Back to basics in the anti-cycling war

The country has gone mad on taking a side in the cycling vs drivers war. Since the death of Kim Briggs, the pedestrian who was tragically killed by the cyclist Charlie Alliston last year.

In 2016, there were 400 pedestrians killed in traffic related accidents – one of which was due to a cyclist.

Alliston has been cleared of charges of manslaughter, and charged with “wanton or furious driving”. An offence which many people have never heard of. The archaic conviction was common in the nineteenth century with causing bodily harm by wanton and furious driving of non-motorised vehicles such as carriages, and bicycles.

Vehicles of course, follow different rules. Bikes aren’t vehicles, and as cases of cyclists killing pedestrians are extremely rare, the law has never been updated to include cycling in the Road Traffic Act. That is a point to remember, that these cases are extremely rare, unfortunate and could have been prevented.

The tragic accident began with a collision which happens daily in London. Foolhardy cyclists senseless enough to weave in and out of moving traffic in a busy city, and pedestrians crossing the road while looking at their phones. Yet, on this occasion the unsuccessful efforts of both parties to avert a collision, led to Mrs Briggs dying of a brain injury in hospital.

 

Both parties are at fault in this situation. However Alliston is undoubtedly more so, as even without the intention of causing an accident, he was knowingly: riding a fixed gear bike without a front brake on the roads in a busy city, endangering himself and others, and not obeying the highway code.

To do that on any road is a recipe for disaster, let alone in the busiest city in the country.

Fixed-gear bikes are becoming more popular on the road. However, they belong on the track and not in busy city centres where as long as the wheels are moving, so are the pedals and the legs attached to them. Which makes it extremely difficult to brake, without considering braking to prevent a collision.

In his campaign to introduce new legislation into the Road Traffic Act, the husband of Mrs Briggs’ says: “With the fixed-wheel bike without the front brake the only means of braking is reverse pedalling… That’s totally inadequate and we’ve seen that with my wife’s death.”

The problem with this story is how much media attention it has drawn and how many opinions it has attracted. The cyclist vs driver war has been fuelled by hateful comments towards cyclists as a result of this story. But why?

Mrs Briggs’ husband is campaigning for a change in the law so it is fair for everybody. Allowing for: cycling to be incorporated into the Road Traffic Act, death by dangerous cycling, and death by careless cycling to be included.  The simple fact the crown prosecution service have charged Alliston with an archaic offence shows there is a gap in what can be charged for these rare situations; and as Briggs’ says: “It’s not so much a new law as just bringing the current law up to date”.

I can confidently say that many cyclists would agree to this legislation to be introduced. As most of cyclists climb aboard their bikes with the intention of keeping themselves and others safe.

Briggs, a London cyclist himself said his campaign for a change in the law was not “witch-hunt against cyclists”, but dealing with the specific issue of “reckless cyclists and those people who choose to ride fixed-wheel bikes without the additional front brake” he added.

When I saw this video of a cycling courier in London, I was horrified that anybody could ride that dangerously. Not only endangering themselves but everybody else on the road with no second thought.

On the one hand, videos like this can be found all over the internet. With reckless cyclists happily riding dangerously, cutting up other road users, riding through red lights and on the wrong side of the road, simply without following any of the highway code.

On the other hand, so can videos with footage shaming drivers by passing too close, cutting up cyclists, overtaking on corners and double white lines. Yet, as I have written before, cyclists will never win the collision war because the only people defending cyclists, are cyclists.

The only media outlets I have seen offering a balanced argument is the cycling publications. The Sunday Times, mocked the government for investing money in cycling. Journalist Adam Boulton, led his column last Sunday with the headline: “At last the wheels are coming off our senseless worship of bicycles” and accused Cycling UK of “cherry picking their facts” in relation to statistics of cycling related injuries; despite claiming on Twitter he is a cyclist himself.

 

 

The London Standard used the insensitive phrase of “Dangerous cyclist mowed down pedestrian”. The Guardian, accused of double standards, went with the unbalanced view that cyclists can get away with such an offence but a motorist would not. In other stories, the newspaper led with ‘cyclist accused of killing woman shouted at her after collision’.

While Cycling Weekly attempted to neutralise the debate and explain to the anti-cyclist media, that no cyclist is applauding or condoning what happened. There are cyclists who are just as horrified at the videos like the one above; and who immediately said Alliston was in the wrong for riding a fixie without brakes – the facts remain the same.

