Café Directory Map

Google_Map

Take a closer look at the Café Directory in Google Maps.

New café’s are added all the time as I widen the net on my search for the perfect espresso.

 

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The Speckledy Hen, Surrey

dsc_0005Brought to you by the same people who run the awesome Dabbling Duck in nearby Shere, The Speckledy Hen in Shamley Green gives cyclists another great cafe stop in the Surrey Hills.

The Speckledy Hen only opened recently and it’s already gathering a reputation for dsc_0003great coffee and homemade cakes. It’s a cosy little place to stop and might struggle with bigger groups, but the staff are friendly and quick. In the summer it should come into it’s own with the chance to sit outside overlooking the village green.

dsc_0002It’s location is right on the Western edge of the Surrey Hills, if you’re looking for somewhere a little different from the usual haunts then this is well worth a visit.

My only small complaint would be the lack of places to stand or secure your bike up, perhaps that’s something they could take a look at. A couple of simple hanging racks when they’re open would be great!

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Cafe Rouge, Esher

dsc_0003-2Café Rouge in Esher, otherwise known as HQ for Dittons Velo cycle club, is handily placed on one of the main routes out of London if you’re heading out to the Surrey Hills. A stones throw from Esher station and Sandown Park race course, it welcomes cyclists and you can lock your bike up on the railing outside.

All Dittons Velo club rides set off from here on a Saturday morning, with riders getting a morning coffee from 9am. The staff are super friendly and efficient and the coffee is pretty good, but they’ll never quite match the gourmet offering up the road at G!ro.

dsc_0001There’s a big car park to congregate and get rides organised in and in the summer the beer garden around the back is nice little sun trap for a post ride Stella Artois and a snack or a full blown lunch and recuperation.

You’re sure of a warm welcome here and if you’re looking for a local  inclusive and friendly cycle club then check out www.dittonsvelo.org.uk and pop down here one Saturday morning.

 

Pilots Hub, Redhill Aerodrome

dsc_0006-2 Pilots Hub is on the Redhill Areodrome in Surrey, East of my usual haunts around the Surrey Hills. There’s tons of space inside and out and plenty of places to lock up your bike.

Pilots Hub describes itself as a brasserie and coffee house, it serves a wide range of hot food and cakes etc to cover pretty much all needs. dsc_0010The coffee was nice and the cakes were big on my visit, it also provided some warm respite to what was a very wet and cold day.

To get to the toilets you walk through an aircraft hanger with some old bi-planes in it, certainly adds some interest to your ride.

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On a warm day you can sit outside and watch the aeroplanes and helicopters coming and going. Great place to grab a proper lunch as well as a coffee and cake stop, they were also very welcoming to a large group of cyclists. Definitely a place you’ll come back to.

 

 

 

 

Allez Nutrition, Surrey

dsc_0004If you’re out riding in the Surrey Hills of a weekend then odds are you have come across the delights of the Allez Nutrition mobile cafe. Most weekends you will find them in the car park at the top of Staple Lane near the junction with Coombe Lane.

They do an excellent espresso, much better than many bricks and mortar establishments,  a wide range of food, healthy drinks, energy gels and even home made rice balls to keep you fueled up on your ride.

dsc_0002I believe they also have a limited supply of inner tubes for emergencies, and they have a track pump which can come in very handy. Definitely an essential piece of local knowledge that’s in a prime spot, make sure you check them out.

 

 

 

The William Bray, Surrey

william-brayAfter a long spring and summer focussed on sportives and epic adventures at the Maratona in Italy, autumn was the time to start finding some new cafe stops. The regular spot to stop for a coffee when you find yourself in Shere is the legendary Dabbling Duck, however if you roll on by another couple of hundred yards you come to The William Bray pub.

There’s plenty of space to lock your bikes up outside and in the summer the outdoor seating would be awesome. On a cold October morning though we were glad to find a wood burner pumping out some heat in the main bar area and friendly staff happy to serve up 12 coffee’s and teas in pretty quick order.The coffee was fairly standard but very welcome, and the free wi-fi was a bonus.

