Posts Tagged ‘training’

Sportives – advice for the novice

My mate Matt Simmonds, aka Simmo, has just emailed me in search of advice about riding his first sportive (we’re doing the Puncheur together on March 7th). Here are his questions:

  1. Can you draft?
  2. Can you use aero bars?
  3. How much fluid am I likely need for 4-5 hours on the bike? Will 2 waterbottles be enough?
  4. Can I carry my bike up Ditchling Beacon? I cycled up it once in the granny ring of my mountain bike and that was tough enough.
  5. I think I need some new tyres, any advice? Mainly for triathlons and some sportives….

Last time we rode together – October time I think – Simmo actually beat me on 3 laps around Richmond Park, so clearly he’s acting the novice here to lull me into a false sense of security before kicking my ass on race day. However, I’ll humour him.

I don’t claim to have written the book on sportives but I have ridden a dozen or so. Here are my responses:

  1. Yes, you can draft. Furthermore, you have to draft to ride a good sportive. Tactics and timing definitely play a part, it’s important to time your effort whilst preserving your strength for the full distance – not to mention doing your share of the work unless you want to earn dirty looks.
  2. On some sportives aero bars are banned, and rightly so – they are a liability when riding in a bunch. Many’s the time you’re riding in a tight pack and someone drops a bottle or slows suddenly, if you can’t react you’ll wipe out bad.
  3. 2 waterbottles is enough, since you can refill at all feed stations. Make sure you keep drinking though, and try to avoid the mistake I made at last year’s Burgess Hill Classic, of refilling on water instead of energy drink.
  4. Ditchling Beacon is a hard climb after 65 miles – but really, on the scale of things, it’s not that hard. Do some hill training now.
  5. Tyres? Buy these, they’re awesome.

Any further qu’s comment below!

Top end outage

I rode 90 minutes this morning when I was supposed to be working not cheating the week (ssshh, don’t tell work). I wanted to punish myself. 5 and a half weeks since the Marmotte and any really serious riding, and the layoff is getting to me. The first 3 weeks were OK – a relief in fact – but the last fortnight has been increasingly rough. Despite pinging it around town on the hack as often and as fast as possible, weekend commitments have kept me off the Wilier – stood reproachful, and a bit grubby, in my bedroom – and my general mood graph has recorded a marked slump.

Clearly, I need to set a new goal. Clearly, I need to get back on my bike, pronto. To this end I headed out today, aiming for a 6/4 Regent’s / Swain’s (in layman’s terms, 6 laps of regent’s Park followed by 4 hill repeats up Swain’s Lane. Here’s the graph:


I felt like my batteries were fairly flat from the start – even though my eating and sleeping have been fine over the last few days. In the end I managed 3/4, i.e. only 3 hard intervals on Regent’s Park. I was climbing OK, but my power output felt about 30% lower than I remember it being last time I did one of these sessions. Compare the above graph with a similar ride I did on June 24th, just prior to the Marmotte, or this one around Easter time. On both of these, I remember / blogged that I felt good, my heart rate went higher, and I did 5/6 or 6/6.

So evidently my top-end fitness has taken a hit over the last month or so, while my weight remains constant (or even slightly less, incredibly), my endurance is solid, and I can still climb. It seems like the most fragile, short-lived part of my form, that needs to be kept topped up lest it wane. It’s time to bring back the power.


Ride to drink.

Ride to drink.

Post-Marmotte, I’ve enjoyed a month of downtime. I’ve found this period invaluable in recovering both physically and mentally, not so much from the event itself, but from the six-month build-up to it.

January to June of this year, I organised my life around the bike. Now clearly, I like cycling; but, in the weeks after achieving the biggest goal I’ve (so far) set myself on the bike, being free from the mental focus of preparing for the event has been a serious load off. Just having the option of riding, if I feel like it, is a luxury. Being able to drink to excess is, once again, a guilt-free pleasure. The gratuitous eating of cake at office parties – a delirious indulgence.

