Peaking for the four year Olympic cycle

I’ve had a few injury niggles this week so haven’t been able to do as much cycling in Yorkshire Dales as I hoped. Cycling has mainly involved pottering along to Bolton Abbey, I’m getting a bit restless to do some hill climb intervals – I haven’t really done much this year. But, although it’s frustrating to take it easy and dns for a race today, there is considerable compensation in watching the Olympics.

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Bradley Wiggins 2012 Olympic time trial. Photo: The DCMS

Great Britain has made a great start to the velodrome; in fact to an outsider it can appear winning a gold medal is almost taken for granted, but GB men’s sprint team was 15/1 at the start of the games. The last time they won a major championship was in 2012.

Chris Hoy makes a good person to have in velodrome. He is is articulate and passionate, with a certain gravitas – not always present with BBC presenters. Though, last night, he kept looking over his shoulder trying to watch the racing going on behind – rather that answering endless questions on Bradley Wiggins’ frame of mind. I must admit I would have rather watched the racing too.

Still in the end, the 4km pursuit final was a real epic contest. Defying the pundits predictions, Australia ran GB very closely. When the third man of GB got slightly detached on the last lap, it was really touch and go. It was an epic moment of the Olympics, for both Wiggins’ 5th gold medal, but also the closeness of the contest.

Confidence

It was interesting to hear the real confidence many in the GB squad have in themselves. After losing the worlds in March (by very small margin to Australia), Bradley Wiggins seemed utterly confident in saying “But, we will definitely win the Olympics”. If it had been someone else, it may have come across as bravado, but it was said with the real conviction, that they knew more was to come.

In another era, Ed Clancy’s 3rd consecutive gold medal would be headline news. But in the Olympic gold rush, post national lottery funding, he can, like Steven Burke, fly under the radar. But, I get the impression the likes of Ed Clancy, Jason Kenny and others are quite happy with their relative low profile. Continue Reading →

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Mens Olympic road race review

The mens road race was a spectacular and dramatic event. Over six hours, the intensity gradually increasing to a dramatic final conclusion hour of racing.

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2012 Olympics – Box hill – Sum of Marc

During the Tour de France I tried to limit my viewing time to 30-50 mins a day. I don’t have time to watch a whole stage. But, I made an exception for the Olympic road race, and watched the last 3-4 hours live. It felt like a three hours well spent. The scenery was beautiful, the setting epic and the racing high quality. It was helped by a good performance by the GB team, with a medal a possibility all the way until Thomas crashed out on the final descent. Everyone had a good race – Stannard and Cummings chasing the early powerful breakaway and then Thomas slipping into the first chase group as the race hotted up. Yates latching on to lead group, but not quite having legs. Froome didn’t have the climbing legs of the Tour, but considering his one day history, had a reasonably good race. Continue Reading →

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Scenic views – more touring than training

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The road to Burnsall.

I’ve found a new feature on my camera which takes panorama shots (click to enlarge). It’s also that time of the year, where I’m in the mood for being a touring cyclist rather than cycle-racer.

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The weather is great, but the Yorkshire Dales roads are much busier now it’s the summer holidays. I remember why I like riding in spring and autumn so much now.

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The road to Langbar. Be careful of sheep. Continue Reading →

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The Olympic spirit

I remember in the run up to the London Olympics of 2012, there was a strong undercurrent of pessimism and cynicism – “Too expensive”, “we aren’t ready”, “why bother” e.t.c.  Yet, when the games started – for three weeks – there was an unusual and highly welcome sense of optimism in promoting an event that did help bring the world together.

If there was pessimism before the 2012 Olympics, the run up to the 2016 Olympics has been an unusually difficult on many different levels. I hope, despite all the outer problems, the Olympics can still work a little magic. Whatever happens on the outer level, the Olympics always has the potential to unite the world and bring out the better qualities of human nature.

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One of the best expositions of the Olympic spirit can be seen in a documentary about Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony from 2012 “One Night in 2012“. The success of Boyle was to make ordinary volunteers at the heart of the ceremony. The Opening Ceremony was a success on many levels – and gave many people a real once in a lifetime opportunity. (It is available on iPlayer here, and I wrote some more thoughts on personal blog here) Continue Reading →

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Time trials at Weston on the Green

Yesterday was a 10 mile TT at Weston on the Green RAF field, organised by Bicester Millenium CC. I finished 2nd in 21.07.

When I got into cycling, back in 2003 / 04 my first races were at Weston on the Green. A 2.4 mile circuit around the perimeter of an airfield. It is an RAF based, sometimes used for practice parachute landings.

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A blast from the past circa 2005 – On a Steve Goff Steel frame. Racing at Weston on the Green.

Looking back through my cycling archives, I noticed I won a ‘road race’ in 2003. In those early days of finding Weston on the Green, there were informal road races around the perimeter track. The first time I turned up to race I had mudguards on an old Trek 500, but still managed to break clear from a chasing pack of 5 people to win the unofficial road race. The advantage of it being such a long time ago, is nobody can remember to challenge this ‘famous’ win – mudguards and all. It was an auspicious start to a cycling career, though I did learn to ditch the mudguards and I have never won another road race.

