Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Up and down

Up and down

As I write this a procession is marching past, headed up by 15 fife players, there are about 50 drummers (it’s easy to count as they are in lines of 5), there is one lady (the recently elected neighbourhood queen) and following her are 49 men with muskets, they all wear white shirts and red berets with matching neckerchiefs. On the extreme left of the back row there is aman also sporting the uniform however over his shoulder there is what is quite clearly not a musket, it is in fact an air rifle. The global economic crisis has hit new lows here in Irun.

Today I raced the Clasica Irunes, one of the Basqueland’s bigger races. 130km in one circuit, mountain passes, the whole shebang. Having turned up at the club hq not the race HQ I was driven to the start by the club president, presented with a coffee and croissant and generally treated with the best of Basque hospitality. Being as it was bouncing it down with rain I commenced embrocating and showing off my plastic gloves (which I pilfer from petrol stations). It’s somewhat disheartening when every other team has not just a car but a BUS, and you have a backpack but oh well. I tucked an extra bidon down my jersey and checked my sugars before heading off into battle. The crowds were pretty solid for a rainy Wednesday and we rolled through the middle of town as most civilized people were rolling out of bed following a night of uncivilized fiesta.

Ten ks out of town and the ikurrina, along with the proverbial hammer, dropped. Next thing I knew we were climbing at 50 kph. In this situation I tell myself that whomever is doing this is only as human as I am and they will give up soon. They didn’t. An hour and a half later and I’ve decided it might be a good idea to attempt a 100k solo move, some people have joined me and it’s looking worryingly like we have a gap. We all start working and then, just as it looks like we’re going to stick everyone decides the time has come for a mid race wardrobe change. Shoe covers come off, gilets go back to cars and short fingered gloves come out of pockets. Resplendent in clean kits we must look quite the troupe as the bunch catches us.

In all my excitement I’d managed to ride 70k on a gel, and I commence snacking on assorted pastry products in plastic wrappers (can you say brioche de poche?). Just after the catch we commence climbing a pretty solid col, I was at the front but things weren’t looking good from the glucose perspective. I noticed the climb was awfully hard but they tend to be that way. Then I looked at my SRM and noticed I was only on 340 watts, this felt like more than that. I tried to just HTFU and ride but it kept getting harder, then I looked down and saw the distinct absence of air in my rear tyre. That might be what was making 300w feel like 500. Drifting back I looked for a neutral car. All isaw was the race exploding behind us and, as we crested the climb and ice- skated down the other side I diced with death in the caravan. No car= no wheel= game over. ARSE.

Anyway, half an hour later the broom wagon dropped me off back at the club. They gave me lunch and their consolation. As I write this I’m readying myself to spend the night with a local old gent. He’s a good friend of JM Garate and more than willing to help a starving cyclist in need. Once again, swings and roundabouts. It’s not only bike races that go up and down, it’s your luck too!

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

Location:A basque bar

Friday, 24 June 2011

from the eye of the storm

they say that in the eye of a storm it's calm; i feel very calm right now thanks mainly to the massive outpouring of support from all of you. thanks. anyway here's what i wrote a few days ago before all this exploded ..

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


There's something highly attractive about swearing, especially for a good cause. Whether that be fuck(ing) cancer (not literally) or giving the metaphorical middle finger to my pancreas I've never been one to shy away from four letter language. Sone peopledont like it, some people might use it as an excuse to terminate your employment. Frankly if your brain isn't large enough to contemplate the difference between foul language to cause offense and the manipulation of spectacle for humor or a good cause, you'd better focus on breathing. That's it, in and out, good, had you worried for a minute there didn't I? Fuck! (that caught my remaining readers in Georgia by suprise, but no worries, i think they shock most likely euthanased them)

Anyway I want to highlight the work of the guys over at stfu; I'm all about not whining when it comes to training or even diabetes but there are some cases when we need to learn to share. Depression is a nasty nasty thing, I've seen it destroy my family and that of my best mate And I myself am no more immune than anyone else. The really nasty thing about depression is that we can't see it and as a result we don't give it the recognition it deserves, sufferers don't talk about it and we often never find out an individual I'd suffering until they breakdown or worse. Then it's too late.

