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% https://www.strava.com/segments/13338464). 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 (https://www.strava.com/segments/6734940).

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: https://www.strava.com/activities/8657925469/

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 https://www.strava.com/activities/6430407945) 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: https://www.strava.com/activities/8619572195

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: https://www.strava.com/activities/8587123686/

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 18 de febrero de 2023

The consequences of riding without legs and without a brain

A picture is worth a thousand words…

I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to be today after a couple of inconsistent weeks and it turns out they decided to stay in bed instead of coming with me to the ride. 

Now, why does an extremely conservative rider decide to move to the front without having the legs and riding with four other strong riders?

Because the brain also decided to stay in bed instead of coming with me to the ride.

So this is what happened.

I did my fair bit in the front the first 45 kilometers of the ride (which is highly unusual for me, even when I have the legs) because I didn’t have a brain.

From kilometer 45 to the coffee stop I was just happy surviving at the back of the group because I didn’t have the legs. 

Coffee, scone, cream and jam at the Devil’s Punchbowl because I didn’t have a brain to think properly.

I shouldn’t have had that coffee. 

A coffee meant caffeine made me feel strong and optimistic. So I moved to the front… again!

A few downhill, tailwind powered efforts convinced me I was going to play a good role in the last two hills when that kind of performance is very unusual for me, even when I have my legs and brain.

That conviction lasted until I released which hill was coming first. I didn’t know the name. I didn’t even know we were going to climb it. Which is a lot to say considering it was me the one that proposed the route and the climb was Barhatch, a climb difficult to miss. 

What I knew very well is I didn’t have the legs to “play a good role”. It was more being at risk of having to play Chris Froome up Mt. Ventoux’s role… but walking.

Without legs and with my caffeine inducted conviction vanished I rode Coombe Lane, the last hill, at snail pace. 

From the top of Coombe Lane to home is mostly downhill. You’d imagine I would be in “take me home” mode. 

What happened instead is I moved to the front and helped push the pace all the way to Cobham.

Why? Downhill, tailwind, no brain… You know the drill by now.

At Cobham I started to consider the idea of leading the group to the Esher sprint. I might have been riding without a brain but I wasn’t stupid enough to believe I had a chance at the sprint.

I figured that leading the group to the sprint, something I don’t think ever happened, would, somehow, make my ride honorable.

Unfortunately that only lasted until Ed Van der Poel moved to the front and I saw the opportunity to sit on his wheel all the way to Esher.

I clearly was stupid enough to believe I had a chance at the sprint.

In fact I thought I was going to take the Esher sprint. Honestly. I thought it was almost guaranteed I was going to take an uphill sprint. 

I was third.

Which isn’t as great as it sounds when you know it was only three of us sprinting for the line and there was a considerable gap between the first two and myself.

No legs, no brain, no honor.

Got home, had lunch and fell asleep hoping to reunite with my legs and brain for tomorrow’s ride. 

My honor is lost forever.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/8582779706

Take care

Javier Arias González


domingo, 29 de enero de 2023

KW - Tanhouse (shortish) - The sausage roll curse

The Opportunist took the first four sprints of the day. 

One could claim some of those four sprints were a bit made up, but he said he took four and we like to keep him happy so we conceded four wins for him.

After his fourth win, just before the coffee stop, The Opportunist said “Just give me the green jersey”. Confidence was running high.

But The Opportunist made three mistakes.

The first one was not realizing that Alex Wout van Aert was second in all those four sprints.

The Opportunist’s second mistake was going for a sausage roll at Tanhouse. You shouldn’t blame him though. Tanhouse’s sausage rolls are fantastic, you should definitely go for one if you ever stop there. Just make sure you don’t intend to dispute any sprint after the coffee stop.

I took the first sprint after the coffee stop. That was Newdigate’s sprint, a rather prestigious one. Alex Wout van Aert and I were riding two abreast at the front of the group and I just made enough to make sure I passed the town sign first. Looked back and saw The Opportunist at the back of the group. 

Zero points for him. 

That was the curse of the sausage roll starting to show its effects.

You wouldn’t say Newdigate’s sprint was heavily contested. And that was The Opportunist’s third mistake. He was way too far at the back to realize the Canyon team’s strategy was working. 

He probably even didn’t realize there was a Canyon team or a strategy going on. You can’t consider that a mistake though. We, Canyon team members, are so attuned we don’t even need to talk to each other to agree on a strategy. It just happens naturally.  

Came the last sprint, the Horton Roundabouts, the Canyon team acted like the Jumbo team at the Tour of France 2022 (just to be clear this is not to suggest The Opportunist is in any way similar to Pogacar). 

First it was my turn to get to the front. Would you believe it? 

In the second roundabout I sensed a gap behind me so I attacked. 

I have such a killer instinct.

The group blew in pieces and a group of three was formed chasing me. The Opportunist, Alex Wout van Aert and The ExRower (There is always an ex-rower and it is always there. In every climb, in every sprint. Today was not an exception).

Eventually I was caught by that group and soon after that Alex Wout van Aert attacked. 

The Opportunist moved in parallel to me and made it clear that was expecting me to close the gap. 

Not in a million years. That is not a good strategy to play with me, just ask The Pope.

Eventually The Opportunist jumped to try to close the gap. I, of course, jumped on his wheel. 

By the time we got into the home straight Alex Wout van Aert was clearly going to win.

The Opportunist sprinted for second but I also started my sprint and overtook him.

Unfortunately before I got to the line I saw a wheel in the corner of my right eye. 

There was no way that could be The Opportunist. The sausage roll should have been feeling in his stomach like a stone by now. I quickly realized it was The ExRower 

Too late for me. I was already coasting and he passed me just before the line. 

There is always an ex-rower there and, as I said above, today was not an exception.

I didn’t mind being third. All I always care about is for my team to win.

Also, I got my reward as soon as I got home and stopped my Garmin. 

My device was quick to tell me that after today’s ride my FTP has improved by 1 whole watt.

Winning big today.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/8471107011/

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 28 de enero de 2023

Wargrave. Not a Z2 ride

Dai showed up in excellent humour today and as he wanted a Zone 2 ride he, for once, allowed everyone, including me, to take turns at the front.

That is a good base for a great ride. That, and the nice weather. So nice that two out of the eight in the group were riding without gloves. I wasn’t one of them.

At the coffee stop we had the opportunity to comment on the most recent Zwift racing results. We marvelled at Denis’ results at Zwift racing and despite the effect those races have in the quantity and quality of his work at the front, we all agreed that’s the right thing for him to focus on. Dai in particular also seemed very interested in taking on Zwift racing.

The other part of the conversation at the coffee stop was about what a training ride is. Not that we came to any conclusion beyond Back For Breakfast rides are NOT a training ride. Something about missing “through and off” riding. Don’t ask me.

To show THEM how it is done we rode through and off at Drift Road. The result was not very impressive if you ask me. A solitary rider was able to keep up with the pace of our eight riders group despite him leaving a good gap to not be in our wheels. The Pope attacked at a very random point (to be fair I don’t think anyone was surprised about that one). Marek and DD formed a mini train and caught almost everyone despite the gap the rest of the group had on them at the “climb”. Marek still claims that was not one of the “few mini efforts” (https://www.strava.com/activities/8465391020) that took him out of riding at Zone 2 all day. Apparently the sprint was taken by Calum, the same Calum that was telling me minutes before he was considering focusing his training in Time Trialing.

Decided to get things back to normality I prepared myself for the last sprint. A sure win for me, despite all the work I have done at the front, was lost because Ed van del Poel decided to have a puncture a few meters before the sprint. 

As punishment we took back the old tradition of timing puncture repair time. Ed van del Poel is now leading the board with a performance he described as “Work to be done!” (https://www.strava.com/activities/8465498623). Always understanding Dai was more magnanimous and rated it as “Top quality puncture repair 🏆” but I’m asking myself if he is being ironic, something I never seen Dai doing..

That’s it. Apologies for the few Saturday Gang inside jokes in today’s report. Although, paraphrasing the GREAT Tim Krabbé at The Rider, “Non-Saturday Gangers. The emptiness of your lives shocks me”.

 The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/8465165355 

Take care

Javier Arias González


domingo, 22 de enero de 2023

The Opportunist

It was cold, yes. But nothing crazy. 

I was wearing only two layers. The Opportunist though was wearing 5!!

Roads were also fine. You could see white fields and ice in some corners but we stuck to the main roads and it was absolutely fine.

For some reason no one signed up for my ride so I ended up joining the one led by The Opportunist.

10 riders. It only bothers me a little bit that The Opportunist’s rides are more popular than mine. Only a little bit.

Not only that. It was a very well behaved group. No surges, all riding as a peloton, nice through and off display at Drift Rd, no one complained about route changes. It only bothers me a little that riders at The Opportunist’s rides are better behaved than the riders I lead. Only a little bit.

We even had a coffee stop in a new place. The Lake View Cafe (https://goo.gl/maps/RHnZ59N1emfjmXrd9). Good cakes, friendly staff, eggs on toast are a must

It only bothers me a little that The Opportunist managed to find a coffee stop that is certainly more picturesque than the coffee stops I know. 

What worries me, more than a little bit, is The Opportunist taking all the sprints today.

Not a display of power and speed. No, The Opportunist is not a sprinter. The Opportunist is a real opportunist. 

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/8433378212 

Take care

Javier Arias González