Monday, 13 May 2013

Trans Portugal, DAY9, MONCHIQUE - SAGRE

MONCHIQUE - SAGRE, 12th May 2013

Length - 99km
Climbing - 2058Metres
Weather - Warm and windy with blue skies
Stage Place - 9th
Overall Place - 8th

Last day.  Big day as well.  We got to start at 10am today and it was going to be fast day.  I completely screwed up this stage last year and was determined not to do the same this year.  Marco need to make 30 odd seconds to get 2nd place on GC which meant it would be go go go right from the start.  I needed to catch two people in front who were potential challenges.  One was 1 min behind and another was 8 mins behind.

We hit the first 700 metre climb about 3km from the start.  The plan was to stick with Marco and ride with him.  Good plans don't always work all that well.  It was a very steep little rocky number.  At the top Marco was 30 metres in front and when I looked back there was 300 metre of empty trial behind me.  Not a good start.  I now had 95km to go solo as Marco had gone.

I made fairly good time but spent the next 25km chasing small little groups of riders.  None of them enough to help the chase.  Finally I saw Scott in the distance and caught him.  He was with another SA rider called Johan who we had just passed each day.  However today he stuck with us.  We worked together and caught the next group who contained my main rival who was one minute behind me.  Francisco was not in good shape already and we still had 50km to go.  I thought I'd stay with him and try and make sure he could secure his position in 8th.

When we got to 60km it was obvious that Francisco could not make with us.  Johan decided to put the pedal down and within two kilometres it was just the two of us by the beach into a head wind.  After maybe 3km when I looked back we were maybe 2 mins ahead of the group we were with.  Johan was riding incredible strong and I wondered where he'd been for the last 8 days.  We took some turns before we came down onto the beach.  

A one km run across the beach pushing the bike.  First gel at the end of the beach and straight up a big climb.  Down another climb where we picked up Morton who we had ridden with other days. Then another two short but sharp climbs and we were back on the flats.  Johan once again stuck the hammer down.  Basically he was riding me off his wheel and it was some of the strongest riding seen all week.  Morton was gone within another 2kms or so.  Johan was now sitting up to wait for me.

We still had 20km to go and I'd not caught the man 8 mins behind me.  Johan was basically towing me all the way.  I couldn't do much more and Johan was still waiting.  I knew the course fairly well and the last 15km was downhill and fast.  We finally hit the cliffs within the last 4-5km was a relief.  I knew I could make it and secure my 7th. 2km from the finish and Johans tyre started going fizz, fizz, fizz.  He started to slow down to dismount and I'm screaming at him to keep riding.  Small argument followed.  He was still riding but reluctantly.  We turned the corner to see the finish line flag and suddenly Johan knew the tyre would now last.  We crossed together but it was all Johans doing.  30 mins later Johans tyre was completely flat.

I finished 9th.  Time for some well deserved beers.  I found out much later my ride had not been enough.  Not bad and I was ok speed wise but somebody else was much better than me that day.  They jumped from 9th to 7th on GC and I went backwards.  They matched my stage time but because they started twenty mins in front they had gone form 8 mins behind to 12 mins in front.  Johan had spent all day trying to help me.  I wish he'd had more belief in himself as he would have done much better on GC.  

Losing a position on GC was really my own fault because of missing the stop sign and getting a penalty.  I missed it because it didn't show on my gps.  Maybe it was off screen or maybe I just didn't notice.  I also didn't see the additionally stop signs they put on the road either.  Also if my rear mech cable had not broken maybe that was more time and enough.

I'm in Lisbon today and have hurt myself.  Ride all the way across the county on a bike with no crashes  and walk 100 metres form the hotel and straight into a pot hole in the foot path.  Ankle goes crunch and is now swollen and twice the size.  Oh joy.

Anyway once I'm home I'll upload my tracks and compare with last year.  Have to be happy with 8th but still wish it was 7th...

Saturday, 11 May 2013



Length -138km
Climbing - 3108Metres
Weather - hot and sunny and up to 33
Stage Place - 7th
Overall Place - 7th

Today was the day...I had great legs.  Cyclists will know what I mean but I just felt on fire and super strong.  We started again at 9am and within 3km there was only three of us.  Marco, Fanie and me. Michiel who we'd been riding with was gone.  He caught us at the first gate and we waited a bit but with another few KMs he was gone again.  I found out later he had pulled out at the first checkpoint complaining of stomach issues.  We have had a bunch of people not feeling well.

