25 hours on a bike!
The European Track Championships, it's safe to say, didn't go as planned.
If you read my last blog post, you will know that last Wednesday was supposed to be a hopefully routine qualifying stage that turned into disaster for reasons that I still can’t explain.
Everything was going as normal. I had done everything right. I’d eaten what I was supposed to, drank what I was supposed to, warmed up in the usual way, and our qualifying run was going pretty much according to plan.
We were about to set one of the best times of the day as we came into the last lap. I heard the bell and the next thing I remembered I was on the deck and, because one of our team had already dropped out as per our scheduled plan, it meant we did not finish and failed to advance to the medal rides.
My fall last week adds to the long and winding list of setbacks that I’ve had in my life and career. It fits just nicely somewhere between the virus I had at the start of last year which wrecked my plans for the Worlds and my obese childhood!
So I’m no stranger to that sort of adversity and I also know how lucky I am and how blessed I’ve been with the opportunities I’ve had so you won’t hear me moaning about it.
In fact, the only people I felt bad for were my team mates who were eliminated through no fault of their own. The point is, it was no fault of mine either and I think they accepted that. They were certainly incredibly understanding and decent about it to me.
I literally had no recollection of what happened and what caused me to blackout in that way. There was a nice photo on the back of my home paper, the Wolverhampton Express & Star, of me sliding down the track and out of the Euros - not exactly the sort of publicity I was looking for!
It’s never happened before and, after an hour of medical attention in the track centre and loads of tests from doctors in Berlin the next day, we’re still none the wiser as to why this dizziness came over me. Not surprisingly, I was packed off home and scratched from the individual pursuit and Madison which I was meant to be riding later in the week.
The legacy of the crash were the usual bumps, bruises and lost skin but also a pretty nasty concussion. I’ll talk about that at a later time because, until this happened to me, I’d never really appreciated what a dangerous and debilitating injury it can be for sportsmen.
For now, I’m just focusing on trying to be fit and ready for the Manchester World Cup in early November.
It’s back in Manchester for the first time since 2013, which doesn’t sound that long ago, but I forget it’s nearly 2018. So, it shows how fast time flies - seize the day type of attitude has kicked in, as long as I’m cleared to start back in full training soon.
I had a meeting on Monday with my long-term friend Paul from Ride Staffs and we discussed some exciting things that are ahead locally, so I’m trying to get back to positive thinking and forward planning!
Hopefully see some of you in Manchester soon
Not the typical Monday for me this week, I’m currently taking a quick refreshment break in a German hotel full of members of the British Cycling team. It’s European Track Championship week and Berlin is very lively … not that I am!
I’ll give you an example of life on the road for a rider at a Championships. Sunday was a travel day, I left Manchester at 10am and arrived at the hotel at 5pm. I was in Bed at 9pm who knew Traveling was so exhausting!.
Monday was NOT a lie-in day with an early start on the turbo at 8:30 am which obviously felt like 7:30 as we have just got in from the UK, an hour behind. The track session then consisted of just some flying efforts, some under-pace and some at what we think race pace will be, to get a feel for the track. This is so we can practise line and changes which have to be altered to each track depening on its geometry and peculiarities. A 40 minute meeting in the evening, is the norm which is were we look over the effort demographics to see where we can improve as a team, then later on after the evening it was of to dinner and rest and repair for the next day.
Tuesday will almost be more of the same – as I said, these Track Championships aren’t always thrilling to start with, or at least not to read about anyway.
This trip has also seen me celebrate my first wedding anniversary on Sunday, not only not in the same town as my better half, but not even in the same country. To be honest, that’s an example of the odd small sacrifice that you have to make if you’re a pro sportsman and it’s a small price to pay … not that that makes the anniversary any less special of course!
So for the next couple of days, I’ll be keeping myself busy on the indoor trainer or maybe even a quick road ride to discover Berlin that little bit more and maybe have the chance to take in the odd coffee shop that my mate Phil Hindes has recommended.
But we don’t really get time during Championships to focus on anything else bar cycling, I might have to put Berlin on the list to visit when I’m not competing because I hear great things about it and it looks an interesting place.
But that’s for the future. Now it’s about the Euros and the thrill I always feel when I zip up a GB skinsuit – doesn’t matter how many times I do that I competition, it’ll never get old.
Wednesday is when it starts, competition time. Eurosport are covering the event so make sure you keep an eye out. If you get chance to watch us and cheer us on, the plan is for the team pursuit on Wednesday and Thursday with the individual pursuit and Madison to come over the weekend.
This is the start of a busy winter which, of course, ends in April with the Commonwealth Games in Australia, if I’m lucky enough to be selected to ride for England in that. But for now, and without wanting to sound like a football manager, we’re just taking each “game” as it comes and, hopefully, we’ll be able to come back from Berlin with some silverware.
I’ll try and post again when I’m back in the UK hopefully I’ll have some stories to tell. But for now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a date with my old friend Netflix …
The summer is pretty much coming to a close and that means only one thing for us trackies - the important part of our year is about to kick off with Revolutions, Europeans, World Cups and a whole load of other fun stuff.
First though, last weekend, I had time to take part in a sportif near my home in Stafford where around 400 riders took part over a 65-mile route.
I was helping out my friends from PedalSure, whom I rode for in last winter’s Revolutions, and it was a lot of fun. It was a nice route, bits of which I recognised from Tour of Britain stages, and I must admit I finished up thinking I must incorporate some of them into my regular training rides.
Events like this are enjoyable for pros. After all, it’s just another training ride and the company is welcome, instead of having to slog around on your own.
it’s also nice to revisit old friends and make new ones in the cycling community. I spent part of the day with the guys from Redrow Homes, who were one of the sponsors, and I also had a great catch-up with John Taylor, an old mate from Fred Williams Cycles in Wolverhampton - my local bike shop which sponsored me way back in my junior days.
“Ride Staffs” put on a number of great events over the year and they’re well worth checking out on twitter @ridestaffs if you want to join us for one of them.
This particular route had the added advantage of a stop at the Red Lion ice cream farm in Haughton, near Stafford, and the weather couldn’t really have been better after some of the torrential rain we’ve had to put up with.
To ruin my recent time on the bike, I’ve also suffered from an attack of shingles over the past month although, believe it or not, that was nowhere near as painful as a bee sting I got on my face in the garden one day while I was recovering! I looked like Bear Grylls on that famous YouTube video when his eye is swollen shut.
