Hot then Cold

Ade's Road Cycling Blog
One hour later = freezing monsoon!

The first 25 of the season was the Withington Wheelers on J2/9. I thought my race was ruined after a mile or so when a JCB pulled out in front of me and I sat behind it all the way to Chelford Island (25s slower on that section than on the second lap). However, maybe the adrenaline kicked in because I felt really great all ride. There were temporary lights on the course but they were well marshalled and I came in with my 2nd best time ever on J2/9. 53:32, 4th from 106 riders

The VTTA NW 10 took place on the following Tuesday, which meant there was a lot of traffic and fairly significant hold-ups, some caused by slower riders riding near the white line in the centre which meant that not only could the cars not pass them but neither could I. The course was also shortened a little bit (to 9.7M) due to roadworks but at least we got to ride. 21:32, 4th from 42 riders

Another 25 on J2/9 and thankfully the temporary lights had gone. The Macclesfield Wheelers put on a really nice event but despite the same power as the previous week, the wind meant I was nearly a minute slower. 55:28, 5th from 81 riders

First club 10 mid-week and a good turnout on a pleasant evening.

An early start in the Mid-Shropshire Wheelers 25 on D25/8e on Easter Sunday during what was a heat wave Easter weekend. The early start meant my legs suffered (not a morning person) but I was pleased with my time. 55:17, 6th from 91 riders

Horrible night for the club 10 – unsurprisingly a poor turnout on a windy and wet evening.

Final race of April was the Croston Velo 10 at Levens (L1015) on a day when many events were cancelled due to storm conditions. The picture above shows the HQ a couple of hours before I was due to start. By the time I came to warmup it was monsoon-ish, with hail and freezing temperatures. Thankfully the wind wasn’t terrible, although it was a crosswind, but freezing rain meant I never really got warm and struggled the whole ride. A complete contrast from the week before. 21:02, 8th from 55 riders

Fingers crossed the weather gets better in May!

Spring has Sprung*

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Thanks to

*as I type this there has been sleet and snow!

The first weekend in March feels quite early to be starting racing.  Despite having been out on my TT bike the previous weekend, 10 miles at race pace on J2/1 was a real shock to the system.  I had tweaked my position a bit over the winter – 2cm lower at the front and saddle 2.5cm further back – and I hated it.  It made my shoulders and neck painful, made my legs hurt in ways they don’t normally hurt and my power wasn’t where it should be.  On the plus side, the weather was quite pleasant, the earlier start time seemed to work well and the new organisers, University of Manchester Cycling Club, did a great job. 21:54, 6th from 59

The next weekend was on J4/20e in very windy conditions.  I persevered but the position felt no better and I was blown about a fair bit.  This, and an unscheduled stop at the first junction, contributed to another disappointing set of power numbers. 22:32, 2nd from 40

Very high winds and lots of rain put paid to the following weekend (good call) so the next race was on J2/3 a week later.  At the end of a decent block of training I felt tired going into it and unsurprisingly performed pretty badly. 22:42, 14th from 96

I finally lost patience and put my bars back up to the same height as last season ready for the Stretford Wheelers Gordon Pickering Memorial 10 on J2/1.  Gordon was a lovely man and is still sadly missed. Disaster struck for me pre-race when the zip went on my skinsuit so I raced with 4 judiciously placed safety pins holding my belly in, much to the amusement of the starter and pusher off (no I haven’t put weight on!)  My legs felt a bit better but nearly a mile idling behind two cars behind a slower rider put paid to any thoughts of a decent time.  I still wasn’t happy with my saddle position so after the race I put that back to last season’s position too. 22:16, 11th from 104

In a major error of judgement I had decided to ride the Merseyside VTTA 15 the next morning in Shropshire, completely failing to factor in the change to BST robbing me of an hour of sleep.  However, despite it being much windier and colder than it looked, my bike felt comfortable again and I recorded an average power over 15 miles higher than any of the 10’s up until that point. 33:48, 6th from 68

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Thanks to @v_petkov_portraits

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

National Clarion Road Race Championships 2014

In 2012 I rode my first bunch race – the National Clarion Road Race Championships.  Two years later and I was riding my 2nd.  I wasn’t feeling great on the morning, feeling like I was coming down with something.  Daughter Kate, who was due to come and support the old man and take photos, was laid up with really bad stomach pains (she’s now in hospital as I type this under observation) and I think I’d caught the accompanying cold she had.

When I arrived at Mallory Park my mood didn’t improve.  Exposed, windy and hilly was how I described it.  I watched the juniors finishing their race and surveyed the track.  The long straight that contained the start line was straight into a headwind.  It then jolted upwards and right into a mini-chicane before turning 180˚ back on itself and down a long flowing curving straight which looked fast, especially with the tailwind.  It then chicaned left then right, another straight, left then right again before a 90˚ turn with crosswinds coming from your left.  A long, sweeping turn into the headwind brought you at the beginning of the finishing straight, and that was a lap.

After my last effort, where I’d done a stint on the front near the end of the race and been rapidly shelled through the pack and out of the back, I was wary of the same thing happening again.  I’m a stronger rider now but still very much a tester, meaning holding threshold for long periods of time, not accelerating out of corners and onto attacks continuously.  I was worried my fitness wouldn’t hold out.

Tactically, I’m pretty naive.  I did a stint on the front very early on and then dropped back a bit so when four Nottingham riders went off the front I was nowhere near them.  Some of us tried to organise the chase but as there were at most half a dozen riders doing turns it amounted to nothing.  After a couple of big pulls at the front I realised all I was doing was burning my own energy and I’d get shelled, so I dropped into the pack for a couple of laps.  Matt from the club had done similar and reached the same conclusion.  Unfortunately, the rest of the North Cheshire contingent had already been lapped and were riding their own race – it takes a certain kind of guts to do that so chapeau to them for continuing.

As the 5 lap sign went up I made sure I was somewhere near the front.  There were plenty of riders hovering about there without actually doing any work on the front but I suppose that’s what you call tactically astute.  I ended up doing some more stints, along with a couple of Bury guys and a guy from Heanor.  As the laps counted down I realised I was surrounded by a lot of strong looking Bury riders, and they were trying to get two riders at a time away by attacking strongly whilst the remainder held the bunch back.  After jumping on two such attacks I realised this would continue and I’d eventually run out of energy.  As we passed the 2 lap mark I decided on the slope I would attack and go down fighting.  One Bury rider and one Heanor rider made the jump with me and we managed to get a gap.  You can see it on the fill film above at around 1hr and 2m.

It was then a case of trying to hold it for a lap and a half.  I’m not sure whether the Bury guys behind held the bunch up but I half expected to be caught.  We weren’t and as we came into the last corner onto the finishing straight the Bury guy (Mike I found out later) opened a 10m gap.  I sprinted after him and closed it a few metres but realised he was too strong.  I just held off the Heanor guy (Josh) and rolled in 6th.

One slightly sour note afterwards was that it was pointed out to me that I’d broken the rules by running a seatpost camera and I was criticised for riding in a pseudo TT style by balancing my arms on the bars.  It’s something I often do when riding into headwinds but apparently it is a faux pas in racing, and the camera rule is a British Cycling/UCI regulation.  Anyway, I reported it to the organiser so whether my result stands is down to him somewhat.  I enjoyed my race, and I think the footage looks pretty cool – but it did take the edge off things today somewhat.

Ride stats : 28.24 miles in 1hr 11m at 23.8mph average. 1,455ft ascent (that hill was bigger than I thought!), energy used 1,245kcals at average HR of 173bpm

National Clarion Race Championship 2012

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Four of us from North Cheshire Clarion rode the National Clarion Race Championships at Darley Moor motorcycle race circuit.  For Phil and I this was our first taste of racing, whilst Nick and Matt have both raced at Tameside Criterions.  The Clarions were well-represented – I counted Stockport, Nottingham, Saddleworth, Calder, West Lothian and Crewe amongst others, and there were plenty who looked like they meant business!

I rode round the triangular track to warmup.  The start line led quickly to a 60 degree left-hander and then a slight up hill straight drag for about half a mile with a tailwind.  A manufactured hairpin awaited turning into a headwind, followed by a chicane and then down to the next corner, turning into a sidewind, slightly uphill, a chicane and back across the line for another lap.

It’s fair to say I was very nervous about the race, particularly the pace and the cornering.  75 minutes followed by 5 laps is quite a long time at fullgas.  Half an hour warmup gave me a lot more confidence on the corners, even catching my pedal on the hairpin as I went round it too low.

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The time came to gather at the start line with the 35 other starters.  A bit of a briefing and the over 50’s were set off first.  The rest of the field then set off on a rolling start round the first bend and then off up the tailwind straight.  By the end of the straight we’d hit 30mph before slowing to roll round the hairpin and then power out into the headwind.  It was tough going and I quickly learned to tuck in behind somebody and stay there down the straight.  I kept a close eye on Matt, who with his added experience, was my reference point of what to do.  Nottingham had the most riders and made the pace at the front, alternating between strong attacks which upped the pace and then slowing the pace.  It’s very sapping constantly slowing then accelerating hard, and after 10 minutes I thought I would be struggling.  At this point Phil had already been dropped and I think Nick may have been too.  However, I hung in and I must have got used to it as it got easier and I felt pretty comfortable.

After about an hour I was struggling a bit with cramp but still sitting in the pack and moving through it as and when I wanted.  The course was wide, as were the corners, so it wasn’t as daunting as I expected.  However, the cramp was painful, my back was aching and it’s actually a bit tedious going round and round constantly!

At the 75 minutes board I made a massive mistake.  As we crossed the line and approached the corner and I accelerated early and moved quickly up the peloton. For most of the other laps the peloton accelerated out of the bend and up the tailwind straight.  This time they didn’t and I went flying past and found myself on the front!  The peloton shields you considerably, and whilst I’d been riding at 170-175bpm, my heart rate rapidly jumped to 185-192bpm.  I slowed but nobody came through, and at the end of the headwind straight I was shattered.  The pack then went past and I couldn’t hold on to the end of it – I was shelled out of the back.  It’s impossible to get back on by your self and I fell further behind.

I’m pleased to say I didn’t get lapped though, and came in in 21st place, with Matt in 19th.  Nick and Phil gave it everything too – kudos to them all.

Massive learning curve and hard work – which will all help towards my goals next year.  Kate took some great photos too so it was a really fun day.

Ride stats : 38.2 miles in 1hr 34m at 24.2mph average.  Average HR 176bpm, 1686kcals used.

Strava ride here