As a society we need to change our perceptions of mental illness. We need to be more open to talking about it. We spend millions trying tp cure cancer but we could solve this issue by simply softening up and having time to talk.

I want to make raising funds and awareness for the issue a part of what I'm doing with my life. If I can do this and just one person is moved to talk, or listen before it is too late then I'll be happy. I spend my life wearing my diabetes on my sleeve (literally) and I do t see any reason why depressed people should be any more compelled to hide their condition. so check it out

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

Location:The Barcelona metro

Sunday, 19 June 2011

place names explained

yup, i've been racing my bike again. With mixed fortunes. Monday was a national holiday here, and in celebration of this there were NO races in Catalonia because our local government is still composed of two warring factions who are yet to grow up enough to actually do anything useful and as a result all kinds of things aren't happening. So a large group of us conducted a border raid into Pollestres. if you want the compact race report it goes like this, mental first lap, buried my pedal about 30ks in. went to the back, pack split, escaped from the bunch, worked like a dog, got caught, sat in the bunch, thought happy thoughts, perfected my water bottle stealing.
Now the interesting thing about pollestres is that the catalan word pollo a l'ast is pronounced more or less the same as the french word pollestres; resulting in much giggling as we disputed the grand prix of spit roasted chicken...

this weekend was more exciting, saturday was a carnival rac ein Pobla de Mafumet. This was a moorish town origionally called pobla de Mohammed but, post reconquista such obvious islamicness was unacceptable, but they couldn't change the name too much because nobody would know what they were on about, thus we get the Catalanised mafumet. As for the race, it was a classic of spanish organisation, i rode out, only to find the start delayed for over an hour, they towed about 20 cars off the course as nobody had thought to post no parking signs on the finish straight and, after much discussion they decided to add a section of road which i am pretty sure wasn't on the origional route.

This being Catalonia and there being virtually no races a mountain of spandex weirdos descended on the town and, they decided to split the race into two with a final race afterwards. They informed us there would be sprints for the classification. I (along with many others) assumed this was the regional copa elite classification but no, you had to be classified to go onto the final. Ergo, despite finsihing up front after avoiding the crashes which eliminated hafl the field within 6k of the start (and one bloke before he'd even clipped in!) i didn't get to race the finale. My fault, i'll listen better next time.

Sunday saw myself and a french friend making a trip to Valencia where we arrived early, in time to wait for 50- mins while the local federation rep decided if he was going to allow foreign riders to race, It's ok in Catalonia but app[arenlty Valencia is a different world. WIth 10 mins before the start he decided to relent, mad spandexing and oil application ensued but we were ready in time to roll up DFL at the back of the bunch.

In an interesting side note today's race also had an odd name, alquerias del nino perdido. The name was changed by Franco from the origional alqueries in Valencian. Now the town has two names, this makes finding it on a sat-nav a bit of a mission.

Anyway, having not warmed up, and started at the back we went from the changing room to 50kph more rapidly than i would have liked. i suffered like a monkey for the first 15k, gradually made my way up for the first 50, relaised i hadn't eaten or drunk anything when my navigator went mental and went to the middle of the bunch to enjoy a bit of a picnic. Of course at this point the break went. After allowing myself a full 10 seconds of digestion i set off in hot pursuit, bridged to the second group and tried to get things organised. Despite my best efforts to explain that we had about as much chance as a chocolate teapot unless we worked together we proceeded to alternate between 20kph and 50kph while those of us who didn't have the legs to attack were kind enough to decorate the roads with our dropped bidons, gel packets and nasal fluid (yes i'm talking about you orange dude). Lon story short, we got caught, it came down to a gallop with about 15 guys away. IN the last corner the bunch was somewhat hindered by the attempts of a local 4x4 owner to share the road, and i count myself lucky to have finished with my skin. Oh and some theiving gypo nicked my armwarmers.

Still i met some pretty cool folks and unlike in the rest of Europe people GIVE you water here so you don't have to steal it, this helps as you don't have to leave the race at high velocity in your chamois as there are generally fewer angry wives and girlfriends to deal with.

i'm going to start making race comment cards

GP Pollestres
Distance: 105k
Circuit: 2 roundabouts, urban section, more white paint than asphalt, rain, considerable "drifintg" potential off circuit final km
Bonus points: Nabbed a water bottle

cursa de fiesta mayor pobla de Mafumet
2 180s 1 roundabout, 3 90 degree turns - more reminiscent of stock car racing than bicycle racing.
Survival was a bonus!

