Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Flooded voice


The towns were flooded with people. To the extent you wondered quite where they could have all come from.

I think it is pretty rare that a town stands still, every person focusing on one thing. Bike racing is special. In this car and road reliant world, we force that brief moment of nothing upon people. Not everyone likes it, but equally those who may not have taken the time from their day to watch, are near trapped in to doing so. And romantically, maybe naively, I'd like to think some of them might be surprised, might really love what comes when we get there.

I guess in that sense we come to the people.

I’d never felt scared until the race that day. There is one town that echoes in the memory. I was on the far left of the bunch, mid stage, as we came in. It was a slight but fast downhill, in Devon perhaps. I almost feel I need not mention the town was rammed. I’m wondering where all these people come from. But they have come and all these people start to lean in and cheer and clap. Its amazing their support. But I’m also a matter of inches from their hands, bodies, heads. I’m going at near thirty miles an hour. A woman is holding a very small child. I’m passing it so close I could bend my elbow and touch it. I’m scared.

We exit the buildings and return to a country road. The big and quintessentially British hedge row has never looked so soft, so safe. If there were to be a crash now, there would be no young children in sight, just branches and leaves. I relax a little. But in they back of my mind, it felt too close.

Lewes

Another day. Another town. Thankfully barriers between us and them, the people. Or really the person; a collective voice that blares and spurs. It surfs with the bunch, breaking just before we enter, erupting and then slowly falling to a rest again. I’m wondering were it, they, have all come from.

We turn a left, uphill, not too fast. I faintly remember a pub on the corner. It’s only twenty or so kilometres to go, the race has been on and continues to be very much so. Cummings is riding the front just a little up ahead, chasing. It's doesn't hurt but it's unmistakably hard. There aren't all that many guys left, the wind over the cliffs, the climb just before, took their toll on the peloton. I’m concentrating.

I kick out of the corner. My hands grip the bars tight, my arms and upper body tense. I push forward and out of the saddle I stand on the pedals, following the wheel just ahead. And then I hear it. I hear a voice, standing away from the roar in a place of its own. For a split second it catches my complete attention, instantly sending a smile to my face, a warmth to my legs.

It is there and then just as quickly it is gone.

I remember a roundabout a few seconds later, straight over, a slight downhill and then a right. The motorbike outriders overtook hesitantly as the peloton snaked from left to right in the wind. A wider road with a stone wall rising up on the right.

But mostly, mostly I remember having a quiet chuckle, my old man’s voice ringing in my head, a good feeling in my legs.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Place II


Is it a journey if you start and finish in the same place? Do you go anywhere?

I travel between worlds. Sometimes dark and damp, moist, like an undisturbed morning dew. Sometimes old and familiar, engraved in my mind like the grooves of my palms. Sometimes new, a breath of fresh air in every meaning. Regardless, always revealing, brimming with lessons and unfamiliarity.

I pass through deep shadows and cold air that falls deep in to my lungs. I feel my way, the surface of the road rising up through my hands, shaking my knuckles and tarnishing my skin. Occasionally a glare of light will escape through the canopy, a fleeting opportunity to build a better sense of where it is I exist, but for the most part, I simply pass through, everything falling beyond my focus.
And then my momentum, the twisting road, throws me to a greater light, through a gap ahead. It warms my skin instantly, but the sensation is, like everything, merely temporary. It doesn't take long for the moisture to return; this time crawling my shiny skin and stinging my eyes. Again I see nothing. But I feel. I feel it is in this heat that you can most clearly sense the end. Its unforgiving nature, unrelenting intensity, lingers ever so close. It is palpable the further alone you furrow, the higher you venture. Turn away, let go and the feeling will last for an eternity. There is only one way out, you cannot escape.

The road starts to lope upward. Unaggressive, for now. It ripples a little and my hands loosen to compensate, guiding me forward, against natures will. It cuts a path between that that is left, and right. It serves no purpose but to reach the top, the end. Likewise, as I now slow against the gradient, I serve no purpose but to reach the top, someday, the end.

