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The Fred Whitton Challenge 2016

The ‘Fred’ was another amazing event at Grasmere. It seems no matter what the weather is the ride is still tough, with the warm, sunny weather I think a few of us though we would have an easy ride…

We set off in a good group at around 6.40am and made easy work of the first part of the ride, working together to share the work. There was a bit of cloud cover and no wind which meant we hit Braithwaite around 3hrs – on target for a sub 7 time.

The support was fantastic all the way round, the sun certainly helped that, and our own support on top of Whinlatter provided us with a change of bottles and a bite to eat. We had also been careful to make sure we were taking in enough carbs every hour.

The group has split a little then and Scott and I were left as a two. Scott was starting to struggle on the back section through to Calder Bridge but we were still on for a sub 7 time – at 5 hours in from the start.

Bottles refulled and more food in, we set off down the Eskdale valley knowing that usually it takes just under 2 hours to get back to Grasmere. Little did we know that the Easterly wind was up creating a horrendous headwind and the temperature was up in the mid 20’s! The bit to Hardknott was energy sapping and by the time I hit the bottom of the 30% slopes my body said ‘No’. Scott had also had enough as we both struggled to get up and over Hardknott and Wrynose. It seemed like the rest of the event was also struggling though with people strewn all over the road, pushing, walking, stopping and cramping up. Some brave souls were actually riding it!!

I got back to base in 7 hrs and 17 mins, Scott in 7 hrs and 25 mins. Both times were PB’s and within the top 10% of riders who started. A good ride but not the sub 7 I wanted: the heat and wind certainly put pay to that. My ride time was 6 hrs 54 mins – just had to stop too much after ‘hitting the wall!’. This only means one thing… I’ll be back!!

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Scott’s 2016 Fred Whitton Challenge

John really saved the day for my Fred Whitton Challenge this weekend. On the way to registration at Grasmere with Graham my Di2 failed, due to a faulty connection with the battery unit, leaving me with no usable road bike in Cumbria the day before the ride. No stress, all it took was one phone call to settle my nerves and a replacement bike, road ready and just my size was offered up by John.

“Least it happened the day before, it’d be worse if it happened on the route”, I was told by both Graham and John. True words indeed, I now didn’t need to worry.

The idea of riding the route on a bike I had never ridden before was fine as the gearing was absolutely spot on for the challenging climbs that Graham and I have been training on, and after a quick 5 mile loop it was quite clear that the bike was beautifully set up. The saddle was actually so comfortable that I chose to not change it for my own and ride the 112 miles on it!

So on the day itself, it started hot and we were dressed more like we were riding in the south of France than Cumbria, two years ago I set off with a woolly hat beneath my cycling helmet! We had been training for and felt that we could go for a sub 7hour pace and that was the target. We set off fast and I ended up with PBs for all of the climbs up to Honister, we were ahead of our target time at Braithwaite check in and it looked good. This carried on all the way to Calder Bridge at 81 miles and we arrived right on our target time.

A quick feed at the bottom of Eskdale and then we hit the Easterly headwind, it was strong and the day was getting hotter. Only at the bottom of Hardknott did I begin to doubt that we would make the time, we’ve both ridden the road up Hardknott so many times but this was hot, windy and hard. We had the chat and I told Graham not to hang back for me. We were both shattered with the Cumbrian (!!!) heat taking its toll. It was my slowest (and hardest) ever ascent of Hardknott and by the top the sub 7 time was out of grasp, which left me to just enjoy the fantastic run in to the finish from then on. The local South Lakes roads through the top of the Duddon, Cockley Beck, Wrynose and Little Langdale being some of my favourite to pedal any day but in this weather they were stunning.

So I arrived in Elterwater as the 7hr mark came and I actually came across the finish line at 7hours 25mins. The bike was an absolute pleasure to ride through challenging terrain and over some rough roads. A MASSIVE “Thank you” to John for the use of the Enigma bike, it was perfect for a long day out in glorious Cumbrian weather. As always the Fred Whitton provided a very beautiful, scenic and tough day out, with a good mate who has talked me into many an adventure over the years.

