What it’s like racing the Tour of Sussex

Tour of Sussex

Recently I competed in the Tour of Sussex, arguably the hardest amateur stage race in the UK. Everyone turns up with fine form and legs firing on all cylinders. The organisers took no pity on the riders this year either with 5 brutal stages designed to break riders at every opportunity.

First up was a hot dog style criterium. By this I mean the criterium course is like a hot dog, the course is done on one road with two very sharp U-turns at either end. Now this may sound great thinking no technical corners, no road furniture, just two bends how bad can it be? To put it in perspective, imagine sprinting full gas for 20 seconds then recovering for 20 seconds and playing a game of chicken into every corner on how long you can leave it until you have to slam on your brakes only to realise it wasn’t late enough as 5 riders come dive-bombing up the inside.

After an hour of this madness the field was in pieces and there were only about 30 remaining in the front bunch. It was more a battle of survival, dive bombing corners, locking up brakes into corners and squeezing through gaps you wouldn’t think possible than the smooth peloton so often viewed from the side of the road. It was brutal but I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief having made it through safely. Both Matthew and I were comfortable in the front bunch until an untimely mechanical forced me out of the lead bunch. Ultimately we were very happy with our performance given the circuit did not suit our strengths.

The next day were two time trials, one individual and one with the team. The team time trial was around the Beachy Head circuit. A very well renowned course in the UK scene well known for its brutal coastal climbs and the weather that comes with being on the coast. The discipline is a very demanding and rewarding effort. Going as hard as you can while maintaining a smooth pace line, riding inches from the wheel in front and almost chewing your stem just to save valuable energy is an amazing feeling when you nail it. We emptied the tank and it’s quite often the smoothest team that go the fastest despite the effort it may look like some of the more ragid teams are putting in.
We performed exceptionally given the circumstances. With just two skinny climbers in the team compared to the 4 of other teams we were very pleased to be in the midfield with a time of 35:05 placing us 12th on the day.

The individual time trial is a whole other world. Again another full gas effort up the ditching beacon this time. The beacon is hard enough at the best of times, let alone when you’ve already physically exerted yourself to the max twice in the last 24 hours. Each corner ramps up to what seems like a never ending gradient. A brief moment of respite is only met with another ramp. As you see the famous horse sign toward the top you gather whatever strength you can from every muscle available and empty yourself at the top. I went that hard that it took me about 10 minutes sitting on the side of the road before I could lift my leg over the seat to roll back down. Again, we nailed the course with Matthew coming in 7th! I in 26th. It was amazing to see the level of roadside support we got as we went into deep dark holes towards the top. The cheering turned into a loud blur as all I could focus on was the top of the hill. It’s funny how you can find an extra gear when everyone is cheering you on. Can’t thank the team enough for all the support we received throughout the event.

With the riders exhausted from the 3 events in 24 hours up next was the Ladies mile Road race, a 70-mile road race on 15 laps of the circuit. It was a scorching day with temperatures touching the late 20’s. It was full gas racing from the start, riders eager to make up positions in the general classification and a chance at the stage victory. As each lap ticked by you could feel your legs pinching a little more each time on the long drag up to the finish. You can feel the peloton get nervier as the race goes on. Gaps get smaller, the pace goes up, the odd shoulder is thrown in order to maintain position and of course it gets faster. It became relentless with 3 laps to go. The break was within site and riders were flying left right and centre counter attacking. It’s different from most races where it’s hard, then eases, then hard etc. It just never eased up, always having to push on the pedals at tempo/threshold just to maintain position in the bunch. When the pace really got hot it was 50 riders strung out in one long line all hoping the rider in front was strong enough to hold the wheel and not leave you dangling off the back. We hit the finishing climb and fumbled over the line having survived another brutal day. Everyone was dreading tomorrow’s stage but I think we were both thoroughly looking forward to it knowing full well it would suit us the most.

There was an eerie sense about the last day of the tour, a lot of tired legs means a lot of opportunity to get a result. It was the infamous Kidd’s Hill stage with 10 times up the well-known wall of Ashdown forest. The race started as predicted, attacks flying, and a rapid pace. The reason attacks were flying was because the early break on stages like this are very often going to make it deep into the race. I managed to make the early break on the first two laps allowing me to climb the climb at my own tempo and save valuable energy for later in the race. Matthew was sitting comfortably biding his time for lap 3 when he got in the eventual break that would go the distance.

