Tour of Sussex

4 Jul

This weekend was the Tour of Sussex, something that I’d been looking forward to for some time. I’d done it previously in 2013 and narrowly come 2nd. This year it was a very different race however, with an initial TTT, 3 road stages plus an ITT vs just the 2 road stages and ITT hill climb when I did it. Another crucial difference was that there were no time bonuses this time round. Last time I’d got into the position I did mainly because I won the first stage and got a 30 second bonus for it.

For this we had a very good team on paper, myself, Dom, Pat, Gareth, Sam and Tom, most of which had either done this event before, or other stage races with success along the way, Sam was fairly new to it, but had been going well and was keen to see how he would find it after racing a stage race in Wales the previous week. I was staying down in Eastbourne again for the duration as were most of the team, it had improved since last time in that you could now find acceptable coffee on the highst. We had scanned the startlist and to be honest, not seen too many familiar names. It was not being run with Surrey League this year and that, I think, meant that lots of teams you don’t normally see in the SL races had entered, this proved quite interesting as you’ll see! Gareth being Gareth soon started doing his research on everyone and everything (which is useful for the rest of us!) and he realised that among the VCL ranks was recently crowned junior road champ Jacob Vaughan. Added to that a load of other strong juniors they were fielding and a newish development team (DFL) supported by in-gear (who all knew each other as it happened) meant it was a fairly young field. And we were about to see that they were not just young, but also pretty bloody decent!

TTT

The first night was the TTT, we felt pretty confident, obviously I do a lot of time trials, Pat is very quick in TT’s, Gareth, Sam and Tom have also done a fair few with some strong results, and Dom was always going to be strong too despite probably not being a tester (he doesn’t believe in aero ha). Disaster struck however when Pat said he couldn’t get into the big ring with about 15 mins till our start time – di2 issues. We said that he should just try and cling on and see how he got on but probably not do much on the front for fear of slowing us. The course was rolling and about 8 miles long, it was probably going to take a bit under 20 mins, the plan was to do hard shortish turns and operate in a paceline (apt). The key was not to go off too hard…

5 minutes later I come through after Tom doing 600w+ in the first 1 minute of the event (idiot) and we all proceeded to go really bloody hard up the first climb. I put myself into the red, and I think everyone else was hurting too. We got it back together though and settled into a vague pattern. Pat was somehow able to contribute, not just hang on, but actually do strong turns both up and downhill despite only having a 39t, nutter! With about half way gone we were starting to split on the hills, and we ended up having to soft pedal a few times to ensure we kept it together. For the official finish time we could drop 1 rider only as we needed 5 to come over at the same sort of time, so keeping it together was key. With the final downhill section I tried to use my ballast to make the most of the situation and we flew over the line all pretty much as one, Pat included. It was pretty tough, and I’d got about 400W avg for our 19 minute or so time, so I knew we would be up there. We got back to find we had come 2nd, and DFL had taken the lead by a fairly big margin, then us, then a few secs back VCL. I think many of the teams expected us to perhaps win having spoken to a few after, but the boys in DFL put in a great effort to win.

It was at this point that we consoled ourselves by thinking that the young boys are probably from track background and would be excellent at this type of thing, but would they be able to do it on the road, over 4 days, well, we soon found out.

St 2

This was almost a carbon copy of the stage that I’d won in 2013, only that it was about half the distance, it was a 30 odd mile stage. Bit strange, but there we are. We all said that we would probably treat this like a rest day and just get round without losing time of showing ourself to the wind. 3 minutes into the first lap and Tom is off the front haha (a theme with us). He got brought back and then Pat had a go, same sort of thing happened, it was a very windy day so half the circuit was super fast, the other half quite slow into the headwind. Dom also had a dig, and I think the only people true to their words were Gareth and Sam who didn’t see the need to expend energy. At 15 miles one of the primes had just been and gone and I for some stupid reason thought I would have a go, nobody wanted to chase, which I thought was a bit strange as I’d won stage 1 of the May 3 day in similar fashion, but perhaps they knew the wind was too much and I didn’t. I had 2 laps to go when I went, I rode pretty strong the first lap and had a gap of about 30 seconds, but I could see on the long straight sections that the bunch was slowly closing. I kept going through the finish line and round onto the headwind section, with about 20 mins of full on effort I noticed a small bridge group coming over, I sat up and waited for them to get across – there were 4 or 5 of us, but I could tell we were not riding quickly enough and the frisky bunch was closing in, we were probably absorbed with a little over a mile or so to go, it was good because I could slot on near the front. I thought I might still have something to sprint with, but on the run in there were elbows everywhere and the young lads were right up among each other, the track background paying off here, I’ve not interest in being up against people at 35 mph, but they don’t mind! I rolled over for 12th or something with I think Jacob taking the win on that stage. All PL safely up there despite a crash back in the bunch.

St 3

This was to be about 50 miles road the Ladies Mile circuit – I’d not done this before but Pat and Dom who both had assured me it was a big ring job, which was good news. Its the finishing circuit to the Bec CC race, which is notoriously tough. The only curve ball was that we were also going to use the Bec finish which is a fairly decent little 3.5 minute climb up to the line. Not something that is all that common in SE races to be fair. Anyway, this race I really was not looking to do anything, and I think most of the other guys were of a similar opinion, apart from Pat. Pat was very active in this race and was away numerous times, I thought it might stick at one point for him, but the fast downhill was quite useful for the bunch to bring moves back it would seem. Gareth was last man, but had said he was going to come through near the end to try for the finish. I was trying to stick near the front and stay out of trouble which I did without too much issue. But being quite a rolling circuit I still felt like I’d had a workout without really doing any attacking #lard.

With the race now all together into the final climb it was obvious that some people had not had a look before hand as there were a lot of casualties who sprinted way too early. I was feeling ok moving up, gave it a bit of beans and saw Gareth fly up the outside of me, I kept going to the line to finish just behind the front few without losing much time, which was good. Gareth had got 5th and Pat was just behind me, but the other chaps had lost a bit of time here, a tough finish indeed. Gareth I think could have won this stage if he had started a touch nearer the front at the bottom! He did the same watts as me and it was evident as he was going pretty quickly!

GC was now a bit different, but still the juniors were up near the front with Jacob getting 3rd I think on that stage. From memory it meant Pat and I were in the top ten with Gareth pretty close at hand. However we were not going to make a call until after the TT that evening, after that we thought it would be clear how to ride the last stage, who to ride for or whatever else. In theory.

ITT

Normally the thought of having a time trial in a stage race would light up my day, this one however was more of an unknown! Firstly, much like the TTT, it was roadbike only (which is fair), but more importantly it included the climb from the sea front to the top of beachy head, then a lap of the circuit, which had a fast downhill followed by a long 5 minute climb back up to the top. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough it was 35mph gusts down by the beach, and if you’ve ever been up to the top of the head, you’ll know its pretty bare, it was even windier up there!!

Normally I don’t bother so much with shallow wheels and such as I don’t suffer too much in the wind, but after having looked out the window to see a large mature tree being blown horizontal, I opted to put a shallow front wheel in.

As per earlier in the race, I was now beginning to wonder if there was any weakness to the junior teams, my last hope was that because they were all still growing, that they might find it hard in wind like that, and may lack the outright power to put in a strong time in a 20 min time trial. I was off near the end, with Pat 1 min in front of me. I got off to a start and straight away felt how bad the wind was, I felt like I was crawling up the first hill, trying all the time not to go too hard. My legs felt good, but I knew there was so much to come. I got to the top and the wind was suddenly a cross head and it was brutal, not quite enough to push you off, but not far away. I really pushed on knowing this was likely the only place I could make time.

