Ribble Spring Series – Luis’ Check-in

Last week we launched the Ribble Spring Series on Zwift, where each Friday at 6pm, a rider from Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling will lead a controlled group ride. The rides will differ each week, with varying levels of intensity. The Ribble Spring Series runs until Friday 5th June. Luis has taken on the challenge to take part in each session and is keeping us posted on how he gets on and develops through the series…

I decided to get involved in the Ribble Spring Series to keep me occupied during this crazy time and fill my Friday nights with a welcome bit of a fitness boost! I said I’d be checking in after each session so here goes!! Keep checking back each week for updates!

I, I, I, I’m staying alive.

Week 9

At last, I visit the Alpe du Zwift. It’s not that I avoid the hills, but where I live I’ve no choice, so sometimes it’s good to sit on Zwift and work the fast legs or just plod around. Other times, the weather is so horrific outside that you need a workout, so perhaps you would go in search of climbing. The Alpe was introduced just over two years ago (If I recall correctly) and I have literally not ridden it. It’s actually not accessible unless you’re in a group ride that goes up it or minimum of Level 10. That’s the only way to access the jungle circuit of which the entrance to the Alpe is located within.

The famous 21 bends of the Alpe

On Zwift, I’m level 24, I think I’ve levelled up 3 times during this series. As you progress, each level takes longer/further to achieve and they all unlock different things such as wheels, bikes and accessories. I’m not so fussed for the unlocks really, because the gains are so nominal inside and in reality, it’s just a means to an end. I think Zwift is a great alternative to riding outside and keeps you focussed in good way. Some of my friends hate it and can’t manage more than an hour!

The series has been good, as I mentioned last week, it’s allowed for some focus for anyone that takes part, with the goal being to get round as close to the pro’s as possible. From the first week, with tired legs and having ridden a double-day right up to this point now, I can confidently say I’m fitter. However, I’ve coupled that with the road too so it isn’t JUST from this series. The reason I did this was, the series being only 9 rides long, that’s not much on its own, so I built my riding weeks and intensity levels around each Friday @ 6pm to be able to enjoy it more.

I rode with the Ribble Weldtite boys for real in December. It was a flat(ish) ride, and they were all taking it steady, cruising and chatting away, whilst I was making sure I didn’t get dropped and squeezing the odd word out when I could with an average heart rate somewhere over 180 for a few hours. I’ve also seen them trudging around Calpe during their training camp and elite athletes interest me in that they make cycling look pretty easy. Suffering levels are relative however; this is the important part. So to ride with them on Zwift and see some of theirs stats was intriguing. 

I thought I’d share with you a few stats throughout this period, to quantify what you can do when you focus on something specific. I mentioned early on in the series that I liked the numbers, so it’s good to be able to look back and track specifically what’s going on with your body and fitness.

I bought some scales that provide a whole host of metrics, from your weight right through to your “Metabolic Age” (I don’t agree with this one either). Just for context, I have never smoked, and I only drink when I’m going “out-out”, I do however, have the sweetest tooth known to man.

The series started in early April, and I got them a couple of weeks into it weighing myself firstly on April 18th, assuming in those first couple of weeks I lost a little bit of weight, I was probably touching 100kg, which isn’t ideal. My weight in 2018 was 86kg for context.

As you can see, I’ve lost 7.25kg, which is pretty good going, around 1kg per week, a healthy loss rate and I can definitely feel a difference and even see it.

In terms of cycling fitness, the obvious measurements are power and also Heart Rate, specifically I notice my average heart rate dropping on rides outside (relative to maintaining average speeds on similar routes), which means I’m more in control of what I’m doing and not everything is a big effort, it also indicates a fitness improvement.

4 days after my initial weighing with the new scales, I took a fitness test, which included testing 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute and 20 minute power outputs.

I documented these in week 3, but here they are again:

  • 5 second power @ 872 Watts
  • 1 min power @ 412 watt
  • 5 minutes power @ 298 watts
  • 20 minute power @ 254 watts
  • Weighing 96.45kg

Finishing week 9, despite not testing specifically again, I can tell you the most recent updates to these same measurements:

  • 5 second power @ 1,024 watts
  • 1 minute power @ 431 watts 
  • 5 minute power @ 369 watts
  • 20 minute power @ 327 watts
  • Weighing 91.10kg

I have also done a lifetime best of power for 60 minutes @ 294 watts, but I’ll cover that shortly.

A 60 minute power PB for Luis

All in all, there is a clear improvement which has come with focusing a little more on riding more frequently. 

I don’t have a coach for cycling, I stare at the numbers whilst I ride, I generally know how I feel and then if I think I can handle an effort on a rise, I’ll give it a nudge; you quickly know when you don’t have the legs for this though!