Lets go back to basics here.  Statistics by the Department for Transport show that over 3,000 cyclists were killed or seriously injured in the year up to June 2016.

How many were reported on the same level as the Alliston case by the national media?

In regards to these reported cases involving drivers at fault: how many drivers have sided with the dead or injured cyclist?

In situations more locally, how many drivers have apologised to a cyclist for passing too close, overtaking in unsafe places, or pulling out of/ pulling into junctions without consideration for anyone on the road?

The irritation throughout this case comes from the anti-cycling supporters firing up the flame balls ready to toss at the cyclists, after one accident. It says a lot about the attitudes of road users in the UK and the reforms which need to be made.

 

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Cyclists will never win the collision war

Whether it is an accident with a car, a bus, or a pedestrian, cyclists will never win the collision war, even if it is not their fault.

Recently, while out riding with my cyclist friend–who works as a collision investigator for the police–we were discussing collisions with buses and bikes. He had reported three incidents to our local Stagecoach branch about near misses between the drivers and himself.

The first happened in winter while riding at night: “lit up like a Christmas tree” (in the words of the Stagecoach boss after seeing the CCTV footage), the driver did not see my fellow cyclist, and even after the Stagecoach boss described to the driver where the accident occurred, worryingly the driver does not recall seeing a cyclist.

The second occasion involved going through the one-way system in Lancaster when a bus driver didn’t look in his mirror before pulling out in front of him. And during the final incident, he was a spectator watching a similar thing happen to another cyclist in front of him. On this occasion, if it wasn’t for the way the pavement split into a verge, the cyclist in front would have been squashed by the bus, and the driver of the big metal box would probably have been none the wiser.

On the final occasion, which happened minutes before I met him for a bike ride, we began with a trip to the bus station to report the incident, which was subsequently dealt with and passed on appropriately. On the other occasions, the bus drivers were sent on a driving course and apparently have since changed their attitude towards cyclists and of course, will thoroughly check their mirrors before pulling out.

Later on that week, I recalled the incident to my grandfather who is a retired bus driver for Stagecoach, and before I had even finished the description of the incident he replied with: “bloody cyclists, it is their own fault.”

Which brought me to the conclusion that despite having many cyclists in the family, the said person still has that attitude. If I can’t change his opinion on cyclists (I asked him if he would still have that attitude if it was me and my bike that was nearly squashed by a bus), then no amount of campaigning for cycle safety is going to change attitudes towards cyclists.

A few days after the ride when we discussed the incidents, I had my own bike accident.

Setting off on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was riding down Morecambe promenade on my own when, without looking, two young children ran across the path and straight into me. I flew straight over the handlebars and hit the floor hard without really knowing how I got there.

I could hear the screams of two young children crying their eyes out as they lay on the floor next to me, and then the pain of my possible broken elbow hit me. The mother of the children ran over to them, while another lady ran over to help my bike and I up off the floor and rang an ambulance.

At first, I was calm as I inspected myself to see if my limbs were all in the places they should be; then the shock set in of what just happened. Meanwhile, I received a tirade of abuse from the kid’s family and a group of people on the prom, who did not see the accident but decided to divulge all of their hatred towards cyclists towards me.

According to them: I did it on purpose, I should know better because they are children. Cyclists are stupid. Cyclists shouldn’t be on the cycle path. I’m delusional. I was going too fast, and I deserve to have died because I purposely rode into the children.

Shaking and furious with emotions running high, I turned the abuse back on them and almost started a fight to stand up for myself. I couldn’t believe they had just said I deserve to have died in that incident, and in-case they didn’t notice, I came out worse than the children with my arm beginning to swell and a broken bike–while the kids escaped with little more than a bump on the head and some grazes. Two women came over to offer some help, and told me to ignore the idiots who just launched a fireball of verbal abuse towards me, because they did not see what just happened, and automatically took the attitude it was the cyclists fault. They gave me their details and said they would act as a witness to prove it was not my fault if anything ever came of it.

As I explained to the mother, of course I didn’t hit them on bloody purpose, as soon as I saw them running I swerved to try and miss them and shouted “woah watch out!” Also, after looking at my ride data afterwards up until the point of the collision, there is no proof I was riding “too fast” as my speed on that particular segment was low.

The ambulance crew arrived, and called for back-up to assist me. After being checked over they took me to hospital for an X-ray on my arm; and after things calmed down they discussed with the family that I had every right to be riding on the path. As kids will be kids and not look where they are going, it was an accident, nothing more.

