ALLEZ LES FILLES

ALLEZ LES FILLES

L'Etape du Tour. An epic blend of faff, fun and f**k me this is hard.
It's a sportive not a race. This year it was 180km and 3800m up, finishing on the infamous and seemingly never ended Col d’Izoard. 

Below are four pieces of advice you're likely to read when you google L'Etape du Tour. But often, our sassy human minds and real life get in the way of simple theory. So underneath are stories from the weekend without the censorship. Salty arses and all. 
 

GOOD ADVICE 01

Fuel well. Don't wait till you're hungry.

REALITY 01

Don't rely on hotel breakfasts (I consumed something that resembled half omelette half cake). Locate the local bakeries. You’re probably going to eat cheese with every meal. Go to the supermarket, buy provisions and set up a work table in your hotel the night before to make ‘back pocket picnic’. Brioche rolls filled with warm cheese and melted guacamole may not sound appealing, but you’ll prove yourself wrong 100km in. The food stops should only serve as top ups. Putting overnight oats in a McDonald's cup ready for the 0500 breakfast is absolutely fine. The only thing shittier than the progressively terrible toilets would have been dehydration. Keep drinking. We went  through 10 bidons each. 

GOOD ADVICE 02

Pace yourself. 

REALITY 02

Jump in with a group for the long winding flats. Don’t smash the first incline because you get carried away when the French crowds are screaming ‘allez allez’ or because everyone around you seems to be going faster. Find your rhythm and stick to it. Forget about the clock. No one actually cares apart from you (well, maybe also your boyfriend who is waiting at the end in a car parking space due to expire).

GOOD ADVICE 03

Take in the atmosphere. Look around you. 

REALITY 03

Watch the tour on TV because those pirate camera views are much more spectacular than the handlebars you’ll inevitably be staring at during your ride. You won’t be able to ‘take in the atmosphere’ when half way up another 15km climb, sweating through your helmet and hunting out the next km marker. Instead, make friends with the flats. Chat to more people. We only had two meaningful conversations with strangers even though we were surrounded by 10,000+ people. You’ll more than likely pee in a bush with thousands of people riding past and you're more than likely to have salty sweat marks in places you'd prefer people not to be looking... take in that atmosphere too. 

GOOD ADVICE 04

Be prepared. 

REALITY 04

We laughed at the guy who had packed toilet paper into his jersey. 130km into the ride was a bad time to realise he was right. Take time to prepare your finish line backpack with the precision you aligned your socks with that morning. Makes sure it includes food, drink, a hoody, face wipes and fresh socks. Pack layers - this is one ride where you’ll have to get over the aesthetic rule of bulging back pockets. The start line was freezing. Lara and I sat on the floor wishing we’d brought a cheap jumper that we could throw away once we got started. There was one guy with cardboard taped to his legs. Interesting. But do what you have to do so you can feel as comfortable as possible before the 180km of discomfort commences.  

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If you're obsessed with this beautiful sport, taking on the Etape will give you another level of profound respect for the pro peloton. As you're taking a week off and recovering with all the beige foods you can find, they're back in the saddle racing again. Without the indulgent food stops. Without the novelty of a melted cheese baguette at 80km. And without the possibility of pacing and picture taking procrastination. 

If you’re looking for a new challenge, then wear the cleats of a pro rider for a day. Be inspired by the superhumans and ride your own great race, and by doing that you'll no doubt inspire someone else. 

Allez au héro de tous les jours.
- Go on the everyday hero. 
 

VEGGIE DINNER

VEGGIE DINNER

Good things come to those who... get absolutely pissed on en route to the start line, don't bring enough layers to warm up and probably shouldn't be racing because of a head cold that hasn't cleared. 

I managed my first proper win this month at a 3/4 race at Bovingdon Circuit. The incredible feeling of crossing the finish line first can only be explained by how strong the desire is to feel it again. I definitely don't have the magic answer on how to do that, as I'm pretty sure mine was 90% luck, but here are a few personal learnings:

1. Perfect form doesn't exist in your mind.
I 110% convinced myself I was in shit form - don't believe everything you think. 

2. Comparing is the devil.
I still have a terrible habit of not feeling good enough when looking at others. The infamous 'shut up legs' should be changed to 'shut up mind'.

