Once again my updates have been reduced to one every never. I aim to change that and over the next few days/weeks/months I will be moving away from Tumblr and setting up a proper blog, which I’ll hopefully be able to set up to cross post to here, although if not then I’ll be doing it all manually.
Training has been going okay, only okay though, there’s been some big changes in my life (read as: girlfriend) and currently I’m trying to manage work, cycling and seeing her. Weekends always suffer, while I usually end up sitting around all day Saturday chilling I never seem to have time to ride, usually because I have company and I feel bad saying “yeah I’m just gonna hop on the turbo for an hour, don’t mind the noise”. Not the most polite.
So yeah, training has been going okay, but as is always the case, due to shit getting in the way my weekend rides before Portugal are going to be few and far between, I think I might be able to squeeze 2 or 3 in, 4 absolute max. However now the weather has picked up a bit (despite the current rain) I will start venturing outside probably as of this weekend, I don’t want to do crazy distances straight away, probably just some slowish local loops with a few climbs just to test my legs and fitness. As the Portugal trip gets closer I hope to do some longer stuff, stretching out to 90-100km would be ideal but that depends on company and weather. But even with my winter training, I still feel that I’ll be heading to Portugal in better condition than I was in in November, while I had a full season of riding in my legs, fitness was definitely on the decline and I think I might have suffered slightly because of that.
So with any luck I’ll start writing up more posts as the weather gets nicer, but until that happens you’ll have to put up with the sporadic updates, which I apologise in advance for. Once the new site is up it’ll hopefully be a lot more content rich than this one, and I hope to engage the readers (that’s you) much more.
Thankfully my riding has been more regular than my postings on here. I apologise to all of those who give a shit about my lack of writing here, although I’m sure that’s very few of you. I did write a post a few weeks ago but I just never got round to posting it…
So what to write… training has been going okay. The whole three on one off thing didn’t really work, instead I’m doing short and long weeks, so a short week will be stuff like 5x3m@105% FTP, and a long week will be 2x15m@95% FTP. I’m trying to get a good balance of the two. I’m not sure which is being more beneficial currently, but I know they’re definitely working. Rides I couldn’t finish at the beginning of January I’m now working through at higher power outputs which is really encouraging, however the shorter, harder stuff (3x7m@110% FTP) is still defeating me.
I only managed 7m,5m,3m yesterday, although to redeem myself I did some short ramps, keeping my cadence around 95rpm and shifting every 10 seconds until I’m going flat out, 120rpm, 53x11 for about 20 seconds. The resistance on my trainer is set so that sits around 450w, so while it’s not the highest power output I’ve ever put out, it still feels good hitting that kind of wattage in training. God knows how the pro’s hold that shit for an hour, then again if I was being paid to ride my bike every day, having a day-by-day plan of exactly what level to ride at, eating properly, and had the support of an entire team behind me, I’d probably be a fair bit stronger than I am now. But we can only work with the time we have available, and that will always be my downfall.
I’m not going to write reams and reams, in fact I’m going to leave this pretty short. If you’re that interested in my progress it’s all up on my Strava which there is a link to at the top of my page, so you can see how things have been going for me. Again if you have any questions or would just like to chat you can leave a comment on this post or email me, jonmackinnon AT gmail DOT com.
A friend of mine was asking about my winter training, and I told him i’d go into more detail than I did in my last post so I thought i’d explain some of my intentions.
As I said previously, I spoke to Tony at flammerouge.je and he gave me a free 8 week training plan, and I’ve also spent some time looking at the other pages on his website which is what gave me the three on one off idea. The year before last, which was my first cycling winter, I spent time reading “The Black Book” by Pete Read and although I didn’t dedicate the time I should have to training, it was still good to read and get an idea of the kind of program I should be following. His ideas are a mix of traditional and modern training programs, he recommends no “heavy” work until a few months before the season, but also talks about the best way to increase power, and has a lot of turbo specific interval workouts which is how I spent my last winter. So like I said, a good mix of traditional and modern.
So this year I’m going to be starting out very slowly, I’m going to bite the bullet and finally start riding my rollers properly. The problem last year was that I started riding them, then my mother went nuts at me because I started wearing through the carpet we had only had fitted literally a week prior, not a good move by me, so under the bed they went which is where they sat until I moved rooms a few months ago. New room means new carpet so I kept some of the old one to put under my rollers, so hopefully I wont have the same issue as last year, if I do I’m pretty sure my mother will actually kill me. That’s completely off topic, but nonetheless, rollers is where I will be starting, purely because there’s no resistance, I can start getting my legs and heart working without absolutely wrecking them with intervals. Plus the last time I rode was in Portugal which was pretty hard, so I just want to give them a nice steady work out for a few weeks before the intervals start. Ideally I’d like to get out on the roads but my problem is that I hate the cold so chances are I’ll just be doing an hour here and there when I can. I’m not sure what days I’m going to ride yet, Tuesday Thursday and Saturday sounds good but I don’t think three sessions is enough really so I will look to do 3 week days then Saturday morning and Sunday evening.
Come January I should have a few hours in my legs which is when the turbo will come out. First things first I’ll be doing an FTP test. There are a number of train of thoughts on this, Tony believes one 6 minute test is accurate enough to work from (with some special maths), Chris Carmichael I think suggests a 2x8 and more maths again, either way I’ll get a good idea of where my FTP stands, which will then be retested at the end of every 3 week block to see any performance gains.
Tony has a number of different names for his exercises, there’s plain FTP Development, Blitzer, SHITS, VO2 and then WILT. I’ve linked through to the relevant pages on his website so you can read about them in more detail, but each of the 5 (except WILT) has 3 or sometimes 4 different levels. They can vary, sometimes the power levels will be higher, or the recovery sections can be shorter, and every now and then, both get combined so you’re doing a high power short recovery repeat workout. None of them last longer than an hour (again, except WILT), but they are all based around a percentage of your FTP and designed to improve it, which as I mentioned last time, is my goal.
Month one week one will be the A workouts, I’m not sure which I’m going to be doing yet, chances are I’ll take a look at the 8 week plan and take it from there, but I know it’ll be tough. I’ve done a few before and they are not enjoyable, but winter training isn’t supposed to be, it’s supposed to get you stronger for summer so you can go out on those weekly club runs and drop all the guys that dropped you last season. Week two sees me moving through to the B workouts, and then week 3 is the C. There will more than likely be a mix between turbo and roller sessions so that I don’t burn myself out completely, so it may be Monday turbo, Tuesday rollers, Thursday turbo, Saturday turbo, Sunday rollers, meaning that if I’m riding back to back I’ve got a recovery day on the rollers. I might also switch it up so that the week starts on a Saturday for example, so I get Monday and Wednesday off. The last thing I want to do is injure or burn myself out so I’ll be taking it all as it comes. I will try and keep you updated with my intentions on a week by week basis, either what I have planned, or how it went.
Week four will be a steady week on the rollers, probably 2 or 3 sessions, just keeping the legs ticking over, with a midweek FTP test done on the turbo so I have a place to start my training from for the next month. Then I’ll follow the same pattern as before, with the 1/A 2/B 3/C workouts, but using my new FTP value, meaning hopefully, I should continue to get stronger.
