As you may have noticed, you probably didn’t, but I have been pretty quiet recently. I think it is fair to say not a lot has gone my way so far this year with illness, crashes and general bad luck and this came to a crescendo last week. My body was clearly fighting something, but despite my best efforts it wasn’t going away. This drove me to go and get a blood test to see if there was any deep underlying problem.
The results came back fairly inconclusively. Which was annoying. But the doctor did diagnose me with a mild sinusitis which he reckoned I had for quite some time. Which I hope was the answer for repeated spouts of illness and the severe achy feeling I had the last week. It pretty much confined me to bed for a couple of days. Everything was an effort, even just walking round the house was tiring me out. It was a very hard few weeks for me. It is easy to beat yourself up in times like this, and at points I was struggling. I won’t deny that. Having had such a great off-season, getting in such good shape for the season that to get to May and have seemingly only taken steps backwards is a difficult situation to deal with. It is quite ironic really, this time last year I loaded the season for the first half until I burnt out, whereas this year I don’t think I have completed 2 successive weeks of training without a problem.
Now with it being a week later than when I originally wrote those first paragraphs, my mind-set has changed. I have had numerous chats with my coach Mark, he had the idea maybe it is glandular fever. I did some research and by the sounds of it matches what I am feeling. But there is also no medication to cure it. So all I can do is rest, eat well and keep hydrated. Mentally I’m over the strain and stress of this season now. Yes it hasn’t gone to plan, but all I can do is reevaluate my goals and take aim on the latter half of the year. Setting new goals and talking it through with a professional is an incredibly helpful and eye-opening way of dealing with issues. Issues that need to get sorted before they spiral out of control. We came to the conclusion of a minimum of 4 days off the bike, with another 3 days of very easy riding if I feel ready. I will come back from it all, fight through it, that is all I can do. But for now I’m just enjoying not stressing. Walking, exploring Limoux, just generally not panicking and thankfully now I’m dealing with the situation much better than I was before.
Not the best run in to my first multi-day race of the year. Last week-end was the Tour of the Squirrels, a 3 day stage race. And the weekend after was one of the biggest 2nd category races in France. Tour of the 3 Valleys. This is a time when you just have to make the best of a bad situation and see what happens. I’ll be uploading a blog about these races separate to this one. As they were very fun enjoyable races to be part of and that doesn’t truly fit with the vibe of this post.
As always. I have to thank my amazing sponsors for supporting me through this little rough patch and having the faith in me to fight and come back stronger than before! You guys are awesome!
After a chilled out week, including a couple of days away from the bike, I was feeling refreshed and motivated ahead of the double header weekend of elite races.
It is pretty fair to say, after realising straight away in the race that I had refound my legs and was out of the slump, I might have got a little bit excited. The first 20km or so of the race went out on a massive dual carrageway which we then turned off and hit the first climb. The parcours was pretty simple. Flat. VERY bergy. Flat. With the realisation my legs felt pretty good, I may have got a bit carried away. The first hour my normalised power was a fair chunk over threshold. Not entirely sure how that happened. But it was good fun! I rode near the front for the first hour, following moves, trying to get away. I was just really enjoying racing again, which I hadn’t done for a while.
There was a couple guys who had sneaked off the front really early on, and I wanted to join them before the race got hilly. Unfortunatly I didn’t manage to get in a group then bunch would let go, so had to settle with entering the hilly section in the bunch. For the first of the climbs I was well positioned. But clearly the big boys were coming out to play now. I hit a 2min power pb just to stay in the bunch up the climb. This meant that as the climbs came thick and fast, all around 1km but all steep, i started drifting back. I would squeeze through the bunch on the descents and slide back up the climbs. But I managed to keep myself in the group and survived until the race got flat again.
By this point one of the big local teams had hit the front to try and bring back a breakaway they had missed, so there wasn’t much to do but sit in a surf the wheels for the final 40km. The roads were flat and with a strong tail wind the pace was high, but the bunch wasn’t close to getting lined out.
Having done 150km of hard racing, annoyingly I started to cramp up in the final, so I couldnt’t contest the bunch sprint. Thinking back maybe I should of just pushed through. But that is easy to say now, not when you have both quads cramped solid.
It was my first signs of decent legs though, so the moral is a fair bit higher than the previous weeks.
I have to say this is probably the scariest looking parcours i’ve ever seen! I’ll be honest, it wasn’t really for me.
Being the first double header weekend, the legs weren’t quite adjusted to back to back racing yet and I woke up pretty tired.
