Posts Tagged ‘millsy’

Scott Long Leg

Tough sportive yesterday courtesy of the Scott Long Leg, which I rode with Jonny, Millsy, Andy and Max. The event itself had an easy-going first half – which our group made even easier by spinning along and socialising – followed by a very spiky, hard second half – which Jonny and I made harder by chasing each other up the steepest climbs of the day.

In view of the fact that I’m supposed to be riding the Etape du Dales in a fortnight, and that 85 miles is the farthest I’ve ridden in training so far this year, I figured I needed to extend the Long Leg’s 70 mile distance. Therefore Millsy and I started the day in Epsom, and rode to and from the start line.

We’re into our fourth consecutive week of wet weather here, so it was no surprise to find some of the narrower roads in a really poor state – in fact no better than forest tracks. Millsy and Andy both flatted, and there were further mechanicals: Millsy’s rear mech broke after 30 miles, restricting him to a 3-speed drivetrain, and my front shifter broke after the second feed stop. Unable to shift into the big ring, I was forced to keep the cadence high – but actually I found this beneficial. Since I was never tempted to squeeze out extra revolutions from a big gear on an ascent, my legs felt faster and fresher.

I got impatient with the pace early on and made a break, but I didn’t sustain it, partly thanks to a random rider who latched himself onto my back wheel and then started chatting to me. We re-grouped at the second feed. As the gradient really kicked up for the first time, I paid the price for eating a whole chocolate brownie at the feed stop, and struggled with a ball of butter in my stomach. I fell back from Jonny’s pace on the climb, then I lost him for good without a big ring on the descent. In the end he took 6 minutes from me – but I had us at 10th and 11th fastest on the day.

The day’s heroics culminated in a climb over Box Hill on the way back to Epsom.

It’s been a while since I’ve been as wiped out by a ride as I felt last night.

Puncheur 2011

I made 3hrs 57 in the Puncheur sportive yesterday – 1.49 half-way split, 12th place out of 400, and 9 mins faster than my previous PB – and I’m still not sure where I pulled it out from.

So far this year I’ve certainly done less riding than in the early months of 2010, when according to my training diary I put in several hilly 5hr rides, several mid-week 3hr rides, as well as commuting. I’m heavier than last year, by about 4 pounds (11st on the day). I had zero expectations of yesterday’s event, to the extent that I didn’t even bother switching to my race wheels and removing my mudguards.

On the ride itself I felt more controlled than I did last year; Jonny said we started really fast, but it felt normal to me. We had a solid tow from the i-ride boys for about 45 mins, and then worked well with Jonny and one i-rider who, like us, couldn’t keep pace with his teammates – but then pretty much all the second half of the ride was solo, into the wind. When I crossed the line and was handed my ticket at the top of the Beacon I was really surprised – had the organisers revealed they’d shortened the route by 10k it would have made sense.

It would appear that despite riding less, I have at least as much form as this time last year. How so? I’m struggling to find any other explanation than:

  • Weight training – I joined the gym for 4 months between November and February, and even if I didn’t become significantly stronger, I probably didn’t lose as much leg and core strength as I have previously in an off-season.
  • Cumulative performance – there’s an argument that says the more years you ride concurrently, the better you get. It’s hard to measure this.

Either way, it’s encouraging. And a big morale boost. I remember saying to Jonny en route that I’d forgotten how much I enjoy riding sportives. Not since the Maratona have I ridden an event and felt strong. Bring on Girona!

Footnote:

In two respects the event was a repeat of 2010:

  1. After riding with Jonny and another stronger rider for about 90 mins and putting in shorter and shorter turns on the front, they dropped me – but this time even earlier, not long after the middle feed.
  2. A sub-par performance from Millsy. He was flying a fortnight ago in training, but was bothered by a cold and slipped off the pace early on. Still, he got 4hrs 06, another PB and massive improvement on last year.

Back from the Dolomites

If you like climbing – and I do – then The Maratona of the Dolomites is a tailor-made sportive. The 138km full course offers barely any flat sections, so forget about who is or isn’t doing work at the front, forget about getting in a group; it’s about controlling your effort and staying hydrated in the heat. Neither of which I was very successful at on the day.

For mountain scenery, this is the most spectacular sportive I’ve ridden. At every hairpin you get a new panorama of lush valleys and jagged peaks. Especially early in the morning, when shafts of sunlight poke through the gaps in rock towers and light up patches of road – it’s outrageous.

It was nice to have a chance to appreciate the views; this, together with the fact that I wasn’t able to blow my energy reserves too soon, were the only up-sides to the serious congestion at the start of the ride. In all other respects the sheer number of riders starting together (8,640) was frustrating and dangerous. I spent 3 hours riding in a massive cavalcade of slower cyclists, pointlessly jostling for position, wary of errors on the descents.

Very busy roads - but stunning views.

Jonny, Millsy and I started together, but pretty soon it was just Jonny’s wheel I was trying to follow up the crowded slopes of the Passo Pordoi. That Ironman-wingnut Mills had done a triathlon on the Friday before; this was to be a long training ride for him.

