martes, 31 de mayo de 2022

The easy day

Kingston Wheelers training camp in Mallorca day 4. The easy day..

The EASY day!!!!

We headed south east following a main road, at some point I saw a sign: Artá 11km. It felt to me we were heading there and that was a big sprint opportunity. The green jersey of this training was still up for grabs. Javier, the eagle, was ready.

9 km I sat in the group hoping no one noticed a major sprint was coming. My plan was to go for the sprint from afar to minimize the chances of anyone else to contest it.

Luck had it a “climb” came 3 or 4 km from the sprint line. The group split and it was only Dai, Rupert, Denis and myself on the front. .That simplified things, a few potential contenders eliminated already.

I sat at the back of the group. At 2 km from the sprint I decided to wait until 1km to the sprint. We were going downhill and I figured if I attacked from that afar they would work together and catch me. 

With 1km to go I was getting ready to attack when the Garmin announced a right turn. Wait, what?!!? We never made it to Artá. 11 kms of careful planned strategy wasted. 

That didn’t affect me. I was determined to take any sprint that might come. 

For kilometers to end I rode scouting ahead looking for a sign of a town, a village or even a couple of houses. Nothing!! We didn’t cross a single town sign. 

This sprinter wannabe kept his cool. 

The coffee stop at Petra was approaching. Another climb cleared things. This time it was going to be Rupert, Richard L. and myself. 

No surprise factor though, I’m pretty sure they also knew the sprint sign was coming. 

Giving a masterclass of positioning I stayed at the back of the trio for a couple of kilometers. I knew what I was doing.

A roundabout came and I figured just after the roundabout was the right moment to attack.

And that’s exactly what I did. I attacked as hard as I could. I beat a few of my max power record numbers. I opened a huge gap. I looked back and I saw Rupert and Richard L. coming so I kept pushing. It was clear they were not going to catch me. There was only one problem…

There was not town sign. I found myself in the middle of the town and couldn’t recall having passed a town sign. According to the rest of the group if you didn’t see the town sign the sprint doesn’t count. 

I was a bit disappointed but still not completely demoralized. I still had confidence on how well I was feeling and how tired everyone else looked. A town sign will eventually show up and I’ll take it I was telling myself.

We went back to riding and at some point I saw a town sign. I can’t remember the name of the town. To be honest I was completely lost 90% of the ride. Let’s say for the sake of the report the town was Muro. The sign said: Muro 5km. 

Great!!!! Enough time to get ready. I hope no one noticed the sign. 

My hope survived 2 kilometers. At some point JFW was riding on the front, me on his wheel, he looks back and says: “3km to go”. 

Damn!!! He knew.

I tried to play dumb. “3km for what?” I asked. 

“C’mon, don’t pretend you don’t know” he answered.

Not the best of news for me, but at least he was at the front and I was on his wheel. 

As we were approaching the sprint JFW flicked his right elbow. I didn’t bite.

Then he flicked his left elbow. I didn’t bite.

The man looked like a butterfly moving his elbows but I still didn’t bite. I was going to the front only to take the sprint.

Rupert approached me from the right and said “Go on Javier”.

For some reason I took that as an order and I jumped.

Only to realize I was too far away from the town sign. 

Rupert passed me and had enough time to point me to the town sign as he was taking the sprint.

I wasn’t happy about the result but very quickly I told myself. The sprint that really counts is the sprint to the house. Focus on recover, take that one and you would have done great.

You can bet I didn’t turn a pedal stroke that wasn’t absolutely needed for the rest of the ride. That’s how committed I was.

I was committed but also a bit distracted. In the last roundabout Rupert got a gap with TY following his wheel. Rupert attacked from afar and TY couldn’t follow him. 

I had a big gap to close but I pace myself perfectly. I was getting closer and closer to Rupert knowing I still had power in my legs. 

Rupert looked back and saw me coming but he didn’t accelerate. I kept closing the gap measuring my effort.

As soon as the last ramp started Rupert looked back again, saw me very close and he gave up.