To the ride…

The Alpe du Zwift mimics exactly (so I’m told) the Alpe d’Huez, one of the mythical and most famous climbs in cycling. I has 21 hairpin bends that don the names of Tour de France winners on each one. It looks like someone has just draped tarmac on the side of a mountain, I’ve never ridden it, but I have ridden Mont Ventoux, and if they are anything alike in their ferocity, it’s not something to be taken lightly.

I got myself on the turbo around 20 minutes before, assuming that my legs would need some serious warming up with what was to come and set up my music. I think music can play a big part in helping you along, if you get a track that you really love, it can really add some adrenaline to you and keep you going if you’re struggling, but it can also work against you and give you a little boost when you’ve nothing! Today there were 101 riders starting, which actually pleased me a lot as numbers have dwindled in recent weeks, but it looks like people like a good challenge!

There was a little bit of chat in the beginning, with George Mills-Keeling explaining the way things might work and Jacob Tipper making sure everyone knew what was what. Basically, Full gas from the bottom…

…It just doesn’t work like that on Zwift. The gates dropped and we were off pretty fast, as ever. I was somewhere around 80th of 101 immediately and was pretty frustrated by it. I started working quite hard quite quickly to try and move up; I had no aspirations for where I might finish in the group on the day, but I would certainly rather be in the top half than than the bottom half, just for morale’s sake!

I was in and around a couple of team riders, Si Wilson and Olly Moors; Si chipped off and I didn’t see him for a while, but once I got to the bottom of the climb I was around 60th place and still with a little group including Olly. I had told myself I would just “get round”, but that didn’t happen, I had good music on, average legs but a competitive edge.

Luis riding on Alpe du Zwift approaching hairpin 9

In the end, I just wanted to get away and ended up riding a pace I was comfortable with and I ended up riding the entirety of the climb “in the big ring”, I’m absolutely certain I couldn’t do that in the real world! This is what resulted in churning out 294 watts for 60 minutes. This is the best sign of strength and fitness improvement for me, and it’s very pleasing in fact as well, when just a few weeks ago I could just about manage 298w for 5 minutes!

It felt like a reasonably steady tempo that I was riding at, my power threshold is around 280w and my HR is around 188bpm. I completed the climb inside the hour, which I gather is pretty good going, but when the winner is finishing under 36 minutes you have to wonder! I finished a little behind John Archibald who said he’d run out of gears on his bike, and also just behind Andy Smallwood, CEO of Ribble Cycles. I didn’t actually know he’d be riding it but I spoke with him about it the day before and we compared experiences of epic climbs having both done Mt Ventoux!

Luis’ final position after a race up Alpe du Zwift

I was passed by only one rider who I had caught, ridden with and half wheeled and then dropped at one point, so that was quite good, he finished around 2 minutes in front of me in the end. I also caught and passed Si Wilson a little further on which was also good, although I’m pretty sure he was just having a fairly steady ride up there, but catching riders and staying away is a motivation that gets you going too! I was gassed by the top and I’d given it just about everything I had, I can’t ask for more than that.

Luis’s stats during his ascent up the climb

Overall the series has been really good fun, and I’m glad I committed to doing it for several reasons. Riding with the guys and seeing them having a laugh as well as seeing everyone in the Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling kit and on their Ribble bikes too! I’m really looking forward to being able to split my week up though, into riding Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and then Saturday and Sunday too! 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading how I got on for a typically average cyclist and that you might feel like you can take on a training program or event some time soon! Hopefully see you out on the road or on Zwift too!

Luis @ Ribble Cycles

Week 8

As I’m sure you’re well aware, this last week has been HOT! The best week of weather we’ve had all year, from Monday to Sunday was brilliant. Which meant a 75km endurance ride on the turbo was absolutely of no appeal whatsoever!

That said, I’ve been committed to the series and this week was no different, so I took the turbo outside (a workout in itself) to make the best of both worlds; catching the last of the sun and getting in the 2 hours on the turbo. This was the penultimate ride in the series, which I didn’t realise until we were nearly finished when it was mentioned.

Luis’ outdoor-indoor ride setup

The series has been good overall, interacting with the riders, getting in the miles and doing different sessions that cover pretty much all bases. We’ve had long rides, short rides, sprint intervals, endurance rides and a couple of punchy climbs to contend with as well as a time trial effort. The only disappointment has been that participation numbers have dwindled a little in the last few weeks, but as lockdown regulations and guidelines relax, I figure most people are heading back out on the road or back to work, which makes it harder to commit to this series towards the end, not to mention (again) an improvement in the weather.

