Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Le Petit Grand Depart

Managed some short faster rides this week, mainly at night though with the increasingly longer daylight hours the first half of one ride was in daylight/twilight. On Saturday I led the first of our club's improver rides. These are intended to help riders improve their speed as well as improving group riding skills - riding as a tight group tends to increase speed as you are sharing the workload and actually doing less work at any given speed. It's why you get the peloton in races. Anyway there were four of us and we managed to stay pretty well in formation, of course there are lessons learned and hopefully next week will apply some of those.

Andy and I had arranged to do the route of the club sponsored sportive on Sunday, this is all tied in with the Tour de France and the first 60Km follow the route of the first stage up Wharfedale, down Bishopdale to Aysgarth then along the valley to Hawes. Rather than continue over Buttertubs a la Tour, the sportive then heads back to Ribblehead, down to Settle and back to Skipton. Around 130Km or 80 miles in total.

It then got decided (not by us) that this would be a good time to get shots for a cycling magazine article on the event so surprise, surprise rather than the usual handful of riders, nearly twenty turned out. (Not cynical me ... ) There was an 'A' group of about 12 and a 'B' group of about 6. After a short detour through Skipton town centre to get some shots there we headed up the Grassington road at a steady pace and it wasn't long before the first big climb over Kidstones was reached.

This is steady with just a short section at the top that is significantly steeper than the rest. Then it was the fast descent in to Bishopsdale and with the sun coming out it felt a lovely spring day. Then we turned left up Wensleydale and directly in to the strong westerly wind. The pace dropped significantly and it took a good while to get to Hawes. Cafe stop mandated!

We were just leaving when the second group arrived so not that far behind really. I'd joked earlier with Andy about the section up Widdale and over to Ribblehead being tough and with the wind blasting down the dale it certainly was. There's no shelter on this section so it was just a case of keep pushing on. To make matters worse it was starting to rain. The group got split on this point and we had to wait a few minutes at Ribblehead. Fortunately the wind was now on our backs as we headed down Ribblesdale but even so we were all cold and wet enough that another cafe stop felt mandated at Settle.

By now I was feeling the distance and didn't really fancy the climb up out of Settle and over to Airton since I'd also got the climb up home to do as well. Also one of our group was heading back to Howarth so he and I went the flat way. Not really an easy option as it turned out since he was pretty quick but by the time we got to Carleton my legs were definitely on the way out so it was a slow crawl up the hill and back home. In the end I managed 142Km so another longest ride so far. Having foregone a cafe stop in Settle, the 'B' group arrived in Skipton only about half an hour later.

For those that did the full route finishing over the top from Settle, they took just over five hours so something like 4hrs30 would appear to be a good time for the route in less breezy conditions.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Increasing the mileage.

Well the Eden Valley Sportive went well - got round in just over four hours (3:45 moving time) and managed to avoid most of the rain. The roads were very dirty and by the end my drivetrain sounded like it was made of sandpaper. Pretty much all of the roads were completely new to me, I'd certainly not cycled on them before and probably only driven about 3 miles of the route.

On the plus side: it was my longest ride to date after my op and I didn't feel tired or cramp up towards the end. On the down side: a lot of riders didn't have mudguards so many people looked like they had been doing a mountain bike event and there were a lot of gel wrappers littering the course - if you've room to carry a full sachet you've room to carry an empty one.

Midweek saw me doing a couple of rides including a TT type route that was set up last year as a means of club members benchmarking their performances. Note that it isn't actually a recognised TT route/course as it's some weird distance. My previous time on this was 1hr6mins and I did it in 1hr10mins so a little slower but it was at night and on the previous occasion I had some other riders to aim for. That time was also midsummer rather than early spring so I'd quite a few miles in my legs. I would have been very surprised if I'd beaten it.

Come Saturday and I felt like doing a longer ride and since the wind was from the south west I headed that way so that I'd at least get a tail wind on the way home. As I was heading out of Waddington near Clitheroe there was a couple of shouts of "Bob!" it was Rick and Ian who we'd gone to Majorca with last year. After a bit of a chat, useful to get my breath back after the headwind, I carried on and eventually pulled up at the cafe in Dunsop Bridge, the village closest to the geographical centre of the UK. Somehow even with a tailwind I didn't seem to make good time on the way back, ah well. There were also very few cyclists about and I only saw one until I got to Gargrave when the next three were people I knew. All that was left was the climb up home which felt rather tiring but with 110 km done it was 15Km further than the previous weekend.

I wasn't sure whether to go out on Sunday as I was feeling pretty tired, but thought I'd see how it would go. I'd not ridden with the club for a while, partly due to getting my fitness back and partly down to nerves about riding in a group. The plan was to ride up to Ribblehead and back. One thing I've noticed is that my legs don't have that "zip" at the moment but I'm not too bad on the flat. Going with the 'A' ride should help sort things out. We got to Airton at a fair pace but I was a bit slower on the long climb over to Settle. I'd never ridden up the dale to Ribblehead, it's not too bad apart from my personal bete noire of the short climb after Stainforth.

It's when we turn at Ribblehead that we really notice the wind. Fortunately Andy and The Herb take up most of the front duties but even so it's hard work. A cafe stop at Clapham then back roads weaving in and around the A65 as far as Bell Busk where I headed back home via Gargrave while the others continued to Skipton. The final hill felt even harder than Saturday but I had now got a further 116Km in my legs.

Really quite a tiring weekend!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Getting there

A bit of a gap since my last post but things have all been a bit steady improvement hip-wise whilst the weather hasn't been particularly great.

I've been managing longer rides at the weekends aiming to build up stamina in time for the Eden Valley Sportive which is just under 60 miles. I've also managed to get some evening rides done on shorter loops around home. Most of these rides have been solo as it's easier to deal with than if you are in a group but on a couple I've been joined by Cath and also by Fletch one of the lads from the cycling club whose also had a recent operation (on his wrist) so it's been a sort of rehab group out on the road. 

It may seem odd that a wrist operation keeps you off the bike for a while but you do pull on the handlebars quite a bit when riding especially on hills. Also it affected how he worked the brake which could have had interesting results!

Last Saturday we did a fifty miler over towards Clitheroe then over the Nick o' Pendle and back through the villages just to the west of Nelson and Colne. I didn't feel too bad after this but on the Sunday had to shorten my intended ride to Hebden Bridge as fighting the wind was increasingly hard work and my legs felt very tired.

This Tuesday evening I did a loop that keeps to the main roads round by Earby and Colne. I thought I was going well, or perhaps more accurately better than the previous week, until I got home and found out that I was just 18 seconds quicker. At least I'm consistent!

On Thursday I thought I'd do the same loop but this time deliberately keep my heart rate in Zone 2 which for me is between 120 & 137BPM rather than push it all the time. On a route with any sort of hills this is actually quite hard to do: your heart rate drops quite, well very, quickly on the descents and you struggle to keep moving and keep your heart rate down on anything but short uphills. The result was quite surprising - I was just six minutes slower over than the previous two rides: 1hr25 rather than 1hr19. (Weather conditions were similar on all three rides so that can be ruled out as having any significance) I think this means that I'm not very efficient when trying to push harder. But that's the point of the training zone rides - to increase riding efficiency. What I think I'll do is use this loop as a test to see how I'm improving.

Despite it being dark when I've been doing these rides I did manage to notice a badger crossing the road in front of me on Thursday night. We've a few round here, there's a set less than a mile away, but it's the first one I've seen locally.