Thursday, 4 October 2012

Duo Normand omnishambles

Well, Team Grumpy didn't approach the 2012 edition of the Duo Normand time trial with great expectations, which was probably a good thing as their performance was somewhat lack-lustre. In large part Team Grumpy can blame problems with work-life balance causing problems with training, and of course Grumpy Bob had that crash while racing only a few weeks before the Duo.

To this can be added travel woes caused by the Brittany Ferries strike. But that's all a bit like contravening TG rule #1 (Remember to make your excuses before the race, not after. Otherwise it will just sound pathetic.) and Team Grumpy absolutely doesn't want to sound pathetic. Add to this Grumpy Bob bringing a spare rear wheel that lacked a cassette and 'Grumpy' Art's embarrassingly out-of whack rear mech (of which more later), and the team's preparation can be seen to lack attention. Readers might choose to have a look at the TeamGrumpy twitter feed for the weekend.

On the day, conditions were decidedly cool, but it was dry (in direct contrast to the 2011 event) and with only the lightest of breezes. So, ideal conditions.

Lining up near the start ramp, Team Grumpy was delighted to attract admiring glances from two lady riders. Opening conversation, it turned out they thought the TG bikes were pretty spiffy (not their actual word, you understand). Unfortunately for Team Grumpy's easily bruised masculine egos, when the observation was made that the bikes might be good but the engines were not, the ladies commented they were only interested in the bikes. Subdued by this conversation, Grumpy Bob and 'Grumpy' Art made their way to the start ramp.

And off they went. Narrowly avoiding a start ramp collision, and up the lane. Near the top, 'Grumpy' Art detected the stirrings of overdoing it, and the team successfully eased back momentarily. Before long the pace elevated and we began the usual task of reeling in earlier teams. For the most part the early km went well, will little interference from cars (though Grumpy Bob had to bellow at one car to get out of the way to let Team Grumpy).

Team Grumpy's pace slipped once the hilly sections started, and the riders were caught for four minutes by the Procycling team. 'Grumpy' Art's rear mech issues caused him to repeatedly drift off the back on some of the climbs, on the positive side, his usually craven approach to descents was absent and he made an excellent job of the famous 'ghoul corner' - the fast descent with a sharp left turn. The Team rounded the square into Marigny in good style. It would be nice to report that Team Grumpy cornered to tumultuous applause, but in all honesty it has to be said that our heroes were met with near complete indifference. Still, at least there was photographer there to capture us.

Team Grumpy pass through Marigny to the complete indifference of the less than enormous crowd.
The final section of the course is a hairpin section of road. Here Grumpy Bob and 'Grumpy' Art seemed to alternate between exhaustion and second (and third and fourth...) wind. At times high speed was reached, at others merely a grovellingly low speed. Eventually Team Grumpy raced through the finish line, though 'Grumpy' Art made his final dash some metres before the actual finish line.

The result was 1:26:12, for 6th place in the Corporate category. This was Team Grumpy's slowest time in nine outings at the Duo Normand and quite disappointing. What was alarming was the official result sheet as first released, which had Team Grumpy in first place with 1:16:12. What made this alarming was the potential for embarrassment, since two teams had caught Team Grumpy. Perhaps it was our grumpy heroes' faulty French, but it took a surprisingly long time to persuade the organisers that their time needed 10 more minutes to be added on, but eventually a new results sheet was issued.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Duo preparation

Just prior to registering and signing on for this year's main event (the Duo Normand) we popped in to the supermarket in the host town - Marigny. Parked close to us in the car park was the team car for Orica-Greenedge (the favourites, Durbridge and Tuft ride for them).

Whilst Team Grumpy loaded up the car with Leffe beer, pizza and crisps we couldn't help but notice the pros doing likewise. Except they were loading their car with gallons of mineral water. Call themselves pros - they know nothing. What sort of excuse can they offer with preparation like that?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Duo Normand woes

Following Grumpy Bob's 'incident' at the Icknield '10' the other week, he thought things could hardly have got worse for Team Grumpy's ride at the 2012 Duo Normand. After a few days off the bike, he's managed to get some training done, mostly on the turbo. Indeed, his shoulder is far more painful on the bike than on the turbo.

No, what's more worrying is the Brittany Ferries strike. 'Grumpy' Art has been holidaying in Normandy, with the plan of returning to the UK for a few days before returning for the Duo Normand in the guise of Team Grumpy. His return trip was badly affected by the Brittany Ferries strike and subsequent suspension of all Brittany Ferries services (involving two cancellations, then a mid-channel helicopter evacuation of a sick passenger).
Following the series of strikes which has been disrupting our services, our Board has reluctantly taken the decision to tie up the fleet and to cancel all crossings with immediate effect, until further notice. The only route which will be unaffected is the Poole-Cherbourg passenger service which is operated on our behalf by Condor Ferries.
It appears that Brittany Ferries have an arrangement with P&O for Dover-Calais, but this is distinctly suboptimal for many UK riders who've entered the Duo Normand.

