No More Hills

In April 2010 I picked up cycling again for the first time in a long time. This is where I'll describe where I've come from, where I'm going and along the way try to communicate why I've discovered a passion for cycling I haven't had since I was a kid.
~ Wednesday, March 16 ~
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Mallorca - Ride 2

I’m sitting here in my compression tights (it’s been a tough day), trying not to fall asleep.This will therefore be a short post, probably :-)

The plan was to try the Sa Calobra. A 6 mile climb from sea level (it’s apparently traditional to get your rear wheel wet in the sea before starting. at low tide*) . to the peak at 680 meters which is reputed to be Mallorca’s toughest ascent. The morning sky didn’t bode well however, and we decided to ride up to the top and see what the weather conditions looked like before making the decent into the bay prior to climbing back up.

To cut a long story short the group agreed that the weather really wasn’t ideal for the tricky decent and following climb. This was decided at the cafe near Lluc (575m). Getting there involved a beautiful climb through forested mountain sides twisting and turning with no sense of there being an end in sight. I’d decided to pace myself and limit my effort to 150bpm or below on the 6/7% gradient. This meant a speed of around 8mph for me at my current level of fitness and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I managed to maintain this over the 5miles of the climb, arriving well within my limits and feeling good. I was therefore a bit disappointed not to make it to Sa Calobra but listened to the advice of those with better local knowledge.

We descended south, down from Lluc and what a descent it was. I had a great time pushing faster and faster whilst watching out for treacherous damp patches and the over grabby rear brake that locked up as I tried to scrub speed in the approach to the first corner. I was a little disappointed not to get over 40mph but the straights weren’t long enough despite raising my heart-rate above lactate threshold levels sprinting out of the hairpins. It was quite some time before the grin left my face after we hit the bottom.

The rest of the ride was flat but dominated by a strong wind. From the base of the descent the first 15-20miles of rolling countryside were into a strong headwind and this combined with different fitness levels, climbing abilities and strength in the wind meant the group broke up regularly, isolating those that couldn’t stick with front group. This included myself and I was close to my limit . Trying on the downhill sections, where I’m fast, to close gaps that built on the short climbs, where I had to slow in order not to blow up.

The cafe stop in Sineu couldn’t have come at a better time, the food and hot chocolate were very welcome and the stop was cleverly timed to keep us out of the heavy rain shower.

Leaving Sineu was a dramatic contrast to the tired entrance, Buoyed by the food and the now powerful tailwind I got carried away enjoying myself rolling at 40mph down a very slight gradient. A quick check of the ever useful HRM showed that there was no way I could keep this up and I dropped the pace to a more managable speed and as we headed to the coast road and the hotel today’s guide and another strong rider took the front and held the group together which meant I spent the remaining 20miles clipping along at a good rate sheltered in the group.

Tomorrow will be a light recovery ride before, hopefully, tackling Sa Calobra on Friday!

Summary

  • 72.3miles in 4hrs 31mins, 16.0mph, 2627kcal (surely more?) and ~1100m of climbing
  • Highlights:
    • Descending from the peak
    • Riding at 40mph on near flat ground
  • Enjoyable day in the end but very very tough due to the wind rather than the climbing
  • Verdict on compact chainsets: Essential for the hills, rubbish with a strong tailwind :-)

* I strongly uspect I was being wound up here ;-)

Tags: cycling descent mallorca wind speed tough
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~ Friday, March 11 ~
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Cake is good!

Wednesday was the first day back cycling after 8 days with a sore neck. At the back of my mind was the massive loss of fitness I suffered as a result of a 3 week break over xmas. I felt a bit nervous about the ride, not wanting to have deteriorated too far, and caught myself using small excuses to delay the ride but eventually got ready and chose a 43mile route that wouldn’t be too challenging if my fitness wasn’t up to scratch.

The strong wind meant that the first half of the route was fairly easy but my heart rate was elevated above where it should have been for the same RPE. I think this was probably cause by a combination of the brief enforced layoff and me unconciously trying to test my fitness. On the plus side it was a route I don’t ride very often and it’s small quiet roads were very pleasant to ride in the intermittent sunshine. As I approached the halfway point spots of rain were falling and in the knowledge that the return leg would be into a strong wind I decided to take the opportunity to grab a coffee at Lizzy’s Cafe. I was strong though and didn’t go for a cake.

