Plenty of racing, not enough writing

Lea Valley

So I left this back in February having raced a few rounds of ELV’s Winter series. Generally they went pretty well. My main aim had been to get round, not get dropped and see how I compared to a field of 4th cats. There was no risk of sprinting to glory or soloing off the front any time soon but I was about on par with your garden variety 4th cat. A Sauber or a Force India if you like.

A combination of a mad month or two at work perfectly coinciding with an exam looming meant that the blog took a back seat for March and April. I’d taken a month off the bike whilst I studied for my last exam (post Ronde) and could barely function when I got back on the bike. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, no sir-ree! So come mid-April and with the exam done it was time to get back out there. I’d managed to keep the miles up and if anything actually improved my fitness through March. Not sure how that bodes for exam performance…..

With the clocks changing, chain gangs starting, weather improving, April was all good! So much so I completely forgot about the blog. Since then I’ve had a pretty good few months, lots of hard miles and plenty of suffering. It has to be said that having your legs torn off by Mike and/or Tom every week is still a hell of a lot more fun that gurning at the garage wall waiting for the longest 20 minute interval in history to tick by.

Here’s a (very) brief round up of what I’ve been up to.

Eagle Road Club Good Friday Races 3/4 – Redbridge

In hindsight a 3/4 at Hog Hill was a little ambitious……As ever it sounded like a great idea at the time, Good Friday, why not do some racing! I blame Ollie.

The 4th cat races earlier in the year had averaged around 22-23 mph for the hour. I was in for a rude shock when the bunch got up to just under 25 and pretty much stayed there. Primes chucked in for fun (I swear the dude on the tannoy was enjoying this far too much) left me on the ropes and literally hanging on for dear life. I started slipping back and before I knew it was I out the back after the second Prime. Bugger.

2 mph a lap doesn’t sound much but when you realise that most of that increase came from a near 25% increase in speed up the Hoggenberg it’s no wonder it took its toll. My positioning could have been better as I slipped back pretty quickly and I didn’t have the legs to get out of the danger zone quick enough. Feeling a bit like Marussia at this point.

I’d made the trip with (a supposedly unfit) Ollie who spent most of the race calmly sat in the top ten until an assisted trip into a ditch on the last lap ruined his race. Shame, he’d been going well. I learnt that chicken nuggets contain pretty much all your macros in one hit so the day wasn’t a total loss.

https://www.strava.com/activities/278550323

CC Hackney Primavera 3/4 – Lea Valley Velopark

I’d heard this was a fast circuit which I was hoping would suit me better than Hog Hill. The circuit has very few actual straights, is fairly narrow and has a racing line which moves from one side of the track to the other frequently. There was to be a prime at some point and I was keen not to drop myself by sitting too far back. About 20 minutes in that moving racing line claimed its first casualty. From what I gather it was caused by someone sitting up to drink, either way it brought down most of the field like some sort of lycra clad domino set.

I would have missed it being on the other side of the road but the guy two in front locked up and went down leaving me and the guy in front no choice but go down with him. It’s weird how nonchalant you can be about crashing when you know there’s no way out of it. As first crashes go I think it went pretty well. The Garmin reckons I was doing about 28 mph before going down. I landed on a bike rather than the tarmac it seems, no gravel rash and only a slight stinging from the back of my neck. Result! A small moment of hilarity followed as the guy that landed on me tried to get up with someone on top of him. There’s an order to untangling after a crash it seems, much like picking up dominos.

Anyway, the race was neutralised so I dusted myself off, rolled back to the start and went for it again. 35 minutes in and the siren went for the prime, the pace went up and frankly all hell broke loose. Its amazing the risks people will take for what is likely a twenty pound prize. I sat back as there were too many bods in front of me to even attempt to sprint. Several tried to sprint from 30 places back. Bit nuts to be honest as they were never getting through. Inevitably someone went down, another hit the guy on the ground and got catapulted over the bars. Ouch!

The race was stopped, then abandoned as they scrapped the two poor chaps off the tarmac. One with a broken collar bone and the other knocked clean out. This shit just got serious.

I’d been feeling pretty good in this race, comfortably moving up and down the field and closing any gaps without too much (perceived!) effort. Promising if nothing else. Let’s call that one a Williams.

It turns out that stinging in my neck was actually a full imprint of a chain ring and a cassette. Joy! The next few hours were spent with a variety of medical professionals sucking air through their teeth much like a plumber does when your bath has created an indoor waterfall. Still, I got this cool picture and what appears to be a permanent scar. Despite what I thought though, chicks don’t dig scars, even less so when they first learn about them on Facebook…..

Run over

https://www.strava.com/activities/292283170

Crits at the Park (San Fairy Ann) 4th cat only – Cyclopark

I’d booked this one a few weeks beforehand. Everyone I’d spoken to seemed to love Cyclopark. I can see why, it’s a great track. Technical with a few changes of gradient, long straights and a nice range of corners. There’s no Hoggenberg (thankfully) but the gradients are in places that can cause you problems. Particularly the hill (ok, it’s not really a hill) after the hairpin. The wind was strongly up the start/finish straight. So strong in fact it blew my bike over twice.

I had Rob Kemp (CRCC) for company, although only briefly to be honest as he went off the front with about 4 or 5 others after about 15 minutes. I nearly made it across but that hill (see, now its a hill) after the hairpin led into a 20 mph + headwind so my bridging was short-lived. Good for Rob at least as it seems a good portion of the bunch were sat on my wheel.

For the most part the break were kept in sight, but after about 30 minutes the gap started to go out. I was sat in the top ten for most of the race and put in a few turns here and there. Mostly on the (tailwind assisted) start/finish straight cause I felt like Mark Renshaw charging across the line at 30 mph, but a few into the wind too. There were a few attempts at getting organised but no-one was really interested in working. A tidy through and off effort into the wind would have brought the break back in no time but despite a few attempts no-one would commit. Bunch sprint it is then.

I was feeling pretty good so I sat in for the last few laps and saved my energy. The bell went and I had kept myself top 5 or so on the final lap, 6 were away so the winner of the bunch sprint would get 7th. A few boys from Dulwich Paragon organised themselves into a tidy lead out so I tried to follow that as closely as I could. I crossed the line behind the Dulwich guys and alongside two other guys. I thought I’d got 10th, maybe even 9th….Could this be my first point? My sole aim for this season? Or was it 11th and a nearer miss than dodging the chap on the floor at Lea Valley?

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I must have refreshed the BC website about 300 times that night in the hope that the results would go up. They didn’t, but Jamil spotted them the next morning before the VC Oyster sportive. Boom, 10th! I have a point. That’s only 11 more 10th places to reach 3rd cat.

https://www.strava.com/activities/301215297

Speaking of the VC Oyster sportive. Whilst a sportive in name, a good group of us treated it as a training ride. The result was 63 odd miles at just under 21 mph. Tidy.

https://www.strava.com/activities/301690334

Ken Wright Memorial Road Race, incorporating the Eastern Region Road Race Championships

After much umming and ahhing I entered this. Mostly because I really wanted to ride my own club event but also because it was literally on my doorstep. As a lowly 4th cat I thought I wouldn’t have much chance of a ride. Turned out I was wrong. Oh shit! At least I’d convinced Jamil and Rads that this was a good idea so I wouldn’t be the only terrified 4th cat.

Picking an E/1/2/3 as my first open road race was never going to go down as my brightest idea. Race day came around and I felt literally sick with nerves, these were some pretty massive butterflies. What if I get dropped in the neutralised zone? What if I don’t make the first lap? All of this was flying around my head whilst I warmed up. Hardly ideal mental preparation. I’d ridden the course a few days earlier so I knew what to expect. Whilst there are no real hills on the course there are plenty of short sharp efforts that would sap the legs. Rolling out on to the course the butterflies were still there.

