18 September, 2013

A season summary

Without wanting to come across as a headstrong goon, this year has felt like a coming of age for me. Since hooking up with JB at TrainSharp for my coaching, (cycling and life!) everything I’ve done has felt more cohesive and more like a process. It’s become an exercise in following ‘the path’ of cycling – training right, racing right, eating right – the list is long and exhaustive, but it works. Jon has had belief in me from the start and has vocally said so which, for a sport so reliant on mental strength and confidence, is an incredible thing to do for me. I’ll try not to make this bit too boring, but I want to thank some of the people that have helped me this year, it’s only fair. 

High5 nutritional have been behind me for a couple of years now which is priceless as diet is so important for me. Between you and I, even if they didn’t sponsor me I’d buy their chocolate recovery drink because that stuff tastes divine!

The guys at the Dave Rayner Fund have been pretty pivotal in getting me where I am now too. Whatever I write here won’t really do them justice, but in summary they’ve backed me and a heck of a lot of other riders both financially and (maybe this is just me) emotionally. When you’re hacking away in a foreign country, feeling like you’re just treading water, it means a lot when someone sends a short email saying: ‘You’re doing good, stick at it’.

Some good memories.

This year when I first came out to France I had nowhere to stay, no team bike, minimal kit, but what I did have was The Mills Family. These guys are the nicest family I’ve ever met. Tony (Senior), Babs, Tony (Junior), Nick, Tim, Caroline, Seb, Amelie and Ellie are all legends! I’ve had so much help from them in different ways - Tony Senior’s pro experience, Tim’s motivational chats - I could go on.

And so to next year, when I’ll be riding for… Union Cycliste Nantes Atlantique! They are a Division 1, generally pretty bad-ass, French outfit. I am psyched!! Some positives include: No more pink kit (blue with a bit of yellow), team bike, somewhere to live, an awesome calendar, pre-race team tactics, living in a city, a training camp, wheel sponsor, team gloves and socks…….

Thanks to everyone who's followed me this year and sent nice messages of support. I'm going to let my hair down for a bit now, so you might not hear from me for a while, but I'll be back! Ciaociao.

09 September, 2013

Crash. Bang. Whimper

So my grand scheme to go out with a bang this season isn’t really going to happen, or perhaps it already has. Since my sit-down during the time trial at Agglo Tour I’ve been descending down the ‘form’ slope i.e. getting worse and worse-erer.

Looking supremely fresh and prepped for action.

What I thought was initially a motivation based problem has materialised into my body gradually refusing to do exactly what I want of it, until we arrive at yesterday – the end of the road. I seem to have been enduring disproportionate amounts of suffering for the results I’ve claimed in the last month and I’ve been searching pragmatically for solid reasons why. Hay-fever, low iron, illness: perhaps all of the above?

Riding like a tool and then pulling out made me loads of friends yesterday!

Well I’ve had various tests and they’ve given me more or less no answers other than I’m “run down”, which is no doubt true but also pretty disappointing for an analyst like me. Basically I think my immune system is so low that I’m constantly fighting minor illnesses and the body cannot recover adequately, which just means that I get a kicking in races as I’m at 80%.

The moment when I cracked. Decision made!

So yesterday, after riding like an idiot for 45 minutes at SportBreizh one day, I decided to pull the plug and finish my season. Yes it’s quite early, yes I might be overreacting, soft, cracking, but when the legs aren’t there and I’m riding for 10th place at best every race I get turned off pretty quickly. Not winning is quite un-fun for me, particularly when I know I should be better.

Cursing the sun and the moon (whilst being soigneur in the afternoon). Or dancing. I'm unsure.

I’m honestly pretty upbeat about it though as I’ve achieved what I wanted this season: I’ve won six races, I’ve made my mark, and I’ve got a great offer from a awesome team! I’ll talk about that in the next post but for now I’m enjoying staying up a bit later and eating less carbs!!

À bientôt.

04 September, 2013

There, or thereabouts

Arguably one of the biggest amateur one day races in France was on Saturday: GP Plouay. It had been in the back of my mind for the past few months as a race to do well in and one that could suite my style. I imagined it was going to be quick, a battle of attrition, and then won by a move constructed from the perfect balance of tactical nous and aggression. I was pretty much right.

The first hour we averaged 44kph, and for those that don’t know Plouay is not a flat circuit. Mercifully the pace slowed after that… Just kidding, we averaged 43.5kph for the whole race! It was a constant conveyor belt of attacks and counter attacks, whilst poor, lost souls bombed out the back door at regular intervals.

The wrist is still feeling great after my crash.

I was getting distanced every time up the final climb for the second half of the race but through pure will alone was riding back on over the top. I was still in the front group and telling myself I was going to win, because that’s what you do when you’re a bike racer/insane. Sadly the final time up the climb I was shelled again and there was no respite in the final 4km to get back on. One day I’ll do a good ride in that race.

Imagining what could happen, before the race.

To yesterday, when I headed to Fougeres, a lovely medieval town on a hill, for another Elite National. It had eight laps up a steep, narrow finishing climb with some epic crowds, as well as various smatterings of cobbles and rolling roads. It was an awesome race to be in, a real hilly classic finish, but unfortunately for me it just came down to a slog for the last hour.

The break went and I rode myself into a solid chase group fifteen minutes later with two riders from Lille-Metropole continental team and four riders from Bic2000 DN1 team. I was pretty confident of getting a ride up to the front group but then, inexplicably, riders from these teams started attacking each other. All the impetus swiftly deserted us, as did the strongest riders of the group who headed off up the road on a wild goose chase, and then it was just a case of getting round.

An idea of the climb.

Eventually the group was whittled down to just four of us by two riders who chose to attack the group on every crest and rise – it was a very tiresome affair. I arrived at the finish, did a joke victory celebration for the crowds, as I was ten minutes behind the race, and then got rolled for 30th place. Oh dear me.

I’m going to try and end the season with a (good) bang, but my plan is top secret for now. Keep tuned to find out the masterplan soon! Salut mes amis.

Feeling dead behind the eyes.