Different TT Courses…

The differences between TT courses for broadly the same power!

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D25/8e – only 330ft of ascent but feels like more.  5 roundabouts to navigate, mostly single carriageway (SC) but some dual carriageway (DC).  Quite exposed so susceptible to even lightish winds.  This one felt really hard (day after the one below – legs tired).

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J5/8 – 560ft of ascent but recognised as a “fast” course if the weather is right.  7 roundabouts to navigate but virtually all DC.  My stats suggest I could have put more in but felt like I’d emptied it in the final 2 miles up the “concrete mountain”.

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L2524 –  292ft of ascent. 5 roundabouts to navigate and mainly DC.  Apparently weather dependant but felt like a fast course when I was there.

August Stats – The End of Summer?

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It’s been a pretty wet and cold August.  I’ve mostly ridden time-trials during that time including consecutive ones where it rained incessantly from start to finish, which is not a pleasant experience.  So my mileage is down but intensity and average speed up as you would expect.  Year to date figures in brackets

Distance – 474 miles (4,461 miles)

Time – 1d 1hr 26m (10d 19m 42m)

Average Speed – 18.6mph (17.2mph)

Energy – 17,741 kcals (169,867 kcals)

Average HR – 135bpm (131bpm)

Ascent – 20,922ft* (211,398ft)

*most of this on the one ride – Wild Wales Challenge!

Had a couple of weeks off work – now it’s time to lose the timber from all the eating I’ve done!

Wild Wales Challenge

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It’s 5-30am on an August morning and the temperature reading in the car is saying 3˚C and the little frost symbol is displayed.  What.  The.  F*ck!?  Fast forward two hours and I’m in a car park in Bala, Wales, surrounded by middle aged men (and women) in lycra, getting ready for the Wild Wales challenge.  The temperature is now a balmy 6˚. I put arm warmers on, woollen gloves under my mitts, a gilet and a waterproof jacket.  I’m in shorts and my legs and feet are already cold.  I leave the aero shell on my helmet – not for aero purposes but for keeping-head-warm purposes, and I set off towards the start.  I’m doing maybe 10mph and the wind chill is already pushing the temperature lower.  I reach the football ground HQ with some other 500 riders, find a spot to park my bike and join the long queue snaking into the clubhouse.  It moves fast and I soon reach the front and get bleeped in.  I see a few other North Cheshire Clarion jerseys and say hello but I don’t recognise them.  Then I see Gary in the queue and say hello to him.  Riders are milling around nervously, drinking coffee, but I find my bike and decide to hit the road.

The chill hits me again as I am very quickly on my own, no cars.  The coldness is forming little droplets of condensation on the leading edges of my bike, and on the stubble hair on my legs.  It’s quickly foggy and I stop to momentarily flick my lights on.

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Almost immediately, some five miles in and with cold legs, the road enters some trees and rears up maybe 20% and I climb past other riders steeply for about a mile, then less steeply for another four miles or so.

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Others are cursing but I don’t mind.  My legs are strong and at least now I’m warm and we’ve climbed out of the fog.  The descent is fast and furious and immediately I’m cold again.

The morning is a repeat of this.  Up and warm.  Down and cold.  Up and warm, down and cold.  I reach the first control amongst an early group of riders.  Straight in and out, eating a flapjack that a helper has handed me.  Apparently later it will be chaos when 500 riders descend on it.  I don’t like large groups of riders so I’m off again quickly.

I’m enjoying the roads.  Mostly.  There are few cars but many are little more than single farm tracks, so the surfaces are broken and full of gravel.  Going up is challenging, with my back wheel intermittently losing traction, and going down I am wary of patches of gravel and mad sheep as I swoop in and out of bends.  Still, it doesn’t stop me hitting speeds of 40mph, my hands hurting applying the brakes. I’m having fun though.

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There’s another control and I buy a sandwich and a cup of coffee, the lady behind the counter slipping effortlessly from Welsh to English and back again, just to remind me where I am. The guy on the computer bleeper tells us only three riders have been through. One from Middleton CC passed me and was seriously fast, easily dropping me.  It’s warmer now although not August warm, and the sky alternates between foreboding clouds and blue skies. Riders come and go as I finish my food.

I’m off riding again and it’s still up and down, up and down.  My legs are tiring. I can feel the dull ache that signifies a good day’s riding.  The worst/best is still to come and I start to wonder whether running a 25 cassette on the back was sensible.  Should I have used my other bike or another wheel with a 28 on the back.  At least I have a compact on the front.  This is brought brutally to life when I climb towards a left turn and the road just rears up ridiculously. I’m looking at my Garmin and it’s saying 400 feet to the turn. The road gets steeper. I get slower. 300 feet. Grind. Steeper. 200 feet. Grind. 100 feet. I can see the turn but this must be more than 25%. I’m now seriously worried about what is to come.

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Blending in…

At the final control I’m overhearing riders talking in hushed tones about the final hill.  Hellfire Pass.  Bwlch-y-Groes in these parts. It’s in the book, and gets ten out of ten for difficulty. 25 cassette. Hmm. Nobody comes out and calls me stupid but the looks say it all.

I can see the climb in the distance as I approach. It reminds me of Fleet Moss. Like a big ski jump getting steeper and steeper, and I’ve done that on a 25 cassette. Apparently it’s the highest tarmac pass in Wales. How hard can it be? I’ve just come back from the Alps on a 25 cassette.

