Head says Froome, heart says Wiggins

So with Wiggo now out of the Giro early with a chest infection, he’s now got 6 weeks to recover and train for the Tour de France.  As a minimum I’m expecting him to play a key support role but with 6 weeks to prepare, surely Sir Brad has got the opportunity to get the all important “numbers” right to once again lead Team Sky in July?
I wouldn’t like to be in Chris Froome’s shoes right now. After months of speculation, the needle had just swung his way after Dave Brailsford said Plan A was Froome for the Tour and Wiggins for the Giro, will that still be the case in a months’ time?
Leading out Cav

Leading out Cav

The logical approach would be to stick to Plan A and provide Froome with the world’s best domestique to support his attempt at winning the Tour.  But the romantic in me really wants Wiggo to defend last year’s victory and go all-out to win again in Paris.  Back-to-back victories would put Wiggins up with the greats and show that he has got the ability to continue 2012’s “Golden Year”.  Just writing this, I am getting goose bumps thinking about his victory punch whilst wearing yellow at the end of the last time trial and what a fantastic day I had watching in Paris as he led out for Cav on the Champs-Elysees.  And this is the 100th Tour – taking in every great climb (sometimes twice) against every great climber in the world.
 
Plenty of Hills

Plenty of Hills

Let’s face it though.  It’s because there is more climbing and less time trialling than 2012, that Froome should be number one.  Froome is outstanding in the mountains and has already shown in Romandie this year that he has got the ability to kick away on the slopes, whereas Wiggins is best being supported at a constant high tempo.  I don’t think Team Sky will be allowed to dominate on their own terms this year – even with Wiggins and Porte as their super-domestiques.  With the return of Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez, the peloton is likely to be shaken up with regular attacks in the mountains.  So my brain is telling me Froome has to be the man to lead Team Sky this year because he can deal with the opposition better.
 
But I’d love it to be Wiggins …..
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…and the wind blew us to Skegness

On Saturday morning at 5.30 I was amongst a group of about 70 local cyclists heading out from The Blue Bell car park in Stanton to Skegness MedalStoney Stanton. With a real mix of experience and a wide range of ages we were all heading on our annual trip to Skegness.

I was late, of course, and barely had time to attach my number before the peleton hit the road.  Which meant I missed out on my bacon sandwich but plenty of others had tucked in and were well fueled before they left.  Most of us were buoyant about the prospects of a fast (or at least easier)  ride due to the forecast of a following wind, but rain was scheduled to be across the Midlands by lunchtime.  So the aim was clear – ride with wind and beat the rain!
Normally the first few miles of the ride are pretty steady. Everyone takes a bit of time to warm up that early in the

Me in black (to match my bike), Dickie in red (to match his bike)

Me in black (to match my bike), Dickie in red (to match his bike)

morning and its good to chat with people you don’t usually ride with. But this year went slightly differently. After a couple of miles I was chatting to a guy I met a few weeks ago who had raised over £1100 for charity by doing the ride, then I looked up the road and saw a group of about 8 people had already started taking things seriously. At the back of the group was the flashing rear light of Dickies bike. So, regrettably, I decided the social ride would have to wait and got my head down to join the front group.  It took me another couple of miles to get on to the wheel and that effort was an unwelcome leg burner, but we settled in to a good pace heading in to Leicester.

One of the reasons for leaving so early in the morning is to avoid traffic on the busy ring road in Leicester and most years we are the only people on the road. This, and cycling as part of a group, usually creates an almost-acceptable approach to the traffic light and roundabout systems.  As a rule of thumb, if there is no traffic on the road anywhere near us, we’ll tend to run through a red light.  But this year the attitude of some of the guys was different and they didn’t stop for anything.  At one point, two of them rode on to a roundabout in front of a car just waving it down to stop.  That’s not acceptable in my book because if you start pissing off drivers, they show less consideration to you as a cyclist and their cars are harder and faster than my bike!
Anyway, moan over!
Pretty quickly we were through Leicester, briefly stopping to give our numbers at the first check point, and headed on through to Melton Mowbray. There are only 3 notable hills on the ride so the pace was still pretty high along the rolling roads and the sun was shining to take the chill from the morning air. Melton came and went and when we hit the third checkpoint I started feeling confident and declared that, given the conditions, we should target a 20mph average speed now we only had flat ground to cover.
We’d been working reasonably well as a little group.  A guy on the front shouting out if there was gravel or pot holes meant we were able to stay on each others wheels. But when we hit the main road, one fella really put the hammer down and we all struggled to keep on the wheel.  The dreadful road surface on a 20 mile stretch of the A52 made things a lot harder than they needed to be. It was boneshakingly bad and when the guy in front dodged a pot hole, both Dickie and I ploughed straight in to it.  After a couple of minutes of general swearing, Dickies front tyre started deflating and our progress was halted for a quick inner tube change before continuing on the road as a pair rather than a group.
With about 35 miles to go the long, flat, grinding road started to get more difficult and heading through lanes around Boston my legs got heavy and some cross winds knocked some momentum out of us.  We had one last stop, grabbed a banana each, topped up the water and headed on through the flat countryside for the last stretch. Even though my legs were now seriously aching, when we got back on the A52 for the last 5 miles, the following wind kept us ticking along at over 20 mph.
Slightly disappointingly in the end we did a 19.8 moving average, with a ride time of about 4hrs 55 mins. But we rolled

