On 30th September Michael Krukov our racing captain and ex-President Calvin took on the gruelling climb of Swains Lane. Hundreds of competitors showed up for this fabled event and we managed to bag some amazing results. Krukov made 6th place (an amazing result for such a painful climb!) and Calvin bagged 3rd place making the podium!
If you're interested in Hill Climbs please see Michael Krukov and ask for training advice and hill climbing tips as well as the season's event list.
6 UCLUCC riders Calvin Cheung Obi Winter Peter Aruffo Lucy Wright Patrick Senior Jing Han were blessed with good weather and calm winds in the 2016 Prudential Ride London.
Calvin and Peter started early at the business end of the course at 6.00 and 6.14 respectively but Calvin suffered an early puncture and lost contact with the front peloton, with Peter pulling a roaring 100+ strong peloton past. After some peloton skipping and some good fortune, Calvin managed to get back to contact with Peter at the last 5 miles, with Peter emptying his reserves to lead Calvin out for a wacky bunch sprint. Peter finished with UCLUCC's fastest time of 4h 10min, closely followed by Calvin's 4h 25min including the puncture delay.
Meanwhile, Patrick was sensible and proved diligent in managing his energy reserves, crossing the line like he had just went for a caj walk in the park, in a very respectable 4h 36 min.
Obi and UCLUCC girls Lucy and Jing all finished in respectable moving times of a shade over 5 hours. Obi and Jing were unfortunate having been delayed for over an hour due to two serious incidents which happened in front. Lucy managed to avoid this, and claimed to have "made a new BFFL who both suffered together".
Lots of £ was raised for FarmAfrica, many miles crunched and calories burnt on two wheels. A great ride by all at UCLUCC and we hope to ride again next year!
In true UCL fashion, the day began with an early morning meet at the station. Three men. Nervous. Afraid. Eager. These were some of the feelings dominating the train journey up to Bath. Once off the train, the brilliant weather and landscape boosted morale to an all time high. Although the commute to the HQ brought on some serious hills, sometimes with gradients in excess of 15%, we remained undeterred.
Arriving at the HQ, we were soon greeted by a collection of bikes we have only dreamed about. Zipp 808’s, full discs, tri spokes, we looked so brilliantly amateurish with our clip on tt bars. Reminding ourselves that they were most likely people with ‘all the gear and no idea’ we pressed on.
Being the first squad, we lined up and began the mental preparation. After a 90 second wait that seemed like an eternity, we were off. Within two kilometers, the pain had already begun with a hill that kicked up to 12%, causing a serious dent in our defenses. We eventually ramped the pace back up to a healthy average of 38kmph and with the aid of a brilliant downhill section, ramped our average to a smashing 43kmph (aided by a some seriously strong pulls from Mike) by the half way point. At this stage, (after a brief hold up at a junction) we transitioned into the rolling uphill section of the route. Here, the combination of poor road surface and false flats saw each member maintain presence in the pain cave; each turn was a struggle, and each push to catch the end of the train burned.
As we passed the start line, we new it was nearly over, in a bid for a fast finish, Mike came around from the back to up the pace even further. Although a brief gapped formed, we regrouped and pressed harder. We soon came back to the original hill and Finn heroically took the lead in, averaging a strong 25kmph up the entirety of the pitch. As we neared the top, Mike let out a resounding ‘I’m empty’. Unheard of. As we came within one kilometer, I came around to try and lift the pace with what little energy I had left, and we proceeded to sprint to the finish.
All in all, it was a very strong effort by everybody, and having been completely spent at the end, we know we gave it everything. Definitely a great race to do, and we’ll all be back next year to give it a crack.
Venturing to a race on a Tuesday evening is not something that the everyday individual does, but the we are not everyday individuals. After a full day of lectures, Mike Evans, Finn Fitzgerald and I trekked out to Velopark for a change in the race scenery, opting for the flatter and sprint orientated course in stark contrast to Hog Hill.
A brief rain shower before the race started was the only thing damping the motivation of the squad. As the race started, the pace rocketed, averaging 42kmph for the first 20 minutes despite a fairly strong wind. Hanging on in the bunch, we kept our cool, waiting for the moment to strike. After a series of probing moves, the first serious attack came, launched by Tom Percival. Mike, having caught the wheel, sprinted to join the break, but later returned to the bunch, deciding to wait for the sprint instead. Another equally strong rider soon joined Tom, and they would go on to take 1st and 2nd place.
