2015: The beginning of a cycling focused year.

Feels an age since my last post after Ironman UK 2014!

Quite a bit has changed, I’m now living in London, and have decided to concentrate in 2015 solely on my cycling. Cycling has always been the aspect of triathlon I’ve enjoyed the most, and its always been by some margin my strength. So it kind of sense to me, especially as I was struggling to come up with goals that would keep me really engaged in triathlon training.

So I moved to London in October, and soon after I started looking for a club to join to get out cycling with, as the only place I’d been riding to date was round Richmond Park. I asked at a few, most of which had waiting lists! Not only that but required you to be getting out on a “newbie run” to get used to riding close to others. That was until somebody recommended me to a group of cyclists called Paceline RT. Their ethos was to race hard but also give as much back to the sport in terms of organisation volunteering as possible, which I really liked. I’m now a member, and have been on a couple of rides, which have been great, and the people have been really welcoming!

I started training again proper late December as I attempted some of the Rapha Festive 500, weather conditions and fitness meant I only did around half of it but it got me out the door. Training since then has ramped up a fair bit and I’m now doing around 8 hours a week and my watts have started to increase nicely.

My aims for the year are as below

  • Get to Cat 3
  • Start to be in the mix in Cat 3
  • Get some TT’s under my belt and improve on my 23:28 10 time from 2014
  • Race the relay bike leg of Outlaw Half (Entered solo, but switched to relay entry)
  • Race lots and have fun!

So some fairly simple aims, hopefully all of which I can accomplish. One of the benefits of being a cyclist rather than triathlete is the frequency of races, I’ve already pinned a number on twice this year, and its not even February. I was waiting until April last year to get my first triathlon in.

So onto the races that I’ve done so far, both of which have been at Hillingdon cycle circuit, as a part of the Imperial Winter Series.

Hillingdon Cat 4 Race – 17/01/15

The circuit is a 10 mile ride from my house, so I set up a route on my Garmin and trundled off to hillingdon, being as light on the power as I could. I’d done a fast club run the week before and my legs felt the best they had in a while, so I was hoping to hold onto the bunch at least. I’ve only raced cat 4 once before, and I ended up getting dropped from the bunch a couple of laps before the end. So I just wanted to gauge fitness.

I got to the sign-on an hour early and got my number, which was stupid on my half as I ended up sat there shivering prior to the race! I busied myself with checking out all the competition and looking at the other people’s rides, there was some nice bikes there too. Eventually it was coming up to 1 o clock and all the Cat 4’s starting heading out onto the circuit. I did one quick lap to familiarise what is a fairly simple circuit. The conditions were ok bit the circuit was damp and I was nervous into the corners. There was a stiff headwind blowing onto the last corner and final straight as well, which we were told was slowing the bunch up a lot.

I pulled up to the bunch right at the back before the start and waited for the flag to drop getting pretty nervous at how I would fare at this point. We were off amongst a throng of cleats clipping in. The pace started and was a fair tempo, but I quickly realised I shouldn’t have a problem holding on, and began to settle in and feel comfortable in the bunch. I also quickly realised the last corner was a great place to close on the group if needed due to them being slowed by the wind. The first couple of laps were tentative as I was a bit nervous at the speed of some of the cornering, but it felt OK.

I was mindful only about 3 laps in that I was pretty much just hanging at the back of the bunch, and from everything I’ve read about others road racing, was that if you’re not moving forward your going backwards in the group. So I decided to try to work my way up to near the front for a bit, using the last corner as a slingshot when the group slowed, I swung round the outside, and was quickly coming up on the bunch leaders. Before I knew it I was putting in a proper effort, and was off the front. Stupidly I thought I could stay away and put in a pretty big effort, in the hope that some others would bridge across but nobody seemed to, and after a lap and a half the bunch was catching back up so I wound the effort back down and waited for the group to catch, before I quickly ended up back at the rear of the bunch. The effort felt great though, and the feeling of getting out in front of the bunch was electric, I loved it.

I decided to measure my effort a bit more across the next few laps, but ended up being more naive and attacking a few more time to no avail. The racing felt good though, and was clean, plenty of communication in the group, and nobody seemed to be riding too wildly. 5 laps to go and I still had in my head a vision of me soloing to victory. I blame idolising Tony Martin, and some of his insane solo breaks! So with one lap to go I gave it everything and got past the front of the group and round the first two corners, I was clear, but the group were chasing hard, and I was getting caught by the time the track started to pitch up slightly. By the corner complex I was back on the front, and by the last corner I was spent, and sat up. Ended up rolling across the line in 36th.

So a fun experience for my first race, and I was most pleased with the fitness level, especially knowing that I still have so much more to give in terms of besting last years peak fitness. Managed to get a mention in the post race results report, and even won a spot prize of a full bike service worth £100 or so. Awesome!

