On Friday evenings the boys and girls go out to play at the park.
I’ve decided that there is a reason why nothing ever seems to go to plan for me, and that’s because otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to blog about.
You may have read my tale about missing a time trial last week due to an impromptu dog rescue. (If you haven’t, and you want to, it’s at the end of this post.) This week, I tried again. I made it to the TT with plenty of time to spare. The 12 mile ride from home was lovely and sunny – and no stray dogs in sight. I signed up, pinned on my number and rode to the start line. Chatting to some friendly riders in the queue, I admitted this was my first time trial – “But you know the course, right?” was their response. Well, if “know the course” means have looked at it on a map, seen it goes 5 miles in a pretty straight line, turns around, and comes back 5 miles on the same road, then yes – I knew the course. How hard could it be?
A kind chap from the club organising the TT held my bike and gave me a push start. Looking back at my Strava stats, I rocketed straight up to 30mph but slowed down quickly after my speedy start. It was unforgivingly windy – I kept on the drops and tucked myself in as much as possible but I still felt like a giant kite trying to go the wrong way. As the guy who set off after me overtook me within the first couple of miles, I told myself that it wouldn’t have happened if I was wearing TT kit and riding a fancy bike…
I deliberately hadn’t set myself any kind of time target, I was just keeping in mind the advice of a friend: “if you’re not sick at the end, you didn’t go hard enough.” I pushed myself pretty hard, but I could have pushed much harder (..next time).
Another couple of riders overtook me in the second 5 miles, having looped around the last big roundabout and headed back up the road we’d come down. Despite that, I was feeling pretty good – it was fun, “I could do this again”, I thought. You may be wondering where the ‘not going to plan’ bit comes into play in this particular story. Well I wasn’t sick – which for a change was actually my aim, so I suppose that is a fail. But you’ve yet to hear the best bit…
I took a wrong turn.
Yes, I went the wrong way. On a time trial. When I had already cycled the same bit of road in the other direction.
I straight away realised what I’d done, did some swearing, pulled into a small road, turned around, ignored the cramp in my leg which had kicked in the minute I stopped pedalling, and went back to the roundabout – this time taking the correct exit. I’d guess it cost me 2 minutes max, probably less. Up until that point I’d been feeling really positive. “Lois you f***ing idiot” I muttered to myself, but kept going, and finished in one piece. A result of sorts.
Next week I’ll go the right way, and faster.
Six ways to know that Spring is here:
1. The bright white legs are making an appearance
I rode without leg warmers for the first time in a long time yesterday. Apologies to anyone passing me on the road who was blinded by the glare shining off my bright white legs.
2. More insects than normal are flying into my ears, nose, mouth and eyes
We all know that feeling: 35mph down a hill and a fly decides to make for your eyeball. Mostly blind, you’re suddenly aware of how fast you’re going and a lot of panicked blinking ensues. Now that Spring is here, there are wasps and bees competing for a space in your face, too. I’m very grateful for my sunglasses.
3. The roadsides are colourful
Daffodils. Lots of daffodils.
4. The fair weather cyclists are out in force
Suddenly there seem to be lots of Team Sky members riding around. I hadn’t realised there were so many of them! I thought I saw Wiggins yesterday – he’s getting a bit of a beer belly I tell you.
5. My instagram feed is even more full of photos than normal
When it’s warm and the sky is bluer and the grass is greener it’s hard to resist the urge to capture it all in a photo. Plus nobody likes stopping when it’s cold and rainy.
6. I can’t stop grinning
This can cause problems with swallowing flies (see ’2′) but other than that is no bad thing. Cycling with the sun on my back is enough to cheer me up on the worst of days. Pure simple joy.
“Cycling in the city, and particularly in midtown, is anarchy without malice.”
Author unknown, from New Yorker, ‘Talk of the Town’
Freedom, independence, and a little bit of danger. I can live with that.
[ Photos all from my Instagram feed ]
Things have been a bit mad here since the start of #30daysofbiking but I’ve finally found some time, so here is a little round up of the first sixteen days…
Day One - Riding without stabilisers.
Ride: A 40 mile loop through the Ashdown Forest.
Rode to Groombridge where I ate lunch and lots of easter eggs with my family. I also rode half a mile with my cousins Josie (who can ride without stabilisers and has a dolly seat on her bike) and Tom (who is very nifty going over speed bumps on his micro-scooter).
Days Two, Three, Four and Five- Riding to work, mostly..
Rides: The short ride to work, and a couple of lunchtime errands.
Bikes: Claud and Annie
The good thing about no longer working from home is that my studio is now a 5/10 minute ride away. That little bit of time on the bike is the perfect separation between work and home.
Day Six- Coffee, cake and an eclectic collection of bicycles.
Ride: A seafront ride to Shoreham and back.
7 of us rode to Shoreham for coffee – two road bikes (belonging to Sid and Gill), one single speed (that would be Annie), one mountain bike (John’s), one Isla bike (Fynn’s) and one bike with a trike on the back (the combined leg power of Mandy and Cain). Love it.
Day Seven – Vulpine collisions and crash-filled racing
Ride: Night ride and a trip to Chertsey (by car, sorry) to help out at the racing
All the best lessons are learnt by making stupid judgements, in other words: the hard way. I missed a train and ended up riding to Lewes in the wee small hours of the morning. I was riding Annie, who is kitted out for city riding, and as such doesn’t have the kind of lights which illuminate the pitch black cycle path on the side of the A27. The end of this story is that a fox ran out in front of me, I slammed on the brakes and…ouch, over the handlebars I went. Luckily I was rescued by a sensible person who told me what a wally I was. Lesson learnt.
After some sleep I woke up only slightly bruised from the vulpine incident, and headed off to Chertsey to watch some friends racing. I ended up in the passenger seat of the Assistant Commissaire car, which was fun. The only bad thing about the day was that there were a LOT of crashes. Highlight: Team ASL360′s Anna Railton winning the women’s race :-)
Days Eight, Nine and Ten - If only I was one of those people who can cycle in a pencil skirt and heels.
Work was really, really busy until day 10. I had some important meetings and stuff that meant I didn’t get much riding in, other than the short trip to work. To make up for this, I took Thursday off for a day of bike……
Day Eleven - A love of gears and afternoon beers.
Ride: 32 miles of Sussex roads, with Monika.
Mon came down from London for the day, with her swanky new Genesis bike. We had lots of fun despite a few clippy-pedal-fail moments (not mine) and some wrong turns (mine). Mon’s been riding way longer than I have, but this is her first geared bike. What better way to celebrate than to find some hills to go up..and down :-)
We ended our Sussex ride in a Sussex pub, naturally.
Days Twelve and Thirteen - Just the short commute, again.
Day Fourteen – Good Lord, is that the SUN?!
Ride: 52 miles of glorious sunshine
There are fewer things better than making new friends – especially if they ride a bike! Carine had read the blog and spotted that I was organising a road ride – having recently bought a new road bike and rediscovered her love of cycling, she joined Claud and I for our Sunday ride. We had coffee, and tried not to get too over-excited about the blue skies. It turned out we needn’t have contained our excitement – because it turned out to be a stunning day.
We avoided the crowds of the Brighton Marathon by riding over Devil’s Dyke to Henfield, out to Partridge Green and then East through Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks to Ditchling, where we stopped for coffee and food. I think I had a grin on my face for pretty much the whole ride – you just can’t beat a sociable ride on a sunny day. Once we’d conquered a few last hills and got back to Brighton, I decided to make the most of the day and headed out for a few more miles on my own.
Day Fifteen - Ditchling Beacon has expanded in the heat.