Marco wasn't the best either so me and Farnie were pacing him well.  It was a horrible head wind but we did well to make a lot of time.  We lost Marco at 50km or so on nothing to steep.  He just did his elegant fast pedal and was gone. Farnie dropped his chain so we waited a bit.  We had caught Scott so it was just the three of us from here.  The plan was to stick together till the big hills at the end and then let each rider to the own thing.

We caught Francisco next and it was quickly just four of us.  At the 65km hill which was approx 6km long I felt good and just sat at the front.  We crossed over a road and I looked back and they we all gone.  I climbed the last of the climb which was quite steep and turned the wrong way promptly.  I got back on track and they still weren't there so it was time to press on.  What followed was a long hard day on the bike.  Paced myself well and just put on fast cruise mode with heart rate close on 130bpm. There were some points were you could see a long way back and they were no where in sight so best just to press on.

I stopped for water at 95 km as scheduled and left quickly.  I caught various other riders and went straight past them.  I hit the first big climb at around 105km.  It was probably worse this year.  It was steep hot and what was a forest was just strewn with gum tree leaves and branches.  I could see three people behind me on the climb and Malcolm from South Africa came past me.  I caught home again on the descent and then disaster struck.

No gears...did a quick stop and rear mech cable snapped by the mech.  It was two speed from here with small and large ring only.  I still had 25km or so to go and there was one big hill to still make it up. I stopped by a TransPortugal car and jury rigged the mech.  Wound in the limit stop as far as I could.  That put me in about the 14 tooth at the back.  I rode like this spinning away in small ring on hills and big ring on the flats also spinning away.

It went ok till the big climb.  No way I could do it.  I've been carrying a little rope around with me after seeing it being used very effectively last year on a few issues.  Today it got its use.  I tied the mech up into about the 28th cog on the back and span like crazy up the last big hill.  Made the top and removed the rope and back into the 14/15 and away I went.  I kept looking for the stalking pack but only had three single people come past me.  I had to stop and switch it back to the 28th once more with the rope but and remove again but after that cruise to the finish and spin like crazy.

Unbelievably I passed two of the people who passed me on the climb and I finished 7th.  Six would have been nice and I lost 15 mins due to this but hey...nothing else I could do.  I also missed a stop sign which comes with a 30 min penalty.

So one more day to go and feeling quite good.  Bummed about the penalty and where  I finish now is largely academic.  Not much changes on the last day.  I have 1 min in front of eighth and 8 mins in front of 9th.  Tomorrow will be you tough as they start in front so I will have to chase hard.  Lets hope the good legs are back...

Also Marco won today and set a new stage record.  Glad that I helped in the first 50km with this today as he's an awesome chap.  He moved into 2nd place on GC with this. (Which was later changed to 3rd because another rider stopped to help someone who fell and that person got given a time bonus for stopping)

Friday, 10 May 2013


MONSARAZ - ALBERNOA, 10th May 2013

Length -143km
Climbing - 2009Metres
Weather -  Hot and very sunny.  33 degress
Stage Place - 6th
Overall Place - 8th

Good day.  Wrote a massive long post but it got eaten on my iPad mini.

In short...finished 6th.  Upset some people and moved up a place on GC to 8th.  Helped Marco as much as I could and feel good.

There is only three minutes to 9th and 4 minutes to 10th on GC.  Mine to loose but the 9th place guy is ex tour du France rider and starts 30 mins in front of me.  10th on GC starts 15 mins in front.

Long day tomorrow with some big hills and will be hot.  It's easily the 2nd hardest stage and maybe even the hardest.

There is also five people admitted to hospital today with a virus that has been doing the rounds.

Starts with a cough and then uncontrolled vomiting .  Lets hope it skips me.

Sleep calls

Thursday, 9 May 2013



Length -165km
Climbing - 3280Metres
Weather - 17 and misty first thin and 34 later with sunny skies.
Stage Place - 11th
Overall Place - 9th

Another successful day but also a very painful one for many.  166km and we started at 8:30 am today. It was colder and lots of mist about.  Adam who was ahead of me on GC was missing on the start line.  Found out later the doctor had advised him not to start due to saddle sores.

