Gravity

Today I went for a training ride with a fellow Deloitte Ride Across Britain participant, Carl, who lives in Cardiff.  We are both taking part in the Dragon Grand Fondo ride next Sunday (10 June) and didn’t want to over do things today so limited things to 100 m short of 100 km (and 1,150m of climbing).  The Dragon Ride is 223 km with over 2,900m of climbing though the Welsh Valleys and into the Brecon Beacons.

Both Carl and I are similar ages (either side of 50 !) and manage to ride at about the same speed on the flat and slight inclines.  Where things differ is when we go up hill and Carl starts to pull away with alarming ease (or at least to my viewpoint – Carl may say he is working very hard).  I blame gravity for this state of affairs!

I think our respective sizes had a lot to do with it.  I’m 189 cm tall (6’2″ in old money) while Carl is probably 170 cm (5’7″) with weights of 88 kg and 67 kg respectively.

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Carl and me after a 60 mile ride

This means I’m having to get an extra 20 kg or so up hill – the equivalent of 20 bags of sugar.  I can try and increase my power to weight ratio by increasing my power output – the amount of energy I can put through the pedals.  My training over the last six weeks has concentrated on power improvement.  I can also try and lose a bit more weight – I’ve lost about 6 kg since Christmas, so could expect to get rid of a further 2 kg by September.  Losing extra weight after shedding the initial excess weight is always more difficult.  However, I wouldn’t want to affect my ability to put out the power.  Plus, I really don’t want to end up looking like Chris Froome (sorry Chris).  For one thing, buying lots of new suits and shirts would be rather expensive … and I like chocolate far too much.

In the end, I think I will have to accept that some riders will be quicker uphill and I can use gravity to help me on the downhill – lighter riders then sit on my back wheel and use me as a moving windbreak.  They’d better watch out for the braking distances as I have disc brakes which generally allow shorter stopping distances than rim brakes.  I have to remind myself to allow more time to slow down when I ride other bike with rim brakes, particularly if it is wet.

Next weekend is going to be real challenge.  I have rides on Friday (105 km or 65 miles) and Saturday (85 km or 52 miles) with quite a bit of climbing in each ride in the Brecon Beacons near Crickhowell – the routes go up Gospel Pass and The Tumble (on different days thank goodness).  I’ll have to see how the legs are feeling on Sunday – I will have the option part way through the ride of dropping down to the Dragon Medio Fondo, a distance of 153 km (95 miles).  Look out for the next blog to find out how I get on.

As a reminder, I am raising money to support Dementia UK I am 40% of the way to my target fundraising (I don’t have a minimum amount to raise because I am totally self-funded and not taking a sponsored place).  You can support my by donating at my Virgin Money Giving page here

100 Days to Go !

It is now starting to get serious as there are now 100 days to go (or less depending when you read this blog post !) until the start of the 2018 Deloitte Ride Across Britain.  As one participant wrote on their blog we have now reached a tipping point – training cannot now be put off in the belief that we still have plenty of time to make up for missed sessions or times when you don’t put in a decent effort.  There is also the desire not to pick up an injury, catch a cold or even worse, have a crash – there is not really enough time to mend if you break something!

The organisers, Threshold Sports, sent out training plans last autumn suitable for beginners, intermediate and experienced cyclists.  I’ve been following a slightly different plan with my coach, Lawrence, at Enduraprep and I’m relieved to see there are some similarities between the plans, although I tend to do shorter, more intense sessions during the week and longer rides at the weekend.  I think I would struggle to do the two 1 1/2 to 2 hour mid week rides suggested by Threshold Sports, while a five hour ride at the weekend is no longer a faint hope but becoming the norm.

Threshold Sports sent out a questionnaire last week to the participants asking about our training in terms of length of rides and the type of bike we intend to use if not a road bike.  I hope I don’t received a “Must Do More” note from “teacher”!

I was glad last weekend was a Bank Holiday as I only managed to get out on the Monday for a long ride through the Vale of Glamorgan round to the west of Bridgend.  It was hot and sticky with a headwind on the way back – distinctly hard work.  I didn’t make it easy on myself as I decided to go up the climb up to Norton near Ogmore by Sea.  It is a short but steep climb – the 1 in 10 sign is wrong – it’s steeper!  Simon Warren, who has written a series of books about cycling climbs in the UK, only gives it a 2/10 score, probably on account of its short length.  There was a great view at the top.

