Hour of Power!

Hard workout tonight to kick off the Sportif block… The hour of power. Cribbed from Bill Black, my take on this workout is to ride at just about my maximum sustainable pace for one hour and throw in a 30 second all-out attack every 2 minutes. On the turbo, this is murder and only a DVD to take my mind off the pain can get me through it. On the road, it’s slightly easier due to undulating terrain and the fact the biggest gear on my training wheels is a 13.

I did this on the Daffodil Road Race course, which I’m planning to use every time I do it outdoors fo the summer, as a benchmark. Really good night to be out as well, no legwarmers (first time, not in a race, since October!), sunglasses on and an average temp of 13 degrees.

The performance was a little down on the last time I did the HoP (back in my peak phase) with an average speed of 32.3kph compared to 32.5kph and an average heart rate of 173 bpm (88% of max) compared to 168 bpm (86%) last time. I’m going to put this down to two factors;firstly, after a week of slothing about on transition and two weeks of reduced workload on peaking… I’m bound to have lost a little fitness and second, i’m still knackered from Sunday… There was a really strange tightness in my hip when I got started that seemed to work it’s way out after about 10 mins.

All comparitive hour of power stats welcomed!

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Twitter Ye Not!

Back to thinking about training today. I stress “Thinking” as today is a rest day, which I am most grateful for after yesterdays exertions. Essentially, I’m back to counting calories today(how many in a piece of malteaser cake?). I’ve also fitted the “Sportif Cassette” to my race wheels. It must be serious.

Today I’m pondering on the many lessons I’ve learned in the 2 short weeks since I set this blog up to finally give the world a window on my cycling (I know, finally, you wanted it you got it etc etc). Here are just some.

1) Traffic for blogs is a lot lighter than I thought. And I don’t know whether it’s touching or depressing that out of the billion or so internet users out there, I consider I’ve done well if 40 take the time to read what I write.

2) People are much more reluctant to leave comments and engage than I thought, although maybe thats the writing more than anything. My thanks to all those who’ve given feedback though.

3) Whilst the good folk of the bike radar forums keep the clicks coming in, I got 150 in 2 hours after shamelessly plugging the blog on a Guardian comment piece about cycling nutrition. National newspaper websites= clicks beyond your wildest dreams.

4) And this follows on from 3). No plug is too shameless.

5) You guys seem to like the race write ups more than anything else and I always give em what they want!

As part of this pondering I’ve been wondering about Twitter. Now, Twitter has always seemed the worlds most pointless thing to me. More pointless than facebook. More pointless than myspace. More pointless than any number of social network tools. But to give the blog a “live” feel, it could be interesting. Imagine if I could update the site from thetop of the Tourmalet in June…

With this in mind i’ve set up an account and I’ll see how we go, whether anyone reads it, whether I can be bothered updating it and so on. If we get nothing out of it other than todays title, it will have been a fun experiment! As ever let me know your thoughts.

Reliability Rides Harder Than Racing… Official

Derwent Valley Wheelers Peter Taylor Memorial ride this morning, in memory of the gent who used to run Cockermouth’s long-established Derwent Valley Cycle Sport. The reliability format allows as many people as possible to get involved and also makes things much simpler insurance-wise. It’s basically a sportif kind of ride without the timing. About 5 of the local racing snakes turned up, meself included, so it was assured that the quick group was going to be pretty hardcore!

But i’ve never ridden a reliability like that… Usually they don’t go crazy until after the stop. Then the fast guys start competing for bragging rights. Today we rolled out at 20 mph and it never lifted off. There’s a big climb up to Overwater about 6 miles into the route and Garth and Sean attacked up it. On a reliaibility ride after 10km.

I assumed they were just testing each others legs, being brothers and all, and so didn’t respond. But no… On they went, quickly joined by Brian Payton (local king of the Time Trial scene) on a cobbled together bike with a 55 chain ring. So before we knew what had happened we were hurling ourselves down the other side at speeds of up to 65kph. I had closed the gap by the bottom but the front of the ride was down from 12 to 5.

