TT’s, Crits & punctures!

8 Jul

Rather than do individual entries for every single little event I think its likely better to roll a few into one!

Redhill RR

Since I did my last update I’ve done a few events, Redhill Road race was the first of those. Sadly the day ended early for me with a puncture, but the race was perhaps notable for the wrong reasons. Drawing pins dumped on the road by a drive near the end of the race! This didn’t effect me, as I got a flat much earlier in the race. A bit of a shame as I felt pretty good, and the chance of a result would have been on the cards given the parcours. After tweeting a photo of a riders tyre full of pins attention from the ‘media’ was drawn. I ended up doing a short bit on BBC Radio Surrey talking about potential risk and public attitude towards racing.


The day following Redhill I trekked down the M3 to Winchester Park and Ride car park, VC Venta have been running events in this large carpark, its a cool place. Plenty of parking, easy access, and 40 second laps mean its very spectator friendly! There were about 30 of us in the E12 race, its basically a big oval, with one very fast corner and one slightly harder to negotiate. It quite quickly split up, and shortly later 3 riders were away, not long after, Rob McCarthy from Pedal Heaven and a VC Raphael rider got away too, I was keen to get into this move, and when I put an effort in the bunch let me go, so I spent the next 7 or so laps soloing over to this break, it was pretty painful! I’d been getting a sore back a lot in races, notably Palace, and it was repeating itself here, I’ll explain what was happening a bit later on that front…

Anyway, I got over and we started working well together and quickly pulled out a big gap, we were shortly joined by 2 others, we kept working together and eventually we lapped the field, but not long after the 3 off the front lapped us! They were flying. Anyway, I was quite confident I could perhaps bag a result from this group, and as we came into the last lap that was to all go out the window. Before the last tricky corner we were all playing cat and house before the VCR rider jumped pre corner and took it at great speed, suddenly I was in a shit position, last into the corner, I was never able to get the momentum back to get anywhere in the sprint. I came last out of the break haha. Not ideal. 8th.


The next thing was back to Palace on the Tuesday, a decent field in place, and this week we were promised the full distance as there was no threat of rain. We got going and initially I felt pretty much fine, and then the back started to really ache, and I do mean really ache. I wasn’t helping my cause by poor cornering, we were going the opposite way round this week, and it was clear I was not as good cornering to the right as I am the left. Each corner I was letting the wheel go slightly, which meant that I was having to sprint hard each lap to latch back on.

With about 40 mins gone and various attempts by Mike Debney and James Walsby among others to get clear, it was still together, by now I was debating pulling out as it was very painful. But I thought I’d ridden this hard, so I might as well finish the job. With about 15 mins left to go, James and Mike got clear, they were the strongest in the race IMO, and they got a good gap, sadly James rolled a tub on the penultimate lap, and Mike had to put a foot down, and as such their winning move was brought back. Into the last lap I felt ok, but I didn’t have the ability to get into the top 5 into the last corner, I was probably 10th into the last corner, I kicked hard out of it and managed to pass a couple of guys but the lead 4 were a good 10 bikes ahead, I got 7th. Shortly after I looked at the bike and tried to figure out what was happening with my back, I put the saddle up around 1cm, as I had a suspicion it was too low, and it was taking a lot of the pressure when I was pushing on. I got home and measured up against my retul fit, and as if by magic my adjustment had brought it bang in line with what it should have been, so I am hoping that I will have no further issues of that nature. I am back at palace tonight rain permitting, so I will know soon!

Belper 25

The rest of that week was meant to be a gradual taper off to get some freshness for my attempt at the 25 mile club record, and to get a place on the ‘all time fastest list’ which requires a sub 50 minute time. The course was a bit of a hike, up near Derby, but I was of the opinion that if I could go up there, do the business and get on the list, then I wouldn’t have to do a long drive to a course for a while.

I got there very early, and warmed up as per usual, the field was very good, inc Matt Bottrill, I had no illusions that I was going to win here, but I was confident I would do a good time all being well… I’d switched to super light tyres,bought new overshoes, and had made sure I had every chance to do it.

I got in a good warm up and trundled down to the start, it was time! I was fairly confident I knew the course, it wasn’t totally straight forward, but I thought it would be fine. I started well, and was holding the sort of power I was expecting, and going pretty quickly off it! I went through the first rbt onto the main road, and it was quick, there was much time above 30mph, over the first rbt, and I was feeling good. I then saw I was approaching the half way point and the next rbt was in sight, I went round it as normal setting off for the return leg… I then did a quick double take and looked back, I couldn’t see a McDonalds, or Little Chef, and I couldn’t se any other riders, AND the Garmin said I was under half way, and given the end was a bit closer than the finish the crushing reality of the situation was apparent (it was crushing after 3 hours in the car!). I’d turned one rbt too early, the actual turn was a further half a mile up the road. I was furious, there was nothing I could do, I debated crossing the main road and jumping over the central reservation, but it would have been too dangerous. As it was, I sat up, and cursed at my own stupidity as I headed back to the car. As if to make matters worse, the very odd and not intuitive signage used to indicate (I also missed the marshall who was at the junction) the junction for Etwall meant I missed the junction on the way back too! I ended up going about 5 miles too far before realising. I got back to the car eventually with 30 miles on the clock .Despite not trying for 20 miles my avg speed was still around 27 mph. It was a fast course.

