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An arctic December to remember

January 9, 2011


Hi and welcome to my first blog of 2011 at Twenty3c-Orbea and also my first blog ever!

Some of you may or may not know me but I’m 23 year old Kristian Downs from Basildon, Essex. I rode for Orbea-FGS in 2010 and am very much looking forward to a second year with team, and can’t wait to get stuck in.

So what is there to talk about in my first blog? In a word, December. What a month, the coldest in 100 years. The weird thing is that I asked myself that if i’ve only lived for 23 years and I have witnessed this, I must be blessed somehow and this is a good thing? Lots of character building some might say, testing many a keen cyclist to their limits of motivation or survival in some cases. So what do us Essex cyclists do in times of snow? Do we go to an empty car park in our car and do handbrake turns? No, just like most dead keen cyclists we go mtbing! I don’t know if you agree with me but this is like a new sport, riding around woods dodging dogs and their owners, in which the dog owner always says, “don’t worry he won’t hurt you” whilst the dog is chasing you with its teeth out as you try to get your feet clipped into your iced clogged pedals.

The day that sums up my December was Boxing day in East Yorkshire with my family. I decided in the morning I was going to go out on the road for a ride. I knew it was cold but I was soon to find out how cold it really was out there.  After 20 minutes of riding, frost started to settle on the wind exposed parts of my body, whilst every  motorist  gawped or  pointed whilst driving past. To cut a short ride even shorter it was really cold. I did two hours and it was -4 degrees. When I got indoors I realised my bottle was frozen solid and, to the amusement of my family, my eyebrows were iced up and the little facial hair I had, had iced up too. Oh the hilarity, as every family member rushed to find a camera at the same time to capture a real life Father Christmas!

Thank you for reading my first blog and Happy New Year!

A few days in France.

January 1, 2011

It started pretty much like the past couple of days. The alarm went off in what was a pretty cold, dark room and I got up, lit a candle and set about making breakfast and lighting the fire again. No, I hadn’t gone back to a time before electricity, but when in a small room that acts as both the bedroom, kitchen and living room, it pays not to wake up the wife when you’re heading off to train first thing in the morning.

With the shutters done up tight, a quick look outside the door revealed another glorious morning. We’re in South West France, the Midi Pyrenees, so you can’t expect 20 degrees,  but the sun is shining and the roads are dry. When the weather has been so bleak and uninspiring at home, i’ll take dry roads and 12 degrees anytime, and the training here is nothing short of sublime.

With some time off work between Christmas and the New Year, Lucie (my wife and possibly the most patient woman in the world) and I escaped to the sanctuary that is our little house near Cahors. Trust me, it’s not salubrious. It’s damn cold at nights, the roof leaks sometimes and the constant need for wood to heat the place drains me even more than the training. It’s home though, the only home we may ever own, and there’s nowhere where we feel more relaxed.

This was the third day of my block of training, and I could feel the two four hour rides in my legs as I started to push the pedals after descending out of the town. I knew i’d have an hour of headwind to start before the first climb of note and so I settled into a rhythm and got my head down. A laconic dog barked without even bothering to turn and face me, another dog couldn’t even be bother to lift its head as I rode past. The pace of life is so different here, different even from the rest of France. This is the least populated area of France, a land of farmers and fruit growers. The fields are bare now, resting before they are planted once again with melons or sunflowers. The vines whistle in the wind and the orchards look a bit forlorn as they lay bare except for the odd missed apple hanging there to rot. In the summer the roads are a bit busier as the lorries that transport the fruit travel from farm to farm and the tourists check out the Bastide towns, but as I hit the first significant climb of the day after 45mins, I must have seen less then 10 cars on the road.

I’m too big for a cyclist really, working on farms as a teenager and years of surfing have given me an upper body mass I can’t seem to shift. Climbing comes hard and so I need to push myself to climb as much as possible if I’m not to be worse than useless. Sod it, it’s the last day of the block and I big ring it the whole 3km up. It hurts and the watts are big, maybe too big for this time of year, but I feel pretty good and so there’s some satisfaction in the pain.

Climbs like this are either side of the various valleys that meander through the Midi Pyrenees. Some are shallow and winding, some are like walls, 20% plus and reminiscent of classics found in Belgium as they rear up past farm yards and fields of cattle. This, I tell myself with a smile as I crest the climb, is nothing like Essex.

