In this post I give some tips on how to select your next sportive event.
If you’ve never ridden a sportive, but you’d like to, this guide should help you select the right one to start with – one that you’ll finish, enjoy, and which can lead on to bigger and better (longer and higher) things.
This guide should also provide advice if you’ve done one or two sportives but you want to take things to the next level. I give some thoughts on how to push yourself, without going crazy…
If you’ve already done loads of sportives before, some of this may seem like teaching grandmother to suck inner tubes. Feel free to ignore if you wish, or you can always keep on reading and leave your own advice in the comments below.
You might have noticed a distinct lack of new posts from the Grimpeur over the past 10 days. The reason? Like Bradley Wiggins, I’ve been on a mid-season training camp in Majorca. Or as my wife calls it, our family summer holiday.
The holiday was an extended family affair. As well as Les Petits Grimpeurs (?!), we also had my parents, and my sister and her fiancé along for the ride.
I’ll admit, I exerted Merckx-iavellian influence to ensure that we went to a cycle-friendly location and booked my bike hire a good four weeks before arranging the rental car, but I didn’t truly expect to have the opportunity to do lots of training.
My persistent knee problems, which I talked about in my posts about buying a new bike and undertaking a professional bike fit, have tended to prevent consistent blocks of training. Despite having rented a bike for 8 of the 10 days of our holiday, I anticipated maybe 2 or 3 rides, with knee-enforced rest in between.
How wrong I was. And, thankfully, wrong in a good way.
I am in no doubt that employing a cycling coach would lead to an exponential improvement in my performance on the bike. Yet, whilst I frequently consider hypothetical scenarios for spending thousands of pounds to ‘build out’ my portfolio of bikes, I have tended to dismiss coaching as being too expensive or in some way not for me.
Today’s post comes in the form of guest submission from professional cyclist and coach Tomás Metcalfe. Tomás is going to present the case for why recreational riders should consider employing a cycling coach. If you want more information, or to contact Tomás, his website is at SwiftMomentumSports.com.
Without further ado, over to Tomás.
A Cycling Coach Will Help You Learn To Be An Athlete
I’m Tomás Metcalfe, a professional cyclist. I’ve been riding professionally for six years and started coaching two years ago.
I used to be coached by Martin Yelling, who had been British Duathlon Champion and had a Phd in Sport Science: better coaches than this are hard to find. In fact, it was thanks to meeting him that I was able to learn how to be an athlete.
Within a year I became an elite duathlete, winning most of the races I entered. Two year later I was a pro cyclist. Before that I was just a student on a £500 bike.
I have been fortunate to pass on what I have learnt to others. I coached Richie Felle in the run up to becoming an Irish elite mountain biking champion and helped Conor Murphy learn what it takes to turn pro at a training camp three years ago. Both talented guys who needed to see what it takes to be an athlete.
No Crazy Training, No Sacrifice, Just a Methodical Approach to Sport
A coach has a more objective view of your performance and is purely motivated in making you better (if he’s any good).
When you’re training yourself, you’ll be battling with your inner voice one way or another: “I should train more”, “I don’t feel like training”. You may well admit that you just don’t know what you’re doing.
Invest In Your Most Important Piece of Equipment – You!
Have you ever seen guys on a pair of £1000 carbon wheels for training, yet have a beer gut?
Coaching offers value for money versus other investments in sport because it makes you better, not your bike. Tune up the engine, then the chassis.
A gym is a great way to get fit – the investment guilts you into going to train. It’s the same for cycling coaching, except it’s tailored to you, the cyclist, not the average gym-goer.
Employing a coach means that you won’t commit easily-avoidable mistakes. Your coach will have seem them (and maybe committed them) all before.
Your Coach Doesn’t Need To Be There In Person
Training can be delivered many different ways: remotely, face to face, or a mixture of both.
Athletes do not need to have their hand held the entire way, but the occasional meeting is very useful. Data from races, tests and hard efforts is very important and it comes down to the athlete to supply the right info and train as per their training plan.
I’ve had most success meeting people in the flesh, then continuing their training via my website, e-mail and Skype.
Arguably, remote training is more challenging for the coach (although it’s a challenge I accept willingly!). The hardest thing to do remotely is understand someone’s motivation (intrinsic or extrinsic) and help set realistic goals. It produces good results, it just takes a bit longer to identify and weed out the factors negatively affecting performance.
Why Should You Consider Employing a Cycling Coach
The benefits of coaching come in three main forms:
Physical: you become stronger, faster, healthier.
Motivational: you’re encouraged to train better.
