In case you’d not noticed, the vast majority of my writing now goes on at Total Women’s Cycling – so you won’t be seeing so many How To pieces, Reviews and the like here, just good old honest blogging about life, the universe and bicycles (plus sometimes swimming).
If you’re up for that… I shall begin….
In my last post I talked about taking some time to stop piling pressure on myself to cut off tiny seconds here and there – and enjoy trying new things. I’m glad to say I’ve been more than successful. (Arguably success or failure should not the words for this challenge be – Shhh – we’re not playing Yoda here)
The last update was 25th May, after the 5k Dorney Lake swim. The following weekend I was at a wedding, but the weekend after was a firework of bicycle fun…
SEWTTS DORKING TT
On Saturday 6th June I rode the Dorking/Holmwood time trial on the G10/42 – it’s a little lumpy, so not that suited to me, but I worked particularly hard on trying to spin my legs at a faster cadence on the hills, as opposed to my normal grinding pace, meaning my legs felt fresher. Grinding is a terrible habit of mine, I’ve genuinely finished time trials with a cadence of 69rpm, so I’m trying hard to fix it this year (again). I finish in 25.25 (PB is 24.03, but on a pan flat Horsham course) – coming fourth. It was a SEWTTS event, meaning (thanks to amazing work from Rebecca Slack) there was a healthy field of 19 women taking part. First place went to National Hill Climb champ Maryka Sennema with 23.33. I made the error of riding with no distance on the clock – let alone heart rate or power – so I had no idea where the ‘last push’ was – but to be honest, I just enjoyed being there and was more excited about driving down to Cambridge that night for Sunday’s activities…
Tour of Cambridge
The Tour of Cambridge was the first Gran Fondo ever to be held in the UK – if you signed up with a race license it was then a UCI sanctioned race and you could go on to compete in the World Gran Fondo… yadda yadda. Anyway, my plan was to enjoy the ride. Maurice and I hooked up with a friend of ours (the lovely Olly), who had brought with him some friends of his. We all claimed the intention was to ‘ride steady’ and ‘have fun’ – but of course that was far from what happened.
The event featured a few hillocks at the start, where I found it harder to stay in contact with the group, but the middle section was almost pan flat. Headwinds and cross winds made working together essential and I found it was not just my lungs, but my brain that was getting a workout as I tried to keep the chaingang steady. I’ll admit I was a little chuffed with the remarks, around 65 miles in, that I was doing well to still be up with the gang, since no one else in the gang was a girl. We worked as a group really well, I think, only falling apart in the final 5 miles (of 82) where it was very much ‘every rider for themselves’. I wasn’t last of the group back either which was a bonus.
The event itself was beautifully organised and 100% recommended. Closed roads meant we could ride freely, overtaking where we needed to and using the full width of the road. The roads were stunning – and deceptively tough due to endless cross winds (which were soul destroying on a number of occasions). The local people had come out in full force, lining the roads with Union Jacks and offering ‘snatch and go’ drinks in paper cups (thankfully my bidon was sufficient). A tiny part of me felt a wee bit embarrassed to be not racing, yet receiving such lavish attention, but it did make for a wonderful feeling of elation that I couldn’t deny.
My only regret is that we did stick to the ‘we’re having fun, not racing’ motto enough to stop at feed stations. We kept our average speed at just under 21mph for 82 miles, meaning the training benefit was there, but two drinks stops meant our time on the results was slower than I’d have liked! Regardless, just getting out of time trial mode, working with others, trying something very new, and just having a ton of fun, was a real breath of fresh air.
Maison Du Velo Wray Lane Loops
The following Tuesday I decided to stick with my ‘Training With Others Will Make Me Stronger And Is Definitely More Fun’ motto, riding the ‘Tuesday Hill Reps’ with Maison Du Velo’s group. Of course, I’m not going to bore you with every ride I’ve done in the last month but this one was a change from the norm so worth noting. I’d have gone last week and yesterday if I wasn’t away with work and time trialling respectively. Maybe next week.
I can 100% attest to the fact it is a tough session – 1,900 feet of climbing in just under 15 miles is plenty good enough for me. The loop consists of a climb up Wray Lane, a pretty tough one at the best of times, then a descent of Reigate hill, an undulating section, then back up Wray. Unfortunately lap one didn’t record (hopefully my fastest) so I’m hoping a repeat some time soon will give me a better Strava position. Not that I care about Strava. At All. Nope.
Next up? I know – I have been busy!