I passed him at the same time I opened the gas attacking the ramp. Made it to the top and kept pushing. I was running out of power but this time I wasn’t going to stop until I got to the door of the house.

Well, that was the intention until I saw Bidders passing me as if he were riding to buy some milk. 

He got to the door of the house first.

If we don’t count the sprints the ride was great.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

lunes, 30 de mayo de 2022

Puig Major + Soller

Kingston Wheelers training camp in Mallorca day 3. The climbers day.

What a great day of cycling. You wouldn’t believe it.

The day started with JFW wearing a culotte that probably belonged to Tom Simpson. It was the right decision. Probably worn out after so many years of usage, the piece was so thin that it was perfect for the warm temperatures we are enjoying. It also had the additional benefit of being almost transparent. Giving us all a magnificent view of JFW’s (very) lower part of his back. What better way of starting a ride than enjoying the view of an Apollo’s like body. 

Then the climb to Puig Major came and the day continued its strike of happy moments. The Pope attacked the climb and went away. It is always great to see a riding mate going for it. Attacking the group. Opening a gap with ease. How much we all enjoyed it. 

Then it was Dai. For a few meters “GC” Denis, Richard L. and myself were sitting on his wheel but when the gradient increased he pushed it a little bit and opened a gap. I enjoyed the feeling of keeping my own pace, with “GC” Denis and Richard L. sitting on my wheel, and seeing Dai riding up the hill like he were dancing. Such a moment of content euforia. 

Once the three amigos found ourselves alone I had the privilege of pacing our small group. So happy to be getting the 5% drag of having “GC” Denis and Richard L. on my wheel. What a selfishless gesture from them contributing to make my effort more bearable. I thank them a thousand times in my thoughts (I wasn’t able to talk).

Then Bidders came from behind. Caught us, passed us and gave us the opportunity to admire his effortless climbing style. Not everyday you have the opportunity to enjoy being passed up a hill by a rider relaxed as he was doing errands. Bidders, a rider that could punish you if he wanted, was magnanimous and let us climb at our own pace. What a team player.

And then it was Puig Major. What a mountain. Impossible to know where the top is. Constantly surprising you with an unexpected steepness. Sometimes steep, sometimes downhill. What a better way of keeping the climbing entertaining. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice climbing surprise. Anything to make pacing your “friends” more interesting. 

Puig Major was so surprising that when we sprinted for what looked like the top of the climb “GC” Denis took the sprint. How happy I was for him. A shame Richard L. was not there to enjoy that view. So many times “GC” Denis had sacrificed himself for my sprinting and climbing aspirations that I was delighted to see him passing me just before the top of the climb. What a great effort.

But the best was yet to come… the climb to Soller. 

What a beautiful climb. What a great pleasure to ride it with a group of selfisless riders. First Dai wanted to set the pace for us not caring about sacrificing his own chances of taking the climb. Then “GC” Denis decided to give us space. What better way than dropping himself gently and allowing me to sit in Rupert’s wheel. And then JFW. Oh JFW was magnificent. He insisted on showing us the (very) low part of his back while he was riding playfully alongside Rupert and myself. Calling the cars and riders that were descending, making jokes, I swear that at a given moment he even whistled. Is there a better way of making the pain and suffering of a hard climb more bearable to your riding mates?  Yes, there is. It is more bearable if Rupert insists on taking every single hairpin bend with a bit of a push introducing a great deal of diversity in our climbing. You can’t imagine how much I enjoyed closing that little gap one hairpin bend after another. Bear in mind that Soller, on the north side has almost 30 hairpin bends. That’s plenty of entertainment. What else can you ask for?

What about a beautiful sprint to the top of the climb. JFW decided it was Rupert and me to play after all the effort we had put into the climb. I started to sprint first. Full of power. Opening a big gap very quickly. A few cyclists that were outside of the bar that is at the top started to cheer us. Isn’t it great to sprint in front of spectators that understand the sport? What a great spectacle we gave them when Rupert passed me about 5 meters before the line. I was so happy for him! After all the effort he had put leading me, pretty much the whole climb, divine justice was made and he took the sprint at the top… in front of spectators… with me shouting words of encouragement. I almost cried of joy. I was so happy for him that run out of words in English and had to switch to Spanish to shout more expressions of happiness. That climb to Soller is one that I don’t think I’ll forget. That’s how happy I was.

