I’ve had a busy few days in the saddle. On Saturday I took part in the Rossendale RC Hilly TT and on Sunday I completed the LUNE RC Coal Road Reliability Challenge.

It’s been a great weekend, and it feels amazing to stretch my legs again. It’s also given me some food for thought.

Saturday – 11 mile hilly time trial

As I mentioned previously, this was not about getting a good result! (I have to keep reminding myself that, because of course that quietly competitive side of me always wants to do well).

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to try. Rather; I knew without time trial equipment placing at the top end of the leaderboard would be difficult. I came 28th out of 111 riders. And being one of two who had no aero equipment (clip-on bars or fancy deep wheels), that’s quite good going.

So if I judge the ride not on position, but on goals achieved it was a successful day out.

Goals going in to the race

  1. Learn to enjoy race day: I’d say it was a step in the right direction. I arrived early. Rode the course, and then relaxed until it was time to warm up. I didn’t feel the same nervous energy as I did with the road races last year.
  2. Develop a solid pre-ride routine: First lesson learned. The warm-up I wanted to do was 18 minutes long. My start time was 15:33. So I thought I’d start getting dressed at five to, and be on the turbo by 5 past. What I should have done was get dressed long before. I didn’t give myself enough time and that ten minute period was the only time during the day I felt flustered. Note to self: There’s no rule to say how early you can get dressed!
  3. Pacing and strategy: Overall I’m happy, but I did run into (wind related) difficulty later on. I didn’t allow myself to go too hard on the climb and at the half way point I still felt good. The plan was to push on into the headwind on the descent but it didn’t work. I feel this is because my target watts were around 290-300. This just wasn’t possible (for me) it turned out with the gears I had available. I could either spin ‘comfortably’ but just under my target watts, or put it in a bigger gear and grind away at well over. I chose the latter as it was sustainable and lost some time. It’s almost exactly how I thought the day would go, so it hasn’t bothered me.

I also feel like with the right equipment, these could be events where I can perform well. And more importantly enjoy doing. They suit me and my riding style much better than the Road Races.

Sunday – Coal Road Challenge

The ride is hosted every year by LUNE RC, and is a great event. It’s a moderately tough 65 mile loop that takes in some popular climbs, including the title Coal Road climb. And some long fast descents. It’s well run and they’re smart enough to host it in a car-park that serves hot food and drink! I will be doing it again and would highly recommend it to anyone local.

Checking the forecast the day before put me in two minds whether to even turn up or not. 30mph winds and heavy rain weren’t exactly appealing! I decided to man-up and head out regardless and I’m glad I did. I set out with the fast group and finished strong, doing a two-up tempo run in with a guy called Scot. He’s a super strong rider and I was glad for his company. I hadn’t taken on enough food really and was starting to feel it about 10 miles from home. Luckily I was able to get a gel in me while Scot was on the front and I soon picked up again! We came in two minutes behind the first three. Decent enough. But…

“This ride has made me consider and assess my current approach to training”

This ride made me assess my current approach to training and has given me some ideas and questions to run past Richard when he’s free.

Specificity of training

It’s no secret most of my training this year has been in the Garage on my turbo. It’s made me strong. And I believe in it. There’s just no better work-out than a turbo workout if you’re trying to ride in a specific zone for an interval. That’s fact!

But it’s made me strong for very short efforts on a turbo!

My power:weight ratio is better than ever. My five minute power is better than ever. My climbing and performance on real roads… Well, lets just say there is currently room for improvement.

What I feel has happened is that I’ve adapted to the turbo trainer. I can feel it when I’m riding on the road. It doesn’t feel quite as natural now. I don’t instinctively sit in the same position as I did, and can’t stay there as comfortably once I do.

Look at my position here. Normally I would bend at my hips, my back would be flat, and my forearms parallel to the floor. Instead I’m hunched, with my arms at 45deg instead of 90deg – a position both less powerful and aerodynamic.

Hills and high-speed riding seem a little bit more difficult as a result. The power is there. The technique is lacking*. I felt it today going up the Coal Road and up a shorter climb outside of Dent. I felt like I could and should be turning the pedals better. Engaging my core, and pedalling more efficiently. But I just wasn’t. I know that with more time on the road, doing climbs, this is going to come back to me. It’s just something I want to write down and remember.

Towards the end of today I started to find my mojo again. I sat with my hips rotated forward, putting my torso lower over the front of my bike. It’s how I was riding towards the end of last year and it felt like coming home. A fast but comfortable position, where I can feel the power throughout the entire pedal stroke.

So with a slight tweak to my training – allowing for more time outside as the weather gets nicer – I believe I will be both stronger and back on form. It might also be an idea to book some kind of training camp (whether it’s abroad or just a week off work where I can ride myself into the ground for a week and fully recover) where I only ride on the road, and focus on riding up as many hills as I can.

So I’m left with happy legs, some plans for my future training and a hunger for more TT’s. A solid weekend of progress.

*It’s important to note that I don’t see this as an issue. Especially so early in the year. Just a simple observation, and an airing of a thought that’s occurred to me more than once already this year.