29 January, 2012


I recently got back from a little trip away to Rome, courtesy of my lovely girlfriend! It’s a pretty awesome place and very different to anywhere I’ve been before so it was great to be educated in the Italian ways of life. Below are a few things that I learnt whilst we were there.

Green man doesn’t mean go

The roads in Rome are really rather wide and the stereotype of Italians driving fast exists for a reason! Couple this with the first-day-of-the-holiday confusion of which way to look when crossing and you have a nasty game of chicken on your hands. Despite the fact that mopeds are seen in this country as a slow and cheap means of getting around (for pre-driving aged boys who want to impress the girls at school) they’re pretty fast off the line at the traffic lights, so beware! Another fun added extra is that even when it's a green man cars turning right at the junction still do so. Mamma mia.

Scooters: the enemy
Beggars are annoying

If you think we’ve got it bad here in Britain, go to Rome. Everywhere you go there are beggars and street sellers trying to flog you the kind of crap that not even charity shops would accept. For example; mini camera tripods (which are highly unlikely to even fit your camera anyway), flubber stuff which splats then reforms (just why?), bubble guns which make the most irritating ‘gun’ sounds; I could go on. This last item became quite ominous on day three as we were sitting in a square enjoying the sun and double figure temperatures (oh how I’ve missed you), and the crazy guy who was selling said bubble guns occasionally materialized out of the shadows, the only sign of his coming being the “n n n n n n” of the gun. I pray that he never gets his hands on a more dangerous weapon – he looked fairly psychotic.

The Italians are still riding the wave of good architecture.

Roma Termini: come on guys, where's the effort?
Rome is renowned for some amazing buildings and some incredible artwork, often combined, like in the Sistine Chapel or Saint Peter’s Basilica. We went to see both of these, and Emily even got a sneaky picture (naughty naughty!). They were breathtaking to look at and awe inspiring to imagine the work taken to complete. However, I feel that their modern architecture leaves a little to be desired. We got the train from the airport and arrived at Rome Termini which is the most hideous station I’ve ever seen!

The Sistine Chapel: jolly good stuff
Italian fashion is… different?

In our guidebook it said that it was “…important to take a nice outfit as Italians dress very well”. Which Italians? Maybe it was because we were hitting the mega tourist venues but at times it felt like we had wandered onto a crime scene investigation site or into a cellophane factory the amount of plastic puffer jackets we were surrounded by. I thought Ugg boots were bad but at least you’re not susceptible to getting a static shock off someone wearing them.

'Get the Italian look!'

Oh and just to finish, the Italian language is the best language. It's so fun to try and talk even if you're hopelessly bad like I am! Also, their ice cream is to die for darling.

Melt in your mouth goodness

20 January, 2012

Gone but never forgotten

They say that decisive moments in your life play out in slow motion. Today I had one of those moments.

I was out on my bike (predictable) an hour from home and three hours into my ride when I reached for the final flapjack (homemade I must add; my first rather poor effort). After rummaging around for a bit to find it amid the spare bottles and wrappers, I dug it out and stuck it in my gob. I was going up a climb so decided that I best get out the saddle in order to make it to the top as my speed was dropping to a pathetic amble by this point. As I stood up on the pedals I hit a few bumps in the road and to my horror as I did so the flapjack slowly tumbled, in a flurry of oat-y, sugary deliciousness, to the ground.

I must re-iterate the facts now: this was my last piece of food in the whole wide world at this point in time. For a non-cyclist this might be hard to fully understand but when you’re out training alone with no money (really stupid move by the way but something I always do) and you run out of food it becomes a matter of survival. Even seasoned riders never really know when their legs might crack and say; “No thank you, I’ve done all I want to. You can make your own way from here”. That is the biggest fear of every rider.

You can better imagine my torrent of emotions now. Within two seconds of dropping my snack, I was slowing to a stop, wistfully imagining doing a U-turn and sweeping up the tasty morsel safe in my arms, then riding off into the sunset. This hope was promptly crushed, metaphorically and physically, by the Vauxhall Astra who had been driving behind me. I rolled to a stop and had a little moment to myself; I’m not ashamed to say shedding a tear, not just for the flapjack but for myself too. How was I going to make it home?

Anyway I regained control of myself, erected a tasteful cross on the side of the road in loving memory and carried on my way. This account is proof that thankfully I did in fact make it home alive.

More or less what my memorial looked like.

 Another teary tantrum occurred at the tender age of fifteen when I was desperate to get out on my bike before it got dark but I kept pinching the inner tube and getting blowouts. Three inner tubes later and I was a blubbering mess. I’m slightly less of an emotional wreck now, or at least I get most of it out on the bike, but good God don’t make me watch Schindler’s List.