I think that just about wraps it up, it should all make sense but if you need more clarification just hassle me on Facebook or via email again, jonmackinnon AT gmail DOT com. With the winter starting to come in in the UK and it being well underway in some parts of the US all I can say is stay safe, none of us want to hear of more injury or worse happening because of poor road conditions or bad driving, so just keep your head in the game.
Something which is really all over the place in terms of thoughts is winter training. They all boil down to the same thing really, which is take it easy over the winter, and then start to ramp up the intensity a few months before your “season” starts. There’s the classic “base miles” train of thought, do loads and loads of long slow miles to keep your legs ticking over, then start doing faster stuff in the late winter/early spring. The reason this is so popular is it’s because it’s what the PRO’s do. However the PRO’s all live in european countries and get to go on winter training camps for a month to the Algarve, or Majorca, or somewhere else which is a pleasant temperature and has nice roads, whereas we are expected to go for these 4/5/6 hour 20km/h rides in the shitty UK which is no fun, plus very few of us have the time to do those rides regularly, which kind of defeats the point. I’m sure it wouldn’t be as bad if there was a decent size group of you, say 30, and you had a support car in tow like the PRO’s do, but unless you have a very generous parter that was willing to do that, and employer that doesn’t mind you either starting at lunch time every day, or finishing in the the middle of the afternoon, I don’t think anyone will ever be in that situation.
Another train of thought is the one that I followed, which was to just ride. Last year I started my training in the first week of November. Interval training every other night, until March. 4 months, indoors on the turbo. Yes it was mind-numbing, but it worked. I saw an increase of about 2-4km/h to my average speed on most rides, and with the exception of the Somerset 100 (and the trip to Portugal), I did a lot more longer rides and didn’t suffer on any of them. The Somerset 100 was my own fault, riding so fast that I didn’t think to eat and bonked at 110km and pulled out, and then the Portugal rides were just tough, but I still finished all of them.
So those rides were testament to the fact that you can do short, intense work (my longest turbo session was only an hour) and still perform okay, but I know that there is room for improvement without too much alteration to the initial plan, and it’s what I’m going to try out this winter. You should all know this already, but I’m no coach, I’m just a guy that likes riding his bike and reads far too many cycling blogs.
A couple of months ago I had some correspondence with Tony from flammerouge.je, after Zac put me on to him, and after exchanging a few emails, he gave me a free 8 week training plan with workouts designed to increase my FTP, which is what I hope to target over winter. It’s clear I can cover distance, and while some improvement there would be nice too, I think it’s easier to concentrate on increasing FTP as it’s something that can be tested pretty easily. The best way is obviously a 40k time trial (which should take around an hour, significantly less for top riders), but you can also see it on things like attacks, sprints and hill climbs, which are the specific areas i’d like to see improvement.
So my winter training plan is simple. I’d like to start on the 5th December and carry on through until the 2nd January on the rollers, just ticking over and keeping the legs going, probably 30-45 minutes every other evening at 100rpm, putting out as little power as possible, which is where rollers are perfect. Due to the fact my wheel is currently with Zipp it may mean having to borrow a set of wheels from a friend, but that’s no problem. Then come January I will do either his 6 minute test, or Chris Carmichael’s 2x8 minute test to work out my FTP.
With my FTP set it’ll be 3 weeks on, one week off (which is an idea I got from his website too) following these work outs that he’s sent. THe workouts are available on his website so I’m not going to go into detail about them, but after doing a couple of them in the run up to Portugal I can tell you that they hurt. But the basic plan is week 1 is the “easiest”, although these are still very testing work outs sitting around your FTP power which I’ve found to be horrible on a turbo. Week 2 then gets harder, and week 3 is hardest. Then I’ll be taking a week off, and starting the whole process again after retesting my FTP in the same way as before.
Obviously because they’re 4 week programs they don’t quite marry up to January/February/March, but it’s close enough. January and February are going to be solely indoor months. I don’t cope well in the cold and don’t particularly want to be going out with the SRC boys from Bridgwater up to Burnham and then back to Bridgwater every week as after doing it once, I know it’s a fucking boring ride, but come March I am going to do exactly that, as it’s a fairly easy ride, the pace is highish but sitting at the back of the pack lets you sit at a low wattage and get towed along which is very nice.
The start of the fourth week of the March program will fall on the 19th, but due to the fact I’m going to Portugal on the 4th April I’ll be doing some easy stuff this week, depending on weather it’ll either be indoor on the rollers keeping my legs fresh, or outdoors if the weather allows. Then the week before the trip will be again a very easy week following the exact same routine, but stopping on the Friday to give my legs a few days to rest up before jetting off to Portugal.
I’ll endeavour to keep this site updated, it’s difficult finding the inclination to write when I know there aren’t many people reading, but I’ll see what I can do, I guess weekly updates would be nice, if you have any thoughts on the issue of frequency or just want to comment on the blog then please either add me on Facebook or drop me an email to jonmackinnon AT gmail DOT com. Thanks for reading.
For convenience I’ve added anchors at the beginning of each day so you don’t have to read the whole post at once. Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four. The title of the day also includes a link through to the Strava ride, feel free to check them out while reading so you can get the full experience.
Day one started with a very early rise, 3:45am for me, I had packed all my shit together the day before so I lazed in bed for 15 minutes, grabbed some last minute bits from around the house and jumped in the car ready to head to Karl’s at about 4:30. I arrived at dead on 4:45, we wrestled my bike into the car and went just round the corner to pick up Justin. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we managed to get his bike in the car too, and then we were on our way to Bristol.
We sailed through check in, although my bike bag was quite literally dead on the 32kg limit, and went and grabbed something to eat and drink from Burger King, a healthy start. After an hour sitting around discussing all sorts of topics from cycling to mummifying people, the gate opened to get us onto the plane. At 8am, 15 minutes later than expected, we took off.
Considering it was my first ever time on a plane, I was pretty comfortable, I can’t see what the fuss is all about, you sit down, the plane goes in the air, flies for a bit, then lands, I was fortunate that we didn’t hit any turbulence but it was still a nice flight, I’m not sure how people survive on crazy long flights to Australia or whatever, but 2.5 hours to Portugal wasn’t too bad.
We arrived in Faro and apart from the shitty wait in the airport due to the roof being blown off and us having to rely on public transport to leave to meet Karl who had sped ahead to get the hire car, it was all pretty good. Just under an hour after getting in the car we were in the house, getting shown around and then building up our bikes.
Thankfully the baggage handlers were nice and our bikes were in one piece, I’m sure the hour or so I spent wrapping it in pipe lagging also helped but it came out completely unharmed, about half an hour later and the bikes were built and ready to ride, a quick heave ho on the pump and a mad dash to get changed and we were ready to get out on the bikes.
Karl rode down to the village to meet another rider who visits regularly, Ron, and brought him back up to the house. Justin and I finished getting our act together, did the standard last minute checks on the bikes, and with that it was time to hit the start button on the Garmin.
