NZ Bike Velodrome Article

Here is a short piece about the Taranaki Velodrome where I am helping to deliver coaching to school age children and conducting track accreditations to ensure good practice.

 

Werner's final day and age group win at the Colorado Breck Epic 

For more pics on Werners race and reports from other Marathon MTB races around the globe go to http://www.marathonmtb.com/

Breck Epic day 6 20th August 2011
Gold Dust Loop – 54km, 1,000m total ascent

At the race briefing Mike promised us that our faces will hurt from all the smiling during stage 6 and he wasn’t lying. Stage 6 was one of those great days out on a bike. I had a good overall lead on Mike so decided to just enjoy the stage and not ride myself into a daze. I would put the effort-reward ratio at 30:70. For a change it felt like we were riding all the trails in the right direction.

I know most people get bored reading the blog and stops after the first paragraph so before getting into the stage detail I want to thank all the people involved in the Breck Epic. Mike, the man with the big cowboy hat and horse for a dog, that had to answer my constant questions about starts, medics, bags etc. The rest of the crew with a special thanks to the course markers – it has been one of the best marked courses I have raced on. Timing crew – having to listen to me complain about my team name (btw there is still one M too many). Volunteers at the aid stations– without them we would all have died of thirst 20km into stage 1. One person would scream your number as you approach and another would have your bag ready for you just to snatch your stuff and be on your way – super efficient. ‘Bearded man’ at the finish (sorry I was always in a daze at the end so never asked for your name) – your sandwiches saved me from bonking between the finish and the bike wash and that little Johnson after stage 6 was grea.

Great competitors – Mike Schilling really made me work hard for it and was a true sportsman and ambassador for Breckenridge (it was great he kept on thanking people for coming to the race). All the other racers – every time after a big crash people would ask whether I was fine and mean it (at some European races they would just bunny hop over you and be on their way). Supporters on the trail – ‘looking great’, ‘good job’, ‘go get him’ all the encouragement made me push a little bit harder.

Lastly but most important. Nadene, race support, having to deal with 5:40 alarms, my stinky feet from being in wet cycling shoes, effect of too much protein in energy drinks and bars, my insomnia and all the other things you had to do for me. Best part of my day was to see you waiting for me at the finish line.

After my long rambling I’ll keep the stage 6 update short. The start on the road was fast as we knew we had to get to the Barney Ford trail before the single track bottle necks. Some more climbing followed on single track before we dropped onto Boreas Pass road. A long steady gravel road climb followed up to aid 1 at the Continental divide. The decent down Gold Dust had me smiling from ear to ear as I just let the bike go and prayed that I don’t crash. A long section in irrigation ditches felt like the bike was on rails as you used the banks to blast through the corners. This was big ring riding all the way. The section back up Boreas Pass to the feed station had us battling a bit of a head wind. Funny to see that most MTBers don’t like drafting as you could see guys riding with 20m gaps between them. Being a lazy cyclist I teamed up with Peter Paelinck from the Belgium crew and we took turns to battle the head wind. After the aid station it was all downhill and mostly on single track. Once again I couldn’t stop smiling and was slightly disappointed when I saw the finish line as I just wanted to ride a bit longer.

 

 

Breck Epic stage 5

(Wheeler Loop – 45km, 1,300m total ascent) 

Stage 5 started quite close to the apartment we were renting which was a good thing as I had an issue with the ratchet on my cycling shoe. Luckily I had a spare pair and was able to switch ratchet –  not really how you want to start your day. The start was quite fast as people wanted to try and avoid the bottle necks once we hit the single track. About 20 minutes into the stage I could hear racers gaining on me. This made me wonder if I pushed too hard yesterday and whether I’m going backwards. Bit of a relief when Raminez Federixo in the solo open leader’s jersey passed me and I realised that some of the front guys must have taken a wrong turn. Turns out front 10 racers missed a turn and ended up close to the start again. Luckily they didn’t miss too much time but it did mean they had to fight through traffic to get back to the front.

A jeep track climb took us onto Wheeler trail and a really long hike-a-bike section. Most of the Wheeler trail that took us up to the top of Ten Mile Range was spent with my bike on my back. Towards the top the altitude was starting to get to me and I almost wanted to start laughing at the situation I was finding myself in. Once we crested we were at the top of Colorado state and the views really made the hiking effort worth it. Unfortunately I couldn’t admire the views for too long as the fun descent down Colorado trail awaited us. Seeing that I was in the leaders jersey in my category I decided to race smart and not to take too many chances on the decent. Jon Davis from stage 4 was one of the guys I let pass me and I wasn’t able to catch him again. I almost wished I wasn’t in the leader’s jersey so that I could blast down the trail as fast as possible.

Once we dropped out of the Colorado trail we were on a paved bike path for a fair few kilometres and going along at 40km/h helped to eat up the distance. At aid 3 we jumped on the Peaks Trail that took us all the way to the finish. The Peaks Trail is a fun singletrack trail but unfortunately it felt like we were going up all the time. The grade wasn’t steep at all but after 5 days of racing the legs start complaining at any gradient. Towards the end I was starting to count the kilometres off and when I heard loud cheering ahead I thought great I must be close to the finish. Turned out it was Amy Thomas and the Yeti Betis cheering the racers on. They all finished the 3 day race the previous day (with Amy ending 3rd overall) so they were quite happy not to be on their bikes. Would perhaps have  been better if they were closer to the finish line as it turned out I still had a couple of kilometres to go (or so it felt). Most of the guys at the finish looked a bit tired as they must have been pushing it quite hard. Stage 5 in the bag – one left to go.

 

Stopping the clock in under 3 hours. Nice leaders jersey… Photo: Werner van der Merwe


Breck Epic stage 4

(Aqueduct Loop – 71km, 1,800 total ascent)

“Punishment. Reward. Punishment. Reward. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.” is how the introduction to stage 4 read in the course description. The punishment bit stood out for me. A real racing stage where a strong climber could make up some time

As for the previous 2 stages, stage 4 saw us leave from downtown Breckenridge under police escort. Being from London the police officer in his big SUV with lights flashing made me think of a TV clip in ‘Wildest police chases’ set somewhere in the USA. Stage 4 was a bit different from the previous stages as I had the leaders jersey in the male solo 30-40 category and now I had to try and defend it. Early on in the stage Mike said we could take it easy today as the two of us had over an hour on the 3rd spot in our category. I sort of agreed with him and decided to take the stage at my own pace. Or that was the idea. Seems you always find somebody to race. This somebody went by the name of Jon Davis from Boulder, Colorado riding for Trek Bike Store Colorado. Jon could have raced in our category but having a pro licence decided to race in the Open Solo category with all the young fast guys. I was very thankful for this as he would have been the leader in our category forcing me to wash a jersey instead of getting a clean one from the race organisers.

