Yesterday, 19th July 2018, marked one year to the day since Adam and I set off for Paris on what turned out to be an amazing journey for both of us, both physically and mentally. That may sound mightily over the top but I learnt a lot about myself in those 4 days that the previous 40 years on this planet have never taught me. The long miles in the wind and rain taught me a new level of perseverance, the battle with aching limbs gave me a new mental toughness, the selfless people that I met gave me a new determination to be an all round better human being and the sight of the Eiffel Tower after four long days made me fall in love with my bike all over again. I still regard that trip as one of the most pivotal moments in my life, a change in direction and mindset that has (so far) bought a new balance to my life and made me happier as a result. Plus, obviously, we raised a lot of money for The Rainbow Trust!
Fast forward a year and I’m starting to feel the same excitement as I did before we left for Paris. A lot has happened in that year – my son, Xavier, was born in August, I watched a lot of cycling, England gave the country something to feel proud about at the World Cup and I’ve been training to complete the Prudential Ride London 100 mile sportive. Training in the last few weeks has been especially hard due to the hot weather we’ve been having, it’s been oppressive to say the least and makes solo cycling incredibly hard work. Everything has turned brown rather than green, like the whole countryside has turned to straw!
I saw these signs go up on Parliament Street during the week and that reminded me how close I am to taking on the UK’s most iconic sportive
It is probably extremely fitting, a year on, that yesterday was the day that I hit my £1,500 sponsorship target for the Ride London. We are living in difficult, uncertain times at the moment so the fact that so many people were able to sponsor me is amazing and The Rainbow Trust will use that money to do an unbelievable amount of good work.
Lastly, a major thing happened this year. I got a decent sportive photo! I actually looked pretty good in the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo, check it out!
Let me tell you I didn’t look that happy towards the end…..
…..you’re old if you catch that pop reference.
Today I went to a kids 5th birthday party, the worrying thing for me was that it was my own child’s party. Zac turns 5 tomorrow and I’m not sure how that has happened. To see him grow and develop into a lively and energetic, yet caring and considerate boy fills me with pride but it also reminds me why I rode to Paris and why I’m doing the Ride 100.
When I cross the finish line on The Mall at the end of July, I’m hoping that Adam and I will have raised about £9,000 between us for The Rainbow Trust. That money will go towards helping families make the very best of time that they have with their children, making memories that will last forever. It’s a great motivation to know that every pedal stroke can make a big difference.
For this birthday we’ve bought Zac a new bike since he has learnt to ride without stabilizers. I’m keen for him to embrace the freedom that riding a bike can give and hope he’ll continue to ride through his life, not like his dad who got lazy!
One day I’ll get him up Box Hill but for now I’ll settle for getting his confidence up on a bike and enjoying riding. You never know, maybe one day we’ll do a charity Sportive together.
I’ve mentioned it on here before and I am completely correct, with over 16,000 attempts already this year Box Hill is one of the UK’s most popular Strava segments. So why does my Garmin hate it so much? I’ve attempted the iconic switchbacks on numerous occasions but only three have ever registered properly, see below for last Wednesday’s ‘tracking’ of my route
As you can see the GPS tracking of where I went goes completely haywire as I approach Box Hill. I have both GPS and GLONASS enabled for accuracy and this is the only place in TWO countries where I have ever had any problems. I’m not sure what I have to do to get this corrected.
……the most annoying thing is that 5 days later it worked almost perfectly.
I’ve had a pretty eventful week and a half on the bike: 60km on my birthday (including the aforementioned Garmin fail), 107km on Bank Holiday Monday (including Leith Hill and Box Hill) and then, yesterday, I completed the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo which was 157km of pain. With a head cold and after Monday’s exertion I felt pretty rough but I made it to the finish line in about 7 and a half hours so I was happy with that
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
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 on 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.
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%
You can see the kicker that I’m talking about, that orangey-brown shaded left turn. Here’s a breakdown of that
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?
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
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!)
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.
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!
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!
Well, Sunday was a complete success……almost.
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
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.
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….
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!
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
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.
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.
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….
….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.
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.
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!