NEWS! BIG! NEWS!

So what do we think? Do I look pretty in pink?

I have found a new home. For a while there I felt like a stray. Abandoned in some bins. The future not looking bright. But now, the horizons are very bright. Bright pink in fact.

I will be riding for Wyndymilla for the foreseeable future. A place where ‘Jake’ will be nurtured and looked after. Where he can be let to roam free (to an extent) and explore my cycling in a slightly different way to previous seasons. It’s all very exciting!

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My 2015 season will be a jam packed eclectic mix of events. Ranging from insane record attempts to racing against some of the worlds best on the road and then on to local time trials. So hopefully there will be some good stories in there. I like a good story.

Wyndymilla bring decades of collective cycling, racing and sporting experience to offer a unique custom bike / fit experiences. And as I’ve had some problems in the last few months with my own bike set up, it will be interesting to learn more about my body and what it can do, then have bikes made to measure for my weird requirements. I’m sure there will be a post on that in due course!

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So to sum it up…WYNDYMILLA!!!

You’ll definitely see me coming. For that, I’m certain…and it gives me more of an excuse to get the pink suit out!

ROCK. AND. ROLL.

“In the event of an emergency, please assume the bracing position”

2014 has been a turbulent season to say the very least.

After finishing last year on a high with maintaining my Elite license with ease, winning a fair few races, bunched with some other decent results and being ranked 1st U23, I was ready to take 2014 by the horns and do the business. Bring home the bacon. All of that.

Starting with 4 weeks in Majorca after a short campaign of winter racing, I racked up nearly 3000 miles, a lap record and some good cake eating. The numbers were there, the weight was good, the mind in gear.

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My first main aim of the season was Jock Wadley, a tough early season ‘classic’ road race. I somehow initiated the break and was joined by four of the strongest riders in the UK, National champions, soon to be World Tour rider etc, good company. After averaging 30 for 60 miles I was dropped. Caught by the chase. Dropped by the chase. Caught by the bunch. Dropped by the bunch. But at the finish there was a glimpse of what could be. Not so disappointed.

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Then the physical set backs began. At the Lincoln GP I was taken out by a team car, not at speed but enough for my whole right hand side to turn into a bruise. Landing on pavè is not the best.
Bruised lungs.

2 weeks off.

I started training again once I could breathe, the Tour Series was the next big goal for the team. I’ve never really thrived on crits & it has always taken me a few rounds to get into the swing of things, 3 races done, placing a getting better with each, then on an easy cafe ride between rounds I was taken out by a wandering pedestrian.

Dislocated shoulder.
3 weeks off.

I should’ve rested more and allowed myself to fix properly but I didn’t want to let the team down for the races they’d entered me for. I raced a few races including the Hillingdon GP and Jersey Tour series round, had a big mechanical and a moment. Frustrating as I think my form was at some of its best that week. The bad luck was getting to me.

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Focus quickly changed to the National TT champs, I’d been training hard all season for it. New bike. Borrowed wheels. The lot. Only to crash heavily (see earlier post) and ruin any chance of doing well two days before the event. But I rode. Through agony. Through suffering. With pride.
Soft tissue damage to elbow & knee. Muscles in lower back immobilised.

3 weeks off.
Back damage currently affecting me still.

With a few big races remaining I tried to cram in some training, yeah, that thing they tell you to never do, panic training. But it seemed, well at least in training, to work. But to the disappointment of myself & the team I just wasn’t ready to jump back into one of the hardest road races and finish let alone be competitive and if anything, more of a mental setback than physical at this stage of affairs. I none the less gave everything I could and wasn’t greeted with much support. But I carried on trucking. Racing and training as much as possible, trying to salvage an awful year. Trying to Scrape together the 300 points needed to stay ‘elite’.

I’ve often had good end of season form and I’d planned to get my remaining points in the last few months of the season. Again, not everything went to plan. After the Ottershaw races I was left with 23 points to get. More than I had hoped I’d need. With two races left I needed 21 points, with 20 remaining to win. Frustrating and disappointing.

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Elite will elude me this year. But next year, maybe if I have a better time of it and better luck then I’ll have that ‘E’ back on my licence. And most importantly actually enjoy racing my bike.

Focuses move towards a more time trial based season next year. With the insane idea the National 24 hour championships in June being up there as one…

And of course Palace. Always Palace.

Forcing the athlete out of me at Athlete Lab…

As an Elite cyclist finding the motivation for hard interval training can be difficult – I’d prefer to be riding on the road somewhere spending hours and hours riding away. But ultimately these long miles will not help me win races. they are miles that will keep you fit but they won’t get you that ‘race ready’ razor sharp top end speed, where you can keep pushing and pushing.

