Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mallorca, long lonely rides and a time trial PB

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To paraphrase a certain song really badly, “I rode an S-Works Tarmac SL6 and I liked it”… Granted it was only for less than 12 minutes, but it was enough to convince me that there is a difference between a £4,000 bike and one costing £8,500.

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Having set a new PB up the Formentor (Pollenca side) climb in Mallorca earlier in the week on my Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 Disc, I couldn’t resist Alan Murchison’s (‘Performance Chef’) offer to try his S-Works Tarmac SL6 up the same climb later in the week.

Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0 DiscUnfortunately, I didn’t beat my previous time (score one for the TCR), but to be fair, my legs were cooked from a full week of riding and there was a strong headwind for most of the climb (plus I had no power data to work off).  But even though the medium-sized Tarmac didn’t really fit me (surprisingly the saddle felt low and the reach was long and wide), it felt like every pedal stroke was having a marginally greater effect on the forward momentum of the bike.  No doubt the SL6 is a very special bike.

Worth an extra £4,500 over the TCR?  Well, that’s debatable.

In between the two climbs of Formentor was a week of cycling (and a tiny bit of running and swimming) on the island of Mallorca.  This year, I had my first go at the Andratx to Pollenca route, 160km long and some 4,000m of climbing.  It’s certainly a long day out and has some spectacular coastal views.

I rode most of the 160km solo, having been dropped when the group I elected to go off with spent the first 45 minutes of what was going to be a 6.5 hour day at my FTP.   Rather than kill myself in the first hour, I elected to drop off the bike and allow myself to just go at my own pace.  If that meant being caught by the group behind, all good.

Aside from a strong northerly wind (not so much fun when you’re riding northwards for most of the 6.5 hours) which cooled the temperatures to the point that arm warmers and gilet were required on all sections bar the longer climbs.   The plus side of riding alone was deciding for myself when to take a coffee stop or indeed a nice long lunch in Port de Soller (sat wind-free in the shelter of the bay, contemplating the idea of riding up ‘the Pig’ with a belly full of pizza).  Somehow, I think my decision to ride at my own pace worked out well, as I was actually the first to make it home at the end of the day.

However, what was clear to me was that, compared to previous years, I was really struggling on the climbs.  Apart from the Formentor climb on day one and a couple of ‘puncheur’ type short climbs through the week, no PBs were threatened at all (I was two minutes off my PB up the 10.6km climb of Puig Major, which can’t purely be down to the strong northerly wind).

And so the week was a somewhat frustrating one for me.  We had a couple of days of bad weather, which didn’t help. But I just wasn’t at all happy with how I was riding up the hills.  I had one last attempt up Col de sa Batala (the ‘petrol station climb’) in the pouring rain and strong wind on the Friday, but again was miles off a PB.  On the plus side, the disc brakes of the TCR really shone on the descent from Lluc back to Pollensa where they inspired more confidence than perhaps the conditions justified.

It was actually nice to leave a rainy Mallorca (via a mandatory visit to the Rapha shop in Palma) and arrive back in a sun-drenched UK on Saturday.

Giant Trinity time trialAn easy leg flush back on the Giant Propel followed on Sunday before the traditional bank holiday 25-mile Time Trial on the H25/1 course (A4 near Theale and Thatcham). After more than 480km in the preceding seven days, I wasn’t expecting much.  The plan was just to ride to FTP and see where it got me.

I’ll spare you the (boring) detail of the ride, but what it got me was a new 25-mile TT PB, a smidge over 56 minutes.  Not going to break any records and I’m sure some of you are scoffing at such a mediocre time.  But on tired legs and a slow course, I’ll take a PB any day.

Here we have one of cycling’s great contradictions.  I’d always thought that power was just power.  Watching cycling on TV, I’ve never really understood why some riders are better than others at climbing (weight and build aside), or why some can really time trial, but can’t ride hills for toffee.  Surely, it’s just watts through the pedals?

Well, the last 10 days or so have shown me (I’m a slow learner sometimes) that watts on the flat are not the same as watts uphill.   I’m not sure I’m any closer to understanding why, but I can safely say that those Mallorca PBs aren’t going to fall next year (assuming I return, which is open to debate…) unless I spend more time on hill reps.  Surprisingly, I haven’t found any hour-long climbs in Wiltshire, but there are certainly some punchy climbs that would no doubt be good for reps.

 

Time to MTFU and spend some more time going slow.

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Matt Fisher runs TriathletesDiary.com - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs

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