Newlands & Whinlatter. Fast.

AS you know, I’m following my Sportif training block at the mo and Wednesday night is Force Climbs night. The purpose of this is to get my legs used to grinding at aerobic threshold as they inevitably will be in he closing stages of the 3 British rides i’m doing but also to build a bit of endurance for longer climbs, hopefully. Anyway, for this I ride out to the foot of Newlands Pass then ride over it and Whinlatter in the saddle as much as I can and time it. In a vain effort to improve my descending skills, I time the way down too.

Strange day weather-wise in the lakes today. Lots of little pockets of rain gusting about the place and some extremely fresh breezes. The temperatures weren’t bad though. One of these breezes was in my face for the first section of the ride. Although it did have the bonus of being a little nature walk/ride. Two horses did the Tour De France thing of galloping alongside me as I rode past their field, that was pretty cool. Lots of little lambs too, including one balancing on a high wall. How it got up there, I know not. I also saw a sultry buzzard on a tree which, after looking at me with complete disdain, flew off lazily.

Onto Newlands and, as ever, I started my timer at the snow sign (showing all year round!) and pretty much straight away reached for 39×26. You have to take the bottom section out of the saddle, it’s between 15% and 20% for the first 500m, tonight though I was bouncing. A fresh dump of rain meant that my back wheel kept slipping under pressure, so I was looking for the rutted, rough parts of road to keep traction.By half way I had resumed motoring in the saddle and stayed there, spinning, until the 20% sign abuot 150m (and one evil 25% ramp) from the summit. A kick out of the saddle and I was there. 8:48 and 30 seconds taken out of my years best!

I found a mobile phone on the top too. So if anyone has lost a battered old Nokia, been up Newlands Pass in the last 24 hours and has a mother who is constantly on the phone, PD Malcolm can help you out.

The descent was also very wet… Exercising my usual cowardice/caution and taking into account the amoutn of traffic I wasn’t expecting anything from the descent… But a years best 13:22 on that too! When you’re going well, eh? I’m crediting all this by the way to the mysterious power of my Gibo-era Lampre jersey. Just putting on it’s wierd fibre that i’ve never seen anywhere else makes you feel less like a gangly scruff honking up a wet fell and more like the peloton’s prime exponant of the Napoleon Complex taking it to the worlds best climbers on the Zoncolan

A quick tug on the bottle and then onto Whinlatter where, bizarrely the road was completely dry after the observation point half way up. Another years best time of 11:38… 6 seconds slower than my best ever! Descent slightly disappointing, but I was tired by that point and given the amount of grip my back tyre was exhibiting, I was in no mood to push it.

Absolutely thrilled with tonights ride, I must be doing something right!


Power and Climbing Intervals

Tonight, a work-out I described on the Whinlatter post (the very second post on the blog!) a couple of weeks ago. Out from Cockermouth, along the A66 to keswick and back home over said Pass. The structure of the work out is 10 minutes warm up 4×4 minute power intervals at 90%+ of Max HR with 4 minutes recovery inbetween and then, on the climb, 1:30 of Aerobic Threshold Riding (170-180 BPM on my HR) and throw in 5x 30 second all out attacks with a minute of Threshold riding inbetween.

The A66 section was strange tonight. A really wierd, swirling wind that was at points (my first interval) pushing me along at 50kph, at times trying to throw me into the gutter and at times (last interval) trying to blow me back home. I finished the 4 intervals with an average of 32.2 KPH, which is about 0.7 kph lower than the last time I did it. So overall the effect of the wind pretty much evened out, was simply a bit wild. The purpose of these intervals is to keep going to that intensity you need in a race whilst training, mainly, for more steadily paced Sportif efforts. I keep feeling better and better on the power stuff at the moment, so I guess reducing the overall intensity, after a prolonged period of training at very high intensity has given me some benefit, maybe the first Race block of the year came a little early for me…

Onto the climb and again, the aim here is that racing intensity. The threshold riding is also useful for quick climbing on the sportifs, but I’m thinking at the moment of the Westmorland Tankard CDNW race in 3 weeks. There’s a big climb on that and the ability to attack repeatedly will be a bonus. First 3 attacks felt great tonight. In fact the second one took my breath away. Faded a bit for the last two, but this is a very intense workout, and it’s to be expected. The threshold riding inbetween the attacks is one of those situations I can see a Power Meter being useful. Your heart rate just isn’t going to recover from those kinds of efforts within 60 seconds, so you’re pretty much riding on feel in those “recovery” sections. I didn’t time the climb tonight, as I feel having done 3 timed ascents in the last 7 days, I’m in danger of over-analysing every performance on it. I’m riding it again tomorrow as well…

Descent, however, was timed. With a following wind for the top section that, sadly, degenerated into a headwind for the flat bit in the middle. Even worse, a cross wind on the flat, sweeping bend that leads you to the steep, tight corners half way down. I was, again, overly cautious down those but the time at the bottom was 9 seconds better than my previous best of the year, so can’t really complain. In fact, the average speed for the rid of 30.1kph was pretty pleasing considering the conditions and 1.5 kph quicker than the last time around that ride, which is really encouraging.

Honister, Newlands & Whinlatter

Another of my simulated Sportif efforts yesterday. Slightly curtailed by my hangover from Saturday night’s festivities. Sadly, it also took in 3 of the tougher climbs in the lakes all strung together in 20km sufferfest.

