Silk Road Mountain Race

DAY 1

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Nervous laughter in the morning with friends old and new, we all rolled out of town around 9am (slightly delayed due to a late police escort. The group rode together for a long time and started to split on the first climb. One thing that blew us away is the hospitality of the locals. Everyone waves at the side of the roads and kids regularly come and ride with you for a bit. 

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It was pretty hot so we had to refill our water bottles a few times. As we climbed higher and higher up Kegety Pass both Rob and I suffered somewhat with the altitude. The climb itself goes up to close to 4000 meters and our original goal was to climb it over the first day but unfortunately we became a bit unstuck. A thunderstorm and hailstorm (which lower down the mountain was a full on blizzard) meant we pitched up camp at around 3000 meters of altitude to try and get some rest for the night. Our options were, pitch up or push through.

With safety in our minds and not knowing how unpredictable the weather could be we didn’t want to be stuck much higher up the climb. Food in the belly and with the weather starting to improve, (minus high winds) we both managed to get a few hours rest.  We had hoped that camping at altitude would help us acclimatise a bit and help us for the final push over Kegety the next day. 

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DAY 2

Day 2, we woke up early after the storm of the previous night to finish the climb up to 4000 meters. This was literally like being on top of the world, in the clouds with lots of walking and stops with the bike. The lack of oxygen clearly felt. Upon reaching the top we walked a big part of the descent.

The surface was simply too rough to ride. Rob suffering bad from the altitude and my first mechanical issue happening on this descent meaning I wasn’t too keen to be travelling fast. As we got lower into the valley the effects of the altitude started to wear off and we began to feel more human, although, in reality we were still over 2000 meters above sea level! 


We decided to Push hard for this day and make up for the time lost previously and get to the first resupply point, roughly 250km into the race. There were lots of long straight gravel trails where we could finally get some speed up and one road that felt like riding on a washboard for about 5km before getting into the town. Upon arrival, late at night we were thrilled to see the shop open still and purchased pretty much everything. The shopkeepers took pity on us and kindly offered us a warm room to sleep in. Something priceless after one tough day on the bike. What a day.

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DAY 3

This was a tough one. We woke up early from our night with the family at the resupply point feeling energised and ready to go. Spirits were high. The family offered us ‘Chai’ which we obviously said yes to. A cup of tea always goes down well to start the day. What we didn’t realise was that this was a full on 2 hour breakfast. Needless to say the hospitality of the locals is something I’ll never forget and I’m truly honoured to have had that experience with Rob. 


Eventually we got on our way. Today, on paper didn’t look too bad. Some downhill then one big climb close to 2000 meters and then downhill with a few bumps in it. 

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Little did we know what was in store for us. The first hour or so we made great progress, nailing it along the gravel trails to the base of the climb. It was still pretty early in the morning and the temperature was already over 30 degrees. We were hoping to be over the major climb before lunch, as the sun started to get much hotter. 


The scenery had completely changed by this point, starting to feel much more like a desert than the rocky alpine scenes we had previously experienced. Slowly we started to realise why, as temperatures crept up to 45 degrees. 


That’s when things started to go a bit wrong. Rob started to suffer from heatstroke and descending Pereval Kensu pass, on a sharp right hand turn, snap, my front brake failed. The heat had caused the oil to overheat and explode out the piston, causing the brake to fail. I managed to swerve the bike away from what could have been a very bad roll off the side of the cliff and shout to Rob. Clearly a bit shaken, from nearly hurtling off down the side of a mountain I stopped and Rob rolled back to me in disbelief. Hydraulic brakes don’t really fail, it’s maybe one in a million. I just got unlucky. We had been having a few issues before the race which we thought were solved but unfortunately not. 


Rob, ever the problem solver filed down the cable guides and pulled out the rear brake so at least we could mount this to the front. Down to 1 brake with about 180km until the next town and some serious descending, now was the time to be careful.

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The first picture. This cricket sat on my shoe for ages. Eventually he was on my handlebar bag. Made me chuckle. Like a story later. From the moment the brake failed I had to work out what would be the best thing to do. Carry on, scratch, get to the first checkpoint, call the SOS button. Rob and I sat at the side of the mountain for a while in the 45 degree heat trying to come up with a plan. We chose to push on for the day and sleep on it. 


