Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

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.


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!

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


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

From zero to Local Hero

Posted: February 12, 2011 by drchrispower in Cycling, Flanders, Training


As you will have seen in a previous blog post, we here at Team Has Bean are fans of The Sufferfest – big fans.  So when a new training video was let loose from Sufferfest Towers, we were excited.  And scared.

The evil genius behind these great training aids had been trailing his new instrument of torment for several weeks on Twitter.  Initially known as ‘The Blender’, with each new tweet it became apparent that his evil mind was inventing more and more hideous twists and turns.  Before you know it, an 85 minute video was in the pipeline, and The Blender morphed into Local Hero.

Preparing for the Tour of Flanders sportive always means one thing: winter miles on the bike.  Unlike summer events, with 150 miles to ride in April, you cannot shirk the training during the bleak days of December and January.  This year, with winter snow and ice in the UK, that has meant a lot of time on the dreaded turbo trainer.  Before discovering The Sufferfest, this spelt dull hours in the cellar, trying to stay focussed and watching Tour DVDs for the umpteenth time.

One thing you cannot accuse The Sufferfest of is being dull.  All the videos have a storyline or theme, thumping music to keep you pumped up and great in-race footage to help you at least feel a bit like you are racing with the pros.

So, with trepidation, Local Hero was downloaded (easily done through the website, but you need a good internet connection), burned to a DVD and fired up in front of the turbo bike. Luckily, given what happened next, I had the presence of mind to get a double espresso of Has Bean Brazil Fazenda Sol Nascente in before starting.

Local Hero is all about the first rider to make it to the World Champs from Sufferlandria.  Look it up on a map. After 5 minutes warm up, it’s straight into a short section of crit racing, with a few jumps and accelerations. Then the hard work begins, 3 sets of 6 minute pyramids building up to 2 minutes at 8/10 effort, and back down. The use of effort levels is essential to ride the Sufferfest videos (from 1 to 10), with 1 being just sitting on the bike, and 10 being flat out. Given that the instructions calls for intervals at 0.5 increments, hitting the right effort levels is easiest if you have a means of power measurement (which my turbo has).  I’ve found it best to pick a 10/10 level you can hold for 1 minute (but only just), then calculate each increment of effort up to that point. I’ve got it written on a piece of paper of the wall for quick reference – you can’t work it out when you’re deep in the pain cave.

After the pyramids, it’s off to to the Worlds Road Race in Geelong. Suffering for the pride of all Sufferlandrians.  5 sets of 3 minute efforts, with a nice mix of high power high cadence work, and lower cadence high power work to simulate climbs.  Clever use of the race footage keeps you focussed as you try to keep the pace, and believe it or not you can even find breath to laugh at some of the jokes thrown in.  To finish off the race, there is of course the sprint to the line.  Flat out, wheel to wheel with Hushovd, 10/10.  There’s a sting in the tail, but I won’t ruin the excitement of the surprise – ride it yourself.

Once the pain if over, and you’re no longer in a whole host of hurt, there is a warm down to the craziest bike/ball game I’ve ever seen – odd, but amazingly skilful.

Despite several times when I thought I’d have to stop and back off (or get off), I stuck with it and rode it more or less exactly to the requirements.  1 hour 25 mins at at average of 220 watts.  That is the thing about the Sufferfest videos, they make you push yourself so much harder than you would otherwise on the turbo.  And that has to be a good thing for Team Has Bean, as we prepare ourselves for the Ronde van Vlaanderen this year.  The motto of the Sufferfest will hopefully pay off as we drag our tired, cobble-shattered legs over the Kapelmuur IWBMATTKYT