So 2017 turned out to be a pretty amazing year of cycling experiences and adventures. I was lucky to cycle in some incredible places around the world including Flanders, the Alps, Tuscany and Sicily. I also had time to give some attention to this blog and nearly hit my target of one post a month – this will be my 12th of 2017. Looking back across the year I pretty much achieved everything I wanted to on the bike. Here’s my reflection on 2017…
1) My best performance
I probably hit my best form of the year at the Surrey League Dunsfold and Cutmill road races in June. After getting my arse kicked in early season races I was feeling a bit demoralised with road racing. I had been doing cat 2/3 races across March and April, including the Surrey League May Stage Race, three days of tough racing where I was dropped or struggling to finish with the bunch. I took a break after the stage race refocused with a decent block of training, including a tough week in Sicily for the Giro d’Italia.
With two 3rd cat races in June I peaked at pretty much the perfect time. I managed to win at Dunsfold from a bunch sprint on a very hot day, hitting the finishing hill around 6th wheel and then kicking late and passing everyone over the plateau. The following week I felt pretty good at Cutmill and spent the most of the race riding on the front, controlling the pace for the three we had up the road in the breakaway. Although it’s tough at the time, getting your arse kicked in tough races definitely helps in the long term!
Win at Dunsfold – https://www.strava.com/activities/1042617520
2) Most enjoyable ride
This is a tough one… I was lucky to do some great rides in Belgium, France and Italy this year, including Lombardia in memory of Mazza with an awesome bunch of Kingston Wheelers. The one that stands out is probably Siena to Montepulciano with Maria Grazia, a tough but incredible day riding most of the strade bianche gravel roads in Tuscany. After a long day in the sun we finished at a beautiful agriturismo in Totona just outside of Montepulciano. Whilst Maria Grazia slept, I nipped off to a local vineyard to grab a bottle of the local wine and we ate pasta and drank wine on the terrace as the sun set over the hills. I need to give a special mention to Simon from Bicissimo for the route planning and advice.
Siena to Montepulciano – https://www.strava.com/activities/1097714062
3) Most epic day on the bike
As a single day on the bike the obvious stand out ride was the Everesting I did on Mount Etna. Mentally it was a real challenge to ride for 16 hours in the saddle, as well as physically demanding with the temperature hitting 30 degrees at lunchtime, before getting pretty cold for the final two reps. Not only that but it was the build up to the ride that added a level of pressure and expectation that I hadn’t experienced before, organising the video and working with partners in the lead up to the day, all in another language. I had a mega crew on the day handing me bottles and supporting which definitely helped and created a nice moment that was talked about by the wider cycling community in Sicily. I’m already planning the next one; something special in the UK in 2018.
Everesting Etna – https://www.strava.com/activities/1187313303
4) Toughest day on the bike
Always a hard day in the saddle, I found the Etape du Tour especially tough this year. I felt a little off colour going into it and stupidly took a concentrated beetroot shot on the morning of the ride, making my stomach churn all day. To throw another excuse into the mix it got pretty hot, as it often does in the Alps in July and my feet swelled in my cycling shoes, resulting in a painful ride for most of the day. By the Izoard I was riding with my shoes totally unstrapped.
Last time I did the Etape I felt pretty elated by the top and was able to give it the beans for the last few kilometres up the Toussuire. However this time it was more a crawl to the finish and a strange feeling of emptiness. I must give an honorable mention to my brother Tim who was a good 20 minutes quicker than me on the day, perhaps the trash talking beforehand wasn’t the best idea! I won’t be able to make it in 2018, but I’ll definitely be back (with wide fit shoes) for another crack in the near future.
Etape du Tour – https://www.strava.com/activities/1086211175
5) Best riding buddy
Checking Strava’s end of year summary confirmed my most prolific training partner as The Barbarian. We rode a total of 94 hours together, with a big chunk of that coming from one ride! Chris came out to Italy in October to join me for the Sicily 1000, a non-stop dash around the island in under 48 hours. Our preparation for the ride was pretty lackadaisical, including Chris having to get his hub hammered back into useable condition the day before the ride. It was invaluable having Chris along for the ride; having previously done lots of long distance riding he imparted a great deal of audax knowledge and made me consider a different way of cycling.
Long distance riding can have a profound effect on the monddefitniely takes you to a higher level of consciousness. We were pretty evenly matched throughout the ride, which was a bonus, although there were inevitable mistimed peaks and troughs and we had to split a couple of times. If he’s up for it I look forward to riding London-Edinburgh-London together in 2021.
Sicily 1000 – https://www.strava.com/activities/1250126086