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Bristol Bike Fest 2018

LVIS had a great day of sun, mtbing and dusty trails with cider to wash it all down.

Competing in the Steve Worland ride singletrack hard & drink a swig of cider per lap memorial cup 2018 at the Bristol Bike Fest, the LVIS team of Leon, Nathan and Mark took a decisive lead on the start (Nathan downing a pint of cider in record time) which they never relinquished. The second team of Andy, Tom and Dylan took a rather more steady approach but happily continued an LVIS tradition of racing the event on unsuitable bikes (rigid singlespeed, enduro, plus and CX). Ian also raced in another team showing off the Riders on the Storm kit, while setting the 6th fastest lap of the event. Tom took the ‘fastest lap by a rider with knee pads’ trophy.

Amstel Gold (and pink)

Eurosport April 2014

Carlton Kirby; “This race is an exercise in simply whittling down every ounce of energy from the riders, as they tackle berg after berg.  It might not be cobbled, but it is a nasty, spiteful little race”


At the same time, in locations across the South West, three heads were turned – and the idea was planted.

It may have taken 4 years to evolve from an idea to reality, but it was 4am on an April morning and we (the LVIS self-styled Equipe Des Pavees) were heading east again.  After 3 years of cobbled racing it was time for us to take in some of the super smooth asphalt of the Nederlands and have a crack at the Amstel Gold Race. The weather forecast looked super-fine, and a 400m/650km cross-continental dash lay ahead. In a change to previous years, the winter bikes were left behind and the roof of Barry’s Team Car was festooned with a feast of our finest carbon fibre.

The LVIS Gent Chapter were also heading east, and together with Filipe, Fieke and Johan we were to be joined by Frank and Jan.

We arrived in Maastricht mid afternoon on the Friday, met our new friends and decided to head out for a recce.  We were going to take a look at the Cauberg – the defining last climb, and one which had created legends of the sport. After 10km, we ducked under the Finish Line gantry, past the Valkenburg sign and then straight under the iconic concrete bridge half way down the decent.  We turned at the bottom, and headed straight back up.  At 13% it had plenty to offer, and years in the saddle immediately set the senses on overtime.  “Remember every detail.  The Cemetery on the left; the funny looking church on the right; THAT bridge; and then aim for the skyline”.  It felt OK, but it wasn’t going to feel like that in 24 hours time and any points of recognition were going to help.

We immediately retired to a beer terrace and discussed tactics for the following day.  After making friends with La Chouffe (stable mate of Duvel), we decided to downgrade our 240km entry to 200km. The last 40km had an additional 1100m of climbing and that looked completely unnecessary through the bottom of a beer glass.

Next thing we knew it was 06.00 and we were up to get some breakfast down our necks before sign on.

Casual observations from the start:

Black and Pink is “IN”; there are a lot of riders in Holland; they know how to organise a lot of people; you can never have too many waffles before a ride.

We were greeted at the start by thousands of other riders. It was about 07.30 and some of the 240km riders had already left, leaving the 200km bunch to drift over the line and start the days efforts.  It was a balmy 8 degrees and leg and arms warmers were the order of the day. Immediately there was an issue.  Filipe had lost a brake block somewhere on the way to the start and he headed for the Shimano tent, promising to catch the rest of us up.  Fieke, Frank and Jan headed off to pour their heart and soul into the 150km, and the ride was on.  We settled into a decent sized group, and started to roll through the beautiful Dutch countryside.  The sun was starting to creep over the rolling hills, and we were riding on tarmac that had been laid with a layer of velvet on top.  The Nederlands truly was a cycling nirvana.

There were to be 14 bergs during the parcours.  Some were steady 5%ers for 800m, but others looked a fair bit more nasty.  At 2000m climbing in total, we knew we were in for plenty – and the tough ones were distinctly “back loaded” to ensure we had many Km’s in the legs for the full effect. So when we hit the first – the Guelhemmerberg – we knew it was the first taste of what was to come.  In fact, we were due back over it at 98km as our route looped back through this village so we paid particular attention  Next was the unexpected Bemelerberg – not categorised on our list(!) but nevermind because we were met with the sound of traditional Dutch music booming down the hillside. It is difficult to describe, but think umpah band meets three aging Dutch rappers.  We all smiled our way up that one. After another 30km we were due to hit the only cobbled climb of the day – the Maasberg.  Truly picturesque, it is a 10% climb hemmed in by houses on either side, and beautiful trees in blossom at the summit.  Only we weren’t there…

We were pulling into a feedstation with thousands of other riders, and filling ourselves with more waffles.  The temperature was rising, so we were shedding layers, and filling up water bottles. As we discussed the curious problem with the top tube sticker guide, we were met by the LVIS 150km group. The realisation dawned that we had taken a wrong turn, and we were approx. 95km ahead of where we were supposed to be.  Meanwhile, Filipe was turning himself inside out to try an catch us.  Word came through that he thought we must have done some training this year as he couldnt seem to catch us!

We had little choice but to keep riding, we were about 55km into the ride, and a long way from the finish – but we had no idea where we were or any idea how to change our predicament. So we just followed everyone else.

Like all good rides, with silence came time to think, and with time to think came a solution.  We worked out that not all of the different distances were riding the same course and that if we followed the original 200km route, we would be home in about 30km, leading to an all time shortest LVIS Cobbled Classics spring excursion.  And a bloody long drive to gently pootle round 80km! So we joined the 150km route (which was only 50km in) and would give us enough to dig our teeth into. With new resolve we headed further east.  A regular pattern emerged – Dave got to the top of the climbs first, followed by Johnny, Rus and Johan.  The climbs got longer –  the Loorberg at 1.8km of 8%; the Camerig at 2km of 7% (alpine bends and nice views), and then the climb to Drielandpunt. As we crested the climb, we rode through Holland, Belgium and Germany all in the space of a few hundred meters.

