Still in Hibernation – January

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From a training perspective January always feels like a month where you turn the corner.  For those of us for whom racing starts in early March there is light at the end of the tunnel as far as training is concerned.  For many, a new year brings with it new goals or a renewed motivation.  At least for a short while anyway!

I decided to get out on New Year’s Day and do some miles after trying to chase back fitness following a bit of illness in December.  Unfortunately the roads were icy – the first time this winter – so I cut it short and headed home on A-roads and ended up doing an hour on the turbo again.  So much for fresh air and coming out of hibernation!  And that has really been the story of the month.  My training has ratcheted up several notches (as planned) but mainly on the turbo.  I did get out on a club run with Seamons but managed to trash my already-poorly freehub so swerved off early.  I have been out the odd time since, but I’ve mainly put a lot of hours in indoors.  Not quite going stir crazy because I’m feeling very motivated at the moment, and power seems to be coming along nicely and I am heading towards race weight too, which helps.  The only niggle I have is some slight pain in my left knee from time to time, so I’ve been trying to nurse it a bit with varying degrees of success.  After the effort it took to regain the fitness I lost in December due to illness I’m loath to take too much time out as a result but I need to be careful.

In other news, I swapped turbo trainers mid-month from a wheel mount to a direct drive and it is much better, both in terms of quietness and “feel”.  Without any evidence to back it up, I think it is helping my training because I’m not pedalling squares the way you often do at high power on a wheel mount turbo.  At least that’s how I’m rationalising it internally!

The North West Cyclocross league also came to a conclusion.  The last event saw me standing in a hi-viz jacket in a muddy field as a marshall rather than race, but overall across the 9 qualifying races I managed to finish 24th out of a league of 214 veteran and ladies, which I’m happy with as a debut season.  It remains to be seen if I will do it again next year!

I also sat down and wrote out some goals for my proper race season.  These focus on power, PB’s, the M&DTTA Cheshire points series and club events.  I find having clear goals helps me focus on the training in hand especially when it’s getting hard.

That’s about it – not many miles but a lot of hours and my CTL is quite a lot higher than I expected it to be at this point.  6 weeks to the first race!

Overall, during the month I rode 354 road miles, with 18,697ft of climbing at an average speed of around 15.6mph.  I used 13,650kcals of energy, with another 20,504kcals during 26hrs and 32mins of turbo time.  Total training stress was 2776TSS

My 2015 Cycling Year

I had some big improvement ideas coming into 2015. I wanted to move myself forward and show some real progress. I used a coach and put a lot of effort into my training at the end of 2014 and start of 2015, and in January I sat down and wrote out the goals I wanted to achieve, and the race plan in order to do that. Goals are important. If you don’t have a goal, you aren’t training. You are just riding your bike. Your goal doesn’t have to be racing. It can be completing an audax or sportive, improving fitness and losing weight or undertaking a charity ride. These are the goals I wrote down at the start of the year.

Goals – Interim

  • Average power personal best (PB) for a 10
  • Average power PB for a 25
  • Average power PB for a 50

Note – these goals were entirely within my control – it’s important to have some like this

Goals – one-off

  • A “19” 10
  • A “52” 25
  • A PB at 100

Goals – compound

  • Win the National Clarion Points Championship – my main goal!
  • Top 10 in the M&DTTA Cheshire Points Series
  • North Cheshire Clarion BAR winner

Goals – bonus

  • > £100 in prize money
  • Podium position in an open event

So how did I do?

Well first off I didn’t achieve my main goal, which was to win the National Clarion Points Championship. I’d been runner-up almost by stealth in 2014 so I decided to have a real punt at it this year. A combination of not being as fast as Martin, the winner, and some bad luck with brakes meant that I have been provisionally told that I came 2nd again (presumably first veteran). Notable results as part of this were becoming the National Clarion 50M TT champion, coming 7th in the circuit race and 6th in the hill climb. I even rode the cyclocross championships but I don’t think I came anywhere in that (results weren’t available as I write this). Congratulations to Martin on defending his title – a very worthy winner indeed, especially as he broke the National Clarion 10M TT record, rode a superb race in the 25 and rode some very fast times throughout the year. On a related point I also came 2nd in the National Clarion BAR competition – always the bridesmaid so to speak – and played a significant role in North Cheshire Clarion doing better than ever in the overall National Clarion points competition – must be close to winning it in fact!

