Category Archives: imperial winter series


>Rivalries. They’re another thing that keeps me going that isn’t particularly SMART.

When I rode my first race I came last. I made a mental note of those who finished ahead of me (i.e. everyone) and started to pick some of them off through that first season – I’m talking about beating them in time trials here, not assassination. Early rivals included Ian Jones, Adrian Collins and Val Hadley, but there were many more. Some of my rivals probably never knew me – they were just names who appeared regularly on start sheets. But others became good friends. Friends are the best sorts of rivals.

I suppose my edgiest rivalry was with my dad (left). At first I never even considered being able to beat him. When I started to get closer he always seemed to have an edge on me – psychologically as well as time-wise. It was as if he knew me really well.

Considering how this rivalry is scored on my mind, it’s surprising that I can’t recall the first time I beat him. But I did. Eventually. There was, I think, only one season where I beat him consistently (he’d been ill during the winter). Any victory against him was hard won and a moment to be treasured. He hated being beaten, but was always generous when it happened. The strange thing was, by the time we were racing each other so hard the rivalry had ceased to be a father-son thing (or that was secondary). It was about the bike. And friendship.

When I started to race less and less, he went on to beat all my PBs by a considerable margin (he also won a VTTA national championship, rode a World Master Championship road race and broke two mixed tandem competition records to boot). I guess that means he wins. Top man.

Nowadays most of my rivals belong to my club – Willesden CC – but there are a few riders from other clubs I keep an eye on. I do like to travel back to my old stamping ground in the Marches and Wales to take on Paul Stephens and the rest of the Ross guys on their home turf as well.

The first race of 09/10 is tomorrow. The Imperial Winter Series starts and I’ll be lining up with the fourth cats. Again. Rivalries don’t really apply in bunch racing for me – It’s not about the winning, it’s about getting dropped.

Competition is bad for motivation“: an interesting counterpoint to my previous post on winning from the Cycling Tips blog. I like the idea of striving for mastery rather than just victory. Of course, either would be nice.

>Intervals and The Shape of the Table

>It begins again. I did my first set of (easy) indoor intervals for a while today. I’d have preferred to go out for a ride but the weather was being Very British.

The turbo trainer experience was rendered a little more bearable by BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Play – an adaptation of David Edgar‘s stage play The Shape of the Table. It’s Edgar’s 1990 response to the fall of the Berlin Wall. There’s been some really good programming on R4 to mark the tenth anniversary of said de-wallment and this production was excellent. It was directed by Peter Leslie Wild (who directed my two radio plays and one of my stage plays). Tim McInnerny and Henry Goodman headed up the cast. You can listen again here for the next seven days.

Today I entered the first race of next season: race one of the Imperial Winter Series. As I said: it begins again…

>Season review – part 1


Before the season began in earnest I set myself some SMART targets. They were…

By the end of the year I will…

  • Ride a PB for a 25m TT – 59:06 or better Not achieved
    • sub-goal – break the hour Not achieved
    • sub-goal – PB (last 3 seasons) 1:1:20 Achieved with a 1:00:00 at the end of May
  • Ride a PB for a 10m TT – 23:36 or better Not achieved
    • sub-goal – break 24 minutes Achieved with a 23:48 towards the end of June
    • sub-goal – PB (LTS) 24:49 Achieved
  • Ride a PB for a 50m TT – 2:4:35 or better Not achieved
    • sub-goal – PB (LTS) 2:8:23 Achieved with a 2:06:03 mid-June
  • Score a point in a road or circuit race Never got close
  • Finish a 100m TT No – didn’t even enter one
  • Ride the Welsh CA 12 hour TT Not feasible so soon after returning from NZ
  • Finish the majority of open events in the top third of finishers (currently I’m stuck in the last third). Not achieved
    • A sub-goal will be to make the top half of finishers. Not achieved: last year’s figure was 69.3%, this year’s improved to 54.6%*

So no prime target achieved but several sub-goals were, giving me something to be positive about. I think the targets were achievable, but the August break cut my season short. I have no regrets about that: the trip to New Zealand was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we had a great time.

I’m more interested in how I achieved that May/June run of results and why it was not possible to recreate that later in the season when the Indian Summer rolled in during September and October. I’ll write more about that later.

I’m enjoying a few easier weeks at the moment before refocussing on next season and coming up with some new targets. I’m still not sure if I’ll ride some or all of the Imperial RT Winter Series.

* calculated by dividing my finishing position by the number of finishers in solo TTs finished.

>Winter Series race 13 / Edgware reliability

>A good race this week. The Imperial Racing Team guys took the first few laps out quickly and smoothly and the rhythm remained brisk pretty much throughout. I felt okay, but I knew I was sluggish compared to most of the other riders.

I took a couple of turns on the front. These were not necessarily a great idea. I had been riding comfortably in the first ten or so, but when I swung out from the front position I realised I didn’t understand how to slot back into the line near the business end of the bunch. I ended up way back in the group having to cope with the whiplash effect off some of the corners.

However, I was there at the end, missed the crash and rolled up for 23rd place from 31 finishers.