The heat baking, it meant that any descent was broken into three parts. Start on the bike slowly, panic on the corners, nearly crash or shit myself getting close to. Stop. Try again. Then about half way down any descent walk a while to let my one brake cool down. Once it was cooler, jump back on and try again. The descents seemed to be slower than the climbs. They’re supposed to be the part we enjoy. The pay off for the climb but in all honesty I’d have rather kept going up. 


With most of the slow descending done for the day and thirsty, we stopped by a stream with a goat to fill up our water bottles. This is where the post that Jimmi put up on my account was taken, with the goat. I still have no idea why we had 3G signal at that point. Rob called up his partner and I just sort of sat on a rock still battling out a plan of action and what the hell to do. Messaging Jimmi and asking him to let my friends know what was going on.

We were both completely cooked from the heat (literally) so we gave ourselves some time to cool down before the next climb, a pretty short one, maybe 8km. 

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It was starting to get dark and Rob started to really struggle from the heat exhaustion so we turned up a dried river and set up camp. I sat Rob down and got some pepper food into him ASAP to try and revitalise him a bit before we properly got the tarp and bivvy bags out.

Eventually we both camped up and got ready for a hot night under the most stunning night sky. It was at that point Rob started panicking shouting at me to grab a torch. Eventually he got one. Panicking that something was going to attack us and sitting on the end of his foot, was a frog 🐸

DAY 4

After what was a pretty restless night for me deciding what to do and for Rob, with the fear of frogs installed into him; we packed up early and got climbing the remainder of the climb. It was about 6am and already hot. Rob and I had chatted whilst packing up. By this point I had accepted I needed to scratch the race. To continue would have been too dangerous, an unnecessary risk. Rob, however was still undecided. 


We nailed the climb and started carefully rolling down descents. How slow and steady I had to take them confirmed in my mind it was the right choice but that I may have to re-think the goal of checkpoint one. Chayek looked more likely the end destination. Eventually we came to what felt like our first junction in years, a building site of what would be a new motorway. Currently gravel occasionally broken up by pristine new tarmac. Lorries wizzing past. It was an opportunity it’s to have a bit of fun rolling into town. Eventually we decided on elevensies by the river. Rob, admirably decided to scratch too. We started as a team, we finished as one. That was always our goal. 

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We cooked all our camping meals in some kind of celebration and took the rest of the day much more relaxed. Rob even finally got to ride the bike he made for me! Rolling into Chayek we caught up with old friends and making new friends, sharing stories from the road. Beer was drunk. (Yes even by me.) We celebrated what we had done and commiserated on the unfortunate situations and bad luck that forced us to scratch. It was just that, bad luck. These things happen in bike racing where you’re testing yourself and your equipment to it’s possible limit.

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National 24 Hours TT 2018

Time trialling for 24 hours straight. Sounds grim, right?

There are so many things to think about in a race like this. Battling fatigue and lack of sleep to try and rack up as much mileage as possible in a single day. It's definitely no easy feat. 

Last year I went to tackle the National 24s in what was a biblical bad turn of weather unfortunately leading to me pulling out of the race. You can watch a bit of the afterthoughts of it here: 

Some of the failures of last year were:

Fitness (mental and physical)

I went into the race not fit enough, physically or mentally. It was a struggle to get the legs going and they never seemed to start. When the weather made a real turn for the worse, my head simply wasn't in the race any more. 

Bike

In 2017 I used my old Planet X Exocet 2 time trial bike. This was my first ever TT bike which was great value for money and specced up with Shimano Dura Ace 10 speed. The bike, however was not fit for purpose of racing on for 24 hours. It was way too aggressive and after around 300km I started to really suffer. 

Sometimes it's hard to accept failure but ultimately it can make you stronger. 

It became a bug that sat on my shoulders over most of winter and into the start of 2018 and I knew, I needed to go back, settle some dust and give it another crack. I knew that there were a lot of changes that needed to be made, in my own fitness, my mindset and also importantly my bike.

I caught up with Jimmi and Emily to talk a bit about the National 24s and how I was feeling going into the race here: 

For me these big changes that needed to happen, like mentioned above were:

Fitness:

I already train and work incredibly hard with my coach, Ken Buckley but to help support Ken, I met Will Girling, the nutritionalist for One Pro who has helped me to drop around 12kg to help with my fitness in the race. Essentially being lighter meant that I could be faster. Will has a great website which syncs up with My Fitness Pal meaning calories and macros can be tracked. I've found being strict and tracking everything has really helped. 

