Road, Track and Press Trips: Nine Highlights of 2016

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock (or actually, not using Instagram, which is perhaps more likely) – the Instagram Top Nine is a New Years craze where you ask an app to select your nine most ‘popular’ Instagram pictures (the ones with the most likes), creating a collage for you to show off to your friends. 

When I created mine, the top posts were mainly already images containing several pictures  – which created collages within a collage. It was so aesthetically not pleasing that I binned it. Instead, I created my own – cheating to the extent that some of these aren’t even on Instragram. Effectively, I’ve taken the ‘Top Nine’, thrown the basic principle away, dismantled the remains and told it I can do a better job all on my own.

Here are MY top nine pictures:

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Specialized Press Trip

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I could have filled my square with press trip memories – but that would be allowing a small corner of my life to eclipse all the other memories. When I took the job at TWC I knew there was ‘some travel’ but I thought that would mean once in a blue moon. Turns out it meant once a month or so, more mid summer – and it’s been incredible. I feel so lucky. This trip with Specialized was so special because the entire guest list was populated by female cycling journalists. Often, there will be one or two of us amongst a conference room/ride full of men. Blokes are ok but it was a wonderful experience to feel a sense of belonging as opposed to being the token ‘other’.

A few common responses from myself and other journalists on the trip (paraphrased):

  • “I feel like I don’t have to put on a front when it’s all women”
  • “This just goes to show how varied women who ride are – all too often marketing departments lump us into ‘female cyclists’ but we’re just as diverse as male cyclists who are considered in blocks of ‘beginner’, ‘sportiver’, ‘racer’ etc.”
  • “Riding with other women is just as competitive, we are just as competitive – but underlining that is a supportive vibe you don’t get elsewhere.”

Oh, also the bike was pretty cool. 

Mont Ventoux with Maurice

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This summer we road-tripped our way to the Pyrenees to stay with ex-Redhillite Rupert, which was excellent. On the way back we detoured out to Provence to ride up Mont Ventoux. The mountain wasn’t exactly ‘on our way’ but eventually I made the executive decision that we’d remember climbing a mountain steeped in cycling history much more keenly than an extra day had exploring some flat lands near Calais (I’m right, yea?). The entire trip was wonderful (as are all of our last minute, Expedia powered holidays) but this was the peak. This year has been my best on the bike yet but Maurice has had some knee problems. There are lots of things we do well together in life, but bike riding is the pleasure that brought us together and it was lovely to share that again.

Back to the stats – the guy at the hotel said sub 2 hours was “good”. A 50 mile time trial takes me just over two hours (2.09, I think? Shows my TT interest has dwindled that I can’t remember) so I tried the replicate the pace, minus a bit because you have to respect a mountain. My 50mile TT heart rate is usually about 185 odd – so I aimed for 180. Reaching the top in 1hr44 (excuses: a week of riding in legs already etc) I was most proud of averaging exactly 180, not a beat more not a beat less. Control freak. I know.

Cat’s Back!

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Cat was probably the inspiration behind me deciding to rock up at Herne Hill last November, and she’s far and away my best girl mate on a bike. So when she crashed pretty badly – suffering concussion, fractures to the neck, cheekbone, eye socket and a separated shoulder – it was kind of scary. An ambulance ride and hours sat outside intensive care at A&E (instead of going to the PIL gig I was meant to go to… I never did mention that til now ;-p ) wasn’t how I pictured my first Open track event, and I imagine it’s not how she meant to start her summer. Thankfully, after much time off followed by much Zwift, she was back and I was so happy to see her kicking ass again at Herne Hill. I wasn’t allowed to take a face photo because ‘sweaty’ so Gails treats will do (track + gails = our friendship anyway).

Mount Snowdon with the Fam

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We all made it!

I don’t come from one of those ‘cycling’ or ‘active’ families – but my mum decided she wanted to climb Snowdon and so we did it. My mum is pretty much my model of ‘how to be a good person’. Being a teacher, she’s pretty fit and active from running around after children anyway – and she swims and does exercise classes too. Yet there was an edge of ‘I’m not sure how well I’ll do’ / ‘if I can do this’ in her mind at the bottom. I recognised that doubt only too well, but I knew she could do it and it made my heart swell to see her set a goal she wanted to achieve, and absolutely smash it. Next up is Ben Nevis. We wanted it to be a family trip, so Dad and Eleanor came too and it was all round wonderful to spend time with my crew in the beautiful outdoors and explore the active sphere of life that we don’t always celebrate together.

