We did the Première Manche - the first round - of A Travers riding across France from Dieppe to Marseille in the summer of 2009, and it was the original inspiration for this blog. The plan to put the 'band back together again' for another go in 2013 for the second installment fell on stoney ground, with life just getting in the way for too many of us, much to our disappointment. However, our enthusiasm for the bike remains undimmed, and so I'll keep posting my thoughts on the diverse and beautiful facets of the sport regardless. But there's bound to be another big 'adventure ride' coming soon - quite possibly in Italy - so potentially a name change too: Attraverso l'Italia in Bicicletta anyone?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Flanders Training: No Strava, HRM or Powermeter; Your Legs Tell You When You're Good

Here's a route for a 'proper' old-school training ride courtesy of my mentor Ken Hargrave, who sadly passed away last summer. I wrote the Eulogy for the service, and eventually Cycling Weekly deigned to publish the obituary I wrote on their online version, which his widow Doreen doesn't have access to: she so wanted to see it in print, and I think it's quite a shoddy way to treat a man who bought 'The Comic' for over 60 years. Clearly there's no space amongst the mail-merge reviews of identikit black plastic bikes ridden by grateful staffers and diet advice on whether to eat porridge or a fry-up on the morning of a Sportive. Anyway, this isn't the place for a rant.

With the cobbled and hilly classics coming up, I thought I'd share the training route map that Ken devised for me when I was preparing for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen Voor Wielertoeristen back in 2011. It's nothing new or revolutionary, and we all knew these hills were there, but the point is that his input and effort to produce this forced me to go and do the rides, much to my benefit. For Ken the North Downs gave ample opportunity to recreate the Flemish hellingen right on our doorstep, and you could ride all the way from Exedown to Leith Hill taking in one b*stard climb after another ... and then doing it in reverse to get home. Here's his poignant hand-drawn map for me of a little loop you can do around Star Hill - perfect for repeats too. It really isn't Strava Cycling, but I like it like that.

I also found these notes from him - on the back of an envelope, naturally - for an extended version of this ride, to be done once you've completed the route above a few times and are feeling stronger:

  • Climb Star Hill to Knockholt Pound
  • Through Knockholt Pound to Knockholt
  • Descend Sundridge Lane and Hill to Pilgrims Way
  • Climb Brasted Hill, bear left into The Nower, left turn down Hogtrough Hill, right into Pilgrim's Way
  • Climb Westerham Hill, immediate left at top into Chestnut Avenue
  • Climb up Clarks Lane, left into descent of White Lane
  • Right at junction with Titsey Hill, climb to top
  • Left into The Ridge
  • Descend Chalkpit Lane, bearing right into Barrow Green Road until A25
  • Right into Tandridge Hill Lane and continue right into Gangers Hill, back to The Ridge

It's certainly tough training, from a champion cyclist riding in an era when no-one used heart-rate monitiors or power meters, because their legs and lungs told their head exactly how well they were going.

Thank you once again Ken, and Doreen, for everything.