Cycling Weekly Big Fitness Project: Cracking on cobbles, kicking Covid and readying for Fred

It's time to catch up with our Big Fitness Project trio Danny, Julia and Steve on their progress over the past month

Danny Lloyd on his bike
Danny Lloyd
(Image credit: Future)

At the start of April 2022 we introduced you to the Cycling Weekly Big Fitness Project team of amateur riders - Danny Lloyd, Steve Faulkner and Julia Barte - as they embarked on six months of training, racing, time-trialling and gran fondo riding. A month in, how are they getting on? (Warning: Covid-19 makes several appearances!)

Danny Lloyd: 'Happy as Larry to be focusing on Fred'

I’m just back from the Yorkshire Classic sportive, which went really well – despite a few technical snags. My power meter packed in before the start, so I had to judge my effort on heart rate alone. I also punctured, but luckily, because I run tubeless tyres, the sealant did its job and plugged the hole – once it had sprayed all over my bike! My goal was to finish inside 4hr 30min but I did it in 3hr 56min, much of it solo, averaging 30.6kph, so I was really pleased. 

>>> Read last month's CW Fitness Project update <<< 

It was annoying not to have power data, as it was probably my best ride to date. It was a mixed month overall. I’d intended to do the Manchester Sheffield Manchester sportive (3 April) but the weather was horrific and I was feeling a bit rough, so I decided against it. After catching Covid in February, I was really cautious in coming back, as I’d heard about footballers returning to training too soon and suffering from heart damage. I even invested in an ECG machine for extra reassurance.

RIDER PROFILE

Danny Lloyd 

Age: 32 

Hometown: Runcorn, Cheshire 

Occupation: Oil refinery process operator 

Rides for: Frodsham Wheelers CC 

Current FTP: 288W | 3.6W/kg 

Twitter: @DannyLloyd13 

Instagram: dannylloyd13 

SCORE SHEET FOR APRIL: 1. Climb as much as possible in preparation for the Fred Whitton Challenge. Achieved? Yes – preparation on target. 2. Ride strongly at Manchester Sheffield Manchester sportive (3 April). Achieved? No – weather and illness conspired against me. 3. Complete the Yorkshire Classic in 4hr 30min (24 April). Achieved? Yes, smashed it – 3hr 56min 

PROJECT GOALS (MAR-OCT): Transform my goalkeeper body into a cyclist body; complete Fred Whitton Challenge in under 8hr (8 May); qualify for the Gran Fondo World Championships by finishing in the top 20% at the Tour of Cambridge (12 June); ride as strongly as possible at the Etape du Tour (10 July); complete my debut crit race; break 24min in my local 10-mile TT on my road bike; increase 20min power to over 4W/kg

Although this time it was just a chesty cough, I was determined to keep up the good habits, and took a few days off the bike, then eased myself gently back into training. I had a great weekend in Yorkshire in mid-April, combining a family holiday with some big hilly rides in preparation for the Fred Whitton Challenge (8 May). My training structure remains the same: 12-14 hours per week, set by my coach Jack Rees, but I’ve also been enjoying using the Wahoo Systm app – particularly the interactive training, yoga and core sessions.*

I’m doing my best to be as organised as possible, making bulk orders of nutrition and cleaning products, which has saved me some cash too. I’d like to explore my event fuelling with a nutritionist, as until now I’ve simply aimed for 60-80g carbs per hour. I’m curious to know whether certain products or meal routines might help me further – watch this space. It’s all about preparing for the Fred Whitton now. I’ve fitted an 11-34 cassette, giving me some smaller gears for the steep climbs; I’ve made a mini course guide to tape onto my stem; and my parents have agreed to meet me at the top of Whinlatter for a bottle change. Everything logistically is in place; now I just need to get on the bike and ride.

 *Wahoo has provided complimentary Systm subscriptions to all three CW Big Fitness Project participants for the duration of the Project. None of them are under any obligation to use Systm or mention it in editorial coverage

Steve Faulkner: 'Coming back cautiously from Covid'

I’m sorry to say, April was a bit of a write-off for me. I tested positive for Covid the day before my birthday on 24 March. My wife and I both caught it and were both affected quite badly; I was getting out of breath really easily, and feeling so exhausted that just walking up the stairs floored me. I was testing positive for 12 days, and even a week later still felt quite rough, so I didn’t do any training. 

When finally I began to feel better, I followed the ‘graduated return-to-play’ guidelines published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM): no exercise for at least 10 days and then a very gradual return to training over the subsequent 10 days. I was keeping an eye on my resting heart rate and heart rate variability, which have slowly returned to normal. I’m being cautious and will do an exercise ECG to check my heart before resuming hard sessions. 

