Turbo Upgrades

The broken fence panels in my garden have travelled further than I’ve managed on my bike (outdoors) over the last few weeks. The weather has been atrocious, with high winds battering the area I live in. The open nature of the top of the North Downs makes going out in windy conditions extremely inadvisable.

Consequently, more time has been spent indoors on Zwift! I took part in another race last weekend, this time it was a 2 lap race around that UCI Hilly Circuit on the Innsbruck map. I was intrigued to try this rather than the flat, crit style races that really don’t appear to be my thing.

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I finished 58th out of about 125 riders so I was extremely happy in the top half of the table, for the Cat D riders I was 5th out of 27 that eventually finished! I felt good on the KOM, I could feel the benefit of the SST training and running I’d been doing as my rhythm was better and it showed as it was there where I moved up the rankings.

I also started to notice, even in the virtual world, the value of sensible riding and good tactics. I’ve recently finished reading a book called Full Gas by a gentleman called Peter Cossins which is all about tactics within the Pro Peloton. I put some of that knowledge to good use, managing my ‘efforts’ on the climbs to bridge to the next rider in front of me, then sitting in for a while to recover before putting another effort in to bridge to the next rider and so on. It worked extremely well and, weirdly, it added to my enjoyment of the race.

One thing did become apparent in this period, I needed a more stable stand for my laptop! The ‘music stand’ style stand I had been using rocked and rolled as my front wheel knocked it when I was out of the saddle and it really didn’t look or feel secure so I started to think about an alternative. There was no way I was going to shell out £100 for a trainer table so I had to look for a cheaper alternative……. and I found one. I found a guy on eBay selling these beauties for £20!

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Link is here

I finally got round to putting it together today and it is perfect for a turbo trainer setup, firm, sturdy and the feet setup means there’s no interference with the front wheel. Here’s the finished product in situ

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I also bought a cheap case and some sticky Garmin connectors so that I simply clip my phone into the out in front Garmin mount, a perfect place for it to sit to use the Zwift companion app. I’m quite pleased with the improvement, next is the question of whether I upgrade to a direct drive trainer…..

IAIN

Put On Your Race Face

I’m turning into a fair weather cyclist. The rain was forecast to come today and it duly delivered, well over delivered really when you looked outside, so I scoured the Zwift schedule for any group rides, gran fondos or sportives that may take my fancy. What I decided was to participate in my first Zwift Cat D race.

Before that, I explored the new ‘Drops Garage’ feature that Zwift have introduced. Basically, you accumulate sweat drops as you ride in the virtual world which you can then redeem for better frames and wheels

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The ‘Drops’ counter accumulates as you pedal

I had c.500,000 drops when I looked so I traded them in for this rather sweet looking Specialized Tarmac frame to go with the Zipp wheels I already had and the gloriously retro Z Vetements kit

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I lined up for the 3R LaGuardia Flat Loop Race, a 12.1km race around Central Park on the New York circuit. The race catered for categories A through to D with the categories defined by the watts per kilo ratio that the riders are able to generate, I signed up for the Cat D race which allows for riders up to 2.5 W/KG (A = 3.7+ W/KG, B = 3.2 – 3.7 W/KG, C = 2.5 – 3.2 W/KG) and waited for the start. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I had participated in the ‘Baby Fondo’ previously and found it to be quite a relaxed affair but anecdotally I’d heard the races were a completely different story.

From the drop of the flag it became pretty apparent that it was going to be the latter, everyone whooshed past me from the get go leaving me pootling away from the start line like Driving Miss Daisy. I didn’t panic though as this had happened in the Baby Fondo, there I started to regain places as the road pitched upwards and so it would prove today too. At 12.1km long I knew it would be ‘full gas’ for all of the riders, pushing their limits for 20 or so minutes, but people in the same category as me can’t do full gas for that long! It did maintain a good pace though, way above my training, which really got to me on the 3rd of 4 laps and I started to feel sick in the pit of my stomach. However, I persevered and took another couple of places, finishing 12th out of 27 just under 3 minutes down on the winner. I was pretty happy with that for a first attempt especially when 7 of the riders ahead of me pushed over the category W/KG definitions

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As always, I’d rather be outside on my bike but I enjoyed my first Zwift race experience and, with a better feeling in the legs, I’d hope that I could improve on my first showing

IAIN

Let’s Go Round Again!

