Chase The Sun (Run From The Rain)

My esteemed riding partners Neil, Huseyin and I decided to enter CTS back in 2021. We were looking for an event along the lines of the epic Tour Of Kent ride Neil and I did at the end of lockdown 2020. CTS was about the same distance, and was similar geographically, i.e. it looked impressive when plotted on a map. The start was in our neck of the woods, about 25 miles from my front door, so logistically getting to the start should be simple enough. Looks good, let’s enter!

And that was that until a few weeks before the event when we started planning. Huseyin had booked a hotel for his family at the finish. Neil and I considered doing the same, however it wouldn’t have worked for our families’ prior commitments, so we opted to get the train home instead. Planning the start of the day was simpler; I volunteered to drive the three of us, and pick the car up the next day.

Leading up to the ride we had been doing regular 3 or 4 hour rides together. Each of us were going well enough. Whilst Neil had knocked back his usual training a notch, he still had an abundance of residual fitness. Huseyin had been putting in some impressive TT races. I had managed a couple of 100 mile rides in a week, and was getting better at fueling on the bike. I’d managed to stay with the lead group at Ride London, got a top 10 in a crit and a 25 mile TT PB too – so I was hopeful that I would put in a strong ride, and keep up with the other two.

The day before the ride I carb loaded by eating plenty of rice and pasta. It was a really hot day, so tried to constantly drink water, but still felt thirsty. I cycled a rucksack of supplies over to Huseyins, which would be waiting for us at the finish. I showed the bike a bit of love (oiled the chain), and made sure all my electronics were charged. Possibly due to the heat my DI2 battery (which my gears use) was dead, and refused to charge. Eeek! I tried again later when it cooled down, and it started charging, phew! As I said, it was a very hot day, we were lucky not to be doing the ride until the next day which was going to be cooler(but might rain). I got an early night and tried to get some sleep.

On the day of the ride I woke at 2:30am, tried waking myself up properly with a coffee and a shower, ate breakfast and packed the car. Huseyin rode to mine, then we picked up Neil. We arrived in Minster just before sunrise at 4am. There were already masses of cyclists getting ready and spinning their legs. It was a beautiful sight. Excitement levels had been rising throughout the morning and were just about peaking now. Although we were excited we were also confident of our abilities, so there were no pre race jitters, what with it not being a race n-all. We unloaded the car and rolled to the hotel to pickup our orange ribbons which we had to tie to our seat posts. We then spun around to the start on the beach and waited in line. At the start was a phone number and code word which we had to text with our names and start time – somebody suggested that this was nothing to do with the event but just someone playing a prank on someone they didn’t like, Not true, but one to remember..

Waiting to start.

We rolled up and started about 4:45am. The weather was absolutely perfect, warm enough for summer kit with a gentle tailwind. We were given the all clear to start and were off!

Immediately we started going past the masses of cyclists who had already started. Each one another hare to chase, their blinking lights a red rag to a bull. We all instinctively knew we needed to get to some clear road. Get away from the chaos that is, to all intents and purposes, a mass start cycling event. Zooming past hundreds of cyclists is a guilty pleasure, but one has to be both careful and respectful – so we said lots of “good morning” and “on your right”. The odd rider joined us for a bit, I chatted to a few of them: “you guys are insane riding this hard so early.. .. I love it” said one guy. I think I replied with something obnoxious like “we’re just warning up”. I’m such a dick.

We knew most of the roads for the first 50 miles, the route went within a mile of my house and past the building I worked in when I started commuting by bike over 10 years ago.

As we got into Rochester we’d picked up a handful of others who were able to stick with us. One of them turned out to be a guy who Neil knew, Matt. Matt had ridden CTS 7 times before, so knew what he was doing. With little to no traffic on the roads yet, we had a bit of fun blasting down the slopes into Rochester together. By this time we’d left the bulk of the other riders behind us, but we still picked up a few here or there.

Leaving Rochester we picked up another couple of riders who stuck with us up Cobhambury Road, a guy and a gal, who we chatted to for a few minutes. We saw them again at the pub at the end, they must’ve put in a strong ride together. We went nice and steady up Cobhambury, then followed the route through a cut through that I use a lot. As the route was at it’s closest to my house I used my local knowledge to blast down a valley, carrying my momentum to get up the other side, only to slam on my brakes when I was faced with a road full of less savvy CTS participants who were making a meal of the one minute climb. We then headed along Longfield road where we saw Gemini clubmate Colin going the other way. He said he might make it out and ride with us for a while, but he didn’t turn around. We soft pedalled for a while, but he didn’t catch us up.

The route then headed through St Mary Cray and then Bromley. Bromley is where I lived when I got married and started a family, so full of great memories. Whilst I enjoyed the nostalgia, central Bromley doesn’t lend itself to great cycling; too many cars and traffic lights. From there onwards it was a similar state of affairs as we navigated the streets of London. The route went up to the top of Crystal Palace, which is where I worked for many years. Cadence Cycle shop had a little crowd outside it, so I assume the route was planned to go that way because of the shop? I grabbed a bottle of cold water from a chap stood at the side of the road, which with hindsight was a good move, as I wasn’t drinking enough. As we went around the CP triangle I drank my water and had another nostalgia hit having gone to many fun gigs at several of the pubs. I also worked there for the best part of a decade and commuted by bike for much of that. We stopped at the lights at the end of Westow street, and our group savored the view of central London beneath us.

With the stop start nature of the London roads we found our little group swell to probably over 10 cyclists. There were a couple of guys who weren’t all that clued up on group riding and were a bit all over the place. Some of the more experienced of us gave each other knowing looks and I warned my friends to give them a wide birth. With the larger group navigating all the junctions became trickier. Eventually we got a bit of clear road with a slight gradient and Neil drilled it on the front which split things up nicely.  Then half of the guys still with us decided to stop for food and water. This diminished our group to the three of us and a couple of others who both seemed like nice chaps. This was around the Kingston area, and from here on my geographical knowledge fades. Soon after we stopped at another petrol station and realised that we had lost Matt. Matt had been hanging on but suffering a little, and said not to wait for him. Didn’t see him again that day, hope he got on ok.

After refueling and fixing some loose bolts we hit the road again. As we came out of London the roads improved and traffic lights were less frequent. We’d picked up a young chap from Islington Cycle Club who was very strong, he pulled us along for a few minutes at over 40kph which was nice, but not sustainable. Huseyin must’ve taken this as his cue, so put in some powerful turns too. I kept reminding everyone to keep it steady, mainly because I knew I wouldn’t last 200 miles if we let things get too spicy. I had a game plan, and needed to stick to it. We picked up a group of ultra distance triathletes for a bit. One had aero tri bars on his bike and kept blasting past us, getting 20 metres up the road then sitting up. I thought it weird. Riding in a group of people you don’t know with tri bars is a bad idea, and there are reasons that other events ban their use. Fine, if you want to go solo, however.

And along we carried on. The weather stayed pleasant; the sun actually started breaking through the clouds for short bursts. We’d left the last bit of suburbia and were enjoying the lanes again. At this point Neils orange ribbon undid itself and flew off, never to be seen again. Neil didn’t seem to care and continued to keep a decent steady pace on the front. This wasn’t Neil’s first rodeo, his exemplary pace setting testament to his class  – consistent, smooth and strong with the odd burst of soft pedaling to help keep everyone’s legs from fatiguing. Perfect.

Neil was enjoying the company of our new friend from Islington, both of them on the front, as we cruised to the halfway lunch stop. 100 miles done. We’d managed to get in at around 10:30ish, officially the lunch stop was meant to be open from 11, but everything was ready for us. There was a stall with cheese rolls, crisps, bananas and flapjacks which were all of decent quality. But my focus was drawn to the fish and chip van. We parked our bikes and looked around. There was a small number of cyclists who had made it there before us. I was glad we weren’t racing, and I could afford my body a well needed rest. My neck, back and one foot were aching a fair bit already. I headed for the van, Huseyin ordered us both some food, I went for a chip butty and a sausage which didn’t even hit the sides. I bought myself some bananas for the second leg, and a flapjack and coffee for an immediate sugar/caffeine hit. Huseyin then handed me a cheese roll which I inhaled too. I tried taking a photo of the three of us, and in doing so I realised I couldn’t open my eyes past a squint. A combination of tiredness, fatigue and hayfever was taking it’s toll. Huseyin made use of the mechanic and got his squeaky chain some oil. I filled up with water, splashed my face to try to wake myself up a bit and got ready to leave.


We set off again with just the 3 of us. Stopping for a decent chunk of time had allowed my body to recover, and I was feeling much better. Despite all the stop starting through London we’d averaged 19.5mph for the first 100 miles, but that average would soon come down as the majority of the climbing is in the second leg. Huseyin was keeping track of each climb and calling out the number of them.. He also had a useful feature turned on on his Garmin which shows the upcoming climb in length and gradient. This really helped us pace our efforts. None of the gradients felt too bad, apart from one pretty steep ramp which was probably about 15% for a little while. I stuck it in bottom gear, stood up and ground my way up. Meanwhile Neil and Huseyin stayed seated and pulled away from me, strong strong lads. Between the climbs Huseyin was happy to sit on the front for long turns. Over the course of the ride Huseyin did more than his fair share of turns on the front, with no sign of fading. Not once. In fact I had to regularly shout to him to go softer, even with the benefit of a draft I was finding it hard to keep up with him. He is such a talented cyclist, one wonders what could have been if he’d found cycling as a youth!

My memory of the middle of the second leg is a bit hazy, so I probably have the order of things muddled, but I’ll try my best. I remember when the rain came. Neil and Huseyin had bought rain jackets, but Muggins had not. I continued solo whilst they got their jackets on. The first shower was quite short, and soon enough I was probably more comfortable in my summer jersey than the other two. I was quite glad when Huseyin caught me and took the front as his rain jacket acted like a parachute, slowing him down and giving me a much better draft. Soon enough Neil and Huseyin were taking their jackets off again and normal service was resumed.