We summited the climb in 4:40 on lap 3, a time most hill climbers would be proud to do fresh, let alone after 4 stages. Each lap got harder but you just have to embrace the pain and enjoy it. I ended up in no man’s land after lap 6 when the yellow jersey decided he had enough and destroyed the bunch leaving it all in pieces. I was dropped by the front of the race containing about 10 members including team-mate Matthew.  I was dangling like a carrot in front of the peloton, but I figured I’d keep pushing because at this point nobody works together, it’s pretty much every rider for themselves. This led to 3 and half laps on my own to hold off the pack. Mile by mile digging a deeper hole, legs burning a little bit more. I enjoyed the pain after a while, telling myself to see how hard I could push my body before either my head gave in or I couldn’t physically push anymore. The last time up Kidd’s hill was in slow motion. I felt each and every pedal stroke and it will be engrained within me how hard I pushed that day. Again, the team were amazing on the side of the road, providing food, drink, cokes and words of encouragement each time I slogged my way up Kidd’s hill.

Matthew had an outstanding result finishing 3rd on stage and 4th on the overall General classification. We can be very proud of the way we rode as a team and of his result putting our small community driven team on the map. Massive thank you to all the sponsors for all the support, we couldn’t have done it without them.

On a personal note a massive thank you to all the supporters, organisers and martials as it was an outstanding event. Ran perfectly. Seeing fan’s and friends on the side of the road is a special feeling and it made me push harder than what I actually perceived possible.

I am already buzzing with excitement to enter next year. 

N+1 to the rescue

andrew

Just over three years ago I decided to get into road cycling, little did I know (or my wife) what lie in store. My last road bike before this was a Raleigh Pursuit from the mid-80s, how bikes have changed since then. After many hours drooling over countless bikes, I ended up with a lovely carbon beauty equipped with Shimano’s Ultegra groupset from a wee Canadian bike company called Devinci. She was a real beaut!

To say the least, I fell in love with road cycling and lycra and put some serious miles into this bike. Not satisfied, I then tried my hand at racing, fell in love with that and within 3 races found myself classified as Cat 3! Well and truly bitten by the racing bug, I was soon caught out eyeing up a dream bike, I had started to fall out of love with the ageing Devinci! I soon found myself going the way of so many before me and into the world of N+1. Before I knew it, I had already bought another 2 road bikes that I didn’t quite fall in love with and sold on. Then a third was purchased, it was love at first sight. Now there was another more beautiful bike alongside the Devinci. My Trek Emonda had arrived, there was no looking back, we went everywhere together. The Devinci had been relegated to the dreaded winter bike, a life of turbo torture and wet gritty roads lie in-store.

Things were going well, life in the fast lane was awesome. I was enjoying my second season as a Cat 3 “specialist” on top of my trusty Trek. That was until the day a small incident stop my racing in it’s tracks. I had somehow managed to damage the frame! It turned out that I was going to be without my Trek for quite some time. 

With more races in less than a week, my eyes again turned to my Devinci. She was looking a little sorry for herself and in need of some urgent love and attention before I could consider racing on the old girl. This is where being part of a team really comes to the fore. I received some very kind offers to help me get back on the road, but chose the route of reviving my old Devinci. 

Being part of N+1 Lindfield Coffee Works race team this year for me has been awesome, we have a small group of riders that really look out for each other and go beyond what you’d expect. My hat has to come off to the 2 Dan’s at N+1 for taking my poor beat up old Devinci and giving it a new lease of life in record time. Having only a couple of days to sort out many issues and have it race ready on the day of racing was above and beyond what you’d expect from a bike workshop. To be honest, they saved the day. Not only was i able to race, my good old Devinci took me onto a 2nd place at Goodwood crits, missing out on 1st by a wheel length. My highest finish at that venue! Not satisfied with that result, I managed to get another 2nd place the following week, again just missing out on 1st place. The love affair that kick-started it all off, had just re-ignited. Together, we are now eyeing up Cat 2!

Mud sweat and gears and British XC series round 2

Firstly thank you to everyone at N+1 Lindfield Coffee works team for the ongoing support. Being part of a team where everyone wants to help each other out is a massive part of the sport, and N+1 have got it perfect. 

