How did the 2010 time trialling season pan out?

I approached the 2010 timetrialling season having made some changes in the organisation of my training.  I had decided that I was no longer able to continue training in the evenings after work because I was getting home later due to work commitments.  Instead, I was to be found pounding the turbo trainer in the garage at 6am…often dark, generally cold (sometimes extremely so!), but as it turned out a more effective strategy.

Another change made at the outset of the training phase had been the adoption of a power meter on my turbo trainer.  I have never been particularly impressed by the concept of power measurement in cycle training: too often I’d seen riders become obsessed with their power data (“Oh, but I rode a power personal best” is a common refrain after a mediocre performance).  Because I was less than fully convinced of the value of power training, I chose the “budget solution” – a Polar CS600X with Power and Cadence, which I fitted to the rusty old turbo trainer bike.  The Polar power meter works on chain vibration (apparently rather like a guitar string and pickup) – the system needs to know the chain mass and length – and seems to work reliably enough.

To back this up I used Hunter and Coggan’s Training and Racing with a Power Meter, now in its second edition.  This gives a pretty good overview of how to look at and analyse power data in the context of a training programme.  Of course all these data are pointless without some means of dealing with the number crunching – for this I chose the excellent Golden Cheetah, an open source programme with significant capabilities.  During the year I’ve been using it, it has seen significant development, reaching the version 2.0 milestone a few weeks before Christmas.

A further hardware upgrade was the new time trial bike.  For my 50th birthday, I received a Cervelo P3 frame and forks – I built this up mostly by transferring kit from the old time trial bike to this one, with a few new components.  This machine has been a delight to race on, from 1st January to the Duo Normand in September.

Pre Season Training

My preparatory training for the season generally begins in late October after a brief gap in cycling (at least intense cycling).  I decided that I would be rather circumspect in how I made use of power data, and pretty much continued my usual programme, which fairly closely follows Pete Read’s Annual Manual (aka the Black Book).  It’s probably inappropriate to detail this programme, as it’s undoubtedly copyright, but suffice it to say that it involves a steady base that gradually builds through progressive interval sessions to deliver one in good shape at the start of the season in late February or early March.

The Black Book uses heart rate as a measure of effort: the main criticism by power meter afficionados is that this can be a poor reflection of effort due to “thermal drift”, and indeed this effect was quite clear in eyeballing the traces from turbo sessions ridden at a steady heart rate – generally power readings would start declining after bout 12 to 20 minutes.  This was quite interesting to see, and when I moved into the season, I focussed on interval training for this reason.

Of course, I did monitor my progress by analysing the quality of each session, and by periodically estimating my threshold power.  However, the proof of the pudding was in the racing.  How did my season go?

Early season events –  a mixed bag

I turned out for the club’s New Years Day ’10’ and did a reasonable performance on a bitterly cold morning – it was about -4 Celsius.  I think this result surprised me a bit, and it was probably the closest I got to Tony P’s time all season!   Then it was back to the turbo treadmill before the NBRC club events got under way.

As in recent seasons, the first four or so club events were held up at the Astwood circuit – these were rather uneventful.  This account really deals with the open events I rode in 2010, so I’ll mostly ignore club events.  The 2-up time trial outings with my regular Team Grumpy team mate Gerry are pretty rare nowadays since we live about 250 miles apart.  It has to be said that this year our two traditional early season 2-ups were not especially successful.

The Port Talbot Wheelers 2-up ’25’ is held on the first weekend in March on a course near Neath in South Wales – the course is about 50% dual carriageway and 50% severely undulating back road, and this year the weather was dry but bitterly cold.  It’s actually rather a nice course, but not particularly quick.  Usually at this time of year, I spend a considerable proportion of the race grimly hanging on Gerry’s wheel.  This year I seemed to be setting the pace a bit more strongly.  Unfortunately Gerry punctured about 3/4 of the way through the event and despite pressing on (at his behest), it was game over for Team Grumpy.

Team Grumpy’s second 2010 outing was at the Icknield RC’s sporting course time trial in late March on a 30km circuit.  Unfortunately the day before I’d punctured on the way home from a club event and had to walk a considerable distance.  the consequence was that I’d got mud in my Speedplay pedal cleats.  A tiny amount of mud, but enough to prevent me from clipping onto my pedal.  So my race was over before it began – Gerry rode solo in the event (but of course his ride didn’t count).  We rode no further 2-up events until the Duo Normand in late September, of which more later.