So, this week the postman brought me the news that I have been successful in the ballot and have a place for the 2019 Prudential Ride London 100.

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Those who have read this blog will know that my debut in last year’s edition of the sportive was far from a happy one after being knocked off my bike by some fool in Richmond Park. It was only a month ago that I recounted my displeasure with that day and made the statement that I was done with mass participation sportives.

BUT…..

The success in the ballot stirred something. In the days after the confirmation arrived it really gnawed at my brain, the nagging feeling that I had unfinished business with the Ride London 100. I couldn’t forget that I hadn’t been able to do the hills, it annoyed me that I hadn’t been able to enjoy it and put my best effort in due to the crash and the buckled wheel and I can’t shake the feeling that I don’t deserve the finishers medal that I got.

So, today, I confirmed my place for the 2019 edition of the sportive, I’m going to give in another go to banish the bad memories that I have of this event

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I’ll be better prepared this time, I’ll be more vigilant and hopefully it won’t rain!

The best thing about this? It looks as though BOTH the fat blokes will be riding the event this year as Adam is in the process of signing up on a charity spot with The Rainbow Trust. It’s another chance for us to raise some funds and have a good time doing it.

Better get some training in…..

IAIN

Zwifty McZwiftface

I’ve dabbled with Zwift over the last couple of years but I’ve certainly not put as much time into it as some people (hence my current standing at Level 10), in fact I’ve only just opened the Jungle course on Watopia and Alpe du Zwift is another 2 levels away for me! I’ve referenced my issue with this in another post, for the now £13.99 a month I think I should have access to everything1 That, however, is by the by where this post is concerned.

I have been going to the gym regularly, twice a week, for two years now but, although I have seen some pretty significant changes in my body shape and overall fitness, I haven’t really ever felt like I was doing anything that was focused and targeted. Recently I have changed my habits and I can already feel some considerable differences. My Tuesday gym hasn’t changed so much; some stretches, core work, light weights, leg raises and then a 5k run on the treadmill. Thursday is where I have made the change, I’ve turned to Zwift in my shed rather than heading into the gym to work on my base cycling fitness.

Now, in the past, I’ve gone and smashed out an hour and a half on Zwift, aimlessly pedalling around whatever world was on rotation and then spent the rest of my day wondering what (if any) benefit there was to that effort. This time I have been using the Zwift workouts and I can already tell the difference, the under 1 hour workouts are extremely time efficient and you leave the trainer knowing you’ve benefitted from the effort. My favourite, for my Thursday mornings, is the SST (Short) workout

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Zwift SST Short Workout

SST stands for “Sweet Spot Training”, essentially getting you to hit a level that will build your base cycling fitness, it is all based on your overall FTP score so you will need to measure that in game beforehand (and that is tough!). The workout warms you up, then mixes four periods of five minutes at 96% of your FTP with four periods of five minutes at 88% of your FTP. You definitely get a great return for your time, without being taken into the red, so it is ideal for a pre-work workout.

The second workout I tried was an interval workout called ‘The Wringer’ and, my god, I thought I was going to pass out! It included 12x 30 second bursts of effort at 400w based on my (very low) FTP score. I managed 8 before my legs told me they weren’t going to comply with any more requests!

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The Wringer Chewed Me Up And Spat Me Out

I was glad that I tried this but disappointed that I hadn’t managed to finish it. I wanted to do more intervals as I’ve heard they are extremely beneficial so, with one eye on completing The Wringer in the future, I made my own Zwift workout……meet the Mini Wringer!

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Iain’s Mini Wringer!