Pedagogic: you learn about the you sport at a far quicker rate than going through the process of having to make all the mistakes yourself.
Essentially the quality of a training system comes down to assessing and explaining training levels so that people train optimally.
Coaching Won’t Work Miracles … But Large Improvements Are Possible
Beginners have the most to gain. If you want to make significant gains in your cycling performance, then the focused input of a coach will help you climb the steep learning curve far quicker than if you were to do so yourself.
I recommend that you speak to a coach (and I’d be delighted if you would like to speak to me) and ask what they can do to help you achieve your objectives.
Over To You
I’m back (the Grimpeur). As part of his website mentioned above, Tomás writes a training blog, which can be found here.
So what do you think? Have you considered using a coach?
Are you already using one and, if so, what have been your experiences?
There is only so much progress you can make in your quest for cycle fitness simply by riding further and for longer.
At a certain point, your training will need to become more structured and specific, if you want to maximise your performance at whatever cycling challenge you have set yourself (and by ‘your’, I of course mean ‘my’).
In this post I will identify the resources that you can use either to find a suitable training plan (be that prêt-à-porter or bespoke) or, alternatively, to learn the fundamentals of training, such that you can attempt to build your own.
Readers of my blog will know that I talk a good game. I’ve talked about the cycling event that I’m doing. I’ve analysed the route. I’ve talked a bit about how I’ve broken the challenge down into its constituent parts.
But where, you might ask, is the evidence that I’ve actually DONE anything?
Motivation this, crippling fears that. That’s all fine, but we all need to train for whatever cycling challenge we are undertaking (well I do at least).
What training have I done? Well, I’m going to tell you. In this post. Perhaps the title gave it away.
Objectives (or, in this case, objective)
Apparently, objectives should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely (i.e. set to be achieved within a given time frame).
My objective for this phase of my training, which is to DO MORE CYCLING, only meets some of these criteria, and then only in a loose sense.
I think the setting of effective objectives will improve my riding and my satisfaction with the process. I will return to this topic in future posts.
So have I done MORE CYCLING?
Training stats (everyone loves a good set of training stats, don’t they?)
Well, actually yes, I have been doing quite a bit of cycling.
Here are my summary ride statistics. Prepare yourself for a VERY funky table.
I know. I know. Some of you do those sorts of numbers in one or two rides. But I don’t.
I have been aiming to ride consistently (i.e. every 2-3 days), to increase the length of my ‘longer rides’ and to include more climbing (okay, I did have some sub-objectives after all).
Even the trend is in the right direction: I’ve done more of everything in the first 15 days of March than in all of February.
I’m quite pleased with progress so far and confident that I can build upon it to go further and higher (I’m going to need to).
Things I have learnt so far
First, there is nothing like giving yourself some added motivation (when will he give it a rest about motivation?).
My main event for the year (RideLondon) is in August. Five months felt like a long way off (even though realistically it isn’t), so I signed up for another sportive in the meantime – the Igloo Peak District Cyclosportive (short) on Sunday 14th April.
Whilst the short course is ‘only’ 68.7 km (42.6 miles), it features 1,359 m (4,458 ft) of ascent. That’s about the same amount of climbing as the RideLondon event. Needless to say, with this potential cycling disaster on the near-term horizon, I have been motivated to get out on the bike and climb.
Second learning point: it’s worth the effort to take your bike on holiday with you (within reason – it’s not going to be much use on a cruise or a Las Vegas gambling trip).
Last week we went on holiday-cum-random-trip-around-England-to-see-friends-and-family. I took the bike. I enjoyed a change in cycling scenery whilst there were other people around to distract the children and not place all the burden of my absence on my wife.
The cost of all that extra petrol consumed by having a bike strapped to the roof of our petit Golf meant I had to use the damn thing.
I did use it – three times, two of which were pretty substantial rides (again, for me).
What do I need to do next?
Buy a new bike.
This is not what I will ACTUALLY do next. But if we’re talking about the first ‘need’ that pops into my head, then it is a new bike. Since this is not happening any time soon, we’ll move swiftly on.
My serious objective (which, I’m afraid to say it, is still not SMART) is to continue riding at this level of frequency for the remainder of March and early April.
Famille Grimpeur are in the process of moving all most of our worldly possessions from south east London to Ashbourne in Derbyshire.
Readers of this blog will know that this is due to my decision to start taking my riding seriously and to try to break into the pro ranks. At 33 (and, more importantly, with my natural level of fitness) it’s going to be a tall order, but Jens Voigt is still doing it at 40+, so I think I have 6 or 7 good seasons left in me.
