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

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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.

Scorchio


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

Finally!

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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 MyWindsock.com 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

February update

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Well the cold snap has continued this month. The first weekend was a write-off – sleety rain on the Saturday forced me onto the turbo but I was determined to get out on the Sunday as cold as it was. However, I turned back after 10 miles because the roads were icy and I didn’t want to risk a fall. So I made do with 20 miles outdoors and then a bit of a turbo session to finish off. During the week on my commute, the mercury dropped as far as -5C which is, as they say, a bit nippy.  The following weekend was no better.  Rain, sleet and strong winds on Saturday.  Ice, hail and settled snow on Sunday and Monday.  Two more weekend days on the turbo and the tram to work on the Monday.  To cap it all my commuter bike was having freehub issues (kindly repaired/replaced by KeepPedalling) and I got my first p******e for ages on my backup Raleigh touring bike.  This turned out to be a large shard of glass that went right through my usually-bulletproof Schwalbe Marathon tyres.  Needless to say, in near zero temperatures, changing the tube was somewhat painful, mainly due to trying to get the tyre back on the rim!

After a brief respite (albeit remaining cold) the weather took a turn for the worse as we approached the end of the month, with a strong Easterly wind bringing in cold air from Siberia.  As is usual with any weather event in the UK, the media and associated meteorologists went overboard with tales of “feels like” temperatures of -10C and the “beast from the east”, but for once it did actually snow and lived up to the hype, stopping me commuting by bike.

As I publish this it has been compounded by a storm hitting from the south bringing strong winds that are making it feel even colder.


In other news, as I mentioned last month, Highways England had issued a TRO to ban cyclists from the A63, thereby removing the fastest 10 mile time-trial course in the country (V718) and any chance I had of #project 1849 being a success. I, and many others including the CTT and Cycling UK (formerly CTC), wrote off our letters of objection as per the official process and waited with bated breath to see what would happen.  The date for objections was then extended into March so it is still unclear whether this course will be available for racing in 2018.


At the start of February I attended the Seamons Cycling Club 69th Annual Awards Dinner and was presented with the trophies I’d won during the 2017 season. Here’s a picture of me with the Club President

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and one with the trophies I received during the evening.

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Overall a very satisfying year at the club and a great event to round it all off.


Training hasn’t been great. I somehow strained my hip flexor early in the month (I think – I had pain at the front and top of my right thigh) and that made things more difficult, although it did seem to recover.  To compound it, I am definitely finding VO2Max intervals much harder than I used to (intervals of between 2 and 4 minutes duration at between 120% and 115% of FTP).  I’ve definitely done less work in zones 4 and 5 this year than last – I hope this isn’t significant.

I swapped the old road bike I had on the turbo for my TT bike.  I’ve made some contact point changes to my bike for this year including a Specialized Sitero saddle and new angled Zipp Vuka 110 extensions.  I’m hoping this will improve comfort and allow for a more aero position but my expectation is that it will take me most of March and April to adapt to it properly.

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Very little chance of hitting this number in aero tuck

I re-tested on this bike using the new position and it seems to have cost me a small number of watts in power.  I’m hoping that as I adapt that will come back but I doubt I will be able to get all of the power out in the aero position if past seasons are any indicator.

To cheer me up and help keep me motivated I’ve now entered all my planned events for March and April. When the race list comes out in January I use post-it notes to plan in potential races on a wall planner and then Sharpie them in when I book the race.  A simple but effective way of making sure I keep track of what I’m planning and what I’m actually entering.


Finally, as I post this my first race is only days away subject to the snow/ice clearing, which is by no means certain.  I’m not sure I could have trained harder over the winter and my aim isn’t to peak for a while just yet, so although I’m nervous I’m excited.  As this is season 6 I know from experience that the first few races will be horrible so my expectations are quite low, especially as the field for the first race is a quality one.  We shall see.

