Amazingly, the other day, I received an email. Yes, one. This was a truely great occasion. It was one of those emails that said they liked what I was doing in the blog (Hurray!) until it came to the largest paragraph, which of course began with ‘but’ (boo).’ Aside from the usual complaints, which are a myriad of ‘stop being cruel to Sky’, ‘Jonathan Vaughters is a saint’ and ‘Lance is Satan reincarnate’, the odd one out was one asking exactly who I am and what exactly I’ve done in cycling.
I’ve never really thought this would be if interest to be anyone and fully anticipate this becoming the least viewed page on this site, predominately because I am exceptionally boring and also because really, who cares? Especially when we could be talking about the guts and glory of Cyclo-Cross as that kicks off again, or trying to find reasons why the Tour of Beijing is worth putting on as a race. But so that I don’t get accused of ignoring the ‘customer’ or something like that, here’s a very short round up of my cycling career.
My name, as you may have worked out from the ‘hilarious’ pun on ‘bicycle’ that is the title of this blog, is Simon. I’m currently 21, and am at University in London, in my final year. I am however from Newcastle upon Tyne, although I was born in Nottingham, and lived in Toronto, Canada for a year. I also spent 6 months of my degree in North Carolina. When I’m not working away at a history degree and struggling to scrape a 2:1 whilst watching everyone else amble to firsts whilst the media tells everyone a 2:1 is pathetic, I’m either cycling, watching cycling, planning where to cycle, cooking, eating, sleeping, or reading. Arthur C. Clarke is my favourite author. The Killers or Hurts are my favourite bands. Like everyone, I think I could write a best selling novel. So yeah, I’m pretty boring in the long run.
Anyway, cycling. I got into it, like many people my age, because of Lance Armstrong, and watching him destroy the Tour de France. These were the rosy days where I was awed they could even ride up these incredible mountains that my mind expanded to gargantuan proportions, projecting epic coils of slithering tarmac up titanic mounds of earth that stretch to the clouds. Unfortunately, I’ve since rode up a couple of the mountains (more on that later), which ruins this a bit, as you know where they are and like everything, its never quite as you build it up to be (apart from the scenery). Tom Boonen in his World Champions jersey, aided by the Dutch side of my family being very keen on him as well, then built on the foundations Lance laid and soon I was off, chugging along at the back of Gosforth Road Club in Northumberland every Saturday, usually getting pushed up hills by Colin Humphrey. I’d done sport before, Rugby, but was truely appalling at it, as the various members of the school and club teams I was on would be happy to confirm if they could remember who I was. As a winger/centre/fullback, I usually just stood around on the edges until some 16 stone beast introduced me to the cold, squelchy mud of Northern playing fields, which sucks and squeals at you then congeals in a cooling mass about your knees. Joys.
Sad as it was to leave the rugby field, I eventually just did cycling, whilst playing Hockey for my school (I was pretty bad at that as well, and so eventually went in goal where I wouldn’t be in the way of everyone having a good time), and somehow, got a little better. Eventually, I was even with the ‘longer/faster’ group that Gosforth had (We still haven’t quite figured out which one of those two it is), and lo and behold, even got to the line for the Cafe sprint first a couple of times. Heady days indeed. Some of the members suggested I try a race, and pointed out one I should enter and try. I even did 7pm Wednesday night training session in zero degree ‘heat’ to see how it would be. I expressed reservations as to how I would, as usual, be a bit rubbish, but was told I’d be fine (yes, I am trying to pass a bit of the blame for the upcoming disaster here).
Of course, when I turned up, I had no idea how racing even worked, and only that I had a 4th Cat license. Even this meant nothing aside from that it was the lowest ranking avaliable. I hadn’t even entered a time trial at this point, I should note. The race was ranked 2/3/4, which means, in simple terms, that I was screwed. Basically, it meant I, a complete newcomer, was up against people who were trying to get into the category below elite. Without a handicap. Of the 8 laps, I started in the middle, was at the back by the first corner (I am truly awful at cornering), and was dropped at the finishing line, which for some reason in Britain is always on a hill. 6 laps of self loathing followed, and just to rub it in, I was caught on my penultimate lap as the field came through to contest their sprint finish, and had to pull over to let them through. To add further insult to injury, I then punctured on the finishing straight, meaning that as everyone congratulated each other and warmed down, they were also looking bemused at the sight of me fixing a puncture hurriedly and setting off again to do the final lap. The race organiser was about to leave by the time I finished, and asked cheerfully if I’d be back the next week. I of course told him yes, and have so far never raced again.
