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11.011 – A smoother week

I looked back at some pictures of me training in the winter the other day and they seemed a million miles away from the dry dusty trails that we have at the moment. The cold grey drizzle, the endless hours in the dark, the layers of clothing and hours of going virtually nowhere in foot deep clay – I wouldn’t swap back to that for all the money in the world, but wealth and power matter little to mother nature and as sure as eggs are eggs I’ll be putting those layers back on in a few months time. However as we push on toward midsummer I wanted to have a look at just what an average week entails (like I did in 11.005 pt.1 and 2, when we looked at a winter’s week and weekend) and how removed it is from winter’s base training, so let’s take a look at last week;

Monday’s in the summer are much the same as in winter and are based around recovery and repair, both of the bike and for myself. It’s a great chance to get some miles in on the race bike and check that everything is okay with my set-up for the coming weekend so I’ll usually ride to work and get any parts that I need on my lunch break from the local bike shop. If it doesn’t need too much then I’ll try and get a few hours in after work, give the bike a clean and then a basic service. Then the race bike is tucked up at home until the weekends racing.

Tuesday this week started with a lie in – I don’t often get to stay in bed until eight so this was a pretty good start. I’d showered the night before and loaded up the van so when I did get up I got some breakfast down me and then hit the road. It was a long drive up to Nant Peris in North Wales, but as I drove deeper and deeper into the land of the dragons the smile on my face grew larger. Part of my job with Cotswold Outdoor is to be trained in the knowledge that helps us recommend the right kit to anyone from the mountain professional to the amateur and so this week I’d come to Wales to brush up on my climbing expertise. By the time I’d pitched my tent in the little campsite by the pub I was ready for a hike up toward the cloud base to have a look about, just after a big plate of pasta.

Wednesday started with Bacon sandwiches, this isn’t really ideal when you’re looking for maximum carbs, so I teamed those up with a couple of bowls of cereal and then got ready for the days trip to the DMM factory in Llanberis. We spent an amazing morning in the factory learning about hot forging, heat treating, quality control and product testing. DMM are able to design, realise and test all of their equipment within miles of their tiny factory by making full use of 21st century on-site design and real world testing in the local slate quarries. We spent the afternoon just over the Menai straights on Anglesea getting used to some of the gear at an indoor wall. Back at camp I downed another few plates of pasta and then I set about getting some miles into my legs ready for the weekend, by climbing up the road to Pen-y-pass on my spare bike. It wasn’t quite as far as I’d though so I did three sets at fairly high intensity and then settled into my sleeping bag with a book, some more food and a bottle of recovery drink.

Thursday is my hardest training day in winter, but becomes a rest day in my summer program. This week we got up early and headed up into the sunny slate quarries above Llanberis to test the hardware for ourselves. For lots of us this was the first time we’d placed gear in the wall and it was my first time on slate. With a day off the bike my main focus is to eat well and get lots of rest – Today was therefore not ideal as when I was done with my training and my first E1 climb I had to then drive for three hours over to Yorkshire and the town of Pickering to get ready for my race at the weekend. I got some dinner before arriving at the next campsite and then made second dinner when I got there. Another bottle of recovery drink and it was time for bed again.

Friday in the summer is training day. If it’s a national race then I’ll usually take the day off, get to the race and put some early laps in or at least try and get up to the race venue after work. If it’s a local race then I’ll head out on the road bike for three or four hours after work. This week however was a world cup and so we had a very restricted testing window between 2pm and 4pm. This was closely followed by a sprint race in Pickering town centre at 6pm. I had an absolutely horrid time in practice, I felt awful and I bent the chain on my spare bike before shouting at it and then getting rained on – I therefore chucked everything in the van, ate as much as I could and got the camera ready for the Pro Sprint race. Those boys are super quick and a massive congratulations has to go out to our very own Annie Last for owning second place in the woman’s race – very cool.

Saturday is practice day – at the world cup this is heavily restricted as there are various Junior and Under 23 races going on, but you can learn a lot from watching these guys so I took the camera out to spot the best lines and see what set-ups would work. At a national I would normally aim to get something like four or five laps in, with maybe two together, but with a big plate of food in between the others to fuel up for Sunday. I’ll change bike set-up, especially focusing on tyres and tyre pressures as well as suspension, but I’ll record everything as I go so I can see what works and what doesn’t. A very early night is essential.

Sunday…I should really have “The Chain” as my alarm clock! That’s pretty much what is going on inside my head as I fuel up on rice pudding, pasta and Hob Nobs! About an hour before the race I’ll take my drinks to the feed zone (and if it’s aloud my spare bike), and then go out for a warm up – very low intensity somewhere on the road with maybe a small section of the course thrown in to check the set-up and then onto the rollers. Then after gridding you put all those little niggles behind you as the gun goes and you race for the hole shot. If all goes well you get yourself into the top third and then assess the situation. It’s difficult to stay calm, but if someone close to you is riding at the same pace you can often get rid of them by sitting on their wheel and building the pressure up till they’ve had enough. As you work your way through the pack you start to find your rhythm and by sensing the weak points for other riders you can move forward yet again as the race goes on. This is of course unless you’re the front, in which case any tactics go to the dogs and you just ride as hard as you can and don’t look back!

In the elite race at Dalby this is exactly what Jaroslav Kulhavy did and not even the Olympic champion (Julien Absalon) or last year’s winner (Nino Schurter) could get onto terms with him. England’s Oli Beckinsale grabbed a brilliant top 25 placing and made it a day to remember. It was unfortunate that one of my favourite riders (Sven Nys), a Belgian cyclo x legend who comes from the same village as my Grandma, managed to spectaculary faceplant at Worry Gill, but that’s racing I guess – sometimes it just isn’t your day, “but don’t forget, it goes the other way too”!


G x

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