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This week one of my mentors Rebecca invited me along to the Blue Egg café in Essex to catch up on my progress in preparation for the fast approaching big day. When we sat down I noticed a line of framed, signed pro jerseys on the wall. One belonged to Movistar professional Alex Dowsett and little did I know at this point that he was on his way to meet me!

I was a little shocked to say the least when Rebecca told me to go outside and Alex rolled up. Quite a few things went through my mind. I was most nervous about getting my feet clipped into the pedals and after that my main objective was not knocking off a Commonwealth champion.

Luckily he was very understanding and didn’t seem in the slightest bit worried that I may veer into him or fall over because if couldn’t get my feet out of the pedals. After the initial fear I realised just how much I could benefit from riding with someone with as much experience and knowledge of the sport as Alex has. He ran through all the training drills I could do around work and the kids and left me with a lot to think about. I’ve been very lucky to have him as a mentor.

Gear selection

It seemed I was often riding in the wrong gear and he explained why I would tire easily pedalling uphill in the big ring. I’ve learned it’s better to spin a smaller gear when possible to avoid fatigue, and when I saw how smoothly Alex pedals I could see why he’s so efficient. He makes it look effortless. When he said to change into a smaller gear, I clicked down the gears at the back making it even harder, I was a bit embarrassed to appear a little clueless but he was a great teacher and very patient.

Oli Beales Microsoft Web - DG 07

I’ve learnt that poor gear selection can leave you working a lot harder than you have to

Position

I‘ve been moaning about the fact that my shoulders (and saddle region) have been a little sore since I started cycling in the road bike position. Alex explained all the different handlebar positions I could assume on the bike and what best suited which scenario.

Tops generally for climbing and drops for more stability and speed. We also talked about mixing up the time spent in and out of the saddle when climbing. I’m getting more used to being on the bike each week so I am starting to find the position less extreme than at first.

Recovery rides

I’ve been lucky enough to train with a number of Windows 10 devices, including a Surface Pro 3 and a Microsoft Band which have made it really easy to understand numbers like heart rate, calories and whether I’m improving.

As a pro, Alex is more than used to data analytics but he also explained how you can gauge your effort level from one to ten, whatever your ability. He said that a one out of 10 should be low heart rate, gently turning the pedals at a slow pace and being able to chat.

This is what I should be doing for a recovery ride. This could be during my taper ahead of the event where I need to keep turning the legs rather than stopping and resting altogether.

Intervals

At the other end of the scale from recovery riding is interval training. I always thought I’d have to do that on a turbo trainer but Alex says if you find a stretch of road that’s quiet and without interruptions like traffic lights, you can get some decent intensity on the road. After a good warm up, it could be anything from one minute to twenty, depending on effort level. This means I’ll find a steady pace easier on event day, in theory!

Rebecca’s since been on the phone, pointing me to more reading material and it’s a massive help and motivation to know they’re supporting me at every pedal stroke. Not long to go now…

Essential points

– Use your gears effectively. Learning to spin a lighter gear efficiently will lower levels of fatigue on long rides
– Keeping as relaxed as possible will help in most areas of bike handling
– If you can’t get out for long rides, try intervals at a higher intensity than you will be doing on the day of your event
– Intervals can be done outside, as well as on a turbo trainer, but look for clear roads without interruptions like frequent sets of traffic lights

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  • J1

    Traffic lights can be useful too, sprint in between each one = interval.

    Jealous that this guy got to ride with Dowsett! Although it seems a lot of regular guys do judging by his Strava, nice to see.