I was feeling good and even managed to get decent speed down the hill into the block headwind, the moment I turned the corner onto the last climb it went from being loud like a wind tunnel to pure silence. I think Simon & Garfunkle missed a trick personally, they should have added ‘tailwind’ to their song title, as to me, when it all goes quiet, that means the wind is RIGHT behind you. And sure enough, up the lower slopes of the climb I was doing over 25mph, nuts. I thought the finish was approaching a lot sooner that it was, I was quickly backing off when I saw Pat cresting the hill up above me round the hair pin, at least another 2 mins to ride. Damn. I crossed the line with about 20.14 on the garmin, 406W average and 21.5mph avg speed – the worst return for watts you’ll ever get! I chatted to Pat and he said he done a similar but slightly quicker time, which he had, about 6 secs better.

We got back to the hotel and had a celebratory beer and how well we thought we had gone. And to be fair our (Pat and I) times were good enough for top 10. Gareth, Tom, Sam and Dom slightly down, either by design or by circumstance. I was 8th and I think Pat was 6th in that one. However, our fears were confirmed when we learned Jacob had done 19.42. Which was almost 20 seconds quicker than anyone else and over 30 secs faster than myself (ironically the only other people near that were from DFL or VCL). A staggeringly strong ride for someone so small in those conditions. I’m not often impressed by a lot of the ‘full timers’ we come across in the region as most would be better served getting on with their lives vs chasing a dream that isn’t coming, but Jacob could very well have a big future in the sport, and a few of his mates likely too. He clearly has a mighty big engine on him – it was a touch depressing when we learned he was only 17! Ethan Hayter better watch out, looks like VCL has another potential pro in the making. Not surprising they subbed out Glowinski to Cutmill for this race with the talent they had onboard😉

St 5

After getting back late from the TT and wolfing down a steak and assorted veg, I wanted to try and get some sleep before the big day, sadly the seagulls had other ideas, sodding things. The results were in and Pat was 6th and I was 9th, 29 and 34 secs back on Jacob the new leader after the TT. And points jersey holder too. We decided that we should keep our powder dry and see if we could influence the race in the latter half, but the first hurdle would be stick the pace up the initial climb onto the circuit. Last time I did this stage, half the bunch were dropped here never to return. We started very near the front to mitigate that risk! And we all made it up there thank god, biut of a shock to the legs it was mind you. 5 minutes later Pat was up the road with a few others in the first move of the day.

It was quite clear that he was in a good move, and a few laps in they had over a minute and Pat was virtual yellow jersey. Meanwhile in the bunch, Tom had succumbed to the hill and peeled off, and Sam was yo-yoing. The following lap had me doing the same, and I was finding it tough up the steeper section, Gareth helped me get back on the 4th or 5th time up, and I said to him I had nothing to give and would probably get popped the next time. Over the top I saw a move go with Jacob and his chums present, I thought I would do one last job of trying to close it down, so I hammered it over the crosswind section into the downhill, it just about all came back together. These boys had been attacking each other all race like it was a 40+5 crit at Hillingdon, Jacob looked to be swinging the bike about, but clearly he still had something to give. The next time on the early slopes of the climb where only 12 hours ago I’d been churning out 400w and doing 25 mph, I was now struggling to hold that power and going considerably slower, I didn’t have it in the legs and let the group go, at this point yellow and green jersey had created a split and were off in pursuit of Pat and his breakaway companions. I said to Gareth that was my lot, he agreed that he had nothing left to give either. We both peeled off with 3 laps left to go – we could have limped round, but it wouldn’t have got anyone anywhere, and we would rather see Pat do the business, and hand him anything he needed from roadside (that is the party line anyway).

I went down to get the car and such as it was pretty cold up top, and came back up with one lap to go, sadly Pat had been slightly distanced from his breakaway group after running out of energy, perhaps another gel or one less lap and it would have been different. And there were now a couple out front being pursued by a relentless Vaughan and another junior. Rich Cartland and stage 3 winner Tom from ASL were out front, but I knew Jacob would make it over, and as they all approached the finish, out of the hair pins came Tom again to claim a 2nd stage win, followed by Cartland, followed by the yellow Jersey. Meanwhile Dom had been churning away with what was left of the bunch, and there was really not much of it. And his group sadly for Pat just caught him on the line. A cruel way to finish 3 hours in the break for Pat, but a solid ride from him and Dom to make it round what was a horrible stage.

There were not many finishers, and I’m not really counting the ones that trundled round to finish 20 mins down, there were a lot of casualties out there, and some of the young boys went so deep. Maybe it was a couple of laps too long, who knows. It sure made for a spectacle, and without doubt the strongest rider(s) were the ones who finished in the top few. Nobody could beat Vaughan, and perhaps rightly so given he was recently crowned junior national champion. The standard was much higher in general this time round. There were barely any clubs, no Dulwich, or Dynamo etc, now the race was full of teams, full of lean people with matching kit and bikes. Cycling has moved on a lot since 2013, and with the junior dev teams, this was a much tougher race than it was last time. And longer, of course. I would have preferred this to have come in May when I’d had a decent block of training behind me, but I didn’t feel like I was unfit, perhaps just lacking a bit of endurance owing to less riding in the first few weeks of a new job.

Pat finished about 10th, and Dom was not too far behind, a great weekend, was good fun and hard work. I wonder how much road racing I’ll do going forward as its not ticking the enjoyment box like it used to, but I’ll always be up for riding with a team from PL, it makes it much more fun than it would be as a solo rider. My only regret is not being any use to either myself, or anyone else on the last stage, but I probably have myself to blame for that for essentially doing a 20 min max effort every day leading up to the last stage.

All rides on Strava, and I’ll probably add pics to this when they come about, but hope you enjoyed reading! Next up for me is a string of time trials leading into the national 10 (where I expect I’ll be rubbish as its v hilly) and the 25, where I hope I can be towards the top again, and then I’ll do the Handicap champs and maybe the odd road race here or there, not sure yet.

May 3 Day

7 May

Been a while since my last update, I’ve been busy both on and off the bike, but wanted to get a few more events out of the way before updating, you know, to make it more interesting to read!

Some notable progression of late has included performances in 25 and 10 mile time trials, I’d done two events in recent times taking a new strategy to the table, Xav and I had examined numerous TT’s of late and realised that I was going out too cautiously, this would be evident by the amount of power I was still able to produce in the last 5 or so minutes of both 25 and 10’s, not a million miles from a 5 minute standalone effort in some cases. While I was still going quite quickly, it was clear that there was more to get out earlier in the event to make sure I was not leaving too much in the tank.

The issue of course is that in order to test this you really have to mentally accept that the event may be a write off if you blow up early, so I’d chosen a 25 on Bentley, and a club 10 on Holmwood to see what I could do. At Bentley the only competition really likely to be a trouble was John Dewey, he’d been beating me by 20-30 seconds in a ten of late, which is huge, right up towards the sharp end of the country. So in this 25 it would be interesting to see what I could do. I set off hard, and managed to hold on to the power throughout the event, I managed 370w for 49.36, John was still 30 secs quicker than this, but I was pleased to see that deficit come down a fair bit. With a few other changes I should be able to get a lot closer, which is promising.

