Last year was a successful cycling year for me. Probably with my performance pinnacle being the Tour of Cambridgeshire. After the summer I seemed to gradually decline into winter. Is that normal?  Presumably a downturn into winter should be expected, the question is how much? This is a difficult question to answer when you don’t have years of comparative data to look back through.So it’s good now to be coming back into the start of the new season and riding some events that I rode last year.  So with Wiggle switching the ‘No Excuses’ ride from being a freebie to their usual extortionate sportive rate, the Yaxley Riders Reliability Trial became my first repeat event.

Whatever the change in my fitness may be, since last year I have definitely gained riding buddies and I now have a good idea of who I can keep pace with, who I shouldn’t try to keep pace with (or at least not for a long distance!) and those riders that have the same or similar aims to me.  So going into the Reliability Trial this year I was able to group together with a bunch of other riders who I knew and we agreed to ride the longest distance and aim for the ‘silver’ time band.

3 of the group of 4

3 of the group of 4

If you’re not familiar with Reliability Trials then I’ll take a moment to try to explain.  It’s an early season event organised by a cycling club that emphasises ‘reliability’ over out right speed.  As an entrant you choose the time band that you think you will complete the course in and as long as you return back within that band then you get the classification of ‘reliable’.  So you can fail by being late (too slow) but you can also fail by being early (too fast).  At Yaxley Riders this year we had three route lengths (39, 50 and 80 miles) and each route had four bands (bronze, silver, gold and platinum).  Self sufficiency is also part of the ethos of such an event, there’s no mechanical assistance, no route signposting and no feed stops.

Last year I rode the short route, which was 60 miles.  I rode it solo, dipping in and out of groups of riders where our paths and pace met.  I aimed for the silver time band and fell short; the last 20 kilometers of that ride were really tough.  I cramped up and found that even the slightest hill had to be spun up in my bottom gear and the final straight with a slight headwind seemed to go forever.  My average speed was 24.2 km/h and here’s the Strava link.

Do I look fast in this?

Do I look fast in this?

This year I rode the longest route which was 80 miles.  I rode with my new ‘ride buddies’, a group of 8 until the split for long/medium and then a group of 4 to the end.  I aimed for the silver time band and would have got gold (we stopped just before the entrance to pass some time and arrive reliable).  I didn’t feel even a twinge of cramp, of course the legs felt well worked but had I needed to I could have pushed hard down that final straight to make up time.  Sure conditions were different to last time, it was warmer this time but it was also windier.  My average speed was 24.6 km/h and here’s the Strava link.

The average speeds are much the same but as usual the stats are not the whole story.  It was further this time and I finished fresher.  We even had to slow the pace towards the end to avoid overshooting our time band.  So although the evidence is inconclusive I feel positive about my condition coming into spring 2016.  Roll on the next repeat ride, the Hunstanton Fish & Chip Epic.