Getting back to basics

As ever I’ve neglected the updates. Life has been too busy of late to ride my bike let alone write about riding my bike. I managed to get in the club run or a few commutes/chain gangs through late March/early April. I’ve missed the specific sessions that I should be doing on top which isn’t ideal. Jumping on the turbo at 9 pm after a long day at work isn’t the one.

I’d started an update on the Ipswich Spring Scramble, which was the last race of the my early season block of racing, but didn’t ever get around to finishing it. Without realising it at the time (as I was dying!) it was a great race. The course is rolling and it was seriously windy. I knew the start would be tailwind before turning into cross/head wind after half a lap. Most of the course was pretty exposed too so sheltering from the wind would be crucial. The race started hard, the car (which leads us out to the circuit) drove hard up one of the hills before slowing over the top. The flag dropped immediately after so there was a bit of a concertina effect. I’d made a point of getting right up behind the car which paid off as the start was brutal! I found out after the race that 19 of the 60 rider bunch got dropped in that first half lap.

Fast forward 2 hours and my legs were toast. A team mate spent a good 45-60 minutes up the road so I’d made myself useful/annoying by marking any attacks or sitting at the front with a lad from Strada Sport (also up the road). I would have got a much easier ride just sat in the bunch doing nothing but with that comes the risk of completely missing any decisive breaks (which I and 46 others did at the Mid-Suffolk RR in 2015!) For me personally though I would rather get involved and help out a team mate than just sit in and do nothing hoping for a gallop. I got a few warning signs of cramp with about half a lap to go which turned out to be terminal. My legs cramped spectacularly on the finish hill with less than 300m to go when the sprint kicked off. I stopped accelerating like I’d deployed a parachute! I couldn’t then get off the bike at the finish, it was horrible! I’d been beautifully placed too, but a combination of not racing over a crit distance (60 minutes) since last year and being fairly active earlier in the race tipped me over the edge. The legs had felt great though so the form was in there somewhere.

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Crampsville: Population me

  • Strava
  • Time: 2 hrs 30
  • Avg: 200w
  • NP: 253w
  • AVG speed: 38 kph
  • Points: Errrr nope

I had planned to do a few more races before my holiday but a combination of 10-11 hour days at work and an exam that needed some major attention meant that I missed loads of sessions. Fat Pete had also fought his way out with the long hours and stress. I wasn’t where I wanted to be so I sacked off the first race and chose instead to catch up with the guys on the club run. There’s no point forcing yourself to race, that will only lead to disappointment and frustration (lesson learnt in 2015). The second race was at Cyclopark and the weekend after my exam so I should have been keen for that but the enthusiasm just wasn’t there. I’ve been meaning to ride with the ColVelo boys for ages but never quite managed it. Usually because I had a race coming up or couldn’t justify a whole day biking. Turns out that coming weekend was the first of their five monuments, the 250k Ronde van Anglia. How Rob must have laughed when I asked if they had anything big planned!

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Rip my fingers

This was something completely different for me but it seemed like a great way to just get out, ride my bike and remember why I fell in love with cycling. I managed to rope in a club mate, Patrick, who seems to think anything less than 100k is popping to the shops. I say rope in, he was like a kid at Christmas. So we met the Colvelo boys just outside Colchester at 7 am. There were a couple of guys I knew from other rides, including Will who I haven’t seen in years, since I first joined the shop rides and got dropped every week. He’s since done LEJOG and I’ve since lost about 4 stone! It’s good sometimes to consider where you’ve come from, it’s often a lot further than you think. There were about 11-12 of us on a mixture of typical carbon and alu road bikes, a few sets of deep sections, at least one vintage racer, two rather beautiful all road Surlys and Liam on a fixie. But then if anyone is going to do that, it’s the guy racing the transcontinental race in July. Most had frame bags or saddle bags. I just had pockets so I’d been pretty limited with my packing. No gillet, no leg warmers or gloves as I just didn’t have the space for when they came off. Gloves were missed in the morning for sure! The only changes to my regular kit was an extra tube, some gas, a small power pack for my ageing Garmin and a bag of Percy pigs, sorted! Next stop Cambridgeshire.

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120k later and we hit Cambridgeshire

The weather had looked good for the day but soon it became apparent that we were in for a corker. Tan lines ahoy! I wasn’t sure what to expect other than a lot of strong legs. The guys were all really friendly and it was interesting to hear how many of them had tried out the other, more traditional, Colchester clubs (my own included) before choosing Col Velo. Patrick had told anyone that would listen that I only rode for 3 hours (cheeky bugger!) so I answered that question about eight times. There was probably a sweep stake on when my legs would fall off. The collective has a really chilled ethos with a much bigger focus on where you are going than how fast you get there. Don’t get me wrong we were chipping along quite nicely in places but the absence of heroics was refreshing (FYI, I’m often guilty of heroics) and it was fantastic just taking in the sights and having a chat along the way. The main topic being would Boonen go out with a win the next day.

