Sunday, December 16, 2012

In no particular order

Everyone at work's still sick, thus I've managed to pick up another infection of the nasal region. Tres annoying. It's not disastrous, just means I've had to put training on the back burner again. That said I'm not that bothered about the lost time as I know it comes back fast and it's a pretty crappy time of year to be doing lots of miles.

It probably didn't help having two work Xmas parties in the space of a week. Boozing and being in close proximity to sick people = recipe to get sick. They were worth it.

In the meantime my washing machine broke. The hinge on the door to be precise. I replaced it as you can see in this sequence of DIY imagery below.

Step 1: secure hinge with gaffer tape and put a container under the door. Note:  this is not a permanent solution.

Step 2: take the front off because you dropped the other bit of the hinge in the guts of the washing machine
Step 3: find the bit of the hinge you dropped and get it out with a suitable implement
Step 4: put a new hinge on the door

Step 5: bolt the door back on in poor light

Step 6: result, a fully functioning washing machine
So that was that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

There is no spoon

Following on from the last missive of bilge, I thought I'd post some more, seeing as it's a) a full moon and b) still Movember.

Pertaining to b) I can recommend the beard. It not only helps keep out the cold, it also serves to impart wisdom to anyone who can be bothered to listen and that includes me. And possibly, although this may be entirely spurious, it gives you Samson-like strength. That's better than Samsonite strength because you can bring down temples of prejudice and whatnot with it.

Continuing on with this theme I'm going to use an extremely bad analogy for performance improvement which I've taken from The Matrix:

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon [ed: with your mind]. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Spoon boy: There is no spoon.

Neo: There is no spoon?

Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

The other is "Free your mind" which if you do means you can end up saying "Woah" a lot like Keanu Reeves did.

To me it means being prepared to throw out something that you have accepted as strong scientific "fact" for a long long time, because you've seen something new that could perhaps challenge that. And instead of dismissing it out of hand as you've done so often before because it doesn't agree with what you know, making you a poor scientist, you try it out. And you see results that make you think because they're interesting. And so you try it again, but differently, and the results are compelling enough to give you sleepless nights (in a good way). A rather large piece of the puzzle gets taken out and inserted in a different way making the whole picture clearer. And you realise you've been blinkered all along because you thought your understanding was so good. In fact the original science was good, it just wasn't complete and you misinterpreted it.

This principle can be applied to anything. I have applied it to riding a bike. It is, I think good, but I am not totally sure at this stage. Thus the beard will stay on for longer until normal service is resumed.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Slight return

My off season, which mostly involved getting sick and far too little beer, is finally over. A three week cold on top of two easy weeks made my CTL (chronic training load, which is basically how fit you are) graph look like the ski jump in the winter Olympics. Actually several ski jumps, one after the other. I know that to return to my September fitness will take many months of uninterrupted work but that's what the winter is for innit.

The mental break was nice although I've never really found it necessary. I like riding even though training is boring. But not training is even more boring. And being sick is the worst kind of boredom of all. That said, I've used the down time creatively, putting on 3kg and grown a winter beard.

What now? Don't panic and rebuild for as long as it takes. Can I do better than this year? I don't know and I'm not letting it bother me. The fire hasn't yet awoken but I'm sure it will.

I am enjoying the fact that my road bike finally has proper mudguards, courtesy of the good people at Cadence. I've been putting up with crappy substandard clip on things for years and they are endlessly frustrating. I now have wide bolt on versions and they work a treat. It's nice to come home without mud all over your kit for a change.

Other stuff: the world's going to the dogs as usual. Scooby Doo is the way forward. Twitter is quite good once you learn to filter it. I'm @drjones97

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's not about the Lance

I'm bored and it's the off season. Sleeping's nice, not training (as much) is nice, indulging in the odd pint is nice, reading Racing Through the Dark, The Secret Race then various bits of the USADA Reasoned Decision on Lance Armstrong and co is not as nice, but it's worth it to fill in some gaps and understand the world of doping in cycling.

Newsflash: Who the hell put Jimmy Savile in charge of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital?? Jesus people are thick. Given he was a cyclist (raced in the Tour of Britain) he was obviously a) a doper and b) an evil bastard. Anyway, he did a lot of good charity work didn't he. Wonder why.

Back to the reasoned decision. Yes Lance is guilty and in some ways has to be admired for having the ball, singular, to orchestrate such a racket during a period of intense scrutiny around doping. Even if you ignore the odd positive test (not that the UCI would ever do such a thing) the weight of evidence in his teammates' affidavits is too great. It's all there in the appendices, along with a pile of other stuff.

Funnily enough, I think the most damning is actually George Hincapie's. It's the last few pars that seal it - after giving details of his, Lance's and the team's doping programs, he finishes by saying he still regards Lance as a personal friend and a great cyclist and a role model. I'm not sure how Lance can counter that one, as the axe to grind / financial gain from forthcoming book / reduced ban (Hincapie's retired) defence doesn't really hold up. I guess we'll see how long the friendship lasts.

Anyway, it's clear that there were many riders and staff involved in this and plenty are still racing and in management. Some with 'zero tolerance' teams, some with teams that clearly want the doping status quo to remain. In time, plenty more people will get the boot. Once you lift the lid on doping in sport, there is no turning back, and there has to be a paradigm shift in the culture before it settles down again. That's going to take many years, if it happens at all. At least now you now have some riders prepared to speak out without fear of being ostracized from the sport because there are teams that exist to support them.

As far as speaking out goes, I can remember my time at Cyclingnews when this all took place. I started there in 1999, a year after the Festina affair, and had a steep learning curve as a production editor/journalist with zero experience (I left in 2006 to help set up BikeRadar). We lacked the resources to do any investigative reporting, so just did our best to keep the site going with news and results, which was our informal mission statement. However, no scandal was missed and if you go back through the archives, a lot of the smoke and most of the fire is there. We even did live coverage of Operacion Puerto.

I don't remember being afraid of publishing stuff that might piss off Lance, even when he successfully sued David Walsh and the Sunday Times (settled out of court, they may want to revisit that) for publishing a piece that, while relying on hearsay and circumstantial evidence, led the reader to the conclusion that Lance had probably doped. The truth doesn't protect you in libel cases unless you can prove it. And that is hard to do. You can also protect yourself by always covering both sides of the story in order to be balanced - that's hard to do when you're trying to paint a certain picture, which is where being a columnist can get you into trouble. Walsh was right in the end, it just took a while to come out.

We (well, not me) had some access to Lance - hell, we even published Dr Ferrari's diary for a while - but I got the impression that so called hard questions were not welcome. Not that they would have been particularly revealing as Lance was more than adept at handling them. And to be honest, that access didn't give us loads of extra site traffic and big ad dollars because frankly, reader interest is not very high when you are limited to puffery.

I remember going to the Tour de France one year and almost but not quite getting invited to a boutique press conference with Lance and Johan at their hotel, with about five other journos. Tim went but it was decreed that having me there would unbalance the whole thing so I got to sit outside, have a beer and enjoy watching Lance's bodyguard forcibly eject a nutter fan that had climbed in through one of the ground floor windows in the hope of an autograph. He was disappointed.