All was calm for a couple of miles of gentle descent, then up a sharp little rise in Boltongate, Honister 92’s answer to the Schlecks gave it another almighty dig. This was about 20 miles into a 60 mile ride. I really cannot express how much a serious breach of reliability etiquette this was (etiquette rule no. 3490 No dropping PD Malcolm.), joined by Payton, they started to sail down towards the A595 with me and one of the local triathletes chasing hard. Their gap increased further after we got stuck at a junction they had just crossed and after that me and the Tri-Guy rode the first half together trying to keep them in sight, and failing. This despite riding the first 50km at 32.5 kph with a headwind for the last 20.

At the cafe, something marvellous happened and it had nothing to do with my caramel shortbread or double espresso. Me and Tri-Guy arrived to find we were the first there. The three who had gone shooting off up the road had missed a turning, arriving 15 minutes after us. You can be as fast as you like, you know, but you have to get round the course. They had evidently failed on the “reliability” part of the day.

Second half saw the five of us and traning buddy Mike leave together (he had forgotten to put his clock forward. Most funny) to ride down the Cumbrian coast towards Allonby, into the teeth of an evil headwind. Down there, the wind doesn’t just force you to grind your way along, it blows sand in your face too. Horrible riding. Payton’s 55, my brute force and ignorance and Sean looking disgracefully smooth powered the group along before we turned back in land to climb over the bank of hills that lie just inland. A good pace was set here too, passing people who’s left the cafe before us, rolling along in conversation, trying to attack 25 miles from home (hem hem hem). Mike pulled off at this juncture, sensible man, and Brian had punctured, leaving myself and the Schlecks.

If I do say so myself, we worked fairly steadily over the last 20 miles. Partly due to recognising we were pretty evenly matched, partly due to being knackered. Grinding into a headwind was really tough and I could feel cramp starting on all the little steep climbs that dotted the end of the course. The final rise saw me try to use what little I had left to get away (see? These always degenerate into a race). Sean got dropped, but Garth steamed away for the “victory”, leaving me “second”. Pleasing ride on a good course.

I am, however, destroyed. I’ve cramped 3 times whilst writing this, which is what motivated the title. Seriously, if those boys ever get it into their heads to pin on a number, they could do some real damage. I plan to take tomorrow to recover and then get into the Sportif training plan I outlined on Friday.

Two Lakes Loop And Many Near Misses

Late today, but that was due to a visit to Trotters World of Animals. Seriously folks, if you can get that close to a Gibbon anywhere else in a national park, call the rangers.

A Gibbon, yesterday

A Gibbon, yesterday

Anyway, finishing off transition and priming myself for the training plan I outlined yesterday this weekend. So planned two hours at an easy pace over Whinlatter, round te back of Derwent, back up Borrowdale, round the back of Bassenthwaite and back home. Like so…

It seems winter has made a comeback to the lakes this weekend, Snow was visible on the top of Grisedale Pike and there was some sleety stuff blowing around on the top of Whinlatter, which I crested (from home) in 30 minutes at an average of 25kph. It’s a nice climb from the Cockermouth side, Alpine type gradients apart from one 400m section of 15% S-Bends with holes all over them. The stuff the lakes is famed for!

Over the top and my day of near misses started. Theres a viewing point across Bass lake and Skiddaw halfway down. So here comes I at 45kph out of a corner, with nothing behind me when some dolt decides thats the perfect time to pull out. Arse goes back, brakes go on, back wheel steps out, just about stay up… New Shorts Please!

I’m not the worlds best descender, hell I’ve been dropped from a bunch going downhill before now, but incidents like that really knock my confidence even further. So the rest of Whinlatter was painful after that.

