Sunday, 5 October 2014

So, you wanna race your bike?

Well, here it is. The 'off-season' has officially begun, and for some, in epic style. Those of you new to the sport might wonder what people mean when they refer to the 'off-season'. For some this means not riding a bike very much at all until February or March the year after...but don't let other people's bluffs scupper you, most folks won't do this. In fact, you'll find that for most it's entirely the opposite.

(C) Huw Williams Pics
While, indeed, this is a time for most of us to gather our minds and let our hair down a bit, it doesn't
deflect from the fact that as of October we're usually already planning everything ahead of March. Training goes back to basics and we look at building fitness over the coming months, using long, steady hours, weights, diets, all manner of things to get into shape at the right time for the right amount of time.

So for those of you that are new to the sport, or are simply thinking about trying your hand at road racing or time trialling - then, surprisingly enough, now is probably the time you should start planning for it. Today's post is to help you find some direction into how to actually make those big steps into the wonderful world of racing.

It's October, what should I be doing now?

Don't panic, when I say you should be thinking about planning for next season - you should really be focusing on your base fitness. Don't go out smashing yourself and your legs to peices, in fact, have plenty of days off, but when you go out - go long. What I mean by this is you need steady base miles, ride comfortably, not overly fast, and get a good long ride (2+ hours) in you when you do. Every so often, when you're busy during the week, do some easy 1 hour rides on the turbo and some squats, planks, etc. My coach and I have already basically planned what we're doing right up to next season, but this will inevitably change as we go, the key is not to panic or overdo it. You can basically ride steady and long right the way up to the start of January - what this does is build you a great aerobic endurance, something you really need for road racing.

OK, I know what I'm doing, but what else can I do? 

Firstly, you need to look at your bike. Once you know you have a good base fitness, and have figured yourself out a nice little training plan then you need to think about having a bike that's worthy of racing, ready for the new season. During winter, most of us ride what's called a "winter bike" - this is a bike that's old, a bit cranky and generally considerably heavier than our race bikes. If you only have one bike don't panic, a quick fix come race season can be a new set of wheels - so a good tip for winter is to ride on heavier training wheels, and swap to some lighter, quicker wheels when the weather turns good.

That's the first half of winter sorted, what now?

Alrighty, so come January things are going to change a bit. By now you'll feel much fitter, and hopefully you'll be starting to get a little leaner from all that calorie burning easy riding you've been doing! Now you need to start thinking about logistics. To race, you need to be a member of a club. If you're on the Isle of Man, there are a choice of road clubs - some of you may already be members, for example I ride with the Manx Viking Wheelers, however there is also the Manx Road Club and Ellan Vannin. These clubs are all registered with British Cycling, which is important for my next tip!

The other HUGE benefit of joining a club is the weekend "club runs" - these are normally long, fairly hard but steady enough rides - they can feel quite daunting at first but if you're thinking of racing they are a must. You absolutely NEED to learn how to ride in what's commonly known as a "bunch" (peloton).

January is also the time you need to think about where you're going to race. If you're on the Isle of Man and you're happy racing locally, then you need to register with TLI cycling, which is the regulatory body which covers the Island. If you're in the UK, or you're Manx and you fancy trying races across, then you need a British Cycling Licence. If you're going to race with British Cycling then you need at least a Silver Membership as well as a Race License - this usually costs somewhere around £70 per year.

What opportunities are there in the UK? 

The Manx TLI cycling races are great fun, they're mixed category and gender which means you can have a go against anyone - in our example this sometimes means mixing it up with the pros! To get good women's specific racing experience you don't really have to go too far either. There are currently a few leagues in the North West of England which are specifically designed to help lower category racers (British Cycling categories run from 4, which is novice, through 3,2,1 and ELITE). CDNW in particular is a brilliant way to gain experience in road racing, the races are around 40 miles and throughout the league covers many different types of course. They're all around Lancashire and they're always at the weekend, meaning you can simply hop on the boat and drive or rail over to them. Simples! For me, these have been the best step into real racing so far. There are also weekday leagues if you fancy taking a day off, Salt Ayre being very close to Heysham Port.
(C) Kevin Kissack - TT's are a great way to get into racing.

