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!!