Going back further, I remember Gerard (then CN boss) and myself riding with Lance, Tony Cruz, George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton and Freddy Rodriguez the day before the Sydney Olympic road race in 2000. We took them on a circuit of Watsons Bay and chatted a bit. For the record Lance didn't ask me if I used performance enhancing drugs :-) But he did think Ullrich was nuts for racing too much beyond the Tour de France.

Unfortunately they missed the break the next day, radios not working they said, as Ullrich, Vinokourov and Kloeden magically rode away from a very high quality field up Bronte hill and finished in that order. Hincapie 8th, Lance 13th. I'm sure they were probably doped to the gills but what a race.

I remember the Tour in 2003 when Ullrich beat Lance in the Cap de Couverte time trial. I was excited and I wasn't the only one, as I thought we might have an interesting race on our hands. Pevenage and Ullrich and their entourage were staying at our hotel that night and by god they looked pleased with themselves. Lance prevailed in the end though. I would have loved to have seen those two race each other clean.

And finally I remember a phone conversation I was privy to in 1999, while covering the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic a few weeks after I started on Cyclingnews, and not having much of a clue about being a journo. It was between Rob Arnold, the editor of Ride Cycling Review and the then ASO press officer, Denis Descamps. I remember Rob being quite distressed and saying something along the lines of 'this will destroy the Tour de France'. I've honestly no idea what it was about (a big positive from the 1999 Tour? That would have been bad) and Rob wouldn't tell me, and I forgot about it. But for whatever reason it came back to me recently. I'll ask him if I ever see him again.

My reasoned decision

I no longer cover professional cycling and haven't really done so for five years (CN supplies all the racing stories on BikeRadar and they do a damned good job). I still have a professional interest in it and a personal one as well. I appreciate it for what it is and am observing the slow change in mentality as public and rider opinion shifts. Up until not that long ago, all cycling fans were more than happy to watch riders do completely ridiculous things up mountains, including braking for corners. Now the proportion is not as great. How many watched the Vuelta this year? I didn't as I knew it wouldn't be close to a level playing field. I'm sure I missed a great spectacle.

As far as heroes go, well none of them are to me (thanks Nicole Cooke for that perspective). I respect what these guys and gals can do on a bike. They're highly skilled, genetically gifted and very fit athletes. I would like to think more of them are clean now than before, and that the last couple of Tours were won clean but even on that front I have doubts. But I wouldn't go so far as to worship someone just for their ability to ride a bike, that's too much. You can find better people much closer to you if you're lucky.

Who benefits now? I think what's happened is good for the clean riders, management and support staff as well as fans who want clean racing. But it's obviously torn the sport apart as for over 100 years it was nicely self contained and controlled form of entertainment for the masses, thus the cheating was not considered such from within the peloton. Riders could compete clean if they really wanted as the drugs didn't make a huge difference until the '90s when EPO created a whole new playing field. Then there was no choice if they wanted to keep their jobs and that in itself contributed to the split that we have today. There's still plenty of the old guard left, slowly being weeded out as riders but then disappointingly going into management. That's only going to perpetuate things unless they admit and commit to clean cycling. But self interest is going to rule, so there has to be something in it for them.

As an amateur I'll continue to compete clean as I've always done, and while I'm sure there are riders doping at this level, which is sad more than anything else, I still seem to do OK in this small niche of cycling.

Finally, apologies I haven't bothered to put my remaining race blogs up here, but they're on the drag2zero site if anyone's interested.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July update: the 48, ticked

I've been in summer hibernation mode since the nationals finished, with work getting very busy with the Tour de France, the Olympics and everything in between including training. Speaking of the Tour: Wiggins, Froome, Cav, Sky - six stage wins and the overall victory, just amazing! I've felt the atmosphere over here really lift as a result. It's even stopped raining too, which is rather surreal after the wettest three months ever.

Back to training, well I haven't really eased off the gas since I got sick in mid-May, with the possible exception of the national 50. I'm still seeking that elusive bit of fitness that I know should be there, but it needs a lot of hard work to extract. Come August-September I'll know whether the work I'm doing now is going to pay off. It certainly did last year.

I haven't been idle on the racing front though. I squeezed in a 10 at Castle Combe last week, the last in the Kinetic One series, and came away with the win in 20'37 on a pretty blustery night. I was tired from training and my power was well down, but still I enjoyed the blast around the circuit. That's four out of four (I didn't race the fifth) and not a bad record. I'll have to wait until next year to have a crack at sub-20, just three seconds to find.

I backed up with a decent level 2 ride from work, around Chew Valley Lake and back the day after. 35.5km/h average for a couple of hours on the road bike on gnarly roads and it's far from flat. The fitness is coming, it's just clouded by weeks of fatigue at the moment.

After an easy day on Friday I rocked up for the West DC 25 on the 'new' U46C course between Cricklade and Cirencester on a perfect Saturday evening. I rode the 35 miles out at a gentle pace, enjoying the calm conditions, warm sunshine and the likely prospect of a Wiggins win in the Tour time trial that day. Stu Dodd was organising it and pulling his hair out a bit after almost not being able to get into the HQ at Ashton Keynes. But he did and there were numbers and a sign on sheet and marshals. We were on.

I got kitted out and rode to the start, getting a proper feel for the conditions and realising that it was going to be fast. The lane from the HQ to the start is dead flat and after "assuming the position" I was ticking along at 40km/h at pretty much bang on 200 watts. Yep, it's quick.

Once I started and got onto the A419 concrete I was doing close to 48km/h (30mph) at 340W to get up to the Burford turn (7.5 miles). That was also good, considering the outward leg is uphill and there was the faintest of headwinds, although there was a bit of residual evening traffic on that leg. Almost none going the other way though.

I felt relaxed at that point, surprised at the power, but as so often happens, fatigue kicked in pretty quickly and I was forced to dial it back a lot on the way back to Cricklade. Still, I kept it at 52km/h (32.3mph) the whole way back and completed the first 15 miles in just over 29 minutes.

The second leg was shorter - just up to the airfield roundabout and back, although that is a nasty little climb when you've been used to the high speeds on the flat. I wasn't nearly as good as the first lap, dropping a couple of km/h (16 seconds compared to the first lap) and a good 25W. But the end was in sight. The return wasn't too bad, just a matter of holding on for the last leg to the finish. It was less than 9 minutes but it felt more prolonged than that as I was tired and there wasn't any more in the tank. But I kept it together and hardly lost any speed compared to the first lap, which meant a very satisfying finishing time of 48'42. That's nearly 50km/h average - Wiggins was only a little bit faster in his event ;-)

I thought this should be good enough to win it reasonably comfortably - little did I know that Ben Anstie, who'd started 30mins ahead of me, had clocked a 48'45! That's one of the best rides I've seen him do (I was 23 sec in front of him at Castle Combe) so obviously he has been getting stuck in.