At some point we caught up with a couple of riders who latched onto us. We’d ridden with them earlier in the day and started chatting again. We were all glad not to have any loose canons in the group this time! We rode together over the North Wessex Downs which was beautiful, but challenging. You could see the next couple of miles of road ahead which rolled up and down into the distance. The open fields offered no cover from the cross wind which blew from right to left. At this point I could feel fatigue once again creeping in. I wanted to eat or drink something, but the gusting wind was strong, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking my hands off the bars. It was also spitting rain at us again…

Then we came up to Devizes, where the route went through the town centre. I was on the front as we came up to a roundabout. A car came out of nowhere and I had to stop quickly. One of our new friends didn’t judge the situation and zoomed past us into traffic. Thankfully he was OK, but he then opted to drop off and ride alone. Huseyin put in a decent effort to put some time into the others and it was just the three amigos riding into the distance once more.

We had another pitstop at about 160 miles, at a petrol station in Yarnbrook. Neil helped out a CTS entrant from Brazil who needed a pump as his was broken. Huseyin bought us water and ice cream. I was ungrateful enough to moan about having to carry the extra weight. Dick move number 2! I was now suffering a fair bit, so I was probably a PITA to be cycling with. Huseyin had continued to count down all the climbs, and had got to the end of his list, only we hadn’t got to Cheddar Gorge yet. I had been trying to save something in the tank for the climb through Cheddar Gorge and was confused why it wasn’t on Huseyins list. As we approached Cheddar the rain started again. The road started descending and Neil and Huseyin stopped to put on their rain jackets once more. I continued solo. The road continued to descend – “are we going down it instead of up then” I thought to myself. I really should have checked this small detail before the ride! As it turned out, yes we were going down it. On the one hand this was great news, but countered by the fact the rain was now coming down heavily. The road through Cheddar Gorge is a series of tight bends. In the dry it would have been the most fun part of the day, but in the greasy wet it was super sketchy. I still enjoyed it immensely though, it was a stunning place to ride through near the end of such an epic day. I waited for the other two in Cheddar and we continued on.

The road surface gradually deteriorated and we found ourselves riding over wet mud, gravel and potholes. With about 5 miles to go Neil was just reminding me about something stupid I’d said when my chain came off the chainrings. It got really jammed between the crank and the frame. Neil and Huseyin carried on for a bit and I stopped to sort it out. Only I couldn’t sort it on my own. I was on a steep section of road and my head wasn’t in the game. So I walked the bike up the hill round the corner where I could see the other two waiting for me. I waved at them to come and help me. Between us we managed to yank the chain and bend the crank and frame apart slightly and free the chain. Phew! The whole episode took about 9 minutes and was mildly upsetting, especially as my frame had sustained some superficial damage. I was also now quite cold and wet. So I put in a little effort to get up the hill and warm myself up a bit. After this I actually started feeling better and better. Not letting the crap weather dampen my spirits, I sat on the front got a bit aero and put in a half decent turn. I was averaging around 35kph feeling a bit better about myself when another group of three guys caught us up and went past me. So I wasn’t going all that fast then! We jumped on their wheels and let them tow us into Burnham on Sea. We rolled over the finish to a mildly moist heroes welcome. Huseyins family were there waiting for us, and Neil and I were given our rucksacks. Then the heavens truly opened, and the storm hit a proper. We hid under a shelter on the esplanade, ate some food, shared stories and changed into some dry clothes. Huseyin and family went off to do their thing and Neil and I opted to settle for the Wetherspoons over the road, making our move once the rain calmed down a bit. We were so lucky to have missed that downpour whilst on the road. We had got pretty damp, but avoided being absolutely drenched.

Then the ordeal of the return journey started. Honestly this could be another blog altogether. In a nutshell though – our train was cancelled, we went to another station, had to wait 90 minutes, had to argue our way on to the train, got to London too late, got a taxi and ran but missed the fast train home, had to cycle to Victoria at about midnight and eventually got the slow train back to Meopham. I got to bed about 1:50am, spent. The next day I drove back to the scene of the crime with the family and picked up my other car. Eventually I got to lie on the sofa with a beer at about midday, nursing a pretty sore arse. Well worth it though. Always a pleasure to ride with Neil and Huseyin, and such a fantastic event to do together too.

Link to Strava activity

Moving time for the 205 miles about 10 hrs 50mins
Average speed 18.9mph or 30.5kph
Average HR 135bpm (Neil and Huseyin both about 122bpm)
Average power 160w (Neil and Huseyin both about 180w)
Normalised power 180w (Neil and Huseyin both about 200w)

If you’re interested in fueling, Strava reckons I burnt 6268 calories during the ride. Neil and Huseyin did more work, so burned more than me. I probably burnt another 2000ish during the rest of the 23 and a half hours I was active, but this is a total guess. My wife put my food intake into a calorie calculator and worked out that throughout the whole day I consumed 5358 calories. I reckon that means I was in a calorie deficit of around 3000 calories. A quick google says that equates to half a kilo of body fat only.

Ride “it’s not a race” London Essex 2022

It’s been a while since I wrote up a bike race ride… Covid wrote off a couple of years of racing and mass start events. Not to mention my fitness. Having not raced since 2019, and weighing 10% more, I opted to downgrade my British Cycling licence to 3rd cat. I also decided that it’s about time to buy a British Masters Cycle Racing licence, but am yet to use it.

I took part in a BC 3rd cat race at the Cyclopark a couple of weeks before RLE. As it was my first race in two and a half years it wasn’t pretty, and not really worth writing up. Short version: I kept up until 4 laps to the end, when my body stopped recovering from the anaerobic efforts. Wasn’t lapped though.

With hindsight I was starting to come down with a cold, which included the usual Brucie bonus mouth full of ulcers that I get every time I get run down. The cold stayed with me for the whole of the lead up to RLE. So the 2 weeks prior to the event I had an enforced long taper with almost no training. And worse: NO BEER! I did try one sweetspot session, but could only manage 30 minutes at SS and felt terrible. I only started to feel up to pushing on the pedals the day before the race ride, so I went out for an easy spin with some openers. Although I wasn’t back up to full strength I felt decent enough. Thank goodness – I had been questioning if I should do the race sportive at all. Still, I had no idea where my fitness was, and was by no means “well”. I realise this paragraph is a very similar story to the blog about my 2016 effort!

So, as I couldn’t do anything about my fitness I decided to try to take as much stress out of the day as possible, and to be meticulous in my planning:
3:45 wake
4:20 leave
5 park in London
5:15 arrive at start
6 start ride

10 pub

Breakfast: 4 Weetabix with honey, coffee, 1 litre of water
Car journey: sip water, protein bar
Before start: banana, flapjack, sip water
First stint: sip Hi5 energy drink
45 minutes in: banana
Second stint: Hi5 energy drink, couple of flapjacks as and when possible
1:30 in: banana
Third stint: start on the gels, every 30 minutes, flapjack as and when, finish Hi5 and start on water
2:15 in: banana
Fourth stint: drink water, eat everything that’s left

Strategy wise I knew I wouldn’t last long with my nose in the wind, but if anyone overtook me I’d try to jump on their wheel and hopefully get a ride to the front of the race group. The day before I got sent a looong message with an analysis of the route, with key points outlined where breaks might try to get away. Whilst interesting, it was of little use to me; I was just going to try to hang on for as long as I could, the fight would be taken to me and not vice versa.

I gave my bike the obligatory once over, cleaned the drivetrain, checked the indexing, got all the bottles ready, kit laid out, the car ready and had an early night. Whilst falling asleep I felt my legs burning from the openers ride I went on earlier – might have been a bit harder than was optimal?

I managed to wake on time. I still wasn’t 100%, but didn’t feel too bad. I followed my planned schedule, getting to the start of the race event bang on time. I saw Dave, Paul and Sonni from Bigfoot who were in A wave. I was in B. The pen system was the usual chaos. People in waves ABC and D all mixed together. I thought about jumping over the barriers to get nearer the front with the Bigfoot boys, but decided to chill and not worry too much about it. I also kept an eye out for Jay who rides with Dulwich Paragon these days, I’d suggested we ride together. Whilst I saw loads of DP riders, I didn’t see the man himself, so I settled for riding freelance and see what happens.

After 45 minutes of standing around getting cold we were finally off. Actually I wasn’t too cold, I had a base layer, arm warmers and my Aerocoach TT overshoes on, so I was just right. The ride started facing into the morning sun, which at 6am was just cresting over the London skyline. You couldn’t see anything past a couple of meters in front of you. “Whose brilliant idea was that?!” – a thought I’d have several times that morning. I put in a bunch of sharp efforts to get up to speed and make up places, and to try to get the blood flowing. After a few minutes I jumped on the wheel of a rather tall looking chap, he was strong and we started motoring past the other weekend warriors. Then 4 or 5 riders from Onyx RT motored past us. I thought that this was my opportunity to get to the front, so accelerated and joined them. They were strong lads, cheers guys if you’re reading this, I was at threshold just sitting on the back there.

Getting out of London was crazy. Blinded by the sun, potholes galore, cones in unexpected places, slower riders veering about, crashes, pinch points, people stopping to piss on the side of the road, concertinaing etc.. “Whose brilliant idea was this?” was the theme of the first 10 miles. I saw two fast crashes where guys rode into traffic cones. The thing is with traffic cones, you can’t see a traffic cone when you’re riding in a group, not until you’re crashing into a traffic cone. “Whose brilliant idea was that?!”.

I made it to the front group safely though, we could see the safety car keeping just ahead. Once the road opened up things were a bit calmer in the bunch. I tried to move up when there were gaps, and didn’t worry about dropping back a bit from time to time. I was probably too far back really, every time something happened at the front the rest of the bunch slowed down and we had to put in a hard acceleration to get back on the wheel. Whilst there were no real climbs on the route, there were some long drags which did pitch up enough to hurt the legs of this slightly fat MAMIL. There was a constant theme, road goes up = VO2 max effort, get to the top and have to brake, everyone shouts in despair, then accelerate back up to speed. Repeat. Another repeating theme was: the rider in front lets the wheel go, James has to close a 10 meter gap just when the peloton is in full flight, get aero sit at +400w until gap is closed, try to recover. You know, good type 2 fun.

