Going long

Two and a half days off the Bike to rest the body followed by an easy spin last Night, today was the day to give the Legs a solid workout. A long endurance spin at a sensible, sustainable effort, the Weather was again playing ball with dry roads bathed in Sunshine and warm temperatures chilled by a strong Easterly.

Straight up the Greenway to Comber, weaving round the lanes to Ballygowan and in to the Manse road with its views across the greenery of County Down.

Leaving the Manse road and on to the Killyleagh road through Darragh Cross and Raffrey then on to the Derryboye road across to Comber, through the village and through Kilmore winding my way across to Annacloy and Loughinisland.

Seaforde and Clough were soon despatched with and now I was riding onwards directly in to the strong wind to Ballykinler and a quick stop in the Sunshine to refuel and rehydrate with supplies from the local Petrol station shop.

The Wind was strong and energy-sapping, I had planned to Cycle to Strangford, get the Ferry across the Lough and ride up the Peninsula but Cycling along past Tyrella, Killough and Ardglass I decided riding up the exposed Peninsula would only be more of a battle with the wind so I decided that once I got to Strangford I would turn inland to hopefully find shelter between the hedges.

Cycling along by a deserted Ballyhornan Beach and Kilclief Castle the new route plan became more desirable such was the strength of the wind on the exposed Coastal roads. I made it around to Strangford and turned inland and the long draggy climb uphill before a beautiful fast stretch of road to the Quoile where I benefitted from just about the only section of road where I had a direct tailwind all day. I made the most of the tailwind in the bing ring keeping the forward momentum high.

Over the Quoile along the Killyleagh road, Scaddy road then in to Crossgar again then the main road to Saintfield on towards Ballygowan and home by the Greenway for an 85 mile spin still feeling like I could ride on for more Miles bust deciding aganst doing so… this time.

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Sunset spin

After two and a half days off the Bicycle it was time to get back out there, but only for a short and fairly low intensity ride. A steady spin up the Comber Greenway to Comber and out the Killyleagh road lifting the intensity to remind the legs and body what is expected when in the Saddle. A good hard but sustainable push up the Tullynagee road to really wake the legs from the rest and recovery days and a new personal best time was the reward.

After Tullynagee it was time to dial the intensity back down again as I was planning a much longer spin for tomorrow and did not want to use up precious energy reserves. Along the Lisbarnet road to Lisbane and a brisk descent of Quarry road then out the Strangford Coastline to Nendrum at a touring pace, looking over the hedges, enjoying the Sunshine. I stopped to grab a few Photographs and a video of the Terns doing some fishing.

An enjoyable evening but the temperature was not great and the light was fading so back on the Bicycle in the Ringneill road and Ballydrain road back towards Comber.

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The Saturday Club spin

A bright Sunny Morning and a Weather forecast for more of the same saw me tempt fate and set off from home for the Saturday Morning Phoenix CC Club spin without the Rain Jacket, in preference for freeing up a Jersey pocket to carry a few extra energy bars. I arrived at the House of Sport meeting point with a few minutes to spare, sitting in the Sun absorbing the vitamin D 🙂

With the B1 group away an hour earlier than normal I was hoping a few B1s wanting an extra hour in bed would turn up, but it was not to be so I could either have a group ride with the B2s or ride solo, I opted for company. There were that many B2s out that as we went to set off the call was made to split in to two groups for safety reasons. There were not many takers for our group with only six of us heading up the outer ring in to Hospital road, Ballycoan road, Mill road, Mealough road and skirting around Temple on some very small badly surfaced roads causing one of the Guys to pick up a puncture.

More lumpy minor roads with numerous short sharp little climbs, twists and turns dodging gravel and pot holes taking us around Boardmills and Lisbane and in to Saintfield.

Leaving Saintfield on the Ballynahinch road then in to the Ballynoe road across country to Annacloy and onwards to Delamont, round to Shrigley and Toye then in to the leafy Ringdufferin road.

The Sun blazed down as we Cycled the Coastal Bays of Quarterland road on the shores of Strangford Lough then another testing little climb.

A nice descent down to Whiterock and round the Coast for a Toilet stop at Sketrick island.

We all lifted the pace on the spin from Castle Espie back to Comber before a more leisurely spin back to Dundonald along the Comber Greenway. Just shy of 60 miles for the Morning, home earlier than usual and feeling a lot fresher than normal too, not bad for a 214 mile week 🙂

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Early Birds and Worms

Something woke me from my Nights sleep just after 5am, it was already daylight and I was unable to get back to sleep so instead I got up, got the Cycling kit on, filled a Water Bottle and got out minutes after 6am for a lovely early Morning spin on quiet roads.

