Archive | December, 2011

Race 3 – Hillingdon

31 Dec

Race 3 Hillingdon 31st Dec

After missing a couple of races over xmas and seeing the chap from Redhill take some decent results (Dom Clegg) I was keen to get back in the bunch this weekend. As usual I’ve eaten far too much and have not done enough riding. All I’ve done this week has been a hilly 60 miler and then the race, but for once I actually didn’t feel like I had heavy legs. A sign of fatigue from the commute to work and lack of sleep no doubt.As usual, a couple of the guys from KW were going up to race the 3rds race so I had some company on the way up there, was feeling good, approaching Hillingdon the wind started to make itself known (is it EVER a still day there?) and it was obvious that the usual headwind after the corners would be present.

We started with the ladies this week which meant the 4ths got to race on their own, which given the recent crashes and what not was probably a good thing, gives people some more space! The pace felt quite fast as soon as we got going, I looked down and we rarely dropped below 27 for the first lap or so, it all seemed to come back together and settled down. As usual, there is a lull where not a lot happens, well, people go, they come back, and so on. I found myself on the front once or twice and put a little effort in up the hill to see that a good gap could be got at that point if the pack were not too bothered in chasing, which was useful later in the race… About 25-30 mins in another KW rider who I ride with quite often said to get his wheel and we attacked up that very hill, at some pace, but obviously the group wasn’t going to allow two KW riders off on their own!

I then found myself on the front again, and thought I should probably put an effort in, I need the workout after all, so I put a dig in and got a decent gap, I can’t quite remember whether there was a guy out front, or whether he followed me, but he and I at one point probably had a 20 second gap and looked to be working well, issue came about when we hit the wind, and this slowed us, me being a huge lump to draft probably helped, but this particular rider was probably sub 70kg so when I waved him through the wind really had an effect. I think we stayed away for two or three laps, and in the end he said he couldn’t work with me, presumably because he was at the limit, or he didn’t like me 😉 But it was great fun while it lasted, and really put ideas in my head for the future.

We eventually got caught by the bunch and a few of them stronger riders, including a chap from Zappi’s Dom from Redhill and a couple of others tried to get away again, this went back and forth for a bit untill I decided to catch a rest and sit back in, at that moment, one of our own went gunning off the front, and I chased, what I really did was tust bring the pack back to him (Sorry Gareth) and that was that. By now I’m looking at my watch as we’ve been riding almost an hour and I’ve not seen a 5 lap to go board, this was a bit irritating as the longer I rode the more energy I was using, I don’t take food on the ride as I know its going to be 50 mins plus 5 laps, but in this case for whatever reason we were racing for longer than we should have been.

Gareth went again and got a decent gap (which turned out to stay decent) I saw that Zappi and Redhill went with him and it was clear this was the group to be in, we came down the long straight and I probably was in the first 3rd of riders after the break and was going to bridge over when it was clear. And then something happened, which I still don’t know what, all I know is I was on the outside, I felt a strong push from the left, and then went down, crashed about a bit and ended up on the grass, there was lots of swearing and I saw that a fair number were down, maybe 10 riders? My bike was nowhere to be seen, turns out it was tangled around another bike and someone had ridden over the front wheel which has ripped the wheel off and shredded my new latex tube 😦 – I am pretty sure I didn’t cause it, and that it was something on the inside that shockwaved out that made us all collide but maybe someone else who raced has a better idea of how it happened…

The long and short of the crash was that I’ve ripped a skinsuit, a decent patch of roadrash, a buckled my front wheel (but the lovely chaps at Sigma sorted me out on the way home and he seemed genuinely upset that I’d smashed my bike and myself up!) and I’ve cracked the top tube on my bike. This was obviously the most annoying thing, its no super-bike but I can do without having to buy a new frame just after xmas!!! Still I had a play with it, pushed and pulled to see what the flex was like and it actually felt no different to normal (insert joke about cheap frame here), with that in mind I rode it home slowly and will try and sort it out in the week. I’ve been recommended a great carbon repairer who has fixed a club mates Cervelo, so I figure for £100 or so its worth a go before I commit to buying something else…

Bit of a shame as despite doing a lot of work and what not I still felt like I could have gone with the group that eventually did stay away and put in a sprint at the end, but that is just the way it goes I suppose. All I can say is the folk that bring their £5k bikes with £1500 wheels down each weekend are braver and or richer than I!