After 45 minutes I managed to eat my first banana. I had been drinking a bit, probably not enough, but I wasn’t feeling thirsty. Whilst my body was complaining, and my nose needed regular clearing, I felt good that for once I was on top of the nutrition. I sparked up a few chats with people. I said “I bet it’s brutal on the front?” to one guy. He replied “Yeah, I did a couple of turns. 500w all day mate. Won’t be doing that again.” “Yeah, very wise. I’ll stay here then”.

At the halfway point I was feeling good that I’d kept up thus far. It’d been hard, but my legs had answered all the questions I was asking of them. Now was the journey into the unknown – would I be able to keep this effort going to the end? The journey back should have a tailwind – will this be good or bad? Answer: both.

On the return journey Dave pulled up alongside me. I asked how he was and he showed me his hand, covered in blood. “Anything broken?” I asked. “No, but I’ve got blood all over my white shoes”. Reminded me of my hand when I had a crash in the London Nocturne. I checked later and saw Dave finished with the lead group. Props Dave.

I had the second banana on schedule, and had eaten some flapjack. All good. I was managing to stay with the lead group, and after a while things did calm down for a bit. A break had made it a few seconds up the road. Phew, I’d passed the first test, and if the ride stayed steady for long enough I might just manage to stick with it. It didn’t stay like that for long enough though, the break fell to bits. I found out later that only 5 (one of them Jay) of the 15 were doing any work and people started arguing so they jacked it in. Once the break came back it was full gas on the front again, back to the concertina effect and VO2 max accelerations.

With 100km+ in the legs the accelerations were starting to hurt (more). I could tell the writing was on the wall for me, so damage control was put into action. Drink more, take a gel, let yourself drop back, carry speed where possible, get aero, follow bigger riders. This worked for a while, but with every drag things were getting more testy. After one long drag I got chatting to one of the Onyx guys: “Any more climbs before London”, “No idea mate” (there were).

Finally, at about 130km, after just over 3 hours of “not-racing” the bubble burst part way up a 4km drag. Looking at my stats I spent over 7 minutes with my heart rate over my FTHR of 170bpm. I was cooked. I couldn’t put enough power down to stay with the group. At the same time another guy dropped off the back with me. We tried to keep the race peloton in sight and maybe catch back on on the next descent, but we were both out of matches. So the two of us teamed up for the last 30km back to London. We were both blowing, but still able to push on a bit; I’d depleted my glycogen stores, so was just running on fat (which I have plenty of). I could maintain zone 2 at around 180-220w, and short bursts of sweetspot at ~3.5w/kg. My new teammate was a bigger guy who seemed to be a bit of a diesel. He went quite well on the downhills, and flats. When he started fading I took over and did all the climbing at sweetspot if I could manage it. We chatted a little, it turned out he’d crashed and lost his water bottle on the way out of London. How he’d managed the next 70 miles without water I do not know? He’d also buckled his rear wheel a bit, but was luckily running disc brakes. I still had loads of water, so he had a drink, and I realised I’d probably not drunk enough, or could’ve gotten away with 1kg less on the bike – doah and doah.

I was counting down the KM. Whilst I’d had a blast, the end couldn’t come soon enough. Only so much type 2 fun is enjoyable in one go. Just as we were coming into central London another rider caught us and went past. We both put in an effort to jump on his wheel. He was obviously still feeling good, or at least better than the pair of us. He did sit in for a bit whilst I did a turn on the front. I made sure to say thanks for the tow. “Not far now” he said. The road surface and route back into London raised the “Whose brilliant idea was that?!” thought again and again. Potholes, narrow hairpins, broken glass and all of a sudden unmarshalled pedestrianised areas. I had to take evasive action a few times – once for a guy in a bloody marshal Hi-Viz top who walked out into the road looking the wrong way, #youhadonejob buddy. Another time where the return route came back on the other side of the road to the outbound route, riders coming the other way were on the wrong side of the road, oblivious to the danger – one cone every 5 meters is not enough to deter an idiot from straying from their lane. Coming back into London my GPS lost signal a couple of times, Wahoos suffer with crap GPS line of sight. Going through the tunnels was good fun, we managed to get some speed up. However the dim lighting and wearing shades meant I could barely see, having to trust the lines my cohorts were taking. Bit sketchy. Glad I wasn’t in a large group at this point. I could also taste the diesel particles still thick in the tunnel air, yuck.

The last handful of KM seemed to take an age. The Wahoo went past 160km and still no finish in sight. Finally there was the turn onto the bridge. I’d already decided not to sprint past my riding buddies I was just happy to finish in under 4 hours. I looked over to fist-bump my diesel riding partner but some other guy was there who gave me a fist-bump anyway. I didn’t see my 2up teammate again. He must’ve gone properly pop a couple of KM before the end. If you’re reading this buddy thanks for company.

After the finish I bumped into Jay. Jay and Paul had made it to the sprint at the end – I’m not jealous!! 🙂 I stuck around with the DP guys, drank their beer (cheers again) then found my way home. Parented a bit (made the kids bring me beer), drank beer, soaked in the bath, couldn’t keep my eyes open and fell asleep by 8pm. Slept until the wife’s alarm went off at 7.

Official time 3:54:03
Placing – about 120th?
Average speed:
For the 100 miles 41.3kmh
First 3 hours (until I was dropped) 42.7kmh
Limping in 35.7kmh

Link to Strava activity

Happy with that! But look at those bags, T.I.R.E.D.

Goodbye 2019. Hello 2020!

As an update is well overdue I thought I’d summarise last years cycling and contemplate some goals for 2020.


My main aim for 2019 was to get back into racing crits and TTs. Having bought a TT bike in the winter sales, I wanted to see if I could get PBs on the local TT courses. Hopefully I hadn’t just wasted £650? I had also joined a new club, so was looking forward to racing some crits with some teammates. Ultimately I wanted to score 40 BC points and get my 2nd cat license back, and in the process see if I could win my first crit.

Family commitments over the previous two years meant racing bicycles had to take a back seat for 2017 and 2018. I was back down to 3rd cat after failing to score any points at all in 2018. My fitness wasn’t great to begin with, but to make matters worse I started the year getting “someone please kill me” ill in January/February. Couldn’t have been much worse a start to the season. My first 10 mile TTs in March were road bike only, and unsurprisingly my performances were not worth dwelling on too much, a long 26 and a 24.

In April I was still suffering with illness, but started to get some strength back and gain some fitness later on in the month. I started crit racing in May, leading out a sprint for a club mate I got a 5th and my first BC points. My TT times started to come down too, with a 22:33 at Grain. Perhaps mainly due to the TT bike, this was my fastest 10 mile at this time. I had probably been overreaching because in June I felt like I was going backwards and got ill again. I then had a good July with more TT PBs on two courses. I managed to finally peak in August with more TT improvements, managing my best ever 10 mile time, 20:59 on Q10/19, and two wins at Cyclopark crits. In September, perhaps feeling ever so slightly over confident, I entered a 2/3 road race, and was thoroughly humbled when I was dropped after half an hour. Its going to take a fair amount of work to be on terms with those guys. I’d only managed to get my 35 BC points, so entered one last crit at Lee Valley. Feeling much more at home I managed to control the race from the front. Playing it safe I came away with 3rd and enough points for my licence upgrade.

So pretty much all my 2019 targets met. Apart from one – no 25 mile TT PB. I did enter a 25, but the event was cancelled. With the form I was in, and a proper TT bike, getting a 25 mile PB would have been just a formality, one for next/this year.

A pretty successful year, and to top it all off I landed a couple of awards from my new club, the evening 10 TT cup and a club shield, both dating back 70 years! Riding with the Gemini boys was great last year, having friendly faces at most of the crits and TTs I rode was super cool. And the kit is the best one around.


On to 2020, and main goals are more of the same really. I never thought I’d be able to before my 2019 season, but would love to go under 20 minutes on a 10. With better equipment (have better wheels and skinsuit on order), a better start to the season, a bit of structured training, and a decent nights sleep I think I should be able to do it. I reckon I should be able to go under 55 on a 25 too, and would love to go under 50 one day. Previously I’ve managed 58 mins, twice on a road bike.

Crit-wise I’d like to see if I can get the 25 points needed to keep my 2nd cat license. Getting a win at E12 level might be a bridge too far. I can but dream, it’s something to aim for.

I have entered the Kentish Killer again (why do I do these things to myself!?), so would like to PB that. But really I want to “win” it. I was 11th in 2019 coming straight back from illness. This means that I need to stay healthy through January and February for once.

After watching a couple of YouTube vlogs about it I quite fancied the Brands Hatch Revolve 24 hour race. But looks like its not going ahead this year. Sad face. So will be on the lookout for something else to do. I might do a Chase The Sun, or something like that.

I’m toying with having a go at the Kent Cycling Association Best All Rounder competition, which includes 25, 50 and 100 mile TTs and then a 12 hour TT in September.. Will have to see how the season unfolds, lots of work ahead.

Gemini BC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This means there will be some special rides planned, and we might be hosting a race. So that’s something else to look forward to. And I’m looking forward to the new 50th anniversary kit too. Watch this space.

Cyclopark Summer Series #18, Cat 3/4, 29-08-2019

Leading up to this race I’d been enjoying some good form. I’d placed in the top ten in my previous four races and managed some 10 mile TT PBs. However, 2 nights prior I’d raced a TT and afterwards had been bitten by some monster mosquitos all over my arms and legs. I felt like a pile of poop the next day. I sacked off the Bexley hillclimb I’d planned to go to that evening, opting to go to bed super early instead. I still wasn’t feeling right the next morning, almost opted to drive to work, but thought I’d ride just to see if racing seemed on the cards. I felt fuzzy on the ride in, did a days IT consulting, and still felt crap when 5:30 came. I’d have gone straight home and rested up if this race had been at the start of the season, but seeing as it was the last one of the series I thought I’d see how I felt on the ride to the Cyclopark. I took it easy on the way, but still felt crap and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to race. Throwing caution to the wind, I entered anyway. I sent the Directeur Sportive a message saying I could well be home early as I might get dropped on the first lap. Had an emergency coffee, ate a banana and hoped for the best.