With 75km downhill / flat to get home you would think there was not much else to enjoy in this ride but you would be wrong. We still had time for two more moments of pure happiness.

What else would be seeing TY resurrecting and attacking the group with me and Rupert on his wheel. He has made such a big effort to be here with us, he even trained doing hill reps to get him fit for the challenges of this trip. He invested in the best technology to make sure his bicycle was in pristine riding order and fully reliable for the challenge of this training camp. What else could Rupert and I have done but helping him with his effort of breaking away from the group. 

Impressed with the 300w that it was taking me to keep with TY’s wheel every time I was hitting the front I was slowing down a little bit the pace to make sure TY could be successful in his breakaway. In fact, I needed a pee stop and refused to stop to maximize his chances of success. 

Unfortunately for TY, as very often happens, the peloton caught the breakaway. Everyone was very understanding of the explanation I gave them and that was a moment of pure happiness. Topped with JFW’s comment “Javier you don’t need to give us any explanation, we know you”. I had another look at the (very) low part of his back and I felt true what true friendship and understanding each other is. 

We still had time for a little last moment of joy. The sprint to the house.

Rupert leading the way. Me seating on his wheel. Me jumping and giving him a surprise. Him reacting and keeping my wheel. Me missing the turn to the house. He getting to the door first. Me, unable to congratulate him because I was out of breath but internally very, very happy for him.

As I was saying: What a great day of cycling! A day we will be very happy to remind each other for years to come.

The ride in Strava:

Take care 

Javier Arias González

TTT in Sa Rapita

Kingston Wheelers training camp in Mallorca day 2. Team Time Trial in Sa Rapita.

Full of confidence on my planning capabilites after yesterday's ride ( I convinced the team to start riding easy the Team Time Trial.

It didn't work.

We lost.

By something like 20 seconds in a 7km TTT.

That puts a big question mark in my cycling strategy skills.

I should have retired from cycling when I was at the top.
Take care
Javier Arias González

Racing up Sa Calobra

Kingston Wheelers training camp in Mallorca day 1. The plan was to have a race up Sa Calobra.

The handicaps were announced a while ago.

I’ll admit that since the handicaps were announced I started to think about what my strategy should be. You’ll be glad to know it didn’t take me long to come out with the perfect one.

I had decided that when I was going to be given the go shout I won’t move and I will stay put waiting for my minute man, “GC” Denis. As soon as “GC” Denis would be given the go shout I’d sit on his wheel for the first 7kms of the climb. Then, with 3 kilometers to go, I’d attack him, drop him, and take 1 minute and 1 second of him in those 3 kilometers. Genius. Cheeky if you want, but certainly a genius plan.


My resonsing was very simple. From all the other riders I know who is faster and who is slower than me in a climb like that. It was “GC” Denis the one I considered I was the closest to. So, for me, beating “GC” Denis up Sa Calobra would be a big win. My plan was so good that had another benefit. Sitting on “GC” Denis’ wheel would be way better pacing than trying to pace myself. Also I didn’t think he wouldn’t mind me sitting on his wheel. We have been in that situation so many times that I reckon he is used to it by now. The tricky bit was to beat him by one minute and one second in 3 kilometers but I didn’t say my plan was easy. It was a genius plan, but not an easy one. 

I was so convinced my plan was great that I told everyone yesterday over dinner… and this is where I found my plan wasn’t as good as I thought. It turns out it was not an ITT up Sa Calobra, it was a handicap race. That is, it didn’t matter if I were faster than “GC” Denis, all that mattered was who would cross the line first. Once I understood the rules it was clear my plan was not so great. All that display of creativity lost forever. I needed a new plan. I needed a new strategy to pace myself.

