My 30 year relationship with the midweek club 10

Wednesday night was a real landmark occasion for me.

It concluded the season of local club time trials that came 30 years after my first.
This season ended with cold weather which was very much in keeping with how the series started back in April.

Back in 1991 I was a teenager on a Dawes with some bright yellow Scott TT bars that my hero Greg LeMond used.

My hair was long and under my Bolle glasses was a young kid trying to find his way in a tough, unforgiving, grown ups sport.

The Bluebell series is a local cycling institution. It has run in this format for decades with a name evoking the early season flowers that add a blanket of colour to the heath which the race both starts and finishes on.

My first time was 30:08. No-where near the first page of the results I seem to remember but it was a start point and benchmark for my 10-mile career. The next week I was 2 minutes faster and with the handicapping system managed to build a healthy series lead across that summer.

I seem to remember the weather being warm and sunny every Wednesday evening of the series and I was comfortably in the 26s before the final round.

It was mentioned in the local paper and I was super nervous.

On that golden August night, I recorded a 27:30, one of my worst of the season but just clung on to take the trophy by the skin of my teeth.

For that reason, the Bluebell is the competition that I love the most and feel most passionate about. It brings people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities together to bomb around a beautiful course before (post covid) a nice chat and a brew on the heath.

Fast forward to 2021 and as I rode home from the event Wednesday with the daylight fading to the extent you could see my lights starting to take effect, I took some time out (ok a train was coming on the crossing, so the gates were down) to ponder my life in cycling.

There have been downs as well as ups, and my geography has meant that despite it being 30 Bluebells since I started riding, its probably only 23 that I have taken part in (winning again in 2004).

But despite everything, this is something that we can cling on to and cherish as a little piece of sporting history of our own and on our own doorsteps.

2021 Fenland Clarion club 10 on Helpston heath


With so many other factors in my life to come in to play, its too early to say whether there will be a campaign from me to celebrate 31 years after my first. But wherever you are, please support you club local weekly 10-mile time trial.

Forget about the crucial revenue it generates for the club and the competitive racing it provides. Think more about the camaraderie, friendship, and benefits for the soul.

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.

Back at the club 10

I think like most of the planet emerging from lockdown, there was an element of nervousness in me as I threw a Fendrien jacket over my club skinsuit and fixed the lights to my time trial bike before heading off to the start of the race last Wednesday.

I didn’t know how I would feel or what my performance was like. Things that help you understand performance, such as power meters had been sold last summer to keep things ticking over at home so this was a real step into the dark for me.

The first drama was some light drizzle as I crossed the A16 and got on the country lanes, that was followed by the East Coast Mainline stopping me for two trains at the crossing. This was stuff that in previous years would have phased me, it would have affected my concentration and added to the nerves of bike racing.

This year though, it just feels so nice to be out there that I took it all in my stride as part of the experience. It’s like lock down has actually given us more time to do things and think about what’s going on.

I collected my number, socially distanced of course, and fixed it to my new number belt. Yes I know I look like a triathlete, but skin suits aren’t cheap so any avoidance of pin damage is fine by me!

I stashed my jacket and bottle in the undergrowth near the car park and started to get my act together as other riders were arriving.

My start time was nice and early so I was able to do my 10 miles (25:15) and get back to the finish before layering up and riding home.

This reminded me of when my kids were first born and I did little in the way of training. With that in mind I rode the St Ives (Cambs) CC 10s mid week as where I lived meant I could easily ride out to the event and back for extra miles, usually it was a 50km evening. Those tired rides home with my lights twinkling and the fens looking splendid were some of the best I can remember.

The same applied here and as I waited for another 2 trains at the crossing going home I reflected on a successful evening for the club and enjoyed those last 8km home without sprinting for village signs or eyeballing the heart rate numbers on my computer.

And if a weekly stress relieving ride home each Wednesday is as good as my truncated cycling season gets this year, that will do just fine.

I would like to go a bit faster in the race though!

Introducing our new race cut 2019 classics jersey.

Featuring the original Fendrien black coloured jersey with the contrast red.

