Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Encore Une Fois

As you may or may not have noticed, the blog went through a long long period of neglect. It’s not that I didn’t want to write it, it’s just that when there are 3 of you living in a small apartment, it’s a lot harder to find time to write good quality script. So in the end, as the weeks passed without me adding anything, I decided to leave it until the end of the season and then do one last update to let you know how it went. But instead of doing the whole ‘write and interesting blog thing’ I’ll just write something interesting facts and figures. So here are the ones that sum up my season:

4 times on the podium
1 KOM classification
1 win (in England)
6 top 5’s
12 top 10’s
23 top 20’s
1 bout of fatigue lasting 2 weeks
50 Days of Racing
4 Time trials
8 DNF’s
1 crash
4 Punctures in races
1 Puncture in training
Several trips to the hospital for Matt’s scaphoid
The breaking of nearly every wheel I own including a rather expensive Zipp 404
8 Michelin Pro 3 Race Tyres
2 Chains
2 Sets of bar tape
8 Books
4 Paintings
Quite a few primes
3 Pots of Herbs grown
3 Pots of Herbs not picked in time and left to wilt and die
The discovery of the Croissant Amandes aux chocolat
A massive amount of help from the John Ibbotson Fund
1 Case of online fraud involving my debit card
1 Smashed Pyrex dish while making lasagne
Many trips to the café
Hundreds of cups of tea
1 Holiday in Provence
3 Times up Mont Ventoux
4 ferry journeys
A few pieces of stolen corn to check the ripeness
Lots of new friends
Many good memories

There are many more, but these are the most relevant. The end of my season came at the Duo Normand, a 54km 2-up Time trial over a few tough little digs. Me and Matt decided to have a crack at it and see how we could go against guys given money to do it. To prepare we were lent bikes to use, both of which were highly unsuitable. Mine was a compact 54cm Frame, which for someone measuring 6’4” looks a little ridiculous, but I made it fit. Matt’s frame on the other hand had such a relaxed seat-tube angle that we had to fashion a seat post that held a saddle far forwards enough to make it not look like a recumberant, but we managed this as well. In the end we just about had bikes that were similar to sizes that we might have actually needed...nearly.

We practised all week and come Sunday we felt ready to smash some ProTour riders. We didn’t look very professional warming up though as I didn’t have a turbo and so had to go and ride around on my own while Matt did a proper warm up. Our modified bikes passed the hasty relaxed bike check, almost too relaxed for a UCI ranked race, but much better than some of the anal things I keep hearing about in the UK. We rolled down the start ramp and were off, straight up the hill that the ramp rolls into. Fortunately for the most part the first 27km were downhill or flat, it was during these kilometres that I felt ok and tried to keep a good pace up.

Matt took a while to get warmed up and just as he got going we hit the hilly back section of the course. I went through a bad spell and struggled to come through as Matt powered on, although somehow I managed to find myself on the front going up a lot of the hills, how this happened I have no idea. I got back going again towards the end of the ride and we kept it as high as we could. I very nearly stacked it on a dead turn before a 6km run back to the finish, coming into the corner way too fast before locking up my back wheel twice and sliding along a bit, much to the horror of the crowd watching at the corner. After a few gasps of terror, I held my cool and managed to finally turn the bike round the corner, the crowd were impressed. No time to take plaudits though, the last 6km were agony as they were mostly uphill, but the 2km downhill to the finish was much nicer.

We came across the line to post a 1.13.51, which wasn’t bad, but I think with properly set-up bikes, a little knowledge of the course and a bit more preparation we could have at least got into the 1.12’s, but there we go, maybe next year!

Speaking of next year, I decided that I didn’t want to go to university this year (this was after seeing the book list I was supposed to read some of, if there is one way to put someone off going to university who isn’t massively decided it’s to show them a list of the most boring books in the world), instead I want to have one more shot in France. It will be my final year Espoir so I really want to be the best I’ve ever been and find my highest level, wherever that may be. After that...who knows?

