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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cyclecross in the Shadowlands

One of the problems with setting yourself personal targets is that you put yourself under self pressure to succeed. In April I have The Houston to Austin MS 150 with my twin brother in Texas along with my fellow Mules. Straight after completing that I have the Nanchez Trace ,from Nanchez to Nashville.

Although my Texan cousins have had a few cold days over there, their training has been uninterrupted with between 50 to 80 miles a week, soon to be extended to 80 to 120 miles.

Last years mild winter in the UK enabled me to match this until March when with extended daylight I was able to kick on. By this time last year I had already had 300 miles.
This year has been dominated by non cycle days.

So when this weekend heralded more snow I had little choice but to embrace it, with my slick tyres.
Slicks and snow, by the way certainly don't go.

On Saturday I managed 24 miles and on Sunday 29. It was not totally cycling , there was a bit of bob sleighing, skating, and there was certainly a lot of high diving.
Most of these other disciplines ended up with me falling flat on my over sized arse.
Depending on whether the roads were in shadow or sunshine was the difference between thick snow and ice to dry roads.
I must have expended as much energy getting on and off my bike and carrying it as I did riding it.
Still I was pleased with my attitude........I only swore once, as a white van shot passed me.
The unconditioned driver thought it would be amusing to activate his screen wash and spray me with ice cold water whilst filling his fat mouth with fast food.

The only bad word I didn't use was one that might of questioned his parenthood. Why bring the rest of his family into my rage.
At the end of Sundays ride I detected some rhythm, my legs were starting to remember that last Summer I called myself a cyclist.
I do believe the foundations are coming together.

The Androgynous cyclist

I was really looking forward to extending last weekends milieage this comming weekend.
Its been gorgeous cycling weather all week, beutiful sunshine, no wind and dry roads.
Of couse as Friday morning turned into Friday afternoon, the weather gods decided to have a laugh at my expense.
They personally sent me a whole bunch of clouds, heavily ladden with snow.
Not wanting to miss out on the action 'Mr Freeze' took it as a cue for mischief making and coated all of the roads with ice.

As I awoke this morning, the sun streamed through the blinds, bouncing off the overnight deposits of accumulated snowflakes.

The obvious choice would be for me to accept defeat and to go to the gym, but undetered I will wait and have a noon time weather check.
I am now ruing the day that I got rid of my mountain bike, I could be out there right now.
This week my employeer has finally decided to engage in the government 'cycle to work scheme'. This means that I could get a new bike very soon.

One with tread on its tyres and a saddle that did not require generous applications of 'butt butter' before I placed my derrier upon it.

Such is my love for cycling I want to expand it into my day to day life. I want a basket at the front to use it for shopping and a bike stand. I want it to look nice too.

I could minimise my car journeys to only essential ones, like seeing my children who live out in the country with no suitable public transport.
My brother Andy has a cycle shop Cycle Heaven in York and stocks Gazelle.
They have a great range of dutch bikes.
On looking at the catalogue there were so many to choose from, but all the ones I liked were described as 'ladies bikes'.
Although at this stage I am only window shopping I managed to narrow down my wish list to two.

The fabulous 'Miss Grace' as featured (below) and the more masculine Gazelle NL NY Cab (at top of blog).

Men now have bags, face cream and pedicures so having a more femanine bike really appeals to me. I think Miss Grace and I might have a future together.
I would be happy to hear any views.

Check out tomorrows blog to see if I ventured out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Come on Bradley

Bradley Wiggins will make his Team Sky debut in Qatar

Wiggins finished fourth in the 2009 Tour de France
Three-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins will make his debut for Team Sky at the Tour of Qatar, which starts on 7 February.

Wiggins had a superb 2009, capped by finishing fourth in the Tour de France.

He launched his season last year by taking the leader's jersey in the Tour of Qatar after his team won the time trial opening stage.

Wiggins, 29, had been scheduled to make his debut in France on 3 February but Italian Davide Vigano will now fill in.