3. Have a game plan and stick to it.
For once I had time to breathe and figure out a plan. Even if it doesn't turn out how you envisioned, 'never mind' is a much more positive force than 'what if'. 

4. Know your strengths (I don't have many so this is easy for me).
Use them rather than kicking yourself about things you're not so good at. 

5. Surround yourself with the right people.
The advice and encouragement I was given on the day was much more useful than the words I was telling myself. 

6. Keep going. 
The shit ton of hours in the saddle which don't feel progressive or the races that are too fast to grasp are just stepping stones not obstacles. 

7. Journal.
Even on a scrap piece of paper. I genuinely try to follow the rule of three and often have three things I'm working towards to keep me busy. And that doesn't just mean: Gin. Tonic. Cucumber. 

8. Race to race. Not for results.
When your parents used to say 'winning isn't everything', it turns out they were right. Don't wait for a first place to feel content. And don't wait for a win before a celebratory gin. It's cliche but it's true - turning up to race is amazing. Results only tell half the story. 

9. Fake it till you make it.
I still feel like I'm turning up to a party I've not been invited to. The outsider who didn't get the dress code or laughs along at the wrong jokes. Belief doesn't come easy to a lot of us. Force it so your mind and body eventually follow.  

10. The real winner...
was the girl who brought a down jacket for before and after the race. I looked on at her with such envy as I depressingly looked on at my shivering arms. 

The £20 prize winnings will be framed. Not as a reminder of the good times or a reminder that I did actually win a race once (probably won't happen again for a while). But as a reminder that even when you win a race, you're still a loser if you cross the finish like looking like this: 
 

ASS KICKING

ASS KICKING

I’m still very new to racing so every day is a school day and this weekend, travelling to Eastbourne for a seafront criterium, was definitely a lesson in problems not podiums. 

0900 PRE RACE FAFFING 

Control that which is controllable, because racing is anything but.  

1200 THAT TRANSFER TRAIN

Waterloo was full of people dressed up for the races.
And there I was, heading to the races too, but instead I was wearing lycra, sipping coffee like it was champagne, donning a Rapha cap as my fascinator and with 15-1 odds of getting my ass kicked. 

1400 NORTHERNER LANDS IN THE EAST

Swooning over the seafront was soon replaced with pre-race panic when I saw how technical the circuit was with corners as sharp as my tan lines. 

1500 PUNCTURES AND PINS

Where there is a bike there is a ball ache.
60 minutes before the race one of the tubeless tyres I was riding burst. 

I then ripped my skinsuit in a public toilet, whilst trying to pin my number on.
 I couldn't find anywhere to buy water and there was nowhere to store my bag.
 It felt like a finish line when I finally made it to the start line. 

1600 40 MINUTES + 5 LAPS

Fast. Technical. Painful. Repeat. 

1735 LONDON BOUND

Ass officially kicked. Finished 6th.
I cycled off the course avoiding the white dress of a bride who was watching the race, picked up my bag and headed to the station.
I spent the 2 hour journey home disappointed and over analysing the race. 
Gin and tonic please. 

Sometimes it's just not your day. But inbetween the issues and the oil stained tissues, there's  moments that mean more than a medal. I strengthened my ability to ignore my ego. I'm now clued up on tubeless tyres. I was made aware of how far I have to go on this racing journey, and that's ok. I was reminded that if I'm feeling tired, it means I need to rest, not give up. I learnt that no matter how strong your backpack tetris skills are, your yoghurt can still explode on the train home... Thanks Eastbourne for the sun, the type II fun* and for reminding me that race days can sometimes be a beach. 

Strava link
*Type II fun: Sucks the entire time you are doing it, but you are excited to either brag about it at the bar later or look back on it and value it as a character-building episode.  

VUELTA GRANOLA

VUELTA GRANOLA

VUELTA GRANOLA 2017

Photojournal of a four day training trip to Mallorca.


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SUNDAY 0345
MAKING OUR WAY TO THE ISLAND

"How many people does it take to fit three bikes into the back of a VW golf?"

Bike hire: Rapha Mallorca
Car hir: Gold Car
Hotel: HSM Lago Park Apartments



SUNDAY 1600
THE 'BIG SHOP' AND FIRST FORMENTOR RIDE

"CAN I PUT GIN AND TONIC IN MY BIDON NOW?"

Strava link



MONDAY 0600
THE SALTY SA CALOBRA RIDE

"HI. WE'RE CANYON SRAM!"

Strava link



TUESDAY 0830
THE ORIENT EXPRESS RIDE

"IS THAT JERSEY LIMITED EDITION...?"

Strava link



WEDNESDAY 0600
THE FINAL SUPPER RIDE

"ZEN IS WHEN I GET MY SECOND CORTADO"

Strava link



VUELTA GRANOLA STATS

Days: 4
KM: 355km

Climbed: 4,700m
Punctures: 0
Ice creams: 8
Boxes of granola: 3
Ride bars: Lost count
Films watched: 1
Bike Computer: Wahoo Bolt


MALLORCA PHOTO JOURNAL

MALLORCA PHOTO JOURNAL

Palma De Mallorca. With high amounts of switchback porn and cycling racks outside each cafe, it's an island built for cyclists. Ride, eat, drink, repeat - my holiday zen. 

This week, I travelled over with a group of 13 who were completely new to mountains. By day, varying ability on the bike. But by night, a shared expertise of good food and large alcohol consumption. 

Below is the holiday's top fives, covering riding, eating and planning. Simple information designed for those who are also heading out for the first time and need to know some of the best and none of the overly complicated rest:  
 

RIDING.

1. Ride Formentor. The infamous climb to the lighthouse and back. There are goats en route. It's often windy. Stop at the top for coffee, cake or savoury snacks but be aware that the queue often takes as long as the climb.
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/959020525
 
2. Ride to Campanet. For a rest or easy day, this is a flat and scenic route. Stop in the square for coffee or lunch. Cortado was 4/10.
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/959971459
 
3. Ride the Lluc loop. 8km switchback climb that never gets too steep. 25km from Pollenca, there is a 'splash and dash' coffee stop before you reach the mountain. The climb finishes at the petrol station where you'll be met with a zoo of other riders. If your legs are asking for more, you can answer with a Formentor finish.
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/961396518

4. Take on Sa Calobra. The legendary and beautiful climb. It's a bumpy and big day out but you're spoilt with views, smooth tarmac roads and plenty of coffee along the way. 
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/964658547

5. Enjoy Pollenca to Palma for a tourist day out. We did the route to drop our bikes off at Rapha and followed the Ma-13A. Flat and fast. Get an ice-cream in Palma and then ride back. Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/966303456

EATING.

1. Visit Tollos restaurant, Port De Pollenca. Part owned by Brad Wiggins. The chips and dip starter is a winner. Book a table in advance. 

2. Visit Rapha. Have the flat white. Joe also recommends the carrot cake. If you need ride leaders, they also host weekly rides. 

3. Visit Cappucino, Port De Pollenca. Great lunch or breakfast stop. Varied modern menu including eggs and avocado on toast for anyone craving London life. 

4. Visit The Braserie. Located at the bottom of Col de Fem. Amazing home cut chips. Shandies are a bit odd - cloudy lemonade rather than normal lemonade. Embrace it. 

5. Do a Supermarket trip at the start of your holiday. We spent 50 euros and got all the provisions you need, including too much gin.

PLANNING.

1. Get a taxi from the city, not the airport, if possible. Approx 80 euros into Pollenca, including bikes. 

2. If you're an RCC member, hire your bikes from Rapha. Otherwise, try Procyclehire. They have mechanics, a bike shop, pumps outside for anyone to use and a cafe. 

3. Have your routes in a spreadsheet, so you can be flexible if the weather changes. The island has everything from 50km flat routes to 150km+ mountainous rides - enough web and strava stalking and you'll discover them all. 

4. Bring playing cards. After a long ride, there's nothing better than sitting in the sun and playing Gin Rummy whilst drinking it too.
 
5. Bring layers. Mallorca can drop a thunderstorm at any mile. A few of us were wearing a musette of regret as we descended without arm warmers or gilets.

Next week, I travel back to the cycling love island. A mini training camp with the girls ahead of L'Etape. Our spreadsheet is printed, whatsapp group created and the holiday hashtag is confirmed. Onwards to #VueltaGranola. 

