Friday, 31 December 2010

noshing north of the border

i'm on a train, with wifi AND a bike carriage - this richard branston bloke has got his stuff sorted out. Not only is he a veritable prince of pickles he also knows how to build a (tilting) train. * I was going to take this opporttunity to gush about what a crazysuperawesomeemotionaldeepmassive year i've had. BUT there are lots of blog posts about that so catch up with your reading people, if you're really bored this was a goodie and this is what happens when i get angry. Read those and step AWAY from the quality street.

instead of bringing you my musings about where the last 365 days have taken me i've decided to treat you to a breakdown of the ways my grandmother has been delighting my tastebuds recently. I want to say that my granny is one of the old school - she cooks from scratch, uses considerable amounts of animal fat. never snacks and serves tea AND dinner. it's pretty cool.

anyway the two confections with which i was particualirly taken and for which i always feel a certain sense of nostalgia are NOT to be recommended by those of us who monitor grams of things but they still score highly on the saturated fat:smiles ratio.

scotch eggs have not passed my lips for a good half decade and i'd just about forgotten how good an hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat and then covered in breadcrumbs and (you guessed it) DEEP FRIED can be. Wikipedia reminds us that the scotch egg is older than the USA so don't knock it, it's got some experience. I'm pretty sure that i've actually eaten individual scotch eggs which predate the USA but this one was a fine specimen, local suasage meat, free range chicken foetus and just the right temperature. just right after a few hours 'crossin (both in the sense of cyclocrossin and in the fact that i was straddling the river esk which seperates England from Scotland). Given my recent affection for the ginger beard, riding in the mud deep fried foods, i felt more than welcome north of the border. Oh and i also play the 'pipes which helps.

my second culinary creation offers a very specific cycling benefit. black pudding is " is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled" and to that i might add "a vital component of a proper English breakfast"(alongside good bacon, sausage, fried eggs, and maybe baked beans but only if the table on which the meal is served is made of formica). not only is this confection high in protein, crazy high in iron, a vessel for the delivery of whole grains and very filling indeed it also offers us a chance to experiment with the boundaries of WADA's code. If bert can get away with steak doping im wondering if i could extract my own blood, send it up to Granny and have her knock up a batch of blood pudding for me to consume in the middle of a hard block. It's the ultimate in personally tailored performance enhancing snacking. EPNO might sound like a good idea but can you really beat bloodboostingblackpudding for a pre race supplement?

Food for thought AND food for sport that. enjoy your new year and may it bring you peace, prosperity and pleasure.

PS this train is on time, the last train i took in the US was 12 hours late. From this i can conclude a couple of things 1) southern cali has a car culture 2) david cameron = mussolini

*has anyone noticed a sharp rise in the amount of british specific banter in my musings recently

Snow business

Greetings from the mother country! If you've got nothing better to do than follow my tweets you may have noticed that it's bloody cold. The use of a proper adjective there qualifies the degree of cold. If I'd used a socal adjective like "freakin" or even "damn bro" you could expect it to be about 12 centigrade in real money or in the high 50s if you insisit on those retrograde yankee degrees. But my use of a British adjective indicates a whole new level of hypothermia: it's -19 c(-2 in roman catholic) and on top of that we have about 25cm of snow! Quite the winter wonderland.

Since getting back I've ridden outside once, well nearly twice. Friday was "only" -5 and there want any snow so we rode for 4 hours, my hands burned like they were covered in molten lead! That night we got hit by about 15cm of snow and the roads were pretty much impassable by the next morning so training has been limited to the mind (and groin) numbing pleasure that is riding inside. Any top tips would be welcome. Apparently taping a note saying HTFU onto your stem only works for a few hours. I'm burning through the laundry at an unprecedented rate of knots (2-3X sweaty indorr sessions a day = lots of chamois laundry) and rapidly running out of coffee (ahem @birdrockcoffeeroasters hook me up!). in temps like these everything becomes a mission, the chickens' water tank freezes and requires daily defrosting, the horses need more food as they cant get at the grass and going outside is an exercise in the application of sheeps' hair.

