Cyclopark Summer Race Series #5 25/08/21016 3/4 AND Crits At The Park #8 27/08/21016 3rd cat only

Two write ups for one!

As the summer nears its end, and the days grow shorter, the 2016 race season too draws in. At the start of the week I was sitting on a haul of 29 BC points. I had set it as my goal to see if I could achieve 2nd Cat status this year (40 points). The week after these two races I am/was due to start a new job, so wanted to put in a concerted effort to get the 11 points I needed in two races, the first on Thursday night and then the second on Saturday early afternoon. My form has been relatively good this year, however the last few hard rides and races I’ve done I have suffered, and I’d not managed to get much in the way of training in, in fact recently all I’ve managed to fit in recently has been evening 10 mile TTs. I thought that I should be able to score 11 points, but wasn’t taking anything for granted.

Cyclopark Summer Race Series #5 3/4

The summer series are on Thursday nights at the Cyclopark. The circuit is a shorter, faster loop. And it starts at dusk, so its floodlit – exciting! On top of the shorter circuit, there are three races on the circuit at the same time, the E12s, 3/4s and the women’s 234 race. So I was expecting it to be fast, and it to be carnage. The E12s set off first, then the 3/4s, then the ladies. To keep track of the chaos the organisers were using transponders, which meant the start finish line was a bit further up the finish straight.

I had been out for a short ride in the daytime to test the legs, and it was very hot. The evening was a bit cooler, but still hot. I knew one of my biggest challenges would be to stay hydrated and avoid cramping, so I started the race with two full water bottles. On the warmup lap I was happy to hear someone say “Is that James Hawkins” behind me. It was Ben who I sometimes ride with in the Bigfoot level 1 group. Always nice to have a familiar face around when you’re racing. The pace was quick from the off. The first few laps I sat in the bunch, but 10 minutes in there was an attack by 2 riders. I took it upon myself to chase them down, and led the chase on the front of the bunch for a couple of fast laps. “That was stupid” I thought to myself. At the pace we were going a breakaway would never be able to make it stick, so to burn a match doing all the chasing on my own was tomfoolery! Pretty soon we had caught the E12 race, which Ben rightly pointed out was hilarious. We were also having to negotiate our way around the womens race regularly. Not sure how many times we lapped the other two races, but it was a few. Due to the speed, low light, constant squeezing past other races and the heat there was a fair bit of wobbly riding going on. I took notes of who looked risky and kept an eye on them. In the last half of the race the race commissaire signalled for us to slow down, not sure why, maybe he thought we were racing too fast?! So we had a lap where everyone had a chance to recover a bit, which, with hindsight, was like trying to put out a fire by throwing petrol on it. Soon after this the lapboard showed 5 to go. 5 short laps was the equivalent of 2 or 3 full length laps, and the pace started ramping up even more. I started moving up as and when I could. I knew the last lap was going to be frantic, the first 10 into the last corner would probably be the 10 to score points. So I made sure I was in the top 10 with 2 laps to go. On the last lap I moved up a couple of places, and going into the last sweeping fast bend Ben was in front of me. As we came out of the bend I went past Ben and jumped on the wheel of someone starting their sprint early. As this happened we were passing the E12 race again, so we were bunched up on the right of the road and they were on the left. However, as the sprints started all Hell broke loose. There were 3 riders in front of me blocking my way, but I saw a gap open up to the left of the track and managed to put enough power down to get through it. Going the long way round and on the slower side of the track I started my sprint a proper. I managed to make it up to 3rd position over the standard finish line, but had forgotten about the transponders and the different start/finish line. I lost 2 positions just before crossing the line to finish in 5th. Looking back at my stats my HR was well and truly in the red at 197bpm, not sure if that’s a good thing or not!? Ben had not managed to follow through the gap with me, seems a rider in the E12 race had veered into the path of another rider in our race and caused a few people to slam the anchors on during the sprint – better luck next time Ben!

This left me needing to come in 4th or better in my next race to get enough points for 2nd cat. Worth noting, despite the chaos I didn’t see any crashes – first race for ages!

Strava Link

Crits In The Park #8

I had a pretty relaxed start to the day. Got to the circuit and registered. Put numbers on but on the warmup lap a pin came off so on the start line I was readjusting the pin situation and I forgot to take my saddle bag off. Dufus. I managed to fit in a little warmup, got the heart going a bit, probably not enough, didn’t let it worry me though. The race started and the pace was fairly civilised, lack of proper warmup not a problem then. Early on there was an attack from a rider from Addiscombe CC. The riders on the front and I decided to let him hang out there for a while, before reeling him back in. He tried it again a bit later and one other rider and I were taking turns on the front to keep him in sight. I said to the other guy “either he knows something we don’t or he’s a bit stupid” to which he replied “nah mate, he’s strong, don’t let him get out of sight”. So we slowly reeled him in. After that there were a few more attacks, anything more than 2 guys I chased down. A guy riding in Windymilla kit made a few attacks, but didn’t get far. In the second half of the race the peloton split and I was in the front group of 5 or 6 riders. I accelerated past them all and said “we’ve got a gap, whose coming?”. Only the Addiscombe rider came with me, but after my turn he went around me very hard and I couldn’t stay on his wheel. Yup, he was strong. I let the bunch catch up and tried to recover. I told everyone to let the Addiscombe guy hang out there again. After I’d recovered I started the chase to reel him back in again, thankfully sharing the work with another chap. Soon after this the 5 to go board was out, the pace dropped. “Ah great, this means more late attacks” I thought. Sure enough there were a few, and I chased the first couple down with another strong rider who’d been saving himself up until now. Then the Addiscombe rider went again with 2 to go, but this time I was a few wheels back, boxed in and in the red. I shouted something like “don’t let him go” but nobody else was willing to chase at this point in the race, instead opting to save themselves for the bunch sprint. We kept him in sight, but on the last lap he went for it. Although one other guy and me did some work on the front neither of us were willing to sacrifice our chances of a points scoring position, so only gave it 90% each. Coming into the last corner I was second wheel when everyone sat up and looked at each other. I stuck to the wheel in front of me like glue and waited for the sprints to start. Halfway up the finish straight everyone went all at the same time. All of a sudden I had guys going too hard too soon passing me on both sides trying to cut in front of me. I accelerated and kept level with two riders, got my elbows out and shouted at them to give me room. At this point there was a row of riders in front of me, but a gap opened up just after the first person went full gas. I managed to accelerate past 2 riders just before the finish line to finish 2nd in the sprint and 3rd overall.

Very happy with my result. I managed to control the race a fair bit, and made sure I got the result I was after. Although, I wish I’d managed to stay in contact with the Addiscombe rider, or on the last lap taken a chance and put in more of an effort to reel him in in an attempt for the win. Ah well, theres always next time… in the 2nds… erm maybe not then!

Strava Link

SERRL E123 Chilham 7/8/2016

Context / Excuses

Entering an elite level race as a 3rd cat I knew I stood almost no chance of finishing in the points, and would be happy if I wasn’t dropped in the first 10 minutes.

The race was classed as a National B road race, which means it was 125km distance and the points on offer go from 60 for first down to 1 for 20th. On top of the far greater distance that I am used to racing over, the course was a fair bit lumpier too. And I’m no climber. So why pay money to enter in the first place?