It strikes me to look down from afar at it all, most especially from a mountain top. The City I grew in is littered with artificially created viewpoints, but it is from a place outside of this bubble, looking in at it all, that perspective is created. Looking in this way, I find a clear and lasting sentiment. For what is created down below, as mighty as it is, appears so self contained and insular from up here. It may be cold, different, aloof up here, but it is peaceful. It is a place of it’s own. It is a rarity.

I travel between worlds. Between it all and my own. Rising up and coming down. But somewhere, everyday, high or low, I find my place. And it strikes me again and again…

It is so small, sprawling, separated and full. It lacks love and commitment. It is all so back and forth. Back and forth in the bubbles created. With time to pause and find a place? I don't see it from here.

I have my place. Find yours. Don't ever take it for granted.
Image credit: Iphone (Park City, Utah 2014) and Ben Ingham (Cevennes, France 2013)

Friday, 25 July 2014

Place


Her hand rests defiantly on the counter. I see her eyes deepen first; grooves wild and flaring in all directions sharpen and tense as I reach out. The door swings slow and burly on its hinges, reluctant to give way. I push hesitantly, again looking through my hand, past my own weathered skin, watching her. She watches me.

Five hours I’ve worked, not a word spoken, barely a soul seen. It’s quiet up here in the mountains. It is cold too: I sense her disappointment at a stranger almost immediately, palpable even through the clear glass pane of the door.

I remove my glasses and unclip the strap from my chin, a subconscious courtesy of sorts, perhaps. The clock above the counter catches my eye, the time reminding me of life away from the deserted mountain roads and the villages they serve. The second hand ticks tantalisingly slow, in fitting with its humble surroundings, seemingly impervious to time itself. I glance outside and away for a moment, toward that distant life. I see sodden stonewalls dripping wet, doors scattered up and down the street, from times long before myself, defiantly closed. What I see is decidedly dreary.

I take a seat and now ‘remove my cap’, along with my outer most layer and the contents of my pockets. My fingers lack sense, so they simply fish around, pulling out anything they can. A coin bounces away on to the floor and in to a dark corner, lost.

The anti-climax of a guest she cannot relive an old tale with is still heavy in the air. I sense guests are rare and an unknown all the more so. I try to be warm, both outwardly and inside, but neither is received, nor welcome, it seems. The cold has sunk to my bones the last hours and hers too, for the past fifty or so years it would seem. Her lip stands stout and strong, an unfamiliar silence echoes in my ears. I wish for another coin to hit the stone slates and cut the nothing.

We speak a few words, broken on my part and she clearly reluctantly turns her back. I hear the handle click in place and a slow whuur as the machine comes to life. Moments later she turns and approaches broaching a small mug and saucer in hand, a biscuit resting precariously on its side.

She places it down on the scared wooden table and stands over me in a rather maternal fashion, strikingly contrary to her prior manner. Instinctively my hand immediately searches out the handle. Her eyes stare intensely as I sip, as if watching me spoon in a miraculous medicine. And then, out of nowhere, comes a broad and overwhelming smile, as wide and encompassing as the very mountains I seek refuge from.

Drinking shit coffee is like a long tortuous climb in training, when the legs just aren’t there. It hurts, it’s no fun, but it serves a means to an end. You know how it should feel but that sensation never quiet arrives. And still you warm, regardless of the content, often finding solace simply in the end. Because in spite of their ardours nature, both a climb and a mug of dark liquid always seem to clear the mind, even on the worst of days.

But it’s not shit. It’s soothing, falling deep down, far further than I expected. She continues to smile as she retreats back to her place behind the countertop, back to where she begun. Her tone has now changed and as I catch her eye, the tension, the look through the door, the cold, disappears.

I realise I am not just a stranger to her, but to most. It is not normal what we do, out in that, up in this. And whilst some here may understand more than most, appreciate working out there, they also know to fear it. I think of the sweated, gritty, freckled face she saw through her door. The worn grubby hand reaching deep in to hidden pockets and juggling out a sprawl of coins and folded notes. The foreign and husked voice held back by a fogged brain and riddled airways. The hunger devouring the coffee in an instant.

I leave to return to life and she raises the hand, duly rested as I. A wave and smile deep in to my eyes cement I am no longer a stranger, despite the barriers that lay between her world and my own.