Those events cost me a good 7-10 days training which was annoying but, fortunately, road racing has not been a big part of my year this summer so, hopefully, that won’t prove too costly.
Instead, we’re now getting back onto the track more frequently with an eye on all the events coming up over the autumn and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
On the subject of the track, I also noticed that it looks possible, if not likely, that the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held in Birmingham, not too far from where I grew up and where I now live.
I won a medal at Edinburgh in 2014 and, hopefully, will be in contention for next year’s team in Australia so, while it’s a long, long way off and a lot can happen, I’d love the chance to ride in a “home” games one last time though I'm not sure where the track cycling would take place ... maybe it's time Birmingham got its own velodrome!
Whatever happens, I think it would be a great boost for the Midlands, and for English sport in general, if we landed an event like that, so here’s hoping.
In the meantime, hope to catch some of you on the road or at the Manchester World Cup or one of the Revolutions over the next few months.
Until then, ride safe
Coffee and cycling go together like bread and butter and, as many of you will know, I am a bit of a coffee obsessive or a coffee snob - I’ll happily be called either given that I have all the apps on my phone to try and find the best speciality coffee stores wherever I am.
Unfortunately this still does not always throw up anything that I would call “good coffee.” That problem, however, is becoming less common now in the UK, which I am pleased about, as our country is being hit by a coffee craze.
However, it still isn’t possible on the morning of races to go and get my coffee fix. So I am going to give you a little run down of what I take with me to training camps and races and give you some brewing ideas to try at home.
My favourite method when I am away is a filter coffee. Filter has a bad rep as most people associate filter coffee with those stale, reheated batch brews that have been sat on the top of a heater for hour upon hour - just like the ones you see in the films in an American diner.
However, proper filter coffee made correctly makes a delicate sweet brew. and there are two main methods I opt for when travelling:
1: Drip filter.
Drip filter sees your brew water slowly dripping through your coffee grounds and a filter paper. At home I often use a Chemex for this method, but it's a little delicate and large to chuck in my kitbag and so I pack either a v60 or a Kalita. Both are very similar drip brewing methods and work in the same drip style, but the V60 is conical in shape whilst the Kalita has a flat bottom. My skills aren't good enough to make this a noticeable difference in taste to my pallet, I probably need to drink more coffee.
2: Immersion Aeropress
Coffee brewed using an AeroPress undergoes the immersion brew method. Essentially you add some coffee to a plastic chamber, add water and let the grounds steep for a number of minutes before pushing down on the handle to force your brew through the grounds and filter paper, and into your cup or decanter.
What do you need for filter coffee?
1: AeroPress, V60 brewer, kalita to name a few,
2: V60, AeroPress, Kalita filters - they are special in their design (don’t forget these because I have on many occasions!)
3: Amazing coffee: buy fresh and whole bean! People ask me my favourite coffee, I don’t have one as such, but I do have favourite roasters who source the best green (unroasted) coffee seasonally and roast it fresh. These can come from greater producers in great producing countries like Kenya, Rwanda, El Salvador to name a few. They then roast them to get the best from the coffee. Lighter roasted coffees are in my opinion a lot better and usually show the quality of the coffee actually having a flavour, not like the dark roast that the chains use. My fave roaster is Workshop Coffee in London. They change up their range constantly as fresh coffees are harvested in different countries and they roast fresh to order. Postage is also included on their subscriptions. Spot on!
4: A grinder, various options available, when you go away a hand grinder is very useful. I use a Porlex, It gives a great grind work really well it light and fits in the AeroPress. Links are at the bottom.
5: Scales. Sounds odd but it's like making a cake - follow a good recipe, get some great ingredients and you’re not going to go to far wrong.
8: Something to time on.
9: Something to put your coffee in.
10: Water - often overlooked! Good quality water, such as Highland Spring or Acqua Panna. Very important!
How I brew: AeroPress
Step 1: Get all you equipment ready.
Step 2: Weigh out 16g of beans, stick your kettle on to boil. Then grind your coffee - to start wit, aim for a caster sugar texture/size
Step 3: Make sure you rinse the paper out with plenty of hot water. Assemble the AeroPress and set up like the pic. Then add your coffee grinds, give a little shake to settle the grind and make level. Tare/zero your scales.
Step 4: Hopefully your water is just off the boil, around 95 degrees. Start you timer and add 250g of water to the Aeropress. Running water over any dry bits of coffee that may appear.
Step 5: Give you AeroPress a quick stir, be careful not to hit the paper filter or you will have a mess on your hands, as I've done this a few times when rushing. Then put your plunger in the AeroPress and give a slight lift up creating a vacuum, stopping the coffee just dripping out.
Step 6: Remove plunger at about 1:30 min give a stir and push the plunger back down over about 30 seconds to extract your brew. When/if you hear a hiss STOP!!
Remove AeroPress clean up and enjoy
I tend to give the pitcher a swirl and put couple of mouthfuls in a cup and leave it for 30 seconds. It lets the coffee cool rapidly and let's you realise how coffee changes and the different flavours you get from the brew as it cools.
Hopefully you will have hit the sweet spot and got a great brew, but if it is tasting bitter you'll have probably over-extracted (taken too much out of your ground coffee) and will want to make your grind a bit coarser. If it's sour or under whelming that's a signal you've under-extracted (leaving too much of the good stuff in your ground coffee), so make your grind a bit finer and that will allow you to extract more. Make small changes one step at a time, otherwise you won't know what made it better (or worse!).
I have borrowed this off someone who know a lot about coffee, you can follow him and many other coffee Pro on https://baristahustle.com/blogs/barista-hustle there is tons of info on there!
If you are new to brewing a great start would be the package on the link below. it has pretty much all you need to start brewing some great coffee!!!
If you already have some parts and want to add more to you collection, or need more filter or amazing coffee the link will take you to a great place to start.
Like waiting for buses, you go months and years without a crash and then two come along at once!
After coming off at the Tour of the Reservoir at the start of the month, I repeated the trick at the Stockton GP on Sunday which was not ideal timing given that I was flying to Italy early the next morning for a GB training camp.
Any rider will tell you that crashes are just an occupational hazard - although that doesn’t make it any less painful - and relatively speaking, I escaped very lightly.