In February the weather only allowed me to get in 342 miles outdoors with 20,584ft ascent at around 15.5mph average, which used up around 12,920kcals. I did, however, spend 32 hours and 54 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,660kcals. Total for the month was 2,830TSS

Happy New Year – January Update

January often feels like the month that never ends.  The post-Christmas blues, dark and miserable, cold and wet.  Not the most inspiring month in the calendar so it is easy to lose focus.  Add in the poor weather that leads to a couple of weekends stuck indoors on the turbo going stir crazy.  However, on the positive side, the days start to get a little bit longer and the number of weeks until racing begins drops into single figures – so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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Towards the end of the month I had a nice lunch at the M&DTTA annual luncheon and prize presentation and also picked up a few medals and team trophies as a result of last season’s endeavours.  On a personal basis I came 2nd in the M&DTTA BAR, 12hr and Middle Distance Championship (1st veteran on standard) and 3rd in the 50 and 100 mile championships.  As part of Seamons teams we won the 25 mile Tom White trophy, the 100 mile South Lancs shield and the LH Brooks cup for the 12hr (pictured above and below).  Events like these provide further motivation, if needed, to continue with the hard work, and to catch up with people you haven’t seen since the end of the race season.

In terms of my training, at the end of December I came out of  my base phase and started speed and power work.  VO2Max and supra-threshold intervals came as quite a shock to the system.  I found them really hard.  Harder than I remember, but then I hadn’t done a proper one since the end of last season.  I’m still finding them really hard and that I need the recovery day after completing a session.  Whereas in previous years I would have ignored a recovery and done back-to-back sessions, this year I have resolved not to be as stupid!  I’m hoping that will pay off but as with all training, only time will tell, and it’s fair to say I’m having a bit of a training wobble at the moment.  There is an old saying that races are not won in the summer, they are won in the winter – winter miles, summer smiles!  Hope so – things are going well with power edging upwards and I’m a lot lighter than this time last year.  The big question is whether I can transfer the gains from the turbo to the bike – something which proved difficult last year – so no complacency here.

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As an aside to training I watched the final evening in the Revolution series at the Manchester Velodrome.  I was interested but didn’t have particularly high expectations because track racing is not really my “thing” but I have to say it was absolutely brilliant.

The young riders were especially impressive, but it was good to see great Olympic and World Class riders like Jason Kenny, Katie Archibald, Dani Rowe and Elinor Barker. I really enjoyed it and will probably go again the next time it comes around.

Finally, Project 1849 looks like it may stall before it even starts!  Highways England are looking to ban all cyclists from the V718, which is realistically the only course where I was likely to even get close to a sub 19 minute 10.  It will be a shame if that happens, but we live in a car-centric society where the answer to cycling safety is to ban the victims rather than address the actual issue at hand.  I will write more on this subject as it unfolds.

In January I managed 345 miles outdoors with 20,292ft ascent at around 14.9mph average, which used up around 13,357kcals. I spent 35 hours and 2 minutes on the turbo using a further 25,521kcals. Total for the month was 3,088TSS

A Chill Wind Blows – December (and 2017 overview)

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Much of December was taken up with Sweet Spot Base 2, which means long turbo sessions at various intervals in the “sweet spot” – somewhere around 88-94% of FTP.  I say somewhere because a) everybody has different physiology and b) there is no such thing as exact levels or zones as it is really a continuum.  Anyway, what is true is that the sweet spot intervals are meant to be tough but manageable with relatively short recovery intervals between them, and the training effect comes from an accumulation of fatigue.  By the end of the 5 week period it was pretty hard going and I was ready for a recovery week just in time for Christmas.

In between I managed to squeeze in some outdoor rides as well as my daily commute to work – and I hit a personal goal of doing every single commute in 2017 in shorts!  I did think one day that riding to work with the temperature on my computer showing -4C was bad enough, but the very next day it dropped to -6C.  Did I mention the shorts!  In conditions like that the commute isn’t so bad as it uses very busy arterial routes into Manchester and therefore they are well gritted.  It’s a different story at weekends though and the risk of black ice has forced me to stay indoors and ride the turbo.  It’s something I don’t mind for training during the week but it’s a bit soul destroying having to do it at weekend, rather than be out in the fresh air.

The downside of having a recovery week just before Christmas was not just the opportunity to gain weight (I ate a ridiculous amount of the wrong food) but also the fact that the Sustained Power Build phase of training would start immediately after Christmas – with the opening FTP test on Boxing Day!  The test felt really tough and it showed a very slight improvement (2W) over the previous one; albeit not quite as high as at this time last year.  However, I am using both a different test protocol and a different power meter this year so there will be differences.  Last year I used the 8 minute protocol, this year 20 minute.  Last year I used Garmin Vector pedal power meter readings, this year Tacx Neo’s reading from the hub.  In theory, drivetrain losses (the difference between power at the pedal and power transferred to the hub) should mean my readings this year are 2-3 % lower anyway – so as long as I am improving relatively this year I’m happy.