Still, I was happy as I always am when I do a PB. Shame they so rarely coincide with power PBs, otherwise a 47 was certainly on the cards. I was also happy to do it on a local course that hasn't been that fashionable lately. It even finishes higher than it starts (just)!

The only negative was puncturing my Veloflex tub on the way home, but luckily Derek Pierce came by as I was riding back to the HQ and gave me a very welcome lift. Sunday? Back into it again with a hard endurance ride. There's no rest for the wicked.

Friday, June 29, 2012

National 50 reportage

Scott Povey, moi, Peter Lavine (support) and Matt Bottrill: Team winners at the men's National 50

3rd + team + best 40-45 age group in the National 50! I kinda knew I had it in me but to pull it off is something else. And don’t worry, I paid for it with very very sore legs and have been pretty flattened this week.

Hutch won his 13th title, Matt was 1’28 back and I surprised myself in only being 3’49 behind Hutch. Bear in mind he beat me by 3’40 over half that distance a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d done well that day, weather notwithstanding. I do seem to get better as the distances increase but I’m not sure Hutch was at his best, as it came three days after winning the Irish TT championships. Matt certainly gave it everything and while it wasn’t as nail biting as last year, it was great to see him pushing himself to yet another personal best.


I travelled down to Cornwall on Saturday with my TTing friends Low and Mark Smith, who grew up there and have handy relations. We got down there early enough for a genuine and excellent Cornish pasty before Low raced later in the afternoon.

The 3 lap course was mostly dual carriageway with a bit of single carriageway at one end so you avoided one of the slip roads. It was rolling rather than hilly and fairly quiet as far as traffic went, but the main feature was the SW wind which made the outward leg a real slog. And for the unlucky women, the rain which began around 30mins before they started and didn’t really let up. It wasn’t as bad as the National 25 but certainly wasn’t pleasant and around half the field either didn’t start or didn’t finish. There was a reserve course this time but it wasn’t used.

Our own Julia Shaw, who has won eight national 50 titles, did around 5 miles and called it quits. Another top favourite Rebecca Slack (London Dynamo) didn’t start due to the conditions, which left her teammate Jenny Lloyd-Jones to brave the conditions and take the win. I have to say I’m a bit gun shy now after the 25 and I doubt I would have started either.

Low thought she’d do a lap and see how she went – she duly carried on, eventually finishing 14th/16 finishers with a new PB of 2:19:37. Impressive in that weather on that course, as her previous one was done in much better conditions on a quicker course.

Race day

We headed back for some more food and I got as much sleep as I could manage before a 4:55am start the following morning. As forecast, the rain eased off as the first of the men started at 7am, visibility was good and we were just left to contend with the wind.

We had a ‘gift’ 4.5 miles with more tailwind than headwind between the start and the eventual finish. That was good for morale as it’s always nice to start off with 31mph average. Then there was the small matter of three full laps, 15.2 miles each.

The first was about settling into a rhythm, punching it into the wind but not too hard. I saw my average power gradually rise, not too high – it was still below what I thought I could do for the whole race although it’s hard to judge what sort of day you’re going to have. The climb to the turn was murder, only 3.5% but into that wind, ouch. Then it was back up to speed in a big way coming out of the turn, hitting 44mph on the way back down and trying to carry as much as possible into the long drag that followed. The tailwind was good but you still had to work for your speed or the drags would sap it, as I’d find out later. I saw Matt (who started 5mins behind me) and Hutch (11mins behind me) and tried to calculate splits – massively overestimating the time they’d taken out of me because I was in the tailwind bit. I could see that Hutch was gaining on Matt though.

I finished the lap in 31’51, which I thought was OK but not brilliant. At least I was holding the power nice and steady. I sucked down a gel and started the second lap with a good feel for how to ride it. I could feel the hill to the turn bite into my legs and was hoping I’d have enough gas to last one more lap. Back up to speed with the tailwind, going slower in some places, faster in others, inhaling a gel en route to finish the lap in 31’47. Hutch and Matt had gained a bit more time on me, but surprisingly not much. One more lap, one more gel. Was it enough?

As soon as I hit the headwind I knew I was fading. This leg was pretty important, crack there and that’s a minute gone. I maintained my effort as best I could, using the knowledge of the previous laps to ride that section fast enough despite losing power.

Then came the tailwind. Normally this would be easy but I was running on fumes. 20W down on the previous two laps, 15sec slower. That’s the raw numbers although they do not equate to how you’re actually feeling! I wanted it to end and was looking forward to the final brief bit of headwind which led to the chequered flag. It was something to fight against rather than the more daunting task of maintaining speed in a tailwind when you’re spent. I didn’t even bother looking to see how Matt and Hutch were faring, all my effort was focused on my own ride.

The last lap was 32’09 in total so I guess I just managed to hold it together without completely cracking. We had to turn left under a bridge to finish, just a few hundred metres, all uphill. I sprinted and extracted every last bit of energy out of my empty legs, crossing the line with 1:44:24 on the clock. I thought ‘average’ – my power didn’t look great and I knew my teammate Scott Povey had done 1:44:05 on this course earlier in the year so I figured I might be lucky to scrape the top five.

But I saw Adam Topham just ahead, and he’d started five minutes in front of me. He’s always beaten me in the national 50, even caught me for a couple of minutes in 2010, so maybe I hadn’t done so badly after all. I waited a little bit until Matt finished and worked out he’d taken about two and a half minutes out of me – I expected double that.

With that, I started the 3 mile ride back to the HQ. My legs gave up at that point, first one then the other cramped and it was not a cramp that was going away in a hurry. It was one that resulted from complete depletion, absolute exhaustion of every bit of glycogen that had been leading a happy life until the point when it was called on to do some serious pedalling work. A quarter of an hour later I limped back into the carpark, shattered and slightly frustrated with my not-quite-optimal fitness – that virus didn’t quite give me enough time to recover for this although my form’s definitely coming back.

My mood changed when I saw Low smiling and holding up three fingers. ’3rd! I’m pretty sure’ and I hoped she was right! She told me Hutch had done a 1:40 and Matt a 1:42 and I started to believe her, verified when I managed to get changed and check my time on the board. Yep, all true – in fact I’d beaten 4th place by a whole two minutes! And with Scott finishing 7th, no-one got close to us for the team prize, and to top it off I won the 40-45yr medal again. Three medals from one championship is pretty hard to beat :-)

To finish this high in a national championship (25 or 50) was one of the main long term goals I set myself 20 months ago when I started with Ric. To achieve it is the result of a lot of hard work during that time combined with the testing I’ve done in the Drag2Zero tunnel (and on my own) and of course the opportunity to ride with this team. It’s been interesting and motivating, to say the least, and there might be more to come yet.

Next up: the national team time trial on Saturday. I’m riding with Scott and Jon Simpkins, which should make a good combo, while Matt, Chas and Mark will be gunning for gold against the best teams from around the country.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Insanely long national 25 report

A week on from the national 25 and I think I've finally got my thoughts together. It was definitely a case of mixed feelings about the event which was run on the A19 in North Yorkshire last Saturday.