Image credit – Andy Waterman / andywaterman.info

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

March and April


Cycling is a strange sport. One rider crosses the line, taking the plaudits and the glory, and yet it is a ‘team sport’. For it is near impossible to win without support in the professional peloton. And so, despite the singular perceived success of road racing, we celebrate as a whole, sharing the pickings and amazing feeling of winning throughout our teams.

I have been racing for just under a month now, on both sides of the Atlantic. 2014 is my first year as an under23 and senior bike racer and below is a summary of the events thus far. I hope it provides some small insight that may otherwise be lost to those lucky and stupid enough to be inside the peloton…

Apologies for the lack of creativity, my brain is scrambled from training - as it is most days.

In every race there is one moment that defines your day above all else.

San Dimas – Bissell DT

James, frog and I (Roastbif) raced without the team in this ‘local’ Californian stage race. The field was made up of numerous American teams, including 4 UCI Continental squads. James spanked the opening uphill TT. I was fifth and Frenchie 8th. Clement then infiltrated the break on the second day, duly taking the malliot jaune from the kiwi. Oram and I then rode the front in the Crit a little and we won the overall. Nice.

Highlight – taking the win and putting all three of us in the top15 on GC, against squads of eight riders.


Redlands – Bissell DT

The first round of the ‘NRC’, or National Racing Calendar, the Redlands Classic. My legs were coming but not quite present at full race strength yet. I played a team role, leading out and fulfilling other duties. I ducked and dived to fuck for 5th in the bunch kick in the Crit. I suffered in the heat on the last day, my first hot hot hot day since last season.

Highlight – James killing the last day to take 2nd on GC, Nicholia the fast Dane taking the points jersey. The downtown crit, was good fun with a big crowd. Seeing Barnes at the race too.
Ronde Van Vlaanderen u23 – Great Britain

The first Nations Cup of the year and my first u23 race. Doull and I made selection after selection and avoided crash after crash to make the front group over the top of the last cobbled berg. I attacked 3km to go after getting Owains blessing. It lasted a short time, with a Belgian coming across for company, but most importantly forced some of the other teams to chase, allowing my Welsh (on form…) leader to sit in. I came back and then lead out Doull. He was inches from the podium finishing fourth. A pretty sound result for us but not quite the win we fancied. I avoided the huge crash with fifty meters to go, rolling across the line for 15th.

Highlight – My mom and brother watching. Racing around roads and climbs I once trained on with the late and great Alan Rosner as a youth rider. Pulling on the British jersey. Feeling bloody good. Racing with the lads again. Working with Keith Lambert for the first time and hearing some of his stories.
Cote De Picardie u23 – Great Britain

100km of very nervous almost-crosswind racing was followed by two laps around the finish town, with two small climbs per lap. Doull gave me the opportunity to go for myself, I declined and said we should all go for him and try to get a big sprint on the cards. Sid Davies and I went into the first climb of the last lap with Doull on our wheels, I ploughed up it and kept on through the crosswind over the top. I looked back twice and felt amazing seeing the bunch completely lined out behind with Doull sat pretty on my wheel. We swung off in the headwind to let someone else take it up, then someone wiped Owain out. The race winning move went moments later.

Highlight – Feeling strong in the last sprint, shame it was for 11th. I was 20th after choosing the wrong wheel to follow. Our organisation before the crash. Jon making the day long break. Good day but no result.
Liege Bastogne Liege u23 – Bissell DT

My first race in Europe with the team and first with Axel as DS. Special. It started off super cold and we lost three guys to the illness by the feed. Tanner, Geoff and I were wicked organised though. I attacked a few times on the climb after La Redoute to try and help Tanner get away. We all entered the last steep climb together, putting Putt in a real good place at the front. I followed the attacks over the top and got away in a group of three. They messed about a little and we almost got caught in the dying metres. Yet again I sprinted strong but had to go to early to avoid being caught, tying up just before the line. Third. Gutted.

Highlights – success against adversity. Racing. Loving it. Tanner grabbing 9th in the chaotic sprint behind. Standing on the podium. Being called ‘Hart Geoghegan’ on the podium by the commentator with no idea. My brilliant brother and Dad being there to cheer and hang out. Wicked.


