Taking dad to Kelso

On Easter Monday the wind was howling. If I thought the wind was stiff on Friday when we cycled at the cottage, then this was another level again. ‘Gale force’ might be the weather mans description and it was a day you didn’t want to be caught out on an open road on your road bike with twenty miles in front of you. Not wanting to do nothing however, and unwilling to descend to the level of just going to the gym, we got a loan of my brother-in-laws mountain bike for my dad and along with mine we drove up to Kelso Park for a bit of trail riding. As dad pointed out moment’s into the ride, this was his first time on a MTB in dozen some years.

The wind was certainly harsh but given we spent the majority of the riding in the trees, we really didn’t notice it much. Kelso Park is loaded with good trials and for the most part we covered the best ones at least once. We got down to the lowest point of the park at the bottom of the ski-lifts, only to find the tough gravel climb back to the top closed for construction work forcing us to ride up the side of one of the actual ski slopes. If you look at the profile you’ll see just how brutal that was. A case of the granny-ring and leaning over the front wheel to stop it lifting off the ground as the grade went in excess of 40%.

That was the hard bit, the rest was just fun riding, though dad might well argue his crash zapped some of the fun out of one of the more enjoyable descents. All in all though another good day up there though I’ve yet to have a bad one. The route, as ever, is embedded below with more info and stats inside. I’ll be up at Kelso a few more times this month for a few more aggressive sessions ahead of my first race of the year at the end of the month.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/166494093

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Weekend miles in cottage country

There’s nothing quite like getting out into the middle of nowhere when you’re a cyclist and putting your miles in away from serious traffic. The pleasure taken in seeing maybe two or three traffic lights, max, in your couple of hours of riding is highly overlooked by those that don’t do the majority of their cycling in the city, or indeed the cities suburbs.

My dad has been over with my mum from Northern Ireland this past ten days or so visiting the new baby and while over my dad had borrowed my road bike and followed a couple of courses I mapped on Garmin Connect. He said he liked the routes for the most part but was put off by the traffic in some sections and the number of red lights he had to stop at that would break his momentum. Welcome to my world was about the only response I could fashion.

Then on the weekend, with him renting a road bike and my on mine, and while up at the cottage, we got out two days running away from the city life. Fresh air, proper head-winds, and the kind of consistent rhythmic riding only the country-side serves up.

The first day we put in 32-miles on an average speed of 17.9 mph. Which you’d be reasonably impressed with if you felt the headwind we rode into for the final 15 miles. Granted the first half of the ride was with a tail-wind that meant average speeds to the degree that when you see them on your bikes computer you know aren’t natural and must be the work of mother nature because you just aren’t that good.

Day two was a slightly different route, more time on even quieter roads and 37 miles all in. The intentions had been to get 60 mile rides in, but the weather just wasn’t generous enough. It was only a handful of degrees over freezing and the wind certainly didn’t help. Dad handn’t packed tights and we both had to borrow gloves. Still the distances were enjoyable and with a slightly lighter head-wind (though still prevalent) we upped the pace to an average of 18.7 mph.

Below are the maps of both rides. Click on each to view the stats, profile and other information in greater detail.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/165319923

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/165632346

Boonens surprising low-key celebrations; Cav a dad; Contador accepts fate; and a caption competition

STICKING TO THE VINO (THE WINE, NOT THE KAZAK CYCLIST)

There was no lines of coke, double vodkas and strippers at Tom Boonen’s post-Tour of Flanders party this year. No, the Belgian who is off to a superb start in 2012 had a low key celebration with his attention already turning to the Paris-Roubaix this weekend.

“On Sunday evening it was a normal evening at home. I arrived at home, drank a good glass of wine with my family and that was all. I went to bed immediately. I was really tired,” he said, as if trying to convince us that things didn’t get out of hand after that second glass… “On Monday, I didn’t really have a lot of time to enjoy my victory. It’s unbelievable.” It is, you’d think after such a win, a man would be given a few days out on the tiles, but not so in the fast paced world of professional cycling.

“In cycling you have to turn the page immediately, and next weekend is Paris-Roubaix,” he confirmed. “I am still really motivated. Mentally I have no problem. I work a lot to be competitive at this period of the season so I really want to try to do my best even on Sunday and fight for the victory. I don’t know if I will make the recon or not on Friday. The parcours is still the same and I have pretty good experience with it.”

With confidence like that who would bet against him? Not this fan.

***
DADDY CAV

It’s not often I beat Mark Cavendish in a race, but yesterday I officially beat him to being a dad by 26 days! Yes the man from the Isle of Man, also known as the fastest man in the world, yesterday announced the birth of daughter, Delilah Grace Cavendish, born to his partner Peta Todd. “Delilah Grace Cavendish was born a couple of hours ago,” Cavendish beamed via Twitter. “She & @petatodd are doing very well. So proud of my girls! Happiest day of my life.” Congrats Cav on the new born, it’s a hell of an experience.

***
CONTADOR MAINTAINS LACK OF FAITH IN SPORTS LAW

Alberto Contador has decided not to appeal his savage six month ban for a positive doping test at some Tour de France or other that might have taken place sometime before World War II. Contador had a month to put in an appeal but decided against it after discovering that he would be safe to return to the sport on August 5 rather than receive the full two year ban that a less significant cyclist might have otherwise faced.

