Friday, 28 December 2012

2012 - Six stones lost & many miles covered

In January 2012 I decided that weighing in at a smidgen over 17 stone and not being able to walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath was not a good place to be and it was time to do something about it.

The detail of the steps I have taken over the year to get fitter and to lose weight are contained in various posts on this blog so I won't bore you with the detail again on this page. Sitting here writing this in December 2012 I find myself with a very different lifestyle and I guess I'd have to say that I have achieved the two primary objectives for the year; I am undoubtedly fitter and I have most definitely lost some weight.

How much weight have I lost? Quite a lot, six stone or 85 pounds as of the middle of December. This weight loss has been achieved through a combination of a change of diet, reduction in alcohol consumption and a progressively increasing fitness regime. In short, I now eat less food, which is nutritionally superior to my old diet and I now complete an average of 10-12 hours exercise a week.

How much fitter? Over the course of this year I have discovered that I quite like cycling and have managed to enter and finish a number of sportives, finishing in times that as a novice cyclist I consider to be fairly respectable. With the help of Simon Vincent at Total Cycling Performance ( I have managed to go from being a serial "bonker" at 20 miles to regularly completing 100k sportives and being confident enough to have a fairly comprehensive schedule of events for 2013 which includes the Dragon Ride Gran Fondo, l'etape and RideUK24 Newcastle to London. Quite remarkable for somebody who started the year as an overweight, out of condition person who probably couldn't have cycled to the chip shop - Thank you Simon and all the others who have encouraged and supported me this year.

Yep, this was a very snug fit in January 2012
What have I learnt about fitness and weight loss this year?

Losing weight is about controlling the amount and type of food you eat, sounds obvious and it is. The facts are that if a person has a lot of weight to lose, they will only lose weight at a rate that will keep them motivated to carry on by managing the volume of food they eat on a daily basis and being brave enough to face the reality of measuring progress with a tape measure and scales.

Taking exercise undoubtedly helps with weight loss but for a person with a lot of weight to lose, it is unlikely to be the only solution if a level of weight loss that is motivational is going to be achieved. To lose a pound in weight, a person need to burn approximately 3500 calories, trust me that is actually a lot of exercise and the average significantly overweight person isn't likely to want to do the level of exercise required to lose say 2-3 pounds per week. The answer lies in achieving a happy medium where exercise is increased and diet is managed to allow the consumption of sufficient food to remain healthy whilst also achieving a calorie deficit that contributes to reduction in weight.

Plans for 2013?

As I mentioned earlier I have a fairly comprehensive schedule of Sportives planned for 2013 which can be found here and it is my intention to continue to train and hopefully improve my cycling performance to a level where I am able to put in a credible performance on each of the major events.

Later in 2013 I would like to explore ways of putting something back into the sport that gives me so much satisfaction and which has been a key motivator in helping me to stay on track with losing weight and leading a healthier lifestyle. At this point in time I don't know what the options are for being able to do this, but I'm sure something suitable will come along during 2013.

Of course I mustn't forget to finish my new bike build which is being based around a LOOK 566 frame, but the details of this are best saved for another blog post sometime in the new year.

I'm in danger of rambling on now (and I do plenty of that in my normal blog posts) so I'll finish this update by thanking you for taking the time to visit (or revisit) the Pixies blog and I hope you will be able to find the time to come back again to check on my progress sometime in the future.

Dha weles diwettha


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Triple Conversion Update

As regular readers of the Pixies blog will know, a few weeks ago I changed the Specialized over from a 4600 Tiagra compact 50/34 set up to a 5703 105 triple 30/39/50 set up (along with a few other upgrades to cables, bottom bracket etc) The earlier blog post on the subject can be found HERE  

I've done several hundred miles on the conversion now and thought it might be useful to provide a brief update on the conversion for those people considering a similar plan of action and also for those people that are interested in hearing how going from a compact set up to a triple has been in the real world?

