Sunday, 25 July 2010

Size Isn't Everything

Jersey may not be the biggest island among the British Isles, but it does boast an enormous number of beaches, some lovely quiet lanes and some very respectable hills!

I found most of the ones I missed last year when I did a circuit of the island yesterday (Saturday) just six weeks before we start the somewhat more ambitious Paris to Venice bike trip.

Starting above St Brelade's Bay, the coast road dips down to sea level before climbing sharply up to Beauport, for my first hill of the day. From there onto Corbiere is relatively flat, then there are a couple of swoops and gentler climbs before the road descends to near sea level again along the 'five mile' beach of St Ouen's Bay. As you approach the northwest end of the bay you realise the only way is up, and a quite nasty (or excellent if you're in training) hill takes you inland and in the direction of St Ouen's village.

The otherwise excellent signs disappeared around this point and I meandered in a generally northerly direction for a while until I saw a road I recognised, then picked up the signs again.

A beautiful valley road took me down to sea level again, then the C1 sign seemed to point the way up a footpath that could have easily been steps. There's a sign near the bottom instructing cyclists to dismount for the next half mile (which I ignored). Another good test of my legs and lungs!

Following the road just inland from the north coast I noted the TV mast and knew I was near one of my favourite spots (at the bottom of one of the longest climbs on the island), at Bon Nuit.

This is approaching half way, so I went down to the lovely little harbour for tea and cake. Twenty minutes sitting still before a tough climb isn't the best idea, and the hill seemed longer and steeper going up that it had done going down! Once I was able to get my leg speed back up to normal I felt fine again and headed along the north coast, via some quite tasty little hills, towards the northeast corner of the island, from where France looks very close indeed.

The next lovely descent to La Rozel was familiar from last year, and I knew there was a very tough little climb out the other side. It was at the top of the climb last year where we lost sight of the signs and took a detour towards Jersey Zoo... This time I spotted the sign and was very grateful for a fairly flat stretch of road to get my breath back. Then down again to St Catherine's and another, slightly less brutal climb out, although I was going pretty slowly by the time the road levelled off again.

Then I gradually lost height as I approached Gorey, before the cycle route took a nasty little detour, seemingly just to get one more hill in. A few miles later, and I was rewarded with a spectacular view of Gorey Castle that I remembered vividly from a year earlier. Finally, descending here to near sea level, I knew I had several miles of virtually flat going (albeit with a head wind this time), to the southeast tip of the island, then west again towards the island capital, St Helier.

Only two hills to go...

One, the little climb over the headland that protects St Helier harbour, was no great problem, then there was a long (by Jersey standards) ride around St Aubyn's bay to St Aubyn itself. I stopped just before the village to admire the most amazing sand castle I have ever seen (picture posted soon, with luck), which was still under construction. I threw most of my lose change into the castle builder's bucket.

Just the hill out of St Aubyn to go, and I opted for the gentler main road route, rather then the brutal short cut we usually walk up, on the basis that we'll be doing lots of long steady climbs in the Alps (and I wasn't sure I could actually make it up the other way). It was a good ride up the zig-zagging main road and I briefly imagined I was in somewhere even more exotic than Jersey.

Just half a mile from the top of the hill, I was back where I started. The official distance for the 'round the island' route is about 47 miles. I took 3 hours 50 minutes in all, with 35 minutes spent stationary, so total cycling time was around 3 hours 15 minutes.

Not a bad training ride, especially compared with the relatively flat (and too familiar) roads of Suffolk.


PS. Two days after my first circuit of Jersey I repeated the exercise, but in the other direction. To add some more variety, I stopped a few times and lost my way a couple of times, for good measure. The rest stops were to meet up with Jacqui and the remaining four teenagers we'd taken with us on holiday. I beat them to Green Island for the first stop and followed them into the car park at Grouville.

They were well ahead of me at Bon Nuit, though, as I'd taken a couple of unplanned detours and encountered the first few hills. That was half way, more or less, and after giving myself ample time to stiffen up I left around 5.30 to ride the rest of the route.

The climb out of Bon Nuit was every bit as hard as the first time, but I pressed on (climbing a few more hills I hadn't remembered going down in the other direction!), to finish the circuit without stopping again. I was pretty weary by the time I got to 'the five mile', but the last couple of hills weren't so bad and I finished in one piece at about

Jersey is a pretty good training ground. It's a bit stop-start, with its short lanes and many junctions, but it has lovely countryside, loads of sea views and some tasty hills!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Two Weeks on - and Only Seven to Go!

Two weeks after our Dales trip I've finally stolen a few minutes to report on its success!

Now the midge bites have stopped itching and my memories of that horrible couple of hours on Sunday morning have faded, the weekend seems like a great success.

Friday was baking hot - around 30 deg C - when I rode across to meet John just outside Newmarket. That probably took more out of me that I realised at the time, as Sunday morning would reveal.

We did over seventy miles on Saturday, in almost perfect conditions, found all the hills we intended to climb were every bit as steep as expected, and managed to add a few more surprise ones for good measure. One, quite near the end of the day was a real killer, but we all wound our way up it somehow, and reached the hostel sometime around

I borrowed JR's tent and he tested out his bivvy bag. I got the better deal...

We didn't expect quite so many midges in Yorkshire, but they obviously nipped down from Scotland as the headwind died away in the evening, because there were millions of the things that evening and overnight.

Next morning the wind was back to full strength again, rain was on the way and we were headed into both. I struggled, I have to confess. Being fully loaded and battling against that wind on a long climb southwards (actually three climbs before lunch) just about did me in.

Slow progress in the morning meant we decided to cut about ten miles off the planned route.

But it's amazing what some food and drink can do, and the afternoon was fantastic in contrast. There were still some tough climbs, and the final one into Haworth saw me looking very tired as I hit the strong headwind again, but I did it. I know I could have done another twenty miles after another refuel, but we had a long drive home ahead of us.

So we did almost 130 miles in the two days to add to the twenty or so I had done in the sweltering heat on Friday. Not a bad weekend workout!


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