This website has been running since 2015 but I wanted to go back to post one on the Tumblr platform as to why I write about what I write about…
My definition of Fendrien…
What does Fendrien feel like?
There is a certain feeling, a sensation, a point in any ride where it gets “Fendrien”.
That can be a climb, a squally shower of rain or a sustained gust of wind in your face.
It can exist outside of the heartlands. It exists in the Peak District, Yorkshire or the channel coast of France. But what sets us apart is that we live with it day in, day out.
For example, this weekend was sunny and clear. From my house the tops of the trees were barely moving, but I have seen enough, been through enough, to know that was deceptive.
Sure enough the first lengthy, exposed, straight piece of farm track my wheels hit presented me with irregular gusts of wind square against my face. I battled them whilst trying to keep a steady cadence and rhythm, paying attention to my heart rate to keep the training session relevant.
But it was tough. At this stage of the season it was tough.
However it was what happened next that took this gusty morning from standard to Fendrien. I turned dead left at 90 degrees and the wind follow suit. It also clouded over. From bright sun to moody and dark. The temperature suddenly began to fall and the wind grew colder.
It’s these challenges that make a simple weekend ride epic. It takes them from difficult to Fendrien, and it is these elements we are here to celebrate and promote.
This season has been a lot about resilience and making the best of the time and opportunities to ride my bike.
There has been ill health in the family, along with uncertainty and anxiety about opening up and going back into offices and schools across the whole household.
This is still an ongoing situation so the chance to finish work in my bedroom/office and ride out to a club event at the start of April was a real relief.
It didn’t matter so much that we were all still having to distance and not mingle before or after the event. The key thing in those early weeks were the single digit temperatures which made the racing tough and the ride home in the dark chilly at best.
My tradition after riding a club 10 is a midweek pizza and beer to celebrate and this has been respected in 2021 and become a really key part of our life.
It was great to be up and running and despite not really looking like I was going to make inroads into my personal bests the training felt good.
As we moved into the summer the easing of lockdown, if anything decreased the level of certainty I had about stuff and the arrival of coach Darren Kelly in my corner was much needed.
He was able to provide me with direction and structure in my training which added an element of cross fitness with some running sessions. I was already playing rugby as well which we were able to keep in the diary.
Having some goals and long term targets in my mind made the work hard but enjoyable and knowing that someone has taken the time to plan the training session you are doing made it much easier to get out and push myself.
I am still working with heart rate and not power so there will be a limit to how far I can go, but we are not there yet. Not by a long way.
As the summer progressed there were a number of interruptions to my season. I started to travel to Yorkshire from Lincolnshire for work and road closures on our time trial course saw some cancellations.
It made the events that were on more of an occasion including an open 10 mile time trial south of Peterborough on the roads I grew up riding and had ridden and trained on from my teenage years. I always feel special riding over there and this hot and sunny day was no different.
As the season drew to its close a sheared bolt on my tt bars caused me some issues on a tough night on our back up course, but I put that behind me before riding the last event all out.
The time wasn’t quite where I wanted it but as I put my lights on and rode home there was a certain sense of satisfaction at a season well ridden. As with all members of our club it had been about resilience, dedication and adaptability. Mentally it had been a lot tougher than I’d anticipated when going through it all. But now I can look forward to a cycling future and what it holds.
How would I view year 30 against year 1?
Well I won a lot more medals in my first year than this one, but cycling has for a long time been more about what I can put in rather than what I take out, so I am pretty Zen about that.
My original plan had been to knock it all on the head when I turn 50, but let’s see.
I will write a post looking back over the last 3 decades at some point soon. Its all processing and formulating in my mind at the moment.
Until then, enjoy the end of the road season and stay safe across the winter.
The second best one day bike race (after the Ronde) takes place this weekend for the first time since 2019.
The 2020 Paris Roubaix, or Hell of the North, was cancelled in the April of that year as the Covid pandemic raged. It was provisionally re-scheduled for the end of that year but a surge in cases around the races finish area in Lille saw no race and much sadness for fans.
April 2021 saw more challenges in that area of Northern France and whilst the Flemish classics just over the border in Belgium took place, the Roubaix velodrome was again left silent.
But we do now have an event with a firm date for this Sunday, 3rd October 2021 and what’s more both the men’s and inaugural female events will both be hitting the cobbles.
This feels like a massive moment for cycling and a real sign that things are coming back to some level of normality and we will have a full set of one day monuments to look back on (unless something terrible happens in Italy to affect Il Lombardia).
My favourite memory of Roubaix was the 1994 edition where Andrei Tchmil survived the rain, mud and snowy blizzards the best. He was able to make the velodrome finish and take home the coveted cobble as his prize.
