In the two months since the last update I’ve managed to rack up a couple of thousand miles, many of which have been in warmer climes than our own. Though thankfully the winter is slowly subsiding and giving way to lighter evenings and milder temps, welcomed Despite living through 29 of them, they never seem to become acceptable in both length and severity (at times).
The first trip was out to Gran Canaria, it was at a time when Calpe, Mallorca and such were being battered by rain and winds, and a smattering of snow, so I was suitably smug to enjoy 5 days of riding in 20c and clear skies. Some proper roads out there, both in terms of views, and general disregard for gradient easing. There were a couple of times I wish I was doing what 99% of the other brits on the island were doing, getting wrecked on Carling in the Red Lion (probably) while chanting some such rubbish about Alexis Sanchez. It was a good block, and I felt pretty strong on my return. Would certainly give it a thumbs up for early season riding, though try to stay to the East of Maspalomas to avoid the winds, which can be serious, but a better chance of summer gear riding than most of the usual options IMO.
Kingston Sporting 14 (13.4 actually)
Not long after that it was my first race of the year, any regular readers of this, you know, if you’ve not had better stuff to do, like watching paint dry, or my twitter even, or EVEN Cycling Weekly (given they have covered me winning it a couple of times) will recognise the Kingston Wheelers Sporting 14 as the usual start of me riding my bike in anger. For the past 3 years I’ve managed to win, and the last two have seen me lower the course record each time, picking up a nice £100 bounty in the process. Always welcome, and very generous of Kingston to extend this to the women despite lower numbers, and offer decent prizes for rider positions to boot. This year was set to be more difficult than usual, not only were many of my peers riding quite quickly, Pat Wright, Liam Maybank et al, but this time John Dewey had also signed up. Anyone in the TT scene will know of John, probably, he’s gotten really rather quick in the last 18 months or so, and as such racked up a fair few national medals of various colour last year – obviously from good stock as his brother Doug looked to be making a name for himself as a pro in France as well.
John had beaten me in every event we had ridden together in 2016, and off the top of my head that was at least 4 different races over various distances. There are probably more, but I’ve tried to erase them from my mind such were the time gaps on occasion. The closest I got to him was in a 25 on Bentley where I managed my best power that season (370W) and still was left wanting to the tune of 30 seconds. With all that in mind, I had almost resigned myself to coming 2nd, but there was some hope in the shape of a few more watts, a smaller skinsuit, a few more miles in the legs and a few less KG. The same about of beer though, sorry.
Race day came around and it really was grim, around 2 deg when I drove down in my new (to me) Audi which was very pleasant with its heated seats, so much so that I debated just carrying on straight passed Ripley on the A3 all the way to Portsmouth as it was so warm. Alas, that £40 2nd place wasn’t going to claim itself. I opted for my usual outfit, which actually was a fairly braindead move as it was properly cold vs other years. Skinsuit with no base layer and short fingered aero mits – in 2 deg when you’re riding at around 28mph it is not pleasant. It took me a long time to feel normal afterwards.
I warmed up and felt pretty good, got down to the start far too soon as usual, my fear of missing my start does this to me. I got going, and with a light coating of damp on the course I was careful around the corners, and despite a pretty unhelpful wind, I was on CR pace after the first lap, which is always good for moral. The second lap is faster with a rolling start, and I was hoping to find some extra power. I did just that, and took a few of the corners more adventurously; sadly I did then get stuck behind a dithering car who was struggling to overtake another rider – I do wonder why we don’t do slowest to faster in these events, that would never happen if we did I doubt – it took him a little while to get round, and I was losing time, not ideal. I gave it all I had to the finish and stopped the clock in 30.11 which was exactly 20 seconds faster than my previous CR, with around 375-380w which was nearly 20w better than what I’d done this time last year (though I did ride it with a severe ankle sprain in ’16).
As per some previous posts, I decided before I saw the result that I was happy with my ride, and that was that. I then saw that John had beaten me by 4 seconds, and was a bit irritated by the car incident though I think it would have still been very very close without that. A big ride from John no doubt, and a deserved win – I was happy to essentially be at that level, its a level I never showed any danger of reaching last year.
