domingo, 27 de marzo de 2022

Tired but survived

 When the alarm clock went off this morning, after yesterday's hard ride and a one hour shorter night I was tempted to bail from the ride. I still don’t know how I managed to don’t do it but I’m glad I didn’t. The ride was not easy, there is no easy ride to Sumners Ponds, but I had enough to play a semi decent role of filler in a group of nine riders and not being dropped. The secret to happiness is to have low expectations. 

Today was also the day we saw JFW returning to cycling. And what a return it was. As always he took all the early town sign sprints, those he only knows where they are. That was expected. But I was also expecting to last about 30km and the surprise came when he beated GC Denis (and me, of course) up Hound House. That was not expected. After Hound House I thought he would turn left and head home. But no. He did the whole ride!!!! That was even less expected. Sprint power, climbing legs and endurance. I am now pretty sure he has been riding without telling us. 

Finally, also today, I was discussing with Dai alternative sports to cycling. His main point is cycling is a sport that requires you to travel with a big case. I suggested chess. It looked to me like I'd do better than in cycling, even if I barely know how to move the pieces. But now, a few hours later, I found out my real call. You know, there is short siesta, which is less than 15 minutes, siesta and siesta marathon, at least two hours. Being a long distance rider I thought I’d try my hand at siesta marathon today and I think I already managed to qualify for the next olympics. And now I’m not even tired. I’m a natural.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 12 de marzo de 2022

Oops!...I Did It Again

What? What is what you did again? Was it to sit at the back of the group for most of the ride?

No, no. That is expected. No news there.

Was it to have to stop for a pee very often?

No, no. It wasn’t that either. We had rain at the start of the ride and I think I got cold. It is true that I had to stop a bit too often, even for my standards but that wasn’t it.

Was it that you were lost most of the route?

No, no. I am always lost half of the route! Today I only recognised the first two climbs. I actually missed Rupert at Abinger. I know he loves to smash that climb and I love to try to sit on his wheel all the way.

Was it that you dropped The Pope?

Would you believe that? 

Nor me. The Pope was dropped but it was not my merit. We all agreed The Pope todays was Thibaut Pinot’s reincarnation.

It must be then that you had a coffee at the stop.

No, it is not that either. I definitely had a coffee. I know I sound like a broken record but I found myself riding with a group where everyone was riding stronger than me. I had to resort to caffeine to be able to deal with the pressure.

Ah, if you had a coffee then what you did again was to start taking turns at the front as you were a strong rider. It must be that.

It is not. Yes, I started at the front and didn’t shy away from taking turns. I probably expended a few matches I didn’t have but that happens all the time. Caffeine clouds my common sense and make me believe I am Wout van Aert’s reincarnation (The Pope can be Thibaut Pinot’s reincarnation; just in case you had any doubt there is no way I am Wout van Aert).

Oh well, it is clear then. What you did is to take the final sprint at Hampton.

No, it wasn’t that either. I agree with you that considering what a shitty sprinter I am, taking two final sprints in two consecutive weeks is surprising enough to exclaim “I did it again”. But what about the “Oops”. That implies that I didn’t want to do it and you can believe I wanted to take today’s sprint. I wanted it so bad I used all the tricks I know. Positioned myself perfectly at the back of the group, waited for the right moment to launch my sprint, and, very important, made sure no potential contestant knew where the sprint line was. That helps.

Of course the two potential contestants asked where the sprint line was. And I gave them the right answer. “Go ask Rupert and good luck”. So proud of the sharpness of my brain coming out with that answer.

A shame that I continued talking and gave away where exactly the finish line is. 

Oops!...I Did It Again. For a second consecutive week I gave away where the sprint line is to riders that are considerably stronger than me. 

Not so proud of my brain sharpness now.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 6 de marzo de 2022

I need a MIB Neuralyzer?

 Jumped on the bike and realized the rear disc got bent in yesterday’s flight, it was rubbing so I had to ride back and get another bike.

I thought of taking my summer bike but that one is on the turbo. I would have to take it out of the turbo, put the rear wheel, pump it up, etc. I was already tight on time so decided to go for the winter bike. That one was just there waiting for me to grab it.

Riding to the meeting point I realized the front brake was not recovering. I used it once and it got stuck rubbing the wheel. I didn’t mind. I was late and I don’t like to be late. I pushed through it and got to the meeting point just on time. 

Jumped off the bike and tried to find out what was going on with the brake. Couldn’t figure it out so I told the group they should go ahead and I’d go back home and get my summer bike. There were seconds of hesitation until The Pope came with the solution. Just open the brake, it is happening the same to mine and I’m doing it all the time. I tried and it worked. Leaving the brake full open meant I had to pull the lever all the way but the brake would stop the wheel and when stopped pulling the lever it would recover just about to leave the wheel to rotate without friction. Let’s roll.

Let’s roll meant I was in a group with nine other riders. Moving at what felt like a very fast speed, everyone looking stronger than me, me riding a 12.5 kg winter bike, all heading to Sumners Ponds. I’ll confess I panicked a little bit.