It was a lot cooler but far from chilly despite dew on the ground and a bit of mist in the air. Only a 21 mile spin and back home for Breakfast but a beautiful Morning and a great way to start the day.

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Chance encounters

A nice steady spin up the Comber Greenway then the Hillsborough road and Ballycreely road around to Moneyreagh and down in to Ballygowan. Lovely dry roads and hazy sunshine only a headwind to irk me but at least it would be a tailwind home.

Onwards to Saintfield and out the Killyleagh road through Raffrey and a chance encounter with a friend who was Cycling the opposite direction so we both stopped for a chat and then we both rid along together to Downpatrick and back to his House at Saul where he hooked my Bike up to his laptop and updated the firmware in my Di2 gears.

Back on the Saddle along the Finnebrogue road and the main road all the way to Crossgar and across the Derryboye road and the lanes across to Kilmood on through Drumreagh back to Ballygowan and home for 54 miles at a nice steady pace.

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Moving on up

Saturday Morning and time for another group ride with my Cycling Club, as usual I soloed over to the meeting point at the House of Sport, a seven Mile ride to warm the legs muscles up and get them firing ready for what lay ahead.

More often than not I elect to Cycle with the B2 group but for about a year now I have been frustrated that that group rides too slow for me on the flat roads, rides far too slow for me on the downhills (yes I love a good fast descent) and even more frustratingly they are generally faster than me on the uphills. So today I decided to ride with the next group up, the B1s. Quite a significant step up in average speed, the ride leader assured me there would only be a couple of hills (he lied!) as I knew I had no chance of riding the hills at the pace this lot manage.

I have ridden with the B1s before and indeed the group above that again the A group and knew what to expect, a tough day in the saddle. 🙂

It would not be Phoenix Cycling Club if we did not start off on the much used traditional route up through Drumbeg to Lisburn then up through Legacurry and Annahilt and onwards to Kinallen. Sometimes I think this is the only way out of Belfast that Phoenix group leaders know. So far so good I was feeling comfortable with the pace and staying in the bunch taking my turn at the front when required.

Leaving Kinallen we went towards Kilkinamurry to Katesbridge, lumpy terrain, my nemesis! As expected I was spat out the back of the group unable to ascend at their speed but there were others not great at climbing either so we all regouped a couple of times along the way. But how much had the climbing taken out of my energy reserves? Foolishly I had also neglected to keep eating so I knew there was a chance that I might get dropped altogether somewhere along the route.

We left Katesbridge and had flatter roads now so the speed of the group inevitably lifted, thankfully I had no trouble riding at this higher pace and soon we were at the Corbet Lake where a quick stop was called for. I used the break to grab an energy bar to try and make up for my under-fuelling of earlier, but knowing all too well that playing catchup never works.

We continued on to Banbridge, Lenaderg, Donaghcloney and Magheralin with Brian continuing to crack the whip to ensure the group kept the speed up, utilising what was now a tailwind and I was still right in there feeling comfortable at the speed.

A few more rolling hills across to Culcavy saw me starting to find it harder to keep in the group paying for my earlier fuelling mistakes and just on the outskirts of Lisburn the metaphorical elastic snapped completely and I lost touch with the group letting too big a gap open up to close by myself, so I decided to just Cycle back to Belfast alone enjoy the warm sunshine, tired but happy.

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Sunny Miles

A Sunny but very Windy day, a day to leave the Summer Bike at home and ride the Winter Bike instead, the Winter Bicycles shallower rims are much easier to control in sidewinds.

I set off through Dundonald and up the Greengraves road to the main Newtownards dual carriageway, with light traffic I decided to stay on the Carriageway for the high speed descent down in to Newtownards then around the town and in to the Bowtown road through Loughries and Carrowdore and over to the Coast at Ballywalter. I had mostly a tailwind behind me up until now and progress was rapid.

Back across the Peninsula against the wind so much slower progress but nice dry roads bathed in sunshine helped. The tide was out when I stopped to grab this image across Strangford Lough to Scrabo.

I climbed up around Scrabo on to the dual carriageway again and back down the Greengraves road that I had climbed up earlier.

A great 35 mile spin.

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Ards CC Road race

After a Rainy Morning the late Afternoon dried up and I got out on the Bicycle for a spin. Ards Cycling Club were holding a Cycle race later that evening that I wanted to watch and Photograph but I also wanted to get a bit of training done too so I opted for a short but hard session of training then out to the race.

The biggest training bang for the buck is hills or sprints so I done both. I cycled over to Holywood and put in a hard tempo effort up the Chreightons road climb then back home via the Newtownards road with hard sprints between traffic lights, the legs certainly felt the burn after that ride even though it was only 14 miles.

