Is there too much tinkering with time trials?

It’s been a week of time trial musings for me, culminating in this post.

I watched the revised Paris-Nice time trial with a keen eye. It was really enjoyable to see how the tactics evolved and rather than weaker teams being handicapped by having to get four riders from gun to tape, they could ride it like a team sprint on the track.

What it also did was stop a dominant TTT team from monopolising the GC top 10.

Think Jumbo in an event where Primoz Roglic, Wout Van Aert, Jonas Vingegaad and Christophe Laporte could have taken the top 4 places in a race with an early shared race against the watch.

This changes that emphasis and I think (despite the domination of Tadej Pogacar) it made the race more interesting.

Would David Gaudu have been so influential in the latter days of the race had he shipped a minute in the time trial? probably not.

So its a positive and a big tick from me.

At a slightly different level to the World Tour (although in my view not much!) my own club started their seasonal calendar with a come and try it road bike 10.

We do operate on a sporting course (one for the older folk there) so with only a couple of straights there is limited impact a top time trialling rig can provide. But a look at the spread of times over a season its still enough.

This event saw juniors, seniors and masters take part with a decent spread of times but a close finish and narrower time spread over the podium.

(Picture from Fenland Clarion cc social media)

For me it was the chance to get that restored Bianchi into competition and despite its age it performed brilliantly under the stress of a block headwind on the 2nd quarter of the event.

What was great though was that the legs decided the result. And whilst to be fair, the same people topped the leader board as would have done if tt bikes were allowed, there was a real purity to this and it felt more competitive.

(Could just be my perception of course)

I am looking forward to having another crack in a couple of weeks where hopefully the wind will have died down a bit and the road might be dryer.

So in answer to the question “Is there too much tinkering with time trials”?

So far in 2023, for me the answer is definitely not.

The changes have been enhancements.

The true “classic” of the opening week of the Flemish season

I know its a controversial viewpoint, but instead of focusing on the opening weekend of the classics season, I like to stretch it out to a full week. Well, until the Tuesday at least.

Trust me, I have nothing against Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but its Le Samyn all the way for me in these early Belgian exchanges.

But why?

Well first off the opening two races come with the sort of excess hype that a Premiership football match has nowadays.

I get that the end of the last road season (despite a lot of Spanish, Southern French and Middle Eastern racing) was a long time ago, but, for me, the Oude Kwaremont matters in the Ronde. We don’t need hours of coverage diluting the excitement of the big climbs when April arrives.

Any other race it features in is just a tune up for the real thing.

Kuurne struggles from the climbs being a bit too infrequent or too far out. Although it does have the Muur to upweight it.

No for me Le Samyn has a true uniqueness despite being a spring cobbled classic.

It has a different shape and feel about it, and I love it all the more for that.

Every edition I have seen has had those wonderfully Belgian slate grey skies. And whilst quite often opening weekend is dry (and sometimes unseasonably warm), Le Samyn always seems to be muddy, rainy and windswept.

There is the wonderfully named finishing town of Dour with its uniform housing and perma-shut looking shops which just add to the brooding atmosphere around the race.

I also love the finishing circuit (and people don’t say that about too many races do they?) with that little climb up around a village green past a gothic building house a bar. A bar you just know serves wonderful frothy beers in elaborate glasses.

Throw in the section past the police station before heading back to the finish on one of those block concrete roads so typical of Belgium and this race has absolutely everything.

Sure, enjoy the gun to flag tv coverage of some of the bigger name races this spring, but please do not shun this one. It’s guaranteed to be good.

Procyclingstats preview

A fond farewell to Cyclo Cross season 2022/2023

It’s been a good one !

I have been captivated from the moment Eli Iserbyt got off to a fast start in the opening rounds of all of the main competitions.

I loved Laurens Sweeck settling into his new team post transfer and starting to lay gloves on Pauwels Sauzen.

Sadly, from a British perspective, I will remember Tom Pidcock’s season for his last lap crash in the GP Sven Nys as much as the wins. A lesson learnt about showboating for Tom.

