Archive | training

Clee Hill

Clee Hill is the highest A road in Shropshire. A long climb, offering (weather permitted) great views of the surrounding Shropshire countryside and beyond. If you take a left turn off the main road, you can also go all the way to Clee Hill summit proper which, at over 500m, makes a pretty decent climb of nearly 4 miles, averaging 5%. In fact, the quiet single track road heading towards a golf ball on the summit, reminded me somewhat of Great Dun Fell. The climb is quite similar to Great Dun Fell – just half the distance and half the average gradient.

clee Hill

Clee hill in the distance from Henley

I was staying in Bromyard for the weekend, so I looked at surrounding maps for the highest point to aim for. Clee Hill stands out, though there is quite a choice of hills around this part. I recognised some of the surrounding roads from previous time trials starting in Great Whitley.

I have been doing quite a big block of  endurance training, not really doing too many hills, so it was nice to do a few hills for a change. Still a long way from hill climb season though.

clee-hill-west

On a very clear day, from Clee Hill, you are supposed to be able to see Snowdonia, the Cotswolds, the Brecon Becons, the Black Mountains and even the Peak District. Today, was not such a time.

Continue Reading →

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Fast and flat

Thanks to all suggestions for weather forecast sites and apps. It makes me feel old, I never considered using an App to check the weather. My main use of my iPhone is an alarm clock to wake me up in the morning. £300 well spent.

trek-speed-concept-16

The saddle bag diminishes the aesthetic appeal of the Trek Speed Concept, but I like having everything on bike, so I can’t forget to put it in back pocket.

I think that’s the most comments I’ve had on a blog for years. Forget debates like Shimano vs Campagnolo? or Should helmets be compulsory? if you want to attract comments from cyclists talk about the weather…

After all the talk about rain showers, yesterday was one of those great February days – bright, clear and dry. In the middle of the day, it was positively warm. No worries about how many rain jackets to take. For a change I didn’t even need to clean the bike after the ride, the roads were almost completely dry. Continue Reading →

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Training on time trial bike

Early February is time to get the time trial bike down from the loft. I last rode the TT bike back in September, and that was a short hill climb in Buxton.  I have done a few perfunctory core strength exercises over the winter, e.g. the plank for one minute a couple of times per week, 20 sit ups since Jan 1st, but nothing like enough to get the body ready for a super, uncomfortable, aerodynamic position.

speed-concept-whole-bike

Despite the initial physical discomfort of riding a TT bike – on the positive side it is always a boost to get on the time trial bike, after a few months on a relatively slow winter training bike. Suddenly you feel as though you’re flying along. In fact in previous years, I’ve joked that getting on TT bike can feel like getting on a motorbike, as you race around town at 20mph +. But, alas, that innocent observation no longer seems quite so innocent given recent shenanigans in Belgium and depressing evidence of hidden motors in bicycles. It’s both a tragedy and farce, and not much comedy, save a little related news about participants and a stolen parrot, “A Norwegian Blue” I presume.

A popular bit of banter at local time trials was for a slow ride to joke to a fast rider – “Have you got a motor in there?!” This banter is all said in good fun, but now, it might not be so funny any-more. Especially, if bike was left unattended for a long time…

Anyway, the crazy world of cycling can’t change the essential practice of cycling which is to pedal a lot until it hurts. And if you’re riding a time trial bike for the first time in five months, you can guarantee it will start to hurt in quite a lot of places you had forgotten all about.

On Tuesday, I did quite a hard 75 mile ride to Stow on the Wold. I averaged 18.5 mph, which was a high average speed, given it was quite windy. I’m trying to do some sweet spot training at around 250-70 watts. I managed this for the first two hours grind into the wind. On the way back, I eased off the power, but went faster with nice tail wind behind. It’s great fun cycling with strong tailwind, but this persistent Westerly wind is getting a bit tiresome. It’s hard work going west.

Yesterday, I did a steady two hours on the time trial bike. I’m glad it was no longer than two hours, as I felt quite sore in different parts of back, and even legs. Although, it was a relatively easy ride on power, it felt quite tiring. Moral of the story, if you want to race on a time trial bike, you have to train a lot on the bike too. Ideally, I would have been riding on a time trial bike all winter. But, I don’t like getting the new bike spoilt by salty wet roads. Anyway from now on the TT bike, will be used most rides. The good news is that once you start training on the bike, the body adapts and initial discomfort becomes much more manageable. Last year it got to the situation where I found a TT bike more comfortable than a road bike.

Training on time trial bike

  • Different position works different muscles
  • Back needs to adapt to flatter aerodynamic position
  • Neck works harder looking forward whilst being lower down.
  • Doesn’t handle quite as easily as a road bike, so it is good to practise technical aspects. Though ideally you would train with disc and deep section wheels. But, I prefer to save expensive tubulars and wheels for races, so just train on ordinary clinchers.
  • Maybe it was different power meter, but it seemed much harder to get same power as on road bike.

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Marlow and West Wycombe

I only got a working power meter in 2014. Traditionally, the way I test fitness is to race up the A40 climb towards Stokenchurch. 1.5 miles at 5%. It is a rough guide to 5 minute power and form.  I have times from this climb going back to 2005. In pre-Strava days, (2011) I did a best of 4.45 from the vague-ish points I measured.

