This is my plan and diary for a structured, quality year of competitive cycling in 2017. The plan consists of target events and training schedule; the diary breaks down a recent run of play, with some attempt at analysis for future improvement.
I don't have a general aim for this year, but do have these specific targets:
Dodgy start to the year at Trinity Cross Sporting a badly bruised hip from a heavy fall, I had tyre indecision and decided to switch wheels at the last minute. A softening front tyre brought me down half-way through the race, and my bike change went on to show that my original tyre choice was fine anyway. The spare bike's rear brake locked on, though, wasting more time, so all in all it was a frustrating race. I also almost took out another rider when exiting the pits!
There's just one race to go, on Jan 22, so I have a bit of time to repair my hip and prep the bikes. I'll continue to ride road miles, having no interest in hitting the turbo.
End-of-year Summary: The year has gone quite well overall for me, although my diversity of cycling challenges has impacted top-end performance. Consequently I didn't manage a top 3 placing in any of the East District TT champs. I also failed to ride the National 25-mile TT champs. Various mishaps and bad planning meant that I didn't complete the 12-hour TT, although my 12-hour round-Norfolk ride went very well. I did manage to ride over 11000 miles in 2016, but wnoder whether I should have a similar (higher) goal for 2017. One pleasing achievement was my cat-3 status in British Cycling road racing, after a win at the Fakenham crits and a 6th at the Iceni Velo race. I can now ride National B events such as the Jock Wadley.
December 19: Keeping the efforts up I've just had a decent couple of CX race weekends. My wrist has continued to improve, and it doesn't bother me at all when racing. My starts have been "steady", meaning that I've lost a few places in the first 100m or so, but I've got back to the lead group quickly. At the Push Sport CX start, I managed to ride from 15th to 5th in 100m! We had a fast race at the Stow Scramble, putting in faster lap times than the senior/junior race in a three-way battle; I was out-sprinted at the end, but was happy with 2nd place.
I made a tactical error at the Push Sport CX though, as I eased off a bit once I'd been dropped by the lead group and had got safely past Paul Groombridge. In the last 15 minutes I noticed that Mike Mooney had been dropped by the lead group, and I was slowly catching him, so I put in a big effort to catch him - but was a few seconds short. My heart rate had fallen to 168 or so in the middle of the race; if I'd kept my pace high (175+) I'd certainly have caught him. Oh well! I'll now need to finish 1st or 2nd in both of the last two races to grab 3rd in the league - a bit of a long shot.
November 20: Downs and Ups of Cyclo-cross The CX season has been broadly going well for me. I've been finishing in the middle of the top 10 in all my races, enjoying some mini-battles and not fading towards the end. However I have been suffering from poor starts, immediately getting swamped by the second row and thus letting the top riders gap me. At Hempton on Nov 11 I had the worst start possible, as my foot slipped out on the second stroke and went into the front wheel; I crashed heavily, escaping with a badly sprained wrist. Six days later at Redgrave I opted for a third row start (to avoid the first row stampede) and it worked well: I eased into the race and my wrist stayed comfortable on the soft grass terrain. Interestingly I didn't bother with a pre-race gel or even energy drink, and that didn't appear to hinder my performance at all; my HR was up at the usual 175-180 for most of the race.
The National Trophy (round 4, Ipswich) is next, and I'm riding twice - with a 2.5hr gap between the two races. A bit of spin work on the turbo should straighten me out for the second race! There's no pressure in either of these races; it'll just be fun to take part.
September 25: A surprise PB in the CC Breckland '50 I didn't do any specific training for this event, just making sure that I had enough miles in the legs and was reasonably well rested. Yesterday's cyclo-cross training (and a ride to Cromer) wasn't ideal, but neither activity was too energetic. I tried to keep my power around 300 - 310 watts, but it ended up around 280 watts. An improved front position was probably significant in delivering me a PB, and I was also only 8 minutes off the time of local fast man Daniel Bloy.
This was a weekend off from CX racing; next weekend is a double-header, at Hadleigh Park and with a return to Hilly Fields. Both courses are going to be tough, with lots of climbing, but I'm confident that I'll be ready for them without any specific work.