This week saw us complete a 75km endurance ride. There were two groups, one led by Si Wilson which was 3-5w/kg and the other led by Team manage, Tom Timothy, 1-2.9w/kg. I opted for the steadier group, which was a good decision for many reasons, but mostly, it was enjoyable. 

The faster group finished around 6 minutes before we did, which doesn’t sound like much, but if you tried to make up 6 minutes you would know about it! There was 19 in this group, with around 30 in my group.

3 x 25km laps of a relatively flat circuit were on the cards for the evening.

I would say this was my favourite session of the series so far, but I think that just goes to show the progress made with riding more regularly and being a little fitter. Not only that, but in general, the whole group committed to maintaining the pace with it only ramping up for the last 20km or so, so on the whole, it was good to get in a ride where it was more controlled and sustainable. The chat was on regularly, with Tom keeping everyone entertained with the help of Jacob Tipper too. 

I was in and around the front for most of the ride, with a couple of times using a tactical slide for a little rest and a couple of times needing a bit of a surge to get back to the group, even on Zwift it can leave you pretty quickly! I rolled in somewhere in top 10 of the group, not that any results are counted, but it’s good to be involved all the same!

I won’t miss the series as such, but let me explain why…

As I said right at the beginning of all this, my training and riding has suffered in recent months as I’ve focussed myself more on work. It’s also incredibly easy to get despondent on the bike, as your fitness declines, so can morale and the thought of suffering is enough to say “not today”. In September 2018, I rode one Sunday a 143.5 mile ride, which really knocked the stuffing out of me. Not because it was difficult, fast or long, but because it was on the back of 4 or 5 months of consistently knocking out 250+ miles every week, whilst filling every spare minute of my time with work one way or another. That particular week I was touching 400 for the week.

I gave myself some deserved rest, and went back and did a 143 mile week 10 days or so later, and still felt really tired. Then another week of rest, and another, and another…you can see where this is going! Before I knew it, it was Christmas and I hadn’t ridden since October and my week in Mallorca in January looked quite frightening where I actually ended up getting quite sick. 2019 became a very busy year for me, so I just neglected my bike and only completed 1500 miles for the year, my lowest for a long, long time. Even at the beginning of this year, and before the “lockdown” period, my mileage was far short of what I wanted it to be, but I just couldn’t screw my head on.

The data from week 8’s ride

Committing to this series has been good for me in a lot of different ways. It’s refocussed me in terms of riding more, I’ve lost some weight, regained some fitness and actually enjoyed riding my bike again, which is all anyone wants! 

However, I’ve been building my whole week around this series. One session a week on its own wouldn’t do much for me in terms of improving my fitness, but combining it with other rides out on the road makes is far more worthwhile. After the first week of a double-day, I didn’t want to feel tired on the bike again for one of these events, so I’ve basically operated my week on a Friday-Thursday basis and trying to be fresh for Fridays, whilst also trying to operate it as a Monday-Sunday thing too (Strava, you know?). 

When I’m riding consistently, I like to ride 5 days from 7, and never more than 3 or 4 days in a row (this prevents having two rest days in a row and then having to ride 5 days to complete 5/7). Having to ride every Friday is good, but the sessions have varied in length and intensity considerably, so it’s been difficult on some occasions to get the mileage in, which is what I really need, and as the weather improves, nobody wants to sit on the trainer all the time!

So, with just one more week remaining, I’m looking forward to being able to swap out the indoor session for outdoor sessions and juggle my week around a little bit, as long as the weather remains as good as it has been! 

Everyone taking part in the Ribble Spring series gets a a Ribble Weldtite kit and Ribble bike!

The final session is led by George Mills-Keeling. George is a great guy, he’s young and he’s lightweight, so of course the session is “Road to Sky”! Which means it goes up. Up the Alpe… It’s a short session in length (20km), but it’s going to be full gas all the way up Alpe du Zwift, which means a warmup is absolutely essential! I’ve no doubt there will be groups all over the road, and I have no doubt I will be towards the back. So, hopefully, see you there for some company from 6pm for the final event in the series!

Sign up here!

Week 7

So we’re into week 7 of the series already, (time flies when you’re having fun right?), and this week was originally billed as a whopping 140-minute workout! I actually had to message Jacob Tipper and check on this because well, as much as I like a long ride… that’s a pretty long time to be sat on the turbo giving it beans. Tipper was also concerned about this!

After a bit of back and fourth it transpired that they had also thought about this and the session was therefore adjusted to be the Leith Hill Afterparty; a nice lap of London and then a finish up the Leith Hill climb, so mostly flat and then a nice big smash up at the end…or at least that was the plan anyway!