After another few laps, race captain Finn launched an attack from the front that could only be described as ‘rude’. A gap was immediately created. As this happened, I was in the process of moving up the side of the bunch and noticing the attack, made an effort to bridge. Unfortunately, my sprint was not strong enough to create a gap from the bunch, and I essentially rode down my own teammate in what was an appalling display of tactics. After the series of attacks, the UCLUCC remained dormant. Patient. Another series of flyers occurred, none gaining significant gaps when I proceeded to launch into the headwind. The effort allowed me to take the series of hairpin bends at full effort and a gap was soon formed. Unfortunately, the legs were not there and after a few minutes, I was absorbed by the bunch. With only 15 minutes of racing left, a group of 4 managed to gain a small gap on the peloton. Noticing the danger, Finn valiantly made an effort to bridge. He made up ground quickly, but after spending nearly a full lap in limbo, dangling a mere 15m from the attackers, the bunch was upon him and again, the squad antics had failed.
With 5 laps to go, the game had switched from Finn and I making a nuisance to Mike going for his signature sprint. With only 4 laps to go, he made a powerful effort to position himself in the top 5, and even pulled the peloton along on the front for a seemingly absurd amount of time. As the time left dwindled, the pack became more and more anxious, taking dangerous lines around bends and fighting tooth and nail for position. Amidst the scrum, although Mike likely had the strongest legs, the peloton swarmed and he was unable to generate the max power he is known for.
Although we only finished in the bunch, we were definitely one of the most active teams, despite having only 3 riders.
Duration – 1hr 7min
Avg. Speed – 40.9kmph
Avg. Heart Rate – 174bpm
Last year was my first year of racing, taking cycling seriously, and probably the most fun I have had at university. I was determined to give everything and anything a go. Every Wednesday evening there were student sessions at the Herne Hill Velodrome. You turned up, paid £4 got on a track bike and then whizzed around the velodrome on it for an hour, normally finishing the session with some form of a race. I’m not going to lie but riding a fixed bike was really weird to start with (especially trying to stop) but you quickly got used to it. I’m sure everyone will remember the session when Jacob Rack managed to drop his chain on the track bike… How you do this I have no clue, but we couldn’t stop laughing, sorry Jacob!
The October hill climb was the first and most brutal BUCS event of the year. One mile uphill going as hard as you can against the clock and trying not to be sick… the first 500m and the last few hundred metres are at gradients over 10% with an overall average of about 8%, leaving no respite at all. I was first up for UCL and absolutely terrified. The first few hundred metres was the hardest and steepest part but with people cheering you on the whole way up I just had to dig deep and keep powering on, finishing with a time of 8:40 putting me in the top half of the womens event and under my goal of 9 minutes. Can’t say I enjoyed it but pleased with my result!
The best event of the year was the 3 up time trial in April. Emma Derby, Alice Jackson and I represented UCL in the womens competition. Many hours had gone into preparing for the big day from evening regents park sessions to going all out on watt bikes. After a weeks of warm spring weather the Saturday of the race turned out to be cold with a brutal wind, only adding to our already nervous states. With many other teams there with proper TT bikes, aero helmets and skinsuits it was hard not to feel intimidated. The route was 2 laps of an ‘undulating’ course near Oxford totalling 50 km. When I say undulating I mean several monster hills. We got off to a good start and produced a very competitive split time after our first lap. About 2 miles into lap 2 came disaster when Alice suffered a puncture. We had discussed before what we would do if one of us got a puncture and the team decision was that we would always carry on as a two, to at least get a time and say we finished. So after a quick stop Emma and I were back on our bikes. With a strong headwind on half the course riding as a two was seriously hard work. Rules are that all 3 of your team must finish to be able to appear on the scoreboard so we went up as a dnf. However our recorded finishing time was 1hr 31. We had aimed to do it under 1hr 25 but seeing as we did nearly half of it as a 2 we were pretty pleased. Our tactics had been a steady first lap to enable us to crank up our pace on lap 2. A split time of 42 mins on our first lap showed that not only would our overall time have been under our goal but put us high up on the finishing board. It may have been a frustrating day but our many hours of training leading up to it built strong friendships, and we felt like a proper team. Anyone up for attempt 2?!
