Tunnel Vision **Lock down blog**

March 16th

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.

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A Flavour for French racing

A trip packed full of racing in preparation for the Junior Tour of Wales. As many of you probably already know how the team got on via the Facebook page I’ll give you some of the behind the scenes information from the cooking stories , ping pong competitions and all round good vibes between the lads.

However my journey to France started on the 19th of July on my Girlfriends family holiday, enjoying the beautiful weather on the beaches, relaxing from a busy period of our lives ( Done with Sixth form and A-Levels) it was great to have this time to reset and create some more amazing memories whilst focusing on my weaknesses in my training on lovely smooth roads in the heat.

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My last night with the family was sadly not straightforward at 10 o’clock at night, I received an email saying the train had been cancelled… a brief phone call home seeking some advice in what I should do ? it was left to me to sort out, Luckily It was fairly straight forward and I used my excellent French communication skills to get on all my trains (including my cancelled one…)  after my enjoyable train adventure I was able to meet up with Mark and Ann Walsham and wait for the team to arrive at their house. When the lads arrived it was time for a 25 mile spin before tea!

The next part of the trip was a further drive to Montpellier where the heat was kicking off….(Since I’ve been the UK seems to have gone into winter already..)

 

When we  arrived we were faced with this monastery, I think some the lads didn’t know what to make of it but I though it was mega , we had our very own climb to our accommodation! The heat was pretty unbearable at it was still pretty late in the afternoon we got out kit on and headed out for a spin around the lanes. The roads were awesome the scenery was to match also! We took a few minutes going through on off on the bike to loosen the legs before stopping for an ice cold drink.

 

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The following day was the last day of preparation of the trip and junior stage race including 3 stages over 2 days , stage 1 a rolling with a summit finish up to the castle , stage 2 a flat tt and stage 3 in mountainous terrain. However the day before was a chance to recce the tt course and check out fastest lines. An hour of riding round was followed but a dip in the local river, it was nice to chill of the legs and the core body temperature!

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Arriving to the Race HQ we were greeted by Helen and David of Eco Team Ne Jetez Plus – Haute Route they kindly set up a gazebo to protect us from the sun whilst we prepared for the stage ahead, Helen and David previously ran a racing team and provided us with a team car and extra bottles for the race which we definitely needed! Before the race started we were treated a pre race meal ( take note UK race organisers)

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Yes Toby you will get some food 😉

The race started super fast so positioning at the front was very important incase of splits. It was vital to drink lots during the race so that was a big focus of mine, a little tip from my coach was to pour water on your arms rather than your head to cool you down as the water you pour on your head stays warm in your helmet, it does work so cheers Guy . The first stage went well for the team with Sam getting up the road and finishing 8th and GMK going in the chasing group , I was happy with my finishing effort up the climb but I was out of GC hopes.  That evening GMK put together a shrine to give us good luck for the following day see the last picture .

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Stage 2 and 3 were a big disappointment for me with 16th in the tt (which certaintly helped bump the team up the team classification and a dnf on stage 3 , my legs and had disappeared and it felt like I riding through treecal , I got dropped on the first climb then got back on through the cars and went out the back again on the climb and got back on again through the cars on the decent and went straight to the front of the bunch to allow my self some slipping room but this did not help and my day was destined to be a short one. A day I did not expect…

The next part of the trip was in the Cantal region which was a series made up of Criteriums , Kermesses’ , Road Races and Nocturnes. Most of the races average around 50 miles with plenty of laps , ( some times only 1km.. ) and usually incorporated a substantial hill. Just like going out training and doing between 50 and 75 hill reps… By these challenging circuits set up for fast and hard racing.

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Along with a new region we had one night in a hotel on transit but also a new house which was very traditional!

 

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After 4 days of racing it was time for the rest day (Wednesday) the rule in the house was leave @ 9:30 for a morning ride so the keen lads ; Me , Morgan and Sam went out for a gentle hour spin up a mountain rode, with a café stop to then return home to give the bikes a good clean after the wet race the day before. The best part of the ride got to be the decent makes riding up in so worth it , apart from when you feel that gravel under your tyres on fast corner. Lovely … Sent it though #crossskills. On our return home we only discovered Toby Perry who had just been finishing his 10th stretching session of the morning (toby’s alternative to doing a recovery ride..) meriting his nick name for the week ”10 times Toby.”  The others lad followed big D.S Russ on his ride (gate crashed? ) by the time they returned home It sounded like they’d been on a bit of a smash fest.

