Surrey League – Kirdford 2/3 Race

Seems like I’ve been waiting ages for this race, as my first proper road race, on the actual road!

Since Monday I’d had a pretty good few days training, it has seemed like the last block of training, including that done in Spain, is now coming through in terms of numbers which is pretty cool to see. New FTP based on a 20min power number, backed up by a hard hour, with an NP the same as my FTP number. So I was all set for the weekend, however it seemed the weather forecast wasn’t reading from the same hymn sheet, with the forecast rain and strong winds. Not the best conditions for a road race, let alone a first.

So Sunday arrived and thanks to the clocks changing I was effectively out of bed at 5am to get down to Tooting where I was meeting Gareth, who would then drive us to Dunsfold. I rolled out, and the weather seemed pretty good, no rain yet, and not a great deal of wind. Eventually got to Tooting, and met Gareth and we proceeded to the HQ, with the weather gradually deteriorating.

Got the the HQ and signed on, and chatted to some of the other Paceline guys while nervously watching the weather outside gradually get increasingly grim. Eventually it was ready to roll out. Initially wearing just a jersey and base layer with shorts and leg warmers I was pretty cold, the perceived effort showed and it was difficult to make power. We had a couple of miles neutralised behind the car to the circuit, which was a 6ish mile loop, which was for the most part fairly flat. Once there the flag dropped and we were off, immediately I felt the pace was ok, and I could easily hold the group. However, I was pretty nervous as I didn’t know the course/road at all and the weather was making it even more sketchy. I’m told, although stupidly I didn’t see it that as soon as the flag dropped a group of 3 went off up the road in an attack, and stayed away the whole race, which in those conditions is mighty impressive.

As time went on a couple more futile attacks seem to be attempted before Pat attacked up the road, initially he seemed to get a really good gap and was soon out of sight, however he must have made limited progress after that, as after not too long he was brought back. It was around this time I started to need the toilet quite badly, to the point it was beginning to hurt! I even considered going off up the road, stopping and then catching back on after, but I thought better of it.

It also must have been around this time that another group had split as the bunch I was in seemed to be getting much smaller. Another example of me not paying enough attention to the race! However, other than bladder issues the legs still felt pretty decent. I did try my best to undo all that by coming up to the back of a slower rider on one of the small ramps, before I knew it I was half wheeling him but was balanced in a way I wanted to cross over his wheel, I managed to recover it after unclipping one leg, which was a bit dodgy as well, looking back I think it was just a lapse of attention.

At around 48 miles it seemed clear that the ever shrinking group didn’t really seem to be going anywhere, it was also around then I realised that hard efforts seemed to make my toilet situation better, so after not much thought I decided to put myself out there and attack to see if I could make it up the road to one of the next groups. I sprinted hard from the back of the group and slingshotted myself off the front, which as soon as I had done I thought was a mistake as there was sharp corner just up ahead, whoops. I rounded the corner and sprinted hard again and commited myself to a hard effort. After a short while I checked over my shoulder I was surprised to see I’d actually made a sizeable gap which seemed to be increasing, so I dug in more and settled into a 300w solid effort. I wasn’t really sure at this point how far the finish was, but thought if nothing else this would be good training!

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I carried on solo for another 10 miles before I began to start to struggle, I kept looking back on the long straights though and couldn’t see anyone which made me crack on! It was around then I passed the bell, which meant another 6 or so miles. I was getting more worried about keeping this pace up, but seemed to have a good gap still so went with it. Another two miles later, I was really starting to struggle, and after looking back once more I could see a group coming up the road. As they came closer I could see it was only a small group of 5 or so, and not the whole bunch which made me feel a bit better. I sat up a touch in order to try and jump on the back of them to use what I had left in the legs, and try and get to the finish with them. As they passed they seemed to have a good little paceline going so I managed to jump on. I even managed a few turns on the front, and it was too long before we were coming up on the finish.