For those of you who do want to stay local and live on the Isle of Man there are the TLI races as I've mentioned (and even Ireland and across many parts of the UK) - and there is an extremely full calendar of Handicap races (where ability groups are split and set off in time intervals to give all racers a fair chance), Road Race (mass start, usually with A and B ability groups) and Time Trials (my personal favourite, on the Isle of Man these are very regular and if you've never raced before these are the PERFECT place to start testing your ability).

For those of you in the UK, there are many other beginners leagues and for women there are more and more leagues cropping up designed for novices to be able to learn racecraft. If you need a hand finding anything, please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter! @mooleur

So I've got my license, I'm feeling fit and my bike feels great! Surely that's all!? 

Are you feeling a little overwhelmed? Don't be. There's lots more to discuss but really I think we have the basics for now. Here's the checklist just to wind things up for you;


  1. Long rides - get plenty of good quality, steady base miles in. 
  2. Off the back of this, winter is the time to eat healthily but WELL. Don't overdo it, but don't starve yourself. 
  3. Join a club! You need to be a member of one to be able to race.
  4. Go ride with your club! Or at least a group of experienced riders, the stuff you can learn from these groups is phenomenally important. 
  5. Get your licenses! Decide where you want to race and what types of races you want to to and become a license holder for any respective regulatory body.
  6. Think about some fresh parts for your bike - come March you will want to lighten her up a little.
  7. Don't panic, just enjoy riding your bike. 
  8. Don't be afraid to ask anyone questions, we all started somewhere - the worst thing you can do is go into this with questions unanswered, no matter how silly you think they are. 
  9. Most importantly, no one will EVER judge you for giving racing a try, so don't EVER let that thought hold you back! 
  10. Enjoy your winter. :) 
Hope that's helpful, I know some folks I've spoken to recently are keen to give it a go - so why the hell not! The best thing you can do is enter a season well prepared and confident. 

Go get em x


Sunday, 7 September 2014

It's finished!!!

The season has finally drawn to a close! I have one more local Mountain TT to do and that's it until next year. Phew. I AM KNACKERED. I'm not going to go into too much detail, as I've had a long day and I'm really sleepy, though I do have a couple of fun things to go over.

Thanks to Huw Williams for a season of amazing pics!
I'll start with the positives that I've taken this season - after enduring a rough start to the year following a winter of illness and then road race after road race of struggling to feel comfortable in the bunch, by mid summer I was finally pinging and sticking with the other ladies nicely. Each race I've done I've found another thing has clicked, from it being able to move up and put in little attacks to PBing in my timetrials several times throughout the year. The national 10 was a brilliant event, especially to see where I'm at in comparison to other folks. Lots to take out of it.

It's amazing to finally see my fitness move up a notch, going from finding most things a struggle to finding that I can recover well and dig in when I need and want to. This winter will hopefully go much better than last and through it I will be working on losing that last bit of fat needed to turn myself into a "proper" road racer - still struggling on those climbs a little! I'll also be working on my power, we're  finding that I'm not actually too far off the mark - maybe 10-20 watts more and I'll be a much different rider. I'll be doing more club runs so I don't enter next season with the fear of the bunch looming over me.

There are a few things I'm gutted about, each British Cycling race I've done has been highly competitive and so I've not come out with any points - I don't mind really, but it's always nice isn't it. Slightly gutted that the one race I knew I could do quite well in I was taken down on the first lap! Still paying for that, lovely scars!

TTs have gone really well this year! 
I've got to thank my lovely team Bex and Alex too, although we didn't get to ride together much we still stuck together through the season despite a really rocky start to the year. They're both fantastic riders and I'm sure next year will go very far. You may have even seen Bex at the Ride London, with Marianne Vos on her wheel!! Thanks to Merlin Cycles for sticking by us and providing those lovely bikes - it's been a pleasure and an honour to ride in their kit and race on the Sensa this year.

Next year is already planned and I'm super psyched to say that I'll be joining the 16 strong ladies team at PH-Mas next year! Love this lot, their junior and women's teams are brilliant and they're the friendliest bunch in the peloton by a long shot - it'll be amazing to be able to work with such a large contingent!