At the Tour of the Reservoir, I hit a pot hole at about 50kph, landed on my head and neck and ended up in a bush. I actually winded myself pretty badly, which was the worst thing because your first reaction when you can’t breathe is to worry that something seriously bad has happened.
But after a few moments in the recovery position I managed to get up, back on the bike and on a car bumper to rejoin the field where I actually ended up finishing in the top 10 in the sprint.
As you’ll probably know from accidents you’ve had yourself, the adrenalin kicks in and masks the pain for a bit but that night I felt pretty terrible and, looking back, I probably had a concussion. And by the way, if anyone ever tries to tell you that wearing helmets is a waste of time, just show them this picture:
Still, I started the next day and, after being spat out at the foot of the first climb, I managed to rejoin the main group and actually rode okay the rest of the day. That said, the drive home that night was pretty grim.
Our next race was the Velothon in Wales and, to add to my run of bad luck, the Team WIGGINS van was broken into in Cardiff the night before the race and my training bike plus a load of other bikes were stolen.
It goes without saying that this was a major sickening blow for any team, let alone a relatively small one like ours, and if you see any of our stuff out and about, obviously let us know.
We were still able to race and Chris Latham continued his good season for us with a fourth place while I tailed off towards the end which was probably to be expected as I hadn’t really been able to train since my crash.
All of which made my latest mishap all the more annoying in Stockton although this one was nothing to do with me. Another rider just turned into me and Jack Pullar and sent us flying.
Again I was able to get back on with a tow from a team car and was actually able to help Chris in the lead-out where he got second behind Brenton Jones who is having a great season.
Actually, I had done an interview with Cycle Vox before the race and tipped Chris and Brenton to be up for the win in a sprint finish so maybe there is a career waiting for me as a pundit when I finish racing.
I had to drive home afterwards and, again, that was a pretty painful experience as was sitting on a plane flying to Zurich today ahead of transferring to Livigno in Italy where we have a two-week track training camp.
I broke my wrist in a crash in Italy in 2008 and a crash in a Revolution track meeting last year was quite nasty because a leg wound became infected but, apart from those two, I’ve been quite lucky with accidents.
So, hopefully, above everything else, it will be a crash-free couple of weeks now in Italy.
One of the great things about this job is the chance to travel and see parts of the world we normally wouldn’t if we weren’t cyclists and this weekend is no exception as I head over to the Isle of Man for the first time in my life.
It’s the National Road Race Champs on Sunday and it’s not often you have to take a ferry to race at the nationals!
I’m really looking forward to my first visit to “The Rock” as the local lads call it. Of course, for Mark Cavendish and Pete Kennaugh it’s a chance to race on their own, home island which, I’m guessing, they won’t have done since they were kids.
The form Pete is in, especially, it’s not difficult to imagine one of those two will win but I always enjoy the Nationals, it’s one of the highlights of our calendar, and I have a feeling this one will be that little bit extra special.
Talking of Cav, and more specifically the Madison event that he’s so good at, he’ll have noticed that it’s been announced that the Madison is coming back to the Olympics, for Tokyo in 2020.
As a fan, I think it’s really exciting news and I’m glad, for the sport and track cycling fans everywhere, that one of the most fascinating and thrilling events we have will be back on the big stage.
It’s something I wouldn’t mind putting my hand up for, although obviously it’s a long way in the distance. But I did a lot of Six Day races, with Chris Latham, last winter and really enjoyed them.
It’s certainly something worth thinking about although, as with everything at British Cycling, the competition will be strong and deep. In any case, I’m just going to dip my toe in the water over this summer, riding a couple of Madisons in Germany and Switzerland with Dan McLay, just out of interest.
That’s all for the future. For the next few weeks at least, I’m concentrating on road races with the boys at Team WIGGINS.
After a fun weekend at the London Nocturne, last weekend was the Beaumont Trophy up in the north-east which I enjoyed, despite the fact it was 29 degrees and I hate racing in the heat!
I didn’t feel great at the start and missed an early break. But I managed to get in a later one as we started chasing although, unfortunately, we didn’t get organised and got no closer than a couple of minutes behind the lead group.
I’d trained through and actually had quite a hard session the day before which, looking back, wasn’t the best preparation but young Joey Walker rode brilliantly and got fifth for us so, all in all, what could have been a disastrous turned out not so bad.
As I mentioned, this weekend we move onto the Nationals and then we’re back for the Tour of the Reservoir next weekend so it’s all go at the moment and at least it does feel like I’m getting my road legs back a little bit. We’ll see.
Aside from a busy racing diary, the most exciting thing that has happened to me was buying a Mitre saw and expanding my handyman skills, building a planter for the garden and putting in an extractor fan. It's not the most glamorous way of spending my down time but I find it relaxing and quite rewarding ... who knows, maybe a new career is waiting for me after cycling.
Before then, there are hopefully a few more good races left in me, starting on "The Rock" this weekend.
Blenheim Bloodwise Triathlon and becoming a man of the RAS
So this is my first blog since the World Championships in Hong Kong last month and there is no sugar coating that particular experience - it was a disappointment, a big disappointment, both individually and as a team.
Ever since I missed out on selection for the Olympics, these Championships had been a big target and, for a variety of reasons, I was nowhere near the level I wanted to be or that I was at in London 12 months earlier where I won a silver and a bronze.
I was ill with quite a bad virus early in the new year, which probably cost me a month of training, but I’m not using that as an excuse - it’s part and parcel of sport.
And I think certain aspects of my training didn’t work which is something I’m addressing with our coaches.
I was way out of medal contention in the individual pursuit although I was quite happy with the opening 3km. It was just the final kilometre when I looked to press on that I discovered I just didn’t have the legs.
The team pursuit was slightly better, thanks to some great performances by some of the younger lads like Kian Emadi, and we came fourth. But overall the male endurance performances weren’t great.
The women enduros saved the day, though, and that was a major consolation - as was the display of the young men’s sprint squad. So, despite me being miserable, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
Anyway, the experience gave me food for thought and helped me re-focus on the summer season on the road with Team WIGGINS and, hopefully, a better showing at the Europeans in the autumn.
To that end, I’ve been training quite hard and my first WIGGINS race of the summer will be at the Lincoln Grand Prix next weekend which I’m really looking forward to.
