What's Cool In Road Cycling

Bloke: Hammer and Nails

The season is winding down in the Northern Hemisphere. And like a gaggle of schoolboys, our homeboys around the world are continuing to run screaming out of class at the final bell. Today, James finds himself taking a look back at how far he’s come over the past year in the cauldron of Euro-racing…

October 6th, the season is over and I’m sitting here contemplating how I am going to fill my days and weekends now that there are no more races. I’m also hoping that these withdrawal symptoms stop soon! I keep telling myself to enjoy the experience of having no training to do. It feels kind of like when I finished my exams, the lull after the storm when you keep feeling guilty for not studying before remembering that there isn’t any studying left to be done!

There are a lot of analogies for the lifestyle of a cyclist, but I think that of a workman (or work woman for that matter) is sometimes very fitting. After all, here in France, cycling itself is considered a valid mйtier (occupation/trade). I was thinking, my whole cycling career so far has been like an apprenticeship, and this year was a definite step up in this mйtier.

The difference with this job is that you have to make your own tools. Now you’re probably thinking I’ve gone crazy, surely Eugene Christophe or maybe Graham Obree were the last pros to build their own bikes?! Well, you’re right, I don’t – I can’t even fit my own bottom bracket! I am building some other tools though; power, endurance, mental strength and a host of others. The thing is with making these tools is that it takes A LOT of time and if you try to create them fast and take shortcuts, after a couple of times of hitting the nail with the hammer, the hammer breaks.

This season I’ve improved quite a lot, but at a sustainable rate. During the season I didn’t feel that much improvement, but sitting here in the luxurious lap of hindsight, I can see that I have tools now that are much stronger and more resistant than I’ve ever had before. Last year, I took a lot of kickings in the Elite races here in France. Last week I rode the last 30 km out in front of the peloton, chasing the break, into a headwind. I didn’t catch the break, but the peloton didn’t catch me, and believe me they were trying. I’d been marked throughout the race and finally managed to crack the guys who kept chasing me down on a difficult climb.

So I can sit here for a little while and be quite pleased with the improvement I’ve made in the tools of my trade. However, I can’t be satisfied, because my hammer’s all right for hitting nails on the French amateur circuit, but there are bigger races here and in the future with bigger nails. That’s why I’m more motivated than ever to see how good I can make these tools, and that’s what this winter is going to be about. There will not be miraculous huge improvements, but as long as I can see that my arsenal is developing I’ll keep striving to reach the holy grail of workshops – a Pro Contract. But right now, I’m going to sit back for a few more days and smell the coffee.


James lives in Limoux in the south of France, and rides with the CA Castelsarrasin team in the highest category of amateur team in France, DN1 Espoir. It is set up to aid the development of Under 23 riders. The team, its sponsors and support staff provide the opportunity and support to race successfully at a high level. The team is aided by the management and support of Didier Rous and Brioches La Boulangиre.

Check out James’ website: JamesHewitt.net

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