"Ok Bradley, you had your turn, now let's see who someone is known as 'quads' or 'thighs' show you how it should of been done!" said me.....never....and never will do!
I actually attempted this hour record a month before Wiggo did his thing in that dome thing in East London in front of a half full crowd on his rust bucket of a Pinarello (see how I'm trying to undermine his attempt through my insults so I look better?!) so I apologise for the exaggerated intro there! @Route SurreyUK had it written down in his little black book of challenges to attempt his own hour record. His chosen route was a triangular circuit at the back of the MoD grounds in Pirbright. I have had the privilege to cycle a few of those roads and its a cycling pleasure spinning around the winding roads until you hear gunfire and you know it's not mud trickling down your legs! Ali's final distance was 20.9 miles (for those who want an average speed, see that door that's open there, if you cant shut it on your way out that would be grand!). So I had a target and a respectable one. Previously in 2014, I took a little detour to Hillingdon Cycle Circuit where I was going to re-attempt this feat this time round. That day I covered 21.3 miles, I remember having to stop at a burger van down the road to stock up on water as I was completely spent. So I was aware of the pain it can cause you when you give it the beans.
The route to Hillingdon, lets just say nothing! With no disrespect to its residents, but the roads through Southall are not exactly bike friendly. The state of the road from the train station down to the high street is like being on an Outback Safari excursion! Pothole, bump, crater, pothole, bump, crater, pothole, bump, crater was the rhythm! The traffic was quite solid so weaving around these bike killers (the road surface not motorists before anyone wants to have a pop at me because I have stated clearly in previous blogs, it's the minority of drivers and cyclists that give the majority a bad name and that's often forgotten!) was a challenge in itself. It is definitely a cultural experience making your way through Southall high street, just a small bustling 'city' which never sleeps. The circuit itself is situated at the bottom of an industrial estate surrounded by a Goals Soccer Centre and a small sports club. It forms part of Minet Country Park, think the term 'country' is over stated here though as you have the roaring A312 as your company throughout your ride. The circuit has had a few famous riders begin their road career at the track, Geraint Thomas is pictured on the billboard as you ride in and this Bradley guy people go on about, apparently he used to learn how to use his stabilisers around the circuit? (see the insults still continuing so I'm made to look good? Ever heard of an anti-climax?!).
I had 3 gels on me thanks to Ali's little find of Science in Sport's offer of buy one get one free, I had so many left the other half was pouring some over my Weetabix in the morning just to get rid of them! There was a few riders circling the track as I pulled up enjoying the autumn sun. I reset my Garmin just as it would be easier to calculate from a set time rather than do A-Level maths subtraction when I upload later. I do remember coming across an article online showing the data from previous hour record attempts that pros had attempted this year (2015) and it was proven those who pushed too hard in the first few stages paid for it greatly in the final stages which turned out to be their downfall. It also showed those who kept to their planned pace with a little bit of 'NoS' left at the end achieved the furthest distance in their 60 minutes of painful but eternal glory. I feel at this stage I need to remind you of my cycling credentials:
Raced before? Nope
High tech mega bucks bike? Nope
Sponsored by Rapha after outbidding Castelli? Nope
Followed by Sir David Brailsford who just wants an autograph? Nope
Do you have the gear and any idea? Nope
If you compare Strava leaderboards and the usual stats, I probably sit bang in the middle of them all. I can hold my own for a while and I wouldn't call myself a slouch on the hills but I am far from club racing level. I have always felt how I would fair in an amateur race and how long would it be before I am dropped and sneak off home with out telling the race stewards!
My love for cycling actually came from a mishap I had when I attempted my first and only triathlon. Triathlon was just taking off and I had been persuaded by a personal trainer at a local gym to give it a go. I had practiced in the gym on the bike, in the pool and on the treadmill and seemed to handle the demands ok. I even went far as going to the actual race venue and practicing the whole distance of all the three disciplines. It was organised by Thames Turbo and it's base was Hampton Open Air Pool. I remember it being a Bank Holiday Monday and I had my gear ready. I went to Sigma Sport and brought specific tri-kit, tight fitting vest and shorts, my first experience of lycra. The weather was apocalyptic. It rained so hard and some competitors pulled out. I decided to proceed but from the first moment to the last, I was way out of my depth on everything. I had brought a rucksack with my clothes in, everyone else brought a lovely plastic box with accompanying lid so their clothes stayed dry. School boy error number 1! I hadn't been introduced to clip in pedals so I had velcro trainers which I had now worn on the bike so much that the pedals had now left indents in the sole! School boy error number 2! I was not a strong swimmer at all so I was one of the last amateurs to go. The pool was lovely Carribean warm and there was a grimace once I started the bike in the monsoon style rain. Half a mile down the road, I realised I hadn't put my race number on so I spun back as I remember the stewards saying if you failed to put your race number on your clothing, you would be disqualified. The marshal at the transition just laughed at me when I sheepishly told him what I had done! School boy error number 3!