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The only time I was in front of Martin!

I also didn’t manage a “19” 10, coming within 12 seconds of it on a very windy trip to Hull whilst setting a new 10 PB of 20:12. On my last chance to get on the V at Hull my entry had gone in with my previous time of 20:48 and I didn’t get a ride as the huge field meant the cut-off was 20:36 – so not even a chance of a cigar.

I did manage to increase my average power PB at all distances. I also lowered my 25 PB to 52:30 and my 100 PB to 03:52:14, so they were all ticked off.

I was pleased to get 7th place in the Cheshire Points Series despite only having nine qualifying rides as opposed to ten, and I did win the NCC BAR but that’s a very hollow victory given that nobody else even attempted the required distances. I was top ten in about 40% of the open events I raced and never finished lower than 4th in the club events (except when I was DQ’d – another first for me!)

I won £174 in prize money, which is still a thrill when it happens, and I was absolutely delighted to get a 3rd place in an open 25.

I helped NCC win the inter-club trophy competing against Stretford and Withington wheelers.

I did unexpectedly well in the VTTA M&NW competitions, coming 3rd in the 3 distance, 2nd in the short distance and 2nd in the local short distance.

Finally, I did a bit of mud-bothering! In fact I completed 11 races – 10 in the NWCCA league and one in the Notts & Derby league. Despite falling off numerous times (the worst hitting a tree when brakeless) I managed not to disgrace myself and might even finish in the top 30 in the NWCCA league and possibly top 25. An experience, to say the least!

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Stepping back, it’s pretty disappointing to miss out on my main goal. As I said above, I had a race plan to make it happen but as a project manager by profession I know better than most that as a soon as a plan is put on paper it is out of date. Was it Eisenhower who said that no plan survived contact with the enemy? My first points race should have suited me – a hilly TT. The weather put paid to that. My second race and I was coming down with an illness despite meticulous preparation. Third race I didn’t fancy at all and I won it. Fourth race and a brake-related mechanical all but put paid to my chances. However, a rethink and a contingency plan meant that decent rides in the circuit race and hill climb gave me a hint of a chance if I could do okay in the cyclocross race. A lack of preparation on my part (my worn brake pads expired mid-race) potentially cost me but overall it’s a great example of the importance of planning and preparation, but also how having a bit of determination and some contingency options can give you a second chance at hitting your goals.

Outside of racing I rode a few very cold audaxes earlier in the year, and had a really nice time cycling around the island of Lanzarote when we visited in the summer. You can’t beat warm weather cycling in my opinion.

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Here’s some interesting stats from my year

  • 5,309 road miles (indoor miles do not count Zwift users!) in 313hrs 21m at 17mph average speed – overall mileage down, average speed up
  • Of that 1,071 miles were racing, time-trialling at an average speed of 26mph, crit racing at 23.1mph, cyclocross at 11.6mph and hill climb at 10mph
  • An additional 151hrs 30m on the turbo, over double the amount in 2014
  • Only 225,888ft ascent
  • 199,030 kcalories used on the road and 106,346 on the turbo
  • Overall training load 24,720TSS
  • Longest distance – 128 miles
  • Best average speed – 29.7mph
  • Highest speed – 43.8mph
  • Average HR 127bpm road, 135bpm turbo and highest HR 188bpm
  • Most climbing in one ride – 6,124ft
  • Most energy used in one ride – 4,982 kcalories
  • Ride temperatures from -2.9˚C to 28.3˚C
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Strava came up with slightly different figures!

I only posted in my blog 25 times during 2015 but it still got 13,046 hits from 7,674 visitors, with views from every inhabited continent!

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Sources of my blog hits

One of the things commented on in the last year has been the weather. There is no normal anymore but it certainly felt wetter and windier than the year before. In fact, here’s a graph that shows 2 years worth of temperatures and wind speeds as logged at the start of my rides.

