The day we rode a National Champs and didn’t come last

The RTTC National Team Time Trial being 11 miles down the road was too good of a chance to miss. Being a TTT, it wasn’t likely to be fully booked so there was a decent chance of getting a ride.

Rob and Al agreed to form a team and away we went. Like most teams I imagine, we had a plan that we should maybe train together before the event. Also like most teams, we didn’t end up doing this till the warm up on the morning. A bit of WhatsApp strategy talk was as good as it got. We also managed to recruit a second Crewe team on the start list, Brandon, Ged and John F we’re lining up too.

I arrived at the HQ early knowing the small amount of concrete parking and how wet the grass would be after 4 days solid rain. Timed almost to perfection as I ended up parked next to Rob on one side and Al on the other.. I picked up my numbers and souvenir mug and started to get sorted..

We had agreed before that we would change from the back I.E the third rider comes to the front and then we all rotate. We knew the shouts we were making at junctions, for holes, if it’s too fast etc and we knew that whoever for the lead rider on the line would take us around the first turns. With that we were ready to roll for a warm up and into a practice.. Within 5 minutes we were up to speed and starting to rotate. It felt fast and smooth. Perfect.

We made our way to the start. The start road fully closed to traffic to allow riders to line out across the road.

The 3 minute gap between each team, with teams seemingly seeded slow to fast in the start order meant that there was little chance of us catching or being caught..

With the 30 seconds to go any nerves were gone and we were ready to go. 3,2,1, Go! I lead off which meant I would take us to through the first junction and get us up to speed. Through the first turn and immediately we hit traffic, another team slowly riding the course. FFS. We navigate through them and stay together as a team. 100 metres before the second turn and I was second in line. Al leads us through the turn at full gas. Over the M6 dodging the shite road surface and we were shifting. First passage of the Three Greyhounds and already a decent crowd had gathered complete with cowbells. As we approached the end of Penny’s Lane onto the A556 we were working well together, averaging over 28mph. It was pretty obviously a tailwind. As we turn left onto King Street this was confirmed, a strong breeze coming onto our right shoulders. Slightly shorter turns into the wind. Half way down King Street a tractor pulled out on us. Trundling along at 26mph. Not much we could do. If we overtake it he would be trying to get past us. Me and Al sit up behind it. The power and HR drop but our speed is no different than before. Mr Tractor’s destination is half a mile before the turn off King Street. We get back upto speed under our own steam, steady, don’t sprint away from cold legs.

Through the finish line for the first time and onto lap 2. The left turn at the Greyhounds again, superbly marshalled and still with cowbells. I’m third rider around and I’ve let a gap go, I’ve got some work to do to get onto Al’s wheel. I get back on and use my momentum to get to the front. Towards the end of Penny’s Lane Congleton CC catch us. I kid myself that they are fresher as they are still on their first lap. In reality the would still kill us on their third lap.

Back onto King Street. Slightly slower this time as the wind and distance take their toll.

Through the finish line and onto the last lap, I’ve managed to chuck a gel down me but I’m feeling it now. The process of sitting on the front, Rob coming past, accelerating slightly to match Rob’s speed, sitting in his draft, Al going past me and then having to accelerate to get to the front again is taking a lot of concentration, but makes the miles tick over quickly. The final acceleration takes a lot of willpower to get out of the draft, the temptation is to hit the ‘snooze button’ and stay in the draft for just a few seconds longer.

Third and final time past the Greyhounds. Much better this time. A mile past the pub and the squad of Sarah Storey with the Backstedt girls fly past us.

Final time down King Street. The wind is stronger and we are all feeling it. At least 1mph slower than last time. At the junction we are baulked by a car. Left and into final 2km now. We fly down to the bottom of Byley bank, steady up to stay together and the full gas to the line. We even manage a team pursuit like line out across the road. 1.12.35. Pleased with that. 25.5mph around Cheshire.

We slow down over the line. Al comes to a complete halt, I roll to the next junction and we all regroup. BIG smiles all round..

The second Crewe team finished in 1:18:01, a solid performance.

Looking back on it, there wasn’t many points we could improve on. We would never get anywhere close to Team Ribble with their 57:45, but we were all more than happy with our performances..

