25 March, 2014

No Excuses.

But I got a puncture.
But the weather changed and I had to go back to the team car and give them my knee warmers, caskette and gabba jersey.
But I had backache.
But my landlady had friends round last night and they were drinking and talking until 1:30am.

Big deal! I could have used all of these excuses on Sunday, but I didn’t, because I’m so tired of hearing excuses. Phew, got that off my chest, now...

Oh here I am, just climbin' and stuff.

I’m not sure exactly why but I don’t have many memories of the race, Fleche de Locmine, but I have snippets that come back to me when I close my eyes. I’ll try and write them down for you here.

After going back to the team car to drop off some excess kit I remember seeing a corner coming up, and a potential crosswind section emerging rapidly, as I struggled to move up the bunch. ‘Uh oh!’ is the edited version of the words I said to myself.

With one hand on the drops I’m fishing around in my jersey for some sustenance, whilst the line of riders in front slinkies along the road. I catch my hand on something and the pin gauges a neat slice through my palm. I’m so focussed on the wheels ahead I barely notice and after the race it will take me hours to work out how it happened.

A sudden hail storm descends on us with 20k to go and I feel the rider’s expressions turning sallow, morale deserts them and their shoulders slump. I smile, knowing that the painful impacts of the icy marbles are hurting them but they’re not hurting me. They’re not even touching me.

Okay maybe they were touching me here...

I take a deep sigh and change into the correct gear for the finishing straight before the final corner. I don’t have to take any risks now, I have thirty seconds, maybe more. I’m dancing on the pedals out of the saddle to get up to speed and then I’m in the noise and in the reflection of every person’s eyes. I close mine and breathe in the scent of anticipation, tension, stress, suffering. And I breathe out. I own this moment.

This feels awfully self indulgent! 


20 March, 2014


Having not made the cut for the second Coupe de France race, Sunday's outing was a slightly lower key affair and, rather handily, was just down the road. I say lower key; it was still an Elite National and had countless ex-pros, the Europcar feeder team Vendee U, and a lot of hungry ambition present. I was hungry. I’m always hungry. Luckily I bought some rice for before the race! I also wanted to win, lots. 

'I don't think this is going to work out...'

On Saturday when I was out training I had very good sensations (290 watts for two hours, no sweat, for those interested). Sunday rolled around and I felt even better, it was madness. I’m milking this a bit because riders worldwide will know that feelings like this do not come around very often, particularly not on race days. After avoiding a potentially disgusting collision with a traffic island 15k in, myself and Pol headed up the road in a counter attack to join the early break in which Nantes weren’t represented. We had a lot of passengers and even when we converged on the breakaway it wasn’t ideal. We couldn’t get more than 50 seconds and having two riders there we were obliged to drive it, despite it being almost certainly doomed. After about 20k we knocked it on the head and the peloton regrouped.

Death attacks- commence!

From this point there were countless splits, surges, attacks, counters and other racing frivolities. We were racing through some narrow lanes complete with dust, gravel and a lung-opening dose of crottes de vache, and looking behind at the carnage I have to say I smiled. I had another pant-wetting moment involving a gravelly right hander which came out of nowhere, an old boy marshal without enough puff to blow his whistle, and an on-bike pirouette to avoid eating tarmac. I stayed upright.

Smiling like I really mean it.

When we arrived at the finishing circuits for five laps of 4k, there was a group of five riders still just ahead, so my teammate Anthony and I one-two'd our group and I managed to split it and ride up to the front with a few others. The final laps were war: with two riders from Vendee U, two from AuberVilliers (another decent squad) and various others, I decided to take the fight to them. I threw down some pretty savage death attacks, of which the final one dragged myself and two others off the front, but I couldn't shake them and getting trounced in the sprint was an unfortunate inevitability. I'm less happy, more content with 3rd, but I am really pleased with the physical progress I've made this season.

You know it's been a toughie when the winner (right) doesn't even look that happy post line.

I'm heading up to Bretagne for Fleche-Locmine on Sunday.

Until then.

12 March, 2014

Moments in Time

Slowly, as I stand there, they return to their activities. I'd made them jump initially but they can see now that I am one of them, a friend amongst friends bathing in the glorious warmth of Spring.

Catkins dance in the breeze, moorhens bob their way across the expanse, squeaking gleefully. Two young birds erupt simultaneously from the depths and proceed to argue over who won the breath-holding contest.

A stalk takes flight, wheels around and returns to the exact same spot, just because he can. He has wings. Ironically, the faint drone of traffic serves only to further magnify the serenity of this fragile wilderness. I close my eyes. I'll have this moment forever. But never again.

In bike news: Sunday was utterly shredded at kilometre six and 120 riders went out the backdoor, never to be seen again! I made the cut, but in toiling away trying to make/create the day's break, as per team orders, I shafted my legs somewhat, and I was grovelling like nobodies business on the Plumelec climb (all seven times) in the finale. 44th is nothing to write home, or indeed a blog, about hence my diversion tactics above. The crowds were incredible at least, in their thousands, and that I enjoyed.


03 March, 2014

27 Hours Later

After letting the training slip a bit last year during the season, what with coping with the level of racing and trying to recover, this year is going to be more structured. And by structured I mean more focussed on the long term goals, or ‘f***ing crazy’ as my housemate puts it.

Last week I did quite a few hours with GP d’Aix on Monday and Vallée de la Loire yesterday included in the mix. It’s hard but it’s manageable. Yesterday I was behind the split in the crosswinds so didn't feature anywhere special (48th).

Cycling is boring. 

So… Here’s some pictures I’ve taken recently.