So, no pressure then

I did some more work with 220 Triathlon magazine in September. They asked if I would spend the day running and cycling in various locations around Bristol for a feature on duathlon. I assumed it would be a review of the kit, but a couple of weeks before my big European-qualifying duathlon race, the mag dropped through the door with this headline:

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1 way to tempt fate

I would have been more suited to a feature on ways to f**k up a duathlon. Doing extra laps on the bike leg, turning up late for races, incurring time penalties, not practicing transitions, eating right before the start, going too hard on the first run, going too hard on the bike … I reckon I could come up with at least 36 mistakes I’ve made this season!

Obviously I’ve come in for a bit of justified mickey-taking from friends and club mates for all of this posing in lycra for photographers. But I now had the added a pressure to ‘smash’ my attempt at Age Group GB qualification.

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The first part of the shoot was carried out on the Clifton Downs. And before you ask, yes it definitely is a nice enough area to go for a run and leave your thousand-pound bike unattended by a park bench.

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I had several different outfits to wear for the shoot. I got changed in a wooded area in the middle of the park. Item 37 in a feature on duathlon / triathlon should be “lose any inhibitions about getting your bum out in public”. Fortunately, unlike at my recent hill climb, nobody called the police this day.

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The second part of the feature was in Leigh Woods. It was starting to get a little bit tiring by this point. I’d been running and cycling short distances, before turning around and doing it again and again for several hours. We finished off with some trail riding on a mountain bike.

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My “MTB-bro’s” all laughed at me for this picture. I don’t think the shaved legs and lycra shorts are very cool in their world! Apparently I look like a complete ‘newb’. They could well be right – the last time I did a mountain bike triathlon I misjudged a jump and hit a tree stump, sending me over the handlebars! I prefer to keep the rubber to the tarmac.

Anyway, I somehow managed to learn from most of my previous 36 ways to mess up a duathlon and qualified for the European Championships next season. Let’s hope I can smash that…

GB Qual

Bedford Autodrome Sprint Duathlon 2018

I took part in a sprint duathlon race this weekend – a qualifier for the Age Group Great Britain team, with the opportunity to compete in Europe next season. This actually only became a personal target earlier this year after placing well in duathlons and wondering whether Age Group GB might be attainable. There are 3 qualifying races each year with the top 4 finishers in each age group qualifying. By the time I’d decided to try and qualify, the first race had already passed. I entered the second race in May and was in quite a good position before shooting myself in the foot and accidentally doing an extra lap on the bike. So all hope of qualifying for the 2019 team would be on this final race.

Racing in the rain

The race was held at Bedford Autodrome on Sunday. I’m not sure whether its proximity to London and the South East made this a more popular event than the previous ones, or possibly because it was the last chance for people to try and qualify. But there were hundreds of people taking part and 25 people in my age group so a top 4 finish seemed like a big challenge.

The weather on race day was horrendous. I arrived two hours before the start but was in danger of wasting all of this time sitting in my car and watching the rain hammering down on the windscreen. I normally warm up by doing a few laps on the bike. It’s less fatiguing on the legs than running and means you can familiarise yourself with the course. But in torrential conditions this seemed more likely to lead to hypothermia than serve as a warm up. I racked my bike in transition and tried to leave my shoes and helmet in such a way that would prevent them filling up with rain. There are lots of little kit decisions to make in multi-sport events, and having never raced in heavy rain before I had to just apply my experience of training in the rain. I ditched the visor from my helmet as it would steam up and reduce visibility. But it wasn’t until I was on the start line that I realised I’d forgotten to leave my cycling shoes unfastened … a few costly extra seconds during transition. The bad weather was very distracting to my pre-race prep.

Sub-optimal conditions

I went for a 10 minute jog on the track in full winter clothing and then just milled around with everyone else waiting to start. I spoke to a couple of other competitors who both seemed far more nervous than me. One could hardly construct a coherent sentence! It’s a bit schadenfreude, but his nervousness actually made me feel more confident and settled. I was preparing myself for war so compartmentalised any feelings of guilt! With 10 minutes to go we were called out to the start line. I stripped off and made my way out, but immediately turned back once I felt the cold and the rain and realised I was going to freeze if I stood around for 10 minutes. I forced myself to wait until 5 minutes before the start time.

