I get 'cross

My journal of cyclocross
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Apps have enabled us to do many things. Make our dinner look slightly less burnt (Instagram), make our every thought sound witty and poignant (Twitter) and given us the thumbs of a geriatric due to repeated flinging of animals at animals (Angry Birds).

Those apps are only useful to a point. So I've put together a slightly more useful selection of that I found came in handy during the cyclocross season.

BBC Weather (free)
Brits love the weather and discussing it, an app about the weather had to be included especially as its critical for bike set up before a big race. Apple's own weather is good but doesn't auto update for your location like the Beeb's offering plus they give you hour by hour temperature wind speed, sunrise and sunset times, seven day forecast and it is updated more frequently.

Interval Timer Pro (£1.99 or free lite version available)
You can build a range of workouts using Garmin devices and as you pedal full throttle let the 'can't live without' cycle computer tells you when to stop and start.
So why do you need an app? Constantly staring at that Garmin screen willing those numbers to tick on is crushing, while the thumping beats of Van Halen screaming in your ears make the bleeps of the device difficult to hear.

That is where this app comes into its own. The app bings and bongs in your ears, so you never miss a set. Choose how loud and type of sound (I prefer the boxing bell rather than the crying baby), design uber complex intervals, or make quick simple ones in seconds, name the intervals and a handy little calendar will note when you did your various workout. I find it very helpful for warm ups, off-bike stretching and running.

Sleepio (from £14.99)
Apps that help monitor your sleep have been around for a while now, but Sleepio – now available on Apple’s brand new iOS 8 system – is designed to treat specific medical conditions such as insomnia and aims to replace face-to-face sleep therapy.
Pre-race nerves and a case of the butteries that give you a restless night before the main event can easily be cured with a bit of Sleepio magic.

Or if you find it difficult to wake up....

Sleep Cycle (69p)
Never get yanked awake to a honking alarm again. Not only does Sleep Cycle sense when you're in the lightest phase of slumber and wake you up with a gentle little tune, it also tracks the quality of your kip.

Packing Pro (£1.99)
There will be somepoint this year where you turn up to a race and utter the word 'oh no I've forgotten my....'
There are some many bits of equipment you need for a race and when it turns muddy the list triples. Save running around the paddock begging people for favours and borrowing their bike pump get Packing Pro.
This app generates a “to do” list based on your holiday specifics, which you then tick off as they’re done. The neat part? The list can be shared with your teammates over iCloud.

My Fitness Pal (free)
Main purpose of this app is that its a calorie counter and exercise tracker. But I don't use it for losing weight, I use it to remind me to eat something and to check I've had a enough protein and carbohydrate. The app links with Strava and Garmin and will automatically update to add exercise. On busy race days you can sometimes forget to grab lunch or only eats snacks and the app is a good way to understand what you are eating.
I often have trouble remembering to do things and then everything gets left, forgotten or cluttered. 

Like the other month my home insurance lapsed and only after 10 days did I remember I needed to call, which I then had to do from my mobile which cost more, because I was on the way to see the Tour de France in Yorkshire, and knowing my luck, without home insurance the house wouldn't got set on fire or something. 
Last year my car MOT ran out and the tax came up. No MOT, no Tax. So to sort it I had to drive to dads and then leave it on his drive for a month, when I had it sorted I had to cycle back to dads and get the car. Generally forgetting to do things or rushing things will end up with a much more effort filled outcome. 

So for the past month I've been using Things by CulturedCode.com and they have released a nice little guide to help get you started.

My other reason for using things is its been helping to with make sure I've got everything in order for cycling and cyclocross training. Sometimes when everything is out of sync you just don't do what you intended and those big great ideas fall to nothing. Then the time runs out and then your floundering around in the middle of the race dying rather than nailing it at the front. 

It’s embarrassing that this is so rare that it by default turns into a big moment; early in July during the F1 weekend williamsf1.com had their Development Driver, Susie Wolff, drive practice 1. That makes her the all time 6th female to take part in the F1 circus.

Stop what you are doing right now and watch this whole teaser video for Benedict Campbell's new film about cyclo cross.


I'm finally putting the years I spent at university to good use. 
Don't know your DOMS from VAM, Creatine Phosphate to the Active Synapse or the Bohr effect?

