What's Cool In Road Cycling

The Bloke’s Series Of Unfortunate Events

The luck of our Bloke En France has been going like the bad half of a Curious George episode… “How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success?” said Elbert Hubbard. I don’t agree with a lot of things old Hubbard said, but I think this quote holds true.

This season I’ve come close to the edge of throwing up my hands more times than ever before in my cycling career. Somehow, I’m still pedalling along. Right now, I’m clinging to the glimmer of hope that with a little more effort, it will all pay off.

Exhibit A – James’ elbow.

I haven’t written a Bloke In France‚ article for a while. A lot has happened and a lot has been learned. Most of the lessons have taught me more about myself than about riding a bike; and in the long run though, the former is probably more important.

Unfortunate Event #1
The season started off badly when I caught a stomach bug during the first weekend of races in February. That knocked me back but I recovered for the team training camp. I was pleased to find that my winter training was effective and I felt great during the rides with the guys on the roads around Girona. Even finding out that the team’s budget was much smaller than was indicated which resulted in the riders having to pay for their own training camp didn’t take the shine off my optimism for the season.

Unfortunate Event #2
We left Spain and headed to the North West of France for the Circuit des
Plages Vendйennes. I woke up on the morning of the first race feeling rough,
I was coughing, spluttering and was forced to pull out when I started being
sick. I got a fever and spent the rest of the week in bed. The only entertaining part of the week came when my fever got so high in the night, I had a vivid hallucination that the room was falling down around me and jumped out the window! Fortunately we were on the ground floor!

When I got back home to Limoux I found out I had bronchitis with a secondary infection and so followed a course of anti-biotics to clear it up.

Exhibit B – James’ knee.

(Disclaimer: This is about to become a pretty long tale of bad things. I should probably stop listening to radiohead or I’m likely to send you all packing to another page or reaching for the anti-depressents. Maybe I should write an amusing poem at this point to cheer you all up.)

Unfortunate Event #3
So I got over the bronchitis, got back into my first race – an Elite espoir event in Poitiers – only to crash on a wet descent at something around 60km/hr after 20km of racing and landed directly on my hip. I was in agony. The race doctor came, assured my now present Director Sportif nothing was broken which resulted in me being picked up and dropped back onto my bike.

So followed a mad chase behind the team car to the last group on the road. I
caught them, my adrenaline got left behind and I stopped pedalling because
my leg wouldn’t go round any more.

So followed two days where I couldn’t walk, a trip to the sports doctor and
some slow rehabilitation whilst the inflammation reduced and my body
re-absorbed the giant hematoma on my hip – which still hasn’t quite gone

Unfortunate Event #4
Well I recovered from that, unfortunately my Kysriums didn’t. They were written off and the team’s budget allowed no replacements so I’m riding the wheels we got with the bike which now tops the scales over 10kg.

Unfortunate Event #5
I got back into normal training but just didn’t feel the same. I felt weak and slow and blood tests showed that my hemotocrit was down 4 percent on my average from the last year and a half and my iron was also on the low side. Another trip to the sports doctor left me with a course of iron to try and fix me up and direction not to train intensely for three weeks.

So I thought I’d recover from that, but I still feel like I’m dragging round a lead weight when I’m riding. I’m getting my ass kicked in races and being dropped on climbs when last year I was in the lead group. I’m in the paradoxical dilemma of many athletes. Am I feeling so bad on a bike because my training has been disrupted and I’m lacking condition, or do I need to take some time off and let myself recover? Right now I can’t seem to get a definitive answer. The team seems to think the answer is more racing but spending hours in the red just to stay in the peloton, never mind being a contender, doesn’t seem to be very productive.

Exhibit C: James keeps on smilin’ – which is pretty much his only option at this point… Poor bloke…

So what have I learned from all this? Its not the good times that mould your
character, its the way you deal with hard times. Win or lose, it’s the maturity I’ve gained and the experiences I’ve had through this sport that will benefit me in the long term, not the times I’ve been the one doing the leg ripping in the hills. Still, that part of it is a lot of fun.

I’ll give it a little more effort, a little more patience and hopefully I’ll get to raise my arms for a reason that Elbert Hubbard never imagined, and if anyone wants to donate some wheels I’m sure that wouldn’t hurt either!

а bientфt,


Unfortunate Event #6
p,s. After writing this article I was given another dose of character building when the guy in front of me crashed on a corner taking me with him. (See Photos above) I took a little trip to the hospital in an ambulance and will now be off my bike for at least a week whilst the hole in me knee repairs itself. Guess that arm raising experience will have to wait a little longer!!

If you think James could use a good ol’ fashioned comforting pat on the shoulder – please send him an email to pick up his spirits:
[email protected]

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