The year wasn’t just about competing. Every Saturday and Wednesday we had fast paced training rides normally out into the country lanes of hertfordshire, and without fail I would be there. Despite always being the only girl amongst a group of speedy guys I always had a good time. The rides were really tough and I always had to push myself to make sure I didn’t get dropped. This improved my fitness tenfold as I never wanted to be the one holding up the ride. It massively improved my confidence to prove to myself that I could do it, but most importantly made new friends. Everyone was supportive and looked after you, whilst having the obvious banter along the way.
Last year for the first year the cycling club got free spinning sessions in the Bloomsbury gym on Tuesday evenings led by Huw Marchbank. These sessions were fun and you could make them as hard as you liked. Sometimes however Huw’s music playlists were questionable…
One particular ride should be mentioned, the North Downs club ride at the end of November. The hardest ride I have done to date. A 200 km ride on a very cold day with over 2500m of ascent. I am not lying when I say that the next morning I got out of bed and fell over. My legs were wrecked. We started the ride with a meet at 8.30 from UCL but none of us realised that 12 hours later we would only just be getting home. We cycled for about 2 hours in pitch black darkness coming home, which felt like it went on forever, at times it felt like we would never get back to London!! It was a good ride with a really nice route, just maybe let’s do it in summer next time boys?
I am looking forward to meeting new ladies in september, and hopefully next year UCL will see another strong year from the women’s cycling team.
Hillingdon Cat 4 Race Report – Saturday 17 May 2014
Joe Bowers and I lined up on the start line for our first race at Hillingdon cycle circuit in roasting sunshine. There was a slight breeze on parts of the course but the conditions were pretty much perfect and, importantly for a cat 4 race, dry. The first few laps seemed a pretty relaxed affair. In fact this continued for the first half of the race, with occasional small attacks off the front that were quickly reeled in. We’d heard that these attacks rarely worked so we sat in the bunch as near the front as possible and conserved our energies. Cambridge University had brought a team of three riders and for a moment it looked like they were trying to blow up the race as they hit the front hard. I decided this was a move that needed covering and locked onto a London Dynamo wheel that dragged me up to the leaders. Just when it seemed we’d formed a select breakaway group the Cambridge boys started looking at each other and eased up, so the bunch soon caught up. The Dynamo rider, perhaps frustrated by the constant changes in tempo, struck out on his own but he didn’t make it far and with an air of inevitability was brought back.
With an hour of riding done the organisers announced the three laps-to-go mark and the whole bunch went berserk. I lost a good few places in the resulting surge as I was boxed in behind a dosing rider. Then on my left I saw the London Dynamo rider coming up the inside and, surprised to see no-one on his wheel, took advantage and moved out. He ended up dragging me from the middle of the bunch right up to fifth wheel! With Cambridge now back on the front the pace was being lifted and it looked like it would end in a tightly-contested bunch sprint.
Then the crash happened.
Just a few inches to my right I saw some riders start to go down after what looked like a touching of wheels. Joe was right near the front so unaffected and I surged down the inside of the bend, still holding the wheel of the London Dynamo rider, with many riders held up behind. With the bunch split by the crash I saw an opportunity and attacked during the confusion. I surged past the Dynamo rider up a slight incline, Joe hot on my heels, and we gained a small gap over a chasing group. As I started fading I called Joe through, he then led me around the final two bends and I launched myself out of his wheel to sprint the final 200m to the finish line. I went pretty early but held on for the win.
The atmosphere afterwards was mixed. There were some disgruntled riders who’d crashed, one of whom refused to talk about it and whose bib shorts were shredded all down the right side. Other riders were friendlier: “You left me out to cook” joked the London Dynamo rider, who was called Jamie. “I decided really early on that yours was the wheel I wanted and it paid off,” I replied. Cambridge were also gracious in defeat, not looking particularly bothered by the result. “Right boys: team time trial back to Cambridge” one of them joked. Oxford uni were in a grump though. At least one of them crashed and their other rider was also involved somehow.
