RACING & new bike – Surrey League 3 day, Watford Velo, H25/8

2 May

New bike, pants TT’s and a road race win!

Been 6 weeks or so since my last entry so thought it was a good time to update on recent races and such. There’s been a fair bit going on recently, new bikes, great results, terrible results, cheap PB’s and all sort of other bits and bobs.

First up then – I got a bit twitchy bike wise, what with riding the same one for a whole two years, and while browsing Canyon’s site I decided to buy one of their Aeroads. I had avoided an aero bike when buying the Tarmac mainly as the Cervelo it replaced I felt was really not very responsive at the crits I was doing. The tarmac of course is a very stiff bike, and it certainly wants for nothing. However I’d probably been a bit unfair on ‘aero’ bikes and tech has come a long way since the Cervelo S3 I had which is probably 10 years old now, so thought I’d plump for the Canyon. It looks good and had been spoken highly of by a few people I know and obviously doesn’t slow down the Katusha/Movistar teams!

The bike is stealth black and came with Di2 and Reynolds carbon clinchers, my boss said “Its the bike batman would ride” and he’s probably exactly right it does look remarkably stealth, like a bike version of the Lockheed SR71 (Blackbird). I’ve ridden it a fair bit and I really like it, not sure I’ve got my position totally right yet, but my legs might just not be loving me as I did ride a 9 hour audax on the day after I got it. For the money, it seems like a great buy. And the service from Canyon was good also, the bike was physical when I bought it so it arrived in about 3 weeks.

 

canyon

 

Time trial wise I’ve done a few and had some great results, as in, I finally managed to do an 18 minute 10 mile time on the Bentley course. It required 407W for 18:50 which was the best I’ve ever done. Since then I decided that I could probably try another spacer out at the front, this turned out not to be the case and caused quite a few issues power wise in subsequent events. I’d been pretty pants in a couple of TT’s right after this change but put it down to tired legs, but it was confirmed when I travelled up to the fast E2 course and put out the worst power I’ve done for years. Laughably I still came away with a PB of 40 seconds (47:29) but it was a shocking ride and I was obliterated by many people who wouldn’t normally, which is always a bit disappointing. I have put the spacer back in but have since changed the saddle which led to problems of its own, so hopefully the next event will be back to normal. I know the legs are there which makes it all the more annoying when you just can’t push the power you are used to.

The road season took longer than ever to kick off for me this year but I have done a couple of events, first one was a bit pants, though I did try and follow every single move and then still expect to be able to sprint up a hill at the end, it turned out that was not possible. I then entered another race this Sunday gone in a bid to make sure I got some race time in ahead of the first target of the year (the May 3 day stage race). Watford Velo ran a race on the TMG Horizon circuit, only a 2/3 but was nice to get onto a new course in a very nice part of the world.

I actually had done a pretty pants TT the day before at Bentley with a long 49 to John Dewey who smashed me again by two minutes, so was not sure how the legs were going to be. But as is common the day after a shortish TT they actually felt really good, which was another tick in the box for something just being positionally wrong on the TT bike vs me being shit.

The circuit had one smallish climb in it which I attacked both times through, the first of which saw me set up a 3 man group, which sadly came back. And the second of which worked, and I got away from the bunch and then rode over to a break that I’d decided probably would stick. I knew straight away I was probably the strongest in the 7 man move so waited and ensured we got to the finish and then jumped them on the hill to win by a fair amount. Someone recently asked whether I ever consider going solo, (Declan) and actually when I was riding away from them on any rise I thought now might be a good time, but the finish being as it was – my ideal finish is a drag of 30-50 seconds as my power profile massively suits that – I thought it was best to play it safe on this occasion. It was all mainly in prep for the May 3 day stage race the following week, which actually had a few finishes fairly similar.

May 3 day

Generally I’ve had pretty bad luck with stage races, I’ve done 3 prior to this, won one of them, and led the other two only to lose the jersey on the final day on both occasions, one to a ridiculously audacious attack from now clubmate James Hayden, and the other to a bust wheel in the closing stages of this exact race last year.

Each time I had won the first stage and then had to protect the lead with the team, and each time it had failed, and was very hard to maintain. So this year the plan was not to do that, and rather keep a lid on it and make it count where I could. The general standard of this race is quite high vs many Regional A races that we do, it has a lot of well drilled teams, and many promising juniors among the old hands that have still got it.

