Dark Days with The Sufferfest

Posted: October 1, 2011 by mickflanders in Cycling, Training

Where am I?

Its early evening, an unseasonable 28 degrees C and the London skyline is clinging on to the last few rays of sunlight.  Perfect BBQ weather with a couple of cold ones, or better yet a relaxing spin through the countryside.  What a pity I’m going somewhere else.  By the time I have the turbo trainer set up in the back yard its dark,  Very dark.

I am of course still in my yard about to test drive the new training video ‘A Very Dark Place’ from the evil pain merchants The Sufferfest and I must admit I am a bit nervous.  I regularly use the short ‘Revolver’ and longer ‘The Hunted’ videos and apart from racing, these provide the hardest possible workout – especially if you respond well to childish name calling and threats.  I’m nervous because I can remember the first time I rode Revolver and it left me unable to get off the bike.  I’m nervous because with each new video, The Sufferfest team have been getting more and more evil.  All in the name of getting you beating your ass.

So to the format:

  • Short warm up
  • Straight into 5 intervals of 4 minutes with 3 minutes rest in between
  • A cool down with some vintage footage

Sounds easy? Lets see…

After some explanatory graphics and some scene setting visuals, I embark on a nice warm up riding with a group before the hard work starts.  The soundtrack starts off with americana rock which isnt my favourite genre but things liven up a bit later on.
The reason Sufferfest works so well is that rather than just watching race footage while mindlessly chugging away, you have to stay focused and respond to commands.

Each of the five intervals is different and there are various events from spring classics cobbles through to climbs of Le Dauphine.  No punches pulled, these are all HARD.  Riding so close to your limit is very hard and while 4 minutes doesn’t seem long, it is when you are riding beyond your means.  The soundtrack takes a darker and more angsty turn once the efforts kick in which is most appropriate.

There is a short rest of three minutes between intervals to get your breath back, but its not long enough to rest the legs.  When the 3 minutes is up, its really hard to get back up to speed but there are plenty of encouraging words to make sure you get back up to pace.

After 4 of these it takes courage to keep going and hang in for the last one and keep the effort up, but at the end of the day you wouldn’t be here if you didnt want to so as long as you havent cooked yourself early, you need to hang in there.  Of course climbing off early is means instant deportation from Sufferlandia.  Finally, things wrap up with some vintage footage to help you return to civilisation.

My only gripe is the marginal variation in some of the efforts.  Once you are in the hurt locker, its hard to detect much difference between how much 8.75 and 8.5 on the Suffer scale.  Both hurt!!  But of course this is extremely easy to overlook as the end result is you are left with legs screaming and lungs burning.

‘A Very Dark Place’ complements the other videos well as it focuses on your 4 minute power threshold.  Perfect for crit racing trying to get in a break and where attacks come thick and fast.  Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the big name riders – Phillipe and Fab are out there and if you arent careful, they’ll have you in a very dark place before you know it.

 It’s now been over a week since Team Has Bean has returned from Belgium. As conquerors of the RvV, we were expecting much fanfare and celebration from the free world, but alas we have all returned to our day jobs without much fuss. The feet are now back under the desk and we are now left with some amazing memories that will no doubt be retold again and again. But was it a case of turn up, ride and go home? Most certainly not. Chris has now given you a taster of our time away, but there is a bit more to it than can fit in one blog. There was pre-event dramas, mid-event melodramas and post-event elation (but also some dramas there too).

So to start back at London St Pancras Eurostar terminal: Dan + him support crew arrive in good time for their train to Brussels only to discover their train had long since departed. Next time CHECK THE TIME ON THE TICKET. Luckily DJ is a good talker and was able to talk his way on to the next train out! For the rest of us, it was a bit of a  smoother transit. I met up with our super lead out man Jules at London and then Rob hopped on same train at Ebbsfleet. Rob’s arrival brought collective sighs as previous pick-ups with him have been somewhat challenging (confusion between Luton train station and Luton Parkway train station being the most memorable). Chris meanwhile had settled in to his overnight Ferry and arrived with support crew first thing in the morning and was ready to roll by the time we all arrived. He was ready to roll, pity about me…