It is a cliché by now but Sumners Ponds’ rides are known for not being easy and for being a killer ride for the weakness riders in the group (more details here 

This is barely a surprise for anyone, but feeling how I was feeling and knowing what was coming, I made the conscious decision I would avoid the front of the group like the plague.

And that is exactly what I did. I am very experienced in that skill, almost a master. I don’t think anyone will be surprised by my success at it. 

From my position I was able to admire (and envy) the work the pace The Pope was pushing. He was on fire. The rest of the riders were also riding strong. In my mental calculations I was the seventh strongest rider out of ten. Not ideal.

Made it to Sumners Ponds surprisingly in one piece. Although in retrospect it wasn’t that surprising. We had tailwind most of the way, we went there the “easy” way, did I mention I wasn’t seen in the front?

I ordered a coffee regardless. I knew most of the climbing was going to be in the second half and we were going to have head wind. I didn’t feel too tired but I was very worried.

The second half of the route went actually better than expected. I found myself relaxed, confident and feeling strong. Caffeine is a godsend!!! 

I still rode cautiously though. Leith Hill was coming, a climb I don’t like, let alone riding my winter bike. After Leith we still had Juniper Hill, a climb I like, and the sprint at the Horton roundabouts, a sprint I like but felt was going to be very contested today.

Survived Leith Hill. Didn’t get into the red and still wasn’t too far back. That increased my morale. I started to think my riding mates were getting tired and I was actually feeling ok(ish) (no wonder, they were riding in the front all day and I wasn’t).

Juniper felt a bit too easy. The Pope led it from the beginning to the top. No one dared to pass him. I was able to admire (and envy) how he was climbing, even if I could tell he was fading out a tiny little bit. 

By the time the final ramp came I surprisingly found myself third wheel and with a gap at my back. I still had something in the tank so I decided to sprint for the KOM (I know, I know, very cheeky). I passed Ed, still sitting on the saddle. Put my hands on the drops and as I was going to attack The Pope my left pedal uncliped. Words I’m not very proud of came out of my mouth even if I managed to stay on the bike. 

The Pope took the KOM but I was still very happy with my second. Kind of like Valverde yesterday as Strade Bianche. At the top of Juniper is where it is obvious who was slaughtered in just another Sumners Pond ride. I was just happy it wasn’t me. So much so this song came to my mind (

Happiness (and caffeine) made me visit the front of the group so no one can say I didn’t contribute to the average speed. Yes, it was probably only 1 km and yes, it was all downhill but the Horton sprint was coming and I was already considering how I would play it. I was still part of a fast moving group of 10 riders.

Lucky had it that as we were leaving Epson it was only The Pope, Ed and me. I looked back and only saw a rider in the distance. I figured the rest got stuck in a traffic light. Well, that simplifies matters a little bit.

By the time we get to the first roundabout The Pope was at the front, Ed on his wheel, I was third wheel and the fourth rider joined us. I took note we had head wind and, still, I thought my best chances were attacking from a far (that’s the danger of watching Pogacar racing). 

A couple of roundabouts and we rotated Ed moved to the front and The Pope to the back. One roundabout and we rotated again. Not sure how the rest got organized behind me but I’m certain I found myself in the front for what it felt like an eternity. 

I started to slow down. Part of it was that I felt the wind and I was starting to get tired, part was me slowing down to force someone to pass me. The Pope attacked.

Not a very strong attack I have to say. In fact I decided I wasn’t going to close the gap. I wanted the other two riders to pass me so I could move to the back and stay until the final sprint.

But they were not coming. 

So I slowed down a little bit more. 

The gap grew bigger. I still was thinking I would be able to close it if I wanted but I was worried about bringing the other two riders with me. I slowed down a little bit more.

Finally they both passed me. I sat at their back and waited for them to close the gap.

Now I was thinking that as soon as we got to The Pope I was going to attack. I was still thinking my best chance was attacking from afar.

The problem is the gap with The Pope was closing very slowly. By the time we got to him we were in the last roundabout.

The Pope started to sprint but I saw Ed coming faster from behind him so I followed Ed. 

The problem is Ed’s kick was very strong and he had a small gap. I kept pushing and managed to get on his wheel with a second to decide when to attack him. 

Luckily for me Ed didn’t know where the line was so a few meters earlier I moved to the right, gave it a push and managed to take the sprint.

Now I was over the moon. Not only did I manage to survive a ride to Sumners Pond but also managed to take the final sprint. I was close to starting dancing when we stopped to re-group.

Still, so much optimism made me make a huge mistake. Ed mentioned he didn’t know where the sprint line was and there I went giving him all the details about it. 

I don’t know why I gave away such important information to a rider that is clearly stronger and faster than me. Clearly I’m not the cleverest out there but I have a plan, I’m now googling “MIB Neuralyzer” (and a new disc brake).

The ride in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González