Sarah Storey: Snow, But Not at Altitude; Altitude, But No Height Gained and a Very Soggy Time Trial!

Alongside altitude chamber training, cold snow weather at last weekend's Time Trials mean Great Britain's cyclist Sarah Storey feels prepared for anything. 11 Apr 2012
Sarah Storey on bike

Sarah Storey did some altitude chamber training before the 2012 Buxton Mountain Time Trial

ⒸSarah Storey

"As we swung onto the short main road section of the course, the wind was coming across the road and although it is a place to get some meaningful power down, the wind chill wanted to sap your breath, and I was glad not to be contesting the 'Athlete' prize on a none aero set-up."

So the story goes; March winds, April showers, and with the weather this past week it has certainly made up for the unseasonably warm end to March! After an easier week following the big miles of Mallorca, this past week saw me back up to full gas and with a new introduction to training, the use of an altitude chamber courtesy of a brand new facility at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Cheshire Campus in Crewe.

Having had some tests done to see the appropriateness of using altitude in my training, I was deemed to be a very suitable candidate and the protocol used was going to be one that hopefully pushes on my aerobic capacity even further, allowing me to produce more power and therefore higher speeds on the track and road, before fatigue sets in.

After just three sessions, it’s difficult to say I feel different, but the strength is coming back and I have either quickly benefited from my sessions in the chamber, or I am reaping the rewards from the high mileage in Mallorca. With another week of work down in Crewe coming up this week, it will be interesting to see whether I can tolerate more intensity in the chamber than I could when I started seven days ago.

Good Friday is a significant date for lots of reasons, but for hard core Time Triallists in the Peak District and beyond, the date can only mean the brutal Buxton Mountain Time Trial is being held and this year was certainly an affair to remember. Heavy snow two days before the event put some doubt in everyone’s minds as to the chance of the event going ahead, but the sun gods couldn’t have come at a better time, and a glorious day on Maundy Thursday saw a lot of the snow cleared from blocking roads. Although the course was very soggy and quite slushy and water logged in places, there was nothing stopping the 106 riders who had entered from enjoying their two or three laps of pain!

Last year the event had been run in glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid 20’s, but with the mercury not even making it to 5 degrees this year, it was definitely another race for knee warmers and thermal gloves, with no chance of a picnic lunch in the HQ grounds post race. I also opted for the lightest wheel choice possible given the amount of climbing.

Although it was very chilly, it was hard not to admire the spectacular scenery and despite the horrific headwind up the entire section of the main climb, I still enjoyed the lung busting ascent into the first corner where a large group of spectators had gathered. The benefit of this corner was the friendly café serving coffee! It has been interesting to read blogs from Tejvan and Matt, who claimed second and first in the men’s field, as in comparison my gearing was completely different. For much of the climb I was in 39x25, going up to the 27 sprocket for the steeper sections, staying in the saddle throughout due to the slippery nature of the roads and only coming off the tri-bars for the technical sections or steeper gradient. I think in the whole ride, despite the long sections of freewheeling in the second half of each lap, I averaged 84rpm too.

I find it very interesting listening to and reading how other riders tackle a course. For this event, bike set up was very important for confidence and plenty of riders found it much harder to descend on their time trial bike, whereas I thought it was easier to get well tucked in on the start bars of the TT set up. I do spend a lot of time just riding the TT bike for general conditioning though, so it has become very comfortable over the years. I have also had the same time trial bike for the last four years, so that probably helps too!

As we swung onto the short main road section of the course, the wind was coming across the road and although it is a place to get some meaningful power down, the wind chill wanted to sap your breath, and I was glad not to be contesting the “Athlete” prize on a non-aero set-up. This was definitely a section for tucking in small!

The final section of the course took us across the moors to the sharp descent with a horrid section of mud and gravel at a narrow section of road going round a right hander over a bridge. Straight after this was another short climb and unlike last year in the dry, there was nothing to be gained from taking this corner at full speed. The finish was only a couple of minutes from here and after two laps, I crossed the line to take the win for the women.

Easter weekend didn’t improve a great deal weather-wise , and by the Easter Monday time trial there was little doubt that my skills from my previous life as a swimmer were going to come in handy! Abbotsford Park Easter Monday “10” is a super event, with everyone off work for the bank holiday but the rain this year meant it was a third Time Trial in a row for me with a less than 10 degree temperature. Although on this event I did manage to ride without knee warmers, the thermal gloves were still on!

Given the weather and the fact I had entered the event to get a good hard training run in for the start of the new week, I opted for the training wheels. I also felt sorry for Barney having to keep cleaning and polishing the bling ones! It was a good choice, and I felt confident I could handle the slippery roundabouts and have no problems with the abundance of puddles that lined the course. The power was right there, but the time reflected the cold and wet! I guess if nothing else, I will be well prepared come the London Paralympics if we have a week of rain and chilly weather during the road events!

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