Sunny Sunday Sortie

Well, Sunday was a complete success……almost.

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I met up with my pals, Al and Chris, as planned and we headed over to Box Hill. It was a warm day (with a fair breeze) and there were a lot of cyclists out and about, enjoying the good weather. As we hit Box Hill I felt pretty good and climbed it in a PB for me, 9 mins 20 secs, which is not fast by any means but a sign of improvement so I’ll take it! In fact I felt so good I came back down and did it all over again…..

(Yes, you can hear me breathing quite heavily!)

So to the ‘almost’ bit of the day. To get back to my house I have to climb a hill and there are a variety of different options, today I chose the Purley Downs Road which is 1.77k at an average of 5%. It isn’t a horrible road but there is one point where it narrows and kicks upwards to go over a railway bridge, as I approached I got out of the saddle to give myself a bit extra and cramp ripped through both quads. Both legs locked and I have never felt pain like it, I had to stop to let it subside before continuing! Anyway, I made it home and, on the whole, as successful training run

IAIN

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The Countdown Is On!

5 days ago I, randomly, spotted a post from Evans Cycles in my news feed on Facebook, it told me that there were 100 days until the Prudential Ride 100.

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The shock of that information led me to sharing it on Instagram. 100 days? That’s not enough surely, I haven’t even finished watching the spring classics yet (which have been excellent and entertaining in equal measure by the way)! I started to panic a little bit, racking my brain to work out what I had actually achieved so far, but then I started to calm down a little bit because I think I’ve done quite a bit.

Tuesday was a big day for me, I went to the gym as usual and plonked myself on the scales. They levelled out at 77.6kg (12st 3lbs) which means that, since the turn of the year, I have lost 8.6kg (1st 4lb) and I was very pleased with that! With that information I have revised my original target to 70.4kg (11st 1lbs), if I get there I will have lost 2 stone 7lbs and be the lightest I’ve been since my teens….just 7.2kg to go!

I have changed my approach to the gym slightly, focussing on more cardio workouts than the weight room. I have surprised myself with improvements in my stamina and ability, the last two Tuesdays (my running days) have seen me complete 10km runs which would have been impossible for me last year. That stamina is noticeable for me in the saddle, if it’s good enough for Valverde it’s good enough for me!

I also have a packed schedule to fit in before the big ride. Tomorrow I head over to Box Hill with some friends from work to really get a sense of where I am fitness wise, I’m hoping to smash my previous best on the Zigzag Road which stands at 9 mins 50 seconds! I then have the Pearson Cycles London To Brighton and Back on the 13th May, 140k including the mighty Ditchling Beacon, before the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo at the start of June which is a full 100mile route.

Outside of my own personal cycling goals I’ve also had a bit of a ‘proud dad’ moment as Zac, my eldest, has been learning to ride his bike without stabilisers. I’m gobsmacked at his progress, especially when you consider he is only 4, the below shows his first and second attempts without any assistance at all….

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His seems to have a natural balance that will see him beating me round the aerodrome in no time at all and he really enjoys it, he’s loving learning to do ‘what daddy does’. It’s also good for me, now I have my new bike it gives me an excuse to do more research on new bikes, just for Zac not me!

Busy, but exciting times for all!

IAIN

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One Week On Tarmac

I’ve had my bike a little over a week, yet I’ve instantly seen dramatic improvements that come with a switch to a bike with a better specification. I went out on the Sunday with my pal Ben (a veteran of the Etape du Tour) who is a very experienced cyclist and we covered about 50km. As soon as I leave my house I have a descent, quickly followed by a short sharp climb on the way to Purley. With my old bike, I could fly down the descent and get about half way up the other side before I would have to put any significant effort in but with this new bike it felt completely different and so it would be proved by Strava upon my return home

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I had beaten my previous best time on that segment by 10 seconds and, the following Friday, I would knock a further 2 seconds off that time.

I went to Corridori Cycle Shop on Good Friday for a bike fit to get everything set up correctly. I met the owner, Guy, who was very knowledgable about everything to do with cycling. He had won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal riding as part of the GB Team Pursuit team in 1986 with Chris Boardman and had several years pro riding under his belt, including appearances at Paris-Roubaix and a national championship. He has owned the shop for over 20 years and counts Joanna Rowsell on his list of clients amongst many other well known GB riders.

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A Maillot Jeune from Chris Boardman and Joanna Rowsell’s GB Olympic jersey hand proudly in Corridori

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In truth I had little to be changed with my bike, I had it set up fairly well, but it was good to get that fit done to sense check all of the changes I’d made. One thing, however, did make a massive change to the overall feel of the bike – for comfort more than anything Guy suggested turning my stem upside down so that it rose to the bars rather than the usual gradual decline. It was only a 6 degree stem so I agreed and I instantly felt in a more comfortable position and it did feel different as I made my way home in the rain.

The following day I went out again, to get some more time on the bike and to test the new configuration. The snow and rains have had quite an impact on the roads, some sizeable potholes are opening up and there was a lot of dirt and gravel washed into the roads so I knew I had to be careful.

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I took my bike down to Clarks Lane, another favourite segment of mine as I know my times and it gives me a good indication of where I am fitness wise. It’s only 1.2k at an average of 4.1% but it has a nasty little sting in the tail and I love it and hate it in equal measure. Again, upon my return home, I loaded up the Strava segment with interest….

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….another segment where I have wiped 10 seconds off my best time instantly!

It’s fair to say that I’m enjoying this bike, a lot! It’s stiff, quick, corners on rails and climbs like an absolute dream. I can’t wait to get back out on it again.

IAIN

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New Bike Day!

A few weeks back I wrote a post about now being the best time to buy a new bike because there are a lot of discounts about on 2017 models. This week, I finally took my own advice!

I had been looking at the Cannondale SuperSix Evo Ultegra Disc but, as I’m old and inflexible, I decided against it as many of the reviews had said that it had a more race orientated geometry. I continued my search, wanting something that was a significant upgrade but also something that would last a good while. I looked at a lot of bikes, a LOT, until I came across a Specialized Tarmac Expert Disc at half the price of the standard list price…. I didn’t need any further encouragement.

It arrived yesterday and when the delivery turned up, to quote Adam, I was shaking like a shitting cat. I was like a kid at Christmas, I love new bike day! I hope you’ll agree that it is a thing of beauty, usual Spesh lines and a colour that means I’ll be seen for miles!

The extra outlay means that I’ve taken a massive leap forward over my old Felt Z75 Disc, though that bike got me to Paris so I’m extremely fond of it! The major difference is that I’ve moved from aluminium to carbon and from 105 to Ultegra.

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I may well replace the cassette with an 11-32t spread so that I’ve got a few extra for the big hills around me and I’ll replace the offset seatpost with an inline version because my seat is too far back otherwise, but that’s all I’m going to change.

I’m looking forward to getting out and putting a few miles into it tomorrow morning. My friend Ben has devised a route with a couple of challenging climbs so I’ll certainly be able to tell how much of a difference it makes!

IAIN

 

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Taming The Beast

The weather forecast was right. The Beast From The East did pay a visit to Blighty and it did cause the chaos and disruption that was promised. Anyone who has spent any time in the UK will know we are rubbish at dealing with any kind of unexpected or inclement weather. I did not want to be greeted by scenes like this of a morning.

However pretty snow can look, I knew it would cause me issues. These were compounded by inability to work from home due to Virigin Media screwing up the TV and internet connections for the whole of the area I live in……all week! Ever the cyclist, my brain had two trains of thought

  1. If the snow continues into the weekend there’s no way I’m making it out on the bike. Boo.
  2. If the internet outage continues Zwift won’t work in my shed and that will make a trainer session a whole lot more boring. Boo.

