So its been a few months since my last blog posting but now a week into my off-season its time to put some words together and sign off on this 2013 season. Having stepped on the plane to the USA way back on February 4th and now already in November its been a busy nine months; five months in the USA to start with and four months between USA/Belgium/UK is a lot of km's covered... by plane, car, boat and of course by bike!
Once again its been a hectic month or two and so too much to write about in a single blog post. I really should start writing a book! So I am going to keep this fairly short and sweet focusing on another victory added to season 2013 and a return to Europe after 5 months away!
So its been a long time since my last blog posting way back at the end of February. Though I was looking to keep the posts coming frequent, the simple fact of the matter is I've been in a pretty uninspired writing mood over the past months.
So this is my first blog post from across the pond aka stateside aka the USA. Despite everything tending to be bigger here in the US, I intend to keep my blog postings shorter and more frequent this year (well this is the plan!). Its been a little over 3 weeks now since I took off from London Heathrow. A smooth flight to Philadelphia was followed by some airport time before another flight onto Greensboro, North Carolina. From there it was a short drive to Winston-Salem and the home town of Team SmartStop P/B Mountain Khakis. A longggg day but I had made it and I could begin to relax.
The racing season rapidly approaches and for me in 2013 that will mean the USA! Those that know me and those that have followed my progression in the cycling world here on my blog will know how much that has involved Belgium. The Belgium chapter will continue I can assure you of that. However for season 2013 the USA beckons and a chance to try and make an impact on the American cycling scene and a chance to continue making my way in the sport. And so to my new team for 2013, Team SmartStop P/B Mountain Khakis. A US Continental cycling team based in North Carolina.
My 2012 season began way back on the 19/02 and with my final race on the 14/10, it is finally time to relax, reflect and look ahead to the rest of 2012, 2013 and beyond! There have been ups and there have been downs (expected as a cyclist) but the good times always outweigh the bad. All in all I took 3 wins this year, 1 overall classement win, and 3 further podium placings amongst other 10's.
Time again for an update as this 2012 season in Belgium continues. Yet again the consistency has continued but also now I can happily say that consistency has been rewarded with some wins. Victories have been near all year but found myself just missing out. However with three wins and one overall classement win in two weeks, I have finally been able to enjoy that sweet feeling of success again. It was simply about keeping the faith knowing that it was only a matter of time before the persistence paid off.
So its been way too long since my last posting. Since that mid-April time post, my race schedule has increased, my condition also (always a satisfier) whilst the weather like much of europe has continued to be mixed. However with nice spells of nice, sunny belgium days, the good weather has outweighed those bad days....just! We'll get the real low point of these past months out the way first and that came on my return to the UK for the National Championships, which certainly did not go to plan.
So last time I was posting about the great weather we were experiencing in Belgium at that time. Unfortunately the sun has gone and the rain has returned. Clearly 20 degrees+ in March was a treat. I'm hoping a treat that returns soon. Nonetheless come rain or shine I have continued on my road to recovery, and in the weeks since my last posting, have recorded my first podium position of the year with a 3rd in a kermesse race in Bury.
So it's been a fairly quiet start of the season for me, but I can say now that things are underway. A blood test here in Belgium revealed lower iron levels, which most likely explains my lethargic start to the new year. Since then things have been progressing nicely for me and the body is finally getting back to some sense of normality. Training has been consistently better and I have begun racing and quickly finding my feet again.
The season is here and so I thought it was about time that I posted my first blog of 2012, to fill you in on whats been happening over the winter months and what I am up to in this coming season. The winter consisted of some functions, some visiting, catching up with UK life, not to mention a couple of trips back to Belgium.
So it's been coming and I'm happy to say I have my first win of the 2011 season in Belgium! And oh, what a fine day it was. Everything fell into place and to finish it off with the win was extra special. After a lot of bad luck before and in the earlier part of the season with injuries, crashes and what-not, it's a nice feeling now that things are going my way. Patience has paid off - not that I doubted it - but it is certainly nice to blog about some success rather than the 'what might have been'. In ten days or so I had four races: the first three of which came within four days of each other.
So I've been meaning to put together a blog post of my latest experiences of life here in Flanders. This season has certainly had its ups and downs, but all this seems rather irrelevant after the events of this week. Cycling indeed has its fair share of tragedies and the death of Wouter Weylandt in Stage 3 of the Giro this year is another one added to that list.
Back in the heartland and my season is officially underway. It's great to be back racing and despite a disrupted winter the body is feeling surprisingly sprightly. I have defied the norm these past few months. From having much of the winter off the bike with an achilles injury, to starting the season (albeit a little later than originally planned) with testing figures that are higher than could have imagined six weeks previous. My condition has returned remarkably quickly and it finally meant one thing: it was time to get myself back off to Belgium and get this 2011 season started.
