Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The swanny

Soigne. (French). “To look after.”
Soigneur. (Also French) “Welfare man”

Of course us bikies know that the Soigneur is the engine room behind every professionals success. They’re the person who fills the bidons, makes the sarnies, cuts the energy bars in half, fills the musettes and stands on the side of the road (in the feed station if they’re lucky) to pass lunch up to their rider(s) and then drives to the finish with spare clothes, more food and massages tired legs before starting it all again the next day.

Well, I’m here to tell you that even fat and fifty midfield laggards like me can benefit from a good swanny. I have one of the best in the business and here’s why.
1. During my recent trip to Manchester I took my personal swanny. This was a good move in parts only. I got a bottle every time I came off the track, spare glasses when I needed them and a flat fixed (yes even on the boards they happen). HOWEVER. . . . all the other riders were somewhat jealous, to the point of “ooh get you” when I got handed clean glasses to loan to a rider who’d forgotten his.
2. Last Sunday was bloody cold, muddy and pretty grotty all round. Oh and did I mention the rain? So what does the birthday girl say when I look out of the window and decide to go back to bed?
“Get up, you need the points. I’ll come and hold your jacket in the blistering cold for an hour while you have fun collecting stinky mud to bring into the house later, Oh and would you like your energy drink now?”
3. And let’s not forget a vital role in the ECCA 12 hour, without which I may well have packed at about the 7 hour point.
So like I say, if you want to get ahead, get a soigneur. Top Totty or what???

Monday, 26 January 2009

A very gloopy day

It rained cats and dogs all Saturday night. Watery Lane was flooded (No! Really!) but we still rode 'cross yesterday. The pics don't show it but we had more than 20 riders for a few quick laps round Eric's brand new swimming pool. Once I'd got home, stripped off and been hosed down the kitchen floor was coated in a tick layer of gloopy mud. Bloody good fun though.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Why do we have winter?

During the snow and ice of the last week at least 2 of the Southend Wheelers have tasted tarmac and I have no intention of joining them in casualty so tomorrow its load the car and DRIVE to the Maldon club 'cross meeting. It's only 12 miles away and I've never considered not riding out and back. Even after headbutting a tree during a race a couple of years ago and getting a funny head I rode home afterwards. But having almost gone base over apex a couple of times just walking poochie through the woods this afternoon, my normal invincibility has taken a back seat and so we're driving it. If it doesn't warm up a bit I can see me riding with BKW and roubaix tights and generally wrapped up so warm that the dismounts will be followed by a short waddle and several attempts to remount the bike. It looks like the comedy quotient will be extremely high so anyone wanting a laugh at my expense is welcome.
This weather had better mean we're in for a good summer. The race calendars are out and despite there not being many local audaxes this year I'm hoping for a couple of 100 mile TTs and a crack at the club 12 hour record of 224 miles. I managed 214 and threequarter at my first attempt in 07 which brings me back to a bloody good reason to stay of the bike until until the Good Lord sees fit to turn the global warming on again 'cos its going to be a long season. The pic shows me avoiding that tree last year while holding off a load of riders queueing up to pass me.

Thursday, 1 January 2009


On Saturday we drove to Manchester Velodrome for a day of track accreditation training. I’ve been stressing about this for a while as it entails 5 hours on the track, culminating in a “mock” race and laps behind a Derny As you will see from previous posts I have been concerned about a lack of fitness, enough to get through the full day anyway.

On Saturday evening I got onto the track with Bob Barber, a clubmate and the manager of the track. We circled on the stayers line doing alternate laps for about 30 minutes, joined by Jennifer, a relative novice rider who was also booked for the full accreditation the following day. With a 50x16 gear lapping at evens was no problem but I was surprised to be sharing the track with a number of first timers, many of whom were wearing jeans and trainers! Continually passing female “builders bums” at twice their speed became quite off-putting after a while, but it proves that cycling has become extremely popular of late. Once the session was over we all went to Cathy’s (Bob’s partner) where she had prepared a pasta dinner perfect for carbo loading for the following day. It was good to catch up with bob and Cathy and all too soon it was time to get back to the hotel for some shuteye.

28th December 2008 - 07:30 hrs.

It was bloody freezing (literally) waiting to get into the velodrome. Once the doors opened the other 15 candidates for accreditation begin to leach out of the woodwork and soon we were all meeting and introducing ourselves to the coaches. During the following hours we did lumps and bumps (at quite a high speed), half lap changes, riding and changing in pairs, through and off in ball formation as in traditional club runs – and yes, we still do it in the Wheelers - and chasing half laps. The day ended with a mock race of 24 laps. Once the split went I managed to get on but couldn’t stay with them. I also managed to stay on the derny quite well so apart from a bit of top end speed I’m going as well as I should be.

The day ended with a debrief from the coaches both of whom had been good humoured and professional all day except for one point when instead of changing into a “square dance” routine by swinging up from the low string to the front of the upper string to allow the lower string to circulate forward, one rider dropped to the sprinter line to spiral the lower string off the track. Total and utter chaos ensued and sensing panic in the coaches shouted instructions we dropped swiftly off the track for a group bollocking. That demonstrated exactly what we had been taught earlier in the day about knowing what we are doing and safe riding. Despite this small hiccup we all got our accreditation tickets and then, after showering and changing, drove home happy but tired.