Autumn Colours. Rule 9 night. London 6 Day.

What does autumn mean to you?

Some years for me it’s been the start of the National Hunt season, the never ending litany of sweat, tears, heartache, back breaking work (literally if you were emptying stables and using a mucksack!) accompanied by mud, ice, more mud, fog, copious amounts of mud and the turning colours of the leaves.
Some years it’s been ‘baby’ season, all the yearlings (young racehorses, less than 2 years old) coming into the yard. The stubbornness, excitability and stroppiness of young horses being taught to carry a rider.

This year it’s bittersweet. I miss it, being bundled up in winter gear at 5.00 in the morning, only to be in a tshirt by 10.30. I miss seeing the dawn break as we canter up the woodchip gallops (I’d say in control, but racehorses are funny creatures!). I miss the epic fogginess and ‘Watch the fucking deer/pheasant/car/idiot!!!’ (delete as appropriate).

It’s bittersweet because I had to break myself out of a vicious circle doing a job I thought I loved.

It was only yesterday I actually realised the leaves had properly started changing and falling off the trees. Sat on the train heading into London Bridge (after legging it to the station from my current house, something I couldn’t have done last year!) I was free to dream away, and try not to let it hurt too much.

So few people I am around now would understand what it’s like to ride that same bloody horse everyday, the one that’s come back from injury and is mad as a hatter. The one I started off disliking, but over the course of weeks starting to like. Even though she was a loony. Stuck on the minefield trotting bus,  for weeks on end in mud, torrential rain, freezing fog and stunning sunshine. Luckily the cowbag only buried me once. I learned to love her, riding her was a field of emotions – anxiety, nerves, adrenaline, laughter, giggles (she’s trotted past the same hedge for days and now it’s scary, and she spooks and bucks and squeals). The knowledge that you know exactly what’s going to set her off like she’s got a rocket up the ass, but also the knowledge that going in a straight line is a bonus!!

Fuck. I miss it.

This is a whole different world. I love working at Sigma. Loads of great people to work with. Lots of fun to be had, the #Rule9 @SigmaSport night on Thursday was really good fun with Zwift demos, knowledgeable staff, people from Mavic and Exposure lights, and a funny Q&A with Matt Stephens. Catching up with Holly Blades (@lifeofholly) was even better.

And then the London 6 Day last night, tickets courtesy of @Brother_UK were the best seats in the house – right on the finish line.
There’s something incredibly amazing about watching a former Paris Roubaix winner riding the different competitions. Nikki Terpstra doesn’t even have the same build as some of the others, but by god is he quick! Not quite as quick as our boys Chris Latham and Ollie Wood though 😉
It’s always great to see the roadies riding a different discipline, currently track is one of my favourites – the sheer strength, fitness, power and speed is so close up that coupled with the electric music, it’s hard to do anything except want to have a go yourself!

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Morgan Kneisky

Sat where I was, it felt like you could sit there and watch the competitions hour after hour, day after day. It’s so involving with a ridiculously great atmosphere.

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After all of that. It called for a quiet, reflective ride this morning. Knowledge that the Specialized Concept Store has great coffee, plus the fact my gears were skipping a bit, led me to wander that way.
But I love the weather we had earlier. Windy, autumnal, the billion colours of a changing season that left me unusually restless also led me to going flat out down the hill, bunny hopping all the speed bumps.

Just because I can.

Even the car driver I overtook grinned back at me.
Great to watch Stu in the workshop too. As always I love to learn, and it’s a bonus when people don’t mind you being there.

The ride home into a headwind and a constant shower of ever heavier rain just buoyed me up. I love the restless days of autumn, even the pouring rain, and being back on the bike commuting has helped me get a bit fitter too.

See I don’t really mind the fact that most people think I’m mad for loving the weather like this. I like being a bit different. I’ll always prefer the muddy CX, the wet, cold Paris Roubaixs, the hair raising descents in the rain from the Giro or the Tour.

I was always the one smiling in the rain. Especially riding out racehorses in it. You’d definitely be guaranteed to see me #keepsmiling then.

Strava

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if going back on Strava is worth it. I can’t tell until afterwards if a segment is faster, because I carry my phone in my jersey. Also my Garmin 200 doesn’t upload (that in itself is another long story!)

But rather than making me feel bloody slow (yes I know I am!) – it’s had the desired effect of making me want to do more. That and the fact that little by little I’m getting fitter.

I’m managing to get longer riders in, with the fact I actually want to hit some hills merged in. Except Fawler Hill. I’m avoiding that for the time being!

I found myself riding in more adverse weather recently – with one huge gust of wind bouncing me off a thick hedge at the bottom of Letcombe Regis. And the rain. I’m back to grinning like a loon in the rain – with drivers and cyclists alike giving me the most disbelieving looks. They must think it’s a grimace – unless they hear me chortling away to myself!

It has been a bit odd to look back at segments on Strava and think that I had done well, when in reality I’ve done shocking. Or the other way around!

But it’s also having a positive effect. Weirdly kudos do make me feel better about it!

So follow me or not… up to you

#keepsmiling

Off to Le Tour!

