Teesdale Mountain Time Trial. 24th April 2016

Teesdale Mountain Time Trial – 24th April 2016

It has been 5 years since I last rode this epic race, and even then, I didn’t finish the course having suffered a puncture with about 10 miles to go so there was a bit of unfinished business. The year previous I had ridden and managed a half decent time of 2:02:13 albeit I was still relatively new to time trialling back then. Personally I would class anything under 2 hours on this course as very good, given the amount of climbing and unrelenting nature of the course.

I had been checking the weather forecast all week and each day the forecast got worse to the extent that on Saturday morning I had decided I wouldn’t ride because of the snow that had been forecast for the morning. I didn’t want a wasted journey. A check on the weather later that evening showed an improvement in the forecast so I made the final decision to ride, whatever the weather.

Sunday arrived and my alarm clock didn’t even need to go off – I was awoken at 4.30am by my little 8 month old daughter. I got the car packed, tried to eat some cereal (I hate eating at that time of the day) and set off at 6am from a gloomy Huddersfield. I arrived at Barnard Castle at approx. 8am and it was absolutely freezing! I was beginning to have second thoughts and I began to rehearse excuses in my head as to why I couldn’t start the race… I soon snapped out of it and told myself that I hadn’t driven all that way for nothing.

I duly signed on and collected my number. I decided I’d wear as much clothing as possible (I really suffer in the cold) and opted for a fairly thick baselayer, some compression socks, some compression quad guards, overshoes and 2 pairs of gloves! I’d also opted to ride the full TT set up, so Scott Plasma, disc wheel and Zipp 404. In hindsight I would probably have ridden my Scott Foil with clip on bars because the Plasma without wheels weighs in at almost 10kg. My gearing of 56/39 – 11-25 was also a bit optimistic! But hey, all in for the win as they say. I had a quick spin on the turbo trainer and before I knew it, it was 9.25 and I had 5 minutes to get to the start.

Rather than do a reconnaissance of the course in my car beforehand, I had tried to memorise it from my last visit but I genuinely don’t remember it being as hilly as it is! The first few hundred meters are downhill and then your begin climbing for what feels like the next 30 miles! I kept looking down at my Garmin and the average speed was barely above 19mph. This was going to be a long morning of suffering. At 7.5 miles you take a sharp right hander to start the very steep climb of Carlolin which peaks at about 13% and goes on for ¾ of a mile. I dropped it into the small ring and twiddled away until I reached the top. The next 6 miles or so are a mix of fast sweeping descents followed by steady 6% climbs, although the head wind made this feel twice as steep at times. Having had a big crash in the winter my descending skills are fairly crap and I peppered the brakes far more than I should have done. That said, there were several hairy moment when the odd gust of wind caught my disc wheel and I genuinely had a few poo in the pants moments.


The first big test of the day was the descent, yes descent, of Unthank Bank. It’s about 20% gradient and you approach this at speed (or not much speed if you are a wuss like me). There are marshals waving their flags to warn you of the approach. My brakes were screeching so much that I thought they were going to set on fire! After successfully negotiating the descent you then do a short 5.5 mile loop before retracing your steps. It was at this point that my chain had decided it didn’t want to engage in the 11 sprocket (once home I had dissected the issue as a loose cassette lockring) but given my fairly big gear it wasn’t too much of an issue until the supersonic last 10 miles home. My average speed to this point was approaching 20mph having done about 3000 feet of climbing already.

The next big test is the ascent of Unthank Bank. It’s steep. Really f*****g steep! I grovelled my way up it, puffing and panting and just wanting the pain to end! It goes on, and on and on a bit more before levelling off and then climbing steadily before the next fast descent. My legs were really beginning to suffer at this point but I managed to keep the cramp at bay (thanks to the quad and calf guards). The penultimate suffering of the day is the long climb back up Bollihope Common, which peaks at 1700 feet. I did this in the big ring but in hindsight should have twiddled away in a smaller gear but alas I never learn. I was counting down the miles to the summit before the super-fast descent back to the finish. At this point my average speed had dropped to 18.7mph and I was fairly convinced I had a job on to even do a sub 2 hour ride. Little did I know just how fast those last 10 miles were going to be and I really could have done with the 11 sprocket!

The miles were ticking by at speed and the average had at last climbed above 20mph. The last test of the day is a short 10% climb over Folly Top which is really not welcome at that point in the race with the lactic acid literally coming out of my eyes. I wept in pain over the climb, cursing the gradient, before engaging top gear and it was now flat out to the finish! The finish is on a slight uphill but with the following tailwind the speed didn’t drop and I crossed the line in 1:54:40.

A brief visit to HQ and I was the early leader, having even beaten Jon Sturman (very classy roadie) and Mark Donovan (reigning National Junior Cyclocross Champion). I had to dash off home but later found out I had been comprehensively beaten by Carl Donaldson who equalled the course record in a stunning time of 1:48:48. I finished 4th overall and whilst I certainly didn’t expect to win I equally didn’t expect to have been well and truly stuffed. However, on reflection, given the training limitations I now have I am actually pretty pleased with how things went. It was only my 4th race of the season and I think I am still finding my legs. Next year, with a lighter bike and hopefully some more training time, I hope to go a bit quicker.

Many thanks to Teasdale CRC and Bob Murdoch for hosting the event. It is genuinely the hardest event on the calendar but also the best organised. I tried to thank every marshal I went past although with the state I was in I could barely muster a word to some of them. But thank you. Standing out in such cold conditions can’t have been fun.

Stats for the race:

40.3 miles.

4303 feet climbing.

21mph average.

296 watts average.

170 TSS.

Today I am a broken man. Legs well and truly buggered.

SSLL Racing Team & ‘Tounge in Cheek Productions present’…

… How to beat Phil Graves

Superstar Triathlete Phil Graves has been making a bit of an impact on the UK TT scene in the 2016 season… 11 wins from 10 races, course records and PB’s galore he has beaten all comers… Only racing TT’s because he is run injured, Phil is single headedly handing there ‘asses on a plate’ (*quote Brett Harwood)  to the great and the good of the UK Time Trial scene…. But one man, SSLL Racing Team’s Andy Jackson inflicted the only defeat of this fantastic early season on Phil in the BDCA 25 on 9/4.