As part of my clubs commitment to SERRL (the South East Road Racing League) it is obliged to organise races. As a member of the club I am obliged to help out, so I volunteered to marshal at the race. On the Thursday before the race I was at the club 10 TT and Gary, who was organising the race, suggested that I should enter in order to promote the club at its own event and give my club mates someone to cheer for (as well as myself there were only two other club members riding). At first I dismissed the idea as ludicrous, but took the suggestion as quite the compliment – Gary must think I’d be able to keep up with those guys. The only reason I even entertained the idea was because the week before, although I’d suffered quite badly with cramp, I’d had a good ride in the Ride London sportive. Gary suggested I bring my bike on the day just in case I wasn’t needed to marshal. When I got home and chatted to my wife about it she thought it’d be a good idea to enter the race if I could. Her reasoning was something along the lines of “it’d do you good to have your arse well and truly kicked” (she actually put it a bit softer than that “you should push yourself if you want to get better”). I think she might hate me, maybe I should cancel the life insurance policy?

The day of the race I got dressed in normal clothes, but as suggested by Gary, I took my bike and kit bag too. I got to the race and, although I was given the choice of marshalling or riding, Gary pretty much frogmarched me up to the sign on desk and made me enter. We OK’d it with Kim from SERLL. I went and spun my legs for 5 or 10 minutes, not enough time for a proper warm up, but better than nothing. I managed to get Andy from the club to help me pin my numbers on – cheers Andy, just one pin came off when I pulled my jersey down halfway through the race. As I typically manage to pop a pin or two off every race, I have since purchased some NoPinz and some sticky packaging window things in order to stop this happening.

Pre race briefing, straight forward enough, looked around, everyone else looks super strong. After the pre race talk by the commissaire we got on our bikes and waited for the pace car to roll out of the town hall car park for the neutralised start. Some teams riding on what must be sponsored bikes… I’m used to seeing lots of expensive hardware at the start of a race, but this was another level.

The race

As soon as the race started the pace was quick. I’d not ridden around the circuit before, only the climb back up to the HQ which I’d ridden after a 25 mile TT. After a 25 mile TT I’d found it horrible. What am I attempting this again?! I had looked at the profile of the course on the computer, so I knew there was a descent right at the start of the race. Descents don’t normally bother me, I’m quite good at going downhill, its going up I can struggle. So I’d dismissed this as a chance to rest a bit. I wasn’t prepared for the pace. The peloton hit the descent pretty hard. I, on the other hand, was too cautious which led to me almost getting dropped. I had to burn my first match right at the start of the race, spinning out in my hardest gear at over 50mph, just to keep up. Thankfully at the bottom of the hill, where the road flattens out, the speed dropped slightly and I caught up with the back of the bunch and managed to recover a bit. Pace down the first flat section was QUICK. When we hit the first climb I paid for not warming up properly. I was warmed up enough to keep up, but I’d not recovered fully from the initial effort. The peloton went up the climb pretty hard, and I had to put in another effort to stay with them. It didn’t help that I kept finding myself at the back of the bunch. It seemed everyone I chose to draft behind instantly started drifting back , so I kept having to put in little accelerations which were taking their toll. Still, I made it up the climb. I think it was at this point that a group attacked off the front, and it was too much for most people to contend with. Later , when word got back to us that there were 10 guys a minute up the road, my fellow Bigfooter Andy said “well, that’s the race over then”. It was pretty much accepted that the guys in the break were going to be able to maintain their advantage and make it stick.

After the break went away the pace eased slightly, which I was grateful for – there was no way I was going to be able to maintain the speed of the first lap for the next 3 hours. Laps 2 and 3 felt more civilised, but still very quick. I had only just recovered enough to maintain the effort. On lap 3, going up the climb I thought to myself “I’m feeling OK, and we’re half way through now, I might actually make it to the end!”. We were averaging over 41kph (26mph-ish), but with the climb every lap the effort felt harder. I was trying to constantly take on food and water, and I was doing OK with it, but was still having to ration the water as I only had two biddons. I had toyed with the idea of asking someone from the club to pass me a water bottle once a lap, but because I’d only really entered the race last minute I hadn’t managed to do this. Other clubs were far more organised and were handing out biddons and food to their riders at the top of the climb. Having to carry that extra weight wasn’t helping me very much, and I probably had the cheapest and possibly the heaviest bike too… blah blah blah, excuses and more excuses…

Where was I? Oh yes, handing out water bottles – a bit hazy now, think it must’ve been on the 4th lap that at the point where riders were picking up their fresh biddons there was a crash just in front of me, 2 or 3 riders going down pretty hard. I just about managed to steer around and was happy to see Bill and Andy from the club were safe too. I was starting to fade though, and found myself with a gap to make up. I caught up the bunch before the descent and rode up along Bill and said “I think my race is done to be honest, Bill”. On the descent I started cramping and couldn’t put much power down. The bunch got away from me. However, I managed to recover a bit, and when the road flattened out I managed to tuck down, maintained my momentum and freewheeled up to the back of the bunch. On the flat sections and small uphill drags I managed to keep up with the main bunch pretty easily, even when I was suffering.

On the last time along the flat section I tried to spray some water over my neck to cool me down, but I was so tired that I couldn’t even manage this and sprayed the chap behind me in the face, oops! The climbs every lap had taken their toll, and the last time up the climb my cramp got more painful and my heart rate went into the red. I drank all the last drops of water I’d been saving, but it was already too late. The guys on the front of the peloton were pushing harder too, riders were now getting shelled out the back. I lasted on the back of the group until the steepest part of the climb when a gap appeared just a couple of wheels in front of me. I put in an effort to go around the guys in front of me, who were done. But the cramp only allowed me to put so much power down, which wasn’t enough to catch up. When the road flattened out a bit one other rider and I paired up and took turns to get back on to the back before the final descent. We could only just about maintain the gap though, which had grown to about 50 metres. I remember the chap had bright orange socks, but I was only just technically conscious at this point, so I don’t remember what club he was with.

It was agonising, I’d come so far (110km), only to see my chances of a strong finish disappear off up the road. I almost killed myself in a failed last gasp effort to catch back up. I knew I stood no chance of a strong finish though, once the cramp had set in I was done for. I can continue to ride with cramp, but nowhere near race pace, climbing makes it worse very quickly. I managed to drop my orange socked friend, and pushed on up to the HQ.

I really wanted to stop. It made sense, stop the pain, have some water, or TEA, or CAKE…!! Only a madman would continue to endure this pain willingly, with no reward whatsoever. But I did want to finish the race, and I was so close now, just one descent and the final hill up to the finish. I saw another rider up ahead of me. “I’ll let them make my decision for me” I thought “If he keeps going then so will I”. I went past HQ and the people who’d been cheering us on at the roadside were all packing up. There was no cheering for me now. Rachel from Bigfoot, who’d been marshalling at the roundabout just past HQ, was about to leave her post too. “Should I just give up then?” I thought. But the rider up ahead of me cracked on, so so did I. Rachel cheered me on, but it felt like a “Really? Are you sure James?” gesture! I managed to catch the guy just before the descent. I had managed to recover a bit and my cramp had subsided, so I shouted “jump on” as I went past him. I put a bit of power down on the descent, I don’t know what I was hoping to achieve?! I assumed that my new cohort would take a turn on the front, so when the road flattened out and I’d had enough I slowed a bit. Instead of swinging round to the front he sat up next to me and started to chat. I just wanted to get to the finish as quickly as possible though. So when he went and sat back on my wheel (without taking a turn) I pushed on and he dropped off. I was looking for the turning up the final climb, but little did I realise that I still had one more turning to take before I got there. Tired and confused, I missed the turning I was meant to take. Luckily Ian from Bigfoot was still marshalling at his post and pointed out my mistake.