That was the last race of the series until next December and I’m going to miss it. Thanks, Imperial and friends, for organising it. The standard of riding has improved through the series (though there are still a couple of wheels to avoid, probably including mine).

By the way, I couldn’t even win a prize in the post-race raffle.

Race stats: position – 23rd of 31 finishers, race distance – 20.12 miles, race time – 49:45, average speed – 24.3mph, average HR – 151bpm, maximum HR – 173bpm, top speed – 30.6mph (the 20th mile), fastest mile (the 20th) – 2:16 (26.5mph), slowest mile (the 1st and 17th) – 2:36 (23.1mph).

Winner: Jai Watson of Dulwich Paragon

On Sunday I rode over to Denham Country Park for the Edgware Road Club reliability trial. I was in the middle* group (4-4.5 hours) and we went out at an easy pace. It started to pick up once we hit the hill and all hell let loose when a faster group (led by Richard “The Guv’nor” Jerome and John “Mr Williams” Williams of the Willesden) caught us.

After three fast miles they shook some of us off. The dropees formed a group and tried to work together. The pace was pretty up and down for a while, but slowly we started to gel and make progress. By this time I had ridden yesterday’s race out of my legs and was feeling all right. With 5 miles to go I accidentally got a gap and pushed on. Two got up to me and we finished fast (53×13). My time was about 3h 25m, which was pleasing. I had over 75 miles on the clock by the time I got home.

*I thought it was the middle group but apparently it was the slow group. That would explain the welcome easy start.

>Winter Series race 12

>Today’s race went ahead. It was (marginally) warmer than forecast and the Slipstreamers did a great job making the circuit safe in the morning.

There was no super fast start this week and the pack stayed together. The pace was brisk but pretty even, which suits me. There were bursts down the straight, but it’s easy to accelerate and keep up there. I got caught out a couple of times at the shed corner (dropping too far back), but managed to close the gaps okay.

I never did get to the front of the race despite trying to move up from tail end Charlie a couple of times. The easy pace meant the bunch was wide and pretty twitchy around the margins. It all came down to a sprint and I was tailed off up the hill again (I was ‘sprinting’, but it felt like reverse gear). Some more short interval work needed this week.

The good news is that the chainset fitted this week didn’t fall off, the gears worked after a bit of in-race adjustment and the bike position is now the same as the training iron.

Race stats: position – 31st of 37 finishers, race distance – 19.2 miles, race time – 48:25, average speed – 23.8mph, average HR – 158bpm, maximum HR – 171bpm, top speed – 29.5mph (the 19th mile), fastest mile (the 19th) – 2:23 (25.2mph), slowest mile (the 17th) – 2:40 (22.5mph).

Winner: Malcolm Dixon of Dulwich Paragon

>Winter Series race 11, TRIMP and a reliability trial

>I’m trying to work out training loads and have found a formula to calculate training impulse (TRIMP) in a plug-in to SportTracks. I don’t use either product, but they are an useful source of information. A bit of Googling brought me to this blogger‘s attempts to harness TRIMP data to calculate acute and chronic training loads (ATL and CTL: roughly fatigue and fitness). I realise that this is a much less reliable way of doing things than using power data, but a power meter would cost more than any of my bikes, so I need an alternative. I’ve used MS Access and Excel to generate the numbers for the last 18 months and, lo and behold, I’m behind where I was this time last year. I’ve got into a rhythm of easy training and have ‘forgotten’ to make it progressive.

What the data does show is that my best rides come when CTL is fairly high, but ATL is low – i.e. I’m rested before the big event. Now I knew this to be a fact, but now I have a crude metric to measure these factors.

In my effort to catch up I put in some harder than usual sessions on Thursday and Friday and arrived at the start line of Winter Series #11 with sore legs. Ten minutes later they were even sorer. Someone had a cunning plan to take the race out as fast as possible. I was not in on this plan. It took me until the hairpin to clip my foot in (note to self: never change pedals just before a race) and when I looked up the bunch was strung out and I was last man. We hit nearly 32mph on that first lap. After three miles I was detached as were many of the field. I worked with someone until the bunch came through and then sat in for a couple of laps (things were much more sedate by this stage). I dropped off again and finished two laps down. Why? I wasn’t up to it. The photo (‘race face’ or ‘face of pain’) is by Lucy Collins.

Race stats: position – 34th of 39 finishers, my race distance – 16.21 miles, race time – 45:58, average speed – 21.2mph, average HR – 156bpm, maximum HR – 168bpm, top speed – 31.2mph (the first mile), fastest mile (the 2nd) – 2:25 (24.8mph), slowest mile (the 13th) – 3:14 (18.6mph).

The winner was Thomas Sutherland (Twickenham CC).

Sunday was the Team Quest reliability trial. I opted for the softer 90km option. With the ride there and back it was 65 miles – the longest ride I’ve done since mid-November. It was a cold day with some flurries of snow, but I was with a good group and we kept a good pace going. Good cakes at the HQ as well.

>Winter Series race 10

>A brisk day today with frost just clearing as we arrived at the circuit. The Slipstreamers had been cyclo-cross training so there was plenty of mud to be cleared from the circuit (thanks Imperial).

