sábado, 18 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 7. Last ride in Girona...

 For now, because I’ll be back. Girona has been a great experience. 

The quality of the cycling here is way beyond what I was expecting. In a way, I was expecting Girona to be an overvalued cycling destination but the reality is that, if anything, it is an undervalued cycling destination. 

Girona as a city is small and very manageable. If you stay close to the old city you can walk everywhere. When you get on your bike you are out of the city in ten minutes.

I was also surprised by the diversity of the climbs. Short, long, steep, gentle, you have all possible combinations. The general quality of the roads, most of them with very little traffic and the traffic you find is generally friendly and respectful. Add to that a variety in scenery. Some areas are very similar to Tuscany. If you get to the coast you are rewarded with magnificent views of the mediterranean sea. You can ride through deep forests or climb exposed mountains. 

All I can say is that I totally recommend visiting Girona for a training camp. Especially if you come with a bunch of friends like I did. They’ll kill you riding, that’s a given but the experience will be a million times better. 

At the end we rode 8 days, including a short ride the first day to check the bicycles and a rest day. I rode 825.61 km with 11906 metres of climbing. Not bad.

Time now to have a few bottles of wine over dinner and start planning the next training camp. 

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/5980320790/

Take care

Javier Arias González

viernes, 17 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 6. I might have done something wrong

 Very rarely I go for a ride without a master plan. For me it is part of the fun. 

This time the masterplan was: “Let’s attack Ed in every single ramp/climb and then take him up Rocacorba”.

Yes, I know. It didn’t look like a very sensible plan. But my hypothesis was: If I attack him hard enough and enough times he might crack. Not sure on what I was basing my hypothesis on, last three months I’ve been focusing on riding long and steady, still, somehow, I believed I was going to react better to lots of short and intense intervals.

Now, anyone that knows Ed and knows me would say that is a silly plan. Brave, very brave but very silly. No chance it would work.

But those would have been speculations. We didn’t know for sure.

Well, now we know for sure. It didn’t work. That is how science works. That is how knowledge is created. Javier attacking Ed in every single ramp and climb before Rocacorba didn’t crack Ed. In fact it almost cracked Javier. There you have another piece of knowledge.

Javier being as clever as he is (despite his silly hypothesis) realised he was about to crack around km 40 and guessed Ed was not about to crack. So, once on that point, Javier changed his master plan,

The new master plan was: “Forget Ed, focus on staying with Denis and Richard and beat them both in the last 100m to the top of Rocacorba”.

Full of confidence that I was going to be able to execute that plan I sat on Denis’ wheel from the beginning of the climb. As very often happens he was climbing at a rhythm that had me on my limit all the time. At some point we (Denis with me on his wheel) opened a gap with Richard. Easier sprint I thought. 

Not for long though, two kilometres and a half from the climb, in one of the steep sections Denis stepped on the bike and opened a bit of a gap. I tried to close it but that took me over my limit. I had to ease up. The gap grew bigger.

Quick, new master plan!!! “Don’t try to hold to Denis’ wheel but keep pushing, you’ll get him in the last ramps”

Well, that plan didn’t work very well either. In fact what happened is Richard passed me at full speed in a flat section of the climb. Denis was not in sight.

Ok, forget Denis. New masterplan is get Richard and beat him.

I knew a steep section was coming and I knew I could do well there. And I did. I got to Richard, I passed him and I even saw Denis up the road. 

Change of plans then. Get to Denis slowly (and silently) and get him on the line.

Thirty seconds later the gap to Denis had grown bigger and the gap to Richard had shrinked. It seemed like the plan wasn’t going to work.

Ok, no worries. New plan: Focus on keeping Richard behind you. Third at the top of Rocacorba is a great result.

A shame Richard sprinted up the hill and passed me around 200m before the climb. The gap he opened grew so quickly he got there 30 seconds faster than me.

30 seconds slower than Richard, 48 seconds slower than Denis and 5:11 slower than Ed. None of my plans did work that well really.

Half depressed I found consolation in knowing that I was leading the sprinters classification by a great margin. At the end of the day it is the only classification we all care about.