In the womens division Shirin Van Anrooij show most a clean pair of wheels looking on occasion good enough to lap the entire field.

Namur and Koksijde were my favourite races once again but for optics Val de Sole (even if some riders don’t take to the ice that well) was the most scenic.

Let’s enjoy the break and the road season before getting started again in the autumn!

Some thoughts on 2023 to date

Its been a pretty exciting start to 2023 from a pro cycling perspective.

The World Cyclo Cross Championships were, as previously posted, some of the best races I have seen. And I started watching the sport during the 1987 Tour de France.

We had the Australian races, which for once I had more than a passing interest in tuning in for, before this block of Spanish racing to get us properly up and running.

(We also had Etoile de Besseges in France and the Tour of the Algarve starts this week in Portugal)

It’s been a fabulous period to get in some TV watching. I have seen beaches, sunshine (snow in Mallorca ironically!) and cycling… lots of cycling.

But despite my usual high level of enthusiasm I have had my eye drawn to an increasing number of posts on Twitter reporting that there is building evidence the sport has returned to its dark, dope fuelled days.

The incredible start to the season by both Intermarche and EF Pro Cycling has raised eyebrows on Elon’s social media platform.

There are comments about Miguel Angel Lopez, Nairo Quintana and how their world tour careers have ended.

Yesterday there was a lot of content from people, some of whom have been represented publicly as credible experts in the past, saying that the gravel based win of Tadej Pogacar has made mugs of any of us still watching thinking we were seeing a sport.

Does this mean that possible pandemic related cuts to doping tests and research mean that the cheats are further ahead of the authorities than they were 5 years ago?

Has my algorithm on the app started to push more cynical cycling posts my way?

I don’t know the answer to either of those questions, but it is making me consume pro cycling in a more aware if not downright disbelieving way again.


World CX champs show sport at its best

Who wouldn’t be able to find an extra 1% in front of a passionate crowd of 40,000 plus spectators?

Especially at home in the Netherlands.

1 VAN EMPEL FemNetherlands2750:54:42
2 PIETERSE PuckNetherlands2250:39
3 BRAND LucindaNetherlands1901:11
4 PERSICO SilviaItaly1701:45
5 ALVARADO Ceylin del CarmenNetherlands1501:46
6 WORST AnnemarieNetherlands1352:14
7 VAN DER HEIJDEN IngeNetherlands1202:36
8 BETSEMA DeniseNetherlands1052:41
9 ROCHETTE MaghalieCanada902:55
10 CLAUZEL HélèneFrance803:02

Fem Van Empel benefitted from the decision of Shirin Van Anrooij to stick with the U23s and romped home to get the home nation up and running in the Elite category.

We were then treated to one of the best races I have ever seen in any form of cycling.

I have used this website in the past to highlight the 1994 Paris-Roubaix as the best race I have seen. This was close to surpassing it.

The deadly duo of Mathieu Van der Poel and Wout Van Aert rode nonchalantly clear of the rest of the men’s elite field very early on.

At one point their lead over every other rider battling behind them was close to one minute. The dominance was so complete.

They did try and work each other over and onto the front in the last lap or two which saw the gap to bronze medal Eli Iserbyt close. But the top two were constantly looking back and you know full well an acceleration could come at any moment to re-establish the advantage.

Attacks were traded in a blow by blow fashion and having the planks on an uphill section certainly made a difference on a number of laps.

VdP was getting over them and away quicker than his Belgian rival and it might well have been the gapping of Wout lap after lap at this point of the course that took the edge of his final sprint.

What I do know is that this race will live long in the memory and you should most definitely watch it back (even if you saw it live!)

Bike racing doesn’t get much better than this… unless its the 1994 spring classics and its snowing outside the Arenberg forest of course.

