enthDegree Cycling Blog

enthDegree Cycling Blog

Three's A Crowd

cyclePosted by Jon Entwistle Mon, May 29, 2017 16:43:33

With Sportive season in full flow there’s no better time to introduce two individuals who have agreed to sign up to my latest initiative.

What initiative?

A few month’s ago the organisers of the Etape Royale approached me and asked me if I would be some kind of ambassador and ride their event in September. I thought about it and then came up with a better idea; why don’t I train and coach two riders and the three of us ride this Sportive together and blog about our journey as we go through the summer? This way I can take a break and talk about someone else which is way more comfortable (but perhaps not for them, heh heh) and only interject with technical issues such as pacing etc.

So here we are. First blog post dedicated to Barbara and Darius. Perhaps a little background into these two wouldn’t go amiss?

Who is Barbara Murray?

Barbara first met at the end of a DTCC Evening League TT a couple of years ago. I vividly remember the day as so many bizarre events took place (which I’m happy to bore anyone over beer) and Barbara and I got chatting as we headed back to the race HQ in Drumoak on our bikes (I was on timing duty that evening). And I thought I could talk! Over time, we kept in contact and then boom, out of the blue last summer Barbara asked me if I wanted to coach a female specific group of riders. And the rest is history…

Even though Barbara managed over a thousand pregnant miles on her bike, motherhood eventually and naturally won over the bike, but undeterred Barbara is keener than ever. Back in January she managed 4.5 laps of the Strathpuffer 24 hour MTB endurance race riding two laps with my eldest daughter, but it’s my youngest daughter (who’s a wee bit lazy by default) who becomes hyper-charged when I tell her I’m leaving her with Barbara and they’re going mountain biking. Barbara is no stranger to long distance rides, as she’s completed Ride London, London to Paris, Cork to Derry and curiously Banchory to Shetland, but Etape Royale is a different fish and Barbara knows that the incessant gradients and high mileage on this cruel and gruelling route will push her to the edge of her limits, though it’s my remit to make this a cake ride for her. Well there’s only one way to find out!

Who is Darius Carr?

When I got a job in the real world back in 99, I joined IT company Logica (and spent the next 15 years cutting my teeth and suffering computers for a living), Darius was my staff manager. I didn’t really get to know him that well (I was never an easy person to manage), as within a couple of rollercoaster years I’d left to join the biggest database company in the world. Over the years our paths crossed now and then and we kept in vague contact.

Though a couple of years ago I’d been invited to a quiz night by Accord ESL (with whom I have many friends, connections, clients and acquaintances) and Darius asked me if I could give him a lift, so naturally I duly obliged. I’d always been aware of his enthusiasm for cycling (I had him down as a demon squash player), but I was unaware of his passion for cycling. So, of course since then we’ve kept in touch more often and now I have the privilege of coaching Darius and then when he told me he has a fear of the Lecht climb

A wee lightbulb went off in my head.

And so here we are…but what next? Well as it happens, both Barbara and Darius have already been chatting are heading out this evening on a cycling date with hills I assume?

I guess I’ll find out tomorrow and start intervening. Or perhaps they won’t need me at all? That would be mission complete at the first opportunity! I await with bated breath...

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The Inaugural Tour Of Glencoe

cyclePosted by Jon Entwistle Tue, May 16, 2017 12:01:27

It started and ended in a surreal situation.

On Saturday afternoon I was shaving my legs in my van watching Emma back her dayglow orange van into a barrier in the Clachaig Hotel car park, Glencoe.

Crunch. Oops.

It sounded worse than it looked. “Och it’s fine”, she said “Let’s get something to eat”. I made a joke about my legs being smoother than hers and how odd I find having to shave my legs for time trialling. Roll on winter!