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The first part of the climb is in some trees. It’s hard, with a very sharp and steep right hand bend. I see a rider pushing and he says well done as I go past him, not much faster than he is walking.  I come out of the trees and feel the gradient ease beneath me. I don’t increase my speed as I normally would, because snaking away ahead of me is the rest of the climb, and I take a breather spinning my legs.

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I feel the steepness again and it’s relentless. Normally intuitive, I’m concentrating on pushing each pedal now.  Most hills have gradients that ebb and flow. You feel that and take respite when it comes. There is no respite here. I’m not cold now, I’m too hot. Sweat is running down my face and flies are dive-bombing me. I spray my face with water from my bottle and it helps for a while. On and on. Grind. Grind. I can hear my Garmin beeping away at me, laughing at me. It’s set to auto-pause when my speed drops below 3mph and auto-start above 3mph and it’s beeping gives away how slow I’m going. I can see what I think is the top around some turns.  I pass walkers heading down.  It’s so steep they walk slowly and carefully.  “Keep going,” I barely hear. I make the final turn and am met with yet more hill. Not the final turn? I flick my Garmin to the gradient screen. Still around a half mile to go. Surely not? A mistake? Please.

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Another false peak with a junction. This hill keeps on giving. Relentless. My Garmin says left. I have a voice in my head now. “Get off, there’s no shame. Get off.” I don’t get off.  I feel the pain in my shoulders and arms from pulling on the handlebars.  I sit in the saddle and the pain disappears from my shoulders and arms and appears in my legs. The front wheel lifts. I stand on the pedals again.

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Finally I think I can see the top. I check my Garmin and it concurs. The gradient almost imperceptibly flattens. I think I’m nearly there.

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I crest the hill and roll over to a verge. I sit for a while. My reward is the view and a melted kit-kat I still have in my pocket from the control. Bwlch-y-Groes. Hellfire Pass. Ten out of ten.

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A very fast descent and skirt around the edges of the lake and I’m back at the finish in Bala.  Job done.

Ride stats : 95.6 miles in 6hrs 19m at 15.1mph average. 9,663ft ascent, 4,230kcals used.  Average HR 132bpm.

Strava ride here

Gallery here


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Mostly TT’s this month (ytd in brackets)

598.7 miles (3,987.3m)

1d 8h 45m (9d 18h 16m)

18.3mph (17mph)

24,727ft ascent (190,476ft)

22,271 kcals (152,126 kcals)

133bpm average HR (131bpm)

TT’s during W/C 21st July 2014

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Kilton 8.75M TT

My official time of 19:31 was 12 seconds outside my PB.

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J4/16 50M TT

Really struggled in the heat yesterday.  It was 28˚C at the start and although I started well I faded badly after 30 miles.  Happy enough with the time of 02:00:09 although frustrating not to go under 2 hours – however, it’s a CB for me on J4/16, and about 3 minutes faster than I was on this course last year.

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L2525 25M TT

30W down on the average from last weekend’s 25M TT’s.  Probably because I did the 50M TT yesterday evening and my legs didn’t feel great!  Didn’t like the course – lumpy, windy, poor surface, a U-turn on the A6 and a right turn, so it has a bit of everything!  My official time was 01:00:01 – frustrating to say the least!

Selection of Kate’s TT Pictures

A Tale of Two Time Trial Courses

This weekend I’ve ridden two 25M time trials.  The first, on Saturday, was in Cheshire on J2/9

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As you can see it is a “circular” course on single carriageway roads, with riders doing about 1.5 laps.  According to my software the total ascent in 25 miles is 263 feet, which is all but flat. It’s funny but there are bits of it that don’t feel flat – Seven Sisters Lane and Twemlow Lane but I guess they pretty much are.  The road surfaces are, frankly, shockingly bad, sucking any momentum out of you, and there are a number of technical twists, turns and a roundabout to negotiate.  Yesterday it rained incessantly until about an hour before the start.  That led to lots of standing water on the poor roads so it was nearly delayed/cancelled, but as it was it turned out to be a nice day.  There was no wind to speak of – rare for this course – and the water had all but gone.

On Sunday I rode V236/1 over near Thirsk in Yorkshire

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This is the first time I’ve ridden this, and it’s essentially two laps of a dual carriageway course on the A168/A19. It’s not that technical apart from the start and turns at the end of each lap.  The surface was perfect – brand new smooth-rolling tarmac.  My software suggests 362 feet of ascent – again, not a lot but 100 feet more than J2/9.  The start was delayed due to mist, but once it cleared it was again another perfect day with little or no wind.

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J2/9 power analysis

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V236/1 power analysis

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J2/9 power zones

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V236/1 power zones

The difference in the courses is highlighted in my power files above.  My average power across each ride was virtually identical.  In fact, on the hillier V236/1 I used slightly less power for a time that was 3 minutes quicker!  If we drill into though and look at the analysis for V236/1 you can see that I was able to stay in my threshold zone and VO2Max zone for 65% of the ride versus 47% for J2/9.  The technical nature of J2/9 means that you lose momentum and then try to work harder to get back, giving a wider power distribution than the one on V236/1, where I was able to get into a rhythm. It also feels more tiring – my average HR on J2/9 being 175bpm versus the 171bpm on V236/1.

I still have a lot of work to do on pacing and getting into the threshold zone and staying there, but courses like V236/1 make that a lot easier.