Anybody who’s ridden the Whitton will know that the ride really starts once you hit Honister and never settles down afterwards. I hadn’t been over it since last years Fred either, when I was reduced to walking, so with some trepidation I approached via the A66 and, Cumbria’s answer to Pave, the Borrowdale road. 29.8 kph average to the foot of the climb, wind assisted, and feeling pretty good.

Turning onto Honister, I was immediately hit by a stiff headwind. However, the gradient on the first ramp wasn’t as harsh as I recalled and I was still tapping a 39 x 25 at quite a good tempo as it levelled out. After this “easy” section at a mere 13%, you round the corner onto what looks like a wall. You’re immediately hunched over your bars, levering the bike and grinding. Then, as you come up to the bridge, it gets worse. The trick at this point is to stay out of the trench that runs across the bend and to remember that the cattle grid marks the end of the worst of it. After that you have a few hundred meters to spin it out and recover for the final assault on the summit. The headwind definitely wasn’t helping at this juncture, but I made it in 12 minutes. Always feels longer though and the pain in my legs, arms, abs and back tell me that the climb of Honister pass is the all-body workout of champions!

The descent, however, is just stupid. It’s very, very steep, covered in holes, ruts and ridges and has two sharp corners at the end of straight steep sections. In short it’s bloody dangerous and I crept down it.

Climb of Newlands passed fairly easily, only 13 seconds down on my years best time and my legs were feeling pretty tired by then (glad of a rest and a massage today). Descent was curiously slow considering how fast it felt! Was leaning into corners, intentionally breaking later, all that good stuff. Must have been a headwind.

Whinlatter was really tough, given how tired I was feeling. My head and stomach were complaining too. Still, I gave it all I had and made it hurt. I could feel cramp setting in as I pushed for the top. The time was nothing to write home about but the effort was there. Again, I felt I’d improved on the descent so some positives to take out.

The only other incident of note was my failure to empty my jersey pockets at the end of the ride. This led to my racing license, cash card and a £20 note going through the wash. Balls.

Force Climbs Ride

Lots of good things to report tonight. The workout was a nce ride out for the 15km or so to the foot of Newlands Pass, on the Buttermere Side, then up the pass in my Aerobic Threshold Zone 170-175bpm with as much work being done in the saddle as possible. Then a timed descent into Braithwaite before repeating the exercise on Whinlatter, another timed descent and then home.

The ride out was excellent fun, no wind whatsoever, 35 minutes of nice easy tempo/ endurance riding with one semi-serious hill in the middle. Completed at an avetage of 28.1 kph. Onto the Newlands climb and I was almost immediately into my bottom gear of 39×26. I started my timer at the Snow sign at the bottom and stopped it at the grit bin on the laybay on top. Whilst every attempt was made to stay in the saddle, i’m only human. The gradient defeated me on the second steep kick up (after a short flat/downhill section) and I got my arse up. Felt good throughout though, getting up in 9:19, although my Polar tells me that that equates to a pretty grim average speed of 11.7 kph for 1.8km at an average gradient of 11%.

The descent of Newlands is a strange one. It tests everything about you. Your bikehandling on the rough 25% slope at the top, your bravery in not braking for sheep (Whitton riders be warned!), your ability to jump on top of a big gear on some of the sudden rises. It has some brilliant hairpins and terrifyingly bad surfaces but I love it. I just need to get off the brakes a bit more! My useless descending has always costed me and introducing the competitive element in timing it is my way of getting to grips with this. 13:36 for 7.7km at an average of 33.3kph.

I’ve talked about Whinlatter on this blog before, but tonight I stormed up it. My best ever time on it is a half-remembered 11:32 from about 6 years ago. Tonight was 11:44, a massive improvement on the years best of 12:06 for the 3.2km going up to the forest park at the top. At one point I looked down and was 2 gears higher than I thought I was, and still spinning smoothly. Perhaps the Schleck’s ripping me apart on Sunday was worth it afterall!

Descent was, again, disappointing. 8:57 for a 5km descent. Again, Whitton fans, there’s holes and gravel all over the S-Bends half way down the descent.

All in, a really pleasing ride in great weather and the fells looked stunning in the sunset. A really good reminder of why riding a bike round here is such good fun!

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?


One of my favourite rides last night… Cockermouth to Keswick on the A66, then over Whinlatter pass to get home.

The way I work it is to ride a ten minute tempo warm up (below 80% of max HR) then do 4 x 4 minute power intervals (over 100rpm, heart rate above lactic threshold) with 4 mins recovery thrown in. Traffic lights made one of the recovery sections easier than I would have liked, but felt really good throughout, sadly my top gear was 53 x 13 or I could have done something about that…

On to the climb and I start my timer at the signpost in Braithwaite and do 1:30 at threshold before throwing in 5 x 30sec attacks with a minute between each one.

Light was quickly fading at this point, so seeing the timer was an issue. As was seeing the road on the way down ! I really need those clocks to go back. Best bit of training at the moment is not having to wrap up like the mummy just to go out for an hour. Armwarmers and my Gibo era Lampre jersey! Style, baby

This was my last proper ride before my first goal race of the season and it felt pretty good! So hopefully I can do something on sunday and get the W in the 3s and 4s.

Whinlatter Pass from the Braithwaite side, just before the 15% ramp starts

Whinlatter Pass from the Braithwaite side, just before the 15% ramp starts

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