Ride – Lewes to Brighton the painful way (over that hill people go on about)
Bike – Claud
I was pleased to find that I could still get over the Beacon in one go without the promise of free food at the end (the last time I rode it was for the Puncheur Sportif). Having said that, I am sure it has got longer and steeper since then.
Day Sixteen – The dog ate my homework.
Ride: The 24ish miles to Steyning and back, with good intentions.
Dogs often feature in excuses – so here is mine:
I rode to Steyning last night to compete in my first time trial. I was a bit nervous, but mostly excited. On my way there I came across a very sweet looking dog wandering up the road on its own. Naturally I stopped and had a little chat with the creature, she was very sweet, and after knocking on some doors we reunited her with her owners. The conclusion of this tail (see what I did there?) is that I got to Steyning 5 minutes too late to enter the TT. Still, I had a very nice ride home again, and feel like I have now balanced out my karma after the fox incident.
Here’s to the next 14 days!
At the weekends I like to hang around in industrial estate car parks in particularly dull bits of greater London. Actually that’s a lie, but that is what I spent this last Sunday afternoon doing. Claud was in the boot of my car looking rather sorry for himself, and me, well, I spent the best part of an hour staring blankly at the Sainsbury’s sign looming over me. I had one of those very odd days where nothing goes to plan and you think your world is going to end, but then you end up having an epiphany. Or is it just me that has those?..
I was meant to be in London for race training but I was late, forgot to bring cash, and then proceeded to have a big-arsed panic attack because I’m an idiot. Post-panic-attack my legs were all shaky and I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car and onto my bike.
If sitting in your kit eating carb filled snacks is training (I have been informed it counts), then I did a lot of training. And then I had a coffee. And then I drove around the industrial estate, and then I had another coffee.
Why am I telling you this? The conclusion of this dull tale is that I realised I’ve been getting my knickers in a twist over a load of stuff that doesn’t really matter. I haven’t ridden my bike much recently, partly because of the cold, but mainly because whenever I do ride I am worrying about whether I’m working hard enough, and whether I’m going to be ready for my next race. So I have made a decision. For now… no races, or race training, or time trials, or competitions of any kind. Because even though those things are awesome, it isn’t why I ride, and it isn’t why I write this blog. I started this because I really like riding a bicycle. And recently I’ve been less than enthused by that idea, which is sad. So for the next 30 days, I’m on a mission to remember why I ride. I’m going to have as much fun as is possible, and if the sun shines, well… that would be a bonus.
On Friday I went up to London for the team launch of Matrix Race Academy. I had the pleasure of talking to Jo Tindley for a while about her place on the team.
Jo Tindley joins Matrix Race Academy for her second season back after 5 years away from racing. In 2012 Jo finished fifth in her first race and then went on to win her next two at Thruxton before taking 10th place in her first National Series Road Race. Last Spring Jo rode the Johnson Health Tech Tour, the Women’s division of the Halford Tour Series, and finished the series seventh overall, finishing second in the sprinter’s competition – just one point off the lead.
Jo is looking to have a big season as part of the Matrix Race Academy. I chat to her about the world of women’s racing and what it’s like to balance her cycling career with four jobs.
What is your day-to-day lifestyle like? Do you have much time for anything but cycling?
We [the team] spend a lot of time together. I’ve got four jobs – all shift work. I’m constantly working! I don’t really have time to go off and do other things unless it’s a race.
How do you cope with balancing your jobs and cycling? Is it difficult?
I was working all through the Winter, it was horrible. I was on the bike at 5 or half 4 in the morning through the middle of the Winter with all these lights on and stuff – it’s changing now, and I’m down to three jobs…I’m slowly petering them off so I’ve got enough to earn money through the season but still have commitment to the team. At the minute I’m coping fine. Beforehand when I was a junior and an under 23 I struggled, even just with school stuff. But now I manage everything really well. I want to be a bike rider, I want to race – so I’ve made sacrifices. I’ve got rid of my car and I ride to all my jobs. So instead of going to work all day, coming home and thinking “oh god, I’ve got to train now”, I’m like – well, I’ve done two hours training because I’ve ridden there and back. I fit everything in – everything is about cycling.
