Sunday, 28 February 2010

Soggy Sombre Sunday

I don't normally complain about the weather but I must admit that it has been getting on my nerves.

The cold and snow of January was a novelty, and at times even fun - especially the day that I went out with my club mates for a cyclo cross training ride at Mitcham Common.

February was a bit warmer, but it's just been a pretty soggy, wet affair. The last few Sundays I've been out riding my bike and there's been a certain amount of rain, drizzle and greyness.

Last week I made it to a really good training session at Hillingdon, but it wasn't without getting a massive soaking in the process. I wasn't going to let that dampen my spirits though.

The problem is the cold and damp doesn't do much for my immune system - it works overtime and eventually just conks out, then I get a cold or sore throat - like many people I know around.

So today, looking out the window and seeing the lashing rain arrive here from the Canary Islands and the Bay of Biscay put me off making the journey to Hillingdon. I have only just got over one cold. I didn't want to put myself through all that again. So, I let the weather get the better of the situation and I stayed home.

Later on, I was able to venture out for a walk around the park. It was all pretty squelchy underfoot, and the light did nothing to help my Seasonal Affective Disorder!

It was a soggy, sombre, Sunday - nothing like ending one of the wettest Februarys on record with a damp squibb!
Let's hope that March proves to be the antedote to all this drichness we've had for the last four weeks!

Friday, 26 February 2010

The Long Road Ahead

It's February - almost March and I am not in the proper swing of training. The weather's quite sunny today but not sure how long it'll last. It'll probably be throwing it down within the next couple of hours - not very motivating for riding a bicycle and getting in those all-important training miles.

The thing is, if I had time I would still go out. The problem is, I don't. Having a Saturday completely taken up with classes for my interpreting course and then the rest of the time fitting in homework doesn't leave much time for cycling stuff.

I've been commuting and going on the turbo trainer (even appreciating the time I spend on it!), but I know that getting up to optimal fitness this year will not be an easy task.

I did a training session at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit last week and really enjoyed it. I was able to get in some good quality training miles. Between the bike ride to get there and back as well as the training session itself, I managed to clock up more than 50 miles.

The only thing was my ride home with my club-mate Claire, was a real tribulation for me. I was hanging off the handlebars trying to keep up with her as she zoomed through South West London! It was a bit disconcerting when she told me that she's not that fit at the moment! Maybe she's just really strong or I am just so p1s$ poor. I hope it's the former!

Anyway, that session plus the turbo sessions I've done this week have begun the slow process of hammering my body into shape and teaching my body to ride quickly - I can't be doing slow base lines forever!

Looking at the calendar for the women's team series and the London Women's league makes for a scary prospect these days. The road between here and my first proper race, in mid April will be loooong. It will be riddled with stones, potholes and other obstacles in the shape of chaingangs on Wednesdays where I have to cling on for dear life, cyclosportives where I'm constantly asking myself - "are we there yet?", and getting caned at Milton Keynes, Thruxton or Crystal Palace. Yes, it will be a long road with pain from burning quads, and frustration from having to stay home to study on a glorious Saturday afternoon. But after all that, I am still ready to take on another season of road racing. As long as I'm happy and fully aware of what is and isn't realistic for me, I'm good with that!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

London Women's League

I've been quite busy with a group of other girls sorting out a cycling league for this coming season. It's something quite new and exciting for us. We've no idea if it will work but we thought we'd give it a try. The idea came about when a group of us met in a pub in Battersea and we brainstormed how we could encourage more women to turn out at cycle races in the London area.

A local league consisting of a variety of grass roots races with ranking points, a leader's jersey and photo ops for the racers plus an end of season prize giving was what we proposed as solution to the low numbers we've been getting at local races.

The local cyclo cross league, which has run for a number of years, has a similar system where points are earned each time you race. There's no leader's jersey, but people get their moment of glory when the leading riders are gridded on the first row at the start of the race. As rankings are published regularly this leads to mini battles occurring at all levels - even for 67th place. The regular race reports and photos feature various riders - not just the star performers. It's interesting to see the type of things that motivate people.

The women's league doesn't start until the end of March when we hold our first race. Early indications show that there's alot of interest in this initiative and people are keen to take part.

Just as with any recipe, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We'll have to wait until the racing season begins proper to see if this was a good idea!

Anyway, our website is live so feel free to check it out. Who knows, you may even be tempted to join in!

Photo by John Mullineaux,

LWCR Logo by Rachel Brookes-Todoric

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Queens of the Mud!

The middle Sunday in February, for many is always reserved as a day where you do something special with your dearly beloved. So that's exactly what I did. Me and my cyclo cross bike went to a race! It wasn't any ordinary cyclo cross race, but the London Team Championships.

I hadn't been feeling good at all for most of the week, and had to lay off any exercise. If it had been any other cyclo cross I'd have stayed at home. But the team champs has that edge compared to the other London League cyclo cross races. There's that end of term/glad we made it through feeling. You race in a team, and people pull together etc.

