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

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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

Advertisements

March – Season 6 Begins (Despite Winter’s Best Efforts)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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).

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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…?

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Entering Tilstock

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© 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

 

100th 10 mile time-trial

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

This week saw me ride my 100th 10 mile time trial (and, indeed, my 250th time trial).  I did my first time trial on the 25th September 2010 (read about it here and picture below).  I did it on my road bike without a clue about aerodynamics and at a time when I was tipping the scales at around 78kg.  I managed to average 20.9mph to do it in a time of 28 minutes and 42 seconds.

Photo by Jon Williams. Me looking knackered

I felt sick immediately afterwards and vowed never to do it again!  7 months later and I tried my hand at club not-quite-10’s (8.75 miles) but it was 2012 before I did another open 10!

Fast forward nearly 7 years and I’ve just completed my 101st 10.  I’m less than 65kg and I managed to average 30.3mph to do it in a time of 19 minutes and 50 seconds.

It’s taken a bit of hard work to get to this point but importantly it’s not felt like it because it has been fantastic fun, and I’ve met some great people over the years.  Although I’m 50 years old I still see myself as a relative novice with plenty still to learn, and I look forward to trying to get faster.

Hopefully this might inspire a few people to give it a go.  If I can do this with no discernible natural talent, then so can anyone.

 

May – if you want to go faster you’ll have to scare yourself

Coming off the back of some disappointing rides in April I’d been doing a lot of thinking.  About training, about nutrition and about how I’ve been racing.  My conclusions included upping my carbohydrate intake and building on the limited VO2Max work I’d already done.  I also listened to a discussion with Joe Beer on the Cycling Time-Trials Podcast during which he mentioned the phrase above in the title.  I started to wonder if I wasn’t “scaring” myself enough i.e. I was always keeping a little something back.

Anyway, the first club 10 of the month was a windy affair and I paced it pretty well, if conservatively, on another sunny yet bitterly cold evening.  3rd from 34 riders

The weekend saw the first 50 of the season – the Dukinfield CC 50 around J4/16.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I made sure coming into this that I was well fueled and hydrated so I was feeling pretty good.  I had an idea of the power I wanted to ride at and I managed it very consistently, so I was pleased to come in with my best ever 50 mile power.  I was held up a small amount, but often that helps give you a breather in a 50 and is not usually a factor.  And I did have a small mishap when I dropped the gel I’d been carrying as I attempted to consume it, so by the end I was running on fumes.  Despite a few aches and pains I’d say that overall it went very much to plan and that gave me a lot of confidence that I can probably eek out a few more watts in the next one.  9th from 108 riders (£30 1st team)

On the following Monday (and then the next Friday and the next Monday) I took part in some sports science testing at the University of Chester.  You can read about that experience here.

The following club 10 was on a warm and fast night but I was tired and couldn’t take advantage off it.  I did manage to go a little bit faster off slightly less power.  2nd from 38 riders

Then it was back to good old J2/9 for the M&DTTA 25 championship.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was aiming to ride at a power PB level on what was a blustery, but dry day.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hold it but overall it was a decent ride with decent power.  It was a confusing day in many ways – it felt very hard but also reasonably quick.  I managed my fastest time on J2/9 this season so I was happy with my ride.

There were some quick riders out so I was happy to nudge into the top ten and we won the team prize again.  10th from 104 riders (£30, 1st vet 45-49, 1st team)

I missed the midweek club 10 due to a work commitment so next up was the Stone Wheelers 25 on J5/8 – a fast dual-carriageway course on the A50, with the finishing stretch known as the “concrete mountain”!  The weather all week looked sketchy and as I arrived at HQ it was decidedly so!

