domingo, 22 de mayo de 2016

VC Meudon 3rds SL road race

It's been 18 months since my last road race so my expectations were certainly low.

But not as low as to get dropped 8km into the race. In the first DESCEND!!!! Shame on me.

There came the first climb and I finished it among the top of the bunch. The climb was followed by a descend, as it normally happens, and I was going backwards.

Not sure what happened I wasn't (too) scared but people was passing me left and right. Grant passed me and shout me something encouraging me to join him. But the reality was I saw the gap to the peloton growing bigger and bigger.

The commissionaire car and the ambulance passed me when it was clear I had lost contact. That tells you clearly you are not doing that well.

I fight to get back. The road was now a false flat and I pushed to try to get back. I recover some ground to the peloton and I was very, very close. In fact at some point I thought I was going to make it. But it didn't happen. I was definitively dropped.

True that I wasn't happy about it, but also true I didn't worry too much. Very quickly I got to the conclusion that today was a great day for riding and I decided to get the most out of it. I started to play games in my brain.

Like a child my imagination convinced me that I was doing great keeping a sustainable pace and that I should aim to not being lapped before the end of the race.

And there I went a cyclist (?) having fun in a parallel world that only existed in his mind. But who cares, the point is to have fun.

I really had a great time. Only had to go back to the earth when a Land Rover decided to turn right at the same moment I was passing. Luck was I was turning left to the same road the Land Rover was entering. Should I tried to go straight and this report would have had a different ending.

I didn't swear, I just shout a loud "EEEEHHHH!!!!" that was answered with the middle finger from the female driver of the Land Rover. That typically could have made me swear but I was having such a great time that I didn't even bother. Put my head down and kept pedaling fantasizing with getting to the last lap before the bunch could catch me.

It didn't happen. It was a close one though. I was close to finish my penultimate lap when I heard a motor bike behind me and I new it was over. First it was two riders at a pace that let me  astonished, then another two riders, one of them Colin from Paceline. I tried to shout some encouragement but hey, behind my apparent slowness I was putting some effort and I doubt anyone could hear it.

A few seconds later it was the main peloton. I couldn't even dream of joining them. There it went my illusion that I was doing well.

As soon as I lost sight on the peloton the final climb came and then the line. I'm still not sure why but I crossed it with a smile in my face and felt happy. I was dropped in the first descend, lapped and made notice I wasn't riding that well and, still, there I was happy and looking forward for the next race.

I don't have a race for next weekend, the weekend of 5th of June is Milan San Remo and Sunday 12th of June is the Oxted 2/3rds 65miles road race There is a limit for words to explain silliness so I won't even try.

The ride in Strava

Take care
Javier Arias Gonzalez

miércoles, 18 de mayo de 2016

Bryan Chapman Memorial 600

Lets start saying that I was a bit worried about this ride. Despite this going to be my third BCM and my 7th 600k, a 600k is never an easy ride and the BCM is not exactly in the list of the easiest.

I wasn't worried about being physically capable of finishing it, it was more about weather, route changes and a thousand of little things (should I carry winter gloves? sun cream? the heavy goretex rain jacket? should I fit new tyres?), somehow all of them looked critically important a few days before. It was like if my experience riding Audax instead of helping to take my natural relaxed approach were more used to add things to worry about.

In any case the moment I stepped into the Bulwark Community Centre all doubts and worries disappeared and there was only room for joy and good time.

It all starts meeting and saying hello a bunch of riders you have met in previous rides. I'm not a particularly chatty, extrovert rider but slowly you get to know people in the world of Audax and it is always a pleasure to expend a few minutes chatting and catching up with them.

The Kingston Wheelers were represented by Jasmijn, Sarah, Gavin, Chris, John and myself. Jasmijn was using the BCM as a training ride towards her LEJOG record attempt, Gavin was riding with a friend at a fastish pace, Chris was riding at an easier pace and that left Sarah, John and myself riding together at a not-that-slow-but-sustainable pace.

First stage is 75k and it goes very quickly despite of having some good climbing. It is still early and still cold. The sky is completely covered by clouds. The weather looked to me as it were at that edge that could go either way, it could start raining for the next two days or it could just clear out and give us the present of two days of blue, sunny skies.

We were lucky and blue, sunny days it was. Now add to that how beautiful Wales is. Top it with lots of long steady climbs and  you end up with a collection of memories that if you could print them out it would be the perfect collection of postcards to promote tourism in Wales.

Between the first and second control we sat on the wheel of a Hereford rider. It reminded me Tomsk, The Mozart of the pace making. One of my Spanish friends says cycling is poetry and suggests that when you cycle you are writing a poem that reflects how you are cycling. This Hereford rider wrote a whole 55k long sonnet on his own with the quality of his pacing.