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Destination of recovery ride, not bad?

After the rest day I knew that it would be really key for preparation for Tour Wales four days more of consecutive with body starting to return to normal I was able enjoy the last few races I had in France and try get the most out of it for racing experience and results. The final day of the Cantal week was held on a 1km circuit which we did 75 time up and down a hill side in this race I was able to take a lap on the bunch and be competing for the win, my main in the aim was to go for primes for the boys but it ended up in a good result for myself finishing 4th.

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Good Effort at looking at the camera lad.

The last race of the trip was a stand alone race, so there were some fresh faces and fresh legs. I believe a few of the lads had switch off due to the heavy program but I still had the JTOW in mind as I knew the last would be important. The circuit a reasonable stiff 5 minute climb which we instantly went up from the start! The race developed quickly seeing my self get into an early break on the decent. The group were working nicely however there were some odd tactics behind in the bunch deciding it would be good to bring a team mate back, then bollard on the climb. The then entered a rhythm with a break gaining a small advantage. On the final lap I attacked the bunch bridging to the reminders of the break who weren’t able to go with leaders I went to straight by and was able to work with another rider to the finish. The sprint was interesting with cars across the line but I was happy to finish 7th after a tough block of racing with the lads.

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This trip was only possible due to hard work and kind will of people investing into youth and junior ranks of cycling so a big thank you to everyone who made it possible, BIG RUSS and to the sponsors an supports of the trip, Hub Cycle works , Prendas Ciclismo and BC South Region . Personally I’d like to say thank you to Pedal Potential and Bristol Physio for there continued support and belief.

 

Metres from the line

Time to enjoy the closing stages of still being a junior with a week away representing the south region in Frane and also in the prestigious junior tour of wales before preparing for the U23 ranks .

However let me give a summary of my national championships and how I stopped metres from the line along with two others…

My week building into the championships had good signs of form with a 3rd at my local crit in bath with a big turn out on beautiful evening with me and fellow club mate sneaking away with two others to the finish . then taking a minor win at the local dursley road club tt and a pb along the way . However the national championships were not to follow the same trend.

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The journey up seemed to be seemless and fairly brief compared to some of my journeys this year arriving at the hq the day before to rece the cours. I was met with a very grand prep school which looked more like a stately home than a school. After a quick change into my kit the course rece posed no defining factors on the circuit apart from a few small drags dotted around the lap and the final kick 3km from the finish.

Later that evening a small carry on occurred whilst searching for our air bnb due to a set of poor directions however this was made up for with a great Room and a great menu for breakfast.

The morning of the race was blue skys which turned into a beautiful day to be racing for the national Stripes . After parking up it appeared we were next to some good friends, always a bonus . A warm up completed on the road along with a good set of jokes shared it was the all important pre race briefing , shoes off in the hall please. Then it was like a triathlon transition, everyone rushing to get their shoes on . The race started and a solo rider went away (GMK) . The race continued to feature large groups going away then being brought back within a lap .  I wanted to save my energy for a move within the last lap and thats it played out after narrowly avoiding two crashes . One large and one stupid mistake as a rider past a bottle to another… then on the flat before the final a group of 4 us got across to the final break but shortly followed by the bunch as some of the favourites had been able to sneak away (i must of been a favourite 😉)the final climb posed desicive as Ben Tullet and Askey got away whilst the bunch hasitated… I then thought of the sprint and positioned my self to the front and fast coming towards the line until I  saw a rear wheel bouncing in front of me and a rider snaking across the road with no rear wheel. Slamming the breaks on to the avoid the crash and Tumble into a hedge ripping my shorts gutted.. luckily the damage was a flat spot on my tyre. However I was extremely gutted to be taken out metres from the line as I was certain to be in the top 15 and possibly challenging for a top 10 .

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On Wednesday the 1st I will be catching 3 Trains and a bus to meet with the south region for 12 days of racing in preparation for the tour of wales .

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