Hi Flanders, thank you Mallorca

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Its been a while since my last post. The last post also seems quite apt as this weekend its the 100th edition of Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and this time tomorrow I will be crossing the channel en-route to Belgium to sign on and prepare for the cobbles and climbs which await us on Saturday.  I will try and post an entry on Saturday evening after 129km of pain but we will see! At least to least I will be able to watch how the cobbled climbs should be done on the Sunday when the men and women pro races take place.

Why? Why indeed cycle and be involved in these mass cycling events. Well first up its to raise vital funds for Blind Veterans UK as these men and women have literally given  everything to keep us the public as safe as possible from those who wish to cause us harm. And on a personal note as a cyclist what an achievement to say, yes I’ve done that!

DSC_0038Whist I will not be participating in my new Blind Veterans UK jersey (the dust and dirt wont come out and it is required for Ride London) I will be flying the flag for my fundraising on the Sunday. I am to get as many photo opportunities as possible to help. After all this weekend is just 129km of the overall 10000km for the year!

As I said earlier there are more challenges to come over the summer months to help me achieve my overall goal.

March, on the bike has been kind, with a good week training on Mallorca. was he first time I had cycled more than 3 days consecutively and I managed to cycle 621km with over 6000m of climbing. The toughest day was day 3, Sa Collabra. 18 minutes to descend and over an hour to climb back but worth every peddle stroke. We were based iMe on col'd Honorn Peurto Pollensa so get to tackle Sa Collabra you first have to climb Lluc. The whole day was 2000m of climbing Sa Collobra was just under half of the days total.

Other climbs covered in the week were Randa and the Coll d’Honor. I can say I was not last to complete a climb and on one occasion I actually was the first up. Ok yes it was a short one at 5.9km with an average gradient of only 6%, but its technical and still has to be climbed.

Overall the week was a fantastic experience and one I cant wait to repeat. The quality of the road surface for one is excellent as well as the weather. next I suppose is one day to complete the 312 which is a ride around the whole island 312km in 14 hours.

The overall total for the year so far is 2941Km so ahead of schedule. Now time to back the bags for the Flemish weather.

You can support Phil reach and exceed his £450 fundraising target for Blind Veterans UK at his just giving page, www.justgiving.com/philcycles10000kmin2016 #philcycles10000kmin2016



#philcycles10000kmin2016 for Blind Veterans UK inc RideLondon

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My challenge #philcycles10000kmin2016 is going well as I have now completed just over 1400km in 6 weeks. I am now in a position to announce the charity which I will be raising money for this year. I have decided to raise money for Blind Veterans UK and you can help me achieve my target https://www.justgiving.com/account/your-pages/Philcycles10000kmin2016.

I was listening to a story on the radio whilst on the way to a meeting the other week and heard the story of Shaun Stocker who in 2009in the last six days of a tour of Afganistan hit and IED. As a result he lost limbs and vision. However thanks to phenomenal medical procedures he was able to have his sperm frozen to allow him to have children later in life. On Christmas Day his son Theo was born. This story really hit me and this is one of the reasons why I have chosen to work with Blind Veterans UK so they can help people like Shaun who have given so much for this country. 

More on my fundraising effort as well as the challenge update to follow in the coming weeks. 

One month down, 11 to go!

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To me it doesn’t seem long ago that I was blogging about my challenge #philcycles10000kmin2016 and the first month has come and gone. To be on target I needed to have cycled 834km to break even. Thankfully the weather has been kind and I have chalked up 1004km so am ahead of the game going into the second month. I am happy that I was able to cycle on the first and last day of this month with my club as it was a really good way to start the challenge. 

