April already- and it appears that I haven't posted since Jan. I could say that I wanted the season to be underway properly before contributing to the discourse but really an earlier bedtime regime due to a new job and trying to avoid the more predictable angles meant that I had some half-formed notions to inflict on the wider world but nothing really concrete. This is shocking when you look at how great the first part of the season has been -Sagan at Gent-Wevelgem and the Ronde, Cummings fantastically opportunitistic wins, Gaviria's emergence as more than a sprinter, Cav and Wiggins performance to take the madison rainbow stripes, Armitstead and Boels-Dolmans utter domination of the women's scene, Cancellara making up for last year's injury affected disasters- I could go on. But these are covered in many places, both online and in print, by people more skilled and analytical than me. I have a maxim when posting online- either here or on comment threads- if someone else has already made your point, don't be so egotistical to feel that you still need to add yours because-well-you're you and the world deserves to hear what you are about to repeat.
So I have decided to go for the personal- after many years of debate (both internally and with my long-suffering but totally brilliant wee wife), lustful walks around bike shops and the odd abandoned online basket, I finally upgraded from my Allez. A combination of hitting 40 in a few months, the recognition that I was probably going to have to replace components on old faithful soon anyway, a well timed special offer and acceptable finance deal, feeling thinner and fitter than in a long time due to the L-plan diet (L for Lent) and some paid overtime at work resulted in me finally having the courage to hit "confirm" on Good Friday. 6 days later I got home from work to see the box containing my new carbon steed in the hallway- delivered a day early.
The more astute of you will have spotted from the title of the post that I broke away from the Specialized stable and instead went for Hong Kong's finest. A 2014 NeilPryde Zephyr is my new steed of choice.
A step up to Shimano 105 (apart from FSA cranks and brakes) from a 2300 groupset ( pre-Claris- I have always had a talent for buying new bikes with components literally weeks before their improved replacements are released- even my Specialized HardRock was probably one of the last to be sold without disc brakes!) was one attraction as was subbing aluminium for carbon fibre. The wheels are Shimano RS10s and finishing equipment from NeilPryde.
Now I am going to be honest- I always assumed that people talked up the better performance of carbon bikes and that it would not be very apparent to someone like me who doesn't race and would be better of losing lbs than £s. But even the short blast up the hill in the housing estate where I live (I love calling it a housing estate because it winds up our local Neighbourhood Watch coordinator who insists we live in a "development"- the housing prices, won't someone think of the housing prices...) after I had added pedals, bottles and began the never ending quest to dial in my position was a revelation. I took it for a spin around one of my regular loops and came back to find that, without trying much harder than normal I had recorded my second best segments ever- and that was into a head wind. I was as surprised by this as I was by FDJ's emergence as a Team Time Trial force to be reckoned with this season (all the while my wife was surprised that such an expensive bike required me to buy new pedals).
A combination of work and other activities mean my recent forays on my carbon steed have been limited to about 20 miles but when I do get some decent mileage in I will wax lyrical much further. But as it stands this is a great wee mix of endurance and racer. I can't help but grin when I see it and am looking forward to this year's adventures, planned and unplanned.