I used the full wringer as a guide and reduced the interval watts to give me a chance of completing the whole workout. I dropped them from 400w to 350w and I’m glad to say I completed all 10 reps, but even better was that I could feel the exertion in my legs so it was testing enough to ensure that the workout wasn’t a waste of time. The SST workout will remain my go to workout with the intervals coming in where I cannot get out on the road due to time or the weather.

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Finishing The Mini Wringer Today

I also got to ride the New York course for the first time today. Yes, that’s how little I have  used Zwift till now. I did the Central Park loop and it seemed like a nice course although I have to admit that the futuristic aerial skyways that appear in other parts of the course have put me off worrying about riding this before.

So, there it is, I actually think I am starting to understand what Zwift can do for my fitness and how I can maximise the time I have in the virtual world

IAIN

The Pros Are Back!

The winter always seems long, spending the working week with your fingers crossed that the weather will be OK at the weekend while flicking through numerous Instagram posts of the pros at their training camps in much sunnier surroundings than your own.

Last week, at long last, the pros returned to racing duty with Caleb Ewan taking the People’s Choice Classic and Daryl Impey recording a second consecutive victory at the Tour Down Under. It was a good week of racing, Richie Porte took his sixth consecutive win on Willunga Hill, Chris Hamilton took a brilliant 6th place on GC and Paddy Bevin surely would have won but for a crash on stage 5 that prevented him from being 100% for the Willunga Hill stage.

It got me thinking about what I would like to see in 2019, not what I THINK will happen but what I am hoping for. Here’s my list:

Cav To Return To Top Form
Love him or loathe him, the Manx Missile is/was/has been one of the defining characters of modern cycling. His record speaks for itself and it would be great to see him back to his best after his battles with injury and long term illness. The Tour is poorer without him. The current fly in the ointment is the injury to his long term friend and lead out man, Mark Renshaw, but hopefully Cav can get in the mix and make those sprint battles interesting to watch. It’ll be interesting to see how the BMC bike goes in the sprints too.

Mike Teunissen To Win His First Major Race
Ok, so I have a real reason for wanting this to happen due to Mike being my #cyclinggame19 rider but I do think it could happen. He’s back at Jumbo-Visma with a decent team around him and a decent bike to race on. He had a good spring last year, 2nd in DDV, 18th in Flanders and 11th in Roubaix so he’ll be aiming to improve on those results. He looks happy and training camp seems to have gone well for him. Obviously I’m hoping he saves that major win for Roubaix as we’ll be there to cheer him on!

Michael Valgren To Win At Flanders
Valgren had an exceptional Spring in 2018. Wins at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Amstel Gold Race were backed up by 4th place in De Ronde. With a Flanders conquering BMC bike under him I really do think he can win over the bergs this year and give Team Dimension Data the wins that eluded them so badly last year. With their World Tour status in question, TDD need Cav and Valgren to flourish.

Dan Martin To Finally Win Fleche
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride! Dan Martin’s results in La Fleche Wallone will be a source of irritation to him; 2nd in 2017, 3rd in 2016; 2nd in 2014, 4th in 2013, 6th in 2012. Martin has gone so close on so many occasions but living at the same time as Alejandro Valverde is a tough proposition and, when he does falter (like last year), there are superb riders like Julian Alaphilippe to step up and take the glory on the Mur de Huy. Fleche is the one that Martin would love to win and I would love to see him finally cross that line in first place

Enric Mas To Be A Home Hero At The Vuelta

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Mas Wins The Penultimate Stage Of The 2018 Vuelta

I remember watching Mas win Stage 6 of Itzulia earlier in the 2018 season and I was mightily impressed with him. He beat a good field that day including Landa, Teuns, Quintana and Roglic. He had a solid Vuelta but his crowning moment came on the penultimate stage when he slammed the door shut on Miguel Angel Lopez at the final bend and beat him to the line in Andorra. It was a wise and tactically perfect finish from the ‘next Contador’. He finished 2nd overall to Simon Yates which was a fantastic achievement and, with Yates targeting unfinished business at the Giro, Mas will be hoping to go one better.

