>I’m getting fitter. No, really, I am. I know I’m not riding enough, but every time I go out I do the same rides with less effort. I may not get much faster, but less effort is expended. So how come?

Fitness is not only those things you can measure in a lab or gym (strength, stamina, speed etc.). It’s a whole load of things that make you fit for a specific purpose. I am fitter at riding the road and lanes of Sussex. How can that be if I’m not putting in enough miles?

  1. I’m learning to ride a bike again. After a fortnight off? Don’t they say “you never forgot how to ride a bike”? Okay, I’m learning to ride a bike efficiently again. Even a short lay off leaves you rusty. The bike felt alien when I started again. Now I’m occasionally enjoying those moments when the machine feels like part of me.
  2. I’m learning the roads. The first few times I went out I blew up on the hills (didn’t know how long they were) and faded into extended headwind sections (lacked resolve). Now I know the specifics of regularly ridden roads and I’m getting a feel for the grain of the land which gives me a good idea of how a new road will ride. I know when to sit and spin and when to push hard for the summit. The headwind thing is more a state of mind – get into the gear right and take the pain.

EDIT (Saturday): There’s a number 3 my friend Des reminds me – the better weather. When the temperature gets to near 20°C your muscles work better. Hence the glut of PBs in time trials today. Everyone’s fitter!

Which is great. I’m fitter. Except that I need to be fit to race in nine days time. And that’s a different sort of fitness. I have to take my ‘Sussex roads and lanes’ fitness and ramp it up (more raw strength and stamina) – do more miles. I should add in some speed work and do some riding on my time trial bike which has a different feel and (I suspect) uses the muscles slightly differently.

I’m not sure that I’ve trained my enthusiasm enough for that sort of hard work yet.

It’s not just enthusiasm. It’s doing 100% of training on the open road. Previously I’d do a high proportion of my work on closed roads (Hillingdon). Now every ride needs a bit of courage to get going. I had 25 years off the bike because I got fazed by traffic. Hillingdon protected me from that problem. Now I’m going to have to face up to it.