Although I didn’t have any Gemini team mates for this one, Gary from my “other/old” club Bigfoot was racing again. Typical, I joined Gemini so I’d have people to race with, but the regular crit racers are all 2nd cats now! For instance Tony from Gemini was also racing, but in the 1-2 race. This season I’ve come to know a few of the regular Cyclopark racers, and there were a some friendly faces racing. Then there were also a couple of guys who I would much rather finish in front of than behind.. Gary and I had a chat and planned to wait until 30 minutes into the race, then try to get away out of the hairpin and 2up to the end..

The cards were set, 37 starters, should be a good race, if I didn’t blow up.

The start of the race was pretty relaxed which I was grateful for. A few early attacks were quickly reeled in. After 10 minutes I started feeling a lot better, and decided to take to the front at a few key corners in order to string out the bunch and make everyone work a bit.

After a couple of laps I realised that I was doing too much on the front again, so sat up and let the bunch pass me. Just as this happened the shouts to let the 2nd cats come through on the right started. Two riders from Richardsons-Trek went past us as if they were out on a Sunday cafe ride. A junior from the 3-4s almost took them out at the hairpin, and then tried to get a tow from them. Kids huh?! I was still sitting in half a lap later when a decent sized group of about 6-8 riders, including Gary, broke off the front. Just as they did the main 2nd cat peloton caught us. Chaos ensued. This looked bad. As Gary had made the split I’d have nobody to share the effort of a chase with. We were forced to slow down to let the 2nds through just as the break was getting away. Nothing I could do other than wait. Once the 2nds were through we chased, a couple of 3-4s cheekily got tows from the back of the 2nds peloton but were shouted at to stop. Going up the finish straight we did manage to catch the 3-4 break who had also been forced to sit up to let the 2nds through.

30 minutes was now approaching and I found myself on the front going up the finish straight. Coming up to the hairpin I put in a dig so that I was on the front going into it, took the faster wider line and then put in another big dig on the climb out of it. I looked back and had managed to gap the field. Gary was putting an effort in to join me. I throttled back a touch to let Gary catch me up, he went past me and towed me down the back straight at full gas. I took the front again approaching the left hander and took it as fast as I could. I checked my shoulder and the bunch had managed to catch us. They weren’t letting us go that easily, but that acceleration must’ve hurt everyone.

So that was that, and coming up to the start finish line the 3 laps to go board was out. I tried to recover a bit, but the attacks started coming. I jumped on the wheel of a couple of breaks on the penultimate lap, which warmed my legs up. Coming out of the hairpin I found myself in 2nd wheel, the guy on the front suddenly decided he didn’t want to be there and flicked his elbow. He obviosuly didn’t like it when I said “Sorry mate, you can stay there”, he jabbed his breaks, almost causing a pile up. If I get my 40 points I won’t miss riding with him next season. A couple of guys then attacked, I was still recovering and had to let them go. Then one more went and the chase started. I jumped into somewhere about tenth wheel and followed.

We managed to catch one of the three guys up the road at the start of the last lap, but two still had a gap of about 50 meters. I was wondering if we’d manage to catch them. Thankfully the guys on the front were keen enough to chase. Going down the back straight I tried to control my breathing and get as much oxygen in my blood as possible. Going into the last bend I was about 5th wheel and feeling decent. The two riders who were out the front were now only 20 meters or so ahead, we were catching them at a rate of knots, and hadn’t even started our sprint yet. I decided not to wait this time, kicked up the steepest part of the straight, then flicked up two gears and pulled the trigger as soon as the road flattened out a bit. I went just at the right time, passing all the riders in the front of the bunch. I took the front just as we were catching the two breakaway riders at the point where the track bends slightly to the left. They were taking the racing line cutting accross the circuit to the left. Fair enough, but they’d got in the path of a peloton in full sprint, eeek! Heart in mouth I shouted “HOLD YOUR LINE!!!”. I just about managed to miss riding into the back of them, and they didn’t change direction again so I managed to go around them to the right. I continued to drift to the right of the circuit, and took a quick glance over my left shoulder, half expecting to see a group coming past me. But nothing! I emptied the tank all the way to the line and took the win, with Gary taking second place just behind me. Then collapsed in a heap on the grass.

Glad I decided to race!

Strava link

Sprinting on the hoods


Decent gap though

Cyclopark win 2


Crits at the Park #8, Cat 3/4, 3/8/2019

In the morning I was lucky enough to have a lie in. With 3 small children this is a rarity, and was very much needed. But upon finally getting up I was unsure of how I was feeling. My legs felt tired following 2 evening TTs during the week, but I wasn’t fatigued as I had knocked back the volume of my riding. After a relaxing start to the day, and one too many pancakes, I got to the Cyclopark and signed on. I was putting my number on when one of my cycling buddies Neil came over to say hello. I was really glad to see him racing. We’d been on a few rides together, but although we had talked about it in the past, we had never raced before. James Drain from Gemini then turned up too, always good to have a couple of friends racing with you.

The race track took ages to clear, so all we got was one warm up lap. Some guys had been warming up on turbos and rollers, but the weather was warm, and I’d ridden to the circuit, so I wasn’t too worried about my lack of prep. I knew Neil would work with me to bring back an early attacks should any get away too.

The race started at an easy enough pace. A couple of people tried to break away in the first lap which amounted to nothing – maybe they needed to warm up more 😉 My buddy Neil then took to the front and took control, I rode up alongside him and he told me to go for it. I put in a very soft attack and surprisingly found myself with a gap. I didn’t fancy 50 minutes solo, so after a lap off the front I sat up. Just as I was caught I felt like I’d warmed up all of a sudden, so after the hairpin I put in a more concerted attack and spent a further two laps off the front. I waited for someone to bridge to me but nobody did. As my average speed didn’t seem too great I sat up, recovered, and let myself get caught. After that I sat on Neil’s wheel as much as possible. For a lot of the race Neil was on the front and I was in second wheel. Neil was able to sustain long efforts at just the right intensity – easy enough not to hurt me, but hard enough to put off any attacks. He’d also ramp up the power really smoothly which suited me and helped save my legs. After my solo adventures early in the race I thought it best to sit in and wait for the sprint and tried to avoid going into the red. I was still doing some work on the front, but after a few turns Neil suggested I’d be better saving my legs for the sprint. I agreed so stopped with the heroics. Everyone else seemed happy to chase all attacks, so a sprint was very likely. With 3 to go people started trying to get nearer the front, and I decided to let them whilst recovering as much energy as I could. I drank the last dregs of my water, but was still very thirsty, not long to go now though, should be OK. I continued to sit in with 2 to go, and at the start of the bell lap I started making my way back to the front. Going round the hairpin I took the wide line which let’s you carry more speed, then gave it a good dig up the little rise coming out of it. I went past a few people but then the guys on the front sat up and moved over blocking any attacks. I had nowhere to go. Not to worry, I saw Neil further up the bunch thought I’d try to make it to his wheel when I could. Going into the bottom of the circuit I’d managed to get to the top 10 and that let me take the racing line around the bends, carrying more speed and saving energy. Heading up the finish straight I found myself stuck behind a few riders as a bunch of people ramped up the speed on the right going past me. I managed to find some space to the left just as the sprint kicked, I started my sprint just over 50m from the line and in about 20th place. This was all new to me, usually I like to pull the trigger much earlier from the front of the bunch. It was a big bunch and I was quite far back. I thought I’d left it too late. To my amazement, however, I started overtaking people and had the left half of the track all to myself. I knew that the finish line was a little further up the track than everyone thinks and I saw I was catching 1st place so utterly buried myself, my back wheel bouncing in the air with every pedal stroke, heart rate redlining at 189bpm, speed over 50kph, and nudged into the lead just as we got to the line.

I knew I’d taken the win and managed to punch the air with my puny cyclist arm. After years of trying, I’d finally gone and won a crit!

During the warm down lap and after the race a few other riders came to congratulate me which was awesome. My wife and kids had come to watch and were at the finish line when I rolled off the track, but it turned out that they had missed the sprint.. They hadn’t got a clue that I’d won!! Luckily Luke from Gemini was there with his family watching and had filmed it, thanks again Luke.

I went got my winnings and treated everyone to some cake and tea from the cafe. Then Corben asked to ride home with me which was the highlight of my day 😀

Strava activity link

Kentish Killer 2019

It was November 2018. Having not raced properly for over a year I needed a goal to aim for. The KK mailshot e-mail arrived in my mailbox and I thought that it was a good idea to enter?! My work colleagues Ian and Phil decided to enter too, it was to be their first sportive – what a one to pick!

I’d ridden the KK twice before. I’d entered in 2015 when I first moved to rural Kent, and rode it again in 2016. So I knew that it was a tough ride and that the weather was likely to be bad. Not only was I younger back in 2015 and 2016, but I was also a bit fitter as I had a 50 mile commute which I did a few times a week. Both years I’d managed to complete the course in 4 hours 18 minutes, which was good for a “gold award” time. This time I really wanted to get that platinum award, and now in my 40s the platinum time cut off is 4:15 – so a PB should seal the deal. Actually, I really wanted to “win” the thing and do it under 4 hours. You’ve got to aim high after all.

I’d kept my riding going a bit through December, and was just starting to ramp it up again in January when I got REALLY ill. I was out of action for two weeks. This left me with about one month to resurrect some sort of fitness for the KK. I figured I would do a 3 week training block with one week of rest before the event.

KK training graph 2


On the day of the event we were blessed with storm Freya, i.e. high winds and rain. The organisers had a time cut off at the point where the long and short routes split – anyone arriving after the cut off would have to do the short route in order to avoid the worst of the storm.