February as we know is the shortest month and to top 1000km this month will be quite an achievement. Even the extra day for the leap year will help but it will require 250km a week, but who knows what will happen. At the end of the month 18 members of the club will set off to our first winter training camp in Majorca for a week of climbs and coastal rides, riding the same roads the pro teams use in preparation for the long season ahead. I am sure the decent and then climb of Sa Collabra will be an amazing experience. How I get on will be another matter, slow and slower probably.  Personally for me it will be a great test for the first weekend in April, when a few of us will cycle the middle route 127km of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) in its centenary edition. Pave and hills! Great I can’t wait but at least it’s another one ticked off the list. This does mean that both the new bikes will have had a European trip under their belt, something my Specialized never achieved. 

I have a feeling that February and as we move into the Spring the weather will start to become a battle for the challenge to stay on track, which is why I am happy of the January gain. In all I just have to remember Rule 9 and 5 and just get out there and ride. 

So tomorrow is the first day of another month, month 2 in fact. A nice gentle recovery ride before an evening of cycling chat and entertainment over a curry with two close friends. Life at the moment is grand. Enjoy the ride.

#philcycles10000kmin2016 going well

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Today we are 12 days into 2016 and I am taking a well earned rest day from the bike today. Tomorrow is another ride, probably with the club on the midweek ride and then a 4 hours ride on Friday.

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316km down so just a big 9684km to go! However the best way to look at this is the target is need to have completed so far is 328.8km by the end of today. This means I am minus 12.8km but there is a big day in the saddle tomorrow again on Friday and a club ride on Sunday, so I am on track as it stands.

The fundraising arrangements are coming along and  hope to have these finalised by the end of the month and then I can start the second part of the challenge, raising money for good causes.

You can follow my progress on Strava  here #philcycles10000kmin2016

Day Five Ride #3 #philcycles10000kmin2016

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I have decided to changed the hashtag to include the word “cycles” as this is the main part of the challenge. so the full hashtag is now #philcycles10000kmin2016. Today was a day like many to follow where there is just enough time for a ride as well as get to the other commitments and appointments so just 34.1 km covered. This however brings me to 150km completed and slightly above schedule, so a good start. From my calculations the target after five days was 137km,so just a small credit.

Today was not all plain sailing. I managed to pick up my first puncture on the new Giant Defy provided the opportunity to have the winter Continental 4 season tyres fitted for much better winter riding. They say tomorrow is another day and will be and if the tyres are as good as the reviews then I will be a happy man.

I have been asked what the point of this challenge is. Each ride isn’t going to be groundbreaking in terms of distance, elevation or speed, but the mental effort to keep going for a year to achieve a distance I have just covered in the last three! I will of course be attempting to raise valuable funds for charity and I have a few areas to tie up before launching a fundraising page, but more news on this in the coming weeks.

As well as posting updates here I will also be attempting to update Instagram with pictures whilst out riding and of course the whole challenge can be followed on Strava.

Well that is it for now, happy riding!

A new challenge

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2016 could, no most probably will be the year that the world endurance cycle record finally goes as Bruce Berkley attempts to cycle 330km a day to enter the record books. More about his attempt can be read here.

As we approach the end of the year and the time where we reflect upon the past 12 months and having a week of the bike it was a good time for me to reflect on the past year. So far, according to Strava, I have cycled 5668km in 2015, taking in Ride London, Tour of Cambridgeshire and other Sportives, plus a trip to the Yorkshire Dales and Trough of Bowland, as well as officially joining a cycling club.

So as Bruce will be attempting a phenomenal effort to cycle 330km a day and if I could do that in a week it would be a grand effort, I started to think about the distance I could travel in 2016. There are advantages, the extra day will help as its a leap year, and I am completing the same Sportives as major events, plus I will be attending a pre season training camp in Mallorca in March so plenty of opportunities to get the miles in. The question is what to have as a target? If I have cycled nearly 6000km, then I think a conservative, but challenging target should be 10,000km in a year. This would average 192.3km a week which is quite an effort, so I would need to commute to work on the bike as much as possible. Or a more modest 27.39km each day for 365 days, so giving myself one whole day off in the year, well in 2016 anyway. When you put it like that 27.4km a day then yes it sound possible.

