Monday, 8 August 2011

Cov CC 25, looking to the weekend

Weather conditions will hopefully hold out for this Saturday for the Coventry Cycling Club's Open 25, based on the Princethorpe circuit. Last year's conditions were horrendous, according to the marshals three thunderstorms passed over while we were racing!

It's a fairly local circuit to me, but despite being classed as a "hilly", it's a fairly quick one. Princethorpe hill is fairly tough, you can carry plenty of speed into it. My current PB stands on this course at 52-03, which is also the course record I set last year. I've been close to this time recently, but still a year on I can't figure out how I went that quick in the conditions! 

I almost considered quitting a few miles in, it was that bad, you couldn't see 100m up the road, not even a car's tail-lights. Standing water was also an issue, it must have been an inch deep down the A45, yet the first lap I clocked 19-57 for ten miles!

So on to this year, I'm hoping it's not actually as hot as the Rugby 10 last week... but rain please stay away!

Seeding is rather interesting and possibly beneficial to me, I'd have thought as last year's winner and course record holder I'd be seeded last, but I'm mid-field at 3rd seed. I think my PB may be for the taking, we'll see what happens on the day!

Sporting time-trials, why so few competitors?

It's often apparent in the world of time-trials that the "fast" courses pull a huge number of competitors, yet so called Sporting Courses (Spoco for short) fail to deliver these full fields.

It's an interesting one, because in my books, a time-trial is a race against the clock. It doesn't matter if it's a fast dual carriage-way, hill-climb or 40mile hilly circuit. It's the latter of these which really appear to be suffering in terms of competitor numbers (and hill climbs... but that's a couple of months yet!), has the time-trialling mentality to just do 10's gone a bit far?

There's certain races, such as the Beacon Mountain Time-Trial, which I competed in earlier in the year which attar act a large field. There's some hard climbs in this, enough to put off many a time-triallist, yet because of the Beacon's classic status there's plenty of riders out there challenging themselves.

The Rudy Project Series really seems to suffer though, with round 5 having 17 senior male entrants. You'd have thought a national series would have more numbers? What's more to the point is that this event covers two laps of the first loop in the Beacon event, the big climbs are missed out. Perhaps the Rudy's are two spread across the country in both terms of time and distance to attract any but the most commmited to each round? Or is it the fact the entry dates are a good few weeks in advance (I would have ridden had I got an entry on time)?

Which brings me to the BTTC at the start of September, the field sizes are tiny. Apart from the masters event, which isn't run under UCI rules, the biggest field of any category is 35 riders. The main event, Senior male has 26 entrants and in the junior category there's not one single female.

So what's everyone doing!? It appears that a huge amount of the 30+ seniors opt in for the Masters category, whether this is because they don't want to change their bike position for just one event (I keep mine UCI all season), or maybe it's because they've more chance of medalling in their age category, frankly I don't know. There's a serious lack of road-men in the senior category too, the three riders from Team Sky are there to chase the medals, as are the evergreen Hutchinson and Botrill, but this type of event suits a road rider down to the ground, so where are they all?

Is it again a case of the entry deadline being too far in advance? Or maybe there's a lack of media attention and hype in the lead up to the event? Certainly the event in South Wales last year had plenty of information out there before hand. Perhaps it's too late in the season? Tester's aren't as prone to this as road-men, who are always eager early March; but have riders gone into hibernation by September?

Or do we go back to my original statement, are time-triallists scared of not doing a set distance event where they know they've not got a PB to chase? Is it a whole paradigm shift of the tester's mentality to go for a position instead? After all, you're placed at the end of an Open 10.....

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Why I love cafe rides

It's sometimes a rarity I get to join with a group of co-workers and friends to head off to the cafe on a Sunday, recently it's been quite frequent (the August race calendar is appalling!)

It might be questioned why I'd go on such a ride, rather than a training ride which would be a couple of mph faster. It's that lack of pressure to train which makes them fun... and in my opinion a good training tool. My power may be down about 25% to a solo ride, but it's still miles in the legs and the difference between my normal tempo helps break things up.

We don't smash it, our average is often around 16mph and in fact, we sometimes do less than 60 miles, but it's enjoyable. Granted, I get a few intervals in up some climbs, but they know I'll always wait. These are people who love cycling just as a hobby, it's good fun to be with them, it's not all about speed, power and all the racing lark.

To be honest at times of the year, it's just what you need - and I'd recommend it to anyone who's training and racing week in, week out. It breaks your season up, gives you time to chill...