I don’t want to make any excuses, I was never going to win this race. But on the line, we got gridded in sign on order. And having entered on the day, that meant we were right at the back. And what made this worse, the line was at the top of the climb. So when you are lined up in 70th place, you are half way down the climb. I’m not even exaggerating. The breakaway had gone before I got my feet in the pedals!
The race was just lined out straight away. No hope in hell of being able to move up. Then we hit the descent which was quite technical, which didnt help. That was followed by a long tailwind road, where everyone was fighting for the front to hit the climb first. With a group already gaining time on the bunch the race was fierce. We hit the climb and I started parking pretty fast. A 1.5km climb at 7% but with multiple ramps up at 12% it wasn’t the day for rouleur me.
A grupetto formed, and we rode round a couple laps in the cars, before I dropped off the back on the climb. But then to my surprise, the next time round, they had all abandoned. they were stood at the side of the road. So I just kept riding. And riding. Every lap, more and more riders were stood on the final climb. So I just kept going.
Way down on time, but I finished. 35th. I will take that.
After some good sensations in training up to this race I was hoping for a good performance. Especially seen as it would be the first TT of the year, even if it was only a 4km prologue. But at least it was something familiar, something I know I can do. And that is always good for the moral.
We got there nice and early so we could drive the course and meet up with the team. It was pretty cool to arrive with the turbos lined up and the chairs out ready to go. We un packed the van and put the TT bikes in the turbos and all set about our own pre-race routines. For me I find this crucial before a time trial effort. You know you are going to the limit, so you have to be in the right place mentally.
It all starts one hour out, once I am in my skinsuit and put on the Rule 28 socks, tighten up my shoes and rub down my legs. Once the headphones go in and the cap goes on, that is it. I won’t talk to anyone till after the TT then, I just focus on getting in the right place and prepared for the effort. Then 40mins to go I get on the turbo and run through my 20min TT warm up. Once off the turbo, the TT helmet goes on and it is off to the start line. All about visualling what is to come.
Down the start ramp, there were a couple of corners out of the HQ, but then onto the main road which was wide open and flat. I got myself up to speed and tucked in, and then it was just all about holding the speed as high as possible over a few very slight rollers. Pushing on and over the climbs to keep the speed high. To be honest it was so short I didn’t even look at my garmin till 1.5km to go. By that point I thought I really had to get a move on. Up the final roller and into the town to cross the line.
It was the first time I had ever ridden a time trial with a radio on and the team car behind. So it was a massive relief to hear I had posted the fastest time by 30 something seconds as I crossed the line.
I hung around at the finish as I knew Oli and Harry wouldn’t be far behind. Apparently the time keeper told Harry before he started I had set the fastest time, to which Harry clarified I was a “chrono specialist”, to which he was asked “en la montees?” and replied merely “no”. Thanks for that…
I was stood with about 20metres to go, and I hear a team car going crazy with the horn, over the crest of the hill comes Harry with Thierry in the team car going mental! He spun the team car around and with a massive smile on his face tells me that we are currently 1,2 with only a couple riders still to go.
We cooled down and headed back to the van, but quickly had to rush back to the podium. We had been confirmed as 1st and 3rd in the standing. Which meant trophies, wine and some jerseys for us!
That afternoon was a 100km hilly road stage. I have to say it was pretty cool rolling to the front of the bunch in a yellow jersey. It soon became clear in the race that a majority of the field seemed more interested in following me than racing the race. My advantage over second place was only 15seconds, maybe 1min over most of the field. Not enough to really shake up the race. But with everyone following me and a breakaway up the road, i’d have to bridge the gap, or tow the bunch with me. And with two teammates up the road I couldn’t do that.
With a big lead out from one of the culture velo boys I tried sending one over the big climb of the day. I got a small gap and started hammering down the descent. But with a strong headwind as we turned back towards the sea, and a 60man peloton content on not letting me do anything I soon got caught. I tried driving over all of the remaining climbs, but there was nothing I could do.
I ended up rolling in with the bunch a couple minutes down on the winning break, losing the jersey, but still sneaking in the top 20 on gc. Not a terrible days work!
As I am starting to learn, cycling full-time isn’t just cycling full time. Even on big weeks, you still have entire afternoons with seemingly not much to do. Apart from eating, cleaning, sleeping and more eating! But as I am starting to get into a routine and trying new things I thought I could give an insight for anyone also in this great position to ride their bike full time. So here it is, my list of 10 things for a full time rider to do, that isn’t riding your bike!