RTTC National 50
Next was the (amateur) National 50 mile Time Trial in Shropshire, on the D50/3R.I’ll admit I was a little irritated to arrive and find the promoting club had put the event on alongside a standard mens event. In previous years, the RTTC National 50 has been alongside then Men’s National, giving it a real buzz as everyone is taking it fairly seriously, or a standalone event – meaning the car park was full of women only, mainly taking it seriously, which was also a nice way to make it feel ‘special’. This felt like any other event – a bit frustrating when you’ve driven 3 hours, stayed in a hotel, and will drive 3 hours back. And paid 3 x as much to enter the event than a standard TT. However, the marshals were amazing (even when I did a full circle of one roundabout), and everyone was lovely. I do appreciate the club needs to have enough sign ups to make a profit, so the event merge would be my only criticism.
Is it bizarre if I tell you I enjoyed riding the event? This is a new feeling for me. Frustratingly, the first 25 miles zoomed past in 1hr4mins (my watch said 1hr3, Strava tells me 1hr4, whatever) – so I thought I was only an easy PB, if I’m honest. My heart rate was quite low (for me – 175 odd in places, peaking under 190). However, as time dawdled on, so arrived a long descent, and a headwind in the final miles, taking the PB pretty promptly!
The course is shaped like a T – it’s different to any 50 I’ve ever ridden. The standard ‘half way roundabout’ was actually at 30 miles, a really refreshing change as it always pops into your head “well, anyone can ride 20 miles”, whilst a whole 25 is an event in itself.
The final five miles, as always with a 50, were agonizing. That’s oddly reassuring, since it did feel like I’d taken it too easy in the middle section, but the pain means I must have done my best. Only a minute off my PB isn’t too bad, since it was mostly single carriageway, so didn’t lend itself to the fastest of times.
I was 25th of 44, which for the RTTC (amateur) National is ok, too. However – as per the previous 10, my attention was drifting to the next day’s riding….
Wait – Monday? Big ride? In many ways, yes.
Wiggle Honda Ride
Monday’s ride with Wiggle Honda, as they carried out a recon ride for Stage 5 of the Women’s Tour, was a real treat. I was a bit concerned about the state of my legs, following the TT – but amazingly they felt fine. Possibly I should have pushed harder!
I’ll have to refer you to this write up of the day – mainly because I do now need to get on with my day (sorry!). And, let’s be honest, there’s not much point writing it all twice, is there?
My main takings from the experience were that the girls are all absolutely lovely, very down to earth, and they all seem to get on like a house on fire (that’s well – if you’re Italian and that phrase is very English).
I was really taken by… well – everyone! Giorgia Bronzini’s humour, Elisa Longo-Borghini’s friendliness, Audrey Cordon-Ragot’s ability to remember my face a week later, Jolian D’Hoore’s humbleness over her win the previous day, and Dani King’s down-to-earthness.
Really, they were all just very friendly. Despite my fears about being way too slow following the TT, I actually found that these pros know how to ride a recovery ride – eg – gently. I even got told off (jokingly..) for “attacking” on a sharp little roller following a descent. The truth is I simply don’t know how to ride a little roller like that WITHOUT powering up it – again – I need to learn to spin.
it was just genuinely had a lovely ride. The sun, of course, helped a lot.
The entirety of last week was given over to following the Women’s Tour – so no riding at all from Tuesday to Sunday! That was tough but managable, and a little break always reminds me that a little break is not the end of the world when it has to happen, in fact, within a couple of rides you’re likely to feel fighting fit.
The latest event? Last night’s Interclub TT – Redhill Vs Addisombe. I was 20 seconds off last year’s time (31.57 as oppose to 31.33). It’s a tough, climby ride on the GS/335 and last year I had two very strong female climbers from my club chasing me for honour of the win, too. I took it, by only 7 seconds, on my TT bike, and I was trying very, very hard not to get beaten by too much. This year, there was just myself and one other woman. Though anyone who was at the finish will hopefully agree I was clearly trying on the last hill. It’s a very technical course, and I rode it, as last year, on my TT bike. In truth I spent little time on the bars, actually losing time on my minute woman on the descents, only catching her a flat section (one of few!) so I reckon next year it will be a road bike job.
It’s a really lovely event, put on thanks to a great deal of work from both clubs (and my amazingly dedicated husband, who puts in so much *gush*). Evening club TTs always have a lovely glow of friendship about them, but the interclub even more so as it’s a little bit special and we’re all united in a common fight (which we lost this time, ah well). I’d highly recommend riding next year if you’re a member of either.
Ok – that’s a lot in one post – hope it’s readable! This year is all very much now less about seconds on 10s and 25s, and a lot more about the 100 mile Time Trial, now a month away. Oh, and swimming – I’ve not even mentioned swimming above! I’ve joined the local Redhill and Reigate swim club. It’s fun. I’ve obsessed over tumble turns butterly for the last month or so. Also fun. Seriously though, this post is long enough without all that.