The next was the 10, I’d been doing some longer sustained efforts in training, and reckoned really that over 400w should be possible in a ten, its mentally quite a hurdle as its a fairly lumpy number, and even riding over 400w on roadbike up a climb quickly starts to hurt both legs and lungs, but I thought it must be possible based on the 25. I rode my TT bike but with road helmet, winter wheels/tyres and such, after all there were only 12 racers! I started fairly hard and again just looked to hold on, the upshot was 405W for 21 mins, I was pretty pleased, this was a huge improvement over my previous best. And also on fairly tired legs. If I can eek out some more at both durations and implement the changes I to kit that I have in store, then I could well improve performances on a national level (probably not on the ten given the course, but 25 I hope).

IMG_1891

The next event was one I was quite looking forward to, the Surrey League May 3 day stage race, three 67 mile road stages back to back, Dunsfold, Bletchingley, Edenbridge – flat, hilly, rolling is probably the most simple way of summarising the topography of the 3. We had a great team entered, Tom, Pat, Rich, Benoit, Dom and myself, all strong riders, and all capable of solid results at this level and more without doubt. The limit for teams was 6, and I was positive that we would have the strongest team in the race. And we did, the weather for the first couple of days looked fantastic so we were all keen to get racing! There were no set in stone tactics, though we probably thought our best GC bets were Pat, Dom and myself who had all proven to be competent over multiday events, but we remained open minded to any eventuality on stage 1 which would change how we rode.

Stage 1 – Dunsfold

This is a circuit I’ve ridden twice before as a 3rd, and then 2nd cat rider, the first was was first road race I ever did, I managed 9th, a year later I was a lot stronger and got into a 5 man break and managed to get rid of everyone on the run in apart from Paul Sewell who sat on my wheel to perfection and sprinted past to win leaving me to pick up 2nd. Its pretty flat with one small kick near the finish which is off the circuit but a 30 second uphill sprint. The finish had been moved to near the top of the hill which suited me perfectly, I’d have likely won if it was here back in 2013 vs 150m over the top.

The race was a fairly attacking affair to be honest, especially given it was by far the easiest of the 3 days, people were obviously not worried about saving their legs! Lots of moves went and came back and nothing looked to be sticking initially. The first move of any note in my opinion was when Pat of PL went solo at around the half way point, perhaps a bit before. I tried to make sure we were up near the front disrupting to allow Pat a good chance of staying away. At one point his lead was out to 45 secs and it looked promising, however as numerous other attacks went which we duly shut down, the gap began to fall, eventually after almost 3 laps of the circuit Pat was back in the bunch.

With perhaps 25 miles left to race there were lots of moves, I bridged over to one that looked good, only for everyone to sit up! I noticed then Mick Coyle moving up, age is nothing but a number I soon saw as he powered off up the small climb, having ridden many times in the past with Coyle I knew he was strong, so went with him, we quickly caught a lone rider who had gone off the front, there was 12 miles of racing left, we gathered a couple of VCM riders, and a couple of others, we were working well together and our lead went out, I was confident of this move and was committed to it, knowing the PL guys would do a job of blocking from behind. However, after almost an entire lap away, it was clear that it wasn’t to be, Coyle said we should rest up and go again in the same place for the final lap, I agreed initially but thought that now would be a good time to go again, I left strong, so thought I’d have a go.

I went again, one VCM rider and a London Dynamo came with, we were going well, though Dynamo was sitting on, a bit odd I thought with 7 miles left to race. However all became clear when we got near to the finish line when Dynamo sprinted off up the hill one lap to soon…I made sure VCM and myself didn’t make that mistake and we powered up the hill to take the bell 2 up. It became clear that I was probably the stronger rider in this move, VCM was quite honest and said that he just couldn’t come through, and that when he did it would only be a short turn, fine with me, all I felt like I needed were micro rests and I would do the lions share of the work. That is exactly what did happen, and with perhaps 3 miles left we got told we had a 30 sec lead, which I thought was enough. I was debating whether to accelerate away before the line, or to ride it in as a 2up and use the hill to my advantage. I was sure I could ride away solo, but the legs were beginning to ache and it was day 1 of 3, so I kept with the VCM rider as we hurtled towards the finish hill. I flicked my elbow and was very surprised to see him happy to lead into the hill, perhaps he just wanted the gap knowing I would likely win the sprint, either way, no sooner had he done that before I launched the sprint up the hill, he didn’t respond and I was able to cross the line alone with Jack 8 seconds back, and the bunch a further 10 or so secs back on him. With the finish line bonus I now took a 47 second lead over the main field into day 2. Not a bad start though perhaps now we would be under pressure, much like at the Tour of Sussex 3 years ago where I’d also taken yellow on day 1 only to lose it by a handful of seconds on the final stage…

win duns

The guys were all chuffed and said they did a lot of work to help me stay away, the first instalment of what would prove to be a very strong and unified team effort over the weekend, we now had a jersey to defend, and to Surrey Leagues credit, it fitted well!

Stage 2
With the first stage behind us, and a result that both was initially not what we’d planned, but more welcomed than I thought. It would prove to be an interesting day in Bletchingley. The circuit is renowned in the area for being a bit grippy, or if you’re a slightly more well built rider, it could be described as rather difficult. I’d done numerous races on the circuit and had mixed success, but notably my only success came when one of the hills was taken out of the race due to roadworks, a slightly hollow victory to myself.

Today, though, there was no short course, it had all of the lumps and bumps that were intended, the plan was to try not to use up our firepower early on by covering every single attack but rather wait until the race got interesting in the back half before trying to use our strength to dictate. So, with one mile down, who else do I see on the front, warming up his legs than Paceline engine Pat Wright – I actually laughed to myself as only Pat would consider this normal behaviour with 130 miles still to race. Anyway, I left him to it. Soon though attacks began, I’d stuck a 28 on the back just to make sure I could tap away in the saddle up the hill rather than grind it up there and destroy my legs. Later Pat would tell me he only used the small ring once in the entire race, I reckon I shifted down about 30 times over that 3 hours! Anyway, the legs were feeling ok, but certainly blunted somewhat from the previous days antics. It was on this stage that the team really began to show their mettle, Rich, Tom, Pat and Dom in the early days were relentless, closing down anything that looked dangerous. It was especially impressive of the former two riders, one in his 4th race ever, churning away on the front like he’d been at it for years, and the other who rated his chances of even getting round the circuit at slim to none, yet able to ride down attacks of just about anyone and everyone despite being a larger rider, not unlike myself. And well, Pat was just Pat, always there, always hurting himself in the name of the jersey – chapeau and all that.

It was really with 1.5 laps to go that things got interesting, gaps were forming over the hills, and it was now time for me to really make sure I could back up the teams sterling work with some strong riding of my own, I rode down a large move myself (well bridged over, but it came back together eventually) as we got the bell, it hurt but I knew I had to do it. The final time up the big climb, it all went mad, it was at this point that I saw Benoit, I’d not ridden with him prior, but was glad to see him come through over the steep hill to guide me to the latest huge fracture in the bunch, he flicked his elbow with only me on his wheel, I asked politely if he could get me to the beginning of the highstreet and I would do the rest. He did that, and did it well, he later said of how he hid in the wheels most of the race, I said that while the turn was shorter, it was every bit as crucial. Once on the high street I hit it hard to get over to this splinter group, I did, though again it came to not a lot, but the peloton was at least now fragmented. Time gaps were on the cards. With one final kick up to the finish it was now or never – at this point Pat, not satisfied with being out most of yesterday and doing about 93% of todays race on the front fancied a go with one other, I was happy to let this gather steam, it would at least mean some other teams would have to chase, and they did as they know Pat is fairly dangerous on tough circuits. And tomorrow was another tough circuit. Approaching the final climb it wasn’t to be for Pat, meanwhile a couple had escaped off up the hill, my legs were screaming at this point, the race was in bits, I passed Pat up the hill as he shouted something – I kept it in the saddle bit think in hindsight I should have slung it in a big gear and just gone for a full on sprint up that hill as while I did close down a fair few places (to finish 9th about 10 secs back from the winner from Army CC) I would have liked to have been closer, but it was not a bad result.