I made it through the neutralised zone, result! after that I parked myself in the top 20-30 and basically ignored my Garmin. Power was looking good, but heart rate was eye watering. I was burning match boxes rather than matches. The first lap ticked by and I was still there, right, lets see if I can make that 2 laps……..2 and a half laps went before the race was neutralised briefly. Off we go again and I made it round 3 laps of the larger Peldon circuit. Laps 2 and 3 had been fast, really fast. Breaks had been chased down and attacks launched all over the place. Partly through sheer fear of being dropped I kept myself well positioned (Thanks to Brett and Andy E for the helpful reminders) and whilst I could see the tank emptying rapidly I was starting to get into a rhythm. I was beginning to think that I might just make it on to the smaller Jock Wadley circuit. Ridiculous as it sounds I was ecstatic. Considering my original goal had been to not get dropped on the first lap I was feeling pretty good to be honest.

I made it on to the Wadley circuit, tried and failed to grab a bottle from Erin (probably should have practiced this…) and found myself echeloned in to the opposite gutter on the New Road. Now THIS is what it’s all about! Sadly the dream ended shortly after this as I dropped myself juggling a bottle on the next lap (really should have practiced this…). The gap that went had only been small but I had nothing left to close it by this point. Even if I had, Russell Hampton blew the race apart on the next lap with an astonishing jump up the road and I very much doubt my race would have lasted much longer than that.

All in all it was a fantastic experience. I hadn’t expected to get that far into the race. It sounds ridiculous to be happy to DNF but it will without doubt be one of my highlights of the year. A bit like Marussia at Monaco (and 10th in the Constructors championship) this one. Promising. Looking at the data I made no improvements to critical power, I had expected over that distance I’d be setting new pbs from an hour outwards. This is where road racing is deceptive, whilst not a constant effort like a time trial, it’s the sudden sharp accelerations that grind you down. None of these efforts are 100% of critical power but one minute you are doing 100 watts in the bunch, the next you are strung out doing 500 watts up Church Road in Peldon. What’s more, you don’t get to recover at the top. Chalk that one down as great experience. I was chuffed with 60 miles, i’d got much further than I thought I would. Next year, I may even finish!

https://www.strava.com/activities/306298228

Lotus Cycle Racing E/1/2/3/4 – Hethel

I’d heard that Hethel was good fast racing. It uses Lotus’ recently resurfaced test track and a very fast circuit. I was in two minds between entering the 4th cat only or the E/1/2/3/4 but in the end I got talked into the E/1/2/3/4 by Andy and Brett. I’m glad I did to be honest as it was great fun. It was ridiculously fast and all hard top end work. Weirdly I didn’t feel like I was working that hard but looking at heart rate and power afterwards i’d been on the limit throughout. The race was largely controlled by Strada Sport and Iceni Velo, who each had good numbers in the race so it was interesting to see how the tactics unfolded. Basically they chased down any break not containing one of their riders and sat up when they were involved. The bunch sprint was manic but very well-disciplined. No idea where I finished but it was great top end work if nothing else. Nothing but Lotus-Renault this one, no points, but just happy to finish without my engine exploding (For the pedants I’m fully aware that Lotus-Renault has nothing to do with Lotus).

https://www.strava.com/activities/308486568

No photos sadly (cameras not allowed) so here’s a snap of Ola (the VX220) instead. Despite the Vauxhall badge she rolled off the Lotus production line in Hethel. Great car, but totally shit for carrying a bike, or even a wheel.1e07efabcf1435137d14cd49564ae5d9 Crits at the Park (Medway Velo) 4th only – Cyclopark

Time for another trip to Cyclopark. After the (relative) success of last time I had high hopes for this one. I felt in great shape after the past few weeks of training and racing. Jamil had entered too so we shared the trip down and basically agreed that points were a must. We could both do with the reward for recent efforts. Less wind this time and a good sized bunch meant the race stayed together. I realised again that I’m utterly crap at determining wind direction. Being well positioned on the start/finish straight suddenly became fully exposed to the wind after a rider on my outside dropped back. Arse. One day I’ll figure out wind direction.

Jamil and I yo-yo’d around the front of the bunch for the most part until a broken spoke took him out of the race. On I plodded until the 5 lap to go board came out and the pace started to rise. With 2 laps to go a group of us nearly got off the front, but a moments hesitation between turns let the bunch get back on. Doesn’t take much.

