Sunday, 31 July 2011

Broken in Belgium

Well I'm back in Belgium and predictably it's raining. I've been racing but without much luck the casteen and the broken ribs dont get on very vell, neither do poncy Light saddles and the above. So today I'm taking a rest, belgificiating my bike ( back to the San Marco regale saddle, there are some positives to not being sponsored) and later I'm going to enjoy a fine geuze from the bierwinkel in wevelgem.

I'm very content here, living with my family is great, they look after me wonderfully and it's really nice to be back in the nourishing family home environment. It's also good to have someone else to tape up your ribs!

I've been sampling the finest of Belgian cuisine, frogs legs and mashed potatoes with soured milk were a new ( and yummy) experience. I'm trying to steer clear of the frites but rijstarts, grillettes and speculoos as well as the manifold waffle variations have made a showing. I've also become a regular at the bier winkel ( where they're educating me in the geuze, lambic and Trappist ales.

A trip to the doc recently revealed some blood issues again, so I'm having a bit of a rest and traveling business class (yeah baby) to cwd in Canada. I'm really looking forward to cwd, I love seeing kids with diabetes. Nobody should have to be told to stop doing what they love and I like the feeling that I can help in a small way in empowering and helping them.

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

Sunday, 17 July 2011


racing without ribs

well the last few days have just been one big adventure; the day after my tango with the torro. i decided to race, my legs felt good but i lasted a couple of laps before leaning on some guy into a corner and nealry passing out with pain. That was a bit of a waste of everyone's time really. should have spent all day in bed.

However Friday provided considerably more entertainment. Cynthia and I drove up to France to catch the tour at Lourdes. Using my newfound ability to negotiatate the labyrinthine ffc webpage i found a nocturne a mere 31 k away and decided that, after watching thour thunder home i would go and repeat the process. I mounted up and began following signs to the race (big thanks to the TDF commisairre in the red car who gave me a tow while he informed me we were going the wrong way....). Anyway from my riding to the race expereince i can reveal another of my "top tips" you might want to check the elevation, yes it was 31k but OVER THE BLOODY PYRENNEES. I arrived about 10 min before the race, the backpack was not helping my ribs and ai was already battered. Thankfully they let me sign on and pinned on my number as everyone lined up. and then made a big fuss of anouncing just about everything i've ever done on a bike.

Once the race got going it became clear i was going to put in a pretty underwhelming performance. the painkiller had rendered me totally useless, i felt like i was on dope, i saw the race going on but didn't care. anything about a mighty 400w seemed like too much effort and os i just sat at the back being pants. My one move was foiled by a stack in a dropped group and an ambulance awaiting me around a blind corner. Saldy not everyone obeyed the black flag and somehow a break went and lapped the field while we were neutral, tres francais...

after the rave i grabbed my backpack and started to head back to lourdes. Being careful to mount my two knogs, i'm not sure why i bothered. One led isn't really going to do bugger all at 11pm in the pyrenees. Then i proceeded to flat, change the tyre using the light on my ipod and a qr lever to take the tyre off (and if you thought you knew pain, try pumping a tyre up with 2 broken ribs). Climbing and descending a col in the pitch black is very peaceful, meditative and also TOTALLY FUCKING PETRIFYING.

somehow i made it back to Lourdes in one piece (or two pieces if you count my internal cracks). spent ages mincing about and eventually found the hotel, where they didn't have the key. Eventually iwas let into the room and showered before realising all my clothes were with cynthia in the car. A call to recpetion saw the wifi passcode sent up, not by room service but by two elderly women who happened to be in the room next door. Me clad in a towel was perhaps not the pearly white vision they expected in Lourdes....

having dressed and eatena 1am dinner, slept and caught the start of the Tour stage i dropped off cynthia and headed to Narbonne. I grabbed a room in the cheapest hotel in town (that's how i roll) took a nap, woke up, ate my bodyweight in bread and nutella and headed out to race again at 9pm. I'll save the race report for another day but suffice it to say that your skin isn't as effective as Dura Ace brakes at slowing you down...... but i'm more balanced now, left hand ribs broken right hand road rash

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Denia Kebab

Well I'm sitting in a Spanish hospital again, I came here in an ambulance. There's a hole in the front of my shirt and another in the back, two centimeters to the left and I'd have a corresponding hole in my chest.

