Monday, 11 March 2013

Gran Canaria winter training

Back before the winter really got a grip and ruined the trails, I had booked a weeks warm weather training in Gran Canaria. I've never been abroad specifically to ride my bike, but having seen lots of blog and strava reports of people's cycling trips there I knew Gran Canaria was a good choice, so flights and accomodation were booked, and I survived the winter the best I could.

The main aims of the trip were to get in some quality warm weather miles and to increase my winter-mile induced low lactic threshold, i've always remained motivated during the winter, but I do struggle in the cold.

February rolled around, I packed up my bike back in the freezing cold knowing the next day it would be at least 20degrees and sunny. The flight was  fine once I'd realised that the carpark I had pre booked was actually nowhere near the airport, mild panic over we checked-in and were in the air quickly. Collected from the airport we were taken shopping, then I built my bike and ate some food and went to sleep, eagerly anticipating the next day.

After a few false starts we collected Ryan's hire bike and set of on the first ride, a mellow 55miles with 5600ft of climbing.The first thing that struck me was how good the roads were! no casm-like potholes or disintegrating tarmac, nice smooth roads with little traffic, I loved it already!

So for the first three days we stuck at around 4-5hour rides, anticipating a tough week I didn't want to tire myself too quickly, but everyday I felt strong and recovered, having nothing to do in the evenings, recovery shakes, ten hours sleep and swimming pools really helped recovery.

Wednesday, mid way through the holiday, I took a semi-rest day which still involved riding up a 3mile, 1500ft mountain as fast I could, still only scraping the second page on the Strava segment. Fully rested I planned the next day's epic......

We headed along the coast via a small 2000ft climb and down to San Nicholas, which was quite an odd place, reminding me of a spanish "Royston Vasey", after a quick snack we headed out along a seemingly un-used road, then the climbing began! 
What I hadn't realised from my clicking on bikehike was that I had chosen a climb that I now know is refered to as "Valley of Tears" with an initial 1.5km climb which gained 800ft the climb grinds on for 12miles up to almost 5000ft, which left me cursing but relishing the challenge. Unfortunately the descent was very misty and freezing cold,  but with 80miles and 10,000ft combined of climbing it was a good day.
Valley of Tears
The remaining rides were more of the same, which was what I needed, in hindsight I would have benefitted from more fast paced mountain climbing, but pacing was essential for longer rides. Since i've returned I have noticed the difference in my riding, with stronger feeling legs, and the ability to maintain a higher heart rate on longer rides. 

I've got to thank Jonathan from Strada Wheels for lending me the H Plus Son Archetype wheelset, the wheels performed brilliantly, the difference in weight and stiffness over my Mavic wheelset was very noticeable, they climbed brilliant and the hubs sounded ace! I've never thought about how much difference the rim width makes, the Archetype's are wider than my mavic rims so the tyre has a much rounder shape, this allows the tyre pressure to be kept lower, allowing a more supple tyre. I felt more in control on the faster descents which gave me more confidence to ride faster, that and the roads aren't littered with potholes and gravel! I plan to get a my current wheels rebuilt onto the same rims in the future.

Thanks to the guys from Mulebar for helping me out with tasty gels and energy bars, makes getting enough calories much more enjoyable! 

And a big thanks to my coach Francesca Bennett who puts up with me avoiding my core and interval sessions!

In total I managed 410miles in six days, with roughly 40,000ft of climbing. Now I know the simplicity of getting out to the sunshine I will consider it again for next year.

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