I’ve also had a couple of promotional events to keep me occupied over the last few weeks.
I’ll be riding for WIGGINS in the Revolution Series later this year so we had a launch for that in Manchester where, bizarrely, the organisers had me and my old mate Ed Clancy taking part in a challenge so see who could construct a lego model quickest - spoiler alert: Ed cheated!!
I really enjoyed riding for my friends at Pedalsure last winter and I’ll still be working with them on other projects, but it will be nice to represent my road team on the track this season.
I’ve also got a Rapha appearance with WIGGINS at their Manchester store this Thursday so if anyone is in the vicinity it would be great if you pop in and say hello.
That aside, since Hong Kong it has been all about getting back into the routine of training and the odd job around the house - like some Ikea wardrobe construction - and, as the picture below proves, there was also an encounter with a HUGE snake near the house one day. It was like something out of a David Attenborough documentary although I’m relieved to say it was only a grass snake … I think.
Oh, and talking of nature, while I was away, my wife Lauren was in a local pet store one day and, unsurprisingly, failed to return empty-handed. So met the two latest additions to the Tennant zoo:
Anyway, I hope to see you out and about in the next few weeks on the roads or on appearances. Until then, ride safely
Just a brief blog this week from my hotel room in Hong Kong as we put the finishing touches to preparations for this week’s World Championships.
We flew in last Thursday and, once the couple of days of jet lag were out of our system, it has just been a case of tapering down ready for our event and trying to kill time without going too mad!
Jet lag got so bad for Steve Burke that he was going for a stroll at 3.30am on the first morning and as everyone who has ever travelled knows, it’s not a pleasant feeling.
But we were upgraded on the way out to bigger seats so that was a help and, all in all, the journey wasn’t too bad. Since then it’s been a case of going to the track, getting massages, playing computer games and making filter coffee that my mates at Workshop Coffee sent over for the trip.
It’s really humid here and we’re quite a way from the main city centre so we haven’t really had much chance to get out of the hotel room and see anything of the island. That might come on Saturday, which is my day “off” before I fly home on Sunday.
Before then we have (hopefully) three days of competition with the team pursuit on Wednesday and Thursday and the individual pursuit on Friday.
I think we’re all pretty happy with where we are in terms of preparation. The TP will be me, Burkey, Kian Emadi, Ollie Wood, Mark Stewart and, possibly, Matt Bostock if he recovers from a knee injury that has been bothering him.
The track takes a bit of getting used to - it’s more of a bowl shape than Manchester and when you enter the banking it tends to throw you up to the red line and, coming out of the banking, it throws you down onto the Cote d’Azur.
It’s also more bumpy than Manchester but, to be honest, it only took us a few minutes to adapt and the bowl shape actually helps in the individual pursuit, it gives you a bit more speed on the banking which helps as you’re dying off in the last few laps.
So it will be interesting to see how we go and, while I know we have a young team out here, I think a few of the men and women will surprise a lot of people.
I believe Eurosport and the BBC are both showing the Worlds so hopefully you’ll get a chance to see some of the action and maybe give us some support … hopefully, we’ll put in some decent performances for you.
Until then, wish us luck
I want to start this latest blog by paying a quick tribute to the one and only Joanna Rowsell Shand who’s announced her retirement since I last posted on here.
I really can’t speak highly enough of Jo, obviously in terms of her athletic achievement but, more importantly, as a friend and an inspiration to thousands of young girls and women.
Two gold medals and numerous world records at the last two Olympics is an amazing sporting achievement but, for me, Jo’s greatest achievement has been the way she has carried herself and represented the sport and her country around the world. A lot is made about women’s sport, about opportunities and role models for women today and, in my view, Jo is up there with female athletes like Laura Kenny and Jessica Ennis as one of the most inspirational stars this country has ever produced. I know if I ever have a daughter, I could do worse than tell her to look at Jo as an inspiration, whether in sport or in life.
I’ll miss our chats at the Velodrome and on various trips with GB to World Cups and World Championships but I’m also really happy for her because she is retiring on her terms, when the time is right for her, and I know she has lots of exciting new chapters to come.
I think I read that Jo has five track world titles to her name as well which brings me on to our latest attempt to land some rainbow jerseys in Hong Kong in a couple of weeks.
We’ve returned to the track properly this week after a long camp in Mallorca and we’ll know better in the next day or two where we’re at in terms of general form and our hopes of getting a medal, both in the team pursuit and the individual pursuit, which I’m riding.
It’s not been a perfect preparation for me, mostly because of a virus I had earlier in the year, but having said that, I don’t think I could have prepared any differently or any better. I reckon I’ve got myself in the best shape possible and that’s all you can ask for.
It’s going to be a very young team out there in Hong Kong - apart from yours truly! - so the medal haul won’t be as impressive as it possibly has been in the past but that’s the way it often is in the years after an Olympic Games when there has been the odd retirement or a rider taking some time off the track.
But it’s also an exciting chance to have a look at the next crop of talent coming through. I think we’ve all known for some time that the women’s team pursuit are producing an incredible conveyor belt of talent - which is just as well with Jo retiring and Laura taking time out to have a baby with Jason.
And the men’s team sprint might surprise a few people out in Hong Kong. Ryan Owens went to Rio as a reserve for the team sprint of Jason, Phil Hindes and Callum Skinner and, by all accounts, is an amazing prospect. And he’s not the only one. If I were a betting man, I’d have a look at the odds for the men’s team sprint out in Hong Kong.
Other than training, resting and trying to stay healthy, there has not been a lot to report recently.
I spent an enjoyable morning at Staffordshire University as a favour for a friend, being interviewed by a bunch of their journalism students. They were pretty good and gave me a real grilling, asking some awkward questions - I’m sure you can guess what about!
But aside from that - and keeping two in-heat dogs apart at our house (but that's another story)! - it’s all about the World Champs at the moment.
I’ll try and write again before they start but, in the meantime, wish me luck.
So, that was my twenties!!
Yes, I celebrated my 30th birthday here on our training camp in Mallorca and, to be honest, considering I couldn’t be with family and friends, it was an enjoyable day - even if it involved spending several hours in pain on a bike!
In all seriousness, being away at this time of year when it’s my birthday is something I’ve been used to, going back to when I was a kid.
