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

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Where you at legs?

This is the start of my 3rd season road racing. Which means by now I’ve realised that I always go like a bag of spanners at the start of the season. Always. Some people seem to be able to just jump straight back into racing. Not me, oh hell no. I need to drag my legs kicking and screaming back to some sort of race fitness. Particularly after nearly six months of only racing for the club run sprints. I checked, I last raced in July! Wowsers. It’s not just the legs mind, It takes me a few races to get my race head back and stop cornering like a granny. Last season it took 3 or 4 races to get up to speed. I was hoping this year would be the same, few races and then boom, points galore. I covered the first race of the year here so this kind of brings you up to date in the world of Pete’s winter racing exploits.

Race 2 – Hillingdon E/1/2/3 – 11 Feb

I went back to Hillingdon a week later despite a stinking cold. It took me 4 hours to get there and back from Colch and it was snowing. I should have listened to my wife (standard) and stayed at home. Anyway, I got there literally just in time, having tried to divert to the nearer Velopark and missed sign on there by about 10 minutes. Thank you M11. I probably should have gone home after missing sign on at Velopark but I’m stubborn and I’d already invested 2 hours in this daft caper. So I made sign on and got changed quicker than Superman in a phone box. The legs felt pretty good despite the world’s shortest warm up but I was producing snot at an alarming rate. I got round ok, kept myself towards the front of the 3rds. I thought I’d finished better than the week before. Probably not troubling the points but progress you know. Hilariously I ended up 18th, again. I really hate that last corner and it pretty much makes or breaks your race. This was only race 2 though and another E/1/2/3 so no drama. Some deets of the race below:

  • Strava
  • Time: 73 minutes
  • Avg: 214 watts
  • NP: 238 watts
  • Avg speed: 42 kph
  • Points: Gold star for consistency…

Race 3 – Cyclopark 3rd cat – 25 Feb 

So, on to the 3rd race of the season and this time it was a 3rd cat only at Cyclopark. Very definitely my favourite circuit. Pretty much all my points from last season were scored here too. Having raced Hilly in an E/1/2/3 bunch I figured I’d go alright in a 3rd cat only, maybe pick up some points and get the season going. Cue day dreaming of podiums and finish line celebrations. I won one round and got 2nd in the other as a 4th cat last year so I had high hopes. Didn’t quite turn out as I planned…

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Firstly, Hilly in an E/1/2/3 is like a stroll in the park compared to a mega windy Cyclopark. There were 25 starters in the 3rds, not ideal as I’d rather have a few more bods to hide behind. By the finish there were only 9 left in the bunch, oh and I wasn’t one of them. The rest of us were strewn across the circuit in various states of ruin having run out of gutter to hide in. I finished 16th despite getting dropped twice and then DNFing with a puncture. It’s some race when you are placed (and not placed last!) despite pulling out 4 laps from the end. It turned out to be a bit of a Colchester day out with 3 Rovers in the bunch plus me. Mixed fortunes I guess as 3 of us were stood on the sidelines whilst the other won the race!

  • Strava
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Avg: 238 watts
  • NP: 275 watts (rip)
  • Avg speed: 36 kph
  • Points: Starting to regret this line….

So I was pretty bummed with getting dropped. Like “this isn’t fun any more” bummed. After a few days of comfort eating (I’m pretty much the Bridget Jones of cycling) I had a look at the data and the numbers weren’t bad to be honest. I could see when the bunch imploded in the data and the next 10 minutes were at circa 280 watts! So chalk it down as a “Meh” and move on.

Race 4 – Cyclopark 3rd cat – 4 March 

Fast forward a week. A pretty mental week to be fair. February/March is always crazy busy at work so I was pretty wrecked. Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions had gone really well. I’d skipped Thursday’s Z4 session as I was practically a walking zombie by then. Initial thoughts for Saturday were bail, just bail, eat more ice cream and hammer around the Rovers RT instead pretending its a road race. Given the several days of eating anything and everything I wasn’t expecting watts per kilo to look pretty, but I did have fresh legs, it was sunny and it wasn’t windy. Huzzah!

