This is the ride I’ve been waiting for all year! The ride I always knew I had in me, but never seemed to manage.

During the 20 minutes it took me to get from a lay-by in Melmerby to the Cafe at the top of Hartside pass I smashed personal records for both 10 and 20 minute power.

This could be down to any number of things. A new bike frame? A new approach to nutrition? Riding purely by feel? It’s probably a culmination of everything.

I went into this event feeling more relaxed than normal. I wanted to continue to ride without any power data showing on my Garmin and pace this ride entirely by feel. I knew the climb was mostly a steady consistent gradient and perfectly suited to me.

I arrived early, set up the turbo, checked over my bike and went straight to sign on. No messing around, no mind games or winging not wanting to be first off. I picked up #1, handed over my £3, and got ready to be first rider off at 18:31.

My warm up was a standard affair. I started in my easiest gear and every minute knocked it down two gears, span 120rpm for 6 seconds and then went back up a gear. After about five minutes I put it in the big ring and span my legs for a while longer in what I would guess was zone 2. Finally I did three minutes at Threshold (by feel, I actually thought it was SweetSpot). And then span my legs in an easy gear for five minutes.

My only frustration of the night was forgetting to start my Garmin!

Rolling up to the start line, I decided to keep it in the little ring at the front. I could’ve launched in the big ring and done the first few minutes comfortably but didn’t want to risk my chain dropping later on. I settled on a big gear somewhere near the bottom of the cassette. I run a mid-compact on my bike, which was ideal for this hill.

The clock ticked over to 18:31 and I was off. I tried not to get too excited and felt I was holding back quite a lot. As I was riding without any heart or power data my tactic was simple:

Can you spin this gear easily? If yes, great! Carry on. If no, knock it back into an easier gear and spin that.

Doing this can at times seem slow, or like I should be pushing a bigger gear. But that isn’t how my legs work. I’m a spinner, and most comfortable at about 100rpm. I would push as hard as I could and if my legs got to about 110rpm I’d consider changing gear. Likewise anything below 95rpm and I’d start to wonder if I was getting over-geared. This was a great motivator for having a ‘little dig’ if a gear started to feel tough. I’d focus more on my pedalling and producing smooth efficient power. In most cases this helped me stay on top of my current gear long enough for the road conditions to change in my favour and I went quicker than I would’ve otherwise!

hartside-profile

Above is the data that greeted me when I checked my power output after the effort.

I was shocked!

I always suspected I could put out that kind of power but I haven’t ever managed to actually do it. I got close on the Turbo at the end of last year but never on the road where conditions can change so quickly. I’m extremely pleased with my ride and feel like I have a few more watts still to give. If we refer back to the trusty W/kg chart it puts me neatly in the middle of “Domestic Pro”.

cycling-power-table

The effort was tough but manageable, leaving me enough in the tank to get out of the saddle towards the end and drill for the line. During the ride I constantly felt I was going a bit easy. At the same time I knew going any harder wasn’t a good idea as I wouldn’t be able to sustain it. In the past I’ve just blown up and the power has dropped significantly in the second half. I wanted to avoid that, and I mostly did. The power did drop, but I started a bit hot, really! And it didn’t drop by much! I held a consistent power that was a good 20w above what I did last year.

I feel as though I’ve shaken a monkey – no, a gorilla! – off my back this week and I’m exciting to see what next year brings. I’ve learned a great deal about myself recently. My riding has stepped up to the next level, and I’ve smashed a plateau I’ve been lost on for far too long.

Next season will be awesome.