Throughout the week, I rode Monday and Wednesday, approximately 90 miles between the two rides and Wednesday was pretty intense really, which was a little unplanned! I woke up on Thursday feeling as though I’d been fighting with a Gorilla! I wasn’t well-rested at all and had clearly put a lot more into the ride than anticipated as I don’t often feel like that, but the weather was too good not to get out and enjoy it. I left at 5:50pm and it was still around 22 degrees! I rode 50 miles and ended up with a couple of unplanned efforts thrown in that were probably a bit too early into the ride, which meant it took more out of me in general, but it’s all good training to link up with the Zwift series.

Once Friday came around, as ever, I sold myself short on warm-up time and found myself scrambling around and managed 6 minutes beforehand. I think the warm up is important for these sessions because generally, you don’t get time to ride yourself into it. You wouldn’t warm up for a ride on the road, you’d just take it easy until you feel like you’re ready to hit it, if that’s your plan, or you can just cruise around at a leisurely pace. But if you’re racing, a few laps of the circuit or a good session on the rollers or turbo to get a sweat on and your heart rate up will set you up nicely, ready to race, and this is exactly the same as that situation.

When you’re riding on Zwift, nobody does things leisurely. Everyone wants to ride hard and prove something, I’ve even found myself doing that at times, it’s hard not to. Not only that, but when you’re riding with elite athletes, everyone else wants to compare themselves (or seems to at least) and see how good they really are or possibly…aren’t! I however, do not. I know what these guys are like and what they’re capable of, they make it look easy. I’m lucky in that I get to ride with a few local pros and ex pros on my club run or just cafe cruising and believe me when I say, they can just turn it on when they want to. If you’re going hard, they can go harder and they just disappear into the distance whilst you’re gasping for air. The other good quality that pros have is knowing when to take it easy, and they mean easy. A typical club rider might want to bank miles and get somewhere fast, whilst the pros stick to a training plan and when it says active recovery, they won’t budge out of the little ring.

Back to Friday’s ride; my 6 minutes of warm-up were complete. the banner dropped and we rocketed off, chaos for about 15 seconds and then we were all back together! This happened for about 1 minute, and then we suddenly realised we were locked into an obscenely slow pace. I’m not too sure what happened, or why, perhaps due to the late adjustment in the session, but it was massively frustrating. On the one hand, I was glad for a very steady ride, on the other, it was quite boring and plenty of people agreed on the night as the billed 42km was set to take a long time at that pace. You could ride as hard as you wanted, but you were not escaping the group and your pace wasn’t getting much above 30kph.

The highlight of the ride was probably contesting the slowest sprint of all time. Tipper called it on the chat “Who’s going for the sprint?!?”, I hadn’t planned to, but gave it a go and managed to get 2nd behind the man himself who made it clear he was delighted!

There were around 50 riders that started, and with a good tempo I would have expected to be on the turbo for perhaps 1 hour and 15 minutes or so. In the end, only 9 of the 50 finished and was knocking on for 2 hours, not far off the original session’s planned time. I don’t think anyone had planned to be there for long, so I can’t begrudge anyone for quitting early when they were expecting something more intense and shorter.

The 9 that finished gave it a good effort up the final climb, and I think I rolled over 4th, not that it counts for much, but it was a good session in terms of aerobic and endurance training with a slight push at the end. The next session is this Friday, May 29th, with Si Wilson, Time Trial powerhouse and Tom Timothy, Team Manager that will be leading two separate sessions, with 1-2.9w/kg and 3-5w/kg available. It should be a good endurance session with 75km on the cards. Hopefully, I’ll see you there, be sure to give me a nod if you are!

Get signed up here.

Week 6

Friday 15th May – Ribble Spring Series with Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling

Week 6 of the Ribble Spring Series with the Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling team saw a very short session on the grit circuit. Designed by track expert Mark Stewart and lead by Will Brown, it really was short and sweet, at just 25 minutes!

I’ve raced crits before on the road, and whilst it didn’t quite mimic that, there were at least a few short and sharp efforts. Six to be precise. I’ve finished in every position in the top 10 in crits, well, except the ones that anyone cares about…1st, 2nd and 3rd! However, there was no finish position this week!

When you race a crit race, you need to be ready to sprint several times over, whilst also being sure to save something (big) for the end. I’ve raced both Town Centre crits and closed-circuit crits and they have similar attributes. I would say the Town centre crits are harder given there is more to contend with, but that’s my view and no doubt some people might disagree.

Training for a crit means your legs need to have explosive efforts available readily, several times over, oh, as well as maintaining a pace that is high, probably 25mph+ for 45-60 minutes! There’s usually some technical bits and then inevitably there’ll be a corner, hairpin or a rise that you need to sprint out of to be able to stay involved with the race. Likewise, racing on the track you’ll need similar big power efforts to move up or stay with it, although I’ve never raced on the track so I’ll leave my knowledge and comparisons right there!

