Category Archives: Willesden Cycling Club

2012 London Olympics #1

I managed to get to a couple of Olympic events and spent a day in the park. It’s been a fantastic meeting.

The next few posts will consist of some badly taken photographs.

The first event I went to was the Men’s and Women’s cycling time trial. I was invited to Surbiton (about 5km from the finish) by a friend from my Willesden CC days. It was great to meet up with the West London gang again.

My photos of the women’s event were (even more) rubbish so they are not included. Emma Pooley did a great ride but the course did not suit her.

The men’s race was dominated by Bradley Wiggins. I didn’t photograph any of the leading contenders because I wanted to be there in the moment.


Friends taking photographs (using cameras that cost more than £30, I shouldn’t wonder)


Albasini of Switzerland


Lars Boom (the big Dutchman) of the Netherlands


Crowds – if you make it free, they will come.


A Swedish rider. About the only one I got in focus from this side of the road.

Cycling review of 2011

This shouldn’t take long.

I started a new job in May. It has weekend working and a variable schedule which made it difficult to keep to training plans and made weekend racing tricky to programme. So I slowed down then stopped the racing. And then slowed down and then stopped the cycling. I haven’t been on the bike since August.

But it’s not about the job of course. the job was just the excuse pushing at an open door. The racing was getting difficult because I was going slower. Motivation is a problem when there is no incentive. The house move in March meant that I had lost my support network.

Support network sounds grand doesn’t it. What I mean is those people who get after you if you start taking it easy: the Willesden CC, the Minet Ladies CC, the veterans at the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, the Imperial Winter Series and so on. Living in a new place means you have to be a self-starter until you find the local networks. I did this for a while… and then stopped doing it.

Will I ride a bike again? I’ve got a hell of a lot invested in kit. That’s probably not enough of an incentive to tempt me out on a day like today (cold, wet and windy).

The one thing that might persuade me back onto the road again is that I’ve started putting on weight. The new job, with its outdoor work and requirement for nervous energy, has kept the pounds off during the season. Since November I’m working less and the pounds are creeping back on. I hate being fat.

If I do race next year I think I’ll stick to club races. There’s a really good calendar of evening events in East Sussex. I do like riding opens, but down here the weekend events always start early in the morning (in most areas the Saturday races are in the afternoon). Two early starts (3-5am say) in a row are no fun, especially if you’re riding like a slug.

I don’t think I can afford to set targets for next year. They get me down and, in the end, become counter productive.

Some statistics for the year:

Fastest 10 miles TT – 25:52 on 9th May on the G10/87 course (compared to a PB of 23:37)

Fastest 25 miles TT – 1:05:33 on 8th May on the Q25/8 course (compared to a PB of 59:07)

16 races ridden. This compares to 48 in 2010.

2,615 miles in training (so far). This compares to 6,786 miles in 2010. I’ve never exceeded 10,000 miles in a year.

633 miles in January was the most miles in a month this year. The disruption of the house move and then new job kicked in around March.

Race #9 – Small steps

>The Wigmore CC 25m TT was my first race ever in Kent. It’s a nice course with a good road surface and a ski-jump start. It’s all single carriageway, but wide and with good visibility. It was a warm, sticky morning. There was a strong breeze but long, tree-lined stretches neutralised it for much of the race. The £600 prize list attracted a good field of 105 riders.

The early start and long drive to the event meant a good warm up was needed. Never mind. The new tri-bars were a bit of an adventure at first but once the race started I really liked them. I may be marginally lower which might be a factor in the hamstring and back pain I had after the race. The position felt good though, so I will stick with it. The best bit was that they didn’t move.

My former team mate at Willesden CC, fast man Peter Dixon, was off eight minutes behind me. I made it a target to hold him off to the final roundabout (17 miles). In fact he only caught me in the last mile having gone slightly off course at the first roundabout. He clocked a very good 57:14 and looked powerful as he sped past. It was good to catch up with him. He looks set for another fast season.

My new team mate Peter Tadros (In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp) continued his great form with a 3 second beating of the course record to win the event in 51:52. Twenty nine of the field were under the hour.

I came 56th of the 82 finishers. I would have needed to do a long 1:01:+ to make my perpetual target of top half of the field. I think that would have been possible last season. However, starting from here, 1:05:33 is another small step forward. There’s a photo of me here that shows that I’m still carrying too much luggage around the midriff and that I’m collapsing forward too much.

