Background and build up to racing

10 Dec

I’ve been uming and arring about racing for the last 3 months, its taken some gentle persuasion, a lot of suffering and a late burst of confidence to finally spur me into pinning on a number and getting involved in the little known sport of cycle racing!

I’ll start with some background, as how one comes to be on the start line of a cycle race is a story that I’m sure has many different versions, here’s mine!

Cycling for me has been an active hobby for almost exactly two years. 2 years ago to the week, I got my first road bike, a lovely BMC courtesy of the cycle scheme, at the time I had been commuting to work on a mountain bike for a couple of months, 3 miles each way, hardly earth shattering but it was something, it was a daily ride to keep me interested. Any-who, I picked up the bike, put some clipless pedals on, donned all my new gear that was necessary to ride a road bike over a mountain bike and off I went. It was a lot faster, hugely so, to the point where I was disgusted at people who suggested they were going to buy a new mountain bike knowing full well it would be used on road most of the time. I thought I was king of the world for a bit, until I was passed by a group of club riders one Sunday morning on my way to town, they made me look slow, and fat. And I was.

It was really a good mate of mine that got me into club cycling, he was fairly new to it as well, but had been gong out for about 8 months or so beforehand, and to me was my go to for all things cycling. I hadn’t known about the scene that existed right on my doorstep (literally); Kingston Wheelers are a huge cycling club, with over 400 members from all over London, they would meet about 200 yards from my flat each Sunday and go off riding. I never knew this in 3 years of living here. Anyway, long story short, he came round, helped me sort out everything I’d need and we embarked on the ‘beginners club run’ a nice route of some 37 miles around Box Hill. Upon my return, my legs were burning, I was hungry and felt like I’d done 200 miles, more importantly I was hooked. We’d averaged a meager 15.8 mph for the ride, which as you’ll see in later posts is a far cry from the demands of amateur cycle racing or even fast club riding.

I’m not really built like a cyclist, I’m no Lance Armstrong, or even Mark Cavendish, for the last 4 years I’ve been concentrating on doing as many heavy weights as possible and doing as little cardio as is possible to get away with. The result of that was a chubby but not fat man, that weighed nearly 100kg @ 6,1 ft who could deadlift 180 kg, squat 165kg and bench 120 kg. Not bad, not amazing. But I was happy, and people could see I had been to the gym and it was nice to be noticed as doing something that not everyone can do.

So that year passed, I got into cycling more, and went out more often on a Sunday, but maintained my weights as I was conscious I didn’t want to actually ever look like your typical cyclist! Then something happened that would change things. I moved jobs from 3 miles down the road to 11. I also got a new bike, a nice Carbon Ribble, which I still have currently, this commute was the start of a body change, and also the new beginning of my cycling journey!

That summer, I was out most weekends on the club rides, slowly getting faster, now tackling longer rides, and hillier routes. I also did a 45 mile time trial from Kingston to Brighton! 20.3 mph average… not too bad for a big lad! The next big change really all came about when I got a bit ill, my weight had been falling pretty rapidly from the commuting anyway, but this illness knocked another 5 lbs off me and before I knew it by September I was coming in at13 stone 12 lbs. Which was down from my Jan 4th weight of 15.9! The weight stayed off, too.

The other big change was joining the chain gang ride, this consisted of a 23 mile loop at night on a Tuesday at threshold pace. I was nervous and sought much advice before going on my first one, I was told I would be OK, and might be able to hack it if I stayed tight to the group. So the first ride came along, I got involved, and off we went, bang, straight to 25 mph, then to 28, then back down to 26 and that is where it stayed for the first 10 miles give or take, I was huffing and puffing and was very near to dropping off as I couldn’t hold it!

A roundabout about 12 miles in split us and that was it I was dropped along with one other, we carried on a hard pace back to the start of the ride where the others were waiting having finished before us. 22.3 mph average. It was unknown to me to go this fast. Anyway, fast forward 8 weeks, I’m now knocking on the door of my weight beginning with a 12 for the first time in probably 8 years, and I’m doing these rides each week without too much issue, fastest one yet was a 24 mph average over the loop. These rides have put me in great stead for the winter racing I was about to embark upon, I knew that not many people had the breadth of club to be able to ride with riders that were so strong, and so much of a motivation to get better, so I was in a good place.

Approx 7 days ago, I got the debit card out, bought a silver membership to BC and sorted my race license, I then signed up to my first race, a 4th cat only at Hillingdon, where we had just done a skills days, so I knew the course, I had also won the mock race, which had some pretty tasty riders in, so I was confident…Was I too confident…….time would tell.

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