2017- Part 1

2017 marks my first year as an Under 23 rider, meaning I’m able to ride bigger, longer races and really test myself as a rider. It’s been a good start to the year, with no injuries *touches wood* or illness holding me back, so I’ve been able to train and race properly. I’ve been given some great opportunities so far this year so without further ado, here’s how it’s been going…

Just before racing started, I started using a power meter with the help of getting it through Gary and Allan at BSpoke in Peebles. The use of it has transformed my training completely, we were able to use it for an FTP (functional threshold power) test, and the numbers that we saw gave me a lot of confidence, and I’ve taken that forward into my training and racing since. 

Gifford was the first road race of the year, and quite possibly the soggiest ride I’ve ever been in, which is saying something! Gifford was an important benchmark for me, as it was my first road race since June last year so I just wanted to test the water and see how I felt, which, thankfully, was very good. I normally don’t like racing in the “moist” conditions, but just being back in a bunch racing fast felt awesome, and I really enjoyed the day out. 


I’m also lucky to be given the opportunity to do Wednesday night time trials, which are a really good test to do weekly. These allow me to just ride to power for a set distance and not have to worry about anyone else, and provide really good training. 

I suppose I now have to talk about THAT race in Ireland… 

The Tour of the North was our first real big test as U23’s and myself, Stuart Paterson, Calum Johnston, Gavin O’Neill and guest rider Ali Merry made the trip over with our step-in Mum Craig, and helper Zak. There’s not much to say about the racing really- I took an absolute kicking, there’s no other way to describe it really, however what I can take out of it was learning just how good you need to be to even remain in the bunch in these races, staying on your bike also helps too! It was also a privilege to be there to see John and the rest of Pro Vision, for want of a better word, destroy some top quality amateur riders, winning 3 out of the 4 stages solo and placing two riders on the final podium. A top 10 for Calum J in the time trial was also a brilliant result for him. Can’t give enough thanks to the guys for this trip, Craig did basically all the organising on his own, went through a lot of stress to get us there and back in one piece and even managed to get us an earlier ferry home after the race! Zak was superb in the convoy, which is a super stressful job too, trying to follow the race, watching out for dropped riders and other traffic is no mean feat! So thanks guys. Also to the guys racing thanks for the good time we had and the laughs we had over there.  

Whilst writing this, I’m just back from the Peebles road race, which was a good race, the break went from the drop of the flag and stayed away, which is a top effort. A super quick race meant a lot of further attacks were quickly neutralised, including two of my own, and it came down to the remaining guys in the bunch to duke it out for 3rd in the final. 

Going forward, I’ve got the Glentress 7 coming up with my teammate Calum Kennedy, who suffered a nasty accident at Crit on the Campus in early April, and has done superbly to get to where he is in such a short space of time. The day after that, I’m off to France for a bit to see what some real climbs look like…! Then we shall see what happens after that! 

As always, the usual thanks must go to Mum, Dad and my family for their support. My friends for always believing in me, especially when I don’t! The guys at BSpoke in Peebles, Halfords Galashiels, Jarlath Flynn, Chris Bryant, Andy Kirkland, and everyone who reads and supports these blogs, I really appreciate it! Until next time.

Cheers
Joe

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Facing facts

Crashing is part of bike racing. Everybody who pins on a number accepts this fact and takes part regardless. You place a great deal of trust in your fellow competitors, as riding in such close proximity means that one rider making a mistake can lead to many riders hitting the deck. While falling off is invariably painful, injuries are generally not severe and the worst one can expect is an occasional broken collarbone or wrist. In some very rare cases more serious injury can occur, but the risk is no greater than in most other sports. It is very unusual to crash on your face, which is exactly what I did on Sunday 2nd April at the Crit on the Campus, promoted by Stirling Bike Club. Crit (criterium) racing is a form of road racing where riders tackle laps of a short and technical circuit for up to an hour, leading to fast, furious and sometimes dangerous racing. With a bunch of 60 guys fighting for road space through tight and narrow corners it amplifies the risk of accidents when compared to traditional road racing. That said, it is also really fun (most of the time).

I can’t remember what actually happened during my crash – I was told I had amnesia for the following 15 minutes – but it seems to have been a moment of total bad luck. A rider directly in front of me went down first, and I had nowhere to go. My first recollection is of lying on the pavement with a crowd of people around me, various voices offering reassurance and trying to jog my addled memory. It was obvious that the accident was serious, and I was quickly taken to hospital near Falkirk. I learned subsequently that the race had been abandoned. Without going into great detail, I would like to stress that the care I received throughout the following two days was exceptional. A maxillofacial team made the journey from Glasgow to perform surgery on Sunday night, and by Tuesday evening I was able to return home. I suffered a fractured nose, several chipped and broken teeth, and various cuts and rips to the face and tongue. I’m extremely lucky that no serious head injury occurred. Always wear a helmet, kids. My injuries are healing incredibly quickly, and I will make a full recovery.

With regards to racing, I don’t know what will happen next. It’s too early to say when I will regain the appetite to return to the bunch. With crashing, the damage is as much psychological as physical – you think you are invincible until you’re abruptly reminded that you aren’t. I will still ride my bike this summer for sure, but the accident has put everything into context a bit. There’s no pressure or obligation to race – it is after all a leisure pursuit (of sorts). This winter I would love to make a real focus of cyclocross and race a full second season with North Sports/Kinesis. I should also be participating in the Glentress 7 Mountain Bike race with teammate Joe Agnew at the end of May, which is something I’m looking forward to immensely. For the time being, the focus is on recovery. Time will tell when I decide to return to road racing – and I would like to – but it’s a question for another day. In the near future my only goal is get back to enjoying cycling for what it is, instead of setting specific targets and objectives.

Lastly, I would like to thank everybody who left cards, messages or comments wishing me well in my recovery. There are far too many people to mention individually, but your support has helped me immensely. Hope to see some of you out on the road soon.

 

Keep pedalling

 

Calum