Who wasn’t looking forward to seeing the back of winter 2021? That’s right… nobody. For 18 months all we saw was hope running towards the horizon with its arse on fire. We’ve all been looking forward to a spring where Covid restrictions are being lifted and something approaching normal life can return. What did we get? Variants of Concern, a freezing cold bone dry April and a May that’s been wetter than a haddock’s bathing costume.
Despite the challenging meteorology and uncertain virology across Europe, the unlocking has meant an opportunity to train with friends, enter events and, for those so inclined, to race. We’re getting there aren’t we? Event calendars are filling up, groups rides are happening, the club time trial season is in full swing and the pros having been doing their stuff. Even the Giro d’Italia started on time and has been a welcome addition to our TV screens. We’re still missing anything approaching a normal domestic road racing scene in the UK now but signs of its revival are showing. Some say, with a smidgen of justification, the road racing scene in the UK was dying on its arse irrespective of the emergence of vile pathogens, but hope springs eternal.
In my little patch of England, there was much excitement about the first mid-week club time trial on the 31st March. The lack of light in the evening meant a 6.30 start and just 5 miles but the maximum field of 50 riders filled up immediately on release of the event. Never underestimate the drawing power of Telford I say. Obviously, being Britain, that evening was a balmy 22 degrees and sunny, fooling us in to thinking that was spring and summer set fine. The following Saturday it was 4 degrees, and the ice warning light came on in the car on the drive home. Bloody weather.
The theme of rapidly filling start lists has continued despite the frankly shocking weather, there’s been a palpable sense of relief and excitement amongst the guys and girls I race with and am privileged to coach. The chance to pin a number on and hurt a little gives meaning to an extended winter of training – it makes it all worthwhile. Sports psychology 101 is all about goal setting. It is genuinely important to have a targeted outlet for all that hard work. More broadly, the return of events indicates the end of the zombie apocalypse and something looking a little more like normal life providing hope for the psychology of those not in to sport too. Bloody virus.
Sadly, my club has had an all too literal ‘bloody cyclist’ moment when one of my club mates was hit by a car during a time trial – he was hospitalized but thankfully has now returned home. There’s a heady mix of pent up adrenaline within riders keen to press on and drivers keen to get where they’re going right now. The lockdown has had a significant psychological effect on many – there’s a good deal of frustration out there. You only have to ride the roads to witness the inattention, impatience and aggression of some of those we share the roads with. There’s a limit to what we can do to reduce our personal risk as cyclists because we're are so reliant on those in fast metal boxes paying attention - something many seem unable or unwilling to do right now. Fundamentally we have to trust in sturdy underwear and a polystyrene hat for safety. One thing we must do is make sure we keep our heads up and our senses in tune with the environment we’re riding in.
In other news, I’ve had 3 new riders join me in the past few weeks – always an exciting time. There are challenges to programming training when the racing season has already started. From a purely selfish perspective, it’s much easier if I’ve been able to prescribe a program over the winter months immediately preceding the season because ultimately that informs the likely ceiling of success for the year. With race targets approaching, there needs to be a careful balance – it’s tempting and easy to over prescribe to show you’re ‘doing something’ rather than follow the principles you know work. Sometimes ‘rest’ is the hardest session an endurance athlete can do.
Stay frosty out there - literally and figuratively, and if I can help you ride faster, get in touch via the contact form here.
Rich Smith has had enough of being bloody wet and/or bloody cold. He has coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for over 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property before launching RideFast Coaching.
The ramblings of a cycling coach...