I did my first Bath CC chaingang on Saturday, and I didn't get dropped. So that counts as a pass.
I've been training these past couple of weeks. Training in the rigid, structured sense of paying someone to give me advice, and a plan, that someone being Dave Smith. The ultimate aim is to be able to race Cat 4 next season without getting dropped. And how have the results been? Well, positive.
First off: weight. When I started this adventure I was over 103kg. Now I'm down to under 100kg: 99.6kg to be precise. so I've lost about 4kg in a couple of weeks. That's vindication of the diet that Dave has me on, which is light on cake and heavy on bacon and red wine (for me, at least). It's been a bit of a struggle adapting at times, and making sure there's enough bacon in the house. But it's certainly working.
It's not the lightest I've been. I managed to get down to 96kg about five years back. But that took me months, and sticking to the diet was hard, whereas this is taking weeks, and is comparatively easy. 95kg is my first target weight. I'm reasonably confident I'll be able to hit that within the 12 week plan I've got.
I've been busy (busier, anyway) on the bike too: three interval sessions a week plus a longer ride is what's on the plan, and so far I've kept to the script. The intervals vary in length and intensity, and they get harder through the weeks. So far they've all been level 1. Except last night, which was level 2 and not very nice. I'm not looking forward to level 3.
Has all this made me faster? Well, I don't know, really. I thought I'd go and do a chaingang to see if I could stay on. I figured that if I could then I'd probably made some progress, even though I don't actually have anything to compare it against. So up I rocked and stuck myself in the medium group.
There were nine of us on the rolling descent into Bitton. And then it was the short, straight drag up to Oldland common and Jez was off the front and my heart rate was in the 180s trying to keep in touch, and at the top we were back together and suddenly it was five, with the others nowhere in sight even after a gentle roll for half a mile to see if they were coming back. So it was through and off across the common and on the lumpy approach to Pucklechurch with a few short stinging climbs thrown in, and then we were four, with a man lost and no-one quite sure where we lost him.
And four we stayed, round the back of Yate and over the common to Chipping Sodbury and back to Oldland, working well together. Four's a good number to share the work, and no-one was missing their turn, so we kept a decent lick all the way round, rotating the group as often as we could which was most of the time on the wide, flat roads of South Gloucestershire. We got caught and passed by the fast group, but that was inevitable.
We kept the group together right to the final climb back up to Kelston, where it was every man for himself and I rolled up to the summit third man out of four, a long way down and battered. From the top of the hill, round the 70km loop and back to the summit I averaged just over 32km/h. I was pleased with that. For most of the way round I was riding within my limits but working hard, with my heart rate over 80% of my maximum. On occasion I was properly on the limit but I managed to recover from those efforts and stay in touch, which was definitely encouraging.
All in all, it was pretty encouraging. I know I have a long way to go. But it feels like I've started.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.