Our team possibly wasn’t quite as strong on paper as last year,  but it was still a strong 6 riders, and the course was easier than last year. Which if you asked me last year I’d have jumped for joy at, but I feel at the minute I’m stronger and lighter than ever and crave a harder course to really make something happen (I would soon get found out on a harder at b mind you – Les Ingman for example I think will always hurt me). The first stage was the same, the second was originally meant to be one of the hardest in the SE, but got changed to a pretty easy one, and the final stage again was pan flat. Tricky. Pat had been going very well, in recent times, but probably would have preferred a harder circuit to suit his style, but we as a team I think felt that we had two options for GC in myself and him.

Stage 1

This is a circuit I know well, and I’ve generally always done ok on it, I think I’ve raced is now 4 times and either won or come 2nd three of those times (the other was my very first road race – 9th that time). It really is quite an easy circuit with one tiny rise out of a corner, though I’m loathed to even credit it as a hill really. My plan was to watch moves with anyone really strong in them, and let nearly anything else go initially as we could control is later on if needed be.

Last year

 

win duns

 

As it happened a move did get away very early, and Ian Paine who I’d identified as one of the target riders was in it, along with Andy Critchlow (not to be missed in his day-glow pink get-up) and an Army rider. They quickly got a decent gap which hovered around 1 minute. I knew it would be hard to make it stick on there from so early on. And though two riders chipped off, I never really thought it would stick as the bunch sped up, and I’d mentioned to the others, and a couple of other strong riders that we should begin to ride it down probably if it was still out there with 2 to go. But I think things gradually came together towards that point anyway. A crash put a few people out of the back, and the pace on the last lap was frantic. Nearing the finish Regents Park Rouleurs (RPR from here on in) put an attack in with one of their riders (Damien) with about 3 miles to go, which was mostly downhill. It was a good move to be honest, I knew that really they had likely 3 of their 4 riders who could easily contest the GC, so really I had no choice but to go after it.

I kicked hard away from the bunch out of the corner and settled into the effort to catch him. I was gaining slowly, I glanced to see another one of their team riding on the front, I must say I was amazed at the time, one of the strongest riders getting away and getting into a two up with me with 2 mins riding to the finish you would think was ideal. Anyway, I basically caught Damien just before the bunch was on my tail, now was a difficult situation. I’d just ridden 3 minutes at 450W to get over to him, and now to have any chance really of getting up the finish kick with a shot of keeping time I was going to have to do a max effort sprint straight off the back of it. I let a few riders go round me from the bunch as we hit the bottom of the hill. I was a bit gassed to be honest, and at that point Phil Glowinski (little Phil as Brad Wiggins branded him) who would win the stage kicked hard, really hard and got a big gap. I was boxed in by a another rider but managed to get round everyone and get 2nd and a 20 sec bonus. It was literally the ideal situation, I had not wanted to win this stage, but having some time on everyone was a great place to be, I was pleased to see Phil win also, top guy. I was also now wearing the green jersey as Phil had the yellow (he won both but can only wear one).

finish

Credit Gary Wyatt – https://www.flickr.com/photos/135753036@N02/sets/72157683101365816/ 

 

green

 

 

Stage 2

This stage was to be the hardest of the 3, but to be honest, it wasn’t all that difficult, it had a circa 1.5 minute climb (at bunch pace) to the finish, and a couple of other draggy bits and some fastish downhills. All on very narrow lanes. Quite sketchy, I wouldn’t rush back to it. My knee was hurting quite a lot after stage one, I have no clue why, and as I type its really very painful. So I was dubious of how it would feel during this stage.

Anyway, the results from yesterday meant I was in 2nd, 10 seconds back on Phil. The plan for today was to really get a lye of the land and then try and make something happen later in the race. Lots of activity in the first few laps, but nothing much was sticking until Pat got into a move that got some time but was slowly being reeled in before the bunch was stopped for dangerous riding. To be honest I think the course is mostly unsuitable for racing, it’s too narrow. RPR looked to probably be the strongest team in the race, but numerous times I would try and get something going only for it to be ridden down, I was a bit confused really, the race could have easily split apart if we had a few willing parties. I attacked, follow moves, counter attacked and generally was just trying to force something. It got a bit comical in fact as I would attack, get something going only for people to not ride. It was clear to me that maybe my only option was to let something form and then bridge over with a big effort vs going while nothing was up the road. Having spoken to those riders since I think perhaps if we had a re-run it would have gone differently, but it was how it was.