As assembling of bikes got under way, I had a moment of dread- everything was put together OK- except for the seat! I couldn’t find my seat post clamp. One small ring of aluminium was threatening to end my ride long before it even began. We headed off in search of a bike shop but could only find a bike hire.  Luckily the owners English was better than our French/Flemish. He said that my seat tube size was a bit larger than all of his bikes but he brought out a handful of clamps to try. No luck, they were all too small. He then vanished and returned with one more… which fitted by Cinderella’s slipper- big cheer from the team as I was back in the game. All that was left now was to head out for a big meal and to wait for our kit to arrive.

Our kit was still noticeably absent -it was due to arrive in time for the Burgess Hill team ride 3 weeks earlier and it was starting to look like Team Has Bean would be either riding nude, or in individual club kit. Luckily, while at out eating, it arrived- it certainly had us looking to part. Cue another collective sigh from the fairer sex in the support crew. Bioracer produced some great quality for us and we were all now fully set to ride.

So, early start at 550AM to a) pack the car, b) eat brekkie, c) have a coffee and then roll the 300m into town to sign on at 7AM. Well that was the plan. Coffee and breakfast went fine, but our assessment of the volume of kit to fit in one small car was grossly out. Several attempts were made but in the end, we had to either jettison the bike boxes to be collected later, or leave young Thomas (11 months old) behind. So the bike bags stayed and Thomas kept his seat in the car. This put us a behind time and as we finally started to get kitted up, I slid my foot into my shoe only to find it blocked. 1 x seat post clamp stored for safety! Good grief! Come 730 we were out the door and found ourselves literally at the back of a massive queue to sign on. 8AM came and we were still at the back and not much closer to the front. Our last team ride in Burgess Hill catered for 800 riders with a sign on system that had no less than 20 staff working, all with laptops and well organised ticketing systems. Here, 25,000 sportive riders had 3 people working the desk trying to find rider packs amongst 3 large boxes. There was some speculation that this was on purpose to help spread the riders out, but it meant that we had more time to get nervous -we were at the back of the pack even before setting off!

8:15 rolls around and at last we were off on our adventure that would take us through some of the flattest (but windiest) roads, some of the steepest hills, and some of the most iconic cobbled climbs the world has to offer. That’s all for pre-event drama. Certainly enough for one day, but there surprises and challenges to come- and it would come exactly where expected- cobbles! See next post for all the ride action.

Ronde van Vlaanderen sportive 2011

Posted: April 7, 2011 by drchrispower in Uncategorized

How to sum up an absolutely epic Team Has Bean weekend in a short blog post? I’ll try.

Last weekend saw the culmination of 4 months of winter riding, suffering on turbo trainers in front of The Sufferfest and worrying about the daunting 260km of riding ahead.  Because last weekend the waiting was over, and we could train no more.  The Tour of Flanders was upon us.

The various Team Has Bean members made their way to Brugge on Friday, and come 5pm, the team kit had yet to arrive!  To much consternation all round, the team headed out for some last minute carbo-loading in town.  Thankfully, whilst out munching on chicken and frites, the support team got in contact to say that the marvellous guys at Bioracer had come up with the goods.  Talk about ‘just in time’ delivery!  A massive thanks to Ken and Chris from Onimpex and all at Bioracer for pulling out the stocks to get the kit to us.  It is much appreciated, and the kit looked fantastic.

 

Team Has Bean Kit

The Bioracer Team Has Bean kit

After a relatively early night (for most of the team), it was up early on saturday to prep for the ride.  Cramming in food, and blasting down a few Has Bean coffees from the Aeropress.  You don’t want to be starting out on a ride of this magnitude without some great coffee in you.

After a bit of a delayed start, due to the long queues at sign on, Team Has Bean rolled out of Brugge, and set a blistering pace to get into some larger groups on the road.  A big thanks goes out here to our super-sub lead out man, big Jules, who propelled us up the road at breakneck speed, with us all hanging on for dear life behind.