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I made a point of warming up really well on the rollers this time, rather than just doing a couple of laps of the car park, a sprint or two and a few laps of the track. The temperature was in double figures so not only were the legs out, but the arms too. Amazing really in March. I’ve not experienced vitamin D since about September though and I’m not sure Kent was ready for the milk bottles coming out. There were more starters this week and less wind. Both good. The same dude that tried to grind off the front at about 50 rpm last week did the same again this week and like last week we left him to it for a few laps.

A couple of the London clubs had mega numbers in the race so I was half expecting some coordination and a good chance of a break going. It wasn’t to be though and there was only ever one attempt that got far enough to be a worry. I saw spots as we chased that one down. One thing I’ve noticed in 3rd cat vs 4th cat is that when an attack goes it really goes and its usually followed by an immediate counter attack. It settled down a bit as the board came out and people started to watch each other. Given how quickly the bunch was rotating there was no point sitting 5th wheel as the front was becoming the middle and rotating back through pretty quickly. A few crashes, a few excursions on to the grass and at least one pedal strike later and the bunch was on the finish straight. I was determined to stay out of the wind even if that did mean being a little far back, I guess I got greedy as the guy in front of me sat about with about 70 metres to go and blocked what was basically a sheltered clear run to the line. 70 metres, who does that!! That pretty much killed my sprint but it looks like I still managed to bag 12th. Bit gutted to miss out on getting a few points to be honest. Still, the form is coming and its only March I guess. Found a cool video of the finish. Waaaaay out of it.

  • Strava
  • Time: 61 minutes
  • Avg: 219 watts
  • NP: 267 watts
  • Avg speed: 37 kph
  • Points: Tantalisingly close!

 

To finish, I’ll just leave this photo here. In between the winter crits its also been reliability ride season. This weekend rounded off the winter miles with a grim 50 miles of cross winds and torrential rain. I’m not sure how the Rovers always manage to order such grim weather but they always get it. I spent most of those 50 miles in a 7 man paceline so we were pretty wrecked by the time we got back. So much so we couldn’t even face the ride home from the HQ. Thank you Mrs Starmer for collecting 2 rather damp, wet dog smelling empty shells of men and for driving home with the heater on full. That Rocky Road in my hand was totally worth 50 miles of misery.

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Hillingdon E/1/2/3 – Race season is here!

I decided to sit out January crits this year, mainly as Hog Hill in a 2/3/4 did not particularly appeal. So it was back to Hillingdon a year on and a category up to see where my legs were at for 2017. Weight has come down nicely to around 73.5 kgs, which is pretty much as low as I’d got last year (albeit briefly!), training has been going well and I’ve felt pretty good around most of the early reliability rides so I was hoping not to be too far off the pace. Still, this is early days and more a toe in the water than a full on cannonball jump. There are some crits later in the month at Cyclopark which I plan to race with a bit more ambition.

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Mostly dry and not much wind. Decent by winter crit standards!

I’d entered the 3rd cat only figuring the 4th cat only last year was pretty easy going until the terrifying 3 lap gallop at the end. I don’t really like Hillingdon counter clockwise to be honest, particularly the long left hander before the finish where I always feel like I’m going to lose the front or clip a pedal. There always tends to be a few silly crashes too and there’s not much room to avoid them if someone does go down. Not really selling this am I?

Anyway, my buddy Dan was also testing his legs in the 4th cat race so we stocked up the car and headed over. Dan was pretty reserved about his chances but I reckoned he had a solid shot at some points.

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Bicycle origami is the other reason I like racing bikes

At sign on I bumped into a 1st cat buddy and found out pretty much by accident that the 3rd cats didn’t race on their own but instead raced with the E/1/2s for separate points. I must have looked like the wide eyed emoji. Shit, this wasn’t part of my plan! Cue Dr Pepper “What’s the worst that could happen” song ringing through my head for the next hour.

I had a little time before my race whilst Dan warmed up for his so I passed on the few things I’d learnt about crit racing. I figured learning from my mistakes may be of use to someone so I’ve listed them below. I learnt most of these the hard way!

