viernes, 7 de junio de 2024

Javier the coward

In my mind I’m the type of rider that attacks full of confidence, without fear. 

Also the type of rider that knows himself so well that knows exactly how fast he can climb, and for how long. 


Today I was proved wrong in both accounts.


My starting point is always that if I’m climbing a mountain taking turns with GC Denis I’m doing pretty well. 


We are so evenly matched, and we know each other so well, that those are always tricky situations. More so on a 30km climb, on the seventh ride of a training camp. 


At some point I felt like he was struggling ever so slightly to keep on my wheel. The temptation to accelerate and try to drop him crossed my mind. 


Then I looked at my Garmin and realized we still had 18km more to climb. I’m not that full of confidence, nor that fearless as I imagine myself. In fact I settled for a very conservative “wait a little longer, if he is struggling you might drop him without attacking”.


And now I have a question for you. What is better in this situation? To sit on the front and keep your own pace hoping for him to drop eventually, or to “force” him to continue taking turns so he gets more tired and eventually drops?


The advantage of the former is that you choose your own pace. The price you pay is all the work you have to do on the front while you give him a “free” ride. 


The latter makes him work on the front but also allows him to choose his own pace.


None of the options is ideal. Believe me.


I decided to stay at the front and set the pace. All the way to the top if needed. 


That’s where knowing myself so well that I know exactly how fast and for how long I can climb wasn’t as I always imagined myself. 


I was getting tired and my pace was slowing down.


GC Denis moved to the front and suddenly I found myself struggling to hold his wheel. 


I know the drill. He stands up on the bike, pushes the pedals a couple of times and a small gap opens. I panic (let’s talk another day how I consider myself a cool and calmed mind) and try to close the gap quickly. That little extra effort increases my sense of struggle. At that point the idea of attacking is a distant dream. I just hope I can hold his wheel.

Eventually he settles his pace and I feel brave enough to get a gel or drink from my bottle. That takes me out of breath, the sense of struggle comes back. 


So I decide to move to the front and chose the pace that is best for me.  All the way to the top if needed. 


We are back on square one.


Repeat this a dozen times and we get to the top of the climb together. 


100m before the top I sprint. 


Javier the coward, brave for 100 meters amd still miss judged how fast and for how long he can sprint. 


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/11595276409


Take care of yourself

Javier Arias González


lunes, 3 de junio de 2024

Making sure The Pope had a great day

He wanted to have an easy day.

So Richard L. leading the group dropped him at the Suspiro del Moro climb. 


GC Denis and I worked together in the second climb to make sure he wasn’t anywhere near the front at the top of the second, and main climb of the day.


I honestly don’t know who took the third climb of the day, I couldn’t be bothered to contest it (can 5k at 3% be considered “a climb”?). For the sake of this report's accuracy let’s all pretend it wasn’t The Pope.


He tried on the fourth climb of the day but this time it was me who decided where the top of the climb was and it turned out it was exactly at the same point I was first crossing the line after a short but magnificent sprint. The Pope was second though.


I am not sure who took the fifth climb either. It could very well be that it was The Pope. I was nowhere near to witness it. So let’s give him this consolation prize.


He’ll need it because what came was hellish for him.


An echelon on a windy road got him dropped from a group that Bidders was motoring at the front. 


As soon as he connected with the group again he hitted a section of the road that looked like a mixture of Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix. Probably the section TY enjoyed the most in the whole trip.


A bit of riding into busy traffic, plenty of traffic lights and hot temperatures to finish the day.


Well, none of this spoiled his day.


He was first into the swimming pool. A beer was in his hand when the rest got home. 


The Pope knows how to win.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/11562778850


Take care of yourself

Javier Arias González


Giro d'Granada

GC Denis was G, Bidders was Ganna and I was Arensman.

The Pope was Pogacar. 


Richard L. was riding for that team of Spanish speakers.


Mark was JuanPe Lopez. Liked by everyone but not in his best form for this Giro.


TY was riding for one of those small teams. Only invited to the Giro to make some noise. To put on a show more for the TV than for real cycling aspirations.