Schindler's List - too emotional.

16 January, 2012


Change is good. Who’d want to eat the same thing every day? Change is necessary. Just ask my girlfriend – apparently wearing the same underwear for three days is not acceptable?

This winter has seen a lot of changes for me. It’s my first winter under the guidance of Jon at TrainSharp and having day to day supervision on pretty much everything training-related is novel for me. Most people know that it’s important to change your training to develop. If you did the same thing every winter you’d improve up to a point, and then stagnate. I strive for improvements; constantly, regularly, week by week and day by day. Jon has helped me to become a lot more specific in my outlook and a lot less bloody-minded. I used to be all about annihilating myself in training. I thought if I couldn’t turn the pedals, stop coughing or see properly at the end of the session then I’d nailed it.

However I’ve learnt that it’s always about tomorrow. Planning is key to making sure that you can recover quickly enough to train properly the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Training with power (correctly) has helped me to hold back when necessary. There are so many people out there with power meters who have no idea how to use them. What a waste of money! Talk to someone who knows what they’re doing, otherwise the numbers on the screen are just that – numbers.

Jon has me doing precise zone training, which admittedly involves a bit of screen staring, but it means that I know exactly what I’m achieving every session. No more ‘go until you blow’ malarkey!

He’s also changed my position on the bike fairly radically. My saddle has gone up 35mm! And my bars have also come up even more to reduce chronic back pain and increase power output. The old-school train of thought that says your bars should be as low as physically possible is outdated. I have immediately noticed an increase in power averages over long rides and find that my sprinting is more fluid with a higher front end. I can’t wait for the season to start!

13 January, 2012

What a day

Today's ride was the stuff of dreams, or any cyclist's dreams at least. It didn't feel like training; it felt like art. Every time I stood up on the pedals I was instantly at ease, dancing out a rhythm of perfect harmony with the bike, waltzing up the climbs. It was unreal.

I felt nothing. It was like I was floating over the road being taken through the countryside by my bike, like a cycling version of Knight Rider. The first hour went by like a snap of the fingers. I couldn't remember where I’d been, or imagine where I was going. I could just feel the smooth circles I was pedalling. Between a hundred and a hundred and five revolutions per minute, tapping along, felt ideal to me. In the wake of some horrid turbo sessions and high cadence work riding on the road takes on a much more pure feel. You ride at a cadence that feels good over varying terrain and as long as you hit the numbers everyone’s happy. I’m old enough now to appreciate that right this second I am the fittest I've ever been. I know it’s only temporary but often the best things are.

It was everything I love about the sport: the simplicity. Just me and my bike. I had my cereal bars, my three bottles, the right clothing. Everything was perfect. After years of training in all weathers, at all times of the day I’d got it spot on. I found countless new roads around Hampshire, all astoundingly empty of cars and I seemed to see more birds and squirrels than people.

Only after two and a half hours did I register any effect of the ride in my legs. I was finding the longest descents I could and going down them just so that I could turn around at the bottom and climb back up. All this just didn't make sense; the day after a double day and a mere fifteen hours after a horrendous three part turbo session. The human body never ceases to amaze me. If you fuel it correctly, study it and understand it you can achieve unbelievable results.

Clearly the ludicrous amounts of stir fry on a bed of mash (a classic no?) did me well last night. I hope everyone gets out and has a great ride this weekend, and if you’re not a cyclist just get out and enjoy yourself!

09 January, 2012

Reading review!

I recently read David Millar's book, 'Racing Through The Dark' and it was pretty awesome stuff. I finished it within a week which is the fastest that I've ever finished a book that has more than five words per page.

The plot is autobiographical and describes Millar growing up, discovering his love for road cycling and ultimately pursuing his goal to become a professional. For those who may not know, Millar is a convicted doper and reborn anti-doping activist, and this is covered in the book through various heart wrenching and  soul destroying recounts of his moral demise at the tender age of twenty four. Anyone who judges David Millar before they've read this book is ignorant and uninformed. The book makes it clear that doping is not a black and white issue like some think it is. 

The reason the book is such a good read is not only because it's a fascinating story; Millar is also a very eloquent and considered writer. His accounts of different situations and his relationships with people, particularly his sister France, are absolutely captivating. I would recommend this book to anyone whether a cyclist, a fan or neither. There is a lot to be learnt from this book.

06 January, 2012

A week in snappy snaps

 Here are some random pictures portraying pretty much every aspect of my life. It's groundbreaking stuff.