Joe held on for 7th place, pleased to have reached his new maximum heart rate (209?)! I am indebted to him for what turned into a perfect lead-out around the final two corners. This was a reverse of our planned lead-out strategy going into the race but the last minute or so of racing is a complete blur and we were reacting to the situation.
Average speed: 41kmph
Max speed: 55kmph
Avg HR: 158
Max HR: 194
Points remaining to 3rd Cat: 2
Number of Cambridge riders beaten: 3 (time trials avenged?)
Number of sunburnt arms: 2
The Fred Whitton Challenge 2014
Race report - Oli Leach
Trying to pin down when this challenge began is pretty difficult. Was it the moment I clicked the 'complete' button on my laptop to confirm my entry for the ballot? Was it while planning the cycling club's events for the year and hoping for a strong showing here in the Lake District (the ballot soon put paid to that as only Tom Fraser and I got places)? Or, best of all, was it while sat in a hospital bed in north London on Easter Saturday, three weeks before the event, waiting for a vascular surgeon to pump 1 litre of normal saline into my leg then use a probe to heat my long and short saphenous veins to 800oC and collapse them permanently, meaning almost two weeks off training?
Ultimately it was probably whilst trudging through a muddy field, dragging my bike to the start line. "Eating already Oli?" quipped Tom as I tucked into a banana just before the start line. "Second breakfast mate." We rolled out of the start with a generous tailwind and the occasional rain shower. I decided to immediately test out my tyres by riding over a huge drain cover. Everyone in my vicinity, including me, was relieved to see me hang on as my front wheel slid out from underneath me. My ride was almost over before it had even begun.
We hurtled past Windermere and soon hit the first climb up to Kirkstone Pass. This is one of three main approaches to Kirkstone (and the easiest), being a long, gradual drag up to what is in fact the highest point on the course. We were soon overtaking cyclists, which would be the order of the day, and Tom and I both wondered if we were over-dressed as we started to sweat and the heart rate jumped to 180bpm. The approach was completely sheltered until nearer the top where the winds started to swirl and we began to cool down again. Down we went into Patterdale then Glenridding, with Tom complaining that he'd been stuck behind "some idiot on 50mm carbon wheels blocking the road..." He wasn't impressed.
The climb up Matterdale from Ullswater was a surprisingly slow drag but we were soon on the A66 bombing down to Keswick. I say bombing, in reality it was rolling and we soon felt the full force of a vicious headwind that would be with us all the way until we turned away from the coast at Gosworth many miles later. "I know the wind's strong when I don't even need to pedal behind you" said Tom. This also began our mini battle with a chain gang of triathletes who seemed to be constantly speeding up and slowing down, in contrast to our steady pacing set by Tom. "The thing about triathletes is they can't climb. Flat courses or on their own? They're fine. But they're sh*t at hills." "But hang on Tom, aren't you a triathlete?!" "No..." After Honister Pass I don't think we saw many of them again.
The next section was very scenic: rolling terrain along wooded hillsides beside Derwent Water. Before long we were ready to tackle the first really steep climb of the day. Honister, though not the worst by any stretch, was still a brute. The steepest section is right at the very bottom and immediately there were people around us getting off and walking. We weaved our way through a jumble of legs and wheels, only stopping when I dropped my sunglasses. I then seriously struggled to remount on such a steep gradient, in the end resorting to jogging to a less steep section, finally cleating in again and going off madly in pursuit of Tom.
Throughout the ride Tom was full of handy hints and local knowledge. "If you want a gel before the next climb, now's your last chance." "Coming up here from the other side is much worse." And my personal favourite: "This next section is going to be the worst part of the ride; it’s going to be horrible." And so it was, soon after Honister we battled Newlands Pass: less steep but starting to feel it in the legs with a lot of riding still to do. The views across the valley, though, were exhilarating. Following soon after that was the wooded Winlatter Pass. Now the legs were really starting to burn. "Beware, there are a few false summits up here." He was right. The support up Winlatter was tremendous. Supporters lined the road, shouting and ringing bells, photos flashing left and right. I guess this is as close as The Fred comes to Dutch Corner.