Spain + Redhill Sporting 18
Next up the following week was the Redhill 18 event, again, something I’ve done many times, but in this case not won. I’ve come 2nd to Chris McNamara and 5th in my previous attempts. It would be fair to say that the field was strong, but probably didn’t have someone like John there to really make me think winning would be a big big ask. Pat was always going to be at the sharp end but I think these courses maybe aren’t hard enough to favour his light build and allow fat lumps like me to get around just about unscathed. There were then a fair few from Sigma Sport who all know their way around a bike. So it would not be a cake walk.
In the back of my mind as with many of these events is not just winning, but it’s going faster than anyone else has, you have to remember that many of these time trials have been running for decades. When you look down the past winners list of this and especially something like the East Surrey Hardriders, there’s some proper riders in there, I’ve mentioned before, but we’re talking Sean Yates, Michael Hutchinson and many other legends that were a bit before my time, so winning one is (to me at least) a fairly big deal, and while I’m not the level of many, its nice to be among them on a trophy. The point I was trying to make before going off on a tangent was that the record was something I was keen to break, and that record was held by Wouter Sybrandy, who to be honest, is far more talented than I ever will be, but I have one thing on my side, and that’s not being 6,4 as he is, and aero is everything, as they say. His time of 39.16 or so. Fairly punchy.
Anyway, same drill as before, though it was a lot warmer, a balmy 8 deg this time, so no such thoughts about my sanity when pulling on the fingerless gloves. To be honest, I rode this quite unusually for me, in that I started it fairly controlled, and then just proceeded to ride the final 15 miles like a total nutter just stamping the pedals and flying around the lanes without much care for pacing. Not my normal style, but I kept pushing and the legs kept giving, so why not, I thought. I knew fairly early on that I was probably going to break the record, in fact I think I was at record pace fairly early on, and this course generally is pretty fast in the closing miles finishing on a dual carriageway. I kept it together and really gave it some effort for the final 15 minutes actually doing the best part of 400W for that, which is around 30W more than I managed in 2015. I knew I was well under record pace, and actually ended up stopping the clock 42 seconds faster than Wouters time, I was quietly confident, but you never know until you get back into that dusty village hall…
It turned out that it was indeed good enough, and Pat had done a great ride also to get 2nd by some distance. I think he was exactly 1 minute behind me, with a fair gap back to Jamie Pine of Sigma beyond that, sadly Liam Maybank had flatted in the carpark. We won the team prize by about 6 minutes and it was generally a good morning.
Spain was a trip I’d kind of liked to have done in previous years, but didn’t. And that was the club trip down to Spain (Calpe region, along with every other 2nd cat in the uk). We stayed with Noze who runs Cycling Holidays Spain, and a great week it was too, all food and support included in the price, and planned routes each day. There were ten of us there, all wanting to get something different out of it, I was looking to build on my form, and others were doing their first proper training of the year – and then there was Pat who just gave everyone a total shoeing over every hill for 7 days straight, and still stuck a few loops on the end of some of the rides, nutter. 6 days of riding for me, about 400 miles/23 hours/35k of uphill, a few decent efforts and a very decent tan and I was ready to return home.
And that is where I have gotten to really, sounds like quite a lot for only March. My current feelings on bike riding are this, I want to do some road races soon, which is a bit of a change to my feelings last year, and I also think I can go a fair bit quicker in general this year in time trials than last. There is every chance I should be able to get out over 410W for a 10 and over 380w for a 25, coupled with a few aero tweaks, I am hopeful of some fast times, and maybe even some better placings at the nationals if they suit…
The next event is the East Surrey Hardriders – a very prestigious event in the area. I won it last year, though this year it looks like we will get the full 29.9 miles, which will be fun! John also entered, so should be good to see if I can improve on the result from a few weeks back.
To end on a slightly more sombre note – Sadly, last year one of the former winners (multiple times) of the ESHR (and just about everything else worth racing) died. Tim Stevens is a name you’ll see all over trophies and results sheets from years gone by and this video is a fantastic tribute to him and includes his build up to last years race, which sadly, was his last – https://vimeo.com/184044675 – I truly hope I still rock up to this event in 20 years with that sort of attitude and drive. Not to mention casually belting out 380w on the turbo. RIP.