Cogal Report: Sussex Cogal 2016

Someone is taking this Cogal thing seriously, except for the malted recovery beverage drinking part. And maybe we need to remove the “casually deliberate” from route pace description. One person’s casually deliberate is another person’s lactate threshold. I know this from personal experience. Well done here, from start to finish, even you Alex. 

VLVV, Gianni

View from @ChrisO

We’d ridden some of these roads before on the first English cogal in 2013, the one with the biblical deluge.

I only know this because several times Dave (Teocalli) breezily pointed out ‘That’s the paddock where the cows came over as we mended the puncture’ and other pieces of bucolic nostalgia. Honestly I couldn’t have connected that rain-soaked head-down day with the present landscape if my life depended on it.

While not-exactly glorious it was at least picturesque day to appreciate the beautiful back passageways of Sussex and Surrey, traffic-light and innuendo-heavy. A suitable day for the last fling before mudguards and winter boots become standard.

Just six started but it was a quality field and while the pace was amicably casual on the flats it was deliberately sharp on the uphills, of which there were a couple of testers. The climb above Goodwood in particular was short but nasty, a half mile at 8-10% or a full mile at 6%, which took a toll on some of our number

The real beast was at the end though leading up to Dave’s house (I asked if he’d considered moving). It has some 7-8% in the middle but about two miles of 5% which seems innocuous enough even after 130km. The fiendish thing is that it seems to come from nowhere. I usually look for a summit or ridge and think “OK, I’ve just got to get up there” to know how much further to sustain my effort. This seemed to be a rolling optical illusion, with no top that could be seen and no higher points but a constant gradient. If M.C.Escher designed hills, this would be one of his.

With some tempo-drilling on the front we made it to Dave’s place literally as the rain started to fall, and an otherwise dry day was dampened by runs to and from the train stations in some lashing rain. Still, last time I rode with Dave I came back in more pieces than I’d started out in so the text home of merely “I’m wet and on the train” was a relief to all. The fact that it had come after warm soup and home-baked bread rather than ketamine and x-rays was a bonus.

I said last time that I was surprised more people didn’t come to these Cogals, given the way in which the Rules seem to pervade cycling. I can only assume the many rule-quoters out there think we are mythical, secretive and closely-guarded, like the real Illuminati.

Perhaps on his forthcoming book tour Frank can give a plug to the local chapter. But, fresh blood or not, we’ve done well to have two Cogals in a year and next spring we aim for Wales, where even the word innuendo puts you over your daily vowel quota.

 View from Greg

Having spent much more time riding in the North Downs (and north of London in Hertfordshire and  the Chilterns), I was really looking forward to my second UK Cogal, this time in the South Downs out of Haslemere.   Even the early week email flurry of apocalyptic weather warnings couldn’t dampen (soak?) my enthusiasm!

On the day, I was second to arrive at Hemingways for pre-ride caffeine and carb (croissant with Nutella!) loading with Chris O. Soon the rest of the folks rolled up…some of the same who rode the Chiltern Cogal early in the year: Ephraim, David Hill and a couple of new faces: David’s son Alex and Dave (Teocalli) who was ill for the last UK Cogal.

Off we went and a couple things struck me as we rolled along: (1) how much lower the traffic levels were compare to the northern parts of Surrey… Dave, I’m seriously envious!; (2) The scenery and quality of the route. Our route organiser (Dave) lives in the area and put together an excellent route with a nice mix of roads/terrain/scenery…. Even the A roads we used to connect to back roads were quiet.  The scenery by the way was fantastic…not as “structured” as in Kent, not as wild/natural as some of the riding I’ve done in Wales…rather somewhere in between. And finally (3) the weather gods were going to be kind to us at least for most of the day) with sunshine was breaking through off and on over the first couple of hours. The crystal clear air and fantastic quality of the light made it one of those days that you take note of and appreciate!

The group wound along at a reasonable tempo, splitting a bit in hills but regrouping at the summits.  After a while it was clear Alex was feeling the impact of the distance/tempo/vertical…. there’s no mistaking when the man with the hammer is pounding on someone’s door.  But you could also tell he wasn’t going to open the door for him, rather he’d have to break it down…well done Alex.