About 2/3rds into the race something got away that looked good, and I waited for Tom to be on the front to hit it hard and bridge over, it had another RPR rider in so I thought maybe it would be let go, but not to be. Eventually later on a move got away, ironically with the rider who had come 3rd in the stage 1 who was allowed up the road without anyone caring seemingly. Lots of people made this move including Pat. I was not interested in getting over to it, and just sat in while it went up the road. I figured If I went for it I would be chased down again and Pat would potentially then have me dragging the bunch over to him, which isn’t ideal.

A few of the guys asked me what they thought we should do, and I said we should let it go, it had the right composition and it was now getting time quickly, and we just had to hope Pat could roll a few of them and sneak a time bonus potentially, this was fairly crucial in hindsight, and I don’t think the finish hill was quite long enough. The break got about two mins on the bunch as it sat up, a few people pinged off trying to get to it, and some got quite close. I think really the best option would have been to try and get over to it regardless.

It turned out Pat got 6th or 7th on the stage which was a tricky situation. I had the idea of going hard up the finish climb to at least try and get a few seconds in case some miracle happened the next day. So hit it right from the bottom and nobody managed to catch me, though Tom from RPR was close. It was a bit of a tricky one because while we had someone right up the GC now, the 3rd stage was so featureless that it would be very difficult to really do much about it. I think the best bet would have been for a few of us just to ride together so as that we were at least fighting it out among ourselves vs putting ourselves out of contention. Though I was happy to ride with anyone that was strong enough to help something get away, so not sure I really could have played it much differently.

 

green2

 

 

Stage 3

By this point my knee was very very painful but my legs were fine, I joked to the guys that it had felt like I’d just done two days commuting prior, but the reality was that, I felt great. But the knee was very bad now and I debated riding at all. It was set to rain, and looked grim which didn’t buoy my mood. We got off to a really fast start with the RPR team drilling it on the front for whatever reasons, perhaps to split it, which it did a couple of times but with the yellow jersey now on a rider who had a full team in VCM (unlike Phil who was a lone wolf) it was always going to be tough as they would chase everything they could. 40 minutes passed of me rubbing my knee, and I saw Pat near the front, I said it may be a bit early to do anything yet, and at that moment I followed an attack, that got brought back and I went again, and then something amazing happened, I finally got a bloody gap!

Prior to this a Dynamo and Morevlo rider had gotten up the road, so now I settled in to the effort to get over to them, I estimate they were probably about 45 seconds up the road, maybe 1 min. Oddly the harder I pushed the less pain my knee was in, so I just kept riding. Took me about 7 minutes at 400w to get over to the move about 50 minutes into a 2.5 hour race. I sat on for a rotation and then started pulling turns. We quickly got the gap out, and I think at its best it was 1min25, we were fading a bit and the Morevlo rider did say that he was nearly done and would help all he could (decent of him). With 3 to go and 1 min gap I thought it might be possible. Annoyingly I had taken my garmin off because the mount was coming loose, so from 25 miles in I was riding blind with only the lap board to go by.

 

break

 

 

In hindsight this probably resulted in me doing less than I was capable of in terms of lengths of turns. I felt strong. We then got a time gap which was 28 seconds, it had literally fallen 30 seconds in no time at all, I still tapped through thinking they might get bored, but once you’re in sight its tough. Annoying as I was likely going to attack through the finish line and go solo for the last lap to try and make as much time as possible but it wasn’t to be. And not long before the bell sounded we were absorbed.

I settled in near the front of the bunch thinking I could probably still win the sprint if I could get into a decent position as the finish was right after a tight corner. But as time went on the riding got very fast, and I just didn’t have the ambition to risk binning it to get to the front, my legs also were probably not up to it, so I rolled in dead last. We had been away for a good proportion of the race, gave it a go, there wasn’t really many other options I felt.