Wiggins will be supported at the Tour of Qatar, in what the team says is a "strong" line-up, by the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen, Juan Antonio Flecha and Kurt-Asle Arvesen.

Fellow British riders Russell Downing, Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard will also be in action for Sky.
from BBC website

Sunday, January 24, 2010


This time of year is definitely not the most inspirational of months.
As my alarm goes off in the morning it is cold, dark, and damp.
When I come home its cold, dark, and damp, the only variation being my lunch break when the sky is illuminated with a low watt bulb.
Although some would say its far better than earlier in the month, when every thing was white with snow, I disagree.
Although the abundance of white flakes inhibited outdoor cycling, there was some cheeriness about it. Children laughed and smiled, and the child in us all surfaced like a returning diver, gasping for breath
The whiteness made things seem cleaner and brighter, instead of the dirty grey that has ingrained itself into everything - including my mood.
It is as if some great landscape artist had been momentarily distracted, spilling his dirty water over his nearly completed canvas.
The training continues though, the drudgery of finding layers of insulation and struggling with my overshoes, constrained by my unwanted belly. Rude grey motorists . Traffic lights always turning to red. My water bottle hardly touched, with the desire for warmer beverages.

Each mile, not enjoyed but endured.
Saturday saw an increase from 16.03 miles to 27.25 miles.
These decimal increments recorded for the endeavour they currently represent.
Joanne accompanied me with an altogether cheerier disposition.

Without the additional festive poundage that I had acquired, she punished me on the hills slowing down at the top for me to catch up.
A complete reversal in fortune she added as I puffed and panted my way to the top of each summit.
Why do I do it, I asked?
Then she reminded me.
If you want to lead a pace line at 20+ mph, for hours at a time, to float up hills, to enjoy our beautiful countryside, to feel that you always have an extra gear.
To enjoy the camaraderie of other cyclists in sportvies - these winter months training are what makes it all possible.
Look back at last year, look at the photos she added.
I did as I enjoyed my hot cuppa on my return.......she was right of course.
Women usually are.
Next week Ill take it to 50 miles
Happy Cycling

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Girl Power

Beauty and the Bike is a new film all about cycling.

It follows twenty young women from Darlington in the north east of England and Bremen in Germany over the course of a year, finding out why most of the British girls did not use a bicycle as their everyday means of transport, whilst all of the German girls did.
The film begins in Darlington - a Cycling Demonstration Town - and asks the question "why do British girls stop cycling?"

Most of the girls pointed to road dangers, and the fact that cycling is un-cool and unfashionable, so the film-makers introduced the Darlington girls to a group of their peers from the cycling-friendly city of Bremen. Cycling in Bremen is regarded as de rigour and a necessary pre-requisite for teenage independence from parents. Crucially, cycling in Bremen is easy, relaxed and a social activity, with traffic-free cycle paths on every main road. Car drivers are respectful towards cyclists - the law tells them to give way.
The film's Director Richard Grassick said "Is it any wonder that cycling is so unpopular in this country?" It's treated a bit like a military expedition by some policy makers. Cyclists are expected to cope with road dangers by better training and protective gear."
Co-director Dr. Beatrix Wupperman added: "The needs of women cyclists seem to be a blind spot with British transport politicians. They still look at the world through the windscreen. Women typically do not want to fight their way through traffic. Perspectives have to change completely or there will be little progress."
The film concludes with what, for the girls, has become obvious; if a road is busy, cyclists need their own separated space alongside it. This simple understanding is how politicians in cycling-friendly towns and cities approach cycling as a part of their transport policy.
Grat film and great concept
For more on the female cycling perspective follow the link below

