Okay okay...I know I said I'd update this thing a little more often and never did, my bad!
Where to start since my last blog? A lot has happened and it has been in a similar trend to the rest of my year; up and down! The European Championships finished with me getting a bronze medal! I really pulled that one out of my hat as my prep was awful, but guess it turns out that all those Omniums I did pre Olympics didn't go to waste. At this point my memory is a bit rusty! From what I remember I headed straight back to Mallorca and used the Velodrome and sun wisely, next stop was Manchester, the home of British cycling.
With the usual routine of travelling a mere formality these days I was soon in Manchester and getting ready for another jam packed race weekend. On my cards was, 4k pursuit, points race and scratch race. Obviously going into the weekend the scratch race was my main event but as in life things change. First up was the pursuit qualifier and I wasn't at the races at all. Halfway through it was in trouble and reverse gear was engaged! No bueno! With the 4k done and no chance of a final, immediately followed the points qualifying! I don't know why I do it as it's just unhealthy! I started that heat with the sweat of the pursuit still pouring out of me and it hurt! Somehow I qualified, I won a sneaky sprint which placed me 10th out of 10 qualifiers, close! The day was average so far and I was in danger of becoming average at everything but the points race final soon turned that around. I still felt pretty rough and the race was a battle of will because I was close to packing it a few times as the speed of the guys early in the race had me under pressure. Thankfully I hung in though and at about half distance the other guys were not so quick and I started feeling better. Honestly at this point I can't really remember exactly what happened but I won the last 3 sprints by the fact I was off the front and charging for home. I need to thank David Muntaner who had the strength to ride with me and pick up points. Without him there and riding with me the Olympic champion Hansen would have won the race.
The points race result really lifted the pressure and the next days scratch race was more enjoyable. The problem was I'd left my legs on the track the previous day and my result was crap! I can't even remember it was that bad! I was soon heading home and I had a couple of weeks to be there and enjoy the normal life again. As with a lot of my details I can't really remember what I did but I hung out with Grace as much as I could.
Before I knew it I was back on the road again, next stop Ghent, cycling mecca! With the decent results I'd picked up, I'd got an invite to the annual Ghent 6 day track meeting. This was awesome, stuff I'd read about in magazines when I started cycling and now I was one of the lucky few!! I got myself there early so I could ride the track before race day and my first impression were "what the f**k!"... It's a mini track, 166 metres around and the banking was seriously steep. You could nearly lie on it and be standing up if that makes sense! As most of you know my race came to an abrupt end on the first night. I'd done a few races and shown my partner Marc Hester how rusty I really was. It was a shock to the system, the extra g force, the extra leg speed was killing me. Unfortunately I never got time to adjust and I was back on the deck again! In a blink of an eye I had went from mid exchange to sliding along the track in agony. I rarely moan and whinge but this hurt! I'd hit my hip that I broke in March and my leg was totally dead, agony! I made a pathetic attempt to get back on my feet but it was never happening, I was stretchered off to hospital. Thankfully X rays showed nothing broken but I was in a bad way.
As I type this three weeks later, I'm still feeling the effects! The race didn't go the way I had imagined but it could have been a lot worse. From what I've been told Luke Roberts crashed 10 mins after me and broke his femur and collarbone. When I heard this I stopped whinging!
What happened next was a reminder that life goes beyond cycling. While I was feeling sorry for myself in Ghent I got some bad news from Grace, her father Joe had taken a turn for the worst. I got myself to the airport and on the next plane home. Joe had been battling cancer since the start of the year. A battle that I was convinced he was winning. He did everything he needed to and along with his wife Breda they were doing an awesome job. They'd totally changed their lifestyles around, educated themselves and learnt nearly everything about the disease. From alternative to conventional they worked out what was best for them and ran with it. Joe never missed a day at work and very rarely said a thing about the disease he had. I am heartbroken to say that after a peaceful last few days on this planet Joe McNally passed away. He had all his family with him and it's something I will never forget. I regret never telling him how I felt, he was my best pal and I owe him so much. Himself and Breda gave me help and encouragement when there was no one else willing. The saddest part for me was that life goes on:-(
Within 2 weeks I was back on a plane and heading for a UHC team get together, the first for the 2014 squad. I reckon I was pretty mellow and was just going with the flow. It was great to catch up with everyone again though. Some of the guys I hadn't seen in 12 months!!! In this time, the team has gone from strength to strength; there's a new UHC women's team for 2014 which just shows UnitedHealthcare's commitment to the sport, along with all the other sponsors. I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in this season. I owe the team a lot for keeping me on, especially given the current state of professional cycling.
Today I was announced as BBC Northern Ireland's sports personality of the year. It has been a crazy 2013...World Championship Gold, World Championship Silver, European Bronze, World Cup Gold and 2 National Golds!! I want to thank BBC NI for this award, it is fantastic recognition for everything that has happened in the last year and also for the sport of cycling which has been going through a resurgence in popularity. I'm really looking forward to 2014 with the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships and hopefully the Giro d'Italia.
I've said it before but I'll say it again! I hope to keep this blog updated regularly next year, let you guys and gals know what happens when it happens!
Merry Christmas folks and have a happy new year!