The second control was new and very welcome. Not only because it came 20km earlier than what the route sheet had marked but also because, with 140k in the legs, it was the first proper stop we were going to enjoy. Sitting in the outside, enjoying the sun, it was the moment of switching from cold gear to sunny gear.

Just after the second control it came a section that was new in the route. A series of short steep ramps one after the other. The last one was preceded by a 12% signal and I struggled quite a lot climbing it. I regretted every single gram I was carrying and I promised myself I was going to load a 32 in my cassette for future rides.

As soon as I arrived to the top I realized I had climbed the whole ramp on the big chainring. In a way that was a relief. True I had screwed my legs but it also meant there was a good reason while climbing the ramp was feeling that hard.

Now the view was totally worth the effort.

At this point I missed Alberto, the protagonist of my first BCM experience, now relocated to Canada. I'm sure he would have enjoyed this new part of the route. And the same happened every time we were riding in through a new section. Two thoughts kept coming to my mind. The first one is how much Alberto would have enjoyed the new section and the second one was trying to decide if I preferred the new section of the route or the old one.

I couldn't make my mind. The new sections had advantages and disadvantages. The new route is shorter and with less climbing (this counts as a disadvantage) but also it avoids some of the most annoying parts of the all route while they introduce amazing sceneries. In any case I was happy with the new route.

A bit before the control at Kings the road made us meet Ray, from Dulwich Paragon. We have lunch and from that moment on the trio became a quartet.

It always amaze me how sometimes riding with a complete stranger for 400k turns out to be something so easy and natural. Although in the case of Ray, he is a punchy rider in the climbs that knows how to adapt his pace to the groups' and that really helps.

We made it to Menai Bridge (km300) a bit before 20:00 (that is 14:00 to ride 300k, not bad) and that was a perfect timing. In one hand because the Waitrose that is in by the roundabout was still open which gave Sarah and myself the opportunity to raid it. In the other hand because in Menai you are offered hot food, so ideal for a proper dinner stop (jacket potato with beans and cheese and rice pudding for me). But also because that timing marks the night/day limit. At the control we put on all our layers, reflective jackets and lights. We were going to ride 100km during the night and it was getting cold.

Not as cold as we thought it was going to be. In fact after a few climbs we had to stop to take off some of the clothes.

Funny enough that was the moment were my biggest struggle began. I started to feel sleepy.

It was not late at all, probably around 22:00 but I couldn't help it. I started all kind of games to try to keep me awake. It's funny how one's brain works. Creep from Radiohead played in my head again and again.

To be completely honest it has been the soundtrack in my head for the whole ride, but now that I was falling sleep I couldn't take it off my head.

At some point I noticed my heart rate went down to 76ppm when we were climbing up a long steady hill. The idea of closing the eyes for two seconds to allow for a micro-sleep crossed my mind but I discarded it immediately. Some sense came out of my head I interpreted those signals as my body shutting down so I decided to sprint up the hill to try to get my heart rate up.

It was 23:30, I had 350km in the legs, 1 minute at 366w did the trick. My heart rate went up to 144ppm and woke me up enough to get to Kings in good spirits. It was around 00:30 and we had ridden 400km in 18:30 hours; not bad.

At Kings we had quick a quick dinner and we got ready to get to bed. When we asked for a bed we were told we would have two hours and then they would wake us up so other riders could also sleep. I remember in previous edition it used to be three hours but, hey, fair enough, everyone deserved a good rest and two hours in a bed is better than nothing.

I quickly headed to my bed. As we were ahead of most of the riders I was the first using it. Not that I cared that much at that point but always nice. I think it took me one or two minutes to fall deep sleep.

At 3:10 another rider woke me up asking for the bed. I moved out and he moved in in less than 10 seconds.

It was too early for breakfast to be served so I helped myself with some milk and a banana. In a few minutes John, Ray and Sarah were also around. Somehow I found myself ready when the rest was still eating something so I decided to sleep a bit more just there, sitting at the table.

I don't know for how long I slept but when I woke up breakfast cereals were available so went for a second breakfast before we moved on.

It was around 4:45 and we had daylight. It was also a bit cold but soon enough a long steady climb comes to warm you up. That climb is followed by a long and fast descend that it is followed by another long climb. The first stage of the day was only 65km but we were riding so slow that it took us three hours to complete it.

The good news was that at the control they had bacon and hot rice pudding. I liked this control, it had a relaxed atmosphere that went very well with the sunny morning we were enjoying.