My latest ProCycling article (click to enlarge). #outsideisfree

http://www.be-celt.com/2014/04/22/les-decouvertes-de-tao-geoghegan-hart/ - short recent interview in French and English.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Sunday, 16 March 2014


I’ve never seen this before. It could be the same water, but for sure I’ve never seen it here. Its unfamiliarity gives it a difference, even if the breeze is just as fresh, the glisten just as blue. This is the biggest ocean in the world.

I think of the road from St Just to St Ives, the rugged Cornish scenery, an old coal mine tower, the small climb up to Eagle’s Nest way up above Zennor. I picture the white water smashing against the rocks, the tiresome British tarmac, the fresh air. The little holiday cottage and setting out to explore every morning, some of my very first rides. Summer holidays. An old memory.

I think of climbing out of Tossa de Mar, the water down to my right, blue and flat. The road looping up and down, hugging the coastline for eight kilometers or so. The damp corners hiding from the sunlight and the spectacular view. I remember Dave telling me about the day the Tour came along this very road, how special it was, in the break all the way to Barcelona. I picture the turn left up San Grau, climbing with the sea over my shoulder. It’s blue comes in to view again every few hairpins, as the road randomly changes direction, but on the whole it simply simmers silenty behind me. But I do like this climb. And up the last steep ramp I always glance one view back, for it’ll be the last of the day.

You climb slowly up Colemans, rising and dropping, in a way that masks the altitude you are gaining. The road is rough, but nothing like back home, nothing at all like the sapping tarmac of the B3306. There are sheep in the fields at the top, and cows too, sometimes walking on the road. It almost doesn't seem like America up here, a place with fences, borders and strict instruction everywhere, but then up here in the hills it is so different from the cities anyway, and so maybe it’s not so much of a surprise. Over the crest and the narrow road platues. My French teammate asks me what ‘narrow’ means, it’s on the road sign just to our left. I choose to describe it in the context of a narrow mind, he understands.

And then it comes in to view. First through the valley, Russian River I think it is called and then everywhere, all across the horizon. Its amazing. So blue and so vast, in my mind and also plain to see. We rip down the descent and stop at the bottom to turn left on to Highway One. The air is fresh, nothing like anything else I know.

I spend the next fifteen minutes stealing every glance I can, for it’s pretty special to be by the sea. And this is the biggest ocean in the world.

Friday, 28 February 2014

ProCycling Diary #1
[click image to enlarge], http://tinyurl.com/procyclingmag

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

146


Fiction.

Barriers line the street and every hundred yards or so a wooden pole protrudes skyward, a speaker cable tied to the top. Infact everything seems to be cable tied; the sponsor banners, the wires running up and down the road, even the awning across the finish line. This is a travelling circus and the humble cable tie is the perfect metaphor for it’s shoestring nature; cheap, no fuss and ultimately, just as quick to tear down as it is to construct.

Riders, each engrossed in their own routine, linger around cars and vans in their strips. Folding chairs and the eye-watering odour of leg rub hanging in the air completes the obscure scene.

This isn’t the type of race with a PR drive. Nor a race you will have ever heard of. But there is no doubt plenty of the young men fidgeting with safety pins, as they take advice from old men with no idea what they are on about, will have been dreaming of this day for months. Through the now long gone rides of November and December it will have occupied the mind constantly. So too in January, however rather than jubilation and motivation, the thought now provides stone cold fear, the doubt of form and preparation creeping in. It’s all irrelevant now, the race has arrived, the start-finish line been painted, by the local blindman it would appear, and it is time for some pain.

The crowd is mainly made up of local punters. Stood with mild anticipation, their manner reflects the strangity of the sport for spectators. For the race will take most of the day to unfold and only involve, at best, fleeting glances of the athletes for those stood around. Most likely with as many wrinkles as the race has kilometres, these dedicated souls come back every year on this day, the second Sunday of the month. The remaining few hanging over the barriers, instantaneously recognisable as non-locals, are most likely parents and other family members of those racing. There is no glamour at this level. No screaming fans or autograph hunters. These races are almost completely self-consuming; for the reality is that knowone outside of the bubble really gives a shit what happens here. It's the start of the season and an ambiguous race in cowboy country, but for the riders, at this moment in time it is everything.