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

After the thaw its all gone Potty

Sunday morning was different.
As I lay in bed under my duvet I could not work it out right away, my brain was frozen.
Far too slow to decide on which sense was being stimulated.
But finally it came to me.
It was the sound of birds outside.
Not the joyous sound of Spring, but more of a birdy sigh. The sort of equivalent sound that a human might make when finishing a long journey or completing an unpleasant task.
Of course my curiosity got the better of me and to the window I went, angling the blinds to look outside.
Although I lived on a street , I could be forgiven for forgetting such a fact as the roads, pavements, fields and even local beaches had been covered with thick layers of snow.
Not for the usual day or two but for nearly a month!!!!!!
Birds had stopped singing, they had lost their sense of humour. Even the red breasted robin no longer blushed.
It was too F***ing cold to sing.
If they sold beak balm, I am sure whole aviaries would have been queuing up to buy some.
Like us they just saved their energy to keep warm and look for food where ever it might come from.
Even some of the local stores had run short on bread and milk.
The birds were not the only surprise, the road was silver.
The dampness from the melted snow was shimmering in sunlight and bathed in long shadows.

I could Cycle
My recent cycle training had been confined to reading my colourful Lance Armstrong book 'Up close and Personal' so the concept of actually riding my bike seemed quite novel.
My brother Paddy in Texas has already stolen a march on me going out every weekend and already up to 45 mile sessions.
With Texas and the MS 150 Houston-Austin in April looming , I realised that I had to get my skates on (sorry cycle shoes). Of late I have been pre occupied with alpine pastimes.

So off I went wishing that I had not eaten all that christmas cake as my bike creaked under me, and my Santas sack protruded towards my handle bars.
I decided on a short cobweb blowing, hill climbing route.
The green grass on Beverley Westwood looked bizarre dotted with half melted snowmen and the odd pile of 'Scarf, carrot and coal button combination' remaining isolated and unemployed on barren grass.As I climbed up towards the mast to the north of Little Weighton there was the last remnants of our big freeze defying the morning sun.
Lines of snow framed fields and gullies creating white linear patterns all around like an agricultural chessboard.
The road so familiar to me had also changed since summer months with new unwanted arrivals.
Pot holes.
A month of freeze and thaw had exploited the weakness of the friday afternoon resurfacing. Where workers minds were on pints of ale and fancy girls, not on Mr Macadams compound.
Some parts of the road had more in common with a lunar landscape than a rural highway.
Still it made the ride interesting, a slalom without snow.

I was relieved to get to the top of the climb, the the icy air hurt my lungs as I breathed heavily.
The 20+ mph average from last summer was now a paltry 11mph, I was struggling, really struggling.
The long descent home increased it to 14 mph, whilst my heart beat recovered.
I recorded 16.03 miles, hardly respectable but at least it was something.
When I got home the birds had again stopped singing, I think the novelty had now worn off.
I put away the bike and reflected in front of the fire with a hot chocolate.

Its a long way to go to get cycle fit again, but in every journey there has to be a start.
Mine is now behind me.
Happy cycling

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mr Blue Sky

We are about to find out if the sky really is the limit for British cycling.
The men who have masterminded unprecedented Olympic success for British riders on the track over the past decade are now using the same revolutionary methods to try to conquer the world on the road.
Team Sky, Britain's first professional road-racing team, was launched in a blaze of publicity at the start of January with the aim of providing a first British winner of the Tour de France by 2015 - but how will they attempt to do it?
Ahead of their first major race, the Tour Down Under in Australia which starts on 19 January, BBC Sport lined up team principal Dave Brailsford, team leader Bradley Wiggins and head coach Shane Sutton to find out.

After returning from the Beijing Olympics in 2008 with eight gold medals in the bag, Brailsford, British Cycling's performance director, was finally able to switch his focus to forming a British-based professional team that could compete at the highest level on the road.

The Team Sky launch was a slick and stylish event
The main requirement was a partner willing to bankroll the operation but, with Sky already backing track cycling, Brailsford did not have to look far to find a suitable sponsor, one that promises to raise the profile of the sport in the UK.
A five-year deal worth a reported £35m was signed in February 2009 and Brailsford said: "Sky found us as much as we found them. They had plans for a big project around participation in sport and the health of the nation - and decided cycling was something to get involved in."
Since the team's official launch on 4 January, the bulk of the team have been at a training camp in Valencia while head coach Shane Sutton's nephew Chris Sutton and Greg Henderson - who have spent the winter in Australia - have been joined by the other five riders that will form the Team Sky line-up in the Tour Down Under (TDU).
Henderson and Sutton gave Team Sky a dream debut by finishing first and second in their first event, Sunday's Cancer Council Helpline Classic in Adelaide, and hope to continue that momentum in the six-stage, 800km TDU.
"We want to kick off with a bit of a bang," said Sutton senior. "but after all the work to put this team together, it is more a feeling of relief than excitement right now."

