Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Cycling Year in Review


I [infamously] signed off last year's cycling review with the words "Let's hope that 2015 means more kilometres and hopefully staying upright on the bike."

I'll kill any suspense now: I failed on both counts.

Around six days after publishing that statement, as I rounded the corner from St Dunstan's Road onto Magravine Road in Hammersmith, I realised that a Christmas tree had been dumped in the road. Travelling at around 14mph, I braked with the front and tried to take a tighter line whilst cornering. The front wheel lost grip and hit the ground. Hit it hard.

Thankfully, an off-duty orthopaedics doctor was travelling in the car behind me. He helped me up and walked me to the hospital a mere 500 metres down the road where I was told about my list of injuries: a fractured cheekbone, broken thumb (on the same side I'd damaged last year), a cut requiring stitches above my eye and a badly bloodied lip.

What I am perhaps most thankful about was the fact that the off-duty doctor persuaded me to not ride home. I was ready to carry on, but wasn't quite aware of how severely I was bleeding. What this did mean was that I wouldn't get back on the bike until February 22nd.

Starting off, as with last time, I began by riding around the road track at the Lee Valley Velodrome. I managed about an hour in the driving rain and incessant wind before abandoning.

Buoyed by this first ride, I attempted something a little further with Jonesy at the beginning of March. This ride took us riding along the seafront in Southend, heading down country lanes, over a fair few mud tracks, getting lost on private farmland and eventually going along the top of a metre wide sea defence wall - inventing the Dijkritje concept in the process.

In April I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a Eastman bike for the day and to use it to get around Kabale in Uganda. An experience I couldn't record on Strava, but that I will be repeating in 2016, despite the heckling of one local man of "omuzungu, you are driving a bike."

Riding an old Eastman bike back to the hotel in Kabale, Uganda.
By May I was commuting regularly again and had used the velodrome road circuit for a little more traffic-free training. My fitness, although still not great, was improving and by June, in the warmer weather, most of the pain in my left side was gone.

July and August brought the biggest excitement of the year. Not only did I head off the Saint Lucia for five weeks, I took the ever-reliable Sasha with me. The first ride was the toughest, riding alone in searingly hot conditions with exercise-proof SPF50+ on, but, after a few messages to the Chairperson of the Saint Lucia Cycling Association, I soon had myself a cycling partner - the 2012 National Champion Fidel Mangal.

Riding around the hills of Blanchard and Desruisseaux, then along the edge of the Atlantic and through Vieux Fort, with someone much fitter than me, provided me with a good chance to really push myself. Having brought out no energy gels or electrolyte drink to the Caribbean, I got by with a water/salt/sugar solution and coconut water, stopping every so often for either a banana or watermelon. It seemed to work. 

In September, the post-Caribbean bounce saw me cycle over 800km in a month for the first time since joining Strava. On top of that, I beat a personal best up London's toughest climb, Swains Lane.

Sasha takes a rest against a palm tree on the beach at Laborie, Saint Lucia.
Finally, after one last dijkritje for the year, Jonesy and I decided to head north for our first Sportive of the year (and also our last) in home territory; Warwick for the Snowball Spinner.

After a pleasant journey northwards on Saturday, the weather started to take a turn for the worse that afternoon and a warning was issued by the Met Office for rain and gusts of wind up to 60mph the following day. The event organisers were concerned and sent an email saying the event may be cancelled.

As things turned out, the event went ahead, but everyone was forced to take the Standard route to ensure the course was cleared by 1.30pm, the time the 'big' weather was due to hit.

The route was very quiet with what seemed like many people choosing not to participate. On a better day it would be an attractive circuit, but, given the intense westerly head wind and intermittent rain, it wasn't that fun compared to previous events - although we were cheered through Snitterfield by my mother and girlfriend

We arrived back feeling cold, collected our medals, cleaned our bikes and headed to meet our 'fans' in the Cape of Good Hope pub.

At this point, based on last year's blog post, I'll make no predictions or comments about 2016. Let's just see what the road holds.
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