Jon and I had our own little battle for the first 30km where I would catch and pass him on the climbs and he would then drop me on the descents. It was actually good ‘fun’ and helped to keep a good steady pace. The 3rd climb of the day was called Vomit Hill and that was a very apt description of the climb as it just got steeper and steeper towards the top. Luckily I could hold on and pass Jon but as usual he dropped me on the descent. After aid 2 the main climb of the day started – a 15km climb. The gradient wasn’t that steep at an average of 2.9% but altitude did start to take its toll toward the top and 3,400m above sea level. I managed to open a small gap on Jon on this long climb and managed to stay away on the fun descent on the other side. By the time I hit the last climb of the day I was starting to feel the effect from all the climbing in my legs. I decided to back off a bit as I thought I still had the same 4km single track end loop from stage 3. I was preparing myself mentally for this bit because as on stage 3 you get close to the finish and they then send you on this big loop before finishing. Just as I was ready to turn to start the loop I saw the arrow point in the opposite directly. Brilliant! Short 1.5km section straight to the finish. On top of this I managed to win the stage in my category and get another clean jersey.

 

Werner shows his colours in the start box. Photo: Werner van der Merwe


Breck Epic Day 3. 17th August 2011

Mt. Guyot – 63km, 1,850m total ascent

Stage 3 saw us cross the Continental Divide  twice as part of our circumnavigation of Mt. Guyot! As for stage 2 we set of from downtown Breckenridge but this time instead of starting with a climb after the neutral zone we had a long flattish gravel section where there guys in the open category quickly formed a single pace line. Didn’t take long for some of us to drop off and the pace settled down into something that I could manage. A short fun singletrack section  and then we hit the first climb of the day. I was paying the price from stage 2’s hard effort and it didn’t take Mike long to pass me. It seems the race was on between him and I in the 30-40 Solo male category as the 3rd placed racer was over 44 minutes down on us after 2 stages. We ended up riding for the next 25km.

20km into the stage we found ourselves on French Gulch Trail climbing up towards out first Continental Divide crossing of the day at 3,600m. The last part of the climb was a hike-a-bike section and although it was hard no MTB stage race would be complete without a good old hike-a-bike section. The views from the top were magnificent and we actually crossed a small patch of snow just as we started out decent down French Pass. It is always a pity that one doesn’t get more time to admire the scenery during a race. Unfortunately I had to focus to try and keep up with Mike on the descent but he managed to drop me and it was only towards the end of the next long gravel road climb that I managed to catch up again. The decent that followed down Gorgia Gulch via the Colorado trail was the best single track I’ve seen so far in this race and I just couldn’t stop smiling. Rocky, rooty with a lot of switchbacks but the great thing was that the trail was quite tacky.

Just after water point 3 Mike and I were riding together again when he said that he think we have taken the wrong turn even though the arrow and confirmation ribbons were clearly indicating that we were on the right trail. Just as we were discussing it the front guys came back up the trail. Turns out somebody messed around with the course markings sending us down the wrong route. Luckily a few guys knew the route from previous years and we were back on course but it did end up costing stage wins for some of the front guys. The last big climb was a real vein popping experience that only got steeper and steeper. At last we crested and we were onto the home straight – or so I though. Just as we dropped onto the road close to were we finished yesterday we were sent on a single track loop before we finished. Normally I would love this singletrack but after such a hard stage it almost felt cruel. However, seeing my biggest cheerleader/race supporter  Nadene at the finish put a smile back on my face In the end I managed to make up some more time on Mike putting me into the leaders jersey for my category.

 

Breck Epic stage 2. 16th August 2011

Colorado trail – 62km, 1,600m of climbing

I think the course description summed up stage 2 quite well. “Today is good. Today is stuffed chock full of terrain that brings us all back to those components of why we all ride. To test our legs and lungs against mother nature.”

Stage 2 saw us set of from middle of downtown Breckenridge and soon as the police escort pulled to the side the front guys in the open category shot off up the first climb. Mike Schilling racing for Wilderness Sports, who by the way is a great competitor, had a 6 minutes lead on me in the 30-40 male solo category and I was hoping to make up some time on him. Just after we crested the first climb I crashes hard but luckily on my right side so that left and right side match. While I was telling myself that 35 psi is clearly not the right tyre pressure Mike passed me and I knew it was going to be a long hard day. Just over 25km into the stage we started the real climb of the day that would take us up to 3,400m above sea level. It was at this climb that I finally managed to catch Mike. The Colorado trail descent on the other side was a true grin inducing experience with sharp switchbacks and I was trying my best to keep in contact with Mike. This decent really made all the blood (literally) and sweat worthwhile. The descent takes you down from 3,400m to 2,850m in the space of 5km so that should give some indication of how much fun it was.

Everything that goes down must go up again and the descent was followed by two sharp climbs and on the second one I managed to open up a gap on Mike. I knew it was time to push it on the last climb of the day to make up some time. Altitude was definitely not my friend and at one point it felt as if my head was going to explode. I managed to keep the pace up win my category and make 4 minutes up on Mike.  


Breck Epic Day 1 . 15th August 2011

1,300m total ascent. I can hear people say that it doesn’t sound that hard – heck we do that in London’s Surrey Hills which is almost flat. Well the only small difference is that the Surrey Hills don’t take you up to 3,800m above sea level

The Breck Epic is a clover leaf MTB stage race based in Breckenridge, Colorado. With Breckenridge at 2,700m above sea level you are in for vain popping altitude riding over all 6 stages. There was no time to speak of to acclimatise to the altitude as we flew into Denver on the Friday night leaving me with  Saturday to drink as much water (supposedly that helps for the altitude) before the first stage on Sunday. Apart from drinking water we did drive over to Leadville to watch part of the Leadville 100. Atmosphere and the support was great – definitely a race I would like to do one day.