Race stats: Time: 1:5:33 (22.88mph). First 12.5 miles: 32:00, last 12.5 miles: 33:33. Top speed: 38.7mph. Slowest mile (14): 3:14 (18.56mph), fastest mile (1): 1:56 (31.03mph). Average HR: 163bpm, maximum HR: 170bpm. Average cadence: 74rpm. 56th of 82 finishers. Winner: Peter Tadros (In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp) 51:52

>2011 – race #1

>And so it begins again.

I’ve had a fortnight of occasional short, gentle rides rather than training. We’ve been packing the house ready for the move and that has taken all of our attention. Despite this I did want to ride today’s event. I’ve got very anxious over the last weeks and cycling has helped take some of the pressure off.

I had a particularly good ride on Friday – an hour at Hillingdon on the Planet X TT bike for the first time in months. It felt like flying. On Tuesday I’d struggled to average 16mph on the road bike. On Friday, despite no effort longer than three miles, I did 19 miles in the hour. Given how unfit I’ve been feeling, it was a big boost. It was good to say ‘ta ra’ to the Tuesday/Friday veterans as well. I’m not going to miss the regular kickings they gave me though.

So Friday and Saturday we broke the back of the packing. The loft is empty and our life is almost all in boxes. This meant that I could legitimately spare the morning for a proper bike race – the West London Combine / Maidenhead and Dist CC 10m TT on the Knowl Hill course (H10/2). We might have had the Tour Down Under, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Strade Bianche, but we all know the season really begins at a village hall just outside Maidenhead in early March.

It was a cool, crisp morning with a slight tailwind to the turn. This made the early rise to Knowl Hill a little less lung bursting than usual, but made the last half a mile a living hell quite hard. I was pleased with my ride. Last year I messed it up by being on medication and snapping a gear cable on the way to the start. Two years ago I did a 26:37. Today I did exactly the same time. I’m not progressing as well as I might!

CORRECTION: I misread my time. It was actually 20 seconds slower – 26:57. I need new specs.

Race stats: Time: 26:57 (22.26mph). First 5 miles: 12:20, last 5 miles: 14:37. Top speed: 29.6mph. Slowest mile (6): 3:09 (19.05mph), fastest mile (4): 2:18 (26:09mph). Average HR: 163bpm, maximum HR: 168bpm. Average cadence: ?rpm. 28th of 84 finishers. Winner: Peter Dixon (Willesden CC) 22:58

As it was an association event I rode in the colours of my second claim club, the Willesden. That should be my last ride for them… It was good to say cheerio to so many of the team mates and friends from other clubs who have made the nearly five years we’ve lived in London so nice. Apologies that I didn’t get to chat to all of you. Thanks all.

In other news – they’ve just run the Kiwi age group track championships. My sister Marie reports…

Final score for NZ National Track Cycling Championships:
Jennifer [my niece – U17]: bronze (scratch race), silver (points race), silver (team pursuit), bronze (team sprint), 4th (individual pursuit) and 6th (sprint)
Me [i.e. Marie – vet]: bronze (500m TT – PB 42:814), silver (2000m individual pursuit – PB 2:49:418)

Well done the Muhls!

>Willesden CC Reliability Trial

>Sunday was a nice day for a ride out (unlike last year’s event). I entered the short (36 mile) event, but couldn’t work out the route – after five years I’m still regularly confounded by the lanes round here. I decided to head out with the mid-speed group on the 100km event and turn round early. After 10 miles of getting dropped on every drag, twice regaining the group as they were held up at traffic lights, I was finally permanently detached on the short climb out of Chorleywood.

I kept the pace going on the rubbish road surfaces to Chesham, keeping the lights of the following cars in sight. As I left Chesham I accepted that this was going to be a solo ride and eased back a bit on the long, gradual ascent to Wendover Woods. I passed quite a few puncture victims on the way.

At Wendover I turned left and headed back to the HQ via Amersham, Chalfont Common and Denham. It’s two years since I rode the second half of the route over Bledlow Ridge and Small Dean Lane. My climbing form is so rubbish at the moment I think there may have been walking involved. I may be losing weight, but my climbing technique is useless at the moment – work to do.

I got back to Ickenham having covered just over 50 miles in about 3 hours (62 miles door to door for the day). The refreshments were, as ever, excellent.

I only just got back ahead of the fastest guys on the 100km route. My ex-club mates from the Willesden seemed to have a variety of epic rides, at least one of them involving a taxi.

