Back Racing (just not very well…)

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For the first time in over a year (387 days) I was back racing. The Manchester BC held a 10 mile TT on a course I hadn’t previously ridden on Easter Monday. Sat in the car park at an early hour beforehand watching it snow I have to say I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic. And despite the covid protocols in place I was also pretty apprehensive. Normally at the start of a season I am really looking forward to racing but I wasn’t after a year off. The race itself was about as terrible as I expected. I couldn’t hold my position, the crosswinds were scary and the “feels like” temperature was something like -7˚C, which meant by the end there wasn’t much feeling in anything, especially my fingers.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - Time Trial race
Club 10 picture by Kate’s TT Pictures (Facebook)

Since then I’ve performed marginally better in a 25M TT, managing to hold my position and a decent power for the full race, and a 10M TT at Rainford.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - Time Trial race
Race of truth by Kate’s TT Pictures (Facebook)

The Seamons Cycling Club has also run a number of evening Club 10’s which have proved very popular – there is definitely a pent up demand for racing again. Despite all of this I’ve not yet managed to feel enthusiastic for any of the races. I thought that after an enforced year off I would be desperate to get back to it, and if the truth be told, I’m not. In fact, I’m struggling to stay motivated for any of it – I’m forcing myself to try to train properly and to enter the events. When I’m riding I don’t feel comfortable or like I’m in any condition, even though the numbers aren’t really that bad for somebody rapidly approaching mid-50’s.

None of this was improved by the latest race last weekend. I hit a pothole and sheared off one of my armrests which meant half of a 25M TT on the base bars. I thought it had damaged the wheel bearings too but they seem okay. All pales into insignificance though as one rider was involved in an accident that required the air ambulance – I believe, thankfully, it was not as serious as first thought.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Aerocoach Align armrest sheared off after pothole

So I’m carrying on hoping I will get the enthusiasm back and start to actually look forward to events again. Either that or I’ll be finding something else to do with my Saturday afternoons.

That was the year that wasn’t

When I posted back in March last year – Season Over? – I pretty much knew that I wouldn’t race outdoors again in 2020. I know some people did towards the end of summer but for various reasons I chose not to. That said I managed to get just under 4,500 miles of outdoor riding in, which is more than I thought given there was no commute included in that. Time on the turbo jumped up a bit to 286 hours from the previous year (which adds about 3000 Zwift miles too). All fairly unstructured with a bit of Zwift racing to keep things interesting.

I recently started planning this season’s races and gearing my training back up, but now we’re in lockdown again so I’m back to thinking that March and possibly April may be another write-off. It’s hard to tell how things will pan out and even though I’m in my 50’s I’m unlikely to be vaccinated until later in the year, so at what point things will return to “normal” remains unclear.

That said, it’s still good to get outside on a bicycle (and it’s still allowed – info here should you need it) and the Zwift TTT‘s are great fun, so I’ll keep at it and hope to get some racing in this year at some point. Stay safe.

Lockdown Cycling Pt 2

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - WTRL TTT on Zwift
Seamons CC in action – WTRL Team Time Trial on Zwift

First off I hope this finds you safe and well wherever you are. On March 20th I wrote this blog post as the immediate races I’d planned were cancelled and I suspected that what was happening at the time might escalate. It came as no surprise (to those that had been following what was happening in mainland Europe anyway) when the UK formally went into lockdown on Monday 23rd March.

I wrote again at the end of April, the height of lockdown really, about what I’d been up to. Despite being allowed outdoors for an hour or so exercise I’d stuck to the turbo and riding indoors. Then, in the middle of May, some restrictions were lifted, we were allowed unlimited exercise outdoors and so I rode outside (on my own, as usual) for the first time in what had been 9 weeks, which felt pretty good!

