We’re well past the halfway point of Winter training and now less than 12 weeks off the event and thankfully I’ve managed to stay germ free and avoided all of the bugs that go around at this time of the year and therefore have had no interruptions to training as yet. Things are currently going to plan and I’ve been feeling good, gradually increasing my time in the saddle and also working on climbing technique, partly on the turbo due to the lack of mountains or climbs of any length in Guernsey.
I suffered a bit of a motivational blip just around Christmas which is pretty much par for the course with me and tends to happen around this time most years. I think everyone gets to a point at some time during the Winter when you’ve just had enough of training on cold, dark early mornings or nights with bad weather and you long for a decent day out on the road with no wind or rain and with a bit of sunshine. Previously we’ve had early season trips to Mallorca or Lanzarote to look forward to but that’s not going to happen this year although the daily reminder from Training Peaks of how little time there is left to prepare for this year’s events is keeping me focused. We’ve also recently attended the CTT Champion’s Night awards evening and mixing with some great athletes at this annual event is always something which inspires and motivates in equal measure.
Cycling can be a selfish sport in a lot of respects and it can put a lot of pressure on other aspects of your life especially when you’re devoting a lot of time to it and this is where I’m incredibly fortunate in that I have a very supportive wife. She has herself competed at world and Commonwealth Games level and appreciates the time involved to be able to compete at the best of your ability whilst working full-time and looking after family, dogs, etc. Spending hours on the bike and then taking the time to sort myself out, eat and rest takes up what can amount to a whole day each weekend and I do appreciate that I’m definitely not the best of company after a long session on the bike. Whatever I want to do on the bike she’s very understanding and is at the moment very much working around me which makes things easy for me and which I’m very grateful for.
Another aspect of this is with the support team who also put up with a lot both before and during an event. I’m very lucky in that I have a group of friends who are willing to give up their own time and annual leave to help me achieve my goals. There will be four people in the support car for RAI which is effectively two crews consisting of a driver and a navigator and will allow two to be “on duty” and two “off” at any one time. Given the lunchtime start of the race and my target time I’m expecting active support for at least around 40 hours straight through and it’s not feasible to do it safely with just one driver and navigator hence the need for four people. One of the team will also be helping with the drive to Italy and back which will be taking two days to get there and because of the ferry timings, three days to get back. It’s a big ask of people because they have a lot to cope with, not just the duration of the event but also with my “emotional” outbursts along the way plus being forceful with me where necessary and sympathetic when required but the same crew keep coming back so I guess they also enjoy it in a weird kind of way. I do maintain that it’s easier for the rider than it is for the crew as there’s a lot of pressure and stress on them throughout an event with little reward whereas I just sit on my bike while they feed me, tell me what to do and where to go.
The other big part of the team is my coach at MBPC, Gareth. We’ve worked together for over three years and he’s a friend as much as he is a coach now. I’ll emphasise that we work “together” as it’s definitely a partnership between us as opposed to him sending training plans over the internet and expecting me to get on with it with minimal communication. Once we’ve established goals he does the plan himself and without much input from me but sets are always up for discussion and we do discuss beforehand how we undertake the key sessions and the longer rides. I usually get some level of feedback following each session and last minute changes to the plan are never an issue although I would guess that I’m possibly one of his more “demanding” cycling coaching clients in that I do have a lot of contact with him although it never seems to be an issue with him. Or if it is then he doesn’t complain about it..!!
Finally there’s the team at our local bike shop, Ian Brown’s cycles who keep me on the road despite my best efforts to break things and wear things out. They’ve supported me not just with the usual sales and after sales service you expect from a bike shop but also with last minute requests to fix some maintenance issue stopping me using a bike which I need straightaway and with the loan of equipment, training facilities and the donation of kit, all of which also enables me to keep up with the training I want to be doing. As an added bonus they also have a pretty good coffee machine too.
Without the support of everyone involved I wouldn’t be able to be involved with the type of cycling that I want to be doing and I’m humbled and forever grateful to all of these people for the opportunities that I’m getting.
As usual I’d like to thank everyone who is helping me with the opportunity to race in Italy and to prepare for it, Kate and Matt at Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching, Ian Brown’s Cycles, Vanguard Power, HSS Hire, Endura and Cyclon UK