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Top of Norton Hill, looking north west

Personally speaking, I prefer the longer, steadier (less steep climbs) of The Rhigos, The Bwlch and The Tumble (all rated much harder) any day !  This coming weekend I plan to do a training ride in preparation for the Etape Wales and Dragon Ride on 8-10 June.  Hopefully there will be a few of us “RABbers” taking part and we plan to investigate the Devil’s Elbow (a 7/10 climb).

My sponsorship page is now seeing a bit more action as it is easier to ask for sponsorship the closer I get to the event – I’ve received some very generous donations recently – thank you very much!  There is still plenty of time to support me in raising money for Dementia UK .  You can find my Virgin Money Giving page here

15 weeks to go !

I’m starting to count down the weeks to starting the Deloitte Ride Across Britain – it is now 15 weeks to go according to Training Peaks which I use to track my training and fitness.

The big news this week was the announcement by the ride organisers, Threshold Sports, of the final route with big changes announced for Scotland.  This year we will be climbing up through the Cairngorms to the east of Scotland rather than Rannoch Moor to the west.  It means that we will climb up through Glenshee rather than Glen Coe.  From my point of view it will mean going very close to where I stayed with my parents when I saw my sister, Caroline, graduate from the University of St Andrews (a few years before William and Catherine I hasn’t to add!).  We spent a couple of very nice days at Dalmunzie Hotel – this was before my father started suffering from dementia, so the ride could be a little bitter sweet bringing back some memories from quite a few years ago.  No golf clubs this time though!  The hotel is situated on a long “out and back” road so I’m not sure I’ll actually go and visit.

The route change has resulted in a longer ride – now at 980 miles according to some calculations and over 50,000 feet of climbing.  The reaction on the Facebook forum for the ride has been mixed to say the least!  Some regulars are not happy at the changes, particularly the extra climbing and one particularly steep bit (allegedly a 20% gradient).  Others, like me, don’t mind one bit – I’m sure the scenery will be fantastic and hopefully the roads will be a bit quieter than the road through Rannoch Moor.  Judging by some of the posts last year about the ride, some of the locals were not happy about being held up by lots of cyclists.

Training is still going well.  The good weather over the last couple of weeks is certainly helping.  My long ride last weekend was a trip round the the west of Bridgend, a distance of 119 km with climbing of 1,273 m.  The aim was a flat ride if at all possible.

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Ogmore Estuary

This weekend the aim was more climbing (at least two hills) and I covered 87 km with 1,355m of climbing.  I ended up riding the hill up to Pentyrch (and got my best time) and two of the three climbs up to the top of Caerphilly Mountain.  I gave the really tough climb from Caerphilly itself a miss – the Caerphilly 10k run was taking place and I wasn’t sure of the road closures.

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Changing seasons near Dyffryn Gardens

That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!  I’m sure I will be visiting the tough climb over the summer as I need all the practise I can get to improve my climbing ability.

Fingers crossed for decent weather for the Bank Holiday weekend coming up.  On Saturday I’ve got a visit to the gardens at RHS Wisley courtesy of my alma mater Reading University – I’m taking my mother as she hasn’t seen the gardens for over 20 years!  It will be back home for sailing on Sunday afternoon and a long ride on the Monday.

If you would like to help me support Dementia UK, please visit my Virgin Money Giving page here

South Wales delivers over May Bank Holiday

What a difference a week makes – from chilly pretty miserable cycling weather to “wall to wall” sunshine and almost too hot for cycling !

On Saturday I completed my first cycling Century – 100 miles in a ride with 2,160 m of climbing.

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View from the top of the Bwlch

It is a bit scary to think that I’ll have to do a slightly longer distance each day for nine days in September in order to complete the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.