RIDER PROFILE

Steve Faulkner  

Age: 38 

Hometown: Loughborough, Leicestershire 

Occupation: Senior lecturer in sports engineering & physiology 

Rides for: Coalville Wheelers 

Current FTP: 295W | 4.1W/kg (estimated) 

Twitter: @SHFaulkner 

Instagram: stevefaulkner1984 

SCORE SHEET FOR APRIL: 1. Research equipment choices (wheels, chainrings, bearings, clothing etc). Achieved? Yes – bearing, wheels and helmet selected. 2. Increase training volume. Achieved? No – Covid stopped play. 3. Refine TT bike position. Achieved? Yes – a few watts saved. 

PROJECT GOALS (MAR-OCT): Go sub-20min for 10-mile time trial; reclaim my club’s TT titles (Coalville Wheelers); maintain focus on TT-specific training Race more TTs and improve my pacing

In mid-April we took a family holiday to Majorca, where I tried some running and cycling but I still wasn’t feeling right. It’s only during the past week or so that I’ve been feeling fully recovered, and last weekend managed 90 minutes on the bike with a few harder efforts. That said, I turned my power meter off, as I didn’t want to know! I’d hoped to be racing in early May but I know it just isn’t worth it. When I dare to turn my power meter back on, I’ll find out where I am – probably 20-30 watts down. It’ll take a few weeks to get ‘Project sub-20’ back on track. On the upside, being off the bike has given me time to look again at kit and equipment. I had a good day at the wind tunnel in Silverstone, and have done some experiments on drivetrain efficiency. Having tested a variety of wheels, we found that using a disc wheel was saving me about 12 watts at the target speed. I’ve changed from using standard steel bearings to a ceramic bottom bracket and oversized pulley wheel, which saves 2-3% in terms of drivetrain efficiency. With my kit choices more or less sorted, now I just need my body to get back up to speed!

The three new Big Fitness Project participants

L-R: Danny Lloyd, Julia Barte, Steve Faulkner 

(Image credit: Future)

Julia Barte: 'Cracking on the cobbles, conquering in Kent'

Having tested positive for Covid in mid- March, the first challenge for me last month was to fully recover so I could return to training. I contracted a chest infection at the same time, so needed a course of antibiotics and was off the bike for almost four weeks. Unfortunately, on my first weekend back doing sport, I injured my toe playing football – my foot got kicked, hard! A trip to A&E confirmed the toe was fractured, but the main thing is, it hasn’t stopped me cycling. 

In mid-April, my partner Del and I went to France to ride the Paris-Roubaix Challenge. We arrived a couple of days early to practise riding on cobbles, and I couldn’t believe how hard you have to push just to keep momentum! The event itself didn’t quite go to plan… All was going well at first, and the weather was perfect, but on the first cobbled section, Arenberg Trench, Del’s wheel cracked. We decided to call it quits and caught the train home. 

RIDER PROFILE

Julia Barte 

Age: 30 

Hometown: Tunbridge Wells, Kent 

Occupation: Operations lead in tech retail 

Rides for: 1904RT; Southborough District Wheelers (2nd claim) 

Current FTP: 197W | 3.2W/kg 

Twitter: @BarteJulia 

Instagram: juliabarte 

SCORE SHEET FOR APRIL: 1. Recover from Covid-19 and return to training. Achieved? Yes, finally recovered. 2. Put in a strong performance at 172km Paris-Roubaix Challenge (16 April). Achieved? No – partner suffered a mechanical 

PROJECT GOALS (MAR-OCT): Compete in as many races as possible; move up to Cat 3 licence; lose 6kg without losing power; perform as strongly as possible at Etape Caledonia (15 May), Vätternrundan (18 June) and Etape du Tour (10 July)

The very next day at 5am, we drove down to New Romney for the Kent CA25. As my first TT, it was a big mental challenge, and I was able to put into practice some of the mental training I’d been doing on the Wahoo Systm app. Every time a negative thought crept in, I managed to change my mindset, focusing on my target average speed of 35kph. It worked! I was the fastest woman in the road bike category, with a time of 1hr 9min 24sec (21.6mph). I’ve drawn up a race calendar to help with my planning, and over the next month I’ll be doing regular Zwift races and club TTs; my main goal is the Etape Caledonia on 15 May. Being on CW’s Project is proving really beneficial – already I feel so much more motivated. I’m even starting to feel like a local cycling celebrity; recently a youngster from my club wanted to chat after recognising me from the mag – so cool!

This article was originally published in the 5 May 2022 print edition of Cycling WeeklySubscribe online  (opens in new tab)and get the magazine delivered direct to your door every week.

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