Jackson beat Graves by 32 secs with a time if 47:46

BDCA 25 2016 2

How did he do it?

A once in a lifetime offer, jointly promoted by SSLL Racing Team and Tounge in Cheek Productions aims to reveal all..

Aimed at Multiple National Champions, Medallist and Best all rounder winners this unique event will help you get the better of this amazing (tri)athlete.

We, at SSLL Racing & Tounge in Cheek Productions realise the mental impact of a defeat to a TT newcomer.  The mental questions, How?  Why?  what do I HAVE to do?…. all will be answered..

You have optimised your position using Aero-coach/ Wind Tunnels or Bike fits, you have the best bikes, wheels and hard wear money can buy.  You have wisely invested in the best Kit supplied by NoPinz, you are using the best nutrition and preparation products money can buy – But you still lost!!

Well… all is not lost!

Join us at a secret venue to reveal all… the tips, the tricks and the strategies that will help you get back to your best… and BEAT Phil!!!

After spending £K’s on the best preparation what is it worth?!

For the one off special price of £1500 / person we will reveal all…


(*All of the above is firmly in the ‘Tounge stuck in the cheek category’ of fun!)


Joel’s race report from the Yorkshire Coast Clarion Spoco 24

Yorks Coast Clarion Spoco 24. 17th April

Aghhh, not another dreaded time trial?

Huh , isn’t that what this is all about? Well of late, no!!

What it was all about was myself riding an horrendously ‘exit down the bog’ race before analysing the anal analysis followed by an optional selection of 2300 lines of excuses framed on my garage wall.

The week previous to this event I had DNS’d the popular BDCA 25 due to dental issues so had a catch up week of training but at least the Mrs was happy as the Tesco delivery bill only amounted to about £80 instead of £150 due to my second hobby of consuming Band Aid containers of food. I never thought I could really get any lower than my current 62 kg but just 4 days of hardly eating and drinking showed I could with a new record of 59.8kg!!

Morning starts have always been a ball ache for me so knew I was going to need a long warm up for this one.

So , race day and a 10.30am start time so everything was a build up to that.My plan started at 6.15am.

After a small breakfast it was onto the turbo training in a warm fitted out garage and a L2 ride for 40 minutes with a 10 minute warm down then 10 minutes of extreme stretches on the usual suspect areas that seem to hurt in races.

Quick shower, more breakfast and a browse on the tt forum to see who the key board warriors were about to opt for a firing squad this weekend.

Once at the HQ there was the usual attempt of getting in the ‘zone’ and avoiding everyone but again like every other race this failed!

It was known beforehand that pre race favourite, pro triathlete Phil Graves was a DNS so teammate Ali Wareham stepped up to new favourite although I don’t think there would have been a lot in it had Phil started.

A concern for me was that Ali was only 3 minutes behind me on the starting order and knowing how good he is going compared to how bad I’m going lead me to be concerned of being caught in the closing stages. If he did catch me he was at the very least going to get his arse pinched!!

With 35 minutes to go I did another warm up on the road using top gear to somehow shock the muscles into the sense they had already endured 2 hours of L4!

The countdown was gone and I was on my way. I’d purposely screen switched on my Garmin unit to just view current and average speed (something Billy Beldon suggested) instead of looking at power and getting demoralised by the low numbers.

It was a cross headwind out blowing on the left shoulder but after a few miles I was comfy in the 58x14x13 mainly all the way out along the smooth flat initial 10 miles to Driffield.There were a few moments where I had to just back off slightly as I felt my legs were being overloaded with fire. Average speed at this point was about 26.4mph I believe but now it was onto the shoddy surfaced undulating second half.

Feeling better and pushing harder now on the short climbs riding most at L5 (checked afterwards) it was nice to actually catch riders especially after an early season of miserable thoughts.

I must admit to riding this race like I used to which was to push hard on the climbs and ease off over the top and recover before lifting the pace again. Although over geared comfy and strong , it felt more natural than trying to spin and something Bob Tobin and I thought would be worth testing.

The further the race went the better I felt and longed for another lap as I neared the finish. Average speed now nearly 27mph as even coming back it seemed a tad sticky.

Into Dog Kennel Lane TI and a 528w effort towards the finish, the finish that was never coming. Power dropping to high 300s and gasping for air when the chequered flag finally arrived in a time of 51.17 for the 23.1 mile course shortened due to road works.

As expected Ali won but no bum pinching as I was safe from being caught but he still cruised in with a 50.42 despite a delay near the finish.

So still some way to go but a step in the right direction or was it just a fluke?

Checking the power file afterwards it was higher than my last 10 at least.

Still deciding which number excuse to mark down for this one, maybe I’ll leave it blank……

Joel Wainman

Otley 10 – Race report by Mad Max McMurdo

This weekend brought two races, one either day. Saturday was the Otley 10 mile open time trial on the V212, not a course renowned for fast times. But it’s pretty local so it would’ve been rude not to ride.
I woke up Saturday morning to some rather grey skies and low temperatures, and a forecast that looked like worse was yet to come.
On the half hour drive there I encountered rain, hail and sunshine. We parked up signed on and I went to get changed. Pinning numbers on now is a thing of the past with my Nopinz skinsuit, so I’ve now got more time to “get in the zone”
My dad, (team hero) had got my bikes out and turbo. Ready for me to start my warmup. I’d slapped on some deep heat on my legs to try and give myself a chance of keeping warm.
I got on the turbo turned on my Garmin plugged my headphones on and got pedalling. 200 watts… 300 watts… 400 watts… 500!! Today was gonna be a good day!
I took a gel and rode to the start line, getting there 5 mins before to relax for a few seconds.
30 seconds to go I clipped in, 20 seconds to go I tightened my shoes, 10 seconds to go I started my Garmin. 3…2…1… Off I went straight into a 20 mph tailwind, I was off!
I started off with a measured effort with that headwind 5.5 mile return leg clear in my mind. I got to the turn at the roundabout in about 8 mins having averaged over 55 kmh.
I got myself into an uncomfortable but sustainable rhythm. Looks like I was in for a right hard time to the finish. There are quite a few drags on the way back and these weren’t half exaggerated with the force of the wind battering away. I could see more dark clouds closing in and all of a sudden pitter patter on my helmet. It was rain…
Thankfully I was in the final run in with about 2 miles to go. I saw my teammate and 3rd place overall pass me on the other side of the road, I didn’t envy him one bit!
I got to the end shaking, not just because of the cold but because of the effort! I’d gone pretty hard and I’d forgotten how hard these Time trials can be!
My dad was there at the finish to congratulate me, make sure I was ok, and what was most important to me right then was get warm! I got back to the car quickly put on my trackies and jumped in the car.
I was happy with my performance. I felt good, but I wasn’t expecting too much in the overall results in what I considered a strong field. I looked through the times and I was 4th! One place behind my teammate Jon wears. 1st and 2nd were Phillip Graves and Stephen Burke.
Grinning like a Cheshire Cat, we drove home and I went into recovery mode for tomorrow’s road race.