Despite moving across the border into Lincolnshire we have retained the gold and green of the Huntingdonshire flag for this jersey.

The design has a plain front with bold wording to stand out on the back and coloured pockets.

Technical features include tighter fit, bottom of jersey tape to keep it in place and body for stitching.

We love it!

Our final Giro thoughts.

We’ve left the dust to settle and the controversial comments fly before posting our Giro thoughts.

First off it was an epic race. We aren’t here to politicise cycling so won’t comment on the start in Israel. If you want to know how we feel, ask when you see us out on the road.

The sprint battle was supposed to be dull based on the number of top level riders missing, but in Elia Viviani and Sam Bennett we were treated to a great duel.

The mountains battle was compromised somewhat by GC contenders as is the way nowadays.

That battle was lit up early on by Simon Yates who almost made it to Rome in the Maglia Rosa before a late collapse instigated by Tom Dumoulin and finished off by Chris Froome.

Are we comfortable with Froome?

No.

It’s nothing personal but his Salbutomol case needed resolving way before now to give his win a level of security. Throw in the style of the race winning attack and it’s clear the cycling world needs some answers.

Overall our man of the race was Dumoulin. Harsh on Yates it may be, but the Dutchman is big and powerful and would go well in the fens. And that’s important to us.

Season 2016 – The 2nd half

The second half of the racing season started with a lot less blizzards but me feeling really under cooked competitively. 

The main objective of that middle third was the time trial attached to the Tour of Cambs. I had ridden well the previous year but even better in the Gran Fondo. I wanted to qualify again for the GB squad but with the understanding that the worlds in Australia would not be viable for my family or I.

The time trial is on roads I know well. I have trained and raced on them for over two decades so there was no nasty surprises in store on that front. 

However the midweek club ten I had earmarked for final preparation was cancelled and I was sick with stomach cramps. I didn’t say anything at the time as it looks like you are getting your excuses in early. But I was hardly eating and had a fever. On the day before the event when I was signing on I was looking for what I hoped would be quiet places should I need to be sick before the race next day. It was a horrible feeling as I had sacrificed family time to train for this event, hours I would never be able to get back. And here I was stricken the night before knowing that it would take some real effort to do myself justice. 

The day of the event was overcast and really humid. It was the start of really warm spell of the summer. I rode from home to the event and started my warm up… 

The start ramp was nerve wracking and I had to concentrate hard (again) on not falling off. I am really grateful to the 10 or so friends and family who were there solely to cheer me on. When people put themselves out and give up their time for you it makes sure you stay honest when you are out on the course. 

I started well and caught a number of riders still on the Excel grounds. However a tough middle of the race after the big climb left me too much to do and despite a complete disregard for the plan and my power meter heading back I was done. 

At the finish I clung on to the railings whilst a helper tried to get my helmet off and give me water. That was the hardest thing I had ever done on a bike. I was oblivious to who was around me for a minute or so before my eyes started to focus. 

I had missed qualification but had done myself some level of justice. 

The time trials carried on coming and the cancellations as well. It got so ridiculous that one week a police chase and stand off closed the motorway near us and the ten course was being used to re-route traffic which was at a standstill and was not safe for a bike race. 

However with two rounds of the series left we finally got the night that I wanted and the 25m07s and 25m06s and 25m11s that had plagued me since May was destroyed in the golden August sunshine. 

I knew I was on for a decent ride at the turn having obeyed coach’s orders and ridden out easier using the power meter as a check. It was headwind (that there was) coming back and yet somehow I actually got quicker. As I hammered round the last roundabout and launched a sprint with what was left I knew it was now or never. 

24m44s was the result and it was job done for the season. The relief was palpable and the ride home against the Fenland sunset beautiful. 

My season was effectively over (I went a few seconds slower the following week), but I had learned a heck of a lot about myself and bike racing. Something that after 22 years of racing I never thought I would be in a position to say. 

The final act of the year was the Alps trip which was covered elsewhere on the website. 

Now I am training with 2017 and some even tougher goals in mind.