A Fairly Brisk Start To 2019!

I didn’t want to let much time pass in the New Year before getting out on my bike but, due to family commitments, that first ride had to wait until the 2nd January. I didn’t go far, 30km, but it was enough to get those legs working and to see what kind of shape I was actually in

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I didn’t feel too bad but it was clear that there’s a fair bit of work to do to get back to the levels of fitness that I had last year. 30km was enough for that first run, work to do!

Today I went a bit further. My friend Ben text me and we met up at the Lavender Fields near Woodmansterne, it’s a popular route for cyclists as the roads from there form part of the London to Brighton cycle ride. Ben is a seasoned cyclist with Étape du Tours and Mount Teide to his name so he is a handful to keep up with but I did ok! Below is a video of the roads from Markedge Lane to Rocky Lane, a lot more traffic than we’re used to actually but a good run. We turned for home at Nutfield and came back via Farthing Downs.

We managed 50km overall with a fair amount of climbing so I was really happy to get that under my belt. That’s 51 miles in the first week of 2019, only 1,531 more to beat last year’s number!

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Roll on next weekend!

IAIN

2019 – Year of the Fat Bloke?

It’s that awkward time of the year between Christmas Day and New Year. You know, that time where nobody knows what day it is (aside from those poor few who have to go in to work), BMI is measured in cheese percentage and getting off the sofa results in the landslide of numerous Lindt chocolate wrappers.

…..everyone, that is, apart from cyclists!

I have seen this time of year referred to as ‘the perineum’ of the year but that’s a bit strong and for cyclists it seems to present an uplifting and positive tone. It’s a chance to reflect on the year gone by and to look forward to goals and aspirations for the coming year. Show me one cyclist who makes a rash commitment to a goal while merrily drunk at a New Year’s party. Go on, show me!

For me, after the planned precision of London to Paris in 2017, 2018 was a bit more sedate and a bit more confused. I completed some big rides like the London to Brighton & Back and the Ride 100 but, ultimately, they didn’t live up to expectation and that was a disappointment. On the other hand I cycled with the Alpecin Cycling Team and enjoyed the scenery of the Serra de Bèrnia i Ferrer in Spain whilst on holiday so all was not lost. I would like to do more cycling abroad, it’s a completely different proposition.

In an infographic my year doesn’t look bad at all

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Infographic from http://www.veloviewer.com

As I look forward to 2019 my plan is simple, just to keep improving as a cyclist, enjoy it and lose some weight. I currently weigh 81.8kg so I have about 7.4kg to lose before I’m not considered overweight. I going to steer clear of big sportives as I’ve found little enjoyment in them this year, I’m going to ride with friends and get the feeling back. I’m off to Roubaix (to watch) in April with Adam and then I have a trip to Sweden planned for July to cycle round the archipelago that lies to the east of Stockholm.

A stomach bug has kept me off my bike between Christmas Day and now, annoying as I had planned a Boxing Day ride, but I managed a 5k run yesterday and a 30 minute recovery spin on Zwift this morning. The run wasn’t the fastest I’ve ever done but, after the illness, I’ll take it! I was just happy to complete 5k!

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Three Times Round The Rec Was A Bonus!

The good thing about being ill was that I didn’t consume anywhere near the amount of festive goodies that I could have done!

Onwards!

IAIN

Sliding Into The Off Season….

My Strava account tells me that I haven’t been on my bike since 10th November, almost a month. That’s pretty embarrassing really considering my commitment to myself that I wouldn’t shy away from the change in the weather and that I would keep myself as fit as possible. In truth external factors have driven that short hiatus; a nasty stomach bug, a trip to see England trounce the Aussies at Twickenham and the works charity ball have all made weekends short on time, energy and motivation.

Before that I’d had a run of bad luck. One trip ended with a double puncture and a fight to stay upright on a fairly steep descent, then a grovelling phonecall to my wife to come and get me (20km from home) as I only had one spare tube with me. Then I took part in the Wiggle Kent Classic where I quickly realised that I was completely out of shape, tired, terribly overdressed for the conditions and felt bloody awful……and I got a puncture about 10km from the end. So all in all, I wasn’t exactly ‘feeling’ the whole bike thing anyway.

I have still been going to the gym so, with the weather looking ok for tomorrow, I should be able to get back out there and get a short ride in to get myself going again.