Mid-season events

The first significant ’25’ was the Lea Valley ’25’ on the E2/25 over by Newmarket.  This was the first of three outings on this course in 2010, and saw Tony and I sitting in his car by the HQ before the event apprehensively anticipating how we’d do – this being our first ’25’ of the season.  In the end, we did rather well, and I did my best time in about 5 or 6 years, recording a 55:38.  I never managed to rival the E2/25 times with performances on the F1!

On the two subsequent outings on the E2, I recorded 55:29 on a spectacularly horrible day that saw many riders DNS, and a 55:43 while trying to take it easy the day prior to riding a ‘100’ on the F1.  Actually, none of those events were on particularly ‘float’ days.

That ‘100’ was the North Middx & Herts CA ‘100’, and by the time I’d plugged up and down the F1 for 86 of the 100 miles, I was getting distinctly bored.  Unfortunately the finishing circuit was truly brutal, with a nagging headwind adding to the misery of cramping legs.  I was riding unsupported, relying on a Camelbak for my nutritional provision.  This was rather problematic as the Camelbak’s bulge interfered with the tail of my aero hat.  Still, despite the previous afternoon’s ’25’ I managed to finish with a 4:25 – not as quick as I’d have liked, but not bad all things considered.

‘10’s don’t figure very highly in my usual programme of open events, partly because there just don’t seem to be many locally, and partly because I prefer longer events.  Anyhow, a good ’10’ time certainly seemed to be likely by the time I rode the Norlond CA ’10’ (25/4/10).  This event was on the F1/10, and was on a particularly wet morning.  By the time I reached the turn, I was closing on my minute man.  Unfortunately just after rounding the turn, I suffered a puncture and had to make a rather soggy return to the HQ, pondering what might have been my best ’10’ in several years.

It wasn’t until an evening event on the F20/10 (the Whitewebbs CC ’10’ on 3rd July) that I pulled off a decent ’10’ – a 21:05.  Once again this wasn’t a particularly quick feeling evening, but the time was only 14 seconds slower than my all time best ’10’ – and my second fastest ever.

The club’s designated ’25’ championship event was the Hemel Hempstead ’25’ on the F13/25 – the odd course that has traffic lights at a pedestrian crossing!  The lights are marshalled, and anyone jumping the lights gets disqualified.   I was the fastest of the three NBRC riders to take part, and did a respectable time for this not-very-fast course.  Similarly, I was one of the few NBRC riders to ride at 50 miles this year, and I think the only NBRC rider to enter the nominated ’50’.  My top 50 mile performance was at the Finsbury Park CC event on the F1, where I recorded 1:57:45, my best in the last five or six seasons.

The Duo Normand

This was Team Grumpy’s seventh ride in the Duo Normand, and we’ve posted write-ups online (see flies&bikes and the Team Grumpy blog).  Suffice it to say that while this wasn’t our fastest time, we did win our category (Corporate), had the glory of a motorcycle outrider, and climbed onto the podium to receive a glass trophy, a bunch of flowers and the all-important podium girl kiss.  Well, we got the podium kiss once they’d realised we were cyclists and not a pair of old duffers who’d climbed onto the podium van by mistake!

All things considered, 2010 was an excellent season: my entry forms will have 2010 times for 10, 25 and 50 miles.  Sadly, I couldn’t quite get there at 100 miles (and there was no way I was riding a ’12’ this year!), but hey – not bad for someone just starting their second half-century!  But what of our touring?

2010 Summer Tour

This year’s tour once again saw us returning to the Hebrides, with a route encompassing several ferry crossings – visiting Barra, The Uists, Skye, Ardnamurchan and Mull.  While a little cold to begin with, we got away with decent weather.  Except, that is, for the time we spent on Skye, when it pretty much tipped down mercilessly.  By the time we made it to Ardnamurchan, the weather was delightful.  Unfortunately, that didn’t last, with the final day’s cycling from Tobermory to Oban being rather murky and drizzly.  We stayed in B&Bs and Hotels, accommodation highlights being the Tigh Dearg Hotel in Lochmaddy (North Uist) and the Salen Hotel.

Normandy 2010

In September it was back to our stamping ground in Normandy – once again we took the trusty tandem for a spot of cycling, this year mostly after the Duo Normand.  As per usual with our cycling jaunts (and this is a recurring theme in write-ups of our tandem tours) a lot of our energy is focussed on finding nice food and drink to consume.