It was at this point really that others began to praise us for the work we were doing, I’d heard numerous comments and what not through the day, but there were many folks actually approaching me and others to express their congratulations for not just a decent result to probably retain the lead, but in how drilled the team was, it was a nice feeling, and though none of the other guys got much of a result on the day, I could sense that they felt positive and part of it. Certainly in the reports from Tom and others it would seem that being part of something with an end goal staged over multiple days is as rewarding as winning a race on your own. A job well done, we would later learn that I would take 12 secs lead into the final day thanks to the win bonuses on the line.

Stage 3

Not a circuit I’d ridden before, I’d tried to, only to be told of a last minute cancellation due to roadworks. The reason this isn’t altogether surprising is that this circuit is around 15 miles long, certainly one of the longest that I race in the SE, and makes Dunsfold 7 mile loops look more like a town centre crit! Sadly the weather wasn’t playing ball, and rather than clear blue skies and low wind, we were faced with grey drudgery much more akin to Feb than May. The guys as you would imagine were less than positive about their legs on this 3rd stage, apart from Pat, his legs were fine. However I did try to insist that sometimes despite what your muscles feel, you can produce things you thought impossible. While we were not looking for any great feats of human endurance today, we did need a few riders with reserves to try and stem the inevitable flow of attacks that would come from what I saw as 4 other main competitors and their respective teams. Kennet of PMR had ridden to a strong 2nd place at Bletchingley and was in spitting distance, and the winner of that stage from Army CC was now very close. And of course Freeman from the 2 up on day 1 was also in the mix.

We’d decided (a bit like yesterday) that we should not use up all our firepower early doors – there was a plan, Pat wanted a shot at the KOM jersey and said he’d take off solo a lap or so in and see how that went and then we’d assess based on the outcome of that. After about 30 yards of racing it began to rain. Great. It was clear that while this circuit wasn’t ‘hard’ as such, it was going to feel hard on the 3rd day – anyway, next thing we know Pat is up the road, however, slightly concerning was that another Army rider had gone with, with a 3rd who I forget. The army rider was in the points jersey, and I soon told that if he won and they retained a decent gap, he’d likely win the overall. It was at this point about half way into the race that the guys were asking me what we should do – I rather feel like the Army boys are probably better in situations where giving orders to other people at key points are critical in getting shit done, but I expressed my opinions nonetheless, hopefully in a way that was not rude, I didn’t want us to lose this bike race. Pat and co now had 90 seconds on the bunch with half the race remaining, surely the points jersey would be able to outspent Pat, who can ride all day, but if there is a break of 3, unless he can drop them, you’d probably bet on him getting jumped (sorry Pat :P). I’d overheard some prat behind mutter “Paceline, undoing all their hard work yesterday, throwing it away” I muttered back that we’d only done 25 miles, and there was much ground to cover.

It was now time to bring this one back not after Kennet had a go on his own, I shut that one down with Dom – after that however I called for the guys to come through (insert your own, Squad Assemble meme here) and begin through and off, we all swapped turns, there was no shirking, I was as much a cog in this as they were. I thought later about how that must have looked, the front of a group of 60 riders, everyone just sitting back watching 5 guys ride a team time trial to bring the race back into their favour. It worked, we were flying, we brought down that gap to about 20 seconds in no time, we let up a bit as it was clear it was going to come back. Pat dropped out of the group and we set about business as before. It must have been about 3 miles later with just over 15 to race, I hear a ticking noise, I look down to see where this horrible noise is coming from, and then hear a sound nobody wants to hear at any point, let alone while riding the final stages of a race – my rear wheel pins a spoke, bollocks. I quickly gesture to the guys that my spoke has gone, everyone pulls over, Tom offers me a wheel but the neutral car is almost upon us, so I decide to wait. At this point something fairly controversial happened, we all hear shouts of attack, and the pace upped noticeably, I didn’t think much of it at the time as I thought if the change was quick we could get back on. Alas the change was not quite as quick as we would have liked, and it looks to have cost us around 80 seconds in total, we get back on the road and set about chain-ganging back on to the bunch, we work hard, my legs are really beginning to feel it, Rich, Tom and Pat still so strong at this point. We pull and pull, but as time goes on its evident that we will not see the bunch again. A sad reality really, we stick together and roll over the line probably around 90 seconds or so down in the end, spirits are low. Turns out Stan Kennet had won that stage and the overall, a 2nd, then 1st was testament to how he rode, consistent and strong, congratulations. It was a bit of a bitter pill as the top few were actually the same top few as the day before the the notable absence of myself.

We got back to the hall and many riders tell us what went down and who dun it, as it were. To be honest its of little interest to me to name and shame, but what I will say is that there was ten hours of racing to attack, to do it then and still end up with no riders in the top 10 is a little bit bizarre. But that’s the way it goes, some people are generally pretty decent about things, some are not, no reason to suggest that everyday life should alter when everyone gets on bikes.

I haven’t even bothered looking at the results to be honest, but what I will say is that there was one winner in team spirit over that weekend, and that was us. All of the guys and myself included would have liked to have capped it off, but it doesn’t feel like a loss, it feels like a victory in all but BC points. Just as I wrote this last night in fact one of the Army riders got in touch to say how impressive we were as a unit and how gutted he was about the outcome, says a lot about what happened I reckon! So I’ll thank the team once more for their efforts, and onto the next one! I actually start a new job very soon, and am likely going to be very busy with trips abroad and what not, but hopefully we can show ourselves again at the Tour of Sussex later in the year. All rides on Strava as usual. Thanks to Keith Lea, Gary Wyatt, Glynn Durrant for the pics.

Time trial musings (H25/8)

17 Apr

I’ve done a couple of events since the last update. The first of which I won’t dwell on for too long as, frankly, even thinking about it bores me. Archer GP at Hillingdon – 50 miles/50 laps essentially! I only entered as I wanted to see how the legs were feeling and whether my core work had helped the back out.

The legs felt good, I was active and did get into a decent looking move, sadly I was pretty knackered by this point so wasn’t able to offer a huge amount and the back was aching a touch, so more work needed, we were brought back. With a few to go the usual dodgy riding was taking place, so I dropped off the back to watch the finish. I did question whether I’ll ever go back to Hillingdon, I didn’t want to go, I got there and couldn’t be arsed to race, and then finished thinking I’d wasted my Friday night and Saturday, if its not fun, its not worth doing perhaps.

Time Trial

Next up was a 25 mile time trial on the Bentley H25/8 course. I’ve ridden this course countless times and my best was last year with 49.24 in nice conditions, that day losing to James Boyman by 4 seconds – I did 355W. Today I had already decided that owing to my legs feeling good in recent days, that I was going to ride harder. I was going to hold my best ever 25 watts for the first bit and see how it went. 361 was my best, so when I was half way through with 365 or so and feeling alright I was pretty happy, speed was good too at over 30mph, it looked fairly sure I would go under 50 mins in pretty average weather (about 7 deg and north wind). However, the saddle was causing me some discomfort by about 15 miles, so much so that I think my position suffered somewhat as time went on.

