Cycling’s coming home 2: Tour of Andalucia – Ruta del Sol

Poster Tour Andalucia 2015

So, slowly the professional road cycling season is starting. The Tour Down Under is generally a little anticlimactic. The Tour de San Luis is probably rather good but the TV coverage is so “homemade” as to be unwatchable. Most of the stars are still off doing other stuff somewhere else (looking at power meters, generally starving themselves).

But, being the lucky guy I am, a reasonable race is coming by quite soon – the Tour of Andalucia (Andalusia), the “Sun Route”.

I can’t decide whether Stage 3 or 4 is the “Queen Stage”. Stage 3 features a similar climb as in the 2013 Vuelta to “Haza Llanas”, which is where I hope to be:

Vuelta Andalucia Stage 3
Vuelta Andalucia Stage 3

Stage 4 is the longest stage with multiple category 3 climbs and an “explosive” final climb into Alto de las Allanadas, en La Guardia de Jaén:

altimetria ruta del sol 4Haza Llanas is a classic climb. I didn’t make it up there in 2013 (not that I tried and failed but instead I decided to watch on an earlier part of the stage) and actually didn’t miss much as Chris Horner did his thing and blew away Nibali and everyone else. It was as impressive as it was … “incredible”. This time I’d like to see a more even competition, especially as the stage is quite short. On the other hand, one of the main names that tends to appear in this race each year is Alejandro Valverde, who is undeniably talented but also not on my list of favorite racers.

According to ciclo21.com, the poster for this year’s event is “an image which evokes the ‘retro’ style of the golden years of cycling. It is based on the old style posters for a simple reason: we want to reflect the effort and purity of other times…”

It’s a bit contrived but in fact maybe that’s what we should go with – leave behind all the doubts and rumours and past problems, break from the training programme to get up a hard, beautiful and iconic climb, commune with other road and mountain bikers, and enjoy the competition. Of course it will be hard and emotional and inspiring; that’s why in spite of everything we still love it.

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90 days to go: entering specific training mode

Countdown to Cordoba 19-01-2015

With 90 days to go to the major goal (85km MTB marathon around Córdoba, Spain), the recommended training changes from “General” to “Specific”.

I’m still (more or less) following the Ronda 101km preparation timetable, even though I’m not doing that event, but it must be just as applicable to other long events.

So now it changes to the following:

  • Monday: REST
  • Tuesday: Two hours flat terrain at 60-80% max heart rate
  • Wednesday: Gym + 30 mins confortable spinning
  • Thursday: 30 mins warm up + 10x intervals: 1 km at 90 % effort, high cadence 85/90 rpm, then 1 km recovery conforable speed + 30 mins warm down
  • Friday: REST
  • Saturday: 2.5 hours easy terrain with continual climbs and descents that make us change rhythm and postion on the bike
  • Sunday: 4 hour group ride varied terrain at cadence of 80 to 90 rpm

So we lose a gym session and replace with fourth ride which is a (tough) intervals session. And the other rides get a bit longer.

I’m not sure whether this is the training designed for competing to win or just getting round in good shape, but it seems quite nicely developed and varied. As the event is almost a month sooner than planned we might have lost a bit of base training. But cyclefucius say: let’s get specific.

cycling’s coming home

La Vuelta 2015 Stage 7

Another year, and the Vuelta a España again decides that the correct thing to do is to pay cyclefucius a visit.

Not quite as “at home” as last year’s finish in Cumbres Verdes, but travelling over some regular cyclefucius haunts such as La Peza, Alhendin, Alpujarra and on to Capileira (not a Brazilian fighting dance but a rough old mountain south of Granada). Looks nice – should be a good turn out on the final climb (which cyclfucius hasn’t ever done and will need to report back on). Stage 11 from Andorra on the other hand, cyclefucius will be leaving to the professionals:

Vuelta 2015 Stage 11
Vuelta 2015 Stage 11

As a whole it looks like a typical modern-style Vuelta – a team time trial to start, lots of mountain finishes, a reasonable individual time trial near the end. But all new summit finishes (not the well-known Angliru or Lagos de Covadonga etc.). And not too many stages over 200km – so could be a little more “racy”.

Someone once said mountain finishes are “cycling for people who don’t like cycling”. It’s true that Mrs. Fucius would happily watch a race up the Ventoux but no amount of echelons or sprint action could get her to watch a flat stage. On the other hand, everyone likes mountain finishes, though cyclefucius would say that this year we do need at least two of the big stars to be in contention. Last year’s tours did produce some Nibali and Contador awesomeness but they weren’t really challenged hard. In Cumbres Verdes we had Valverde, Contador and Froome charging up together and fairly epically dropping Quintana.

Of course we don’t know who’ll even be in it this year. Looks like no Contador but perhaps Froome, Quintana, Nibali, the always unlucky Purito and/or the always unloved Valverde. Or perhaps a “breakthrough” for someone like a Dan Martin, Fabio Aru or one of the French? The big climbs seem concentrated in the first two weeks so the result might depend on strong team performances in the final stages. There’s a lot of Giro-ing and Tour-ing to do before then but cyclefucius hopes that sufficient of them make it through unscathed, as this looks like a fun Vuelta.