A la prochaine

Sunday, 14 June 2009

It's back Baby!

2 months it’s been since my last posting, a whole 2 months. Time flies when you’re having fun so I must have been having a whole load of fun. My excuses for not posting are as follows:

1: I got lazy

2: I had no internet

3: I got lazy

As you can see, I’m not much of an excuse person unless of course I did badly in a race, in which case I have a small novel of excuses packed away somewhere at the back of my mind. Each one specific to a certain occasion, bad weather, broken spoke, mal positioning etc etc...

2 months of not saying anything leaves you with a lot to talk about, so, without further ado, let’s find out what I’ve been up to.

The herb growing went very well for several weeks and then one pot of plants suddenly died. We weren’t sure why, we think it was possibly down to overgrowth or maybe malnourishment, or more likely a mix of the two. This left us with a lot of quite dead coriander, but fortunately the pot containing the basil, chives and some other none-discernable plant remains quite alive and well, we even put some in the occasional meal. But doing this feels like destroying several weeks work, even though you are supposed to use them for cooking... On the subject of cooking, a long time ago I said I’d put up a cookbook blog, you probably had forgotten about this, your probably didn’t even know about it in the first place, but, I’m pleased to say, I have finally put it up for you to sample.

Here we are:

If you have any more recipe’s send them over and I’ll put them up, after trying them of course.

Now for something completely different.

Last time I wrote I had just finished a busy week with 2 stage races, since then I’ve had 13 days of racing (provided I post this by Friday night, if not I’ll have had 14) including 1 top 5, 5 top 10’s, 2 DNF’s, a crash and loads of primes. I’ve also had a few races where not much has happened, but these have been few and far between as now I always seem to find a way of making a race worth the effort. One of the first highlights of the past 2 months was a race in a place called Villaine-la-Juhel. It came on the back of a race where I had been strong but in far too many attacks. So I was told, unsurprisingly, to hold back. Something I’m not very use to doing as most of the time I am compelled to attack. On this particular occasion though, I managed it. I sat in for pretty much the whole race until the finishing circuit and was feeling pretty sweet. On the finishing circuit I was up front more often than I wasn’t and in the weird position of being in contention for the win. I even managed to sprint over the line first for 2 primes of which I didn’t know the value, this turned out to be very much worth the trouble.

The exciting bit came with just over a lap to go, as someone lay a big dirty brick on a high powered fan. I followed a very hard move up the drag of a hill which made me begin to lose some vision, but I thought it was all part of the fun and pushed on until there were just 10 of us working well towards the finish. I was quite convinced I could win and knew it would all be down to the last corner, which funnily enough, it was. The fast run into it was dangerous to say the least and it was admirable the way some of the guys dive bombed into it risking all to move up. Unfortunately while I was admiring their foolishness, they were still coming round me and this left me in no position to come back on them. Hence my 8th, rather than 1st or even 2nd or 3rd.

The next highlight came at a race called Les Boucles Sérantaises, this was pretty similar to the other one but with a bigger field and a harder finishing circuit. Once again I tried to put into place my “sit-in” plan of action, but no sooner than had I implemented it, I found myself off the front in a small group. This grew and grew, before Johan Lebon got across to it and it was doomed, I was quite pleased as I could then re-implement operation sit-in. This worked well until the finishing circuits when things got tough, I moved up quite slowly and even made a short foray off the front which turned out to be quite profitable. With 2 laps to go and a small group up the road, I carried my speed and my heavy legs round the bunch and attacked off the front with 3 others. We bridged across to the front group and it was race on.

I say it was the front group, it wasn’t, there were still 4 guys up the road who weren’t to be caught. After the obligatory last ditch attempts, we were still together with a K and a half to go when I followed a small attack but decided it wasn’t worth going through. This meant we were caught with 300 metres to go and found myself nearly leading out the sprint, I probably should have led it out as a about 5 got past me and I finished 10th, not too shabby.