The house move situation seemed to step up a gear at the end of last week. Some ultimatums from other parts of the chain led to a couple of sleepless nights. It does look as if things are accelerating – hopefully not falling apart. The thing is not to panic.

Less than two weeks to the first race (providing we don’t move the next day).

>Sufferfest – The Hunted

>Today I rode a turbo session with a purpose designed video for the first time. It was the hour long The Hunted from Sufferfest. I can recommend it. It creates a story – you’re taking part in a race – and uses real life race footage to support it. It’s not as good as a well-run, coach-led session in a room full of other turboists (Thursdays too now), but it might be the next best thing.

The Sufferfest header. I’m not sure what the donkey reference is all about

The session is based around your perceived exertion on a scale from 1 (easy-peasy) to 10 (as hard as a hard thing). Most of The Hunted is pitched between 6 and 8 with some short burst of 9. There are a couple of recovery sections at 4. I’m supposed to be maxing out at about 5.5 at the moment, so I scaled back the efforts accordingly (the scientific term is ‘wimped out‘).

The story of The Hunted involves a series of sustained efforts including a 20 minute climb. You are regularly prompted to cover a move, take a break, change cadence, take a turn at the front etc. My interest was constantly engaged. I enjoy immersing myself in stories (it’s compulsory with the day job) and I found this approach fun – not a word I normally associate with the turble. I was so involved that I almost tipped over the rig on a couple of the hairpins on the descents. I found myself jumping for cover behind the camera motorbike at one point as well.

Will it bear repetition? If used sparingly I think it will. I’ve pencilled it in as my regular Monday gig for the next three weeks. I’ve seen other DVDs for sale, but the real race footage marked The Sufferfest line out for me. I prefer the text prompts and music to being talked at as well. There are other titles available which I’ll invest in as funds allow (or as being snowbound drives me up the wall).

The vids are available as a download. The quoted $10.99 worked out at £8.59 after VAT had been added. It took about an hour to download. I unzipped the compressed files and cut them to DVD. I also downloaded a free media player (VLC) because the installed Windows XP player on my ancient PC can’t cope with .mp4 files.

>To the turbodrome

>The recent cold and snow has pushed me back onto the turbo. Not that it has been much warmer inside our lean-to – a couple of sessions were done at 3°C and it is looking cold out there again today.

Like a lot of cyclists I pretend to hate the turbo trainer, but really I’m just bored by it. This is especially true at this time of year when I’m building back to fitness. There are no really hard interval sessions to carry out (pain is preferable to discomfort in this context).

So I’ve been trying a few techniques to beak sessions up. I’ve found the following useful:

  • Spinning up the revs for 10-15 seconds every 5 minutes or…
  • Going up/down a sprocket every 5 minutes and adjusting cadence accordingly and…
  • Changing handlebar position every 1 or 2 minutes

These were amongst techniques suggested on the Time Trialling Forum – there’s also a thread “What’s the longest turbo session you’ve ever done?” which makes for scary reading – 5+ hours!? I’ve never managed more than 75 minutes.

In a way I’m glad to have had such a concentrated batch of turbo sessions – it’s got me back into the habit. It also gets you fit very quickly. I hope I’ll cope a bit better with riding with the veterans at Hillingdon this week!

Of course, I’m writing this post to delay today’s turbo session.

In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp

In other news,we had the Willesden CC AGM yesterday. I am no longer time trial secretary (my first and last annual report is here). Indeed, I am no longer a first claim member of the club. From next season I will be riding for In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp, a team based in Uckfield, close to where we hope to be living in Sussex. I’ll remain a second claim member of the Willesden and hope to see some of them at races.

The house move is now waiting on the chain to form. Someone down the line needs to find a place to live. After months of making decisions about our future, we are now subject to the vagaries of other people’s decisions. It doesn’t feel so good.

>Moving out of town

>Apologies for the lack of recent posts. We’ve been busy with preparing for our move to the South Coast. It’s all been a bit stressful with lots of last minute dashes South to see places and deals falling through. This week, though, promises to be a bit calmer *touches wood*.

Bike-wise it’s all been a bit of a disaster. One turbo session followed by a 24 hour stomach bug was last week’s work load. Nothing at all the week before. Tonight I did manage a short turbo ride after fixing a puncture – how can you pick up a thorn on a turbo? I hope to get to Hillingdon to do some open air cycling before work tomorrow. Maybe the season starts here.

