Friday morning story

Silly things seem to happen to me on Fridays. I’m adding a mini-blog to keep you updated. Just look back at my “Friday morning story” and I’ll add the latest Friday to this mini-blog.

Friday 6th February

Had one of those ride homes that you just hope to survive rather than get your training done. Ok this is more of a Thursday evening story, but I will make use of poetic licence. Although does that count when you’re not actually writing poetry, but just writing?

It was one of those days when the weather is rather pleasant on the ride in to work. The kind of day that you feel privileged to experience on the bike. But the weather turned just in time for the commute home. Cold, rain and blowing a hooley. Not the sort of weather that you look forward to commuting and then a tough session on the turbo to reward you when you get home. But hey, nobody said it was going to be easy!

Riding into driving rain with strong side gusts, thankfully my route is pretty traffic-free on country lanes, so it didn’t matter so much when I found myself two metres over the other side of the road. I found that ducking low was the best way to avoid most of the gusts and is good practice for aero position, although a bulbous backpack doesn’t contribute much to an aero tuck!

Unfortunately, ducking low doesn’t help completely and, despite my best efforts, one rather strong gust managed to catch me, just as I was riding passed a big puddle and yes, you guessed it, I ended up in said puddle. And it wasn’t just a puddle, you’ve all seen the wet weather we’ve had recently, if these puddles were there permanently, they would be named and put on maps. So, I picked myself up, out of Lake Sandy Lane and dripping, had no choice but to continue the ride home.

The good thing about it raining, is that I was wet anyway, and the good thing about falling in a puddle, is that whatever turbo session my coach has thrown at me, it won’t be as bad as this!

Unfortunately, I was wrong on that last one. Having got home, stripped out of my wet gear and put on fresh kit (yep, two lots of washing), I had to make use of the bucket that usually resides under the leaking window.

Another ride done, another training session complete, another day closer to peak fitness and succeeding in races!

Friday 6th December

Having spent the week off the bike due to a heavy cold, I was really excited (ok, maybe just enthusiastic) to be back on the bike this morning and looking forward to a weekend of endurance rides. I wrapped up warm as the temperature has dropped considerably since last week and headed out on my commute to work. after about 5mins of “easy”spinning, I wasn’t finding it very easy.

10 mins in I realised that this wasn’t something I was just going to ride out and was regretting the extra layers. As the miles slowly passed, my garmin was shouting out lap times at me just to make sure I knew I was 2mins slower per “lap”than usual and I was beginning to think my summer jersey and shorts would have been a good idea, when I turned a bend in the road and found myself facing into a head wind. For all my suffering, I had actually been riding with the assistance of a tail wind.
That is the point at which I lost my love of cycling. A weekend of long miles was now my idea of hell and I was cursing at it like a Victor Meldrew in his prime.
I rolled in to the work bike sheds in an unglamorous fashion earning a “cheer up, it’s Friday” from a fellow commuter. Who then, rather helpfully pointed out that I’d caught the brake cable within the attachment of the rear mud guard, effectively pulling the brakes on.
52mins 33secs to do 12 miles suddenly didn’t seem quite so bad. Roll on the weekend (with mud guard fitted properly).

Friday 29th November

There are two people stood next to my bike at the train station. One is me and the other is a man. We are both wearing work clothes, although I have got wellies on. Along comes a platform official. “you need to be at the front end of the platform with your bike, sir” he says. “it’s not my bike”replies the man. The official then looks around and walks about 10metres to a group of men, in suits and asks them if it’s their bike. The official looks puzzled by their answer, but spots another group of men standing some way away from my bike and asks them if they know who owns the bike. Thoroughly amused, I get my bike, which I’m standing right next to, and proceed to the front end of the platform. As I walk past the official, he frowns and says “is that your bike”. Indicating the bike that I am currently wheeling along the platform and have been stood next to all this time. It must be the wellies, they do tend to confuse things, although I would have thought the helmet swinging from my arm would have been a giveaway.

