domingo, 27 de junio de 2021

Dauntsey Dawdle 400km - Audax

 Flat but worth to be recorded ride

You could argue that deciding to ride on the full setup I’ll use in my August 1200km was not the cleverest of my decisions. 

Yes, the ride is flat if you consider it is a 400km ride, BUT, if you consider you have close to 3000m of punchy climbing in the first 200km AND you are going to ride with a bunch of very strong riders to show up to the ride on a fully loaded, heavy bike can only be described as cycling suicide.

“My kingdom is not of this world”. That’s what I was telling myself all of the ride as I was being slaughtered again and again.

And I was happy with it. Managed to hold myself and go for the first and unique coffee until km 300. Survived the ride and now I’m thinking I’m on a very good path to have a fantastic ride in August. 

“Delayed gratification”, the trick is to enjoy just the thought of the gratification while you are in the delaying phase. That’s how I’m feeling today.

Feeling that, and a considerable amount of tiredness on my legs. 

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 19 de junio de 2021

It looked like a great idea...

 In theory...

The idea went like this. If caffeine always makes me feel optimistic and stronger, why don’t you try having a coffee before the ride. You’ll feel optimistic and stronger from the start. An appealing idea so I had a coffee before the ride.

Instead of the usal Javier hiding in the group as much as possible by the time we got to Chessington I was already at the front. I think everyone was surprised by that move. What is Javier doing at the front??!! I was surprised as well.

Not that I was riding crazy fast or anything but the fact that I felt that was an adequate move made me feel great about my decision to have that coffee. 

Even more, by the time we passed the first two climbs I didn’t shy away from moving to the front. At points even pushing the pace. It felt so good.

The coffee stop came a bit too early in the ride, way before half of the ride, but it came at the right moment for me. I was starting to feel the effects of the party I was having with my legs. A second coffee (and a great scone) felt like the solution.

It took me a while to warmup after the stop. British summer felt cold and legs were enjoying the coffee stop a bit too much. The road continued going up and down and the pace of the group was anything but relaxed. Eventually I managed to get in the zone. So much so that approaching a roundabout without cars, at speed, I put my head down and kept pushing the pace going straight while the rest of the group turned left. They were right, I was wrong. One more anecdote in that theory that I’m terrible at navigating a route, with a Garmin… pure gossip.

Ed took the sprint at Rusper despite I thought I had it in the legs. I was feeling great, I knew a sprint was coming, I knew I still had the energy to put up a good sprint. The problem was I had no idea where the town sign was and by the time Ed went for it we were so close to it there was no way I could even try to contest it. 

That was the end of it. I started to realise that the idea of two coffees in a ride wasn’t that great after all. To start with I needed a pee stop. I hadn’t paid much attention to the route but I knew a hard climb was coming. When I started to recognise the roads I feared it was going to be Leith Hill. Going up Leith in my need of a confort stop wasn’t going to be fun, I thanked God when we continued straight and missed the turn to Leith Hill.

I probably should have thanked Dai but I knew it wasn’t Leith it was going to be another one. When we stopped for that confort break I asked, he answered and I didn’t like the answer. He said something like: We are climbing the back of Houndhouse. I didn’t like the answer not because I knew the climb, in reality I had no idea what climb he was referring to, but I knew very well there is no easy climb to Houndhouse, let alone from the side we were on. A quick check with how my legs were feeling and I knew I had a problem. Two coffees, feeling optimistic and strong early in the ride meant I was tired at that point. 

I didn’t recognise the climb at all so I took it steady and managed to survive it. Enough to make me think I could still do reasonably well at Coombe. The caffeine still having some effect on my body I guess.

I’m guessing because half way up Coombe I lost Denis’ wheel for good and by the time I got to the top I needed another pee stop. Empty legs in the last part of the ride and a diuretic effect. Me and my great ideas.

From Coombe to home is mostly downhill and I was happy to call it a day. Entered sustainable mode and enjoyed the easy ride. The problem was at Cobham, when we were waiting to turn right on the road to Esher Denis mentioned this was my last Saturday ride for three months (I’m planning to spend the summer in Spain) he mentioned the pressure was on me to finish taking the sprint. 

Why did you do that to me Denis? I was about to say I wouldn’t contest the sprint but now I had to. There was no other way. A shame my legs were empty... and I needed another pee stop.