Miles ridden: 112
Energy Gels: 12
Tuna butties: 4
Bike: Enigma

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Graham’s 2016 Fred Whitton Challenge – April

Miles ridden- 668
Longest ride- 104- Ride from Cumbria to York
Hrs ridden- 39
Number of bike sessions- 24
FTP- 330/5w
Fred hills ridden- 2- Wyrnose, Hardknott

April- A bit of everything!

The final month of training before the event saw me do a bit of everything- from  10 mile time trials to steady long distance miles. A note to anyone reading this with a view to following this plan, it is probably not the best way to do it!! Sticking to one goal would have been wiser but I’m terrible at that!

I started the month with a few days away in Ibiza. Now that it something I would recommend. A few days away riding with the sun on your back does you the world of good after enduring the long winter miles! The only problem is going back to wearing all your winter it when you return.

In between the speed training, by competing in time trials (to which I got a couple of PB!) I have ridden a one hundred mile ride to York and a few shorter, hillier rides taking in some more of the route. The York ride was ridden at the pace I would like to do on the day- around 200w whilst working at around 300w on the climbs. I actually had a bit of a tailwind and managed to average 18 mph. Don’t think I’ll be hitting those speeds on the Fred but it was a good ride to test the food strategy.

I am going to have two people out on the course handing me bottles and a few savoury snacks. To be honest the feed stops are amazing, this is just a way of saving a bit of time, as they can be quite busy. I find something savoury, like a tuna sandwich helps when taking in a plethora of sugary snacks.

Hardknott and Wrynose where just as horrible as I remembered but I did manage a PB which gave me confidence that I should be okay on the day, just as long as I don’t go into the ‘red’ too much. Not easy on a 30% gradient.

We did a final 50 mile ‘Fred’ ride one week before the event to test the pace and see if we could handle a 16 mph ride. I’m glad to say we could, although it will be tough. Oddly the weather forecast is for sunny and 20 degrees on the day…I knew the training in Ibiza would come in handy!!

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Graham’s 2016 Fred Whitton Challenge – March

Miles ridden- 676
103- A hilly hundred taking in some of the route
Hrs ridden- 40
Number of bike sessions- 30
FTP- 330/5w
Fred hills ridden- 3- Kirkstone, Honister and Newlands

March- the racing season has begun!

This has been a month of crit racing, my first 100 miler of the year and the opening time trial. Trying to fit all these different elements in has been challenging but I do think variety is the spice of life!

I finished off the end of last season just missing out on 3rd cat status so was keen to make a good start in the 4th’s to try and make it up to 3rd cat as soon as possible. My two crit races at Lancaster proved successful coming 10th in one and 6th in the other to pick up 5 points. This kind of riding can help on the Fred, not only with speed, but also the ability to ride at threshold, push a bit harder, then go back to threshold again.

After spending a couple of weekends racing I was also keen to keep up the endurance by putting in a long ride over some of the Fred hills close to the pace needed for a sub 7 ride. It was a beautiful March day and a very enjoyable ride, hopefully we will get this on the day! I rode over Kirkstone, Honister and Newlands and did about 45 miles of the actual route on the 100 mile ride Total ascent of the whole ride was around 9000ft, not far off the total of the Fred, and I managed an average of 16.1mph. https://www.strava.com/activities/522023039

Feeling a bit fresher on the day and riding with others should mean I am on track for the sub 7.The one thing I did learn was to get the fuel correct. I started to feel a bit ropey after 3.5 hrs and realised that energy products are not enough. Having some kind of ‘real food’ around this time should solve that problem.

On the final weekend of March I completed my first time trail of the season. A hilly 20 miler around Lazonby. I was pleased with my time, going 90 seconds quicker than 2 years ago. In addition to this, the conditions were terrible and I hope we don’t get a day like that on the Fred!!

My final day of March is going to spent riding in Ibiza. The plan is to spend 4 days getting in the sunny endurance miles. More about that next month!

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Graham’s 2016 Fred Whitton Challenge – February

Miles ridden- 557
Longest ride- 84- Lune CC Coal Rd Challenge Reliability Ride
Hrs ridden- 33 miles
Number of bike sessions- 21
FTP- 330/5w
Fred hills ridden- 0- But did some horrible ones in Lancashire!