In December I managed 410 miles outdoors with 26,995ft ascent at around 15.8mph average, which used up around 14,997kcals. I spent 33 hours exactly on the turbo using a further 24,217kcals, which just about covers Christmas Day! Total for the month was 3,437 TSS

My summary for 2017 is in the infographic above – I used canva to create it which is pretty cool.

I wish you all the best for 2018.  Happy New Year! 

November and Season 5 (2017) in Review

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VTTA Manchester & NW 2017 Awards Luncheon

Season 5 Roundup

I raced slightly less this year due to a number of reasons.  I was ill and forced to miss some races, I had a DNS (mechanical) and some races were simply cancelled due to roadworks – probably more than all of my previous seasons combined.  In the end I competed in 33 open races in total.  Doing fewer races probably contributed to me being more competitive at the end of the season in comparison to previous years, where my form and fitness were dropping off a cliff, especially after the 12 hour.  This year the 12 hour seemed to give me a form boost, which was a pleasant surprise.  That all said, I still raced for 1,393 miles at an average speed of 25.7mph, which used around 53,190kcals – a decent wedge of cake!  That’s made up of twelve 10s, one 15, ten 25s, six 50s, three 100s and a 12hr.  (I don’t include club 10’s as I treat them as training – but there were a further 14 of them)

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Freezing cold and wet in August – British Summer! (© Ellen Isherwood)

At the start of the season I’d had my best ever winter training and my numbers on the turbo were better than ever.  I’d also done some testing and had a new position that was pretty aero.  It was disheartening to then find out that I couldn’t transfer either the power numbers or the racing position to where it really mattered – in races!  My times were fine – in fact I posted course bests on many occasions – but the improvement I’d been expecting just wasn’t there.  I struggled on for a bit, adjusting my position to see if that helped, but in the end I realised that I wasn’t going to significantly increase my power in races during the year, and I could only edge towards the aggressive aero position, so the only other option open to me was to better manage my weight.  My thinking was that this would increase my W/Kg figure and my VO2 max but also reduce my frontal area to increase my W/CdA.  It would also hopefully allow me to maintain a more aero position for longer.  So I set about using an app called myfitnesspal to monitor my net nutrient intake.  In previous seasons I’d entered the season at race weight and then not really bothered about it during the year and I’d find that my weight drifted up so that at the end of the season I’d be as much as 3 or 4kg heavier.  I performed some tests in May at the University of Chester (read about it here) and I got a bit of a rude awakening due to my weight and bodyfat %.  Anyway, the results of taking it seriously are there to see

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Weight & Bodyfat % during Season 5 – 2017

I managed to lose a significant amount of weight and bodyfat.  My power dropped a bit as expected but my times and performances improved, and eventually the power returned.  In monitoring my food intake I’ve found I’m eating more – but it is generally better food, although I haven’t been going without treats or feeling deprived.  The net result is I’m now about 5kg lighter than I was earlier in April/May.  For what it’s worth, in April I rode a 10 and averaged 305W at 67.5kg, or 4.52W/Kg.  The last 10 I rode I averaged 304W at 61.2kg, or 4.97W/Kg.  I don’t know what the fastest riders are riding at but I suspect it’s nearer 6W/Kg which at my age is not going to happen!  And I’m not sure if 61kg is taking it too far so I’d be happy to maintain wight at anything around 63kg (10st) going forwards (which is where I am now).

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A rare hot day! Courtesy of and © Ellen Isherwood

In summary it felt like an up and down year.  If I average my results out I probably did slightly worse this season – I certainly only managed 2 podium places versus 1 win and 5 podiums the year before, and my percentage of top ten finishes was about 5% lower.  And I lost the Cheshire Points Series by 6 points rather than 4 – the gap is widening (although Ben must be nearly 20 years younger than me!)  He also beat me into 2nd place in the M&DTTA BAR as well, but at least a bronze medal last year becomes a silver this time.

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Last year 4 points, this year 6!!

I did manage to set personal course bests on most of the courses I’ve ridden this year, and I’ve had a very successful season with the VTTA Manchester & NW group, winning the BAR and a number of other trophies.  It’s always nice to see your name engraved on a trophy that goes back many, many years although I still feel out of place next to many of the names also on them.

