Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Phew - it's over !

I really enjoyed following the penultimate stage (stage 19) of the Tour de France last Saturday. The final time trial is always exciting, but this one was particularly gripping. It would have been good if, on the last day there had been a challenge made on the 31 seconds that separated Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer. But as the tradition and etiquette goes, things were unlikely to change during stage 20. So this was the nearest we'd get to those exciting 8 seconds between Laurent Fignon and Greg Lemond in 1989.

With that, I didn't see much point in watching the last stage. But it sounds like thankfully, the stage was incident and scandal free - something which is a bonus these days ! We just wait with baited breath for the clean-out to continue.

I should've been at the Women's National Series circuit race at Sutton on Sunday. Unfortunately a number of reasons meant I wasn't able to go.
So that day, I did a very leisurely ride. Stanley and I rode out from South London to meet Kat in Weybridge. We all then went over to Holmbury St Mary (via Crocknorth Hill, near Ranmore) to watch a bit of cricket. It was very pleasant to relax in the woods there, watch the willow hit the leather, soak in the sun, while supping beer.

After the break it was then onwards to Cobham via Whitedown Hill. Not the easiest 18% to climb on a beer-filled stomach ! At Cobham, where we said "good bye" to Kat, Stan and I then forged ahead to get home before dark. It was a fast ride back - to Stoke d'Abernon and Oxhshott, through Epsom, over the downs, round Banstead and then back to Wallington. 60 miles on the clock. Not bad for a leisurely ride. We hadn't exactly motored round the route for we were carrying full panniers as a dry run for our upcoming Pyrenean trip. Even with the panniers we didn't fare too badly. But then Ranmore Common and Tourmalet are two different matters !

Once back home, I put my feet up and watched Le Tour highlights. Ok I wasn't that tired, but I was happy to rest up anyway - it had been a frantic week !

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Le Cyclisme - Quick, hide behind the Sofa !

So Vino and his team have left Le Tour; now Bradley Wiggins can't continue thanks to his drugged team mate, Cristian Moreni; Rasmussen's gone back to Lake Garda in disgrace; Sit down protests; bombs in the Basque area. What next ?? Well at least we now have a yellow jersey wearer (Alberto Contador) !

But with all this Tour de Farce, I'm not sure I really want to watch the race.
Great, so the Tour de France is getting more air time and column inches on mainstream media than the perfunctory one-liners it usually gets. It's a shame it's all for the wrong reasons though.

Hats off to the organisers who are determined to stamp out the doping problem. But doing this all in mid-competition almost makes me want to hide behind the sofa like I did when watching Dr Who as a child. Then, I was scared to see my hero get exterminated. Now, I fear which rider will get caught in the net and disgraced next - maybe one of my favourites (Tom Boonen, George Hincapie, Fabian Cancellara et al) . Alot of people liked Alexandre Vinokourov. It was a real shock to discover he had been cheating. Maybe Messrs Prudhomme and Clerc should just tap me on the shoulder and let me know when it's ok to come out from behind the sofa. Somehow I don't think that'll happen very soon !

Well, at least L'Equipe sports newspaper is today reporting on a doping scandal in athletics - maybe things aren't so bad in the world of cycling !

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Would the real Maillot Jaune please stand up !!

Vino's been thrown out of Le Tour - along with all the rest of the Astana team ! I just can't understand how anyone could be so moronic as to continue to cheat in sport - especially at a time when so much effort is being made to clean up cycling.

With last year's Maillot Jaune still not officially declared, this year's pre-race favourite thrown out, the current Maillot Jaune (Michael Rasmussen) cycling under a very large suspicious cloud, and certain other racers being of dubious extraction, one wonders if we will have a winner declared at all this year !!

But as Patrice Clerc, Director of ASO (the organising company) says : "the Tour will go on. We are waging a war on doping, and in a war there will be casualties. The Tour de France is going through a bleak period. But we must not back down to the cheats." Vive Le Tour !

At least you can say that whatever strategies the organisers (and UCI) are using they must be working. Alexandre Vinokourov was caught out after using blood homologues at the time trial - just 3 days ago.

