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.

East London Velo – Six days of winter Round 3

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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).

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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