What does Guzmán el Bueno have to do with cycling?

MTB Sierra Morena

Alonso Pérez Guzmán el Bueno (‘Guzmán the Good’) was by many accounts an interesting and unshakeable character. In 1294 he was helping the King of Castille defend the city of Tarifa from various invaders (including the King’s perfidious brother, Juan) who had it under siege. The invaders weren’t doing well but did manage to capture Guzmán’s young son, who they threatened to murder if he didn’t surrender. Guzmán not only was unwilling to give in, declaring:

I did not beget a son to be made use of against my country, but that he should serve her against her foes. Should Don Juan put him to death, he will but confer honour on me, true life on my son, and on himself eternal shame in this world and everlasting wrath after death

but in addition, to underline the point, threw his own dagger down by the castle walls for the attackers to do the deed with. (Which they did, but lost the battle.)

Wow. Colombia Pictures eat your heart out. The 13th century propaganda machine may have helped to commingle fact and legend here, but it’s a good story.

“But cyclefucius,” I hear you say, “this is all very historical and cautionary, but what does it have to do with cycling?”

Well, having missed the boat for the 101km of Ronda, the next best (and available) thing seemed to be the 85km of the Sierra Morena, which like many events in Spain is linked to/organized by the military – in this case the Brigada de Infantería Mecanizada (‘Tank Brigade’) “Guzmán el Bueno” nº X based in Córdoba Spain where this event is held. And I am in.

Three weeks earlier than Ronda but 16km shorter. But having Guzmán as patron, getting off the bike would clearly not be an option…

Gone in 24 seconds

101km of Ronda registrations were full a massive 24 seconds after opening at 10am this morning. Clearly being faster on the bike than the internet, cyclefucius didn’t get one. As cyclefucius’s Australian cousin (Fastn Fucius) would say: “Bugga”.

cyclefucius is not one for being pessimistic but at a cool 3612 on the waiting list, we can safely say it doesn’t look good. It really looks rather unattractive.

What’s the best remedy for disappointment? Get on the road bike and bike. Fast. On the road. Strange how after some mountain biking the skinny wheels feel so… skinny … but a well set up road bike just seems to invite forward motion. Aaah. What disappointment?

Rest day tomorrow. May look up a few sportive opportunities. May not. Ha! Not bothered. On the contrary, actually that event that now must not be named served its purpose and got me on my way.

The only way I could have felt more virtuous was…

The only way I could have felt more virtuous was if it had been snowing.

Actually not true. Arriving home my body temperature was sub-zero, but what a great ride, great views and great feeling.

If I’m honest, without the Ronda 101 challenge it would have been easy to either stay cosily at home, spend time with kids and do what most normal people do on New Year’s Eve.

But various layers and baby-bootees went on and off we go.

Ice, ice, baby:

IMG_2564

Contrary to what Velominati say, always carry your own water:

IMG_2563

Instead of sheep stopping play, sheep wisely get out of way:

IMG_2570

View from the top? No, how do I get up there?

IMG_2565

Rolling week’s training diary:

  • Friday: rest
  • Saturday: 1 hour MTB slow
  • Sunday: 90 mins soccer
  • Monday: 2 hour MTB real slow
  • Tuesday: mega weights session
  • Wednesday: 2 hour MTB feeling great (despite -6º)
  • Tomorrow: rest day

Happy New Year (remember January 3rd for Ronda 101 registration – will feel quite silly if don’t get it…)

Becoming a beast in 5 months

Cycling Strength Training

Being very motivated, cyclefucius was curious to see the training programme recommended by the good people at La Legion who organise the Ronda 101 km event. Here it is. (In Spanish.)

The first few weeks go like this:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Gym + 30 mins light pedaling
  • Wednesday: 2 hours riding including 30 mins of intervals
  • Thursday: Gym + 30 mins smooth running
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 2 hours comfortable riding on semi-flat terrain, not exceeding 80% effort
  • Sunday: 3.5 hours group ride on varied terrain at a cadence of 80 to 90 rpm

So we notice we have 3 rides, two gym sessions and two rest days. cyclefucius likes to do weights on non-riding days so this is fine, but notices that the gym is always followed by spinning or running. Aha moment.

cyclefucius has been on a plateau for a while and wonders if this might unlock something. And cyclefucius’s version of intervals up to now had been riding up the same hill 10 times.

But at around 5 months from the competition this is pretty hardcore stuff. cyclefucius infers that: (i) this event is going to be hard – really hard; (ii) he will be going round with guys who are doing all this already and are beasts – really, beasts.

cyclefucius will need to play a bit with the rest days and – like all cyclists – juggle work and home life (and blogging). And, cards on the table, 3.5 hours is something he needs to work up to again.

But if we get stuck into this it could be breakthrough time. Time to become a beast.