September 4: Lots gone wrong in the 12-hr time trial There wasn't a single thing that went wrong in this event, which was run in broadly favourable conditions despite a 15mph wind blowing straight up the A11. I abandoned at 120 miles, suffering from achy legs/knees and a headache. Here are my negative points:
My food (high-protein flapjacks) and drink (plain Etixx in a bottle) seemed to be fine, and I was happily chomping on flapjacks from a little bag strapped to my tri-bars. If I'd had something for my headaches and knee aches, eg, ibuprofen, then I might have been able to continue at a lower pace.
Next up is the cyclocross season, which for me starts on September 18 at Hillyfields in Colchester. I'm not doing any specific training, and just need to make sure that my kit (bike and spare) is ready.
August 29: All-time 10-mile time trial PB! I didn't train for this event on the A11, and it looks like it was just a fast day in still conditions. I'd been riding in the Lake District the week before, with lots of hill-climbing of course, and I also rode the Iceni Velo club run the day before. The funny thing about my result here is that I was 13th, whereas I finished 2nd for my previous PB ride (12s slower) in 1998.
July 18: Powering down in the 100-mile time trial Despite a healthy taper in the previous week and feeling good on the start line, I saw my power just slipping away after the first hour. I was watching my 3-second avg power to try and keep it constant, and after sticking quite well to 300W it just just kept sliding down, until I was barely able to hold 240W by the end. My average speed by then was still well above my 12-hour target (39kmh vs 37kmh), but I'm not too confident of holding 200 - 220 watts for a whole twelve hours! A very healthy taper is required, combined with decent long rides until mid-August.
July 9: Training for a 12-hour time trial What better way to train for a 12-hour TT than to ride for 12 hours? That event is actually in September, but the 100-mile TT is next weekend and I've recently fancied doing a round-Norfolk ride, so decided just to go for it. I didn't capture power data unfortunately (most likely because the power-recording Garmin was in my back pocket), but my average HR of 131 was healthily low for a 20mph ride of 236 miles. I reckon that 140bpm is sustainable for 12 hours, at around 210 watts.
Last year I averaged 160bpm for the 100-mile TT, and will probably aim for 155bpm this year - but watching that the power doesn't drop below 300 watts.
July 6: Lots more power at the 15-mile EDCA champs I felt great this evening, with a 15-mile warm-up ride from Norwich, and a nice dose of Deep Heat got my legs pumping nicely. I averaged 28.5mph and the power was healthily above normal at 337 watts. Almost half my time at VO2max, and almost the other half at threshold. Almost all the rest was at anaerobic. Nice! A problem was that I was spinning out on several descents, dropping my power output considerably.
The EDCA 100-mile TT champs are up next, so it's all about long distance efforts now.
June 26: Fatigue, illness, and slow in the EDCA 50 After a 3-day ride featuring heavy rain and fly-breathing in the Peak District, I picked up a minor chest infection and was too ill for the EDCA 25-mile TT champs. I rode the 50-mile champs at a reasonable pace, but was still not right and finished low in the top 10. Hopefully I'll be properly rested and well for the 15-mile TT champs in early July!
June 3: Fair performance at the Chrono With a 30-mile ride to the event I was nicely warmed up for it, but felt a bit achy in the legs during the 16-mile trial. Power was good (but not great) and I was over-geared on the steep climb.
June 1: Win in the East District TT circuit champs It was a rough evening, windy and misty, so the course was shortened to 10 miles. I just managed to squeeze under 24 minutes, which I was happy with in the circumstances.
EDCA 25-mile TT champs are the next big target, on June 19, with the EDCA 50-mile TT champs the weekend after.
May 22: Win (with a lie-down) in the GYCC 2-up time trial Paul Groombridge and I rode well together for this, although my 30-mile ride down to the event was probably a bit too far. We also had a coming-together which brought me down (thankfully with a soft grass landing).
Next up is the 25-mile east district TT circuit champs, then the Tour of Cambs Chrono TT! So just short distances to deal with.
8 May: Long ride to test my endurance This was partly an excuse to make the most of the sudden burst of summery weather, and partly an excuse to enjoy my Mum's cooking. I cycled 90 miles down to Essex, cooled my legs off in the sea, stuffed my face and cycled 80 miles home again, holding a speed of around 33kmh throughout. I generally felt pretty good to the end, although my feet were aching quite a lot. All in all, it bodes well for my 12-hour TT plan.
