Weekend Rides

Two good rides this weekend, a glorious flat 120km on Saturday with the club and a harder ride to Ditchling Beacon and back today.

Today’s ride was meant to be a 100-miler but I ended up, Don Bradman stylee, doing a mere 99.3 instead.

The links to the rides are to one of my ne’er-to-be-finished websites – logmyride.  It takes data from my awesome Garmin 705 and plots the route on google maps and a few charts too.  All clever stuff.  If I didn’t spend so much time on the bike I would even finish it I reckon.

Protected: Plans for 2009

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Lance’s Madone

It took me quite a while to realise and appreciate the aesthetic quality of cycling. Not any more. Check this little beauty; it’s Lance’s custom Madone.


2x20s reside at the fun end of cycling training.

The premise is simple; do a nice warm-up, say 10 minutes.  Then hit it hard for 20 minutes at threshold (or thereabouts) level.  Almost die.  Then do 5 minutes easy to recovery then repeat the 20 minute section.  Then cool down for 5 minutes or so.

How hard is ‘threshold’?  There are many definitions as there are definers.  However, most simply put, for any given time period, there is a maximum output that can be sustained.  Go any harder and you will not be able to complete the session, or at least not at a consistent effort.  For cyclists, there are several interesting durations – 15 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes and an hour.  The ‘hour pace’, when power is being measured, is called one’s FTP (functional threshold power) and this is considered a very good predictor of endurance performance.

Anyway, “threshold” for the 2x20s is considered to be between 91 and 105% of FTP.  Translated to English this means “just at the point of sustainability”.

Here’s a list of observations collated by someone called ‘Toks’ on a BikeRadar forum

  • Try and really tune into the ‘feel’ (RPE) factor’. It really helps
  • It should feel like your almost on the edge and if you pushed it up a notch or two ( 20 secs say) it woud take a lot of gasping and quite a bit of time to recover – unlike a tempo/sweet spot ride where you could take it up a notch for quite few minutes before you enter the ‘this feels bloody hard zone’
  • Some days you will really nail it and cope admiirally despite the ever so apparent discomfort
  • Some days the first 10 mins will feel like an hour – really horrible!
  • Your breathing will be anything from quite noticeable to laboured and panty
  • 10 minutes into the second set you may want your mummy
  • Once you’ve done a few of them you’ll notice the trainer warm up midway through the second set -raise your cadence or hit a gear higher to counter this lovely feeling
  • Some days music, TV will not be enough of a distraction – those again are horrible days
  • Some days the burning in your quads will almost be audible – cry if you must but don’t stop
  • Every now and then you’ll have a session where you just stop even though you don’t want to. Don’t worry it happens to everyone
  • For me at least when I’m bang on my FT I struggle to even gulp down water
  • If you can mumble more than a couple of sentences your not riding hard enough.
  • Don’t even think about trying one without a good fan.
  • Don’t keep looking at the time – it purposely runs slower for nutters that do 2 x 20′s
  • Films can be a good distraction but the concentration required to watch em can add to the fatigue

Tour of California Power Profiles

One of my rare indulgences (!) has been to equip my ‘training bike’ with a Powertap, which looks a bit like this

Measuring power directly is the new heart rate monitoring.  It allows a cyclist to gauge accurately the actual work that he (or she) is doing, rather than the bodies response to it.  Cyclists (and runners) have been monitoring heart rates for years but it does not vary linearly with effort; the effects of fatigue, caffeine and the excitement of an event all have an influence.  There is also a considerable lag between an effort and the body’s cardiovascular response.

Why measure power?  Well, for at least three reasons.  First, it can be used to accurately target training efforts, especially intervals.  Second, it can be used to gauge progress and get feedback on the success, or otherwise, of whatever training regime you are using by letting you precisely calculate useful metrics (eg, FTP more of which is later posts).  Third, it’s a very useful pacing device, for instance on  long climbs or time trials, to make sure that you don’t burn out early or simply sell yourself short.

Now there’s a fourth reason.  Gustav Larsson is going to posting his daily WKO (software to view and analyse power files) files from his rides in the Tour of California so we can see what the pros manage to ‘put out’.  My best 5 minute power, though I’ve only ever recorded one effort, was around 420W.  In the prologue, he managed 529W for just under 5 minutes.  And he didn’t win!

You can view them here.

Mont Ventoux

In addition to the regular organised rides this year, I’m organising a trip to Mont Ventoux.

