Firstly I must apologise for the delay in blog posts, its been a hectic three weeks, just what I love!
In the last seventeen days I have spent four nights in my own bed, that’s not a complaint, i've been racing and training hard, exactly what I spent all winter talking about, training for and dreaming off. From Roubaix, to a five day training camp with the ODP, onto a two day British national series and then after three days at school off to the second Nations Cup in Istria, Croatia.
I am writing this sitting on my bikebox on a packed Sunday night train home from Brummy airport, back in good old Blighty after a few days in the sun and earlier today, torrential rain. Thankfully I don’t have to force feed myself pasta and white rice for breakfasts for a whole week! Although its only a temporary hiatus as we are off to Czech next Tuesday for the next round of the Nations Cup. I'm told the food there is interesting. The feeling of stuffing yourself at six am in the morning is something I will have to get used to, however pasta bolognese doesn’t exactly help.
Two weeks on from Roubaix I am still leaving a trail of ruined bed sheets across Europe from the road rash on my back. The race itself was unreal, it’s a struggle to describe it in words. I felt like I was flying, metaphorically, until I crashed out of the whittled down bunch with thirty kilometres to go, flying, physically this time, into a battered heap on the tarmac of northern France. It wasn’t too much fun, bringing my plans for the race, my body, crashing to the floor. My ambitions to help my older and more experienced team leader, to finish in the iconic Roubaix velodrome, gone with the wind. It would eventually all end in tears, arriving at the gates of the velodrome a minute or two outside the cut.
However this only tells half the story, a race like Roubaix is as complex, unrelenting and ultimately, special, as they get. As a first year Junior I have now experienced the hell of the north, ridden the pave (and on occasion the grass verge) and generally absorbed the race. Next year, with legs a year stronger, a head a year wiser, I hope to step closer to my dreams, only time will tell.
We drove straight from Roubaix to Newport, Wales, for a five day training camp with the ODP. It was in retrospect one of the hardest weeks of my life, however they always feel like that, thankfully I forget the pain of big training blocks, otherwise I dont no how I would put myself through them ever again! The week was rounded off by the second British National series in Bristol, a two day race with some brilliant hilly parcour on the Sunday. After a good race I placed second overall, on the same time as the winner Alex P, however placing lower due to his stage win on the Sunday (I was second). It was a very mentally and physically fatiguing week, however I now had three days at home to recharge the batteries!
Two weeks to the day after roubaix and I am in Croatia with more or less the exact same team. We wear our British jerseys with pride, facing the best from around the world in the second round of the Nations Cup. It’s the last morning of the race, one of my best mates sits to my left with a broken wrist sustained hours earlier on stage two. He came inches from a cliff face, instead residing face first on a tree stump. The rest of us are only marginally better off, trying to slug down the breakfast (pasta again) that lies limply infront of us.
Todays race was crazy wet, absolutely savage infact, for three hours straight. Wheels slipping constantly as we raced on tires pumped for a dry stage. The rain tricked us today, starting just two kilometers into the stage. I tried to get away early, with the knowledge I was just thirty seconds from the lead after a crash put my chances of a finish all together in question yesterday. Thankfully I managed to chase back on, however today the elastic doesn’t break until late in the stage, my chances for overall reduced to none. We eventually organise a leadout, my team mate (super Sam Lowe) taking a top ten on the stage, us both in the top twenty overall, myself second in the first year competition. Post stage sees us quickly pack our bike boxes, strip and towel down with eau cologne on a street corner, its not glamerous but I love it. Moral is kept high by constant jokes and laughter, the amazing Italian mozzarella filled panini’s at Triestre airport also helped.
I am on a Euston bound train at the moment, somewhere between Rugby and Milton Keynes. I have passed through four countries today, over the top of a few more. All I look forward to now is some home cooked meals and my own bed! A week of school and I will be back on the move... Belgium next weekend followed by flying out to Czech on the following Tuesday. Legs are good at the moment, hopefully some good results to come.