"If our riders don't gel then they will not be able to work together," said Sutton, as he explained how combining "personality and ability" was behind Team Sky's team-building policy.
With Wiggins installed as team leader and a core of seven other British riders, he and Brailsford seem happy with the blend in their squad.
Sky are not a one man team - Brailsford
But assembling the Team Sky squad has not been without its problems.
Garmin and Katusha were publicly unhappy at the way they lost the services of Wiggins and Swift and, although Brailsford brushed aside talk of friction with rival teams, signing already-contracted riders is not behaviour that will win them many friends in the peloton.
Still, getting Wiggins on board was a major coup. He finished fourth in last year's Tour de France to equal the best-ever finish by a Briton and will be one of the contenders for the General Classification in this year's race.
"This is a British team," said Brailsford. "We are going out there to represent Britain and we needed a British leader. Bradley was the obvious candidate.

Bradley Wiggins
Geraint Thomas
Peter Kennaugh
Steve Cummings
Russell Downing
Chris Froome
Ian Stannard
Ben Swift
"Getting him in was a great achievement and, like him, we feel this is where he belongs."
Aside from Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh are both bright British hopes for the future, and Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen is seen as a major star in the making.
"Edvald is probably the most talented young rider in the peloton at the moment," said Wiggins.
"He is probably the biggest signing by Sky if you look at things overall. He is going to be the future of this team and it is quite frightening to think about what he can achieve."
There is plenty of experience too, with another Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Canada's Michael Barry expected to provide a steadying influence as the team settles in competitively over the next few weeks.
But, from a British perspective, there is one notable absence on the Team Sky roster - Mark Cavendish, who is not only the best known rider on these shores following his six stage wins at the 2009 Tour de France but is also rated as the best sprinter on the planet.

Cavendish won six stages at the 2009 Tour de France
It is arguable that Team Sky are better off without him as the effort needed to deliver him stage victories in the manner of the 'train' of his Columbia team-mates could distract from the greater goal of overall victory.
Sutton, however, says he would already have the 24-year-old on board, if he could get him.
"I think 'Cav' could fit in anywhere," he explained. "We have worked very closely with him the past, have a great relationship with him from the track and we would not have to change anything to make space for him at Team Sky.
"We'd love to have him but he is under contract with Columbia right now and very happy with them."

The men who masterminded Team GB's rise to prominence in the velodrome are joined by a group whose background is firmly in road racing.
From British Cycling, Brailsford and Sutton are joined by psychiatrist Steve Peters and Rod Ellingworth, who coached the likes of Cavendish at the British Cycling Academy and whose new role will see him work closely with riders while they are in competition.
The team's strategic and tactical nous in road-racing will come from Sunderland and his sporting directors - Sean Yates, Marcus Ljungqvist, Steven de Jongh - all of whom were long-serving professional riders.
There will also be nutritionists, engineers and doctors at Team Sky's headquarters in Manchester, as well as at their permanent base in Quarrata, Tuscany - where around half the squad will live.

They will have access to equipment at cutting edge of sporting technology, with the team's new space-age bus - featuring individual stations for the riders - a shining example of how they will look to garner an advantage by any means possible.
Brailsford explained: "It's somewhere the riders will spend a lot of time.
"So we got our sports scientists in and said, 'How do we get a competitive advantage out of that space, pre-race and post-race? How do we make sure our guys are better recovered by the time they go to the hotel?'
"We didn't want our team bus to act just as a billboard - we are not just here to ride around and look good. It has to give us an advantage."
Another priority will be demonstrating the team's anti-doping ethos in a sport tainted by too many scandals in recent years.
"We will have our own in-house testing process and it will be done in liasion with the International Cycling Union and UK Sport," said Brailsford. "Our strategy will be to work hand in hand with the authorities and show that this is a clean team."

