Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Tour of Buckinghamshire: Report from Jonathan Davies

Assembled for the start (by Verity W)

On the morning of day 1, we assembled in the OU car-park for a motivational briefing from our esteemed team leaders. To kick the event off, several brave souls put their necks on the line in a time trial - 3 laps of the OU ring-road - won by Matt Derbyshire.

Ring-Road race start (by Verity W)

Inspired by the time-trial heroics, we set off for Hartwell House near Aylesbury some 31 miles away and the equivalent of a full Tour de France stage for some of us rookies. Immediately following the first hill climb of the day into Oving, won by Richard Golding, we stopped for lunch and were served with the musettes, whose scrumptious contents included sausage rolls and an array of cakes and sweets to keep us all going. The musettes themselves are perfect souvenirs, as the picture below attests.

Wearing the musettes (by Matt D-J)

After a second points climb up Waddesdon Hill, won by Matt (Howells?) the peleton arrived, more or less together, at the magnificent Hartwell House. Here, we met Gary's parents, Glyn and Janette, who hosted a wonderful evening and shared with us their stories and reflections about his life. After dinner, we all sat down in the drawing room for 'sweetmeats', the odd glass of brandy and the showing of 'A Sunday in Hell', the story of the 1976 Paris-Roubaix spring classic. This is regarded as possibly the best cycling film ever made and the sight of Eddy Merckx et al slogging over endless miles of brutal cobblestones certainly put our modestly heroic efforts into their proper context.

Hartwell House (by Heather S)

On day 2, after a leisurely morning and a stonking breakfast, the peleton set off from Hartwell House on the return journey - about 38 miles. We had little time to settle into a rhythm before facing a gruelling ascent into the mighty Chilterns - they might as well have been the Alps as far as some of us novices were concerned. The peleton rapidly disintegrated, but no matter. Blood, sweat and tears got us all up there one way or another. It was a long haul to lunch after the climbs and before we could eat, there was the points sprint into Mentmore to navigate, won by Gary Elliott. By this point we had lost Emma, Nina and Matt DJ on their bikes and Julia W , Suzie and Jackie in the broom wagon, who ended up taking bit of a detour and arrived at lunch almost an hour later than the rest of us. We lunched at the Stag, a gastro-pub in Mentmore co-owned by F1 driver Mark Webber. The highlight of the menu is the 'Mark Webber Pizza', created by the great man himself apparently. Multi-talented or what?

Lunch Day 2: two cycling guests joined us (by Clive B)

Lunch set us up nicely for the final leg back to the charming little village of Simpson, Julia's home, where we were treated to a champagne reception and an awards ceremony. Glyn made a short speech and Julia handed out three very superior crystal trophies, to Richard Golding for his performance in the mountains, to Matt Howells and Matt Derbyshire for the sprints and to Emma for 'heroic effort'. Emma had been suffering badly from dizziness throughout the 2 days and put in a typically steely performance to reach the finishing line.

Arrival at Simpson (by Jonathan D)

Thus ended the Tour de Buckingham: conceived by the late, great, Gary Nelmes, executed in glorious style by Julia Brennan and many others. I think Gary would be proud of us; we will honour his name in many other ways during the months and years ahead.

Jonathan Davies

Thursday, 17 September 2009

More musettes - and what's to go in them!

Sue and I sewed on the handles last night - for 15 of the bags. Only a few more to go! Then it's the fun part: ironing on the transfers. Hope it works.

Bag making has been fun and it's been great to do crafty things together, but we have been a bit rushed. We do wish we'd had more time to finish the seams properly and make a more durable product. It has, however, been really good practice for me (as I'm inexperienced with using a machine) and everyone will have a memento of the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Oxford crew - Whippers and Verity - have been busily planning and baking delicious treats to put in the bags for lunch on Day 1. I won't tell you what's in there so you'll be surprised, but the food will be delicious, compact, edible while cycling and energy-rich.

Mountain stages and sprints

Richard G has been fundamental to the planning of the weekend. It is he who has valiantly tested out the route (twice) and has planned the mountain stages and sprints. We would have been lost without him.