Mindset: 

I'm known to be an emotional guy. I cycle massively with my heart on my sleeve and I do often find it hard to tackle demons and concerns in life. Needless to say I have spent a lot of time focusing on number one over the last year and doing what is right for me. The lead up to the race has definitely not been ideal with illnesses and injuries, it did mean I wasn't sure I would make the start line but I knew my head was going into the race in a much better place and effectively what will be will be.

Bike: 

This was a biggie. I promptly decided to sell my car because, quite frankly I never used it and decided to use the funds to build up something pretty special. 

 My Giant Trinity

My Giant Trinity

Here is the spec below:

Kit

I think it's well known that the legends at Attacus have been supporting me for a few years now. Emily and Jimmi obviously wanted to be part of it. With that in mind they developed a super speedy skinsuit thats not only quick but comfortable due to the chamois pad that Attacus have been testing and using for a long time. 

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The Race

I was, understandably nervous going into this one, especially after last years failures but I knew what would be would be. Jimmi, Francis and myself drove up to the start on Saturday morning early and met Will there. First rider off, it's seen as quite an honour to be the first rider to start, but in reality I signed up late as it was touch and go weather I would make it to the start line due to another injury. 

You don't really warm up for a race like this. You just warm up into it if that makes sense? It's 24 hours and survival is pretty key. 

You can see part one of Francis Cade's videos here: 

In the race itself you ride on a series of different routes, starting at the clubhouse in Wrexham. From here you ride down to a central roundabout where all of the routes connect on to. From here during different hours of the day, marshals move you onto the appropriate routes. Some are out and back routes (Prees to Battlefield) whilst others are circles (Quina Brook Circuit) that all pass through this central roundabout. This roundabout is where your support teams are based. Conveniently there is a cafe, fish and chip shop, convenience store and petrol station in the area which can become very useful.

Fueling

With the help of Will, I've been practising my fuel strategy for this race in preparation for the big day. It really is mad when you start to understand how much work and effort goes on behind the scene to keep the body functioning and performing over the 24 hours. What we have practised is this:

Every 4 hours consume:

Every 4 hours I would stop for some proper food. The meals were:

  • Bruschetta 
  • Mashed Potato
  • Peanut Butter & Jam Sandwich (with Soreen snacks)
  • Granola, honey and yoghurt 
  • Bruschetta and Watermelon
 Will definitely looked after me and kept me fuelled up during the race (as well as provided cuddles.

Will definitely looked after me and kept me fuelled up during the race (as well as provided cuddles.

All simple to digest, easy to prepare and most importantly, something that I could look forward to in the race. 

The Rough Parts

There is always a low point in a race, especially of this magnitude. Like I have previously mentioned, I've been struggling with a knee injury leading up to the race and it was not certain I would be fit to race. I, maybe stubbornly decided to continue and go into the race somewhat not at 100%. We as a team all knew, if my knee held out, I could do relatively well even with the lost training in the lead up to the race. In the early hours of the morning, unfortunately there was a snap. 

I know what happened, I was pushing hard to make sure I was making some good distance in the race. My aim was to ride the whole thing in my Z2 and make sure I stayed on the rails as much as possible. It was pitch black, in the hours I struggle the most (3-4:30am ish). Thats where the pain started. It slowed me right down and meant that the next stop we needed to get the painkillers out to try and keep my hopes of finishing alive. I'm stubborn and I knew that was the aim, to finish the race. After a few arguments with myself in my head and a firm word from defending champion and recent LEJOG record breaker, Michael Broadwith, it gave me the kick up the ass I needed to push through it. Mike said to me:

 'everyone is hurting now. Make them hurt more and push through it. You've got this.' 

When some one of that calibre rides next to you and says that to you. It makes a massive difference, so thank you Mike.

Watch Part 2 of Francis Cade's Vlog here:

So we were through the night time, I always struggle in the early hours of the morning but the sun was coming up and, after my little battle in my head and the kick up the arse I was feeling good (so to speak) again. 