Highlight number 3 was at a race called Le route des Légendes, a hard hard circuit with 2 steep hills and a very big false flat cross wind section. It was quite apparent that it would split up early on and stay that way, so I followed the early moves and stayed out front. Much to my pleasure I ended up in the move of the day, but the two steep hills were doing some damage to my legs every time and with 2 laps to go the big attacks came. My reaction was about 5 seconds to slow, mainly due to the rather large gradient, and I was left in the 2nd group. I must have recovered a little though as by the finish, although I was duped into leading out the uphill sprint, I still held on for 2nd in the group and 8th overall, not too shabby.

The last and possibly most exciting highlight came just the other week, a criterium race in a suburb of Rennes. Not a massive field, but there are always quality guys there to make it tough and keep you on your toes. Crits in France aren’t like in England, I think I mentioned this last year possibly, but they tend to be at least 90km with a shed load of primes. Something that has come to interest me this year being more capable of winning sprints. But anyway, the race wasn’t massively eventful for the first 28 of the 35 laps, attacks going here and there, nothing really getting away. Then with 7 to go a group of 5 managed to sneak away, sans moi. This was a little annoying as I’d been mostly alert for the race, but it wasn’t over yet, not by a long shot, I’d built myself up for this race and wanted a result. So coming into four laps to go, I attacked into a corner got a gap and the chase was on. I don’t know how far ahead they were, all I know is it was ard, well ard. But after a lap and a bit of chasing, I made contact with the lead group, quite possibly my finest moment in cycling, I was very pleased, but it wasn’t over yet. I made myself look as tired as possible and sat on for as long as I could, but eventually they got annoyed and I tapped through steadily. This carried on nicely until about ¾ of a lap to go when one of them decided to spoil the party and attacked. I wasn’t in a position to follow and no one else did, which left me in a sticky situation. Attack and pull the others across or risk it and wait. The result was something in between, one tried to pull him back half heartedly and I went once he had finished but it was too late. Two dived inside me before the last corner and that’s how it stayed, me in 4th. Darn, so close, I was disappointed, very.

So those are all the highlights between my last blog and now. Fortunately after much decision making and decisive action, we now have internet installed. We needed to set up a French bank account to pay for France telecom to have a line installed before we could then go to service provider SFR to have a box sent over, which we then needed to set-up and wait for the service to start. And we only found out we had to do these things in reverse order, it was a right game.

In other news, why does everything wear out and break so much easier when you have to pay for it? It’s rather annoying. During one race, a front tubular blew out on the way down a nice fast sweeping corner, leaving me to carry straight on into the curb and momentarily later, a wall. Luckily I didn’t do myself too much damage, but later to my dismay found that my pride and joy front zipp had a big old crack in it from the impact. I wasn’t best pleased. I have also broken spokes in 3 others wheels and don’t actually think I own a wheel which is completely true. It’s the same for the other guys Matt and Nathan, we haven’t had a lot of luck in the wheel department.

Matt has now had his cast off and is nearly ready to start racing again, although we had a minor scare last Tuesday when after one of his first rides we were forced back to the hospital after he decided he had broken it again. Fortunately he hadn’t and he’s now easing back into the riding a lot slower, so hopefully he’ll be pinning numbers on soon enough!

Until next time,

Saturday, 11 April 2009

King of the mountain

How slack am I? Very is the answer to that question. A whole week and whatever without writing something, I’ve let you down, I’ve let the team down, but most importantly, I’ve let myself down. I do have an excuse though, that is lots of racing. Last week from the Saturday to the following Sunday I raced more days than I didn’t, so I’ll get right onto telling you all about them. The first race was the two day Fleche d’Armor, it included a long road stage on the Saturday, a short Time Trial on the Sunday morning and another decent road stage in the afternoon. The only thing I do need to tell you about first is how we went looking for a different bakery on the Friday afternoon, Matt pointed out that we had all accidentally walked over a 3-drain (3 drains in a row), he told us every time he did this something bad happened the next day. Me and Nathan scoffed at this foolish superstition and enjoyed the below average baguette we bought from the new found bakery.

