I was up at 4am on the 1st April to drive down to South Wales – that’s a proper April fool for you! Clear skies were nice enough but the temperature struggled to get above zero for the majority of the journey. As I set my turbo trainer up in the car park of the HQ at Rhinos Rugby Club I could still see my breath even though the sun was up and shining. R25/3H starts in an industrial estate and then joins a dual carriageway with a long downhill section. The wind was behind us and so I found myself spinning out on 56-11 whilst doing around 45mph. Even as the road flattened 32 mph was easily achieved without pushing big power numbers. So the first 10 miles flashed by in a fraction over 19 minutes, the cold meaning my hands were already numb. By the turn at 15 miles the clock was showing a little over 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the last 10 miles would be back into the headwind and slightly uphill so this wouldn’t be the day where I PB’d. The last 10 miles I averaged 25W more than the first 10 and it took nearly 24 minutes – 5 minutes longer! Overall I was pretty pleased with my performance. I managed to hold position and I felt pretty strong for most of the ride, although you always die a thousand deaths when you are slogging into a headwind. 25M in 53:23, 26th from 111 riders
© Huw Fairclough Photography
Rain, rain go away
I was on holiday the next week. Bank Holiday Monday rained from start to finish so I ended up doing a light turbo session. On Tuesday the forecast was mostly dry with rain in the afternoon. I went out early for a spin and the weather forecasting computer had obviously forgotten to put the clocks forward because I got soaked in the last hour of my ride. On Wednesday I met up with old pal Chris and we rode the Monyash Peak Audax. Again, the forecast suggested we might get wet at the end but it pretty much chucked it down from start to finish.
Ominous heavens – soon to open and follow us for 65 miles!
The route is quite nice but it is extremely lumpy, managing to pack around 7,000-8,000ft of climbing into 65 miles or so – meaning it comes with 2.5AAA points.
Some of the climbs were devilishly steep, covered in gravel and running water, meaning that traction was sometimes a problem, in addition to the fact that they were hard enough anyway!
It’s been a while since I last rode with Chris so it was great to catch up on all the news and reminisce about all the fantastic rides we’d done before. The cafe stop was very welcome – drying clothes on a wood-burning stove whilst eating scrambled eggs on toast!
Drying out at the cafe. Soaked again 10 minutes after leaving!
It’s also been a long time since I last rode an audax – in fact it’s been about 3 years. I last rode this particular one 6 years ago – read about it here. Anyway, it was great fun despite being cold and wet – hopefully we’ll do something similar later in the summer when it’s a bit warmer and drier!
Half-arsed aero testing
As if to rub it in, the skies on Thursday were bright blue and cloudless, albeit it was still cold. The big effort the day before (266TSS) meant I was never going to do much but I’d planned to go and do some rudimentary TT aero testing. My original plan was to use part of the Seamons club 10 course on Swineyeard Lane but when I got there the lay-bys were full of road aggregate – presumably in preparation for forthcoming roadworks. I drove over to Chelford and used part of the J2/3 course instead – basically down the A535 to Chelford and back. It turned out to be about 7.5 miles. I’d planned 5 or 6 runs but after the first one my legs were hurting and I was unhappy about the amount of traffic – lots of lorries on what is a relatively narrow country road. So I just did one run with my S-Works TT helmet and one with the Giro Aerohead. I’m clear that as a testing protocol one run with each on a busy road is pretty flawed but I just wanted conformation of what I was seeing in races. Namely that however aero the S-Works is (and it is) the line of sight for me means I keep sticking my head up. So the Giro, with a much larger field of vision and higher eyeline, allows me to keep my head in position much more. Bestbikesplit (BBS) and Mywindsock (MWS) both seemed to confirm this with an approximate CdA difference of 0.02 on BBS and 0.01 on MWS. A very rough rule of thumb is
100g drag = 10W = 0.01 CdA = 1 sec per km
So this difference could be worth as much as 10 to 20W or about 15 to 30s on a 10. Notwithstanding that, the improved visibility the Giro gives me is a revelation so I shall be sticking with it.