All in all it was a strange race, I still enjoyed it, and before I destroyed my knee I felt like I was one of the strongest riders in the race. I had little issue covering counter attacks from key riders, if only we had got moving when I did. Hopefully the knee pain subsides, as I’ve got a thirst for more road racing now, got a few coming up that I like. Tour of Milburys in 2 weeks, see if I can get close to winning that again like 2013. And then a few other bits and bobs. All rides on Strava as per, thoughts soon turn to the other stage race I enjoy in The Tour of Sussex, think I might go a bit better this year, hopefully.

So far so tanned…

8 Mar

In the two months since the last update I’ve managed to rack up a couple of thousand miles, many of which have been in warmer climes than our own. Though thankfully the winter is slowly subsiding and giving way to lighter evenings and milder temps, welcomed Despite living through 29 of them, they never seem to become acceptable in both length and severity (at times).

The first trip was out to Gran Canaria, it was at a time when Calpe, Mallorca and such were being battered by rain and winds, and a smattering of snow, so I was suitably smug to enjoy 5 days of riding in 20c and clear skies. Some proper roads out there, both in terms of views, and general disregard for gradient easing. There were a couple of times I wish I was doing what 99% of the other brits on the island were doing, getting wrecked on Carling in the Red Lion (probably) while chanting some such rubbish about Alexis Sanchez. It was a good block, and I felt pretty strong on my return. Would certainly give it a thumbs up for early season riding, though try to stay to the East of Maspalomas to avoid the winds, which can be serious, but a better chance of summer gear riding than most of the usual options IMO.

Kingston Sporting 14 (13.4 actually)

Not long after that it was my first race of the year, any regular readers of this, you know, if you’ve not had better stuff to do, like watching paint dry, or my twitter even, or EVEN Cycling Weekly (given they have covered me winning it a couple of times) will recognise the Kingston Wheelers Sporting 14 as the usual start of me riding my bike in anger. For the past 3 years I’ve managed to win, and the last two have seen me lower the course record each time, picking up a nice £100 bounty in the process. Always welcome, and very generous of Kingston to extend this to the women despite lower numbers, and offer decent prizes for rider positions to boot. This year was set to be more difficult than usual, not only were many of my peers riding quite quickly, Pat Wright, Liam Maybank et al, but this time John Dewey had also signed up. Anyone in the TT scene will know of John, probably, he’s gotten really rather quick in the last 18 months or so, and as such racked up a fair few national medals of various colour last year – obviously from good stock as his brother Doug looked to be making a name for himself as a pro in France as well.

John had beaten me in every event we had ridden together in 2016, and off the top of my head that was at least 4 different races over various distances. There are probably more, but I’ve tried to erase them from my mind such were the time gaps on occasion. The closest I got to him was in a 25 on Bentley where I managed my best power that season (370W) and still was left wanting to the tune of 30 seconds. With all that in mind, I had almost resigned myself to coming 2nd, but there was some hope in the shape of a few more watts, a smaller skinsuit, a few more miles in the legs and a few less KG. The same about of beer though, sorry.

Race day came around and it really was grim, around 2 deg when I drove down in my new (to me) Audi which was very pleasant with its heated seats, so much so that I debated just carrying on straight passed Ripley on the A3 all the way to Portsmouth as it was so warm. Alas, that £40 2nd place wasn’t going to claim itself. I opted for my usual outfit, which actually was a fairly braindead move as it was properly cold vs other years. Skinsuit with no base layer and short fingered aero mits – in 2 deg when you’re riding at around 28mph it is not pleasant. It took me a long time to feel normal afterwards.

I warmed up and felt pretty good, got down to the start far too soon as usual, my fear of missing my start does this to me. I got going, and with a light coating of damp on the course I was careful around the corners, and despite a pretty unhelpful wind, I was on CR pace after the first lap, which is always good for moral. The second lap is faster with a rolling start, and I was hoping to find some extra power. I did just that, and took a few of the corners more adventurously; sadly I did then get stuck behind a dithering car who was struggling to overtake another rider – I do wonder why we don’t do slowest to faster in these events, that would never happen if we did I doubt – it took him a little while to get round, and I was losing time, not ideal. I gave it all I had to the finish and stopped the clock in 30.11 which was exactly 20 seconds faster than my previous CR, with around 375-380w which was nearly 20w better than what I’d done this time last year (though I did ride it with a severe ankle sprain in ’16).