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Wind speed and temperature at the start of rides in 2015

As you can see the temperature for 2014 and 2015 follows a similar pattern, but the wind in 2015 is certainly stronger in general than in 2014. Given that my main type of racing is affected by the vagaries of the wind more than most I think I can definitely be satisfied with my performances over the year even though I failed at my primary goal.

In January I’ll sit down and write up my goals for 2016, although I already have a pretty good idea what they will be. One thing that will definitely change is that I will be leaving North Cheshire Clarion and will be racing for Seamons Cycling Club, which has more riders who focus on time trialling and a rich history associated with the sport. I’m excited about the improvement potential that will bring, and the focus it will give me personally, but I’d like to think that I’ve represented NCC well over the years. I’ll be forever grateful for the friends I made and the introductions to different forms of cycling that have become my passion. If you’d have asked my 6 years ago if I could have done what I’ve done in that time I’d have laughed at you. I wish you all the best for 2016 and will leave you with two quotes that I hope will inspire you to try something new next year.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream,” CS Lewis

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started,” Mark Twain

All the best.

December Roundup

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courtesy of Chris Meads Photography

I came into December feeling strong and well on track with my training.  However, the realities of life often get in the way and so it proved when I came down with a cold early in the month.  At least I thought it was just a headcold, so I trained through.  It turned into an eye infection, a cough and finally some sort of chest infection and so it put a bit of a dent in my training.  It’s only when you are following a plan and monitoring your training load that you realise just what an effect it can have, and then how long it can take to get it back – my CTL dropped from 71.1 to 63.5 in less than a week and it’s taken to the end of the month to get it back to 69.1.  Illness took out my scheduled power test so I waited until I was well into the recovery phase before attempting it.  I was happy enough that I’d made some small progress since the previous one but I definitely need to improve.  It’s only 10 weeks now to the start of my season (yay!)

Apart from commuting I’ve not done an awful lot of road miles and I find myself becoming less and less enthusiastic about going out in the wind and the rain, electing to stay on the turbo.  I’m worried I’m turning into a fair weather cyclist!

I was due to race cyclocross on the 20th December but the terrible floods in Carlisle put paid to that.  I did race on the 28th in Macclesfield at the Supacross event there.  The course suited me as it wasn’t technical and featured quite a lot of long and undulating grass drags, often into a biting headwind.  I still managed to fall off but I did okay, 38th from 141 riders.  This was my last race for North Cheshire Clarion and I’ve been proud to do so.

Overall, during the month I rode a paltry 244 road miles, with 12,124ft of climbing at an average speed of around 15.1mph.  I used 9,684kcals of energy, with another 14,470kcals during 19hrs and 55mins of turbo time.  Total training stress was 2077TSS

November

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As I mentioned last month, training continues with my plan in place to get my CTL above 80 by the time the season starts.  I’m using TrainingPeaks performance manager to plan out (and record) my training, and if I stick to my plan it should all work out.  I finished October with a CTL of 65.4 and I finished November at 69.8, so all going in the right direction.  I also did my first 20 minute power test to effectively set a baseline – I didn’t have an equivalent from this time last year to measure against.  Increasing FTP is hard work, as I found last year, so we’ll see how I progress on a monthly basis.

It’s been another “short” month in terms of outdoor rides, with a few cyclocross races thrown in and lots of indoor work.  At the start of the month I continued my improvement in muddy conditions at the Cartmel racecourse in Cumbria, finishing in my best position ever of 21st from 121 riders.  The next week I was in Nottingham on taxi duty for Emma and Kate so I took the opportunity to race in the National Clarion cyclocross championships which was part of Nottingham Clarion’s edition of the Notts & Derby league at Holme Pierrepont.  I was in the seniors race and it rained incessantly before, during and after so it was a ridiculous mudfest.  So much so that after a promising first few laps my brake pads wore away completely leaving me in the frightening position of trying to negotiate a technical course using the old-skool method of braking – namely my feet on the floor.  Inevitably I ended up crashing into a tree (which bloody hurt!) and limped to finish in 39th from 90 starters.  A week later at Stadt Moers I had the opposite problem in that my brand new sintered brake pads were continually rubbing as I had hadn’t correctly adjusted them (disc brakes are the future – my arse!) and it eventually wore me down to one of my worst performances, 49th from 119.