With all the organisation of the move, plus the bonfire of the vanities that I intend to hold to eliminate 50% of my wife’s possessions, time for riding will be limited. I need to maintain my current volume and frequency of riding and do what I can to reduce the pain in April’s Peak District Sportive (gulp).
Finally, as weather conditions improve (ha!), I need to clean my bike. I should probably have been doing this throughout the winter but… er… haven’t.
It (she?) has been running like a relative dream (for a cheap Dawes road bike and if you ignore the annoying rustle of my inexpertly-fitted mud guards) ever since I had to buy a new set of wheels before Christmas (now there’s a story of (my own) incompetence and folly). I also washed it thoroughly at about the same time. It would be nice if it could stay this way, rather than revert to its previous squeak and grind soundtrack.
That’s probably enough now….
I appreciate that some of you are not that interested in reading about my inadequate training ‘regime’. Unfortunately that is not going to stop me writing more posts on the topic. Neo-sportive riders that are reading this blog can at least see there is someone else in the same boat (and probably one with more leaks).
Please like me
I would really love any feedback. Let me know what I can do better – you can leave a comment below.
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It’s March and the weather is improving (supposedly).
You’re considering getting the bike out of the garage/shed/cupboard.
(What, you mean you haven’t spent the winter amassing base miles and doing interval sessions on the turbo trainer?)
Now that you’ve got the bike all ready to go, do you want a surefire way to avoid the ‘its slightly damp, I’ll stay inside’ attitude?
Of course you do.
And the good news is that it is can be achieved in 3 EASY STEPS:
1. Pour your alcoholic beverage of choice
2. Open your wallet and your Internet browser
3. Sign up for a sportive
A word on drink and the commitment to undertake future physical challenges
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]”Ah, push it – push it good; Ah, push it – p-push it real good” – Salt ‘n’ Pepa[/quote]It would probably be sensible to ignore instruction 1 if the sun hasn’t yet passed the yard arm.
Otherwise, alcohol is a recognised motivational aid, encouraging you to sign up for the event that is just beyond your current capabilities.
This then provides the fear. When you are sober, it is the fear that provides the primary motivation.
A second word on drink and the commitment to undertake future physical challenges
Do not drink too much. You might find you have entered for the Race Across America.
Do I practice what I preach?
Kingston-upon-Hull yeah! Of course I do.
I’ve signed up to one of the sportives mentioned below, in order to give myself that extra bit of focus over the next month or so.
You’ll have to read through them to see which one…. (hint: it’s the shortest)
Six UK sportives you could enter right now (along with some interesting associated facts)
Peak District – Eastern Moors Sportive
When: Sunday 14th April 2013
Why: There is a lot of climbing packed into a relatively short route (at least in the case of the 43-mile shorter route); because the Grimpeur Heureux will be riding!
Interesting fact: The Crystal Palace was originally built in Hyde Park. It was only after the Great Exhibition finished that it was taken down and rebuilt in south-east London. For some reason, Crystal Palace FC play in Croydon…
When: 8th September 2013
Why: You want a big event that is going to focus your training throughout the summer; it’s a closed road event, so all you have to worry about is getting around the course
I am now officially signed up to RideLondon. As I said in this post, I have a place to ride with Macmillan, the cancer support charity, on the proviso that I raise a lot of money for them.
The event (which is now called the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100) takes place on Sunday 4th August. This is a 163 days away, which starts to sound quite worrying.
As suggested by the name of the event, the course is 100 miles long. It starts at the Olympic park in East London, cuts straight through the central London to Chiswick, then heads south-west for a loop through the Surrey countryside.
The ‘highlight’ will be the ascent of Box Hill, which occurs approximately two thirds of the way around the Surrey loop. Then it is back through south west London, crossing the river at Putney and a sprint finish on the Mall.
All the roads for the event will be closed to all vehicles other than the participating cyclists, which is going to be awesome. I am familiar with some of the roads through central London and the south-west of the city and, to be honest, they can be miserable for cyclists. Without cars, lorries and buses however, these roads could turn into the event’s saving grace for me. They are generally flat and wide, and therefore fast. If all the roads for the event were country roads winding up and down hills, there is no way I’d be able to do 100 miles in the allotted time.
I’ll do a more in-depth piece on the route in due course, using the pro team method (Google Earth).
What I need to do on the day
In order to enter the event, you have to be able to complete the 100-mile route in 9 hours. I have said I’ll do it in 7 hours 50 minutes (on my original ballot entry I said 7hrs 30, but decided to be a bit more realistic).