First of all a massive apology for not posting anything for ages! I haven’t done much on the bike recently, as you know how shit the weather has been here in the UK!

I was going to post a bit about watching Le Tour, but kept getting sidetracked by stuff that needed doing in preparation for going to France! And the fact that I was probably too busy tweeting!

So I think we have everything sorted out. I pick Melissa up from Heathrow tomorrow morning, we drive to Folkestone and go via the Eurotunnel to Calais. Then the long drive starts! And we are only going for the last week of it, for those who don’t know, it started 2 weeks ago in Liege…

I really can’t wait. This will be the first time I’ve been away for ages, even if it includes massive amounts of driving! I’m going to see a sport I love watching and meet people I only know via Twitter or Facebook!

I’ve had a go at the cycling fantasy teams for Le Tour, and as per usual I’m about mid div – although I’ve had Peter Sagan from the start, as well as Chris Froome!

I’ve got to say going to France wouldn’t be possible without massive help from friends and especially my parents (thanks ma and dad!). Some of you have been so helpful with loads of different stuff, from borrowing a sat nav (thanks Conor you legend!) to a stranger giving me 50 euros for no reason whatsoever!

I’ve had the past week off work, and although I haven’t done much, it’s been great for getting final bits sorted – having a cigarette lighter put back in my car so I can charge the sat nav and my phone. Sorting out a new mobile – sorry for those of you received loads of random calls. And most of all watching some majorly  impressive riding on the Tour! (Yeah I had Pierre Rolland from the start as well! Ha!!).

Not sure I’ll be able to blog much, if at all, as I only have mmy phone, but will be tweeting/fbooking when I can. Hopefully I’ll get some epic pictures!

For the first time in my life I have bought a British flag. Although I did buy a Welsh one first! Those who know me, will know how unpatriotic I am! But sod it!

When we finally get to Paris, Verity – my best friend for the last 24 years – is meeting me in Paris. I. Can’t. Wait. Yeah, if you are there and see us behaving like lunatics (in a good way), just cope with it! A’ite?!

This might be my last post for a few days, so anyone who wants to join me next year better join the list – about 10 people on it! One thing, I ain’t driving next year!

So tweet or fb me!

Thanks for all the messages so far anyways…

#ALLEZROLLAND
#BRITSBEHINDSKY

Ciao
Keep Smiling!!! 🙂

 

Sprint Laps and a busy Sunday!

Hey people, hope you’re all enjoying Fathers Day! As it’s one of those weeks where everything has been a bit.. er… ‘off’ for lack of a better word. I went back to the joys of work on Thursday, and thanks to the winds I haven’t been out on my bike as a combination of knackered and windy/rainy evenings just don’t work sometimes!

I was aware that I must do some more planning of our (me and @melissagerman) route to Pau. I want to avoid toll roads, and its a sodding long way! However thanks to another Twitter friend, help is at hand! We also need to figure our where we want to be/go on Thursday (Bagnères-de-Luchon > Peyragudes) and Friday (Blagnac > Brive-la-Gaillarde).
I also need to check exactly what I need! Thanks to my parents for helping me out with this as well.

However there is only so much staring at the computer screen I can take, and aware that I will be staring at the screen for another few hours, I decided to test my Garmin Edge 200 out. I needed to go the cashpoint in town as well, so thought I’d hop onto Route 23 and swing through the War Memorial Park and down into Eastrop. Then I realised I hadn’t got anything with me apart from my phone, keys, cashcard and water. Oops. Didn’t want to go to far in case I flatted (got a puncture). Ah well, its a lovely day and thought I’d stretch my legs down the road by Eastrop. I like sprinting on fresh legs! Then it popped into my head that I was in walking distance of home (and I may have been inspired by Halfords Tour Series LOL), so thought I’d go for a few laps, and sprint down the road (the cycle path was majorly busy in the park – with people walking). Everytime I got to the bottom of the road, I was grinning like a loon. I did 8 laps in total, having a whale of a time, then realised I hadn’t switched the Garmin on. DO’H. I did one more lap, and headed on back to town, then home – I actually went up the hill home, and found it rather easy. Er, did I just say I found a small inconsequential hill easy?!?! Actually yeah I did. And it made me feel damn good. I’m still feeling good! Got to say that was much more enjoyable than I had thought it would be!!

Anyway have a brilliant day!

Ciao 🙂

 

Breeze road ride

5.45 meet in Eastrop Park. Only 3 of us, including ride leader Ruth. Just 20 miles. I’ll be fine!
I’m not sure of the route we went after we went out through Old Basing, but it included Stratfield Saye and Bramley, and we came back into town via Popley.

All I can say is it took my legs 10 miles to warm up! I still don’t get sore, achy legs, but my knees were a tad creaky this morning. Oh and I still get dropped on small hills 😛 I’ll get there one day!

It was lovely to meet Lex (on her new Specialized), and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride! And surprisingly don’t want to go back to work tomorrow, but hey!