So anyway, without further ado - here are my results - I've a couple more events to do so it's not all totally over yet! Oh, I won a TT by the way! Wehey!

Date
Event
Regulator
Cat/Gender
Result
09-Mar
CDNW Saighton
BC
2/3/4
34/45
Mar-14
Roy Killey RR
TLI
ALL
Sick - DNF
13-Apr
Sheffrec RR
BC
2/3/4
26/26
19-Apr
CDNW Southport
BC
2/3/4
23/29
23-Apr
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
27:06:00
30-Apr
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
25:56:00
3-5-May
Bedford 3 Day
BC
E/1/2/3/4
GC 69/72
14-May
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
26:49:00
21-May
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
25:49:00
01-Jun
Doncaster Crit
BC
2/3/4
26/26
11-Jun
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
25:48:00
12-Jun
Bikestyle HC
TLI
ALL
51/56
18-Jun
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
26:02:00
19-Jun
Bikestyle HC
TLI
ALL
54/60
22-Jun
Fred Kelly RR
TLI
ALL
17/18
25-Jun
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
25:22:00
26-Jun
Bikestyle HC
TLI
ALL
48/49
29-Jun
CDNW Pimbo
BC
2/3/4
19/33
03-Jul
Bikestyle HC
TLI
ALL
45/45
09-Jul
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
26:52:00
16-Jul
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
26:19:00
17-Jul
Bikestyle HC
TLI
ALL
51/51
20-Jul
Penrice 25TT
TLI
ALL
1:07:54 1st Lady
23-Jul
Conister 10TT
TLI
ALL
25:59:00
24-Jul
Bikestyle HC
TLI
ALL
35/35
27-Jul
John Hamer RR
TLI
ALL
3/4
30-Jul
2up 10TT
TLI
ALL
24:54:00
17-Aug
Rob Roher 25TT
TLI
ALL
01:08:33
23-Aug
Hinksman Memorial WTS
BC
E/1/2/3/4
33/36
24-Aug
Tickhill GP
BC
3/4
Result unknown
30-Aug
RTTC10 K33/10D
CTT
Women 18+
25:18 59/72
14-Sep
Mountain TT
TLI
ALL
Yet to do

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bringing sexy back...

Before I started cycling I was fairly ignorant of gender discrimination issues in modern society, even dismissive. I was part of the group of people who thought feminism meant dungarees (there is nothing wrong with dungarees) and being so anti male it meant boyfriends were an evil not to be thought of. I thought feminism meant a step in the left direction too far, a distance I wasn't willing to go. I worked in an industry dominated by males, and (apologies guys) historically dominated by chauvinists. Those attitudes rubbed off on me, and rather than them making me think, they simply moulded my mind into their way of thinking. How wrong I was. A lot has changed for me since I harboured those uneducated views.

Nowadays, I'm pretty damn proud to be a woman. I'm also pretty damn proud to call myself a feminist. When I go out drinking (all of once a year), I wear trainers, and skirts, and I swear a lot, I like heavy metal, I like boys (just one, actually, and he's WELL fit), and I like boobs, I ride bikes and the only damn person I'm trying to keep up with is myself, but I fucking love it when I beat other people. I work in technology, I like sports and real ale, I wear eyeliner and I don't take any shit off people regardless of their status. I don't slag people off behind their backs and read magazines about how to make my man orgasm like he's never done before. I don't get pissed off about skinnier girls, and I don't get pissed off about girls who are bigger. I giggle like a child at accidental innuendos. I throw massive diva fits at least once a month and I cry at things that aren't even sad. I know how to straighten my own hair, and change a wheel on a car even though I don't even drive. I know how the offside rule works despite the fact that I think footballers are pathetic. I have an outstandingly high capacity to learn and I also frequently forget where I put my house keys. I don't do as I'm told, and like most guys I know I'm pretty well independent. This doesn't make me a rebel, this doesn't make me uncontrollable, this doesn't make me a loose canon. This makes me human. 