When is a 25 not a 25…
The next race was on Saturday and was the first of the Cheshire 25’s around J2/9. On the morning of the race the organiser emailed to say that the dreaded roadworks (the curse of Cheshire in 2017) had struck again. The other 25 courses in the area were also affected so the race was shortened to a 10 using the J2/3 course. I used BBS to model the race and it predicted that if I maintained an average power of 300W then I would record a time of 22:21. However, this didn’t take into account the fact that I had been out again on the day before – making the most of my days off work – and so was coming into the race with a Training Stress Balance (TSB) of -5, which isn’t really recommended.
Of course the forecast was for showers but it held off, although the roads remained very wet. At the start it was nice to meet Robin who reads the blog – it’s pleasing to know that others get something out of it as well as it serving as an aide memoire to me.
© Ellen Isherwood
It felt really hard and grippy. My legs were hurting and it was difficult to really know from which way the wind was coming. Anyway, I toughed it out and apart from a slight holdup at Chelford roundabout it was a pretty straightforward run. As it was, BBS was out by only 6 seconds – which I think is quite impressive! 10M in 22:27, 7th from 78 riders (2nd vet on standard, £20, 1st team, £10)
A win’s a win!
The VTTA NW 10 is always held on a Tuesday afternoon. Usually it is J2/1 but this year, thanks to the interminable roadworks, saw it being run on J2/3.
The weather was damp and cold (again) and the traffic was much worse than usual presumably due to it being a weekday rather than a Saturday. I was surprised how many lorries and HGVs there were on what are at best minor A-roads. I suppose I shouldn’t be as I was here testing last week and I’ve ridden this event for the last few years. Consequently I was slightly held up a couple of times but I imagine most of the field were at some point so it’s swings and roundabouts really. I thought I’d pushed harder going out (into the headwind) but my average power coming back was a 10W higher – it definitely didn’t feel that way. That said, the outbound leg included the turn onto the A535, the holdups and the roundabout so maybe that dragged the average down. Anyway, I ended up within 1W and 1s of my time on Saturday, which at least proves I’m consistent! It turned out to be good enough to win the event, both on actual time and on standard, so I was absolutely delighted. That’s only my second open win ever and there is a strong chance it may be my last, so I was chuffed to bits. 10M in 22:26, 1st from 43 riders (1st actual, 1st vet on standard, 1st VTTA team on standard, £40)
Who’d have thought it all those years ago…
…back in 2009 when an overweight and unfit individual got a bike on the Cycle2Work scheme and started cycling the 5 miles to work and back that one day he’d appear on the all-time fastest 100 mile TT list, albeit at number 80.
I certainly didn’t, but a very nice morale boost all the same now that this has gone up on the timetrialling forum.
The sun has got his hat on
The BDCA 25 was due to run on the A25/11 course but due to roadworks ended up on the A25/11R version, which used part of the course several times. The additional turns meant it was a bit slower, but for those of us used to J2/9 in Cheshire it was still fast! It runs on the A50 dual carriageway and I know a lot of people don’t like DCs because the traffic is fast moving. However, compared to being passed by HGVs on narrow country lanes, I much prefer it as there is a lot of room and a lot of visibility. Anyway, in terms of the race I went about as well as I possibly could at this time of year. I put a lot of effort in, had decent enough power numbers and sustained them pretty well, despite my legs really hurting quite badly (my legs remained sore for most of the rest of the day too). More importantly, it was really nice to race in relatively warm and sunny conditions after the weather we’ve been subjected to so far! 25M in 52:34, 12th from 70 riders
The week after was pretty eventful. On a sour note I was hit by a car on my evening commute home. It was on a straight bit of road with a cycle lane alongside queuing traffic. At a joining side road a motorist clearly saw a gap in the traffic but not me, and so accelerated forward as I was almost level. I was on my brakes anyway as I try to anticipate idiotic driving so I managed to stop quickly, which meant he “only” hit my front wheel, spinning the handlebars so that they hit my quadricep just above the knee. He was very apologetic. My bike wheel seemed pretty much okay, and all I had was some scraped skin, a growing bruise and a dead leg. He then reversed back out of the road and only avoided hitting the car behind him because I shouted at him to stop!