Herne Hill in General

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Unfortunately I don’t have too many pics. But this is from the last women’s Track League of the year. I think it was some sort of Points Race, and the three of us have broken away together. In the end Aoife (5th Floor) won, and I came second, (probably being a bit harsh and leaving Tabitha on the front coming into the final bend – as we discussed after – soz not soz – race). It’s not really about this race though – it’s just Herne Hill in general. The venue probably houses the most supportive atmosphere I’ve seen in cycling in a long while. The passion riders have for the place is probably epitomized by the way their Crowdfunder raised £75k in less than a week. I can’t say much more than that. People love this place, myself included.

The FHM Gang Still Rocking Socks

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‘Folly Hill Massive’ – cos we all grew up on/in Folly Hill. We’ve been friends since we were 14 – well – actually some of us much longer but I joined the gang when I was 14. We’ve eaten red wine spaghetti together (recipe: drink too much red wine, make pasta, pour wine onto pasta, make a mess in general), partied together (same thing, those two), made pom-poms together, revised together – and here we are celebrating Fran’s wedding to the lovely Ferg at the ages of 27/28. And yes, I’m wearing a pink dress with frills that comes out once in a while when I feel like I’ve lost all sense of femininity (so seem to jump right over the fence the other way).

Brands Hatch Omnium

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It was nearing the end of the season, I had a hella lot of points to go to Cat 2 and I was resigning myself to sticking with my Cat 3 license. Having started the season as a brand new Cat 4 that seemed ok. Then this race showed up – with points per race and three events in a day. A short time trial, 30 minute crit race and 2 hour ‘road race’ (not on the road). I was tired, it was raining, the course was hilly. I thought I was rubbish at racing in the rain and rubbish at riding up hills – and being an E1234, some of the girls on the start line scared me.

In the end, I finished the day with just 2 more points needed for the Cat 2 license (which I got a couple weeks later) and with a renewed confidence in my ability to ride with (on the wheels of) some of those I’d thought far and away above my ability level. Bizarrely, I had my best result in the 30 minute hilly crit – which for someone who generally considers herself more of a flat-roads-diesel sort of rider was quite a revelation. The hours spent hanging around with the other women between racers were pretty fun, too.

Women’s Tour (and other TWC)

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Towards the end of last year I became the Editor of my favourite online site. Wha’?

I’d been ‘back’ in journalism for about 6 months. I was new to the title. There was probably much floundering at first. However, over the course of the year we (myself and my wonderful amigo Jessica – without whom I would probably enter meltdown) posted hundreds upon hundreds of articles, and alongside that made the TWC20 happen, plus the TWC awards, and brought daily coverage from the Women’s Tour. This photo is of me interviewing Bob Varney of Drops Cycling Team – but it’s about so much more than that. I’m usually behind the scenes, so I chose it because here’s me doing what I do. It’s not been perfect. There have been more typos that I would dare to count. There have been many ‘kill me now I am an idiot’ moments. But it’s not about me (even though this picture is). Our role is to inspire women starting out in cycling, encourage those already in love with the bike, and give women’s racing the coverage it deserves. All on the kind of budget those who know women’s cycling will understand. I hope we’ve done that and will continue to do so.

PS: Other highlights interviewing Marianne ACTUAL Vos and Lizzie Armitstead (when she was Lizzie Armitstead). Oh – and Megan Guarnier for the third time – we’re best buds now ;-D

Giro/Bell Press Trip

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Finishing on a high! As I said, I didn’t want to fill the square with press trips, but this one is from the Giro trip in Switzerland – this time piggy backed by Bell as well. By the end of four days of mountain rides with some seriously fast guys I was ready for the Eurobike onslaught of hot dogs, lots of bikes and absolutely no cycling. Which was kind of the plan. This was the second time I’d been on this trip, and it was just as awesome (I can use that word because most of them are American).

Onwards and upwards. Looking forward to 2017. Some exciting projects to come from TWC, more track racing, more crits, new stuff in the form of planned road racing and hopefully some TTs that will prove how much differance all of the above has made. More time with the people I love, too – because none of the memories would be special without the people who helped make them. 

There is one comment

  1. Jeff

    That trip to the Pyrenees looks amazing! I must try and go there myself one day. I’ll try and make sure my 2017 collage includes a picture of me at the Pyrenees haha!

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