In 2004/05, I went back to concentrate on time trials – 10 miles and occasionally 25 miles. They were excellent introductions to time trialing. Safe, closed roads and a nice relaxed atmosphere for getting into racing. Since 2006, I have rarely been back. But, this year was able to enter the Bicester Millenium 10 mile TT.

It is my first race since National 12 hour back in June. I had a lot of form at the end of June, but for various reasons didn’t do any racing in July. It is hard to remember the last time I did a 10 mile TT.

Looking at my lap splits, I set off a little conservatively. Getting faster on every lap. I made the biggest effort on the back straight into the big block headwind. Going down the fast, slightly downhill section was a little sketchy with a light drizzle on the surface. I was a bit rusty going through the corners because at 30mph, I didn’t fancy skidding off.

I never looked at computer during race. I felt as though I was going really fast. I think it’s the nature of the course, smooth tarmac and fairly flat. Continue Reading →

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Smaller teams in procycling

Yesterday’s Prudential Ride London Classic was another great bicycle race. The course doesn’t look too much, a few short sharp climbs, Box Hill and then 50km of flat to the finish. On paper it looks a boring sprint stage in the Tour de France. If it was the Tour de France with nine men teams – that is exactly what it would be. But, because there are only 6 man teams, it’s much harder to control so it encourages attacking racing. Usually, the key breakaway goes on last or second to last climb. But, this year Team Sky launched an attack about 80km out. Thomas, Stannard and a Cannondale rider managed to link up with the lead breakaway and it seemed a tactical masterpiece.

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Box Hill Olympic Road Race. Photo: Sum of Marc Flickr

Then with 50km to go, Thomas stormed away up Box Hill and looked set for an epic lone victory. But, just when it looked a done deal, the peleton finally got its act together and cruelly started reeling in a tiring Thomas. Continue Reading →

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Wasp Lazer TT helmet – review

Last year, I bought a Wasp Lazer TT helmet (long tail). I only used in a few time trials last year and this year.

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It performed relatively well in my aero coach sessions at Newport velodrome. It was about equal second compared to several other helmets. But, I’m not going to keep as it wasn’t the best for me. Continue Reading →

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Tour de France – predictability

The Tour de France is over, and there is nothing left to do apart from watch videos of Froome running up Mont Ventoux. Which even on repeat viewings always make me laugh.

It seems within the Tour de France, there are several races in one. And because it is a three week long sporting race, we tend to place a great value on how entertaining the race is. For various reasons, the GC battle in the Tour de France never seems to get the same level of drama and unpredictability of the Giro and especially the Vuelta.

If you look at all the past editions of the Tour de France it is quite rare to have a see-saw battle between the top contenders. Often, we get a period of time, where one rider seems to be better than the rest, and it becomes more a procession than a battle. – Anquetil, Hinault, Merckx, Coppi, Indurain, Armstrong and now the Froome era. Often during their period of dominance, the popularity of these grand tour winners is quite low, because the public can resent the lack of drama and competition. Usually it is retirement or the final defeat and proof of a fallibility, which brings a change in popularity. (though there is a notable exception to this rule, you shouldn’t have too much trouble working out.) I can’t think of many sports where the gallant loser is often more popular than the greatest winner of the age. In football, for example, we don’t admire the failings and human fallibility of the English football team, with the same aplomb of an eternal second like Raymond Poulidor. Continue Reading →

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The hottest part of the day

On Monday, I posted a review of Velotoze – a shoe cover for keeping your feet dry and warm. It was a classic case of bad timing – with the long awaited summer finally arriving and turning into a bit of a heat wave. The UK does tend to go into a bit of a melt down when it’s suddenly warm. Today, I went out, but swapped the Velotoze for factor 50 sun cream.

Lechlade or Faringdon. Stuck at traffic lights across the River Thames so I took a quick photo

I suffer in the cold, so like to assume I will cope fine with the heat. I’ve spent all year wishing it was warmer, so now it is 32 degrees I felt obliged to go out in the hottest part of the day (1-3pm), and do some hill intervals – just to see what it is like. Continue Reading →

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Velotoze shoe cover review

A review of Velotoze tall shoe covers – an aeroshoe cover designed to keep feet dry and aerodynamic.

I have had a pair of velotoze shoe covers for a long time, but have not worn them very often. They take a little longer to put on, and have a reputation for easily tearing. So I save for ‘special occasions’ Where I really need dry feet.

Last Friday, I was still in Yorkshire. It was one of those days where the rain was forecast to clear up at 2pm and by 5pm  it would allegedly be sunny. I took a chance and headed off in the rain, hoping it would stop soon, but also fearing the worst.

Putting on

They are not put on like ordinary shoe covers. You put them on over your sock first. Pull them up, put on shoes, and then squeeze back over shoes. It’s a little longer, but not much. When you know how – putting them on is quite quick.

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The idea for Velotoze is that:

  1. They provide excellent waterproofing. It seems to be made out of the same latex as swimming caps.
  2. Aerodynamic aid like lycra overshoes – except a bit more waterproof and durable.

Continue Reading →

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