We went up the first climb at 1km which was quite steep and technical.  Just Marco, Michiel and myself by the top.  Long descent and another climb all that was very rough.  I flattered last year here so was being careful.  Last climb at 8km and then it was just the three of us tag teaming it.  We caught various groups and had to deal with the gates everywhere.  Nothing much happened but the pace was a bit fast for me.  When it's to fast I just can't get enough to eat.

We were approx 30 seconds behind Danny at about 60km and then  we come across a bunch of people standing on the track.  Never good because you know what's happened.  Danny was the culprit and although standing was in huge pain.  Broken collarbone.  Our bunch did what we could which was not much and departed.  I found out later that no one stayed out of the 10-15 people that were there.  That really pisses me off.  If I was lying in a ditch I'd like to think someone would stay until help arrived.  (I found out later again that a few did stay.  Those that stayed got given bonus time as well to make up for it.)

We lost Marco and a few others when a gap opened up.  It was long grass and just hard to follow.  Kinda good that he was gone.  The pace was too fast for us anyway and we wouldn't have survived all day at that pace.  They were all way ahead on GC anyway

There was five in the group.  Michiel, Francisco, Morton, Scott and me.  We were working together. Somewhere at about 75km Michael took a tumble.  Followed by Morton a few KMs later and then finally Francisco not long after that.  To finish you really need to not crash.  They are all fine but the conditions were tricky.  Lots of ruts and sand.  I have seen more than 10 with injuries tonight but luckily only grazes and bruising.

After this nothing much happened.  I felt better than the rest of the day finally getting some food and gels into me.  We stopped for water at 95km and 120km.  It got very hot somewhere in the day and easy to miss fluids if your not aware.   I was surprised when I looked down at GPS to see it was 34 degrees. 

We stayed together as a group knowing there was a tough climb to finish.  Long steep rough road to the top of Monsaraz.  Francisco was up first followed by me.  On the descent we sat up to cross together but young Michiel had other ideas.  Caught us on the downhill and sprinted to the finish.  I took the last corner way to fast so settled for third form our group leaving me in eleventh for day.

I have moved up to 9th in GC because of Adam not starting.  Got 1.5 min on 10th and quite a few on 11th.  I need 18 mins to move up to 8th and 11 for 7th.  Still going to be hard to stay in the top ten.  Easy stage tomorrow.  Maybe six hours and fairly flat but it will be hot.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013



Length -144km
Climbing - 2618Metres
Weather - 25 degrees with some very light rain.  Mainly cloudy
Stage Place - 11th
Overall Place - 10th

Another good day on the bike was had.  We set off at 9am again and we had quite the train going.  After the first little bump the 17 we started with was down to five.  The usual four, Marco, Adam, Michael, myself and a new addition Farnie.  We took turns pacing on the first roads and tracks.
All fairly uneventful,  we caught Rodrigo at maybe 25km again and he was going ok.  The six of us were taking turns and we were catching various groups every 5-10 km.  it started getting a little bit unmanageable and there must have been 10 or 15 of us at one point.  We skipped past the first water point at 45km or so today which become a bit critical for us all.

We caught Danny at maybe 65km and he joined us.  A bump somewhere had got rid of the hangers on and back to just the five of us with Rodrigo dropping somewhere too.  All uneventful again.  Marco dropped the bike into the back of one of us when I took a wrong turn and we all braked to turn back.  No damage done fortunately.

At maybe 80km must of us had run out of water.  Michiel had downed three litres and I'd finished the one and half litres in my camel bak and only had a bottle left.  A little bit of sharing went on as the water point was at 105km.  Adam dropped somewhere here.  He looked knackered and no water was taking its tool.  Without the water you can't eat to refuel.  I struggled through this bit too.

We made the water stop together and caught Francisco from an early bunch.  He's ahead of me on GC and lost time yesterday.  Marco filled up and took off.  Marco had too as we are too slow in the climbs for him.  The last 40km was basically all up hill.  The rest of us peeled out and basically Danny took off.  He was super strong.  I was with them for 5-10 km and I too was out the back.  There's a bastard of a climb that's only 500 meters long but its 25-30% and has a stream at the bottom.  It's a slog.  I could see them on it and with calves burning pushing the bike I tried to catch.  I found out later that Marco apparently climbed the hill.  ( legend !!!)