I’ve just joined the Deloitte RAB Facebook group (a closed group for participants of the 2018 ride).  It is interesting to read some of the comments about lack of training and the hope that they’ll be “pulled along” by the rest of the riders – I have to admit I’d be concerned about a bit of wishful thinking considering how hard I found the Saturday ride.  Here is a 3D view of the ride Relive Link

I ended up climbing two of the Top UK 100 climbs – the Rhigos (from both sides) followed by the Bwlch from the Treorchy side.  There was then a long ride home via Bridgend and the coastal road through the Vale of Glamorgan.

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View from the top of the Rhigos

I worn the cycle top sent to me by Dementia UK as shown by the photo at the top of the Rhigos.

I did a light spin indoors on Sunday as I didn’t fancy the heat of the afternoon after sailing at Sully in the morning, although it was a bit of a drift fighting the tides due to lack of wind.

As Bank Holiday Monday was due to be even hotter I decided to get up fairly early and got out for a ride shortly after 7.30 and took out my Specialized Venge for a spin over 100 km or so.  This is a very different bike from the Cannondale SuperSix that I intend to ride on the Deloitte RAB.  The Venge is an “aero” bike designed to go fast.  The ride is fairly unforgiving as the bike is very stiff.  The Cannondale is also a race bike and very stiff but is designed with some clever tech to dampen some of the road buzz – I have also converted to tubeless tyres which can reduce punctures.  This was brought home to me when I got a puncture after less than 12 miles!  The rest of the ride was uneventful – lots of cyclists out, probably training for the Carten (Cardiff to Tenby) ride next weekend by the look of lots of cycle tops.

The Vale of Glamorgan was looking at its best – not a cloud to be seen and new surprises for me just west of Bridgend when I came across the Merthyr Mawr Warren National Nature Reserve after riding down a dead end – quite unintentional !  The smell of freshly cooked bacon from the campsite wasn’t fair…

It is now four weeks until my next sportive – the Etape Wales and the Dragon Ride.  Lots more training to get through before then including a few more climbs.

If you’d like to help me raise money for Dementia UK please visit my Virgin Money Giving page here I’m a third of the way to my target if you include the Gift Aid !

Chilly riding for the end of April

Last weekend was the first for three weeks when I didn’t have an organised Sportive to attend – it was a good job too as the weather didn’t play ball !  My Saturday ride was more like riding in mid March with an average temperature of 8 degrees Celsius, in other words pretty cold with the need for leg warmers, long sleeved top and wind jacket.  So different from last weekend with bib-shorts and short sleeves.

I tried out a longer distance, intending to go round the west side of Bridgend.  However a wrong turn took me part way into Bridgend before I started to go the right direction to Porthcawl.  A look on the map afterwards shows me where to go next time I want to ride a fairly flat ride – only 1,200 m of climbing in 113 km, not bad for the Vale of Glamorgan.

Repeating some of the routes allows me to see the changing of the seasons, definitely darker looking green grass and more leaves appearing on the trees.

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Here are a couple of photos taken from the same vantage point from a couple of earlier blogs and hopefully I’ll be able to repeat the process over the coming months.

In terms of training, the last few months are starting to pay off.  I did a Functional Threshold Power test last Wednesday, the 20 minute version rather than the hour long test – I do wonder if anyone does the full hour !  For those who haven’t heard of or done a FTP test, it involves warming up for around 15 minutes (minimum) and then riding as hard as possible for 20 minutes on a static bike that measures your power output.  I managed an average power of 259 watts over the 20 minutes which is only 2 watts off my personal best set after two weeks of riding everyday on holiday in Greece.  Although the test is absolutely horrible to do, I will probably do a couple more FTPs before September to test my fitness levels.  I have found the key to the test is not to start too hard but to try and be consistent for the first 10 minutes and then try and increase the output a little – the last three minutes are always the worst!

It’s now less than six weeks to the next Sportive, the Dragon Tour with L’Etape Wales, which involves two days riding in the Brecon Beacons near Crickhowell and then the Dragon Ride from Margam Country Park near Port Talbot.  It will be a good test of riding long distances on consecutive days and a few of my new cycling friends from the Deloitte RAB I met on the training ride will also be taking part.

