Monday, 31 May 2010

Quick Season (so far) Summary

I've barely written any race reports this season. It's not that I've not done any (although in truth I haven't done many), it's just that I'm not good at recounting races. I just do them, enjoy/endure them for what they are, note down any fitness/skill gain as "money in the bank" for future races, then move on. I check out any stats that I might have recorded if my Garmin was working or if I remembered to switch it on, but overall I don't take it that seriously.

It's always good to test yourself against your peers and see how you stack up at a particular moment in time. That's how I see it really, and also a chance to catch up with folks. I know my racing place - just a local lass who likes to get out on the circuit. I'm good with that. If ever I won a race I can't imagine I'd feel much different to the way I feel when I get a mediocre finish! The enjoyment comes from knowing I've raced to the best of my ability and I had a good encounter with the other competitors. After that, there's not much else to say!

My season so far has been ok. My first race, Hog Hill Spring Rumble was abit chaotic as I hadn't intended racing it, but made a last minute decision to have a go. Afterall it was a London League race and my result would help the club. I finished second last!

The Windsor women's team series race was a bit better. A furious pace was set by the junior hopefuls on the road circuit near Maidenhead. People were steadily being shelled off the back. I managed to get into a good group with girls from the Eastern Region and South Western Region. We all worked together, and managed not to get lapped by the leaders, which has happened to me in the past.

The first Crystal Palace circuit race was a bit of disaster as I had to pull out due to a freak asthma attack. (I blame the ash cloud!) That also impacted on my result at the Addiscombe 25 mile tt. When the time keeper heard me coughing and spluttering on the start line he wondered if I'd even make it to the first roundabout! Fortunately I did - I even finished. Even though my time didn't set the world on fire I was just glad to have been able to heave my way round and get through, while helping my club's ranking in the London Women's League.

I did another Crystal Palace race in which I was dropped from the front group but managed to work with Liz from London Phoenix and we had our own little race-off on the circuit. On this I managed to get ahead of her, unlike the previous time when we raced at Palace.

Those first few races didn't give particularly impressive results. Hey, ho. The last couple of races have been better for me.

I managed to get 4th place at a Surrey League Goodwood race. There were only 10 of us (!) but the fact that I ended up in a sprint-out with other women who I judged to be stronger than me, showed that I had made some improvement.

The improvement showed again when I managed to stay in the main group for most of the race at the SE Championships. When I've done that race in the past I've been dropped within the first couple of laps. Again, I finished ahead of women who I would normally think are stronger than me.

So, my season racing is steadily improving it seems. Good news, though as long as I can still enjoy the scene and enjoy turning up at the races, that's important thing.

Top photo by Glyn Durrant (Surrey League). Bottom photo by John Mullineaux (London Cyclesport)

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Busy Busy Busy!

I have been looking forward to this bank holiday weekend so that I could have a break and take it easy in London. It's often the case that I use bank holidays for the chance to go away somewhere - usually with my bike - and do something challenging. I then return to London feeling like I need a break.

This year I have limited my trips away. I have barely left London this year. Not been out of the country at all - something which I would have done a few times by now. Apart from one trip up to Cumbria to do the Fred Whitton cyclosportive I have barely left the home counties. All this "homing" should be good on my purse - especially since I haven't had to the Euros thing - and be easy living. Wrong. I may be spending less money as I'm not travelling far these days, but somehow I always seem to create work for myself!

So I now find myself using my bank holiday as the chance to stay in London - with my bike - to do a few challenging things that will leave feeling like I need a break!

As I've been involved in the London Women's Cycle Racing League in recent months I need to keep on top of the admin side of things, and keep the mini reports flowing. I've had various emails come in from women who would like to get into cycle racing and are asking how to get started. I also get similar emails from women interested in joining my cycle club, Dulwich Paragon, where I am the women's cycling co-ordinator. I think the good weather has made quite alot of women come out of the cycle racing closet! "I've always thought I could be a racer but I don't know where to go for advice etc.." Result: email backlog.

Writing is taking up more and more time as I've been contributing articles about bike rides in different regions to Cycling Active magazine, as well as little pieces for London Cyclesport.

Also, all that work that I was doing on the community interpreting course has now paid off. I've got my accreditation so I am now setting about looking for assignments - time consuming.

And of course, there's the biking and the bike racing. I'm not even that competitive these days, but it's always good to get out and meet the folks and keep up with what's going on. Believe it or not, even just doing that requires abit of training. I can't get that all-important interview with Vicky Pendleton if I'm too unfit to ride along with her for 10 minutes! I can't do the photo shoots for my articles either. Some of the roots are off-road so photographer Andy can't just drive us to the various spots!

And talking of biking, this time next week I imagine I will be splayed out, feeling shattered, with aching arms after 10 hours of Paris-Roubaix cobbles! I will need time this weekend to take some damage limitation measures!

So, a nice relaxing Bank Holiday weekend....I don't think so!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Summer Cyclo Cross Racing

Cyclo cross is my favourite cycling discipline so I was really pleased to see that they'd included some in this year's Giro d'Italia.

Erm, actually not! That was officially a road race stage from Carrara to Montalcino (Tuscany), but held on the characteristic "strade bianche" or gravelly unsurfaced roads seen in this region of Italy. There is a pro race, and also a cyclosportive (Eroica) which takes place on these roads, but we normally see these in the early spring or early autumn (respectively) and the conditions are usually dry.

So this is what happens when you run such a race on a rainy day. One great muddy mess! As I said, I like cyclo cross, and all that sliding around in the mud is actually quite fun in a big kid sort of way. But cyclo cross races last for no more than an hour, and I'm good with that. However, enduring all this cack as part of a 220km (almost 140miles) race would just go a little beyond a joke!

