26 February, 2012

Gent Staden

Josh and I rode the point to point race today, and it went pretty well! It was rather jumpy at the start with it being a lot of people’s first race of the season and a load of attacks were going off the front. I followed quite a lot of them, wasting some energy but finally a decisive break did go; without me in it! I had to go, so I jumped out the bunch and caught two guys mid way across the gap. They weren't super strong so I did some longer turns and we caught the group of nine or so after three of four kilometres.

From there we worked quite well together, although some of the Belgians were doing the usual trick of missing turns whenever they could to take a drink, or scratch their nose or something similar. We had a reasonable lead on the bunch but as we got onto the finishing circuit it was coming down, so I decided to attack. I planned to take a few guys with me but no one was following me too closely and I didn’t want to slow down so I put my head down and plowed on.

In hindsight I may have attacked too early, but once I was out there I had to commit. So that was how it was, head down to the finish - a little over twenty kilometres. Not far, in theory. I seemed to hold what was now the bunch at around thirty seconds so it was at no point comfortable. I wasn’t certain I’d won until the final 500m.
Blowing kisses to a roaring crowd is something that is totally irreplaceable. It was absolutely amazing!

Holding on to my helmet on the 2km of cobbles!

I'm actually quite tall I swear. The Belgian champ looks well chuffed.

This was just after I'd ridden all the way up bunch on the pavement, dodging street furniture: standard Belgian riding.


A Belgian welcome

We arrived on Wednesday night for a short stay before heading to our beautifully furnished, cosy little apartment at the Team Manager’s house. Of course it’s turned out that the house isn’t finished yet so we’re staying put for the time being with four of us sleeping in a 5 year old girl’s bedroom. This is the high life, after spending the first night in bed with the team boss Andrew (sleeping in a sleeping bag obviously).

We got given a load of new kit which is always good, and the new bikes are pretty sweet. I had a bit of a mare and managed to put my O Symetric chain rings on wrong so I couldn’t use the little ring on my first ride. I’ve sorted it now though and enjoyed the limitless bike paths yesterday; I rode all the way to Bruges (which is really nice) and didn’t leave the bike path once.

Every time I come to Belgium I seem to have a few good stories to tell, and this time’s no different. We’re all enjoying flushing the toilet with a bucket and getting drinking water out of the shower. It’s great to get such a warm welcome from the Belgian guys here though and we’re all excited to start racing.

Josh and I are doing a 140km point to point tomorrow with a 2km cobble section in so that’ll be nice. I’ll report back with any good news. Tarrah.

23 February, 2012

So I’m running away…

… To Belgium, to live with a load of other men who also have a penchant for tight shorts and self flagellation in the name of sport.

There are so many things I’ll miss. The white van men spouting abuse and expletives; the comedy bike paths sprinkled across the country, the majority of which disappear to nothing with the word ‘END’ written on the road. They’re always good fun. I’ll miss the hills I guess, after hours and hours of riding along canals.

But on a serious note I will miss my friends, my family and most of all Emily. Making this step to move away has made me determined to make sure it’s worthwhile.

16 February, 2012

I'm so Euro

I was born with a perfect bronzed complexion and no tan lines. Some said “Good God, that’s the worst case of jaundice we've ever seen” (the doctors). But I just knew then that I was destined to ride bikes in Europe.

I like to wear my arm and leg warmers at all times, no exceptions. Even if it’s forty degrees when I’m out training I won’t submit. It’s totally worth heat exhaustion for ‘le look’. It does get a bit tiresome trying to wash through them in the shower but you get used to it. How do I get my all over tan you might ask? Simple: I’m European baby.

A kindred spirit
I never show any kind of pain or exertion when cycling. If I feel the need to do so then I must be trying too hard so immediately ease up. The aim of sport is to portray a cool image of one’s self and it’s vital to remember this. At no point should you be seen to be trying.

I put my saddle right up, as high as I can, higher even. I saw Philippe Gilbert on the telly once; he rides bikes with pointy toes and he’s from Europe, so now I do too. I suffer with a few niggling aches; over flexion of the spine, chronic knee pain, severe fertility reduction, but we all do right?

Cycling - a high sperm count is so not Euro

13 February, 2012

Perf’s pedal road race – how was it for you?

On Saturday night I was excited for my first road race of the season. I find that I can never get a really decent night’s sleep before a race but I woke up feeling pretty good in the morning. The drive to the race was just over an hour, so I took my portable music device (my laptop people, I don’t have one of these mp3 fandangoes) and listened to some chilled tunes on the way there. Some people like to get pumped up before racing but I find I’m the opposite – I need to relax and calm myself, because as soon as I get a number on I seem to get over-excited.

It was quite a cold day so I did a twenty-five minute spin on the turbo in the car park to get the blood flowing. The race started off steadily with a large contingent of UK Youth riders amassed at the front, which was to become more and more familiar as the race went on. It was naturally jumpy racing, with everyone trying to remember how to ride in a bunch and several people managing to hit the tarmac unfortunately. I hovered around the front of the bunch though and stayed out of trouble, and in most of the breakaways. These were doomed breaks of course! Despite seemingly every split having several UK Youth riders in it none of them were sticking, so I resigned myself to it being a sprint at the end. With a lap to go the boys in white got into formation at the front and everyone else decided that that was just fine! There was a straight, fast section on the course followed by a left hander and some twisty corners, then up a short climb to the finish. I knew that Chris Opie was the man who the lead out train was for: I stayed with him in Holland a few years ago so I know what he’s capable of in the final few hundred metres. The short answer is – a lot more than I’m capable of! Waiting for a sprint against Chris, Marcin and any other unknowns was unlikely to be fruitful for me so I took a flyer just before the sharp left-hander. I got a reasonable gap through the twists, but looking back was a daunting experience with Magnus Backstedt and co. furiously snapping at my heels.

It was not to be, and I was caught on the short climb about one kilometre out from the finish. I’d managed to split the bunch though and hung onto the back of the nine man group (more or less anyway) to get tenth. It was a pretty disappointing finish for me. I felt like I had a lot more to give but the way the race panned out didn’t allow it. 

09 February, 2012

It's a hard knock life

The tough life of a cyclist eh? The sacrifices; the suffering; the bad hair days. I've been through it all people. I know your pain. You know your pain. I know that you know your pain. So let’s have a nice long whinging dialogue to get it out of our systems shall we.

I'm hair-terosexual, ask anyone.

Getting up for races is tough sometimes; especially if you’re a deranged pedal pusher like myself and come from a ‘testing’ background. For any civilians out there these lovely time trial events are more often than not staged as early in the morning as is physically possible without it actually taking place on the previous evening. If you arrive back to the HQ after your race and the clock is showing double figures for the hour then something’s not right. The worse bit about all of this is that one has to get up an hour before leaving to style and coif one’s hair, correct? A mane of this calibre does not come easy, no sir.

Doing a lot of cycling means getting through a lot of kit, and thus having a load of washing to do all the time. Handling all those soggy chamois can lead to nasty wrinkly skin and needs tending to with plenty of moisturiser and T.L.C. They say that the cycling itself is the easiest thing about being a cyclist and I think this clearly demonstrates that. Such a tough life! 

Any treasure in the sunken chest?
Many of you may not know that I used to be, I believe the term is, ‘ripped’ before my cycling career. But alas, all of my muscular supremacy has had to go for the greater good of cycling prowess. Sometimes I miss it; like when I used to park a little wonky I’d just hop out and move the car round by hand, or when if I over fill my coffee cup now I have to lift it using both hands.

On the left, here I am last year after winning a lovely bouquet in Belgium. Unfortunately all photos of my previous herculean physique seem to have strangely gone missing.

06 February, 2012

Ice ice baby

I had a jolly good time this weekend. Despite the cold snap that everyone and their mothers has been whinging about, I was pretty psyched up to head over to Storrington, a little town in Sussex, for my second race of the season. It was an 18km time trial on Saturday afternoon followed by a 42km time trial on Sunday; a little TT stage race.

On Saturday I did a nice long warm up on the turbo in the car park and by the end I could just about feel my arms. I sweated a single bead of sweat but it froze before it hit the ground. In the time trial itself I felt quite good if a little ragged. The course was up and down and I’d checked out the hill just before the turn (17% it said) so I knew I could get up it in the 54. It definitely wasn’t 17% but don’t tell anyone because it makes me feel like a big dawg!

I was second to last off, with Wouter Sybrandy two minutes behind me, and if I’m honest I spent a large amount of the race trying not to look behind me. I saw Wouter at the turn and tried to guess whether I was up or down on him but it was impossible to tell. I put the power down in the last few miles over the rolling hills and even did a (highly comical) sprint at the end, Cancellara style. It’s something I try to do every time trial, just to get it all out, and I was glad I did when I got back to the headquarters. I took the course record by two seconds, and won the event: great success!

Unfortunately Sunday's race was cancelled due to snow on the course, but I'd got what I wanted from the weekend: my first win of the year.

Here's some good snaps of the event :  

An aside

The observant among you may have noticed I mentioned this was my second race of this season; I did in fact ‘compete’ in the National Madison a week previously. It was a bit of an eye opener this early in the year, going from doing four hour long steady rides to doing (my best attempt at) 60kph on the track. Luckily I did one day on the track at Newport a few days before so I was totally prepared.

Here I am hiding behind the eventual winners - [manxroadclub.webs.com]

I was partnering with ex-GWR teammate Dave Sinclair, a sprinting don and experienced track rider. It was a good partnership; he was great at telling me what to do and when, but unfortunately I was still pretty weak technically. People may not realise that track racing is quite psychological and if you show any sign of inadequacy or weakness you get trodden on. From the off I was a bit nervous and as a result we were elbowed out and spent a lot of energy chasing tails. We finished seventh out of a very small field which frankly sounds better than it is. It was a far cry from my previous fun times on the track last year, when I was doing the individual and team pursuit, but it was a start to the season.

03 February, 2012

Stuff that cyclists do but normal people would probably think is right weird

Hanging washing everywhere - enter at your peril. Potential injuries include chain ring slicing, bike frame tripping and being crushed by boxes.
I know where everything is: just don't test me.

Recovery outfit - I'm a renowned fashion icon in the Surrey / Somerset areas. It's kind of my thing.
Standard set of recovery socks right? Coupled with the obligatory dressing gown for an enticing combo
Insane food consumption - lots of exercise means lots of enforced eating. Well it's not really forced for me.
Victor Frankenstein and his monster

Tramp Foot - this is a little trick I learnt a few years ago whilst sleeping rough on the streets of Moscow (this is a fabrication). When getting dressed you do look like a crazy bag lady, but once you pull your oversocks up your feet will be windproof and toasty!
My choices today were Debenhams on the left and Pizza Hut on the right. Other bag manufacturers are available
With legs this smooth, how can I lose? It's all about looking Euro I've heard; being good is so last season.
Smoothest legs in the household. The socks are a big look too, obviously.

Peeing in public - it's widely accepted in the cycling community that peeing wherever you please is a-okay, particularly in Belgium. The only requirement is that you're in lycra and/or near a bike. 

It seems my wires got a bit crossed on this occasion.

Caught with my pants down