Thank you Ian, if you had packed up I’d have been lost in deepest darkest Kent with no phone, water, food, money, sense of direction, PRK, nor any hope of survival.

I quickly realised, stopped, took to the grass and did 100m or so across a green to get back on track. I finally made it to the climb. It was horrific. I knew it would be a tough climb, but after 3 hours of hard riding, and with the cramp coming back as soon as the road pitched up, it was nasty. If I’d made it this far with the bunch I would’ve definitely been dropped. I need to lose at least 5kgs if I am going to ever attempt this race again. I found out later that Bill, who is quite the climber, had attacked at this point which led to him finishing in the points, chapeau Bill. On the climb I managed to catch a couple of other riders though, and the marshals were still at the finish line – I’d FINISHED!!! Thank goodness for that, the ordeal was over. Back to HQ for tea, cake and banter. I found out later that the guy who’d won had come 10th in the national time trials this year, think I’ll stick to 1 hour crits and local TTs for the time being…:-)

Strava link




Prudential Ride London 2016

I’d not bargained on riding this year. But a last minute place became available, and I thought what the heck. I first rode the Pru 100 2 years ago, which was the year of the tropical storm. The weather was so bad that the route was shortened in order to take out the hills. Despite having the worst conditions that year I managed my fastest ride at that time (36kmh average). So 2 years on, and hopefully with better weather, I was keen to see how fast I could go.

Unfortunately I came down ill a few days before the event. Just as I started to get a bit better I went for a ride to check the legs and got badly bitten by an insect on my ankle. The bite swelled up and got very painful. I questioned if I should still start…

Preparing for the race I’d not had a chance to do any specific training. Recently most of my riding had been random short 1 to 1.5 hour rides. Only real reason being because that’s all I can fit in around family life, and that’s all I’ve needed to do for crit racing and time trials. I had managed one 100+ mile ride a few weeks before, and averaged a half decent speed, but I did suffer after 3 hours of riding. I’d also suffered badly with cramp in my last crit race, but I put that down to the heat that day. What with being ill too, I knew I wasn’t 100% physically ready, but I tried to make up for this by being as prepared as I could be otherwise. Basically I just gave the elevation chart a once over. I decided that the only real challenge was Leith Hill, which I’d only ridden up from the opposite direction before. Before this point there were no big hills to worry about. There were a few little ones, but they shouldn’t cause me too many issues. Box Hill would be soon after Leith Hill. I’ve ridden Box Hill lots, and knew that if I was feeling strong by this point I could have a bit of a sprint up, but if not I would have no issue crawling up it if necessary. Then back to London its mostly downhill, with one little kick up in Wimbledon. Simple, what could go wrong?

The day before the ride my nose was still streaming and I was hobbling about! The night before the ride I barely slept, my ankle was throbbing and itching. I got up and strapped a bandage soaked in TCP to it, which numbed the pain and let me sleep, even if it was just for an hour.

I woke up at 4am, and although I felt generally terrible, my nose was half clear and my ankle was numb – game on!

In the car by 4:30, triple strength coffee at hand. Parked up at Charlton, rode to the start. Got there with 15 minutes to spare. Didn’t bother with a kit bag, so just had to make my way through the sea of cyclists to get to my start pen. Start was delayed by a few minutes. Mark Webber was being interviewed over the PA and the ride was started to *the good bit* in The Chain by Fleetwood Mac. I was in the second wave to go (to the tune of London Calling) and about halfway back in the pen. So many people to get past, a real mixture of abilities, and probably a real mixture of people in various states of sleep deprivation, myself on one end of that particular spectrum. Eventually I got in a fast group – another fast guy and I were taking turns, motoring past everyone, when a group from Cadence Cycles jumped on our wheels then took over duties at the front for a bit. As our peloton was forming we went through the first tunnel where there had just been a crash, which woke me up. Everyone stopped then had to put in an acceleration up the slope out of the tunnel. At this point, although I was feeling OK,  I could tell that today was going to hurt, it was full on! On the way out of London we were averaging over 40 kmh and I wondered if I’d be able to keep that pace up for the whole ride…

On the way through suburbia we caught some of the wave who’d left before us and a large peloton formed. We were going at near threshold for most of the time. In places the road narrowed and the group got squeezed. It was at these moments the mixed ability of the group became very obvious, with some pretty dodgy riding going on. But on the most part everyone stayed upright. There was one crash just in front of me going round a right hand bend, everyone around me had to stop, and the peloton split. I got on the front, chased down the gap and the group came together again. Once I’d recovered I decided that it would be best to be nearer the front, so I moved up the outside of the peloton and took the front (again) for a couple of minutes – I hope there is a photo of this somewhere. Just after we got outside of the M25 the peloton split again and having dropped back to take on some food I was caught out. Again I took to the front and shared the chase with one other rider. As soon as we caught the peloton it slowed, the hills were very close and I guess the guys at the front were recovering, maybe to prepare for an attack?

When we reached the smaller hill before Leith Hill I looked at my average speed and it was over 42kmh. I knew the hills would bring it down, but by how much? Am I on for a 40kmh average, i.e. a sub 4 hour time???