As per some previous posts, I decided before I saw the result that I was happy with my ride, and that was that. I then saw that John had beaten me by 4 seconds, and was a bit irritated by the car incident though I think it would have still been very very close without that. A big ride from John no doubt, and a deserved win – I was happy to essentially be at that level, its a level I never showed any danger of reaching last year.

Spain + Redhill Sporting 18

Next up the following week was the Redhill 18 event, again, something I’ve done many times, but in this case not won. I’ve come 2nd to Chris McNamara and 5th in my previous attempts. It would be fair to say that the field was strong, but probably didn’t have someone like John there to really make me think winning would be a big big ask. Pat was always going to be at the sharp end but I think these courses maybe aren’t hard enough to favour his light build and allow fat lumps like me to get around just about unscathed. There were then a fair few from Sigma Sport who all know their way around a bike. So it would not be a cake walk.

In the back of my mind as with many of these events is not just winning, but it’s going faster than anyone else has,  you have to remember that many of these time trials have been running for decades. When you look down the past winners list of this and especially something like the East Surrey Hardriders, there’s some proper riders in there, I’ve mentioned before, but we’re talking Sean Yates, Michael Hutchinson and many other legends that were a bit before my time, so winning one  is (to me at least) a fairly big deal, and while I’m not the level of many, its nice to be among them on a trophy. The point I was trying to make before going off on a tangent was that the record was something I was keen to break, and that record was held by Wouter Sybrandy, who to be honest, is far more talented than I ever will be, but I have one thing on my side, and that’s not being 6,4 as he is, and aero is everything, as they say. His time of 39.16 or so. Fairly punchy.

Anyway, same drill as before, though it was a lot warmer, a balmy 8 deg this time, so no such thoughts about my sanity when pulling on the fingerless gloves. To be honest, I rode this quite unusually for me, in that I started it fairly controlled, and then just proceeded to ride the final 15 miles like a total nutter just stamping the pedals and flying around the lanes without much care for pacing. Not my normal style, but I kept pushing and the legs kept giving, so why not, I thought. I knew fairly early on that I was probably going to break the record, in fact I think I was at record pace fairly early on, and this course generally is pretty fast in the closing miles finishing on a dual carriageway. I kept it together and really gave it some effort for the final 15 minutes actually doing the best part of 400W for that, which is around 30W more than I managed in 2015. I knew I was well under record pace, and actually ended up stopping the clock 42 seconds faster than Wouters time, I was quietly confident, but you never know until you get back into that dusty village hall…

It turned out that it was indeed good enough, and Pat had done a great ride also to get 2nd by some distance. I think he was exactly 1 minute behind me, with a fair gap back to Jamie Pine of Sigma beyond that, sadly Liam Maybank had flatted in the carpark. We won the team prize by about 6 minutes and it was generally a good morning.

Spain was a trip I’d kind of liked to have done in previous years, but didn’t. And that was the club trip down to Spain (Calpe region, along with every other 2nd cat in the uk). We stayed with Noze who runs Cycling Holidays Spain, and a great week it was too, all food and support included in the price, and planned routes each day. There were ten of us there, all wanting to get something different out of it, I was looking to build on my form, and others were doing their first proper training of the year – and then there was Pat who just gave everyone a total shoeing over every hill for 7 days straight, and still stuck a few loops on the end of some of the rides, nutter. 6 days of riding for me, about 400 miles/23 hours/35k of uphill, a few decent efforts and a very decent tan and I was ready to return home.

And that is where I have gotten to really, sounds like quite a lot for only March. My current feelings on bike riding are this, I want to do some road races soon, which is a bit of a change to my feelings last year, and I also think I can go a fair bit quicker in general this year in time trials than last. There is every chance I should be able to get out over 410W for a 10 and over 380w for a 25, coupled with a few aero tweaks, I am hopeful of some fast times, and maybe even some better placings at the nationals if they suit…

The next event is the East Surrey Hardriders – a very prestigious event in the area. I won it last year, though this year it looks like we will get the full 29.9 miles, which will be fun! John also entered, so should be good to see if I can improve on the result from a few weeks back.

