Been a while, as usual.
The first news isn't good: Wouter Weylandt's death in a crash during Monday's Giro d'Italia stage was a shock. Yes, cycling's dangerous and pros do crash a lot, but rarely is it fatal. Poor kid.
My memories of Wouter are mostly on this blog, back when I used to regularly do the Schelde ride. He was often on it and made a point of winning the sprint to the cafe at the end. This was even before he turned pro. He had an awesome turn of speed and I can remember being on his wheel a few times when he went. I think I might have even held it once, but that's probably wishful thinking.
I didn't know him personally. In fact he supposedly got annoyed at me for referring to his training 'langs de Schelde' when he turned pro with Quick.Step. Because it was seen as a slightly amateurish thing to do, maybe? Although we did have a number of pros on that ride.
It doesn't matter. He's no longer with us and I hope he rests in peace.
On a more positive note, I've managed to squeeze in a few races in between doing some ceiling painting and watching Wills and Katherine get hitched (it was a royal wedding don't you know). That was a good day out actually, but I digress.
First up was Rudy Project 3 at Buxton in the Peak district (I missed round 2). 3 laps of an extremely tough 11 mile course, which more or less went: climb 4 miles, go across the top 2.5 miles, descend 4.5 miles. The climbs had a few sharp pinches but overall they weren't too bad, it's just that there was zero flat to get into any sort of rhythm. The descent was fun - better once I learned how to do it. Especially the 20% bit with a tight bend at the bottom.
Unfortunately, Mr Bottrill punctured on that bend on lap one with about a mile to go to the finish. He did well to hold it up and skid off the road, then rode on the flat to the finish, got a wheel change, and still did a quicker lap than me. End result: he won by 3'30 and nearly broke the course record. I finished second and was happy with that.
Two days later and I backed up for the Beacon RC Little Mountain time trial. 41 miles, hilly but not quite as hard as Buxton, and generally good fun. Unfortunately I had a mechanical at the end with 1 mile to go. As I was changing into the little ring for the last climb. Dropped the chain, couldn't put it into the big ring to get back on, had to stop and put it back on by hand. Lost 30 seconds, but got beaten by 2009 national hill climb champ Matt Clinton by 44 seconds, so at least it didn't make the difference. It was annoying though! Results.
My power was a bit lower than it was for Buxton, but that was to be expected. It was as good as my best 50 mile TT last year though, so that was a good sign as Hutch usually takes 4min out of me on that course.
Scroll forward a week and it was off to Wales for the Ogmore Wheelers 25 on the slightly slower of the two fast Welsh courses. It's the same course as I set my PB of 49'58 on in 2009 so I was hopeful of another sub 50min ride.
As you can see from the results, it was not to be. The wind was a strong NE, which kills the speed on the uphill return leg and makes the course slow. This is despite the outward leg being a fair bit longer and having a massive downhill at the start.
To give you an idea, ignoring the ski slope start and just taking the out and back bits of the course. Going out to the turn (slight 0.2% downhill, tailwind) I averaged 56.2km/h. Coming back, it was only 39.5km/h. Close to a sub 50 but no cigar. Funnily enough I was 10W up on my previous two rides on there, but ~45 sec slower. But better, I was third, only 2'29 behind Hutch and 1'07 behind Mark Holton, who were 1-2 at the national 25 last year. A good sign.
Finally I did the 4th round of the Rudy Project at Doncaster on Saturday. I did this last year and it was my best ride of the season so I was hopeful of another good one. I drove up in lashing rain for three hours, then turned off the motorway and lo! it was sunny and dryish. That was good. Breaking my visor on the way up was not so good. There goes 6W :-(
The race was fast though, partly due to the warmer conditions, partly due to more power. Last year, 59'04, this year, 57'42 for third behind Bottrill and pro triathlete (and very good bike rider) Phil Graves. Bottrill broke Jason Macintyre's course record by 38 seconds and I have him down as favourite for the national 25. Yep, even ahead of Hutch.
My ride was not only better than last year, it was probably my best since I started TTing. The combination of doing my best power since '08 with a much better aero position equalled a quick ride. 44.5km/h on a course that is definitely not a dual carriageway dragstrip (which really flatter your ability). It's not super tough - two laps with a gradual climb plus a short sharp one each lap, and a few tight corners - but it's a better test of your all round skill and fitness. Probably close to what you'd encounter in a pro race. Someone like Cancellara would average 50km/h on it, no question.
So I'm more than happy with where I am, fitness wise as we approach 'national' season.
What next? A fast 10 this Saturday on the U47, weather permitting. I'll ride up and back though, so it'll be a good 4.5hrs. Best on that course is 19'50, so I'll try and improve that.
I'll do something similar the following weekend on the U7B 10 course. Best there is 20'48 I think, and I know I can improve on that. If I have a great day then a short 20 is possible. The course record is now 19'58, set by my mate Stu Dodd, who practically lives on it.
In between there's the Chippenham club 10 tomorrow. I did it twice last week for training and clocked 21'17 and 21'33 (PB is 21'12). I think the wind is more favourable tomorrow so let's see if I can break 21'00... And if the new Giro Selector is up to the task.
Weather: stunningly dry and just 3mm of rain in April, although it's gone back to normal again now. It was amazing. I thought I was in Oz.