Last year, I actually managed to be home for it for the first time in ages but the year before I was in Tenerife, which was terrible for reasons too long and boring to go into, and for all the big ones I have been away. My 21st, 25th and, now, my 30th, have been spent with a load of sweaty cyclists at some training camp or race somewhere.
It’s not great but, as I often say, that’s just one of the small prices we all pay for doing a job we love. In any case, the hotel management and GB staff here made a bit of a fuss which was nice of them and my wife Lauren sent me away with a magnificent Lego-themed birthday cake which me and my room mate Chris Latham got stuck into.
That was appreciated because we’re now getting close to the World Champs in Hong Kong so we’re on a low carbs, high protein diet right now so that cake was our last treat for a while.
But the first week here in Mallorca was good. Grim in terms of how hard the training was but good in terms of how we feel our form is progressing and the fact that the sun is out. Training in the sun, rather than the pouring, freezing rain, really is so much more beneficial for a variety of reasons and, on one of the first days, I even managed to pick up some mild sun burn it was so hot.
Mallorca is obviously a place popular with British cyclists, particularly at this time of year, and it's become a home away from home for a lot of us in recent years. I really enjoy coming here, despite a lot of painful memories and I've got to know the area quite well. It's quite nice to feel at home in a place and have your favourite coffee shops and restaurants. In this type of weather it's also nice to be able to walk around the town and get a break from the hotel - even if I almost got knocked over by a man walking his pig on Sunday! (True story: see photo below!)
While we’ve been here, GB have also named the squad for the World Champs and I think it’s fair to say there were not many surprises in there, at least for the endurance guys.
There are seven of us male enduros, with the six of us out here in Mallorca being joined by Matt Bostock for Hong Kong, and we’ve been training together off and on for the last few months so the squad pretty much picked itself, as it often does in these year after Olympics when some of the stars like Ed Clancy (happy birthday to him as well by the way) are taking a break from the track.
I think the plan is for Chris Latham to do the omnium in Hong Kong and I believe I’m doing the individual pursuit, but the rest of it is up for grabs, as is the line-up for our team pursuit squad out there.
Chris and I also have a date with the Mallorca Six Day this Friday when we’re riding a one-day final type event which promises to be brutal and should be a good way to wind up this training camp.
After that, it’s all about staying healthy and recovering from the training we’re doing because, before we know it, the Worlds will be on us and we’ll be in competition.
I can’t wait!
The Track World Championships are rapidly approaching so that means one thing - my life at the moment is pretty dull!
The training right now, six weeks or so before the Worlds in Hong Kong, is all track/turbo-based and power specific. So, more time spent in gym and less time on the road which, given the weather we’ve had here, is no bad thing.
We’re going back to Mallorca this week which is where we’ll get a block of road miles in but the upshot of all that is I’m in a constant state of exhaustion, fit for little more than lying on my bed after training sessions trying to rest up.
It’s all part of the process and also part of the life as a pro cyclist so it’s nothing new and I’m quite happy to go through it in the hope of winning a medal in either the team pursuit or individual pursuit in Hong Kong.
As to how my form’s going, the honest answer is, I don’t really know and a recent bout of sickness didn’t help. But after this last training camp coming up in Mallorca, I should have a better idea of how I’m going.
AsI mentioned, I've not been doing a huge amount of road miles and, given my luck with mechanicals of late, that's no bad thing. Twice I've managed to break my hand-built wheels, or more accurately the spokes, which takes some doing and, on one occasion, had me ringing my mum to come and pick me up on the road!
So, all that aside, there hasn’t been a lot else to report apart from a couple of domestic dramas like having to take Burt the Pug to the emergency vets - he recovered just fine, thanks - and my car being the victim of a hit and run outside my house in Wilmslow.
Actually, thanks to my neighbours, I was able to carry out a bit of CSI Wilmslow and a couple of weeks after it was hit I found out that some poor woman had blacked out at the wheel of a car in the early hours one morning and struck a load of parked cars, including mine.
Still, the upshot of that was my car went in for repair so I’ve had a bright purple courtesy car for the last few weeks which has earned me a fair amount of ridicule.
Socially, I’ve not been fit for much though I found a great new coffee spot in Longford Park in Chorlton, Caffeine and Co., which I recommend. And Lauren and I visited some friends who keep chickens and that meant Lauren was able to show us what a great chicken whisperer she is.
Talking of coffee, my obsession with it had been carrying out some pretty spectacular DIY at home this weekend, fixing a new water tap to my coffee machine. It wasn't pretty but the end result was what I wanted - and I managed to avoid serious injury! Sad to report, fixing that tap is about the most exciting thing that's happened to me in weeks.
With all my track commitments, it’s going to be a slow start to the year on the road for me, with my road employers Team WIGGINS but the lads have already kicked off their season.
You may also have seen the excellent adverts that one of our sponsors, Skoda, have done with Brad - really good. Those ads also showcase our new race kit which I think is really classy. It’s white with bands across it, as opposed to the red and blue we wore last season but I think the re-design works well.
We also have a new training kit for this season which has led to much debate over exactly what colour it is. I can confirm that it certainly looks green to me and, again, I can see it being really popular with WIGGINS fans - not least because it’s Rapha so the quality speaks for itself. I’ll see if I can get a jersey or two to give away in a competition once my road season starts.
Until then, it’s more pain and, hopefully, gain for me on the track in Manchester and the roads of Majorca. I’ll keep you informed of how it’s all going in a couple of weeks.
I don’t know if it’s a dog’s life being a cyclist or the other way round but, either way, my wife Lauren has had to put up with me and our pug Burt being ill these last couple of weeks!
I’m glad to report that a quick trip to the vet’s was all Burt needed to get him back on his four feet. For me, it wasn’t quite so simple.
My problem started straight after the Berlin Six which was a great, but exhausting, event.
After being ill in Amsterdam, my partner Chris Latham was absolutely flying and we actually led the whole field after three nights. Of course, Six Days being what they are, that meant we were marked men and, being the only Brits in the field, there were a few alliances formed to make sure we didn’t win the overall.
People seem to assume all Six Days are fixed. They’re absolutely not but what does happen is people make partnerships with other teams - often based on nationality - to try and mark other teams out of contention and that’s what happened with us.
The event was a lot of fun but not even having my Manchester house mate Phil Hindes there could help with a long, and very tiring week.