The first 7 passes all felt easy, but somehow Theobald got the early jump on me. Suddenly he was nowhere to be seen amid the mass of jerseys. I caught him exiting the Belvedere feed stop at 83km. With the crowds and the views, the day had felt more like a charity ride than a sportive. But by now my legs were buzzing and my head was full of the Giau.

The event is really all about this one climb. As I remember it, I began the ascent in the lead, Jon on my wheel. We had a good tempo, and passed many. The sun was full-on now, and perhaps 30 degrees. I had a problem with my gears which meant the chain wasn’t sitting on my top 26 ring, and kept slipping down one, so I was fiddling with the barrel adjuster with sweating hands whilst climbing. There was complete silence from the mountainside. The gradient was unrelenting, and brutal.

35 minutes into the climb, the invisible elastic tying me to Jonny’s back wheel stretched one last time, and snapped. He had one bike length, then two, then he was beyond the next hairpin, then out of sight. The ascent and the heat was pushing me into a physical and mental state I’d not experienced since riding the Galibier last summer: pins and needles in the face, and a sick feeling in my stomach rising into my throat.

Summiting the climb, I should have stocked up on more food, but instead I reeled past nauseating piles of jam tarts and banana halves, grabbing bizarre things I never normally consume on a ride – like plastic cups of coke. I had one gel and two enervit squares to last me, and somehow I thought it would be enough.

Possibly descending from the Passo Giau to Pocol.

I descended hard, hit the foot of the Passo Falzarego, then bonked. My morale sank too – riders were passing me, Theobald was way up ahead, and I was annoyed with myself for not eating properly. The Falzarego should have been my climb: 10km long, it’s gentler than the Giau, a more gradual ascent that I would normally have powered up. I pulled over into the shade, pissed, consumed everything I had on me, and started climbing again.

The Passo Falzarego has an evil sister: the Valparola. Just after the drinks stop at what you think is the top of the climb, the gradient kicks up for just over a kilometre. Millsy told me later this little feature nearly finished him off; to be honest I can’t really remember how it was for me. I do remember gunning final the descent, though, and passing the finishing banner 18 mins after JT. Final time: 6hrs 39.

Grimacing in the final km's

I’m planning to ride the Maratona again. It’s a great event, flawlessly organised and well supported by the locals. It’s also excellent value for money. Entry is 50-odd euros, but you’re showered with freebies before, during and after the ride.

Finally, if you’re looking for a place to stay, check out these apartments. Drop Norbert Nagler a line and tell him I sent you…

Puncheur 2010

The first sportive of 2010 is in the bag. Eagerly anticipated by 6 of us – me, Jonny, Millsy, Simmo, Duncan and Paul – as a key test of early-season form, the Puncheur lived up to its reputation from last year: a fast, mostly flat route around the South Downs with excellent food and organisation.

It was freezing cold on the start line at 7.45am on Sunday, and it didn’t get much warmer, despite some bright sunshine as the day wore on. It was a ragged start; I got a lot of cold air into my lungs straight away, my heart rate pounding up in the 170s – it felt like my body was under a lot of stress. This feeling of stress never quite left me the whole 70 miles of the course. We were all taking short pulls at the front to begin with but everything felt a bit giddy. Then we hit ice, several big patches. Duncan went down, later joined by Jonny.

The first half of the ride, I just felt strain, so I tucked in behind Jonny and a strong-looking rider in a Cannondale top. After the feed-stop, I felt stronger, and made up for my poor contributions to the pace early on by taking a long stint into the wind. I could feel it coming back, the feeling of lightness, of floating on the effort.

At about the 3-hour mark I started to tie up. We’d hit a modest hill at around 2hrs 30, which had separated myself, Theobald and Cannondale from the others. I knew if I lost those two, I was most likely on my own to the finish, so I did everything I could to cling on, but closing the gaps became too much. Swearing at the wind, I roped myself in to the bottom of Ditchling Beacon, then climbed it without further incident. Final time: 4hrs 06 – 7 mins faster than last year, this time without going wrong.

I’ve done more riding (in pure hours on the bike) than I had this time last year, but notably less high-quality training such as intervals. This is potentially the reason for my lack of any kind of explosive pace. I remember feeling really full of beans last year; this time around, I felt easy on the hills, with reasonable stamina, but not that much power. My leg injury could have played a part. I’m half a stone lighter than last year (10st 10 vs 11st 6) – so that’s maybe a factor. I guess since my goal this season is the Maratona in July, building a base with plenty of hills, without hitting the intervals too early, will hopefully pay off in the end.

A short footnote for Millsy – he had a shocker. Training to within an inch of his life, he had to do a long run and a ride the day before, then flatted at the start of the sportive. His grim-faced expression in the photos tell the full story.

2010 – first ride out

The current conditions just north of Potters Bar.

The current conditions just north of Potters Bar.

