Getting back to basics

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

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

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

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Crampsville: Population me

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

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

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Rip my fingers

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

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120k later and we hit Cambridgeshire

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

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It’s a bloody good looking kit IMO.

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

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

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

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

Strava

Skin suit to wedding suit

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

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

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

Ken Wright Memorial RR – 2/3/4

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

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

Abberton Road Race – 3/4

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

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

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Photo credit: Natural photography

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

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Colchester’s 2016 bike gurning contest

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

Cyclopark – midweek 3/4

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

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

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

Berkhamsted Castle revolutions – 2/3

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

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

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

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

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VC Barrachi road race – 3/4

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

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

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Photo evidence, occasionally I do some work

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

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

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

Just ride your bike

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

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Beautiful misty Summer’s morning

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

Strava

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

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