After battling through the headwinds, we were soon onto the first section of pave. Not too bad, pretty much as I remembered it from last time I rode here.  But the second set of cobblestones, at Doorn, was altogether different – rough, broken, gapped and incredibly uneven.  As we bounced along at the highest speed we could, I found myself wondering if I’d get through the day!

Dan and Chris

Dan and Chris at the first feed

At bit further on, we were into the first climbs, and all was pretty easy, as they weren’t too challenging.  The first real challenges were the Kruisberg, the Knokteberg and then the Oude Kwaremont, a cobbled 2.2km climb, followed by an un-relenting section of cobbles off the top.  Along the way, a the section of cobbles at Padestraat claimed their first Team Has Bean victim, when Mick took a spill after hitting some gravel at the end of a drainage gutter, that offered some respite from the juddering. Luckily, damage was relatively minor, but a hole was ripped in the new kit!

Next climb up was the Paterberg, a nasty little customer that will forever be known as ‘Dan’s Hill’, for it was there that Dan launched a blistering attack that saw him crest the hill slightly before Mick!  We will never hear the end of it..

Next up, my personal bete noir, the heart of the challenge that I failed on last time, the dreaded Koppenberg.  To the unitiated, the Koppenberg is just 600m of steep climbing in the Belgian countryside.  To a cycling fan, it is a mecca, a place where the pros are regularly brought down to the level of mere mortals and forced to walk.  It may only be 600m long, but it is roughly cobbled, narrow, and rears up to a frightening 22% at one point.  For the kilometres leading to the Kop, I had butterflies in my stomach, but as we turned the corner to see it rearing up in front of us, I felt a sense of calm.  It was relatively clear of riders – I had a chance to get up it clean.  After much puffing, grovelling and grunting, I passed the steep sections and I’d made it.  Happy days!  Nearly everyone made it up from Team Has Bean, but the one bit of walking is no disgrace.  Many have failed and walked here.

Rob

Rob takes a breather after the Molenberg

Passed the Koppenberg the climbs keep coming and the pain starts to really accumulate. Steenbeekdries, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Molenberg, Leberg (where Fabian Cancellara would attack the following day), Tenbosse and then onto the next big one, the next holy place of cycling – the Muur-Kapelmuur in Geraarsbergen.

Here I had a promise to keep in the glorious early evening sunlight.  I promised Rob that I’d get him over the Muur with me, and together we climbed up onto the hallowed cobbles and crossed by the chapel together.  Mick was on hand to get some great shots.  Good times!

Muur

Chris and Rob approach the top of the Muur

A quick few team promo shots for our sponsor on the top, and it was onward to the finish.  Last time, I flew up the final climb and it was a dash to the finish.  This time, the Bosberg was pergatory, and every part of me ached over the final cobbles, even though the maximum slope was a gentlish 11%.  And the final 10km to the finish?  To be honest I don’t really remember much, I was deep in the suitcase of woe, pulling out packet after packet of pain.

Team Has Bean on the Muur

But we got there.  4 average blokes, with a love of great coffee and riding their push bikes got round the route of a Spring Classic, the route ridden by the pros in a fantastic race that we watched the following day (to the accompaniment of several recovery drinks).

None of this would have been possible without the great support from several people, to whom thanks are due:

  • Steve at Has Bean: fuelled us with awesome coffee, helped with the kit and is the reason the Team exists!
  • Ken and Chris at Onimpex, out Bioracer kit suppliers: I know it was tough to get the kit to us in time, and we appreciate your efforts (coffee is in the post!)
  • Wives, girlfriends and kids: The biggest thank you.  Put up with many absent hours from us all whilst we rode and turbo’d, and supported us superbly in Flanders.

Thanks and love to you all.