CYCLE FRIENDS

CYCLE FRIENDS

Friendships are unique. You have the one you cry with. The one you laugh with. The one you drink with. The one you often end up in trouble with. Then, there’s the one you cycle with. These friendships are built on a base of long, sustained hours together, emotional journeys both physically and emotionally, and a constant sharing of pain and food (two things that we often keep to ourselves). These friends see you at your worst and at your best, and often the distance between the two is only one hill apart.

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We don’t ask ‘does my bum looks big in this?’. We just take a photo and show that, 99% of the time, it does. #foreverbuttphotos

We know each others coffee and breakfast preferences and can reel them out with military precision.

We often spend all day together. Waking up ridiculous early to meet, rather than stumbling in stupidly late (sometimes both).

We rarely see each other with our hair down and make up on. When we do, we don’t recognise each other. 

The constant new roads, landscapes and coffee shops often create stories we annoyingly relay in front of people who weren't there. 

We get to know each other quicker than usual because as soon as you start pedalling, there’s no filter to what stories you tell.

We show our loyalties by taking a turn on the front, strategically slowing down the pace or using bad chat as distraction. True ‘cycle friends’ know there’s a sensitive time and place for each. 

We're at our most creative when deciding the name for our Strava upload. 

We believe that seeing each other at 6am during the week is absolutely normal. 

We pee in a bush. And not because we’re drunk in the middle of a festival field. We’re sober, on the side of a main road. 

We talk about things like chamois cream... And saddle sore. 

We suddenly think wearing matching clothes is a team necessity not a fashion tragedy. 


To the girls who are not just my ‘cycling friends’, but are now some of my best friends: thanks for the plans, the purpose and the endless photographs that are forever unflattering. Together we’ve dealt with life problems, punctures and my pathetic sulks when we end up off-road. Whether it’s the up and down of a lane or of life, I’m glad I’m wearing your often strange but forever hilarious friendship ring for the ride. 

FEMALE SUPERHEROES

FEMALE SUPERHEROES

The female cycling community is small yet mighty. It’s women questioning routine and finding the courage to be uncomfortable whilst discovering more about the world and themselves. Over three consecutive days - Regents Park with The 5th Floor girls, racing at Hillingdon against Cat 4 women and a 70km Hertfordshire loop with Sarah - I was reminded that these ‘normal’ women are anything but, and are experiencing life in a way that deserves to be heard. 

Friday 0630

Whilst London was sleeping, we were riding to Regents Park. Sitting on the top tube waiting for the traffic lights to change, I spotted Sophie, knowing she’d beat the cold weather, inner demons and the end of week exhaustion to be there. It was the same excitement as when you used to knock for your friends, but instead of ‘after school’, it was ‘before work’ playtime. Squad assemble.

Friday 0715

We were riding laps, two abreast. I was next to someone I’d never met before, discussing ambitions for racing and plans for the year. Meeting and making new friends as an adult is tough. We deem it too daunting or embarrassing (coming from the world that thinks Tinder is perfectly acceptable). Cycling breaks those barriers.  

Friday 0730

I heard about the morning routine everyone had to honour to make sure they could complete training whilst getting to work on time. Prioritising, and finding purpose, from their 0600-0900 not just their 0900-1800.

Friday 0815

We rolled up to Workshop Coffee, faces covered in mud, taking over the seating area as we began unlayering and pausing our Wahoo GPS devices. It’s comrarderie courtesy of caffeine, whilst commuters look on with confusion. I'm sure they were thinking 'Is that the cycling equivalent of the Taylor Swift squad?!’ Yes. But this is one squad where anyone is welcome.

Saturday 1145

I turned up to the race surrounded by women unpacking their carefully assembled race bags. From food in tupperware to chamois cream we hope hadn’t exploded, a silent kudos is shared appreciating the success of making it to the start line amidst all the internal and external barriers.

Saturday 1230

The unglamorous toilets set the scene for last minute faff. One of the women helped me as I struggled to pin my number on (good start KPP). A humbling act of consideration before competition. 

Saturday 1320

During the race, we worked together to bridge the gap between the rider who attacked. A moment where complete strangers have each others back, and the unspoken thank you (a nod of the head) connects you with humans in a unique sporting way.

Saturday 1400

The post-race adrenaline high gives you permission to be positive. We shared compliments and congratulated one another on an experience only we had shared.

Sunday 0800

I met Sarah for a Hertfordshire ride. It was cold and it was early, yet we’ve trained ourselves to accepting this as normal. Surrounding yourself with great people expands your view on the world, and suddenly you realise your new ‘normal’ is much more than that.  

Sunday 0930

We took turns on the front, supporting each other when we were both depleted and broken. Experiencing these extreme emotions on the bike makes us more caring people off the bike (which hopefully balances out the ridezilla that appeared when I was hungry and pathetic half way up yet another hill). 

Sunday 1130

An endurance style breakfast of eggs, avo, mushroom, tomatoes and toast finished the ride. Instead of exchanging pointless gossip, we exchanged the salt and pepper and ideas for our next ride. Cyclists may suffer, but it results in moments of deep gratitude and contentment. An emotional pattern that becomes addictive amongst those that have experienced it.

Women change the world daily. They can often be unsung heroes, with full time jobs, who are finding time to better themselves and reduce the distance between other females. It’s a vast world but when we ride together it’s a friendly one. 

So to the female superheroes, the wild ones with wardrobes that can sometimes prioritise lycra over the little black dress, your strength is infectious and I’m proud to spend these moments surrounded by you all. Keep riding, keep finding and keep saying no to being normal. 

THANK YOU FESTIVE500

THANK YOU FESTIVE500

The final km of the Festive500 is the moment we expect to feel the greatest. But before that happens, you clock up stories, lessons and moments that can sometimes go unnoticed whilst fixated on the finish line. The spirit of Festive500 however, lies in these seemingly normal moments and appreciating them for being much more than that. 

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Thank you Festive500, for: 

1. The constant prepping. Is everything charged, cleaned and is breakfast ready? Prepping gives me purpose.

2. The excuse to ride with inspired people, like Helen, Plum, Janine and Lorna (even if Plum made me pump her tyre up before realising she had a gas canister). 

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3. Eating porridge from tupperware at 0700, even though I was still full from the roast the night before.

4. Eating the roast the night before, savouring it even more because it was Festive500 fuel.

5. Not having to decide what to wear in the morning. The lycra was already laid out. 

6. Discovering new coffee shops and feeling complete contentment when they had a place for bikes and a working toilet.

7. Allowing me to spend the rest of my day in joggers without family judgement. I’m a Festive500 athlete - I’m recovering.

8. Providing me with enough morning headspace to be a better person in the afternoon around loved ones.

9. The empty roads. Everyone was too busy watching The Royal Family or online shopping. 

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10. Giving me experiences, including that time we shared snacks 75km in or the time I was surrounded by snow capped trees with no feeling left in my hands. Good stories. 

11. Asking a lot of me in six days. In return, it simplified me. Each morning was to ride, no other decisions apart from ‘where to’ was needed.

12. Encouraging me to hunt out new routes. Even if one was off-road and utter shit. 

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13. The pendulum of pedals everyday. It was meditation without the need for crossed legs. 

14. Contentment that comes after a long ride, like the time we sat with a hot drink watching Dr Strange. 

15. Being part of a global Festive500 community. Rides are easier when you know thousands of cyclists across the world are doing it with you. 

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16. Unwrapping the tinfoil from my homemade flapjack (thanks sis). I was in a low place and the oats tasted like tiny, coconut flavoured, pieces of heaven. 

17. Sipping gin and tonic like it was medicine. 

18. Seeing houses on Christmas morning with the lights on, knowing people were unwrapping presents and drinking Bucks Fizz. 

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19. Riding past sheep and remembering how oddly endearing they are. Especially the one that walked to the gate as I was taking a picture.

20. The flat whites. 

21. Not having to worry about speed. Every km was equal, even those painfully slow ones against the headwind.  

22. Helping me sleep soundly because my eyes were so tired from the cold.

23. Not giving me any punctures, especially when I was off road. The lack of feeling in my hands and phone signal would have made for a savage situation.

24. For the waves and nods from other riders, instantly connecting you with strangers. 

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Whether it's Festive500 or your weekend ride, embrace the mundane moments not just the glory. Even though we should all celebrate achievements, you might find that noticing the small pleasures is where real happiness and fulfillment on the bike lies. As is true, you might say, for life. 