We started our first ascent. At the bottom I was feeling good. I put it in the right gear, spun up my legs and started going past everyone around me with relative ease. A lot of guys seemed to choose far too hard a gear and had got themselves in trouble. Everywhere was the crunching and clattering sound of gears being changed under load. When I got to the top of the incline I changed to a harder gear in order to put some power down and experienced the dreaded twinges of early cramp. Oh no, only half way and still with Leith Hill and Box Hill to go. I drank some electrolyte infused water, ate some banana and hoped that this would help keep the cramp at bay. The only liquid I had was two Camelback biddons which I was trying to ration. I was almost certainly not drinking enough. I pushed as much as I could in order to stay on the wheel of the rider in front of me, I had just enough. We got to Leith Hill and I dug in. Someone next to me, gasping for breath, asked “is this Leith Hill?” and the reply was “yeah, it starts up there”- cruel! I started seated in an easy gear, halfway up I flicked up to a harder gear and stood up trying to avoid using the muscles that were on the verge of spasm. I made it up, but I had been dropped by the fastest guys. But only just. Two other riders and I started the descent together with the faster group still in sight. When the road flattened out I tried to put some power down, but I was still blowing/cramping hard. Luckily the three of us stuck together and kept the pace respectable, but not fast enough to catch the guys out in front. We started picking up riders who had been shelled out the back of the faster groups up the road and formed our own gruppetto. I was glad not to have to brave the return leg on my own, however not many of our new friends seemed willing, or able, to take turns on the front. When they did it was only for a few seconds before their pace dropped. There were only 2 of us putting any real efforts in. Heading up to Box Hill I did the majority of the time on the front, only pulling off when the cramp made me. When we started the ascent I turned around and told the other rider from the group who’d been doing turns on the front to stick together. At this point two other riders passed us. My new ally and I put in a bit more effort and kept up with them. Knowing Box Hill well certainly helped. I was still cramping and unable to put down any real power (Strava reckons 260w), but I knew I could dig into my reserves and then recover a little bit at the top. The 4 of us crested together and started a new gruppetto picking up stragglers ahead. On the descent the pace dropped a bit too much so I took to the front and pushed on as much as I could. What I didn’t bargain for was at the bottom of the fast descent the route turned left up another short but steep incline. That hurt. I normally turn right there and head on towards Coulsdon – I should’ve checked the route a bit more thoroughly. There was one chap in Wiggle gear on a Wiggle Eastway bike (an employee maybe, maybe a team rider?) who was much stronger than everyone else. I managed to stay with him, but we were dropping riders every time the road pitched up. I was still managing to take turns on the front, but now it was just Mr Wiggle and me who were able to do so, and actually it was mostly Mr Wiggle as my cramp was becoming worse and worse. I rode up alongside Mr Wiggle and apologised that I couldn’t do more on the front. He was OK with this, and said at least I was taking turns, and wouldn’t it be good if everybody could do just 10 seconds. We did manage to coerce the group to do a bit of through and off, but it didn’t last and again it was down to Mr Wiggle and I. Heading into Wimbledon, based on a two year old memory of the route, I figured that it wasn’t far to go now so I took a big turn on the front. Then we hit the left hander into the last real gradient – up Parkside. Mr Wiggle went past me, but I managed to accelerate a bit and stuck with him all the way up. Although I was hurting pretty badly by now I knew that if I let him go up the road it’d all be over for me as nobody else wanted to take the front, so I burnt my last match keeping up with him. The crowds cheering us gave me a big boost, as did the fact that nobody else was going past us. Mr Wiggle and I crested together with the rest of the gruppetto in bits still only halfway up the climb. We had a quick word to each other, “looks like its just you and me now?”, “yup, 2-up all the way yeah?”, “I’ll try”. I looked at the computer, best part of 10 miles still to go… eek! My memory of 2 years ago was that at the start of the last run into London I was feeling strong and able to solo TT it all the way pushing very hard and feeling good. This year though I was already utterly spent, on the verge of going bang, out of water and cramping in pretty much every muscle in both my legs. I stuck to Mr Wiggles wheel for dear life, and when I could I put in a very quick turn which was more of a token gesture than anything. Coming into London we picked up a couple more stragglers, both apologised that they were unable to help on the front. One got dropped very quickly. With just 2km to go I finally went pop too. Mr Wiggle was off on his own. One of the stragglers we’d picked up towed me for a bit  but disappeared when a large peloton came steaming by us at pace with 1km to go. I tried to accelerate to grab a tow, but couldn’t even muster that. Turning into the Mall and another peloton in full flight caught me. I stuck to the side to try and let them pass me safely whilst trying to put some power down. I now know what it must feel like for a breakaway group to be caught by a peloton at full gas with the finish in sight – a mixture of terror and disappointment. I crossed the line glad to have finished, hurting all over and in serious need of water. Not knowing what was going on I reset my computer before I checked my time and average speed. I got my medal and goody bag and found a kerb to sit down on. In the bag was a small bottle of water. I needed more, but I couldn’t see anywhere to get some. I’m sure that there must’ve been somewhere, but my brain was misfiring and I just needed to get home. So I drank and ate everything edible in the bag stood up in a daze and started the 10 mile ride back to the car. After 100 miles of clear roads riding in London traffic, albeit “light” Sunday traffic, was truly horrible. Found the car ate and drank the food and water I’d stowed there, got home, ate, drank water, drank tea, drank beer, bathed with a beer in hand, ate takeaway, drank beer, fell asleep.


I averaged 38.8kmh and took 4 hours and 7 minutes and came 164th. I’d found out that one of my club mates had come 6th, 10 minutes faster than me and under 4 hours, so props to him.

Strava activity

Crits At The Park #7, 23/7/16, 3rd Cat, Race Report 


Back to the Cyclopark I went, and this time it was hot!

After two second place finishes in my last two races I should’ve been feeling confident. However it’d been 3 weeks since my last race, add to this the hot weather and a good result was certainly not guaranteed. I’d been out in the hot weather during the week to see how I fared. I suffered, eek!

On race day I woke with heavy legs. I was probably still paying for getting a PB in Thursday evenings club TT, and had then had a late night on Friday. We were also out of bananas!!!! I put on my club kit, and it felt very tight, especially the shorts, my legs must have got bigger. I decided that it’d probably be OK and stretch a bit. A bad start. I rode to registration and then went for a warm up, tried to wake my heart up, but I think I’d left it in bed. So it’s like that is it…

As the weather was so nice a lot of people had turned up on the day. I recognised the guy who had won the last race and had a quick chat with him. Lots of expensive bikes with expensive wheels as usual. A win today was going to be hard. As usual.

The Race

The getaway was fast, but not very hard. But the first few laps were very punchy. Every time the pace dropped slightly there was an attack. I chased down a fair few, but my HR was going into the red very quickly and then took ages to recover. The chap who’d won the last race did a lot of chasing too, I spent a lot of time on his wheel which was all I could manage at points. In the second half of the race there were several crashes. I only saw one which happened just in front of me. The peloton took the fast 90 degree left fine, but one of the riders at the front seemed to take himself out as he straightened up. Unfortunately the rider on his wheel had nowhere to go and went flying over his handlebars as his front wheel slammed into the guy on the floor. Looked nasty as 40+kmh crashes do. There was another crash soon after, but I didn’t see it – I’d sprinted after the break that happened after the first crash. Then there was yet another crash, but I didn’t see that one either, making 3 in total. Apparently someone recorded all the crashes on their on bike camera, I will link to it if possible.

I was feeling every acceleration and was digging into my reserves, so was happy to see the board say 4 to go. I made sure to stay at the front and took every chance to recover a little bit. I’d been rationing my water but was almost out and felt very thirsty. Approaching the start finish line on the penultimate lap I was in a good position right at the front and was starting to feel good. So my heart sank when I saw the black flags and signalled to everyone behind me to slow and stopped first on the line. An ambulance had arrived to see to one of the crashed riders, who was in a bad way. The race was almost cancelled, but it was agreed to add an extra lap to make it three to go. Whilst we were stood waiting on the line I felt my legs twinge with cramp. I sprayed the last of my water into my mouth. On the restart the cramp felt even worse and I wondered if I was going to make it to the end? I kept the legs spinning through the pain, but every little dig I had to put in hurt badly. On the last lap the lead rider peeled off, it was the guy who’d won the last race. Thought he must be cramping too, but found out after that he’d punctured. I managed to stay at the front of the peloton and ended up on the front going round the bottom of the course. Luckily someone else took over just as there was a very early solo attack. I had no hope of chasing that down, so stuck to my lead out mans wheel like glue. We went around the last corner and other riders started their sprints early. I was cramping so badly at this point my sprint was comical – knees out like a cowboy, gingerly pushing a very easy gear. We caught the early attacker who’d blown up, as other riders went around me with ease. But only 4 went past me and my lead out man, and I crossed the line in 6th pretty close behind them. I was surprised I’d finished in the points, so reasonably happy. But I was also a bit gutted as it had been an ideal opportunity which, without the black flag, restart and resulting cramp, I stood a good chance of winning.

Looking at the stats by HR was high, which is no wonder as some of the lap times were very quick, and the weather was pretty high too. Think my club kit is probably too tight on me now too which possibly helped to cause my cramping legs. Will stick to the dHb stuff in future, and when money allows get a speedsuit. Brutal race, hardest crit I’ve taken part in. Lucky to come out of it in one piece, with points too!

Valuable lessons learnt too – drink more water, get more sleep and make sure you have bananas in the house! Oh, and train harder! Always learning.

Link to Strava

Time: 1:08:10 (2 minutes stationary on line)

Distance: 43km

Average speed: 39kmh


Q25/8 My First 25 Mile TT 

I’d been meaning to enter a 25 mile TT for ages. Reading the Palmarès of other riders made it sound quite romantic. This was especially so when I read a tribute to the late Peter Baird on the Gravesend CC website which mentions that he rode 25 under the hour 18 times. Of course it’s even more impressive for the older generation given the equipment they had available. Riding 25 under the hour held a certain mystique for me and was something I wanted to give a try.

