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

Spring is here at last !

It finally felt like Spring had arrived this weekend with two dry rides over Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday was a bit of a surprise as light rain was forecast in the morning.  However, the rain held off and I had my first 100 km plus ride of the year (about 64 miles) in just over four hours.  I’ve only got to increase the distance to 110 miles to match the distance I have to cover each day in September – all a bit worrying!

Sunday morning was nice and sunny so I thought I’d do a two hour “cake and coffee” ride to Cowbridge and back through the Vale of Glamorgan.  IMG_0546Lots of other cyclists had the same idea and both Costa and Cafe Nero in Cowbridge were doing a roaring trade from visiting riders.

You don’t realise how many small hills there are in “the Vale” until you get out on a bike.  However, you do get to see the changing seasons in the countryside and signs of life after the rather grey winter days.

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Primroses opposite Dyffryn Gardens

One thing that does disappoint me is the amount of litter in the verges and hedge rows.  The worst section today was the Old Port Road just above Wenvoe on the way to St Lythans – full of Carling and Coke cans plus discarded McDonalds containers.  Perhaps a deposit scheme may reduce the cans being thrown out of cars?

I’ll be saving the “Big Hills” of the south Wales Valleys for Sunday 8th April – the KOM Sportive organised by my trainer Lawrence KOM link.  I really don’t have any option but to take part – the alternative would be multiple intervals sessions on a turbo trainer and burpees until failure!  I’ll decide on the day whether I do the 130 km or 95 km routes – both have lots of climbing (my pet hate, probably because it would help if I lost a bit of weight).  I’ve also entered the L’Etape Wales and the Dragon ride in June – plenty more climbing over three days.  It will be a good test for the legs and lungs.

Finally, with a break from the bike, I had my first sail of the year at Sully Sailing Club IMG_0551on the Bristol Channel in the afternoon.  I’ve been sailing for over 40 years and it’s a good “release” for me. I sailed a Laser today which is a full body workout, with particular emphasis on core strength – think of doing sit ups for 5 minutes every 10 minutes or so when sailing round a course.  A bit of cross training for the bike riding.  I even managed to win both races although there were less than 30 seconds in it despite each race being between 40 and 50 minutes long !

Finally, a reminder why I’m doing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain in September and asking you to sponsor me.  I want to raise lots of money for Dementia UK, a charity that helps people with dementia and their carers.  Dementia is a horrible disease for everyone concerned and any support can make a huge difference.  You can visit my Virgin Money Giving page here

First longer ride of the year

Last Sunday saw my first ride of more than 50 miles in 2018 when I managed 60 miles riding round the Vale of Glamorgan.  When I uploaded the ride on to Strava it was a little disappointing to see I was less than 4 km short of riding 100km !  Regular riders will be aware of the saying “If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen !”.  There is nothing worse than getting home from a long ride and finding that your cycle computer has failed to save all the details from the ride.

For non-cyclists, Strava is an application that can be used to show where you’ve ridden.  It also adds an element of competition by dividing routes into “segments” which are timed on the basis of your speed.  The quickest riders get the King or Queen of the Mountain for that segment.  The times can be broken down into All Time, Yearly and That Day.  If pay for a premium edition, you can also see how you compare against your age group and weight category – no cheating by claiming you are 110kg when you are actually 85 kg !  Strava segments can get quite competitive, although I only use it to see how I compare to other rides I have done over the same route.  The only problem is that it can get very demoralising when you’ve noticed that your quickest time on a segment is from two years ago.

Here is a link to my last ride Strava ride  in the Vale of Glamorgan.  It has quite a lot of data which great for a bit of data geek like me.  I like to compare “numbers” and see if I’m getting fitter from an empirical point of view rather than just “feel” on the bike.  Other riders may just rely on whether their jeans have a looser fit….

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View from Southerndown

Normally during the week, I have some training to do in the evenings set by my personal trainer, Lawrence Cronk at Enduraprep  Lawrence knows by now that I won’t do the training the in the mornings before work – it just will not happen !  I’m afraid this week Lawrence is going to be very disappointed.   I’m a volunteer on Challenge Wales, a charity run 72 foot sail training yacht, and we had a volunteer strategy meeting on Monday night.  Tonight saw me attend a Penderyn whiskey tasting event (for work) as a guest of the Wales Millennium Centre (very nice !) and tomorrow I have a visit with my sailing club to Penarth RNLI centre.  It’s a very good job that the Ride Across Britain is not for another 27 weeks!