Team Grumpy is monitoring the situation somewhat anxiously.  The lack of form has suddenly dropped a few notches lower in Team Grumpy's list of worry.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Oh dear! (a.k.a. Aaaargh!)

With the 2012 edition of the Duo Normand only three weeks away, Team Grumpy riders have been putting the final touches on their training, to ensure they roll of the start ramp in peak condition.

Or they should have been.

In fact both Grumpy Bob and 'Grumpy' Art have had their 2012 season beset by injury, illness and lack of time to commit to effective training. Grumpy Bob has felt the stirrings of some kind of form lately, but has continued to suffer misfortune, most recently at the hands of children arsing around on the F15/10 yesterday afternoon. This caused him to take a nasty 26 mph tumble along the tarmac.

Fortunately, no bones broken. But he's acquired a surprising level of abrasion and bruising. He hopes the bike is OK. His skinsuit and aero helmet were completely trashed in the crash.

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Rumours that Team Grumpy plan to eschew the 2013 Duo Normand in favour of seeking a Wimbledon doubles wild card entry are entirely unfounded. Team Grumpy are insufficiently coordinated for ball games.

Congratulations to Marray and Nielsen!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The clock is ticking...

Grumpy Bob returned from dragging a loaded tandem round the Outer Hebrides and north-west Scotland for 9 days to find that not only had registrations opened for the 2012 Duo Normand, but that 'Grumpy' Art Vanderlay had entered Team Grumpy!

So that's provided a bit of focus for the coming months, since neither member of Team Grumpy has thus far in 2012 shown form that could in any way be described as scintillating.

At the moment, Grumpy Bob is trying to convince his body that cycling is not about pedalling for 8 hours at 10mph but really concerns riding at >25mph for about an hour!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Picking out the positives

No, this isn't about drug cheats - though, frankly, my recent experience of racing has shown to me how tempting it must be to take something to catch up quicker than is possible naturally.

No, this is about my return to racing - well, I say racing, but it was more training on a T bike (and slow training at that). I have 'raced' three TTs in an eight day period, setting new worst times for 50, 10, and then 25 miles. Seriously, it was only the 25 mile event that was not a worst ever time for me - and that's only because a few years ago I made the mistake of entering the Ross on Wye 'hilly' (more like mountainous) 25.

Sitting in the HQ after the final one of these very public humiliations a friend said to me 'don't worry, you'll be able to pick out the positives from all of this soon enough' (thanks Les). I replied that there was not a chance that anything positive could emerge from this experience. Well, was I right or was Les's more sanguine view justified?

Frankly, I don't know - and only time will tell. But on reflection I was so ill only a month ago that I could not contemplate racing for a while yet. In fact, I entered these three events firmly in the belief that I would probably not be able to start them. I did start, I finished (though I did contemplate a DNF in each), and there has been no adverse health reaction. More importantly, I am back on the bike and still have approx. 15 weeks to build for the DUO.

I guess, then, I have been able to pick out the positives after all.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Team MK 2-up - A classic Team Grumpy disaster

Apart from foul weather and blustery winds, what could possibly go wrong for Team Grumpy in the Team MK 2-up, a regular event on their time trial calendar?

Two p*****res, that's what. Grumpy Bob can merely refer the reader to the report over at Flies&Bikes, as he really cannot bring himself to recount the circumstances around this latest Team Grumpy fiasco.  Team Grumpy had to resort to beer and Thai food for consolation.

Grumpy Bob has now ordered new tyres.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Alas, Team Grumpy is scratch

On Saturday afternoon, Team Grumpy will be lining up for their second 2-up of 2012, the Team MK 2-up.  This is a fairly regular event for Team Grumpy - either the team turns out, or Grumpy Bob rides solo. Indeed, one year, the organiser entered Team Grumpy in the 2-up section, even though only Grumpy Bob had entered.

This season sees a change: formerly the event was held over two laps of the 10 mile Astwood sporting course.  This year it was to be held on a new course, the F15/25.  Unfortunately thwarted by roadworks, the event will now be a 15 mile event.  The course, dubbed F15/15 or some such is based on the Brogborough 'cheatie' course which sees the riders start by descending a hill that that they don't need to ride back up.  Grumpy Bob is somewhat apprehensive about how apprehensive 'Grumpy' Art Vanderlay will be on the descent.

'Grumpy' Art is probably a bit more apprehensive about the general lack of fitness in Team Grumpy than in his own descending skills: both riders have been afflicted by illness and injury in recent weeks.  The Team Grumpy Manager is aware that recent performances by Grumpy Bob have been distinctly lacklustre, while 'Grumpy' Art is still recovering from his bout of viral assault.

