Italian bikes and winter nights
The winter of 2020 has been one of change. I may have been racing in Vitus colours up to December even though the move was already confirmed in late October. My first encounter with my new home for the coming season was in mid December. The squad met at Trainsharp's HQ for big day out. I picked up my beautiful new Botecchia T1 which truly rides in the legendary fashion to which it owes its heritage. The new steed brought a welcome dazzle to the dank winter nights. I've never ridden much in the south of England, though many of you may point out that Essex is in the south. To which I would respond that I'm an easterner through and through and they are nearly 100miles from one another. They are completely different places. In Essex there are fewer cars on the road. You can sometimes travel in excess of 100KM and not see a car. Sussex in contrast felt somewhat plagued by motor vehicles. Around every corner there was another car and there seemed to be more than the fair share of cyclist antagonists! The road surface was wanting too. I can safely, or unsafely, say that the largest potholes I have ever seen I saw on this first ride on the south coast. Unbelievable black chasms that would swallow a small child, or Nairo Quintana as a matter of fact.
Road surfaces and traffic volumes aside, the terrain itself is superb for cycling. It might be compared to a mini Ardennes in the downs themselves. Steep inclines over downs remain still not so from the words of Arthur Beckett's spirit of the downs.
"The distant down is dappled with a thousand grey-white sheep, The tuneful tinkle of their bells steals from the far-off steep; And as you watch the shepherd calls, “Goo, fetch um home, good Tray!” The faithful collie folds the flock at purple close o’ day"
Although I would imagine there were fewer people inhabiting England's southern shores when that was written.
Our route took us into the flat marshlands near Dungeness. We whipped around the flatlands turning back at Lydd. The contrast between riding in the rolling hills and then to suddenly emerge onto the flat is such a oddity that you can't experience in many places. It's quite similar to the drastic elevation change between north hill and the Dengie marshes in Essex but far more extreme. You find yourself pummelling down this steep hill struggling to keep a sensible speed as you weave around the various bends that thread through the Sussex fields. Then all of a sudden, like splashing out of a storm into the doldrums, you come across the flatlands of Sussex. What's most upsetting to the somewhat more bulky riders such as me, is that although we ride around these nice flat roads after having been in the hills. The terror is always there at the back of your head that you will be heading back up into those hills to finish!
If anyone reading this has ever been on a team ride, there is rarely ever a team gathering on the bikes where one or more riders feels it fit to exert there dominance over the group to stretch there legs and show just how powerful they are. This is where the terrors of the half-wheeler and the KOM hunter are really experienced. Those riders that always have to manipulate training into a competition. There are some who say there is more prestige in winning the team ride sprint than the sprint on the Champs-elysees. I know, I am one of those shameless riders!
So yes we started to rip each others legs off towards the end of the 5hrs and I felt so sorry for the juniors we were riding with, for some of who it was their first ever 100 mile ride! They must have been cursing us as we blew the group apart desperate to prove who had the biggest...ego. Ultimately I won't tell you who "won" the ride, because it wasn't me and I'm a competitive and cantankerous when it comes to losing. If you must know Joe West was crowned on that day. More importantly I felt truly welcomed into the squad and at home. Team rides always inspire that extra but of confidence not only in yourself but your teammates too and I know that all the guys I'm racing with this year are going to give 110% if not more. We will win and lose together. It is clear from these first few team rides that we most certainly are going to race together as a united team.
There have been 2 more team rides subsequent to this. sadly i missed the second due to a deflating incident. My car got a puncture. I attended the 3rd which was at Trainsharp again. I wasn't really feeling great but we had a great smash again. It was a slightly different route which incorporated a renown climb. Battery hill. Another team smash was to unfold, I backed out and span up nice and steady still on the come back from sickness. There was another escalation towards the end of the ride with some gurning in a savage pace line, I backed out of this too and spent some quality time with the giant that is Harry horseman, we kept it an "endurance" ride and pedalled nice and softly back home.
Since then I've felt more and more like I did before Christmas. Basically not sick. I'm confident that with Perfs on the horizon everyone on the team is in great shape and we can get a good result to kick the year off!
"An awesome winter has passed,
now we can spend the rest of the year
In other news I got ill on Boxing day and suffered for about 8 days with a horrendous cold (or softness as my girlfriend calls it). Before Christmas I was certain that I'd get a win on the track league sometime soon and following my illness I've returned to square one on that front. Sorry to disappoint but you'll have to stay tuned for the first win of the year!