a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday 3 May 2020

theraceforthecafe: Friends like these.

I'm going to introduce you to two friends of mine in today's post, Richard Jones and Lauren Watson, a proper authentic cycling couple. One of the perks of blogging is that you can feature your cycling mates and I have done a few times in the past, but there has to be a reason (or two) and in the case of Rich and Lauren it's because they both made important contributions when first I started the blog
I am often asked where the name of the blog came from, slight exaggeration it's only actually happened twice but I'm sure people sometimes wonder ...  anyway, the name came from the title of my PhD thesis, keep reading though, I'm not going to start rambling on about it (not much anyway). So the next obvious question has to be where did the name of my thesis come from ? Let me explain.
I am pretty sure Richard who incidentally is the man behind the hugely successful Tyrekey doesn't realise it but he is responsible for the blog name. My PhD research focused on a group of local racing cyclists called the Teesside Train Gang and at the time Richard, was one of the members of the group who would often organise the training rides. Rich is also one of the 148 racing cyclists, who I interviewed for my PhD. The title of my thesis (and the blog) came directly from a comment made by Richard on a Facebook status in 2015, which read.

"9.45 Blue Bell tomorrow, bank holiday bash! All welcome for a 3-4hr brisk ride including some hills and concluding with the inevitable race for the cafe"
A light bulb moment for me and my thesis had a title. As part of my research I made 'field notes' and took loads of pictures of the group because photographs capture details that even the most comprehensive notes would miss. The process of taking the pictures became such a habit that it eventually led me into the Instagram addiction from which I still suffer (you can monitor the current state my addiction on the top right of the page). Above - One of my research pictures of  some of the Teesside Train Gang boys meeting at the Blue Bell winter 2014, back when group rides were still a regular thing. (Rich, 4th from the right in shorts with his back to the camera).
The front cover of my thesis, 350 pages and 98,000 words of sociological waffle ... with pictures.

My PhD was mostly concerned with the impact of technology on this group of racing cyclists, Strava and social media primarily. Sadly group rides don't seem to happen on as regular a basis as they once did (in Teesside anyway) and that in part is due to the fact that it was around this time that another technological development started to have an influence as power meters became increasingly popular. Members of the TTG soon realised that riding in a group spending a lot of time sitting in the wheels had a big effect on their normalised power numbers and wasn't necessarily the best way to train. It was this development along with the loss of a few key members that eventually led to the decline of group riding in the area.
Anyway I digress - below is Rich in February this year racing at the Tour of Saudi Arabia for Ribble Weldite fulfilling a dream and doing it in some style.
Stage 5 of the Saudi Tour and Rich made it in to break of four who were unlucky not to stay away getting caught with just 5K to go. While resting between stages at the tour Rich did an interview for Cycling Weekly - Ribble Weldite in Saudi in which he described how his career has developed.

"I realised quite a long time ago that I'm probably never going to be in the World Tour tearing up the Tour de France but my career has been a gradual progression" 

"I came to racing quite late compared to a lot of guys, but it's just kind of every year you find yourself stepping up and it's only when you look back at where you were 10 years ago that doing races like this feels insane. Sort of without realising you've ended up at a point where you're in the mix with guys you watch on TV"

Rich certainly 'stepped up' in Saudi and although it was the Asia Tour rather than the World Tour he was still 'tearing it up' with some of the best riders in the world. In the pic above is Rich a lot closer to home winning the Velo 29 Redcar Beach Race in December last year. Clearly with good form he dominated the field on the sand that day, probably shouldn't have been too much of a surprise that he went so well in the desert.  
In the summer of 2016 and as I was finally getting to the end of the PhD process I started the blog to share some of my findings with the people who had helped with my research. I wanted to write in a lighter style than the dull academic writing required for a sociology PhD. I had a name for the blog thanks to Rich but I needed an identity for it. I contacted a Teesside University colleague to see if any of his graphic design students needed a project and he did - enter Lauren. 
We had a couple of chats over coffee in the Uni library before I realised Lauren and Rich were a couple, cycling really is a small world. Lauren did a lot of work on the project and came up with some great design ideas including one for kit (above) which I had made up. I still use Lauren's logo both on the blog and and on the current version of the kit, generously supplied for me this season by Yorkshire based Raceskin.
Racing in January at the Velo29 Croft Winter series wearing this year's Raceskin raceforthecafe kit which still carries Laurens logo. The weather was 'challenging' at every round of the series but I'm so glad I started my season early, little did we know then that it was going to be all over in March !
Same corner at Croft circuit Lauren also wearing new kit for the 2020 season after being signed up by Team Both pictures captured by great supporter of north east cycling and friend of the blog Darran Moore
If Richard's career has been a slow progression Lauren's has been the complete opposite, in fact it's been nothing short of meteoric. Remember earlier when I said I first met Lauren at Teesside University ? at our first meeting I remember her telling me that she knew nothing at all about cycling, that she didn't ride and had no desire to and that she was totally unfit. Well things have changed a bit since then that's for sure ! 
In just over three years Lauren has gone from unfit, disinterested non-cyclist to clocking up big training miles in the harsh environment of the North Yorkshire Moors, attending training camps in Majorca and Calpe and winning races riding for one of the best teams in the country, truly remarkable progress and hugely impressive.
Above Lauren getting her debut Boompods season under way in the best way possible by taking the top step and winners cheque at round two of the Croft Winter Series.  
Due to our current circumstances I may have to settle for wearing my new Raceskin skin-suit for my daily bout of exercise as it looks like the race season could be over for all of us, but I'm absolutely certain that Rich and Lauren will be back and raring to go in 2021. 

Thanks for reading. 

Note: If you are interested in training with power but not sure if it's for you I have previously posted on my experience of using a power meter here: No soft tapping, here A Peek at Training Peaks and here Racing with power and for anybody who has difficulty sleeping at the moment you can read some bits of my PhD research here: - Strava - here Kudos explained  and here Who has the (social) power ? .


No comments

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Powered by Blogger.
Blogger Template Created by pipdig