sábado, 23 de octubre de 2021

GC Denis

Everyone that has ridden with Denis knows that Denis’ nickname, GC, is very appropriate. He is one of the most consistent riders in the Saturday gang. Denis is always there.

Denis is a very good climber. Take any climb we have in our rides and Denis will be there or thereabouts. I use him to gauge my own pace. If Denis is around I’m climbing at the right pace. If I can’t see Denis around I know I’m going too hard, cracking will be just a matter of time and Denis will inevitably pass me while I have to slow down gasping for air. Using Denis to pace myself means I have sat on his wheel literally for hours taking advantage of his constant pace. I normally hang there at my very limit, dearing the moment he stands on the bike. I know he is not attacking, he is just alternating positions while climbing but I have cracked more than once at one of those moments. 

Denis is also a very good rouleur. Excellent at taking turns, capable of riding at a very constant pace for kilometres to end, almost immune to distance. We have ridden together a lot so we know each other very well. We don’t need to talk, without words we know how we both are feeling and what is the adequate pace to be efficient.

Denis is not a good sprinter though. That, everyone knows. Although I managed to lose a few sprints against him (and those were not even close to the most embarrassing moments in my cycling career). But Denis compensates that by being very generous with his efforts when the final sprint approaches. That makes him the perfect leadout man. Today was one more proof of that. 

Denis, Ed and myself were approaching Hampton’s sprint. At the last roundabout, still a few kilometres from the sprint, two riders passed us. There was a moment of confusion as it seemed they wanted to wait for some other riders and we wanted to keep our own pace. At some point three riders passed us at a considerable speed and I jumped on their wheel. It turned out those were some of the riders the other two were waiting for so those two riders jumped on my wheel. All in all we ended up being a group of nine riders. Denis, Ed, myself and six of them. Me sitting on the third wheel. Perfectly placed if you ask me.

But at some point one of the riders that was behind me moved to my side and said something on the lines of “I don’t mind you sitting our our wheel but do it at the back of the group”. Fair point. I know it is very annoying when an unknown rider infiltrates a group that is riding together so I moved to the back. Now it was the six of them, then Denis, then me and Ed closing the group.

The amount of traffic at Sunbury on-Thames meant the whole group had to slow down and start the approach to the Hampton sprint almost from a standing start. At that point I thought the road was too crowded and it was pointless to take part in the sprint. I even allowed the group to open a gap with me and Ed. 

But then I saw Denis looking back and I knew instantly what that meant. He meant business. 

I quickly closed the gap and sat on Denis' wheel. Time to hold on there and admire Denis’ masterpiece.

The pace was fairly fast. Still, at the very right moment, Denis moved to the right and started to pass the group. Sitting on his wheel I witnessed the surprised look in every rider we were passing. That WTF look you give when you are barely hanging on someone’s wheel and still see a rider passing you on your right. 

Don’t be wrong. Denis didn’t attack. If he had attacked he would have dropped me. What Denis did was to check if I was on his wheel and created a constant acceleration that produced the effect of passing the riders we had on the left and, at the same time, consciously and on purpose, giving me a lift to the front. 

Again at the very right moment, Denis moved to the left. He placed me nicely sitting on the third rider. That was the moment I thought of lifting my arms and starting clapping. I wanted him to know that his masterpiece didn’t go unnoticed. Unfortunately I had some work to do. The third rider started to drop and I had to pass him to close the gap to the other two.

Just when I was half way of closing the gap I saw the two riders in the front losing speed, I figured they had called off the sprint so I too slowed down. 

A bit of a shame really. It was far from certain that I would have taken the sprint but I was eager to give it a good go. If only to honour what Denis just had done…

…earning a second nickname. “Leadout” Denis.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6153961847/ 

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 17 de octubre de 2021

Went for two masterpieces. Got three lessons

 So here comes Juniper.

We are 9 riders in the group so I made sure I was fifth wheel when we turned right. 

I checked where everyone was and I took note that Richard L was behind me. Dai at the front. Denis third wheel.

Not bad positioning if you were to ask me.

I rode there comfortably the first half of the climb. When the steep ramp came I moved up and positioned myself in third wheel. Dai still leading, Alan following him.

Such a great feeling to go through that descent knowing your legs still have some power and your tactics are working.

