Midweek Fenland 10 hosted by Fendrien

I have busy creating routes and adding to the online virtual presence of Fenland Clarion (my club) events.

This is on Rouvy as that is my platform of choice and I am hosting my first race in the traditional Wednesday evening slot.

It is at 6pm (1800hrs) Uk time and I would like you to ride.

Here is the link to register.

My first race on Rouvy

As you know I have been trialling Rouvy as an alternative to Tacx after some software issues.

It’s ok, Garmin karma got its own back on me when I whalloped my Forerunner on the kitchen door and the screen exploded. Sucks to be me.

How Rouvy looks in AR

We might come back and do a review on Amazons repair service at some point but that would need them to send the watch back… anyway consumer issues aside, I have been having some fun on Rouvy. The riding is fast and despite one or two people putting out over 10 watts per kilo and zooming past from 3km behind, it seems a decent community. So I am happy.

So much so that mid-week last week I entered a race on the Caves route course.

I downloaded the footage and despite only being on a mobile phone joined the race in augmented reality (AR).

I’d done some reading and knew that the racing on here was intense. I still wasn’t prepared for just how much despite a nice 10 minute warm up with a couple of hard sprints.

The timer on screen counted down and the 220 of us intrepid racers flew out of the car park at the start and on to the route. For the first 5 minutes or so I was totally unaware of what was happening as riders flew forward and back past me with the drafting indicator firing on and off repeatedly.

There were some graphical issues but these were soo resolved as the race settled down.

I say settled down but these guys start fast and then don’t let up.

It was super hard and I was drifting outside of the top 100 riders despite putting down nearly 3 watts per kilo and over 200 watts total on the big climb of the race.

At the first split I was already over 5 minutes down on the leader but I was more focused on how the graphics neatly let you know where you were and did the time checks. I could see a group wasn’t too far ahead and set about staying close on the downhill before pulling as hard as I could in the valley road to get back on.

I did and it was nice to do some turns and have a little rest as well in the wheels.

By split 2 the leaders had increased their lead to 8 minute and it was clear that the climbs were proving too much for me to hang on.

My group was still working well together and we set about the flat roads and little lumps on the run in as hard as we could.

Every up hill metre was earned and hurt. This was despite my standard turbo and sensor set up as opposed to direct drive. I was tweaking the resistance up hill to make it more authentic even though it was costing me.

The flat was where I could really make a difference.

The last 2km were downhill having turned off a main road. I was sprinting as hard as I could but I was cooked. In the end I was 86th place at 11 minutes.

I was happy with the place and my ride, but gutted with the time gaps.

But the bug has bitten. When my Fenland Clarion CC racing season ended I never imagined I’d get my shorts and jersey on the race for my team again in 2020… I might squeeze one more in… any flat routes out there? ! 🙂

Tour preview – memories of the 1980’s

The strange timing of the Tour de France this year means that in England the first week of the race coincides with the return of children into schools (covid permitting). 

Teenage me would have been horrified at this thought having dedicated half of the 6 week holidays from the late 80’s onwards enjoying the big race on television before recreating the stages on the roads of Huntingdonshire the next day.

The 1987 race is the first one I remember following with any degree of genuine interest. 1988 was the first where I recorded each day’s channel 4 highlights and watched and re-watched until the VHS was worn. This was somewhere around the middle of that November.

The voices of Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett were the sound of summer in our house evolving into the Eurosport team as the years rolled on. David Duffield took over that mantle with his insightful appraisal of whatever local area the race was and its appropriate local produce. 

Having not even left England let alone visited France back in 1987, the Tour seemed to be taking place in a wonderful far off land with sunflowers and high mountains. It was broadcast in grainy low res adding to the air of mystique and drama. 

Steven Rooks of Holland was my first real favourite rider and his win at Alpe D’Huez in 1988 started my obsession with that particular stretch of road. His style on the bike was so neat and efficient that I always aspired to look at one with my bike like Rooks did. I also wanted a mullet but my Mum said no.

As I started riding and racing myself that desire to tweak and adjust my position to look like a pro cyclist meant my Falcon team Banana frame was never far away from an allen key in the garage when not out of the road. 

Despite Jean Paul Van Poppel being the dominant sprinter of those late 80’s Tours, Soren Lilholt and Dag Otto Lauritzen came into my thinking as riders to aspire to. That rouleurs desire to hang off the front of the peloton in the last few KMs of a Tour stage really appealed to me as a rider from the fens. 

I even had the mirrored Bolle shades like Lauritzen and the pony tail like Lilholt which made me think I looked pro. The people of my home village of Yaxley may have thought otherwise. 

The final tour of the eighties was the best in the race’s history and to this day whenever people ask me which celebrity or famous historical person I would most like to have a drink with I answer Greg LeMond! 

As much as it was trendy to watch the Australian soap opera Neighbours at that time, in terms of daily drama the ‘89 Tour was way beyond anything Joe Mangel and Paul Robinson could produce. 

First it was LeMond in the yellow jersey, then it was Fignon, then LeMond again, then Fignon… it looked like the Frenchman had got the jersey back for good before his last day collapse in the Paris time-trial.