Since then the season’s races have been postponed several times, with current guidance, as I write, that open TTs can start from the 18th July. That is not the case with the Manchester (J code) district, who are not promoting either open or club events until the end of August. There are a few races in September that haven’t yet been cancelled, including the re-arranged VTTA National 15, so I think we will wait and see – although when the cancellation to the end of August happened I gave up any semblance of structured training. I do have a sneaking suspicion that I may just sack the season off and not race again this year. Time will tell.

In the meantime I have been Zwift racing, Zwift TT-ing and Zwift TTT-ing with club mates, which has been great fun. As I’ve written before, Zwift races are really hard. I prefer the longer ones but the basic tactics for any race seem to be

  1. Start hard – usually a VO2Max effort (130% + FTP) for 1 to 2 minutes
  2. Continue at or just below threshold (90%+ FTP)
  3. Any hill or rise accelerate back up to VO2Max
  4. At end, can you sprint?
    1. Yes – sprint at end
    2. No – try to clip off about 1 to 2km before the end at VO2Max

In my case, somewhere between 3. and 4. above and I usually get dropped from the first group, which is actually an improvement because when I first started it was immediately after 1. That said, they are a great workout and good fun if you want to push your limits.

WTRL Team Time Trial

The team time trials are run voluntarily by a group called WTRL and involve an element of teamwork to try to stay together as a team of up to 9 riders, with your time being taken when the 4th rider crosses the line. They are typically around 40 to 55 minutes of effort and attract literally hundreds of teams from around the world. The teams are grouped into classes based on rider capabilities and it’s a really impressive setup and great fun riding as a team. We use Discord for team voice communication which is simultaneously hilarious and disturbing given everyone is usually on their aerobic limit. In theory, the better you stay together, ideally in a long line, the faster you go due to the draft involved and the ability to recover between efforts. This is more successful some times more than others, usually where a hill is involved. You can see from the video above we’re often in a “clump” rather than a line which is less efficient, but we’ve done pretty well and seem to be improving.

Anyway, please stay safe wherever you are and I hope to see many of you out on the road or at races in the future.

Lockdown Cycling

Ade's Road Cycling Blog Zwift Cycling
Zwift cycling through Central Park

April 2020 is the first month since the start of 2009 where I haven’t ridden my bike outdoors. At the start of the lockdown I took the personal decision not to ride outdoors. I make no judgement of people who do, but I realised that if I were to ride outside the temptation to ride ever longer distances would be too much and that is not within the spirit of the somewhat vague rules we find ourselves with. Equally, I have elderly and unwell dependents and however low the risk, it is a choice I felt I needed to make.

Instead I have ridden 859 miles indoors on Zwift. The TT season will not start until July at the earliest so I’ve dropped the structured training and I just ride the courses. I’ve also done some Zwift races and some Zwift TTs. The races are absolutely nuts. The start is a massive all-out sprint and then you settle back into riding somewhere above threshold. There is no respite until you go pop. 4.5W/kg basically isn’t enough. Still, it’s good fun, especially the longer races, and you do find out in the results that you’ve been racing pros (Warren Barguil notably in one race up the Alpe d’Zwift). The TTs are equally hard but you know what you’re getting – ride as hard as you can from start to finish. There are two courses – a flat 10.9 mile course and a replica of the San Luca climb in Bologna used in various races including the Giro d’Italia. Newbury Velo cycling club have set up regular Wednesday night and Saturday morning TTs, and the VTTA have started a series competition based on the Saturday races. I even managed to place first one morning, which was satisfying.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Barney

I make no apologies for mentioning this in my cycling blog. Last Friday we lost our Labrador Barney, aged 11. It’s devastating, heartbreaking and I miss him every day. Normally getting out into the countryside on my bike would be a big part of mentally processing things like this. Riding indoors on a turbo, however good the setup, is just not the same.

Roll on being let outside (properly) again.

Season Over?

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

After 3 races in March (they went well and I was pleased with my performances despite the remnants of Storm Denis or whatever it was called) it looks like the season might be over already. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the CTT have cancelled all events until May 31st. Given what I’m reading about the likely scenarios I would not be surprised if it doesn’t restart again on June 1st. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem that important.