Lunch at 50 miles was al fresco and super at the Compton tea house and we reduced to 4 there.  Upon departing, We set a steady tempo back and reached the final, reasonably long climb up to David’s house.  As I started up the pitch on Chris O’s wheel I began to hear some strange noises off the rear wheel…. Very similar to when one leaves coins in your trouser pocket in the washer/dryer.  I slowed, pretty much knowing I had broken a spoke, but unwilling to stop. The sound stopped and I soft pedalled along hoping things would stay silent….but to no avail.  Stopping, I found the offending spoke and did my best “Macgiver” and secured it by wrapping it around another spoke as Dave and Ephraim rolled past asking if I was OK.  Luckily everything held together and we all made it to Dave’s house for some excellent soup, bread and coffee that his wife Heather has made for us (thank you!) just as the raindrops started to fall.

A quick dash in the now moderate rain to Haslemere station and again in central London from Waterloo to home completed a fabulous 90+ mile day.

Thanks guys for a fabulous day out and ignoring (mostly) my Rule breaking!

Looking forward to a Welsh Cogal in the spring – Greg


View from @E-Digs (Ephraim)


233 kilometres clocked up because I thought it’d be interesting to ride the 82 kilometres from my house to the start of the Cogal in Haslemere, Sussex.

Which meant 2500 metres of elevation by day’s end.

6 gentleman cyclists started our Tour of Sussex.

4 gentleman cyclists completed our Tour of Sussex.

0 punctures.

1 mild panic after 15 minutes of riding when I reached for my bidon and realised I’d left it at the start in Haslemere. No worries, only another 75km to the lunch stop. (For “no worries” read “BOLLOCKS!”)

3 names crossed off on our innuendo bingo cards: Cocking, Lickfold and Balls Cross. Unfortunately, we failed to spot Parsons Fanny, Hardon Lane and Push-In-The-Bush.

3 times I told Dave (Teocalli) how great his route was. Public roads that felt like private passageways, lumps in all the right places offering splendid views, and short sections of main road for driving the tempo.

4 sausage rolls were devoured at lunch in Compton. 2 were these Fancy Dan Italian inventions that looked delicious. The other two were your common-or-garden affairs because they’d now run out of their delicious looking Fancy Dan Italian versions. Bastards.

Although we were in Compton, we left without sighting any members of NWA. I did think we might be on for a drive-by shooting when a car drove slowly past our seating area, but it was just Heather, Dave’s awesome wife on broom wagon duty.

27 rain drops felt over the course of our 137km group ride. 5 were sensed at the point Chris O removed his arm warmers, which caused him to wonder aloud if he’d acted too hastily. The remaining 22 were felt as we pulled up at the end. Timing!

0 fucks given as I rode home from Waterloo station in a deluge. This was my second Cogal, and my second classy day out with posters and lurkers on this forum, so, at this juncture, a soaking was chump change.

There’s been a low hum about a possible Welsh Cogal in spring of next year, and my advice would be to hop aboard if you can, because in a world of shortcut reviews these gatherings get the full 5 stars.

View from @DavidHill

I was looking forward to the Cogal, riding with my son who had come over from Belgium especially for this ride. I’d warned him it would probably be a tough one, the longest he’d done, but that it would be in a beautiful area, with a great bunch of guys, and that we’d enjoy it. I’ll let him comment on that last sentiment. Once we’d all met up at the appointed café I knew it was going to be a very hard day. I could only see the grimpeurs from the earlier London Cogal in front of me, and Teocalli (Dave) who I was sure also fell into that category.

Once we left the café we quickly got into a very decent pace (none of this Casually Deliberate 23/24 km/h nonsense) and I settled down for some serious hard work. At the first few hills my fears were realised – the other 4 disappeared up them, I battled up, and my son followed. This pattern was repeated, and the grimpeurs got used to stopping at the peaks, admiring the view, and waiting for us.

Fifty to sixty km in I made a decision – I felt the others were waiting too long, and we were acting as a brake on the group. Whilst the weather was fine, it was due to turn late afternoon, and no-one wants to be riding in foul weather in late October if it can be helped. At the next climb, once I got to the top, I suggested that we would continue to ride together until the lunch stop at around the 85k mark, and from there split the Cogal into two, as the speed differential was just too great. The others demurred, saying it wasn’t a problem etc, but I still felt we should split.

However, during the ride to the appointed lunch stop the Broom Wagon was summoned, aka Heather, Dave’s lovely wife. It would have been rude not to accept (!), so our rides were cut short and we were delivered to a superb bowl of warm soup.

