Another target ticked!

29 May

As ever, I have done a couple of events since the last update. Its been quite a good period of training and no illness of late, I’ve managed to get some solid weeks in and am feeling pretty good.

The Divisional champs were on a decent course for me this year in that the finish wasn’t up a hill, and there weren’t any hills, the weather was bang on and the field was actually pretty reasonable, i.e. not littered with big teams. However after just 1.5 laps of feeling really good, for some unknown reason my Di2 stopped working. Nothing I tried would bring it back to life. I did another 15 miles stuck in the 53-13, which was really quite unpleasant before I called it a day. It ended up being a PedalHeaven team time trial in the end with them taking most of the top 10, and Rob Moore taking a fine solo win, well deserved.

I’ve also got back into some midweek racing, rocked up at Hillingdon a couple of weeks back, again a couple from PH and a few other notable riders made it quite aggressive, I managed to get into the winning move with Rob and Jamie Pine, managed to get 2nd there after feeling really good. I then had something that was a target of mine this year, so it was going to be a bit more of a priority for me…

If you look back then you’ll see a lot of my goals were around certain times on certain courses, naturally I want to do as well in the road racing as I can but its hard to set targets there as its so changeable, I think the best is still to come as I’m feeling like its all coming together fitness wise, just I’ve not done many races this year due to cancellations and weddings and such.

The goal in question was for the 10 mile time trial course at Bentley, H10/8 to those in the know. Its a pretty quick course as they go, I’d have to go pretty badly not to go under 21 mins on here, and indeed the idea for this year was for me to break 19.30 on there, my previous best last summer was 20.02, but with me managing 20.13 in the cold of December I was pretty confident I was going to get that 19 this year to join a fairly small group of riders who’ve also done it.

Sub 19.30 on the other hand was something that very few people have done, 3 I think and they’re all pros, and one of those is Alex Dowsett. (Hutch and Russ Hampton being the others). So its fair to say it was a fairly punchy target, and to beat my best on there by 30 secs minimum is not a cake walk. Anyway, the day in question was Saturday gone, I came into the weekend after that crit 2nd place, and riding fairly steady the rest of the week, I knew my legs were going to be good, not sure how, just knew.

I was warming up on the turbo and some days you just know, I had a day like that at the Kingston event, when you’re turning over on the turbo at 280-300w and it’s barely even registering, its a good sign, I did my usual warmup and made my way over to the start. Today was a good wind, gentle tailwind out and slight head on the way back but it being downhill towards the end it wouldn’t be too bad. There were of course other riders too, John Dewey who has run me close in every event I’ve done with him this year, Liam Maybank who also has been consistently there also then others such as Nick English who did almost same time as me at the nationals, and then a fairly unknown quantity in James Boyman, I say unknown as he was returning to the sport after time out, but I’d seen he was winning most events he was entering, including the Tour of the Milburys 2 stage race, which I also won a couple of years ago.

Anyway, I got up to the line and set off steadily, the plan was to stick to a sensible number on the way out, 370 ish, and then begin to open it up on the way back where I’d not have a helpful tailwind. I got to the turn at just over 370w and an average of around 31.6 mph, it was looking good. I got round the turn ok and overtook another rider, I think I overtook around 4 riders! I began to empty myself and I noticed annoyingly that I wasn’t able to use the 11t, there were times I wanted it. I approached the finish and did the usual calculation, I had exactly 1 mile left to go, was riding around 30 mph and was only just over 17 mins or so, I thought for a minute an 18 was on the cards…

However, I crossed the line in 19.13 having dragged the average watts up to around 385 which is as good as I’ve managed in a ten, which bodes well given I’ve not ridden the TT bike in two months! Hopefully I can really do a ride at the big events this year. I knew that time would be pretty difficult to beat, and indeed only 2 others have done faster on there, Alex Dowsett and Hutch, and I wasn’t far from Hutch’s time really, I was really happy to be honest. I got back to the HQ and there was many of those awkward conversations where you talk about everything BUT the only bit of info you care about, the time, however the organiser eventually put the last two times in, mine and Boyman, I thought he had delayed it as we had done the same time for a minute, but no, he had managed a very impressive 19.38 for second place, Dewey, and Herbert also managed to scrape under 20 mins.

