Sunday, 16 March 2014

One down...

RACE REPORT TIMMMMEEEEE!

I know, I know, better late than never. The race was last Sunday. So here it is, first one of the year out of the way, those unnecessary nerves and worries can sleep until next year;

Travelling from the Isle of Man with a fairly hefty rucksack and a bike to anywhere in the UK is no mean feat, I thought I'd nailed this process fairly well after living in London and travelling back frequently to see my family and friends. To be fair, although it's knackering, and expensive, sitting on a boat for 5 hours and changing train three times whilst walking 5 miles to get to your hotel before a race... it's all completely worth it knowing that in less than 24 hours you'll be sat on the start line alongside 50 odd other women ready to experience the greatest feeling on earth.

My travels began eventfully, chatting to a (presumably) student with a mountain bike from the boat all the way to the train station, then very stupidly "allowing" Merseyside Police to "mark" my beautiful new frame with an unjust amount of blue plastic compound. Come on guys, I live on the Isle of Man, I have insurance....why do you have to do this to me!? Anyway, that's a story all on it's own so I'll crack on with the interesting bits....

New pals! :)
Fastforward to Chester, one day later. We were blessed with beautiful weather, even on arrival at 8am I had my knees out, basking in the 16 degree treat that was tropical Saighton. I have to say, the ladies 'up north' are a friendly bunch, chatting to a few strangers put my nervous mind at ease as I realised that the peloton would be welcoming plenty of new racers, even newer than I. I'd caught up with brand new mate Elisa and we decided on trying to work a bit together, as neither of our teams would be represented as a group it was nice to be able to share something with another rider. We lined up together, and the group rolled out behind the neutral service car onto the course. Keeping my coaches advice firmly at the front of my mind "stay in the top 15" I ensured my position was good enough not to be too shocked once the service car sped off. To be honest it wasn't really worth trying to prepare myself for this, once the car had gone, the next few minutes was a lot of internal screaming and remembering what racing felt like. "Oh crap" and "it burns!" mainly.

I soon settled back into the rhythm of things, happily sticking to the top 15 or so of the bunch as instructed. Attacks came and were snubbed out as quickly as they appeared. The pace was impressively high and it's testament to the incredible capabilities of female riders at all levels of the field. However, it was clear from even one lap in that a lot of the riders around me might be new to the game and unfortunately a little bit of unnecessary argy bargy was beginning to form. While aggressive riding can be an important part of road racing, it's not really OK to try and slip into gaps that aren't there... not least elbow your way into them, especially on tight open roads. 2.5 laps in this unfortunately culminated in Heather Bamforth (our league organiser and all round superhero) being taken out.

I don't know who took this, it was sent
to me on twitter! sorry/credits! 
It was at this point I decided to change the outcome of my race. Happy in the knowledge that I was comfortable with the front half of the pack, and that my fitness has developed nicely despite a pretty horrendous winter of illness and setbacks following last years long season, I got off my bike as the peloton passed me and ran back to where Heather lay, shouting for help. It's not nice to hear a fellow rider come down, ever, but when it's a bad one it's just unbearable. While normally I'd carry on, knowing this was Heather, and knowing what she's done to ensure we are all able to race these amazing events, and knowing that it was a bad one from the sounds of it, it seemed like the most sensible decision to make. Luckily as I got to Heather the commisaires car also pulled up to the rescue and so I hopped back on my steed and began plodding out a hearty rhythm to the end.

A few folks have since given me a bit of stick for stopping. Which is fine, I can understand that. But what you have to understand is that in some circumstances, it is OK to make sacrifices for the good of the people around you. Good sportsmanship is as important to me as doing the best I can.

In the end, I came a relatively modest 34th out of 45. After timetrialling the final two laps, picking up a friendly Manchester Wheelers rider along the way. I rolled in to the finish of my first race of the season feeling satisfied and eager to continue. I'm unbelievably happy with where my fitness is at, all considering, and it can only bode well for the coming months. Onwards and upwards.

So there you have it, one down, a fair few more to go! 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Here we go again...

I need to air something today, it's a bit of a plea in a way....

