Last BTC 10 Mile TT : A Tale of Two Fixies

The bikes used for the different categories

My goals for the last BTC time trial were pretty simple. I wanted to set new records for the Single speed Aero and Non-Aero Men on back to back rides. Although I have not returned to full power after my illness I am a few pounds lighter than last year.   I was feeling quite confident after my recent hard block of TT racing on fixed and felt I could do it,

Event 1: Single speed Aero Men

I had to get up at 4:45am for this event, which is no fun at all,  but once I started warming up I felt OK. The temperatures were cool but pleasant and the wind was very light. These were not ideal conditions on this course for a fixed gear bike as you really want a headwind on the mainly down hill outbound leg and a tailwind to blow you up the hills on the way back. I had only converted the  felt TK3  to Aero on Thursday and had one  brief test ride to try it out but it felt good. My previous fastest time on the TK3 was set with the same setup and pretty normal wheels but this time I was intending to use my HED’s.  Unfortunately my HED disk did not turn up until the night before so the race was going to be my first test ride. I opted for a skinsuit and my Kask Bambino helmet for speed.

The race itself went to plan and the bike felt really fast on the outbound leg. I struggled a bit on the return leg on the hills but I could feel I was on for a good time. I ended up knocking off 42 seconds of my p.r, but wished I could have found five seconds to break into the 23’s.

Event 2: Single speed Non- Aero Men

I have been doing a lot of work on my speed in the “Merckx” category so I was hopeful that I could bag the second record of the day. I knew I had my work cut to beat the record as when I did the 24m50s there was a good tailwind on the return leg.  Some of the hills on this course (particularly the first mile) end up being speed limited on the fixed gear as I simply cant pedal any faster so it is good to have a wind to push into.  The same hill on the way back is slow enough that a good tailwind will make a significant difference to your average speed. Todays conditions were pretty much neutral wind.

After the first event I had to swap bikes, change clothing to regular Shorts and Jersey and change helmets. All this left me with less than 5 minutes to do a very short warmup on the Wabi so the adrenaline was flowing a bit on the start line.  Compared to the aero setup the Wabi felt much slower over the first couple of miles (see speed trace below) but it felt great on the hills. You can see the Wabi was quicker over the last 2 miles in the speed trace below even though my legs felt more fatigued. I ended up with 25m05s which was a disappointing  15 seconds slower than the record.

Purple = Felt TK3, Blue = Wabi SE

Looking at the Comparison of the two races,  the clear speed advantage the aero bike had on the flats and down hills is very obvious. Considering both bikes were speed limited by 48 x 15 gearing the difference over the first three miles is quite remarkable. The time difference between the two bikes of 1m01s is probably a fair reflection of the aero advantages.  I think on a flat course the difference would be bigger.

Old but interesting paper comparing Merckx style  to TT bike.

Final Records:

Single speed Aero Men

  1. 24:04 Mark King Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team 6/14/2014
  2. 24:46 Mark King Team Fremont/ FFBC p.b. Chipotle 3/16/2013
  3. 24:56 Mark King Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team 2/15/2014

Single speed Non-Aero Men

  1. 24:50 Mark King Team Fremont/ FFBC p.b. Chipotle 4/25/2013
  2. 25:05 Mark King Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team 6/14/2014
  3. 25:25 Mark King Kovarus/Wells Fargo Racing Team 5/24/2014


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PCSD 40K Time Trial : Wabi Lightning SE (48 x 15 Fixed).

I got up at 5am to go to work so I could finish earlier to drive to Dixon for the Davis Wheelworks TT.  I felt incredibly  tired all day at work and the commute to Dixon was horrendous but after a 20 minute power nap when I got there I felt fine  After my coach’s comments that I was overdoing the warmups in the Californian summer heat I did less of of a warm up than usual but felt better for it. A 20 minute warmup including the first 5 minutes at “village policeman pace”  and three race pace 1 minute efforts seems to work well for me.

The wind was completely different to the Dunlap TT with a Pretty strong headwind out rather than a crosswind. I would hazard to guess that the wind was from the West (Dunlap it was from the North).  The  temperature was much nicer too with the mercury hovering in the mid eighties.