Wearing oversocks! Clean shoes are cool kids. Oh yeah and I usually do some training once I've got the kit on too.
Making random compilations of food, usually with good stuff in though! This particular day I think it was macaroni and cheese with bacon, peas and salmon(?) on the side. Standard meal right? 
Playing with my sister's dog Alfie. He's completely insane and has an attention span of between three and five seconds, so we get along great!
Getting stuff from High5 - this was a great day. It was like Christmas all over again, but this time I got  a load of caffeinated powders. Thanks to Raph and Jack from High5 for being heroes.

Spending too much time staring at the O Symetric rings and thinking how cool they look when you spin the cranks. I'm not really into bikes but they are pretty mental to watch.
Drinking coffee out of various highly mature mugs. This should probably be top of my list as I do it at the start of every day; not addicted though!  http://douglasdewey.blogspot.com/2011/12/im-not-addicted-i-just-cant-live.html  

Ahhh, the fridge. One of my favourite haunts of an evening. I dread to think how much time I spend just staring into it, usually wishing I'd bought some dessert. Other areas of interest to me are the bread bin and my food cupboard.

Battling the never ending stream of stinky lycra outfits is hard work but it has to be done. Subsequently my bedroom spends 90% of the time looking like a launderette, with stuff hanging on every available space. 
Spending time on a turbo trainer has been a bi-weekly thing of late. My coach says it's making me stronger but I'm not sure he's taking into account the serious psychological damage that's being wreaked. That's definitely sweat on my face. Not tears.

Drinking far too much energy and recovery drink. I have perhaps one day a week when I don't have one. Thank goodness they taste good.

Fitting as much food as possible onto a plate. This picture really doesn't do the meal justice as it was a ridiculous portion of stir-fry and actually filled me up, a rare feat. I also take up this challenge of mega-fillage in the morning with my cereal bowl. It doesn't usually go as well though because I haven't had coffee yet and so tend to leave a trail of oats and milk on my walk from the kitchen to the chair. 

Spending more time on a turbo, doing some sweating, loving life. This is immediately followed by a thorough mopping of the area and then a long sit down in the shower.

So there you have it. The fascinating ins and outs of being a full time, unpaid, unemployed cyclist. I bet you never thought it was this glamourous!

02 January, 2012

That awkward moment when…

You’re having a drink whilst training on an innocuous, seemingly smooth piece of road when you hit tarmac turbulence, in the form of huge submerged craters. Obviously there happens to be a car overtaking at the exact same moment so the only option is to maintain course, cling on and ride it out - rodeo style. Thank goodness for my immense wrist strength (developed through youthful dedication to ‘rackets sports’) otherwise I would have been showing my over-the-handlebars bicycle dismount skills on very short notice to an audience of a couple of Shetland ponies in the adjacent field and a very confused Volvo driver.

You realise you’re the same dress size as your girlfriend. This may take more explaining than the length of this post will allow, but I’ll do my best. In the true spirit of Halloween (according to my last three consecutive years’ efforts) I ventured out before the big day to pick up a lovely floral print, full length number. This led to the local Phyllis Tuckwell charity shop (very worthwhile charity by the way) and the unwelcome knowledge that my ‘slight physique’ (shop assistant’s kind words) allows me to fit into an 8-10 size dress. There’s that incentive I need to go to the gym!

When you see a construction worker sitting in his dumper truck, staring at some girls and honking his horn and you think you’ll be funny and give him a cheeky wink and a wave to make him feel like a leering prat. Then he blows a kiss back. Either this guy’s got a wicked sense of humour or my trousers are getting a little on the tight side.

You’re doing a turbo session in the kitchen and the neighbour, putting his rubbish out for the next day, makes prolonged, awkward eye contact. Neither party knows who’s more wrong here: “Well I admit I was looking in his kitchen window, but was curious since all I hear day in day out is panting and groaning through the wall!”

People find out you’re a cyclist and their first question is “So when are you going to do the Olympics?” You’re forced to explain that despite popular belief the key requirements for getting into the upper echelons of the cycling world are a little more than:
1)      Own bicycle and possess ability to propel self forwards.
2)      Be comfortable wearing Lycra on television.
Finally you regain your composure with internal reassurances of; “It’s fine, they mean well, this is their version of encouragement”. Unfortunately they then drop the bomb by saying “Well it’s good that you’re doing something you love. I wish I could get paid to ride a bike!” as if the training required consists of sauntering to the shops en-velo for some nutritional supplies, before returning home to spend the rest of the day stretching out one’s tight muscles and perusing glossy magazines in search of men in tight, multicoloured shorts. Only part of that description is true! (I prefer driving to the shops because they’re a little too far and I don’t like cycling with a heavy rucksack).