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It’s a bloody good looking kit IMO.

Newmarket was the first stop after about 120k so we were well on our way to 250k by the time we stopped. The sun was out and the other perk of long distances is real food! No cake guilt, just straight into a bacon toastie. After Newmarket we continued north before swinging east across the bottom of Thetford Forest. This was probably my favourite section. The sun was out, my legs were feeling good and the countryside was wide open. Smooth, quiet roads and a gentle tailwind kept the group ticking along nicely.

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We swung into a pub in Thurston wth about 180-190k in the legs. Obviously I could feel that but considering I only ride 3 hours at a time (eh Patrick!) I was feeling pretty good. James in the shop (Cycle Evolution) has spent a fair amount of time helping me tweaking my bike fit over the last couple of years as we’ve changed bars etc beyond my initial fit and I think it’s pretty much spot on. I hadn’t even raised the bar height from my usual racing position and my back, shoulders, knees etc were fine.

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Setting off from Thurston was probably the point it dawned on me how much further we had to go. Even with 190k ticked off we still had at least 60k left before getting back to Colchester. We took a scenic route in past Lavenham and Hadleigh, not entirely appreciated by this point! A final pit stop in Lavenham for a giant cookie, an Oreo ice cream sandwich and a can of coke and we were on the home stretch.

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13 hours and 260k after leaving the house I grovelled home. I don’t ride this far often and it takes some getting used to having that much fatigue in the legs. I find it feels like your FTP is dropping point by point as you go on, by the end getting over 200w feels like 500w! Its difficult to fit this type of adventure around my racing but if you have the chance give something like this a try, I highly recommend it! It was so completely different to what I usually do and I loved it. Mojo fully restored. With a TSS of around 375 I still felt wrecked three days later. The tan lines are looking great though!

Strava

Skin suit to wedding suit

So typically life got in the way of blogging. That’s no bad thing, I cycled a lot, worked too much, holidayed a bit, ate perhaps a little too much. More importantly though, I got married. A big year! And big years need to be lived in, except the work bit, I would happily not live that bit.

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Anyway so i’m ill, cruelly struck down with man flu, which is a perfect opportunity to type up something that doesn’t relate to pensions, tax legislation or levels of pension income that my generation will never see. I pretty much lucked out with illness this year which is pretty sweet. I also stopped my annual tradition of throwing myself at the tarmac for which I (and my ever concerned wife) am pretty stoked about. Here’s a picture of an echelon. No reason, I just like echelons.

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I had a pretty great season by my standards, actually make that really great, so I thought I’d pick out a few races from the summer that I at least found interesting. I ended the year a 3rd cat on 24 points having hung up the race numbers in August, roughly about the time a collar bone takes to heal before the wedding…She’s a smart one that Mrs Shaw.

Ken Wright Memorial RR – 2/3/4

So this was my club’s home road race, on home roads and this year NOT the regional champs. Result definitely possible for VC Revolution, or so we thought. Didn’t turn out that way but I had a blast covering moves, doing some work and generally not being pack fodder. Support from the club and friends of VCR on the road side was great as we (Ollie E, Andrew H, Tom S, Andy E and Grovesy) went round which really does make a difference. Anyway, we missed the break of 15 (all the points in a 2/3/4 Reg A) and I finished 27th, about 12th in the gallop which was half decent. Bah! Loved the course though, looking forward to next year already.

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  • Strava
  • Time: 2 hours 52 minutes
  • Avg: 178 watts
  • NP: 235 watts
  • Avg speed: 41 kph
  • Points: Up the road
  • Sock game: Strong (see below)
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VC Revolution, taking socks seriously since 2007

Abberton Road Race – 3/4

Call this one my second home road race. It’s on the same course as the Jock Wadley (see actual Wadley report here) and also put on by the Colchester Rovers. Organised this year by my good buddy Matt who stepped up and took it on. It was a target race for sure but I wouldn’t say that I had really trained specifically for it other than by putting a big block of racing ahead of it in May. Being a 3/4 I fancied my chances for this one much more than the Ken Wright. VCR had good numbers in the race (Tom S, Andy H, Ian F and Trevor) and we worked hard to make sure we didn’t miss the break this time. In the end no break stuck but one guy did get up the road solo and put 3 minutes on us. He was joined on the last lap (i think!) by another guy that I swear teleported off the front. I can remember realising he was gone when I couldn’t see his fluro polkadot socks near the front any more, no idea when he went. So the rest of us were left fighting for 3rd.

Teammate Trevor hit the front with a lap to go and put in a monster turn to string the bunch out over the bumps on the back side of the circuit. That effort really made the race for me as it kept the bunch together. The other half of the course isn’t hard enough to attack on unless its windy. Rolling up the New Road the wind was from the right, it wasn’t of Flandrian proportions but most of the bunch was busy fighting for the left hand gutter. The finish is sheltered though so I used this as an opportunity to move up. I ended up on the wheel of a lad from Ipswich BC, about 4 or 5 from the front and right on the edge of the bunch. Still not really sure how I managed that. I mean I often planned this, but it rarely worked in road races.