I had problems getting to sleep that night trying to come out with a new plan. I even considered proposing the group to forget about the race and go up Sa Calobra as an ITT. If only to see my marvelus plan executed but I suspected the motion wouldn’t get much traction so I discarded the idea. Totally desperate I checked the profile to try to get some ideas (I know, for a man so found in planning not checking the profiles of the routes before riding them is quite an oversight, but I’m working on that). The profile gave me an idea.

First climb, Soll de sa Batalla, almost 8km at 5%, I was going to ride it very, very easy. That was a climb to save my legs. But then there was a small climb, Col de Cal Reis P, 3km at 6%. I decided I was going to use that climb to test the pace I had decided I was going to use going up Sa Calobra.

The pace I had decided I was going to use going up Sa Calobra was a bit convoluted but stay with me. At the start I was going to start riding at either 300w or 160bpm whatever comes first. My reasoning was that it would prevent me from pushing too hard at the beginning and would allow my heart rate to go up gradually. I estimated that it would take a couple of minutes to get up to 160bpm. As soon as I get to 160bpm I’d change the screen on my Garmin to hide my power and only see my heart rate and I’d keep my HR between 160 and 165bpm for the first 5km.  That was the genius part. Riding at that pace was taking it a bit “easy” for me but in my mind that was the best strategy because if any of the fast riders that were starting behind me were to catch me I still would have something in the tank to try to stay on their wheel to the top of the climb… and bit them at the sprint.  

If no one catches me in the first 5 kms then I’d ride between 165 and 170bp for 3kms (from km 5 to km 8) and then between 170 and 175bpm for 1km (from km 8 to km 9). For the last 500 meters I’d be riding between 175 and 180bpm. 180bpm is what I consider my maximal heart rate. Not that I have got it that high for a long time but lying in bed, awake well after midnight, I estimated I’d be able to get that high.  

My plan had one more provision. As soon as I’m caught from behind I’d sit on the wheel of the person that catches me, I’d change the screen in my Garmin so I don’t see power nor heart rate and I’d try to stay on the wheel all the way to the top… and beat him at the sprint. Genius. Cheeky if you want, but certainly a genius plan. Not easy though.

Today I started the ride taking it very, very easy. In fact I didn’t even have coffee in the morning to make sure I was not over excited and over confident. I only hit the front of the group in a small climb that I used to elevate my heart rate a bit and get the body warming up.

Coll de Batalla came and I surely climbed it very easy. Everyone was climbing it very easy, which wasn’t exactly good news. The news didn’t improve when we decided to stop at km 40. We were stopping even before the top of the first climb. I honestly thought that was a conspiracy to sabotage my plan. 

I’ll admit that I took the opportunity of the stop to get a coffee. I was starting to feel like I needed all the help I could get.

When we arrived Col de Cal Reis P I moved to the front and tested my pacing. And it worked beautifully. 8 minutes, 280w, 158bpm and I was absolutely fine when I got to the top of the climb. I was now more convinced that I should follow my plan.

We descended Sa Calobra. Got to the parking and following the planned intervals we started to ride. I was rider 5 out of 10. 

It took me about 50 meters to clip both pedals since I was given the go shout but I didn’t get nervous or worried. I had a plan and I started to execute it fairly well. 

Only until at one moment I distinguished a Kinston Wheelers jersey ahead of me and another one behind me. “GC” Denis was closing the 1 minute gap that I had on him rather quickly. I knew that I could go a bit faster but at the pace “GC” Denis was approaching I feared I wasn’t going to be able to hold on to his wheel for long.

Still, I stuck to my plan and kept riding steady and that was making me close the gap to the rider in front of me. I passed Marc, gave him some words of encouragement and he wished me good luck. That detail elevated my morale.

Kept riding trying not to look back in an attempt to keep my cool. My heart rate was slightly higher than I wanted but I was still happy with how everything was going. 

Even more when I saw TY ahead of me. I was catching riders and no one was catching me. I looked back and couldn’t see Denis. That was another morale boost. 

