8th September - Training Catch-up!

The trip home after my French cycling adventure took us through the Pommery champagne estate in Reims. The structure is impressive, housing 20 million bottles of champagne 30m below ground in 18km of chalk tunnels with space for a separate art gallery and exhibition. I am aware on my arrival home that I have done far less than my training plan demands, however Saturday work demands my attention.

Sunday, I am back in the saddle on a gentle club ride with some slower paced members, which I feel is my club duty now and then. It was a lovely Sunday morning with super people.

So what am I riding at the moment? My baby is a Fondriest TF2 1.0 in carbon/white, with Ultegra 6800 11 speed groupset, FSA carbon bars and stem, Selle Italia Flite Team Edition saddle and my Spin K2 Koppenberg 25mm wheels shod with Continental GP4000sII 23mm tyres. The entire package makes for a dream ride. The difference between previous bikes and this one is remarkable, and the wheels make such a difference on the hills, so big thank you to http://ridefullgas.com/ for supplying me.

This week training was scheduled to be an "adaptation week", however since I had missed the previous 2 weeks this felt a little fraudulent and reductive!

Monday: I hit the turbo trainer which I loathe with a passion. The goal was to pedal smoothly at 100RPM with correct ankle placement and pedalling technique. This is harder than it sounds as focusing on technique meant loss of RPM and RPM focus meant slipping technique. I had "Just a Minute" on in the background for the 2nd 30 minutes!

Tuesday: The plan was 2.5 hours on the road using small gears and minimal pressure on the body. However meetings in London and forgotten bike lights meant I only managed 1 hour and 40 minutes in mid zone 3; a very relaxing and enjoyable ride for the week.

Wednesday: Second turbo session. 10 minute pedal reps at 100RPM with five minute rest. I am not going to be able to endure this necessary evil beyond an hour at a time.

Thursday: Home life prevents me from getting a session in. Debating if this is really a bad thing.

Friday: Making up lost training time. My training schedule requires I get my heart rate to upper zone 5 in 5 minute reps, but alas I could not on the turbo and hold it for 5 minutes. I may need to recalibrate the turbo trainer.

Saturday: Lovely mid-morning Zone 2 ride over a stretch of recently resurfaced silky smooth road. The weather was pleasant although keeping the HR down to the required level was not so much.

Sunday: I have been invited to participate in a ride at the Tour of Britain London between stages 8a and 8b. The 5 mile circuit with minimal cyclists and without cars was sensational, and although I had professed I was just in it to see the sights, I became a big kid on the open race track. Pleased to average 19 mph, even with a final slow down lap.

We settled on the Embankment with recovery drinks to watch the main race. Cycle racing is not really a spectator sport, as they fly by in a blur however on this circuit they flew by twice per lap. There is also the occasional bottle flying through the air to keep you awake.

Click here to view what I mean about the Final stage of The Tour of Britain on Vimeo.

Spotlight on Lee Ridley

Lee, an avid Fondriest fan, recently posted about his Red Lantern Tour from Geneva to Marseille. His steed of choice was a white TF3, which he adores.

The Tour involved serious climbs including the Glandon, Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux. He rode 391 miles over 6 days, 11 climbs, 34,000ft at an average of 15.2 mph. An amazing effort! Even more impressive is that until Lee discovered cycling he was a rather unfit fellow. His competitive nature and dedication to his training has allowed him to lean down into the whippet he is today.

When not cycling, Lee is the guitarist and vocalist for The SkaSouls, a West London based band playing originals and covers. Their albums “Rude” and “Counting Down the Days” are available online at www.skasouls.com.

2nd-3rd Sept - Simon in France

2nd September 2014

I hit the beautiful roads of Vallee d’Abondance near my friend’s holiday flat in La Chapelle-d’Abondance today. I've not trained for the last 10 days, and last night’s dinner was a further hindrance.

The plat de charcuterie was a massive selection of cold meats from the Haute Savoie region of France, cheeses, cornichons, grapes, walnuts, bread and potato, and side salad. I pride myself on my ability to eat for Britain but this beast beat me by 2 bread rolls. I had planned a visit to Le Fer Rouge, where they brew their own beer. Unfortunately it was closed, but I am sure my wallet and liver were grateful!