February has been a good month of training. As usual the weather has not been too kind! The good thing about entering the Fred is that it gets you out. So this month I’ve kept up the same pattern of training with the shorter, interval sessions in the week with a longer ride at the weekend. On average about 5 sessions a week.

As my training is not just for the Fred, some of the turbo sessions have been more geared towards some of my other goals for the season. Longer efforts at threshold for time trialling or sessions where you work around threshold/sweet spot and then push harder for a short interval then back the threshold/sweet spot which help with road racing. The longer ride at the weekend then increases the endurance and helps with the fat burn!

However, these turbo sessions can also help with the Fred. One myth about the Fred is that is that it is just full of hills. Maybe there is some truth in that statement…but there are also plenty of flat/rolling sections and it is these bits where you can make up plenty of time. You may go a few seconds faster on Hardknott by increasing your power to weight ratio but you can take minutes off the flat sections by being able to ride at a higher pace for longer.

My longest ride so far this year, The Coal Rd Challenge, was a good example of this. We road hard as group for nearly 5 hrs and took the climbs at our own pace. We rode this at 17.4 mph with nearly 6,000ft of climbing. A good training ride and in the sun!! My other longer rides were not quite a fortuitous. One which ended up for 30 mile slog into a headwind and the other in horrendous rain for 4 hrs. Surely the day cannot be any worse!!

I also had a re-test with my coach in February and was pleased to show an improvement in my FTP. If I can keep the weight off it will have a big impact on the Fred and my season as a whole!

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Bike Fit and Physio Assessment by Lifecycle

It’s a few years since I had my bike fit by Hewitt Cycles of Leyland, so I recently had a full physio and bike fit with Lifecycle in Milnthorpe.

Gavin Thomas runs Lifecycle and is a HCPC registered physiotherapist with 20 years experience of muscular-skeletal medicine treatment and evaluation. As an active cyclist, Gavin fully understands cycling as a cyclist and as a physiotherapist.

It is his unique approach of initially assessing his client’s physical anatomy and then fitting to the bike to the rider that attracted me to this opportunity. I must say I was very impressed by his methodical approach, explanations and patience in obtaining the best bike fit for my body.

  1. The results were very interesting .
  2. my right leg is at least 10% less efficient (powerful) than my left
  3. my pedalling stroke is very even and efficient
  4. the existing bike fit was very good and only needed a few tweaks to the saddle height and handle bar angles.
  5. my riding position was improved by the tweaks, as is proved by the angles on the photos below.
  6. my power output increased with a more efficient position on the bike without any more effort.
  7. riding my Enigma was more comfortable and relaxed

All this was achieved in a 3 hour assessment on Gavin’s state of the art cycle rig attached to his computer and then transferred to my Enigma bike.

Before

After

After travelling to continental Europe and North Africa the Enigma bike had slipped from its original bike fit. Not by much but enough to make a big difference. This visit to Lifecycle was a wake up call as to how easy it is for your cycling body to be inefficient and potentially very uncomfortable in the wrong settings.

I can only recommend Gavin at Lifecycle to all cyclists whatever level they ride. It’s easy to buy a good bike but very difficult to obtain a perfect bike fit. Gavin can be contacted at: www.lifecyclephysio.co.uk

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Graham’s 2016 Fred Whitton Challenge – January

Miles ridden- 633
Longest ride- 75.4 – Club ride to Carnfoth
Hrs ridden- 38 miles
Number of bike sessions- 25
FTP- 330w
Fred hills ridden- 0

I have decided to enter the Fred Whitton Challenge again this year, maybe a daft idea: as it can pay havoc trying to train for long distance and the shorter, faster stuff; but an itch needed scratching. After riding it twice I came under 8 hrs the first time (7:43) and beat that time at the second attempt (7:37). These are both ‘first class’ times according to the certificates. This has left one target to hit…get under 7 hrs. An elite time.

