martes, 20 de septiembre de 2022

Collada Fancuaya. Solo Non-Stop. Climbed from the right side

Collada Fancuaya was the final climb in stage 8 of La Vuelta 2022 (27/Aug/2022). Jay Vine won that stage.

Not later than a week after the La Vuelta route was announced I went to climb it as I didn't know the climb and it is close to my place in Asturias. This was that ride in Strava

Two months later, in February this year, I went back. I wanted to know the climb well as I thought it could play an important role at La Vuelta. I improved my time up the climb this second time. Nothing impressive, especially considering this second time I was riding with a couple of strong riders. This is that ride in Strava

Imagine what was my surprise and disappointment when watching that stage on TV I realized the riders were climbing following a different route. The last 4km were the same I had climbed twice, but the first 6km were following a completely different route.  A road I didn't know and, to make things worse, a road that looked amazingly beautiful.

I know my image as a Road Captain is already damaged but in this case I have to say it wasn't my fault. La Vuelta didn't publish an official track so I followed what seemed to be the most popular way to climb it in Strava.

Anyway. Today was the day to correct that mistake (not mine, I insist). 

Even if I was correcting a mistake I was able to make a few more. You see that collection of PRs at the beginning of the ride?

Yes. That's the typical rookie mistake of starting a bit too hard. In my defense I could argue I had tail wind and it would be true. But looking at my power for those segments it is still true I started a bit too hard. I’m now blaming the coffee I had after lunch. A proper cyclist should have a good repertoire of excuses. As you can see mine is excellent.

In any case I can confirm climbing from this side is way more beautiful. The road has no cars, goes up a close valley full of leafy chestnut forests. A climb to add to the to-do list for the next time Kingston Wheelers visit Asturias.

What I failed to appreciate watching the pros on TV is that this side was also harder. I honestly was expecting it to be easier. It looked easy for the pros!! It wasn’t easy for me. 

Yeah. I have to admit I haven’t had a look at the profile. No wonder I was surprised by a 800m ramp at 15%, soon followed by another 600m at 16% and before I had recovered followed by another one of 300m at 17%. By then the caffeine effect had disappeared and I entered survival mode.

Luckily for me, soon I got to Yernes. A tiny village half way up the climb. From that point I knew the rest of the climb. That was good news… if I had the legs to take advantage of it, which I didn’t.

You can picture me now surprised when I see in Strava I did a PR (2:09 faster) for that section ( numbers are not that great so I’m afraid I’ll have to put it down in the wind assisted PRs. 

That was pretty much all. It was getting late. A quick picture at the top of the climb and settled for a steady pace to get me home. 

I was tired so my efforts at Fuejo and Escamplero were not what I was imagining when I started the ride (I was fantasizing with a PR at Escamplero) but I still managed to get home a good 30 minutes before it got dark.

Not bad for an improvised ride.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 11 de septiembre de 2022

"Proper, steady K2 ride to Henley"

Well, this was my (rather short) career as road captain finished.

For some time I have been in the search of what type of cyclist I am. Now that it is clear that I’m not a sprinter (a climber was always out of the question). 

Last few months I was convinced that I was a Road Captain. Even if some of my “riding mates” (I won’t name and shame, you know who you are) were very fast highlighting the many reasons why I was not a good Road Captain. What do they know?!? 

That was until today. I’m not in search of a cycling personality. Road Captain is out of the question. Let me give you the details.

I posted in the Kingston Wheelers forum a club ride for today. 128km, 837m of climbing. Short and flat ( “Proper, steady K2 ride to Henley”. That’s how it started.

How did it go? Look, even before we started to ride it was decided we were not stopping at Henley. We were going to stop at Twyford instead. That was my leadership destroyed before the first pedal stroke. 

I still felt optimistic. 8 riders showed up. That is way more popular than when any of my “riding mates” propose club rides. A clear endorsement to my Road Captain skills.

I even surprised everyone with a first long turn at the front. Long enough to be worthy of outloud praise by one of my “riding mates”. To be fair it was probably the longest turn I have done in my whole cycling career.

But that was it. As soon as I moved from the front the “Proper, steady K2” description of the pace failed to be accurate. And that is a very polite way of putting it. 

I don’t take any responsibility though. It was clearly not my fault. It was everyone else’s fault. They were all very strong riders. You see that collection of PRs? You can be sure it was my merit.

My leadership was clearly questioned but I still found comfort in the fact that I was mastering the navigation asped of the road captainship. I even suggested a detour to avoid a big queue of cars. Not everything was lost.