Felt pretty happy with the ride, but then that part of me that always wants better came out and I decided I would now need to do an 18 on there! Going to still make it to some midweek crits, got a few TT events, a holiday, and various other bits coming up, so hopefully I’ll get some results worth talking about for the next entry.

If you have a copy of cycling weekly from the last week or two you’ll now see I’m 3rd fastest over 10 miles so far this year, just behind some random called Bradley (though my time was miles from his of course!).

https://app.strava.com/activities/310110712/overview

Thames Velo RR

27 Apr

The next race was one I’ve done a few times, and the circuit is used for multiple races. Its a fairly forgiving one in Milton (Oxford) with one hill and a lot of fast but exposed roads. Similar story to yesterday in that there were again a fair few good riders, a few from Madison, NFTO, One pro again, Wheelbase, Sportgrub. I almost knew what was going to happen before it did, but just didn’t think I’d be able to deal with 75 miles going full on.

Anyway, 5 minutes in a couple of guys got off the front, then Tank from NFTO flew up the outside in pursuit, Ryan Visser went too, they were allowed to get out of sight and that was essentially the race winning move, mile 3 of a 75 mile race. Not much more to say on it really, there was a few Madison and One pro dude left in the bunch I tried to get away many times, I bridged over to two moves that looked really promising, both brought back. I then went again with the One guy and Justin from NFTO, looked promising, got a gap etc etc, but then brought back by Madison. Predictably just after that effort another group went over the top and it stuck, presumably because it didn’t have him in it, he was marked to hell, and I think I was perhaps a bit foolish in only thinking moves with him or the madison guys in it would stick, it wasn’t the case.

On the last lap I don’t even think we were fighting for points, but I saw a couple off the front and thought what the hell, I might as well have one more go, I bridged over to them again, they essentially sat up and we got caught, at that point I was pretty sick of the whole day, stuck it in the little ring and rolled over dead last, knowing I tried at least. The weekends racing was good for my legs though I think, I felt better today than at Hillingdon and with 5 hours at 330W NP in my legs I am hoping that I can get some results soon. These races certainly are getting harder, this race was on the same day as numerous other big ones and it still brought out a pretty strong field in the end. Oh well, there will be other chances :)

https://www.strava.com/activities/293068196

Archer GP

27 Apr

This weekend was a double header, I’ve been feeling better after the illness which is good, and got a bit of riding in over the week. The first of the two races I’d entered was a rare 1/2/3 event at Hillingdon. 50 miles of it no less!

I rocked up and didn’t expect to see the jerseys I did to be honest, Pedalheaven, One Pro, Sportgrub Kuota, all teams that will be battling it out in the Tour series this year, and indeed the premier uk elite races. Granted this was open to them as 1st cat riders (though certainly they won’t be for long!), however it would make the race interesting perhaps!

We got started the pace was alright, it was not a big field with only about 45-50 riders, but after about ten mins those somehow got going together, I think perhaps my position wasn’t great at this point as it was so soon in the race, I also questioned momentarily how they might look to stay out front for another 2 hours given the wind on the day. They hovered at around 20 seconds for a fairly long time, I tried to bridge over but couldn’t get away without a load following, a theme that would continue that whole race. It was clear at about the half way point that it was done, nobody was interested in getting something together to bring it back, my legs felt a bit pants too oddly, the only thing that helped was a prime that meant the bunch sped up, we got them back in sight, in hindsight after the prime I should have attacked again and tried for the bridge, but I genuinely thought that when back in sight we’d catch them. We didn’t. It was clear then it was going to be them and us, so in the last 10 laps a lot of attacks went and knowing I might be one of the better sprinters I closed the ones down that looked promising, I’m sure they hated me for it, but there we are.