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Photo credit: Natural photography

Ipswich lad went, I followed and we had a monster drag race for the line. Literally side by side, it was awesome. I didn’t dare look behind but we finished half a wheel apart and held off the bunch, Erin was at the finish cheering me on. Best. Race. Ever. Ipswich lad took 4th, I got 5th. Turns out our drag race had produced a monster lead out for Tom from Interbike who took 3rd by a clean 2 bike lengths. That wasn’t part of the plan…..Sure, a podium would have been perfect but I was so chuffed with 5th. All my points prior had come from 4th cat crits so it was a pretty big deal for me. Plus I got a decent cheer at the HQ from the guys which was sweet and I knew I had nailed my tactics so I couldn’t really be disappointed losing in a drag race when I knew I’d given it everything.  The finishing sprint was 720w for 20 seconds. Not earth shattering in isolation but that came halfway through 470w for 75 seconds and after 59 miles! Boom!

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Colchester’s 2016 bike gurning contest

  • Strava
  • Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Avg: 186 watts
  • NP: 238 watts
  • Avg speed: 39 kph
  • Points: 6

Cyclopark – midweek 3/4

I did a fair few mid week crits this year and seriously they are some of the most fun you can have on two wheels. No-one is peaking for these or taking them too seriously. Generally the strong guys try to beat up the weaker guys and see what’s left at the end. Rads (Paul R from the Rovers) and I had trekked down after work and this race stands out because the wind was exactly across the circuit. As the main straights are parallel this made both directions a complete slog and led to a fight for the gutter twice a lap.

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40 odd started, within a lap there were less than 30. Attack after attack kept reducing that number and eventually 4 got away 20 minutes in. We worked a bit and maintained the gap until about 2-3 laps to go. Inevitably people started looking at each other and another 3 got away. In hindsight THAT was the move! Being lazy I had hoped someone else would close it down. Nope! Roll forward to the final lap and the field was blown apart with 7 off the front in groups of 3s, 2s and 1s. I sprinted to 10th, 3rd in the gallop just behind the remnants of the break, and picked up a solitary point. I’ve marked this one down as a favourite as it was a complete sufferfest. Sometimes you don’t come away with much but you know you gave it everything and that in itself feels pretty good.

  • Strava
  • Time: 55:34
  • Avg: 228 watts
  • NP: 267 watts (rip)
  • Avg speed: 38 kph
  • Points: 1

Berkhamsted Castle revolutions – 2/3

The Tour of Hertfordshire series has been around a year or two now I think and they have done a great job of getting local councils onboard to run a series of festival like crit races on closed roads in town centres. I grew up in Hemel Hempstead and Berko is only minutes away from my parent’s house by bike. In fact, I ride through the course every time I meet up with the guys back home for a ride so it was a must do race. The circuit did laps of the Berkhamsted castle ruin and has the start/finish alongside the old castle wall so spectators could look down on the racing from above. Being a street circuit it had tight corners, not to mention a short climb and a fast descent into a tight 90 degree left hander before the finish. Tough circuit for sure. There were food stalls, lots of beer, music, a few bike companies and an awesome atmosphere. Did I mention there was beer?

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I was signed up for the 2/3 and a couple of mates (Jules T and Dan R) were racing the 4th cat. My parents had come down and a few of the other guys wanted to witness the suffering too. No pressure, particularly as the last time my parent’s spectated they ended up taking me to A&E…. Anyway, the guys had a mega race in the 4th cat with Dan picking up a couple of points in only his 2nd crit. Jules was committed to the hero move. Inevitably he was brought back but I’d say the committed cornering photo totally made it worthwhile.

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My goal for this one was simple. Survive. Street circuits are definitely not my thing (see Ixworth) and this one had added 2nd cat, plus I’d invited half the world to watch me. I was racing out of region but there were still some familiar (strong) faces in the races. The Fast Test boys had taken a hell of a day trip over from Suffolk and would definitely be a team to watch. I lined up near the front (Ixworth lesson learnt!) and kept top 20 for as long as I could. Someone went down about 2/3rds in which split the bunch, I was just about on the right side of this but slipped back as a result and suffered. Oh man! It was like watching the Jack Bauer’s 24 clock ticking down in the corner of my vision. Every lap I could hear Matt shouting “move up” from the castle wall as I passed the finish line. Whilst useful advice it was pretty much outside my control by that point! Anyway, I finished 27th, so not last. Wahey! Hella good fun but such a kicking. I’ll give it another go next year for sure. Heart rate graph below for lols.

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  • Strava
  • Time: 40:34
  • Avg: 234 watts
  • NP: 269 watts (rip)
  • Avg speed: 40 kph
  • Points: 0 (but not last)

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VC Barrachi road race – 3/4

This turned out to be my last race although I didn’t know it at the time. The CC London road race, which would have been my last, was cancelled the night before, shame really as I was feeling really good. Strava was filled with angry hard rides that day, think a few others were feeling good too.