Next stage was a short one, only 51km, and again it differed from previous editions. Instead of taking left at some point of the A483 we continued straight on the same road climbing and climbing and climbing. It was almost 15km of steady climb. I loved it.

A fast descend took us straight to the following control, a café that was open just for the BCM riders. Free tea and coffee, tomato soup and a roll for £3. It was 11:00 in the morning. We had cycled 110km already with some considerable climbing. It was the perfect time for a tomato soup.

Last stage (103km) was completely new and it was beautiful. True the weather was playing ball, but the beauty of those Welsh valleys was astonishing. I was constantly looking left and right admiring the creation mother nature was offering us.

We were 50km away from the finish when John's derailleur cable snapped. It was giving him problems the whole ride but at that point it was completely useless. John and Ray were very efficient making sure the derailleur would not change gears and from that moment John would have a fixed gear at the back and the option of big or small chainring. Challenging considering it was very unlikely the 50km left were going to be flat.

And the were not. One of the sections I was sad to miss was the final climb before Chepstow in the old route. That one is beautiful. It turned out this new route had a climb that was very similar to that one. Also very, very beautiful, with great views to the valley as you are gaining heigh and also with a final section of the road surrounded and almost covered by trees. The moment you finish this climb you know the BCM is done.

You still have a couple of punchy ramps, but you are five kilometres from the finish. Optimism and good spirits were in order.

We made it to the final control at 16:19 which means we rode the BCM in 34 hours 19 minutes. Not bad. In fact looking at my numbers this was my fastest 600 and surely the one I finished "less tired". That is the beauty of riding with a great company.

At the final control they had food available for a £3 flat rate. I went for a bacon sandwich and the "Spanish tortilla". It turned out the Spanish tortilla was more a Welsh interpretation of the Spanish tortilla but still good enough to please a hungry Spanish cyclist.

We relaxed some time at the final control. Gavin was there and it was time of celebration, taking pictures and telling histories.

This was my third Bryan Chapman (2013, 2014 and 2016) in none of them I got rain. As far as I can tell it never rains in Wales.

With this I have finished my this year's Super Randonneur (not a single puncture) which is my 5th SR. Slowly but surely I'm adding up kilometres and experiences.

The route in Strava

Take care
Javier Arias González

lunes, 2 de mayo de 2016

Severn Across 400 (Español)

[Mail al Pakefte, como es una crónica la copio aquí]

Pues nada, que ayer me hice mi 400 de esta temporada. El Severn Across, uno que me había dejado pendiente el año pasado.

La verdad es que no empecé muy bien. Sobre el km 30 rodaba a la cola de un grupo a ritmo decente cuando me descolgué para parar a mear y cuando reanudé la marcha me dio un bajón considerable.

De repente todos los pensamientos que me venían a la cabeza eran negativos. Que si hacía mucho frío (el garmin dice que 0C), que si llevaba una semana sin montar en bici, que si la báscula me decía que había engordado 2.5kg en una semana (¿es eso posible?), que si había estado viajando, que si había dormido poco, que si hacía viento de cara. Parecía que todas las disculpas posibles e inventadas se me pasasen por el cerebro. No me reconocía. De hecho pensé en retirarme; y me gustaría poder decir que no me retiré porque soy un tipo con fuerza de voluntad, pero lo cierto es que iba ya por el kilómetro 45 y no tenía ni idea de cómo volver al punto de partida.

Una vez mentalizado de que tenía que hacerme la ruta completa me lo tomé con bastante calma. Tal es así que cuando llegué al primer control (km75) Gavin, Omar y Sarah, los otros tres Kingston Wheelers que hacía la ruta, estaban a punto de ponerse en marcha preguntándose que habría sido de mi.

Aproveché para hacer una parada rápida (sellar la brevet, visita al servicio y en marcha) para poder unirme a ellos. A partir de ese punto formamos el tren de los Kingston Wheers.

Al final acabamos rodando prácticamente juntos toda la ruta. Y mira que es difícil que cuadren los ritmos de rodar/parar en un grupo de cuatro ciclistas que no han rodado juntos tantas veces, pero una vez más se produjo uno de estos pequeños milagros.

Y pedaleando en grupo poco a poco me empecé a sentir bien. La temperatura subió, el viento amainó y, desde luego, disfrutaba de la compañía. Tal es así que para cuando llegué a Yat Rock, una subidita de unos 2km con rampas de hasta el 24% justo en el km 190, me encontré bien de piernas y decidí subirla a tope. La pena es que un mini atasco de coches me obligó a poner el pie a tierra y ahí se esfumaron mis posibilidades de marcar un record personal en esa subida.

En el último control (km314) se nos unió Aidan, pasamos a ser un tren de cinco vagones. En ese punto teníamos que decidir entre dos opciones de ruta. O ir por las carreteras B (locales) en un recorrido sube y baja o ir por la A4 (una nacional) en un recorrido más llano y de la misma distancia. Como eran ya las 21:00 nos decidimos por la A4 con la esperanza de que no hubiese mucho tráfico.

La pena es que esa alternativa yo no la tenía cargada en mi GPS y lo mismo le pasaba a Gavin y a Sarah. Estábamos en las manos de Omar y Aidan que fueron los que se pusieron en cabeza y empezaron a darse relevos. Por detrás de ellos Gavin, luego Sarah y cerraba yo el grupo.

Un par de veces me moví hacia la cabeza con la intención de dar algún relevo pero entre que yo no conocía la ruta y que no llegué a entender el criterio que Omar y Aidan seguían en sus relevos decidí volver a retirarme a la cola del pelotón y disfrutar del paseo prácticamente sin esfuerzo.

Llegamos a la 1 de la madrugada. Justamente 19 horas después de haber salido. Al igual que me pasó en el 300 de la semana pasada el 400 más rápido de los que he rodado en grupo aunque más lento que cualquiera de los que he rodado en solitario.

En dos semanas el 600. El Bryan Chapman, el brevet más bonito de los que conozco. Ya hay ganillas.

La ruta en Strava

A cuidarse
Javier Arias González

domingo, 1 de mayo de 2016

Severn Across 400 (The miracle of riding in a good group)

A bunch of known people at the start Gavin, Omar, Sarah, Jasmijn and Chris at the start. Jasmijn and Chris were going to ride full speed and they finished in something like 16 hours. Gavin, Omar, Sarah and myself formed the Kingston Wheelers train.

It didn't work very well at the beginning. Gavin disappeared, I was hesitant whether he was ahead or behind us. The rest of us were riding in a group with two more riders moving at a decent speed but around km30 I needed a pee stop so dropped and let the group go.

When I jumped back on the bike I felt swamped with negative thoughts. This is not usual in me but suddenly I found myself thinking "oh, there is a bit of head wind", "oh, a whole week without riding. I was traveling, working a lot and sleeping little the whole week", "it is too cold (Garmin says around 0C)", "the scale said I had gained 2.5kg in one week (how is that even possible???)". It was like all excuses I could found were visiting my brain. At a certain point I thought about quitting, but discarded the idea. I'd love to say it was my commitment what kept me pedaling but the reality is I kept pedaling mainly because around 45k in I didn't know my way back to the start.

It seemed that I was going to ride alone the whole way so I decided to take it easy. By the time I made it to the first control Omar, Sarah and Gavin (who turned out to be ahead of us) were there almost ready to go and wondering where I was. I excused myself, got the sticker at the cafe, quick visit to the toilet and jumped on the bike. I was really happy of having a second opportunity to join the KW's train.

It turned out we ended up riding the whole route together. And that is not an easy thing; not only a certain match of physical ability is required, you also need to agree to a riding/stopping pace that fits to everyone. As I say, not easy when riding 400k, especially if the members don't have that much experience riding together, but that was our case. A little miracle.

Riding in the group I started to feel better. I guess temperature increased, it was easier to hide from the wind and I definitively was enjoying the company. By the time we got to Yat Rock I felt so great I decided to give push it in the climb. Good feelings and good power numbers but not a PB because we got stuck by the cars at the beginning of the climb.

At the last control (314k) a rider joined us. I recognized him (Adrian???) as one of the riders in the group we started riding early in the morning. Omar knew him. At this point there were two options in the route. We could either opt for a bumpy ride in B roads or a flatish ride on the A4. Being already around 21:00 we figured the A road would not have that much traffic so we opted for that one. Unfortunately I didn't have that route on my GPS so had to rely on Omar and Adrian as they were the ones that knew the route.

This last section, around 90km, was super easy. Riding in a group of five I tried a couple of times to take a turn on the front but couldn't figure out how to coordinate with Omar and Adrian so ended up falling at the back of the group. We kept the formation (Omar and Adrian taking turns in the front, then Gavin, then Sarah and me closing the group) pretty much to the end of the ride.

Riding that easy the last section meant I finish not that tired. I think I have never finished an Audax event as fresh as this one and still we managed to finish in exactly 19 hours; faster than any 400 I have ridden in a group slower than any 400 that I have ridden alone. Who would have told me when I was thinking about quitting at the beginning of the day. The miracle of riding in a good group.

Now looking forward to riding Bryan Chapman 600 in two weeks.

The ride in Strava

Take care
Javier Arias González