1 VAN DER POEL MathieuNetherlands2751:07:20
2 VAN AERT WoutBelgium225,,
3 ISERBYT EliBelgium1900:12
4 VAN DER HAAR LarsNetherlands1700:13
5 VANTHOURENHOUT MichaelBelgium1500:46
6 KUYPERS GerbenBelgium1350:54
7 VANDEPUTTE NielsBelgium1200:57
8 SWEECK LaurensBelgium1050:59
9 MASON CameronGreat Britain901:08
10 VENTURINI ClémentFrance801:30

Race results from

A labour of love completed…

Regular readers will know I have been pontificating about the need for a new bike.

The main target for replacement was my old Bianchi. You can read about that here .

However I made the choice of restoration and repair over chuck and buy new. It feels great.

I first raced the bike back in 2009 as you can see from the picture of my sprint finish down Peterborough Bridge Street in the Tour Series local support event.

Elsewhere that spring I rode the first Rutland CiCLE Classic sportive (below pictured trying to get up Neville Holt in Leicestershire) and found that I had a bike that was perfect for me.

The years went by and other machines came and went. The Bianchi with all its Italian elegance and beautiful components was relegated to the turbo trainer and almost… a skip.

I am so glad I had second thoughts and thanks to a number of people (most notably Bristows Cycles of Peterborough) and a lot of hard work across the winter I am now back on the bike and loving every minute.

I am even going to enter some local early season events on it.

Raced first in 2009 and then re-born in 2023. Its a great story.

That bike has been with me for 3 house moves, 1 wedding, 2 child births and 3 jobs… And we are still going strong as you can see below…


FRAME – Bianchi Nirone alloy2009

GROUPSET – Campagnolo

WHEELS – Campagnolo

FINISHING KIT – FSA cranks and Prologo saddle

Jason Tesson off the mark on the second day of his season

Jason Tesson is off and running with a win on the second day of his 2023 season.

La Tropicale Amissa Bongo is a multi stage race in Africa where a number of French teams kick off their campaigns.

Loyal domestique Geoffrey Soupe won stage one for Total Energies. A lovely pay off for all his hard work.

The second stage went to a sprint finish which Tesson (from the photos) won with ease to get his maiden win on a new team.

Although I think we all agree the Auber-St Michel kit is better than his new Total Energies one!

1 TESSON JasonTotalEnergies142012″2:28:21
2 JEANNIÈRE EmilienTotalEnergies5126″,,
3 SALBY AlexanderBingoal WB374″,,
4 MULUBRHAN HenokEritrea52″,,
5 BYIZA UHIRIWE RenusRwanda4,,
6 BDADOU YoussefMorocco3,,
7 STEHLI FélixEF Education-NIPPO Development Team2,,
8 BERHANE NatnaelBeykoz Belediyesi Spor Kulübü1,,
9 AMARI HamzaAlgeria,,
10 BARTHE CyrilBurgos-BH6″,,

Tesson is currently second in the overall GC,1 second behind Soupe.

MyWindsock shows my 6th windiest ride of all time…

With all of the surrounding stuff that has been going on in my world I have approached the 2023 cycling season with an unusual style.

After years of structure and planned training, my current commitments mean I am reverting to riding when I can at the intensity I want.

This won’t send the local club 10 timekeeper to the opticians when he stops his watch as I cross the line (“James did what time?!!!!“) but it will help get me beyond posting some of the challenging pieces about my dysfunctional relationship with the sport that have increased in volume during and post pandemic.

After not fancying the rain on Saturday and running 5k instead, I was determined to beat the 11.2mps wind on Sunday and just got on with it.

I clipped in to the pedals on the Ridley and trundled out of town into the teeth of the wind coming from the south-west.

Its about a 6km trek between villages which has very little hedge cover.

Fortunately for my legs and morale there is a right turn along the river bank with a rutted single carriageway road.

It broke the headwind a bit and also gave me time to ride down the sort of road that has grass growing down the middle and moss in the potholes. For a northern classics fan it felt a bit Roubaixish

Despite the gusting gale I promised myself I would not get stressed about cadence and speed and just knuckle down and enjoy it.

I crossed the main local ‘A’ road on a footbridge before a stiff cross wind into the village of Helpston.

This is a well known spot with most like bike racing and club runs either starting or finishing here.