So when to start, and what motivational tools to help. Strava has to be a way to keep track of the progress for the year. It does it anyway so doesn’t need any special setting up. Now to set up my rules. All rides would have to be out on the road, not on a trainer or in the gym, otherwise the challenge distance would be too easy. They would also be on my two new bikes as well as this would be a fantastic way to get to use them in the first year of their life. Therefore all rides would need to be recorded in Strava. Then come the motivational part, Stravas challenges. These themselves are hard, but with an overall distance goal in mind for the year might become a little more achievable on a regular basis. If I have to ride 834km each month, which will be a challenge in the cold winter months of January and February, then aiming for the distance challenges in the summer months could be a valuable catch up opportunity if it was required, or spinning this around a chance to get ahead and enjoy the longer summer days.

Why do this in the first place? And who would benefit, apart from me with improved fitness. This brings in another motivational tool and the opportunity with this to raise money for charity. Again I will be raising money for Tennage Cancer Trust, with cycling Ride London, but the 10000km in a year could be an other opportunity to raise some valuable funds for a great charity. This part is still to be finalised and emails need to be send to officially set this up.

So the 2016 challenge has been set. I will make more of an effort to update via the blog about my progress. So this just leaves me to wish you all a happy new year and I hope 2016 us a positive year for you all.

Just 7 months, but what a change

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1st March 2015 I joined my local cycling club, just seven days later I go on my first club ride and get spat out of the back of group four, and I mean spat out. Since then a lot has changed.

First of all I would like to thank the ride leader that day DG who has become a regular face and friend on the Sunday rides as he got me back to the finish. Other club members have helped ove the past seven months and I thank each one of you for your company on our rides and helping me develop, especially those who have taught some to ride in a group (SH, RP, ST, SV and the rest)

I have been cycling the year before with people in the village, but the winter came and the social group when it own ways. I had also completed London to Brighton and Ride London that year so the summer was a good one in the bike, but the lack of training over the 2014/15 winter didn’t help and certainly was a factor of me being out the back door in that first club ride back in March 2015.

The following week I remember thinking work harder and keep on the wheel of the rider I front, it worked as I made it back within the group. Well small progress at least. A few weeks went by and I was getting used to cycling in a group and was coping quite well. A decision needed to be made, group 3? This group moves at an extra 2mph aver age speed and the no drop policy is gone. Oh well the new wheels had arrived and they helped my speed so I made the decision to step up, just one month into my membership! The route was an out and back on a flat and as I know now a fast ride. We reached the out part travelling at 18.5mph average and the previous weeks it was 15mph! Yes this had taken its toll and again I was out the back of group 3 in the last 10 miles, nothing left in the tank and I was empty. It was after this ride that RP had provided some very useful advise via email the following day, use a cadence meter and change the saddle height a bit (upwards), OK advise was great fully received and quite frankly required, as I found myself not good enough for group 3 and not being able to push in group 4. The final bit of advise was the fact me mentioned I would be in group 2 by September. I smiled, but thought this would be a hard ask. The advise worked, no suprise and I was able to stay in the front of group 4 and do most of the work for the next few weeks, before making another attempt at group 3. By now I had been cycling with the club for about six weeks and with the commute to work on the bike I was getting stronger and quicker. However still didn’t believe the “in group 2 by Septemer bit”.

26th April 2015 my second attemp in group 3. Progress, success, not dropped. I felt like I had achieved the first major success at the club, well my success anyway. By now I was loving the club rides and was starting to make new friends which is the other great thing about cycling, the social aspect. There was a dinner and dance the first one the club had organised so it was a good excuse to get to know more people and feel part of the club. A lovely evening was had by all and yeast there was a club ride the following morning to help clear the head. I had also felt more comfortable and had agreed to step up and learn how to lead rides. Within a few weeks I was assisting the group 4 ride and learning the ropes. 

