The year 2017 saw me start the year taking my bike apart and have to end it prematurely due to another foot operation, which will keep me off the bike until at least February 2018.
I decided at the end of 2016 to learn some mechanic work and so bought myself a Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset for Christmas with the idea of replacing the existing second hand Dura Ace crank and Ultegra brakes and gear levers that had been fitted when I changed the old groupset to a more compact system just after buying the bike. This was also a chance to replace the existing shifters with the cables protuding out of the top of them to a model which was more slimline and modern, with the cables hidden under the bar tape.
As is often the case with amateur mechanics the challenge was to remember where things had been taken off from so when it came to replacing everything I knew where it all went!! Lots of photos, like these, helped to an extent but I ended up with more washers, and a few other bits and pieces, in my hand than on the bike but so far it hasn’t made any difference!
Once I had done everything I could do, I took the bike to a mechanic friend to change and tension up the chain and make sure the gear shifting was smooth and check over all my handiwork so the bike was roadworthy. Not too much extra work was needed so we were good to go as soon as the weather improved.
Waiting for the weather enabled me and JP to put our cycle club plans into operation and after lots of discussions and meetings with different people the Vélopunks cycling club was created.
Over the year we have been able to put our ideas into practice, hosting three events, cycling regularly with a new group of friends and we are now working towards becoming more formal with a proper kit and a hardcore following who want to extend their riding in 2018 with more bikepacking and attending more sportives etc.
Another highlight of the year was doing my first bikepacking trip with Rob around Mont Blanc. We took 3 days to ride the 280km distance taking in some mighty mounds on the way. We followed pretty much the same route of the official Tour du Mont Blanc although we started and finished in Martigny. Even though it took us 3 days, those days were still quite full on so kudos to those nut jobs to do the actual Tour during one day every August.
My annual sportive event fix was sated by doing La Marmotte, a Cycling France classic event which starts in Bourg D’Oisans and finishes in Alpe d’Huez. A 150km ride over some iconic French cols finishes with a 16km ride up the switchbacks of the Alpe which was a tough way to finish but the only way to finish!! As painful and as hard as that last ascent was, the satisfaction at having crossed the finish line with a gold medal around my neck was amazing! Not having won it you understand but by having completed it within a certain time!
Another highlight for me was that I managed to do the climb I had always wanted to do, the Col de Sanetsch. Tom was keen to do it too so we picked a weekend towards the end of October when we were free but unfortunately no-one else was. We also picked a day when the weather didn’t look particularly great but c’est la vie, we’re hardy souls. We jumped on the early train to Sion all wrapped up but it turned out to be fine all day and was cool all the way to the top, with hardly any traffic, except the last kilometre to the summit and down to the barrage where it was absolutely freezing. From the top we took the cable car down to Gsteig, climbed up to the Col du Pillon and raced down via Diablerets to Aigle to catch the train home. In contrast to the rest of the Punks who took on the Sanetsch the week after in bright sunshine we had a grey day but the experience was nonetheless for it. A great climb and very happy to have got it done.
The cycling year finished with our third Vélopunks event called Three Peaks which challenged riders to get to checkpoints at three local cols, Pélérin, Paccots and Pleiades in the quickest time possible but by choosing their own route, starting and finishing in La Tour de Peilz. Despite the weather at the end of October we managed to attract ten riders and there was a great atmosphere throughout the day with David and Tom winning the albums as fastest rider and best route photograph.
So the year is nearly at an end, and due to my operation I have managed to fill my cycling calendar for next year and am currently talking to companies to try and design a kit for the Vélopunks for next season. We have a design and now its a case of deciding who to choose to put it into production.
Another task I have at the moment is to find a new bike to satisfy my need for lightness, speed, comfort and a more modern looking machine. Again, I have a few possibles in mind but taking into account possible Christmas sales and the fact that I can’t ride again until February means there’s no immediate rush although sometimes you need to see a bargain and grab it while it lasts….!!!