One lap to go and I was still near the front, its crazy to think that 55 minutes of racing is largely irrelevant but compared to the last 5 minutes it really is. With a few corners to go I picked what i thought was a good wheel (i.e. not a chopper) only for the guy on his inside to wash out and put them both on to the grass. Less than ideal! I had to avoid them and lost touch with the first 10 as a result, chasing back on pretty much did me in. I’d closed the gap by the time we reached the finish straight but the guy in front sat up and I didn’t have quite enough left in the tank to jump across. In the end I rolled home in 17th after catching a few on the line. A frustrating race to be honest as I felt strong enough for another points finish. A solidly midfield effort. Force India say.

https://www.strava.com/activities/310231828

East London Velo – Six days of winter – Round 5

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(Some) photos courtesy of Ian Lambert (https://twitter.com/IanLambert18). The good ones basically.

Likely to be my last pre-season outing, I was looking forward to heading back to Hog Hill for round 5. The weather was looking great, no rain, kind winds and I was feeling pretty good. Due to mud on the circuit (floodlights have been installed) we were racing clockwise, which means down the Hoggenberg and up the descent. Most of the circuit was dry but the usually first corner, now the last, was pretty muddy. It’s also off camber for maximum pucker factor.

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 Ever wondered how much crap you need to take to a road race? Bike and rollers in addition for the pedants.

The event was marred by the sad news that a rider due to ride my race had been killed mid-week commuting in London. As a mark of respect the first lap of each race was neutralised and the bunch led round by his club mates to the applause of the supporters. I don’t think I raced with him, nor did I know him, but it was a fitting tribute. From what I gather similar events were held at the other road race circuits around London.

The race started at a fairly steady pace. I think most, like me, were not really sure of the circuit in this direction. The Hoggenberg had a nasty kink halfway down, not tight but the natural line took you out to the edge of the circuit and it seemed no two riders took the same line. The uphill was fine, no kick at the end but the last (first) corner was challenging especially if you had overdone it up the hill.

I set about floating about in the front third of the bunch, choosing my lines and keeping effort to a minimum. Having changed from 50/34 to 52/36 this meant a few more gear changes than before as I was using the bottom half of the block on the hill in the inner ring and most of the block in the outer ring on the rest of the circuit. The shorter crank length did also seem to be helping me hold a higher cadence.

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Where’s Wally continued.

At the halfway point I found myself sitting comfortably in the top 10/15. Only a couple had attempted to go off the front and all were brought back pretty quickly. A few laps later I found myself on the front up the hill. Initial thoughts were ‘Oh shit, how did I end up here?!’ Despite images of blowing up (and heading backwards through the bunch like I’d been dragged off stage by a giant shepherd’s crook) I paced myself and pushed on through the final dip and over the line still on the front. I briefly considered an attack off the front but it was far too soon and there was no way I had the legs to make it stick in any case. Consigned back to anonymity in the bunch a bunch sprint was looking a certainty.

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Roll on another few laps and we were approaching the last third. I’d slipped back a bit too far through not paying attention. Cyclingtips.com.au’s advice here is brilliant. If you’re not moving forwards, you’re going backwards (Well worth a read! –http://cyclingtips.com.au/2012/10/golden-rules-of-crit-racing). I set about working my way forwards again as the 5 laps to go board came out. By the start of the final lap I was well placed, probably on the edges of the top ten, until a crash blocked the road ahead of me. Those on the inside line got through unscathed but I’d lost all my momentum. A chase up the hill ensued but the top ten was out of reach by this point. A few caught me cresting the hill but I held off the remains of the bunch for what I think was 16th (results haven’t been posted yet). An improvement on last week, but a little disappointing as I’d felt good. Still, valuable training and another good chunk of miles in the legs.

Strava data below, complete with power data this time. Saying that though, the nature of the circuit throws out the averages.

https://www.strava.com/activities/251609098

Edit: I found this great video since the race (Courtesy of Thomas Willan: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9woSIYfS9EjG_-U3hBFCpg). Shows  I was further back than I thought at the end, lesson learned! Results are also in and I finished 14th rather than 16th.

