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Once again, I can’t get my head around how fast this month has gone let alone the year. As soon as I write my monthly blog it’s time to start again. I’ve had to scroll through all my social media posts to remind myself of all the things I have been up to in November because it has been that busy. One of the posts that popped up was a memory from 2016, a photo that would kick start the beginning of my role as an ambassador for Primal. This time last year, the search was on to find the ambassadors for 2017 with the hashtag #couldthisbeyou. I had submitted a photo of myself on a ride through Nelsons County into a small Norfolk village called Three Holes (no laughing at the back of the class) wearing my Primal Ride-On Jersey. The photo was the start for me going through the various shortlist stages to where I am now and here we are again on the search for 2018.
Of all the fun and exciting things I have been up to this year one of my many highlights was attending Six Day London at the Lee Valley Velodrome. This year was even more exciting as I was right in the middle of all the action in the VIP centre circle, The Madison Bar, mingling with all the riders, coaches, Ministry of Sound’s 2 Smoove, cycling commentator Ned Boulting and those crazy cool Derny riders…. (what a job description). The atmosphere was crazy, loud and electric, something you can’t fathom from watching it on the TV. Although it’s a weird motion standing on the spot rotating around in circles following the riders closely as they progress around the track, it also feels a bit odd to be standing still and waiting for them to match up with your eyeline again, but they go so fast it’s a blur. Popping to the bar or to grab a bite to eat you’re standing in the line amongst the likes of Matthew Rotherham (“Mark your thighs almost as big as mine”), Mark Cavendish and Katie Archibald to name a few. While waiting to go onto the track, many of the riders were either having a well-earned break, being interviewed or warming up on the turbo and rollers. I got talking to the showman of the SixDay, rider Nate Koch, and asked him which he preferred to use and he explained that for him the rollers were a great choice as it engaged the core and gave resistance on both wheels which once you have mastered balancing can also give you bragging rights when doing tricks like playing an imaginary violin, or as I replied jokingly, putting on my eyeliner. There is a lot more to think about when using the rollers, but the turbo trainers have lots of advantages too.
At the end of the evening, it was surreal chatting casually with the likes of Mark and Peta Cavendish, then walking up the stairs and out of the building having a conversation with the exhausted New Zealanders, Ethan Mitchell and Edward Dawkins, winners of the Team Sprint and 200m Flying Time Trial, including Ned Boulting who waved “See you in St Ives”. Heading back to the hotel is was noticeably cold having been in the warm environment of the velodrome. Having coveted Judith Smiths HTA Stella Down Jacket at the ambassador meet up in April I had ordered one which arrived in time for me to take wear to London. I genuinely LOVE this jacket, in particular, the pockets which look like feely box cuffs, but they are really deep which was handy for carrying my phone in its enormous indestructible, bounceable, waterproof, bomb proof, military grade, (you get the idea) phone case. The other thing I love about this jacket is that even with the shorter arms, it keeps you really warm, it looks different, it is stylish and just a really nice jacket that can be worn casually or as I did, on a cycle ride around the Olympic Park on one of the Santander hire-bikes the next day. I now wear this jacket all the time and……. who says you need to wear your La Reina arm warmers just when you’re cycling. I dare you to be different, wear a t-shirt under this jacket and a pair of arm warmers and go food shopping, there you have a casual custom look to match your custom kit.
The Stella down jacket has also become an essential staple in my cycling kit cupboard, having worn it before and after two of the sportives I rode in later in the month. The first one was the undulating hilly 100k Cool Cambridge Sportive run by a fellow cycling buddy Simon and his Longleg Cycling Tours. This was my 2nd Cool Cambridge ride having ridden it as my 1st ever sportive last December just before I officially became a Primal Ambassador. The route started in my childhood village of Fulbourn and out into the rolling countryside of Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk with a feed station in the Suffolk village of Steeple Bumpstead. Somehow this time around the ride felt tougher, was it a nutritional thing, a hydration thing or…. that mince pie I don’t remember scoffing but was missing from the box in the biscuit drawer. Around 10 of my cycling club buddies had set off together but by the 2nd half of the ride we had all separated into 2 groups. Fatboy had thigh cramp by mile 45, which started off some very dramatic moments of high pitched, voice breaking, hollering from the back of the pack before we left him and his contractions to wait for the sweeper bus while myself, King Don, Gwinnet (aka Sagan) and a guy called Dave made our way back to base. With 100k completed and a nice little medal to add to my collection, I grabbed a biscuit and a mini pack of Haribo and headed home happy to have ticked another event off my list with one more to go the following week in the Evans Ride-It Sportive in Thetford.
Originally, in my eagerness I had booked to ride the Evans Sportive under the CX category which was also being held on the same day, at the same start and sharing some of the route. Fortunately, I was able to amend my error in time, and blame someone else for my lack of concentration…. #itcouldbeyou. Thankfully I was more organised on the day and left home in the fresh and frosty dawn on an hour’s drive to High-Lodge, Thetford.
If you have never heard of Thetford or been there, its beautiful. With miles upon miles of man-made lowland forest, it had its fair share of short drag ups with a few cheeky inclines that make you question if you are cycling slightly up hill or on a flat, in which case that rear hub and bottom bracket is faulty. It’s perfect for MTB and CX or just to have a fun day out with family and friends and you will regularly spot Muntjac deer and wild horses. The ride occasionally criss-crossed with the cyclo-cross route over a number of distances on open roads. During the swift food stop I got chatting to a few of the CX riders I had been in the starting pen with. They were all having a great time. One of the riders had only ever ridden in MTB and CX and I, only road, so with a pinky promise and a chink of the plasti-cups we agreed to both ride in each other’s event next year. Wishing everyone a farewell I set off again initially on the 74-mile route but as the weather began to filter in some rain clouds and cross winds I was okay with completing the ride at 55 miles with a mile-long incline to the finish, part of me wishing I had stuck with the original plan knowing I was capable. However, I did get ‘Silver’ in the award and so next time I shall aim for ‘gold’.
Digressing back to the bottom bracket made for a funny coincidence. Having seen cycling commentator Ned Boulting at the Six Day I was seeing him again on his Live Bikeology tour. You know when you are a cyclist when you find yourself snort laughing to some of the analogies he talks about in his show. The beauty of the bottom bracket and the web searching that proceeds in the quest to find the perfect one, the perfect crank set, nut, bolt or chamois cream all in the aid of making your marginal gains and ride experience more fun. Meanwhile all your non-cycling friends who just don’t understand this cycling lark are in the pub or enjoying a lay in on a cold Sunday morning. During the interval I found myself opening my phone up to the last thing I had been looking at before I had arrived, it was a web search on……the sprocket…(oh how I snort laughed)…ok it’s one of those moments where you have to end the point with “you had to be there”.
So, there you have it, November has gone by in a blur, and like the riders racing around on the velo track, keep pedalling……its nearly Christmas!!!