1: Clean / maintain your bike
This one is obvious. But now you have time, use it to look after and keep your bike in tip-top condition. Someone recently has told me stories of him not finishing races due to avoidable bike issues, which he has never had again!
Don’t fall into the same trap. Give your bike a thorough clean at least once a week, more if the training conditions are bad. Normally I would do this the day before a race, so I can set my bike up for racing at the same time. But this does mean that if you haven’t already diagnosed any problems if you find any it is the day before a race and there might not be time to fix it!
Once a month give your bike a full strip down, this works out as a nice rest day activity as it can take a while. Take the bearings out, regrease all the internals. Relube cables and replace if needed. Use a chain checker to assess wear and replace if needed. Take out bolts and apply grease along with on seat posts and handlebars. Tune up the gears and your bike will feel like new…along with using the best part of a day!
2: Watch Bike Racing
You can use your new-found time to keep up to date with the pros and the world tour calendar. If you want to watch the whole of Paris-Roubaix, go ahead! Get your ride done early and then you have a whole afternoons entertainment sorted.
You can even use it as a learning experience. Think through the situations you are watching, what you’d do if you were in there, how you’d race. It is a good way to learn some new tactics!
3: Refine bike positions (especially on TT bikes)
This is a pretty popular subject in our house at the moment, with a couple of TTs and stage races with prologues coming up. But it is very important! It can take a lot of time and refinement to perfect a TT position (if there is a true ‘perfect’ position.
This means lots of time with one person on a turbo and the rest of the group looking around, thinking and throwing out ideas. Normally followed by more thinking and then the sound of some allen keys and a torque wrench.
I hope we actually save some time!
4: Stretching / Core Work
Use your new-found time to master the off the bike activities which help a cyclist. A solid core is vital for good power transfer on the bike, so why not take 20mins on the easier days to top it up?
Also put together a good pre race stretching routine to really help set the legs up for a race. It will also work really well on a rest day to maximise recovery!
5: Draw on your shoes
Okay. Maybe slightly out there. But hey. I was bored. Anyway, why not? Buy a sharpie and get creative. Then you have a bit of cycling equipment no one else has. And that is pretty cool!
Now for some less obvious, less bike related things that are really good for passing the time!
6: Make your own energy bars
In the house here we have been experimenting to see who can make the best bars. Basically just chucking a load of ingredients into a bowl and wacking it in the oven and hoping for the best. But here is what we have come up with…
The Jobber Bar:
3 Bananas – Mashed
2 Cups of Oats
A Couple Table Spoons of Honey
Any extras you may like to add – Personally I quite like dried cherries and chia seeds
If the situation is dia, a couple table spoons of Nutella goes in well
Smash it all into a bowl, 10mins in the oven, jobs a good’un
7: Find the local cafe
I did my research for this. If you know me, you know I like a good cafe. After hunting around trip advisor and instagram I found a nice little coffee roaster in the centre of Limoux called ‘La Brulerie’. I have to say it is pretty incredible! We have tried a fair amount of fresh new coffee. And combined with something from the local bakery it is always whats needed.
But if you don’t already have one in mind, head out in the town, get exploring and try some coffee! You’ll soon find a new go to stop!
8: Explore the town
Get out one afternoon and have an explore! Find the good bakeries, the cheapest shops, some nice views, basically what ever you can find! Just enjoy it. Take yourself away from cycling for a couple of hours and have a laugh.
We have found, well…have been woken up by on multiple occasions, the Limoux Carnival. And it is absolutely mental! The whole town comes out to sing and dance and play music till the early hours in the morning. Not ideal the day before a race! Maybe when one of us win a race we will go get some masks and join in?
9: Write a blog
Why not? I started a fair while ago now, and I really enjoy it. People always like to read about people doing cool things, so you just have to tap into that.
Open up word press and off you go…write away! You might be surprised as to how many people read it!
10: Chill Out
You’ve probably worked really hard to get to the position where you can ride full-time, I know I have, and it is a dream starting to come true. So take your time off the bike and relax. In my situation before when I was working I had very limited time post training to chill out and recover, but now I have all the time in the world. It really gets rid of all the stress and you can switch off and just relax. Put on some music, sit back, browse social media, just do nothing basically! Sometimes it is really nice!
I’ve been in France for two weeks now, I’ve been staying with the team and we have been travelling all over to the first two rounds of the DN3 Coup de France. It has been an eventful few weeks, I am certainly starting to experience the pro racer life style. It is taking some adjusting!