I was thinking it may be called off but the organisers took a sensible decision to postpone the start by half an hour.  I don’t know what happened to the earlier riders but it meant that I managed to get all the way round without getting wet.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d expected a bit of a cross-tailwind out but somebody in the start queue said it would be on the way back so I was confused.  It felt fast when I started but I was conscious that I wanted to hold something back for coming back up the mountain.  As it was, going out I reached 42mph at a low wattage so I was unsurprised when the first 10 came up in around 19:05 without a significant effort. When it got to the turn the surface was very wet so I went around both roundabouts like I was on a shopping bike.  Back onto the DC and it still felt fast and I was pretty comfortable until I crossed the McDonald’s roundabout and started to make my way up the mountain, in what felt like a cross-headwind.  It was hard work and felt like a battle all the way – if you haven’t done it before it feels relentless.  Nevertheless I thought I was on for a fast time and was doing calculations in my head over the last two miles.  I missed the club 25 record by 13 seconds but I couldn’t be too disappointed as I took 32s off my 25 mile PB and ticked off a “51” – something I’ve been chasing since last season.  To cap it all myself, Alan and Chris won the team prize and set a new club team 25 record.  9th from 119 (£30, 6th on standard, 1st team)

A couple of hard training sessions and I had very heavy legs at the club 10 on a lovely warm evening – surprisingly the lowest turnout of the year.  2nd from 27 riders

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

At the weekend I had entered the Warrington RC 50M TT which also included the VTTA Manchester & NW 50M championship.  The weather forecast was a yellow warning for rain showers, and it was windy.  In fact, on my drive to the HQ down Twemlow Lane it was dry as I turned into the lane, halfway down there was torrential rain and then it was dry again at the end!  The organiser was especially worried about lightning but certainly for my ride it held off, with only a light shower towards the end.  As a ride it was frustrating.  I felt good but there was much more traffic on the roads than usual which meant getting held up – ignore what I said above about it not affecting a 50 too much!  I was held up at Chelford roundabout each pass and I was held up coming out of Gough’s Lane each time too.  In addition, lines of cars waiting to pass riders meant I was held up on some of the fast straights too, especially passing the Egerton Arms.  Also after the first pass over Chelford at 6 miles I hit a pothole and lost my bottle (actual, not metaphorical) which meant I ended up doing the entire 50 in warm, humid conditions without a drink.  By the end I was steadily losing power so I was happy with my time but it could easily have been a fair bit quicker.  10th from 97 riders (£20, 5th on standard, VTTA Manchester & NW – ES Ward Memorial Championship Cup)

What seemed like a good idea at the time I entered, on the Bank Holiday Monday I got up at stupid o’clock to ride the historic Anfield Bicycle Club 100 – possibly the oldest bicycle race in the world, dating back to 1889 I believe.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The course started on the A53, across Espley roundabout to Tern Hill, then A41 to Press Heath and back.  A short diversion up to Muller Island and then back across Tern Hill and Espley for 4 loops of the A53, B5063/2, A442.  It didn’t take long after the start for me to realise I didn’t feel good.  My lower back and glutes were still sore from the 50 I’d done less than 48 hours before and I was struggling to put out the power I was aiming for (around 250W).  I didn’t seem to be making much headway against the cross-headwind.  Things picked up a bit after I crossed Espley and got onto the D25/8e course and with the help of a tailwind to Prees I felt a little better.  The turn back into the headwind put paid to that!  I was also uncomfortable on my saddle and my left arm/shoulder was hurting too.  At some point it started raining too compounding my increasing misery.  Again things picked up with the cross-tailwind all the way down to Shawbury before turning onto the B5063.  The combination of headwind and appalling surface-dressed road nearly finished me as I could see my power and speed drifting down.  Turning onto the A41 brought the delights of the Peplow Pavé to further rattle my fillings and I heard something ping off the bike – I later discovered I lost a bolt holding the saddle on.  A little bit of respite on the A53 and I passed the finish line for the first time.  The thought of 3 more laps and I wanted to cry, with dark thoughts filling my mind as the course passed within a mile or so of the HQ “There’s no shame in climbing off”  “Today’s not your day”  “Shouldn’t have done that 50”.  Instead I decided I would try another lap.  I was just about on 4 hour schedule at 50 miles which meant I wasn’t on schedule as I knew I’d get slower.  Everything was hurting – I was cold, wet and struggling to hold my power and my position.  It was a real fight and I didn’t really enjoy it, which is unusual for me.  Each lap I promised myself the next one would be the last – I’m such a liar!  My 10 mile lap power was dropping.  250W, 249W, 244W, 245W, 243W, 240W, 234W.  I rallied a bit at 70 miles with a double caffeine gel – 242W, 237W and then a final push of 246W.  I finished in just under 4 hours and 5 minutes, which was 5 minutes outside my target time.  It took me an hour afterwards to get warm and stop feeling sick!  (11th from 84 riders, £20, 1st vet 50-59, 6th in VTTA National 100)

The next day I felt okay, if not a bit achey, but two days later I awoke feeling ill and without going into gory details I need to stay close to the lavatory.  I was meant to ride the Seamons 10 mile club championship but I was tired just walking around so I was unable to do so.  It might seem a bit “no shit Sherlock” but it seems that at my age two big efforts inside 48 hours is beyond my body’s capabilities.  I’v had this type of illness before when I’ve overreached and I’m gutted I’ve fallen into the same trap again.  It can take weeks to recover properly so I’ve already cancelled this weekend’s races.  Sometimes, I am still an absolute idiot.