I left in a massive mood, spoke to nobody. I got back and looked at the splits, it was probably not the best thing to do straight away, but I thought I may as well see how I was looking. Steve Irwin did 49.46, a bit short of his best of 49.20 (which is the club record), and by the time I went wrong I was 23 seconds up on him, having had Xav (coach) look through the numbers, it looks like if I had kept at the power I was doing, which would have been fine as I was going to push harder on the way back then I’d have done a short 49 possible 48. Very irritating to go that far, be on pace, and then mess it all up! Oh well. There is another event there soon, I will be back. Bottrill won with 46.56.

Richmond Park TT

Last update of this one then, it was the second Richmond Park TT of the year, this year there were two events, and as you might have read in the last update I managed to win the first one by around 20 seconds.

The field was different for this one, it was the day after the 25 mile TT I mucked up, but my legs felt ok, Steve from my club was riding, also a few others I recognised. I thought it would be perhaps a slightly easier field than the first event. But you can never tell. And when I got up to head up there it just started to rain. Tight turns, slick tyres, and racing often end badly! Upon getting to Kingston gate, I was just in time to see a rider fall off at the rbt turn due to slippery conditions, not ideal! I gave a few friendly shouts to people I knew riding the road category and I was ready to go.

Annoyingly Steve was starting 30 secs behind me, which I never like, I always prefer to see people ahead. Anyway, I got off to a good start and rode much in the same fashion as I did first time round, the wind was not as good up the hill as it was before, but it still felt quick. I took it VERY slowly round the turns. I got to the half way point and I couldn’t see Steve as I came back up the other side, I estimated at this point he was maybe 30-40 secs behind me, so I was feeling confident! I soon caught Gabriel from Dynamo who was going quickly down the hill, however at each rbt he was catching me again as I was taking them so slowly.

Anyway, I gave it a good effort up the finish hill and did almost the exact same time I did last time (23.19). It was enough to win over Gabriel by just under 40 seconds in the end.

Season probably half way at least now, need to get my act together unless I want to be sent back to 2nd cat!

All rides on Strava!

Crystal Palace

25 Jun

In the spirit of getting back into midweek racing, I thought I’d give Palace another go. I’d done it twice last year, managed to get round just about the first time and would have been top ten but our last lap was called early (long story), and then the second time my bike was mucking about. Either way, there is no doubt that both times showed me that this is a hard circuit.

A lap of the circuit is about 2 mins, maybe a bit less when going fast, it has one sharp left turn, nearly a u-turn, one off camber right turn, one very hard to get right sweeping left turn which is blind, and covered by bushes around the apex which leads straight into ‘the climb’ which is about 25 seconds slightly uphill, but your legs know about it when you get there. There are normally a good 100 people on the track but split between e12 / 3/4 and womens. The e12 set off first, and it doesn’t take long usually before the race splinters as you’re sprinting as hard as you can 3 times a lap!
There were a few faces I knew riding in our race, Jake from Pedalheaven who is very successful at palace, a few of the guys form the newly formed Cadence Team who’s shop is the HQ for signing on etc. Then the usual smattering of Dynamo/Dulwich/Bigfoot/VCL etc. We got started and it was hard, but it wasn’t quite as mental as it was the last time I did it. It didn’t take long for the bunch to line out and thin a bit. I was finding it fairly easy to keep the pace, which was good, though it did take a while for me to dial in to the corners and putting trust in my tyres…
As the race progressed, numerous people tried to get away, but nothing was sticking, my legs were feeling ok, but I never thought they felt good enough to attack really, I was having to work a bit harder to keep pace in the corners so attacking was not on my agenda last night, maybe in future weeks, though.
With the clouds looking ominous it looked like the race might be cut short, and spits of rain began to fall, the nature of the course means that if its wet prior to the race then they call it off, but if it rains while racing is happening they just chop the laps. And that is what happened, we went from 15 to go, to 10 to go, to 5 to go, and suddenly all was to play for…
Round the sweeping bend by the finish and  I heard a lot of clashing and commotion, Jake had come off quite hard, still to this point we don’t know why, but his frame had snapped, perhaps this was the cause of the crash? Either way, not good and hopefully he can recover for the nationals tomorrow…
The bell rang, and my positioning at this point was not ideal, I tried to claw my way forward, and by the last time up the hill I was making progress up the outside, until a mystery wheel stopped riding and caused me to slow a touch, at this point 4 or so riders who had positioned themselves well got a small gap, I sprinted up the outside and managed to just pip Stu Spies for 5th but the gap to the front 4 was a it too big to close down, I was a bit annoyed at myself as I could have won that sprint had I thought about it a bit more, but it was a good first race back. I enjoyed it and will be back!