Katusha Alpecin To Return To Winning Ways
Kevin Poulton (formerly Caleb Ewan’s coach) has joined so they will be hoping that his influence and skillset will get Marcel Kittel back and firing at the top level. Kittel looked completely out of sorts last year so he’ll have a job! There’s some good young talent there (Tanfield, Fabbro, Guerreiro, Pollitt, Wurz Schmidt) but they will be expecting much more from their veterans, in particular Kittel and Zakarin. Bit of a personal one this due to my fondness for the team after the Alpecin Cycling weekend last year, I hope they do well.

Viviani To Win Milan Sanremo
After years of waiting for an Italian to win MSR, Vincenzo Nibali stormed to victory last year in one of the most exciting finishes in the whole of the racing calendar. The tifosi will be hoping that Viviani can make it 2 in 2. By my count Viviani had 18 wins last year and he picked up right where he left off in stage one of the TDU. If the bunch stays together over the Cipressa and the Poggio, Viviani will sprint on the Via Roma and La Primavera will have another Italian winner. Fact.

Richie Porte To Stay Upright For Three Weeks
I did say this isn’t necessarily what would happen! Plagued with crashes and injuries, it would be amazing to see Porte complete a Grand Tour in good form and to see what he is actually capable of as a GC leader. Unfortunately it never seems to go right for him. On the Roubaix stage of the Tour last year (Stage 9) Porte managed to crash out before they’d even reached the first cobbled sector, the general response was “Well, it’s Richie Porte isn’t it”

Tao Geoghegan Hart To Get More Opportunities At Team Sky

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Tao Geoghegan Hart At The Amgen Tour Of California In 2018

There were a lot of unsung heroes in the pro peloton last year (Adam Yates and Richeze to name a couple) but Tao Geoghegan Hart stuck out for me. As a foil for Egan Bernal at the Amgen Tour of California he was absolutely superb, he towed Bernal round the West Coast of America and still managed to finish 5th on the GC himself. He then picked himself up and did another huge turn for Team Sky at La Vuelta. He’s a talented, level headed lad and I hope he gets a chance to shine

Tim Wellens To Take A Win, Somewhere, In The Spring
I don’t know what Wellens is doing half the time but I like it. He’s always looking to attack and animate the race and that’s great for the spectators, but he hasn’t got it quite right for him….yet. I think and hope this year could be the year we see Wellens take home a major title

Strade Bianche To Be As Enthralling As Last Year’s Edition
Brilliant race last year, just brilliant. Tiesj Benoot’s win after bridging across (with Pieter Serry, then on his own) to Bardet and Wout van Aert, then dropping them and powering up the climb to the Piazza del Campo was amazing to watch. The images and photos from the race were memorable to the max, whether it was Tiesj’s mud covered face or the anguished face of Wout van Aert as he cramped up on the way into Siena. It helped that I had a winning bet on Tiesj at 20/1 but it was a great race and we’ll be spoilt if it is as good again this year

Bardet To Return To Top Form At Le Tour
Well, he needs to doesn’t he?! The low amount of TT kilometres and the amount of 2,000+ metre finishes (5, I think) play more to Bardet’s strengths so this may be his best chance of a Tour win. Sky will be desperate to deliver a 5th yellow jersey for Froome and we all know that they are a phenomenal unit but, with uncertainty around the future of the team, riders could be more swayed by personal achievements and that could open up opportunities for others. I hope Bardet looks for those opportunities and injects some excitement into this year’s event, I’ve had a little bet on him at 40/1

So, there it is, plenty of fingers crossed moments! I’m sure it’ll be another great season of racing and that Eurosport subscription will be my best value purchase of the year (again).

IAIN

Birth Of An Obsession

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The above picture, from my personal Instagram account, was posted 5 years ago today. I had just placed an order for my first bike since I was a teenager, a 2013 Specialized Sirrus Hybrid bike, and it frightened me to death.