After the team camp in Lloret, we drove to L’Isle Jourdain near Toulouse where we would stay until the Friday before heading up to Poitiers for round 1. The weeks training was slightly up and down, a couple guys in the house were ill so I was staying in my room and doing my own training. A couple days were pissing down with rain, still better than the UK mind! That just meant onto the erg for some intervals! Then on the Friday we set off for the long drive up to Poitiers, 4.5hrs stuck in the van. We got there and went for a spin to check out the first 40km of the course, followed by riding the finishing circuit on the Saturday morning. The legs were starting to feel pretty good, my opener efforts went well and I was ready to get stuck into the race season in the morning. But luck was not on my side. A couple guys on the team were still ill and one more night in a room with them was too much for my immune system. I woke up the day of the race ill. Not great for the moral.
I started the race but I was always fighting a losing battle. Constantly yo-yo-ing in and out of the cars, regaining contact on the flat and then losing it again on the climbs. Having woken up with a rough chest and terrible headache, it was just too much. I got to the finish circuit before losing contact from the race and pulling out after 100km. I was disappointed after a pretty promising week and solid winter behind me. But that is racing at the end of the day. And I guess there is only so long you can be in a house with ill people before you get something.
A big target for me in the first phase of this season, racing Coup de France rounds and elite races is to learn the ways of the peloton. Coming from the Uk with fields of 50-60 riders and jumping in a full closed road race with a 150-160man peloton is quite a jump. I have no doubt I have the legs to get results in these races when I am healthy, but I have to learn my craft. That is a big driver for me coming to race on the continent. Where better place to learn my race skills than in the home of bike racing.
Another big shock is the shere quality of the field, even in these DN3 races. All the riders have depth to them, there is no one there just looking to get round. Everyone is there for a result and will fight for it. As you can see in the picture above, the race got lined out in the crosswinds! That is a 150man line out and it was like that for a good half an hour. But no riders lost contact and no wheels were dropped. They sure do make them tough down here!
That night we drove back to L’Isle Jourdain for another 5days until travelling to Vogue for round two of the Coup de France. The week was fairly uneventful. Having taken a couple days off to regain my health and then a couple easy days to get the legs turning again before the race. The legs weren’t in a great way after the lack of training, but sometimes you just can’t help these things. They started to come round after doing some openers on Saturday and then it was just back to the hotel before rolling out in the morning. The organisation is pretty incredible! The whole peloton is staying in one hotel and the start is from the car park in the morning. Can’t get more practical than that!
An early start and a nice big bowl of oats and I was ready to go. We headed to the team presentation and then I got a chance to just spin the legs for 10minutes before any final race preparations and then to the start line.
My big target for this race was to work on my positioning and moving myself around the bunch. I started my higher onthe grid and managed to hold a good positioning up the first climb. I slipped back a little down the descent and then on the flatter section before the big climb of the day at 30km I started working my way back up. Moving round the outside of the group as the whole group rotated following a moto. Then some un-announced road works caused the moto to slam on to a stop. A couple riders in front of me managed to dodge the bike but I plowed straight into the back of the motobike, chest first, over the bars and upside down in a fire ditch. I remember laying there thinking I had broken a collar bone, but I could move both shoulders so I knew it wasn’t that. But i had a really bad pain coming from my chest. I am thinking now I might have cracked a rib. But I am going to head to the hospital to get it checked in the morning.
After one failed try, I got up. hobbled over to my bike, put the chain on and straightened the bars and set off in chase. With a bit of help from a couple team cars and some serious pressing I re gained contact with the groupetto that had been dropped from the peloton up the climb. I rolled round with them but finished outside the time cut.
It is a shame to me how these first two races have gone. But I can rest up now I am in my house in Limoux. I have a couple more elite races in the next few weeks before some 2/3 stage races. After such a good winter, this is a slightly disappointing start to the season. I know this. But I am starting to learn my craft. And that is the big goal for these early races. I am also hungrier than ever now to show the team what I can do. Keep your eyes peeled for some big rides soon!
The aventure begins! I am now here in Lloret de Marr at the Culture Velo pre season training camp. Here’s how it’s going!
A quick point!
I would like to start by saying how accommodating the team and team staff have been to me, Oli and Harry. None of us speak much French (we are learning gradually!) but they have really taken us in. It really shows the professionalism and attitude to expand and improve within Culture Velo.