It didn't catch the group  I caught Pat somewhere after this pumping up a flat tyre.  His third of the day he told me later and he had the mech hanger fall off as well.  Managed to reattach using the quick release lever.  I was now in fast cruise mode to the finish.  I caught strong man Malcolm again on a piece of Tarmac.  He jumped on my tail and on a rough road I put the power down.  I caught and passed Peter and Diaana and Peter dropped of the back.  He caught me again on a small hill.  We rode together for a bit and there was a confusing part in a village where it looked like we were on the wrong track.  He turned one way and I stayed straight.  I yelled and said I was right.  Waited a bit and got impatient so started the turbos again.

I hit a gate not long after and I knew that once I'd closed it I wouldn't see him again.  It was solo to the finish from here 15 km out.  Steep nasty little climb into the village through the castle walls on rough roman roads again.  Didn't enjoy it as much this year.  

So not a bad day.  Lost some time to some and gained on others.  Long stage tomorrow but its just long.  There's only four more days and the body seems to be holding up well.  No major complaints with the body is a good sign.  We shall see tomorrow who pushed too hard today and who recovers well again.  Going to be hard to stay in tenth !!!

Monday, 6 May 2013



Length -110km
Climbing - 2982Metres
Weather - Cloudy and about 20 degrees
Stage Place - 8th
Overall Place - 10th

Today can only be described as riding like a steam train. We started again at 9am and very quickly there was just four of again. First climb was at maybe 10km in and was three climbs in one with a flat piece in the middle of each step. Marco once again left us towards the top never to be seen again.

Myself, Michiel and Adam hung together and worked together. We caught Rodrigo at 18km and I don't remember much till 60km except thinking this is too fast. We finally caught Danny at 65km or thereabouts. The group he was with completely blew apart and only Danny stayed with us. One of the riders was Francisco who is higher in the GC than me.

It was now four and we were all pulling out weight. Adam starts strong and Michiel just gets stronger the longer it goes on. Danny is just a beast and gets on with it. We planned to stop at the top of Monsanto for water. There's an awesome climb up to the top of this village on a steep rutted roman road. Takes a lot of effort but this year I cleaned it with touching down. Even had a small celebration with myself at the top. Love the technical physical extortion of it.

Myself and Adam stopped at the top for water and we missed the others. We caught them at the bottom where they had stopped at another fountain. The four of us just continued to work together and we were going extremely fast. We caught a few riders in the last 20km.

Malcolm (RSA) starts 30 mins in front of us each day. He hung onto our coat tails and was much stronger on the climbs than us. Not bad for a 54 year old. The next rider we flew past and then we caught Pat who was opening a gate. I made sure we all waited till the gate was closed before we resumed the steam train.

At about 8km from the end we lost Danny. I heard lots of swearing and Danny stopped. Found out later he had dropped his chain three times in a row and had to stop to put it back on each time I was just hanging and counting down the last KMs.

One kilometre before the end was a stop sign. Group discussion was made regarding a sprint or cross together. No one was up for the sprint so the five of us cruised over.

I was credited with 8th and it was a very good day. I hope I didn't give to much but having a shower and a massage before 3:30 pm is a luxury. I even managed 90 mins of sleep before dinner. At this time last year I'd crashed twice already and had some long difficult days. The body was battered and tired. Glad I feel much better so far....made some time on my rivals but didn't overhaul anyone in GC. 142 km tomorrow with uphill in the last 40km.



Length -108km
Climbing - 3683Metres
Weather - 15 - 20 degrees with sun, cloud and some light showers.
Stage Place - 12th
Overall Place - 10th

Another good day. We started at 9am again today. We promptly made the same mistake as last year and took a wrong turn close to the start. Lots of yelling to the bunch and most of us turned back to make the turn. I was first back on the right route and promptly had some riders coming the wrong way down the correct route to do the right route.