GP Alqueries
twisty, 5k, 2 motorway overpasses, more sleeping policemen than you'd see in a constabulary dormitory
red bull hand up, if there had been a king of the mountain's i'd have taken it i DOMINATED that motorway bridge.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

so what does a full time cyclist do on a rest day?

well for one thing (s)he (im going to go ahead and use the male pronoun from here, sorry Germaine but that's jus thow i roll, so suck it [do we think Germaine Greer reads my blog? Not any more]) forgets to write a blgo post so im writing this after cremating myself in the Catalan sun.

i have developed an alliterative way of recalling my usual rest day activites and i've even managed to use a cycling related TLA (three letter acronym) for my rest day fun. the three categories of activity which seem to often mean that my rest days are more jam packed than training days can be summarised along the same lines as one of cycling more painful events; TTT.

firstly you have time saving. In general this is doing stuff that you cant do on training days as you want to be restful, or stuff you cant do because you're away racing. this category might include: waiting (this is a VITAL activity when you need to get something done with the spanish government), cooking a lot of food, making rice cakes for training. cleaning bidons and the bike, planning travel to the next race, shopping, skyping and just occasionally a spot of home brewing (more on that later)

then you have your second "t" (you'll notice that in order not to infringe copyright i havent called these the 3Ts). This is "training" just because it's a rest day doesn't mean no riding. i'll spin for an hour or two, often taking the chance to sport a classy walz cap on my way to a local panaderia where i will sample a minute croissant and coffee (in order to maintain my svelte physique) before rolling back home. this is a pretty easy ride and i try to keep the cadence high, it flushes the legs out but prevents them from going stiff. I also do other training related activites; think stretching, breathing exercises etc.

bringing us to the end of our TTT is Time filling. I've become a highly effiocient procrastinator and i can pretty effectively dominate the tables outside of the cafe florida for over an hour, sipping a cortado or a cerveza, munching on olives and enjoying some improving literature. There are so many books to be read, songs to be learned, recipes to be browsed and tweets to respond to. I also seem to spend hours talking to various shopkeepers, bartenders and random people in the street which i am sure i could cut out of my day if i were more ruthless.

anyway, there's your weekly window into my little world (i am KILLING the alliteration today)

until next time, adeu

Friday, 10 June 2011

kermis means fair

and not in the sense of all being equal! A kermis in Belgium is like the fiesta major over here or the county fair in 'Murica, indeed a somewhat more raucous version of the village fete at home). When i was a child our town had a mop fair every year, a local tradition origionating from a hiring fair (thanks wikipedia) but by the time i was of age it had become an excuse to drink fizzy cider from a 2 liter bottle, get properly sauced and then ride on those rides which serve no purpose other than to make you barf and, if the pikeys underneath get lucky, make your worldly goods fly out of your pockets.

About the only thing those fairs shared with kermesses was the aforementioned rides (its a bit like a pikey pinata i guess). and of course the huge crowds, even in the middle of the week you can count on 500 or so spectators. All the bars set up an outdoor beer tent and often a braadwoorst stand, at first this seems quaint but after 100k the grilling meats seem to cause alternating hunger and vomiting impulses. Also ever present are droogwis, basically dried white fish on a string. I think i'm th eonly person ever to actually eat a droogwi, i quite like them with a beer but i will admit that they're pretty pungent, kind of like fish jerky i suppose. Of course this being belgium, copius pinches of jupiler abound.

the general kermis schedule is this (and by general i mean universal). The Enschriven (sign on) is at a bar or cafe, you walk in and present your bond (the belgian cycling union, yup UNION) card which is scanned, you pay 8 euros (always 8 euros unless its a topcompetition or something) and this secures you a frame number and a dossard. They tell you if the dossard goes linx or rechs (left or right) and you provide your own pins. Sign a sheet and that' you done. Generally the sign on opens 2 hours before the race.

