They say “Third time lucky, third time unlucky”. I set myself 3 targets for my mountain biking this year and I’ve already accomplished 2 of them, but will I be unlucky with my third? I didn’t seem to be doing enough training for the first challenge, a ride of 40 off road miles with 4,500 feet of ascent. I used my base fitness to achieve the target and it didn’t take me to my limit of stamina. The second target was a downhill sprint so was more about getting the bike round the slippery corners and other challenging ground. I made it with seconds to spare which left just one other target to beat. Last year I lapped a circuit early in the year in 14 minutes and 32 seconds. My fastest time by any rider gained me the “King of the Mountains” title on the app. Strava but this was well beaten by my rival “O”, who circulated in 13 minutes 59 seconds. I felt I had the beating of this time but then heard that O had been injured in a road riding accident which convinced me that I should not try for the time. Instead I lapped 4 times in 57 minutes and 58 seconds, an average of 14 minutes 29.5 per lap. This year I was determined to regain the crown.
My activity on the bike has remained lacklustre so I haven’t exactly given myself the best chance and in my only serious attempt at a fast lap I managed a poor 15 minutes and 10 seconds. I wanted to get some training in before another attempt but we currently have a window of perfect weather, with bone dry ground, so there really isn’t time to train. Today I wanted to ride 3 laps of the circuit to get the feel of things and find how well a different bike would perform. I blamed the newly fitted rear tyre on my Boardman FS Pro for slowing me down. It not only weighs as much as twice the weight of some other tyres but it has big, sharp tread blocks which must cause drag. I chose instead to ride my 2004 vintage Whyte JW4 which is substantially lighter and has tyres which surely can’t drag as much. Today was never going to be an attempt at the target so I rode to the area to begin my first lap.
The Whyte JW4 is a less downhill oriented bike than the Boardman but on this lap the downhill sections aren’t too severe so it copes well. I descended at a similar rate to my last time but made a route finding mistake on the first climb. this saved me around 40 seconds but I lost 10 seconds by using an alternative to the usual descent which follows. I climbed at a rate where I felt sure that I wouldn’t exhaust myself in 3 laps and finished in 14 minutes 47 seconds. This was slightly encouraging because although I was far from maximising my effort I was, considering my different route, only about 7 seconds slower than on my last attempt, which tends to justify riding the Whyte. Still, I was nowhere near as good as I’d been on my 4 laps last year.
I reached the start/finish and continued for 2 more laps, which were each slower than lap 1. A useful feature of Strava is that it allows you to analyse your riding to death! I can tell that, compared to previous years, I’m losing time on the climbs, not the descents. With full commitment on a single fast lap I need to find over a minute of improvement. Is this possible? I’ll be able to let you know sooner than I would have liked because we are likely to get rain on Friday so in 2 days time I’ll have to try for the target. I’m not very confident but will give it my best using mainly fierce determination to get me around as fast as possible. On the way home my gear change was acting strangely so I stopped to inspect only to find a crack in the replaceable gear hanger. I rode home gingerly and must have knocked the mech. against something on my way through the garage back at home because the mech. had completely parted company. Fortunately I was carrying a spare which I can fit before Thursday.
Lucky that didn’t part ways mid hot lap!
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