Richmond Park TT

25 Jun

Yesterday was the first of this years two events in Richmond Park, the event remains unchanged since its inception 4 or so years ago, and covers 10.4 miles around the park between 6-7am (to minimize upset to the locals/cars etc). The event is quite unique in terms of the setting and the terrain to an extent.

I’ll let you look at the strava link below to get an idea of the circuit, but essentially its an almost traffic free TT over undulating roads in the best park in London (that is opinion of course) – what isn’t to like! Over the last couple of years I have taken part on a road bike, and last year on a TT bike, and won in both categories. The event also differs drastically to a regular time trial in that entry is first come first served, rather than being merit based as many CTT events are. The good thing about this is that it opens the sport up to many people who would not normally do a TT as the CTT system can be a bit daunting, and many people do not want to ride the sorts of roads many CTT events are held on. And obviously the park is within 30 mins ride for probably about 5 million people, which is far better than sitting in the traffic on the m25 on your way to Hull/Wales/Derby etc.

The only drawback I would say to this style of entry is that sometimes the field is not as strong as the event deserves, though this is less of an issue as most people enter quick, or can get a late space as many people drop out, and previous years the event has seen many very good local/national level riders take part, Hutch and Wouter Sybrandy have both ridden the event in the past.

This years field was perhaps lacking in known time trialing talent from the area, but certainly had plenty of strong riders in attendance, Stu Spies of Dynamo and James Stratton also of Dynamo were clearly the men to beat this time round. Given I won last year I was actually the last rider off this year, which meant I got a relative lye in vs earlier years with my 7am off time. Though the flipside was that by this time there are plenty of other riders and cars already in the park.

I perhaps stupidly woke up about an hour before my start time, drank some energy drink to wake up, and just used the 10 minute ride to the start line as a warm up, which is very out of keeping with my recent warm ups on the turbo for 30-40 mins before a race.

Anyway, I watched as the two Dynamo’s went off up the road before it was my turn, I tried to keep it steady at first, but straight away the lack of any proper warm up was apparent and my legs felt totally dead! Not ideal, they slowly started coming round by about Richmond Gate. I knew it was a quick day in there as by the time I got down to Kingston Gate for the dead turn I was averaging over 26 mph.

On the way back I made sure not to stack it on the mini rdbt like last year, and then drilled it down the hill, the headwind was apparent, I hit nearly 45 mph down there last year, but barely nudged 40 this time. I could see James ahead, and estimated I had taken around 20 seconds out of him by the time we were at Roehampton Gate, I never got sight of Stu though. On the last climb I gave it a bit of extra effort and wasn’t a million miles away from catching James, and was probably around 5 seconds back. I stopped the clock on 23.18 which was much quicker than the year before.

The seemingly endless wait by the board for results showed soon enough that my time was enough to win by around 18 seconds, with Stu 2nd, and James a further 6 seconds back. 3 years in a row that I’ve won a category there! Spooky, but I’ve done the exact same watts every time I’ve ridden it with my TT bike!

Photo courtesy of Aaron Olszweski

Kingston Gate

Handicap Race

20 Jun

Not a vast field last night, as you would expect with the mighty England (lol) playing. Around 30-35 odd I reckon?

I think in all there were likely round 8 or so wheelers (and a few doing the time trial Hounslow host!), there were I think around 5 groups in total, some as small as 3, and some of the larger ones nearer 8-10 people. I was in the scratch group with Alex Tinsely of Twickehmam, Peter Hitt of VCM (who won Dunsfold), another VCM I didn’t know and James Local of Dynamo. It didn’t take long before we caught a few groups in front of us. I tried to make sure there were at least a few of us still rolling through to keep the momentum up, there were many reluctant to do so, or were not able to do so. As the laps counted down we gradually caught everyone, I had a few digs to get away, but nobody was willing to give a proper turn when they came over with me. Giving it was meant to be for training I probably did more work than I needed to, including dragging the bunch up the drag at 500w, which I certainly did NOT need to do, but did anyway. It came to 2 laps to go and we were now down to a minute to the front two, our bunch had thinned a bit as a few got distanced, but by and large I think nearly everyone who signed on was now part of this big group.

With one lap to go they still had 40 seconds, which was good going, but a testament to the mucking about in our bunch as nobody was willing to do all that much, too many people wanting a bunch sprint probably, I lifted the pace a couple of times to try and inject some impetus, and Damien attacked on the drag which Colin went with, and we had a gap for a while but again not enough commitment and the course was too quick at this point to allow us much of a gap. At this point I thought we probably would not likely catch the front 2, or if we did, it would be on the line.

As we approached the final corner, which is a horrid thing, sharp left over a broken road surface I was keen to maintain a position near the front, while I didn’t have many doubts I was quicker than the rest in a sprint, all too many times I’d messed things up down to positioning, so I was on the white line, which meant if anyone wanted to come round, they had to go on the other side of the road, and with a car coming, I knew this was not going to happen.

With the line in sight we could see the 2 men just about to cross over, good ride from them, we were fighting for 3rd. VCM had numbers at the front, and Local of Dynamo was also up there. Peter Hitt led it out, early, I got onto the wheel of Pembroke (I think?) and waited til I thought we were close enough, the VCM from the scratch group jumped and got clear, I followed and went through a gap just in front of Local to go clear and take the bunch sprint, I understand VCM had 4 or 5 in the top 10! I think Perhaps Cameron got up for a top 10?