Then you head to the Kleerdammers (changing rooms) and pin on your number (the proper way) along with bolting your frame number to your specially made frame-number-holder. The Preme list (prize list) details what is up for grabs each lap, and who donated it, you look out for that fitted kitchen, microwave or 3 kilogram cheese what you fancy and make a mental note of when to be at the front. Then you put chamois cream on and apply the chamois. at this point you may also apply the base layer but NEVER put the bibs over your shoulders. You then put on your jersey but unzipped and proceed to elevate your legs whilst someone else (either your father or wife) applies embro, this step is VITAL even in the heat of summer, you MUST apply embro. next you remove your jersey again and put it on your knees, inserting a few gels and the odd waffle into the pockets. Some riders will ride to the race, always with a backpack and ALWAYS carrying not wearing their helmets. wearing your helmet for training is a clear indication of cyclotourist status. These guys appear a little later, sign on and then commence the process at the embrocation step. Then it's time to pull up the bibs and check tyre pressure (3 times is normal) before commencing to ride around for maybe 1 lap (warming up is considered cheating) before hurrying to the start where you wait a minimum of 15 minutes.

and then, an overweight man with a moustache (or sometimes a woman with a moustache) blows a whistle and all hell breaks loose, you sprint to the first corner (typically within 100m of the start) slam on the anchors, sprint out and commence the fastest, hardest lap of the race. next comesa the second fastest lap, and the first preme. and gradually, the race explodes as echelons form and crashes happen. Groups ride around the course, all but the front group stalwartly refusing to work and attacking each other shamelessly. Riders often use kurbs, road furniture, roundabouts etc to move up so the crowd is always kept on its toes. Every lap also sees a sprint for the preme and a change in the betting.

Oh yes, the betting, bike racing is a big deal in Belgium (had you guessed) and a lot of money changes hands underneath the blackboards, with the leather suitcased bookies adjusting the odds each lap as races are bought and sold and riders grow weaker or stronger on the invisible other side of the course.

Whenever your group is considered to be out of the race, the moustachioed one will wave a flag and ring a bell. "laaste ronde" and your group sprints (like really full on sprints) for placings (money often goes down 50 deep) . this is a nice system as you generally go home with something AND you practice the tactics of a sprint. Then its time for a coke, again this is obligatory, on occasion one may substitute an aquarius but a can of soft drink is a must. then back to the Kleerdammers, a quick (communal) shower and chance to scope out the shattered looking racers who've already finsihed. In my case about ten people will ask you about the little thing on your arm, you'll explain the pod and they'll swear loudly, express a genuine concern and admiration and then nudge the guy next to them and tell them they were just beaten by an invalid.

Then its time to remove dossards and frame numbers and go back to the cafe where a line of riders is waiting, you climb through the smoke, up the stairs and into a small attic (i think they have these rooms specifically for this purpose). Your number goes back and you get an envelope stuffed with a few euros and maybe a gift ceritificate if you've earned one.

After this its back to the car and off home for dinner. generally its not advised to let your fellow atheltes see you eat so you wait until you've left to show this mortal weakness. it's frowned upon to get a beer in the bar, unless someone else is paying. I do it anyway. Just occasionally you get to have a bit of a slanging match in the car park as well, especially if you've hooked someone or been a bit generous with your occupation of asphalt in the sprint.

And then home you go. Steak, frites, jupiler and sleep. Bear in mind you've raced 100-140k starting at 3 so you often leave the race at 7 and youre amped up on caffeine and adrenalin until late, so you sleep in. get up at 10 and start the process again.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Beer, Beadspreads, and blue steak in Belgium

As you may have noticed, I have a tendency to benefit from the kindness of others; Many of you reading have helped me and many of the people who have helped me will never read this and never know how deeply touched I am. I thought I would share with you the story of how I met my Belgian family, ate an eddy mercx style lunch and slept under a club brugge duvet.