Phil, as you may know, makes really funny video diaries/vlogs and he did a couple in Berlin. One of them caught me at the track in a VERY grumpy mood one night after I found out seconds before an event started that they had changed the running order and I was massively over-geared for that particular race. They passed out printed instructions every night in English which was great but, quite often, they would change them as the day went on and they would only pass the new instructions out in German! So, I respectfully pointed this out to one of the commissaires and, of course, Phil captured the whole thing on camera!
We also managed a couple of enjoyable trips to various coffee places and, for once, Phil was actually useful for me … as an interpreter.
From there, we flew to Mallorca and I was meant to be riding in a GB team at the Challenge Mallorca road race although, by then, I had come down with whatever virus or flu it was that hit me.
It was really frustrating. I was happy with my form in Berlin but I had really severe flu symptoms and had to spend five days in Mallorca feeling as sick as a dog - well, as sick as Burt anyway.
Unfortunately, I had to start the third day to make up the numbers although I told everyone I would just do a couple of hours. Sure enough, I got dropped on the first hill so climbed off expecting the broom wagon to pick me up, only for it to drive straight past!
By the time I got to the feed zone all our soigneurs had left - because they assumed I was in the broom wagon - which led to one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I descended 15km but the way I wanted to go, into Soller, was closed because of an avalanche so I had to hitch hike back to Palma.
I managed to get a ride with a guy and we turned it into our own version of Carpool Karaoke - I remember Shakira, Katie Perry and one or two other classics being belted out - before I finally managed to get to Palma and ride back to the hotel.
The next day, I started, had a coughing fit and packed pretty much straight away and, ever since, I’ve not felt great if I’m honest.
I think the docs have got to the bottom of it and I’m feeling much better now but, with the World Champs in Hong Kong coming up in April, I hope I can bounce back quickly from it.
In fact the next couple of weeks are all about the track, in Manchester, before heading to Mallorca for a training camp in March in which Chris and I have also been invited to ride the Final in this winter’s Six Day series while we’re there.
I’ll keep you in touch with how things are going before I head over there.
So for those of you jealous of pro cyclists for being able to jet off to the “sun” on winter training camps, spare a thought for the GB track boys when we woke up on Tuesday to be greeted by this on the roads of Majorca:
To be fair, you won’t catch me complaining. As I’ve said many times before, I have my dream job and the best one in the world, being a professional cyclist, so I’m not going to moan about a little snow but, to be honest, if I’d know what it was going to be like, I could have stayed in Manchester where at least it wasn’t snowing.
That said, my mood wasn't helped by suffering a puncture on that same ride and giving myself a blister when I made a mess of changing it!
Shows you I'm out of practice and doing the important things in life - like swapping inner tubes.
In all honesty though, the weather was good the rest of the time so there really are no complaints about our week-long camp. It was a chance for the current team pursuit squad of myself, Kian Emadi, Steven Burke, Chris Latham and Ollie Wood to get in a block of good quality training.
It was a little tough mentally, being away from family and friends at home straight after the holidays, and I must admit this camp seemed to drag a little. Netflix received plenty of attention as I went through season six of “Suits” - which is very topical at the moment given the actress involved - and finally caught up with "Dexter."
There was also plenty of chance to catch up on another of my hobbies - coffee!
As a lot of you will know, cyclists can be obsessed with coffee making, and drinking of course, and I'm no exception. I even take my own machine with me on training camps like this one. I must do a blog on coffee at some point because a lot of people ask me about it but, for now, this is my new favourite. I's an Ethiopian called Kelloo. While here i have been brewing with my aeropress. I tired it as an espresso at home and it was massive hit of Orange Marmalade.
On the bike, the countdown is now on to the World Track Champs in Hong Kong in April so we are stepping up training and intensity.
The flurry of snow we got was also convenient given that I’m heading to Berlin today to ride the Six Day there with Chris Latham. Apparently, they have a lot of snow in that part of Germany at the moment so there will be no road riding, although given how hard those Six Days are, it’ll be full on just coping with the racing.
Hopefully, we can pick up a couple of wins like we did in the London Six Day and hopefully we're not unlucky with illness, like Chris was in the Amsterdam Six Day because these are fun events, and an important part of our winter training programme.
While the cat's away . . . . . . Crankphoto will play !
If you were wondering, Andy is currently away on racing duties. He’s asked me if I could provide some content for his blog. Content is something you probably already know about me – I’m a long time collaborator, providing race images as well as some other pictures you might have seen recently on Andy’s blog and on Facebook. I ‘do’ the odd wedding for example.
I’m Chris Keller-Jackson, a Photo Journalist, and have worked in the Cycling Industry for over 15 years, working both on the business and consumer side of the trade. This has taken me far and wide, Taiwan, America, Germany – but mainly Manchester. I’m based in the North West of England so Manchester and its Velodrome are not a hardship to get too.
Whilst I have experience in Road, BMX, Mountain Biking and Track, photographically I do specialise in Track, and have a gallery at the Velodrome, as well as 3 previous exhibitions. Track has become a bit of a passion and it was the Revolution Series where I first met Andy and his now wife, Lauren. Andy has always been a very capable rider and always puts the effort in (I’m not even being paid to say that !) and I think he first came fully onto my radar in 2012 wearing a stripey jumper alongside long term friend, Ed Clancy. Andy had a Custom painted Condor bike by Chris Grove at Performance Race Art and he asked me to shoot it. I captured the bike (Capt. Andy Tennant – who made him an officer ?) as well as some cool racing action from the boys.
Since then, Andy has been a good friend and a great subject to photograph ! He’s not only expressive with his exertions (some great grimace action !) but he’s not head down like some other riders. This means I get animated shots, in the ‘change’ or digging deep into a bend. Being an approachable guy helps, and like most track riders of his calibre, he’s great around the public and is happy to chat and spend time with others. As Andy is a well known rider, I often get requests from sponsors for images to be used in advertising and for promotional purposes.
Andy was a shy photographic subject when I first met him – he was a ‘Blinker’ and I would sometime end up with dud images as a result. On track he often wears Oakley shades which helps, Thankfully we are over that now, having done shoots with him in Alderley Edge, London and for his Wedding last year in non racing situations, he’s become a much better subject. Lauren on the other hand is a natural.
