Category Archives: Training

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….


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.


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.


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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.


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.


6) Rest

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


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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Lady luck broke up with me

This week I was resting and getting prepared for a 50km 3-up team time trail with the University of Birmingham. Things took a bit of a bad turn…

Aero helmet and bars were in the post… However, did not arrive in time.

On Wednesday I went out for a stress relieving hit out (after some getting some mildly disappointing news) with the plan of doing laps of a nearby strava haunt. However, after my first lap I managed to shred my rear mech. Jockey wheels were seen gracefully soaring through skies . After shivering for a while… I was saved by a friend and ate curry and drank beer in place of having a TTT tune up.


Not to worry (one)! I’ll just get next day delivery for my rear mech and all will be fixed. But they fail to pass on delivery details and I end up having to collect from the depot on Friday night, the day before the TTT.

Not to worry (two)! I will plonk the new mech on and be done and ready. However,  I find that as part of the rear mech shredding process my raw and overwhelming power has twisted the rear mech hanger too.

Not to worry (three)!!!! (*eye twitching) I will gently caress (read: hammer and bend with spanner) this delicate piece of aluminium it back into shape …. Unsurprisingly it snapped.


In the end I borrowed a team mates bike and suffered my way around the wet and windy coarse. The whole time desperately searching for a draft behind my very aero companions ( who basically dragged me round the entire course). It was a good hit out in the end and meant I got some good riding in. But it did leave me with a bit of a cold. No details, because as the theme goes I forgot my GPS at home. I also left my pedals the borrowed bike *hangs head.


The helmet and bars arrived in time for an open TT is was hoping to do to try and get a qualifying time for nationals. However, I did not get into the event since I don’t have any previous times. So no real rush for those anymore anyway *sigh.

Its all up from here, surely?

Anyway I seem to be over all that… Bike is back running and I’m having my first ride (turbo) since Saturday. I am putting that week behind me and starting a new block of training this week. Also the sun has appeared and the relentless Baltic conditions ceased.

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