The Clock Tower on our arrival

The Clock Tower on our arrival

down Skegness High Street well before 11am which was earlier than ever before.  After a quick loop of the Clock Tower (because it looks good on the GPS) it wasn’t long before Mrs G and the kids arrived while Dickie and I were enjoying a pint in Wolfies Wine Bar.

People rolled in over the next few hours and, as always there were some great achievements from first timers and veterans alike.  Dave and Gareth, who organise the ride each year, were handing out medals long after I’d been to my hotel and got changed. Each year they make the ride easy for us to do and somehow this year they got a reporter along from the local paper, their families helped out at the stops and Dave even drove the route a few days earlier to spray arrows on the roads to help everyones navigation ….we all owe them a pint.
So that’s Skegness done for another year.  We’ve set a record time that might be tough to beat in future years.  Most people had a day in the pubs and watched the FA Cup final.  I spent a great afternoon with the kids at the Pleasure Beach and was fast asleep by 9pm!

Simpson and my Giro Tee

imageI was hooked as soon as I saw the limited edition Simpson Giro T-Shirt last week and ordered one immediately.  It looks good doesn’t it?

Just as I had started to wonder when it would arrive, I got an email from Terry at Simpson magazine telling me of a short delay.  When he knew I wanted to show it off after riding to Skegness this weekend, I got an email straight back to tell me he had arranged a special delivery for today and wishing me a good ride tomorrow.

A personal touch and a great recovery from a little blip means I now feel like I have had a brilliant service and am already a fan of the magazine despite having only read their blog!

The top is now safely packed in the car for Mrs G to bring over to Skeggy and I’m looking forward to posing about in it during the Cup Final tomorrow afternoon.

Fair weather cyclist?

When I got home this evening, I had a choice to make.  Sit down eat the sweet ‘n’ sour pork stir fry that Mrs G had made and play with two tired kids, or dash about the house trying to find my kit (that was still strewn all over the place after the weekends triathlon) and make a quick 15 minute turn around to go and meet on our cross roads for a ride.  Sometimes I make good choices.  Tonight I made a bad choice and got the bike out.

Dax stings your eyes

Dax stings your eyes

Turning up late never goes down well and my 15 minute turn around had actually taken more like 25.  A group of lads had already gone on ahead and just two of us remained.  It didn’t take long for us to catch everyone up with the wind behind us, and we arrived at Mallory Park in good time.  After a quick chat and paying our £2 we set off on the lap to find an annoying head wind all the way down the start and finish straight.  By the time we hit the hairpin for the first time it was raining and after just one flying lap I was soaked through and put my rain coat on 5 minutes too late for it to keep me warm or dry.  Then, after a busy day at work forgetting to drink, I got cramp in my calf.

Only a couple of laps later and the lure of a hot shower and my sweet ‘n’ sour pork won.  My mate Dickie and I moaned all the way home and trundled along at an uncharacteristically slow

Definitely wonky

Definitely wonky

pace.  My eyes were stinging because the rain was washing all the crap (it’s not crap, it’s Dax) out of my hair and in to my eyes, my feet were cold and I couldn’t see out of my glasses.  I couldn’t even put my specs on my  helmet in a way that looked cool.  They were lopsided.  And the end of the arm hurt my head.  My nose was running and I was nearly drowning in snot.

There were no consolation prizes today.  It was windy, wet, cold and slow.  I’ve enjoyed my hot shower and my sweet ‘n’ sour pork.  And now I am enjoying a glass of red wine whilst ranting on here.  There were plenty of people still at Mallory Park when we left and we passed a few more cyclists on the way home.  Let’s face it, they must be more dedicated than me and I must be a fair weather cyclist.