“According to my lawyers, it made no sense to appeal the case, as it would have ended up again at the CAS anyway. Meanwhile, I have lost all faith in sports law,” Contador quipped angrily. The Spaniard will be missing from this years Tour de France but will return in time to win his home Vuelta a Espana in September. The course was made with him in mind after all.

***
CAPTION COMPETITION

Exact prize to be decided but give your best captions in the comment section below on José Joaquin Rojas’ latest podium celebration at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco…

Back on the MTB saddle

That felt good. And it’s been a while. Several months after putting the mountain bike away for the winter I was finally able to drag it back out of the storage cage and give it a proper good run out on proper mountain bike trails. Yes I took it out for a short ride through the park last week to test out the new Garmin, but that doesn’t really count.

Kelso Park was the destination and I spent little over an hour ploughing through some of the trails with one lick up that rough climb at the front end of the escarpment. That was a wakeup call, but 98 percent of that park is single track, so all-in-all it was enjoyable.

I’ve got less than a month to my first race of the season now and no doubt I’ve a lot still to do in the way of stamina training, but it was nice to use the first MTB ride of the year to just enjoy it, turn the legs over, give the bike a run out and see how things were. The bike is running like a dream, so just me to work on then.

Over this month as I get up there, my rides will become a little more intense as I try to get myself ready enough that I’ll enjoy the race rather than suffering to the finish line, though I still want to be able to enjoy those rides. Thankfully at a place like Kelso, you can have a challenging ride, via climbs and technical sections, but it’s laid out in such a way that you can’t help but enjoy it at the same time. That’s one of the great beauties about suffering while riding a mountain bike.

Post-ride weigh-in: 194.2 lbs

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/163443871

Becoming a segment leader awakes the 12-year old child within

Remember the jubilation you felt at the age of about twelve when you went to your local arcade and after spending your months pocketmoney on that frustrating yet addictive game that got boring a few weeks back but which you couldn’t let go, you finally seen your name, or indeed the three characters you used for your name, sit a top the high score list? Yes, I felt it again this week when I set a fastest segment time on Strava and this came after spending more than my monthly pocket money on a Garmin but long before the whole thing got boring. No comment on how frustrating it could have become or indeed how addictive it’s getting.

I discovered this little segment the day after my first ride with the new Garmin. When I uploaded my ride to Strava it informed me I had passed through a pre-set segment of which I only managed the 25th best time of anyone to have gone through it and later uploaded their ride to the website. I figured the average speed was more than beatable for the 1.3 mile blast, though probably because it is along a park path frequented by families and dog walkers in which nobody who has ridden it has ever pressed it very hard. Than I came along.

A few days later I had a crack at it but misjudged the finish and stopped while still within the segment. Besides, the park path was littered with people out enjoying the beautiful weather and it was a game of dodge the obstacles rather than a straight race.

Then on Tuesday night I noticed the weather was cold, about 1 degrees Celcius, and figured, rightly as it turned out, that nobody would be out walking in the park this day. So I stuck on some warm riding gear and went out for a spin that would take in the park path. Now, you could call this extremely sad, pathetic even, but I need the exercise, I need to train and this beat going to sit in the gym for an hour. Yes, a cyclist sitting idol on a bike for an hour staring at a wall in front of him is in it’s own right sad and pathetic.

There was a pretty stiff wind on the ride which I cursed the moment I turned into it and realised it was pointing against my direction through the path. I was hoping for a tail-wind that would allow me to cruise through the segment without raising my heart-rate over 130. Instead I was forced to actually push hard. So hard that my heart-rate jumped to almost maximum as I tried to hold a good speed over the 1.3 miles. You might criticise the requirement of such effort to beat a time by just 9 seconds, but I will remind you this was my third spin of the year and that I’m still trying to find a base level of cycling fitness. And yes, dare I mention that wind again.

So with that obsticle crossed I can now grow up again and get on with longer, steady rides in which I enjoy the world around me. At least until such times that I feel that emotion we all felt when we returned to the arcade the following weekend and noticed that some bugger had dethroned our high score putting us back to square one.

Post-ride weigh-in: 196.8 lbs

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/162277037

Following a route and chasing segments

Second run with the Garmin. Never thought I would get such good riding in during March but I guess you take what you can get. I’m meant to be spending my time in the gym this month getting ready for miles in April when the weather picked up enough, but I hate the gym and this was a good excuse to avoid it. And I certainly got more out of the ride. Playing around with the Garmin more I decided to plot a route on the computer first and then follow it. I was out to find a few quite roads around Western Toronto including park paths, as well as a few little short sharp climbs with a couple of Strava segments.

The thing about these Strava segments as I would find out as my ride went on, is that when you know whether they are you tend to max out your effort for them leaving you with nothing in the bag upon completion of it. You have to regroup before you can continue all in the aid of achieving the best time. It’s like a computer game in which you are actively involved. You are the character.

