My Twitter page was created some 3 or 4 years ago. Like most new social media sites, my biggest stumbling block was the little box entitled; Username
It took a good few days to decide on Lycrawidow, but as soon as that name popped up in my little head, I knew it was perfect.
Perfect you say? Why not just a clever acronym of your name? Why not something oh so 90’s such as playbunny69 (I know some of you out there still cringe at the email address that you add to your Curriculum Vitae)
So, Lycrawidow, what does it mean?
Let me tell you a little (rambling) story about my husband and I, and the world of Semi pro (amateur) cycling that crashed in to my life back in 2010.
The first time Michael and I met was September 2009, he was the designated driver for a mutual friend’s birthday, I, was the giggling, slightly drunk passenger trying not to throw up in the back seat of his immaculately valeted Mondeo. (He still has the car, but it is no longer immaculate!)
We spent the evening chattering away, him, mostly about the epic two up breakaway in a bike race, that had recently rewarded him with a green Jersey. (The very same Jersey now hangs proudly in our Hallway, and these days I actually understand the significance.) me, about, well, me, and my dad.
Naturally though, we formed opinions of each other, I decided I didn’t like him. That he was far too up his own arse, he decided similar of me *spoilt little Daddy’s girl* were his exact words.
Fast forward nearly 12 months, we started chatting again, he was completing a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and I was preparing myself for 13 hours of brain surgery to remove a tumour. We became a couple in late November and on the 10th of December 2010, I was introduced to the world of Army wagdom. My place card at the mess do hilariously emblazoned with “Mrs Cripps” (cheers lads!)
I still hadn’t seen much of his cycling at this point, with winter being the off season for road racing, and Michael not on top form after missing 6 months worth of training whilst in the sands.
Then, one miserable cold Sunday morning in March 2011, I had my first ever experience of a bike race. Michael dragged me out of bed at an ungodly hour with the promise of a Macdonalds breakfast, and we trundled off to the Surrey based start line in my trusty old Fiat.
He told me I would need to “feed” him, this would entail standing at the side of the road and handing him a sports bottle filled with a mix of fruit squash and caffeine, (or similar) as he cycled past me during his race. We luckily had practiced bottle changes a couple of times before hand, so I looked like I knew what I was doing!
I parked up on the steepest part of the course I could find, and settled down in the passenger seat with my book, occasionally glancing up to see if the Lycra clad crazies were approaching.
When the time finally arrived, in one deft flick of my wrist, I handed him his bottle. Change number 1 was a complete success!
This would be the start of race season. From that day forward, every single Sunday from March through October, I would dutifully position myself at the side of the road, and hand out bottle after bottle in whichever part of the country I needed to be. It was also around this time that we nicknamed the bike “The Mistress” and it has forever stayed that way!
It’s not only the road races that take up time, it’s also the training, the bike maintenance, the kit, and the drives out in to the country to rescue him or a friend after a Mechanical (or Rider!) failure.
For 5 years I have been attending every race I can, sometimes bringing home baked cakes, others just a book and an attitude. (Some Sundays I just *need* a lie in! ) I have handed out bottles to Michael, to the Army team, to legendary cyclists, and, to unknown riders that have approached me before a race begging to be fed, I have done changes in the howling rain, in the scorching sunshine and in completely dangerous, poorly designated “feed zones” where the riders fly past at nearly 30 mph. I have handed out single gels, passed up jerseys, sunglasses and baby wipes, all in the name of bike racing. I have suffered a dislocated shoulder after a change in a too fast feedzone (thanks to the paramedic that begrudgingly “popped” it back in, allowing me to drive back to race HQ) and I have spent many many hours at the side of the road reading books, and having a good old natter with riders, support teams, mechanics, NEG riders and, commissaires.
I handed out bottles throughout my pregnancy with Sebastien, all the way up to the day before he was born when Mike got 3rd place in the East of England RR champs. I had a small break from cycling to cherish our new -born son. Michael made the most of his paternity leave, finely balancing training with keeping the fridge stocked up, the house clean, and packing ready for a house move when Sebastien was just 6 weeks old.
When pregnant with Vivienne, I still attended races but it’s not so easy with a toddler and a bump!
At 3 weeks post C section I begged the Dr to allow me to start driving again, and with our teeny newborn in tow, I juggled breastfeeding and feeding my husband at the Stockbridge RR.
The world of cycling has welcomed me with open arms, I’m on first names terms with many riders (and their own wives, girlfriends! Mothers, fathers) I understand how bike races work, and 90% of the time I can accurately read a race, and be able to predict how the miles will pan out. I understand all the lingo, the strava segments, the KoM’s, the TSS scores, lactic acid, threshold training, and the difference between cat 1-4 and Elite/master category cyclists!
Also, let’s be honest, what girl wouldn’t enjoy having a bunch of (physically) fit, Lycra clad men to feast her eyes on every Sunday? Although they’re not so cool at the end of races when they’re covered in road dust, sweat, snot and dead flies. (Hence the baby wipes!)
So there you have it. Lycrawidow. Because a large proportion of my life is spent dedicated to Michael’s cycling, feeding during races, feeding the correct diet at home and waiting, waiting for him to finish a race, waiting for him to return from one of his many training rides on the Mistress, or waiting for him to finish changing a cassette/bar tape/ brake cables, so I can once again scrub oil from the kitchen floor.
Yes there are days where, in a fit of rage, I threaten to break the bike (or his legs!) just to have a day where he doesn’t ride, but mostly, I stand at the sidelines, cheering him on. I’m immensely proud of his achievements on and off the bike. He is the most dedicated Cyclist, Soldier, Father and husband I could ever wish for. I may be a Lycrawidow, during the summer months, but it’s always me falling asleep in his arms at the end of a long day in the saddle !
Header photo credit Martine Verfaillie II