I’ve been riding quite a bit lately, spurred on by the rapidly-approaching Frome 10. I don’t have any expectations regarding the first race of the season, it’s a loosener of sorts and an opportunity to dust of the wintry cobwebs, albeit in winter. Nevertheless, some sort of pride comes into play and whilst I don’t mind pootling round quite quickly and getting use to the horrible feeling of riding at threshold for 22 minutes, I also don’t want to disgrace myself with an ungainly effort that belittles my seeding. Pride comes before a fall.
The seeding for time trials runs from 0 to 9 in this order: 0,5,1,6,2,7,3,8,4,9. The 4 and the 9 are the slower riders on paper and the 0s are the kings of straight line speed. I’m seeded at 40 which makes me the 4th fastest in a field of 70. Again – on paper. The first event of the season generally shows you one thing, who has a degree of form at a ridiculously early point in the year. It has no real effect on later races and certainly isn’t a prediction of rapidity come July.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve been riding quite a bit, most of it outdoors. I’m battling with a reduced timetable because of the demands of childcare. This is something that takes precedence and the new arrival is the most exciting thing at Traumfahrrad Towers since the unwrapping of the R5. As a result I’ve been working to an odd schedule, planning to ride at some point in the day but not really knowing when that window will open, or for how long. I’m certainly not doing any epic 5 hour base rides, these are completely incompatible with current circumstances. Instead I’ve been out for an hour or two here and there. Quite often the shortened time frame has been useful, insofar as it’s made me ride quickly to get out and back. I can feel some vague semblance of form beginning to emerge, like some inchoate and primordial shape climbing out of a lacklustre quagmire.
Today i managed a slightly longer ride. I made the mistake, or perhaps apt choice, of looking at the weather forecast after I had ridden. The rollers are set up and ready to go and I know I can head into the cold store and knock out an hour at as close to threshold as I can get, but I’ve been avoiding this. i think the reason is simple, with limited time, it becomes more important for me to get some fresh air and ride the bike outside. It’s probably no coincidence that I’ve found myself riding in some inclement weather. In the past I might have made my excuses, but I’ve just jumped on the winter bike and headed out regardless. It remains preferable to an hour of static pedalling, looking at the wall and listening to the cumulative repetition of electronic music.
Today I planned a fairly hilly ride in order to put in some interval work and elevate the heart-rate. i was also working on a back-to-back principle, following up a fast-paced mock-hilly ride yesterday evening. The route took in a couple of absolute snorters: Dundry, Blagdon, Shipham and Redhill being the most obvious. Once i started to climb I began to have misgivings. A sensation of hubris rattled around my addled brain. I pressed on. On the way out i was fortified by the headwind – it was vile, but i knew that it would make for a rapid home leg. Blagdon showed its true colours. The climb from the reservoir to the top of Burrington Combe is steep and unrelenting, taking around 10 minutes on a good day. On the exposed top section by Rhodiate Lane the snow swirled across and mixed with hail and rain. I forgot my glasses, a schoolboy error in such conditions. I struggled with the 39:25, but mainly with the ferocious headwind. Despite all of this, my legs felt ok.
It was cold on top of the Mendips. My hands started to go numb. This was made worse by the descent down through the Gorge with hail and frozen rain hurting my face and eyes. Today was not the time to stop and stare. A semblance of feeling began to return to my digits whilst climbing back over Shipham and I was emboldened by the tailwind: i knew I had broken the back of the ride and also had that reassuring feeling you get when you most of the big ascents are in the bag.
When I got home there were freshly-baked cookies on the table. It was a wondrous sight.