The pub has an excellent reputation as a gastro pub so it doesn’t really cater for your typical cake stop, but if you’re after a crafty mid-ride pint then they have a good selection on tap. I get the feeling this might become a regular alternative stop for Surrey Hills rides in the future.

 

Maratona dles Dolomites

Maratona LogoThere are many Gran Fondo‘s and Cyclosportive‘s but only one Maratona.  Set in the stunningly beautiful Italian Dolomite mountains of the historic  South Tyrol, it’s hard to imagine a better setting for one of the premier events on the amateur road cycling bucket list.

This year the Maratona celebrated it’s 30’s anniversary with 9,000 riders participating in the main event, after a multi-day cycle festival that pretty much takes over the local towns around  Covara. If you turn up in Italy missing a vital pice of equipment or clothing don’t worry, the bike shop’s here have it all going on and you’ll find it hard to keep that credit card in your wallet.

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The full course is a fairly reasonable 138km long, but it’s the 4,230m of climbing that define the challenge. With seven climbs to negotiate you are constantly grinding it out up a mountain or swooping down through the hairpins on the glorious descents.

My journey to the Maratona started last summer with some loose talk between myself and two friends discussing ways to mark our forthcoming “landmark” birthdays. The idea of a European cycling holiday seemed to be a good idea, none of us had really ridden abroad before so we started doing a little research. Before we quite understood the enormity of what we were taking on, we’d signed up with Sports Tours International for a guaranteed place in the Maratona and there was no turning back.

bikeI spent the Autumn, Winter and Spring putting in around 150 miles a week on the bike. I joined my fairly local and very friendly cycle club, Dittons Velo, which opened a whole new world to improve my riding, meet some great people and gauge where I was at in my training. A bike “upgrade” to the awesome Bianchi Infinto CV was to follow in the Spring, courtesy of the top guys over at Bicycle in Richmond. If I was going to Italy, then it was time to channel my inner Passione Celeste.

Weekends spent hunting down decent climbs in the South East became a frustrating obsession, how could you prepare for a 9.3km climb averaging 9.9% when the best Surrey Hills had to offer was 2.5km at 5%? In the end I bolted on a crash course of 12 indoor power based training sessions at the excellent Athlete Lab in London and that made a big difference.

I scheduled in a bunch of UK sportives to keep me motivated through the Spring, and soon enough it was time to get packing. I opted for an Evoc Bike Bag in the end, cheaper to buy and lighter than the hard case alternatives, quite a factor when considering airline excess baggage fees.

Overall I was really happy with it and the bike came through unscathed, check out the tips on how to pack one from the ever reliable GCN. They also had some other handy videos on how to train for the Maratona and how to pack for an overseas trip that are worth checking out.

The flight out to Venice on the Thursday was pretty straight forward and we soon hooked up with around forty others arriving on different flights from around the UK. The Sports Tours International reps corralled us all onto a transfer coach with trailer for bikes, and we headed off into the mountains without too much delay.

sompuntOur hotel was the Lech da Sompunt and they looked after us incredibly well throughout our stay. Everybody kept their bikes in their rooms and the hotel was pretty much just full of cyclists. The evening meals were huge five course buffets that catered for everybody, vegetarians will eat really well here, and the staff were really friendly and attentive. The free wi-fi was a bit hit and miss but otherwise it was a great location about 10 minutes away from the start of the ride.

Sport Tours organised an informal shakedown ride on the Friday that allowed us to take an early look at our surroundings. I was a little apprehensive at first when it was announced that the ride would be an easy 55km with 1,780m climbing following the first four climbs of the Maratona route, also known as the Sellaronda course. My carefully constructed tapering regime hadn’t factored this in so I considered just doing the first climb, but in the end I bit the bullet and decided to do the full loop.

