Category Archives: track cycling

>It’s Tuesday, it’s Hillingdon, it must be a circuit race

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Last night was the second in the Summer long Hillingdon circuit race series. I am going to ride these as training (though see this interesting piece on ‘Racing is not training‘). I need to work on raising my effort and crits should help this. Or at least they should if I made an effort.

The picture, by Ian Why, is from last week’s track training session. I am third in line and letting the gap open.

The 4th category race was pretty even-paced and I should have got to the front and tested myself. As it was I shuffled about nervously following wheels for most of the race. I got to the front once when the grown ups (E123 race) passed us for the second time and the race was temporarily neutralised. Not a bad ride though – I never felt under pressure and finished in the bunch.

It was nice to be back on my race road bike. I stripped the bottom bracket out of it at the beginning of the Winter and have had a rebuild on my ‘to do list’ ever since. Last week’s failure of my training bike meant that I had to get down to the work and in the end it only took 30 minutes. I put a new chain on as well. I hate the Shimano chain lottery: will it break or not? So far, so good.

Race stats: Race distance: 15.30 miles, time: 36:52 (24.9mph average speed). ? out of ?. Top speed: 31.5mph. Fastest mile: 2:14 (26.9mph – mile 15), slowest mile: 2:35 (23.2mph – mile 10). Average HR: 151bpm, maximum HR: 171bpm. WinnerDan Maslin (Hillingdon Slipstreamers)

>*does a little dance*

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At last!

This week I finally came off the medication that I hoped was suppressing my TT performances. The stuff is supposed to take a fortnight to clear the system, so I wasn’t expecting immediate results.

The picture was taken in The Netherlands last week by Henny Postema – many thanks, Henny


Saturday was a fun day out. Willesden CC had hired Welwyn Velodrome for the day and 20-25 club members gathered for a couple of hours of swooping up and down the banking in the sun. Unusually for Welwyn there was hardly any wind which, combined with the unseasonal warmth, made for a great day. I was riding poorly, but it didn’t matter. I sprinted enthusiastically and ineffectively, lost wheels, bridged gaps, tried to bully Ray Kelly… all sorts of things. I (and several others) finished the day tired but uplifted. The star of the show was WCC’s multiple champion Jayne Paine. She was supposed to be taking it easy because she was racing at Herne Hill the next day, but show her a finish line and… She won the scratch race at the end by a country mile.


Sunday was an early start and a long drive to Tempsford for the Bedfordshire RCC 25m TT on the F1B/25 course. The ‘B’ version of the course is hillier than its F1/25 brother, but a decent ride nonetheless. The start was chilly. Despite it being a ‘slowest 90 riders’ event I was seeded in the second slowest group (on a ‘4’). Accordingly I expected to be caught early doors and to see no other riders ahead of me. I think the seeding was awry: I caught my minute person after about 10 miles and my three minute man after the turn. No one came past me.

Most of the climbing is on the way out, but there’s a little climb to the water tower on the way back. What wind there was was against on the return. That headwind really told in the last couple of miles.

I blew up a little with seven miles to go, but hung on and hung on to record 1:02:04. That’s an improvement of over 7 minutes on the previous best this year. I’s 83 seconds faster than I have ever gone in April before (and I won the event with my previous fastest). I am chuffed and relieved. And today I am as sore as hell.

The stats show a suppressed heart rate, probably because of the sprint efforts on the track the previous day.

Race stats: Time: 1:02:04 (24.17mph). First 12.5 miles: 30:56, last 12.5 miles: 31:07. Top speed: 36.0mph. Slowest mile (12): 3:04 (19.57mph), fastest mile (17): 2:03 (29.27mph). Average HR: 153bpm, maximum HR: 163bpm. Average cadence: 78rpm. 23 of 72 finishers. Winner: Tim Davies (Icknield RC) 55:56.

What changed? The course was good. The weather was good. I used my best wheels for the first time in the UK this year. All of these are factors, but I hope that the meds were also a factor in slowing me down. If so, things are looking brighter for May. Unfortunately, I only have a club event next weekend.


After lunch Pat and I planted a fig tree in the garden. We’ve planted very little because the garden is already well-established. But we had a fig tree at the last house which fruited heavily. If the new tree fruits it’ll make this place feel more like home.


In the evening we went to the Renoir cinema to see The Father of My Children. We’d never heard of it, but it’s a wonderful, strange film. With my teaching work I have to read a lot of books on how to write for film. None of them could explain how this film does what it does. Which makes me like it all the more.

That was a weekend, that was.

>Two tens

>It felt like the season started in earnest this weekend. Two low-key events, but the weather was better and, of course, the hour went back on Saturday night.

Saturday morning I picked up club-mate Simon and drove to Bentley for a Farnham RC club ’10’ on the H10/8 course. The weather was good and the roads felt right. There was a slight headwind to the turn and a flyer back. I’ve done a long 23 on this course, so I hoped for a decent ride. In line with recent results I recorded a course worst, but I’ve never ridden it this early before.