So I thought it was about time I posted another blog update. I've been rather quiet of late and the reason being quite simply there's not been much to talk about. I've been plagued by misfortune after misfortune this winter which ironically gave me lots more time to update the blog, yet I was short of anything really interesting to say - until now that is...
It's Christmas time, which means the first half of the off-season is coming to an end. Time has flown by since finishing up my season in Belgium mid-October. The body was certainly in need of recovery, after hitting the ground too many times in the second half of the season. Not least because on two occassions I was hit by cars, with the last time coming just a week before the end of the season...
So the end of the season has arrived. All in all it's been a good year - I've learned a lot, showed my strength (although sometimes a little too much) and certainly had some success along the way. My form and my strength increased throughout the entire first half of the season, where I took my first win in Belgium, as well as having a number of podium places. Since then the luck hasn't gone my way...
Well we've hit September and so the final month or so of the season. The good news is I'm still feeling motivated to race and race hard to finish off the year. The bad news is the last few weeks I've been caught out with a bit of illness that seems to be going round these parts at the moment, and which has proved hard to shake off.
So the run of bad luck continued through July and into August, including a collision with a car and less than a week later getting taken down by a bidon during the third stage of the Ronde van de Provincie Antwerpen. The body has taken a bit of a pounding and I have less skin now than the start of the month, but no broken bones or injuries that will keep me off the bike, which is always a bonus in my mind. Midway through July I decided it was time to take a bit of a break anyway. A lot of racing up until that point and the body was calling for a rest.
So it's been a few weeks since my last blog post. This is because I was waiting until something went my way again... I'm still waiting! The last few weeks of racing has been filled with bad luck, with mechanical problems at the wrong times and a few crashes to go with, not to mention a national championships that was reduced to a training ride. I suppose I can count myself lucky until now with very few problems this season, however they all seem to have come at once.
Came close to another win at the weekend, this time in Grandglise. I was second to an ex-pro called Jurgen Guns, who used to ride for Vlaanderen 2002 - Eddy Merckx around 1999/2000. We were away in the break when Jurgen and another rider attacked, with still around 35km to go. I went across to them, and straightaway we dropped the other rider - so it was just me and Jurgen for the remainder of the race.
Well It's been on the cards all season and last weekend in the town of Ghoy I took my first win in Belgium. Like always the attacks came from km 1 and I managed to get away midway through the first lap - and this was to be the move that stuck. At first we were four, then three, and then six, but knowing we were being chased down I tested the water by attacking coming out of one of the corners onto a drag with 30km to go. This was still a long way from the finish but I felt it was the right time to go, and so it proved...
So, I'm recovering well - so well in fact that I came my closest to date to winning here in Belgium last Sunday, finally ending up in 3rd place, but so close to taking the win. The race was in Sint Kornelis Horebeke, which is a town close to my base here in Oudenaarde, and is the home town of one of the team's main sponsors, so it was an important one to do well in. It was a good field but I was 'on it' from the start (really thought it was going to be my day!).
As the season rolls on the races are coming thick and fast. May was always going to be an important month with the Belgium Cup (Beker Van Belgie/Coupe de Belgique) series taking center stage. As reported in the last blog post I had been to see the doctor after feeling very low for a couple of weeks. Of course it was not going to turn around overnight but I was hoping that it wouldn't take long before I was feeling back to normal. I continued to keep things easy in training and low and behold on the day of my first cup race of the season in Kampenhout the body didnt feel half bad...
Another example today of how things can seemingly go from being all rosey to disastrous in an instant. The Great Britain Womens' National squad was today taken out by a car whilst out on a training ride between Oudenaarde and Brakel. Thankfully everyone is alive, but it has left several broken bones amongst them and a number of other injuries...
For the first time in two months I'm back in the UK. I'm back for this Sundays East Midlands Cicle Classic/Rutland Melton and with the form I've built over the last couple of months in Belgium I am going into the race with great optimism. Having spent three years at Loughborough University (just down the road) and thrown myself into the break in what was my first attempt at doing the race in 2008, it's a race I am looking to go well for this time around.
The things that can happen in the space of a week when your living in the heart of flanders. As mentioned in the last blog post I happened to meet Kurt Asle Arvesen on a ride and had a nice spin and chat with him. A couple of days later I was in the Asfra bike shop when fellow Norwegian and Team Sky rider Edvald Boasson Hagen walked in on his way out training. Again I got to have a little chat with Edvald and like Kurt was a thoroughly nice guy too... seems to be a common trait with these Norwegian Team Sky riders!