The problem was that “the other sprinter” TY took the sprint to the lunch stop in Banyoles. As soon as I got the news (I was waaaay behind) I thought it was a fluke.

But I was wrong. After lunch we went for a ride around the lake and TY took the Banyoles sprint. Again!!!

I didn’t worry too much. I hadn’t spotted the sign so it was more of an opportunistic sprint than anything else (one of yours Will).

Still the fact was that “the other sprinter” TY had taken two sprints in a row. Seeing him sprinting up hill against me and Ed rang all the alarms in my brain.

For good reason. The next sprint was a head to head sprint between him and me and he took it. Fair and square. 

He even had time to take another one as we were approaching Girona. Very worrying.

Masterplan for tomorrow? I’m going to stick like glue to “the other sprinter” TY’s wheel. My hypothesis being he won’t notice I’m sticking to his wheel and I’ll take all the sprints.

I’ll report tomorrow on how that worked out.

jueves, 16 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 5. Rest day

Rest days tend to be uneventful. Late start, short ride, riding easy, some chatting, all fun.

Still, as always happens with big cycling events, there is always news during rest days.

In our case I can confirm that “TT” Adam has abandoned the training camp!!!

His team has argued this is a pre-planned move, something related to a previous family commitment and about having the return ticket booked for today even before the training camp started. That’s what the team says.

Rumor has it that the real reason is more related to unexpected levels of cortisone in his body. The non-official explanation is that wanting to alleviate the stitchines of local mosquitos’ bites “TT” Adam went to a Spanish pharmacy and bought some cortisone based drug over the counter. 

It is not clear for me how that drug was used but looking at “TT” Adam’s performance yesterday (second at the climb, able to take a few sprints) I decided to visit the same pharmacy and complain about local mosquitoes. They sold me the same drug and I am now lying in bed with my body completely smeared in cream. 

I might look a bit silly now, but tomorrow I’m going to fly (like the mosquitos).

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/5968776455

Take care

Javier Arias González

Girona training camp, day 4. Dreaming of being a climber

And just another short but not flat day (https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html). 

Do you see that profile?

There is one climb there.  Mare de Deu del Mont, 18.5km average 4.9%.

You won’t believe it but by the time we got to the beginning of that climb I was thinking I was going to take the KOM.

I don’t think it was all wishful thinking. There was a part of wishful thinking, yes, but there was also the feeling that I had strong legs. 

Come the climb and “KOM” Ed took the front. I sat on his wheel and behind me the rest of the group.

The first few kilometers Ed set a fairly easy and steady pace. Easy enough for most of the group to be able to keep up.

But then the profile changed ever so slightly. It went for an easy gradient to a succession of short and steeper ramps followed by sections of flat or almost flat road. 

That was when Ed started to attack. And, still surprisingly, I started to respond to his attacks. 

In each attack Ed would sprint up the ramp, I’d stick to his wheel and the rest of the group would drop a few metres. The group would catch us in the flatish section and the whole game would start again as soon as the next ramp came.

I was amazed. Ed was pushing me very hard but I was holdling there. 

Not only that, at some point I even thought I should attack him as soon as he went back on the saddle after one of his attacks. I was very tempted on a couple of occasions but I was too conscious that we still had a lot to climb (13km at that point is my best guess). I decided waiting and holding to Ed’s wheel was a better strategy.

After some of the attacks Ed was moving left and right trying to force me to move to the front. Well, that was never going to happen (unless I was attacking and that was already ruled out, at least temporary). I was also moving left and right staying always on Ed’s wheel.

My hope was to frustrate him and cast a doubt in his mind. Maybe I would be able to stay on his wheel all the way to the top.

The theory was easy. It was executing that theory what was not being that easy. Ed’s attacks kept coming, they felt harder, the gap to the rest of the group getting bigger in each attack.

At some point it was just Ed and me. “TT” Adam at some distance and then “GC” Denis and “Consisteny” Richard a bit behind.

I saw in the profile that the Garmin was showing me that we were approaching a ramp colored in red. That looked like a longer ramp, 2km I guessed, at a steeper gradient, around 10% I’m guessing now. I knew immediately it was going to be very hard to pass that section and still be on Ed’s wheel.  