Back to the Breck Epic. Sunday morning and the weather looked good for a bike race. Bit of cloud cover but no need for gilet or arm warmers. Quickly dropped my supplement bag off at the race start at 7:00 and then it was time for some last minute bike tinkering before rolling over to the start. 8:10 and off we went. Great uphill start and 2 minutes into the race I knew the altitude was going to be a killer. Felt like I was doing a sprint for the finish line of a crit race but in actual fact I was just trying to keep up with the 3 or 4 group on the road climb.I’d made the decision to ride within myself to try and get used to the altitude and kept on catching and dropping of a group of 4 riders consisting of a team and 2 solo riders one of which was a very strong single speeder. Some of the gravel trails are a bit different from what I’m used to being very loose and rocking. Running around 40 psi was clearly not the right tyre pressure as I came down hard on one of the decents. Somehow being mad at myself  spurred me on and I managed to catch my little group and pass them. Of course they caught me again at a short hike a bike section but now I was setting the pace. After one really rocky decent the single speeder laughed as he said it looked like I was going to wrap my bike around a tree a few times.Just after feed 2 I tried to shift down into my smaller chainring but the jocky wheels were running against the cassette. I tried to bend the gearhanger but gave up after a while and was stuck with my 42T chainring and some of the gears at the back. (Turned out I somehow broke the b tension screw on my rear derailleur.) Luckily there were only two more climbs left and I only had to walk up some sections. Final decent down to finish was a great fun singletrack with some nice fast berms towards the end. This helped to put a smile back on my face. There were quite a few categories resulting in a relatively small field in each category. 30+ male solo category is for instance around 20 strong. Managed to finish 2nd for the day. 

 

More from Werner Van Der Merwe at the Mega Avalanche, Marathon Downhilling

14th July

Are you moving out?’ That was my girlfriend Nadene’s words when she saw the heap of stuff I was taking along on my Mega Avalanche trip. It included a Specialized Big Hit downhill bike, Merida TransMission 140mm all mountain bike and enough body armour to make Robocop jealous.  I was sort of forced to get all the body armour by Nadene but was very thankful after crash one of countless five minutes into my first ride (I’m not a very good technical rider). Back up – what is Mega Avalanche? It is an endurance downhill/snow sliding mass start race organised by some crazy French in the Alps.

The race sees groups of 350 riders start off at 3300m and descend down to 720m over snow, ice fields and sweet singletrack.  I jumped in the car early Saturday morning and found myself in the ski resort of Vaujany 13 hours later. The drive was mostly along motorways, so not that interesting. My only gripe is that there is no decent tea to be found at any of the service stations which only have vending machines serving tea and coffee. The view from my apartment’s balcony was truly beautiful with a waterfall on the one side and the valley dropping off on the other.Sunday (day 1). This was a relatively relaxed start to the day as registration for the Avalanche Enduro only starts at 9:00. The Avalanche Enduro consists of 5 special timed stages with linking stages in between that have to be completed within a certain time. After registration I jump on the gondola and set off up the mountain to ride the route before the seeding run in the afternoon. I thought Nadene was overprotective when she forced me to get body armour. Well I’m clearly not a very good technical rider as I’m very thankful for all the padding 5 minutes into the ride when I come off in the rocks. The top part of the course is true outback riding on hikers’ paths and you basically first try and spot the little tallow flag in the distance and you then try and head towards it where you try and spot the next flag.

At one point I find myself riding on a trail that has been cut into the side of the mountain and I’m sure they will never find you again if you fall off here. Little warning signs confirm my suspicion of death (French are not really big on health and safety so when you see a warming you better heed it). I come to realise that I’m afraid of heights or I just don’t have the balls to ride some of the trails next to a cliff. I get off and push my bike along wondering how my bike collection would be divided between my friends if I were to fall off here.

Towards the end of the route I find myself on the course for the seeding run which consists of fast descents between some rock walls. This is where I pick up my first flat for the week. Turns out it would be my first issue on this part of the course. Later in the afternoon we line up to do our seeding run. I’m number 27 so luckily the wait isn’t too long and next thing you find yourself being counted off for your start. My run goes ok and I’m down in under 4 minutes but I do manage to clip my handlebar on a post on the way. My pinky is squashed in the process but I manage to stay on the bike. 

Monday (day 2) and the day starts off with a 45 minute wait on the gondola. French men are running around opening panels and getting on the roof but at last we are on our merry way up the mountain. I decide to take it easy after yesterday’s finger incident. The finger is now blue and sore but I’m thinking it is only a sprain so time to suck it up (Turned out that it wasn’t quite a sprain.)  We do two special stages and we then take the gondola up two stations to the top where we do a long linking stage before getting to the 3rd special stage. The linking stage started off in much the same way as yesterday’s practice when I went over the handlebar into some rocks. Luckily I had enough padding on (thanks Nadene). The 3rd special stage is bit of a shambles as people don’t set off at their allotted times (I think some of the front guys were delayed by a slow gondola). In the end special 3 was nullified. 4th special is a fun fast open track and I catch my 30 second man. He passes me on some of the tight switchbacks (I really need to learn how to ride them properly) but goes down when he hits deep mud. Luckily I know about it from the previous day’s practice and make a detour around it.

Special 5 is my old friend. In practice I ripped a tyre and in the seeding run I smashed my finger. Well, today I feel the front tyre go in one of the corners and I thought I had ripped it again. I’m in a narrow fast downhill section lined by rock wall boundary fences and have no choice but to push the bike down the track to get out of the way of the guys coming down at crazy speeds. (At the top part of the run big rocks were strewn over the track and a skid mark ran straight into the side of the wall – somebody must have really overcooked it (ouch).) I get to the bottom of the section and it turns out that the tubeless tyre came off and after a C02 bomb I was back on my way but lost 4 minutes in the process. This is quite a lot if you consider that this whole run took me under 4 minutes in practice. Not too impressed with the results – 88th out of 97 finishers. Think I need to stick to XC or really get more aggressive at the technical riding.

 

 

 

 

Patterson Training UK Client Werner Van Der Merwe Powers through to a 3rd place finish in the Beskidy MTB marathon stage race in Poland

12 July 2011

Werner van der Merwe is a highly experienced Marathon Mountain Biker and Stage Racer. La uta, The ABSA Cape Epic, BC Bike Race, Craft Bike TransAlp… these are but a few of his past ‘holidays’. In late June he was at the infamous Beskidy Trophy. Later this year he will be in the USA racing the Breck Epic

Relief, as I spot my bike box on the luggage carousel with no bike part sticking out. Once again I find myself at Krakow airport ready to battle the Beskidy mountains on the borders between Poland, Czech and Slovakia. The Beskidy MTB Trophy is a four day mountain bike stage race with a fair bit of climbing of 10,800m in the beautiful setting of the Beskidy mountains. The race is of a clover leaf design, and starts and ends in the town of Istebna every day making it much easier as you don’t have to stress about fitting everything into your race bag every morning. This is the fourth year I’m taking part and hopefully it will be an injury free one. In my first year I ended up with a fractured elbow and needed an operation on my hand to relieve a trapped ulnar nerve. It appears that this race is becoming more of an international affair with an annual increase of overseas riders. In 2009 I met the very experienced marathon racer Mike Blewitt from MarathonMTB.com. This year Steve Tebbitt from my local mountain bike club and some of my other South African compatriots join me.

