1800 meters of climbing on mostly dirt roads in 85km? How else do you think Don would have celebrated his birthday? Make sure to check out the #DonsNonBdayRide hashtag on Instagram for more photos from the ride!
The other day we were talking about Austria and long ago it was. But the Tour de Kaernten was only the other side of summer. It already feels like a lifetime ago. Perhaps I’ve already repressed the memories of the event: six stages over six stages covering over 400km and 7000m of climbing. I took part with 4/5ths of The 5th Floor Women and as part of my Focus Challenge, I flew out my super light Focus Izalco Max to give myself the best shot of finishing the race. The DT Swiss RC38s giving that sweet spot between aero gains and weight; versatile enough to use on both the flat and the mountain TT stages.
Don’t get me wrong, the experience was awesome but it was brutal. Completely and utterly brutal. I felt transported to a new world of challenge – racing day on day not only took its toll on the legs, but gearing up mentally sapped energy that I didn’t know I had.
It’s slightly unnerving embarking on something where the end never feels in sight. Having said that, we’d be racing along, absorbed in the effort of going uphill at a pace dictated by the peloton and the next thing we knew it’d be 10km to go. Who knows what happened in between. The first day I found I could hardly take any food on board, let alone get it out of my jersey pocket. The second day we broke up energy bars and put them loose in the pockets, anything to make it slightly less of an effort. By the third day I managed a few glances up at the beautiful scenery – snow topped mountains and dense green forests. It sounds like a lacklustre biblical story over the week but it felt more like a process of survival.
Crossing the finish line each day felt like a monumental achievement. After each stage I found myself disorientated and grappling for top-ups of ice cold mountain water. Guzzling it down like a crazed person. A little while later the team would be reunited and the four of us would be sprawled by the roadside embracing salt-stained jerseys. Our exhausted expressions melting when it sunk in that we had all just survived another stage. Survived is probably a little modest considering just how well the team did – with Petra taking 2nd overall female and Aoife 3rd. We supported each other tons and those results definitely felt collective.
People asked afterwards if we deployed any team tactics. For a few stages we managed to keep the green and three-stripes of a teammate in view but on the other days we just raced as hard as we could among the other riders. It was a mixed event with cyclists from all over Europe. We chose the tour because of the amount of climbing. It was a genuine challenge. I get the impression that for a lot of the competitors 2000m in a 70km ride isn’t that daunting. Especially when you have mountains on your doorstep. At least that’s the vibe they gave off when they shot past us up the climbs. That and the fact there seemed to be a lot of “couple tactics” – husbands playing domestique to their wives. Maybe slipstreaming was a condition in their vows.
The stage that stands out is the mountain time trial. We set off at 30 second intervals from a glamorous ski centre car park and simply rode upwards for just over an hour. We went from 590m to 1732m high in just 16km and I think it did something weird to our minds. There had been a storm in the morning and the mountains were shiny with white icing. We went a bit loopy in the thin air and after refuelling on hot mountain stew in an out-of-season ski lodge restaurant, we braved the cold air and cheered on the finishers as they rolled in. I’m still undecided if our support was appreciated or not.
With the racing done by mid-morning, we spent the downtime sipping local beers and lying down on the lake’s jetty eating peanut butter by the spoon. I’m pretty sure that’s what the pros do out of sight of the media. Salaries and drugs aside, I have a new found respect and awe for those riders in the Grand Tours. Caps officially doffed.
All the stage profiles and results are on the tour website:
As Alex, George and I line up alongside one another on the starting grid, there’s an air of apprehension amongst the riders; we’ve just witness an amazing ride from Dani King who obliterate the entire field in the women’s race, was the same thing about to go down here in the men’s event? Read More
My 5th Red Hook and by far the most eventful yet and this is really saying something because I’m still shouting about the last 4 races to anyone who’ll give me an audience.