On the last lap the usual melee of Hillingdon sprints came to the fore. I managed to get round the corner without issue, George Gori of Nuun jumped first, I jumped after him but got boxed in by a Handsling rider who moved ever so slightly (not his fault really) so that left George and his lead-out man just out of reach, I was 3rd in the sprint and 7th overall. Annoying. These mega early breaks seem to be common place now.

https://www.strava.com/activities/292365384

Les Ingman

21 Apr

The last two weeks have been a bit of a blip in the plan really. Albeit enjoyable at times…! I had a stag do in Chamonix a couple of weeks back, much drink was consumed and not a lot of cycling got done, had a fair few days off actually. I got back into it and then went down to Kent with the intention of racing the latest SERRL race, but not only was it cancelled but I got what I think was a tonsil infection, throat really swollen and just generally unpleasant. However I still thought I with a bit of riding with the sore throat I might be able to get round at the Les Ingman this last Sunday.

I’ve raced this race before and actually was 15th or something, so I wasn’t too scared by it knowing I’m stronger now, but probably heavier (! which needs to be sorted!), however the difference being this year that the race was chokka with race teams, and headlined by Yanto Barker, Chris Opie and a few other One Pro cycling racers. If you follow amateur racing then you’ll know that these boys are among the best on the UK pro scene. Chris Opie is someone I follow on Strava, and of course seen on the telly in the bigger UK races, as with Yanto, so without wanting to be a brown nose, I knew these boys would likely mean business and want this race won.

This years variant was different to the last one I did in that this year we were to race the full circuit which is basically either downhill, or uphill with not a lot of flat, the downhill is very fast, 50mph fast, and the uphill is hard work. There are 3 kicks, the first is pretty steep and leads into a false flat up to the finish line, the second is another awfully surfaced road (in fact half the circuit is totally awful surface, the council should look to fix it ASAP) and the third is a longer 4 minute double hill up to another false flat before flying back down the hill again. Last time I did it, the steep hill was not in the circuit, I vastly preferred it!

I had finally managed to sort the bike out with the new Enve wheels which thankfully do not rub on the frame, though I did notice after the race that the preload needed adjusting but that could have been the shite road surface, I had one team mate in Dom Clegg riding who’s race prep was not too different to mine, he wasn’t confident really, and I was beginning to wonder after a lap or so about my own legs, over 90 miles makes this about as hard as Nat B races get.

We got off to a start and the pace as always was pretty hot straight away, a Catford rider and someone else almost killed themselves on the downhill, speed wobbling well over 40mph with a car coming the other way, thank god he saved it as I really think that would have been a VERY serious accident. It was so fast in fact that I remember a few times spinning the 53/11 out down the hill to keep the wheels, it was flying! Up the hills and such the first few laps I felt ok, but even at the 40 mile point I knew it was not to be my day, legs were beginning to ache, a lot. I don’t recall ever being out of breath to any real extent but my legs were just full of acid, not good. On the 5th or 6th lap I noticed that Rhys Howells and myself were the last two up the hill in the group, a gap quickly formed and we had a situation on our hands…Rhys is a bit of a powerhouse, so not sure if he was on a bad day or he too was having a bit of a time with all the steep climbs being a big (tall!!) rider. Anyway, I followed his lead up the high street and then put in a pathetic turn and we just about got back on.

Next lap round I almost pulled into the car park as my legs were done. But I thought I should at least make it worthwhile and do a few more miles, I did another lap as the group slowly splintered and people got away solo or in small groups etc. This time with just over 70 miles on the clock the steep hill was really quite unpleasant, I slowed down and watched the following car and bike go by knowing that was the end of that and pulled in to the car. I was not that happy, but couldn’t expect much else.