Following an uneventful two hour drive, Steve and I found ourselves building bikes at the hotel. Turns out the drive was not  that uneventful for everybody as some of the other South Africans got pulled over by the local police for a random check. It turned out the vehicle’s licence was out of date which resulted in a three hour wait next to the road for new vehicle. This somehow put a damper on their mood and they didn’t want to join in the normal pre race banter. While all of this was happening Steve and I jumped on the bikes to get the legs going again after the morning’s travels.

Day one and there was a lot of talk about the weather at breakfast Previous years saw some really muddy days but in the end this year turned out to be one of the driest races with only a few muddy sections. This was a bonus and it meant that we didn’t have to replace drive trains afterwards.

The ‘shorter’ 62km with 2400m first stage was only to start at a more sociable 12:00 which gave us time to actually enjoy our breakfast instead of the normal wolfing it down to get ready for the days stage. The Top 100 from the previous year were gridded at the front of the race which meant that I didn’t have to fight through the 400 or so pack. While we are waiting you can see people sizing each other up by depth of cycle tan lines. Five minutes to go. A final check that I’m in the right gear and my shoes are tight. And off we go. The pace car is setting a fairly fast pace and I try to keep towards the front of the bunch, firstly to keep out of any trouble (mountain bikers are not always known for their bunch riding skills) and secondly to be ready for the selection when we hit the first climb. The race is known for some serious climbs early on in each day. Day one is always a shock to my system as living in London I’m not really used to long climbs. The first climb doesn’t disappoint and the top 10 or so guys quickly disappear up the climb. So I have the normal conversation about losing weight with myself at about this time.

With the first climb done, it is followed by a fun fast decent on rocky singletrack. I love the new Giant Anthem. Compared to the hardtail that I have been racing previously this feels like I’m floating over all the rocks and roots.

There is no time to really recover as each technical decent is followed by medium to long climbs with few flat sections inbetween. I count the climbs off – four to go, three, two, one. I catch up to a guy in a skin suit and Camelbak. This just feels wrong – this is a stage race so aerodynamics is not really going to make a big difference. I put in a little dig to pass and drop him but I should have paid more attention to the signs next to the road. After cycling around 2km along a gradual road climb my sixth sense tells me that I must be lost and I cycle on to the next road junction to confirm it. Damn, now I start blaming the guy in the skinsuit but really I can only blame myself. (Turned out Steve made exactly the same mistake but on top of it he had two punctures also.) Luckily it is a fast decent down the road again. Finally I get back to the signs I missed and now I have to pick the guys off that passed me during my 4km detour. Luckily most of them are struggling a bit now that we are towards the end of the stage and I’m able to make up a few positions.

One more serious climb and it almost feels like I’m going to burst an artery in my head. I’m a bit worried that I’ll run out of gears as I’m running a XX double crankset but luckily the 36 rear sprocket comes through for me. (I was to use it a lot over the remaining days). I can now hear the music so I must be close to the end. Then just to make sure we have to wash the bikes they take us through a really muddy section. As usual, the front wheel gets stuck in the mud, leg disappears up to calf high in mud, bit of swearing about wet shoe and then I’m over the line. Survived day one. 4 hours in the saddle, 17th overall and 5th in my category.

Day two is to start at the normal 10:00 but seeing that I am seeded in the front 30 block I decide to do a casual warm up and then head down to the start at 9:30. On my way down to the start everybody is going the opposite way along a tarred road. At this point I am trying to figure out whether the race has started. The guys around me are taking it easy – are we still on our way to the start or are these the back markers who are enjoying the stunning views? I am not able to ask anybody as we are now on a fast road descent. It turns out we were on our way to the start and the 5km cycle was actually a good warm up. Not much time for faffing around before the start. We immediately start with a short sharp climb and I can feel the previous day’s stage in my legs. I manage to drop my chain on the first climb but I manage to catch up to the second group and this is where I want to try and stick for the 87km with 3000m of climbing stage. Today consists of four main climbs and some great outback type of riding. Normal thing of trying not to loose too much time in the technical rooty sections where I seem to struggle a bit compared to the other guys. In the last 10km a group of 5 guys or so keep on catching me on the flats and descents and I then drop then on the short climbs. At 5km to go I decide I will have to attack now and try and get away on the last few short climbs. I really have to dig hard to get away and to stay away. At the 3km mark one guy catches up to me but I’m able to drop him on the last slow road drag. Bit of a crazy decent on a rocky road without touching the brakes and I’m over the line. 5 hours, 7th overall and 4th in my category. Well pleased with the results as I never thought I would be placed here.

Day three and the organisers decide that they are going to send us out on the ‘shorter’ 72km with 2800m of climbing course. This is the ‘bad weather’ course which has got a few people worried. I’m more worried about my bike as XX components are crazy expensive (this is a topic for another day). Well the day turned out to be one of the fastest and with only a bit of drizzle somewhere in the middle. Today’s main climb takes us from 650m to 1250m over a distance of around 5km. I remember this climb from previous years and I recall a really rocky section towards the end. I decide to take it at my own pace as I get dropped by five guys. Luckily I paced myself quite good as I catch and pass all but one of the guys just as we get to the top of the climb. Turns out the trail is much smoother and dryer compared to previous years.  Second half of the stage heads mainly downhill with 3 big climbs to test the legs. One last short climb and then we are back into the mud section at the finish. Normal leg into mud, swearing and then over the line. 4:08 hours, 6th overall and 4th in my category. Once again I had not expected this result. Still, podium feels so close.

Day four and with 2600m of climbing over 69km and everybody is looking forward to getting this done and dusted. My aim is to take it relatively easy and ensure that I finish at least 5th in my category overall. Off we go behind the pace car. Keep to the front of the bunch. Pain on the first climb. Drop chain (again) but catch up again. There is more up and down but also a fair bit of hike a bike as the legs are just too tired to go up the one really muddy section. Then I hear the dreaded hissing sound. Don’t tell me I have a flat again on the last day! (Last year I lost a few positions on the last day when I cut the sidewall of my tyre.) A quick look down at the tyre but it seems ok. In the last 20km me and this one big (I think Polish) guy and Iswap positions constantly. He is stronger on the climbs and flats and I sit back a back as he is riding hardtail and I keep on dropping him on the descents. One more descent which will be followed my a road climb before the finish. Luckily I know the climb from previous years so I decide to attack on the descent and keep on attacking on the climb to get away and finish in 4 hours, 6th overall and 3rd in my category.