Chester RC 25 and WCTTA 10

A week riding around Centre Parcs with Mrs P and the kids was a great break from work and training but left me with 2 pretty heavy feeling legs on Sunday morning riding to the start line at Prees. I had tried to spin them out on the Saturday morning but it didnt really make much difference. I pretty much resigned myself to riding around and using this morning as a training ride..

From the top of Prees bridge I was off, my power meter was straight on this time so no high speed messing around with a Garmin. By the first turn at Press my minute man was in sight. As my garmin beeped for 5 miles I over took him, just at the exact moment my minute man – scratch rider Joe Dobson caught me. He flew past rock solid in his position and was gone into the distance. I on the other hand, barely made any more time up on my minute man for the next 5 miles.

Turning right at Ternhill, the headwind to the Espley island was fierce, enough to flatten the long grass at the sides of the road. Eventually reaching the turn, a horse tethered to the side of the road was doing a decent job of marshalling. With the wind pushing me back to Ternhill I was soon off the bypass and back towards Press. The wind from there on didnt really offer any assistance, more crosswind than anything else. I crossed the line with a 1:00:22. Reasonably pleased with that, despite feeling pretty flat all of the way around. The times on the board suggested that it wasnt the best of days..

Fastforward one more week to the WCTTA 10 on the quick D10/15 course. Last time I rode this was in damp conditions, making the start through the industrial estate sketchy. This year, sunny with dry roads.

With a my new Bioracer skinsuit back from Nopinz I was as fast as I could expect in the clothing arms race. Lets see if it made any difference. On the start line, exactly the same as last time I rode, my minute man was Paul from Chester RC, we seem to be pretty well matched so it would be good to see how I am going against his time. He sets off with his disc wheel echoing along the road and I start my Garmin. Exactly 1 minute later and I am on my way. The start is fast as I approach the first roundabout, straight round and I pick up the slight tailwind. Coming to the next one and I straight line it all the way through, much quicker than last time. Onto the A55 now and I can feel the headwind, its not much but enough to slow you. From I now to expect a wind from my left shoulder on the way out. The sheltered sections of the course are a big bonus here.

Despite riding the course previously, I had forgotten the small drags on the course. Enough to slow you down and then speed you up on the other side. Despite this, the outward leg feels pretty quick, when I get the tailwind coming back this could be a good day, maybe just maybe I might get that ’21’.. I come down the turn slip road at 33mph, the marshall tells me it is all clear and away we go. Climbing back up the return slip road and any speed I had has been lost – the first mile or so back from the turn on this course is slow.. down the other side of this drag and its clear that the tailwind is not there. Keep the power on and keep going. As I pass the Marble Church my minute man catches me and pulls away up the final turn slip road. Straight around the roundabout and sprint for the finish. 22:46, 3 seconds slower than minute man Paul. The return leg killed any chance of a 21. Its not very often that a tailwind section is slower than a headwind section.. Overall, I’m pleased with that, its my fastest time on this course and I was fastest Crewe rider, the new skinsuit is comfy and I think I am finally happy with my position, for now.

A nice steady week this week and then its onto the National 50Km TTT…

Lancashire RC 10 – Levens

My first trip to a fast course for the year. Not really a target event for the year, today was more about setting a benchmark, seeing where my fitness was.. plus, it’s always good to get on a quick course. I submitted my entry not really expecting to be fast enough to get a ride, however the acceptance came through and I was in.. The start sheet followed with a 19:57 start time..

Leaving Crewe in warm sunshine it looked a promising evening, I’d been watching the weather forecast all day and rain was predicted in the Lake District this evening, it was confirmed by a text and a picture of the course from Mike already up there on holiday.. As I got further up the M6 the rain got heavier, almost to the point of me expecting the event not to happen. Arriving at the HQ/layby I heard the word Mizzle more than once but it was on. After picking up my number and signing on the early starters were arriving back, some saying it’s fast, but an equal number saying it’s not.. Emily Meakin has come back with a short 20.. A course record..

I set my bike up on the turbo and covered it to keep the rain off for now.. After chucking some sandwiches down me and watching the riders around me warm up in the rain it was time to get myself sorted.

I’ve started doing a turbo trainer warm up this year, the Levens HQ is perfect for it, less than a mile from the start line. As I got on the turbo I was wrapped up, gilet on, cap on all in an attempt to keep the rain off me. The problem this gave me was overheating, I’ve never done a warm up where I’ve been steaming before.. in the end I stripped off my cap, gilet and base layer thinking how warm it was.