The finish was straight on, where normally you would take a left to continue the lap, and was just 1km long. By this point my legs were totalled. I still managed to chase down one of the group attempting to go up the road, but that would be my last effort, as after that I couldn’t hold the bunch. I let them go with about 300m to go, and after checking behind basically crawled across the line to come in 22nd. My legs have never hurt so much on a bike before!

Overall happy with that performance, feel way stronger than earlier in the year, and comfortable in a road race. Pleased to have tried some solo action too, even if it was largely pointless, it was good training, and even resulted in a couple of power pb’s 🙂 Also my new bike performed flawlessly, and was a joy to ride.

Need to work on paying more attention to what’s happening in the race as a whole, which means I probably need to hang around at the back less. I think I also definitely need to recce courses in the future, just for my own comfort and confidence.

Strava: https://app.strava.com/activities/275902556/overview
Avg Power: 231w
NP Power: 258w
Avg Speed: 23.6mph

A New Steed (Cervelo S3)

I arrived home late on Saturday and pretty much went straight to bed after arriving home. Woke up Sunday to watch the Grand Prix while unpacking the bike box from my trip to Spain. Didn’t bother reassembling as I was due to pick up my new frame today! Taxi’d down to Sigma Sport in Kingston to pick it up, whilst getting the steerer cut and bottom bracket installed. Just ordered frameset as I wanted to build it to my own spec with various parts. Basic spec below, still waiting on a few parts however.

  • 2015 Cervelo S3 54cm Frameset
  • Ultegra 11sp Di2 Gearset
  • Internal Di2 Battery
  • Ultegra Brake Calipers
  • Rotor 3d+ Power2Max chainset (Rotor NoQ Aero Semi-Compact Rings to follow)
  • 3T Arx stem and ErgoSum Carbon Bars (waiting on either Specialized Aerofly, or Zipp SL-70 Aero bars)
  • 60mm Carbon Tubulars, not sure if I’ll race these at the moment, have some other wheels on order to use for training/racing.

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Then after an afternoon of building… Still waiting for some bits though.

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Spain Training Camp Report

Being a member of Paceline RT (http://www.paceline-rt.co.uk/) allowed me the opportunity to get involved in a team training camp in Spain for a week in March. Thanks very much to Jasmijn for organising! I’ve never done anything like this, but was keen on the idea of some good weather riding, on some great roads!

So 12 of us flew off to Alicante on Saturday afternoon, all bike boxes and luggage arrived in tact and we made the hour drive across to Xabia, just up the coast from both Alicante and Benidorm. We arrived at the enormous 14 person villa in the evening and were given a tour by our host. (Villa details at the bottom). There was more than enough room for everyone, including secure car and bike storage. There was a nice communal lounge type area which opened up out onto the pool deck area. A great escape from the crap weather of London!

We woke early Sunday and set about building bikes. Luckily no real issues came up in doing so and everyone was ready and raring to go before long. The weather was getting up to 15 degrees or so but was slightly overcast to begin with, still, a great contrast to back home and warm enough for shorts and jerseys, which was a treat. Once everyone was good to go we set off on our first days ride. Some of the others on the camp had planned a nice 50 mile route to kick things off.

Day 1 – https://app.strava.com/activities/264911068

It soon became clear the amount of climbing that we would be doing, over 6000ft in 50 miles was a lot compared to what I had been used to! The scenery was sensational though, and the views sublime. Before going on the trip I was slightly concerned about being able to keep up with everyone on rides, but for the first day at least this wasn’t a problem, and I was conscious not to push too hard so I didn’t end myself before the weeks riding proper had started!