Over Catbells next and two vans come round a blind bend, in convoy, at 40mph in the middle of the road. Swift foot out of pedal job. Getting over the top some tourists wander like sheep into my path and scowl at me for daring to go anywhere near them. Descent there was nice… Quiet road, for a change and, although I was a little heavy on the brakes, I rather enjoyed it.

Turning back to ride up Borrowdale to Keswick and the icy wind hit me.. Now this was why the first hour was such a breeze! I wasn’t quite grinding but it was certainly enough to annoy. Fortunately, I reach for music at moments like this… below is a selection of the tunes that I recall listening to today

1. The Hold Steady- Two Handed Handshake
2. Billy Bragg- The Short Answer
3. Afghan Whigs- John The Baptist
4. Rocket From The Crypt- Shy Boy
5. Mogwai- Teriffic Speech

Also, the Slipstream kit I bought last October and debuted outside today has an MP3 pocket in the back (Gore to keep the sweat off!) and a headphone hole just above it. Design genius.

Anyway… Round the back of Bassenthwaite to finish off whereby a bus driver in an effort to avoid some pedestrians drove his bus right at me. Other than that and the headwind I felt pretty good though, big ring and still spinning well up past Dodd wood so that augers well.

Even on the way through Cockermouth a child sprinted in front of me prompting me to remind him that were I driving a car… he’d be dead. That Slipstream kit is hardly subtle, how the hell do these people keep missing me?

The Sportif Season Starts

Now I know a lot of road racers give sportifs a bad press… They paint them as being full of unfit wannabes without the balls to race properly and without the wherewithal to ride in a straight line. I, on the other hand love them. The mistake those guys are making is judging the events by the same standard. To me, a cyclosportif is as competetive as you want to make it, it allows you to ride with other people over always spectacular courses and it serves, for the guys at the front, as a race on roads they’d never be allowed to race on. I’ve ridden La Marmotte four times now, staying in the same hotel as Bert Dekker (who “won” it twice), you tell him it’s not competitive.

This year i’m taking a break from La Marmotte and so my main aim for this section of my season is La Pyreneenne, which is run in the Pyrenees (duh!) taking in the Aspin and the Tourmalet with a hill climb to Hautacam the next day (oooh leg breaking!). Bitter experience has taught me that you need to prepare for such events properly so I’m putting racing on the back burner for a couple of months and training specifically, as well as riding 3 uk Sportifs to get ready in the shape of my local ride, The Fred Whitton challenge, the Etape du Dales and the Polka Dot Challenge.

Now I’ve usually just gone about Sportif training as part of the “just ride yer bike” school of thought. Racking up monster miles with no more thought behind them than proving to myself I could ride the distances without dying. The structured winter I’ve had and the benefits it wrought have convinced my however, that it’s worth preparing a little more specifically. Below is the plan I’ll be following for the next 3 weeks with some brief notes on WHY i’m riding it.

Monday– Rest Day
Tuesday– Power Workout
This will either be the Hour of Power described here or it will be the ride described here or else it will be the local Time Trials run by Velo Club Cumbria. This both keeps my arm in for racing intensity and develops that high end you need for either grinding up a steep hill or seting a hard tempo up the Tourmalet!)
Wednesday– Force Climbs
This takes the form of riding out to Newlands Pass (Buttermere Side) and going over it in the saddle, then onto Whinlatter and doing the same. I use a 25 sprocket as my lowest gear so, Newlands especially, provides quite a challenge. This is designed so that Honister, Hardknott etc are within my abilities on that kind of gearing and I don’t have to splatter myself to get over them.
Thursday– Free Ride for 90 minutes.
Theres no point doing it if you can’t enjoy the benefits. I can work on anything i feel i’m lacking and I can also, hopefully assess how I’m coming along.
Friday Rest Day
Saturday-Five hours at tempo, all major climbs at aerobic threshold.
Essentially a simulated Sportif effort
Sunday As Saturday.