The first stage was nothing short of a farce. Well not quite until 30km anyway when the big team Cotes d’armor put the hammer down on a very tough cross wind section and split it up, I was dallying around about 5 wheels too far back and ended up chasing this most vital of splits. We were riding along at a good pace and just about had the lead group in sight when, all of a sudden, half the cars went right and we went straight on. No one seemed to know what the hell was going on, some people turned around some went straight on, I followed the majority and somehow we got back on the course behind all the team cars. It was at this point that everyone seemed to decide the organisers didn’t deserve a race and it turned into a very large club run that went on for the next 90km. During all this commotion Matt had put his front wheel into someone’s pedal and ripped 4 spokes out of it just as the hammer went down. After a frantic 30 minute chase he got onto the back of the cars a little before the bunch found their own way there, rendering any effort he did put in a bit pointless. Oh well, stage races are good because they have more than one stage.

Next up was the TT, 7,8km of slightly rolling but mostly flat route. Me and Matt had planned our finishing positions in the bunch the day before so that he could finish and get the disk wheel and deep section front zipp back to me for my start. It was close, very close, I signed on with 10 seconds to go, got on the bike with 5 seconds, clipped in on 3 seconds and had to start in my biggest gear not having had time to change it. Nevertheless, I felt half decent and blistered past my minute man at about 5km and sprinted in to post 10.14. Matt had earlier posted a quick 10.10; these times put me and Matt in 1st and 2nd which is how it would remain until the last 10 riders. The GC contenders put in some pretty good times on their fancy bikes (me and Matt had to stick clip-on TT bars on), but by far and away the most impressive was Johan Le Bon. He won by a massive margin, posting a 9.20 averaging over 51km/h. To put that into perspective, the criterium international TT won by Tony Martin on the same day over a very similar distance was run off at slightly more than a 1km/h less. In fact from 2nd (9.52) place down to 10th (10.15) it was quite close, matt ended up 6th with me coming in 8th. We were quite pleased.

After a quick shower and some food it was time for the afternoon stage. A good 125km along the coast, occasionally heading inland to find a big hill. I had no plan in particular except to try and do something worth remembering (which usually just means finishing!). I followed some wheels early, before after about 15km launching my own attack pulling away a group of 11. We quickly pulled out a good gap getting it up to 2.30 at one point. Another large group of 20 came across to us before it quickly split up again on a hard hill where some big attacks came. I worked to stay in the front group as it kept going up steep hill after steep hill. The front group had now been whittled down to about 12 of us again, but the bunch was coming back fast being driven by Le Bon and his cronies. We reached the finishing circuit with a 20 second gap, only 3 short laps and we were there! Our group started to attack each other with a small group getting away, I tried to keep the speed high so we at least finished ahead, but I had done a lot of work early on and was now paying the price. On the bell lap we still had a small advantage but if you looked behind too long you’d be caught. This must have happened as with 3km remaining I saw Le Bon roll along side with the rest of the jerseys. Darn. I followed what I could and my severely dampened sprint took me into 13th place on the stage. The first stage had wrecked everything and I finished 38th overall, which was a tad annoying, but I soon got over it.

While getting changed we wondered where Matt was, no one had seen him finish or even come past on the finishing circuit. It was all a bit worrying, he had been seen coming across to us with the Le Bon group but had seemingly disappeared. I saw one of the team helpers walk up with his bike, the forks somewhat bent in the wrong direction, interesting. We found him in an ambulance headed to the nearest hospital; I jumped in for a lift and found his spirits weren’t too dampened. After a quick x-ray we found he hadn’t broken a bone apparently, but a cast was put on anyway for good measure.