Fortunately the internet service was fixed and reactivated on Friday night so, while I looked out at the snow, at least I knew I’d get on Zwift.

I swapped the snow of Warlingham for the snow of the epic KOM on Watopia yesterday and did an hour’s worth of pedalling, so better than nothing.

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Zwift is definitely my fall back option as I much prefer being outside and so my brain started thinking about the Zwift model. The more I thought about it, the more I got irritated.

Last year Zwift announced that membership plans would rise from £7.99 to £12.99 (though I am still paying £7.99 for this year, having been signed up before their deadline), yet I still have to reach certain levels that they define to unlock different courses and bits of road. I’m sorry, but for £7.99 (soon to be £12.99) I expect to have access to every road that is on Zwift! It’s bad enough that whenever I go to use Zwift it’s static map rotation is always on bloody Watopia, I want to be able to choose where I ride and I think the price increases should pay for extra servers to allow that function. I’m not fussed about different kits or bikes, let the levels unlock all of that extra content, not the actual roads.

Fortunately, Strade Bianche happened in the afternoon and that cheered me up immeasurably. I had backed Tiesj Benoot in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and he had put in a stirling effort before falling away before the finish so I backed him again, this time at 20/1 E/W. He rode a great race, made sure he was on the right side of the splits, jettisoned the chasing group and bridged a 40 second gap across to the leaders (Romain Bardet and Wout Van Aert) before leaving them in his wake on the steepest last section of white gravel. It was a phenomenal effort.

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I finished the race £125 richer and Benoot finished the race with his first professional win, delivered in emphatic style. Chapeau Tiesj, dirty faces do win races!

Paris Nice starts today and I’ve had a few quid Alaphilippe to take home the title, though Sky look very strong.

IAIN

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I’m Official!

I’d been itching to get back out on my bike since we got back from holiday so I braved the cold weather on Saturday morning and went for a short, 20 mile ride. It was an absolutely stunning morning, the neck tube/winter cap/toe covers kept the biting cold at bay and even a road closed sign couldn’t dampen my enjoyment at being back out on the bike.

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First outing this year for the Oakley’s! Needed!

I went out on my usual route and I’m glad that I did because it looks as though the ‘Beast From The East’ may scupper rides for the near future. Snow arrived today and more is forecast so I better get that Zwift setup right again!

I received an email today confirming my charity place on the Prudential Ride London 100 so it is now official! No going back! No wimping out!

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I’d better start increasing the mileage and getting serious about completing this mammoth challenge.

……in the meantime, while it snows, I’ll sit and look at new bikes on the internet!

IAIN

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Antigua Break Sans Bike

I’ve always been very fortunate to have decent holidays and this February half term is no different. 10 of us, my family and my in laws, have jetted off to Jolly Beach in Antigua for some much needed sunshine. You may think that may be a good excuse to let up a bit but I’m not going to let that happen, as the pic below shows I made use of the hotel’s gym facilities this morning!

Following that I thought about going for a walk to warm down a bit, so I headed down the beach towards the marina.

It was a lovely walk, Antigua had some amazing scenery with small to large boats coming from everywhere to enjoy the overwhelming beauty of the island. What I hadn’t really expected was a real yearning for my bike, but I found some roads that rose out of the sea like monsters. Paths heading to the top of steep hills where large houses were built to enjoy every last ounce of the wondrous view of the Caribbean sea and it’s brilliant blue waters. I would’ve loved to have a bike with me to have a crack at the below but instead I had to walk up it. The breeze across the island would’ve prevented it from being a sweat fest but I’m sure I’d have got close to using all available gears!

As with everything, what goes up must come down and the descent would’ve been equally thrilling, the harbour hurtling towards you promising a refreshing dip in the sea at the end

I think I’ll check out Strava when I get home to have a look at the gradients involved but these were certainly punchy climbs that would’ve required a sizeable effort. Maybe one day I’ll return with a bike!

IAIN

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