It’s their raison d'etre and as such it doesn't matter that first prize is a leg of ham, that the numbers they pin on their backs have been used a hundred times before, that nobody is watching.

I once looked up, bullock naked bar a small towel in yet another cold sports hall, to see a pretty girl, sister I would hope, giving a rider just yards away a pre race massage. It was a strange sight in a room full of two hundred members of the opposite sex, mostly stark naked or in some stage of. It made me realise once again, like I do so often, just how deeply ingrained the sport is in the culture around these parts. In today’s race there is no such sister or cheering family members for our man #146. He scribes his sole autograph of the day atop the sign-in ‘stage’ – to vastly over glamorize it, to a deafening cacophony of silence.

Stood on the start line, our man tightens his shoes one last time, adjusts his helmet and tries to zone out from the rabbiting foreign language bouncing all around him. It reminds him how far he is from home and how little he knows of what lays ahead. He looks down at his stem as the commissarie screams instructions out infront of the bunch, it doesn't matter he cant hear, the unfamiliar words would go through one ear and out the other. Euro pop, synonymous with these races and most likely released before he was even born, blares out from the speakers dotted around. Merely background noise, it does little to mask the lack of rapturous fans and the doubts that lay ahead, and is soon drowned out itself by a loud bang from over the otherside of the barriers. Riders clip in ahead and it’s time to go to work…

And then it’s over before it even really started. Fifty uneventful kilometres later he buckles both his wheels on a larger than life pothole. The brakepads rub, the spokes tinkle, and the life falls out of his race. Of course there is a chance of swapping them out, drafting the car and getting back in to the melee. But that quickly evaporates as he pulls to the right hand side of the road, hand in the air, only to watch his team car go sailing by. And before he knows it, so too has every other team in the convoy. No favours in this cut throat peloton. And so he is left standing by the side of the road, the silence, escape from it all, strangely reassuring.

146 climbs off and looks around. His heart slowly starts to return to a more humane level and it dawns on him how screwed he is. Lest I remind you this is cowboy country and 146 is almost completely surrounded by nothing, with no idea of the way home. He stands there for a minute, a boy lost in a world fit for no man and takes in the shit-show of the last five minutes. He roots around in his pockets, scoffing his race food as his Director’s damning words regarding his eating habits bounce around his head. Fuck it.

And then he climbs on the bike and starts to pedal again. His only option, to follow the race route, seems ludicrous, but there is no alternative. For twenty kilometres he saunters along, his moral dampened and his head reminded of his misfortune every blasted turn of the wheels, as his rims rub away on already fully loosened brakes.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


Sometimes you just believe you will pop something out.

I hadn’t felt great all day but often I get that feeling from hiding in the wheels. I was however attentive and when I kicked over the top of the first climb I should have felt the zip in my legs and known I was on for a good day. It was just focus. Engrossed in conservation, eeking out every last bit of power I could spare until that last burst to the line, I spent the whole day in a bubble: watching and waiting.

Cycling is often as much about what you don't do, as what you do do I have found.

The run in was hectic. No surprise. There was a roundabout with just over five kilometres to go and I entered in the top ten of the bunch. Sitting pretty I had learnt the difference between ‘good positioning’ and good positioning via being caught behind a few untimely crashes in my first year as a junior. Later that evening my DS had asked me why I had been sat at the back out of the roundabout. He hadn’t seen the rider flick me to fuck just as we entered, forcing me the long way round or straight into a traffic island. From the front to the back in one clean swoop. It's these things you don't see unless you’re racing - the cutthroat moves people pull all day long, the ruthlessness. Even now, four months in to the winter, four months away from racing, I am sure I have probably forgotten quite what it is like.

It drags uphill for a few hundred meters and I make the most of a slight hesitation to move back up to the front of the depleted group. At three k to go there is a petrol station on the right of the road, with a small sign ziptied to a lamppost signifying the distance. I pay little attention to it. Last year on the first stage they had still been inflating the km to go arch as we raced on by, caught completely unawares, so it’s better to go from memory. I could shut my eyes even now, almost a year on, and recount you the exact finish:

Now it runs downhill, fast and wide. We had hit out too early with three riders last year on this finish. This time, despite there only being two of us, I know I have an advantage. Experience. We jostle, but I sit patient on my teammates wheel, shouting to wait, wait, wait a little longer.