Hoping to be back for next week at a push if not then the one after, maybe with a £100 winter frame from Ribble, maybe with a £1000 Cervelo, maybe with mine fixed (doubt that one) depending on how everything pans out in the next few days, you never know Ribble might even replace mine for me!?

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Race 2 – Hillingdon

17 Dec

This week has been an eventful one, I’ve had less time on the bike than I should have done really. Commuting early in the week, I had a great chaingang ride on the Tuesday setting some new personal best times on the course which is always nice.

Sadly Thursday evening in the gym saw me trap a nerve or pull a muscle in my neck, which I’ve done before, doing the same exercises (dumbbell shoulder press) so I think I’ll stay away from that in future as it was bloody painful and until I got on the bike today (first time since Weds) it was probably to painful to do anything! Anyway, the important thing is that I felt ok, and had rested legs, but had not managed to get a spin in yesterday which is not the norm, and upon getting on my bike it showed, 18 mph felt hard to maintain on the flat…just what I need then, a 12 mile cycle to Hillingdon followed by a race at a level I’ve never ridden at before.

Cycled up with another couple of guys from KW, we had about 15 riders riding today, so a great show for the club, most of which were in the 4ths race, but there was two others riding with me in the 3rds. So it was a nice mixed day for the club and its growing at such a rate that I think by March and our club race I reckon we’ll have a field totally made up of KW members.

There was 40 riders pre-signed to race, so I imagine by the time we got to the startline we probably had filled up, or at least had between 40-50 racing. I was nervous as obviously winning a Cat 4 race is good, but I didn’t know whether I was up to the task of 3rds, especially given my time off the bike! Still, too late now, as they say, and I jostle my way into the starting pack.

The pace was fine as it turns out, similar to the 4ths really, the wind was a little higher than last week, which is always a pain. It was fairly un-eventful for the first 30 mins, I mean, a couple of people had tried to get away, I often pondered following, but more often than not opted to sit back, knowing we would probably catch them. At 30 mins in a few guys went off hard, I chased and got on, and that then seemed to fizzle out, mainly due to people slowing down so much on the ‘hilly’ part of the circuit, there was a few shouty moments where people obviously wanting to stay away clashed with those that wanted to do bugger all…

Fast forward to the last lap, pace is up, and a Redhill chap goes on his own, I was seriously deliberating following, but thought I’d have nothing left if we did get caught, so again sat in. Round the last corner onto the straight by the clubhouse, the pace was high, over 30 mph, I was in an ok position, probably top 15-20, nearer 20 than 15, though… We go round the last corner, and I can see my Redhill is still up the road, I think to myself that he’s got it in the bag, and concentrate on my own race.

A few guys go, I follow the man on the Felt (flashiest bike there, must be a good wheel right?) and he did go well, to his credit, at this point I’m probably 8 back, and have already got over the fact I am not going to win. So I keep digging and notice I’m gaining on everyone, a bit like last week, but not quite as dramatic, and Redhill is actually looking like he will get caught after all…Then something wonderful happens, my Cav moment if you like, at 35 mph 4 riders back,  I break off Mr Felt, and a lovely gap opens up between two riders, I think to myself that I’ve seen people go through these gaps at full chat, I’ve got confidence in my bike handling, so I go, and I pass through it without incident, or anyone shouting at me (it wasn’t dangerous move, but people love a shout) nothing is ahead but the line, I’m really pedaling hard and my cheap bike is flexing around like its made of cheese. We pass Redhill probably 15 meters from the line, a chap to my left is neck and neck with me, I dig in a bit more and feel myself edging away from him, I lunge for the line and take what I think is the win by about half a bike… A quick Murray style fist pump and a few congratulations from other riders and there we have it. I’ve won my second race (I think, can never be sure till the pics 😉 ) at Cat 3 level!

Three pics here show the gap closed, I do feel sorry for Mr Redhill though, was winning till the last 10 foot!

Over the moon with the result, and now looking forward to having a week or so off before having a couple more cold jaunts to Hillingdon before I prepare for the actual season, and my clubs road race!!

Race number 1

10 Dec

Here we are, one week after I put pen to paper (in a virtual way) I wake up after on race day after a week of 170 miles mixed riding, mostly commuting, and the midweek chain gang. Its 0c outside, my garden is covered in frost and I’ll be honest, I’m not that keen to go outside and fetch the bike for its much needed maintenance!

Two hours later the bike has had the treatment it needed, I’ve picked tiny bits of flint from the tyres to make sure I don’t flat, and I’ve checked my my club mate that he’s still on to meet me for the gentle ride up to Hillingdon. I set off and realise that I’ve dressed well enough and its not too bad, I’m not a big fan of full tights, so you’ll see my almost always wearing shorts and knee warmers, or 3/4’s, much to the dismay of other commuters in the morning as they question my sanity.