I've ridden the Specialized over a variety of terrain, including some fairly tough hill training in Wales and three very different Sportives. One of the biggest benefits that I have found with the conversion is the fact that the middle "39" front chainring is providing me with a set of ratio's that suit my particular riding style and current level of fitness. I am finding that I spend a lot of time riding on the "39" and in conjunction with my preferred high (for a novice) cadence pedalling rate I am able to maintain speeds of 20-22mph over mildly undulating terrain with the full range of the rear cassette available to me. With the previous compact set up, I would find myself constantly swapping between the outer "50" and inner "34" over this type of terrain when trying to maintain a speed of 20-22mph, especially over ground that included long but not particularly steep climbs that were to much for the gears available on the "50" or required a the less than ideal "large to large" chainring/cassette combination. I'm sure this is a personal preference thing as the right gear selection is available with the compact set up, I just prefer to not be constantly swapping between chainrings and prefer a set up that allows me to easily maintain my preferred cadence rate.

Of course opting to use a triple rather than a compact brings with it a weight penalty and a little more complexity. With reference to the weight penalty, in the real world I reckon it's about 200 grams, which I can make up for by losing a little more body fat (I've still got plenty to spare LOL) If I was weight obsessive when it come to the bike, I guess saving a 200 grams in the weight of the crank and then going on to save weight in other components would be something to consider seriously, however at the moment I still have around 4-5 kilos that I can lose in body weight which is effectively cancelling out any theoretical small weight saving measures on cycle components. Therefore given the way that the triple set up suits my preferred cycling style, I think in the real world of being a relatively novice Sportive rider, I'm happy to live with the weight penalty to gain the spread of useable gears that the "39" provides whilst also having a lower set of gears for tough climbs and a higher set of gears for faster stretches of road.

On the subject of the weight of Shimano components, much is made in the world of cycling about the merits of buying a better group set to save weight when compared to a lesser group set. As some readers will no I am currently building a new bike around a LOOK 566 frame and I have been researching the differences between the current Shimano 5700 series 105 group set and the 6700 series Ultegra group set and one of the things that I have established is that the difference in weight between the two group sets is approximately 180 grams. The other difference between the two group sets is obviously cost with Ultegra being around £150-200 more expensive. So that's about a £1 extra spent per gram saved in weight. When the fact that the surrent 5700 series 105 probably performs as well as the previous incarnation of Ultegra and is not actually that far behind the performance of the current Ultegra, the "financially careful" amongst us might consider 105 to represent more "real world" value than Ultegra and we might choose to save those 180 grams by not eating as many pies for a couple of weeks!

What does 180 grams look like? this bag of sweets weighs 200 grams, not much is it?

Current Shimano group set weights (actual not claimed)

Dura Ace Di2    2375g
Dura Ace 7900 2111g
Ultegra 6700    2441g
105 5700         2624g

In terms of added complexity, the triple set up is a little more time consuming to initially set up as the front changer does seem to need to be in just the right place in relation to the chainrings and cable tension does seem to be more critical if consistently flawless shifting is required. It probably took me three or four attempts spread out over maybe two or three weeks to get this aspect of the conversion just right, however now that it is set up and the cables seemed to have stopped stretching, it shifting really well every time. I guess if I was having to take the bike to the local bike shop to have any required adjustments done, this initial setting up phase may have had the potential to test my patience, however as I do pretty much all of the work on the bike myself, it's just been a question of investing some time into getting the set up just right.

Photo from Park Tools

The Hope bottom bracket has been taken out a couple of times since it's initial installation in the pursuit of a good chainline, which has in turn probably helped to further improve the quality of gear shifts. Following the initial installation I noticed that I had a little bit of  sideways movement or "float" of the crank within the bottom bracket, not much, but it was there and left unattended I'm sure it would have led to premature wear of the bearings in the bracket. The float was removed and the chainline improved by installing a different selection of spacer washers from those originally supplied with the bracket (washers of varying thickness are available on e bay and from Hope) Getting this aspect of the installation was simply a case of trying different combinations of washers until the correct chainline was achieved and any float in the crank was removed, again a little time consuming but at least I wasn't paying somebody else to bugger around with it until it was spot on. There is a great article from Sheldon Brown on chainline and chainline adjustment HERE which is worth looking at if the subject of chainline is something that is new to you.