There were some real highlights - elements of my own ride, which netted me 9th plus a national age medal for fastest 40+ rider; the battle for the win between Hutch, Alex Dowsett and Matt Bottrill, which eventually fell to Hutch with an amazingly good ride - one of his best ever; Julia Shaw's win in the women's, despite being affected by the day's events.

Collecting my national 25 age medal from Paul Curran and Sheila Hardy.
Photo: Mark Holton
Not good - and thankfully not worse - was the incident involving Jane Kilmartin who was hit by a driver and sustained some serious but not life threatening injuries. Also the weather was patchy at best and got quite bad for the last riders - me included. It was a real balance between braving the risks or staying safe and I wasn't happy with myself in the days afterwards for choosing the former.

Mark and Chas and a few others did the sensible thing and either didn't start or pulled out. It's a tough call to make as a rider, especially if it's an event you've targeted the whole season. Hutch clearly wasn't happy but he still raced ... and won.

Why do we do it? I think that although self preservation is a strong instinct, and it does kick in, there's also the risk taking for status instinct that can be even more powerful at times. As I've found, it's very hard to override this when you're in race mode. And having driven a bloody long way from Bath I really didn't want to pull the pin. I survived and had a pretty decent race but I've also been thinking hard about what to do to reduce or eliminate the risk in future in similar circumstances. More on that later.

Getting the race head on

I had been keeping an eye on the forecast during the week and it looked iffy, but you can never tell unless you're there. I was nervous because there didn't appear to be a reserve course so if it rained, tough - we had the choice of racing on a busy dual carriageway or not at all. The organisers and promoters have the power to call an event off, which happens relatively frequently in opens, but (as I subsequently found out) hardly ever in national championships.

I got there early while it was windy and there were reports of some heavy showers at the south end of the course, but I didn't know how bad and anyway the event was still running. Derek said that the road at the south end was rougher so spray wouldn't be a problem. The north end was smooth, however - rain there wouldn't be fun.

Then I saw Ryan Mullen's time of 48'48 to win the junior event and thought 'wow, he really turned it on', and figured that the top men would be in the 46 minute territory. I wasn't far out in the end.

Which wheel? I opted for the Enve - good choice
The women didn't post particularly fast times compared to the juniors, perhaps because the wind was more unfavourable but it was hard to tell. Julia won in a solid 54'57 from Ciara Horne (56'48) and Rebecca Slack (57'14). The news had in the meantime come through about the incident involving Jane and, given that one lane was coned off, we wondered whether that would be it for the championship. But no, the show went on - there was sufficient gap between the women's and men's events for her to be taken to hospital and the road fully reopened.

The wind dropped and the rain clouds threatened but didn't break. It was starting to look like ideal racing weather in fact. I warmed up for half an hour, feeling OK and now looking forward to getting on with it. Number pinning, general zipping up, suiting and booting followed, then the final 15 minutes before the start to complete the warm up. That felt good and I was ready. And the weather looked to be holding.

It'll dry up...
The start was in a lane, then you joined the A19 after a few hundred meters. Once on the DC I got up to speed and tried really hard to rein back my power. It's so important to relax at the start otherwise you will invariably overcook it. 5 minutes in and it was a little high but I felt sufficiently relaxed to be in control, so I settled. It was a headwind to the turn so I knew I could get away with going a little harder but still, that strategy can backfire if you go too hard.

The sight lines are good on the A19 as it's a very straight road. I could see my minute man in the distance and took time checks to see how I was going and also to help relax. After 6 miles I'd nearly caught him and went by him on the main climb, still conscious of riding steadily but pleasantly surprised with how I was going. Nearly 30mph average to the bottom of the climb and that was with a headwind - yep, I'll take it. I was in a good frame of mind at this stage, now quite confident of doing a decent ride.

It got harder over the top of the climb on the rolling roads which were more exposed to the wind. And the rain, which started at the top. It was OK, I told myself, it was still bright and this is probably a passing shower, or maybe one local to this end of the course. It got harder and I was soaked, with the rain beating off my visor.

I picked up a lot of speed on the steady downhill to the turn, braked firmly before the exit road which was quite sharp and made my way gingerly around the corners, across the bridge, and over the other side. Another few sharp grabs of the brakes and I was able to rejoin the A19 heading north.

I was kinda looking forward to this bit because I knew it would be tailwind to the finish and I was still going strongly. Suddenly my visor steamed up and my visibility was limited. Sensory deprivation is not a good thing in any situation and in some ways that was the end of my race. I knew how to clean it (index finger, wipe, repeat) I knew I'd be giving up time each time I did so.

Going up the first drag was OK, trying to hold the speed above 26mph all the way which I nearly managed, but I'd gone too hard and got a stitch at the top, a rare thing in a TT. I tried to ride with it but the visor issue was bugging me too much so I backed off for half a minute, tried to breathe my way out of it, repeated this for the next 10 minutes or so until it went.

All the while the rain was hammering down and it was quite dark overhead. If anyone was going to make the decision to stop it was me, but I was locked on course with the desire to finish still quite strong. I trusted in my rear light, my white booties, my yellow number, the warning signs on the (few) sliproads and the other riders behind me, who would at least alert drivers to the fact that there was something going on involving bikes. There also wasn't that much traffic and one would hope that drivers pay more attention in the wet - I certainly do.

On the return leg, in float conditions...
Photo: Nick Hanson
At the bottom of Clack Bank on the way back I was committed to making it to the finish, it was only 10 minutes. But here on the smooth roads the spray was bad and I was doing a lot of mental finger crossing, as well as hoping for the best for my fellow riders still going out the other way. At this stage I was very uncomfortable being on the road but not terrified or perhaps rational enough to pull over at the first layby. I guess the prospect of freezing to death deterred me as I really hate getting cold. Looking at it objectively now, no-one should have been riding on that road in those conditions. I have changed my thinking for the future.

I had my computer on distance and was counting down the kilometres. It didn't help as I thought the finish was another mile off than it actually was! I saw it with about 50m to go and didn't even bother sprinting, it wouldn't have made a difference. I just felt slightly cheated that I didn't get my last mile windup in to add another watt to the average. Small things eh.

It didn't take long to get off the road, get showered and warm and look at the damage in the HQ. By the time I saw the results board the race had been decided with Hutch taking it from Dowsett by a small margin and Matt finishing third. Quite an astounding result given that Dowsett wasn't there to lose and he knocked out 410-415W to finish second. But as Hutch said, he concentrated on the details and rode his own race right till the end to pull back Dowsett in the closing miles. Astonishing.

I felt for Matt, who'd done the best 25 of his career but still been beaten by 1'35 by Hutch. All three deserved their medals.

I finished up 9th, which I wasn't disappointed with at all. Only 19 seconds off fifth too, so it was a close game and me losing my nerve on the way back might have cost me a few places. Still, I came away with an age group medal for best rider over 40 and I was pretty happy with that. And overall, my form seems to be coming back so I've got a more positive outlook on the 50 in a couple of weeks.

Reducing risk

This has been at the top of my mind for the last week, coupled with a considerable amount of discussion on the TT forum.