After a slower start to the season than I would have liked I made a last minute decision to race MSG round at Lee valley. A different course to usual, fully man-made around the Olympic velodrome and bmx track, surrounded by easy London docks. A totally new experience to me, creating a hill and seeing a motorway a couple of meters away.

The course was flat, slightly rocky, open, but narrow. After a good start I had a race long battle for second until the last lap where a gap got created, and I was able to ride home for 2nd place. Happy with how my legs felt after a few heavy days of training prior.

Next up the following weekend was the second round of the British XC series at the Olympic course venue of Hadleigh Park. Another fully man-made course, with some big rock features, and no real let up. You’re either downhill, off rocks or uphill.

Again after a good start and sitting second wheel comfortably for the first quarter of the first lap, I dropped my chain on a rocky uphill section, after a dash of the bike and a remount I found myself outside the top 10 and chasing.

Surprisingly with my bike never doing this before it happened two more times throughout the race, continently all on uphill sections, making the remount nice and uncomfortable.

A race that felt like I was constantly chasing and dismount more than a cross race I ended up in 7th.

Happy with how the body feels, but as we all know, everything including the bike needs to come together on the day.

Next up is southern xc round 2 at chekendon this weekend. I missed the first round due to illness, so hoping to get going in the southern series well with this race.

Industry Focus: Kris of Lindfield Coffee Works

Lindfield Coffee Works

How long has Lindfield coffee works been up and running?

Lindfield Coffee Works has been trading at its current site for 2 ½ years now . I took the previous business over a year before that and before that they had been roasting in Lindfield since 1994 so its well and truly part of Lindfields history!

What got you into coffee? Is it something you’ve always been into.

I’ve always been interested in coffee and have always consumed it. I used to work in the spirits industry before and discovered many similarities across both industries. We also used coffee as an ingredient in cocktails so I’ve always been inquisitive of it !

Have you always had a passion for coffee?

Yes, ever since I started being a consumer of it . The more I read the more I was fascinated. I have a passion for most of the drinks industry as a whole.

What would you say drives you?

On the roastery side I’d say continuously looking to improve our coffee roasting and developing our profiles , sourcing responsibly , sustainable, interesting & high grade coffee . On the coffee bar side I love seeing our customers enjoying our space and taking more and more of an interest in the distinct flavours of coffee and choosing coffee by origin.

What aspects of the coffee industry excite you, frustrate you…

There are so many aspects of the coffee industry that excite me from sourcing green coffee both through our wholesale partner and direct with our trade partners in Colombia. Experimenting with different processing techniques like black honey , fermentation and how improving practices at farm level can have a real impact on taste. The innovation in roast profiling and the more and more information out there on this . This was a frustration when I first started out was the lack of info out there meant it was a case of trial and error . Roast , taste , tweak, roast, taste, tweak and on and on – all the time not knowing if we were doing it the ‘correct’ way. Everything along the coffee chain from growing, farming processing to milling , shipping, sourcing , roasting and finally producing a delicious cup of coffee excite me . Every stage of this has to be really taken care of and thought about and can have a real impact on final taste. I’m not sure there are many industries quite like this. Another frustration is the final price for a cup of coffee and the disparity with say a Gin & Tonic in a bar. Having seen how much goes into getting coffee to us here in the Uk and with the roasting and making of the coffee I believe there is so much more care and attention that needs to be made for coffee yet its sometimes 3 or 4 times less of a price. Coffee is still seen as a commodity product where I don’t think , specialty coffee should be.

Do you get the opportunity to source direct from the farmers

Yes we buy from 3 farms in Colombia from the region of Antioquia which is a renowned coffee growing region . Buying direct allows us to have two way dialogue with the farmers and provide real time feedback . If we can tell our customers when the coffee was picked , which variety it was , if it was shade grown , how it was processed and at which altitude this gives us and them confidence it’s been well farmed and cared for along the supply chain.

How bigs your team, can you tell us a little more about them?