If you would like to sponsor me please visit  my Virgin Money Giving page  and help support Dementia UK.  You may even be the first person to sponsor me !

 

February training starts

Last weekend saw the start of training in February, wet on Saturday so a good indoor session on the Tacx Neo – Zwift on the iPad helps the time pass quickly, although I really must get a fan to try and keep cool.  At least training in the kitchen makes cleaning the floor afterwards quite easy!

Sunday was bright and sunny although pretty cold.  Once I got going I warmed up quickly going through the lanes from Dinas Powys to Wenvoe.  After climbing the “Tumble” out from Cardiff on the A48 (not the “proper” Tumble near Abergavenny) I decided to head towards the climb up into Pentyrch.  I’d seen the route from rides on Strava and it was a reasonably challenging 10 minute climb for 3 km (about 1.5 miles) and a bit closer than going up the Valleys to the Bwlch (nearly 2 hours to get to the bottom of the hill before an 18 minute climb, and thats on a good day !).

I decided to stop off in Cowbridge for a well earned coffee and cake stop at Waitrose (free coffee with my loyalty card so why not).  It was then a ride to Llantwit Major and the return via the coast road into a north easterly wind.  I decided to drop off the main road into Porthkerry Country Park.  IMG_0494For those of you unfamiliar with South Wales, it is a bit of a haven for dog walkers with lots of open grassland and walking trails in the woods.  There is even access to a pebbly beach and a popular cafe.  IMG_0497The highlight is the railway viaduct which is still used by the Valley Lines trains to Rhoose and Bridgend and freight trains to the Aberthaw power station.

The only blot on the ride was the colourful suggestion from a young passenger in a car that I should take advantage of a cycle path on the road near Barry docks.  Once he learns to drive I’m sure he will realise that the Highway Code (Rule 63) says that use of cycle paths by cyclists is not compulsory – I wasn’t a winning member of the Buckinghamshire Schools Road Safety Quiz Team for 1983/84 for nothing!  There are a number of reasons why I don’t always use cycle paths – pedestrians don’t appreciate having a cyclist on a shared foot/cycle path, they think I’m breaking Rule 64 – you cannot ride on the pavement.  Also there can be quite a bit of debris on the cycle path (broken glass etc) which can cause punctures.  There is usually enough space on the road for cars to overtake cyclists without too much of a delay.

It is now 7 months to go until the ride starts.  I received an email from the organisers to book bike transport and travel to and from the start and finish which makes even more immediate!

If you would like to sponsor me please visit my Virgin Money Giving page

January Training

What a difference 3 degrees makes !  Last weekend the temperature was hovering around 1 degree C plus a westerly wind which was not conducive to riding outside.  This weekend the temperature was around 4 degrees C, with winter sunshine and little if any wind.  A much more pleasant environment for a 3 hour ride round the Vale of Glamorgan.

Last Sunday (7 January) saw me complete a 100 minute ride on Zwift on my Tacx Neo smart trainer.  Zwift is a bit like a computer game for bike riders with different routes to choose from.  There are also races and group rides that you can choose to join.  The combination of the routes and the smart trainer means that any terrain changes on the iPad are reflected in the resistance on the trainer – you either have to cycle harder or change to an easier gear (just like riding outside).  However, you have to keep working even on the downhills!

Monday evening saw me take part in a Zwift race.  Even though it started at 6.30 pm GMT there were riders taking place from all over the world all linked up via their computers.  I finished something like 792nd and I wasn’t last!  We were meant to to grouped according to power output ability – I have some work to do as the front runners finished in around 35 minutes with me coming in just short of an hour.  Apparently you can trick the system by claiming a lower weight than you really are – you do get caught out if you have a heart rate monitor which shows you are not working very hard but putting out loads of power – possible for professional riders but not run of the mill riders like me.

The ride today was as good as a January ride gets.  Dry roads (most of the time), watery sunshine and very little wind. I decided to take the Specialized Venge for a ride.  IMG_0483This is a bike that likes going fast as it is primarily aerodynamic rather than a bike for climbing hills. By leaving in later morning I seemed to miss a lot of the traffic despite sticking to the main roads.  A good session that saw me complete just short of 50 miles in a little over 3 hours without having to work too hard on the bike.  Here is a link to the ride on Strava.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1357032302/embed/1f31b4b18e294d366d236a169d1e66b52c275f29

Any way, a good week of training and no injuries which always an added bonus.

You can sponsor me for my Ride Across Britain here