27 August, 2013

“60kph, mais encore il ne freine pas…”

I’m writing this having just read my previous post back to myself. I’d say this weekend I was less “At one with the bike” and more at one with the floor.

Stage one of the Saint Brieuc Agglo Tour was 140km with six short circuits at the end to enjoy the sights of the town. When I say sights, I mean the piggish climbs, and when I say enjoy, I mean detest. Joyfully the organisers decided to send us up the steepest climb of the course about 500m after the depart which was just fantastic for all involved.

On my favourite climb of the day.

Just like Le Pertre last Monday I got into the break of the day (by riding across to it), but again just like on Monday I was in a box. I used my few good efforts getting to the breakaway and after that it was pretty much game-over Casanova. I dangled on and off the back until 10km to go, when les jambes ont explosé and I did my best to get to the finish without losing too much time to the leaders. I lost a minute to nine riders which I don’t think is bad given my physical state by the end!

Sunday morning was the time trial - 8.6km, pan flat, a few corners, rain - right up my street basically. I did a super long warm up, doing my best to ignore the soigneur who was standing approximately 15cm away from me and kept trying to make conversation. Previous episodes with this man include him exclaiming that English riders are grumpy after I just missed out on winning a stage in Essor Breton, and him telling me I’m ten kilograms overweight. But I digress.

About 45 seconds before I'm sliding down the road.

I felt pretty dreadful for almost all of the warm-up but finally my legs came good before the off, and with some fire in my belly I headed down the ramp. I was seriously up for this one. Before the second ninety degree right hand corner I was coming in much too fast (see the title), the roads were treacherous, and I locked up my front wheel in a straight line. Once you’ve lost your front wheel you’ve got about 0.01 seconds to contemplate life before you’re sliding down the road on your arse at 55kph. I got up, I got back on, and I kept pushing. I felt so strong, it was tragic. I finished thirty one seconds down and a lot of people there told me it was mine for the taking, but that’s how sport is sometimes.

Sam and I larking about before the final stage. Everything a-beards to be normal.

The afternoon stage was 97km on a 6.5km circuit so lots of laps, and every lap had about 2km of climbing and 2km of descending. The break went from the gun, which was jolly unsporting and what was also a bit below the belt was how much pain my right hand side was giving me. In the end I climbed off after about 45km because I couldn’t hold the bars properly and honestly I couldn’t make myself do it anymore. My plan for this week is to regroup, re-energise and aim for something big to finish the year off.

I've just got to lose that 10kg!

22 August, 2013

If your eyes aren't bloodshot you didn't try hard enough

This is a little joke between Sam and I which speaks volumes for both my black sense of humour and the nature of bike racing. Monday was one hell of a rodeo for me but I more or less clung on for dear life and got round. Me being me, I decided to get in the break of the day on my first race back after being off colour last week. Luckily the riders I had for company weren’t up to much – amateur champion of France, two from a feeder team to Europcar, three from division one teams and the local tank with five wins to his name – so I didn’t suffer at all.

Attacking the Amateur Champ of France... Hahaha kidding!

It felt like I was stuck in second gear all day and the other boys were definitely foot-to-the-floor in fifth. We pulled out a minute on a 170 strong bunch in less than 10km, which gives you racers out there an idea of the tempo.

Take that dehydration!

We were in front for 110km and I was swinging for approximately 109km, but some of the other riders who know me quite well now thought I might be sandbagging to save energy. I think they got the point when I hurled that the grimace was real.

My (pain) face for the day.

With 25km to go the bunch was snapping at our heels and on the climb I went out the back door as attacks shot off the front. From there it was a case of sitting in the strung out peloton and enjoying the view from 100 riders back. By the time I crossed the line I was half asleep on the bike.

I'm not certain, but I think I was crying a bit at this point.

Although 115th place is hardly going to get the Directors knocking on my door I’m happy with what I achieved. Firstly, I showed that I’m tactically astute enough to get in the right move, and strong enough to stay there even on a bad day. Secondly, it’s proof that I can still suffer like a hound-dawg at this point in the season when a lot of riders are winding-down, cracking-up and generally just hating life. I’m looking forward to feeling at one with the bike again this weekend at Agglo Tour!