Danum Trophy, a big Elite race in the calendar. 60 miles (10 laps of a 6 mile circuit) and hilly ones at that. A strong field on the start list with riders from Raleigh, Madison Genesis, Neon Velo, VCUK just naming a few.
I got on the start line and was first wheel behind the car, I thought I’d give myself every advantage as I could. The flag dropped and it was carnage! As expected! I hadn’t seen the climb prior to the race so I was expecting the worst. We flew up it the first few times. Big ringing up a 10+% climb covered with potholes wasn’t easy.
I’ve heard from a few mates that a 10 before a road race is a good warmup. I felt strong and was really enjoying myself. I was loving the circuit, even if it was rather too hilly for me to really figure.
I was popping gels and eating as much as I could, to keep me going up that climb over and over each lap.
A break went and I tried to go with it up the climb but unfortunately couldn’t get on the back of the group and ended up rolling round in the group for the remainder of the laps. I put in a dig going over the long drag up to the finish with 1 lap to go in an attempt to close the gap or even bridge solo to the break. It was to no prevail. I accepted the fact that I would be sprinting for minor placings. I downed the rest of my bottle, slot into the main group and went with a couple of last minute digs all of which were brought back within seconds. I gave it everything in the sprint and finished towards head of what was the second group on the road. I was very pleased with that for a hilly (4000+ft of climbing) road race.
I’m happy with my form and loving racing!
Bring on next weekend at Rutland.

1 measly second…

So after the joys of my 49.10 last week it was the pain of what could have been this. On Saturday I took to the start line of the YCF 10 on Hatfield Woodhouse, a course I like. Last off, a decent field appeared to have had mixed results through the afternoon with a Northerly wind with sunshine one minute and rain the next. Having scanned the board, it looked like the leading time as I left was a 21.59 by the ever improving Richard Sharp from York. All to do today.

As usual my luck kicked in after I started when it started to hail, but I started steadier knowing how hard back it would be. The wind launched me to the turn in less than 9 mins at an average speed of 32.9mph, but I knew the pain was to come. Once I started back the hail was bouncing off of my lid and the block headwind was like riding up a wall in places, but I felt good and kept it rolling. The last mile is really exposed and despite banging the power right up, I felt like I was riding through glue to cross the line on the garmin in 20.59. Quite pleased with that today! I returned to HQ to see my time was rounded up to 21.00 but Richard’s time had been put up wrong and was actually 20.59. Gutted! Don’t tell me marginal gains don’t count….

Having had time to examine my ride, I have to be positive. Firstly the temperature dropped from 43 to 39F during my ride, I had a good negative split in power, my power was decent (better than my 18.30 on the 718), and best of all I took Jacko’s KOM for the outleg! Comparing my ride to Richards I lost it all in that last mile. I was 20 secs up on him all the way around until that point so chapeau to him for such a great ride, he beat some very good riders today, not least the great Julian Ramsbottom. I think he is someone we will se much more of this season!

Battle of SSLL next week with 5 of us in the YCF 25. I’m pretty sure many others will be out to take the spoils.



UCI Masters World Hour Record Attempt

SSLL Racing Team are pleased to announce that on Saturday 14th of May 2016 at 7pm GMT, Clarice Chung will be attempting to break the UCI Masters 35-39 World Hour Record in the Wales National Velodrome.

The current record stands at 41.386km, set by Adelia Reyneke in Sydney 2015.

Clarice is generously supported by Simon Fearnley of Selectrical Services Leeds Limited with help from Nopinz and OTE Nutrition. She is coached by Bob Tobin of Cyclepowermeters. Clarice will be riding a Cervelo T4 with Infocranks, a prototype Revolver front disc wheel and a Mavic Comete rear (on loan from George Galbraith of Verve Cycling, Harry Walker of Revolver Wheels and Stephen Campbell of Twickenham Cycling Club respectively).

All welcome to spectate.

With thanks to:










Clarice would also like to thank her family and friends Justin Layne and Carl Whitwell for their unwavering support and endless number crunching in this crazy venture

