Back to work

Its been nice to have a bit of a change over the winter.

The running was great and to get to a 55 minute 10 km (I am no Tom Pidcock or Dumoulin!) was a goal ticked off.

I had never dedicated time to running before and it was nice to do something different.

Covid over Christmas and a sore knee from running in shorts when it was too cold to has left me re-thinking my options and the Rutland/Burghley 10km next weekend is now off my planner.

A regional touch rugby tournament last weekend is now in my rear view mirror so it full focus on the bike.

Well, once the puncture wounds in my foot from stud marks have healed. But that’s rugby for you.

The idea of doing a bit less cycling was to refresh my motivation, try something else and get back to riding because I loved it, not because I felt I had to.

I snook out for a quick hour Saturday and trying to keep a straight line on the deserted windswept country roads suddenly felt like something I was meant to do, as opposed to something I did habitually.

Usually the idea of zone 2 riding in freezing cold temperatures would have me running for the coffee machine.

I think my fitness is a way down on 2021 and especially 2020 at the same point, so its going to be a slow build for me, but one I am relishing.

Fenland Clarion Velogames league

Not sure if there is much interest in fantasy cycling games but I just joined the Velogames classics one. Really easy to join but hard to pick a pick within budget.

I am hoping this line up will get me from Strade to Liege without having to make transfers.

I have started a FCCC league so feel free to join in.. < to register

League code to join is 140233727

Going round again…

2022 sees my 31st season as a cyclist commencing.

I would love to say I am going into it with confidence and clear objectives in mind but after Christmas Covid and a February knee injury I am not.

Throw in the country opening up and the chance to ride out to local events after work being impinged by commuting in the car and it feels like 2022 will be a ‘grab it whilst you can‘ type season for me.

One thing that is certain is my signing up with Fenland Clarion CC once again.

My time with the club has seen me a rider, committee member, social secretary, website editor and the clubs stash of stock kit is currently in the base of my wardrobe.

Despite some dalliances with other clubs and teams (Peterborough CC/I-Team-Wheel2Wheel/St Ives CC-Plastribution) over the years, mainly based on geography, I have been either 1st or 2nd claim with Clarion since 2004, and before that a spell in both the early and late 1990s.

It’s not a case of “why change a winning formula“, as I don’t really ever win.

It’s more feeling comfortable in my surroundings and with my club mates that ups my participating and brings that element of competitiveness to my riding.

picture by Lisa Jan – Ketton October 2021

Our level is always friendly and we have an environment that is always encouraging. I am 47 now so my chances of turning pro are now receding (!) so I think I will be in the yellow, red and black for the duration now.

As for aims and objectives. I am writing this looking at my data from a weekend of tough riding, and I am not close to where I was at this time last year. It might be that my focus changes to a couple of key sportives this summer and I have a go at getting prepared properly to ride them, despite my current high octane lifestyle.

Whatever way I go, I will be posting about it on here during the year.

Have a great season.

Too much racing, can’t compute!

Last week it was 1/2 term for school kids down here in the Midlands of England.

We took the opportunity as the country unlocked to get away for a few days.

However with Ruta del Sol, Algarve, Tour of the Alps Maritime and other races going on I am now finding myself glued to GCN before work, lunch breaks and even on the turbo in the evening.

I have so much race viewing to cram in ahead of opening weekend that I wonder if I will still be in Portugal or watching the end of the cyclo cross season instead of Het Nieuwsblad?

Time will tell. But being a cycling fan since the 1980’s this is a much better way of watching and keeping up with the sport compared to the old format of waiting a month to read about it in “Winning” magazine.

And that is no reflection on that particular publication.

Are Cofidis the real deal?

Etoile de Bessèges is a big race at the start of the French season. Not a Tour or Paris-Nice or Dauphine but significant enough to be a benchmark. In my view.

The race started earlier this week and so far (in typically French style) has been about renaissance.

Stage 1 saw former World Champion Mads Pedersen return to form and look ominous for the upcoming cobbled classics with a win on a climb that looked really impressive.