I was quite used to riding 25 miles quickly. My commute was 25 each way for 2 years. I’d managed to do it in 1:05 once, albeit with a tailwind, but also through rush hour traffic and over the hills. I had also been racing crits, which are around this distance and speed. I thought I might be able to make it under the hour on clear roads. I’d also been entering more 10 mile TTs this year, and I managed to average over 40kmh / 25mph on the two courses near me. All signs looked positive.

So, I thought I’d take the plunge and enter a 25. I had a look on the Cycling Time Trials website and saw Gravesend CC were holding one in my area in a few weeks time. I remembered Peter Baird and thought it was fitting that my first 25 TT would be organised by his club. Done. When I got the email with the start times I was horrified to read that I was due to start at 7:34am. I mean, TTs are pretty much a form of self inflicted torture anyway, what sort of perverse human being would opt to get up at 5am in order to put themself through such an ordeal whilst normal people are still dead to the world? Me, I guess…

The week before the TT I rode out to the course to check it out. I also looked on Strava at how other people had ridden it. I worked out how fast I should be aiming to go at certain points. I also group emailed the Bigfoot Testers asking for advice and Steve Avery, who was also riding, was very helpful. I found out that Mark from Bigfoot was also racing. Homework done.

Race Day

The night before was pretty restless, and between my nerves and being woken by number 1 son a couple of times I probably only got 3 or 4 hours of sleep. Then in the morning I faffed a bit and didn’t manage to leave the house on time which was compounded by the boys both waking up and wanting daddy huggles. On the way there was a road closure, which added 10 minutes to the journey. My warm up was going to have to be a short one.

I actually had just enough time when I arrived. The start times had been put back 5 minutes due to the road closure.  I warmed up a bit, not enough really, and rolled up to the start with about a minute to spare. My minute man hadn’t turned up, which I was a bit unhappy about as I was hoping to maybe pass somebody. Seems my start time was in the middle of a bunch of faster guys though.

The start of the Q25/8 course is mostly downhill, and Steve had told me to go for it a bit. So I blasted down the hill and on to the first turnaround. Happily I was feeling good and my average speed was on target. I had anticipated that the first leg had a tailwind and  would be fast, then the second leg was all about damage limitation, trying to keep the average speed above 40kmh. After the first turnaround I saw the two riders behind me, who were coming the other way, had made ground on me. I’d not thought that I would actually be quickest on the day, and wasn’t really surprised they were both quicker as they had proper TT bikes and pointy helmets, but still I wasn’t happy about it! After the turnaround the going got tough. As predicted the wind was now blowing into my face, and the road went up more than down. The first of the two riders I’d seen catching me caught me just before the first climb just before the halfway point. I had been anticipating the climb and had been recovering a bit, so I powered up it and made back 100m or so on the guy who’d just gone past me. I then used him as a pace keeper and held the distance between the two of us until the next turnaround. I was expecting a nice tailwind after the second turnaround, but it was more of a crosswind really. This was most perturbing. After 1o miles into a headwind my average speed had just dropped below my target and there was still the final uphill drag to the finish to deal with also. I upped my effort just as the second of my pursuers went past me. As he did so he slowed slightly just as I quickened. It now looked like I was trying to get a tow off him, which is cheating. So I moved to the middle of the road and thought about passing him back. As I contemplated this he recovered and pulled away from me. But very soon after this he hit a hill and again I started reeling him back in. On the other side I continued to close the gap on the descent, but at this point there was a junction and he managed to get through without slowing but I had to slow to give way to a car. Then it was the final drag up to the finish line. I had no idea how far it was, so I used my pace keeper as a guide and went as fast as I dared. Before I knew it I saw the finish, it wasn’t all that far, I should’ve gone harder. I powered over the finish line and looked down at the computer – under the hour, woo hoo! What a great feeling.

I then changed down into my lowest gear and span up the 6km of climb to the HQ. Steve and Mark were there. Steve and I went for our complimentary hot drink and saw the presentation to the fastest man and team on the day. The course record had been broken, so I really shouldn’t blame the wind too much. My official time was 58:41 – happy with that! I chatted to a couple of guys there and everyone was really complimentary about my first effort at the 25. I really can’t recommend 25 mile TTs enough. Rachel from Bigfoot had told me at the last club 10 that she prefers 25s and I can see why – 10 mile TTs are an all out effort and hurt. I had been worrying that a 25 mile TT would be like a 10 but two and a half times as long but it seems to me that 25 mile TTs are more about measuring ones effort and trying not to hurt yourself too much. Or maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough?!?!

I just have to repeat it 17 times to equal Peter Baird now! Oh, and try 50 mile, 100 mile and 12h TTs too.

Link to Strava activity

Distance 25 miles

Time 58:41

Average speed 41kmh

Crits At The Park #6, 02/07/2016, 3rd Cat, Race Report

The British Cycling website said that online entries to this race closed on the Sunday before. Far too far in advance to know what the weather would be like. I decided to throw caution to the wind and enter anyway. If I’m going to get my 40 points this year I need to enter more races, and if the heavens opened on the day I’d now have to race. During the last few weeks I’d not managed to get as much riding in as I’d have liked. So on the Tuesday before the race I went out for a long ride that ended up being 180km, probably a little too far to be beneficial. On Thursday I entered the Bigfoot Club TT, probably a bit too short.

Leading up to the race I’d not given it too much thought. The night before settling down to sleep it did play through my mind a bit, but I was much more at ease about the whole thing that I had been for previous races. At last!

Stupidly I’d worn my two sets of club kit in the week and not washed them, so I had to don my dHb ASV kit and go incognito. Putting on the ASV stuff I realised that I’ve put on a bit of paunch around the waist, I need to ride more!

Rain threatened on the day and the wind was pretty strong, blowing from the south west, which meant a headwind on the back straight of the Cyclopark. The ladies race was before the 3rds and there was a light shower. Luckily though by the time the guys were allowed on the track the surface was bone dry and there was a nice blue gap in the dark clouds overhead. The rain stayed away for the whole hour, but returned for the 4ths in the race after us and was really heavy. We lucked out!