All things considered, the title of this article is quite appropriate.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Port Talbot Wh 2-up '25'

As is now usual, Team Grumpy prepared intensively for the 48h prior to this event: a preparation which entails consumption of takeaway curry and Belgian beer, while sitting on a sofa watching TV.  Team Grumpy dispensed with rule #2, by tinkering with 'Grumpy' Art's chainring bolts the day before the race.  On the morning of the event both riders woke feeling surprisingly chipper considering the quantity of preparation, but were were somewhat disappointed to see thick fog blanketing southern Wales.  Fortunately the weather lifted, leaving clear sunny conditions with a light but rising wind by the time the team convoy reached the race HQ at Resolven.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

PTW 2-up '25' - preview part 2

Well, in the run up to the first 2-up of the year Team Grumpy members have suffered illness ('Grumpy' Art) and injury (Grumpy Bob).  So, not ideal preparation.  The arrival of the start sheet for the Port Talbot Wheelers 2-up '25' brings with it a field of 51 teams, which is not at all bad for an early season 2-up.  And some of those teams are pretty swift.

In the face of such competition, Team Grumpy plans as usual to utilise the usual preparation: takeaway curries and conspicuous consumption of official energy drink (Pop Belge) during the 48 hours prior to the event.  Team Grumpy feels that this, coupled with lengthy stints of sofa-sitting, will be more than adequate last-minute preparation for the race.


At least Team Grumpy has taken the precaution of new skinsuits. Of course, any benefits that may accrue from that purchase might depend wholly on whether Grumpy Bob can actually squeeze his winter bulk into the skinsuit.  Perhaps this represents an underhand strategy to upset and distract the opposition.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

PTW 2-up '25' - preview

Just two weeks to go before Team Grumpy's first outing for the 2012 season.  Grumpy Bob and the Team Manager will be visiting South Wales to regroup with 'Grumpy' Art Vanderlay and ride the now traditional season opener, the Port Talbot Wheelers 2-up '25'.

This year's event seems to be a week later than usual, though whether that will bring balmier conditions remains to be seen.  In previous events, the riders have contended with snow, hail, rain and cold.  But not all together.  The course is about 50% dual carriageway, with the rest being undulating single carriageway: hopefully the road surface will have been attended to since the 2011 event, when there were potholes galore. And roadwork traffic lights.

Team Grumpy have got a decent track record in this event, but recent years have seen a dip in form due to defects in training due to pressure of work and/or illness.  It remains to be seen how well Team Grumpy has survived the winter training regime... It is worth noting that riding the PTW event with a cold was the source of Team Grumpy rule #5: "Never train or race with a bad cough - it will destroy your entire season".

Grumpy Bob is pretty optimistic about the likely TG form.  However, he is aware that there are two weeks to go in which some mishap might arise.  Probably the toughest aspect will be restraining 'Grumpy' Art's tendency to conduct pre-event equipment modification.  In the past, we have seen his cassette come to pieces (at the bottom of Neath Bank in the days when the PTW 2-up used the 'cheaty course'), or indexing failure (just about every 2-up), or alarming bottom bracket clanking (e.g. the 2011 Duo), loosening chainset (e.g. the 2010 Duo).

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Have I been training too hard?

For the last two seasons I have been using a training system based on power. This has tended to be characterised by short but very intense sessions, due to my lack of available time. Well, the racing results have been rather poor and whilst the cause of this is unclear I decided to turn back the clock and return to a training system that appeared to deliver better results. This system was based on Heart Rate monitoring.

This winter I have, therefore, gone back to using HR to guide my training sessions. But I have kept the power measurement too and I have noticed that the sessions I am doing - whilst hitting the right HR levels - are in fact being done at relatively lower power levels. This has led me to re-evaluate what I have been doing for the previous two seasons and, therefore, yesterday I completed a FTP test based on Hunter & Coggan's method. This produced a FTP level that was significantly lower than I expected, leading me to wonder if have spent two years flogging myself near to death and never reaching my race potential.

Is there a lesson here? Probably, yes, and that perhaps measuring BOTH power and HR and understanding how they relate to each other is a far more sensible way to organise one's training.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

NYD '10': Grumpy Bob takes heed of rules 1 and 5, takes the win.

Grumpy Bob's racing year almost invariably begins with a ride in the North Bucks Road Club's New Year's Day '10'. Equally invariably, he rides in a severely overweight condition.  This year, his form was further compromised by a severe cold which kept him off his bike for the second half of December. Grumpy Bob was very careful to take heed of two of Team Grumpy's rules:

In particular Rule #1
Remember to make your excuses before the race, not after. Otherwise it will just sound pathetic. 
This specifically noting the first ride with the Pro Disc wheel and his recent illness) and Rule #5
Never train or race with a bad cough – it will destroy your entire season.
Had Grumpy Bob still had that racking cough, he would certainly not have raced (under strict instructions from the Team Manager).

In the end, a combination of apparent recovery and warm conditions encouraged him to ride.  In windy conditions, most (if not all) of the field found it heavy going, particularly those who had been ill or injured ( a surprising proportion).

Grumpy Bob finished in 24:37, to take the overall victory, which wasn't too bad considering the circumstances.  In fact the top three finishers were all within 9 second.

Next race will probably be the annual Team Grumpy cobweb duster 2-up ride in the Port Talbot Wheelers '25' in early March.