The return to the UK .
1 After arriving in France on the 7th of January, sadly it was to be a premature return home. The week of my return I was meant to have both my Mum and girlfriend visiting me as I had two Elite Nationals on the calendar, Saturday being Trophee Louison Bobet and Circuit du Morbihan on Sunday, two big classics in the west of France. However this didn’t quite go to plan ! Only Mum being able to make it out as my girlfriend was busy being evacuated from Italy herself !
2 With my Mum visiting me in France the decision to return home was made a lot easier. I think everyone around the world was shell shocked and I certainly didn’t believe it myself. Two days before leaving I gave my close friend and fellow DRF Funded rider Sam Walsham a ring to see if he wanted any help being repatriated to the homeland…After a couple of phone calls he was in agreement , it must have been a tricky decision, after only returning to the continent from a short visit home,the week previous.
So we were lucky to find ourselves booked onto one of the last Brittany ferry crossings carrying tourists back to the UK, we spent the duration of the crossing socially distanced in our cabin.
We had no idea of what was to lie ahead in the coming weeks.
3 Despite the unplanned return back to the UK during Mums visit putting a bit of a spanner in the works regarding our plans, we still managed to have a very enjoyable few days, going on plenty of walks, celebrating Sams birthday and spending some time with Christophe Denis(My host) and his family .
Now Almost 3 months later I’m in a position to begin to plan my return to France in early July providing there are no further bumps in the road. Right now its a waiting game, keeping my eye on the rapidly changing race calendar, the various and also rapidly changing updates on the travel situation to Europe. Hoping that I can plot a seamless return to my apartment in the annexe of Christophe’s home in the countryside near Nantes. We shall see.
No quarantine rules were in place when we returned to the UK so it was straight out on the bike for a brief spin out through Bristol and towards Clevedon, a fairly flat ride. In hindsight a slightly socially irresponsible decision but everyone was uneducated on the matter. All we could do is follow government guidelines which as we all know changes very rapidly…down to interpretation and common sense??
A few days later my Dad felt ill, still undetermined if it was COVID-19 or another nasty illness he picked up on his way back from a ski trip. This was a scary time,not only for my Dad, but for me not knowing if I was carrying it, luckily nothing developed . My Dad during this time self isolated for a few weeks until thankfully symptoms cleared, so during this time I helped him with food deliveries.
During the period when my Dad was ill I took the opportunity of the break from racing to do some power testing , this was a good idea from my coach Roy Holmes as I was just starting to come into some nice form.The tests went well and reassured me that my winter training has been successful. In summary, my winter block of training was a great build to that point combined with juggling two jobs and some nice planned rest , with a short trip to Milan in december and a skiing holiday in january to visit my girlfriend in Italy, these breaks helped me recover physically and more importantly rest mentally.
So that’s a brief outline of what was going on and how I ended up back on home soil.
During the time back in the UK I got a job working at a strawberry farm, close to my house. This was a great job despite the 4:50am starts, as some old family friends also worked there. On my first day at the farm we were given a tour, showing us all the greenhouses and pollytunels… there were a lot of them, they also showed us into the packing factory where they weigh and label each palett to go straight to asdas shelves to be sold . David, the head strawberry picker a young polish man who had been working there for 8 years showed us the art of strawberry picking, a gentle grip and flick of the wrist is all you need. We had a trolly with 4 trays with around 10 punnetts per tray for us to fill, each punnett weighing just less than 500g, when i was there i picked a lot of strawberries(around 28,000 a week..) Chatting about old times whilst picking some strawberries was a great way to escape the world of coronavirus and bring some sense of normality.
Giving me a great chance to have a socially distanced social…. It also helped me save the funds for a new mountain bike. Something which I’ve really been enjoying recently and will continue to pursue on rest days and recovery rides. I decided after 5 weeks of working 5-6 days a week that I needed to begin to direct my focus towards the bike again with my move back to France rapidly approaching. This was a hard decision due to the uncertainty of it all, will the races proceed ? will I be able to travel?or will the season be called off until next year?…who knows? But I made the decision , despite enjoying having some money coming in, and enjoying spending work time with my mates that it was time to hit the road again and put my training first.
I also found time to post a poll on twitter asking people what they would like to see me do and the most popular was Vlogs… I did a few and I really enjoyed them. Filming and editing. This really threw me back to my media days at school. It was a short lived experiment as it was hard to balance work,bike and Vlogs but I am hoping to be able to get stuck in again. This could be something that I continue to do back in France. Give the people what they want!
Another thing that coronavirus has done is given me time to think about what I would like to do next year. One of the things that came up is University. So I’m doing some research into different online courses and options, after all there’s only so much training and resting you can do, it’s important to have other interests.