To end on a slightly more sombre note – Sadly, last year one of the former winners (multiple times) of the ESHR (and just about everything else worth racing) died. Tim Stevens is a name you’ll see all over trophies and results sheets from years gone by and this video is a fantastic tribute to him and includes his build up to last years race, which sadly, was his last – https://vimeo.com/184044675 – I truly hope I still rock up to this event in 20 years with that sort of attitude and drive. Not to mention casually belting out 380w on the turbo. RIP.

Cheers

Redhill

Sixth Season Racing…

10 Jan

Been a little while since an update, late September even. Over the time that has passed I have a week or two of not doing anything all that specific in Oct, just riding about ‘enjoying’ Autumn. Given I ride to work a fair bit I don’t really like having too long off the bike, get a bit itchy, and gain weight quick plus I resent giving SW trains/TFL £12 a day to get to work so there’s not really much downtime. I’ve never found that cycling at this level is mentally taxing like so many seem to claim, but I can understand for those that starve themselves for Hill Climbs, or don’t drink during the season (mental) that it must be a nice release to get to this time of year.

There’s only really one event between Oct and Feb that I do which is the FCC Xmas ten down on the Bentley course. I find it gives me some focus, keeps me vaguely concentrated on training and not eating/drinking everything in sight, and of course gives me a good yardstick each season, I’ve generally managed to find a few extra watts each year, so hope that doesn’t stop anytime soon. It often gets quite a good field considering its held a week before Christmas on a fairly average course in the grand scheme, and this year no exception. Winning times have changed considerably since I first did it 4 years ago. In fact, I have been 2nd every single year I’ve done it, losing to various folks such as Adam Topham, Justyn Cannon and James Boyman. The first time round this event could be won with a longish 20, the second time you’d have to do an ok 19 to beat Tops, and more recently you’d have had to have done an 18 to beat a flying James Boyman (though it was quite warm that year, all our times were better than usual, but nobody was even close to James who did 19:08). This year there was plenty of competition that were new to the event which was nice, in fact, I would say the best field ever in terms of depth, probably 4-5 riders who are 18 min level on a decent course, pretty rare for any 10, let alone this one.

I thought my main competition would come in the way of Pat Wright (clubmate), Pete Harrison, and Lewis Keightly and Jamie Pine, a few folks had said Pete was seriously quick, and indeed his PB on one of the local quick courses last summer was very very similar to mine, so I knew I’d have to do a ride to be in the running. I’d felt pretty good on the bike despite the predictable uplift in food/drink intake I was going quite well, and crucially, not getting ill! I’d felt like I could probably do about 400w without being too cautious about it and set out with that in mind. I like the cool weather, and 7 deg and fog was just what I needed to get the legs working properly without overheating… Wind was low which really helps on this course, I got to the turn at over 30mph avg and 400w on the nose. Looking good I thought, though I was conscious of the steamy visor costing me a bit of time as I’d have to look up to see..! With the last few miles to go which is generally really quick, things were looking good, I was thinking I’d manage an 18…as ever, time slipped away from me and I crossed the line in 19:10 (still about as fast as I’ve ever gone on this course in any weather) and managed to average 405w, which was pretty decent, showing I’m closing the gap to roadbike a bit, or just not trying hard enough on road-bike of course where I think 420w might be possible for 20 mins.

I got back into the Hall to see a raft of 19’s, I think the top 5 may have all done 19’s in fact, scanning the startsheet for Pete I saw that we’d done the exact same time! Not the first time its happened of course, but quite unusual over 20 minutes with numerous points of hold up and what not. Anyway, we both got £50 for our troubles, so all good on that front, we’d narrowly lost the team (wrongly I think) to his team. On post ride analysis it would turn out that had I managed to hold the position I had been doing earlier in the year I would have snuck under with about 18.55 – but as with all things, you can always wonder what if…

I’m quite looking forward to some of the early season events now, I’ve shed about 3.5kg which might help a touch on some of the hillier events, and help me get round the road races in better shape – I think I was very heavy at the Handicap Champs which I just about managed to win, maybe nearer 5kg more than I am as we speak, so hoping I can tell the difference when it goes uphill. I’ve been riding outside a lot more weather permitting, and generally getting in some good miles, with plenty of unpleasant terrain thrown in. First event will likely be the Kingston Wheelers sporting 14, and the day following is Redhill’s sporting 18, would love to have a double header of wins, but we’ll see. Before then I’ve got a few days in Gran Canaria hopefully getting a bit of sunshine. Then this year I’ve decided to go with the rest of the Paceline guys down to Calpe or nearby early March (like the rest of the amateur racing cyclist population it would seem) for a weeks riding there. Hoping to come back in alright shape and have some fun in road races and time trials. Going to try and win as many of both as I can!