After racing on Thursday I decided to drive to the town where the Kermesse was going to be held the next day. The sat-nav having once again failed me I couldn’t locate a nearby hotel which I could afford (actually I shouldn’t blame the sat-nav for my poverty…) I stopped a man by the side of the road to ask if he knew of a camping, planning to pitch up inside pablito for the night. He directed me into a bar (he also accompanied me inside) and we asked the barmaid. Within minuted Bart had offered to let me camp in his garden, he had a tent. I jumped at the offer and quickly a round of pinches was ordered. Bart then suggested we set off home, and when I went to pay for said round. I was told that this was not going to happen. Once it was announced that would be racing the kermesse the next day I achieved something of a “local” status.

Back at Bart’s house we drank another beer and I met his family, 2 boys of 10 and his 17 year old son. Also his neighbours (the two men had been together at the bar). We talked for hours about cycling, Belgium, home and the USA. They didn’t ride themselves (although by Belgian standards they didn’t, all the children still made a 20k round trip to school each day) but had an appreciation for the sport. Their dinner had been and gone but they insisted on preparing me a fine (and not insubstantial) bowl of spaghetti (which was fetched from next door).

When the time came ot go to bed the two twins announced that they would share a bed and I could sleep in the other bed. And thus I found myself, having had my first hot meal in days, better beer than one can encounter rin the us for less than 6 dollars a glass and sleeping a REAL BED, all in the happy environs of the bedroom of a 10 year old football fanatic.

The next day I ate a hearty breakfast of 3 eggs from their chickens and headed out on a spin to Wevelgem, as well as making a practice ronde (in my customary fashion I did this the wrong way) of the race course. On my return having used their shower and towels (microfiber towels are great but only for so long!) I was presented with a blue steak and a heaping bowl of frites, looking at the clock I noticed that this was d to be consumed exactly four hours before the race; clearly one Sunday in hell has achieved the sort of product placement penetration which coca-cola can only dream of.

After a brief trip to visit “family” in Ypres, I returned, signed on in the cafĂ© and came home with the premelist. FLor and Warre the two young boys helped me pin on my number and mix my drinks. The whole family came to watch me race. They tried to feed, they made flags with my name on, they screamed “koomop” every lap and gave me the kind of wholehearted support I’ve honestly never had before. I’ve mentioned that my dad is n’t the most vocal supporter of cyclesport and this was really really touching to me.

Over the next four days I stayed with the family and I have memories I will never forget; Flor and Warre drinking my prolong energy drink and joining me on a “training” ride. Warre’s collection of pro cyclist stickers to which he added my bio-picture and his collection of bottles to which he added one of mine, so proud of it he fell asleep holding it like a teddy bear. He shouted so much on Sunday he made himself hoarse. They all laughed at my ability to consume ungodly quantities of waffles, speculoos and coffee. And we spent hours around the table in the garden of the house that Bart had built for his family with his own hands.

When I left I was genuinely moved to say goodbye. Flor had made me a mini cobblestone trophy and The grown ups had made me a bag of food I am still enjoying. There was also a Duval glass to replace the one I broke last summer. I didn’t have much to pay them back with; the boys liked my chocolate recovery drink so I sneaked it into the pantry, they each got one of the energy gels which fascinated them and a bidon. I also gave them one of my prized boxes of fudge and a box of English tea.

It was really heartwarming to me to be taken in by such a happy, well rounded and welcoming family and community. I’ve promised to go back and win them some premies. 17 year old Kasper and his buddy Mitch have promised to visit next year in England for a tour of our finer drinking establishments. And they’ve all promised to throw snowballs at me if I race the Gullegem ‘cross. Belgium might be a cold country, and it might be a little strange to see a vending machine full of potatoes but the people couldn’t be kinder. Not only bart and his family but the lady who handed me a bidon when I lost all of mine in a crash and as faced with 120k in 35 degrees centigrade without a drink, the fan by the side of the road who gave me his wheel when mine broke, and the race organizer who would always write the town where the next day’s race was on my arm so I could ride there.

If you ever get the chance, make the trip but be sure to take lots of presents! (might be best to avoid American chocolate, beer or French fries though, they’ve got that covered)

And yes it was really 35 in Belgium, and no, all the chocolate did not melt, neither did all the Belgians.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

gullegem koerse

sometimes life throws you a bit of a bummer; today was the gullegem koerse, one of the most famous night time kermis races. as the ourse wa sonly 3k from my temporary home i headed out in the morning for a brief recconaisance, this turned into alengthly slog as i decided to visit wevelgem, the ride out was pleasant, the ride back, not so much. Funny what a 50kph wind will do to you! Anyway my course inspection revealed a 3k lap with more road furniture than an ikea superstore. i went back to the house and, in classic local style was presented with an extremely rare steak exactly four hours before the start and told to eat up, and eat i did!

