Sunday, April 06, 2008

I may be some time

It's April but spring hasn't decided to sprung on us yet. We're getting tantalisingly close with a 17 degree sunny day here last Thursday, but the weekend's snow was another thing altogether.

I did my first race in zero degrees (it's the same in RĂ©aumur, for those wondering) today and it wasn't fun. It was another shortened-due-to-road-works-TT, the WTTA hilly: 32km from Malmesbury to Wootton Bassett and back with no real hills and only 210m of climbing.

It was snowing when I left Bath, Captain Oates style, in the morning, but had stopped by the time I got to the start just outside Chippenham. Half of the 45 rider field had taken the sane option and stayed in bed, but I figured they don't call it the Hardriders series for nothing and started anyway. I wore a few extra layers, including arm and leg warmers, a long sleeved base layer and disposable gloves under normal racing mitts so I didn't get too frozen. I also hoped I'd recovered from a brief but fairly explosive dose of food poisoning on Friday. I more or less had, I think, not that it mattered.

There weren't many riders to chase as my minute and two minute men weren't there, and my three minute man ended up putting time into me. So I caught about three riders instead of my usual seven. I wasn't going to push it too hard in the cold either, so was pleasantly surprised to average 298W with a lowish heart rate. All of my races this year have been between 293 and 303W average. But my speed was only 40.5km/h, which is not quick for a course with not a lot of climbing in it. I felt a lot faster than I was, because I seemed to be in 53x14 a lot. But as my cadence was only 85rpm, this wasn't particularly fast. It's not the first time I've fooled myself doing that.

In the end my 47'14 was good enough for another 4th place, with Gavin Poupart doing another solid ride to win in 45'25, followed by Chris Madge in 46'03 and David Kiddell, who seems to do well in miserable conditions, in 46'34. Ben Anstie, who'd won an open '10' the previous evening, did 48'03 for fifth, but we weren't quite good enough to beat Severn RC for the team prize this week.

What I did like was the bit near Wootton Bassett, as there was snow all around us and it looked quite pretty. And the roads weren't icy, just wet, so it wasn't dangerous.

Next week, I've got a standard 25 miler out near the Severn. It was the same course that I did 1:02 on last year after losing three minutes to a busted spoke. I'm hoping for something around 57'00, depending on the conditions. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be able to crank out some more power if it decides to warm up.

Or I could do some lactate tolerance training, which will improve it. I've just realised that my 5min power is over 6W/kg at the moment, whereas my 45min-1hr power (called Functional Threshold) is closer to 4.3W/kg. According to this graph, it should be around 5W/kg to be at the same level as 5min power. I know I can do this, it's just a matter of training it. Sigh, how tiresome.

It snowed, off and on, for the rest of the day. But in between it was sunny so all the snow melted. Stupid bloody weather (repeat, ad infinitum). At least I could watch the Tour of Flanders. Bloody good race that. Nice to see the Belgian champ win too.

Top book: The Hour, by Michael Hutchinson, one of the UK's top time trialists who failed to break Boardman's hour record in 2003. If things had gone perfectly for him, he might have done it, so he's no slouch. It's a great read because he puts you inside a cyclist's head very well (I definitely don't do that) and it's often hilarious.

Interestingly, Hutchinson's 'numbers' are a threshold of 400W at a weight of 75kg, which is about 5.3W/kg. It's been claimed Tour de France winners have thresholds of 6.7W/kg, although the guy who did the power profile above reckons it's closer to 6.4W/kg. Still, it's a hell of a lot of power and explains why they go so fast.

I note that the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow hasn't been sorted out yet. Maybe another 40 years? And they built Terminal 5 with a car access ramp so steep that cars couldn't get up it in the ice. Geniuses!

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