When I was not learning how to lead rides I rode in group 3 trying to learn form the more experience club cyclist as well as push myself forward. After all I was due to Ride London in August so needed to ensure I had the miles in my legs to do myself justice. It is mid May and a few club member s were of participating in various events across the UK and Europe. In just 2 weeks (start of June) the Tour of Cambrideshire was taking place and a large club contingent was going 44 riders, and yes I was one. I had only ever ridden on closed roads once before so the experience was good to pass up. To add extra pressure it was also the UK qualifying leg for the world amatur road race championships in Denmark later in the year. The first two hours flew by with an average over 20mph! Either I was going to set a fast time or burn up. The latter happened and I finished the 88 miles in 4h 50m. Getting faster I thought, after all the goal was Ride London at the start of August.

I was regularly leading rides for group for and now assisting group 3 rides as well as continuing the commute to/from work as often as possible during the week. I continued to soak up advise from experience club members and tried to implement these into my commuting rides. Various levels of success a long with trial and error lead to a continued level of improvement. It would be seen how far I had come on the bike with a three day visit to the Yorksire Dales, just before a ride London with a mate of mine Harv. It was a good trip lots of hills and they are steep and no suprise lots of rain. So much rain in fact even the locals said it was a lot of rain, one gentleman said “it ain’t rained like t’is round ‘ere for years”. After drying out we knew that our legs would cope with Leith and Box Hill that weekend.

Ride London, the big event was here. Again this was a closed road event on the 2012 Olympic Road Race course, and the goal was to finish the whole course (the weather the previous year had lead to the course being shortened for safety) and to set a good time. I was on the front row of our starting wave and although this is not a race I made the decision to be first of of the Olympic park for our wave. The flag went down and I went for it, and achieved my little challenge, although I doubt anyone else was interested, but I was first into the A12 heading towards central London and the Surrey hills. In the previous wave a multiple world champion and 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist from 2012 was riding with her dad, yes it was Laura Trott. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the registration event on the Friday and said I wonder if I would see her again on the ride. Going through Richmond park I heard a very distinctive laugh (if you have heard Laura laugh then you know what ask mean) which had meant somewhere I had already passed her. I know she was not riding flat out but she want going slow either. I took my opportunity and drafted for a bit.  I also managed to have a chat with her about her Rio preparations etc. and I noticed we were moving quite nicely at an average of 22.5mph, slow for Laura but quick for me. I intended to ride with Miss Trott for the rest of the ride as long as I did my turn on the front and all was going well until the first of three punctures. Laura was gone so I was back in the pack. My mate Harv stopped for a chat before we were off again. I admit I did go a bit faster trying to make to hub for some much needed pressure in the front wheel. All in all the work had paid off as I completed the 100 miles in 5h 15m with a nice average speed of 19.1 mph (group 1 pace!).

The club entered a local charity sportive instead of running club rides one Sunday morning and we all joined in. My aim was to see how long I could stay with some of the sesioned club cyclists, and before long we had a large group, of about 30 riders, a mixture of club members and other cyclists. As the ride went on and the pace remained high (19-20mph) the group gradually got smaller. At 36 miles (of 50) I was starting to feel the pressure, but made a big effort not to be dropped and complete the ride with the remaining club members. At 41 miles I had dug deep but knew that I was going  to finishwith the others and I did in 2h 32m. I reminder saying to Russ, that maybe he was right after all and I would be in group 2 by September. He was right as when the ride leader plan for Septmeber was emailed to us, there I was assisting group 2 at the end of the month.

Leading the two’s was never a plan but on 27th September, the date I was supposed to be assisting this group there I was leading the ride. It was also my first group two ride, so added responsibility, and despite a few wrong turns everyone enjoyed the ride and we got back safely. Over a post cycle coffee, I took a moment to review my first seven months with a cycling club, what a journey. The following weekend was a challenge to ride the Trough of Bowland, which I have to say was very, no extremely enjoyable on and off the bike, but the climbing was harder than the trip to the Dales a few months before. One minute you are climbing at 5mph and then descending at 40+mph for three hours (moving time). However can’t wait to go back.