The paramedic crew were exceptional, and of course understood the whole situation. An accident is an accident whether it is a pedestrian or a bus or a car, and nobody can ever say straight away it was the cyclists fault without looking at the whole incident first.

I don’t endeavour to defend all cyclists. I could name a collection of times when people have been cycling drunk, and veered into the path of a fast moving car, or hit a lamp post, tree, and other non-moving objects while under the influence.

I can even name the times when cyclists have gone through red lights, not stopped at crossings, or descending down windy roads dangerously. There are times when cyclists are the cause of the incident; in the same way drivers using their phones cause incidents, or driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. As well as pedestrians not looking where they are going–again the list goes on and neither party is exempt from blame.

But what has been proved is that cyclists make better motorists, because we are weary of what is going on around us, as well as the correct distance for overtaking: which is another cars width.

My point here is that despite the legacies created by the Olympics, the Tour de France (in Yorkshire), and British Cycling’s success, it has not altered the negative attitude towards the people on two wheels.

Cyclists are seen as the villains, but actually we are the vulnerable ones. We are only protected by a thin piece of stretchy clothing and a polystyrene and plastic helmet which absorbs shock if your head hits the floor, it does not prevent deaths or serious brain injuries. Unlike drivers we are not protected by a huge metal box around us, we are not wrapped in bubble wrap and we do not bounce when we hit the ground.

Cities in the UK are designed for cars only. The cycling revolution was an afterthought poorly implemented with a section of the already small roads taken away and covered with coloured tarmac to indicate a cycle lane. That does not stop people driving in the cycle lane through city centres, and it does not encourage them to look in the mirrors and check their blind spot before turning or manoeuvring.

Cycle tracks were a good investment, but they are limited as many come from disused railway lines, and of course you can’t have a cycle track leading in every direction. In addition to this, a separate war has broken out between pedestrians and cyclists on cycle paths more recently; as both tend to stray from the designated pedestrian-cyclist lane, or take up the whole of the path.

What will it take for the general public’s attitude to change towards cyclists? The bus drivers discussed above had to redo their driving course for their attitude to change. When I learned to drive four years ago, courses were only then being adapted to include cycle safety. All of these adults who have been driving for years haven’t adapted to drive in areas with an increased amount of cyclists.

According to a 2014 figure by Cycling UK only 18 percent of registered AA drivers are cyclists. Which means many don’t understand what it is like to be passed by a car so close you can feel it brush past your skin, or accelerate so quickly to overtake you that it is unsafe for all other drivers on the road let alone the cyclist in question. But also, they have no idea what it is like to be involved in an accident and hit the ground so hard and so fast you injure yourself and you don’t understand what just happened.

All of my cyclist friends have been involved in an incident at any one time. And every time the driver has said the rider was “going too fast”. It is a poor excuse used when firstly, the driver hasn’t taken any responsibility for their actions. Secondly, most of the time it is a 30mph zone and the rider is doing around 20mph. And finally: how did they possibly measure the cyclists speed? The police and paramedics question how can somebody on a bike be going “too fast” compared to somebody in a car?

Thankfully, most of them came out with little more than a battered and bruised body. But some of them recall waking up in an ambulance not knowing how they got there. One friend, despite wearing a helmet, suffered a serious brain injury which he will have for the rest of his life as a result of the collision.

The sporting legacies from our cycling success has encouraged a new wave of people to get on a bike which is a positive result. But what it hasn’t done is changed the view of cyclists from a motorists point of view. It also has not adapted our roads, and cities to be cycling friendly, and it takes a sharp increase in cyclist deaths for something to change.

In 2013 the Department for Transport reported that there are an average of two cycling related deaths every week and 60 serious injuries. That is a worrying increase of 40 percent in the last five years.

Yet, what these figures don’t encourage is more funding and better implementation of cycling in the UK. Many other countries, and most affluent countries in Europe have less incidents with cyclists, because their motorists have different attitudes. This is due to the roads being wider, less potholes, less congested roads, and most importantly more rules in EU law which allow every party involved to take road collisions seriously.

Until roads and city centres in the UK are properly adapted, the attitude towards cyclists will never change.

What makes our greatest athletes?

Photo by: Jaguar Mena_Flickr
Chris Froome became the first person to ride through the channel tunnel. Photo by: Jaguar Mena_Flickr

Where does the grit come from at the very beginning of an athletes career? The grit which is the very reason they have won a gold medal at the Olympics, became a world champion, and won the yellow jersey.

