Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Book Review

Well I have been off now for four weeks with the knee.  This has given me ample time to catch up on some reading.  There were a few books I wanted to tackle around cycling and there are still many more I wish to read also.  I think it’s both important and nice to learn about the history of a sport so that it is easier to fully understand the rich history, which cycling is famed for.  I do however feel like I am writing a school book report so bare with my hotpotch style!

The four books I read are.  Tyler Hamilton:  The Secret Race,  Brad Wiggins: My Time, David Millar: Racing Through the Dark and Merckx Half Man Half Bike by William Fotheringham.

Tyler Hamilton:  The Secret Race

I was interested to take a look at this book for a number of reasons.  The first and most obvious one is that I have held Lance Armstrong up as a hero for most of my life due to his battling with cancer and his exploits in the Tour De France.  Hamilton interested me as he was a long standing team mate of Armstrongs and also rode when I first became interested in cycling when I was a teenager.  The book is well written and is a very smooth read by that I mean it is easy to get lost in it and like myself find that I had ran out of pages without really putting much effort in to reading it.  It is not a bitter book and in my opinion holds a very introspective narrative.  The interesting parts for me where the chapters focusing on Armstrong his character and the doping.  Being a na├»ve kind of guy I hadn’t really thought about Armstrong being a strong personality nore had I read anything of the kind.  This book really opened my eyes to Armstrongs character and left me researching other stories online about it as I wanted to verify the claims made by Hamilton.  Unfortunately what he says seems to be true.  The other aspects of the book that obviously interested me where the descriptions of various races and Hamiltons fight to not just be an average rider but a great rider.  This then developed into the story of how he was enticed into the world of doping and is very similar I think to that of David Millar (more later).  Overall I would say if you like cycling or have an interest in Armstrong then you will really enjoy this book.

Bradley Wiggins:  My Time

I sit here in 2012 knowing that I have witnessed an amazing sporting achievement back in July.  Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour De France.  This has propelled him into being one of the most famous sportsmen of a generation and catapulted him into the public eye.  This was then backed up by his Olympic time trial gold medal at the London Olympics.  A good time for a book then!  I had read excerpts of the book in The Times and already having had my interest peeked I ordered the book.  With excitement I lapped up the pages and thoroughly enjoyed the read.  Again another book that flew by without thought of leaving it to sit on the bedside cabinet for a while.  The book interested me as there where some snippets of data, which Wiggins gave about his rides in the Tour and in other races.  Mainly about wattage but also about VAM.  Being a bit of a geek I liked this as I am interested in this side of the sport.  The narrative itself was very good it felt intimate and heartfelt and really gave a good view of how Mr Wiggins felt over the course of the last 12 months particularly.  It would have been nice to have a little more on his early career but understandably the book is aimed at 2012 mostly.  In summary again a very easy read and a good buy for someone who is interested in cycling or sports people in general.

David Millar:  Racing Through the Dark

I have been interested in cycling for a long time but the last two and a half years have got involved with riding a bike and also being more interested in the various other raced then the Tour De France.  I had seen David Millar pop up in some of the races and on various bits of media coverage advocating clean drug free cycling.  The main article which drew me to Millar was one pre-Olympics whereby a ruling was overturned regarding convicted drug cheats competing for GB.  Millar fell in to this category.  I decided to get hold of a copy of his book and give it a read.  The book itself is told from Millar’s perspective from his childhood and encompasses his life to date.  This is something I enjoyed as it gives a fuller picture of the guy.  It is a fascinating read and draws you into not wanting to put it down.  In a similar way to Tyler Hamilton it shows how Millar fell into taking the drugs, although not in such a comprehensive way as Hamilton more of a dabble.  Millar goes deep into his feelings on taking the drugs and the effects that the life had on him.  A very interesting read and again more cycling stories regarding the racing so another winner for me.