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What has been clear is that everyone has moved on and it’s getting harder and harder to keep pace so I guess I should be satisfied, especially given that I’m getting on a bit!

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The dreaded roadworks appeared more than ever!

As mentioned above and frequently this year, roadworks have featured more often than I can remember in any previous season, resulting in changed courses and cancelled events.  The weather has felt worse too.  It’s definitely been wetter than last year and although there haven’t been more very windy days, there have hardly been any days where there was no real wind to speak of.  It seems like wet and windy summers are the new norm so I guess we’ll just have to get used to them.

So what of my targets for the year?  Well, I hit some and I missed some.

  • New PBs at all distances ridden with the exception of 10M – I missed that by 5s
  • I wanted power PBs at all distances.  I only managed those at 50M and 12 hour
  • I wanted to win the M&DTTA Cheshire Points Series – I came 2nd again!
  • I wanted to win one of the VTTA M&NW trophies which I did, including the BAR
  • I wanted to win the main Seamons club competitions – I won the Timetrial and BAR (Best All Rounder) but came 2nd in the Club 10 Series
  • I wanted to set a club record which I duly did and I only narrowly missed a couple of others during the season
  • I wanted to win at least one of the club championships and I managed to win the 25, 50, 100 and 12 hours (which is an improvement on last year when I won the 50 and 12 hour)
  • I wanted to finish top 20 in the UK Best All-Rounder (BAR) competition.  I was 22nd with an average speed of 26.027mph across 50M, 100M and 12 hour (versus 35th in 2016)
  • I wanted to win more prize money than 2016 – I fell slightly short but still won over £700

In addition, I was delighted to be part of a winning team on 11 occasions – I’m very proud to ride for Seamons CC, a club with a long and rich TT history.  I was also part of the teams that broke the club team records for 25M, 50M, 100M and 12 hours.

I don’t get a lot of satisfaction in my professional life these days so I make no apologies for taking pride in the things I’ve managed to achieve, and even in those where I have fallen short – because I know I gave it my best.  The key, as with everything, is hard work, application and effort and as I’ve said before – if I can do it, so can pretty much anyone.


November

My November training has been going well.  I completed Sweetspot Base I and started Base II – I managed to record a modest FTP increase in the 6 weeks.  I’m down on power versus this time last year but up on W/Kg (see above!) and I’m taking it more steadily this year and managing my own expectations.  I did suffer from some knee pain after a couple of long rides one weekend only to notice that my seat post had slipped and dropped my saddle by over 1cm.  It’s a lesson I’ve been taught many times – a sudden onset of pain is usually the result of some form of equipment change or malfunction.

In November I managed 425 miles outdoors with 25,430ft ascent at around 15.7mph average, which used up around 15,954kcals. I spent 32 hours and 50 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,629kcals. Total for the month was 3,178 TSS

This will be my last post before Christmas so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and happy time.  And if you are riding the Rapha 500, good luck and stay safe.

September – end of season spin down

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September is when the season winds down and we head into the winter.  But not before the BDCA 100 which is the only real opportunity for northern based riders to ride a “fast” 100 without driving significant distances.  I set my 100 mile PB here in 2015 which has stood ever since, mainly due to the 2016 event being cancelled due to adverse weather.  So I was really looking forward to this and I was feeling much better this year after the 12 hour.  My preparation was all pretty much to plan – lots of tempo miles and a short taper.  And, beyond all my expectations, the weather was about as perfect as it can get in this country.  I’ve heard about these “float” type days but haven’t experienced many in the time I’ve been doing this.  It was warm without being too warm and there was next to no wind to speak of.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d put together a 10 mile split schedule to get me to around 3 hours and 40 minutes, although it was more in hope than in anticipation.  However, I felt really good on the first 20 miles out and found myself nearly 3 minutes up on target.  As I reached the turn at Blythe Bridge I realised that what little wind there was had been behind me (helping me up the “concrete mountain”) and was now in my face.  It wasn’t like a proper headwind but it took a slight edge off the really fast bit of the course.  By the halfway mark my gains had been reversed slightly and I was only about 90 seconds up.  The second 50 mile “lap” followed the same course as the first and I was happy that I managed to maintain my power until about 70 miles.  Between 70 and 90 miles I struggled and the wheels almost came off – metaphorically; thankfully they remained firmly attached to my bike!  My power dipped quite a lot and I was struggling with some undercarriage problems which didn’t help.  Time to MTFU!