The next night was the first Seamons Club 10 of the year. Although it was a very pleasant 20C or so, it was windy and it felt very difficult, not least because I was pretty fatigued from training. I was pleasantly surprised to manage 1st place (by only 1 second!) so that was nice, especially as I didn’t feel great.
On Saturday it was the Runcorn Cycling Club 10 and the 3rd race where the sun was out. Seriously, you are spoiling us!
It was still windy though and sections of the exposed Rainford course were a grind but I was happy with my race – power was okay, position felt good and only minor hold-ups at a couple of roundabouts. When I started this game a few years back I never thought I’d be missing out on the podium (and a prize) because an Olympic gold medalist and former World Champion pursuit rider had beaten me by 27 seconds (Steven Burke MBE) but that’s the beauty of this sport. 10M in 22:36, 4th from 84 riders
© Sam Carmichael
Normal service resumed…
The rain came back with a vengeance after the Runcorn 10. I got soaked on my Sunday training ride and again during the week commuting to work. And it was cold too. At the moment my training is following the following rough timetable (including very short commute to and from work Monday to Friday)
- Monday – easy turbo session
- Tuesday – turbo – hard intervals
- Wednesday – club 10
- Thursday – turbo – hard intervals
- Friday – off
- Saturday – race
- Sunday – 3hr-ish outdoor ride including hill efforts
Every 4th week is a recovery week where I substitute easy sessions for the hard intervals.
So my efforts in the club 10 on a Wednesday are usually on the back of a decent amount of fatigue – reflected in my power usually being about 10W down on what it should be – in fact I’ve noticed there is a correlation between how negative my TSB is and how many watts under my “normal” power I end up.
The final club 10 of the month was cold and damp, although we managed to dodge the rain. I performed pretty much as expected but it’s always useful to try new things – for example I’m trying different clothing combinations to see if there is a difference. As I mentioned earlier, anyone who does proper aero testing will balk at this because you need several iterations in similar conditions but it’s the best I can manage. Anyway, I came 3rd overall and got a bit more data. This may be the last Seamons Club 10 for a while as the course is scheduled for surface dressing over the next few weeks. Then, a month later, it’s scheduled to be dug up again for gas works. Only in the Britain!
On Saturday the clouds were ominously dark and the temperature had dropped by 10˚C over the course of the week, just in time for the East Lancs RC open 10. The J2/1 course is arguably the fastest course in Cheshire, assuming you don’t get stopped at Chelford roundabout and avoid the myriad of pave-like potholes, but the wind was also quite blustery. Once I got started, however, it did feel quite quick. I was aiming to have a negative power split because I was told the wind was harder coming back, so I was concentrating on keeping my pacing correct and my position as tight as possible. It seemed to work because once I had turned for home I felt I had plenty left so I was able to push very hard on the inbound leg. By the time I crossed the finish line I had recorded my best 10 power for some time – at least 2 years on a Cheshire course – and a course best for J2/1. It was good enough for 4th place and I was definitely the fastest 50+ category rider. The prize for 4th actual was less than the prize for 1st 50+, but under the “one rider, one prize” rule I ended up with the lesser prize, which is somewhat bizarre and if I am completely honest, a tiny bit annoying. 10M in 21:17, 4th from 83 riders (4th actual £10, 1st team, £20)
I managed to get out and about quite a lot more during April so I managed 663 miles outdoors with 37,653ft ascent at around 17.2mph average, which used up around 24,132kcals. This meant less time on the turbo so I spent 20 hours and 7 minutes using a further 14,012kcals. Total for the month was 3,176 TSS