Sunday, February 26, 2012

Severn RC 25 mile TT

Date - Sunday 26th February
Race Location - Farfeild
Start Time - 10:30am

Today is a special day, today marks the first race of my 2012 season and also the first race I will race under the name of Rapid Performance Coaching. The race that would have the honor of staking claim to these two personal feats is one which holds good memories for me in years gone by, the Severn RC 25m TT. In previous seasons i managed a 3rd and 2nd overall but those who know me may be surprised to learn that this race would also mark the end of a 2 year hiatus from Open Time Trials.

Time Trials were all i ever did in my first 2 "real" seasons and something which i had great success in during those early years. However, soon the thrill of road racing took over and gripped me in its excitement and tacaticalness. However, by coming from a TT background I developed a certain Road Racing style and even now, I still find that i am usually one of the strongest in small break away group, the success of which lie in a hard sustained effort to build and maintain a gap. I could ride at a high pace all day whilst my competitors gradually faded. Although I have lost a little TT ability having not ridden them for 2 years, a lot of my RR training is still focused around long intervals so I still have that concerntration and suffering ability.

 As with most British Time Trials, it was an early start and after loading up the car, walking and feeding the dog and downing some breakfast, I headed off on the 60 mile trip to the HQ. With a pretty brisk journey beind me I proceeded to sign on, grab my number and smile to myself after seeing Rapid Performance Coaching following my name on the start and results sheets!
I decided that I would jump back in the car and park further up the road in a lay by which was closer to the start and finish and also a lot quieter than warming up in the HQ car park. however, only after having performed the TT Ritual of making good use of the HQ Toilet, of which typically there was only one!!!

With my start time approaching I hooked the bike in the Turbo complete with my Powertap Wheel. I have a pretty regimental warm up routine which i use for any event which requires a fast start and I rely on my Powertap to make sure i am doing the warm properly and structured just how i like it. Back home when i was loading the car i remember it being quite chilly, but here, pedalling on the turbo in a lay by with the sun beaming down from a crystal clear sky, I was sweating something chronic.
Warm up done, I changed my wheels and my top, slipped on my new gloves and newly stickered helmet and headed up the road to the start. I arrived in perfect time and pulled up to the sound of the starter calling my number.

Generally i will always use a power meter when racing, not necessarily to pace my self but for the analysis afterwards. However, as i was using my carbon wheel and my Quarq was on my Road Bike, I had no PM for this race so instead i set my Garmin to show distance, speed and average speed. I knew from the previous years of racing this event that i was just under the hour, however the course has changed since then due to traffic lights which has made it slightly slower and a bit more technical.

After going through the infamous countdown which i haven't heard ring i my ears for 2 years, I was off and on my way. With a fast start i quickly got up to speed and settled in to my aerobars, a position i have only rode in a handful of times for the whole 2 year period. After a few mile on the main A road, the route swings left on to the smaller back roads which was where the more technical aspects of the course were. Swooping turns, short rises, roundabouts all made for speed reducing obstacles but I was feeling pretty good and maintaining good momentum through the corners. I decided to use a variable pacing strategy where by I pushed harder on the drags, climbs and headwind sections and then recovered somewhat on the downhills and corners. On reflexion i feel this was the best option and one which i knew would yield me the best time.

After completing the loop and being spat back out on to the main road, I would then have to complete the loop again before being spat out again, heading past the turning, staying on the main road and heading towards the main turning point. The whole race I had being battling my average speed and knew that if i was on course for a descent result I would have to crack the hour and maintain atleast 25mph on this slow, griding course. Hitting the roundabout a full speed, I slung shot myself back round and power out of the turn and in pursuit of the finish line which was 8 miles up the road. My average speed was showing 24.6mph so i knew i had some work to do. I began to wind it up, overtaking the 5th rider i had passed during my ride. Head down, shoulders in, knees scrapping the top tube, I made myself as small as possible to the ever present wind and slowly i watched my average speed creep up 0.1mph at a time.

With about 0.5 miles to go i switched to watching the clock which read 59.18. I knew it was going to be super close but soon the finish line board came in to view and with one last big lunge for the line i hit the lap button on my clock which stopped at 59.59. Now that what i call scrapping the barrel!!

I headed back to the car to cool down on my Turbo, down my rcovery drink and get changed. I got to the HQ to give my number and check my time; 59.51, that will do and one of only a handfull of times which was under the hours. My overall placing in the event was 11th, in comparison to the previous years where i finished 3rd and 2nd, this seems not so good. However, those other results came when the field was only 20 riders big and no well know names riding. Today the field was much bigger and welcomed some of the bigger names in British Time Trialling. Also, something that was quite pleasing was that The Chap who came 12th was the same rider who piped me in to 2nd spot back in 2009! So on reflection im pretty happy. The winner Rob Pears who monstered round the course in 54.04!!! Awesome ride. the 2nd pace time juped up to 57.06 and from him back to me the times were very close, to the point where if I had gone just a little faster I would have been mixing it up in the 5th-10 place positions.

