That was a great morning for a cycle. The sun was out and the winds were low. We had about 30 on the road today and thankfully our 3 groups formed without much fuss in Moneygall. We hope everyone enjoyed the cycle and got some benefit from it. Sorry to anyone that got left behind at the start; we were cracking down on our start time so we had both groups out on the road at 9:03 and 9:05. We all met up out the road anyway so no harm done.
This was our 4th week on the N7 Loop route but this week we increased the difficulty a little by throwing in a hilly finish up Army hill and over to Toom. The presence of a hill at the end seemed to have the desired effect of slowing down the bunches. Everyone was trying to save some energy for the end of the cycle and that is the way we want it. The 3 groups had 9, 12 and 9 cyclists in them, which is a fair enough split.
G1 had a little less distance to do but it certainly wasn’t easy for them. We are still experiencing some teething problems with this group as there is a big difference in ability level at the moment. For those that are struggling, try your hardest to get out a few times during the week. Put in the effort and you will be flying it in a few weeks.
G2 were missing their captain fantastic John Gleeson today. John got promoted to G3 where he could continue his heated rivalry with Pretty Boy Will Rymer. It looked like Ronan O’Driscoll took over calling the shots in G2. His first decision seemed to be to cut their handicap in half straight away. Ronnie has never been one to take the hard option! This call actually turned out to be inspired as both G2 and G3 finished together in Toomevara at the end. Miracles do happen.
The average pace for the loops was about 1 minute down on each lap for both G2 and G3. G3 paced it a little better with the 2nd lap a little faster than the first. G2 lost a full minute on the 2nd lap as they were obviously holding back for the hill at the end. Both groups finished the two loops with almost their full groups still intact. Group 1 decided to take on Army Hill at the start of the 2nd loop instead of at the end. They got up the climb well and continued on with the loop once they returned to the circuit in Toomevara.
Group 2 and 3 were 2 minutes apart after the two loops but with the final hilly 10km section to go that advantage would fall quickly. Will Rymer was already celebrating at the end of the 2nd loop as he had defeated his arch-enemy John Gleeson. The pace was steady up the hill but with 1:30 of rolling done to that point, plenty of cyclists went out the back. Group leader, Ronan O’Driscoll, decided he wanted to go the scenic route to Toomevara but was lucky enough to hear the shouts from G3 behind him that he had gone the wrong way (who put him in charge?!).
G3 picked off most of the remnants of G2 on the way over to Toomevara, with just Jurgen left out front in the end. After a short stop in Toom, where we waited for everyone, the bunch headed back to Nenagh at a nice leisurely pace. Dan Hogan had been shedding water bottles and visors all over the route so he set off on a search mission elsewhere. Safe to say there were a few tired bodies coming back into Nenagh.
The fitness of all 3 groups is improving quickly. Those in Group 1 are covering well over 80km now and they are doing it at a nice pace too. Groups 2 and 3 paced the loops better today but plenty of work still needs to be done on hills (starting tomorrow). Hopefully everyone is starting to become more aware of what they are capable of on the bike and more aware of how to pace things properly.
Heart rate comparison: just to illustrate the point that most people are going a little too hard at this time of year. My (Shane) average heart rate for the two loops was 122 (my max is in the 180s). HRs from other cyclists were 169, 169, 173, 166, 163 and 147. I would argue that my HR is lower than I would like it to be but when cycling in a group, compromises have to be made. In October and for what we are trying to target, I don’t think anyone should be higher than 150 for these long loops.
Cycling in a bunch does come with pros and cons especially in a large bunch like ours with a wide spectrum of ability. No doubt some of ye will come back to me saying things were too slow. My reply – are you mad? The club seems to have this collective mindset that if we are not out burying ourselves we are not getting a good quality cycle. If we are all hitting our race pace heart rates in October, where are we going to progress to in the New Year? Try to enjoy your cycling at this time of year and don’t put yourself in a bodybag at the end of each weekend. As each month passes we will be upping the intensity.
Plan for next two weeks: don’t kill me but…… we are going to spend two more weeks on the N7 loop course. I know it’s not the most exciting of routes and it gets boring doing the same route each week but we just want to give the cyclists that are struggling to stay in their current groups two more weeks to get up to speed. This is easier to do on a course they are familiar with and the consequences of getting dropped aren’t as severe. Also, once we start heading out further from Nenagh our Group 1 tends to disappear so we want to give that group a chance to improve too.
The quality of cycle is pretty good at the moment on the loop course so after 2 more weeks we should be ready for anything. The final two weeks will see us up the difficulty level a little as we introduce a little bit more climbing into the equation. By sticking to this route we can gradually increase the difficulty in a familiar setting, where people are never too far from home and people can switch groups on the road if they want.
Next Up: Big Sunday Mileage – trip to Kinnitty and the Slieve Blooms. Start at 8:00 at Tescos. For those that don’t fancy cycling the full distance – come with us to Kinnitty and turn for home there. The pace to Kinnitty will be very steady. Coffee stop in Birr on the way home.