But it was stage 2 and 3 that got the home crowd wagging their tongues.

1 COQUARD BryanCofidis14203:41:46
2 PEDERSEN MadsTrek – Segafredo512,,
3 JOHANNESSEN Tobias HallandUno-X Pro Cycling Team37,,
4 BURGAUDEAU MathieuTotalEnergies5,,
5 BETTIOL AlbertoEF Education-EasyPost40:04
6 THOMAS BenjaminCofidis3,,
7 SWIFT ConnorTeam Arkéa Samsic2,,
8 MENTEN MilanBingoal Pauwels Sauces WB1,,
9 CHAMPOUSSIN ClémentAG2R Citroën Team,,
10 LATOUR PierreTotalEnergies

Forgotten man of French cycling Bryan Coquard has moved across to Cofidis from B&B Hotels during the winter and most pundits saw this as a last big pay cheque and a swansong.

But he climbed (yes climbed) his way to win stage 2 leaving some real quality in his wake.

It was a brilliant return to form for a nearly man who lost his way as a sprinter before trying his luck in breakaways. This win is a really positive sign.

Today proved it was no fluke for the boys in red and white when Benjamin Thomas repeated the feat.

1 THOMAS BenjaminCofidis14203:38:31
2 BETTIOL AlbertoEF Education-EasyPost5120:09
3 JOHANNESSEN Tobias HallandUno-X Pro Cycling Team37,,
4 TILLER RasmusUno-X Pro Cycling Team50:15
5 COQUARD BryanCofidis4,,
6 BOASSON HAGEN EdvaldTotalEnergies3,,
7 HOFSTETTER HugoTeam Arkéa Samsic2,,
8 CHAMPOUSSIN ClémentAG2R Citroën Team1,,
9 ULISSI DiegoUAE Team Emirates,,
10 ZIMMERMANN GeorgIntermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux,,

If you throw in Guillame Martins innovative and almost successful attack in the GP of Marseille at the weekend is this finally the return to form of one of the pelotons longest serving teams?

I hope so… but let’s give it another month and see. Just to be sure.

congratulations tom & zoe

We have not one but two world champions from this weekends cyclo cross action in Arkansas.

Zoe Backstedt won the Junior Women’s with Tom Pidcock taking the mens Elite.

With ‘cross becoming the go to discipline to get people on to road racing nowadays thanks to the likes of Vos and Van der Poel, we can hope for big things from this pair going forward.

(Yes we are aware that TP won a classic last year as well, but we think he will go bigger in 2022!)

why gcn+ has me yearning for a holiday

With a small gap between the last lot of cyclo-cross and the start of the road season, I started surfing the library on GCN+ for some films and struck gold.

A film with Mitch Docker and my hero David Millar where they take the viewer on a tour of Little Barcelona in the north of the Catalan region.

I had been lucky enough to enjoy the City on a number of occasions along with the beautiful coast line from Saint Feilu to Tossa De Mar.

The footage took me back to a wonderful day way back in 2012 when I joined Bikecat tours from the area and went on a magical ride in the mountains.

I captured my experience of day over on who I wrote for at the time. Here is the piece and my prized photo on Alto Els Angels.

Rented Team Slipstream bike couldn’t stop me running out of gas on the climb

Add a blogger from the fens to a team Garmin issue bike and throw in the mountains of Girona… success?
As a bloke approaching my 40’s, the thought of not having had a proper day in the mountains on a bike was hitting me hard.

The 20th anniversary of my first race had gone and past a few weeks ago, it had been a 2-up time trial with my first and current club Fenland Clarion.

So the chance of a day’s guided riding and coaching with Girona based Bikecat, whilst on holiday, was too good a birthday treat to miss!! is external)

Bikecat is a travel and touring firm with a difference. Being based in Girona the company has taken the innovative step of lashing out for old Team Garmin Felt and Cervelo bikes and then renting them to people as their ride.