I’m currently working on updating my website, if you want to check out some of my work (I don’t just photograph Andy !), just go to www.crankphoto.co.uk ,or follow me on Twitter or Instagram @crankphoto. Would love your feedback.
I thought I’d get in a last blog before the end of the year and all the festivities start - not least because January promises to be a really busy month for me and who knows when I’ll find time to write again?
Christmas and New Year is a funny time for sportsmen and women because you still have to think about your job, the training, the diet and, to be honest, that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a small price to pay.
I’m not a drinker at all and never have been although the few people who witnessed my performance on my stag do a couple of months ago will tell you how I can knock them back when I’m in the mood … (not really!)
So I’ll have the odd drink to be sociable over Christmas and on New Years Eve we will probably go round to some friends and the rest of my time will be taken up with a normal block of training.
That’s just as well because early in the new year we’re off to Majorca for a GB camp and the Challenge Majorca four-day road race, straight into the Berlin Six Day then back to Majorca for more training and the Majorca Six Day. So January is pretty much all going to be away from home in training and competition.
Sadly, that means I’ll miss the National Track Champs this year which is a shame because my house mate Phil Hindes and I were talking about it the other day and having one of our usual “endurance riders versus sprinters” arguments.
The upshot was an argument about what distance we could race that would be a fair test for both of us. As cycling fans will know, Phil is an amazing sprinter and the best man one in the world in the team sprint - he can do the opening lap in under 17 seconds which is unreal.
It’s also a little faster than I can do but, as I like to tell Phil, he’s done after one lap whereas us pursuiters have to do another 15.
So in the end, I reckoned a four-lap race - the kilo - would be about fair and I’ve laid the challenge down for the Nationals the year after next to take him on. He’s been called out now, so there’s no backing down. Put the date in your diary - Track Nationals 2018, Tennant v Hindes in the kilo.
Lauren and I have been back in Wilmslow for a few days this week because I’ve had some track sessions in Manchester, so it’s been great to catch up with Phil because I’ve not seen him since our wedding in October.
We walked back in the house to find Phil’s new hobby is roasting his own coffee so the place smelled fantastic. I’ve suggested “Fifi,” as we call him (it comes from “Phil”), should forget about track riding and concentrate on coffee roasting as a business. “Fifi and Co.” has a nice ring to it so if anyone would like to partner with Phil in his coffee import/export/roasting business, let us know.
Onto more serious matters and the Amsterdam Six Day was a bit of a write-off for me after my partner Chris Latham came down with a chest infection on the opening day. Once it because obvious he wasn’t going to recover in the 36 hour window you’re allowed, all I had left to do was enjoy Amsterdam and ride a few derny races - in which I did pretty well, getting a win and a couple of second places.
I also had the chance to do some commentating with Ned Boulting while I was there which was a great experience and, I have to say, a lot harder than it looks.
Like most people, I always criticise commentators when I’m watching sport, but I have a new-found respect for Ned and his kind. Even though I’d been racing against all these guys a day or two earlier, I found identifying a lot of them was really hard but thankfully Ned is the ultimate pro and helped me through it. Fortunately, I was there more for my technical expertise than my commentary skills.
Since getting back from there, it’s been a case of knuckling down in training and, the last few days, starting to plan for Christmas. Lauren and I braved the Trafford Centre the other day but, I must admit, after 10 minutes we gave up and went to Wagamama’s for lunch. So, while I’m a fan of spending time with family and friends at Christmas, it’s fair to say I’m not overly-keen on the commercialism and hours wasted shopping.
Anyway, whatever you like about the holidays, I hope you get everything you wish for and have a great 2017.
Until the new year, take care
This week’s blog comes live from my hotel bed in Amsterdam where I’m trying to get a few hours sleep before the start of tonight’s latest Six Day extravaganza here in Holland.
I must admit, the early flight this morning was hardly ideal preparation for what promises to be the first of six brutally hard nights for me and my partner Chris Latham but hopefully come race time I’ll feel a bit more lively.
I’m going to need it, it’s going to be a hard week - similar format to the London Six but with two Madison races per night, instead of the one we had there - so it will take its toll.
We’re also coming off the last two weekends of Revolution Champions League series where I was pleased that Iljo Keisse and myself were able to clinch second spot behind Ed Clancy and Jon Mould in the final standings for Team PedalSure.
I think we made a race of it. The format wasn’t particularly helpful for us because, with it being a team event, all Ed and Jon had to do was mark us once they had a lead and it was nigh impossible for us to overtake them.
Still, we made a contest of it, at least, and won the last two races so it was nice to reward PedalSure for their investment in the event and the sport in general by giving them a few podiums and a bit of exposure over the two weekends in Manchester and London.
I think PedalSure have some exciting plans to extend their involvement in cycling next year - and not just at the pro level - so hopefully I can keep you informed about that when it happens.
As for the new Champions League format that the Revs have adopted, it was obviously the first year so you can still count it as the experimental stage. Some things about it worked, others didn’t.
They invited road teams and changed the events to try and cater for them but, possibly because it’s out of season for the road guys, they didn’t really feature as prominently as organisers might have liked.
The three sessions - Friday night, Saturday afternoon and night - might also drag things out a bit for some people’s liking and I’d like to see a bit more thought go into some of the events.
For example, I loved the elimination scratch race we did - a few laps of the devil and then 10 laps of a scratch race for the survivors. That was far more fun to ride - and, I guess, watch - than yet another 20km scratch race.
But I’m being a bit picky. Both weekends were well supported, there was some great racing - at least when Ed would let us! - and the event grows from strength to strength.
Something else I’ve noticed growing in quality this year is the standard of photography we get in our sport today.
Maybe it’s always been there and I’m only noticing more now that I am writing this blog, but I’ve been stunned by the quality of track racing photos and photographers that are out there.
I mention it because Russ Ellis, who I know from his work with WIGGINS, Sky and Rapha, sent me the amazing picture I’ve put at the top of this blog.
If you remember, at the London Six, I used some images from Matt Grayson, Allan Stone and Trevor Gornall at Conquista magazine.
A track is such a relatively small area and the background can be pretty dull and repetitive, I wouldn’t have thought you could get such dramatic and dynamic pictures on such a regular basis but all these guys do it.
Another personal favourite - and a good friend of mine - is Chris Keller-Jackson who has an amazing eye for track cycling and always seems to get the perfect pic at the perfect time.
