Monday, May 05, 2008


But cigarillos were scarce in the Cheltenham hilly today. At least I was beaten by a clubmate, with Ben Anstie doing a very good ride to pip me by seven seconds. He always beats me on the flat but normally I have the edge over him on a hilly course. But after giving him some advice on how to ride them, he has turned the tables :-) He should do a good ride in the national 10 in two weeks.

We were nearly two minutes in front of third place, so it was convincing. And with Simon Snowden finishing six minutes down on us, we easily won the team prize. Seven and counting, plus Chippenham also won the team prize in Clevedon on Sunday.

Alas, the weather gods were not on side today. The forecast was for a dry morning with temps around 15 and not a lot of wind - ideal really. But there was an overnight band of rain didn't move at all, so we ended up with very soggy conditions and large puddles everywhere. Ben said it was exactly the same last year, and he destroyed the bearings in his Corima disk as a result.

The course was two laps of an 18.7km circuit with 300m of climbing a lap: one steepish 1km climb, one less steep 1km drag and one 3km drag at 3% to the finish. A few sharp corners and fast descents into the mix too. Course record: 54'49 by a certain Stuart Dangerfield, back when he was winning national championships.

I sussed out a lap time of about 29 minutes and when I looked at the start sheet I realised that Ben, who was off 30 minutes before me, had a good chance of passing me just before I started. Bugger, as it's a distraction. Seeding is meant to stop this but I'm not sure how closely the organiser looked at Ben and my recent results, which we put on the entry form.

Bang on schedule, Ben passed the starter for his second lap as I had about half a minute to go. He was out of sight when I started but, being fresher, I had almost reeled him in by foot of the first climb after 8km. I went straight past him on the climb, heart rate hitting 188, and would have put 10 seconds into him. But at the bottom of the descent into Lower Swell (oo err) he flew past me - I wasn't going slow either, averaging nearly 60km/h down there.

Of course, as soon as the road went up again I re-passed Ben and was now just behind my minute man, Derek Smetham, who being a habitual top finisher had been given a '0' number to denote a seed. Last time they put me behind Derek was in Gillingham, where I didn't quite catch him, so I guess I was doing better today.

There was a narrow, muddy dogleg before we turned back onto the main road towards the finish. I took it steady, so Ben came by flat out again. His bike handling is far superior to mine, and that was the difference between us today. We passed Derek but I let Ben stay in front until the end of the lap. I had to drop back 25m behind him and ride in the middle of the road otherwise there would be accusations of drafting, and that's the last thing I wanted.

My concentration had completely gone by this point and my legs weren't doing much better. The second lap, with its long steady downhill start, couldn't come soon enough and I relaxed again, enjoying the open road in front of me. I'd got to halfway in around 29min but realised I'd have to do a really good second lap to match Ben's effort.

I hit the 1km climb and with hindsight realised I'd overcooked it on lap 1. I did it in 2'43 at 411W on the first lap, but only 3'03 at 370W this time. Ouch. I had to slow right down at the bottom of the following descent (give way sign, but it's marshalled and quiet) as there was a car coming down the narrow lane towards me. Then it was a matter of getting through the dog leg, back onto the main road and up the long drag to the finish.

The last part was full of hurt. Even more than the Dursley. When I analysed it later, my last 9km was done in the same time as it was on the first lap, which was good, but the pain factor was magnified a lot. Computers don't tell you this. The three kilometre drag is dead straight and has two flat spots, but of course you don't get any recovery. The final part steepens and you can't quite see the finish until you get over the brow of the hill.

It just kept going. It was like doing the national hill climb at the end of a 35km time trial. It was the toughest finish I've had this year and when it was over it took me a long while to pedal again.

I didn't think I'd done enough to beat Ben and this was confirmed at the HQ: he had 58'32 (a big improvement on his 1:01+ last year), me 58'39. Chris Madge slotted into third with 1:00:18 and Derek Smetham fourth with 1:01:03. We both had good rides but that was by far Ben's best result in a hilly. It must be all the road racing he's doing ;-)

Poor ol' Mark Wareham crashed on the corner at the end of the first lap. His hand slipped off his bars (no bar tape) and he lost it. He was able to drive home OK so I don't think he was too badly hurt.

RealStats: I averaged 318W on the PowerTap but with a normalised power (supposed to be a better idea of the physiological workload - on a flat course, normalised power is usually the same as average power) of 338W. So slightly harder but for three times as long as the Ba'ath 10 on Saturday. I'm not sure how that compares with the Dursley because that (303W/328NP) was done with the dodgy Ergomo. My heart rate averaged 180bpm - several beats higher than usual, not that it tells you a lot.

Cake and restorative tea followed, then the long drive back to Chippenham with Simon. Tell you what, Cheltenham is a nice part of the world.

It's the last hardrider for a while next week: the Somer Valley 29 miler, but not particularly hilly. Gavin Poupart will be back. With the form I've got now, I have a small but finite chance of beating him. I have to if I want to win the series because most of the remaining events suit him rather than me.

I will finish with a historical fact: If Mel Gibson could have run faster, or indeed had had a mountain bike, not nearly as many Aussies would have got it in the Nek at Gallipoli.

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