Far away I saw what I thought was Richard L. passing JFW. I got the impression they were very far away but before I realized I was catching JFW. It was at a hairpin bend and I passed him in the interior standing on my bike. At the precise moment that one of those photographers that is taking pictures of cyclists aiming to sell them later to them was taking what must be a fantastic picture. JFW complained about me passing him in front of the photographer and he almost made me laugh. I then realized I was having fun. I was enjoying the climb.

Closing the gap to Richard L. took me longer. On one hand I didn’t want to push it too hard because I feared he would be waiting for me and he would attack me as soon as I got to his wheel, on the other hand I realized we were getting closer to the top. I was at risk of running out of mountain to catch him.

When the famous 270 bend came I took the opportunity the road gave me when it gets a bit less step and I pushed a little bit harder to close the gap. I was in Richard L.’s wheel. 

What did I do? I changed the screen of my garmin to hide my heart rate and prepared myself to stay on his wheel no matter what. I had no intention whatsoever to pass him until the sprint to the line.

I was expecting to be able to recover sitting on Richard L. 's wheel but that actually didn’t happen. He was riding at a pace that was challenging enough to make me think he was accelerating to drop me. I had about 1 km to hold on his wheel. I was confident that if I managed to hold his wheel I’d beat him at the sprint. 

The problem was that I looked back and I saw a rider approaching us. At the time I thought it was Denis but later I learnt it was Bidders. Anyway, having a rider approaching from behind made me think I would have to attack Richard L. if he were to slow down. Luckily for me he was not slowing down and, in my mid, if we were to keep riding at that pace we wouldn’t be caught. The win would be for one of us. 

And then, somehow, I got distracted. I know it is difficult to believe but I lost track of how far we were from the line and of Richard L.’s gears. And as if he had sensed my distraction he attacked me. 

He took me completely by surprise. I first checked if we were approaching the line and indeed, we were approaching it. Then the idea that he was attacking too early passed my mind but then I looked at the gap he had and I knew I was in trouble. I changed gears as I was putting pressure in the pedals. My bike started to accelerate and I started to close the gap…  Slowly, too slowly. I had to change gears again and to start what felt like a mini-sprint within the sprint. That was the moment I heard Richard L. shouting something as a sign of surrender. I had beaten him to the line for half a wheel. I had won the KW Saturday Gang race up Sa Calobra. I don’t think I have any other race win as important as this one in my palmares. I probably should retire from cycling now that I’m at the top of my career.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 22 de mayo de 2022

KW - Dauntsey Dawdle 2022 (400km Audax)

I don’t know what type of cyclist I am anymore.

My current thinking was that I was a breakaway specialist but I’m not quite sure.Three riders broke away and stayed away the whole ride. Missing the “winning” move is not precisely the sign of a great breakaway specialist, is it?.

I certainly can’t be a climber. That was obvious even before this ride started. Riding the first 75km of the ride with Harry was an unneeded confirmation. One of the type of him chatting casually while we were climbing and I was at the edge of a heart attack.

Not a descender either. I never was a good descender. That’s not a surprise. But picture this. At the top of one of the hills I got a cookie from my back pocket. We started to descend when I had eaten only half of it. Tried to descend chewing half a cookie, keeping the other half in my left hand but the descent was steep and the road was full of potholes and bends. I ended up involuntary dropping that half of the cookie. Probably a good thing because I was starting to get too close to losing control of the bike. Not, not a descender. 

At some point in the past I thought I was a good rouleur but yesterday I got proof that is not the case. As soon as we hit the flat part of the ride my two riding companions set a pace that got me hanging in there. Every time I moved to the front our speed decreased by 4 km/h. At some point I blamed it on not having my aero bars fitted on my bike (they both had aero bars), but that didn’t help to explain my struggles to keep the wheel.