New toys

I decided a few months ago that heart rate wasn’t quite enough to help me structure my training, especially given the limited time I had available. Since then I’ve been looking down the sides of the sofas and under the seats in the VX for loose change. After a favourable grant from the wedding fund, and negotiation of mutually acceptable interest terms, I was good to go! As I was also planning to change from a compact (50/34) to a pro compact (52/36) Stages wasn’t really the cheaper option despite already having the 6800 crankset. Replacement 6800 chain rings, it seems, are priced at pretty much the discounted price most retailers are selling the complete crankset for. Sneaky Shimano, sneaky! Effectively Shimano’s 110 bcd standard is only helpful to them as manufacturers and not us as consumers.

For the money I also wanted a true 360 degree power reading rather than half a reading doubled (This one could run and run…). I did my research and settled on Power 2 Max as the power meter for me. Unfortunately about a month after they discontinued the classic model range and about a week before the Euro took a dive…..

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Two and a half weeks later, voila! It arrives. Hurrah! The noQ aero chain rings are likely excessive but just look the outer ring, It’s like an aerodynamic ninja throwing star! A Rotor 3D24 (what was the 3D) crankset completes the package. As I’m running Shimano cranks (and more importantly bottom brackets) on both bikes I can swap the power meter (complete with chainrings) from one bike to the other.

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At the moment these are just expensive paperweights until I’ve made sense of this beast. Enter Mr Coggan and the power training bible. It may look heavy going, but it was this or study for my next exam, helpful research based power training, or the regulation of pension schemes and retail investment advice? Tough choice….

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East London Velo – Six days of winter Round 3

Pete - Hog Hill 2

Photos courtesy of Fadil Mokchane (www.twitter.com/fadilmokhchane)

After a pretty woeful attempt at racing in 2014 (Trinity Park was not kind to me!) I was determined to have a better year this year. I’ve been busy racking up the miles in horrendous weather and spending hours in November and December sweating on the rollers like a Polar bear in the Sahara. Part of my master plan was to race a few early season crits to see where I stood. East London Velo’s six days of winter is held on the daunting Hog Hill circuit and provides a 4ths only race and a 2/3/4 race over a six week series. Having read up on the circuit I was pretty nervous, like really nervous, images of being blown out the back on the first lap were filling my head and I really I didn’t fancy a two hour round trip for ten minutes of racing…

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After a healthy dose of Rule 5 (not entirely self prescribed), I chose the second race of the series to be my debut. My bunch riding skills needed work and I still wasn’t sure whether I was fit enough but I joined 40-45 other chaps with nowhere better to be on a Saturday afternoon at Redbridge Cycling Centre. If nothing else this was reassurance that if I had lost my marbles, at least I wasn’t the only one. Sadly the notorious Hog Hill puncture fairy caught up with me and my first race of 2015 ended after five laps. I’d been warned it was terrible in the wet but hadn’t realised that I could take a lap out (to swap wheels) before getting back in the race. Lesson learnt for next time! Despite the brief time spent actually racing I’d felt pretty good and got round ok with the bunch.

Roll forward a week and  I took to the start again with (with spare wheels this time I might add). I’d warmed up by spending fifteen minutes on the rollers steadily building the intensity with a few harder efforts towards the end. So far so good, I had mounted and dismounted the rollers without ending up on my arse (which is more than can be said for some poor chap that stacked it next to the line). I save my roller acrobatics for the privacy of my own garage. Trinity Park taught me that my warm up needed to be harder, especially for short races like these. It’s no good getting into your stride ten minutes in as the bunch wont wait. The race was to be 45 minutes plus 5 laps which would be roughly an hour in total. The course was dry and the wind straight down the start/finish straight (meaning there was also a nasty headwind into the bottom hairpin and on the approach to the Hoggenberg).

Pete - Hog Hill

Like Where’s Wally this.

The start went well and I got myself into the front third of the field in preparation for the first ascent of the hill. Many go out the back in the first few laps and you need to keep your wits about you to avoid getting boxed in and dragged out with them. After a couple of laps I settled into a rhythm, stay close to the front on the hill, recover (a bit!) on the descent, choose my line carefully for the sharp right at the bottom of the hill and carry as much speed as possible into the bottom hairpin before getting back into position for the hill. I found I was moving up the field on the hill by choosing my wheels carefully. Still carrying a slight weight penalty over many I was catching others on the descent without too much effort. This left the bottom of the course as my danger zone. Despite terrifying me on the first couple of laps I was carrying good speed through the sharp 130 degree right hander at the bottom of the hill and positioning myself well on the bottom straight. There was always a bit of a kick coming onto the straight but it was good fun jockeying for position.