Overall, during the month I rode 373 miles, with 15,264ft of climbing at an average speed of around 14.7mph.  I used 15,266kcals of energy, with another 12,318kcals during 17hrs and 33mins of turbo time.  Total training stress was 2219TSS

October Roundup

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I’m now well into my proper training blocks getting myself ready for next years time trial season so I’m back on the turbo for a significant amount of time.  The goal is to gradually increase my CTL over the next few months so that I’m heading into the season with it above 80.

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In between I’ve ridden ‘cross races.  At Heaton Park on the 3rd I placed 64th from 170 riders and at Westmorland the next day I was 32nd from 94.  The following week, I managed to fit in the National Clarion Hill Climb, coming 6th Clarion on Blackstone Edge, and on the 11th I was back on the I struggled a bit at Landgate Quarry to come in 40th from 116 riders.  At Bebington Oval on the 17th I felt strong but started from the back to finish 45th from 135 riders.  A week later at Pignut Hill on the 24th I started to feel like I knew what I was doing for the first time and I was rewarded with 25th place from 115.  Today at Otterspool Park I again felt like I was making progress – hopefully when the results come out they will reflect that (edit – 32nd from 125).

Overall during the month I rode 370 miles, with 17,733ft of climbing at an average speed of around 14.1mph (CX racing!).  I used 16,459kcals of energy, with another 11,064kcals during 16hrs and 10mins of turbo time.  Total training stress was 2142TSS

 

Cyclocross – Half Term Report!

4/10 – see me after class…

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I’ve now completed a grand total of 6 cyclocross races and my intention is to do another 6 before the end of the year, so it feels like an opportune time to take stock.  So far, 4 of the courses have been mainly dry and grassy, one has been a mixture of landfill and boggy moorland and the last one, at Northwich, was wet and grassy with a side order of mud.  I’ve no idea if that is representative or not, but when you lack technical skills it’s quite enough thank you!  What has surprised me most is the number of people taking part.  The races I’ve been in have ranged from 90-odd riders to 170-odd, which leads to an interesting experience.  For example, if you aren’t near the front at the start, you aren’t likely to get to the technical sections near the front, which means you lose even more time.  It then becomes a race within a race with the riders around you.  In addition, fitness and power isn’t everything.  It clearly helps, but I find that I am losing out to technically better riders because they can pick more efficient lines and are faster over the obstacles.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ridden past riders on open sections only to see them whizz past me on tricky descents or because they can remount their bikes whilst actually running (I can’t!).  The obvious answer is more practice but that doesn’t fit with my longer term goals so it would be a waste of time.

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Things I’ve learned/confirmed

1) I don’t look forward to the races like I do for TT’s.  I’m okay once it’s started

2) The first 20 minutes is harder than it should be, primarily because I don’t warm up properly!

3) I don’t like riding in a big bunch.  174 riders is too many!

4) Some other riders believe they have better handling skills than they actually have. That makes me even more nervous

5) Lower tyre pressures seem to be better

6) Any obstacles where I have to get back on the bike after getting off will lose me time

7) Soggy or muddy ground tires people quicker – better for me I find

8) Whilst the times I’ve fallen off haven’t really hurt, they have knocked the wind out of my sails for about a lap.  I don’t like falling off

9) Cleaning both me and bike can take longer than the actual racing – anyone that likes that is just plain wrong!

10) I don’t know if I’ll be doing it again next year, but never say never!

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Feeling Nostalgic!

Nostalgia is a funny old thing.  You can go for ages without thinking about the past and then something can bring it all flooding back.  I’ve been reminiscing about a lot of things recently and I started thinking about bikes I have owned.  I expect lots of people have a similar list.

First bike

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I can’t really remember much about this except I remember at the age of 3 or 4 being absolutely thrilled when the stabilisers were taken off and I learned to ride it.  The hill on the street where we used to live was a gentle slope not very big at all, but back then it was perfect for riding down as fast as you could.  There weren’t many cars about either so the street was fair game for bike riding, football and all manner of other games.  In those days, we knew pretty much all the kids from the local area, and much like pet dogs, we were kicked out of the house in the morning and told to go and play.

