Back to it - Ruari Grant
It's that time of year again when the festive off-season gluttony is a hazy memory and cyclists begin considering their New Year goals. Or maybe I'm a bit late and most people have already decided this stuff? However prepared you might be January tends to be tedious. Everyone everywhere is attempting some form of healthier living and if you take your riding seriously, it tends to be when you knuckle down and hit the turbo (unless you're hard as nails, unlike me). It may even involve some testing - especially if you're working with a coach. 'Setting a baseline' for your training is - I believe - crucial for the training to come, but it's bloody grim.
To break up the cold wet miles I usually end up escaping to the sun in February with friends. A visit to one of the less salubrious party resorts of Spain’s Mediterranean coast is of course de rigeur these days but for one reason or another this year our trip has been canned. Thus far I've made do with a first visit to the considerably colder, but arguably even more beautiful Exmoor. Despite the icy blanket covering the hills this was a splendid weekend experiencing some of the UK's best and most brutal riding; I’d highly recommend it! However, the lack of sunshine and mountains would still be somewhat disappointing, if it wasn’t for another idea Hannah and I hatched a while ago...
Having originally been bitten by the UK racing bug, I've since spent more and more time abroad satisfying an increasing obsession with exploring the high mountains and riding up hills fast. The difficulty with this has been the reliance on annual leave and the cost, not to mention an eco-footprint the POTUS would approve of.
So for a while we’ve mused about the idea of taking some time off work and using it to combine a new adventure with the chance to step my riding up another level with a greater variety of Gran Fondos. A few weeks ago, I finally found the bottle to ask my boss for a sabbatical and he said yes!
As Hannah likes to point out, all our trips are to the mountains in France and Italy. So naturally that's where we'll start (just wondering how to break the news to her), but then we hope to ride in Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria, and possibly also some of those brutal Angliru-esque climbs in northern Spain. On which note, I’d love some recommendations! I'll target various events along the way - with the hope of finally bagging a big one-day Gran Fondo win. Working together with Liam this has all been plotted out in the Annual Plan. We’ve picked a few key events in which to target, which we’ll prepare for, separated with training and recovery blocks - and as brand ambassadors we will also ride a few Haute Routes, which are always good for meeting new and old friends alike. I'll probably finish the season at the Taiwan KOM again before kicking off a monumental off-season in Asia, which Hannah is promising to take charge of with her characteristic chaos.
Given the riding is going to be such an eclectic mix of exploring, competitive racing and general fun, the training is going to have to really hit a balance. That's where Liam and the Annual Plan really come in - we'll need to prepare properly for big events, getting the right training done in the lead-up and making sure I’m fresh come race day. But combined with this Hannah and I need the freedom to travel around and do loads of massive rides in the mountains, indulging in a good dose of local delicacies. It’d be a sin not to. After all it’s combining discipline on the bike with all the fun stuff off it that keeps us motivated. This is something Liam has really helped me with, getting the balance right and keeping me motivated, right up to the end of the season.
Anyway, that's the idea. Clearly, we are enormously fortunate to have the opportunity (and thanks to both of our employers!) so now we have to make sure we enjoy it in as many ways as possible. Stay tuned for more, as our plans take shape.