Despite the lashing heavy rain, I settled into a steady rhythm if you could call it that, the pros though were bombing down the opposite side of the road so it was only a matter of time till I was made out to be annoying road furniture to them! Just as I began to feel confident and somehow enjoying the whole experience, my front wheel had come away from beneath me as I rode over a slippery zebra crossing and I came crashing down on my left side skidding to a halt half spread over the kerb. I literally sat there contemplating life..... My hand was all grazed (I had no mits on!), the side of my new tri-shorts had been torn and there was a cut there too. There wasn't an inch of me that was dry and I seriously thought about making my way home. Couple of riders flew by but asked if I was ok, I gave a sorry yes. A motorbike suddenly pulled up and it was a race marshal who asked if I wanted to carry on. Maybe it was due to a bit of pride still left in my rain soaked road rash burnt body but I decided to carry on. That next 10 minutes on the bike, I was just shaking thanks to the shock of coming off and now the coldness from the rain. Only thing that perked me up was hearing the disc wheels from the pros whizz by, one day, I will own a pair. Whether I have enough money left over to actually attach them to to a frame remains to be seen! I managed to complete the triathlon but because of the rain, the official photographer was not able to capture any photos as they all came out blurry or steamed up apparently so I only have the official timings of the race as evidence (it aint pretty reading due to my many school boy errors so we will skip this bit!). I can't explain why I decided to continue the art of road cycling after this forgettable experience but I did and it has led me onto personal achievements I never thought was possible so I look back at this day as the birth of my love for the bike.
The weather for the hour attempt was sunny with a slight breeze. The country park itself is void of trees so you do get the wind whipping in from the dual carriageway and it can be sapping if you don't know where to hold back in certain places on the circuit, I had no peloton to hide behind here or a professionally regulated ultra smooth wooden surface to lap on (another Wiggo dig!). Resetting 'Gail' (see previous blog as reference!) helped as I could focus on my average speed. First 15 minutes, I was keeping it over 20mph (not a fan of km), I planned a gel every quarter hour as it would keep my energy levels topped up. I had 2 bidons on me which added weight to the bike but would level itself out towards the end once they were depleted. The circuit has 2 small bumps which are designed to stretch out the bunch in races but for me, it was a test to keep the cadence high whilst conserving energy for the final few laps. Once again like my spin around the Lee Valley Velopark road circuit, a young group of riders were using the track for a session so I had to pull the 'Popeye' pose every time I overtook them! (For the record, I don't like spinach, not sure how that's relevant to this blog!).
The average started to drop in the second half of the attempt, it could be the slight breeze on the back straight and I was pushing a little too much to over come it but I was focused on reaching a distance of 20 miles plus, anything less would be an ego hurting result. The circuit is a smidge just under a mile in length and the circuit is a joy to ride thanks to its sweeping bends and small rises in gradient. Final quarter and I could see the average dwindle just over 20mph, it was time to dig deep and push. Last gel was consumed and I attacked the small 'climbs' with more aggression trying to spin a higher gear with out pushing squares. I kept my head lower on the bars on the flats to decrease the amount of wind resistance I was meeting. Final few minutes of the ride I was in the red, could feel my eyebrows burst its banks and the sweat started to seep into my eyes which was an annoyance I could of done with out. 58...59...00 beep. I stopped 'Gail' just after the hour had passed and looked down at the total distance covered....20.9 miles! You kidding me?! Same as Ali's?!!! He'll love that!
So my hour attempt wasn't a record breaking or a friend bashing time but I take joy of an average of anything over 20mph, cycling on your own with out another rider/s to slipstream behind I feel is very respectable. This challenge though Ali and I will have to share the glory. As for Sir Bradley, if you're ever interested in getting involved in triathlon or need some knowledge of how to handle a bike hurricane racing conditions, don't call me!
*Update- Summer of 2016 we had another crack and smashed our PB by setting an average of 23mph and yes, it hurt!
'Life is like riding a bicycle. You don’t fall off unless you plan to stop pedaling'.