The Jagwire cables that I installed as part of the conversion have performed well. I can't say that they have improved the quality of shifting or braking in any significantly noticeable way, however they are quietly getting on with the jobs they are their for. I have had to take up some slack in the gear shift cables after about 300 miles which I am putting down to some initial stretching of the cables. It may be that this initial stretching may have only been noticeable on the triple because the front changer set up does seem to need to be "just right" and is definitely affected by cable tension. On a compact set up I suspect this initial stretching might go unoticed as they don't seem to be as fussy when it comes to front changer set up and cable tension. Would I change standard Shimano cables for Jagwire cables if all I was looking for was improved shifting quality? Probably not, because I suspect good quality Shimano cables are as good as Jagwire cables. If attention to cosmetic detail is one of the desired goals from a change of cables, Jagwire cable sets come in a variety of colours and can make a difference to the final look of a bike build. (I've got a white set sitting in the garage that are destined for the LOOK 566 that I am currently building up)

On reflection, this blog post is probably making the triple conversion sound like it has been difficult to get running right and us perhaps quite fussy to keep set up for flawless shifting? This hasn't been the case and now that it is set up and has a few miles under it's belt it is performing really well, with only the type of minor adjustment that would be required by the critical owner of any any set up. It's probably not a conversion that many people will consider as for many people a compact set up will do everything they want it to do in respect of providing a reasonably wide set of gear ratio's and being simple to live with. Where the triple provides added value for me is with the ability to provide a low set of gear ratio's for steep climbing via the inner "30" chainring whilst still be able to run a relatively closely spaced rear cassette to allow for a nice close set of gears whilst riding on the "39" It works for me and I guess that's what's important!

As always thanks for taking the time to take a look at the Pixie's blog and I hope you are able to pop back for another look sometime in the future.

Dha weles diwettha





Thursday, 20 December 2012

Performance Cycles Winter Mini Series - November & December Events

Hi and thanks for visiting the Pixies blog, this post is just a quick update on some recent Sportive action that I have been taking part in that was organised by the very nice people at Performance Cycles based in Poulton, just north of Cirencester.

The guys at Performance Cycles organise a series of events that run over the course of the winter that are billed as the "Performance Cycles Winter Mini Sportive Series"

Find out more and enter the Winter Mini Sportive Series here

The events  are in the words of the organisers "designed to be simple, and cheap!! There will be no electronic timing or feed stations, and the routes won't be the gut busting ones you'd expect in the height of summer - but other than that, they'll be everything else you expect from a sportive. With a well marked route, mechanical back-up, free energy products for each rider and much more."

Having done the two most recent events in this years series I can say that the formula works really well. For most people the only things that are not present on these events that are available on bigger events are the feed stations and to be honest, a bit of forward planning on the part of the rider easily sorts that one out. I always take a packet of jelly babies and some bite size flap jacks on every event and that coupled with a couple of 750ml Bidons of drink has been plenty enough to feed and water me on each event. If you forget to pack supplies, you can always buy some from the Performance Cycles shop before the start as it is open for business before the start of each event.

What about the routes?

November's 60 mile route was made all the more interesting by the localised flooding that occurred in the few days leading up to the event. In some places we were riding through water that was over the bottom bracket and definitely coming in through the vents in the soles of my shoes.

Scenes like this were encountered on a number of occasions
The route in November was not to taxing in respect of hills although whoever designed the course did throw in a couple of "interesting" climbs along the way, one of which had people weaving up the hill in an attempt to make it easier to climb. I logged a total of 2638ft of climbing on the route, which on a wet and cold day was actually plenty enough for a Pixie that was feeling the cold. The wet weather certainly had an effect on the number of punctures suffered by competitors and I saw a higher than normal number of people changing inner tubes by the side of the road. Like most Sportive riders I always check to see if somebody who is by the side of the road needs any assistance, normally most people are ok and wave me on, on this event however a couple of people needed the assistance of my mini pump having used up their CO2 canisters on previous punctures. This is why I live with the tiny amount of extra weight that carrying a small mini pump involves, no amount of spare tubes are going to be of any use if you can't pump them up! ;)

November Route Profile 10.2 % in one place

Overall the route in November was a perfect blend of enough hills to get the legs and lungs working and some decent stretches where it was possible to ride as a group and maintain a reasonable average speed. My time for the event wasn't anything to shout about at 4 hours 21 minutes, but I estimate that I probably lost around 30 minutes helping other people out with punctures, so not so bad after all.

For the December event I was riding with Dave "the puncture king" (who regular readers will have met in the Isle of Wight blog post which can be found here ) and we set out with every intention of riding the long route which would have been around 60 miles. Despite heavy rain overnight, it was actually a really nice sunny, but cold, morning and all competitors seemed to be in really good spirits. Although the sun was out, the previous few days rain had left the roads very wet and littered with muck and debris.