4 May: Road race season Having earned 10 points as a 4th cat at Fakenham, I was keen to gain a couple more and graduate permanently to a 3rd cat. I was in good shape for the Gt Yarmouth road race, nicely warmed up from a 15-mile ride over and quite well rested. I was unable to establish myself in a break, however, and was completely out-gunned in the bunch sprint. For the Iceni Velo road race, I had a 30-mile ride down and also felt in good shape. The lumpy circuit gave me the opportunity to make a break for it, and six of us ended up finishing ahead of the bunch. This result gave me the points I needed! In Ixworth (3rd cats race) the following day I couldn't stay with the bunch and got lapped, and at round 1 of Lotus League on Wednesday I could only stay with the bunch.
17 April: Solid '25 and a tough road race A 20-mile ride down to the time trial meant that I was nicely warmed up when lots of people seemed to be struggling with the near-zero temperatures. I couldn't complain with a second place behind pro triathlete Joe Skipper, even though he was over 3 minutes faster! My power was good - but not great - on a subdued heart rate, and pace was really steady.
In the week prior to my first ever road-race (the 3/4 cat GYCC Spring RR) I decided to keep to steady miles, keeping the legs fresh for the big day. On the day I felt good and the Iceni Velo team cameraderie was strong (eight of us got an entry!) but the race pace was much too high for me to make an impact. A couple of times early on I put in several minutes of high effort, HR at 180, but couldn't shake the bunch. I ended up finishing in the bunch, not having anything left for a sprint. The race was quite an experience, quite un-nerving at times, and I personally would be much happier riding solo or in a small pack.
5 April: Nice evening for a club '10 After a day at work I rode up to Sheringham on my road bike, and put in a decent time (for a road bike) in the '10 before cycling home as the sun set. It was a bit tiring overall, but other IV clubmates had said they were going - so how could I refuse!
3 April: 2-up TT success! Paul Groombridge and I rode down to Bressingham (an 80-mile round trip for me) before posting a winning '54 in the 25-mile 2-up TT. We rode well together, locked wheel to wheel to stay sheltered from the cross-wind breeze. We swapped over at 1-minute intervals, maintaining that the whole way through. I struggled to stay with Paul for the first couple of miles, but soon settled into a rhythm.
There's a 25-mile TT up next, followed by three road races. I'll be working at 2-hour rides with 2-minute sprint intervals.
27 March: winning as a 4th cat This was a busy Easter weekend, with the GYCC '10 TT on the Friday (which I rode down to, and put in an average 332W (171bpm) before riding home again) and the Fakenham Crits on the Sunday (which I also rode to, a 50-mile round trip). My HR for the crits was 172bpm, but for the first half of the race I was up at 178 - going fast and feeling strong.
With the kids off for Easter I'll get in a few rides where I can, but won't be expecting to do much.
5 March: TT season underway! On a cold day I got nicely warmed up for the event by riding down there, around 30 miles. Despite a bit of a crosswind the TT went smoothly enough and I managed to average 319W with an avg HR of 173bpm.
March is just about miles, so I'll be aiming for longer rides at a high pace - not letting them drag on too long!
In general, I intended to place specific focus on:
I also intended to ride a few road races, with a view to supporting IV team-mates or just for the experience.
I didn't do as well as I'd hoped at cyclo-cross, usually finishing a couple of minutes down on the winner and only managing 4th or 5th in the Eastern League. My attempt at a National TT was also lacklustre - although 25 miles is a prime target for a lot of strong riders. I did however achieve some good results in the EDCA champs, at all distances between 15 and 100 miles, and have at least one award heading my way. Also, I was in the winning Iceni Velo team at the Lotus TTT event!
3 Jan (2016): Lots of holiday miles and a couple of tough 'cross races I managed to put in my best performance yet with 2nd place at Chantry Park (the Stow Scramble), having kept the training volume down during the week before. I felt good coming into the Chris Cross, having put in a lot of decent miles over the Christmas break, but struggled with the tough conditions and only managed 6th. I was quite busy on the day helping with the timekeeping and judging, but still felt like I should have had more punch on the start line.