During the month I managed 609 miles outdoors with 19,906ft ascent at around 19.3mph average, which used up around 22,665kcals. I spent 16 hours and 53 minutes on the turbo using a further 12,530kcals. Total for the month was 2,717TSS 

 

April – Consistently Inconsistent

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

April fool’s day and I was at Goostrey for the Withington Wheelers 25 mile time trial on the challenging J2/9 course.  A full field, including a novice event, and rumours of lots of riders being turned away.  Incredible really for an early season event on a slow course.  April showers were falling as I drove there but thankfully it had stopped by the time I rolled up to the start.  First 25 of the season – probably going to hurt I reckoned.  I was right.  For the first five miles I felt rubbish.  Then I felt good for the next fifteen.  Hanging on for the last five was the best I could do at that point.  My back ached, my neck and shoulders were sore and I’d been fidgety all of the way round.  And it was pretty windy too.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Accelerating just after joining the A50 from Seven Sisters Lane. Courtesy and © Ellen Isherwood

I was, however, quite happy with the power I managed, although the time I recorded was my worst time since 2015, and in the end so was my finishing position – go figure!  15th from 120 riders

I decided I was going to tweak my position again.  Patience is not my thing!  I ordered a switchplate kit from Canyon that offsets the armrest stacks and allowed me to get my armrests into what I hope is the Goldilocks position (not too narrow, not too wide, just right…) and I added a cm or so to the height.  

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

My saddle moved forward a cm in an attempt to stop the fidgeting.

Speaking of position changes, somebody got pinged for a 3cm rule breach which was the cue for another flurry of posting on the time-trial forum.  The fact that the breach was identified via a picture only added to the storm, which threatened to escape the teacup and then some (something I talked about in this post here).  Having seen galleries from my races so far there are quite a few riders who, on the face of it, could have been in trouble, but that was their lookout.  However, it became clear that the CTT were not helping themselves by posting images of race winners in positions that were clearly contravening their own regulation, even if those pictures were old stock images.  And it hadn’t been mentioned once in an HQ, which is the complete opposite to the other regulation change for 2017 (signing out) which had been mentioned every time.  Anyway, to cut an already long story long, the CTT then announced a moratorium on the 3cm rule for 2017, meaning that anyone who had spent time and money on complying had effectively wasted both.  Distinctly not great for all involved.

Back to the racing.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

On Saturday 8th it was the VTTA National 10 mile championship on the J2/1 course.  The weather was absolutely fantastic – sunny and warm.  I didn’t really think I had a chance because the VTTA races are handicapped.  There is a “standard” time for each age from 40 upwards and the actual time is subtracted from the standard to give a “+” or “-” against the standard.  I came 4th overall on actual time but that only translated to 10th on standard.  The winner was, I believe, 86 years old and still doing a 10 miles in less than 30 minutes.  The 2nd place guy was 73 years old and did a 23:30!  Amazing and inspirational to anyone who thinks they are too old for competitive sport!  Frustratingly, myself and two other Manchester & NW Group riders (Darren and Mike) were only 16 seconds away from a Gold Medal for the fastest overall VTTA Section.  4th from 107 riders, 10th place in the Nationals on Standard 

Next up were three consecutive races over the Easter Weekend, starting with a chase for a fast time at the “V”.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

Luckily the rain that was falling as I sat in the car park died down and I managed my warmup and race in the dry.  I was expecting the ride out to the turn to be quick but it wasn’t and it felt harder than expected.  My time at the turn was considerably down on previous efforts although my power was up and I felt decent.  Coming back there were some really fast sections and I was gradually making up time.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Courtesy and © Craig Zadoroznyj

