It’s been a while. I always had the idea that I would write something at the end of the season to review what happened, how I progressed and whether I achieved the goals I had set myself. Unfortunately I was involved in a crash when I was out riding in Mallorca and I came away with a fractured collarbone, effectively ending the season on October 23rd. The fracture needed surgery, the surgery had to be done out there…
Anyway, I had a month where I tried not to think about cycling at all and have only remembered about this now..
This year was the first time I had set myself some serious goals in cycling and I made them public so that I would be accountable and more likely to try and achieve them. Without something to aim for, I tend to cruise along and put off trying new things out (e.g. I put off trying racing for years…). Below are my 2016 goals split by category and a little commentary on how I did on each:
Regent’s Park CCW Lap Challenge Goals
Riding for RPR, these are a good place to start…
- Sub-5:35 solo road bike lap on Regent’s Park CCW
In 2015, my best solo lap was 5:44. I thought it was quite ambitious to take 10s off, given that the average speed requirement goes from 28.6mph to >29.5mph and it takes a lot more power to go not a lot faster at those speeds.Luckily there were quite a few near-perfect days in late August and September where the conditions were fast (light SE winds, warm and humid) and the traffic lights co-operated with an all-out effort. In this period the RB lap record fell twice and both KOM and QOM times tumbled with ~15s coming off each.
I managed a 5:34 which took 411w. This compares to my best 2015 lap which was 5:44 and took 394w. Some of the gains are obviously from the extra power, but having a better position would have contributed more and knowing the lap better (it’s just a lap though, right?) definitely helped.
Dan Coops then posted a 5:32 two weeks after, putting out a truck load of watts to take it back. My excuse was that he had a skinsuit and velotoze… but he holds the fastest road bike (RB) lap (we think).
- First ever 2LSSS
The 2LSSS is a fun challenge to go alongside the single lap RB lap. It stands for 2 Laps Solo Sub Six and is a road bike set-up challenge of power and pacing. To succeed you must post 2 consecutive laps that are both sub-6 on the Regent’s Park CCW segment. If you do a 5:50, then a 6:01 you’ll have have done 2 laps in under 12 minutes but will fail the challenge – a 5:59, 5:59 would be perfect. A few of us were thinking that this probably wouldn’t have ever been attempted before and a race to be the first emerged. The best part is many people are capable of doing it, but the low chances of clearing all 5 sets of lights, two laps in a row meant there were a lot of failed attempts (>15 for me). Failing at the final lights on your 2nd lap isn’t cool.
I ticked this off on the same day as the 5.34 (I did the 2LSSS as soon as I got to the park and then a 1 lap effort a bit later), posting 5:58, 5:58, which took 364w for the 12 minutes. The prize was some quality cider. This ‘challenge’ made me do a load of high Z4/low Z5 work a couple of weeks out from two road races, which was really good prep for what eventually happened in those races.
A couple of years ago nobody had posted a Regent’s lap under 6 minutes. With the club growing and some big power coming in this year, the sub-5 seemed possible, if not probable. I was given the honour of the first proper leadout attempt in July, but our paceline fell apart half way around and we came in with a 5:06. This crew was 2s up at halfway compared to the sub-5, but only had 2 fresh riders left at that point. On the successful sub-5, I was beginning my turn with 3 fresh riders behind me. Fresh riders made all the difference!
When the second attempt came around we were better organised and also in a better order. 7 guys did roughly 35s all out on the front, leaving Dan with a minute to do solo, which was asking a lot, but he’s the best guy in the club for that effort. He got it done with 1s to spare and the KOM now stands at 4:58. It was an awesome thing to be a part of and a real club achievement.
- Win a RB TT
The purpose of this goal was to develop power whilst in an aero position. There are riders out there that I can’t match for power, but I can always work on being more efficient. A -17, 140mm stem and 38cm bars were a good start, but body and hand position also needed work. I targeted the Richmond TTs, winning one and coming 2nd in the other.
- Win a crit at each London circuit
This was really too ambitious. A nice target eventually, but maybe too much for the season I was having where too much racing ended up being detrimental. I won at Hog Hill and Velopark in the 2nd/3rd cat races and got a 2nd at the Cyclopark.
- 2nd Cat
I achieved 2nd cat after 6 races and that’s where I stayed.
- Win a Road Race
My initial target was just to enter a RR to force me to try it out, which later changed to winning one instead. There’s a fair bit more effort required in getting to the races – for one I rode for an hour across London and caught a lift for another hour, for the other I rode across London for half an hour, caught a train for half an hour and then rode for an hour across Essex…
I managed to win 2 regional A 2/3/4 road races in 2 weeks. Both involved rolling the dice and bridging up to an established breakaway and for me, were the best races of the season because of the tactics that then play out to decide the race. I like that you have to think about tactics a lot more and be ready to exploit mistakes if other riders make them. My only regret is not racing more of them sooner.
- 1st Cat
After obtaining 2nd, the obvious next step is 1st cat. The problem I had was that I couldn’t see an advantage to being a 1st – I still can’t. As a 2nd you have the widest choice of races, you’ll be the top category in most of those and have a decent pool of similar ability to compete against and learn from. Arguably racing E/1s you’ll learn more from the beating you’ll take and if you get 1st you are 200 points closer to getting an Elite license compared to being a 2nd at the start of a season. Really though if you have the ability to be Elite you are going to be able to get 500pts in a season anyway.
If I was a 1st this year I wouldn’t have been able to enter the majority of races I did. The recent release of the SERRL 2017 calendar brought the issue up as the SERRL dropped its E/1/2 road races (leaving few ‘regional’ Nat B races for E/1s), in favour of more women’s and 2/3/4 races. Their argument was to play the numbers game and cater for the masses; there were 47 Es/1s in the SE region, but some 2,500 2/3/4s (~250 2nds). The main voices opposed to the change were a few 1st cats who had their local race choices cut. I understand their position – the 1st/2nd cat border seems like a bit of a broken system.