The VC Barrachi course was fairly flat and pretty fast due to a lack of wind. Being way up in deepest darkest Suffolk it was well attended by Strada Sport, Iceni Velo, VC Barrachi (obvs) and Great Yarmouth so if a combination of them went that would be it! Grovesy and I had made the trip and my plan was simple, don’t miss the break (again) and attack the prime. It would give me a feel for the finish and given the lack of wind would probably be the best shot at a break.

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Photo evidence, occasionally I do some work

Well, I was right. The finish was fast and on a very short uphill after a gradual descent. The race strung out for the prime and a strong looking break got away on the one wind exposed section after the prime. I ummed and ahhed a bit too long and eventually went when I realised the composition was right. Cue my best 3 minute power ever (350w for 3:30ish). I got so close but ultimately blew up (hello max heart rate) and dropped back to the bunch. The course turned left, picked up a tailwind and the break was brought back pretty soon after. All for nothing but thats road racing.

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After that it was all staying up the front and seeing what was what. There were a few of us committed to getting away and never really got anywhere. We made the race tough though so I had a laugh. It was my hardest race power wise which on a flat course was going some. I really did get stuck in. I ballsed up the finish and it came up faster than I remembered from the prime. Think I finished 15th-20th or so. Defo had the legs but wrong place wrong time! A definite favourite this one, bit like chess at 40 kph. More races like this please.

  • Strava
  • Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
  • Avg: 194 watts
  • NP: 247 watts
  • Avg speed: 42 kph
  • Points: 0

Just ride your bike

Last up of my favourites wasn’t a race at all. Once the racing was done I did a few stupid things that I couldn’t do in the season. I rode around 250 miles in 5 days commuting from Colchester to Ipswich for the hell of it. Rude not to in sunny August when you have no races to taper for. Erin’s hen do was at the start of September and would leave me on my todd for a weekend. Cue, daft cycling adventure.

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Beautiful misty Summer’s morning

After a bit of excited messaging Jules and I came up with the brainwave of cycling from Berkhamsted to Ipswich via my wedding venue (conveniently near the Blue Egg, a popular destination cafe and occasional haunt of Alex Dowsett), skirting Colchester, meeting up with Matt for a few miles and crossing the Stour via the foot ferry from Harwich to Shotley. Approx 134 miles. My Dad (also on his todd as my Mother was on the hen with Erin) provided a late night taxi service so Jules drove over to Ipswich, dumped his car and rocketed back to Herts with us at about midnight on Friday. We set off at about 6 am Saturday after practically no sleep (Neither of us are renowned for our time keeping so I have no idea how we made it), spent a quality nine hours chatting shit, getting lost, ripped the side out of a GP 4season offroading on a road bike and got a tan on only the right side of our bodies. It was a mega day out!

Strava

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So that was the summer of 2016, mega year. Promise i’ll update this more in the future, maybe. Thanks for reading!

Rest of my year can be found below if you are bored, ill or can’t sleep.

#3rdcatproblems

So, it’s been a while. I haven’t done much racing since the Wadley but I have managed to keep the training miles up. Mostly in the mornings before work as it’s the only free time I’ve had. I made myself a pretty decent 35 mile route chasing every gradient on the way to Ipswich so now that the season proper is getting closer I’m making my efforts shorter and harder. Once I got my head around waking up at 5:30 am the sunrises made it totally worth it.

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I mentioned last time that my #4thcatproblems had become #3rdcatproblems but didn’t quite get round to writing about it. Mostly because I can’t find one single piece of media recording the momentous occasion. Typical really, as there’s always someone around to jump out of a bush and photograph you getting dropped at Hog Hill! I took my first trip to Cyclopark as a 3rd cat last weekend so I thought I would have a look at how 4th and 3rd cat compare.

San Fairy Ann CC Spring crits – Final 4th cat race (5 March)

I was like a kid on Christmas eve in the week running up to this race. In my mind 3rd cat was a certainty (only needing 6th or better), it was just a question of whether last week had been a case of the stars aligning perfectly or was there potential for another decent result? I’m not sure how I got any work done that week to be honest as I kept replaying the last race over in my head looking for ways to change the outcome. Kind of like a lycra clad Groundhog Day. Tactics obviously play a part in racing, but sometimes the other guy is just stronger. In hindsight I reckon I rode my race perfectly and 2nd was the deserved reward.