  1. Get to the line early and get yourself straight into the first 10 wheels off the line. Let’s not talk about Ixworth….
  2. Stay in the top 1o wheels. The elastic band effect will be smaller and it will keep you out of the carnage further back.
  3. Do zero work. Nothing. Nada. zip. Unless you are racing with team mates there’s no reason to work unless you are trying to get into or make a break. There will be plenty of characters that want to hammer the front so leave them to it. Breaks in 4th cat races don’t tend to work. They do sometimes work in 3rd cat races though so maybe worth a punt.
  4. Hold your line. Not as obvious as it seems as the line often changes. But basically don’t make any abrupt changes of direction mid corner. You can’t hit the apex if you tip into the corner with three guys on your inside. You’ll usually find the guy shouting “hold your line” isn’t in fact holding his…..
  5. Don’t put your front wheel anywhere stupid. i.e. don’t overlap the guy ahead. He might not be holding his line (and require some verbal coaching post corner), but it will be you that ends up with a face full of tarmac when your wheel is taken out from under you.
  6. If the there’s a crash ahead or a touch of bars try to keep a straight course. Usually the first incident is minor and often no one goes down, the mega pile up follows when someone throws out the anchor and tries to avoid whats happening ahead.
  7. Lastly, this one is Hillingdon specific when the circuit is being raced counter clockwise. You need to be in the first 5 wheels going into the tight right hander before the long final sweeping left hander if you want any shot at the points. The first 10 wheels can work but you need a little luck or to be an absolute hero through the corners. Often the hero is the guy that ends up in the long grass on the outside though.

I didn’t see the finish of Dan’s race but whilst I was sat waiting to get on to the circuit the 4th cat bunch rolled in on their cool down lap and he was up there with the leaders. Promising I thought. We had literally 20 seconds to chat before my race and he had only gone and won it!! Amazing, first race of the season and he bags 10 points. Plus, just look at that sprinting position!

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Photo credit: Cliff Hughes

So, my race. Well I got to the line early…..After that I pretty much ignored most of my advice on positioning and proceeded to drift to the back. A slightly damp track, that inbuilt wariness of the last corner and not having raced in a bunch since July meant I was a little cautious for the first few laps. I was happy enough sat on the back getting my head back into it when the E/1/2s made themselves known and promptly strung the bunch out for several laps. It was brutal! We were not far off hitting 50 kph down the start/finish straight and absolutely hammering it through the bends.We were taking the corners faster and in much closer proximity than a 3rd cat only race which took a little mental adjustment, particularly after the time out. Saying that the manners were pretty good and there were only a couple of guys in the bunch that scared the crap out of me. One particular lap early on averaged 46 kph, 336 watts and 183 bpm so it’s good to know the legs are there.

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Making chasing look off casually deliberate since 2017. Photo credit: Dave Hayward

I worked my way up a bit to mid pack but I was finding that the bunch was rotating pretty quickly and I didn’t ever really get much further forward than that. Despite the faster pace and closer cornering there was only one major crash and it was one of those crashes that you could see happening ahead of you in slow motion. A few guys lost skin but hopefully no major injuries. Doesn’t matter how many times you hear it the sound of metal and carbon crunching into the ground always makes me cringe.

Three got off the front at some point. Didn’t even see that and in fact I’ve just realised the chalkboard being held up was showing the time gap! Haha! I spent ages wondering when the lap board would come out, particularly as I was expecting an hour of racing. Still, the legs lasted and I was moving up through the last 5 laps as the pace built. No idea where I finished other than in the bunch but a solid start to the season. Back again next week and I promise I’ll get the elbows out.

  • Strava
  • Time: 73 minutes
  • Avg: 222 watts
  • NP: 255 watts
  • Avg speed: 42 kph
  • Points: Only a warm fuzzy feeling

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.