Now for something completely different.. Everesting

I wrote this almost 2 years ago now, after a bit of a mad end of season ‘challenge’… thought it may be worth sharing!  (*apologies for the shots in Team Swift kit – its where I was then!)
top mountain
What is it?  I read about this via the Hells 500 website Hells500 website and thought I got to give that a try!  Its quite a simple premise, pick a hill, any hill, no matter how long or short, but ride up and down until you have ridden the equivalent height of Everest… 8848m.  Piece of cake.
As i was due on my end of season break, doing it up Mt Tiede seemed to be the option.  I planned a route from Los Abrigos to San Miguel (the windy bit, 8m / 700m ascent), San Miguel – Vilaflor (the steep bit, 6m / 700m), San Miguel to the Crater ridge near Boca Tauce (the smooth bit, 8m, 700m).  So 22m per lap (climb) and 2100m ascent…. And on checking the ‘leader-board’ I realised no one else had ever done it.  Perfect 🙂
I reckoned on around 13hrs all in, about 175m or so… a Bloody long way how ever you say it!
It turned out to be 4 full climbs (Each climb taking between 2hrs 34 – 2hrs 42, remarkably consistent) and almost one full addition of stage one (the windy bit) to hit 9003m (I wanted some to spare in case Garmin under called it), 183m and 13hrs 59.  Whichever way you cut it – one word – EPIC!  #Everesting
I decided to do it on day 2 of the Holiday as a perfect way to round off the season… Seems a strange idea for a short distance specialist who weighs 80kg, but I thought I’d give it a shot. Having not done the BBAR this year I wanted to see if I really still had some endurance.
-Strava Elevation graph.  Nice
strava elevation
Link to the Strava file
Everesting Mt Tiede – strava
Key Stats:
9003 metres climbed
190m total covered (*includes drop back to the start)
10873KJ burned
14:13 total ride time (13:59 to 9003m)
246 avg watts (*slighlty higher than I did in last years 12hr event)
143 avg HR (*Both towards the top end of Z2 for me, as planned)
20 OTE lime gels consumed
5 OTE caffeine gels
10 bottles OTE orange energy
3 OTE choc duo bars
4L water
3 cans relentless (that stuff is rocket fuel!)
2 bottles Powerade (from the garage)
1 can of coke
1 Kit Kat Chunky
1 200g bag peanuts
1 x potato salad
1 bowl of chocolate (of course!) Muesli.
Washed down after by a bottle of ‘Dubois’ – cheap Spanish Fizzdubois1)
– Team Swift champsys White race kit (gloves / socks / bib shorts / ss jersey)
– Shimano shoes – which were gret hardly any ‘hot foot’ problems.
– Giro helmet
– Oakley razors
– Castelli wind proof (a must)
I woke early at 5.30am on the planned day, feeling crap.  I had just come off a mega busy week following Duo Normand, that included, Too much to drink on 2 nights, eating crap all week, 2 x 4am starts, 110m ridden of mainly fast interval stuff, finalising a new job and handing in my notice after 18 years in my current role… pretty standard fare for me!
Anyway, Twitter is a great motivator!  I had ‘announced’ I was doing this… not one to go back on what I had said I knew I had to do it.
A bowl of cereal, can of Relentless (normal breakfast for me) and I left the apartment for a short 10min spin to the sea front at Los Abrigos to start lap 1.  The legs felt stiff, sore and not up for it… But I just told myself its a Zone 2 ride… fuel well, use the gears it’ll be fine…
The bike… BMC Gran Frondo GF01, 50/36 and 11-28t 11 spd Ultegra.
bike b4
The gear…
everesting gear
The selfie before set off…
selfie b4
The 1st lap was mentally tough, its a long way and knowing I had 4.3x to do this only made it harder… The middle (steep) section is a killer, some ramps of well over 10% make it horrible.  I knew I just had to get up and spin (grind) where I could.  Starting in the dark and seeing the sunrise over San Miguel was pretty decent and lead me to post on Twitter that I hoped I wouldnt see sunset… Especially as my ‘ace’ Moon front light had just run out of battery…. Little did I know.

Working on the way up!
tat everst
I flew back down, That descent was epic, Hitting over 50mph om the steep sections and dead quiet roads as it was before 9am meant I could go for it… It was the only way I’d trouble the Strava Leader board today!  I ended round 1, 44m, 2150 odd metres (some very small rises on the way down) in 3hrs 15… Hmm its gonna be longer than I thought.  This meant a quick detour to recharge the light for later!  I stopped at the garage in Vilaflor for fill ups,  the attendant as helpful as ever… little did he know how many time she’d see me that day!
Still climbing
eversting climb

Lap 2 felt the worst, but was actually quickest up (just) by 1min in 2hrs 34, although the decsent was slowed by a changing wind and busier roads.  So 4300m climbed, 88m ridden, 6hrs 29 on the clock.  Role on.  I had another relentless and some salad at the start of lap 3 and raided my (hidden) stash of energy products.  The relentless gave me a huge boost and I floated up sections windy and steep feeling good.  The main issue I had was really painful back, shoulders and chest muscles… partly from all the gripping of the bars pulling up and getting into aero tuck coming down… and the fact that I (stupidly) did 200+ Press ups and 100 pulls ups on Sunday…. lesson learned there!  I had to stop for the miracle Spanish painkiller – Espedifen, 600mg Ibuprofen – numbs all pain!  Despite feeling good the climb was 5mins slower in 2.40, with the descent pretty even.  So lap 3 done, 9hrs 55 odd riding time on the clock, 6450m climbed, 132m covered.

Looking good?
By now I knew it was ‘in the bag’ I could make another lap and a bit and after yet more relentless (which is probably why after 2.5hrs broken sleep I am up writing this…), salad and energy bars I hit it.  I was now religously on a gel every 30m and it was working.  the first sectionw as fast, Big ring almost all the way up to San Miguel.  the steep section was horrible.  I just sat down, grinding out the watts at silly low cadence, and the last section was great… watching the sun start to set over a bank of cloud carpeting the island was pretty epic.  I made the top as dusk approached… 2hrs 42, the slowest climb but still within 8min of the best showed good pacing.  It was a full moon – I needed it as I was dead scared of starting the other ‘moon lights’ too early incase they died on me again.  The best part of the day was descending San Miguel – Vilaflor by moon light, and going no slower !
So on 13hrs 20 or so I started the last portion,  and knowing it was the last I Big ringed it, watts the best they had been all day and made it to San Miguel in 13hrs 59.  It was quite a feeling to have ‘made it’…. almost as good as some PB’s this season in a different way…. I’d proved to me, that I could have ridden a good 12hr… or even 24hr… or even longer…? We’ll see……..
Garmin after
garmin everest
Selfie after
selfie after everest
On riding down I started to collate a list of all I had ‘learned’ on the day… this is what I came up with…
1. The speed work this season hasn’t scrubbed any endurance
2. You need a bloody long day for this lark!
3. A helper / following car would have saved me loads of time, I used an hour up on stops, fill ups etc etc.
4. ‘Moon lights’ are great – but on full power have about 1hrs light
5. The real Moon was a big help
6. I love that BMC its a fab bike
7. OTE stuff is ace… Joel said he used it all the 12hr with no stomach problems, that I think we have all had trying to use other energy products continually, I found it the same here and was vey impressed in its ability to sustain my performance.
8. I drink too much Relentless and should be a brand rep…. I think I was up about 3 days after this!
9. I like chocolate
10. My Ipod music collection is dated (1990’s)
11. My Ipod Nano battery is ace!
12. I LOVE descending out in Tenerife
13. That ride is even more EPIC than our Robby’s Monday rides!
14. My bib shorts are slightly too small as they pulled on my shoulders
15. DO NOT do loads of upper body exercising the day before something like this!
16. I need to lose about 10kg if I am ever gonna climb well (can I be arsed too??)
17. Twitter is a great motivator… announce you are going to do something and you know you have to do it!!!
18. Mental strength is key… I m a stubborn bugger
19. No matter how hard a ‘work’ day I have if i know I can ride up Mt Tiede 4x and be out over 15hrs I can get through any work day.
20. I need to plan next years end of season epic….