The splits would indicate that I lost most of my time to John Dewey who would go on to beat me by about 30 seconds in the middle section of 15 miles which I did at 367W, the first 4 miles I was equal and the last 8 overall we were very similar, and the last 4 of those I was slightly quicker. So I can see how many more watts I need and I think I the first 4 where I was able to hold position bang on show what I was losing to saddle discomfort later on, its not much really. There was a 9w swing between my out leg and my return (more on return) and the final 5 minutes were above my best 10 mile average so I think there is more in the tank. The overall av was 369W for a final time of 49.38 (though I timed it at 49.36). I think if I can go out more like 370 and back at 375, or even keep it steady for around 375 average then I would be very close. Add in the new skinsuit I’ve got coming (with no pinz pouch) a few other bits I need to address from my latest aero session then I think I can close that gap a fair bit, and perhaps if all things were equal on another day maybe I can sneak a win, could probably try and close the 10kg gap a bit too…! There is no doubt in my mind that John riding as he is now will be one of the fastest testers in the UK, so while I don’t like being beaten I can appreciate the quality of rides he’s pulling out to do it, its not like I’m not going quicker than I was either – if I had pulled out 345W and got beat by a minute it would be a terrible day out, but a time very close to my summer PB with a strong power PB is a positive. I also could not get into the 11t at all in this race, cadence was 98 avg which would probably show there are a few times where I could have done with the big gear!

As it happened only John and myself were under 50, and I think 3rd place was over a minute down on me (who had done a 19 in the ten version in March, so no slouch) I think my goals of a 48 for the 25 and an 18 for the 10 are certainly possible. The next step is to ditch the inhibitions and just try and ride harder for a 10, it worked here, I think it can work for the shorter distance, though blowing up a more real possibility ha!

Time trials these days are so very particular, its long been said that its an arms race in the TT arena, and I can’t disagree – you really need to have refined your position to a high level and be producing decent watts to even get anywhere near winning most popular opens these days. I have an open 25 on this course, in better conditions with a 51. That would have just about got me into the top 5 yesterday in what was essentially winter weather at times. That is in the space of 2-3 years. Amusingly, I was signing on and overheard people mention my name (but not clock I was behind them or even know what I look like more likely) and how it would be touch and go whether I would catch the chap in question, I forget how far off in front of me he was – the lady he was speaking to said something like “surely nobody will be anywhere near sub 50 today” and another replied with “no, low 50’s maybe” – I think it highlighted to me that if you want to keep improving, and not get left behind so to speak, then there is lots that can be done today that perhaps couldn’t have been so easily previously. They were both dead right in their assumptions, if the year was 2013, but times change…

Next up I’ve foolishly agreed to do the 270km Liege-Bastogne-Liege sportive with a few pals the day before the pro’s do it in half the time. I may do a club ten this week and go for that 400W + ride and see what happens, also. Then I have a 3 day stage race which I am hoping to bring good legs into. And then I start a new job which will be a lot of fun but a lot of work so we will see how the riding goes…

All rides on Strava as usual, and here is a snap from the TT

IMG_1891

James Atherton RR / High Wycombe 10

28 Mar

I’ve been a bit slow in writing a report about the James Atherton road race that I did on Sunday, I was waiting to do the Good Friday time trial on H10/22 hosted by High Wycombe, two birds and all that, so you’ll find a review of that below the road race also.

There was a bit of a toss up between races to do on the Sunday, the options were the Wally Gimber which is quite a well known race down in Kent on a circuit I don’t mind, but have had bad luck on, mechanical and puncture the last two times. Or there was the James Atherton which was a 2/3 category road race, only about an hour away on a tough circuit around the Meon Valley. This is an area I know fairly well having lived down there for a bit, and in fact also winning the Tour of the Milburys a few years back, which is held on a very similar course, almost the same roads in fact. I was confident I would have some team mates for this race vs the WG where I’d almost certainly be racing alone. The icing on the cake was knowing that there were at least 2 if not 3 more races on the Atherton circuit over the course of the year, including the Tour of the Milburys which had moved since I did it to be on this circuit exactly, that swung it for me and I entered. With me were Pat, and Tom, who by now should be feeling the positive effects of the week they spent with Paceline down in Southern Spain.

The field was fairly unknown to me really, I’ve not raced in 2/3 races for 2.5 years now and it being a different region, it attracted riders that might not often do the Surrey League races and such. This was refreshing though, nice to not know how something will go – or so I thought at the time! I drove down and noted the temp readout on the car slowly dip from 9c in sunny Surbiton to just over 5c in the small village the race HQ was situated. As such, I was kitted up for it, gabba top, leg warmers etc etc, I didn’t want to get cold. Imagine my surprise when I saw Pat on the startline in a skinsuit, nutjob.

The race was 60 miles over 6.5 laps of the circuit, there were no big climbs in the circuit as such, a couple of slightly steeper ones, and one long drag up to the finish, the upshot was that over 60 miles, we climbed 6000ft, which for south in a 2/3 road race is actually quite a lot, and looking at the profile I don’t think there is any more than a few hundred meters of flat road, a tough day out then. I said to Pat and Tom that we should be well aware of moves going, and to look to try and get into as many as we could as there was no way this would come down to a bunch sprint.

As we got off to a start my legs felt pretty good, I’d been feeling good for some days actually, and had fully loaded myself with carbs the night before, maybe too much, felt a bit sluggish at first! I was looking to wait a while and see if anything went that looked good was worth going with, and if not use my energy in the latter part of the race to try and make something happen myself. Because my memory is a little faded I’ll try and cover in short what happened : Firstly, Tom punctured about a mile from the start, so that was race over after the service car wouldn’t pace him back – a real shame given he had done the same the week before also!! There were a number of moves I tried to get into in this race as a general theme, and one looked really good in the 2nd lap, I followed Ken Buckley who is known to be strong, and we got a group of about 6 or 7 working through and off including the eventual winner Will Haynes, we pulled out a lead, and kept it going well. I thought this was the selection to be honest, it was early but I knew I had the legs to ride steady for 40 miles as I’d done it the other week in the SERRL and it looked like the group had the firepower to make it stick.