The Race

The start was quick to the hairpin, the first real corner, but then SLOW as the headwind hit and the guys at the front sat up. It seemed nobody wanted to put much effort in at all. This is how the first couple of laps went. I pretty much led the whole of the second lap, and on the finish straight I sat up, turned around and said to everyone behind me “Are we racing today or what?” which got a few wry smiles. After this the speed ramped up and the attacks came thick and fast. I had promised myself to try and get in any break, so I chased everything. At points some breaks made small gaps but were soon reeled in. One chap and I made a promising break, but when he flicked his elbow for me to take my turn I had nothing. I apologised and we settled back into the bunch. My stamina is currently lacking, I need to ride more! After that I buried myself chasing every break, apart from one 2 man break who weren’t going hard enough to make it stick and were left out to dry for a few laps. I questioned if I was going to be able to keep putting in these hard efforts – I need to do more intervals! I also kept finding myself on the front of the peloton. I was doing waaay too much work and suffering for it. One thing I kept doing wrong was taking the left hand 90 degree turn flat out – I’d accelerate past everybody going down the back straight and take the corner at 50kphish, everyone else seemed happy with 35kph but I wasn’t! My cornering has gotten quite good I guess. It seemed likely that the race was going to finish in a bunch sprint and I needed to keep something in the tank for that. The 5 laps to go board was a welcome sight as I chased down yet another gap. At 3 laps to go a solo rider, the guy I’d had a go with earlier, jumped the bunch into the headwind down the back straight. I was already in the red at this point and this was the first time I opted to hold back and not chase. I recovered a bit and tried to put in a couple of efforts on the front, but was mindful of the final sprint, so I only ever gave it 90%, and everyone else around me seemed to be doing the same, or less. A lap later and we were losing sight with the break. So with 2 to go I gave up on any hopes of a win and decided to recover as much as possible. Going up the finish straight I throttled back and watched about 10 riders go past me which I didn’t enjoy at all. Coming up to the hairpin I forced my breathing to slow and let a small gap form. I knew that I can take the hairpin faster than a bunch of riders and exit with more speed. That’s exactly what happened, allowing me to most of the places back that I’d just lost, what I lacked in fitness I made up for in cunning. Coming into the last few corners for the penultimate time the pace ramped up and a few guys tried to break. I jumped on to the back of them and made it over the line in about 5th? The last time around the hairpin and everyone in front of me put some power down. I chased and caught the two guys who’d made a small gap, but as I did so they sat up into the headwind. I had nowhere to go and slammed on my breaks just as a group of about 5 riders put in an acceleration and went past all of us. Shit shit shit!!! I panicked for a moment and then jumped on the front of the peloton and led down the back straight into the headwind trying to chase down the second break. I took the left hander as fast as I could and thankfully two guys went past me straight after it, giving me much needed respite in the back end of the course. We were making up ground on the 5 in front, not fast enough for my liking, but there was nothing I could do about it. Going around the last bend and the two guys in front of me put in a real effort. One of them quickly peeled off and the other chap stood up and started his sprint nice and early. I sat right on his wheel and we very quickly caught the 5 in front of us. As we went around the right of them he peeled off left to take the middle of the track. This was awesome as it gave me a clear track on the faster side. I flicked up 2 gears putting me in a much bigger gear than I normally use. I wrenched my legs around, dug deep and went past my lead out man winning the bunch sprint and coming second overall. The family were there on the finish line and I tried not to have a heart attack in front of them!!!

After the race the chaps from Brixton CC came to congratulate me which was really nice. The organiser from 4T+ Velo shook my hand and took a presentation photo with me which my 4 year old Corben photobombed. This was good though as he had his Bigfoot CC kit on – so hopefully we’ll see that on their website (we did). The winners were getting a trophy and a bottle of something fizzy, I got a High 5 energy pack and £20 🙂

Then we had coffee and cake in the café and watched Mark Cavendish win the first stage of the TdF on the tele. Another awesome day! BTW – that’s me on the front in the photo 🙂

Distance: 38km

Time: 59 minutes

Speed: 38.6km/hr

Link to Strava activity

Crits At The Park #5, 18/06/2016, 3rd Cat, Race Report

I’ve not raced for 6 weeks. May was fairly hectic and I couldn’t make the one Crits at the park race (#4). I entered this race last minute on Thursday evening. I like to enter last minute so I can see what the weather is probably going to be like. The weather report was 50/50, but I decided that if I am to make 2nd Cat this year then I need to stop being a wuss and just go for it. During the fortnight leading up to the race I had entered 2 TTs and had done quite well, managing a PB. On top of this every Strava segment I’d gone for in training rides I had easily taken the KOM time. So I had been feeling quite confident, right up until a few days before, when I bashed my knee something rotten and had to take a few days off the bike. This was quite a good thing though, it meant I was very well rested. And for once, the night before the race I’d had a decent sleep and even a little lie in on the morning. So I’m going to keep the kids up past their bedtime the night before a race from now on! The day before the race I still got butterflies though, hopefully this will lessen the more I race?!

The day of the race, and I was woken by heavy rain. But it was just a quick shower, and by the time I was eating breakfast it was drying up. During the morning I set my bike up. I took off the TT bars and put one bottle cage back on. I’d taken off the bottle cages for the last TT I’d done in order to be more aero, I figured that I only need one bottle for a crit, so I’d only put one cage back on. Another aero gain I was making use of were some new Velotoze overshoes. I think they probably help, but they’re a pain to get on and off, and after just one use I have already put a hole in one of them.

The race

Pace was quick but comfortable from the off. On the 3rd lap the guys on the front hit the wind and seemed reluctant to put any work in whatsoever. I thought that maybe they were engineering an attack, so I thought I’d give it a go. I managed to gap the bunch by 50-100 metres down the back straight and took the 90 degree left hander fast, but then didn’t feel like I had much left in the tank. As nobody else was trying to bridge across to me I sat up and recovered. Even when the bunch finally caught me up nobody wanted to go on the front, and I led the bunch for a minute or so at a relatively relaxed pace. From then on the pace remained comfortable and every attack was chased. So it seemed that everyone was seeing it out for a bunch sprint. I was tempted to attack again, but I chose to save my legs for the finish. The 5 to go board seemed to come very quickly. The pace didn’t ramp up until 3 to go and, funnily enough, my family turned up at this point. It was whilst I was waving to them stood on the bridge that the pace quickened. They do pick their moments to distract me! Two to go and I found it pretty easy to make up lots of places as everyone else tried to recover and ready themselves for the looming sprint. On the last lap I was in the top 10 all the way around the lap. Going into the last half of the last lap I shouted at the guys at the front to keep the pace up. They obliged, which played right into my hands. Going around the last corner I was in about 4th or 5th place, and I was feeling good. I patiently waited to pull the trigger. Shortly after the last corner someone shouted “on your left mate” at me, to which I retorted “no, I’ve got the left” – I wasn’t going to let myself get boxed in this time. With about 150 metres to go someone attacked, a voice from behind shouted “don’t let him go” and I didn’t. I jumped on his wheel, muscling in front of another rider intent on doing the same thing. The initial attacker wasn’t quick enough though, and two guys came up each side of me. I really wanted to be on the right side of the track, its flatter and therefor faster. However, my lead out man had made this impossible, and I was forced to go past him on his left. He swerved at me as I went past him, and our elbows brushed at about 50kph! I’d chosen a good gear, and was coming back at the other two sprinters when the three of us went over the line together. We asked each other who’d won, and none of us knew. I got back to the sign on desk and watched the iPad recording of me coming in second, the guy on the easier right side of the circuit beat me by half a wheel. Even though I’d missed out on the win I was chuffed with 2nd.

After the race I spent some time with the family, played with my 4 year old son in the playground and watched some friends from Bigfoot CC in the 2/3/4 race. Then my son rode his balance bike the 2 miles home and told me we got there that he’d won the race. So proud!

Distance: 35.6km

Time 54:33


Link to Strava activity

Time Trials for beginners

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote this blog. Most of the advice is pretty good, but take it all with a pinch of salt. After writing this article I managed to improve my 10 mile time to a short 22 on a slightly sporting circuit, and have managed to do 25 miles under the hour a few times. I’m no expert really, but I have learnt a few lessons along the way. The best advice I can give a beginner now is to buy some clip on aero bars for £20-£30 and just turn up for a local club evening 10. Generally they cost about £4 to enter, no need to pre book, just turn up at least half an hour before the start and look for the old blokes with the clipboard. Everyone will be welcoming, and nobody will care if you’re the slowest. Once you’ve done a couple of TTs you’ll work out how what its all about and how best to pace yourself. Enjoy!

Original article:

I thought that whilst I am learning the ropes I should write down all the little lessons I’ve learnt so a) someone else might benefit and b) I don’t forget them!