This was due to be the “warm up” ride, but I had no idea what Karl had in store other than about 75km of local roads. The first 20km or so of riding was on and off uphill, you’d hit a bit of a rise, 100ft or so for about 1km, crest, then come down the other side. Rinse and repeat.
Rinse and repeat is a fitting phrase, I should have followed Karl’s lead of wearing arm warmers and I also should have grabbed my jacket, however I was stupid, in a rush and thinking “we’re in Portugal, it will be fine” so I didn’t get them out of my pack. As such when it started raining after about an hour, I was very cold. We were going at a steady pace, 25km/h or so, and with another 50km to cover with no stops I knew it was going to be tough, the combination of the rain hammering down, the wind hitting us here and there and the fact I was so nervous due to the weather that I could barely ride in a straight line meant that I was suffering. My core temperature wasn’t an issue at all, it was just my extremities.
After 30 km we hit a little climb for 1km, and then at 34 km we got to the first proper climb of the day, 350ft of climbing over 2km, that led to a 6km descent dropping us down 150ft, before hitting a 5km climb with just over 500ft of elevation gain. The climb itself was great, nice and steady with wide roads meaning the cars could give plenty of room to pass, however when we got to the top, I was still soaking wet, my arms, hands and feet were absolutely freezing, and I had a 4km long descent dropping 500ft, in the pissing rain, needless to say I wasn’t looking forward to it. Add to that the fact that I hadn’t even managed to polish off one bottle yet, and I knew it was going to be really testing.
I struggled down it, after my accident earlier this year where I slid out on a corner in the rain I was taking it very very carefully, so much so that when Karl and Justin got to the bottom, they turned around to come and find me to make sure I was okay. From that point it was another 10km of gentle decline before we started hitting the lumps and bumps of the last 15km of the route. We got back to the house after just under 3 hours of riding over 77km, averaging 26km/h.
After warming up in the shower we headed into the village to one of the local restaurants which we ended up eating at for all four nights, the atmosphere there was the same as the rest of the country, despite being owned by English people, everything was chilled out, there was no rushing, super polite and just a really great place. I had myself spaghetti bolognaise and a J2O and Karl and Justin hit the beers. After there we went to a local bar where pretty much everything was 1€, and then headed back to the house.
With the day I had had I was ready to pass the fuck out, so when we got home at 9:15ish I went straight to bed and slept through until 8am the following morning.
The good thing about all staying in the same place is that there’s no pissing around waiting for people when it’s time to ride, there’s always someone who has forgotten to pack their toolkit, or pump their tyres up, which inevitably means you end up leaving 10-20 minutes later than planned, but when you’re all together, those sort of things don’t take much more than a few seconds to sort, and then you’re on your way.
So Day 2 saw us on a medium length route, 120km of mainly rolling roads, no major categorised climbs, so it should have been fairly straightforward, however the weatherman had other ideas.
We left at 10am, after a couple of hours of mooching around the house eating breakfast and watching TV. The sun was out, the cloud didn’t look too bad, but I still decided to play it safe and take my arm warmers and jacket. We headed out the back of the village towards Bensafrim at first, warming the legs up with a steady 20km/h pace, and to be honest it didn’t speed up much from that. It was 30km of steady rising roads (including a stretch past a huge lake, Albufiera de Oxiåxere) before hitting the bottom of the first real climb, a nice 3km spike rising up 600 feet, perfect to be able to able to settle into a rhythm and just bash it out.
The views were absolutely spectacular, riding through beautiful valleys on roads which gently meander up the side of mountains, overlooking lakes and vast expanses of countryside which could be compared to the Australian outback the way it is so barren and desolate.
I don’t remember exactly when the rain started, truth be told I’m writing this on the train to work almost a week after the trip so my memory is a little hazy, but I know that when it started, it didn’t stop for almost the whole of the ride. Thankfully I was slightly more prepared this time, I had worn my arm warmers and packed my jacket, so when it did start raining it wasn’t as bad. However as I previously mentioned, something I always have issues with in the rain is keeping my energy levels up, I find whenever the rain starts, my hands stay on the bars and I never reach for my bottle so end up suffering even harder, this ride was no exception.
Something incredible happened while we were riding along, it was the kind of thing you wish you could film, because it would have become a YouTube success overnight, but the last thing I wanted to do was detach the camera I had strapped to my chest. We were riding towards Marmolette, and I had to stop because my chain dropped. Out of nowhere this wild dog appears, and starts following me. I bridged up to Karl and Justin and this dog was still on my wheel, so we carried on riding over this rolling landscape, and the dog was still there. Karl tried getting rid of it by splashing it with water but it wasn’t phased, it just carried on running along with us. We’d lose it on the descents but as soon as the road was flat or heading up he’d catch back up with us. It was nothing like you’ve ever seen before. When cars came up behind us, this dog was growling and barking at them, as if he was protecting us, apart from that he was completely silent, content with just running along next to us. He was with us for about 7 or 8km until we hit a longer section of down hill and he couldn’t stick with us. It was so surreal, just thinking back to it now makes me laugh, he was so happy just running along next to us bless him.
We stopped in Monchique for a break after 56km of riding, and the rain had let up slightly. At this point Karl made the decision to cut the ride short, so after a half an hour break we jumped back on the bikes. I was absolutely freezing cold (turns out it doesn’t matter how many hot chocolates you drink at a cafe, at 1600ft when you get back on the bike still soaking wet from the constant onslaught of rain for the last 2ish hours) when we started heading down towards Portimao. It’s a brilliant descent which averages 4.5% over the best part of 9km. Despite the rain and the core temperature feeling pretty low, I still managed to get warm and we still averaged around 40km/h down it. From there I felt slightly better as I was warm, albeit wet, but knew it was only a 40km almost flat ride home through Portimao and Lagos.
Another coffee stop at Lagos gave us time to warm up a little bit, and by this point the rain had thankfully stopped so getting back on the bike wasn’t quite as difficult as it is half way up a mountain. We took it steady over the last 10km or so and got back into the village after about 4.5 hours on the bike, covering just shy of 110km. Unfortunately my Garmin ran out of juice at 79km so the ride data doesn’t quite show the extent of the suffering, but we were all grateful to be home.
After chucking our kit in the wash and ourselves in the shower, separately I might add, we headed down to the local restaurant in the village again for another well-deserved meal. Chicken Kebab was my choice, and with a double helping of rice I found myself replete and happy to retire to bed by 9:30pm! The joy of the long days on the bike means it doesn’t take long to fall asleep, and before I knew it was time to be getting up to eat breakfast ready for day 3, aka the long one!
So this was due to be the testing one, I had no idea of the terrain, but I knew it was going to be a long one, my longest ride ever in fact, 166km. It started at 7am for me, I woke up with sore legs, and Achilles tendon which was aching when I walked up and down the stairs, and a bit of a niggle in my right knee. In all honesty, I really didn’t want to ride it, but after breakfast, shower, mental breakdown, mental preparation, bike preparation, and having Karl and Justin around, meant I didn’t have a choice in all honesty. It started with the standard ride out of the front of the village, where we met Ron and headed towards Lagos.