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Fitness test – or not!

Went for my first ever fitness test with my coach on Monday.

The idea is to test all kinds of indicators which can inform my training. Although power can be more accurate, I’m currently training on heart rate because I don’t have a power-meter.

So, the fitness test included body fat percentage (using calipers). This isn’t the most glamorous of tests you can do. Really, it isn’t. It basically involves a metal clamp pinching skin (and fat) on different parts of your body, The thicknesses of the clamped bits are then jotted down. To ensure that you are thoroughly put at ease, this is then repeated. three times. To help reduce inaccuracies. Once a median if found, some magic formula is applied and hey presto! you have your body fat perentage. ish (the science is still not very accurate). No, I’m not going to tell you what mine came out as! To start with, I don’t know. I’ve asked not to know. All I need to know is that next time I have the test, it’s lower!

I then did a 6 second sprint power thing, which involved spinning up as quick as you can before a computer drops a weight, causing resistance and you have to keep spinning for 6 secs as fast as you can. This gives you your 6 second power output thingy. I have no idea what a good power output is, and I can’t remember what mine was, but my coach has it all written down and the point is that I improve on it. And that’s what I have a coach for. Anyway, before this test, you have to be weighed to calculate your power-to-weight ratio.

So, after the sprint power test, it was time to calculate my heart rate zones and VO2 max. My bike was attached to a computrainer, I was sat on the bike and a mask with tubes was attached to my face. Brilliant. And no, I don’t have any photos! So, the mask can calculate how much oxygen I’m taking in as I pedal. The computer keeps adding resistance, so it becomes harder and harder to spin, but you’ve got to keep going. As I’m peddling, Mark “the vampire” Walker, is pricking my finger and taking blood samples to test for lactate. This hurts for the first few times, but you know you’re really pushing it when the pain of pushing the pedals becomes more intense than the finger prick and you can’t feel it anymore!

So, there I am, pushing the pedals, looking a wolly with a mask over my face, concentrating on keeping my cadence up whilst getting my finger jabbed and I’m just getting to the point where it starts to hurt and I know I’ve got to keep going through the pain barrier and out the other side when… sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. Yep, the tyre punctures. There’s no good time to puncture, but nearing the end of a VO2 max test really really isn’t a good time!

Thankfully, the figures required to inform my training (heart rate zones) are all in. Just no VO2 max or maximal power output.

All good fun. I’ll learn the science of it over the next few months, just because I’m interested.

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WERL (Women’s Eastern Racing League)

I promised to give you a bit more info about WERL, so here goes:

As a new cyclist in the Eastern Region, I found it very odd that there were so few women’s races in the region. In 2012, discounting national level races, there was a grand total of one women-only race in the region, outside the M25. Yes 1, that wasn’t a typo.

Also, the number of women racing in the region compared to other regions, was very small. Hardly surprising when you think about it:

Female cyclist: “I fancy having a go at racing”

Cyclist no. 2: “that’s great!”

Female cyclist: “so, where’s my nearest race?”

Cyclist no. 2: “Redbridge cycling centre – they have lots of racing there”

Female cyclist: “but that’s over 100miles away!”

Cyclist no. 2: “You could wait until next May – Ixworth has a ladies crit race”

Female cyclist, after some research: “So I have to wait 11 months and still have to race in with men? – what about a road race?”

Cyclist no. 2: “They have road races as part of SERRL, in the South East”

Female cyclist: “So I’ll have to travel at least 150 miles and pay to sign up to a league.”

Cyclist no. 2: “yep”.

Female cyclist: “But I might not even like it! Maybe I’ll just stick to time trials.”

Hmmm… Thankfully, things changed dramatically in 2013, when we had 16 women-only races. This included a new road race series of 5 races at Elveden (sadly not able to continue in 2014 due to costs – more on this in a minute), the Suffolk Cycle Racing Series including women’s only racing, one at RAF Woodbridge and a new road race put on by East London Velo amongst others.

So, it’s starting to come together, but a) it’s mainly circuit races and b) to help potential new female racers, I felt that we needed a focal point. A source of information and somewhere to go, on the internet. After researching what the men have, and what women have elsewhere in the UK, what we were missing, is a league.

This also links in with The Women’s Tour and the level of elite women’s racing. A league will help to encourage more local level races and riders and provide a stepping stone for those wanting to move from local racing to elite level. As well as numerous other benefits for women’s cycling that I don’t want you to bore about.

In the East, we already have a league called ERRL (East Region Road Race League). but this is male dominated and the league forbids women-only events, thereby reducing us to racing against men. Fair play, it’s open and not sexist, but definitely not equal, and doesn’t encourage women to have a go. We could have set up a league for women within ERRL, just like they do in the South East. Afterall, everything’s already in place! Believe me, I went there, I tried. The outcome? We are setting up a completely separate league for women.

Invitations to race organisers will be going out shortly and the website (currently no content) will start to be updated – we also have a twitter feed @WERLeague and a facebook page: Women’s Eastern Racing League. Come join the fun!

The really exciting thing is – we now have at least 2 road races as part of the league, both of which will be new to 2014. One organised by Ipswich Bicycle Club, and the other, organised by Ken Jolliffe – the organiser of Elveden, who is keen to do more for women!

Anyway, things are looking up for us lady cyclists in the region. To reward you for making it through this whole marathon of a blog post: Here’s a sneak preview of the WERL logo (still subject to approval – it really is sneaky!)

WERL colour logo on white

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There’s always room for improvement!

So, as part of my targets for my winter training, I need to improve my technical skills. This is why, last weekend I did my first ever race training session. Having raced for over a year now, this is, perhaps, a little odd. Because there have never been race training sessions anywhere near me, I’ve learnt to race by err… racing.

Anyway, I signed up for the first “women only” race training session in the region because there’s always more to learn and I still consider myself a pretty novice rider.

I didn’t really knowing what to expect. With my level of experience, I was worried the session would be tailored to those with little or no experience, but Mark Wyer’s practical session was really good for all levels, it just worked out really well. We had some riders that had done a few triathlons, some that had done sportifs and one lady who had only just got her first road bike, as well as two of us that had raced before.

So, session consisted of a talk on women specific training by Mark Walker, which was very useful for me and those wanting to really improve their cycling fitness racing and then out for the practical session based around cornering techniques. I’m generally ok at cornering, with all my experience in criterium racing in the past year, but the conditions were wet with twigs and leaf mulch, something I tend to shy away from since my bike slipped from under me in torrential conditions at the Johnson’s Health Tech GP Aylsham round this year. Since then, I completely lost confidence when taking left corners (right corners don’t seem to phase me, which is odd for a British rider, since most races consist solely of left-hand bends!). The session started pretty basic, so it covered most things I had picked up already, but there were also a few tips that I hadn’t come across before. Myself and the 18 or so other ladies were pretty successful at improving our speed through the corner, riding individually and in groups and I feel much more confident in those conditions. Even though the last section ended up being a race which pitted myself and the other racer against each-other at the end of an “Italian persuit” style race. I was so focussed on winning that all the technique and knowledge I had just learnt, went straight out the window and I ended up taking a corner far to wide and went a bit off-course. oops! lesson learnt – focus on the job in hand, not the end goal!


I thoroughly recommend attending training sessions when they are available, whether women only or not. It doesn’t matter how much you know, there’s always room for improvement!

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The Women’s Tour and Me

There’s one conversation that seems to dominate women’s cycling at the moment. Yes, the Women’s Tour aka Women’s Tour of Britain. Anyway, here it is from my perspective:

Great news! the World’s best women will at last be able to race in the most successful cycling country. This can only be good news and is a step in the right direction. How does it affect me? Well, we have a top race which is likely to attract lots of media attention. This attracts sponsors.  So, the world’s top teams are invited and the rest of the spaces will likely go to UK domestic teams. There is no guarantee as to how many spaces there will be, but what is guaranteed is that there are now a lot of teams, and their sponsors, wanting to get in. No, REALLY wanting to get in.