On the organisational planning side, course selection is very important. The suitability of this course for a national championship was raised by Hutch in the leadup to the event - it's got to be used for six or seven hours, which means traffic should ideally be at a minimum (or zero!) so as not to compromise the safety and the fairness of the race. It shouldn't be compromised by adverse weather (it's June, it rains) or if a dual carriageway course is used, then there needs to be a nearby backup just in case.

This is all possible (the 25 in Boroughbridge two years ago was excellent, last year's in Devon wasn't bad and next year's looks good on paper too). One of the good things that has come out of this year's 25 is that according to Cycling Weekly, CTT national secretary Keith Lawton will recommend to the national committee that the safety of a course in difficult conditions will be carefully considered.

For my own part, just as a general precaution, I'm going to ensure that I give my visor the proper treatment each time so that it doesn't fog up. I've been experimenting with a few things this week based on the advice of a colleague, and I think I've got something that actually works. When I'm convinced I'll post a video. I've also bought an RSP Astrum rear light, as I'm not confident in my Exposure Flare when it's wet.

I'll also take note of alternative ways back to the finish if I get into a similar situation with the weather like that on a dual carriageway again. As well as being mindful that there will be other races, no matter how far I've driven, and other people in my life who are counting on me staying whole. I would like it to be otherwise, given the emotions at play, but I don't want to have to rely on someone else to make a decision about my safety. Belt and braces.

Now had it not been for the traffic, I would have enjoyed Saturday's race a lot more. Rain can, at times, be a bit of a buzz when you're on a bike.

Coming up

En route to 20:02.941 in the Kinetic One 10 #4 at Castle Combe.
Photo: Neil Davies
I've not been idle since the 25, getting some quality training in this week and coming oh so close to one of my pre-season goals: to break 20 minutes for 10 miles on the Castle Combe circuit. I had a good ride in Wednesday's Kinetic One 10 to clock 20:02.941 to win it by 38sec from Ben Anstie. Not quite 30mph but at least more than 48km/h, which I'm pretty chuffed with considering there's zero traffic and nowhere to hide on that course. It was only 13 degrees but calm, which helped a lot I think. Great fun too.

Hopefully that bodes well for the national 50 in Cornwall in a bit over a week. I think should do well in it, provided the weather's reasonable and we all finish. Hutch and Matt will likely duke it out for the win and Julia's the fave in the women's, while Mark, Scott and myself should all be up there. A top 5 will take a good ride I know, but I appear to be back on the upward power curve again so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The May report

What happened to May? It's been and gone and I feel like I've been stuck in April for far too long.

Not much racing for me as I finally succumbed to the bug I thought I got rid of last month. Everyone's had it at work (I blame Jamie and his Tapei experience, although he had it much worse) so it was no surprise that one Saturday morning I simply couldn't get out of bed. I figured it'd take a week to get over it so come Wednesday I pulled out of the national 10. Annoying but the best decision, as it would have been too soon to push it. Those that did race while sick didn't have a good time of it. On a positive note, it was great to see Julia win the women's and Matt (2nd), Chas (6th) and Jon (8th) collect the men's team prize for

In the end I had five days off the bike which doesn't sound like a lot but it does trash your top end fitness. I'm currently in the process of regaining that, so opted to ride round 4 of the Rudy Project series a week and a bit ago. It went as well as I could have expected, as I finished second to Matt, albeit with a 2'23 gap.

It was a hard one to judge as it was a hot (by UK standards) and windy day and the times were relatively slow, everyone's power was down, etc. I started off well and had the foresight to knock it back early on as I could feel the heat was going to cook us all on the second lap. I had the second quickest first lap split, 28'31 to Matt's 27'35 with Matt Clinton (28'47) and James Coleman (28'51) not far behind.

Lap 2 and there was the inevitable power drop off, but I managed to go a tad quicker by riding smarter. When you don't have a lot in the tank you need to use it wisely. Matt also went quicker and won convincingly in 56'00 while I scraped in for second with 58'23. Matt Clinton won the battle for third with 58'42. Julia Shaw caught Rebecca Slack for two minutes to win the women's in 29'54 and that gave us the team prize, which was tres nice. I have rather a lot of pairs of Rudy Project sunnies now.

Racing at Castle Combe. Photo: Neil Davies
 I backed it up with another Kinetic One 10 at Castle Combe on Wednesday - which I won in 20'30 from Ben Anstie (20'47). The ride was OK but confirmed that I'm nowhere near the power I need to be to be at the sharp end of the field in the national 25 this weekend. So with that in mind, I'm targeting a top 10, which will take some doing, rather than higher up which was my original plan this year. Ho hum.

It's going to be an interesting affair at the top in the 25 as besides Hutch and Matt, there's British TT champ Alex Dowsett (Team Sky) and a couple of talents Doug Dewey and Joe Perrett. That's my top five pick, not sure of the order though. There are another dozen or so riders who will be vying for 6th-10th, I hope I'm one of them!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The April roundup

As I write this, the wind is howling outside, the rain is lashing down at frequent intervals, Liz is sick and I'm not going riding (yet). April officially ends tomorrow and I will be glad to see the back of it. In hindsight, entering a bunch of races on fast courses on the assumption that the weather was going to be as good as last April was a bad idea. Not all bad though.

On Saturday I rode and won the Bath CC 10 on the U47r - the slower reverse version of the U47. I definitely wasn't thinking of a PB but I did want one final race before the national 10 in three weeks. I also wanted a longish training day so I set off at 5:45 to ride the 30+ miles to the HQ in Ashton Keynes.

It was grey and a chilly NE wind was blowing, but the forecast was for it to stay dryish at least. Nope, by the time I got there it was actually raining and you couldn't pass it off as low cloud either. It stopped before too long, but the roads were wet and that's never a nice thing on a dual carriageway. Rain is far worse though, as anyone who has driven or ridden in it can testify.

There was a reserve course but the event had already started so it had to continue on the original course or be cancelled. I was in two minds. I got kitted up, rode to the start, got very cold in doing so, noted that the roads were still wet but the rain had stopped and the visibility was decent so figured it was ok (just) to ride.

After a few weeks of so-so form - more on that below - I wasn't expecting big power numbers. My legs also felt like wooden blocks after standing around too long in the cold before the start, and they didn't want to play ball. So I went out at a fairly conservative pace into the head/crosswind to see what sort of speed would result. There were some fast bits when the road curved westwards, but a 10'45 split (27.8mph) to the 5 mile point shows that it was still a headwind, uphill grind.

Not going out too hard was of benefit coming back, as I only dropped a few watts with the cross/tailwind and held the speed at 31mph all the way back and it was still very much under control, rather than the gut busting oxygen deprived affairs that 10s usually are. I lost more momentum than I would have liked (33 -> 28.5mph) when I caught my two minute man with 2.5 miles to go, due to my own caution in passing people on DCs. Sometimes it's ok, sometimes it's better to wait. Liz had similar issues in her 5km swimathon yesterday.

