2013 Season Wrap Up

Looking back, overall, I think I had a successful season with some really good results. It’s easy to move the goal posts throughout the season ultimately leading to disappointment – and then it’s impossible to justify the winter, more like autumn, more like late summer cake induced fatness. Time to reflect….

Goals

Remember the early targets set at the beginning of the year. For me, this was getting my 2nd cat license, and hoping to place top 10 in E123 races at some point in the year. For others this could be at TT time, a sportive, or riding any distance.

Achievements & notsoacheivments

Did I meet my goals? Yes. I got my second cat license and placed top 10 in E123 races throughout the season. Did you get the time, finish the sportive, make the distance? It was meeting my goals that made me want to move the goal posts. Upon reflection I should be happy with my progress… and I should continue to make realistic achievable targets.

One of my failures was the lack of strength and fitness in the second part of the season. My riding dropped off, energy and enthusiasm was low and fitness fell short. Maintaining or re-building “form” throughout the season will be something I’m aware of next season.

Future

What do I want to achieve next season? I tempted to set getting my 1st cat license as a goal. But I wonder whether this will just lead to stressing over the number of races I do. So I might set that as some kind of secondary goal. I don’t want to be riding as many races as I can and scraping through for a collection of lower placings. I don’t think a wishy washy target of “mixing it up with the big boys” really counts, but that is kind of what I hope to be able to do. Ride the bigger races, with stronger fields, and be somewhat competitive. 

So, as I sort out my winter training, I will be thinking about proper goals and  races to target. Having the future goals is critical for me in being motivated throughout the cold, wet and dark winter rides and for gauging the success/failures of the following season.

Winter Training 

Winter will involve basing and building, with continued efforts to raising my FTP but with a much stronger focus on my sprint. I will be doing some gym work to keep me warm and dry, More MTB! More running this winter – aiming for a 20 min 5k.

2013

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Summer Mountain Climbing

The combination of moving house, PhD work and holiday time has meant I have been taking part in fewer races over the last month.

My last race was the Hillingdon GP, an E12 race which was tough, long and fast. I didn’t mix it up in the moves, and the peleton was pulled out after 80km (out of 100kms). I didn’t perform well in this race and was quite disappointed. I have also participated in my first XC race, I rode in the Championship race and finished mid packout of the 90 competing riders. XC riding is something I have only ever done with mates or for some winter riding – the race day was great and something I will certainly do again.

My French summer holiday has taken me through the French Alps and down to the Mediterranean coast allowing me  to get some really spectacular riding in. Before my holiday I had several days off the bike to get work and moving over with. So, I took that as a small break and I plan to cycle through training stages and build up to be fitter and stronger for some end of season races. Riding in the Alps has been perfect for the long sustained efforts I felt I needed.

L’Alpe d’Huez & Col de Sarenne

Obviously everyone has heard of the iconic climb. I rode this two years ago, and managed to beat my previous time quite substantially this time, which I am pleased about putting me nicely under the one hour mark…. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do next year!  This time I rode over the Col de Sarenne and down the talked about ‘dangerous descent’. The road surface is a little rough and it is quite technical, but overall a much better descent than the traffic heavy Alp d’Huez descent. This route also allowed me to ride a nice loop with some awesome alpine vistas. I rode up a second time the following day with my girlfriend, who made it up in around 2 hours after previously taking a couple of days….*slow clap 😉

Col du Lautaret

This climb was very long  >25 kms but a shallow gradient averaging around 5%… with some great views.

There are road markers indicating the distance to the top of the col with the average gradient marked for each km. I found the road markers very helpful, both for motivation and pacing to the top.

Galibier

Climbing up to over 2600m was an awesome experience especially after riding from the valley below for over 2 hours. I approached from the southern road which with a few switchbacks over 8.6 kms at an average gradient of just under 7%. I had saved myself for this part of the climb, mainly out of fear of bonking on part of the 50 kms of climbing from my accommodation in Bourg d’Oisans. Solo riding gives a the ride a greater feel of independence but I was also well aware that if I had any issues calling for a pickup would have been a massive inconvenience and a loooong wait. 

Snow at the top made the ride feel pretty extreme, and the cool was a welcome break from the scorching temperatures in the valley floor.

Whilst in the south of France I rode a couple of climbs, the main one being the Col du Vence. This was a nice climb out of Cagnes-Sur-Mer (where I was staying) and gave great views over the Med. From strava, it looks as though this area surrounding nice Ben Swift’s and Luke Rowe’s training playground. The heat is pretty intense on the climbs of the area, with little shade offered – however, inland of the Col there is much more greenery and some amazing views.

I Looking forward to getting back into some racing for the end of the season….

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Ten winter cycle training lessons

Spring seems to have closed in and winter is a distant memory (ish)….which is about time. Below is a list of ten lessons learned from my first winter attempting to remain fit and train for the upcoming season.