From here the climbs all started to get steeper.  The countryside was never flat, and we were either battling a steady 4-5% up, or rolling through groups of club cyclists. It was indeed wearing us down, with each little rise requiring a dig into the reserves, and each downhill just not quite long enough to get ourselves straight again.  The marshalls deserve a big shout somewhere in this write up as they were awesome.  We never needed to stop – the route was completely traffic free, but where it crossed main roads we had free reign to pile on through. They Made Barry Proud!

And then we were at the bottom of the Eysbosweg. A narrow-ish country lane that peaked at 17.5% in the full glare of the very warm afternoon sunshine.  It wasn’t dissimilar to a regular ride around say north Cornwall, but with the overexcitement of spanking around with about 50,000 other people the energy levels felt less than optimal at the bottom! Soon they were coming in quick succession and its all a bit of a blur with the Fromberg biting hard at 16%. A can of Amstel thrust into Rus’s hand helped deaden the pain! According to the route sticker we had a chance of a bit of breather now, but as we rolled the Keutenberg came into view.  Its not exaggeration to say that it resembled a tube station escalator.  It just shot up out of nowhere.

One minute we are on the flat, the next we are smashing our way down the cassette and trying to negotiate the 20%+ hairpin onto a solid concrete appointment with hell.  Just as the realisation kicked in that this was going to need some kind of serious effort to conquer, Didi the Devil appeared jumping up and down in his usual mad-cap style. Half a wave, and half a smile in his general direction and he shouted those immortal words – “GO VEGAS!” Johnny figured he was once a friend of Barry’s.

And with that lasting thought we rolled (again) for a couple of kms to the bottom of the Cauberg.  In a stark contrast to the previous day, thousands of fans greeted us in the cauldron of bars and restaurants.  The noise was immense, and helped us all dig in for last one time. The support continued all the way up the Cauberg, and those landmarks that we had noted the day before were a blur as we whisked along in a sea of fellow riders all striving towards the finish.

Up over the top and then into a parallel world.  We all secretly think that we could cut it in the final few kms of a pro-race, and that we would never be the one rolling off the front to be passed by everyone else – but this became reality.  The road straightened, and the finish gantry was in the distance. The count down boards were in place, and the speed went stratospheric.  Suddenly everyone wanted to do 60kmh, and we were in the middle of a gallop to the line. Flipping brilliant!

The organisation of this massive day in Holland’s calendar is sublime (52,000 riders out there) and very soon we had parked the bikes and were supping Amstel by the bucket load.

In a final roll of the dice for the day, we had the 10km back to Maastricht to conquer.  This involved rolling down a 2km hill, which seemed a nice gentle way to let tired legs transport us home. However, in Holland you are allowed to ride a moped in a cycle path… Well I say moped, what I mean is the LVIS lead out vehicle. The Amstel took the edge of the aches and pains and soon we were riding in full pursuit (Don’t Try This At Home Kids). As the decent flattened out, we waved the moped off and headed for our new regular bar. As we turned off our various Garmin/Wahoo thingys Johnny had news.  He was third equal (all time) on the downhill moped sector with Bram Tankink! (A big hello to another New friend of LVIS).

A big shout should go to Filipe who finished the 200km course on his own.  Chapeau friend, chapeau!

And then it was race day.

The team busses were parked about 100m from our hotel so we nursed our hangovers in their general direction.  Both the Women’s and Men’s teams were being presented and it was brilliant to see the strength of support for both. Then the moment came in the weekend when we asked ourselves What Would Barry Do? And with that, some of the LVIS magic started to flow. We ducked under the cordon at Aqua Blue and spent a few minutes poking at the 3T bikes and discussing gear ratios with the mechanics; Johnny spent at least 5 minutes discussing tactics and the route with Sir Dave Brailsford (another New Friend of LVIS); we met Matt Stephens and had a chat about GCN before he headed off to the finish (you guessed it – another New Friend of LVIS); and Johnny help a certain Mr Sagan on his way to the podium to be introduced.

Then, like groundhog day we headed off to the Cauberg again.  Only this time we were there to witness two passes of the women’s race, followed by the same from the men’s race.  We situated ourselves initially half down the Cauberg as we needed some LVIS action on the TV.  There is now no doubt in our minds that Chantaal Black would not have won without passing directly under the LVIS flag!  She noticeably increased in speed, and smashed the peloton to bits. A really solid win.

Keen for some more TV action we spent about an hour drinking Amstel and eating chips with mayo/samurai sauce, in order to prepare us to fly the flag again. Using Video Referee technology on our return we are able to report that we out-flagged the Pater Sagan fan club – still making Barry proud!

We then relocated to the top by the Shimano DJ point which was a deeply Dutch experience.  More beer than you can shake a stick at, with a soundtrack that will stay with me to the grave. Think of a tune… No matter how slow or fast, happy or melancholy, loving or loveless and then just whack it together with a happy hardcore soundtrack.  Oh Holland – I like a lot about you, but that was too much!

We then watched the pros battle it out, and Astana played an old fashioned one-two to deliver a solid win by Michael Valgren. Some will say it felt slightly flat as all the favourites sat up to mark each other, but it was a good honest win.  So we headed home again before we knew it, it was our last evening.  We retreated and then treated ourselves to a fine dinner and backed our bags.  We said goodbye to the LVIS Gent Chapter, who once again had done us and themselves proud and headed for bed.  The mad dash home awaited us, and we needed some kip.