Only kidding I'm chatting heart rate, training, that burning feeling you get in your legs when you cycle harder, fitness and body as part of the Rapha Women's 100 evening. 

Wednesday 25th June, Women’s evening in @raphacycleclub LDN. Register here: bit.ly/1lKMsFI 

After @Andywaterman showed me this video on holiday I been obsessed with the song, shame I'm about two years too late to this party. The video aired in August 2012 and appeared, apparently on a few Hot Things of 2012 type lists.
I like it because Dena appears to have emerged from the brain of a mildly satirical blogger. If you Google the phrase "hipster clubber" you get images of twentysomethings looking, even standing, like her. She's so now, or now-ish, that she appears to be critiquing the hipster mindset. You'd think she was from Brooklyn or Bethnal Green, not Bulgaria 

File Next to: MIA, Dominique Young Unique, Kreayshawn. 
Go to: denafromtheblock.com

Avg 8.5%
15 hairpins

Renamed: col de Vicieux

The Col de Joux Plane, famed for being the climb that Lance Armstrong supposedly 'bonked' on during the 2000 Tour de France. It looms behind the ski town of Samoens like a constant shadow, south facing, snow never settles on its green slopes. Linking Samoens with Morzine it is a popular final climb in the Tour. 

You join me at 6km to go, just over half way, I can't be bothered to write down everything that has gone before, I'll save you the ramblings, every slow pedal stroke is etched in my memory but in summary within the first kilometre this monster Tour climb has had me up and out of the saddle riding over a 12% gradient. 

It's the end of May, the baking sun has been reddening my calves for the past thirty minutes. The wooden chalets that line the road provided brief shade but they are gone now, it's just me on Vicious Matt's wheel and a 10% gradient to fight. 
Oh yeh and if you wanted ubiquitous alpine forests, forget it, instead there just endless views of the Valley Vert, 'oh lovely', I hear you say, NO NO, not nice, hot. A stressfully hot south facing slope with no cover.

At 4km in, Initially I tried to strike up a conversation with Matt, having not seen him since the CX season. The grade had flattened to 5%, but it was a trick. Suddenly the road is back to 9% quickly and my sentences became a panting breathless game of yes and no. I gave up we returned to our grind skywards in silence (I never did find out about why he's moving to Hampshire).

So here we are 11% gradient and 6km to go. The rode has swung through 90 degrees and I've waved goodbye to the view. Now my back is to the sun & the elastic has snapped. 
Within a few slow heavy blinks of my eyes Matt was gone, 20 metres ahead, maybe more.
Im on my own, now with crimson calves, sticky sweat soaked eyes, and the sound my deep and rapid breathing. I could feel my pace was beginning to drop. 

2km to go, a leafy bowl is revealed to my left and ahead the road skirts around the rim of the bowl to a restaurant indicating the summit. 
A man passes me, he's wrapped his jacket around his waist and arm warmers around his stem. 
Ahh what any annoying sight, perhaps because I am suffering and this man is on a Boardman twiddling a childish compact gear, completely void of everything that embodies a pro cyclist attempting to flatten a Hors Categorie climb, a disgrace and yet there he goes, the non-cyclist is passing me.

The devil on my shoulder said:
"Are you going to let this geek on a bike beat you, there are a mere 2km left and 250m to ascend, the end is in sight. Don't let this baffoon on a bike get away."

My heart is throbbing in my ears. The cadence is raised. Keep on, now there is a weird burning sensation inside my quads. Matt has come back into view.
1km left, the huts and the restaurant at the summit are almost touching distance, onto Matt's wheel, that guy is still ahead. Keep going, change gear, get faster, the road is now at 8% slightly easier than the previous 30 minute grind. Now Matt is on my wheel, cheering me on as we chase Mr Nodder.
Round the last hairpin and past the sign, we cross the line together but a bike length behind our unstylish rival. Damn.


The trouble with the Joux Plane is there isn't an immediate descent after the summit, you now track around a road passing a murky summit lake, through a bend, the road slopes down but there is more ahead and then suddenly your bashing your chain back into the little ring, before the reward of a descent there is a little matter of a hill to tackle. A really spiteful stingy lump. I wished I'd not sprinted after that man now.