In the Clachaig we got chatting to Alan and Stephen from the Couriers. They too were racing the inaugural Tour of Glencoe time trial the next day and we were all buzzing with excitement whilst my pocket was buzzing with messages from Stevie Blom and the GTR boys just to add to the waves of excitement…

From Chris to the GTR WhatsApp group “Well done Stevie, it’s a belter”. He and Andy from GTR had recce’ed the course on Saturday afternoon.

From Stevie to me “This will be my big effort of the year going on…people here are dynamite…I’ll be up at 06:15 tomorrow to do a risk assessment”.

After an indifferent sleep in the van I awoke early due to the morning light and decided to get the kettle on. Another message from Stevie at 05:46.

“Well the tent seems intact after last night’s epic wind and rain. Saw every hour pass through the night. See you troops at the rallying point”.

No sign of Emma stirring in her van. So I decided to stretch the legs and do a little work to pass the time. As 7am approached Emma appeared in the gloom of the car park and so I got the kettle on again and then we boosted over to HQ at Ballachulish Hall in our respective vans to start the bike preparations.

Riders from all over the country were beginning to arrive. Some had come from Jersey! Familiar faces started to appear too and the car park down by the Loch was awash with turbos and bike chat. I turned my attentions to the ever-enthusiastic, committed and energetic Emma. She was off early (09:07) and I had some bike checking, gear selection and number pinning to do, along with race tactics. And then she was away to start, excited and race ready. I decided to wrestle with my skinsuit and get the lo-down with the GTR boys before nipping up onto the A82 drag to snap the first ever female to start the Tour of Glencoe.

And exactly 50 minutes later after the first female, I was away too. Was this to be an enjoyable date with pain?

Oh yes!

I didn’t have a particular agenda or focus for this race. Just enjoy it. Surprisingly good early season results had settled the usual concerns that come with winter training (am I faster, fitter, stronger? Answer, yes, phew). But the course felt very different from the Sunday in March when we did some promotional work for the event. The hills were shorter (ha ha, of course, doh!) and by the time I got to Kinlochleven, I’d miscounted the big climbs. Not to worry, headwind is coming. I love the wind! Time to bury thyself!

The second part is undulating, scenic and windy as it’s exposed in places as the trees give way to mountainous vistas over the sea loch. Having met Ed Hood in person (usually it’s on the phone or via messenger) for the first time in the car park a couple of hours earlier, I recognised him and could see him snapping away and driving ahead. This gave me an extra boost and I found turning the 60 tooth front chainring quite easy, particularly as I’d opted to experiment with a higher cadence in this race. Always experimenting, always learning. Even in races.

The finish came quicker than I was expected and unlike the winner of Vets category Pete Nicholl, I had managed to keep my breakfast down and was wanting more having recovered quickly from the last killer climb which caught everyone out, even course record setter and overall winner, John Archibald.

Back to hall and my eyes lit up. Dope control had arrived. Yes! No. I checked the numbers and mine hadn’t been selected. Ah well hopefully next time? I’m fascinated by the process and unless Malbec has been black listed as a banned substance (maybe I need to check?), I’m dying to be tested. This year (yeah, another experiment) I’ve decided to eat and drink everything as close to source. So, no multivitamins, no gels, not even taking my hayfever medication and despite having been diagnosed with asthma for nearly 40 years, not even sprays (I stopped taking these about five year’s ago, though I do a great Mutley impression). No supplements. Nada. Like our GTR skinsuits, keeping it simple, keeping it pure.

In the hall, there was a different buzz from normal. I really like CTT events, there’s more of a convivial feel. Less glitz, less formal, but more integral. Graeme Obree nailed it in between speeches from Willie Cosh, Mark Atkinson and Caroline MacIntyre. Graeme talked how amateur sport doesn't happen without volunteers who are equally as passionate as the racers. And for the racers all you have to do is pin a number on and have a go. Emma did and even she was the only female not to pick up a prize (the first five got vouchers along with the lantern rouge), she was buzzing with the satisfaction of becoming a proper bike racer. I was in her good books…but for how long?