Until the next time

I would ride 300k and I would ride 300 more

Bryan Chapman Memorial 2017

Rus and Johnny find their 600km stares

So its 5.15am and we’re standing in another car park, eating another porridge-in-a-pot, outside another Community Centre.  It must be Audax season.  So far this year we had ridden two DIY 200km rides, The Gospel Pass over distanced to 200km; The Dean 300km, and London Wales London 400km in preparation – so we were about as ready as we were ever going to be for the Bryan Chapman Memorial 600km.

Bikes were fully loaded, brevet cards collected, and last minute faffing executed as we stood there and waited for the Grand Depart. Many feet were clipped in, and someone somewhere honked the horn of a car – and that was it.  A typically underwhelming start to an over whelming distance. What lay ahead was a trip to Anglesea and back inside 40hrs.

We started towards the first control at Talgarth up the climb to Llangwm, and the peloton formed up.  Riders of all shapes and sizes, on bikes of all shapes and sizes made their way up the climb.  We started to meet our fellow riders, and introduce ourselves.  With the chat in full flow, the riders started to form small groups through Usk, and on to Abergavenny. Small groups became bigger groups, and finally it was one big monster of a peleton – at least 100 riders.  We had a screaming tailwind, and were travelling up around 35km/h the whole time – not quite the steady start we had planned…

We hit the Honey Cafe in under 3 hours and we were rocking. Until Rus felt for his pocket… His Brevet card was still in Chepstow. Idiot.  A quick call to Ritchie the organiser and we were reassured that another one was waiting for him at the 200km stop.

The peleton split up after the cafe stop which was probably a good thing – we were an enormous mass making its way along narrowish roads.  Our first three hours had been very much “buy-one-get-one-free” riding, but it was time for the real riding to start at a new measured and sustainable pace. So, it was with Richard of Audax Club Bristol that we set off towards Builth Wells.  The roads rolled kindly and the wind was still helping us, and before we knew it we were at lunch in Llanidloes. 145km down and we had had a very steady and enjoyable first 6 hours.  This was too speedy.. maybe too easy?

After the first appearance of the audax staple baked beans, we headed north into proper Wales.  The hills turned into mountains, and the signs started reporting such beauties as 14% descents followed by 16% climbs, the lakes appeared in between and the signs turned into that kind of familiar random combinations of letters.  Our dream morning was then jolted back into reality as we came across a rider who had gone straight on at a bend at the base of a descent.  Cars had stopped and people were helping.  There was little we could do, so we pushed on having taken note to take added care.




The next climb was to the highest point of the whole ride after Dylife, and one where it was worth a stop to breathe in the sheer wild beauty of the landscape.  We briefly met a couple from Austria on a cycle touring trip.  We weren’t quite sure if they knew what they had taken on… it can’t have looked quite the steep on Google Maps from Austria?

Five minutes later we were on our way down a beautiful drop and the wind had revved up again, only this time it was at right angles to us. As we shimmied in and out of the esses, jumped on and off the brakes and soaked up the awesomeness we came across a rider in the road surrounded by his mates.  This was a bad one.  The rider had been side swiped by the wind and gone down hard.  Dr. Johnny stepped forward and instantly diagnosed a broken collarbone, and an ambulance was called.  We stuck around whilst the fallen rider got painkillers, wrapped in a space blanket, and had his belongings scraped up.  Soon it was the time where we could add little more, so off we went.  With another 15 minutes of descending out of the way we needed to collect our thoughts. Help came in the form of the full fat Coke and Purdeys(??) on a bench in Machynlleth.  We regrouped and headed north again.

From here we picked up the A470 which was surprisingly quiet, it allowed us to use the great road surfaces and steady gradients to cover many miles without too much trouble.  The sun came out and we were happily heading towards Kings Youth Hostel at 200km and our second major milestone in our route north. So far we had eaten well, but a misjudgement from Rus saw him turn up to Kings a shaking wreck having run out of sugar some 10mins before.  Baked beans and time to head into more Big Country.

Before Snowdonia arrived we were treated to a trip to the coast.  We headed west to Barmouth were the route shared one of its true gems – the causeway and railway bridge across the estuary.  The weather was simply beautiful, the sun glinted off the waves and the low tide revealed the golden sands. The route took us from Barmouth to Harlech along the coast and on to Porthmaddog with the wind pushing us all the way.  The further we travelled, and the more the wind helped us, the closer we got to the realisation that sometime soon we were going to have to turn south and ride straight into the eye of the storm – just not yet…

Yet again Co-op delivered full fat coke and Purdeys (its Restorative dont you know?) and we entered Snowdonia.  Some 5km in and we were passed by the first rider heading south.  We had both prepared ourselves for this inevitable moment, but should it have come so soon?  By our reckoning we were 250km in, and he was 350km in – surely that’s not right? 100km ahead of us? Jeez.  Chapeau and Godspeed.

Ahead of us lay the 1hr+ climb to Pen-Y-Pass, so we settled in for the ride.  We overtook a couple of fellow riders as dusk descended and tried to find that pace that was going to suit us for a while.  Up past a lake, up past some beautiful houses, up past a lovely looking restaurant, up past a wedding reception in full flight – up past all sorts of things – but most definitely up.  Then we settled on an unusual conclusion – we had done 278km and we had 100km to go until we could sleep.  Alternatively, we could have set out from where we were and ridden to Aztec West, trotted quickly round the Jack & Grace Memorial Audax and then home to our own beds!

We then enjoyed the sheer beauty of the climb to Pen-Y-Pass.  It dog-legged back and forth, snaking its way around the mountains.  Riders below us, riders above and all sharing in the common goal.  An info control at the top brought us all together for collective appreciation of that we had just ridden up some of the best the UK had to give.

Whilst we rested at Pen-Y-Pass the heavens opened.  We had been so lucky until now.  The wind had been mostly very kind, and the sun had kept us warm and in good spirits, but this was biblical.  And so to the descent in this hideous weather.  It took all the concentration and handling skills we had to get us safely back down that mountain and again we needed to regroup. Esso to the rescue – more Coke and Purdeys!  Only 20km to go to the Menai Bridge and the halfway point.