There was still a lot of water on the ground after heavy rainfall

As any cyclist who has more than five minutes experience will know, country lanes and heavy rain equal punctures due to the amount of rubbish that is washed out of hedges and fields and into the road, it was for this reason that I was riding along feeling very pleased with myself for having fitted new Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons winter tyres a couple of months earlier (they have multiple layers of puncture protection and still ride really well without feeling heavy or wooden)

As with Novembers event, the atmosphere was excellent and their was plenty of conversation in the "peleton" as it made it's way around the course. Their was a good mix of abilities and bikes present, with some obviously very quick riders out on their winter bikes and some other riders out on their mountain bikes and just enjoying the ride. The course was less demanding than Novembers course and had significant stretches of relatively flat going which allowed for a good average speed to be maintained over the early parts of the course. Regular readers may remember that Dave was a bit puncture prone on the IOW and unfortunately Dave suffered another puncture on this event, which probably lost us around 20 minutes whilst Dave changed his inner tube. An examination of Dave's tyres revealed why he may have been suffering with a plague of punctures recently, the tyres he was using are probably more suited to summer riding with limited puncture protection - I understand that new winter tyres are now on order! 

December Route Profile Max 8.2%
Dave had also suffered a bit of a knock to his lower back whilst riding earlier in the event which was causing him some serious discomfort. It was clear as we approached the split point for the long and short routes that given the time lost due to Dave's puncture and a drop off in our pace, because of the significant discomfort that Dave was in, that it would be prudent to ride the slightly shorter 49 mile route. We arrived back at Poulton in a time of 3 hours 24 minutes and I logged 1534ft of climbing, which confirmed my suspicion that this route had indeed been easier than Decembers when it came to the amount of climbing on the route.

No post about a Performance Cycles Mini Series event would be complete without a mention for the post ride catering, this is simply the best post ride catering I have encountered so far. Instead of the usual free cup of tea and maybe a tiny bowl of pasta (some events don't provide free food and charge for cake etc) these events are supported by a full on catering trailer serving bacon rolls, hot coffee, cakes, sandwich's and in December even mulled wine. And the best bit? Yep, it's free and you can have more than one bacon roll or slice of cake. Other event organisers take note, this is how it should be done!

Proper post ride food in the depths of winter

The post ride atmosphere at both November and Decembers events was really friendly with riders hanging around to have a chat and reacquaint themselves with people they had met out on the ride, as well taking the opportunity to talk to the people from Performance Cycles who were also very friendly and helpful.

Starting to feel that the winter lay off is to long? Need to get out on the bike and get ready for next spring and summer? Try one or two of these events, they really are worth making the effort for.

(No I don't work for Performance Cycles, nor are they bribing me to say these things, these events are really that good)

The remaining dates in the series are as follows;

  • Sunday 20th January 2013
  • Sunday 17th February 2013
  • Sunday 17th March 2013
More information on the Winter Mini Series can be found here Performance Cycles Mini Series   

As always thanks for taking the time to drop by and read the Pixies ramblings and hopefully you will find the time to pop along again in the future.

Dha weles diwettha


Friday, 7 December 2012

Wight Winter Sportive 02/12/12

Firstly, thanks for visiting the blog, all visitors, new or returning are gratefully received on this blog! Please feel free to tell your friends about it if you find it even remotely interesting or it simply passes away 20 minutes of the working day :)

Secondly, this has turned into a somewhat large post, so here's the the executive summary for those of you who don't want to read all of this blog post. The Pixie has completed another sportive, this time on the Isle of Wight, accompanied by some great friends, he did the 100k route and completed it in a "cycling time" of 3 hours 57 minutes.

Here's the full version of the post, settle down with a cup of tea and a slice of cake....
It's Sunday morning on the 2nd December, it's 5:30am and I'm sitting in my car at the "ferry port" at Lymington waiting for the first ferry over to the Isle of Wight to take part in the Wiggle Wight Winter sportive. I'm also wondering the following;
  • Why did I leave home quite so early?
  • Why did the AA route planner lie to me and say it would take me 2 hours and 20 minutes for a journey that at best took 1 hour 30 minutes?
  • Can I claim financial compensation from the AA for the hour of much needed sleep that their route planner has deprived me of?
  • How many layers will I need for today's ride, given that it is plainly and literally freezing cold outside?
  • Have I got time to grab an hours sleep while I'm waiting for my 6:45am ferry?
I'm also feeling quite pleased with myself as I make myself some instant porridge with hot water from my newly purchased thermos flask. This is taking my sportive event planning almost to a professional level with me being able to eat my breakfast at the optimum time before the start of the event to ensure that I have adequate energy reserves for the ride ahead - If your reading this Mr Brailsford, feel free to pinch this marginal gain technique for Team Sky and feel free to ring me about my other breakthrough in nutrition timing, which involves bread, peanut butter, a banana and a sandwich bag.