And before anyone quotes “Rule V” at me, we were both happy to carry on, however we would have tested the patience of even the most saintly riders by the end!

View from @Teocalli (Dave)

As I woke, after dawn, I reflected how nice it was to have a Cogal start on your doorstep as I was sure the remainder of the troop would have been up well before dawn. Little did I know that by the time I arose Ephraim would have already have been on the road for well over an hour riding to the start. Chapeau.

Tyres up to pressure, bidons filled and glad I had bought a Gabba after all, as the weather was not looking quite as dry as forecast. David and Alex arrived to leave their car at our place and a quick wiz downhill to Hemmingway’s to the obligatory pre start Espresso/Macchiato – well, isn’t a Flat White the new Macchiato?

Fortunately the weather picked up and it turned out “reet grand” (at least for the time of year) as the drizzle stopped just about as we started and as other’s have said we finished just as it started to pour down.

Once again I was struck by how well members of the community seem to ride in a group compared to many of my club rides. There was no surging and everyone held station on the lumps and bumps. Nice one guys. So we soon settled into a rhythm for the day riding as a nice tight group. Well, mostly.

It is so much easier when you know where the pain points are going to come on a ride. So it was clear that we had unfortunately rather burned Alex heading over Goodwood and knowing what was to come after lunch (a series of hills to the finish each worse than the preceding one) I had a quick chat with ChrisO to confirm that it was sensible to call the broom wagon. Fortunately, I had put the bike racks on in case we had any mechanicals and pre-booked a “just in case” with Mrs T. The challenge though would be in finding us as the car’s Sat Nav hates back roads and we were riding some very back, back roads that Heather did not know existed. So a hook up at the lunch stop village was arranged – turned out that even that village was unknown to the Sat Nav but we were discovered just as I moved from Sausage Roll to Coffee Cake. I had a plain one – that will teach me for pre-recommending the Spicy Italian ones.

So with tears in our eyes and a heavy hearts for our lost team-mates we set of for the second half of the ride and the hills that fortunately I knew. The nasty part is that as the miles accumulate in the legs the hills really do get worse on this route. In fact, just about on any route round here does that on the way back home. So it is good to know that ChrisO appreciated the last one. Greg exceeded the Star Trek Scotty Factor laying down so much power that he blew a spoke. I read somewhere that it’s one of the few remaining hills that retains the profile that was built in for horse and cart whereby it goes up in a series of ramps so the horses got a bit or respite (relative term) between each ramp. Always nice to know when you feel like your body is about to explode. All in all, a great ride in great company once again and looking forward to what @RobSandy has in store for the inaugural Welsh Cogal 2017.


View from Alex

I must be a cat.

We returned from the Cogal a few hours ago, and with memories still fresh I thought it would be best to write the report as soon as possible. For the moment though, the only thought crossing my mind is : ‘pain’. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Ok! I’ve had a good night’s sleep, here goes the report: The Cogal really started at the meeting point for an early morning coffee. We hadn’t started cycling and I was already panicking. Clearly, we were in the presence of those that live La Vie Velominatus. Between Chris who travels the world for sportives, Ephraim who cycled 80km to the meeting point, the equipment and the bikes around me, all hope of an enjoyable Saturday discovering Sussex quickly vanished – I died inside for the first time.

As soon as we set off, the pace was blistering! ‘Deliberately Casual’ definitely is a very subjective term. This wasn’t helping the panicking to dissipate. What did though, is remembering a conversation my Dad and I had a few years ago with a 65 year old who was training for an Ironman. As we would with any human engaging in such craziness we asked him how it is physically possible. His answer? ‘As long as you stay beneath 70% of your maximum heart rate, your body can continue all day long’. Without a heart rate monitor, I tried to evaluate my condition. I felt my heart was under control. Hope raised! Maybe I can do this! Maybe I will be able to sustain this pace for hours! As long as I stay well hidden in the slipstream, of course. We then met our first hill of the day. As the percentage increased, I increased pressure on the pedals, nothing happened. Clearly, this was going to be a long day – I died a second time.

A little later, as I’m trying to keep up, failure. A complete body failure. I had never suffered anything like it on a bike. My body shut down. Let me be very clear: I’m not pretending without it the outcome would have been different. No, you guys are monsters on a bike. If my body failed, although I don’t understand what triggered it specifically, riding too quickly for too long still is the obvious explanation. It’s not an excuse, it’s a consequence.