"Sky could go out and sign Alberto Contador and win the Tour de France tomorrow but that would divert from our mission to win with a British rider within five years," says Sutton.
In an attempt to achieve that goal, Team Sky will follow the same system as Team GB - leaving no stone unturned in their preparations (or "controlling the controllable" as Brailsford puts it) and doing everything possible to get the best out of their riders.
Wiggins eyes Tour win
They hope to do that by mentoring and coaching them rather than directing and controlling them, using a rider-centric programme that will concentrate on assisting and improving individuals not the team.
It's not an approach that is common in professional cycling, but Brailsford is confident it will pay off.
"Our ambition isn't to change professional cycling but certainly we will approach it in the same way as everything else - we will pay attention to minor details and we will look for marginal gains," he explained.
"The philosophy of how you treat riders and how you treat people will be very much a part of this team.
"We will use technology too and we will look to other industries for inspiration. We will continue looking for fresh approaches but it will be more about us as a team rather than trying to influence the wider sport."
Will it work? Wiggins, who will be given a schedule this year to allow him to concentrate specifically on the Tour for the first time in his career, appears to think so.
"I'm always going to say that this is the best team in the world because I am paid to say it," Wiggins said. "But, honestly, from what I've seen so far we are heading in the right direction because Dave will always listen to what you say.
"I've noticed a big difference already in the way things are done and their professionalism, in a relaxed way, too. A lot of it is just common sense in looking after the riders but a lot of teams lack it.
"He's said right from the start that this is our team and he is not going to dictate to us what to do. Whatever things we think improving along the way, Dave is open to making this the best team in the world and he will change whatever he feels he needs to."

With the London Games just two-and-a-half years away, could diverting focus to the road team jeopardise Britain's hopes of repeating their incredible cycling success at the Athens and Beijing Olympics on home ground?
"If I had thought that, I would never have started this project," said Brailsford. "My own belief is that this will augment British cycling's prospects at the 2012 Games."

Thomas and Wiggins won track gold in the team pursuit at the 2008 Olympics
Brailsford, who is still British Cycling's performance director as well as Team Sky's team principal, points out that his dual role allows him to organise Britain's best endurance riders like Geraint Thomas so the Welshman can prepare for and compete in upcoming events like March's World Track Championships in Copenhagen, or the Commonwealth Games in October, without fearing a conflict of interest with his professional road team.
"Being able to manage both sides of that equation will give us a competitive advantage in the run-up to 2012," added Brailsford.
"I am totally opposed to the view that I might be diluting my efforts across two different fields. I actually think I am strengthening it."

There were no brash statements from Brailsford or Wiggins about planning to win this year's Tour de France at Team Sky's launch.
Both men know it would be foolhardy to make predictions like that - instead we got promises that Wiggins, and the rest of the squad, would be "the best they can be"... which is not exactly a statement of intent.
Having a five-year target also takes the pressure off the first 12 months somewhat but Sutton insists they are still aiming high in 2010.
"Everyone is going to throw you that line about just being the best they can be but ultimately this is about winning," said Sutton. "We want to win.

Tour Down Under (19 Jan)
Paris-Nice (7 Mar)
Milan-San Remo (20 Mar)
Giro D'Italia (8 May)
Tour de France (3 Jul)
Tour of Britain (11 Sep)
"What we want from the season is to get some wins under our belts in one or two of the Classics [one-day races in western Europe] and show prominently in the Giro D'Italia with some stage wins there too.
"We are not putting people under pressure but I still believe in saying reach for the stars and, in our first year, that is getting on the podium at the Tour. That's where I'd like to think we can be at the end of the season."
It is already clear that the Tour is seen as Team Sky's top priority and Wiggins added: "Obviously the other races are really important and they are part of the bigger plan of the team and the development of the younger riders.
"But to be honest it the Tour is the only race that matters and the team is going to be judged on how we perform in it. So it remains the goal, and it has to be like that."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In the bleak mid winter

This time last year I had already completed 500 miles since Christmas day.
This year its a big fat ZERO !!!!!!!