Our team is currently 11 and we wouldn’t be able to do this without them . We have amazingly talented , multi skilled team that all input towards what we do . As well as being a co-manager , phoebe manages all our social media and in house marketing . She is just 21 and has a bright future in front of her ! Sunni is the head barista and is the account manager for our wholesale customers and leads all our trainings . Miranda is our roaster and we now are roasting 4-5 times per week and I am taking on more of this role too now as I develop my roasting skills. We have an events manager now too as this is a growing side of the business – Helen looks after this side of things expertly as well as working shifts on our coffee bar. Vic (our co-manager), Antonia , suzy , beth , emma , ethinie and amber make up the rest of the team and their passion for what they do makes doing this job so easy. The whole team contributes across the board and any ideas for new menus / events etc is listened to and implemented  – I think that’s what makes it a nice place to work – no one is just a barista they can get involved as much as they want to – if you are passionate about what you do then anyone can do anything .

What side of the business do you enjoy the most?

There are many aspects of the business I enjoy from roasting coffee and experimenting with recipes for our coffee and testing different methods to brew it . However what I’m enjoying most currently is working directly with the farms in Colombia . To be able to be involved at this level is both exciting and humbling . We have two-way direct communication regarding specific processing methods and can be involved in experimenting with different processes like fermentation and naturally drying the coffee in certain ways (honey, black honey etc) . The farms are very remote and pose real challenge to get coffee down the mountain and it’s very labor intensive & hard work . They lead very simple lives . It’s very rewarding because to see the hard work and go that extra mile to produce a quality coffee and in turn reward them with a far higher price than they would if they sold via a cooperative- to do so really makes it worthwhile and encourages farmers to produce quality coffee over quantity. 

Where do you see yourself and the business in 5 years?

I don’t like to plan too far ahead but know we should but this industry changes so quickly it’s difficult to imagine . I hope we will still be producing and supplying even more wholesale customers and educating them on specialty coffee. Another coffee bar would be nice in a similar location to what we have in lindfield . I hope we are still working with our farms in Colombia and really gained some new knowledge and skills in farming coffee between us . And I hope the consumer is more aware about specialty coffee industry and there’s a move away from instant at least which we are seeing now ! 

Do you feel you’ve created a specialty coffee scene in lindfield now?

I wouldn’t say we have created a specialty scene in Lindfield . We are still very behind the likes of London and Brighton and even as a roaster / coffee bar I wouldn’t call us ‘specialty’ per sey . We source from the specialty industry and have the same principles and values as a specialty roaster but we need to remember who our customers are and what they want . I can see the gap widening between real specialty roasters and more ‘ mainstream ‘ roasters like ourselves . As long as we are sourcing high quality coffees responsibly and making good quality coffees that our customers love and take some interest in then that is enough for me and a ‘scene’ I guess will follow . I think lindfield is really becoming interested in coffee and hopefully this is just the start ! 

It’s an incredible space you’ve created here, is it how you imagined it.

Yes absolutely we couldn’t be happier . We’ve tweaked things from when we first opened but think it’s nearly finished ! We really wanted it to feel like you were walking into a working coffee roastery and not to be another usual coffee shop.

Where’s your favorite coffee shop?

Raw coffee roasters in Dublin first gave me the idea and inspiration for our site but I do not get to go there that much . Closer to home I’d say ozone coffee in London and caravan in kings cross . And all our wholesale customers shops 😉 

I love your branding, how did that come about.

My now good friend Will Parr does all our branding / menu design / murals / sign writing etc and has done an amazing job . He approached me when we first took over the previous business . He typically designs alcohol brands but wanted a coffee in his portfolio and as we were on a budget he really helped us out ! I think we are ready for a little refresh as we evolve as a roaster so will Will definitely be involved in this !

How did the relationship with the cycling team come about?

We supply Dan at n+1 cycle cafe and Dan approached us with the idea of starting a team. We loved Dan’s passion, vision and values he had for the team so it wasn’t even a consideration whether to be involved or not . Cycling and coffee is also a perfect mix and are synonymous so we liked the association and hope we can build on the amazing work Dan and the team have achieved in such a small space of time . We can’t wait to see what’s next and would love to still be involved as they and us grow !

Are we likely to see you out training soon

No I look too bad in Lycra . I would love to and am now taking more of an interest in cycling the more and more people I meet involved in cycling so its only a matter of time  .

Images courtesy of Breakaway Digital

Industry Focus: Ross McCracken of Proper Cycling

Ross McCracken Proper Cycling

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how Proper cycling came about?

Since I was 15 I’ve worked in the Music industry as a producer and, at first a drum tech, then a tour manager. As a result, I spent a lot of time touring and stuck in hotel rooms. A few of the artists I worked with took bikes on tour so they could keep fit and see some of the places we visited. It was also popular as a helmet and a pair of glasses was a great disguise for sneaking past autograph hunters at the hotel gates! I followed suit and soon fell in love with road cycling. Many years later (too many to think about!) I set up Proper Cycling in Hassocks as a coffee / bike shop which is run by a friend of mine, Rachael. Becoming increasingly despondent with the Music industry I found myself spending more time there so I became more involved setting up the bike fitting (I’m literally obsessed with cycling science and marginal gains) followed by the Holiday company in 2018.

How did the bike fitting come about?

Being a bit of a geek at heart I started bike fitting 7 years ago as a hobby. When the opportunity to make it part of my job arose I jumped at the chance. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the latest techniques and I was lucky enough to be trained by Tony Corke. The best of the best in my opinion. I’ve now completed over 600 bike fits and every one of them was different!

It must be really satisfying when a rider experiences improvements in performance down to your own adjustments, Is there a particular story or fitting that stands out?

It never gets dull. The human body is amazing and we are all so different. Especially when it comes to doing something we weren’t really designed to do…riding a bike!I love a challenge and some individuals need more attention than others. Some have medical / physical problems and it’s hugely satisfying to find a way around that.One story that does stand out was a young girl who suffered from a chronic pain condition meaning she couldn’t ride outside but loved Zwift. She knew all her numbers as a result and was over the moon with a 43% average power increase by the time we’d finished. Her opponents however… not so much….

Do you still get time to focus on your own riding as much these days, what events/goals do you have lined up?

After my experience in the music industry I made a promise that if the job prevented me from riding and enjoying it I would stop working in cycling. So far, so good. I have a coach who provides plans and I ride 5-6 times a week. I’m not fast but I enjoy distance riding. London to Gibraltar started that and last year the length of Portugal where Proper Cycling Holidays is based.I’m looking for a new goal at the moment. I think I’d like to get faster…. at least I could then keep up with the N+1 team… on their recovery days at least!

We recently joined you out in Portugal for an incredible weeks cycling, What made you choose Portugal as a base for the experience and service you’ve put together?

That was a great week, I’m still impressed by the team’s performance. I’ve been riding in Portugal for around 14 years as I have family there. I just love it. Smooth roads, great scenery, amazing people and most of all, It’s so quiet. It’s like a secret cycling paradise that I really want to share with others. Hence, we built Casa Karibu specifically designed around cyclists.

With the bike industry being notoriously difficult to survive in these days, What would you say is the secret to your success?

I think survival is the new success at the moment. It’s tough out there and not just in cycling. Being realistic is important. If you want to make a fortune then it’s a tough industry. If you want a good lifestyle job then it’s perfect. I think treating it as a service industry rather than a retail one works for us in the UK. You can’t buy a service, coffee and cake or a bike fit online…. yet!

It seems like you’ve turned your hand to so much already but what’s the next adventure?

Good question, I think this year will be spent getting the holidays side of the business more established and setting up Proper Bike Fitting in Portugal. Maybe another cycle cafe out there too but I intend to take that slow and steady.

What do you find most challenging about running bespoke tours, aside from not being able to ride yourself all the time?

Not being able to ride all the time is a challenge but there are worse places for a turbo session than on  the terrace overlooking the hills. The biggest challenge is the language. I’m learning Portuguese but it’s unbelievably hard especially when so many of the locals speak English. It’s always amusing when a local approaches the group speaking Portuguese and everyones looking at me to respond!

How often do the missing the pasteis de nata going missing?

All the time if I get there first…. 😉

Images courtesy of Breakaway Digital

NplusOne and how it all started.

Dan Pullen

I was brought in to manage the new unit here in the cycle hub and shortly after opening the opportunity came up to take ownership. It kind of fell into my lap and it felt right.
We are situated right by the pickup / drop off zone in Brighton Station. It’s a ground floor L shaped unit inside the new Cycle Hub building.
Brighton has a million bike shops already covering every angle. What I wanted to build was an unpretentious place for people to have their bikes serviced. A place where people felt comfortable asking ‘silly’ questions and got honest, straight answers. Good value and good advice at every level. With limited space, I also wanted to have brands I really care about and ones that I could stand behind personally. I’m really proud of each and every item in the shop, and can pass on the items merits to anyone that’s interested.
We operate with a very small team at N+1, so I’m directly involved with every sale and service. I like that. I’m a bit of a control freak, so like to know what’s what.
The business foundations are built on my passion for riding. Simple as that. I’ve got so much enjoyment out of riding my bike and love the idea of turning new people on to it.
So what do we do? Well, we are a cafe and a workshop. Super busy serving locally roasted Lindfield Coffee and fresh pastries to commuters from 07:00-09:30 each day. During this time many people drop off / pick up bikes for us to work on. The model works best when people have access to the completely free of charge Cycle Hub. We can then fix up the bike and lock it up for customers to pick up after work. Most jobs can be turned around in a day or two.We stock all the usual bike shop bits and bobs,  and can repair a puncture while you wait.We are also the Brighton Sales Centre for Le Col. A fantastic clothing brand with top notch race kit.
We have weekly ride outs starting and finishing at the shop. We also run a few trips just for fun really. Flanders in March was memorable as it was snowing!A few years back we went out to Mallorca to take part in the 312 event.It’s early days but I’d really like to see more of these events happening over time just to encourage progression really.
Who am I? I’m a husband, father to Lili and Sophia (5 and 1) and a mad keen cyclist.I took up cycling as an alternative to snowboarding about 8 years ago. I was a ski racer as a youth. I took up snowboarding in my early teens. Went out to work a season when I was 19 and didn’t come home for 10 years!I met my now wife Jenny on my last season (there where a few of those!) and returned home together to grow up a bit.I set up a lawn care business in Surrey. Jen and I got engaged. My best friend back home had taken up trail riding and convinced me to get involved. I absolutely loved it. I did lots of big trail stuff for a few years. Then got more into XC and finally, after doing a charity road event, fell in love with road cycling. It’s all I do now.I’ve run a few businesses over the years and have been involved with so many different things. Everything from washing dishes right through to managing multi million pound turnover shops, restaurants and bars.Outside of riding and work I love food, wine, travel, music and a good box set.
Everesting was something I read about a few years ago. It seemed impossible to me then, but as I progressed and ticked off other ultra endurance events, it became something I really fancied doing.I love the self discovery you get from ultra long challenges.The hill we used was a bridal way through Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey. It’s a beautiful spot with no traffic. Except for the tour train that goes up once an hour taking up all the road! A few sketchy moments meeting that in the wet on 30mph descents!!! There was a group of 19 of us that started out. There was a huge amount of planning and organisation between the group in the run-up. We took a room at the Denbies Guest House on the night of our attempt which proved really useful. Dorking CC was heavily involved and the support on the day was fantastic. My wife and daughter came to say hi which was lovely, my Dad popped by a couple of times and a good friend of mine came and rode a few laps with me. Him pulling out a can of cold Red Bull and a Mars Bar at the top of the climb was very memorable.I found it hard naturally. The average gradient was only 6% and each lap was 2.7 miles, so we had to cover 195 miles to hit 9000 meters. It’s a mental challenge more than anything.
What’s next? I’d love to do Haute Route one year. Race across America is a big dream of mine but could never raise the finances to compete. I wouldn’t rule out the Race Across Europe though! Maybe I should crowdfund it? 🙂
The n+1/Lindfield Coffee Works development team seemed like the most natural extension to what we do here and I’m so glad I set it up. It’s been an incredibly satisfying project and despite being in its infancy has shown its value already through supporting, enthusing, encouraging and educating our riders to become better and more successful at their chosen disciplines. 
We have some incredible brands supporting, Breakaway Digital, Hunt and many more and I’m really excited about what we can all achieve this year, and in years to come.

I’m a small 23 year old with a serious cycling problem

llewlyn

In one sentence, who are you?

Hi! I’m Llewellyn Thomas – I’m a small 23 year old with a serious cycling problem.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em –

The call to arms came shortly after a monstrous hundred mile tour of the Surrey hills in the late October sunshine. Dan P obviously saw something in me that day, it was either my ability to suffer through successive horrendous climbs or my capacity to consume my body weight in energy gels. Either way he had seen enough and decided to take me under the N+1 LCW wings. Onwards and upwards!

All aboard the gains train, next stop: Power, periodisation, plan.

