Well the last few weeks have certainly been busy on all fronts. Despite the best efforts of our winter weather I’ve managed to get a few rides in alongside the usual, well usual for this time of the year, time spent spinning the turbo trainer in my garage!
The riding highlights have included an excellent 70-miler into north Norfolk (click here for route flyby) with Nairo and Richard. Richard planned the route which started just south of King’s Lynn and took us north east past Sandringham to Burnham Market. As we passed through West Newton there were large crowds, some police and quite a few paparazzi lining the roadside. Everybody had their backs to the road though so clearly we weren’t the source of the entertainment. (I think HMQ was in residence at Sandringham that weekend.)
Burnham Market was a busy as ever and we turned south east to ride past Holkham Hall. The estate is surrounded on all sides by an extremely long brick and flint wall which I reckon is around 10 miles long. And it’s in tip top condition – so good that I just had to take a photo of it. Eventually leaving the wall behind us we turned south west to start the homeward leg. It had been pretty cold thus far and we had been riding fairly hard into a headwind so we felt we had earned a treat. Norton’s Café in Little Walsingham ticked all the boxes and I had a slice, well more like a lump of Nelson’s slice (think of truckers’ bread and butter pudding tinged with rum). Whilst the slice may have been okay for Horatio on the high seas I realised to late that I was probably going to put me into marginal losses territory on the rest of the ride.
The ride back was very enjoyable as we passed through the gently undulating countryside of west Norfolk. The only incident of note was that Nairo had a minor mechanical when one of his chain links appeared to freeze and he had to ride with a restricted gear. Ironically, just as we reached the end of the ride a thaw set in and the chain seemed to free up.
I’ve since managed to rack up another couple of hundred miles along the way on my local roads. I’ve enjoyed some very sunny, if bracing conditions, that are typical of late winter in East Anglia. The clear skies and crisp air mean that the riding is really enjoyable – provided I’m wearing the right kit. There’s a subtle balance between keeping warm and flexible or overheating and resembling the Michelin Man. The most recent addition to my riding wardrobe has been a pair of Fi’zi:k winter boots which tick all the necessary boxes: comfort, support, warmth, breathability and waterproofing.
When I’ve been out of the saddle I’ve been doing the rounds to promote Passione Celeste. It’s selling well and has been well-received. It’s even been bought by people in Australia, Canada, Mexico and the USA judging by some of the feedback I’ve received. Yesterday I popped over to BBC Radio Suffolk in Ipswich with the XR1 so we could have a chat to Lesley Dolphin on her afternoon programme. Lesley has kindly sent me an MP3 recording of our conversation (click here to listen).
Looking further ahead, my USA tour is rapidly approaching and I am increasingly busy making the necessary final preparations. I’m now receiving a steady flow of pre-tour information from the organisers. So far this has covered subjects as diverse as choice of saddle, training, a live cam view of our departure point (at Manhattan Beach - click here). One item that caught my eye was a recommendation to get some arm coolers! Arm coolers? Hmmm. They’re white to reflect the reflect heat when crossing the desert. I haven’t yet been able to track any down here in Blighty and I’m guessing that my fleecy black arm warmers will not be a suitable substitute.
I’ve also joined the Bianchi Owners Club USA. Membership is usually only open to people living in the US but they’ve made an exception in my case. So my extended family of cousins has suddenly grown significantly. Looking at their Facebook postings I can see many similarities with the UK group so we must share the same celeste DNA. I’m hoping that these new cousins will be able to help me with any queries I have in the run up to Le Grand Depart. And I am hoping that I can meet, and maybe even ride with a few of the cousins when I’m over there. That would be a real blast! I'v created a new page (see above)with some background about the tour.
With all this book promo stuff, the USA tour preparations and so on I’m starting to feel that my riding time is being compressed so I’ll have to fight that – hard. Oh look – the sun’s shining. Guess what I’m going to do now?