“Legends of the Bristol Scene”

Yesterday I did my first time trial for three years. I am not including Burrington last year which was solely a sentimental ride because it was ten years since I did it for the first time and I was fat as hell, prompting a series of kind comments from close friends about how fat I was and how the hill climb diet clearly wasn’t have the same impact as it once did.

Three years ago I did one classic league race. I had planned to do more but life did its getting in the way. Since then I have had several false dawns and generally been resigned to not racing, simply pootling about and doing a bit of touring. It’s a joyous state, gentle and outwards facing, good for the soul. It isn’t training though, in any shape or form, because training requires a lot of effort, routine, structure, and above all, it required time I did not have. It is possible to go and ride slowly for a while with no training and enjoy the experience. It is not possible to do time trials with no training and enjoy the experience 

The key thing that has changed is I have all but finished writing – the book is hurtling through the edit phase (proof pages due in a week or so, details of the book can be found in catalogues, it is slowly emerging into the world) and I haven’t got to use every available increment of free time to write more words to complete sections and meet the deadline. I’ve said it before, but there is only scope for three things in life; family/marriage, work, and one other thing (i.e a hobby), and I’m genuinely pretty bad at getting these in the right ratio. Trying to ride whilst doing other things only affects other people. I think I regularly get tangled up in the desire to ride and gain the benefits from this kind of exercise, whilst not acknowledging that there is not enough time and that this time is time other people need, time needed to meet other commitments. It’s a struggle, and I feel bad that I get it wrong so many times, for myself, but also for those closest to me. It’s too easy to think that just going riding is the answer and everything else is the problem.

OK, so.

I had planned to ride earlier in the season but did not see the global pandemic dystopia coming. Nonetheless, I have been riding since and getting quicker, slowly. It is hard to quantify if I am quick or not because I am quick against recent measures – it would hard to be slower – but I am slow against older measures – it would hard to be quick against those. For example, I nearly shat myself through effort on a climb the other day, only to find I had been up there at least 14 times at a quicker pace, and on occasion had gone up there 3 minutes quicker. A huge amount of resilience and faith is needed.

Capture

The graph is interesting – it shows the peaks and troughs of form and also shows through the years where I have targeted this climb as a measure of fitness, it has an outlier then tends to feature a series of rides at higher pace. My most recent one is on that crest – really going full beans –  but still two minutes slower than the rides about 7 years ago. There are such obvious reasons for this but they have to be remembered. I was about 67kg  and doing billions of races and riding a Cervelo R5, to name three. This is where the resilience is needed. I have recalibrated my goals, based on being 44 years old and heavier.

I have lost some weight, I was 85kg or more at Burrington, which is as heavy as I have been. I am 6ft 1. Since then the weight has come down to 76kg, with 75kg as my initial target. Weight is important because these are the things that training consists of, eating better, drinking less, riding more. Sometimes people think that no training has happened, and that fast rides are just these things that happen, when in reality a lot of training happens. People also tend to think that training can only happen on a turbo, linked to zwift. I don’t doubt for a second that zwift is useful, unbelievably so, but it isn’t the only way of training.

I have been focusing on 5 minute efforts over the past 6 to 8 weeks, and stepped up the intensity over the past 4 weeks. What I mean by this is I’ll plot a 30 mile route with 3 or 4 long climbs and go hard on those climbs, whilst trying to maintain pace on the middle bits. It’s very old school, but it works for me. I am increasing my capacity to ride at threshold and beyond for five to six minutes at a time.

And back to the Lake. I had forgotten how much fun it is to see people at an evening club ten, the gentle camaraderie and support, being laughed at for having the oldest skinsuit and the oldest bike, that sort of thing. I am on the Giant TCR with parts bin components. It is very very light and very easy to get a good position. I really like it and I am quite surprised by this bike, although I guess I shouldn’t be, it was good enough for Michael Hutchinson and the Once team.

Icons of cycling: Giant TCR - Cycling Weekly
This is not me
This is me. FULL FADE BRO.

There was a lot of serious bongo on show. Everyone is using massive chainrings these days. In my retro-filtered view I’d assumed they were pushing massive gears, but it’s all about efficiency. They have huge derailleur jockey wheels and enormous rear cassettes, 36t side-plates at the back. Cables are hidden away and electronic shifting is du jour. I felt a bit odd on my relatively shallow wheels with friction shifters and a standard road double. I can’t actually get the cassette into the 24 or 25, which doesn’t really matter but is indicative of my spannering skills. I have paired a shimano front mech, maybe tourney or something I found, with a campag record square taper chainset. There is a margin of about 0.01mm where it doesn’t make a horrid graggedy-graggedy-graggedy noise between each gear. It’s quite exciting.

