“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.

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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!

SERRL Summer Series 18

After a week off my bike, as ordered by my new coach and teammate Chris McNamara I was feeling skeptical as to how yesterday’s race would pan out. Hoping to of recovered somewhat from my efforts earlier in the season.

We had a very strong line up with pretty much the whole team riding, including inform Dante, who has won the last few Road Races he’s done, we were all looking to get up the road early on and be aggressive from the off. Someone said after the race that the first lap had been the fastest ever lap of the Lamberhurst/Frant SERRL course.

After a good number of strong looking moves went up the road and came back Francis Cade (Pedal Heaven) and Lawrence Carpenter (AW Cycles) slipped away around 35 miles in, gaining a minute at one point. After they were away for about 10km a small chase group managed to nip away on a short drag. I just slipped into the move, and started to get the guys in the group to work together well, catching to two up the road shortly. Having a teammate in the break is always better than no teammate! Francis said he had good legs so I began pulling turns for him.

Queue 2 hours of hard through and off and big turns in order to stay away from 8 chasers, 50 seconds behind. And the bunch at 2.50. They got us down to 42 seconds at one point put a few big turns and a couple of attacks later it went back out to 1.20 to the chasers.
Two laps to go on an 800m steep climb Harold Evans (Aprire Bikes) attacked over the top, I was nearly tailed off but managed to keep within 20m or so off the leaders. With Francis sitting on the back of the front group, I was given a free ride back on by another rider in the break.
The last lap consisted of one big effort on the main climb from me, just to minimize my losses should anyone attack, cramping pretty badly at the top. But I think I had damaged some people’s legs. I hope!

With about 12km to go I rolled off the front in an effort to soften things up for Francis in the sprint. Last time we raced this course he beat me pretty easily! Somehow the guys in the break sat up and let me go. Rhys Howells (23c Focus) rode across to me, and then past me! I had to ruin myself to stay on his wheel on the decent. We then did some of the hardest through and off I’ve ever done, the road averages a good 5% for the last 5 miles. I managed to get Rhys to be on the front in the last few km, knowing he has a BIG sprint on him, I wanted him somewhere where I could see him.
With 300m to go I jumped away and rode all the way to the line, hands in the air.

Francis sprinted in for 7th, he was pretty spent after being away for a good length of time and marking the attacks from the other riders in the break once I’d attacked, so a big thanks to him for mucking about in the break after I’d gone.

Jamie Pine was 10th. Rob ‘Random’ McCarthy just behind in 12th. Dante was 17th and Chris 20th. So all of us in the points! Which is great of the team.

It was a big relief to win yesterday, out of 13 races on that course over 4 years I’ve only ever finished 3 and as it had been a while since my last win. But with just 2 weeks of coaching from TrainSharp, one of those being a complete rest week. It’s great to see that coaching works and having the support of teammates is always. Always worthwhile!

I’m now 12th in the UK Elite Rankings, as well as 1st U23. The team are in 7th. Ahead of some big name teams!

1km to go!

My Specialized SL4.

My Specialized SL4.

Canyon V-Drome / Track Racing!

A week or so ago, I discovered a crack in my beloved Canyon Ultimate AL. Caused from (I think) hitting the most colossal pot hole in the Roy Thame Cup in March. Luckily as the frame is a beast, it managed to hold up through two road races and 3 circuit races before I noticed said crack.
I emailed the guys at Canyon UK, of whom I’d been tweeting to keep them updated on the wins I’d been having on their bike! They said to bring the bike over to their offices in Kingston. And have since ordered me a new frame which is due in the next few days!

In the meantime, they said I could borrow their Canyon V-Drome for the VC Londres Open meeting. I obviously obliged!
The bike was kitted out with Dura ace hubbed deep section wheels, the frame was aero and very stiff with a great aggressive geometry. It looks pretty badass too! I did have to put a bigger gear on, but I’m silly with gears. And I put a 140mm stem on, but I am lanky. It’ll be hard to give it back for sure! And was a pleasure to ride. Plenty admired it!

The racing was great fun. The first ever race I did, and the first ever race I won were both at Herne Hill Velodrome, so it’s alway really good to come back and enjoy racing. I’ve always said my favourite race is a points race so I was excited to give it a crack after a year off from the track.

Racing got underway with a scratch race, I attacked a bit. Got 4th. Legs hurt. Lungs hurt. Ow.
That was followed by a One Kilometre TT, I got third and a PB with a 1.08. I had normal road bars and helmet on. And fluffed the start. So I was happy with that.
Next up, a devil…my normal tactic for these is to ride the whole race at the front and sprint-ish every lap. This worked until 4 laps to go when a Bec CC rider smashed it off the front, I eventually caught him after a flat out chase and sprinted past to the win.
After this was a points race. I attacked off of the line, a Jakeaway of sorts. Grabbed a couple of sprints then had to work hard to nab some extra points once I was caught. I ended with 10 points. One point clear of the second place rider.
The last race was a 20km scratch race. Being a roadie, I always like to attack and try to make the race hard. I stayed off the front for a good 15 laps, won a prime. But didn’t have the legs in the final sprint. 7th I think.