DIARIES FROM FESTIVE500

DIARIES FROM FESTIVE500

When December arrives, it's not the Coca Cola advert cyclists are eagerly waiting for. It's the Festive500 challenge finally appearing on Strava. Every year since 2010, Rapha has challenged cyclists all over the world to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

Along with 70,000 other riders, I signed up. 

Riding 500km provides a novel amount of headspace, so during the six days I documented thoughts from the roads. 
Below are those diary extracts. 

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24th: The wind and the Wirrals
Ride: 110km
Remaining: 390km

1. Wind is like the mind. It cannot be seen, but it can be powerful or ultimately destructive.
2. Riding by yourself is good meditation at xmas. Giving you the headspace to make you a better person when you are back with loved ones.
3. Dog walkers who hold their dogs as you ride past are unsung heroes.

Lows: Cross winds are shit. Knees are aching. Arms are sore from the tight grip to avoid being blown into the road.
Highs: The power of a collective effort. Other people taking part in F500 accelerates the possibility of achieving. Broken the 400km is good for the head. Roads I’ve never ridden before - looking at things with new eyes, just like children do. 

25th: The Santa Dash
Ride: 30km
Remaining: 360km

1. Every ride has a start, a middle and an end. Whether that’s 30km or 110km, that emotional journey is the same.
2. Don’t rush a bike ride. Just like anything in life - it never works. You miss the enjoyment.
3. Get out on xmas morning. It expands your world view before, quite rightly, focusing on your precious few.

Lows: Knees. Head wind. Hunger from the day before setting in - soon to be sorted with Christmas roast.
Highs: Driving past houses seeing the excitement and energy of xmas morning. The value added from progression - seeing the km’s clock down is incredibly fulfilling. 

26th: The Four Seasons
Ride: 70km
Remaining: 290km

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1. When you ride a km, you’ve done it. It can’t be taken away. That’s why it feels so fulfilling and simple. Every km is an achievement which can’t be undone.
2. The importance of post ride routine. The thought of my jumper, birkenstocks and food is enough to keep me going.
3. Riding solo means you have to constantly find ways to change your emotions. Riding past sheep and shouting ‘oh hey gurl’ at them was one success story.  

Lows: Riding against cross winds is scary. At 5km in, I was tempted to turn around and go home.
Highs: Seeing the sunrise. Walking over to the sheep and seeing them staring at me as if they were interested in what I was up to. Still managing 70km even though the weather was horrific. The chocolate avocado.

27th: The Wirral Tour with Helen
Ride: 108km
Remaining: 182km

1. People say it takes 21 days to form a pattern. After four, I’ve created one. Getting up, preparing and riding is now a routine I’ll be sad to say bye to.
2. The power of people. Today was the first ride with another human - 108km is much more enjoyable whilst listening to Helen’s stories and being energised by each others energy. You’re not only lifting km’s, you’re lifting spirits.
3. I learnt that Helen rode Rapha Manchester to London whilst breast feeding at every food stop. What an incredible woman.

Lows: The wind had turned to cold. Lost all feeling in left hand. Our favourite cafe being closed.
Highs: The flat white. Sharing our experiences from Rapha Manchester to London. Enjoying home made flapjacks together. 

28th: Liverpool to Manchester Off-Road  
Ride: 70km
Remaining: 112km

1. Explore your city at different times of the day - you'll be surprised what you learn. After five days, I feel like I know more about the world.
2. The sunrise. We’ve seen it many times in our lifetime but it never loses its magic. Riding reminds us to appreciate the small pleasures. 
3. The energy from other people. A small nod, wave and eye contact from other riders reminds me of the energy we generate between each other. Together stronger, even when complete strangers.

Lows: Didn’t sleep well. Ice. All off-road. 70km of being scared and going 17km average. Hated 90% of it. Emotionally drained. It was like a cyclocross race that never seemed to end. The moment you are not even half way through and you’re already cooked. Too cold to drink, eat or stop for coffee.
Highs: The red sunrise. Finish line meeting my sister and mum. Getting through my fears and sitting down with a celebratory halloumi omelette. Showering and putting on my birkenstocks. 