Last year, I did a best of 4.55 in April (390 watts / Quark) This was the first test of the year. I did 5.25 (384 watts / Stages) which is pretty good for late January. After those five minutes of excitement, it was a more sedate ride for the rest of the day. Still I tried to keep up a good pace until about 60 miles, when I knocked it off a little.

It was pretty cold – 37 degrees, but I saw a lot of cyclists going in the other direction, and overtook a few riders from Aylesbury CC out on a club ride. After Stokenchurch I headed towards Marlow, around a few roads, I haven’t been on before. One new road was pretty waterlogged, but I kept going as it wasn’t as bad as it looks in this picture.

muddy lane

Muddy lane Continue Reading →

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Lambourne and Vale of White Horse

From Oxford, I don’t often cycle south towards Wantage and Lambourne. The countryside is relatively flat and featureless. At this time of the year, it’s a long slog through empty fields, dotted with the odd tree. When you have the Chilterns and Cotswolds on your doorstep, you are spoilt for choice and hills. Also, cycling around north of Wantage, there are many stop and starts as you turn left, right, left e.t.c. When training, I like as much possible to have a quiet road, which is uninterrupted for as long as possible. I don’t like having to slow down at give way signs. Maybe its the psychology of being a timetriallist, where you always looking for an uninterrupted way to cycle 50 miles, with as fast turns as possible.

The most interesting thing about this part of the world, is the old English place names, Goosey, Charney Bassett, Uffington, Sparsholt Firs. There are even place names around here that J.R.R. Tolkien used in his Lord of the Rings, e.g. Buckland.

The one exception to the flat, featureless plans is the White Horse, which offers a steep climb (Dragon Hill Road), offering a great view over the Vale of White Horse plain.

vale-of-white-horse Continue Reading →

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Bourton on the Water

Time flies by and a rough plan to cover 1,000 a miles per month over winter have fallen by the wayside, but it was good to get back in the saddle yesterday and be able to spend four and half hours on the bike. In the end, it was 75 miles and I enjoyed the ride. The last time I rode 75 miles must have been back in September 2015.  There was a bit of wind, a foretaste of the forecast storm set to hit the UK today and tomorrow. The weather forecast for the next few days looks very much like a few days of getting the rollers out.

bourton-on-waterBourton on the Water.

Astute readers may notice the autumn tinge to the trees. It is an old photo, because it was a bit grey and dull yesterday, and mid-winter, you always feel a little time pressure before it starts to get dark. Still Bourton on the Water has often been voted the prettiest village in England, and with good reason – even in winter, you can see why. The village idyll is slightly spoiled by large packs of tourists taking photos e.t.c. but it makes quite a good destination for an Oxford cyclist. After a winding 35 miles to get there, I did a u-turn in Bourton – over the river and back. There is a pretty good climb on the way out of Bourton on the Water – towards Little Rissington. It is one of those climbs, where you can go pretty quick because it’s not too steep, there are a few corners to accelerate out of in the village. But, in the middle of winter, you settle for getting up in any shape at all. Traffic lights half way up, gave an excuse for a breather. Continue Reading →

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First interval session of the year

With the mercury rising to a heady 38 F 4 C, I went out for the first ‘interval’ session of the year. The curious thing is that 4 degrees felt relatively warm, compared to the previous days of 2 degrees. Usually 4 degrees would be unbearably cold, but its all about expectations. Low expectations is the secret.

chilterns

I went to Watlington, and was going to do some of the hills heading into Chilterns. However, there seemed to be a headwind, so I went over the top and tried to find some climbs from the south direction with the wind behind. If you’re going to do the first intervals of the year, you want to make it as easy as possible.

The first interval was eight minutes into the wind up Howe Hill. It was OK, but on the lower slopes into the wind, I was struggling to keep the power ticking over 300 watts, which is the kind of a power I’m supposed to be able to maintain for close to two hours.

Features of the first interval session of the year.

  • You spend most of the session trying to work out how much top end speed you’ve managed to lose over the past three months
  • It can be an effort to keep your power above your FTP (300 watts) unless the hill gets really steep.
  • You remember how much more relaxing it is to ride without a power meter for the past three months.
  • Half way through, you start to think maybe it’s too early in the year for intervals.
  • Tentative plans to race in February are put back to March.
  • Despite a degree of complaining, you also enjoy it. Rather than complaining about the weather, it makes a nice change to be complaining about the bodies response to high efforts.
  • Rather than do five minute efforts, I choose eight minutes effort. There’s no particular logic to this, except the hills I chose took me eight minutes to cycle up. The fourth hill took five minutes, which was fine because the interval was already petering out into an effort better described as “a little bit more effort than usual”
  • Now a week to recover from them.