Moving on, I'm looking to finish on a high in the last CX race of the season at Trinity Park on Jan 24, and the week after I'll be having a good shot at the Freethorpe 10-mile running race. So it's going to involve some decent base miles in the saddle, alongside some 5 - 10 mile runs. After all that, the TT season kicks off in early March! I'll be concentrating on longer distances this year, including the 12-hour, and would also like to see how far I can ride in a day - probably based loosely on the "Round Norfolk challenge" that is into its third year.
14 December: Steady cyclo-cross improvement I have had a busy couple of months consisting of weekend cyclo-cross racing and weekday road training. Apart from a chilly, wet and windy weekend at Redgrave and Southwold, conditions have been unseasonably warm. I have often not felt the need to warm up on a turbo trainer prior to my races, and usually haven't had the time either because of my responsibility with judging other races. My race preparation has therefore consisted of a couple of recce laps a few hours before the race, and spectating/judging (whilst drinking a flask of soup) up until the race. My starts haven't been great, usually, but I've mostly managed to stay the course and maintain a high effort throughout. I'm usually a minute or two behind the winner, finishing somewhere in the top 5.
For a few races I've been hampered by the lack of a pit crew, as muddy conditions have made the one bike heavier and slower. I do keep a spare bike in the pits, but that's just for emergencies as I would lose 20 or 30 seconds swapping over by myself.
5 October: TT season end I've now completed my time trialling for the year, riding a '10 and a '25 on the Harleston-Bungay road and with reasonable (top-ten) results. My '10 time was my fastest of the year, but nothing special, and the '25 was about the same as I rode at the National event. Power was good at 320+W, but I might have benefited from more targeted and harder turbo sessions in the week prior to each event.
I've also ridden a couple more CX events, finishing in the top ten but unable to keep with the leaders at the start. A turbo warm-up session before each race may have helped, but I need more starting power!
It's cyclocross all the way through the winter now, and I need to do a mixture of endurance, power and skills training to be good enough to compete at the sharp end.
13 September: Off the pace for cyclocross After a few weeks off (including a fair attempt at the Run Norwich 10k race) I have hit the first couple of Eastern Cross races a bit cold. Conditions were warm and dry, and my heart rate was reasonable, but I was instantly gapped by the four or five leaders and lost a steady 15-20s per lap. I felt fine before and after both races, but maybe wasn't warmed up properly - not bothering with any turbo training because of the mild weather.
For the next event (in Colchester, on the 20th), I shall do a proper turbo warm-up just before my race and work hard to stay with the leaders.
16 August: Plenty of power at the EDCA 30-mile TT In a bit of a turnaround form-wise, I managed to sustain a reasonably consistent 325W for just over an hour's cycling on the A11 at Attleborough. I had targeted 320W, but kept feeling good when occasionally going up to 340W. My training in the previous week was minimal: literally just a couple of turbo sessions (with a few minutes at a time at 320W or thereabouts) and a couple of 150bpm rides. This wasn't sufficient, especially in the early part of the week straight after the disappointing KLCC '25. I was doing low intensity CX training in the afternoon after the '30 time trial (since the cyclocross season is fast approaching) and that was a welcome way to de-stress the legs.
Next weekend is a bit tricky: a 10k run on Sunday, and a 10-mile TT on Monday morning. I shall do a couple of 5-7km runs early in the week, at around 150bpm, and also a few short, high-intensity turbo sessions. I intend to cycle down to the running race, and will also do a bit of low effort turbo work (with short high-effort bursts) on the Sunday evening. Monday morning will also need a careful warm-up before the event, to make sure that the legs are ready to spin!
An eye-opener for me has been to read Adam Topham's e-book about time trialling, and I've already tweaked my aero bar position in response - getting the elbow pads as close together as possible, to encourage the shoulders to hunch forwards and in. He also raises important points about targets: it's important to have performance targets as well as outcome targets. Outcome targets are to do with how you do relative to other racers in the events, whereas performance targets are just down to you (eg, target average power or HR). It's also important to set training targets (eg, hours of training, minutes at a specified high power level) and to make sure that these training targets are designed to encourage your body to over-compensate in its recovery. The book is a straightforward, fun, helpful read, and I'd recommend it to anyone who feels that they could improve their TT performance.