Firstly, for those of you that don't already know, I'll be riding for Merlin Cycles (www.merlincycles.com) this year. Originally, in September, I received a touching email from our DS and Team Manager Steve, accepting my application to join the team, then known as Team CTC. Since then lots has happened and the team are now being supported by the awesome Merlin, an online store you really should check out some time! I can't really say much more than that at the moment however I will say that I am eternally grateful for this chance, and my team mates are awesome!

Unfortunately, it's come to light that some some folks have been of the impression I'm not deserving of a ride this year, for one reason or another, it would seem that these people have been quite vocal in this opinion behind my back despite the fact that they don't actually know me, or my palmares, very well. I suppose this is inevitable if you're a bit out there like myself. So for those who might think that it's OK to judge others before themselves, I would just like to set the record straight once and for all, as I'm a bit tired of these so-called politics, it's not something I'm interested in, I just want to ride my bike;

As of this weekend I've been riding a bike for two years. As of this weekend I'll have been racing for one of those years. During the summer of last year I sent out my CV to numerous teams, hoping that one might give me a chance. Not once on this CV or in my communication with teams did I fabricate results, power outputs or experience. I received positive answers from three team managers, unfortunately two teams folded (a big loss in the ladies domestic scene!) but the first, and most positive, of those was from the team I am now a part of. I have been given a chance to develop as a rider by a team who's ethos is firmly set in helping women of all ages and levels to grow in the sport. It is my teams belief in both my enthusiasm and the potential they think I have that has allowed them to accept me as a representative. Following this, it is of no other persons business whether or not I'm "good enough" - that is for my legs, my DS and my coach alone to decide throughout the season...

As such, if you don't want to listen to the things I have to say about cycling, my team or anything else, then you aren't being held at gunpoint to listen. Essentially "if you don't like it, you know what to do about it".

SO, if it's quite alright with those of you who feel it necessary to belittle others who simply strive to do what they adore, I'd like to crack on with my season now. If I could do so without your hassle that would be excellent, you do not know me, the people you talk about me behind my back to do not know me either, I am not your business. Ride your own race, don't bring down mine.

Me in March 2012..
Anyway, now that's dealt with it's time to get down to business. I'm racing this weekend! I cannot believe it's been a year already since I was a nervous wreck on the startline at the Kent Cyclopark, waiting to get dropped in my first ever race. I've learnt a lot since then and I'm very lucky this weekend to have the chance to race against almost 70, yes SEVENTY, women in the brilliantly organised CDNW women's league. Thank you so much to Heather Bamforth who has worked so hard to generate a series this popular, it is testament to the willingness and true enthusiasm in women's sport. So off I trot to pack and make my last minute preparations, I can't wait. I shall leave you with this, a picture of me in March 2012, a full time smoker and around a size 16 and getting my first ever power test (my FTP then was 191) - and a picture of me that my other half took recently, skipping up a climb as if I had no tar in my lungs at all....
Me a few weeks back...

Have a great weekend all, I'll let you know how it goes on my return from Chester!


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Support a true hero...#rideforareason

Some of you may remember some time ago I posted about my true heroes of cycling, truly inspirational individuals who've battled through unbelievable challenges in life to come out on top and on the top of their game in sports. One of those people was a pal I'd met at the HotChillee events called James Golding.

James' recent life journey has been a testament to the  sheer force of human will. After battling cancer twice and being critically injured by a speeding truck in the US, James has overcome, nay, stomped in the face of these obstacles to become one of the most talented, strong endurance riders you could hope to meet. Ever.

He's recently married his beautiful wife, mother to their absolutely gorgeous little boy and while this may have given James a short hiatus in his crazy schedule of adventure, he's now back on it and about to tackle nothing less than a world record attempt.

My post today is to ask you to do what you can to follow and support James and his team in this monumental attempt, this is a guy who has literally defied all odds. Support MacMillan Cancer Support, who James has dedicated much of his life to after their amazing work with those affected by this horrendous disease.

Please check out his page on Facebook here; https://www.facebook.com/rideforareason.org and follow #rideforareason on Twitter to track James' progress and spread the word of this fantastic effort.

It truly is humbling to have ridden a bike alongside this guy. Here's James' latest announcement....thanks guys! x


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Gear review - Endura Guppy

So I've just lashed up a review on my new glasses for something else, and while I have tons and tons to talk about regarding the impending race season UNFORTUNATELY I can't actually publicise anything to do with it just yet! SO, here's a gear review just in time for race-panic-buying-season, if you're looking for a reasonably priced set of racing shades look no further - these are available just about everywhere;

he Endura Guppy with interchangeable anti-fog lens sunglasses sit around the middle price point in their range of cycling glasses at the moment. They're a solid set of shades which come with everything you'd expect for that price.

