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  • 05/06/2022 - The only way is Essex - Part 1

    I’ve been trying to avoid writing this one. I’m writing about the return of RideLondon 100, and both my own participation and the set-up of the event were a bit of a mixed bag. OK, let’s dive in…

    First, let’s look at me and my ride. I’ve done three RideLondon 100s, my tandem partner +RichardM none, so the return after a three-year hiatus of the country’s largest closed road event seemed a good time to get his feet wet. Together, we have done three Great Escapes on his Calfee Design tandem, but that machine has now been converted to a time trial bike. So, his new Bingham Built gravel tandem was pressed into service, shod with 32mm tyres, rather than the 42mm gravel tyres it’s been sporting.

    As we know from the Essex adventures we’ve had on our club's 200km ride, The Great Escape, this part of the country is pretty darn flat and consequently very tandem friendly. Steep climbs and tandems don’t mix. For the watts watchers out there, I had put this down as a C event. One that you do for fun, an extended training ride, if you will. Joe Friel’s Power Meter Handbook recommends 75% of FTP for a 100-mile ride and that was my target. If this was an A ride, I’d set aside all targets, go hell for leather from the off and do everything I could to keep with the fastest groups I could hang with. Taking that approach on a ride like this you can’t get too upset if you lose a group, as like London buses, another is along in a minute or two. You surf the groups, hoping not to burn out completely. That approach was not for me this time, 75% of FTP, flat roads, don’t worry about the fastest groups. A bit of a cruise. Enjoy.

    Pilot plan: “I think we should be a bit cagey before Woodford.”
    Stoker plan: “I’m keeping it at 75% from the off and if I feel stronger later I’ll up the effort”

    Pilot reality: Went off a bit hard and put out strong numbers for two and a half hours. Followed by, while not exactly cramp, certainly discomfort and a power reduction.
    Stoker reality: Kept to the target for two and a half hours, then power slowly reduced. And reduced. And reduced…

    Did it matter? No. Just a training ride, albeit a 100-mile one. I hadn’t ridden 100 miles since May 2019. Many metric centuries, though. You always have to respect a century ride, I mean the Imperial kind. Whether you ride it easy or hard, it is usually a big deal for the body. Rest, nutrition, recovery, bike prep, what you pack (and later recovery), you have to take it all reasonably seriously.

    For fuel, I’m pretty much set in my ways – a bar after 1 hour, then a gel 30 mins later, then a bar 30 mins later, then a gel after 30 mins and repeat. Recently I switched to gel after 30 mins, then bar after 30 mins and repeat. This works for me, especially if I’m starting off quite hard. I know what bars I like, I know what gels I like. Tickety-boo. But for some strange reason I threw something new into the mix – Lucho Dillitos Bocadillo energy bars. This is something I never do. I hadn’t even tried one of these squares wrapped in leaves before RL100. Actually, it was no problem, because it turns out they are pretty much squares of sugar. At least they were to my palate. And they are perfect for instant energy hit!

    What about the bike? We were on the Bingham tandem. There was one mechanical issue that Richard had alluded to a week or so before the event, but he didn’t mention it again. It’s really good he didn’t, because I would have been more than a little nervous. After the ride, he did share that one of the nuts in one of the bosses, had scored the carbon steerer. Gulp. Since losing control of my front wheel and having a near collision a time trial, problems with cockpit of a thing of my nightmares. Bing is super comfy, but the set up is very much for gravel. There were bottle cages on the forks for. goodness sakes! In particular, the single chain ring for the drive chain (“one by” or “1x” as it’s known) did not have a high enough gear for us to take advantage of both the tandem and our personal strength – gravity. We were definitely starting to spin out at 26-28mph. I should probably look on the bright side and consider that we were getting some useful rest/freewheeling in, but I think two or three groups went away from us because they had regulation road gearing.

    Things learned:

    • Check helmet in mirror at start, 100 miles is a long way to ride with a skew-whiff lid on
    • 100 miles is a long way, however you ride it
    • My sugar cubes were a (useful) kind of South American Kendal Mint Cake

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  • Nice blog, +Sir_Shannonball. Leaving aside the shotcomings of the event, cruising round on a tandem was certainly a fun, if eccentric, way to do it.

    On gearing, you are probably right (which, it should be noted, is not something I say that often regarding gearing, or more generally). The Calfee's 58t chainring would have been useful.

    That said, R100 does not really strike me as a day for watt watching and stem chewing. If we had done the National 100 instead, which as you know was on the same day, it would have been a different story...

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