Hardrider Round 2

Tomorrow sees the second in the series, the Gillingham and District Open. They come thick and fast, after this it’s the Severn, then Bath.

I’m optimistic of a good ride, it’s roundabout this point last year that i started speeding up a bit and it’s certainly a course that suits. it starts off on a 1.2 mile climb with a hillclimb prize thrown in. I’ll be trying to grab the prime and yet trying also to ensure i don’t crack and then ruin the rest of the race; the finest of very fine lines. after that there’s a further massive drag before it plummets to the finish about 19 miles later.

i love hilly time trials. they are a real challenge and the constant undulations make the riding much more technical, challenging and interesting. riding in a district series also makes you more aware of the odd and esoteric camaraderie of the cyclists’ universe. anyway, i’m hoping to get some more good points and maybe, if the gods of cycling smile kindly, improve or equal my best placing in a hardrider thus far, the 3rd place i bagged last week and once last year.

beyond all of those lofty ambitions, i’ll be happy if the weather is nothing like last week. i’ve just about recovered after a really lousy training week of sluggishness. yesterday i went out for a training ride, aiming to take in some hills. i bonked spectacularly after about 7 miles and had to eat a banana energy gel just to get home. there is one caveat, i tend to listen to music when out training or commuting, so failed to notice that the mudguard bridge on my raceblade longs (still winning the ‘best mudguard solution for bikes without mudguard eyelets’ competition by a country mile) had slipped down when i washed the bike and was wearing heavily on the tyre. this may have contributed a little bit to my feeling of crapness on the bike. resistance training…

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Tired Legs

In the build up to any series of events, or race, or during any phase of training there are some real dead spots where nothing seems to be going well. that’s the sum of my limited experience in building form. i went out riding with steve on sunday. this was after a really heavy friday ride, 30 hilly miles (2000ft or so) at a 22mph average speed; this took more of a toll than i thought. the next day i planned to spin my legs out a bit on the turbo, which i did, but made a fatal error by watching omloop het neuwsblad at the same time, and my enthusiasm for the race ended up with me riding at pace for ten minutes whilst i chased down both juan antonio flecha and sebastian langeveld’s ill-fated escape, before destroying them both with my ferocious sprint to add to my illustrious palmares. so anyway, i went out riding with steve on the sunday morning and my legs felt flat, devoid of feeling, and i had a noticeable energy deficit. it was all i could do to drag myself around the 40 mile loop (again hilly, always hilly, every time, up monstrous hills, no shame or self-awareness, just hills) in his spritely, pedal-dancing wake. it was very tough. i regret destroying him and kieran two weeks prior. steve is now en forme, and thus i will consider my riding strategy when we next go out. it might even be time for a spot of half-wheeling. (i joke).

i’m hoping to ride through it in the next few days – i have the first hardriders event of the season on sunday, and it’s an absolute stinker with a horrifically strong field; lots of old-school testers ready to suffer and gurn their way to the finish. it is a great part of the season though, the weather is often harsh and you really ride into form, i have races for the next 5 weekends or so. alongside this, the pro peloton has hit the spring classics which culminate in paris-roubaix in 8 weeks time. it’s cobbled mayhem, with evil climbs and crazed belgians shouting from the sidelines. brilliant. het volk was a great primer, watching flecha bridge across to langeveld was pretty awe-inspiring. here’s his escape, after a typical ‘chute’ – the cobbles bite. he missed the win by an eyelash, which is fair enough, langeveld rode a great race.

somer valley hardriders

today i rode a hardriders event for the first time in ages. the events typically start early and involve some unmitigated hill-related violence. today’s abuse was further enhanced with the addition of a vile headwind. there are few things i loathe more than a headwind; chipping away at the very fabric of my soul and destroying morale with a relentless, invisible force. on the plus side, my campagnolo bib shorts are totally wondrous, and really protect the gooch.

i failed to observe a golden rule – don’t carry out bike maintenance the day before a race; hence threading the bottom bracket shell on my TT machine. i managed to link together several normally disparate swear words that i won’t repeat here. the end result was i had to ride the road bike, on the one day thus far when some serious aero-smut might have helped. i went off too fast, faded from there and had a dismal ride. oh well, it had to happen sooner or later – all these exponential performance curves were a false representation.

in other, cheerier news, i made a pinhole camera from an old matchbox, two 35mm films, a bit of a coke can and some black insulating tape. it came out well.

it provides moments of analogue beauty in a world of digitised madness.

The Hardest Ride of All

today was the Dursley Hardriders WTTA 28 mile time trial.

i say ‘time trial’ in the loosest possible sense of the word; it’s more a savage assault, with each rider being brutalised by 5 filthy, evil climbs in the cotswolds. the race even starts on a steep ascent, the pusher cackles audibly and off you go – and with a ‘note to self’ i must remember if i ever do this parcours again to not start in the big ring.

this was the sales pitch from the organiser:

“Last year just three riders averaged better than 20 mph on a course including four severe climbs. Riders were typically 7-8mph slower than their Line 2 times. This year the finish of the course includes a final climb up the awesome Stouts Hill! So that’s five climbs, three of which have been used as Dursley RC club hill climbs. One thing’s for sure, this CTT event will again have the “slowest” winning time of the year”

this pretty much sums it up; hill climbs are designed to destroy all but the most psychotic of riders. they are events that employ catchers.