The finish involves going over a flyover then turning right at a roundabout, leaving less than 100m before the chequered flag. It's a horrible way to finish a race as you always feel a bit cheated when you cross the line. But it's the only 10 course that can be run on that road at the moment as potential alternatives have to be measured and risk assessed.

I'd done enough to win, which was nice, and it was a good way to finish the April racing block, as now I have a three week gap before the national 10. At least I won't have any issues passing people there! Starting second last is cool, although I'm certainly not expecting to finish as high as my seeding.

Rewind to the other bits of April

How quickly does shock and awe get replaced by mild frustration? About a week in bike racing terms. That said, if I only have one good race this year then the 18'09 will fit the bill nicely.

As foretold, I faced Hutch a couple of days later in the Haverhill Wheelers Rudy Project. It was a 20 mile affair over quiet, often twisting Essex roads - a complete contrast to the V718 dragstrip. I felt good, despite suffering from what I thought was a nervous tum, and set out at a solid pace for the first half. The main climbs were, however, in the second half, and although I got over them ok I probably should have saved a wee bit more gas. Still, I acquitted myself well and finished second in the event, exactly one minute behind Hutch (we did joke beforehand that I'd give him a thrashing. That is not going to happen).

I was on a high after both Easter races, especially as I got a bit of a break from hard training the next week. But that was, in hindsight, the high point. The stomach bug got worse and I didn't really get the kick back in freshness I felt I deserved. I wasn't laid low, just had the edge knocked off.

By the following Sunday, four of us - me, Matt, Derek and Mark - lined up for the VTTA 25 in Wales, where we had planned a tilt at the team comp record for 25 miles (sum of times of fastest three riders in your team). The target to beat was 2:27:45, set by Matt, Scott Povey and Richard Bradley last year. It wasn't a bad day - a light-moderate N wind and about 10 degrees. That meant a tailwind downhill to the turn, then a shorter headwind slog back. I got to the turn (16 miles) in around 28'30 with OK power, but then faded coming back to finish in 49'46. Not a bad time but Mark eclipsed that with a fine 48'07, then Derek with 48'52 - which actually gave us the team comp record then and there. For a whole three minutes until Matt finished with an absolutely brilliant 46'47, an awesome ride on what I didn't think was a fast day.

So we finished 1st-4th, broke the team comp record twice and to top it off I even won the vets standard prize (fastest rider over 40, with an age adjustment built in). I was OK with my ride and really happy for the other three, who deserved that record and may well have put it on the shelf for a while. 2:23:46. That's three riders averaging under 48 minutes each!

A week later we had another chance at it in the BDCA 25. Again four of us riding: Matt, me, Derek and Chas McCulloch, doing his first 25 since 2009. Hutch was on the start sheet as well, thus it promised to be a battle of the titans. The wind definitely wasn't playing ball this week, block headwind on the uphill leg out to the turn, then tailwind for the slightly shorter return leg. That kills any chance of a really fast time as the time lost on the way out is impossible to make back, compared to if the wind was in the opposite direction. Still, it was more or less the same for everyone.

Derek, starting early, did a slowish 51'20, and subsequently ended up with manflu. Funny how you get sick after your best form, but that's often what happens. I was a little better with 50'37. I thought I'd be up on power compared to the previous week but it was the opposite. That made my strategy of hammering it to the turn a risky one. I managed 15mins at what I thought was below 10 pace but it was clearly way above what I was capable of. I spent the next 14 minutes grovelling into the wind until I got to the far roundabout. 29'06 on the clock with 12.1 miles (19.5km) left to ride. It was impossible to do a 48, and very unlikely to break 50 minutes. I did manage to get back in 21'31, using the tailwind for all it was worth. It wasn't good enough to make up for what I lost going out though. Given how poor my power was I'm glad I'm slippery enough to get away with having a bad day.

Chas did a short 50, an excellent ride considering how long he's been out of action for. I then had to dash off so didn't hear the final result until later. Hutch won it in a stunning 46'57 (which belies how hard it was out there) from Matt (47'55), both riders pushing each other to new heights while the rest of us can only watch in awe.

Friday, April 06, 2012


I'm still in shock and awe at today's result: 18'09 to win the City RC Hull 10 on the legendary V718 course. Only two riders - Michael Hutchinson, who holds the comp record at 17'57 (set on this course) and Brad Wiggins (17'58) have gone faster over 10 miles in an open event in the UK. I believe Chris Boardman did a 17'54 in a club 10.

Second today was Julian Ramsbottom (18'47) then Matt Sinclair (same time) and Rob Pears (18'50). Drag2Zero's Derek Parkinson did a fine 19'09 for equal 7th, but our third man Mark Holton was a non starter after being struck down with the dreaded lurgy during the week. Bummer Mark - comp record will have to wait!

Hutch didn't show - and I bet he's wishing he did as it was a much faster day than the forecast suggested. To whit, two days ago it was snowing up there and it did not warm up that much today. When I rode it was 9 degrees with a light S-SW wind blowing (although it could have been NW), which felt like a tailwind out and headwind back. Add that to the Good Friday traffic and you have a quick day.

I didn't expect it to be that quick though. Last time I rode this course was in 2009 when I did 19'45 (and Hutch did 18'02). Since then, I've gotten a bit quicker, thanks in no small part to Simon Smart and Coach Ric. Today it was time for the reckoning.

I rode the reserve course (V714) to warm up and even that was fast despite me wearing winter kit. So I figured I'd give it a good crack once my number was called. It duly was and I sprinted off the line at South Cave like a man possessed. Within 30sec I was up to 36mph (58km/h in new money), dropped it back a couple of mph and just held it pretty much all the way to the turn.

Credit: Ian Chapman/

I was keeping it comfortable as I figured I'd need more gas coming back but still...I exited the second roundabout at the turn with 4.6 miles done and 8'15 on the clock. Back up to 36mph to hit the dual carriageway and then, as always, it started to hurt. There are some looong drags on the way back that you absolutely have to keep the speed up on or you are screwed. I dropped to 31mph (50 clicks) on the first one, then down to 28.5mph (46 clicks) at the top of the second one.

3 miles to go and at this stage I was pretty sure an 18 was in the bag, which helped keep me focused. There was just one more 'hill' to do, the one past the start with 1 mile to go, and I buried myself to carry as much speed as possible over the top. I'd already caught my minute man and now I overtook my two minute man, who finished with a mid-20.

After the hill there's a great little descent - nearly 40mph (64km/h) down there, which was a nice lead into the last uphill drag to the finish. The 18 was starting to look like a good 18 but it wasn't until I crossed the line that I saw it: 18'09! That's just insane.

I rode back to the HQ then did another lap of the V714 to cool down and get some more miles in (now is not the time to be slacking in training) and then had a look at the times on the board. People agreed it was fast but no-one got near my time, and that's what made it doubly satisfying.

Next up: Sunday's Rudy Project, which is 20 miles and promises to be wet. Hutch is off 2min behind me. I hope I can hold him off but I'm a bit more confident now.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kinetic One 10m TT: win!