So rolling back to this race. I’d bumped into last week’s winner before sign on and we got talking about the rematch, I mean race. He and his team mate were keen to get away with a few laps to go so after the usual polite conversation charade (whilst secretly trying to figure out each other’s fitness) I expressed my interest in joining said break. In reality I’m much more suited to a bunch sprint but I would go with them if it looked like we might get away. In the last race we had caused some damage when the field split with 5 to go so I was all for making other peoples’ legs hurt. I’d found in 4th cat races that you often had a few protagonists that were clearly stronger than the rest of the bunch, a fair size mid field that could get a result if the race played out as they wanted and then a pretty big remainder that would get dropped somewhere between the start and finish. I’d realised at the Hillingdon crits that I had gradually moved from the mid field towards the pointy end of the pack. Not that I had managed to convert any of that form into results! If we and a few other strong riders got away at Cyclopark there was no way we were going to get brought back. People would shout in the bunch, but no-one would commit to the chase. Such are 4th cats. This time the wind was up the finish straight though which changed the dynamics of the race completely. It would be a much less selective race as the wind would counteract the drag to the line, not entirely, but enough to knock some watts off the effort each lap and that adds up over an hour.

The race was pretty nondescript for the most part.The graph below tells the story. Average watts of around 210 (Strava has overstated slightly), and average heart rate of around 161. Heart rate uncomfortable but not unsustainable. Nothing ever looked like a realistic prospect for a break so I spent the race holding position in the bunch and doing zero work, which is reflected in the watts. Loads of guys say they do a good job of staying out of the wind but I reckon I was deserving of a degree in wheel sucking such was my lack of contribution. The usual steady increase in pace occurred when the 5 lap board came out. My legs felt pretty good so I was confident at this point that I could get a result. I tend to be fairly passive in the bunch but once a race gets into the last 5 I try to switch off my club run manners and fight for wheels. It takes a while to become utterly ruthless in a bunch but every time you help someone out by letting them in (or out) is an opportunity for them to take points from you. It does still make me chuckle that there is always at least one chopper that shouts “slowing” coming into the tight corners or “on the left” as he dive bombs up the inside. It’s not a club run!

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With half a lap to go a dude from North Road CC took a punt on a long one and attacked into the headwind on the back straight. The crucial corners at Cyclopark are the two left handers at the end of the back straight. Get through them in the first five wheels and you should be on for a result. On to the finish straight and I was probably a little further back than I should have been (no obvious excuse springs to mind), I was sheltered though and had a decent line out of the bunch so no biggy. North Road was still dangling off the front but the long drag to the line looked to be taking its toll (first rule of Cyclopark, don’t go too early). I can’t remember who went first but I jumped hard out of the bunch with a dude from Oxted (interestingly last week’s winner’s team mate), he was on my left and slightly ahead with perhaps 20 seconds to go. Ahead of us North Road started to veer over to the left (from the far right) in slow motion, kind of like a drunk walking home from the pub. I found myself headed for a closing gap between him and Oxted. My first thoughts are not repeatable but despite the gap continuing to shrink, so much so that I had to get back in the saddle to squeeze through the gap, I got through. I think we brushed as I went past but a final acceleration once clear was enough to pip Oxted by a bike length or two and win my first bike race! Holy shit!!!!!! A year of hard work, frequent disappointment and much suffering had finally paid off. And no bugger took a photo or recorded a video. There wasn’t even a podium. Sob. In the absence of proof otherwise I’m pretty sure it looked exactly like this.

 

The final sprint had only been 12 seconds at 770 watts (see below). Of that, 3 seconds was the final gas to the line at 890 watts after squeezing past North Road. Crucially though the last lap had been at near 300 watts, a threshold effort for me, so that 770 watts came after 3-4 minutes of suffering. I’d also made an earlier 900 watt kick to get onto the right wheel out of the hairpin before the back straight. You can see that the pace jumped up nearly 4 kph on the last lap and its this change in pace that strings out the bunch and weeds out the optimists. I’ve realised that once the 2 lap board is out the finish is usually less than 5 minutes away. How ever much you are suffering here its going to be short lived. The other aspect is confidence, so often last year I doubted myself and missed an opportunity by hesitating. If you have a half decent sprint taking the initiative could be enough. Remember the guy that goes second will have to put out more power in a shorter space of time to come round you. Equally, anyone that is behind you when the sprint kicks off has more distance to cover and will likely be gassed by the line. If you can’t see them when you go forget them! Seems obvious but it took me a season to put that into practice.

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  • Strava
  • Avg: 202 watts
  • NP: 242 watts
  • Avg speed: 37 kph
  • Points: 1o (6 carried over towards 2nd cat)

I’d promised myself #sockdoping last year if I made 3rd cat and that’s exactly how I rewarded myself. Someone had linked me a photo on Instagram to these bad boys and despite the need to pay for air mail from Australia it just seemed meant to be! Who can say they have their surname on their socks? 3rd cat Pete had arrived!

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Crits at the Park – First 3rd cat race (16 April)

So roll on five weeks and I headed back to Cyclopark as a 3rd cat. I’d been ill for most of the week beforehand and hadn’t really touched my bike for a week. Needless to say I didn’t have the same confidence as my last outing, hell I didn’t even know if my legs were going to show up. Before the illness I’d been going pretty well though so I was hoping that I would at least get round and I was curious to see how a 3rd cat bunch compared to 4th cat. I had no real aspirations in terms of results, especially after losing a week to illness. It was a big bunch, a good 50+, and we were missing the top hairpin due to a circus being set up. The comm said because of dogs on the course, “dags” if you’ve seen Snatch, I have no idea if he was being serious.

