Six Day London

Last week I took Nicky to see the first day of Six Day London at the Lee Valley VeloPark. I’d been looking forward to it for ages, and was excited to finally get a chance to see Cav and Wiggo in action after they both missed out on the 2014 Tour de France stage 3 for various reasons. I’d been keeping my fingers crossed that Cav came through the Abu Dhabi Tour and the World Road Championships without getting injured and thankfully he came through unscathed (although unluckily missed out on the rainbow jersey to Peter Sagan).

We got to the Olympic Park twenty minutes before the doors opened but there was already a massive queue:

Queue to get into the velodrome
Queue queue queue…

We didn’t get in until after six but they started with the junior Madison race and the elite men didn’t get started until around 7.30pm. We had some great seats at the top of the bottom tier, and it transpired that several in-crowd TV segments with OJ Borg and Rob Hayles were shot right next to us – Nicky was very excited to see himself on the big screens inside!

It did take a while to get the elite events properly going and it soon became clear that this was very much a home crowd – any time Cav or Wiggo made a move the crowd went wild! When they took a lap in the Madison Chase it was amazing, although Nicky was a little confused by the proceedings. He still enjoyed himself though.

Cav and Wiggo
Cav and Wiggo resplendent in their rainbow jerseys

It was a very enjoyable evening and on the way out Nicky was demanding that we try to get tickets for the remaining nights (they were all sold out though!) He definitely wants a go on the velodrome once he’s old enough, so for his 12th birthday we might both sign up for the starter session. The only criticism of the evening I’d have is perhaps the music, sometimes it was a bit too loud and we couldn’t hear the commentary. The sprinters were enjoyable and they did well in getting the crowd worked up, especially when one of the Rotherham brothers won an event.

I’d definitely go again, although I wonder if Cav will do it next year assuming that Wiggo does retire. It’d be good to see some other big names taking part too.

Time for the winter bike…

The summer has definitely left us now and we’re into full on autumnal weather. Time to switch my summer and winter cycling drawers! I don’t mind the cold too much if I’m well wrapped up. It’s only if it’s cold, wet and windy all at the same time that it gets a bit frustrating! Although I do look back fondly on those days of cycling through snow and wind when getting fit for RideLondon!

I tried to do the Sufferfest video Rubber Glove last week but my heart rate monitor was all over the place so I abandoned five minutes before the end. No point in hurting myself when I’m not getting anything out of it! It’s taken my legs a while to recover, I think I’ll leave it a while before trying again. I’ll concentrate on just getting fit and pushing the distance as much as possible. Hopefully my heart rate monitor will stop spiking so much, I changed the battery but that didn’t help.

I’ll be taking my eldest son to see the London Six Day in a couple of weeks at the Olympic velodrome, really looking forward to seeing Cav and Wiggo in action, hopefully Cav will have been successful in Qatar. I’ve got to admit to feeling slightly uncomfortable about the whole TUE saga – Wiggo (and Cav) were what got me hooked on cycling and to see his performances called into doubt does not sit well. Even if it’s all legal, they must have known how it would look to outsiders? Especially the medication used. Froome comes out of it looking more respectable if anything.

Will be back out on my bike tomorrow and will try to push past 50km for the first time since I came back. Hopefully I will be able to catch up with a friend which will make the cycling effort slightly easier! I’ve got the winter bike all ready to go with a new chain, just need to fit the rear mudguard again. I’ve got some shiny new lights too so I should be a bit more visible!

Old chain vs new chain (plus bonus chain tool)
Old chain on the top, new chain on the bottom. Need to make sure I keep the new chain a bit cleaner!

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Tired

Two steps forward, one step back. I was making reasonable progress and had worked my way up to a 46km ride. This left me absolutely worn out, mind! However, since then I’ve not been sleeping well and haven’t had the energy for cycling, especially as the summer sun has come back. It’s very frustrating not being able to take advantage of the good weather – the most I’ve managed is a 4km ride to and from the garage when dropping off the car.

I’ve been meaning to reorganise my bike stuff as everything is currently just thrown together on a shelf, making it difficult to find lights, gels and the like. Unfortunately I’ve got a lot of gels past their best before date – I’d stocked up just before getting a hernia. It’s ‘best before’ rather than use by so I’m tempted to just use them anyway. I discovered I had a huge tub of energy drink unopened which is handy as I was about to order another one! I’ve also been taking advantage of some generous SiS offers – I got their 12 free gels and free recovery shake, and I also bought their 4 hour pack with free Team Sky bidon. I think it’ll still be a while before I’m up to a 4 hour ride though! 

I need to get my winter bike sorted as the rear wheel is out of true. Ideally I would strip it and clean everything but I don’t really have time. I might do it with my summer bike over the winter and try and learn some new skills – the bottom bracket probably needs replacing by now. 

Woo-hoo!

