The Road back + A public service announcement!
Following my post last month after contracting covid it’s been a slow, up and down road back over the past few weeks with some post viral fatigue.
Just prior to getting ill I’d completed a number of good solid winter training blocks and my fitness was the best it’s ever been in readiness for going to pre season testing at Vitfor. I was really looking forward to getting some good positive results and feedback from the testing session.
Perhaps I just tipped my immune system over the edge or perhaps it was somewhat inevitable that I was going to get it at some point having been going to face to face university lectures. Either way what mattered was making sure I managed my recovery correctly and, as it turned out, I was off the bike during the 3 big winter storms that hit the UK recently so most training would have been on the turbo.
Since I couldn’t ride, I looked to do something positive and I spent the time off the bike focusing on some cycling admin, doing some planning and also doing research and reading about what I needed to do to safely return to training.
After researching recovery from covid I made sure I only returned to riding 72 hours after testing clear. Excited to be back I did one initial turbo ride that was, looking back, too long and I pushed too much as it wiped me out.
Following this initial ride I took more time off the bike to let things settle down. I was really frustrated to not be able to get back on the bike and start training. Part of this is down to how fit I was when I got covid and the thought of loosing that.
About a week after testing clear of covid I had an elevated resting heart rate, both lying down and standing. You know somethings not right when you are standing still and your heart is doing 120 bpm! It was hitting 140 just walking around.
As a consequence I thought it sensible to get checked out as this virus is new and the medical professionals are still learning that people seem to react differently to a covid infection. I only had mild symptoms for a few days but this lingering heart rate issue for a few weeks. So I went to see my local GP and a cardiologist who sent me for some blood tests and an ECG. I had read that there is a risk of heart damage / infection trying to train while still positive (even with mild symptoms) or coming back too hard/quickly once clear so rushing back could have serious consequences to long term health, performance and hopefully a future pro career.
The thing I was most concerned about was if I went back to training too early and too hard I might to some structural damage to my heart or set my recovery back. So after blood tests, an ECG and Ultrasound all was confirmed as normal in terms of my bloods, heart trace and I wouldn't do any structural damage by returning to training, even if i accidentally pushed it a bit too much. I therefore made sure I eased back in to it carefully planning my return with Huw, my coach at Vitfor. It's best to return steadily than to try and come back too quickly and put myself in an even bigger hole.
Returning to training has been hard. In the first week or so I only did short easy spins keeping my heart rate low and very much based on feel during and after. 3 weeks after the all clear from covid I was on the start line at Eddie Soens for my first race of the season but with no expectations since I hadn't yet completed a proper week of training. The plan was to just see how things went in the race, keep an eye on my heart rate vs my power, and if the two weren’t aligned in terms of typical heart rate for typical power, I’d just drop out.
The race went better than expected and I was up the front for pretty much the whole race sitting at the back of the Saint Piran train. When I hit the front I just swung off to avoid doing any work and pushing too hard. Everything was good until the last lap. I just didn’t have the top end to hold position and started to drift back in the bunch. One of a two man break that the bunch had caught drifted back through the peloton down the gutter we were all racing in due to crosswinds when someone tried to squeeze round them and crashed. With bikes and bodies in front of me I had no where to go except over my handlebars on the brand new race bikes first outing.
I came out of it pretty well with just some cuts and a swollen elbow and then just coasted in to the finish line. Given that I’m coming back to fitness, I wasn‘t bothered about the result. I was happy to have raced up the front all race and know it’s only a matter of time until the legs come back. My main concern was then would my elbow swelling go down for the following day, Evesham Vale RR.
Again there was no real plan to be competitive just get round and see how things go. The race went well again, I was holding my position well in the bunch but didn’t have the legs to go with the 6 man break that went up the road to eventually contest the win. Having raced the day before, and with minimal training in recent weeks I was feeling it at the end and so had no legs to contest the sprint or even help with a leadout for teammates .
As the month has gone on I can feel things coming back slowly but it’s all about patience. Something Dave Brailsford said on Geraint Thomas’ podcast struck a chord with me.