We decided to Go and see the bous a la mar in denia and one there I was stood on a box inthe middle of the burig watching the spectacle. The bull ran around a bit but nobody got Hurt. It ran towards the box but veered away. Cut a long story short the bull minutes the box, and when it left it propelled me, like a ragdoll onto the ground, I curled up into a ball and it kicked me but then moved on. I landed pretty hard on my head, got a fright I won't forget and a scar I can show off.

I was pretty lucky, once I was ib the first I'd building they patched me up and then suddenly the door swung open and I saw a young girl covered in blood with the most terrible fear in her eyes. The first aid guy shouted "shit shit she's going to die" I stumbled out of the door to get away, feeling really dizzy I fell over. A couple of guys helped me and a kind policeman came and kicked me and told me this was no place for drunks, the red cross volunteer gave the policeman a forceful slap, he policeman gave me a dirty look and moved on.

I kept feeling dizzy and falling over but with my cgm torn off and my bag in the medic room it didn't occur to test until someone gave me some sugar and I felt a lot better.

Anyway I've had a spinal X-ray and I seem to have two broken ribs but they may have been broken before. My neck hurts and I'm bruised all over but I can't stop thinking about that I cane 2cm from death and all I lost was my shoes ( which are somewhere in the bullring)

I'm the luckiest boy who ever broke two ribs

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

Location:Denia hospital

Saturday, 9 July 2011

road food, eurostyle

rapid post while i await an interview phone call; Unlike the USA Europe isn't carpeted with Wendy's outlet's and other stores selling pureed cow and with enough lights to guid ein an UFO. Indeed, most food shops shut at 8, and earlier on Saturday, and all day sunday. So as a bike racer the option of "stopping off at a taco shop" isn't really avaliable. As a poor bike racer, the option of noshing in restraunts isn't really on the cards on a daily basis either. So what exactly does one do to keep a decent diet whilst travelling.

First of all it should be noted that here bread is something of a religion, it must be bought fresh, daily. most bakeries bake morning and afternoon loaves and there are always 3 or 4 options. I favour the open-structured mediterranian baguette, or the campagne in France. This forms the basis for about everything I eat on the road.

secondly you've got your canned products, unlike in the US these are often from old, established artisan firms. If you follow my twitter you'll notice that i nosh on a LOT of sardines, they're healthy, cheap and yuumy. They come in olive oil with lemon, or herbs or in tomato sauce, or escabeche. On top of this i'm a big fan of ratatouille (or courgette provencale) which you can heat up in the microwave at formule 1 motels (about the only thing they have going for them). And i always tote my olive oil from Cambrils as my flatmate religiously insists it is the best in the world. I also pack dried ham (jamon pais or serrano) for the same sarnies.

Thirdly you have fruit and veg, which are not only incredibly cheap but incredibly good and fresh. My local fruiteria currenlty carries 5 types of tomatoes each with a specific role in life.

then you've got race food; limited by financial considerations i'm a big fan of flat coke, pates de fruits (kind of like massive, fruit flavoured haribo goodies), peanut flavoured gels which i have discoverfed and fallen in love with at decathalon. in longer races i pack small brioches with nutella or jam and even small apple flans or brioches de poche which come in handy individual packets. I'm not averse to Carambars either

As nocturnes often finish after 11pm dinner often consists of these staples, hastily guzzled on the way to the next campsite. Breakfast is nearly always the offer in a cafe or bar; coffee with a pastry or mini-entrepan (my favoured combo being a cafe llarg with a mini of pernil pais or truita) and lunch being more of the aforementioned bread with local fruit and ham (i always try to eat 3-4 hours before the race so oftne i have two "lunches" and forgoe the traditional siesta-inducing midday meal). Melons are incredible in the south of France at the moment so i enjoy those. In Spain i'm all about local peaches and cherries.