My concern now is that with the likes of Raimondo Rumsas (another erstwhile disgraced doper) raking in the palmares on the cyclosportive circuit, could we end up seeing Vinokourov (and many others) at La Marmotte or La Maratona dles Dolomiti ? I really hope the problem is being stamped out and not being displaced...

11th Gran Fondo Pinarello - Final Part

It was great to have a spectator at the Nevegal ski station let me know that I'd done the worst of the climbing. (Although he hadn't warned me of the short sharp shock that was to come at the end !)

After lots of fluids including more energy drink and the obligatory Coca Cola I pushed on down the hill. Even though I have done a number of cyclosportives I am still no good at managing my feed stop breaks. I lose more time than most due to stoppages. And today, given the hot conditions I knew I'd be losing even more. I figured I would rather do a slower ride and stay comfortable than skimp on refreshments and end up conking out ! Of course the downside of all of this was I lost my original group and lots of other groups thereafter. I wasn't last, but the groups had definitely thinned out.

The next section of the ride was not difficult, but it was a bit of a graveyard section. The scenery around was spectacular with the Lago di Santa Croce and the Bosco di Cansiglio. There was also a beautiful bridge which crossed the main road - it was nice to have something to look at while I was on my own.

I soon grouped with others just before rolling over the cobbles of the historic town of Vittorio Veneto. Then it was straight up and over the Sella di San Lorenzo. I had a rather embarrassing moment when I walked into a rather swish cafe gagging for a drink. All the customers, who were well dressed looked me up and down as I stood there in my bike kit all pouring with sweat asking for a Coke. Well how was I to know it was a wedding reception !! I took my drink and made a very quick exit.

I then had another graveyard period around 30miles from the finish where I had to deal with about 15 miles of straight flat road. If only I could have a hill to jazz things up. Or maybe I'd wished for too much. It came in the shape of Presa IV del Montello - a 12% beast that lasted 2km.

Maybe not that bad, but try doing that when you have 110 miles in your legs and it's 35 deg celsius. Now I understand why they had a feed station just 16 miles from the end.

I wolfed down more Coke, a bit of water and was back on the home straight. Luckily a group of local blokes - my "sotto roda" friend from earlier in the day instructed me to sit on his wheel and he towed me and the rest of the group all the way back to Treviso. It was great way to finish the course - especially when all the guys in the group sat up and let me do a sprint for the line for 1178th place ! Still, it was a nice gesture from them. I was so pleased to have finished ok - I was happy to have done it in 9 hours - especially as I hadn 't trained specifically for this distance.

The race was won by ex-pro Raimondo Rumsas in 5hrs 26mins. Monica Bandini stormed back to take the honour of first lady in 6hrs 9mins. (I think I have abit of work to do !!)

I needed a few minutes to rest and stop myself being sick from the mixture of various foods and drinks. My fellow cyclist from San Francisco, despite climbing well failed to finish. The heat had been all too much for her.

This was a day when even the best of them suffered - across the border, in the French Alps the pros were not having an easy time on their stage from Le Grand Bornand to Tignes. Stuart O'Grady and Michael Rogers suffered nasty crashes, which ended their Tour hopes. Britain's Mark Cavendish couldn't take the conditions any longer. And Robbie McEwan finished outside the time limit after having stopped for treatment for hypoglycamia. It's reassuring to know these guys are human !

I soon found Stanley, who had finished only 40mins ahead of me - wheel rim trouble.

All in all, it was a great day out. I managed to find my friend, Yvette from Pinarello. She was happy with her time, considering she'd taken it easy.

We then celebrated with a meal at Piazza dei Signori.

Friday, 20 July 2007

11th Gran Fondo Pinarello - Part 3

The feed station after Passo San Boldo was thankfully well stocked with food and drink. It was good to see passers-by just hanging around chatting to the riders and giving us tips on what to expect on the road ahead. "Take it easy now," one guy said. "In the next hour you will be working very hard." I had been warned !

Once I'd wolfed down some banana, Sali (Italian brand of energy drink) plus some Gatorade I was on my way - not forgetting the need to pace myself.

For all the gran fondo events that take place in Italy I get surprised at the number of Italian riders that don't climb well - on the flat or going downhill, boy they're fast movers ! But any reading on the altimetre, and that's a different story. That must be the Mario Cipollini effect !