The same grit, that shoehorned them into the sport, to put their focus into something positive. Channel the energy into something constructive; causes blood, sweat, tears and shows where they have come from, and where they are going.

Teams at the Olympics are handpicked. With a vast amount of reasons for competing in their chosen sport. Many, because they were told they would never be good enough, they don’t have the mental capacity, their body is not the body of an Olympian, or they fear the very sport they compete in.

Continue reading “What makes our greatest athletes?”

The Olympics has lost it’s spark

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The build up to Rio 2016 has been like no other in the history of the Olympics. London 2012 was the start of the ancient sporting event steadily going downhill. With questionable funding statements, confusing and ugly artwork surrounding the Olympic park, and an sporting legacy left in tatters after little longer than six positive months post-Olympics, which didn’t last in the UK, nor did we have the funding for.

Rio 2016 has been surrounded by far too many drugs tests, and missed drugs tests in the press. A country being eliminated from competing, then allowed back into compete. Along with the stadium barely being finished, water unsafe to swim in and a body washing up. Athletes kit going missing, an athlete being held on sexual assault, protests, and the athletes village being half built: it will certainly be an Olympics to remember–but not for the right reasons.

Continue reading “The Olympics has lost it’s spark”

Everything happens for a reason: what’s the reason?

Week five of having a broken foot.

I got in my car for the first time today in 33 days. Despite everybody telling me not to drive, I just wanted to see if it was painful or not, and to have some sort of grasp of ‘normal’ life before the injury. I only drove to the doctors to get my sick note…

But for that 15 minute drive I felt free, the way I did before the injury. Going about my business in the car as usual. I rely on my car so much and I appreciate having it because of course others do not have that luxury.

Continue reading “Everything happens for a reason: what’s the reason?”

Fussing over nothing

Following yesterday’s accident during my last training ride before next weekend’s race in Mallorca for the ETU Middle Distance tri Champs, one could describe it as split second feeling of relief.

A freak incident that was perhaps due to my over-sized quads and just happened without explanation. I fell off my bike and damaged my elbow.

Why did I fall off? I couldn’t answer that until I got home and investigated the bike. One second I was standing up pedaling up the slight incline some would call a hill, and half a second later I was sat on the floor in agony and unable to move. It was something that couldn’t be avoided or saved in any way because it happened too fast with a cry of pain and bewilderment as to how I got on the floor; consolidated my wet eyes all the way home.

My chain snapped as I was pedaling up the hill, there was a wagon and a couple of cars behind me on the windy country lane that were waiting to get passed, so I sped up to let them past and was either riding with a weak chain, or I put too much power through the pedals and before I had got to the top, ended up with a sore elbow.

It sounds more spectacular than it was, there was no damage to the bike except it needing a new chain and there was no damage to me except a severely bruised elbow and some other cuts and bruises.

My elbow was the first thing to hit the ground and when you are as heavy as I am that’s a lot of force! My first instinct was to pick myself and the bike up before the wagon that was behind ran me over, but all of a sudden I couldn’t move and getting up wasn’t possible, I was in excruciating pain with my left elbow and suddenly became panic stricken that no.1: I was in the middle of a busy road ready to be run over, and no. 2: there was nothing I could do about it because I was in so much pain.

A man in a car coming the other way saw me hit the deck, and the wagon driver stopped and got out to help me up and make sure I was ok. I was certain I must have broken or at least fractured something, a bang or bruise on the arm doesn’t hurt this much!

The two guys picked up my bike and the things that had fallen out of my pocket and were asking me some questions, and I tried to pause the panic for a second or two to reply to them.

As I was out on my own I said that I would ring somebody to come and pick me up as there was nothing I could do about a snapped chain without any tools on me, and there was no chance I could cycle home anyway. One man insisted on taking me and the bike home because he lived near-by so I agreed, looking him up and down to make sure he didn’t look dodgy.

The wagon driver helped him put the bike in the car and I turned around and now felt slightly guilty that there was a small cue of traffic sat behind the wagon, that from their point of view, looked like he had ran me over!

I said my thanks to both the men and we headed home, my arm still stiff and throbbing, with patches of blood all over me on body parts which didn’t touch the floor or take a beating!?

I had left the state of shock at this point and was returning to my (cough) calm self as the fellow cyclist was making conversation in the car. I began to be able to move my arm which indicated it thankfully wasn’t broken.