It was a one in a million race and the memories I have of it are as fresh as the day that Tour finished. Only Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour in 2012 has come anywhere close to equalling that feeling. 

Let’s see what the 2020 race has in store.

More questions than answers from smaller tours

As we hurtle full gas towards the Tour de France there have been a number of shorter one week races going on to hone the skills of the multi day rider.

We have seen Primoz Roglic in the Tour de L’Ain and Dauphine (ahead of the final stage!) and Remco Evenepoel in the Tour of Poland. But some if not all of that good work could have been undone by crashes leaving us no further on in terms of indicators of form.

Roglic was great in the northern half of France and but for a spill had seen off Ineos in the Dauhpine. So much so that Chris Froome was sitting up on the climbs, Geraint Thomas was complaining about his weight and Egan Bernal had a back injury that saw him fail to start the last stage.

It could well have been Jumbo’s race with Roglic but he was struggling after a crash and also failed to complete the Dauhpine.

This left the door open for Thibault Pinot to win the race with him leading into the last stage and having a ‘combine’ of the major French contenders trying to keep him at the head of the GC.

However, he couldn’t watch the whole peloton and Dani Martinez of EF Education First/Cannondale snuck off up the road with Tadej Pogacar and held on to win the race. He might have made a few pundits top 10, but I don’t remember anyone tipping Martinez to win the race so this was a real upset.

As well as losing Roglic, Jumbo saw Steven Kruijswijk hit the deck and abandon. So far from seeing off Ineos ahead of the Tour de France and stamping their authority, there are now questions about the teams fitness.

There will also be questions over mentality after the bad crash in the Tour of Poland which was caused by Dylan Groenewegen and left Fabio Jakobsen with every bone in his face broken and in an induced coma.

Whilst the team have been present in most races since, there could be a reaction coming.

The accident in Poland highlighted the danger in the sport and it was in the Il Lombardia classic at the weekend that the Remco Evenepoel run of wins came to an end after he overshot a corner before vanishing over a bridge.

He is young enough to come back physically but will this accident have an effect on his mental ability to push downhill and in sprints?

Only time will tell.

Stay tuned to the blog for more ahead of the Tour de France.

2015 Tour memories

Unable to sleep I spent the early hours of day light re-watching stage 20 of the 2015 Tour de France on Eurosport.

Not only were Sean Kelly and Carlton Kirby in brilliant form, the race was exciting and the sun was beating down on the peloton as they headed towards the foot of Alp D’Huez.

But this was a Tour with an undertone. There was a feeling of real hatred towards Chris Froome in the yellow jersey. At times as well it spilled over from feelings into actions which is wholly unacceptable, regardless of what nationality you are and what teams or riders you are aligned with.

This was a Tour, and in the Covid age of masks preventing saliva transfer this seems ridiculous, that Froome found himself spat on regularly as he rode towards Paris.

In fact within the last 4km of the Alp on this stage you saw a clearly drunk man in a free gift polka do jersey lurch into the road to empty his sinuses on the passing yellow jersey.

Despite being in a real battle with Nairo Quintana to keep the race lead, Froome still had time to look back over his left shoulder and clock a look at the perpetrator.

Cycling is the most wonderful, beautiful and positive experience. But as with everything there are those who can’t behave and who let themselves down. This will be important to remember going forward as any indiscretions like that in this autumns condensed calendar will see bad publicity and possibly racing cancelled.

We don’t want that.

Why Bardet transfer could be the biggest this winter…

There are two other contracts that have been signed which influences the important of where Romain Bardet ends up in 2021 and beyond.

Firstly there is the commitment of Flemish classics start Oliver Naesen to stay with the Alpine based Ag2r team. It shows their faith in him to deliver a monument (despite a number of near misses including one with a spectators coat) and with some of the other names on that teams retained list there seems to be a bit more emphasis on the all round aspects of cycling than just whether Bardet can even win the Tour de France.

On the other side of the French team divide is Groupama/FDJ and their extension of Thibaut Pinot’s contract.

There is an argument to say that he is even more of a flaky GC contender than Bardet having succumbed to injury more times than Bardet has suffered stage fright. But his team see enough in him to make sure he is tied to a deal.

So with his main French rival under contract and settled in his environment and the main classics star on his own team already signed up (along with a number of other young French talents) does this leave Romain in the wilderness?

Well, he is 29 so if its going to happen in Le Tour he doesn’t have long left. However he doesn’t seem able to address that weakness in time trials and seemed happier to go to the Giro (as Pinot had done in previous years) to get away from the pressure of being one of the home country’s hopes to end their yellow jersey drought.

He clearly feels like a change may benefit him and Sunweb who were caught short (hahah) by Tom Dumoulin’s departure could see him as a good bet for a stage win and mountains jersey at least. After their rudderless performance in the Tour last year it would give them someone to get behind easing the pressure on Michael Matthews on the earlier flatter stages.

I do hope that wherever he ends up we see that sense of freedom back in his riding because when he attacks both uphill and down (remember that thrilling descent from the Dauphine a few years back?) he is box office to watch.