I went to watch the finish with a lap to go, pleased to see some friendly faces in there with Rory Townsend and Wouter, along with Ash Cox, Lawrence Carpenter, Yanto and Chris Opie. I wondered to myself who might be able to challenge Opie if the race didn’t split by the line next lap, I wasn’t privvy to what happened but I hear Wouter did try to get away, and next time round there wasn’t many left, Rory, Yanto, Wouter, Opie and Cox. Opie launched a huge sprint properly early on, I think it caught everyone by surprise almost, anyway he was well clear for the win, and Rory managed to beat Yanto for 2nd step, another great ride.

Going forward there are quite a few races pencilled in, I notice that the free food at work has seen me (wasn’t my willpower, honest) put on nearly 1 stone since this time last year, quite worrying, so I need to get myself sorted out and get back to it! Anyway, the next few races are flat, so not too worried about that! The good news is that I think I’m fitter than I’ve been previous, this race was pretty easy if you look at the average power of 265-270w for 3 hours, but my NP was almost 340w for that duration which is pretty high!!

https://www.strava.com/activities/288555635

Pete Young Memorial

17 Mar

First road race of the season came in the shape of the Peter Young Memorial. Good two main reasons (for me) – its pretty flat, and its pretty local – ideal! What was not ideal however is the weather forecast, for the last week it had not rained and had been mild, that particular Sunday however was meant to be cold and raining for the duration of the race.

I woke up and it sure enough had rained, and it was chilly, I was half thinking of staying in bed, a nice brand new shiny bike that I’d just made, I wasn’t overly keen to get it covered in crap! But I pulled myself together and made my way. It did get a bit brighter, and it wasn’t too bad when I got down there and started warming up. It was a pretty decent field with good representation from a number of teams inc Pedalheaven, Catford, Richardsons Trek, Corely Cycles and a few smaller ones too. Owing to the Paceline training camp I was the only rider from our lot riding, and there wasn’t anyone from Kingston either, so today would be about riding smart and getting into things that were well represented by those teams.

The race got off to a fast start as always and the first big lap we averaged around 27mph, given the course is pretty easy it didn’t really feel difficult and my legs felt pretty good. A few people tried things and a half decent looking move got away for a while, but I thought with none of the big teams represented it would likely not work out, it was also pretty early doors so I thought best not to commit to that. The laps ticked on and nothing much looked like sticking with a few little digs here and there, sadly the first crash of the year was soon upon us as a few people got tangled and hit the deck on one of the main roads. I think this was down to pothole dodging, but not a nice thing to see, I don’t think anyone was too badly beaten up, and the bunch slowed to let everyone re-join.

At around mile 50 things were getting a little twitchy and more people looked to fancy pinging off the front, I was not ideally positioned when I saw a move I liked the look of, Wouter Sybrandy, Ash Cox, two from Corley and two from Trek along with one PH and another rider I can’t quite remember all got away and it looked good. Knowing Ash and Wouter (both winners in their time of the well fought North Road Hardriders) were strong testers I thought this was a good prospect, with representation from three of the big teams it had most of the ingredients people look for in a winning break! I sprinted up the outside and made my way over to them, it took around a minute of drilling it at 500w which isn’t difficult, but when you’re going downhill its not easy to keep that power/cadence going, but I got over and the bunch were miles behind and nobody had come with me, ideal.

That break formed at around mile 57 or 87, so it was always going to be a hard rider to make it stick, but I thought we had a good shot. We got into a half decent through and off and the gap quite quickly was out to over 30 seconds. However it wasn’t long before people started skipping turns and not coming through, strange really, I did notice that the PH rider was being told to keep it calm by his team manager, and he was just soft tapping through, I had a feeling that didn’t bode too well! We were away probably for around 25-30 mins and the bunch were almost back on us, a shame because I think if we made it to the finishing circuit with a half decent lead it would have been much more possible to make it stick. As we were caught I wondered whether I’d got the legs to do much up the final finish hill. Sadly the choice was made for me as I noticed my front tyre was going down, the pace was quite quick and I thought if I dropped back to get service that would be the last I saw of the bunch so with 2 or 3 laps of the finish circuit to go I pulled over with a very soft front tyre. I watched as a Twickenham and PH rider got away together and almost made it stick only to be swallowed by the bunch near the end. The final gallop was mopped up by in form Rory Townsend and the PH from the break in second, obviously still had plenty in his legs ;-)