When I got home I rang my dad whose reaction I wasn’t sure about. It was his bike and to fall off a week before the race isn’t good preparation, but aside from the chain it had a soft landing! He sounded concerned which isn’t usual (probably because his dreams of having a sprint finish against his daughter may have been cloudy).

I text the other people I thought should know, Jack, and my coach Chris and they advised going to get an X-ray. By this point I attempted to do a front crawl action to see if I could swim, it was stiff and weak, it felt like a possible small fracture but nothing that could make my swimming any worse!

I decided to get an X-ray anyway to be on the safe side and once again, thankfully they said it wasn’t broken, it has just taken a mighty bashing and is severely bruised. They dressed the road rash and send me home.

So by now you are thinking stop being a baby!

Yes, me too! A wasted afternoon I suppose. But aside from thinking “how did I get here?” whilst sat on the floor after being flung off my bike, my second thought was “I FEEL PAIN, I CAN’T RACE, what will I tell everyone?”, and then my third thought: “I HAVE TO RACE, with one arm!”

My thoughts, and point of writing this, while sat in the waiting room at the hospital were: why did I immediately assume I couldn’t race? Was I really going to give in that easily? I want to race, and I’m quite looking forward to it as long as everything goes well on the day. Most of you can relate to feeling heroic when you are racing and feeling good, but why was that my instant reaction?

I realise that my training for this race hasn’t been as focused as previous, or as much as other people. Especially from the beginning; life gets in the way and you can only do as much as you have time for. But even mentally, I’m looking forward to the well earned rest and no compulsory swim/bike/run for a bit. Knowing that I’m racing in a warm climate with sunshine and possibly a wetsuit banned swim doesn’t make me want to go out cycling in the wind, rain and cold for three hours. That happened in Aberfeldy and look how that turned out: cold, wind and rain clearly doesn’t work for me and after this continuous season that has consistently been 10 months of training… I’m bored now and I need to do something different.

I’m looking forward to this race next weekend and I cannot wait to swim, cycle and run representing GBR with my name on my tri-suit, but I’m also looking forward to having a happy ending to what’s been an undulating year; full of ups and downs, my first (and let’s hope last) DNF–an emotional race that consumed me for 40 miles, and days afterwards, ruined my birthday, and left me all cried out in the middle of Scotland fed up, freezing cold, and soaking wet.

So if there is one thing I can work on over the winter aside from physical performance, it is mental performance. Throughout my many years horse riding and being flung off a horse, and then trod on by it, brushing myself off and getting back on; I should be used to it by now. I had the determination and the fearlessness to carry on and test the boundaries. The same with hockey, I had the fight in me that gave me the courage to hit the ball as hard as I could and play on even though it was a frozen pitch and I was wearing a skort!

I lost the determination this year, which is possibly the key to where my training has wandered off to. That and getting a bit fed up of training when I didn’t want to. A bit of over training syndrome perhaps? Training for an age-grouper shouldn’t be punishment, that’s when  you lose it and bad things happen.

I believe I lost the will power around the time I left the gym and stopped doing spinning classes and being shouted at by Sally. My determination came from spinning and pushing for that extra little bit of power for those last seconds… and everything I did after that that required grit and determination came from picturing myself on a spin bike and going hard for those last seconds. It’s so easy to give up, and with Sally shouting at you, giving up was never an option.

So that’s the plan for winter. Rest, get back to spinning and find some determination to come back next year and have a blast.

Ironman Zurich 2014

IMG_7014Every time I watch the video of the start of Ironman Zurich 2014 it gives me goosebumps. I don’t know why, I didn’t even race; perhaps it was understanding what those 2550 athletes were thinking and knowing exactly what is going through their heads.

“This is going to be a long day.”

“Come on, I can do this.”

“I am Ironman.”

“If I finish in 13 hours, I can make it before the take-away closes.”

The day started at 4am. My dad and Jon both quieter than usual–as you would expect before the biggest race of their lives so far. There wasn’t much conversing in the car except what they needed to do before the swim start and discussing how their day will go. I went down for the swim start to watch how the day would unfold, and also to give them some moral support. This was my third Ironman as a spectator, yet my first to see the whole process unravel over the weekend, instead of just irritating the non-ironman enthusiastic residents of Babylon Lane at Ironman UK.

One of the things I enjoy when spectating at triathlons, is how other people prepare themselves, from sprint to ironman the principles are the same, the facial expressions are the same, and the way you see people eyeing up and comparing themselves to the rest of the field is the same.

