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Back into the swing of it!

After a quiet couple of weeks it’s time to reflect on what’s happened since I last posted. A lot has changed, my training is back on track, my weight is getting better, and i’ve just had a really productive change of routine! It feels so refreshing that things are starting to fall back into place, and I can refocus on the important things.

Last week I had my first proper week of training with my coach, and from day 1 it felt so good. Having that personal structure is so important, and you can really feel the difference on the bike. It’s not like I’m training much harder, but it’s just the rhythm of it which makes it different. Feeling that sense of accomplishment after each session is gratifying, and quite frankly addictive! Instead of feeling tired or exhausted after a workout, I feel a rush of those positive endorphins, and I have more energy than I did at the start of the day! It’s hard to understand the importance of a coach, not only for the training benefits, but more for the mental, and psychological benefits.

To give a bit of context about what my coach is doing, and how he is improving me, I’ll try and give you a bit of an insight. His name is Ben, and he gives me a personalised training plan created to improve my ability in races. The way Ben achieves this is identifying what types of races I am going to do, establishing the ways I can be in best shape for these races, and then giving me sessions to complete in order to ensure I am in the best shape possible. It may come across as something simple, but the reality is anything but simple. There are so many aspects to improving fitness for races, whether that may be improving your endurance, or sprints, or being able to climb faster, or descend quicker, or improve your bike handling skills. In order to be in the best shape possible you need to find out what matters most for the race, which can typically be endurance, and climbing. In order to improve these aspects, there are so many ways you can go about it. To improve climbing the most obvious thing may be to find tough hills to climb and practice getting better at that, or to improve endurance you may think it just means going out on long rides and getting better at that. This is not the case.

What Ben gives me is mainly interval training, designed to improve my threshold for races. If you were to look at my training plan, you might wonder how that could help me do better in races, but the intervals I am given improves my threshold ability, and also my fatigue resistance by forcing adaptations which will increase my power and allow me to go harder in races. There are many ways to train, but it can be so hard to get it right. This is why it’s so important to have a coach who knows your best interests, and it’s also important to have a close relationship with them, in order for them to help you as much with the mental and psychological side of cycling.

Now, moving onto racing. Yesterday I raced Prix de Saint Pierre de Semilly, a category 123 race. It was 12 laps of just under 10km each. Bearing in mind I hadn’t raced last weekend, I was very keen to do this. I know my form is far from good at the moment, so I can relax about results, and use these races as opportunities to try new things and see what I can learn from the race. Also it’s important to keep racing, just to experience that high intensity and be comfortable in the peloton, not getting worried about being too close to everyone, and making sure you know how to keep safe.

I was confident a breakaway would form in the first couple of laps, so I poised myself ready for that. In the first lap I found myself off the front with a group of about 8, with a modest gap, I thought it could be the winning move but unfortunately it wasn’t. We got caught on the main climb and I was just hanging in the peloton, trying to stay in and not get dropped. The pace was high and people were trying to form a breakaway, but I wasn’t able to do that, I was just trying to stay in the peloton. After 3 laps, the breakaway got away and the peloton took it easy. I was then feeling okay again, and was able to get back to the front of the peloton. It was a shame that I missed the important move, if I knew it would’ve gone by then I would’ve like to think I could’ve been in it. But I just sat in the peloton, and took it easy. It was quite uneventful after that, nothing much was happening. I tried to get out of the peloton and bridge to the breakaway but the peloton wouldn’t let me go. I didn’t know how many were up ahead but it turned out to be 14, which was much more than I thought!

With 2 laps to go, I clip off the front with 2 other guys, from the same team (Torigni), and we work well together to get away from the peloton. We got a good gap quickly, and just kept the pace high enough. In the final lap, we caught up with a rider who must’ve got dropped from the breakaway. So I was now in a group of 4. The final 5km was a game of cat and mouse- no one wanted to work, and we kept attacking each other in a bid to get away solo. I tried an attack with 3km to go, and got a gap at first, but I was quickly closed down. Once I was caught, it was only 1.5km from the finish, so I just waited for the sprint to the line. I didn’t have the kick for the sprint, so I rolled in at the back of my group of 4, and 17th overall. I was content with it, while it would’ve been nice to get in the breakaway I had to remember that my fitness is down and I can’t expect to be at the top level. I still got a prize for being the first category 3 rider which is always a nice bonus! So I didn’t come away with nothing, some nice flowers and a great trophy to add to the collection. This race was definitely a good morale boost for things to come. I made a couple of mistakes but valuable ones to avoid me doing it in important races.

This upcoming weekend looks good for races, hopefully I am able to race both Saturday and Sunday, as there are some good opportunities. Both days will be category 2/3 so a bit easier, which means better chances for results. I’m more looking forward to the benefits of this weeks training though- as this will have a great impact for the races.

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