At first glance they look like they could hold their own in a straight up competition with the big boys like Oakley or Rudy Project. With a chunky racing style split lens, rubberised ear socks and nose bridge. They come in three standard colours, black, white or green with black accents which are the pair I have here. The green is a nice touch as it's one of those colours that seems popular yet quite hard to get hold of in accessories.

Glasses work great but don't stop you from getting dropped..
The glasses come in a nicely finished hard case, with a clip for attaching to your kit bag. Upon opening the case there are foam inserts which house the spare lenses, as you'd expect there's a set of clear, anti-glare orange and sunny black lenses provided – which clip in and out of the frames easily. The glasses are in a soft drawstring microfibre bag and fit into a hollow in the foam. At this point I found the foam to be a little cheaply done, and had to touch the spare lenses a bit more than I'd like to get them to sit in their slots nicely.

The glasses themselves are lightweight and for less than £45 the design is impressive. At close inspection you can begin to see the differences between this price point and the top end glasses on the market. While they look good, the lenses certainly don't differ from any other low-mid range lens I've used. The plastic frames feel a little cheap but the build of the glasses themselves feels robust, so I'd imagine these will probably last a fair while providing they're looked after.

The fit on these glasses might possibly be one for an acquired taste. I'm a fan of chunky glasses but the oversized lenses on these makes the rims fit around it in a style slightly akin to Elton John, with an interesting raised, curved brow on them. As a girl I found them a little wide and thus a little loose, they're only provided in one size and you cannot get an Asian or female specific fit. The vented rubber nose bridge has been implemented in good nature, but could probably do with being adjustable. I found the glasses were a bit temperamental about sitting on my bridge, meaning I spent a lot of time moving them up and down my nose to get the seating right. Saying that, it's great to see a mid-range set of glasses including a rubber bridge as plastic can often irritate.

They look good with a helmet on and if you suffer from “mushroom head” these are a great compensator because of their chunky profile, because of this they are right at home paired with a TT helmet. Due to the slightly garish over-sizing it does mean that they don't steam up, also reducing the need to pop them into your helmet vents – which unfortunately is not the most efficient of tasks with these (paired with my BBB Falcon). The lenses provided are hydrophobic and do their job superbly in wet, winter conditions.

Verdict


These are a comfortable and stylish pair of glasses and top contenders for the under £50 market. You'd be hard pressed to find a set of shades as good as these on this kind of budget. While there are a couple of details which Endura could do with revising, if you're on a budget and want the best bang for your buck these are a great shout. If you don't want to fork out £100+ for Oakleys or Rudys these should be your first port of call. If you aren't into the half rims, they also do the Mullet, which are full framed with a similar design and colour scheme. These are at home in races as much as they are on casual days out. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Manx Birds for World Domination!

So I was listening to the regular podcast at http://prowomenscycling.com/ which the brilliantly passionate Sarah and Dan do, my regular Friday night bathtime generally consists of me listening to these two giggle, rant and generally liven up an already fruitful women's pro scene. And (YEAH I'm starting this year with a sentence beginning with and...what are you gonna do about it?) it got me thinking....

Anna - courtesy of Huw Williams
It got me thinking about our domestic scene here in the UK, and more to the point, some of the absolutely stunning racing that goes on around the women's local circuits. Big leagues like CDNW women's league, the SERRL and London Women's leagues to name but a few, all showcase riders at the pinnacle of the domestic scale. So, as a Manx bird going into a big bad world of "proper" racing this season, I thought it only right to celebrate the talent this Island has to show... and more to the point, let the rest of the world know how much of a formidable force not only male, but female Manx riders can be!

So where do I start? Pretty much every lass I've met over here so far has had some success in some form, from doing the Island and Commonwealth games, former pros and just generally brilliant riders of all ages. So I'm going to have to narrow it down to a small handful of those riders, unfortunately!

My first mention you may well have (hopefully!) heard of already and that's Anna Christian. For of those of you that don't know who she is (where have you BEEN!?) she's the current Junior British National Champion, not only this but she's also now ridden in the Junior World Championships and finished very well. So I imagine you've got the idea now? One to watch..

