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Date: 3rd July 2011
Riders: Richard, Davebus, Terry, Keith, Mark, Gaz and Robin
LOMAC to Box Hill and North Downs Way
Weather: 25°C

A stonkingly sunny day as we hit the local trails. A largish group meet at the LOMAC for a 9-30 start and we are straight onto Stane Street and along to Mickleham Down for the Alpine trail.

On the way to LOMAC my bike was making a terrible grinding noise and I was convinced that my bottom bracket had gone. (The bike had been put away in the garage after last week's epic Bowl to Bognor trip and not been touched since). But Mark had some chain-lube on him and a quick greasing of the chain and axle seemed to resolve it and it was running really smoothly after that.

After descending the Alpine trail and Mark getting moaned at by 3 miserable gits on a bench it's straight back up Chainbreaker and along to the top of Box Hill.

A fast descent down China Pig which is riding superbly today and then back up Juniper Hill before crossing Mickleham Down again and then across Headley Heath and cutting onto the North Downs Way where we bump into some lost Venture Scouts (not sure whether we actually helped them or not) and local legend Workshopmanualman who recognises us as we are 'helping' the Ventures.

Up the NDW and along the edge of the hill to the revamped tea rooms for an overpriced cup of coffee before heading back via Walton-on-the-Hill and down the recently gravelled descent and then across Smallville and back towards LOMAC where we all make our separate ways home.

25 miles in bright sunshine and a further 10 road miles for me to get to and from LOMAC make a decent ride for a Sunday morning.

Date: 10th July 2011
Riders: Richard, Davebus, Terry, Rob, Rob M, Gaz, Rich Lonegroover, Adam and Alan
LOMAC to Ranmore Common and back
Weather: 15°C

Another great ride starts as I leave home at shortly after 9 a.m. to head towards LOMAC. I'm a few minutes late leaving and so push a bit harder to get there on time but I'm feeling really strong today and make the five miles to the meeting place in just over 22 minutes having chased a few riders who are on a sportive around the back of Epsom (water stop 1km).

It's a surprisingly large group of nine riders this morning including a welcome back for Alan who last rode with us way, way back in February 2005 although I have seen him a few times this year to chat to on my cycle commute to work. It's also good to see Rich and Rob after competing in the Army Cycling Union 'Are you tough enough' event. Turns out they aren't quite sure...

Rob is on his latest ride; a Canfield Brothers 'yelliscreamy' 29'er which he rates highly. Much better riding position than his previous frames, good on the flat and uphill although still requires a bit more work in the twisty singletrack.

Onto Stane Street and a left turn to go past Thirty Acre Barn and across my latest favourite; the photogenic Smallville Trail. Dave and I pause here as I am taking pictures and Dave is at the back of the group having held the gate open for the rest of the group and we somehow manage to lose the rst of the riders. They knew where they were going but we didn't know that they knew if you see what I mean.

But it only takes about ten minutes to sort out and we catch up with them at the top of the Horse Pee track named because prior to the resurfacing the horse pee would run out of the stables and down the trail giving you a 'refreshing' spray as you hit it at speed with your tyres. But that's no more so at least the resurfacing has had one positive impact.

Onto Hurstlane and under the M25 towards the Cock Inn on Headley Heath (they don't name 'em like that anymore).

Along Secret Single Track which is almost impassable now due to the six foot ferns and along 'Robs Run' which takes us across Headley to the top of Box Hill.

Right onto the road and down to the Smith and Weston where we turn into the woods and along towards a new trail that Davebus has sniffed out. It turns out to be a bit overgrown and the off-camber chalk is damp under all the trees and of course it's Davebus himself who takes a tumble as he fails to control a front wheel skid whilst trying to avoid the tree stump (hint: keep the rubber side down Dave!).

Onto the bottom of Zig Zag Road for a fast road descent where I nearly end up in the grill of fire engine blocking the whole road on a blind corner and then across the A24 and up through Denbies. The powers that be have resurfaced this climb too but as it was always tarmac it hasn't ruined it just made it even easier to climb and two distinct groups form. As I mentioned I'm feeling good today and I'm up in the front group.