This was a fairly simple sprint. Dai started at the front, I was second wheel and Denis, the Pope and Richard following me. No idea in what order. Dai opened a small gap in the first ramp but I managed to close it slowly when we got to the flat. In the second ramp he opened a bigger gap, he almost dropped me, but, again, managed to close the gap slowly at the top. By then I knew I was going to be able to hold his wheel until the last ramp. Great news for me. The pace was not insane and that gave me the impression I was going to be able to sprint. Caffeine is amazing.

We started the last ramp and Dai flicked his elbow and I moved to the front. Why did I move to the front in that situation? It is clear I shouldn’t have. It was way too early. I should have stayed on his wheel no matter how much he was slowing down. I blame the caffeine. At that point I believed I was going to be able to sprint and beat everyone from the front. 

What really happened is I sat in the front for a few seconds. Not very long but just enough to allow Ed and Richard to take my wheel and then start the sprint. When I felt them passing me I also started my sprint. It was a decent sprint. One of those sprints that when you are fading you feel the rider ahead of you also fading and you still manage to get another kick. A shame Richard also managed to get another kick and he was in front of me. It was a close one but he clearly took it.Caffeine infused optimism probably cost me the sprint and... I almost peed myself. 

It looked like a great idea… in theory.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 13 de junio de 2021

A win is a win. Two wins is better

Second consecutive Sunday riding with Rupert and Noel on tired legs. At some point Denis and I have to have a serious thought about our riding plans for the weekends. We keep putting ourselves in these challenging rides and I’m just not sure these near death experiences are any good for training. Although, to be fair, Denis looked amazing today. Very impressive ride from him.

And you can believe me it wasn’t easy. In case Ruper and Noel were not enough to make any ride challenging we were joined by Enrique, a very solid rider, and Judah “steady at 400w” Rand. 

My ride can be summarised in two sentences. I was last in every single climb, by a big margin. The coffee at Tanhouse didn’t rescue me, the second half of the ride, despite being flatter than the first half and the caffeine running wild in my veins, felt equally challenging to me. 

But when I look at the positives I remember I got some important wins today.

I got a heavily contested sprint at some point near Esher. It was one of those sprints I’d never take because I had no idea it was there. Rupert moved to the front and increased the pace so I held his wheel. At some point he started the sprint, and then, for reasons I can’t imagine, he slowed down. Did he realise he had nothing to do with such an accomplished sprinter on his wheel? I wouldn't be surprised. In any case I took that as the sign to attack and clearly took the sprint. I even had time to celebrate. Looked back and saw the whole group at full speed at some distance desperate as they had missed the only line that really mattered in today's ride. 

I feel for them. I’m sure they’ll be making up excuses, we didn’t know there was a sprint there, there was a lot of traffic, they might even go as far as pretending they didn’t contest the sprint. Don’t buy their excuses. It was a great win. Comparable to my today’s second win. I was awarded table number 1 at Tanhouse!!!! Coming from a place that sees so many cyclists it really means something. Can’t decide if more or less than the sprint I won. But if they say a win is a win, imagine two wins. They almost made me forget how hard today’s ride was for me.

The ride in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González


sábado, 12 de junio de 2021

A sprinting lesson

 Esher sprint. Six riders. Starting from complete stop. Four ramps, the line at the top of the forth one.

Denis on the front the first ramp. Setting a sustainable pace. 

The Pope, the strongest climber in the group, moving towards the front by the top but it was Richard L. the one that hitted the front. 

Using his aero bars kept the pace sustainable. The Pope on his wheel, myself on The Pope’s wheel. All the group together.

The second ramp approached. The Pope moves to the right, he puts the hammer down. I follow his wheel. It felt easy!!! The Pope was standing on his bike. I was following him still sitting on the saddle. Looked back and saw we had a gap. 

There came the first question. Should I attack The Pope? It was tempting. I was feeling fine, I reckoned if I jumped the moment he sat back on the saddle he wouldn’t be able to follow. Looked back and measured the gap we had. Not that big so I decided attacking was not a clever move.

The Pope sat on his saddle, I knew he was going to look back to see what had happened at his back so I moved to the left hoping he wouldn’t see me on his wheel. He looked over his right shoulder, I think he didn’t see me…

A shame he immediately looked over his left shoulder. I was about to move to the right because I suspected he would do that but he was too fast. He saw me sitting on his wheel, he eased a little bit. The rest of the group caught us.