Do remember, I am doing the Deloitte RAB to raise money for Dementia UK and you can visit my Virgin Money Giving page here

Ridgeway Rouleur Sportive – more training

On Saturday I took part in the Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouleur, a 93 mile sportive in south Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.  I was lucky enough to be invite by Brewin Dolphin’s Cardiff office as my firm has mutual clients who receive wealth management advice from Brewin Dolphin.

The sportive started off from the Wormsley Estate, located just outside Stockenchurch and owned by the Getty family.

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Last minute bike checks

The estate is huge – we had three miles of riding on private roads before joining the main roads!  It is also “hidden” in a valley and was very quiet despite being less than a mile from the M40.  I think it will be a while before I see a nicer place to start a sportive.

The sportive was organised by UK Cycling Events and I have to say it was superb (other than a 20 minute queue to get into the Estate which probably proves how popular the event was !).  As  guest of the sponsor I had the option of riding with a bike guide, Tom, to aim for a “Gold standard” finish of under six hours (including feed stops).  Last year on the same sportive I sneaked in under the time limit with less than two minutes to spare.  Once we got on to the main roads and dealt with the first main climb out of the valley the pace shot up.  A group formed and proceeded to ride my fastest ever 50 miles in 2.5 hours!  I have to admit I hid in the pack apart from a very short turn at the front – there were some very strong riders who seemed happy to do all the work keeping the pace high.

The main hills kicked in at around 55 miles and and it turned into a bit of every rider for themselves.  Much smaller groups formed as we went at our own pace up the hills – at times it was a bit like being attached to riders with a bungee cord.  A rider would disappear up the hill and you would catch them up going down.

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The climb to come in the distance

I caught up with the leading group at the second feed station, tried to keep up and then got dropped on the first slight incline !  I only had 20 or so miles to go – the same distance as a coffee ride from Penarth to Llantwit Major.  My speed now dropped and I was glad of the traffic lights and cars in Goring and Watlington as recovery time.

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View to the west with 15 miles to go!

The last main effort was Hill Road out of Watlington up to Christmas Common at a gradient of just over 6%, just three miles from the end.  All riders in the event had to do this hill and I managed to keep going rather than getting off and walking; a real grind of an effort.

The event finished with a brief but very welcome sports massage on my weary legs from Six Physio (thanks Harriet) as part of the Velo Club package and a delicious chicken curry plus brownies to start refuelling.  All in all it was a great day and a good test of what it will be like to cycle over 100 miles a day in September albeit at a slower pace.  The second part of the route was over the same roads as last year and I managed quicker times in most cases which is a good sign for my fitness.  After a great nights sleep – my answer to “Did you hear the thunder last night?” was “What thunder!”, I felt remarkably fresh today.  A short 30 minute easy cycle and then cleaning the bike ready for the next training ride.

Oh, my time for the 93 miles, 5 hours 24 minutes.  Well within the Gold finish time and according to Strava, 22nd out of 225 participants – I’m absolutely delighted!

I’m doing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain to raise money for Dementia UK.  If you would like to sponsor me, please visit my Virgin Money Giving page here

 

RAB Training Ride

Last Sunday saw 60 or so participants congregate fairly early in the morning in Princes Risborough, on the edge of the Chilterns, for a training ride organised by Threshold Sports who have the unenviable task of marshalling all the riders from Land’s End to John O’Groats in September.  For all of us who attended it was an opportunity to ask questions, meet fellow riders, hear some top tips from previous participants in the Ride Across Britain (or RAB for short) and have a small taste of what is to come.

If you haven’t seen it, here is a video on YouTube showing what the RAB could be like RAB video The video was recorded during the 2016 RAB because the Threshold Chaperones (riders from Threshold Sports who acted as guides out on the ride) told us that it rained for 8 out of 9 days in 2017 !  I really do hope summer lasts until 17 September in the UK this year….

Back to the morning, as expected a lot of the riders had travelled from in and around London – apparently the conductor on the Chiltern Railways train from Marylebone was not particularly happy with 12 bikes and riders on an early morning train from London.  At least it was early and not a Saturday when the train can be packed with shoppers heading to Bicester Village!  Everyone was friendly although a little apprehensive about what was in store for us during the day.