Raleigh Tomahawk

I really, really, really wanted a Chopper but I wasn’t big enough.  In the early 70’s if you weren’t big enough for a Chopper then your choice extended to a Chipper or a Tomahawk.  The Tomahawk was like a miniature version of the Chopper so I went for that, and mine was purple if I recall correctly, and my next door neighbour had a red one.  It had no gears and was basically a deathtrap, which coupled with my lack of sense as a child would lead to my first real bike crash.  Inspired by Evil Knievel a group of us built a ramp in our cobbled back entry.  The ramp consisted of a pile of bricks we’d scavenged and a plank of wood maybe 4 inches wide.  The ramp was too narrow, the bricks were unstable and the angle was too steep.  After several attempts where we rode at it and missed (knocking the bricks over) I managed to hit the ramp perfectly! Up the ramp I went and the tiny front wheel of the Tomahawk rolled almost vertically down off the end of the ramp sending me over the handlebars.  Physics was clearly not our strong point (along with construction and health and safety).  I don’t know what I landed on but I had an H-shaped imprint cut into my leg which scarred and was visible for years afterwards.  After a while, and possibly after being left out in the rain, the chrome mudguards started to rust and I either tired of the bike or outgrew it or both.

Raleigh Commando

This was my first bike with gears.  I think it was a 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub activated by a twist-grip mechanism.  It was fantastic.  For about 10 minutes, and then became difficult and unresponsive.  That caused my second crash.  That and riding no-handed whilst eating a bag of crisps.  Anyway, I was riding no-handed eating a bag of beef and onion crisps.  I think they were Golden Wonder, but they could have been Smiths.  I don’t think Walkers had been invented then.  The Commando, complete with army markings (black paint with corporal stripes), was not the most stable bike and it should have come as no surprise to me that the front wheel turned suddenly to the left.  Holding my crisps in my left hand I grabbed the handlebar with my right and accidentally shifted the gears.  This resulted in going from a hard gear to an easy gear which threw me forward as my legs spun quicker.  The bike hit the kerb and I went forward and off knee-first.  The resulting cut took ages to heal and I still have the scar to this day.  Happy days.

Peugeot 5-speed Racer

My first “proper” bike, it had 24 inch wheels, a 5 speed derailleur and was purple with tan-wall tyres, and we used to race around the streets, the cobbles and the back entries.  It was de-rigeur to pull a back-wheel skid when stopping and puddles were meant to be ridden through

Peugeot 10-speed Racer

This one had 26 inch wheels and was a silver colour.  I loved that bike and it used to get me all over the place.  I even remember carrying a full set of golf clubs once, whilst riding from my house to the golf course.  I don’t know what happened to that bike.

Motobecane BMX Cross Bike

Thanks to forums.velovert.com

Around this time (late 70’s/early 80’s) BMX was becoming something and I saw this bike in our LBS.  I’ve no idea how or why they had it but it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  It was bright red, had front and rear suspension, a big front lamp with a rally style grill on it and DRUM BRAKES!  I remember my dad asking what I wanted for Christmas and me saying I’d like that bike.  I still had my Peugeot so I thought he’d just say no, but to my absolute surprise he didn’t.  So I got a second bike.  We lived in a terraced house and the bikes went in the hall, so there wasn’t much room!  This was a fantastic bike – it was heavy and agricultural but the suspension was brilliant!  I used to ride it over as much bumpy ground as I could find.  I was still lacking in common sense and a fundamental misunderstanding of mechanics and physics though, which lead to another crash.  One the routes I used to ride to visit my gran and granddad involved three steep steps in a narrow guinnel that immediately turned 90 degrees right.  I rode my Motobecane down the steps and was somewhat surprised when the front suspension compressed at the bottom and my momentum took me head first over the bars and into the wall that formed the 90 degree turn.  There was no wearing of helmets then so I simply rubbed the large bump on my head and got back on.  Probably explains a lot.  It was when I ruined the bike that I lost interest in it.  The drum brakes squeaked so being an idiot I squirted some oil in.  That solved the problem but unsurprisingly stopped the brakes working, and they were never the same again.