The road to Lagos is really nice, it’s about 8km long, undulating, wide and smooth. Perfect for waking the legs up, I spent most of my time riding with Justin, and when he told me that he also felt like shit and could have quite happily sat it out, it actually made me feel slightly better, as I knew we were in it together.
So we rode into Lagos, out the other side, and that’s when it started… more rain! Looking straight ahead there was clear skies, to the left, clear skies in the distance, but above us, rain clouds. Thankfully the bad weather was heading a different direction to us, so we all grabbed our rain jackets and dealt with it. 20-30 minutes later and we were through it, the sun was out, warming us up, and Portimao was only a few k down the road.
It’s strange how familiar you become with somewhere after only a few days there. Remembering all the shops, restaurants, and terrain like you’ve been cycling there your whole life, so when we got to Portimao we all knew exactly where we were heading, straight up to Monchique, again.
The climb up to Monchique is really, really nice. It’s about a 5% average for the best part of 10km, you won’t find anything like it in the UK. Sure there’s the Cat & Fiddle which for some reason is considered one of the UK’s best climbs, but that’s only 5km long, and has a descent for nearly 1km half way through it. But the climb up to Monchique is something else entirely, with the views, the friendly traffic and the roads, it makes riding up there a pleasure, even in the rain, which is what we experienced about 1/2 way up. I had stopped for a pee at the bottom with Justin, Ron had carried on and Karl had stopped with us, we got back on the bikes and just decided to go at it at our own pace, there’s no point trying to ride with someone faster/slower than you, because you just won’t be able to get comfortable. So I went off, I saw Ron in the distance, and while I wasn’t trying to catch him, when you see someone getting closer to you, it does make you want to work slightly harder, but I just carried on at my pace, and looking behind me I could see that Karl was coming up to me, and we pretty much managed to bridge to Ron together.
Now I’m not sure exactly when it was, I can’t remember if it had started raining or not, I think it was just about to, but Ron decided he didn’t want to get caught out so all of a sudden turned around, as I rode past he told me to keep going, and I guess he told Karl he had had enough so was going home. Not long after that a shower started to come down, so I stopped to put my jacket on, despite being quite warm, I didn’t want to risk being freezing cold again like the day before. So with my jacket on I continued the climb, I was losing Karl as he had slowed down to make sure Justin was okay, but we all knew where we were going so I carried on up. About 3km from the top I came to a familiar spot, the quarry. This is where we had joined the road on Day 2, when my legs were absolutely shattered and I wanted to get off the bike and cry, but my legs were feeling completely different on this occasion. I decided to stop and wait for Karl anyway, after a couple of minutes he turned up, and we carried on up into the centre of Monchique together. Justin caught us about 10 seconds from the cafe stop, so we all rolled in together, 1/3rd of the ride completed.
After a short stop we carried on, this time through the valley, with 200ft of climbing, before we started a 20km descent down out of the mountain range and out of the Algarve, from there it was a 30km slog through some of the best but worst terrain I’ve ever ridden. Karl turned to me as we hit this stretch of road and said “now you understand why they call it the marathon of Monchique”, at the time I was clueless to what he meant, truth be told my legs were absolutely shot, but we all went up this climb and over the top it was just this crazy landscape. Justin likened it to Mexico and Australia, I was just blown away. You never get this kind of landscape in the UK, usually because there’s hedges either side of you for the duration of your ride, but this was just nuts, this desolate, barren landscape, with the odd house and restaurant dotted along the sides, it was brilliant. The riding however… that was tough. Nothing major, just little spikes like you get in the UK, a few hundred metres at 7/8/9%, normally quite easy, but when they’re relentless, kilometre after kilometre, and your legs are burning, and all you want to do is have a break, grab some food and rest your legs, that shit hurts, a lot. But after an hour or so, we were coming to the end, and it’s only then that you start to realise how fortunate you are, having the ability to ride through landscapes like this.
We stopped for lunch in a nice little town called Sao Teotonio and once again, the beauty of the country hit me. We were sat outside a little cafe stuffing our faces with cake and the sun was shining on us, a local scout group were wandering around the village centre while their leaders had some lunch, not only was it a welcome break from the bike, we’d been out of the house 5.5 hours at this point and still had 60km to go until we hit home, but it was another great opportunity to sit and appreciate the culture and way of life that they have over there. Even now, a few weeks after the trip, I still can’t get over how massively different this country is, just everything about this place seems so ridiculous and unnecessary once you’ve spent some time experiencing another country, that’s only 2.5 hours away! It boggles the mind.
So after a gorgeous pain au chocolat and 20 minutes rest we cruised round the corner to find the local supermarket and grab some supplies, a couple of cans of coke for me (which really, really helped my legs, and made me feel PRO at the same time) which I emptied into my bottle, topped up the others with some water, and then we started climbing, nothing major, 2km or so, but by the time we were 750ft above sea level, we were only about 5km from the coast itself, so there was a bit of a headwind. That was until the road took a turn to the left, where the headwind because a cross/tailwind, and we had a 30km run all the way down the west coast of the country before it kinked in slightly and took us further in land. Those 30km were absolutely awesome, the first 10k dropped 625 feet, at one point we were cruising along at 36km/h, I was on the front, putting out about 120 watts, it was exactly what I needed after the metaphorical assault I had to deal with prior to the lunch stop.
From there onwards it was pretty standard, rolling Portuguese landscape. About 5km before the turn to take us inland the road started to rise, nothing steep, just another steady climb, averaging about 3-5% on the first 2km or so before flattening out, then another 2km of 5-7%, a bit more flat, then a final 2km of 3-5% again. A nice climb that you can really just settle into, a few bits of flat help break up the climb but as the whole climb comes in at under 10k, it’s just a nice little test of the legs, especially after 135k.
Upon cresting the top of the climb, which we had also ridden on the first day, we started the descent into Bensafrim, which is about 8km of almost solid downhill, varying between about 2 and 6%, not a descent that’s going to help you break any land speed records, but certainly one that’s nice on the legs. Bensafrim marks the last real town before home, so at that point the pace slowed 5km/h or so, and we just cruised the last 15km, watching the sun get lower in the sky, and reminiscing on what had been a ride of epic proportions. It’s not until you get home and check out the stats that you realise just how far you’ve ridden over really varied terrain, but when you see the profile of the land and see the numbers, 6500 ft. of ascending, it’s a bit of a shock to the system.
I’m a similar fashion to the previous two days it was another case of get back, get in the shower, chill out for a few minutes and then go down to grab some food. After such a hard day’s riding I didn’t really want to move but on a tour like this you have to eat or you’ll fall to pieces. So I decided to go with a nice starter of chilli with tortillas, followed by chicken kebabs again, very good. We spent a fair old amount of time sat at the table, just chatting about all sorts of shit, reminiscing on the days riding and looking forward to the next day, the mountain stage…
Waking up with almost 400km in your legs (and no post ride massages) isn’t a nice feeling. Knowing you have a mountain to climb in a few hours in a few hours is a petrifying feeling, but also a very exciting one. Show me somewhere in the UK where you can ride a real Category 1 climb, and I will be surprised. Climbs in the UK are nothing compared to the climbs abroad, and todays ride was due to be no exception. In all honesty when I woke up I really didn’t want to go on the ride, but at the same time I knew the roads, I knew that once the climb was done, it was a long downhill and nothing but pretty much flat until home.