Heading over the bridge and Rus reflected that riding over this landmark at this point had been his focus for months – was it nearly worth all those hours on the turbo?  A question for another day.

And so we made the Scout Hut at Menai at 300km in 17 hours. We were generally feeling OK.  The rain had set in just as was predicted, and so the forecast was likely to be correct – it was due to stay with us until at least 3am. More baked beans and 20 minutes kip was the best we could manage.  It almost felt like to opportunity to sleep had come too soon, but the alternative was to go without and we didn’t like the sound of that.

Leaving the warmth of that Scout Hut (and it was beautifully warm!) asked some deep psychological questions of us.  We were halfway through this grand journey, and three quarters of the way to a proper sleep stop, but the mountains faced us again.  The drag through the A roads along the northern Welsh coast only confirmed that this was the kind of rain that the kit manufacturers spend hours and hours trying to invent clothing to protect us from.  We were dragging our way up some gentle slopes when a sharp left hander presented us with the real work at hand, and the serious ascents started.

And so with as much grit as we could manage we embarked on the next two hours of rain sodden climbing through vast open countryside in the dark. There are very few lights in this area of the country, so anything on the horizon acted as some re-assurance that we weren’t just on our own.  More often than not the lights turned out to be part of the collection of the UK’s best-lit rural roundabouts – with not a soul anywhere near them.

As we passed through a couple of villages the bus shelters started to look more appealing, but more and more often they were already being inhabited by our fellow randoneurs. The architects of the nation’s bus networks could never envisaged that they had created the finest network of Audax Hotels since Mr Premier and Mr Travel decided to expand their empires. We then encountered a group of “youths” on their way back from the pub:

Youth: “Might be a silly question, but what are you doing riding round here in the dark?”

Rus: “We are riding back to Chepstow”

Youth: “There’s trains for that you know?”

Yes. Quite. Some will never really get it.

Finally the rain stopped, and the moon started to break through.  It was about 2.30am and we were climbing our way to the power station at the mountain bike mecca of Coed-y-Brenin.  The gentle hum of the power station, and its eery slab faced generator buildings looked other-worldly in the jet black backdrop – but curiously reassuring was the thought that there were other people up there also just going about their work. It was at this point we realised that the need for sleep was starting to get the better of us.  We needed to be on top of our game on the 10-15minute descents, and the heavy eyelids were repeatedly reminding us that the time had come to find our own bit of bus network. And so we found ourselves grubbing around in a concrete built bus shelter, with no windows and no seats.  The floor was wet – but it didn’t matter.  We slept (well kind of) for 10 minutes which proved to be just enough to get us back on our feet.


At this point Garmin left the building. Rus’s Garmin gave up for what turned out to be the rest of the ride.  Simply too much data on board, and it hung out the white flag.

We were unlikely to get away without any mechanical incident, and at 2.45am the puncture gremlins struck.  We were having a breather in Porthmaddog (part II) when Johnny realised his rear had gone.  Like all tasks one has completed a thousand times it was just a case of switching on the autopilot, and going through the motions.  Only autopilot doesn’t work on 10 minutes sleep, and so we carefully and methodically had two goes at getting the pressure back up.

At 4.30am when the skies were just starting to get lighter, we made Kings Youth Hostel for the second time at 378km. A short wait and then the sheer wonder of stepping into a warm bed for a 90 minute sleep.

The organisers had taken a drop bag for us, so we climbed into the pink and black for a full LVIS day vowing we would make Barry proud! Rocking the new kit renewed our vigour – which was needed as we embarked on the first climb of the day – 45 minutes out of Dollgellau to Bwlch.  But what a treat when we got to the pass.  The vast landscape glistened in the early morning aftermath of the overnight rain, the sun shone brightly and the meadows of bluebells completed the kind of view that stays with you to the grave.  Sheer delight.

We dropped hard from this pass with ever increasing speeds until in the distance, like a mirage, the shutters of a bacon butty van were flamboyantly thrown open.  We slammed on the anchors and introduced ourselves to the couple who were setting up for the day. “We passed you on the pass” said the lady in a heavy North Wales accent.  Just about anyone could have passed us on the pass… Slow and steady was all we had!

In double quick time we were handed 2 coffees, and bacon and egg rolls.  Simply heaven-sent!

It was 9am and we had 200km to go.  It was time to just lock in for the morning and aim for the next control at Haberfesp.  On paper this seemed like a simple enough task.  We had Snowdonia behind us, and the A-roads and lanes ahead of us all looked relatively flat.  However, a combination of things started to work against us.  That wind that had assisted our progress all of the previous day was now our biggest enemy; the profile had looked flat but this was against the backdrop of the mountains and it was anything but; the roads had gone from silky smooth to that hard unforgiving crappy surface that we are only too used to here in England; and psychologically what lay ahead of us was the equivalent of being on the start line of the Making Hay 200km.

It was the start of the Un-Golden Hour.  Johnny put in a sterling effort over the rolling lumps and bumps of Powys.  Each one sapping a tiny bit more energy from the reserves, and each one accompanied by the clatter of the two chains working their way up and down their respective cassettes.  Almost balletic, but bloody hard.

Haberfesp came and went as we sat in a gymnasium eating more baked beans, and a brief refill/refuel and we headed to Newtown.  The climb from Newtown was hideous. It was a wide road, on a steady 5-6%, which in itself was OK.  But today was probably like every Sunday round these parts when the sun is shining – like a warm up for the Isle of Man TT!  Hundreds and hundreds of motorbikes passed us.  Some close, some wide, some quiet and some ear shatteringly loud, but they just kept coming and coming.  After about 40mins we finally reached the top and we thought we would take the full benefit of the down hill.  Only this time the wind had conspired to mean that we had to pedal almost every kilometre down as well.