The route facts (for the challenge!)

  •  Start Los Abrigos roundabout
  • ascend via Las Chafiras, San Miguel, San Miguel (the steep climb) to Vilaflor,  the Crater road.
  • End climb at the 2110m sign at the carter rim.
  •  After lap 4 ride the windy section (section 1) all the way past the sign for San Miguel (I made it 3 lamp posts past)
    – I made 8848m (Everest hieght) on my Garmin at the Reposl Garage above Aldea Blanca but put in another 150m+ to be sure.

And the reward?

admittance to a very exclusive club and the very cool kit

hells kit

Sophie takes Silver at BUCS 10

I’d been a little intimidated by the results other team members were getting already this season. But also egged on by them. This was my first race out for SSLL and I wanted to do them proud. These guys seem to be a rather successful bunch and I’m glad to have them as team mates. All week I had been looking forward to BUCS, feeling more positive than I ever have before. I’m normally a bag of nerves but I think the excitement of the start of the season and the knowledge that I’ve been training really well meant I was bursting to test out what I could do. I’ve spent most of my winter either sat in front of a computer, doing exams or feeding cancer cells in the microbiology lab (I have an exceedingly cool research project at university that I like to drop into every conversation possible…have I mentioned I’m doing cancer research?) so this event was a little break from the intense uni work and a highlight to look forward to.

FullSizeRender (3)
Me and my brother post-race

The British University Champs has been a target of mine this season. In 2014, BUCS was the first 10 and 25 mile time trials I had done and since then, I have been hooked! Being a bit of a perfectionist I strongly remember the sense of dread before my first time trials and the fear of doing it ‘wrong’. Of course, learning what your body can do, how you can push it further and also cheat aerodynamics and friction a bit more than last time is the art of time trialling and takes a while to even begin to perfect. But it was the feeling of elation after my first time trial which was something else that had me coming back for more! The endorphin rush from smashing myself as hard as I could for 10 miles was amazing. And it was 2.5 times better after the 25 TT!

I felt pretty chilled while driving up to the BUCS 10 in Cambridge. I’d had pangs of nerves but nothing unmanageable. I was a bit worried as I hadn’t had a good winter on the bike. They say ‘winter miles means summer smiles’. Well in that case, I am frowning. I had originally planned for 2016 to be an off season while I focussed on finishing my masters at uni but by January, I had changed my tune and wanted to be back out there racing. I started training on February 6th after exams had finished and at that point it was straight into a build period as BUCS was only 9 weeks away. What little training I had done over winter would have to be good enough for a base. Bob Tobin of Cyclepowermeters.com has worked his magic in getting me race-ready in such a short space of time.

I always spend the week before a race imagining everything that could possibly go wrong. It’s not an enjoyable week, I’ll tell you that but it does help me pre-empt some problems I might run into and iron out the creases. For example, where am I going to park, planning nutrition, practising and timing myself getting into and out of my skinsuit when sweaty mimicking the emergency pre-race/post-warm up loo stop…all details that must be considered carefully to get on the line in the best condition. This race deserved extra worry as I haven’t raced for a while and I have some new equipment. I have a new disc and new front wheel which I hadn’t ridden or even got round to putting tubs on two weeks before race day. Tubs are a whole new ball game to me. From three days of research, there seems to be no ‘right’ tyre (that doesn’t cost £70) as they are all a compromise between speed, puncture resistance and price. The first set I bought (Vittoria CX 23mm) were too narrow for the wide rims of the Revolver 6 front wheel. The next set were too heavy (Challenge Strada 25mm). The next set I plumped for were lighter tyres (Vittoria Crono 24), but I balked at how thin they were when they arrived…and hastily bought a bottle of Vittoria Pit Stop for peace of mind.

Three of us were racing from the University of Surrey and made the drive up to Cambridge; Rob Taylor, Paul Mearman and myself. Fifty women were signed onto the event and I knew there’d be some tough competition from some of the names I recognised. I thought I could probably scrape top 5 but that the podium was out of reach. The course is the E33/10 starting near Stow-cum-Quy, heading out to a big roundabout near Newmarket before turning round and coming straight back. Before the race we did a quick course recce in the car and noted that 2 miles in there is a climb of about 3-4 minutes at 4% gradient. That means it’s too long to just power over and needs careful pacing to not burn yourself out too soon. After that, the road becomes dead straight (an old Roman road at a guess) and you can see all of the next 2.5 miles ahead of you. Then it’s round the roundabout, take the 5th exit towards Bottisham and back along the same road.

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Pre-race timings on a post-it…


I had planned my pre-race timings ahead so I’d be on the start line warm and ready to go. I factored in extra time for a loo stop as the new trip suits from NoPinz and designed to be rather tight. At 1:15pm, I was off. There was a 10mph tailwind on the outward leg. I was feeling good and was pushing towards the upper end of my pacing range. After the turn around there was a 10mph headwind but I can’t say I noticed it. Eight miles in, and although I was close to the end, I was starting to feel pretty sick. I kept looking down at my Garmin to check how much distance but it didn’t seem to shift much. I don’t normally have distance on view as it’s not a metric I’m particularly interested in. It’s normally time that I’m looking at and counting down. With 1.5 miles left to go, I said to myself ‘it’s alright, 1.5 minutes isn’t too bad’. Except it wasn’t minutes was it! My heart rate had already peaked at 187bpm for too long and was now drifting down to 185bpm. My legs were burning and starting to slow. I tried to keep up the cadence but I had pretty much already played all my cards. At 9.8 miles, the finish flag came into view and I managed to find a little more energy out of nowhere to pick up the pace slightly for last 20 seconds.