The three types of race

Last weekend already seems like a long time ago. Work is crazy busy, like every March, and I’ve got an exam in a little under a month. What joy,  time to revise! Which brings to an end my first “peak” of the year. I realised last year that you (or maybe just I) can’t be strong all season, so I pick a group of races and try to get the peaks in form to appear somewhere vaguely close by. Doesn’t always work but it seems to prevent those almighty pits of fatigue and illness that follow long periods of mashing yourself into the ground. I had two days rest after Sunday’s race but even by Wednesday the legs had nothing, not a thing! I’d been going full gas since January so it was probably time to rest.

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Magnificent pinning no?

 

So, last Sunday you ask? What was that all about? What began as a joke became my first daft decision of the year. Possibly also my best decision of the year. On paper entering a National B road race a week after getting 3rd cat probably seems like madness. Bear with me here and I’ll explain. So to my mind a race can go one of three ways, which are:

  • A result. Points win prizes baby! That’s fairly self explanatory. Good result = buzzing. I’d been back to Cyclopark a few weeks ago and won the second of the San Fairy Ann 4th cat spring crits (earning my 3rd cat license upgrade in the process). I’ll come back to that another day, but on the back of second place the week before I was pretty stoked. Have I told you that I won a race?
  • A disappointment. There’s nothing worse than crossing the line feeling that you haven’t given it everything. I had so many races like that last year. Partially procrastination, partially lack of confidence, partially a complete fear of getting dropped.  Moral of the story though, leave it all on the road! I’d much rather not finish having tried something daft than sit in the wheels and roll in 43rd.
  • A complete and utter kicking. Generally you know beforehand that you are going to get one of these. Sometimes though its just a pleasant surprise. Finishing, or at least achieving whatever you have set as your goal can feel just as good as a result in these circumstances. You might not get anything out of it, no points, maybe not even a finish and to onlookers you’ll probably look like just another guy blown out the back. At the end of the day though this is all a bit of fun and sometimes its good to race just for the sake of racing. Going back to that National B road race, it was definitely a complete and utter kicking.

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Really impressed with the OTE and Stealth products. Vanilla OTE = amazing. No idea what Betaine is in the elderberry gel but it seemed to get me round though. Note, concentrated banana gels will turn anything they touch radioactive, including skin suits, race numbers and carpets. Don’t ask me how I know.

 

So, this National B. The Jock Wadley Memorial Road Race is the season opener for many of the big domestic teams. It also just happens to be held on a circuit less than 2 miles from my house. The Wadley is open to Elite and 1st cat riders in addition to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th cats that I usually race with. For my non racing buddies these guys are either already pros, semi pro or seriously strong amateurs. Don’t get me wrong 2nd cat is a world away too but I can just about cope with a 2/3/4 road race, maybe even more than that this year. As a comparison a typical week for me is anywhere from 5-8 hours of training. Due to a clash of calendars the only UCI team entered this year was Pedal Heaven. They are doing a pretty good job of turning the podiums of the South East black and green and would be the team to beat. Plenty of other serious outfits (complete with team cars and spare bikes) were entered but the absence of some others big names meant the start list was a little shorter than usual. I had thought the 2nd cats in the club might fancy it when I shared the link below. What I didn’t expect was a barrage of “get signed up Pete” “It will be a great experience” “Just hide in the wheels” Oh how I laughed……

Velo UK article

A week later, now with my 3rd cat upgrade in the bag, and the chance to race big teams on home roads became just too much to miss. That’s something I love about road racing, you can end up sharing a start sheet with serious talent. Turns out there was a former track world champion and British road race champion on the start sheet, not to mention plenty of youngsters that have big futures in the sport. Crumbs. Slightly daunted at this point, not helped by the most common reaction being laughter and that expression that suggests you have grown a second head when I mention I’d entered. Predictions ranged from getting dropped in the neutralised zone, after 2.3 laps (very specific James) to an optimistic 6 laps (thanks Graham!). I genuinely had no personal expectations, obviously I wanted to hang on as long as possible and I was keen to see the lap board at least once. I fully expected to get blown out the back with very little warning, like being jettisoned into space. With a field like this it was a matter of when not if.