8 August: A couple of disappointing 25-mile TTs The National '25 was a fast course on a couple of A-roads, but I finished a lowly 82nd (out of 111) and 12th out of 17 in my age group. Running a power meter for the first time, I recorded a lot of time (around 18 minutes) below 300W. The chain also unshipped from the front chainring a couple of times, which lost me some time and threw me completely off my rhythm. The chain-unshipping problem has since been rectified with a hand-made stainless bracket, and my ride in the Kings Lynn CC '25 was mechanically sound. However, I still spent almost 20 minutes at below 300W which pushed my weighted avg power down to 317W. I've had very little time in the saddle recently, and in the run-up to next weekend's 30-mile district champs I will need to put in some 320-350W turbo efforts - trying to lengthen the time I can stay in that range.
26 July: First 100-mile time trial in 17 years I had a really patchy training schedule in the run up to this tough event: I had 5 days off the bike a week before (due to work), and have had a mouth infection for the last week (making eating quite unpleasant). I've been on antibiotics for the last few days, but that doesn't seem to have had any side-effects.
Next up is the National 25-mile champs, and I aim to finish 3rd or 4th (out of 17) in the vet40-44 category. I'll be lucky to finish 50th overall, I think. Training shall consist of several short rides to capitalise on my '100 effort, getting faster towards Wednesday and then a slower short effort or two later in the week.
1 July: 3rd place in the 15-mile East District Champs I decided to lower my bar stem for this one, from the regular +10°ree; angle to -20°ree;. I'd kept my training short and sharp in the week before, and consequently felt like my legs were fresh. This was an evening event, and I delayed my evening meal until after the event. Overall I was able to push quite hard, with HR at an average of 172, and my average speed was 44.9kmh. I was spinning out on the return leg, so a higher top gear would help. My gear downshifts (using friction levers) on the gentle climbs were too slow and caused me to lose speed and focus, so I need to get things set up once more for index shifting.
The next two events are the ECCA 25 (almost two weeks away) and the EDCA 100-mile champs. I shall need to ramp up the training miles for the '100, but taper a bit for the '25.
29 June: 4th place in the 50-mile District Champs! I had a better ride than the previous week, almost certainly because I pegged my early effort back to an HR of around 165. This allowed me to properly wind up my efforts during the last 15 miles - instead of just clinging on! Hydration was the same as last week, and worked just as well. I didn't actually get many miles in during the week, due to family commitments, so wasn't as distance-ready as I'd have liked - but I did at least have fresh legs!
22 June: First '50 done! After a reasonably well-rested week I found myself raring to go for this event, and went out a bit too fast for the first half (HR over 170 a lot of the time). Consequently, the second half was a bit of a struggle - even the tailwind stretch - and my HR was dropping below 160 at times. Hydration was good though, as I had a 750mL bottle strapped to my tri-bars and was sipping from it (through a hose stuck into the bottle) every 5 minutes.
8 June: After the Lotus Team TT and the Tour of Cambridgeshire! One key target achieved: IV's A team put in a determined performance at the Lotus team TT to claim 1st place! We didn't prepare a lot for this as a team, and in the run-up to the event we concentrated on short distance efforts (under 30 minutes within an hour-long ride). Unfortunately I heavily banged my left leg just below the knee the day before the event, but managed to reduce the swelling enough to compete. A few days later, the ToC consisted of a Saturday afternoon 16-mile time trial and a Sunday afternoon 80-mile road race, all on closed roads. I didn't do any special preparation for this, other than continuing to nurse my injured leg. I managed 17th in my age group for the time trial, and because this was a national event (with 700 entrants) it ticks another target of mine. The Gran Fondo race didn't go so well, as I popped a tyre just before the start and had to go flat out for the first hour.
I have a simple 10-mile TT coming up in a few days time, and after that it's all about '50s and '100s. I'm keeping off the bike before the '10, and from then on will be doing longer training rides.
18 May: Getting the miles in! Preparation for the Tri Anglia '100 had been going well, with a long solo ride, a fast club ride, and numerous shorter fast efforts, until the event got cancelled a few days before the time trial itself. Feeling strong, I went for a 110-mile solo ride on the day anyway, on my road bike, and rode well for the first 80 miles. A tough headwind on tiring legs made the last 30 miles a real slog though.
Nothing is on the immediate horizon, although the 130km Tour of Cambs Gran Fondo is two weeks away. This week I shall be helping our sprinters at the Lotus League, and also getting in more TTT practice.
