25 June, 2013

Remember when...?

I think the last five days are going to be recounted many a time and if I ever make it to a ripe old age and I'm rocking away in my favourite armchair, terrorizing young nurses, they're going to get very bored of "...It was the summer of 2013, (back when we had summers!), when I was on my way back from the National Championships..."

Showing Peter Sagan up with my sick wheelies, pre-warm up.

Before I go into the gory details I'll briefly talk about the race: in the time trial on Thursday night I came fourth. I'm happy with that, as with it being so tight at the top I was only 12 seconds away from third, and second! It's amazing that after over an hour of racing four guys who train completely differently can be within 32 seconds of one another, and two guys can be within 0.1 seconds! I was gutted not to make the podium but I know that I couldn't have given anything more. To paraphrase various Greats of the sport: 'All you can control is what you do and if you give 100% in a time trial then you have to be content with the outcome'.

Team talk with chief soigneur Martin, just before the off.

After my drive up on Wednesday I had a bit of a sore throat and it turns out that when you push yourself hard your body tends to perform a coup against you. So on Thursday night and Friday I went from sore throat, to chesty cough, to headache and beyond. I kept thinking that maybe I could get over it by eating loads of fruit and napping but the body is a stubborn mule and when it's decided, there's no arguing. So that was the end of my Nationals campaign, I began my drive back on Sunday morning a little disappointed, but glad I made a decent showing in the TT. I must say a HUGE thank you to Ed Hood and his lovely lady Marlene for putting me up and showing me the bright lights of Edinburgh town. Also, Martin from http://www.veloveritas.co.uk/ is an awesome soigneur as well as a talented reporter. Thanks to the Dave Rayner Fund for supporting me financially and giving me the means to make the fairly epic trip up to the Highlands, I appreciate it guys!

If you want to check out the race in more detail here are some good links:

Is that a gel in your shorts or are you just pleased to see me?

And so the real story begins! I'm halfway back from Scotland on my 450 mile drive when steam begins billowing from Saasha the Skoda, never a great sign. After pulling over I realise that yes, the car is really rather hot, and no it's probably not a good idea to try and stick my head under the bonnet just yet. My main worry at this moment is that the car is going to spontaneously combust, Hollywood style, and torch the £15k worth of bike equipment in the boot. Thankfully, that didn't happen and the nice RAC man Simon turned up  to tell me everything was okay: except, he didn't. It turns out that the fan belt snapped, and within a few minutes the engine cooked itself, all the seals warped, gaskets cracked, and dreams of a future together forever were shattered.

Epic PR coverage from the guys back in France!

I was a little stumped as to what was normal procedure in this position. To summarise I'm 230 miles from home, with two bikes, six wheels, four bags, three helmets and a tonne and a half of stationary metal. Thankfully Simon, my newest and bestest friend at this point, towed me to a just lovely Holiday Inn at the services where I enjoyed a five star meal of microwave lasagne and a gin and tonic and made plans for the next day. 

Trying to keep my head in the game, and out of the wind, on the second lap.

9am Monday morning and I'm calling round scrap yards to get the best price for Saasha whilst also trying to get a hire car delivered to get my stuff home in. I sort out both within the hour and then wait a few more to get picked up by the car rental lady Liz to travel to the compound and pick up my swanky new car. We get to the office and as forms are being filled out it dawns on us that yes I'm 24 years old, which is younger than 25 and therefore they can't help me. The look of guilt on the guys faces at Enterprise was so intense I felt bad for them! By this point, nothing could phase me so I just chuckled and shrugged. To their credit they were great and found another company, a rival, that would sort me out and then drove me to their compound. Thanks very much Jon-Jay and Liz, you legends! The new rental guys, Thrifty, needed a proof of address and having broken down on the motorway I didn't have a bank statement on me surprisingly. Off I trotted to the bank, two miles down the road, for a bit of impromptu cross training.

Really glad to see Matt Bottrill finish an awesome 2nd on Thursday!

I returned with the forms and despite coming across as a pretty dodgy character: "Yeah so, that address is my home address, but I live with my sister at another address. And erm, I sort of live in France too *gulp*..." They rented me the car. By this point, Saasha was at the scrap yard, in Bolton, with all my bike stuff in. Visions of a huge metallic claw grabbing her by the roof, smashing windows and dropping her into the crusher were providing me with some quite vivid daytime nightmares. Off to Bolton I toddled and after two occasions of asking where my car was, and subsequently crapping myself, at two wrong scrap yards (all I had to work on was a phone number and a vague location) I found her.

I'm not sentimental with possessions but giving up your car after four years and 50000 miles is like losing a best friend. You know your car will always be there to help you out, even if she does smell a bit funny, drips a bit from her undercarriage and provides a constant annoying drone when driving over 30mph. A car is freedom, and spontaneity, two things I love. Plus her life insurance figure of £200 from the scrappers seemed like a pretty poor payout for someone so fundamental in my life.

