Back in business

I’m back. To the three or so people who regularly read this thing and must have been waiting with baited breath for the past several months, in my head anyway, I can only apologise. To say that it’s been a busy time, would be a serious understatement. I’m going to try and sum it up in this post, kudos to anyone who gets more than half way through it without falling asleep.

First and foremost, I graduated, miracles do indeed happen on occasion. After three years of blood, sweat, tears, coffee and beer I came out of University with a BSc in Sports Science. I’m probably going to spend at least the next ten years explaining that it was ‘very nearly a first class’ followed by a series of exquisitely crafted excuses as to why it wasn’t. Like many students, I’ve become strangely fond of the University lifestyle and developed a phobia of getting a real job. To that end, I’ll be heading back in a few weeks time to start a research Masters.  Now that’s out the way, I’ll try to make the rest of this post about important stuff, by which I mean cycling.

I’m sorry to report that no new bikes have been purchased since the writing of the last post on here. In fact, I’ve even managed to sell a couple. Before you judge me too harshly, know that the loss of those bikes has been punishment enough. After six years of faithful service, the time came to say goodbye to my beloved cannondale supersix. Together we shared many happy memories; my first century, completing the ventoux cingles challenge and getting the KOM on a local climb after two years of trying, just to name a few. Unfortunately, with my homemade gravel bike now performing winter training duties the cannonade simply wasn’t getting used. With a heavy heart, I sold it to a friend of mine. Consolation came in the form of the pair of carbon wheels I bought for my TT bike with the proceeds of the sale.

A couple of months later, it was also time to say goodbye to my mountain bike. I’d had a lot of fun on the local trails in the past eighteen months, however, with an off-road biased gravel bike I simply couldn’t justify keeping the MTB. In about twenty years time, when I manage to scrape the money together, I’ll get  a more up-to-date full suspension model. This time round, the proceeds went toward a very nice SRAM carbon chainset, I’ve justified this particular buy on the grounds that it’ll save me a vital two seconds or so in time trials. That’s left me with four and a half bikes to my name, the half being the 1980’s peugeot that’s still sitting in bits in the garage. Fortunately, I have managed to spend a bit of time riding the remaining quartet.

The highlight of April was a week in Mallorca. I’m going to save some time and summarise it by saying that, for the most part, it was much the same as last year. However, there are a couple of noteworthy exceptions. Specifically, I’ve spend a lot of time basking in the glory of having been the first one in our group to make it up a couple of the big climbs this time round. I’ll concede, however, that my victory may be have been partially related to me not having ridden 100 miles the day before, unlike my ‘competitors’. Typically, the trip happened to coincide with the deadline for handing in my dissertation, most of which I characteristically left until the last minute. Sadly, a couple of days of the holiday had to be spent trying to finish it and I missed out on some of my favourite routes.

Thereafter, things took a turn for the worst. The combination of exam season, an unshakeable cold and dominoes pizza probably did a good job of counteracting the fitness gains I’d made in Mallorca. I managed a couple of club 10’s in late April but that was it, my racing season was not set to a be a particularly fruitful one. Having just about survived my last term at University, by the time June came around it was time to try and get back on track.

Thanks to a strict regiment of calorie counting, interval training and long rides with a minimal number of cafe stops I managed to get back to something vaguely resembling race fitness. Beating last years time at a local open 25 mile TT by over a minute provided a much needed confidence boost. My annual attempt to return to road racing went much the same way that it usually does. In my defence, I did get into a perfect position to attack on the final climb – sadly, it was a lap too early. Once again, I’m cursing myself over a lack of tactical awareness / common sense. I’ve reached the conclusion that, if I really want to do better next year, I’m going to have to subject myself to some local crit races in order to hone my skills.

That brings me to a rather surprising event that happened a couple of weeks ago. Already, I’m planning on boring my grandchildren to death with this story at every possible opportunity. It was the end of graduation week, the hangover had only just worn off and I’d only turned up to this particular time trial on a whim. Miraculously, my legs felt quite good. I’d ridden the course the previous week and was at least 90% sure where all of the turns were. It goes without saying that all time trials are hard, some, however, are harder. This particular course was characterised by a hideously steep climb in the last kilometre, set to dash the hopes and average speed of those foolish enough to ride it. If I do say so myself, I paced it to perfection – riding at 95% during the first 9 miles so that I had just enough in reserve to tackle the last climb at full tilt. My final time was only five seconds quicker than that which I’d posted the previous week. However, it was enough to beat the thirty other riders who had turned up and finally bring home that allusive win. I know, it was only a club ten and I only won because nobody faster could be bothered to turn up. Nonetheless, it was a very sweet moment, after six years of riding I’d reached the point of being able to challenge for victory.

After a few days, it was time to set off for the second cycling holiday of the year, a week in France. I could easily have dedicated an entire post to that trip but in the interests of time (laziness) I’ll keep it short. You really can’t beat the roads in that part of the world; smooth, grippy, quiet and pretty much devoid of dangerous drivers. After a hectic few months, a few days spent riding along at an easy pace was exactly what I needed. Due to my competitive nature, that didn’t happen. You can take the man out of time trial season, but, you can’t take the time trialling out of the man. Inevitably, one day I decided to ride solo and complete the sixty mile route in as little time as possible. As you might imagine, this made the final two days of riding rather hard work.

I was further rewarded for my impulsive smashfest by getting dropped on last sunday’s club run. I didn’t even have time to tell everyone about my sensational time trial victory before they were several miles up the road. True to form, I’ve spent this past week recovering and contemplating my decision making skills. As I’m writing this, it’s blowing a gale outside and tipping it down with rain, which makes the club century ride on Sunday a particularly unattractive prospect. In short, it’s situation normal.

Thanks for reading.

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