This week I didn’t ride until this event, I’ve felt quite tired and found myself in bed a few nights before 8pm just absolutely crashed out! I’m not sure why, but my April and May workload on the bike is significantly more than that of February and March, so I’ll put it down to a little fatigue. I just rested until this session came around with 4 days fully off the bike.

I felt ok once I got on the bike, and managed the first couple of efforts just fine, my legs were ok, but my lungs were not! The session was 250w at “rest” (which is a reasonable effort in itself) and then 550w for 10 seconds, which doesn’t sound like much, but you pay for each and every effort you invest in towards the end and there were 6 of these in total. My trainer felt a bit “sticky” and by this I mean the 250w seemed pretty tough and getting up to 550w was near impossible and I was in the biggest gear I had with a pretty high cadence!

The speed we were doing in the game didn’t seem to match the effort that we were putting out either, so it just felt a bit weird for me. The trainer I have has a history of failing or malfunctioning according to the brand, so I’m always weary of this. I’ve never had any enormous problems with it but it doesn’t seem right just now. It might just be a calibration issue so I’ll take a look at this week in advance of the next event.

virtual sunshine it is then

I think there were around 90 riders involved for this ride, similar to that of the TT last week but not as many as previous weeks. Perhaps now that people are allowed outside a little more that’s why, or they’re not mad keen on short, sharp efforts?! Who can blame them! Anyway, it’s good fun to get chatting with the guys from the team, I’m a big fan of Will’s and he was on the chat all the way through this session and all the other riders are constantly getting involved with plenty of sarcastic and anecdotal digs at one another.

So yeah, so far I’ve enjoyed having this routine kick-starting my weekend with a Zwift session! I’m looking forward to getting into week 7 with Jacob Tipper, Friday at 6pm. See you there?

Week 5

Friday 8th May – Ribble Spring Series with Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling

Ordinarily I enjoy Time Trialling. I mean, when I say “enjoy” i mean it very, very loosely, and in a sadistic kind of way! Going all out on your bike for any length of time brings a certain amount of pain and hatred, followed closely by satisfaction and joy (that it’s over!). There’s a satisfaction that you can take in knowing you’ve emptied the tank to try and achieve whatever goal you set yourself, whether it’s progressively across several Time Trial events or just within the one event itself, usually a power or time PB. For most riders in a TT, you’re just racing yourself, unless you know you’re one of the fastest guys around, but even then you won’t be getting time checks and splits, you just have to go all out.

I have a Time Trial bike, disc wheel, specific aero helmet and skinsuit to help me along the way, all of which matter very little in Watopia on Zwift. If you ask Dan Bigham, there are many aero and power saving gains you can make to assist you during a time trial, as highlighted in his recent blog (read here), going as far as stripping the paint from his Ribble Ultra TT for Yorkshire 2019!

None of that is necessary for Zwift however, it’s just full gas and down to your strength, fitness and mind game… oh, and how long you can maintain those three for.

I am still very much on an upward curve in terms of regaining fitness, but for Round 5, my legs were pretty dead before I even began. I rode the Wednesday and Thursday evenings beforehand and felt good but by the time Friday evening came around, I didn’t have much there, not to mention the lack of warm-up that I’d promised myself as well.

Nevertheless, I persevered and gave everything I could muster. One positive however was the instant connections and ZERO bluetooth problems before or during this round! Hallelujah! Just before we started, Tom Timothy of the team announced that some riders would be doing 3-5w/kg rather than 5+w/kg which was excellent news. This event also saw the lowest attendance of the series, perhaps due to a glorious Bank Holiday, or maybe a TT just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea?!

When you’re riding a Time Trial usually, you’ll probably ride to a power output relative to how you’re feeling once you set off, you’re also likely to have some idea of the time you want to achieve the distance in. Usually, 10 or 25 miles, the general hope and dream of an aspiring TT rider is to maintain a 30mph average speed, the 20-minute club for a 10, and 50 minutes for a 25. As I knew I had extremely tired legs, I didn’t really have any idea of what to do or what to expect with a full gas effort on the trainer like this, so I just aimed for around 250w and hoped I could push above it for extended periods, I also didn’t know the distance, but it turned out to be 19.2km in total.

I hovered around 250w for the duration (244w average in fact), which is good in respect of the fact this is what I decided I’d like to achieve. I was also just in front of a few riders, and just behind a few riders for the duration, so there was always someone to try and stay ahead of and someone to try and chase down. One of those riders was Tom Timothy, who paced himself well and managed to push on in the final few KM. I had hoped I might close him down but as his legs got better, mine got worse. I managed to catch someone who had passed me very early on and stay out in front, unit he said “I’ve still got something left” with about 2.5km to go, at which point I decided I would do everything I could to catch and pass him. Fortunately for me, I managed to get by him.