Back in October I had a new experience, Adam and I went to the Six Day Cycling event at the Lee Valley Velopark in Stratford (the one used in the 2012 London Olympics). It was an amazing experience, track cycling with beer, lots of lights and the constant accompaniment of a DJ in the middle of the track. We got to see quite a few events from Madison to the Keirin and it was brilliant, I really enjoyed both the action and the atmosphere and I will be going back!

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Lastly, we’ve taken to supporting Mike Teunissen in the 2019 Cycling Game over on Twitter. The game is simple – become a rider’s number one fan, support them unconditionally, interact with them through Twitter and be the best hype team around. I chose Mike because I think he has a tremendous season coming up and he seems like a genuinely nice bloke. He finished 2nd in the Tour Of Flanders this season but his move to Team Sunweb never really worked out, now he is back with Team Lotto NL Jumbo and raring to go in 2019. He is very capable of making attacks stick and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him take home the W in one of the big one day races next year. I’m kind of hoping he’ll race Roubaix so that we can go and say hello but I’m guessing Flanders will remain a big target for him. Kom Op Mike!

IAIN

A New Nemesis

Those who have read this blog before will have heard me mention the ‘Nasty Little Rise’. It is a Strava segment that I encounter on pretty much every ride from my house if I turn right at the end of my road rather than left. It’s nothing special at all, 0.4 miles long at an average of 4.6%, but hit it when you’re not really fully warmed up and it is a bit of a shock.

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I used this segment to measure my progress seeing as I crossed its evil path so many times, it’s also a great reminder to me of how far I have come since I started cycling. Obviously many things can impact a rider’s ability to keep improving, from adverse conditions to minor injuries or illness, but the overall pattern of improvement is usually fairly clear to see. I first logged this segment on in August 2016 (when I switched to Strava from MapMyRide) and it took me 3 minutes exactly, my PR now (in May this year) was 1:53.

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The Improvement Over Time Is Clear To See

To frame this, however, the KOM on this segment is 1:13 and has stood for over a year.

I’ve ridden the Nasty Little Rise 21 times now (since my switch to Strava) so I started to look for something close by that could take over as my benchmark improvement segment. It had to be something longer with the same, or greater, gradient so that I could continue to measure my improvement as a cyclist. I remembered a segment that I’d done over a year ago up Woldingham Hill, it nearly killed me that day, so I decided to go and have a go at it a couple of weeks ago. It is a 0.6 mile climb at an average of 7.2%, with some parts topping out at 11%, so it is certainly more challenging than the previous segment.

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The first time I did this my time was 10:37, with a 4:46 moving time as I obviously stopped, out of breath and dying, for 6 minutes! That was 8th April 2017. Fast forward 17 months and I tried it again, 4:54 this time without the lengthy pit stop in the middle. I know I can do it faster than that as I wasn’t 100% well that day so it will become part of my regular rotation to see how much I can improve

IAIN

Alpecin Cycling Tour of Britain Experience

Last weekend I joined the Alpecin Cycling team for a bit of a leisurely ride in London. On arrival we were given a bag full of official Katusha Alpecin team kit a sized up for our rides for the weekend. I was incredibly lucky as I’m a short arse! It meant I got the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Aero with upgraded Zipp wheelset and SRAM Etap shifting, probably costing 3 times the amount my bike did! My pro shot came out ok!

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It’s not the most flattering of kits but it was incredibly comfortable!

We headed out of London, along the river to Putney Bridge where we turned off and headed down to Richmond Park. We rode with an ex-pro, Jörg Ludewig, who rode all the grand tours in his pro career as well as De Ronde 7 times and Paris Roubaix 6 times…

…..so he knew what he was on about!

Our pro photographer accompanied us on a rather wonderful PedalMe bike and some of the shots he got of us were brilliant.

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I managed to stay upright in Richmond Park this time so that was a bonus! The bike was an absolute dream. I’d never used SRAM Etap before so I took it easy first off, however I found the system completely intuitive and very easy to use and I was soon changing gears without thinking. The biggest change for me was the wind impact on the deep rim back wheel, I was taken by surprise a couple of times particularly in the narrow London streets where the wind is funnelled at high speed. We had completed 72km by the time got back to the hotel.