My tactics was to push really hard into the wind out to the turn and then recover a bit on the spinning tailwind return.  I touched over 30MPH with the tailwind into the finish which equated to 120RPM plus.  I don’t think I am particularly efficient at this pedaling speed but the Wabi was absolutely zinging on the Vittoria tires and latex tubes.

I think 48×15 was about right for me tonight.  I did feel overgeared into the wind and undergeared with it on my back but I don’t think i could have pushed anything bigger into that wind without cooking my legs.

Hammering Into the Wind


  • Leg 1: 10k [16m43s]
  • Leg 2: 10k to 20k [14m26s]
  • First 20k [31m09s]
  • Leg 3 : 20k to 30k [17m18s]
  • Leg 4: 30k to 40k [14m09s]
  • Last 20k: [31m27s]
  • Overall : [1h02m36s*] * Official times still have not been Posted

The split times clearly show the impact of the wind. Legs 1 and  3 into the headwind were really hard but there was a good payback on the final leg which resulted in a time that gave a very close 20K split (18 seconds slower than the first). An 18 seconds difference between the first and second split shows a big improvement for me as on all my other Putah 40k’s I have has a much worse differential.  My best time on 48 x 15 fixed on my Felt TK3 with aero bars, skinsuit and aero helmet was 59m52s so I am 2m42s slower Merckx style.

Comparison of “Aero” (7/5/12) vs “Non-Aero” (6/11/14) 48×15 fixed.

Average Speed = 23.8MPH * Final speed to be confirmed

This means I was 1.2MPH down on my “Project 72″ goal.  The Wabi felt really good and I don’t think there is anything I could do to make things faster.  The bike was unchanged from the Dunlap TT on Sunday. Perhaps upping the gearing to 50 x 15 might help but there is a big risk if the wind was a strong as it was tonight. I am trying different road helmets to see if any are a bit faster which might net some speed. The trouble is I have no idea if the Kask or the Specialized S works is faster as there is no perceptable difference on the bike. Back in 72  there were no helmets so the goal here is to make me as fast with a helmet as I would be without one. 1.2MPH is quite a goal for improvement :)

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Dunlap 30K TT : Merckx Category (48 x 15 fixed) : 1st Place

This was a brutally hot race for me,  registering at an average temp of 106 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was also very windy.  My weapon of choice was my Steel Fixed gear Wabi with a few tweaks since I last raced it.  I mentioned the new Vittoria Tires in a previous blog post and they feel wonderful on this bike.  The bike seems to have much more zip and when warming up on the rollers the rolling resistance change is very noticeable.  I also put a longer stem on (now 120mm) and upped the diameter of the bars and stem to 31.8 and swapped the brake levers for some nice Crane Creek items.  The result is a bike that feels much more responsive for out of the saddle sprints and the change also dropped the weight down to 17.5 pounds. I also find the new bars to be much more comfortable both in the drops and on the hoods.

My final tweak for Dunlap was to borrow a tighter fitting jersey from my wife as my medium race cut Voler team jersey can be a bit flappy at the front when on the drops. It also helped that this jersey was extremely well vented with the back section virtually mesh fabric.  I love the fit of Castelli clothing and it is a shame that we cant get our team kit from them.

2014 Dunlap 30K TT

Unfortunately all these tweaks were offset by pretty hard conditions for fixed.  The majority of the course was crosswind which suits fixed fine but there were two sections that had a really strong head/tail  wind.  Big differentials in wind resistance are the enemy of the fixed rider as you are usually too low geared to take advantage of the tail wind and you have to grind back into the headwind.  The 2.5 mile section after the turn on Stephenson Bridge road was really hard today and I had to dig really deep just to keep the gear turning.  I was doing everything in my power to get as low as possible to cheat the wind but still dropped down to 18 MPH in places.

The net impact of fighting the mighty wind was that I was pretty cooked for the last 6.7 miles to the finish. I think the return leg had a slightly less favorable wind and was clearly slower for me than the outbound leg. I really suffered those last miles with my mouth dry as a bone and my tongue trying its best to stick to the roof of my mouth.  When I  finished I was smashed and felt uncomfortably hot.  It took me quite a while and a lot of cool drinks before I felt human again.