Finally we were onto the descent and now into Morzine we flew. 


My total climb time: 1 hour 4 minutes
Pantani climb time ('97 TdF):  33minutes
Length: 12km
Average 8.5%
Max Grade: 12%
Height: 1691m
Total height gain: 1000m

If you have never tried CX this is the series for you.
Cost is £10 , everyone is welcome. Last year Fruit 4 London gave out free fruit, I got lucky with a couple of really good mangos and high quality peaches.

The Summer Series has a great atmosphere, it is run by volunteers with proceeds of the race going to charity. If the weather plays ball, you won't bee shivering and cold caked in mud on a weekday night but shredding and making dust clouds beneath the setting sun.

The courses are shorter with tricky off camber stuff reduce while the drier surfaces mean that you don't need super technical skills to find grip, perfect beginner territory.

If you've dipped your toe in the mud of CX last year then this series will hone you up for the winter leagues!

July 24th - Bethlem Hospital < My favourite London CX course, (no toilets at venue)
July 31st - Addington Park August < New Venue
7th - Bethlem Hospital August
14th - Herne Hill Velodrome < Toilets, changing area, bike wash and near to Herne Hill Rail Station

U12s - 6pm, £3
Youths - 6.20pm, £3
Seniors - 7pm, £10

Beginner CX Sessions
Cyclo-cross is one of the most novice-friendly disciplines, and the summer series is a great opportunity to race for experienced and brand new riders alike. That said, there's nothing like a couple of coaching sessions to prepare you for racing.

This year the Summer Series is running two training sessions as part of the series:

10th July - Herne Hill Velodrome
17th July - Bethlem Hospital

Keep checking http://www.summerseries.co.uk/ for updates

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch was given to me at Xmas. The jacket explains that a series of mysterious murders have taken place in Crawley & Bromley. A town planner who is looking after the Elephant & Castle estate randomly jumps infront of a tube train & the now deceased architect who designed the estate has had his home/museum burgled but nothing appears to be stolen.
It sounds like an all action story centering on the housing estate in Elephant that in recent years I've been slightly obsessed with. 
In real life The Heygate (to provide the name of the for mentioned estate) is currently being pulled down it's a ugly concrete behemoth, which in some people opinion is has a poor design with too many hidden staircases, lonely walkways & places to hide out of sight.  It drew my attention about 18 months ago because over the last four years Southwark has slowly been emptying the estate & moving residents on through compulsory purchase orders, some residents refused to leave and until October last year (even though Southwark has shut of the heating systems, public walkway lighting). There were 3 residents living in dwellings within one of the 3, 10 storey blocks. I cycled past the estate on a few occasions and it almost looked as though an apocalypse had hit a pocket of SE1. 

So, back to the book... Broken Homes follows a similar storyline about the estate being pulled down but hinting the reasoning is more sinister than purely commercial/regeneration driven by the council. 

All started well but into the 3rd chapter & suddenly the detectives narrating the story start to talk about magic & use Harry Potter style language it soon becomes clear that I'm reading a book with a confusing wizard/witch/elf magical element. It flowed well but the added confusing magical words just killed it. The book (like this blog) was riddled with grammar errors, a few phrases with past tense when present would be better, this let the fast moving story line down.  

The book ended in dramatic fashion & a few loose ends were cleared up but mostly I was left baffled. The guy that threw himself under the tube - why did he do that, what was his overall purpose? Why did the house get burgled? 
I have since realised that the book is part of a series so maybe it'll be answered in the next instalment. 

Lanterne Rouge by Max Leonard. 
Initially I wasn't too concerned about reading another book about cycling, I've had a few recently that were biographies and just weren't that compelling so a book that I thought was about people who come last wasn't that of a draw for me.
But I bumped in Max & he gave me the book & even yielded to my request for him to sign it. Since Max had gone to the trouble of giving me the book I decided I should read it. 

As soon as I started the book I couldn't put it down, told in first person it's a story of Max's discovery of the Lanterne Rouge. He briefly discusses why unlike other sports the last placed person is celebrated, in Formula 1 last place on the grid is generally considered to have a bad car, the last team in a football league is penalised and sent to the league below. 

It is a phenomenon that makes cycling so fascinating and what this book is definitely NOT is a book about losers. 