The ride continues along the plateau for a while through towns including Lascabanes and L’Hospitalet before dropping down again into another valley. A cautious descender anyway, I take it easy going down as there’s no point in pushing it out here and ending up in hospital when i’ve got a wife waiting for me and a 10 hour drive back to Calais on New Year’s Day. As I drop down the final part, I crouch down and then look up and…….”What the F**K is that”? I say out loud, no one to hear me for miles perhaps. In the middle of the road was a perfectly white four legged thing that from a distance I couldn’t work out whether it was a deer, a sheep, a dog….or all of the above in ghost form. It never moved, it never made a sound, but as I approached it and passed very slowly, it was a massive pure white dog. No owner, no collar, no houses nearby, but there it stood in the middle of the road, not giving an inch.

The ride through the valley was fast, the tailwind pushing me along with ease at 28mph and it felt great. The sun shone through the willow trees at the side of the road and there was a beautiful quality to the light, a kind of haze that made everything a bit soft focus. The climb out of this valley was longer than the last one but the sun was out completely now so nothing could distract me from the job in hand, pushing the pedals and getting the hard miles in.

A pretty rider i’ve never claimed to be. Suplesse and style are qualities I can only marvel at in other riders, there’s not even an aspiration to attain them as I know my limits. Power and grunt I can do though, and so I power and grunt my way up the next 4km climb.

And so for the rest of the ride……I decide to test myself on one of the 20% walls and all but kill myself as I grind my way to the top, feasting on the stem. After a quick spin of the legs on the high ground it’s the well travelled descent towards the town and the final climb up home. I’m greeted by a smiling wife and a warm house that smells of wood smoke and i’m a happy man.

Winter racing.

December 20, 2010

Lewis goes for it at in the Imperial Winter Series at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit.

Hey everyone and welcome to my first mini blog here on the Twenty3c Orbea website, which come to think of it is my first blog on anything… ever!!

Anyway, some of you may or may not know me, but I’m 23 year old Lewis Atkins AKA Lew, Lewie, Lew Lew etc, etc and I’m really looking forward to riding once again with all the guys on the team both old and new in the colours of Twenty3c Orbea for the 2011 season.

Right, to be honest the 2010 season wasn’t really a great year for me, apart from joining all the lads on the team. I suffered once again with injuries in the early part of the season and also mid way. Not to mention a heavy crash in a race at 40 mph in the last 50 metres due to my pedal breaking….Ouch! All in all I only managed 4 out of 8 months worth of racing in 2010, although my season did end on a bit of a high by winning the Sport & Publicity/Twickenham CC Ottershaw Series in Surrey.  Since  then I’ve had a little rest, not that I needed that much as I had been doing most of that all year, so it’s just been doing the steady miles and turbo due to the weather. Mind you, ours compares to nothing that I’ve heard Gunnar’s having to put up with! Jeeee!

So, due to the roads being a little dodgy out there last week I fancied going down the road to my local. No, not the pub, but to Hillingdon Cycle Circuit for a bit of a work out in the first race of the Imperial Winter Series. Now I know a lot of people think it’s wrong to race in the winter, but for me it was more of just getting a workout for an hour and as long as I got that, the result didn’t matter.

I ended up 2nd just being caught on the line by one rider, after being away much of the race and on my own for the last 4 miles. DOH! That’s bike racing for you, but I was glad of the workout at the end of the day. Since then I’ve met up with a few of the guys on the team for a ride around the Essex roads which was good, as I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like with me living down by Heathrow, so was good to catch up with some of them. For now though I think its back to the turbo trainer after the massive snowfall we’ve had this weekend! James, who said it never snows in West Drayton?!?

Well thanks for reading my first ever mini blog. I might have to think about getting a Twitter and facebook account next! Ha.

Take it easy out there everybody and Merry Christmas.


So what are we doing today?

December 8, 2010

Where we are today!

In the absence of GPS tracking the riders to see where they are, after a few phonecalls yesterday, we can reveal what the Twenty3c-Orbea Team Riders are up to today!

Lewis Atkins: Enjoying the balmy temperatures of West Drayton whilst doing some endurance training.

Mike Cuming: Currently suffering on a budget airline….his penance for flying off to the warmer climes of Tenerife to train.

Kristian Downs: Dodging the ice in Essex with Andy Lyons, James Whatling and messrs Dowsett and Hampton.

Andrew Griffiths: Man down! Andrew’s pretty sick at the moment so it’s rest and ebaying for him. Get well soon mate!

Gunnar Gronlund: Braving huge snowfall and temps of up to -15 whilst manning up in Sweden.