Technically a duathlon but involved a fair bit of swimming

By the time I joined the starting group it was a heaving mass of bodies. There were two different length races starting at the same time and several hundred people in total. I tried edging my way forward but people were grumpy about making space so I decided to just leave the group, walk around the outside and then run off up the track to warm up. When I turned around and jogged back to the start line, the people on the front line obviously opened up to let me through and out of their way. Once the horn sounded there was a lot of jostling and I was pushed around the first corner. Not in an aggressive way, probably just by an experienced runner who knew how to protect his personal space in a tight pack. It was pretty exciting.

Settling in to the run

My pace for the first kilometre was 3:25 and quite a lot quicker than my target of 3:45/km so I eased off. My goals for the race were to pace it sensibly and avoid any big mistakes. Not to engage in warfare with other competitors, so I didn’t worry too much about how my pace affected my position. There was a long race ahead.

I completed the first 5km run in 18:03 (average pace of 3:39/km or 5:50/mile). My transition went fine considering the conditions and I headed out onto the wet track. The 20km bike leg was four laps with 9 corners each lap. With the need to slow down significantly on the slippery track it ended up being a series of short sprints rather than the usual consistent speed of a timetrial. And once the track had filled up with everyone it felt more like a chaotic road race than a timetrial. It was quite good fun, although there were a couple of hairy moments when I felt like I’d approached a corner a bit too quickly. Luckily I made it round without any incidents but I saw a few people overshooting corners and heard that unfortunately there’d been some crashes. I average 276 watts which felt good considering the amount of coasting through corners.

Grim

The final run of a Sprint Duathlon is only 2.5km and the time to empty the tank. My body hurt and my feet were completely soaked and frozen. It felt like having two slabs of meat attached to the bottom of my legs. They were not a part of my living body. In comparison to my competitors I am generally faster on the bike. Whilst this makes the bike leg quite enjoyable, it has the consequence of being overtaken on the final run. I just have to accept that the people overtaking me probably had a significant gap over me following the first run and I caught them on the bike. I lost about 3 or 4 places, but was pushing myself as fast as I could go. My average speed was 3:49/km or 6:09/mile which is quicker than I normally manage for the final run. Once I reached the home straight I took my first look over the shoulder and saw a healthy gap to the person behind. I also saw the clock was 59 minutes something so had the added satisfaction of beating the hour.

Sub-hour

I congratulated a couple of competitors who I’d been racing against and printed out my results ticket. I said a quick prayer to the Duathlon gods and looked. 4th place in my Age Group! It was a great feeling to have hit my goal, and I immediately headed off to get some dry clothing on. My whole body was shaking, probably from a mix of adrenaline and the cold. I drove the whole 3 hours back to Bristol wearing a hat and coat with the heaters on full blast! And stopped twice for the best-tasting, worst-food! Never before has a Burger King tasted so amazing!

I have to wait for official confirmation from British Triathlon that I’ve qualified for the team and then hopefully there will be instructions on what happens next. Team GB kit with my name on it and a big race in Romania next summer beckons. What a great way to end the season.

Chew Valley CC Hill Climb 2018

At the end of last year I decided to host a hill climb race. The idea probably arrived at the end of an evening in the pub. How hard can it be? Surely all you need is a couple of stopwatches and some cake…

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As it turned out, it was a lot of work. Similar to planning a wedding, except I had to find timekeepers instead of a Minister, Marshals rather than Ushers,  cake bakers as bridesmaids and a village hall instead of a church. As the big day loomed, I was worried that my diet hadn’t quite gone to plan and fitting into my dress was going to be a squeeze.

75 people signed up to race, including 16 from Chew Valley CC – most of whom had never raced before. Fortunately I had enough support from friends and family with running the day that I felt confident enough to race too. My wife and her family took charge of baking the cakes and running HQ. Friends signed up to race and offered to be marshals. And lots of the village came out to support. It gave the day a real community feel.