The next race was on the Wednesday, the Elite Nationale Grand Prix U. My legs didn’t feel too clever in the first 50km whatsoever and I thought I was in for a long day. Things didn’t get much better as the hammer kept going down to bring back breaks, splitting it up in crosswinds and bringing it back together. I hovered around in no particular position wondering when something good might happen, then we hit this wall of a hill out of nowhere. It went on and everyone was forced into their smallest gears, there were too many people all over the road to move forwards so the guys at the front had it easy. I was pretty close to the back and as we crested the hill it split into groups of which I was in the very last, in fact I was last man altogether. We dallied around until two others decided they’d had enough and attacked across to the peloton, I followed busting several guts to hold the wheel before finally latching onto the back of the big group. I looked round and saw the small group a long way off the back, I wouldn’t see them again this race.

Once I’d recovered I moved up towards the front and learnt that a group with all the favourites was up the road after the hill. I decided I had nothing to lose and put in one effort which was quickly shut down, before going again not long after. This time a got a small gap so carried on going, I looked round to see a group of about 12 riding off from the peloton. I waited for them and then helped them pull away and we were soon flying. It didn’t take us long to get up to the leading group and I was happy as Larry, whoever he is. This is about where it got hard. We went up another wall of a climb which split it up yet again, it came back together again after much pain and then a small group went just before moving onto the finishing circuit. I followed what I could, but by now I was crème caramelled and sprinting out of corners was taking some serious effort, let alone sprinting after attacks. I managed to hang on, but had nothing left for the finale and had to roll in for 25th place which I wasn’t so disappointed with, having been last man about 50km earlier.

The next day Matt decided to take his cast off and try and get out for a ride. We took it very easy, but by the end of it he didn’t seem to have done his arm much good. He spent the rest of the evening bathing it in cold water and we went to bed thinking he might have just sprained it. Then, at approximately 2.30AM, he knocked on my door saying it hurt so much he couldn’t take it anymore. At first, I was sceptical especially in my semi-conscious state, but when I saw him shivering in pain just sat down I started to believe him. I went to action stations creating a makeshift ice bag before ringing one of the club officials who might least mind being rang at crazy o’clock. Luckily he answered at the 2nd attempt and it was off to the hospital again. This time they found he had broke a bone, the scaffoid or something, a very small bone in the wrist that could apparently cause much discomfort, no sh!t. They wrapped a good solid cast that would need to be worn for 6 weeks and we went back to bed. Happy days.

Our next race was the Tour du Pays de Lesneven, similar to the Fleche d’Armor but with a team time trial rather than individual. The first stage went round some nice coast line before heading inland, we went up the first King of the Mountains prime and I decided to have a bash, leading the peloton over. I found out after that a group of 5 had gone up the road without me seeing and I hadn’t actually scored any points. I went for the next one as well, this time 2 had dropped out of the break and leading the peloton again gave me 2 points. After that I followed a few attacks and got away in a group of 9, I thought this would be good until the finish but as we reached the 3rd KOM point and I won outright, we were caught by a split up bunch. It stayed like this until the last KOM point where I moved up into a good position I sprinted for all I was worth to take it. Now the bunch split up yet again and I was caught between the two, eventually deciding I was better off waiting (not really, I just couldn’t catch the front group). It came back together on the finishing circuit just as a group of 11 clipped off, I was more concerned with working out whether or not I might have taken the jersey and really wasn’t enjoying these last few km’s anyway. It turned out that the guy who had taken the two early KOM points was in my team and thought he had won the jersey, only to find out I had won the last two and scored a couple extra points! This meant I had the jersey, I felt bad, well not really, I felt great. I’d never had a jersey before in any race, this was quite an experience and I wasn’t about to lose it, the jersey that is.