Goals are kind of lose at this point, but there’s a couple I know I want to do :

19 min ten on a road bike

Do a 50m TT

18/48 – 10/25 on Bentley

Win Crystal Palace again

Top 10 a Nat b – might be tough with all the “pros” about and fewer races, but we’ll see

Help Paceline win a stage race, Tour of Sussex/May 3 day – think we’ve got a couple of new members so should have a decent line up for those events and some of the Nat b’s.

I’m sure I’ll think of others as I go, but that’ll do for now – should be pretty competitive I hope, watts up, weight down, got a bit more of a clue how to race than before – just have to hope I can start the year without issue. This time last year I destroyed my ankle with a sprain, I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that it took most of the year since to actually get it back to normal, so fingers crossed for a trouble free 4 weeks before the fun begins.

The last few weeks

24 Sep

It has been a while since I updated this blog, a combination of various factors, being very busy at work, not doing that many races, being shit in some of the races I did do, and a lack of enthusiasm to write about 3 months worth of cycling!

Anyway, as I watch Arsenal destroy Chelsea, now seems like a good time to recap. I’ve done a fair few TT’s, I’ve either won or come 2nd generally. Nothing that noteworthy, and I didn’t meet any of my course targets, which is a shame, but I think a few positional fails (changed saddle which put me in an odd place on the TT bike, cost me a lot of watts) and racing while not feeling great probably account for that. I was fairly pleased to win the Richmond Park TT again, getting ever closer to that course record, but it will require great weather I think. I did managed to get the better of Barney Purbrook who has been riding both very strongly, and very often this year to essentially go from nothing to elite in the space of 15 months, very impressive. Though hopping on a TT bike and being instantly very quick is impossible for just about anyone these days, its a long process. I did two road races, well, I pulled out of one as I thought it wasn’t safe, and I won the other one, which was actually last week, so that was nice. Will cover that in a bit more detail below.

I’ve thought more about what I want to do next season, gains and improvements are harder to come by after 5 or 6 seasons at it. And with more work, more socializing (some enforced, some through choice) those gains become even more remote, but I feel I’ve got stronger, and have still got some room to move in, so we will see. My general thoughts for next season are more of the same, a few road races here and there, I will see how I feel, I may enter a few more than this year. And some time trials, local stuff mostly.

National time trials are usually a fairly big part of the year for me, and in the run up to, the 25 was no exception, (I’d written the 10 off in my mind as somewhere I’d go and do a ride, but expect very little given the profile of the course) however as the day approached it was clear it would be a horrible day, the wind was extremely strong, and the road surface was shocking. Add to that the vast amount of traffic on the course and you’ve got a fairly unpleasant outing. I didn’t do a great ride, and only managed 345W, which is pathetic for me, especially given I have done 370w earlier in the season. Add the wind, and what seemed to be an odd patch weather wise where I seemed to lose a HUGE chunk of time to people in the last mile or so (like literally 5 places or more, all gone in the last mile) meant I finished the day around 20th – I actually cannot remember the final result such was my lack of care for the ride I produced. The wind was one thing, but the shite power was a cause for concern, I searched and searched, and eventually concluded that in swapping my saddle back I’d put it too low and the aches and pains in my legs after only a few miles were because I was far too low down. I’ve since adjusted and it seems to be better. The other thing is that I am sure I am far stronger in the cool weather. With most of my skin covered with skinsuit etc these days it means there is little respite from the warm, and I’ve had to drill extra holes in the helmet to try and combat that.

So with that all sorted I rocked up to the national 10 in a pretty care free mood, I knew full well that I would not be anywhere near the very sharp end as I’m too big and it had a dirty great climb in it! The reality of the situation was actually a bit different, oddly I didn’t lose that much time up the climb, and cost most of it on the way out, there were a few hold ups too. I managed just about the best power I’ve done, and given there is so much downhill where getting the numbers out is hard, I was pleased with the ride. I managed around 410W for the return leg (which I managed again the other day in some random open event) and put in an alright ride. I finished 14th, just a few seconds from a far better sounding 10th or so.

