domingo, 22 de mayo de 2022

KW - Dauntsey Dawdle 2022 (400km Audax)


I don’t know what type of cyclist I am anymore.

My current thinking was that I was a breakaway specialist but I’m not quite sure.Three riders broke away and stayed away the whole ride. Missing the “winning” move is not precisely the sign of a great breakaway specialist, is it?.


I certainly can’t be a climber. That was obvious even before this ride started. Riding the first 75km of the ride with Harry was an unneeded confirmation. One of the type of him chatting casually while we were climbing and I was at the edge of a heart attack.

Not a descender either. I never was a good descender. That’s not a surprise. But picture this. At the top of one of the hills I got a cookie from my back pocket. We started to descend when I had eaten only half of it. Tried to descend chewing half a cookie, keeping the other half in my left hand but the descent was steep and the road was full of potholes and bends. I ended up involuntary dropping that half of the cookie. Probably a good thing because I was starting to get too close to losing control of the bike. Not, not a descender. 


At some point in the past I thought I was a good rouleur but yesterday I got proof that is not the case. As soon as we hit the flat part of the ride my two riding companions set a pace that got me hanging in there. Every time I moved to the front our speed decreased by 4 km/h. At some point I blamed it on not having my aero bars fitted on my bike (they both had aero bars), but that didn’t help to explain my struggles to keep the wheel.


I’m not a sprinter either. I never wanted to be but yesterday I got a painful reminder. I did the first part correctly, I sat on the second wheel the whole ride into Hampton. Not a single time the idea of taking a turn in the front crossed my mind. So far so good. But then, somehow, I got distracted. Deep  in my own thoughts only got back to real life when I saw us crossing the line. Me in second position. What kind of sprinter gets distracted seconds before sprinting!!! 


Are there any other cyclist types I could fit in? I’m running out of ideas.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/7181275612


Take care

Javier Arias González


sábado, 14 de mayo de 2022

Convincing myself of the most weird things


The route was announced and the first thought that came to my mind was, “another short and flat ride” (https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html). Easy on paper.


The catch was the ride was announced as K1.5. For those of you not initiated in the Kingston Wheelers’ classification criteria, the fastest rides are classified K1. K1 rides are “eyes popping out” hard like rides. K1.5 ones are “you keep your eyes in but everything else still hurts” hard like rides. 


8 riders signed up for the ride. And then Bidders showed up unannounced. Just that added 2km/h to the average speed. I smelled danger. By my account everyone was stronger than me. 


That’s what I signed up for. Why do I do this to myself? I tell myself I like riding with this bunch, I tell myself these rides are good training, I tell myself these rides are “fun”. I’m great at convincing myself of the most weird things.


Did a decent effort (by my standards) up Green Dene. Dai decided to bail from his own ride. I moved from being the weakest of 9 riders I was then the weakest of 8 riders. I took it as an improvement. I am definitely great at convincing myself of the most weird things.


Collected a bunch of PRs between Greene Dene and the Devil’s Punchbowl just holding the pace of the group. Very happy with that, I took it as my form has improved lately. 


Another decent effort up the Devil’s Punchbowl helped me to convince myself that my form had effectively improved. Weird, because form doesn’t change from one week to the next but, hey, I didn’t have any problem convincing myself.


The rest of the ride saw me sitting at the back of the group. That is not weird, more than one would say that’s expected. Wheelsucker Javier and all that. But my reasoning was, I’m tired, everyone else is stronger than me, if I want to have any chance at the sprint I need to recover. The best place to recover is towards the end of the group. Flawless reasoning.


The group of 8 became 7 and soon afterwards the group of 7 became 6. That “increase in my racking” increased my confidence towards the sprint. Well, that, and the opportunity to recover for about 20 km. Still couldn’t really tell what contributed more to my self-confidence.


There was only one little problem… I needed a pee stop. But I had so many pee stops I was embarrassed to ask the group for a stop. I was praying for anyone else asking for one. But that didn’t happen.


As soon as we made it to Cobham I knew there was not going to be any pee stop. Time for me to show my skills. I managed to convince myself that when you focus on strenuous effort your sphincters close themself up. I had the vague suspicion that they would release themselves after the strenuous effort finishes but didn’t have time to entertain that idea and its consequences because The Pope attacked in the first “climb” towards the Esher sprint.


I have done such a great job at convincing myself that I had good legs that I felt tempted to follow him and launching a counter attack. Good that I’m a great sprint strategist (I have convinced myself of that a long time ago) and decided to sit in and let someone else close the gap. 


That’s exactly what happened. And that meant I was in the position I wanted. Third wheel of six riders, on the wheel of the rider I wanted to be. My confidence skyrocketed. 


The Pope launched the sprint from the front. A bit too early for my liking but I didn’t hesitate and went for it. Full of confidence…


For about 5 seconds. The time it took me to realize Steve was on my wheel and about to pass me at a speed I was not going to be able to match. 


Second in the sprint. In my mind the sprint looked like this one:




Weird because the reality was that he took the sprint by three or four bike lengths. I had to do something to justify that result. Time to think… quickly.


Before we even got to the traffic lights at Esher I had managed to convince myself that if I had marked the wrong rider but if I had marked Steve I would have taken the sprint. I didn’t miss the opportunity to tell everyone at the traffic lights that was the real reason why I haven’t taken the sprint. 


What is a bit weird is that I managed to convince myself of that without changing my conviction that I’m a great sprint strategist.


Did I mention that I’m very good at convincing myself of the most weird things? It is almost as if my brain lives in a parallel world.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/7140718694/


Take care

Javier Arias González



 


sábado, 9 de abril de 2022

KW - Amesbury Amble 2022 (300km Audax)

Put two Ed in your ride and your average speed will increase by almost 2 km/h.

Amesbury Amble 2019 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2287639549) - 27.9 km/h

Amesbury Amble 2021 (https://www.strava.com/activities/5340745666) - 28.0 km/h

Amesbury Amble 2022 (https://www.strava.com/activities/6955948704) - 29.7 km/h


The Pope acted as The Pope and started to attack each ramp we faced. Ed van der Poel following suit, me happy just hanging in there.


We stopped for lunch at Amesbury and you could tell that didn’t go down well in Ed van del Poel’s body. He started to struggle a little. 


Quite the opposite for me. I started to think “Actually, I’m feeling quite well”. What did I do? I started to visit the front. That’s not like me!!! That is more like if I were playing Denis’ role. [I thought about writing that I was playing Dai’s role but that wouldn’t be accurate as I wasn’t at the front all the time].


By the time Ed van der Poel started to recover The Pope started to struggle. To the point that I thought that today he was playing JFW’s role.


The problem was that Ed van der Poel was getting a strong second wind and he started to play Bidders’ role. A moment I decided it would be better for me to play Javier’s role… Except when we hitted any ramp. When we hitted any ramp I started to play The Pope’s role and felt almost compelled to attack then.


The problem with that attitude, no matter how laudable, is that you get tired. Maybe I wasn’t playing The Pope’s role all that well.


So I decided to focus on playing Javier’s role. I know I can play that one quite well and we were approaching the final sprint so that role comes as a second nature to me.


Ed van der Poel played Denis’ role despite we had agreed The Pope was going to play it. I’m not sure what role The Pope played because he disconnected from the sprint. I definitely was playing Javier’s role.


Ed van der Poel didn't play Denis’ role that well. Instead of keeping a constant and steady pace he kept accelerating. He almost dropped me!!! Well, not only that… He almost took the sprint!!! Attacking from the front!!! That’s not a great Denis’ impersonation I have to say. 


Luckily I was playing Javier’s role to perfection and managed to take the sprint. I’m pretty sure Ed van der Poel still doesn't know where the line is. No one ever said spriting is a fair game.


I am convinced Ed van der Poel didn’t enjoy his role as Denis’ either because came Coombe Lane and he decided to play Ed van der Poel. Coombe Lane was Santa Caterina in 2021, I played Julian Alaphilippe and you know how that ended.


I was still very happy with my ride (probably happier than Alaphilippe with his at that Strade Bianche). At no moment I struggled. Power decreased in the second half but was still decent. Finished feeling well. A strong sign that endurance is coming. Happy days.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6955948704/ 


Take care

Javier Arias González


sábado, 2 de abril de 2022

A Few Plan Execution Failures

This picture is from a similar ride to Brighton in May 2021

Not-flat, endurance ride (https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html)

After all the doubts I was having yesterday (https://www.strava.com/activities/6916608361), knowing this is a challenging route and that I was accompanied by three very strong riders to say that I started riding conservatively is an overstatement. 


I was in panic mode. 


I was lucky the first two climbs were ridden at a steady pace. That meant I wasn’t dropped.


That also meant I started to warm up and feel a bit better. So much so that I moved to the front. 


It was around km 30, just about the time a short and steep climb was about to start. Not exactly a “ride conservatively” great execution. 


Funny enough I felt ok(ish) on that climb. The Pope took the KOM of course but he wasn’t that ahead. Could I have closed the gap? I think so. Did I try to close the gap? No way. I’m bad at executing strategies but not that bad. I was just happy passing the climb and not feeling terribly.


That was the tone for the next few kilometers. That is, me trying to ride conservatively but not feeling that bad. 


With not feeling that bad came the unwarranted optimism. I might get a PB up Ditchling Beacon I started to believe. Nothing justified that thought but that was exactly what I was thinking.


Sure enough as soon as the climb started I went for it. As always happens (to me at least) I started a bit too hard. But I was still optimistic. The Pope had started the climb a few seconds after me so my great plan was to jump on his wheel as he passed me.


The Pope passed me and once again my execution of my own plan was not great. Meaning I didn’t jump on his wheel. 


In fact he was climbing so fast that I almost gave up in my PB attempt. 


I didn’t give up but I didn’t get a PB either. Not even close. 31 seconds slower. Although looking at the numbers 6:17 at 330 watts, it was a decent effort.


Coffee stop at the Regency as tradition dictates.



I don’t like the start after the stop at Brighton. It is uphill from the go, it is normally windy, and today was not an exception. I fell back to my “ride conservatively” strategy. 


A strategy I managed to stick to for 15 km. I honestly don’t know why I bother with strategy planning. 


What took me away from my plan was that I found myself again and again following The Pope’s wheel up every single ramp. And there were lots of them.


But I was feeling fine so why not. 


That feeling fine was most likely the product of the coffee I got at the Regency. I was not only feeling fine but also feeling optimistic.


I started to plan where to attack The Pope. 


I even tried to execute on that plan…


With even less success than the “riding conservatively” plan. 


It went like this. A short climb approached. I recognised it. I moved to the front. I standed on my bike. I pushed the pace…


For about 20 meters. Then I realized I didn’t have the legs for such a magnificent plan so sat on my saddle and slowed down.


The Pope passed me and opened a gap that looked like 30s in about 200 meters.


Time for another genius plan. “Stay on The Pope’s wheel and be happy if you manage to do just that”. 


That’s exactly what I did for about 25 kms. I managed to stay on his wheel and I was happy with it. Even if that was only because he wasn’t trying to drop me.


Something I only realize now, I didn’t appreciate it at the time. 


At the time I was thinking about keeping on his wheel up Box Hill and taking the KOM passing him in the last meter.


A fantastic plan for me. Not fair, but what a great achievement that would have been.


Because it didn’t happen. As soon as Box Hill started The Pope accelerated the pace and I was dropped. I don’t think I lasted 100 meters. Another fantastically executed plan.


Didn’t have much time to mourn. Horton sprint was coming and I needed a plan. A good one.


So I figured out a good plan. Stay on Denis and The Pope’s wheel all the way to the last roundabout and outsprint them 10 meters before the line. It took me a while to figure it out, but a good plan. Not fair, true. But a plan with chances of success. After all Denis is a GC rider and The Pope, a pure climber, had been riding in the front for the last 80 km. I figured I had my chances.


I still failed to execute it correctly. Somehow I found myself taking turns with Denis with The Pope sitting on our wheel 🤦‍♂️


I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with myself. All my plans were great plans but my executions were failing. 


Luckily for me I still took the Horton sprint. 


All's well that goes well


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6921123459 


Take care

Javier Arias González


domingo, 27 de marzo de 2022

Tired but survived

 When the alarm clock went off this morning, after yesterday's hard ride and a one hour shorter night I was tempted to bail from the ride. I still don’t know how I managed to don’t do it but I’m glad I didn’t. The ride was not easy, there is no easy ride to Sumners Ponds, but I had enough to play a semi decent role of filler in a group of nine riders and not being dropped. The secret to happiness is to have low expectations. 


Today was also the day we saw JFW returning to cycling. And what a return it was. As always he took all the early town sign sprints, those he only knows where they are. That was expected. But I was also expecting to last about 30km and the surprise came when he beated GC Denis (and me, of course) up Hound House. That was not expected. After Hound House I thought he would turn left and head home. But no. He did the whole ride!!!! That was even less expected. Sprint power, climbing legs and endurance. I am now pretty sure he has been riding without telling us. 


Finally, also today, I was discussing with Dai alternative sports to cycling. His main point is cycling is a sport that requires you to travel with a big case. I suggested chess. It looked to me like I'd do better than in cycling, even if I barely know how to move the pieces. But now, a few hours later, I found out my real call. You know, there is short siesta, which is less than 15 minutes, siesta and siesta marathon, at least two hours. Being a long distance rider I thought I’d try my hand at siesta marathon today and I think I already managed to qualify for the next olympics. And now I’m not even tired. I’m a natural.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6890968557


Take care

Javier Arias González


sábado, 12 de marzo de 2022

Oops!...I Did It Again


What? What is what you did again? Was it to sit at the back of the group for most of the ride?

No, no. That is expected. No news there.


Was it to have to stop for a pee very often?


No, no. It wasn’t that either. We had rain at the start of the ride and I think I got cold. It is true that I had to stop a bit too often, even for my standards but that wasn’t it.


Was it that you were lost most of the route?


No, no. I am always lost half of the route! Today I only recognised the first two climbs. I actually missed Rupert at Abinger. I know he loves to smash that climb and I love to try to sit on his wheel all the way.


Was it that you dropped The Pope?


Would you believe that? 


Nor me. The Pope was dropped but it was not my merit. We all agreed The Pope todays was Thibaut Pinot’s reincarnation.


It must be then that you had a coffee at the stop.


No, it is not that either. I definitely had a coffee. I know I sound like a broken record but I found myself riding with a group where everyone was riding stronger than me. I had to resort to caffeine to be able to deal with the pressure.


Ah, if you had a coffee then what you did again was to start taking turns at the front as you were a strong rider. It must be that.


It is not. Yes, I started at the front and didn’t shy away from taking turns. I probably expended a few matches I didn’t have but that happens all the time. Caffeine clouds my common sense and make me believe I am Wout van Aert’s reincarnation (The Pope can be Thibaut Pinot’s reincarnation; just in case you had any doubt there is no way I am Wout van Aert).


Oh well, it is clear then. What you did is to take the final sprint at Hampton.


No, it wasn’t that either. I agree with you that considering what a shitty sprinter I am, taking two final sprints in two consecutive weeks is surprising enough to exclaim “I did it again”. But what about the “Oops”. That implies that I didn’t want to do it and you can believe I wanted to take today’s sprint. I wanted it so bad I used all the tricks I know. Positioned myself perfectly at the back of the group, waited for the right moment to launch my sprint, and, very important, made sure no potential contestant knew where the sprint line was. That helps.

Of course the two potential contestants asked where the sprint line was. And I gave them the right answer. “Go ask Rupert and good luck”. So proud of the sharpness of my brain coming out with that answer.


A shame that I continued talking and gave away where exactly the finish line is. 


Oops!...I Did It Again. For a second consecutive week I gave away where the sprint line is to riders that are considerably stronger than me. 


Not so proud of my brain sharpness now.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6812110837/


Take care

Javier Arias González


domingo, 6 de marzo de 2022

I need a MIB Neuralyzer?

 Jumped on the bike and realized the rear disc got bent in yesterday’s flight, it was rubbing so I had to ride back and get another bike.


I thought of taking my summer bike but that one is on the turbo. I would have to take it out of the turbo, put the rear wheel, pump it up, etc. I was already tight on time so decided to go for the winter bike. That one was just there waiting for me to grab it.


Riding to the meeting point I realized the front brake was not recovering. I used it once and it got stuck rubbing the wheel. I didn’t mind. I was late and I don’t like to be late. I pushed through it and got to the meeting point just on time. 


Jumped off the bike and tried to find out what was going on with the brake. Couldn’t figure it out so I told the group they should go ahead and I’d go back home and get my summer bike. There were seconds of hesitation until The Pope came with the solution. Just open the brake, it is happening the same to mine and I’m doing it all the time. I tried and it worked. Leaving the brake full open meant I had to pull the lever all the way but the brake would stop the wheel and when stopped pulling the lever it would recover just about to leave the wheel to rotate without friction. Let’s roll.


Let’s roll meant I was in a group with nine other riders. Moving at what felt like a very fast speed, everyone looking stronger than me, me riding a 12.5 kg winter bike, all heading to Sumners Ponds. I’ll confess I panicked a little bit.



It is a cliché by now but Sumners Ponds’ rides are known for not being easy and for being a killer ride for the weakness riders in the group (more details here https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2018/10/you-need-to-read-this-if-you-are.html). 


This is barely a surprise for anyone, but feeling how I was feeling and knowing what was coming, I made the conscious decision I would avoid the front of the group like the plague.


And that is exactly what I did. I am very experienced in that skill, almost a master. I don’t think anyone will be surprised by my success at it. 


From my position I was able to admire (and envy) the work the pace The Pope was pushing. He was on fire. The rest of the riders were also riding strong. In my mental calculations I was the seventh strongest rider out of ten. Not ideal.


Made it to Sumners Ponds surprisingly in one piece. Although in retrospect it wasn’t that surprising. We had tailwind most of the way, we went there the “easy” way, did I mention I wasn’t seen in the front?


I ordered a coffee regardless. I knew most of the climbing was going to be in the second half and we were going to have head wind. I didn’t feel too tired but I was very worried.


The second half of the route went actually better than expected. I found myself relaxed, confident and feeling strong. Caffeine is a godsend!!! 


I still rode cautiously though. Leith Hill was coming, a climb I don’t like, let alone riding my winter bike. After Leith we still had Juniper Hill, a climb I like, and the sprint at the Horton roundabouts, a sprint I like but felt was going to be very contested today.


Survived Leith Hill. Didn’t get into the red and still wasn’t too far back. That increased my morale. I started to think my riding mates were getting tired and I was actually feeling ok(ish) (no wonder, they were riding in the front all day and I wasn’t).


Juniper felt a bit too easy. The Pope led it from the beginning to the top. No one dared to pass him. I was able to admire (and envy) how he was climbing, even if I could tell he was fading out a tiny little bit. 


By the time the final ramp came I surprisingly found myself third wheel and with a gap at my back. I still had something in the tank so I decided to sprint for the KOM (I know, I know, very cheeky). I passed Ed, still sitting on the saddle. Put my hands on the drops and as I was going to attack The Pope my left pedal uncliped. Words I’m not very proud of came out of my mouth even if I managed to stay on the bike. 


The Pope took the KOM but I was still very happy with my second. Kind of like Valverde yesterday as Strade Bianche. At the top of Juniper is where it is obvious who was slaughtered in just another Sumners Pond ride. I was just happy it wasn’t me. So much so this song came to my mind (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTMgX1PDGAE).


Happiness (and caffeine) made me visit the front of the group so no one can say I didn’t contribute to the average speed. Yes, it was probably only 1 km and yes, it was all downhill but the Horton sprint was coming and I was already considering how I would play it. I was still part of a fast moving group of 10 riders.


Lucky had it that as we were leaving Epson it was only The Pope, Ed and me. I looked back and only saw a rider in the distance. I figured the rest got stuck in a traffic light. Well, that simplifies matters a little bit.


By the time we get to the first roundabout The Pope was at the front, Ed on his wheel, I was third wheel and the fourth rider joined us. I took note we had head wind and, still, I thought my best chances were attacking from a far (that’s the danger of watching Pogacar racing). 


A couple of roundabouts and we rotated Ed moved to the front and The Pope to the back. One roundabout and we rotated again. Not sure how the rest got organized behind me but I’m certain I found myself in the front for what it felt like an eternity. 


I started to slow down. Part of it was that I felt the wind and I was starting to get tired, part was me slowing down to force someone to pass me. The Pope attacked.


Not a very strong attack I have to say. In fact I decided I wasn’t going to close the gap. I wanted the other two riders to pass me so I could move to the back and stay until the final sprint.


But they were not coming. 


So I slowed down a little bit more. 


The gap grew bigger. I still was thinking I would be able to close it if I wanted but I was worried about bringing the other two riders with me. I slowed down a little bit more.


Finally they both passed me. I sat at their back and waited for them to close the gap.


Now I was thinking that as soon as we got to The Pope I was going to attack. I was still thinking my best chance was attacking from afar.


The problem is the gap with The Pope was closing very slowly. By the time we got to him we were in the last roundabout.


The Pope started to sprint but I saw Ed coming faster from behind him so I followed Ed. 


The problem is Ed’s kick was very strong and he had a small gap. I kept pushing and managed to get on his wheel with a second to decide when to attack him. 


Luckily for me Ed didn’t know where the line was so a few meters earlier I moved to the right, gave it a push and managed to take the sprint.


Now I was over the moon. Not only did I manage to survive a ride to Sumners Pond but also managed to take the final sprint. I was close to starting dancing when we stopped to re-group.


Still, so much optimism made me make a huge mistake. Ed mentioned he didn’t know where the sprint line was and there I went giving him all the details about it. 


I don’t know why I gave away such important information to a rider that is clearly stronger and faster than me. Clearly I’m not the cleverest out there but I have a plan, I’m now googling “MIB Neuralyzer” (and a new disc brake).


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6782123453/ 


Take care

Javier Arias González