We arrive at Hillingdon circuit a good 40 mins early, which is ideal, my mouth is on the floor at all the bike porn, its like Richmond Park on a sunny day! We sign on, sort out a locker, get our stuff together and hit the track for a couple of laps, its a good day, low wind, clean and dry track and my legs are feeling decent. After a few laps of gentle pacing, we line up, and I am scanning peoples numbers to see whether the guy I’m next to on a Tour level spec Cervelo is really a 4th cat rider, he has an SRM crank? Apparently he is a 4th cat. So now I’m nervous, I’m well used to people having all the gear and little idea, but an SRM crank made me think he meant business!

The way Hillingdon works is that the 3rds and 4ths are on the track at the same time, but are staggered starts, so off the 3rds went, half a lap (or more like 3/4’s really, which was an issue later) later we were off. Pace was fine, 23-26 mph with the odd bit of 28 or so on the downhill, plenty of shelter made this fairly easy though, I was conscious not to do too much (or even any) work on the front, as there was one goal here, win. Cocky as it sounds, I came to win, and I wasn’t about to tow the bunch round and be happy with 22nd in the bunch or similar. About 20 minutes in the first crash takes place (the rumors are true!), I don’t see it but I’m told it takes a couple of riders out, it did feel cramped at times, and truth be told there was some woeful bike handling on show. I was plenty vocal enough about this if it was occurring in front of me, or even near me.

Pace is still fine, I take the front for half a lap and keep it steady, just to get a taste. With roughly 15 mins to go before the bell goes, I hear a shriek and some metal on metal noise as one of my clubmates (a lady) has a tumble with another guy, its starting to make me a bit nervous now as I didn’t want to be coming off, so I tried to hold my line as best I could and stay out of trouble, but some riders were intent on riding like idiots it seemed.

As mentioned earlier the 3rd cat issue was one that meant they were not far enough ahead of us and our race met the back of theirs, we were not allowed to go through, and thus were subjected to a fair number of laps of subdued racing, nevermind, its all about the last 3 laps anyway I think to myself (like an ebay auction as I put it afterwards). Thus far nobody had tried anything special, and at this level it would be caught fairly quickly one would imagine, so I suppose nobody was too keen on a break! With three laps to go, we’re starting to pick up the pace, and as we go round one of the longer sweeping corners a huge crash happens in front of me, inches, I manage to avoid the riders that go down by going on the grass, at this point a lovely person shouted attack and some riders did indeed up the pace on the front, on the grass at this point, I was starting to panic, I needed to be in the mix!

I mange to get myself back into the main pack with some proper turns in the wind for the final lap, we pull down the 2nd to last straight, and a break goes, two riders, they look initially strong, I’m in two minds, do I leave it and risk not catching it with the main bunch or do I go and join them? What did do is probably the worst of everything, I made to go for the break, realized I wasn’t going to catch it without using a ton of energy , so then sat up and waited to be caught by the group again. Must have looked like a total idiot. Still, I had enough in the tank to slink back and stay at the front of the group, we go round the crash corner and two other riders go for it, I decide to wait until the last straight (which is about 400 meters from corner to finish line)

Tucked in, giving it everything, I fly past the two riders out front probably going 6 mph faster than they are (roughly 33 mph), I can see the finish but am feeling the lactic also, with gritted teeth I dig in and go for the line, I can sense someone coming up, I glance and see another Wheeler, its Jason (the guy I travelled up with) he’s approaching fast and I’m fading (that’s what happens when you don’t do a normal sprint like Jason did, you run out of energy before the line!) I am sure he is going to make it, but by about a bike I cross the line, hands semi aloft, having reached a max speed of 34 mph up the hill to win my first race! Jason is 2nd, and 3rd place is some 25 bike lengths back, a Dynamo.

Things I’ve learned from this :

  • The training has worked (Jason has been doing it too)
  • Other riders cannot be trusted to hold their lines
  • I have a good sprint and probably will have the beating of guys at a slightly higher level with it

So on to Cat 3, I’ll probably do a few more Winter Series races to see how I fare, and then prepare for the warm season, my goal of getting to 2nd cat this season just got closer, at least I can now justify splurging on some Zipps and a new bike 😉

Background and build up to racing

10 Dec

I’ve been uming and arring about racing for the last 3 months, its taken some gentle persuasion, a lot of suffering and a late burst of confidence to finally spur me into pinning on a number and getting involved in the little known sport of cycle racing!