That being said I’m going to continue training for a number of reasons

  1. I enjoy it. I like the process and I like the practice. My training takes place indoors on a turbo, or outdoors on solo training rides, so adheres to social distancing guidelines (we’re not yet at the total lockdown stage yet)
  2. Fitness is good for you and boosts your immune system – as long as you don’t dig yourself into a hole where immunity is depleted – so I’m backing off intensity a bit. I feel that this is going to become ever more important as we come through this period in our history. It’s scary enough for most of us – I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a higher risk underlying health condition
  3. It’s good for mental health. It’s something to take the mind off what is going on outside

In the short-term I’ll try to get outdoors but I realise that might become impossible as this goes on. Not sure whether I will resurrect my Zwift membership or just stick to Trainerroad, but I will definitely be doing something.

Anyway, I hope anyone reading this is safe and well. I hope to see everyone on the other side. Best wishes, Ade.

New Chainring

I wasn’t going to change anything on my TT bike for the new season. However, a week or so ago I accidentally hit the front shifter in the middle of a particularly difficult VO2Max interval which resulted in a horrible crunching and grinding noise followed by the chain coming off. As it was I’d delaminated at least one of the teeth on my Fibre-Lyte 56t carbon chainring and it had also pinged a shifting pin off as well. On closer inspection many of the teeth were wearing It’s been a great product with almost 5000 miles of racing (i.e. at high loads) as well as hundreds of hours on the turbo.

Anyway, I decided that as I was doing it anyway I might as well go 1x and replace the chainring with a 58t – it’s not like I ever used the small ring out on the road. I bought an aluminium one from Drag2Zero.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog
The “before picture”

Removing the crankset was pretty easy – there are plenty of videos and guides on Youtube. Anyway I cleaned it up and took off the front derailleur. I could have pushed the cable back into the frame for a cleaner look but it would be really difficult to get it out again should I ever need to.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Ultra Di2 front derailleur and cable entry port
Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Derailleur removed. Didn’t want to push the cable back into the frame “just in case” so I applied a tried and tested aero solution – gaffer tape!

The solution was to just tape it against the frame with a bit of gaffer tape. Doesn’t look great but would be hidden behind the chainring once the crankset was back on.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog
The “after” picture, including aero coach chain guard

I then fitted a chain guard from Aerocoach. In theory it shouldn’t need one but Cheshire roads aren’t the smoothest and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of people shipping chains during races. Plus I wasn’t sure about chain length. I followed the standard Park Tools sizing instructions using the chain I’d removed. That seemed to be the correct size even though I’d increased the size of the front chainring. So I decided to add a link or two to the new chain and it looks about right – no slack and the rear derailleur angles look sensible enough.

Another week of training on the turbo and then the season starts – unless there’s yet another storm due to come in!

Riding out of the decade…

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The last decade has been one to forget in many ways.  I can remember the optimism after the 2012 Olympics when we punched above our weight, welcomed the world in and showed what a fantastic multi-cultural country we can be.  Fast forward to now and we are divided, narrow-minded and blaming “others” for our woes.  The state, and the protections it can offer like social care, community and a viable health service, are being systematically dismantled in front of our eyes and the biggest con in history has just been pulled off with staggering success – that Etonian elitists are on the side of the ordinary person is incredible yet millions believed it.  Lying is de rigeur and expertise and critical thinking are devalued commodities.  Like the roads I cycle on, we’re in a sorry state and getting worse.

Thank goodness for cycling is all I can say.  As a way of escaping it has few equals.  I’ve long said that compulsory cycling would go a long way towards making the world a better place.  The health benefits, the air quality and climate change benefits, the community benefits – they all add up.  Not to mention the sheer joy and fun of it.  Yes, even in the cold and wet!  When cyclists say they suffered on their bikes they mean in a good way!

I’m glad I have this blog because I’d have forgotten the many superb times I’ve had cycling over the last decade and the fantastic friends I’ve made.  I’ve had some brilliant adventures and it’s been amazing.  I’d have liked to have got to visit more places than Brussels (via France), Lanzarote and the French Alps but maybe next decade!  And Britain by bike is pretty good anyway – I’ve ridden from top to bottom, up and down and round and about.  We have some beautiful countryside that hasn’t yet been spoiled by impatient motorists – although you have to look hard these days.  Anyway, I’ve linked some of my favourite memories below and for those that have been part of them I thank you.  Here’s to the next decade – hopefully you will have a great new year and fingers crossed things get better.

12 Hour Time Trial

The Alps. Twice

Lanzarote

Audaxing

London Edinburgh London 2013

Bowland Badass

Land’s End to John o’ Groats

London to Brussels in 24 hours

First time trial

September – Season Review

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - Time Trial
Check out https://www.facebook.com/ttkate/

As I was on vacation from work for the 1st week in September I spent much of it riding my bike for fun. As a consequence of that when it came to my race on the first Saturday of the month my training stress balance (TSB) was significantly negative. I wasn’t too concerned because it was only a 10 on the Rainford D10/1 course so I figured it would be over relatively quickly. It came as no surprise then that I found the race physically challenging, especially on the section into a headwind, on what was a fairly breezy day. My time wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. 21:43, 4th from 50 riders

A stressful week back at work put paid to any idea of meaningful training but I still felt physically and mentally drained by the following weekend. And I’d foolishly arranged two races – it had seemed like a good idea many weeks before when I entered. I knew that it would be a struggle during my warmup, with my heartrate elevated above what it normally is for my standard routine. And so it proved. I set off at a power below what I was comfortably holding for the full 25 miles earlier in the season and just got gradually worse. By 15 miles I was struggling to hold my 50 power as I was caught by my minute-man, and in the last couple of miles it dipped into 100 power territory. By the end I was glad it was over which is not really like me. TrainingPeaks later confirmed my highest 20 minute heartrate of 2019 for my lowest 25 mile power. 55:36, 7th from 54 riders

The next morning I had an early rise to get to Levens in time for my 8:38am start time. Surprisingly I felt a bit better than the previous day and for the first time in 18 months it wasn’t absoluetly chucking it down! My legs were still quite sore and my power was a bit lower than it should be but I managed to knock a whole second off my L1015 course best – yay me! Relatively speaking it wasn’t a great time but I was happy that I didn’t feel terrible. 20:40, 14th from 69 riders

Ade's Road Cycling Blog - Time Trial
Thanks to and © Christian Fox

The Stretford Wheelers 25 on J2/9 was the last race of the season and turned into a bit of a Farmers Revenge ride! The weather was really nice – a great end to what has been a wet and windy year. I got caught behind a tractor for about 3 or 4 miles, finding myself freewheeling behind it being dragged along slightly slower than I would have liked, but not slow enough to allow me to safely overtake. And then another tractor a bit later. Ah well, them’s the breaks. 54:42, 5th from 68 riders

Quick Season Summary

It’s always a bit of a challenge to review a season but usually you start with your goals. This year I only really had one – the VTTA National 50 mile championship where I wanted to podium. I came 4th. However, there were lots of things on the way to take away and analyse from the season, so here’s a few

  • My average 10 mile power (averaged over all open 10s across the season) has shown a steady decline since 2015. 2019 was 10W lower than my peak in 2016
  • In complete contrast, the same power for 25M, 50M, 100M and 12hr in 2019 was equal to or higher than it’s ever been. I was particularly proud of getting my best ever 25M average power (5W higher than the 10M average mentioned above…)
  • More actual time podiums in 2019 than last year (but not quite as many as 2016). More actual time top 10’s than ever and in the prizes more often than ever, averaging just under £30 per race
  • Against veterans I managed to be 1st on standard 8 times, 1st age group 5 times and podium on standard another 6 times
  • I managed to set personal course bests on 6 local courses that I regularly ride, plus my best ever 50M time on a Cheshire course
  • Did an awesome review of Belgian Buns – read it here

What Now?

Now it’s time for a short break. Then I’ll start the whole process again. I’ll be doing an extended base period, mainly sweetspot indoors and long, slow rides outdoors. As I’m over 50 I will maintain some VO2 Max work as per Joe Friel’s Fast after Fifty advice and I will lift some weights. Check back in for a bit more detail on all of that soon.

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Thanks to and © Timon Key

Windy August

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The first race of the month was the MDTTA 50 mile championship. It was meant to take place on J4/17 but due to flooding (again) it was switched to J4/9. The weather was warm, with a few showers and a bit of a breeze. My legs didn’t feel great and I had to work hard to stay on my target power but I managed to set my best time on a Cheshire 50 course. 01:51:11, 6th from 76 riders

The next weekend my 10 mile race was rained off.

It didn’t rain much for the Combined Associations 12hr but it was really, really windy. The first 6 hours or so I was pacing to beat my best distance but what I hadn’t factored in was that over the course of 12 hours battling with the wind was both mentally and physically challenging, and that really added to the fatigue. By the end I was really struggling with my shoulders and neck and struggling with position. Overall, I actually managed a better average power than the year before but I was 5 miles off at the end. Another massive thank you to club mates Dave and Darren for their unerring support during the day. 267.37 miles, 4th from 30 riders

I didn’t race again until the last day of the month. Luckily the downpours the day before and morning of the event didn’t leave sufficient flooding to need a course change, so the 10 mile race went ahead on J2/3. Again it was windy but I felt decent, and despite a 15 second hold-up that meant I had to unclip I managed a course best time. 22:07, 5th from 54 riders

Starting to feel a bit mentally (and physically) tired now. Only a couple more races left then time for a short break.

Heatwave. Monsoon.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog Time Trial

During July I’ve been trying to build towards the 12 hour later in August. I’ve mainly been doing sweetspot and a bit of tempo in between races with the aim of a short taper the week before. In the meantime I’ve had some decent rides and results – it’s been seemingly blazing hot or soaking wet but nearly always windy.

On Saturday 6th it was the Weaver Valley 25, and one of the few times this season that J2/9 hasn’t been disrupted by floods or roadworks or both. Legs felt really bad – think my sunsuit is too small for me (as opposed to me being too fat for it, obviously!) 55:32, 8th from 69 riders

The next day I rode the Liverpool Phoenix 25 at Rainford on D25/3 at the crack of stupid. A pleasant morning but hard to get going on sore legs from the day before. My best time on this course. 55:43, 3rd from 49 riders

The week after was the M&DTTA 100, which, due to us not having a viable 100 course in Cheshire anymore, was piggy-backed onto the WCTTCA 100 in D district. The original course, D100/6, had roadworks, so it was a re-run of the Anfield 100 on D100/2A. Again, I was up at stupid o’clock for the drive down and it was a bit chilly at 6am in the morning. I was really please with my ride – I paced it really well again, saving enough for a big push in the last 10 miles and was happy with my time at the end. 03:56:02, 4th from 56 riders

The Congleton CC 50 on 21st July was held on J4/9 – known locally as the King Street course. The weather was breezy but warm enough and again my pacing was pretty good – managing a consistent power output with a slight negative split. 01:52:18, 4th from 59 riders

My final race of the month was my own club’s open event, the Seamons CC 25. Again scheduled for J2/9 it was moved to the King Street 25 course on J4/8 due to yet more roadworks. It was very, very wet and saw a new course record (possibly Cheshire record) by Ethan Hayter, a World Pursuit and European Omnium champion. Despite not feeling great I managed a power PB for a 25 out of nowhere. Can’t explain it, shows exactly what I know about this training lark. 54:44, 10th from 68 riders