It you’re a fan of Instagram, get on there and check Chris and these guys out … they really are some of the best in the business:
@crankphoto (that's Chris), @cyclingimages (that’s Russ), @stoneallanstone, @mattgrayson_photo, @conquistacc
Until then wish me luck in Amsterdam and give me a shout on Eurosport if you’re watching!
After a couple of weeks off, it’s back to the track this weekend at the Manchester Revolution where I’m riding for my “other” team PedalSure.
I have to say, it will be nice to get indoors for a couple of days given the weather we’ve all had to put up with over the past week or two - although I’d rather do a couple of hours in the cold, wind and rain than have to sit on rollers for hours on end.
Back to the track though and, as I’ve said before, the Revolution meetings are always among my favourite events of the cycling year.
There are plenty of familiar faces, in the stands and on the track, and the atmosphere tends to be more relaxed than at “major” championships.
Don’t get me wrong, Revolutions are still insanely competitive but maybe not quite ridden off with the high-intensity, pressure you get at Worlds or, even, Nationals.
This round of the Revolutions, which moves on to London next week, has a new structure this season, with the so-called “Champions League” round bringing in a bunch of pro teams and specialist road endurance riders, with racing over two nights, Friday and Saturday.
That means a change to the race format as well with fewer timed, shorter events and more endurance-based bunch races - points, scratch, elimination.
So that promises to make the next couple of weekends particularly hard although I’m lucky that PedalSure have partnered me with Iljo Keisse who’s an absolute track racing legend. He’s one of the most experienced guys on the track scene today and a great partner to have in the team events. I think he’s won the Ghent Six Day six times in his career which tells you all you need to know about how good he is. In fact, he came third in this year’s Ghent Six last week with Elia Viviani.
Talking of the Ghent Six Day, last week’s event was noteworthy, of course, because it saw Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish win it in what was Brad’s last competitive race … probably!
I have ridden for Brad’s Team WIGGINS for the past couple of years so I’m obviously going to be biased but you have to say that the bloke has been an absolute legend and done a great amount for the sport of cycling in this country.
I’m lucky, not only that our careers have over-lapped a little bit, but that I’ve been able to ride on the same team as him - both with WIGGINS and also on the GB team pursuit team a few times, most recently when we won silver at the World Championships earlier this year.
I think that will be something to tell the grandkids about one day. I noticed one newspaper published a list of their all-time top British cyclists the other week and had Brad at number one. I think it’s pretty hard to argue against that and I expect it to stay that way for a good few years to come.
Certainly, in terms of versatility, Brad has won everything from individual pursuit titles over 4km to the Tour de France over 3,500km - that shows a pretty impressive range of abilities in my book.
Also, I can’t let the blog pass without wishing bon voyage to another former GB trackie - the sprinter Matt Crampton who has announced his retirement from international track racing.
Anyone who has come across Matt in his many years with the GB programme knows what a top guy he is - and what a great rider he is/was. If he had been born in any other era of the sport - or in pretty much any other nation - he would have been a regular at every Worlds and Olympics for the past few years but, unfortunately for him, he was born in an era when he had to compete with the best in the world in his own squad in the likes of Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Phil Hindes and, now, Callum Skinner.
I’m sure he’ll be a huge success at whatever he does in the future and everyone in the sport will be wishing him all the best. He'll be a big miss at the National Cycling Centre.
So that was my first - and last - World Cup race of the winter and, I have to say, I was pretty pleased with how it went - especially in the team pursuit where we won gold.
We were a pretty young team - apart from me of course! - with Ollie Wood, Kian Emadi, Mark Stewart and Matt Bostock and those guys were absolutely fantastic.
It’s funny how I suddenly feel like the old man of the team but, if there was any doubt about the future of British Cycling, those lads answered the question brilliantly. Okay, it might not have been an Olympics or a World Champs but there were some quality teams there - including the recent European Champions France - and those youngsters beat everyone.
In fact it was the same across the board and the effort of the young women in Glasgow was just astonishing.
People keep asking me how British Cycling do it, consistently produce new generations of riders year after year, and there is no simple answer, just many, many factors behind the scenes and a lot of people putting in a lot of hard work to help GB remain the world’s best track cycling nation. Long may it - and they - continue.
For me, it was especially pleasing as my training had been very inconsistent in the build-up to Glasgow. I had my wedding and all the festivities around that and, to be honest, for once in my life, I had taken the decision to put my personal life ahead of my cycling life for a few weeks.
I have no regrets about that - how could I after having a dream wedding to Lauren, surrounded by all our family and friends?
But the best thing was that my lack of preparation didn’t hurt us in the team event and I helped us win gold. In fact, I was probably going better than I expected I would be and I picked up the qualifying points I needed for the winter so I can now hopefully concentrate on getting fit for next year’s World Championships in Hong Kong.
Four years ago, after London, I remember our first race in a World Cup meeting ended in a crash so this was a vast improvement. I started man one and Kian went man two in our first ride and we managed a 1:03 first kilo which wasn’t bad considering that Kian’s wheel slipped on the start line and, as I was pulling out of the gate, you can see me turning around and wondering what’s happening.
That sort of pace didn’t bother the younger lads and we qualified fastest before young Matt Bostock took my place in the second ride and I came back to help us beat France in the final.
The only other event I rode in Glasgow was the individual pursuit and that’s where my lack of preparation did catch up with me.
That said, I was hoping to do a “22” - a 4 minute 22 - and that’s exactly what I did. I started too fast and paid for it in the end but, even if I had paced it better, I might only have shaved a second off and maybe finished fifth.
As it was, I came seventh but I left it all out there and could have no complaints. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to hide in an individual pursuit. If you’re riding a scratch or points race, you can hide away a bit, take it easy if you’re struggling. There’s no doing that in the IP.
Still, the weekend was great - big crowds, loud support and another successful competition for GB so thanks to everyone who came to support us.
This weekend I have the rarity of a weekend without racing although I’m looking to do a decent block of training ahead of hitting the track again for the Revolution Champions League stages when I’ll be riding for PedalSure with Iljo Keisse.
There are races in Paris, Manchester and London over three weekends, starting November 18-19, and a lot of the big road teams are sending their guys over.
They should be great events. Hopefully I might see you at one of them … come over and say hi if you’re there.