Time for Reflection

I wrote about returning to time-trialling back in May and the fact that even after a year off I couldn’t muster that much enthusiasm for it. Since then things had improved – I got more comfortable again and times and results were improving. But in my last race one of my friends in the NW time-trial scene was involved in a collision with a car and lost his life, leaving a devastated family. There’s a police investigation so it isn’t right to comment other than to say that it is a straight piece of road and it was a crystal clear day. He was a top bloke and it’s a terrible tragedy. I can’t begin to understand what his family are going through, it must be awful. It has knocked the stuffing out of me. I’ll see the season out but I need to think long and hard over the winter whether I want to keep doing this. If you ride, stay safe. If you drive, please take care.

Back Racing (just not very well…)

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

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Club 10 picture by Kate’s TT Pictures (Facebook)

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

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Race of truth by Kate’s TT Pictures (Facebook)

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

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

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Aerocoach Align armrest sheared off after pothole

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

New Chainring

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

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

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The “before picture”

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

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

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

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The “after” picture, including aero coach chain guard

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

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

September – Season Review

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Check out https://www.facebook.com/ttkate/

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

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

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

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Thanks to and © Christian Fox

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

Quick Season Summary

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

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

What Now?

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

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Thanks to and © Timon Key

Heatwave. Monsoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

August – 12 Hours is a Long Time

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I had two main targets coming into August – both season goals.

Club 50 Championship

The Seamons Club 50 mile championship (and also the final race in our TT Champion competition) took place as part of the Congleton CC 50 mile open around the J4/16 course.

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It was a warm and sunny day again and I was trialling a new bottle carrier that clamps onto the saddle rails – made by Topeak.  It’s a modular system that allows one or two of their Ninja bottle cage range to attach to it.  I have two – one that holds a pouch for an inner tube underneath, and one that holds CO2 canisters (as shown).  If you look closely, tyre levers are integrated into the side of the main spine of the cage.

These were in preparation for the 12 hour and I have to say they are really good – very easy to get the bottles in and out, plus supposedly more aero than a non-aero bottle on the downtube.

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Picture courtesy of and © Richard Howes Photography

On another warm but breezy day I was very pleased with my ride, recording my second best time on J4/16 despite encountering the cows crossing the road for the first time in a good few years.  It was good enough to win the club championship and retain the trophy for another year.  50M in 01:52:45, 5th from 82 riders (£40 – 1st vet on standard, £20 1st team) 


Weekend Off

No racing so spent the weekend in the lakes – mainly eating!


Carb Loading isn’t as fun as it sounds…

As I began my taper down to the 12 hour on the 19th, I also started to increase my food intake from about 72 hours out, notably lots of carbs.  The goal was to hit about 8-10g/kg of body weight, so in my case between 500 – 600g of carbs.  During the Giro D’Italia earlier in the year, Team Sky had made much about Chris Froome’s long solo breakaway win, and the fact that they had calculated his nutrition needs as if it was some magical marginal gain.  The fact is testers have been doing that for years on longer rides such as a 12 hour.  My own nutrition spreadsheet has evolved since 2016 and now delivers me 90g of carb per hour during the race, with stops calculated to change bottles and pick up extra food.  90g per hour is considered the maximum the body can absorb, which is why trying to “fill up” the fuel (glycogen) stores with carb loading makes sense.

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Project Management 101 for testers!

Perhaps not surprisingly, by the end of the week I was sick of it, but it did pay off in the end.

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This is what fuelling for a 12hr looks like!


Combined Associations 12 Hour

The weather forecasts were pretty mixed – some were showing persistent rain, most were showing high humidity and decent temperatures but all were showing a very windy day.

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The HQ (and start) was at the finishing circuit on an industrial estate in Wrexham, which sounds glamorous but really isn’t.