Here are the sprint details:

Day 1:
Hill Climb 1
Marston or Oving Hill (leads into Oving) - Just past North Marston
Start of Climb: Roads bends to the left to signal start of climb
End of Climb: 1st House on right in Oving

Hill Climb 2
Waddesdon Hill
Start of Climb: A couple of 100m after crossing A41
End of Climb: Just before 2nd house is passed (at crossroads)

Day 2:
After turning left off of Long Marston Road towards Mentmore. Sprint to Entrace to Mentmore Golf Club (on left)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Making musettes: 20 is quite a lot actually

Last night Beccy and I started the musette production in earnest. Wine and B's delicious veggie moussaka distracted us for at least an hour, but then we began feverishly pressing, cutting straps and whirring away on two sewing machines. I did the top hems (bumpily - MUST try not to force the fabric through) and Beccy sewed up the pouches on Sue's delightfully heavy and seventiesy machine. It felt like a real production line!

Two of the world's best inventions?:
the bicycle and the sewing machine

We sewed late into the night, chatting loudly over the machine noise, and criticising our workmanship. By the end of the evening we had ten pouches made, and five top hems sewn. Tonight it's me and Sue on the remainder of the pouches, and straps!

Gary D. Nelmes Tour of Buckinghamshire: itinery

Day 1
· We will meet at 10 am.
· You will then load your overnight bags and day packs onto the broom wagon, pick up your ‘race’ numbers and listen to a route and safety briefing from one of the team leaders.
· The time trial of the team leaders (and anyone else who would like a go!) will then commence. This will be three circuits (of just over half a mile).

· We will then begin Day 1 of cycling. We will generally be cycling in one peleton (group) but there is likely to be one optional sprint, and one optional hill stage.
· Lunch will be a brief stop, where you will be given your musettes (feed bags) which you will be able to carry with you. If you think you will want anything extra to eat, please bring it in your day packs.
· We will aim to be at the hotel at about 4 pm. You’ll then have time to settle in and relax in the spa.
· Pre-dinner drinks will be at 7pm and dinner at 8pm in the Octagon room. Dinner will be a black-tie (or close approximation thereof) affair.
· After dinner there will be a showing of ‘A Sunday in Hell’ in the drawing room.

Day 2
· Breakfast will be available from 8am.
· We will start Day 2 of cycling around 11 am.
· There will be one sprint – to a pub where we will stop for lunch.
· We will finish in Simpson – and here we will have a champagne reception and prize-giving.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Last Sunday we went for a 26-mile training ride, led by Mr D-J, to prepare ourselves for the Tour. This was the last of several he had very kindly led, to help familiarise those less used to road bikes with the feel of the machines. I've recently aquired a lovely Trek 1.2 myself, and I can confirm that they are definitely much more flighty than a standard bike. Although that doesn't mean a lot - my standard is that frisky-wheeled classic of British engineering, a Brompton!

There was definitely an Autumn chill in the air, and a very stiff wind, but, forearmed with the Nelmes Guide to Gear Use, everyone coped admirably with the distance. I'm sure it added to the reserve of stamina built up in the legs over the past few weeks.

Nelmes' Guide to Gear Use
Halfway we had a reviving tea break at the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne (must take Hannah the Hat Lady some day). We ate sugary pies and marvelled at the fact that the small tea room had at least 40 lights in the ceiling. The route was very pleasant and took in a lot of carefully chosen quiet lanes, a couple of reasonable hills, and some lovely villages. Sorry I can't remember all of their names ... think I must have been doing some breathing at the time.

After the ride I handed out some spare cycling tops (to match the riders' bikes of course) and issued a strong warning about cycling attire. Gary was very sensitive to cycling aesthetics and no clothing of 'the debased form' will be tolerated! I'm hoping everyone will dare to ease themselves into lycra or close-fitting wool, top and bottom.

Making musettes

On Friday Sue, Beccy and I had a prototype musette-making evening at my house. Beccy had been very busy researching traditional musette dimensions, making up a paper pattern and sourcing and pricing up calico and wide twill tape from John Lewis and eBay. She arrived with sewing box, gushing (ha) about her lovely new plumber who had saved her from the misery of dripping soil pipes (plumber loving happens so fast)!

