The blog has been very quiet for the last couple of months, that being said that doesn’t mean I have hung up my wheels and called it quits. Quite the opposite. With the many things going on and training picking up in earnest as I was getting ready for the 2014 national championships, somehow the blog was always relegated to ‘tomorrow.’ Well as the popular quote goes:
Yesterday you said: “Tomorrow.”
Today(ish), after the week of my post national championships vacation, as my legs finally feel normal(ish =) ) (i.e. not stiff and sore) and most likely 1kg (2lbs) heavier than racing weight, I am sitting down with the clear idea and motivation to catch you up with what has been going on with me – TheTallCyclist. Since I started this blog with one goal – to share my exploits in the world of (PRO) cycling as I compete against some of the best (and colorful) in the sport, the many things that happened in the last 4 months
I will post my Weekly Summary (ok more like 4 monthly summaries) of all my workouts (thankfully I am very obsessive compulsive about my training diaries=)) ) and detailed posts on the topics I mention below.
So without a further ado..the last couple of month in the world of me – TheTallCyclist
New Team and Training Schedule
Just around this time last year I joined a Bulgarian team, Tsar Simeon Plovdiv – one of the oldest teams in the country. They put me on their roster for the 2013 Tour of Bulgaria, no questions asked, ever since that point it has been a challenge (putting it mildly) to get in touch or receive any kind of support without a serious effort on my part. Granted I am self-coached and almost entirely self sufficient when it comes to training and equipment, this is not how I see a team. This, together with the 2hour drive to Plovdiv where most of the other guys live/train made me look for opportunities closer to home (Sofia). I joined KK Levski – a team formed just in 2012. It’s a small world and I already knew some of the guys so it has worked quite nicely up to now. Since the majority of my new teammates are still in school or university or are graduate students, they train together during day throughout the week, while I am at work, however, I can join them for most of the weekend big rides. I don’t see it as a disadvantage, because people tend to ease up and become too social more often than not when in groups. A negative point was that team rosters had already been sent out for all the races that happened in April/May so I was not going to get race experience until later on.
Furthermore, I got a new training schedule. The nice thing was that overall progression and type of workouts was very close to what I had planned for myself until Nationals. The major difference was for the most part the greater amount/volume/mileage. The schedule was based on distance and perceived effort (possibly heart rate), so a bit too old school, however, it was easier to translate to my power training zones. In addition the training program opened my eyes to some new ways on how to approach some of my workouts. I know I don’t know everything when it comes to training so I keep an open mind on my way to improving. It took some adjusting because training for 2-3h after working hours before daylight savings was not possible for me. Even so, I was amazed how I could handle 12-14h weeks with 450-500 weekly TSS/Bikescore one after the other (just two 6-8h 350-400TSS weeks last year would leave me sore on the couch for an extra recovery day).
I was curious how many such weeks I can sustain. Unfortunately Mother Nature curbed my enthusiasm.
Rivers and a Small Crash
Living in a country with a land climate means two things – snow and long trainer hours in the winter together with hot summer, crazy tanlines and nice riding the rest of the year. Well neither has been happening up to now…. The winter was mild and snow less, however, cold enough to leave black ice on the road. Not a big problem, since it is…well….winter anyway. All nice but…. April, May, June, JULY!!!! have been the rainiest months on record here for the last 50+ years. Coming from living 6 years in The Netherlands I knew how to ride in the rain. Not so much around here…
Here when it rains, it pours, and my teammates just avoid training altogether and/or train inside for those few who own a trainer. When it was almost June and 3-4 out of my 6 weekly workouts were being spent on the trainer, I simply needed road time. So I braved the pouring rain, waded the rivers that the mountain roads have turned into and one day….when the sunny day turned into a massive thunderstorm, I crashed while going dead slow on the last corner before coasting home. Of course it happened on my nice S-Works Tarmac. Besides some cosmetic damage and some road rash on my right side (didn’t even tear my shorts) I was ok, however, I understood why my teammates just stay at home when it rains. To get an idea how bad the rains have been, some cities in Bulgaria were flooded with numerous human casualties…
On a more cheerful note, my ‘always looking for improvement’ cyclist mind had an inspirational moment. I need to keep myself occupied when riding for 4-5h alone. I had always been curious of those funky looking chainrings that both Wiggo and Froome have been using (and won the Tour de France in 2012, 2013 respectively among other impressive palmares).