The plan is to join the Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux.  This translates, I’m reliably told, to the ‘club of the madmen of Mont Ventoux’ and, to join the club, the mountain needs to be climbed 3 times in one day.  The climbs start in the towns of Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault and in total the ride is 138km and consists of 4,300 metres of climbing.  That’s enough to get half-way up Everest!

It should be an interesting day in the saddle as

  • We’re planning to do the ride in the second weekend of May.  This is a full 2 months before the Marmotte so getting the fitness right is going to be tricky.
  • Mont Ventoux is a tough climb, even to do once.  It’s widely considered to be the toughest climb featured in the Tour de France.
  • The weather is notoriously changeable and difficult.  ‘Ventoux’ means windy or thereabouts and legend has the maximum recorded wind speed of 193 mph.
  • The mountain has witnessed much action in the Tour de France, not least the death of Tom Simpson in 1967.
  • Two of the three climbs are properly hard

The climbs breakdown like this

Bedoin 21.4km, 1,600m climb, average 7.5%

Malaucene 21.5km, 1,570m climb, average 7.3%

Sault 26km, 1,210m climb, 4.7%


Well, it has been a disastrous few weeks – I almost can’t remember the last time I rode a bike on tarmac.

Therefore I have to train indoors, which is at best a mixed blessing.  The biggest problem is countering the ever-present problem of boredom. There are a few strategies to stave off madness.

First is the choice of training device, either rollers or the turbo trainer.  The rollers are kind of fun as you are never far from an accident.  The lack of forward motion means that you have to work just to stay on the bloody thing.  The downside is that it’s not really possible to do seriously hard work – there’s not enough resistance for a start, and even if there was it would be a hazard as you’re so unstable an accident is just waiting to happen.  You can get plenty of resistance on the ‘turbo’ but as there is no chance whatsoever of coming off the boredom level naturally increased.

The second is feedback.  For example, see the WKO+ output from my turbo session yesterday.


The session involved 3 sessions of 20 minutes at a hard pace with 5 minute recovery periods in between.  This is a slightly controversial twist on a more common 2×20 (or 2 times 20 minutes) session.  I basically train very slightly less hard than I would for 2 sessions, but obviously with an extra session.

The yellow line is the power ouput, which I maintained about 280W, the red line is my heart rate which you can see slowly climb throughout each session and the green is the cadence, which also, suprisingly crept up, in each session.

Anyway, a tough(ish) session but at least it wasn’t boring!

Unhappy Anniversary

Boo the weather.

Today I should have been celebrating my first cycling anniversary by riding the Old Porlians CC Reliability Ride which was my debut into the world of organised bike rides last year.  Instead it was yet another casualty of the bloody weather.

It nearly killed me but I loved it at the same time.  My preparation was far from ideal; the previous day we’d had a wonderful meal at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck following by a gig at Shepherd Bush with The Hours and The Twang.  Nevertheless I turned up bristling with enthusiasm, wearing baggy moutain bike shorts (a sartorial faux pas of considerable magnitude!) and had only a water bottle with squash and a couple of bananas to keep me going.

Despite my woefully inadequate nutritional strategy, attire, fitness and cycling nous I managed to stay with the ‘top men’ of my new club for 90% of the ride.  The infamous south side of Toys Hill got the better of me though.  Despite being exhausted I managed the first brutally steep section of the climb, only to round the corner and realise I was less than half way to the top. The psychological blow was too much and with shame I dismounted and walked for a couple of hundred metres before re-mounting like a whipped dog and limped to the finish in Halstead.

It was at once a humbling but also fantastic experience.

Protected: First Big Ride of the Year!

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Up and running…

Whilst avoiding the great, but scary, outdoors yesterday morning I had a dream.  Well, an idea anyway.  Two hours on the rollers does that to you.  I think it also makes you slightly delusion.  When exercising beyond a certain intensity I find that it is possible to think, but only in fragments.

Anyway, my idea was to create a cycling specific blog.  I don’t like to fill my regular blog two-wheeled ramblings – it would break up the stream of cute pictures of animals interspersed with bad tempered outburts of foul-mouthed righteous anger.

So here it is.  I’ve done the easy bits.  Well, relatively easy bits.   I chose WordPress as the blog engine which is OK, in a manner of speaking.  It has taken me a long time to do even a bit of basic tailoring of the site and I still don’t seem to have the control I want.  And I had to pay a tenner just to do a bit of custom CSS.