But as we waited in my van in Tyndrum (after fish and chips and then spending my white envelope on coffee and cakes), Graeme spotting and figuring out ways to get back into Emma’s bad books, it slowly began to dawn on me that we had contributed to something special.

And then as I loaded Graeme’s 20 tonne bike into Emma’s van in a deluge as he wished me all the best for the season, I realised she had picked up the biggest prize of them all…to drive the double World Champion and hour record holder home!

No it wasn’t a dream, a one-off. It was the start of something special. It’s already organically started to grow arms and legs. People are still buzzing two days on.

Thanks to you Stevie Blom!

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Groundhog May

cyclePosted by Jon Entwistle Mon, May 08, 2017 12:50:21

I love racing a week into May. I don’t know why but something special always happens from a cycling and personal perspective.

And the weekend past was no different. Yesterday, just like a year ago, I stood on the podium in a national time trial with a silver medal. Last year I was working hard to catch my top mate and GTR teammate Chris Smart. Yesterday it was the new kid on the block, the irrepressible and incredibly talented, John Archibald. Last year it was 8 seconds, yesterday, 43. And for a minute or so I think I had the, CR - Course Record!

Have we gone backwards? Absolutely not! I was telling someone a couple of months ago that last year someone had unofficially labelled me as the fastest guy on the road in Scotland because on a Tuesday night in mid-August I entered the elusive 19’ club for 10 miles and then the following Sunday smashed the Scottish record for 100 miles. Composite all rounder. And so this year, I’m already fitter, stronger, faster and more powerful.

Impossible, surely?

No it’s not. I’ve proved it. I’ve done my homework and I’ve stuck to my task. No deviations. I trained for 3 years with a 10 year plan (I actually have a 25 year plan, but that’s for another day). I wanted to make the most having quit smoking and I was fed up being a tubby, grey family man with good genetics and a massive aerobic tank who believed he could do better even if no-one else did. So I worked hard, trained harder, rested smarter and slowly the snowball began to, well, snowball. But in 2017 I'm not the fastest, so far.

Yesterday’s defending champion, Chris Smart, is national winner (Scottish and British), umpteen times over. I won’t go into details because he won’t thank me for it. But he has a cupboard full of trophies, medals, jerseys and like me he’s a bit uncomfortable talking about them or showing them off. But I’ve seen it and it’s impressive. Like me, he works really hard and he has a plan which he sticks to and he too is fitter, faster, stronger than before.

So we haven’t gone backwards. Nope. We’ve simply been eclipsed whilst travelling at what feels the speed of light. And quite frankly, I think it’s wonderful. One of the advantages of having a tiny ego, is that I can enjoy my racing, do my best and live in hope, not expectation. Race because we love racing. Not for positions, podiums, white envelopes. Someone has to come last, someone has to come first. It’s that simple. I wasn’t beaten. I was 96th slowest, or second fastest. And on the day, I gave it my best shot.

As so did my teammates, ex-Marines, Chris and Lewis. We literally left it on the road and it still wasn’t good enough to take the team prize, but we’re a team regardless and that matters more to me than anything else. Mates, band of Brothers. We look out for each and we support each other. We win together, we lose together, we swear at each other and we do fist bumps, high fives and the odd man hug too.

Last week after I won the CTT Scottish 10 mile Championships on the Westferry course outside Glasgow, I’d found my own elephant in the room. How would John have fared in the race? The truth is he would have won by 30 seconds. I’ve been using software to model my clients and rivals for a couple of years now and he’s got the power and a CdA to die for. It’s an aerodynamicists dream and now justifies 4 years of studying turbulence to gain that PhD from Edinburgh Uni back in 99. So after the CTT champs, Chris and I spent the afternoon, figuring out how he can go faster (we’ve started with a new helmet, more changes are coming). I did this last year when we were just rivals as I felt I owed him for planting the seed of the 19’ club in my head and I badly wanted him to join me. And so he did, 4 days later. And then a couple of days after that, a certain John Archibald posted 19:59 on the Cambusbarron Stirling course (he has simply obliterated that back in March with an incredible 19:25). The wunderkind has arrived, rejoice!