With 15 minutes to my start I was off the turbo, swapping my disc wheel in and setting off for the start. Within a minute I was back at the car to put my base later on.. it was freezing!!

Encircling the large roundabout twice on the way to the start to kill a bit of time I was soon ok the line and waiting for the countdown.

With 10 seconds to go I notice that my garmin is not picking up my power meter. There’s not much I can do in 10 seconds so off I go, hoping it will kick in. I was straight up to speed, over 35 mph down the start bank and heading into the wind. No power meter. I fiddle with my garmin and it kicks into life.

Mentally I try to split the Levens course into 3 sections – dual carriageway, single carriageway and dual carriageway to the turn. Then repeat coming back. I was onto the first single carriageway section already, the wind was cold on my left hand shoulder and my visor made seem like it was dark. I passed Kimroy Photography stood in a lay-by then hit the second DC section upto the turn. The roundabout is on me quicker than I thought and I have to force my way over to the outside lane with the traffic. Nice and steady around the roundabout, not leaning it too far over in the wet and then head back for the finish..

The tailwind I was expecting wasn’t really there. It was quicker than the outward leg but not by much. Onto the SC section and I’m certainly trying, my 192bpm HR confirms that. My 3 minute man comes flying past me. His bike almost whistling through the air it was making such a noise. I recognise the rider from the CTT website but don’t know his name..

I hit the last DC section, I know that I should be flat out now and indeed I am. The only problem is that flat out effort isn’t really translating to flat out speed, my legs are done.. I hang on for the last mile and cross the line, quickly slamming my brakes on to stop at the slip road junction.. The garmin says 22:33. I’m pretty sure it’s less than that but not by much. I crawl back to the HQ, a mile journey that takes well over 5 minutes. I cross paths with Dan Bigham as he is heading to the start.

22:27 is the time on the board. Ok, it’s close enough to my season target of a 21 to know that it’s feasible on a decent day..

I give all my gear a wipe down and pack the car ready for the drive home.. As I give my number in, I see my 3 minute man (Chris Fennell) has done an 18:19, good enough for the win and a time that would have been comp record in 2001..

Crewe Clarion Hilly

One of my first targets for the year. I won the Foster Cup last year at this event as fastest Crewe Clarion rider, my aim this year was to keep hold of it.. Its been close this year between Tim and me so the pressure was on..

In my normal style I managed to pick up a cold on the Monday before the event.. A few days off the bike (most of the week), sorted it. My first ride of the week was on Saturday with 45 minutes on zwift to see how I was going.. I started some hip flexor stretches during week as I wasn’t feeling particularly fluid on my TT bike. With my new flexible flexors and no cold, I felt quite good!!

The early morning sun as I left home we bright but wasn’t providing much heat as I scraped the frost from my car.

After a chat with Rob at the HQ I set up my bike on the turbo and had my number and kit on. New socks and a new front tubular were this weeks attempt to make myself quicker..

I had volunteered to helped out Andy with some of the organising, taking on the co ordination if marshals. All of the marshals knew where they needed to be and by what time so I had nothing else to do on that part of my job.

I set off for the start after 20 minutes on the turbo. I had another 20 minutes ride to the start so I would be warmed up by then despite the cold that was nipping at my fingers..

A gel and a drink and I was in the start line. Ged asked me if I was feeling good? “Not too bad, we’ll see in a bit I suppose”

Garmin reset, my minute man is a DNS. I’m on the line and away, a steady start before turning after 300 yards. The rolling roads to Audlem should be a headwind and do seem to be a headwind. My power is where I want it to be and I’m spinning a low gear on the drags. I catch my 3 and 2 minute men after 4 miles or so and head into Audlem. A good traffic free passage through the town and the narrow walled section, the only exciting incident is me pushing too hard around the last corner and having to bunny hop a grid by the kerb.