I’ve done a few sessions at the Lab recently in an effort to save a season marred by crashes and bad luck. Trying to find that ‘athlete’ inside me again. I signed myself up to do a HIIT Hurt Box session, short burst sprint intervals coupled with all-out efforts, often with little recovery between intervals. This session improves anaerobic capacity, explosive power and builds a higher cadence. All of these are not easily trained on the road, especially when I’m cracking out 500+ miles a week. An hour or two of these classes have REALLY improved my power numbers. After I’d done my first HIIT session Jack advised me that I’d just done one of, if not the hardest session available…lucky me!

Athlete Lab differs from other cycling studios in Central London in the fact that the bikes are actual bikes. No huge flywheel or crazy shaped handlebars, no person at the front shouting and pumping their fist (though that is an option if asked). For me my set up on my bike is something that has to be perfect and the bikes at the Lab are adjustable to the millimetre. Having Ultegra gears and SPD pedals meant it was very easy to get set up and away for the sessions. It’s also great to be on a real bike on what is more like a turbo with a power meter instead of a spin bike, it gives you real ‘cycling’ experience and trains the right muscles instead of having a flywheel do half the work for you.

So I’m hoping that the Athlete Lab will be my secret (not so secret now) weapon in an end of season campaign to finish on a high with a few wins!

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Pain.

Pain.

Riding with or in pain is something that ALL cyclists deal with. At some point in every ride, something, somewhere will hurt. People have various ways to deal with this, stretching, stopping, slowing…

A few common key pain points are:

1: Legs
2: Lungs
3: Undercarriage
4: Whole Body
5: Back
6: Brain
7: Heart

Often during a race a rider will ride so deep that they can’t see, breathe or function. And often all three at the same time. Dealing with the sort of pain that can feel like your lungs are bleeding is what sets cycling apart from the majority of sports, and sets the riders apart from the majority of other sports people. It’s not normal to want to hurt yourself over and over again, but we do. And in a way. We enjoy it.

Recently I’ve had my FAIR SHARE of pain while riding. And in even more instances pain while not riding, caused by events while riding! Kicking it off which being run over by a car in a race, two days later two get downs in one race, dislocating a shoulder after a run in with a wandering pedestrian, then a mystery crash resulting in a snapped frame an elbow that should of been called an ‘ebone’ and the worst road rash I’ve EVER had.

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After that last crash, after 8 hours in A&E (not quite 24), after no sleep in 48 hours, after 5 pro plus and after two paracetemols I decided it would be a good idea to race the National TT champs. The race I’d set my heart on over the winter, spring, summer. I’ve an on off relationship with the race, where my bike seemed to break every time I rode or I’d go the wrong way, loosing a couple of minutes, I’d sacked it off last year. Enough. No more thanks.

But after being talked into it by my dad, we’d decided I’d give it one last crack before I turn senior in 2015. He forked out over £2k on a BMC TT bike, sorted me out a trip to recon the course a few weeks before the day, and kept me on track while I’d had a hard time on the road with crashing and bad luck. I counted up the hours I’d racked up on the TT bike in the 8 weeks I’d had it before the race, it was around 100 hours. Thats a LOT of aero hours, sitting on THAT for hours. Borrowed DEEP deeps and aero helmet. So in the simplest terms. There was no f-ing F-ING way I wasn’t riding. Hurting or not.

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The few hours before the race ran pretty smoothly. Warm up was good. Arm heavily bandaged. Bike ready. All good. Apart from the 4 minutes before the start when I had a MAJOR panic to find a spanner (Thanks Chris Newton) to make my bike UCI legal for the second time that day.

I got to the start ramp with 10 seconds spare. Rolled down the ramp with one foot clipped in. And I was off. Into a whirlpool of pain. Brain numbing. Eye Darkening. Body crushing. Pain.

Two miles in I thought to myself “Yeah this is OK”…then SPLAT! Straight into a massive hole. My elbow that I’d padded BEYOND BELIEF slammed down onto my arm rest. I nearly threw up there and then, but I saved that for 1km to go. I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

I rode the rest of the undulating 12 mile course with my right arm firm to the bars, whilst my left wasn’t bent as you’d normally be on a TT bike, but straight, unable to lean on it.

Maximum gradient of 30% in the last 2km. A little tricky to ride when you can’t really get out of the saddle. The most wonky time trialist that day.

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39/28. Not small enough.
Creeping. Crawling. CLAWING. CRYING. SCREAMING
my way to the top. And also vomming but less on that!!