And so it was that I was very quickly dropped after the feed station when the guys hurtled down the hill, and I was practically left standing ! I tried to follow them, but I had neither the technique nor the balls to go so fast. I rolled down the road as fast as I could while keeping them in my sights. To my surprise, I managed to catch them on the flat. I'd like to think that it was down to my sprinting ability, but it was actually because they'd slowed down to wait for me. That made me feel just as good though ! I didn't know them, but I think they just wanted to "look after" a young lady riding on her own ! We all rode as a group and I took shelter from the big men in front. Of course this didn't last long as the pleasant trip along the valley floor soon ended when we turned left to start the climb up to Nevegal ski station.

This climb would average 8% and last around 7 miles. The first 2 miles were a shock to the system. A young woman from San Francisco I'd passed just after the San Boldo feed-station came bounding up the hill past our group. She said that back home all she does is ride uphill - she was certainly at home on this climb ! I tried to keep her in my sights, but given how hot it was getting and the long road that lay ahead, I decided to spare the heroics.

After a a couple of miles the road levelled off and we had a few sections of downhill. We were also treated to shaded areas as we passed through the woods. The only problem was that most of these sections were on dirt tracks. "This is like Cyclo cross" - I said to a fellow competitor. "No, this is Eroica" he replied. He seemed to enjoy riding this section that is akin to the vintage cyclosportive that recaptures the spirit of bike racing in the 1920's. I was more concerned about not falling over when riding over a pot hole. At least I was riding on a new set of tyres !

The dirt track continued for around 3 miles. Then the final 2 miles kicked up again. The gradient increased to around 10% and we once again exercised our quad muscles. I felt spurred on at the sight of the feed station above, and the knowledge that we would soon be doing a U-turn to start a big descent back towards Treviso.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

11th Gran Fondo Pinarello - Part 2

Our first climb of the day was Colle di Guardia - nothing too difficult. It lasted about a mile and a half, but was a bit of a tester on legs which had been speeding along the plain. Even on such a modest climb 27km into the ride, a selection began to take place. Some of my fellow cyclists slowed right down, while others, who had clearly started in one of the later grids powered past us on the big ring.

I took it easy, knowing that the coming climbs would be much more challenging. The climb up Zuel di La followed shortly after. This was a little longer than the first climb, but only around 5%. The road was still a little crowded at this point and I took care to hold my line on the descent. A man from a local bike club kept shouting at me. All I picked up was "Sotto Roda, sotto roda" and "la fatica" as he rode past me - he then pushed me closer to the rider in front. I wasn't familiar with the Italian cycling terminology, but I understood what he wanted me to do. Gee, thanks for the training tip !

After around 40km the long and the short course split - most people turned left to follow the long course. Immediately afterwards came the first significant climb of the day - the Passo San Boldo. This 5 mile climb had a very regular gradient of about 7%. The climb wasn't difficult, but I was beginning to feel the heat as sweat rolled down my face. I kept my out of the saddle efforts to the shaded areas so I could spin gently while out in the blazing sun. This system seemed to work for me.

The last couple of miles became steeper, and the zig zags became sharper. I noted how the left hand zigs were steeper and longer, while the right hand zags were flatter, and felt breezier. Another place to recover and cool down a little. All the chatting stopped along this road, as riders fought their own personal battles.

Near the top, the road surface became rough as the tarmac had not been re-surfaced, and we went through a series of tunnels. When re-emerging from the tunnels we were treated to some spectacular views of the rocky escarpements behind us, and the army of cyclists snaking up the zig zags below us.

Finally the road levelled off and a mini inflated gantry marked the end of our challenge. As we rounded the corner we saw the crowds ahead, meaning the food stop was close by. Given the extreme heat I'd decided that today I would be stopping at every feed station, and the aim would be to get round comfortably without any sun-stroke or dehydration incidents. Any hopes of impressive times would therefore go out of the window. I was ok with that.

11th Gran Fondo Pinarello - Part 1

I'd had this event marked in the diary for some time, though I hadn't done any specific preparation for it. Certainly not any preparation for riding 200km. I knew I would be capable of covering the distance, but I just wasn't sure how long it would take. The profile showed about 7 climbs on the long course, the highest point being only about 1000m, and the ride didn't quite get into the Dolomites. This made me think it wouldn't be a difficult 200km.

