Wednesday, 29 May 2013

You meet the nicest people in a club

I have to admit that I used to prefer mountain biking to road cycling.  Out on my mountain bike I would get immersed in the technical offroad challenges and not too fussed that I was out by myself.  Road cycling for me was long, lonely miles.

Now, I appreciate both MTB and Road but I favour road cycling and the long lonely miles constitute training ahead of racing. I ride with a virtual partner either on my Garmin or via Strava, but you can't beat a good chat though, both on the ride and via social networks and I get my fix via membership to cycle clubs.

Last weekend I tagged along with some members of the RCCC and was shown the climbs around Hampstead including Swains Lane.  The small group did a few of the climbs interspersed with a lot of chat and I realised one of the group was a celebrity.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Competition from a Youth & Junior

I'm by no means an expert on racing, however I suggested to one of my competitors that we should go for a training pedal together and I could offer some advice on tactics and sprinting.  He lives in a nearby village so we met up on Sunday morning and rode one of my favourite 100km routes.

It was whilst we were ascending Hexton hill, in between gasping for breath that I enquired how old he was. "Seventeen" he replied without gasping. OMG I am old enough to be his granddad and yet I am racing with him and managing to keep up - just.

We completed the 100km in a new PB for me and I got home in time for lunch followed by a bit of tinkering on my new Brompton...

I swapped over my Brooks saddle from my old Brompton and applied some helicopter tape to the spots on the frame which tend to suffer from cable rub.
My 11 year old son gave the new bike a test run and gave it the thumbs up claiming the 6-speed is an improvement on my old 2-speed.  I'm still unsure, but we both agreed that the hub gear change is very stiff to operate.
A short test run around the road is clearly not going to provide a good assessment, so we decided to go out for a longer run, my son on the new bike and me riding my old S2L.  We rode our 7 mile hilly route and, by making effective use of the gearing on the new bike, my son got around the course without bother.  My legs were having a grumble though.
And still are - on Wednesday :-(
Mauled by a youth and a junior. I hope my legs recover for tomorrow night's race.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Retail therapy buoys results

I started this week with a plan to join one of the local cycle club's Sunday run but I have been a bit forgetful of late and as I rode over to the start point I realised I had left my Mopha tool roll (complete with pump and spare tubes) behind. I rode my Wilier fitted with the C50 wheelset and the Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CXII tyres which aren't particularly worn, but inevitability struck and the front wheel punctured and was flat by the time I reached the club ride start point.

One of the club members very kindly gave me a Park Tool patch and I told the group to go on without me. I repaired the inner tube, rode home, put my bike away and had a late breakfast.  The twenty miles round trip was to be my only race training for the week as I wasn't in the mood to go back out.  What I needed was some retail therapy.

I have been using Vittoria Open Corsa, Open Pave and Open Corsa Tech tyres on my various bicycles' wheelsets and had read some articles about the history of Vittoria and the spin-off company Veloflex which still made hand made lightweight tyres in Italy. I 'needed' a pair of Veloflex Master tyres for my racing...Buy-it-now, add a few other essentials to round up the bill and magically the disappointment of the morning puncture was a distant memory.

Sometimes just having something new with claims to improve performance can give you an extra lift.  My new pair of Veloflex tyres probably lightened my Wilier race bike by 70grams or so and the hand glued tread was going to offer me more grip on the circuit of the MK Bowl, so I had a lot more confidence during the race this week.
Experience also counts for a lot too. I sat in the bunch, happy for others to attempt heroic attacks and be reeled in; I did a couple of laps on the front but at a pace I was happy to maintain - even if I did notice that the bunch was strung out single file behind me; and then as we hit the climb on the final lap I wound up for my sprint, got on the drops, went hard, passed several others and then went harder still with the hope of securing 3rd place again. I finished 4th beaten by a couple of inches and should have started my sprint earlier.
The race was only 45 minutes followed by 5 laps and I had forgotten my Garmin so I don't know what the average speed was, however it felt easy and the 4th Cat racing has given me the experience and confidence to now race with 3rd Cats. 
Thirteen points in the bag and I have no choice - 3rd Cat now and there's no going back down - I have achieved the goal I set for myself this year!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Belgian toothpaste

Last week I raced around the Mallory Park race circuit and the weather was perfect with a light breeze and temperatures in the high teens. The setting sun cast long shadows over the track and made for great photos (courtesy of my daughter)...