Laura - courtesy of Huw Williams
I've had the pleasure of chatting to Anna both online and briefly in person, and also been able to see her race. Riding with what is now called Scott Epic WRT (http://epicscottwrt.com/ - formerly Scott Contessa Epic) this year, amongst a team full to the brim of high-class talent Anna will surely be at the forefront of the women's scene here in the UK. With the likes of the Women's Tour and National Series to look forward to expect to see a lot of purple in the top standings this year.

My next shout goes out to Laura Wasley who will be transferring from Scott Contessa Epic to Abergavenny WRT (http://www.abergavennyrc.org.uk) this year. As well as being possibly one of the most friendliest cyclists on the Island, Laura was consistently strong across the women's circuit last season, granting her a well deserved place in this years Commonwealth Games for the Island.

Lizzie - courtesy of Huw Williams
A spot with Abergavenny will certainly prove a formidable move, judging from their results last year they're going to be a force to reckoned with this season and I'm really looking forward to seeing Laura smash her way through the UK scene this year! Come on you reds!

Next up is one of our younger talents and that's Lizzie Holden. If you haven't seen her crop up on results sheets yet you probably need your eyes testing. She's already sporting an impressive palmares as a Youth rider and this year moves up into the Junior category where she's sure to make a rather large impact. She'll be riding with RST this season alongside some incredibly strong young ladies some of whom are already making an impact in the CX scene, they're a team to watch this year.

I had the chance to race with (albeit losing her and the rest of the pack within the first lap) Lizzie last weekend and it speaks for itself to see a young lady finish well ahead of most of the boys in the middle of winter. Looking forward to watching this lass get to the top!

Courtesy - Jayne's Twitter! (sorry! x)
My last shout out has to go to one of the cheeriest people I've ever met! The gorgeous Sophie Black. Sophie will be riding with BikePure LeMond Aspire Velotech (phew!) this year (awesome kit, by the way). Some of you may not have seen Sophie's name crop up as much perhaps if you've been following the Crit and Road series' however she's building a rather hefty name for herself on the track side of things.

Another young buck, Sophie again has an impressive palmares on the track, she's certainly made for speed and if you ever get the chance to meet her you'll see that it's not only her fitness that'll get her places - it's her sheer passion and excitement - a true breath of fresh air and I'm looking forward to hearing about her no doubt epic successes in the future!

So there you go, there's a small handful of ladies to watch out for this season. There's an equally brilliant circuit of women, who I've not had the chance to mention, in both MTB and TT here who'd give most men I know a good run for their money. While cycling on the Island is certainly built into the culture, I think it's important to make note separately of the achievements of our women. It's easy to get wrapped up in the glitz of our tour riders and world champions (I mean come on, who wouldn't be proud!?) - but let's not forget the rest, they're a large part of current and future British Cycling and they deserve every bit of attention and respect as any other bloke.

I for one am looking forward to racing with these women in the coming season, both locally and in my new fangled team kit in the UK. It truly is an honour to be part of such a blossoming scene and even more so to be surrounded by such overwhelming talent. Here's hoping I can keep up! More on that soon!

Peace! N.B HUGE thanks to Huw Williams (https://twitter.com/huw_williams1) for providing the bulk of the photos! X

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

LAST POST!!

LAST POST LAST POST LAST POST!

I've not got time to post anything interesting so here's what I've popped on Facebook this evening;

Well everyone else is sharing theirs so as a final post for 2013 here's my ROUGH bike stats for the year (some stuff has been missed!);

c.6700 miles ridden, c. 500 hours spent in the saddle, elevation gain of around 221,000 feet in about 340 rides in total.
This has probably been the best year of my life, thanks to everyone who's contributed to that. 
Live long and prosper.


Especially big thank you to the Ride Captains at HotChillee, Jamie at RPC Cyclecoach and my awesome boyfriend David. 

Have a great one all! See you on the flip! Oh, and most recent highlight to leave you with.... ;)



MET CAV! AND DIDN'T FINISH LAST!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

All I want for Christmas...

...is gold.

As a newcomer it's hard to quantify what you actually want from a sport because you know so little, really, about what is actually achievable. It's equally hard to express to your peers what it is your goals entail, especially when they have been riding for a considerable amount of time in comparison to you.