Looking back at the race I feel that I rode well, paced it to perfection and couldent really have done any more. One thing that I can note is that I didnt feel as though I had access to my real top end turbo boost, something which is only really opended up after a few weeks of V02 max training and something which i have yet to start.

Next week will see me ride in the Banbury Star Hardriders TT. Again a 25 mile TT but this time local to my house and one which is famous for including the 25% monster which is Sunrising Hill. Should be fun.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Training camp day 2 - A painful ending

The alarm went off a precisely 4 minutes past 8 and we awoke after another night of interesting noises ( from the beds not from us) and I was glad to wake up at all after dodging certain death when I tried to get out of my bunk bed to to too the loo at night, a scary experience!!
Our breakfast was a mix of Muesli, Chocolate Wheetabix, Cornflakes, Hot cross buns and Bagels, not each but as a group thankfully. After much debate about what to wear we were soon changed and ready to head out of the door, we had to take all of our stuff as we were not allowed back in the rooms once we had left so we loaded up the cars and headed down to hope to start the 2nd day of riding.

Setting off once again in the near freezing conditions I was amazed at how much better my left felt and heading up the first climb I had high hopes that today’s ride would be much more pleasant than than the previous day. We headed from Hope, through the Hope Valley up to Fox House and then descended down the A625 to begin the second climb of the day. The climb of Froggott is a fairly gradual climb and a couple of kilometres in length. Apparently there is a challenge associated with this climb; Ride from the top to the bottom in a total of 15 minutes whilst stopping at each of the 2 pubs on the ascent and downing a pint. We opted out of this challenge and just decided to ride the climb as it was, although to be honest hanging on to Tony’s rear wheel was challenging enough!

Things began to get really interesting when we headed through Chatsworth National Park and had lots of fun dodging both cars and wild cattle which was everywhere and proving pretty dangerous. After this we headed on towards the next climb of the day which was somewhat off the beaten track, It was at this point during a “natural break” that Karl announced that he was feeling pretty tired after his 7 hrs yesterday and found our pace to much, funny that!! He decided that he would head back on his own and do a bit of a ride at his own pace. The 3 of us continued onwards an upwards up the narrow twisting climb and on to the flat plains at the top which shared a great resemblance to the plain that I came across last year in the Pyrenees, this was pretty cool and brought back some great memories and sparked some interesting conversation. Soon however, we found our selves heading back towards Bakewell which meant along stint on the main road. We thought it best if we single out and share a bit of the work which me and Tony were happy to do, Mike however didn’t want to play and sat on the wheels the whole time. The cheeky bugger!

Once in Bakewell we then proceeded towards Buxton and began the next climb, the climb of Longhill. As the name suggests it was quite long but thankfully pretty steady which was a good thing due to the fact that we were all beginning to feel the tiredness of the hard riding and cold weather. Longhill may ring a few bells with people as this was used last year for the National Hill Climb albeit in the opposite direction. Soon we found our selves on the last climb of the day and heading back towards the Hope. The descent off of this climb brought us, not hope but chocolaty delight as Mike had thoughtfully brought a bag of mini eggs which we all digged in to which gave us that final boost to finish the ride. We had one more descent to do before we entered Chapel En-Le Frith, the notorious and feared Winnats Pass. This 25% monster is known as one of the hardest climbs in the UK and we soon found it is was also one of the sketchiest descents in the UK too! Riding down this bad boy and dodging frozen puddles and icy patches was not fun but made for an epic feeling finish.

Back at the cars we cleaned down, got changed, slinged the bikes in the back and headed back in to the village for a coffee Crawl, just like a pub crawl only instead! Walking down the road I felt some sharp pains in my stomach but took it as nothing more that I sign that I needed the loo, which I did but after relieving myself the cramps would not disperse. It was in the 2nd coffee shop just after finished my custard covered coffee cake that things took a turn for the worse and soon I was double on the floor of the cafĂ© in extreme pain. I lay on my stomach for a while hoping the pain would subside but it didn’t and as I rose to my knees after a good 10 minutes on the cod concrete I felt somewhat queasy. About 2 seconds later I was running to the loo and throwing my £5.00 cake and coffee back up and in to the toilet. What a waste. Even after being sick I was still in pain and it was only about an hour in the journey home after some painkillers and ibuprofen that I felt normal. Not the kind of end to the weekend that I had hoped for but nonetheless I still came away with some great riding in my very tired legs and some grand memories of our first team training camp. We are all ready planning for the next one.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Team Training Weekend Day 1

The following post is written by team secretary & rider Dan Bill

Building our Bond
I think that its fair to say that the months have gone by pretty briskly and 4 months or base training has almost come to end. However, with just one more weekend of my last block to go I wanted to end it with a bang and what better way to do that than a training weekend in the Peak District with your team mates.