It’s been a long time coming but I’m finally back on the bike! Needless to say it’s not been easy – my first ride lasted fifteen minutes and I managed 5.9km. I was pretty knackered, but not to the extent of when I first started cycling and couldn’t stand for 45 minutes! There was no pain as such from my surgery, it felt a bit strange like something was there but it didn’t hurt – I guess it’s numbness around where the mesh has been inserted.

I then managed a massive 8.8km for my second ride – I was reintroduced to the fun of a seafront headwind, which was pretty draining. I felt better than my first ride and probably could have managed a little further, but decided it was best to take it easy. I’m hoping to go out again tomorrow and maybe last for 45 minutes or so.

I’ve been enjoying the Olympics and especially the cycling – it’s much more bearable knowing that I can go out and cycle too and I’m not having to wait months! It’s been pretty nerve-wracking at times – I thought we’d blown it in the men’s team pursuit when we were behind at halfway, and even when it became clear the Australians had gone too hard it looked like it was going to be close.

I was happiest at the men’s omnium result and so pleased that Mark Cavendish finally has a medal. It would have been better without all the fuss about the crash but it was clearly a racing incident and Hansen in 3rd was happy that these things happen. Cav did brilliantly in the events that he was rubbish at last time – if only the elimination race had gone a bit more according to plan. He’s managed the maillot jaune and the Olympic medal – what odds on him completing the hat-trick and winning a rainbow jersey in Qatar?

Almost ready to get on the bike

My hernia recovery is almost complete – I’ve had a couple of twinges when stretching or moving awkwardly which have set me back a couple of weeks, but the wound is fully healed. It’s just a case of being patient and letting the internal layers knit back together. It’s been pretty difficult, especially with the recent warm weather, to not get on the bike, especially when I got them out of the shed the other day to brush all the cobwebs off! But I’m going away in a couple of weeks and need to be able to drive, so I don’t want to push it just in case I set it back.

In the meantime I’ve had the Tour de France to distract me. The GC has been pretty boring – none of the other teams can touch the Team Sky mountain train. Froome has massively gone up in my estimation with his attacks on the descent of the Col de Peyresourde and his attack with Sagan on stage 11. His time trialling is obviously a level above the other GC contenders regardless and Quintana, notably, has been very quiet. It’s great to see Adam Yates performing so well at this level though, hopefully he’ll be a contender in future years.

The main event for me has been Cavendish being back to his best. You would not believe how happy I was when he won the first stage and clinched the maillot jaune for the first time! The track training seems to have given Cav some of his edge back and it’s been great seeing rack up the stage wins. Patrick Lefevere must be ruing the decision to stop Cav racing on the track whilst he was with Omega Pharma-Quick-Step. I must admit I didn’t think Cav would ever get back to this level but to see him win four stages has been brilliant!

Sore

I had my hernia repair surgery 3 weeks ago. I’m still a bit sore but will hopefully be back on the bike soon. Everything seemed to be going well but I think I may have overdone it recently. I’ll have to take it easy for a while to try and recover.

I bought myself a new helmet in anticipation of cycling again – the straps on my old helmet are past saving, they can’t be removed unfortunately and are yellow and stiff. I might try giving them a hard scrub and save the helmet for wet rides in future. My new helmet is a Giro Foray – it was only £30 on offer from Rutland Cycling and looks a bit more sleek than my old one. I also got myself a pair of Altura gloves which were also reduced to £10. All of my previous gloves have been cheap ones from Aldi/Lidl/Decathlon so it will be interesting to see if “proper” gloves are any better!

Me modelling my new Giro Foray helmet. Can't wait to use it properly!
My new cycle helmet

Not long to go now until the Tour de France (the football was just a distraction, especially considering how we played yesterday!) Looking forward to some epic sprinting and GC battles. I do wonder how well Cav will do given that he wasn’t able to outsprint Adam Blythe in the British championships over the weekend. I don’t know how hard the race was as I wasn’t able to watch it. Cav has obviously been training with the Olympics in mind but in theory I guess he would be heavier and stronger than if he was only riding on the road? So perhaps wearing the yellow jersey after stage one is still possible. I would dearly love that to happen but I think instead it will be either Kittel or Greipel who wins the first stage.

I still haven’t worked out who I’ll be rooting for in the GC. Froome has earned my respect but I still don’t especially like him. What would be great is seeing different people wearing yellow every day and multiple mountain stage winners. Maybe Pinot or Bardet can do something? Either way I’ll be glued to the screen every day!

I’ve changed the theme – I’m not sure I’ll keep this one but it’s a bit better than the original basic one so I’ll leave it for now.

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Almost there

Less than a week until my hernia op, hooray! Fingers crossed my recovery won’t take too long and I’ll be back on my bike in a few weeks. I am going to be so unfit but it won’t matter. I like the idea of getting myself fit again ‘properly’, i.e. lots of low level base training to set up a fitness base before starting to train harder. I’ll probably have to take it easy until I’m fully healed anyway.