29th: The Windsor Winner  
Ride: 117km
Remaining: 0km

1. This too shall pass. Whether you’re having a great ride or a tough one, it will finish. Pain doesn’t last forever, nor do climbs or solo miles. Push through. You’ll get to the other side eventually and be a better person for it.
2. The pendulum rhythm of pedalling teaches us a lot. It reminds me to be considered and consistent. Whether that’s riding, talking or working, be considered and consistent.
3. I should have chosen the cinnamon toast not the brown toast.

Lows: Losing feeling in hands and feet. Sorting Plum’s puncture for over 30 minutes - thinking we wouldn’t have time to ride back.
Highs: Seeing Richmond frosted over. Enjoying a hot cup of tea and toast at the half way point. Picking up a rhythm and pace on the way back. Feeling warmth as the sun came out. Exchanging stories about our travels. Knowing I’d finished 500kms. 

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Total: 505km
Days: 6
Punctures: 0
Strava Proof

Ego v The Cyclist

Ego v The Cyclist

Your ego. The unfriendly fella that stops you from doing a lot of things that your heart wants to. Whether we realise it or not, we are in constant battle with it. And often we lose before even stepping into the ring. 

The loud voice of my heart made me sign up to the Hillingdon Winter Series. I felt stuck in my training and wanted to commit to something that gave me purpose, even if my ego was against the idea. If I waited, I would never race. Instead, I'd constantly be in a yo-yo cycle of enthusiasm and then self-doubt, hoping one day I’d wake up and be ready. That’s not how it works, kid. ‘Being ready’ is fictional. In taking action you find the truth. 

Signing up to your first race is split into two chapters. The pre-race and the race itself. I can confidently say, the former is the scary part of the story and where the ego is at its loudest. 

“I know how scary it feels and pushing yourself to that start line is frankly the bravest thing ever” - Gem Atkinson

THE PRE-RACE

Panic
Fear
Doubt
Confusion
All those great feelings. Each one strong enough to stop you from arriving at the start line. Whether it’s a panic of embarrassing yourself or letting others down, the pre-race is cursed with the poison of ego. I was so fearful that I only told a handful of people I’d signed up.  

You beat the odds and arrive at race day. However, so does your ego.

Scanning the ever glamorous car park of amateur sport, you’re convinced everyone is stronger than you and better prepared. The Sherlocks amongst us know no judgement can be made on such limited knowledge. But the ego hates Sherlocks because facts are less scary than the stories we make up ourselves. Thankfully I had my good friend (and now coach) Gem and my sister Lucy with me. First enemy of the ego - loved ones. They can speak words that silence the self-doubt. They can also apply leg rub and see you at your most vulnerable (in bib shorts and bra whilst shovelling down overnight oats) and not judge. 

“Low expectations. High acceptance” - Rob Saunders

THE RACE

3,2,1. The race began.
Full focus. And focus is the second enemy of the ego. 

Empowerment
Speed
Tactics
Competitiveness
Achievement

Each time I rode past Gem and Lucy (aka the ultimate cheerleaders), I felt a sense of connectedness that empowered each pedal. After one of the riders attacked, we formed a chase group that worked together to try and bridge the gap. A few hours ago, my best tactics were the ones I applied to food before I drank another gin. Here I found myself communicating with other riders, moving myself into the right position and attacking. After a few school boy errors on the sprint finish, I took 4th place. It had been an amazing 45 mins and I knew as I crossed the finish line (and nearly took out the boys race - I’ve still got a lot to learn) that 4th place was only half of the result. I’d also beaten my ego. 

Your goal is against yourself so as long as you go out there and go for it, you win” - Joe Carby

A new challenge shouldn't be feared. Be scared of your ego. For not moving forward is what's truly frightening. If you can recognise your ego and not believe what it has to say, you’ll enter a new chapter of your life. One that is full of hidden rewards and worthy lessons.

The race is what people focus on, but the event (and result) is only one part of the challenge. The decision, the commitment and the power to pin a number on is the true strength and the muscle that is hardest to train. The secret? Until there is an invention that silences our ego, the only medicine is to just fucking do it. Because the final enemy of the ego? A master that never listens to it.

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Photography: Gem Atkinson