Alas, it was only 10 minutes later that it came back together, at this point a couple slipped off the front, my legs sapped a bit I sat in, some time after, another 2 jumped off to chase, this would go on to form the lead group of 5. At about the half way point, maybe just before, Pat had gone off on his own in pursuit of the lead 5, he must have been between us and them for maybe 2 laps on his own, at one point he almost came back to the bunch only to extend the lead again when the bunch lapsed, a solid ride, but a really tough circuit to get over to a bunch on your own. While this was happening, a move that again looked good formed, it had a few riders I had noted looked strong so I followed. I was basically sitting on as I thought it might still be possible for Pat to get over, but soon it was clear that would not happen, and he was absorbed, then after getting a gap with this bunch it began to come back together. Due to not having done a vast amount in this move I felt fine still, I thought this was a good time, Mike Lancaster had attacked a few minutes ago and was now in the distance, I thought I could get over and perhaps we could work together, and I knew that just at the top of this climb everyone would be blowing and it was a good time to hit it…

I kicked hard just as it came back together, it was a fast section and I was well over 30mph, I got a gap straight away, and nobody had jumped to follow, this was at mile 49 of 60, some tired legs perhaps. I went round the corner and tried to go hard up the steep climb, and push on over the top, this hurt, but I then was able to recover on one of the many fast downs of the circuit, I glanced back and could see someone coming over, with nobody behind. I kept it steady and slowly on the climbs this rider got over to me as he proved to be quicker up hill than myself – Matt Buckley I think of Andover Whlrs, it was immediately clear that he was strong on the hills, not a lot of him and perhaps had been waiting for the right move. I did suggest we keep it smooth as I could offer more on the rolling and down sections perhaps, we worked together for half a lap until we came into the finish hill. I glanced back and could see a chase group, maybe 8 riders, Pat was in this 8, at this point Andover went through pretty hard and I just didn’t have the legs to stick with it, not when I knew there was a mile of hill left. I kept pushing on as I knew I could catch him again if I stayed steady until the down, I glanced back again and could see that Pat had attacked that bunch and was coming over solo, no chasers – ideal I thought, at least with a team mate we would work to try and get both of us over to the break rather than trying to drop the other one, as its quite clear Pat probably could have ridden straight past me and I would have really had to dig in to keep with him on the climb.

As it was though, Pat and I were working well, pay probably doing 65% of the work as he was so much stronger up the climbs, I gave him what I could on the other parts, and as we switched turns I could see in the distance the lead car, and also the Andover rider who had gone ahead, I put in a big turn to get back the Andover rider, and then we were 3 up, this was a good situation. I think the gap to the front bunch was well over a minute when I had attacked with 11 miles to go, with now about 5 miles remaining we had halved it. We worked well, and with maybe 3 miles to go, just before we turned into the long finish hill, we made the junction with the lead group. By this point however, the eventual winner had buggered off up the road and was gone (Haynes), so it was a race for 2nd place with 3 miles to go. However, given the effort Pat and I had put in, and not just in that lap, but over the course of the whole race, I think we perhaps were feeling it. Its clear the break had been working hard initially then settled into a tempo that wasn’t super hard hence we closed such a big gap. As we came together there was a big acceleration, 3 riders went, inc Andover who looked still strong. I couldn’t follow, and I don’t think Pat could either – the two others who stuck with us came in the shape of Will Ranoe, who was a big strong rider who I hoped had felt it in his legs as much as I had being less whippet-esque, and another chap who looked in not bad shape, but again clearly didn’t have it to go with that 3.

With maybe 1 mile to go it got tactical, Pat accelerated and got a gap, Ranoe went out of the back momentarily, and I came to the front to try and let him get away as I felt he deserved the best result of us. Sadly though he never quite got the distance and the other rider closed it down, Pat tried again, and this time Ranoe was out of the frame. I knew I could probably win the sprint of the two, and with Pat looking like he was not able to go solo, and he will be the first to tell you his sprint is his weakest point, and the other guy swinging a bit, I waited until we got closer to the finish and rode past them to take 5th, Pat managed to win the drag to the line for 6th, and the other two came in next, followed by perhaps two more chasers then the bunch.

While this was only a 2/3 cat race, it was the highest normalised power I’ve ever done over 2.5 hours @370W, which when I have my FTP set at about 380W (for road bike, its a bit lower on TT before anyone wonders – due to the position etc) tells the story of how hard I had worked. I felt it, no doubt. While I think I’m a few kg heavier than when I won the TOM on this circuit, I think my attitude to these races is very different now, I’m happy to race without care, previously I was always worried about blunting my legs for a sprint, but now, I am doing it more because I enjoy it, not because I’d set some silly goal to make x category this year. The other aspect of this is that I actually need to at least stay a 2nd cat until July when we race the Tour of Sussex, and with 35 points of the 200 already, its entirely likely I could make it back to 1st cat this year without really being too focussed on doing so, but ideally I’ll stay in 2nd as its much more fun I think, and 2.5-3 hour races suit my training time a lot more than the 3-4 hour races that you do as a 1st cat.

Next up road race wise I think will be a 1/2/3 cat event at Hillingdon, which are quite rare, then either the Thames Velo road race, or one of the Surrey League events before tackling my first stage race since the RAS in 2014 – the Surrey League May 3 day, 3 days, 3 60 mile road races over mixed terrain, should be fun, we have a strong team and I am keen to see how I go.

https://www.strava.com/activities/522154217

High Wycombe Ten

Next up was a ten mile TT on Good Friday, to be honest I was looking forward to it, to see how I was going after the early season sporting events. The course is part of the Nat 25 that I did last year. I knew that Adam ‘Tops’ Topham had won a fair few times with various 19 minute rides, I also knew John Dewey was riding who had been going really well, and looked to now be making the most of his power. I felt confident that I could put a good ride in, afterall, last time I raced Adam he’d been 22 secs back on me, which is about the exact same time John had put into me in the last race we did together. Could be tight! I was hoping I might be able to crack another 18 and push for a win – wind was a bit higher than we would have wanted which meant the times were probably not as fast as they could have been.

Without boring on too much, I felt pretty good,but I feel rode the out leg like the start of a 25, i.e. not really pushing it enough in hindsight, rode the third quarter harder and the last 3 minutes as hard as I could. The upshot of that was 375W out with a tailwind, a bit at 400 and then the last 3 minutes at about 440, which I think paints the picture that I just went out too slow and had too much left at the end. On the day it was clear that with a lovely tailwind out I needed to have made more of it than I did. I clocked 19.34, Tops did 19.24 and John broke the course record with 19.11 – I wasn’t too worried about it, its early season, but I think its clear how things are always evolving. The next step in a ten is to just try and go out at 400W and see what happens in the latter half, I think perhaps I’ve been taking it a bit too easy in a fair few tens I’ve done, so time to see if I can get over the mental barrier of breaking that 400 number!

https://www.strava.com/activities/526146980

East Surrey Hardriders 2016

14 Mar

The East Surrey Hardriders was yesterday, 27.25 miles (taken down from a previous 29.9 due to roadworks) of fast single track, dual carriageway, and finally country lane fun over a rolling course. I’ve written about this event before, so if you’re interested go back to March in the previous year archives on the right hand side.

The upshot is that I’ve done this event 3 times, the first time I was 11th, last year I was 2nd, and this year I won and set a new course record for the course that has been used since 2014, and I think having looked I may well have taken the standard length CR had we raced it, looking at previous data. The attraction to this race goes beyond a generous smattering of prizes (£180 cash and £80 in vouchers better off after the win!), its about getting my name among some strong and well known riders not just locally by nationally, its a bit of a who’s who of testing in the UK, Prebble, Hutch (4 times!), Sean Yates, Sybrandy, Gethin Butler, Tim Stevens, Matt Bottrill and Steve Berry, (who set the CR on the normal course) plus many more – a lot of national champions in the list!

The lead up to this race was, as usual, less than ideal, the previous weekend I had been to Madrid for a mates stag do, of the 48 hours I spent there, I think I slept 8 and drank 35 of them, there are numerous photo’s of me smoking too, not ideal to be honest but there we are – I can confirm the gin and tonic they do is something to behold!I thought I would be ok but I didn’t feel normal until midweek really, getting old it would seem. I’d recently had another session at the velodrome with Xav so was confident that my position on this fairly quick course would be improved from previous years and even with similar power to previous years I may still go quicker.