In Bramley, we had to wait for 3 trains to go through the level crossing, which prompted Ruth to tell Lex about what happened at the level crossing in the Tour of Switzerland (or #TdS on Twitter). Thankfully that didn’t happen to us!

Only a short post this time, just keeping my fingers crossed that the weather might get less rainy at some point so I can get some decent miles in my legs. I’m still looking out for another sportif to do, and I’d welcome someone to ride with me (whoever it is would get a fair easy day out of it!).

Anyway, I’m off to.. er.. ‘watch’… Twitter (I’ve already missed the cycling on ITV4). And try not to embarrass myself any further….

Keep smiling 😛 😉

My First Sportif

If you read my blog, you will know I was pretty damn nervous about doing a Sportif! Many thanks for the supportive comments guy, it means a lot!

I was up at 5 this morning, had a bowl of porridge and a coffee and wondered what on earth the weather was going to do. I don’t have much kit, so went for my Muddy Fox tights, grey cycling t-shirt (Polaris) and my Altura waterproof jacket as it was meant to rain. I also took my reflective yellow Endura top.
I arrived at Newbury racecourse far too early in hindsight (7.20am), but it gave me chance to look around and chat to a couple of people. After I signed on – I took a look around but couldn’t see any ladies doing the LadyCat (26.3miles) so went back to the car. Thick drizzle and a low cloud base meant me putting my reflective top on as soon as I’d unloaded the bike. My parents arrived – they wanted to know what it was about, and Dad thinks he might just have a go at a sportif now! We walked up and got a coffee, then as it was 8.15 I thought it would be a good idea to go and bring my bike up – we were due off between 9.10 and 9.30.
I talked to a couple of girls who had the pink LadyCat numbers and we all agreed to set off together about 9.10.

The sheer amount of people sporting Team Sky Procyling kit was just slightly unreal! There were very few ladies (that I saw), but I was happy to see it wasn’t just me wearing trainers!

By 9.10ish I’d met up with a few ladies, who were hanging around talking, but me an a couple of others were eager to be off as it felt a tad chilly with the constant heavy drizzle. We were soon on our way, and although I puffed a bit going up the hill, I was fairly surprised to find myself at the front with an older lady on a mountain bike. We carried on as we were going about the same speed.

The first bit was fine, until we came across a couple of short sharp hills – bloody hell! We both made it up them, and she stayed with me through Ecchinswell and Kingsclere, just the other side she got a puncture but told me to carry on. A girl on her own had just gone past us, so I decided to catch up with her. By now I had been blowing for the last 10 miles or so – so I had an energy gel – and it was nice!!
I caught her up and found we pedalled at pretty much the same speed. Annie was great company and knew the roads we were going on as she lived in the area, then we hit the sodding 10% hill. She told me she usually walked up it!! I just made it up there without getting off – although the thought did cross my mind!!

Apart from a longer, less steep hill up to Brimpton, that was pretty much it and we happily pedalled away. I looked at my bike computer – we only had 3 miles left!!! Then it heaved down with rain and we both got completely soaked!

Yes ok I did sprint for the finish line!

Wow, now I know why people like doing this. It. Was. AMAZING, even if we were both soaked and my white saddle is now black and purple (I’d guess my cheap tights ran!). We both had a great laugh and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, its over 2 hours since I finished and I’m still grinning like a loon!!

Very glad I took a change of clothes, ironically got changed in the female jockeys changing rooms!

I think it’s best to do this with someone who goes roughly the same speed as you, I was lucky Annie was about the same fitness as me as well.

Might be doing the 30 miler in Reading next week – we’ll see how it goes.

On another note – food was shit and expensive. There was no one to collect the timing chips – although the guy sat in the Wiggle tent told us to take them home.

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But I absolutely loved it! And I want to go again!!!!

Keep smiling! I need cake….

Having to choose!

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve made the right choice – about what I do for a living. Let’s face it I could be sat in an office, climbing the walls with boredom, getting RSI from typing on a keyboard too much, or iPad finger, doing nothing all day but reply to emails, answer the phone… it just doesn’t interest me!

Wow we had some serious strange weather today, and I was outside to experience it – heavy hail, light rain, blazing sun, freezing wind… the list goes on and on.

So I’ve got to the point in life where I realise I can’t do this job for the rest of my life, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to be worn down and become bitter like a few people I know who still work with racehorse. So where do I go? What do I do?

I actually have no idea. I went to Loughborough Uni mature student open day last year, and yes it looked awesome. Do I have the pre requisite grades? Er, no. Should I do a course to get those grades? Er, can’t afford it. Crap. Now what? Maybe the Open University? Actually I’m quite tempted, but again the cost of it… Fail.

Ok so what interests me? Ah, racehorses, cycling, photography, reading books, socialising… What can I do with a list like that? No, I don’t want to be a vet! should I get Cytech qualified? Learn how to take better photos? Hmm, I really don’t know.

Somewhen, I’d like to travel around the world – just to see what it’s like. Funnily enough Britain is boring me….

Anyone want to lend me a VW Campervan for the Tour de France this year? Anyone at all? Ah… thought not

Keep smiling 🙂 (and thank you to the one person who does keep me smiling!!)