Rapha Supercross: Alexandra Palace

Chips. Foam. Cowbells. What’s not to love?

‘The Aussie’ took part in Rapha Supercross at Alexandra Palace on 28th October 2012. His first cyclocross race. A cold but brilliant day.  You can see my whole flickr set here.

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Cycletta: New Forest

I’m going to be honest with you, six months ago I had never even heard of a cyclosportive. My road cycling world was either dominated by watching the pros, laughing at the fact my Dad shaved his legs more than I did, or was still aching from the psychological damage of watching amateur time trials in the 1980s (come on, they are boring. Especially when you are 6 years old). But having made the significant purchase of my first road bike (aged 34…) I needed some focus, just riding it on my own wasn’t enough. I wanted to participate, I wanted to be challenged. Step forward Cycletta and their enticing promise of ‘fitness and fun’, ‘female cycling revolution’ and a timed, organised, mass participation road cycle event. I had discovered sportives.

Two things appealed about Cycletta: Their choice of venues was astonishing – beautiful landscapes, stately homes and (my personal choice) national parks. You don’t have to ask me twice about spending a morning on my bike in the fabulous surroundings of the New Forest.  I also was reassured by the fact they were female-only. Being a bit of a ‘tomboy’, I’ve never been normally attracted to female-only events. Nor do I want my cycling defined by my gender – if the boys can do it, so can I (just ask the Aussie about me out-sprinting him…). But this was different, riding a sportive was completely new and I didn’t want to feel like anything would stop me from doing the best I possibly could. Apologies gentlemen, but I didn’t want to be intimidated by machismo.

So I signed up and vowed to train. And did a lot of vowing but not much training, bar hacking around town on my folding bike. I knew I could just about ride 20 miles on the road bike, I knew I could just about ride twenty miles on the mountain bike. How hard could it really be? So on the last glorious Sunday morning, we drove to the New Forest, I pinned on my numbers and lined up with over 300 other women to take part in my first sportive. My first proper road cycling challenge.

And what did I learn? Firstly, that I really really need to learn how to convert kilometres in to miles – the last seven miles hurt a lot when you have given everything for the previous ten, mistakenly thinking those were the last ten miles of the course. Lesson 1: Know your distances and energy budget accordingly. Secondly, that you wear layers for a reason – if you are hot, take something off – don’t forget you are wearing arm warmers and carry on hot and bothered regardless. Thirdly, that mucking around on a single speed folding bike can count actually as training, when you are faced with a steep hill and a broken front derailleur. I could have got off and pushed, but I hung on in there and hacked up regardless – slowly, in the wrong gear, but I didn’t get off. And I’m really proud of that. I cycled it all, every single leg burning mile of it. And lastly, I learnt that Jelly Tots are possibly the greatest energy food known to mankind.

So that was my first sportive. 42 kilometres in 2 hours 26 minutes 55 seconds. A small but good start to hopefully see me on to bigger and maybe even better things. A proud new road cyclist with a heart filled with joy at what she achieved. Thank you Cycletta.

Ventoux

Damn damn damn, I’m excited…

Mont Ventoux

All photos were taken (by me) on various adventures around Jonquieres, Bedoin and Mont Ventoux in Provence during 2011 and 2012. I’ll see you back there on Bastille day, the 14th July 2013…

Fans Backed Womens Cycling

While part of professional cycling implodes, shall we turn our attention to something more (ahem) positive?