Through another roundabout and the bunch lines out before slowing again upon exit. I am not the only one who knows the finish and nobody wants to take it on. Yet. Eyes dart around, I position myself ready to pounce on the inevitable flyer, making my space and readying for the frenzy…

The Belgians come steaming over the top three strong. I barge on to the last wheel and breathe as we pass under the red kite. The tension is building and building. The hours of waiting, positioning, avoiding crashes and saving energy are about to come to a crux. The pace isn’t that fast but nobody is moving up. There must be some tired legs around, but I don't realise it, I’m still in my bubble.

Whenever I ride to a race I get similar legs to today, as if that conservation button has been switched, nothing really in the tank. But then I hit the start line and it all changes. Today my start line doesn't seem to come until the last ten metres. But it is damn perfect timing all the same.

I shift into the little ring just before we turn the righthander and hit the cobbles with fifty hundred metres to go. It must be fifteen percent and steeper all the way to the line now. I am glued to the last Belgians wheel, his teammate having peeled away, their job done. He goes, but of course it's too early and he isn’t really going anywhere anyway. An empty gesture of thanks for his teammates sacrifice as much as anything else.
Last year I hadn’t had nearly enough urgency left in my body at this stage of this game but this time it is different. I let my momentum carry me the first few revs and then, still seated, manoeuvre on to the next wheel that comes by. It is just like I have been taught on the track all be it at a far slower, bumpier speed.

Its 200 metres to the big finish banner now and the Frenchman goes on the left. I jump on to his wheel still waiting. All I can see is his tyre infront of me, the block capitals FRANCE across his backside. It hurts now. But there is one man between me and the finish line and I have got more to come yet. I’ve been thinking of this finish all day, ever since last year infact, and so I wait a little longer. He is still going strong, but I am sat behind, the pedals turning, waiting for me to rise out the chair.

I hold the wheel, biding my time a little longer. The line looms but I am barely aware. I focus and then persuade myself to fire up and let it all out. And with fifteen meters to go, maybe less, I kick with all my might. The cobbles persist but the bike is smooth. I hit tarmac and immediately after a finish line. I get one hand in the air, my right, and probably shout. I can't remember, my heart was beating way to fast to recall all that much.

It felt damn good, of that I am certain. Amidst the grimace, I was definitely smiling.

I ride on in to the small town square, back onto rough stones, staring at the ground and shaking my head. I had won? I couldn't fucking believe it. The chaperone chased after me, the announcer blathered away in the local tounge on the loud speaker and I just kept riding round in circles. Looking down and catching my breathe, I keep reiterating it over and over in my head. ‘You won?! You fucking won?!’

Crazy.

And it doesn't leave me. Not during the hour wait sat on a plastic chair outside doping control, talking shit with the chaperone in what turned out to be a police station. Not lay on my bed that evening, a yellow jersey on the end of my bed. Not even the next day when I stand on the top step of the final podium of the race.

It never leaves you if you don’t let it.

Crazy.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Recent press.

Rouleur Article 'An Education' Part One




ProCycling Magazine Diarist Intro.
[Click to enlarge]

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Socks.

[Something I wrote a few weeks ago that has sat idle on my computer the past few weeks. Happy new year all!]

My parents split over ten years ago and as a result I have always been well accustomed to waking up in different surroundings. A good habit for a cyclist to have I think.

All too recently, no matter the surroundings, I would wake up, remember the day of the week and dread the hours of classrooms to come. However these days it's different, I have a new routine…

I wake at seven forty-five, kill the alarm on my phone and check my emails. For the first minute or two I keep the earplugs in, enjoying the clear silence. My mind is out of bed before I am even really awake, my body following a little slower, a result of the previous days exertions. Gone are the school hours, now I relish every single day, the chance to ride my bike, to explore.