The next morning we headed up to Trafalgar Square for the main event, joining in with the closed road cycling event on the route of the final stage of the Tour of Britain. While the others in the group flew off up the road, I took it a bit easy. I hadn’t cycled with other cyclists since the Ride London and the fall had made me nervous of the people on the route (many of them kids) who weren’t experienced in riding in these numbers of cyclists. It soon opened up though and we had a great time on the route, it was bloody tiring but a thrill to fly round the streets while bemused tourists looked on waiting for the main event

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After a quick change back at the hotel, it was back to the VIP hospitality on the start finish straight to watch the final stage erupt with Caleb Ewan taking the win. I’d been tipping Ewan all weekend so I was delighted he came through! I also popped in the Pinarello shop to see G’s Tour de France bike and Froome’s Giro bike – the Giro trophy is the most beautiful sports trophy in my opinion, it is simply stunning and the history that it holds is mesmerising.

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It was an absolutely phenomenal weekend, a money can’t buy experience that I will treasure. It makes me more determined to be the best cyclist I can be, to be ready in case another opportunity like this comes along!

IAIN

A Tour To Remember

I’m very excited.

There’s not a lot of times in my life where I have said that and genuinely meant it. I’ve been watching the Tour of Britain this week and I have genuinely enjoyed it. Particular highlights for me have been the Challacombe Hill climb, the scenery through Cheddar Gorge (a place I want to ride) and today’s finish on the Whinlatter Pass. Being the son of a Cumbrian and having spent many a summer in that part of the world I would’ve liked to have seen the pro riders tested on the likes of Hardknott, Wrynose and The Struggle (remember Wiggo running up there in the 2016 edition? See below)

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Tomorrow, while the pro peloton is enjoying a slightly easier day from West Bridgford to Mansfield, I will be heading into London to play my small part in this year’s edition of the Tour of Britain. Through work I am very fortunate to have been invited to be a guest of Team Katusha Alpecin for the weekend, culminating in a VIP viewing spot for the final stage on Sunday and an opportunity to meet the team afterwards. First though is the real fun part for me, we are going to be put in pro kit and on pro bikes for a ride out through the Surrey countryside tomorrow. The chance to ride a top spec bike is mouth watering, although I’m slightly nervous about revisiting the scene of my Richmond Park Ride London fall on a more expensive bike that isn’t mine!

There will be photos, lots of photos!

IAIN

Seeking New Roads…

As the summer threatens to give way to the inevitability of Autumn, then Winter, I start to look towards next year and what ride(s) I can work towards. Though this year is far from over, I always find it is good to get one or two big ‘project’ rides in the diary to keep the motivation high throughout the winter.

I always try to get one last sportive ride in before the winter months and this year is no different. Last year Adam and I did the Stroke Association’s Thames Bridges ride, this year I’ve signed up for the Wiggle Kent Classic in November. They are roads that are going to be very familiar to me, but I’m hoping that I’ll find one or two nuggets that can work their way onto my own personal route rotations.

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I’m signed up for the longest ‘Epic’ course which covers 79 miles, plenty should the weather be against us at that time of year. The start and finish at Lingfield Park is nice and close to home and passes through Edenbridge on the way back  where some of my family live so it is a very local route!

Secondly, more excitingly, is a trip that I have booked this week. Myself and two friends (Cam and Ben) are going to visit another friend of ours, Rob, who lives in the suburbs of Stockholm at the end of June. We’re taking our bikes and, over the four days we’re there, we’re planning a couple of lengthy rides to check out some of the stunning scenery that Sweden has to offer. I’m particularly looking forward to cycling round the archipelago, using the free ferries where required, as it looks absolutely stunning. Not too many hills at all, just some good roads.

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A return flight, with a bike box each way and one checked bag, is costing us £235 each. Obviously, staying with Rob is minimising our expense while we’re there, I’ve heard Sweden is expensive.

Next week I’m meeting Adam to talk about part 2 of 2019’s potential foreign adventure. This year’s stage 9 of the Tour de France over the cobbles had everything and I was as excited by it as I am every year when Paris Roubaix rolls around. I text Adam to say ‘I have to see this live!’ so that is what we are planning, a trip to see the Hell of the North up close and personal…… possibly coupled with riding the short version of the Paris Roubaix sportive the day before.

That would make for an excellent 2019, cycling wise.

IAIN