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I managed to get it all back together again in the last 10 miles but by the time I’d finished I’d put just about everything in that I could – it took a while afterwards before I stopped feeling sick and dizzy.  I was delighted to knock nearly 14 minutes off my PB with a new club record of 3 hours 38 minutes and 52 seconds.  I’d been chasing a club record all season so this meant a lot, especially after having thought I’d broken the 50 record only to find Alan had already beaten both the record and me.  I also appear to have qualified to get my name on the timetrialling forum all-time fastest list which is something I never imagined possible when I started this lark.  For 100 miles it is a list of riders who have gone under 3 hours and 40 minutes.  I realise that everyone is getting faster and I probably won’t be on there for long when the goalposts get shifted but again, it means something to me that I can say I managed it.  Subsequently, I also found out that I’d missed a VTTA National Age record by 1 minute and 10 seconds – again, doesn’t seem like much but totally unexpected to get that close so I’m very pleased with everything about this ride.  8th from 78 riders

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

In sharp contrast the weather had noticeably changed over the course of the week so that when I travelled down to South Wales the following Sunday it was very windy and very wet.  R25/3H is arguably the fastest 25M course in the country but not in a gale/monsoon – a fact reflected by the 60-odd DNSs.  Racing can be dangerous in extreme wind and rain, especially on DC courses, so people make their own decisions about riding or not and that is fair enough.  I decided to travel and ride despite knowing there was almost no chance of a really fast time or a PB, ultimately because I respect the commitment made by the organiser and the many volunteers to put the event on – and who were out in the same weather for much longer than I was.  Anyway, I parked next to a motorhome and the kind gentleman let me set up my turbo under the awning so at least I wasn’t soaked during my warm up.  The course itself was decent enough – there is a large downhill near the start known as the “bank”, which was very quick even into a headwind.  However with the swirling nature of the wind and the spray I ended up on the drops rather than stay in aero tuck (#wuss) and I was still 40mph+.  The rest of the outbound leg was a struggle into the wind but after the turn I was flying back.  Unfortunately the disadvantage incurred outbound far outweighed the tailwind back and I ended up with a time 90s off my PB.  On the positive side, I now know what the course is like so if I come back next year that will help.  By the time I got back to my car (nearly 6 additional miles up that bank I mentioned) I was like a drowned rat.  It took ages to get dry and change into fresh clothes and as I walked into the HQ to sign out and hand number 66 back I was stopped by doping control – but it was number 67 they needed.  Good to see them there though.   20th from 55 riders

The damp and the detritus from South Wales meant I needed to do a bit of maintenance on the bike and for the second time the hidden/aero front brake had a corroded leaf spring that snapped

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Experience has taught me that the tiny screw that holds it on is made of cream cheese and strips really easily so I contacted Canyon to order new calipers.  In the meantime I would revert to the solution I used first time around – namely a strip of souvenir Cyprus eraser cut to size to provide the “spring” back against the fork wall.  This is a known problem with the Speedmax front brake it seems – although that didn’t stop Canyon at first sending me replacement parts with half of them missing.

Sunday morning in the South Lakes was a lovely crisp morning, albeit a bit cold. There was limited wind and thankfully no rain.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d not ridden Levens for several years.  It’s a course I like – straight out and back, fairly quiet and fast on a good day, due in part to the gift hill at the start.  Before I ventured onto the V it was where I set my 10 mile PB.  The HQ was new to me – the bowling club in Levens Village which isn’t designed for 90 riders and their cars!  So I collected my number and parked up in the usual lay-by near to Sizergh Castle.  Once warmed up on the turbo it’s a short ride to the start.  I was very happy with my race overall – I managed a similar power output to the start of the season (which is unusual for me) and I knocked a whole second off my course best! 18th from 82 riders (£20, fastest 50+ age group)