Andy Lyons: Dodging the ice in Essex with Kristian Downs, James Whatling and messrs Dowsett and Hampton before surveying some massive construction project somewhere.

Rafa Rodriguez: Easy training in the hills around Alicante. It’s 20+ degrees there, is it any wonder he’s so good?!

Rob Sharman: With the weather in Derby being amongst the worst in the UK, Rob has moved out of home and into the garage where the turbo is kept. He’ll be there again today, smashing himself to keep warm.

Dean Shannon: Riding from Southend to Colchester, working a full day as a builder then riding home. Proper work.

Marcel Six: Waking at 6am, feeding the family, then 2 hours in the gym before work, with an hour on the rollers afterwards……and bed at 9pm!

James Whatling: Dodging the ice in Essex with Kristian Downs, Andy Lyons and messrs Dowsett and Hampton before heading out across the South East to sell some bikes.

And what of our D.S Steve Skuse? He’ll be making sure the great and good of Kent get their post before a solid hour’s run.

We have lift off

December 6, 2010

Hi all, it’s James W here, Orbea James, Team manager, rider, etc etc.

I just wanted to introduce myself really. I should blog more, i’ve always got plenty to talk about with all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes but you know what? I haven’t have time to breathe of late, let alone sit and write something that wasn’t work, or an email or phonecall to a rider or sponsor or, heaven forbid, some training. It’s great that i’ve got the time now and with the new season fast approaching, it’s an exciting time.

These last few months have been hard work, real nose to the grindstone stuff, but thanks to our fantastic sponsors and supporters, it’s all fallen into place and i’m really proud of what we’ve achieved. I’m not one for unfounded statements or promises but this I do know, this is the finest group of riders that I have ever managed to bring together.

We’ve managed to secure sponsorship from some of the most fervent supporters of our sport that you could hope to find. They probably wouldn’t thank me if I named each person directly but without Oriel Securities, Twenty3c, Orbea UK, Mercedes Benz, CNP Professional, Shutt Velo Rapide, Paligap and Green Jersey Web Design, we wouldn’t have a team. They are as much a part of this team as me and as the riders, and for their continued support we can’t thank them enough.

And the riders? Well what can I say? Rafa, Marcel, Rob, Mike, Andy, Dean, Andrew, Dan, Kristian, Lewis and Gunnar. Heros, the lot of them. I could tell you of their wins (trust me there would too many to list), I could tell of the races they have ridden (far and wide across Europe and beyond) but i’ll just say that individually they are all fantastic guys and together are going to be one hell of a team.

One way or another, it’s going to be a bloody fantastic season.


Winter Training in Sweden.

December 4, 2010

Gunnar and Alexander Wetterall manning up!

Hi and welcome to my first short blog here at Twenty3C-Orbea.

As some of you might know I’m a 23 year old Swede named Gunnar “The Gun” Grönlund and I’ll be a part of the Twenty3C-Orbea team during 2011.

I might as well say it straight away in case you haven’t figured it out already; I skipped a lot of my english classes during upper secondary school. At that time I spent my days doing what seemed more important; namely riding my mountain bike and dreaming of getting a pro contract one day. To be honest not a lot has changed since then, except that I’m a bit more relaxed about it all now and trying to go fast on a roadbike instead.
I guess December is the part of the year when most riders realize that it’s time to turn the switch on and start being a cyclist again. I don’t know what crazy image of Sweden you readers got, but except from the all the good looking girls and vodka-drinking that apparently is going on here we’re also blessed with a huge amount of snow and freezing weather.
In fact, when writing this it’s -13c outside and we have more then 50cm snow. So, how do I cope with the winter training then? A lot of hours running and Skiing? No, I simply ride my bike anyway. I’m a bit old school when it comes to training and I think the quote “running is something you do from the cops” is spot on and I haven’t touched a pair of skis in 5 years.
At the moment I got a couple of great training mates in Alexander Wetterhall (Endura racing team) and Matthias Wengelin (Firebike-Drössiger) which makes the long, cold days a lot easier. We ride together on the mountain bikes pretty much every day as long as it isn’t more then -12c outside in the mornings. We try to keep up the training in the same way like everyone else no matter if they’re living in France, Spain or in the UK. So if it’s 5hrs on the schedule, we do 5hrs.
It may seem horrible, or even just foolish, but it actually works pretty well….just look at Alexander’s season during 2010. And after all it’s only a few months every year. It’s soon February again and then I’ll ride in the UK again sweating with my winter jacked unzipped and a big smile on my face while ejoying the great english weather.
So keep riding guys,

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