With the Honister-Newlands-Winlatter trio of death completed it’s easy to feel like a chunk of the work is behind you. But the next stretch to the coast is deceptively tough. The rolling terrain can really take it out of you and sensible gear selection is crucial to keep the legs spinning. Aptly-named Fangs Brow and Cold Fell were particularly draining. We were now riding up with some more serious-minded folk. No more rucksacks or hybrid bikes here. Just the chiseled faces and determined expressions of cyclists looking for a solid finish time. I dropped Tom for a long stretch and by the time we reached the second feed stop it was clear from his face that all was not well. "It's my back. It's so tight it's getting harder and harder to reach the hoods." "'It hursts' is the one thing you're not allowed to say on this ride" I jibed. "My legs too..." he went on. We didn't stop for too long as we wanted to keep moving but almost as soon as we rolled away again Tom fell a good way behind. I was feeling pretty strong and he'd said at the feed that I should go on alone. I didn't want to but when I next looked around I couldn't see him for at least 100m back, so I pressed on.
By now we had regained that beautiful tailwind not felt since Windermere 80 miles and over 2000m ago. It felt like we were floating along the smooth tarmac. My heart rate dropped to 120bpm as we negotiated a series of chicanes and zipped through small villages. But we all knew what was coming next. The field was pretty well spread out by this point but those that I saw were clearly backing off the pace, occasionally freewheeling, readying themselves for the impending onslaught.
We were nearing Hardknott.
Now, Hardknott is renowned as the toughest climb on a route packed with tough climbs. And with good reason. It ramps up to 30% in places and despite some brief respite around halfway up it is utterly relentless right from the moment you pass the red telephone box at the bottom. One of the hardest parts, the infamous back-to-back switchbacks near the summit, are truly killers, and an eager photographer was in position, ready to catch every grimacing rider that passed by. Then, just when you know you've almost reached the top, it ramps up one final time, a real sting in the tail (or, as Jensie would say, "a swift kick in the balls"). But beat it we did. A seasoned rider I was chatting to for parts of the way up (and who was having cheerful conversations with passers’ by!), gave me encouragement at the summit: "Solid ride there, lad, you've done well." "Thanks" I gasped. "But does it count if you accidentally weave off the road into a stream, only to immediately get back on again (this I had done while trying to stop my front wheel from lifting off the tarmac)?!" "Aye, absolutely, you rode it all."
Good enough for me. There had been no walking on Hardknott, that much was certain.
The descent from Hardknott is, frankly, ridiculous. So steep you feel like you're back wheel could lift off at any moment, you are plunged (literally) from a place of pure leg-burning hell into pure arm- and hand-aching fear, desperately clutching the brakes for all you're worth. And after a very brief respite you then hit Wrynose Pass. Not as steep, or as long, as Hardknott, but one of the hardest parts of the ride for me as my legs simply hadn't recovered from the 30% gradients they had just been subjected to. Fortunately, as you descend Wrynose you can afford to have a wry smile knowing the worst is over and you're nearly there. As I reached the summit I turned to a rider nearby: "Thank god; I was worried it would be a false summit." But he seemed not to hear me and had a peculiar look on his face: "Mate, mate, we've bloody done it, we've bloody done it!" He was clearly being overwhelmed by some seriously strong endorphins so I left him to it. The GPS agreed though, with less than 30 minutes of riding left to do.
Suddenly riders were surging past, trying for one final push. Everyone had gone from a weird kind of survival mode to “how quickly can I finish this bugger off?" We swept through a set of turns and short, sharp hills, urged on by enthusiastic marshals at every corner. We were racing for time, but I couldn’t hold anyone’s wheel. I desperately scoffed a protein bar (I was out of gels) as I began to feel that dreaded, all-too-familiar hunger knock of an impending bonk. Spectacular timing. But with my stomach temporarily appeased and telling my brain that all was well again, it was time to fly. The last few miles went by in a blur of spinning legs and swooping turns. I hit the A591 to Grasmere, stealing a few glances at Rydal water as I sunk into the drops and put the hammer down, pedaling with all my remaining energy, slipping into time trial mode and mopping up a few straggling, fading riders who had just passed me on my mini bonk.