On the startlist were many of the usual suspects, sadly owing to a team camp, last years winner was not present (Chris McNamara), but there was Maybank (past winner), Tadros (past winner), C.Yates, Paceline’s own Pat Wright who had a few wins under his belt already this year, and John Dewey who beat me into 2nd the other week on a sporting course. I knew I’d have to do a very good ride to beat an improved John, and of course stay ahead of the rest of the guys. I had a vague idea of what sort of pacing I would look to employ as its easy to get this one wrong being fairly long with a nasty sting in the tail with a hill at 22 miles.

Anyway, I got warmed up, had a bit of a chit chat to Connal who was complimentary of my progress, I put it all down to the aero gains, and joked they were likely harder to come by when you’re as tall as he is! Got up to the Heath and got off to a start – last year no sooner had I set off than I was stopped by a dithering driver costing me a few seconds, and then again at the next rbt, none of those dramas today mind you, clear run was the order of the day, lovely, save for the straining of my neck to see the huge amount of serious potholes between reigate and Dorking, very poor condition for what is a main road.

It was a tailwind start, and as far as I was concerned the race proper began after the climb from the ‘cock’ roundabout just outside of Dorking, I’d wanted to ride to this point at about the same power I’d managed last year (about 340W) – I’d basically done that to witin a watt or two, from there it was game on, push on until the top of the hill at 22 miles where the remaining few miles were quite quick (well, as quick as going through small Surrey Villages can be) and I’d just hang on. I’d passed many people, my minute man I think I passed within 5-10 minutes which is always a nice boost, and then was concentrating on pushing on until I could see another.

With the bulk of the quick part of the course done at the 20 miles point, I had avg speed over 28.5 mph, with the hill and a rolling finish I was confident I would beat my time from last year (26.9mph avg), I hit the climb, and had to get out of the saddle, 42-23 not ideal up there, low cadence, 500w, and creaking bike, not the best! Got back on top of the gear and carried on, soon after that I caught my 9 minute man – Dave, who I regularly see on my commute, he shouted something which was appreciated, even if he was cursing me haha! I knew I was going to get under the hour, which would mean I was nearly a minute faster than last year, I stopped the clock on my garmin with 59.43 – and was awarded that exact time, despite me starting 1 sec early and stopping after the line, but it didn’t matter too much. I later learned that Dewey had not started, I think it was best I didn’t know actually as I put it all on the line wanting to win. I think John would have gone well, but think I’d have stood a good chance with the time I did.

In the end the next best time was Pat’s who was 1.01.02 – so there was a bit of wriggle room, but I was pleased to have won and got my name up there. No pics have come to light as of yet, but I’m sure they will in time, I’ll edit this as they do. Rather stupidly I had entered a 70 mile road race in Petersfield after this event, it had a short 25% climb in it, I lasted 5 laps of 9 and called it a day with screaming muscles. I was barely out of breath and my legs were in agony, I did enough to not call it a wasted trip and then stopped to watch James Boyman win in impressive style riding away on his own for the last two laps to win by over a minute, more than just a tester it would seem…!

Next race is one down Winchester way next weekend – the James Atherton with Pat and Tom, so hopefully we can animate that race, I decided to skip the Wally Gimber and having seen the startsheet, that might have been wise!
https://www.strava.com/activities/516246046

10 TT & SERRL Race

29 Feb

Bit of a combo again this weekend – Saturday with a practice run at this years National 10 mile course, which as I was to find out was more than just a little tough compared to the usual. And a return to road racing after a few months out with an event down in Kent on Sunday.

Been going better and better in recent days after finally getting mostly over the ankle sprain, I was feeling good for riding the TT, but was still in two minds about riding a road race on it with all the accelerations and changes of pace, but decided to make a call after the TT.

TT

I’d had a fairly solid (by my standards) week of riding, few intervals, no rest day etc, with the idea of rather than tapering for the event just getting a feel for it, but as ever, I want to win every time I ride, so I was still very much going to give it my full effort. The course which can be found here https://www.strava.com/activities/503711674 is the P886 which is down near Petersfield. I used to live and work in Petersfield as a youth so knew the road fairly well, but only had I driven it in my chavved up 306 GTI rather than cycle a time trial bike down it. So I wanted to get a good look from the bike in prep for August. As you’ll see, its pretty rolling, I’ve done the first bit in a road race, and the big downhill is actually part of the p885/25 course which I set a course record on last year, so I felt like I would find it ok, but either way you look at it, with nearly 700ft of climbing it is far from ‘rapid’.

On the day, everyone else I knew through cycling was riding then drinking beer while watching Omloop; with a biting East wind I was tempted to join them, but thought I better go and see it given the relative lack of events on the course between now and August, had there been another in 2 months I’d have certainly binned in. Competition was going to be tough, Pete Tadros who is no slouch on a flat course, and even quicker when it goes upwards was riding, also John Dewey who I’d ridden against many times previously was riding. I don’t think I’ve ever been beaten by John though we were always very close, but I thought if there was a time he would roll me, it was likely to be here, he packs plenty of watts and weighs a fair bit less than me, and with the newly formed Team Bottrill next to his name, I was sure he would be training hard under Matt’s horrible sessions (if all his people and their tweets are to be believed, that is). Anyway, got up to the start, and noticed it was actually really windy – I’d had another aero session with Xav the previous week but was wondering just how easy I’d find it to settle into position for any length of time on this course. I took it pretty easy for the first few miles and then tried to keep the effort up down the hill, but I was in 55-11 and at 45+ mph and didn’t feel like I was on top of it. I approached the bottom of the hill and had to freewheel while a car caught another rider and had to wait to overtake, I was also a touch cautious about cars not seeing me when waiting at junctions, it was late at 4.15pm and light was not amazing, probably over cautious, but better safe than sorry. For the first time I wondered whether a 90mm front was the best option, few crosswind moments, which at 45mph are not as easy to deal with as at 30, lets hope for typical summer weather for the big event.

I got to the turn at 31mph, which I thought was alright, but knew it would be dog slow on the way back, and sure enough, it was, from that point to the finish I did close to 400W for 12 minutes and went 23mph or something silly, it look my average down into the 26’s, which I’d not ever done in a 10 mile TT before, I’d even gone faster on my road bike on G10/42 than this as my very first attempt I think. I finished in 22.40 which I thought was ok considering, it was about as quick as Seb Ader had done to win an event there in years gone by, but I thought John would beat it. Got back into the HQ to find I’d come 2nd to Dewey, by quite a large margin, but given some of the events during the race I kind of accounted for that. John had done 22.18, which was a great ride in those conditions I thought. Pic from Eamon Dene of Local Riders – webpage here http://www.localriderslocalraces.co.uk/

Road Race

In times gone by I’ve noticed that my legs always feel pretty good after a 10, so I was hopeful of being in good shape for this race. It is my first race at 2/3 level for over 2.5 years, so cockily I thought it would be fairly easy to get round, and had a good chance of making something happen – that was based on me winning them 3 years ago at far lower base of fitness than I have now, so not total blind arrogance.

This was part of the SERRL down in a pleasant part of Kent called Benenden, 65 miles over a gently rolling circuit with 60 riders, the wind was much like the day before but stronger, I opted for some warm clothing, I even brought out the GABBA to tick the spring cycling cliche box. I’ll be banging on about Belgium and Kermesse next! Recognized a fair few faces which was nice, I had no team mates present because they’re all in Spain ticking the Calpe cliche box. I was a bit out of touch about who was who, but saw Declan who had been getting good results, James Hayden who had beaten me to the prize at the Tour of Sussex 3 years ago (still not forgiven), a couple of others such as Barnabus from Dynamo who I’d seen was getting some good results and had a reputation of being a strong man. And then what seemed like a lot of PMR team and numerous other Kent based teams along with Rich Cartland who I’d done the RAS with, who is always strong.