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“Blissfully unaware” Photo credit: VeloUK on Twitter

 

Dave Hales (and his friendly megaphone) was the Chief Comm for the race. Not often you get you numbers repinned personally closely followed by a £5 fine for folding them. D’oh! Dave would become a useful reference point. i.e.  If he gets louder i’m slipping back in the bunch and need to move up. So, off we roll and the road from the HQ to the main road is possibly the worst road in Colchester. If I’m honest I was secretly hoping for a puncture “Oh well, I gave it a try, wasn’t to be etc etc”. No joy, so we rolled out on to the circuit en masse. I bloody love this part. 80 guys rolling out in close proximity, motorbike escorts,cars front and back and plenty of confused looking old dears popping out for a pint of milk and wondering where the Tour de France came from. So cool. The race is neutralised until we reach the circuit, but everyone wants to be at the front and there’s a hill just before the turn onto the circuit so it’s not really neutralised at all….we reach the circuit, right turn, hammer down, and straight into a descent and a rolling drag up to the top of the course. I got out of the neutralised zone at least. Wahey! I was happy enough at this point to proclaim mission complete to my club mate Tom. He was the only other from theclub daft enough to enter. He had picked this race as his first after seven years out. Wowzers.

Wadley

This, then repeat Photo credit: @Spikervelo

 

I didn’t have time to celebrate sadly, given the experience and the size of the teams involved I was expecting a complete smash up until the right composition of riders got away in the break. This is the bit of a race you never see on TV. The break will only get away when the bunch lets it so for that to happen the right teams need to be represented. Until then it will be attack after attack until the bunch lets it go. Thankfully, it only took about a lap. “Not so bad this” says Tom. Famous last words….

Courtesy of Jamil. 800 watts out of a 90 degree bend, with a marshal point on the other side and a 45 mph descent shortly after. Felt so pro.

 

Average watts only tell part of the story  here as they take into account the freewheeling and soft pedaling in the bunch but I’ve tried to give you an idea of the relative intensity of each 7.2 mile lap.The maximum wattage gives you an idea of how hard the kicks were out of the corners, we were doing that every lap, several times a lap and its that really wears you (me) down. As you tire, the gaps start to get bigger and the kicks need to be harder to stay on. By now it’s just a matter of time until the gap gets just a little too big. The heart rate figures compare with a maximum of 196. Don’t often see that to be honest, a race winning sprint at Cyclopark only peaked at 188.2016-03-22_2105

  • Strava
  • Avg: 21o watts
  • NP: 236 watts
  • Avg speed: 40 kph
  • Points: lol

My usual road races last about 2 hours so it was no surprise that my legs fell off before the finish. To be honest I thought I would have got dropped long before 67 miles! It was the kicking I expected, a bit easier in some places would you believe as the bunch really flowed. Provided I stayed up in the bunch I seemed to be ok but these guys move around and move up so effortlessy I often went from safe mid bunch to near the back pretty quickly. Moving up took either a good few miles or a big effort. On around lap 5 or 6 I found myself on the windward side of the bunch (I know, I know) and wasn’t quite quick enough to get into the gutter. Obviously no one will let you in and you can’t help but take some satisfaction when the position is reversed and you are coasting along in someone’s draft whilst they suffer in the wind. I’d been merrily plodding along at 150-200 watts, minding my own business, when suddenly i’m doing 400 watts and fighting to hold the wheel in front. That burnt more than a few matches let me tell you! Given the field I was in I couldn’t help but feel that my match box was a little inadequate compared to those around me. Obviously I forced a smile each time I passed the finish but it was murder, agonising leg sapping murder. Totally worth it though! It was a fantastic experience racing on home roads with friends and club mates cheering from the side of the road. Next year you never know, I might even finish. A 19 year old lad that went from 4th cat to 1st cat (that’s 252 points and the equivalent of 25 of the crits I won) in three months last year won the race, just edging Lloyd Chapman of Pedal Heaven. Chapeau Spirit Bikes, beautifully ridden.

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Strung out, I’m in there somewhere….Photo credit: VeloUK on Twitter

 

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.