Friday, December 31, 2010

Contemplations on 2010

Just before we dash out to splash the bubbly, time for a quick reflection on the year gone by.

Right from the get-go, it was always going to be a year filled with new cycling challenges. Almost by accident, we both signed up for the Mille Cymru 1000k Audax in June, and so set to with a bunch of other suitably long and hilly rides to get in shape. Audaxing really is about the journey not the destination; in many ways the path we took preparing for mc1k (as it became know) now seems just as prominent as the event itself.

Some particular memories that stand out from the year:
  • Cycling to Devon and back at Easter. We did this as our first "DIY" audax (2x 300k rides), and heading back over Salisbury plains on Easter Sunday in the spring time sunshine was a wonderful memory.
    Shortly after we stopped at Longbridge Deverill to "control" and get food, we learnt that our friend and Tandem Club stalwart Nevill Frost had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away on the Friday, whilst out on the TC rally. This was a deeply sad moment, yet we felt somehow comforted that he was out doing what he loved when it happened, and felt sure he'd have been enjoying every moment of that ride had he been there with us.
  • Richmond park Tuesday morning rides. I've never been one for 'training', however early in the year I got in with a small group of colleagues who did 3 laps on a Tuesday morning. Against the long distance rides I normally do, or lazy style commuting, these rides were just enough to develop a little more speed in the legs, and I really got to enjoy them.
  • Spending a week cycling in Alicante in April. I joined a group of triathletes training for some ironman competitions, whilst Emma (who doesn't particularly enjoy cycling in groups), went off on her own. Everyone was rather surprised that she just pedalled off into the remote terrain without a decent map, or any knowledge of Spanish. They were even more surprised the following day to discover she'd only done 5km less than the guided group had, and had found the toughest hills in the area to cycle over!
  • Elan valley. We'd planned early on to do the Elenith audax in April, but it was not to be as I was stranded in California due to some volcano in Iceland. However, we more than made up for this by riding it twice on the Cambrian Series 2D and 3A permanent events. We would have done it a third time, however...
  • Not finishing the Mille Cymru. This is one of those bitter sweet, highest and lowest points of the year. As mentioned, it really was our main goal, and yet it was the one thing we failed to achieve and still stands as the only audax we "DNF"ed. We got through the first day in good time and spirits, employed pure ignorance to get through the dull flat drizzle at the start of day two, and then hit the tough hills of Pembrokeshire and really started to enjoy it! And alas that's when it all fell apart: I developed a never-ending nose bleed (after effects of a nasty cold I believe) and after losing 3 hours as darkness fell, we finally packed.
    We have unfinished business with this Welsh dragon...
  • Marmotte. I had no idea what to expect, but really enjoyed what I found. I dreamed of getting around in under 10 hours, and managed to do that with well over an hour to spare! But perhaps even better than the event itself was the week leading up, spent in Bourg d'Oisans and riding a different Col or two each day; mostly on the tandem.
In addition to this, we managed to rack up a couple bits of silverware (or more accurately, cloth-ware) such as "Randonneur Round the Year", double Super Randonneur, an Altitude award and the annual Tandem points award. Not a bad collection as we didn't specifically set out for any of them!

So roll on 2011, can't wait to see what you bring.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In the beginning...

So what's all this then? The things have a blog now. New year, new blog. This is not just any old ramblings though, this is our journel of tandem-based cycling adventures. And to kick it off, we're off on a jaunt in South America in the New Year: read on to learn more!

According to convention, we should explain what we are doing, and why. That could be difficult though. We have an approximate plan which involves flying to Buenos Aires on Sunday, and flying back from San Paulo at the end of March. From Buenos Aires we hope to get a local transfer down to Rio Gallegos and start cycling from there, on Dobbin (our Thorn Adventure tandem). We plan to wind up via Torres del Paine, El Calafate, and the challenging Villa O'Higgin's crossing back into Chile for the second time. Our first real 'must do ' on our trip is the Carretera Austral, the 1000km (mostly) gravel road to Puerto Montt.

Other things on the to do list are the Chilian lake district, some high passes over the Andes, the northern salt deserts, and the Bolivian Altiplano, and who knows maybe as far as Cuzco. You probably get the idea, it's a fairly free-form plan, which is how we like it.

As to why we are doing this, that's perhaps even tougher. We've both been in continuous fulltime employment for over a decade, and felt an extended break was long overdue. We originally planned to tour across Europe -- starting in the Pyrenees and head due East -- from May. However other ambitions for Summer 2011 meant it was increasingly difficult to find a good time to fit it in. Maybe we'll write more on those plans in a future post!

So, this gave raise to the plan to go away in winter, missing the worse of the British weather (or so we thought!!). And within the southern hemisphere, there was really only one candidate for where we'd like to spend a couple months.

The next couple days will be much like the last; packing bags, preparing the bike, cleaning up the house ready for letting, and of course catching up with friends over New Year's Eve before we head off. Cycling through the Pampas of Patagonia seems both impossibly far away, yet terrifyingly close!