I ended up with a time of 47m49s which was good enough to win the Merckx Category but there were only 3 people signed up for it.  Second Place was ex womens Master World TT champ  Molly Van Houweling but she had already ridden once to win the womens Cat1/2/Pro category so she must have been tired. It is interesting to note the difference between Molly’s aero and non-aero times (44m06s vs 49m31s).   It is hard to draw firm conclusions as she was likely to be tired for the second attempt and it was also much hotter but 5m25s is pretty significant.

My “Project 72″ goal for this event was to beat 24 MPH (46m30s) but unfortunately I fell well short of achieving this with a speed of only 23.4 MPH (47m49s). It was all I had on the day and I don’t think there was anything I could have done to the bike to have gone any faster. I even had a great motivator in the shape of Molly chasing me off 30s.

Darn that was a hard TT :)

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First Race : Project 72

Monday :

I got my new Wabi bike on Monday night and it will form the basis for “Project 72″ (Beating 25MPH for 40K in the style of 1972). The bike was very well packed for shipping with the only issue being the back wheel was slightly buckled upon first inspection.  It didn’t very long to assemble the bike and then I spent a couple of hours dialing in the same position as my Specialized road bike. The bike with front brake, two brake levers, flip flop cog and pedals weighed in at 18 pounds exactly. Unfortunately it was too dark to go for a proper test ride.


I finally finished setting up the Wabi Lightning SE and took it for its first ride on Tuesday night after work.  My first impressions were that it rode really nice and I immediately felt comfortable on it. I tried a few time trial efforts and in comparison to my felt TK3 track bike it felt a bit sluggish (especially out of the saddle efforts) but it also felt more stable. Once up to speed there was little to choose between the two bikes although I felt the Kenda Kosmic Lite tires felt a little dead.

After about 30 minutes of riding I increasingly felt unhappy with the shape of the bars and these are something I am going to have to change out.  I am also going to up the bar and stem size to 31.8 in order to give the front end a bit more stiffness for out of the saddle efforts. The unbranded saddle turned out to be pretty comfortable.

Wednesday: Putah Creek #7  10 Mile TT:

Putah Creek TT “Merckx” style

I made a last minute decision to ride the 10 mile TT (16k) near Winters on what turned out to be a pretty hot night (99 Degrees when we got there). I got in a pretty good warmup and my position felt quite comfortable with the exception of a bit of finger numbness. I felt slow compared to the other people warming up on their fancy TT bikes but I was glad I had no aero helmet as it was roasting hot.

My goal was to achieve 25.1MPH and a time of less than 24 minutes as this would reflect the same speed I would need to do to achieve my 40K goal. Despite pushing really hard I only achieved a speed of approx 24MPH.  The official time has not been posted at the time of writing but my Garmin reckoned 24m59s.

This means I have a lot of work to do if I am to fulfill “Project 72″. I need to find another 1 MPH and keep that going for an extra 24 kilometers. From the photograph above I can immediately spot  one thing that is holding me back. My jersey is flapping with the wind and billowing at the front. The back and shoulders look really good but up front things are in a sorry state. I am not exactly sure what I can do to fix this. I have a much tighter Castelli road vest I could wear but I really want to wear my team kit.

I also feel I can get some extra speed by swapping out the Kenda’s for some higher quality race rubber and latex tubes so after the race that is exactly what I did. I also went out of my way to get retro looking tire walls.  My tires of choice are:

“Vittoria Open Corsa SC  : Pro peloton’s favorite in 2012, Corsa SC enhances the all-conquering Corsa CX with the features specifically asked for by professional cycling teams, and a new tread. It’s now our leading 320 TPI Cotton tires clincher, hand-made of course, and available with traditional para sidewall for classic looks.  A true connoisseur’s choice.”


Vittoria Open Corsa SC rubber

The bike looks even more retro now

“Project 72″

I will try the new rubber out on Sunday in the Dunlap memorial 30K TT. I am hoping to beat 24MPH for the 30K (46m30s).

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You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

I rode my friends rollers a few times in my teens but gave up on them in favor of the new craze of  “Turbo” trainers. Turbo trainers clamped your forks and you couldn’t fall off no matter how hard you tried. I never rode the rollers again until I was 21 where I entered the East Riding division roller racing championships.

Roller racing my way to a bronze medal.

The good thing about roller racing was that someone held you up so all you had to do was pedal, really hard. I was a bit of a sprinter demon at the time (I know I don’t exactly look like one) and managed to get a bronze medal for my efforts.