We made Llandridnodd Wells (472km) around 2.30/3.00pm and set about the most wonderful pea and mint soup.  The café wasn’t normally open on Sundays, and there were wry smiles when a “normal” couple wandered in and took a seat surrounded by smelly lycra-clad types.  What must they have made of it?

South again to Builth Wells amongst the motorbikes, but with the joy of turning east out of the headwind finally.  We welcomed the familiar sight of the showground – it was a real boost.  We had route options here.  We could stay east of the Wye (the suggested route) or re track down the west of the river.  We stayed west and this worked really well for us.  Tucked up under the hills to our right we were largely sheltered from the breeze and we had a trouble free roll through to Talgarth at 520km.  A spiteful little climb saw us back at the Honey Café some 30 hours after we last left it.  More cake; more coke; more resolve to allow us to tackle the climb up the Dragons Back.

We were on familiar ground now.  Years of riding up to Hay-on-Wye meant that the roads were familiar, and the landmarks kept coming.  We could measure our efforts against progress with relative ease and for the first time each pedal revolution really felt like another one closer to home. What was a surprise to us both was that the roads to Crickhowell and Abergavenny were almost exclusively downhill – a point that we hadn’t noticed on the way out whilst being pulled along by the peleton.

We now had about 570km under our belts and were eyeing up the final 30km.  A route we knew well, a climb at Llangwm we know only too well and then the gremlins arrived again.  In truth Johnny had been nursing a soft rear for close to 200km – unbeknown to both of us.  But when it went again, it all kicked off.  Off went the helmet – launched into the verge.  Off came the glasses – launched in the other direction.  And for the holy trinity, off came the cap for a unceremonious fling into the grass. It was time for a gel. We got everything back on an even keel – got about 70psi back in the tyre and resolved to buy new ones on return to Bristol.

Bad thoughts were creeping in now.  30km to go and 3 hours to do it in. Under normal conditions this could be completed in half of that time, but these were not normal conditions – and the last 30km of The Dean had taken us 3 hours back in March.  Panic is too big a word, but there was a hardened atmosphere, and a new level of speed as the task was brought sharply into focus.  Where the previous 2 days had been about output management, this was now about a given distance, over a route we both knew, in a given time.  Do-able? We were determined that it was.

Many times over the previous months we had talked about riding “at 600 pace” which was something of an anathema.  It was a bit like the teddy bear’s breakfast (not too fast, not too slow, etc).  But there we were, riding Llangwm at “600 pace” and the end was in sight.  We just had to crest this, and it was a free run home and to the finish.  The drop lasted forever, but Chepstow beckoned.  The sun dropped behind us and set over the whole of Wales to the North.  We looked over our shoulders knowing that we had conquered it from one end to the other.

This wasn’t a horror story, or one filled with tales of epic adventure or tragedies overcome.  It was just a story of two mates doing what they love to do best. So with a typically understated finish to an overwhelming distance we fist pumped each other and rolled into the car park at Bulwark.



LVISRC Race Report – 3 Challenge Events on the River Wye – Summer 2016

LVISRC Race Report – 3 Challenge Events on the River Wye – Summer 2016

The LVIS Rowing Squad have been busy this summer, showing the famous purple and gold colours on the river once more with some success


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Italia, beer, burgers, bikes – Castelli 24h 2016


So, 2015 was a big year for me and my family. Despite being stuck in the middle of a truly rank situation we were fortunate to have the support of a fantastic group of people. Stand up and take a bow, charge your Dark and Stormies and toast the glorious Purple and Gold.  Together we raised £000s in support of Breast Cancer Care. Hell we even took the Vegas message global and raced all over the place, near and far (East); to the point where our sartorial elegance is recognised and feared from Belgium, to France, to Italy, to Cambodia, Japan and China… not Australia though, they couldn’t care less about anything other than warm stubbies…
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LVIS Audax to be a Huge Assault on the ears


LVIS never does things by halves so this weekend’s LVIS Audax is going to be something even more massive than usual. A well known Bristol-based group will be playing riders out from and back in to Long Ashton. Don’t forget to bring your ear plugs to keep you safe from harm…

Barry Von Vlaanderen

Barry Von Vlaanderen – 2016

And so after a successful trip to Belgium in 2015, the Cobbled Classics Team headed to Flanders once again to test their mettle against the kassei, and ride the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Cyclo back in early March.


Preparation for the next trip to the fatherland was done in true LVIS style.  Almost no effort went into on-bike pre-trip training – other than a handful of rides around the flattest bits of South Glos and Wiltshire, and the assembly of a fine collection of excuses (its cold, I have a cold, it might get cold).

However, off the bike the Team prepared meticulously.  We had a long list of Trappist Ales to get through; full kit co-ordination; online registration with some fancy mid-event Facebook photo-posting tech thing that we didn’t understand; and most importantly the Team Car graphics.

With more than a small bit of inspiration from our friends at Sky Pro Cycling (see 2015), the company’s VW Passat received its makeover.  A liberal splash of purple and gold, some window graphics, and a couple of Belgian Tricolores and we were ready to go.  Only problem was, it was done over a week before we went. The bland rep-mobile became a thing of beauty, and invited many approaches from random roadies all over Bristol in the following days – most of whom were looking forward to the LVIS Audax. Maybe something for the future…

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1458814790784.jpgSo, with the prep completed we headed via the Channel Tunnel to Gent.  We were hosted by the new LVIS Belgium Chapter, Team Gent.  Filipe, Fieke, Johan and Boris had become good friends since our first chance meeting during the toughest weather ever on Gent-Wevelgem in 2015, and now they were to become our hosts for the weekend.