In the case of the women, there's also a chance of winning something. Last year we won just because we finished! There were no other teams. This year we had a little bit of competition as a composite of North London riders raced. I wasn't in good shape to be competitive, but my team mates Delia, Sophie and Dyanne really held their own. The terrain was tough and very sticky. Dye and Sophie were making their debut in the muddy stuff but they negotiated it beautifully. We all did very well, and for the second year running we were crowned the winners in the women's competition - brilliant!

Receiving a medal was even more pleasurable than receiving a Valentines card!

.....And the Kings

Our men's team also did well, and they managed to romp home as overall team winners. Kevin and Andy also collected prizes for doing well in the season long league. It was a right royal afternoon for Dulwich Paragon.

All photos except photo of me by John Mullineaux
Photo of me by Pauline English

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Reflection and Resolution

I have just finished doing a series of interviews with local racing chicks for London Cyclesport website. The girls talk about how things went for them in 2009, and what their hopes and goals are for 2010.

In the spirit of "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" I am putting myself through the process!

How was 2009 for you?
2009 was a rather quiet year for me. I did a few cycle races, but nowhere near as much racing as I would normally do.
Getting involved in other cycling and non-cycling related projects just meant that I could not commit to as much cycle racing or training as usual. Even my cyclo cross season was affected, not least due to me sustaining an ankle injury.
2009 was the year that I lost my 2nd cat licence and also my racing mojo! On the plus side, I got to do more writing and a few of my articles were published in Cycling Weekly, Cycling Active and London Cyclesport.

Did you achieve your cycling goals?
I did not achieve any of my cycling goals. In terms of just enjoying what I was doing I think I achieved that though, as that always has to be the goal that underpins everything else!

What were the most significant cycling moments of 2009 for you?
Standing on the Cipressa climb during the Milan San Remo and watching the pros race up the 8% gradient like it was a flat road! The looks on the faces of the guys in the bar as Mark Cavendish swept to victory were priceless!

Standing on the start line in ridiculous fancy dress on a dark Saturday night for the Rollapaluza muddy as hell Halloween cyclo cross race. There were loads of women, and it was amusing watching John Mullineaux trying to read out our names by torchlight when he was gridding us. Not long ago, there wouldn't have been enough women on a cyclo cross start line to do gridding!

Having a women's race at the Smithfield Nocturne in London. I was unable to make that race, but the reports on it were really good. Everyone who took part in it said it was an amazing experience.

How do you see 2010 looking?
It's looking good to me. It has been pretty busy so far, as a group of us have been preparing a women's road racing league in the London area. I am looking forward to seeing that start. Trainingwise, I am fitting in what I can, but I am full of hopes for doing the key women's races. As for cyclosportives I am looking forward to going back to the Lake District for the Fred Whitton cyclosportive, and to Ireland for the Sean Kelly Tour of Waterford. I also hope to do one of the cobbled races - Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, plus the Gran Fondo Pantani (which will take in the passo Mortirolo and the passo di Gavia).
It'll be a busy year I think!

What are your goals?
Firstly, to stay healthy and happy - we can't always take these for granted. After that, I would like to do my bit to get the London Women's Cycle Racing League off the ground, and then win back my second cat licence, which I lost last year.

Is there anything you are likely to do differently in 2010?
I will watch what I eat. I am at that age where my blood pressure and LDL cholesterol count could go that bit overboard, and also where my bum could look that bit bigger on a bike. I am ever more conscious that I need to do something about it!

Are you superstitious? Have you noticed anything that could be a good omen?
I'm not superstitious. We've had a proper cold snowy winter, so I'm looking forward to a blazing hot summer. That'll mean epic rides and races to remember. I am looking forward to a non-humdrum year!

(Lower photo by John Mullineaux of

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Dolomite Delights

It's that time of year when I say to myself, oh well yet another missed trip to Val d'Isere. Too much on right now, I just can't get away.

Luckily, I did get a bit of a winter holiday in December when I went off to the Dolomites. The trip was quite fun packed, with walking around Brunico, cross country skiing in Dobbiaco and downhill skiing in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Although I returned to London feeling like I needed a rest, the trip was still well worth it. I'm glad I have some pics to remind me of those happy days!

Belated "Hello" 2010!

Wow, how time flies!

Back in December I was reflecting on how my year had been while relaxing in the Dolomites. I then went to Yorkshire where and celebrated New Year with my sister. I was looking forward to starting the New Year, but hadn't actually drawn up any particular plan for 2010. I usually chart the things which I hope to achieve in the coming 12 months, but somehow life seems to have gotten too busy for me to be able to even stop and do that.

It seems like the plans have taken over me! Somewhere a cheeky fairy has already laid out my diary of activities for the coming months. I wouldn't mind, but she seems to have forgotten that there are only 24 hours in a day!

So, this is the first occasion of 2010 that I have been able to write something on my blog. January just went so quickly that it was a blur. I suspect February, being a shorter month, will be even quicker.

I will try and keep up the posts regularly, but I think the fairy may not have allowed for the fact that I will have to cram 31 days worth of activities into 28!
There may yet be some slippage this month. I therefore apologise for the lack of posts in January, and also for any lack of future posts in February.
I will also say Happy New Year dear reader!