Watching intently, you see some of the first-timers with a look of absolute terror on their face; dreaming of the finish line and planning to take the day as it comes.

Then you see the confident multiple ironmen (and women) that have a plan, the ones that ride the Cervelo P5’s with a carbon disk wheel, they know and truly believe they are better than you. They don’t give away any body language because that’s weakness, and an ironman is just a typical Sunday for them. Next there are the ones also don’t give away any body language–Jon–you can’t tell what they are thinking except they are running through the day in their head, the processes, transition, nutrition plan, their average pace and so on. And last but not least there are the ones like my dad. The one that buys a long sleeve top the day before, because he wasn’t sure what the weather would be like and didn’t want to get cold on the bike–but then left it in his hotel room anyway. He starts preparing for the swim start and realises he also left his swimming hat in the hotel. But aside from that he is quietly confident, he’s done the training and in the end, time is irrelevant, it’s just another triathlon that has a badass name.

As the swimmers stand on the beach waiting for the gun to sound and enter the lake, the music begins and the commentators attempt to remind the athletes why we do triathlons. Enjoyment comes at a price (entry fee) and aside from the professionals, we do this for pleasure, for a challenge and to do something different. The beginning of races are stressful, with around 2500 triathletes sweating twice as much as they should in their wetsuits, apprehensive about how brutal the swim will be. It is a huge juxtaposition between stress, emotion, and lashings of testosterone as people swim over you. All for that moment of glory holding your arms and head up high, closing your eyes and embracing the feeling of relief as you cross the finish line. We do it for the medal being hung around our necks as our token of achievement and memorabilia to keep forever more, for the tattoo on the back of the legs and for the look of respect when people ask “have you done an ironman?” When your name and your time flashes up on the finishing gantry, that’s evidence that you did it. And all of this is why hearing music, the cheering and commentators voices as the gun goes off and you enter the water at the beginning of any race, is important to remember why we do it*.

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I made my way back to transition to hang up our COLT flag near their bikes and met the rest of our family and friends for a second breakfast for our long day ahead–after watching them in T1 and out onto the bike, of course.  We headed to “heartbreak hill” as it is known in Ironman terms to watch them pass from there. “Wild” is the only way to describe it. Think Le Tour De France up Buttertubs Pass in Yorkshire. There was about a metre and a half gap for the cyclists to pass as locals and supporters lined the hill. The most dangerous thing was family and friends swapping bottles of their soon-to-be Ironmen and women in the tiny space and then running alongside them. (Despite there being an aid station 200yrds further on…)

The atmosphere was amazing as supporters made their voices hoarse all day and had sore hands from clapping by the time they finished–much like COLT alley.  We headed down to the event area and managed to get a spot watching all of the cyclists and runners pass on their laps. As the day went on and more and more people were coming into T2 to start the marathon, my mother and I sat and shouted people’s names to cheer them on. (Only the British ones, and the ones that we’re walking.) There is a flag and first names on the athletes race numbers which happen to hang around the crotch area. In addition to this, 85% of the field were men.  It was entertaining for both us and them, as most people said “thanks” and others gave you funny looks. Some which expressed “yes mum?” And others: “how do you know my name?”

My dad and Jon seemed to be doing well and smiled each time we saw them. My mother was shouting in transition at guess who… “what’s he walking for!” We measured the time gap between them and had estimated times of their arrival at specific points so that we knew if the day was going to plan. There was eight minutes between them in the swim which remained at eight minutes half way through the bike and they were ahead of their schedule. After T2, an outfit change and what we thought was a cup of tea and biscuits, my dad had dropped back to 15 minutes behind but seemed to be running strong. As it was four 10km laps on the run, we worked out that we would see one of them around every half an hour if they held their pace.

On his third lap we began to get worried about my dad, he was behind our estimated time of when he will pass us and we heard when he did pass that he had been in the sin bin for 6 minutes! He never mentioned what for so we discussed what it was likely to be: peeing in the wrong place at the wrong time, detouring from the routes to pee in the wrong place at the wrong time, or nipping into transition while on the run to get a quick slice of his beloved Soreen.

IMG_7114On his last lap, we saw that Jon had a storming run completing the marathon in 4:01hrs, and finishing in 11:30. My dad had kept his pace, but with a couple of mishaps like being in the sin bin, and slowing down on the last lap finishing in 12:30.  All in all, a short day for an ironman! Helped along by our double breakfast, homemade sandwiches, and some pizza stolen from the finishers tent afterwards. A fantastic day for the newly crowned Ironmen, and what finished with wine and beers on the balcony to celebrate.

