Colnagone

What you see in the photo above is a very nervous man on a very expensive bicycle. It’s me setting off on the Gog Magog Gran Fondo a couple of weeks ago on a Colnago V1-r. I borrowed one of Colnago’s demo bikes  for the day from Steve at Primo Cycles. I’d been planning to ride my own old Trek but I saw that demo rides were available and asked Steve to sort one out for me. I gave him less than a week but he came up trumps.

The V1-r is a genuine superbike. It says so in a supplement to the current edition of Cycling Plus on the bikes of the Tour de France so it must be true. It weighs about as much as a snotty tissue but it looks the absolute business. The one I had was matt back with red highlights. You can have it in white and black, black on black, black with yellow highlights or black with white.

Mine was a feast of Italy. It had Campagnolo gears, Super Record at the back and Record at the front but the brakes were Colnago’s own. The bike’s aero flavouring put the rear brake under the bottom bracket which was excellent for keeping it out of the wind but gave it other issues when it came to losing speed in the grotty, damp conditions.

The carbon wheels come from Vision. They’re Metron 40s (oooh, Metron!) I hadn’t ridden with carbon wheels before and it took a while to get used to the way the brakes worked. To be honest, they didn’t really work in the rain and then they worked really quite a lot indeed when the brake blocks had cleared the dampness from the braking surface. This gave me a few brown bib-short moments coming down to junctions at the bottom of some of the wet descents.

The way the Campag gear changers work didn’t help. I’m used to Shimano. The Ultegra levers and derailleurs on my Trek are as smooth as a baby’s backside. The best I can say for the gears on the Colnago is that they’re positive and reward positivity. I was positive I didn’t like them. Slowing using the scary no-brakes-then-lots-of-brakes, unclipping to get my foot down and changing down the ratios on my way to a junction was too much for my little brain to handle at times. It got better with familiarity and to be honest, I think the bike needed a thorough service. God knows how many other cack-handed riders had been using it recently. It felt just a little tired and the rear mech in particular had a rattle on the lower ratios.

I called it a day after one particularly hairy moment when I nearly stacked it coming down a hill to a T-junction with the only busy road on the entire route. The actual descent was joyful. The bike is rock-solid at speed. Pick your line and the bike follows it with no nervousness at all. It’s not the least twitchy. It’s basically built to go very, very quickly indeed. After my near-spill, I diverged from the 80 mile route and headed for Bicicletta in Saffron Walden to gather my thoughts, dry off a little and have a coffee.

It’s a very fine bicycle indeed, this. It’s almost impossibly comfortable. My Trek rides on 23mm tyres. The Colnago had 25mm ones and the little extra air volume combined with all the knowledge gained in designing carbon fibre bikes in the years since the Trek was built make a huge difference. Only the saddle let me down. In truth, it demasculated me. The handlebars have little flattened bits on top and provided a very comfortable place to rest my hand when I was on the hoods. That wasn’t often. It really wanted me on the drops and driving the pedals.

When I did get into a tuck and give it some, the bike responded. I could feel it slicing through the air, every turn of the pedal making a difference. It has a little Ferrari badge on the top tube along with the legend in collaborazione con Ferrari. It’s only been in the actual Ferrari wind tunnel. I don’t know how much of this is down to engineering and how much is feel-good marketing, but the bike did feel fast.

I didn’t want to give it back when I got to the finish. It was wonderful. The thing robbed me of feeling in my bits for about three days afterwards but I still wanted it in my life. I said as much to Steve who said to keep it for another few days. It wasn’t going straight back to Colnago. So that’s what I did.

And on Monday I worked all day and didn’t get out for a ride.

And on Tuesday I worked all day and didn’t get out for a ride.

Wednesday, I took the posh bike out and gave it some. I set a handful of PBs on Strava including going up and over Chapel Hill towards Barrington and coming home along the A603 from Orwell to Barton. I’m not the best climber in the world but the bike gave me the confidence to push down the hills and when I had a bit of a tailwind, the aero properties of the frame really shone through. It really doesn’t waste the watts. It’s available with disc brakes now and I’d have mine with Shimano instead of Campagnolo because that’s what I’m used to.

It’s gone now. There is a Colnago-shaped hole in my life into which I’m trying to push a Trek-shaped plug. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit at all. You’re probably expecting me to diss my own bike now but I’m not going to because it’s brilliant too. It’s older and a little heavier but I smashed a Strava segment on the Trek last week I didn’t get close to on the Colnago. It’s a sprint from St Andrew’s Church in Cherry Hinton to the roundabout at the bottom of Airport Way. It’s the final part of most of my rides, a good way to burn off the last little drops of energy. The Trek and I nailed it last Sunday. In truth, the V1-r is a much better bike than I am a rider, even with its weird levers and scary brakes.

It’s not about the bike after all.


