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.