On Sunday, 5th July the third event in the Hertfordshire Summer of Cycling was held on Redbourn Common - the Fete du Velo.  The weather was ideal and there was a great village atmosphere with stalls, food & drink, live music  and activities for the family.  VCC was well represented with entries in the youth, mens and masters race categories.


The Cat 2/3/4 Mens race saw Alex Balbi and Marcel Six in action.  Unfortunately Marcel dropped out with a mechanical in the opening laps, but Alex hung in for a mid-field finish, in what was a very competitive event.


The Masters race encompassed a broad age-range under British Cycling regulations and included VCC race squad members Nick Coe, Gavin Bench and Jared Millar.  Jared finished in 4th position, with Gavin closely behind in the pack.


The final event of the day was an elimination race – which is essentially a race of attrition.  After each lap, the last rider across the line is removed until there are only 3 riders remaining.  At this point, there is then a final lap to determine the finishing positions.  This format creates an interesting spectacle with a sprint to the line on every lap to avoid the ‘drop’.  About 25 riders lined up for the event and VCC riders Marcel Six and Jared Millar made it through to the last group of 3 riders.  The race came down to the final corner, with Jared opening up the sprint early, managing to keep the pace sufficiently high to hold-off the others from coming around.  A great first and second result for VCC!

This past Sunday saw the second running of what is billed as the longest, toughest and richest LVRC road race on the calendar. It was! Matt Pumo, John Jones and Gavin Bench traveled to the race under growing cloud cover, to be joined at the start by Paul Caton, who was just off a plane from a week in the Pyrenees.

This year the race was lengthened to 98 miles (up from last years’ 93 miles) but last minute road works dropped the distance back down to 90 miles, which was a small (if irrelevant) early mental boost. Similar to last year, the starting field consisted of 80 strong riders. The race had a very professional feel - with placings for Overall Winner, King of the Mountains, King of the Sprints, Most Aggressive Rider, and Team Classification. Not to mention service vehicles and Broom Wagons linked by race radio, designated feed zones, large crowds cheering on the racers on the climbs and live commentary.

It was not long before the peloton (still in one bunch at this point) reached the first ascent of Sunrisings Hill. With max gradients hitting 14% some of the stronger climbers were keen to push the pace a bit as most riders just hung on for dear life. At this point Pumo, Jones, Bench and Caton all managed to stay in contact with the main bunch for the inevitable sprint over the top and the fast descent.

After a few rolling miles the bunch approached Edge Hill for the first of three ascents. The pace was increased on each successive climb, with the lead bunch now whittled down to perhaps 25 strong riders, including Pumo and Caton. There were constant attacks on the flats, climbs, and the descents. Everyone was up for a hard day of racing and with 40km to go we crested Edge Hill for the 3rd and last time.

Three riders managed to escape and leave the lead group behind and with about 10km to go Roy Chamberlain of Team Corley rode clear for the victory. Pumo and Caton were in for the bunch sprint (considering how tired everyone was and the fact that it was uphill – the term “sprint” may be a bit of a stretch here) and crossed the line exhausted, with Pumo coming in a respectable 17th place as part of the first wave of riders.

Mick Ives and his team of helpers from Team Jewson, M.I Racing and Polypipe did another excellent job running the race and we will all be back next year. It is certainly the hardest and most exciting race of season.

View photographs here...

Courtesy of Kate Gannon:

Twas a beautiful full moon lit night guiding intrepid cyclists from London Fields to the Suffolk coast.  It was of course the Dunwich Dynamo which takes place each year on the full moon nearest the summer solstice.  There were four adventurers from Verulam CC -  Graham Ricketts on his winter bike and panniers full of food for the 120 mile journey,  Philip Mann on his 3 speed Sturmey Archer Dawes Diplomat, Josh Mann looking very cool in skinny jeans on  his fixie and Kate Gannon on an ancient hefty steel Raleigh Pioneer, reserved only for pootling around St. Albans.  Each bike was well over 30 years old.  We didn’t see Graham but got a call at 4:30 am to say he had arrived at the beach, way ahead of us and had polished off a full English breakfast.

We perhaps weren’t the best prepared – as we had had 2 pub stops before leaving London Fields ( well we had no bottle cages, what else could we do), dressed in our everyday clothes with flat shoes for our flat pedals, and no helmets though  if you looked carefully you may have seen the glow from a Garmin. It’s surprising how liberating it all felt to escape the lycra, carbon, aluminium temptation and go old skool and we got kudos from the lycra crowd as we overtook a surprising number of them on the hills.  

We left around 10 pm, later than most, and hit Epping Forest in what felt like total darkness.  It was quite scary as the cars whizzed past and there were no other cyclists lighting our way.   Eventually we found small towns with streetlights and then at last the calm of the country.  The moon was hiding for the first part of the night and then came out to light our way through the winding lanes of Essex and Suffolk and we at last found that comforting sight of red lights from fellow cyclists.

We got cheers from the locals and found tea lights in hedges to help us along the route. Pubs stayed open and served tea and coffee with donations to charity. We found another pub doing a BBQ at 1:30 am and consumed rather overpriced hotdogs, and in Sudbury the Fire Service had a big BBQ for us.    I was feeling a bit dozey on the bike at around 4:00 am butfound a tea stop in the middle of nowhere and had bacon rolls and 2 cups of tea.  We set off again knowing that we had broken the back of it and the sun was coming up to warm us for the last 40 miles.    Another enterprising lady was sat outside her house making cheese and pickle sandwiches as she always got woken by the cyclists going past all night so thought she should join in on the action.

At 8:30am we rolled onto the beach where what looked like thousands of cyclists were all parked up and having 40 winks before the journey back.    I thought we were one of the last to arrive but there were lots of cyclists streaming in behind us while we took a refreshing  dip in the sea. Good for the muscles you know. I got a puncture (well the valve separated from the tube) in the car park, as we left – brilliant timing as no one wants to fix puncture in the dark, especially when you need a spanner to take the wheel off.

The Dunwich Dynamo is one of those events that you look back on with real fondness – although at 5 am you’d give anything for a quick kip.  It has it all,  adventure, danger, romance, camaraderie, cheering locals, a helluva lot of bacon sandwiches, tea, sunset, sunrise and a dip in the sea.   We even saw our very own Mike 'broomwagon' Graves in the car park, taking people back home ( or was that the hallucinations caused by lack of sleep).  Fellow cyclists are really friendly and chilled and everyone seemed to forget or had never heard of Strava segments.

For Phil and myself we had already cycled back from the beach to St. Albans on Friday having driven the van out for our return journey, making it a 240 mile round trip on 2 wheels.   It makes me more in awe of Shu Pillinger and her achievement of becoming the first British woman to complete the Race Across America, cycling 3000miles in 12 days. Graham cycled back to Ipswich to catch the train to London, but didn’t reckon on a bridge strike resulting in a bus service between Colchester and Chelmsford, cue weird looks from bus passengers wondering why 20 blokes with bikes (and beers) were getting on board.

The Dunwich Dynamo XXIV will be on 16/17 July 2016. Perhaps we'll see you there?