Race face.
For most who race at club level their achievements are ingrained, whether they're successful in their respective categories, always do well in the bunch sprint on the Wednesday night races or manage respectable times consistently in their local timetrial. They have achieved success, and equally loss. There is an air of normality around results. An attitude of "take it or leave it". Riding their bike is just something they do, they do it well, and that is that. Life goes on. In turn, there is a general degree of respect gained by those who are consistent. Whether it be consistent in pulling the pack on a Weekend ride, or keeping their name in the top 10's throughout the local race season.

So what happens when you don't want to be the same as one of those people? What happens when your view is over and above anything local? What sort of person does it make you when you do not simply accept life outside of riding a bike? What happens if you don't really care about a KOM that everyone's been trying to hit, or you don't take part in the club runs because you'd rather stick to "the plan"?

I've found it increasingly difficult, recently, to express my goals for cycling. I'm not as quick as the guys who do group rides, I don't climb hills well and I don't finish anywhere near respectably in the local (albeit 99% male dominated) races. So when my rather dominantly vocal emotional side decides to let the world know that I want success at the very highest level I can possibly reach, I wonder if it's perhaps met with some degree of humorous doubt. Probably quite rightly so.

I'd probably do a lot better if
I kept the rubber to the ground..
I've been riding a bike for less than two years, raced for one season and I'm in my almost late 20's. In comparison to the very small but unbelievably talented, strong number of ladies and young women who ride here, I'm on the bottom rung of "small fry". I don't really expect to be taken seriously, and due to my somewhat 'gobby' nature, I very rarely am at the best of times. Yet I'm perplexed as to why inexperience must be met with so much doubt and ridicule, when those more experienced athletes should be more encouraging and helpful.

So hear this, for you newbies who feel like they can't express themselves, and for you old-hats who reckon you know a thing or two. Hear what it is to have never won. To have never even sniffed at anything resembling a podium. To have never contended a sprint. Hear what it is to dream and to simply crave success more than life itself.

Every morning I put my headphones in on my way to work and I stare out of the window. I have a select amount of songs that go with my daydreams. I put those on and I imagine that moment. I imagine the finish of courses I've watched on Youtube or ridden myself. I imagine every detail. From the kit of the girls around me, to potholes, to spectators around me, to the way my hair moves when I move. In slow motion I imagine every side-to-side motion of the bike, I imagine exactly how my hands look and where they're positioned on the drops, I imagine my head bowing, my face grimacing, and my bum out of the saddle as I push every drop of energy I can muster into each and every stroke. I imagine powering away with some girls in a break. I imagine meticulously following a wheel and then, in the heat of the moment skipping from behind it to clear myself a wheels length, to a bikes length. Again and again I imagine and re-imagine until I get to the end of the song, I hit the line and I imagine myself whispering "yes!" as I clench a fist and stop pedalling. I imagine crying uncontrollably with absolute euphoria at the notion that I have finally achieved my dream.

Over, and over, and over. I think about this process in any form possible, pretty much every 5-10 minutes. Every waking moment of every day. Yes, this is pure obsession. I need this thirst. Without it I have nothing else, because I'm yet to experience the reality of winning.

I have never won a single thing in my life. Literally. Ever. Until now I have never had the desire to. I've been competitive in music and even sports at times, yet never have I had this overwhelming desire...nay...requirement to come first.
Worth posting - I was considered obese
some time ago. I've now got these.

Now, I will be riding with an extremely brilliant team next year, so my desires will undoubtedly need to be suppressed at times for the benefit of the girls I'm going to be working with. I've no problem with this, in fact I relish it, my dream job would be to be a lead-out-lady. So don't get me wrong, I'm not all about me here. But for those of you in my position, for those of you who have realised you have a talent which you've not yet had the chance to cherish and develop, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

For those of you who know what it feels like to win, just remember what it was like before you did, don't take for granted what some of us would be prepared to sacrifice everything for.

And for those of you who've assumed I'm joking, or not taken it seriously when I've said I want to make it to the top - that's simply your own, uninformed, opinion. Do not judge someone based on their own life choices and dreams, because you're wasting your time and energy doing so.

It's not a case of if, it's when. I will win. You'd have to cut off my legs to stop me.

Happy Christmas. x