Sunday, February 3, 2013

Eating is cheating - how to not to fuel when Etape training

Fellow Etaper Bobby fancied a ride this weekend. It was cold (maxing out at 5 degrees), clear, dry with intermittent sunshine.

So Pez and I joined him for a much-delayed trip to Box Hill with my new bike.

The bikes seemed unaffected by the climb, unlike their riders

Bobby scares me a bit. The only time I've ridden with him was a jaunt around the Englischer Garten in Munich, on hired city bikes (the incredibly heavy things that brake when you pedal backwards – something like these). No real indication of ability at all.

He's a bit taller than me, a fair bit lighter than me, runs regularly and on a secret training camp in Tenerife (ie he was the only member of Team Underprepared involved) rode from sea level to the rim of the volcano one day - a 2,000m ascent.

That was in December, when I was puffing round a 50-mile UK sportive.

We decided to cruise* until we reached Box Hill, arriving at the foot of the zig-zags 24 miles into the ride (for me, everyone came from different places to meet up).

And up we went.

The climb, always one of the jewels of the South Downs, has become something of a destination over the last couple of years. First the World Championships, then the Olympic men and women’s road race went up it (multiple times).

It was the fifth most popular bit of tarmac to ride on in the world last year. The road still has paint on it urging Cav, Wiggo and Froome Dog to ride like the wind.

Here's the Strava segment for the climb:

Bobby massacred me. On a bike that cost £300 new. With no clip-in shoes. Carrying a back pack weighing a fair few kilos.

Pez crested the hill a few seconds behind me.

At this point I'd had 200 calories of food all day (porridge for breakfast). That was it. Pez and Bobby wandered to the cafe while I minded the bikes at our table.

They came back with cake and espresso (Pez keeping it traditional) and a pasty. I had an energy bar.

Traditional cycling cafe food
Less tradiditonal cycling fare

We chatted, ate, and then Bobby looks up and says "let's do Box Hill again". No. Just no.

He then pointed out we were training for the Etape and needed hill work. He was, of course, right. Bastard.

Pez and Bobby at the Box Hill cafe, he's about to tell us to ride up the hill again

Box hill is 2.5km at 5%, topping out at 11.8% for sections. Mont Revard is 16km at 5.5%, so more than 6 Box Hills. Without a break at a cafe. With mountains behind and ahead.

So down we went and up we rode. I went from 15kph average to 14kph on the second climb. It hurt. Bobby wanted to do it again. We resisted successfully this time.

The view from the top is, to be fair, stunning. But taking off from the viewing point to begin the 25-odd miles home my legs weren't happy. Weren't happy at all.

Box Hill view

And to my right... Another Box Hill view
On the route home I covered a lot of familiar roads, it was embarrassing. Climbs I normally barely notice saw me shift into the small ring. Flats I tap along at 20mph I was averaging 15 on. There wasn't anything in the tank.

I kept in touch with Pez and Bobby by basically nailing my chin to the handlebars on any descent and making up some of the lost time.

47 miles in we stopped at another cafe, at that point, I worked out, I'd had 400 calories of food all day. I'd burnt 1,200 on the ride at that point (according to Strava). I had cake. And a Coke.

I managed the remaining 7 miles home somehow, even accelerating a bit at the end, but I really, really need to learn how to eat properly during a ride.

On the plus side, for all the damage Bobby did to me on the climbs, he got cramp on the ride home. Fast, he certainly is, but fragile.

*this never actually happens

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