With thanks to Steve at Primo Cycles and to Colnago for the generous loan of the bike. Steve has a V1-r frameset in stock and for sale at £3000. A V1-r with the Campagnolo gearset and Vision wheels like I had would cost about £6500. It’s worth every penny. 

In case you doubt me, here’s a photo of me at the end of the Gog Magog Gran Fondo. See what it does to a handsome man like me.

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Duelling Affletes

Recently, I have been Thunder Running across scorched earth during daylight and through the sort of quagmire unseen since the Somme in the First World War. I have been riding my bike on high days and holidays and having a whale of a time. I still think cycling is still cheating, mind. I have swum in a lake and not drowned myself while chilling the fuck out and calming down. And all of this was in preparation for the Cambridge Triathlon which took place yesterday.

Only it didn’t. Thank you, blue-green, pestilential and poisonous algae. You can bugger off. Cyanobacteria produce toxins which can kill people to death and sadly they showed up in the lake at Mepal where we were due to swim yesterday. I thought that drowning was going to be a greater hazard than poisoning and have practiced really quite a lot so that I hardly drown at all these days. The organisers took the view that losing participants to something which still has the hump at us for being out-evolved a billion years ago was not an acceptable risk so changed the event to be a duathlon of 6k/40k/6k. The organisers are always right but I do wish that the bloody algae would just let it go. Your time has passed, my little blue-green friends.

I had planned to get out of the lake not last having enjoyed a bit of a splash around, bimble the bike leg waving cheerily to the marshals maybe overtaking a couple of ladies of a certain age if they didn’t mind and have a wee jog round the run course, chatting to friends as I encountered them. That plan went out the window because I would now have to actually do some racing. I had a steady first run during which I was overtaken by a handful of competitors from the next wave back. They were flying. I timed the run at 27:49. I didn’t know exactly where the transition lines were so it doesn’t reflect my official time. I didn’t faff too much in T1. Helmet on. Shoe off, shoe on. Shoe off, shoe on. Bike off the rack and run with it across rough ground to the start of the bike course. I have no idea how all that took 2:16.

I had overtaken some of the women from the previous wave on the run course and one of these nailed me right at the start of the bike. She was off like she didn’t fancy being chased round the bike course by a skinny, middle-aged, bearded bloke with pubes poking through his trisuit. I wonder whether the Brownlees shave down there. Maybe they just wear thicker material. It was a fun ride. The course was as flat as week-old roadkill and I was catching and passing some of the women regularly enough. The quick guys came past me at astonishing velocities. I could hear the whum-whum-whum of their wheels as they came up behind me. One came by so closely and at such speed that I was momentarily blown off-course. On a few occasions, someone came past and then struggled to make headway. I would overtake them again and try to pull away. I managed that once, never to see the rider again. Once I yelled at someone much younger to try it again and make it stick this time. He did and was gone off up the road after his next victim. Finally, I duelled with a bloke between Earith and Haddenham. He finally got away from me on the only climb of the day, a short 300m or so up to a junction in Haddenham itself. I must have demoralised the one guy on a time-trial bike I overtook somewhere between Chatteris and Somersham. Chris gave me a huge lift when he came past me halfway round the bike course. I was yelling and shouting and may have whooped a bit. I dug in there and continued my race all the way to Haddenham. I timed the bike leg at 1:19:35 which gave me an average speed of 30km/h, as near as makes no bollocks. It was the target Chris gave me so I’m quite chuffed with that.

T2. Oh, T2. It’s when you find that someone has taken your legs away from you and left you Christy Brown’s instead. Unclip the right foot. Stop at the dismount line, Attempt to unclip the left foot. Go on. Fucking unclip. That’s it. Swing your leg over. No, the other leg. That’s not working. First leg again. That’s better, Jog through to the bike rack. No, walk through to the bike rack. Walk slowly to the bike rack. Smile at the supporters. No need to swear at them. They’re being nice. Where the chuffing fuck is my bag? That’s it! No, it’s not. That’s it there. Right, rack the bike. Helmet off. Drop shades. Bend to pick up shades. Ohhhhh fffffffffffffuuuuuuucck! Why does that hurt? Shades back on. Shoe off. Fuck! That’s sore. Shoe on. Wince. Shoe off. Shoe dropped, Fumble. Swear, Wince. Swear again. Shoe on. Jog to the run course. Walk a few steps. Remember you’re supposed to be a runner and just fucking run. 2:41. Worst experience of the day.