I remember a classic shot from the tv motorbike as Tchmil got away and the back drop was some old mining pulleys and towers with the cloud behind them the likes of which I’d never seen before.
The snow followed soon after and it was clear this would be a race we would talk about for years. I know I still am!
Since 1994 we have only seen one truly wet event, in 2002.
The forecast for this Sunday isn’t great with showers and 24kph winds anticipated on the exposed roads north of Paris.
If that doesn’t whet your appetite for this great event then nothing will.
Despite being, what I would call, a cycling buff, there are many instances where I can’t take in all of a race.
I have even written on this very website how the recent trend of tv coverage from flag to flag sometimes can feel like too much cycling.
The first instance of this trend I can remember was the 2015 Paris Roubaix where the first hour of action waiting for the break to form was much more entertaining that what went after it. So the television execs thought they’d hit on a successful formula and it stuck.
But for every race like that, there has been plenty where ‘sleepy’ would still be too active a description for the action.
Its content like that which gives commentators abuse on the internet. They can only call what they see and if nothing is happening the dead air is filled with less quality. Same goes for the racing.
The 2021 world professional men’s road race yesterday was one occasion where if you invested the time at the start of the race, there were massive rewards at the finish.
The French national team rode the perfect race.
Unlike the Belgians who seemed to back both Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert before leaving home town rider Jasper Stuyven to content the finale, the raiding team from south of the border had a clear strategy.
They backed the defending champion to the hilt and were rewarded by his retention of the precious rainbow jersey.
From 140kms out Benoit Cosnefroy and Anthony Turgis were a total pain in the Belgians backsides with attacks and counter attacks forcing lots of chasing.
Italy were caught out in the first big split, something that might have contributed to a subdued finale from their main hope Sonny Colbrelli.
Mathieu Van der Poel was very subdued and was content to follow all day without having any impact on the race.
Julian Alaphillippe attacked four or five times to get his win with a number of these digs coming in the last lap and a half around Leuven.
He eventually wore them down with his desire to get clear and with Valentin Madouas working hard to help him establish his lead he was gone and gone for good.
The splinter group chasing him down had neither Van Aert, Tom Pidcock nor Van der Poel within it and didn’t have the power left to make the catch.
You can argue that Alaphillippe is all show and no content, but the wins he is racking up now make that point of view weak.
He is so entertaining to watch and his attack so wonderful to behold that you can’t help but be engaged and excited.
Last year he won with style. This year he won with persistence, style, panache and flair.
The last review of something I did for the website was the first Ned Boulting stand up show.
There are some comparables between that piece of what was essentially theatre, and this book by Eurosport anchor, Carlton Kirby.
Boulting is similarly aloof and abstract. I find his commentary resembles Kirby whilst not being in the same wheelhouse.
I suppose you could say that ‘gnarly’ old Carlton obsesses more about roundabouts and uses more cliché.
However Ned gets a much smoother ride from those ‘internet people’ that Mark Cavendish used to complain about. Does this book get to the bottom of why that is? and is it fair to bash Carlton more so than other cycling commentators?
Well. Essentially that depends on your viewpoint before you open the pages to be honest.
If your mindset is that Carlton is a numpty with a motormouth spilling a collection of words and phrases that sometimes come together to describe a bike race then there is nothing in this book to make you think differently.
The man himself is very accepting of his position in polarising the views of cycling fans with his style and delivery and will no doubt have dropped some passages in this book to boil their blood.
Having read the book objectively, I think that the haters who have read it will be using it as fuel on their anti-Kirby fires. Everyone else might have a bit of fun.
If you can keep a level head and get past reading the introduction from Sean Kelly in his voice in your head (I couldn’t) then you are going to get a book full of ‘pals in a pub’ anecdotes which will vaguely enhance your cycling knowledge but mainly make you fearful of backwater French hotels.
I wouldn’t say that the book hangs together and grips you, its very much a pick up and put down piece designed to make you chuckle and read bits back out loud to your partner. She hated me doing that though and prefers Rob Hatch.
There isn’t the level of detail and description of races and characters you would find in a William Fotheringham book, but then there are people that hate them as well so its all relative.
If you are a fan of Carlton and want to understand what goes on in that head of his (scary) then this is the perfect light entertainment style book to enjoy.
As to why he gets the most stick of all cycling commentators, I think its mainly because he is different and that comes through clearly in the book.
Is the criticism fair? I think its not. Anyone trying to do a job and talk on the air about something for hours at a time day after day isn’t going to be 100% on top of their game all the time. Although I would certainly love a go at it !!
My take out is that if you love Carlton you will love it. If you don’t do your blood pressure a favour and stay away!