Day 2 – https://app.strava.com/activities/265499193

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Coll De Rates Descent. Utterly brilliant

A slightly longer 80 mile route had been planned for Day 2, taking in some more climbing, and one in particular called Coll de Rates a 4 mile long ascent climbing just over 1000ft, or for me about 20 minutes solid effort. I was still in the mind of not killing myself, so just tried to pace myself up the climb in the little ring with a 25 tooth cassette on the back. Still ended up doing 291w though. I struggled to keep touch with any of the other guys, but everyone gathered at the top of the climb to admire the view, and stop for a cafe stop. Sadly the cafe stop here is very anti cycling, and were extremely rude, so I’d avoid there in future! The rest of the ride took in the descent over the other side of the Coll de Rates, then back to Xabia.

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Working hard up Coll de Rates

Day 3 – https://app.strava.com/activities/266016092

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Almond Blossom

Today’s ride was a mammoth 105 mile route that took in another large climb named the Col d’Ebo then some pretty rolling terrain across to a large man-made lake with a damn, before heading back to Xabia. I was certainly a bit apprehensive on heading out for this one as usually I’d aim to be fresh for a distance like this, not having done 50 and 80 miles prior, so I just concentrated on trying to pace any harder efforts and just plug away all day. The ascent up Col D’Ebo was fantastic though, a nice steady grade all the way to the top with some sensational views. The next section of the ride to the lake was mentally very hard work though, as it was very rolling in nature and I found difficult to find any rhythm let alone the right gear for the varying terrain. The weather was superb at over 20 degrees, and once again the views and countryside superb! We stopped for lunch at a tiny local cafe, and ate omelette baguette and chips (top cyclist food!), quenching our thirst on coke, coffee and water, all for the unreal price of 7 euros! I began to feel better after lunch and just worked on steady effort all the way back home. Not helped by the fact our villa was on top of a large hill, and so required a steep ascent of a couple of miles at the end of each ride. All good training though! We arrived back fairly late, safe to say I was shattered.6623372E-430D-42A5-9D9C-13C6C5D72A7D_zpstpjmsqus

Day 4 – (Recovery)

Today was all about recovering from the previous days huge ride, we pootled out for about an hour for a cafe stop by the beach and a sandwich, before cruising back to the villa. Really easy effort. I needed it as my legs were in bits.

Day 5 – https://app.strava.com/activities/266945167

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Coll D’Ebo

Gareth had planned to do 3x reps of Coll de Rates today as part of some slightly more structured training. I was quite looking forward to it as the legs felt good for this sort of 20min effort, and I really liked the climb. I was also looking forward to having a good go of the descent as well, which seemed like it would be pretty exciting! We got to the climb after a fairly nice ride there in the once again great weather, and I started my effort. I’d done just over 290w last time up, and felt good so aimed for 300w for the 20 minute effort. The climb has some shallower sections near the top so felt I could really crack on here, which was great fun. I held some of the other guys in my sight, and even managed a sprint for the top overtaking Keith who was doing his own steady effort, pointless, but felt good. Stopped at the top for a rest as the others were descending, and in pausing my Garmin I managed to delete my ride so far! To say I was unhappy was an understatement, as all the power data was now gone. Pissed off I just decided to sit and watch the others doing their reps. I eventually got over myself and descended the climb, taking a few liberties with some of the corners on the way, but it felt absolutely incredible. What a road bike was made for! Such a great piece of tarmac. I stopped at the bottom, and tried to take a couple of photos of the others coming down, but it was getting so busy by this point that it was largely in vain. We all caught up for a coffee and some cake at the bottom of the climb, before heading back to Xabia. I was still slightly annoyed so channelled the frustration into a hard effort up the final climb, in doing so managed a new 5min power pb, a couple of watts shy of 400w, and a pb by over 40w which felt good!

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Bike by the man made lake, just before the lunch stop. Was scorching hot here.

After Coll de Rates I was having some bike issues, one of the spokes on my front wheel was clicking horribly, and I’m sure pissing the rest of the group off, not to mention me! I took a look at it on previous ride, and tightened a nipple which seemed to help, but took a proper look at it on the morning of Day 5. It was at this point I discovered the whole rim had split in about 5 separate places on the nipples! Remind me never to buy 3T wheels! It got even worse, as looking at the rear it was the same story, both wheels totalled. I was pretty thankful to have discovered at the villa rather than out on the road, especially considering the descent the day before.

