Into the Autumn feat. MTN Quebeka

It’s not easy to bare your soul – especially to the jackals of social media…. or to new colleagues!!! But that appears to be what I had done with that post that went a bit viral.
Embarrassed? Yeah. Glad I wrote it? Equally.
That probably explains why my last blog post was a bit stilted. And why I failed to write up my ToB as usual.

September has been busy. More so that usual, with me chasing around after the ToB, doing a SBCU course at Chessington and shooting off to the Cycle Show. I’ve barely ridden the bike to be honest – having been absolutely shattered, or like this week a bit too ill.

The Tour of Britain was again bloody brilliant. I’m always early to arrive – but you are guaranteed the finish crew are already there building up the finish area. Wrexham was great, catching up with old friends – Rob Kennison and Mavis Evans, and Andy Barron from Festina. And meeting up with the ToB crew proper. Paul Baillie, doing a ridiculous amount of work as usual and putting in some serious hours. Chris Darby – H&S assistant and all round legend, and the rest.
Wrexham was a bit of a blur. In and out of Race HQ, in and out of Team Parking, helping the volunteers out, greeting the team staff – Wiggins staff are brilliant and I’ve still no idea of their names! One Pro – Becky and Keith, Raleigh – Michelle and Milan, NFTO – Pete, Jane & Pov, JLT – Adrian…. The list is endless. It’s great to see so many friendly faces!
Finally stationed just after the finish with the swannys – the race is suddenly in and there are riders everywhere…

This is repeated again at Colne – I’ve never had so many high 5’s in my life, then it’s the long drive back to Surrey whilst the race moves on up North. I’m equally torn by wanting to go with it and being glad I’m in my own bed for a couple of nights!

Thursday turns out to be a bit special. On arrival at Jo Perrys in Stoke on Trent, I’m offered the chance to go as a VIP to Stoke On Trent: European City of Sport 2016 Launch. It’s incredible quite frankly. And a bit special to be sat right behind Jonathan Edwards and Colin Jackson and hear what they have to say.
As I’m listening, I’m frantically refreshing Twitter on my phone. Frantically and silently willing Eddy Boss to win the stage at Hartside.. then realising he’s in the yellow jersey. I actually allow myself to get ridiculously happy/excited (I’m pretty sure Jo can testify that I got a bit worried too…)

Why?

Because Brian Smith is right, there are the good people in cycling. Even right at the top level.
And because I get to spend the day with MTN Quebeka the next day…

Friday I get Jo to drop me off in town and I meet Mark Leyland at the start… nice and early, hot chocolate on tap from the Costa wagon. I help Jon, Paul and Lyndsey at Team Parking. A role I’m familiar with, and wait for MTN to roll in.
Eventually they do and I catch up with Veit – I can go with the guys to the feedzone.
Danijel is the driver and James let’s me sit in the front… and off we go, half following the race route to the feed zone, a quick garage stop (Danijel doesn’t like Dandelion and Burdock!), some hellish twisty roads and some drop dead gorgeous scenery when we fly up through the hills. It’s a stunning day, and it’s great fun with those two. Eventually we arrive at the feedzone and bump up on the grass to park up behind Raleigh.

Then the long wait.

The realisation there’s a rather large gap.

EBH is in the break.

There’s a lot of muttering and a few raised eyebrows. I actually wish I’d seen the race. A LOT of incredulity that the YELLOW jersey is in the break. There’s little to no phone signal – but eventually it’s confirmed. James asks me to time the gap when the breakaway comes through… suddenly it’s all business… motos, cars, and then the breakaway, rolling through uphill. Then the silence. The unbelievability that we all saw the yellow jersey in the break. The wait. Fidgety. I have a laugh with Michelle and Jane Wood as we wait and wait. Then finally. The peleton in the distance approaching fast. I glance at my stop watch. Look at James. ’22 mins by the time they get here’ I say. I’m right. They get through quickly – I shout happy birthday to Rob Partridge – then the DS stops next to us.

‘You coming with me?’ Danijel asks and I nod. ‘We’re to follow the peleton.’

Well this I didn’t expect! We’re in the car quickly and flying up over the hills to catch the race that never stops. Danijel is a damn good driver and I throughly enjoy being in a fast car (adrenalin junkie don’t cha know).