My only goal at this point was to remain upright, stay out of trouble and get round so I camped firmly in the middle of the bunch and sucked wheel like a pro. At roughly 30 minutes two went off the front and remained away but in sight, probably about 10-20 seconds ahead of the bunch. After another couple of laps it became clear that they weren’t tiring so the pace shot up as the bunch tried to bring them back. This took me out of my ‘happy place’ and I could really start to feel the fatigue in my legs. The pace dropped after a lap or two and it wasn’t long after that the 5 laps to go board came out.

By now I’d already eclipsed my 2014 racing efforts so mentally I was ticking the laps off with legs that were getting increasingly heavy. On the last approach to the hill Andrew LoveLock (Interbike RT) went off the front and the pack chased hard to bring him back. With not much left in the legs I dug in and literally emptied myself. The effort was worth it though as I caught a couple on the line and finished 19th (of 34 finishers). I’m not threatening 3rd cat just yet, but once I’d stuffed my lungs back down I was pretty happy with the result. To give some scale to the graph below my threshold heart rate (i.e. what in theory would be sustainable for an hour time trial) is around 170 bpm. I was hitting about 180-185 bpm every lap, which is about 90-95% of max and blew through this on the last climb of the hill and set up camp on my maximum heart rate. No wonder I couldn’t speak after the finish.

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If you got through that waffle you deserve a medal. I’ll likely race one more round of the winter series before getting back to training through February and March. Exams in April mean my actual season isn’t likely to start until late April or May.

Strava data below:

https://www.strava.com/activities/245444840

Adding lightness

Krypton Exige

It’s easy to focus on power but I’ve been learning of late that there is far more to cycling than how many watts your legs can put out. Weight is the other obvious area for improvement but I’ve picked out a few others areas to work on in the early part of the year.

Weight wise I’ve managed to shed the aftermath of the obligatory Christmas binge and get back to a respectable 75 kgs. I reckon another two kgs can be lost before the season kicks off properly. ‘Add lightness’ as Colin Chapman once said. Saying that I’ll never be the cycling equivalent of a Lotus 7. A Lotus Exige perhaps….

My flexibility is pretty rubbish so I’ll keep working on stretching exercises and strengthening my core muscle groups to achieve that ever lower body position. I’m still a little too ‘more tea vicar’ for my liking.

Pedalling efficiency was something that Russell at Marginal Gains picked up on during my ramp test. Whilst I’m fairly smooth there are still improvements to be made in using the full pedal stroke. I’ve been doing a lot of sessions on the rollers which have improved this no end. Improving core strength should also help with stability whilst at higher cadences.

Last but by no means least, skills! I found last year that my bunch riding skills were woeful. My cornering was shoddy, I lacked confidence in the bunch and generally wasted energy by braking too much. This one should be the most fun to improve as it will only improve by entering races.

Are we nearly there yet?

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One question that has been bugging me for the last six months was ‘how do I know when I’m fit enough?’

I spent October, November and December steadily plugging away through the dark mornings and the grim weather, increasing the distance each weekend whilst chucking in a session or two of 2 x 20 intervals where I could in the week. Whilst not exactly a training plan to make Team Sky envious, looking at training load at least I appeared to be fitter in December than I was during the Summer. I felt pretty good, but how does ‘good’ compare to your garden variety 4th cat?

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Winter miles without a wet arse, sponsored by SKS mudguards….

To answer this I enlisted the services of Russell Hampton at Marginal Gains Cycling (http://www.marginalgainscycling.co.uk/) and took on the ramp test. Best not to google that before giving it a go as all you will find are tales of vomiting, seeing spots and jelly legs. Which pretty much sums it up to be honest! The test takes on average between eight and fifteen minutes and starts at a low resistance level.The aim is to maintain a steady cadence, say 90 rpm, whilst the resistance increases until you can’t sustain that cadence any longer. The weirdest part is that nearer the end of the test, when the seconds pass like minutes, you’re breathing like a hyperventilating rhinoceros, seeing spots and concentrating equally on 90 rpm and not vomiting, it just ends. Like that its over. The results give you an indication of your functional threshold power (from which power zones can be derived) and your heart rate zones. I’d already worked out my heart rate zones using the British Cycling threshold test but this was a great chance to see how the two correlated.