The steady drag upto Woore now. I know that the sections from the start to Audlem and Audlem Woore are where the biggest advantages can be made, my power is good still, probably higher than it should be but I think I can manage it. The slight tailwind is gently pushing me up the bank. As I come into Woore my legs are cooked. I know the descent past Bridgemere would give me a breather, I pass Caroline on the descent and try to maintain some pace on the flatter roads. It’s not happening. Through Checkley cross roads and I know I’ve got less than 5 miles to go, all I can do is keep turning the pedals over, my average power is dropping but I’m making progress still. Around the corner to the finish and I’m done. I stop my Garmin in a 41:44, slower than last year but i didn’t really have much more to give so I’m pleased with that.. My garmin beeps a new power record at me so I know I’ve gone hard enough!!

I was off as number 11 so when I get back to the HQ I’ve got a bit of a wait to see if I’ve kept my trophy. Nothing for it but to fill my face with cake and a cup of tea. With all the times in I’ve done a 41:46, good enough for a mid term position, fastest Crewe rider and member of the winning team.. A good morning out and some silver wear for the prize presentation in January.

Macclesfield Wheelers 25 and Birkenhead Hilly 22.

110psi I put in my front tub. 110psi, what was I thinking of. I spent 1:02:27 riding around the J2/9 pothole stricken course with permanently sore shoulders or wrists. I hate the course on the best of days, but the Easterly wind made Twemlow Lane seem double it’s normal length for the Macclesfield Wheelers 25.

On the plus side I set a new FTP. So I got one positive out of the event.

Onwards and upwards, literally in the case of the Birkenhead North End Hilly 22.

Setting my alarm too early meant I was sat around the event HQ at Farndon with nearly an hour and three quarters before my start time..

After a chat with Mark and then Tim I was set up and spinning for 20 minutes warm up on the turbo, jumping off, swapping my disc wheel in and then the 4 mile ride to the start.

Rolling up to the line I remembered that I didn’t like hills and also wasn’t overly keen on this course either. The start is a 25 metre roll down to the Broxton roundabout before turning left into a 10 mile slog upto Whitchurch. Mywindsock reckoned the leg to Whitchurch should be a cross headwind, it seemed like headwind to me. I was riding at a higher average power than I had planned but it seemed to be ok so kept with it..

Turning left at Whitchurch and heading to Ridley Green have a good descent and a sniff of tailwind, as the road gradually curved to the right, the tailwind disappeared back to a cross wind. After the initial descent the road started rolling again making it seem harder than it should have been..

The left turn back towards Broxton means that there are less than 4 miles to go, but, 3 off these of uphill… I don’t do hills..The last mile is a fast downhill effort to the finish, as I crossed the line I stopped my Garmin with a mid 54 – a course PB by nearly a minute. My garmin beeps at me again with another FTP increase, only 1w but progress..

I need to find some courses that I like now..

Both pics by Ryan Morley


My initial idea behind riding this event was as a recon for the National Team Time Trial course, when the organiser changed from the Byley, King Street course to the Byley, Toft course that plan went out of the window, any chance of a half decent time went with it..

Having trained all winter on zwift, my first event a couple of weeks ago felt strange to not have any power figures in front of me, I felt lost. With that in mind I bought myself a set of Garmin Vectors. My first outside ride on these was to be this event.

From a recent test I did I had a decent idea in my head what power to aim for – all I had to do was pedal hard until I hit that number and then maintain it. Easy. All week I had been plugging this number into the mywindsock simulations and all week my predicted finishing time was getting slower. The gale force winds that were forecast were slowing me down before I had even started..

Race day dawned and the forecast looked pretty much spot on, a massive side wind from left on the way to the turn and then swapping to be on my right shoulder on the return leg.. Watching live videos of the Eddy Soens race in the morning highlighted how windy it was, I bottled it and took my deep section front wheel out!! The old school mavic Aksium would have to do. I kept the rear disc on as that had 13 stones weighing it down in the cross winds, that wasn’t going to get blown anywhere.

Arriving at the HQ parking spaces were already limited to on the grass. I get my number and signed on. The rear number was fine in the new Nopinz pocket, the arm number was still a pain one handed.. I got on with my warm up on the turbo trying to figure out getting my garmins to talk to each other.. With 20mins to go I set off for the start still trying to figure out the garmin situation.. The wind was blowing now and bringing with it cold air. A few sprints on the way and I think I know what I’m doing with the garmin.