At the first climb which was a small one there was the myself, Marco, Adam left. Somewhere after here was a 4km technical downhill on roman roads. Passed a few on the way down before making a wrong turn not long after. Marco had gone to never been seen again. Adam and Michiel came past me here and we caught Rodrigo again. He said that he wasn't going to stay with them and at the start of the first big climb of 10 km I let them go too.

I had a good climb and could see riders ahead of me. I caught Danny just before the first water point at 35km. I quickly filled up and set back off up of the road. I caught Danny again not long after. From here on (and I guess a lot earlier) I was pretty much on my own.

At the 2nd climb I was still feeling ok. One of the high placed GC riders steamrolled past me he after having two punctures. This climb last year was just a mud pit. So glad it was not like last year. Passed a few more riders on this before hitting the top and the first long descent.

I missed the water point at 75km and decided to keep going anyway. I still had a full bidon and didn't know how full the camelbak was. The 17km climb was tough but I just did it at my own pace. Passed one on the climb and caught two more right at the very top. I'm not so strong on the steep stuff but on the mild false flats I can make rapid progress.

I hung with Nick and I think a Scott and struggled up the last 2km of the climb. The downhill started and I knew we were close to the end. I struggled to stay with Nick on the downhill and wondered what size front chain ring he had. There was a small flat piece on gravel and I stuck the boot in as a tester and they were off. We hit the last 5-6km Tarmac descent down switchback which was fun and fantastic. Nick gave chase and i could see him on some of the switchbacks. Turns out Nick has a 42 and me a 38 so happy with that. Got a minute on him in the last 5 km.

I managed to roll in at 12th place and was fairly happy. Body still feels in good shape and I didn't extend myself to much. I passed Danny in the GC but he gets six minutes head start each day so it will be tough to keep that.

Tomorrow should be easier and we are going through a small village called Monsanto. Awesome place and remember it from last year. Big hill surrounded by flats with a roman road up and down through it.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Trans Portugal, DAY 2, FREIXO - GUARDA

FREIXO - GUARDA, 5th May 2013

Length -110km
Climbing - 2892Metres
Weather - Warm and sunny
Stage Place - 11th (10th actually)
Overall Place - 10th

Wow what a day. We started at 10am and hit the small steep climb by the start line. By the first little climb a few kilometres later there was just three of us. Marco, Adam and myself. We took it steady till the technical gorge that was at 10km. Marco bombed down the hill followed by Adam and then me. We caught and passed loads. Quite a few walking and a few shredded tyres in the side. Adam was a bit sketchy and nearly went over the bars a few times. After the third or four heart stopping moment I passed him. Had a good run down after this and we caught what was left of the bunch in front of us at the start of the climb. (Walk)

We regrouped at the top. Marco, Rodrigo, Danny and me and headed off down the road. Next big climb was at 18km and Marco departed from us. Adam passed the three of us on the climb and we let him go never to be seen again. Myself and Dan took turns and Rodrigo was struggling a bit. We rode at a nice pace without stressing ourselves too much. Michael caught us at about 30km and rode with us.

At the top of a pretty nasty climb we stopped for water. I'd purposely only carried a litre in the camelbak just to make this point. All the major climbing was over before this so no point lugging extra kilos up a hill. Michiel didn't stop so we lost him here.

At about 65 km there was another castle and we lost Rodrigo here. Eventually drifted off the back. Myself and Danny just took long turns on the front each and rode within ourselves. It was great and I really enjoyed it. Pushing but without the huge stress. Some where here a rider barrelled past us and promptly turned the wrong way. We caught him again before he rode off again and we watched him go the wrong way again. We found out that he had stopped and had to ask for assistance to get a new pedal. Since we knew this we let him go and he only finished a few minutes in front of us.

Myself and Danny just rode on till the finish together. We caught 2-3 riders in the last 10 km. The last rider we saw was Francisco and we were about 30 metres behind him Danny yelled "Francisco we are coming". The startled rabbit looked back saw us and took off. We chased for 7km and finished 20 metres behind him.

Officially Danny was 9th and I was 11th. I was actually 10th but they confused the two Malcolm's. No big deal as we get the same time anyway.

