I’m going to break this blog down into a few parts. It’s nearly the end of my season racing and when I first heard that Evans Cycles wanted writers for their blog I jumped at the chance. It would prove a great way to tell other like minded readers about my experiences of training and racing, the lessons I’ve learned, experience gained and achievements to my name. The above is all true, but looking back, this blog will turn out very differently to how I first imagined!
So, first up. The kit.
I’ve been riding a BMC Pro Machine for the last few months. Evans Cycles took on the role as UK distributor for BMC back in 2009. BMC bikes have hit all of the shops and look great. I can tell you they ride really well too. It is light and super stiff to back up something that looks a little different against the barrage of Trek and Specialized bikes out there. Watch out size wise. They come up big. Make sure you pick your frame size dependent on top tube length rather than the standard seat tube measurement. My usual 56cm frame became a 53cm.
I also managed to get my hands on a brand new (at the time!) Garmin Edge 500. Having only ever used standard cycle computers, the amount of extra information I had here was immense. The GPS is the standout difference. You can programme in routes and follow trig points. And post ride, you can download all the data dead easy onto your computer and check out your stats for the session. An integrated heart rate monitor means that all your race day info is kept to one screen, mounted right in front of you. The only downsides I noted were occasionally with satellite pick up upon starting the computer, and also when tree cover gets heavy. It drops the current speed and distance counter which proves annoying when you’re working to a particular race distance.
This Evans Cycles rider blog is the perfect way to portray to those that read this my views on our latest kit as well as views on racing and overall, the new challenges.
‘Challenges’ intrigue me. It’s why I love them. Life without challenge (whether it be completing an Ironman, or eating the whole of that 50 oz steak) is dull and boring. Fact. What challenge brings to your life is a whole new dimension. And it’s not all physical. In fact, the reason I enjoy challenging myself is often purely mental. The physical pain just leads onto the mental strain. That is why it keeps you alive and keeps pushing boundaries.
I had visions of this blog giving everyone the same enthusiasm for completing a challenge, no matter what it may be. That’s the beauty of a challenge. It is 100% personal, and only you can decide what is challenging to you. Ideally, you’d come out of the experience knowing so much more and use it as a powerful tool to further yourself.
It is now much later in the year. This blog changes tack. It’s been hard. Real hard. And now I’ll explain the other side to the beautiful challenge.
No matter the kit, no matter the preparation (!); if you’re not mentally prepared for a race or even a training ride, it can be completely and utterly soul destroying. Trust me. It rains…hard. It’s windy. And then you puncture. You’re only 10km into a 180km day. And then you’ve got two more days of riding after this. I have no idea how Pro Tour riders survive. The above happened to me, in a wet and windy Tour of Wessex. My aim was to complete this, after a month of solid Sportive racing beforehand. With hindsight, that was a terrible, terrible decision!
If I just take a small step back. My winter riding this year was fantastic. I’d ride to work come rain or snow. Remember that month of snow and ice? Everyone at Evans Cycles does! I enjoyed riding, and thought a few Sportive events at the start of the season would suit me well. This escalated when discussing my ideas with a friend. We ended up having a 100+ mile race planned for every weekend of May. The Fred Whitton Challenge was an amazing day. One of those where you find a great pace, there always seems to a tail wind, and (having completed the race twice before) you take over 30 minutes off your PB. The following weekend, a race in Bristol gave us a taste of things to come. Wet and windy, truly horrible and slow. The Evans Cycles Sportive, King of the Downs, was a great event. It would have been even better if I hadn’t split through my back tyre and was forced to cut the second loop short.
In between these races I was still commuting to work. I wished I could find another hour in the day to sleep and I hate to think the amount I spent on food over that month! I was tired. But I didn’t really appreciate quite what that could do to a man. I’ve trained hard before; I relish that feeling at the end of a truly hard day when you fall asleep on the couch so completely content and with a smile on your face. I could probably have used a couch instead of a 3 hour drive to the start of the Tour of Wessex. 3 days. Relentless weather. Tired body. I was completely undone, physically and mentally.
So, here’s a story to listen to your body. I imagine (if you’re anything like me) that you’ve read that last sentence a million and one times in all the riding magazines. I never appreciated what I was doing, blindly carrying on pushing myself. All it really managed to do was put me in a mental state to grind away the miles rather than push particularly hard. As a result, I’d say that currently I’m still way short of where I could be regarding my fitness. Taking the time to train and race is a balancing act. I can tell you; it costs some relationships and it builds others more than you could imagine.