Facing a big challenge.

In January I set myself 2 targets for the year and added another later. I have accomplished 2 of the targets so far in the form of a downhill sprint, where I wanted to beat the fastest ever time on the app. Strava, and an off road ride of over 40 miles with over 4,500 feet of ascent. The final challenge left was another Strava segment which is a circuit, 2.4 miles in length. It begins with a gentle but fast downhill gradient, passes through some more twisty parts and then starts to climb steeply. After a steeper and fun, twisty downhill with jumps is a flat section before the long climb to a level sprint finish. I swapped the fastest ever time with “O”, who I’m acquainted with only through Strava, but lost my King of the Mountains title to him last year. He beat my 14 minutes 32 seconds with a time a few seconds quicker but was then injured in a road bike riding accident. I decided not to take his title back whilst he was unable to compete but instead rode 4 laps in 57 minutes and 58 seconds or under 14 minutes 30 per lap. I’d forgotten to start Strava for this ride, so it was only recorded on my stopwatch. “O” rode a lap later in the year at a new record of 13 minutes 59 so this was my target for this year.

I don’t feel as if I’ve ridden as much this year as last so don’t believe I am quite as fit but if I rode 4 laps so fast last year then surely a single lap in under 14 minutes would still be possible? I rode a lap in January in 15 minutes 53 when the ground was presumably wet and hence slow and after succeeding with my other 2 challenges attempted a fast though perhaps not full out lap in July. My time of 15 minutes 10 seconds was not good. I blamed a recently fitted, heavy and chunky treaded rear tyre and resolved to make further attempts on my 2004 vintage Whyte JW4 with narrower 26″ tyres. 2 days ago I rode 3 laps at a fast but not flat out pace to test the bike and would have liked to get some targeted training in before a final attempt. Unfortunately this is Northern England and the dry ground is likely to be ruined by rain tomorrow. I had to ride today and wasn’t very confident of success.

I was ready by 7.30 am when I expected the trail to be deserted and rode slowly to the start. I worked hard on the downhill and despite some rough stones having been laid on one section, which must cost me 10 seconds, I was fast to the first low point. I took 1 minute 39 to climb up to the next high point and can see that this was 9 seconds slower than on my fastest previous circuit. I reached the final, long climb in just about as fast a time as my previous best but finished in 15 minutes 19 on the stopwatch and 15 minutes 22 according to Strava. I did’t feel as if I was slow on the climb. I was working very hard and had to ease back to avoid complete exhaustion on one steep part. Either I’ve lost a lot of speed on the climbs or the surface is creating drag. I’ve achieved good times previously in damp condition but now we’re in an unusually dry period. It seems hard to believe that I’m 10 seconds per minute slower on the climbs when I felt quite strong today. I really don’t know the answer but at least I can take something positive from the experience. I know that riding less with less intent is not a good thing. I’ll be working harder on forthcoming rides because of this. I also managed to record my second fastest ever lap according to Strava, though the app. is unaware of my 4 fastest ever laps which I recorded last year in the single ride. I enjoyed the ride and left very little in the tank so I’m not downhearted.

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