 

*”we” meaning a collective group of triathletes, using Ironman as an example, not excluding shorter distance athletes.

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If Le Tour De Yorkshire was a success, what does this mean for cycling in Britain?

Cycling in Britain appears in the news more than it should. There is always a new story about a cyclist being killed on the road, stories from cyclists about being shouted abuse at, many even wear helmet cameras just in case of an incident! Road cyclists aren’t a favourite of motorists in cities like London and Manchester, and even smaller and more rural places like Lancaster.

I started writing this post about how successful the first two stages of Le Tour De France was in Yorkshire, and whether attitudes would change upon cycling in the UK.

I saved it as a draft and went out on my bike, and now I’ve deleted it and changed the focus of the post because nothing has changed what-so-ever.

During the short loop of 22 miles I did, included being beeped at and shouted at more than once and, being called an “[effing] moron” just for cycling…

The first incident was coming over the bridge at the beginning of Lancaster’s one way system. There were two of us riding single file and sticking to our left side of the road so cars could pass. Can picture it? Think of your stereotypical taxi driver, constantly drives over the speed limit, pulls out on cyclists and other drivers whenever he feels like it, and thinks he owns the road. Beeps at us and shouts out of the window at us to “move out of the way”. Move to where? We were already as far into the left side of the road as was possible.

To my delight, about 100yds ahead, the traffic lights turned to red and he stopped. So I did the obvious thing and acted like a first class prick: stopped about two metres in front of him and waited for the lights to turn to green. When they finally did, I rode very slowly in front of the car at about 13mph until he angrily sped off into the left lane.

We carried on going up through town, and about half a mile from where the incident with the taxi driver occurred, we were called “f***ing morons” as we cycled up the one-way system, bearing in mind it has two lanes, nobody was in the other lane and we were again, riding single file and on the left side of the road. This one infuriated me even more because I couldn’t get revenge. However, it did fuel me with anger to pedal up the Lancaster Royal Grammar School hill pretty quick. I am still Queen of the Mountain on that category four climb.

With over two and half million people lining the streets of Yorkshire over the weekend to watch Le Grande Départ,  it was said that it was one of the best departs of Le Tour De France, and is likely that it will return to the UK in the coming years.

The race director Christan Prudhomme said:

“I can see the Tour in their hearts, and in their eyes. For that, I say thank you to everyone in Yorkshire who has made this Grand Depart so very, very special.”

It was also noted that it wasn’t just local people that turned up to watch the professionals whizz past, people from all over the country came to watch. The peloton even had to stop part-way up Buttertubs pass due to the volume of people and lack of road space. After the success of London 2012, more people started cycling and realised the benefits of schemes like Ride2Work and used it as an incentive to cycle:

Mark Brown, Head of Ride2Work at Evans Cycles, said: “The big stat we had was of that from July to August we saw 150% increase in people joining from the same period in 2011.” (Cycling Weekly 2013)

Over the weekend, more people certainly got out on their bikes in Yorkshire, as roads closed to cars at 6am on the morning of the stages and the only way to get around was on foot or by pedalling. As I cycled up Buttertubs at 9:30, the peloton was not due to be passing until 2pm, and people were already getting themselves a spot on the hill. 10488135_10203846251053897_1856081899815137271_n

The success of the Tour in Yorkshire was a celebration of cycling, and many turned up on their best bikes in their best club and team kit.

10518662_10203846099490108_7981864125507733782_nMore and more people support cycling, if not do it themselves. London 2012 sparked enthusiasm and inspiration in many to take up sport, whether it was doing their first triathlon, or going to play football. London 2012 was a success due to the smooth running of the events, and also the support and interest of so many proud British people, proud to support Team GB and proud to have the Olympic and Paralympic Games in their country.

If well respected events like the Olympic and Paralympics, Le Tour De France and so many others can’t change peoples attitudes towards cyclists, what will?

My question is, with so many people from across the UK turning up to watch and support the Tour, as well as more and more of the UK’s population beginning to cycle themselves, why are cyclists still hated on the roads in Britain?

So… I Made The British Team

So… I made the British age-group team for middle distance triathlon.  (70.3/ half-ironman)

I won my age-group in my first ever middle distance race.

I have a very good chance at being British Champion at the British and Scottish qualifier in Aberfeldy for middle distance.

