Sunday, 1 June 2014
I've finally got a bit of time to write a few things down about the past 7 weeks. It's been a pretty hectic time and I haven't had a lot of opportunity to fully reflect on what I've achieved, what I've learnt and how I want to move forward but hopefully this blog will be a good way to start. So I will try not to go into to loads of detail as 7 weeks is a pretty long time to sum up completely. But basically it all started on the 13th of April with one of the biggest junior bike races in the world, Junior Paris-Roubaix. The atmosphere surrounding that race and the spectators on the road were something that I have never experienced before, you always hear about how passionate people are for cycling in that part of the world but to see the number of people there on every sector of cobbles was something else and a real privilege to be a part of. The race itself was massively frustrating for me, with a crash on the first sector and wrecked wheel a few sectors later spelled the end of any actual race for me. I think I spent about 40km on my own and rode 4 or 5 sectors completely alone, I was pretty gutted about all that really, it wasn't the way I imagined the race going although races rarely go how you imagine them to. I had to fully prepare myself for not being aloud to finish the race on the velodrome as I figured I would be so far outside the time cut, but I was able to finish what I started and that was something really special and a memory that will last forever I think. The main thing I remember about the race is probably the feeling of absolute exhaustion when I got to the velodrome and the feeling of pride to wear my national jersey and finish in such an iconic venue within cycling. From Roubaix we headed back to our home from home, Newport. From there it was a tough week of training on the track building towards our ultimate goal as a programme this year, the European track championships. It was tough getting back to track training after such a brutal race but ultimately it kept us grounded and focussed on what we want to achieve this year. I then had a few days at home before flying to Croatia for the second Nations cup of the season the Tour of Istria. It was a really stunning race in a lovely part of the world. This race brought a bit more success for the team, we were far more competitive in the bunch sprints and on some of the tougher days as well. However the dangers of cycling are never far away and on the last day my good friend and team mate Gabz took a pretty heavy tumble and was taken to hospital, unable to finish the race. We were all pretty concerned at the finish but happily he was fine and came away with some pretty heavy cuts and bruises as well as a few stitches! After Croatia it was straight to the Isle of Man and my first national series win of the season! A day in the break away on Saturday and the stage win saw me take the yellow jersey and a fairly healthy advantage going into the last day. On that last day the HARIBO-Beacon boys Tom and James rode amazingly and helped me throughout the whole stage. We managed to keep hold of the jersey and I came away with the overall win, the green points jersey and we won the team prize. So that was a pretty special weekend with the lads and a great effort by the whole team. A massive thanks has to go out to our supporting staff, Mark, Carol and Tony as well as to all the sponsors as it wouldn't have been possible without them. From there it was to the Czech Republic for the third and final nations cup that we would compete in this year, the Course de la Paix. This again was an exciting experience in a country that I had previously never been to. We had the yellow jersey for a few days due to Matt doing a brilliant ride in the TT to take the race lead, and although we couldn't keep it until the finish just having it for a few days in such a big race was something special. For me personally the legs were not great and that has somewhat soured my own view on the race, but that's just life. Overall the past 7 weeks have been exciting, stressful and eye opening. I've enjoyed the racing, the time abroad and experiencing life on the road, although my exams may have suffered because of that but that's a story for another day. I hope this has given some insight into how it's been for me recently. For now the focus is fully on the Junior Europeans and hopefully being selected for that. I'd like to finish by mentioning my good friend Levi Moody who is recovering after a recent health scare, I miss having him with me at races and hope to see him soon, he's a top lad and I wish him the best. Joe
Monday, 24 March 2014
Monday, 3 March 2014
It's quarter to seven in the morning, my alarm has just started ringing and I've got the overwhelming feeling that I've been here before. Whether it was yesterday or last year is irrelevant but I have definitely been here before, in a Holiday Inn Express room with it barely being light outside trying to haul my heavy and lethargic body out of my bed that seems to be tightening its grip on me. Days on a training camp rarely vary, you wake up to the same faces everyday, the food is largely the same, and the focus of the day is constant, bike riding. In a way the near monotonous nature of the days is almost a comfort, no uncertainties, no hidden surprises to knock you out of your rhythm. You become consumed by the bubble of camp, all that's on your mind all day is bike riding. It's almost like the the outside world doesn't exist, to say you're totally disconnected would be a lie but it can feel that way at times, sat in the track centre under the artificial light, no phones, no communication, you don't even know what the weather is like (although it's a fair guess that it's raining in Newport) so for five or six hours a day anything could happen and you would be none the wiser. The only thing that's important is the riding whether it be on the track or the road the bike riding is what is important and why we are there. The efforts are always hard and everyone is tired but it never does morale any good if tiredness is a constant topic of discussion, it's better to forget about fatigue and soreness and dither away the time talking about irrelevant crap. I don't want my description of a training camp to be misconstrued in any way negative because it's quite the opposite, it's an excellent way to not only get some quality work in but also to see how you stack up against some of the other top junior bike riders in the country. It's an important part of any riders development, learning how to take care of yourself when mum and dad aren't there to wash your kit or get your bike sorted. Being alone on a training camp surrounded by other athletes requires you to get on with it, make yourself accountable for your mistakes but most of all learn from them and develop that maturity. It's always tough coming home from a camp, getting back to reality. Going back to school after a week away just doing what I love riding my bike is difficult. I always feel so deflated and dissapointed to be back, obviously I like being home and eating my own food and seeing my friends but I can't help but dream that one day I'll be able to ride my bike on a daily basis without having to go back to 'reality', well that's the aim anyway.