2017 thus far is John’s year. But it’s also Jon’s (without an “h”) year too. My eldest daughter who I don’t see much of these days messaged me to ask how I got on. You can read the transcript in the photo above (excuse the grammar Natalie). I’ve made somebody proud and hopefully inspired both young and old to pin a number and have a go. That’s what it’s all about. I always say even when you win there’s always someone faster than you. And if we can’t give John something to think about (believe me we are trying!) then I personally hope he quickly moves up another level too, or we will never see his true potential and I for one, would be truly gutted.

So silver once again after a week of May. One for the collection, but I got more satisfaction out of learning how to team time trial when Lewis, Chris and I took to road after the medal presentations to try something I’ve never done before and always wanted to do.

And for a brief moment, despite my usual cluelessness, we moved like a well-oiled machine at high speed, inches from each other’s wheels at high speed having listened intently to the guy who I have the upmost respect for, who’s been there, done it all and will come back and do it all again, as he moved effortlessly through to the front, I had a moment of complete and utter euphoria and shouted to Chris almost in tears of joy…

“This is what it’s ….ing about!”

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Warts And All

cyclePosted by Jon Entwistle Thu, May 04, 2017 10:45:22

I really wanted to write this post in the middle of last week, when I was at my lowest ebb, but as per usual my instincts overrode any negative self-indulgence and forced me to get through the weekend as I had a funny feeling I would have some positive self-indulgence to write home about instead.

And, once again, sorry twice, so it proved.

But let’s rewind a couple of weekends.

My racing season started with a 200 km off-road gravel event/race. It’s not a race, apart from the top 20 fastest get a prize. And it’s timed. But then you are set off in waves like in a Sportive. Me confused (easily done). Whatever it is, I decided to enter it for a number of reasons. One; I feel I needed a long day in the saddle. Two; it’s a proper challenge, both mentally and physically. And three; I had coerced a number of my coached clients to enter it – and as I you know, I like to practice what I preach.

And so the Dirty Reiver was a grand day out. Great weather, great to catch up with my Team JMC buddies and great event. What wasn’t so great were my guts. The Jedburgh chippie from the night before reminded me to take it easy, which was the plan, but when Keith Forsyth goes out of the traps like he’s been shot out of a gun, it’s very hard not to be tempted to get the race face on.

But it isn’t a race I told myself, so settle down and stick to the plan (you silly sausage Entwistle).

I got to the first feed station pleased there were more “facilities” than a table full of carbohydrate. That said, I stayed a little longer than planned as I decided with a National TT the next day, fasted riding for today was off the cards. I was coaxed back on to the bike, when a familiar accent in Team JMC kit shouted “Come on Jon or you’ll just get fat!”. And so for 20km I rode with fellow JMC teammate Jason Miles, chewing the fat I was trying to burn (now that the chippie supper was out of the way and I was beginning to feel better) until his back tyre went flat (again) and for the next 130km I rode basically on my own.

And it was mentally tough. Long drags, longer views, but my mind wasn’t really in the groove and I found myself stuck in one gear, albeit a very efficient aerobic one. So I devised a new strategy at the half way point, to eat two Haribo every 5km. And from that point the ride started to accelerate and I was really enjoying it. But the course was sketchy, because it had quite a bit of yes, you guessed it, gravel. I decided to overinflate my tyres prior to the event as I’d suffered a recent spate of punctures of late and fixing them in situ makes me a bit grumpy. But the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh and I found descending around corners at speed and staying on the bike quite nerve-wracking and amusing at the same time.

Which was merited as in the last section when unfortunately I found a female rider I’d been yo-yoing with all day, Amanda Nauman on the deck. Arm covered in blood, gravel rash and a non-functioning Di2 rear shifter meant she had two gears to work with for the remaining klicks. I was more concerned about head injuries, so I rode with her without making it look I was chaperoning Amanda and after an hour she seemed fine if pedalling gingerly, so I subtly got out of sight as the afterburners were finally starting to light and I found a range of aerobic gears to click through - only eight hours into the ride. Ha ha!

