I raced at Merryfield today and VC Sevale yesterday to bring a close to a tough week. At this time of year it’s really difficult to sustain the level of motivation needed to prolong the season and maintain or increase fitness. My intention is to ride a series of hill climbs, as I usually do, and hopefully show some demonstrable improvement from last year. A couple of things have been conspiring against me.
It’s been a long long season: my first race was in February. Since then I’ve done 38 races. I am due a rest, a lie-in and an ale, and not an extension to the season consisting of an additional 10 or so races, with each one a violent and explosively short hill climb effort. Hill climb training requires horrible and repeated efforts on hills. Actively going out to do this tends to go against every grain of common sense that i possess. I could cope with this and would find it easier to train through if everyone else wasn’t suddenly hanging up their cleats and putting the nice bike in the loft for winter before chowing down on a plate of chocolate cake and 18 pints of wifebeater.
Lastly, and crucially, work has ruined my cycling of late. This is the defining factor. It is almost impossible to devote the time and energy to training (and it’s training, not riding or racing that requires the effort and investment) when I’m working 12 hour days. Starting at 7am makes it very hard to get up and do the hour I need to do before work. I never want to ride after work, i just want to go home. Incidentally, this is why i haven’t updated my blog for a week. I’ve also been busy trying to complete the draft of a series of chapters I’m working on. All in all, it’s put the veritable kibosh on the physical act of riding the bike.
I’m optimistic that this week things will change, even though the working week looks identical. I just need to head left out of the door in the morning, rather than right. My aim is to use this weekend as a springboard to regain the intensity. Yesterday I rode a 10 near Malvern. It’s a strange course, lumpy and heavy, which dents the times considerably. I rode the course beforehand to get a feel for it, but also to get more riding in. I managed it in 24 minutes by riding tempo and keeping a tidy rhythm. In the race proper I recorded a 21.23 which was vaguely satisfactory, but i have a niggling feeling i was about 10-20 seconds adrift of where i wanted to be. i’m not sure a 20 was ever on the cards, but i did feel a bit slow. I was 3rd overall – getting on the podium is always good. Jon Simpkins took the win, he is in imperious form. Simon Smart was there too, he is a very friendly chap. For some reason i always expect him to be a like a Bond villain, hidden away in a bunker designing devastating new chrono-weapons to be unleashed on a main road near you. This couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s someone who loves the sport and loves the effect that the application of science and aerodynamics can have on performance.
The weather yesterday was absolutely lovely. Today, in stark contrast, was vile. The perfect day for a circuit race in Somerset then. Having underdressed in similar conditions earlier in the season i opted to leave nothing to chance. I wore winter tights and overshoes and a gilet over my jersey with the numbers pinned on the back. I couldn’t give two hoots what i looked like, i just wanted to make it round and still have some feeling in my feet and hands. In this respect i was successful. I had three goals for this race:
1. Be there for Steve Douchebag on his comeback race from a nasty elbow injury. The intention was to have a 12 man mega-train to lead out Mark for the points he needed to take his 3rd Cat licence. In the end we had a 2 man train and therefore lacked a bit in horsepower.
2. Stay on the bike.
3. Take some turns on the front, dig a bit deep, drag the bunch along in the knowledge that they would probably sit on my wheel and chuckle at the chump on the front taking the big turns into the wind. This masterstroke of strategy was based on the fact that I didn’t expect anything from the race in points terms, but i wanted to use it as a training exercise.
That was about it. I really enjoyed it. It was filthy and gritty and the corners were treacherous. There was one crash, i avoided it. I went the wrong way at one point but it was wide enough for me to loop back on with no problem. I had a laugh about it. It was so hard to see that for a few laps i didn’t go near the front because the wide tarmac runways and the apron made it hard to know the route. There was a degree of solidarity amongst those who had decided to ride. It’s my last road race for this year, i think i’ve done about 5. It was a nice way to finish.
A Mention in Dispatches goes to Mike and Chums for their epic feat of cycling from west to east across the Pyrenees, including one day that featured a gazillion miles of ascent, taking in the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Souloir and a host of other horror shows. Chapeau.