I am one of those weirdos who enjoy TTs. It helps that I am still improving, so pretty much every time I ride I get a personal best. My personal gains are partly down to my fitness improving, but also because I am gaining more experience. Preparation can have a big impact on your time, so if you’re new to the discipline there should be something here for you to take away.

Worth mentioning is that the governing body has a website, here is an article for beginners on it. Oh and watch this.

Free gains

Clean the bike. If your bike is dirty its not going to cut through the air as well. Even if it is pretty clean try spraying the frame with a bit of GT85 or WD40 and wiping it down, make it shiny clean. Make sure your wheels are clean too, but don’t clean the braking surface with a lubricant…

Clean the drivetrain, dial in the gears. Clean the chain, cassette, derailleurs and chain rings. If your chain is sparkling clean it will both work more efficiently and make you feel faster. You don’t see any dirty cassettes in the pro peloton. Remember to lube it after its been cleaned.

Tyres and wheels – use the right tyres and pump them up. Should go without saying, but get the right pressure in your tyres. Also, you’re not going to go as fast with heavy puncture proof tyres as you would on some nice lightweight slicks. See the bit below about buying gains for more on this.

Take off all your accessories. Saddlebag, gone, put a spare tube and bits in your back pocket if you must. Lights, maybe leave a small flasher on the back, but that’s it. I even take off my bottle cages if I have some spare time. You’ll probably want to keep your computer though.

Trim your cables. Next time you replace your cables make sure there is no excess cable, they need to be as short as possible (whilst still functioning of course). I remember Chris Boardman saying that each loop of cable costs about 5w of energy to push through the air. If you’ve not replaced your cables for a while, now is a good time to do this.

Shave your legs and save about a minute on a 25 mile course. Watch this.

Don’t overdress. You don’t want to overheat. Get rid of the base layer, arm warmers and certainly the gillet. You’ll soon warm up.

If you’ve got overshoes then use them for aero gains, unless its a hot day and they make your feet too hot. I’ve just ordered some Velotoze overshoes, which at least look like the real deal. EDIT Velotoze are popular on TTs, but they rip easily, so be careful with them. Talcum powder will help you get them on and stop them from sticking together when you wash them. VeloToze claim they will save you something like 12 seconds on a 25 course, but they probably give you a placebo boost too. 

If you have spacers under your stem then lower it. If it is angled up then take it off and flip it over so it is angled down. This will lower your position and lessen the amount of air you are pushing out of your way. EDIT – Or just get clip on TT bars 😉

Saddle position. When you’re in the TT position you’ll be further forward than you ride normally (on the rivit!). Put your saddle forward a bit, and maybe raise it to compensate.

Be well rested. Don’t put in a massive ride on the way to the TT, or go for any KOMs. Drive if you think it will help you reserve some energy. If you’re riding out to the TT then take it very easy. Get there with enough time to register THEN warm up.

Warm up, correctly! British Cycling have a good article about warm ups: here. Basically aim for 20 minutes, but in 3 quick efforts to wake you legs and heart up.

Practice the course. If its local enough to you then ride out there the week before and check it out. You need to know where all the uphill bits are or where its likely to be windy. If you know the course you will know how better to measure your effort and you should go faster.

Practice riding in the TT position. Get used to it as much as possible. Keep your shoulders and elbows tucked in as much as is comfortable.

Know your Heart Rate. If you have a HR monitor then definitely use it. I recommend doing a Functional Threshold Heart Rate test. Once you know your functional heart rate then aim to maintain that for your TT. EDIT – actually, you should be pushing over your FTHR on a 10 mile TT, and ride to your FTHR on a 25 mile course. 

Check the weather. In particular know which way the wind is blowing. If you want to be really geeky then see what the pressure is too, the thinner the air the less of it will be in your way.

Don’t wear gloves unless they’re aero ones or its too cold not to.

Hydrate and fuel yourself correctly. Eat something like pasta a couple of hours before the start. EDIT – 3 hours probably better. Eat a banana 15 minutes before the start. Drink plenty of water in the 2 hours leading up to the start (wee in the bushes). DON’T take an energy gel 1 minute before you start, by the end you’ll be wanting to vomit (trust me). If you drink enough water before hand you wont need to drink whilst you’re riding, although you’ll probably want to. EDIT don’t bother drinking on a 10 mile TT, maybe on a 25 mile course, but you’ll only need a quick sip. Save some water back for after you finish, you’ll really need it by then. Take two bottles of water with you, every time I’ve taken just one I’ve regretted it.

Pin your number on so it doesn’t flap around in the wind.

Bought gains

There are lots of great resources online, for example check out Cycling Tips, in particular look at the chart to see what you can spend your money on to go faster. The other day I went to another clubs TT and there were people there on really expensive TT bikes who were wearing their regular, baggy, club jerseys. Any gains they could hope to get from spending £2000+ on their specialist bike would be lost because they were wearing £35 jerseys.

Clip on aero bars – they cost about £30 at places like Wiggle and Planet X. I’ve only just got around to ordering some myself. If you want to spend money to go faster then you should probably start with buying these.

Clothes – if you want to spend real money then get a skin suit or speed suit. This will probably be the next purchase for me. But if you don’t have £150 to spend on something you’re only going to wear a handful of times a year then get a race fit jersey. The more you spend here the more time you’re likely to save.

Wheels and tyres. If you’re still riding on the crap wheels that came with your bike then you should spend the money here before you spend on anything else. Spend as much as possible, but you’ll want to spend at least £150 to get a worthwhile upgrade, and more like £300 for the best bang per buck. Some deep section carbon wheels will probably make you faster still. But they do cost a lot more. You can find cheap second hand wheels on However, you can also spend £50-£100 on a new set of tyres and latex inner tubes to go faster. Read this, and this – Continental GP4000S II tyres seem to be the best for regular clincher wheels.

Helmet – pointy helmets work, and cost in the region of £100 – £250. You can also get a normal shaped aero helmet for a lot less (eg £30 from Planet X if you don’t mind the colour). IMO wearing a pointy helmet on a normal road bike looks a bit funny, so if I were you I’d only get a pointy helmet after buying a TT bike.

As mentioned above – Velotoze shoe covers £15. On a 10 mile course I guess they might save you 10 seconds?

Anecdotal evidence

I have recently put some of this to the test and rode the same 10 mile TT two weeks in a row, changing my preparation slightly. My fitness level probably didn’t change an awful lot in one week. The weather was nicer on the second attempt, but if anything the cooler weather with a tailwind on the hardest parts of the course was probably more favourable on the first week. Also worth noting is that when I got the faster time it felt a lot easier, and my HR data backs this perception up. This is what I did differently:

  • Drove to the TT.
  • Didn’t take a gel on the start line.
  • Took the saddle bag and water bottle cages off my bike.
  • Cleaned the bike, lubed the drivetrain.
  • Used newer tyres with latex inner tubes.
  • Lowered my stem, raised my saddle.
  • Didn’t wear a base layer or gloves (needed it the first week though).

I was hoping that taking these measures might save me 20 seconds to get me below 24 minutes, so I was surprised with how much faster it helped me go – 48 seconds faster. Next time I’m hoping my purchases of shoe covers and clip on TT bars will help me to shave off another 30 seconds, and maybe get under 23 minutes.

To summarise

If you can improve your position, know your heart rate, know the course, shave your legs, clean your bike, reduce your drag and spend a little bit of money on some bits to help you, then I’d expect you to go MUCH FASTER on a 10 mile TT than if you’d not prepared. You’ll have more fun too 🙂


Links Worth Checking Out


The Vegan Cyclist on YouTube – good quality content about racing and training

Tom Bell .co – free training advice

FTP and training explained

Summit2Ride – a friends site. Check it out!