A 120km out-and-back (with a minor detour) was the plan, so after a bowl of porridge while sipping on an energy drink, a quick shower and donning my favourite kit, (2011 Saxo Bank Sungard), it was time to hit the road.
The ride took us along a now very familiar route, into Lagos, across to Portimao and up to Monchique, where this ride differed from the rest however was that we weren’t going to be stopping in Monchique for a drink and some food, but we were going to be carrying on up, right up to Foia, which would become our main stop of the day.
The warm-up into to Lagos was as always, a nice steady ride before picking up the pace slightly down to Portimao. At Portimao we started to head inland, and eventually got to the base of the mountains after just under 2 hours of ride time. Having ridden this section of road 24 hours prior to this, it was easy to settle into a pace. The day before Justin had been conserving energy and as such we left him behind, which he wasn’t very comfortable with, so this time round the deal was stick together until Monchique, and then just go at a pace which suits you up to Foia. The nice thing about the climb is that it’s very consistent. It’s not steep ramp, mellow off, steep ramp, mellow off, it’s a constant 3-5% for 10km until you reach Monchique. I was busting for a pee by the time we got there so decided to stop off, in the mean time I filled up a bidon (which turned out to be a pointless exercise) and we carried on up. Karl had hyped this climb from Monchique to Foia to be a big one, a climb that’ll make or break a rider, 12% up the bottom, then a constant 8% to the summit. Now I look back on my Garmin data I can tell you that while it does get up to 12%, it’s more like 8-9% for 1km, then the rest of the climb varies, as low as 4%, but there are 9 and 10% sections in there too. That’s not to say it’s easy, it took me an an hour and twenty minutes to cover off the whole climb which works out to be about 18km, so it’s not something you can blast up in a few minutes, and it’s definitely something that could tear a rider apart if his buddies decided to attack at just the wrong (or right) moment, but that’s because it’s long, and relentless, if you push yourself too much out of your comfort zone then you’ll really start to suffer, but I look back on it and I think the next time I go up it I will try and go harder, try to beat my old time. I’ll also make sure that I’m only carrying things I need to, not having that extra 750g of weight that the bottle gave me would have actually knocked some seconds off my time, not major, but it all adds up.
So we got about half way up, and Justin and Karl started to pull away from me, I thought they would, I was going very steady keeping an eye on my power meter and making sure to keep it below 200w, I spent most of my time stood up on the bottom section of the climb to try and rest my legs, so I could be more comfortable on the top part. It seemed to work, as I was pretty comfy going up the climb, I just didn’t want to push any harder than necessary as I knew that while we had to come down the 20km of road we’d just come up, we also had to cover off those other 40km that got us here. So they went, and I stayed.
I spent a lot of time taking in the views, you don’t really think about it when you’re in the UK because you don’t get a choice but to look at a hedge or maybe a field with some cows in, but the views here were breathtaking. We were only 60km from the coast so it was easy to look out and see the gorgeous sea. Add to that all the other valleys and lumps and bumps and it really made for a great ride. A few km from the top is where it did admittedly get quite tough, I knew the summit was close, but I didn’t know how close, and I really wanted some food! As you get out of the cover of the trees the wind starts to howl down at you, We had had a pretty horrible headwind for all of the ride so far, as it was coming off the mountain and down to the coast, so up here that wind was amplified, it definitely made for some tricky riding, especially with my Zipp 404’s, but still I pressed on, hoping to see the guys waiting for me round every corner, but that didn’t happen for about another 15 minutes.
Salvation came when I saw on a rock, Foia, 1.7. I knew that at my current pace, I wasn’t more than 10 minutes away, so I tried to pick up the pace slightly just to get me to the top quicker. A few minutes later and I was there, coming round a right-hander to a junction, left to the food, right to the weather station. As much as I’d have loved to sit at the weather station I decided food was the better option, so I rolled down to see Karl and Justin waiting for me. They’d only been there for a couple of minutes, but still let me stand and take in the views for a few minutes myself. Everyone had said that the weekend was going to bring the good weather, and they had not lied. Other than the 20-30 minutes of showers we had had the day before, it was absolutely gorgeous. Clear, blue skies, a bit of wind but that’s to be expected, and glorious, warm November sunshine. We were riding in 20-21º heat and it felt like nothing, truth be told I was quite worried about the heat before I left, I thought it was going to get really hot, but it was really nice and comfortable.
We stopped for about half an hour at the top, chatted about how enjoyable the ride up had been and then after we had all finished our food it was time to head back, With every kilometre we were getting closer to home and closer to the end of the trip, but that didn’t stop us from hitting the descent hard. I’m no descender, I used to be okay but due to lack of weight I tend to get up to a cruising speed of about 50km/h and that’s about it, so despite setting off first so Karl and Justin could come past me to look cool for the video footage that I had been taking on and off throughout the trip.
The wind on the first few km was absolutely fucking killer, I was shaking because we had been sat down and so my body had cooled down, and then the wind was hitting my rims and blowing me off track really easily. I’ve never had any issues with my 404’s but this was no fun at all, not only was I trying to concentrate on making it look cool for the video, and not taking too long to get down it, I was also having to look out for crap on the road which I had spotted on the way up, and deal with the wind! But once I got down under the canopy the wind pretty much disappeared and I was able to relax a lot.
So we regrouped at the Monchique roundabout after the first half of the climb, and set off again down the lower slopes. With the camera still rolling I tried my hardest to stay with the guys but once again I got dropped (it was a recurring theme through the whole trip), when the descent started to flatten out I wondered when the hell I was going to see the guys but they had been chilling and I caught up with them soon enough, with 40km left on the trip we decided to take it steady and make the most of the weather.
Some how the wind had swung 180º from when we left the summit so we didn’t have the effortless ride back I hoped we’d have, but we still managed to do okay. We were going to stop off at a cafe but Karl was worried about time and it not being open so we headed straight back to Lagos, turning this into an out-and-back ride. We hit Lagos at about 3:30 so the sun was still nice and high and we decided to take a final cafe stop at the marina.
Sitting at the waters edge, with the sun coming down on us gave us some time to look back on the trip and the lifestyle in general of the Portuguese. We all had a good laugh about the weather and spoke about our ups and downs of the trip, it has to be said my lowest moment was definitely on day 1. With the rain, the unfamiliar roads and questionable bike setup (I had only unpacked it a few hours prior and was worried about it) it made for a very unnerving ride. But apart from that, the whole trip was absolutely incredible. I keep using those adjectives but there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe how enjoyable the trip was.
At one point on one of the rides, I think it was day 3, I turned and said to Karl as we’re climbing a gentle slope “I’d much rather take a Friday and Monday off work and take a long weekend over here than ride a sportive in the UK”, and that’s the honest truth. It doesn’t matter when the sportive is scheduled for, it could be the middle of August, it always seems to rain, it’s as if the weather knows that there are going to be hundreds of cyclists out on their bikes, and so they deserve to be soaking wet for trying to enjoy themselves. Always happens.