Tim Duggan, now of Liquigas, had the dubious honour of me riding his 2010 issue Felt with dura-ace and all the hi tech stuff you would expect from a bike that had seen action in the professional peloton.

I had sent my measurements and gearing requirements in advance so when I met company co-owner Jaume the machine was ready to ride. A nice touch was the filled bottles and energy gels he handed me before we clipped in the pedals and rode off.

Here is a link to my data from the day(link is external). you can see that we enjoyed a steadyish start before hitting some proper mountains.

One of the interesting points Jaume made is that a lot of people head to the high Pyrenees or Alps for their first mountain experience which could put them off as there is a lot of suffering to be endured.

The mountains we rode saw about 45 mins of climbing over 11km and 6km ascents. So a much more balanced introduction to the art of getting up hills.

“You know that feeling when you put your finger in the fire and it burns? climbing is like that but all over your body” – Robert Millar at the 1989 Tour of Britain.

The first ‘proper’ climb came after a 12% hill that didnt count !!! it was a road used by the likes of Michael Barry, George Hincapie and Bradley Wiggins. In fact locally, I believe, it is known as Hincapie Hill. The road was marked with countdowns “GPM (King of the Mountains Point) 6km” and surprisingly on this climb it acted as motivation.

The pros get up on the big ring, I got one hairpin up just to say I could do it.

I felt ok to be honest, it never felt like I wasn’t going to get to the top and as we stopped for an apple and to take in the view back to the Costa Brava’s rocky coastline I felt an ambition I had harboured since being a boy was coming to fruition.

As we rocketed down the descent the Garmin team bike handled absolutely flawlessly. Which was handy as a bloke in full Sky kit and helmet zoomed past with a top Garmin professionals wife following closely.

We rode back towards Girona and chatted before they peeled off and the main event of the day came into focus.

The Alto des Els Angels has been an obsession for me since I drove up it in 2009 and saw the names of great cycling champions written on the road. I rode it in 2010 from the steeper Monells side and you may remember my blog at the time saying how I had zigzagged up the steepest bits barely able to keep forward motion.

Whether it was deliberate or not Jaume had kept the white weather station at the top in our line of vision for about 10 miles as we approached. The stories of the local professionals riding up it are legend and most use it as a barometer of form.

I tugged the water out of my second bottle and shoved one of the gels down before we settled in for the 11km ascent from the Girona side.

And then the inevitable happened and the bloke whose main training ride starts at -1 metre below sea level on the edge of the fens, blew up big time!!

Thankfully I was coached all the way up the mountain with a mixture of encouragement and conversation to take my mind of the jelly feeling in my legs.

There was a couple of points I thought about stopping for a break but I had an obsession with getting up and not failing. As I got out of the final bend after what felt like three hours of going uphill I felt amazing.

The view back over to the city was brilliant and we came down the steep side with great care before I got to see the first bit of flat road of the day… I felt obliged to pull on the front only for us to peel off the main road and hit a final, brutal half mile climb… ouch!

The lunch and first can of coke back at the cars didn’t touch the side and when I met up with the family I couldnt wait to tell them about my ride in extreme detail.

I have now ridden in this area twice and can’t wait to make it a third time. There is nothing bad about the roads around Girona, I even found the other motorists showed you courtesy!

Riding with Bikecat is a brilliant way to do it as you can add the glamour of riding a former pro-cyclists bike which adds to the special feelings.

Jaume knows the area like the back of his hand and will go into every detail to ensure you get the most out of your ride. The only thing he didnt do for me was pedal the bike 1

So if you are interested in a trip to somewhere Ryanair fly to but where they wont have to handle your bike, this is the trip for you my friends!

One of the best days I have had on a bike, amazing!

pez article on cycling addiction

I have talked about this a few time on the blog.

The relationship with cycling and my mental wellbeing has been up and down for years, let alone during the period of lock down.

This article actually takes the feelings and emotions of training and riding addiction and adds an element of science with an exposed and control group to compare results.

Click here to enjoy it.