When I Grow Up I Want To Ride Like Marianne Vos

Back in July, after returning from the Tour, I stood in the pouring rain in the newly opened London Olympic Park watching The Greatest Cyclist In The World be pushed all the way to the line by a vegetarian from West Yorkshire. Enthralled, excited and motivated, I rushed to the Olympic Park Megastore to buy a Great Britain branded cycling shirt and vowed to buy a road bike. I wanted more. The Olympic Velodrome opened and Queen Victoria stepped off the throne to be succeeded by a young pretender from just up the M11. But I still wanted to see more. So I stood in the baking Kentish sunshine at Brands Hatch and unashamedly cried as Sarah Storey destroyed not only her own race field, but also that of the mens’ race that started 3 minutes in front of her. I sat in Look Mum No Hands with a lump in my throat watching the Road Race World Championships as The Greatest Cyclist In The World won the rainbow stripes, thinking how privileged I was to be watching her race. Thinking about how I would tell my children about watching her in the same way as my Dad told me about watching The Cannibal. Having lost my way with football, having got tired of the air of suspicion that hangs over men’s cycling, I realised I had found a sport that truly moved me. I wanted more. I needed more. Much more…

But the joy of this discovery was overshadowed. I found articles about Emma Pooley having to consider retirement because of the lack of support she was getting. I went to watch an event at the historic Herne Hill Velodrome where the lack of female cyclists entering was openly criticised. I read Sarah Storey imploring more women to get involved in cycle racing, so I nervously entered a sportive. And I trawled the internet looking for more women’s Pro Cycling events I could go and watch, but they just weren’t there. So I asked for help…

Tweet from Sarah Storey

Which is when I discovered #fansbackedwomensteam and #fansbackedwomenscycling, an intiative started in part by an article on Cyclismas by Stefan Wyman from Matrix Prendras about the role of fans in women’s cycling. This quote spoke particularly strongly to me:

“In many ways, women’s cycling lacks history; certainly compared to the men’s side of the sport. This era of raised interest in women’s cycling is a chance to make a new kind of history for the sport, in a new, interesting and socially inclusive way.”

The opportunity for a community based model for cycling really excites me, something inclusive and accountable to the fans but also a fantastic opportunity to give these talented sportswomen the platform and audiences they deserve. And to give us more of the fabulous, enthralling women’s cycling that I am so desperate to watch.

The Fans Backed Womens Cycling project is continually evolving, but I strongly suggest you follow Stefan Wyman and #fansbackedwomenscycling on Twitter for progress. This is a massive opportunity for cycling fans, to take back pro cycling from the dominance of dodgy Texans, dubious media magnates and questionable governing bodies and make it in to something that is true and exciting and ours. All of ours.
My magnificent Marianne Vos T shirt, pictured above, is by Freebird Velo

Regents Canal, London

Little Venice

Ceremony on Primrose Hill

London Zoo Aviary

St Pancras Lock

Kings Cross Redevelopment

Lately I have spent so much time thinking about the Thames, other waterways, tributaries and streams have been drawn to my attention and I have had to explore: The Regents Canal hugs the northern side of central London, running from Paddington and the junction with the Grand Union Canal in the west, to Limehouse Basin in the Docklands in the east. Recently we walked along the canal from Paddington to Kings Cross, taking in Little Venice, Primrose Hill, London Zoo and bustling Camden Lock market on the way.

Given it is an illusive off road east-west route in the city, the path was buzzing with cyclists and pedestrians. There were even a number of waterbus services linking the tourist sites on the way. Part of my reason for walking along the canal was to scope out its potential as a commuting route, as Paddington is my main London terminus. But despite it being a Saturday, it was just too busy. Happily buzzing for a weekend stroll, but unimaginable as peak-time weekday cycling commute. Narrow paths, too many gates and barriers to negotiate, plus the levels of foot and two wheeled traffic. Which is a shame, as not being a regular London cyclist and some of the city traffic giving me the fear, I often find the thought of a nice off-road route very very tempting…
However, since our trip, I have seen this job advertised – it is reassuring to know that the growing number of foot and cycle commuters and the desirablity of routes like this have not gone unnoticed. It is a fantastic route, winding through a really distinct selection of Capital landscapes, plus it has the bonus of being near water, which never fails to make me happy. Hopefully there can be some joined-up thinking so the potential of the canal way can be enjoyed by all its users.

You can see all of my Regents Canal photos on Flickr