Oh and it's amazing how many hours you can do on a bacon sausage and egg sandwich!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Rugby RCC 10 by mattclinton at Garmin Connect - Details

Here's a lovely Garmin connect upload of my 19-57 done last Saturday at Rugby. Numbers geeks enjoy!

Rugby RCC 10 by mattclinton at Garmin Connect - Details

Photo of the Day

Actually, this one is a week or so old. I took it while out riding back from the cafe with the guys from Mike Vaughan Cycles.

Some how I managed to frame it perfectly, this is exactly as it came off my camera...

Friday leg loosener

I've been requested when doing my blog to see what kind of training I do, here's this morning's ride to get my legs going again after yesterday's rest day:

Entire workout (229 watts):
Duration:   1:36:03 (1:39:40)
Norm Power: 275
Distance:   30.661 mi

                Min Max Avg
  • Power:       0 828 229 watts
  • Heart Rate:   82 165 128 bpm
  • Cadence:     9 191 87 rpm
  • Speed:       0 36.4 19.3 mph

Tarmac SL4 - Review

My new 2012 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4
I've ridden Specialized Tarmacs almost since their first incarnation way back in 2005. I've owned every single full carbon model (with a Giant in between for good measure!) The SL3's been my trusty steed for 18 months now, even after test riding all the 2012 Giants I felt this was where I wanted to be!

Along comes the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4.

The first thing you might think - it's been said to me several times "it doesn't look much different to an SL3". In a way they're right, it's still your typical Specialized Tarmac shape.... but that's where the similarities end.

That top-tube is huge!
Di2 looks much neater as does OSBB
First off it's a fair bit beefier, the SL3 had large tubes at the front end, but the top tube of the SL4 makes it look anorexic! The stays are probably the next thing you'll notice, the stance is a lot wider and the shape changes as you reach the seat tube, almost flattening at the top.
The huge downtube allows Di2 cables to run internally and the brake runs along the inside of the top tube (just remember rubber doughnuts inside!). The whole Di2 integration looks very neat, I just need to bungs to finish it off!

Huge stays as ever and much better dropouts
There's a few more subtle differences too, such as the dropouts - my SL3 used to be a nightmare with a Di2 mech on, this has no such issues.

So enough about how it looks, how does it ride?

This is where I stumble. I can't find a single word to sum it up. Every time I try and describe one characteristic, I lead on to another. I cannot find a superlative good enough!

Lets start with the thing which people comment on most when they ride it. It's smooth. You'd think a full on race-bike is going to be harsh, but this isn't. Specialized have obviously learnt a lot from the Roubaix and put it into the Tarmac, but in just the right amount. Personally I find the Roubaix a bit overkill in terms of smoothness, I like to feel the road, but it suits many people. The Tarmac, for me has hit the nail on the head. It's balanced front and rear, those stays ironing out the vibrations, but you can still feel the road as you should.

Cobra Headtube
Rear stance is much wider
Which leads me on to the front end.... Specialized slimmed down the headtube, but at the same time stiffened it up. It's noticeably a lot more grown-up in the handling compared to the SL3, more composed, more confidence inspiring. It's hugely stiff, but you don't ever feel like you're fighting the stiffness. One thing that astounded me about the new fork isn't the comfort or tracking, but the braking. In fact, both front and rear braking on this bike is the best I have ever encountered. I've run Dura-Ace brakes on many bikes, nothing compares to this.

As you'd expect from a race bike, the rear end is stiff too. As I've mentioned it's compliant and smooth, but if you want to put the power down it will respond -  it will respond with no hassle, no fuss until you want to stop. This is the only bike I've ridden which just wants to keep going harder than you do! I typically sprint up a climb, set a telegraph pole as a finish line... and give up 80% of the way there.  Well I did do until I rode the SL4, I keep riding past the "finish line" now, the bike just won't give in!

These stays are a masterpiece!
You may have noticed I've not really mentioned weight, it comes in at around 15lb, a bit more with deep sections shown. It's not superlight (especially with a reliable build like mine), Specialized themselves haven't shouted much about the weight, but it's the ride that out-shines the 50g weight saving over the SL3.

Obviously £2500 is a lot of money for a frameset, so it should really be a very good bike, but this just keeps making me smile every time I ride it! I must have clocked up nearly 400 miles in just over a week on it and I still cannot find a fault, this is without a doubt the best race bike I have ever ridden.