After faffing about for a long time and covering myslef in liters of "warm up oil" which serves no purpose other than shinyness i headed over to the bar to sign on, get my number and scope out the oppo. then it was time to warm up. in my time honoured fashion i turned up late for the start to find 120 of my closest spandex covered friends waiting to ride around the narrow streets with me. It also seemed that we were going in the other direction to that which i had taken all my practice ronden. bollocks.

the family i was staying with had mobilised the whole street to come and cheer so i had something approaching local boy status. in belgium this mandates you to ride off the front like a crazy fool. so i commenced diving up the inside of every corner, slamming on the anchors and then sprinting out of them like a proper local hero. The Belgian style of racing is to pretty much drill it out of every corner after creeping through each turn and chopping everyone like a crazy samurai.

now as i mentioned the course included not one, not two but an impressive 5 speed bumps in a mere 3 kilometers, also we got to sample the delights of 3 traffic islands and two roundabouts. This, combined with the grossepremelist meant that 3 laps in, the field was down to 2/3rds of the starting size. gaps were opening up and people were crossing them full gas. After about 15k, amother gap opened as the bunch split around a marshal stood on a piece of road furniture. one of the flemmish cycling project guys was busy burying himself and paying close attention to his stem, he was so enamoured with his front wheel that he neglected to notice the impending lampost and slammed into it at 50kph, it looked fairly painful. It is important in Belgium to maintain an aloof demeanour so i made an effort not to bat an eyelid as we all silently rode past.

the race continued in the usual kermis fashion, balls out and then slowing right up into the corners. I made apretty spiritied move for the preme sponsored by our local bar, only to have a rapidly retreating rider slam into me, i spilled both my bottles and came perilously close to an intimate encounter with the crowd. i managed to keep it rubber side down. but the next 70 kilometers were not fun; having lost all my prolong i was seriously lacking in fluid and calories. Every lap i shouted for anyone to give me water. The family had cited themselves on the premeline and thus every lap we went past them full gas, no feeding there. Eventually i managed to pull a sly one, hopping up on the curb i grabbed a bottle from a lady who was not in any way expecting said bottle to be grabbed, cheeky but necessary! thankfully a lady i had talked to before the start took it upon herself to replenish my supplies. Still running only on water i was rolling some pretty low blood glucose levels. i wa sracing in a skinsuit so gel carrying capabilites were limited.

come the end of the kermis 2 groups had slipped away. I had some good tempo left in my legs so i kept trying to pull the group back but nobody would work. It seems the response to seeing someone on the front trying to get a chase going is to sit on mercilessly and then hop onto the curb and drill it. after 3 laps of this the flag was being waved. I managed to pull enough of a sprint out of my stripy arse for the 3rd bunch kick, which got me 5 euros and a smoked fish. i think the smoked fish was more of a consolation prize but it tasted good.

I'll be writing more on kermis culture later but that's all for now, it's about to start raining and the whole family is trying (and failing) to name ten famous Belgians.....

Thursday, 2 June 2011

What goes a ronde

Well today wasn't my finest hour; I'm writing this from the cafe where I signed on five hours ago; watching the break roll in for the last lap.

In a typical jamesfashion I arrived early, signed on and managed to waste the 90 mins I had allocated for warming up by faffing about. Having completed two ten k laps I was sufficiently worried about te parcours to get to the start early, so were about eighty others. Sadly one local gent had left his vehicle in prime position and so we waited while the police towed it away, and we waited, an it gt warmer and the bolus I'd taken worked it's way into my blood and I started eating all my gels. Thirty minutes later we rolled, the first lap
Was savage.

Usual Belgian stuff; clip in, sprint, try not to vomit, up he pavement watch out for the lampost, across the gap. Sprint, stop, sprint again, swear ib whatever language comes first....