As it turns out I end up going over on an early ferry with the event organisers and find myself with about an hour and a half in which to get the bike ready, finish putting my upper layers on and get myself signed on for the event. Hmm, that's about an hour more than I actually need, it's amazing how much surfing you can do on an iphone in an hour when there is nothing else to do.

Ok, I sense that you the reader might be more interested in hearing about the actual event rather than my start to what was a really quite long day, so I'll cut to the chase and get on with it.....

One of the great things about making the effort to ride sportives in different parts of the UK is the fact that not only do you get to meet some really nice people, you also get to ride through some great bits of the UK with pretty stunning scenery. The Isle of Wight was no exception and the sunny weather we were blessed with was an added bonus. It was cold though, have I mentioned that yet?

The Wight Winter sportive is part of the Wiggle series of events and it provides for two distances, Standard 43 mile and Epic 62 mile (100k). As is becoming the norm for me at the moment I had entered the 100k Epic as part of my training for next years l'etape, I was meeting four other people at the event Alex and Jane who were going to do the Standard route and Simon and Dave who were going to do the Epic route. The loose plan was to all start together and try and stay together until the route spilts into two different directions with the Epic route going off on one of two additional loops that would add the additional 20 odd miles to the Standard route. 

It was particularly cold (have I mentioned that before?) and the pre event riders briefing contained warnings of difficult and icy conditions throughout the course, great, not only was it cold but it was also going to be slippery out there. Cautious descending and keeping a constant look out for the tell tale shine of ice would be the order of the day for the first couple of hours.

The event organisation was really slick and groups of riders were allowed to set off as soon as they were ready. This worked particularly well as riders were arriving in large groups just after each ferry arrived from the mainland and an added bonus was that there was much less bunching out on the route than is sometimes evident when riders are released in large groups.

After a bit of messing around which involved two of our group missing their ferry and one of our group having to dash off and buy some medicine for an "upset tum" we managed to get away in a fairly small group of riders and headed out onto the course, as predicted it was really, really cold and the roads were showing evidence of frost and black ice. Despite the cold weather (have i mentioned that before?) everybody was in good spirit and their was plenty of banter in the "peleton" as the group made its way towards the first proper incline of the day.

Simon and Pixie enjoying some banter

The first incline of the day was the point at which our small groups plan to ride together for the first part of the course fell apart. The three of us on the Epic route were all feeling the cold and as a result our pace up the first hill was shall we say "fairly brisk" resulting in the "Epics" and "Standards" getting spilt up much earlier than anticipated. following some deliberation at the top of the hill when the "Standards" arrived it was decided that the "Epics" would push on at their own pace and hopefully see the "Standards" either out on the course later in the day or at the finish.

First real hill of the day for Pixie

So what was the first part of the route like? The Epic and Standard routes are exactly the same until a short distance after the first feed station and to be honest I think the early hills took a few people by surprise and there was much heavy breathing, panting and even some cursing on the first few hills of the day. The first part of the route is a good balance between long(ish) gradual inclines and flat(ish) stretches culminating in what one fellow competitor was heard to describe as follows "Christ, how did we end up in the Alps on an alpine climb complete with hair pin bends?" I'd have to say that whilst it was a long and at times steep drag, I suspect the Ventoux maybe a touch longer and harder to climb up. However, it certainly made the Pixie sweat and resulted in a quick stop at the top to take a layer of clothing off. By now it was just Simon and myself riding together as we seemed to have inadvertently dropped Dave without realising it. 

Somebody has a sense of humour

Shortly after this climb was the first feed station, which I have to say was really well stocked with "eat me now" foods such as flap jacks, cakes, banana's etc and "eat me later" foods such as energy gels. Definitely the best stocked and best run feed station I've encountered in my brief sportive career. Whilst at the feed station Dave caught up with us and we were able to set off on the next part of the route as a reunited trio. 

