I want to go for a ride.
What got you interested in cycling? For me, I was 8 years old, it was a Saturday afternoon, and I was bored stupid. For some reason, I turned the TV on and started watching ITV's World of Sport with Dickie Davies. I was used to watching the wrestling, which seemed good. But most of all, like most boys, I was interested in football. Then, something amazing happened. A bike race came on. It was the Amstel Gold Classic. I'd never seen anything like it. The sound of tubular tyres rolling on the road, the inordinately large number of athletes. The colour. All the different jerseys. This was amazing. And, then something magical happened. The camera's focussed in on Jan Raas, the leading Dutch cyclist of the time. He was chatting, and having a laugh with some of the other riders. Domestiques, and breakaway specialists were up the road. Of course, at this point I had no understanding of the tactics involved and how those in the peloton could take things easy early on. I was captivated. Forty years later, I'm still captivated*. From this point on I no longer wanted to play football for Manchester United, I now wanted to be a racing cyclist. Soon afterwards, I was off out exploring the world around me on my bike.
Fast forward 6 years, and at 14 I joined my first cycling club with a group of friends. Although I was very ill at this point in time (and had been for the previous 2 years, and would be for the next 6 years) I was very excited to go on proper bike rides with my club and we started racing. Finding new places to go to, was without doubt one of the best things we did. We'd purposefully search out the tiniest lanes, or the steepest climbs, or some cobbled sections of roads. We pretended we were riding one of the 'Classics'. Our fitness skyrocketed at this time, and we put it down to riding certain distances, or doing certain difficult routes. Undoubtedly, these rides did help us to increase our fitness.
However, while we all enjoyed the riding we weren't (especially me) that good at racing. Our fitness had started to plateau, and we only seemed to make small gains in fitness every so often. Of course, as fitness increases the magnitude of further increases does tend to diminish. But, in this instance, I, seemed to be stuck at the back, hanging on for grim death!
When I look back at my training dairies, I see a common theme. A thread that runs through multiple years of training until something had happened when I hit about 20. All our rides (or at least nearly all of mine) were of the exploring type -- yes, of course I tried to go hard up the hills, and fast on the flats, but there was no consistency, no plan, no goals. There was no progression. Training was just the same thing over and over, ad infinitum. It had stagnated, just like my fitness.
Now, of course, I understand the ideas of progression, intensity, endurance. How diet interacts with performance. How it can also be periodised. (Lucky I do understand, not much point being a coach otherwise!).
So, now I often think about training, in terms of intervals or tempo, or endurance. So many hours of this at so many watts, to expend so many Kj, while making sure my TSS reaches a certain score. Nevertheless, I think back to those halcyon days in my youth and wonder if my longevity in cycling (I've now raced every year since 1984) would have been the same had it only encompassed the data aspect of cycling that we have now?
For those of us that aren't pro cyclists, what's the best way? Personally, I think it's a mix of the two -- the romantic idea of exploring new roads, while mixing in plenty of structured work - so that you have a goal, and improve, while also having some fun.
While I sit here and cogitate on this, I'm drawn in two ways. I know Claire wants to explore a bit more and ride exciting routes (while also increasing her fitness). On the other hand, I want to increase my MAP and FTP so that I can deal out a kicking to those who hurt me in races last year. Always wanting to improve. Always pushing on. Tomorrow is Saturday, I want to go for a ride, but there's an office to paint, and it's freezing cold. I fear the turbo and a structured tempo workout will win this weekend. Maybe next weekend will be warmer and more fun?
How did you get interested in cycling?
*I was dashing around Zwift the other week, struggling up one of the hills, when I saw this rider whizz past me. I immediately spotted the name, Jesse Raas. Jesse was riding at over 5 W/kg and straight away, I thought: "Fast rider, wonder if they're related to Jan Raas?". A quick chat later and I discovered they were. I'd just met my childhood heros' nephew. Utterly amazing! That was my week made!