The TTT wasn’t much to talk about, I think we did as well as we could have with the team, but they are always fun to do. The afternoon stage was where it was at, I had a jersey to keep. On the start line I was at the back thinking I’d quite like to be at the front and then I remembered, I’m wearing a jersey, move aside boys. So I strode to the front, cool as, and posed for photos with some dignitary of the town. The first KOM was very early on after only 6.7km so the plan was to sit on anything that moved and get it finished quickly. After a small detour and an interesting crash from Nathan, I jumped away, chasing after a small group which suddenly turned into a big group of 15 or so. We pulled away quickly and coming into towards the KOM point I was nicely positioned before opening up a mighty sprint with 200m to go. After a short challenge the others decided they weren’t going to get more points than the person who already had the jersey and slowed up, saving their legs. We continued to work well and pulled out over 3 minutes on the peloton before they started chasing. We had a healthy gap coming into the next KOM points and I took maximum points on all of them, guaranteeing my spot on the podium that afternoon. Why not go for the stage. From there on I worked rather hard, intent on holding the gap on the bunch led by BIC 2000. It felt great, especially being in a jersey. We held it at 1.50 for a while before getting onto the finishing circuit. Here it came down rapidly before we were finally caught, I was in pieces and duely sat-in for the ride. It was only now that I realised how knackered I really was and with about 2.5km to go I dropped off the back and rolled in on my own, a warrior, grrr.

The podium was good fun, especially with Ms Finistere handing out the flowers, I certainly couldn’t complain. The Master of Ceremonies thankfully asked only simple questions and I gave him some nice simple answers and everyone was happy, especially Ms Finistere at the fact I was on the podium. And now I’ve tasted it, I want some more, I don’t know where, I don’t know how, but I will soon be on the podium again. We’ll see.

F*@king 3-drains,

Until next time,

Walk safe.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Monsieur Top 20

Another week, another blog, so much to tell you about, so little time, so near, yet so far, when in Rome...I only posted my last blog a few days ago and yet lot’s of action has taken place. The first thing to tell you about is how me, Matt and Nathan all took part in the French National Sport...Striking. It was a nice sunny afternoon and we had the door open contemplating what to have for tea, when, all of sudden we were interrupted by some disturbing noises. So because we’re brave and inquisitive, we wanted to find out what was making them, was it a street party? Was it a large gathering of people talking at each other through megaphones? Was it an auction in the middle of the road? No, it was none of these, it was a strike, like I said earlier. We stood there watching from the side of the road wondering what it was all about, no one seemed particularly angry, in fact it was pretty docile. We decided to take up a more comfortable viewing point on a bench as there wasn’t much going on, but soon there was some movement and the long bunch of people started walking past us. We watched, commenting on the differences in commitment, some look embarrassed to be there, whereas others made as much noise as they could. Once they had all walked past we decided to follow them, only to find they were going so slowly, we were soon amongst them. Obviously more observation was necessary, so we stealthily moved into the bunch unnoticed. From here we could really see the action, people chatted happily, I’m not sure about what, possibly the weather or maybe what they were having for dinner. But they definitely weren’t talking about the protest they were taking part in. Fortunately for us they took us down an interesting street we hadn’t been down yet, it was actually quite liberating to walk down the middle of what is usually a busy road, no wonder there are so many of these things over here. After a short walk we stopped outside some official looking building and instantly everyone began to disperse, no demands to be met, no hostages taken, all a bit disappointing really. So we headed home for tea, having had our bit of excitement for the day.

We decided the next step after cooking was to grow our own food, unfortunately the closest thing we have to a patch of soil to grow things in around our apartment is the dirt we’ve washed off our bikes. This put quite a dent in our aspirations of self-sufficiency, so we had to tone down our hopes and instead opted to grow our own herbs to use for cooking. But for this we still needed some soil and we weren’t about to pay for some stuff that covers a third of the Earth. So instead we commenced Operation Dig and Run. Fougeres isn’t a 4 star Ville Fleuri for nothing and the soil the plants grow in is top quality stuff. We filled up enough Tupperware pots to accommodate the amount of seeds Matts mum had kindly sent us and scarpered, they won’t miss the soil and besides, we need it more than them.