The next part of the route was a little different from the first part and narrow roads and villages featured much more than on the first part of the route which had at times followed the wonderfully wide and scenic coast road. Within a short space of time the route was once more climbing in a relatively gradual manner initially through country lanes and then through a built up area, with some "interesting" intermittent steeper sections on junctions and bends. It was at this point that Simon and I realised that we had once more "dropped" Dave. After about five minutes of hanging around we decided that we would push on and we (sincerely) hoped that if Dave didn't catch up with us, that he would have found another group to ride with. (more of Dave's adventures at the end of this post)

"Where did you get that hat, where did you get that hat?......."
(lyrics from a very old song for those of you that are very young and don't recognise it!) 
After a while the Epic route rejoined the Standard route and Simon and I were reunited with Alex and Jane who were on the Standard route and making their way around at a comfortable pace. A short stop to eat a few jelly babies and flap jacks whilst having a quick natter with them was followed by Simon and I leaving them to wait a while for Dave whilst we pressed on with our "Epic" journey. Jane has said that she will contribute a guest blog post detailing how her first sportive went, and that will published on here in the near future. 
The "Standards" having a jolly time - Is Alex doing some weird Peter Crouch robot impression?
The rest of the route to the second feed station and beyond was a mixture of what I would describe undulating terrain interspersed with some climbs that were hard enough to make most people work reasonably hard whilst not being so long or steep that they would make the route unenjoyable and plain hard work. Road surfaces were pretty mixed in terms of quality and the threat of ice and slippery road conditions prevailed until around midday. Both Simon and I were agreed that the second half of the route was well planned and provided a challenge that was sufficient to keep the semi serious competitor or serious competitor working hard without breaking their spirit with relentless or steep climbs. One aspect of the second part of the route that we were both agreed on was that the road surfaces were acceptable, however they were in places poor enough to have a significant contributing effect to overall fatigue levels as the the end of the route was approached.  

I can't comment on the quality of the second feed station as Simon and I elected to ride on and get ourselves to the finish a little quicker (I would guess this probably saved us 10-15 minutes on our final finishing time) Judging by the size of the crowd that was gathered around it, I would say that in all probability it would have been as good as the first.

One aspect of this event that is worth recording is the real sense of camaraderie and good spirits that was evident from all of the other competitors that we encountered during the day. On the whole it looked like everybody was enjoying the ride and enjoying the banter which always seems to happen as individuals and small groups form up to ride as a bigger group until road conditions or pace split the group up again.

It was cold. Have I mentioned that before?
(Might have to re-think the fluoro beanie hat?) 

After a fairly concerted effort over the last 15 miles or so Simon and I finished the 100K Epic route in 4 hours 19 minutes, of which 3 hours 57 minutes was actual riding time. Alex and Jane finished the Standard route in 4 hours 10 minutes.

So, what about Dave? Dave had what can only be described as an eventful day. It turned out that the reason that we "dropped" Dave after the first feeding station because he suffered a puncture and lost time replacing the punctured inner tube with the spare one he was carrying. This first puncture was then followed by another one about three miles further up the road, which caused a longer delay as Dave did not have another spare and had to ring the Wiggle service van and ask them to bring one out to him which they duly did. Wiggle's excellent back up support for Dave continued, when upon arrival at the second feeding station he was presented with a spare tube to take with him in case he suffered yet another puncture on the last leg of the route. Understandably, as Dave had lost a significant amount of time waiting for the service van, he elected to join the Standard route rather than the the Epic route for the final run into the finish and he finished with a time of 5 hours 17 minutes.

Dave out on his own prior to becoming the puncture king

Overall impression of the Wight Winter sportive? A well organised event that provided a route which had just the right blend of hills, descents and undulating terrain to make the event a challenge without being a monumental challenge. Everybody I saw on the route and at the finish appeared to have enjoyed themselves and I didn't see too many people grinding cleats on the hills. Would I do this sportive again? Yes, absolutely. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, it provides the right balance of challenge with an enjoyable riding experience that is probably very important to a lot of riders at this time of year when fitness levels may not be quite as high as they were a couple of months ago.

Thanks to Wiggle and the team from UK Cycling events for putting on a well run and enjoyable event.  

As always thanks for taking the time to drop by and read the Pixies ramblings and I hope you are able to pop back some time in the future to see how the Pixies journey to l'etape 2013 is progressing.

Dha weles diwettha