The reason I said that was because not only do you get good weather, okay we had two days of rain, but the fact the roads are clean, smooth, and empty makes it infinitely worth it. Add to the fact that the sides of the roads are open and allow you to take in breathtaking views, and it seems almost stupid not to. £65 entry for Etape du Cymru, plus petrol to get there at the best part of £1.30 a litre, plus accommodation for the mandatory sign on which took place the day before, soon adds up to over £150.
For that you get one days riding on “closed” roads packed with cyclists of all abilities (meaning the fast guys ended up sitting behind the slow recreational riders until the road opens up slightly to allow them to pass) hedges either side giving you no view of the landscape what so ever, crappy weather, empty food stations, no real categoriesed climbs, just 500m 20% spikes and roads which eventually had cars all over them because the road closures weren’t thorough enough, a road surface which is littered with potholes and manhole covers which have to be dodged every few minutes.
The alternative of course, is a couple of hundred quid for 3 days riding on some of the best roads in Europe. If you’ve never ridden abroad then you are missing out, firstly, the roads are absolutely incredible, Justin and I spend the entire ride counting manhole covers and got to the total of about 4 before giving up because it was useless. The scenery is absolutely incredible, eucalyptus trees, huge pine trees, land so barren it looks like you’ve stepped into the Australian outback, it’s just down right beautiful. Back to the roads again, there is almost no traffic what so ever, and when there is, it’s polite, patient and passes with plenty of space, you even get people putting their thumbs up and tooting at you, it’s a wonderful environment to cycle in. Not only that but the roads have seen numerous PRO riders on them, be it on training camps or professional races (check the 2011 Volta ao Algarve stage 2 route and then check the routes we did), you are rolling on the same tarmac as riders such as Contador, Hushovd, Gilbert, Wiggins, Armstrong, etc. To me it seems like a no brainer. It may seem expensive, but if you add up the amount you spent on sportives last year, entry, travel, accommodation possibly, I bet it comes to not much less than a trip over to the Algarve.
We finished day 4 with a very relaxed ride back to the house. After a shower I started the disappointing task of putting my bike back into the bag. Removing the wheels, deflating the tyres, which after nearly 500km still hadn’t seen anything which could even cause a puncture (in fact for the whole duration of the ride, we didn’t have one puncture or mechanical, the only times we had to stop were to pee, to put on clothes, or to sit down for some food), taking the seat post out and the bars off. and packing it all away. It couldn’t have come at a better time though, 470km in my mind, is a lot of distance to cover, it’s even more impressive when you think that we covered it over 4 days, 2 of which were plagued with practically torrential rain, but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits (ha ha), we just carried on and got on with it. We’re cyclists after all, in this country if we only rode when it was dry we’d be out about once a month and that’d be it.
So once the bikes were boxed up, all our clothes and belongings were packed away we put it all in the garage ready for the morning and walked down into the village square for the last time, into the restaurant which had become some what of a dining room away from home, and sat down for some food. The lack of ride in the morning meant we stayed up a lot later than the previous nights, I ended up hitting the sack at about midnight.
It was slightly disappointing waking up on the final morning. Rolling my sleeping bag up, checking the room to make sure I hadn’t left anything behind and then walking out for the last time. We loaded the car up, said goodbye to the house and set off for the airport.
Check in went fine, Justin had some issues again due to not booking his bike in properly, but it wasn’t long before we were on the plane and in the air. Getting back into Bristol was horrible. It was cold and misty, the airport is horrible compared to Faro, and the people are just so rude and miserable. The whole drive home all we were talking about was how depressing the roads and attitude of drivers was, it was a real shock to the system, you don’t realise how unfortunate we are living and riding in this country until you go somewhere else, you think a 100km ride here is good because it didn’t rain, in Portugal every 100km ride is good because as I’ve written so many times, everything is different.
We got back to Highbridge and dropped Justin off, then got to Karl’s and chucked all my business in the car. Driving back to Weston I still had the same thoughts in my head, and they stayed for about a week after, in fact I’m finishing this off 2 weeks after I got back and all I can think about is how I can’t wait to get back out there in April. I worked it out, the flights have cost me £250 (including bike (£25 each way), luggage (£29), and £15 for paying with a Visa card), the trip itself is £225, and I took £100 of Euros spending money. £575 for 5 days riding in Portugal, in April, my flights for the November trip were even cheaper than that. £115 a day. £115… per day, for everything, absolutely everything I’ve described in this essay.
Think about that the next time you have a “great ride” at a sportive. For now, I’ll stick to riding abroad.
One last thing… I have to mention just how comfortable my Cobb saddle was. In the past I’ve had major issues with saddle comfort, but this was something else, no issues what so ever, absolutely amazing, cannot fault it. I bought mine from Bike Science in Bristol (which is the same place I had my Retül fit done) and I highly recommend them. With that, I’m out.
It’s always nice getting out on the bike, (okay, except when it’s raining), let me start again… it’s usually nice getting out on the bike, except when it’s raining, and Saturday was no exception.
Boom, intro done, time to get into the details.
I found myself waking up at 6:10, 10 minutes late already, nuts. I threw down a mean bowl of porridge, got all my shit together, made up 5 bottles, got down to the garage, put my saddle bottle holder on, threw the bike in the car and drove to Asda. I was running late. I quickly darted inside, grabbed some jelly beans and headed to Burnham to meet Karl and Justin.
Karl said he wanted to be leaving at 7:25, I got to his house at 7:25, I literally saw him standing at the side of the road waiting for Justin, 2 minutes more and I would have missed them. That’s what waking up 10 minutes late does for you, had I had those 10 minutes in hand, I would have been perfectly on time. I digress.
After chucking my jersey on, cap, helmet, shoes, glasses, the whole shebang, I was ready to go. Clipped my Garmin in, got introduced to Justin, and hit the road. I didn’t start my Garmin straight away, for some reason I thought we were only doing a few km to meet some others, but after about 5k I asked what was going on and I was told we’d be riding to between Bridgwater and Taunton to meet up with Somerset Road Club (SRC), and then heading back up to Burnham. Righty-ho then, better start the Garmin.
We had a nice chilled out ride down to whereverthefuck we were going to be picking up the ride, and then we waited, waited and waited for about 20 minutes, more people turned up slowly but surely, and in the end there were about 15 of us waiting by the side of the road. As the “leaders” came through, we all hopped onto the back and started heading back up to Bridgy. I had no idea where I was really, and while I was sat on the back with Justin and Karl, we kept losing a couple of metres due to us being lazy and not wanting to ride a tiny bit harder although we were only putting out about 120w, but every time we got to traffic lights we caught them and it wasn’t long before we were sat right in the mix.
Riding in a group is so nice, for some reason I always tend to sit near the front when I go out with the Saturday morning Weston group, but I really should just sit at the back and get dragged along, at one point we were doing 45km/h and I was putting out under 200w! No wonder these pros average ~250w for a 6 hour race, although they can comfortably put out a fucking high wattage during TT’s and attacks and stuff, (450w threshold anyone?), with a few more hours training a week I could probably get fit enough to sit in the pack all day! Although I’d be useless at doing anything else, so probably not the best way to think.