At 9am you are moved to what is called the finishers circuit. It's roughly a 45km cycle from the circuits most of the race is done on and back towards the start, the Wrexham clubhouse. I came in for my last refill of supplies, eager to get on the road as quick as possible. It was 5 minutes to 9 and I thought I could squeeze in one more lap of the early morning circuit, known as the Quina Brook circuit. I managed to plug on out for one more of these (just) before then being sent up to the finishing circuit. 

The ride to the finishing circuit is challenging enough as it is. It's surprisingly hilly, with continual rolling up and down until you join onto the finishers circuit. It's quite tough especially after riding all night. 

 Grit your teeth and finish strong

Grit your teeth and finish strong

For me the finishers circuit was about gritting my teeth, digging in deep and going all out. Time was limited, the faster I could go now the more places I could make up. I think, leading up to the finishers circuit I was maybe sitting in 12th place. Each lap clocked past and I kept trying to push a little more. Francis, Jimmi and Will, each time surprised by how I was flying past the start finish. Most other riders by this point were pretty broken but I have always known I'm good at emptying myself, so lets do that for a few hours and deal with the consequences after. 

On the circuit itself, there are fore commissaires based on the corners. (the circuit is kind of a square). As you pass them, they record your number. Once your time has run out (for me 13:01) ou roll onto the next commissaire and your distance is taken from that point. The more times you can pass them, the further you'll be going obviously. After one of the commissaire points, the circuit has one climb on it, which, once you are over the top, you descend along a very fast A road until the next commissaire point. I got to the commissaires before the climb with 5 minutes to spare and basically knew I wanted to be to the next one before 13:01. People at the side of the road obviously know your time is running out so going up the climb I was greeted with cheers and people shouting 'SPRINT' so I did. I got to the next point with 1 minute to spare. I knew there was no way I'd make it to the next one (just after the start finish) in a minute so rolled towards them. 

I was spent. It was about 30 degrees and I definitely could feel the heat. 

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Now when I say I gave it my all, how can I explain that to you? I came in, ate something, drank something and tried to chill out a bit, out of the sun and in the shade of the van. I was dizzy, dehydrated but relatively ok. I knew I just wanted to get back to London at this point and most importantly sleep. 

I opted to go and get changed into some normal clothes so headed to the changing rooms. Upon where I fainted. Stark bollock naked in the cubicle. About 15 minutes later I came round and got dressed again. I was dripping in sweat and Jimmi, obviously realising something was up came to find me and escort me back to the van.

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Thats what I call spent

 

Watch the last part of Francis Cade's Video here:

For me this race was massively about battling some demons from 2017, conquering something I previously hadn't been able to and to become a much needed confidence booster. It was a huge success. I came away with 8th and as one of the youngest in the race, a huge result not to be sniffed at. 

Bring on 2019.

Photos from Attacus and Francis Cade. Thank you so much to the organisers and most importantly my support crew:

Jimmi Nicholls, Francis Cade & Will Girling. This wouldn't have happened without you

Route below:

 

 

London to The Lakes

Day 1: 

It was a bit of a last minute panic getting the bike ready for the trip but it was sorted. Thank you as always to the legends at SBC Cycles for helping out. I opted to take my Quirk fully loaded now with Shimano Ultegra/ Dura Ace Hydro mix and a set of custom built carbon Parcours Wheels with a SON Dynamo hub. The bike has a huge range of gears with the 11-52 casette which works in conjunction with the Shimano Ultegra RX mech. The RX mech has a built in clutch system which keeps the chain tight. Perfect for off road! 

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Anyway back to the riding. The goal was to get to Manchester, off road, by the evening. Using Komoot I planned a route mainly taking in gravel trails all the way up. 320 odd kilometres was going to be a big ask but a fun one. The first leg, London to Market Harborough for lunch. It seemed logical to me to stop around the 150km mark to re-fuel when riding fully loaded on a bike. Getting out of London can always be a bit tricky. But opting to take a path less travelled (so to speak) meant it was surprisingly quicker than I expected. Running along canal paths and footpaths in no time.

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The Second Leg- Market Harborough to Manchester

Fed and watered, it was time to start part 2 of the day, Market Harborough to Manchester. This was going to be the tougher part of the day's ride, much more climbing plus the morning in the legs already. Hitting along old train lines, the route was pretty darn quiet with views left, right and centre. One of the parts that I loved was cycling through the old railway tunnels. These are completely pitch black so lights on, shades off going through these!