Any questions comments, feel free to E-Mail or put them in the replies, i’ve removed the pre-moderation now, so they should be a bit easier and smoother to use!

A view back down the Buttermere side of Newlands Pass

A view back down the Buttermere side of Newlands Pass

Fangs Brow Ride

As part of my Transition week, all the literature said I was permitted to exercise but not train. I took this to mean that pootling was acceptable and set out to do something last night that I never do anymore, ride just for the sake of it. No thoughts of it being preparation or training for anything, just an hours easy spin after work.

I picked a nice route, out from Cockermouth to Lorton, through the vale, over Fangs Brow and home on the A-Road. The outward leg was excellent, spinning really easily for 30kph over some gently rolling roads I thought to myself that my two races must have kicked me right on, the trees practically bent double dismissed this notion however, giving the lie to the massive tailwind I was enjoying.

It was good to pay some attention to my surroundings for a change too… There were plenty of that old Newsround staple Lambs-In-Coats on show, and the daffodils going up to Loweswater School were most pleasant too. Climbing in this mindset is a breeze as you simply have to get up the incline, speed and intensity are just not an issue.

Sadly, Fangs is a different beast. Those who have ridden the Fred Whitton will know that it’s not the advertised climbs that kill you, it’s the little hills between them and for me this is the worst of them. It’s a mile long, starts with a 1 in 8 ramp that is about 2/3s of its length and then levels off a bit. After a couple of hundred metres of flat you’re kicked up the gradient again until it ends on a 17% hairpin past a farm. There used to be a dog that lived there that, I swear, waited for cyclists. It got so bad that every time I planned to ride there I took a biscuit with me to distract him.

While I think on, this is something I’d like to do more of… using my local knowledge to help out people riding the Fred, let me know what you’d like to see as always.

After that, a pretty simple run back home, nice descent into Mockerkin, nice ride back along the lumpy A-Road. Could get used to this not training lark. I did, bizarrely, have the theme tune from long sicne dead kid’s show The Family Ness in my head all the way round… Answers on a postcard please.

The End?

Presumably, by now, everyone who has a racing licence has seen the ill rumblings coming out of North Wales and, more specifically, It’s constabulary.

Brought to my attention on bike radar it would seem that after the shambles of the Bikeline 2 Day, the Police have set their stall out that no road racing will be permitted on roads that fall under their ward. Dig a little deeper and it would seem that this has been slightly sensationalised by the TLI… However this should serve as a warning to us all.

The race I wrote up at the weekend, for example, has an excellent course. It had the British champion on it’s start sheet and it had the national escort group on motorbikes. It had a full risk assessment, it had everything a well organised event needs to run safely and enjoyably and yet there were still problems, organisers scrambling around for somebody to drive a lead car and for people to marshal corners and there was still a complaint to the police. Despite the local HQ being informed, the information had not been passed down to the town’s station.

British Cycling, organisers, clubs and riders need to get their act together to ensure that the goodwill and attention brought to the sport by the Olympics is not squandered if real gains are to be made in the growth of bike racing as an organised participation sport in the UK. Races are dying out and people are unwilling to take on the responsibility of replacing them, insurance fears put clubs off and there seems to be no clear guidance regarding how to go about organising events. The onus is also on riders to follow the rules and ride safely. For me moving up the outside before trying to bully your way back in on pain of being hit by the car coming the other way is not a valid or sustainable tactic.

As far as Joe Public goes, education has to be the priority. If your sunday-driver knows that bike races happen and what they entail, he is far more likely to know how to react when he comes across one. One poster on a message board I looked at said that the Bikeline wasn’t publicised at all in the local area and evidently the complainant at the CDNW race on sunday hadn’t got the message either.

The fact is that road racing in this country needs to do something to assert itself, in outsiders eyes, as a valid use of the roads. The fact that messageboard rumour about it’s death was so readily believed speaks volumes as to it’s health and it’s reliance on the goodwill of a number of bodies.