There followed a long gap until my next bike.

Kona Lava Dome 1993

I decided I would re-establish my relationship with bikes and bought this mountain bike to ride to and from work and at weekends.  I used it primarily to do a 14 mile commute and then assorted rides up and down hills at weekends.  I stopped using it when a) I changed jobs and b) the kids came along.  It would be over 10 years until I next rode a bike and started this blog…

Happy times!

September

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Over the last two seasons, a combination of gradual detraining during the season, added to a build-up of fatigue, mean that I have never performed well in September.  This year though, as well as a period of illness earlier in the season, an early holiday meant that I came into September feeling relatively fresh, and my races towards the end of August certainly reflected that.

On the first Saturday of the month I travelled down to Etwall to ride only my second ever 100M TT, mainly along the fast A50 on A100/4.  I wasn’t at all confident how to pace the race, or how to manage my nutrition and fluid intake, so I settled on a power figure that was a proportion of my FTP and decided to ride that.  At the start I noticed quite a few riders passing me but I resisted the temptation to ride after them.  Weather wise I got lucky in that there was no rain, and the wind was not a major factor apart from a couple of crosswind sections that required concentration.  I must have paced it pretty well because I still had something left for the last 10 miles and was able to pick up the pace a bit, rather than hanging on, so overall I was pleased with the way I rode it but probably could have eeked a bit more out.  36th from 106, 03:52:14 

A week later I was back down to the other end of the A50 at Blythe Bridge for the Stone Wheelers 25 on J5/8.  It’s a popular event, well organised and a fast course which attracts fast riders.  I was pretty delighted with my performance, and even though it wasn’t a PB it was a CB by some margin.  21st from 128, 53:16

The next day was a very early start to get back down to D25/8e for the WCTTCA 25.  I like this course, although it can be unforgiving as it’s very exposed.  It was another beautiful September morning and whilst cold, was relatively benign.  Although my legs were still suffering from the day before I was pleased to actually maintain the same power output and managed to win some money (£9!) for coming in 5th.  5th from 68, 56:24

A week later and it was the last TT for me of the season, the Seamons 25.  This was the last race of the Cheshire points series so I wanted to do well to try to elevate myself into the top ten, despite not completing the full number of qualifying events.  It was another nice day and felt fast to me.  I was well prepared for this and delivered a 25 mile power PB and a J2/9 CB, despite being held up several times on what is a narrow course.  In addition I won £30 under the one-rider-one-prize rule, coming 4th overall, 3rd on handicap and 2nd veteran.  4th from 72, 55:42

The day after saw me try my first cyclocross race, which you can read about here.  I managed to come 34th from 154 riders (154!) which I was pretty pleased with given I had no real clue what I was doing!

Overall during the month I rode 483 miles, with 17,504ft of climbing at an average speed of around 18.4mph.  I used 17,692kcals of energy, with another 4,542kcals during 7hrs and 15mins of turbo time.  Total training stress was 1474TSS.

Believe it or not, September was my “rest” month and I’ve now started my new training plan for 2016, which is a month earlier than last year as I think my body is getting used to the training load I’ve been placing on it, so it’s time to push the envelope a bit more.  Hopefully results will follow.

First Cyclocross Race

On Saturday I rode my final TT of the season, achieving a course best 55:42 for J2/9, and 4thoverall.  On Sunday I rode my first ever cyclocross race at Leverhulme Park in Bolton.  This was the second round of the NWCCA series that takes place for the next few months around the north-west.  I was pretty nervous leading up to it so I thought I’d get there well ahead of the 12-45pm start time to have a look around and try to see what was what.  The place was already full with kids races in full swing.  I have to say the kids looked like they had a ball and were really going for it – very impressive stuff.  I was told that the course wasn’t very technical and would be a good one to start on.  It looked reasonably technical from my perspective but that perspective generally involves riding very fast on flat roads in essentially a straight line, turning at a roundabout and doing the same back!  So I signed on and got my pack for the season – you keep your number and timing chip for the whole shebang – and headed back to get my bike.  There were lots of people with multiple wheels, tyres and even bikes and some warming up on rollers.  There were quite a few in skinsuits which surprised me, as I thought you needed to be going >25mph to get any real aero benefit?  Anyway, I did a couple of practice laps which got my heartrate up a bit, but my legs felt slightly heavy from the day before.  I went and chatted to Giles at the start-line and before long was surrounded by a huge number of riders as they gathered for the start.  154 to be precise!  When you are used to starting on your own at one minute intervals it’s a bit of a shock!  The commissaire gave some last minute instructions and then the whistle went.

