I get 'cross

My journal of cyclocross
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Right, I’ve had a packet of Snack a Jacket, half a bottle of ‘This Innocent Juicy Water’??? I’m hyped up on e-numbers ready to wax lyrical about a topic that strikes fear into people’s heart, down to their very core.

Last week I got two emails, same topic, totally opposing outlooks.

Correspondent A “Im freaking out about training……. give me some boom based mlwords of motivation haha!

Correspondent B “it holds no fear if I am honest, this years etape is short and frankly are not the challenges of years gone past. The views are stunning, I am really looking forward to this years etape.”

I rode the complete etape route about a month ago. The only difference when I ride it again in July, should be the weather and 20,000 other people.

1. You’ll get round
End of the story. It’s a long day out but you’ll get round, because I did. So stop being wet and a sissy. Stop worrying about dying on the climb and start thinking about stepping it up so your get some sweet Strava PB, QOM, KOM, PR and every other acronym they now score you on.
Now its true I am one of those cyclist people but its not true I’m very fit. I mostly spend my time riding laps around a course for 1 hour. The course it mostly flat and has lots of bends.

The longest I’d ridden this year was Rapha’s Hell of the North. I rode from my house in South West London up to route, around it and then had some chips and rode home. Call it 129km, I even managed a PB on the Streatham Hill Sprint! Then the next month I rode the Etape course with a 53/39 so its possible.

2. Pace the first 20km
The first rise out of the lake is really twisty lots of switchback. You’ll be ascending the Cote du Puget. Oh my goodness. Views over the lake were amazing. So instead of smashing it up the climb, giddy with joy at riding the etape, ease off, get out the pain box and check out the amazing lake.

3. Get a group for Col des Pres
The Col des Pres is a really really boring ascent. It’s a straight road within a valley. Yeh great, a lovely valley to look at, right. Well yes, except you’ll have been navigating through the valley for about the last 18km steadily climbing.
So forget admiring the view and get on someone’s wheel that is chipping along at a speed just out of your comfort zone.
Get your googley eyes all over their rear tyre and fix your 1000 mile stare on it until your get to the top.
You’ll get that 3.5km 6% climb over in no time and some big French dude has saved you a load of energy by being a nice big wind block for you.

5. Mont Revard – munch your lunch!
I’ve not got much to say about this climb. Just got to sit there in the saddle and climb. Soak it up, your in the etape. Your going up a road that Froome-Dog is going to be in in just two weeks.
Climb it steady, climb how you like. In and the saddle out the saddle alternating the position to test your muscles.
It’s a gradual climb with the occasional bend so you’ve got plenty of time to munch on some lunch.
It will probably be between noon and 1.30pm by the time your mid Mont Revard. You can get a nice bit of tucker in your and your body processing it on the descent of the climb ready to hit the final spike.
I’ll be having – Salami I’ve wrapped up in foil, Banana, followed by some dried Apricots, Jelly babies and a bit of chewy Nougat for dessert
Washed down with some water with a natural tasting nuun tablet
At the top look to your left. There will be a SWEET view of the lake!

8. Get a Rapha Wind Jacket
The descents from the Mont Revard and Semnoz will be chilly. There will be all sorts of sweat going as your ride up it, so you don't want to give yourself a chill as you hit 50km/h on the way down.
Cold muscles are about as pliable as wood and getting your legs going after 15 mins of chilling yourself to the core is going to feel dreadful!
Rapha's wind jacket packs nice and small, its ultra lightweight and blocks the chilly wind like no other. Plus I think it might be slightly shower proof, well I've worn it in the rain!

9. Semnoz is cruel
10km right? Wrong you start climbing 5km back from that on a steady gradient. Then you reach Quintal and you'll have 10km left. The gradient never stays steady and you can't see the top. A bit like British climbs that jerk all over the place.
2km from the top you will clear the trees. From here you'll have 15mins left on the course. The gradient kicks and this is where you can give it everything. You'll start to see a ski chalet in the distance. Dig in and aim for it.
I rode a 52/39 - its way too big gear for the Semnoz. Grab a compact and dance up the really steep bits. The front of my knees hurt the day after. Not muscle soreness but an ache from the bone.

10. Toptube to Map
Print off the profile and annotate it. Write things you want to remember. Even if its totally basic stuff you already know lots about. If you don’t have space on your top tube. Punch a hole in your print out and zip tie it to the stem.
Yeh – I know, not very pro. But its also not very pro to find yourself tired and hungry and another 20km to go.

I remember when Le Métier was first released and I casually flicked the pages and said to myself, I should really get this. Skip forward about three seasons and finally, I have a copy to call my own, I got it around the time of the CX season and have only now managed to get through to the end.
It's not a tough read, in fact I loved it and it drew me in instantly. Charting the four seasons of Michael Barry, I first opened the book when I was in my winter season so his descriptive prose about winter almost motivated me to get out on my bicycle and brave the cool winds.

The for whatever reason it sat on my bookshelf and I picked it up again when the Pro Tour was deep into the cobbled classics week and it was perfect reading. Le Métier then got put away again as I got tangled reading 'The Night Circus' (an incredibly beautifully written book, but lacking a good plot!)

Finally I reached for it during the two May bank holidays and it was perfect supplementary reading to the Giro.
My favorite sections are winter and summer. The spring chapter sees Barry fix on a rather sad time caused by a chain of unfortunate events, the chapter is very well written but it brings the reality of bike racing and that isn't as much fun as reading about someone's elation at riding their bike like in the other chapters.