I roll up to the line with 5 minutes to go, the timekeepers assistant wants to take my gilet off me, I’ll keep hold of it for a bit longer!! As I shuffle forward to the line I hand over my gilet at the last possible moment and reset my computer, hoping I’ve not turned of my power meter too.. With the countdown and off we go.

I’m up to speed pretty quickly thanks to the tailwind start, within 1/4 of a mile there is a blind junction so i take it easy past that, once that’s clear I get down into the tuck position. Looking at my power I’m higher than I was planning but it feels ok so I keep it at that mark, as I turn left at the end of Byley Lane the power spikes as I get back upto speed. The crosswind starts from now. In fairness it isn’t too bad, not as gusty as I expected, be mindful past any gateways or sections without a hedge and it’s fine..

Coming up to the Whipping Stocks bend the wind feels as though it might even be of assistance slightly on the way back, as soon as I turn at Toft I realise it isn’t. My speed drops to just above 20mph even with a slight descent.. The last 3 miles are hurting, I think I pushed too hard on the way out, chasing too many watts. The line comes just in time. 25:01, not fast but about what I was expecting on this course. Interestingly, i was 1 watt higher than the prediction I put into mywindsock and 5 seconds away from the predicted time.. I’ve got a fair bit to learn with watts, CDA, TSS and probably a lot more, but every day is a school day!!

I crawl back to the HQ for a brew and a cake, there are four other Crewe riders on the start line so let’s see how we have done..

Chester RC Hilly 14

First one of the season. Last year’s event was ran off in sub zero temperatures, I put in my postal entry this year with the thought of DNSing if it was anywhere close to them temperatures. Ultimately, it was a balmy 14 degrees.

After 3 months of Zwifting I was keen to see;

1. Would I start the season any fitter?

2. Could I still ride a real bike outside?

No.2 was answered the weekend before with a couple of hours out on the Sunday morning.

Back into the routine of packing the car and driving to obscure Village Halls or car parks, I arrived at Broxton picnic area to see familiar faces. I signed on and collected my number. My intention in November when I ordered my new skinsuit was to have a new skinsuit for the season with a Nopinz pocket in the back for my number. In the end, after numerous phone calls and emails to Pro Vision, I didn’t have a skinsuit. I was in my old Crewe suit trying to pin my number on myself, not an easy task on your own.

Once I had made a hash of fitting my number and sorted my bike and gear out I was onto my turbo. A decent 20 minute warm up, 10 mins steady then slowing ramping up to threshold by 17 mins. Never done it before so let’s see how it goes.

With 15 minutes till my start time I was off it, sweating in the sun.. Disc into the back wheel and aero helmet on. I drained the last of my bottle and stuffed a gel down my throat. A trip for a pee, ride around the car park, get a bollocking off Christine Roberts for the state of my number, get a warning from Phil Guy about a set of potholes on the a41 that had brought him off, another pee and then I was on the start line.

With the familiar 5,4,3,2,1, Go in my ears I was off. Left onto the a41 and I had one objective. That was to hold off my minute man until Platts Lane. The start was quick, picking up the tailwind and I was soon over 30mph. Through Milton looking out for the potholes I could see Mike my minute man in the distance behind. I as approached the turn into Platts lane I was still in front of him – but not by much. Within 100 yards he was past, telling me to get my finger out..

My HR was pretty much where I needed it to be now, Platts Lane felt surprisingly fast too. Left turn out of this lane and I overtake my minute man just before the junction. A change in direction now started to hint at a headwind, I tucked into the hedge the best I could whilst dodging the rough surface.

Left past the Grovesnor Arms pub and the headwind and dragging gradient wiped a lot of speed off, down to 20-21mph, the next 2 miles weren’t nice, a case of limiting time lose.

A change of direction at Farndon and back towards Broxton and the 2 climbs of the day. My 2 minute man had just caught me and was flying. The first climb passed Cock’O Barton felt ok, I picked up speed past Carden Park only for a truck to pull out on my right at the bottom of the final long climb. Nothing I can do, I lost a lot of momentum – 30mph straight down to 15mph. I made the most of it and sat right behind him until he built some speed up. The rest of the climb felt hard but in control coming over the top and I floored it in the 12 sprocket upto full speed again, only for the road to raise again just before the finish. Crossing the line in 35:28. Pleased with that, I had a 36 in mind so more than happy with that. Great to be racing again.

Onto the next one in 2 weeks.