When the last ramp came Dai pushed the pace and opened a small gap. I didn’t panic and stayed on Alan’s wheel a bit more. The gap was not increasing very quickly and I knew I could close it.

Then I decided to close the gap. Moved to the right and put some power on the pedals. It was not a sprint, I was still sitting on the saddle. I just knew that was enough to catch and pass Dai.

That was almost a masterpiece of tactical execution!

When I figured I had opened a gap with Dai big enough I looked back and slowed ever so slightly to enjoy the celebration of such a magnificent win. 

Only to discover Richard coming at speed. I immediately knew there was nothing I could do. He got me.

Two lessons there; you would imagine I should know them by now, but it seems I need a refresher. Always wait until you cross the line to enjoy the win. Never forget Richard. 

So now the Horton roundabouts spring comes.

I start on the sixth wheel. 

I know that is a bit too far back so at the second roundabout I move to the fifth wheel.

I know Richard is behind me. You can be damn sure I’m not going to forget that!

Denis gets to the front and sets a very strong pace. 50 km/h at places. Such a great leadout man!

I’m sitting on Dai’s wheel. He knows I’m there. He even makes a sign to tell me he is watching me. 

I don’t mind. I know I’m in a very good place. I know where everyone is. I know I haven't forgotten anyone. I know what wheel to follow. Denis is keeping a fantastic pace. I’m saving my legs. I’m feeling strong. This time I’m going to get my tactical masterpiece.

In the roundabout before last I see Richard passing me on the right. I played cool. I knew it was a bit too early.

In the last roundabout I knew I was wrong. Suddenly I realised I had five riders ahead of me. They started the sprint. I started the sprint. But quickly I realised it didn’t matter. It was too crowded for me to get even close to contesting the line.

Another lesson there; you would imagine I should know them by now, but it seems I need a refresher. When you turn left in the last Horton roundabout you have to be second or third wheel. Otherwise it’ll get too crowded.

There you go. I went for two tactical masterpieces and ended up with three lessons.

The rest of the ride was great.

sábado, 16 de octubre de 2021

One of those days...

Today was one of those days.

One of those days that you surprise yourself feeling strong. Especially after a week in which I felt very tired on Tuesday (slept 12 hours that night) and only had a 90 minutes of easy pedaling on the turbo. But the reality is I surprised myself, maybe the coffee I had at home has something to do with that. 

Today was also one of those days that it was difficult to get your clothing right. Felt cold early in the morning but suspected temperatures would be mild around midday. I spent half an hour trying to decide what I was going to wear.

It was also one of those days that soon after you start riding it starts to rain. Not a lot but that type of rain that if it goes like that for the whole ride you know you are going to end up soaked. Luckily the rain didn’t last long. Still a reminder I was back in the UK.

Today was also one of those days that felt that everyone was really stressed. Car drivers in particular. At some point it felt that everyone was driving like a maniac. Like the rain, it didn’t last long, it was just statistics at play, it soon felt that drivers were behaving as usual.

It was also one of those days that climbing up the Puchbowl I surprised myself holding Ed’s wheel. To a point that I thought I was going to take the climb. I even attacked sprinting for the KOM… Only to find I got the KOM line wrong and there was still a bit to climb. Not much, but enough to see Ed disappear and Denis passing me while I was at the edge of a heart attack. Yes, today was one of those days.

Today was also one of those days that I didn’t know where I was 90% of the time. Yes, I know I have ridden this route many times. I just couldn’t remember it. I was recognising the roads, at times I even knew what was coming. Like when I realised that Hog hill was coming (about 1km before the hill). I really dislike that hill, it is short and steep. I started to pray for a road full of cars that wouldn’t allow us to take it at speed. Unfortunately as soon as we turned left I saw the road was completely empty. Did I mention that today was one of those days? 

Yes, today was one of those days that because you feel strong you put in a bit too much effort and when you are around km 100 your legs send your brain the message that they are getting tired. Your brain knows you still have 30km to go and to make things worse you are told the ride finishes with the Esher sprint. It is not only that I was feeling tired, it is also that I couldn't figure out how we were going to get to Esher from where we were. For some reason I was thinking we were finishing with the sprint at Hampton!! A sprint, that riding with GC Denis and Goat Ed, in normal circumstances, I shouldn’t have any problem taking. Now, the Esher sprint… riding with Ed… feeling tired… That's a completely different story.

But today was one of those days that I skipped just one turn, but it was the right one to skip. That left Denis on the front and me on Ed’s wheel. Ed slowed down, Denis opened a gap and I waited, and waited, and waited. While Ed was constantly looking back. At some point he said something to me but I didn’t understand a single word. I was busy measuring Denis’ gap, calculating how far the line was and getting Ed’s cadence looking back to attack a second after he looked back. 

And that’s what I did. For some reason Ed didn’t follow me, in my dreams I imagine it is because of the moment I attacked. I only had to deal with Denis. It turns out Denis didn’t know he had a gap so he was riding at a constant pace, the pace he rides to launch us “sprinters”. I passed him and took the sprint.

Today was one of those days.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6120836349/ 

Take care

Javier Arias González


domingo, 10 de octubre de 2021

Back to the UK

First ride in the UK after three months in Spain.

I knew I was up for a bit of a shock.

It started in the morning when I realised I needed to put my clear lenses. It didn't look like dark lenses were really going to be needed.

Then it was the realisation that I was a bit underdressed. I wasn't in summer kit, I was wearing a long sleeve inner layer and the club jersey but I certainly could have done with a gilet and arm warmers.

Then it was the pace. Nothing mental but the constant up and down got my legs. By the time we got to the coffee stop I was starting to worry... so I ordered a coffee (the strongest sign that I'm in fear).

Then it was that coffee. I like Beeches tearooms and I think it is a real shame the place is going to close at the end of the month. I love their scones with clotted cream and jam (that's as British as I can be). But all that love can't hide the fact their coffee wouldn't stand a chance against the average coffee in Spain. 

Take this last point with a pinch of salt though. I'm probably trying to put blame on something that is not my own physiology for having to have a pee stop after Tanhouse, then another one at the top of Juniper and then another one as soon as I got home. Coffee is great PED for me but it certainly has its side effects.

Finally it was the thin rain that started as soon as we hitted the Horton roundabouts. Nothing serious but just enough to make us to take it easy in all roundabouts. That allowed for a "slow" and "easy" approach to the final line with me sitting in third wheel. When Marek moved to the front I glued myself to his wheel. He attacked and opened a small gap but being on his wheel was too much of an advantage so I managed to pass him just before the line. 

It is great to be back to the UK, to ride again with the Kingston Wheelers and to see that certain things haven't changed.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6092123389

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 18 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 7. Last ride in Girona...

 For now, because I’ll be back. Girona has been a great experience. 

The quality of the cycling here is way beyond what I was expecting. In a way, I was expecting Girona to be an overvalued cycling destination but the reality is that, if anything, it is an undervalued cycling destination. 

Girona as a city is small and very manageable. If you stay close to the old city you can walk everywhere. When you get on your bike you are out of the city in ten minutes.

I was also surprised by the diversity of the climbs. Short, long, steep, gentle, you have all possible combinations. The general quality of the roads, most of them with very little traffic and the traffic you find is generally friendly and respectful. Add to that a variety in scenery. Some areas are very similar to Tuscany. If you get to the coast you are rewarded with magnificent views of the mediterranean sea. You can ride through deep forests or climb exposed mountains. 

All I can say is that I totally recommend visiting Girona for a training camp. Especially if you come with a bunch of friends like I did. They’ll kill you riding, that’s a given but the experience will be a million times better. 

At the end we rode 8 days, including a short ride the first day to check the bicycles and a rest day. I rode 825.61 km with 11906 metres of climbing. Not bad.

Time now to have a few bottles of wine over dinner and start planning the next training camp. 

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/5980320790/

Take care

Javier Arias González

viernes, 17 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 6. I might have done something wrong

 Very rarely I go for a ride without a master plan. For me it is part of the fun. 

This time the masterplan was: “Let’s attack Ed in every single ramp/climb and then take him up Rocacorba”.

Yes, I know. It didn’t look like a very sensible plan. But my hypothesis was: If I attack him hard enough and enough times he might crack. Not sure on what I was basing my hypothesis on, last three months I’ve been focusing on riding long and steady, still, somehow, I believed I was going to react better to lots of short and intense intervals.

Now, anyone that knows Ed and knows me would say that is a silly plan. Brave, very brave but very silly. No chance it would work.

But those would have been speculations. We didn’t know for sure.

Well, now we know for sure. It didn’t work. That is how science works. That is how knowledge is created. Javier attacking Ed in every single ramp and climb before Rocacorba didn’t crack Ed. In fact it almost cracked Javier. There you have another piece of knowledge.

Javier being as clever as he is (despite his silly hypothesis) realised he was about to crack around km 40 and guessed Ed was not about to crack. So, once on that point, Javier changed his master plan,

The new master plan was: “Forget Ed, focus on staying with Denis and Richard and beat them both in the last 100m to the top of Rocacorba”.

Full of confidence that I was going to be able to execute that plan I sat on Denis’ wheel from the beginning of the climb. As very often happens he was climbing at a rhythm that had me on my limit all the time. At some point we (Denis with me on his wheel) opened a gap with Richard. Easier sprint I thought. 

Not for long though, two kilometres and a half from the climb, in one of the steep sections Denis stepped on the bike and opened a bit of a gap. I tried to close it but that took me over my limit. I had to ease up. The gap grew bigger.

Quick, new master plan!!! “Don’t try to hold to Denis’ wheel but keep pushing, you’ll get him in the last ramps”

Well, that plan didn’t work very well either. In fact what happened is Richard passed me at full speed in a flat section of the climb. Denis was not in sight.

Ok, forget Denis. New masterplan is get Richard and beat him.

I knew a steep section was coming and I knew I could do well there. And I did. I got to Richard, I passed him and I even saw Denis up the road. 

Change of plans then. Get to Denis slowly (and silently) and get him on the line.

Thirty seconds later the gap to Denis had grown bigger and the gap to Richard had shrinked. It seemed like the plan wasn’t going to work.

Ok, no worries. New plan: Focus on keeping Richard behind you. Third at the top of Rocacorba is a great result.

A shame Richard sprinted up the hill and passed me around 200m before the climb. The gap he opened grew so quickly he got there 30 seconds faster than me.

30 seconds slower than Richard, 48 seconds slower than Denis and 5:11 slower than Ed. None of my plans did work that well really.

Half depressed I found consolation in knowing that I was leading the sprinters classification by a great margin. At the end of the day it is the only classification we all care about.

The problem was that “the other sprinter” TY took the sprint to the lunch stop in Banyoles. As soon as I got the news (I was waaaay behind) I thought it was a fluke.

But I was wrong. After lunch we went for a ride around the lake and TY took the Banyoles sprint. Again!!!

I didn’t worry too much. I hadn’t spotted the sign so it was more of an opportunistic sprint than anything else (one of yours Will).

Still the fact was that “the other sprinter” TY had taken two sprints in a row. Seeing him sprinting up hill against me and Ed rang all the alarms in my brain.

For good reason. The next sprint was a head to head sprint between him and me and he took it. Fair and square. 

He even had time to take another one as we were approaching Girona. Very worrying.

Masterplan for tomorrow? I’m going to stick like glue to “the other sprinter” TY’s wheel. My hypothesis being he won’t notice I’m sticking to his wheel and I’ll take all the sprints.

I’ll report tomorrow on how that worked out.

jueves, 16 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 5. Rest day

Rest days tend to be uneventful. Late start, short ride, riding easy, some chatting, all fun.

Still, as always happens with big cycling events, there is always news during rest days.

In our case I can confirm that “TT” Adam has abandoned the training camp!!!

His team has argued this is a pre-planned move, something related to a previous family commitment and about having the return ticket booked for today even before the training camp started. That’s what the team says.

Rumor has it that the real reason is more related to unexpected levels of cortisone in his body. The non-official explanation is that wanting to alleviate the stitchines of local mosquitos’ bites “TT” Adam went to a Spanish pharmacy and bought some cortisone based drug over the counter. 

It is not clear for me how that drug was used but looking at “TT” Adam’s performance yesterday (second at the climb, able to take a few sprints) I decided to visit the same pharmacy and complain about local mosquitoes. They sold me the same drug and I am now lying in bed with my body completely smeared in cream. 

I might look a bit silly now, but tomorrow I’m going to fly (like the mosquitos).

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/5968776455

Take care

Javier Arias González