So I've moved up to 10th in GC and one place behind Danny. Tomorrow is the climbing day...happy with today and we didn't push so much so hoping I will feel fresh for a big day tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Trans Portugal, DAY 1, BRAGANÇA - FREIXO

 BRAGANÇA - FREIXO, 4th May 2013

Length -142km
Climbing - 3842Metres
Weather - Warm and sunny. 27 degrees
Stage Place - 12th
Overall Place - 12th

Lovely day today. We started at 9am on the dot and the pace was fairly fast to begin with. A big hill that was 5km long at 6km was enough to split our group up completely. Marco looked like he was out for a Sunday ride and 3-4 of us were sitting on his wheel. My heart rate was 10 beats higher than normal but I felt good. Decided to play safe and let them go as there's many more days to come.

I was on fire after this and caught and passed loads. I caught Rodrigo from the 7 min group somewhere near 30km and encouraged him to sit on my wheel but I turned back he was gone. Then Dan was next and he was not happy. His Garmin had flown off the bike never to be seen again. (Actually found many hours later by another group !!!) He now had no idea on the course route. The penalty for not turning in your GPS route is 30 min per KM I think. Fortunately he was recording with a second device. I rode with Dan yelling instructions about turns till the next check point. Dan stopped to ask what to do and they said just carry on. A faster guy came through after this and strong man Dan jumped with him instead of me.

I'd felt fine on my own but with Dan I felt like rubbish. My guts ached something and I was obviously just not comfortable. After this I eased up, ate a bit and tried just to keep the pace up. I rode from the 2nd checkpoint at maybe 60km completely on my own. Filled the camelbak at 93km and toughed it out. I think from maybe 70 km I passed two more people and that was it. A bit worried that I just wasn't travelling fast enough.

The last 20km dragged but at the finish I was 12th. I was only a few minutes behind Dan too. I think last year I was mid twenties so got to be happy with that. No dramas with the bike today so this is good too. Hopefully I've not given to much in the first day but guess we will find out tomorrow.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Trans Portugal , Day 0

Well, I'm sitting quietly having a beer in the sunshine. Not nearly as stressed as the same time last year. The travelling here was not so bad and the weather forecast for the coming week looks very good. 20-30 degrees with sunshine everyday. I remembered the sunscreen this year as well.

Lots of people this year from all sorts of places. The biggest are the locals and the South African's again. All the riders look skinny and very fit and ready to race. Special effort from Edgar who is 15 kilos lighter than last year. in fact the few riders that did last year are all a few kgs lighter. Lots of very nice bikes and Specialized Epic Sworks seem to be the bike of choice again. Lots of talk of who's good but no one really knows till tomorrow.

My bike seems good and fingers crossed no issues with it. Decided to run two GPSs on it again this year just to be on the safe side.

It's very nice to catch up with people that you met last year and you will remain lifelong friends with. Very relaxing actually and good friendly chat wherever you go. Great meals for lunch and dinner and I'm currently overdosing on too much bread and fish.

I start at 9am tomorrow which is an one hour 20 mins behind the first starter. We'll have to chase each day again to see those in front. Fingers crossed all goes well and I stay relaxed. Being physically stressed means the mind does some crazy things and I hope not to repeat some of last years mistakes.

Time for a big dinner and a big sleep !!!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The great winter weight loss...

I'm not one to really think to much about weight. Even if the wife does think I'm obsessed by it. Just because I weigh myself at least once a week!

My bike last year was approx 12 kilos so if I was going to get a new one it had to be faster. Part of that included the weight. Not really sure how you judge speed but I guess if it feels quicker and the stop watch says its quicker I must be on the right track. So the new bike is 11kg and if I swapped a few more parts I could maybe loose 1/2 a kilo more. However to save that 1/2 kilo means a new cassette, a new seat post, a new seat and different tyres and then thats at least 500 euros gone. Going to leave the bike as is until bits wear out.

I also looked at what I carried during Trans Portugal last year and how much I actually used. I brought a new camelbak, new bike tool and new pump. Just those saved nearly 500 grams on the same items and it was only just over 100 euros.

Then I guess there is me. I was a bit of a porker a few years ago and weighed 93 kg at my peak. I returned to cycling at approx 80kg two and a half years ago and watched my weight drop. I had a goal to be 68kg for Trans Portugal in 2012 and if I hit 70 kg I would be happy. Getting to 73kg was fairly easy and in Jan 2012 I weighed in at this. By May I was right on 69kg and very happy.