I took Nicky to another training session at Hadleigh, this time the group as a whole was younger so Nicky was put into the ‘older’ group. He did well at the skills session, he is getting much better at going slowly and doing track stands, he even did a slalom downhill a couple of times and seems to have worked out that using his brakes will help slow him down! The racing was not so good but he was the youngest in his group and his bike isn’t great. A lot of the other kids have ‘proper’ bikes e.g. Islabikes, Orbea, Specialized – I might see if I can find a cheap second-hand one for him as I think the weight of his current bike is hampering him currently – it’s probably a little too big for him still.

The Giro had an amazing finish, unfortunately I missed the last GC day as I was out but I saw the stage before when Kruijswijk crashed and lost a lot of time. I think he probably would have won if he hadn’t crashed but obviously it’s a big if – Nibali obviously sensed something and was primed to attack on the descent which may have caused the crash. I’m glad Nibali found his form again – I don’t think he’s doping, I wish he would leave Astana though as otherwise people will just point the finger at his management.

The sun is taunting me

Apart from a brief cold period last week, the spring weather has been brilliant biking weather. I’m having visions of the wettest August on record once I’m finally back on my bike! Yesterday was lovely and sunny and it seemed like everywhere I looked there were cyclists. It was especially galling when I was stuck in traffic and the cyclists sped past!

My eldest son Nicky attended a skills session at the mountain biking track at Hadleigh a couple of weeks ago. There were about 30 kids there, split into two groups depending on age/ability. Nicky was in the younger group and they spent the session working on going slowly, track stands and cycling one handed. Nicky did really well – he needs some practise at taking his hands off the bars, but he managed a 3 second track stand which is amazing given that he’s never tried it before – not sure I’d manage one that long! Afterwards they had some races. Nicky was lacking a bit of confidence here, his speed is good but he takes a while to accelerate from standing, and the hill on the course got everyone pushing. Nicky’s bike is proportionally bigger than the others so he was a little slower here too. But he really enjoyed himself and is looking forward to the next session. The two guys leading the session were really good and engaged well with the kids, despite most of them not understanding the concept of a queue!

The Giro has started now and it’s great to see Kittel back in top form. He seems unstoppable right now, I wonder if Cav will be able to catch him when the Tour starts. It’ll be interesting to see the GC battle, Nibali hasn’t showed much form recently but he’s usually on form when it matters. It promises to be an exciting three weeks!

A light at the end of the tunnel

I had a call from the hospital earlier with regards to my surgery – my operation will be at the start of June so I should be back on my bike by the end of July, yay! I’m going to be starting from scratch, fitness-wise – but I suppose it gives an opportunity to put some proper base miles in while I fully heal and get myself properly fit. I cycled to the shops recently on my mountain bike, I was only on the bike for 8 minutes and I was breathless at the end of it!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the pro cycling so far this year. Paris-Roubaix has to be the highlight, such an epic finale to the race – it’s a shame that Boonen didn’t win, I was sure he was going to get it once they got into the velodrome, but Hayman is also a worthy winner. It would have been nice to see Cancellara and Boonen going at it properly one more time too.

Not that long until the Giro d’Italia starts – time seems to be flying so far. It won’t be long before the Tour de France starts – by then I should be recovering from surgery and looking forward to cycling again myself!

I spent most of yesterday doing up my son’s bike – we bought it second-hand from a boot sale for £10. It’s perfectly rideable but was looking a bit worse for wear. I’ve sprayed the frame green (after removing all of the stickers, a very tedious job!) and replaced the tyres which were looking a bit stressed. I had to remove the mudguards as the new tyres are slightly larger than the old ones – for some reason it was impossible to find the correct size tyres anywhere. I’m pretty pleased with my efforts, I thought it was going to turn out to be a disaster! Now I just have to adjust the brakes and gearing and he’ll be ready to go – he’s signed up for some bike skills sessions in the next few weeks which are advertised as having races after – it’ll be interesting to see how he goes.

Nicky's bike post-overhaul
Nicky’s bike

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At least pro cycling is back!

I’m still stuck waiting for a surgery date so I won’t be back on the bike properly any time soon – I’ve got some new hernia pants (exciting!) which might go under my lycra OK so might try a turbo session later this week.

At least there is proper pro cycling to take my mind off things, what with Paris-Nice started and Tirreno-Adriatico starting on Wednesday. Plus there was the world track cycling championships last week, culminating in last night’s Madison which was amazing, what a finish by Cav and Wiggo, it’s right up there with my best sporting moments.

It’s a shame the Madison isn’t part of the Olympics – Cav would have more chance of a medal in that than the Omnium, going on last week’s performances. I’d love for him to win a medal but his palmares is such that anyone following the sport would not care if he misses out. I’d be more excited by him winning Tour stages and the World Championships in Qatar, but I know he has his heart set on the Olympics.

Not long now until the Monuments, I can’t wait!