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It’s all glamour…

Nutrition

I was up at 3:45am and I had two cartons of Instant Oats porridge.  Then, immediatly prior to and during the event I consumed the following, timed to give me approx 90g of carbs per hour (as per spreadsheet above)

Item g Carb Kcals Count
SIS BetaFuel drink mix (700ml) 80 320 8
Zipvit ZV7c Caffiene Gel 51 204 2
PowerBar PowerGel Shots 48 210 1
Cliff ShotBlok 48 192 2
SIS Go Energy Large Bar 40 227 4
Honey Stinger Energy Bar 26 173 2
Stoats Porridge Bar 26 226 3

As mentioned I carried two bottles behind my saddle and I tucked 2 or 3 items of food inside my skinsuit at the neck opening.  In total, I consumed around 6,000kcals if you include the early breakfast, and I was still in deficit at the end.  I planned four stops to change bottles and get more food – these were at intervals of around 74 miles, 57 miles, 46 miles and 48 miles.  I also knew I’d need a few ad-hoc nature breaks too – one of the many problems with being over 50!  The fantastic support team I had made these stops really quick and efficient so this year there were only just over 6 minutes where I wasn’t moving, and that included 3 unscheduled stops at temporary traffic lights on the course.  That’s 5 minutes fewer stops than last year.

The weather

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It was windy at the start, but dry and reasonably warm.  I opted to wear a baselayer but because of the wind I also cut a small square of emergency space blanket (the tinfoil ones*) and wore that across my chest inside my skinsuit.  That would allow me to ditch it later on when it got warmer.  I’d also wiped the inside of my visor with washing-up liquid the day before as it helps stop it steaming up – I find the Aerohead is very prone to this in damp or humid conditions.

There were spots of rain on the way out to the first circuit but it wasn’t until the Espley – Shawbirch leg that it started raining.  It was cold and wet at Espley and I was glad of my extra layer, and then a few miles down the road it was warm and dry and I was less glad.  Then I’d go back up to Espley and it was cold and damp again!  However, that was really the last of the rain and it brightened up and got warmer as we rode the day circuit.  The wind remained most of the day only really tailing off towards the end – it was unpleasant riding into it and unpleasant battling for stability when it was coming across from the side.  I’d say it was pleasant when it was a tailwind but it never feels totally equitable!

Towards the end of the day it seemed to get warmer and warmer.  The last two years I’ve been freezing at the end but not this year

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Bit hot! Photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

*note to self in future – there is a reason that conspiracy theorists wear hats made of tinfoil – it definitely blocks the data signal from your HR strap to your bike computer!

The course

I quite enjoyed the first section of the course which was a rolling ride over to the A41 and then down through Prees Heath to Ternhill to Espley – which is familiar to anyone who has ridden WCTTCA events.  We then had two out-and-back loops to Shawbirch roundabout via the dreaded Peplow “pave”!  On the plus side that was much better than the three and five times in previous years.  However, it is still a teeth-chattering surface that is at best irritating and at worst can shake bits off your bike.  Luckily the only thing I lost this year was an emergency nurofen I’d taped to my bars!

The day circuit was the same as last year – a 22 mile loop around Redbrook, Welshampton, Quina Brook and Tilstock.  It was a headwind on the first part into Welshampton, with temporary traffic lights for non-existent roadworks, and then rolling country lanes for the rest.  Apart from near Quina Brook the surface is reasonable and it’s a lovely route.  However, after my 5th time around I was well and truly fed up with it.  The temporary traffic lights stopped me dead twice, made me slow down significantly twice and sprint like an idiot once, which is not a good idea with over 100 miles left.

It was a bit of a drag back to the finishing circuit – after 200 odd miles it felt VERY rolling and there was also a quite steep descent, which was interesting in a very tired state on a very windy day.  There was also a set of traffic lights at a junction, preceded by temporary lights on a hill just before them.  I got stopped at the temporary lights and it was a >400W effort to get the bike going again up the hill – definitely not something I needed at that stage, it hurt a lot.  Other riders later reported the lights were showing green in both directions resulting in problems for them as traffic blocked the lane.

The finish circuit was a 9-ish mile loop around the HQ.  Past the HQ felt fast, downhill and possibly a tailwind. Then a left turn onto what was quite a rough surface section with a cow crossing point, which held up a lot of riders (not me luckily).  Another left turn onto an ascending drag into the wind, then back down onto the industrial estate via a short section of fast dual-carriageway.