Next year is a great year to be a 2nd cat, with the Surrey League/SERRL and plenty more 2nd cat RPR riders to race with.
BC Points summary: 138/200 points scored for 1st cat, 190 points in total for the year.
- 20,000km for the year
Done on September 13th. I had revised my target to 30,000km which would have taken some work, but was possible.
- Lose weight
I lost weight in the early season and was down to 74kg but didn’t focus as much as I should have on this. I know I could be a much better rider if I worked harder on dropping down. I’m very good at staying the same weight and I was comfortable sitting at ~77kg for most of the year. I’m probably a good case to show it doesn’t matter how much you ride, it’s about how much you eat.
#1 – April, Lucca was all about survival and avoiding the incredible amounts of rain. My shifter broke on day one and the local English-speaking shop mechanic called in Cipollini’s mechanic to rebuild it as Italians ‘don’t use SRAM’. The lights slowly went out on the other days as I tried to win small punchy climbs but fell apart on the longer ones. This was the beginning of a bit of a burnout during May and showed up some weaknesses.
#2 – June, Nice was all about switching back to volume and doing lots of climbing. I’d been before but never really got around to exploring the higher climbs further inland. The weather was perfect, except for one evening where I got caught in a thunderstorm on Col d’Èze and the rain destroyed my 5th (!) stages power meter. . . . .
#3 – October, Nice. Much of the same as June but much more chilled out spinning and exploring than going mental. Getting used to climbing again in preparation for Mallorca and lots of pro spotting out on the roads… It’s an awesome place to ride.
#4 – October, Mallorca – I was breaking power records for the shorter climbs and much better prepared for the longer rides with lots of climbing. I was definitely pushing my limits throughout but I need to drop some weight to be up consistently with the better climbers. I may have accidentally ridden through the Soller tunnel after missing the turning for the Col de Soller and then ridden through the tolls at the other end. Not advised. Everything was great until the crash.
- Power PBs all across power curve
This was one of my favourite goals because you are forced to get better at everything. The dark purple line is mostly above the lighter line on my power curve below (Strava > Training > Power Curve). My observations are:
- 5-10% increase in 5s-15s sprint power (widest gap on the curve)
- Big increase in anaerobic power, especially ~90s mark
- Didn’t beat 3m or 5m power – in 2015 I targeted both duration for testing but didn’t this year. I also didn’t have a power meter for a few months where I did some big 5m efforts.
- 20m power up – 370w compared to 350w.
- Ignore the furthest left and right areas on the curve – data spikes ruin 1-3s data and ‘coffee’ stops affect anything over 4h.
- 120CTL / plan some fitness..
Now we come on to some PMC analysis, with my charts for 2015/2016 below. The top one is a clean (ish) PMC, the bottom has vertical blue lines for each race I did. If the charts mean nothing – the PMC is explained here, or just skip the section altogether.
I started my winter ‘base’ in October 2015 on a CTL of 88. The plan was to build very steadily towards ~120CTL and then spend this on racing. I’d tried upping my training load before in 2015 but ended up either sick or injured because I ramped up too much. I learned from this and built at about 2CTL points/week for 4 months which was perfect on around 18-20h/week. Everyone has an individual limit on how far negative their TSB can go before they break (and how long it can be held that low) and I never pushed passed my known parameters for too long so I never dug into a hole I couldn’t get out of.
As the races started in January (Hog Hill), the build stagnates as recovering from hard racing alongside trying to build training load isn’t a good idea. As I progressed through the categories up to 2nd, I needed to be fresher for the races to be competitive, so my TSB was positive more often and my CTL took a dip, which turned into a bit of a dive by the end of April and May. Too many races (see the clustered vertical lines) and getting sick a few times ended any momentum and this is where I decided to stop racing and just ride a lot instead.
I hit my year low TSB in Nice (June) of -41TSB / 156 ATL and held this fatigue for about a week. I had a good rebuild, except a bout of food poisoning in early June, refocusing on the 1000h target that I was far behind at that point (40h behind pace). My year best form came as my TSB (yellow line) started trending positive and my CTL levelled off at a peak of 124tss/d. This pattern is what has always brought my best power numbers and condition. This coincided with RideLondon (still #notarace), my Regent’s Park times falling, the 2 road race wins and most things going right in that time. I adapted to riding 20h+ instead of 18h and felt like I recovered a lot better. I was balancing longer and harder rides with shorter and easier rides than earlier in the year (the further right you look, the lower and higher the daily TSS scores go – represented by the red dots)
2015/2016 season total TSS = 41,577
- 1,000h Year
At the time of setting this target I didn’t think it was possible. Once I got out of the May fatigue hole, riding 18h a week wasn’t so bad. I didn’t quite get there for 2016 though. It would’ve been cool to say I’ve done 1,000 hours but there will be other years for that (2017!). Golden Cheetah had me at 995h for the 365 days to 23rd October 2016 and Veloviewer has an awesome infographic for Strava based on either your 2016 year or the “pro season” (November 15 – October 16).
End of 2016
So that was 2016. It’s been a very good year with power and endurance increasing. Weight didn’t really change so that could be improved on. I got some good results, tried new things and did a lot on my bike. The highlights are definitely the road races and RideLondon which were just unexpected results really. For now though, its on to Zwift Island to grind out the winter miles I can’t do outside right now and work on rebuilding from the bottom back to what I had (FTP is ~300-310w right now, compared to 350-360w in peak), whilst thinking of what I’d like to do in 2017.
Thanks for reading.