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Cycling in Sicily

After a quiet November and December, I went to Sicily, with training bike.

bike

The weather was excellent 10-18 degrees, mostly sunny – only rain one day. After the persistent drizzle of England in the past few weeks, it was welcome relief. The first day, I had to panic buy suncream and sunglasses, you get out of the habit to think about sunglasses – cycling in the UK mid-winter.

scaicca

I stayed near a town called Sciacca, the other side of the island to Palermo. The hotel waiter proudly told me he had served Marco Pantani and Miguel Indurain when the Giro passed through here one year. The island is very hilly. If you stay off the main roads, the terrain is constantly up and down. The main roads are more horizontal because of bridges over the innumerable dips. The good news is that the climbs are well engineered, with average gradients of 5% making it all quite palatable. From Sciacca to Caltebellotta there is a 15km climb – which goes from sea level to 930m. It averages 5% and is a great climb to both go up and then come back down. Continue Reading →

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Muscular tiredness

 

Since end of racing season, my training has been stop start, but mostly stop. I wouldn’t say it is an injury, but a feeling of tiredness in right leg. Aching muscles. It’s perhaps no co-incidence it occurred at the end of a relatively long season.

Because of the warm weather, I’d like to get some good training in, but I’ve had to take it fairly steady and last week did nothing on bike.

I went to physiotherapist who identified some weakness in various muscles so I will work on that and also greater flexibility. There is a degree of imbalance between legs – see: imbalance in legs – which caused previous problems with knee.

It’s not the end of the world to take it easy in November and December.

Ilkley mis

On the positive side, I went out yesterday for 20 miles and cycled up to Langbar, a mist was clearing from the Wharfe Valley, which looked great from the top of the moor.

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Questions on five minute efforts vs 10 mile TT

I’m Irish, but live over in Czech republic, I’m back in the sport after 10 years (I did a race called the FBD Ras, 8 day affair – popular with strong UK riders, its a 2.2, its my modest claim to fame) I have a coach based in the US. A former student of Hunter Allen – he is good and works you hard.

This season I rode a 6 minute hill climb and was 9th overall and 3rd age group, big event. About 6 minutes at 6%, and I hit 400w at 65kg. Good for me  but I got beaten by 15 seconds so a rather convincing defeat.  I have since done 430 for 5 minutes and am averaging about 500w in minute on 3 minute off repeats – about 10 of them.

But my question is about a comment you made re flat vs hill power. Riding 320w for 10 miles, one would think that at 450 for 5 minutes you would be way higher that 320 – is this a deliberate training choice ? or you found it to be a physiological limitation ? I’m about similar to 320 for 20 minutes on the flat – but it is growing, and my curiosity lies in how far I can take the longer efforts.

I’ve just got back from Czech Republic (Zlin) over weekend. So will answer as blog post.

In 2015:

  • My max power for 10 mile TT (20 mins) was about 338 W this summer. (Quark)
  • My max power for hill climb (5 mins) is about 450 watts. Though it may have been closer to 470 for last few climbs I did without any power meter.

There are a few reasons.

  • They are different power meters, I think hill climb bike (Stages) gives slightly more power than Quark.
  • If I did a 5 minute TT on the flat, (I’ve never actually tried.) but, I would be very surprised if I could get anywhere near 450 watts. In other words, it is easier to post a higher power figure for a steep climb on road bike than a flat 5 minute TT bike test.

Why more power for short hill climbs?

  • You can get more power on a steep hill, when you stand on the pedals rather than stay seated (I think it is due to the extra use of body weight increasing power.)
  • Different physiology for hill climb vs TT bike. I’ve not tested, but it might be easier to get more power on a road bike. Depends how much you train on TT bike too. Certainly, if you’re not used to riding on TT bike, you need to spend time getting used to different muscles used.
  • I don’t train only for 5 minute climbs. One interesting thing is that at end of time trial season I can get close to my max 5 min power for hill climbs. Two months of specific hill climb training does increase 4-5 minute power a little, but less than you might expect. But, I also train for 10 mile TT, by doing five minute intervals.

Secondly I’m not sure I fancy spending 10k on a tt bike for next year. I may buy an old Stuart Dangerfield frame I found, and might just build it up with newer wheels and a good cockpit. Do you believe in the 10k spend for tt bikes?

Yes and No. I did spend a lot on my TT bike (Speed Concept), but then it wasn’t that much quicker than my previous Trek Equinox that I sold for £750 on ebay.

The simple answer is you don’t need to spend 10k on a bike. For example, winner of UK national 10 spent £1k on bike (he got a lot of aero coaching / wind tunnel testing, which is probably expensive, but probably more effective than spending money on a bike.)

If you go Ultegra mechanical rather than Dura Ace Di2, you can save $4-,$5000, but the difference in speed over a 25 mile TT is practically ‘nothing’. I still bought Dura Ace Di2 though. You might be better off spending a lot of money on skinsuit, helmets and aero-testing. See also marginal aero gains

Next year I just want to develop, not winning doesn’t bother me too much as I just want to build the engine. (I was 30th in the non UCI nationals here of 340 riders  – on an R3 with t-bars)

A simple TT bike can help improve over a road bike with t-bars. But, I agree the real test of time-trialling is building your engine and seeing how you can stretch your performance. Aerodynamics do make a lot of difference to your speed, but for me the real buzz comes from improving performance – not relying on aero improvements.

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