I rode to Brands Hatch with Andy, into the wind and rain. I took it easy, but this meant I was cold at the start. We arrived and got our pack and applied our timing chips and frame numbers. I met up with Ian, who had done almost no training at all for the event(!), and Andy met up with his friend, Matt. We rolled up to the start and after a brief wait we were off. We rolled out of Brands Hatch and up Fawkham Road, I looked around for Ian, but he was nowhere to be seen. Off the back from the start – it was going to be a long day for him!

Andy, Matt and myself pushed on. The road surface became quite muddy up St Clare Hill Road and we got held up by a couple of cars. By the descent of Exedown we’d lost Andy. I held back going downhill, and was on the breaks all the way down. I knew the crosswind would be dangerous in the fast exposed section, but this didn’t perturb a group of 5 or 6 other riders who overtook me at speed. Nutters. As the road flattened out Matt and myself caught and passed the group of fast descenders and thankfully I didn’t see them again.

Carters Hill

After this I settled into a comfortable pace and chatted a bit to Matt. Bates Hill wasn’t too bad, we pushed it a little but its only short so I managed to keep my Heart Rate below threshold. The first big climb on the ride is Carters Hill. I’d gone up Carters a couple of weeks before with Phil, so it was fresh in my mind. I warned Matt that it was a tough one, but just as the gradient ramped up he started pulling away from me. “Blimey” I thought! I didn’t panic and tried to keep up with Matt whilst I controlled my breathing. About halfway up my legs woke up a bit, I started reeling Matt in, and near the top I was able to sit down and spin past him and carried some speed into the flat bit at the top. Phew!

Soon after Carters is a descent down the A225 out of Sevenoaks. Again I was on the breaks all the way down, but even so the strong crosswind made it sketchy AF.

Hubbards Hill

Horrible Hubbards isn’t all that bad. The gradient is much more gentle than Carters for starters. There is a long stretch that goes over the motorway which I guess could be quite daunting if you’re already suffering. I however quite enjoyed overtaking a few weekend warriors whilst sat down and chatting to Matt. ;-p

After Hubbards the terrain is rolling, but the wind and rain made it hard going. I’d been drenched for a while and I’d lost feeling in my toes. Only one thing for it – try harder! Matt decided to stop at the long/short route split and wait for Andy, so I cracked on solo.

Around Groombridge there is a little descent with a junction / right hand turn at the bottom. Going into the junction a cyclist in front of me took a sketchy wide line, I went past him and he jumped on my wheel. The two of us were joined by another chap for a while, but he soon dropped off. I got chatting to my new riding partner, another cycling dad! We were pretty evenly matched, but he seemed to be a better climber than me and I could pull harder on the flat sections.

The absolute worst of the weather hit us in a valley where the crosswinds blasted us from right to left. We’d been carrying some speed on the descent into the bottom of the valley, so it was another super sketchy moment. It was at this point I passed Steve from Gravesend CC. I shouted “Alright Steve?” but the wind was gusting so loudly and the rain was lashing that he didn’t hear nor see me – even though I was only one meter away! I was actually glad when the road ramped up the other side of the valley as it provided some shelter.

Ashdown Forrest

Riding up Church Hill in Ashdown I let my new friend take the front and pace me up, he did such a good job I felt unable to come past him. Towards the top of the climb I regained a bit of strength so took a turn on the front and quickly dropped my companion. Realising my error I throttled back to let him jump back on my wheel. In my defense I’d found the effort up the hill pretty hard all the way, my legs were suffering a bit, so when I took the front I just tried to maintain the same perceived effort – could’ve done with a power meter I guess.

At the top of the hill the course turns right, and for the first time that day we were gifted a tailwind – woo hoo!!! I took the front as the wind blew us along the flat and down the descent. We couldn’t capitalise fully on the wind and downhill though as the wet road meant we were on the brakes a lot of the time. It was a welcome break from the wind and climbing, but it meant that I started to feel cold again.

The terrain was rolling again, I took the front and pushed on in an attempt to get some heat in my limbs. I also wanted to bring the average speed up a bit, time to crack on. My new riding buddy had saddle bag issues which meant we had to slow and stop a couple of times, but despite this we’d bought the average up by 1kmh by the bottom of Ide Hill.

Ide Hill

I’d fully cooked my legs leading up to Ide Hill, so had to let my riding partner go up the road a bit when the road first pitched up. After I’d let him go I found my second wind (probably tenth wind by now TBH) and maintained the gap for the second half of the climb. Going around the feed station at Ide Hill he peeled off and stopped, but I carried on solo and decided to bury myself the rest of the ride. I caught and passed a couple of others going down Ide hill on the north side, but then got caught at the traffic lights where the guys I’d just passed caught me up again. I decided to eat some food and took it easy for a bit leading up to Sundridge Hill, letting one of the other guys go up the road.

Sundridge Hill

The wind picked up leading up to Sundridge Hill, blowing from left to right it made progress tough, again. Seeking cover, I jumped on the wheel of another rider. At the start of the climb he rode away from me, but when I got in my rhythm I caught and passed him. It hurt. Halfway up the climb I saw Ian up the road, walking his bike. He’d not made the time cut off so was diverted on the short route. I think I said something to him, but I was hypoxic, so I don’t remember TBH. The climb is a real brute, but I actually quite enjoyed it.

At the top of the hill I was feeling good – I adopted TT position and put the hammer down, what was left of it anyway! Looking at my computer I had half an hour to get to the finish in order to make the 4:15 Platinum time. I mentally broke the rest of the ride down into three ten minute chunks: if I could get to Otford in ten minutes, then make it over Row Dow and Tinkerpot in the next ten, then that would leave me ten minutes to get to the end. My guestimations were well off, but I find putting in a hard effort much easier if I break it down. The best bit of the ride happened as I was blasting past a couple of guys in TT position on Knockholt Road at 40+kph. I heard one of them saying to the other “fuck that” 😀 This was closely followed by the scariest bit of the ride where the crosswind almost blew me into the curb at the top of Pollhill. As promised the weather was worsening and I was glad to be nearly done.

Row Dow

I actually made it to the bottom of Row Dow in about 20 minutes. I knew that it’d take me longer than 10 minutes to get to the finish line from there, but I gave it a go anyway. I find Row Dow hard at the best of times, so with over 4 hours in my legs, and after a hard effort, it was all I could do to crawl up it. I still managed to catch and pass a couple of people, but I reckon I was hurting just as much, if not more than they were. In previous years I’d suffered cramp at this point, but no cramp today thankfully.

When the road flattened out I was able to get back up to speed again. Maybe its psychological, when my legs are cooked I can still push on on the flats and descents but I lose the ability to climb? I caught and got held up behind a couple of riders on the next downhill, but made it past them before the road went up for the last time.


I’d caught another group of riders at Tinkerpot and made my way past them all as I summoned the last of my reserves and, knowing it was only a short climb, I refused to drop to my smallest gear. Having other riders up the road sparks my competitive spirit and must give me a burst of adrenaline, or some such?

Finally all the climbing was done. I tucked down again and emptied the tank to the finish, reaching my maximum speed of the day on the descent down Fawkham Road. Upon finishing I wasn’t sure if I’d made the Platinum time cut or not. It was tight, but I had missed out by two minutes. Happily, I’d beat my PB by one minute though.

Being caught up in traffic, traffic lights and stopping to wait for people maybe accounted for over two minutes? Oh well. The weather certainly didn’t help either. I finished 11th on the day, which, given my circumstances leading up the day, I am really happy with.

Kentish Killer official time

I then waited at the Kentagon for everyone else to finish and to swap war stories. After several free coffees later I rode my bike home to make it 134km for the day where I spent at least an hour in the bath.

Link to Strava

Chilham Castle sprint duathlon 14-10-18

Kerridge KillersWaffle

I’ve not been racing much this year. My wife and I had our third child back in December, we had a baby girl who is very cute, and a massive distraction from cycling.

I also started a new job, which is going so well that a group of my work colleagues (Stewart, Phil and Ian) and I decided it’d be a good idea (!?) to enter a multisport event together. The original idea was to give triathlon a go. However, it was the wrong season for giving tri-a-try. I remembered that one of my Bigfoot club mates had had some success at duathlon, so I suggested this might be a more accessible stepping stone from which to dip our toes. The four of us took the plunge, and entered the Chilham Castle duathlon. Only 6 weeks away, it was enough time to prepare a little, but not too far off in the future so as to lose focus. Ian and Phil had to acquire road bikes and I had to buy some running shoes having not run in over a decade. I was not-so-quietly confident that I would boss the bike leg, but knew there was a massive disparity between my running and cycling abilities. Better do some training.


A week later, thanks to Phil, I got a half price discount on a proper pair of running shoes. I discovered that running generally sucks, especially if you’re a cyclist with massive cycling muscles, a half decent cardiovascular system, puny running muscles and awful or no running technique. I found that I had quite the capacity to destroy my legs on pretty much every training run. After three weeks training and three weeks to the event I decided to have a race distance dress rehearsal. It wasn’t too bad, but instead of being happy with my progress and letting my body recover I then went for another run the next day. Bad move. My legs did not like this abuse one little bit and I was put out of action for over a week. Then, when I should have put in a bit more training, my busy life meant I was either away from home on business, or too tired. I did at least manage to stop myself from over compensating in the week before the event and managed to do something along the lines of a taper.

Race day

I woke up an hour before my alarm at 4am. Knowing I’d not be able to fall asleep again I got up soon after and made coffee. Stewart picked me up just before 6am. During our journey there the heavens opened. The forecast had been for rain but I was obviously hoping it’d stay dry. Thankfully the rain stopped as abruptly as it’d started, and as we arrived at Chilham Castle the sun was starting to rise on a beautiful morning. The cross country terrain we’d be running on was pretty damp from the morning dew, but the road was dry. There was a slight wind blowing to the east, but nothing to worry about. Almost perfect conditions.