There wasn’t any excitement until we got to Burnham. I knew where we were, and saw Karl and Justin moving up the pack. I figured they must be going up there for a good reason, and then BANG, SPRINT! The front guys took off, I was just about to slow up as I was getting to Justin, but he took off, fuck, everyone took off, and I was about half way down the pack. In a situation like that, when there are riders all over the road (we’d been riding two abreast for all of the ride so far) the chances of people coming past in cars is minimal, so after about 10 seconds in the hoods I thought “I don’t wanna be Fabian Cancellara) and got into the drops. Still accelerating, time to take it down a gear, and another one, fuck this is fast, fuck there’s Justin and he only has two guys in front of him, people are starting to bonk, FUCKING GO! I came through 3rd/4th with Justin, not bad for an informal sprint that I had no idea was going to happen, had I known about it i’d have been slightly more prepared. Still, managed to put out 1044 watts and accelerate up to 58km/h so my legs do have a bit of go in them when they’re asked to (and when you’ve been cruising for the last hour at around 150w, not exactly taxing riding).
We got to the sea front and Coxy was waiting there with his lad, they’d just popped out to say hello, everyone grabbed a coffee, I necked the last 1/3rd of my bottle and filled up another just to be on the safe side, then after about half an hour we got back on the bikes. Karl told me the pace would probably be a bit quicker on the way back, but it wasn’t really, not sat at the back anyway. Same as always, being towed along, laughing at my wattage, trying to explain to people how funny it was that we were doing 35k at less than 200w but them not really getting it, I guess that’s what happens when you ride every session with a power meter and they don’t have a clue what it does or what wattage even means…
We got through to Bridgy and Karl and I peeled off to head back home, through Woolavington and Watchfield and then back to Highbridge. The ride was pretty much flat the whole way except for a bit of a bump where we went to meet the guys and a little 1km 4% rise up to Woolavington which was nothing really, so we were able to keep a decent pace the whole way, especially when in a pack of 20 cruising down the A38, it was a blast.
It was a great way to finish off the hit-or-miss summer we’ve had (in terms of riding and weather), and was also a nice test for my Cobb saddle (which gave me no issues at all). It’s given me a bit of faith for Portugal next month, so hopefully that will all go to plan. I’m going to be taking photos/video of that trip and doing a write up every day so hopefully the weather will be kind to me and you won’t end up reading about how I had a shitty time getting soaking wet a million miles from home.
Firstly, I should apologise, I haven’t written here for a while because I’ve not had much motivation to, I haven’t had much motivation to ride in fact, it lost that “spark” as summer ended and I looked back at the last few months and realised I haven’t ridden nearly as much as I wanted to. June was good, 700km, July, 388km… Practically half, which isn’t too good really. August was even worse, for some reason I had no inclination to ride what so ever, which fucked me up when I went up to Stoke to spend a few days with Zac. Those two rides were probably the hardest rides I’ve done. To make matters worse I had no power readings, my Quarq out right failed, so I had to go on feel. I’m usually not too bad at going on feel (I know what VO2 Max feels like and can work from that) but when I’ve not ridden for two weeks it throws everything out of whack.
September… September started slowly, one ride every here and there, in the first 2 weeks I rode 5 times, not too good really considering I’m supposed to be training to go to Portugal in November, but then things picked up, over the last 6 nights I’ve done 150km, including a fair bit of anaerobic threshold stuff which is what I’m going to be concentrating on over winter, that and lactate threshold are my goals, oh and a bit of strength training. Basically everything, I want to get stronger, fitter, faster and become a threat to other riders.
But something that has been bothering me for the last few weeks is a cold/cough, it’s really frustrating going out having that constant tickly throat and feeling like I need to cough when all I want to do is get in the drops and put the power down, or get my legs ticking over nicely for the short climbs I take in on my regular loop, but I’m sure it’ll disappear soon, it’s been over 2 weeks so it should be on the way out!
In the mean time I’ve been looking at next year, looking at what I need to do to make the most of my summer. Last spring I looked through road.cc and planned a number of sportives I wanted to do. The only one I ended up doing was one which wasn’t even on my radar when I started planning, and that’s the Somerset 100. Called that because it’s 100 miles long, I managed 100km before I destroyed myself and called it a day at 110, so nowhere near the 100 miles (160km) I was supposed to do. I also did one race, just one. It went really badly and I got dropped within half a lap, it was dreadful, I didn’t prepare properly, I didn’t warm up properly, I forgot to reset my power meter, everything went badly, and that was before I even started the race. I’ve written about it before but looking back at it just makes me cringe, everything that could have gone wrong did, and it just wasn’t a very successful event.
Next year though… next year will hopefully bring some new challenges and new experiences. Karl is organising another Portugal trip over 5 days at the beginning of April which I might tag along to depending on money, apart from that I have no plans. I would like to do some races, but after riding once with a guy called Marcus, I realised I need to step my game up massively before I am fast enough to win races. He was an ex Cat 2 and when I was starting to dig on climbs he would attack, every time without fail. I then saw him riding home one day and he was cruising at about 45-50km/h pretty comfortably. I can hold 38-42km/h for about 5 minutes and then I’m dead, so I really need to step up my game if I want to win any races, or at least place in them. I’d like to commit to some sportives but whenever they’re arranged it seems to piss down with rain, so I don’t really want to get my name down and then wake up on the morning of the ride and it be torrential rain, last Sunday was a perfect example, I woke up in the morning and it was absolutely pissing down, by the middle of the afternoon the sun had come out and I was able to ride in the evening and you’d have thought it’d been sunny all day. However, in the morning it was the Bristol Belter sportive, one which I’d really like to have done, but there’s no chance I’m riding in that kinda weather (not that i’d have been able to ride anyway as I forgot about it so didn’t ever book in) it’s just not enjoyable for me.
So the plan now is to do some short fast stuff and plenty of turbo work as I’m not going to have much time to get out on long weekend group rides before Portugal, then once that’s out of the way try and plan my training so I start to come on form around April/May, and then I’ll hopefully be able to hold that form (or stay close to it) through to August/September, then the cycle (excuse the pun) starts again.
In the mean time I’ll try to update this with progress and there will be a couple of posts from Portugal going up on my new site Nttld (which is yet to launch) so keep your eyes peeled!
For Jon and Zac
As I look out of the window of my train the fields around Backwell look rather peaceful, there doesn’t seem to be ay wind in the air what so ever, and apart from the soaking wet floors and the rather angry looking clouds, I’d have said it’s perfect riding weather. The only issue I have of course is that due to my crash last month I now don’t want to ride in the rain, ever. A few weeks ago I went out with my usual Saturday group who I go out with 1/2 times per month, and within a few minutes it had started raining, I had felt a few spots on my head when I was getting my bike out the garage so had my waterproof with me, but when we set off and the rain started coming down, I really didn’t want to carry on riding. It wasn’t heavy, it was just there, that annoying drizzly shitty rain that gets you soaking wet without actually ever feeling like rain, just like a really, really damp day.