Do you read this and wonder why I'm making so many contradictions? Because you shouldn't, because they aren't. If the answer to this is "yeah"  then the only contradiction here is the fact that you think you're not sexist. 

INDISCRIMINATE.
"Woah hold on a minute...I'm offended" - OK OK, before we go any further let me explain sexism to you. Sexism isn't just about being out and out abusive to women, nor is it discriminating against them, or being rude about them. Sexism, to me, is the idea that women are different. "But you are!" Sure, we look different, we act different, but those differences are about as important as the differences between the colour of your underwear and your bosses socks. Do you understand? Those differences do not matter. Do not, ever, expect a female to behave in a certain way, dress in a certain way or speak in a particular way simply because culture has defined your expectations. I will swear, it's not ladylike because being ladylike is no longer important, it's not something that even enters into my mind. Being quiet and dressing nicely got no one anywhere, ever. I'll talk like a "bloke" if I like - because to me, I'm not talking like anyone but a person. I'll wear lipstick whenever I like, not because I'm 'being girly' but because I enjoy wearing it, just like a guy who chooses to do the same. I like dressing up because I like how I look when I do it, not because I'm trying to fit into an expectation or an image. I think I'm hot, I couldn't give two flying bats what you think. 

So what's the beef with cycling? OK, so recently I've seen this spate of people (OK, men) becoming very supportive of women's cycling. Notably, young women's cycling. That's cool. Women's cycling is awesome, the racing is aggressive and deserves an equal chance at popularity compared to the men's sport. 

What's happening at the moment, though, and apologies for the paraphrase, is that these fans of the sport are beginning to 'put the pussy on a pedestal' (that's from a film..). The sport is being separated out to the point that normal cycling fans are actually afraid of getting into the sport for fear of being tarred with this separatists brush. There's nothing wrong with only liking women's cycling, and there's nothing wrong with liking men's cycling, there's also fuck all wrong with liking both at the same time. I don't want my friends to endure judgement from their counterparts because they think liking women's cycling means they are different, or for them to avoid women's cycling simply because the examples they see on the internet are surrounded with an almost one-sided rage. 

WILL DRESS HOW I LIKE.
If you're male or female, and you're a fan of women's cycling - do what you can to help. Helping is not abusing people for not doing everything they can to make the sport accessible to you. Helping is not becoming a groupie for 16 year old girls, yeah, that's just weird to be honest. Helping is being open minded and treating the sport as equal to the men's. And yeah, before you say "oh yeah women's sport is different because it's cleaner and fairer" - get this, women dope too, women cheat too, it's sport, it happens, wise up.

Us ladies would like a domestic scene similar to the guys, it's a while before that happens, but it's getting there. Not all of us are pros, not all of us are even 2nd cats. Not all of us are going to be in the Olympics any time soon and not all of us have 100% of our time to dedicate to riding a bike. That doesn't mean we're any more or less deserving of support or encouragement to someone like Lizzie Armitstead, or Katie Archibald, or whoever. Helping the women's domestic scene isn't idolising one team over another. It's not publicly sexualising the best looking riders (yeah, fucking quit it, you know who you are, it's embarrassing). It's watching bike races, it's talking about bike races, it's about not ostracising people who just bloody enjoy bike racing - be it men's or women's. It's not giving high profile women abuse for not entering races when they're working their socks off. It's about treating all women, indiscriminate of age or ability, the same - because you know what? We all work just as hard as each other to do what we do. 

Sometimes I feel sad about it, because I look at my friends who are into men's domestic racing and there is no inequality, there's just lads who like bike racing. Whether you're a staigaire for a small Belgian  team or you're name's Dean Downing, it doesn't seem to matter for the fans, it's just bike racing. That's how it should be.

So what I plead for, to all of you who are doing a brilliant job of supporting the women's sport, please just sometimes take a step back and look at it more broadly. Don't be creepy, don't be over the top, just be a fan. Love the sport itself, and love the fact that everyone does things in their own way. 

We work tirelessly hard to race bikes, we aren't here to satisfy anyone but ourselves in doing so. Remember that. It's cycling, it's not a showpony.