The fastest man was Xavier Disley with a 22:06. I recorded a 26:31 and Simon barnstormed to a personal best 24:27. It was well worth the 6am alarm just to experience the last couple of miles at close to 30mph.

Looking at the numbers my average heart rate still seems infeasibly low – this time last year my average heart rate for a ’10’ was 160-162bpm. This weekend’s rides both came in at 148-149 despite the perceived effort being the same.

Race stats: Time: 26:31 (22.63mph). First 5 miles: 14:25, last 5 miles: 12:06. Top speed: 33.9mph. Slowest mile (2): 3:09 (19.05mph), fastest miles (9 and 10): 2:10 (27.69mph). Average HR: 149bpm, maximum HR: 160bpm. 14 of 27 finishers. Winner: Xavier Disley (…a3crg) 22:06.

Sunday was another early alarm – 5:15am before you allow for BST. This time it was Great Missenden for the VTTA (London and Home Counties) 10m TT on the HCC180 course. I’ve ridden this event twice before, so it was nice to ride an event PB even if the time was slower than yesterdays.

There was a light tailwind to the turn which turned the normally fast finish into a bit of a struggle (not helped by being caught by a speedy Andy H of the Westerley towards the end).

Willesden CC team mates Peter and Chris won the two-man team prize for fastest team of VTTA members on standard. There was no champagne, but the bara brith and bread pudding (neither on the sinister list yet) were excellent.

Race stats: Time: 27:14 (22.03mph). First 5 miles: 13:20, last 5 miles: 13:54. Top speed: 29.2mph. Slowest mile (7): 3:10 (18.95mph), fastest mile (4): 2:20 (25.71mph). Average HR: 148bpm, maximum HR: 158bpm. 14 of 22 finishers. Winner: Malcolm Woolsey (Westerley CC) 23:10.

Easter weekend promises some fun events but the rest of April is looking a bit bare for time trials. Hopefully I’ll get some track work in to keep the cycling interesting.

>Stuff

>The time trialling season begins for me tomorrow with a 10 mile event. I will report (eventually).

Next weekend I have a weekend off the bike to go and see my artworcs friends. I am also attending the 20:20 conference in Birmingham where my short play A Page Turner is receiving its first performances alongside 19 other short plays by writers who attended the MA / MPhil(B) in Playwriting Studies at Birmingham University.

In other news: 

My sister, Marie, won two Silver medals at New Zealand’s National Masters Championships. She was second in the 500 metre TT and the Individual Pursuit. Well done (again), Marie.

We took last weekend off to celebrate Pat’s birthday. Two films at the BFI: Letter for an Unknown Woman on the Saturday and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on Sunday. The former harks back to the well-made play of the late nineteenth century (the heroine – a good woman who does a bad thing – handily gets a disease that kills her as a kind of moral retribution. The sort of plot that only survives in opera nowadays). The latter has a tight cause and effect, three act structure that felt much more modern. I didn’t cry watching Spencer Tracy‘s last performance… I didn’t. I don’t cry. It was a good weekend.

Today I was at Hillingdon cycle circuit helping Ray and the rest of the club run a British Cycling Go Ride event for school children new to the sport. It was great fun with some really committed performances by the kids. It was very cold though.

>Calshot and Willesden CC reliability

>Saturday to Calshot with Andy H of the Westerley CC (cheers for the lift, Andy) for the penultimate Prime Coaching session of the Winter. Keith and Tony were the coaches and Aileen registered the riders and co-ordinated the timing.

This was my first ride on my new second hand track bike (left) – I just managed to get it built in time. It handled well, but I need to check the position again (sore knees).

A smaller group than normal meant that we had plenty of track time – that is: plenty of time to get frazzled. We went through a whole series of exercises including a timed flying lap. I ‘flew’ to a 12.06sec lap. Andy did it in 11.51sec, so I got a lift home. I bottled out of the last Madison exercise – maybe next time.

The photos are all by Tony using Andy’s camera.

Sunday was the Willesden CC reliability trial. The day started with heavy rain. A lot of riders thought better of starting. Though the downpour stopped quite quickly the roads were wet throughout and drenched the riders.

As we climbed to Wendover Woods the wetness turned to slush and then to snow. I’d been thinking of turning short at Wendover anyway, and these conditions looked like a good excuse (especially after the experience of the Team Quest reliability).

Five of us (including fellow WCC members Rich and Richie) headed back along the A413 and Denham to the HQ at Ickenham where the low number of participants meant there was plenty of tea and cake to be had. I should feel guilty about cutting the ride short (plenty didn’t), but I don’t.

The photos  are by organiser John. He had hoped to ride but understandably didn’t want to risk injuring his hair style in the damp conditions.

>A brief update

>I did not get into the first half of the field in the last Winter Series event – 26th out of 39 finishers. Work to do on the sprint. Alex Murray’s write up is here and Martin Porter makes a great case for riding the series here.

My sister Marie (left) has added a Southland region Bronze Medal in the Women Masters Individual Pursuit to her NZ Masters Games medals. She has now been selected for the Southland team for the National Championships on March 3rd. Good luck, Masha.

