Saturday 8 January 2011

Team Grumpy build-up for first 2-up of 2011

Both members of Team Grumpy have been busily working towards their first 2-up test of 2011 - the Port Talbot Wheelers 2-up '25' on 6th March.

Grumpy Bob has been pounding the turbo, and using the excellent Golden Cheetah software package to monitor progress. His general strategy is not to ride training sessions to specific power targets, but to use the HRM to determine effort, and the power meter to monitor what was actually done, and progress in fitness. Most of Grumpy Bob's real training (i.e. the really hardcore 'eyeballs-out' sessions) is done on the turbo. After the setbacks of a persistent cold during October and all that horrible snow in December, he's feeling pretty good at the moment, with a resting HR around 43bpm and a critical power estimated at about 300W. Grumpy Bob treats such wattage figures cautiously, knowing that he's really using them as performance comparators on his own training, not with other riders.

On the other hand, Team Grumpy's management, when told that progress was good and that critical power had reached 300W merely echoed Bjarne Riis' sacred dictum: "Give me 400W!". Oh well.

On the other side of the country, it sounds as though Grumpy Art Vanderlay has been making strides as well [GAV: well, it's more general conditioing work really, but I do feel surprisingly good and the odd bit of high intensity work that I've done has gone off very easily]. Notably, he's acquired a new TT bike (road testing indicates it's pretty fast), and the new position is reputed to have unleashed an additional 12W. Or something. [GAV: proof will be in the eating, of course. But there is a consistency about the extra power across a number of sessions already, so I'm hopeful. If the last two years are anything to go on, though, I need more than an extra 12 watts] It brings a new twist to the "buying speed" accusation Team Grumpy has faced over the years.

Saturday 1 January 2011

An Arty review of the 2010 season

Not a classic season for me by any stretch of the imagination. But my form did improve towards the end and the win in the  Duo Normand - has anyone mentioned that yet? - was the main objective for the year in any case. Therefore, despite everything this must be classed as a successful season.

It started pretty poorly with an illness that wiped out most of January and the first half of February. That left only a couple weeks to train before the first Team Grumpy event - the PTW 2-up TTT on 7 March. I was struggling from the beginning and my puncture with approx. 6 miles to go probably saved greater embarrassment.

Two weeks later on was the first of the Magic Dragon Series and the Welsh SPOCO Series. I wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders by this time but at least things felt a lot better. That was until I overcooked a corner on a descent and crashed over a kerb and into the verge. Lost time and lost nerve made for an interesting end to the race, which was really another write off. After that I headed east for the next Team Grumpy event - the Icknield 30 km 2-up TTT on 21 March. Regular readers of this blog will know by know that our TTTs in the UK always end in disaster. Well, at least this was not the case here. No, this one started with disaster when Grumpy Bob couldn't engage his pedals. I took the start line alone whilst Grumpy Bob dismantled his nice new speedplay cleats.

April started much better with a decent showing in round two of the Welsh SPOCO series - the Bynea 30 mile TT. Hardly a classic ride by me, but one that did much to restore some confidence. Sadly, it didn't last. A disappointing showing at the Llandovery 25 was the only other notable event in April as work mounted up and I hardly had time to ride my bike. Lack of training and racing characterised May and I had less than 100 kms per week to show for the month. But I did have new handlebars and tribars, which were nice and carbon fibrey and I was itching to use them in earnest. The chance came at the end of May in the Bynea 10 (another round of the SPOCO). But I was in for a shock when I experienced some difficulty breathing after a couple kms and my heart rate shot up in worrying fashion. It settled but it was alarming to say the least. Had I thought about it I would have realised that the new position I had adopted with these new bars had narrowed my elbows drastically and my breathing suffered through what appears to be muscle constriction. I would not put this together until after the Duo Normand and spent almost all season either suffering the same alarming sensation or worrying about it coming on. Needless to say, the 10 was a disappointment and so too was the 25 the following day. But I had expected very little from either given the state of my training beforehand. Now began the steady process of rebuilding some sort of form.

Workload remained high, so races were few and far between. I rode the Welsh 50 Champs so as to try and get some decent miles in my legs. It turned out to be a most uncomfortable event for me and I struggled round - but at least got round for what was my longest ride of the entire year. Work diminished in the middle of June and I benefitted from this in mid-July when I rode a 58 min 25 mile TT in very windy conditions on the Usk course. It's a pretty fast course but this was a good result and suggested that I wasn't to far off getting some form together again. Therefore, I experimented with some different equipment for a few weeks. The race results varied but I was learning what worked and what didn't. It was a good position to be in because I was effectively a non-contender in the various TT series that I was involved in and this was a good opportunity to try out a number of things that I had wanted to for some time. In the end most of my conclusions were that I had things about right from the start. But at least I now knew that. This period of experimentation took up most of July and August and allowed me time to work on the British TT Champs that I was organising. This event turned out to be a great success and when it was over I was able to settle down to my own goal - the Duo Normand.

Just before the British Champs I did a single event - the Pembs Velo 15. This turned out to be my best ride of the year to that point and everything began to point in the right direction. My time - 36m 23s for the undulating course - was not outstanding but it was windy and very cold and I actually felt good, which augured well. September was all about the Duo but I did ride the Welsh 25 mile Champs (56m 35s) as preparation. It wasn't a very good result but my ride was marred by a broken strap on my helmet which caused me to ride with one hand pushing my helmet back constantly to avoid it falling over my eyes. I would have been better off throwing it in a lay-by. But as it was only a preparation event it didn't matter.

Helmet strap fixed I went to the Duo with a reasonable amount of confidence. Grumpy Bob's form had been solid all season and I knew that my main job would be holding onto his pace. This is how it turned out, but I was pleased to be able to contribute to our victory in the corpos category towards the end of the event when I seemed to find my form.

Sixth place in the final table for the Welsh SPOCO series (first vet in the 50 - 54 age group) was then secured by turning up for the Cardiff Byways Triple Hill Climb and that was the end of the season.

A mixed bag of a season. But winning at the Duo was always the main objective (has anyone mentioned the Duo Normand?) . A strong season without winning the Duo would not have delivered the same level of satisfaction, so by that token it had been a successful 2010.

New Year's Day '10'

Grumpy Bob rode his club's New Year's Day '10' and won the trophy.  Not quite so impressive when you realise there were only eight riders, and Grumpy Bob may well have been the only member of his club riding...still, his second place with 24:21 was a bit faster than last year.
Grumpy Bob found riding the TT bike for the first time since the Duo Normand (has anyone mentioned the Duo Normand?) rather challenging, not least because his newly acquired belly made it uncomfortable to maintain an aero position.
Something will have to be done...