Yesterday was my first ride out of the new decade. Following a period of 2 months out of the saddle (a trip to Nepal was partly to blame), which itself included a 2 week drinking marathon (the party season) and a 1 week eating marathon (the Mucklow family Christmas), it wasn’t surprising that my form stank.

My leg strength deserted me; my heart rate pootled along in zone 2; my blood sugar levels bonked as my stomach craved cake and turkey trimmings. Compare this graph from yesterday (peak HR 157):

Heart rate graph 2-1-10

Heart rate graph 2-1-10

with this one from 18 July last year (peak HR 177).

Heart rate graph 18-7-09

Heart rate graph 18-7-09

I remember this ride. I never blogged about it because I was just back from La Marmotte and I couldn’t be bothered. But it was the ride of the year. I was out with Millsy on a 4hr+ circuit from Sevenoaks (possibly the Hell of the Ashdown route). I was rested from my trip to France, but still held the form from months of training. I was hitting the hills hard, and just kept feeling stronger. Then came a truly epic half-hour stretch in the closing stages of the ride, on a gradual climb up to Sevenoaks Weald. My heart rate climbed from 160 into the 170s, and I recall looking down at my wrist to check the effort and seeing 177. There was an almost other-worldly absence of pressure.

But back to yesterday. In a nutshell, I followed Millsy all the way up to Woolmer Green, whereupon he binned it on the ice, and I followed his bloodied carcass all the way back to London. My flabby core is so out of shape that it’s all achey today, and I’m saddle-sore into the bargain.

Looks like more snow’s on the way for Wednesday’s ride – sweet!

Autumn Denham classic

One of mine from Japan.

One of mine from Japan.

Millsy and I had a good ride out from Denham today. The weather was overcast, and a bit chilly even in 3/4 fleece-lined bibs and Rapha long sleeve.

We did 67 miles – longer than the distance on Google maps owing to an early map SNAFU on my part – in 4hrs 15. I felt OK, but as the hours wore on I was treated to an extended viewing of Millsy’s ass as he showed some solid form on the flat. I still had the edge over Whiteleaf Hill though.

Reigate sportive

The Reigate sportive was potentially my finest hour (4hrs 38 to be exact) on a bike this year. I had a really, really good day and experienced genuine Legs, Feeling No Pressure moments during the second, hilly leg of the ride. (more…)

Product review: White Lightning Lubes

Millsy wants to know what lube to use. Figured I’d post my answer. 

From my experience of frequent UK road riding, my number 1 recommendation would be White Lightning Clean Ride.

white-l-clean-ride-med

If you ride regularly an oily chain is the bane of your life. The stuff gets everywhere. Clean Ride is the only lube I’ve found that is effective whilst keeping the chain clean.

You still need to rub the chain clean after each ride, and re-apply before the next one, but it’s a good idea to do this anyway to keep things rolling smoothly and prevent grime accumulating.

For longer rides, apply lots, wait 20 mins, then re-apply.

For long, hard, wet rides, you will need a tougher lube. If I’m going longer than 4 hours, I use White Lightning Epic Ride, which is not as clean but will ensure your chain doesn’t dry out, cause friction, and slow you down.

white-light-epicride-med

Just by the way, avoid this:

ceramic

It says it’s clean, but actually it’s much thicker than White Lightning, and ends up black and messy in no time.

North Downs Century 1


View Larger Map

Here’s the route I rode Saturday with Jock and Millsy. I started out from Archway at 8am, stopped off at Regent’s Park to pick up Mills, then met Jock at 9.15 at the café on Richmond Park. I made it all the way round Crawley and back to Epsom for about 3.30, I guess with about 30 mins of breaks / map-checks along the way.

Unfortunately it was a day of injury niggles for my two comrades. Jock actually bowed out after riding 2 sides of Richmond Park – he has shin-splints and an Ironman to do in 3 months. Mills had a back-of-knee issue that saw him head back north from Rusper for a more sedate 80-miler.

The 100 mile route (which includes the 6 miles back from Waterloo to Hornsey Lane) takes a pretty decent line out via Richmond Park, Kingston, Esher and Cobham, where it finally gets properly rural. The big drag over to Ewhurst from Shere gets you going, then it’s mainly flat until the little spikes around Ardingly. The killer is the climb up Pebblemill Road from the station at Betchworth. I’d swapped my 13-29 cassette for my older Veloce 13-26 so it was a real grinder. Then I sat down for a break on an ants’ nest.

If this route sounds like your cup of lukewarm SIS maltodextrin, check out the route of the Granfondo Luciano sportive on 28 June, which I followed parts of.

The Burgess Hill Classic

splash-box-1

Yesterday’s 114km sportive, my 3rd of the year, marked a new milestone in my training calendar. At just 4km longer than the Puncheur a fortnight ago, the Burgess Hill Classic was significantly hillier, with Kidds Hill after 45km and (contrary to what one rider was saying at the first feed station) a draining series of short, steep climbs from about the 80km mark. 

(more…)