Along Ranmore Common Road where Dave and Terry tease a roadie on a high-end looking bike and wearing team kit by overtaking him on their mountain bikes as he studiously ignored there cheerful "good morning"s and looked the other way as they passed him.

Through the Ranmore trails to the Abba Zabba trail set and I have already decided that with the chalky trails quite damp and sketchy and with my trip to the Alps a week away that I won't be riding the steep roll-in's. And I always find it's wise not to go against your initial thoughts; don't ride a steep section if your heart's not in it.

After a break for re-fuelling we skate past the gnarly sections and then head down the White Downs track before climbing back up Pilgrims Way to Ranmore Common.

From here it's a non-stop return along what Dave refers to as the 'motorway' i.e. Ranmore to Hogden Lane, then Polesden Lacey to Bocketts Farm and then down to Leatherhead before the short cut back to LOMAC.

At Polesden Lacey half the group takes the road whilst I take the off-road option. I am literally flying down the trail when I see a mother, father and young child up ahead. Before I hit the brakes the parents dive either side of the trail with Dad scooping the child up and out of harm's way. I would normally have slowed down but all three of them were grinning as they could see we were so obviously enjoying ourselves and so I consoled myself with a cheery 'hellloooo' as we gave it the full beans past them.

Over 30 miles plus a further 10 road miles for me to get to and from LOMAC and I'm still feeling good when I get home and no Adam it was nothing to do with the large field of marie-joo-arna that we passed along the way... Bring on the Alps!

Date: 18th July to 23rd JulyAugust 2011
Riders: Richard, Sam & Ben
Le Tour de France 2011: Alps section
Weather: 25°C

This is a trip that started in planning during the 2010 Tour coverage. Both me and my boys have followed the Tour on television for many years. We were all sitting at home watching one of the full days coverage of a mountain stage and enjoying the sight of the riders climbing the mountains and the manic crowds on the sideline. In an idle moment I said 'next year we'll do that' and to my surprise both of the boys said yes straight away.

I forgot about this for a while and left booking the trip until circa March this year. I had already identified Briancon as a likely destination but there was only a room left in Montgenevre, a small village at the top of the 1,860m mountain outside Briancon. Beggars can't be choosers but blimey, it was dull in Montgenevre. You couldnt even buy fresh milk there and there were only 3 restaurants/bars open.

The ski chalet was a pokey room especially with three bikes in there the first two nights until we discovered the ski room but it served a purpose i.e. a base from which to see the Tour.

Day 1, 18th July

After leaving home in Surrey, England at 5-30 a.m. and catching the 7-50 a.m. chunnel we arrived at Montgenevre at 7 p.m. ish (8 p.m. local time) after a monster 700 mile, 13 and a half hour journey with only two stops for petrol and to stretch my legs.

I got stitched up at the Frejus tunnel. Okay its a pretty impressive 10 mile tunnel through the mountain that dumps you in Italy but that doesn't mean I want to pay Euro 39-80 for the priviledge!

Montgenevre was a total ghost town when we arrived with only two bars open. We had a quick beer and some chips before going to bed early to recover from the journey.

Day 2, 19th July

We awoke to the disappointing sound of rain and that's all we get all day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the whole town is covered in a damp mist. But the rain finally stops and we get out on the bikes to tackle the Col de Montgenevre, a Category 2 climb from the Briancon side.

This consists of rolling down the mountain as far as we dared and then turning round and returning to the top. I didn't want to go too far on our first day as Sam and Ben haven't exactly been in training for this. Added to the fact that Ben has a disability and I wanted an easy start to the week.

To my amazement the climb was amazingly easy as long as you found the right gear and just kept on pedalling. Even Ben managed to ride it comfortably on the borrowed Giant MTB (cheers Gazza) spinning away in the granny ring .