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The route would climb over the Peak District, an area known for its natural beauty and also some incredible gravel trails. Climbing up the Peaks was slow and steady but once up high, the views were spectacular. Parts of the route I created followed the Eroica route which was taking place over the weekend. Doing some of those trails on vintage bikes.. Not too sure I would be wanting to do that one with skinny tyres and crazy gearings! Finally one last climb up and then with the sun setting the long descent into Manchester was coming. My legs needed the rest rolling into the city, some food and some well earned rest.

Day 2: Manchester to The Lakes

Up bright and early for a more casual day than yesterday. Mainly on roads but with a chunk of climbing. The lakes isn't flat after all. My aim was to get to Kirkby Lonsdale to then cycle around a loop to meet my friends who maybe took the more sensible idea of getting a train or driving up. For me avoiding the M6 was always the aim and trains are relatively dull after all. Today I mainly chose to keep to roads after yesterday's off road fun. Rolling through Blackburn I came across what looked like a good bike shop ti grab a bit more food and some supplies.

The chaps at Ewood cycles were incredibly welcoming. I was offered a cup of coffee and a cheese toastie befire I jumped back on the road, suddenly feeling refreshed and content by the kind hospitality I had been shown. I also managed to get some waterproof overshoes... Saturday was looking like it may be a wet one... Once again thanks so much to the chaps at Ewood! 

Leaving the Northern cities it started to feel all the more familiar, the Lakes were coming! I finally rolled into Kirkby Lonsdale, feeling pretty empty but also with a few hours to kill before my friends in 10000kmcc would be rolling around. I found a cafe and proceesed to eat my way through their menu. 

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Finding Friends

I've been honoured to ride with the chaps from 10000kmcc for a fair few years now. What Richard has done with that is really create an amazing community of friends that are so special to everyone involved. I thoroughly look forward to our weekends away and the stories that come from it. This weekend in the Lakes we had 17 of us staying in a farm house and riding together. I chose to ride the Friday evening route the opposite way to everyone else to catch them. My tired legs definitely looking forward to seeing some familiar faces. We were then staying in a huge farm house for the rest of the weekend and the bags would be able to be removed from the bike. Chip shop dinner and laughs in the evening

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Day 3: The Lakes (In torrential weather)

Theres two different sides to the Lake District, a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. The stunning summery days in contrast with the very cold and very wet days. Both are equally beautiful but also equally challenging. We all woke up in the morning ready to get going, rain already starting. The overshoes were on that I bought on the cycle up and all the layers were on.

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My aim was simple. Survive to Lunch. Lunch was Chesters, a stunning little streamside cafe with amazing food options, locally roasted coffee and everything locally sourced. My legs were tired from the last few days. I knew riding in the cold rain was going to take it out on me and I also knew a few people would be stopping at lunch. That was my aim, then to Stay in Chesters for a while and warm up/ dry up and eat. From there I called it for the day. A few brave souls carried on hitting The Struggle. 

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Day 4: Dales Day

Dales Day! Today we were heading further East to tackle some of the roads in the Yorkshire Dales. The Coal Road being one I've been really excited to cycle up for some time. I've heard such good things from it and I wasn't let down at all. Another long day in the saddle with great company meant for some tired legs and cattle hearding towards the latter end of the ride. Eventually rolling back into the farm house ready to devour all the ice cream we had. Time to pack and get the train back to London. What an amazing weekend of adventures. Now to rest the legs..

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Thanks for an amazing weekend 10000kmcc and Cold Dark North. Photos by Ele Suggett, Richard Frazier, Ashley Bard and Toby Cummins 

Rebuilding from illness #ProjectShingles

The festive period is often a time where we relax, socialise and spend time with families. Unfortunately this wasn't quite the case for me. Having spent a big year on the bike (see below stats from veloviewer)

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As you can see from the stats above it's been a big year. Lots of crazy challenges and experiences. Sadly towards the end of the year I started to feel unwell. The amount I was getting out on the bike started to drop off as well. After a visit to the doctors we found out I had a mild case of blood poisoning and more worryingly, a bad case of shingles. 

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it. It's caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.