I have only ridden i the peaks once before but can remember it being pretty spectacular so thanks to the organisation skill of Mike and Tony I would be able to enjoy the roads one again. We had arranged to stay in Edale which is just up the road from Hope and would be staying in a youth Hostel which was located off the beaten track up a very steep and narrow drive way. Mike had driven up earlier with good Friend and race season rival Karl Hine from Cadence RT. The peaks used to me Mike and Karl's old stomping ground so they would be our tour guides for the weekend. Me and Tony when up together a little bit latter after i had finished work. It should take about 2 hours at the very most to get up there but little did we know of the misfortune we were about to encounter.

Nightmare Dive.
There we were cruising along up the motorway and next thing we are stationary trying to decide to turn on to the back roads or sit it out. A crash on the motorway had caused all the lanes to be closed and we were going no where. We took the punt and turned off but unfortunately for us, the diversion we took was also subject to a crash so we were stuck in just as much traffic as on the motorway. After 4.5hrs we finally approached the Fox House pub where we had arranged to have some grub and as we were driving up we realised that winter was here and there was snow on the ground. As we got higher the snow got deeper and after arriving at the pub with no sight of the others, the landlord told us that we wouldn't be able to eat as the Chef was going home due to the snow....Talk about a cop out.
The problem was we didn't have a signal so we couldn't find out where the others were or what they were doing. We decided to push on to the Hostel and agreed that we would most likely see them coming the other way but we didn't! After arriving at the Hostel we got our key and headed to the room to find a not under the door form mike telling us they had gone to the Fox House pub, booked a table for 8pm and would meet us there. With the time now 8.15pm we decided to stay put and for our dinner we had a bowl of cereal and a Bagel and then played table tennis for the next 3 hours. It was only when the other got back did we find out that they had got served dinner and had a massive slap up feast. Annoying but at least we were all together and ready for the days head.
Comouth the Ice and the Snow!
Waking up on Saturday morning after a some what noisy and creaky sleep in my bunk bed, we drew back the curtains to find Ice and lots of it. Typically we had timed our training weekend to coincide with the arrival of the big freeze, good job we all packed for it. We decided to drive down the back road from the Hostel to Hope due to the ice and set off from there. It was around 0 degrees when we took the first pedal strokes and it also was also the point where i realised just how bad i felt. Apart from the fact i had a slight cold coming, the cumulative effects of 4 months of solid and consistent training had made there mark on my body and i felt pretty fatigued, although its only what i expected and ultimately its all part of the bigger plan.

The planned route today would take us around the one popular Tour of the Peaks Elite Road Race which used to grace this part of the country with its presence up until 2005 which saw the races lat edition. After putting my of my wardrobe on i soon realised after the first climb that i was much too over dressed but thankfully i had my awesome Orlieb Saddle back which meant i could strip of some layers and store them in there, Karl also had the same idea and i ended up storing everyone else's crap as well!!!

As the ride went on I slowly began to feel even more fatigued and it was only the fact that i was riding with my mates in an amazing part of the world which kept me plugging away. After about 2.5 hrs we deviated from the race route in order to tackle Holme Moss, a Continental style climb which begins at Woodhead and takes you over the peak ending in Holmefirth. This was an amazing climb with even more amazing views of the snow covered caps and frozen reservoir. If i had been blindfolded and taken to the top of this climb it would be easy to thin that you were in the middle of the Alps. Unfortunately i couldn't enjoy it as much as id hoped due to suffering so much. I was soon plodding up on my own struggling to maintain 250 watts which i would typically be able to ride at for 2 hours or so. Tony was flying and leaving us all for dead and Karl and Mike were always in hot pursuit.

Holme Moss

Descending back down along the same route and back on the the course we began to head towards the next main climb, the infamous and well know Snake Pass. I had never done this climb but heard alot about it, we were very lucky to be able to ride it as only a few hours before our arrival the pass had been closed due to the whether. As we pulling in to a petrol station so Mike could grab a can of coke an amazing thing happened; I started to feel like i had some legs!!!

A snowy Snakes Pass

Riding up Snake Pass was great, i felt fresh and was able to actually ride with the others. there was still a lot of snow at the peak of the climb but the descent was pretty clear. From here we headed back towards Hope to where the cars were parked and i was almost sad that the ride was ending, what a difference to when i first set off. I decided to ride back to Hostel up the road which we had to drive down and meet the others there, Karl decided he wanted to do more as well and he headed off towards Sheffield to put in other 2 hours on top of the 5 we had already done. I was keen to keep riding but not that keen.

Dinner Time

Back at the hostel the rest of us were showered and warm and we decided to get dinner started. Karl finally decided to show up just in time for some grub and its fair to say we had  pretty hearty feast of pasta, chicken and every type of veg you could think of. After this we headed down to hope for some more food at a local pub and then hit the sack around 11pm ready for some more riding tomorrow. I just hoped that i felt better than i did today!!