Moving slowly through the low light of the apartment I pull up the quintessentially European shutters I have grown so fond of over the last few months. My slow shitty Carrefour kettle comes to life as my eyes adjust to the pre sunrise gloom. At some point my flatmate comes in and steps hastily upon the scales just as I had moments earlier. We share a few words before settling in to our pre-ride routines for the morning.

Back in my bedroom I pull on my socks first. Sitting on my bed in boxer shorts and a t-shirt this is when the day starts. Clothing up for the day ahead is methodical - every rider their own way of doing things. For me, the winter months and a cold early morning bedroom means that pulling on the socks is the only part of getting dressed that is done slowly. But also with the most enjoyment. The rest? A fumbled juggle, pulling baselayers on quickly to trap the heat of my body, shorts following soon after, quickly adjusted and then covered by tights so as to keep my legs, the most important of muscles for the day ahead, warm and ready.

But back to the socks. It all starts with the socks. And I seem to linger on their moment daily. Maybe it’s simply because there is not many things better to a cyclist than a crisp new pair of white socks, not that I have the pleasure or lack of morality to pull on a new pair everyday! Infact quite the opposite, socks can remain in packages for weeks even months after they are first handed over, ‘saved’ for that big day, but that’s another story for another time.

It’s also because these are particularly special to me. I have watched my idols ride in them, conquering mountain passes and ultimately, my dreams, yet I have also grown up in them for the past four years. I have become well accustomed to their length, their feel over my feet, the routine of pulling them on every single day…

I position them where they feel right, no tan lines to adhere too in this deepest of winter month, no real purpose other than pride in their height, for all the layers will soon hide their very existence at all. But to me they are always there, the smallest of things, but constantly reminding me of so much. Of home and their origin in London, of friends and family, of that team stamping all over the biggest race in the world, and as with anything related to two wheels, of those ever lingering dreams floating endlessly around my head.

Regardless, I know that when I pull on those socks in the morning, lingering a little like I always do, it is time to do business.

[It's ridiculous but today, my first back in Spain after ten festive days of wet and windy rides at home – black neoprene shoes hiding my socks deep down in the warmth, I took immense pleasure, and motivation, from simply looking down at a pair of ever rotating white shoes and socks. Cyclists? We are nuts…]

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Footsteps


It is quite impossible to follow in the footsteps of your hero's in this sport. Not least because there are none, simply tire tracks, names sprayed on to Tarmac and old wives tales of days gone by. But mostly because each and every rider takes such differing paths. Races, teams and riders come and go so fast that the sport is literally ever changing. Each journey through it complete with an individual narrative, full to the brim with stories to tell, riddles to entertain over a Café.

I have never yet met a boring bike rider.

The only real common denominators in this sport? Hard work and good old-fashioned support. For Cycling is just too god-damn hard without these factors, a truth even I can attest to from my little experience thus far.
They adhorn all manner of surfaces. From my fridge, to my old bedroom wall in London, to the mirror of my new apartment. They are images I conjure up on long climbs, when I feel most at one with the bike, when I dare to dream. They are videos I have watched countless times, races splitting on cobbles, in crosswinds and up famous mythological mountains. They are parts of a culture I am just beginning to discover, delve in to and immerse myself in. Ultimately they are the guys who have changed the sport in this country forever, showing it can be done, showing the rest of the world how to do it.

And I am proud to be following, as much as is possible, in the distant (and not so distant) wheel tracks of a few of these hero's…
I didn’t know Dave Rayner, he tragically and prematurely passed away before I was born. However through many friends and from seeing the lasting legacy he has left on British racing, and particularly young British riders, I feel I know a little what Dave must have been like.

As I climbed yesterday, sun on my neck, the ever-present clichés of my own breath and wheels rolling on the tarmac present, I reminded myself how much I really do love riding my bike. Yes it can be painful, difficult, dangerous and bloody tough, but it is what makes me tick and I think that is probably something I share with the late Dave Rayner.

And that is why, above all else, I am really proud to be representing Dave and all the hard work of the Fund’s committee out on the road this year. A huge thankyou to all for the opportunity, I hope to do your support justice and try to give everyone back home something to be proud of in some way or another.

For more info on the Fun checkout the Dave Rayner website here.