 

Tips From My First Triathlon

What better thing to doing a Bank Holiday Sunday than swim, bike and run around Nottinghamshire in the Southwell sprint triathlon?

 
A triathlon is a great way of testing yourself and your fitness over a shorter space of time than a sportive and less impact on your body than a half marathon.  Another good motivation for doing it was that the family can come along, see Dad (or Mum) doing all the bits and pieces whilst enjoying some time out in the fresh air.  A triathlon is a much better spectator sport than just cycling or running alone and yesterday was perfect as the kids demolished a picnic while cheering me on.
 
It was my first triathlon in 22 years after having a go at one as a teenager with my Dad.  Training has involved all my normal cycle training, a few runs and a visit to the pool to swim about 1000 meters every 4 or 5 days.  It’s fair to say there will be better training plans available elsewhere on the internet but I felt reasonable confident about the activities themselves but was uncharacteristically nervous about the more technical aspects of the event.Image
 
I’d invested in a pair of Tri-shorts and elastic laces for my trainers so had satisfied my kit urges …. until we arrived.  90% of the people there had Tri-suits of some description so I instantly felt under prepared and felt a bit amateurish.  Despite practicing the swim-to-bike transition at home after a shower and a bath (much to my wife’s dismay) I was still lacking in confidence and made a daft mistake of switching the top I had planned to wear.  This meant that rather than putting a technical t-shirt on, I pinned the numbers on to a cycling top and with the grippy hem material, this got stuck when I tried to put it on after the swim.  It took me 2 attempts to get on, I ripped the number off on one side which meant I had to reattach it and probably cost me 30 seconds.
 
The ride was a lumpy, straight, out-and-back route but started with a tricky climb.  I hadn’t practiced cycling after swimming and really noticed a weakness in my upper arms on that first climb.  It was a strange sensation that wore off after 5 minutes but cost me some time on that first hill.  I was pleased to have taken a sports drink and gel with me because it got warm and you soon start to feel worn out putting that level of effort in. 
 
The run was a 2 lap affair and started with a 300 yard hill.  The laps were a good feature for me because they meant I got to see Mrs G and the kids 4 times on the run and once the first lap is complete you’re know exactly what to expect (another 300 yard hill!!).  A bit of concentration is needed to make sure you navigate the finish area effectively, but with a name check over the PA it was good to reach the end…..and see what scraps of picnic the kids had left me!
 
Driving home I reflected on how brilliantly organised the event was.  As a novice, I haven’t got much of a benchmark, but everything worked, I knew where I needed to be and everything went of completely on schedule.  I’ve now got a time to try and beat, can see where I could save time on another one and learnt a lot. 
 
My tips to myself are:
 
Get a Tri-top and number band (the right kit is the right kit for a good reason)
Practice the exit from the pool after race pace training (I rolled out like a beached whale)
Tri-bars would be useful on the bike but by no means essential 
Practice the swim to bike activity more
Take a smaller bag/rucksack because space at transition is limited
Keep a towel on the floor near the bike
Combine training more often to overcome the jelly legs!
 
The Southwell Triathlon is part of the Midlands Sprint Triathlon series and the next one is at Woodhall Spa on 21 July in case anyone fancies it?
 
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They’re calling it Mallory Madness

This is Mallory Park

This is Mallory Park

Last week we heard that Mallory Park, the race circuit near where I live, opened its gates to cyclists on a Wednesday night so we went down to take a look tonight.

From 6pm half of the circuit is open to everyone while the other half is used for teaching/training kids.  By 7 the whole circuit is open for you to pelt around as fast as you can.  It’s about 1.3 miles around the lap, the record is 2:35ish and I got nowhere near that!

On the face of things, riding around a lap for an hour doesn’t sound that appealing, but adding in the mixture of a fantastic road surface, no cars, a reasonable amount of undulation and a few mates to pit yourself against and it soon turns in to your very own race circuit.  As I write this post, my legs are gently aching so I know I’ve had a good work out.

What fascinated me was the activities going on in the pit lane. A number of adults were coaching kids on bikes ranging from little ones with stabilisers through to pre-teen sized road bikes.  It looked like a straightforward bike handling set up using cones and plenty of supervision and I think it is coordinated by the Leicester Forest East Cycling Club.  Probably worth a look for a cycling family?

Tips:

  • Don’t turn up too early if you haven’t got the kids with you
  • Bomb it around the top hairpin because the camber keeps you turning
  • The start/finish line for Strava laps is the white line on the straight, not the bridge as I thought until I got home!
  • Take a £2 coin … the fella at the gates is going to run out of change for fivers one day!