And there it was: the final left-hander to the finishing straight under a Castelli kite. Tom came in a little over 20 minutes later, having seen rather more of a stone wall than he wanted after overcooking a corner. Luckily both rider and bike were fine. We both posted decent times but the windy conditions had ruined our hopes of going sub-7-hours and gaining elite status. That goal remains for another year perhaps. Tom was then adamant that he needed to lie down, while I went off in search of some much-needed calories.
So The Fred was done with. All 180km and 3400m of it. Tick that off the bucket list. Now to peel off this cold, wet kit and climb into a warm bath...
Overall, a great race and a pretty decent challenge. The event organisation, including the marshaling, was all first-rate.
Total time: 7hrs18mins18secs
Strava moving time: 7hrs06mins36secs
Final Placing: 166 / 1730
Calories burnt: 6371
Max. HR: 183 (93%)
Avg HR: 146 (74%)
Km ridden: 179.1
Avg speed: 25.2kmph
Avg speed up Hardknott: 8.1kmph
Metres climbed: 3414
Number of UCL riders shamelessly dropped: 1
Number of competitors airlifted to hospital: 2
Of the approx. 2100 riders who started the event, around 400 would not finish it.
Race Report- Tom Fraser
Women’s team – Antonia Hawker, Alice Jackson, Emma Derby
Men’s team – Tom Fraser, Joe Bowers, Oliver Leach
Going into this race with a total of only 2 fairly haphazard training sessions round Regents Park, the only thing we knew for sure was that it was going to be very tough. On the day we went for a warm up/ ride on the course to see what it was like- with far more “undulations” (serious hills) than we would have liked, and a very strong wind we realised we were in for a brutal affair.
The girl’s team were off first, they were off to a flying start, and after putting us to shame in their preparations it was a real shame that they got a puncture on the second lap. Unfortunately for Alice there was no quick fix for this, so the other two rode on valiantly after a quick stop. The scoreboard showed a DNF but the 2 girls crossed the finish with a ride time of 1 hour 31 despite riding almost half of it on their own.
Our men’s team only just made it to the start line on time after Oli spent ages pratting about in his car, then insisting on a long leisurely warm up....
Despite this we got off to a fierce start – led by the excellent race captain. After the first two bends was the hill we had been dreading after the warm up. Pumped full of adrenaline we stormed up this hill yielding some worrying numbers on the old heart rate monitor. Once on top of the hill we had a good 5 to 10 minutes of respite (in relative terms) downhill. Around the next bend we were greeted by a nice strong head wind which once again produced some interesting reading on the Garmin. The continual onslaught into the wind lasted ages (probably about 10 minutes, but it felt much longer). After a few close encounters with potholes, cars and questionable bike handling we finished the first lap. 25km would have been a really nice distance.
Our second ascent of the big hill was not quite as dominant as our previous attempt; perhaps this was more sensible seeing as we were beginning to seriously feel the effects in our legs. In this context ‘we’ doesn’t include Joe- who decided he would spend the next 25-30 minutes tearing Oli and myself to pieces. The second time round the wind was much stronger (I say that 100% objectively....) and it really brought out some serious team bonding. Shorter turns on the front and potentially over aggressive drafting ensued as we battled away, all the time knowing the quicker we went the sooner it would be over. Once we turned away from the wind we knew it was roughly 1 lap of Regents to go. The prospect of finishing soon managed to withdraw some high quality cycling from all of us, as we motored along overtaking yet another team who started before us. Somehow Joe was still able to drill it hard on the front right up to the turn on to the home straight.
Perhaps reading the race briefing beforehand might have helped us to understand that the finish was considerably further along from the start. So after a couple of sprint finishes we managed to cross the line in a very respectable time 1 hour 15 minutes and 39 seconds. In those conditions on that course that was much faster than we thought we could go- so everyone was pleased with how we performed.
For a while we were first on the leader board, but unfortunately that didn’t last for long. Having said that we still smashed Imperial, and all looked super sexy in our shiny new kit.
With the clocks going forward the night before, the even horrors of an effective 5am wakeup were not enough to put six of us from this biannual jaunt around the home counties. As the day drew on, the cold bite of the morning gave way to glorious sunshine, as we passed through quaint villages and extortionate National trust cafes - eventually returning well within the Audax specified time limit. Well done to all who completed it