Sunday, 28 August 2016

Strava Fondos - 2016






What is a fondo?



According to Wikipedia, a fondo is "a type of long-distance road bicycle race, in which riders are individually chip timed and have the right of way at all intersections". So essentially it is a sportive, according to this definition. The first one was held in 1970 in Italy and nowadays in Italy, they are held every weekend between February and October.

June's fondo

So what has Strava got to do with it?

As we all know, Strava is an activity tracking service, focused mainly on cycling and running. With these types of activities, there is always a challenge element attached, whether it is trying to beat a personal best up a massive climb or just getting out one or two times a week. The challenge part is purely personal. Of course, you do not have to challenge yourself, but I think it is healthy to set goals and try to achieve them.

With that being said, Strava has a specific challenge section, where you can join challenges as you see fit. Some are vary from month to month, according to whatever large event is taking place (think Tour de France, Olympics, marathons etc) and there are regular monthly distance challenges for cycling and running.

There is a monthly challenge series for fondos. This blog post from Strava introduced their fondo challenge "as a way to promote adventure, exploration and camaraderie on the bike". Of course these aren't mass, organised bicycle rides like a sportive, so strays from the original meaning of fondo somewhat.

My challenge

It was fairly simple this year: just complete each month's fondo. This would mean at least one big ride a month; a way for me to keep a relatively high monthly mileage and using my road bike.

So far I have completed all of them. What I should have done is write a short blog post about each one and I would have kept up my blogging efforts at the same time. But hey, life, whatever.

I needed to plan August's ride, so I decided to see where I hadn't been on previous fondos. I like to go somewhere new. So I spent a couple of hours playing around with GPX files from Strava and Google Maps to produce this little beauty:


This map will be updated with the rest of my fondos as the the year progresses. Wish me luck!

Have you been participating in the Strava fondo challenge, or any other challenges you have set yourself? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

RideBishop and Velo29 cycle race 2016

A great idea for the town but something missing in this latest edition

In association with Velo29, Durham County Council and Bishop Auckland town council, an annual cycle race is held in the town centre with the market place being the start/finish line and focal point of the evening's activities.

There is a family fun ride held for an hour before the actual racing gets going. This is on the same course as the race for parents and children to enjoy some close roads cycling in the summer sun, to take at their own pace and do as many laps as they like. In advertising, there has been a fancy dress theme for the kids. Last year was superheroes and with this year being an Olympic year, the theme was Rio.

The category C, D and E riders line up on the start line

Lack of atmosphere

Registration for the family ride starts at 16:45 and the ride follows at 17:15, although you could pre-register if you preferred. I finished work, came home, walked the dog and quickly got changed to meet my sister and nephew who were already at the market place. After finding a point I could enter on to the course, I was asked if I had a child with me. I found that a bit odd as flyers state "suitable for children and adults of all ages and abilities", no requirements necessary. Nevertheless, I explained that I was meeting my sister and nephew and was told to wait until he came around on his next lap. So that was a long awkward wait until he trundled around on his balance bike. Why not let me just get on the course and ride till I caught up with them?

There were very small children on their bikes, taking it all in and enjoying themselves. Then for some reason the category C, D and E racers were allowed on to warm up, resulting in a mix of very fast older children warming up with 3-5 year olds. It created an air of danger, that somebody would become a cropper at any moment.

It didn't help the feeling in the air that some local idiots began throwing bottles of water across the course at each other, causing some complaints. The neighbourhood police team were on to this swiftly and put an end to it, thankfully. Talking of local idiots, there were some who thought it best to dismantle safety barriers to cross the course instead of walking 20 metres to the designated crossing point (crossing points were in abundance).

Professional BMXer Matti Hemmings performed some amazing tricks and stunts, a repertoire of skill and balance that had all of 4 people applauding from the dozens strong crowd. I felt so bad for him, he genuinely looked like he'd wasted his time.

In the shadow of Kynren

Personally, I think that this event is great for the town. In previous years, the market pace was packed with people who were both genuinely interested in what was going on and people curious to find out more. Tonight it was more like the small few who genuinely care about cycling, I feel that the focus of the parties in putting on this event was elsewhere, namely the history of England show, Kynren. There was promise of an Alpe d'Huez challenge for the public which failed to materialise. A pump track for kids to take a turn on was all there was for the public to get involved in if they did not participate in the family ride.

The market place is in disarray, with roadworks closing the road through it. In turn this shortened the course slightly. This, and in turn with the decision to reverse the direction of the route to previous years, made the tight hairpin turn even tighter as the exit road was narrower than the entrance road. There were a couple of abandons in the first few laps as riders inevitably fell hard. Some were able to carry on, despite the blood. As the race became stretched out, the riders were able to negotiate this hazard much more carefully.

Speaking of safety, perhaps the council could ensure that the streetlights in the market place could come on earlier, rather than just before the final lap?

The much faster category A race gets underway

Same again next year?

I hope the event returns, but with more focus on promotion and planning. The work in the market place should be finished by then so it won't look like a construction site. Kynren will likely be established and in it's second year so should take care of itself. Perhaps some more investors could be encouraged to sponsor or participate in the cycle event, which could provide more entertainment to the non-cycling die-hards than what was on offer tonight.

However I have to finish by saying well done to the racers who had to put up with some dodgy potholes on North Bondgate, low light and tight turns) to show some impressive endurance to complete laps in sub-60 seconds.
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