When you first start cycling as a young kid you learn an awful lot in a very short period of time especially when you start racing or go on the track for the first time. You have no choice you either learn quick or get out of the way. My Dad, who has a theory on most things, calls it the 80:20 rule; you learn 80% of everything there is to know in the first 20% of the time, you then learn the remaining 20% in the remaining 80% of the time which might be the rest of your life. I thought this was a reasonable theory until I started racing full time out here as an U23. I’ve never so much about bike racing than I have learnt in the last two months.
It’s the end of March and I’m now seven races into the season, the intensity is the first thing you learn to deal with, big races, 200 starters and up to 180k, sometimes two races in one weekend. The next thing you learn is the intensity of the race itself; the speed and pace is brutal but as each race goes by you can feel yourself forgetting about your old threshold and finding a new higher threshold that you didn’t even realise you had in you, this new threshold then becomes your norm until you lift it again. Of the seven races I’ve had five finishes, three of which have been around 30th place but this doesn’t even begin to explain how much I have learnt and developed in this short period of time. Somebody the other day asked me if I was a better rider compared with when I first came out, I can only answer by saying ‘miles better’, yet I can also see how much better I still need to be. It is almost as if I have started a whole new 80:20 rule. Have I any regrets? Absolutely not! This is the greatest fastest learning curve in bike racing.
Away from the racing; life in Belgium is getting better all the time, I’m settling in and finding my way around, I’m getting into routines, getting to know lots of new people and generally getting a feel for how things are done. No plans to come back home until the National Championships in June. Training wise I’m doing about 22 hours a week based exactly on what my coach back in the UK instructs me from the Train Sharp HQ. The weather can be grim but this can only get better and I am looking forward to the Belgium spring and summer.
My objectives for the rest of the year; keep learning, keep listening, keep working hard, keep raising the threshold.
||Ster Van Zwoller
||Molenbeek Wersbeek KMS
||Ronde Van Zuid Holland
||Omloop Van De Houtse Linies
||Breezel Putt KMS
Monday 2nd Feb
Collecting all your new kit for the coming season is always one of the most exciting days of the year. I’d previously arranged to meet the team mechanic at 10am at the team Service Course; to my word I’m there dead on time. I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to cycling equipment as it can make a massive difference to how you perform. As I arrive he had just finished building my team training bike a beautiful Ridley Helium. He took it off the stand and lent it up against the wall. He then took me into the clothing room where he issued me with all my Vermac Lotto kit, Lazer helmet and Jako casual wear. As I take it all to the car he went and fetched my bike and helps me load up. As soon as I get home I try it on for size; it all fits comfy and snug. I pack it all away into my organized system and then go to the garage to work on the final set up of my bike. I start by getting my cleats set up, I’ve not ridden Keo for a couple of years but they were always easy to work on and super reliable. I molded my shoes back in England; shoes are a very personal thing that you spend many hours in them and for me Bont’s are the only choice to make. I slip into some cycling kit and get out my rollers. I get riding and within seconds I decide my bars need rotating to bring the hoods closer to me and allow my hands to sit with more comfort. After a bit of playing around I find the optimal position. I finish the bike off by rapping the handlebars in tape. All I need now is to take it out on the roads of Belgium to christen it.
Friday 30th Jan
I’m still at home, I’ve got my bags packed and I’m ready to move to Belgium. I was really looking forward to moving. I had planned for my Dad to come out with me on Saturday and for him to spend the night in Belgium and go back home on Sunday. We had planned to leave Nottingham at 4am and start our journey to Herselts.
Saturday 31st Jan
I get up at 3:30 wake my Dad and walk down stairs to make my porridge. After we’d eaten and got dressed we got in the car and stared the long trip. After a slight lul confidence began to look forward to arriving in Belgium but I was still not convinced about leaving home. As it was so early I decided to sleep until we got to the ferry terminal while my Dad drove and then once we’d crossed the channel I’d drive the rest. We had a fairly easy crossing, the sea was pretty soft that made a pleasant crossing. We stood at the back of the ship my dad and I and we watched the white cliffs of Dover get smaller in the distance. Soon we arrived at Dunkirque, the weather was a little grey and gloomy. We pulled off the ferry and set the Sat Nav to Herselts. As we neared Belgium the weather began to cheer up and bit. After about 2 hours we arrived at the house that I will be staying in and began to unload the car. After settling in and having a cup of tea we begain to watch the high light from the Cyclo-Cross world cup with Tim Harris, Jos Ryan and George the cat who own the house. After having tea and snuggling up in bed we gradually nod off.
Sunday 1st Feb
This is my first day in Belgium as an amateur cyclist for the Lotto Soudal U23 Cycling Team. I got up at 8am and went down stairs and tucked into a bowl of musile. I began to plan a route for the days ride. I had no idea where I was going and I would be riding alone. Tim had suggested and starting direction and Jos had given me a map to help me on my way. I set out in a South Eastlerly direction. I rode around the streets of East Belgium for the next hour and a half, apart it being horrific weather it was a pleasant first ride. I got back and jumped straight in the shower as I was freezing! After I’d warmed up a bit, had a warm drink of tea and put some warm clothes on it was time to take my dad to the station for him to begin his travel back to Nottingham. We left earlie, took a steady drive so when we arrived we had plenty of time to hand. I walked with him to the passenger waiting room and sat with him while waiting for his train to arrive. After some wise words the train pulled up in the station. We had an emotional Father and Son hug before to bored the train, as it pulled away we waved each other Good Bye. After watching the train part the station and seeing it fall out of view I made my way back to the car and began the short drive back to the house.
So far my two days in Belgium have been pretty enjoyable. On Monday 2nd Feb I plan to visit the team Service Course and collect my race bike and kit for the 2015 season before packing and getting ready for the team training camp that we fligh out to on Thursday 10th Feb where I will spend two weeks getting to know the other riders on the team.