The DS was very clear with his orders in the morning. Today was a day for the breakaway. A short stage with a climb at the beginning. Let the breakaway go. With 30k to go put Ganna on the front, get the breakaway back and save the stage for the GC rider.


Have you ever wondered what the hell the Ineos team is doing?


That happened today.


Before we knew it we were in the breakaway. Ganna setting the pace in the front. G on his wheel and I glued to G’s wheel. Giving him that extra 5% of efficiency. Amazing domestique work.


The peloton, led by Pogacar, caught us just before the climb. Well, at least we made him work hard.


I saw any aspirations to the GC (which I will never admit I had) disappear in this first climb. 


In the second climb I offered my leader a gel before being dropped a few meters. A gesture that was rewarded with his demand of putting “a solid hour of power at the front”. A demand that made me question my loyalties.


Luckily for me TY attacked and all I had to do was to sit on his wheel. He started to move his elbows. I thought he wanted to imitate a butterfly. Maybe that was a new way of getting more aero drag. He started to complain when he almost dislocated his shoulder. Apparently he was expecting me to take turns with him. I played the “my leader is at the peloton” card and he eventually sat up.


As soon as the peloton caught us, Pogacar attacked. 


Who followed him?


Me.


It looked to me like a very dangerous attack. Our GC aspirations were at risk. 


It was all in my mind though. It turns out he was only going for an intermediate sprint. Just for the fun of it. 


A shame for him I spoiled the party by taking the sprint. I don’t remember the name of the town but I’m sure that gave me enough points to comfortably lead the sprints jersey classification and the end of the day.


A left turn came and with it a change in wind direction. Before we knew it a breakaway was formed.


Ganna, the Movistar rider and TY, very active all day, got a decent gap.


Pogacar panicked and started the chase.


I sat on his wheel guiding my leader through this critical moment.


At some point Pogacar, like TY before, started to imitate a butterfly. 


In your dreams, I thought. We have a man in the breakaway. You want to catch them? Work harder man. Get yourself tired. We are happy to sit comfortably on your wheel. Race craft at its best.


I repeat myself, have you ever wondered what the hell the Ineos team is doing?


G decided to start working with Pogacar. Even JuanPe started to collaborate in the chase. I felt forced to contribute too, clearly against my will and best judgment.


It took us a while but the strength of the chasers, especially when I started to contribute, was too much for the breakaway. Soon enough the peloton was all together.


After the feed zone it was clear the stage was going to finish in a bunch sprint. One of those that no one is interested in. 


At the end it was a very entertaining stage from the GC point of view but without changes in the positions.


If anything it was one more day confirming what an amazing domestique I am. Some would argue that I’m more interested in defending my 6th position in the GC (out of seven riders) but that is the sign of the untrained eye of the amateur, incapable of appreciating all the work that happens behind the scenes.


I, for one, don’t miss any of those details.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/11554684829


Take care of yourself

Javier Arias González


sábado, 1 de junio de 2024

Pico Veleta via Cenes de la Vega

 


As soon as the climb started GC Denis opened a gap. 


His pace was a bit too hard for me. I bet everything on my plan. A magnificent plan.


Keep my heart rate around 150-155 bpm. Ignore power. At o’clock and at half past, eat a gel and drink water. At quarter past and quarter, drink energy drink. In the last 10km increase the intensity so your heart rate goes up to 165-170 bpm. Catch GC Denis. Catch The Pope, if at all possible. Make sure you celebrate at the top. 


Needless to say the plan didn’t quite work out. With 10km to go the idea of increasing my pace sounded like a bad joke. GC Denis and The Pope didn’t slow down either. In fact I started to lose sight of them more and more often. 


I didn’t capitulate. I kept riding at a decent pace but still saved something in the legs. 10km after 33km of climbing can feel very, very long.


With 3km to the top I found the road covered with snow. A road cyclist that was stopped there told me that was it. It was not possible to carry on. But that didn’t feel right. The road was covered by snow, yes, but you could see the tarmac not that far away. I told him I had two “friends” ahead of me so I climbed off the bike and walked on the snow. Got to the other side, jumped on the bike and kept riding. 


Not for long though. About 5 minutes later another section of the road was covered with snow. This one was longer. In fact, you couldn’t see where it finished. No sign of GC Denis or The Pope so jumped off the bike and started to walk on the snow, bike on my shoulder. For about 10 minutes.


When I finally got to a section of tarmac three things happened at the same time. The tarmac got worse and worse, the sections of snow got more frequent and my cleats accumulated so much compressed snow that I couldn’t clip in anymore. I just kept going thinking I was winning time walking on the snow (I was making quite an effort) although I was also thinking I was losing time whenever I was riding. The surface was now so bad that I don’t think it was suitable even for a mountain bike.


With, say, 800m to go I saw two persons walking down on the snow. Before I started to walk up I asked them if they had seen two road cyclists. No was their answer. But they said no with a tone that, suddenly, made me realize that of course GC Denis and The Pope were not ahead of me. But I was so close to the top that I just carried on. No sign of any path, just climbing towards the top with my bike on my shoulder (at least it was my climbing bike, the proper bike for it).


At the top I met three people. That meant the top was overcrowded. They were taking pictures. I took a picture of them as a group. They took a picture of me with my bike. It was hard to move around wearing cycling shoes, with the bicycle around, making sure we don’t fall.



Before I started to go down they, very nicely, asked me if I needed anything. Water? Gels? I told them not to worry. I had everything I needed. I added that I knew what I was doing. They didn’t look very convinced. Less so when I took the liberty of telling them to take it easy on the way down. It is descending when most accidents happen. 


Anyway, I started to descend and that was the moment I realized I was stupid. What on earth was I doing walking down a mountain with my road bike on my shoulder? 


It wasn’t better when I got to sections where I could ride my bike. I was riding 25mm tyres among rocks the size of my fist. I was better off just walking down. 


In any case it was a matter of time I got to the last section of snow. I jumped on the bike and started the descent. 


When I got to the first sign of civilization I stopped, checked my phone. Didn’t see any message from my riding mates (bastards) so I continued descending.


Half way through the descent someone shouted my name. Stopped. Climbed back and there they were. Sitting in the sun. Drinking refreshments. Ready to eat. Believing I was dead up in the mountain and trying to decide if it was appropriate to ride tomorrow or not (the weather forecast is pretty good so I’d be having the same doubts myself). 


They pretended to be happy to see me and after we exchanged stories it was clear what had happened.


The Pope (guilty) led GC Denis in the wrong direction at a particular point of the road. At that moment I passed them without me or them noticing it. I carried all the way to the top thinking they were ahead of me. They looked at the snow and thought there is no way Javier has carried on. They messaged me, they called me but my phone had no signal. That’s the moment they saw tomorrow’s ride in danger.


At least the story has a happy ending. We all will be riding tomorrow. An easy(ish) ride is on the menu. On Monday we all will tackle Pico Veleta again and I can feel in the atmosphere the desire of all of them to go all the way to the top. Stay tuned.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/11547536084/


Take care of yourself

Javier Arias González




domingo, 26 de mayo de 2024

A successful ride

 That, even if JFW showed up for part of the ride.


Also despite making sure one of the riders got a puncture before we got to Hampton Court.


The only ride review in the Kington Wheelers forum highlighted as a factor of success that we had a “nearly dry morning”. A four stars review I guess.


We only lost two riders half way into the ride. Six riders is a big enough group so we carried on.


A successful ride even if I had no idea where we were going to have the coffee stop. I had a moment of panic when one rider asked where the coffee stop was (tell me you haven’t been in one of my rides without telling me you have been in one of my rides…). Twyford I answered full of (fake) confidence. I knew that much because that was the name of the route but I had no idea what the coffee stop was. I was betting the success of the ride on recognising a coffee shop as we rode by. And it worked! I recognised a coffee shop on the left hand side and we stopped there. Everyone thought that was part of the plan.


I felt relieved when the two lost riders showed up at the cafe with smiles on their faces. We extended the stop to make sure they didn’t complain about the ride captain. Even if that goes against my “efficient stop Audax ethos”. The things one does for a successful ride.


A success that was under thread when we got ready to get back on the road. It turns out one of the riders had a puncture. We got back to the table. Everyone seemed happy and relaxed about it so the success of the ride was not in danger. Now, me and my “efficient stop Audax ethos” were at the edge of a nervous breakdown. 


It was a surprise to find out the ride back had Drift Road in the menu. A great opportunity to practice a bit of through and off. I started to shout short sentences, most of them including the word “easy” or “steady”, as if I knew what I was doing. Miraculously the rest of the group managed to ignore me and stay together despite my incoherent instructions. I didn’t lose the opportunity to tell everyone how great that was. Sometimes you have to hint to your clients the value your service is bringing to the table.


Now, when I say a successful ride I mean a successful ride for everyone else. There is no way it can be a successful ride for me after losing the two sprints. Fifth at Old Windsor. Fifth even if I still don’t know where the line is. Third at the final sprint. Third, even if only Rupert and I know where the line is… and Ruper was not riding today. 


I faked happiness as we were saying our goodbyes in a desperate attempt to get everyone in a positive mood. 


I checked the forum in desperation. Looking for the judges sentence.


Thanks Javier for leading a great ride to Ola cafe today. Good pace control and very very enjoyable. Thanks everyone for making it a safe , fun, and nearly dry morning!


I was so happy…


I now know the name of the cafe at Twyford. The Ola cafe!!!


A successful ride now for me as well.


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/11501564915


Take care of yourself

Javier Arias González


domingo, 7 de abril de 2024

Paris Roubaix 2024

First time in my life riding cobbles.

Like many things in life there is nothing that can be explained to you that prepares you for what you are going to feel the moment you experience them. 


I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the ride. I massively missed T-Y and JFW. They were supposed to ride with us today. But I also missed the rest of the Saturday gang. This is a fantastic event to ride as a group and have fun. The route is flat and we ride easy on the tarmac. Every now and then a sector of cobbles comes and the fun starts. We regrouped after each sector and that is the time to chat, smile and ride easy. The anecdotes and experiences accumulate as the ride goes on. 


The second half of the ride was a bit of a different history. It was pain management. Not leg or bum pain as it usually is on big riding days. I have never been on a ride where my hands, wrists and forearms have hurt that much. Testimony of a privileged life, I’m sure my grandfather, who was a miner, wouldn’t have this problem. Each cobble sector was now a matter of deciding how to grab the handlebar to feel less pain. Inevitably there is a point where you ask yourself what the hell are you doing here. 


Each cobble sector has a number of stars. One star the easiest, five stars the longer and harder sectors. 


On the approach to the finish we were treated with two 3 star sectors, followed by a 4 star sector and one 5 star sector. At that point I have had enough. It was at that point where I asked Adam to take a picture of my hands.



But the organizers are clever. Following the theory that says that no matter how painful a experience is if you finish it with a pleasant feeling you have great memories of the whole thing, last 15kms of the ride are two 2 star sectors, a final 1 start sector and a finish with half a lap at the iconic Roubaix velodrome. 


By the time I received my finisher medal I was already thinking of doing this ride again. 



The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/11118640451


Take care of yourself

Javier Arias González




domingo, 31 de marzo de 2024

Riding in Asturias ep1: Pola de Laviana



For someone based in Lugones a ride to Pola de Laviana is the equivalent to a Windsor ride to someone based in Kingston Upon Thames.


A ride as flat as you can get in this area, rewarded by a specific cake.The Bartolo, an almond based cake, would be the equivalent of Windsor’s Cinnamon Bun.


No cake for me today though. As I would do in a Windsor solo recovery ride, I rode to Pola de Laviana very easy and non-stop.


What I did today as I was riding, thinking about the similarities to a Windsor ride, was to spot all the town signs. You can’t be too prepared for the next visit of the Kingston Wheelers to Asturias.


I now even know the exact location of the final sprint line. A power sprint, more similar to the Esher sprint than to the flat sprint at Hampton at the end of a Windsor’s ride.


Of course, I won’t tell anyone where that line is. Being the only one that knows where the line is gives you a small advantage and I need any advantage I can take. 


The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/11074843563/


Take care of yourself

Javier Arias González