Several Recipes have now been written and hopefully will be put up with this blog, I suggest you try all of once. You’ll definitely not regret it. I’ll keep adding them as we keep cooking and you can enjoy the same delights as us this summer! This week also saw the recommencement of my other pastime, painting. Last year I forgot to take my paintings over and canvasses might have been a problem to transport on a plane anyway. But this year, with my parents driving me over, I fitted a few in along with my paints with the intention or literally creating a work of art. And now I have. The composition includes one of the more imposing turrets of the castle standing over one of the more modern buildings during twilight. The sky is quite dramatic and overall I’m pleased, hopefully I can upload a picture of it but I guarantee nothing.

Now to the small matter of racing, and race we did. This time it was a pretty short 110km effort with 135 other guys. It involved 50km of riding round the country side with 13 laps of a particularly horrible finishing circuit that resembled a crit more than anything. All started off ok, I was nicely placed, followed a few moves, nothing to shake a stick at mind. Then suddenly there was a move I wasn’t in, I assumed we had guys in it so looked for counters of which there were few. This move started to ride off so I was a little worried but then a team mate came up and told me we had two guys in it, thank goodness. A few minutes later I saw one of the teammates who was supposed to be in the break...hmmmm...Then another minute or so after that I saw the other guy was supposed to be ahead. The same guy who had told me we had guys in the break then rode up to me and told me we had no one in the break. Darn.

Working was now the order of the day, but not before we tried to launch a few moves to get a group going across to the leaders. After this failed we tried to get in some sort of order at the front doing some through and off, unfortunately we weren’t all of similar strength and soon there were only 3 or so of us doing the pulling. Not ideal when there are 15 guys up the road all doing a bit of work. Luckily another team had missed out on the action and helped out so we kept the break at about a minute. While this was happening we moved onto the finishing circuit, I hadn’t really moved from the front since we started working and after 3 laps of the circuit I was in something of a state. I dropped back and began to realise just how bad I was feeling. I kept moving further backwards until I could see the cars behind, this wasn’t a good day. I tried to move up now and again, but my legs really didn’t want to do it. Meanwhile I could hear through the speakers that the break was being pulled back to around 25 seconds, but I was too far back to see them and my eye’s weren’t in a seeing mood anyway, in fact, most of body didn’t want to do what I was telling it to.

Getting towards the end I started to see some of our guys moving backwards after doing their work, I wish I could have been up there with them, but I really had very little there. With 3 to go one of our strongest guys who was also on a bad day but was working anyway told me to do try and do whatever I could to help Matt (forgot to mention we were doing all this work to give Matt a shot at winning). This was all the inspiration I needed and so I shot to the front hoping I’d get some kind of second wind. I didn’t stop moving up and hit the front on probably the hardest bit of the circuit, going all out in an attempt to split up for a counter attack to go clear. It didn’t work the first time so I dropped back for about 30 seconds and went again this time using up my afterburners to make it hard. This time it split, not much, but enough. Matt put in a strong counter, 3 others went with him and that was it, my job done. Or so I thought.

I stayed near the front, deciding I’d seen enough of the back for one day and followed a few little digs, but it was pretty much altogether coming into the dead left hander before the uphill sprint to the finish. I was about 5th wheel and opened up the demon sprint for the finish coming in 3rd, apparently 19th overall. A far too good result for the way I felt, which is always a bonus. Next week I plan on feeling much better and winning by several minutes

Also, well done to Mark Cavendish who won Milan- San Remo for what should hopefully be the first of many times, that is until I start to do it.

Until next time,

Stay sweet.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Sitting in McDonalds thieving the internet...still.