A really big effort and at the end I crossed the Line in 19:49 – 10 seconds down on my PB on what felt like a harder day.  I feel that with the right conditions I can really improve on it so I’ll be back!  37th from 108 riders

The wind was up in Cheshire on Saturday.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

One of the hardest days I can remember on J2/9.  The headwind from Chelford to Ollerton was very much hard work and featured twice, whereas the Twemlow Lane tailwind only featured once – it’s rarely fair!  Of course it’s the same for everyone and the faster riders dealt with it better than I did.  I felt good and my power reflected that but for the second time in a month I’ve recorded my worst time on this course for 2 years.  I’m happy with my position and feel it’s a bit better than last year but I got roundly beaten by a couple of riders who I beat/was close to last year so maybe I’ve stood still relatively speaking.  That said, a very close call with a car that didn’t see me meant I was a) shaken up for a while and b) happy enough to finish in one piece.  Onwards and upwards.  10th from 97 riders (£10 1st team)

The final piece in my Easter racing jigsaw was a stupid o’clock start to get to Tilstock.  I wasn’t expecting much and accepted wisdom is not to do two races consecutively, let alone three, but I enjoy racing much more than training so there you have it!  It was a cold morning with a stiff breeze but nowhere near as bad as Saturday.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was expecting to feel the effects of Friday and Saturday but it soon became apparent that I wasn’t.  In fact I felt strong and was happily maintaining a very decent power output.  Normally, if I do two 25’s consecutively I am at least 10W down during the second.  Today my power was higher.  My minute man was a DNS but after about 10 minutes I could see the lady who had started two minutes ahead of me.  A couple of HGVs went past me on a straight section, followed by a couple of cars, but then we were quickly into a fairly twisty section and on the narrow A road they inevitably struggled to get past the rider in front.  When I analysed my data file for power and cadence I started to ease off at about 00:11:50.  By 00:12:00 my cadence and power drop to zero and apart from one spike in the middle it was 00:12:23 before I start pedalling again!  I missed the podium by 8 seconds and 1st on standard by 20 seconds, but who’s to say that the breather I got didn’t spur me on to better efforts afterwards, so you just put it down to experience.  The wind made the section from Tern Hill to Emsley hard going (but easy back) but then again after the turn back for home at Tern Hill there were long sections where 350W was getting me just under 25mph – very hard work indeed.  At the end I equalled my best time for this course on a day when many other riders struggled, and I beat a few that I didn’t expect to (i.e. the complete opposite of the day before).  A final word on the winner who tabled a 49, which I understand to be not just a course record but a county record!  That’s 30mph average over this course – ridiculous and awesome in equal measures!  4th from 111 riders (£20, 2nd on standard)

Club 10’s also started after Easter.  I made a bit of a hash of the first one, missing my start time due to some faulty overshoes delaying me, so when I set off I went off like a complete idiot and faded badly near the end meaning I was well beaten.  3rd from 37 riders

Leigh Premier’s 10 at D10/1 was the following Saturday.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

There was a delay to the start as the local council had decided to cut the grass verges – who knew local councils worked at the weekend?  The weather was sunny but a stiff breeze meant that most of the ride would be either tailwind or headwind.  I managed to get my pacing just right – going harder on the headwind (and uphill) sections and easing back fractionally with the wind at my back, so I was really happy with my ride.  You heard it here first – a tester happy with a ride and not making excuses!  4th from 74 riders (£20, 1st on standard)

The next club 10 was FREEZING!  On the back of a block of hard training sessions and a -ve Training Stress Balance (TSB) I expected to be tired and struggle so I took it easy at the start.  As it was I felt okay so ended up with a bit in hand at the end but was in the bizarre situation of having sweat dripping off me whilst simultaneously not being able to feel my fingers or toes!  More importantly the marshalls and volunteers deserve special thanks for standing around in that!   2nd from 29 riders

I’m not sure if the hard week and some issues with sleep caught up with me but after two decent races it all came down to earth with a bump!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The East Lancs Road Club 10 was a re-run of the J2/1 course earlier in the month.  This time the wind was giving a bit of a shove on the way out and a bit of a smack on the way back.  I didn’t really have a clue that it would be a bad day for me until riding to the start when I felt a little queasy.  After the start I felt very queasy but put it out of my mind as I thought it would go – it’s not unusual to feel bad in some way at the start of a TT until your body adjusts to the effort.  Unfortunately mine didn’t on this occasion and I felt bad all through the ride and I simply could not sustain any level of power.  At the end I’d lost nearly a minute on my time from 3 weeks earlier which was unsurprising as my power was 17W less, and even less than my last 25 mile race.  Consequently I lost a lot of ground to many of my peers in the overall standings.  18th from 105 riders

