The startsheets are coming thick and fast. This weekend is the Severn 25 and the weather looks and feels unspeakably cold. It will take all of my mental fortitude to make my way out to the push and ride this event. I have no desire to tackle the U17 in minus temperatures. However, it’s a key part of my training for the more serious stuff in March. we shall see.

Speaking of the more serious stuff, the startsheet for the Chippenham Hilly is out. Last year it was run off in the kind of temperatures that did for Captain Oates. Everyone is hoping for milder weather. The big beasts are out in force: including big Jeff and big Rob. Both are national champions.

Big Rob, the fastest dentist (and 49 year old) anywhere in all of the world

I scanned the list of riders and had a moment of genuine panic when i couldn’t initially see my name in amongst the field. I’d expected it to see it with the seeds in the middle somewhere but it wasn’t there. A closer inspection showed I had somehow, for some reason, been made the scratch rider. Normally I wouldn’t mind and there’s always a bit of latitude with these things, but on this occasion I was unnerved to be ranked (ostensibly) ahead of the two top guns. I asked the organiser why this might be. He’s a really nice chap. Apparently he calculated the speed of various riders by using a formula that factors up results in a hilly 24 by 1.16 in order to level the time with a fast 25. This was new to me, i’d always gone on the previous year or like for like times.

All of which doesn’t change the fact that I’m the scratch rider. This has happened before but generally it’s because I happen to be the fastest rider on paper and in the event. I’m looking forward to it and hope that I get a good result. There’s no genuine pressure because everyone knows the real order of things and that i’m not as quick as the seeding suggests.

I’m looking forward to the first real hilly. It’s time for the real racing to start. I’m also excited to see lots of BSCC on the startsheet.



Measuring Progress Through a Graveyard

The U7B is my local course. i’ve ridden it considerably more times than any other ten course I know, especially if you factor in club events. Over the past three years I’ve steadily improved through a combination of fitness, form, equipment and pacing. In May 2010 I managed a 22.37 for 7th place in an event won by Jeff Jones. I was 2 minutes adrift.

Today i managed a 20.45 for 2nd place behind the same rider and the gap was 35 seconds. Jeff is the 3rd fastest rider over 10 miles in the history of the event. He has recorded a 18.09, behind Bradley Wiggins with a 17.57 and Michael Hutchinson with a 17.45.

It’s clear progress and I feel pleased with everything. The U7B is a tough course with some really draggy climbs, more so than your average, but i really like it. It’s honest as the day is long and only one person – Stuart Dodd – has managed to go under 20 minutes, with a 19.58 or thereabouts. I’ve gradually worked out how to pace the effort and when i turn up to ride i’m generally relaxed and in a positive frame of mind; this undoubtedly helps. Getting under 21 minutes is generally considered to be very rapid and it doesn’t happen very often.  Open events on the course are frequently won with mid 21s.

One of the more amazing things about today was the return of George Keene. He has had an enforced layoff after breaking his collarbone. He couldn’t use the extensions because he was still suffering from the residual after-effects of the injury, but rode round in 30 minutes for a 20mph average. He is 80 years old. George appears in the clips in the two previous posts to this one. He is legendary figure and an inspiration.

George Keene, Bristol South Cycling Club; inspirational.
slippery profile, PB in the bag
Even more slippery profile

Passing Distance

i haven’t had car rage today, aside from the usual simmering resentment at people who drive within about a metre. unfortunately this happens so often that i’ve become almost blase about it. it takes a real close shave to make me gesticulate furiously, but the car driver never notices, which is probably a good thing because they’re always borderline psychopaths. belle was riding through Bristol this morning and she got shouted at by just such a moron. i don’t get what it is that possesses someone to shout at a cyclist. all i know is that they have no empathy or understanding of the vulnerability of people on bikes – or how shocking it is to have 130kg of angry man in 3 tons of metal shout loudly and aggressively. we all go the same way, it’s just that some of us have dreadfully bitter experiences along the road to oblivion and clearly feel obliged to share these with others.

anyway, it was reassuring to see that even the mighty G has similar issues:

Come on without

in other news, i brazenly took advantage of a monstrous tailwind to set a quick time on a strava segment. cheeky, but what the hell. i shudder to think what i might have done if not tired. yesterday took it out of me. graham douchebag has also been suckered into the evil machinations of strava, he is also now embarking on the ‘pj diet, eat little, ride lots’. i fear kieran may also be following this path of ascetic athleticism. god help us all. i blame strava, especially the power to weight readings.

i won’t repost the ‘shit cyclists say’ video because it’s been reposted a gazillion times elsewhere (it’s a worth a google if you haven’t been sent it three billion times already by all your cycling buddies), and i try to avoid reposts, and belle said it’s like that in our house, and not in a good way. but i will repost the picture below, to go back to the original point. thanks to jeff jones for this one:

R25/3L: Fastest 25 Course in Christendom

The R/25 in Wales is universally seen as the fastest 25 course in the country. the national records for men and women have been set there, 45.54 by Dave McCann and 50.01 by Julia Shaw. Next week the last event of the season for the course has attracted a ludicrously strong field, to the extent that entries closed on a 55. This means that if you haven’t ridden a 25 at over 27mph in the past three years, then you can’t get in. Chitchat on the interweb has been asking the question if there has ever been a faster event. I’m riding, and have been seeded on a ‘7’, which means essentially that i’m in the bottom half of the field (just). today’s event was less rapid because the big hitters were at the British Time Trial Championships.

I  discovered just how fast the course is today. Despite being off the bike for a while and only just getting some form back, and being a bit over my racing weight, and training for hillclimbs more than flat events (get your excuses in early), i sliced 45 seconds from my PB and managed a 52.14. In truth, i was a tiny bit disappointed, i think there is a 51 there on the right day. i struggled with a headwind for about 7 miles or so and it dented my time a little bit. Interestingly (or not) i rode to the same sort of figures as i had been earlier in the season, although this meant i was riding harder because i’ve upped the max HR on the garmin. In reality, i’m not sure i was all that much quicker than i was on the u46. My fitness is slightly below what it might have been 8 weeks ago, but clearly not hugely far adrift. In reality, i came 10th in a very strong field, so am pleased with that.

The winning time was about a 49, so i wasn’t far off. Alec Baskaya managed a 50.12 (or thereabouts), which is a staggering ride and testament to his hard work and willpower. We’ve both got startlingly quicker this year, but Alec has now left me miles behind. Jeff Jones also rode, he came 2nd, barely a week after setting a new competition record for the 12 hour with 306 miles. George Keene from Bristol South turned in a 1.09, at the age of 75. Crazy feats of epic cycling.

One of the reasons why the R25/3L is scarily quick is because the first 3 or 4 miles contain quite a bit of downhill, including one hairy bit of dual carriageway, but the route finishes before you climb back up, with a slightly longer outwards leg. This is what you might call a ‘gift course’. It is also referred to as ‘the welsh ski-slope’, or more simply ‘that course’. The danger is, as mentioned yesterday, that it simply isn’t comparable with anywhere else, and is solely a PB course. Once you’ve bagged a fast time on the R25, there is no other option but to return in the hope that it might be improved, because it’s absolutely not going to happen anywhere else. I shall see if i can improve it next weekend…

you can see i was in zone 5 for all of it, bar the shouting. this is my new approach to time trialling that i’ve worked out over the season. when i ride as fast as i possibly can without cracking, and don’t let it slip, and try not to change out of the 53:11, i tend to turn in a good time. after developing pacing with the advent of my garmin earlier in the season, i now seem to have reverted to some old-fashioned PLF. or, just mullering it for as long as possible.

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