Joe Friel’s Training Bible

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For those who don’t know Joe Friel is one of the most knowledgeable and helpful endurance coaches out there.  If you are serious about your training you may well have read some of his work or used some of his techniques.  Click on his name above if you want to jump to his blog.  Anyway, he has just re-written his very famous work – the Cyclists Training Bible – which is now in 5th Edition.  Cycling is a sport where lots of people will spend hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds on the quest for “free” speed.  This book currently retails for around fifteen quid on Amazon and it may well be the best fifteen quid you spend this year, especially if you are a relative newcomer to training and racing, and you are unsure how to approach a winter of structured training.  The book is split into the following sections

  1. Mind and Body
    1. Mental Performance
    2. Physical Performance
  2. Training Fundamentals
    1. Basic Training Concepts
    2. Training Intensity
  3. Purposeful Training
    1. Getting Started
    2. Preparing to Race
  4. Planning Your Season
    1. Planning Overview
    2. Planning a Week
    3. Planning Alternatives
  5. Stress and Recovery
    1. Training Stress
    2. Fatigue, Recovery and Adaptation
  6. The Competitive Edge
    1. Muscular Force Training
    2. Tapering to Race
    3. The Training Diary

As you can see it is a comprehensive training manual that will guide you through the process of planning and executing whatever training you intend to do over the off-season.  I think it is a book that I will return to over and over again as it is full of useful information.  I’ve already read Fast after Fifty by Joe and this is equally as good.


July – Tan Lines, Ice Creams and Biblical Rain

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Continuing the theme…

Sunday the 1st of July and it was the M&DTTA 100 Championship around the J4/18 course in Cheshire.  At least that was the plan!  When I turned up to sign on there was a sign up – roadworks had closed one of the short legs of the course so now it was the M&DTTA 91 Championship!  I have to admit that looking at the forecast temperatures I wasn’t particularly unhappy about having to do 9 miles fewer.

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It was relatively pleasant when I set off but pretty much straight away I got a taste of what was to come.  The road surface was terrible.  After just over a mile and a half I felt one of my bottles hitting my leg as it was bounced off the bike.  I wasn’t too concerned because I’d put a couple of spares on the self-supported table so I just carried on juddering up the A50.  Several miles later, on the way back down the A50, I noticed that somebody had stood my bottle by the roadside.  I’ll get that next lap, I thought.  After Twemlow Lane the A535 to Chelford was particularly busy with traffic.  Before 10am on a Sunday morning on a narrow country road you don’t expect to be passed by a couple of HGVs and stuck in traffic at a roundabout.  The traffic didn’t seem to ease off after that and I ended several times, including the Holmes Chapel double roundabout and Chelford Island again.  When I arrived back at the point where my bottle had been I slowed down to get it only to find it had gone.  At the self-support table I found it, so that was a bonus.  Or so I thought because I lost it again on the next lap – this time thanks to a different set of potholes on the A50 (never to be found again this time!)

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By about 60 miles the temperature had really ramped up and it was getting harder and harder to maintain power.  I started getting cramp at around 80 miles and by the finish I wasn’t bothered how fast I was going, I just wanted it to end!

Picture courtesy of Tim Marshall

By the time I rolled into the HQ my bike was making all sorts of strange noises from the battering it had taken on the awful Cheshire roads, as were a number of my joints and contact points! 92M in 03:41:46, 5th from 49 riders (deep breath – £20 and Nick Carter Trophy, 1st vet on standard, £20 and South Lancs Team Shield 1st team.  Bronze medal in M&DTTA Middle Distance Comp, 1st Veteran)

It’s just not cricket

Actually it is.  I took a break from training and went to watch England play India at the T20 cricket at Old Trafford.

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Great atmosphere

The atmosphere was pretty great and despite India teaching England a lesson it was a lovely evening.  On the tram home the streets were deathly quiet because England were busy winning a penalty shootout in the World Cup for the first time in a generation!

At the Club 10 on Wednesday my legs really did have nothing – 20W down from my best and 10W down from my usual mid-week.  At least the tan lines look good.

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New Bars Please

I had decided to try to alter my position to get one with my hands a bit higher and closer to my face.  So I replaced the Zipp Vuka 110’s with some reversed USE 50˚ extensions.  I also used Canyon’s switchplate adaptors to bring the armrests slightly closer together.  I tested it all and it felt pretty comfortable on the turbo.  I’m not sure that it is any more aero but it seems to look like it should be.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Do you want the bad news or the good…?

On Saturday I was at Rainford to do Southport CC’s 25 on D25/3.  I figured it would be a good test for my new position.  It was another scorching hot day and I was expecting quiet roads due to my start time being twenty minutes before England’s World Cup quarter final against Sweden.  I signed on and got my bike set up on the turbo ready for my warmup.  The bike was in the 11 cog at the back and that was where it stayed – the Di2 system was dead.  I was sure I’d checked the battery level the night before so I wondered if I’d inadvertently not connected something properly so I went through all the connections.  I even removed the seatpost to check the battery connection.  Nothing doing.  So I was a DNS.  Annoyingly, when I got home, I plugged the charger in and it all worked so maybe it had discharged?  Still, I got to watch the England quarter final game which was some consolation.