We settled into our (very) bike friendly hotel around 4pm, and headed straight into the adjoining Irish Pub (an obvious choice). A quick assessment of the draft ales along the bar – Waterloo @ 11%; Westmalle @ 9%; Rochefort @10%. Now we are talking…


Rus (to the Irish barman): “We’ve been on the road all day, skipped breakfast, and haven’t had much in the way of lunch.  Have you got a session beer?”

Irish Barman: “We’ve got Stella you f**king p**fter”.


And at that point Friday started to unravel! Team Gent took us out for a very nice dinner in an old brewery and we took in the beauty of the old city of Gent.  Dave also took in a bottle of Ambassador as a digestif. The waiter certainly raised an eyebrow when Dave ordered his weapon of choice… A fine Trappist ale, where one can almost taste the history. But a 75cl bottle, at 11%, to yourself, after dinner? An interesting choice.  Dave went very quiet after that…



Saturday was the official pro Omloop Het Niuewsblad, or if you are a local “Gent-Gent”.  We blew away the early hangovers, and feeling decidedly below par, headed to the pro sign on. In a car park in Central Gent we walked amongst the team busses and bikes of a good number of the World Tour teams, and some of the Pro Contis making the step up. It was a truly Flandrian affair, with rider introductions and interviews all conducted in Dutch, beer on tap, and frites for breakfast.  We watched them leave the start line, swung legs over crossbars and headed out to find a vantage point.

About 2kms into our ride we passed a couple of guys in pro kit on the side of the road.  Nothing unusual about that, there are lots of fans in these parts in full pro kit. Only these guys were pros… We headed onto a tow-path which was about 5m wide strip of tarmac, and devoid of any traffic. From the rear arrived the three guys we had just passed.

At this point we joined the fastest peloton any of us had ever had the joy of pedalling in.  One Pro Cycling had joined LVIS and the 10 of us were now chunking along at a steady 43-45km/h, into a block headwind. The LVIS side of the conversation was distinctly curt, with three or four word questions coming forth, whilst steam (and last night’s beer) seeped out of us. The new riders amongst us were charming blokes.  All finding their way in the new world of racing at World Tour level, and openly nervous too. (Good luck boys).

Our new found status as part of the pro training peloton saw us overtake numerous riders in a flash, covering huge amounts of ground in short order, and individually realising how easy it is for these guys.  Pete Williams announced he was “off for a pee”, swung off, and then paced himself back on a couple of minutes later.  Throughout his comfort break we were still at LVIS maximum effort… Staggering differential.

Eventually the elastic snapped and we were gone, but not before a Trek-Segafredo rider motorpaced past us in the other direction proving that the tailwind plus the lead out from a moped leads to warp speed!

We made our way to our first vantage point about 5 minutes before the peloton arrived. Our first taste of racing for the day was in the middle of a quiet little somewhere/nowhere village on the parcours. We were well underprepared to dive into the nearest hedge as several of the riders decided to mount the pavement some 50m before reaching us!


We then relocated to the end of the Haaghoek –  a 2km “flat” section of cobbles and just below the Leberg.  It gave us a taste of what was to come the following day –  and it was certainly an eye opener. Luckily, we were sated with more beer (coke), and frites and mayo.  From here we were lucky enough to hear the world famous “Rodania” a couple of times as the race looped through.  We then headed back towards Gent and settled into a bar halfway home to watch the final few kms.  A slightly changed finish for 2016 saw Greg Van Avermaet bunch kick past Peter Sagan for a very popular win.  All of Belgium cheered their perennial second-place-podium-step-warmer.  A winner at last!

Saturday night was a little more measured than Friday.  We had a 105km route to ride on Sunday, and we had seen how tough it was already.



IMG_0757Clear headed, and ready to climb bergs we headed to sign on at 8am.  That in itself was an event.  We were to sign on in track racing’s Mecca… Welcome to ‘t Kuipke.  Home of The 6 Days of Gent, and only used for that one event each year. This velodrome was something to behold.  At 166m it felt like a cauldron.  What must it be like on race night? We vowed we would find out one day.






1458814726956.jpgIn true LVIS style, Johnny made friends with the locals at sign on. So just in case she forgets, a big HELLO to Rochelle Gilmour (DS of Wiggle High5).  It was great to see her wearing more clothes than a typical Google search! She was delighted to be associated with the mighty LVIS, and immediately started to follow Johnny on twitter. She knows talent when she sees it.


After sign on we headed off, 4 from Team Gent, 3 from Bristol – and all from LVIS! It was 2 degrees, the wind was blowing about 25mph from the NE, but at least the sun was shining.

Today we had four climbs, and four “flat” cobbled sections to conquer. Our early pace was good, but as the Eikenberg and the Taaenberg started to bite, we started to split up.  Each of us was having our own little battle. Double digit percentage climbs, freezing cold wind, jumping all over the road, and in our own little worlds of hell – this was bliss.  Everything we had come for!

Over the Haaghoek, and up the Leberg (tarmac for a change!), and then we headed through a series of flat cobbled sections. In these meandering hills, it is not unusual to find yourself on downhill cobbles, and they present a whole new set of issues. “Add power, and get through is as quickly as possible (a la Paris-Roubaix)?; Don’t brake and gather speed?; Grip hard enough to control the bars, but not too hard?; Hold your line!” We all found a way.


Finally we found a bit of tailwind, and the group really started to pull. Before we knew it we were towing a group of 40-50 riders.  The stronger of the group (Dave and Filipe) did monster turns on the front as we dragged through 90 degree bends (headwind, then side wind, then tailwind, then headwind etc etc), and up and over many bridges.  No one else really wanted to help, but we didn’t mind.  LVIS was all over this and we were having the times of our lives!