So, what does training for the Fred look like? Well, I have done some serious training with Mike Wilson (Better Cycling) for the past year and have seen my TT times tumble. In general he has made me a stronger, faster and more efficient cyclist. I tend to get 5 sessions a week in, 3 on the turbo and 2 on the road. The training has been fantastic and is great to have someone planning your week out. However, I was lacking the enthusiasm to get out for longer rides and thought entering the Fred would give me that impetus!

It has been an excellent start to the year for me getting in 38 hrs of training, compared with 28 in 2015. Maybe having 5 weekends had something to do with it, but I managed to get out for longer rides each weekend- ranging from 50 -75 miles. Through the week the turbo sessions have been focusing on upping my threshold by working for longer periods at the ‘sweet spot’. This has been mixed up with interval work above my threshold and cadence (both high and low) sessions. I do all my training with a power meter and finds it really focuses each session.

The negatives in January have been the usual early season moans: freezing cold hands on the longer rides and getting over a cold. I also suffered from a bit of knee pain but am hoping that is due to the increase in workload. Will keep on eye on that! I have also ridden in snow, high winds and driving rain. But I suppose that’s training in winter.

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Graham’s 2016 Fred Whitton Challenge

Having ridden the Fred Whitton Challenge on two previous occasions in times of just over 8 hours, Graham is aiming for a sub 8 hour 2016 ride.

To achieve this goal, an arduous training regime has been implemented by Graham’s coach. This involves not only long endurance rides in the winter cold but also short severe bursts of TACX power training.

Graham will be updating his training rides weekly on Facebook as well as keeping up to date in this News section. This should give everyone a great insight into just what is needed to complete the Fred Whitton Challenge in an excellent time.

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Crossgates Bioenergetics samples for Cyclists

A free sample of RRA tendons, muscles and ligaments BIM for everyone who hires a bike for more than one day. What, you may ask, are you offering? Well this is what I take every time prior to and after a cycle ride. This oral spray – yes that right you spray it on your tongue – is a “magic spray”!

It helps avoid stiffness in the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons, and is a preventative to injuries, as “prevention is better than cure”. This is a homeopathic preparation which I have developed with Crossgates Bioenergetics over the last decade and it has been exhaustively tested on crazy snowboarders in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, horse event riders in the UK and mountain bikers.

What do they all have in common? Big air, big crashes and the need to bounce to continue their passions.

Crossgates have kindly agreed to sponsor cyclists here in Lowick with an oral spay which would normally retail at £15/bottle. Believe me it works. You can ask my grandchildren who call it the ‘magic spray’ as when they come in crying after a tumble a squirt on their tongue and instant silence… cured!

What’s in it you may ask? The A is for Arnica well known for its healing, anti pain and anti stress properties, R is for Ruta and R is for Rhustox and the Tendons and ligaments BIM helps avoid pulls and strains.

Try it and see! Your cycling may be a lot more enjoyable.

For the full range of all their products and services please see: www.crossgatesfarm.co.uk

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Bike Hire in the Lake District… New Trek bikes for Spring 2015

As the sun shines here in the Lake District and the Daffodils lift their yellow heads skywards, the temperatures are rising. Spring is coming very soon, and the hour will very shortly spring forward to British Summer time. Long evenings and the dawn chorus as the birds sing to welcome the rising sun at dawn.

Meanwhile I have been busy expanding my fleet of road bikes to hire with the addition of several Trek Madone carbon bikes for men and women.

I have a variety of frame sizes, gear ratios, and wheel types to suit all types of cyclist. These bikes are all from the higher end of Trek’s bike range with the Trek Madone 6.2 (one of my ‘flagship’ bikes) having electronic gears and carbon wheels.

Also I have published a new web site www.lakedistrictbikes.com where there is much more information on these new Trek bikes for 2015, bike tours and cycling holidays.

2015 sees a new sponsorship opportunity for local amateur riders who want to compete in local events. The first sponsorship of this spring is Graham Carrick who rode the Lynsky Helix (one of my ‘flagship bikes’) into top five placings in criterium races in Lancaster. It is hope to also sponsor young rides showing promise and aptitude to competitive cycling.

So less of this… time to jump on my bike and enjoy the dry spring sunshine. Shortly I’m off to Sardinia for a weeks cycling round the coast… yet more bike fun.