14 December, 2012


Question: What’s the stopping distance of a ‘well used’ training bike in rainy conditions?

Answer: Several metres further than the car in front when they do an emergency stop.

Luckily I did a very dance-like avoidance move (similar to the jive) and succeeded in taking the impact solely on my left quad, which is lucky because you don’t make much use of them when cycling.

I spent the next ten minutes riding like my leg had had it’s own miniature stroke; pedalling squares doesn’t really cover it.

Other fun occurrences on the ride this morning included getting ‘tidal waved’ by an overtaking car and sneezing a cereal bar out my nose.

In shed news: she’s a beaut. Below is the story of her growth from wee nipper to strapping young gal, in pictures.

Organised chaos!

Just some graves I dug up.

Got wood?

10 December, 2012

Tenerife - A sunny summary!

Another gorgeous sunrise.

Today was my last big day of riding; I’ll probably do a little spin tomorrow to enjoy the scenery a bit more rather than whizz through it. I’m a little bit sad to be going too. I’ve become very accustomed to the simple life now after only a week here and I’m thinking I might struggle a bit re-integrating into society! My life has consisted of getting up, eating breakfast, drinking coffee, cycling, eating lunch, napping, eating second lunch, drinking tea, eating dinner, having a beer, eating cake, going to bed. I’m not convinced there’s much more that I want in life!

Up in the clouds - chilling on the volcano.

I’ve really enjoyed staying here at the Refugio Plantacion Tenerife with Rich, Chris and Tosh as it’s so relaxed, and the weather is renowned for being good. It’s been warm every day and the only thing I’ve had to consider when going out riding is how much food to take and if I need a gilet to keep warm on the mountain descents. The scenery is breathtaking and surprisingly varied depending on where you ride to. I love being able to ride from sea level up to the top of El Teide, 2200m up: it’s just astounding!

The pad.

Today we headed out with the Rapha guys and a few others and had a good ride around and back over Masca, a climb which is a bit grippy. They also showed us a great little café where we got whopper sized ‘café con leches’ for cheap which I of course loved, being a whopper. I’m looking forward to getting back to England to continue building my shed (I’ll post a snap soon) and of course seeing the lovely girl! I’m not really looking forward to the twenty degree drop in temperature though, gah!

Forest fire destruction. And fluffy clouds!

"It's all downhill from here".

05 December, 2012

It's Teide butt!

I decided to come over to Tenerife as a treat to myself for some warm weather training, and to see my friend Richard as it has been far too long! Last time I saw him we were freezing our nips off at an early season ‘Springtime’ Pursuit. This time round we were in a much more pleasant environment, a Spiritual Retreat in Armenime!

Flying in just before sunset was a real treat.

 As you can see the terrain is remarkably similar to the Surrey/Hampshire hills.

I’m staying on a banana plantation which is so great! It’s peaceful and a bit like living in the jungle as you go in through all of the leafy orchards.

This is a snap I took yesterday morning. I woke up, wandered out onto the steps outside and was treated to this sight. I’ve definitely woken up to worse things.

Today we did a little spin up El Teide, the local volcano. I’ve never ridden from sea level to over two thousand metres before, so it was jolly nice. We were riding uphill for two hours forty five minutes which was about as epic as it sounds and when you reach the top it’s a full blown moonscape. The scale of everything is so huge, I couldn’t really get my head around it.

My mind was blown.

Met this guy too and could NOT drop him!

27 September, 2012

The final flourish

After getting the podium I really wanted in the National Time Trial I’ve since had my head down and my legs spinning solely for the track, which was yesterday. I’m no trackie so I only entered the individual pursuit, the event which is arguably the easiest for a road rider to adapt to. It’s essentially a very unimaginative 4km time trial suitable for people who aren’t ambi-turners.

I like having specific targets at the end of the year because it means I can zero in on one thing in my mind and not feel any pressure, until the day anyway! The training for the I.P. was fairly gruelling though as it mostly involved 4 minute ‘max’ efforts, 1 minute ‘more than max’ efforts and 20 second ‘which way is the hospital?’ efforts. I’ll never forget the day I showed Coach Jon some power data for a 4 minute effort and he said; “This bit at the end… You shouldn’t be able to do that!”