When travelling one should note that the French make inferior sandwiches; jambon Beurre being the classic example, still ten times better than your average british fare but i much prefer the spanish dry ham and olive oil to the french sweet ham and butter. The aforementioned butter does make for some fantastic croissants and i do appreciatte their differentiation between sweet and salty vehicles for dairy fat. Often breakfast at hotels is just baguette and butter (if the hotelier has taken pity on you and is giving it to you for free).

I really appreciate that all over southern europe everythign is homemade real food. made in front of you,with ingredients you can pronounce, not frozen, not microwaved, not picture perfect but perfectly tasty. Eating from the Menu gives not only a cheap but a tasty insight into local cuisine, "menus" change each day and are printed or written on a board in the window, they gauruntee 3 courses for about 8 or 9 euros including bread, dessert and a glass of wine and offer what is fresh, local, tasty and traditional. If you're in Rome (or just about anywhere else) do as the romans do and enjoy the menu del dia (or plat de jour) at lunch.

And finally don't ever let the frenchies fool you that they are immune to the delights of fast food. Get yourslef to a "McDo" on a sunday lunch time and watch the buggers line up to chow down. True, french McDonalds have plates and cutlery but still - jose bove would not approve mes amis.

Bon Profit

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

monday night in miracle-town

last night was the Nocturne Lourdes. Nocturnes are pretty much a french peculiarity, you start at 8.30 and race about 90k. I don't like nocturnes, you spin in the morning, spend the whole day not feeling like eating and worrying about tiring yourself out. I took the chance to go and visit most of the lourdes "attractions" and purchase some food for lunch. I also took the chance to buy an opinel penknife which i have wanted since i was 8, my parents wouldnt let me have one then as they thought it was too dangerous. Now i am obviously 200% older and wiser so i invested 8 euros in such a knife. and within 3 hours i was getting adhesive stitches in my finger....

anyway back to the race, pretty French again i'm afraid. I turned up and had spent the whole day faxing and emailing FFC who had contacted the commisairre to let him know i COULD race. so on presenting my licence i was surprised ot be told to sit down and wait for my dossard while all the local riders warmed up. Apparenlty we had to await the commisairres arrival. I asked if i could warm up and come back. No. because when the commisairre came he would take the sign on list and i would be too late. So why did i have to wait if i couldnt sign on after he came? Just wait there..... I'm not one for national character excuses and i have many french friends but french cyclists can be pricks!

so I sat there and embrocated, the comm turned up with about 15 mins to the start and i pinned on a dossard and rapidly got in a few tours before the off. once we got going it was pretty solid stuff, mid 40s speed wise, a lap of 1.5km, a pretty stiff berg of about 50m but enough to warrant a 500-600w effort every lap. My french hotelier had stationed himself here and later informed me of his disappointment that we seemed to be circulating quite slowly....

after familiarising myself with the assorted roundabouts and potholes between which we were attempting to cycle i Decided to attempt something approaching a bit of animation. And it rapidly became clear that i had a cheese chewing shadow. The local boys weren't letting me get away which is entirely understandable as they had no idea how strong or otherwise i might be. Anyway once it was clear i wasnt getting off the front i settled into the pack in the top 20 and proceeded to get really angry at a French rider now known as monsieur le guillotine thanks t his wheel chopping. Occasional forays off the front and sprints for primes took up the first hour wihtout incident. With about 30k to go it started getting pretty seriously dark, with about 15k to go it was pitch black. Some friendly soul had installed a slow strobe on the apex of the roundabout entry barrier, just slow enough that at 50kph you don't quite see it until it Jumps out at you, giving the race a whole new level of twitchyness. I fumbled my sunglasses into my helmet, slammed a final gel and hopped up onto the curb to move up.

10 tours now and local has decided to stand on the backside of the course, waving his umbrella onto the racing line. we're lined out, full gas and the next lap he damn near eats carbon. he's still there with 8 to go and my smart idea to discard my bidon towards his face seems to have been shared by about 10 other riders. Under a hail of plastic and sugar, he retreats. 7 to go now and a few guys are off the front. 2 riders in front of me blow up, punches fly and they manage to eliminate each other without getting in anyone elses way. phew. i'm all out of flat coke, i cant see a thing and my sugars are low, reactions are slow and the camera flashes are causing me to jump.