I’ll start with some background, as how one comes to be on the start line of a cycle race is a story that I’m sure has many different versions, here’s mine!

Cycling for me has been an active hobby for almost exactly two years. 2 years ago to the week, I got my first road bike, a lovely BMC courtesy of the cycle scheme, at the time I had been commuting to work on a mountain bike for a couple of months, 3 miles each way, hardly earth shattering but it was something, it was a daily ride to keep me interested. Any-who, I picked up the bike, put some clipless pedals on, donned all my new gear that was necessary to ride a road bike over a mountain bike and off I went. It was a lot faster, hugely so, to the point where I was disgusted at people who suggested they were going to buy a new mountain bike knowing full well it would be used on road most of the time. I thought I was king of the world for a bit, until I was passed by a group of club riders one Sunday morning on my way to town, they made me look slow, and fat. And I was.

It was really a good mate of mine that got me into club cycling, he was fairly new to it as well, but had been gong out for about 8 months or so beforehand, and to me was my go to for all things cycling. I hadn’t known about the scene that existed right on my doorstep (literally); Kingston Wheelers are a huge cycling club, with over 400 members from all over London, they would meet about 200 yards from my flat each Sunday and go off riding. I never knew this in 3 years of living here. Anyway, long story short, he came round, helped me sort out everything I’d need and we embarked on the ‘beginners club run’ a nice route of some 37 miles around Box Hill. Upon my return, my legs were burning, I was hungry and felt like I’d done 200 miles, more importantly I was hooked. We’d averaged a meager 15.8 mph for the ride, which as you’ll see in later posts is a far cry from the demands of amateur cycle racing or even fast club riding.

I’m not really built like a cyclist, I’m no Lance Armstrong, or even Mark Cavendish, for the last 4 years I’ve been concentrating on doing as many heavy weights as possible and doing as little cardio as is possible to get away with. The result of that was a chubby but not fat man, that weighed nearly 100kg @ 6,1 ft who could deadlift 180 kg, squat 165kg and bench 120 kg. Not bad, not amazing. But I was happy, and people could see I had been to the gym and it was nice to be noticed as doing something that not everyone can do.

So that year passed, I got into cycling more, and went out more often on a Sunday, but maintained my weights as I was conscious I didn’t want to actually ever look like your typical cyclist! Then something happened that would change things. I moved jobs from 3 miles down the road to 11. I also got a new bike, a nice Carbon Ribble, which I still have currently, this commute was the start of a body change, and also the new beginning of my cycling journey!

That summer, I was out most weekends on the club rides, slowly getting faster, now tackling longer rides, and hillier routes. I also did a 45 mile time trial from Kingston to Brighton! 20.3 mph average… not too bad for a big lad! The next big change really all came about when I got a bit ill, my weight had been falling pretty rapidly from the commuting anyway, but this illness knocked another 5 lbs off me and before I knew it by September I was coming in at13 stone 12 lbs. Which was down from my Jan 4th weight of 15.9! The weight stayed off, too.

The other big change was joining the chain gang ride, this consisted of a 23 mile loop at night on a Tuesday at threshold pace. I was nervous and sought much advice before going on my first one, I was told I would be OK, and might be able to hack it if I stayed tight to the group. So the first ride came along, I got involved, and off we went, bang, straight to 25 mph, then to 28, then back down to 26 and that is where it stayed for the first 10 miles give or take, I was huffing and puffing and was very near to dropping off as I couldn’t hold it!

A roundabout about 12 miles in split us and that was it I was dropped along with one other, we carried on a hard pace back to the start of the ride where the others were waiting having finished before us. 22.3 mph average. It was unknown to me to go this fast. Anyway, fast forward 8 weeks, I’m now knocking on the door of my weight beginning with a 12 for the first time in probably 8 years, and I’m doing these rides each week without too much issue, fastest one yet was a 24 mph average over the loop. These rides have put me in great stead for the winter racing I was about to embark upon, I knew that not many people had the breadth of club to be able to ride with riders that were so strong, and so much of a motivation to get better, so I was in a good place.

Approx 7 days ago, I got the debit card out, bought a silver membership to BC and sorted my race license, I then signed up to my first race, a 4th cat only at Hillingdon, where we had just done a skills days, so I knew the course, I had also won the mock race, which had some pretty tasty riders in, so I was confident…Was I too confident…….time would tell.