Tour Series Blog: Sleep, sleep, & more sleep

Three weeks in and two weeks to go of the 2012 Halfords Tour Series and everyone who is travelling to and from each round will be greeting the weekends with open arms. It’s time to sleep and recover and for the riders, get in a few endurance miles.

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Related Links: Halfords Tour Series Report & Photos – Canary Wharf | Report & Photos – Peterborough

Speaking to a few of the riders in the series, like one who works full time as well races the Halfords Tour Series, it’s the travelling and lack of sleep which is what really gets to them and they aren’t alone! Evening races are cruel as they completely mess with one’s body clock and it doesn’t take long to feel a wreck. Or maybe I’m just getting old …

Having done the Tour of Britain and other major multi-day events, covering the Halfords Tour Series actually feels tougher because it’s five weeks of the same punishment. Not that I’m complaining of course but I do appreciate the weekends especially when I can catch-up on work that needs to be done and that all important sleep. Most importantly, the sleep!

You could say life on the Halfords Tour Series is a blur and some times, that can be taken quite literally (as I rub my eyes again) …

I guess I’m used to getting to bed before midnight normally but after each round of the Tour Series, there’s a lot of work to get through, either in the van, or after a long drive home, in the office and so it’s the early hours of the morning before I see my bed.

For the crew on the race, it’s far worse. They have early starts and very late finishes as well as the travel, while for riders, it varies between being bearable for those in teams with hotels booked at each of the venues to downright ugly for those who finish a round, drive home and are then up early for work!

A newcomer to the series, Paul Oldham of Hope Factory Racing says it’s difficult but not impossible to mix working and racing the Tour Series but confirms that it’s the travelling and lack of sleep that puts them in the hurt locker, more so than the racing. It all means that when they do ride outside of the series, it’s ‘slow’ as a lot of the riders are quite simply nailed to the road.

Paul Oldham, former British Cyclo-Cross Champion, and mixing full time work with racing the Halfords Tour Series

It highlights one of the differences between the haves and the have nots. Those who have to cut down on hotels and recovery days after the races to be in work will feel the Tour Series in their legs more than the pros who can relax between events. The ‘workers’ for sure have to organise themselves really well to make the most of what holiday leave they use to do the series.

Another who works is a ‘name’ you’ll hear on the ITV coverage of the races, Marcel Six of Metaltek Scott. He’s battling with Bernie Sulzberger of Raleigh-GAC for the Sprints competition and it’s these two who are dominating that competition. When I contacted Marcel on Saturday, he was at work and explained that afterwards, he’ll get in a short ride on the bike before spending the evening with his family.

Sunday will then see Marcel doing a two to three hour ride but the main focus is to sleep as much as possible to recover from the travelling in the hope he can keep his good form going as long as possible.

Marcel Six pictured when leading the Boardman Bikes Sprint competition.

The British Circuit Race Champion Graham Briggs who’s a full time rider for Raleigh GAC admits that even for the pros, the travelling has an impact on what they do for the rest of the week. This weekend, he’s done four hours on the Saturday, avoiding by and large the tear up on the Saturday run for the Rotherham chaingang, and three hours on the Sunday just to get in some endurance riding in without the top end intensity.

A rider in the leading team, Endura Racing, Ian Wilkinson, is well experienced in the demands of the Halfords Tour Series having won it when with the Halfords Team. When we spoke (Saturday), he’d spent four hours or so riding between cafes in his native Lancashire with a few of the chaingang up there.

“Fortunately, this year there are no Premiers during the series, so there is no pressure to do them” Ian explained. “When you’re travelling all week to races, you don’t want to be getting in the car again on the weekend even if it’s only an hour away to do another event. You’re better off getting in some training nice and easy.”

While watching it on ITV4, people may just think it’s only an hour long race but for those at the sharp end of the race, on the rivet and in the red for that hour, the effort certainly takes its toll especially as the racing this year, is faster than it has ever been. Believe me, when you stand inches away from them as they pass you, you get a feeling for just how quick they are going which you don’t really do on TV. Maybe they need to stick a few mini cameras on the barriers to give that impression!

Ian told us, “I started these crits a little shy of top form and in the past, I might have been able to just sneak in but this year, there are twenty guys who are bloomin properly racing and it’s hard to get away, hard to make a difference and the speed is on all the time. They are definitely harder than previous years”.

“Those of us in Endura Racing are fortunate that we’re full time so we can plan our travel but there is no escaping the effects it has. This week will be the killer with Torquay and then Colchester. You need to take it easy, make use of the motorway services to have a few stops to wander round and relax there before cracking on and sharing the driving. Maybe even get a sleep in the car or van.”

Ian echoes a philosophy that Chris Walker (former pro) spoke about in a previous interview on VeloUK and that’s not fighting fatigue and to sleep as long as the body needs. “It’s silly to think ‘I’ll carry on getting up at 8 o’clock to go for a ride at 10’. That’s crap. You’re racing at 7pm in the evening and you don’t get to sleep until one or two in the morning so you just have to move your day around and become a bit more nocturnal.”

Tom Murray (IG Sigma Sport ) meanwhile says in his best Yorkshire accent “I don’t half look forward to the weekends!”

It helps riders like Tom that the Premier Calendar season is on hold during the Halfords Tour Series because it means the riders can concentrate on the crit races and spend some easy time at home where they can enjoy the comforts of home cooking instead of ‘Lenny’s’ hotel menu as Tom put it.

Minty (his nickname) adds cheekily as always, “being a true Yorkshireman, I catch up with the lads over a cask of ale” and he won’t be the only one who has a quiet beer (or wine) to help him relax with his family and other half while they plan their impending wedding.

It isn’t all down time though and while the bike is pushed away and forgotten for a while, Tom, like the others we spoke to, does get out there for some pedalling which in his case will be in the Pennines because as he admits, “races don’t win themselves!”

The theme of having the weekend off racing continues with Team UK Youth who have been the revelation of the series. Magnus Backstedt, Paris-Roubiax winner a ‘few’ years ago, admits that while the Halfords Tour Series is on, his team take the opportunity to go back home, relax and get some miles in while recovering from the racing and travelling midweek.

In general, riders will travel back from a race on Thursday just to get an extra night in their bed while being in hotels on Tuesday and Wednesday and even Monday nights in some cases such as after the trip to Torquay.

Magnus Backstedt of Team UK Youth

As Ian Wilkinson has said, this coming weekend is the toughest so far for travel. Living on the Wirral, the trip to Torquay is 279 miles, the trip to Colchester (Thursday) 288 miles and then 267 miles back to the Wirral. That’s my travelling.

Those in the South will have shorter journeys but everyone will be doing a lot of miles in the coming week regardless of where they live which reminds me, I must get in some caffeine drinks! At least the travelling will be cooler as winter seems to have returned and all I hope is that unlike last week, I don’t get stuck on a road somewhere at midnight having to take big detours as the highways agency close roads with no diversions in place … now that really does raise the stress levels but all part of the fun!



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