Dealing with the hoards of screaming girls post race. It's just a part of my life now.

It's been a crazy few days and quite a weird series of events I think you'll agree, but I've met some lovely people. Those northern monkeys are alright you know! Now to make all you young-uns hate me rather than pity me, I'm off to Glastonbury festival tonight. BOOM! Life is swings and roundabouts. See ya.

17 June, 2013

No more knee-highs

Fear not people, I've packed the shin warmers away for the time being. Yesterday I did some real racing again and it was goooood. I was very lucky to get treated to a guest ride by Justin Hoy and the Felt-Colbornes-Hargroves guys and it was a really nice setup and team atmosphere. I've rather missed road racing and all its intricacies; it's been far too long. Whenever I come back to England mid season I initially enjoy the break from the routine but eventually realise that there's a reason I race bikes week in, week out - because I chuffing love it!

Having a laugh in the Fens

I did the Tour of the Fens yesterday which was a proper big boys race; 200km is not to be sniffed at, even if the biggest climb was over a river (I'm not joking)! An hour and a half in and the UK Youth boys got on the front and steam-rolled the bunch in a crosswind section. I was caught napping which is never good and was about 40 wheels too far back, so despite a do-or-die effort to bridge across me versus nine guys was never going to work! At this point I got a bit grumpy-gills because I thought that was it, game over. We were working together behind, but not exactly motoring and the race was going away from us. As I've learnt before though, and always forget in the heat of the moment, slow and steady wins the race. Well, not wins always, but you can transform a bad day into a better one.

Guys from the break started getting shelled and coming back to us and I boshed my way into a counter attack so that by the time we made it onto the finishing circuit (little be-known to me) we were racing for tenth place! Happy daze! Despite some serious tactical faux pas involving me attacking 2 laps too early in the finale, I stuck to it and felt not too shabby at the end. My sprint left a lot to be desired, but after 4 hours and 40 minutes in the saddle, and being a wet flannel in the gallop anyway I'm not too disheartened. Everyone else was looking pretty cronky at this point too and 15th is ok for me. The order that my group went into the final corner with 250m to go was the finishing order, so that's a valuable lesson learnt for me.

One out of four bottle attempts is good right?

I'm off up to Glasgow this week for the National time trial and road race, so yesterday was a nice little confidence boost. I'm looking forward to some Scottish hospitality; my name sounds pretty good in a Scottish accent so hopefully that'll get me special treatment!

Josh 'Hunty' Hunt: Pin-up, beard extraordinaire and 3rd place finisher. *sigh*

11 June, 2013

The National 25

There was a young man from Surrey,
Who cycled about in a hurry,
He went to the race but was minutes off the pace,
So he treated himself to a curry!

Shamelessly robbed off Cycling Weekly's website.

I had an absolute mare on Sunday and was weak like baby. It was disappointing and I couldn't work out what went wrong for a long time - until today. I woke up bleary eyed and with a sore throat, so at least I can stop racking my brains. Priority one is getting well again and from there I've got to plan where my season is going to go.

With every setback I learn more about my body, and how fragile I seem to be. I'm looking to the future now,  the bigger picture and not putting pressure on myself for the time being. I'll probably steer clear of the knee-high socks for a while! Peace out for now troops.

05 June, 2013

FTW - 'Functional' Threshold Work

I'm teetering on the edge of full blown cycling geekery. I just got back from a ride with Sammoth and realised that I spent a fair bit of time 'talking numbers'. What's happened to me??! I can only blame training for three weeks straight on a time trial bike and a weak mental state.

Couldn't find any relevant pictures so here's one of me on a time trial bike from the start of the year.

Last week's bout of training is best described using the word 'functional'. It was a period of back-to-the-grindstone-esque  work mid season and worked as a suitably shocking experience to get me back on track legs-wise. Ploughing up and down a dual carriageway for two hours in the aero tuck position, like a tractor with a broken sat-nav is hardly inspiring work. Still, it's sowing the seeds for future form (sorry world, I went there). Awful similes aside it's got to be done sometimes. 

Phwoar! Look at the lanes on that.

Getting back onto the road bike felt like sitting down in my old favourite armchair and was a treat for my undercarriage as well as my mind. Let me tell you, time trial bikes are not meant to be ridden for five hours. I did a Thruxton circuit race last night and came in second which was alright. I got in a break with two teammates from PedalHeaven, identified the sprinter of the two and then waited for the sprint, where he beat me. Pretty much foolproof tactical nous shown by yours truly there. Still, it was a laugh and after doing my training in the morning it was better than getting on the turbo in my shed for another session!

This Sunday is the National 25 mile time trial so I'll stick another post up after that, hopefully rife with more witty banter and good news. I hope everyone's enjoying the summer. Cheers for reading!