Click here for GoPro footage of Reuben Bakker-Dyos racing up the hill

I set myself off first so that I’d have time to get back down the hill and be ready for prizes and presentations. I’d ridden the hill quite a few times in the weeks leading up to the event so was pleased to set a PB. Racing was the least of my worries for the day; I’m not necessary advocating this but if you’re someone who gets really worried about racing then try racing in an event that you organise. The fear of racing is very much secondary to the fear of the event being a failure. I’d done my best to notify everyone who could be affected by the race (or could affect the race), but there’s always something unexpected that could happen.

The race was part of the district hill climb series so had attracted most of the best hill climbers in the region. So despite being 1st place amongst my friends and clubmates, I was 30th overall. If you invite all the big kids to your party, you have to accept that they might smash everything up!

Thanks for smashing my hill to pieces

Anabell Orenz and Andrew Feather produced dominant performances to claim victories. Feather was the only rider to go under 5 minutes with a time of 4:56 to secure his fourth consecutive victory at hill climb events.

The police even turned up mid-prize giving to answer a dubious complaint from a disgruntled neighbour who thought the noises of horns on the hill was hunt protesters. A friend commented that it’s not a proper party unless a neighbour calls the cops.

The noise culprits!

The event raised £150 which was donated to the local primary school to pay for Bikeability training for the kids. And was featured by BikeRadar in their weekly YouTube blog about hill climbing.

1 Andrew Feather BCR Racing 00:04:56
2 Sam Lindsay 73Degrees CC, WestSide Coaching 00:05:03
3 Phil Stonelake Bristol Road Club 00:05:12
4 Glyndwr Griffiths 73Degrees CC, WestSide Coaching 00:05:16
5 Joe Norledge Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:17
6 Robert Borek Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:19
7 Jamie Atkins University of Bristol Cycling Club 00:05:25
8 Ben Millar BikeCity T3 00:05:26
9 Joe Hawksworth Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:27
10 Kevin Thomas Chippenham & District Wheelers 00:05:30
11 Ben Wainwright Team Tor 2000 | KALAS 00:05:39
12 Charles Coleman Velo Club Walcot 00:05:40
13 Reuben Bakker-dyos BikeRadar 00:05:42
14 Jack Phillips 73Degrees CC, WestSide Coaching 00:05:45
15 Michael Shute Mid Devon CC 00:05:45
16 Nick Livermore Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:47
17 David Cullen Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:48
18 Gordon Markus Severn Road Club 00:05:49
19 Jacques Coates Cycle Team Onform 00:05:50
20 Adam Whitehead Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:50
21 James Pittard University of Bristol Cycling Club 00:05:52
22 Ted Cross University of Bristol Cycling Club 00:05:54
23 Adam Whittaker Salt and Sham Cycle Club 00:05:55
24 Steve Thomas Bristol Road Club 00:05:56
25 Matthew Skeats University of Bristol Cycling Club 00:06:02
26 Andrew Metherell Salt and Sham Cycle Club 00:06:02
27 Sean Leadbeater Severn Road Club 00:06:03
28 Elliot Brunt-murphy Radeon-Cycology RT 00:06:05
29 Jerry Rayner Westbury Wheelers 00:06:11
30 Mark Jerzak Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:06:18
31 Andrew Turner Bristol South Cycling Club 00:06:20
32 Michael Gates Maison du Velo – Storck Bikes UK 00:06:24
33 Jack Luke BikeRadar 00:06:28
34 Morgan Lloyd Towy Riders Cycle Club 00:06:32
35 Will Clarke DAS RAD KLUB 00:06:33
36 Anabell Orenz North Cotswold CC 00:06:34
37 Lauren Johnston Avid Sport 00:06:35
38 Andy Collins Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:06:36
39 John Grenfell A2B Cycle Repair Race Team 00:06:36
40 Jim Miller Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:06:38
41 Joanne Jago Performance Cycles CC 00:06:38
42 Cameron Porch Avid Sport 00:06:39
43 Jasmine Jones Cardiff Ajax CC 00:06:42
44 Robin Hunt Bristol Road Club 00:06:52
45 Kate Baker Avid Sport 00:06:57
46 Rob Nash Bristol South Cycling Club 00:06:58
47 Emily Slavin University of Bath Cycling Club 00:07:14
48 Gavin Estcourt Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:07:18
49 Becky Dodds Velo Club Walcot 00:07:29
50 Drew Murray Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:07:35
51 Heidi Blunden The Racing Chance Foundation 00:07:43
52 Steven Mabey Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:07:52
53 Katherine Brand Bristol South Cycling Club 00:07:56
54 Richard Burt Solihull CC 00:08:05
55 Philip Peat Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:08:11
56 Michael Willis Performance Cycles CC 00:08:23
57 James Manthorp Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:08:27
58 James Pike Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:08:27
59 Michael Shaw Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:08:37
60 Louis Pearn Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:13:48