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Passing the HQ – photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

Man and machine

For the first twenty miles I felt good.  I knew what I could do for 12 hours and I rode that pace.  I also knew that I wasn’t very good at eating and drinking so I forced myself to do it.  I had a list of things to eat and the times I would eat them taped to my bars.  I set my auto-lap on the Wahoo to lap every hour and when it went off I ate something off my list. Towards the end I felt a bit sick – I’d eaten a lot of sugary carbs and couldn’t face any more, but between that and the carb loading I never felt like I was going to bonk.

I did have some problems though.  My left knee became increasingly sore during the ride.  It had started a couple of weeks before – just the odd twinge here and there but it wasn’t going.  Walking up a big hill in the Lake District the week before didn’t really help either – it was worse after that.  So after about 50 miles I was riding with knee pain.  Luckily for me (!), the pain in my elbow completely distracted me away from my knee.  I’ve fitted the very high reversed USE aerobars and I’d noticed that my elbow was a bit sore at the end of the 50’s I’d used as test runs.  Many people seem to have the same problem and angle the pads so that pressure is spread along the forearm rather than on one bony point on the elbow.  I didn’t have time to do that and therefore it became more and more of a problem.  Any bit of poor road surface sent a shooting pain up my elbow and I was left with two large bruises on my elbows by the time I had finished.  Added to that was the general pain in my shoulders and neck and I was struggling to hold position for more than 20 minutes at a time before I needed a break.  I tried to ride in position into the wind and then take a break when it felt like a tailwind.

It takes a fair bit of mental strength to ride for 12 hours.  I can only do it by breaking it down into smaller chunks.  So I focused on each hour.  I forced myself to do calculations in my head to keep track of the pace I needed to do, and I set myself little goals like “ride the next section at this power”.   When I reached a milestone you can have a bit of a celebration in your head, things like 25% of the time through, first 100 miles done etc.  Then you start to count down after halfway which is always a boost.  All are mental tricks to keep you pushing through the pain and discomfort.  I also tried to say thank you to each marshal I passed, although at some fraught times I know I missed a couple.  The event was organised and marshaled superbly well and they all provided great support as riders went past.  The final surging morale boost came when I entered the finish circuit.  Even though there were still a couple of hours left it was quite emotional and a massive lift going past everyone at the HQ.  In fact, looking at the data, my power and speed picked up noticeably and I finished very strongly despite the pain and fatigue.

The bike functioned perfectly well.  There were a few creaks and groans from the headset by the end, after the battering from the road surface, but other than that it was great.  I used a waxed chain which felt very smooth and didn’t miss a beat all day.  The last two years I’d suffered from chafing after a few hours and had used a LOT of chamois cream to get me through.  This season I’m running a Specialized Sitero saddle and it wasn’t until around 11 hours that I felt any chafing or discomfort, which is a big improvement.

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What a superb support crew! Photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

None of it would have been possible without the fantastic support I received.  Dave and Neil out on the course, Liz and Kate in the lead up to the event and on the finish circuit, and Carol and JP at the HQ.  Thank you all.

Things that went well
  • My target was 270 miles and a Seamons club record.  My official distance was 272.21 miles.  That should also get me the Club BAR again
  • Superb organisation and marshaling.  Indeed, the provisional results were out the same evening which is incredibly fast for a 12 hour
  • Fantastic support!  Thank you all again
  • Overall nutrition planning and stops
  • Honey Stinger bars – very nice, easy to chew and get down
  • My power/pacing was pretty consistent all the way through
  • Bottle cages behind the saddle
  • Specialized Sitero saddle
  • Wahoo Elemnt Bolt battery life

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Still > 15% battery left!