However, I hadn't factored in the heat and the fact that anything that is not too hilly will mean fast - and extremely fast, in Italy.

As a general rule with these foreign sportive events I do the longest course - mainly because if I've made all the effort to travel there I might as well take on as much of the sights and sounds the place has to offer. Especially as I don't know when next I will go there.

Having had less than 4 hours' sleep was not the best preparation for the ride. The pre-race buzz kept me alert though.
It wasn't difficult for Stanley and myself to find the start from our b&b - we just followed the other cyclists. Once in the Centre of Treviso we got separated as we were setting off in different grids. While he was setting off from the 3rd grid, I was put in the first one with the rest of the women cyclists, plus elite riders and guests. It made me feel important.

Being so near the front meant we got the full blast from the compere. He was introducing a host of VIPS (including Giovanni Pinarello himself), and other famous folks that were taking part, thanking sponsors etc. He also did the "Hi, you alright, are you ready...etc" to the crowd. I didn't really listen as I'd managed to catch up with a friend of mine, Yvette, from the Pinarello team. I also bumped into a woman road racer from London - Tarne, from Planet X. We all just chatted about how our season had been. This gran fondo was going to be more of a pleasant amble around.

The countdown began and after 5,4,3,2,1 there was a big bang as streamers were set off and everyone clapped. Then the racing began.

Being at the front was a bit scary, as the riders surged forward at rocket like pace - streaming past on all sides. I did my best to keep into the right hand side. Some people still managed to undertake me though!

We took up the whole width of the road, riding 10 or 15 abreast. No problem, this is typical of an Italian mass participation bike event. While on two wheels you become king, as police outriders clear the way and the motorists show deference to the cyclists.
We sped through Treviso at breakneck speed. My computer was fixed on 25 miles per hour. There were groups passing by at much faster speeds. It was great being swept along by the large crowds, and I felt comfortable as people exercised very good riding discipline. The road was flat and very easy to speed through. My only worry was that I still had 180km to go, so wasn't sure I could maintain this pace all the way ! And just at that moment I felt the road rise up.

Italian Break

I'm now back from my Italian adventures. I can't believe how knackered I am. Well, it was a pretty fun packed weekend.

A brief run down of events (pictures and GF Pinarello report to follow) :


Arrived in Verona airport @ 9.15pm, picked up car and headed for our b&b. After alot of spinning around Verona and a phone call to the proprietor for directions (including an offer from him to come down and meet us) we made our way up the steep and winding road to reach Villa Beatrice in Valdonega. The drive was a bit of a white-knuckle ride, but the lovely panoramic views made it worthwhile !

Simone, our host was very enthusiastic to meet us, and very welcoming - even though it was late, he had loads of time to chat to us about life and the universe - well, actually about London !


A bit tedious to start with.

After a hearty breakfast and a stroll around the gardens, we drove about 2 miles down the road to Grezzana for what should have been a quick spin up and around the valley to Romagnano, Lumiago, Azzago and back to Grezzano.

Unfortunately, Stanley had a technical problem with his derailler. I carried on without him while he fixed it. He would then ride the opposite way round the circuit and we would meet at some point back near the car. But then I punctured twice. So, not wanting to take any further risks we then went off to find a shop and get my tyres changed.

We didn't leave for Treviso until 5pm. The drive there was very hot - we weren't used to 30degree heat, considering the dreary weather we'd been having in London. Matters were made worse when we had to queue for 50minutes just to get through the motorway toll gate at Mestre. The air conditioning was put to the test as the mercury went up to 36 degrees.

Finally we arrived at the sign-on desk for the Gran Fondo, at Treviso just before they were closing. We got a generous goody bag - a GF Pinarello ruck sack, energy drink and bar, plus pink flip flops for the ladies !

We checked into our b&b at Treviso, had dinner in a delightful restaurant off the main square, and got to bed pretty late. By then it was almost 1am, and we'd have to be up 3.5hours later to tackle the 200km race !!


Race day - hot, very hot and extremely hot - completely KO'd at the end !

Celebratory meal at the Piazza dei Signori.


