Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne vs the Severn 25

This weekend saw the opening salvo in the ‘spring’ classics with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on the Saturday followed by Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on the Sunday. The weather is invariably really nasty, especially in 2011 when a really large rubbish bin blew into the road and did for Stijn Devolder. Skip to 40 seconds or so to see the aftermath.

In the event, KBK was cancelled. A gentle dusting of snow provoked fears for rider and spectator safety. Back in the day both riders and spectators would have been rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of an epic battle with the elements. Alas, not any longer. The myth of the Flandrian hardman has been dealt a small blow by the forces of health and safety and incessant commercialism.

LBL in 1957; only 15 hardy finishers from a field of 107

Meanwhile in Blighty, the early doors time trial season continued apace. No such cancellations here, with the Severn 25 taking place in bitterly cold weather with gentle snow flurries. To be fair, if the weather at Falfield was the same as the weather in Belgium I wouldn’t have ridden.

I rode the 20 miles to the start. It was an eye-watering 3°. I opted for some fairly full-on winter gear including a pair of giordana super roubaix leg warmers and my neoprene overshoes. On arrival i’d misjudged the time slightly, just enough to get even colder and then have to warm up again. I kept most of my winter kit on.

The U18 is a tough and demanding course. It’s not flat, by any stretch of the imagination and riddled with potholes, much like any road surface in the UK. There is a line of craters at one of the turns that has been there for the past 4 years. It used to be a row of small recesses, but with each passing winter they’ve deepened and become more challenging. The marshalls on the corner are issued with a rope ladder and winch to extricate any unfortunate racers. A nasty headwind put paid to any ambition for a fast time; only the last 4 miles were what might be regarded as ‘quick’ and it came as a relief after 21 miles of nihilistic struggling in the bitter north-easterly.

Times were slow; even slower than usual, with the exception of Rob Pears who carded a 55.16. I came 4th, about 8 seconds adrift of 3rd and a further 45 seconds away from 2nd. I’m pleased with my efforts, again, it’s the same as last year. even though the time is slower everything else seems the same; the difference between me and the others, the comparison with riders of similar speeds. It was a great day in terms of training, even if it was absolutely freezing cold and hard to get excited or motivated. When it’s really cold it’s just too difficult. All told, I managed around 70 miles for the day.

Next week is the Chippenham Hardrider. If it looks like it’s going be anything like it was last year I’ll be using a cape and wearing nine pairs of gloves.

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25.4 Miles, quickly

my form seems to be holding over the season quite well, i’m sure it’s luck rather than judgement. yesterday was the Severn Road Club “10” on the u7b, one of the world’s slowest “10” courses. there were a few BSCC riders on the startsheet, it’s a trophy event for the club. I managed 2nd place, my best placing yet in an open 10, with 21.51 – which happens to be 15 seconds slower than my time for the midweek about 14 days ago, although the conditions were not that favourable. i bagged the cup though. it’s in honour of Les Cattell, who went under the hour for a 25 in 1949. probably on an 84″.

this morning i clipped a further 45 seconds from my 25 PB, with a 53.01. i would have liked to have found the extra 2 seconds somewhere to bag a 52, but can’t complain. alec managed a 52.58, which is pretty impressive, especially without a disc wheel. i noticed he has crossed to the dark side and started shaving his legs though (not that i was looking at his legs, i hasten to add), i attribute this to him dabbling in the back-stabby world of road racing, with its surreptitious double-dealing and gentleman’s handshakes, where the fastest and fittest doesn’t necessarily win, but the most cunning and the stealthiest, the one who reads the game of poker best and chooses the right moment to bluff and when to front it out. meanwhile, back in the race of truth, he went deep and put in a brilliant performance.

my approach today was to pretty much floor it all the way, apart from the nasty middle section where there is an epic long draggy bit that slaps you in the face a few times, but not with real venom. on the way back from the turn i was absolutely flying along, as quick as i’ve been in this sort of race, holding 32+mph for a good few miles. it was exhilarating. the last bit, especially the drag up the sliproad, was hideous, i thought i’d done enough to just get under the minute, but it was not to be. i take some consolation that on a regular 25 it would be well beneath, maybe even 40 seconds less. I am also pleased with the new PB.

elsewhere in the wonderful and frightening world of cycling, today has been a seriously crashy TdF stage with flecha and hoogerland totalled by a TV car. one minute hoogerland was contemplating the stage win and polka dot jersey, the next he was wrapped around a wire fence. the first week has been more like a castle combe 4th cat crit than the apotheosis of professional bike racing.

25 Mile Time Trials (and how to ride them)

Last night was the club 25 mile championship:  “the event began in 1922 and the Brian Weatherley Bowl was first awarded in 1950. The bowl commemorates Brian Weatherley who joined the club in 1947 (age 16) and died in 1949 after a short illness from polio. ”

it was breezy, as per usual, the entirety of May has been breezy, and yet this morning appears calm and floatilicious. the race consisted of three laps of the chew valley lake circuit – a tough and technical course where under the hour is a very good time. there is nearly 800 feet of climbing in total.

my considered wisdom based on the limited number of 25s i’ve ridden, is that the trick is to go off slower than you think. when going by perceived exertion (i.e how good or bad you feel) or by heartrate it’s difficult to know whether you are overcooking until later in the race. keep on top of the cadence and slowly, over miles rather than metres, work up to a rhythm and pace that seems comfortable. i was holding around 85-88% of max heartrate, with some fluctuations on the climbs. i also held off on the climbs, sat back and spun up, rather than the usual hell-for-leather out-of-the-saddle pursuit of glory. the first lap time told me I was quick, 18 seconds off my PB, so i sat back a bit more to try and rein in the impulse to go too fast. it was all about managing the effort; the last third of a race is where things can come completely unseamed, but this is invariably caused by the effort on the 1st third. as it was, i felt ok, and pushed through the last lap of 8.3 miles, cranking up into the max, my breathing noticeably more ragged and the lactic build-up starting to make itself felt. however, i coped far better with the lactic than i did at the weekend, because i’d dosed the effort much better. in fact, i think i knew far more precisely how to leave everything on the road. the last lap was slower, despite feeling quicker… i managed a 19.30, 19.40 and a 19.47, with the average speed dropping by 0.1mph per lap. this is within the realm of tolerance. i may have had some fatigue hanging over from the weekend and yesterday’s hill reps – i’m currently working back into a bigger block of training again.

my time of 59.04 was enough to take the trophy ahead of andy legge, who was just over the hour. it’s a pretty sporting and technical course, i took one corner a bit wide and nearly hit a car – i have to say i’ve never skidded the back end of a TT bike before and it was very exciting. i gave a cheery wave and a garbled ‘sorry can’t stop’ before resuming pedaling. i took the corner much slower and tighter on the following two laps.

I’ve included Heart rate and elevation on the graph below, you can see that HR is fairly consistent, and elevates slightly on the last lap. i’m getting there. holding off for longer from the start might be the main target.