17 August, 2013

Peaks & Troughs

Fair warning: Today could be a philosophical one! I’ve been suffering with some fatigue over the past week and so there’s not really any racing content to be spoken of.

A peak.

Cycling, like life, has ups and downs and I’ve found that the lows often come immediately after the heady heights of success: it’s a long way to fall! Over the last week my body has been telling me things along the lines of “I’m tired, Doug” and “Why are you making me do six hours today, you nutter?” Yes that’s right, I have an inner monologue now. But being an athlete of the most pig-headed variety (a cyclist) I persevered. Cycling can be such a strange sport in the demands it makes because the key personality trait that allows you to improve - stubbornness - can also be your downfall if you’re not careful.

A trough.

Luckily I have my coach who knows me inside out. JB from TrainSharp.co.uk is a master in ‘crisis management’ as he calls it. Looking back over the last five weeks during which I’ve raced fifteen  times (including two stage races) it’s not hard to see that the workload has been heavy, but of course hindsight is crystal clear and cycling is not generally a sport for pure analysts and thinkers, it’s a sport for doers.

A peak.

You have to be a strong character to get up every morning, go out there and get it done, but a lot of people thrive on that hard graft, the brutality of getting your head kicked in every day in a stage race. I think of myself as one of those people, a good sufferer. Maybe one of the best, one day, because that’s what the professionals get paid for. But sometimes you also have to be strong and know yourself well enough to say: “No, I need another day to recover. I need a little more time because my body is telling me it needs to rest”. That is what I am doing today by taking the day off and not racing. I am trying to be strong by doing what appears to be weak.

Another trough.

10 August, 2013

My many shadows

On Thursday night I took part in my first race since winning two in 72 hours last weekend. No real surprise then when I say that I was ‘keenly observed’ by my fellow push-bikers: they stuck to me like shadows. The race was another semi-nocturne town centre criterium around the port of Concarneau, one of my favourite places in the region. It’s absolutely gorgeous there and has heaps of history with a fortified town and lovely beaches. With all these pros it’s no surprise that it’s a tourist hotspot, but that didn’t take away from the awesome setting, and it added to the crowd support!

What a place!

So yes, it was an exercise in strategic warfare for me, trying to sneak off when my followers least expected it. Unfortunately a hairpin turn on the course made things rather difficult, or rather the course wasn’t quite hard enough, so in the end it just came down to brutality.

This was roughly the point when I had a sense of humour failure. 

A group snuck off and of course I wasn’t allowed in it, so I attacked relentlessly for the final 10k, more out of sheer pigheadedness than anything else. I was pretty mad and nothing motivates like anger!

'Snot my day today!'

I think it made a good show for the crowds anyway, which is something. I won a nice Breton hamper including some cidre (French is coming on!) and dodgy salty caramel for a prime, so everyone was a winner. 6th place at the end for me wasn’t anything special really. Also of note: fellow Brit George Moore got 3rd which was really good to see and a great ride by him.

George Moore (in blue) on his way to a solid podium finish.

After the race I treated myself to a paddle in the sea and that helped me cool off, in every sense! This weekend holds two more circuit races up near the north coast but honestly I’m looking forward to the end of crit season. I’m no circuit racer and going round in circles is giving me a headache. That said if I can eke out a few more podiums I will not be complaining! Oh and finally, I got shorn a few days back and in a word it’s short! Talk to you after the weekend guys.


06 August, 2013

"Douglas Dewey, c'est du solide"

Cool headline eh?! I don’t want to make this post too long and boring so I’ll rattle through Saturday’s race. I was at doping control on Friday night until nearly midnight: great for the sport, not good for my legs! By the time I got home and into bed it was about 1am. I felt ill at ease the next day on the bike and was a watched man to a ridiculous level in a field of 28 riders, 7 of whom were from the same team. Long and short of it, I climbed off after an hour with the 3rd placed finisher from the night before. We were cooked.