And the results? Well, pretty good actually. I’m no Marcel Kittel obviously, but power wise I’m pretty strong which is reassuring, stronger than I thought in fact. Worth remembering here that I’m heavier than your average racing whippet (and not just because of all the Jaffa Cakes and Smarties I consumed over Christmas!) so I need to be putting out better numbers than my lighter competitors just to level the playing field.

Wattbike-Trainer

Would I recommend Wattbike based torture? It’s well worth doing if you want to get an idea of where you are power wise. Marginal Gains combine this with a personal evaluation which assesses training, nutrition, goals, pedalling efficiency and strengths/weaknesses. Overall, I’d put it right up there with a proper bike fit.

Winter miles = summer smiles. Or does it?

So then, it’s that time of year again. Having read numerous articles and spoken to everyone and everything that has ridden near me in the past month I’m none the wiser as to how to spend a winter preparing for a season of road racing. I’ve probably bored people to tears with my inane questioning and if that’s not bad enough, I’m probably ignoring most of what I’ve been told! The old school views are clear, big steady miles will give you the base needed to build on early in the new year.

I tried riding by heart rate and staying in zone 2 for all of a week and pretty much lost the will to live. I reckon a winter of that would have me back on the Dominos and Xbox diet pretty quickly so that was scrapped sharpish. There is a bit more logic to my thinking than a spectacular lack of willpower, mostly that I simply don’t have the time to commit to the big steady miles. Whilst there is no doubt that it would have been beneficial, I don’t have the time to go old school.

So, with a bit of pondering I’ve decided to do what I can in terms of mileage at the weekends and top this up with a couple of roller sessions in the week. Basically my weekday riding is going to be mostly spent staring at a wall…

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The plan is simple, sticking to it less so. The main miles will be at the weekend. The Saturday club run is around 45 miles, a good start, but not quite enough in my mind, so I’ve taken to adding 30 miles on beforehand. That’s a good 4-5 hours on the bike but to get the 30 in means leaving the house at 6:45. On a Saturday morning. Ouch.

The roller sessions will be the tried and tested 2 x 20 intervals. Once I’ve got the best out of 2 x 20 I’ll move on to 3 x 15. In theory, it sounds easy, get the heart rate up to the point that you are almost seeing spots and almost gasping like a fish out of water and keep it there for 20 minutes. Simples! Sadly not the case on rollers it seems. I’ve found that without resistance it really takes some concentration to get your heart rate high enough! Not to mention will power, I mean why push to 170 bpm when 165 bpm feels, well, pretty good in comparison! Still, it must be doing good things for my pedaling technique if nothing else. With 2 hours on the rollers that takes my weekly riding up to around 7 hours.

Hardly earth shattering I think you will agreed but hopefully a strong base for the reliability trials in the New Year. Even this though is hard to commit to when you are juggling a job that consumes hours like a time trialling Bradley Wiggins consumes oxygen with maintaining some kind of normal social interaction with loved ones, friends and family. I guess the proof will be in the pudding! Although that could be a somewhat Schrodinger-esque statement as I need to stay away from the cake….

2014 Review

Ronde So I started 2014 thinking, right, I’ve lost some weight, now to lose some more and get faster. I set a few goals for the year to keep me focused. These probably aren’t earth shattering for most but they were intended to be achievable whilst keeping me motivated. It’s worth pointing out there that whilst I love my cycling, it needs to be balanced with life (apparently there is life outside cycling) and work commitments. If that isn’t enough I also have to juggle two exam sittings a year which come around in April and October. I don’t have the luxury of spending hours on the bike, and frankly, it would probably stop being fun if I did. The key then was longer rides where possible, and regular doses of leg shredding on the chain gangs during the week. Below are the goals and a brief of summary of my progress against each:

To cover 40 miles in 2 hours (solo), 60 miles in 3 hours (group) and 100 miles in 5 hours (group)

Looking at Strava it looks like my fitness peaked in late July/August. Annoyingly, just after the Trinity Park races finished….. Still, I achieved what I set out to do on this front. 60 in 3 became a regular occurrence riding with the Rovers on Sundays and I brought my solo speed up to over 40 in 2. The big one was the century in five hours. I had two shots at this, one was the Ride London, which thanks to Hurricane Bertha became the Ride London 86. Still, we averaged a smidge under 22 mph over the distance, with only one brief stop, so that was a good start. The other was the Ronde Picarde. This is one of our club’s annual trips and something I had been nervously looking forward to all year. The format is different in France, and I think the continent in general, a sportive over there is mass start and effectively a race in everything but name. This isn’t Joe MAMIL taking on a century as a once in a lifetime bike ride but a collection of very strong club riders, amateur racers, semi pros and even a sprinkling of pros on occasion. The start was frantic, with several crashes to be negotiated. Once everything had settled down I found myself in a group of 20-30 riders with the two Andys (Crowther and Elderfield). We smashed through the first 60 miles averaging what felt a fairly comfortable 22 mph. We stopped briefly to top up our water and I stupidly rested my bike up against a post which moved the rear brake onto the rim. Not noticing, I missed the next group coming through as I sorted it and spent the next 10 miles tearing myself to bits trying to jump back on. Rookie mistake. Eventually I was picked up by another group containing Alan and Andy C but my legs were done by this point. Conversation was muted as many were feeling the pace. Miles 70 to 100 seemed like eternity. One more brief stop to top up on e numbers before Andy C dragged me home to the finish picking up a couple of Dutch chaps, a Frenchman and a German chap along the way. I finished the 115 miles with an average of nearly 20.5 mph so I’m calling that mission accomplished! Here’s the Strava for anyone that wants to view my torture. The average heart rate in particular tells a story (163 bpm)!

http://www.strava.com/activities/194377116

Ronde 2 – To enter my first race and still be there at the end.

Well, I achieved the first half by entering! Due to a combination of poor cornering technique, having no idea what I was doing and not quite having the lungs to keep up I went out the back in fairly short order each time. Still, I had a great time and generally always found a race of my own even if most were half a lap away! Fond memories in particular of racing two chaps from Stowmarket CC to not be last across the line. Seems silly, but that was just as important to us as anyone else further up the field (I was second from last…). I managed five of the six Suffolk Cycle Racing Series and if nothing else it really brought my speed up over the course of the two months. First round Strava can be found here:

http://www.strava.com/activities/152412963

SCRS – Get round the chain gang (and still be there at the end!)

I spent most of the summer chasing this one, from struggling to keep up with the medium group, I made it round a couple of times with the faster group. Ironically this was supposed to be training for Trinity Park but I think actually Trinity Park brought on the speed for later in the summer!

– Lose some more weight

Looking at myfitnesspal I’ve lost 2 stone 8 lbs in the course of the year. The photo below says it all really! photo comparison

First post

scenic

I’m not sure that any of this will ever be worthy of a blog, but hopefully it’s of interest to some, and if nothing else it gives me a great way to keep track of what I get up to.

2012 saw my interest in bikes revitalised, what can I say, call me a product of the ‘Wiggins effect’. To set the scene I’ve never been particularly fit. I used to mountain bike a fair bit in my early twenties, and play around with trials bikes at the same time but there was never a conscious effort to eat well, lose weight or stay in shape.

In 2013 I bought my first road bike, a rather fetching if basic Giant Defy Composite. Over the course of the summer I rode a few sportives, rode overnight to Dunwich (which also happened to be my first century) and joined a club, VC Revolution, later in the year. The miles started to add up and thinking I was fit enough I gave club riding a try. Wow, that was a shock!

Last winter was spent mostly on the rollers shedding the lbs in preparation for a bigger year in 2014. A few reliability trials early in 2014 were a start to the season (and another eye opener). Despite the horrible weather i’m really looking forward to these kicking off next year.

2014 would be different I decided, onwards and upwards!