Good fun, woke my legs up a bit after the time trialing I’ve been doing the last few weeks. Good showing from KW, unsure of results at this stage but certainly most of KW were in the sharp end.

May/June Update!

16 Jun

I’ve been a bit slack this last couple of weeks with updates but wanted to quickly mention a couple of events.

I did the Hillingdon GP last week, a National A rated crit that took in around 45 miles of Hillingdon. Which FYI is a LOT of laps!

There were a fair few decent riders present from Pedalheaven notably, it was always going to be a fast race, the weather was decent and hot from the Tour series, Alex Patton and Gruff Lewis were clearly going to be going very well! And they were!

I was unsure of my form for these sorts of races having had a bit of time away from slightly longer intense stuff. I decided to make a day of it and rode up to the circuit, a quick warm up and we were away. The pace was quick, but Hillingdon being pretty flat it never felt too difficult staying near the front of the bunch. I felt pretty good and was keen to try and be active and see if I could make it into one of the moves. A few laps passed and Jamie Pine put in a dig, I decided to go with and we got a gap, I was kind of hoping a couple of people would come over, but it wasn’t to be and we gradually got reeled back in. The race carried on being up and down and eventually a small group got clear that seemed to stay away for some time but Tony Gibbs CSE team rode it down with the help of a few others eventually.

By now I was feeling a bit knackered and again Paton I think attacked and took a couple with him, this ended up being the winning move. I was going to try and sprint for the rest of the places up for grabs but on the run in there was some very erratic stuff, and for 7th place I couldn’t be doing with risking a fall. Good race, nice to see I’ve not lost too much from the time off.

I’ve also been doing a lot of time trials recently, not least because there has been a fair gap in the road racing calendar for local stuff, and I am not so keen to drive the length of the UK for races. So in the last 4 or 5 weeks I’ve done 4 time trials. Two on the H10/8 course in Bentley, the first of which attracted a fairly decent field, Wouter Sybrandy making a comeback and along with local Richard Prebble and also Russell Hampton. I was seeded as almost last man, but I knew that Russ was likely the man to beat. I felt I did a good ride, half decent power, and clocked 20.06 which was a course PB by about 12 seconds, I’d beaten everyone but Hampton who smashed it and did a 19.22 – classy rider. Maybe his mate Dowsett has been giving him a few tips eh?

The second was another crack on this course, similar field with the addition of Stephen Walkling who I knew was a quick rider and had been doing some quick times. This time I felt like it was a tougher day, but I went a bit quicker and did a 20.02, so close to the 19 I would love to do on that course. But will have to wait for another day! But it was enough to get the win from Walkling who did a 20.27.

Next up was this weekend just gone, my legs felt a bit trashed as I had done a bit more crappy commuting than I should have, but Saturdays event was the Kingston Phoenix 10 on our club 10 course, it didn’t look like it was going to be a fast day so hopes of beating my course PB were put to bed when I saw it was a north wind, but with Steve Kane and Steve Irwin riding I was keen to see how I would do. I felt like I rode a pretty poor race, power was down and I never felt like my legs woke up, I managed to clock 20.47 which was 13 seconds ahead of Steve Kane who beat me last year, and a further 20 or so seconds to Steve Irwin who I think did 21.29, so I took the win, and we took the team prize.

Sunday (yesterday) was probably an admin error, an 8.10 start 45 miles away the morning after an 11pm england game…As it happened I made it through to the end of the fast half and was knackered and fell asleep. Sadly I got just about the worst nights sleep ever and woke up with that horrid strained eye feel of when you know you’ve barely rested. I almost stayed in bed, but decided I’d made plans and was going to stick to them. It was the Team Axiom (who host the Tour of the Milburys I won in 2013) 25 on the quick P885/25 Course on the Petersfield stretch of the A3. Again a fairly decent field of 120 riders, Irwin, Walkling, Seb Ader were noteable riders and all seeded, I don’t think Whitewick started.

I was off fairly early and the start of the course is a 40mph downhill towards Petersfield, I was held up by a lorry on the very first roundabout, I thought it was not going to be my day. From there I rode hard and my legs felt OK considering how trashed they felt after the 10 the previous day. I had downed a 500ml can of Relentless just before starting my warm up on the turbo, and its fair to say it id give me a shot in the arm. I was riding at not a million miles from my 10 power, I kept a lid on it for the first half and got to the final turn at a bit under 29 average so knew a 49 was not on the cards today, a bit too early/cold probably. But in the second half I was able to lift the power and rode a few watts shy of my 10 power for the last 25-30 mins to stop the clock in 51.11 which was a pb by 30 seconds. I knew it was a tough day, that was the best power I’ve done for a 25, so thought I stood a chance of being right up there, and all of the main guys had also ridden a 10 the previous days so I wasn’t really at any disadvantage.

