Big Fitness Project: Danny gets lab-tested; Julia hits a Covid hurdle; and it's Steve's final chance to go sub-20

Life often upsets the best-laid plans, as our Project participants found out last month

Danny Lloyd riding alongside Ribble-Weldtite riders
Danny (left) on the wheels of Ribble-Weldtite pros Si Wilson and Matt King
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

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. It's time for their penultimate update...

Danny Lloyd: 'Feasting on data, fasting to burn fat!'

August was always going to be a challenging month and, sure enough, it’s been carnage! Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all bad, but training has been harder than ever to squeeze in. The month kicked off with a family holiday to Center Parcs in the Lake District, and taking my bike meant I got some good rides in. Since then, though, my work schedule has been crazy: at the time of writing, I’m facing the prospect of 14 shifts over 16 days! Adapting my sleep patterns between night and day shifts while trying to crowbar in hard interval sessions… well, you can imagine. This hectic period was expected, though, and with my coach Jack Rees we’ve factored the disruptions into my schedule. Two more weeks and then I’ll be able to see the wood for the trees.

Danny Lloyd in the lab

Danny in the lab with physiologist Greg Morgan

(Image credit: Danny Lloyd)

The major improvement in my training this month has been the incorporation of a shiny new dataset resulting from metabolic testing with Greg Morgan at Doctor Sprocket in Wallasey (doctorsprocket.com). Using Pnoe breath analysis equipment, the tests produced a highly detailed report with loads of useful take-aways. The first thing flagged up was that my breathing pattern is abnormal and not very efficient, which is probably the result of an old neck injury. Knowing about it means I can now start working on it using a breathing app.

From the metabolic tests, I now know exactly how many calories I need – 2,359kcal plus whatever energy I burn in exercise and activity – giving me an incredible level of fuelling precision. Next, the exercise tests pinpointed heart rate and power figures for my training zones, revealing that Zone 2 begins at a lower power than I’d assumed. It also revealed that my crossover from burning fats to carbs occurs in mid- Zone 2, which is relatively poor – I need to work on my fat-burning by doing more fasted rides.

Armed with these fresh insights into my physiology and performance, I’m feeling excited to put theory into action – my next test is a local cat three/four road race on 18 September. Now I just need my work schedule to ease off!

Rider profile: Danny Lloyd

Danny Lloyd 

Age: 33

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 AUGUST: 1. Take part in my first crit race. Achieved? No – back-to-back work shifts left me just too depleted. 2. Undertake metabolic testing and reappraise my training zones. Achieved? Yes – stacks of useful insight, which has prompted me to work on my breathing and adjust my training zones

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

Julia Barte: 'Third-cat dream hits second Covid reality'

I’m not having the luckiest year. The first part of my racing season was wrecked when I caught Covid-19 in March, and now it’s happened again – I was infected for the second time at the end of July. Although I was hoping for a swift recovery that would allow me to get back to racing in a couple of weeks, it wasn’t to be. The virus hit me quite hard: I developed a high fever and again needed antibiotics to clear up a chest infection. Damn.

So apologies, dear reader, but most of August was spent recovering, meaning I’ve much less to report here than I’d hoped. Indeed, I’d hoped that August would be a busy month of racing and that I’d score enough points for a cat-three race licence. The reality has been far more sedate, as I’ve been limited to work, rest, and leisurely walks catching up with friends. Even so, all is not lost, as I’m now finally back on my bike, and there should be just enough racing opportunities over the coming few weeks to earn the four points I need before the end of this Fitness Project.

My lungs are still burning every time I ride, but I’m more relaxed this time. Having recovered once before from Covid-19, I know what’s required this time – patience and determination. Even if I’m back to square one, I know what I need to do and, provided I stick to the plan, I’ll come back stronger in the end. It’s annoying, but right now I just need to reassure myself, stay mentally strong and start plugging away again. With autumn on the way, I’m looking forward to getting back into Zwift racing, taking on the Mad Monday series with my team. In the meantime I’m loving my new bike [S-Works SL7] and can’t wait to use it in a race – I’m not giving up on my determination to get that cat-three licence before the Project is over.

Rider profile: Julia Barte

Julia Barte 

Age: 31

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 AUGUST: 1. Recover from Covid-19 and resume optimal training. Achieved? No – Covid-19 came with a chest infection and it’s taken several weeks to recover. 2. Complete as many races as possible to earn BC points. Achieved? No – for the same reason as above, I couldn’t race at all.

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 three new Big Fitness Project participants

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

(Image credit: Future)

Steve Faulkner: 'My last chance at sub-20!'

You might remember that in last month’s update I was feeling optimistic: I’d just recorded a 10-mile PB of 20.53 in less than ideal conditions, and I’d regained belief that, given a few more weeks of training, I could achieve my aim of going sub-20 minutes. Despite life remaining hectic with work, life and family commitments, I still made sure to do the key specific sessions, shorter efforts at above race effort and longer reps at around target power of 310 watts. They progressed quite well, though I was still realistic, aware that my volume – averaging around six hours a week – might not be enough. 

I toyed with making further changes to my riding position but ultimately resolved that it was too late – I’d not have time to adapt to it. My existing set-up would have to do. And before I knew it, the race was upon me: an open ‘10’ on the K11/T10 course, my final chance to go sub-20. There was a stronger breeze than my last outing on this course three weeks earlier, and I decided to pace it conservatively. When I reached the halfway turn, the timer was at just under 10 minutes and I was keeping my effort resolutely under control. Both roundabouts on the return leg were crossed without incident, I caught my minute man and my power was where it needed to be – it was on! But with five minutes to go, it slipped from my grasp – suddenly I had nothing left and my power slackened by 20-30 watts. I crossed the line in 21.11 – two seconds faster than my last time here but still over a minute shy of my goal. Mission not accomplished. 

In truth, I’m not surprised. Three weeks of training was not enough, and deep down I knew it wouldn’t be. I’m a physiologist and I know that you need six to eight weeks of consistent training to make a genuine difference. I’ve since run the numbers and calculated that, on this course with my CdA of 0.175, a 317-watt average would result in 19.58, i.e. the sub-20 of my dreams. My limited training time left me 36 watts wanting, and I have to face the fact, my volume just wasn’t enough.

Rider profile: Steve Faulkner

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 AUGUST: 1. Continue to focus on top-end training, doing my best with 7hr per week. Achieved? No – managed to keep up the intervals but other commitments ate into my volume. 2. Make second serious attempt at sub-20min 10-mile TT. Achieved? Yes – but missed the mark by 1min 12sec. 3. Optimise front-end position. Achieved? No – decided it was too late and so stuck with what I knew

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

This article was originally published in the 8 September 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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