The race started with a dude faceplanting off the line after missing his cleat. More than a little embarrassing. He took someone else down with him and the resulting hold up took a fair few out of the race from the start. The wind was up the finish straight again and the lack of the top hairpin actually made the circuit harder. Now the pace up the finish straight was carried around the top bend straight into the headwind on the back straight. Compared to 4th cat there was a noticeable increase in pace, not a Trinity Park when the scratch group comes through increase, but 4 kph more was enough to make it much harder to move up. I spent the first half of the race just about hanging on to be honest. Despite a decent warm up the lack of miles made my legs feel wooden. I don’t think I’ve seen a full 50+ bunch strung out before but I looked up more than once to see my teammate Tom doing just that. That didn’t help my suffering legs. He had several cracks at getting away but it seems 3rd cats are no different to 4th cats in terms of not letting breaks go. Plenty would bridge over to him only to sit on his wheel. Tom sensibly disappeared back into the bunch for the remainder. The rest of the race was pretty nondescript for me. A dude that I raced with as a 4th cat last year nearly, so nearly, got away with a couple to go. Didn’t quite make it stick though. Tom offered lead out duties which I duly took up but I didn’t have the legs left to hold his wheel. I rolled in about 35th or so but generally I was pretty happy to have survived. As well as my team mate, Tom, there had been Mark (the dude that nearly got away) and another local dude, Andy, in the race so it was pretty cool racing as a 3rd cat with guys that I had raced and watched move out of 4th cat last year. Tom falls into his own special category as the 3rd cat that loves to suffer. “Remember, you’re having fun” being the catchphrase that usually comes with a complete and utter kicking. A few more weeks training and I reckon I’ll be tip top for the start of the road season. First though, Ixworth town crits on the bank holiday weekend. I’m expecting this to be unpleasant.

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So comparing this to the 4th cat race that I won…….did I mention that I won a bike race? You can see from the chart above that my heart rate was much more consistent in this one than the previous 4th cat races, reflecting that the pace was faster but more consistent without the stop/start bunching of a 4th cat race. So much so that you can make out the finish straight drag spiking my heart rate each lap. Average heart rate was higher by about 10 bpm, partially due to my lack of fitness and remaining illness, but also because of my poor positioning in this one. I would have got an easier ride at the front of the bunch. Interestingly normalised power was pretty much the same as the last 4th cat race. Average watts were 10 watts higher over the race, not a huge difference but enough for your legs to notice.

  • Strava
  • Avg: 209 watts
  • NP: 241 watts
  • Avg speed: 40 kph
  • Points: 0

I thought I’d summarise the differences I spotted between 3rd and 4th cat crits. Probably repeating myself a bit but it might be of interest having them in one place.

  • Faster pace, seems obvious right, but a more consistent pace too. If you slip back it will be harder to get back on, but stay near the front and I dare say you’ll get dragged round quite comfortably using less watts than in 4th cat.
  • Riding standards weren’t the step up I expected. Quite surprised by this but there were still plenty of choppers and guys that can’t hold a line through a corner. They’ve just got a little faster.
  • Much more confident and vocal bunch. Don’t be intimidated (see above).
  • A break is just as unlikely to stick here as it would in a 4th cat crit. You will get chased down and very few will work with you.
  • Less bunching (when the bunch compresses quickly due to a slowing of the pace on the front) than a 4th cat race, but when it happens boy does it compresses fast!

My final pointer for 3rd cat crits is this, if you are going to rock up on a Tinkoff branded Specialized Tarmac, wearing a Tinkoff branded Evade (because it matches your club kit) don’t shout your mouth off in the bunch. Especially when you seem to spend more time off the track than on it….

 

 

 

 

W/kg be like what?!

Fat Pete managed to get completely off the leash in December and, frankly, he went nuts. Like really nuts. I figured why fight the Christmas excesses, so instead just embraced Jaffa Cakes for breakfast and the frequent cheese boards. By the time January came around I was glad to be back to good habits and keen to get the weight back down in time for the winter crits and reliability trials. You might not believe it but I did, finally, get sick of cake.

I now have a full year of power data so I was curious to see how the excessive Jaffa Cakes over Christmas had affected watts per kg. As I keep track of my weight I figured I could knock up a chart to see what damage I’d done to W/kg (at FTP for comparison). I have to admit, the results were pretty shocking. I’d pushed myself beyond my 2015 starting point! The FTP figure is fixed, based on a test in late December, so the variations are purely driven by changes in weight.

watts_per_kg_chart_v2

Since the New Year I’ve been steadily chipping away at the kgs and got back down to about 75 kgs, which is the top end of last season’s race weight range. Not too shabby for this time of year but there is still a little more to come off.