Having never done any structured training, a power meter was my first port of call. I picked up a set of garmin vector 3’s and went out for several doses of pain administered through various timed tests to get some baseline data. Once I had that I used the wealth of knowledge in the team to think carefully about my goals for the year and develop my training plan. We thought about what would work for me based on time, fitness and previous experience and the plan started to come together. All I had to do now was commit to it and stay motivated through the cold winter months…

When you feel like quitting, think about why you started

Keeping myself motivated during the winter is hard. Period. You’re bound to get ill at least once or twice and this would usually cause me serious grief however since having been introduced to Trainingpeaks and a treasure trove of data I can spot periods of heavy fatigue and avoid potential time off the bike. My motivation to ride comes in many forms. First and foremost is the love of cycling, getting outside on my bike keeps me sane and keeps me fit – healthy mind healthy body. Second is my need to prove my success to myself and my teammates.Third is the desire to grow and develop, always looking ahead to the next challenge.

I am strong, I am light

Since training with power I have noticed dramatic, tangible gains across all durations of power output. I’ve (safely) dropped my weight while creeping my power up and worked on my aerobic ability alongside fatigue resistance over the winter months. These small changes combined have yielded me my biggest performance gains to date and have truly skyrocketed my performance. Perhaps even more important is the change in attitude toward my training and the support of my teammates. Being taught how to critically analyse my own training and performance has protected me from over training and kept up the push for continued gains. One of the best parts about our team is the varied experience and knowledge of each member – everyone brings something unique to the table which creates a fantastic buffet of advice and support.

Tomorrow, we conquer the world

Speaking of challenges, the coming season is full of them. Top of the list is getting some crisp cyclist tan lines. Next up is competing in two seperate stage races with the hope of a team top 10 in the GC.More importantly than either of those though is mine and the teams development, mentally, physically and as a community. I aim to develop my racecraft, push my body to the limit and have fun with a great group of lads who I’m lucky enough to call my teammates and my friends.

Hill climbing is a test of your ability to suffer, not just your power on the bike

Dan Neal

Every good cyclist is able to climb, but the best make climbing effortless. In truth it’s not. Even the best suffer, but it’s their ability to suffer more and dig deeper than anyone else, that makes them stand out about the rest. That’s what drew me to hill climbing in the first place.

Hill climbing is a very different challenge from your standard road race, or even a time trial. Even though time trials and hill climbs are similar in the fact that it is one rider racing against the clock, the two efforts are very different. A time trial is a steady, continuous effort that requires the rider to find that sweet spot and be able to sit at a steady power for ten miles or more, still a very draining effort. A time trial effort allows you time to get up to speed gradually, but in a hill climb, from the moment the start clock hits zero, you are giving 100 percent. Start too slow and your chances of victory are already very low. A hill climb rarely lasts longer than a few minutes, it’s a very brutal and unforgiving effort.

I can still remember the feeling after my first ever hill climb effort. From the very start of the effort you feel every last crank rotation, every last strain as the forces of gravity work against you. But once you hit the line and the effort is over, you feel nothing. All the feeling drains from your legs as the adrenaline that was driving you up that hill, wears off and you finally realise the effect of the effort. You give everything you can just for few minutes only to spend longer on the floor trying to regain the feeling in your legs and the air in your lungs.

Hill climbs are a hard discipline to train for as the training sessions are very similar to the races themselves, send yourself up a climb as hard as you can, but instead of giving everything in one effort, the sessions involve multiple hard efforts. Hopefully, by the time the hill climb seasons rolls into view, I will be in a position where I am able to compete with the many strong riders and I will be able to do the N+1 Lindfield team jersey proud.

That’s what made being a part of this team an easy decision. It allows me to learn from and ride with some incredibly strong riders, which will help me develop and give me many opportunities to prove myself as a rider. As well as riding with the team, I’m involved being the scenes as I will also be providing mechanical support to my teammates as I am the mechanic at our headline sponsor, N+1 Cycle Workshop.

Working at N+1 has also allowed me to gain a better understanding of our many incredible sponsors such as Lindfield Coffee Works, Breakaway Digital, Vittoria tyres and Veloforte as we offer these products in store. In order to offer and sell these products I need to know what makes them so great. As a rider I know that the products we are using are the best ones available to us which will in turn help the team succeed.