viernes, 26 de mayo de 2023

One more cinglé du Mont Ventoux

Short but hilly ride (

Very, very happy with this ride. Not because I managed to get a great performance but because I managed to do as best as I could considering my circumstances.

Saturday’s 600k ( left me very, very tired. Since then I have been completely focused on my recovery. To the point that I had to endure a few jokes from my riding mates when I refused a few beers, they saw me drinking milk or went to bed early. It doesn’t matter, I still love them and I was motivated to be as fresh as possible today.

And I managed to start today reasonably fresh. At least fresh enough to sit on the wheels of Bidders and GC Denis. The Pope being the mountain goat flew up the mountain every single time. Very impressive efforts. Bidders was my hero of the day. He sat in the front on all three climbs setting a metronomic pace. Challenging but not killing us. The picture shows how delighted I was to be able to stay on his and Denis’ wheel on all three climbs. 

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 21 de mayo de 2023

Bryan Chapman Memorial (600km Audax)

I said it before but I’ll say it again. In my view this is the best Audax ride in the UK. Wales is stunningly beautiful, especially with the weather we had. I love the climbs, the good tarmac and more than anything how well the event is run. No wonder this was my 7th time riding it (2013 -, 2014 -, 2016 -, 2017 -, 2018 - and 2019 -

For me this ride was a dress rehearsal for Paris-Brest-Paris. I carried all the kit I plan to carry at PBP and followed a similar strategy. So I tested riding steady all day, short stops at the controls, what to eat on the bike (the little sandwich of spicy chorizo has been a success), riding through the night while tired, the kit I’m going to wear riding through the night, charging devices strategy, using the Shokz bone conduction headphones in the early hours to help deal with the sleepiness, new frame bag, etc.

You'll be excused for thinking I’m a master of planning and preparation but you couldn’t be more wrong. I’ll just say that 175km from the finish my di2 ran out of battery. Yes, I had forgotten to charge it… again.

Stuck in the small chainring for 175km and scared to death the battery ran out of juice completely, I minimized the changes at the back. Which meant I attacked small ramps overgeared, which emptied my legs pretty quickly. Free wheeling for long times meant my heart rate plummeted and my body temperature followed suit. What was meant to be 8 hours of riding ended up being almost 10.

Again, you'll be excused for thinking I had a terrible time but you couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, I shouted a few swear words (in Spanish, swearing in Spanish is more powerful) but that lasted 30 seconds. After an impressive display of Spanish swearing capabilities I focused on enjoying the ride and had a fantastic time. I love riding at night on quiet roads. I almost had time to find the secret for world peace.

That was it. I finished tired but very, very happy. In fact I’m already convinced I’ll ride it again next year.

The ride in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 29 de abril de 2023

Four times lucky

Not from today's ride but close enough

13 days without touching the bicycle.

A trip to Argentina. Ate a bit too much. It turns out I like Malbec so I also drank a bit too much. Walked a lot, although I’m not sure if that is good or bad for cycling.

Still slightly jet lagged this morning you could argue I was a lamb on the way to the slaughterhouse.

But I’m a lucky man. Four times lucky I was today.

First time was the route we were riding. We were NOT going to Sumners Ponds. Almost five years ago I wrote: “Believe me, I have seen this happening to a lot of riders. Doesn't matter how strong you are. You go on holidays for two weeks, come back on the bike after a cold or simply join the wrong group to Sumner Ponds and you'll be slaughtered. That's a fact.” (

If we were riding to Sumners Ponds nothing could have saved me but we were riding to the Devil’s Punchbowl and that gave me hope. 

Hope is a dangerous feeling. Instead of riding conservatively I went a bit too hard in the first hour.

Yes, that was a decent effort up Green Dene but as sure as eggs is eggs (I just googled this expression) I paid for it in the second hour. To the point that I blew up massively as soon as the Devil’s Punchbowl climb started. 

It was so bad and obvious that when I got to the top Rupert sang Don’t cry for me Argentina to me and it felt very appropriate.

But that also was the moment I was lucky for the second time. We were stopping there. 

A stop that lasted almost 40 minutes, a visit to the loo, a scone with cream and jam and, crucially, a latte and I managed to recover a fair bit. Enough to feel comfortable in the ride.

The third time I was lucky was at Hogs “hill” ( I hate that climb. I prayed and prayed for it to be full of traffic so we couldn’t go all out on it.

As we were approaching it I saw lots of traffic and almost cried with joy. The perfect excuse to take it easy and save my legs.

To save my legs for the final sprint of course. 

The Esher sprint.

A sprint I had perfectly planned. I was going to sit at the back of the group the whole way and outsprint everyone with 100 meters to go. Infallible.

The problem was my plan didn’t last long. As soon as we hitted the first ramp a gap was created in our group. Richard and Denis in the front group. Tom, me and Rupert (in that order) in the second group. 

I saw Richard and Denis starting to work together and the gap growing. Time for a new plan.

I was going to wait for Tom to finish himself trying to close the gap. Then I’d attack, drop Rupert, close the gap, sit on Richard and Denis’ wheel, wait for the last 100 meters and outsprint them. A seamless plan.

That was when I was lucky for the fourth time. The only traffic light on the road was red. Denis and Richard had to stop and we caught up with them. 

Didn’t feel too much shame for not having the opportunity to test my great plan. I’ll admit the situation was now much better for my chances. Especially when Rupert discarded himself for the sprint.

When the time to sprint came it was me and Richard contesting it. 

Somehow I managed to get it and that saved my day. 

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than strong or clever.

The ride in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 25 de marzo de 2023

Breakfast in Laviana

The plan was to start riding at sunrise, ride fasted to have breakfast in Laviana.

I was also testing my new bone conduction headphones.

Both ideas, riding fasted and using bone conduction headphones, with Paris - Brest - Paris in mind. 

I selected a random playlist and amazingly as I was taking the Laviana town sign sprint Breakfast in America was playing (this is absolutely true), the Logical Song. 

A place called el cafetón (literally, the big coffee) looked adequate to the circumstances even if when I entered I thought Ain't Nobody But Me.

The good news was the pintxos looked great and I was hungry. It would have been the Crime of the Century to get only one so I went for two. Chicken and Spanish omelette, orange juice and coffee. 6€ 

While I was eating another man entered the place. That made it Two of Us so when I was leaving I said Goodbye Stranger and he responded Take the Long Way Home.

I enjoyed the ride so much that from now on I’ll add it to my repertoire to train riding fasted while listening to music at sunrise.

Let’s see how that works Live in Paris.

Ps. Congratulations if you got the musical reference. Now make sure you have schedule your prostate cancer check, it is a must at your age.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 4 de marzo de 2023

The Trans Siberian Express

I joined a ride with three other riders without knowing what the route was going to be. Always a great idea if it is your mother’s birthday and you have to be at the table for a family lunch at 14:00.

At 11:30 we stopped to get some water and someone mentioned a 25km climb was about to start. 

The magnificent road captain in me did some basic physics calculations and got to the conclusion there was no way I’d be on time at my mothers. 

As surprising as it sounds I knew where I was so I told my riding mates I was going to head home following the direct route. “Half an hour to the top of La Cobertoria and two hours to get home from there. 14:00 at home that is” I told them. 

My riding mates gave me a great tip. “Don’t descend all the way to Pola de Lena, go through Cuchu Puercu and you’ll get to the top of El Cordal”. An amazing shortcut.

Any Kingston Wheeler that ever came to Asturias got a first stage that included Cobertoria, then El Cordal and finally El Angliru. If I knew that shortcut back then we could have skipped the whole climb to El Cordal (5.3km at 9.1% I’m pretty sure TY would love to know this, one more shortcut to his repertoire.

In my mind La Cobertoria was an easy climb. In fact at some point I decided I wasn’t going to use the 30 at the back. 27 is plenty I thought. I didn’t remember that La Cobertoria is an 8km at 8.7% climb (

But you know how things are. The more you ride without loading the 30 the less you want to give up and use it. 

The problem is the more you keep riding with the 27 the bigger the temptation to load the 30. Add to that my heart rate wasn’t going up and whenever I was trying to breathe deeply I started to cough; spicy it with a bit of (cold) head wind appearing every now and then and you’ll struggle to find any reason to not use the 30.

But that would be giving up. 

I’d probably be able to climb faster and would get home earlier. 

Because I’m a very reasonable person I kept riding the 27. 

The 30 minutes I thought it would take me to climb La Cobertoria turned out to be 43 minutes.

But I never loaded the 30.

Time now to take full advantage of the shortcut.

A shortcut not short of challenges.

Started with a climb. A small one, but my legs were tired by then. This time I didn’t hesitate to load the 30.

The road was the same quality you would find in the Surrey Hills (that is bad). It was facing north and it was at about 1000m of altitude. 

Suddenly it was all snowed and a fair bit of ice on the road. The whole road!!

What do you do? Turn around and give up the short cut? The reasonable (and very optimistic) of me decided it was worth it to walk the apparently short section of snow and ice.

It turns out it wasn’t that short. In fact the very reasonable (and not that optimistic anymore) of me started to consider turning back, giving up the shortcut and, by now and losing any hope of being on time for my mother’s birthday lunch. An amazing prospect.

That was the moment I saw a mountain biker coming in the opposite direction. Definitely not the kind of rider you want to see to feel confident on what is coming ahead. 

I asked him and to my surprise he said the snow and ice would only last a couple of hundred meters more. I was starting to feel optimistic again.

I still had to go through the problem of my cleats having so much ice that wouldn’t clip on the pedals. Had to find a rock and use it to hammer on the ice and break it. I finally was able to clip on the pedals. 

Now full of optimism after my caveman survival performance I had to remind myself to take it easy descending El Cordal. I knew it was a tricky descent, the road surface was not ideal. In fact in one of the stages at La Vuelta Nibali, a descender a bit better than me, had a crash there.

But destiny was on my side. It turns out they had repaired the surface of that descent. It was still a tricky descent but I now had a chance to be on time.

That’s where I started to compare myself to the Trans Siberian Express.

After crossing a scene of snow and ice I was now going full speed to my destiny. 

Full speed while the descent lasted. As soon as I got to the flat bit I wasn’t that express anymore and the moment I hit the last “climb” calling my speed express would be a clear exaggeration.

But it was still possible to make it on time.

Kind of. 

I got home at 14:01. I still had to take a shower. 

I was at the table at 14:10. (That was an express shower).

I explained to everyone in the family I never loaded the 30 climbing La Cobertoria and I had a PR climbing it. I didn’t mention the PR was because I always had taken it very easy climbing it, I needed to make my achievement as epic as possible. 

My family was not impressed. I might have exaggerated my cycling capabilities a little bit in the past and it is not that easy to impress them anymore. 

I think my mother has cut me out of her will.

If only I had a 28 at the back instead of the 27…

The ride in Strava:

Take care 

Javier Arias González

sábado, 25 de febrero de 2023

No Sumners Ponds but Twyford

 Thanking my riding mates for agreeing to scrap the riding to Sumners Ponds plan and going for an "easy and steady" ride to Twyford.

I've been ill this week and I'm not fully recovered yet. Looking at how I finished today (spoiler: almost dead) I have no doubt that a ride to Sumners Ponds would have killed me.

"Easy and steady" are relative terms. As you know it all depends on who you are riding with. I wasn't riding with slow riders today. In fact, I was riding with fairly crazy riders.

How else would you describe the fact that over coffee it was proposed the brilliant plan of running the Florence Marathon.. barely two months after we finish our cycling season in September.

Proving that I fit in this group I was immediately tempted to say yes to the plan. I am an accomplished runner (proof in my last run report and my lack of personality makes it very difficult for me to say no to a plan that gives me the opportunity to show off.

Luckily for me I was tired and the caffeine didn’t make its effect yet so I said no to the plan. An outcome you can’t imagine how grateful I am for looking at how I feel at the moment.

To make things better I took the theoretical win in today’s three sprints (Twyford, Drift Rd. and Hampton).

Being as honest as I normally am in my reports I’ll confess I didn’t cross the line first in any of them. That would have been a miracle. But I was well positioned in the three sprints, I saw the winning move starting in front of me, I had the legs to follow those moves (in theory) and I “know” I would have taken those wins.

You would be excused for thinking that interpretation of facts is a bit optimistic, especially if you mention that Ed van der Poel was involved in those three sprints. I got a bit of that when I explained to my riding mates my reasoning. But we have agreed already that I was the only one in that group that was thinking straight today.

The ride in Strava:

Take care 

Javier Arias González

domingo, 19 de febrero de 2023

The resurrection of the greatest Road Captain

Paula Lively from Zanesville, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For a few weeks, or even months, my skills as Road Captain have been questioned among “the cynics” and “the sceptics”.

Some mentioned the lack of popularity of my rides. Others questioned my navigation skills. A few argued, with little foundation, that I didn’t work for long enough at the front.

Well, “I feel sorry for you. I’m sorry you can’t dream big and I’m sorry you don’t believe in miracles”.

Today’s ride was the resurrection of the greatest Road Captain. (This is the “dream big” bit)

I’ll start by mentioning that six signed up for the ride. Including me, that's seven out of the ten slots taken. Isn’t that popular?

True that one rider removed himself the day before the ride, Rupert decided to ride the route in reverse and we never saw him. We also lost Phil in the first few kilometers which is less than ideal. But it is also true that we took two guests to Widnsor, proof of Road Captain friendliness, and four riders finishing the ride is an early sign of Road Captain popularity.

This positive sign came accompanied with the greatness of the route selected. 

In fact this route is now my new favorite for a flat ride. 579m of elevation in 129km. 4.49 meters per kilometer. A flatness that only Saturday Gang’s ambassador in Florida can match.

The route took a few unconventional turns and that created confusion in the group but the Road Captain (me) was not confused in any of those turns. I got them all right. Thanks to Garmin obviously.

I still have to confess I got confused with the route as soon as we got to the top of the “climb” before Henley.

I moved to the front with the idea of leading the descent. In my mind there were only a couple of kilometers to Henley so I set a fairly strong pace at the front to make sure no one passed me and I could take the town sign sprint without sprinting.

The problem was Henley was something like 10 kilometers away. I didn’t know and I kept working at the front expecting the town sign to appear any minute. 

Inevitably at some point I started to slow down and my riding colleagues moved to the front and Vicenzo took the town sign sprint without opposition. 

Coffee stop catered to the preferences of the riders was a sign of logistics quality.

We also had “nice” weather. 12°C, some rays of sun, completely dry. (That's the “believe in miracles” bit when you have in mind that we are in February and in the UK)

To round what was already a perfect ride I took the final sprint. 

Not that the other riders knew where the line was but it was a clear and fair win. 

With such a great way of finishing the ride it is easy to see how justified it is to add the “greatest” to my Road Captain skills (that’s the “dream big” bit).

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González