The night before the event I was very kindly put up (with) by Jackie Marrs, my teammate’s mum and her boyfriend. It was very nice and I headed off for the track in the morning when they went to work. The only problem with this was I ended up arriving about seven hours early. There’s nothing quite as rock and roll as having a little nap in the car because you’ve got nothing much else to do and you’re feeling a bit squiffy after a long drive the day before. At one point I opened an eye to see Sir Chris Hoy hopping out of his convertible Jag looking very suave. Living the dream.

Snap courtesy of Rick Robson and Larry at VeloUK.

Onto the event, when I was honoured to have the very capable hands of Phil Wicinski giving me splits. He also acted as chief psychologist and motivational speaker: and he bought a riotous crew of supporters. It was so much fun having literally half of the velodrome behind me! I did a 4:35.375 in qualifying which put me in first place until the next pair of Doull and Dibben both went faster. Doh!

Still, I was in the bronze medal ride off for a second year running which isn’t too bad for a filthy roadie. After pulling my wheel over out the gate I made no mistake at the restart, getting the top three I so wanted. Thanks again to ‘Team Doug’: that is, Barry, Rael, Hayley, Carl, Anna and Phil, and to Jody Warrington who filmed it all and is going to make me famous. Check it out!

So that’s the season done and dusted for me. I’ll catch you all out on the town and remember: don’t believe any stories you may hear about me! Peace & Love.

04 September, 2012

What a plank!

Woah guys, big news: today I did the plank (of doom) for an eye-watering two minutes twenty seconds. Blood vessels were ruptured and life expectancy was shortened, but all in the name of insane levels of core strength.

I'm feeling so ABulous right now!

In other news, I did the National Time Trial on Sunday and slipped in a cheeky second place (or first loser). Alex Dowsett convincingly took me apart by 2:27, but hey, he smashed everyone else in too! High-fives and lager shandies all round (but not too many because I’ve got one more race on the 26th.

Smash City: population 1.

I’m going back to Manchester for the individual pursuit and hoping to get on the podium after two fourth places last year. I’ve freshened up a bit after a week tapering so I’m as interested as anyone to see what I can do.

At the pursuit last year.

27 August, 2012


My first good memory of Belgium is probably the first thing I remember doing when I got here: my first race. I did a post on it way-back-when but to recap briefly, I won alone and beat some pretty good guys. It was a massive boost for my CV and my confidence and it had me on a high for about the next three weeks!

Good piece of glass.

Last year after I’d finished university I came out with two other guys and we stayed next door to the manager, in a stinky, dirty, horrendous one bedroom place for six weeks. This year some of the new GWR riders did the same but unfortunately for them there were five of them, and it was bad enough for us with three! Turning up to see them sitting on the doorstep (as the team manager had neglected to pick them up from the station and they’d had to hitchhike) then watching their initial reactions, was very funny from the other side!

Belgium has a rapid effect on the GWR boys.

Living with a group of like-minded friends is very fun, and the reason most people go to university; and being here in Belgium has been no different. Despite only knowing two of the other five riders at the start of the year we’ve all got pretty tight. Boys being boys as time has gone on we’ve all lost our grip on reality a bit, living in the cycling bubble and doing little else. This has led to plenty of house oddities, starting with excessive nudity (which I think I should perhaps take the most stick for having spent too much time at nudist beaches in my childhood). Next up is language which has slipped from bad, to worse, to explicit military strength blaspheming. This is closely linked with friendly abuse between us all which is now at a level that to an outsider must appear as abject hate!

Standard stage race behaviour.

My best stage race of this year brings back some good memories too. After getting smashed in for every tour of the year so far, going to Deux Sevres and getting third was awesome. I was attacking the yellow jersey on the final stage up climbs (what the flip?!) and all whilst proudly displaying large biro penises on my numbers; an act of revenge courtesy of Josh Hunt.

This was what caused the backlash!

Cycling full time does take a lot of hours, what with training, stretching, eating, cleaning bikes blah blah blah. However, through effective time management we still made time to build a mega cool raft! I didn’t get an engineering degree (Masters people!) for no reason.