Drove back to Verona, and spent the day taking in the beautiful sights - Juliet's House, the Arena, Piazza delle Erbe, and various churches - then lounging in a cafe on the Piazza Bra.

Flew back to London at 10pm.

It was great to get away for a few days - especially to Italy. I wish I was still there now !

Friday, 13 July 2007

Andiamo a Verona !

Actually, we're flying into Verona and then making our way to Treviso for the Gran Fondo di Pinarello.

Everything is packed, including climbing legs and sunscreen. It's gonna be a scorcher this weekend. The weather in the UK has been at best unsettled, and at worst apocalyptic. The 30+degree celsius expected in the Veneto will be well appreciated. I just hope my body can remember what it's like to be in such heat ! Also, must remember to pick up some decent shades - if you can't get anything else right in Italy, just make sure you've got a stylish pair of sunglasses !

I am really looking forward to the weekend. We will arrive in Verona tonight, stay in a b&b in the surrounding hills. Tomorrow we do a bike ride somewhere near Lake Garda. Then we make our way to Treviso. Sunday is the big race, then Monday we make our way back to Verona, probably with a stop over at Bassano del Grappa. All fun packed stuff.

The gran fondo will be a big affair - around 4,000 riders. I'll have 200km of rolling pre-Dolomites hills to look forward to. There is also the option to do the 130km course.

Past experience of these events is that most of the Italians blast off from the gun along the flat, and you chase them down eyeballs out. Then at the intersection they peel off to do the short course, and you suddenly find yourself knackered and all alone to tackle the serious stuff. As the road rises up in front of you you feel a deep sense of foreboding and dread ! If that happens again, I'll be following the Italians back to join them for the customary plate of spaghetti, good glass of Soave, and a delicious gelato. This is Italy, and la vita e bella - must make the most of it !

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Stage 1 - London to Cante...no Hyde Park Women's Crit Race !

As soon as I heard there'd be a women's cycle race in Hyde Park during the Tour de France I knew straight away I'd be doing it ! There's no way I'd miss the chance to race around well known parts of Central London. We spend most of our time racing on circuits in the middle of nowhere, or on lanes in the back of beyond. So any time we can race in Central London I'm there. In 2005 we raced along Whitehall and Parliament Square as part of the Tour of Britain. Last year we raced around St James' Park, Buckingham Palace and the Mall as part of that event as well. Top event !

This time there'd be even more people watching us as it was mid-afternoon and all the bunting, fanfare and the screens were still up for Stage 1 of the Tour de France.

The park was full of afternoon sunloungers and others who were out for the cycling festival.
I'd been training regularly and had done a few races with the fast girls so was getting the hang of how to mix it with them. I'm still relatively new to racing, so am still finding my feet - especially when it comes to not getting dropped !

I went to the race all tuned up and ready to hold my own in the bunch, contest the attacks, and generally get stuck in. But it seems like today was one of those days on the bike. Although the race route round the Serpentine Lake was largely non-technical, there were a few tricky speed bumps that had cobbles on them. There was also road furniture to watch out for, and parts of the course were a bit narrow for the 40-strong peloton. While warming up along these cobbled speed bumps on the Serpentine Bridge, my hand fell off the handle bars, and my foot came out of the pedal. Suddenly losing my balance sent me crashing to the ground. It was a shock to my system, but I wasn't hurt - just completely taken by surprise.

The ambulance crew who witnessed the crash rushed over to me - I was so embarrassed and quickly told them I was ok. It was a stupid fall - one that I've never done before !

The problem was that because I'd crashed on the cobbles, I had a stressful time during the race. Going over these ramps at 25mph made me pretty nervous - especially when you're not sure how you'll land and you've got all the bunch around you ! There was alot of attacking in the race - notably by Jo Rowsell (Global Racing Team), Louise Mahe (Cycles Dauphin) and Hannah Bussey (Team Luciano). I went with the group on the attacks, but once again I'd let myself drift to the back thinking I'd be safer. In fact I was probably working harder than most people in the peloton. As well as that, I couldn't read the race and was constantly playing catch up.

This isn't what all my training and preparation had been for ! In my annoyance and frustation, and just so as I could reduce my stress levels I dropped out - my first DNF in a cycle race - ever ! Sri, a fellow competitor, who had been dropped some time earlier past me as I was pulling into the side of the road. She offered that we work together through the race. But I declined. I had psyched myself up to race in a bunch, and I wasn't interested in doing anything else !

