Sunday 28 January 2018

The (Not So) Top Secret Project & A Windy Day Out in The Fens (LGD - 105 Days)
Sunday 28 January 2018, 57 Miles

Click here for Route Flyby

Another extended silence from me I’m afraid. But I haven’t been idle; far from it. Since my last post in November (crikey, I didn’t realise it was that long ago) I’ve pedalled 2,800 miles. I say ‘pedalled’ quite deliberately since I’ve been avoiding the worst of the weather by doing some sessions on the turbo trainer in my garage. These help to keep my legs loose, give my body a workout and also avoid the worst of the winter weather. I’m not a complete fair‑weather cyclist and I do ride in wet, cold or windy conditions but as I’m less inclined to do so than I used to be! To ease the monotony of the turbo I’ve been catching up on some boxsets including the brilliant and very touching last series of Wallander (the Kenneth Branagh version), as well as some Maigret episodes with Michael Gambon as Maigret (excellent) and very different to Rowan Atkinson (also good) but who will always be Mr Bean or Johnny English whenever I see him screen!

Over the last few months I have teased and titillated some of you with cryptic references to the top secret, hush-hush project that I’ve been working on. Well, today I can lift the lid as they say and reveal all. Well maybe not all. In a nutshell I’ve written a book! Passione Celeste (Captain Century’s Bianchi Bicycle Diaries) was officially published today. Wow! This hasn’t been a total secret for the last few weeks as I’ve been knocking out copies to friends and Bianchi cousins across the globe. Yes, I’ve gone global!! The book draws on my blogging over the last few years with some additional details thrown in. I’ve also included a chapter on the history and growth of Bianchi – it was great fun to do the research for this too. As Uncle Andrew (Griffin) who runs Bianchi in the UK says the book “celebrates the DNA that is unique to Bianchi – its Passione Celeste.” It seems to have been quite well received.

A few of you know that I am a proud Trustee of the Green Light Trust (GLT) – I was their CEO for about 18 months a few years ago. I’ll be giving a proportion of the income from the book sales to them. GLT does fantastic work in the East of England by helping people who face profound health, education and wellbeing challenges. Using the natural outdoor environment GLT helps these people to overcome their challenges to enhance and enrich their lives, lifestyles and livelihoods. This complements the work of mainstream health and education services who often lack the resources or expertise to support such people effectively. GLT’s achievements have been widely recognised with several regional and national awards. Through the book and my forthcoming USA tour I’m hoping to raise loads of money for GLT to help them continue with their outstanding work. It would be brilliant of you could make a donation through my Virgin Money Giving Page.

Now that the wraps are off I’m hoping that through my publishers and Emily in their PR department, many more people will get to hear about the book. If you’d like to get hold of a copy then follow the link above. Passione Celeste is also available through the booksellers worldwide and the usual online outlets. There are eBook/Kindle versions available too.

Well I think that’s about enough – for now at least – on Passione Celeste. What about today’s riding?

Earlier in the week Daren (Nairo) Morgan had offered to plan a route for us to ride. The ‘us’ here includes Richard who is best described as a bike nut and a relatively recent, in my terms at least, convert to cycling. I've lost count of how many bikes he owns. One of them is a Bianchi (Pista I think) so he's got taste! Today he quietly mentioned a new titanium frame which he had just acquired so my count is now even more confused. We arrived at Nairo’s house to be met by a rather strained looking Nairo. Enquiries revealed that he had decided to undertake some pre-ride bike adjustments. In a nutshell he thought his front forks were rattling so he had tried to remove the head set, clean and grease the bearings and re-tension the headset. At least that was the plan. Disassembly had been completed, cleaning and greasing had been completed. Reassembly was definitely not going to plan. After much head scratching and a fair bit of trial and error, Nairo eventually managed to put everything back together as was meant to be. Richard’s not inconsiderable bike building knowledge and experience was the missing ingredient to achieve success. So, next time Nairo, check and adjust your bike the day before, not 5 minutes before we intend to set off! And buy yourself a copy of ‘Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance’ if you're going to bypass Uncle Mick Madgett in future!

So about half an hour after our intended departure we finally got underway. Today’s plan was to head westward into the Fens on a 50ish-mile circuit taking in Littleport, Ely, Soham and Mildenhall along the way. The big challenge today was the Fenland Mountains which were averaging 20mph from the south west with gusts considerably above that. As regular followers of this blog will know, I consider strong headwinds to be East Anglia’s answer to categorised climbs. Today we were probably in the Category 3-4 domain. For the first 10-15 miles it was a case of grinding it out with a strong head/side wind. As I rode along I could feel my legs straining. With heavy rain last night, the road surfaces were quite wet but the strong winds gradually dried them out as the road progressed.

Looking at the route last night I got quite excited because I had noticed that we would be passing through Dunkirk. As this was the Fens I wasn’t expecting much in the way of road signs – ‘Dunkirk welcomes Careful Riders’ or ‘Dunkirk, twinned with Dunkerque’. I was hoping for a suitably signed house or a lane. No such luck. Our Dunkirk which sits on 0 (Zero) Furlong Drove is a tiny hamlet with a handful of houses and a farm. But according to the Ordnance Survey we passed through Dunkirk – and they’re never wrong, are they?! Like its French namesake, most of Dunkirk lies at sea level.

From Dunkirk we gradually turned south and east picking up more of a tailwind. Unfortunately my legs were cooked so it was still a struggle to pick up the speed. I had my solid (puncture proof) Tannus tyres on today and they always slow me down. But the chance to avoid punctures on messy winter roads is worth the sacrifice of speed. I’m not sure if Nairo and Richard would agree.

Richard gets his hands on Passione Celeste
The rest of the ride was largely unremarkable. The only point of note occurred just outside Mildenhall. Whilst waiting to turn right onto a main road a police 4x4 slowed up opposite us. The driver wound the window down and gave us a long hard stare. What had we done wrong? Northing surely.  The he spoke: "Aah, Bianchi. Fine bikes." As I wound up his window to drive off. I shouted: “I’ve just written a book.” I don’t think he heard me. Passione Celeste!