Saturday Segment Killer

I turn 41 on Wednesday. Not the most celebrated, nor the sexiest of ages but I had all the pomp and circumstance of my 40th last year so I’m happy with this year being fairly low key.

One thing I did do last year, on my birthday, that gave me a great confidence boost was to conquer Box Hill for the first time. Box Hill is an iconic climb and it seems to hold some kind of mythical attraction for cyclists, but it really isn’t that difficult (to my surprise last year). It’s 2.2k at an average of 5.2% with the iconicity coming from the two switchbacks as you climb to the cafe at the top

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That day it took me 12 minutes to get to the top, partly due to the fact that I’d never done it before and partly due to me taking in the wonderful surroundings of a place that I hadn’t really been to since I was a kid. Since that day I’ve improved both my fitness and my cycling ability and my last attempt on Box Hill was 9 mins 20. I’m aiming to go back there on Wednesday to celebrate being 41 and to knock some time off that PB!

All that is a roundabout explanation of why I only went for a 26km cycle this morning despite the weather being amazing! I decided to conserve some energy for Wednesday, instead going out to improve my time on a few of the local segments that irritate me onĀ  weekly basis. Here’s two of them!

Nasty Little Rise

That is the name of the Strava segment and for good reason, maybe more so for me as it is only a couple of miles from my front door and the legs usually haven’t warmed up by that point. It doesn’t look anything much, 0.65km at 5% but it has annoyed me time and time again since I started cycling again.

nasty little rise

I’d never managed to get under two minutes on this segment, 2:04 was my best (twice) but I knew that I was stronger and had a better bike so I was confident today and managed to knock 11 seconds off of that time – 1:53 a new PB!

Hillbury Road Full

As I have (no doubt) mentioned numerous times before, to get home from anywhere means I have to go up a hill. I really have no choice. Hillbury Road is one of those segments that looks like a lovely, gentle route home but it has an incredibly nasty sting in the tail that has done for me in the past. Not the kind of gradients that we saw on the Zoncolan yesterday but enough to leave me wondering whether I could get some kind of TUE. The whole climb is 1.8k at 5%

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You can see the kicker that I’m talking about, that orangey-brown shaded left turn. Here’s a breakdown of that

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It really does knock the wind out of your lungs as you try to keep the rhythm while turning into quite a tight turn

Reasons I know I’m a better cyclist?

  1. I completed the Hillbury Road segment in a PB of 6:26 – previous best 7:42
  2. I completed the whole thing sitting down! No getting out of the saddle, no rocking and rolling to the top. I felt in good shape and had good rhythm

I also rode one of my favourite segments, from Beech Farm Road to the White Bear pub in Warlingham. It was such a lovely morning I created a timelapse video of it

Looking forward to getting a longer ride in on Wednesday and really testing my new found fitness over at Box Hill

IAIN

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These Were Taken A Year Apart….

I think we can safely say that I’ve got a bit fitter, but also a bit older!

 

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Brighton & Back!

Today I took part in the Pearson Cycles London to Brighton & Back bike ride which raises money for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. I completed the 154km course in 6h 20mins and felt pretty good, apart from another bout of cramp (right at the bottom of Ditchling Beacon!)

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Apparently, according to Veloviewer, I have climbed enough metres so far this year to climb Everest 1.2 times. I’m not going to try for real.

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IAIN

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Bank Holiday Heatwave

So, in stark contrast to it’s usual performance over Bank Holiday weekends, the weather flicked the V’s to convention and gave us a heatwave with temperatures hitting 28 degrees Celsius on Monday.

Despite knowing this was coming I still headed off to meet a couple of friends from work at Richmond Park to do a few laps of the park. It’s a wonderful place when the weather is good, with the deer roaming freely and loads of cycling enthusiasts getting a few laps of the 10km route in. As you can see from the pictures and video below, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was bloody hot! The deer had the right idea, taking shade under the trees watching the mad cyclists go by…

The only downside was the cars. So many cars. The good weather had brought everyone to the park and queues for the car parks resembled the first day of a music festival. It made the roads near the car parks exceedingly busy and a little dangerous, mostly (it has to be said) because of the unwillingness of some cyclists to slow down, unclip or stop.

I managed 90km including a few laps of the park so I was happy with that, plus the hill that delivered me quad shattering cramp two weeks previously was conquered without issue!

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I’m loving Veloviewer at the moment, it’s a really good tool for tracking your rides/progress as well as breaking down segments and climbs to understand them even more rather than just an average gradient. I’m a sucker for detail and this feeds my cycle nerd appetite!

IAIN

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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.

ride100

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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