Its not that I don't like cycling in the cold, I just prefer the upright position rather than the ditch, kerb, on coming traffic or snow drift.
All across the UK there must be lots of us annoying the Hell out of family,wives and partners.

Some pubs have recognised this fact

I have just been auditioning for Dr Zhivago and getting FAT

And watching others enjoy the whiteness

There is always next weekend..............

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reach for the Sky

As the New Year dawns, Britain is gripped by Arctic conditions making cycling something that I can only read about at the moment.
Nevertheess, my blog will now continue again and grow in readiness for this years cycling calender.
There will be the usual attempt at humour, related articles and things to read and watch.
This year promises a lot. It is great to have a British cyling Team and some British riders to get excited about.
What a god way to start off the blog.

Bradley Wiggins is confident that Britain's new Team Sky road racing team is strong enough to give him a chance of winning this year's Tour de France.
Speaking at Sky's launch on Monday, Wiggins - who finished fourth in the Tour in 2009 - said: "If I'm ever going to win it, it will be with this team.
"It is a long way off but we can match any other team that will be there.
"To be honest it is the only race that matters. How we get on will be how the team is judged so it remains the goal."
Wiggins, 29, a triple Olympic gold medallist on the track, left Garmin to join Team Sky before Christmas and is already impressed by the new set-up, which has an objective of supplying the first British winner of the Tour by 2015.
Sky are not a one man team - Brailsford
"From what I've seen, we are heading in the right direction," Wiggins explained. "(Team principal) Dave Brailsford will always listen to what you say and he's said right from the start that this is our team and he is not going to dictate to us what to do.
"I've noticed a big difference already in the way the little things are done and their professionalism, in a relaxed way, too. A lot of it is just common sense in looking after the riders but a lot of other teams lack it.
"And whatever things we think need improving along the way, Dave is open to making this the best team in the world and he will change whatever he feels he needs to.
"But, at this stage, everything feels fine. We won't know any weaknesses until we get into the racing season."

Some Sky riders are already taking part in events in Australia and the squad will take part in the Tour Down Under, which starts on 19 January.
And, ahead of the start of the new season, rising GB cycling star Ben Swift has been confirmed as Team Sky's latest member.
Swift, from Rotherham, rode for Russian team Katusha last year but got out of the remaining year of his contract to join the British team.
The 22-year-old was unveiled at the team's launch ceremony and said: "It feels like coming home because I know so many of the support staff and the riders. I will be in the perfect environment to grow as a rider."
Brailsford said: "Ben is a real talent and his future looks bright because he ticks all the boxes that it takes to make it in this sport.
"He's extremely serious, skilled on bike, he can climb and sprint and I really believe he can go far with us.
"We've worked quite some time with him on the track and I think the next years could be a massive breakthrough for him on the road as well."

Swift was part of the GB team at the world road championships
Swift, who won a stage of last year's Tour of Britain, added: "Next year I'd like to ride another Grand Tour, but a big focus for me is the Track World Championships (in Copenhagen in March).
"I want to ride the team pursuit at the London Olympics. Then I'll concentrate fully on the road - that's the career I've mapped out."
Swift takes the total number of Britons in the Team Sky squad to eight.
Sky's start-up cost is reported to be £35m, with 26 riders of 12 different nationalities comprising the roster.
Brailsford said: "We started talking a long time ago about setting up a top-level British team but needed to reach a critical mass of riders to achieve it. Now here we are.
"We're ambitious but the key thing for us is to make sure everything is centred on the rider.
"We want to treat the riders with dignity and respect so that they can be the best then can be.
"People need to be motivated to get the best out of them and we want them to achieve excellence.
"Team spirit is critical to us so the personality of the riders played a big part in our recruitment."