As you can see its far easier to improve your performance by knocking off a few excess kgs (assuming you have them!) than it is to murder yourself with intervals. Particularly once you are beyond the point where you can add 20 watts to FTP in a month. Those were the days!

Obviously though, do both. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing through January and into February.

2015 – A season in numbers

 

Abberton 1

Photo courtesy Matt Wing

 

Rather than the usual Strava video or whatever I thought I’d take a slightly tongue in cheek look back at my season.

54,887 – Number of cakes consumed, wait, no, that’s metres climbed

9,197 – Distance covered. In km, because its pro. Maybe also because the number looks better…

299 – Hours spent on the bike.

261 – Number of individual rides. Excluding commutes, as they’re not on Strava they don’t exist right?

197 – Max heart rate. No two ways about it, you can’t get a decent result without suffering.

191 – What I thought my max heart rate was. See above.

184 – Longest single ride in kms (Ronde Picarde).

150 – Number of minutes spent hanging on for dear life and wishing that the Divs (Regional RR Champs) would end.

145 – Number of minutes spent secretly enjoying racing the Divs as a first year 4th cat. I didn’t last, but then I wasn’t expecting to get beyond the first lap anyway. Nat B as a first road race anyone?

24.45 – Best 10 mile TT. Note, taking the right turns can be conducive to good times.

16 – Number of races finished.

10 – Total points scored.

3.82 – Watts per kg at threshold. Power not bad. Little more weight loss required though. More to be done on 1, 3 and 5 minute power too.

3 – Best result of the season. Woop!

2 – Trips to A&E. I’m calling this the ‘Thrasher ratio’. Hoping to not improve on this particular stat in 2016.

0.25 – Watts per kg lost due to ‘slight’ overindulgence at Christmas.

 

Winter miles

For the aspiring road racer November is an awesome month. Most are done in after a long season of hard miles, be it racing or training. Winter gives you a chance to recharge your batteries, get back to enjoying riding your bike and prepare for the season ahead. I’d raced long into October so I’d actually reached the end of the season fairly fresh as my last few races had been crits. Rather than take a few weeks off I decided to head out in November and just ride my bike. I met up with the club run for the first time in ages, totally ignored my power meter and just plodded along without a care in the world. It was absolute bliss.

To many, November and December are horrible depressing months, why on earth would you ride in the rain, the cold and the dark? There are five things which I think are essential to making winter miles bearable. If you get it right, winter miles can be some of the best miles of the year. Do it well and you will also be in great shape for the coming season.

Mudguards

A divisive subject but I bloody love my mudguards! No soggy chamois, your feet stay dry and you get home not smelling like a farmer’s field. What’s not to like? I’m also convinced that mudguards create a serious parachute effect in the wind. Your good bike will feel about 2 kgs lighter when you dust it off in April. So hopefully 4kgs lighter in my case….

A solid winter bike also helps to get you out the door when plugging away at the miles. I’ve set my Kinesis up with the same fit as the Emonda, the same saddle and the same gearing so its pretty much just a heavy version of the good bike. There really is no point spending three or four months on an uncomfortable bike that bears no resemblance to the fit of your good bike. In my case I’m still limited drop wise by my hip flexors so I’ve dropped the bars 10mm lower on the Kinesis to see how it goes. I live in hope of something that resembles an aero position on the bike next year.

winte_rhack_2

Good kit

There is no such thing as bad weather, just poor kit choice.

There’s a lot to be said for that I reckon. My winter essentials are as follows:

  • Good quality bib longs.
  • Merino base layer, ideally long sleeved.
  • Gillet
  • Decent gloves, overshoes, buff and hat.

With the above and a couple of different jerseys to layer depending on the temperature you really can ride in all weathers. I’d love to add a Gabba to that list but I’ve yet to find a spare £200 down the back of the sofa. Don’t underestimate the awesomeness of quality bib longs. I bought a pair of Sportful Fiandres earlier this year and they really are a world away from shorts with a cheap pair of tights over the top.

image1

A plan

It sounds daft. But decide early on what you want to achieve next season and structure your winter so that it gets you to where you want to be. Ideally you want to be using either power or heart rate to guide you along the way but whatever you use, make it structured.

baldrick

I’ve got a pretty weird season ahead of me so my winter training will have some scratching their head. I’ve got an exam in April so realistically my season can’t start until May and I’m getting married in September which means my season will only run until the start of August. I’m going to give the Hog Hill winter series a solid go this year and try and make 3rd cat early on.  My winter will look something like this.

  • November – Volume. Simples.
  • December – Less frequent longer rides (3-4 hours). Sweet spot and threshold work plus intervals. Stay away from the mince pies.
  • January – Race Saturday. RTs where possible on the Sundays whilst maintaining some volume through the week (study permitting).
  • February – As above.
  • March – Drop the racing, focus on the exam whilst hopefully maintaining some semblance of fitness. Try not to eat too many biscuits.
  • April – Final pre season tune up. Mostly sweet spot and intervals.