Beer and Frites at the finish

Time Crunched Training for the Tour of Flanders part 2

Posted: March 25, 2011 by mickflanders in Cycling, Training
 So, the weather has turned and the past two weeks have been relatively warm with no need for mudguards or full warm clothing. Across the country summer bikes are being dusted off and turbo trainer sales are probably in free-fall. Yes, spring may have arrived but for those training for the Tour of Flanders, it’s a bit late as we are now less than two weeks away. But that doesn’t mean we have to stick to indoor riding. In fact getting out at night (even though its still dark) can be great fun and the perfect way to cram in an intense workout as prescribed by anyone on the Time Crunched Training Program.

The pinnacle of any outdoor training must surely be chain gangs. For the uninitiated, these are intense sessions of group riding taking turns on the front keeping the pace high. Or in my case, trying to stay with the group hoping the pace won’t get any higher! In theory, the group selects a pace and then all riders rotate through two lines (a fast line and slow line) with the rider on the front of the fast line pulling across to the front of the slow lane and allowing the rider behind to come past. This continues until you are at the back of the slow lane, where you pull over the to fast lane again and continue back through to the front. Obviously all riders are of different strength so things can get messy with groups splintering on the hills.

This week the Tuesday Dulwich Paragon group was full of serious racers and my aim was to hang on as long as possible rather than help set the pace as I do on the ‘easier’ Wednesday group. I was able to hang on until a about the 18km mark where the route starts a long steady climb but couldn’t stick with the pace. I carried on regardless with the hope of making it a few km before getting dropped next week.

I spent most of the night with a Heart Rate greater than 160 with a solid 5 minutes over 175 while I tried to hang on to the group.  Getting dropped sucks, but hard training is good training.

Spring has sprung, but there was no spring in my step on Wednesday!

Don’t forget to head over to hasbean for all your coffee needs.  There is STILL a 5% discount to be had on all coffee purchases.  You just need to enter CYCLE as a coupon code at the check out.  Plus you automatically go into the draw to win a sufferfest video.  What more could you ask for?

 

Next cycle blog post from me: Best winter training?  Criterium races!

Hasbean Discount & Sufferfest Giveaway!

Posted: March 11, 2011 by danjus10 in Coffee, Cycling
Tags:

For those of you following us at Team Has Bean Cycling (Twitter : @team_hasbean) You’ll know that we’ve been suffering (From Zero to Hero) for our collective challenge – the Tour of Flanders 2011.

But we also like to prepare/debrief with a quality brew of Steve’s finest hasbean coffees from around the globe – single origin, blends, espresso, aeropress, French press, you name it!

So now you know what we’ve been up to we would like to give you the opportunity to try it as well.

 Steve from hasbean.co.uk has kindly offered 5% off his entire range of quality coffees at http://hasbean.co.uk 

 

AND!!

As an added bonus if you purchase coffee (beans or grinds) before Sunday April 10, 2011 from http://hasbean.co.uk and enter the coupon code “CYCLE”  you go into the draw for a sufferfest (http://thesufferfest.com) video of your choice .

So do yourself a favour – get some great coffee freshly roasted delivered to your door and be in it to win it!

Good Luck and always remember “Life’s too short for bad Coffee!”

Team Has Bean Cycling.

 

 

n.b.  Winners will be contacted by hasbean.co.uk via the email address provided in the order.

Time to find out whether five weeks of early morning and late evening hours spent labouring over the Sufferfest, coupled with longer weekend rides have started to transform an overworked and unfit middle aged dad into a honed Athlete, capable of riding 260km over Belgian cobbles in a single day.

With the riders prepared for any conditions other than ice, Saturday morning’s 3 inches (75mm) of snow however was a bad start.

After most of the squad and support teams had sampled espresso from Has Bean’s Bolivian San Ignacio (the no 4 rider adhering to English breakfast tea) we were therefore confined to the Soigneur’s cellar (BTC), whilst the south of England basked in paddling pools and 18 deg heat (at least that’s what I imagined).

With two turbos side by side, we sweated our way through an hour each, made

Angels

Rob and Chris in the BTC

bearable and more intense by Sufferfest ‘Angels‘. The second pair of riders having the distinct advantage of my helpful commentary, warning them a few seconds before each required acceleration, attack, or change of backing track.