And in my third middle distance race I will be racing Challenge Rimini the ETU championships, with my name on my tri-suit and representing my country in the Under 20 category.

I’m quite proud of myself!

I started triathlon two years ago when I joined COLT (City of Lancaster Triathlon) for their open water swimming sessions. As my dad was roped into the stupidly simple sport by an injured friend who needed someone to fulfill his place in Fleetwood tri, he signed me up to a triathlon too.

Cockerham triathlon 2012.

I could open water swim, although this “lake” was in a field filled with rainwater and cow droppings … (don’t ask). I had done a few sportives, was due to do the Manchester 100 miler a few weeks afterwards (on no training–again don’t ask) and no matter how much I said I hated running; I was signed up every year to the Great Manchester Run without consent, and was dragged along to the odd 5 or 10km local race and passed by every single vet 50.

I finished in 1:31:16, and caught the triathlon bug–perhaps it was something in the “lake”.

2013 was my best season, I left the hockey club, got fit and trained over winter. I attended some technique classes for my swim stroke and in no time became pretty good at swimming. The coach Sue, made me start training with Carnforth Otters, I was then invited to the COLT Thursday night swimming sessions, where I met almost all of my club friends, and became more of a capable swimmer.

Alongside this, I was cycling for fun now, rather than being forced to and I suddenly understood why people enjoy road cycling. I started running, I did Lancaster Half Marathon, joined the running club at Lancaster & Morecambe Athletics Club. and things were going well for me. I was now fit: doing three spinning classes per week, running at the club twice a week and cycling at the weekend. I did another sprint triathlon in Kendal and kept going. The next sprint triathlon was Capernwray, and one month after Kendal I knocked 13 minutes off my sprint triathlon time.

Next was, The London Triathlon, olympic distance. After my A level exams were over, my days were spent working or cycling. I became a fantastic cyclist, doing 70 odd mile rides in the Trough of Bowland just to fill my time up. I became a fan of open water swimming, doing a race in the Lake District and cycling the 50-60 miles home for training, I wanted to see how good my swimming was one night, and took on the Ironman-distance swim (3.8km). Nine timed laps of our usual lake at the club swim and I did it in 1:17, a respectable time for that distance, I didn’t train or get nervous about it, just turned up and did it.

I extended my run distance with a couple more 10km’s and half marathons. I did the Manchester 100 sportive, but this time enjoyed it, and did it in 5 hours 45min easily, averaging around 16mph.

Running became my nemesis and something I struggled with, particularly distance. But swimming and cycling I could do all day.

I was on fire this season. I completed the London Triathlon in a PB of 2:43, another respectable time.

My dad had just completed Ironman UK 70.3 in Wimbleball. And said that I should probably do one. I could easily do the distance, and it was the next logical step up from olympic distance triathlons. So I signed up to the Outlaw Half 2014 race. I had a break from September to December whilst I settled into university.

2014 began with so many changes in my life, the main one being the start of my relationship with Jack, who is also in the British age-group team for duathlon. He raced the ETU sprint duathlon in April this year in Horst, Netherlands and did very well being 10th in the 25-29 category in Europe.

My training kicked off with a week in Club La Santa in January with my parents, who both had/ have races to also begin training for:

My mum: Virgin London Marathon 2014

My dad: Ironman Zurich 2014

On 1st June 2014, I completed my first middle distance triathlon and crossed the line in a respectable time of 6:16:09 (with plenty of areas to improve for a sub-6hr). I had the pleasure of being told I was the winner of the female Under 24 category.

As I ran my last lap around the rowing lake, I already knew what was next: Aberfeldy middle distance triathlon, where I can be British Champion in the female Under 20 category.

I never thought being part of the British team was on the cards for me, and I certainly never thought it or knew what was ahead of me when I dived into that field in Cockerham.

A lot of people are surprised that I have completed a middle distance race at the age of eighteen, and are also surprised that I can survive the miles I do, swimming 5km, cycling 100+miles, and half marathons are becoming more and more popular for people my age.

Physiologically, and historically, younger people have fast twitch muscle fibers and should be fast over short distances. Generally speaking, I shouldn’t have endurance at my age, which is why endurance events such as half-ironman, Ironman and so on, are attractive to older people, (with a few exceptions such as myself) who have had time to build an aerobic base.

I haven’t got an Ironman in me yet, but I’ll certainly give middle distance a good go. Jack says the feeling of having your name and “GBR” on your tri-suit is indescribable, and I certainly cannot wait to find out.