One on this particular ride was a 0.2 mile double switchback lump with a gradient of 8.6 percent. You’ve seen worse and you’ve certainly seen longer but when you know it’s a segment you for some reason go all out to try set the best time you can. My heart-rate maxed out at 202 beats per minute at that moment and when I hit the top, instead of riding on as I might otherwise have, I had to back off for a gulp of water and let the heart rate normalize itself.

What is it with us cyclists? Why do we weak out these damaging little climbs to thump ourselves out, punish ourselves? Why not weak out the descents instead? I guess it’s the inbuilt sense of achievement. It’s why man wanted to climb everest. Not for the pleasure of doing it, but for the pleasure of achieving it. And how quickly the body soon forgets the pain that is inflicted upon it and is suddenly ready to go again. As I sat on top of that little rise with my heart pushing through my chest, I wondered why I bothered with these stupid segments that only encouraged burn out rather than enjoying a long, steady ride, but no more than four miles through a couple of residential streets and a park path I was faced with another segment and off I set once more, too the limit in search of a record.

As it turns out I made little mark on any of the segments. The short sharp little climb took me 1:01 at an average of 10.7mph and with an average heart rate of 194bpm and 475 watts. Good only for 22nd of 35. The leader somehow pulled his bike up in 33 seconds. That’s a mind bending average of 19.8mph at 147bmp with an output of 642 watts. Untouchable for me, but I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t anxious to go back and have another crack at improving my 22nd place. I just have to be careful not to get into the habit of putting segment record efforts in front of a good old fashioned steady distance ride in the countryside.

As for the final segment — the one I unknowingly went through on my first day with the Garmin — I misjudged were the finish was and stopped for a water break only to find out when I got home that I was still in the segment and thus blew any shot at what was shaping up to be a good time. I’ll go back to it soon.

The Garmin is certainly a fun device. Either for creating a route or indeed following a route. It’s going to really add a new dynamic to cycling this summer. I can’t wait to get some bigger miles in as the weather really improves as well as tracking the mountain bike races I enter this season.

Post-ride weigh-in: 198.2 lbs (That was 217.6 lbs on October 16, 2011 and 212.8 lbs on January 12, 2012).

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/161560112

Boonen back to his best in what is clearly his favourite race

The Gent-Wevelgem, also known as the Tom Boonen classic, took place this weekend. One of cycling’s popular spring classic races taking place in the heartland of cycling — Belgium — the race is a big notch on any good cyclists resume. Former cyclist turned cocaine sniffing party boy, turned cyclist again, Tom Boonen, took the win for the second year in-a-row and third time in all. It was his seventh race win of the season for a man really looking like he is back to his best. He out sprinted a group of 13 men including Peter Sagan, Oscar Freire, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Fabian Cancellara to take the glory, or at least that’s how the result sheet suggests it was won.

I sadly didn’t get to see it myself as I had hoped. Time and other stuff didn’t allow for it which is a shame because I’d have liked to have seen the video shots of Gent, a beautiful city that I’ve spent a good bit of time in over the years and of which i have many fond memories.

2012 Olympic Champion, Mark Cavendish missed the break and could only finish in the large second pack in which he didn’t feel there was any pride to be gained by sprinting for 37th place.

“I’ve found back my sprint,” cheered Boonen after the race. “I’m not the fastest man in the peloton — that’s probably Mark Cavendish — but if everybody is tired then I’m one of the best.” And Boonen makes a good point. It’s only worth being the fastest man on the planet if you’re at the stage of the race were being the fastest is most important. Granted, Cavendish often is, especially on those flat stages or in last years World Championship and British hopes are being pinned heavily on him being in the mix with 200 meters to go at the upcoming Olympics.

The Olympics though isn’t an out and out flat course however and that’ll be Cavs biggest challenge. There’s been talk that one day the man from the Isle of Man will one day amend his racing style to become more a classics rider and perhaps hang in over some of the tough climbs to put himself in contention by the finish, but right now he’s going to have to find a way to stick in there in the Olympic race in a way he couldn’t at Gent-Wevelgem.

Still, a big win for Boonen in what is becoming a big season for the Belgian. With three of the big Monuments just around the corner in the Tour of Flanders, the Paris-Roubaix and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Boonen must surely be a favourite to win at least one of those.

Evans in yellow again

Following last years Tour de France it is clear that Cadel Evans is getting used to wearing a yellow jersey and holding a cuddly toy upon a podium. The defending Tour champion won the Critérium International by eight seconds over Pierrick Fedrigo and fellow countryman Michael Rogers, spelling out the Australian’s good form heading through spring. Given the nature of the 2012 Tour de France Evans will be confident about retaining his title, and wearing the Maillot Jaune on the top step here will only remind him of the pleasure.

A tip of the hat to Albasini

A tip of the hat to Swissman Michael Albasini who came from relative obscurity to take Green Edge’s first ever overall victory by winning the seven stages of the Volta a Catalunya. He thumped second place man Samuel Sanchez by a good 1-30 to take the general classification as other such cycling hero’s Daniel Martin, Damiano Cunego, Denis Menchov and Tom Danielson could only battle it out for third place from which they all finished on the same time, 1-32 behind Albasini.