4 May: Just a '10 TT in the end Bad weather on Sunday meant that the '25 TT was cancelled and we didn't go to the CX racing at Holkham - which meant that I had plenty of spare energy for Monday's '10 TT. I held a good heart rate for it, despite very different conditions on the out and return legs, and was pleased with a season's PB and a 4th place.
There's nothing coming up this weekend, so I need to concentrate on endurance training for the '100 in a fortnight.
25 April: Longer miles in TT training This is a weekend off, competition-wise. I've had a couple of TT training sessions south of Norwich this week, putting in around 110 miles on the TT bike, and feel very comfortable with holding the position for long periods of time. I consequently feel much more confident about riding the '100 on May 16th. Looking at the numbers, I reckon that a 37 - 38kmh average is well in range; this would give me a time of between 4h14 and 4h20, which I'd be happy with. A 39kmh average (4h07) is probably unrealistic.
With two time trials next weekend (a '25 and a '10) and possibly a cyclocross race, I shall concentrate on daily 30-minute to 50-minute high-effort sessions until Thursday - either on road or on the turbo. After that, I shall drop my efforts down and have the Saturday off.
19 April: First 25-mile TT of the year On the A143 in south Norfolk this is very much a benchmarker event, and I was happy with my performance given the extra level of endurance required. I was 5th, over 3 minutes behind the winner, and managed to hold my HR at reasonably flat at around 167. The ride quality was excellent once again, and I had no issues holding the TT position. My mid-week training was patchy; mostly just fast commutes and no real efforts. I didn't ride at all on the Friday and Saturday.
I have no events next weekend, but am now planning on riding the Tri-Anglia 100-mile time trial on May 16 - less than a month away! I shall need to incorporate some longer rides (up to 70 miles) on the TT bike, but also need to taper briefly for the busy bank holiday weekend - containing a '10, a '25 and maybe a cyclocross event! Training for the Lotus TTT is also starting up, but this is going to emphasise an efficient technique.
11 & 12 April: 5k run and hilly time trial This was a weekend off real competition, and I went for a parkrun on Saturday morning, and a hilly club time trial on Sunday morning. These efforts felt good, but I shall need to put in some decent miles over the coming week in preparation for the '25 next weekend.
3-4 April: 10-mile TT one morning, and a 20-mile sporting TT the following afternoon I didn't manage to fit in many training sessions in the last fortnight, but have installed a new pair of 25mm tubs on the TT wheels. I rode these for the '10 on the A143, felt fast and smooth, and didn't even mind the rougher sections that had been gravelled over. My time was also over 10s better than earlier this year, in far from ideal conditions too. As for the 20-mile hilly event, I rode down to it (30 miles) and managed a 7th place at just under 25mph average speed. My legs were feeling slightly tired from the day before, but I think that I was pretty much in good shape for it. More training miles in the previous fortnight would have been preferable, though!
22 March: Horsford 10-mile time trial As this was a club event I decided to do a bit of experimentation with my TT rig. I ditched my 19mm tub aero wheels in favour of 25mm aero clinchers (40mm American Classics) pumped up to 116 psi (8 bar), and did exactly the same time as at the Breckland '10 2 weeks earlier! Indeed, my legs didn't feel anywhere near as fresh, because of lots of rides in stiff cold wind in previous days - and my subdued heart rate of around 167-169 confirmed that. I'd ridden out to the event, and was nice and warm when I'd arrived, but had cooled down considerably by the start. So on balance I think that this was a solid thumbs up for wider tyres!
14 March: Sporting 21-mile time trial I was not giving this event particular attention training-wise, just limiting my rides to an hour. I did crash on the previous Sunday, cutting my right knee and bruising my right hand/wrist - but all pretty much healed by the time of the event. On the event, despite feeling fresh and ready, my average speed slipped below 25mph and my HR was only 165 (falling below 160 at times). No complaints about my placing (8th), but I think that my performance suffered from a chilly northerly breeze. Leggings and a longer warm-up would have been sensible!
7 March: Season opener 10-mile time trial In preparation for the event I put in steady, short miles during the week. The event itself was very much a marker for competitive form, and with it came mixed messages. I was happy with the bike's performance (bike-fit saddle adjustment) and with my effort (high, steady HR; personal course PR), but only managed 14th overall. My 10-mile effort needs to raise a few beats to almost 180; this should be sustainable over that distance.