The Pope took it easy on the descent, me glued to his wheel. By the time we hit the third rap, the smallest one, the pace was very, very slow. The Pope asking me to move to the front me putting my best “no way face”.  We were going so slow that the rest of the group had to break to avoid passing us, so slow that a conversation started. I didn’t pay attention, all my focus was to stay on The Pope’s wheel. Suddenly Denis attacked.

No one followed. Very quickly he got a gap. 

That changed everything. I moved to the front, parallel to The Pope. What should I do? What should I do? 

I jumped hard and closed the gap to Denis. Great effort. Looked back and I saw Jack coming. What should I do? What should I do? 

Attacked again and passed Denis at full speed. Another great effort. The problem was I barely started the last ramp… and Jack was coming… and my legs started to feel those two great efforts. Maybe they were too great. What should I do? What should I do?

I slowed down and “waited” for Jack to catch me. Very cleverly he didn’t pass me, he stayed parallel to me. 

Ok, I thought, this is the plan. Ride “easy” parallel to him trying to recover a little bit. When you get half way up the ramp attack him. Perfect plan.

The problem was that a second after I settled for that perfect plan Richard, Atticus and The Pope passed us. Jack followed them.. I made the intention to jump on their wheels but it took me another second to realise I didn’t have the required energy. 

Beaten, all I could do is to pay attention to see how the sprint was resolved. Richard took it.

Denis still had time to pass me way before we got to the top. 

Last at the Esher sign. 

What was the lesson? 

Well, it certainly was not that I was that I attacked too early in the sprint. That is something I know that happens to me very often. Too optimistic about what I’m capable of in a sprint.

The real lesson is Richard is a man to mark in the Esher sprint. He is always in the game. Something I knew but something that I need to remind myself again and again.

Lesson learnt.

The ride in Strava:

Take care 

Javier Arias González

domingo, 6 de junio de 2021

Psychologically Challenged

 Short, but not flat (

Psychologically Challenged. That’s how I felt today. What else would you say if you had experienced this sequence of events.

First you feel tired. Not only from yesterday but from the entire week. With an accumulated TSS of 1300 from Monday to Sunday and a TSB of -28 I haven’t had a week this hard since June 2019, the week we had a training camp in Asturias and we finished with the Quebrantahuesos.

Then my climbing bike didn’t work. I only have myself to blame. Yesterday, Javier, the bike mechanic wannabe, fiddled with the bottom bracket trying to get rid of an annoying sound that was making my beloved bike sound as if it were The Pope’s. I was lucky Luca didn’t ride with us yesterday otherwise I would have been called to order. 

Javier, the bike mechanic wannabe, fiddling with the bottom bracket, meant that riding to LW the bike felt like I was pedalling in squares. As the route passed next to my house I had the opportunity to switch bikes. Now I was riding my long distance bike. A more comfortable bike but also, a considerably heavier bike. 

Riding into Kent, with a group where everyone is stronger than you, on tired legs, not on your lightest bike and following a route that Noel could have named as “Getting as many hills as possible before you get to Four Elms” would have been enough to make me feel psychologically challenged. But that was not all. No, no. There was more.

I had no idea of the route. The arrogant in me loaded the route in the Garmin without looking at anything else than the distance (117km in the provided route) and acknowledging there was some climbing. Short but not flat, I told myself, that’s all you need to know. Didn’t feel like that once I found myself in the route constantly going up and down. Isn’t it psychologically challenging to find yourself riding up and down with no idea of where you are going? Well, there is more.

By km 15 I started to wonder where the coffee stop would be. Somehow I decided it would be at km 60 and I started to count down the kilometres to the coffee stop. In fact at that point I thought I’d title this report “counting down kilometres”. But psychologically challenged felt more appropriate, if not for what I mentioned so far for what is coming. Oh yes, there is more coming.

At some point I heard Noel telling The Pope we would be stopping at Four Elms. I had no idea where Four Elms were so that information didn’t help much. But from that moment I was not only counting down kilometres but also looking for all signs in search of any clue that would tell me how far Four Elms was. Km 60 came and we didn’t stop. Worrying. 

But, but, but, at some point I saw a sign reading “Four Elms ¾”. Brilliant, I thought, we are there, coffee time. But no. We arrived at Four Elms, we passed Four Elms and we didn’t stop. In fact not only we didn’t stop but the road started to go up. 

Wait! what? 

