Setting goals for 2017

Sporting my new Stolen Goat jersey!

It’s perhaps a bit late to set goals for the year in April, but over the last few weeks I’ve managed to put in a solid amount of cycling and I’m getting back to last summer’s level of fitness.

I was only a couple of seconds off my best time up Brill Hill (just East of Oxford) when I rode it last weekend, which was encouraging seeing as I set that during my peak last September. I could also have probably gone a tiny bit faster at the beginning had I been chasing the PB properly. By consolidating my training using the turbo and rollers more and going out for longer rides at the weekend, it seems I’m making good progress. The nagging question as I get fitter, however, is ‘why?’

So far this year I haven’t had a specific goal to train for. For the previous two summers I’ve used the RideLondon as my focus, trying to put down decent times. But I missed out in the ballot this year so I don’t have that to aim for. Instead of a single ride, therefore, I’ve decided to set myself a week-long challenge.

Sometime in July (exact week to be confirmed) I’m going to attempt to ride 500 miles in seven days. While this isn’t exactly a huge amount of riding, I’ve never ridden more than about 170 miles in a single week and so it’ll be a big increase in volume if I manage to do it. I’ll have to average 72 miles a day to get over the line, which is manageable but I imagine will take a totally different toll on my body than when I try and smash it round a single sportive.

The idea is to spread the miles unevenly over the course of the week, and get friends to come and cycle different routes with me. I don’t want to just do flat laps of a park etc. but go on proper, challenging rides that let me explore the countryside at the same time. I’ll base my rides from Sussex, so I should get the chance to ride the South Downs (both East and West) as well as the High Weald and North Downs too. I may even do a repeat of the Oxford-Sussex route to get me started!

It will also involve a new type of training focus for me. Typically I like riding hard over long distances but with the luxury that I’ll have a few days to recover afterwards. Similarly, I like chasing up hill-climbs and leaving nothing in the tank by the top. With this being a multi-day adventure, however, I’ll need to have a significant amount of endurance capacity and be able to properly pace my efforts. Charging up every 300ft climb hardly seems like a sensible strategy!

Riding the 500-miles also gives my blog a new focus for the next few months. I spotted an article this morning with the headline ‘Five tips to get the most from your cycling training camp’. It’s the sort of article that really bothers me, making road cycling sound exclusive and out of reach for the layman. Not every cyclist (and especially young riders like me) have the funds to travel to Mallorca to eek out an extra 30 watts from altitude training. Nor are they able/willing to put down £400 for a “cheap” power meter to improve their training when their bike wasn’t much more new! I’m a firm believer of Mercx’s line “don’t ride upgrades, ride up grades”. As much as I want a trip to Spain and watts shown on my Garmin (itself a pricey investment), I’ll continue training using much more modest means. I hope that over the next few posts I can document how I’m building up my training without the fancy kit!