Where did it all start?
June 2009 I purchased a Specialized Allez with a triple chainset (I figured I’d need that). I’d watched some Lance Armstrong clips, read the book, soon I felt it was my turn to chase my dreams. I wasn’t an athlete, I’d never been into competitive sport and after 3 years at Newcastle University my cardiovascular system was in tatters.
The first ride was Hell on Earth. 18 miles of pain, pure suffering, I wanted it to be over from the first pedal stroke – I’d not ridden a bicycle for several years, so even the simple things like indicating with my arms was an effort. Up the final, colossal (small) hill I felt both legs seize up; full of cramp I limped home. I hated the ride but once I got home, I loved it. I’d earnt the shower, earnt the nap, earnt food – it had a purpose – emptying myself allowed me to relax. I slept for about 3 hours after that short trip (it lasted 2 hours with brief breaks).
And so a trend followed – I napped for twice as long as my rides lasted.
A few weeks later I’d already achieved a near 40 mile ride (again with intense cramp).
I loved climbing hills in particular, for the first time I felt like something came fairly naturally to me. Now I know there is very little talent in my legs but back then I honestly believed I’d be a Tour de France giant – great times when I look back.
After the summer of 2009 was over, I didn’t ride the bicycle for a number of months, actually until Feburary 2010 and this is the point when casual riding, no aim, and fun became more serious. Working 9-5 was leaving a little aggression that needed to be burnt off. I was doing 2-5 hours a week by April and had done my first half century (a notable achievement to all beginner cyclists). I was building up to a local sportive, the Big G, down on The Wolds; a hilly area of East Yorkshire. 600 people would be there, I couldn’t humiliate myself!
Sportive day was soon round, late July, what followed was 67 miles of up and down – close to the end you have to ride up a wall, 10% gradient for 1 mile…to achieve the “Gold Standard” I needed to do the 67 miles in sub 4 hours 15 minutes – once over the wall, I gave it everything. In fact, at one point, alone, in a valley, I dug so deep I could see myself cycling as if I was a bird looking down…that final push was hard. A cyclist with limited training miles only has a few matches to burn, I’d burnt them all 30 miles back…
…but I made it. Home in 4 hours. Yes. I was “Gold Standard” and in only a short time…maybe I could win the Tour, or at the very least a stage.