Yes, we didn’t stop at Four Elms and now we were climbing. I would have complained to Noel but he was already well ahead of me in the climb. A climb that, despite how psychologically challenged I had been to that point, I attacked with high morale and full of optimism. To the point I was even climbing out of the saddle, giving it all to get to the top ahead of Denis and Marek. But that was not the top of the climb!!! 

Some words I can’t write here were pronounced. I sat on the saddle and despite all I still managed to keep myself in the game of avoiding being last at the top. I fell back to the best tactic in these situations. Sit on Denis wheel and follow him. 

Well my tactic is not just sit on his wheel and follow him. My tactic is also to attack and pass him as soon as we are close enough to the top of the climb. Javier might not be a great mechanic but is a great strategist.

The top of the climb was in sight and sure enough I jumped out of the saddle. A shame it was only to find out after a few meters that we were not approaching the top. The road turned ever so slightly and revealed even more climbing. Not a little more, a fair amount of climbing still left. Steep climbing I have to add so you get all the context. 

That was it. A few more words I won’t reproduce were pronounced and I surrendered myself. Denis and Marek rode away and I was last by a big margin. Javier, the mechanic wannabe, the great strategist, the terrible hill reader got to the top completely demoralised and wondering where the hell was the coffee stop!!!

I had to wait until km 80. It is fair to say it was a great coffee stop. Sitting in the garden, the sun shining, having a great chat and, crucially for me, drinking coffee.

Once again coffee changed everything for me. It all started with Noel, the not-so-great route designer, mentioning there weren’t actually any other big climbs left. Fantastic news.

It followed with me starting to feel “comfortable” in the group. To the point that I even considered moving to the front. It was only a thought and sense came to me before converting a silly thought into a silly action. That was a good sign though, not only because it is normally good to control your silly thoughts but also because that silly thought meant I had forgotten how demoralised I was just before the coffee stop.

It finished with me doing fairly well holding Bidders, Rupert and Noel’s wheel in the last climb of the day and claiming second at the Horton sprint after a decent sprint against Rupert. 

By the time I got home I was physically and psychologically exhausted. Time for me to take an easy week and to call a proper bike mechanic to sort the bottom bracket of my climbing bike.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 5 de junio de 2021


 Short but not flat (

I’m a wheelsucker.

I don’t say this with pride, it is just the statement of a fact.

It is not that I like to be a wheelsucker either. I am the first that when feels relatively strong compared to the group I’m riding with will show up in the front and will be happy to work for the benefit of the group.

The problem that doesn’t happen very often. For that to happen I need two things. The first one is to feel strong, the second one is to feel strong compared to the group I’m riding with. None of them happened today. 

I didn’t feel strong after a fairly loaded week. That by itself is enough to catapult me to the back of the group and make sure I don’t appear in the front under any circumstance.

But it was also today I was riding in a fairly strong group compared to my form. That was pretty clear when we hit the first climb, Staple Lane. 

I hate Staple Lane with a passion. It is a climb that always comes too soon for me, it is too steep for me and I always feel it is a never ending climb. Still today I was 18 seconds faster than on Thursday’s training ride but 8th out of a group of 10. I definitely wasn’t strong compared to the group I was riding with. That’s Javier positioning himself at the back of the group and staying there for most of the ride.

And I say “most of the ride” because after the coffee stop I made a mistake and, somehow, I found myself at the front of the group. A joke or two was thrown in the group about that. There you had me completely obsessed with all the kilojoules I was unnecessarily wasting while pretending to be chatting casually with Bidders and hoping he wouldn’t notice I was almost out of breath. “Luckily” a climb came soon enough and I was spat at the back of the group, a position I should never have left.

Another example of being in a strong group happened when we hit Tanhurst Lane. A PR for me, 12 seconds faster than my previous PR but 7th out of 10 at the top of the climb.

By the time we got to Box Hill I decided to take it steady. 9th out of 10. 

That’s it. That is Javier done for the day. 15 kilometres more of unapologetic wheelsucking took us to the Horton roundabouts. The traffic in the second to last roundabout messed up the sprint for most of the group. Lucky me managed to get second after Bidders. Happy with that (so easy to make me happy).

The plan for tomorrow is a “rolling” ride to Kent with 6 more riders, all of them stronger than me. I look and how my legs are feeling right now and I know tomorrow, once again, I’ll be a wheelsucker. Fact.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González