The race itself went well. I find that I’m no longer fearing getting dropped at every stage. I didn’t see much of the front, but I did make a break to join up with a pair of riders who had a small lead. Having caught them, I didn’t know what to do with them, so I sat up and waited for the bunch while trying to get my heart back into my chest.

The sprint was chaotic and I didn’t get involved.

Stats: position – 36th out of 43 finishers, race distance – 18.28 miles, race time – 45:04, average speed – 24.3mph, average HR – 154bpm, maximum HR – 176bpm, top speed – 29.6mph (in the ‘sprint’), fastest miles (the 12th and 14th) – 2:20 (25.7mph), slowest mile (the 1st) – 2:49 (21.3mph).

The winner was James Lowden of Lewes Wanderers.

The picture (that’s me bridging to the two leaders) is by Sylvain Garde and is part of a gallery on LondonCycleSport.

This was the fastest race and my best for recovery. This is partly due to being less stressed and, I think, because the remnants of the virus I had over a month ago are slowly clearing my system.

Tonight is the Willesden CC club dinner. I have to drive, so no drinking.

Tomorrow is the Harp Hilly Hundred reliability trial. This was the second road event I ever rode back in 1974 (the first was a Boxing Day 1973 10m TT). I haven’t got the base miles in this Winter, so it’ll be interesting to see how I last. The weather forecast is changing by the minute, but it should be a wet and windy ride.

>Winter Series race 9 – better

No snow this week. It was even quite warm. A light breeze kept the average speed down.

I achieved a couple of targets today:

  • I led the bunch for about a third of a lap (the tailwind section). It took a couple of laps to recover from that.
  • I tried to break away. I don’t think anyone noticed. It took a few laps to recover from that.
  • I tried to sprint at the end. This failed because I was over-geared, too far back and sprinted like a blancmange. If I had got it right I might have got 22nd place rather than 23rd.

It was interesting to see some of those ahead of me taking to the grass as the real sprint opened up – someone had pulled a foot out of their pedal.

It’s not really safe to practice sprinting from 30th position as the people in front are sitting up. I need to do some solo work in training. Being a dumb tester I think I’m going to have to work on a long sprint. I was doing 30 second ‘100%’ intervals earlier on in the Winter, but I’ve eased off these to try and get ride of persistent ‘almost-a-cold’ symptoms.

Stats: position – 23rd out of 35 finishers, race distance – 18.23 miles, race time – 46:16, average speed – 23.6mph, average HR – 160bpm, maximum HR – 172bpm, top speed – 29.1mph (in the ‘sprint’), fastest mile (the 8th) – 2:22 (25.4mph), slowest mile (the 1st) – 2:58 (20.2mph).

My average HR was lower than it has been, which is good. I did some proper level 2 recovery rides this week which may have helped.

Winner: Antony Leeson, Addiscombe CC.

Photograph by Lucy Collins via LondonCycleSport.

>Winter Series race 8 – snow and a wake up call

>Today’s race was a bit of a disaster, but that’s okay.

I was dropped after about three miles and was lapped twice before the end. The legs never seemed to turn and the lungs never seemed to pump. The heart rate, however, was as high as it has ever been. Final placing: 28th out of 29 finishers. Winner: Robert Moore of London Phoenix.

The race was made more interesting by the snow. Half a mile from the circuit there was none. By the time I arrived there was a ‘powder coat’ all the way round. The localised nature of the weather meant that a good sized field had turned up and most of them stayed for the delayed start. The grippy surface at Hillingdon (plus some excellent work with the salt by the Imperial RT) meant no slipping and everyone stayed upright. At the finish my beard was encrusted with ice.

Why was I so rubbish after making decent progress over the last couple of weeks? Negativity I think. I have been reading a lot about sports psychology this Winter and I think that I’m now more positive and focussed about my riding. But not today. The last few days have seen a few niggles (snot, sore throat etc., the sort of thing everyone has at this time of year) and I’ve let it get to me. Being generally positive is great, but when the pressure builds, it’s not enough. You need specific positive routines and/or scripts when the going gets tough.

I wonder what scripts the 27 guys in front of me were using?

Photographs courtesy of LondonCycleSport. You can just see me (green jersey) on the left of the second one.

>Winter Series race 7

>The fastest race of the series so far (24.2mph average). This was partly because it was a rare wind-free day at Hillingdon. Still cold mind.

I was there at the end again. I’m going to have to accept finishing in the bunch as a new base line and start to think more progressively. As it was, I slipped back through the group on the last lap because of all the ‘nervousness’ going on. As we hit the bottom corner I decided to ‘sprint’ to pick up a few places. My ‘sprinting’ involved carefully picking my way past the blokes who had sat up, but it was a bit of fun. Final position – 35th out of 43.

Some stats: top speed=29.9mph; average heart rate=161bpm; maximum heart rate=175bpm; fastest mile (the last one)=2:20=25.7mph; slowest mile (the first one)=2:43=22.1mph.

My HR was probably a bit high because I can’t kick this chest trouble. I can breath okay, but it all feels a bit raw once the racing stops.

The race was won by Miles Stovold of Dulwich Paragon.