A fast blog's a quick blog and a fast time is also a quick time. To whit, 20'21 for 10 miles (five and a half laps) of Castle Combe on Wednesday, to win the first Kinetic One TT of the season and add another to the growing number of teamdrag2zero race wins.

It's a smooth circuit but not that easy to ride flat out, as there are a few corners and chicanes as well as some leg sapping drags. However it was a lovely evening, not a lot of wind, a tad chilly by the time I started but I was more than happy with the fact that it was sunny.

I've been doing a fair whack of training recently and was under orders not to back off for this one, so I didn't. After pegging it from work, I warmed up on the circuit for several laps at a gentle 43km/h. Then it was time to get serious and race, and you can see what happened here - started at an OK 10 pace, set a new lap record on lap 2, then gradually blew to the point of being quite ragged on the last lap.

Funnily enough it was the same time as I did in July last year, when the conditions were slightly better and my legs certainly were. This bodes well and think I've got a sub-20 ride in me, but not until I'm a bit fresher.

Right, off to #paniceat some chocolate I've just #panicbought because the tanker drivers may or may not go on strike.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rudy Project 1: From the ridiculous to the sublime

After the aborted and bitterly cold Chippenham hilly at the start of March, things completely changed for the first round of the Rudy Project series in Northamptonshire. Sunshine, a light nor easterly and no punctures! And a respectable third place, 40sec behind my Drag2zero teammate Matt Bottrill, who beat young gun Sam Harrison (100% ME - Alex Dowsett's old team) by 14sec.

The course isn't that far from Drag2zero HQ in Brackley. That meant we also had local boy Paul Welsby riding, which thanks to his 14th place in the vets gave us the team prize. If anyone needs a pair of Rudy Project sunnies, give me a yell...

19 miles, tricky distance when you're used to pacing for a 10 or a 25. The course was a rolling out and back jobbie on quiet roads near Litchborough. There wasn't a great deal of flat - unless you count the crests of the hills - which made it difficult to pace. You had to be able to vary your effort and match it to the gradient. Go too easy and you lose too much time on the hills, go too hard and you'll lose too much time everywhere else. It's about as far away from a dragstrip as you get.

I got up at silly o'clock ('cos we lost an hour) to drive out and pre-ride the course. I think it was worth it, although it was a mad rush afterwards to get kitted up in time for the start. Once I did, I felt fast and hoped that would translate into a decent ride.

The first part to the turn was 10.5 miles, tailwind but with more climbing than descent. I enjoyed it, thought I was going at about the right pace and managed to get to the turn in 21'55. By clocking a few people coming back I could see I was up on those who I thought would get close. But after 5 minutes of the return leg, I went off the boil a bit. Yes it was hurting but my mind started wandering. It's a race, it's meant to hurt!

That was compounded by a horse box turning in front of me with about 3 miles to go. It pulled away but I knew I'd catch it on the last descent, which I did and had to scrub off some speed. Frustrating but it's part of TTing on open roads, and there was no way I was going to pull any risky moves. Of course as soon as the road went up again, the horse box's superior horsepower made it pull away again, this time for good. I did my best to get up the 1 mile drag without losing any more time and finished off the race quite well.

I wasn't initially thrilled with my time of 40'52 as I figured closer to 40min would have been possible. But it turned out to be a decent ride, with Matt clocking 40'12 to win it and Sam Harrison pushing him close with his 40'26 - I'm sure we'll hear more of Mr Harrison in future.

All in all a very good day for the team, with Derek Parkinson winning the Border City Wheelers SPOCO to boot.

I'll try and get it together for the second Rudy in a few weeks, as it's of a similar distance. In the meantime, I'm doing the Kinetic One 10 at Castle Combe on Wednesday and the Good Friday 10 on the V718 on April 6. Both Derek and Mark Holton are riding that, so if it lives up to expectations we might be in with a shout of a team comp record.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


...Or A Series of Unfortunate Events Somewhere Near Chippenham

Sometimes, despite meticulous planning the night before, things don't quite go your way. When it comes to bikes, there's only so much you can do.

Today's Chippenham hilly was to be my first race outing of the season in the slinky new Drag2Zero kit. And so it was, until it was aborted due to a nail induced puncture before I'd even got to the recently renamed and higher statused (is that even a word?) Royal Wootton Bassett, approximately 22 minutes in. That previous sentence had far too much detail in it so I'm putting this one in as padding.

I continued for another 10 mins on the slowly deflating Planete X FMB (*sniff*) to the top of Callow Hill, where I spotted a marshal who directed me to her husband's car. I found it, got in with another rider who had packed due to the cold (and who generously gave me a lift home to Bath), and spent the next 10mins with the heater full on before I could even take my helmet off.

I know, let's start the race at 10 and run through until just after midday. I was off at 11:20

Did I mention it was cold? That was the real problem today. The weather has been insanely good of late, 10-15 degrees and pretty sunny. Why, on Saturday I was out in 3/4s and arm warmers, enjoying the first heating up of spring. Sunday was a different story. A cold rain blew in from the north west and dumped a lot of water on top of us for about 6 hours. By an annoying coincidence it overlapped with the Chippenham hilly. Even more annoying, when I got home to Bath it was sunny and warmish again. We are not amused.

Riding out to the start wasn't too bad as I was fully rugged up. The computer mount separating into two halves (I blame the A4) wasn't the ideal start so I ended up riding purely on feel. The dial on my shoe stopped working too, but the super snug Smart shoe covers held everything in place. They weren't as white by the end of the ride unfortunately.

I opted for no visor on my Uvex as it was still raining when I rode from the HQ to the start. That turned into a mixture of rain and snow when I got under way. I kept blowing on my hands (aero position be buggered) to make sure they kept warm enough to change gear and brake when needed. And despite the nasty weather I was quite enjoying it, averaging 45 clicks (28mph) out to the bottom of Lyneham bank. It was good to ride without seeing the computer, which I'd stuffed down the front of my skinsuit so I at least collected the data.

I kept it in the big ring on the climb as I really couldn't be arsed with the hassle of moving my left hand to the gear lever (did I mention it was cold?). Got to the top and the crosswind turned tail for a wee bit which allowed me to crank it up before the roundabout. 11.8km down and 16'56 on the clock. Annoyingly there were cars on roundabout (thanks Rob for the shout!) and I had to scrub 30km/h off my speed to wait for a clear run, but once I got going again I made some ground back.

It was warp speed all the way to Royal Wootton Bassett: it was still cross headwind but the shelter from the left and gradual descent helped. I finally saw some more riders ahead of me (I'd passed my minute man inside 3mins but there were two non starters before him). But just as I had them in sight, I felt the tyre go on the last descent before the climb over the railway bridge into RWB. I told myself it wasn't flat, it was just the wind and even if it was I'd damn well finish anyway.

I got to the left turn at RWB in 24'14 with 17.3km completed - nearly halfway, and 1'42 quicker than I'd managed to this point last year, although there was more headwind then. When I turned I realised that it was the tyre that was gone. And I began to lose heart. I passed my four minute man at this point and still seemed to be going quick enough to get to the finish. Right turn to Callow Hill (19.8km) in 27'36, headwind up the climb and that's when the tyre went very soft and I gave up. Annoyed and cold, I got to the top in 31'25 - still leading by around 20sec at this point - and stopped to ask the marshal if there was a car nearby. Luckily there was and I got in. See above for more on that.