As Gent re-appeared in the distance we knew it wasn’t far to go, and next thing we were dragging up the finish straight towards the velodrome.  A last minute clash of wheels at a set of traffic lights nearly put pay to a fine day, but we survived.  More than a few pintjers later, and it was time to pack up and head for the tunnel.


We waved goodbye to Team Gent and offered to host them when the Tour of Britain visits us in September. Lets hope that happens.

To Belgium, to Gent, to Team Gent and to the beauty of riding in Flanders – we salute you.  We will be back.

Johnny, Dave & Rus

Rus’s Strava Feed:

Vegas rules the waves (again)

Vet’s Head 20th March 2016


An eclectic mix of oarsmen gathered at Putney for the inaugural race of the now fully bona fide LVIS Boat Club.  The crew included a German, a rugby player, a short man, a man who doesn’t eat any vegetables and a ginger man, they were more than ably assisted by an ex Pink Palace stern pair and northern coxwain.  Also, due to Oz’s recent alcohol/scooter related rib injury, Mr Hamish Crow made an overdue return to Tideway following his Jackson Trophy winning row…in 1993.



In slightly less disruptive conditions than the preceding day at “Junior HORR” the crew gave a plucky performance given it’s fairly scratch nature; bringing a final result of 10thoverall and 2nd in category (Masters B); beaten only by crews of either younger Thames/Imperial College types or GB/Blue Boat/Tideway legends.

A successful first outing for the shiny new purple and gold lycra; further events in the summer months are being shortlisted currently.  Those interested in racing and/or adding to their lycra collection should get in touch with Oz or Al.

Tearing up the roads in Cambodia

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Ed is not a bona fide member of LVIS. He probably doesn’t really qualify- his mantra is less “the pursuit of sporting excellence without the seriousness” and more “the pursuit of an unfortunate level of seriousness as an excuse to eat cake.” But he does own purple and yellow lycra. And, as a friend of Nathan’s, he was part of the crack squad that LVIS sent to Italy last summer to wear pink at the locals (and ride a bit). He lives in Shanghai.

Unperturbed by the fact that everyone outside the UK assumes you’re actually from Las Vegas if you wear an LVIS jersey, and looking for an excuse to rock Vegas pink one more time, Ed signed up for the 20th annual Bike4Kids charity race around Angkor Wat, Cambodia in early December. Where, unlike home, it wasn’t raining and was 25 degrees. A few Shanghai riders had entered the event in 2014, and brought back mixed reports of great racing, chaotic mid-race elephant and tuk-tuk dodging, amazing scenery, and roads so bad the only sensible course of action was a mountain bike.

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Happy Barry’s Birthday

Happy New Year to all LVIS members across the world!

Don’t forget that the world renown LVIS Audax has opened for entries – get in quick before it sells out!

Go Vegas!

I would ride 400k and…

photo 1Balance is the key to many things in life, not least riding a bike. However, a balanced diet has eluded Alastair and he merrily barrels around like someone who knows there’s a famine just around the corner.  To try to find some balance in all things mass-related and, for the sake of his daughters, to stave off Fat Dad Syndrome he entered the Audax National 400, which took place 25-26 July.

Dingwall is a little way north of Inverness.  The assembled 60 or so cyclists looked for all the world, as most Audaxes do, like a training camp for the paramilitary wing of the Librarians’ Union.  In place of banners there were route cards, in place of petrol bombs there were energy drinks, and the heady steam of revolution-inducing absinthe palled compared to the appeal of a good British cuppa.
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Every Briton good and true should explore the wonders of north-west Scotland as the Audax did.  Lairg (small meal), Achfary (large meal) and countless points in between shimmer and hum with beauty, beauty ao profound and on such a scale as make one feel that one has inadvertently selected the “Go Large” option at the nature takeaway.  Around Durness and Cape Wrath (derived from the Norse for turning point, and nothing to do with anger, since you ask) is some of the oldest rock in the British Isles.  Lewissian Gnossic looks as though at any moment it could tire of the toehold vegetation has on the place and send it all packing into the Atlantic.  The image of golden shafts of evening sunlight on the mountains south of Loch Eriboll will remain blissfully lodged in the memories of all the riders who saw it.

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The good people of Audax Ecosse ensured industrial quantities of sustenance were available at regular intervals and a brief slumber in the fuggy warmth of a village hall was intensely welcome on the leg between Strathy and Helmsdale when, as is normal even in late July, the temperature bumped along in low single figures.
A sunlit Moray Firth greeted mid-field riders (some speedsters were back in Dingwall before sunrise) and the flat terrain led to some of the most satisfying speeds of the whole ride.  A little over 25 hours and 425km later Alastair’s famine-proof physique, now replete with numb balls but few other ailments, coasted back to where it had all begun.  While there was no serious move to do it all again just at that moment, stopping felt ever so slightly like a bereavement.  Jon Hopkins’ Late Night Tales album has the theme “Requiem for a Dream State” and it fitted perfectly the mood of the journey back south down the A9.

A quick cross-country spin

At 06.00hrs on 13 July a cyclist left Ealing to head north west guided solely by the power of Garmin.  At the same time, another cyclist left the Cambridgeshire/Essex border to head west also glued to nothing but a Garmin.  The plan was simple – they would meet at the little village of Clifton (Hertfordshire), and ride home to Redland.


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LVIS on twitter


LVIS is now on twitter via the medium of Barry’s spirit. Follow for the latest news, updates and information.

LasVegasIS on twitter

Pretty in Pink (updated with full story)

Never before in LVIS history has so much pink been worn so stylishly by so few men…


The idea to race the Castelli 24 had been brewing since a rather wet and unpleasant Bikefest dampened everyone’s spirits in 2014. Little did we realise that 12 months later we would be running for cover in an effort to shelter from a hugely impressive thunder storm that apparently this area of Italy is famous for.