I finished 53rd out 86 in the end, (just) some 7 minutes behind the winner! I was more than glad when it was over, but weirdly, I managed to enjoy it. I’m still not sure how Dan was so talkative on the chat throughout the whole thing either!

Next week is Round 6, May 15th, 6pm lead by Will Brown and involves a few sprints, but it’s another short one. I’ll try and save my legs a little and perhaps I’ll see you there?

Week 4

Friday 1st May – Ribble Spring Series with Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling

Last week I rode the most amount of miles I’ve ridden in a single week for a very long time! Riding 5 out of 7 days, which is something I used to like to aim for. I managed this feat a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve best it by about 16 miles, which is definitely encouraging! I’m starting to feel a lot more like a cyclist again and this series is certainly helping, especially this week’s session.

Whilst out on the road, I also managed to beat all the power values I set during my test from last week, meaning everything is heading in the right direction! On top of that, I’ve made use of the new digital scales and they’re also delivering good news with a 2.8kg loss since April 18th, as well as a few other metrics I won’t bore you with. It’s good to tick some boxes and keep things positive!

This week’s ride was designed by Steve Lampier, a super experienced rider within the Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling team and he was able to offer a lot of insight. The session was 6 x 1-minute full gas efforts with 8 minute rests between. In and around 450w for 1 minute and it was lead and commentated on by Jack Rees, with some great anecdotal humour. We were also joined by Cameron Jeffers, YouTube hero who live-streamed the event! Check out his recent review of the Ribble Endurance SL E and how you can get fit with an e-bike here

Typically, and annoyingly once again, I had connection issues before starting. I’d connected earlier in the day and calibrated my turbo to make sure I didn’t have any issues like last week…but that didn’t help. I sat on the turbo at around 5:45pm and spent the next 15 minutes frantically unplugging and restarting the turbo and Zwift to try and get the connections going.

Fan’s watching

Once I finally got it all connected, for some reason there was only me and about 6 other riders, so I was a bit panicked that I’d missed it, but all of a sudden there was a whole peloton!

As mentioned before, this ride was a structured session based on 6 x 1 minute efforts at relative Functional Threshold Power (FTP) with 8 minutes rest between at 195w. This means the max value should’ve shown differently for everyone depending on their abilities. For me, it was displaying 450w. The team was also giving spot prizes for max power output, a good incentive for people to really go for it! I have never been able to get a decent max power on the turbo, I just can’t do it for one reason or another, so this was beyond me! I peaked 566w, but I know Charles Page got close to 900w and I’m sure there were others in and around that too. One day maybe!

Structured sessions are something I have neglected on the whole, but I know they are very easy to maintain using Zwift, as everything is so very precise. Before Christmas, I opted to follow a 6-week program to help boost my fitness, and it definitely works, but for me, it’s difficult to not spend that free time riding outside, but when I do, it makes me feel guilty for missing an indoor session. I can’t win! Fresh air and views can’t be beaten, but the suffering on the road when you’re unfit is 10 fold!

It’s good to get some structure and specificity, as it works on specific areas. With each 1 minute effort, my legs got more and more tired, which is to be expected. And as pointed out by Jacob Tipper, those 1-minute efforts seemed much longer than the 8-minute rest! I couldn’t agree more! As it was just a typical training session, there were no specific finishing places for this week.

Next week sees a 10 mile TT with aero geek and World Championship Medalist Dan Bigham, which I’m looking forward to, although I’ve no clue what to expect trying to do a full gas effort on the turbo like that. All I know is it will hurt a lot and I will probably have to get on the turbo much, much earlier than I have been in order to prepare for it properly.

Join me, the team and plenty of other cyclists at 6pm on Friday 8th May, by signing up here.

See you there!

Week 3

Friday 24th April – Ribble Spring Series with Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling

I had a relatively quiet week in terms of cycling, just one ride prior to this weeks Ribble Spring Series session which was, in fact, a Test. I figured that if I’m going to use this as a stepping stone back into riding more consistently and probably racing (if that starts again later in the year) then I may as well know exactly what’s coming.

I also bought some Digital Scales which give you an exact insight into what’s happening in your body with a lot of other metrics, it links to your phone via an app. I’m a bit like Dan Bigham, I love getting into the nitty-gritty of all the numbers stuff, although sadly, I’m far from his level with ability or knowledge!! You can read more about Dan in his recent blog here.

Here’s some facts and figures for you to digest and judge if there has been any improvements made over the course of this series for me.

  • 5-second power @ 872 Watts
  • 1 min power @ 412 watt
  • 5 minutes power @ 298 watts
  • 20-minute power @ 254 watts
  • Weighing 96.45kg

This gives me a base to work from. I’ve been better, I’ve definitely been worse, but onwards and upwards!