Three people was a bad choice!

24 August, 2012

Tricks of the trade

This post is mostly going to be a dedication to the things I’ve learnt (in sickness and in health) in this fine Belgian land of pushbikes. Hopefully it’ll provide some amusement and might even turn out to be useful advice for future riders.

Don’t panic. This works on so many levels. The beans on the hob are getting burnt, don’t panic: they only cost 47 cents! The break has just gone up the road without you, don’t panic: one of these over-energetic Flandriens will tow you across.

Roads are rough, tough and unforgiving. Riding over them sometimes isn’t that fun; skidding along them on your face never is. The minute you start worrying about that though you’ll be on your arse. The key is to retain a certain ‘joie de vivre’ even when brushing shoulders, bars and rear mechs with other riders and street furniture solid enough to incur involuntary shudders.

Pain cave: no soft landings here.

Yes you can ride the rim for the rest of your ride, but if you do it when you’re 15k from home you get a sore back. As I found out a couple of times this year when two spare tubes just didn’t covered it.  Just take it steady across level crossings because those babies will take you down!

What happens when you train on a flat.

It’s all in the head; unless you really are ruined. Then you should have a nap. I’ve found a few times this year I’ve felt absolutely smashed in, but then I’ve started some intervals and actually been going well. The human body is a weirdo and still manages to play tricks on me regularly.

Hell on earth.

No matter how much you’re suffering, you can still suffer more. The limiting factor of performance is almost always the mind, so don’t be a pussycat. And if it’s getting really tough remember one thing: at least you’re not working a 9-5, sitting your life away in a drab office, eating your way to obesity.

13 August, 2012

Cramping in training and other funsies

A team 4-5: Not as good as a 1-2.

I got fourth in a Kermis race, which isn't quite as good as it sounds when I could have really won it. I had a sudden absence of faith in my sprint and decided to attack (which failed horribly) when I should have sat fourth wheel and then done a good sprint. Oh well.

Man multi-tasking: proof

I popped back for a great weekend with Emily, then came back refreshed. I did another Kermis race, as these are becoming the backbone of our racing calendar now all the big tours are done for the year. It had sprints aplenty, which led to a mental criterium style race and I did a few too many big efforts early on and had not much left at the end. I won three primes which is always nice for the wallet! But three sprints per race seems to be my limit, and my finishing effort was awful (5th out of 6 in the break, doh!).

I'm a huge deal in Belgium now.

I'm pretty happy with how these races have been going really. I've been going into them tired and sore from training as it's all systems go for the National Time Trial coming up, and that's my priority. Provided I don't overcook it at this stage I'm hoping to do well. Tomorrow I've got a Pro Kermis, so having done some intervals today (sob) I'm planning on sitting in like a boss tomorrow.

31 July, 2012

Vlaams Brabant

We had a great team race at Vlaams Brabant last week. We finished the race having very convincingly won the climber’s jersey with Bjorn, the best Brabant rider and second place overall with Sibi and 3rd, 4th, and 8th  on various stages.

Being a newly self proclaimed GC rider I sat in well on day one until the final 6km when I put in a do or die attack when I thought I was in with a shout of a stage win. It was too far out though and the sprinters caught me and my breakaway companion on the long wide road to the finish. Stage two was another scorching hot day and after being in a break for some of the day I suffered in the sun, cracked a bit at the end and lost 1:04  as the race shredded. This proved to be annoyingly decisive as I finished on Sunday 1:11 down on GC on Sunday.

Stage three was a flat, 9.4km time trial which was right up my street. I did everything right, felt like a TANK, thought I was going to win it easy peasy, but sadly finished 8 seconds down on the winner in 4th place. On stage four I attacked down a cobbled descent after 25km, thinking that I could be first to the sprint line, win 10 euros and maybe be in with a shout at getting up there on the Sprinter’s jersey. I went much too early though! 4km later I was still off the front alone, wondering where the line was, so I decided to wait for the little group forming behind. We combined to make a group of 5 riders and worked well together up to the finish when I led the sprint out to take the points, much to the other rider’s disgust. We were joined a few kilometres later by another 10 riders (including the leader of the Sprinter’s competition with 3 teammates!) so that was my hopes for a jersey over with. We worked well together as a group but it was another sprinter’s stage and we were swept up by a breakneck speed peloton at 9km to go.