I could have said a target time of 9 hours, but I’ve heard from friends that have done Etape-style events on the continent that that just means you start late, just in front to the broom wagon (the car that will tell you to stop if you’re not going to come in under the time). If this is to be the case here, I’d like to give myself a bit of a cushion.
I’m afraid we’re going to have to do a bit of imperial-metric gymnastics here, mainly since my Strava shows metric data (but also because, if you’re a serious cyclist, you must always think in metric).
One hundred miles translates to just under 161 kilometres. If we ignore stops for food and ‘comfort breaks’, to finish in under 9 hours, I need to average a speed of 17.9 km/h.
For a finish time of 7 hours 50 minutes, on the same non-stop basis, that average speed needs to kick up to 20.55 km/h.
I’m a pretty slow cyclist (for all that I go on about it). My average speed of late is around 22 km/h. But that is for rides of between 25 km and 35 km (16 – 22 miles). On the day, I’ll need to keep going for 5 or 6 times longer, as well as factoring in time to eat (and to sob gently to myself in a hedge).
What I need to do before the day
It’s pretty obvious. I will need to train.
I will need to work up to these sorts of distances slowly. Going all guns blazing over Christmas caused pain in my knee that only feels now like it’s settling down. I need a training plan, with objectives and ‘deliverables’ and all sorts of other grown-up concepts.
I will attempt to come up with a sensible training plan in the next few weeks. I will certainly share it on this blog.
I will also be sharing my progress towards the goal. I don’t think I’ll be posting all my Strava data here (unless I can think of how to present it in a non-tedious fashion). If you do want to see it (in real time!), you can follow me on Strava.
Are you doing RideLondon?
If you are signed up to do RideLondon, or are doing any other sportives this year, I would love to hear about your targets and preparations.
I am also prepared to accept comments and suggestions from triathletes.
This blog is meant to be about cycling. And happiness. Me cycling. Me being happy whilst cycling.
The problem is, there hasn’t been much cycling to speak of. The year started well, and here I’m going to be generous to myself by including December 29th and 30th as honorary members of 2013.
Those two days, as well as January 1st itself, saw 3 reasonable rides (for me) around God’s own county and the location of the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France (t’ Tour). That would be Yorkshire, incidentally.
I was particularly pleased with these rides because:
getting my bike in working order had been a MASSIVE hassle in the 10 days running up to Christmas, involving numerous trips to bike shops, multiple tools and components purchased hastily on the internet and the “investment” in a brand new set of wheels;
I had transported the bike and all my super s3xy lycra kit all the way up the A1 from south-east London (presumably I could have bought a new bike for all the additional petrol-consuming wind resistance from having my steed lodged proudly upon the roof rack);
It p1ssed it down for two of the days and it was nut-crackingly cold for the New Year’s Day ride (but beautifully sunny – you can’t have it all).
I was not pleased with these rides because, as ever, my youthful enthusiasm (ahem) had caused me to rush in too quickly. Going from nothing to hypothermic uber-training with a body that is not as young as I would like simply caused my knee pain (which had previously only been a problem for running) to flare up.
I would, of course, like to claim that I acted the responsible athlete and hence did not rush back to the bike too soon. But I’d be lying (about the responsible athlete bit; I certainly didn’t rush back to the bike).
In actual fact, I may have done the right thing: I did a few small (read tiny, as in to-the-park-and-back tiny) rides with Petite Grimpeuse in the child seat. I did one session that I could call, rather grandly, hill repeats (but then have to admit that I only climbed the main hill once). Otherwise I ‘rested my knee’.
But the truth is, I did not find myself with face rested dolefully upon the window pane (with a little dribble of drool representing a metaphorical teardrop), wishing that my knee would fix itself. I did not mope around my house wearing the Campagnolo cycling top that I got for Christmas from my sister (thank you!). I simply wimped out.
Grey clouds? Hmm, looks like it will rain then. Better stay in. Clear skies and sunshine. There’ll be ice on the Kent roads. Surely better to stay in than risk breaking a collar bone. A breath of wind? I’m no stocky rouleur, it’ll blow me over.
I was glad when it snowed because at least then I didn’t have to lie to myself. No one without a mountain or cyclocross bike (and I don’t own either) goes out in that sort of weather.
So the real cycling hero in our house this month (and indeed this year) is my son, Mini Grimpeur. Despite being only four, and in the midst of all this glorious (terrible) winter weather, he might well have spent as long cycling as I have. And with a bigger smile on his face.
And to top all that off, he cycles in the snow, showing no fear. Chapeau!