I got back to the club house and was milling about when I saw Seb, I asked him what he had done and he said a mid 50, I knew I was beat, so rather than hang around for 90 mins I drove over to my mums. It was only a bit later when I got a tweet from Steve Irwin to say that I had won, and in fact Walkling was 2nd about 15 seconds back, then Irwin, then Ader, turns out Seb had got his times mixed up on his Garmin or similar. I was well pleased with that result. Steve had told me that 40 mins later start time on that course provided a large advantage with warmth and traffic, so I was pleased to hold on to it despite the main guys going off later.

So pleased with how its been going, 3 wins of the last 4 time trials with some good riders in attendance. All rides on Strava as usual! I have the first of the two Richmond Park TT’s next weekend, and then a couple of races at Crystal Palace in attempt to get back into the racing side of things as I’ve missed a fair chunk this season.

Return to riding

26 May

Just over a month since I had to cut my RAS adventure a day short due to Achilles tendinitis and I seem to be back into the swing of things. Achilles tendinitis is an injury so common that googling for information is quite a simple task, every running forum, cycling forum, health forum and whatever else across the internet is laden with threads about how people developed the problem, and indeed how they cured it, if they managed to cure it at all.

Firstly, you’ll know if you have this issue, the symptoms are quite simple in many cases, pain around the Achilles tendon resulting in swelling, a crunchy feeling when you move your foot up and down (known as crepitus), and general pain when trying to walk, or move about. My issue was likely caused by a cocktail of issues which made themselves known and culminated in the severe pain I felt when I tried to ride the last day of the RAS. The issues I spotted when I looked into it were, to be honest, pretty obvious, my saddle was too high, and slightly too far back, so at the bottom of the stroke I was over extending, and instead of pushing down, I was pushing forward and down due to the setback of my saddle. Things I did to rectify included moving my cleats back so the pressure point was fully under the ball of my foot, lowering my saddle slightly, and moving it back forward a touch, I should never have deviated from my Retul fit!!

These were all things that I could have done earlier and likely avoided the issue altogether! Anyway, I went to see a physio and was recommended to follow a well known protocol by a Sweedish Prof, google Alfredson and you’ll find all the info, the idea was to load the tendon and promote collagen regeneration and increase bloodflow for healing as the tendon gets almost no blood hence slow recovery times. The main issue was that I couldn’t resist trying to cycle, and every time I cycled it ended up hurting, it was very infuriating and likely counter productive at times. I think all in all I had around 10 days off the bike, which for me is a long time. It was very annoying given how fit I was feeling going into the RAS. However, slowly, with the heel drops working, I eased the riding back in, and 1 hour a night was about right, then I tried a road race. Idiotic. Within 1 hour of racing it was painful and I had to pull out, which was a real shame as it was a race I usually enjoy (Thames Velo). I gave it another couple of days and then went back out and had no pain, almost like the road race had done something good despite the pain, wierd, that was two weeks ago, since then I’ve been building it back up and increasing the load and volume, and so far so good. Very pleasing given I was told it would be a minimum of 6 weeks, possibly 12 weeks. Its been about 4-5 weeks. And I don’t think I’ve lost TOO much fitness, though I have probably put a few lbs on ;-)

With the failed Thanes Velo race behind me, I decided to pull out of the divs last week, and concentrate on getting it better before ruining it again in a 4 hour race. However, I had entered a time trial on the 24th May that I thought I would be OK to ride. The bigger issue was that I’d not ridden my time trial bike since my win at the Sporting 14 way back in Feb! I had one ride on it in the week and it felt alright despite me nearly stacking it in the wet.

The event promised to be a good day out (Farnham RC on H10/8 course), plenty of good riders were on the startsheet, Wouter Sybrandy, coming back from injury himself, Tejvan Pettinger, who I’d beaten into 2nd at the KW 14, Liam Maybank of Twickenham, Richard Prebble as its basically next to his house, and Russell Hampton formerly of Raleigh GAC. On the day sadly Maybank and Pettinger were DNS, the weather was pretty ropey so I expected many not to bother, but of the 100+ field, most had signed on, including a LOT of women as it was part of the SEWETTS series.

As I warmed up Wouter was saying he had no idea what to expect of himself as he’d not ridden his TT bike for 6 months, I too had no idea how it would be, the last time I rode this course was just before xmas I was shite to be honest, owing mainly to illness I clocked a short 21. Richard said as I made my way to the start that he had done a long 20, so it sounded like conditions were reasonable.

I got off to a decent start and realized the wind was not a hindrance on the out leg, which it so often is on this course, I got to the turn at just under 29mph which looked reasonable, I rode pretty cautiously round the turn as I almost came a cropper in the week on the TT bike due to taking a wet corner too fast… On the way back it felt pretty quick, so I gave it as much as I could, which wasn’t much due to the blunting of my fitness, but I could see the avg slowly creeping up towards 30mph, with the finish in sight I was still in the low 19’s and I thought a 19 was on, I buried myself but it just didn’t quite come quick enough, I passed the line in 20.06. I was pretty pleased, I was 12w up on my December effort but still a good 15w down on where I had been before the RAS.