Ride fat boy ride...(circa 2003)

This year I had to target a bit lower and have gone for 67kg. The good news is I'm almost there. It was easier of course as I was starting at my winter weight of 73kg rather than 80kg. I've tried to eat well and just cut the crap from my diet. Doesn't always work of course and I'm worried I'm eating muscle of my body rather than the fat. However the only real way to tell is get my power measured and with the price in Switzerland for this it will have to wait. It's to late now to change much anyway.

Also speaking of weight, one of the things I've done differently is to always carry two or three extra kilos with me home from work each day. I live at the top of a hill so have to ride up and typically do close on 500 metres of climbing each ride. That includes the 500 metres down in the morning !!! I'm hoping this simulates having to carry a camelbak for TP. It also makes the weekend rides that are much longer so much easier without the extra weight.

So all up I think I'll be carrying about 3.5 kgs less this year. I'm hoping that the 5-10% that I was behind on the hills will be the difference this year and I can stick with the faster guys.

A bit skinnier in 2012
Now just to make sure I don't lose focus in the next four weeks !!!

Paris-Roubaix 2013

Smile for the camera
I rode this last year and had a blast. It was the day after Tour of Flanders which meant I'd ridden 260km on Saturday at a fairly quick speed and had 155km on Sunday over cobbles. It was a race and on closed roads. I was trying to get to one of the classics this year and had unfinished business with Leige Bastion Leige. ( the weather was horrible in 2012). No cheap flights to Nederlands and a per chance conversation with Adan who I met at last years Paris Roubaix meant a flight to Brussels to go back and ride again.

A change since last year means its a sportive rather than a race. So no closed roads and police motorbikes escorting you through town and villages and yellow Mavic cars with wheels. It also means that because of this why do the long event and have to worry about a car 180km away one your done riding your bike.

We left Brussels at 5am for the quick trip and it was still dark getting our numbers. Not to many people about and just starting to get light. A rather cold grey day and had to wear my warmest clothes again. The first 50km was completely uneventful and nothing but a cold grey day and a bit of wind. Not even a single cobble.

We knew we were near the Arenberg forest but we turned right and bang we were on the pave...Adan flew past me and I started to wonder what the noise was from the front of the bike. That would be the rim hitting the cobbles quite hard. I think it lasted till the bridge about 300 metres in and realised that the front was flat. It wasn't till I stopped that I noticed back was flat too. I think I rode through the only photo point with two flat tyres...

Only one flat at this point.  The next one must have happened within the next 50 meters...
 Lots of cursing and swearing I swapped both tubes with numb hands and got on my way again. 25 mins lost to pinch flats. Adan came back to look for me and I rode with him. I took the 2nd set of cobbles very slowly knowing that I did not have enough air in my tyres. We stopped at the next feed stop and I borrowed the Mavic pump and brought two more tubes. I made sure that I put more air in the tyres than I had at the start.  I found out later I was using the same prseeure as Canceralla which just shows clinchers are rubbish on rough roads...

I guess there was not a lot to report after this. Big cobbles, small cobbles, huge hunks out of the roads in places and a lot of hard work. Cue a normal road just so you can regain some feeling in your hands before hitting the cobbles again. I'm still amazed a road bike and take such punishment and be OK to ride afterwards.

I left Adan at maybe 110km and set off to pursue Stein. Didn't think I'd catch him but worth a shot. Cue the last 30 km going at near top speed and passing a lot of riders. Finished in good shape and didn't have anyone sitting on me like last year.

All in all a good day. Preferred the year before when it was a point to point race and the roads were closed. It just made a more complete course and because it was a race you were inclined to put more effort in. I'd also forgotten how hard the cobbles are and especially the great flat plains with crosswinds. The biggest disappointment was just how many mountain bikes there were. It's a road race you numpties!!! Get a road bike or stay off the sacred Roubaix roads.

The track.  A happy hunting ground in my youth...
On Sunday back near Brussels we went for a lovely 50km relaxed ride. Awesome time had and I've never seen so many riders out on bikes. Apparently that was a quiet day. Finishing at 11am was a novelty and then two Belgium Trappist beers before lunch was a luxury.

Many thanks to Adan and family and Stein for hosting me and having such an awesome weekend.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

This years bike...