We were so chuffed we went down the other side of the mountain a couple of kilometres across the border into Italy and had a look around there before riding back up again. I love the fact that in these areas you can cross national borders on your bike without any fuss at all, there's just a minor change in the look and feel of the road signs and a few different flags flying in the local square.

Day 3, 20th July

That's more like it. The sun is out all day although there's stilll a chill wind at 1860 metres.

After breakfast we had a quick look around the town which has suddenly come alive with an influx of people following the tour.

We changed and got the bikes out the ski room (they had been in our bedroom for the first night and it was a bit of a squash).

We headed downhill again towards Briancon. We went almost to the bottom this time before pausing to warm up and chat to an English family. They had been to Galibier yesterday and there's two inches of snow all over (confirmed by tv reports this evening). Ooh-errr, that's where we are headed tomorrow.

So we turn around and ride three-quarters back up the Col de Montgenevre and pick a nice spot on the top of a hairpin bend and settle down to wait being amused by the Captain America/Nacho Libre character and picking up loads of cheap tat thrown out by the caravanne.

There are hundreds of riders going up and down the mountain and I manage to spot Greg in amongst the throng; Greg is a South African guy that I chat to whilst cycle commuting buddy more usually seen along the pan flat Cycle Superhighway 8 (yes, I knew he would be in Briancon but I never expected to spot him amongst all the riders).

After many hours wait the riders finally come past, a 14 man breakaway 6 mins 50 ahead of the peloton and then the whole peloton in one bunch. I spotted Voeckler and Cav in amongst the group and cheered them on.

Then it was a simple matter of climbing back up the rest of the mountain amongst the thousands of specatators on foot, bicycle and in camper vans and back to the room to watch the rest of the stage on live TV.

Let's hope the weather holds for tomorrow

Day 4, 21st July

What a day and what a stage! We drove towards Galibier this morning but got turned back at Les Guibertes half way along the N91.

So after a quick u-turn I dumped the car on the side of the road and we unloaded the bikes and started to ride with about 30km to go to the top.

Zippy asked what is the key difference in the climbs and I would say the distance. We rode and rode taking over two hours of riding and every single turn of the pedal on the climb of the Col du Lauteret was uphill.

We covered about 20km until we got to the top of Col du Lauteret which was cold, mist covered and windy.

The road was closed here so we couldnt carry on up the Galbibier so again we picked a spot between two parked cars and about 20 metres from the top next to a couple of guys from Burnley. There were plenty of other Brits and Aussies around and a good atmosphere was enjoyed.

There was a giant tv screen at the top so we could keep in touch with what was going on and see how long the riders would be before they reached us.

The weather was quite mixed, although it threatened to rain a number of times it remained dry but as we cooled down we began to shiver and there was a low point where the five of us were huddled behind the parked cars sheltering from the wind that whipped across the Col.

But the caravanne finally arrived which gave us a chance to grab more freebies and more importantly to jump around, clap and cheer just to warm us up. There was also a moment of farce as the team buses made theri way to the top of the Lauteret and then were told they couldn't go any further. So you had circa 20 coaches pulling three point turns at the top and then squeezing back down the way they had come past the other coaches still making their way up. The Gendarmes got very excited about all this but it kept us amused.

All at once the atmosphere changes and you realise the riders are on their way. Andy Schleck had made his breakaway and came absolutely flying over within touching distance of us followed by the chasing group led by Cadel Evans. Then it was Contador who was clearly struggling and who finally got dropped on the Galibier, a real shock moment in the race.

After hanging around to watch the result of the final few km's on the TV screen we started to roll downhill. After all the hard work of getting to the top the descent was exhilirating and although I was keeping a close eye on Ben, Sam flew off down the descent and hit 62 mph according to the cycle computer.

Day 5, 22nd July

The last, longest and according to the boys the best day today.

We left the hotel at 9am headed for Alpe d'Huez and had to repeat our journey of yesterday i.e. through Briancon and along the N91.