After a little over nine hours of riding. Job done. Now time to recover, hydrate, feed and get ready for the real race – Scottish National Olympic distance TT (aka Tour of the Meldons). So, once my co-traveller and Reiver rider Rob had got his bearings together and could remember his name (he’s an Ironman, he recovers quickly), we bombed up to Peebles to refuel in diesel, curry and Belgian beer and I started to focus on my first proper race of the year.

I wasn’t planning on doing two big efforts back to back. It was a consequence of poor planning. But I’m always curious as how my body responds to any stress it is put under and I’ve noticed after big endurance efforts like the Puffer, I’m often in great condition the day after. Omegawave once did some detailed heart rate analysis on exactly this and confirmed as much. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to test out the legs in a hilly time trial that lasts under an hour and guarantees a world of physical as well as mental pain. Double bonus!

Once Sunday morning arrived I decided to exorcise a demon I had in my head overnight. Could I manage the cruel sting in the tail of a 13% sharp hill climb up to the Barony Castle finish line with my new 60 tooth single chainring? It would also be a good test of the legs to see if they were willing to play ball.

No problem. Doddle. Next, race preparation.

Slowly riders started to appear in the parking area outside the village hall in Eddlestone. GTR teammates Chris and Lewis along with the ProVision gents and good natured banter started to flow as tyres were pumped and the riders battled with getting into their skinsuits. Although I’m sure I heard someone say to me in jest, “Hope you get a puncture” as I got ready to join the diminishing starting queue over the bridge.

Being seeded, I was one of the last to start and the traffic was starting to build exponentially. I always look forward to the line up at the start line as I enjoy the chat with the time keepers, Commissaire and officials as it stops me from getting too excited. This time the topic was about my namesake bass playing legend and someone pointed out that my number 113 might be lucky. Being seeded meant I had two minutes once John Archibald had disappeared up the road, but it soon goes quickly and as the countdown started from 10 seconds, it was time to flip the switch into race assassin mode.


This is more like it, yes legs, go go go! I was just about getting into position before the big huck of the first challenge – the Middle Burn climb, when I got slightly distracted by someone passing in a car yelling abuse, but that wasn’t the reason why I hit one of the many potholes hard, there were so many it was like the Millenium Falcon negotiating the asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back. One hole was so big I was convinced lava was about to pour of it!

Bang. Oof. Ouch. I cursed myself for not seeing it, too concerned on aero position rather than focussing on the terrible road surface. No excuses, I should know better, I’m a mountain biker in disguise for Pete’s sake. I was just relieved to get away without another puncture.

As the Middle Burn climb approached I clicked down the gears and cranked up the power to attack the first hill into an unforgiving headwind. This is my territory. But I ran out of gears quicker and I felt I was decelerating despite the legs being on fire. How? Erhm, what’s happening? What the…

I looked down at my wheel and saw the problem. Puncture!

Game over.

Damn it. First time ever I’m not going to be on the podium in a Scottish national TT. I guess it had to happen sometime? I decided to turn my attention to the remaining riders. Kyle Gordon was up next and seemed baffled as to what was going on. “Just smash it mate” I urged him. Next up was the winner for the past two years and teammate Chris. As soon as he saw me, he knew. My heart sank. Any whiff of a GTR team prize was gone and we both knew it.

Once Chris had disappeared up the aptly named Middle Burn which is a highway to certain hell, I spotted a photographer on the crest of the hill. I figured it was Martin Williamson from VeloVeritas and as I’d never met him before I decided to go and have a chat. But before I could open my runaway mouth, he had already offered to give me a lift back to HQ before heading up to the finish to snap the faster riders. What a Godsend and thank you very much Martin (former winner of this race) for the lift. Our chat in the car kept my mood upbeat. These things happen, of course they do.

