Report by Andy Flint

The Lionheart has established itself as a favoured early season sportive with a growing following. Established by an inventive bunch of cyclists and now organised by Humanrace, The Lionheart enjoys the splendour of Longleat Estate as the start and finish point.  Offering both 100 mile and 100km routes, I was joined by Kirk Alderson to take on the 100miles - we decided this was a great opportunity to meet up and ride, given it is approximately at the half-way point between St Albans and Plymouth where Kirk now lives - "I'm retired now" was an oft repeated phrase - something he is clearly enjoying!

The course is tough, with approx. 6,500 feet in total of ascent; the particularly tough bit being over 5,500 of that comes in the first 50 miles!  It was topped out by a closed road section, timed hill climb.  I arrived at the timing start thinking I was at the end and proceeded to endure the walk of shame!  Kirk ground out the full ascent - fair play!  My only 'excuse being that I was on my winter bike, with a 27 rear, whilst Kirk had opted for the summer bike with a 32 rear - making his spin to the top slightly less challenging (in my humble...)!

The whole 100 miles is set in what is a fantastically scenic corner of South West England. It certainly lives up to its billing - "a characterful cycling terrain make no mistake!"

Kirk and I enjoyed a challenging and memorable day.

Report by Andy Whitaker

Marshalswick: A small but dedicated group of five gathered for some off-road action on local trails north of St Albans. The 21 mile route was picked to avoid the worst of the muck, but inevitably for February it was a fairly filthy outing.  Up Jersey Lane and through Sandridge we picked up the main bridleway through Heartwood Forest, though the descent halfway along was taken at a careful pace to avoid the participants of a hedge-laying competition and their tools! At Harpenden Common we turned right down Mud Lane, which of course lived-up to its name. Nomansland is always a pleasure to ride, it's well-drained soils giving some welcome respite from the clag. Down Dyke Lane and on up to the Ayot Greenway, we headed east before a stop to get some video footage of young Jim, who needed proof of his off-road endeavours for his GCSE PE coursework. After a few circuits of climbing and descending greasy banks we continued east for a final filming stop to capture some step descents. A tarmac interlude delivered us towards Ayot St Lawrence and some twisty singletrack fun, before mudplugging our way back southward to Waterend Lane. Knowing the likely state of Bunyan Gulley we stuck to the tarmac for the ascent to Coleman Green, with some back-lane spinning and woodland blasts delivering us back to the outskirts of St Albans.

It's always tempting to look toward Summer warmth and dry trails, but there's a lot of fun and satisfaction to be had from riding off-road through the winter. Definitely a great way to build bike handling skills and the soft ground requires constant effort, making for a good work-out.

Report by Martin Arundel

It's winter and I have no desire to slip on black ice and break.

Roller and turbo sessions tend to be my January/February riding companions. The excellent sessions run by Rachel are great but that's only one day a week and ‘winter miles make summer smiles’, what am I to do...?

I have used TrainerRoad (TR) for some time and with it some of the videos from TheSufferfest which when combined, add extra ‘fun’. TR provides plans which are quite useful although lacking the valuable feedback that Rachel can provide.
TR and Sufferfest join forces each year and put on a ‘virtual tour’, 9 days of turbo sessions, no day off. You are advised to ‘tone down’ your daily efforts and to be honest you have no choice. I attempted this last year and got sick after day 7, this year I built up to it on rollers having been ill at the beginning or the year.

2822 people register, good job the digital highway can fit everyone in!

Day one consisted of two shorter sessions, the first one teaching you ‘form’ the second being a time trial, not too bad, an ‘easy start.

Day two, ah one of the longer ‘stages’ 1 hour 44 minutes, after an hour you have three sets of sprints followed by three longer steady state pulls.

Day three, four steady states with intermittent sprints.

Day four, a session I hadn’t done before, nine sets at your sweet spot... this is getting hard...

Day five, usually one of my favourites Angles consists of three ‘climbs, I struggled and am feeling a little jaded.

Day six, so the ‘easy’ days have gone, 1 hour 25 minutes later I am gibbering wreck, hallucinating I think that someone has stolen my legs.

Day seven, by this stage my form isn’t good. My usual 100 rpm is down to 94, but if required I can spin up for the ‘sprints’ - just.

Day eight, the one I’ve been dreading. On the positive side its Saturday on the negative side this is three sessions back to back. To make it much much worse all the sessions are ‘sprints’. The middle session ‘Violator’ has 64 individual efforts alone. I have done many long Audax rides, Lejog and back, London Edinburgh London in under 4 days; 10 minutes in I was ready to get in the broom wagon. mentally the hardest session I have ever done. Whoever designed this (Grunter Von Agony is his name...) should be locked up and flogged with a shredded chamois.

Day Nine, one more session to do :-) Its just under 2 hours. I tried my best, the ‘intensity’ was only 80% and sufferer score 65 (figures from Strava) but quite frankly that was as much as I could muster.
1680 people complete the tour. A fleet of broom wagons carry 1142 tired riders, unable to complete the task.

What have I learn’t? Immense respect to the pro’s who do 3 week tours; they often ride 7 days without a break having forced the pace each day in a similar fashion (usually the last hour) to the turbo sessions.

I probably never do this tour again, (till next year)

If anyone wants more details (turbo/kit used etc) let me know

Martin


Midway through day 8, still half an hour to go:


Hell Freezes Over Again - Andy Rice & Hazel Davies

The Hell of the Ashdown is always a bit testing as an early season sportive given the 100km, 2000m of climbing and risk of poor weather.  This year again came up trumps with a very heavy frost on Saturday night resulting in turning the lying water into sheets of ice.  Even with a later than normal start and a detour there was still plenty of ice to cycle through - fortunately it was all visible and melting as the morning warmed up.  However, the threat of ice meant only just over half the entries actually turned up!  Apart from it being cold (but not in the new Club kit!) and once past the ice early on, the day was really bright and pleasant until the last hour when it started to rain.  Given the lack of winter miles this year we were pleased to get round the route in pretty much the same time as last year.  As an early year challenge we would recommend this Sportive to the Club.

Report by Andy Rice

London Colney: Twelve hardy souls braved the sleet and snow for a 21 mile loop of the bridleways south of London Colney.  Given the time of year and the recent weather the ground under wheel was remarkably good.  However, there were some particularly muddy bits that proved quite challenging resulting in muddy feet for some and a full body plant for one of the team!  A couple of mechanicals lost us a bit of time resulting in us getting to Colney Street just as the worst of the snow hit us.  At this juncture there was a mini mutiny and half the team set off home on the road leaving just six of us to complete the full circuit.  Thanks to Mountain Bike Secretary Andy Whitaker for putting together a varied and interesting route.