Friday, October 17, 2008


In the wake of the recent financial crisis, I've decided to invest all my money into the Finnish derivatives market for nonalcoholic beverages. What's the probability that two Scandinavian countries will go bankrupt? Almost none, I would have thought, so I reckon I'm onto a winner.

Unfortunately, my cafetiere stocks devalued rapidly today: the cheap glass beaker broke when I poured some hot water into it. Possibly due to overuse. Still, it paid for itself after just one packet of coffee, so it's not so bad. I will invest in a more expensive, and hopefully more durable, replacement. It's been so nice to drink good stuff for the last two weeks.

In matters more trivial, I've almost finished racing for the year. The last one will be the Bristol South hillclimb up Burrington Combe this Sunday. Last year I did 8'07, but I think with the wind blowing the right way I can go under eight minutes. I'm last off but on paper I'm not the quickest: my minute man, if he turns up, is better. We shall see.

Last weekend was the Chippenham double header and it went rather better than I expected (won both days).

In the hillclimb up Bowden Hill (2.1km @ 6.3%) on Saturday, I clocked 5'05 to beat Robert Adams (5'12) and Robin Coomber (5'13). Last year I managed 5'19 for fifth, so it was a decent improvement. Rob Gough and Danny Axford did 4'54 last year and that sort of time is out of reach for me unless I do some specific training for it.

Now, five minutes sounds like nothing when you're used to riding for up to nine hours at a time. But believe me, it's many times more painful. You have to dig very deep into your anaerobic bank of courage (currently guaranteed by the Norse government) and it hurts way more than using your aerobic tank.

The first couple of minutes, which also correspond to the flattest section of Bowden Hill, are fine. But then you hit a 500m section that averages 12%, and you have to punch it up there as hard as you can. At the top, you're almost dead. Problem is there's still 500m at 5% to go.

Obviously I managed it better than everyone else did, which was the main object of the exercise. Robin was my minute man, and when I got to the top of the steep bit I heard 'Robin's two seconds up on you' from Simon, who had done the smart thing and not raced. I thought 'ok, I'm not going to pull that back, I'll just get to the top as best I can'. So while I could think relatively clearly, I just couldn't go any faster. Turned out that Robin blew up at that point and lost 10 seconds.

Robin, still in the big ring, was 2 seconds up on me at this point.
© Neil Davies

© Neil Davies

When I got out of the saddle near the top, my legs wouldn't quite go around the full pedal stroke. This is known as pedalling in squares, and it means you're not going so well.

I got over the line and Andy Cook was there saying 'do you want me to catch you?' but I couldn't respond, I was so cooked. Eventually I shook my head, did a 30 second warm down and collapsed on the grass next to Robin. We were both coughing and trying to reclaim that lost oxygen. I tried to talk to another lass who had finished her ride who I'd been meaning to catch up with for a while, but all that came out was an incoherent stream of pain-filled garble.

I was still coughing several days later and it's reminded me that I should not do too many of these events. They can't be good for you. At least I've only signed up for two this year, rather than four last year.

Naturally I was surprised and very happy to find out that I'd done the best time. I even got a special jersey, courtesy of British ex-pro Harry Lodge. Was the pain worth it? Hmm, not sure about that one...

I'm presented with my winner's jersey from Harry Lodge
© Jeff Jones

Harry Lodge with women's winner Anna Fischer
© Jeff Jones

Junior winner Jamie Richardson-Page gets his prize
© Jeff Jones

Gorillas in the mist

I couldn't sleep that night. My back was killing me and it felt like I had a full-on cold. But I had to get up, because the next morn was the greatly anticipated three-up team time trial on a 39km circuit between Chippenham and Wootton Bassett. It had one longer climb in it, up Lyneham Banks, but that wasn't so steep. There were a few other short sharp ones and plenty of false flats. It was also very very misty, and we were never quite sure if we were going uphill or down.

23 teams entered and the Chippenham A team of Ben, Simon and myself were one of the favourites. Our competition was VC St Raphael, with Phill Sykes, Colin Parry and Rowan Horner. On paper, I would rate them as better individual riders than us, but as I've learned so many times in the past, the team time trial is just as much about how you ride together as who you've got.

The plan was to rest Simon a bit before each climb, so that we could go as hard as we liked without putting him too far into the red. On the flats, we'd vary the length of turns depending on how good we felt. It worked out well.

I was going fine but was relatively rubbish on the corners, which was good for Ben and Simon who got a bit of a rest while I caught up. I think the only other time a gap appeared was when I pushed it a bit too hard going up the hill into Malmesbury (then got dropped at the bottom on the roundabout).

We finished in 53'34, an average of just under 44km/h which wasn't bad at all for that course on a cold, misty morning. VC St Raphael didn't quite get it together, and ended in 54'12, so we won! That was a big result for us, because VC have won it for the last three years in a row and I don't know how long ago it was since a Chippenham team won.

Apparently, we were only five seconds up on VC at 2/3rds distance, but that's when we started stepping on the gas so I'm not surprised we increased the advantage. Plus, they must have gone a tad too hard up Lyneham Banks, because we heard at the top, Rowan Horner had to stop and throw up. That sort of thing tends to reduce cohesion and synergy.

There was one composite team that did 56'35, another that finished with two riders (doesn't count) in a similar time, then the Chippenham Vets team with Chris Tweedie, Mike Andrews and Gary Walker did 1:00:02. They actually won more money than us because they took the vets prize as well as third. Nice one lads!

I've spent the rest of the week trying to recover, aided(?) by multiple beer drinking sessions. Roll on the off-season.

Woo hoo! Chippenham 3-up winners: me, Simon Snowden, Ben Anstie.
© Jeff Jones


While I'm at it, I may as well update the blog with the Bristol South hillclimb results. I don't actually need to do that because you can see them here. Suffice it to say and as I expected, I was well beaten by my minute man, Tejvan Pettinger, who clocked 7'21 compared to my 7'39.

On the plus side, I was nearly half a minute quicker than last year, but it still wasn't good enough. I estimated an average of 420W for the 3.2km @ 5.9% climb. To win, I'd have needed another 20W and 2kg off the bike + rider (thinks: must get lighter bike and stop drinking beer. Thought process = fail. Do you want to restart Now or Later?)

Time passes. Computers get rebooted.

So that's it for the racing. It's been a Pretty Good Year, as Tori Amos would sing. 15 wins (12 opens, 1 series, 2 journo worlds, club TT championship and a couple of club records). I can't complain about that. Fitness wise, I think I'm about the same as I was in the second half of 2006, when I was going reasonably well in Belgium. But I know I'm much more suited to time trials than kermises, because I can't sprint. A top 20 in a Belgian kermis is worth a win in a UK open TT.

Next year? We'll see. Some different goals, I think. I'd like to do a few more road races, plus some longer TTs, more national-level events, and break 20min for a 10, and possibly 50min for a 25. That's not easy though. I hope the weather is better.

This week: off to Hvar for a bit of riding and drinking with Primoz et al. I last went at the end of the 2006 season and it was fantastic. Although I suspect I'll have trouble keeping up on the drinking front...


Tejvan Pettinger said...

Hi Jeff, nice to meet you at Bristol Hill Climb. I enjoy your blog. I'll have to think about those Norwegian tea shop derivatives.

BTW: good job with Bike Radar

Jeff Jones said...

Thanks! And well done you on winning the BSHC.

I think Scandinavia is definitely the future. Lapland, specifically.