I trundled back home, happy in the knowledge that I’d left it all out on track, something which I never really got from triathlon, and the buzz and adrenalin of racing was brilliant. Looking back at my power file, I’d also made a couple of Pb’s which was great too.

The next couple of days I took some advice from the Paceline guys, and had a think about how I wanted my next race to go which was to be the following weekend. In summary, less futile attacking (a lot of last weeks was just me wanting to test myself and see my level vs the bunch) and I wanted to sit in a bit more, and observe the race, follow any attacks that look good, and potentially feature in the sprint.

Hillingdon Cat 4 Race – 24/01/2015

The week up to the race had been training heavy, and I’d covered around 90 miles. This was despite carrying a bit of a knee niggle, which I’d realised had been down to bad cleat position. Hopefully this wouldn’t affect the race. Conditions were better today than they had been all week. A sunny, clear but slightly windy day. I set off to Hillingdon into a headwind, and straight away my legs felt awful, totally blocked, and putting any power down felt seriously tough, and I felt lethargic. Bad news. My head wasn’t really in it as soon as I felt this, but I just kept my head down and carried onto Hillingdon. Good training riding with a bunch if nothing else I thought.

I arrived at a more sensible time, and just had enough time to sort myself before heading out onto the circuit. I’d also brought a change of base layer and jersey to change into before the start, to try to keep a bit warmer which seemed to work.

We set off and the first couple of laps the tempo felt the same as last week, the wind was blowing slightly differently though, and the bunch was fast down the back straight, but slowing climbing the small rise into the corners. I was feeling abysmal by this point and was just hoping to stay in touch of the bunch all race in tact. The riding was a lot more ragged this week, and I saw 3 separate crashes, which worried me a bit. I pretty much sat in the bunch the whole race up until we got shown the 5 to go board. I decided to use this opportunity to at least try to move up to the front a bit. My legs had started to feel a bit better by this point. I’d scoped a few places on the circuit to move up, and executed these nicely on the 5 to go lap nicely, to find myself very near the front. When suddenly I felt myself going clear, and stupidly decided to dig and give it a proper go. The watts came up and I put in a proper effort, I was way faster through the corners using what I had learnt last week, and quickly had a small gap on the bunch, I went through the 3, and 2 to go lapboards clear, but on reaching the corners the bunch had closed, so I used the opportunity to sit up and recover a bit. Which luckily worked as I was able to hold near the front of the bunch on getting caught.

We flew through the last lap board with the pace much higher. I almost got completely squeezed on the straight, and for the first time actually touched bars on both sides with two riders trying to close up, I held my ground and we started to come up the back straight. I put in a bit of a dig and made some more ground on some other riders that were now up at the front. Through the last complex of corners and I was in position to contest the sprint. I felt I launched at a good time, and didn’t appear to go backwards at least, but my legs were shot from the earlier big 8 minute effort. I sprinted across the line and was fairly sure I was at least in the top 10, so had secured some points, I hoped.

My legs were absolutely on fire with lactic acid as I rolled back to the clubhouse building. I quickly got changed and started to spin back home. My legs were completely shot by this point and I was struggling to even get over 150w. But once I again, I had to be pretty happy that I’d given it everything. Despite attacking accidentally off the front again, and too early. At least I’d hopefully salvaged something from it.

I’d smashed a couple of power pb’s notably 10 min power which was 50 watts higher than previous best, due to giving everything on my futile attack! 20 min power was also 10 watts higher than my 2015 best, but looking at the curve, this wasn’t even really a representative effort. I know when fresh now I can best that for certain.

The next few weeks

I’ve got another Hillingdon race coming up on the 31st, so will aim to be fresher for that, and again, aim to either attack at an actual opportune moment, or contest the sprint properly. But I guess it depends on the race, conditions and suchlike. But I’m please with current fitness and form.

I’m also dusting off the TT bike for the 8th Feb, for the KW Sporting 14. The course which I recce’d earlier this week. The course takes a steady rise for the first half of the lap, followed by a fast rolling A-road, and a fast slight decline section back to the start. Its two laps, so should be interesting to see how I go there.

In addition I’ve got some Novice racers training days at the Cyclopark, which are necessary if I want to compete in the Surrey road race league later in the year.

After that, I’m off on a training camp to Alicante at the start of March, so am really looking forward to that. It’ll be my first, and I’m a bit anxious as to whether I can cope with the volume, but hoping by then fitness is further improved!

So far I’m loving it, racing is fantastic, and I’m way more engaged in training than I have been for quite a long while.

Just got my results through for the 2nd Cat 4 race, and managed to finish 6th! So thats 4 points in the bag. Just another 8 needed now until I can get to Cat 3.