Castle Combe Summer Duathlon

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I took part in the final Sprint Duathlon of the summer series at Castle Combe this week. After the frustration of getting a stitch during Run 2 of my previous duathlon, I was hoping to have a trouble-free race. I suppose it ought to be obvious, but duathlons always seem to present far more challenges than racing a bike. The simplicity of riding a bike falls to pieces when you try and bookend it with a couple of runs at full tilt. During most duathlons I spend the first run looking forward to being on my bike, and the second run questioning why I put myself through such pain.

I was held up by traffic en route to the race so didn’t have much time for a warm up. I’d been hoping to do a couple of laps on the bike as well as practicing mounting and dismounting, but in the end I had to make do with sprinting from my car to the toilet blocks. I was grateful that I hadn’t ended up adding ‘DNF due to traffic’ to my list of duathlon disasters.

Once again, my tactics were to keep calm and run a conservatively paced race. Despite the name of the event, anything lasting upwards of 45 minutes is definitely not a “sprint” and should be treated as an endurance race.

The first run went smoothly. I ran on feel, only taking a couple of glances at my watch in the final kilometre to see my pace and heart rate, more out of interest than for pace setting. I worked out that I was in 10th place coming into the first transition. I’d received quite a lot of triathlon kit after my work for 220 Triathlon magazine so I decided to test some of it during this race. I know the advice is not to do something new during a race, but I don’t tend to go out for training rides in full aero kit and practice jumping on and off my bike. Maybe I should. Anyway, I thought a low-key, local race was a good place to try out the kit.

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The Catlike Triathlon Helmet was the first helmet I’ve worn with a tail. From the photos it looks like it could have been a bit higher on my head to tuck more snugly into my back. Or possibly my head could have been lower. Mine came second-hand, without a visor so I did Run 1 wearing sunglasses, hoping to slip the helmet over the top. During T1 the sunglasses sprung off my face and across the tarmac! Suddenly that advice seemed sensible. The other issue with a tailed helmet is that they don’t perform well aerodynamically if you look down. For the first lap of the bike my neck felt a bit stiff but I forced myself to keep my face up. Luckily the pain subsided, or more likely moved somewhere else like my legs or lungs. It’s a bit like poking yourself in the eye to stop yourself thinking about a stomach ache. It kind of works.

The Huub Tri Suit was a medium size but it rode up on my legs and resulted in a bit of inside-thigh chafing. The padding was also very thin so wasn’t particularly comfortable. There wasn’t a rear pocket which stressed me out a little bit when getting ready, but then I found a clever little key pocket in one of the arms to keep my car key safe.

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I came into T2 in 5th place, and afterwards saw that I was 3rd fastest on the bike during the race. The first few hundred metres of the run were awful. I thought I had paced things well, but I had an overwhelming desire to turn around and give up. Everything hurt. I slowed the pace a touch and forced myself to keep going. Luckily the pain released its grip on me and I found a steady rhythm. I was overtaken by a few competitors to finish the evening in 9th place and set a PB by 35 seconds. I was reasonably happy about the time and position, but mostly just pleased with my resolve to keep going when every part of my body wanted to stop. Will power.