My final TT of the season was the last race in the Cheshire Points series – the Stretford Wheelers 25.  It was due to take place on J2/9 but surprise surprise there were roadworks!  This season has been a complete nightmare for roadworks in the north west and it must have driven organisers to absolute distraction.  Instead it was run on the J4/8 course, which many people prefer, myself included.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The weather was warm and mainly dry – the odd hint of damp in the air beforehand but nothing significant.  I was feeling really good and when I set off my power was great.  The first short loop saw the riders turn onto the A50 for a short distance and then left again onto Penny’s Lane.  As I turned I mistakenly hit the front shifter and my chain jumped off the big ring, missed the small ring and jammed between the bottom bracket and the chainring.  I stopped, freed it up and put the chain on the small ring and set off again.  The bloody thing then jumped off the other way as it wouldn’t shift up to the big ring and the chain ended up jammed between the big ring and the derailleur.  I stopped again, put it back on and set off again but that was basically my time gone.  I decided to make it a great training session instead and proceeded to try to smash myself.  A short delay onto the A535 and then again onto King Street confirmed it wasn’t my day.  I powered into the headwind still feeling great and then turned into Byley Lane to see where I would be after one lap.  Only to find a line of cars (and riders) queued behind a herd of cows running up the road.  Followed by a marshall in a hi-viz jacket!  I sat there behind them for a while with the other riders before the marshall turned from running and shouted to go past down the right hand side of the herd.  So I did, quite carefully though, as I didn’t fancy spooking running cows!  As I completed lap one my time was nearly 36 minutes – it had been a bit over 32 minutes the last time I rode this course.  The second lap was uneventful by comparison and I ended up crossing the line somewhere close to 4 minutes down on my previous time.

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© Christian Fox

However, I was very happy with my form and power, and as that was my last race of the season I go into a break and then winter training with better form than I’ve ever had at the end of a season.  15th from 98 riders

During the month I managed 519 miles outdoors with 21,012ft ascent at around 18.4mph average, which used up around 18,471kcals. I spent 13 hours and 15 minutes on the turbo using a further 9,311kcals. Total for the month was 2,375TSS

 

August – balmy summer days…?

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Battling the freezing rain on the Associations 12 Hour (© Ellen Isherwood)

August was topped and tailed with visits to the V in Hull.  Hoping for fast days, at the start of the month we got the opposite, an unusually slow day.  More on the end of the month later.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

Normally, whilst not ideal, a westerly wind is okay if it’s not too strong.  I’ve set my PB on a day with a westerly.  However, on this day it was too strong on the inbound leg and it appeared to affect most of the field, apart from those at the very, very pointy end.  I paced the ride really well with a negative power split to enable me to push as hard as possible into the headwind back but my run of 19’s on the V stretching back to May 2016 came to an end with a 20:18!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

A week later and it was the Congleton CC 50 mile open on the J4/9 course.  I feel this is a better course than J4/16 but it has shorter laps so there can be some congestion later on.  It was a nice enough day although the wind, as ever, was more than you’d ideally like, albeit in the “correct” direction for this course.  I was really happy with my ride apart from the traffic, which seemed unusually high – I got held up many times and even ended up unclipping twice at key junctions.

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© Ellen Isherwood

It was our club 50 championship and I was happy to come away with the win, plus Seamons won the team prize again so that was very satisfying.  8th from 100 riders (£60, 2nd on standard, 1st team)

Associations 12 Hour

On Sunday 20th August it was the WCTTA, MDTTA and LTTCA combined 12 Hour event in Shropshire.  The course was much changed from the one I rode last year (here) apart from the final 12.7 mile finish circuit.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d worked out a feeding and pacing strategy as best I could as didn’t really know the course so it was a guess really.  I also had a power number in mind based on what I did last year, and was pretty pleased to have got it within a watt by the end, although I somehow ended up with 2s and 5s power peaks of 1100W and 943W respectively, which is absolutely stupid on a 12 and very much a schoolboy error.

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The glamour of amateur bike racing

It was pretty cool when I set off but the sky was clear and it warmed up during the morning.  The first circuit took us from Press Heath to Espley and then three laps down to Shaw Birch and back.  The outbound bit was headwind which was hard work and other than Peplow the surface was reasonable.  I didn’t stop during that first 70 miles other than for a call of nature, and then headed back to Prees to join the day circuit, a 22 mile loop around Redbrook, Welshampton, Quina Brook and Tilstock.  This was a new route to me and it was very rolling terrain, with a surface that was patchy in parts, especially some of the smaller rural roads. It would probably be very pleasant for a social ride apart from the unbelievably annoying and utterly pointless temporary traffic lights – two different sets of them!  The road barely narrowed where they were set up and on these quiet country lanes they seemed pretty unnecessary.  I got stopped a number of times.  The finish circuit reversed part of the day circuit through Tilstock and was the same as last year (with the addition of one of the sets of lights).  I didn’t realise at the time but since the event a few people asked me what was wrong in the first 100 miles.  Apparently I was well down in the standings but I was fine and just pacing things with the full 12 hours in mind.