That’s a slight lie – I’ve done two internal club road races, a few time Trials, and a couple of hill climbs, as I’ve detailed below, but nothing ‘proper’. After horrendously failing my A-levels and changing subjects to History, English literature and the like, I had basically by this point proved that there was nothing I was particularly good at in life and that I thus shouldn’t get in the way of people who were actually talented by, say, racing. This was proved when, in a ‘faster’ group ride on a Saturday, I touched wheels with the person in front and in doing so brought down a few cat 2 and 1 racers, who needless to say, where not best pleased, but luckily, I’d only destroyed my bike, not theirs, and had lost the most skin.
So instead I turned to sportives, which you just do to finish, and where you can just ride along with my Dad, whose the most helpful cyclist I know (aside from dropping me continually when I was younger, and still at it now!), and have so far completed the following – The Northern Rock/Virgin Money Cyclone (2012, 2011, 2009, 2008), The BikeRadar sportive (2009), the Cumberland Challenge (2009), the Etape du Tour Modane-Alpe d’Huez (2011), the Paris-Roubaix Challenge (2011) and the Paris-Roubaix Cyclo (2012), the latter undoubtedly being the most painful as I crawled across the cobblestones being utterly battered into tears. The Etape was probably the most fun, given it’s nice to climb mythical mountains you’ve dreamt about for years, especially when it turns out you can climb them quite fast compared to the other people there (but then get passed by them all on the downhill – see aforementioned comment on cornering ability). The checklist for future years includes the Milan-San Remo sportive, the Madonna del Dolomites, the Alpine and Pyrennean Raids, and just riding climbs like the Stelvio, Gavia, Mortitolo, Ventoux etc.
So there you have it. If you want to look at how slowy I’m going, you can follow me on Strava if you want – I even have some King of the Mountains, although I seem to be hemorrhaging them at the moment, all by 1-3 seconds.
Saltwick Circuit 2009 – Last placed finisher
12th June 2009 Leazes Park Go Race: 11th/20
Gosforth Road Club Road Race 2011: 14th/20
Gosforth Road Club Road Race 2012: 9th/15
Gosforth Road Club Hill Climb 2009: Unfortunately lost in the archives some where
Gosforth Road Club Hill Climb 2010: See above
Gosforth Road Club Hill Climb 2011: 8th/36
I would have included the placings, but the club that had them up has just changed their site, so the times off Strava will have to suffice:
6th May 2010, Ponteland 10M: 27:58 (21.45mph)
20th May 2010: Ponteland 10M: 28:35 (20.99mph)
12th August 2010: Ponteland 10M: 27:06 (22.14mph)
16th June 2011: Ponteland 10M: 26:05 (23.00mph)
17th June 2011: Edmundbyers 14.3M: 1:01:38 – DNF (Punctured, took 11 mins to fix then couldn’t be arsed to be honest)
30th June 2011: Ponteland 25M: 1:04:05 (23.40mph)
14th July 2011: Ponteland 10M: 24:42 (24.29mph)
17th August 2011: Cramlington 10M: 24: 23 (24.60mph)
1st August 2012 Cramlington 10M: 23:08 (25.93mph)
2009 Bike Radar (100m) – 7:14:03
2009 Cumberland Challenge (105M) – 7:41:42
2008 Northern Rock Cyclone (100m) : 8:05:35
2009 Northern Rock Cyclone (101m) – 7:19:55
2011 Northern Rock Cyclone (108m) – 6:18:46
2012 Virgin Money Cyclone (104m) – 6:29:16
2011 Paris-Roubaix Challenge (87.3M) – 5:21:54
2011 Etape du Tour Modane-Alpe d’Huez (70.7M) – 5:07:50 (978th/6441 overall, 144th/454 age category)
2012 Paris-Roubaix Cyclo (130M) – 8:23:44