After a restful night my first impulse was to set off at a lazy pace, but instead I decided hill conquering was in order. A desire to purposely scale hills took me by surprise, but I believe it was the exceptionally inspiring scenery and sunshine.

I advanced towards Chatel, rusty lungs starting to burn, feeling the over indulgence at the wedding celebrations and last night’s charcuterie. I was simply grateful my legs were still working.

The French - Swiss border was only a few kilometres away and the cycle to the Pas De Morgins took me to 1370m above sea level. There were great views and a stunning lake. I was tempted to cross into Switzerland however rather than tangle with Swiss bureaucracy sans passport, I thought it best to turn around. I am not a great lover of fast descents, especially on unfamiliar roads with traffic. My 'overindulgence' made me pick up speed even though I was keen to take the descent gently.

I took a left turn to the Pont de la Joux, another stunning road, with forested hillsides, grassy meadows, smart looking chalets and the occasional spectacular waterfall.

Signs along the road suggested there was a climb to the Col de Bassachaux ahead at 1791m. There were cars and vans parked as many people were using the open chairlift for easy access to views, or to take mountain bikers to the top. While they were shooting easily downhill on the trails, I chose the slower, less direct ascent with its hairpin turns.

The sign at the bottom mentioned a 5% average gradient for the climb, however each subsequent sign seemed to be counting up, with the maximum at 10%!

It was a long climb so I stopped every now and then, mostly to admire the amazing views. I was overtaken at one point overtaken by a Mayfly, who I am sure was gloating over his victory. With 1km to go, the sign stated a 4% gradient, although as it turned out this was because that road section was flat, and registered at 12% on the Garmin. Well worth the effort though!

The clear blue sky, cowbells ringing, and the bracing mountain air and views left me feeling triumphant. I had lunch at the restaurant, and refilled my water bottle.
It is essential to be alert when it comes to hydration. I sweat like I am in a downpour, and need to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. There have been many times when I've got this wrong, and the resulting discomfort is not pretty.  I have suffered from headaches galore, and have even cramped so badly I'd dismount, screaming and writhing in agony. Utilising electrolyte drinks when exercising helps stave off these effects.

Suitably refreshed, I took a few more moments to soak in the splendour of the scenery, before beginning my descent. The cool air refreshingly whizzed past me and became rather cold in the shadows, something I did not notice on the overheated ascent. My hands had begun to ache with the chill and the constant pressure on the brakes. Once out of the shadows however I was able to pace along the lovely road back to Chatel.

3rd September

With legs a little sore from my previous day’s effort I was still determined to get out today and cycle to Col du Corbier. I was on a time limit today and wanted to avoid the busy narrow roads with thundering lorries that get a little too close! My warm up consisted of a slow descent as I was confronted with a headwind and had to pedal downhill from La Chappelle towards Abondance. I followed the road, unsure where I was going until I was diverted by roadworks which fortunately turned me onto the right road, with an immediate 10% incline. It would not have been my first choice, but knew the climb would be a beneficial challenge. Beyond the small village of Bonnevaux there are 6km worth of hairpins scaling the mountain. The view was once again glorious, with chalets, green meadows and clonking cow bells. The 5-6% incline was a welcome relief, and I was smug that I had not dropped to my lowest gear. However the smugness soon dissipated with the next climb.

I met two older men at the top – one with a Specialized alloy and the other a carbon Orbea. I enquired about their route and if climbing from the other end was easier than the way I had come. They were British as I could tell from their heavily accented French. They had cycled from Evian on the lake and had come up to this point up a road whose description sounded rather terrifying. Another man turned up as we were about to set off again, so I enquired about the descent to the Morzine side. He said it was comparable to the side I’d done. I decided to give it a go, but was dissuaded when my Garmin registered the trek back at no less than 10%. Time and energy were against me at that stage, so I thought it best to go back the way I had after reaching the top. I plan to return when time allows, but for now I had a 3km ascent ahead of me before turning to get back down to Bonnevaux.

Once I reached the summit I took a rest, and a few moments to soak up the scenery.  The visibility on the descent was good, with the road, the bends and the traffic feeling less treacherous than yesterday. Back on the main road the climb home went faster due to the wind blowing me up the hill. The road through Abondance to La Chappelle d’Abondance was amazing.  The surface is better than we have in the UK, and it is exposed to much harsher conditions and therefore needs to be more durable. There also seems to be less noise reflected off the surface which makes for a nicer ride.  I think the UK can learn a lot from French style road building! Now, back to the UK where the real training begins! 

