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Blowing hot and cold…

| Blog, Cycling Plus | 23/05/2013 14:24pm

When regular Cycling Plus photographer Tom Simpson decided he needed a riding challenge entering two of Europe’s toughest sportives – the Marmotte and the Wiggle Dragon Ride – was the natural choice. In the second of his training blogs he blows hot and cold

Since the injury, it’s been a funny few months. This week I’ve been cycling in the 20 degree sunshine – the first time I’ve been able to go out wear wearing just shorts and a jersey. But that wasn’t the case just a few weeks ago. After this winter’s harsh barrage of cold fronts, I’d decided to embrace my inner Belgian and go out whatever the weather: ‘no excuses now’, I told myself after investing in appropriate wet/cold weather clothing. Sure enough, my new-found mantra was recited one morning in March, where the weather forecast told me it was going to be 0 degrees outside, with light drizzle. ‘Not a patch on those poor suckers in Milan-San Remo’, was my response. Turns out I was quite, quite wrong.

There exists a strange micro-climate where London is always a few degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside. People have told me this is because of pollution, whether it is or not is another matter. So the zero degrees forecast turned into -3 in the Surrey countryside where I was riding, and as could be expected, the ‘light drizzle’ turned into ‘full on blizzard’.

Where normally I wouldn’t dare go out in these conditions, dry weather over the preceding week had meant that the roads were bone dry, and ice not as much of a worry. I’d gone out fully prepared, but despite riding with two pairs of socks as well as heavy-duty neoprene overshoes, I couldn’t feel my feet 20 miles in to my planned 100. When the snow started settling in the creases of my winter jacket, I started to think that maybe these conditions weren’t the best. When it settled in all the vents in my helmet, I wasn’t entirely sure about doing the full 100 miles I had planned. When I lost the feeling in my hands, I decided I was catching the train home.

Upon getting home, I lay in a hot bath while my feet slowly and painfully regained their feeling. I then got dressed, put a snowboard jacket on, and got into bed. I lay there shivering for an hour. I believe that could have been hypothermia…

So what a surprise it was when a couple of weeks later, I found myself at the Gypsy Hill Tavern in Crystal Palace, heart of the South London Alps, lining up for the annual London Classic. Tag-lined ‘An Urban Cycling Adventure’, this ride takes the idea of a sportive (although without the timing), and transposes it to the heart of London, taking in as many of the city’s cobbled backstreets as possible. From there it’s into the forementioned ‘South London Alps’, with some not inconsiderable 20% inclines to be taken in. The ride finishes up in the pub, with Paris-Roubaix on the big screen, and a barbecue outside.

A classic in London… (Tom took the picture…)

This was taken as an opportunity to test the rigidity of my long-term training bike, on-loan from Boardman. When I first got on it back in January, the power transfer and harshness of the ride took me by surprise. I wasn’t entirely sure how it’d cope with Wapping’s harsh cobbled streets – it’s hardly what it was built for. But I was pleasantly surprised. While I’d hardly be using it to ride the Arenberg Forest anytime soon, it was by no means the juddering hell I was expecting. Each ‘sector’ was treated with a full on acceleration, and at no point did I feel the stiffness of the frame was affecting me. Great stuff!

Now that the weather’s turned, the four 40 mile training rides a week have been replaced with three 40 milers, and one 80 miler, with the distance of the big ride increasing every week. Last week, however, I found myself leaving the house three hours late. I had to cut short the planned 100 miles down to 80 again, but to make up for this, I’d decided to absolutely hammer it: go full speed until I blow, but complete the ride no matter what condition I was in. To my surprise, I managed a 20mph average speed over the 80 miles, with 1400 meters of climbing.

I never thought I’d say this, but this training lark is great fun!

Tom is riding a Boardman SLR 9.0, courtesy of Boardman Bikes

Find out more about trips to La Marmotte by clicking here

For more information on the Dragon Ride click here

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