But this time there was no roadblock and we drove instead of cycled up the Col du Lauteret and over and down and on towards Bourg d'Ousins. This was circa 45 miles along twisting mountain roads and took us about 1hr 30.

About five km's outside Bourg we hit the traffic but were close enough to park up on the verge and get the bikes out.

It was much warmer today without the cold wind that has kept us chilly at altitude and we rode through Bourg and across the sprint point that they were still in the process of constructing. This caused the road to narrow and a bottleneck of cars caused Ben to brake suddenly and he was over the bars in the middle of the traffic which was very worrying but after brushing himslef down he was happy to continue.

We turned right at the roundabout and onto the bottom of the Alpe where we saw Didi the devil and I had my picture taken with him.

As we had been rolling along flat terrain the boys were asking when the climbing began. I didn't knowund out so have never been there before but we found out soon enough. A right hand turn in the road and the Alpe kicks in straightaway with a circa 11% gradient which was much steeper than the other cols we have climbed which have been around 5% to 6%.

This was hard work on every pedal stroke and whilst Sam headed off on his own I had to coax Ben up the climb as he span away in his granny gear once again and was wandering all over the road. I was promising him a water break at the next hairpin or that we will stop after just one more corner etc.

After a numbe rof breaks and swearing that he couldn't go any further Ben eventually had enough circa half way up and let me go ahead to finish off the climb on my own.

I had been taking it easy whilst staying with Ben and so this was a chance to go at a better pace. I got chatting to some Welsh lads in Team Sky kit and was riding with them until I accelerated to get past some traffic. I turned back and they had gone, blown away by my pace!

I carried on and on and on although I eventually had to stop for breath and to let the lactic acid drain from my legs. I came up to 'Dutch Corner' which has a a great atmosphere with hundreds of orange shirted dutchmen singing, drinking beer and with their carnival style music blaring from the parked up camper vans.

Onwards again and I met Sam descending. He had reached the top (or as far as the Gendarmes let you ride today) and was heading back down to find us. We had a chat and I directed him towards Ben whilst I carried on.

Three km from the top the barriers were up and we weren't allowed to go any further but that was enough for me, I count that as an Alpe conquered.

A fast and long descent and I found the boys who had climbed a bit more and found a nice quiet spot in the shade. It was about 1pm and we settled in for the duration.

The caravanne deposited loads of free gear with us and then we finally saw Contador pass at 5-39pm followed by the rest of the riders spread out over about 30 minutes.

The highlight for me was Jens Voight riding solo past us, 'go on Jens' I shouted and then 'shut up legs' which is one of his quoted comments. He turned round and gave me a great smile all of which was captured on camera.

Finally got home at about 8-45pm but we all agreed we had a great time.

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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015


click to view click to view click to view Steve Neill Big Trev Orange Dave dialled bikes pewter headtube badge Dave and Dave outside LOMAC Dave on Summer Lightning A grinning Trevor Steve (again) Davebus and Neill on Stane Street Jason next to Denbie's vineyard Trevor struggles up the climb Dave followed by Jason on Stane Street Banstead Downs singletrack It was getting dark by the time I got back Richard (that's me!) Surrey Hills logo at the top of Coombe hill Gary dicing with the cars through New Malden Stag party Gary's Giant SCR 2008 model  A cheerful looking Gary part way round Richmond Park speed limits for cyclists! Kingston Gate, Richmond Park view off the side of Headley Heath Bianchi K-Vid carbon forks self-portrait whilst climbing between second and third hairpin on the Zig Zag Road, Box Hill Dave and Mat, the folly, Reigate Hill urban riding, Richard in Ashtead High Street a bit underexposed but a nice shot of the view from the North Downs Way Richard dropping in on Colley Hill No, not the Mediterranean, this is outside LOMAC, Ashtead High Street Richard showing off for the camera Mat and Richard, Stane Street Richard, Headley Heath Mat on Headley Heath Gary with our 'rabbit' in the distance Gary in the dusk Richard Gary chasing the yellow 'rabbit' in the distance Cas Cas Richard 'self-portrait'