I learned a few more lessons from the Mallory Park race and it renewed my confidence in being able to complete longer, fast (26+mph average) races.  One of the positives I took away from the race was that my sprint wasn't half bad and, although I only finished 12th, I had jumped past a lot of the riders who had overtaken me in the melee coming out of the final bend.
My weekend training was the Spires and Squires Sportive, a 78 mile ride through the rolling lanes of Northamptonshire.  I was hoping to find a fast group to tag onto and get around the route in a very quick time. Sadly I ended up soloing around the route but gave it 'full beans'.  At the mid-way point my average speed was over 20mph but my legs started to grumble during the final 20 hilly miles after the feed station and I finished the ride in a little over 4 hours.
The high points of the sportive were seeing someone riding the 78 mile route on a Brompton and also spotting some ex-sports stars at the finish. I checked the results sheet afterwards and spotted Martin Johnson's name as completing the longer distance in a bit over 4.5 hours - not bad for a 6ft 7", 18+ stone rugby player, assuming he didn't do the shorter 50 miles and not advise the organisers ;-)
With my confidence restored and some training in the bank I decided to race at the MK Bowl again this week. The organisers were overwhelmed by entrants in the last race and made a decision to run an earlier 4th Cat only race this week before the main E,1 & 2 plus 3/4 race.
The weather couldn't have been more different from last week. Metoffice had forecasts blustery gales and rain so the deep section wheels from the weekend's sportive came off and I put the C24 wheelset on. We raced clockwise around the Bowl, my favourite direction but it meant that the block headwind would slow the bunch on the descent.
Forty minutes and five laps, twenty determined 4th Cat riders joined the start line.  I recognised several of the racers and overheard conversations of how many points some of them needed to move up to the 3rd Cat. Foul weather and a determined bunch - this was going to be interesting.
We set off at a comparatively easy pace, averaging about 22.5mph around the circuit and there were some early attacks with club mates soft pedalling at the front of the bunch to give their teammates a chance to get away.  Each time they got reeled in and I made the decision not to do any heroics. I sat in the bunch near the front and did a bit of work in covering attacks but I was happy to sit around third place even though I was getting a faceful of spray off the rooster tails of wheels in front. "Luke, Use the Force" sprung to mind at one point.
At five laps to go the speed lifted and I think a few riders got shelled. I chuckled as some of the riders discarded their bidons like pros in a tour stage. I had never seen that happen in a novice race before but it was an indication that these boys were determined to do anything to secure points.
Last lap and I was still sitting third at the bottom of the descent and as we rounded to the stage area... Bam! I had riders passing me on both sides and had the gloomy thought that I was going to be boxed in again. We hit the climb, I began winding it up for the sprint and from experience I knew some racers would blow and I hoped a space would open up.  On the drops and out of the saddle I sprinted up the outside, found a gap and dug deep.
Third place! Experience and lessons learnt applied giving me seven BC points.
My family and friends congratulated me at the finish and pointed out my face was black and my huge smile revealing teeth peppered with road dirt like a true Belgian sprinter.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Spin in an urban brewery

I went along to the Spin urban cycle show in the old Truman brewery and drooled.  The quality of the cycle frames, paintwork, clothing and accessories was superb and the urban cycle culture is certainly benefiting from a lot of excellent product design.

The 'Made in England' frame builders caught my attention; the excellent craftmanship with a lot of fun mixed in.  I added a new book to my collection...

Friday, 3 May 2013

Bridging the inconvenience

It is back!

The bridge at St. Katherine's lock is back, so no more walking, no more polite nod to the Troll security guard and no more inconvenience.