A few weeks ago we had the first of two inter club roller races between Congleton and Leek cycling clubs. This week it was my club Congleton CC’s home leg. Not having an excuse like last time, which conveniently fell a few days before the National Hill Climb Championship, I raced.
I have rollers but don’t train on them anywhere near as much as I should. There are some benefits from training on rollers. The main one seems to be identifying and addressing imbalances in your pedal stroke. It becomes immediately obvious when on rollers if you are unevenly pedalling. In fact when I’m on the rollers I play about with alternating legs with a few hard pedal strokes. This moves you horizontally on the rollers. Its a good skill to have in case you are getting close to the edge! The counter punch against riding rollers that I see is that whilst better than a turbo you are still not mimicking real world resistance and therefore muscle recruitment patterns. Although it could help improve power when going down hill.
I’ve never become comfortable enough to get into the aerobars whilst on rollers. This is a problem when most training is done for time trial events. Actually one time I did make it into the aero position. Once in the tuck I had a crisis of confidence, the thought dawned that I had no plan for getting back off the bars, out of the aero position, to stop.
Instead of going out for my usual lunch time session I decided to get a little practice on the rollers, brush up my technique. I did a few spin ups which seemed OK. So I felt relatively confident that I would be ok in the evening. It was however obvious to me that I would be completely under geared. So I looked for but couldn’t find my cassette tool to put on a smaller cassette with an 11 tooth. In the end I gave up my search for the illusive tool and accepted that I would be turning up just for the fun of it.
The evening was again split into a few races with heats and finals. I was a little apprehensive and felt very clumsy just mounting my bike whilst it was on the rollers. Something I give no thought to when in the privacy of the garage at home. My apprehension wasn’t eased when one of the organisers spotted that my tyres were wet and commented that I’d slip right off unless they were dried. I quickly did my best to dry them off with the time available. Once amount I was held and it felt quite secure. After a brief warm up things became relatively comfortable.
The first race was simply a 500m sprint. At around 25 seconds an effort like this is ridiculously short for me. On the command to ‘GO’ I started spinning my legs. After the initial acceleration I go into what felt like a cruise, my legs wouldn’t spin any faster and force certainly wasn’t a limiter. I just then focused on maintaining my leg speed trying to be as even as possible to reduce the side to side motion. It was at this point people started getting very excited. I had apparently lost a lot of ground at the start. However in the final 250m of the race I caught up and passed my opposition just before the line. This slow start wouldn’t bode well for me later on when a race called the ‘Devil’ had elimination every 250m. I made it through the heats to the final but I didn’t disappoint the bookmakers and was first out.
There was a moment of controversy in the team relay race. I was paired up with Aleisha who is phenomenally strong on the rollers. We made it through to the final. Whilst preparing for the race I began to pedal to get my bike into the biggest gear. Something wasn’t right. It felt like I was riding up a 25% grade hill. In fact it was more akin to the Muscular Force workout I have been doing. I checked my brakes, but they weren’t rubbing. I still flipped up the quick release as I do in hill climbs to make double sure. I continued to pedal thinking that perhaps my legs were getting tired or I was miss remembering the effort required.
Aleisha took the first 500m leg of the race taking us well into the lead. It was now my turn to hopefully not lose ground. I lost ground, a lot of ground. The effort was so hard. I dug in as best I could. In previous races I was spinning up above 150rpm now I couldn’t get above 120! Bewildered I finished my 500m and looked for possible causes. I spotted the problem. Rollers have an elastic cord that connects the rear rollers to the front roller so that both wheels spin. This cord was off my front roller and binding. I called foul! I felt bad for the others. It was eventually agreed that the final leg of 500 meters would be rerun. I won but due to the circumstances it didn’t feel good to win in that way.
There was one race that I didn’t get the opportunity to do which was the 8x500m. This looked more my thing lasting 3.5-4 minutes. Watching on I was a little bit jealous not to be dug in and suffering like they obviously were. If there is a future roller evening I will put myself forward for this one. I may even suggest we have a 16k
It was a most enjoyable evening again excellently run by Swinnerton Cycles. My club took back the honours on the night levelling up with Leek CC at a win each. It was so much fun I hope there will be a 3rd deciding leg.