Monday, June 27

The Countdown to The Tour

Bradley Wiggins, our new national champion!

Next weekend, the Tour de France begins... and traditionally the weekend before the Tour is National Championship weekend, all around the world.  This year's British National Championships was held in Northumbria, with the start & finish in the pretty village of Stamfordham, just outside Newcastle - a bit of a trek from York, especially by public transport, but well worth the early start.

I arrived just in time to see Lizzie Armitstead (Most Beautiful Woman in Cycling, TM, according to every male cycling fan I know) take the women's title, with Nicole Cooke, Sharon Laws and Emma Pooley close on her tail.  The afternoon was spent basking in the sunshine with a bunch of my dear Twitter friends, drinking coffee from the mobile Rapha Cycle Club and taking a gentle stroll to the roadside every so often to watch the race come through.  It was clear from the start that Team Sky wanted the win, especially when it seemed like all of their riders went in the first break.  By lap three the field was in bits and the leading break was down to three men - Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh - with such a huge advantage that, barring disaster, the only question was what order they would appear on the podium.  There were some mutterings about the dominance of Sky over the domestic riders who race these roads day in, day out (Rob over at Reclaiming the Abandoned Bicycle sums it up pretty well) and while I would have loved to have seen Kristian House's super-strong ride result in a win, I also find it incredibly exciting that Britain now has riders who can compete at that next level - and to be able to see them in action on British roads is fantastic. has a brief race report and lots of photos of the day.

Where there is cycling there also must be cake, of course, and as is my habit I did a big batch of baking to share with the lovely Rapha Condor Sharp boys... and at Jimmy McCallum's request here are the recipes:

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies (adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 oz butter
8oz dark chocolate
1/4 cup creme fraiche

and (optional) 1/4 cup coffee-flavoured chocolate beans or 1/2 cup bottled cherries or 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

In a large ovenproof frying pan or hob-proof baking tin melt the butter and chocolate over a very low heat.  Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together, and in a separate bowl mix the flour, cocoa and salt.

Take the melted chocolate off the heat and stir the creme fraiche into it, then combine with the flour mixture and the egg mixture.  Stir in the chocolate or fruit, if using, pour the mixture back into the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes - it should still be ever so slightly damp & fudgy in the centre.

Cool, cut into squares & enjoy with a very good cup of coffee (or a bidon of REGO!)

Chocolate & Peanut-butter Flapjacks

8oz porridge oats
3oz chocolate chunks
3oz demerara sugar
4fl oz golden syrup
4oz crunchy peanut butter
1oz butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 degrees & line a 9inch square (or similar) baking tin.

Melt the butter, golden syrup & sugar together over a low heat.  Once bubbling, remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla.

In a separate large bowl combine the oats and chocolate chips, then thoroughly mix in the peanut butter mixture.  Press into the lined tin with the back of a spoon & bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Cut into slices while still warm.

One last thing to keep you occupied until the Tour starts on Saturday... The fabulous Rich Mitchelson has just released this year's Yorkshireman at the Tour de France colouring sheet - pop over to to print your own picture of Ben Swift to colour in as you see fit!  I managed to grab Swifty for a quick chat after yesterday's race, he seemed absolutely thrilled to be riding his first Tour - I shall be cheering loudly for him, I hope you will too!

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