Fancy CarsFinally getting out onto the roads and the climbs I’d read so much about was breathtaking. The roads were crammed full of cyclists checking out Sunday’s route and as we climbed the Passo Campolongo and the Passo Pordoi I soaked up the atmosphere and marvelled at the landscape as it unfolded in front of us.

Before setting off for Italy I was pretty unsure how I would get on with the long, fast and winding descents and crazy looking hairpin bends. I’d been doing plenty of research for good descending tips and techniques but my concerns were quickly silenced and I found myself really enjoying getting into the rhythm of snaking down a mountain at speed.

bothShakedown ride completed in one piece, it was time to register and collect my rider credentials and a goody bag. The Maratona organisers had this down to a fine art, rider numbers have your name and national flag printed on them, a Castelli event shirt and a Castelli Gilet are both included in your rider pack along with numerous other goodies. Other events could seriously pick up a tip or two here. There was also a Castelli pop-up shop selling Maratona merchandise and a number of trade stalls which all helped crank the atmosphere up another notch.

DSC_0186 (2)Saturday was spent doing precisely nothing except for eating, resting and making final adjustments to the bike and kit. Breakfast was at 5:30am on Sunday morning and quite a sight to behold as dozens of bleary eyed lycra clad cyclists fuelled up in the dining room. A short ride to our starting pen through a heavy mist was to follow, as helicopters from Italian national TV swooped in low to capture the start of the ride. The starting signal was  a huge explosion piped through speakers hanging below a helicopter, enough to wake up every house in the area, and we were off!

The sheer volume of cyclists in the first few kilometers meant you really had to be alert and keep your wits about you. As the enormous peloton snaked out of Covara and up the first climb of the Passo Campolongo I quickly lost sight of my riding companions and just concentrated on climbing and getting into a consistent rhythm. The first descent was fast but the shakedown ride had given me confidence and I was soon safely at the bottom and straight into the second climb of the Passo Pordoi.

P1160832Slowly the riders began to string out a little and I could get into  a good climbing pace. When I reached the summit I stumbled across my two riding companions, just before the Fausto Coppi monument that we’d had our photos taken against two days previously. Halfway down the descent of the Pordoi, the road swings right and you begin the ascent of the Passo Sella. This was possibly the most scenic of all the climbs on the ride.

The last climb before we descended back into Corvara was the relatively gentle Passo Gardena, the morning mist was still eerily hanging over the mountain top as we reached the summit, and the riders were now much more spread out. I was amazed at how many of the locals were out cheering the riders along the first four climbs with a variety of instruments, cow bells and banners on display. DCIM100DRIFT

It all added to the really great vibes surrounding the day, along with the names and national flags on the rider numbers which encouraged riders to talk to each other and spur each other on when the going got tough.

A fast descent back into Covara followed, then back up the Passo Campolongo for a second time but without the congestion. By now the sun had burnt through and the temperature was starting to rise. We had been taking things a little too easy so far with leisurely feed stops and toilet breaks, then suddenly the three of us realised we had 10 minutes to make the cut-off point where the full route and the middle course split into two.

Spurred into action we really had to put the hammer down but we sneaked through the cut-off point with literally a couple of minutes to spare.

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Panic over, we rolled into the next feed station and prepared ourselves for the iconic climb of the Passo Giau. The Giau had been instrumental in deciding the Giro d’Italia earlier in the year when the pro-peloton came barreling through these parts, and was the first HC category climb I’d ever attempted. The Giau was a beast of a climb, averaging a gradient of just under 10% and nearly 10km to the summit, but it was smooth and you could get into a steady rhythm.

giauAround halfway up my Garmin helpfully informed me that my Virtual Partner had reached the top, which turned out to be Joe Dombrowski’s Strava KOM which he’d set on the Giro d’Italia a few weeks previously. Virtual Partner ignored, I soon found we were passing plenty of riders who were struggling on the ascent and just over an hour after starting the climb we finally made it to the top.  It felt like a massive achievement but by now I could really start to feel my knees creaking!