I’m not a sprinter either. I never wanted to be but yesterday I got a painful reminder. I did the first part correctly, I sat on the second wheel the whole ride into Hampton. Not a single time the idea of taking a turn in the front crossed my mind. So far so good. But then, somehow, I got distracted. Deep  in my own thoughts only got back to real life when I saw us crossing the line. Me in second position. What kind of sprinter gets distracted seconds before sprinting!!! 

Are there any other cyclist types I could fit in? I’m running out of ideas.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 14 de mayo de 2022

Convincing myself of the most weird things

The route was announced and the first thought that came to my mind was, “another short and flat ride” ( Easy on paper.

The catch was the ride was announced as K1.5. For those of you not initiated in the Kingston Wheelers’ classification criteria, the fastest rides are classified K1. K1 rides are “eyes popping out” hard like rides. K1.5 ones are “you keep your eyes in but everything else still hurts” hard like rides. 

8 riders signed up for the ride. And then Bidders showed up unannounced. Just that added 2km/h to the average speed. I smelled danger. By my account everyone was stronger than me. 

That’s what I signed up for. Why do I do this to myself? I tell myself I like riding with this bunch, I tell myself these rides are good training, I tell myself these rides are “fun”. I’m great at convincing myself of the most weird things.

Did a decent effort (by my standards) up Green Dene. Dai decided to bail from his own ride. I moved from being the weakest of 9 riders I was then the weakest of 8 riders. I took it as an improvement. I am definitely great at convincing myself of the most weird things.

Collected a bunch of PRs between Greene Dene and the Devil’s Punchbowl just holding the pace of the group. Very happy with that, I took it as my form has improved lately. 

Another decent effort up the Devil’s Punchbowl helped me to convince myself that my form had effectively improved. Weird, because form doesn’t change from one week to the next but, hey, I didn’t have any problem convincing myself.

The rest of the ride saw me sitting at the back of the group. That is not weird, more than one would say that’s expected. Wheelsucker Javier and all that. But my reasoning was, I’m tired, everyone else is stronger than me, if I want to have any chance at the sprint I need to recover. The best place to recover is towards the end of the group. Flawless reasoning.

The group of 8 became 7 and soon afterwards the group of 7 became 6. That “increase in my racking” increased my confidence towards the sprint. Well, that, and the opportunity to recover for about 20 km. Still couldn’t really tell what contributed more to my self-confidence.

There was only one little problem… I needed a pee stop. But I had so many pee stops I was embarrassed to ask the group for a stop. I was praying for anyone else asking for one. But that didn’t happen.

As soon as we made it to Cobham I knew there was not going to be any pee stop. Time for me to show my skills. I managed to convince myself that when you focus on strenuous effort your sphincters close themself up. I had the vague suspicion that they would release themselves after the strenuous effort finishes but didn’t have time to entertain that idea and its consequences because The Pope attacked in the first “climb” towards the Esher sprint.

I have done such a great job at convincing myself that I had good legs that I felt tempted to follow him and launching a counter attack. Good that I’m a great sprint strategist (I have convinced myself of that a long time ago) and decided to sit in and let someone else close the gap. 

That’s exactly what happened. And that meant I was in the position I wanted. Third wheel of six riders, on the wheel of the rider I wanted to be. My confidence skyrocketed. 

The Pope launched the sprint from the front. A bit too early for my liking but I didn’t hesitate and went for it. Full of confidence…

For about 5 seconds. The time it took me to realize Steve was on my wheel and about to pass me at a speed I was not going to be able to match. 

Second in the sprint. In my mind the sprint looked like this one:

Weird because the reality was that he took the sprint by three or four bike lengths. I had to do something to justify that result. Time to think… quickly.

Before we even got to the traffic lights at Esher I had managed to convince myself that if I had marked the wrong rider but if I had marked Steve I would have taken the sprint. I didn’t miss the opportunity to tell everyone at the traffic lights that was the real reason why I haven’t taken the sprint. 

What is a bit weird is that I managed to convince myself of that without changing my conviction that I’m a great sprint strategist.

Did I mention that I’m very good at convincing myself of the most weird things? It is almost as if my brain lives in a parallel world.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González