British Cycling

Cycling Time Trials (CTT)

Bike Radar & Bike Radar Forum


GCN on YouTube

Sheldon Brown – maintenance

Velominati – The Rules!

Ex Pro Phil Gaimons YouTube Channel

Bike Safety, Bicycle Commuting and Advocacy Information, Historical Bicycle Information and a lot more! Sent in by Kevin from the US of A. Thanks Kevin. 🙂

Clubs – local to me in North Kent

Gemini BC – my new club

Bigfoot CC

Gravesend CC

GS Avanti

Kent Velo Girls

Team Sidcup Cycles

San Fairy Ann CC

Route Planners


Bike Route Toaster

Strava Route Planner



Chain Reaction


Canyon Cycles

Evans Cycles


Merlin Cycles

Rose Bikes

Winstanley Bikes



Sportives, and the alternatives

Sportives are good fun. Well, most of them are. But, sometimes paying up front to enter an event at some point in the distant future, probably with a friend or friends, can mean that you’re committed to going for a much longer than normal ride on a day that you’d normally have given it a miss. Could be a good thing, might not be though. And then there is the mixed riding ability of the other riders. You get seasoned wannabe pros blasting past everyone, going for a personal best, mixing it up with absolute beginners, who are totally out of their depth, wobbling all over the place on roads they don’t know, whilst trying their hand at group riding, attempting to hitch a lift in your slipstream etc etc… This can end badly…. I’ve also almost been taken out by a marshal on a motorbike! If I’ve not put you off entering your first sportive so far then read on!

I do love sportives. They’re what got me really into riding “properly”, wanting to join a club and eventually race. The first one I entered made me start “training”, which was actually just pushing myself harder. Having a target of a 100 mile ride made me double my efforts on the bike.

The next turning point in my riding came a year later entering the Prudential 100. I got a place through MNDA by raising money. Getting the £600 in donations was actually harder than the ride, but I’m glad I did it. Another issue I had was my wife was expecting our second son that week, but gave me the OK to have the morning off (paying to enter a sportive can give the dedicated family orientated person an excuse to go out for a ride). The event almost got cancelled. The last throws of Hurricane Bertha were hitting the UK. The organisers decided that it’d probably be OK and just took out a couple of the bigger hills, taking the distance down to 86 miles. At points visibility was zero, it was like being sprayed in the face with a warm muddy power shower. I’ve ridden in some bad conditions, but these were probably the worst. I loved the ride though! Although the conditions were bad, the rain was quite warm. I’d also grossly underestimated my ability and started much later than I should have. This meant that I was constantly overtaking people (and nobody overtook me) – for over 3 hours! During this ride I pushed my body harder than ever before. As well as having closed roads, the big hills taken out, and the adrenaline of constantly overtaking other riders, I was worried that I might miss the birth of my son – so I pushed as hard as I could all the way. To my amazement my body didn’t complain, and instead I felt like I could ride faster and faster. My eyes were opened to what my body was capable of. Oh, and I didn’t miss anything at home 🙂

Although I have said that I love sportives, these days I have pretty much given up entering them. The last one I rode was due to a friend breaking his leg, so I took his place. I’m sure I will enter another, but probably not whilst I am racing. Why? Well:

  • Money. At the moment we don’t have much cash to spare and some entry fees are quite extortionate. Paying over the odds to ride around roads I could ride around anyway seems like a waste. If the sportive is on closed roads then that is different. I would ride the Prudential 100 again, but have yet to get a place in the ballot. I also don’t want to have to ask my family and friends for sponsorship money so I can ride my bike which is not a real challenge for me, so seems cheeky.
  • I don’t make much use of any of the facilities on offer at a Sportive – I am able to ride long distances and be self sufficient.
  • There can be a fair bit of standing around waiting at the start – I don’t get as much time to ride my bike as I would like, I’d rather spend this time riding! Being a family man I need to spend my time wisely, which means as few junk miles as possible.
  • Safety wise I think they can be a bit risky, if the weather is bad and you’re then directed down a steep hill it’s not much fun. I’ve seen plenty of bad crashes, and on some of the bigger rides its not unknown for people to die.
  • I can go on a club ride or long solo ride whenever I like, and after doing plenty of really long rides, the novelty of covering such distances wears off.

So I guess what I’m getting at is – do a sportive or three, if you find one on closed roads, such as the vastly oversubscribed Prudential Ride London, definitely enter it. There are some which are more coveted than the average sportive, so maybe check them out, for example L’Étape du Tour, the Wiggle Dragon Ride or The Hell Of The Ashdown.

BUT! If you want to ride long distances, and don’t know where to start, then there are alternatives to sportives which you should consider.

If you want an epic ride then there are some must do events, such as the Dunwich Dynamo. 120 miles through the night following the trail of blinking red lights. Its free, although getting home probably wont be, and can be a logistical nightmare. The year I rode it a friend left his car at Dunwich and got the train to London the day before, rode the 120 miles through the night and then drove us back to London. Due to the risk of falling asleep at the wheel, doing this isn’t recommended. Some people ride there and back, which is what I plan to do one day, maybe this year. If you want to do it fast then leave early, if you want to fully experience it then be prepared to ride slowly. Most pay for a coach ticket from Southwark Cyclists.

Reliability Trials, such as the Old Ports one, are a sort of barebones / grass roots sportive. Originally organised by clubs at the beginning of the race season so that local racers could assess each other, and themselves. They’re generally held early in the season, so weather could well be a factor, but that’s kind of the point. Fitness is the other factor. On the plus side they normally don’t cost much to enter, and there is cake at the end (but no feed stations en route) where you can chat to the other riders. Here’s another good article about them.

Join a club. If you join a club then you can ride long distances every weekend, or even more regularly, for free, with the support of people you know. Honestly, if you’re thinking about riding a sportive then you should definitely join a club.

Just go for a ride. This is what people used to do before the days of GPS or the internet. Ride a bit further each time and you’ll be doing metric and then imperial 100s in no time. Just remember to take plenty of food and water. I take 2 water bottles, 2 bananas and some gels or sweets or flapjack which is enough fuel for me to ride at speed for 4 hours. If you want to ride more than this then take more food, or find a shop or stop at a pub.

Dare I say it? You could ride for free. Most sportives are held on open roads and there is nothing to stop you joining in. You’d have to be super cheeky to ride a sportive that’s on closed roads, I’m not suggesting that. But pretty much every weekend ride I do around Kent seems to come across a sportive, so sometimes sharing a route with a sportive is unavoidable. If the arrows have been put out then why not follow them for a bit? These days if you end up lost then Google Maps or your high end Garmin will be able to get you home. Another method is – download the route from the organisers website and use your GPS bike computer to navigate around it. This way you can choose to ride it on a different day to avoid the crowds and potential bad weather.

If you find you’re entering more and more sportives then maybe its time to think about racing!!! 😉

Here are links to some of my sportive rides:

FT Ride London 100, 30/06/2013

Dunwich Dynamo, 20/07/2013

Evans Ride It, Biggin Hill, 3/11/2013

Old Portlians Reliability Ride, 02/02/2014

Prudential 10/08/2014

Kentish Killer, 15/02/2015

Old Portlians Reliabilty Trial (fail), 08/02/2015

Active Sports London Sportive, 10/05/2015

Evans Ride It, Biggin Hill, 8/11/2015