sábado, 23 de octubre de 2021

GC Denis

Everyone that has ridden with Denis knows that Denis’ nickname, GC, is very appropriate. He is one of the most consistent riders in the Saturday gang. Denis is always there.

Denis is a very good climber. Take any climb we have in our rides and Denis will be there or thereabouts. I use him to gauge my own pace. If Denis is around I’m climbing at the right pace. If I can’t see Denis around I know I’m going too hard, cracking will be just a matter of time and Denis will inevitably pass me while I have to slow down gasping for air. Using Denis to pace myself means I have sat on his wheel literally for hours taking advantage of his constant pace. I normally hang there at my very limit, dearing the moment he stands on the bike. I know he is not attacking, he is just alternating positions while climbing but I have cracked more than once at one of those moments. 

Denis is also a very good rouleur. Excellent at taking turns, capable of riding at a very constant pace for kilometres to end, almost immune to distance. We have ridden together a lot so we know each other very well. We don’t need to talk, without words we know how we both are feeling and what is the adequate pace to be efficient.

Denis is not a good sprinter though. That, everyone knows. Although I managed to lose a few sprints against him (and those were not even close to the most embarrassing moments in my cycling career). But Denis compensates that by being very generous with his efforts when the final sprint approaches. That makes him the perfect leadout man. Today was one more proof of that. 

Denis, Ed and myself were approaching Hampton’s sprint. At the last roundabout, still a few kilometres from the sprint, two riders passed us. There was a moment of confusion as it seemed they wanted to wait for some other riders and we wanted to keep our own pace. At some point three riders passed us at a considerable speed and I jumped on their wheel. It turned out those were some of the riders the other two were waiting for so those two riders jumped on my wheel. All in all we ended up being a group of nine riders. Denis, Ed, myself and six of them. Me sitting on the third wheel. Perfectly placed if you ask me.

But at some point one of the riders that was behind me moved to my side and said something on the lines of “I don’t mind you sitting our our wheel but do it at the back of the group”. Fair point. I know it is very annoying when an unknown rider infiltrates a group that is riding together so I moved to the back. Now it was the six of them, then Denis, then me and Ed closing the group.

The amount of traffic at Sunbury on-Thames meant the whole group had to slow down and start the approach to the Hampton sprint almost from a standing start. At that point I thought the road was too crowded and it was pointless to take part in the sprint. I even allowed the group to open a gap with me and Ed. 

But then I saw Denis looking back and I knew instantly what that meant. He meant business. 

I quickly closed the gap and sat on Denis' wheel. Time to hold on there and admire Denis’ masterpiece.

The pace was fairly fast. Still, at the very right moment, Denis moved to the right and started to pass the group. Sitting on his wheel I witnessed the surprised look in every rider we were passing. That WTF look you give when you are barely hanging on someone’s wheel and still see a rider passing you on your right. 

Don’t be wrong. Denis didn’t attack. If he had attacked he would have dropped me. What Denis did was to check if I was on his wheel and created a constant acceleration that produced the effect of passing the riders we had on the left and, at the same time, consciously and on purpose, giving me a lift to the front. 

Again at the very right moment, Denis moved to the left. He placed me nicely sitting on the third rider. That was the moment I thought of lifting my arms and starting clapping. I wanted him to know that his masterpiece didn’t go unnoticed. Unfortunately I had some work to do. The third rider started to drop and I had to pass him to close the gap to the other two.

Just when I was half way of closing the gap I saw the two riders in the front losing speed, I figured they had called off the sprint so I too slowed down. 

A bit of a shame really. It was far from certain that I would have taken the sprint but I was eager to give it a good go. If only to honour what Denis just had done…

…earning a second nickname. “Leadout” Denis.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6153961847/ 

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 17 de octubre de 2021

Went for two masterpieces. Got three lessons

 So here comes Juniper.

We are 9 riders in the group so I made sure I was fifth wheel when we turned right. 

I checked where everyone was and I took note that Richard L was behind me. Dai at the front. Denis third wheel.

Not bad positioning if you were to ask me.

I rode there comfortably the first half of the climb. When the steep ramp came I moved up and positioned myself in third wheel. Dai still leading, Alan following him.

Such a great feeling to go through that descent knowing your legs still have some power and your tactics are working.

When the last ramp came Dai pushed the pace and opened a small gap. I didn’t panic and stayed on Alan’s wheel a bit more. The gap was not increasing very quickly and I knew I could close it.

Then I decided to close the gap. Moved to the right and put some power on the pedals. It was not a sprint, I was still sitting on the saddle. I just knew that was enough to catch and pass Dai.

That was almost a masterpiece of tactical execution!

When I figured I had opened a gap with Dai big enough I looked back and slowed ever so slightly to enjoy the celebration of such a magnificent win. 

Only to discover Richard coming at speed. I immediately knew there was nothing I could do. He got me.

Two lessons there; you would imagine I should know them by now, but it seems I need a refresher. Always wait until you cross the line to enjoy the win. Never forget Richard. 

So now the Horton roundabouts spring comes.

I start on the sixth wheel. 

I know that is a bit too far back so at the second roundabout I move to the fifth wheel.

I know Richard is behind me. You can be damn sure I’m not going to forget that!

Denis gets to the front and sets a very strong pace. 50 km/h at places. Such a great leadout man!

I’m sitting on Dai’s wheel. He knows I’m there. He even makes a sign to tell me he is watching me. 

I don’t mind. I know I’m in a very good place. I know where everyone is. I know I haven't forgotten anyone. I know what wheel to follow. Denis is keeping a fantastic pace. I’m saving my legs. I’m feeling strong. This time I’m going to get my tactical masterpiece.

In the roundabout before last I see Richard passing me on the right. I played cool. I knew it was a bit too early.

In the last roundabout I knew I was wrong. Suddenly I realised I had five riders ahead of me. They started the sprint. I started the sprint. But quickly I realised it didn’t matter. It was too crowded for me to get even close to contesting the line.

Another lesson there; you would imagine I should know them by now, but it seems I need a refresher. When you turn left in the last Horton roundabout you have to be second or third wheel. Otherwise it’ll get too crowded.

There you go. I went for two tactical masterpieces and ended up with three lessons.

The rest of the ride was great.

sábado, 16 de octubre de 2021

One of those days...

Today was one of those days.

One of those days that you surprise yourself feeling strong. Especially after a week in which I felt very tired on Tuesday (slept 12 hours that night) and only had a 90 minutes of easy pedaling on the turbo. But the reality is I surprised myself, maybe the coffee I had at home has something to do with that. 

Today was also one of those days that it was difficult to get your clothing right. Felt cold early in the morning but suspected temperatures would be mild around midday. I spent half an hour trying to decide what I was going to wear.

It was also one of those days that soon after you start riding it starts to rain. Not a lot but that type of rain that if it goes like that for the whole ride you know you are going to end up soaked. Luckily the rain didn’t last long. Still a reminder I was back in the UK.

Today was also one of those days that felt that everyone was really stressed. Car drivers in particular. At some point it felt that everyone was driving like a maniac. Like the rain, it didn’t last long, it was just statistics at play, it soon felt that drivers were behaving as usual.

It was also one of those days that climbing up the Puchbowl I surprised myself holding Ed’s wheel. To a point that I thought I was going to take the climb. I even attacked sprinting for the KOM… Only to find I got the KOM line wrong and there was still a bit to climb. Not much, but enough to see Ed disappear and Denis passing me while I was at the edge of a heart attack. Yes, today was one of those days.

Today was also one of those days that I didn’t know where I was 90% of the time. Yes, I know I have ridden this route many times. I just couldn’t remember it. I was recognising the roads, at times I even knew what was coming. Like when I realised that Hog hill was coming (about 1km before the hill). I really dislike that hill, it is short and steep. I started to pray for a road full of cars that wouldn’t allow us to take it at speed. Unfortunately as soon as we turned left I saw the road was completely empty. Did I mention that today was one of those days? 

Yes, today was one of those days that because you feel strong you put in a bit too much effort and when you are around km 100 your legs send your brain the message that they are getting tired. Your brain knows you still have 30km to go and to make things worse you are told the ride finishes with the Esher sprint. It is not only that I was feeling tired, it is also that I couldn't figure out how we were going to get to Esher from where we were. For some reason I was thinking we were finishing with the sprint at Hampton!! A sprint, that riding with GC Denis and Goat Ed, in normal circumstances, I shouldn’t have any problem taking. Now, the Esher sprint… riding with Ed… feeling tired… That's a completely different story.

But today was one of those days that I skipped just one turn, but it was the right one to skip. That left Denis on the front and me on Ed’s wheel. Ed slowed down, Denis opened a gap and I waited, and waited, and waited. While Ed was constantly looking back. At some point he said something to me but I didn’t understand a single word. I was busy measuring Denis’ gap, calculating how far the line was and getting Ed’s cadence looking back to attack a second after he looked back. 

And that’s what I did. For some reason Ed didn’t follow me, in my dreams I imagine it is because of the moment I attacked. I only had to deal with Denis. It turns out Denis didn’t know he had a gap so he was riding at a constant pace, the pace he rides to launch us “sprinters”. I passed him and took the sprint.

Today was one of those days.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6120836349/ 

Take care

Javier Arias González


domingo, 10 de octubre de 2021

Back to the UK

First ride in the UK after three months in Spain.

I knew I was up for a bit of a shock.

It started in the morning when I realised I needed to put my clear lenses. It didn't look like dark lenses were really going to be needed.

Then it was the realisation that I was a bit underdressed. I wasn't in summer kit, I was wearing a long sleeve inner layer and the club jersey but I certainly could have done with a gilet and arm warmers.

Then it was the pace. Nothing mental but the constant up and down got my legs. By the time we got to the coffee stop I was starting to worry... so I ordered a coffee (the strongest sign that I'm in fear).

Then it was that coffee. I like Beeches tearooms and I think it is a real shame the place is going to close at the end of the month. I love their scones with clotted cream and jam (that's as British as I can be). But all that love can't hide the fact their coffee wouldn't stand a chance against the average coffee in Spain. 

Take this last point with a pinch of salt though. I'm probably trying to put blame on something that is not my own physiology for having to have a pee stop after Tanhouse, then another one at the top of Juniper and then another one as soon as I got home. Coffee is great PED for me but it certainly has its side effects.

Finally it was the thin rain that started as soon as we hitted the Horton roundabouts. Nothing serious but just enough to make us to take it easy in all roundabouts. That allowed for a "slow" and "easy" approach to the final line with me sitting in third wheel. When Marek moved to the front I glued myself to his wheel. He attacked and opened a small gap but being on his wheel was too much of an advantage so I managed to pass him just before the line. 

It is great to be back to the UK, to ride again with the Kingston Wheelers and to see that certain things haven't changed.

The ride in Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/6092123389

Take care

Javier Arias González