It's estimated around one in every four people will have at least one episode of shingles during their life. The main symptom of shingles is pain, followed by a rash that develops into itchy blisters, similar in appearance to chickenpox.

New blisters may appear for up to a week, but a few days after appearing they become yellowish in colour, flatten and dry out.

Scabs then form where the blisters were, which may leave some slight scarring and loss of skin pigment.

The pain may be a constant, dull or burning sensation, and its intensity can vary from mild to severe. 

You may have sharp stabbing pains from time to time, and the affected area of skin will usually be tender.

In some cases shingles may cause some early symptoms that develop a few days before the painful rash first appears.

These early symptoms can include:

  • a headache
  • burning, tingling, numbness or itchiness of the skin in the affected area
  • a feeling of being generally unwell
  • a high temperature (fever)

An episode of shingles typically lasts around two to four weeks. It usually affects a specific area on just one side of the body.

It doesn't cross over the midline of the body, an imaginary line running from between your eyes down past the belly button.

Any part of your body can be affected, including your face and eyes, but the chest and tummy (abdomen) are the most common areas.

It is an incredibly frustrating and painful virus that causes you to basically be bed bound. The thing I have found tough is the fatigue. The pain is bad but continually needing to sleep shows how it is tough. I have spoken with the likes of Dean Downing who has suffered from it before. Dean's advice was: 

'Don’t mess around with shingles. If you don’t rest and if you come back too soon. It will ruin you for a long long time.' 

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Dean had it when he lived in Belgium. 2002 winter at the end of January. In his own words it was caused by too much training, too much stress and too much partying. He was with a doctor, 3 months off and on May 1st started riding and training from scratch. Later that year he won British Crit Champs in September.

Here is how my training has looked over the last few weeks. Very few rides just to keep the legs going. These are low zone rides and generally done inside. I have been very lucky to have the support of my coach, Ken and nutritionalist Will Girling to help try to aid recovery as quickly as possible. Will is the nutritionalist for Pro cycling team ONE PRO

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It's amazing having support from people like Dean, a true British Cycling great looking out and keeping an eye out for me. The recovery will be slow and long but I'll get there! 

Here's to 2018!

Red Bull Time Laps

The Red Bull Timelaps held at Windsor Great Park. The event itself was something a little different; a 25-hour race between teams comprised of 4 riders. I was in a team (Walrus) with YouTube vlogger, Francis Cade, British Land Speed Record holder, Ken Buckley and pro cyclist, Lawrence Carpenter. We knew this was a team with real potential, but in reality, we were going out there to have fun. Below

Lawrence was our first rider up. It seemed right to have someone who had the most recent racing experience starting, as the start of these events can be a bit messy. We were right to do this as 2 laps in there was a nasty crash and the race was suspended for an hour or so. With that in mind, when the race restarted, Lawrence was back out on the circuit.

Each lap was 6.8 km with about 50 meters of climbing. There were a couple of sharp turns and gravelly corners, but generally it was an OK course. I went into this thinking it would be more of a time trial, but in reality, this was a race.

As a team, we figured out a strategy; we aimed to do hour-and-a-half stints at what was supposed to be our threshold (it ended up much harder than that). I then did a big stint in the night to get Lawrence lined up to do the power hour. During the power hour, every lap of a different, shorter course counts for two. After this we all aimed for 2-hour stints until the race ended at 12:00 midday on Sunday.

Our team came 3rd in the Men’s category and 5th overall out of 150 teams! We managed 133 laps, with a fastest lap time of 9:25, averaging 11:18 per lap. During my three stints, I averaged 315, 268 and 246 watts. The pace was something I really hadn't quite expected and each of us going so hard on our first stints helped secure a strong position during the night hours and whilst it rained the next morning'.

You can see what happened by watching Francis Cade's and Lawrence Carpenter's  vlogs:

Silverstone 9 man Team TT

It was that time again.. 9 men, a race circuit, 3 laps. This time there was a very different goal. To win. I was asked to join the chaps at Spokes BPC (2016 winners of the 9man TTT) for what was going to be a painful 3 laps of Silverstone Circuit. 

 9 man team made up of Spokes BPC sponsored riders and development team.

9 man team made up of Spokes BPC sponsored riders and development team.

