Going the Distance

Posted on May 5th, 2010 by Tim Bell in Cycling Training around London, Garmin Edge 705, The Road to Tourmalet

Another weekend, another opportunity to inch towards the workload required by the Etape du Tour 2010. I actually have three fixed goals over the summer, having agreed to ride the King of the Downs on 23rd May. There are only two weekends available to me before that challenge, which comprises of 180km with 3,000 metres climbing around the South and North Downs. That’s not far off the Etape itself; same distance but 1,000 fewer verticle metres, and the climbs are broken up into more digestible chunks. In between those two I have La Mont Ventoux Sportive at 170km and 3,000 metres climbing on the Saturday, with a cheeky extra sprint up the ‘Giant of Provence‘ the following morning. Having realised that my knee problems were mainly down to upping my effort by too-large degrees, it is now all about incremental gains – but they have to be relentless gains or I will get a rude awakening come 23rd May.

Being a bank holiday I had three days to play with, so took a leisurely ride of 55km through London to see some friends on the Saturday, punctuated by a couple of fast laps around Richmond Park – I think I scalped 12 riders and didn’t get passed once.

The only downsides to the day were a navigational glitch and a coming together with a vehicle. Trying to find a good way to programme routes into my Garmin Edge 705, I had abandoned Bikely.com and gave Bikeroutetoaster.com a go. Creating the route seemed to work very nicely and I uploaded it to the Garmin, but it directed me towards Wandsworth Bridge when I felt I should stay on the New King’s Road until Putney Bridge. As usual, first instincts were correct but I ignored them and followed the route into some busy roads. On the way back home someone decided to turn left without indicating while I was riding along (not accelerating past) on their inside. The driver and passengers were very apologetic and a shop assistant from the nearby Vespa shop heard the crash and came out to help, insisting I have a sugary cup of tea to recover from the shock. I was fine the moment we confirmed no damage to the Focus Cayo. It turned out the shop assistant was a keen bike collector, recently back from a Belgian purchasing spree of Colnagos and Cervellos. He also has a house in Pau and rides the Tourmalet from time to time, so we might share a beer around the Etape – but I did wonder how he was managing all this while being at the beck and call of a reassuringly rude French shop manager; “Two minutes, it’s OK, after that he must go!” Some people just have it all worked out.

Anyway, on Monday I wanted to beat the distance record I set the previous weekend, riding a miserable 130km round Regent’s Park. 140km was the goal and I set off towards my brother’s place in Kingston (using my memory as a routefinder this time – worked a treat) wearing summer kit, only to find people walking the streets in beanie caps and scarves; not quite right for early May. After meeting up with bro, we got in a few quick laps around Richmond Park which just about warmed us up, but he had to head back and get on with some preparations for the imminent arrival of my third nephew. I joined him for a quick coffee and croissant with the crew, then headed back out to clock up some distance. It was not an ideal day for riding, with heavy winds that almost knocked me off the bike combining with regular showers to keep my fingers and toes frosty. I hadn’t really realised this but a nasty headwind requires more effort than all but the steepest of hills, and I got plenty of practice at slipstreaming more generous riders than myself. I hope Aeolus will be in a more tranquil mood when I’m scrambling towards the bare summits of Ventoux and Tourmalet.

I had a food stop after around 110km and was thinking about heading back towards central London, when my bro called to say he and the two nephews were heading to the park with their bikes for a little cycling lesson, so I went and joined them for a bacon roll and witnessed some fearless progress from the boys. We will have to start thinking about a family kit. After that I decided to head for home and finish my distance target around Regent’s Park – I didn’t want to take on the traffic (and face another potential crash) when too fatigued. It took a diversion around Hyde Park and three laps of Regent’s Park, with some horrific headwinds, to clock up my 140km. I was hoping to have an average heart rate higher than the 148 I clocked over 130km the previous weekend, and my Garmin was reading an average of 150bpm when I stopped the computer at 140km, so I was disappointed when I uploaded the day’s work to Garmin Connect and found it had dropped to 146bpm. But I wasn’t that upset; I had managed my longest ever distance at a higher bpm and speed than I had sustained over a 60 minute burst less than two months previously, so this was definitely progress. Best of all, there was no recurrence of the knee pain I had struggled with so far. While the King of the Downs still looks like an unrealistically tough goal at the end of this month, who’s to say it’s not possible now?


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