and this event had three hill-climb courses, and two other hills that are worthy of hill-climb courses. in other words, perfect! hurrah for hills! i have been anticipating this event for weeks, in the hope that i might be able to get a good result here, but telling myself not to get too excited, to dampen down any expectation. this became more important after last week, when i thought i rode well but managed a paltry 18th place at the Swindon event. (Although i did manage a 22.54 ten mile TT the day before, which was a bonus. anyway, back to Dursley). Steve and James, fellow BSCC riders were also riding, and they are both strong. Steve in particular royally kicked my ass up and down the slopes of Ventoux for 4 days, and James had the measure of me in the flat events of late. no pressure. i secretly harboured hopes that we might be in with a shout for the team place, with the likelihood of three fairly consistent times.

i went off hard (in the big ring, like a klutz) and sighted my minute man before the top of the climb, this gave me a boost because i knew him to be a quick rider. i had to let him go for this very reason, choosing to wait until the climbs and not try to catch him on the flat and thus blow a proverbial gasket. i took him on the next climb, he got me on the descent, until the 4th climb, whereupon i dropped him and he never got back on terms, which was pleasing; and i felt i was going well. it hurt, but i found a rhythm on each climb, using a 12-25 on the back and 53:39, i regularly found myself three cogs up, roughly in the 22 or so, apart from the last one, which really did hurt.

end result was my best placing yet, a totally thrilling (for me) 7th place, 5 minutes down on Derek Smetham who produced an astounding ride to win, but only 2 minutes down on David Kiddell in 3rd. Other firebrands included robert gough and luke dunbar, two prodigiously talented riders; Rob came 9th in last year’s National HillClimb and is a course record holder up and down the land. frightening stuff.

further success – BSCC took the team prize, which is really satisfying, with James in 9th and Steve in 13th. All in all, a fantastic day.

Rudy Project National TT Series

I can’t quite remember what my reasons were for entering this event, I think it was because i thought it was a WTTA Hardriders parcours,which it was, and i conveniently ignored the fact that some of the leading time triallists in all the land would be tearing it up on their technologically crazed carbon steeds.

the course was near Frome, and went up a particularly abhorrent hillock near Mere, as well as several other nasty, brutish and long ascents. the effect was magnified by the omnipresent headwind – especially in the last 4 miles where it became almost soul-destroying and utterly rhythm shattering.

these are some of the riders who turned up:

matt bottrill, the winner in a stupidly quick 57.04

sarah storey;

and of couse, rebecca romero.

only eight riders went under the hour; sarah storey gave rebecca romero a bit 0f a pasting – three minutes up; i was precisely three minutes adrift of the olympic gold medallist. it was a really tough day in the saddle; it hurt a lot; my chain came off and wouldn’t go back on, then it got stuck in the big ring; lost about 4o seconds right there. it’s all a part of the rich tapestry of  ‘the race of honesty’. one of the most awe-inspiring results was in the vets category; John Woodburn completed the course in 1.11, just over 20mph. John is 73; admittedly a former national champion, but 73!

in the mens seniors/espoirs race I came 16th in 1.06.51; this is a little bit disingenuous, because a lot of the vets, some of the women, a fistful of the whippet-thin juniors and at least three of the disabled riders were all quicker than me. of the field of about 140 in total, i came 35th. i am very pleased and am now making firm plans to go totally aero. i may even ride another rudy project, although not the next one, the hutch is riding.

the prizes were cake – i nearly forgot – which was apt, because belle drove me to the start and back, and she makes the best cakes ever. she got to see some serious lycra smut for her troubles.

testing times

this weekend i did my first ever time trial, at quite a ripe age, but never mind. it was quite a reality check, there were also some seriously pornographic bicycles on show. anyway, the story runs thus…

ever the non-car-driver, i opted to ride to the start, thinking it was about 17 miles, turned out to be nearer 22. tried to keep the powder dry, just about managed it. the sign on was in a classic village hall setting, and the weather was good, in fact, it felt almost balmy. a few other club riders were in attendance, but steve was running late and had to sprint the two miles back from the HQ to the start – a good warmup i suppose. i was off a bit later, so took my time; pinned the race number on – 29. on the ride to the start one thing become utterly clear, the 5 miles back from the turn (out and back course) would be fought against an unpleasant headwind. after a nervous few minutes, the pusher held the seatpost, the starter counted down and i was off… like a greyhound out of the traps, a scolded cat – despite telling myself I wouldn’t. i thought i could see my minuteman, and felt i was gaining, but he seemed to remain about 25 seconds ahead, despite me going around 27mph. he then turned off into the HQ when we went past, and i realised he was just warming down. i was then passed by someone going at high speed, the disc wheel roaring like a jet turbine, pure souplesse. he later came second.

from the turn at the roundabout i hung on in, but my speed kept dropping and dropping, first 24mph, then 23, and i ended up switching between sprockets, unable to find a rhythm, chewing stem. clawed my way to the end, with the result being 17th place, out of 50 starters. which is ok, no great shakes, but certainly leaves me room to manoeuvre and a time to aim for – namely getting under 24 mins for evens. the rock cakes afterwards were amazing. and i won my class – which was the novices, taking home a tenner in a plain envelope.

i was due to ride the chippenham hardriders today, but opted out – so another first, this time a DNS. i went to the track and tore around for a while. and did the club run this morning. i think tomorrow needs to be a rest day.