I’ve gone home with the normal cough that goes hand in hand with the first track meet of the year.

All in all a good outing! I think I got 26 more British Cycling licence points, bringing me up to 220 and maybe back into the place of first Elite category rider in the UK…and £59, which is also handy!! Cake money.

A special little mention to Andrew Bradshaw who organised the whole meeting at the age of 17 and still managed to race the B category races! Very impressive. Cheers!

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Peter Young Memorial Road Race

Rain.

Something I like to race in. But not train in. When it’s cold and wet I never get bothered. I get extra motivation when I hear people complaining about the weather before a race. And I never get cold!
Though, this Sunday was spectacularly wet. There were large patches of standing water and hidden holes, which thankfully I missed!

As the flag went down, a few riders attacked, which I followed. A group of ten or so got a decent gap. Soon to be joined by Olympic Gold medalist Ed Clancy, IG Sigma Sport riders and some others. With now a group of 20 I wanted to see if I could split it, so through the feed zone I put in a dig. Getting a decent gap, only to be caught half a lap later. The next lap, I attacked on a small rise and went full gas for a good 5 miles before being joined by Alex Higham, John Heaton-Armstrong both Team Felt and Elliott Porter, Rapha. We worked together for a good few laps, John sadly punctured.

After sixty five miles the race then began a smaller circuit that went up the finish climb of Staple Hill, a drag that rose to a steeper section at the finish. We did 7 laps of this circuit. We got to the last corner, I was third wheel, feeling pretty strong still even after 85 miles in very testing conditions. We slowed to a near snails pace. Higham gave it a go but was shut down by Elliott. Who then opened up the sprint. I waited until the steeper part of the hill started and opened up the taps. Taking my first ever road race win by 20 meters.

I said earlier that I stayed warm, well I did. Until after the race. Some mega air conditioning occurred shortly after the finish. I’ve managed to clean myself up too, after three showers…

Today, I felt like I was riding with the legs of two men. One who was good on the hills. I’d like to dedicate the win to Junior Heffernan who lost his life two weeks ago in a road race.

I’m hoping today has proved some people wrong. And likewise some people right. And made some people take notice!
I’m not just a crit rider now!

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That’s a pretty awesome photo too!

Twitter – @Jakey_Cakey

Safety in British Cycling.

On Sunday 3rd March 2013 I travelled to South gloucestershire to race the Severn Bridge Road Race. My first road race of the year.

I arrived and signed on with an old teammate of mine, Junior Heffernan. While getting our kit on for the race we exchanged stories of our previous years racing, he was based in France. We joked about our time riding together for Pendragon – Le Col – Colnago. And we both admired each other’s new bikes. He was very excited about racing for his new team Herbalife, a professional set up in the UK. Looking to have a promising year with races here and abroad.

On the third lap of six. Junior collided with a vehicle at speed. Alex Higham and Allan Ridler stopped immediately. Both medically trained, but tragically Junior died at the scene.

After the race was stopped. I broke down in tears in the race HQ. Everyone was shocked. Sickened. Saddened.

Junior was a friend. Teammate. Talented cyclist. And above all a quality guy. He was always happy when I saw him and never had a bad word for anyone. His loss will be felt throughout the cycling and racing community.

This was taken by Sarah Hooper, the Corley Cycles DS. I think it's probably the last picture to be take of Junior. I cried when I saw it.

This was taken by Sarah Hooper, the Corley Cycles DS. I think it’s probably the last picture to be take of Junior. I cried when I saw it.

My thoughts go out to Junior’s parents Bernard and Denise. His Family. Friends. To all of those who were also at the race.

This tragic event has sparked up the question and debate of what could be done to improve rider safety in British racing. For example in France and Belgium drivers are stopped minutes before a race goes past by Marshals, they have the right to stop traffic. By law. Unlike in the UK where the NEG (National Escort Group) and marshals are not entitled to stop traffic. There are a few accredited marshals in Wales and Essex who have the power to stop traffic until the race has passed. This is a rarity. This accreditation must be given to all NEG riders and marshals in order to prevent any similar incidents from happening. And to give riders the safety they deserve. For £100 for a British Cycling Gold Membership and racing licence I’d expect this to be a given. Where does our money go?

There is an e-petition set up by Paul Morton, an NEG rider and ex-policeman himself. This can be found here – http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46709 I was the 5th person to sign, its now up to just under 8000 signatures. If you could take a few minutes to sign it, you WILL save lives. And change British Cycling for the better.

A tweet I saw last week puts British Cycling’s part in this in perspective – “British Cycling need to spend less money on making some track riders 0.003 seconds faster. And spend more money on rider safety”

Lastly, Junior’s parents have set up the ‘Junior Heffernan Memorial Fund’ so please give anything you can – http://www.charitychoice.co.uk/fundraiser/robinbrew/the-junior-heffernan-memorial-appeal-olympic-legacy-project

Hopefully these events will cause a change to come to British Cycling. It’s time a change was made.

Rest In Peace Junior. Happy riding wherever you are mate.

Stay Safe.