 

Good mates/training buddies

Why else would you get out of bed at 6 am on a Sunday and ride for four hours in the pouring rain? Given we spend most of the year staring at each others seat posts and breathing through our arses, it’s a pleasant change spending a few hours rolling around the countryside catching up with the guys, putting the cycling world to rights (Froome’s data release will keep us going until February at least) and just generally having a laugh. All the while building a solid base for next season.

CUM43Y1XIAA4AUV

Rest

Seems obvious, but don’t over do it! Catch up with your friends, your loved ones and just generally relax. Also eat cake. Winter should be filled with cake. There’s absolutely no point in watching your weight until that Terrys Chocolate Orangathon that is Christmas is behind you. Once January comes around pick a target and start that painful taper back down to race weight.

cake

I would say there is also no point in peaking in December but that’s exactly my plan…..I’m going full winter warrior.

Speaking of which, is it acceptable to wear arm and leg warmers with a skinsuit? I really don’t want to shave my legs in January…..

Whatever you do, enjoy it. It’s supposed to be fun.

FTP goggles

I might have just invented that phrase. But still, that’s my problem, chasing improvements in functional threshold power. Makes for great pub bragging rights (or a really dull conversation….) but it doesn’t translate well to circuit racing. I’ve raced a few rounds at Trinity Park and been dropped unceremoniously every time.

I’ve had two problems, not enough short intervals being one, but also my back falling to bits over the rough surface. Its weird really, i’m on the limit (obviously) but its pain rather than the legs that is chucking me out the back. Gradually it gets harder and harder to jump out of the corners, then bang, gone (again). I thought it was my back but after a bit of digging I think it might be a combination of tight hamstrings as well as the weak back.

I’m going to try some stretching, like so:

http://jomcrae.co.uk/bike-fit-blog-part-deux/

and some core exercises courtesy of my buddy Davina (laugh all you want). I’d forgotten all about these until I read that my buddy Michelle, the running astronomer and now an internet celebrity (Linky) was having similar problems. The core session is only 15 minutes long so I’m going to try and fit that in a couple of times a week.

Lets see how that works out!

Langham 10 – 1 July I fancied a break from the weekly Trinity Park kicking and I’d penciled the Langham 10 as a suitable distraction. A 10 is also a great way of incorporating a threshold test into an event as you always go harder with a number on.

It was a bit toasty to say the least, a TT on the hottest day of the year so far certainly helped to burn off a few cakes. I want to break 300 watts (no specific reason, just an arbitrary target) over ten miles and i’m getting closer. 284 watts this time out versus 281 last time. I think there is a little more to come with pacing. Heart rate is pretty good, a nice gentle slope to blurry vision and the need to vomit, but power is a little shaky. It will always move around but I found I was lifting off too much when I lost concentration. For me at least its harder to keep it at full gas than it might seem.Langham_10 I’m chasing power rather than time as i’m at hefty disadvantage on a road bike without extensions, but I was pretty chuffed with a 25:41. Slowly slowly catchy monkey.

https://www.strava.com/activities/337131386

Trinity Park Round 5 – 8 July

Same old same old really. Except for added wet weather and the cornering ability of driving miss daisy. Still, I stuck it out to the end and raced for last place. I really hope the field has come on as I was doing the same thing last year.

https://www.strava.com/activities/341937446

Onwards and upwards

I’ve not managed many miles through June so for July i’m going to go back to basics and smash in some miles. I’m not going completely old school so I’ll keep working on the intervals too. I’ve got a few road races planned in August along with a few crits and time trials through July to keep my focused. I’ve found double days to be pretty useful for getting the training in. Generally I’ll do a gentle recovery ride in to work (about 25 miles) and then use the way home to up the intensity and chuck in various intervals, be it 10-20 minutes at threshold or a block of 20/40s.

https://www.strava.com/activities/337475151

https://www.strava.com/activities/337719036

First park run – 4 July

In my quest to maintain fitness whilst the real world got in the way of my training I gave park run a try. It’s a really cool concept as it has a competitive element (mostly against yourself) but is also totally inclusive for runners of all ages, abilities and sizes.

My running ability has always been woeful, I once ran a 10k, or rather walked a 10k, after Erin signed me up for a charity run (which reminds me, I didn’t ever get her back for that….). That should have been an eye opener really as to how unfit I was. Cue hilarious photo of fat Pete and some guys that look vaguely like my friends but aged about 5.

Run fat boy runI haven’t run for about 18 months but I figured my cardio was good enough to get me round. I was right! I ran 25:29 as a first attempt over 5k which isn’t too shabby. My legs however were not ready for this and I spent most of the three days after walking like John Wayne. Ouch. I’d like to give it another go but I’ll definitely be sticking to the bike. Drafting in a run isn’t very effective for a start. Although if I didn’t swim like a drowning cat a triathlon might be tempting. Hmmmm.

Park run