(Afterwards when washing my bike I found I had a nail in my tyre but luckily the sealant did its job and sealed the tyre. Once again it shows that it is sometimes worth running a bit more weight in order to make the make the bike more ‘issue’ proof.)

Something must have happened to the guy that lay 3rd in general classification in my category as I ended up 3rd in my category in the general classification and 5th overall in the general. As I’ve said before I was really surprised by the results. Must be that some of the top guys were away and Worlds which gave some of us normal guys a fighting chance.

This is really a hard race but you are rewarded with some beautiful scenery and great riding. Compliments to Grzegorz Golonko and his team for a great event. Check out full details and results at www.mtbtrophy.com.

Photos can be found here

Mike Cumings UK National Championship view from the peloton

Felt really nervous in the car on the way to the event. The race briefing was scheduled for 11 but I wanted to get there early so there was no stress about parking just as well because when we arrived at 9 o'clock we got about the last parking spot as it happens right near the Sky team coach what a machine more like a luxury bungalow. How the other half live.

Anyway on to the race. It went straight from the gun, bang! A mile after the start came the vicious climb and the expected scrabble for the front by 130 ish riders. I actually felt alright and got to the top about 30ish wheel and just hung in there, although there was a really tricky descent. By the time we had finished lap one there was already carnage with loads of riders getting dropped and I was still in the peloton of around 60 -70 riders, half the field already gone after one lap!

As we set off up the big climb the second time I felt knackered and was trying to hang on for grim death but unfortunately cracked and didn't make it. At this stage I thought 'this is it, game over' but a group of about 15 of us got together and chased for virtually a lap and got back on just before the climb next lap. As soon as I got back on I immediately felt a bit better and climbed with the peloton, finding it easy that time. 3 times up the hill, 12 to go!

By the fourth lap there were 5 riders off the front and I was still with the bunch which was down to about 20 (see picture attached 4742534732) with 4 or 5 chasing groups behind, but every lap I was seeing more and more familiar faces by the side of the road just watching.

I hung on in there until 4 laps to go when my body didn't want any more and some attacking on the climb meant 10 riders went away up the road, 10 got dropped behind me and I was stuck in no mans land chasing alone. For a whole lap I could see the riders ahead off me but I wasn't able to make any ground on them. Coming into the last lap I caught up my team mate Dan Shand on the climb with only had 5 more miles of torture to go before I could get off my bike and collapse. At the finish I found out there were more U23 finishers than I had originally thought and the chance off a medal had gone.

I had finished 5th in the U23 competition and 22nd overall, but hey, I have another 3 years off U23 to try and win that so plenty of time :-)!

At the end I had to be pleased with my ride, my aim was to finish and that’s what I did. It’s all miles in the legs and with my lack off racing this season I was even more surprised I had survived the distance!

Just shows what Andy can do with an over trained, under raced Muppet like me!

Final results for the 2010 UK national road racing championship. British Cycling report is here

1. Geraint Thomas, Sky Pro Cycling 5.07.08
2. Peter Kennaugh, Sky Pro Cycling st
3. Ian Stannard, Sky Pro Cycling @2.20
4. Jeremy Hunt, Cervelo Teast Team, @7.59
5. Simon Richardson, Sigma Sport Specialized @8.23
6. David Clarke, Pendragon-LeCol-Colnago @10.41
7. Dan Flleman, Raleigh RT @10.43
8. Andrew Fenn, 100% ME @13.56
9. Rob Partridge, Endura Racing, Endura Racing @17.45
10. Paul Esposti, BCV
11. Chris Froome, Sky Pro Cycling
12. Rhys Lloyd,  Pendragon-LeCol-Colnago @1 lap
13. Kristian House, Rapha Condor Sharp
14. Ross Creber, Team Endura Racing
15. Ben Greenwood, Rapha Condor Sharp
16. Richard Cartland, Team Corley Cycles
17. Douglas Dewey, GWR
18. Thomas Swift-Metcalf, Palmeriras Resort
19. Steve Lampier,  Pendragon-LeCol-Colnago
20. Tim Kennaugh, 100% ME
21. Marcel Six, Orbea For Goodness Shakes
22. Daniel Shand, Raleigh
23. Mike Cumming, Raleigh
24. David Lines, Endura @ 2 laps
25. Matthew Stephens, Sigma Sport Specialized
26. Kit Gilham, Sigma Sport Specialized
27. James Williamson, Sigma Sport Specialized
28. Gareth Montgomerie, Sigma Sport Specialized
29. Will Bjergfelt, Wilier-Big Maggies/Prendas
30. Paul Oldham, Hope Factory Racing
31. Alistair Kay, York Cycleworks

The Road to the Rockies and some real bad luck

The rules state that you have to ride the Transrockies 7 day stage race in Canada as a pair, and having watched the event for a few years on television with my 9 year old daughter, it always caught both my imagination and hers. Alas, she is too young to ride.

Following my win in the 2009 Vets National Marathon Championship, I thought “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” and so I pinged Mike Powell (a relative stranger, but a fellow Patterson Training client and 2008 Vets National Marathon Champion) an e-mail to see if he fancied riding the Transrockies with me. To my surprise, he said yes.

Throughout 2009, the two of us would battle out marathon MTB events and never be as much as 1% apart, so it seemed to be a pairing made in heaven as far as the 80+ category was concerned. However, we needed to see how well we could ride together before August 2010 came along, and with that in mind we both entered the Cotswold Spring Classic road sportive, which was to be run on 5 April 2010.

Having spent rather too much of the Easter weekend eating more chocolate than we dared to tell Andy, we rolled into the car park in Cirencester nice and early, opting to do the event on full suspension mountain bikes and PowerTaps (just to wind the roadies up).

The event is organised so that you can start whenever you like and is timed via a chip/mat system, but Mike was so keen to get going that I missed the chance to start up my Garmin, which was forever pointing back to the start.

Due to the recent poor weather, many of the lanes were riddled with potholes and there was plenty of gravel on the bends to give us an advantage on the MTB over the carbon blinged road bikes which were there in abundance. Even so, the roads were bad enough to give me an early shock as I sped through a deep puddle / minor flood under a railway bridge. Lurking hidden beneath the water was a monster of a hole, which I hit so hard that I lost not only my timing chip, but also the bottle out of my bottle cage, something I have never managed to do off road.  

Over the coming miles there were plenty of puncture victims (we were ok on full knobblies and running Stan’s) and both Mike and I settled into a brisk tempo going through and off like a 2-up TTT, with very little help from the road guys.