Thursday, 6 February 2014
Having not written anything in a little while I thought I'd best put my mind to it and come up with something interesting to write about and as I can't rely on any racing stories at the moment I thought I would write a little bit about something that is an issue in the forefront of my mind and probably in the minds of other cyclists my age. I am of course talking about balancing school and a full time commitment to cycling. It's not always easy, in fact it's mostly pretty stressful, but it is never the less very important. I'm currently studying History, English Literature and Psychology at As level, I dropped down to three subjects pretty recently after conversations with my teachers and head of year as I realised that the work load was massively getting on top of me. I decided to drop PE which people may find a little peculiar, but I don't think it's common knowledge how difficult a subject it is, with all the science involved it's like 2 or 3 A-levels rolled into one! I really struggled to keep up with the massive work load, so that eventually swayed my decision. I was a bit annoyed at first that I needed to drop down as I've never really been keen on giving anything up half way through, but I'm starting to realise that ploughing on regardless and being blind to your own down falls is a bit bloody daft and you end up spreading yourself too thinly, which inevitably makes you a bit rubbish at everything. Now the work load is a bit lighter and I have more free time to get work done at school which is very helpful as I can get on with my training when I get home. Having said that though I am by no means the shining example of an athlete/student, I try my best and work hard but at the end of the day I'm still 17, I still sit around like any other teenager and idly think about the amount of work I have to do rather than actually doing it but I feel like I'm getting better. I think that is sometimes what people forget, as athletes we are still human it's not as easy as going to school, going training and then working for another 2 hours after that, we may be disciplined and dedicated but we can also be bloody lazy as well, and I know I am definitely a culprit of laziness from time to time. It's a difficult game to play when you want to be good at sport and also have some form of academic credentials so that you have a 'plan B' if it's ever required. Then again if it was easy wouldn't everyone be doing it?
Monday, 13 January 2014
Early season races are always slightly scary. It's always intriguing to know whether the hard work you're putting in over the winter is paying off but also where improvements still need to be made. This weekend saw me and some of the other Olympic Development Programme riders set off on the journey down to Holland for our first weekend of racing in 2014, an experience made more special for me personally as I was returning to the same competition I had competed in 12 months earlier as a first year junior. Last year I was nervous, excited, and a little scared of what was to come, and if I'm honest I felt the exact same this year! The feelings I get from racing rarely change from year to year, I may have approached the event with more confidence but the anxsious feelings were still prominent. Saturday brought the main event we were there for as an endurance squad, the team pursuit. A 4km race against the clock where a four man team smashes around the track and holds on for grim death! All four of us, Matt Gibson, Matt Bostock, Joe Holt and I were all looking forward to the event as we work so hard on camps to perfect our technique and when we get the oppourtunity to race... and win!! It makes it all worth while. It was a great experience rattling around the track with these lads and beating everyone by a considerable maragin, it will definitely give us some confidencewhen looking towards our other targets for the season ahead! More wins for me and Gibbo in the derby races and Joe Holt in the points rcae rounded off a succesful day of collecting the podium flowers for the team. Sunday's racing stepped away from the team pursuit and focused more on the individual pursuit, kilo, elimination and madison races to cap off a weekend of smashing around a wooden oval. Individual events always require a little bit extra will power to push yourself to that limit of absolute pain, in fact I often wonder why the hell I put myself through it all the time but that's just part of it I suppose. The day seemed to rush by with slightly less flowers collected, not making it an unsuccesful day by any stretch of the imagination, and before I could sling Joe in for the final time in the madison it was all over! Two days of hard racing had come to an end, and with the van looking like a flourists delivery waggon it was time to say goodybye to chilly Holland and head back home for a full day of school! It was great starting off my season with a few wins and to do it with the lads made it even more special. I always get immence pride and satisfaction from racing in the colours of the ODP and it was a pleasure to begin my season like this! Until next time it's back to dark nights on the turbo and frosty mornings out on the road.