Idea at the start of the day was to get into a move and then try and go solo near the end. Idea almost changed after going up the first hill and thinking ‘blimey, this is harder than I remember” – the legs thankfully came back to life after a while and I felt pretty good. Barney was aggressive early on, I kept an eye on that and joined a couple of moves that looked good, with no luck straight away, but I knew he’d be involved with whatever did happen. After a bit of a telling off about bunch conduct we were back on our way, leading into the 2nd or 3rd time up one of the decisive bits of the circuit I drove through and really hit it over the top – I’d noticed in the last lap everyone was breathing hard here and that it led into quite a fast section, so would be good for a go – I kept on the gas and looked back to se it strung out, carried on for another 20 or so seconds, looked back again, same story, pulled off and noticed it was actually that there was now a bunch of ten of us away with a gap, happy days. All of the people you’d want involved with few exceptions. We were working pretty well together, got a time check, 30 seconds, carried on riding well, 50 seconds, and then just kept it steady – I noticed a few people were sitting on at times, but rather than worry about it I just tried to concentrate on riding steady to get the gap out. We went at about 25 miles, so had a good 40 miles to ride as a group of ten.

As the clock ticked down we’d lost James, and I was plotting how I would finish this race, I felt like Barney, one other in plain kit (Alex Richardson I later learned) and myself were strong in this bunch but knew we had a couple who’d be fresh. With just over one lap to go I accelerated over the top of a climb just to get an idea of how people were feeling, I got a gap but didn’t think I had it to go from here, I noted down how far it was from there to the finish, just under 2 miles, I was thinking that on the last lap, I would go here – we now had 4 minutes on the bunch so it was job done on that front. However, we got to the same point where I’d split the bunch initially and I had another go to see what would happen, it was looking like the same result had happened, we lost Declan, and got a small gap on the rest with Barney and Alex, but not enough, Richardson then went solo now and dangled out in front for a while. As we came up the climb near the finish, instead of doing what I had planned, I decided that in this number (8 or 9) I felt I could win from the sprint – I still think this was an error. We all but halted on the way to the finish drag, not ideal, it even allowed Declan to get back on, who I knew would end up beating most of them, silly on their part, I prefer sprinting from speed, but too late to worry about that now as we basically were in a track sprint situation, one of the Adalta lads who had been perhaps keeping his powder dry hit it first followed by Alex, and Dec and then me, BANG went the noise, rear spoke gone, and wheel all over the place. I kept on but not at full gas and came in 4th. Quite annoying, but good to have it happen now than at the beginning of another race I guess. That’ll teach me for not going through with what I had planned. Anyway, was fairly pleased with my ride, felt strong and 300w average for 2hrs45 is about as good as I’ve ever done in any race, so think I’m going alright. Next events in a couple of weeks, East Surrey Hardriders, then another 2/3 road race a few hours later…may live to regret that.
https://www.strava.com/activities/504541292

Pic from Team Bottechia here of the break (myself on the left in the woeful gloves as I’d managed to leave my black ones at the TT the day before)

Kingston Sporting 14 – season opener

15 Feb

I generally start racing at the same time each year, the Kingston Wheelers Sporting 14. Its always an internal debate whether to enter Perfs which always falls on a similar day, but I’ve never raised enough enthusiasm to drive all the way down there and race for 45 miles. The Kingston event is always a good one, its really close as events go, its on roads I know, and obviously having ridden with the club for many years before the creation of Paceline it promises lots of familiar faces.

Quick recap on what this event is, 13.6 miles, two laps of a circuit that has a long uphill drag, bit of DC, then a shallow downhill back towards finish line, it always gets a pretty decent field with all sorts of folk having ridden in the past, and while I’ve won it the last two years, I only managed to take Wouter Sybrandy’s course record by a single second in 2015, there are lots of very strong testers on the trophy, Paul Pickup and Ben Instone to name a couple from past years. I have the trophy and it looks like no rider had won it two years on the bounce, and certainly not 3 years on the bounce so I was keen to put a showing in.

Typically the winter was not without issue, I’d been going really well and showed great promise in the Dec time trial, but all good things come to and end! And in Jan (almost exactly 1 month ago today) I hit a wandering pedestrian (London is full of them!) and went down and badly sprained my ankle, the usual black bruising on the foot and huge swelling etc pointed to it being a fairly nasty grade 2 sprain. At the time I thought little of it having done it before as a kid and it not posing too much issue. But as time went on it became clear it was going to be a slow recovery. I’ve had a lot of days off the bike, and riding at anywhere near normal level has been a slow old process, finally now its starting to feel more normal though I cannot run on it yet. With this in mind I thought that it would be quite touch and go whether I’d be ok to ride this and I was going to make a call in the days leading up to the event.

With a couple of days to go I felt like it was OK to ride given the event is only about half an hour. Conditions looked ok, cold but not a terrible wind, though I thought winning would be tough given some strong riders on the startsheet, including serial bridesmaid in this event Pete Tadros and clubmate Pat Wright who had beaten Chris Mcnamara and Tadros to win both of the Southdowns Sporting events last weekend with his new TT bike. So certainly it was going to be tough. I knew Pat would probably be my closest rival, but you never know who can do what on the day.

I got down there and quickly realized that in my attempts to change stem on my bike, which is a total faff on a Trek Speed Concept, I’d overloaded the headset and it barely turned, I’d not been outside on the bike so didn’t realize. I panicked, knowing how long it takes to yank the bike apart I got back to the car and set about dismantling the aerobars as quickly as possible, I found the bolt that needed adjusting and set about it. It stressed me out a bit as it only left me with about 20 mins to warm up. I got up to the startline to be told me Alice Lethbridge (ladies CR holder from 2015) that she had taken two mins from her record, and I had to do the same, she had switched to a TT bike but whichever way you cut it taking 3 mins in total from the 2014 CR to now is impressive.

Anyway, long and short is that I got off to a decent start but noticed there were a lot of cars on the circuit making it a bit sketchy at times, an the corners were super greasy, but I got round the first lap above CR speed, so I was looking OK. On the final lap I got stuck behind a car for what felt like ages, but probably wasn’t and just had to freewheel, very irritating! I hit the line in 30.31 which was 18 secs faster than my previous time despite only managing about 360W this time vs 370 last year, though I am a bit more slippery now. I got back to find Pat had beaten Pete to 2nd place by 3 seconds to finish in 31:10. Paceline 1>2 and team prize owing to Keith Lea who I think was closely behind also in the top 5. For my troubles I ended up with a great print from Dom Trevett, £180 odd quid, and the trophy for another year, which I should really go about getting engraved this time round..!

Next on the menu usually is the Redhill event, but sadly its been cancelled due to roadworks, so its a practice run at this years National 10, which is pretty meaty with a fairly large climb, so will be interesting to see how I go there – and then I’ll see if the ankle is up to some road racing and the East Surrey Hardriders, hopefully can get everything back on track and go about ticking some of this years goals.

https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xtf1/v/t1.0-0/p600x600/12734218_10208745009441419_8340081006891569394_n.jpg?oh=e2e5cdea33e6bb56466b92d4ddda74b6&oe=5732E60C

https://www.strava.com/activities/493257806

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