I thought I would not be able to run at all. My back was aching. I had some intimate chafing issues because I’d forgotten to apply my chamois cream in the morning. As it turned out, I ran slowly but well. I think it was only my technique which got me through. I had little energy left and no strength at all. I turned out to be in better nick than the people I was overtaking. I kept thinking about light steps and using my arms to drive me forwards. I tell my athletes that your arms will get you home when your think your legs can’t. Drive back with your elbows not forward with your wrists and your knees will come up themselves. You’ll keep some poise and balance. There were some very, very tired boys and girls out there. I tried to encourage them as I went by. There must have been some people overtaking me too but I don’t remember any. I caught up with Clare with 2k to go and tried to encourage her to stay with me but she was completely spent. She had a stonker of a day overall though and came 4th in her category. I’ve been given a time of 13:48 in the provisional results for my second run. 31:48 would be closer since I timed it at 28:55. I made my overall time 2:21:18 which was reasonable since I would have happily have taken 2:25:00 when I set off.

Finishing isn’t the end. No. Then you have to try not to throw up over anyone important. Chris was waiting by the finish. It was a huge pleasure to see him there. There’s something about the snot you generate in course of vigorous exercise which makes it far more viscous and unpleasant than usual. I couldn’t find my inhaler because I’d left it in my car that morning along with the tissues I keep for removing mucilage. I was using the water I’d been given to dislodge the mucus which was making me gag and looking at the banana in my other hand as if I’d never seen a banana before. It was an alien object. I’d no idea whether to eat it, use it as a weapon or take it home as a pet. I saw Clare come in and then Glyn a few minutes after that. So, I beat a girl and an elderly man. Woohoo! I feel really good.

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Duathleticism

I have committed cycling the last couple of weekends. I know. I always said that cycling was basically cheating. I used to hate those smug bastards with their two-wheeled ways, spinning along merrily in sociable bunches of two or three, chatting away easily as they cruised past me on my long runs. I was the one working hard. I was the one who was making a real effort. Not them. Not them with their silly helmets and their carbon crotch rockets and shorts Linford Christie would think twice about putting on. They didn’t appear to be doing anything at all. Cycling? Pah! It’s for people who weren’t hard enough to run.

Ummm…

I have silly shorts you have to smear unguents into now. I have shoes I can only wear one one bike. I have two bikes. I have one bike made from carbon fibre and air and the other of aluminium and spite. I have to wear different shoes for each bike because the pedals are different on each bike. I have a helmet which makes me look like a weird hybrid of Alien and Scot. I have discovered new ways to spend money I really, really don’t have on stuff I’ve found that I really, really need. And sometimes I properly need things like food instead of gels and to pay a bill instead of a new tyre and things become all tense and angsty.

I am obsessing over my time up the hill to Fulbourne. I have become a slave to Strava. If you don’t know about Strava and you like your stats or are a bit competitive but already have a full online life, do not – and I can’t emphasise this enough – do not look at Strava. Don’t.

The last two Sundays, I’ve run in the morning and ridden in the afternoon. It was easy the first week. I’d just bimbled round the Gogs and Wandlebury in the morning and I was still feeling quite fresh. Yesterday was different. Yesterday, I smashed myself in a PB attempt at the Cambourne 10k in which I went off a little too hard and died on my arse at 4k. God knows how I held on. For the rest of the race, I kept Stuart Mills’ words of wisdom in the front of my mind, “It’s not pain. It’s a challenge.” The TORQ Trail Team selection doobrie paid dividends. There was a strong wind at times, and some insidious climbs at least two of which were into the wind but I just about kept it together. The bit I normally enjoy is a downhill section around a lake just after 5k. Yesterday, that was straight into a 20mph headwind and it was tough work. I was running at the front of a group for most of it because nobody else would take on the wind. I got round in 44:41 for 81st gun time (44:31 and 83rd on the chip), over a minute faster than last year when I was 143rd. I was completely broken by the end. The sprint finish I needed to stay in front of a group who were chasing me down finished me off. I took one place from a woman on the line but lost two to other blokes in the final couple of hundred metres. I thought that one of them was a club mate who had started beside me but they were a bit further back.

So, how do you recover from that sort of effort? Recovery drink, a massage, a proper protein and carb meal and the afternoon in front of the telly watching a re-run of the F1, right? I suppose you could do that. What I did was have a cake, a bit of milk shake, a cup of tea and a couple of rice cakes with peanut butter before I anointed bits of myself with chamois cream, got into those ridiculous shorts and headed out for a 30 mile ride. In the end, I cut it short because I couldn’t face the climb up to Balsham into that headwind yesterday. I did just over 30k in an hour and ten.

Cambourne is my anniversary race, the first one I did when I started running so it’s a bit special for me. When I’m Dictator Presidential Emperor of Earth for Life, I’m going to have the New Year start on the same weekend as the Cambourne 10k and make everyonel celebrate by running around a beautiful 10k course instead of getting drunk and having inadvisable sex. The first year I did this race, I spent the afternoon eating pancakes with cream and Nutella. Last year, I celebrated my PB by sitting in a jacuzzi. This year, I flogged my guts out on the bike because I could. I was shouting at the wind and singing songs to the grass verges and having one of the best afternoons of my life – not actually spent in the intimate company of my beloved wife – and I didn’t feel like I was cheating at all.

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