We went and got our race packs and stuck our numbers on our bikes and helmets. I then went for a solo warm up ride and recce up Molash hill. The driveway out to the road was gravelly and treacherous. On the road, I made a note to take it easy past the flattened fox and field of sheep so I didn’t implode on the steep bit of the climb. The climb up the driveway at the end of the ride was going to be tough too. I racked up my bike, drank some water and told the others about the fox.

To the start

The fastest group of 10 runners formed straight away. I thought about seeing if I could keep up with them, but opted to keep pace with a couple of guys nearer my level. We kept the fast group in sight up the climb, but they steadily increased the gap. My body wasn’t enjoying the run very much. To get through it I mentally broke it into chunks – 2.5k you’re halfway, 4k just one more to go etc (cruelly the 4k marker board only came after 4.3k so I had to repeat the only one kilometer to go internal monologue, but this time with more swearing). During the run every time I looked at my HR it was at 180bpm. The last time I tested my FTHR was 169, and my max about 182. There’s no way I could maintain 180 for the whole race, so I made a conscious effort to slow down a bit, but my HR average was still on the high side.

The respite of T1 was a bit too welcome, which reflects in my slow transition time. I lost a minute to the people around me in both transitions. Where the fastest guys took just 30 seconds to put their helmet on and pick up their bikes I was taking one and a half to change shoes, drink some water and regain some of the use of my hypoxic brain. Should’ve bought those elastic laces.

Jumping on my bike was a massive relief. This was the moment I had been looking forward to for 6 weeks. I was in 11th place, time to sort that out. I safely descended down the shocking drive and on to the road. I spent a few seconds spinning the legs to see how they were and let them recover from the run, then gently ramped up the power. The climb up to Challock was great fun as I overtook cyclist after cyclist. I was conscious that I still had another run to do, so held back from giving it the full beans that I would have if it was a cycling time trial. Approaching the first turn around I counted 3 people coming the other way with one other just ahead of me. The guy in the lead was probably too far up the road to catch now, but thought I might still have a chance for a podium place. 4th place guy made it round the roundabout a few seconds ahead of me, seeing me so close to him seemed to spur him on and he increased the gap. I ramped up my effort and started reeling him in again. I went past him about halfway down the hill whilst also seeing my friends going the other way, still gurning their way up the climb. Phil on his borrowed bike was in the lead, then Ian on his new road bike closely followed by Stewart on his homemade TT bike. At the bottom of the descent the terrain is rolling. As I tried to carry my speed up the inclines I felt the twinges of cramp in my calves. On the flat section heading to the second roundabout I tried to measure my effort to avoid cramp, and drank the rest of my water and lightly salted water/OJ mix. Approaching the second roundabout I saw that the gap to third place had come down to under a minute, a podium might still be possible. I made it to the roundabout and took a fast line around it making use of the drops on my road bike, but when I went to start pedaling again my left leg seized in a very painful spasm. I tried pedaling through it but it wouldn’t release and hurt so much I almost crashed into the curb. Nothing else for it, I had to stop and stretch. Just as I stopped another rider went past the other way. A few seconds later he’d made it around the roundabout and took 4th place from me. As soon as the pain went and my leg would move I started pedaling again and felt OK, but still on the verge of cramping again. I’d lost about a minute. Quickly I caught up the rider who’d just passed me and regained 4th. I limped back to the castle, again passing my friends going the other way who looked in just as much pain as me. Making use of his aero TT position on his bike Stewart had overtaken Ian and was making headway into the large gap up to Phil.

I just about made it up the steep and potholed drive and on to T2. Whilst I was slowly changing my shoes I lost my 4th place to the rider I’d yo-yod on the ride. I knew that the hardest part of the race was the start of the second run so I probably wouldn’t be catching the 4th place. Feeling more twinges of cramp I went into a damage limitation pace. I didn’t dare look back and tried to keep 4th place in sight, just in case he started walking. After a kilometer it was actually me who needed to have a little walk. After 10 or 20 seconds I regained my composure and managed to get the legs moving again. I even managed to pass some runners who were doing the 10km running race. A couple of hundred meters before the finish line the course goes up a slight incline and it was at this point I became aware of some heavy breathing getting closer behind me – someone was catching me up! I wasn’t about to let myself be overtaken in the finishing straight, so I dug extra deep and upped my pace. HR at the highest its been all year (188), and my pain level well over any sort of threshold, I crossed the line in 5th. All I wanted to do was collapse on the floor, but the collapse had to wait as I had to stumble around whilst someone put a finishers medal over my head.

It took me a little while to recover, and then spent a few minutes chatting to the other finishers. I got to cheer my friends from work on as they started their second run, then again as they all finished not too much after that. Shouting mild abuse at your friends as they are suffering is so much fun.

I managed to finish in 5th place overall in 1:30:48, Phil was 1:46:27, Stewart and Ian both managed to come in in less than two hours 1:55:28 for Stew and 1:58:01 for Ian. I won my age category, which considering it being my first duathlon I am very happy about, although the chap who beat me for 4th overall is older so props to him. Hopefully I’ll get some more training in before the next one, plenty of room for improvement – especially with my running and transitions.

Link to first run leg

Link to bike leg

Link to run leg 2

Beer 3

Tour Of Sussex 2017

I entered the ToS back in April. Bill sent a group e-mail out and, feeling like I’d been slacking recently and therefore needed a challenge, jumped at it. When I looked at the parcours: two time trials, a crit and two road races; I thought that it kinda suited me. I’m not great at road races, especially hilly ones, but was up for the pushing myself. The two TTs and crit would mean that I wouldn’t make a complete fool of myself. However, when the organisers announced that the first stage was in fact a hill climb up Ditchling Beacon I wasn’t very happy…

Leading up to the Tour I tried to ramp up the training as much as family and work commitments allowed – i.e. probably not enough, but it’d have to do. I’d also volunteered for some more HIIT lab testing at the university, which helped a fair bit. I managed to lose about 5kg of weight, which got me down to 70kgs, but could’ve done with losing a couple more TBH.

The weekend before the start disaster struck – I was out with another Bigfoot rider on the Sunday when my BMC SLR01 disintegrated. I had been travelling at 45kmh downhill when the rear dropout failed sending my rear derailleur into my rear wheel. I stayed upright but the bike was toast. I was going to have to use my trusty old Felt, which needed some serious TLC. So I got home that day and spent the afternoon changing cables and regreasing the headset. Luckily a couple of days before the ToS the wheels I’d won coming second at the Rapha London Nocturne turned up, so I put some new tyres, latex tubes and a new cassette on them. The Felt was like new again, again. I was going to miss the 11 speed DI2 and power meter though.


The stage was only very short, but a brutal climb to be racing up. I got to the HQ nice and early and waited for Bill. Earlier in the day we’d learned that Dave wasn’t going to be able to make the race. I was particularly gutted as Dave is more my sort of build, unlike Bill and Richard who are both skinny hill climbers. I went for a warm up with Rich and Bill up the Beacon. Their warm up pace was close to my limit and my heart rate was maxing out just trying to keep up with them. This isn’t looking good, what am I doing here?!

I was to set off after Rich and Bill. there’d be no chance of catching them whatsoever, but at least Dave not being there meant the next rider behind me would start 2 minutes after me, so I *should* be able to not get caught. The first part of the course was a false flat, which invited one to blast up it into the climb. If I’d done that I’d be in the red as soon as the gradient kicked up properly. I went at about 80%, which combined with the slight gradient and headwind, felt very slow for a TT. I managed to keep my cadence and breathing under control for the first half of the climb. When I started to feel the lactate build up in my body I panicked and decided it’d be a good idea to push harder. So I gave it the beans and went deep into the reserves. Bad move. I was already in the red and now both my legs and lungs were begging me to stop. Going round the next bend I realised that I still had a way to go yet. The urge to stop was very close to overwhelming, and I was worried I might literally explode. But the shame of stopping would’ve felt worse, so I dug deeper and kept going. There were a few people dotted up the ride cheering us on, nearing the end of the climb this gave me the boost I needed. I rolled over the finish line and up to a grass bank where I collapsed, still clipped in, panting to try and get some oxygen into my blood. My heart rate had been over 180bpm for a few minutes there – I needed a lie down!!!

Got the results later on, 56th (out of 79), very happy not to be last. Rich and Bill both managed to place in the top 10, 5th and 6th I think – impressive stuff!

That night I was staying at my brothers place in Brighton. I’d figured that recovery after each stage was going to be key. As the next days racing was near Chichester staying in Brighton meant about 2 hours less travel and more sleep. We ate a curry and I went to bed reasonably early. It was a hot night, and sleeping on the floor wasn’t very comfortable TBH, but it was probably better than two long drives and a night being woken up by the kids.


Stage 2 – Team Time Trial

This was the stage we were going to miss Dave the most. Every other team had 4 riders and could afford to lose or sacrifice one along the route as the teams time would be measured on the 3rd man over the line. The route was 1km of flat, followed with about 5 or so km of climbing, a bit of flat then 4km of straight flat out descent. On the warm up I suggested that the best thing we could do would be for me to do the first flat bit, then Bill and Rich to 2up the climb whilst I tried to hang on in their slipstream, then I drill it on the downhill as hard as I could. Given the circumstances it was the best plan we could come up with, and we executed it pretty well too. I put in a measured effort on the flat, hitting about 45kmh. Then my heart rate dipped into the red a bit keeping up with the other two up the climb. Going up the climb we had to slow twice, once for an oncoming tractor and then a post office van decided to do a three point turn just in front of us too. Neither time did we have to stop, but did check the brakes and freewheeled a bit. Toward the top I started feeling good, put in a quick turn on the flat at the top, then sat back in. Approaching the junction at the top of the descent a little red car overtook us then slowed us up. Rich went to overtake, but then the driver floored it away from us. I then took the lead position and drilled my hardest gear until I was spinning out, tucked for a bit, then drilled 120rpm down the hill. I started blowing a bit near the bottom, again my heart rate had been over 180bpm for a minute or so, I flicked my elbow for someone else to take a turn. Rich said he tried to go around me, but couldn’t. I then found a bit more puff and managed to keep the momentum going to the line. We weren’t last, and were under a minute down on the fastest time, but only about 30 seconds down on second place – so the damage limitation plan was a success.


