Ian Field Talks Training In Andorra, Racing In Canada & Preparing For The New Season…
“After the usual time off the bike at the end of the Cross season it was time to start that uphill(literally in the end) task of getting fit again and ready for a summer build towards the next Cross season which always comes round a lot faster than anyone expects. We are already in May!!
I decided to retry an altitude camp style training camp, heading to Andorra for 3 weeks of living at 1400m and training higher most days. In the past I have used an altitude camp just before the start of the season but this year I think I will use it differently, using the high altitude to gain all the aerobic fitness possible early on in the build phase then work on more anaerobic based training nearing the season at sea level. I am a firm believer than you have to keep trying new things and changing what you are/have been doing to get changes in fitness.
After a 12hr drive to Andorra I took 5 or so days to adapt to the altitude just riding steady but consistently over the first few days gradually building up the time on the bike. The first thing you notice at altitude is the lack of sustainable power due to the reduced amount of oxygen available to the body. Initially the drop off in performance is around 10% at 1500m and drops further the higher you go. I was climbing up to and beyond 2000m some days so the sustainable power on climbs was almost nothing compared to what I am used to. I was slightly worried that I would end up riding round for 3 weeks at 250w and not be able to do much more.
The human body is an amazing thing, after only 4-5 days my body was adapting and making changes to allow me to push on more on climbs and I began to feel normal at higher wattages. The next couple of weeks were some of the most consistent and quality training blocks I have ever done. Staying with friends made the trip so easy, being looked after and enjoying time around the bike riding with going into town for food or dog walking in the mountains just put me in a really good frame of mind. The training in and around Andorra is just phenomenal, everywhere you look there is a view to die for. Snow capped mountains as far as you can see, joining the skiers up at 2000m, getting a toot from cars and cheers from them as you literally rode along side skiers on the piste.
My biggest day was 6.5hrs with 3400m of elevation gain, this was all about getting a good base in. The three weeks flew past and suddenly it was time to drive home. Over 700miles is a long way especially on your own but eventually I made it back to Calais. A quick turn around with one day at home and it was off to Canada to start my racing.
I had heard about the infamous Paris to Ancaster race in Canada quite a few years ago and so when I got the invite from the race organisers I jumped at the chance to do the event. All I knew was that it was a sort of road race with off road sectors. I had in my head something like the UK’s very own Rutland Classic. However I was told a cross bike with cross tubs was needed, what was in store?!
The organisers had put on a dirt Crit on the Saturday which was a road based circuit which included a gravel section, a couple of kerb hops and a grassy section all based on a slight hill. Having made it through my heat to the final, both being 30mins long, I was lined up against 20 or so other guys, some I knew, some I didn’t have a clue who they were. The race set off fast and I didn’t feel all that great what with the training camp, this time of year with little top end and maybe the travel just a few days before the event. I settled into the race though and tried my best to get a result, I ended up 2nd. More than pleased with a podium to kick off proceedings!!
The following day was the main event, 65km of racing lay in store! Now describing the race is tricky, imagine a road race but then just turning off said road and riding across a ploughed field or heavily wooded single track sector. It was crazy racing for these sectors against guys who clearly knew what was coming up. I did my best to bluff and hide in the wheels as the wind was blowing a gale and a predominant head wind made it tough to make a difference. However with about 20km to go things began to really kick off with some super tough off road sectors coming back to back. Two team mates ended up getting up the road with about 20secs and I set off in pursuit. I held them for about 10km on my own more or less but could never get any closer. Eventually I had to start thinking about the group behind and getting the best result possible. With 3 guys up the road 4th was the best I could get. With the finish on a 25% gradient gravel road I began to throttle back and try and save a bit for the end. The group of 10 or so riders caught me from behind and I only had a couple of KM’s to get my breath back before the final 2km climb. I gave it all I had on the final steep climb but it was only good enough for 5th overall on the day.
On the whole I was really pleased with the weekend of racing given the stage of training I am at and more importantly I had a great time racing friends in a really enjoyable atmosphere. I am now at home fighting the jet lag and getting back into a solid training block.
Next up for me will be a round of the National MTB series in Richmond, Yorkshire.”