The trouble with a sportive with a staggered start is that you never get in the right group. If you catch somebody up, they are going too slow and you pass them, and if you are caught then chances are that you are not going to hang on. However, that did not stop us from driving on looking for that elusive group with Mike particularly keen to drive hard over the brow of every hill just to string things out a bit. There were plenty of double takes as we sped past some of the slower groups who were out for a more leisurely ride in the spring sunshine. It seems that MTBs should not be travelling that fast on tarmac….

Having lost a bottle earlier on, I was forced to stop at the feed zone but we were underway almost as the last of the guys in our group were pulling up, and the relentless pace continued. We were down to three riders – myself, Mike plus one guy who had been sharing the work with us. All too soon we were at the 100 km / 100 mile split, and under strict instructions from our coach we took the shorter and more lonely route back to the event HQ.

Despite Mike trying to wipe me out by cutting across my front wheel and heading towards somebody’s driveway on a descent while I was taking a drink (aren’t disc brakes good?), and me “knowing the way” back to Cirencester and ignoring the arrows marking the course, we got round in a respectable 3 hours 20 minutes for the 105 km, giving an average speed of 19.7 mph and an average power output of 255 Watts. Not bad for a pair of skinny old vets who weigh 61 kilos (after too much chocolate).

Ultimately, we were very evenly matched even if we did it in 1 hour 10 minutes less than our training plan required.

Since writing this this report Dave had some bad luck at the Wiggle Enduro 6 where, whilst racing hard he clipped tree with his shoulder causing him to be threwn off the bike resulting in a broken clavicle. Mike Powell was not far behind and stayed with Dave effectvely throwing his own race to help his Trans Rockies partner. I would like to thank Mike for his kind act, it is the sort of thing we should all do when someone is injured, after al it is just a race. Here is Daves clavicle prior the pinning. Dave is well and looking forward to a somewhat revised trainig plan, which won't be easy for a man with a severe hate of turbo trainers.

Rob Lees report on the coaching process and his West Highland Way double attempt

I've known Andy Patterson for a while now, and known of him even longer. I’ve watched in admiration as the athletes he coaches smash the competition at UK races of all different distances, and we’ve chatted in the pits from time to time aver the past few seasons. After my retirement from solo racing in 2008 I started on a quest to promote long distance rides in the UK with the hope of inspiring others out into some of the beautiful areas we have in the UK. The rides and promotion of the project have been going great and the initial brief of encouraging others is steadily being fulfilled. Unfortunately the upshot of all this work has been a major downturn in my fitness which had already started to manifest when I first turned myself to managing my own race team in 2005. 

By the middle of 2009 I knew that I had to “turn the tide” on my decaying fitness in order to finish my project. I also decided that perhaps I wasn’t quite done with solo racing and decided upon a bit of a come-back in 2010. Andy was my first choice when it came to being coached and, after an initial consultation, I was delighted when he agreed to the task.

Quite a task too as it turned out! That initial consultation and performance tests revealed worse than even I dared fear. So low was my power, and so high my body fat, that giving up completely did seem, for the briefest of moments, like a safer option than putting myself back into training. Andy however, seemed undeterred and I’d say he seemed excited to see if it was possible to turn around this wreck of an ex-racer and take him back to some sort of performance level for long distance mountain biking.

I’ve changed as an athlete in so many ways. The power figures prove that my performance values are higher, much higher, but much more than that my endurance is the best it’s ever been and I’m much stronger in day to day life thanks to his attention to detail when it came to things like my core stability and muscle sequence firing. I’ve worked with five of the best coaches in my country but Andy is without a doubt the best one. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending him, that is unless I’ve got to race against you! Seriously though, I’ve been really impressed and the coaching I have received has been top-notch.

Rob Lee    

Team Manager for Team Syncros Endurance

Ultra-endurance record breaker

24 Hour Solo Racer

Twitter @RobLee7ds

http://roblee7ds.blogspot.com

Here is Robs account of the West Highland way double attempt 

Trying to push myself to do something beyond my previous ride has been a reoccurring theme for me since I first picked up the mountain bike in ’93. Rarely does it go to plan, often far from it, but I’ve usually calculated fairly accurately even if my body can’t deliver what my mind can envisage. Occasionally my flights of fantasy take me to a place that I dare not imagine I tread. The Double, on the West Highland Way, I always had a challenge on my hands!

News spread pretty fast that I’d failed to make the return leg to Milngavie. No surprise there, I sent the twitter announcing I’d climbed into the van moments after I stopped. Honesty comes from failure as much as success, and I’ve never been afraid to fail, only afraid not to try. Humbled though I was at the warmth of response that flooded to my phone as I dipped in and out of consciousness as we drove through the mountains. Complete strangers and friends alike sent me congratulations for getting as far as I did, and encouragement to return and conquer the ride next time. Blessed am I to seek to inspire others and then at my weakest (and strongest moment) be repaid a million times over by the support and inspiration of my biking fellows. If I ever manage to double the West Highland Way some day in the future then that day will be for all of you. For now I have only this ride to offer…

The day was as perfect as an April days comes. Clear skies, big hills, slight breeze, and the promise of my love of bikes and trails. I ate alone in the living room as the rest of the house slept, then eventually, one by one, my partners in the escapade rose from their slumber and readied for the day. Surrounded by dearest: my closest childhood friend, my parents, Mark, Cass, Sam and Scott, this was going to be a great day. As we loaded the van Andy arrived, his mission to capture the moments for a magazine feature, and we were away to Milngavie for the start.

Rob's Blur XC - we're sure it'd be faster without all those stickers on...

I love the start; no fanfare, no tape, no starters gun, just 5 guys, 2 cameras, a bike and a sense of adventure. “Shall I start?” then I’m away, winding my way through the parkland on the edge of the city suburb and out towards the waiting clutches of the mountains. I felt great, fantastic even, with my new lightweight bike, lightweight kit, lightweight body and a return to fitness that has been too many years missing. My coach and my lass have given me such guidance and support for me to feel this good on a bike. After so many years of “getting away with it” and pulling through with mental strength the contrast couldn’t be greater.

I dusted through the opening miles, then the 20’s, 30’s and into the maze of rocks and barely walkable rocks on the eastern banks of Loch Lomond. I took my time, treading precisely, no hurry, just smooth movement. Legs were fine, arms started to ache. Mark filmed from a boat as Andy snapped away, the pair of them enjoying the sun that baked me as I scrambled. Progress was good, a 24lb bike to carry and I was catching walkers who only had a day sack and poles. I expected to leave Loch Lomond a bit worse for wear. Strangely I felt great.


To the hills!


I climbed, and descended, and climbed, and the big stuff loomed closer and steadily grew towards the sky. One hour up on schedule, then two hours up, I wanted three by Fort William . I knew it wouldn’t continue once sleep deprivation set in and so a buffer is a good thing to have. I stopped at Tyndrum for soup and stood chatting with everyone. Then onwards, the mountains are calling.

