Rat Race

What did I say in an earlier blog about saying ‘YES’ to every opportunity?

12th February I received a text-

“Hey ‘Monsieur Grovés’ (Alan regularly calls me this since we rode into Paris last Summer). So are you in? Cycling Plus need an extra rider in their London to Edinburgh team and I suggested you! 400 miles, 2 days, be easy right?”

ImageMy response “Call me!”

Now I’d hardly touched the bike since last July, odd couple of hours here and there but nothing over the winter. Alan’s response was “Don’t worry about that you’re a natural come on be fun!” So Alan Murchison one of the most competitive guys I have ever met, the uber sporty chef and World Duathlon competitor finally talked me into being the fourth rider.

To be brutally honest I probably didn’t need much convincing.

ImageThe weather as we all know had been pretty dire to say the least and to begin from next to nothing to prepare for a back to back 200 miler in the first weekend of May was almost suicide. Coupled with the fact that 3 days later the first available weekend for some serious miles was spent on a friend’s stag event in Riga, Latvia – bobsleighing, firing automatic weapons into a tree and consuming the toughest steak known to man washed down with half my body weight in beer…this weekend would be a training right-off.

So not a great start to the mileage, 2 out of the following 3 weekends were booked including Elsie’s birthday trip to Euro Disney. Apart from some strength training carrying tired girls (well 2 out of 3 of them!), all the work was on the wallet and not the legs.

The following weekend was Richards wedding, with a Stag group “Gangnam style” showcase planned but apart from the Heart rate reaching 180 beats in pre dance group embarrassment, no endurance work.

Official training started 11th March, 8 weeks to go….


Four of us – Ken, Andrew, Alan and myself were to form ‘Cycling Plus Team Specialized’. The magazine would be following our progress through training. We were also being issued with a Roubaix sport bike and team clothing and as part of the experience I was to have a Body geometry bike fit. I’ve been riding a road bike since 15, so for some 23yrs I have found my own position. This has generally been on what feels ok and reading various books and magazine articles, so I suppose there was an element of nervousness as I walked through the door at the Specialized Concept Store in Covent Garden to have a BG Fit. What would they think of my current position? Have I been riding wrong and missing out on “free watts”? Would the new position be comfortable?


The week before I took all my essential measurements from my current bike, an 8 year old Aluminum frame with an eclectic mix of Record, Chorus, Shimano and Mavic.

We started some simple stretches to test my flexibility. The computer said…NOT..!

I had been suffering with a sore back and receiving physio treatment, a new and most unwelcome sensation for me as my core strength has always been good. Maybe the Boxing challenge, running up stair races and carrying the girls on my shoulders have finally taken a toll and of course I’m not getting any younger, no longer the Peter Pan I once thought I was.


Next the sit bone test. I am a slim lad with a 30 inch waist therefore surely a smallish saddle would be the order of the day. This myth was rapidly dispelled when I sat on a memory foam cushion. The measurements confirmed that my sit bones were in fact 120mm apart so the 143mm saddle that was fitted was correct but I could have even gone up to the next width if need be.

Matt the technician selected his next measuring tool to check my foot alignment and discovered that I had a moderately varus forefoot so a slight wedge was put in each new shoe.Image

Next onto the new bike, which was fixed on a static trainer with a side and front camera. After extensive modifications including cleat alignment, saddle position and stem length I rode this position for several minutes and adjusted the brake hoods slightly. Rode some more, the info was recorded and then played back to check my knee alignment.

ImageA blue ++ foot bed to help stabilize my foot and improve the knee tracking was added, then a recheck.

The whole Body Geometry experience took 2 hours and 45 minutes. Believe it or not the final position on the new Roubaix sport in comparison to my homemade ‘ride it and hope’ measurements were within 5mm of what I am used to. The main difference being the new Spec shoes and innersoles so hopefully these will help especially over the long distances that we will be riding during the Rat Race.

That evening I received a “care package” from Rob Spedding, the editor at Cycling Plus, with more goodies from those nice chaps at Specialized UK and a gift from Garmin a top of the range Edge 810 computer complete with live tracking, the iPhone of the bike computer world!




21st March, 7 weeks to go and I had planned a day off. It was now my ‘first’ 50 mile ride on the new bike, new clothing and all the extras.

I was a little skeptical at first, a bike named Roubaix after the toughest one-day cycle race on the calendar, surely a marketing ploy? However, as the miles ticked by the bike ironed out the worst that the Hertfordshire lanes could throw at it.

The Shimano components a mix of 105 and Tiagra was smooth, almost too light and silent. The 11-30 gearing with a compact 34-50 chainset really took some getting used to especially coming from a traditional road mans 12-23 cassette. I found myself pretty much on the big ring for most of the ride, only changing down for the steeper hills.

ImageThe preferred climbing position was sitting down as bursts out of the saddle weren’t rewarded with the keen spring forwards that my lightweight Aluminum frame affords, but never the less it was solid and assured and It felt exhilarating to have a new bike. I said it was a ride full of firsts; there was a further unwelcome one to add, my first puncture on the new steed some 4 miles from home. Arriving home the entire ride data was automatically and magically uploaded via Bluetooth to my Garmin Connect training page.

The count down had truly begun, I had a new bike, clothing and shoes, a Garmin to track my every move, heart rate, calories expended and pedal revs, now all I needed was the legs and desire to match.Image

Like the rest of the country I was hoping for some warmerweather as 4 hour plus rides at what seemed Siberian temperatures were going to be a real bore.

Next stop an Easter block of training and a planned 180 mile Audax ride with my new team mates on the 6th April.

See you up the road…


~ by theboxterboy on April 4, 2013.

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