Going anti-clockwise to the race routes I climbed up through the cover of trees onto the heath before heading back into the wind all the way to Castor.

The descent into the cobbled streets here was sketchy thanks to a buffeting gust or two that hit my right collar bone and send me towards the left gutter.

It was the sort of morning that any open gap in the hedging for a farm gate had to be approached with caution.

The good news about the direction of wind travel was that the climb back out of Castor was tail wind and despite winter bike, winter wheels and treaded tyres I managed to pull the bars tight and get up it out of the saddle.

I didn’t trouble the Strava KOM though.

As I headed back towards Helpston via Marholm I was left with the choice of cutting back towards the railway crossing and home… or.

Head back into the cold, icy wind towards the A47 road before cutting back to Barnack.

I took the second option and tacked along the twisty road to the most southerly point before getting a bit of wind assistance back towards the “Hills and Holes”. If you are not local, google it !

There was some relief as I climbed out onto Stamford Road and followed the line of the railway track back into Helpston and re-traced my steps to the foot bridge back into Glinton.

Once there it was a cross wind home. I just imagined I was in the 2015 Gent-Wevelgem!

So I might have only just managed 54km in the 2 hours (and 3 minutes) I was out, but it felt great to get up this morning and feel the tired legs. They feel like souvenirs of a morning in the gusty wind.

Roll on spring, for sure… but if I can get a few more rides in like this over the coming weeks the 2023 season might not be lost on me.

Returning to the virtual race track

2023 marks the third year I have been using the virtual Rouvy platform for online riding and racing.

In 2022 I rode their multi stage spring classics and Vuelta events. These were both individual time trials that you had a certain amount of days to complete the rides and their system would take your stage time and add it into an overall general classification.

Placings equalled prizes with kit and nutrition being given out or discounted for successful riders.

Both were brilliant and I am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a 2023 classics event with Flanders, Wevelgem, Liege and the Amstel covered.

(hint, hint)

Saturday after what is becoming an annual festive bout of coronavirus, I peeked out of the curtains before declaring that I would be on the turbo and not out on the road.

As I powered up the laptop and started spinning my legs I saw a 9 minute countdown to a race up Alp D’Huez and immediately signed up. I was going all in…

The route downloaded quickly and for those of you who have been in Bourg D’Oisans for real starts just outside Seb Pizza!

The mix of real world video and CGI avatars makes Rouvy different from the likes of Zwift and RGT and the peloton was soon off and making its way out of town towards the Casino supermarket.

We hopped over the roundabout and past the camp site to the left turn that signals the start of the climb and the intense and steep drag to the first switchback.

I went way too hard here to try and keep up with the leaders and see some clear air off the front. My logic being that if I could lead for a few metres that would be success!

I didn’t make it and when the 8 and 9% gradients bit I found myself slipping back from the front as I tried to get into my groove.

Both times in real life I had ground up the climb in my smallest gear. For this I wanted to try and save that for later on if needed and ride a lower cadence and standing out of the saddle a bit more.

This was working well for about three turns and I was solid in the top 10 until a poorly timed gear shift saw my chain come off and a kink wrap itself into the rear mech.

I jumped off and watched in horror as some avatars zoomed past.

The chain went on before skipping off a second time and needed a bit of work to get it back on and running smoothly (I have now taken the bike off the turbo and given it a proper bit of TLC). It didn’t take the 20+ minutes of time I shipped to the race winner though, however much I might want to claim that.

Once I was back going and the adrenalin had died down I found a rhythm where I was about 70-80% of FTP but always felt I had a little something if needed.

A couple of riders zoomed past me and I passed a couple but I was always in my zone and in control of my ride.

Again with parallels to my real life ride I was able to pace myself into the final 4kms (from the dual carriageway and bus stop) into town and take a couple of places back.

My final position was 15th place which I would have, of course, taken at the start line.

You can see from my notes that I was a bit gutted about the chain but it was a brilliant start to the build up to on the road racing and I hope to report on some more events soon.

Thanks Rouvy for hosting.