Now we all know this probably is not something that sorts me perfectly. I have been training for endurance over what I would call a balls out hard effort for maybe 20 mins. The team had some real credentials, British Landspeed Record Holder, some very competitive crit, track and cyclocross pros and juniors. And me. Needless to say I was a bit nervous but we knew there was one objective for me, to get the team up to speed and firing all cylinders out of the start gate. Thanks to my Verve Infocrank we know I have a very good 5-30 second power which would be enough to get the team out the gate and up to speed and then attempt to hold on..

So the bike I chose to ride:

 Focus Izalco Max Etap with Verve Infocrank and DT Swiss tubs

Focus Izalco Max Etap with Verve Infocrank and DT Swiss tubs

I opted to ride on my Focus Izalco MAX Etap, the lightest, fastest and most bad-ass bike I own. The bike is fitted with a Verve Infocrank with some big chain rings. Zipp finishing kit and a Fizik Antares carbon railed saddle. The wheels were borrowed by my friend Olly Bridgewood (Cycling Weekly Editor) which are a set of carbon DT Swiss Tubs.

We headed out, I did my job and managed to last about a lap and a half. The pace was obviously relentless. You are allowed to drop 4 men in the team and we did that, leaving the 4 strongest riders in the field for the last lap or so. The result was...

 SECOND PLACE!

SECOND PLACE!

We managed 2nd place! Not quite 1st as last year but only just into second place. An incredible team performance all round!

#107for107

107 FOR 107: CYCLIST CHRIS HALL COMPLETES 11,550KM ENDURANCE RIDE

chris hall endurance cyclist 107

Taken from the press release for 107for107:  

Endurance cyclist Chris Hall has completed his mission to ride 107 kilometres every day for 107 days.

 Chris has cycled at least 107km each day since December 16th - battling snow, suspected food poisoning and brutal storms - and triumphantly crossed the finish line on his final ride at the Tour of Flanders sportive on April 1.

 A retail designer from East London and cycling’s answer to Forest Gump, Chris covered 12,674.6km in just over three months to raise awareness of a vital school called the Pace centre.

 Chris, 27, is no stranger to tough cycling challenges. Last summer he became the first person to cycle for 24 hours around London’s Richmond Park. This time he has gone even bigger - slogging it out for at least five hours on the bike every day alongside his full-time job.

 THE RULES

 The rules of the 107 for 107 challenge are simple. At least 107 kilometres must be ridden each day from December 16th 2016 until April 1st 2017 - rolling over distance to the next day is not allowed. There are no rest days. All distance must be covered on the road or a Wahoo smart turbo trainer due to their accuracy and ability to replicate road gradient. Rollers are not allowed. Official distance will be uploaded to Strava.

chris hall 107 time trialist

 THE REASON

 Pace is a school in Aylesbury, Bucks, dedicated to transforming the lives of children up to the age of 18 with motor disorders such as cerebral palsy. The charity is founded on the belief that every child has the ability to learn and make progress, whatever physical or sensory challenges they face.  A group of specialist teachers and therapists create programmes to support each of the 107 pupils and their families, helping them to unlock their potential.

 Chris explained: “I was first introduced to Pace through my cycling club, Ripcor. The club has been fundraising for the school for over ten years and some of the members have children who went there.

 “Each of the 107 children at Pace face daily challenges. Whether it’s waking up, getting to and from school or inside the classroom, every element of their day requires complex planning. But seeing what Pace enables them to achieve, it’s just incredible. I want to make more people aware that schools like this exist and that they need funding to keep going.

 “I knew I wanted take on an endurance challenge which also relies on careful daily planning. The number 107 has become special to me, I even wear it on my jersey. So riding for 107 days just seemed like a no-brainer!

 “Physically I was all over the place, mentally I was all over the place, but there was never really a doubt in my head about whether I’d be able to get up the next day and ride 107km again. I just told myself I haven’t got a choice.”

 Caroline Bennett, Head of Fundraising at Pace, said: “When we found out what Chris is doing we were just amazed. The school exists to give children with motor disorders the tools they need to develop communications skills, access their education and gain their independence. People like Chris are vital in helping us continue that work, through raising awareness and donations. We’re so honoured to have him supporting our children.”

 HOW DID HE DO IT?