In order to be considered, each team is trying to select the best riders who will give them the best opportunity to get an invite. In turn, each rider is wanting to be one of those best riders. In short, everyone is upping there game.

So, the women’s elite racing is going to be faster, harder, stronger than ever before and I don’t want to be left behind. I’m really focussed and motivated on my winter training – something I didn’t feel quite so much last winter. I’ve now got a coach on board – something I had intended to do before the news of the Women’s Tour – but I feel that it’s even more important for me now. Mark has created a training plan and is identifying what training I need to do each day. This is somewhat of a relief for me as before, I wasn’t really sure what I needed to do, but I now feel confident in what I’m doing and can focus 100% on the training session without that nagging doubt in the back of my mind.

I am now doing everything I can to be ready for next year, but I see a problem…

If the elite level racing is going to be that much harder, what will happen to the lower levels of racing? I see that gap between local racing and elite racing growing, making the step between the two, extremely difficult. This is one of the reasons why I felt that we needed a local league for the Eastern region. We have since set up WERL (Women’s Eastern Racing League). More on this to follow.

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Racing infront of the Queen (one of her houses, anyway!)

On Saturday, I raced in the prudential ride London Women’s Grand Prix, which took place around St James’ Park in London, with the finishing straight ending with Buckingham Palace in full view.

This was tipped to be a fast hard race, as it included a strong Wiggle Honda team including the Olympic golden girls, Joanne Rowsell, Laura Trott and Dani King, as well as several pro teams and the usual top domestic teams of Matrix Fitness Racing Academy, MG Maxifuel et al.

I entered this race because it has to be one of the best settings for a race and was bound to be a fantastic experience, even if I stood no chance in such a strong field. Upon arrival, I could see that I would not be dissapointed in the setting, with The Mall, and all the Union Jacks flying  right the way down the street and the sun shining on Buckingham Palace.

The weather was perfect, hot during the day, cooling nicely by the evening. The race was to take place at 18.30, after youth and handcycling races (in which local rider Brian Alldis came 2nd – Yay!).

All of the riders from the races got to do a couple of sighting laps to check out the course, where we found lovely wide roads leading to a road with street furniture and some gentle speed bumps, then a tight corner. It’s always good to be able to view the course first in order to pick up on these things so that they don’t come as a surprise when you are racing at speed in a bunch.

After watching the races prior to ours, we all rode round the course from the pits to the start line. This is never a very gentle affair, with 100 riders in the race and criteriums being fast from the off, the position you start in on the line can be the difference between first and last place, so the race really starts at the jostle to the line.

Unfortunately, when we all got to the line, we had to wait for about 45 mins whilst a youth rider received medical attention for a crash that happened in a previous race. Thankfully, news it that the boy had no lasting injuries and will be back on his bike soon, but it meant any benefits from warming up were lost.

The race went off and, as expected, was fast from the off and there were soon riders being dropped and then lapped. I managed to stay in the bunch throughout the race, whilst attacks went off the front and were brought back again. I was grateful to miss a crash that went down in front of me early on, and managed to ride in the bunch and was even at the front with Olympic gold medallists Dani King and Laura Trott behind me. Unfortunately a second crash went down in front of me just before the sprint for the finish, in which Olympic gold medallist Joanne Rowsell broke her collarbone. The crash held me up and meant that I couldn’t contest the sprint, so just rolled in with the other riders that were caught up. I think my position was 36th out of 100 riders in the end.

Prudential London GP 2013 on TV  (thanks to Dave Boother for this TV snapshot with me upfront and centre)

All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed this race, there was a tremendous crowd cheering us on, and to not only race Olympic champions, but to be up there with them in the bunch was just an experience I will never forget and hope to replicate in the future.

It was also great to watch the full race shown on BBC One the following day.

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