Two laps in and we settled, I moved up in afew corners ten lost time by taking the long route around a roundabout. A guy in front of me popped and I chased, five hundred watts for a minute, we got back, I rested, I was struggling to get the bike into a gear, I'd put the wheel in wrong. I looked down and lost places, an anpost rider dived up the inside, too fast and next thi g I knew his bike flew back off a lamppost! I swerved and then it was full gas, the riders behind bellowed but I knew they didn't have the legs to close it up so they were using their Lungs in the hope that I did. Five ks later we were back, sitting at the back I breathed through the straw which had replaced my windpipe. And then I looked up, echelons wereforming and we were at the back. Boom! Full gas but too late, I tried with the Fcp team to close the gap but no good, we were done, I popped him for the unimportant placing, grabbed my pump and went out to spin.

An hour later I got back, drank some rebuild and action wiped myself and the bike clean, I'm off to find wifi now and a place to sleep, until then.

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

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

riding at windmills

If I were to tell you a story about a tall, skinny, beardy bloke, his faithful mount and their travels in pursuit of impossible goals, there are a couple of things that might come to mind. If you’re a well educated, liberal and worldly resident of the USA you probably have no idea what I’m on about but for the rest of us this (hopefully) evokes images of Cervantes Don Quixote, the eternal Spaniard, his horse ROcinante and his faithful companion Sancho Panza.
I read Cervantes novel the year I left school and I can empathise with it’s tragic (or comic) protagonist. The first art piece (and up until last week the only art piece) I bought for myself was picasso’s simple sketch of the knight and his servant. It had pride of place in my apartment (when I had an apartment to call my own!). I liked the idea that Quixote, bound up with ideas of loyalty and chivalry set out into a cruel world and wouldn’t let it its cruelty do anything to alter his perceptions.
So why have I started writing lit crit? Well I’m off on a bit of a journey myself as well, and I dare say that I’ll be tilting at a few windmills en route. Also I’ve purchased a really pants car; but when I saw that it was a citroen xsara Picasso I knew it had to be and my whole mission came together. So now it’s me, pablito the Picasso and my carbon Rocinante. I’m sitting on a ferry, surrounded by families eating their fish and chips and Belgians reveling in their mullets (at least I presume that is a look of revelry, either that or they’ve stepped in something).
I’ll be landing in Belgium tonight and racing my way back to my house in Spain. Living the dream and smelling the nightmare (or at least the heady cocktail of sweat and embrocation which I know from previous car dwelling in the Benelux experiences). On the way I will be doing a spot of writing, a lot of riding and a fairly large amount of adventuring. I’ve set off with my entire stash of prolong, a big bag of action wipes, a pillow a blanket, my clothes and my bike. I’ll keep racing until money runs out or they stop offering edible primes.
Trying to race on your own, at the national and international level, “unassisted” might be tilting at windmills but like don Quixote when I started playing the game I found out the rules and I don’t intend to break the rules just to win the game, because then the game isn’t fun anymore. I’ve enjoyed racing again and I’ve decided that all I want from the rest of the year is the feeling I had last week. I really do this, not for the victories (which is just as well because im averaging about one a year!) but for the release that you get from being totally and utterly exhausted, knowing that you gave all you had to give. Of course I still want to win, that’s part of the game as well but just like don Quixote, I don’t really mind if training hard, eating right and racing harder is a fiction, if it’s just a story for children that your team are like your family and that you can change people’s lives whilst racing your bike if reality is different I’m going to keep living in a storybook world. After all, Picasso didn’t paint Don Quixote being beaten by bandits but sitting proudly upright so maybe don Quixote did win and maybe I can as well.

Lest this appear too serious I also have other plans: im going to shave a little bit of my facial hair every day, kind of like an advent calendar but on my face. Suggestions welcome.
Oh and in funny stuff I’ve seen this week: the cyclotourist who just got on the feery, walked into the buffet and stripped down to his bibshorts, speed bumps which you can catch SICK AIR off to make 160km race go a little faster (and people in the bunch who don’t like it), the Hoff announcing he would be performing in Brisbane when he meant Brighton, my little sister’s attempts to “undercut” the chocolate cake so it looks like she hasn’t had any and 80kph on an unsurfaced road, actually that wasn’t funny at all…..