Red socks, pink kit... Errrrr, my others were in the wash okay!

From the highest heights to the lowest lows, that’s just me! I was feeling a bit down on Saturday night, foolish I realise, but I’m an emotional bloke you know? I went to my favourite spot down by the river with a beer and had a little paddle to relax.

I made myself ride on Sunday morning for an hour to get the legs going and then headed off to the race after two coffees: it was one of those mornings! I got to the start town and after seeing no sign of any race luckily stumbled across the course about 4km away on the industrial estate, phew. No time for a warm up, I just got my numbers and had a chat with fellow Brit Noah Banner before the start. It’s good to see young riders coming out here for proper racing.

We even had time for some dancing during the race.

The start was swift and my legs did not enjoy that much. When it settled down I made it into the front group and sat in for a bit. After an hour my legs were coming good and so, after a prime sprint, I decided to get up the road and make the race come to me. In hindsight perhaps 30km out was too far, but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained. I gained 20 seconds and hung out there for about 11km and when the riders came back up to me there were a lot less of them.

I think cramp did something to my face.

Les Francais were loving this show of panache/stupidity by now so I seemed to have a fair bit of crowd support. Fast-forward to the final kilometre and I’m just off the back of the group clawing my way back after sliding backwards on the final climb. As I reached the group someone attacked and I went to follow him. Just as I came up to his wheel he decided to pull off, with 700 metres to go, and me breathing down his neck. MISTAKE! I held my speed and put the legs into turbo mode, and that was game over for the rest behind as I held my twenty metre advantage to the line.

Glamour? No. Pain? Yes.

There are plenty of things I can take away from this race. Even if a course isn’t perfect for me it’s possible to ride it in such a way that means I’m more in control, namely by sliding backwards on the climb every lap to save the legs! Eating a banana on the start line will get you a one-way ticket to chunder-town. Finally, the French love aggressive riding: what’s French for gung-ho? Tactiques folles?

I know what you're thinking! I've got some winnings now so yes, I'll get down the hairdresser pronto guys!

05 August, 2013

When you're sure, you're sure.

I won on Friday. I knew I was going to. I had been thinking about my victory celebration for the past few days which, in the end, I didn't have time to use. I was so confident that I’d even spent time choosing socks which looked cool for the photos and I’d bought a couple of beers to celebrate. I don’t want to come across as headstrong, but I had such good feelings it would happen I felt unstoppable. And now for a little story about the race…

DodgeBall fans: "You've gotta get angrrrry!"

Peloton politics can be such a ball ache. When you see the pros on telly they don’t really do much pissing about until the final few kilometres, or at least it looks that way. At the level I’m at right now it happens literally all the time. Even if you’re in the breakaway of the day some jerk-off will miss a turn and then you’ll be shouted at even though it’s the guy behind you who’s the lazy one. Then everyone starts attacking each other. In criteriums this is even more of a truth.

On Friday night I missed the break of eight riders clipping off, so I rode across alone (well there was a guy on my wheel, but he couldn’t give a turn). As soon as I got there the self assigned ‘Patron’ of the break decided to give me a hard time for missing one turn, as I was feeling a tad jaded at that point. He made a friend in me there and then. Needless to say when I attacked at the end I made damned sure he was unable to follow. Revenge is sweet, mate.

The group shredded in the final 5km lap and it was me and one other rider at the front, with me driving it. I decided to attack him but he clawed me back, then obstinately sat on me. Fair enough I suppose. At this point I thought I was riding for second; I’d gone pretty deep to escape. It came down to a super fast tailwind sprint which I led out (big ring eleven of course) and thank god won! Geeks out there, I really wanted to win and the proof? 1585 watts peak power. Yes that’s a new record, by miles!

Me and my buddy the commentator bloke. 3>

I’ve got more to report on from the weekend but you’ll have to wait guys, I’ve got to do some food shopping! À tout à l’heure!