I’ve had a pretty duff week for motivation. I didn’t touch the bike on the best day (Wednesday). Though I’ve had downs this Winter this is the first time I’ve had problems with training.

Hopefully this weekend’s Calshot session and the Willesden CC reliability on Sunday will re-engage me.

>The Hewer Street Pancake Race

>A new departure for us last night… Pat and I went to take part in the Hewer Street Annual Pancake Race. This is a fiercely fought affair with a magnificent trophy at stake. I’d heard about the rough and tumble and dark practices that characterise the event, but I thought a background of circuit racing and over-competitive Boggle might serve me well.

The lashing rain and tricky underfoot conditions meant that Pat opted out. A wise decision.

I had underestimated how hard people would fight to win. I had overestimated my ability to toss at speed. I finished nowhere – a bitter but wiser man.

The controversy, however, was all at the sharp end. At the last possible moment before that start, last year’s winner, Big Simon, unveiled his secret weapon. It was massive, it was deep, it was a bloody wok. Science has taught us that a pancake cannot be spilled from a wok never mind how enthusiastic and inept the tossing. The wok’s aerodynamic shape creates ground effect which help keeps the tosseur close to the ground and to make up time at the turn. But is it legal?

Despite all of this technological help Big Simon was running second to Little Simon (no relation) as the line drew closer. Suddenly there was uproar – Little Simon had spilled his battered confection and was scrambling in the road to re-house his crepe. There was (unproven) talk of a laser pointer being used to blind him mid-toss. Big Simon let out a roar of triumph, accelerated and dipped to take the tape first.

The crowd went wild. There were protests – there always are – but no rule had been broken. This is a hard man and woman’s sport. Big Simon is the champion and takes the cup. His write up of the event is here and here.

I have already started work on my racing wok for next year. This is the wok I will be training with…

It doesn’t quite have the elegance of Big Simon’s machine, but I will improve it. I will get better.

My other project is a track bike (below), but that doesn’t seem so important now.

>Congratulations, Marie

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My sister Marie has won three Gold medals and a Silver at the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin. She won the 500m TT, the 2km individual pursuit and the 4km scratch race. The Silver medal came in the 500m sprint where she says “my legs died at the end”. Apparently it was a roasting hot day in Dunedin.

She says:

My speed wasn’t great […] but I actuallyfelt good racing! The scratch race was a combined event with the men (cos therewasn’t enough competitors for a full field in either category). We dropped theother women in the first lap (when the men took off), but I hung on for grimdeath until the final (16th) lap when the men lost me in their sprint.

She has qualifying for the National 2000m individual pursuit coming up on 16th February – Good luck, Marie.

>Calshot and an Audax

>I’ve been having great fun riding at Calshot Velodrome this Winter. I’ve written an entry for the Prime Coaching blog here.

Last Saturday I rode the Little Willy 115km Audax from Chalfont St Peter organised by the Willesden CC. To be honest, I rode it to avoid riding the classic Harp Hilly Hundred reliability trial the next day. I’m getting a complex about hills.

Anyway, it turns out that the Little Willy has plenty of hills of its own. The first leg to Pangbourne was okay, but then we climbed to Christmas Common which was a proper hill. My mates John and Graham kept towing me for which I am very grateful. Just after the common John managed to get lost and Graham and I got lost chasing after him (never did catch him). Graham guided me to Henley, then Marlow before climbing Winter Hill (steep bend) and several other banks. Within 15 miles of the finish Graham punctured and bonked. I was able to nurse him towards home, grateful of the reduction in speed. He then punctured again with 3 miles to go.

I am grateful to the lady who subbed me a pound to buy a cheese sandwich at the end.

With the ride to the start and back I clocked up 104 miles for the day. This is the first time I’ve done the ton since 1978. I don’t think I’ve ever done it in January before. It wasn’t one of my official targets, but it’s good to achieve it.

Photograph by Chris Matson / CC BY-SA 2.0

>Last abnormal TT of the season

>Saturday was my first trip to the Calshot velodrome for the Prime Coaching training session (there are more through the Winter). The track is only 142 metres around, so I was worried I’d find it more difficult than the 250 metre Invercargill track that I rode in August. In fact the tighter corners make it much easier to ride high on the banking (more g forces) and it feels a lot safer. The only problem is holding the bike down on the black line as everything is conspiring to push you uphill! I really enjoyed the session. If you’ve never ridden an indoor track before I recommend Calshot and the Prime Coaching team.

Sunday was less fun. The Autumn hill climb season has a great tradition, so I thought I’d have a go at the West London Combine event up Windsor Hill. It’s only half a mile after all. How painful could it be? To my shame I never got as far as the pain – I rode through the first couple of corners and jacked it in. My heart rate wasn’t high, I just felt totally negative about the whole thing. Not good and symptomatic of a continuing issue.

The event was won by Rory Atkins of the Twickenham CC with a 1:58. Second was Willesden CC‘s own Stuart Birnie. It was nice to ride out to the event with the club. A bit embarrassing riding back though.

The photograph of a British hill climb is by the late, great Bernard Thompson.