“Cycling is a sport where it takes a long time to get good- you put in the months and years of training to get good but it can all go wrong in a nanosecond with a crash or illness”.
Maybe all this careful planning to return to racing was overkill and everything would have been ok but it made me think a regular annual heart and health check up is probably a thing I will do going forwards. But if post covid complications can happen to Tim Declereq, one of the biggest engines in the peloton, it could happen to any of us who race and it appears from his comments in the below article that it’s a bit more common at the moment than people are letting on.
My advice is if you catch covid make sure you do your homework on how to come back safely get advice from your doctors and coaches, be careful and listen to your body Don’t be afraid to wind things back if it doesn’t feel right. A few extra weeks off the bike or taking it easy may feel like an eternity but it’s a long term game.
On a more positive, none covid, note. I picked up my new Moda race bike a week prior to Soens. I spent some time making adjustments and getting it ready for race season. I also got some new Edco Four-8’s tubeless race wheels which are excellent for the early spring conditions.
YBC Peaks 2 Day
The following weekend I raced the Peaks 2 Day. This was both a mens and womens stage race run over 2 days (obviously) with 3 stages. Day 1 was a 12.4km TT on road bikes followed by a road race of 8 laps using the same circuit as the TT. Day 2 was 10 laps of a 10.4 km circuit with 2600m of climbing.
As it was close to home and put on by the YBC it would be rude not to turn up. Maybe at some point there will be a blog post coming on the story of the YBC, it’s origins, what it’s done so far and what it’s future ambitions are.
The weather on the weekend was kind in that it wasn’t raining in the peaks but there was a decent wind blowing both days. Given how hilly both road stages were it was no surprise the race was split to bits after the first lap and by the end the gaps were massive, with riders all over the circuit. Brutal would be the best way to describe it. Still it was great to have a stage race to go out and test the legs. I didn’t have any ambitions other than to get round and get some good race training in.
Result wise it was nothing special, I was 31st in TT over 1 min down after taking it easy, and I was 13th on stage 2, 3:14 down overall. By the end of stage 3 I was 14th on GC which isn't bad considering my legs blew with 2 laps to go. It’s good that the form and condition is slowly coming back though and with a few more weeks and some more races I should be back to where I was pre covid.
Great job by all the organisers, James Hawkins and Eugene Cross and the YBC team and all the volunteers that helped make it happen. I know it’s going to be back next year bigger and better as the team learnt a lot taking on the challenges of running such an event.
Just shows if a bunch of 19 and 20 year olds can organise stage racing for men and women why can’t there be more of this ambition in the UK racing scene?
Coalville Wheelers RR
The final race of the month was Coalville wheelers RR. This was a deceptive race. On paper it didn’t look that hard, mostly flat with a single short kicker before the line, however attacks went from the start and the race was constantly on, putting everyone under pressure.
The race was stopped after the second lap of 9 for a warning from the comms due to riders going over the white line and then was restarted. There was then a crash on lap 3 or 4 that saw quite a few abandons and the riders that didn’t crash caught up behind loosing time. With the race pace high it was going to be hard to get back in.
For the team overall it was a messy race with only me and Joe finishing. James crashed and tried to ride on but his rear mech was bent and abandoned, Jimbo was held up in the crash and stuck in a group that wouldn’t work so pulled out and Adam punctured but tried to get back on but with the pace so high it was impossible to get back in.
Health-wise, the legs continue to improve week by week with the training and racing. When reviewing my training peaks files after the race there were some positive numbers so it's coming back quite quickly.
Finally big congrats to the Cromford Future Star Ewan for joining Saris Rouvy Sauerland conti team. A great opportunity - go smash it
What's coming up in April
The plan for early April was race Danum trophy on 3rd April but I got an invite to guest ride in Italy with my old junior team JRC in a UCI 1.2 race - Trofeo Piva north of Venice. Very exiting opportunity to race some of the best in Europe.
There's also the first round of the U23 National Series on the 17/4 on the Upper Denby course.
At the end of the month its the U23 Tour of Wales from Saturday 30 April – Monday 2 May both of which should be great races to go to and hopefully start performing better on a bigger stage.