I got back to the HQ and I was pleased to see I was 2nd behind Hampton who had battered everyone and done a 19.22. Impressive. He will hopefully go on and do a ride at the BC champs to make me feel a bit better about being 45 seconds down, probably my biggest losing margin in a 10 ever :D

Hillingdon GP next weekend, possibly another outing on this 10 course the week after before a few races and the Richmond Park TT’s.

RAS Mumhan 2014

23 Apr

The RAS Mumhan had finally arrived, after much conversation earlier in the year about whether I could or couldn’t make it, whether I would or would not be staying in my current job long enough to get the time off, and generally how things would all work logistically; it was actually all happening and after a few rider substitutions it was game on for Team Surrey League/Casco!

I drove down to Storrington to meet Tim Bishop and the other guys who kindly organized the whole thing and I suppose was our operations manager for the whole trip and was driving the van, he’d got previous with this race and knew the other riders pretty well so it was great that he was our leader! We also had Mark Storie (aka Brown) who was acting as our driver/mechanic for the trip, which turned out to be a huge boon for the team with last minute changes and bike fixing etc. In the end with Wouter Sybrandy being injured and our sub in Alex Paton hurting his wrist at Tour of the Res, we had a fairly different line up to what was first thought. Myself, Simon and Chris McNamara, Richard Cartland, Stuart Bettis, and we picked up Roy Chamberlain of Corley Cycles en route. It was a good bunch of guys and I quickly realized that between Rich, Si, Chris and Roy, they knew just about everything and everyone there was to know about the amateur/semi pro racing scene. While I had ridden a few races once or twice, I think between Chris and Roy they probably have ridden something like the Les Ingman about 30 times and with Roy casually dropping in that he had raced 14 day stage races like the Tour of Cameroon and the Tour of Serbia I was certainly going to enjoy listening to the stories. He did mention he raced an Irish stage race in 1987, I didn’t pipe up that I was likely in the womb when he was on the bike! No time was wasted and quickly we got going to catch the ferry over to the Emerald Isle from Pembroke dock in Wales, we had two cars, Tim’s van and the Sigma Sport team car from last year which was a nice touch, they even left a couple of gels in there from the glory days!

Once on the ferry we saw there were a fair few other riders also travelling over with kit etc, BH Solidor who we didn’t really speak to, and Felt who we did. Many of the guys from our team (Simon had done 5 RAS I think) and indeed Felt had raced the event many times before so it was interesting hearing about how it had worked out previously, what the weather had done, and what the standard was like. I was prepared for shit weather, after all, one of the stages was as far West as you can go, and is the last bit of land before you hit the East Coast of America, that’s a lot of open sea to blow in crap weather. I had been told to pack full winter gear an prepare for the worst. I duly did and bought a lot of kit that I wouldn’t normally bother with, just to be safe!

Upon arriving over in Ireland we had a stop over in a B&B before a longer drive the next day to stay with our host John Magnan, he had put up the Surrey League teams in the past and was an ex cyclist himself. The amount of silverware in his front room left you under no illusion as to the talent he had as a rider, and a marksman it would seem, his house was packed full of taxidermy, ranging from small animals right up to a moose head which dominated the living room! We got settled in and over one of many carb rich meals talked about the first stage and what it would entail.

To set the scene breifly, the RAS Mumhan is a 4 day event, with 4 stages totalling around 500km. It has the benefit of a rolling road closure and extensive escorting and support. The first stage which was around 75 miles and fairly flat/rolling, the middle two stages were more hilly with a few proper climbs, and at 90 miles each were going to test the legs (Healey Pass was the icing on the cake in that sense), and the final stage was a flat one of 70 miles that finished in the main town with a crit like finishing circuit. The race was a big deal in Ireland and as such the field was mostly Irish, this years edition had 214 riders, 34 team cars in the convoy, a winners list with a few famous names (Russ Downing a couple of years back and our host John in 1975!) and generally it was a big race where the best riders of Ireland, and to a lesser extent Scotland/England all came to test themselves over amazing terrain. We also had a few foreign teams in the mix too.

Stage 1

It was popular opinion among the guys that the first stage was going to be pretty fast, and a bit nervy as everyone found their feet. As you’ll see each year in the tour, half the battle is getting through that first few stages as everyone has fresh legs and is nervous and wants to be at the front of the race to follow the attacks. While I’m under no illusion that this was not the Tour De France, similarity could be drawn in this sense, and with 200 riders the peloton was certainly every bit as big as any world tour race, it was going to be a bit different to getting the front of a 40 man field at Hillingdon!!

