Pushed all the way

“One more rider in the second group, it’s not going to go too fast.”

“OK, I’ll go.” I pipe up and set off for the toughest session in quite some time. I got hauled round on the first lap until I popped at the start of the second and dropped off the back. Now when I sit up it usually takes a few minutes for the next group to collect me, unfortunately not this time.

My brain is feeling like it’s in a tumble dryer; the fact I’m not wearing my contact lenses is irrelevant as my vision has gone hazy; and my legs feel like they’ve been punched repeatedly. Now someone is shouting at me to get in amongst the wheels and I’m making all sorts of involuntary grunts and groans as I labour not to drop two groups in one sweep.

The person shouting at me is Guy Andrews, a familiar name to London cyclists as both a racer and a journalist. He’s a very knowledgeable rider and if you ever have the pleasure to ride with him, listen to what he says. Several of the pieces of advice he gave me this morning have improved my riding immediately:

  • Get in among the wheels, it’s easier. Obvious enough, but easy to forget when you are struggling and having to chase back to the group on the hilly bits. Having slaughtered myself up the annoying hill at the back of the park, I started to drift off wheels, he gave me a push, I frantically turned the pedals. It just about worked.
  • Head up and focus on the wheel you are following. This is something that is impossible if your head is down. But if you force yourself to concentrate on that reference point then it’s easier to work back to it and stick with it. It also seems to help with keeping my breathing going.

    So after another couple of laps, I popped hard on the same spot and dropped off that group in a groaning and wheezing mess to finish the session at a trundle or so. My jaw is killing me from my mouth trying to force itself wide enough to get the oxygen in as I gasped my way along. That said I feel pretty fresh this evening and not particularly sore, apart from my ongoing hip trouble. Next month: cyclefit, no question about it.

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