In the end, I was glad I didn't finish the race, as there was an awful crash 500m from the finish line. Up to a dozen girls went down when one rider crashed into the barriers. Most women got up and rode away, albeit a bit battered and bruised. Unfortutnately Louise and Jo, along with Jo Munden (VC Meudon) had to be stretchered off the course with suspected broken bones. Ouch - thank God that wasn't me.
Out of all of the carnage, Janet Birkmyre (Planet X-She Cycles) still managed to sprint to victory.

It was nice to finish in time to still follow proceedings in Kent. There was alot of excitement as we heard that David Millar had been on lone breakaway for the majority of the race.

Aside from the that, the day went very well - watching the remaing crit races, catching up with old cycling buddies, and rounding it off by dancing away at my friend Sophie's wedding bash. And of course the London to Canterbury stage was great to watch. It's just a shame David Millar didn't manage to stay away from the peloton right up to the finish line !

Monday, 9 July 2007

Oh, to be in LONDON - The Great Tour Send-off

The Tour de France has started ! And what a great place for it to start !
Of all the places where it could start, nothing could match the wonderful scenes in London. It's not always guaranteed that when the Tour starts outside of France that it would be in the best place that country has to offer.

The team presentation at Trafalgar Square, under Nelson's column, with concert by R'n'B singer, Lemar. A prologue that went through all the famous sites - Whitehall, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the Mall. Stage 1 filing out of London passing the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and then finishing at Canterbury Cathedral. A bike course fit for Kings - shame they couldn't stop and take photos !

As a spectator it was pretty surreal - being able to walk around these places that are normally heaving with traffic. From Friday to Sunday major thoroughfares like Whitehall, the Mall, Park Lane were ruled by pedestrians and cyclists.

We spent Saturday afternoon watching the prologue - all 189 of them at various points of the course - along Victoria Street, Buckingham Palace, and Constitution Hill. I made this point my final viewpoint as I got to see the riders travelling in both directions, and it was also to the 1km to go mark. Being opposite Green Park, where there was a big TV screen meant there was commentary as well.

Stanley moved on further to watch the riders at Hyde Park corner, where they were greeted by enormous crowds in Hyde Park.

My memories of the prologue are :

The sight of French Gendarmes on their French registered motorbikes and in French police cars in the middle of London !

The sheer speed of the riders as they passed - especially Fabian Cancellera - in excess of 55km per hour.

The sound of some of the director sportives shouting at their riders over a tannoy as they followed them in the team car - Venga Venga ! Andiamo ! Allez Allez !

The party atmosphere among the 2 million spectators that thronged the streets.

The ear shattering roar from the spectators as certain riders came past - notably Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Mark Cavendish, David Millar Fabian Cancellera, Andreas Kloden and Alexandre Vinoukourov.

The warm sunshine that was especially arranged for the day.

I didn't go to watch Sunday's proceedings as I had to prepare for the road racing I was doing that afternoon. From what I saw from the TV though, it looked like there was just as much enthusiasm along the roads through Kent. More than a million lining the streets. And they say England isn't a biking nation !!

I hope the riders had as great a time during the event as we had watching it.

Whatever you think of Ken Livingstone, you've gotta hand it to him on this one. I can't imagine any other Mayor of London laying on such a fiesta ! Thanks alot Ken !

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Race organisers and Women's Cycling !

Don't get me wrong - I enjoy competitive cycling and the women's racing scene, but we sometimes get a raw deal.

In the old days when there were hardly any women road racing we had to race with the 4th category men. Ok if you're new to riding at speed, but a 2nd or 3rd category woman deserves to race with more skilled riders rather than being left at the mercy of certain wobblers who have never ridden in a bunch before and potentially being brought down !

Also, for a long time a woman couldn't score British Cycling points in a men's race, even if she finished in a points scoring position.

But now that's changed, and a woman is free to race with men if she has the same category licence (or higher) than the men she races with. And she can score points too.

In any case, there are so many more women's races taking place nowadays so we can do a decent season without having to do any racing with the men !
And I for one am looking forward to doing the women's Tour de France Support race in Hyde Park this Sunday.