There’s something to be said about following Wiggo downhill at ridiculous speeds too – being in team car 1 means we sit right behind Commissaire 3 and the back of the bunch and therefore right behind Brad. And Conor Dunne. Big lad he is.

We manage to get some audio eventually and hear some of the last 10k. As EBH rolls over the line – we are over 35 mins away….

It’s really something to see and hear the crowds whilst out on route. Let alone be allowed to be there with them in the race.

Thanks to Danijel, James, Veit and especially Brian Smith. What an epic day! And fabulous people to spend it with.

A catch up with Holly Blades at the finish and Marty McCrossan gives me and my traffic directing friend Tori a lift to my car. Then the soul destroying drive to Ipswich (no Tory. Ipswich is not in Surrey!)

The finish in Ipswich is fine. I’ve seen none of the race. Had a barney with the bus driver from IAM. It’s packed with people. And I’m glad to get away and back to my own home, ready for the day long epic that is London.

I saw more of the race in London than I did any other day!

Thanks One Pro for the party after too….

I’m sad that I don’t get to see many of the crew until next year. The ToB has its own family, and it’s great to be part of it. It’s both fun and rewarding and knackering. But hey. I’ve gone back every year for more.

My next post better be about CX, the SBCU, starting running and getting my own Kinesis…. meanwhile…

#keepsmiling
#bicycleschangelives

It’s all gravy!

Hi guys, again it’s been a while. Not going to apologise as I’ve been doing too much of that recently. Usually apologising for being me. I’ve got to the point that (love me or hate me as you do) I’m just not going to do that anymore. Sorry!

Once again this year I’ve had some wonderful times with my friends – both tweeps and face bookers – and had some equally bad times finding myself in dark places that I don’t want to revisit.

I haven’t done much on the bike this year but having finally stopped smoking, I hope to start going spinning soon to kick start my fitness and lose a bit of weight!

But I just want to say massive thanks to the people that have helped me out so much this year –

Ceri Adams and Nerys Lloyd both wonderful cousins.

Jenny Hine  (@Jenlovescycling) for being a wonderful friend

All the ToB lot – from Raleigh (Michelle you’re a legend) NFTO (El who bought us ice lollies in Brighton), BMC and Madison Genesis to Paul, Chris and Liz.

Kara Thomas and Verity Banks for putting up with my harebrained ideas again!

And those ones of you who have said or done kind things that have really stuck with me; Darren Moore, Matt Carr, Anthony McCrossan, Stevo Minns and Holly Blades you rock!

Big hugs and here’s to a better 2015 and more general awesomeness!!

My ToB part 3

I’ve had to edit this slightly as it’s refused to upload! Sorry about the delay – our wifi is rather slow, and data connection is worse!!

Saturday
Me and Verity caught the train last night to Brighton, getting to the hotel at roughly 22.30.
We met Rhys at 9.30ish at a little cafe on the seafront by the pier. Then it’s off to find out exactly where we are meant to meet up. Funnily enough we walk straight past it, as I’m too busy talking and looking at how they are setting up the finish. Team parking is easy to find as it’s straight after the finish. We walk into Dr.Paul Baillie – who knows us from the last few ToBs. The meeting point is back behind us, near the tradestands. We’ve checked out one of the most important things – where the toilets are 😉
After a while, Paul, Chris and Liz arrive with boxes of yellow vests, whistles, info forms etc. They give us the usual briefing, and we start sidling toward one side, as to be quite honest, I don’t want to be stuck on a crossing point, or anywhere near dope control!
Obviously we’ve done team parking every time. It’s hectic, but good fun. Paul and Chris get about 12 of us and we head off as soon as the briefing is finished.
I wander around, running into Nathan – he’s done the whole week of the tour. We don’t have much to do until the first team buses/cars/campervans arrive.

Sky, thankfully drive right down near the finish. Garmin are the opposite end, wanting to be quickly away. I end up with Madison Genesis and BMC behind me, and NFTO in front of me. From the layout of the road – the bit past Sky will turn out to be a pinch point. Purely because most of the public descend on their bus.
Thankfully it’s hot and sunny, and I borrow suncream off Chris a couple of times.
Eventually the cars/campervans arrive from the feedzone – although nearly straightaway we realise there are a few missing. Giant Shimano, team GB and one other. They do arrive later on however!