1) Plan

I have tried to plan my training with long term goals for the first time. This has been successful! In giving me the motivation for continued training and also stopping me from too much intensity. I started the season feeling fit and responding well to high intensity training, better than ever before.

2) Don’t push it

This comes along with planning, but training too hard throughout winter could leave you exhausted and sick. Riding outside in the real cold is especially stressful on the body and can lead a spiral of illness.

3) Cross train

Switching to other sports that don’t get you out on the cold, wet, dark and dangerous roads are great for holding aerobic fitness through the winter.

4) Get on the MTB

I didn’t do that much, but getting out on my mountain bike was fun and somehow getting cold and muddy isn’t a problem when you are on the MTB.

5) Watch for Ice

This is obvious. But, it took not one, but me and my two mates to crash on ice in one ride to decide it was a bad idea to be out on the roads and head home. I came away with a fractured elbow and my friends with some serious road rash.

snow

6) Rest

Sleep lots, I tend to sacrifice on sleep to get a few more hours out of the day…. Bad move.

sleep

7) Eat, get “fat” and be merry

I put on several kilos over the winter and had a merry time doing it! But it dropped off quickly when I started riding and watching my diet. The extra weight will help fend off the cold and dieting through the winter will most likely result in illness and a serious loss of moral…. don’t bother.

8) Clothing

Having the right layers and good gloves (thanks Megan!) and shoe covers is critical for keeping warm and dry on long rides. It’s a fine balance between warmth and having breathable clothing, especially when riding intervals or climbs followed by periods of low effort.

9) Indoor training

This year is the first time I have had an indoor trainer and its would be impossible to train through the winter without it. I can’t sit on it for much more than 1.5 hours but keep entertained with gadgets and TV and music. There was one period where I didn’t go out on the road for 3 weeks due to snow and ice!

10) Enjoy riding

Going out on a long ride on those rare cold crisp sunny days makes one appreciate the British countryside and is very rewarding. Riding for base mileage is a liberating and relaxing pastime compared to the spring max effort interval… savour it.

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3rd place – ZipVit Lichfield Curborough 2/3/4

I like the Curborough circuit, it’s reasonably technical but not too slow. The circuit is a car test track, so there is quite a lot of rubber down on the tarmac. Add a bit of rain to that rubber and you get a crash fest (as I have experienced a couple of years ago). But not today! It was another sunny day! But windy… making it cold on the line. However, arm warmers were definitely a bad decision as I spent the whole race sweating it out in a breakaway… glancing down at them every now and then wondering when would be a good time to start undressing… there wasn’t one.

Curborough

The 1.2 km circuit. One sweeping left hander – followed by a chicane – headwind drag – followed by a tight hairpin – then a slight rise to the finish line.

I didn’t turn my Garmin on until I was already in the break away but the stats after the first 15 mins are:

  • Average speed: 42 kmph
  • Max speed: 56 kmph
  • Average HR: 176 bpm
  • Preliminary results (here)

I am not posting up my HR or speed data since it doesn’t really show much of the story. However, the race played out as follows…

Forming the break

One rider attacked very early on in the race (Jack Sadler from Vanilla Bikes), this was swiftly followed by another attacker who joined the first (Gareth Jones from Wolverhampton Wheelers). They quickly established a large gap. This concerned me, because, although it was very windy there was a chance they could stay away if the bunch didn’t get organised. One lap later I launched my attack on the small rise assisted by a strong tailwind, taking one other rider with me (Lichfield CCC rider Elliot Pike). We worked well to bridge the gap to the two leaders over the next couple of laps.

The breakaway

Our gap as a four remained stable for a while, but not substantial.  I think there were some dedicated chasers in the bunch driving the pace. However, later the bunch began to break up and I assume the chasers switched to attacking the bunch rather than dragging it along. Our gap grew as a result, and stayed pinned at around 30 seconds for a while. Then within the space of a few laps we switched to chasing rather than being chased…. and we soon lapped the main field. We passed the main bunch to the disappointment of a couple of frustrated riders. By the end of the race we had taken almost another half a lap…

Final lap

Coming in the final lap Gareth attacked with the tailwind, causing the four of us to break up. I managed to chase back onto his wheel with the other two riders close behind. I attempted a counter attack but didn’t have enough to create a gap into the ferocious head wind.  I stayed on the front to ensure I was first into the final corner, riding slow. Riding to the line I lost first place and then closely battled it out for second with Gareth… losing by a few cms. I really really need to build my sprint! Really now.

All in all another good race with a good result. I have been unable to perform hard training sessions over the last couple of weeks because I feel over trained. I am resting this week as I feel like I’m drifting further into fatigue and this is hampering both my training and racing. I hope to get refreshed by next weekend and start pushing my strength and fitness again.

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