Fast forward 27 years and I was suddenly presented with a dilemma on how I was going to warm up for time trials on my fixed gear bike where the roads were not suitable.  In a mad impulse I purchased a pair of rollers and thought how hard could they be.  Unfortunately for me I have been plagued by sinus problems for the last 9 months and this seems to have had some negative impact on my balance.

My first attempt at riding the rollers was absolutely comical and terrifying at the same time. The worst thing you can do on rollers is stiffen up and I ended up frozen rigid with fear. It was my first time riding my new fixed gear project bike too and it took me a while to have the courage to let go of the wall for fear of falling off and scratching it.   In total I did about 10 minutes and that was enough for one night.

Next day I got up early before work and had another go. This dog was going to learn this new trick come hell or high water.  This time I got going pretty quickly and managed a full 20 minutes without any serious wobbles.  I still don’t feel at ease on this strange contraption but hopefully on tomorrows session I will see the same level of progress and by the Dunlap TT on Sunday I will be an expert :)


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“Project 72″ Teaser Picture

Finished up and had my first ride on “Project 72″ this evening just before it got dark


Steel is Real.


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“Project 72″

Back when I was racing in the early Eighties it was still considered quite a big deal to “beat the hour” for 25 miles.   I never managed to do it until the 90’s when aerobars, disk wheels, skin-suits and silly helmets  became common place.  With the recent trend of including a “Merckx – Non Aero” category to local time trials it got me thinking if I could beat the hour today on a bike using technology from the 70-80’s. I set my target era to 1972 – 1982 technology as this encompassed the glory days of the conventional Diamond Framed bike.  This covered a decade from Merckx’s hour record to the beginning of the “funny bike era” in UK time trialing (low profile bikes with sloping top tubes and small front wheels).

The UK national 25 mile championships in 1972 was won by Alf Engers in a time of 53m40s.  Beating the hour would have been good enough for about 45th place out of a field of 120 riders. Engers time is remarkable for the technology of the day. The UK national 25 mile championships in 1982 was won by Dave LLoyd in a time of 55m34s.  A sub hour ride would not even get you in the front half of the field that year.

“Project 72” was born and I have set myself a target to beat 25MPH for a 40K using a round steel tubed frame, fixed gear, No aero bars, No aero wheels, no skin-suit, no aero-helmet (pretty much UCI athletes hour spec before that category was dissolved).  Although fixed gear was never that competitive in 1972 the fixed gear seemed somehow appropriate to the Merckx category as it reflected his hour record bike.  For this reason “Project 72” has to be fixed and it has to be orange.

Merckx Hour Record Attempt

To beat 25MPH (40.23KMH) on my 48×15 fixed gear bike I will need to average >100RPM and do a 40K time of better than 59m39s. I have done 59m52s (24.91MPH and 99.64 RPM) on my 48×15 fixed bike with aero bars, skinsuit and aero helmet so beating 25MPH is a really tall order. I reckon the aero bars, helmet and Skinsuit have to be worth at least a minute and more likely two.   Putah Creek is also not a fast 40K course as it has four 90 degree and three 18o degree turns.  This means that on the bits between the turns you have to be pushing quite a bit faster than 25MPH to get a decent average.  My pedaling sweet spot is around 96RPM so spinning at around 110RPM will be hard work.  I have done 57m36s on a 48×14 (96.6 RPM) with the same bike setup but I am unsure I could push that gear non aero.

PCSD 40K 5th July 2012

My first attempt should be June 5th at the Putah Creek 40K TT providing I can get “Project 72” finished in time.  This event should give me a base mark on what I need to do. Until that event “Project 72″ will be kept under wraps.

Another Type of 72:

All this self doubt about be able to beat the hour on a 48×15 is actually quite ludicrous when you see people in the UK beating the hour on 72″ gearing. See this website here. That is around 118 RPM . I think to get 72″ I would need a 46x 17  gear or maybe a 52×19. I couldn’t imagine pedaling that gear at 25MPH.



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Catbike Musashi For Sale

2011 Catbike Musashi “Mid racer” Recumbent:


Purchased from Zak Kaplan Cycles in December 2011. It is the post-recall frame with the new larger gusset.