Ed attacked once and I stayed on his wheel, very quickly attacked a second time and I still stayed on his wheel but then he attacked a third time and I blew up. We were about 9km from the top.

A gap opened as I was gasping for air. The gap grew quickly but I still was thinking I was going to be able to stop it from growing bigger. 

That only lasted a few seconds, when I blow up it feels immensely hard to keep the pace I was sustaining. Somehow I feel forced to slow down and catch my breath.

As I was slowing down a little “TT” Adam passed me.

The idea of jumping on his wheel crossed my mind but even if he passed me slowly the idea of jumping on his wheel felt impossible. Adam also got a gap that started to grow quickly.

After what I now remember like a couple of minutes I was back to a pace that felt sustainable. That was going to be my pace to the top. 

I think I was a bit optimistic. On one hand as the kilometres were passing, sustaining that pace started to feel harder and harder, on the other the last kilometres of the climb were the hardest. By the time I got those final kilometres I was already losing momentum. The top of the climb couldn’t come fast enough.

Eventually I got there and I have to say it was very rewarding. The views from the top were amazing. Ed had been 5:18 faster than me. That is quite a gap but I was happy with my performance. I was allowed to dream of being a climber and the dream was beautiful while it lasted.

Tomorrow we have a rest day and the day after I’ll have to go back to being a sprinter. What a shame. 

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/5964463354/

Take care

Javier Arias González

miércoles, 15 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 3. Controversies day

There are no cycling events worth their name without a set of controversies that full endless hours of fans discussions. The Girona Training Camp had a full set of controversies today.

Let’s start with the route of the day. 120km, 1700m of climbing. Another short but not flat day in the menu (https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html).

On paper a great stage to make some great differences in the different classifications. But as always happened the organiser set the route and it is the riders the ones that decide the way it is going to be ridden. In this case the riders called for today to be a “rest day”. 120km, 1700m of climbing. Rest day. 

“TT” Adam took the front of the group as we left Girona and set a comfortable pace for the group. Do you remember Tony Martin in the first stage of the Tour of France 2020? Same thing.

There came the first climb (km 8, mentioning it because you might not realise there is a climb there when you look at the profile) and wanting to warm up I pushed a little bit and I took the KOM. “KOM” Ed on my wheel. True, it was not intentional. But yes, I jumped out of the group. Yes, I took the climb. Yes, no one else seems to have noticed the climb. Yes, I took it. Yes, the points counted. I don’t make the rules!!!

Came the second climb (km 19.6) and I was following “KOM” Ed’s wheel. Yes, he was not going fast. Yes, he grabbed a bottle to drink 200m from the top of the climb. Yes, I passed him. Yes, I took the KOM. Did I sprint? Absolutely not. It just happens I can push 400w for a few seconds the moment I stop thinking about pacing myself. Did I celebrate? Absolutely yes. Think about it this way. Here you have me finding myself competing in a classification no one was considering me for. Didn’t Julian Alaphilippe celebrate when he found himself competing for the GC at 2019’s Tour of France? Same thing.

Next up was me at the front of the group, setting a “rest day” pace as it was agreed and at the time of passing a NON official sign I celebrated with both arms in the air. Was that with the intention of starting the hostilities? Absolutely not. IT.WAS.A.JOKE. That doesn’t mean you are breaking the slightly mafia-like agreement that today was a rest day. IT.WAS.A.JOKE. Some of us like to have fun riding our bikes. If you are in this training camp you’ll need to tone down your competitiveness. 

Still, all these were small controversies compared to the big controversy of the day. The sprints. 

I’ll lay my cards down to state clearly that in my opinion downhill sprints shouldn’t count. They are just not safe. Difficult not to agree with that position. But it is not what I say what counts here. The rules are the rules. 

Well, I had to mention the rules a few times today. First “GC” Denis went solo for a downhill sprint. Then “GC” Denis and “The other sprinter” TY disputed another downhill sprint. “KOM” Ed went for the always important coffee stop town sign sprint with complete disregard to the fact that it was at the bottom of a 16km!!! descent. I also had to call out a sprint from “TT” Adam for being just before a left turn (again, it is not safe to sprint in those circumstances), a sprint from “Consistency” Richard for getting in my line and not allowing me to dispute the sprint, a sprint from “KOM” Ed because the town sign was not visible enough and a sprint from “the other sprinter” TY because there was not a sprint line to get to in his attack (Pretty much any attack from Mikel Landa? Same thing).