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Devon Disaster (aka a lesson in bike mechanics)

A gentle faux Rapha-esque pamphlet recounting Rus and Johnny’s latest adventure…devonc2c..

Click here: DevonC2C Book


If Carling (Westmalle?) Did Cycling Weekends – a tale of Sky, cobbles and Miss Belgium

After years of being left to trail the pack over the longer climbs of the West Country Johnatan and Russell decided to try something a little more Flemmish.



Perfect combination – beer and Vegas

“My immediate thought that “Belgium was flat” was a long way from the truth, but it would take some riding to realise how wrong I was!



We headed to Belgium through the tunnel, having booked a hotel in Kortrijk.  There was no particular reason to stay in this town, other than it seemed to be Central to what we were trying to do.  It later turned out this was a master stroke.

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Return of the Mach

Before Enduro (pronounce it to rhyme with “fluoro”) became mountain biking’s favoured marketing buzzword, there was the Dyfi Enduro. Since 2001, in fact. Now while I’ve been aware of this event for ages, it’s never really been on my must do list. That changed thanks to the insistence of our new riding buddy Matt Jones, a man who despite being a connoisseur of solo 24 hour misery also likes the fun downy stuff.


The format is simple: a 30-ish mile pootle around the forest near Machynlleth, the lovely Welsh town whose name has been mispronounced in more ways than mine. The route comes within spitting distance of the awesome Cli-Machx trail centre, but doesn’t actually use any of it, and also has a reputation for making liberal use of fire roads.

If that sounds pretty uninspiring, it’s because I haven’t mentioned a couple of other things. First off, the campsite for the event is right next to the town centre, which also hosts a comedy festival that weekend, so it’s much more fun and lively than a lot of similar events. Heavy on atmosphere (and sheep poo), it feels more like a music festival than a sufferfest. Second, the quality and quantity of the descents is legendary. In fact it’s probably one of the few events of this type that appeals as much to beery downhillers as the carbon hardtail posse. 

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The end for a fabulous lady

Some sad news:

The inspired lady who designed the neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to “fabulous Las Vegas” since 1959 has died. She made the design free of copywrite to allow its use by everyone, including us in our logo. No doubt, Barry has a Dark and Stormy waiting for her.

We continue to honour her with our kit.

The latest and final design:


Go Vegas!

Summer kit order

LVIS members will have spotted the new LVIS kit design on the LVIS group on facebook (if you’re not already joined, put a request in – LVIS members only)  – the ‘classic’ kit has been updated as it’s been the same for 10 years now and needed a bit of freshening up.


You  should have got an email with full details (if you didn’t or you’re not on the email list check why not!) but the following are on offer:

–          Short sleeve, full zip jersey in the all new LVIS design

–          Evo pro bib shorts (available in men’s and women’s). These are the ones from the recent pink kit order and a real step on in quality from the ones we’ve had previously

–          Women’s non-bib shorts

–          Gilet – lightweight, windproof sleeveless gilet. A great bit of kit in cooler or changeable weather

–          Cycling cap

There’s some debate on the shorts as to whether they should be all black or have purple panels as pictured. We’ll put it to a vote for those who order the shorts.

Sizing chart: but ask if you’re not sure.

Order will be going in on 1st May so please order ASAP and pay me now too. Let me know if you need payment details


Keep Going Helen!

Many of you will be aware of Helen’s fight with breast cancer. With the latest LVIS Extra Special kit and everyone behind her, this is no doubt something she’ll beat.

You can read the latest on her blog here:

You can also support Mr Helen’s charity fund raising for Breast Cancer Care via his justgiving page here: Go Helen!


In flight inspiration


Training via the medium of cake

LVIS going to Las Vegas!


Just as the famous roulette wheels of Las Vegas may produce unexpected results from time to time, we’ve had some rather unexpected news.

Inspired by LVIS and its history, one of the places mentioned has been in touch offering 15 LVIS members an expenses paid trip to our spiritual home to take part in one of the region’s biggest bike events, all to be followed by a film crew.

More details to follow, including a new kit design, but best get training!

LVIS Audax 2015 – The Tempest



LVIS doesn’t do run of the mill…

2013: Subzero temperatures, icicles on bottom brackets

2014: Sunshine, sunburn, dehydration

2015: Howling wind and torrential rain


Despite the forecasts the whole week leading up to the LVIS Audax predicting weather better suited to staying indoors, the turnout for the event was still excellent. Better still, despite the cataclysmic weather, riders taking part enjoyed the event with the hardiest of the hardy making it the whole way round.

Cake, tea and coffee was served and consumed and as ever, it was through the dedication of the audax team that the event was such a huge success despite the conditions. Similarly, LVIS has massive thanks for all the riders who took part for their good humour and determination. A heartfelt “Go Vegas!” to all of you!

More pictures below:

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LVIS in pink

Barry’s love of the fairer sex and associated weapons of mass distraction is well documented…. So it should come as no surprise that his ghost fully endorses a charity that focuses on kicking seven bells out of a particularly unpleasant illness…

During a recent and particularly addled séance Barry called upon the Vegas brethren to nail their colours to the mast in support of one of our own who has recently fallen foul of the Cancer Jabberwocky. So in a gesture of solidarity we ask you put down your dark and stormies and abstain from the classic resplendent gold and purple. Please fly the flag for Breast Cancer Care with this year’s Lycra haute couture, as part of the price will be sent the charity’s way in order to help those dealing with this vicious little disease.

Happy Christmas!

Here’s to a very Happy Christmas and a very Vegas new year to you all!

Go Vegas 2015!


It’s coming…

Full details and entry for the world’s best cakefest/audax will follow from 1st January 2015 on the LVIS Audax website: