As now seems customary (sorry it’s a little late), every year I write an end of year review here on the club page. You can read last year’s here.
I think it’s good to look back and look at the positives of our year. As a goal oriented person, I also like to see what I did and what I didn’t do versus my targets. Looking back also allows us to look forward. What do we want to do this year? What did you miss that really rankles you this year?
For me – The elusive century ride is still out of my grasp. And, while I completed 2,500 miles on the bike, I missed my increased personal target of 4,000 miles by some way. I have some fairly large mitigating circumstances though, Sir. Honest.
A Brave New World
Those mitigating circumstances almost all related to the newest addition to mine and Mrs Allez P’s family; Our wonderful baby boy, Oskar. As I wrote last year’s blog, little did I know that our world was already changing right under our noses. And what a change! How is it possible to love something so much? I’ll stop here before the blog turns into a blubfest but suffice it to say, he’s a massively positive, smiley and energetic addition to our lives. I’m pleased to say that at only a few months old, his baby thunder thighs already show considerable strength. Dreams for a podium (top three is fine, don’t want to pile on too much pressure) finish at the Tour de France are already underway.
However, his journey into this world was not a straight forward one, especially for his Mum throughout the pregnancy. Numerous hospital visits meant a lot of stress, worry and of course: missed rides.
Add on the first month of being a new parent, which meant pretty much zero riding, and I don’t feel so bad about ‘only’ doing 2, 500 miles.
A Step Up
2016 really felt like the year the club stepped up. In almost every single aspect. We had more people than ever regularly attending rides, more people wearing our kit and we were doing bigger, harder and more exciting rides (specifically the big rides). The regular rider attendance also meant a step up in the average ‘quality’ of us as a group: we could go higher and further for longer and we did it quicker. With all that in mind, I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve kept the same ethos. We still welcome new starters with open arms and open minds. Supporting each other. To steal Wale’s Euro 2016 motto: Together, Stronger. We’ve also started to find the natural limits of what is enjoyable in terms of the bigger rides. The rides will be tough but it’s important we don’t always chase tougher and tougher rides and that we continue to be challenged but ultimately: enjoy what we do. I’d like to think we’ve found our natural equilibrium.
Our members also stepped up. More people than ever suggesting rides, planning rides and leading rides. It’s incredibly satisfying to see a club so entwined with the community, living by those same values and contributing to our own mini cycling community. This has been taken a step further by people now planning rides together on non-Allez P weekends. This has been helped a lot by ‘The Core’.
Throughout the club’s brief history, we’ve always had regular riders. Some have stayed with us and some have gone. A beauty of the club is the fact someone may not ride with us all year, pop back up at the gates one Saturday or Sunday and they’ll be welcomed back like they were never gone. Some regulars are there for a few months and then they go and that’s fine. It’s all part of the ebb and flow of club life (and just life). Some people, don’t want to and can’t make most weeks and that’s cool too – whenever you can make it, we’ll be here.
However, every club needs its core. Otherwise, it’s just me riding on my own every week. I think this year, that’s become even further established. I won’t name individual names but there are people who you know will be there, pretty much every ride (we all miss some weeks, as we have lives outside of cycling) and have been for the majority of the year. I refer to them as ‘The Core’.
This creates a stronger bond and builds greater camaraderie within the club. Clubmates become friends. We share moments not just miles and it’s yet another thing that makes me incredibly thankful to run this club.
The greatest thing about ‘The Core’ is that it’s a permeable one. It’s not a clique; they can be dangerous in any club/group. I’ve always been keen to not have cliques wherever possible and the bunch of people we have ‘make it so’. We’re a warm, friendly, fun and conscientious bunch with a lot of similarities but with a variety that makes meeting new people so refreshing. We’re bound by our shared love of covering hilly miles on a bicycle and not taking the whole pursuit too seriously. So as well as having a mission to go to the gym and strengthen your own core, why not come on some rides and strengthen ours.
We’ve had some wonderful moments over the year. I sat here trying to reflect on what some of them have been. In every mental picture I see myself toiling up a hill. As I close my eyes and try again, I find myself in the same predicament. Wait! It’s the same bloody hill. Mytholm ‘f*c%1n’ Steeps.
On our last big ride of the year and my first since the summer (see ‘A Brave New World’ for my absence), we had the pleasure of doing this beauty and it’s pretty much my abiding memory of being on a bike this year. Bearing in mind we’d already scaled Blackstone Edge, I saw it fit to declare that Heptonstall Road with all it’s steep, cobbled glory was one of the toughest hills I’d ever done. Ed and Brendan finished sipping at their water bottles, glanced at one and other, and said “have you not seen the next one?”. No, even though I’d planned the ride, no I hadn’t seen or done the actual hill. When Ed and Brendan are spooked, it’s only right to be concerned.
So, rehydrated, with legs (barely) rested, we sat out on a wonderful descent back down to the main road, the A646. The profile page on my Garmin GPS device, slowly began to unveil the horror which lay before us as we turned off of it. “Looks worse on the screen though, Craig”. “Won’t be that bad, Craig”. My hardest hill had been gazumped a mere 5 mins after I’d spluttered out how tough Heptonstall Road was. Pretty much constant double digit and even 20% gradients make this like a long version of The Rake. And anyone who has done The Rake, will take small comfort in the fact of its relative brevity. Well, stretch it out and make it a little more winding and you have Mytholm Steeps. People were at a standstill, getting off the bikes, front wheels coming of road and the roar of revving car engines struggling under the toil. A true horror but one I can’t wait to tackle again. The glory of the hills and the memories they give, eh?
There are many more wonderful moments we’ve had over the year and I’d be here all day if I recalled them all, so why not share some of yours in the comments section below? What blew you away? What was so tough that made you wonder what the hell you were doing? Get involved in the comments below.
So this is the new year?
2017 has the potential to be a whole bunch of fun for the club. We’ve got some great plans and we hope to see all our regulars plus many more people saddling up and spinning the legs with us this year.
The formats will be the same but we may try a few other things, so keep your eyes peeled on the website and our facebook page. We are looking at the possibility of some midweek rides in summer and also doing the odd ‘taster’ ride for people who may want something a little shorter in distance to see if they’d like to come down for future rides.
We’re hopeful that groups of us can do the same sportives and we’ll update our sportives/events page to that effect.
I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year and I hope that the bike treats you well.