Stage 3 – Circuit race around Goodwood

I wasn’t sure how I’d do considering a) the previous two stages had seen me maxing my CV system out hard and b) it was longer than the usual 1 hour crits I am used to. But, crits do suit me, so I was looking forward to this one. Again, I was going to miss Dave as I was hoping I’d get a lead out train from my team mates and maybe contend the sprint. After the TTT in the morning I spent most of the afternoon lying down and stretching. I tried to eat as much as I could too, but was finding this hard due to a mix of fatigue, it being a hot day and nerves.

The pace was FAST, averaged about 45kmh. However, most of the race felt quite easy and was pretty uneventful. Only once or twice did the effort feel like the crits I’m used to at the Cyclopark. There were a few breaks, and at one point all three of the Bigfoot team were in one, we got reeled in quite quickly though! One break (of about 6 guys?) did keep away, the peloton put in an effort to chase them but it was too late. In the last lap I tried to move up, but every time I did I was muscled out of a good position. I put in a halfhearted sprint, and finished in the bunch somewhere, maybe in the top 20-30? In the end I led Bill out over the line.

After the race Bill and I convoyed in our cars homewards. When I got home I ate a big bowl of spaghetti and used my massaging pillow on my legs. Was good to sleep in my own bed. The kids did wake me up in the morning, but I got just enough sleep. Woke up feeling OK, but could certainly feel that the legs had been racing.


Stage 4 – Ladies Mile Road Race

The two road races were going to be the real tests for me. Neither were flat. The Ladies Mile circuit consists of a climb, a descent and a lump. My plan for the race was to stick in the bunch, do as little work as possible, drink and eat as much as possible when I could and avoid getting cramp. That’s what I did. After about an hour of racing I seriously thought I’d not be able to finish, I was finding it very hard work. But I kept telling myself that it was the same for everyone else, don’t worry about what might happen in an hours time, just concentrate on what’s going on NOW. There were quite a few potholes on the climb, so I made an effort to get in a position in the bunch that helped me avoid them. I also worked out where the wind was blowing from and made sure I was sheltered from it. This seemed to make a difference and I started to feel better.

At some point a break got away. After 2 hours of racing I realised that I was going to make it to the finish. As soon as I stopped worrying about not making it I felt so much better – PMA! On the last lap the pace picked up a bit and we went past a couple of riders who’d been dropped from the break. I was still worried about making it up the last climb so was measuring my effort. I managed to keep up with the bunch and on the last climb I was so surprised to see the finish line whilst I went past other riders I thought that it can’t be the actual finish so I never actually pulled the trigger, and went over the line feeling like I missed a chance of making up more time. Despite this I was still really happy that I’d finished strong.

After the race I drove to my mums house to spend the afternoon and sleep over. My body was feeling very achy by now. I ate very well, had a soak in the bath and an early night. I felt a lot better after a decent nights sleep. Was missing the kids though.


Stage 5 – Beachy Head Road Race

This was always going to be the real test for me. The climb on the BH circuit isn’t very steep, but it is long and the wind does make it harder. The day of the race was pretty still, but there was still a slight headwind on the climb. It was a very hot day, and keeping hydrated was going to be tough. I had two 800ml bottles to last the 3+hrs, I was hoping it’d be enough. Lots of other riders had people handing them bottles at the feed station at the top of the climb. This meant I was lugging the best part of 1KG more than these guys up Beachy Head for over half the race, as well as this my bike probably weighed a kilo more than most of the competition and I probably weighed 10-15kg more than most of the other riders too! I was still going to do my best to finish though.

The race started with a climb out of Eastbourne up a reasonably steep set of hairpins. I was almost out of the race straight away when my chain came off and wouldn’t go back on. I was off the back of the peloton at the point when Rich and Bill decided to attack everybody. Cheers guys! I got my chain back on and BURIED myself to get back to the bunch. Phew, I made it! I was hanging on for the first lap and was near the back of the peloton when it split going up the first climb. There were gaps all over the place in front of me. Great, that’s the race over before its really begun.

A groupetto formed from all the dropped riders and we got organised. We drilled through and off for something like 3 laps and slowly reeled the peloton back in. We eventually caught back on the back of the peloton at the start of the climb – well done lads! We were now about halfway through the race and I was thinking that I might actually make it to the finish. However, another attack soon broke the peloton to pieces again and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time – i.e. the back. I spent a lap tying to chase back on thinking that I might catch another dropped rider or three and then somehow make the bridge back to the peloton. But I didn’t see anyone else in front of me so I decided to take the next climb easy and maybe a groupetto would catch me up, it didn’t. However at the top of the climb there was one rider waiting on the line and he jumped on my wheel and we rode 2up for two laps. With 1 lap to go my legs were in bits and I called it quits. A few minutes later the lead riders made it to the finish, Rich had been in the break made it home in second place, well done Rich! Bills legs had given up on the last climb, but he made it to the finish – chapeau Bill.


Final thoughts

It was never going to be my race, but I’m happy I did as well as I did. I learnt a bit more about what my body is capable of, had fun doing so and got to know a few of my fellow racers a bit better. Not sure if I will do this race again, if I do I will need to lose some serious weight and train more – don’t know if I can fit both these things into my life TBH. Maybe I’ll stick to the local crits and TTs from now on – oh and I have the Pru to win in a couple of weeks too 🙂

London Nocturne, Masters race 10/6/17

The waffle

When I entered this race back in April I thought I was just applying for entry, and that I probably wouldn’t be accepted as it was a fairly prestigious event. I then didn’t think any more about it until about a week to go, when I realised it was looming and that I was all signed up. I was woefully under prepared. I had taken part in one crit at the Cyclopark a couple of weeks previously, but that was it. I had been caught out at the back when the peloton split and didn’t manage to get back on, so it didn’t go too well! So my main aim for the Nocturne was just to finish. And not crash. Actually my main aim was just not to crash…

In the days leading up to the race I kept daydreaming about it, and when I did I found my heart started racing. I was a bit nervous, but I told myself that it was my body just getting prepared.

I arranged to meet up with the other Bigfoot guys who were racing – Gary, Craig and Bill. This took a weight off my mind as it meant I didn’t have to worry about the logistics of the day. We arrived and signed in, I got my free coffee and free massage whilst many of the other riders went through their warm up routines, many on rollers and turbos. Lots of very expensive kit, then there was me on my creaking old Felt with its budget wheels. We’d managed to get a couple of sighter laps in, I took a good look at the finish straight and thought that it looked like a good length for my sprint. But that was it as far as my warm up went. Having Gary there taking it easy too stopped me from worrying about my lack of prep. The 30 miles I’d ridden to get there would have to do!

Before we knew it we were being called for the rider briefing. We’d all intended to get to the front to give ourselves the best chance in the race, but somehow we were all nearer the back. As we waited my heart started racing again, just standing still it was beating at 130bpm! There was a long wait before we were allowed to get going, I overheard one guy talking about being able to hold 650 watts for a minute. Shoot, I have trouble doing 500 for 30 seconds, this was a little worrying!!!

The race!

There was one neutralised lap behind a motorbike and then we were racing. The neutralised lap was hectic as people tried to get to the front. I probably wasn’t aggressive enough and ended up near the back of the peloton. I was trying just to stay safe cornering round the tight turns for the first few minutes. Having a crowd was great, I heard lots of people saying things like “wow” and “ooooh!” as we took the tight bends as fast as we dared. There was one crash on the first lap just in front of me, but didn’t look too serious. As the race was short the pace was high from the off, and some riders were having trouble getting around the tight turns at race pace. This meant the peloton was, predictably, strung out in a line and that gaps kept forming. I found myself dropped very quickly and put in an effort to bridge back to the next group. I was now in a group of 5 or 6, but just as we started working together to reel in the front group the rider two in front of me took a fast right-hander too fast and slammed into the barrier on the exit. Looked nasty. The next rider had nowhere to go, and as he was in mid crash all I could do to avoid going down myself was shoulder barge the poor guy. Sorry dude! In doing so my left hand got mashed against his bike and I started bleeding from my ring finger. If the adrenaline wasn’t flowing at maximum before it was now. Our little group was now just a duo, but luckily for me my new ally was strong and wasn’t about to give up on the race. We worked together for probably half the race with a gap of 10 seconds to the front group. All I was thinking during this time is that the race was over for us, but I wanted to finish, which meant not getting lapped. We managed to maintain the gap to the front group and I started taking shorter turns but putting in hard little efforts which was bringing us back, slowly. I’d then spend two thirds of a lap recovering only to do it again. And again. Every lap I heard my club mates who’d come to watch cheering me on which helped me dig deep into my reserves. Cheers guys! With about 3 minutes until the 3 laps to go point I said to the other rider “we can do this”, and we seemed to find a little extra strength. At 3 laps to go the front group slowed in preparation for the sprint and we finally made the bridge. No time to think, I instinctually found Garys wheel. After I’d recovered I started moving up. On the penultimate lap I found Bill and shouted “come on Bill” at him. On the last lap I put in a last big effort and caught up with Craig who was on the front of the bunch. I took the last couple of corners with him and coming out of the last right hand bend I decided to see if I could make a long one count. I moved to the right of the road and went at 95%. With about 150m still to go I’d gone past everyone, but to make sure I changed up a gear and gave it one more big kick and “comfortably” took the sprint (actually I was WELL into the red, HR at 190bpm). I’d no idea where I’d placed. I thought there were maybe 2 or 3 riders further up the road, and as it turned out there was just the one. I rolled around into the riders pen and was told I’d come second – I couldn’t believe it!!

My Bigfoot buddies also did well, Craig finished 4th and Gary and Bill finished in the front group too.