On the 28th March my Asfra Racing Team (and support club) headed to Montreuil sur Mer in France. The race had the mixed characteristics of a race in France, a Belgium kermesse and almost like a criterium in the UK. 23 laps of a 3.8km circuit was the order for the day...
Best part of 200 riders, good crowds, the music playing, the beer flowing and the kermesse burgers cooking... all the elements of a typical kermesse here in Belgium. I made the point of being on the front from the start here, knowing like usual it would explode from the off and not wanting to be caught too far back when it did. Not long into the frist lap and I found myself in the first move off the front but this was to be pulled back only a few kms later. After a few laps in the bunch I thought it was time to try again...
172 starters on a Wednesday afternoon... only in Belgium. This was a hard race from the off, again typical of Belgium. With only one amateur race taking place on this day it meant this race was full-on. A couple of crashes in the peloton on the same corner on consecutive laps didn't help matters...
The result in Lierde was backed up with an 8th in Geluwe (13/03/10). A chase of the lead group over the last 30km led to an exciting finish. Unfortunately the chase group I was in just run out of road to make the junction with the leaders... another km maybe would of done it! Even though some of the riders were pulled back six remained just in front and would fight it out for the win.
Three days after Lierde there was a race in Wallonie, a race I intended to do, well that was until the team vehicle almost went up in flames. A Belgian team manager lets us use the team vehicles to get about to races... so I can't really complain too much. They are rather old though, and this one in partcluar apparenty had 450,000km on the clock - maybe time to get a new one?!
Perhaps a combination of Majorca, having a hectic time before getting out to Belgium, and a bit of illness and settling down in Belgium, but for the first few weeks certainly I have been feeling rather lethargic. However it's just been a case of taking a day at a time and allowing the body to feel fresh again. I think the key however was trying to re-establish some sort of normal routine again and get some structure... can make a huge difference!
Dan Patten has joined the ASFRA - Flanders team for this season, and being based in Belgium he's getting into the kermis scene with enthusiasm - and with some success too. He'll be keeping us all up-to-date through his new regular VeloVeritas blog, sharing how his season is going, what it's like living in Belgium, and inside stories and tips about racing in "the Heartland". Read on!...
“Goin’ back to my roots,” says the Odyssey song – and so it is with Mr. Daniel Holloway, former ‘Crit King’ of the USA. But he’s now back on the boards in a big way with a World Cup omnium win in Chile and a memorable win in the 300 lap, 75 kilometre handicap Madison in the Copenhagen Six Day. It was 15 years ago, in 2003 when the man originally from Morgan Hill, California won the novices 500 metres at the US track national championships.
Jacob Vaughan is arguably the most successful of the Rayner Clan, this year with his move to the Lotto-Soudal U23 team. A solid first year U23 in 2017 was capped with an excellent win in the Guido Reybrouck Classic. We caught up with him prior to his first big get together with the team.
Third in London with Moreno De Pauw; winner in Gent again with De Pauw; encore in Rotterdam with De Pauw; the win in Bremen with Home Boy, Theo Reinhardt; second in Berlin with De Pauw and looking well on the way to the top of the podium here in Copenhagen with Michael Morkov – it can only be Topsport and Belgium’s Mr. Kenny De Ketele.
In a classic Six Day finale points shoot-out with the result not confirmed until the finish line, classy Home Boy Michael Mørkøv paired with the current Capo of the Six Day boards, Belgium's Kenny De Ketele to land his seventh Copenhagen Six Day at midnight on Tuesday on the wide boards of the 250 metre Ballerup track.
Daniel Holloway does the countdown in his Californian-Swedish, ten down to six; the crowd takes over from five down to one, the cannon report just about bursts everyone’s ear drums, then there’s the smoke. For a split second nothing happens, everyone is too stunned by the noise and reek of gunpowder. But there’s the bongos – and Paul Delicato’s velvet voice; 'Cara Mia mine, must we say goodbye...' It can only be the Copenhagen Six Day 2018 !
It's hard to believe it's nearly five years since we sat down with David Walsh and chatted about Lance Armstrong, his dogged pursuit of the American's own doping and team-enablement, and the recently-published USADA "Reasoned Decision" to ban Armstrong for life and to strip all seven Tour de France wins from his palmarès. David had been in Edinburgh to give a talk in the city's Lyceum Theatre as part of his speaking tour on the subject, and we took the opportunity to spend a few hours with him the following morning at his hotel. Our interviews with David are our pick for the year 2013 in our "The First 11 Years of VeloVeritas" series - they represent one of the - if not the - most significant and turbulent times in our sport.