All good things come to an end, so it is with not such a heavy heart that I write my final Push Hog Legacy, which brings to a close the Push Hog Diaries. I had considered making the series a trilogy and it has been a great method to motivate myself in my first year as a ‘roadie’, but I am conscious that it has become repetitive and it’s time to inject some interest back into my blogs.
I will continue to write about cycling, just not always about my own cycling, after all there is a lot to talk about, not least the ‘Grand Depart’ of the Tour de France in Yorkshire in 2014. However, before I finish the diary, here is a look at what I got up to after I completed the Heart of York Bike Ride in September 2012…
After The Push Hog Legacy Stage 11, I managed to keep motivated enough to get out and complete a couple of decent rides during September. The first ride, on Saturday 15th, was 16 miles towards Etton via Beverley Westwood, nothing too spectacular but I did pick up 4th place on a Strava segment, so my form was good.
The second ride was on the following Saturday, 22nd September, which proved to be a slightly longer distance, clocking up almost 22 miles in the saddle and saw me head towards North Newbald for another attempt at the Hull Thursday Newbald TT Circuit, I’d like to report some improvement from my previous attempts, but I can’t.
By the start of October the nights had started getting darker and opportunities to get out on the bike were limited to the weekends, so only a couple of big rides this particular month. My first ride saw me tick off 25 miles on Sunday 7th, nothing spectacular, heading out towards Etton, before riding the back roads to North Newbald and then heading back into Beverley.
My final ride of the month was to take part in ‘The Big G Reunion’, you will remember this particular sportive, held back in July 2012, was the reason I took up road cycling and my training formed the basis of The Push Hog Diaries. The reunion ride was organised by a member of the Hull Thursday Cycling Club, nothing too formal, just an opportunity to ride the circuits again and make a donation to their chosen charity, Help The Heros.
I’d enjoyed the Big G immensely, so waking up on Sunday 21st October, I was full of enthusiasm, this diluted slightly when I drew back the curtains to see thick fog, even more so when I went outside to be greeted by a light frost – Oh well. Undeterred, I headed to Longcroft School to register and make a start, with one aim and one aim only, to conquer Nunburnholme Hill, my nemesis!
For this particular ride I was on my lonesome, Marvin having broken a bone in his hand, thus leaving me to make my own pace. Things started off quite well, I kept it steady having set myself a time of 3 to 3.5 hrs, yet 15km into the 60km circuit the wheels, quite literally, started to come off.
Riding past Lund and just along Beverley Road, my back wheel began to feel slightly odd, then my bike began to fish tail, I’d punctured – Disaster! Stopping next to a tall garden wall of quite a grand looking farm house, the weather was still poor, very bad fog, the moisture was dripping off my jacket, to make matters worse the ground was sloped and to make it even more depressing, this is the first time I’d ever punctured on the road!
Feeling fed up I turned the bike over and removed a rag from my back pocket and proceeded to take the chain off the rear cassette. By now I was starting to draw attention and it was to the great credit of a number of cyclists that they stopped to see if I needed any help. It was comforting to know that although I’d set off on my own, in actual fact everybody was looking out for each other.
Luckily I was well prepared for any potential disaster as I always carry the following items:
1. Spare inner tube;
2. Self adhesive puncture repair kit;
3. Three tyre levers;
4. Cycle pump;
5. Oil Rag;
6. Emergency bus fare!
On this occasion I decided to take off the tyre, remove the offending sharp, then replace the punctured inner tube. An easy task at home in the garage or on a dry light day, yet extremely frustrating on a cold, damp and dark day with cold wet hands!
Just as I was getting started a group of three cyclists stopped and offered their help, one of their number needed to adjust his headset so they decided to stop and keep me company, I’m glad they did, all were good humoured and lifted my spirits, as admittedly I had thought about finishing the repair and heading back home I’d been feeling so fed up!
The repair took far too long, about 30 minutes, most of which was spent getting the wheel back on and pumping up the new inner tube. I have to say that my ‘Topeak Race Rocket’ mini pump was absolutely fantastic, the flexible tube is such a life saver and stops the user damaging the valve. Eventually I got back on the road, along with my new companions, heading off towards Middleton-on-the-Wolds.
Cycling out of the village lightning struck again, I tried to give it some beans going up a hill but once again my back wheel felt flat and once again I’d punctured. I couldn’t believe it, I’ve cycled hundreds, if not thousands of miles over the years and never punctured, yet today the gods were getting their revenge. Pulling over at a well kept lawn adjacent to a lovely barn conversion, I bid farewell to my newly formed band of brothers and once again began the laborious process, albeit this time without a spare inner tube.