Coming into this ride in week 3, I felt a bit fresher as I’d had less time on the bike through the week, despite my only ride being a pretty intense workout. This ride was probably the best one I’ve had so far, although I’m not sure my turbo was calibrated properly as my power was spiking a lot throughout the ride, which I’ve never seen before on Zwift. The line that measures your power output is usually much more smooth than this. I don’t think it affected too much though, at least I can’t think of any excuses from it for now!

Spikier than usual

This week the ride was split into two groups, one group with GB Time Trialist and powerhouse John Archibald @ 3-5w/kg, the other group with the Ribble Weldtite Team Captain, Richard Jones @ 1-3w/kg. As I mentioned last week, I was already committed to the “easier” group, which most people were by the looks of things! I think there were around 250 riders in total this week, with around 50 of those in the faster group and the rest, the easier group.

The ride, as usual, set off quite fast, but settled more much quicker this time…bonus! Richard was on the chat regularly and was clearly taking the 1-3w/kg very seriously indeed, but I know he’d also been out and put a shift in earlier in the day, so this was just a good recovery ride for him and the rest of the pro team riders (there was a handful in the faster group). I found myself in a group of 8 for the majority of the ride, we were some 50 seconds off the front group and then around 2 minutes in front of the main group with some smaller bunches in between.

When you ride on the road and take turns, you roll through when you’re ready, do your bit, and swing off and wait until you get back to the front. With Zwift, this is much harder to gauge, but it also feels like people are offended if you’re in front of them, so they come round and ride really hard for 20 seconds and then tend to drop back and this causes problems and doesn’t help for smooth riding. I’m pretty sure it’s still possible to ride smoothly, but perhaps that’s the inexperience of group riding or even racing from some Zwift users taking part perhaps.

I am by no means a seasoned or expert racer, but we have our fair share of hit-outs within club runs. We have one particular climb on the ride just before the cafe, the last stretch. It’s about 3km or so in length and over the top, there is a steady down hill with a little kicker at the end, it’s almost perfect for race scenarios and we use it a lot for exactly that. If you make it over the top of the climb in the group, there’s a section of road where we will just roll through until the kicker and then it’s a sprint before the cafe…if you’ve got the legs to survive the short rise! We all know what’s coming, so you save yourself for that; but not in Zwift! There were guys trying to chip off the front that ended up coming back to the group and even getting dropped.

On the whole, we worked quite well and we were caught by another breakaway group that got to us around 8km from the finish and made for a very quiet last 10 minutes on the chat, it was clearly getting very serious for everyone!

I gave it a little nudge at the end to try and better my finishing my position, but my legs eventually gave out on me and I rolled in 48th of 200+, or around 98th of 250+ depending on how you want to look at it. Either way, again I’m up on last weeks position!

Next week is a very structured ride/workout with Steve Lampier; he’s immensely experienced in racing and coaching, so I’m looking forward to that one. Friday May 1st at 6pm once again, see you there! Sign up here

Survived another week

Week 2

Friday April 17th: Round 2 Ribble Spring Series with Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling

Round 2 – Controlled group ride, before a final full hit out up the Volcano Climb!

This came around quickly after a reasonably sensible week for me out on the bike. Previously, I’ve ridden roughly 6,000 miles a year with a few races thrown in, so I’m reasonably fit when I’m at that level. Last week however was my biggest week on a bike since January 2019, which gives you an indication of just how little I’ve done in that time.

I had a couple of projects to do during the week, so I’d ridden the Ribble Urban 725s for a couple of days in the week. It’s single speed, and where I live (Sowerby Bridge, Calderdale), you need gears. No excuses however, I enjoyed riding this bike, it’s something different for me as I am very much a road rider, so to have a play around on different surfaces with different wheels is always nice.

Week 2 of the Ribble Spring Series on Zwift, was lead by Jacob Tipper, again with almost all the team there and involved, although some of them were using it as a warm-up for a race straight after! There were a few other people I knew, and once again some friends and colleagues from Ribble Cycles. this week I decided not to go out for a ride on the same day, which helped noticeably!

I jumped on the turbo at about 5:45pm to make sure everything was hooked up; power and HR being the main stats I look for. It frustrates me to not have one or even both. Obviously, I had a few HR monitor issues for one reason or another and I don’t think it connected straight away. Bluetooth has a nasty habit of getting in its own way on occasion; headphones, turbo, laptop and HR monitor all sending their signals around and sometimes things just don’t want to work. Tipper actually had a bit of a “mechanical” and struggled for a connection, so ended up just commenting on the ride throughout.