I have missed the Lake, it’s a technical course in the best sense of the word, rolling, sharp turns, bit of traffic and lots more casual cyclists of an evening than i can remember. I was hoping for a 22 minute time for the 8.3 miles but was pleased to dip under 20 minutes, with 19.50, or a 25 mph average. It’s a bit of a way from my PB of 18.25 but it was a lot quicker than I had hoped. I was being chased by someone on full bongo so was pleasantly surprised to not be minuted. Should I choose to do more there are lot of additional gains I might be able to access (shoe covers, shiny skinsuit, better bits, faster wheels, considerable weight loss) so there is cause for quiet optimism. However, in my experience I tend to go slower each week.

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Danny is a BSCC legend. He has a new bike. I have borrowed his TCR from days of yore. 
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This is bongo. See massive dinner plate and everything else. 
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Bradderz has a shiny bongo bike with all the relevant new bits. These two spent a long time talking about percentages of bongo. 

Lastly I rode out to the TT, through the mean (and very congested streets) of Bristol. I carried the space helmet on the bars. I then wondered why I was carrying the space helmet on the bars, and concluded it must be because I was scared of looking like a complete tool, at which point I realised I was wearing the world’s worst skinsuit, riding a desperately inappropriate bike through Bristol traffic and already looked like a complete tool, so put the helmet on and had done with it. I was spotted by the Bike Radar gruppeto riding up over Dundry, the steep side. They mocked me later for this, but made up for it by casting me as one of two ‘Legends of the Bristol scene’. 

Image may contain: Joe Norledge, outdoor, text that says "bikeradar 43s Two legends of the Bristol scene แLnอร"

BSCC Classic League – 9/10, would re-bongo. 

Down to Earth With a Bump

Yesterday was an eventful day. It was my first foray into the Classic League; the club’s annual time trial series. The first few races are held at Aust, in the shadow of the severn bridge and not far from the old ferry crossing, famously visited by his royal Bobness on his landmark electric/folk judas tour in 1966. I’m not sure if he was in town for the time trial or not.

Looks like a climber to me. (Barry Feinstein Image)

The weather for the race was a lot nicer than it was for Robert Zimmerman. The wind dropped and we had some late-evening sunshine.

i decided to ride out to the start in a slightly circuitous fashion and treat the whole endeavour as a training ride. The loose plan was to ride a slightly hilly 20 miles out, do the 5.2 mile TT, then ride home a further 15 miles, with the out and back being fairly hard, but not so hard that i couldn’t sustain it. You get into a fairly remorseless rhythm; for me it’s around 25mph or so, maybe a bit more, with heart rate at around 80%.

The first bit went well, then i dropped down to the suspension bridge coming back into Bristol. A car in front was doing a steady 15mph. I was behind – and certainly quite near, trusting in two things, that they would continuing moving at the same pace, and that the cycle lane belonged to me. They started to drift into the cycle lane, so i shouted, fairly benignly, to ask them to vacate it – but they didn’t hear. The driver then swerved suddenly across right into the lane and stopped. I presume he was checking his change for the bridge. I had no time to make any kind of decision, slammed on the front brake as i hit the car on the side and went straight over the handlebars pretty quickly, ending up wedged between the car and half on the pavement with my bike on top of me and a freaked-out looking driver nervously getting out of his car.

When you have a crash like this there’s a couple of things to consider, usually in a set order. Firstly, I checked to see if i could stand up, walk, raise arms, and made sure nothing was broken. Then i checked the bike thoroughly. The bike is absolutely fine, no damage whatsoever. My helmet is cracked and scraped though and there is a massive hole in my assos skinsuit.

this is what the crash looked like. see speed drop from 16mph to 0 at the beginning of the trace.

i had a lengthy conversation with the driver, he was quite shook up as well. he gave me some wetwipes to clean my face and shoulder. After that i decided to ride across and down bridge valley road at which point i’d decide whether i wanted to race or not. it’s hard to know what to do in the aftermath of a spill, and is best to sit still for a while. Heading across the bridge i got caught in a massive hailstorm and then had to shelter in the public toilets. it was quite an eventful few minutes.

it looks like i've stuck my shoulder in a tin of dulux matt emulsion
i can heartily recommend prendas baselayers. they are the bees knees.

once i got to the bottom of the hill i decided to ride out to the start. i was running a bit late by now so had to get on it. once i got up to speed the pain dissipated somewhat. I tacked along and made it just in time.

the race was comparatively uneventful. i rode as fast as i could, didn’t worry too much about pacing it, and managed an 11.02, which is an improvement on my PB of one second. i was a bit disappointed not to go faster but it wasn’t ideal conditions and also it didn’t help that i’d crashed heavily on the way over. It was good enough for the win by around 30 seconds. Somehow i’d like to find a further 20 seconds in the next two weeks. It was just one of those days where i thought i was going to really fly but didn’t actually go that fast.

We all rode back in a sort of TT and road bike convoy. I rode on front almost the whole time because i was still looking to do a bit more training. the others seemed happy to follow. I was glad to get home and have a bath. I’m a bit sore this morning but am optimistic that i will be fine in time for Sunday and the fastest course in christendom.

statistics:

total of 40 miles @ 21.5mph average; 1 x 5.2 mile TT @ 28.3mph; one violent collision from 16mph to 0mph in 70 cm; one energy gel consumed

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