So my first seven months as a member of my local cycling club has been fun, exciting, full of challenges and the opportunity to meet many like minded people, as well as my cycling ability/fitness come on in leaps and bounds. Just the motivation required for a good winter training set and to be ready for the start of 2016!

Below is a graph I have used to track my fitness and to see my improvement.


Time Trials….

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The worlds best endure a TT as part of the grand tours and other big stage races on the World Tour, they are part  of many of not all national championships and many clubs run those own club 10 or something similar. The local Triathlon club to me is no exception. As a cycling club we are more than involved as many Tri members are cycle club members too. Yesterday evening I turned out for my first TT, hoping not to make a complete fool of myself. 

I had made the decision a few weeks back after a club email and after checking the diary, things matched up, so it was done, I was going to complete my first TT. That weekend I even did the course to see what it was like and to see what I would be letting myself in for, however this test ride was nothing compared to what I experienced but useful never the less. 

A friend had let me use his TT bars which I am very greatful for and will now need to purchase my own set. The test run was completed without the TT bars, so logging the test time I felt I could go quicker. So 6.30pm came and it was time to get changed. 

The start of the TT is very close so leaving at 6.30pm for a 7pm registration allowed for a pre warm up, warm up and time to feel relaxed on the bike. Registration was complete and an estimate time given (as I had no previous time to work on). This was 29 minutes from the organiser, and I went with it. It is now time to mention the test time had been 29.45 without TT bars so I went with this estimation. It meant that out of the 35 riders I would be the eleventh rider out, the fastest riders going off last. The goal enjoy it and try two things, catch my minute man and not be caught by the guy behind me. 

I was called forward to the start and elected to have the bike held so I could remain clipped into my pedals. The countdown started, 30 seconds, 15 seconds, then the final 10 second countdown before GO! Strangle I remember is all quite well but as soon as I was off I wanted to get a good cadence and in a high gear and maintain the pace. I was quickly into position on the TT bars and felt quick. The heart rate was up and getting higher and I knew I had to get close to the redline without going over it to much so not to burn out. Entering the first straight I could see my minute man, this spurred me on to make the catch, but when, if at all would this come. At these speeds a minute is a lot of road to make up. Head down keep the cadence steady in a high gear and push, keep pushing. I went through the bends before I knew it and then onto a second straight. It was deceptive but looking up I could see my minute man and I was sure I was getting closer. Keep going and don’t get carried away, I had to tell myself. The first half, the out section of the course is downhill so I needed to not give it all so I didn’t burn up in the second half. I was getting closer to my minute man and knew I could make the catch, but just had to keep going and it would come. 

Half way was reached and thankfully a clear roundabout meant I didn’t have to ease up much, just enough to get round safely, my minute man was within reach. I thought just get the cadence up and keep pushing in the gear I was in and you’ll make the catch and then we will see what happens. Catch made first goal achieved, I was not on the way back and saw the later, faster starters pushing hard on the out part of the course. Some of these guys and girls were on very expensive TT bikes complete with arrow helmets and skin suits. Just keep pushing and go. The pain was starting to kick in now and I just had to push that to the back of my mind, which was not easy. 7 miles gone and onto the straight again, this time into a headwind, grit teeth and keep pushing I said to myself, numerous times. 

Back through the last village before the end and into the final drag before the uphil finish. Keep the tuck going and push, it was hard to to is now as I was on the limit. I was in the red and with 1.5 miles left it was a case of just hanging in there. I must have made a few down shifts as I entered the hills and then, bang I had been caught by the rider who started behind me. He pulled away into the final hill and I just gave it one last effort. I thought I would catch rider 12, but I was empty and had nothing left. The final straight to the line and I gave it everything. I crossed the line, shouted out my ride number “eleven” (not sure if I needed to but did it anyway) and looked down at the Garmin, 28 something I remember seeing. 