Huge thanks to El from NFTO Apparel who bought us Calypso’s!!

And massive thanks to NFTO who let me watch the race through the window of their bus!

Then, we sort of see Tao crash, and within a few minutes it’s the usual chaos. Cyclists everywhere, cars coming in, the public walking into everything (including myself).

Constant whistle blowing, we wait for Rhys to shout/whistle up, then it’s our turn, then onto Victoria and Sue. I drift away from Madison Genesis as I can hear them laughing at me.
‘MIND YOUR BACKS PLEASE’
‘RIDER COMING THROUGH’
‘CAR COMING OUT’
‘DO YOU WANT TO GET HIT BY A CAR!??’

This does go on for a fair while, but you have to have a laugh with it, although you don’t half feel an idiot sometimes!
The guys from BMC were nice, they at least thanked me.
I managed to catch up with Michelle (with Raleigh) well before the race came in 🙂

Then the teams start drifting away, one by one they are off to Heathrow, this causes more chaos as there’s a lot of people around OPQS to see Cav. Movistar and BMC were very very quiet. But I know tomorrow will be worse!

There’s only Sky left when we start making our way back. We leave them to get on with it.

We catch up with my friend Kara, and see Kristian House on the beach, as well as Rob Hayles and Ned Boulting near the tv stuff.

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Then it’s off to the pub for a well earned pint and food!

I know Vélo: Spin up in the City is on, and 4 of us make our way up there to have a look. It’s great to see @dizzymabil and @ClaudAndI there, and once again Verity has a go at roller racing!

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I also recognise Matt. No idea where from tho

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Its a cracking end to the day, and we are back at the hotel before 11.

Sunday
We’re in Victoria in London by 9. Time to grab a quick coffee, then off to the briefing again. The guys that have been doing this all week look shattered. We ask for team parking again, get our ToB vests and listen to what’s said.
We organise ourselves and make our way up to Westminster Bridge.
The teams are already there, and we station ourselves at the entrance/exit where we’ll make the most use of ourselves.
Then the fun begins.

Rider and car (and sometimes a soigneur) out, stop next rider/car from going across as we wait for whichever one is doing the ITT (Individual Time Trial) to go through. Let rider across, team car in from the deviation, let rider back across after the race.

And keep the public safe.

We’re shouting and blowing whistles from the word go. We set some tape up so we have a semi ‘sterile’ area. But people lean on it, and it gets broken and retied. Eventually we get metal barriers up, which leaves a good sized area free. It’s exhilarating in its own way. And I quite enjoy it. We have short breaks when we can, but it is chaotic.

It’s not long for the ITT to finish, and a bit of time before the main race. I take a wander along Westminster Bridge and stop to speak to El. Then onto Raleigh, where I get to sit in the boot of one of their cars and relax for a few minutes whilst chatting to Michelle.

I check the other marshals are ok and have had a break, then it’s back to the team entrance/exit onto the course. I have a bit of a chat with the lovely @Joolzephoto too.

Very quickly riders and team cars make their way out and round to the start, and the race is off. 8 laps. Cars in, drop passengers, cars out, cyclists past. I get a shout from the other marshals, who have a guest but no idea where to send him. I walk up and am told Andrew Mcquaid is going to pick him up in one of the red Skoda’s shortly. I advise him to try ringing him, then after a couple of laps take him down the deviation, where he does eventually get picked up. We have a bit of banter with various team members as we wait for the race to finish. Garmin and Madison Genesis are as friendly as usual, as are the Novo guys.
Suddenly it’s over and riders are coming back in. Matt Rabin (Garmin) confirms they’ve kept the yellow jersey.
Then it’s back to getting the riders in safely, waiting for them to cool down, and the teams to leave.
I walk over the bridge to see how bad it is around Sky and OPQS, and although it’s a pinch point, the marshals are doing a great job.

We get a lot of thanks as the teams make their way out, especially from Garmin and Saxo. Some don’t even acknowledge us, but again it’s been a great day. It’s fun to be part of it, and to meet new people and old friends.