5 to go and the group is within spitting distance, i'm on the front flapping my arm like a crazy fool but nobody will come through so i tow a few guys over. To compound matters the hotelier is looking at his watch, he told me at 11 he would lock the door. 3 to go and it's all together. Hotelier has buggered off to lock me out. I'm sixth wheel and coming to the line i make an uncharachteristic and suprisingly succesful kick, enough for sprint points but not enough points to take the cash, bummer. after the effort i slip too far back. the group spreads out and holes are hard to find. 1 to go and i'm moving up the gutter when mnsr le guillotine appears from the right, rapidly traversing the road and intent on connecting with my steering. i bounce him off, loose speed, loose position and swear. It's too late, the kick is a shitstorm anyway, someone's pulled out of both his pedals and neutered himself on his top tube. Oh well, we're in lourdes, he can be more catholic now; no need for a condom.

with the race over the announcer grabs me for a few words on the microphone, i thank the people for watching and try my best to tell them a bit about diabetes in French. Then i grab my rucksack and return my dossard, get my licence and smack it back to the hotel just in time to wait half an hour for him to finish dinner and let me take my car out.

I drive for an hour, the GPS takes me on and off the toll road, they try to charge me 47 euros for the privelege of exiting at the same place i entered. at this point im starting to feel really low and really, really ill. I ask nicely and they let me off. I pull over after 45 mins of searching for petrol and vomit, force down food and realise i havent eaten anything but bread and 2 ham slices all day. i am suddenly ravenous, i eat some chocolate and another sandwich. Then, i start driving again, the detour has cost me an hour and i cant get more petrol as my card is frozen so i head for the border and the nation where i feel at home. I made it back at 2am, drove a bit further over the beautiful pyreness and pulled over at 3am. i slept fitfully atop the pyrenees for two hours as the wind shook my car violently and i woke bursting for a pee. ONly to find i'd locked myslef in the car and lost the key. Smart. mad scramble/ panic ensues, i find the bottle and get out and make it about 2 feet from the car before remembering not to literally piss inot the (glae force) wind.

i made it back at 8am, was about to get to sleep when my phone went mental, apparenlty i'm in el pais. Something about a t-shirt....

Monday, 4 July 2011

Lourding it up

After yesterday's basqueland battering ( by the way is a hotdog course in the basqueland a xorizo course? It was certainly spicy...) I've made it to Lourdes.

The number of hotels in Lourdes is insane, and after the tent and the little passengers who seem to ha e joined my adventure since sleeping on the gravel by the aide of the road i decided to shell out for a shower and sleep.

Turns out the hotelier likes to ride, he gave me a look at his cofidis edition look and provided to ask how I would prepare for the race, I said I wanted to get a good sleep and I'd have a coffee beforehand. He laughed. Since then they've been trying to catch medoping I think the Insulin I took with breakfast seemed too obvious.

Lourdes is a fascinating town. Wikipedia
Should familiarize the uninitiated but what it doesn't tell you is that this town is a cross between blackpool and Sarasota. They are huge amounts of tacky souvenir shops albeit kiss me quick hats are replaced with rosaries and crucifixes. Hundreds of empty hotels and resteraunts tote their wares and roaming groups of tourists following umbrella (or ikon) wielding guides prowl the streets. Meanwhile down by the cave concession stands battle with groups of nuns getting their photo snapped and scenes resembling a traffic jam in a Hospital as hundreds of very unwell people are wheeled into the cave. I hope they et better but I couldn't find anything approaching peace or healing amidst the virgin Mary cigarette lighters and saint Bernadette penknives. But maybe I lack the faith to see.....

Anyway I've bought some ham after three days of canned sardines and a very unsatisfactory dinner of bread and prunes. Time to get my lunch on; jambon beurre et fromage chevre
-yep typed it with my thumbs: they're what makes us better than apes