I’m not sure where to begin really, I’m a little out of sorts tonight, my very good friend John crashed heavily during yesterday’s race and is in hospital with serious head and facial injuries. I feel pretty powerless, he gave me so much of his time a while back when I was sick so to be able to do nothing to help right now is difficult. My thoughts are very much with him. So, wishing him all the very best for a solid and speedy recovery I’ll move on to what was otherwise a cracking good event….
I gave you some background to the event below so no point in repeating that, instead I’ll concentrate on the ride… The day dawned bright but bitterly cold and with a near gale-force northerly wind… especially significant because the spectacular setting of the course out on the Lizard comes with a price… an almost total lack of shelter from the raw force of the winds, especially on the exposed stretch past Goonhilly Downs. I was riding fixed much to the amusement of many of my fellow competitors, the combination of wind and hilly course I guess makes gears something of a no-brainer but then I have always been a bit odd and I wasn’t particularly worried… experience on fixed in Cornwall said I could get away with it (I pre-rode the course…), and be competitive at the same time… Must admit though I was a little worried by the cold, it was really grabbing in my chest (I’m asthmatic) and making breathing a little uncomfortable.
I was lucky to roll down the start ramp relatively early at 10.15am before the sleet and hail showers swept in so I had a chance to get properly ‘hot’ before the chilling tentacles of damp cold worked their way through my skinsuit and wrapped themselves around my ribs.. weirdly not an entirely unpleasant sensation as I knew my core temperature would stay good at the level of effort being expended. The first 8 miles into wind were quite hard going, this section of the course has many uphill ‘drags’ that always seem to me harder on a geared bike rather than fixed… I just rolled the big gear smoothly at around 32km/hr concentrating only on keeping the balance of effort such that I knew I could grab just enough recovery on the descent at 13km to keep going. That’s all it is really racing on fixed in hilly terrain, just a balancing act between effort expended on the climbs vs the amount of recovery available when spinning fast on the flats or descents. The descents out on the Lizard are quite steep and potentially very quick but they are also quite technical in places, and with an additional coating of hailstones having my speed ‘pegged’ at around 62km/hr by my ability to spin safely (i.e in control!) in my chosen gear I didn’t think was too much of a handicap against gears and freewheel. Even the steep climb at 35km mark on the return leg was no big deal on the 55×17, I’m convinced that climbing on fixed is something like 50% strength, 30% technique and 20% mental attitude.. have to believe no such thing as “can’t do”, though I have been caught out on one or two occasions…
The only place I felt handicapped was the final 8km so to the finish… flat or slightly downhill with a raging tailwind my screaming legs would simply not go round any faster with useful power output than 125-130rpm so my speed was pegged to about 53-54km/hr. On reflection I think I might have got away with a 16T sprocket though it would have been very hard in the wind on the initial outbound leg and the two steepest climbs on the return leg would have been a struggle (and my knees might not have been so happy about it…). Overall though I don’t think I sacrificed much speed to a geared setup, I always climb faster on a fixed so with the wind and hills things worked out pretty well. I guess the proof is in the pudding with a 12th place finish amongst a field of 86 riders. I’m quite happy given that this was my first event of the season and first big effort since coming home from Colombia… things can only get better :o) Event winner was James Smith (Trigon) and you can see a full set of results on the Penzance Wheelers page here. My Cyclelogic buddies acquitted themselves pretty well, though to be honest it was Martin Bawden (again) who put the rest of us to shame… but he’s awfully nice about it all so we don’t mind, hehe :o)
I’m really happy with the new Condor frame, she rides a treat and “her purposeful purity” (I really do talk bollocks sometimes don’t I…!) stands out most excellently when parked in a fleet of geared machinery, even if that fleet consists of state of the art carbon spangleware. Covetous glances were noted all-round… :o) I did replace the HED 90 front wheel though for something a little easier to control in yesterday’s winds… a Mavic Cosmic Carbone Pro. Worked a treat.
p.s if you want to see where the Lizard Peninsular is then open up Google Earth, plug in Lat/Long of 49°58’9.48″N/ 5°12’13.13″W and that will put you pretty much right on the start line.