Despite the soaring temperature as we climbed the Giau, I was glad I had my Dittons Velo gilet for the long winding descent. Thinking that the toughest part was over I was rudely awakened with arrival of the Passo Valporola, another long climb at over 11km but this time with an average gradient of 6.7%. Off the back of the Giau this was really hard work but we ground it out and when we finally rolled into the feed station at the top we knew we didn’t have far to go.

The final descent back to Covara was smooth and fast and it began to dawn on me that I’d nearly completed  my mountain adventure. However there was still one final sting in the tail to overcome, the infamous Mür dl giat (The Cat Wall). Only 380 metres long but with a whopping maximum gradient of 19% it sure sounded interesting!

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Unlike the long climbs that had preceded it, this was a short sharp shock and much closer to what I’d been training on back in the Surrey Hills, I’m looking at you Whitedown Lane! Heaving myself out of the saddle I weaved my way past all the crazies cheering us on,  under the giant inflatable evil-looking cat at the top of the climb and happy not to be one of those who got off and pushed.

The last few kilometres were an easy roll into Covara, riders who had finished passing us in the opposite direction and medals around their necks cried out an encouraging “Alez, Alez” all the way to the finish line. DSC_0229Eight hours in the saddle had taken its toll, but in all honesty I think I still had at least one more mountain left in me if the need had arisen. The feeling of achievement and elation was massive though, and given the chance I’d come back to do it all again in a flash.

We set the bar pretty high for our first European cycling adventure but the experience exceeded even my most optimistic expectations. Travelling with Sports Tours International ensured everything went smoothly and gave us the opportunity to meet and get to know other riders doing the event in the days before the ride.

Quite how we follow the Maratona in 2017 remains to be decided. Rumblings of doing La Marmotte or L’Étape du Tour have been made, as have Milan-San Remo , Granfondo Campagnolo Roma and the Cape Town Cycle Tour, or closer to home maybe the 3 Day Dragon Tour or the Tour Of Cambridgeshire. So many  rides, so little time and money, but whatever we choose it’s going to be very hard to be a better experience than the truly awesome Maratona dles Dolimites.

 

Wombley

DSC_0044Now I know this is a cycling blog with generous helpings of coffee but if you have read the About page you’ll know that I reserve the right to drop in the occasional reference to AFC Wimbledon.

So how can I not mark the incredible events that unfolded on the 30th May 2016 when the mighty Dons were promoted to League 1, League Divison 3 in old money. You can read the full story of how the League 2 Play-Off final against Plymouth Argyle unfolded on the BBC Sport website but to cut to the chase, AFC Wimbledon won 2-0 and never looked in trouble.

Resurrecting the club from its ashes as, say, ‘Wimbledon Town’ would be not in the wider interests of football – Football Association May 2002

My journey to #wombley started at 7am in West Wales and we could hardly move for the 35,000 Green & White Plymouth fans travelling up the M4 with us. However by the time we arrived at Wembley Stadium the rivers of Yellow & Blue were flowing with 22,000 Wimbledon supporters converging on the national stadium. Not bad for a club that had to re-start at level 9 in the football pyramid and were not in the wider interests of football, according the Football Association.

 

DSC_0072The game was surprisingly stress free, the Dons took control and despite a couple of minor chances for Plymouth in the first half, it really was just a matter of time before they took the lead. Plymouth Argyle really didn’t turn up in the second half and the win was secured with a second goal through a late penalty from Adebayo “The Beast” Akinfenwa.

AFC Wimbledon fans during their Blue Square Bet Premier League play-off finalSo the Dons were going up and the Franchise went down, sweet vindication for everybody who battled against the injustice served up by the FA back in May 2002. I won’t waste any more breath on “them”, but what an amazing achievement for our club to go from playing at level 9 in the Combined Counties League to level 3 in the Football League in the space of just 14 years.

Come On You Dons!