It's deeply researched and I really enjoyed Max's personal journey as he made his research and delivers some myth busting anecdotes, the story of Philippe Gaumont is particularly interesting (I won't say too much more). 

I've heard/read many stories from Tour de France and after a while they lose their impact and become just stale tales. 
It is a breath of fresh air to read about a different part of the peloton. 
When the Tour rolls through this season I think I'll find myself scrolling to the bottom of the Cycling News results page to see who is occupying the Lanterne Rouge placing. 

I was trying to organise all the receipts and bills I have accumulated. 
Found some Belgium race numbers, Renner pit pass & race parking permit. 

Dear riders

Last night was my return to Crystal Palace racing following a few years away from the scene due to breaking my shoulder and I found myself hanging on for dear life to a group which had been distanced by the lead four riders. Everyone in the group also had team mates in the lead group up the road, so it didn't seem clear to me what our agenda was -be it working to bridge back to the leaders, riding tempo to limit our losses, or you wanted to race for a position

Either way, it seems clear that everyone thought my plan was to sit on and sprint at the end. I can assure you that this wasn't the case and never has been -I simply wanted to get to the end of the race, get value from my race entry and get back into the swing of things. I've won more races at Palace than anywhere else, including the series overall in the past and hopefully anyone who raced with me back in 2010 would attest to my committed and contributing way of racing. Sitting-on really isn't my style, but when we were riding all together, it appeared that there was no cohesion. The rider on the front moved off, but back to 2nd wheel, never quite making it clear if I was to move up. Usually I take this to mean that riders moving from 1st wheel to 2nd wheel and back to 1st again want to control the pace and allow the breakaway to take shape. In my previous experience riders don't normally ride round from 4th wheel up into 1st as it doesn't seem economical.

Last night I could hear riders in our group discussing attacking (me) which put me on the back foot a bit as I was waiting for this to come. Things got a bit heated between us and I'm sorry I was aggressive, I really didn't mean to, I was also right on the limit and just hoping I could keep going when the attacks came.

Like I say, I've been away for some years and perhaps the etiquette has changed, or I simply misread the situation. I can understand your frustration, and perhaps straight after the finish is not always the best time to talk about these things...personally I find I always say the wrong things or come across the wrong way in the heat of the moment, so that's why I'm writing this now. 

If you felt, or feel you don't want to talk to me, I can only apologise for the way things turned out -perhaps road racing just isn't for me anymore.

I genuinely wish you the best of luck with the rest of your season. 
Benjamin also set himself a strict daily routine, which included time for sleeping, meals and working, all set for specific times of the day.

You'll find it in Castleton the town at the base of Winnats Pass.
1.6 miles
Winding and Windy.

The initial section forces one up and out of the saddle faster that you can say eighteen percentage, sugar, I thought this is not a good way to start a climb. You continue to grind away ontop of the pedals through the tree lined road until the foliage subsides and the road momentarily flattens.

I saw my riding companion ahead disappearing round the bend that climbed skyward and assumed that the hairpin would lead to the top. But I was bitterly disappointment.
As I struggled once more out of the saddle the the views of an old mill or refinery and breathtaking peaks were of little inspiration. I was sulking about having to ride out of the saddle once more so early on on this road, pushing and pulling on my bars as if I were punching a pillow like a told of school kid.

The corkscrew bend relented the punishing gradient eased to a more regulated manageable six percentage. I now had my back to the Hope Valley and a hopefully finishing point appeared on the windswept horizon. It looked as though my summit was in touching distance. Alas it was not, as I got closer I saw the summit was a mirage and I had to round another bend and revealing more road.

On and on I climbed at a steady pace ready but my matches has been burnt on the lower slopes and now the half mile crawl against the buffeting wind was excruciating. I caught back to my domestique and heard them speak but my heart was thundering in my ears muffling the conversation. They rode on steady and my cadence dropped, it was like the Froome / Wiggins moment of the 2012 Tour except I was wearing leg warmers and it was spitting with rain.

Finally I got some kind of rhythm as the gradient of the road stayed at an easier 5% and I reached a chalk line that had been added to the road by a previous visitor.
It was a tough fifteen minutes of my life, I never hope to repeat.