The puncture this time had been caused by a piece of glass, trumping the thorn of my previous puncture, so using my self adhesive puncture repair kit I found the hole, sanded down the surface of the inner tube and applied the ‘scab’, another life saver on such a miserable day. The repair took about 20 minutes to complete, again a number of cheery cyclists stopped to offer help, one pair in particular stopped for a chat, so again it was good to find new friends out on the road.
Setting off yet again, by now my body was cold and I lost all enthusiasm for the whole ride, I was in two minds about turning back, but again I decided to carry on, hoping that things would start to get better. Before long I was riding into the thickening fog towards the Yorkshire Wolds village of Huggate, a lonely road at the best of times, even more lonely this particular day with only my thoughts to keep me company.
The road to Huggate is long and ever so slightly up hill, it’s a drag, then out of the mist I see two figures ahead of me, I know I wasn’t going fast enough to catch anybody and I soon realise that two cyclists are stopped at the side of the road. Coincidently it happens to be the cheery cyclists from my last puncture, so I stop to see if they need a hand. It turns out that the puncture is another piece of glass, much like my own, it looks like the result of a smashed windscreen. Waving farewell to the unfortunate duo, I set off once again.
Fast forward 5km to the village of Warter, I give myself a choice, either abandon the ride and take the low roads back home or bite the bullet and tackle firstly Baggaby Hill then the dreaded Nunburnholme Hill…
…not one to quit, I pointed my push hog toward Baggaby and off I rode with the bit between my teeth. This all went well until I hit the bottom of the Hill, it is only short, but an absolute git, due to the right hand corner halfway up, banking as it turns. I struggle to the top, pleased I managed to get through this first test, although I know that worse climbs are ahead.
A couple of km’s later and as I approach the village of Nunburnholme, eerily the fog lifts to reveal the Hill in its full glory, with the bright sun shine and sudden change in temperature enough to make me stop to remove the sleeves from my Gore Phantom jacket. It’s not long before I set off again, knowing the next time I’d stop would be either to celebrate reaching the top of the climb or to throw my bike into a farmers field in disgust!
At the bottom of Nunburnholme hill I can’t help but feel intimidated, my previous attempt was in near perfect conditions, with plenty of road side support, yet I still failed. Now, three months later, the conditions are less than ideal, the weather is muggy and the fog is beginning to drop once again and the roads are greasy and covered in mud.
Cranking my bike into the lowest gear, I begin the climb, the first section is steep, about 14%, which lasts for around 250m, which doesn’t sound much, but it is, trust me. Before long I’m pushing with all my might to keep the wheels moving, so I change up a gear, before climbing out of my saddle to inject some impetus into the climb – This is a mistake, once my weight is off the rear wheel, the wheel spins on the muddy road and I quickly sit back down.
It appears that if I’m going to beat this hill it is going to be the hard way, with a bit of grit and determination, frankly I hadn’t cycled 30km in the cold wet fog, having had two punctures and riding on about 80psi, to just get off and walk… NO…B*****ks to Nunburnholme Hill, and I kept going! Half way up I’d even surprised myself, I was tired, but hardly blowing, I just looked at the road and kept turning the peddles, before long the gradient softens to around 9%, but then it a long hard slog to the summit.
The final section of the climb is long and drab, especially in the fog, so I just focused on each telegraph pole, counting them down one by one, before finally seeing the junction with Londesborough Road and also the welcome sight of the three cyclists who had helped out with my first puncture. Finally I’d done it, on my second attempt and in crappy conditions, I punched the air with more vitriol than Mark Cavendish, this was like a stage victory for me and to say I was chuffed with myself would be an understatement!
*I have shown the times for the original Strava segment above, ending on the junction of Nunburnholme Hill and Londesborough Hill, however this makes me look a right chump as this is after the crest of the hill, therefore each time I have ridden the hill I have stopped at the real summit leaving the clock running, hence my private Strava segment as shown below, knocking a clear 4 minutes 20 seconds off my official time!
My return to the finish was a blur, I didn’t care, I especially didn’t care about the cold, wet or punctures, as I’d achieved my goal and that’s what it’s about, a great way to cap off the year, which as a cycling season was now effectively over with one last ride in November not even worth mentioning.
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