As I climbed from Tyndrum it felt like a different day. The sun had dipped below the ridge and the wind picked up and licked away with a cold iciness that cut to my core. I stopped for my jacket on the trail, and then more clothes as I dropped into Bridge of Orchy. The next climb felt like I’d blown it. One hundred percent power to zero in the blink of an eye. I almost cracked there and then, so dramatic was the change within the environment within my body. Cold to my bones and as weak as a baby, I crawled my way up the climb one step at a time. Breath, step, breath, step, don’t think about the distance, don’t think about the time, don’t think about the weakness washing over your body. The soup began to digest, the blood left my stomach and returned to my muscles , the power came back on!


I opened the gate that signals the stretch through Rannock Moor. I expected a long grind of a climb that I’d struggle to conquer. I found a beautiful twilight wilderness where the deer surveyed my steady progress as I trespassed their home. One for the memory bank that fills with each passing year with images that I hope will never be lost from my brain. It was tough, and unforgiving surrounds, yet captivating and absorbing in it’s remote and blissful solitude. Words will never capture the emotions that ran through my veins and invigorated my body. A moment so precious I would fail to replicate and yet would never want to. It was unique.

My mind slipped to home, to my lady, to warmth, to safety. My heart cried inside my chest and nearly broke me by the side of the trail. Why was I here? Why was I doing this? Have I not suffered enough in this body of mine? I sank deeper, and yet continued with the program, pedal down, pedal up.

Mark was out on the trail to capture my lights on the next descent; then the multiple flashgun from Andy as I clattered through the rocks. Crazy times, crazy memories, all part of the adventure. The Devils Staircase loomed ahead concealed by the darkness. Sometimes the answers to questions we never ask ourselves present themselves anyway. I phoned and got a ring tone, I heard her voice, it was enough, it was everything, I headed up into the darkness.


I can’t remember ever walking so far with my bike, or at least that’s how it seemed. I couldn’t see further that the sphere of my light and it felt like I was on the edge of the world. Whipped by the wind and spattered by the rain I began to switch from sorry feeling human to a man of resolve. I can do these things and as long as you can still walk you can still keep going. The descent was mental and I smashed into, over, through, anything and everything. I’m not sure if I became a lot braver or a lot less caring. I rode through to Kinlochleven at a fair pace that I’d not have thought myself possible of.


Blurry deer watch on from the moors
From there to Fort William it was tough. I’m not superman and anything over twelve hours is always gonna hurt. This hurt, but it was a lot easier to handle than in previous years. My mind started to go. It always does. Fort William arrived; or rather I arrived in Fort William. 14 hours and 24 minutes, not bad I figure for a guy who took 32 photos along the way, and logged onto the Internet to regularly twitter! I stopped, ate, took photos, spoke to the camera. Pondered the intelligence of heading back into the fray and then did it anyway.

As I headed into those hills again a strange thing happened that has rarely occurred before. I realised that I had a responsibility. I realised the danger involved with this route in this condition. I’d never once really pondered this on any previous adventure. I wasn’t scared, I was just aware of the multiple small errors I was making and the fact that some terrain will forgive you but some quite possibly won’t. I pondered for almost three hours as I fought and wrestled and carried and pushed, and very occasionally rode my bike flat out into blind corners in the pitch black before I descended to Kinlochleven on the very edge of control for the second time. I knew I should stop, but I knew I could still continue, at what point do you say enough is enough and stop rolling the dice?

I tried to be honest with the crew but I couldn’t. It took Clive a good ten or so minutes to say what we were all thinking yet none were wanting to hear. Being a hero is only heroic when you live to tell the tale, being airlifted from a mountain side is not a smart way to go, and this time around I wasn’t strong enough, or fit enough, to safely make the Double. The tears welled up in my eyes as he spoke the truth that I already knew in my heart. I’m glad he said it as I don’t think I’d have been brave enough to utter the words. Mark didn’t know whether to film or not; I hope he did, I hope he captured the reality and emotion of what we do. The limit is called the limit for a reason, and finding your own – be it mental or physical – often ends this way. I took of my helmet and let go, for now, of the dream.

As we sat at breakfast the next day we already had the plans on the drawing board. For the first time in years I have a challenge that really will need a serious attack plan and suddenly everything clicks into place with the Seven Deadly Spins. A collection of rides that starts with the serious, but do-able, South Downs Double, addresses the requirements of every rider below a keen soloist with multi-day options and bail-out scenarios , and now has a tough MaXx-Daddy one-hit-adventure to challenge the hardest solo nuts that the UK can produce. All that we need now is the multi-day challenge that is the Seventh Deadly Spin – the X1 Lands End to John o’Groats offroad – that I’ll be tackling that in September to raise money for charity, and Chapter 1 will be complete, I really can’t wait.
 

 

Then suddenly, it was dark.

Winning a Marathon Championship a Coaching view

 

Andrew R Patterson. BSc (HONS) Patterson Training, Sport Science Support

 

By the time Dave Hayward and Michael Powell gridded up on the start line for the Veteran’s National MTB Marathon Championship at Margam Park, they had amassed some 800 hours of training between them, in six months of preparation. Michael was the defending champion, and Dave wanted the title.

 

These two athletes would ride out of their skins in this race, outclassing their competitors and stretching out a 20 minute gap to third place. The race on the day was one of the closest and most exciting marathon events ever, but the race tells only part of the story. 

 

My challenge as coach to both of these athletes was to help each fulfil their potential, and although they shared a common goal in wanting to win the marathon jersey, each took a very different journey to the start line, and ultimately to the finish line. 

 

To see these two in training was like a scene from Rocky III. Mike was training like Rocky – he was following my training prescription, but using a more natural and facilitative approach, relying on his own bio feedback and heart rate response. Dave was training like the Russian - using very scientific methods. Both were getting great results, Mike even managed to drop his local chain gang on his mountain bike in a show of great early form.

 

Each athlete knew that I was coaching the other and that I would be giving them an equal amount of input and coaching advice. What I underestimated was the extent to which this would motivate both athletes. Each knew the level of commitment and, to some extent, the strengths and weaknesses of the other. There was no question of there being an easy race, or an easy win, for either athlete.

 

On race day Mike went from the gun taking Dave and Pete Turnbull (the eventual Bronze medallist) with him. However, Dave’s superior power to weight ratio soon gave him the advantage, and Dave pulled ahead on the gruelling opening climb under a beating sun. Mike didn’t panic. He knew his limits and knows his body well, something that the facilitative style of coaching he has followed has given him.

