Torpor. A state of suspended animation in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows and its body temperature falls. For some animals, including birds and many marsupials, torpor can be a daily occurrence. For others, torpor happens seasonally, involving long periods of inactivity. This is more familiarly known as hibernation if it occurs in winter, or aestivation during summer.
In many ways, torpor is a form of defence mechanism. It enables animals to survive hard times, allowing them to conserve energy when the supply of food and other resources becomes limited or unpredictable. Awakening from torpor is a gradual process, taking longer to exit than mere sleep.
All very interesting, you might say, but where am I going with this on a blog about domestic road racing?
Well, for one, the road racing cyclist typically goes through her own sort of torpor in the off-season. When racing stops, a period of inactivity follows. The athlete has an opportunity to switch off, to briefly forget about paying close attention to nutritional intake, her race plans, or her training schedule. A complete break from the bike, both mentally and physically. And when she does clip back in, it is with a gradual return to the intensity required for peak racing form.
But that’s still just prolonging this rather circuitous analogy. To get to the point, The British Continental has been in its own state of torpor in the last couple of months. Tales of burnout are not unusual in cycling. The mind needs to stay nourished as much as the body if an athlete wants to sustain his hunger, his motivation, to remain competitive. And sometimes a complete break – torpor – is what is needed to reinvigorate his sense of purpose.
The same can be said for me.
As founder and editor of The British Continental, I am proud of how quickly this blog – and our podcast – has grown. The original goal was to publish occasional posts with my own thoughts and observations about the British road racing scene, focusing on the ‘lower leagues’ of Continental and elite-level racing. In just four years though, we were publishing several posts a week, covering all of the UK’s major road races (and many more besides), producing features on riders, teams, races and staff, and providing a platform for riders and others to publish their own journal posts and comment. We now have a small team of regular contributors (Joe Hudson and James McKay being the most long-serving), and have had some of the best brands in cycling – Rapha, HUNT and Dolan – backing the blog with sponsorship.
But, much like a Continental and elite-level team manager, a road race organiser, or commissaire, I have been juggling The British Continental alongside other commitments, including a full-time job and caring for a young family. Suffice to say, growing The British Continental alongside these other commitments has been a delicate balancing act, one that I am still learning to get right. Then, add in some difficult-to-deal-with personal life events at the end of last summer, and the result was burnout.
Torpor ensued. And it’s been longer than I expected or hoped it to be. But it’s also been a necessary form of defence and regeneration.
Fast forward to now, and with my mind refreshed and my life commitments readjusted, I am really pleased to reawaken The British Continental.
Just in time too. The Perfs Pedal road race – the traditional road season opener in the UK – takes place this Sunday 12 February, while DAS-Handsling (formerly CAMS-Basso) will be the first British UCI Continental team to take part in a UCI road race on Saturday at the Clasica de Almeria in Spain. We cannot wait.
In many ways, it will be business as usual here at The British Continental. Race coverage, interviews, journal posts, podcast episodes and more will reappear here on a regular basis. What’s more, we will also have a regular newsletter starting soon, and later in the year, we plan to open our first members’ club. But you’ll probably see us less on social media too. Our focus will be on quality over quantity, less breaking news, more taking stock.
Rapha will continue to be our title sponsor at least until the Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix in May, and we’re hopeful HUNT and Dolan will also continue with us – more on that soon.
Just as the return from torpor is gradual, it may take a little while before we are back up to full speed. But we are already planning some big interviews and features and we cannot wait to bring them to you.
Oh, and before I sign off, there is still a limited number of Rapha x The British Continental jerseys and gilets available. If you would like to get your hands on them before they go, feel free to use the code 40OFF to get 40% off your order.
See you on the road!
Denny Gray, Founder & Editor, The British Continental
Featured image: Joe Cotterill