The next morning I was hoping I felt better as it was the VTTA National 15 Mile Championship on V728 in Hull.  I had never ridden a 15 before so was looking forward to it.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The wind was really blowing when I arrived.  It was blowing such that the outbound leg would be a block headwind and the return would be a tailwind.  Riding to the start was a crosswind and it was flicking my deep section front wheel continually.  When I started the force of the headwind was quite staggering.  But it was also swirling which meant the front wheel was catching it again.  It was pretty sketchy and meant that my speed was dropping as low as 18mph on sections and by the time I took the turn and rejoined the return leg I’d done the first 8 miles in 20 minutes.  By complete contrast the return leg was how I imagine Brad Wiggins or Alex Dowsett feels – super-fast and relatively effortless!  I think I changed out of 56-11 only once, my speed (on the flat) peaked just over 40mph and I completed the second 7 miles in just under 13 minutes.  My power was still a bit down and I still didn’t feel 100% but I was happy enough in those conditions. 22nd from 129 riders

So how do I assess the season so far.  Well, it hasn’t been what I wanted it to be.  My power is all over the place, which I can’t explain given how well (I thought) my training had been going.  And other people have improved beyond me.  On the positive side I’ve ridden my course best times on J2/1, J2/3, D10/1 and D25/8e.  I’ve also had some times on courses that are my worst for several years!  I’ve had some rides I’m really pleased with and then some that were just horror shows.  I can’t explain it, let alone try to fix it, but I need to try to get some consistency because next month the longer races start.

During the month I managed 453 miles outdoors with 18,146ft ascent at around 18.4mph average, which used up around 16,364kcals. I spent 20 hours and 33 minutes on the turbo using a further 15,435kcals. Total for the month was 2,571TSS

And we’re off – sort of…

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The race season starts in March – for me anyway.  After a winter holed-up training indoors it always feels like the light at the end of the tunnel when the first race comes around.  Cue the stirring music.

Excited.

Ready.

(Sound of needle scratching across vinyl…)

Disappointment.

The M&DTTA 10 on Saturday 11th was moved from J4/17 to J2/3 due to roadworks.  Earlier in the week the forecast was for strong winds and rain but it was dry with relatively light winds on the day.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

It was good to catch up with folks again and just be around an HQ again.  Hearing about their winter training.  Looking at shiny new kit.  Chewing the fat.

Down to business and everything went fine in my warmup and I felt okay.  I’d not trained in my new position over the winter but didn’t think that would be a big deal – I’ve never done that in any previous winter.  What I have done in the past though, which weather and time didn’t permit me this year, was take the TT bike out and ride at full speed for a few practice 10’s.  Riding to the start in position I started to realise I didn’t feel comfortable at all, a sensation that worsened as I set off.  My new-for-this-season Aerocoach armrests really dig in at the sides so they’ll take some getting used to, and my new lower front end and extended neck position were very uncomfortable.  A few miles in I was struggling to maintain the power output and by the time I reached the turn I was well down on where I thought I should be power-wise. I tried to push on hard, trying to use the discomfort as a motivator, which worked until I was held up by a queue of traffic trying to pass a slower rider and had to back off.  The breather I got meant I could attack the last mile so I recovered a bit but still finished nearly 20W down on the same ride last year, albeit only 1s slower.  It was a big disappointment because it’s the first time I’ve started the season with a worse performance than the previous season.  I knew I’d feel bad in the first race, I always do.  But not this bad.  With a couple of days hindsight I decided it wasn’t as bad as I first thought and I suspected it was down to the position and being race-rusty having not been out for a practice run – after all my average power increased in the second half of the race, even with a big drop due to being held up by traffic.  8th from 63 riders (£10 3rd veteran on standard, £10 1st team)

