the race three times in the mountains and still got back to the finish for a well earned beer in the sun as the riders entered the finishing circuit. This day was a cracking start to the weekend which only got better.

So Saturday we woke to more sun streaming through the windows and what a day in store ahead of us. It was team presentation day of the 2018 Paris Roubaix and the setting the glorious square of the beautiful town of Compiegne just north of Paris. As the teams arrived aboard the stunning team buses the fans were buzzing to see the classics specialists who 24 hours later would be embarking on the 254 km ride to Roubaix. As well as the team presentation there was a quirky little bike jumble which gave ample opportunities to pick up some cycling bargains and memorabilia, just the two pairs of mitts and a book for me this year. Oh and of course the mandatory bottles and road signs that have become a customary part of the trips abroad. The highlight for me was getting some more signatures on my yellow and pink jerseys as well as meeting some new riders I have never met before. Before long the presentation came to an end and it seemed fitting to find a cafe and sit outside in the early evening sun with a Belgian fruit beer. All in all a fabulous day and still race day to come.

Sunday came and yes more sunshine so we knew we were in for a hot dusty day out on the pave sectors of the race. We spent some time at the arrival of the teams and it is always special to see their bikes all cleaned and gleaming aboard the cars, including Peter Sagan’s limited edition gold S-Works Tarmac. This was just the start of our day on the cobbles. We had a plan to hit three sections but would it come off? Well with Clewes at the wheel and Ashman with the map how could this fail?!? First up was sector one and the pave at Inchy. This was a challenging opening start for the riders with a tight ninety degree turn and a fast exit. Like any of these roads it brings it’s danger and this was no different with a pile up bringing down Geraint Thomas of Team Sky amongst others. This is my first time out on the cobbles and I was amazed in the flesh just how demanding and rough this surface really is.

Onwards for us and we hit the famous Arenberg forest and this is probably the most well known sector. There were literally 1000’s of fans four deep either side of the barrier once we got there awaiting the riders and there was only one place to view the race……….ten feet up a tree in the branches. Now I am no monkey but when there is a bike race to be seen I can scale a tree like any creature. Watching the riders take on this fabled cobbled sector was an experience that I’ll long remember knowing they followed the footsteps of many legends before them. The break passed us and one by one the chasers battled by. This was leaving us one more place to visit, the legendary Carrefore L’Arbre five start sector. We parked up and were faced with a one and a half mile walk to the sector but boy was it worth it. When we arrived it was packed and buzzing for the arrival of the race. We had heard on race radio Sagan was in the break so the anticipation to see the rainbow bands pass by on the dust and cobbles was almost too much to take. If the give away from the helicopter above wasn’t enough as the riders approached the noise from the crowd steadily increased to a volume almost unbearable. Sure enough Sagan was out front with Dillier and the Swiss National champ was literally hanging onto his wheel. These two had over a minute on the chasing group and with only 15 km remaining who’d bet against them taking the top two steps of the podium. We ventured over to the big screen to see the last part of the race unfold.

The gap grew out to a minute and before long the two of them entered the outdoor velodrome to a barrage of noise. The game of cat and mouse began, who would pounce first. The tension was building, the line getting closer. As the metres counted down 400, 350, 300 come on who would jump. And then with 200 metres to go the man himself went and the three time current world champion Peter Sagan came over the line arms aloft. He was the 2018 Paris Roubaix champion and a deserved one at that taking his second monument.

So as we leave the ferry for the journey back to Swindon all I can say is you have not witnessed this race in the flesh do it.  That’s two years in succession now and I’ll be back next year and I am going to try the sportive myself next year. For now all I can say is happy riding and I’ll be back soon with more news from Paul Ashman Cycling including some recent race reports I have been involved in. Laters!!!

BIKE FIT – why do you need one?

A wheely good afternoon to you all from the world of Paul Ashman Cycling. I hope you are all well and if like me willing this cold weather to end. I have to say the last couple of rides have been freezing and last weeks race allowed me to very quickly lose feeling in my fingers and toes. Never mind only 15 weeks and I’ll be out riding in that Majorca sunshine 🙂

So onto my blog for today and it’s all about bike fits. Many people will ask the question do I need one or will it help me? The answer hands down is yes. We all suffer with aches and pains when we ride and those little niggles that won’t go away and most of those is an ill fitting bike. Believe it or not a small thing like seat too high or low, cleat angle wrong or stem length incorrect can have a massive impact on your position on the bike and lead to all sorts of issues.

I had my first one some years ago and back then it sorted me out. Since then I know my position due to weight loss and being fitter has changed so I thought best get checked over again. Also having a new bike can make the difference as every angle of geometry affects the set up. So I took a visit to Danny Clayton my sports therapist who is also a qualified bike fit specialist ( http://www.dc-injury clinic.co.uk ).

The bike fit took in three stages to fully access and look at every aspect. To start with general body shape and posture was looked at. Here it was noted that I lean over onto the outer part of my right foot this due to a bunion and previous ankle injuries. This as a result can have a knock on effect and could be the cause of occasional knee pain I get on the inside of my right joint so this was the first area to address, more on this later.

Secondly Danny assessed my body flexibility and strength in various parts of the body. This was done by means of various flexing and restraint type manoeuvres. This highlighted a slightly weak hamstring but otherwise I am in a good shape which pleased me. That showed me that despite my age my body is in good order and this bodes well for future goals and targets. It’s all about marginal gains and even though this term is a myth to some it clearly does work and every little step makes a difference.

Finally it was time to jump on the bike set up on the turbo. This allowed us to check all angles and position when riding. There is a set of parameters as a guide and sitting in between these measures for a well set up ride position. My angles all work well and showed stem length, saddle height and crank arm length correct for what I need. There is room for a slight raise of the seat post in the future to increase power but this is when my hamstrings strengthen. Back to the knee pain I occasionally get it was decided to address this by way of 1mm shims. These sit under the cleats and raise the inner part of the foot by 1mm increments to offset the outer foot lowering. I will add a shim very two weeks up to a maximum of three to see how this goes but hopefully it will have an impact. Danny has also given me a set of exercises to do each day to build up the hamstring strength.

The overall fit took two hours and was an incredibly interesting and fruitful session. I personally learnt lots and to come away with data, pictures, a full report and ways to improve is a great bonus. I can’t tell anyone how to spend their money but would totally recommend this and certainly suggest give Danny a call and see how he can help you with bike fit or other sports related injuries.

Until next time happy riding and enjoy ticking the miles off rolling the tarmac!