 

I coached Mike last year to his Marathon win, where my main input was to hold back his training after ultra-endurance races. I was monitoring his nervous system fatigue and resting him until he reached the training sweet spot, when an athlete is recovered from an overload period. From that point I could add the training load again. The result was an athlete who was in top form, and able to go hard from the gun. Mike won the 2008 Marathon title by a clear 12 minutes. He would not enjoy such a clear run in this race however.

 

Mike is a very competent rider who has been racing for many years and is not easily fazed, even by very technical courses. He has the ability to suffer and can read a race well, allowing him to pace and time his efforts to great effect. However, he is a bit of a slave to his heart rate monitor, and its indication ruled his psychology during training.

 

Dave on the other hand was a very raw rider. He was fit and light, but his lack of knowledge about nutrition during races, technical skills, pacing and racing psychology were lagging well behind his physical ability. He was, however, a clean slate and was willing to undertake a very autocratic routine. We were using power meters fitted to both on and off road bikes, along with tools to monitor his nervous system. With Dave I had power, speed, cadence, heart rate, torque, temperature and altitude data for every single ride he did over the 6 month period up to the Championship race. We lab tested, field tested, pre-rode the course to build his physiology to the course demands, over geared, sprinted, core stabilised, mobilized and stretched. Then we re-tested and did it all again, only more focused this time on the weaker areas of his physiology.

 

Dave is only human and there is a limit of every athlete’s motivation, especially during such a demanding autocratic plan when the body and the mind say enough is enough. For Dave this came during a particularly tough carbohydrate depleted training session where a low calorie intake and demanding interval protocol led him to be training outside in a torrential rain storm on the rollers. Thunder and lightning, very tired legs and motivation pushed to the very limit was almost enough to see the bikes going in the skip. If I could have seen this coming I would have had an easy period scheduled in a day earlier, but even with good communication and coaching processes these days can and will happen with athletes. A good motivational talk, evaluation of goals and a rest week and Dave was back on track.

 

As spring approached the emphasis for Dave shifted to technical skills. This is a good tip for any mountain biker whose performance output has reached a plateau - don’t batter yourself with more and more intervals in an attempt to pull that extra 20 watts. Instead, get your skills tuned. It will take a good minute off your lap times during an XC race and it’s a great deal more fun than doing nose-bleed intervals up a hill. I also made some changes to David’s bike, as his original set-up was very, very wrong. Too low at the front, too narrow and the seat height was way out - so much so that it was causing an injury to the back of his knee.

 

The skills training paid dividends for Dave, as by the end of lap two he had managed to get through the steep, rocky descents without incident and had pulled out a 3.5 minute lead over Mike. However, the three-hour mark is a turning point in any endurance race, and this is where Mike’s experience gave him the edge. He was able to maintain the high pace and pull minutes back on the third lap from his less experienced rival. As the pair started their fourth and final lap, Dave’s lead had been whittled down to just two minutes.

 

There had been a turning point much earlier in the season that had not gone in Mike’s favour. He caught a virus just before spring, and it set his training back by weeks. His body took so long to recover that it was a challenge to bring him into racing form in time for the race. As well as this, he was in the middle of a house-building project over spring, which caused a fair share of disruption and distracted him from some of the key areas where marginal gains can be made. Good nutrition, recovery and regular sleep can make up the winning margin between two closely-matched athletes.

 

By mid-May the fitness of both athletes was as good as it could be, and the final race tuning was underway. The performance testing results for both athletes are shown below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Hayward

Mike Powell

 

Start of year

Pre race test

Start of year

Pre race test

AT watts

180

240

160

180

AT w/kg

2.7

4

2.46

2.85

OBLA (LT2) watts

250

300

240

260

LT2 w/kg

3.84

5

3.69

4.12

MAP

280

330

280

291

MAP w/kg

4.30

5.5

4.30

4.62

(AT= Aerobic threshold. OBLA= Onset of blood Lactic accumulation. MAP= Maximum aerobic power)

 

On paper Mike has always lagged behind Dave, but we don’t race on paper and Mike’s far superior technical skills had always enabled him to get the better of Dave in races, by quite some margin. The final test results were encouraging for Mike, as even after a disrupted winter and illness in early spring he had still increased his performance. Dave’s performance gains however were quite remarkable, and this huge increase in performance along with the skills training, may have tipped the balance in his favour. I knew it was going to be close and it was too close to call on race day. 

 

The final preparation the athletes still had to cope with was the pre-competition anxiety that can drain the energy out of a rider before a race. I spoke to both Mike and Dave the day before the event, and reiterated the need to focus on process, pacing, feeding, gear and line selection, and when to switch from internal to external focus. Keeping all these process drills working in the athlete’s mind prevents the mind from backing up with negative thoughts or losing focus.

 

Mike had unfortunately lost a bottle on the first lap, and with the threat of dehydration hanging over him, decided to stop at one of the feed zones for 30 seconds, to take on extra fluid that he couldn’t carry.  With temperatures reaching 28 degrees under a cloudless sky, riding without fluids was simply not an option. Mike was chipping away at Dave’s lead, pacing himself hoping that Dave would pay for the fast start.

 

It wasn’t to be. Dave crossed the line just 120 seconds in front, a tiny margin in a race lasting over four hours. Mike was a full 18 minutes ahead of Pete Turnbull in third. Between them they had ridden away from the field, and ridden themselves to the limit. 

 

Dave was emotional with the joy of the win. The stress of training his weaknesses and aggregating marginal gains had taken a huge toll on him and his family. His family had given their complete support to the project and were there on the day, passing bottles and cheering him on. The win was a family achievement for the Haywards.  

 

For Mike, juggling training with illness and outside commitments provided a different set of challenges. He had also worked very hard towards his goal, and had made significant improvements in his fitness, despite the setbacks.  Stringing together blocks of unhindered training, and being able to say to yourself that you have achieved 100% in every aspect of your preparation goals is difficult to achieve, even for full-time professional athletes. External circumstances will affect the training focus, and ultimately the end performance. With structured training, Mike was able to make the most of his circumstances and produce an impressive performance on the day. 

 

For a coach, understanding the science of human physiology is fairly straightforward. Understanding the unique learning patterns and motivations of individual athletes, and managing a training programme that incorporates an infinite range of circumstances, is a far greater challenge. It has been a pleasure to coach two such dedicated athletes, who I know will go on to consolidate their success in the future.

 

Andrew Patterson is a Sport Scientist and coach, owner of Patterson Training a Sport science consultancy in Macclesfield, Cheshire. He has over 10 years of experience in professional coaching and also tutors and assesses coaches for British Cycling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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