After flying to Toulouse very early Friday morning and getting collected by my new DS, we drove to the service course where I got shown round and collected my new bike. I got to spin the legs in the evening after arriving at the DS’s house and then it was settling in for an early night before the drive to Lloret de Marr in the morning.
It was a smooth journey, I think I slept the whole way. Before arriving and heading out on a 90min soon to open the legs after being stuck in the car. We discovered a very interesting thing. Something I had never seen before, although now intend to bring back to the UK with me. The z2 chain gang. Like a chain gang. But not hard. Everyone gets an equal share of the work load and you cruise at a much higher speed! Totally bizarre at first, but we are starting to get into it.
The next day the training got more serious. It was the proper start of the Culture Velo Camp. Starting of course with z2 chainy, we hit a long climb where riders were starting to get shelled and the hierarchy for the week was set. I stayed with the front boys, I think it surprised them a little. But I was here to prove a point. After that was some drills with collecting bidons from the car and a sprint into town, a fairly solid day, but nothing ground breaking compared to the crazy intervals I was doing in Calpe.
Following that was a 5hr ride which was basically a race sim. The z2 chainy turned to z3 and it was full on all attacks allowed up all the climbs. I made it a point to be at the top first on all of them. Laying in attacks with Oli we gradually wore down the whole group until no one could stay with us. It was a super fun day! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen some attacks fly and even made a few of my own. Ending by cruising along the coast road back into Lloret, once again a big sprint for the town sign…it would be rude not too!
Thinking to the day ahead, todays ride was 2hrs with our own opener intervals. The first race of the season was coming, and i can’t wait! It’s been a long time since racing and I’m very keen to get back in the peloton.
The La Paratellada Open Social would be my first race of 2018, I am treating it as a training race. So nothing too serious. Leg warmers over shorts, it’s February of course. The course was effectively a massive flat square about 20km round, a massive anomalie in my calendar for the year. Also pretty weird for Spain, it was blowing a gale! And that meant the crosswind sections were king.
The first couple of km were a bit strange. It was very nice being back in the peloton, but I had somewhat forgotten my bunch skills. And trying to make up through a 200man peloton isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The run in to the first crosswind section was pretty fierce, everyone was fighting for the front, and as soon as we started the long straight open road the peloton immediately split into echelons. A front group of 7 quickly formed and I set off solo to bridge over. All the teams were represented, so even though it was early I was sure that move was sticking. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the bridge. Dangling just behind the group for a couple of kms but not making contact. I did set a Pb 5min power in doing so though. So it isn’t all bad.
After my failed attempt I took a small breather in the group before launching another bridge attempt before the gap got too big. This time going solo in the tailwind section and putting my time trial skills to use. At first the peloton chased but I managed to break the line and head up the road by myself. After a while 3 riders came over to me and te chase group of four was formed. The next hour was spent in a chain gang, I don’t think we really got any closer to the front group, but we didn’t lose ground ether.
On the final lap a small ground caught us, luckily I managed to spot this happening early so I could skip some turns to make sure I had some legs when the groups merged. The typical counter attack was launched and I managed to follow which formed a new group of 4 for the final.
The run in was very tough. But with the carrot of a couple of riders who had been dropped from the front group we worked till inside the final km before the cat and mouse started. I managed to position myself at the back of the group, then one rider sent one early, the group responded and then I opened my sprint over the top. One rider managed to just lunge me on the line but that still left me with 9th place. A very tough day out. 340np for 2hrs 10mins. It’s nice to have some race legs this early in the season and I am hoping to build on it for the coming Coup de France rounds.
Day after a race = Testing!
What else would you want the day after a hard race but a mountain TT? That’s exactly what happened. The whole team set off in 30second intervals. The fastest time gets the bragging rights. I didn’t win. I was gutted. No more on this.
Thankfully it was a cafe day now. Just me Oli and Harry rolled along the coast and found a cafe. Super chill. It was really nice to just spin the legs at our own pace and not gassing up the first climb out of Lloret like these guys seem to love doing. We even found a cobbled berg up to a castle. That was pretty fun!
Today was meant to be the final day on the bike, so naturally a big one. However I woke up feeling a tad rough, so after the roll out I turned round and headed back for the hotel. Annoying, but after a nap and about 3litres of berrocca I already feel quite a bit better. With the travel day tomorrow I will be good to go for Monday. The aim being a couple of big sessions early in the week before tapering down for the opening round of the Coup de France on Sunday. I hope the legs are good. It’s a good parcours for me, so I will he hoping to ride strong.
As always. Be sure to check out the sponsors that are supporting me this year! – Click here!