The duathlon love-hate relationship goes on…

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Don’t give up your day job

I managed to pick up some fairly random work recently, doing a photo shoot with 220Triathlon mag. I’m only really a triathlete in the sense that I seem to have tried a lot of different careers over the last few years. At least 3 serious ones anyway. But this latest career-path tangent was never on the agenda. It was good fun, cycling around Bristol on some pretty flashy bikes and I ended up with some new kit as a thank you for my time too. But from a financial point of view, if I want to keep up cycling as a hobby I’d be wise to stick to engineering! The article is in September’s issue of the magazine.

The duathlon learning curve

I raced the DB Max sprint duathlon at Castle Combe this week. My goal was to be conservative and try to pace it sensibly – easier said than done once you’ve pinned on a number and are surrounded by competitors. As the adrenaline starts pumping it’s difficult to avoid going out too hard and paying for it later. There are no prizes given for the person who suffers the most.

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I set myself a target pace of 3:50/km for the first 3km run, but still found myself running on ‘feel’ rather than pace. This is a risky tactic –  what can feel ok for 5 minutes, probably isn’t for 45 minutes. I eased off for the second and third kilometres, not losing any places. I came into the T1 in about 10th place, 30 seconds up on target pace but still feeling good.

My transition was tidy without being particularly quick. I hadn’t practiced transitions since my last race so just did it all calmly and without rushing. Similarly to the run, on the bike I had a target but ended up going slightly harder based on feel. I averaged 285 watts, but with progressively quicker lap times.

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The ride is 5 laps and 15km. The final few laps were quite busy on the track once all of the 100+ riders were out there. But nothing could really detract from the enjoyment of whooshing around on traffic-free, smooth tarmac. I could tell I’d gained a few places and hadn’t been overtaken so arrived into T2 feeling like things were going well. As I exited transition I looked down at my watch and saw that I was well on for a PB.

Unfortunately, I had a stitch about halfway into the final run. I felt the burn in my side so slowed down and tried to push on, but the pain kept on increasing. Before I had consciously made the decision to stop, I was horrified to feel myself come to a halt. It was a strange, involuntary feeling. I stretched it out and was overtaken by a couple of runners. I started running again and made it 100 metres before being forced to stop again. I thought about quitting but was on the wrong side of the circuit at least a kilometre to the finish line so ‘quitting’ would still basically mean carrying on and finishing. I stretched a bit more. Was overtaken again, this time at least appreciating the camaraderie of someone asking if I was ok. After what felt like 10 minutes, but was probably more like 30 seconds I started running again. The pain had mostly gone so I took it steady.

In the end I finished 10th, set a PB and learned a good lesson in pacing. Whether the stitch was from eating a bit too close to the start or from pushing it too hard on the final lap of the bike, I’m not sure. I’ll just try to pay better attention to both in the next race – fortunately there’s a final Castle Combe duathlon of the season in a few weeks time where hopefully things will go smoother.

First podium

I scored my first time-trial podium finish last week. Although the use of ‘podium’ makes it sound a bit more glamorous than it actually was – more like having a quick scan of times on a clipboard and heading home thinking you’ve done ok. Then looking at the results on the club website the next afternoon and realising you’d somehow ended up in 2nd place. I actually started reading the results from the bottom up (old habits die hard). By the time I’d got to the top 5 I thought my time was missing!

One of my goals for this season – my second year of racing TT’s on a proper TT bike was to try and get around Bristol South’s Chew Lake course in under 20 minutes. Over the rolling course of 8.3 miles this requires an average speed of 25mph / 40km/h. My PB from last year was 20:40 so I’d hoped it would be achievable. I trained quite hard through the winter, trying to use the TT bike on the turbo trainer at least once a week to get used to riding in a more aerodynamic position. It got to the point that I was sick of threshold riding on a TT bike before the season had actually begun. My first race around the lake in April resulted in a personal best of 20:14, tantalisingly close. I got a bit held up behind traffic too, so was convinced that the sub-20 was just around the corner. My next race in May resulted in 20:18, despite putting out a bit more power (325 watts vs 320 watts) and feeling like I’d ridden harder too. Going hard doesn’t seem to equal going fast.