I suppose that for most of those guys it's just like doing a "Spring Classic" - a Paris-Roubaix or Tour of Flanders - but with no tapering beforehand and no recovery day, just racing 100 mountainous miles the day before, and the day after! Gosh those guys are as hard as nails!
And huge respect to Australia's Cadel Evans who won the stage in a hotly contested sprint finish - a worthy result for the current World Champion.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Café Culture

Cafés are pretty standard on a club cyclist's itinerary. Most people have one - whether it's at the start of the ride, during, or at the end of a ride. I have been known to do all 3, if I was feeling a bit rough. My club's local is Café St Germain at Crystal Palace. Many of the local riders in South London go to the café in Fanny's Farm Shop in Surrey. My second claim club stops at Nonna Rosa's in Purley. The thing in common with all these places is that they are cafés that cyclists go to while doing a club run.

Well how about a café that cyclists can go to without needing to be on a club run, or even in cycling gear. How about just going to a café that has a cycling theme, but without there being any sign of lycra. Anyone who has a vague connection to cycling could go in there. Whether you are a club cyclist, a courier, a teenage BMXer even old Bojo or our new Prime Minister could go there with a nervous George Osborne in tow! You don't even need to have your bike, and you can drink beer!

That's what Look Mum No Hands is all about - a new café in Old Street that has a cycling theme and appeals to all types of bicycle rider. I went to the launch a couple of weeks ago and the inside is nicely decked out, with arty furniture in a bright clear room with trendy music - various styles of bicycle hang in the windows and themed modern and retro posters on different aspects of cycling adorn the walls.

The coffee is good, as Lewin is a real connoisseur in this field. And if you need repairs doing to your bike, they have a workshop where Sam will be able to attend to your steed's needs. I look forward to going there more, as it looks a great place to hang out.

This month they'll be showing the stages of the Tour of Italy bike race on their big screen so that'll be another reason for me to go there. Andiamo!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Tentative Beginnings

The road racing season is well upon us - yeaaauugh!!

Well, actually I've been quite enjoying it because I've been at a number of races and been getting to know the new names and faces in our region, as well as catching up with the old faces. I always enjoy the social aspect of women's cycle racing.

There have been quite a few women's races on, and also with the London Women's League taking off you keep meeting the same women on regular occasions and having almost identical duels.
Having such a league where there are regular ride-offs against one another to be at the top of the individual and team rankings is almost like the race for the Football Premiership title, or even like Formula 1 where there is an individual title and a constructor's competition.

We've had 4 rounds so far in the London Women's Cycle Racing League. All of the races have drawn record turn-outs, including the last round which was a time trial. The 25-mile time trial, organised by Addiscombe Cycling Club normally only gets a handful of women taking part. This year, as it was round 4 of the women's league, they had 23 women. I think the men must have thought Christmas had come! The competition was hotly contested too, with the seeded girls going to all lengths to be sure to stay in the top placings.

We've got a little break in proceedings before the next race takes place in mid-May.

So yeah, the league has gone well so far, and I'm very pleased about that.

I've been at quite a few races, but ugh - I haven't done much racing. All this co-ordination of league races and being women's captain in my cycling club takes me away from training and I don't always have the mind-set to compete or put on the gung ho instinct while racing. It's making me all soft! So, my races have been quite mediocre so far. This hasn't been helped by a bout of asthma, which I am sure has been spurred on by this mysterious ash cloud from Iceland that's hanging over the northern hemisphere.

So, I did Hog Hill a couple of weeks ago and absolutely suffered, I did the Windsor women's team series road race and thought I was going to faint off the bike after one lap. I did the Crystal Palace Road Race and conked out with an asthma attack. I chanced it with the Addiscombe time trial and got through with a fairly modest time. The way I was coughing and heaving at the start I wasn't sure I'd make it to the first roundabout! So I was glad of my time all the same.
Crystal Palace this week was the first race I did where I was trying vaguely to be competitive, and I actually felt good about it. I worked with Liz from London Phoenix and we shared the work as we raced around the tight circuit. Of course it all became a case of each one for herself in the closing laps, but we were really pleased about the way we'd raced - even if we were at the back end of proceedings! I even gained my first British Cycling point of the season! I look forward to getting out to more races, hopefully with more training under my belt. What I look forward to most is enjoying going to the races and feeling like I want to go back at the end of the day.

Photos by John Mullineaux (London CycleSport)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Choices, Choices!

I've been really pondering things recently, wondering what choices I should make. I've been reading all the various publications and websites and looking at the different trends and polls. What is the best policy? It'll be a difficult choice to make this week, especially after all this uncertainty and at a time when there's been so much running around, meeting people and spreading the word about our plans. I guess it will all become clear after tomorrow evening - when I finally decide if I'll take the cross bike or the road bike with me to the Fred Whitton cyclosportive!

Yes, all that running around telling people about the London Women's Cycle Racing League, and analysing the interest and trends for women's racing has kept me really busy. I've been trying to fit in some training, for the cyclosportive, but it hasn't always been possible as I was concentrating on preparing for the road racing season.
And so, tomorrow I will have to decide if I pack the cyclo cross bike which has low enough gears to get me over the quad-busting gradients of the Lake District. Or instead, should I go for my lighter road bike, which will be more responsive and so less taxing on my resources. Oh, speaking of taxing on resources - there's a General Election tomorrow, who'd have thought it! No idea what the result of that will bring us.
Answers to all the questions will be the day after tomorrow - hopefully!