So I decided to bite the bullet and try training in position the following week.  I also swapped turbo trainers to a smart trainer that arrived after several months on back-order.  All I can say is wow!  It was (is) much harder and being in position definitely elevated my heartrate and made my legs hurt in all new ways!  By the weekend I was feeling more confident but realised it probably wouldn’t be a quick fix.  On a related note I’ve also been playing about with Zwift on the days when I’m supposed to be doing “easy” sessions – unfortunately it does somewhat draw you into going a bit harder than you should!  It is very clever though, especially the simulated road effect when you are riding over virtual cobbles or gravel, and the noticeable effects of inclines and drafting!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The weather forecast  for the next Saturday race was pretty awful and it was spot on!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was much more comfortable when I set off but it didn’t take long to realise that I was still struggling to maintain my power.  What I realised was that everything felt compressed and I think that was affecting my breathing in some way.  Mentally I just ignored it and tried to push harder which worked a little bit (my power after the turn into the headwind wasn’t so bad but nowhere near the gains I’d seen on the turbo).  As per usual on this course I was held up a little bit, but I was also pretty wet and towards the end the visor of my helmet was steaming up.  I shaved a couple of seconds off and moved up a couple of places.  6th from 78 riders (£15, 1st veteran on standard)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Left – 2107, Right – 2016

Looking at my bike afterwards I realised that the Aerocoach armrests were really clamping my elbows much closer together than my previous stock armrests – it’s quite noticeable in the picture above, drawing my shoulders in and compressing my chest.  I wondered if this may have something to do with the power drop, so when I got home I moved the rests one bolt hole wider – effectively an inch on each side.  Time for an experiment with the next race, but during the week I also tried it on the turbo.  During a flat warmup of 200W my HR was static at around 117bpm.  As soon as I clamped my elbows together (simulating the position on the left in the picture) my HR went up 10bpm at the same power.  Back to the original (right) position and my HR went down again.  This was repeated several times with the same results.

The race on Saturday was with the armrests in the “wide” position.  At the start it was a bit of a shock to the system because the sun was shining and the wind wasn’t blowing!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I felt much more comfortable and pushed hard but was still well down on power – although I posted my best time on this course.  Still it was a lovely day and I enjoyed the race.  7th from 62 riders (£7.50 Joint 3rd on standard, £15 1st team)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Courtesy and © Ellen Isherwood

It’s a hard course on which to maintain a pedalling rhythm, due to the narrow lanes and traffic slowing riders, but as I’ve done it before I doubt that is the reason.  As I can push big numbers out of position on the turbo I can only suspect that it is something to do with my new position overall and hope that I adapt to it over the coming weeks.  Here’s a comparison of my last 5 rides on J2/3.

  Time Average Power Air Pressure
19 March 2016 22:30 314W 1.272
12 April 2016 22:22 308W 1.229
11 March 2017 22:31 295W 1.232
18 March 2017 22:29 298W 1.228
25 March 2017 22:12 301W 1.24

Maybe I’m just getting old and it’s downhill for my power from here!  I hope not.

April will be a busy month, with 8 races all in including the first 25s of the season.  It will be interested to see what power I can maintain on those – last year it was about 95% of my 10 power.  If I haven’t adapted to my position at the end of that lot I never will!

In the meantime I’ve reduced my FTP in the various training packages I use, in recognition that I need to train more in position where my power is clearly lower.  It’s also still worth me remembering that I have not finished my training plan yet.  I need to do some more VO2Max intervals which I will be doing over the next couple of months.  I keep forgetting that I deliberately built my plan around peaking towards May and not March like last year.

For interest, here’s the training software I use

  • TrainingPeaks online – overall training plan and recording of TSS, CTL etc.
  • TrainerRoad – individual specific training plans and workouts
  • Zwift – still looking at this for workouts, recovery rides
  • Rubitrack (stored locally) – complete ride history
  • Strava – used as a hub for synchronisation
  • Garmin Connect – used as a hub for synchronisation

It’s a pain that some things will sync with Connect whereas others will only sync with Strava but it’s all set up and working so I’m loath to mess about with it now – they’re both free and I rarely look at them anyway.  TrainingPeaks is my go-to recording software and TrainerRoad my go-to workout software.

That’s it for this month.  During March I managed 358 miles outdoors with 17,700ft ascent at around 16mph average, which used up around 12,852kcals. I spent 28 hours and 42 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,626kcals. Total for the month was 2,887TSS