If you were a male cyclist in the same position, do you think you’d still have to work those jobs or could you make it work full time as a cyclist?
I don’t know. Personally, I think it’s a lot harder for men. You’ve got to be performing and you’ve got to be doing really well.
Is that just because there’s more competition in the male sport?
Yeah, that’s it. It’s a different league, you can’t really compare it to the same. I think there are more opportunities for men. But, because of the Olympics, women’s cycling is going in the right direction. I’m on the road commission for British Cycling, and I’ve seen the great developments that are coming through. From where I’ve come from as a Junior, there was nothing. There were no races – you’d have 30 women turn up, now you’ve got 80. It’s not going to be long before women are thought of as the same. It might not be until the next Olympics, but it’s on it’s way. We’re getting more credit, things are changing, and Stef [Wyman, team manager] is doing a fantastic job. This team…it’s going to be good this year.
Obviously you love cycling, but are you a fan of the sport? Do you follow any specific riders or teams? Does it interest you to watch races?
No, not really, I’m very single minded and I want to ride my bike. I’m not really that bothered by what everyone else is doing, it’s none of my business and I can’t be bothered unless I’m in the race with them. If I get time I will watch races, like the Tour de France and the Tour of Britain. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive cycling geek…I don’t buy Cycling Weekly, I don’t look at the BC site. The only person I really follow is Mark Cavendish: ‘cause I just think he’s cool.
You started racing at the age of 12. When you were a junior were you very aware of the fact you were a girl, did it hinder you at all or did you just get on with it?
Back then being a female you were a second-class citizen – this was 2002, 2003 sort of time. There wasn’t much opportunity for women to race and there was never a tour series or anything like that. You get stuck with that stigma of being a girl: you’re not strong enough, you can’t ride a bike very well. As a junior, I always rode with the men so in my eyes I rode like a man and I got treated like a bloke. You’ve just got to get on with it, it is a male-orientated sport, and that’s probably never really going to change. Yes, there’s a divide, obviously, but it’s getting there. I think that everything that’s happened in the last 5 years is so positive, it’s just brilliant.
It does seem to be the case that women’s cycling is on the up. I’ve just got my 4th cat license and have a diary full of women’s races, but I know that just a few years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. It seems the sport is getting more popular and receiving more credit that it ever has before. Why do you think that is? Is it just down to the Olympics, or are people’s attitudes just changing over time?
I think the whole build up of having the home Olympics is the main thing…the women’s road race was just spot on – you couldn’t have written that any better. That’s how it started…but it’s the whole build up, and everyone putting all this funding into sport, I think that’s what’s done it. I think probably the Olympics was the main catalyst…how well Lizzie did and how well the girls did on the track…people have realised that actually you can still be girly.
So do you think it makes a big difference having feminine role models in the sport?
It makes a massive difference. Back when I started no one ever had their nails done, whereas now they’re all getting that stuff. That’s not me, but it’s all part of it. I think that’s what really appeals to the girls, that they’re good bike riders but can still be glamorous. The whole stigma has changed, and it’s just going to get better.
Do you know much about the #fanbackedwomenscycling initiative that Stef and the team are involved with? What are your thoughts on it?
I think it’s an absolutely fantastic idea. All the reports I’ve had from these race training sessions…have been brilliant. It’s another way of finding new talent to come through. I’ll be a bit blunt…I understand [beginners] have got to start somewhere, but I don’t want them starting in my race. Giving the 4th cats their own races is a brilliant idea and has made such a difference to our racing.
Matrix RA are supporting the Bedford 3 Day in May. Do you think there are enough women’s races in the UK? I do. I mean, I race a lot with the men so it doesn’t really bother me, I’ll just go out with the men. But I think there are plenty. Bedford’s going to be great this year.
What races are in the diary, and which are you most excited about? This season I’m very excited about the Johnsons Health Tech tour again, I would like to wear the sprinters jersey again and also have a stage win. Another race I’m looking forward to is the National Crit Championships and the Road Champs. I also hope that we get a chance to ride as a team in Europe in some stage races.
What are your goals for the season? What are you most looking forward to and what do you want to achieve?
What I’m most looking forward to is working as a team. I had a great come back year racing with VC St Raphael, they were an amazing help, but I am looking forward to riding for a more structured team. [Matrix RA] have got some of the top girls in the UK – whatever my role will be, it will be done properly.
My goals: just to keep progressing forward in my sport and getting better and better all the time. Ultimately I would like to turn pro one day so this to me is a stepping stone. The opportunities are there, I’ve just got to grab them.
Say the words ‘cycling team launch’ and what comes to mind? Cyclists in their team kit, stood in a line, all matching hairstyles and fake smiles. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional team launch, but…yawn. We’ve seen it all a thousand times. So I was pretty excited to be involved in what promised to be a day like no other with the Matrix Race Academy on Friday.
Stef Wyman, Team Manager of Matrix RA and a champion for women’s cycling, was keen to create a day that would be interesting and fun for all involved, as well as creating a social media buzz. I think it’s safe to say that the aim was achieved.
The day started bright and early for me – a 7.30am train (an unearthly hour for a Brighton freelancer) whisked me to Vulpine HQ in London. A big green ‘V’ told me I was in the right place and I was greeted by the lovely Jools (aka Lady Velo, and Vulpine’s sales manager), who was clearly just as giddy as me about the day ahead. A gradual stream of writers and photographers arrived, and of course the team themselves, along with manager Stef Wyman and European CX Champ Helen Wyman, who is a mentor to the younger riders on the team.
Much slurping of coffee, munching of croissants and introducing of friends later, the team took some time to drool over the Vulpine clothes and choose what they wanted to wear for their photos. I may have also tried on a women’s merino jersey for size. Important business research, you understand.
Whilst the photographers worked their magic I took some time to admire the new team kit. I was more than a little excited about the #fanbackedwomenscycling logo which I designed featuring on the kit. If you don’t already know about #fbwc, go do your reading, it’s a brilliant initiative that the team are backing, and the force behind some excellent training sessions for female novice racers like myself.
I had the pleasure of stealing the fantastic Jo Tindley, a new Matrix RA member for 2013, away from the camera for 20 minutes to chat about cycling and her involvement in the team. Each rider chatted to a different writer, another way to insure a bunch of different perspectives and angles on the day and the team.
You can read my interview with Jo here.
After lunch we all set off in different directions accross London. We trooped off in three’s – one rider, one writer, one photographer. Where we went was completely up to us (Sarah Connolly took Harriet Owen to the zoo..) in the hope that at the end of the day we would have a variety of unique photos which would reflect the individual personalities of the women that make up the team. Awesome plan, I thought. Myself, Jo Tindley and photography Andy Woodhouse headed off into the quirky lanes near Old Street for our photos. Check out Andy’s set of snaps here.
Everyone met back up Look Mum No Hands for the evening launch. It wasn’t long before the cafe was full to the brim with people – the staff had to remove the furniture to make space for us all. Belgian beer, bikes, lots of familiar faces..and a whole bunch of new ones.
As well as Matrix RA, we also heard from Stef about #fanbackedwomenscycling, the launch of London Women’s Cycle Racing league and the Bonita women’s team. I could just about hear the team presentation over the buzz of the cafe!
What a day. Thanks everyone: I had a ball, and I feel more inspired than ever to support the awesome sport that is women’s cycling.
Massive good luck vibes to the whole team for the season ahead – not that they need it, these girls have got serious talent.
Follow the team on Twitter: @onthedrops