We lined up for the roll out and the atmosphere (and weather!) was fantastic, it was a real buzz and great to be part of, the first day saw our team car almost dead last in the convoy, so they likely were not going to see much unless one of us got up the road. When the flag was finally dropped it was indeed pretty quick after the first k of neutral riding, 30 mph or so was common place, the first hour or so was not only fast, but also a fair bit more rolling than the profile had given it credit for, I think the first hour required 300w from me and had an average speed approaching 26mph, which considering the whole first half was slowly climbing up to a peak of around 1000ft told a story of how nippy it was. I managed to stick the pace on the flats without too much bother, which was a relief, and even briefly had a go at getting over to a group that looked promising. I had a quick chat with Rich who mentioned that the toughest bit of the stage was incoming, a stepped hill that had a surface not unlike a section of cobbles! This was tough, obviously for our team of whippets it wasn’t an issue but I had to dig quite deep to get over the top with the front group, and indeed even this 4 or so minute hill had caused a fairly huge split, something like 60-70 people were now in the front group with well over 100 riders getting distanced. The standard was generally accepted by our team to be somewhere between your National B’s and Prem calendars, nearer the former than the latter I expect, they were no walk in the park, however, among the 200 were a fair number of regular club riders (like me, but less fit I should think!) so these splits did become common place over the 4 days, but even so, there were a lot of good riders not making this selection.

The last 25 miles were mostly downhill as the race worked its way back to the start town, it was quick, and keeping position was very tough, you quickly learned that these guys had no issue getting up close and personal and there were more than a few clashes of shoulders as we got closer to the final few k. I thought the finish likely suited me quite well, there were a group of 10 up the road however so it wasn’t life and death to be right up there, but I still wanted to give it a go, Roy said to stay on his wheel with 10k or so to go and he would drag me up to a decent position, which he did. However, keeping that position was easier said than done, with the whole road to use, teams would come up the inside/outside like trains to get their riders into the right place. I was hopping wheels and trying to keep near the front, with 2-3km to go it got properly nervy and a few shouts were heard speeds were now well over 30mph touching 40 on the gentle downhills as we dodged teh gargantuan cateyes. As we approached the final 1km to go it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to maintain the best position with people flying up all over the place, I was likely in the first 3rd at least and gave it a bit of juice up the finish hill and finished 28th I think, with Chris and Simon in similar positions with Rich and Roy not far behind. Stuart who had really jumped in at the deep end of racing given he had never raced an e123 road race in the UK had done a good ride and came in not long behind! When all was said and done this moved us up to 10th team I think, so an improvement on placing of the team car was on the cards for the next day.

It was a hard stage but not silly, effort wise it mostly wasn’t a problem, but the positioning etc was a step up from what I am used to! The whole stage was around 2hrs20mins at 275w average, however as with many of these stages the normalized was well north of 300 which told a story to how many efforts were needed at times to close gaps and stick on wheels.

Stage 2

This stage was always going to be tough, it had a few tasty climbs, and the only cat 1 climb of the race which was the Healey Pass, at around 3.5 miles at 5-6% average with ramps up near the top it was going to be a big sort out of the bunch. Obviously I knew that my best option for these climbs would be to get as near to the front as possible and allow myself room to slip back down on the climbs and remain in touch over the top. I was fairly confident I had the power to get up there in reasonable time, but there were some proper climbing whippets in this race (Jack Pullar was riding, ex national HC champ for example) so the pace dictated was likely going to be quick. We got off again to a fast and nervy start a couple of minor crashes in the early miles, but with the first cat 3 climb only 12 miles in, and then a couple of miles till the Healey it at least was going to be thinned out pretty quickly which made the rest of the stage feel a lot more manageable. My legs felt good again, and indeed over the 3rd cat climb I felt fine and was moving my way up to prepare for the Healey, when we got to it I asked John from Felt whether we were on it or not, he confirmed we were, I had a quick peak up the road and could see how the road snaked up and hugged the hillside until it went out of sight. It was going to be an unpleasant 12 or so minutes, that was the last I saw of John that day.

As it was, it took around 13 mins to get over this climb with the front group, it was hard, but I was never really in the proper red for the first half, and the only time I really did have to put in some serious effort was towards the end where the pace went up and it got steeper, the last half effort wise was nearer where I would expect it to feel hard at around 420w. The whole climb was a 385w effort for me which is the sort of thing I could likely do for nearly an hour at the minute if it was steady and I was going well. Simon’s near identical time for the climb needed 330w for him, once again I was cursing my weight! Still, we had only gone up there around 80-90 secs slower than Orica Greenedge rider Simon Yates, so we weren’t hanging about and I was pleased to have had the legs to get to the top in touch with the main guys.

As became the theme over the top was almost just as hard as climbing itself, it was splitting and I could see that a big effort was needed over the top and into the first bit of downhill to get into the front group which must have been around 45-50 riders as there were people all over the place. I was going down the hills well, and cursing the slower riders in front of me who were taking the corners as if they were soaking wet (they were bone dry, weather wonderful, again!), eventually after a few overtakes I was firmly in the front group and it was looking promising with everyone else from the team in the same group. I think Stuart had lost contact on the Healey and he later said he went round with John from Felt. As time went on I was just keen to stick with this group, it was possible to do so, though with a few climbs late on it was a tough stage and I knew I needed to keep a bit in reserve for them. At some point during this stage Roy had got off the front with a few others and taken a lump of time and moved himself up into 11th place overall. Meanwhile, with one climb left to go which was basically a main road a bored looking Jack Pullar attacked hard with one of the Felt boys and it really did inject some pace into things and again huge splits occured over the top and people flying downhill a 50mph to get back on was a common sight! As we came into the last 20k attacks were going left right and center. I tried a couple of times and also tried to bridge over to a promising looking bunch solo but it all came together again, in the end a couple had slipped away, and I rolled in with the main bunch towards the front, again in the top 30 or 40 riders overall, which was pleasing.