Isn't she pretty?
Well I've been feely lucky recently.  Got my last road bike in August 2010 and Now I have a new 2013 MTB.  My previous MTB was from 2004 and is just very worn.  The agreement with the wife was to ride the existing MTB in Trans Portugal 2012 and make sure I enjoyed it before splashing the cash on the right sort of bike for that race.

The twins.  Why do I always get black bikes?
Looked a round a lot at the various bikes and to be honest there's not a huge choice of high end race bikes.  I'm not one to buy the most expensive but prefer something with good specs.  Seems to be a trend with a lot of Manufacturers to have an uber expensive top end bike and then much much cheaper bikes.  Also for some reason a lot of "race" 29ers are starting to have 120mm front and rear.  I also did the debate over hard tail or FS but I am a softy so when for the Full suspension in the end.  I've never ridden a hard tail and I'm nearly forty so why start now?

So I brought an Epic Marathon...OK a bit predictable but they are popular

Bike will be completely stock except for XTR pedals and I've swapped to Maxxis tyres today.  Weighs in at about 11kG which is a good kilo off my old one.  I've also ordered bigger front chain ring as I felt the 38x11 was a little on the small side.  Gone for the 39x26 combo instead of 38x24

I've done nearly 1000km on it and I must say it's superb.  Easier to get the same position as my road bike.  A little higher of the ground takes some getting used to.  Brakes are a little noisy with moisture on them.  Wheels have take a hammering already in deep snow.  Happy with my purchase and it feels oh so much faster.  Much easier to ride up technical sections.  I rode sections that I just could not do on my 26er and half way up I'm in disbelief that I'm still riding.

Looking forward to spending multiple days on it in sunny May !!!

The winter that was (is)?

Well...Where does one start?  It's been a long winter and I'm not sure it's done yet.  It's Easter Weekend and we have had snow again overnight.  There was a faint Glimmer of hope about 2 weeks ago where I think we made double digit temperatures for the first time since December for about a week but that's rapidly been replaced by cold weather again...
Choose the wrong bike.  Cue a slow ride down wishing for better brakes

I've managed to do OK training wise.  It's been hard and my hours are certainly down on last year.  I'm hoping that's a good thing but I've also been doing 10 times the amount of climbing from last year.  I've found the riding more physically exhausting here in Switzerland.  There really is nowhere flat to just chill out and ride.  Even riding around a lake involves hills of some sort.  It certainly takes mental strength to get on the bike and ride.

Ploughed road in the middle of nowhere
In the early part of the season I got out on the MTB a fair bit but post January there was and still is too much snow.  It's fine up to about 850 Metres and then it's just impassable.  The good news is almost all Tarmac is ploughed and they do a fairly good job of it.  Almost all the main roads are completely clear and the B rides as well.  Some of the remote roads are ploughed but still left with packed snow on them.  As long at the snow is only about 10 cm deep it's fine.  Otherwise cue lots of walking.
At nearly 1300 Metres.  It was warm at 8 degress

So I've mainly been on the road bike.  It's ridden through quite a few snow storms and been up three of Switzerland's highest passes in winter.  Snow banks that are 2-3 metres high at the side of the road are amazing.  I actually don't mind the cold and the snow but hate the cold and wet.  I worry about the grip but have been astonished at how well they look after the roads here   I'm also amazed at Continental GP 4 Season tyres.  They rock.  The bikes been so dirty and filthy and I've ridden two through to the canvas and they just grip.

The Ice Wheel.  -5 and snowing but snow melted when hit the salted road. Anything that sprayed frooze.
Yes I have fallen off too.  Twice to be exact and both times in the dark and in snow.  This year I smashed up my left shoulder and got very cold very quickly riding home.  Feared the wost that I'd done the collar bone but wasn't so bad once I got home and was warm.  Lost the front wheel at 28.6km/h on the MTB.  Snow covered road and I guess Ice underneath.  Slide maybe 20-30 metres down the road on my knees and elbows.  Six weeks physio and almost back to normal.  The other crash was just one of those where I couldn't tell the road from footpath.  Got the wheel into the curb and couldn't get out.

Lets hope Winter ends soon...The first month of sping is nearly over !!!

Deep snow. Means lots of walking...