After a bad start, this week has picked up somewhat. Having spend Monday and Tuesday revamping my training plan, I’ve now had the chance to put it into practice. Rather than building the plan around volume, I’ve gone with the more modern method and used *TSS. It’s been the hardest training week in a long time, if nothing else a rest day feels justly earned.

Monday involved a session in the lab, having (foolishly) volunteered for a study. Let me tell you, having blood taken whilst exercising isn’t exactly enjoyable. Wednesday involved yet another long ride up onto Dartmoor, battling rain, hills and a dying Garmin battery. Not to mention that Pony who took it upon himself to try and steal one of my energy bars – almost succeeding.  Thursday should have been a rest day – being a Sports Science student it was not to be, nothing quite like a surprise VO2 max test to wake up the legs.  Friday was tough – VO2 max intervals followed by a tempo effort on the way home, how I hoped for an easy afternoon. Once again, nope. Yet more unexpected ‘fun’ in the lab – never again will I make the mistake of telling my peers that I happen to be a Cyclist. Rarely have ever I been so tempted to take up a less strenuous sport, round of Golf anyone? That brings us neatly to Saturday.

It’s been sitting in my room gathering dust for the last three months, the terrible roads preventing me from taking it for a blast. This time round, I just couldn’t resist the urge any longer – time to test out the Race Bike. Since getting it last summer, I’ve been slowly upgrading to my hearts content – ending up with something that is pretty close to my dream bike. I was lucky enough to pick up a Scott Foil at sale price, meaning I could go for the Ultegra model – an ideal starting point.  Special lightweight titanium skewers coupled with matching valve caps have really enhanced the look of the bike. Slick Racing tyres mated to a pair of 50mm deep wheels suit the frame perfectly. I was initially hesitant to go for a white saddle yet once it was on the bike I was satisfied it was a good idea – complementing the red and black colour scheme. The crowning glory is an Enve handlebar joined with an aero stem, slammed of course.

This machine will forever serve as a reminder of the joys that hard work can eventually bring about. It may not have done wonders for my finances in the time I’ve owned it but not once have I regretted the purchase. After all, what is life without a little fun and indulgence? With the Race season fast approaching and a rare break in the bad weather, I had the perfect excuse to take it for a test ride. What a ride it was.

The route was an old favourite, one I’ve used for training ever since the early days – it’s got just about everything. Steep climbs, false flats, twisty descents and a few highly exposed sections. Perfect for what I had in mind. By midday the sun was shining, in fact it was warm enough that I braved going out in shorts. With decent roads and good phone signal there was no need for a heavy saddlebag, one bottle would do nicely.

I’d initially planned an easy ride, reasoning that my legs would be truly knackered (which they were). Yet something about riding a fast bike just makes you want to go quickly. Riding something far more aerodynamic, lighter and stiffer than I’m used to was a very welcome novelty – inspite of heavy fatigue I was motivated enough to attack the hills and get in a few cheeky sprints. For once there was no threat of rain, the roads were clear of ice and there seemed to be a permanent tail wind. My spirits soared.

The ride may have felt fast but the data wasn’t quite so flattering. I’ve ridden that route so many times that a Strava trophy is something of a rarity. My Bike may be set up and ready to go, I on the other hand still have a great deal of work to do – power to weight very much leaves something to be desired. On this occasion I am fortunate to have the legitimate excuse that; “It was the last ride of a hard week, my legs would never have performed spectacularly”. Truth be told, I’m not too bothered about the numbers – the big effect of this ride has been an increase in moral.

It will soon be Spring, gone will be the days of mud, rain and ice. I won’t have to get up early in order to get in a long ride for fear of coming home in the dark. Who knows – I might even look forward to those four hour stints in the saddle for a change. Better still, I’ll have the opportunity to put all this training into practice – in two weeks time the calendar begins to look considerably more full, TT’s and Circuit Races galore.

I suspect a great many fellow Cyclists will also be congratulating themselves on surviving yet another long, boring and cold winter. You’d be hard pushed to find anyone who truly enjoys the off season, it’s never anything other than a long, hard slog. Long rides in poor conditions, complemented with sweaty turbo sessions. We all go through that phase of feeling fat and slow, wondering why on earth we’ve chosen to ride a bike in the first place. Yet when the grip of Winter begins to recede, there comes an immense sense of satisfaction for having battled through and put in the miles. True – my winter training didn’t work out especially well. On the plus side my endurance is now as good as it’s ever been – hopefully it won’t take too long to build some speed and drop the holiday weight.

Heres to a good season for all. Stay tuned.


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