15th-18th August - Training on Home Turf

Friday 15th August

Today was my first attempt at low heart rate rides, which is a great deal harder than it sounds. Unlike riding on a turbo trainer which ensures a steady ride, the road is curvy, up, down and sideways which makes it nigh on impossible to keep a steady heart rate. However once I managed to battle the traffic and get clear of the town I had a straight flat stretch of road to do some reps. I kept steady at 113bpm for 26km, within my zone 1. That is until I headed for home, which means cycling up a 10% hill. What a way to end the day.

Saturday 16th August

One of the week's highlights is the Saturday morning ride from my local bike shop, Beyond Mountain Bikes. The shop itself is a great destination and is clustered at Smithbrook Kilns near Cranleigh with a jeweller, a scuba shop, kitchen designers and all manner of other small businesses giving a very cosy community feel.

The cycling group consists of anyone interested in a long group ride before the shop opens at 10am. We cyclists have a unique concept of a fun Saturday morning. 14 of us set off on what I envisaged to be a potentially flat course. I was convinced that after so many of my fellows had ridden 86 miles the previous weekend in the rain and wind at the Surrey 100 they would still be recovering. More fool me! To my horror, Black Down near Haslemere was to be our destination. I winced internally whilst attempting to seem enthused. Even though the incline is only 6% the climb is 2.8km long, and with my modicum of extra fluffiness from my food fancying it is a little more challenging.

We hit it hard. I focused solely on my determination to neither walk, hurl nor be the last up, all of which I achieved! Then it was the easy way down, flying down the hill back to the shop for coffee and cake.

Cranleigh Cycle Club

Sunday 17th August

Sunday is the regular ride for the Cranleigh Cycle Club. It started in 2013 and has grown a great membership and practises the ethos ' Everyone gets to ride and no one gets left behind' which is an ideal I love. There are 3 distances and several groups of different riding speeds, so the racing whippets get a great run, but the steady pacers who just like to get out for a ride can enjoy the group ride.

I was feeling rough after a slight over indulgence at a wedding and reception on Saturday until the wee hours. I would feel unforgivably rude to turn down the generous food and champagne offerings at these events, although this morning I wished I had not been quite so polite!

I only saw the route this morning as there had been a technical hitch on the Garmin site. I decided on a C4 Medium which is 25 miles at 15-16mph. I am unsure why I felt the need for 2 hill climbs after a heavy night, and I get the feeling that my decision making was still impaired from the night before. But it was a strong statement to my liver that I would repent for being cruel to it by making the rest of my body suffer! There is no logic but it made sense at the time. In the end the hardest part was the Leith Hill descent.

Network Rail provided 6 of us with some excitement at the Gomshall level crossing, with continuously flashing lights. After waiting for some time and with no trains in sight, we determined the lights were broken and crossed without incident. We burned home for the last couple of miles and ended with sufficiently jelly legs. The coffee at the Richard Onslow in Cranleigh High Street has never tasted better!

Monday 18th August

I now have my training plan from Dave Lloyd! I am madly excited and somewhat fearful of the pain to come. Today’s exertions are 45 – 60 minutes on the turbo trainer at a recovery ride pace. I am accustomed to just doing what I can manage on the bike, that being deliberately slow is hard. It is also boring as hell, so I shall have to find something to do to make sitting there a little more exciting if I am to manage the allocated time. Maybe do some Sufferfest!



Tuesday 09.08.14

Today is the day for my ramp test with my new cycling coach.   In my commitment to my training I have taken the best coach I can find, regardless of the geographical challenges. Namely, I am based in Surrey, and he is based in Liverpool.

Dave Lloyd

By all reports Dave Lloyd is worth the journey; the blurb on his website even says so, so it must be true! I was sold on seeing “There is little doubt that Dave Lloyd is one of the greatest cyclists this country has ever produced”, on his site. It crossed my mind that the only thing missing is a little modesty, but it was a claim worth testing. Plus he has an amazing track record; he started cycling in 1969 to kick a 40 a day smoking habit. From 1979 until 1985 he dominated racing in Britain, winning 124 of the 133 races he competed in, and coming in 2nd in the others! In 1981 he won the Isle of Man TT by 7 ½ minutes in front of Laurent Fignon who went on to win the Tour de France that year.