The final stage was another one destined for a bunch sprint, despite plenty of valiant efforts; particularly a team split when we had the ENTIRE TEAM in the break of 10! We went pretty deep to try and get us all to move up on GC, but it wasn’t to be and we were chased down by three or four teams back in the bunch. It was a futile effort, but the team bosses loved the spirit of it, and were raving about it for the rest of the day. It’s pretty special to get the entire team in a breakaway, particularly on a flat sprinters stage and it’s a nice memory to have from the race.

17 July, 2012

Tour des Deux Sevres

This was my best tour to date general classification-wise! I ended up getting 3rd overall, as well as 5th in the time trial. I’ll run through as briefly as I can what happened, so as not to be too boring!

Day one I got in the break of the day, which was sadly doomed, but obviously I didn’t know this at the time so went quite hard to stick it out. We never got more than 1:30 and then got dragged back in by the bunch. I was feeling rather sore so didn't even have it in me to go for any of the mid-race sprints which is a shame because that gets you on the podium.

Day two there was a time trial in the morning which we did some reconnaissance on the night before so I thankfully knew what was coming more or less. It had plenty of blind corners with high hedges, and of course it rained on the day, so when I got a bit confused as to which corner was which I had to tiptoe round them! I fared better than my teammate Kinch though who unfortunately crashed on the first corner, which happened to be wet, oily, downhill and deceptively sharp. I produced a solid 5th place, despite dying a death up the final climb, which I was happy with.

This meant I was now sitting in 6th on G.C. which was exciting for me! I did a good job of sitting in for the afternoon stage and finishing safely in the bunch without losing time. Saturday’s stage was a point to point with a technical finishing circuit and the racing was very aggressive from the beginning. No-one was being allowed to escape and a break was only established on the finishing circuit when everyone was hanging. I managed to sneak into the group of twenty or so and was pretty chuffed with myself. I was contemplating attacking as there were two other riders in the break ahead of me on G.C. but I was beaten to it, and the cheeky French scamp was strong! I countered but couldn’t catch him on the technical circuit and despite several more attempts ended up finishing in the break. The guy who attacked ended up winning the stage and the race overall! Still, I was 3rd on the classification so not a bad days work.

I knew the final stage was going to be a grudge match between me and the Frenchies and it didn’t disappoint. After sitting in well until the final 35km I started attacking the yellow jersey team who were on the front; repeatedly. Lots of attacks, counter attacks, counter counter attacks later and still no luck. The guy in second place overall also had a good go but failed. It came down to a choppy uphill sprint after the break was caught with 3km remaining and I finished fairly near the front to hold my third place. All in all a great experience being an overall contender and something that I’ve not been used to until now!

06 July, 2012

Kruishoutem = WIN

I won my second race of the season yesterday! It was a fairly standard Kermis race around a good little circuit with a section of cobbles, some tight corners and quite a few people watching.

Where's Wally?

I spent most of the race creeping around, letting things unfold and watching people. I’m doing quite well at my new tactic of letting other people be the aggressors and using them as much as possible. 

Yeah Buddy!

It’s so good to win again, as it’s been over four months and I’d almost forgotten how. Hopefully I can keep being a crafty devil and get a few more good results before the season’s out.


I went to a Pro Kermis yesterday with Llewellyn and we paid three euros to race a full Rabobank squad, including Lars Boom and Michael Matthews, 1t4i rider John Degenkolb, and a fleet of other top Pros. It was pretty darn cool. I did plenty of sneaking around and hiding as the professional Kermisses are 160km, which is a full length race in my eyes!

Here comes the pain train.

Nearing the end there was a break of seven riders just up the road and I thought I'd try to attack across (that's a joke by the way; it was Lars Boom and Andy Fenn up the road!).

But I did attack with 2km to go and felt good. There was no getting away from the Rabobank leadout train for Theo Bos though and I was reeled in. I snuck back into the line and managed 27th place. All in all a really fun day. I can't wait for my next pro Kermis.

01 July, 2012

I won a sprint!

... For 57th place, against four other guys. Which as far as I can see makes me the next Mark Cavendish.
Yesterday was the Under 27 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race in Zottegem, which is just down the road, so it was our local race. It included copious amounts of cobbles and steep little climbs (of course it did, this is Belgium) so thankfully I've started going a bit better.

There were several crashes in the first hour which meant some fun chasing back on, and when the race started to shred ninety minutes in, I was too far back. I decided to sit back and cruise, to try and get to the end of the race rather than do too much and suffer later on. I was in a big group of about 70 riders so we were still motoring along. As the race went on the group was whittled down by the course and fatigue, until there was only 7 of us left.

We finished way down on the front of the race, but I felt pretty strong and did a good sprint at the end so that's progress in my eyes. I've got a week or so now before a stage race to do a bit of training and maybe a Kermis or two for some money. Yayyyy!

27 June, 2012

See you later England

I’ve been a long time absent from the blogosphere, mainly because I’ve been willingly absent from the racing scene for the last month or so. I’ve been doing my best to pretend I’m not a cyclist; and succeeding far too well! It's been the best part of 5 weeks since I left the motherland of two wheels (Belgium obvz!).

I did the National 25 mile time trial a few weeks back and was disappointed to finished 8th  with a 50:36. Not to sound like an egomaniac but I know I’m capable of going a lot faster (mainly because I did go a lot faster the week before at a local 25. I did a 49:07 on a training wheel which would have bagged me 4th place but never mind. It’s done and dusted now and I’m certain I won’t be driving 5hrs each way again for a time trial any time soon!

Feeling rather lethargic and sorry for myself at the National 25.

I started the National Road on Sunday and bowed out gracefully after realising I couldn’t hack the pace 3hrs in. Having only done a Castle Combe circuit race as preparation (2nd by the way, thanks for asking) I had it coming to be honest. I’m certainly well rested now after feeling rather deflated from the amount of racing last month: the problem is I’ve now gone the other way and I’m under raced!

Looking like a whopper chopper at the National RR. I have put my saddle up since!

I returned to Belgium on Monday and did my first race today. It was a UCI 1.2 so nothing like a christening of fire, and it had the finishing circuit from hell which had over 3km of cobbles every 15km. I bottled it again and got dropped at about 3hrs and was determined to finish in my little group but they pulled us out with one lap to go. I’m going with a new psychological method to stop myself getting teary eyed when I do crap in races which is me saying to myself “Yeah, let’s build on this form legs. You're doing really well. Loads of other people pack races too. It’s the taking part that counts”. It’s like having Mr Motivator in my head.

24 May, 2012

France: take three, and four.

The Tour de Loiret was next up, and having done it last year I was hoping that I could excel using prior knowledge. I got in the break on day one which was great! Then I got a bit sick during the stage, which wasn’t so great. Then I was sick and went out the back of the break with 30km to go. I hung in the second group on the road, just doing my best to get to the finish in one piece and then my flipping pedal seized up! The team car was with the break so there I was mashing along on a bike that felt like it had araldite bearings. With three kilometres to go an attack went in front of my wheel so, naturally, I followed despite being on my last legs. One un-expectedly sharp corner later and the guy in front had put me off the road, forcing me to hop a ditch and ride across a park. You couldn’t make this up. Hindsight makes everything funnier!

Stage two consisted of excessive hub staring after two teams decided to hit the front in the crosswinds after 7km. Yes 7km! Somehow all of the team were caught out at the back and thus we spent the first two hours reaching new levels of self harm in order to stay in contact. The next day it was payback time and we were determined to get some positive racing done, so early on we forced a break off the front with three Terra riders and the yellow jersey in. Kinch was up on GC too so we had every reason to make this split of fifteen work. Inexplicably I was feeling incredible so I absolutely drove it. We got over a minute on the bunch but the danger was apparent to the guys caught out behind and they put two full teams on the front. We were hauled in. Kinch was feeling good for the sprint so I gave him a full gas lead-out with 1km to go and got him to about 250-300m. He secured a solid 3rd.

In the afternoon there was another stage which was effectively a criterium. Gus snuck into the early break which did very well to stay away until the end, where he was just outfoxed in the last kilometre when an experienced rider escaped. He convincingly won the sprint for second: a great result!

Three days later and we were off to the Tour de Franche Comte; a pretty hilly four day tour. This race convinced me of the benefits of training in the mountains, because racing up them really is a shock. It’s a different sport. I was dropped on the final climb on the first two days and made my way to the finish with a few other stragglers, often Belgians similarly bemused by the speed with which dwarfish Frenchmen can ride uphill. Day three was 55km in the morning and 110km in the afternoon, and far flatter, which meant I was able to infiltrate (by brute force alone) the break on both occasions. In the morning I actually attacked on the final climb of about 4km (I know right?!) in a bid for freedom, before being caught on the false flat descent. I attacked again with about 2km to go, down the technical descent but was fooled by the final left hand hairpin with 800m to go, and swept up shortly thereafter.

In the afternoon Josh Hunt and I both got in the break of twenty or so and worked well to get over four minutes, before the bunch picked up speed again. With 25km to go we had just over a minute and hitting a short sharp 1km GPM climb the attacking began. It was still a long way to the finish but it was relentlessly aggressive none the less. Without exchanging words Josh and I knew the plan: attack, counter attack, counter attack… Somehow 20km and perhaps thirty attacks later it was still together. I launched one last cramp inducing, lactic fuelled attack with 2.5km to go, timing it so that Josh could let me go and give me a few seconds of surprise advantage. I rode through the chicane and final roundabout with zero concern for personal welfare and told myself it was my day.

It wasn’t. I was caught with 600m to go and managed to lose six seconds once the sprint started. Hunt managed an impressive 5th place with a lung bursting final sprint. The final stage was a real mountain beauty. I tried for the early break, but it didn’t happen and I found myself unable to retain contact on the first climb, 25km in. I rode as hard as I could over the top and got back on on the descent. This pattern was repeated twice more on subsequent climbs, before it flattened out for an hour or so and I was able to recover, a little. As we hit the second to last climb, I hit a wall of reality and realised I wasn’t a climber. It was a monster. A shout of “Gruppetto” was all I needed and the bunch was a receding memory. Nevertheless, it was still an absolute ordeal to get up, well over 20% at points, and the team cars were struggling as much as we were, wheel-spinning and clutch burning. Down the descent and now joined by Hunt and several other hardnuts, we hit the final climb thinking ‘how hard can 5km be?’ Pretty hard. You know it’s going to be a bugger when the climb finishes with a dead end because there are no other roads that high!

23 May, 2012

France: parts one and two

The last few weeks have been quite labour intensive on the bike: a labour of love of course! We’ve been back and forth to France four times which has meant I’ve seen the inside of a lot of different hotels and spent copious amounts of time counting the hairs on the back of my hands in the car. I even read a book.
Standard car activities: phone subwoofer and crisp & salami sandwiches.

First up was a one day called the GP Beauchamp where we fairly successfully cleaned up: we got four riders in the break of twenty, dropped some strong riders in the crosswinds and then claimed 1st, 3rd, 10th and 11th.
"This is the best echelon ever!"

Then after two days respite, casually spent driving the width of France and back, we returned to frog territory for the Tour de la Manche. My personal recollections of this race are few and far between (consigned safely into my black box of past torments, to be unlocked no doubt through extensive therapy in future years). It was quite hilly (ha!) but I was holding out for the time trial on day three which, unsurprisingly, turned out to include an ascent or two. Being a filthy tester I put massive amounts of pressure on myself (all bottled up, obviously) to perform despite it not suiting me, and conveniently ignoring the fact that my current form was worryingly errant. I took myself apart and, despite being most probably the slowest up every one of the three climbs, managed a respectable 12th. I was moderately pissed off, but at least my white skinsuit looked snazzy. I finished the final stage and headed home for some Nutella based healing.