All in all it was a bit annoying but confirmed at least that I had the legs, even though the course was pretty easy I don’t think I was really properly hurting at any point so maybe this winter has been a good one. Touch wood I’ve not been ill since November and have not really had much time off the bike. That coupled with some decent early season TT’s has got me into half decent shape!

One slightly irritating discovery was that Zipp 303 Firecrests do not compute with SL4 Tarmac frames as they’re too wide on the rear and rub on the stays. The good news is that I’ve just about done a deal on some Enve 6.7 to replace with, every cloud ;-)


https://www.strava.com/activities/268657842

East Surrey Hardriders

10 Mar

Sunday was the last of the sporting TT’s I intend to take part in this year, the East Surrey Hardriders is a fairly popular event, also staged just down around Dorking over a 27.2 mile course.

I did this two years back, however I’d done the Kingston Wheelers 2/3 road race the day before (and annoyingly came 2nd!) so my legs were not in great shape, I came tenth, not my finest result! I think its the where my cover photo is from actually, so big chunk gloves and arm warmers, nice and slow! It was very cold though.

On the flipside, this years installment of global warming has give us some nice weather, and Sunday was pretty warm, warming up in the sun is a rarity in these early season events, a welcomed one! As with the last few events, the field was quite similar, Chris Mac again was riding who had put me into 2nd spot at Redhill, in my mind he was the one to beat, though other riders were sure to be right up there, last years winner Liam Maybank, Wouter again, John Dewey who was pretty close to me at Redhill, there was a lot of good riders on the sheet.

I started warming up and didn’t feel all that good, I’d spent the previous day battling with my new roadbike and getting it ready for riding, legs felt a bit dead on the turbo. But I got down to the startline and was still optimistic. This course has a fair bit of fast road, which should help me out being quite aero, but there were two fairly significant (for Southern England) ramps to tackle which would certainly suit Chris. I got off to a start and almost straight away I was delayed by an older chap who pulled out on me then proceeded to pull over to the side of the road again, not ideal. A few miles later my next bit of bad luck happened when I had to come to trackstand at a roundabout some 3 miles in!

After that I got into a rhythm, power was OK, but not as good as I’d have hoped, at the half way point I I was thinking today wouldn’t be quite as fast as the weather would have had you think, mainly because there was a headwind for a lot of the outward leg which on this course is about 65-70% of the entire course. I got to the final climb and run in with a half decent average speed, knowing I’d probably need to be over 27mph to be in with a chance I dug deep but found it tough in the last few miles and wasn’t able to really ramp it up like I did in the last two events. I had to slow again for a horse, but managed to cross the line in 1hr49 secs and avg speed of just under 27mph. I knew I’d gone faster than last years winners time, but didn’t think it would be enough.

Sure enough, it wasn’t, Chris had done 1hr16 seconds some 33 seconds ahead of me, another storming ride. I did however hang on for second. I think without my bad luck the gap would have been smaller but I didn’t have the legs to beat Chris today. Amusingly we did the exact same power for the event, not sure how much the wind picked up between 8.20 and 9.20 when I went off but certainly I’d have preferred it to be a little cooler and a more helpful wind next time! I looked back to 2 years ago and notice I’ve added almost 2 mph to my avg speed in that time, which is a fairly decent improvement, I doubt I can do that again over the next two years, but even half of that would see me going very well indeed!

