Segment Success

It’s been another good week on the bike, one of those that I’ll probably remember for a good while to come. It started with the first 5 mile TT of the season, one of those local club events that form the backbone of the sport in the UK. I wasn’t expecting much; my legs felt decent but certainly not at their best and as ever much of the competition turned up on very expensive bikes (probably 5k’s worth – Di2, disc wheels, integrated cockpit, the works). I was pleasantly surprised by my time, 40 seconds faster than the best I could manage last season – placing me 5th overall, a mere 27 seconds off the lead. Better still that time was set in relatively poor conditions, a strong headwind on the way home and in the absence of a skinsuit. Setting a club record for the distance may not be out of the question in the fullness of time.

The following day I felt sore and fatigued – not that I was surprised. A perfect day to take out the race bike, the good weather helped lift my spirits and provided a much needed boost to my tired legs. I can’t remember the last time I managed to take three Strava KOM’s in a non-fresh state, though I do concede the tailwind may have had something (i.e. lots) to do with it. It’s been two years since I last found this sort of form, finally the injury that hampered preparations for last season can be considered a thing of the past.

Following a subsequent rest day I ran out of excuses. An FTP test last week would have been a bad idea, it’s not exactly recommended as a means to speed up recovery from a cold. I’ve never looked forward to one and probably never will, the acid test that shows you whether or not the work you’ve put in over the last few weeks or months has had any benefit. I fuelled properly, ensured the power meter was calibrated and set off with much apprehension. As per usual I came very close to quitting half way through the test itself, surely the numbers couldn’t be good if I felt as bad as I did. For once I was wrong, a 40W increase from the last test surpassed my expectations. An FTP of over 300 Watts has long been one of my bucket list goals, it’s finally been achieved.

The week was rounded off with a Sunday Club ride, a fast one. A group consisting of four strong riders, all taking turns at the front and pushing the pace. In the past I’ve had to hide at the back on the flat and only go the front when the gradient kicks up. Now its no longer a problem, my power to weight ratio may not have improved much from last year but absolute wattage is miles better.  I’ve come a long way since the days of being that skinny climber struggling to keep up and easily falling prey to the slightest of head winds. A 20 mph average might not sound like much, however on a day when you have hills and strong winds to contend with it can be considered an achievement.

Today the hard riding has well and truly caught up with me, I’m writing this with highly fatigued legs and am experiencing the kind of tiredness that only endurance athletes come to know. Nonetheless, it’s worth it – I’m not usually a fan of phrases such as “no pain no gain” but over the course of the last few months I have come to understand their meaning. This is easily the hardest I’ve worked on the bike, fortunately it’s made me fitter and faster that I could have hoped to be back at the beginning of Winter. There are few things in life more satisfying than hard work paying off.

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