The events surrounding the race like the pre-party, the after party, transportation, accommodation, food, weather and people was just smooth sailing. The racing on the other hand was off the hook fast, furious and so much ‘fun’. How I’d really describe it is that its one of those things that at the beginning there’s apprehension, a worry and a ‘should I really do this’. Then after the actual event it’s that total, unequivocal, full and freeing ‘HELL YEAH!!!’ succeeded by the understanding that it was the one and only decision you could have made and the adrenaline and experience will be with you from that point through to the next pant filling and life affirming thing you want to do.
Sunday was the first cyclocross race of the 2015/2016 London CX League for myself and Alex Blomeley. I have a feeling it was the last day of summer, the sun was out, was nice and warm, dry race, etc. I believe it will be a mud fest from now on. #CrossIsHere.
Photographer and friend Jon Baines was there with us and as usual captured some great shots. Click more below for the full set.
Theres always a lot of stories that come out of crit week. Most of which are super positive. You can’t avoid breaks, bruises and all sorts in racing like this but everyone comes away with something and no matter what it is you always want to go back. Red Hook Crit Barcelona 3 really had everything, even tears (quickly followed by some serious dancing) and we weren’t without our fair share…Read More
Concrete, marble, roundabouts and racing. Chuck in Nandos and a very ‘local’ hotel and you’ve got the Milton Keynes 2 day race. Don’t get me wrong, we all had a blast. Its just that well, Milton Keynes is a bit shit isn’t it?
Organised by TeamMK at the Milton Keynes bowl the weather blessed us and it was going to be a good weekend of racing. It started with a very short 3km time trail. New lesson learned, 3km time trails suck! We did pretty good, I came in 8th with George in 12th and Rudy and Daniel not too far behind.
This led a little time to wait before the crit scheduled at 3pm. Not much food about at the venue and we were hungry so George, Rudy and I smashed back a bacon and egg bap from the only food vendor which was a burger van. It wasn’t really what we wanted, but it was pretty good. A couple of locals in the queue laughed at me, stating ’proper athlete this one’, I could only shrug and smile in retaliation.
The crit was good, fast paced with a lot of attacking. I managed a breakaway for a bit, got pulled back in and then the attack went that stuck to the end. We missed it and spent most of the rest of the race trying to organise the front into chasing properly which ultimately failed and we lost 40 seconds. The last lap was a bit of a nightmare as we were lapping a large group of riders who had been mistakenly given the last lap board as well which meant that no-one moved and there was an inevitable crash (this was caused by someone, number 73, dropping a shoulder and riding into some poor lad who hit the tarmac like a sack of spuds). Ended up coming in the top ten with George close behind to secure my GC position in the top ten also.
The next day started early in the countryside for a 90km road race in the morning fog. It was great fun, although at one point I was pretty sure I’d lost it all. I punctured at about 50km in just as I was in a good move off the front. Hand up and pedalling slowly, the bunch and my team mates fly past, I heard George shout in protestation at my bad luck. It was gutting and I was sure then that GC and the race were over for me. God bless neutral service. After a quick wheel change I spent the next half an hour pedalling like mad at 60kph behind a BMW estate being dragged back to the field. It was amazing but also properly exhausting, its not easy. I was back in the pack for the last 20km and just had to focus on staying up at the front and setting myself up for the sprint. Going cross eyed with the effort I was praying that around every corner the 1km to go sign would appear. When it finally did Rudy was on the front looking back at me. I knew he wanted to lead me out, he was ready and he’d got it fucking perfect. I nodded and Rudy dropped the hammer. The bunch dragged out into that familiar arrowhead with me 4th wheel. Rudy pulled off with 400 to go, a few riders in front meant I could hold back and at about 100 to go I let it loose.
There was another breakaway which had stuck that day and I came in 7th overall. Leaving me with 9th on GC. The team did a great job and having Rudy up the front in that last KM was one of the best race experiences I’ve had. Chapeau boys and thank you.