A year of progress

After a long break in blog entries it’s time to bring you up to speed. 2018 has been a breakthrough year in several ways and I’m very excited about what I have in store for 2019.

Jo Burt’s brilliant new book, Longer Rides, has just been published by Rapha and features the condensed wisdom of some incredibly talented ultradistance riders – but also me – to guide you from short rides to your first 100 miler, a double century and beyond, towards the really silly stuff. My contributions were added just before I left for the US and I could probably add a few more now. Jo is a great writer and illustrator and the book is a lovely thing. No macho nonsense or willy-waving, just a witty and interesting guide to going longer, with gems in there for novices and old hands alike.

The Trans Am Bike Race was this year’s major target. Chances are you know the bigger stories from that race already but I’ll dig into the hidden aspects and interesting details in a forthcoming series of state-by-state blog entries. I was proud of how I managed my race and applying all the lessons I’d learnt from the previous two years. This was the first race where I didn’t consider myself a rookie and I could see the experience paying off. Of course you never stop learning and I still cocked plenty of things up found new ways to improve my racing going into next season.

Trans Am feature in Cycling Weekly

Compared to previous years I finished the race in pretty good health. With the race also wrapping in June it was great to recover and still have a decent amount of the season left. I travelled a lot (China, Puglia, Lofoten, Turkey) and then in October I got back to weekly circuit racing. These kinds of short, sharp races don’t suit me but that makes them a great workout and an opportunity to train my weaknesses. You’ll always lose your ‘top end’ after a big ultra – that’s your sprint power – and it takes a while to come back so I went into these races without expectations, beyond receiving a good shoeing. 

Over the last couple of months I’ve begun training with more structure in a bid to plug those gaps in my power curve. While the new ultradistance bike is in build I’m sticking to shorter rides and crit races, hoping that my endurance base is deep enough to see me through. It’s bearing fruit and the focus on shorter, nastier intervals is shown in some of the regular Strava segments I ride and even the crit races. I have a decent cardio and endurance base but I never rebuilt the strength in my legs after those years of surgery and stalled rehab, so I’m hoping that a bit of focus here will pay dividends when it comes to the hills on ultradistance rides. Train your weaknesses and all that.

Crit racing is as much about race craft as it is physical ability. I read an article recently that casually mentioned how crit racing is really for the kids rather than 35+ blokes who are likely to be outgunned. Now I don’t think that’s true for riders who’ve been racing a long time but it’s a tough discipline to enter if you take it up in middle age, certainly compared to ultras. I’m happy to say my top-end power and my race craft are both making big improvements though. I’ll keep racing these short crits over winter at Lee Valley, Cyclopark and Redbridge but would love to find some longer road races too.

One long race is Revolve24 at Brands Hatch. This was the first race I entered back in 2015, where I won my category and came second only to a relay team of two. This kind of distance suits me so much better! This year I didn’t fancy another 24 hour race so I entered the 6 hour instead, winning that with 51 laps and a comfortable 5-lap lead. I was still beaten by another relay team though. Should I race again in 2019? We’ll see.

On my way to a win at Revolve24

Speaking of 2019 my calendar is starting to take shape. In January I’m off to Tenerife with a crew of ultradistance hitters. I did this in 2017 and it was such a huge boost to kickstart the year. One or more of us might shoot for an ‘Everest’ on Mount Teide, but we’ll see. 

One of my bigger targets for the year is the 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) which runs every four years. It’s very similar to London-Edinburgh-London but a little shorter and hopefully in better weather. No whopper climbs but plenty of small rolling terrain, which is another reason to focus my training on shorter intervals and nudging my FTP up. Björn Lenhard took the win in 2015 with a time just under 43 hours. It’s a brutal distance because it’ll be run non-stop and flat out.

PBP also requires some qualifying events so I’ll need to ride a 200km, 300km, 400km and a 600km event between January and June. I’ve booked my 400 and 600 already as they quickly sell out on PBP years. That’ll be the awesome London-Wales-London, which I also rode last year, and the 611km Wander Wye. I’ll need to figure out the 200 and 300 a bit later, once the calendar has settled down. 

Mont Ventoux. The Bald Mountain. Giant of Provence.

There are plans for a commando raid on Mont Ventoux in May to join the Club des Cinglés (Club of Fools). Membership is granted by climbing the mountain from all three sides within 24 hours. There’s also a fourth climb which is more of a goat track and requires a gravel bike or MTB and grants you extra special idiot status, so that’s tempting. It’s early though and the top could easily be closed for snow so the date is flexible.

I will hit the big four-oh in July so hope to celebrate with a long weekend somewhere interesting. No racing, just a rough idea of which direction I’m heading, some mates, some beers and some bivy bags. I like the idea of revisiting the Atlas Mountains but haven’t settled on a destination just yet. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

The National 24 Hour Time Trial Champs (Mersey Roads) has been on my radar since I started looking at ultradistance riding but has always clashed with my target race for the year. 2019 is different though so it’s time to give it a go. Several friends have held (or currently hold) that title and while I know I won’t be able to challenge the top specialists – guys like Michael Broadwith and Nick Clarke who are in a class of their own – I’m hoping to put in a respectable performance in my first attempt. I’m lucky to have an amazing bunch of mates helping me with kit, coaching and support so there’s no excuse for not hitting my potential.

There are a few other interesting things in the pipeline but I’ll save those until they’re confirmed. Let me know if I’ll see you at any of these events.

7 thoughts on “A year of progress

    1. Thanks. I’ve pledged to be less precious about them and get these stories out there more regularly. “Don’t let great be the enemy of good.”


  1. That’s a very good read – really good luck with it all in 2019.
    I think Ventoux is a special place and I know you’ll enjoy the Cinglé but I have you thought about the bicinglette? My Cinglé was a bit less than half of my everest (both climbing and distance).


    1. I’ve considered it. I’m trying to ween myself off box-ticking for the sake of it. Climbing isn’t a strength of mine and an Everest is especially tough on my knees and achilles, so needs to fit intelligently into my training calendar. I’ll see how the climbing goes in Tenerife later this month.

      Liked by 1 person

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