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Entering Tilstock

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Leaving Tilstock

To give me an idea of how hard to push it I taped the pacing sheet, and my scheduled stops, to my basebar.

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In comparison to the picture above my times were 50 – 02:07, 100 – 04:17, 150 – 06:28, 200 – 08:46 and 250 – 11:00.  What I didn’t factor in was the unscheduled traffic light stops.  This meant that instead of actually cutting the amount of time stopped from last years effort, I ended up stopping for more time, despite fewer food and drink stops.  In total I ended up being stopped for around 12 minutes – half of which was unplanned.

During the day it had been warm and I thought that wearing a base layer may have been a wrong choice.  However, around 4pm the temperature dipped as the clouds closed in and then the rain started.  And it was cold – a base layer was definitely the right choice!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ellen Isherwood

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ellen Isherwood

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ellen Isherwood

Last year I got slower and slower as the punishing road surface and the pain of staying in position took its toll.  In fact I ended up sat up last year at the end more often than being in tuck.  This year, apart from a few wobbles, I was much more capable of staying in position.  That’s not to say it didn’t hurt.  It really did.  A lot.  By the end my neck, shoulders and lower back were sore, as well as the obvious clacker area.  But my chest and front of my arms hurt too.  The rain also made it very cold so I was suffering from leg cramps at the same time as trying to push hard to keep my heart rate up and keep warm.

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Upper – 2017 Lower – 2016

Although the pain is physical it requires mental strength to push through it.  You’d never get to the start of a 100 mile TT and say to yourself “nearly done, only 4 hours left” but that’s exactly what you do on a 12 after 8 hours!  Apparently, according to my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt I used over 9,000 kcalories.  Here’s what I ate/drank

  • Power gel shots
  • Power Go Energy double cappuccino gel
  • Power Go Energy mini bar x 3
  • Tesco chocolate rice cake x 3
  • ZipVit Zv7c cappuccino gel x 2
  • Clif shot bloks x 2
  • Power wafer bar x 3
  • Tesco spicy seed shot
  • Bottle of Hi5 Energy Source x 5

That still left me with a 6,000 kcalories deficit so I must be pretty efficient at converting fat to usable energy.

Towards the end I knew I was close to my target of 270 miles but alas the traffic lights put paid to that and despite a final push I finished just short!

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12 hours running and still 25% battery left – beats Garmin 520 comfortably

By the time I got back to my car I was borderline hypothermic and it took me ages to stop shivering!  My final official distance was revised down to 267.64 miles which is second in the Seamons club records but 1st all-age veteran.  Also, in the provisional results we missed out on the team prize by three quarters of a mile – incredible!  3rd from 50 riders (£75 – 3rd overall + 2nd team (1st M&D – LH Brookes Trophy))

Last year I didn’t really recover from the 12 and was tired for the remainder of the season.  I was a little bit more active in my recovery this time and I haven’t felt as tired.  So I was optimistic about the remaining races I’d entered.  Next up was the Withington Wheelers 10 on J2/1 but amazingly, yet again the course was subject to roadworks and temporary traffic lights!  A little used sporting course – J6/10 – was the substitute.  I’d ridden this once before – my first ever time trial nearly 7 years earlier.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

It was a very pleasant afternoon – sunny and relatively calm.  I made a bit of a mistake with my contact lenses which meant my vision wasn’t great and on a course I wasn’t familiar with, that was very twisty, narrow and rolling, I was slightly hesitant.  That said, I was happy enough with my power output and my overall performance.  7th from 79 riders (provisional – £20)

The day after it was my final trip to Hull to try and knock some seconds off my 10M PB.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The HQ was at Hull Ionians rugby club, as opposed to Newport Village Hall, and it is a fantastic facility for an HQ, albeit the ride back was nearly as long as the race.  In sunny conditions it was a very pleasant way to cool down.  It was a much hotter day with calmer conditions than earlier in the month and as such I performed much better.  I was, however, 5s slower than my PB so it will realistically have to wait until 2018 for another tilt at it.  56th from 115 riders

During the month I managed 812 miles outdoors with 29,471ft ascent at around 19.1mph average, which used up around 28,494kcals. I spent 12 hours and 22 minutes on the turbo using a further 8,671kcals. Total for the month was 2,831TSS