I am tentative about the prospect of training with such a man, and lurch between excitement and awareness of the suffering I am about to willingly endure. The drive is long, yet should be straightforward. Until 20 miles from my intended destination where I am confronted with a stationary motorway and my ever increasing road rage, which I will from here on in blame on my apprehension towards the ramp test. And who can blame me? That ramp test is a beast, an entity to fear, especially with Dave at the helm!

The traffic announcers explained there had been an accident, and only one lane remained open. I concocted a cunning plan to exit at the first junction, only to find the traffic had ground to a resounding halt. Once again, I schemed to get clear of the vehicular quagmire by turning around to go a different way, and once more I was foiled at the pass. By now that ramp test was really upsetting me! Damn you ramp test!

On arrival at Dave's dungeon of doom I had a cuppa to recover from the previously mentioned stress over the ramp test. Then it was time to get MAMILED up and get going.

Dave did indeed live up to his reputation! The object of the test was to establish baselines, if in fact I could survive it.

For those who don't know a ramp test consists of cycling on a turbo trainer connected to a computer.  After warming up the idea is to find a cadence (also known as a pedalling rate) with which you are comfortably able to ride at until you can no longer maintain that pace.

We started at a steady 15mph, with 100 watts of resistance. The computer however is an accomplice in the torture, steadily increasing the resistance at 20watts per minute. It also said I ought to maintain this rate for 30 minutes! I scoffed, and was under no illusion that this was simply not going to happen, with Dave confirming he would be impressed if I made it to 10 min.

With this vote of confidence under my belt, and a heart rate monitor strapped to my chest I began to pedal. The initial nerves had settled by this stage, but I was still swimming in a sea of performance anxiety knowing what was to come.

The resistance began to creep up, as did my heart rate. I realise that I have a natural tendency to hold my breath, resulting in me looking like a heaving beetroot by the end! I made an effort to take the air deeper so as not to create a deficit, and to distract my mind from the ache starting to build in my legs.

The minutes trickled by with Dave still motivating me with encouraging words. At 10 minutes, 300 watts and 160 heart rate I began to feel like I was cycling through thick honey, and the pain set in.

13 minutes was the end of my valiant effort and the legs and lungs gave out. Final stats 350 watts, 177 heart rate. With numb arms, burning legs and a rapidly beating heart, I gave up for the day. My object had been achieved - establish a baseline for my training. I need to go for more than 13 minutes to conquer the mountain!


The Road to Haleakala

Haleakala is a massive shield volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The summit is 10,023 feet (3055 metres) above sea level.  Known as “Cycle to the Sun” it is the longest, steepest, paved road on the planet. 36 miles (57.6km) of unrelenting climbing at up to 18%.  

In 2014 the fastest man in my age group conquered the climb in a whisker under 3 hours (19.404km/h). 

About me

I'm your typical MAMIL (Middle aged man in Lycra for those who are unfamiliar with the title).  

Although I have a love affair with my bike, my physique would hardly be comparable to the Tour de France riders with their 0% body fat and lean sinewy muscles. This is because I also have an enduring passion for good food, wine and beer. I have lean sinewy muscles, they are just well concealed under a few fluffy layers deposited by a slight over indulgence. The result being slow uphill and great to draft behind. 

My aim

To just complete the trek without injury or permanent impairment. Part of me is determined to conquer the mountain, and the other part is not looking forward to the experience at all! 

I have made one attempt, and the mountain beat me. This time I am older and wiser, I know the trial ahead and how to prepare for it. Plus I heard a 10 year old made it to the summit, and I am determined not to be outdone by a child. Although well done him - I don't know if I would have been capable at his age.


My determination has driven me to take on a trainer to help me plan my summit assault; former Olympian, Dave Lloyd. He is going to hurt me, but I also know I need to suffer in the short term to have any chance to make it up to the top. 

In my quest to stay on track I will be blogging and photographing my training with Dave, to share my suffering, highs and lows with you all on my quest to make it to the top of Haleakala. This time it won't beat me! 

For more information about the summit click the links below: