sábado, 26 de diciembre de 2020

Sprinting against Ed

Tired legs today. Still managed to ride at a decent, sustainable, endurance pace. Good training I reckon. Very happy that I felt reasonably well at the end. 

Not that happy that I lost the Esher sprint to Ed though. Let me replay it for T-Y's benefit.

Ed was having a sprinter day today. From the very beginning sprinting for every town sign. I think he took at least five sprints. I’d question some of them though. At points it felt to me he was sprinting for any type of sign. I still have to see a clear guideline on what constitutes a sprint sign that goes beyond any line Ed (or JFW or T-Y) crosses first.

By Ripley Ed took one of those questionable sprints and very soon the proper town sign sprint appeared…

We both sprinted… and I took it. First sprint of the day for me. Clearly losing at the points by then but that didn’t matter. Taking that first sprint meant we were game and Esher’s sprint was coming. We all know that no matter how well you did sprinting during the ride, the last sprint is the one that counts (unless I take a considerable amount of intermediate sprints of course). 

Ed pushed the pace every time the road was slightly uphill. Me hanging there. Praying to hold on, to stay there. Just surviving.

Ed still had time to claim another sprint. One of those I wouldn’t doubt to question, but one of those that affects your morale. So much so that he even mentioned out loud now there was only the Esher sprint ahead. Here is where my mind games started.

Last “climb” before Cobham, I just found out its name in Strava is “Mucky Duck Climb”, I was expecting Ed to punish me. Somehow I ended up leading the way on that climb and with a PR even if in my mind I was “saving my legs”.

At Plough Line I was saved by a car that slowed Ed. I thank god, wise in his mercy, and recovered a little bit. Things started to look good. The real deal was coming.

We were lucky out of Cobham, we didn’t have to put the step down. Straight into the first “climb”. Me at the front.

Wait a minute. Me at the front? This is not good I thought. Take it easy in this first “climb”. Let him pass you.

Sure enough by the time we got to the top Ed passed me. I jumped on his wheel and prepared to enjoy the ride through the flat section. This is looking really good.

In my mind I basically had three ways to play it. First option was stay there the whole way and outsprint him in the last few meters, classic Javier. I don’t have any moral conflict with that strategy but for once I thought it wouldn’t look that good in this report so ditched that option. 

The second way I figured I could play it was attacking from a far. It worked very well on my last ride and I was feeling ok(ish) so this was a good option. I figured I should wait for the second “climb”, the longest. Ed surely would try to drop me. Then, near the top, at the very moment he sits back on the saddle I would attack him soloing to the line. Perfect plan.

Except that by the time we were getting to the top of the first climb Ed was playing his best Contador’s impersonation and what was supposed to be an attack was just me moving to the front and Ed sitting on my wheel. Well played Javier, very well played.

Here came my third option. Outsprint Ed from the front. Bold. Yes, a bit of a stupid plan too, but unquestionably bold.

For a second I considered attacking Ed in the third “climb” but my legs didn’t agree and my brain quickly decided that “climb” is too short (great excuse that one) and that resting as much as possible for the last sprint was the wise decision. 

To be clear. Descending the third “climb”, approaching the last “climb” to the line, I was still knowing I was going to win the sprint. That’s how arrogant I am. I knew I was going to win. I never doubted it.

We approached the last “climb” rather slowly. Me looking at the back and seeing Ed there. Me thinking wait for it, wait for it, WAIT.FOR.IT!!!! 

What did I do?

I went too early. My sprint lasted exactly 13 seconds. It would have been perfect if it started 13 seconds from the line but started way too early.

Ed held my wheel without a problem and passed me 100 metres before the line. By the time I crossed it Ed had enough time to have a coffee at the Giro cafe if it were open.

Didn’t cry too much. In fact I stopped crying almost 10 minutes ago. 

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/4519541749/

Take care

Javier Arias González

jueves, 24 de diciembre de 2020

A "Historic" win

I knew I was tired even before I got to Surbiton. It wasn't a surprise. Last few days I have been riding more than any other time this year. Nothing massive, especially compared to previous years, but still the hardest and longest I have ridden this year.

Being tired means the beginning of the ride is challenging. My brain wanting to go faster, my body pushing me to go slower, to take it easier. Not that my brain triumphs my body that often but today we had head wind all the way out. No chance for my brain. A bit slower it was. Henley couldn’t arrive soon enough.

A coffee (I’d confess it was another latte but that would be risking Paolo’s friendship. I could even be banned to enter Italy ever again) and sitting outside helped to recover. It was cold. The wind was very cold. But we sat in the sun. That was nice.

The return leg felt easier. It turns out that a bit of caffeine and a tail wind help to change your perception of effort. A lot!

In a stroke of genius I attacked no one taking advantage of the slipstream of a passing rider. Proper racing craft that. 7 km to get to the sprint at Hampton. Looked back and the gap was decent, in my head anyway, so set myself in a pace that felt sustainable and hopped for the best. Passed a few riders and that helped my morale, kept the pace. I was having problems to decide if this was more similar to a win at Flanders or at Paris Roubaix, a big memorable win in any case. Passed two female riders just before the sprint. I took it. Of course. Didn’t celebrate though. Not because I was afraid of losing the sprint, no one was contesting it, but because I was too embarrassed and afraid of what they would think of me. 

A decent ride at the end of the day. Strava says, “Historic Relative Effort”. It seems to me Strava has a low threshold for the “Historic” mark. After all this was a short and pan flat ride. 

Maybe Strava is referring to my “win”. Actually, I’d agree it was “Historic”.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/4512283971

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 26 de septiembre de 2020


That's what I fealt this morning. I had a fairly heavy week in terms of riding and my legs didn't lose any time to remind it to me. As soon as I walked down the stairs to get my breakfast my legs screamed "Why are you doing this to us?". I could have tried a Jens Voigt's "Shut up legs" but my legs are not that well disciplined and they wouldn't shut up. That made me fear today's ride.

I knew is was pan flat and not particularly long, only 138km. I shouldn't have any problem to stay on the wheel of the group. But my worry was not being able to stay with the group, my fear was how hard that was going to be. I pictured myself strugling by the time we got to Hampton Court (km 7) and I didn't like the image. I turned on the coffee machine.

I'm so lucky caffeine is not a banned substance! I had my breakfast, and a coffee. By the time I jumped on my bike I wasn't afraid anymore. I was actually cold. Autum is definitively here.

In the "first half" of the ride I was feeling well. I knew it was the effect of the caffeine so I was prudent with all my efforts but didn't shy from working in the front (there you have a new Javier in the making). 

I say "first half" even if we stopped before we got to half of the ride. I did a great demonstration of my computer skills being able to order using Fergo's website and, obviously, I order a coffee for me.

We had a small climb straight after the stop. Not my favourite way to warm up after sitting ouside in the chilling wind. I took it easy, letting the climb to warm me up. As soon as I got to the top I tried to load the big chainring.

It didn't work. I immediately realised my di2 had run out of battery. I'll blame the battery itself. Otherwise I'd have to admit I had failed to charge it properly and I read enough about nowadays politics to know taking responsability for your acts is not in fashion these days. The battery is to blame! I should start a career in politics.

I told my ride companions. With 80 flat kms to go I resigned myself to ride the rest of the route alone riding all the way home in the small chainring. 

Now, what happened is between a few small bumps in the road, crossing a few villages, a few bits with lot of traffic, some constructions with traffic lights and a few times they waited for me I managed to stay at the back of the group for most of the time.

Another side effect was that as soon as a bump in the road came I just went for it thinking "Doesn't matter if you burn yourself and get dropped, you can just easy pedal all your way home". I did that one, I did it twice, and thrice. It was obvious I was still under the effect of the caffeine but it came to a point that I thought. "Wait a second. If you were able to use all your gears there is no way you'd be riding that way. You are way too conservative to ride like that. Always trying to make sure you don't empty yourself too early. Always thinking about the whole ride. Never not caring about emptying your legs before you finish the ride.". 

It turns out I surprised myself. I foud I had more energy I thought I had (oh caffeine, oh caffeine). I ended up enjoying the second "half" of the ride. Spinning my legs like crazy, riding not caring about blowing up, sprinting at 148rpm to get to 300w, not feeling any fear. 

I am now considering the following changes in my cycling live. Trying to figure out the maximal dosis of caffeine I can get. Riding aggresively from the start of the ride, ala JFW, even contesting town signs sprints. Removing the big chainring, it would have the additional benefit of saving some weight on the bike. Suing Shimano. Maybe I should buy a new bike.

Hopefully sense will come back to me at some point. 

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/4114550502

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 19 de septiembre de 2020

Spanish Cycling Jargon 101 (Part 2) - Rompepiernas


This is so niche Google translate doesn't know how to translate it, proper Spanish Cycling Jargon. I'll give it a go: "Legs Breaker".

Rompepiernas is an easy concept to grasp. A Rompepiernas is a route that is not flat but is not hilly either. A Rompepiernas route is a constant up and down, it doesn't allow you to set a constant pace. Easy. The challenge is in the pronunciation. If you ever want to make my day ask me how it is pronounced and give it a go. As funny as when I pronounce Literature. 

Today's route was 149.81km, that's less than 150km so it was a short route. Today I climbed 1,328m, that's less than 1498m so today's route was officially flat. (If you don't know what I'm talking about see here https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html btw. there was a bit of a debate at the coffee stop about how sensible these thresholds are. I think I can say I managed to convince everyone they are pretty sensible. As the post says "Don't even try to argue with me about this classification.").

So, can a short and flat route be a Rompepiernas? You bet it can. Alice warned us and she was right. The route is a constant up and down. All short "climbs", making it impossible to set a constant pace. Hell if you are not in form.

Even worst if you are riding with a group where everyone is stronger than you, that power it through all the "climbs" and even sprint for all town signs. You know that group you hate the whole ride despite you know you love riding with them. Oh my, I sat on some wheels today. A practice everyone would agree I don't need (I probably could claim a phd on wheel sucking) but add some nice wind to a Rompepiernas route and you know I really need sitting on everyone's wheel to survive (just about).

The good news is the optimistic in me believes I'm getting fitter. With a week of holidays ahead, a 200km Audax planned for 4th of October, two weeks of holidays at the end of October, with a bit of luck in Asturias, and my plan to start with 8m and 1m interval sessions in the turbo. I reckon by November I'll be in a decent form. Caffeine is such a great drug.

btw. Spanish Cycling Jargon 101 (Part 1) - "Me llevaron todo el día con el ganchu" is here https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/10/spanish-cycling-jargon-101.html Keep at it, by part 10 you'll be a proficient Spanish Cycling Jargon speaker.

Today's ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/4082839233

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 12 de septiembre de 2020

We live in extraordinary times

 We live in extraordinary times (here you have a proof of my lack of originality).

I started the ride taking my fair share of turns in the front!!! Granted it was only during the first 50k. After being dropped like a stone in the first two "climbs" I was put in my place in the group. Consistenly at the back, holding there for my dear live.

Ed, the climber, Richard L, the steady man. and Denis, the GC man, sprinting for all the town signs!!! My reputation as a sprinter is now hopelessly damaged. Couldn't even use my default excuse that I didn't know where the sprints where. I actually knew where some of them where, didn't even try to sprint once.

The ride was announced as a ride to Lasham Gliding Club and we didn't even consider stopping there. Apparently it is open to members only these days.

I had a coffee at the stop. First time I had a coffee in six months!!! Caffeine certainly has a positive effect. From km 50 to km 100 I was yo-yoing at the back of the group. Feeling the emptiness in my legs. After the coffee I felt kind of ok staying in the group. From km 50 to km 100 each time I say 300w in my Garmin I panicked. After the coffee I was seeing 300w and thinking "yeah, this is fine"... for three or four seconds. Caffeine doesn't do miracles, it doesn't solve the empty legs problem.

Richard L. did a T-Y and took a shortcut!!! When you live long enough you see these things. We decided to give him a points penalty and that costed him any chance of taking today's green jersey that went to.... wait for it... Ed!!!! Ruben Blades said "La vida te da sorpresas, soorpresas te da la vida ¡Hay Dios!" (Life gives you surprises, suuuuurprises life gives you. Oh God) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hcoNykaI3k)

I took a couple of turns (literally, it was just two turns) in our approach to Hampton Court!!! I know if you weren't there to see it you are going to have a hard time believing this. But it is true. I barely recognise myself.

 Well, you don't celebrate your 52 birthday everyday. It is great that when you do extraordinary things happen.

btw. Got home and saw the the packages with the presents. I inmediately could tell none of them was a bike. I don't think I can consider that extraordinary :-D

The ride in Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/4048857914

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 12 de julio de 2020

Today was humble pie eating day

Lets start recognising I felt tired from the first pedal stroke. Having to admit that I was still affected by yesterday's 128km, not particularly fast, pan flat route was the first piece.

As early as Hamptom Court a group of five riders passed me, when I was in TT position. Excellent! I thought. A group riding at a similar pace as the Saturday gang. Let me see if I can hold on their wheel.

I managed to hold on their wheel but at the expense of yo-yo-ing at the back of the group. By the time our routes diverged near Windsor I was hapy about it. I have had enough of being battered, welcomed the opportunity to ride at my own pace.

At the footsteps of the "climb" after Henley a rider passed me standing on his bike and saying something about being uphill and giving it a go. Sounded a bit like a challenge but I didn't bite. He was riding way too fast. In fact I was impressed by his speed. I figured he was attemting his PB.
Funny enough I saw him blowing up in pieces 200 metres ahead of me. That was too tempting to let it go. I accelerated to get to him and before I passed I accelerated even more. Said to him "Allez, allez" as I passed him way before the top of the "climb".

Proud of myself I continued riding at my own pace only to notice, at a cross roads a few kilometres later that he was 10 metres behind me. I didn't think much of it, nor it spiked my competitive side I continued riding at my own pace.

It was only a few kilometres later, when I had taken a left turn that I noticed he was still there. To his credit he rope next to me and told me "I swear I'm not following you, this is also my route". Well done mate! We chatted a bit, enough for him to tell me he was only 30k into his ride and it was only his sixth week riding. Well, I said, that explains why you went way to hard up the climb. What I didn't mention is that meant a second piece of humble pie for me.

From km 75 I started to feel tired. I knew this was going to be the hardest part of the ride. I knew it was going to last until Sunningdale, km100. From Sunningdale I know the route home and knowing that I knew I was to feel better.

I was in TT position most of the time. Not putting much power but trying to spin the legs to keep a good speed. At some point I felt someone behind me. For a second time in the day I didn't care (I almost cannot recognise myself), I kept riding at my own pace. Not for very long. I felt he was accelerating to pass me. Oh that feeling. When he was passing me he said "It this the first time in my live I pass someone in a TT position". I wish I had the legs to challenge that, instead got my third piece of pie. It was almost welcome, I was starting to feel hungry.

I was still chewing the last bite of the pie and I felt another rider on my wheel. I started to wonder if today was "jump on Javier's wheel" day.

Looked back and yes. There was a rider on my wheel. He said hi. I said hi. I carried at my own pace. He sat there for a few kilometers and by the time we were arriving to Ascot he rode up to me and said "Thank you mate. I'm finishing my ride here. That's whay I was not riding that strong". I managed to answer with a smile and got my fourth piece of cake.

For me arriving to Sunningdale is like being almost home. I still had 30k to go but knowing the roads helps me to manage my efforts and you can bet I needed that today. I was really tired.

Walton-on Thames is also a special place for me when I ride with the Saturday gang. At this point I always disappear from the front of the group. I'm either too tired to hit the front or fresh enough to start thinking about the sprint at Hampton Court. I couldn't hide today. It was all my effort.

Riding on TT position I saw two riders ahead of me. They were riding approximately at my same speed, it took me ages to close the gap. I thought it might be a good idea to just sit on their wheel. Being there they surely were heading to Hampton Court. It was only that by the time I was almost there I realised they were riding touring bikes and they were actually riding very cassually, not even trying to ride fast. By the time I was in parallel to them I saw they were fully loaded, carrying handlebar bags, frame bags and saddle bags. You can sin with your thoughts I was told so I got my fifth piece of pie.

That's it. Got home exhausted. Carmen asked me what I was going to have for lunch. Nothing, I said, I'm not hungry.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/3750863309 (surprisingly I was 12 minutes faster than yesterday)

sábado, 11 de julio de 2020

My brain

Left home thinking longer ride than last weekend, ride easy.

Before Windsor a rider passed me and my brain started to sing Forzen's let it go, let it go, let it goooooo!!!!! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0MK7qz13bU).

But only for a few seconds. Heck, I don't even like that song! I accelerated a bit and passed the rider and drop him soon after.

From that moment my brain got hooked in the mantra "Deeeespacito" (slowly) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJQP7kiw5Fk).

Last time my brain did that to me was climbing Marie Blanque at Quebrantahuesos. I certainly was riding despacito. Is there any other way of going up 4km at 12% when you already have 130km in your legs a you have burnt a few too many matches?. But having to do it with that song in your head is tortue. I almost quitted on the spot!

There is probably something wrong in my brain because from Despacito it switched to Leonard Cohen's Bird on a wire, this version in particular https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGvwvxA83Cs Such a weird jump!

It was an improvement though. I do like Leonard, that song too. The problem was that is not the best song to have in your mind when you are trying to spin your legs at 90rpm. The disparity between the rythm of the song and the cadend in my legs drove me mad for a while.

It was all solved when a SUV driver decided there was enough room in the country line for me, his machine and another car that was coming in the opposite direction. All songs disappeared from my brain in a fraction of a second.

From km 100 I started to feel tired, my brain stopped completely. I think that is a survival mechanism. Thinking consumes energy, even more if your brain is wasting sugar with pointless sonds.

Brain came back to live briefly as I was approaching Hampton Court. Just enough to think "this is the point were the sprint should be launched". Theoretical sprint training today though. There was no way I was going to sprint against myself. I was too tired.

Got home, got a shower. Ate a magnificent paella and now my brain is telling me it is siesta time. Time to switch the brain off.

For the first time in the day I'm going to listen to my brain.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/3745690242

Take care
Javier Arias González

martes, 17 de marzo de 2020

Bentley Bentley 200 - 2020

Proper ride but flat (https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html)
I can split this ride in four different parts.

In the first part I felt fear. With head wind, four strong riders aroud me and then Bidders hitting the front like a machine I thought I wasn't to be able to sustain the pace.

In the second part, after the coffee stop at Henley, I felt euphoria. That's the caffeine in action. I felt strong. Confident. Comfortable. By the time we stopped at Lasham bigmouth Javier was boasting about how well he felt and how he could sustain that pace forever.

The third part started at Lasham. Bidders set a pace that very quickly split the group in two. Bidders, Denis and I in the front group. Denis and I holding on Bidders' wheel the best we could. At the beginning I felt just fine. The first few ramps, not a problem. Denis and I yo-yo'ed a bit but Bidders would slow down every now and them to allow us to jump back on his wheel. Until in one fo the ramps I dropped. Clearly. Bidders and Denis waited for me but I knew I was done. It came as a surprise, I wasn't expecting it but I recognsed the feeling very quickly. I refused to accept it but I knew it was over. I hold with them for a few more kilometres but at the next ramp it was game over, I was definitively dropped. I still tryied to catch them in the descend, it was a desperated effort, futile. More the result of angryness than any real chance of being successful. I put myself in aero position and pedalled as hard as I could but at some point I took the wrong turn and the sound of the Garmin letting me know was like the bell waking me up.

The trio that was behind caught with me very quickly. I joined the group with a sense of joy. Good, I thought, we will work together and we will have a great ride. But it wasn't like that. Not at all. Very quickly I realised I was having problems to follow their pace. I was struggling at the back. And then started to rain. It hasn't been a dry day so far, we had plenty of light showers but this one felt heavy in my demoralised soul. And then Richard told me I had a puncture in my back wheel. I'm so glad I was riding tubeless. I'm not sure how I would have dealt with a puncture if I had to stop at that moment. Close to the Premier control I was dropped from the group. Dean was nice enough to wait for me to make sure I was fine. I wasn't totally fine. The third part was the part of the disappointment.

At the Permier I realised my back wheel was running very low in pressure. Somehow I used that as an excused for being dropped a few kilometros before the control and I felt comforted. Put more air on the wheel, visited the toilet, ate an energy bar and the six of us went back on the road.

I felt fine. Perfectly fine. Sure the pace was now much more sensible than the rest of the day. Yes, I wasn't doing any work on the front. But I was holding fine and as soon as I realised I felt peace and joy. Floating in my comfortable numb, my brain pumping endonphirnes I loved the ride, my riding mates, my bike, the fact that we didn't sprint at Hampton Court. Inebitably I finished with a great smile in my face dreaming of how fun the 300 is going to be.

The ride in Strava

Take care
Javier Arias González

sábado, 22 de febrero de 2020

Following JFW across the Surrey Hills

Dai had proposed a route. It was a great route. Short, but it headed to Tanhouse. Tanhouse is always a great stop. I like stopping at Tanhouse.

For reasons I still don't fully understand at LW we were discusing alternative routes. JFW said he wanted hills and that was it. Off we went towards the hills.

The problem, for me, was we (or at least I) had no idea what hills, in what order, how long was the ride going to be. Too much for my (slight) OCD.

Try to imagine. Me, the guy that carries two garmins, one on the handlebar a second one in his pocket. Both of them with the route of the day. Now following JFW into an uncertain number of unknown hills. Not really sure how I survived that.

Maybe it was I know very well the roads we were in. As soon as I realised we were heading to Staple Lane I knew that meant problems for me. I really don't like that climb and today it was very exposed to the wind. Last at the top at the edge of a heart attack.

Houndhouse Hill is another hill I dislike. Not sure why. Today I just took it steady. Not knowing what else to expect in the route was killing me. Being last again, by a big margin ate into my morale.
I recognised the climb out of Peaslake. I don't know where I'm going but at least knowing the climbs allowed me to regulate my efforts. This one I wasn't last.

Next one was Tanhurst Lane. You could have put a gun in my head and I'd swear I never have gone up this climb. Strava says today was the fith time though. It also says today was the slowest time. Still didn't do that bad compared to my riding colleagues. In fact I was starting to feel great on the bike.

And you know what. The moment we descended, in km 55. JFW says, we are tired, lets head home.
Wait a second. I'm starting to feel alive now!!!

In fact I knind of enjoyed climbing up Henhurst Lane. Another hill I thought I didn't know but Strava says I have climbed six times. Today not the slowest time though.

Then it was Ranmore. Another climb we don't do that often. One that I like. One that I enjoyed going up.

And that was it. At the top of Ranmore I was feeling great but I knew from there it was all downhill to home.

We still had to go through the sprint at Esher. Feeling great and looking at the sprinting pedigree of my riding companions I started to add one more win to my palmarés.

We get to Cobham and JFW decides we are not going home the usual way. We took a road that, again, I thought I didn't know but Strava disagrees with me. In any case no sprint win. I think JFW did it on purpose. I wonder why I still consider him a friend :-)

Take care 
Javier Arias González