Xmas Feature: Rob Sharland


In this latest Xmas feature, Rob Sharland who races road races and time trials, gives his answers to the VeloUK Q & A

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Xmas Feature: Rob Sharland


1. What were your highlights in 2015?
Rob: I would say highlights of the year were mostly in Time Trials. I managed to win and break the course record on the Kingston Wheelers Sporting 14 event (held by Wouter Sybrandy); that was a very early season goal, and in the 2nd week of Feb you never quite know how you’ll go in the cold air.

I beat all the challenges I set myself, but some other rides that went quite well were the 6th in the National 25. I felt like I did the best with the condition I found myself in having been ill. I didn’t manage to peak as I’d hoped due to this and produced power similar to what I’d expect on nearly any given day, but still pleased to be up towards the sharp end.

Another challenge that I set myself was to win again on the road. I actually became fairly accustomed to winning crits and road races after my first couple of seasons (I won my first race as a 4th cat, and then my 2nd as a 3rd cat, probably set me up to fail!) but I’d gone a season the year before without a win.

I’d had plenty of podiums but never managed to cap it off. I did however manage to finally win a round of the Crystal Palace crit series, notorious for its corners and ridiculous sprinting every 15 seconds out of a corner. I was pleased with that one. I was pleased with my ride at the National 10 for 10th, best power by some margin, but a few slight errors in the ride cost me a few places. A handful seconds faster would have got me up to around 6th/7th again.

2. What is your favourite event and why?
Rob: My favourite event is probably the Surrey League Handicap Championships. It’s on a pleasant course and 4th cat right through to elite riders set off in groups over 60 miles. That means usually working hard from the gun but it’s a good atmosphere and not usually dominated by big teams which means it’s easier to make something happen as a lone rider (or rider from a smaller club).

Honourable mention should go to the Richmond Park time trials also, given I ride through the park on the way to work every day, I maybe have a home advantage, but going in there early morning with almost no cars and racing hard is great fun, the prize money is always welcomed, too. Think I’ve won £500 out of those events over the last 2-3 years!

3. Which discipline, RR or TT motivates you the most and is easier to prepare for when working?
Rob: It’s a question I ask myself, and indeed others I ride with ask me fairly often. On the face of it, I’m a better TT rider than road, but I think that speaks a bit about the standards as much as anything.

I still believe that if many of the top UK road men invested some time and effort in their positions and such then it would be lead to tougher competition. The honest answer is that when I do something I’m happy with on the road, that day I prefer road, then the same thing happens when I hit a target or a course record in TT.

Most of my riding is done on my road bike via commuting. I’m quite lucky in that I seem to be able to switch to a half decent TT position and go quick without too much adaption, but next year that may change as I go for longer distances.

4. How do you mix work with racing at the level you do – what do you do to keep that balance between training and resting as well as find time to race!
Rob: This is difficult. I’m not a great sleeper and I’ve always found it really tough to get up early and train, so generally a lot of my riding is my 15 miles into London each way for work and then adding on chain gangs and intervals in Richmond Park on the way home etc as I see fit.

Luckily I have an understanding partner who doesn’t mind me commandeering a room for turbo training sessions here and there, and I generally have time to ride both days at the weekend. My normal week is generally 3-4 days commuting by bike, one on the train, one in the boozer with mates (though that has become more like 3 at the minute!) and a couple of rides at the weekend of varying length – usually averaging about 10-12 hours a week in total I suppose.

When racing starts that replaces one of the weekend rides, and I do midweek crits (Crystal Palace on Tuesday for example) and the odd club ten to keep my hand in on the TT bike.

5. What is the key element to going fast for you and are you still learning ways of going quicker still?
Rob: Without wanting to become a disciple of my coaches or hashtag everything I do with a catchy slogan, I do owe a lot of my speed (on the TT bike namely) to Xavier at RST. I’ve always been alright on a bike since I started riding properly with a club, and mainly the last four years have involved slowly chipping away at my weight. I was 100kg before I started riding to work at the BBC all those years ago (about 80kg give or take a couple of KG with seasons now), and improving my threshold etc.

However, though I went ok on a TT bike, when I made that switch and posted some decent times, I wasn’t going as quick as I thought I could, and crucially when I started with Xav he was excited to try and reduce drag with me to enable me to go quicker.

I’ve done an aero session with him in the velodrome (and may well do one more) which immediately saw me go quite a bit quicker which in TT’s is a key element. I can do nearly 400W for a ten mile TT when going well, which in the hands of other more aero riders would result in them winning championships.

We both feel there are more gains to be made there and indeed more watts to be eeked out as I’m still giving a bit away on my TT bike versus road, probably owing to not riding it as much as I should – with the road stuff, I hope I can have the season I planned to have this year, next year. Lots of bad luck and lack of actual road races for various reasons meant I felt like I didn’t really show myself that well (and went down to 2nd cat as a result!)

6. How will you spend December on the bike.
Rob: I’ve always had big plans for December on the bike over the years, and quite often work entertainment and what not has got in the way, and I have tried to do it all, go out on the beer one night, train hard the next day and repeat.

It didn’t work last year and I was ill for a fair bit of time. So for me, December this year is about finding a balance. Its helped by the fact I’ve taken a lot of time off so can get out and about a lot more than previous on the bike.

My riding is dictated by what Xav thinks I should be doing, in layman’s terms it certainly is a mix of steady longer rides (might ride to Brighton this Fri and back for example) and short harder intervals (tonight is 4×3 min max efforts in the TT bars on the turbo – joy).

Having been a bit of a gym head (though I never did get round to the cutting stage, I preferred the bulk!!) prior to riding. I still carry a bit more muscle than I could do with, that coupled with the lack of free time means I haven’t been to a gym for the last 4 years. I’m very much open to hearing about ways to get fitter but I’ve come to realize that riding your bike is the best way to get better at riding your bike.

There aren’t many shortcuts – I would probably struggle to squat half of what I used to and I produce more power than ever before, that is enough to convince me to ditch the gym – though like a mug I do pay £50 a month for use of a gym just to shower each day. That’s as close as I get to an Olympic Bar these days.

7. Xmas – if you could have any cycling related xmas present – what would it be!
Rob: Tough question! I generally don’t want for much in the bike department as I have spent far too much cash over the years on this and that – at a push though, I would probably say the best thing I could get this year would be a bike stand and a decent chain cleaner!

I’m forever messing about in the hall with wet wipes trying to get things clean, one of those things I’ve never got round to, perhaps I’ll get them in my stocking this year….

P.s I keep a blog on my riding and such – www.firstseasonracing.com

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