That road race win was not a huge surprise to me, as cocky as that sounds. The event was the Surrey League Handicap Champs, its a race I generally do well in, namely because its pretty flat, and has a finish that suits my 30-50 second power, which I’ve figured out is probably one of my strongest points, and I’ve used it to good effect before (when I won at palace for example), including the same race last year where I was 2nd, just mistimed it that day. The reason the result wasn’t a huge surprise was because the field wasn’t quite as strong as it has been in previous years. I can remember years where the scratch group is essentially pedalheaven and me. But this year there was only one elite rider, Chris McNamara, and a load of 2nds, a fair few 3rd, and then a few 4ths too. The general theme of the race is that you ride hard for the first 3rd, have a bit of a relax in the middle 3rd, then likely have to ride hard again at the end if in a break.

This year was no real exception, scratch group fairly small, myself, both Chris and his brother Simon who is very handy, and another young lad who had been getting some decent results in the league. One thing I did try to tell myself vs previous years was NOT to waste energy. So, it was somewhat stupid of me to come through in the group in mile 1 doing probably 150w more than everyone else, but I wanted to get the next group and then have an easier ride. So we drilled it along at a good pace, and it all fairly quickly came together with the odd group out front still. I had asked Chris on Facebook whether he was keen to try and animate things (that coming after he had beaten me in a time trial that day – git), I knew he’d be keen given he’s not a classic sprinter type and does have a big engine. I spoke to him in the race and we were wondering when was the best time to go, last year it was on the final lap, this year Chris reckoned going through the finish the penultimate time was a smarter move. I didn’t mind, I felt good, and was keen to get up the road, I mentioned it to Tom who was also riding, and Simon who knew the score. We got to the foot of the ramp and Chris smashed it up there, a couple of people joined him, and I was not far behind, trying to keep a lid on things knowing that the time to really make it count was over the top and up the false flat where usually most people were really suffering after the short climb.

Chris did his thing, and then I wanted to drive it home so came through pretty hard (too hard) and carried it on, put myself in the red zone to be fair, but it worked and we had made a decent selection. With both Chris and Si involved. Among other old hands who knew how to ride, and that if we were to stay away, you do have to ride. Anyway, we rode hard for the first lap and got around a 40 second gap and then people were slightly more cautious the second lap…Having messed up the finish last year, I was very keen to avoid a repeat episode. I knew I was the best sprinter in the group, and knew as long as I was positioned well that I could win. So when we slowed almost to a halt on the run in I was worried. However, soon another ride set a good pace for his teammate and we were hitting the ramp at a good pace, I waited and waited, and then one of the Pedalheaven chaps went, Chris went after him, and it all went mad. It was quite early, I didn’t want to go this early I remember thinking. But as they kicked it was either follow or lose, so I went with, and then kicked up the outside and just tried as hard as I could with cramping legs, I got a gap and rode to the finish (while furiously checking behind nobody was going to mug me of the win) and managed to get my hands in the air for a well deserved 10 points ha! Amusingly the numbers suggested it was a very similar effort to last year, around 300w avg for the 2hr15 and 360w NP.

So next things are a trip to Mallorca where hopefully I can catch the last of the sun. And then I’m debating doing a 3 race series fairly locally in Oct, I feel I could get a result or two at those. And then it will be time for the Xmas ten mile TT that I always enjoy. Probably going to build up a winter bike for the first time ever, last winter I really did put off riding outdoors if the weather was in any way unpleasant, which is fine if you are willing to do 12 hours on the turbo each week, but not fine if you cannot stomach it for more than 90 mins at a time!

I’ll probably update a few times over winter as the lack of sun begins to depress me and I need to remind myself of better times! The good news is that seemingly I’ve managed to find some extra watts, 400w for twenty mins was achieved many times this season, and actually I had a glimpse of my actual potential over an hour on the road bike in a suicide solo effort earlier in the year. I got caught eventually but had done 390W for 30 odd mins which would have been out of the question not too long ago, so just need to try and lean up a bit for next season if possible and see how I go.

Winning

Cheers

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

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