So we're now a few weeks into 2016 and most people have set their goals for 2016. Unfortunately I hadn't as I just couldn't make my mind up what I wanted to do with the year. Last year I spent my time aiming for 10,000 miles of riding and eventually ended on 13,000 miles which was pretty satisfying. Since setting that goal last year I've learnt that doing that many miles comes a compromise to speed; something I love on the bike. This meant that this year's goal would need to be something that meant I could ride my bike, only faster. So, after a few weeks of chatting to various people I ride with and assessing my options for the year ahead I've finally settled on one simple goal for 2016 - "To get back into racing and try and obtain my Cat 2 Licence". This should give me the perfect opportunity to get my need for speed but also focus on what I love most more closely, to assess where I can improve and add to my speed on the bike.
For those that are not familiar with racing in the UK the racing is split into categories from Elite (E), Category 1, 2, 3 and 4 where a category 4 rider is the newest to the racing scene. To advance up each category you need to obtain a certain number of points in a season. It's 12 points to go from category four to three and then another 40 points to get from category three to two. Thankfully I already hold my category three license from when I used to race (you keep it for life) so I need to make 40 points this season.
That doesn't sound like many points right? Well, most races near me are raced as category 2/3/4 or 3/4 with the winner picking up 10 points and the top ten riders being rewarded but when you live in Yorkshire, a cycling hotspot home to many of the best cyclists in the UK, it's really quite difficult to get those points, especially when you can't sprint.
So with that goal set and the potential difficulties on the horizon already, I've decidedly buckled down in the first few weeks of January to try and get my body back on track for shorter races rather than monster miles. To do this I've shortened my commutes to a total of 30 miles a day and ride these single-speed; this generally means that I have to work hard on the hills but can't over-exert myself on the flat or downhill making for perfect interval style commuting every day, or a steady pootle on others.
Furthermore, I've stopped riding extra miles on an evening during the week. Riding fast doesn't need masses of miles, it needs structured miles. The only exception to this is a Tuesday evening. On a Tuesday I ride pace-line with the guys a my local race team, FTR, which is effectively a team time trial for 25 miles with 30 second turns on the front then rotating. This enables me to build on my speed (the last one was 24mph) but also get used to riding in the bunch again and working with other racers: a pretty pacy session overall that means I can build my threshold a little and wake my legs up.
Weekdays covered and it's onto the weekend. These are the two days where I have the most time to fit in a good training session. For the last three weeks I've been joining the local 'Buckden Run' which is a 60 mile tempo training ride with about 50 other people including pro riders Tom Moses and the Brownlee brothers. It's not for the feint hearted, as tempo to these guys means about a 20mph average, but it's another great way to built fitness early in the season. This is effectively base building in January - preparing the engine before we fine tune it. Sundays then tend to be something steadier again to ease the legs and recover; cafe rides are pretty good for this and mean I can catch up with cycling mates too.
Overall I'd say training is going pretty well so far and I'm feeling sharper already than I did at all last year which is hopefully a good thing. It will be nice to see how fit I am next week when the reliability rides start in Yorkshire but I'm not too worried about those, as they're just another fast training ride really!
All in all, things are going pretty well so far then, and I'm feeling faster. The focus now is on getting fitter and faster until March when racing starts for me!
Hopefully there will be some exciting news next week as well. Everyone loves to ride for a team, right...?