This blog is in much need of some TLC. I can’t remember the last time I gave you a picture to look at, let alone a video. Unfortunately it takes time and more importantly, internet time and although I have plenty of the former, I have precious little of the latter. So for now you’ll have to imagine what the bike races look like, just think of loads of blokes dressed in different shades of Lycra, a few bikes, the occasional hill and you’re pretty much there. Anyway, In Britanny, because it’s such a cycling popular area, as well as loads of other sports, they put the results of every race in the regional paper, Ouest France. So after every race we’ve done ok in or if there’s an article on us, we buy the paper, cut out the important bit and stick it on what we have now christened as the ‘Media Wall’. So far we have a nice little collection and I imagine by the end of the season we may well have several Media Walls, you’d hope so anyway. One day, when we have internet, I’ll take a photo and you can see it too! How exciting.

We have had some introduction of other entertainment; we have been kindly lent a television to use by one of the clubs officials, as well as a Playstation well stocked with games not from the official but from Rob Orr, our occasional team mate. This has kept the kids busy while I keep house and do other important things like writing this, it hasn’t stopped our games of rummy though. The cooking continues, so much so that we have decided to start a cyclist’s recipe book. Every time we make something new, we take a picture and write down how to make it. When I get round to it I’ll post each one on a separate cooking blog so if anyone who’s reading this fancies a go at making it, which I doubt, they can just go ahead and do that now.

Which leads me nicely onto the weather, it has been nothing short of splendid this past week with cloudless skies and temperatures reaching into the 20’s. Apparently it’s set to continue into next week as well, so for the moment, it’s happy days. I even donned the shorts once for a training ride! Crazy I know, especially for mid March, but it was crying out for me to do it. The uber tan-lines shall soon be returning. The weather was also good for our races.

Which leads me nicely onto the races. We had two at the weekend, the first one a 162km Elite Nationale, the Souvenir Louison Bobet and the 2nd a smaller 135km 1/2/3 race, both with a nice bit of ‘en ligne’ with finishing circuits. Unfortunately Matt had been ill all week and decided to sit them both out, so it was just me and Nathan with a few of the French guys. The first race was fairly interesting, the two pro teams in the area, Bretagne-Schuller and Besson Chaussures both had teams as well as all the big teams in Britanny, very similar to last week really. The race took just over 4 hours and I’d struggle to tell you all about it and most of it was boring anyway, so here it goes. It was pretty hard early on and then a break went and then it got easier for 100km, then we got onto the finishing circuit with 30km to go. Right that brings it up to the interesting bit. I was casually riding round the finishing circuit wondering if I could scrounge any kind of result from the race when all of a sudden a small break went up the road. It started to get bigger and bigger and I thought maybe I should be in it, so I got in it. Then with less than to lap to go I thought I should attack, so I attacked. I got away with two others and we worked really really hard, then I messed up the sprint a bit and finished 2nd, which meant I was 20th overall...sweet.

Which leads me nicely onto my next race. It was slightly different I was still buzzing a little bit from what I’d done the day before and thought I was superman, but I wasn’t. I went with a lot of moves at the start, attacked loads, generally foolish behaviour. Then the actual move went, was I in it? Of course I wasn’t, that would be asking far too much of superman. So the next 80km were pretty boring, and then we moved onto the finishing circuit. I was casually riding round the finishing circuit wondering if I could scrounge any kind of result from the race when all of a sudden a small break went up the road. It stayed quite small and I thought maybe I should be in it, so I got in it. We worked really really hard and caught the second half of the break with 600metres to go, but my legs hurt like Thor himself had smashed his mighty hammer upon them over and over with every pedal stroke on the deathly steep finishing hill, so instead of possibly finishing 6th, I finished 19th.

Which leads me nicely onto my conclusion of both races. I was pleased with Saturday and but not so much Sunday.

Which leads me nicely onto other news. Unfortunately we didn’t receive a cake this week, but we have our fingers crossed for next week, or possibly the week after, we best get a cake... Our next race is in Normandy as apparently they can’t find a race in Britanny to do, which somehow I find hard to believe but I’ll turn up and ride my ass off wherever I’m taken, so it barely matters. Now I have a plate of sausage and mash to attend to, don’t worry the recipe will be available soon, in all good book stores and some rubbish ones.

Until next time,

Ciao for now.