‘Angels’ culminates in a brutal sprint to the finish on the D211 (colloquially known as Alpe D’Huez). On this occasion however some riders put more into the sprint than others. (To be honest, this wasn’t really a fair contest, with me naively believing 10/10 on the Sufferfest effort scale meant, ‘eyeballs out, give it every last ounce of your fibre and some’, rather than, ‘up the effort slightly, whimper a bit to make it look hard, but ensure you hold a little bit back for the afternoon’).

After a brief recovery, over Sheffield’s finest roast pork, stuffing, crackling and lard rolls, the snow had relented. By 3:00pm we were able to set off for four quick laps of Damflask reservoir, and an interminable climb at up to 20% gradient (28% according to Chris?) to High Bradfield. After a demoralising session for the no. 4 rider of ‘ball’ formation riding and failed sprint lead outs (actually – the lead out bit was OK), we were done for day one.

The evening’s entertainment included Belgian beer (further Flanders training), and a new definition of the word ‘splinter’ courtesy of viewing the action from the Manchester velodrome.

Day two, and the team was woken with the Soigneur’s finest porridge, Has Bean’s Ethiopian Ogawa Natural as French press (even the number four rider partaking in part), and four neat food parcels and gels laid out for the 42 mile hilly loop of the Peak District that lay ahead.

Mam Nick

Team Has Bean crest Mam Nick

Out on the road, a clear highlight was the lung rasping ascent of Mam Nick (317m at 11% – note to self: compact chain set needed on winter trainer), to a misty and snow swept plateau, before the largely 25% descent of Winnats Pass. Also relevant was the marginally improved coherence in group riding, due to the number 4 rider occasionally holding a wheel.

Reflecting on a great training camp and memorable weekend – there is still much work to do in six weeks – but so far, so good, and motivation is high. Training ride 3 to follow in four weeks, further progress needed.

Team Has Bean

Blatant publicity shot for our sponsor...

Ode to my roads

Posted: February 26, 2011 by drchrispower in Cycling, Training, Uncategorized

As I was out on my bike today, getting in a gentle couple of hours at the end of a rest week, I got to thinking about where I was riding, and how lucky I was to have such amazing roads on my doorstep.

Let me explain. Team Has Bean are divided, cut up, diced-and-sliced in several ways. Two of us are a bit older, two a bit younger. Two are English, two are Australian. Three of the team live in the South, and one grew up in the South and now lives in the North. I’m that last guy – I grew up in Sussex, in the shadow of the South Downs, and now I live and work in Sheffield, a city that for many conjures up images of factories and grim streets, but is far and away the best place I’ve ever lived.

I’ve got nothing against the South as a place to ride. If you know where to go, thereStrines 1 are some cracking places, quiet roads, and challenging terrain (I still remember being sick whilst climbing Ditchling Beacon on my bike as a kid!). But I’ve got to be honest, I wouldn’t swap it for what I have close to hand now, 5 minutes ride from my house I pass the distinctive upturned millstone sign that marks the gateway to Britain’s first National Park: The Peak District.

Strines 2Where I was riding today, and often ride, is a quiet little corner of the Peak, due West of Sheffield, known as Strines Moor. It’s a cracking little area, full of varying countryside, beautiful views and, importantly for a cyclist, loads of varied and challenging climbs. There are so many in fact, that my club, Sheffrec CC, hold an annual ride known as the ‘Tour of Strines’, that covers about 55 miles, gets in over 8000ft of climbing, and never strays more than about 10 miles from the start point!

Today was a particularly lovely day out on the Strines. It was a bit chilly, but thereStrines 3 was a low sun picking out the folds in the landscape, glinting off the reservoirs that feed into Sheffield and somewhat compensating for the vicious headwind. My legs were feeling good, which was a relief after a bit of a grim day out the previous Sunday on the Team Has Bean training weekend (a blog on this is coming soon, fingers crossed). All-in-all, it was a great day to be out on a bike.

With 5 weeks to go until Team Has Bean take on the Ronde van Vlaanderen, I’m going to be out on the wonderful roads of Strines a fair bit. And I’ll enjoy every moment.

Strines 4