Upgraded to Bacchetta Bars and Bacchetta X eye front brake

Upgraded Brake

I found the Bacchetta bars to be much more comfortable

Upgraded Bars (note only 1 mirror included in the sale)

Only ridden 786.4 miles.  Bike is immaculate apart from some small scratches that were incurred on some gravel on my second ride (frame was OK). See Blog Posting

A great endurance bike (I rode the Death Valley Double On it – note I have put the headrest back on for sale)

Not ridden since May 2012 where i raced it in a time trial (note I have put the headrest back on for sale)

Last time I rode the Moose

I am selling as I don’t ride it any more and I need to clear some garage space for a new project. $1295 or best offer.  Local pickup (Bay Area California) only.

Mail me at “zensurweb”  at  “yahoo”  dot “com”


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BTC 10 Mile TT – Fixed gear Non-Aero

The wonderful Beat The Clock TT series is closing after the next event so I am attempting to cement my place in the records books in the Fixed gear Categories before this chapter draws to a close.  I decided to ride the penultimate event in the Fixed/Single Speed non aero category (no skinsuit, deep dish wheels, aero bars or aero helmets)

Beat The Clock Records

My Felt TK3 in it’s Merckx setup with 48×15 Fixed

The weather was absolutely perfect on the Canada Road Course and the turnout was really good but I was the only one daft enough to be riding fixed. Despite still recovering from a bout of Salmonella Poisoning I felt really good on the way out and managed to hit the turn 2 seconds up on my personal best.  Unfortunately I went off the boil on the return leg and my lack of riding over the last 2 weeks left me with very hollow feeling legs over the climbs on the last 3 miles.  How badly I blew up is well illustrated on the graph below.

Personal Best vs Today’s Effort.


Time: 25m25s (course record 24m50 4/25/2013) 35 seconds slower than my best.

I was still really happy with my time and thoroughly enjoyed the event. My stomach felt a bit iffy when I finished but I am glad I entered. It is such a shame that the next event will be the last. I am going to have another attempt at the record on the last event.

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2014 Fred Whitton Challenge

The Fred Whitton Challenge  is a 112 mile Sportive with 11,700ft plus of climbing over some of the steepest climbs in the Lake District in Cumbria.  It is considered one of the hardest sportives in the UK due to the terrain, road surfaces and bad weather.  It is put on by Paul Loftus in memory of ex Lake Road clubs secretary Fred Whitton who tragically died of cancer at only 50 (the year after I emigrated to California).

Fred was a great guy and a real cycling enthusiast.  When my friend and I started cycling seriously as junior/schoolboys it was Fred who took us under his wing and nurtured what would become a life long cycling passion for the both of us.  My friend Andy still lives in the Lake District and has ridden just about everyone since they started. He is a very strong rider and has always been one of the fastest riders home including a win one year against very strong opposition.

Doing the “Fred” was on my bucket list and 2014 was to be my year to have a go.  Leading up to the event I was in pretty good climbing form but a little under the weather after some vaccinations for an Indonesia trip didn’t seem to agree with me. I still had high hopes of doing a good time at the Fred and perhaps helping my mate to win again.

I had decided to borrow a bike from Andy for the event rather than fight with bringing a bike over on the airlines.  This was a bit of a gamble as my mate is over 4” taller than me but it looked as if we could get the Ribble to fit me ok.  The bars were a bit wider than I am used to and I was a bit stretched out when using the drops but the bike actually felt pretty good.

My Trusty Steed for the Fred

I landed on a Thursday and the event was on the Sunday so this gave me some time to get some miles in to blow away the jetlag and fine tune my position.  Unfortunately the weather was absolutely terrible and I ended up getting very wet which did absolutely nothing for my morale and reminded me why I moved to California in the first place. The Ribble handled really well and climbed like a goat although I was plagued by a nasty sounding freehub and some gear selection problems (nothing too serious to worry about).  I had completely forgotten how narrow and bumpy the Lake District roads are and made a mental note that I was really going to have to take some care on the descents in the Fred.

The evening before the Fred my constant soakings and no doubt some bug I picked up on the plane created a monster sinus infection and I was very congested and unable to get much sleep.  By morning the sinus pain had eased a lot but I had a mild head cold and felt pretty rough.  I had my fingers crossed that the weather would be kind and I could still finish the event.