Predictably, since I returned from France, I’ve been on excellent form, so I’ve certainly been out on the bike – but not mid-week, and not if I didn’t feel like it. Mainly, I’ve been hammering my busted commute bike (nope, still haven’t broken it yet) around town at high speeds. I’ve also been out for a couple of rides with Millsy (who’s heading to the Pyrenees this week following a strong performance in the London Triathlon).

I went out yesterday for a 5-hour solo mission, and again, felt strong. I’ve been refusing all requests to enter further sportives this year, but now I’m not so sure…

Conserving ‘le jus’


At a weigh-in last Wednesday my weight was 10st 10, a new – and probably ultimate – low. On Saturday I was 10st 12, on the same scales as I used just before Christmas, when I was a hefty 11st 12 (who ate all the mince pies, etc.). I haven’t weighed this little since I was a malnourished student surviving on espressos and rollies. (more…)

Pre-Whitton training weekend

A double-whammy weekend between the Prince’s Risborough sportive and the Fred Whitton Challenge, which is now looming very large indeed.

After a good recovery after the PRS, I went long with Jonny on Saturday, from Richmond Park, out to Effingham, across to Box Hill, down to Rusper, back up to Capel, down the Pyrenean, over to Ewhurst, then up and over to Shere and back to Richmond Park again (and from there to North London). 6hrs 30 in total.

On Sunday I was up at 5.30am for the London Phoenix club ride. My legs were pretty tired, and the pace of the ride was quick – basically my usual sportive speed – so I think I was lucky to only get dropped once, on a tough undulating section about 3/4 of the way along the route (which was a variation of the Finchley – Knebworth loop I rode a few weeks back). There were 8 of us, all useful. We had one puncture between us, normally an annoyance but on this occasion a very welcome respite!

Prince’s Gold

I’m pleased with my ride at yesterday’s Prince’s Risborough sportive. I beat the gold time target by a decent margin, doing 126km in 4hrs 20, the same time as I posted for the 114km Burgess Hill Classic in late March. The BHC was admittedly a lot hillier, and that day I spent a fair amount of time solo whereas yesterday I was able to work with small groups of strong riders to draft on the flat. Check the results – I’m around 33 out of 232 finishers. (more…)

Swain’s Lane


Last summer I used to train on Highgate West Hill, adding some reps of that after riding Regent’s Park. Now Swain’s Lane is my new favourite hill in north London. 

It starts gradually, and you can big-ring it all the way to the cemetery gates, but then rounds a slight corner and kicks up, and the final gradient is severe. Today I did 4 reps, alternating seated and out of the saddle. 

Thanks to greenpiano1 for the above shot of the corner where it gets steep.

February: shocking start, improving steadily

Last week was a bad one. The harsh weather was dragging on, the fall on the ice near Buckland was painful, and I was prevented from even a cautious commute by further sleet and cold winds.

But then, the weather started looking up. I put in 2 hours on Saturday – some brisk intervals around Regent’s Park – followed by a 6-hour epic on the Sunday, starting in Brixton and heading out to Cobham and the North Downs via Richmond Park, then returning all the way up to Archway. I followed this with 2 days of commuting, and another good session this morning – of which more later.

The sight of this weather forecast was truly a morale boost:


Maximum heart rate

I plan to try and determine my max heart rate early in the new year, to make my zone training more accurate. Here’s a method I could use:

If you want to actually reckon your max heart rate on the bike, it’s easy: simply warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of easy pedalling, and then ride ‘full-blast’ at nearly maximal power output (while maintaining an optimal rpm of 90 to 95 or so) for two minutes. ‘Spin’ easily against little resistance for 60 to 75 seconds, and then pedal at maximal capacity for two more minutes. Your heart rate should almost ‘top out’ after this second two-minute surge (make sure you get your doctor’s permission before you try this, however).

Original article on Peak Performance.

Merckx on the rollers

The Cannibal works on his cadence… Eddy Merckx, for many THE greatest cyclist of all time, is seen here doing the pro cyclist’s equivalent of domestic admin. For me this is a vision of latent power and speed, like a lion padding around his cage. Merckx’s expression is placid, his concentration total, just humming along. Legend.