I stopped the clock at 23:44 which was 4 minutes 2 seconds faster than my BUCS 2014 attempt on this course. Apparently, this makes me the sixth women ever to go below 24 minutes. Birmingham’s Molly Patch came third with a time of 24:17. Hayley Simmonds, British Time Trial Champion and newly professional rider for the American team United Health Care won the women’s event by a huge margin with a time of 22:09.

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I’ll be back out racing again at BUCS 25 in two weeks’ time.

Junior Tour of the Mendips

Last weekend was the second round of the junior national series, so Max and I packed up our stuff and headed to the Mendips.

The aforementioned “stuff” packed up

It was a two stage race with a rolling/flat first day and a hilly second day.  This was one event that I had been looking forward to for a while, due to it’s hilly profile, and thought I that I could perform relatively well.  It turned out that it wasn’t going to be the hills that determined mine or Max’s performance.

Having signed on, and received my oversized numbers that wrapped around any normal sized waist like a belt, I warmed up on a time trial bike on a turbo.  Usually I would either ride around by the start or go on the rollers for a bit at the start of a road race, because a warm up isn’t quite as essential as it is in a time trial.  I’ve heard some riders actually decline an offer to come for a warm up claiming they race better without one.  I decided to do a proper warm up like I would do for a 10M TT as once the race was de-neutralised there was immediately a 3.5km hill up Burrington Combe.  Whoever was first at the top of the hill would wear the KOM jersey on the second day.

My dad was doing a TT in Derby so gave a bag of my things to Max’s dad, before telling me “obviously you should wear short fingered gloves”.

We set off from the HQ in cold sunshine and headed, neutralised, towards the start.  At the bottom of the hill there was a crash so the race remained neutralised until way up the climb, when these people had re-joined the group.  This was unfortunate as I was hoping for the race to split apart up this climb, but the climb was too short for this.  I failed to place as well as I hoped at the top of the climb having let myself get blocked in.

After the top of the climb we were to race 7 laps of a rolling circuit.  One guy went off the front on his own, then another, then I went with one other, and this group of 4 started working, half a lap later a more reasonably sized group bridged and 10 of us were working well, going hard, and building up quite a lead.

Meanwhile back in the group someone had gone down in front of Max wiping him out. This meant the end of Max’s weekend.  I have to say I was pretty gutted for him as the course for the day really suited him, and with me out front, he could have sat in and got a good finish if it all came back together.  Thankfully he didn’t have any lasting injuries, and the damage to his hanger and wheels were soon patched up a Cyclesense.

Whilst Max was taken back to his hotel I was sitting happy in a strong group and a 1min 40second gap back to the group.  Then it started to rain.  The temperature started to plummet, as did the gap back to the group.  It started to hail, and having being tricked into short fingered gloves I could no longer feel my hands.  In fact my hands were too cold to squeeze a bottle into my mouth.  At this point I really knew that I’d blown it.  I couldn’t last another two and a half laps with no nutrition.  At this point the much strung out group overtook us, and I had bonked.  Having being spat out the back pretty quickly the ambulance came past me and told me that I could pull out with two to go and still start the next day.  I bowed out with two laps to go and climbed into somebody’s van and just wept.  It was the coldest, most painful situation I had ever been in. I couldn’t have cared less about the race.

Leaving my bike at the finish line I was driven back to the HQ in a car heated to about 40˚C.  At the HQ Max’s dad had driven back to give me my bag, waited for my bike to get driven back to the HQ, Then drove me and my bike back to the hotel.  Tom McMurdo was the real hero that day.

The next day I sat in my hotel for 25mins quite pretentiously pinning my number on, to avoid the previous days parachutes.

It’s either NoPinz, or as many pinz as possible. (Credit: Ted Cross)

A block headwind up the first climb of the day meant the group really stayed together, before a break went on the flatter section.  I didn’t go with the break as I thought that it would probably come back together on the long slight downhill to the next climb, and I was scared to repeat the previous day’s performance.

After the descent, on which the break was not reeled in, my poor positioning had me too far back going into the left hand turn up the second climb.  As the group turned left onto the thin road of the second climb too many people had gone into it in too big a gear.  This meant serious problems for the pathetic descenders, who were caught behind the serious congestion.

Many splinters at the top of the second climb re-joined each other but the breakaway was still gone.  On the final climb I came into it well placed in my group and was near the front.  However, perhaps paying for the previous days efforts finished a few down in that group.  I came 26th on that stage, but a 20min time penalty on the first day meant that my GC result was nowhere.

Eugene Cross on the final hill (Credit: Ted Cross)

I learned two major lessons last weekend.  Firstly that nobody has ever been so hot in April that they have to withdraw from a race.  Long-fingered gloves and a second base layer would have gone a long way.  And secondly is a lesson I seem to learn after every other race.  I desperately need to improve my group positioning.

The ‘Art & Science’ of winning… My simple view… Andy Jackson

I was reflecting on what has been, for the young SSLL racing team the best weekend of racing so far,  we scored 2 strong wins, 2 2nd places that included a silver medal at the BUCS championships, new PB’s – and even with 3 of the team side-lined with the dreaded Ebola like ‘man flu’!

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Andy Jackson on route to winning the BDCA 25 on 9/4 in a time of 47:46, by 31secs from Steve Irwin and 32secs from Pro-Triathlete Phil Graves.  (courtesy of Kimroy photography)

On Saturday Mel Wasley won the London Phoenix ’10’ TT,  I won the BDCA ’25’ against some really strong competition in Phil Graves (Pro Triathlete) , Steve Irwin, Matt Sinclair and our own Simon Beldon who rode to a stonking 2 minute PB of 49:05,  Not just a PB for Simon, but in the last 2 weeks after setting his 10m PB of 18:30 he now holds the VTTA (Vets) agre group record at both distances.  Elsewhere Sophie Household was 2nd for a Silver Medal with a  PB ride in the BUCS 10m Championships, and in greta company being second to Hayley Simmonds.  Also 2nd was Jon Wears with a super fast 49.58 in the Lea Valley 25.2 race… The team has started the year phenomenally with over 10 wins (I think!) already, from a small compliment of riders.  Of course we are not alone in performing well with many of the ‘usual suspects’ and new talent showing some great performances so far this season.  It certainly makes for an interesting season to come.

But lying awake, after no doubt too many stimulants for a late afternoon race, got me thinking and reflecting on the attributes of Performance.

