Fangs Brow Again!

Part of the purpose of the “Free Ride” sessions in my Sportif preparation block is not to “huck” my way off some “knarly” drop-offs but to work on areas where I feel my other sessions have identified a weakness.

Last night I chose, as I think I will be doing a lot, descending. Me and going downhill fast have never really got on. My first bad experience was hitting some ice on a fast straight section of Whinlatter and pulling the brakes… My second, watching a guy kill himself on the Glandon. My various broken bones and seeing other people crash have instilled a sense of fear in me down the years and is something, believe it or not, that I work on. The problem is that every time I commit to a line a car seems to come the other way meaning I won’t do it the rest of the ride.

Descending is, however, the only part of cycling you get for free. Whilst I’ll probably never be a dare-devil, I recognise that being able to get downhill fast and safely is important not just in sportif riding, but possibly even more so in racing.

So I selected a route that, from Cockermouth, took in Paddle and Thornthwaite, then passed Loweswater, up and over Fangs Brow and returned via the main road. This gave me a few short, twisty downhills, a longer fast downhill with a few technical corners in the middle and some sharp big ring climbs to stomp up.

On the flat and uphills, my performance surprised me. My heartrate was lower than normal, and I felt like I was breezing along, the uphills felt good too. My races and reliabilities must have brought me on a bit now I’ve recovered.

As for the descents, a mixed bag. The shorter stuff I was pleased with, staying off the brakes and committing to lines, confident I could get out of the way of anything coming the other way. Fangs, I got onto the drops, avoided the dog-walker and picked up my speed. I found myself involuntarily feathering the brakes about 100m before the fast chicane-like corners but got off them braking into it at about 40m to go, still too far away… off the brakes and into the corners, picking up speed on the exit of the second about to lean into the gravel strewn final bend and… car. Kill all my speed, creep through, balls.

Ride back kept up all my signs of good performance with my legs just starting to feel tired after my weeks efforts. 28.2 kph av for a hilly 29km, and home for a bath.

I’m trying to figure out My Tracks on the G1 at the moment and am doing about 2/3s of the Fred Whitton route over the weekend, so I will try to post maps and profiles, as ever your comments are welcomed!

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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.

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