Beccy and Sue set to work bravely making the first cut in the calico, ironing the seams and running up the bag pouch to test the design - which turned out to be very simple yet effective. The only debate was how to create the fastening.
Velcro? Press stud? Button with loop?
After hand-sewing on the velcro (which took some time) and realising that trying to open velcro with one hand while cyling could be perilous, we decided on studs.
Within about half an hour we had a bag. We tested it on this lovely model, and loaded it up with bananas and dried fruit. We think it works! All it needs now is the iron-on logo.

This week we will be making about 20 bags for all the cyclists according to the pattern. We reckon we can create all the bag pouches in one evening (with two sewing machines running) and then sew on all the straps another.

It was such a cosy and pleasant evening. My cottagey house lent itself to the activity and we enjoyed putting together the bags, tidying our sewing boxes and having dinner while talking about future projects and how we'd learned about sewing - from mothers or grandmothers. It seems lots of our friends can sew. Personally, I'm just learning, as my Mum was more of a knitter than a sewer. But my second term of 'beginners machine sewing' starts tonight - which I'm really looking forward to. Strange to think that the craft of sewing is now a hobby for us when it would have been a career for many women in the past. In my village, apparently, a lot of the women were lacemakers.

Monday, 7 September 2009

We have a logo!

Designed by Paul H, our logo is a beauty - in Bianchi celeste green. Below we have the mono version.

The plan is to iron the colour version of the logo on to the musettes using iron-on transfer paper - which is a pretty ingenious invention. I've ordered far too much, but I think it could have other pleasing uses ...

The next training ride for the MK people is tomorrow evening - Emma, Nina, Matt D-J and I will do about 13 miles around the North of MK. Meanwhile, Laura in Oxford and Jonathan in Leamington have reported doing some testing, long weekend rides.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Tour of Buckinghamshire

Well, we lost our Directeur Sportif, Gary Nelmes, from whose creative and sparkling brain the glamorous 'Tour of Buckinghamshire' sprung. As incredible as it seems, he did indeed spend his last days in the mountains wearing Mallory's recreation jumper. I am so proud of him in every way and he is always in my mind.

Gary had hundreds of ideas, but his last fleshed-out plan was the ToB - intended to introduce as many of his friends as possible to the excitement and aesthetic of cycle racing. Either that or to get us to 'improve' physically and morally, and turn us into lycra-wearing Nelmsian clones. I was never quite sure.

So, although it could never be the same without him, we felt the tour should still go ahead, as close as possible to his plans from his Ludicrous Exploits blog and from backs of envelopes and on various scraps and scribbles found about my house.

Here is an update on progress.

Richard G - to whom I am so grateful - graciously braved the new September gales yesterday and tested out the original 93-mile route. Richard - streamlined cycling machine that he is - tested the whole lot in one day, and with comments from the other team leaders came up with:

Day 1


Day 2


As you'll see, this now adds up to 69 miles. After some discussion, and some carefully timed training rides led by Matt snr, we feel that cutting down the mileage is necessary. Gary was keen for the ride to suit all, and a shorter route would allow us to enjoy a couple of stops for stimulants, to get in before nightfall and to enjoy the spa of our ville d'etape - which is now booked. Those who need more of a challenge will be able to test their mettle on the time trial, the 'mountain' stages, and the intermediate sprints. I think he'd approve of the modification.

Further progress

Richard J has now booked the broom wagon, and Jackie our driver is currently in her lab working out the physics of how to duck tape an actual broom to the back. Visual gag!

All Butter Flapjack has posted us a DVD of the film A Sunday in Hell (to be shown after the grand dinner in the evening of Day 1).

Plans are afoot for the creation of 'musettes' at a craft club evening chez moi with the aid of seamstresses Sue and Beccy.

I have read things out and Emma has written things down in neat handwriting. We think we know what we need to do.

So things are shaping up. Some further discussion of the route with the team leaders is necessary - but I'm pleased with progress. Everyone seems genuinely keen to be involved and to be looking forward to celebrating the life of Gary in serious style.