Posts Tagged ‘duncan’

Tour of Wessex #2 (after)

All points of the compass: the Tour of Wessex.

All points of the compass: the Tour of Wessex.

Perhaps not quite the hardest thing I’ve ever done on a bike, the Tour of Wessex 3-day sportive was nevertheless a triple helping of very tough riding. As ever, the pain and discomfort fades from the memory, in this case leaving a generous sense of satisfaction. There’s no doubt that I felt under-prepared for the event, but my body rose to the occasion, and in fact by the 3rd day I felt much more robust, both mentally and physically, than I had at the beginning of Stage 1. Overall I came 53rd of the 204 riders to finish all 3 days, in a time of 19hrs 46min 07s.

So, a brief overview of the three stages, written quite quickly so I don’t forget it all.

Day 1 (106 miles)

  • Not much sleep (4-5hrs) after a long drive, never good for body or mind.
  • Missed big groups in fast early stages after unlucky traffic holdups.
  • Climbing through Cheddar Gorge was spectacular.
  • Long solo sections battered my morale.
  • Head winds after the third feed stop almost finished me off, I really deteriorated and was ready to pack it in.

Day 2 (117 miles)

  • Good sleep, legs in surprisingly good knick after a massage yesterday.
  • Resolved with Jonny and Duncan to have a more social day and stay together.
  • Good banter and drafting routine in groups.
  • Great to see Corfe Castle and the Dorset coast.
  • Had the option to bail and return to London. Resolved to continue.

Day 3 (106 miles)

  • Just me and Duncan. In the drizzle.
  • First three hours into light rain, riding on someone else’s wheel basically like standing over a garden sprinkler.
  • Great sense of solidarity in the groups now. Good communication, brisk riding.
  • Couple of big hills, including Dunkery Beacon, which was tough but no real issue.
  • Encountered lots of cars in windy lanes banked by tall hedgerows – pretty stressful.
  • Outrageously punchy pace lines towards the end.

The hardest bits for me were not the hills, which I barely seemed to notice; instead it was the brutally efficient pace lines. I’m not exactly built like Thor Hushovd, so leading on the front into a buffeting wind after 250 miles cumulative riding was fairly strenuous. Worse than the lead out, though, was peeling off and being unable to stay on the back when the next rider in line, rested from sitting in the slipstream, then put in a monster surge.

I would definitely say the Tour of Wessex is an absolute must for any sportive rider. The organisation and support were both excellent. Book it up asap, and book massages every day. At £12 for 30mins you’d be a fool not to. And try and book Cleers View Farm – top choice for accommodation very near to the event centre.

The only comment I would add is that the time categories were unrealistic. If Gold is out of reach for all but a tiny elite of riders then the ranges need adjusting. Sure, it’s a hard event, but 4% Gold on day 1, 1% on day 2, 0 (zero!) on day 3? Error.

Parting shot: a self-portrait in the event center bathrooms after the end of Stage 3.

Puncheur 2010

The first sportive of 2010 is in the bag. Eagerly anticipated by 6 of us – me, Jonny, Millsy, Simmo, Duncan and Paul – as a key test of early-season form, the Puncheur lived up to its reputation from last year: a fast, mostly flat route around the South Downs with excellent food and organisation.

It was freezing cold on the start line at 7.45am on Sunday, and it didn’t get much warmer, despite some bright sunshine as the day wore on. It was a ragged start; I got a lot of cold air into my lungs straight away, my heart rate pounding up in the 170s – it felt like my body was under a lot of stress. This feeling of stress never quite left me the whole 70 miles of the course. We were all taking short pulls at the front to begin with but everything felt a bit giddy. Then we hit ice, several big patches. Duncan went down, later joined by Jonny.

The first half of the ride, I just felt strain, so I tucked in behind Jonny and a strong-looking rider in a Cannondale top. After the feed-stop, I felt stronger, and made up for my poor contributions to the pace early on by taking a long stint into the wind. I could feel it coming back, the feeling of lightness, of floating on the effort.

At about the 3-hour mark I started to tie up. We’d hit a modest hill at around 2hrs 30, which had separated myself, Theobald and Cannondale from the others. I knew if I lost those two, I was most likely on my own to the finish, so I did everything I could to cling on, but closing the gaps became too much. Swearing at the wind, I roped myself in to the bottom of Ditchling Beacon, then climbed it without further incident. Final time: 4hrs 06 – 7 mins faster than last year, this time without going wrong.

I’ve done more riding (in pure hours on the bike) than I had this time last year, but notably less high-quality training such as intervals. This is potentially the reason for my lack of any kind of explosive pace. I remember feeling really full of beans last year; this time around, I felt easy on the hills, with reasonable stamina, but not that much power. My leg injury could have played a part. I’m half a stone lighter than last year (10st 10 vs 11st 6) – so that’s maybe a factor. I guess since my goal this season is the Maratona in July, building a base with plenty of hills, without hitting the intervals too early, will hopefully pay off in the end.

A short footnote for Millsy – he had a shocker. Training to within an inch of his life, he had to do a long run and a ride the day before, then flatted at the start of the sportive. His grim-faced expression in the photos tell the full story.

The Dartmoor Classic

Yesterday’s event was a very tough 105 miles in the West Country. The day featured 6 hours of hard riding over relentless hills, more solo slogging than group work, and a sensational performance from Jamie Balment. (more…)

Looming large: the Dartmoor Sportive

On Saturday I’ll be catching a train down to Plymouth in advance of the Dartmoor Classic, a 100-mile sportive. It’s looking pretty hilly:

The Dartmoor Classic route and elevation chart.

The Dartmoor Classic route and elevation chart.

If you’re hitting this from Google you may also be interested in this Mapometer map

I’ll be riding with Jamie and Duncan. Based on my outing with them a fortnight ago, they’re both on pretty useful form. Jamie, in particular, is capable of pushing his body to the limits and beyond, as evidenced by his serious accident in the 2007 London Marathon, where he collapsed from heat exhaustion a few hundred yards before the finish. He still blames a spectator’s food bag, a la Armstrong on the 2003 Tour.

So, even though I’m not supposed to be hammering it 6 days before the Marmotte, I am expecting a decent ride. It should give my legs the shock they need to regain Reigate-like form.

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