I am a voracious reader, of all sorts of stuff, (basically because I can’t sleep and need anything to help me get off!)  but I’m particularly interested in autobiographies of the successful in all fields, but also books that study this success… Books such as ‘The Goldmine effect’ (Rasmus Ankerson) &  ‘Bounce’ (Matthew Syed) are two such good examples.

Both investigate the ‘myth’ of talent… the essence of there message is that ‘talent’ is not the driver of differences between winners & losers and high or low performers, but more the ‘honing’ of this talent, which may in reality be minimal versus other areas… the fact that ‘talent’ id identified, given every chance to grow and nurture is the real message.  Allied to this is the fabled ‘10000 hours’.  Its held in numerous sources and across numerous fields that ‘10000 hrs’ of training is what it takes high performers to really excel.  This is cross all fields of sport and business, be it Mozart, he is quoted as saying one particularly musical masterpiece ‘appeared in his head’… what many miss about this is the following paragraphs that explain the months of hard work put into honing this masterpiece!  There are the examples of The Williams sisters in Tennis, Tiger Woods in Golf , David Beckham (contentious!) etc etc… Child prodigies, Yes, but prodigies who worked harder and longer than their competition.

One thing I remember reading clearly years ago, and I have forgotten exactly which book it was in,  was a quote by (I think) Chris Boardman who said his success was down to ‘98% hard-work… 2% talent’.  This really spurred me on to think, ‘I can do that’! at the time I was embarking on Triathlon training, I set myself the naïve goal of making Hawaii World Championships in 3 years from starting training… I made it… and it was down to simply hard work.  I couldn’t even swim crawl when I started, I HATED running (still do) but was fairly handy on the bike and thought ‘why not’ – 98% hard work – I can do that, lets give it a go!  I make it sound easy.  It wasn’t. But it was worth it!

In his book ‘The Goldmine effect’ Rasmus Ankerson explores the ‘myth’ of certain areas of the world ‘Goldmines’ that produce prodigious and regular champions. He looks at Iten in Kenya that produces on a conveyor belt, long distance champions.  The Russian explosion in top ranked female tennis players that went from zero in the top 10 to half in 10 years.  The Favela’s of Brazil that has consistently produced world class players, I think he quotes that 40% of the UEFA ‘Players of the year’ have been Brazilian since it was awarded – More Brazilians play in the Champions league than any other nationality – yet no Brazillian club takes part!  He looks at South Korea that churns out Women’s Gold Champions on a regular basis.  in Kingston Jamaica went from zero athletics medals to churning out sprint gold after print gold in just 10 years under the eye of renowned coach Stephen Francis.

He firstly challenges, as does Matthew Syed in ‘Bounce’ the notion of ‘innate’ talent, ‘Gene pools’ or other explanations for geographical performance ‘hotspots’.  Its actually much, much simpler.  In every example there are a number of driver’s:

  1. Motivation
  2. Belief systems
  3. Support
  4. Challenge & competition
  5. HARD HARD work

Put really simply,  in each ‘Goldmine’ there was a ‘breakthrough ‘star’, be it Pele in Brazillian Football, or some of the 1970’s first Kenyan long distance runners.  These set to ‘pave the way’ and show what was possible.  They started to build ‘belief’ in the communities that ‘ I can do that’.  Within the examples of Brazil, Kenya, Jamaica or Ethiopia the motivations for success are simple and primeval.  The population see running or football as the ONLY way out of poverty and the ONLY ticket to change their lives.  this in built motivation, and subsequent competition from like minded individuals breads a culture of high performance.  The role models that it creates maintains and reinforces the belief that ‘I can do that’.  In Iten Kenya, according to Rasmus Ankerson, the population almost believe they can’t lose – they are destined to win they are that used to it!

Support &’push’ – Parental support is another key driver, in South Korea whole families with dedicate their lives to making their daughter a Golfing superstar – training every hour (literally) outside sleep.  The same is true in Russia of its Tennis stars… in the ‘west’ this can be seen as ‘pushy’ or parents ‘living the dream through their kids’.  nay sayers say let kids ‘choose’ give them every opportunity… But is their too much choice?  Ask a 5 year old what he wants to do from the plethora of choice, its doubtful he will ‘pick’ training for hours at a chosen sport – maybe this ‘push is needed’?  There are always exceptions, be it David Beckham, Johnny Wilkinson, Bradley Wiggins or others whose innate drive and vision was so clear from an early age – they consciously made the decision and they had the innate drive.   In ‘The Goldmine effect’ the author also examines Violinists and notes how the ‘best’ practised their ‘10000 hrs’ by maybe ages 13/14, the same is true of gymnasts… Now much of this wasn’t through ‘choice’ but through parental, shall we say direction!  who is right?  Take the LTA in the UK – it invests Millions to produce Tennis players, yet has failed consistently…  Britain’s best players Elena Baltacha and Andy Murray are not products of the LTA but other systems.  The LTA (it could be argued) Mollycoddles players in 5 star luxury, but is that drive and internal motivation their – do the players want to ‘win’ or just be ‘famous’?  Have they the absolute single minded ‘drive’ to make it?  Looking at results you have to say no!

Much closer to home a great example of a Gold Mine would be the Yorkshire cycling success over the years, it has, and continues to, Churn out champions such as Brian Robinson, Tom Simpson, Wayne Randle, John Tanner, Kevin Dawson, the Downing brothers, Ed Clancy, Ben Swift… Joel Wainman & others 🙂  The list goes on.. But why?  Some say its the hills, the weather, the hard roads… Its simpler than that, its back to the Iten Kenya example, or the Jamaican sprint champions.. the desire, motivation and competition provided in the area drives riders to the best – they ‘see’ their mates, neighbours or colleagues doing it, think I can do that!  They can train with them, learn their secrets and perpetuate the success.  Now I grew up in Yorkshire,  I actually went to School with the Downing Brothers, Dean was in my year and we played football together for the school team.  Later I worked, briefly at the same place as TT legend and multiple BBAR winner Kevin Dawson.  I wish I could say I became part of this self fulfilling conveyor belt… But I didn’t!  I honestly didn’t even realise Russ & Dean cycled like they did when we were kids, I cycled for fun – I wish I’d known and joined them!  I remember working with Kev and being in awe of his bikes, his training and what he did – I thought he was on another planet and out of my league… then I had my epiphany,’ its 98% hard work’ and it all changed for me.  Again in the ‘Goldmine effect’ the author refers to Haile Gebrselassie and Colin Jackson who can pinpoint their ‘epiphany moments’ down to the time and date – now I am no way in their league, but the power of that moment is key

But back to our simple sport, Time Trialling is the purest form of cycling, you against the clock.  No Hiding places, no tactics, no one to ‘blame’, no bad luck.  He who works hardest WINS.  That’s what I love.  Arguably it makes it boring, we all ‘know’ who will win every race…. or do we?