Home for a change in to a dry base layer and grab an extra layer to put on later in the evening for the inevitable drop in temperature after the race, then it was back out on the Bicycle up the Comber Greenway and out the Killyleagh road to await the first lap of the four lap road race.

@lukeinstagramface this you tonight? #cyclingni #cycling #roadcycling @kinningcycles

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I cycled on round the Circuit up a hilly climb to await the racers on their second lap. I knew the location offered a great scenic backdrop, and I was hoping for some warm evening light but my luck was out on that front.

As luck would have it the Sun came out shortly after the Bikes had raced through, but it still gave me a picture of this unlucky lad.

I cycled on further to capture the action from the third lap, the roads now bathed in the great light I was hoping for from my previous location.

I then cycled onwards to the finish line for the finale of the race, I would now be photographing in to the strong sunlight a very tricky exposure.

The flies were out in force as I cycled home via the Comber Greenway with an additional 20 miles clocked up.

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Phoenix Sportive

A cold, foggy start as I cycled through town, up through Stranmillis and the Malone road to Lisburn to sign on for this Mornings Phoenix CC Sportive. With three route lengths on offer I opted for the middle distance 80KM route with the ride over and home adding on extra to give me just shy of 84 miles for the day.

Everyone signed on and it was time to get going. Two Police Motorcyclists assisted our journey through Lisburn stopping traffic and allowing us to ride straight through Red traffic lights all in one large group. Too large a group in all honesty given the mixed abilities, some lesser experienced/able cyclists causing a little chaos at times throughout the day, though no crashes were reported. I constantly kept myself up at the front of the group to stay out of trouble, even if it meant having to work harder as we were all travelling against the wind.

Our route took us up through Legacurry to Annahilt and Ballykeel where we had to come to a stop to make way for the Tour of Ulster Cycle race coming through, at least it was warm and sunny at this point and gave us all a chance to rest, eat and rehydrate.

As soon as the Cycle race traffic had passed we got rolling again up the short, but steep climb in to Kinallen then across the Gall Bog road around Ballella and on to Katesbridge.

From Katesbridge it was the main road all the way through Moneyslane, Ballward up round the Horsehoe bend towards Castlewellan.

At the top of the Horeshoe we were back in to the chilling, fog for the nice fast descent down to Castlewellan and the pre-organised water and food stop.

A few minutes later and its back on the Saddle for the fast but chilly descent down to Annsborough and then in to the Ballylough road winding our way around to Spa and onwards to Ballynahinch where we finally left the fog behind and were blessed with beautiful warm sunshine for the final spin back to Lisburn.

Ballynahinch town traffic safely navigated and along the Lisburn road with its rolling hills to Annahilt for a nice pacey spin over to Legacurry and then one last long uphill drag. I could feel my left leg was threatening to cramp up 🙁 so I controlled my efforts sitting on the wheel in front knowing that after the uphill drag it was all downhill to Lisburn and would likely not only be very fast, but would also likely kick off in to a flat out sprint for the 30mph town limit sign.

I managed to get up the drag without the leg cramping, took in a few mouthfuls of drink and recovered ready for the sprint to kick off. Sure enough the pace lifted and from my position 8 to 10 bikes back from the front I could see the usual suspects positioning themselves so that they would not be blocked in for the sprint. Although further back than I wanted to be I was at least on the outside line so I knew I would not be boxed in, and also had the advantage of seeing what all was going on in front of me.

As the distance to the 30 limits reduced the pace stayed high and two riders in front of me were struggling to hold it allowing a gap to open, perfect! That gap allowed me to come around them and fill the gap leaving me perfectly placed for the finally sprint and when the usual suspects went for it I kicked hard on the pedals and came around the remaining bikes in front. Karen had gapped everyone but I had more momentum and was closing fast, she raised her hand in celebration but she was a bit premature and I took the win 🙂

That last mile I covered at an average speed of 30.1 mph, a new personal best time for me on that segment and putting out my max power of the whole day in that final sprint with 60 odd miles already in the legs at that point.

We all slowed the pace right down for the final Cycle over to Lisburn Leisureplex and the awaiting BBQ prepared for us to enjoy in the warm sunshine. Another good day out on the Bicycle with friends and good to see continued performance improvements in my cycling.

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Short and gentle

Day Four of taking it easy, resting up and not getting many miles in. Four easy days have allowed the fatigue to come down without losing too much fitness.

I ventured out on the Bicycle this Afternoon for a short and very gentle paced spin to wake the legs up ahead of a long weekend of cycling including the Phoenix CC Sportive on Sunday. The legs were feeling good and ready to push but I resisted the urge and just rid around the County Down lanes at a very easy pace. A nice little 25 miles and for possibly the first time this year a little warmth to the air.

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