I wandered up to the castle to see the last riders come home and meet up with my cousin’s family who seemed somewhat baffled to see me walking with my bike. “That’s racing” I replied, law of averages and it was my turn for a DNF! I was quite philosophical about the race and it was warm and sunny so I decided just to chat with various people. John Archibald who smashed Chris’s course record and won by three minutes on my teammate seemed a bit perplexed on his return from the finish and wondering why I was standing in cheap knackered Crocs and super expensive aerodynamic skinsuit. It must have been some sight!

But it is what it is and I reminded Rob Friel (who finished on the podium with a superb bronze) that I got further than he did last year as the cheeky banter started to flow again in the car park as bikes and wheels were getting dismantled and loaded into cars and on bike racks. There’s always next year. And there’s next weekend…just need to stop puncturing!

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Fun In The Sun?

cyclePosted by Jon Entwistle Mon, April 17, 2017 11:42:48

Some folk say I'm lucky. Two holidays in the Iberian sunshine sandwiched between an unseasonably warm and sunny week in deepest, darkest Aberdeenshire. All of it just riding my bike.

In my world, there's no such thing as luck and if there is you make it yourself. And if there is such a thing, then the converse is true - and I've had more than my share of bad luck, for which I have no desires to bore you to death with any negativity. Nope, it's all positive these days. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

I digress, again.

Fun in the sun?

The first trip was an impromptu pub conversation (in the newly refurbished Learney Arms) that actually went north for once, once the beer started to flow. And before we knew it, the Torphins Typhoons flew south and landed in Mallorca!

Four days of riding our bikes. For me no heroics. I was simply shattered. More mentally than physically. The last 6 months had all been about change and survival - and as per usual I survived with flying colours, but everyone has a limit and I was beginning to reach mine. After being referred to a neurologist over a decade ago to diagnose an episode of serious and bizarre myalgia, I now know the signals and signs, but more importantly how to manage it. It was time for time out!

So I just rode my bike, three days at Point Six in the company of the evergreen and a proper multi Scottish road race and TT champion - Willie Gibb. We met on the first climb on the first day and instantly he became an honorary Typhoon. We just rode here, there, everywhere and he knew the best roads, cafes and places to drink beer in the afternoon sun. He also gave some great advice for my third season and racing career which is only still in its infancy.

I returned from Mallorca mentally recharged and actually buzzing. I tested the legs on a popular local climb and found myself in rude form. Good. Ahead of schedule.

So next Portugal's Algarve. A family holiday. Fourteen celebrating my Dad's 70th birthday. Bike hired from Tom and Catarina at Swift Momentum Sports. An Orbea road bike, aluminium, but no worse than the Pinarello carbon bike I'd hired in Mallorca. I grew quite fond of it over the days. But the riding was tough as this time I was physically tired. My annual spring cold triggered by early season pollen had arrived on time and I spent five days nursing myself through it without compromising the fitness and form. It's something I've mastered over the years as my coached clients will testify and this time I got to practice what I preach on myself. Validation. Authenticity.

I started to feel better as the days wore on but my mental state started to challenge me again. Day after day fasted riding, 5 hours, no breakfast, no food, no water, beating sun, takes it toll. But I had planned this. Without the fuel of motivation provided by negativity and realising I no longer have anything to prove, I needed to challenge myself again, to ensure the wee battleship is still battle hardened. I found a solution to get me through it. Another feather in the cap. A technique I can pass on to my clients. I always eat my own dog food (though sometimes it's Wasabi, but that's a blog post for another day).

What was it fun in the sun? Of course it was. For me life is about challenging yourself and dealing with the ups and downs rather than flatlining at zero and doing nothing. If you don't taste the sour you won't savour the sweet. I admit I need to get better at the latter, but I now have the right people in my world that encourage me to do just that. True friends.

Onwards and upwards. Keep moving. I'll rest when I'm dead!

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