TCR No. 6 : Getting to the Start Line

A lot of tarmac has passed under my tyres since the 2018 TCR, No. 6, and I’ve been meaning to get it all documented. It was an incredibly fortunate year on the TCR, with lots of challenges, and lots to tell. Better late than never, I guess!? Before getting into the race and how all that went, I’d thought I’d go through some things that got me to the start line. I may have gone through similar to this before in the past two years, so feel free to check out some of my older posts on TCR’s No. 4 & TCR No. 5.

Training and Diet

I made lots of changes this year to help me get into shape, as the winter and Christmas months hadn’t been that kind to me. I wrote a couple of pieces about training and diet for Jam-Cycling:

Training Rides

I don’t really believe that you need to do lots of really long training rides to train for the TCR. It’s important to do something, but with the detrimental side of 12-18 hour rides it can work against you if there are too many. For me, these are reserved as a tester to remind myself every now and then that I can do the distance, or to test specific equipment over distance, or for a specific reason… like going to visit my mum for some Macaroni Cheese!

The majority of the training I do is around increasing power, endurance and fitness through shorter 1-2 hour training sessions. These are mostly just my commute, as that is the easiest place for me to find a good hour before and after work, with sometimes a little tacked on in the evening.

At the end of the day, my main aim is to enjoy riding my bike. If I didn’t aim for that, I would really struggle for motivation.

Training Plan.

For the first time, in the 2018 season I started following a training plan and trained with a power meter. An annual training plan to be precise. Or rather, a loose ATP to follow to guide me. I had two races on the calendar, the Italy Divide, which I was planning to ‘Tour’ and the TCR. The plan gave me a guide and a bit of a push to do more in places, and help with motivation.

The other key part of my training is getting used to the bikepacking kit, and everything I need with me for the journey, and ensuring I test it out and familiar with it. It’s important to have a level of confidence in your gear to be sure it’s trustworthy, but also easily fixable by you at the side of a gravel road at 2.30am in a thunderstorm. Those tubeless wheels your awesome bike shop built and delivered pumped and ready to go – take them apart, start again. Not panicking and just getting on with fixing the problem can save so much time and stress.

The Italy Divide

The Italy Divide in 2018 was an unsupported off-road bike race from Rome, meandering up through Tuscany to Florence and Bologna, before crossing the Po Valley to Verona before two mountains are conquered ahead of the finish on the northern shore of lake Garda in the small town of Trebole.

Getting down and dirty on the Italy Divide in beautiful Florence, Tuscany

All I had heard of the race suggested that it was a gravel race, so I chose to re-task my Curve Belgie Spirit for the job. Specifically, 35mm Gravel King Tyres and updated to a 48/32×11/32 gearing. I also switched out road to MTB pedals. Everything else was the same as my TCR setup.

Check out my blog posts on this, starting here:

The Italy Divide – Part 1: Rome to Bologna

Turning 40

For this TCR year I turned 40. The weekend after getting back from the Italy Divide, I flew out to Girona for a long weekend with a great bunch of friends from G!RO, all organised by the amazing Nick Frendo who ran bike holiday travel at the time. Formerly Sommet, check out

3 days of great riding, maybe a bit of excessive drinking and eating well made for the perfect trip. It was not all plain sailing however, losing my jacket and house keys on the way out, drinking a little too much and managing to miss my flight on the way back (unrelated, but a long story). A memorable trip with some great friends.

I maybe lost my way a bit in May, losing focus on diet, training and a bit run down from the trip, but still managed to get some great rides in across the south east counties. I really just wanted to enjoy riding my bike, and mostly managed that.

Druids Ride

Again, the best group day out of they year is always the Druids ride. Somehow we managed to get 18 people on this 270km day from Esher to Avebury stone circle and back again. A brilliant day out, possibly the best ride of the year on the longest Saturday of the year.

Crit Racing?!

I somehow got into racing cat 4 crits at Hillingdon. The first one I really enjoyed, spending most of the race in a solo break before being caught in the final couple of laps managing only a 12th place. I came back and won the next two, achieving cat 3 status in no time. A bit of fun, perhaps high risk (crashy/injury likely), but a good way to get a solid hour threshold + workout, but only if you get in the break away for the majority of the race!

I did a short post on this over at Jam Cycling – check it out: https://www.jam-cycling.com/stories/racing-bikes-giving-it-another-go

Tour de France

With the TCR start a few weeks away, I needed a decent training ride, mainly for confidence, but also for checking on how my body was doing. I couldn’t resist it, the Tour passing through just the other side of the chanel I rode over to watch the circus. Checkout my blog on Chasing The Circus

Planning and re-routing

I spent a lot of time on my route this year. It’s painful thinking back now, as I eventually ignored most of it during the race – more on that another time. I used Komoot extensively, primarily as I found the tool really friendly to use, organise routes and the information it gives you on the terrain you take – whether its a gravel road, single track or state road etc. Unfortunately, the reality is although it makes a good detailed route on how to get places, at the time, it didn’t really give much help on racing to places. So many times it would send me off the road I was on, into a small village or town on top of a hill, before sending me back to the same road 5 miles along. That said, a bit part of my planning was making sure I had all the tools and equipment to allow me to reroute if I needed. Since then, they’ve made a lot of really promising improvements to the routing so well worth another look in future.

Bike upgrades

As usual, I serviced my Curve Belgie Spirit a few weeks before the start, but I also upgraded the wheels. I’ve used my Noble wheels for the past 3 years on two TCR’s and an Italy Divide, but I was looking for some upgrades. I settled on some Curve 55mm deep G4 Carbon wheels. Deep sections were a bit of a gamble – some aero dynamic gains but with a bit extra weight. Using them for the first time I was blown away by the feel of them, and never had any major issues in handling them in strong winds.

Curve Belgie Spirit with 55′ G4’s

To Geraardsbergen!

I’ve done this three times now, and this was exactly the same as the past three. Eurostar to Brussels, Hotel and then chilled ride over for registration on the Friday morning. Registration was so much smoother this year though, and I was super relaxed about it all. Meeting all the racers and friends from previous races, organisers, dot watchers, as well as new people who recognised me was great. Previous years I’d been stressed out and tried to avoid people so I could focus. This year felt much easier – I’d been here twice before. It hadn’t really occurred to me to be a contender for winning the race, but a few people had mentioned it to me. At first I was flattered, and quite surprised, but then I started to say to myself, well why not? I was maybe kidding myself a bit, but I figured I could just ride to my plan and try and push the other riders to keep the pressure on. You never know how the race will pan out.

The start!… watch this space for my story!

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