Reproduced from the original article at: http://www.roadcyclinguk.com/guest-blog/delusions-of-grimpeur-three/5034.html
It’s that time again. Your weekly fix of groundless opinion, ill-advised humour and slightly long-winded rambling. So let’s get on with it…
First off, many apologies for the slight lateness of this edition of ‘Delusions…’. Looming exams, an increase in training, and a visiting female friend have all contributed somewhat to the sorry situational lateness I find myself now firmly ensconced within. To make up for this oversight on my part (not that anybody noticed, or even commented.. the shame, RCUK readers) this edition is a bumper multimedia extravaganza featuring some juicy audio-visual delights discovered on youtube and some pictures of me. Posing shamelessly.
Last weekend I went to Frome, just outside of Bath, for round 1 of the Rudy Project TT Series. 24.5 hilly miles- although to be fair it was only a large hill in the middle which was the issue, as the rest of the course was pleasantly undulating. HQ was situated in the relative splendour of Frome Town FC; a nice set-up. The event organisers and marshals proved to be very friendly and helpful- even offering to pin my numbers on for me (see last week’s edition for the appropriate way to accomplish this). Add in the fact that you got a free CTT bottle when you signed on, and this was shaping up to be a good day.
I am lucky to be the proud owner of a rather fine Planet X Pro Stealth Carbon TT bike, but last year this was raced irregularly (and poorly, many will have you know). As a result of this, and my own changing body, I found that when I threw a leg over it for some test rides and training it was insanely uncomfortable. I understate. It was so uncomfortable that I’d have happily gouged my own eyes out rather than spend more than a minute down-low and aero. So, I rigged it up to the turbo trainer for some traffic-free tweaking (read: overhauling) of position. The turbo is good for this as you can really get to grips with how a position feels, rather than concentrating on traffic/obstacles. Once you’re happy, take it for a spin on the road to check everything is ok, as riding on the road is obviously quite a different sensation than riding on the turbo.
Anyhow, I was struggling. I’d moved bars around, tried different stems off friends, adjusted saddle height and fore-aft positioning, and it just wasn’t working. TT positions are interesting because they often advertise or promise ridiculously lo-pro and aerodynamic positions which for the vast majority of us aren’t actually the fastest position. There’s no point being as low down as possible, your nose practically brushing road grit off the top of your front tyre, if you don’t have the flexibility or muscular co-ordination to pull it off. It’s far better to place the bars higher, in a less aerodynamic position, but have all the benefits of actually being able to put all your power down through the legs.
I’m rambling. So, I was at the end of my tether. But then I had a small brainwave. Those who know me fairly well on the forums know I have a tendency to exaggerate what I perceive as certain similarities between myself and my hero, the sainted Mr. Bradley Wiggins OBE. We’re both a skinny similarly-weighted and similarly-proportioned 6ft 3”, both having a preference for the pursuit on the track and time trials on the road and the odd bit of climbing (although my mountain prowess has yet to really materialise, hence the name of this blog). So I did what any self-respecting poseur would do. I tracked down pics of the man on his TT bike online, and then I attempted to replicate his position as closely as possible on my bike. A quick test on the turbo and road confirmed my suspicions- I was supremely comfortable and ready to roll. Thanks Wiggo.
It was in relative comfort and quiet confidence, therefore that I started round 1 of the Rudy TT Series. A strong headwind for the first few miles took the wind out of my sails a little, but I was soon in a comfortable rhythm. GB Talent Team colleague Crystal and I had arrived with no issues. The ‘pin the number’ game accomplished, we drove round the course in the car to highlight any potentially hazardous or technical sections.
The route map available online had mentioned there was a 1-in-7 (14%ish) avg hill about halfway round the course. Knowing I can normally get up these without any undue fuss, I had left my straight-through TTing cassette on the bike. 12-21 sprockets on the back, spread over 10-speed, means that there are no gaps between gears. The sprockets are consecutive- 12, 13, 14, 15, etc. This lack of much difference between gears is great for a TTer, whose goal is optimum efficiency. He doesn’t want to be in a gear just a bit too high, only to find that the lower gear is just a bit too easy.
I know that my smallest gear 39×21 can get me over a 14% climb without any problems. However. The particular 14% climb on the course was certainly not a steady 14%- there were steeper sections. Oh, and it was about a mile long in total. To cut a long story short, I was reduced to grinding my 21 at about 50rpm for the majority of the climb- losing time and patience. Lesson learnt- always keep a spare cassette with alternate gearing in the car so you can change if required.
