Let's go off-roading: Matt Brammeier writes for RCUK

My latest trip back to the UK went pretty well, no real hiccups. I was in and out in just over a day and managed to get a bike ride in and attend the Liverpool Century Cycling Club’s annual dinner. We managed to raise some good money for the club and I also caught up with some old faces that I haven’t seen since I was smaller and slower than them and probably being pushed by them!

I returned ‘home’ to Girona to some pretty awful weather; it hadn’t rained here this much for a long time so I didn’t think I’d be riding my bike much. Lucky for me I have found a pretty tough cookie of a training partner in Michael Barry. After a quick conversation I soon realised the weather wasn’t going to be an issue and I soon enough forgot it was even raining.

I got in a good first solid block of training, riding for 11hrs in three days. My physio sessions were going well and I was finally starting to feel like a bike rider again. I must say, my first ride over of four hours almost killed me. I don’t know what it is after such a long break from training but that first ‘real’ training ride always seems to knock me about a bit, then I’m back into the groove pretty fast. My heart rate was sky high all day to a point where I had the rest of the guys peering over at my SRM and laughing at me! I think my average HR was 148 for four hours!

As always, I work in three day blocks: three days on, an easy day or a rest day and then I’ll go again. Just as expected, on the day I didn’t have to ride the sun came out, so I headed out for an easy two hours and some coffee and cake. Soon enough, I was raring to go again and rip into another block of good training.

I really want to hit the classics next year in the best form possible, so I’m doing everything I can to start in the best shape possible. After a fair few years of debating and trying different training techniques I’ve decided that just riding my bike for as long as I can works pretty well for me. I like to ride with my SRM just so I can see what I’ve done when I’m finished but I’m not the type of rider who rides along looking at numbers all day.

It’s the first time I’ve trained so much in November so I’m having to be pretty careful and stay in contact with my trainer to make sure I don’t go too crazy and overdo it. 2012 starts here, so what I do now will surely decide how well my year will start. Each day I’ll be riding from four to seven hours pretty steady with some climbs and maybe the odd sprint.

Pretty old school basic stuff that seems to work for me. I’m pretty convinced that the old school way of training is slowly coming back into force, the only difference being is now we know exactly why what we’re doing works and what its doing to our bodies.

I’m pretty lucky to have had such good company to train with out here. As you know, almost half the peloton seems to live in Girona at some time in the year but not so many seem to be kicking about right now. I’ve been riding with two locals, Mike Barry and Dom Rollin, almost every day. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Ian Bibby, Jonny McEvoy and Mark McNally have also been here for just over a week so I haven’t struggled for guys to ride with.

Mike has lived here seven years and seems to know not only every road but every dirt track in Catalunya; some people would frown at riding off road on a road bike but I absolutely love it!

I have to tell you about my favourite ride of the year so far. I’ve been thinking back over this year or even anytime in my life to see if I’ve enjoyed myself on the bike as much as I did today and I’m struggling. There was myself, Eddy, McNally, Bibby and McEvoy, but no Mike! So nobody to direct us!

Luckily enough, I seem to have a half-decent sense of direction and headed us in the right direction towards the coast. We cruised about for almost three hours until we found the most beautiful little beach in North Palomas, not many people about, lovely food and the sun was shining. It was ‘THE’ perfect cafe stop!

After this we were handed over to Eddy’s directional skills. “Why don’t we go up there and then take a left? We can’t go wrong, right?” So we went for it, not a clue where we were going, we just knew we had to get away from the coast over a mountain and back to Girona in a reasonable amount of time. Anyway, I’m sure you can guess what’s next. We headed out of the cafe just as Eddy had said and took the first left turn over the hill. After a few kms it turned to dirt and we decided to plug away and hope for the best.

Two hours later we managed to find asphalt again after navigating our way out of a web of dirt tracks and rocky paths, up and down mountains, through streams and rivers, four flat tyres, one crash and a fair bit of banter and comedy! Wow, it was awesome! For two hours we totally forgot about everything else around us, what training we were supposed to be doing, what we had to do tomorrow, what we did yesterday. We were just five lads having a laugh on our bikes! Days like today I will never forget!

So soon enough we were back in civilisation when I noticed the sun slowly disappearing. We had about one hour of sunlight left and were at least an hour from home. The pace went up a notch and we battered it home just in time before the lights went out!

So block no.2 is over. However hard it will be in such a beautiful place, tomorrow I’mm going to force myself to sit and do nothing for the majority of the day.


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