I reached the pub car park where we met at the start and then again at the end, whilst waiting for other club riders to return, and was asked that looked quick what was it? 28 someing was my reply, whilst short of breath. “Good time for a first effort” was a reply I heard more than once. I felt good which what I had achieved. The times were read out after the final rider was home and I had recorded a time of 28.32 which I am happy with. I had beaten my estimation, caught my minute man, so have to be happy, well on reflection I an over the moon with my efforts. 

There are two more TT’s left and luck has it I am not away so will be able to participate. It will be hard but now I have a target time, I’ll give it a go and let’s see what happens. 

So did I enjoy my first TT! no I loved it and can’t wait for the next one. 

You know you’ve come a long way when…

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For many cycling or any other activity we do to keep fit or for enjoyment of a physical nature, we can normally see improvements over time. There are people out there who just go by the feel of a particular ride or run and those at the other end who analyse every last detail aided by a range of technology measuring, well everything. For me, there is no one better method, and it is personal preference, and I know where I sit along the line, somewhere closer to the analyse everything end than using pure “feel”. 

I know I have improved when I look at my data, but that is not the purpose of this post. As part of my career I have used reflection to improve my own performance (as many others do) and this has been transferred to my cycling. I reflected on the club ride yesterday and the first ever club ride I completed back in March. First yesterday was a higher group, so the first baromitor of any improvement. When I reflect upon the first ride when I was not fit enough and I could not close the gap which had developed, and yesterday when I was leading a large peloton of 17 riders at a much higher speed, is the second. I didn’t think I would be in such a position. Maybe the club secretary was right in his statement I could be in the second group by September! These improvements are backed up with the data (on Strava), but the improved confidence of riding within a group, and leading them is another sign of my improvement as well as others having the belief in my abilities to do the job. 

Confidence. I now have this, and back myself, and I will even try a TT before the end of the season. TT bars have been aquired from a friend (who joined the club ride for the first time yesterday and loved it). I have ridden the TT course so know what to expect but not yet with the TT bars which will, I am sure aid my goal towards a PB. The  think here is just having a go. If I come last, so be it, but for me a TT is just about being able to beat my own time over a period of weeks. 

The improvements I have seen in 2015 will keep me more motivated during the winter months when on the trainer and then come the spring knowing a good winter training programme has followed a good summer, will allow an increase in confidence for the summer of 2016, and pushing those boundaries further. The only problem with this is the requirement for  another new bike which I suppose is never a bad thing! 

This is all good of course for the main event which is just under a month away, Prudential Ride London raising fantastic funds for Teenage Cancer Trust. My link is here if you can help in any way to reach my target. 

Whatever works for you, is what you should use, and enjoy it, unless your a pro cyclist and they get paid for their hurt, however we feel great when we can see ourselves improve and for that I just love Strava! 

Happy riding, enjoy the ride.

Ride Leader

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I have been out with the club for about 4 months now and it’s fantastic. I have learnt so much and reminded myself of things I had forgotten from reading blogs and articles last summer. Tomorrow it all comes together when I will lead my first ride at 7.30 am tomorrow morning (UK time). 

Others have faith in my ability to lead the ride, and I am confident I can do a good job. After all I have been assisting in an official capacity as ride assistant for the past few months, learning the ropes, and now I have the opportunity to ensure everyone has a good ride. 

The route is quick and flowing and all going well we should roll quicker than the planned average, but we shall see. We do have a no drop policy for the group I lead tomorrow, so a good opportunity for me to roll through the groups having a chat with people and getting to know more about them and their cycling, and more importantly to ensure everyone gets back safe. 

As normal I have checked the bike over and ensured she is ready for the task, and she received a little more attention than normal to ensure she is looking her best for leadership responsibilities. The kit is ready, drink chilling in the fridge, and the Garmin fulling charged with the route loaded, so we don’t get lost. 

Just now need to chill out with a cold drink this evening and watch the highlights from the first stage of the 102nd Tour de France. 


Enjoy the ride.