A shame that a few kilometers later, at Walton-on Thames, I saw the group turning left when the route was going straight. I shouted and shouted but no one listened, or cared. It turns out that was another detour to avoid a couple of traffic lights. 

By then even the most optimistic Javier was convinced that the Road Captain career had come to an end. Time to improvise. Quickly.

So I fell back to being a sprinter. It was genius. The final sprint was approaching. It is a sprint where almost no one knows where the line is. I avoided the front like the plague and got ready to celebrate my comeback as a sprinter.

The problem was that Ed, a pure climber, and Rupert, a very dangerous competitor, got away and managed to get a decent gap. A big and scary gap. 

The group caught Rupert (some excuses about cramping were heard) but Ed, a pure climber, ended up taking the final sprint. 

It was clearly not my fault. It was everyone else’s fault. Ed and Rupert’s attack was a bit cheeky, the rest of the group was stuck in traffic. Dani did a monster turn at the front but didn’t manage to close the gap to Ed, even if he was riding super strong all day, a clear example of energy misuse. The rest of the group didn’t contribute to the chase, had they contributed we would have caught him before we got stopped by a red traffic light. 

I repeat. Ed, a pure climber, ended up taking the final sprint.

Not a road captain. Losing a sprint to Ed. Time to retire from cycling. 

Looking at how well I took responsibility for what happened during the ride I decided I have a better future as a politician.

Vote for me. You’ll be disappointed.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González 

sábado, 10 de septiembre de 2022

Back For Breakfast first experience. This is torture


The Back For Breakfast gang torturing me

Back For Breakfast is the ride for those who have a life beyond cycling and can’t go on a long ride on Saturday mornings. I pretended to have a life and joined them for the first time today to see what these rides were all about. 

Well, they are turture. They are all about having fun torturing Javier. And not only because of the uncivilized start time.

Look at the start time of the ride. That’s not me being rubbish with technology. It could have been, but it is not. That’s the real start time of the ride!!

I’ll be quick to admit the ride is very well organized. The organizer publishes in the KW forum the route, the rules ( “Participants are expected to take turns on the front”) and a detailed report of the segments everyone is going to sprint for. 

That doesn’t work for me. Too fair. How on earth am I going to take any sprint if I have to do some work on the front and everyone knows what we are sprinting for!

Getting me to start that early in the morning and demoralized were only the first couple of twists at the turture rack. The third was the route. Yes, there was a gps track. Yes, I had it loaded in my Garmin. Yes, we were riding on local roads. No, I had no idea where I was the first half of the ride. 

Being lost meant I had no idea when the first climb was to come and when it came it took me by surprise. I pushed hard and I thought I have done really well. A shame the “official report” (yes, there is an official report of the ride that apparently people believe more than my report…) mentioned I lost my third place in the last meters of the climb. Out of the podium just because everyone but me knows where the line is. Let’s tighten a bit more the turture rack.

The good news was that eventually I recognised the roads and I knew where I was. We were approaching Juniper Hill. A hill I like, a hill I was prepared for, a hill I was looking forward to.

Less than three seconds (yes, three seconds) into the climb Marek and Adam attacked and opened a gap so big that it was clear the rest would sprint for third. 

I was well positioned and feeling well. The ramp half way up the climb came and Rupert attacked it, moved to the front and I jumped on his wheel. 

That was a genius move by me. Rupert is one of the strongest riders, if he is at the front the second half and I’m on his wheel I’ll have a chance.

The problem was that at some point Rupert flicked his elbow and I felt compelled to move to the front. Not exactly the position you want to be if you want to sprint on the last ramp.

In fact I didn’t even make it to the last ramp. Way before it I was out of breath, flicked my elbow and in seconds I was passed by half the group. By the time I made it to the top I felt like they had executed me following the Blood Eagle ritual. Google images of it if you want to know what I mean. Wikipedia says something like getting the ribs severed from the spine with a sharp tool, and lungs pulled through the opening to create a pair of "wings". Sounds pretty accurate to me.

Played it safe at the Horton roundabouts as the roads were web and slippery. Still I found myself well positioned for the sprint. Harry and Rupert in front of me and conscious of having Tobias somewhere behind. I was excited and worried at the same time. Excited because I was well positioned coming into the last roundabout. Worried because I knew I didn’t have much in the legs. Luckily for me a car forced us to stop at the last roundabout and that gave me the excuse to call the sprint off. That was the last twist at the torture rack. I’m now left with an eternal doubt.

I got home and it wasn’t even 8:30am. My legs were in pieces. Carmen asked from upstairs how the ride was.  


The ride in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González