Apart from that woeful schoolboy error, my TT went well. I hit a ‘career’ best of 30.4mph average for 6 minutes on a flat section after the climb, and finished strongly. Job done.
Rudy Project TT Series Round 2 is tomorrow (by the time this goes to press I will have done it) over in north Hampshire, and I will be taking a spare cassette!
Moving swiftly on, it gives me great pleasure to unveil the delight that is my snazzy new GB Talent Team kit. As I have tried to explain to friends, well-wishers, casual observers of my facebook page, etc- I have had the kit for a while now, but have been consciously holding back from publicly displaying it as I haven’t raced in it yet (and still don’t feel that I’ve really earnt it enough). However, when a budding photographer friend pleaded to practice her camera-work by taking pictures of me in the kit, well… It would have been rude on my part to decline. :-p I fully expect to get brutally flamed on the forums for this collection of nauseating ego-massaging snapshots. Ah, well.
Whilst we are on the subject of performance (or lack thereof) I thought I’d show you this video on youtube which a few months ago was very well-received in the cycling community. A spoof rap mocking both the roadie and hipster/fixie/courier contingents, it is ‘Performance’, by MC Spandex. One of my favourites. (and the ‘hipster’ in it looks strangely like cottage of wattage and Tour of Flanders victor, Fabian ‘Spartacus’ Cancellara)
Summer is creeping up on us now- most of the country having seen widespread sunshine over this weekend. If you are still struggling to shake off the remnants of a peculiarly persistent winter (or are just in need of some motivation), let me unleash upon you my favourite youtube cycling video of all time. Filmed on iMax cameras, it features fantastic shots of the Tour de France and one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard for a cycling movie around. In case you take a particular fancy to the songs featured (I liked them all), they are, as far as I know:
- Themetune from ‘A Beautiful Mind’
- Will you follow me? – Rob Dougan
- Keep Hope Alive – The Crystal Method.
I think that should keep you all busy for now. I very much enjoy writing these articles and hope they are well-received. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that I can submit a weekly example over the next few weeks, though- track camps and exams looming, and training is ramping up as I’ve been granted the honour of representing GB at the UCI Paracycling World Cup round 1 in Bilbao at the beginning of May. I will do my best to turn in regular updates, but please be aware it will be a struggle!
Reproduced from the original article at: http://www.roadcyclinguk.com/guest-blog/delusions-of-grimpeur-2/4973.html
Another week and another column. Many thanks to all those who commented on the forum about last week’s offering and provided for the most part a very appreciative reception.
So, this week saw me ride the first round (and my first ever) of the National Disability Crit Series in Shrewsbury. A 3.5hr journey meant a brisk start for myself and fellow Paracyclist, Crystal Lane, at 7am. I am not by nature a very sociable person anytime before about 11am, and indeed if you ever are unfortunate enough to encounter me before that time, the experience will most probably consist of me hissing at you like a cornered feline from across a barricade of tousled duvet.
But, no matter. British Cycling asked me to race it, so race it I did. My dark mood was not improved, however, by the monochrome skies and driving rain as we drove to the venue.
Once at the race, the obligatory frantic and slightly panicked sign-on procedure ensued - a delicate operation whereby you stroll around simultaneously trying to look unfazed and completely chilled whilst covertly sizing up the opposition and deciding who’s rear Michelin you are going to suck hardest. I know that some of my readers possess filthy minds, so let me disabuse you immediately of any notion that what I’ve just said was a sexual euphemism.
Having returned succesfully to our little enclave of GB Talent Team riders (myself, Crystal Lane, Jon-Allan Butterworth and faultlessly cheery John McFall) bearing my race numbers, it was time to pin them on. I’ve seen a number of people before whip their jerseys off and pin them on themselves, and also people standing asking teammates/supporters/floating spectators to lend a hand with the pinning-on. Undoubtedly the best way, though, (should you wish to save the absolutely critical, essential, important few milliseconds from your time) is to ask someone to pin them onto you whilst you adopt a hunched-over position as if you are riding aero. The general effect is to make you resemble a sort of stunted, malnourished and mysteriously clean-shaven camel – but this is mere rainwater off the back of your extremely professional amateur approach to racing.
John, due to a teammate forgetting to bring him his new team kit, has been given his GB Talent Team kit to race in – and extremely nice it is indeed. The patriotic red, white and blue colours always look quite snazzy, and I am filled with a potent longing to receive my own set as I observe my homeboy pimpin’ dat shizzle. (I will occasionally do this, readers- a spot of street lingo in order to make it appear as though I am ‘down with the kids’, so to speak).
