I am a cycling mad Dutchie, but luckily have my non-cycling husband to thank for keeping me somewhat sane 😉
Growing up in Holland, cycling was initially simply a way to get from A to B. I recall many trips to and from school on my heavy Dutch bike, battling the wind and getting my jeans soaked by the rain (because rain trousers were not cool) and then spending the rest of the day with wet itchy legs… I recall cycling to music and ballet lessons with my younger sister, who I so meanly encouraged to cycle faster, despite her shorter legs and smaller bike…but to her credit, she never gave up. But most of all I recall the sense of freedom and adventure the bicycle instantly gives you and all you need to do in return is push the pedals.
For my 15th birthday I received my first real race bike, a beautiful aluminium 1982 ALAN with a Shimano 600 group set. On hindsight I wish I had taken up cycling more seriously then, but at the time I just used the bike as a bit of fun to go for a long bike ride with my dad or friends on the odd sunny summer day.
Fast forward by about fifteen years (of studying, travel and living a barefoot scuba diving instructor life), I rediscovered my love for cycling when I purchased an entry-level Eddy Merckx through the cycle-to-work-scheme. The addiction grew from doing ever-longer sportives, to joining a cycling club and trying to hold on to the ‘fast boys’ rides, to starting my first races and time trials and getting on the slippery slope of upgrading my bike, buying faster wheels and eventually even a power meter.
I still have masses to learn, but have over the last few years I discovered that I am, amongst others, pretty rubbish at cornering, sprinting, climbing or holding my nerve in a big bunch. I have little sense of race tactics and my best results have largely been due to applying the only thing I appear to be somewhat good at: going fast in a straight line, attacking early and TTing to the finish line.
As I appear to have an inbuilt diesel engine (hence the ‘Duracell bunny on a bike’ title of this blog), I set out in 2013 to test my own limits by entering Le Mans 24Hr Velo as a solo competitor. Having never done even a 50 miles or 100 miles TT, I decided to enter my first ever 12Hr TT after all in preparation for Le Mans 24Hr, and surprisingly managed to achieve 252.6 miles on my road bike with just the support from the organising club. What is more, I achieved my goal for the year and won Le Mans 24Hr Velo.
My reward to myself was a proper TT bike (which I am still a little nervous riding and will have to pay off over many years to come). With the help of a coach I then focused on time trials for 2014, with the National 12Hr TT Champs as a main target. I didn’t achieve this target, but had some good rides over other distances and saw myself winning the Best British All-Rounder competition instead, with an average speed of 26.586 mph. I can’t complain about that and am very grateful to my coach for helping me overcome my fear to even ride the bloody TT bike at the start of 2014 to winning the BBAR title by the end of the year. Albeit a year later, and by a margin of just 193 meters (!), I eventually achieved my goal of winning the Nat12hr TT Championship in 2015 in a tough but incredibly fun neck-on-neck race with Jill Wilkinson, a former 12-hour champion herself. One day hopefully there will be a change in the women’s BBAR distances to exactly the same format as the men’s (i.e. average over 50 mile, 100 mile and 12hr)…
My 2016 season was somewhat hampered by Deep Vein Thrombosis, but I still set a PB for a 12Hr TT (265 miles) in September and came 3rd overall and 1st in my age group at the World 24Hr TT Championships (despite quitting after 19 hours due to struggles with the extreme heat…)
My BIG goal for 2017 was to set a new solo world record for Land’s End to John o’Groats (843 miles in less than 52 hours and 45 minutes) and then to keep going to also break the 1,000 mile record (in less than 64 hours and 38 minutes). Unfortunately, illness saw me abandon my first attempt. 2017 still brought plenty of other successes, including a PB over 12 hours, and 4 wins out of 4 24-hour races, including becoming both UK and World 24 hour TT Champion. Not a bad year, after all…
In 2018 I tried to break the LEJOG record again. In July my physical and mental preparations were perfect, the crew was ready, the logistics were all in place… but the only kind of records that were broken that month were weather records: it was simply too hot (even Scotland saw temperatures into the high 20s and low 30s!) and what little wind there was, came from the wrong direction. In September 2018, I tried again, but abandoned after more than 650 miles somewhere along the A9. You can read my blog “And in the End…” to find out why I didn’t succeed.
Following successes in long distance time trials and failures in chasing the LEJOG record, I am looking forward to nice Audax rides and curious to test myself in unsupported ultra endurance races and challenges. I haven’t quite sold all my TT kit yet, so never say never, but I need a good break from it all first.
I hope you will enjoy reading my blog from time to time, including all ups and downs and lessons learnt along the way.