After a couple of days piloting the rollers I decided I'd had enough. I cued up some chopper reid and grabbing my snow shovel and set out to create what, if I say so myself was one of the more burly cyclocross loops that the village of murcot has ever seen. It included a pretty "sick" kicker a berm best described as "gnarly" (bro) and some "hella" cool (literally) snowbarriers. Sadly the next day saw it disappear under a fresh coat of snow. I also managed a 4 hour hike the other day, apparently its hard to navigate when everything is covered in white powder so I may have gone a little further than planned. Still it made for a fun day and everyone in my village officially KNOWS I'm a nutter now.

I went to get my hair cut the other day and the hairdresser told me she thought it was funny that I was essentially am 8 year old inside. And it was indeed the case that come the morning of the 25th I was indeed awake long before my young cousins (with whom I was sharing a room) – luckily my aunt had my back and had subtly planted a stocking at the end of my bed so I could indulge myself with the delights of a chocolate orange (if Terry wants to claim it he can come and get it back), some pretty awesome trinkets (hello Spork) and a copy of new scientist which my cousin was reading to try and appear clever. Having not delved into the world of scientific literature (even in this "lite" form) since I got my place to read history at Oxford 5 years ago I can safely inform the assembled ignoramuses like myself that there is no cause for alarm NOTHING INTERESTING HAS HAPPENED, well to be more accurate nothing interesting happened lat week anyway. Or at least, nothing that was interesting to someone who isn't really interested in such matters. Funny that.

The rest of crimbo was pretty uneventful, I set insulin world records, enjoyed a quality lunch of poultry and pudding, took the dog (and my bloated stomach) for a walk and put some sweet orange HUDZ on the cx rig in prep for the Kenilworth boxing day cx the next day. But that, children, is another story….

Tuesday, 28 December 2010


It's bloody chilly!

-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Bend: over. Getting screwed by the man

I'm proud of that title; even if it is a little crude. My 'cross nats adventure is over, as is my 24 hour journey south. I won't bore you with the details but it wasn't fun. The race report from nationals will be on the tt1 website soon (while you're there why not equip yourself in style with the finest of lime green foppery; you too can look like the Grinch this festive season).

Bend was a pretty cool town. I very much appreciated the lack of chain stores in the downtown area and the preponderance of coffee choices. I was fortunate enough to be staying with a fantastic host family in a palacial dwelling about 8 miles out of town. This meant I could happily ride into town on my 'cross bike as a handy warm up for some 'crossing about in the mud. On the Monday after my race I got to chill out downtown which was great; I can recommend Bend Mountain coffee if you're ever in town. I love a coffee shop where the owner knows the names of his regulars, where you can rely on your coffee being ready for you without having to give the order, where you're welcome as a friend and not as a customer. The same thing applies ot the cycling industry. Some of the larger brands in our sport have been engaging in what is, in my opinion, pretty unsavoury business practice towards local shops. Carrying one brand in particular leads to almost total saturation with a product range that; while perfectly passable has many rivals of equal or greater merit which are unrepresented. At the very least some variety would be nice, you don't WANT the same bike as everyone else, especially when it's black. Your local bike shop should be somewhere to go for advice and you have every right to expect them to recommend products regardless of the brand on those products. They, in return have the right to rely on the relationship which you have with them to bring business. When your local shop starts stocking and selling a single brand, you might as well shop online. Think about the added value you receive from bantering with the mechanics, the countless hours every week that get spent tightening bolts and pumping tyres for free. Think about the first time you got 10% off without asking. So don't let your local bike shop become a starbucks get your arse (and your wallet) down there and buy your presents from real people, before we start using pretend Italian terms to describe our frame sizes!

I'm in an airport on my way back to blighty, ready for some real winter training in the proper cold weather. Judging by my parents reports it's unrideable but my parents have a rather different outlook on such matters. Just like my bike shop point above one of the things I love about being home is the comfort of fitting in absoloutley. Nobody remarks on my pronunciation, my spelling, the brakes on my bike being backwards or my refusal to call porridge "oatmeal". The cycling community around where I grew up has always been great to me and I look forward to cruising out on the "antiques roadshow" rides which stop for cider in the summer and tea in the winter. I love the conversations that pick up every 6 months and the friendships-cum-rivalries which only grow stronger with absence. I'm not a big fan of the bloody snow though, or sitting in Dallas fort worth airport! I'm scoping out the other passengers right now; there are some proper whoppers. If I land a king sized neighbour I will not be a happy camper; I've slept 8 hours in the last 48 and all I want to do is close my eyes.