Things a bit so-so
  • SIS Go Large Energy Bars – nice enough but a bit hard and very difficult to chew on the move
  • Stoats porridge bars – the opposite – easy to eat but crumbly, so bits were flying everywhere
  • SIS Betafuel – seems to work well but a bit of an insipid taste (lemon/lime – should’ve tried orange as well)
Things that didn’t work
  • Horizontal armrests with “praying mantis” aerobars
  • Armrests probably too narrow for 12 hours – a bit uncomfortable
  • My left knee
  • HR monitor data signal through tinfoil
Facts and Figures
  • 272.21 miles at just under 22.7mph
  • Approx. 7,000ft of ascent
  • Average power 194W, normalised 199W, peak 5s 463W (uphill traffic lights!)
  • Average HR 136bpm (approx), average cadence 79rpm
  • Work expended 8,287KJ, 543TSS
  • Temperature went from 13.9C to 22.8C

In summary, it was a really well organised day and very enjoyable.  If you are undecided about having a crack at a 12 hour I’d recommend it, and hopefully there is some useful information for you here.  272.21M in 12 hours, 4th from 60 riders (£40, 4th actual)


Back to a short one

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I spent the next week trying to properly (and actively recover).  The pain in my shoulders and neck went quite quickly but then came back after a couple of days.  The pain in my knee and legs more gradually subsided.  The Withington Wheelers 10 on the J2/1 was a bit cool and breezy and I didn’t know how I’d feel.  Five minutes in and I thought it would be a disaster but I felt better as the time went on.  It was a headwind out so I convinced myself I only had to try really hard to the turn.  Of course I was lying but by then I felt okay.  However, J2/1 involved two trips across Chelford roundabout.  On the outbound leg I got lucky and sailed through.  No such luck on the way back.  A line of cars meant I just had to unclip and wait. Looking at the file afterwards, including the slowing down it cost nearly 30 seconds which is absolutely gutting.  10M in 22:27, 5th from 90 riders (£30 2nd vet on standard, £10 1st team)


20˚C Colder – WTF?

On the 23rd July I rode one of my regular training routes and the temperature hit 26˚C.  On the 26th August I rode the same route where the temperature dropped to 6˚C.  On the 28th it was 20˚C again.  Only in this country.


I rode 714 miles outdoors with 28,118ft ascent at around 19.5mph average, which used up around 24,557kcals. I also spent 23 hours 5 mins on the turbo using a further 15,402kcals. Total for the month was 3,167TSS

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

Project 1849 – Season 6 Goals

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As I write this the start of my season is only 8 weeks away so my thoughts have turned to goals I want to achieve.  Accepted theory is that goals should be SMART

  • Specific – check ☑️
  • Measurable – check ☑️
  • Achievable – hmmm…
  • Relevant – check ☑️
  • Timely – check ☑️

So here’s the thing.  I’m not sure I’m capable of achieving these goals.  Time, and physiology, is not on my side (unless I suddenly develop asthma 😂)

An “18 minute 10” and a “49 minute 25”.  Project 1849.

To be clear, that is to complete a 10 mile ride in 18 minutes and 59 seconds or less – which means riding for 10 miles at more than 31.6mph.  And similarly complete a 25 mile ride in 49 minutes and 59 seconds or less – which means riding 25 miles at 30mph or more.

My current bests are 19:39 and 51:40, which equate to 30.53mph and 29.03mph respectively.

About 1mph in both cases.  It doesn’t seem like a big increase but in reality it’s massive.

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I put both of my PB rides into BestBikeSplit.  This is a tool that takes your power, the profile of the course and the ambient weather conditions at the time, and then uses complex mathematical models to estimate your CdA (the aerodynamic drag of a rider).  You can then use the aero analyser to adjust aspects of your ride to see what the impact might be.

In reality I can either increase my power, or decrease my CdA.

The figures suggest that if all things remain equal I need to add around 20W in both cases and I don’t think I can increase my power that much.  My tests over the winter so far suggest that I can’t and I’m training as hard as I can.

I have a new position on the bike but I have been unable to test this so far so I don’t know if I can decrease my CdA.  However, let’s assume that I can by a small amount (I was pretty aero before).

Therefore I might, just might, be able to do combine a smaller increase in power with a smaller decrease in CdA.  If I catch the right ride on the right day, I might have a slim chance.  But it will rely on riding fast courses so I will have limited opportunities to do so.

I also have other specific goals which will be similar to previous seasons and revolve around PBs, Club and Local Championships and VTTA competitions.

All of this will be a big stretch but isn’t that what challenging goals are meant to be?

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.