I was drawn to the sport due to this simple ‘hard work pays off philosophy’, I am well into my 10000 hrs, so simply I should be performing at my peak ? yes? well no… its not so simple as that!  I like, so many of us, have found so many nuances and subtleties that we never have the answer.  In Michael Hutchinsons book ‘Faster’ he reckons he needed to find ‘2% per year’ to stand still in performance regards versus his competitors.

How and where do you find this?  Not so long ago I was chatting with Lutterworth Cycle Centre’s Matt Sinclair, Matt as we all know has been performing at the top of this game for years, he put it really well when he said its become an ‘arms race’.  We are all looking for every, as Dave Brailsford coined the phrase ‘marginal gain’, we can to help us find that illusive 2% or more

We all search for every method to go faster:

  1. wind tunnel or aerodynamic analysis and testing
  2. Kit and helmets
  3. Bikes, weight, aerodynamics ‘looks’ (well you gotta look good too :))
  4. Diet
  5. Supplements
  6. Training programs

Over the past 3 season I have probably won over 70 races, set multiple course records, won the National Team Time Trial, I’m in exulted company in the league of ‘top ten fastest ever 10m TT riders’ and held the Competition record as part of a team for the 10m TT… But I have no way achieved all I want or what, I think, I am capable of… Although I am probably getting close to being past it now!

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Why is that?  For me there are numerous drivers,  I have only got really ‘intelligent’ in training the last couple of years with the help of renowned coach Bob Tobin.  Before Bob, and even with other coaches I was in the ‘old school’ of miles & miles – but as you get older you need to adapt and focus.. and working full time that just isn’t possible!  When I did Ironman I was coached by the UK’s first Ironman winner, Matt Belfield, now he was old school – 7 hrs on a Saturday on the bike, with bricks in the panniers, 6hrs on a Sunday and a 2hr run, oh and an hour swim… Hmm  wonder why my marriage didn’t last!?  That’s not realistic or sustainable, intelligent coaching is the answer.

It also took me a long time to understand and embrace the importance of Aero dynamics.  I have always bene powerful, but when I look at the SHOCKING position I used to ride in its not really surprising I didn’t go really fast!  Recently working with both Aero-Coach and No-Pinz has been a revelation to me in helping me dial in my position, my choice of kit and way of riding – and the ‘step up’ I have made this past 2-3 season is all down to that.

Although its not easy… in Michael Hutchinson’s book ‘Faster’ he has a brilliant section on Aero Helmets, stating that some manufacturers have started working on ‘dimpled’ technology like golf balls… his comment is brilliant, ‘until a cyclists head starts spinning like a gold ball I cant see them working too well!!!’ (sic).

Then of course we come to bikes,  don’t we all just love the beauty and the technology!  Cycling’s great for ‘boys and toys’!  To own a ‘supercar’ like the best you need £100’s K’s, to won a bike just like your hero, be it Cav, Wiggo or who ever you can get it for probably <£10k… You can even pitch up at a weekend TT and line up against Wiggo or Dowsett… in no other sport can you do that!

We all love the tech, but again its easy to get ‘sucked into’ the marketing and spin, White papers written by manufacturers on the effect of yaw angle in certain winds can be mind boggling,  there is one example, I forget where, of a bike manufacturer extolling the virtues of its frame based on wind readings from 10ft… it will be interesting to see any cyclist doing well 10ft in the air!  I’ve experimented, as we all have with loads of bikes and have been lucky that my last 2 bikes, a Falco V and my current Giant Trinity.

Both have enabled me to hone a good position,  always room for improvement and maximise aerodynamics… but work is never done!

For me great support from Harry Walker this year and the phenomenal Assym disc wheel and Ian Cammish and the PDQ tri-spoke – PDQ it is!

But what of other ‘marginal gains’?  Diet – Simon Beldon has been employing the services of Alan Murchinson , Michelin starred chef and GB Age Group Triathlete,  the difference Simon has made to weight and his nutritional balance is just part of the >2% he has found this year to step on.

Race Nutrition,  we are supported by http://www.OTEsports.com ,  the products provide the right mix of carbs, electrolytes and protein.  What the guys at OTE, lead by Matt Harrison have done is the seemingly impossible – great tasting & functional products!


Supplements – where do you start?!  there is so much to go at and so much recommended or suggested, I swear by beta-alanine and beetroot as core staples, but choices are endless.

The final part, is  a HUGELY important part, in my opinion, and its about ‘mindset’ and attitude.  Historically I have under performed in ‘big races’ versus what my, on paper, stats say I should do.  On the Big day I don’t perform.  This goes right back to my days in Triathlon, my Kona experience in 2004 was a huge disappointment – I spent 2 weeks in Kona pre-race and frankly the whole event ‘got to me’ and nerves hit me.  I was terrible!

Nowadays, coming to a ‘local’ race I will hit great numbers and I know I will perform – come National championships it all goes wrong!  why?  Its mentality its approach, its mindset.  I have spent some time talking to Peter Hudson, sports psychologist http://www.the-mindworks.com who has given me some great ‘coping mechanisms’.

Simple things as, don’t open the start sheet until I am in a positive , relaxed and upbeat mind set.  Rationalise what I HAVE done, don’t focus on the competition. Focus on MY race and remind myself what I can do…  some great tools, simple but effective.

So, in summary what does it all mean?  I honestly have no where near all the answers but I love exploring the possible answers and looking where to go next – no stone unturned!

Any-way onwards – yesterday may have been a good race, but no rest, off for a 3 1/2 hour Bob special now and its 1degrees!  Great!