Thanks Gem Atkinson - Great Idea of Yours! LOL
"There are many exercise apps that allow you to keep track of your running, riding, and other activities. Record speed, time, elevation, and location from your phone, and millions of people do this, me included. However, when we look at activity logs, whether they be our own, from our friends, or from a public timeline, the activities only appear individually.
What about all together?"
As you can imagine - people mostly run around parks and the water areas.
Quote from an article in the Huffington Post:

"The gift of dyslexia is not the inability to read or write. It’s the incredible ability to see things from different angles. That is what makes a creative genius. The dyslexic mind approaches problems by visualizing things from all viewpoints. Literally moving their mental POV to whatever angle that helps them ‘see’ the solution.
This ability allows sculptors to ‘see’ what is inside a block of marble. It enables designer to imagine things into reality. It’s this brilliant gift that makes creativity come easily. Their problem solving ability is not a result of their challenge with words. Creative problem solving IS their gift"

I think I'm dyslexic, well, I haven't taken a test though so maybe its just proof reading laziness. I find that I'll read something maybe 2-3 times and see words I've written that are there but when someone else comes to read the words are jumbled forwards and backwards. I often write peoples names down but will write down the wrong letter or add the letter in the wrong order. I always makes mistakes when writing thank-you or birthday cards and there is no turning back once you've messed up a birthday card.
I like to read James Bond book because they are thin but often the spacing between the lines is too narrow and I have to go back and read the page again because I don't understand what is being described. I like to read James Bond because its not really more than 200 pages and that doesn't frighten me so much. A book that is really thick frightens me. 
There are other examples I can't think of right now. Hmm, I think I just might have to take my time alittle bit and slow down. 
Sometimes the day in day out it can get really boring and overly tiring.
This has happened to me with the route I use to commute to and from work. The quickest faster way is to use the Cycle Super Highway, it just so happens it the quickest faster route for everyone else too.

The bus lane is nice and wide and the cyclists aren't really doing too much harm or the cars to be fair. It is mostly the buses. Accelerating past us and then swinging in, edging forward. There feels like there is a real bad feeling vibe coming from bus drivers at the moment trying to damage the other road users.

But all the people, all the time, all the stop, start sprint. It is exhausting and I'm only cycling 6 miles home.

Recently I've started to revel in the rain. It gives me a reason to get on a packed commuter train. Now that is bad isn't it!

Two weeks ago I was waiting for the traffic lights to go green at Lambeth North when I noticed a small sign that said London Cycle Network 3 Stockwell. Instead of turning left and following the masses onto the major artery that connects Kennington with Oval I followed the sign.

These little blue signs are quite tricky to follow, they suddenly disappear or point you down pedestrian alleys, and you wonder if that's the right way.

I tried to work out my route on the fly as I cycled home but didn't really seem get it right and I popped out again at Oval Cricket Ground and had to rejoin the cycling motorway that is the A3.

Back to the drawing board, or computer screen I guess. Trying to work out the route based on the little blue signs is tough.
TFL doesn't help, in fact it doesn't acknowledge they exist and nor does Open Cycle Maps or Google.
Sustrans came to my rescue, you'll need to grab google maps too and on occasion 'street view' the turning because its not always clear. The route I take has a cycle path that cuts through between an estate near Oval, that's what I missed before.

Armed with hurridly written notes, celotaped in an uncouth manner to my stem I set out to ride where literally no-one has ridden before. I was on an urban commuting adventure and I was unsure which neighbourhood I was in as I navigate a warren of Stockwell and Kennington's residential back streets but I pop out at Clapham Common in the right place unscathed.

I stopped for traffic one maybe two times, my speed was perhaps alittle lower as I'm not riding on a wide open drag strip and the route is longer by two miles.
But on the plus side there was no need to haul on the brakes every 50 metres then sprint from a standing start to get clear of all the cycle wobblers.
It is nice to have a change and even though at the end of the day you just want to get home, I would encourage everyone to switch it up, try these little blue routes, you never know what you'll discover.

Here's the skinny on it:
A race that take in a portion of beautiful Pembrey beach before heading into a Pembrey Country Park for 9km of gravel, water, singletrack and sand.

Open to all forms of off road bike including cyclocross and a thing called a 'Fat Bike'

Race was roughly 35km which took me about 2 hours to complete.