The stop was just long enough to let the rain pass and I got back on the bike and headed back through the sun. Combined with the sun, the extra effort required to hold a reasonable speed soon warmed me up after cooling down to a shiver during the short stop. I soon started to regret not having the cake though. I hadn’t been consuming enough calories to cope with the effort required for the wind. My speed soon dropped and I started to feel less than powerful.

It wasn’t the most enjoyable ride I’d ever had but I got out there again and averaged a reasonable 17.5mph (outbound 19.3mph, inbound 16.4mph). However, if there’s one lesson to be learned from this, it’s never to look the cake stand in the mouth. Or something like that anyway.

Cake is good!

Tags: cycling fitness wind cake
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~ Sunday, February 27 ~
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Sunshine and lots of miles

Map
After bailing out of my planned 4.5hr ride yesterday, play abandoned due to weather, I woke this morning to glorious sunshine. Bouyed by this and the fact I’d arranged to meet another club member for at least part of the ride I set off in good spirits. Straight into a strong headwind that wasn’t indicated by any of my out of the window checks. Luckily I’d left just enough time to get to the arranged meeting point even allowing for the wind.

I hadn’t ridden with Neil previously so there was the usual working out of the chosen speed as we chatted. Riding into the headwind for the first 16/17 miles we settled into a managble pace that wasn’t too taxing, saving ourselves for the hills at the end of the route. It always amazes me how quickly the miles pass when you’re riding with others. This is especially true when the roads are straight and flat as they so often are around the fens here, and it was good to get to know Neil and find out more about the beautiful titanium bike he put together. Aggressive, horn-honking, drivers were the only downside to this part of the trip.

As we turned onto the eastward section of our 77mile loop we started to pick up the speed and enjoy the quieter, smoother roads as well as the tailwind. Unlike my last long outing when it crashed, my Edge 500 showed its worth at this point by keeping us guided through the unfamiliar roads. I hardly missed any turnings at all :-)

At about the 50mile mark we picked up a stray cyclist looking for a ride. Dan was just back from 3 months in Oman and this was his first ride since before heading out there. He’d done a full iron-man the previous year so we didn’t feel too sorry for him as we entered the hillier stage of our route a few miles further on.

We hit the first real hill at some speed and I pushed steadily to try and maintain as much of it as possible whilst staying in my seat. I was breathing heavily but feeling reasonably good at the top and I knew that I’d be ok for the remaining 20miles or so. A few smaller hills later and we were onto the downhill stretch home with only a single puncture, and a fairly punishing headwind to slow us down.

And so we pushed for home as the sky darkened, narrowly avoiding the rain and finishing with at total of 76.3miles in 4hrs37 cycling and 5hrs elapsed.

All in all a good ride out, can’t wait for to see more of the sun with a bit less of the wind.

Tags: cycling wind fens sun
~ Saturday, February 19 ~
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Mind over weather - or not

Last night I checked the weather before going to bed so I was expecting a cold, wet and windy day. This morning I looked out the window to find that the forecast was unusually, and unfortunately, accurate. Despite this I dragged myself from a warm cosy bed, with much help from the persistent efforts of Megan (2.5yrs).

I went through the usual rituals, preparing myself for a long ride in inclement weather but my head really wasn’t in the right place. The forecast for Sunday looks better (drizzle rather than heavy rain) and this certainly played on my mind as I left the house to join the usual Saturday club ride.

A mile and a half up the road, struggling with heavy legs and with the cold wet rain gusting into my face due to the strong headwind, I decided that this wasn’t going to be any fun at all. Clearly this was a cop-out but I justified the decision to head back in the knowledge that my time would be better spent training tomorrow with my head in the right place.

Looping back home via a circular route soon meant that the wind was behind me. With the weight of the decision already lifted, the effortless increase in speed gave me the sensation of freedom and power that is the primary reason I love riding.

The early decision to retreat also meant I could help take the kids to their swimming lessons, an event I usually miss. Life’s not all about training after all and it was nice to be able to help out and see how they’ve progressed.

Roll on tomorrow, drizzle and all! Can’t wait for Mallorca though :-)

Tags: cycling wind rain cop-out weather
~ Tuesday, February 15 ~
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marcperel:

So when you see Rabobank splitting the bunch in the wind, you know why!

I’m never complaining about riding in the wind again. Well maybe not anyway

Tags: cycling wind rabobank madness
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