Last week was the annual 25 mile TT around the lake – 3 laps rather than 1. I’d never raced a 25 before so had no idea how it would go. All of my duathlon races are of a one-hour duration and I’ve run quite a few 10K’s too at around 40 minutes, so felt confident about managing my effort for the distance. I decided to aim for around 290 watts but mostly just ride on feel. I’d also read some 10K running advice which was to run the first two-thirds with your head and the final third with your heart. I decided to apply this logic to a 3 lap cycling race.

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Last few moments of shade before heading out to race

Despite the 7pm start, the conditions were baking hot. There didn’t feel like much of a need to warm up, more of a need to keep hydrated and out of the sun. My concessions to the conditions were to replace the visor on my helmet with sunglasses for better ventilation, and to ride with a bottle on the bike. I was the 9th rider off and immediately tried to rein it in, asking myself the same question that I would repeat for the next hour: “Can I maintain this for another x minutes?”

It wasn’t really until halfway through the second lap that the first proper challenge presented itself. Everything was going well, I felt comfortable and was going quicker than expected when I caught my minute man. I’d overtaken a few other riders but I’d expected my minute man to be faster than me so wasn’t expecting to catch him. About a mile after overtaking I glanced behind and saw he was close behind. Not close enough to be gaining any kind of slipstream advantage, just close enough to rattle me and make me think I’d slowed down. It got to me and I tried to increase my effort. I can’t be the only person who suffers from this – despite it being a race against the clock, and a race against yourself it’s very difficult to not be influenced by overtaking or being overtaken. My heart rate began to rise and I started to feel the effort. I started to feel differently about the “can I continue this” question. I eased off and told myself not to look back.

A few miles later I looked over my shoulder as I came out around a parked car and saw empty roads behind. I felt relief.

I felt fine coming through to complete the second lap, like I could have kept riding all night. It was a great feeling. It’s a rolling course with a couple of rises that take about a minute to crest. I stayed in the saddle on these but came out of the aero position and onto the handlebars for on each lap so that I could stretch my back and neck, but more importantly to take a big glug of water.

Halfway through the final lap I was starting to suffer from pins and needles in my left hand and arm, but more painful was a tightness in my neck on the left side. It became a real mental challenge to keep going hard and I tried to just focus on my legs and relax the rest of my body. Knowing that I only had 10 more minutes made it manageable and I pushed on.

I crossed the line in a time of 1.01.26 with lap splits of 20:15, 20:32 & 20:39, the consistent pacing giving me great satisfaction. The time of the first lap also gave me lots of confidence that a sub-20 really should be achievable having got within 15 seconds on the first lap. Either that or I only have one race pace and I should just stick to 25’s!

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Finish line wreck 

I felt completely trashed at the finish line. After hanging around and receiving some much appreciated praise, I felt my body beginning to seize up so I clambered awkwardly onto my bike for the short 5 mile ride home. It required a huge effort and I contemplated phoning my wife to come and pick me up, unsure if I was going to make it. It was fairly pathetic and probably harder than the race itself!

Results (top 5):

Pos: Name: Club: Lap 1: Lap 2: Lap 3: Actual Time:
1 Nick Livermore Bristol South C.C. 0.18.35 0.18.59 0.19.43 0.57.17
2 Mark Jerzak Chew Valley C.C. 0.20.15 0.20.32 0.20.39 1.01.26
3 Daniel Burbridge Bristol South C.C. 0.19.45 0.20.19 0.21.24 1.01.28
4 Nicholas Creed Somer Valley C.C. 0.20.54 0.21.04 0.21.25 1.03.23
5 Dan Hopes Rapha CC 0.21.41 0.21.58 0.22.01 1.05.40

I’ll be back this week for the one lap version and another crack at sub-20. Surely it’s within grasp …