Not only was morale down to zero, pain had gone past 10, and 11. My (baby) guns? They weren’t hurting too much, nothing too bad, they just didn’t function. My stomach was screaming for food, drinking felt like dropping a weight into a bag. I discovered the unpleasant way blowing your nose without a tissue is not that easy. I discovered your knees can hurt. I discovered you can pedal with cramps. As I had stopped ‘riding’ my bike – the bike was pulling me home – she (a bike’s a she) became uncomfortable, badly uncomfortable. My back felt liked it wanted to escape from my body. My bottom was clearly punishing me for something really bad. I discovered Hell; my third death of the day was the most painful one.

At this point, I am begging for our lunch break. Surely it can’t be that far away? We’ve been cycling for over a couple of hours, I’m pretty sure we’ve crossed half distance point. As I’m trying to figure it out, I see the rest of the group on the left hand side of the road waiting for me. I don’t stop, they’ll catch me, for sure. Head down, trying to imagine Rule #5 written on my legs, I feel something. ‘Pain! My legs are hurting more, and wait, it’s getting much harder to keep them turning! That must mean….The road is going up! Please let it be a small one.’ As I look up, as I discover what I was in for, a few thoughts crossed my mind. It would probably be more accurate to say ‘a bunch of words’ crossed my mind, none of which I feel comfortable writing. Having given up before even starting, it did not go well. I reached a new low. A low no rider weighing as little as I do should ever have to resort to. When I almost lost balance, I decided I had no other choice but to put my foot down and walk the remaining distance. That’s probably in violation of so many rules, and definitely of Rule #5, my favourite. I got back on my bike just before the summit. Promised myself I would never tell a living soul what happened – I later found out I had to write a report, I couldn’t not mention the worst part of the ride, I’ll have to assume the shame. That was my fourth death of the day. The most painful psychologically.

There was no coming back from that. Nothing could get my self esteem back to an acceptable level. I decided to let my mind wander, I provoked a row with myself, thinking about an argument I’m in with a friend. Half of me was playing myself, the other half, her. I’m not sure what it did to my pace, but it did make me forget about the pain. At that point, it’s all I wanted,no more pain.

Eventually, we arrived at the lunch break. Finally, I could do the shameful thing. Finally I could retire, abandon, give up, chicken out, be rescued, ignore Rule #5. For my defense, I had no other choice, I was running out of lives.

Special thanks to Heather for the rescue service and soup! Truly enlivened my day! Thanks to all four believers for giving me a glimpse at La Vie Velominatus and for putting up with me. I have found one way to get my self-esteem back up, round 2! This won’t be my last Cogal.

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54 Replies to “Cogal Report: Sussex Cogal 2016”

  1. @RobSandy

    Darn, that’s what I get for not monitoring the site frequently enough (massive week at work)…is the date at all flexible?  I did the Tour de Yorkshire sportive last year and was planning on doing it again in 2017, which as mentioned earlier overlaps this weekend.  If not, you’re making me have to make a tough choice…….and I’d rather do both!  Weekend before?

  2. @davidlhill


    What’s the point of a Cogal report if it doesn’t name and shame the no shows?

    I think you mis-read, as there were no no-shows. We were just surprised that only 6 London (ish) based Velominati said they’d ride. There must be more out there, surely?

    It looks like it was a fantastic day out. Chapeau all.

    Looking forward to @RobSandy‘s Welsh Cogal, especially @E-Digs maintaining his 100% record of riding from his home to the start.

    Somehow it wouldn’t surprise me……

    Yes, yes there are.

    Always riding the downs from my back-yard. I can’t believe I missed the discussions about this, would love to have shown my local haunts near Goodwood, Ditcham Graffam and Cock(r)ing, Dunton, Bury etc etc.


  3. my first century ride i ever rode, i suffered like Alex.  i had a few track omniums under my belt at the time, and i though i was pretty fit, when the truth was, i had never ridden a significant hill at tempo in my life.  the group i was riding with weren’t race fit, either, but they knew how to climb.  they just destroyed me when the road pointed up.  it was also at this point that i began to really understand the inherent advantages of STI/Ergopower levers.  i had mid ’80s chorus downtube friction levers on my bike, and i was pretty amazed at how cleanly the new stuff shifted, and how that translated to cycling efficiency.

  4. Chapeau gentlemen. I really wanted to make this cogal but unfortunately had family commitments.

    I wait with baited breath for the next one and really hope I’m available.

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