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Reap What you sow
Greg Lemond famously said that for every week we take off the bike it takes three weeks to get back the form. During the warmer months it’s incredibly easy to rack up those romantic summer miles with natural ease and each day, when the sun’s rays caress the tarmac, provides riders with the inspiration to saddle up. But as the dark hours draw closer to the afternoon, as the temperatures plummet with the sun, life has a canny way of providing us with many convenient excuses to forgo those frozen training miles.
It takes a steel nerve to kit up and head out in the winter elements, but the rewards are so abundant, although not for months it would seem… Enduring many a slow mile, grinding out the excursion into often relentless headwinds is perhaps only an enjoyable experience to the most masochistic of us. We spend months far from our summer zenith of speed and endurance. The theory of laying the foundation to your cycling season begins with developing a sound base engine over the off season, it will require the cyclist to sign up and enter a mysterious club, one of perpetually frozen fingertips, cold red noses and an appreciation of seemingly endless windswept and leafless landscapes.
Fausto Coppi, after years held captive as a prisoner of war, famously rode an incredible 7000 kilometres between the start of 1946 and his March 19th victory in the early season Milan-San Remo race. Whilst that may be out of reach to us mere mortals, what more astute example can we see of shrewd winter training, coaxing the lungs and legs into an early peak of strength and endurance? Coppi won La Primavera that year by over 14 minutes.
I try to outsmart the feeling to stay ensconced in the duvet by laying out a tantalising selection of winter warmers by the bedside. A plethora of Roubaix lined treats awaits, laid carefully over the radiator, ready to jump straight out of bed and slip on in some kind of manoeuvre more akin to a comic book superhero.
As the wheels turn past the end of my street I have gone beyond the point of no return. My breathing is shallow and I jiggle my limbs to quicken the warm flow of blood through my body. “Gem, you do realise you could be curled up in bed right now? It’s FAR too cold out here this morning”…. “Ah shut it!” I tell myself… Winter miles equates to summer smiles. I have a date with the roads this morning. I will pedal until my legs are heavy with the feeling of victory.
The old adage goes that medals are won in the winter months and merely collected when you turn up to each race in the summer. Whilst it would be foolish of me to delude myself that I will be collecting any actual accolades, I feel assured that the ritualistic early morning rides, come rain or fog, will hold me in good stead to finish my sportives with decent times and will allow me, perhaps, to put the suffering on the chaps I ride with once or twice, something of a rarity for me yet something I think as riders we all take a little pleasure in every now and again.
During the worst of the weather, the days where the snow falls heavily, encrusting the roads with soft yet lethal slush, I hop aboard the oft-despised turbo trainer. A mind numbing experience for most, my mind wanders and I yearn for the open road, for the wind to freeze my face on the descents, to spin up a climb with minimal movement, simply tapping out the slow rhythm of winter daybreak. Instead, during the very worst of the British weather we seek solace in the garage, in the kitchen, even in the shelter of a balcony to mount the rollers or turbo, in an effort to lay yet another small yet significant brick to the foundations of our fitness.
Within the struggle lies the honour. Never once will I regret a winter ride, the rewards are there to be reaped. As I jump aboard the winter hack, don the weatherproof jacket and head for the hills, I know that come July this will all have been so worthwhile.
BIO ON THE AUTHOR:
Gem Atkinson is a photographer, photo-editor and author of Bianchista. She rides for "the pure escapism and joy of riding, particularly long sunny days in the saddle filled with humour and good roads". Gem lost all her front teeth after being knocked off her bike three years ago - which she doesn't mind as now she "has lovely straight teeth!".
- @flammecast @AaronBuggle His Shrone is fine !!!
- Big thanks to all marshals,coms and medical staff on the @anpostras today. Great work despite the numerous demands on their services today.
- Just to let all his girl fans know @AaronBuggle is ok. He's in hospital and will need some surgery on a cut to his chin. Will update later.
- We've just added 13 new rides since the weekend to our Rapha #womens100 Find a Ride list. → http://t.co/ux8c1JCuQc
- The team also racing the Ras in Ireland this week. Currently Aaron Buggle is the team's top placed rider in 15th overall.
- Tour Series resumes tonight in Stoke on Trent. RCJ line up is House, Clancy, McCallum, English and Mellor.
- Arboretum → http://t.co/cJXOyDWnK0 #raphasurvey #sanfrancisco #sf #cycling
- There are still a few of these sweet Rapha + Raeburn jackets at the SF @raphacycleclub. http://t.co/C2d98yCRL0
- The hills above. #raphasurvey http://t.co/jlIkXowxyT
- U23 winner in 2012 what's in store for @RichHandley90 in the @anpostras http://t.co/xyZWX3NbtG