2009 British Champion Helen Wyman (Kona-FSA) checks in with an update from Europe as she prepares for Roubaix and the pathway to Worlds. If you missed it, also take a peek at our profile of her Kona Major Jake cyclocross bike.
by Helen Wyman
Last weekend we returned to the North Pole (otherwise known as England) for the highly anticipated National Championships. Just before Christmas our car broke down after having started to make a strange noise the day before. Belgium is a great country except for one thing–everybody closes up shop on December the 23rd and opens again on January the 4th. Our car broke on December the 23rd, so we had to get a hire car to make our trip back to England.
In Tielt-Winge, where we stay in Belgium, we have a lot of monsters. We have a sleep monster that comes at night and sprinkles dust on us once in a while, making everybody in the house sleep in until 10am. Then there is the drink monster that uses all the cups and glasses in the cupboard so that every morning there’s always something to wash. Now we have a car monster. Not only did our car break on the 23rd, Jamie Burrow’s car broke on the way to Calais, and Ian Field’s (Hargroves Cycles) broke just before he got to his house in England.
So we hired a car and set off to England to ride the Nationals, which by now we had an idea might be canceled. We had everything booked, so we had already decided we would still go and just use the time to catch up with some family.
When we arrived at Ashford, we heard on the radio that the M20 highway was shut where two lorries had jack-knifed at our junction, so we made the decision to cut across to the A2 instead. Tom Tom GPS can be a very good friend, but didn’t help us over one of the short steep hills covered in snow over a thin layer of ice.
The very helpful local farmer informed us we wouldn’t make it over the top of the hill as we had found out in the previous 10 minutes of trying, including using cross techniques like the mud side banks and as much speed as possible. Luckily he did tell us that if we went back and turned left we would reach the main road on a much shallower climb and wouldn’t be stuck in the valley drinking metallic tasting coffee from the thermos and waiting for the roads to thaw.
We made it to Stef’s [Helen’s husband] parent’s house and the next day decided to go out trail riding in the local area. Having watched a lot of day time TV, including rescue programs, I decided that full bright-orange kit to match my new orange bar tape on my orange Kona would be needed, just in case I crashed and had to be found in a snow drift.
Stef, who grew up riding off-road in the area, was incredibly excitable as we rediscovered a lot of the interconnecting routes he used to train on. After about 20 minutes of riding, we stumbled across Gavin, a friend of ours who Stef’s dad goes to races with, in the middle of nowhere. He took us on an amazing two and half hour, fun off-road route which included some great bridleways and the odd snow drift. The funniest thing is riding over snow covered ice puddles, almost like a cartoon as they start to break underneath and I’m trying desperately to get out of it before it gets too deep.
After a nice weekend back in England, we returned home on Monday in preparation for the next World Cups and World Championships. Fortunately, grit is not a problem in this country, and since returning, I have only been limited in my training on the road at the point where I lose feeling in my feet and by the odd snow flurry. So life is pretty much back to normal, and this weekend starts the final phase of my season with probably the most important races so far.
There are always stories to tell from Roubaix, so I will update again after the weekend.