I'm about three years too late to this read, but like many things you'll kick yourself for not grabbing a copy sooner. I remember at the time of its release the images by Camille J McMillan were a revelation, I'd never really seen such a vast collection of images taken of the pro peloton in that manner. It's still great to gaze over even now.

 This book got banished to the bottom of my handbag and for months it was just something I was carry around, serving only as additional weight to improve my left shoulder's strength.
I got it because John Herety said its the book that Ed Clancy goes to to control his motivation and help him win. In fact 'the Chimp Paradox' is apparently the go to book for Hoy & Pendleton too.
Unfortunately I just couldn't get on with it, by chapter 5 I was having to make notes to keep myself remembering what all the phrases and terms meant:

Stone of truth - one's values, beliefs 
Chimp- a complex little thing that is influenced by a whole manner if things that can affect the way you behave, it can have a positive and negative impact on your behavior 
Computer- where all your past experiences are stored and acts as a reference point for the chimp
Gremlins - hard-wired information about how you respond to something - cannot be changed
Planets - I'm not sure yet???... 
Goblins - a stored response that can be adapted or changed
The Core Moon - preparation to undertake a task 

I'm sorry but its read like something scientologists would spout. Chapters 2-3 had lots of good practice ideas raised. The author, Dr. Steve Peters says that your chimp is a simpleton from the ice age and is quick to react and this can cause anger you don't want and then after the event you can feel bad as you didn't control the chimp and allowed it to make you angry. Dr. Peters also says you should take your chimp for a walk, that means go a find a friend and talk to them about all the worries the chimp has. Beyond that, I ran out of strength.

Then there are the pictures in the book, drawn like a child and annotated in comic sans, blurgh! I guess it was to keep it simple maybe even jovial. For me, there is only so long you can read a book and have comic sans staring back at you before you want to throw it. 
I suffer for a distinct bout of self confidence  when reading it on the tube. paranoid plenty of people were peering over my shoulder looking at my comic sans annotations.

I'm sure Hoy, or Queen Vicky P weren't just handed the book and told to read it. Team GB probably paid for regular sessions with the author to discuss themes and any questions they raised about 'foundation stones' and their 'guiding moon' could be talked through.

I've got a degree in sports science and one of my favorite areas was sport psychology and specifically understanding motivation and mental preparation therefore I recognized when the author was referencing an accepted theory. I can appreciate that renaming cognitive evaluation theory and its various components into simplistic terms will greatly help some readers understand why they do or do not feel they want to get on a rainy morning and go for a cycle ride. But dressing it up with chimps doesn't quite mean much to me. Prepare yourself for a tough read, maybe one for a plane flight to Australia.

Inside-out sees the return of Camille McMillans's images accompanied by the unique writing style of Tom Southam, whom journeyed with the Rapha Condor Sharp team during their 2012 season, exploring what it is like to be a first year professional. At times Tom can be terribly honest and dour, but I enjoy his prose and the sullen is punctuated with some really uplifting chapters like the interview with David Millar after his breakaway at the 2012 tour was converted into a stage win.
There are a few copies around in Condor and a few on Sharp's website. It's well laid out and very easy to dip in and out of. Be warned:  if you have a vision of glamour by the life of a pro cyclist prepare for Mr Southam to successful dash any dreams, he's very good at 'keeping it real'. But least I'm not under any illusions.
I'm very intrigued to read Mr Southam's next piece of work - the co-authored book of the life and times Charlie Wegelius the now Garmin-Sharp DS (I'm not sure of the actual title - it's due out this June).

 'In search of Robert Millar' and 'the Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis et al' both really riveting reads authored by Richard Moore a former cyclist. His latest cycling piece Sky's the Limit is an engaging tale of Sky's beginning and development the trials the team faced in the first few seasons, the problem is Team Sky suffers from Kremlin-itus, a condition that causes everyone to over analyze ever single thing Team Sky do & write a length about the tiniest of detail. Theories, discussions, analysis are scattered all over cycling internet sites, there are regular features on Sky riders in magazines. The team Sky website is itself well maintained and chocked full of images, stories, blogs, race reports. Sky released a documentary in the autumn of 2012 covering much of the content that Moore raises in his book so for me as a cycling fan, the book is a recap on events that I'd already read at some length about. 
I think this book is suited to my  non cycling hobbyists who occasional dip into the Tour, ride the odd sportive, hold a BBQ in celebration of the Olympic road race. They will enjoy it and I've handed it to many of them instead of trying to provide this with mismanaged answers to their Team Sky questions.

Now, Goldfinger by Ian Flemming has squat to do with cycling heck unlike the other books ive read this spring it doesnt even have pictures. Goldfinger is a compact little book that gets down to business within the first page, not really anything like the film and it is brilliant. If you fancy a few hoursoff cycling   consumed in a world of 1950s espionage written by someone at the time rather than a modern day author's hazy view of it packed with clichés, this it right up your street. 

I found that alternating between cycling non-fiction and full throttle fiction the perfect balance.
I've yet to pick up Tyler Hamilton's book / expose, everyone says its fascinating but I'm concerned it will just spoil everything. I'll give it three years, like Le Métier and then give myself a punch for delaying it for so long!

Now hopefully the sun will come out and give me a reason not to sit inside and read books all day.