The road season is all but over for 2016, and quite honestly I’m extremely happy about that. it’s been a long year, rewarding and disappointing in (almost) equal measure. It’s been hard, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m looking forward to resetting my goals and ambitions for 2017 over the winter.
This year I seem to have suffered a disconnection between form, fitness and results – fitness wise I’m streets ahead of previous years, but too often the results sheets haven’t reflected that. Often through misfortune – mechanicals, crashes – I haven’t reached the consistency of results I would like, which is immensely frustrating. As those who have read my Junior Tour of Wales blog (http://www.biscuittinmedia.com/junior-tour-wales-riders-eye-view/) will attest, my motivation for the latter part of the year dipped somewhat, partially down to the said frustrations about the missed opportunities earlier in the year, but also the unavoidable dip suffered after a major season objective. My whole year was really built around Junior Tour of Ireland in mid-July. I remember reading in David Millar’s book of how he came home from the Tour de France feeling empty and deflated. To some extent at least, I know what he means. Stage racing, especially abroad, puts you in a unique bubble. The outside world, in effect, disappears. Your whole existence is built around the race and everything about the race. The news becomes who won the stage, who’s leading overall and what the stage is like tomorrow. Meal times become a battle against the clock consume as many calories – and as much caffeine – as is physically possible. Relaxation becomes stretching, recovery, massage. Every facet of your life becomes geared towards being able function to the highest level on the bike. Sleep becomes key – the famous quote from from Joop Zoetemelk: “The Tour is won in bed” – holds more and more wisdom as the days pass. it’s easy to lose track of reality, and after 6 days it becomes your new reality. You feel worse off the bike but better on it. And suddenly, like a switch, it’s over. You finish the race, come home, go straight to bed. You wake up in the morning and realise that life is as it was before. Nothing has changed, the gears of society still churn with crushing regularity. Your exploits – everyone has one during a stage race – go unknown apart from to a small few. It is deflating. The overriding question is: what now? Go back out training? It all seems insignificant. Of course, this is a temporary state of mind, I got my motivation back in time, but it serves as a good example of the ups and downs that come with bike racing.
On the whole, it’s been a good year. I’ve managed to achieve my goals and perform well in my target races. The Junior Tour of Ireland was an incredible experience and I was fortunate to have an amazing team around me who helped me get a top 10 finish on stage 2 and be in contention for a good position overall until a crash on stage 5. In Scottish championship events I’ve finished 4th, 4th and 5th this year – adding to my 4th, 4th and 7th from previous years – which makes me a fourth to be reckoned with, right? The road race championship was probably the highlight as i managed to get into the winning break of 4 and was beaten by three quality riders. Outside of that, the most important thing for me is that I’ve been able to feature in races, be active, and be a factor in the outcome.
This winter I will be cross-dressing a little bit to race the Scottish cyclocross series for North Sports/Kinesis, a new team with the aim of developing and supporting a small number of riders each year. If you’ve got time please check out the facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NorthKinesis/) for updates on the season (I promise that’s the last bit of shameless promotion in this blog (until the final paragraph)). It’s an opportunity that I’m really looking forward to and the season is off to a good start with 9th place in the first round at Callander Park. Outside of that, I’ll be getting in the miles to be ready to hit early 2017 in good form. With racing cyclocross, my end of season break has been postponed to mid December, which due to an excellent piece of scheduling means I’ll be racing the British cross champs after 3 weeks off the bike. At least I’ll be fresh. And full of cake. After that, it’s straight to Gran Canaria to start base training for the road season – a full 10 days this time after a thoroughly enjoyable trip this year. When I return, it’ll be only 2 months until the first road race of the new year, and so the cycle goes on – so to speak.
2017 looks bright for Edinburgh RC with some new additions to the squad and a step up in coaching support available to juniors and seniors alike. It’s always tricky to try to balance a race team within a club structure but the changes over the last few years have been overwhelmingly positive and should start producing consistently good results over the coming years. Personally, I’m looking forward to training and racing with the new guys and creating a stronger team bond than we already have.
So that’s that. Farewell March-October 2016. Farewell junior racing. I hope to speak to you again in 2017 stronger, faster, fitter – and still enjoying riding my bike! As always, big thanks to Edinburgh RC for the support this year, in particular Jarlath Flynn for looking after the junior squad. Thanks to Scottish Cycling and Braveheart for the opportunity to race in Wales. As always, thanks to my amazing parents for devoting their time to letting me do what I love to do.