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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

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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