After the race I was given my prize and some sparkling wine which I duely opened on stage as if I’d won. No class/shame me. Then we met up with the guys from the club who’d come to watch and kicked back with some beers  🙂

Awesome day in the saddle!

Strava recording.

James podium Nocturne



Lab testing!

james-exhaustion-test-2Turbo trainers are an acquired taste. I don’t have one, but I have had a fair few goes on some. (disclaimer – years later I do now own one, but still prefer rollers) Thus I know that they are horrible things that are primarily designed to help one inflict a prolonged period of pain on oneself for as long as one is inclined. So why would I volunteer for three sessions in a lab with the aim of seeing how long I could endure one of these things for? The tests were in the name of science, and I do like a bit of that. Also, I was going to have my VO2 max tested for free, and as I understood it at the time, this is a good thing to know – I just hoped mine was a big one.

The reason for the testing was allegedly to test the “Reliability of drafting in laboratory”. The tests were performed over a three week period. Week one was a Maximal Incremental Test and a Familiarisation Time to Exhaustion Test. Then weeks two and three would just be time to exhaustion tests. The study would analyse and compare the results of these two tests. The testing was being carried out by Francesca, a young lady from Italy, who was studying in Kent for her masters degree in sports science. On the advice of my friend Lee I emailed Francesca to apply for the testing. I was readily accepted and sent instructions telling me what I could and couldn’t eat and drink the day before the test.

Week one

The day before the initial test I followed the instructions and didn’t drink any booze, and got an early night. Then I didn’t drink any caffeine the next day – having to go without tea or coffee in the morning was strange – I was reminded how addicted I am to the stuff. I rode my bike to the lab, trying to take it easy. The ride there also doubled up as a reccy of my new commute to Rochester for a job I was starting later in the week. Upon arriving I met Francesca outside, she showed me in and gave me a thorough briefing. I found out that as well as the £50 gift voucher I was going to get for taking part, there were also prizes for the top three test subjects – top prize was £100, things just got SERIOUS haha! First I performed a VO2 max test. This was to find out what my Peak Power Output was in order to work out what resistance to set me for the exhaustion tests. First a blood sample is taken, to get a resting lactate level. Then you’re put on the turbo, starting at 50w resistance, and every two minutes the resistance is increased by 25w. I also got to wear one of those face masks that measures the amount of oxygen going in and out of you. You keep pedaling until you can’t go on. Its easy at first, but quickly gets hard, and then the typical-turbo-torture kicks in. I wasn’t allowed to have my own heart rate strap or computer, so I was riding blind, this makes it even harder to keep going. Francesca did offer some words of encouragement though, which certainly helped. I eventually stopped because I thought I was about to pass out and fall off the bike! Then another blood sample was taken to see what my lactate level was post exertion.

I was then given half an hour to recover before taking the familiarisation time to exhaustion test. During the rest I was given a questionnaire to fill out about how I felt and my motivation. Then the real torture started…

The Time To Exhaustion test is a toughy. Again, I had no computer giving me any sort of data feedback with which to gauge my effort. And, despite not having the face gear on, I wasn’t allowed to drink any water either. The turbo was set at a resistance which the test subject should be able to maintain for a limited amount of time. I had no idea how long this typically should be, nor what the resistance was actually set to. Mercifully the lab is at a nice cool controlled temperature and there is a large fan blowing air to simulate air resistance. Cruelly though, another guy on a bike is plonked right in-between the fan and yourself in order to simulate a lead rider of a drafting pair. So you only get limited airflow to cool you down. Deceptively it starts out feeling pretty easy. Slowly you feel your body respond and your heart rate elevate, and after a few minutes you can tell its not as easy as you first thought. Throughout the test I was presented with two big laminated cards, one with a scale of perceived effort and the other with a scale of how I was feeling. Francesca also kept instructing me to look forward, don’t look down. I started out feeling good and with a low perceived effort, and this seemed to continue for a while. When the effort started taking its toll I jumped from one end of the perceived effort spectrum to near the other end, but I think I still felt quite good. I lasted like this for a while. Then the suffering really started and I seemed to last ages at a high level of exertion. The mental exertion was just as hard as the physical effort, if not harder. My subconscious wanted to give up, badly. I had to continually override my instinct to stop. I kept telling myself that I was sacrificing time with the family in order to do this test, so I was going to do it to the best of my ability so as to make it worthwhile. I visualised my boys having fun in the park with mummy to take my mind off the pain. I don’t really remember making a conscious decision to stop, I think I must’ve just lost concentration for a moment and my subconscious finally had its way.

I got the impression that I’d done quite well at the test, although Francesca wasn’t about to let me know any details until after all three tests had been performed.

After the exhaustion test I had to fill out another questionnaire and was free to go. I had been intending to ride to the park, about 20 miles away from the lab, but I really wasn’t in any fit state for that, and headed straight home where I stuffed my face and ran a very hot bath.

Week Two

Since the first week I had started a new job, luckily it was a 10 minute ride away from the lab, so I arranged to do the next two tests straight after work. I’d kept a food diary as requested, and drank as much water as I could manage in the preceding 24 hours. Very business like I turned up, filled out the questionnaire and prepared for the test. Blood was taken and the bike put on the turbo. This is where things seemed out to get me. Firstly, I’d smashed my bike up whilst out on a ride with a friend a couple of days before. I thought I’d fixed it by changing the large chainring, but once on the turbo it was obvious that the new chainring wasn’t going around as it should – seems I’d bent the crank spider too. So I had to use the lab bike. Also, I was told that the resistance set on my last exhaustion test was too low, and that actually I had lasted longer than anyone Francesca had ever seen. So it was just going to have to be set harder. Straight away I felt the extra effort. “Oh boy” I thought “this is going to be much harder than the already really hard test I did last week”. The lead rider was back in front of me again, and this time he had a jersey on with the word STOP and a picture of a hand giving a stop signal on it. I found this very curious, and now the instructions to keep looking forward seemed designed to make me focus on this jersey. Indeed, all the other visual stimulus in front of me had been covered over with white sheets. Towards the end of the test, when the pain kicked in, I took my mind off it by focusing on the words on the jersey in front of me and spelling out the word – “S. T. O P.”, muttering it to myself in rhythm. The obvious suggestion to stop actually made me want to push harder though- was this the actual test? I was also thinking of missing bedtime with my boys, and as I had sacrificed seeing the family for the evening I again used this as mental ammunition for pushing as hard as I could. Eventually the mental strain was too much though and I involuntarily stopped pedaling. I think I could’ve kept going physically, but in my mind there was no longer sufficient reason for flogging myself any more, and again my subconscious took over for just long enough to make me stop.

After the test more blood was taken and I had another questionnaire to fill in and sweat all over. More questions about how I was feeling and my motivation. I complained that the other chaps jersey had the word “stop” written on it and that that wasn’t very sporting, or words to that effect. Francesca said I’d done a very good test despite the hardship, but was giving nothing away about the wording on the jersey.

I rode back to the office and then drove home where I found my mother-in-law babysitting my two, still very awake, young sons. So I hadn’t sacrificed seeing the family after all 🙂

Week Three

The day of the test had been the hottest September day recorded for 100 years. And the hottest part of the country? My part of course. I turned up at the lab after a day of sweating in the office and after several nights of broken sleep due to the children waking us up. Another annoyance for me was that since the bent cranks incident of the previous week I’d been riding around on a shorter set and had gotten quite used to them. Getting on the lab bike felt even stranger than before. I went through the same motions of the previous week, but hopefully this week I was going to get some answers? Questions, blood, turbo torture.. The lead rider this week was wearing a jersey with the letters “ENERG” with a lightening bolt looking like the letter Y. I think I see where this is going now… I found the test noticeably harder than the previous week, and my cadence was certainly much lower. The picture above is from near the end of this test and I had just said I was finding the effort 20/20 and I was feeling -5 on a scale of 5 to -5! I still carried on for a few minutes longer though. That’s Francesca in the photo, and IMO she looks worried for me! I pushed on again through the pain thinking about my family. I’d also sacrificed a band rehearsal the previous evening in order to have an early night and be prepared for the test – so I sang some of the bands songs through my head to take my mind off the pain. I could only managed bits of songs though, maybe an intro, verse and chorus before my mind screamed at me to stop once more. I then resorted to counting to 10 out loud as that’s about all my brain was capable of processing at that level of exertion.

After the test I had extra questions to answer. I was asked what I thought the test was about, and why, if any, there were differences in my performance. I was then told that the test was indeed nothing to do with the effectiveness of testing drafting in the lab, and was of course all about the not-so-subliminal messaging on the jerseys. I was also told that I had almost certainly won the competition and sure enough a few days later this was confirmed – WOO HOO!!! 🙂 I was then shown my VO2 max results and sent them in an e-mail. Francesca advised me that if I lost some weight my VO2 max score would increase and that I should also buy a power meter. Things I already knew, but needed to be told. I have since bought a power meter. I was also given one of the jerseys from the test as a reward, I chose the jersey with STOP written on it as I had done better with that jersey. I then cycled back to the car, put the box with the jersey in it on the roof and drove off, leaving my new jersey in the middle of the road. I was totally spent! Realising what I’d done about 10 minutes later, I drove back and found the jersey in the middle of the road, luckily still in one piece.

All in all a very interesting experience, and one I would recommend to anyone who is interested in seeing what their body and mind are capable of when pushed to the absolute limit.


My VO2 max score was 57 ml/min/kg – I was hoping that it would be really really high like a TDF pro, but 57 is pretty good and about right for my ability. Here is a chart showing my heart rate plotted against power levels.


And here is a chart showing my heart rate through the 2 tests – test 2 was on the day I was tired. I did indeed do better on the first test with the STOP jersey and lasted 34:17. I lasted 32:50 on the second test. It was much closer than I thought.


With data feedback, a bit more airflow, and being allowed to take fluids on, I probably would’ve lasted quite a bit longer – we will see as I’m currently shopping for a turbo trainer and a power meter of my own!!! Bring on the torture 🙂