Merckx Half Man Half Bike by William Fotheringham

This book is not written by Merckx himself but is very well written none the less.  I enjoyed this book the best out of the four.  I had not really focused much attention on the great historical figures of cycling more of a modern day student of cycling.  This book however is incredible and riveting.  It is a full biography of Merckx from his childhood all the way through to his retirement from cycling.  It tells the legendary tales of Merckx riding the Grand Tours and also smaller races in Belgium to earn a living.  What Fotheringham has done particularly well is pull a number of sources together.  There is opinion from family, friends, team mates and arch rivals inter woven into the narrative, which make for a compelling read.  The race exploits of his most famous stage and classic victories are here and described expertly.  In summary if you where to buy one book from the four it would have to be this one.  An absolutely barn storming read!

Thanks for putting up with the ranting of a cycling fanatic!

Monday, 12 November 2012

New Direction

It has taken me a while and a lot of thinking to decide where I want to go next and what I want to achieve.  One of the aims is still the same and that is to shift this remaining weight but after a fair period of stagnation I have decided to enlist the help of a coaching team.  I went to David and Stuart Percival at Mercury Performance Coaching a few weeks ago for an initial assessment and to start to look at where I will be heading this next twelve months.  After a battery of tests including a VO2 Max test on the bike the guys took the results away.  They have analysed the results and come back with a fully holistic training programme ranging from the cycling to the nutrition.  It is something that they will support me on fully sending daily workouts for the commute to work and some indoor sessions involving the Wattbikes.  They have also sent me some gym workouts and flexibility programmes.  Alongside this will run a nutrition programme.  They have worked out how many calories I need to sustain living and how many I will use over the course of an ‘average’ day.  Targets have been set and so have food groups.  I guess a diet.  Most of you will know food is my arch nemesis in that I love to eat and eat lots.  Having kept food diaries for a few weeks for the guys to look at it it was obvious even to me that what I was eating was a load of rubbish in terms of sustaining weight loss and getting the correct amount of all sorts of vitamins and minerals.  I am now in the process of looking at the diet and making some wide ranging changes.  I am sure that I will be able to keep to it but I guess there will be the odd slip knowing me.

This has all been going well I had managed to get a week of following the cycle sessions correctly for the most part and have been making subtle changes to my diet.  Then disaster last Friday.  Whilst commuting to work a car pulled up alongside me after some lights and made a left turn no indication.  This resulted in me ending up hitting the side of the car at around 20mph and ending up sprawled down the side road bike still attached.  The car stopped up the road and I got up to go and get the drivers details as the bike, my clothes and I had sustained some damage.  The car then drove off.  I was gobsmacked.  Fortunately a few bystanders had got her licence plate and car type as I was in a bit of shock.  I thought that I had definitely broken my arm and had pain in my knee along with road rash.  Mr James Jackson came to pick me up (hero) and took me home.  After about 30minutes of being at home the adrenaline and shock wore off and I was in a lot of pain.  Five and a half hours later in A&E I was to find out that my arm wasn’t broken just cut up and badly bruised.  The main concern was the knee which I had to return on Tuesday for another X-Ray due to the swelling.  Not broken but still needing crutches and painkillers as I could hardly walk I left and have been camped on the sofa ever since.  The Police came around and are looking into the ‘Failure to Stop’ which is an arrestable offence.  I am still waiting to see what happens with this.  In the midst of all this Bradley Wiggins and Shane Sutton (Head Coach at BC) get knocked off also by vehicles.  I am active on Twitter and soon there was a raging debate about whether or not cyclists should be on roads and about the infrastructure of the countries cycle paths etc.  There was also a lot of vitriol being spouted by people both drivers and cyclists.  Some of the comments where quite disturbing from people one saying something along the lines of lets have a day where we accidentally knock cyclists of their bikes.  Gobsmacking.  I have started following @cyclehatred who retweets driver’s views/opinions.  I may have to unfollow them soon as some of the things I am seeing are making me very angry and are astonishing.  Mutual respect is needed as an effort on both parts to obey the rules of the road and try to be a bit more observant of each other.  

Ned Flanders: “You were bicycling two abreast?”
Homer Simpson: “I wish. We were bicycling to a lake.”
-- The Simpsons, ‘Dangerous Curves’ (Episode 2005)