Last friday the Tour 21 Team met for a second training and assesment day at St Georges Park – The England Football Elite Performance Centre. It was our second opportunity to train together and a first to ride as a group.
One experience of St Georges demonstrated to me that in sport its not always the top performers that grab our attention. Whilst the Chelsea Squad were joining up before their Sunday Carabao Cup Match, the England Blind Football Team were meeting in the same environment. A reminder that everyday people refuse to let adversity hold them back, and everyone deserves the same opportunities in life. Earlier in the week, I received a short message from a lady called Miriam, telling me her story wishing me luck, offering me her support and calling me a ‘Superhero’. I’m not sure about that, but if people think of me the same way as I did about those Blind Footballers then I am very humbled.
As a group of amateur cyclist, we are riding for those men, women and children fighting Leukaemia, to give them the opportunity to play and win their own personal Cup Finals, but we can only achieve this if we work together as a team. Our first team ride was a 28 mile loop around the undulating lanes to the west of Burton-Upon-Trent. To ride in a close group you have to have confidence in the ablity of your fellow riders; Will they ride in the right position? Will they be much stronger than me? Will the person in front point out the hazards?
Riding down the long drive to the roads outside the complex all my apprehensions dissappeared, I was clearly with a group of riders who knew what they were doing, no ego’s trying to prove themselves, all the dangers being pointed out, and the chattering soon started as we relaxed in to our ride. Our only problem was the difference in how we called out the dangers, we were all speaking in the same language but in different dialects, was a car approaching on a narrow lane a ‘ Car ‘on the nose’, a car ‘front’ or a car ‘down’. This will sort itself in time, but the main thing was we were safe and my team mates were shouting out the dangers. Whilst only a short ride compared to what we’ll have in France it was great to be amongst all these wonderful people all riding to help others. The sun was out, a little windy but as we rode and chatted we learnt more about each other, building that friendship that will undoubtably help us on those long mountain stages of the Alps and Pyrenees.
But its not all about riding our bikes, there is much more to riding than just turning the pedals. Fuel and recovery are just 2 of the areas we covered on the day. HI-5 are supporting us with our in ride nutrition and recovery drinks but what should we eat and when, Whats the best thing before a ride and after a ride? Again we worked as a team, splitting in to groups to discuss cards that had been placed on the tables to decide what we would eat and when. The advantages of caffine in coffee, and the disadvantages if we have too much, how abstaining for a short while means we can get a boost when we need it.
One of last years team, Matt, who’s company is helping out with compression clothing , something I have never tried before. I’ve always know that rest is important, riding stage after stage over 3 weeks is not going to offer mu,ch chance for rest so anything we aid the recovery process is going to be worhtwhile. In the same way recovery drinks put the right fuel back in our body to help out body recover, compression clothing helps to speed up the recovery process, making sure every minute of rest at the end of each stage is maximised.
Just like being back at schoool it was not all theory, in the afternoon we were back in the gym for more physical training and tests. For those who never made our first meet up, there were the bench mark tests and for those, like myself who had been before, it was an opportunity to see if our training was working. It was, on each of the tests I belive I scored higher than my previous test (results next week). Feedback from the Tour21 ride captain – Andy Cook – was that I was on track and doing what I needed to do at this stage of my preparation, Geoff Thomas even joked, that with the mileage I had ben doing latey, he though I might have ridden to St Georges instead of coming by car.
On Saturday Andy had joined myself and two of the team, Alastair and Keith, who had stopped overnight, We went out for another ride on Saturday morning and as when we arrived back at the hotel a number of the Chelsea Football squad were in the reception area and must have noticed these four sweaty cyclists walking through, probably wondering what we were doing in a football complex. Hopefully one of them will pick up on my blog and as they talk young boys and girls wanting to take up sport, they can spread the word about this 60 year old retired nurse and her friends who are trying to raise £1,000,000 to help Cure Leukaemia.