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Top tips session

I thought I had done well travelling from Cardiff (I bumped into Carl who had also come up from Cardiff) but I think the winner for distance travelled must have been Martin who travelled from Wigan.  I cheated a bit as I stayed with my Mother in Haddenham – I still cycled the six miles to and from the venue.

The best top tips top tips were:

  • Pack everything into a big bag with lots of spare space as kits seems to expand
  • Don’t believe the marketing blurb that your bag is waterproof; use lots of smaller plastic bags
  • Get organised and have a routine; pack your kit the night before and get the riding gear ready.  You don’t want to be the phaffer who keeps their friends waiting or even worse gets turfed out of their tent by the ground-staff packing up the camp site!
  • Bring ear plugs (plus some gloves and a hat for the Scottish nights)
  • Ride within your capacity in the first two days to avoid the Medical Tent (the two days up through Cornwall, Devon and Somerset to Bath are “the worst”).  By day five the tortoise will catch the hare who could be “in bits and held together by sports tape”
  • Don’t linger in the feed station pit stops.  However, one of our chaperones confessed to a three hour pit stop last year waiting for the rain to stop – it didn’t!
  • Respect other road users; no more than 10 in a group, be prepared to let car tailbacks pass, obey the Highway Code
  • Bring a spare rear derailleur hanger for your bike just in case
  • Keep the training going

We were split into groups of 10 for the rides based on average speed estimates.  Carl and I were chatting about going in the “fast medium” group of say 15 mph average rather than the fast 16-18 mph group – there were some fit looking cyclists at the event.  A shout went up for two more to join the fast group – Carl and I looked at each other and thought “Sod it” and volunteered.  It was the right choice as the route was fairly flat compared to what we are used to in the Vale of Glamorgan and South Wales and keeping up was not a problem (thank goodness).

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Simon and Clodagh doing all the work and leading the group

A few hills sorted us out on the first 40 mile loop, particularly Ladder Hill in Wheatley.  We dropped one team member who had over-estimated his average speed at the feed station and then the speed notched up to closer 20 mph on the flat stages in the second 20 mile loop.  I was quite happy to sit in the group and draft (saving energy).  Clodagh, our sole female rider, put all the men to shame by setting the pace at the front with Simon, one of the chaperones, on the first lap and nailing the Queen of the Mountain time on the end of route sprint.  It turns out that Clodagh does triathlons where you are not allowed to draft and she wanted the full benefits of the ride as a training session.

After 60 miles we finished the formal part of the ride.  A couple of us decided to do an extra “finisher” and do a short lap up Whiteleaf Hill.  This is one of the UK’s named 100 Climbs on Strava so on the bucket list of lots of riders.  It is only 1.3 km (just under a mile) in length but averages a 9.4% gradient and according to my Garmin GPS unit nearly touched 20% (or 1 in 5 at one point when I was “moving” at 2 kph) – in reality I think it is 16% in places but still seriously steep.  I was amazed at the Strava time when I got home (after an extra 6 mile ride trying the beat the rain) to see that I had still set my fastest time on the climb even after 60 miles of riding.

The event finished with some very tasty tomato and vegetable sauce with pasta.  If the food at the end and at the feed station is anything to go by we will not be going hungry during the ride in September.

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Post ride chat and refuelling
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Goodies at the feed station!

There was lots of checking the ride on Strava (I must update the data plan on my mobile) and swapping telephone numbers and email addresses.  I will definitely be catching up with Carl for some training rides from Cardiff.  A few others are taking part in the Dragon ride in early June – 223 km round the climbs of South Wales and the Brecon Beacons (three more UK 100 Climbs to tick off) and there was talk of some London based riders coming down to south Wales to take advantage of our “proper” long climbs!  All in all, a great event and I was pleasantly surprised how I managed to cope.  I just have to keep up the training and be prepared to cycle in wet weather  – fingers crossed for an “Indian Summer”.  Thanks to Threshold Sports and particularly for our chaperones, Simon and John, for telling us what it is really like on the RAB – bring on September!

As a reminder, I am raising money for Dementia UK, have a read of my About page for my reasons for supporting Dementia UK.  If you would like to sponsor me, please visit my Virgin Money Giving page here