We were off in an almighty sprint up a long, open grass section.  I held back slightly as I wanted to see what the form was before getting in anyone’s way but soon realised if I did I’d get swamped.  At the end of the open section there was a slightly damp/muddy section and then a sharp right into a narrow section through some trees.  The course then arced back round on itself, down and up some dips and rises before we headed to some steps.  I was able to approach and dismount and run up the steps pretty quickly, surprising myself that I overtook some riders as I did.  Reality intervened as they all then went past me as I struggled to get back on and start pedalling in anything even remotely like a fluid movement.  This was repeated on subsequent laps (note to self, learn to get on my bike running).  Up another incline and then sharp right and down snaking through and past trees, rattling my teeth as we bounced over the protruding roots.  Several times people were bumping and nudging the back of my bike – I’ve no idea if that was their lack of skill or mine!  We then looped back up towards the finish line and then through a few grass switchbacks before zipping off through some more trees and then dropping steeply into a wood, hard on the brakes to make the 90 turn at the bottom and then climb back out again.  Up onto the grass and out into the open again before zipping into some long grass which just sapped any speed completely.  Back onto the grass for the second lap!  I was knackered!

What I did find was that on the long grass bits I could make a lot of ground up, passing a lot of people and being able to power past them.  On the “technical” bits I got caught quite a lot, but I was really only trying to understand how far I could push my handling skills.  It didn’t take long before I was overcooking some bits and nearly hitting trees!  Anyway, the constant up and down of the efforts, sprinting out of corners and up bankings started to take its toll on my single-paced tester’s fitness, and I got slower and slower as the laps went on.  And there is no pack to hide in either to get a breather.  It’s very definitely a different type of fitness.  By the end I was hanging on and we only raced for 49 minutes!   I came 34th  which I’m pretty pleased with for a first effort and I think I can probably improve on that – although probably less so when it all gets a bit more technical!

Some interesting contrasts between my two weekend races – Cyclocross first.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Then time-trial.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

 

Race time – Saturday 55:42, Sunday 49:36

Distance – Saturday 25M, Sunday 10.6M

Average Speed – Saturday 27mph, Sunday 12.9mph

Elevation gain – Saturday 522ft, Sunday 335ft

Average/Maximum HR – Saturday 173bpm/181bpm, Sunday 179bpm/188bpm

Strava suffer score – Saturday 46, Sunday 71

I was in my threshold HR zone on Sunday for 4x longer than in my TT, which is leading me to question whether, all things being equal, I could squeeze more power out during a TT?  All very interesting and promising as a means of increasing my fitness over winter whilst having a bit of fun too!  Roll on the next one in two weeks.

Cycle-Cross in Calderdale

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Spent an awesome couple of hours with Giles riding the trails around Hebden Bridge.  Although I’ve done loads of road-riding in the area, we went up and down paths, trails and roads I’d not been on before, with me only getting my bearings as we criss-crossed familiar main roads.

I got a lesson in bike handling skills as I watched Giles disappear off up rocky ascents as I struggled to make traction, realising it’s far harder climbing off-road than on, and that I needed to sit down to keep my back wheel grip.  What was worse was watching him disappear even further off down the descents – I’m pretty rubbish if truth be told, and despite being confident that I have the power and the engine to compete in cyclocross, I have nowhere near good enough bike skills.  Still, it’s great fun and I’m looking forward to it.  Here’s our ride compressed into 3 minutes

Ride stats : 26.6 miles in 2hrs 26m at 10.9mph average.  3,000ft of ascent, 1504 kcals used, average HR 124bpm

Strava ride here