Well. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this! Not long til next year now. Come and say hi if you have a chance…

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Me above having a laugh with @Joolzephoto. Pic from Kara Thomas

#keepsmiling

My Tour of Britain part 2

I drove back home on the Tuesday night, a lovely traffic free run on the M4, arriving back around 20.30. Decided to leave my bike in the car – as I’d already made my mind up to go to Wyche Cutting for the first KoM the next day.

Wednesday
Getting up at 6am never bothers me as most days of the week I’m up at 5am at the very latest. It was thick fog and quite chilly as I left – so deciding to wear jogging bottoms over my bibs was a great idea. This time I had to rely on my Sat Nav as although I know the way to Cheltenham and Worcester like the back of my hand, I’ve never been to Great Malvern. Not sure what time I did arrive in the town, but I found a great parking spot (after asking a few mums doing the school run) on the side of the road in a really quiet part.
I got out, sorted myself, the bike and a backpack out, then I looked up.
The sun had started clearing the fog and I could see the top of the hills. Ouch. Going to be some pull up there! I checked Google Maps then started off… ever upward…
Although nowhere near the Tumble – it made me blow – but I did it in one go. Not realising I’d got to the top until I saw the Yodel van the other side as I started dropping down. Sounds a bit silly, I know!

I stopped and chatted to them and they asked if I wanted to give them a hand – not a bother as I’ve done plenty of marshalling at cycle events before. They told me I could chuck my bike in the back of the van after they had set the barriers and KoM signs out. So I cycled back up and over – and turned by the pub as it was already getting busy!

There was about 10 of us up there and hundreds of people, a load of cycle clubs and a few that had ridden some of the route early on. It was blazing hot up there, and I ended up giving out flags, ‘Tour de Worcester’ posters, flags, more flags, stickers and more flags.
Had a great laugh with a couple of lads and the other volunteers – whilst keeping up to date with the race via Twitter.
Wasn’t long before the breakaway arrived

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Adam Blythe and his shiny shoes

And as always they were up and over in seconds.

And then everyone departs. I grabbed my bike (and a goody bag) and headed back down, intent on seeing the race finish at home.

Ironically I didn’t check the race route – only realising I was back in front of them en route as I started back up the A417 toward Swindon. I quickly pulled in to what we know as the Birdlip turn, and parked up with the 30 or so other cars on a side road.
Ha. Great. Get to see them again!
Didn’t have to wait to long either

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Breakaway

Then we waited ages for the peloton

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Then a quick drive home to watch the race! Except I fell asleep after 20 mins, waking up to see the peloton cross the line.

It was great to see it, and ride out to it on my own. I’ll definitely be doing that again!

Friday
I’d arranged with @Jenlovescycling and her hubby Pasty, and @v_girlracer to go off to the feedzone. Pasty kindly picked us up and we rode out from near Great Shefford. My legs were a little tired and a short ride did them good!
Eventually we found it, leaving our bikes up against a wall, and I shared my Haribo with Saxo Tinkoff, although they wouldn’t share their coffee!
Some, but not all teams had their cars there, and Giordana arrived just after we did. Then a fair while later Raleigh arrived. Immediately I recognise Michelle getting out of the car and wandered down to say hi (I’d met her at the Milk Race earlier in the year).
Had a chat, and guarded the car while the both nipped of to the loo, then let them get set up. I stayed on the same side as the swannys but back a bit from them so I wouldn’t get in the way. No Internet connection – so listened to some very crackly race radio from AN Post whose car was right behind me.

Then the police, police bikes, NEG’s, and the breakaway finally came past. I’d heard Alex Dowsett was in it…

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And we kept hearing the time gap growing and growing…

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In the middle of this, I got hit by an NFTO full water bottle (accompanied by a smirk) 😉

Then everyone was leaving. Scribbled my number for Michelle as Raleigh were driving off… and then they were gone…

Again, a quick ride to the car, home then watch the race. Crikey, some time gap!

This time I had to pack a rucksack for the Brighton and London stages, couldn’t take much as we’d have nowhere to leave it on the Sunday. It’s a funny feeling, I was knackered but exhilarated. Legs were tired. Brain was full of clouds, but I was immensely enjoying myself. Especially with my friends.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I’ll continue part 3 over the next couple of days!

Keep smiling

🙂 🙂 🙂