Alps 2014

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

All photos in this gallery

Day 1 – Saturday – leg loosener into Bourg and back

17.3 miles, 1hr 9m, 1,140ft ascent, 14.9mph av speed, 565kcals, 112bpm av HR

http://app.strava.com/activities/156536058

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Day 2 – Sunday – Col d’Ornon both sides

4 course lunch in a little village for 18 euros – brilliant!

44.8 miles, 2hr 55m, 4,795ft ascent, 15.3mph av speed, 1,197kcals, 104bpm av HR

http://app.strava.com/activities/156536068

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Day 3 – Monday – La Brerarde

44 miles, 3hr 01m, 4,056ft ascent, 14.5mph av speed, 1,612kcals, 117bpm av HR

http://app.strava.com/activities/156536066

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Day 4 – Tuesday – Col du Lauteret

Weather dropped 15 degrees in a matter of hours.  Descent off the mountain in freezing rain/sleet was the coldest and most scared I’ve ever been on a bike!

50.7 miles, 3hr 36m, 4,919ft ascent, 14.1mph av speed, 1,934kcals, 118bpm av HR

http://app.strava.com/activities/156536067

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Day 5 – Wednesday – off the bike so climbed a mountain (obviously!)

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When you climb a mountain you wear the appropriate gear…

Day 6 – Thursday – Alpe d’Huez and Col de Saronne

Attempt to ride Alpe d’Huez to the Tour de France finish in under an hour – just failed – 60m 55s!

49 miles, 3hr 52m, 7,206ft ascent, 12.7mph av speed, 2,624kcals, 133bpm av HR

http://app.strava.com/activities/156535690

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Check out my very abrupt stop/evasive manoeuvre at 56:16!

Day 7 – Friday – Col du Lauteret and Galibier

Lovely day – 3rd time lucky up Galibier and well worth it – what a climb and what a view!

68.5 miles, 4hr 48m, 7,816ft ascent, 14.2mph av speed, 3,072kcals, 129bpm av HR

http://app.strava.com/activities/156536080

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Check out the cheeky ginger marmotte at the roadside at 7:40.  Also at 15:40 I got a rather big shock given where I was!

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Some Alps Routes and Elevations

I wrote a couple of blogs whilst out in France but then to be honest events overtook me – first, being too tired after riding to be bothered, and then becoming ill on the evening before the last day and only really starting to recover now, a week later.

So I’m not going to try and write much about each day other than to show the routes and the elevations involved.  Suffice it to say it was all very beautiful and I’d recommend that if you are a serious cyclist then it has to be on your list of things to attempt.  It is quite hilly though, so you have been warned.

If you want to see my photos from the week they are in an album here – or directly in a slideshow here.

Day 1 – Alpe d’Huez plus balcony road

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6008ft climb

Anyone tells you Alpe d’Huez is easy is a liar.  Bit of video here.

Day 2 – La Brerarde followed by Villarde Notre Dame

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3284ft climb

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3258ft climb

La Brerarde is beautiful scenery and the road up to Villard Notre Dame is just plain nuts – and scary as hell back down!

Day 4 – Col du Lauteret and Galibier (part)

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Ade's Road Cycling Blog

6958ft climb

Perhaps the most beautiful ride – incredible scenery and a nice relaxed climb, albeit one that lasts 25 miles!  The snow at Galibier was amazing.

Day 5 – Col de la Croix de Fer

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6277ft climb

Brutally difficult climb, especially in the heat.  Hardest climb I’ve ever done on a bike.  Just relentless.

Goes without saying really that the downhills were incredible!

Week stats :  261miles in 20hrs 9mins @ 13mph average speed.  Total climb 28,698ft using 13,087 kcalories at an average HR of 129bpm

Ready for the Alps?

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On Saturday we’re off for a week’s cycling in the French Alps.  In preparation, since the beginning of the year, I’ve :

  • cycled 2,697 miles
  • climbed 146,230ft
  • dropped 13.5 kilos and 7.5% bodyfat

Hopefully that’ll mean I’ll enjoy cycling up proper hills like the one above!

50,000 Up!

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I’ve just hit an interesting milestone.  Since I returned to cycling in 2009 I started recording my rides and I’ve just passed 50,000 miles!  In doing so, I’ve used over two million additional calories that I wouldn’t have otherwise, which is pretty staggering!  This has, of course, allowed me to eat approximately two million additional calories too!

The map above shows where I’ve cycled in those 8 years – I’d love to have cycled in more places but I have had a fantastic time regardless.  Thankfully, this blog serves as my “memory” – here are some of my favourite and memorable rides and events.

12 Hour Time Trial

The Alps. Twice

Lanzarote

Audaxing

London Edinburgh London 2013

Land’s End to John o’ Groats

London to Brussels in 24 hours

First time trial

My 2014 Highlights

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December has been a bit of a freeze-out in terms of cycling.  I’ve only managed 261 miles on the road and unlike 2012 and 2013 I haven’t completed the Rapha Festive 500. I have been training though, managing 31hrs 43m and a TSS of 1726.2.

That said, 2014 has been a great cycling year for me.  You can read about my racing year here so here are the overall stats and some pictures of the highlights for me.

  • 6,439 miles in 378hrs 2m at 17mph average speed
  • Of that 1,124 miles were racing
  • An additional 71hrs 4m on the turbo
  • 312,377ft ascent
  • 245,293 kcalories used road and 51,284 kcalories turbo
  • Longest distance – 133 miles
  • Best average speed – 28.8mph
  • Highest speed – 56.3mph (Alps!)
  • Average HR 130bpm road, 140bpm turbo and highest HR 188bpm
  • Most climbing in one ride – 11,965ft
  • Most energy used in one ride – 6,179 kcalories
  • Ride temperatures from -1.2˚C to 29˚C

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Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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Whatever your aims for 2015 I wish you success.  Happy New Year!

Wild Wales Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blending in…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strava ride here

Gallery here

June Roundup

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Highlight of the month was, of course, the trip to the Alps.  That aside it’s been a reasonably quiet month with a couple of TT’s either side of that trip

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Alps heatmap

Anyway, here are the stats for the month (ytd in brackets)

575 miles (3,388 miles)

1d 10hrs 40mins ride time (8d 9hrs 31mins)

16.6mph average speed (16.8mph)

37,514ft ascent (165,749ft)

21,966 kcals energy (129,855 kcals)

128bpm average HR (130bpm)

 

May Roundup

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My excellent early season TT form, very evident during April, was brought back down to earth a bit during May.  I suspect it had something to do with damaging my knee at the end of April on the Red Rose audax, which meant I spent some of the month trying to nurse it back to health and it still isn’t quite right.  It wasn’t all bad though, with new PB’s at 10 mile and 25 mile during the month, and another cheque for £7 continuing my professional career!

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Don’t spend it all at once

I also did a bit of training for the alps trip which is fast approaching, with a couple of 200k rides over some hills, including some in Yorkshire that might feature in a certain French race later in the summer!  However, I haven’t done as much climbing training as I have for the past two years, with most of my riding being fast and flat, so the alps may be slightly interesting!

Monthly Stats (ytd in brackets)

674 miles (2,820)

1d 13hrs 53m (6d 23hrs 10m)

17.8mph average (16.9mph)

28,806ft ascent (128,235ft)

24,711 kcals energy (108,119kcals)

131bpm average HR (131bpm)

Training Plan

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I’ve been doing a couple of things differently this winter.  For the first time I’ve gone into the winter with a plan that continues from last summer.  Last year I needed to shift some timber in preparation for cycling in the Alps, which I did.  I carried that on and combined it with a structured training plan.

The Secret to Weight Loss!

I’ve had a number of comments about my weight loss.  Generally people ask what the secret is.  They want to know what I’m doing to lose weight and how they can do it too.  Often they add that they’ve tried everything and nothing works.  So let’s be blunt about this.  Let’s cut to the chase and stop kidding ourselves.

For 99%+ of the population, if you are overweight it’s because you’ve consumed more energy* than you’ve expended.  So the magic secret is…

Expend more energy than you consume!

Now you have three ways of doing this.  You can consume less energy.  You can expend more energy.  Or you can try to do both.

That’s it. Really. Lots of people try to make it more complicated than that, but it isn’t. It really isn’t. The hard part, the part you have to work at, is the willpower aspect of this. For me personally it has taken 14 months to go from 79kg to 65kg – which is around 1kg per month.

*by this I mean food that gets converted to energy

 

The Training Plan

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I talked somewhat briefly about energy from glycogen stores and energy from fat in this post here, with information provided by Rob Harris, in the lead-up to my lejog ride in 2010.  It turns out, through my testing at the Endurance Coach that my body is pretty efficient at burning fat rather than carbohydrate, and consequently that makes me well-suited to endurance riding.  What I’m not so well-suited to are faster events such as races or time-trials (TTs).  And as a big part of my season this year will be focussing on TTs that seemed to me to be a problem.

Last year, I treated TTs as a bit of fun.  So I didn’t do anything in winter other than ride my bike normally.  I certainly had no training plan, and I avoided the turbo trainer at all costs!  This year, I’ve been on the turbo at least 3 times a week, in conjunction with weekend rides, with a specific focus to get me ready for TTs whilst maintaining my ability to complete endurance rides.

The focus of my training is as follows.  Firstly, there is an aerobic element to it.  People talk about base miles incessantly these days but I think there is too much focus on it.  If you have ridden several thousand miles socially then you essentially have a base already.  Doing more will just make you more efficient at that speed, which does not instantly translate to being efficient at higher speeds.  For that you need to train at higher intensity levels.  Secondly there is training at a level at or just below the level (threshold) at which your anaerobic system kicks in to support the energy requirements of your body when your aerobic system cannot cope.  By training at this level you become able to hold that intensity for longer, and you “train” your mind and body to deal with the lactic acid response you get from working at anaerobic levels.  Third, there is aerobic power – the ability to generate significant aerobic energy over short periods – such as a TT.  Finally, my training includes efforts around force production and tolerance, to improve the ability to quickly generate force for short periods.  These periods could be for climbing hills or for sprints, but the energy largely comes anaerobically and this training helps develop that capability and the ability to handle and process the lactic acid produced as a by-product.

So my training programme has included elements of all of the above – aerobic conditioning intervals (lower level, higher duration), threshold intervals (higher level, shorter duration), aerobic power intervals (low cadence, high power, short duration) and force tolerance intervals (very short “shock” intervals in a big gear).  On top of this, I have spent the winter riding a very heavy bike with big, fat, sticky tyres in as big a gear as possible – with the aim of developing my leg strength.

Now whilst I have followed (and am still following) what has been a 16 week programme, I have to say that I am a very poor trainer on the turbo.  I struggle to get my HR into the right zones and I get bored/disillusioned very easily.  So I’m not completely sure that I’ve done the programme total justice.  I am, however, much more prepared than I was this time last year – so that must surely be worth something.  My realistic target now is to complete the training programme and to use March and April TTs as effective warm-ups.  During May, June and July my aim is to beat the targets I set myself here.

Finally, all of the information and design of this training programme was given to me by the Endurance Coach.  If you want to take things up a level, or are just interested in knowing a bit more about you and your limits, then I highly recommend you visit them.