Category positionFirst NameLast NameOverall timeLap 1Lap 2Lap 3Fat Bike?Overall Position

I finished third, after the first lap my upper body was screaming. Although I was nice an aero and cutting through the flat windy sand with ease through the lumpy singletrack wood sections of the National Park I really had to pump, push and pull the handlebars to keep momentum while riders on their carbon MTB let the suspension do that for them.

The stingy sharp ascents play in my favour but after a while the mountain bikers really started to catch me and it took alot for me to stay with some of the riders. I think if there was a long steady climb I would have carried more speed but ultimately it was a course that (by a whisper) suited the hardtail mountain bikers.

Great idea and great race and great course.
I'm glad that two months on from CX season with a bit of lack lustre training I managed to get round. It was great for building a base fitness and I hope there are more, maybe Camber Sands in Essex.

I really enjoyed the course even the 'water trap' which due to my size had me carrying my bike over my head through the deepest part. 
Paul 'Po' Sheers tasted the sweet smell of the podium club this weekend. It's a cluster of body odour, sweat and mouldy mud, a truly horrific mix of flavours that ordinarily would force your face to screw up in disgust, but when stood on any of the steps of the podium, those nasal treats change into something that reads like the side of your mums perfume bottle "A wave of extreme freshness meets with the pine tree top notes". 

And so, with a heady mix of cyclocross smells, low blood sugar from an hour of exercise and climbing high onto the altitude sickness inducing top step, Paul became a member of the Vicious Velo podium club.

I myself am very au faux with being a member of the club, so I've written down the set of rules for Paul to follow.

1. First rule of podium club, ALWAYS TALK ABOUT HOW YOU ARE IN PODIUM CLUB
2. If handed a medal, sniff it and then give it a good bite (see examples below)
3. Make eye contact with every photographer whilst you stand on the podium
4. Re-tell the story of how you got into podium club as much as possible
5. When describing your lastest victory, try to make it as long winded as possible...to ensure you are really impactful, honestly, people really do want to sit through at least an hour of story telling.
6. Wear your medal whilst doing everyday task, it should prompt people to ask how you got your medal (then see points 5, 6 above)
7. Remind others you are in podium club and they are not
8. If given flowers, don't give them away to your mum, keep them on a table in the centre of the room until they are rotting and dropping sludge on the table
9. All trips to the podium shall be with as much vigor as possible, jumping, shouting, dancing and fisting pumping should be part of ones routine. 
10. Be nice to the podium club fans, pass on the gift of them being able to meet you; a member of the club.
11. Get a blog, write about your membership to podium club

Classics and  cycling sprint ace - Tom Boonen

Gary Barlow off of Take That (blonde on the left)
... famous people

Marcel Kittel (cyclist, Giant-Shimano)

 Dolph Lundgren (Rocky, View to a Kill)

will not miss
Cleaning my bike in the dark, every weekend for 17 weekends

Getting my bike out of the shed the following weekend to find, there are still smeary marks and bits of dirt I missed.

Digging twigs, stones and clumps of sand from the seal of the washing machine

Training on a turbo in pitch black

Car Tetris

Jet washing my shoes, daily rotating the newspaper stuffing and pray they will be dry by the next weekend

Getting up a 7am on Saturday/Sunday and missing a re-run of Frasier by driving to a cyclocross race

Going on the M1

will miss
ViCiOUS pint-sized cheerleaders and 'Paul' the mud dumpling

Shredding off road on skinny tyres, feeling out of control and trying to go faster

Winning cyclocross races

Followed by awkward podium presentations

Signing people's autographs

Having a slightly bruised shoulder on Monday mornings

Running on muddy paths around Tooting Common as the sun comes up

Hanging out with ViCiOUS velo at races, making jokes, having ideas showers, smashing into bushes, yelling at them from the sidelines 

Trying to race in the cyclocross motherland 

The peculiar smell of damp mud

Finding a secret line on a section of course to go faster than everyone else

When people in the crowd call your name and cheer with as much energy as they can muster

Riding on the turbo and getting to that point where your muscles feel so tired they they fizz then feel white hot, sort of cold but that makes you try to go faster

My bikes are now in the loft, seven months and counting.