After this stage I noticed a slight niggle in my Achilles, so was keen to get rest and see how things progressed on that front!

Stage 3

Today had another 90 miles of tough terrain in store for us to get over. This was billed as a very exposed stage with a couple of really decisive points. We were now right on the coast and even though once again the weather had really helped us out, it was clear that it might still be a bit tricky when we reached the point most people agreed was the likely sorting point – Valentia Island – which was very exposed and had one way on and one way off, an exposed bridge!


We got off to a quick start, and though people were still nervy, it felt a bit safer at this point, we were straight into a climb pretty earlier on and it shelled a lot of people, by this point I knew I was able to ride the hills at the lead group pace, so wasn’t to worried about that side of things, however it became clear that whatever I’d done to my ankle was not getting any better, it was now very painful on every pedal stroke, with 60 or so miles left to ride I was not in a good place mentally or physically!

When we got towards the Island, the winds were stronger, but not silly, god knows what it would be like in crap weather, it was lined out for a bit in the gutter, but nothing too crazy. The climb was indeed a horrid little thing, and I think this person who created this strava segment for it summed it up well haha!, steep at around 12%, but pretty short, the main issue was that it was 5ft wide with grass in the middle. I was going well up there and was having to cross the grass section to overtake pretty frequently, over the top of the climb the pace was set on fire, again, and no sooner had I reached the flat top that I was in the 55/12 again drilling it at 30mph to follow the wheel! This detonated the group as you can imagine and a big split was looking like it was about to happen, I managed to make it over to the front group with a few others and as we flew down back off the island there were groups just coming over the bridge the other way, it had really split the race to bits.

At this point I had no thoughts of contesting anything, just getting to the end, every pedalstroke was pain, after one last climb which myself and Rob Ward of Felt agreed was a horrid surprise after we thought we had done the last one, it was downhill to the finish, sadly in the final run in there was a pile up and Simon went into one of the fallers, he was OK, but his front wheel folded in half! I had to go into a carpark to avoid the crash and because I wasn’t actually involved I didn’t get the same time as the finishers so moved myself a few places up the GC sadly! But I’d been pleased with how I rode considering my pain. Positions had altered slightly and Chris Mac was now in 13th with Roy still in 11th, we were 3rd team, too!

Stage 4

I think I knew deep down that my ankle was not going to be ride-able, but I made my best effort, took some pills, taped it up, and rode to the start (4 miles) with the other guys for the last stage, I desperately wanted to finish the race. But I got on the bike at the house and the pain immediately was unbearable, 4 miles at 100w and it felt like my foot was being torn off, I didn’t sign on, and I put the bike away, there was no way I could ride without doing serious damage to myself, I was gutted, come this far, and ridden above where I thought I could and I was scuppered by a brand new injury, all this when I had the legs of my life, never have they felt so good day after day. It was a really depressing feeling to be honest.

The other guys were good about it and knew that if it was that bad then it there was no other option. I rode in the team car for this stage which was fun at least. It was a very fast stage, and the main competition was all to play for, the plan was to get one of us up the road to improve team placing to get into the prizes. As it happened Si got unlucky and was caught behind a crash, and it was Chris Mac that got up the road with 3 others, they worked well for the last few laps and pulled out a lead, Chris said to me after that he had planned what he was going to do, and had great legs, we were wishing him the best in the car really hoping he could get into the top 3 for a bit of podium action, I think his plan didn’t quite go as he wanted and he ended up being jumped by the others (who at least one of them were big sprinter types!) to roll in 4th, which was still a great ride. Roy finished safely and kept his 11th overall. And Si came in a bit later and we kept our placing as 3rd team. Stu was having issues with his knee’s and got pulled out when the race reached the finishing circuit. But for someone who had never rode a nat b race in the UK he was still around 100th of over 200 starters, a great showing from him overall. Obviously I was a DNF, but likely would have been around 40th or so with Simon had I finished, which I would have taken before the race. It really was a great thing to do, and you do leave normal life and start living like a cyclist, eat, sleep, ride, repeat, something that must be quite a thing to do for a career!

I’d like to thank all the guys for making the trip great fun and learning a heap about racing, also Surrey League and Casco Europe for making it possible, Tim Bishop for doing a sterling job organizing and driving everyone around! And Mark for being straight to task when it came to sorting the bikes, cleaning them, doing 20 hours behind the wheel, and generally just being a massive help for all of us! And obviously a shout for our host John, who I couldn’t understand most of the time, but he was hospitable and it was great to stay in his place for the duration!

I’m in to see a physio on Friday, so hopefully I won’t be off the bike too long. It has given me confidence that I can go ahead and beat some of my goals for this year, and hopefully I’ll be back on the road soon!





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