 With only so many hours in the day, planning was key. The majority of Chris’ days usually began at 4.30am, when he headed out in and around London to start racking up kilometres before work. He then had to jump back on the bike after work and finish the distance - while somehow managing to fit sleeping, stretching and a whole lot of eating.

 Managing fatigue was a constant battle. Chris’ coach, Ken Buckley, was closely monitoring his daily heart rate, speed and power data to help him limit the effects of so much overtraining.

 Chris explained: “A big part of being able to do this challenge was having the right tools in place. Having good tech and good kit I could rely on day in, day out was essential.

 “But not getting a rest day was pretty brutal. It’s such a physical battle and Ken has been vital in helping to manage that. He could see when I’m getting tired, when I needed to hold back and helped me work out how best to manage the distance each day, so I had the best chance possible of completing it.”

 IT’S NOT BEEN AN EASY JOURNEY

 Chris has faced plenty of hurdles during the challenge - isolation, a severe sickness bug, not to mention the typically terrible British weather.

 He explained: “I’ve definitely had my low points. Those times when I’ve cycled through the rain and the snow, and freezing my fingers to the point I thought they were going to drop off. I was even out through Storm Doris! Having that headwind to battle was painful. I looked down and I was doing 500 watts and 15kph, it was pretty crippling.

 “On Day 39 I got so sick I couldn’t even leave the house. I’m pretty sure it was food poisoning. I had to stay off work and I was going between the bike and the toilet for two days. All I wanted to do is curl up in bed, but I knew I still had to get the distance done. It took me 9 hours to complete the distance on the turbo one day, I physically had no energy to turn the pedals.

 “It shows what a big mental battle this whole thing is. And getting through that was a stubbornness more than anything. It’s the worst my body’s ever felt. But I knew there couldn’t be many days worse than that, so knowing that I got through that was a sort of personal boost.

 “I also had to do a lot of riding on my own, and there were times when it felt isolating. One of the things getting me through this is the support from the cycling community, both friends and strangers. It’s been both amazing and humbling. Having random people show up to give me company out on rides, and sending encouraging messages online, it makes a big difference. It’s what makes the challenge doable for me.”

One of the biggest boosts for Chris came in his final week of the challenge, on day 103, when more than 60 riders turned up at London’s Regent’s Park at 7am to join him for laps.

 Chris, who had put a call out on social media for friends and strangers to join his his ride, was overwhelmed by the turn-out. He said: "When I turned up at the park and saw the huge group of people it was pretty surreal.

 "Obviously with so many miles to do, I was often riding alone and a lot of the time in the dark so that can be quite isolating. I guess when you're wrapped up in a challenge like this you end up a bit in your own bubble, not realising who is looking in.

"Seeing so many friends and strangers all show up to ride was so humbling. The company really has been priceless. It just goes to show the amazing camaraderie of the cycling community, I’m incredibly proud to be part of that."

Source: 107for107pacecentre

London Cyclocross League 2016-17 Round 5

Round 5 at London's iconic Herne Hill, always a magical place with a fantastic turnout and brilliant heckling. It's always great as you get to line up with mates who often are not able to make it to some of the further afield races. This race will stand in the memory as a special one. It was my first seeded race of the season. You never forget when your name gets called out and you have to roll to the start. Obviously quicker guys are behind you but its satisfying to know that you've been able to get a few meters ahead. 

 Attacus CC, Ripcor and East London Fixed, 3 different teams, but firstly 3 friends. 

Attacus CC, Ripcor and East London Fixed, 3 different teams, but firstly 3 friends. 

Herne Hill itself, a course that is notoriously technical, lots of sharp climbs, turns and mixes of surfaces, there is always a person waiting to watch a crash, slip or wobble. You start inside the velodrome and switch in and out of it, traveling out the back into the rough land which most people don't know about. 

 Hurdles are always a crowd pleaser. Photo by Kamal Balgobin

Hurdles are always a crowd pleaser. Photo by Kamal Balgobin

A mix of sharp steep climbs, where the only option is to run and hurdles keep the hecklers in certain areas, hoping for that slight slip or incident. This race itself was a fast one, grass trails tend to be. 

A huge thank you for everyone who came down to watch, heckle, pinch/ slap the derriere. Special mentions have to go to the ladies from 5th Floor, East London Fixed, Team Full Demin Jacket and our friends at Brixton Cycles. 

 

Strava file below: