Andy rode the annual Shut Up Legs bike ride in the New Forest recently which he thoroughly enjoyed- here's his take on it.
We've known Stuart Grace for many years, thanks to the local road race/time trial scene and what with him being a Prendas customer for many years.
Whilst Prendas have happily donated various items over the years for Stuart's charity events, this year was the first time that we actually got to ride his annual event.
Now in it's fifth year of running, the event is well established thanks to the presence of the former professional rider and Trek ambassador Jens Voigt. To my surprise, there were cyclists that had traveled as far away as the USA and Canada to ride which made my 3 mile ride to Poole station for a 22 minute train journey look quite minor.
Before the start of the event, Stuart hosted a rider briefing and as part of that, he explained just how their long-standing friendship started. The pair first met at the Duo Normand in 1999 when the Voigt was riding the event with Crédit Agricole team-mate Chris Boardman.
The Duo Normand is a two-up time trial at the end of the season and is still a very popular event with British club riders and as it happens, I entered and rode the event that year too (1999) with Rowan Shepard.
Rowan had been based in Marigny during his time riding out in France and due to a misunderstanding with our entry (I had an Elite licence at the time) we ended up riding with the Elites and got to see first hand just how fast the record-breaking duo were going when they caught us for 9 minutes!
Back to 2017; Stuart explained that he was out warming up on his rather unusual 650c fixed wheel TT bike and subsequently saw a rider by the side of the road looking at the bike. The two entered into polite conversation and it was only when he noticed the name on the top tube of the riders bike did he realise who the mystery rider was.
Some moments later, Boardman turned up asking if Stuart knew just how hilly the event was!
Jens was just as you'd expect him to be: affable, very charming and good-humoured with absolutely no problem at all with the various autographs, selfie requests and numerous "do you remember me from [insert year] at [insert place name]".
The only time I did see the smile disappear was when he walked past the TV showing the closing kilomteres of the 2005 edition of Liège Bastogne Liège when a certain Alexander Vinokourov was giving him a hard time in the break away before eventually winning.
The event itself was well organised with 120 riders setting off in groups of ten along with two group leaders that knew the route.
Given I work at Prendas, it may surprise you to hear that I don't actually go out on long road rides that often. These days most of my rides tend contain a mix of terrain thanks in part to my new bike (an Orbea Terra) but also due to the sheer volume of traffic on the roads in and around Poole and Bournemouth, especially during peak holiday season.
So I was actually looking forward to spending 3 hours on the road as I hardly ever ride in the New Forest.
In order that Jens gets to spend time with everybody, he and Stuart start with the first group and gradually drift back throughout the duration of the ride so that people could get their own unique memento of the day - here's Prendas customer Paul Stewart with his!
As it happens, I didn't get to ride with Jens, but I wasn't disappointed as I had the delight of spending a good amount of time with Stuart instead. The word legend is thrown about too much these days - I guess many have called Jens one. But for me, Stuart should really get all of the accolades for the months of work that he puts into events like this, with the end results benefiting others, either on the day or through the monies raised.
The two riders from VC St Raphael / Waites Contracts did a grand job, with a few cyclists opting to travel at their own pace after the ride up to Bolderwood Ornamental Drive.
Most of my training these days now also tends to be done solo - apart from rides with the kids - so it was nice to mix and chat with some others. Topics ranged from my right/wrong choice of bike, working at Prendas and the biometric sensor on my arm.
Apart from one asshole in a 4x4, the ride was a delightful experience, which to be honest turned into a bit of a burn up at the end. Well, it was always going to wasn't it? At least I (or more specifically my Orbea Terra) answered the question about being able to "keep up" on a 1 x 11 drive train with 40c off-road tyres!
The following day, Jens headed to the Crabwood 10m time trial to accompany Mary Corbett on a tandem helping to raise awareness for Mary’s fundraising efforts.
Stuart's Just Giving page is still open if you fancy contributing to the £21,000 that has been raised by his efforts.
Thanks for reading!
The video below shows Andy struggling up the climb that was used ten times for the Nomansland RR. Incredibly he managed to sneak onto the podium on one occasion much to Mick's amazement when he turned up at the Lamb Inn for the prize presentation!
The older I get - the better I was and all that.....