Here's another list to brighten up your day ( I know how you look forward to these)

5 food combos to to try before crimbo:

Chevre get the soft one; put in on toast (walnut raisin bread if you have it) with honey, eat, ride.

Feta, watermelon, mint (salad enhancer par excellence)

Seeds in salad (seems I'm late to the party with this one)

The poor man's mocha (get a coffee, add the chocolate powder, sweetener and milk yourself. For ultimate cheapo credit, get it WITHOUT room for cream, then drink some THEN affect mocha marvelousness)

Lovely goat teas + stevia. Manorexic beverage of choice, I'll throw it in a bidon and go out to brave the cold (all kinds of good blends, stay healthy, stay warm AND reuse the tin to wrap your presents in)


And finally some questions: can someone please explain the following to me? They're bothering me immensely: flaxseeds, half-caf coffee, "American" cheese (apart from as a night-time visibility aid), treaded road tyres, hammer perpetum solids.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Bend – the beginning

No prizes for guessing where I'm going with the title of my next blog post….

I'm on an aeroplane again which means the netbook's out and you get to tolerate the web 2.0 version of talking to the person in the seat next to me. I just got on this particular vessel, I can safely say I've seen cars in LA which are bigger (and use more fuel) but going by the universally acknowledged formula of smaller jet = bigger deal I'm pretty excited to be on this flying minivan. Not so excited that they just moved a fat bloke to the back to balance the plane (I'm not even joking).

Anyway it's been a while since I've written anything so I thought I'd update my avid fans on a few things. First up the 'betes game. It's been silly bugger for sure recently. It seems like every time I put in 2 or 3 days over 5 hours my body responds by rolling high at first then plummeting as the glycogen stores drop (from the high volume and the being high which most likely leave me in a pretty hefty glycogen deficit). The hypo days are no fun, my navi report graphs look like the teeth of a saw. Thankfully after experimenting I've found something approaching a solution: ice cream! It'll put you up and it has a fair whack of fat, so it'll keep you up. Really I didn't work that out by myself, Bob tipped me off. Take note: my cycling team manager told me to eat some ice cream! Hopefully this'll be the first night this week when I won't be at the dextrose in the early hours of the morning.

Having got the body into something resembling harmony I can now focus on the two wheeled side of things. Thanks to the boys at and velohangar I've got myself a 'cross bike just in time for nationals. When I say just in time I mean I picked it up last night and rode it at 6am this morning, put it in a box and onto a plane! Thankfully Gordon wields an allen key and tape measure with a rare degree of skill and the second I hopped onto the bike it felt like my own, I could give ten mechanics my measurements but it's rare I don't have to tweak a cable or toe in a brake. I guess that's why people keep going back. If you're ever in San Diego (or indeed if you're ever in need of a direction in which to point your web browser) check out bicycle fettling par excellence.

On my training ride (notice there has been only one) I managed to keep the rubber side down and the grinning side up. I can wholeheartedly recommend a 'cross bike. They really open up all kinds of training routes and take the battering of winter training well. They also make a really cool humming noise when you're smacking it. This is particularly awesome. I imagine myself as some kind of turbo-dementor/dalek-hovercraft whilst I'm 'crossing about scaring squirrels and tempting the local dogs into a spot of chase the skinny bloke.

This is part one of a pretty epic block of travelling, and I've already spent far too much on bad airport food and stewed coffee. I'm flying from bend back to LAX. Stopping to see some friends for dinner, then getting a train to San Diego. Where I'll spend 24 hours before getting on another plane back to blighty. So if you're reading on the other side of the pond, and you fancy yourself as a top notch heckler. Come out to the boxing day 'cross in Kenilworth and look out for the skinny bloke dressed as Buzz lightyear. (you might also want to get your arse to London and use your heckling skills on our sorry excuse for a government)…..


Oh and for those of you who want cluing in on what's filling the gaping chasm between my ears on those long rides:

Gayle Skidmore – make believe

Mumford and Sons – Sigh no more

Stereophonics – Word gets around

Manic Street preachers – Postcards from a young man, all the B sides from lifeblood (check out voodoo Polaroids & dying breeds)

Some weird trance track called "LOL smiley face"

BBC podcasts on Moral philosophy ( check out the trolley problem on Wikipedia)