So while my mind was wondering one day, the design idea behind the non-round chainrings made perfect sense to me! Easy gear through the dead spot (cranks vertical), big gear through the power phase (cranks horizontal). After quick internet search I found out there is an authorized retailer in Bulgaria, quite surprising for such a niche product. After a call with him I bought a set of 54/44 of the latest generation of Osymetric chainrings. I have been genuinely impressed by how they ride and feel and I will post a detailed review soon. The one significant negative I have with them is that coming back to ‘regular circular’ chainrings (while getting ready for track championships in August) makes the pedaling feel veeeerrryy sluggish as if the bike has 2 flat tyres.
Grand Prix Sarajevo 2014 (UCI 2.1)
As I mentioned above, joining a team in the middle of the season puts you in a bit of a limbo, since most UCI races require team rosters sent way in advance. Combined with the limited races in the area and further complicated by races getting cancelled for ‘sponsor problems’ or ‘disagreements with the local police.’ I was eager to get some racing experience. The 2014 Sarajevo Grand Prix, featured quite a hilly course and a big climb in the middle. It was a ‘training race’ in the week before the national championships, therefore I wasn’t expecting miracles. I am preparing a full race report, however, one thing to note is that, I was passing guys have my size on the major climb. I certainly had legs, however, not enough experience and as a first race for the season I was very happy.
National Championships 2014
I know what you did last summer and the Blair Witch Project could have taken scenes from my travel to the hotel booked for the participants. Very lonely mountain roads not existing on the GPS, pitch dark and no living soul in sight.
I arrived to the race location a day in advance. I pre-drove the course the morning before the race. I did it all by the book…
…. the federation changed the course literally 2 hours before the start. From the pan flat out and back drag strip to a short segment that didn’t have more than 50m (150ft) of flat terrain, suiting the tiny climbers who can just buzz through the hills and putting big guys like me at an obvious disadvantage. Although according to the numbers, I rode my best 40km (25mi) TT up to date, I finished at 6th place again, 2:30 min from the podium as compared to 6th in 2013, 1:40 from the podium. No need to get into the ‘What ifs…’ at least not yet.
Granted I had to call it a day last year after 50km (28mi) and given my very limited racing experience this year – I had only one goal – finish. So I did – 12th place. I did chase a breakaway too many at the beginning and missed the key one, however, I could stay at the front of the main bunch for the remainder of the race quite comfortably, even on the climbs, while I could see people hanging for dear life at the back. I certainly don’t have the power to weight ratio to stay with the favorites on the big climbs..yet, however, I definitely see a lot of progress in the right direction. Couple of watts more and some more racing experience and next time I make the break. It’s all baby steps….
One of my goals this year was to try my hand at some track cycling, specifically all the timed events – with my eyes on the 4000m individual pursuit.
I am in the process of putting together a track bike (and learning how to ride the rollers). It is amazing how much simpler the whole process is as compared to a road bike. The track thing is ‘for fun’ at this point so my whole track setup is built with only budget in mind. Stay tuned for more details.
Upcoming Track Championships
The velodrome in Sofia is quite steep and outdoors so quite dangerous to ride in adverse weather (as you read above we’ve had more than enough of that). Below is a picture of my first track training this season with special thanks to Zornitsa Stefanova for the pictures. I will ask her for the remainder of the full resolution images she took to make a photo essay post in the near future.
Second, it is where the cycling federation is located. Why is that important? Well apparently they had some (significant) debts so their offices got sealed and there is nobody there to let people on the velodrome. Last week the juniors of my team have been training there (they have gotten a hold of a key), however, they train at 9am (if it doesn’t rain) so while I still don’t have a bike assembled, I don’t expect to have significant track time before the weekend of 2-3 August. Also I was sooo tired the week after nationals (28Jun2014), so I took 10 days off to recover and re-motivate myself. I probably didn’t lose too much of my condition, however, I am not in peak form for sure. The field is not the British or Australian track squads so it will be more manageable but with so much preparation I’ll have to rely on my condition and power (no climbing!!!!), rather than experience and skills. It’s quite strange for me doing something ‘for fun’ without any high expectations, however, it’s the ride and the process I enjoy rather than the end results.
So there you have it – the last 4 months. Apologies for the lengthy pause and stay tuned for detailed posts.
The Dream is alive!