That was more or less it. We went back to the HQ to see the damage - lots of riders DNFd, several with punctures, and many more didn't bother starting. All up there were 42 finishers with 2011 WTTA hardrider winner and very quick Bath CC rider Rob Pears the quickest of the lot in 56'14. An excellent ride in those conditions and he certainly was cold at the end. Rob Lyne and Paul Jones rounded out the top three with Peter Georgi the only other rider under the hour today. Brutal. Read Paul's excellent take on it in his blog.

On the positive side I did have a good ride up until I didn't. Power was looking like being 13W up on last year despite the rubbish weather. I'm just annoyed I couldn't finish it off! At least my new teammates Mark and Derek and Matt Bottrill had better days to collect a couple of wins for Drag2Zero over the weekend.

Next up for me will be the Rudy Project round 1 at the end of March before things get going a bit more in April.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Not the UK in February
© Jeff Jones

It had to happen. Winter has finally kicked in in the UK and it's been a rather chilly start to February. We didn't get three weeks of snow like we did last year but still it's been cold enough to force me indoors to ride most mornings. It goes without saying that our heating broke on one of the coldest days - the relay switch that opens the valve between the boiler and the radiator pipes died. It got sorted but I think heating and I obey some kind of mutual exclusion principle.

Back to training: I'd prefer to watch planks warp in the sun than ride rollers/turbo. There's not much sun so I've been dragging myself to work first thing and riding nowhere for an hour and a half. It beats not riding at all but you still have to disengage your brain in order to complete a session. And having no fan means it gets harder as you heat up, which doesn't take long! As I write this it is -4 outside our window and it was -9 at Lyneham (which is the approximate direction I would head) at 8am this morning. Sunny though, so it should be ok later... (it was, albeit a tad nippy)


Waverley cemetary, one of the highlights of the Oz trip
© Jeff Jones

Australia was triffic. Seeing the various bits of the family, catching up with a few friends and above all enjoying the light and the sun. The temperature hovered between 20 and 30 for the two and a half weeks that we were there - can't get much better than that. I did enough training but didn't go crazy, as I wanted to avoid getting sick when I returned.

The only downer was discovering a large crack in my Russian titanium 'summer bike'. It's a terminal one and the frame will need to be decommissioned. I've had it for 13 years, the first few of which were spent trying to find a titanium worker to move the dropouts so I could fit the back wheel in the frame. Partly my fault for specifying custom geometry and giving measurements, partly the factory's fault for not bothering to check. I suppose that's why it was cheap. Still, it rode really well and it's quite sad to see it go.

This one's terminal
© Jeff Jones

Champions Night

A week after we got back Liz and I headed up to Hinckley for the CTT Champions Night presentation and dinner. Graeme Obree and Eurosport commentator David Harmon were on hand to dole out the prizes and generally be entertaining (which they were - their one on one interview was good). And pretty much all of last year's champions turned up which made it quite an occasion. I was also interviewed by Cycling Weekly, which I guess should make it into print in the next few weeks.

I'm awarded the BBAR trophy by Graeme Obree and CTT president Sheila Hardy
© Liz Hufton

Champions, various
© Jeff Jones

Mike and Sheila Edwards avec moi in Hinckley at Champions Night
© Jeff Jones

The main thing though was being awarded the BBAR trophy. Wow, this is a real piece of time trialling history. The cup itself dates back to 1888 - it was formerly the Lincoln trophy - and was first used as the BBAR trophy in 1944 (the BBAR goes back to 1930). That was when they used to do the presentations in the Royal Albert Hall. Them were t'days. Now I realise why it's treated with a good deal of reverence by so many cyclists. A great night.

The BBAR trophy
© Jeff Jones

Chippenham dinner

A week later it was the club's turn for the presentation dinner type thing. Another great night, although it did involve drinking a lot of Fosters 'cos I think it was the only lager on tap. I don't make a habit of it, believe me. Strangely it didn't seem to do much harm to my ride the next day, which for some reason was my best ever long ride. I digress.

It's surprising how much of this stuff you can drink
© Jeff Jones

With the help of Liz, I brought the BBAR trophy to the club dinner and I'm glad I did. Nearly everyone there hadn't seen it up close as no-one in the club has ever won it. Again it was highlighted how special this cup is. As a result, and also for breaking the comp record and generally getting decent results while riding in Chippenham colours, I was honoured to be given life membership of the club (yes, they know I'm riding for Drag2Zero this year, but Chippenham will always be my club). There are not many of these given out - no more than a handful - so receiving it was pretty special.

More soon-ish.

I'm given life membership to Chippenham Wheelers. Honoured.
© Liz Hufton

Monday, December 19, 2011

Xmas update

Happy Christmas.

In other news, it's been a more normal winter than the last few years so no snowmageddon down south. Up north (that's south speak for anywhere north of Gloucestershire, including Gloucestershire) it snowed quite a lot and got cold.

Still, care has to be taken when it's slippy. I had a minor but annoying crash on the bike path recently when I touched the brakes to avoid someone coming the other way. It was dark and on a twisty section of the path and I didn't realise I was riding over wet leaves. Needless to say even thinking about your brakes in such a scenario is not a good idea. At least I was on the deck before I had a head on with the other guy. Soreness ensued.

I sustained another injury after the Xmas party when I managed to stub my little toe. Twice. In the space of about 10 minutes. Both times it hurt a lot and that's usually not a good sign when you've drunk enough alcohol to anaesthetise an elephant seal. Then again, said alcohol probably contributed to the lack of motor skills necessary to avoid door frames and bar bells. As always there's a positive side to it: it wasn't the toe that got infected a month ago.

Training is hard at this time of the year. If you ride outside, the endless dark means you don't get much in the way of feedback. You think you're going hard but you're not. Or vice versa. And you have a bad week and you think it's all over, but it's just part of the training cycle. Thank goodness for some sunshine (or at least light and warmer temps) the land of Oz soon.

What else have I been up to? Not much, besides testing power meters, which has been useful. The calibration tests are going to be interesting. I/we also bought a dehumidifier which so far has been a bloody good purchase 'cos Liz hates the damp. Carrying it back from Argos wasn't such a smart idea.

I had some thoughts about economics but they can wait as they won't help matters. Easy to boil it down to "there are better gods to worship than Mammon". In even more other news, it's been a bad year for lunatic dictators, the latest being Kim Jong "I told you I was Il" (thanks to a George Takei fan for that one).

Finally, we still have a more direct route than we'd like into the bathroom downstairs. Call it a hole if you will. That flat has not been occupied for a couple of months for some reason. But I'd hazard a guess that any prospective tenants might be put off by the pile of rubble in the bathroom, aka the remnants of the ceiling. Still we've got a dehumidifier now so leaky pipes will be a thing of the past.