None of those sprints counted. Obviously.

As always happens, all types of arguments were exposed. -1% is not a step descent, the sprint was not in the descent but after the descent, you could have never taken that sprint, you also sprinted. All excuses from those not happy with the decisions. Do you know what happens when the UCI enforces the rules of the sport? Same thing.

There were sprints that counted though. “TT” Adam took a town sign in front of “KOM” Ed. In the same town sign “GC” Denis took third jumping out of my wheel after I was working at the front for at least 200 metres. This doesn’t change much in the sprints classification. As far as I can tell I’m still leading it comfortably.

But there were still more (minor) controversies today. 

Come the last climb of the day (km 100, again, mentioning it because you might not realise there is a climb there) and “TT” Adam was ahead. “KOM” Ed attacked. At that point it was “GC” Denis’ responsibility to close that gap but it was me the one that set the pace aiming to close the gap. Was I going against “KOM” Ed’s interests? I guess that is one interpretation of the facts. Was I favouring “GC” Denis’ interests? You could say so. Was I looking only after my interests? Of course. Do you remember Movistar looking after their interests in La Covatilla in 2020? Same thing.

Then it was me passing “KOM” Ed my bottle of water. What a gesture of sportsmanship!! Do you remember the Bartali and Coppis bidon picture? Same thing.

What does “KOM” Ed do a few minutes after that? 

He launched a stage winning attack. On a day where we had agreed it was going to be a rest day. A clear departure from the not written rules of the sport.

Almost futile attack I should add. The Girona town sign arriving from that road doesn’t count (too small, too close to a roundabout, not safe) so he only took the town sign of the small village just before Girona. Nothing of much value. Do you know the value of crossing the flamme rouge first? Same thing.

Especially if you are then last to the house where we are staying. Karma they call it.

In my case I’m not very happy as I didn’t take any sprint today but, hey, you can’t win every day. I keep riding within the most absolute observation of the rules (Do you remember Contador? Same thing) and if you keep yourself humble despite being the best sprinter in the group the results will come. Karma they call it.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/5958863413/

Take care

Javier Arias González

martes, 14 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 2. Quelling rebellions

 Another shore but not flat day (https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html)

First rebellion was “GC” Denis taking the first town sign sprint of the day.

Second one was “KOM” Ed taking the second one. 

Suddenly it felt like everyone could have a go at the sprints. Something had to be done...

And something was done. 

First I took the next town sign. 

Next I managed to stick to “GC” Denis’ wheel on the first climb of the day. Despite my Garmin’s best efforts to misguide me telling me the climb was finishing about 300m before it actually finished.

Then I took the always important coffee stop town sign. “TT” Adam was going for it!!!

That brought things to normality. 

The main climb of the day started. St. Marti Sacalm, 8km at 7%.

Last at the top of the climb. As I said, things were back to normality.

But not for long.

On the third climb of the day, somehow, I managed again to stay on “GC” Denis’ wheel. Sometimes miracles happen. I’ll admit I was the first one surprised.

“KOM” Ed went for another town sign sprint without realising I was on his wheel. He actually gave me the perfect lead out. Yeah, we were definitively back to normality.

With a clear lead in the green’s jersey competition (remember, the only one that counts) I thought I had quelled all the rebellions but there was still time for “KOM” Ed to take another town sign sprint. After countless kilometres of him pushing the pace at the front and me sitting on his wheel, I decided to move to the front to give him some rest. A sign of fellowship that was paid with a sudden attack no one  would never have expected. That’s what happens when you have climbers believing they can sprint. Cheeky games.

To add insult to injury came the last climb of the day and he moved to the front and pushed the pace. The old “let’s drop the sprinters in the last climb so they can’t take the stage win”.

What a dirty trick. Four kilometres at the front, with head wind, pushing the pace and hoping to drop his fellow riders. Some riders only care about their wins.

Of course I refused to take a single turn at the front. Fair payback if you ask me.

Another rebellion started as soon as we started the descent into Girona. “Consistency” Richard and “TT” Adam attacked and opened a gap. I wasn’t too worried as none of them had any sprint points so I stayed at the back of the group waiting for the others to take responsibility for the situation.

“The other sprinter” TY tried to jump across and ended up in no man's land.

“GC” Denis and “KOM” Ed exchanged a couple of turns trying to bring TY back. 

There you had me sitting on Denis and Ed’s wheel, starting to get annoyed because TY’s natural ability in not technical descents was making it impossible for Ed and Denis to bring him back.

Of course I didn’t even consider helping them. That would have put in jeopardy my capability to sprint. 

But something had to be done...

And something was done. 

Taking advantage of a small ramp to take the road over a railway I attacked and managed to get to TY’s wheel.

Then I suggested to him that he could get a win if he worked with me to keep Ed and Denis away. He started to work with me. What a masterpiece of race craft!

We got to “Consistency” Richard and “TT” Adam when they were stopped at a traffic light. That, obviously, counts as if we have caught them.

Even more, I couldn’t see any Girona town sign and just checked the UCI rules and in those cases the points go to the current green jersey wearer. Which just happens to be me. It is fantastic to see some UCI rules make justice to what happens on the road.

Tomorrow I’ll be wearing a blue jersey. We are a bit tight on budget so we only keep jersey colors in my mind. I’ll still do my best to honor the jersey and compete with fairness to my fellow riders, not like those cheeky climbers. 

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/5953366769

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 12 de septiembre de 2021

Girona training camp, day 1. Marking my territory

Short, but not flat ride (https://www.unbiciorejon.com/2019/02/javiers-ride-classification-criteria.html).

The most important thing when you go on a training camp is who gets the town sign sprint points. At least that is the most important thing if I go on a training camp with a bunch of climbers.

I knew T-Y was the man to beat when we are talking sprints. He is definitely not a climber.  

So I did what you have to do in these situations. Mark the man (there might be a tip for you here “Superlopez”). From km 100 I stayed with T-Y. 

He used all his savvy sprinter tricks. Started pretending to have a cramp at the coffee stop. He saved energy in every single climb. He even ingested (questionable) pills arguing they were salt pills. 

Didn’t matter, nothing worked for him.

He slowed down. I slowed down with him. (In fact we slowed down to the point the rest of the group got disqualified for riding too fast).

He stopped for a pee, I stopped with him. He attacked on a descent, I stayed on his wheel. He pretended to have cramps, I didn’t buy any of it.

Still it was far from clear I was going to take the sprint. To start with I had no idea where Girona’s town sign was. Once again I had not studied the route. To make it worse, five kilometres from the end of the ride I had him on my wheel. A dangerous situation with a sprinter like T-Y.

As you should do in these situations I slowed down to force him to get to the front. But T-Y is an experienced sprinter. He knows how to stay on a wheel. I had a problem.

When you have a problem you find solutions. My solution was to shout. “We are only 2.5kms away”.

That did the trick. 

Full of confidence on his power he moved to the front AND INCREASED THE PACE. Hoping to drop me I suppose. 

Wishful thinking. 

I am a (very) experienced sprinter too. I stuck to his wheel and nothing was going to take me out of there. All I was doing was waiting for the moment to jump while he was wasting precious energy. I have better chances in this situation.

Still nothing assured. You know how delicate the balance is between hiding behind a rider and, at the same time, scouting ahead looking for a town sign. Proper mastery is needed.

Eventually I spotted the town sign and I knew that was the moment. Hands on the drops and as we were approaching it moved to the left and launched my sprint. 

It was a close one. Had to throw my bike to take it. But I took it. Just about.

I’m delighted. If I ever meet Mark Cavendish we can exchange histories of unsuspected big wins from perfectly executed sprints. I won’t mind sharing with him all my tricks.

Of course I know it is a big responsibility to start a week’s training camp wearing the green jersey but I hope to grow to the challenge.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s ride with a mixture of humbleness and optimism. 

The ride in Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/5948589179

Take care

Javier Arias González