Monday, 14 June 2010

Jerseys and Suffering

The Etape de la Defonce stage race in Wales went pretty well, all things considered; I'll write a proper blogpost about it later with pics and data. I came home with what I'd hoped to get, which was the women's GC leader's jersey and prize. It wasn't easy as strong Welsh rider Ang Mason was also there, but with the help of my teammates I gritted my teeth and got it done.

At a particularly low moment in the first road race, it occurred to me that cycle racing is just an adult verison of those games you play as a kid, the "who can suffer the most" games. Stuff like holding your breath for the longest time, who cries uncle first when someone's punching your arm, who's the first to chicken out of a head-on collision with another kid on a bike. Everything else being more or less equal, it isn't fitness that tests the best riders, it's nerve and determination and ability to suffer. Mental toughness as it were. Sadists, the whole lot of them!

On a different note, I've now worn four different jerseys this racing season.

From left to right:
-- my home club the Kingston Wheelers
-- the Surrey Cycle Racing League, our women's team for Team Series and other team races
-- the London Women's Cycle Racing league leader's jersey (which I currently hold but could lose at any time)
-- the Etape de la Defonce ladies' overall winner's jersey (which I technically never wore to race, but no matter).


Thursday, 10 June 2010

Good legs

Funny how it only takes a few days of good riding to feel happy again about being on the bike. My saddle sore has recovered and I'm over whatever mysterious illness I had a week ago at Hog Hill (blinding all-day headache stupidly compounded by riding 50km to get to the race through the dustiest smoggiest part of east London) which left me dropped from the lead group on the bell lap and struggling for a 7th place finish.

Sunday saw me at the Team Series race in Melbourne, Derbyshire, one of the more hilly races on the calendar and thus suiting me well. With three of us from the Surrey League team in the front group of 18 (it was a race of attrition more than attacks) and the other two in the second group, we managed three top-12 finishes and fifth place overall team. Considering my form and preparation wasn't the best, I was pretty happy with the result against a strong field with several big teams represented.

Monday's ride saw me in Richmond Park under the guise of recovery, but my legs despite being a bit fatigued were awesome and I actually stopped to recalibrate my powermeter because I thought it was reading too high! Two clockwise laps in under 45 min and 195 watts... so much for recovery.

Tuesday's Palace race was off due to the wet course, but I was commissairing anyway and we ran the kids' races on the top circuit instead. I had opted to drive the car for some stupid reason and learned my lesson there: nearly 30 min longer than it takes to ride my bike! Never again.

Then yesterday was our club 10 TT, this time a 2-up team event though I had asked permission to run a 4-up with Leona, Emily and Lise as training for this weekend's Etape de la Defonce stage race. I headed out early to the hills to get a few more miles in my legs and to my surprise the supposed southwest headwind felt like a tailwind. And my powermeter must have been off again too, as the watts were reading a bit higher than the effort would have said. Nope, all good... so there I was, gliding up the hills and flying along the flats, trying to hold back a bit for the TTT but my legs would have none of it. Until the puncture of course, but that just gave me more reason to haul it along the A25 to get to the club 10 signing-on in time.

The TTT itself went very well, we took the first half steady (again I noted the lack of headwind and wondered how the return leg would go). When we turned around to come back, there was no wind there either and we caned the last few miles in a very smooth through-and-off for a respectable 24:34 time -- all of us on roadbikes with not a stitch of aero gear.

Siting in the car on the way home, I mused that it had been one of those rare days when there's always a tailwind, the hills seem flatter and riding a bike is just plain fast. It was the anti-Shut Up Legs day. We cyclists often moan about the omnipresent headwinds, the steep hills, the crappy road surfaces, etc. but yesterday was just the opposite for me. Seems my legs are coming back nicely. Dare I hope for a good result at the race this weekend?

(Click the pic to order one of these t-shirts from the Cycling Tips blog)