It is both Crystal’s and Jon’s first race, and this factor adds to the usual air of repressed anticipation before a race. I’ve done a few races in my time, and back in the day (I will also occassionally do this too, readers, slotting in the odd nostalgic comment to sweeten the deal for my more generously matured readers. I like to have a varied audience) I remembered looking forward to feeling completely at ease at a race. Yet this subdued feeling of nervous energy never really goes away; I find you just tend to become less aware of it, or less affected. It – like shaving legs, comparing tan-lines, and lying about how many hours you did alone in the rain – becomes natural, as you slip more and more regularly into the conforming and comforting softness of the racer’s mocassins. (That one is for the extremely old readers).
By this time the tension had risen to a palpable pinnacle of heady frustration, and my teammates (although we were riding for separate teams, I seem to instinctively always consider my GB co-riders my real teammates) were filtering off out into the rain one-by-one to begin their separate warm-ups; each rider knowing their own body best and needing some alone time to focus the mind.
It was as I was saying goodbye to Dr. Hill (coach, mentor, benevolent GB father-figure and fellow appreciator of Fight Club on DVD for intervals) that I became aware of a small gang, a small gaggle, a small group of girls varying in age, I would expect, of between seven and 10 years old. Watching me keenly with all the fascination of a troupe of hungry lemurs, one brave soul tentatively stepped into the firing-line as I was making last-minute adjustments to helmet straps and HRM.
‘Hi’, she says, in a tremulous quaver. ‘Hi’, I retort in as friendly a way as I can manage whilst attempting not to asphyxiate myself with helmet strap issues. After a pause, she nods slightly, as though she is just grasping or comprehending something I’d said. Deep breath.
‘What are you racing for?’ ‘Erm, well…’ I look at Dr. Hill, slightly flummoxed, and slightly confused at the obviousness of the answer. An obviousness beautiful in its simplicity. Obvious to all racers. But obviously not to small girls. I flounder miserably, my usually casual quick-fire repartee utterly stumped by such a left-field question.
‘Erm…’ I stammer, ‘err…. Victory? And Glory?’ I offer weakly, in a sort of faint and disbelieving and slightly hopeful way. The little girl nods, opens her mouth, and then closes it again. She nods once more, seems pleased with this answer, and then says ‘Good’, before skipping off to rejoin her troupe and continue whatever daisy-picking, facebook commenting or mud-pie constructing projects little girls favour these days. I have no idea.
I raise a quizzical and nonplussed eyebrow in Dr. Hill’s general direction. He smirks, and I throw a leg over the bike and start my warm-up.
I will not bore you with a long and drawn-out recounting of each of the 37km of the crit, except to say that it was extremely enjoyable in a perverse and meditative way. A slight falter three quarters of the way through was mercifully minimized by teammmate Jon-Allan, who selflessly stepped in and let me draft off his wheel for a lap- allowing me to catch my breath before getting back into it. Once I know each of my teammates a little better, I hope with their permission to write a little something on them all- as they really are a fantastic group of athletes and people.
Anyhow, I came 3rd, and the prize money bought me a particularly enjoyable (and large) meal at the service station on the 3.5hr drive home with Crystal. I will not divulge my methods, but regular forumites (Jorrin in particular) will testify to my ability to quaff a ridiculous amount of food in minimal time. This particular occasion (may as well blow my own trumpet whilst I have this soapbox to perch on) saw almost 2,400 calories go down the hatch in about 15 minutes.
The racing part of this column now over, and without wishing to delve yet deeper into self-aggrandisement, I cannot claim the 3rd place was all my own work. I must thank OBM for his coaching advice over winter, British Cycling and in particular Dr. Chester Hill for his steady guidance over the last few weeks, Beef for Strength & Conditioning work at the University of Exeter (www.sport.ex.ac.uk) , the people at Ocean Physio (www.oceanphysio.com) for insoles/stretching/biomechanics help, Paul West for organising the race series, and finally all the participants (many of whom were racing for the first time) for making it such an enjoyable experience.
I’m racing in round one of the Rudy Project National TT Series on Sunday- so you can expect a bit on that in the next edition, amongst many other items of note.
I realise that this column/article series/blog is still in its infancy, and I’m still finding my way stylistically and in terms of content. If you’d like to comment on this or any other edition, please do leave your thoughts on the forums or e-mail me at: email@example.com
I’d like to leave you with a particularly good video discovered on the interweb- see above for how you should collect bottles from the team car! –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz7IaZ75Vd8