Words by Lois Dowsett
Ok, so I’m new to the blog-writing world and the serious cycling world (well taking part that is, spectating I’m a pro at). But I thought I would start one as I approach the hardest event I have ever attempted in my life to share the good the bad and the not so reem! The Essex version of London to Paris… The Athlon Sport Chelmsford to Paris (315 miles in three days).
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Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean I have to cycle in fake tan, fake eyelashes or a vajazzle, although my first cycling kit purchase was a pair of white overshoes and I would be lying if I said that I’m not doing it purely due to the promise of bubbles at the end. However, on a serious note, for someone who struggles with losing weight and keeping fit, what better motivation could there be! My brother [Alex – pro rider with Movistar] and I are very lucky to have the support system that is our mum and dad! From the pacing sessions round the local 20-mile loop on dad’s back wheel, trying to beat our top average, to the brown sandwiches ready in the fridge for me on my long rides made by mum, the Dowsetts could run their own Pro team!
So, unlike the Ride London which was a drunken Friday night sign-up, this crazy decision came about, sober, in coffee stop conversation and peer pressure from the Athlon Sport girls, who I will be thanking when I get to Paris, champagne in hand!
They, along with my family, play a huge part in my sudden love for cycling! I’ve never been part of a club and to be honest I never saw what the fuss was all about, cycling to me used to mean pain and suffering, not social and enjoyable with some pain thrown in there somewhere. But it was about a year ago that Karen Eatly and Chris Hollis found me on a local sportive, having been dropped from my group and feeling pathetic, they offered a back wheel and conversation and have been great friends ever since.
Sportives seem to be one of the only acceptable places to break into full flow chat with strangers, another reason why cycling could cure some of the world’s biggest problems! They and Steve Collins, then introduced me to the Athlon rides which I never got round to doing back then, though over this past month I have ridden with them every Saturday, I have now officially joined up as a member and I love it!
Without sounding clichéd or soppy, the moral support mid ride combined with the coffee and banter at the end with my new found friends makes the whole ride, however many times I cry or get in view of the Go Pro, totally worth it! I am not too proud to say I am one of the weakest links in my particular group, but I finish every ride knowing that I have gained something, each week it gets a little easier and there is something so rewarding in that.
This weekend was my first training ride with the group I will be cycling with to Paris and I needed an energy bar just to get me through the laughs let alone the cycling, I’m so grateful to find a group of people who put up with my crying, constant selfie-taking, diva fits and verbal abuse up the climbs… who am I kidding, this is Essex, I mean speed bumps!
We all helped each other out and giggled our way through 62 miles, it’s encouraging to know already at this stage that you have the support of 20+ others to get you through it when the tough stuff comes. We also decided on a Blue Egg trip the next day which my legs totally disagreed with, but anything that involves the Blue Egg has to be done… It’s a Dowsett thing, I did suggest Nandos but apparently a 1.5-mile ride through the high street wasn’t feasible. Plus I didn’t complain and saw an 18mph average speed out and 17.2 back, again, it’s nice to now see stats showing something that might be acceptable to be post on Strava!
This is an improvement on the previous weekend’s cycling which saw me accidentally end up in the club runs fast group doing a 50-mile ride instead of my normal 35 miles. The GoPro footage from that ride is still being censored, apologies.
So I’ll finish up my first ever blog with a few things I have learnt at this delicate stage of my cycling career. Arm warmers go on the inside of your jersey! Don’t look at the Garmin when it goes into auto-pause going up a climb, it’s just being cruel. Lastly, don’t attempt to wear your brother’s entire cycling CV in one bike ride, you will get laughed at and sent home to change.
I’ll be back again with more updates from a newbie cyclist point of view, on my training for the big ride!