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On Sunday I was due to go to South Wales to ride R25/3H again so I was paranoid about my Di2 working (I now carry a Di2 charger and battery pack in my TT kitbag!).  The heatwave continues and it was already warm when I arrived at the HQ. I warmed up in the shade and made my way to the start.  This was the first time trying my new position in anger – not ideal but there you go.  The sun was pretty intense when I set off and I was working pretty hard despite the slight tailwind.  I recorded my fastest ever 10 miles in 18:13, or 32.9mph.  I did that off 279W – my heart-rate (HR) at a fairly normal average of 167bpm.  It started to hurt a bit at this point with the turn coming at 15 miles or so and then back into a slight headwind.

I was very hot now and sweating profusely.  Being a smaller rider I think I manage heat better than most and I don’t normally sweat so much.  The theory with sweating is that there are two main components to it.  Blood is diverted towards the skin (and consequently away from the muscles) to allow it to be cooled by the air.  That’s not enough so the next stage is to use fluid to help heat evaporate. In the first instance the water that constitutes sweat comes from extracellular fluid and blood plasma, which results in a “thickening” of the blood.  That means the heart has to work harder to move it around the body, which compounds the fact that it is already diverting it from the muscles.  Hence HR is usually elevated in the heat and performance is seriously compromised.

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Thanks to GBM Photography

My second 10 miles took 20:35 (29.2mph) but my power had dropped to 274W and my average HR was up to 177bpm.  I was struggling now, and a slight holdup at the final roundabout (cost – 8 seconds, according to TrainingPeaks) made me think I had missed my target “49”.  I was gutted as I crawled my way back to the HQ, miserably up the bank that I had been flying down at 46mph only forty-five minutes earlier!  However, I had just sneaked in under 50 minutes!  #project49 complete!  For the last 5 miles my power was 276W with an average HR of 181bpm, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.  I put a massive effort in over the last half mile, averaging 317W, with my HR peaking at 185bpm (which is pretty much my maximum).  That effort was probably the difference between success and failure and I doubt I would have been able to do that if I’d raced on Saturday rather than DNS!  A good lesson in perspective!

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25M in 49:57, 15th from 97 riders

Contador by the numbers

Alberto Contador posted some pictures to his Instagram page showing the results from an FTP test he took prior to one of his Tour victories.  So the data is possibly 10 years old but it is quite incredible really.  He also posted a picture of him weighing himself afterwards.  The pictures showed that his 20 minute power was 458W at under 62kg.  Wow.  That’s around 7.4W/Kg for 20 minutes.  Now I weigh just under 62kg too, but I’m happy if I get anywhere near 5W/Kg for 20 minutes.  In real terms, if I started a 20 minute climb next to Contador I could stay with him for possibly 90 seconds.  At which point I would go pop whilst he carriied on riding at the same level!  Even Chris Froome, with the most recent test data he published, is only in the mid 6’s (W/Kg), which sort of pokes a hole in the Froome-haters view that he is on something that elevates him above his peers.


It’s not very often in this country that you see a shimmering heat haze on a road but that’s what it was like on the A50/6R.

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Having been re-arranged from the A50/6 due to roadworks further up the A50 the field was much smaller than usual, and the course was 3 laps of the circuit above.  I actually liked the course and I believe that the BDCA 100 later in the season will be 6 laps of this.  Again it was hot and again I watched my power fade away as the temperature increased and I flagged, although overall I really enjoyed it.  50M in 01:47:09, 4th from 24 riders

Seamons 25
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Photo courtesy of Mike Kilburn

With the Cheshire RC 50 being cancelled due to an accident that resulted in a 600 ton exceptional load being diverted onto the course (imagine being stuck behind that – “I would have PB’d…”), my next race was the Seamons Open 25 on J2/9.  After the seemingly endless heatwave (by British standards) the weather was much cooler and very, very windy.  I was off early so that I could help with the catering/general dogsbodying after my ride.

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The day was very windy and as I was about to head off for the start it started raining.  By the time I got to the start it had stopped so I thought I might get lucky.  No such luck.  The wind was really blustery, with some scary gusts, and then the heavens opened and it was monsoon-like for about 20 minutes.  The first lap of the course was pretty miserable but then it stopped and the wind died a bit making the second lap more pleasant.  A big thank you to all the volunteers, helpers and marshalls – it can’t have been nice being out in that.  25M in 55:39, 4th from 88 riders (£50, 1st vet on standard, £20 1st team.  VTTA M&NW 25M Championship Cup)

Blog On

I’ve been thinking about whether to continue with the blog.  A few people have spoken to me about it and find it interesting, which is really nice to hear (thank you for taking the trouble), so I’m going to carry on for the time being, although I might think about changing tack a little bit after the season is over.  If you read this and enjoy it – thank you.

Another month of mainly scorchio weather!  Brings back memories of 1976 for those over a certain age!  I rode for 729 miles outdoors with 25,225ft ascent at around 19.2mph average, which used up around 25,225kcals. I spent 18 hours 43 mins on the turbo using a further 13,628kcals. Total for the month was 3,320TSS

Why Blog?

I started this blog back at the start of 2010 because I was doing a charity LEJOG ride.  It made sense because a lot of people were supporting me and I was continually looking for sponsorship.  Once that was complete I carried it on as I took on a couple of other charity challenges.  Then I carried it on because it was an easy way to log the audaxes that I’d started to do.  Since then it’s sort of morphed into a record of what I’ve been doing in amateur time-trialling.  I imagine it’s a pretty tedious read and as it only gets 20 to 50 visitors that would seem to be the case – nobody is forced to read it obviously.  In the main I’ve been using it as my own personal record given that my memory is so bad.  However, I’ve got other software for that as well so I’m not sure that is even a reason now.  There’s also an amusing (if quite unkind) thread on one of the Facebook forums about amateur blogs which made me think about why I do this and what is the point of it.

So, I’m three-quarters of the way through my July post – it may be the last one.  Or, if my OCD kicks in, I may do it up to the end of the season.  But the likelihood is that I will probably let this fade away.  There’s possibly 20 to 50 of you who may notice 😂

June – Scorchio!

The sunshine continued into the start of June with warm and sunny conditions on the first weekend of the month.  On Saturday it was back to J2/9 in Cheshire for the Salford Open 25.

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It didn’t feel as fast as the 25 a couple of weeks earlier but it was still a good day and it was my turn to get lucky with the traffic, meaning I got round with no holdups to speak of.  My power was a bit lower but still good, and I was pleased with my overall time and placing.  25M in 54:52, 10th from 57 riders (£20 1st 50-54, £10 1st team)

Not Quite #Project49

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On Sunday morning I travelled to South Wales to ride the fast R25/3H course.  I’d requested a later slot so I only had to be up and out at 6am and it was a very pleasant drive across the Brecon Beacons to get there, especially because there were quite a few very young Welsh Mountain Ponies grazing by the roadside.  In the sunshine, it really is spectacular countryside.  It was very hot warming up and it seemed there was little wind to speak of.  Not surprisingly given the schedule over the last week my power was a bit lower but I gave it everything I had in my legs and I managed to sustain it for the whole ride, although I was dying at the end.  I covered the first 10 miles in 18:44 (32.1mph), the second 10 in 20:42 (29mph) and the last 5 miles in 10:52 (27.8mph).  My overall time was agonisingly close to my season target of a 49 – less than a second a mile.  That doesn’t seem like much but as I say, I left it all out there so maybe another time!  It was still a 25M PB by nearly a minute and a half so very happy with that  25M in 50:16, 27th from 102 riders

In midweek I was well beaten into 2nd place on the Club 10 by Alan.  If I perform at my peak I can sometimes get close to him, or beat him, but rarely in midweek so it wasn’t really a surprise.

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The Janus 25 around J2/9 was the following Saturday.  It was a relatively incident free ride for me again and I managed to lower my course best for J2/9 for a second time this season.  I did this off a slightly lower power and I tried to concentrate on maintaining an aero position.  I suspect it was a quick day anyway because MyWindSock and BestBikeSplit suggested my CdA was worse than the previous time round J2/9.  Sometimes (most times) I just don’t understand this sport!  The quality of rides on J2/9 seems to have shot up this year so you have to be really on your mettle every time.  Two years ago on this event I finished 5th having ridden over two minutes slower than my time this year where I finished 6th (this years time would have seen me podium in 2016!)  25M in 54:22, 6th from 91 riders (£30 fastest veteran)

On the Sunday the weather was almost perfect again so I headed north into Lancashire on a training ride.  I figured I’d get some miles in my legs at a decent pace and also some ice cream!

Work commitments meant I missed the midweek Club 25 Championship which Alan duly won – at this rate he’s on for a clean sweep of the club trophies.  It was disappointing not to be able to defend something I won last year but sometimes life gets in the way.

M&DTTA 50 Mile Championship
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With thanks to and © Diana Bite

It was a pretty windy day and it felt relatively cool.  The J4/9 course makes a nice change from J4/16 – it has a reasonable surface relative to other Cheshire courses and a good deal of it has low levels of traffic.

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I was going pretty well for the first 30 miles or so – happy enough with my power and pace – although the wind is always a bit of a struggle when you’re quite light (currently around 62kg).  Then it started raining!  In fact it absolutely belted it down for a while and I got quite cold.  Worse, large sections of the course ended up partially under water meaning the potholes and ruts were hidden from view and the only line was to ride further into the middle of the road.  This was the first time I’d worn the Giro Aerohead helmet in the wet too.  It doesn’t cope well and the visor steamed up pretty badly.  So overall, it knocked the stuffing out of me and I struggled towards the end, with my power dropping off and having to fidget about to see.  50M in 01:54:13, 8th from 69 riders

A hard few days of training meant my legs were suffering at the club 10 on Wednesday.  Sunny, but windy and a bit chilly, it was a real struggle but I was determined to push through it and ended up with a decent power output, albeit 2nd again!  My aero positioning appears to have gone to pot though so I need to work on that a bit more.

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With V718 in Hull now closed off to any time-trials it is hard to get a fast 10 mile ride (and I can kiss goodbye to beating my 10 mile PB in all likelihood).  The strip at Levens (L1015) can be very quick but can also be very mediocre, and events on there are few and far between.  Also, they are either very early in the morning or late into the evening.  So on the Saturday I was due to race at 7-45pm and thankfully it was still warm and pleasant.  The highish air pressure meant I wasn’t going to get close to a 19 but I wanted to concentrate on pushing a good power (for me), maintaining an aero position and possibly posting a course best.  Well, two out of three wasn’t too bad!  I was happy with my power and position and I missed my course best by a few seconds.  Maybe next time!* 10M in 20:41, 19th from 100 riders

(*edit 06/07/18 – re-checked my records.  Beat my course best by 7 seconds!  Don’t know what I was thinking)  

Marshall Ade
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Respect my authoritah!

I spent a very pleasant evening in the Cheshire sun, acting as a marshall on the Seamons TLI road race on the Siddington Circuit.  The next evening was the club 10 which was slightly less pleasant – it was very hot and my legs felt really sore and heavy.

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My times so far this season have been 22:44, 22:17, 22:42, 22:32, 22:19, 22:24 and 22:26 so I am at least very consistent!

Good News

In early May I had a private health check through work which involved a reading from an Electrocardiogram (ECG), as well as various blood tests, blood pressure etc.  I thought nothing of it until a couple of days later when I got a call from the doctor to tell me that I had First Degree Heart Block and Acute Sinus Bradycardia, and I should see my GP to get a referral to a cardiologist.  Oh, and I shouldn’t exercise, just to be on the safe side (I’m afraid I ignored this!)  As you might imagine it was a significant shock.  I googled it straight away and found that it broadly means that I have a very low resting heart-rate (it’s between 42bpm and 50bpm mainly) along with something to do with the time that the electrical signal takes to cross my heart, and is incredibly common in well-trained individuals.  In fact it is generally only a concern if accompanied by other symptoms, like chest pain, none of which I have. That put my mind at rest to some extent but I duly went to GP.  He seemed relatively unconcerned but took my blood pressure (again), blood tests (again) and referred me anyway.

I got my appointment this month so off I went to hospital.  It was a bit bizarre as I walked into the waiting room of the chest clinic, and it was full of very overweight people, many struggling to catch their breath on what was a very hot day.  If you were going to stereotype who might be seeing a cardiologist it would be that waiting room, and I definitely looked (and felt) very much out of place.  Thankfully, after another ECG and some questions about family medical history, the cardiologist confirmed it was due to my training and so I have been given the all-clear.

I understand that the doctor at the health check was only doing her job but I can’t help thinking it has wasted the valuable NHS resources of both my GP and the cardiologist (and the many duplicated tests).  Not to mention the additional stress I have felt – I’ve tried not worry about it but it is definitely a relief.  Some good news to end the month.

What a scorching month it’s been!  I rode for 666 miles outdoors, in mostly glorious sunshine, with 29,804ft ascent at around 18.6mph average, which used up around 22,402kcals. I only spent 16 hours on the turbo using a further 11,118kcals. Total for the month was 2,909 TSS

Where’s the sunscreen – May

Well the weather has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime at the start of May.  Apparently the hottest early May bank holiday weekend since records began – following on from one of the coldest Springs we’ve had for ages.  Crazy.


Duks 50

Ade's Road Cycling BlogThe first race of the month was the Dukinfield CC 50 around J4/16 in Cheshire.  The weather was a very pleasant 20-odd degrees which I was very happy with because I usually go relatively well when it’s warm.  A fairly late start (I was off at 5-20pm) meant the roads were pretty quiet which was also very welcome.  The first 50 is always interesting.  I had a power number in mind and tried to ride slightly above it, which I managed.  Over the 50 miles my power drifted down and my heart rate drifted up.  Indeed my legs were hurting from about 30 miles onwards but I kept telling myself that it was my mind trying to trick me into easing off and that they weren’t really hurting.  Happily enough that seemed to work and I crossed the line with a new course best for J4/16.  50M in 01:52:13, 7th from 94 riders (£20, 2nd vet on standard)

Tour de Yorkshire

The next day I rode over to Haworth in West Yorkshire and positioned myself at the top of the Goose Eye climb.  I’d mapped a route using an online mapping tool (ridewithgps) and it took me through some wonderful scenery and quiet country lanes.  Unfortunately it also took in some off-road tracks which I would have struggled with on a mountain bike, so i found myself walking at one point, and cyclo-crossing at a couple of others!  Yorkshire really embraces the racing with the people coming out in their millions (literally) and villages along the route gearing up to welcome the peloton with signs, painted bicycles, bunting everywhere and parties.  It’s really impressive.

Riding back towards home I followed some of the race route in reverse – lots of shouts of encouragement from people still sat out in the sun, which makes a lovely change from the usual shouts you get as a cyclist!  With the weather as it was cycling days don’t come much better than this.

There’s no pleasing some people…

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The following weekend was dry, sunny but not quite as warm.  Probably near-perfect conditions for the M&DTTA 25 mile championship saw a big field with some very quick riders.  I was off early and I was feeling pretty good.  I set off at a very decent pace – pushing a power that was close to the maximum I’ve ever done on a 25.  I managed to keep that up for most of the first 20 miles – sure, my legs were hurting but I wasn’t ever hanging on.  And my 10 mile split times were exactly where I wanted them for a fast time – 21:30 and 22:00.  In my head I was looking at a long 53.  

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Thank you horse trailer! (green – mph, pink – watts)

Unfortunately a horse trailer had different ideas, backing up traffic into Seven Sisters Lane and causing me to sit up and coast for a spell.  At the end of Seven Sisters it was there again, holding up a line of cars to turn into the A50.  I stopped, unclipped and waited a short while before losing patience and filtering past.  Eventually it came past me and then held me up again, and finally round a wide sweeping bend it was very slow.  So the clock stopped at 54:32, which is a J2/9 course best for me by 40-odd seconds.  I should be delighted (I am now, I really am) but at the time I was gutted because it could have been a lot better.  25M in 54:32, 11th from 90 riders (potentially £15, 1st vet 50-54, tbc)

Is this becoming a habit!?
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Sun’s out, ice cream’s out 😜

Going Round in Circles…

My A race for the 19th May was cancelled – the Stone Wheelers 25 on J5/8.  My backup race – the VTTA National 50 was also cancelled.  Thank you roadworks.  I’d trained to try to peak for this so I was keen to do something on the weekend – so I thought I’d enter the TLI (The League International) National Circuit Race championships!  Obviously not what I normally do but some decent training nonetheless.  It took place at the Oulton Park raceway which is a brilliant venue, and the sun was shining again which always makes everything seem better.  I was nervous beforehand – riding in packs at high speed makes me that way – but I wanted to use it as a training session as I knew I wouldn’t be able to compete with seasoned racers.

The race started and there was a slight dip then a rise before a sweeping left hand turn, a short straight and then another turn into a long headwind section.  This was mainly downhill so not too bad before a chicane left then right, a steep little rise and then a left into the tailwind-assisted finishing straight.  The total lap was a bit over 1.5 miles and we were due to race for approximately 50 minutes plus 2 laps.  I was racing in the C category of 50-54 year olds.

In short it was decent fun.  I got what I wanted out of it by spending quite a lot of time on the front, which was hard work but enjoyable.  I got in a break with three laps to go but got pulled back, so for the last lap and a bit I tried to string it all out to avoid a sprint, alas to no avail.  I was overrun at the end in what I can only describe as a terrifying (to a TTer) stampede for the line with seemingly no concern about position, line or even general direction!  I sat up and let it all unfold in front of me and rolled over the line near the back.

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Top – 300W normalised TT power profile
Bottom – 300W normalised circuit race power profile

You can see the difference in power profiles above from a 25M TT and this race, both of which had similar times and similar normalised power!  Repeated 500W-900W spikes are, I suppose, a decent interval session and I discovered my maximum heart-rate is higher than I thought it was, but I shan’t be doing too many of these going forward!

Rumble Strip

After a 3 week break for road re-surfacing (commonly known as surface dressing) the club 10 was back on.  Essentially, it seems they just put a bit of tar down and chuck gravel at it.  The result, until it is “flattened” by traffic is a horrendous, grippy, uneven road surface.

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Great photo by my daughter Kate

It was windy and slow and I didn’t feel great but still nice to be out in the sun.

Big Weekend Part 1 – Warrington RC Harry Barker Memorial 50
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Thanks to and © Christian Fox

This race also incorporates the VTTA NW Group 50 Championship which has been a target of mine for a couple of seasons now.  It was another warm day but surprisingly windy. Being off relatively late, I was hopeful for less traffic but that ended up being wishful thinking.

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The narrow roads that comprise J4/16 seem to be becoming busier and busier, and despite new speed limits cars pass very close and very fast.  And then the cars regularly get backed up waiting to overtake. So it all gets a bit stressful – far more so than on a DC course.  In fact there was another accident which needed an ambulance (unfortunately the second on Cheshire this season) so I hope the rider was okay*.  In terms of my ride, I went off a bit too hard and by the end I was paying for it a bit.  I got held up badly at one junction after a car pulled in front of me and then took what seemed like an age to turn and I lost my head a bit, swearing and riding a totally stupid power immediately afterwards which I then quickly regretted as limped across the finish line!  Overall it was a great event and superbly marshalled by the WRCC volunteers.  50M in 01:53:38, 4th from 70 riders (£40, 1st vet on standard – EC Ward Trophy)

*found out afterwards a car had turned right in front of him resulting in a broken leg and collar bone – hope he heals quickly 😔

Big Weekend Part 2 – Anfield 100

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On Bank Holiday Monday I rode the Anfield 100 (incorporating the VTTA National 100). This is a race that was first staged in 1889, and won by PC Wilson in a time of 7 hours and 11 minutes!  The race pre-dates Paris Roubaix by 7 years and Le Tour by 14 years – it’s a very prestigious event.  That said, it meant getting up at 4am and then battling round some very grippy and rugged roads.  I thought my legs were feeling okay after the 50 but what I didn’t factor in was how much my shoulders and neck were aching.  The constant battering from the road did nothing to help either.  Roads that have been surface dressed create a horrible, constant rumbling vibration, and are full of undulations.  Those that haven’t been – the infamous Peplow Pavé – are worse.  Despite going to the toilet beforehand I desperately needed to go again after about 10 miles.  I held it in for the remaining three and half hours and by the end it was pretty painful – it meant I was squirming about a bit in the saddle which just added to the overall stress**.  This is my first 100 on the Specialized Sitero saddle.  So far it has been great on the turbo and perfectly fine in the two 50’s, with none of the chafing I got with my previous saddle.  I don’t know if it puts pressure on the prostate causing the need to go to the toilet – if so that’s not going to work so I’ll have to have a think about it.

I had cereal a couple of hours before on the drive down and I took some gel shots before the start.  I had two 750ml bottles and three gels.  The bottles had around 180kcals each of powder in them.  The gels were 200kcals each.  As the body cannot absorb more than 70-100g of carbs per hour anything more isn’t really helpful.  The issues with needing to pee meant I probably didn’t drink enough – I ended up with half a bottle left on what was a warm day.  I also dropped a gel so I was probably slightly under-fuelled by the end.  That said, gels make me feel slightly sick so I might try to eat something like an energy bar next time.

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Suffering like a dog. Thanks to and © TimeTrial Photos

Miles 35 and onwards were ridden on laps of a circuit that went very close to HQ, and I was tempted to pack more than once – something that rarely crosses my mind.  The trouble with packing is that I think once you’ve done it once it becomes easier so I persevered, and by the end I was desperate to finish.  I’d missed by sub 4 hour target by a couple of minutes but I didn’t care.  I could barely muster a final effort over the line.  Overall I was 5W down but 3 minutes quicker than the same event last year and finished in the same place, albeit there was nobody older than me above me on the leaderboard.  In the VTTA National Championship I finished in 6th place.  100M in 04:02:04, 11th from 92 riders (potentially £20, 1st vet 50-59, tbc)

**Going to the toilet afterwards was painful and it remained so afterwards for a day or so – I don’t think I’ve done my waterworks any favours 😳

Seamons Club 10 Mile Championship
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Another great shot by Kate

The sunshine gave way to very overcast skies, although it still felt warm and humid.  I put a lot of effort in but seemed to go slower than I thought I should.  My power was good, it was hard work, but a combination of the surface and possibly the air pressure meant I knew my time wasn’t good enough to win.  Before the start, I suspected a 21 would be needed to win and Alan’s winning time was 21:59.  Mine was 22:33.  I suspect I possibly could squeeze another 20 seconds off that at best so I was well beaten into 2nd place.  Well done to Alan.

I made the most of the weather in May, riding 837 miles outdoors at an average speed of 18.7mph.  I climbed 40,468ft and used 30,168kcals.  On the turbo I completed 16hrs 20mins for 10,894kcals.  Total training for May was 3,270TSS

Is it Spring Yet… April

April fool!

Ade's Road Cycling BlogI 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

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© 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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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© 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.

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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.

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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


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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!

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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

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© 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!

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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

March – Season 6 Begins (Despite Winter’s Best Efforts)

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Explosion in flourescent paint factory!  ©Craigzad photography

The worst weather in around a decade saw the temperature plummet to around -10˚C, resulting in the first of the season’s races being cancelled.

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A week later and the temperature had swung back around to 14˚C and the M&DTTA 10 went ahead in very wet, but warm, conditions.  Roadworks on all of the local courses meant we were racing on J4/20e – a course I’d not ridden before.  Warming up in the rain on a turbo in a muddy field just about sums up the glamour of the amateur time-trial scene.  The first race of the season is always a horror show as you reaquaint yourself with riding flat out in an aero position.  There’s only so much I can do on the turbo in preparation (putting aside the fact that I hate riding in position on the turbo) and so it turned out.  My position felt quite alien and I was way off the pace.  I mean a long way off the pace.  My armrests are narrower this year, which caused some shoulder issues I wasn’t expecting.  In addition, the non-countersunk bolts on my new armrests didn’t have sufficient padding and every bump (it’s Cheshire, there are a lot) sent a shooting pain into the bone on my forearms!  More padding needed – it’s thing like this you only find out through riding outside.  So I was uncomfortable pretty much from the off.  I guess it was therefore unsurprising when my average power was 20-22W down on the last 10 of last season, and 10-12W down on the same race last year (which itself was 20W down on  year before).  I did go off too hard but I ran out of steam fairly quickly and my legs felt pretty dead (and painful).  That said, the time was very similar, albeit it was probably a fast day (if you exclude sticking my head up too high because of the surface and a steamed-up visor).  Using and BestBikeSplit seemed to suggest my new position has a decent CdA and is therefore pretty aero if I can hold it.  But it’s at the cost of power which hopefully will come back as I adapt to it. 10M in 22:22, 6th from 47 riders (1st vet on standard, £20, 1st team, £10)

Clearly, with the amount of variables in software-based aero analysis, there is a limit to the accuracy of these figures, but it would suggest that if I can properly adapt to my new position and get back to decent power levels (which I know I can do easily out of aero position) then I should improve.  And if I needed a reminder of what it felt like to ride hard in my aero position it came the next morning – in the form of back-ache and pain in my neck.  Of course experience has taught me that this is short-lived and will only take a few more rides to sort itself out – which is what these March (and April) races are all about really.

Unfortunately, the weather turned again, with Scandinavian/Siberian winds blowing in the ice and snow for the weekend and resulting in the third race of the season being cancelled.  I was actually in mid-warmup on the turbo in the HQ car park when the call was made.  Strong winds and regular snow flurries meant it wasn’t safe to go ahead.

Thankfully the weather for the final M&DTTA 10 was relatively good.  This time the course was J2/20, which is mainly the same as J2/1 but with the start and finish on the J2/3 course.

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I felt much better this time.  Although my legs were very, very unhappy about it I managed to maintain a level of power not too far off what I was doing last season, and I felt a lot more relaxed in position.  On the way out I noticed a rider with a bloodied face being tended on the other side of the road and a bit further up I saw an ambulance heading in his direction.  Not great and a further reminder that riding a bike on the roads is always a risk unfortunately.  As I turned and headed back I was slightly held up by cars waiting to pass the now-stationary ambulance but it looked like the chap was being tended inside rather than whisked off to hospital – hopefully that is a good sign.  At the HQ I overheard somebody saying that he and a lady rider had collided (and both come off) after a car had startled one of them using their horn – I have no idea if this is actually what happened or just hearsay, but it doesn’t sound very pleasant at all.  Anyway, overall I was much happier with the ride.  I’m not sure I was very aero – I keep sticking my head up to see where I’m going properly.  I know I’m doing it but am struggling to stop it, especially around Cheshire because the road surface is appalling.  10M in 22:25, 9th from 54 riders (2nd vet on standard, £12, 1st team, £10)

Project 1849 is already dead in the water.  The Yorkshire District Committee of the CTT pre-empted any decision by the Highways Agency to ban cycling on the A63 by removing their support for any events to be held on V718 for the foreseeable future.  So that’s the chance of an 18 gone.  I might just rename it Project 49 now and concentrate on trying to do a 30mph 25.  Anyway, the Good Friday City Road Club event on the V718 was moved to the V714, which is just down the road but takes place on an out and back single carriageway road.

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The weather held, albeit very cold, and the surface on part of the course was absolutely superb.  There’s a pelican crossing near the end which could be a concern but it had 2 marshalls at it so it didn’t cause any problems as far as I know.  Overall the course was quite good and could be much quicker when warmer.  The headwind back was a bit of an ordeal and I’m a bit gutted not to get a 21, but I enjoyed it and will do it again. 10M in 22:01, 9th from 51 riders

March, like February before it, was another weather disrupted month, only allowing me to get in 354 miles outdoors with 18,405ft ascent at around 16.4mph average, which used up around 13,150kcals. I also spent 32 hours and 14 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,404kcals. Total for the month was 2,859TSS

Cheating in Sport – Follow Up

Did you know that in the very recent past, three Premier League Football Clubs, including current leaders Manchester City, have been charged and fined for anti-doping whereabouts regulation violations?

Nope, neither did I.

I imagine that if the best World Tour cycling team and two others were in the same position it would be front page news.

It seems I was not the only person to look to other sports in light of the Team Sky ethics/cheating debate that is currently raging.  The information above came from Lionel Birnie of the Cycling Podcast, who wrote this excellent blog post here.  It’s a great piece and I recommend you take a look.  He also has some posts on his relationship with Team Sky over the years which are also very much worth your time.

Cheating in Sport

It cannot have escaped most people’s attention that there is another storm in the world of cycling.  Many believed that after the Lance Armstrong “era” those days were behind the sport and that any future winners would be “clean”.  Prior to Armstrong cycling had long had question marks hanging over it, with many legends of the past the subject of suspicion, although it’s fair to say that Lance took it to the next level with an almost Mafia-like control keeping it as quiet as possible.  So when it all blew up, it exploded and many thought that was the last of it.  Indeed, success at the Tour de France from 2012 onwards and the continued cycling success during the London Olympics led to a lot of new people, possibly naively and particularly Brits, being attracted to the sport because of the (at least publicly facing) stance that Team Sky took against cheating.  Famously (maybe now infamously) when Team Sky were formed Sir David Brailsford, then just plain “Dave”, claimed they would win the Tour clean with a British rider within 5 years.

Fast forward and we have tales of mystery jiffy bags,  asthma and triamcinolon, asthma and salbutamol, disappearing medical records and finally a report from the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that has lit the blue touch paper again.

From the news headlines you’d think the report was just about cycling.  It isn’t.  The title is Combatting doping in sport.  It is 52 pages long of which cycling is covered in pages 19 to 32.  If you want to read it you can find it here

There are several reactions I have noted to both the press stories and the report itself.

  1. Team Sky, Wiggins and Froome are cheats and should be banned
  2. Team Sky, Wiggins and Froome haven’t broken the rules per se but ethically and morally they are cheats
  3. Team Sky, Wiggins and Froome haven’t broken the rules, they pushed the line which everyone does in sport – plus everyone else is quietly doing it too
  4. Any combination of the above whether you like or dislike Team Sky, Wiggins and/or Froome!

Several of my non-cycling friends have asked me what I think and the answer is, like most things, complicated.

Firstly, and the deliberate reason I titled this post “Cheating in Sport”, is that cheating is rife in every single sport.  Every single one.  For example, in every single Premier League Football match you will see one or more of the following

  • Diving to gain an advantage like a penalty
  • Feigning injury to get an opponent sanctioned in some way
  • Moving a freekick/throw-in forward to gain an advantage
  • Claiming a throw-in/corner/goal-kick even though the player clearly knows it isn’t his

Some people say it is gamesmanship, or pushing the line but it isn’t cheating.  Okay, what about injections?  Quite often a star footballer will “play through the pain” in a key match by having painkilling injections and they will receive plaudits for it.  The difference between that and a cyclist taking asthma medication is what, exactly, other than context?

But taking drugs to enhance performance is different right?  I suppose it is.  By the way, here are some figures from the UK Anti-Doping agency (UKAD) website.  They are numbers of UK athletes currently banned for doping offences

  • Cycling – 7
  • Football – 3
  • Rugby Union – 17
  • Rugby League – 12
  • Weight & Powerlifting – 7
  • Athletics – 4

It seems to me rugby has a bigger problem than cycling but nevertheless cheating is widespread.  What is a fact as I write this, is that none of those 7 cyclists is either Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome.

The new head of the UCI, David Lappartient, has come out and said taking anything to enhance performance is cheating.  Er, I best put that strong espresso down then because caffeine is one of the few things scientifically proven to enhance athletic performance.  Even as a mediocre amateur racer I am bound by the UKAD rules that say I am responsible for what goes in my body and can be tested at any race against a set of banned substances.  But I do drink coffee.  Am I pushing the line?  Am I cheating?  What about creatine for footballers, athletes and rugby players?  Beta-alanine?  Bicarbonate of soda?  None are on the banned list but are routinely taken by athletes to enhance their performance (not me, I might add – I stick to the coffee).

Froome may yet get banned and people will continue to question the intent behind the use of medication by both him and Wiggins.  Was it for medical reasons or was it to enhance performance?  Very few people know the actual truth and it is a massive grey area – the area of intent.  So in the end most of what you read on the subject, here and elsewhere, will come down to opinions.

For what it’s worth, my view is that I am torn between wanting to believe it was all above-board, a mistake or some strange physiological trait in the case of Froome (who would cheat so blatantly when leading a Grand Tour when you are guaranteed to be tested?).  However, I do think that the line was being pushed by Team Sky.  Was it too far?  In most cases I’d say it wasn’t, but for Team Sky, with their holier-than-thou raison d’être it definitely was.  In the main I just feel disappointed and let down and I don’t believe Brailsford can survive.  He was either cheating or incompetent – both are untenable.

I will leave you with one final thought which I heard from François Thomazeau, occasional guest contributor to the Cycling Podcast (I saw their book tour at the Lowry recently – it was excellent!)  He says that doping is a legal issue, not a moral issue.  So you either break the rules, or you don’t.  Nice and simple – only it isn’t really, is it?


Motivation, Mind Games and the Power of Failure

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I’ve read a number of books on the subject of mental strength and self-improvement in my attempts to become the best amateur cyclist I can be.  Some of these have been profoundly useful whilst others less so.

It’s fair to say that I didn’t originally get on with “The Chimp Paradox” by Professor Steve Peters – he of British Cycling.  Not for me inner humans, chimps and computers the first time I read it.  In fact I stalled part way through.  However, the more I think about it, the more I realise I probably should give it a second chance and a re-read because it does provide methods to help cope with wider issues such as anxiety and unwelcome thoughts and feelings.  Maybe there is an irony in there – my inner chimp acted impulsively and got me to stop reading the book and now my human is taking control (this will only mean something to you if you read the book!)

“Black Box Thinking” by Matthew Syed is a good book but is really a different subject area – it is more about the process of improvement borne out of failure.  As somebody who has spent the last few years learning as much through my own trial and error it certainly resonated with my own experiences.

One other area where I’ve read quite a few articles and studies is the Central Governor Theory, where the brain is the limiter rather than the muscles.  I guess you could call this mind over matter.  Much of this theory is based around the premise that fatigue is simply the sub-conscious brain creating a perception or feeling in order to moderate the amount of damage you do to yourself – a bit like a valve.  This is where books like “Dig Deepest!” by Adam Topham and “How Bad Do You Want it” by Matt Fitzgerald come in, as they basically support this premise and then cover ways and means of pushing past it.  In the case of Fitzgerald, he refers to these as coping strategies.

At the moment my training is going quite badly, which is not where I really wanted to be as the season starts.  I have a stack of data that tells me it shouldn’t but it feels really hard.  I know, I know – training is meant to be hard.  The data includes figures that define my Chronic Training Load (CTL – it’s high ✅) and my Training Stress Balance (TSB – it’s positive ✅).  I should be flying.  But in terms of rate of perceived effort (RPE) my training feels harder than it should do.  And in addition my Heart-Rate Variability (HRV) has taken a worrying tumble (by the way, the last time it did that I was ill the week after so fingers crossed it’s just a blip).

So it is clear that physical conditioning is not the complete picture.  There is a massive psychological side to it as well.  And I don’t just mean during actual races.  To get yourself into the best condition requires great motivation and dedication to map out and stick to a plan at the macro level, but then during each individual workout you have to have the mental strength at the micro level to push through the discomfort (and yes, pain) to make the gains necessary to drive adaptation in physiological systems.  And it is that micro level that I’ve been struggling to sustain in the last few weeks as the intensity has stepped up.  My coping strategies in the past have included

  • Setting challenging goals
  • Remembering success and the feelings that come with it – repeat, repeat, repeat
  • Event visualisation – pre-riding a race in my mind, especially the last hard effort, with positive outcomes
  • Lying to myself – “One more minute and I’ll stop.  Okay, just one more minute…”
  • Fear of failure – use of social media (and this blog) to publicly state goals and intent
  • Reward – if I get to the end of this session then my reward will be…

Repetition plays a big part.  It’s important to repeat successful behaviour but also to avoid unsuccessful behaviour becoming a habit.  Just not bothering, or finding excuses for giving in can become habit forming, so I’ve always found it better to just get on with it and stick with the plan.

That all said, these last few weeks I think I’ve overreached a little bit as the strategies haven’t really been working, so I’ve decided to dial back the intensity a bit and rebuild some confidence.  You only really learn when things go wrong, so hopefully this will let me take one step back to then allow me to move forward again.