Introducing our latest blogger, Kieran Frend. He’s a rake-thin, former Pendragon rider from Staffordshire, racing out in France with UC Aubenas.
Salut, and welcome to my first blog.
I’m writing to you from the South of France. The sun is shining, the coffee is great, the women beautiful – but I’m here to talk about gutter sniping, dangerous descents, mountain-top finishes and Eastern Europeans.
It’s taken taken six years of riding a bike pretty much full on to get to the point where I am, living the dream and chasing contracts along with the other “strangers”, as my team manager refers to us foreigners. I’m constantly wearing my Prendas ‘Brit’ edition cap just so everyone knows where I’m from on the start line.
My team is based in the Rhone Alps. Along with Brittany, it’s the most competitive area to race a bike in France. Our calendar consists of Elite Nationals, Coupe de France rounds and first category races. Frankly, I’m yet to ride a chipper!
Esko, one of the aforementioned Eastern Europeans, has been burying himself for me in recent races; it’s great having him help me in the ‘pelican’.
Being a skinny boy, I’m suited to the climbs but of course everybody wants to start them at the front.
I’m not sure if it’s the Eastern European rep, the skinhead, big legs, refusal to brake first or aggressive sound of Estonian swearing that make it so easy for Esko to keep me at the sharp end. Either way the French don’t seem to argue much with him.
Thankfully I’ve backed up his hard work, placing seventh on a stage and the overall in the Boucles du Haut Var, then sixth and ninth in one day races.
I’ll admit to being really nervous when other guys are helping me. I’ve never had that kind of support and pressure before. But due to the style of racing here, I wouldn’t fancy my chances riding solo.
If you’re wondering how it compares to the UK, it’s very different. There’s more strength in depth. Sure, if you were to bring Bibby, Downing, House et al here, they would be some of the best guys and win races, but the riders that come after seem to be so much stronger.
I’ve been swinging half a length of the wheel in front of me on a climb expecting to turn round and see ten riders left – and there have been over a hundred still there.
The racing really does only unfold in the last hour. Up until then it’s just plain fast and simply about survival. All of a sudden, when you’re convinced it couldn’t get any harder, there’s a 10km climb to make the selection.
Tactically it’s far easier racing here – it’s not about ‘picking the move’ as it is in the UK, it’s a case of just staying as close to the front as you can, saving energy and waiting for the pace to take its toll. If you’ve got the legs you’ll make the selection. If not, CIAO!
Aside from the bike racing I’ve been enjoying busying myself with watching the local wildlife (women), sampling fine cuisine and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
If the above are not viable options, then I revert to winding up my Kiwi team mate as much as possible. Thankfully he’s a tolerant guy.
Last week’s messing about involved a bucket of ice cold water being thrown over the top of the shower. Also getting the hair clippers out when bored has yielded some interesting results. We’re living on the edge here…
As I said this is my first blog and I’ve no idea if the following write ups will interest you but if you’ve got some criticism constructive or otherwise, let me know.
For more regular updates, daft observations and humour, you can follow Kieran on Twitter @kieran_frend
Frend with burly Estonian teammate Esko
Making Frends with the local wildlife