A lull in the action

Last April was so full on you can’t even imagine.

Understanding what was happening in the pandemic and carrying on working whilst some of my friends and colleagues were furloughed around me was harrowing.

I turned the emotion, and need to have thinking time into a challenge of riding every day during that month.

This was a particular challenge with the UK restrictions at the time as it was unclear if you could leave your house and how far you could go.

The majority of the miles were done on the turbo trainer with other riders less than 7km from home on a looping circuit.

2020 was warmer so the virtual highway was a better, less challenging place

As well as relaxing my brain, it challenged my powers of resilience and motivation.

Fast forward to April 2021 and its been a whole different proposition.

The stress of late summer 2020 job hunting followed by being locked down again and having months of the children home from school has left me craving something different this month.

Rest.

So far I have ridden 2 of the club 10 mile races this season and am about a minute away from where I was last year.

My usual attitude to that would be to throw more miles and more intensity into those efforts. My initial reaction was to start checking the credit card balance to see if funds were sufficient to go back on the merry-go-round of training with a power meter.

But then I stopped to think.

Every time I have started a way off where I wanted to be in a season I have reacted by trying even harder.

Most of those years I have struggled to keep racing past August.

So for me 2021 is about a different approach. More of a gamble and more of a test of patience. But I am hoping for results that show it was worth it.

This week I have barely travelled 20 miles by bicycle as of yet. And all of that has been virtual miles out of the icy cold northerly wind that has chilled us for weeks here. The smile is slowly coming back to my lips through the grimace of the effort.

All of the data charts and graphs show that fitness wise I am starting to dip.

But they all measure three metrics and one of those going down is a positive.

Fitness, form and fatigue are the three, and whilst its great to see that my heart rate and turbo trainer power data shows the final measure, fatigue, is in decline, meaning I am ‘fresher’, its the benefit to my mind I am most interested in.

After all cycling is our hobby, not our profession. So for me to know be back at the stage where I want to get out on my bike and have fun, not be a slave to data and numbers, is the best win of the season.

Regardless of what it does to my times in races.

Personal Emotion in cycling

Can cycling be emotive on a freezing cold Wednesday evening on a stretch of gravelly road between Peterborough and Rutland?

For me it was when I saw a familiar car and face beaming out at me as I suffered to get into a rhythm.

I might be closing in on 50 and celebrating 30 years since I starting bike racing in this same “Bluebell Series”, but seeing my Mum watching still makes me find an extra couple of KM/h.

It’s a long and complicated tale of parental support on cold road sides for decades. My parents love the sport and have enjoyed my journey through it. There have been endless pasta meals at 5am on a weekend before a long time in the car and then huddled up with a flask waiting for me to get to the finish or whatever race it was. There were only minimal complaints from them!

But, there is also the part where my best days and biggest results coincided with a period of serious ill health for my Mum. This meant I rode Flanders and had my best finish in the Tour of Cambridgeshire gran fondo without her being there to join in the celebratory beers and pizza.

And that still hurts even today and 6 years on.

So, still suffering with ill health, when she makes the effort to watch a race (safely socially distanced and in the car) I feel duty bound to make the effort to give my absolute best in return.

Last night was no exception.

I paid for the effort and the near 10 mile head wind ride home after the race in freezing temperatures was a challenge but nothing like the one she has been through to be able to come and show me her support.

I just want to say thank you.

My day of hell on Flanders Sunday…

I thought I would be different and breeze through my Covid vaccination without any interruption to my Easter weekend plans.

The reality was quite different and for those of you still to get the jab it might be worth remembering.

Saturday morning was normal with rugby training before heading to get my injection at 2pm.

As I had walked and not driven I was in and out in less than 5 minutes. The process was very effiicient.

For the remainder of the day I felt absolutely fine with no side effects or symptoms that the leaflet accompanying the Astra Zeneca jab suggested might be present.

Even Sunday morning I felt great and with it being the Ronde I wanted to head out for an hour or so before the action got going in Belgium.

There was definitely a feeling of some power lacking in my legs before I’d even reached the end of the street so I took note and agreed with myself to stay out a minimal amount of time.

This plan was working solidly until I realised I was about 13 miles from home (or anywhere) with a headwind to battle.

It was there that my arms and legs suddenly became super heavy and I literally couldn’t get out of the saddle to either increase or maintain speed.

Those last miles were among the worst I have ever spent on a bike. Mountains, snow, wind, cold, heat, cobbles… all of it. This was up there with it and it was on a reasonably smooth A road in the Lincolnshire fens.

I was travelling from the top of the map down into a south-westerly and you can see the impact in terms of speed from the Mywindsock report.

The blue is above average speed, reds below.

I spent the afternoon shifting between asleep and just about awake on the sofa before going to bed at 6pm.

I watched the last 70km of The Ronde on my laptop Monday morning.

It wasn’t the Belgian beer swilling, burger munching afternoon I had anticipated, but there is a bigger picture here and now that the side effects are gone the thought of being Covid protected means much more to me than one Sunday afternoon in front of the TV.

Stay safe.

Weekend treat…

This has been a hard week for a number of reasons I wont go into so it’s nice to get to Friday evening and a delicious beer.

Posy backdrop but the drink is great

I’d not tasted this Leffe winter beer before but I am really impressed by it.

There remains a snobbery about Leffe , especially in Belgium. But as an accessible beer with a taste that can transport you back to Flanders it hits the spot.

Brune and Blonde I will drink. On draught I prefer Ruby but this one beats them all.

Its crisp, yet fruity and puts me in the mind of much pricier and stronger bottles.

So whilst I love the rarer and smaller batch products that are harder to track down and costlier to drink, this weekend I appeal to you all to show love for Leffe…

It does a job. It’s a domestique rather than classics winner but as long as you understand that it wont disappoint.

New date for local Gran Fondo

Following extensive consultations with all key stakeholders, event partners, suppliers, and the UCI, the Tour of Cambridgeshire 2021 has been moved to September 24th to 26th 2021. All entries have been automatically transferred to the new event date and remain fully valid, including all optional extras purchased. No further actions need to be taken by participants. Detailed FAQs are available on our website.

In line with the decision-making process outlined in our communications earlier this year (available here), we’ve determined that due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, government regulations and pressure on the NHS and wider healthcare system, it will not be possible to safely and responsibly host a mass-participation event with thousands of participants as well as hundreds of staff and suppliers in June of this year.