We arrived at Grasmere for the start around 5:30AM and the rain was absolutely hammering it down and the wind was blowing hard.  I have no doubt at all that living in California has made me soft.  I really couldn’t cope with the wind, rain and cold at all. I opted for thermal rain booties, thermal waterproof gloves , thermal leggings, thermal Jacket and a rain jacket.  I never took any of these off all day.  There were people riding in shorts and short sleeves and they didn’t seem to mind the cold at all.

The route:

From the first climb of the day I knew I was on really bad form and decided that survival was the order of the day.  I planned to ride at “Double Century” pace and to try to save something for the two monster climbs of Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass at the end.   The wind was pretty strong and the roads were waterlogged so drafting people was a miserable experience and I ended up riding on my own most of the time.

The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful when the rain stopped even if only for a short while and the Marshalls and people watching round the route were inspiring. It was really special to be slogging up some 20%+ climb in the pouring rain with crowds of people cheering you on (they are hardy folks in the Lakes).  The low point for me in the first section was the A66 where the wind and rain were just relentless and I though so hard about packing.

After Keswick I got in a small group and the rain let off for a while so my spirits lifted even though I knew we were heading to the first real test of the day , Honister Pass.  Honister Pass is a brute of a climb and I was really glad I had opted for a 34×29 bottom gear as this allowed me to stay seated for longer periods on the soaking wet and slippery roads.  On this climb I saw my first people having to get off and walk and all the riders seemed to go strangely silent.

Climbing Honister Pass

The descent of Honister is a notoriously dangerous bit of road and the marshalls were telling everyone to take it easy.  Some rider crashed on here and had to be airlifted to hospital. Even though it was raining I didn’t find it too bad as there was a monster headwind to slow you down.  The Ribble bike also handled really well and inspired confidence so I made good progress to the first rest stop.  I just stopped long enough to fill my bottle and grab some Soreen Fruity Malt Loaf to eat on the hoof which was a good job as we were soon climbing again.

The trouble with having a cold is that it is really difficult to eat and breathe at the same time and I had to give up on eating as I climbed the quite challenging Newlands Pass.  This climb was timed but I was in no state to be racing up anything. Despite not really pushing myself I began to feel worse as the miles progressed although my legs actually felt OK.

The descent after Newlands took the award for the worst weather of the day and I was battered by strong winds and heavy rain. My waterproof gloves and booties couldn’t handle it and I had soggy feet and hands.   I was soaked to the skin and grumbling to myself about the rain and cold when a rider passed me in shorts and short sleeves and I suddenly felt very lucky.

I really don’t remember much about the next section to the second feed at 86 miles other than Cold fell was horrible , damp and foggy and it all seemed to be headwind. I do remember the fantastic spectators and volunteers who cheered anyone and everyone on. I forced myself to take a break at rest station number two as my morale was low and I knew the worst climbs were still to come.  A nice hot cup of tea raised my spirits and I set off in search of Hardknott.

Climbing Hardknott Pass without stopping is another item on my bucket list and fortunately it is on there no longer.  It is an absolute beast of a climb and the 30% section is one of cycling’s true greats.  Despite not feeling my best I had a huge sense of achievement when I finally crested the top.  The scenery was worth the effort despite the very gnarly descent meaning that you had little time to appreciate it.

Climbing Hardkott Pass

Ahead of me lay the last climb of the day, Wrynose Pass, which my friend told me would be a complete walk in the park after Hardknott.  Although it was no walk in the park it certainly seemed a bit tame compared to Hardknott. Up Wrynose my rear cassette began to make some strange noises and on the descent it was wailing like an air raid siren.  I kept my fingers crossed that it would get me home and get me home it did.

I finished tired and shell shocked but a happy man.  My legs were not too bad but I felt very drained and fatigued. The Fred Whitton really was a challenge for me and I could not even consider attempting it again.  My time was a very disappointing 7H50m30s  which was nearly 2 hours slower than my mate who was the fastest rider home.

Strava Data


On the Monday after the Fred I developed a heavy chest cold and then on Tuesday I contracted Salmonella poisoning which left me sick for 7 days.  I am glad to be back in nice warm California but the lake District is still one of the finest places on earth. The Fred Whitton should be on every cyclists bucket list.

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