Friday, 9 September 2011

A tale of two Tours.

Not much doing in the Vuelta today. The Tour de Bushy was fun though. 

In Spain we had a breakaway survive to the finish and a much need win for Lampre courtesy of Francesco Gavazzi.  No one wants to see one of cycling’s faithful old teams go through a grand tour without a win, so it was nice to see the breakaway succeed, even it was more due to the peloton not bothering to chase than the riders ability to stop squabbling and work together. The bunch rolled in over seven minutes later with no real change made to the important end of the GC.

On the other side of Europe I continued my stuttering transition from  armchair cycling fan to cyclist with my third attempt at a ‘training ride’, by which I mean an attempt to ride for a serious distance at a serious speed, rather than just pottering about. 

My first attempt was an enjoyable twenty miles, but a loose saddle meant that I couldn’t ride at speed. Attempt number two did briefly see some decent speed attained and maintained, but the loose saddle struck again, this time accompanied by some newly slipping gears and a return home after a paltry six miles.

Yesterday’s attempt felt closer to what I was after. At twelve miles, it wasn’t a particularly long ride, but I spent pretty much the whole time pedalling hard, fighting for breath. It felt like exercise. It felt like it was making me fit. It felt like a stepping stone on the way to doing twenty miles hard riding, which is the marker I want to achieve before venturing out on group rides with experienced cyclists and getting really serious.

I set off before nine, so the roads to Bushy Park were still hectic with school run, but the park itself was not yet full of little’ns. This played a vital part in allowing me to ride hard the whole time: normally each circuit of the park has a looong slow bit by the play area, where the toddlers enact a sort of Brownian motion between the swings on one side and the ice-cream van on the other, while I weave through them at low speed. Yesterday, I simply rocketed along the path, which was empty but for two people doing some of the strangest, least helpful looking stretches I’ve ever seen: spasmodic, hip-hampered high kicks that looked more likely to strain something than warm it up. Bizarrely, they were still there an hour later, still stretching. Perhaps they’d done some running or Tai Chi inbetween, but it looked to me like they’d merely stopped for a natter in gymwear.

I, meanwhile, had managed to hit a top speed of 21.2 MPH while being chased by a small, excitable Highland Terrier, whose owner yelled at me. I don't know if the yelling was "Stop exceeding the park speed limit", "Stop exciting my Highland Terrier" or "Well done you, you look like you'll have built a reasonable level of cardio-vascular fitness in no time." I'm hoping it was the latter, but just in case it wasn’t, I peeled off onto a short grass track when my second lap approached the same Terrier. This successfully avoided a second chase, but the short grass track turned out to be a long, muddy and bumpy rut that brought my average speed right down and put a fierce ache into my legs.

In any case, I managed a middling distance, a good average speed and neither my fitness nor my lycra embarrassed me, so I’m calling it a successful ride. The plan now is to have another, and another, and another, until it’s a habit. Once I’m habitually riding I’ll start looking into proper nutrition and setting targets.

Meanwhile, today’s Vuelta stage to Bilbao might, might just provide crosswinds, and those crosswinds might just carry the straws fans of Chris Froome and Brad Wiggins are clutching for. Yesterday, my ride was more interesting than the Vuelta. Today, however, might be very different...

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