But there are still issues. Take the women's race I did yesterday at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. This race runs concurrently with the male vets race, though their race is longer. The commissaire explains to us that these are two separate events and if we are caught by the men's race our peloton should slow down to allow them to pass.

That's fair enough, but what happens if the men overtake our peloton and then slow down ? Bear in mind that this is a 40 man peloton taking up the whole track. And what's more, what are we supposed to do once they've slowed down and we are in the process of chasing the Evans RT girl who's gone on a breakaway ? Well that was the situation we were faced with.

The women at the front shouted to the men to get a move on, so that we could get on with our race, but they wouldn't budge. Finally out of frustration the woman at the front accelerated the pace, meaning that we ended up racing as one big peloton with the vets. (It was great to be in a big peloton but that wasn't the point of the exercise !).

Eventually the commissaire stopped our race. The women were made to wait for a minute, and then the girl who had done the breakaway was aloud to set off with a 20second lead on the main bunch. We were particularly aggrieved by this because part of the reason she'd accumulated that time on us was because she'd been ahead of the vets peloton and we did not have right of way to chase her down ! We eventually got started, and worked furiously together to catch her. The race was eventually won by a woman from Agiskoviner - albeit after our sprint was delayed when the vets caught us again in the closing stages and we had to slow down. We all agreed that it had been the vets who were at fault and the women were being treated unfairly.

Also recently there have been problems with results. For example, the Brentwood Crits. The national series women's race I did at Brentwood had points awarded to riders down to 20th spot. There were 25 women in the race, so results should have been published down to 20th place, if not 25th. Instead, we have only seen results down to 16th place.

British Cycling can't comment on the matter as they say it is the race commissaire on the day who has the final say. We have had no explanation from the organisers despite having contacted them. So certain riders who may have been owed points (myself included) have been awarded nothing. The men's equivalent race that took place that day had results published down to 30th place, even though only the top 20 riders were awarded British Cycling points. That's not good form.

Organisers bemoan the fact that they don't have as many women racing as they would like at their events. Organisers please note that the work to attract women riders should be on-going. If we are turning out regularly to race we want women's cycle racing to be recognised and treated with respect. That's the best thing you can do to attract and keep the riders. Ok, rant over !

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Rain, Rain Go Away !! Or I'm off to the Azores !

The wet stuff is really beginning to be a pain. I understand that we need a bit of rain, to keep things ticking over, and hopefully to avoid a hose-pipe ban. But really it's getting beyond a joke now. I keep on missing track sessions and track meets. My local criterium race at Crystal Palace has been cancelled a few times given how technical the course is, and how dangerous it gets in the wet. They even had to cancel the national road race champs in Beverley (North Yorks) due to flooding in the north of England.

In fact part of my family lives up there. Luckily their house wasn't flooded, but the neighbours across the street were affected. After a certain point the drains become overfilled and the water just rises upwards through people's homes. So imagine all the crap that you flush away or pour down the plughole basically coming back up into your home. Ugh, recycling in the extreme !! So the council now have a mammoth job clearing the place up and getting rid of the awful stench.

Apparenty we have just had the wettest June in the UK ever. I know that because I have spent more time on my turbo trainer than any other June I can remember ! For God Sake, this is meant to be summer. All the good stuff happens now. Barbecues, summer parties and concerts, cycling in the sun. Was our summer those couple of weeks in April ? It seems like it. Forecasters say the rain will continue at least into mid-July, as currently there's an area of high pressure stuck over the Portuguese island of the Azores. While they're basking in soaring temperatures, we've got this mass of low pressure hanging above us causing storms on an almost biblical scale.

So we will have more wet races to look forward to - maybe I should fit my racing bike with mud guards !
We can only keep our fingers crossed that there's a 3 hour window this Saturday for the Tour de France prologue when the riders can at least have a dry and safe ride.

Stanley (aka Him Indoors) is in Wales mountain biking this week. I think his holiday's gonna be a big wet one.
As I look out of my window and see yet another shower beginning I can say that Crystal Palace will be cancelled again this evening. Another hot date with my turbo trainer beckons ! I will be at Hillingdon cycle circuit tomorrow though, come rain or shine. Naturally, I prefer shine.