Another of the Paceliners, Jim, kindly let me borrow his wheel set for a morning ride with the group, and so we set out on Day 6 for what was supposed to be a 80 mile route taking Coll de Rates and Col D’Ebo once more. The weather had taken a slight turn and was slightly overcast and pretty windy. The planned route took in a couple of nasty little inconsistently climbing roads which were hard work, and it was fairly clear my head wasn’t really in it as I was getting pretty frustrated. It seemed Gareth felt the same, as he decided to turn back just before we got to Parcent, and I made the decision to go back as well. Mostly because motivation was at a low, and also because I didn’t want to be out all day on Jim’s wheels, stopping him from riding as well. So Gareth and I paced back to the villa, even started to enjoy it a bit on one of the straight flat roads, where we got in a good little two up rhythm at a decent speed back home.

Following this I packed the bike away, as frankly I’d had enough of the sight of it, I was shattered, and the weather forecast was for rain on Day 7. Took the afternoon just chilling, and wandered down to a supermarket a couple of miles away to get some time away from cycling! It was quite apt that at this time Gareth and I mused about how pro cyclists could do this for a living, as frankly I couldn’t handle much more!

So in all from Sunday to Saturday I totalled a distance of 352 miles, 20 hours 40 minutes and over 34,000ft of  climbing. I’d also spent some time with a great bunch of very experienced riders, so just listening to all of them chatting about cycling and racing, as well as riding together has I’m sure furthered me as a rider as well. Not to mention it being more than double my usual weekly miles and far beyond anything I’d ever done before in terms of climbing. My CTL bumped almost 20 points, and I’d even come away with an unexpected 5 min power pb. Really looking forward to the next couple of weeks training and racing now to see what comes next. Next race is the Alfold circuit on the 29th of March.

For further details on the villa and to book:

The villa is located in XĂ bia, approximately here, and quieter than Calp. Alicante is the local airport, and it takes about 70 minutes to drive from the airport to the villa. The villa itself is served by numerous local supermarkets at the bottom of the hill; a large Consum, Aldi, and several small supermercados, all within 25 minutes of walking. On the hill is a bar named Cannibal, and ProCyclingAgency, with a bike mechanic. There are several seasonal restaurants such as an Indian, only 5 minutes walk away.

The local beach is the cove of Platja l’Arenal, which offers a typical tourist seafront promenade of shops; lilos, buckets, spades etc, plus lots of cafes, restaurants. This is less than a 10 minute drive, and offers free parking on the seafront.

There are local hills, 5-8 minutes long within 5 minutes of the villa. Heading further inland towards Coll de Rates and Vall d’Ebo is a flat 19 miles or so, so approximately 60 minutes riding time away. For cyclists, there are plenty of opportunities to cycle some lovely climbs and descents. Peter, the villas owner, is more than happy to rent out to groups of cyclists, and the villa itself is ideal for catering for groups. For more details, see the following links below:

http://www.neetesonvakantiehuizen.nl/vakantiehuis-el-nido
https://www.facebook.com/NeetesonVakantiehuizen (he also has a villa in Czech republic)
https://twitter.com/VillaElNido
Further photos of the villa

Surrey League – Longcross 2/3 Race

Since my last race I had a bit of a training blip, looking back at it now it was fairly obvious I was fatigued. I had been training pretty much non stop since the beginning of the year and so my ATL Was getting near a constant all time high and TSB was getting really low. All the training I was doing I was really struggling, and maintaining any sort of meaningful power was so difficult. So I decided to take a really easy week and just did around 3 hours of volume as opposed to my usual 8 or so hours.