Anyway, that rounds off 3 events, one 1st and two 2nd places, not to be sniffed at. I hope I can build on it and next year I’ll hopefully be able to win the lot, I’ve got a few changes to make to my position which should gain a few watts…!

https://www.strava.com/activities/264833770

Next up is a road race on the new bike (S works Tarmac, Ultegra di2 etc, looks lovely) at the Pete Young Memorial, a pretty decent looking field present, so hoping I can hold my own and perhaps make it into one of the moves :)

Redhill 18

23 Feb

Better late than never?

Last week was the Redhill 18, another of the early season sporting events that take place in the cold winter months. Last week went well with winning the Kingston Wheelers event, this week had a tougher field with the inclusion of a few handy riders. That said, there was only a couple I was thinking would really be tough to beat, Chris McNamara from Pedalheaven, not least as he’s a very strong roadman, which would aid him in not only being light, but also being able to man handle the bike over what is a course slightly more tricky to master in parts than your average TT course. And then Wouter from Sigma who in 2011 set the course record for this event with an average speed well over 27 mph, which is quite frankly staggering considering the course.

I got down there nice and early and it was pretty cold, greasy roads were the order of the day, again, and I was interested to see just how mucky some of the back lanes were. The upside to this course over the Kingston one for me is that it has a fair bit of dual carriageway at the end, and with a slight course diversion there was even more than normal, some 4 mile of DC, and one I know well as its also used to the KW club ten.

I was off towards the back-end of the field and quickly I was faced with Coast Hill which is only a couple of minutes in, not a big climb, but on a heavy TT bike a 2.5 min steep climb so soon is never pleasant. I got up and over without much issue but the first of a few hold ups took place shortly after, I’d caught my minute man already and a car was dithering with overtaking him, not ideal.

I managed to pass and got on towards the long drag up to Abinger Hammer, I felt pretty good and was going ok, I’d checked previous times to get an idea what sort of average speed I would need to do well here, and it seemed that an average around 26.5 mph would see me up there. With that in mind I had a target at least, I don’t like racing without knowing roughly what is decent/what is not, and with the course alteration it wasn’t like I could aim for a similar time to previous years as it was 0.6 miles longer.

My last outing on this course was 2 years ago and in fact my first outdoor ride on my TT bike, I came 5th behind winner Seb Ader, Connal Yates, Pete Tadros and Richard Prebble, these are all people I’ve since beaten in other events so I was confident that I had got stronger and more aero in those last two years to challenge for this event. As I was hurtling down towards Forrest Green a horse was visible in the distance, I backed off as I know how erratic they can be, the horse didn’t look too happy but I got by without issue, I think this particular rider was making a point of riding on the course despite there being countless other lanes around that would have been almost traffic free. Odd.

With about 5 miles to go I was on the last of the single track road before hitting the DC, I was approaching a KW rider who had predicted I’d catch him at 13 miles, it was indeed 13.4 miles when I saw him, sadly the same situation occurred and a truck was struggling to get round him so I was sat behind this truck for a short time. As soon as I got by it was just a case of buying myself on the DC to claw back what I had lost. I crossed the line in 42.36 which was just under 26.5 mph, not terrible I thought, but might be touch and go. Anyway, all was revealed when I caught up with Chris shortly after, he said he’d done about 20 seconds faster than me. Not totally surprising to be honest, and when we got into the hall he had been fastest, then myself, then John Dewey a few seconds back on me, so it was a pretty tight affair at the sharp end, especially considering the distance, smaller gaps than at the KW 14 event. Good news for Paceline too as we took the top few spots in the road category, and took the team prize!

I said I’d like to get in the top 3 for this event and managed that, so while I was always wondering if I had pushed harder down the hill, I am not dissatisfied with the result, one more sporting TT in the East Surrey Hardriders and then a few road races to get stuck into.

I’ve bought an S works Tarmac frame and a new 11 speed di2 groupset for that as I fancied a change and would be interesting to see if bikes have moved on since Hushovd won the green jersey on the same S3 I’m riding!

https://www.strava.com/activities/255226307

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