Helen Wyman's Group Gets a Riding Lesson from Police © Helen Wyman

Helen Wyman's Group Gets a Riding Lesson from Police © Helen Wyman

In her latest column, British National Champ Helen Wyman gets back on the bike to prep for her next cycling season, after a short off-the-bike holiday. Catch up on her last report, the Top-10 Moments of the Season.

by Helen Wyman

As a cyclist riding more than one season in a year, the annual holiday time always seems to pass very quickly and this year was no exception. The only difference I found was, when I started training again, the weather was even worse than when I finished the ‘cross season.

One of the highlights of my holiday included the Gazet van Antwerp prize presentation. Held in a very fancy auditorium in the KBC bank in the center of Antwerp, it was a really amazing event. All the riders and their partners were seated at the front of the hall with name tags on the seats, very cool. The organizers gave speeches and they showed highlights from all the categories before presenting the prizes. Plus they had an incredible stunt guy showing us his skills, including jumping wheel by wheel over and around Erwin Vervecken as he lay on the stage.I don’t think Vervecken wanted anymore children, so he was happy to oblige. As we were walking out of the presentation, Jurgen turned to me and said “No pressure, but Marga and I have been talking and want to come back next year too.” That sets up goal number one of the 2010 cross season, then.

Having spent some of my time off downsizing the amount of erm…how can I put it…“useful” things we have in our house, including a van full of junk taken to the tip, I had decided in my wisdom to pack up the thermal clothes and bring out the spring cycling attire. Monday morning came and with it the box of thermal clothes from the back of the wardrobe as the temperature plummeted to around -5oc on Sunday night.

Kitted up appropriately and thinking I was made of strong stuff, I set off for my first ride back, straight into a snow blizzard only 20 minutes into my ride. Great. On the bright side, I found it quite funny and was able to use my new phone to take a video of it and put it on the team’s Kona Cog website.

The next few days, the weather lords had decided not to be so harsh and actually cleared the skies. We saw sun, something I haven’t been accustomed to since my last trip to Italy in December, although the temperatures still hung around 2-3oc. This was a good thing, as on Thursday the Belgium police, obviously short of criminals to catch, decided to stop the entire group ride (three groups, 150 people) to give us a 15 minute cycling proficiency lesson. I think the gist was that we were riding too close between groups and there were too many people in each group. For an English person it was definitely a unique experience.

By the end of the week, the weather started to warm a little, allowing the clouds to gather in the sky and for the regional rain to start. I call it regional, as Belgium is a very special country and probably the only country I have visited where you can play “beat the rain clouds” and win. Maybe I’m out of practice, as I lost and ended up getting drowned at regular intervals on my ride. I think I was getting too close to the edge of the clouds before I changed directions. Plus, I wasn’t helped by the fact that there were no actual blue patches of sky, just different shades of gray. It made me feel better when Jamie told us that he had been snowed on in Rimini, Italy, up on the top of the mountains the same day.

To finish off my first week back I stopped by the bakery in the village for bread at the end of my ride and there on the wall next to their award for the best cakes in Belgium is a newspaper article that I was in from January. Fame at last – ha ha!

So I’m back training for a really exciting trip to Canada. I’m riding three mountain bike races in April, including the Paris-Ancaster 60km MTB race near Toronto, and I can’t wait. I’ve never been to Canada and haven’t been in a MTB race for a few years – I’m really looking forward to the new challenges it will hold, just like my first week back training has. I’ll report back before then on how the training is progressing.