I made it to the line in the 25th fastest time. Collapsed on the nearest bit of grass. I wiped the sick off of myself and tried to compose myself. I was absolutely heartbroken. But after a while, after some quality motorway services food I felt proud that I’d ridden, given the circumstances and all of the odds against me. I wasn’t last. But I was broken. Even worse than I’d felt immediately after I’d decked it. Arm wouldn’t move. Knee wouldn’t move. Back wouldn’t bend. Hand couldn’t grip.

But I was still proud.

So ultimately pain was met friend that day. And also my worst enemy.

That ride was for you Dad!

It’s not always about racing.

I love riding my bike. Whether it’s a quick trip to the shops, a late roller session, a freezing winter ride, Richmond Park laps or Tuesday Palace. Anything on two wheels. I’m happy. Free.

Sometimes I’ve got to just ride a ride to say I can. It has to be ridden. Not to prove anything to anyone but myself.

Last Monday was one of these rides.

After reading and hearing about Sean Yates riding a lap of Majorca while training for the Tour, I felt intrigued to see if I could ride one. Sean rode it in 10 hours 45 minutes for 200 plus miles.

No Racing. Just riding.

Awake at 4am.
6 Weetabix and a coke.
Half a tube of chamois cream applied.
Kit on.
Pockets full of High5 bars.
Bottle filled.
And most importantly, Garmin on!
On the road at 5am.

Riding through the dark, bricking it, hoping cars and trucks would come by, fleetingly illuminating the road. Then gone. Back into darkness. Only the stars to go by. Chugging along.

I reached Palma by ten and checked my Garmin for the first time. Worried the battery wouldn’t last the day I’d not touched it. Just soaking up the new roads and sights. Enjoying the ride. Average speed 23mph. For just under 100 miles. I thought then, I could go for Sean’s record…If the mountains were kind, then maybe…

The sole key aim – Do. Not. Bonk.

Going by this, I ate every 45 minutes. Drinking too. Planning to stop a few times. Only three in the end. My staple foods were Red Bull, Haribo and Snickers. An athletes diet..

Soul key aim – Failed.

Around a mile into Puig Major I reached a dark dark moment.

No more food.
No more water.
No more legs.

This resulted in three mid climb stops. First to have a stretch, secondly to put more kit on and thirdly to have words with myself. I had to crawl, drag, swear my way to the summit knowing that the next food stop would be an hour away at least.

Now for the descents. I needed to make up time after my episode on Puig. The only way to do that, go fast. Downhill. Taking my average speed from 18 mph to 19.2 mph in 25 miles. I think I was too tired to really think about falling off or the speed I was going! Strava PR’s all round. I hit my start / stop point outside Alcudia before dark! Garmin – STOP! !

10 hours. 27 minutes. 34 seconds.

A new record possibly. I should make it a segment on Strava and see who else is mad enough. One thing is for sure, I won’t leave so early next time…

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over 20,000ft of climbing!!

A tragic week for cycling.

This week has been full of news. But the news of two rider’s deaths has put a shadow on many people’s lives.

Lewis Balyckyi was killed whilst training near his home on Tuesday evening after a beautiful day. Police are asking people to call in if they know or saw what happened. I didn’t personally know Lewis, but when he was racing he was always a formidable force, always super strong, and always seemed to have a smile on his face on and off the bike.

He was destined for great things, I’m sure. It’s just a great shame he will never get to for fill his promising potential. Thoughts go to his family and his friends in this difficult time.

The other tragic news of another Pro cyclist being killed, in near exact circumstances also shocked the world of cycling. South African HTC Rider Carla Swart was killed whilst training. She too was hit by a truck.  Another young rider cut down before they could achieve their full potential.

These two instances have put a lot of things in perspective for a lot of people. And made me look at my own life.

In a flash of an moment everything can be gone. Lives, ruined.Years, lost.

 

 

 

Winter Series 2010 /2011

So, Hillingdon winter series is nearly upon us. Last year I only managed to do 2 of the whole series of 10 races or so due to recovering from a smashed collarbone and re-constructive surgery. My best result was 17th…I’m hoping to better that this year. Substantially.

I’m going to be doing the whole series, even the boxing day and I think the round on New Years Day! Probably will race if its snowy too. Hard.

I’ve even got some 26mm tyres ready if its snowy and icy! Might invest in some sort of Mountain bike or BMX safety pads just in case. Not because of the ice. Because of the mental people. A point proven in a recent Cycling Weekly article, about 4th category races, in which there was a image of a race. One person in the race, had one leg in a leg warmer and the other one out in the world.

Just rememeber. Don’t eat the yellow snow.