I won’t be able to ride the Hillingdon Winter Series this year. My fitness has disappeared completely and I need to have good form to hang on, even in a 4th category race. As for next season – who knows? It feels like it might be a later start and perhaps a lower key season – more club events and fewer opens maybe. I’ll have to see what the training grounds are like down there. The traffic seems to be as mad as London’s.

One sad note (for me) – I’m leaving the Willesden CC. I’ve flogged a lot of my club kit, but there may be a few bits and pieces left if anyone is interested.

>Watch Dowsett Go

>On Thursday night I took my third kicking in three weeks at group training. This time I lasted 30 minutes before being blown out of the group. I’m supposed to be group leader. I see the sack beckoning. I finished the session in a more even paced group. I was quite ill when I got home.

On Friday we went to the Barbican for Pat’s (sorry – Dr Pat’s) OU graduation ceremony. I was as proud as punch. I like the OU – It’s great to see so many people celebrating what is a considerable achievement.

I almost didn’t ride Saturday afternoon’s North Hampshire RC ’25’ on the Bentley course (H25/8). I did not feel good in the morning and only the effects of vitamin I (Ibuprofen) persuaded me to set out. Once there I did a gentle one hour ride to try and get mind and body in the right place. It was a nice day and gradually things seemed to improve, so I headed for the start line.

The race itself was pretty tough. The breeze got up throughout and the second time towards Alton was, as it so often is, a bit of a graveyard. Apparently I was climbing all over the bike in an effort to keep it going.

At about 19.5 miles I was caught for 13 minutes by Alex Dowsett warming up for the U23 TT World Championships in Australia. He went on to record a 46:58 – an incredible time for this course. He already held the course record with a 47:50 earlier this season – another ride where he caught me!

I went on to finish in 1:2:25 – my fastest ever ’25’ in September (I used to finish the season on the first weekend of September, so I’ve not ridden many 25s this late in the year). I was quite pleased that my form seems to be coming back, though probably too late now.

Race stats: Time: 1:02:25 (24.03mph). First 12.5 miles: 30:40, last 12.5 miles: 31:45. Top speed: 34.2mph. Slowest mile (15): 2:53 (20.81mph), fastest mile (9): 1:59 (30.25mph). Average HR: 166bpm, maximum HR: 172bpm. Average cadence: 73rpm. 50th of 89 finishers. Winner: Alex Dowsett (Trek Livestrong) 46:58

On Sunday I rode the Willesden CC 100km Dulcie Walker road race for 3/4 category riders. I was dropped after a couple of miles and span round for two laps (stopping for coffee at one of the marshalling points). It was a duty call. In the afternoon I helped marshall a junction for the E123 John Walker road race.

As the season draws to a close (last race scheduled for October 17th) I’m beginning to think about next year. We’re moving to the South coast, so I’ll probably be looking for a new club/team. And a new job or jobs. I suspect the Winter will be rather busy, so training might be disrupted.

>Track and Test

>That was a tough week – Level 5 work every day from Tuesday to Sunday. This is not recommended.

Friday was meant to be a rest day – I was riding the Minet Ladies CC Charity Ride at Hillingdon and planning to  soft pedal my way round in a group. But when it started I went off too fast and kept going for most of the 30 odd miles. Nitwit.

Saturday was the Willesden CC club Track Championships at Welwyn. This was great fun – the track bike feels a lot more comfortable with a longer stem on it. The racing was dominated by road man Tom London and track star Jayne Paine, but I crept to a third place despite being dropped by everyone else at will.

Sunday morning I was down to ride a private trial at the Hillingdon CC Old Crocks’ ’10’ at Great Missenden. I almost went straight back to bed when I saw the rain, but decided to go along, if only to support the other riders. As it happened, the rain stopped and we had one of the best days on that course (HCC180) that I’ve ridden. I clocked a modest 25:03 – still a course best – for third fastest of the 29 starters.

Race stats: Time: 25:03 (23.95mph). First 5 miles: 12:36, second 5 miles: 12:25. Top speed: 33.6mph. Slowest mile (7): 2:58 (20.22mph), fastest mile (4): 2:00 (30.00mph). Average HR: 151bpm, maximum HR: 165bpm. 3rd of 29 finishers. Ave. cadence: 74rpm. Winner: Peter Smith 22:35

My heart rate was very low – probably as a result of a hard week’s work. What was slightly worrying was that it dropped away completely (to 145bpm) when I was working the hardest. I need to monitor that that doesn’t happen again.