This really helped and as soon as I went out this week on a ride I felt fantastic. I went out with a couple of Paceline guys on the usual winter training loop and I felt stronger than I ever have, although wished I’d done more on the front it was still good training. https://app.strava.com/activities/259880607

Took it easy the rest of the week before my biggest race year to date on Saturday at Longcross in Surrey. For anyone that doesn’t know,the circuit is based at an old MOD site, and is a car test track. It features a huge long straight, a very long sweeping left hander followed by several sweeping hairpins with some fairly strong elevation changes, which are quite challenging technically to get spot on each time. The lap culminates in a quick descent into a semi chicane, back on to the main straight.

So Saturday rolled round, and I started off the 23 mile journey to Longcross, I was slightly reticent to cycle all the way over as it meant quite a bit of use of the legs prior to the race which I wasn’t sure about. I met up with Gareth Thomas of Paceline in Kingston and we rode the rest of the way over together though. The weather was slightly warmer than it had been of late, but it was pretty constant drizzle which made it pretty grim. Got there spot on 10:15 and signed on and met up with a couple of other Paceline riders who were racing, Andy Lack, and Sam Andrews.

I’d borrowed a Paceline jersey as I’m still waiting for my kit order, so it felt cool to race in team colours for the first time! (Thanks Jim and Maryka for that!) We set off behind the lead car and the pace was immediately pretty high, I’d not ridden the course and was a bit nervous as to what was coming up, especially given the greasy conditions. I kept in the bunch the first lap and felt OK. The downhill into the chicane each lap was a bit of a sticking point with all of the riders forming a bit of a bottle neck, which would string out onto the main straight, meaning working hard to remain attached.

There was a strong headwind on the straight, so after pushing to keep attached the bunch eventually slowed into the wind and grouped back up before the end of the main straight. After the first couple of laps I felt comfortable on the circuit, with some of the corners quite enjoyable. Was glad to have fitted 25mm tyres earlier in the week though, which seemed to help with cornering confidence.

I just kept myself in the bunch and was happy to seemingly be able to take the pace, as well as being able to move up and down the group as needed. There was plenty of room on the circuit so it was fairly easy to move up the side. It seemed to me the best place to do this was using the downhills to carry more momentum than the bunch into the inclines, which helped moving forward. I did this a couple of times just to test, and ended up on/near the front into the main straight, also meant taking the chicane faster than the bunch too which helped onto the straight.

A break had gotten away from around 30mins in and stayed out, maintaining a 30-40 second gap to the bunch, but the gap began to come down as the laps got into the last 5, I was still feeling good by this point, and was hoping to get up near the front for the last time onto the main straight, but coming up one of the inclines out of the saddle, my chain missed a gear and I cycled half a revolution of air, my hamstring immediately felt odd but I kept with the bunch, half a lap later it still didn’t feel right so I stuck my hand up and threw in the towel. I’m off to Spain on a training camp so was worried of hurting myself prior to this.

I stood on the side and watched the sprint come in which was good to see, the lead guys looked absolutely rapid! Unfortunately for the break, they had been brought back in, and it was down to a full bunch sprint. Tried to pick out a couple of the Paceline guys and saw Gareth up near the front end of the bunch, with the other guys rolling in with the remainder of the bunch.

Had a chat to the guys after, then rolled back home, thankfully with a tailwind giving assistance which was much needed, ended up being a 90 mile day, by far the longest I’ve done for some time! Annoyingly the hamstring turned out to be fine, so probably needn’t have pulled in, but better safe than sorry I guess.

Overall, pretty happy with fitness and being able to keep up, could still do with dropping a few kg to make the climbs easier though. Glad to stay upright as well, as it was a bit sketchy at times. Saw one guy deck it on a corner which looked nasty, hope he was ok.  Next confirmed race is not until 12th April (Kirdford Surrey League 2/3 Race) but I’m hoping to get a waiting list space on the 29th March SL Alfold Circuit race. In the meantime, this time next week I’ll be in Spain riding hopefully!

Avg Power: 245w

NP: 263w

Avg Speed: 25.1mph

Strava: https://app.strava.com/activities/260994665