Rewind to the previous June (2013) and my son, Zac, had just been born. Having a child is a momentous occasion in the life of any adult and I was no different. I had the same hopes and fears as every new parent; I hoped he would be happy, I hoped he would be healthy but, more than anything, I questioned whether I would be good enough to be his Dad. Moments like that can often be lightbulb moments of clarity, where new ideas form and a new resolve to change for the better is found. It took slightly longer for me, October to be precise, but what happened changed me for good.

I had smoked for years. Not just casual smoking either, 20 a day since I was a teenager in senior school, nearly 20 years all in all. Looking at Zac I realised how unfit I had become, I had played football and cricket well into my late 20s but as my 30s hit and my knees gave out I played less and less sport and gained less and less exercise overall. I wanted to be able to do all of the things a Dad should do with his son; run around, play football in the garden, ride bikes without becoming a wheezing mess, gasping for air. For that reason I resolved to give up smoking by doing Stoptober so I got myself the worst tasting e-cigarette I could find and an app to tell how many days I’d gone and how much money I’d saved. It went surprisingly well but, in order for it to continue, I knew I had to have something to throw myself into, a goal to focus on and something to achieve so I signed up for the British Heart Foundation London To Brighton bike ride and placed the order for the bike. The rest is history I won’t recap.

I’d always enjoyed watching the Tour de France on TV and actually had a chance live encounter with the race in 1990 as a 13 year old on a school trip to Mont Saint-Michel, but I never really considered what the purchase of that bike and that goal of giving up smoking may lead to. We completed our epic cycle from London to Paris and raised a lot of money for the Rainbow Trust and I completed the Ride 100 amongst many other sportives. This year we’ll be in the Arenberg Trench to see the pros thunder by in Paris Roubaix and I’ll be off overseas to cycle through some of Sweden’s amazing landscape. I have completed things that I would never have thought possible 10 years ago and I have a deeper understanding of a truly wonderful sport, as well as meeting some brilliant people along the way.

All that from one simple order for a bike…..

IAIN

A Good Sport(ive)

At 8:30am on the 29th July 2018 I wasn’t particularly loving life. I’d moved under 100 metres in 20 minutes, it was raining, I was soaked, I was cold and there was still 45 minutes until my wave were due to set off on the Prudential Ride 100.

Start Of The Ride 100

What followed, in all honesty, was one of the worst experiences that I’ve had on a bike. There were people everywhere, all over the road, with not a clue what was going on around them. This was magnified when the roads narrowed and I found myself picking through a lot of less experienced cyclists who found themselves struggling on small inclines. Ultimately, it was a lack of experience and an absence of awareness that caused me to be knocked off my bike in Richmond Park. On one of the short, sharp climbs that the park is famous for, I was sticking to the right hand side of the road to overtake the slower cyclists on the inside as per the instructions we had been given at the start. As we neared the crest of the climb a cyclist in front of me, without looking, veered out into my lane knocking my front wheel sideways, throwing me diagonally over my handlebars. For some reason my shoes did not unclip so the bike followed and came crashing down on the inside of my right thigh. I was thankful for the Kask Mojito helmet I was wearing as my head bounced off the tarmac. I sat at the side of the road dazed, with a pounding headache and annoyed that my participation might be over because of someone else’s idiocy. However, I had raised a lot of money and I was determined to finish for the charity so I clipped back in and cycled the last 70 miles with a badly mangled and buckled back wheel (a wheel that eventually had to be rebuilt, costing me £200).

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I managed to finish the ride but I had not enjoyed much of it at all and the throbbing pain in my head prompted me to go home rather than stick around to watch the end of the pro race.

It was this experience that led me to the conclusion that I am going to give mass participation, charity sportives a miss from now on. I don’t find any enjoyment in them now as I spend all my time being wary of the less experienced cyclists around me. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for people getting on a bike, getting some exercise and raising a lot of money for charity but I will be concentrating my time on smaller events from now on.

IAIN