Anyway, I started without it but eventually, it started playing ball after a few minutes so I had all the metrics I wanted. I don’t need power or HR to ride, but I like to have it and then compare it with how I’m feeling, whether that’s week-on-week or year-on-year. Power is power and doesn’t change, but my, (and any) HR can be affected by all sorts which can impact you if you’re training with it, from heat and tiredness, to hunger and stress. Currently, my working HR is pretty high whilst my resting HR is around 60. I have a max of 210, so relatively it’s ok, but when I’m at a decent level, I find my average HR to be 150 or less generally. As you can see, at the moment I’m way above that, which tells me my endurance and stamina is lacking.

The ride started fast, and never really slowed! Billed as a 2.5-3w/kg social ride, it was on the higher end of this throughout and even beyond. The problem is, when someone sets off fast, everyone just chases, it’s not too indifferent to a race, which is what makes it good training in the end. There were calls from in and around the bunch for it to slow, but it never really did!

I eventually found myself in a group that worked pretty well together, still with the odd kick here and there and it was all good for me until the climb. I’m no climber and I could feel my legs a little when it came down to it. It was only a short climb, and I’ve been up it a lot faster and a lot harder, but at the moment I’m still finding my legs for these sorts of efforts. I finished in almost exactly the same pace as last week!

6 places up on last week! Progress.

They’re hard to replicate on the road, especially when you’re out on your own, so to be able to get that with these rides is a good thing. Personally, nothing beats riding outside, that’s for sure. On one hand, it’s tempting to stay on the trainer and get my fitness up to speed, but the views and real-life efforts of outside outweigh that for me when the weather is improving. For me, it’s about keeping a balance between improvement and enjoyment.

The next ride is the same time, same place, Friday 24th at 6pm although this week there are two groups and I’ve already made the decision I’ll be in the “slower group” with Richard Jones, which should remain as fast as the last one, so you can only imagine the 3-5w/kg group will be intense with John Archibald leading that!

oh and I also finished in front of Fraser again!

Same time, same place. Friday 6pm. See you there? Sign up here

Week 1

Friday April 10th: Round 1 Ribble Spring Series with Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling

I thought I’ll try and give a few details of what’s what throughout the series and how I find each ride. I’m pretty used to Zwift and the turbo trainer, as I mentioned before, but, to most people’s surprise, I’d never actually been in a group ride before.

I’ve got caught up in them and ridden with some groups, but nothing arranged like this. Usually, my Zwift routine is to pick a route and depending on how I’m feeling, just ride it out! You’ll usually get your little “races within rides” as you try and half-wheel someone up a climb or something. I’ve always found that quite entertaining and it’s basically like the club run; you’ll either get dropped or drop them, but it makes you try all the same.

I decided I’d ride in the afternoon as it was Good Friday and I’d already planned on this, so I did 30 miles local to me. They’re the flattest possible 30 miles I can do, with grippy, rolling roads all the way out and back, nothing too intensive, just a couple of short digs. You can see this below from my Strava account. I got home around 2pm, ate and got my legs up for a bit and started with some “recovery” on Netflix: Contagion. Very apt.

6 o’clock was creeping up, so I got some fresh kit on and got onto the turbo at around 5:50 and hit the virtual trainer until the flag drop. I think the whole Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling team turned up for this ride and it was led by Jack Rees. The pace was meant to be steady, but as with all group rides, there’s always someone who likes to kick off at the beginning, I think we never actually saw that guy again!

Anyway…There were a few people I knew on the ride, some friends and colleagues from Ribble as well as others I know from cycling. In the end, there were 294 riders on the ride, including a lot of the team and a few of the other sponsors too. That’s pretty good going in my opinion, although I have nothing to compare it to!

The ride was pretty straight forward, with a full 4.4km hit out at the end which I had absolutely nothing to do with! I was basically in the middle of the pack all the way around, with Richard Jones (Road captain of the pro team) close by and Fraser Hamilton, a colleague of mine at Ribble Cycles; my mission was to finish in front of Fraser. (Sorry Frase!)

Having ridden earlier in the day to make the most of the good weather, my legs were inevitably tired despite not having gone particularly hard. It’s a long time since I’ve done any kind of double session and it told, but not before I beat Fraser to the line. Mission accomplished!!

All in all a good ride and nothing too outrageous, I expected my legs might be a little heavy but the next ride will fall after a day working rather than a bank holiday weekend, so I may be a little fresher!

I’m looking forward to Session 2 tomorrow – same time, Friday 6pm, this time it’ll be led by Jacob Tipper for a 50km group ride with a gruelling hilltop sprint finish!

Hopefully see you there!!

Find out more about the Ribble Spring Series on Zwift HERE

Sign up to the Ribble Spring Series rides HERE

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