This post was going to be about my ride last night, but that first paragraph went completely off track, but I’ll go back in the direction I wanted to head in in the first place, last night. I haven’t ridden for a week, it keeps happening, I start the month, I say “this month is MY month” and then I’m a week in and i’ve ridden twice… Shit. It’s the 11th today, yesterday was my third ride of the month, I should be on ride 8! There are always things that get in the way though. Just this week alone I’ve had three opportunities to ride but have only taken one, Monday night I was busy, Tuesday night I was asleep by 10pm, and then finally last night I managed to get out. Initially I resented it hugely. I know that goes against everything I wrote about passion, but that’s the joys of cycling, within 12 hours you can go from wanting to get out on the bike more than anything in the world, to never wanting to sling your leg over again. Usually those mood swings come after a long ride which has taken everything out of you, but for me it was just the thought of riding the same old route on the same old roads at the same old speed. There are nice routes around here, but they require daylight, and time, two things which I am lacking massively, I really wanted to go up Canada Combe yesterday, but when I looked outside at 8:45pm the street lights were already on. Canada Combe is dark and dingy in the middle of a bright summers day, it would be absolutely ridiculous to even consider going up it in the dark, I’ve driven up it numerous times in the past and while it’s great during the day, at night it just becomes a massive inconvenience.
Once again I digress… I didn’t want to go out, but I sucked it up and went, and about 5 minutes in I asked myself, why was I resenting this so much?! It was great, it was a comfy temperature, slightly cold on the skin when stepping outside but unnoticable on the bike, there was a wind, and it was horrible, but on a loop like mine, for every km you do with the wind in your face, you get to do the same amount of km’s with the wind behind you, pushing somewhere around 40km/h down the sea front and usually 34-38 down the main road to the far side of weston, it’s bliss, although you do have to be very weary of cars that are completely unaware of your presecence, especially when you catch up to them in a corner and they use the whole road, which they’re totally entitled to, it just makes it a bit frustrating when I have to slam my brakes on because they can’t decide where they want to drive. But generally the ride was good, there aren’t really any memorable bits, other than overtaking a couple of cars, dropping cars, and a cheeky “sprint” I had out of a corner which funnily enough was to get away from a taxi I had just overtaken up the inside, thankfully he took a nice line around a corner which allowed me a bit of space, I’d usually go round the outside but the inside was the only place to go so that’s where I chose to go, as soon as I could get back on the power I was out of the saddle, pushing a gear slightly heavier than what I’d usually be on, and then miraculously I found my legs being quite happy pushing that and not starting to hurt at all, so I dropped another gear and carried on, I only started slowing because the lights infront of me were red, but on my approach they changed to green so I cruised past the car that was sat waiting for them to change and into the next set of decidedly red traffic lights.
While the ride was a minute off my PB I still had a good ride, and it made me wonder why I worry about the roads I ride on. I know most of the roads in Weston, I know the hills, I know some of the smooth bits of road, some of the shitty bits of road, but I find myself riding on the same ones day in day out. I really should look into a new route, I love mine, it’s the perfect length for a quick 45~ minute blast (24.9km), but it’s always nice to mix things up a bit, writing this I am thinking out roads in my head, trying to decide where I could change things and add in bits, I’m currently drawing a blank but I’m sure I’ll think of something soon.
Then again the roads are all wet and it looks like it’s going to rain on and off all day, so maybe I’ll just have another night in wishing I could be out riding
This is a topic which has been on my mind for a while now. It’s one which I think people will be able to relate to easily, because it’s the reason why I enjoy cycling so much; passion.
I am passionate about cycling, although I don’t ride anywhere near as much as I should, or as much as I’d like to, the weather was gorgeous last night but I went to bed at 10pm instead of going out for a ride, because I know if I go out for a ride I get a crappy nights sleep because my brain and body are so excited, but it is always on my mind. I see a photo of a hill, I want to ride up it, I see a long, smooth piece of tarmac as I’m on my train journey to work, I want to ride along it, I’m constantly assessing roads, the condition, the holes, areas I’d need to take care, manhole and drainage covers, just in case I end up riding on them one day. I have my google reader open all day and am always checking for the latest bits of news, Thor Hushovd signs for BMC, Tony Martin hasn’t decided on a team yet, Simon Gerrans wins Tour of Denmark, Peter Sagan wins Tour of Poland… this stuff comes into my reader every hour or so, and I’m always reading it, someone mentioned something to do with the latest cycling news and for me it’s always an “Oh yeah I know, I read that a few days ago” situation. From training articles, to the latest and greatest product reviews, to results, I am always reading about cycling, and it is so frustrating.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job, I work with a great team of guys (and girl!) who I get on with really, really well, I get to talk to them about cycling as they have a slight interest, the money I earn working there funds my cycling habit, in fact, it’s just a perfect job, it’s what I’ve wanted to do since the age of 12, and I am really thankful to everyone in my past who helped me, pushed me to finish my education, anything, anyone who had the slightest input on me and my career choice, I want to thank them, because without them I’ve no idea what I’d be doing.
But… yeah there’s always a but, I’d love to be in cycling. I’m not talking working at a bike shop, I hate retail and really wouldn’t want to go back to retail unless I had no choice, but I’m talking about properly working in cycling, working for a pro tour team, working at a cycling manufacturer, being a photographer following races all over the world like Graham Watson, even working for a cycling website, I would love to work in a job that IS cycling. I know there’s the chance it would completely kill the passion I have for cycling, but it’s a risk I’d be prepared to take.
I don’t think I’ll ever get the opportunity to though, other than working for a website like bikeradar, where I’d inevitably carry on my current role as a web developer, it doesn’t seem like it would actually ever happen. I can dream about moving to France, or Italy, or Switzerland, to work for Mavic, Look, BMC, Colnago, Pinarello, Cinelli, all these brands require staff, but they have no use, really, for someone who only has experience in web development. I have a degree in graphic design, sure, but I am so rusty and shit at design, that there’s no way I’d ever get a job in that department, plus I’d probably have to learn another language, and there are all sorts of other things to take into account, moving to a foreign country, finding somewhere to live, getting used to the culture, all these issues… Such a shame.
I read articles about cycling companies, the kind of people who after a day at the office, go for a 2-3 hour ride, that’s what I want, I want a job that IS cycling, ride to work, have a shower and get changed, do my job, immerse myself in cycling in one way or another, then go for a ride after work with the team before going home. I really, really want that. I am going to keep my fingers crossed, that one day an opportunity arises that allows me to do what it is that I really want to do, but for now I’m happy doing the other thing that means the most to me, web development. I just wish that I had the passion for that that I do for road cycling.
So as I leave Bristol Temple Meads station for another day in my office, reading about cycling, and wishing I was out cycling, I take some joy in looking forward to 7pm, when I can sit down and eat some pasta, make up a bottle for the evening, and chill out before going for a little road ride, only 25km, but every little helps. Getting my fitness and strength to a level I’m happy with is a post in itself which will eventually get posted I’m sure, but for now, I have this evening to look forward to. Those 45 minutes of solace, when it’s just me, the bike, and the road, bliss.