Friday, 16 April 2010
The ride I had entered was run by Essex Roads CC and was a 150km loop with a fairly flat profile. Having done a few of these events now, I am noticing that I am far more relaxed at the start - something that I imagined might come with familiarity. The weather was mild, sunny and a little breezy when we rolled out and stayed that way throughout. Using a bit of experience, I jumped straight onto the back of a group at the start - when they initially overtook me they were travelling at a fair lick but at the back of the bunch things were not so tough. The other rider I was with is stronger than I am and he was happy at the brisk pace being kept.
We rode with that group until the first feed station, which came after 50km and what a good job Essex Roads had done. There was sports drink, gels, energy bars, bananas even some homemade flapjack! I scoffed away and I think it's the first time I think I have truly re-fuelled as you are supposed to on a ride and I think it made a big difference. I really am going to concentrate on that in the future.
In the end, the lack of hills and plentiful groups to roll along with made for a quick and enjoyable ride. 150km is the furthest ride I have put in so far and to complete the loop in under 6 hours was not bad. Mid-winter training seems to have paid off, now to kick on a bit - if only things would quieten down at work to allow it...
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Take a look for yourself here.
Saturday, 20 March 2010
The loop was around 105km and was mostly flat before the Peyresourde with some newly surfaced roads (something else to thank the TdF for). Unfortunately, there was plenty of wind and it was all blowing my way. My average speed slowed to around 19kmh and whilst making such pedestrian progress I decided to pull in for lunch. The situation with the wind is definitely something I will have to monitor closely on Etape day and factor into my broom wagon calculations.
In a small cafe in the town of Sarrancolin, I indulged in some typical rural French behaviour and asked the waitress for some red wine with my lunch. The old riders of the 50s and 60s used to raid bars and cafes before climbing the brutes of the Tour so I thought I'd try and do the same. I'm not sure whether that hampered my progress at all, but with the wind still gusting it took me a lot longer than I wanted to reach the bottom of the Peyresourde.
Fortunately, there was plenty of great scenery to keep me occupied. The western approach of the Peyresourde climbs up out of a valley flanked with snow-capped peaks. The gradient was steep without being savage. I've worked out that if the km markers say 7-8%, that means you are in for some 10% sections interspersed with some relief/recovery inclines. Any km markers that say 9% or more mean it is time to grit your teeth and grind away. With less fuss than I anticipated, I rounded the corner toward the summit (was this the red wine kicking in?) and found myself full enough of energy to crack a smile to all passers by. It was a great feeling to get up the Peyresourde so well, even if I did not break any records doing so.
As with Superbagneres, the descent towards Luchon was worth all the effort. Technical at the top, there were some great views to enjoy whilst swishing through the hairpins. With that first section out of the way, it was time to get the wind whistling through my helmet, put my nose closer to the handlebars and build up some speed. Working on my descending was a primary aim of this training week and with some tips given to me by Chris I was gaining in confidence. So much so that I ended up passing 3 cars on the descent (one was only a Fiat Panda, so I'm not sure I can count that one!) which was a real rush.
Back in Luchon, I passed the billboards advertising the arrival of the Tour. As the road was now flat, it gave me the chance to consider a few things. Like how on earth could anyone actually race up the mountain I just ascended? I mean the riders actually jockey for position, push out elbows, accelerate and counter-accelerate. I had felt good counting out my effort one revolution at a time, but there was no way I could have gone any faster if required. The experience gave me an even greater appreciation of the feats of professionals.
Leaving Luchon, the wind that was against me was now behind and I pushed for home at speed. I completed the loop with a ride time of 4hours 52minutes (not including my stop for lunch). Not bad for 102km covered and more importantly, I had a great time in doing so. Here are the stats from the Garmin.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
The climb was a bruising encounter - the average gradient was 9.5% with a 600m stretch at 17%. To say I was gasping for air would be an understatement, I really thought I was going to come to a standstill and fall off my bike at one point. It comes to something when reaching a section of 10% stuff is seen as a bit of a break!
Panting away I reached the top and felt a great sense of achievement in doing the ride in one go. The summit tops out at 1069m - I view anything above 1000m as a real Col so I was feeling very smug. The descent down the hill was some of the best fun I have had on a bike, albeit I was scared stiff for the majority of it. I stopped on the way down at the memorial erected for Fabio Casartelli, the Olympic Champion who lost his life on the Portet d'Aspet during the 1995 TdF.
The experience taught me 2 valuable lessons; 1) I need to do plenty more training and 2) I really need to get some tips on how to descend, as my skills in this area are still squarely at novice level.
Here is the Garmin readout from the ride.
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
The majority of the course was challenging but not soul-destroying. There were many of the typical English climbs of less than 1k in length but including pitches of 15%+ which made sure my heart was really working hard. After about 2 hours 20 minutes, the fine sunny weather we were enjoying became accompanied by some strong winds. I was riding on my own at this point and suddenly saw my average speed plummet. Dragging a friend out to complete these sportives with you really can help out when the gusts pick up - I felt like I was pedalling in marmite for some flat sections! Thankfully the wind died down towards the end and I was able to make better progress.
At the 80k point of the ride, I had a nagging feeling the organisers had thrown in one last hill. As I had come back from a holiday the night before the race, I hadn't had time to give the course profile another once over. However, I was soon to find out. The final ascent was so ultra steep I could almost hear the cackles of the organisers as every rider struggled to a near standstill (one unfortunate chap even gave up the ghost and walked to the top). If the 23% hairpin wasn't enough, SWRC had also arranged for a photographer to take snaps of the grimacing faces so all the competitors could immortalise the moment - I can't wait to have a laugh at what I looked like! Still, I made it to the crest and on the end.
All in all, it was very well run. There was a good feed station, excellent signage and it all made for a very enjoyable ride. Sportive one down, on to the next challenge!