'My DIY Grand Tour did the trick': How six riders made the most of cycling during a year of lockdown

Lockdown riders (Harry Portsmouth/Louise Gibson/Daniel Gould)

Lockdown riders (Harry Portsmouth/Louise Gibson/Daniel Gould)

George Poole: ‘My DIY Grand Tour did the trick’

George Poole (George Poole)

University student George Poole, 20, from Clitheroe, Lancashire, found that less academic work left him with far more riding time:

“Prior to 2020, the most miles I had done in a year was 1,940 and I was a weekend cyclist who commuted to school in the week. Lockdown changed all of this, allowing me the free time to commit more to cycling than I ever had done. 

“We were sent home from university just prior to the government’s first lockdown announcement, and the teaching reduced as lecturers scrambled to figure out what was next. As a result, my cycling increased two-fold through April. The roads were empty and the sun was beaming. 

“Meanwhile, inspired by The Cycling Podcast, I began a ‘Grand Tour’ of my own, cycling each day that the Giro would have run (prior to postponement). It was the most enjoyable block of UK training I have ever done, totalling 1,110 miles after 21 days, almost 70 hours in the saddle. 

“From here, my fitness was the highest it has ever been and by the end of the year I had ticked over to 6,000 miles. In August of last year, I travelled to the Alps and climbed Alpe d’Huez, Col du Galibier, Col d’Izoard and Mont Ventoux among others, in 10 days of cycling heaven. It was all thanks to the riding done in the first lockdown and I hope to carry this fitness through 2021.”

Tom Portsmouth: ‘School’s out, racing’s on!’

Tom Portsmouth (Tom Portsmouth)

Aspiring pro rider Tom Portsmouth (Carbonbike Discar Academy), 19, from Addlestone, Surrey, made the most of lockdown.

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“I’ve been cycling for nearly 10 years now, and began taking racing seriously in 2016, after joining TrainSharp Cycle Coaching. Being a full-time school student always restricted my training to around 11 hours per week. The closure of my school in reaction to the pandemic brought my education ‘career’ to an abrupt and incomplete end. 

“Silver linings, though – it gave me enough time to finally catch up with my racing peers, nearly all of whom are a school year above me. I worked closely with my coach Alex Welburn at TrainSharp, to take my training to another level, increasing the hours slowly and consistently to 15 and beyond. 

“It’s been pleasing to see nearly every power zone increase over this 10-month period as I prepared to go into my second and third year as an U23 rider. I’m hoping to continue winning in Belgium with the help of my team Carbonbike Discar Academy and the support of the Dave Rayner Foundation.”

Louise Gibson: ‘I’ve improved by two watts per kilo!’

Louise Gibson, 43, from Marlow in Buckinghamshire, has been squeezing in training around home-schooling her two children: “My latest ramp test after almost a year on turbo now shows I’m now at almost 5W/kg, from 3W/kg a year ago. I can’t believe it! My FTP is now 268W, compared to 180W last year before lockdown. 

“What’s led to this improvement? I suppose it’s just the non-stop nature of training on the turbo – no chilling at junctions or traffic lights. Before, when my coach set, say, 200W for 10 minutes, I found it impossible to do outside, whereas on the turbo you just get it done. There were no excuses, and so I’ve trained way harder than ever before. At the same time, I was trying to be more sensible with my eating, so my watts per kilos have gone nuts! 

“The extra power has allowed me to race on Zwift at a much higher level than before, and though Covid-19 may again prevent us from riding the route of the Tour this year [Gibson founded The InternationElles team], we’re looking to break some records here in GB, maybe Land’s End to John o’ Groats or something like that.” 

Andy Turner: ‘What a difference a lockdown makes’  

Elite racer Andy Turner (Swift Carbon Pro), 26, from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, has used the past year to experiment with different forms of training: 

“The first lockdown didn’t change much for me, as I was writing my university dissertation and doing a block of high-intensity but quite low-duration training. However, after six weeks I began to feel burnt out. 

“As the weather improved, I upped the volume to 20-25 hours a week and, despite the heavy training load, was setting one and five-minute power PBs at the end of long rides. In group rides and chaingangs, I was absolutely flying, and sustaining 340 watts for 90 minutes – it was frustrating not being able to race. 

“Going into the latest lockdown, I needed a mental break. Now that my work as a coach is getting busier, I’m doing around 15 hours of training a week, working mostly on maintaining fitness. When I have dates for races, I will sort out a plan. The last year has certainly taught me what works, and also how important looking after the head is!”

Graeme Hutchison: ‘WFM has been great for my FTP!’

Graeme Hutchinson (Graeme Hutchinson)

Marketing manager Graeme Hutchison, 34, from Fleet in Hampshire, has taken his fitness to the next level through hard sessions indoors: “I started riding again in March 2019 after five years out and some big weight gain. By November I’d lost 26kg just by riding once or twice during the week with a longer ride at the weekend. 

“I bought a Wahoo Kickr in February 2020, just before lockdown, and soon afterwards my company issued a WFM [work-from-home] policy, allowing me to ride almost every lunchtime. On 1 April, I did my first FTP test – result 307W.

“After a 12-week Zwift training plan, including a longer indoor ride each Sunday night, my FTP by early June was up to 332W. During June, I started racing on Zwift while also continuing with weekend rides outdoors. 

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“When the second lockdown hit, I increased my racing and found I was able to maintain my fitness. With the new year, I started another training plan with four sessions a week, and now my FTP is up to 377W. I’m going to Majorca in October (postponed from March 2020) – and I’m targeting Sa Calobra in under 45 minutes!”

Ben Millar: ‘I won CW’s Lockdown series on Zwift!’

Ben Millar (Daniel Gould)

Physio Ben Millar (Tor 2000 Kalas), 25, from Wells in Somerset, has spent the past 12 months turning himself into an e-racing supremo:

“As an elite rider based in the South-West, I balance my training and racing with working full-time in the NHS as a senior musculoskeletal physiotherapist. Life in lockdown has necessitated significant changes. I’ve tried not to become demoralised by the lack of racing and the government restrictions and I’ve got heavily involved in e-racing. 

“This has given me structure, goals to work towards and has kept me very motivated. I was the overall winner of Cycling Weekly’s recent six-race Winter Lockdown RR Series on Zwift. Of course, it will never compare to the real thing, but it’s some of the hardest racing I’ve ever done. 

“With this new-found structure and the intensity of e-racing, my numbers are the best they’ve ever been. I hope to continue to build on this form for the National Elite Road Racing Series, which will be my biggest target this year. In the meantime, Alpe du Zwift, anyone?”

This feature originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.

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