Archive | January, 2012

Race 6 – Hillingdon

28 Jan

Back after a week break, mainly because my other goal for this season is to be able to hold my own in a 3rd cat road race, Hillingdon is great fun, but its NOTHING like riding 60 miles of Surrey lanes and ending with  sprint up a hill or similar!

So last weekends riding was mainly built around a 100 mile ride down to check out a Surrey :League circuit down in Milland (hants/sussex), it was a hard ride and with over 6000ft of climbing at over 18mph average it wasn’t easy. And although I felt fine after, it had a bit more of an effect that I thought and my legs have felt a bit off all week. But I still managed to get a decent training ride in mid week along with a few commutes.

Today was an alright day for racing, headwind from the north bringing a bit of a bite to the air but otherwise fine. Went up solo this week and met a couple of the other guys up there, decent showing from the KW lot again, really pleasing to see so many people in the same mindset as myself.

The race went off and it was evident that the pace down the back straight was going to be high all race, my bike felt good, for once, I’d put a new chain on it earlier and it was a world of difference! The pack was moving well together, not too many silly moves either. I felt pretty good, just moved up and down the pack for the first 25 mins or so seeing who was looking good. My eye was on Dom Clegg who positioned himself perfectly the whole race, and also last weeks winner Peter Hudson, there were a few familiar faces about, a few riders who were not very popular with the majority for their riding, but all in all, not too bad at all! I was thinking maybe people had just learned more race skills as there were not any spills last week either!

I made sure I was in the right place this week, and at one point I was in about 3rd or 4th wheel with Dominic as we and a couple of other guys strung the group out a fair bit, I was certain a break was going to form, but it didn’t really, I wasn’t up for killing myself with 20 mins to go and the bunch still looking strong.

We passed the 4ths just before our 5 lap board came out, however one 4th rider had broken clear of his field and was in front of ours, the checkered flag was being waved and in a moment of confusion I thought it was being waved for our race, so me and another rider both sprinted for the line haha! Imagine my embarrassment when the race carried on!

With 3 laps to go I made sure I was in a decent position in the front quarter of the field, it stayed like this with a few lone efforts but nothing stuck. Last lap bell went, and I was in a great position, probably 6th or 7th rider front the front, we came onto the back straight at a high pace (I’d imagine around 31 mph or so. My speedo is broken so don’t know) and I was pleased that so far I’d done everything I wanted to do, then something happened that ultimately made the race a good workout, and also cost me a result due to my decision process.

Jason (from KW) flew down the outside alone and went for it, he looked fast and passed the rest of us at pace, I thought that I would get on his wheel and tow us round for a 1-2, so I put in a big dig to catch him and get on his wheel, it quickly became apparent that although we had gone clear by a few bike lengths, it wasn’t going to be enough. Coming up the final straight into the wind I passed Jason giving it everything, and could feel the lactic getting too much, I was hurting, big time, I was leading probably until about 20 meters to go, at which point the rest of the guys (who I should have been with haha) made their sprints, and I think Peter Hudson won again. I might have scraped a top 10, but not hopeful.

So the positives I took from today were that I was a lot more confident in the corners and the bunch, it really helped when needing to get into a good position, I also now know that I should just sit in and make the best of a sprint, the effort required today to go clear and stay clear would have been vast and certainly beyond me. I’m confident I would have contested the sprint had I not been so rash, but that is now a mistake I won’t make again, so its all good learning!

Congrats to Peter for two in a row, and to Dom for making 2nd cat.

Hoping to have one last win in the winter series before the road race season starts, although I’m keeping an eye on my diary for summer Tuesday evenings as I think a crit in the sun with no wind would be great!

Race 5 – Hillingdon

14 Jan
Another cold day today, after the last few weeks of warmth it was a real eye opener to wake up to -4! But the flipside of this meant no wind. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Hillingdon when there was no wind.

I’ve done a fair amount of riding since last week, last Sunday after the race I went out and did another 70 odd miles with 5k of climbing at a fair pace with the club, its safe to say that come Monday the last thing I needed to do was play an hour of football at work, but I did and paid for it! My legs were a mess until Thursday. I had a day off the bike on Thurs and they felt ok yesterday for a commute, so its been a good 200 miles or so since my last race.

Only two of KW signed up today, myself and Jason (the smiling guy from my first race), so we met up and trundled up to Hillingdon together. We got there pretty early as per, had a chat with some of the guys in the 4ths, this week I decided it was probably wise to wear a jacket as despite the rest of London being wind free there was still a breeze from the east at the track.

For the first time I actually felt a bit nervous today, I think the sheer amount of spills I’ve seen and been in really has made me a lot more cautious (which worked against me again today). We set off and as per the pace was up and down, but I thought it was a good pace, and it felt comfortable as long as you managed to keep out of the wind. I wasn’t really paying much attention this week to the time and was just going to mix my position up throughout the race till the board came out. This was fine as it happened, I found myself at the back a couple of times and in a higher CAT race I’d have probably found it hard to get back into the mix, but today it was a matter of just picking your moment and riding up the outside of the pack.

We passed the 4ths without incident, which was nice, and everything was going ok. The board came out and I think this is where people as per started getting a little silly, there was a fairly large sounding crash near the end but as I’d done all race, when it got tight and I thought it looked dodgy I held off a bit, this isn’t a great tactic, but for the purpose of saving my skin and bike I was happy that I missed that crash by being the other side of the track. And a lap or so later another happened, which again I missed.

With 2 laps to go I was concious that my position was terrible, near the back somewhere, not where I wanted to be, but because it was so sketchy going through the corners I’d missed two crashes by being nearer the back (I did have a few times on the front, I wasn’t at the back all race). Next thing I know we’re going up the home straight and there is a rider on the deck on the right, we are being waved in to move left which I think might have caused the second crash…?

With a lap to go I made an effort to get nearer the front, and probably got into the first 3rd of the field, at this point we were on the dodgy corner by the clubhouse so I took it steady as there was some silly moving in front of me, we came round the corner and I was again aware that my positioning due to being cautious wasn’t going to give me a win today. So I gave it a big effort, passed a few people, then remembered that there was now an Ambulance on the track tending to the fallen rider, this was a strange one, I mean the guy obviously needed care, but was it safe for us to be sprinting for the finish with an ambulance blocking half the course? Not sure, probably not, I know other riders were not happy about this.

As per last week when sprinting everything goes slow motion as I move through the pack, I can see the leaders just about to cross the line, I think I can probably get something not too bad, I keep pushing and pass Jason just before the line for 8th. Not setting the world on fire, and slightly annoyed at myself for not putting myself in a position to actually win with my sprint, its probably my only gift in cycling, and I keep wasting it, but at least I can say I held off today to keep it safe for me and others, for £10 there is little point risking causing a pile up.

Some things I hope to take into the next race will obviously be positioning, it is difficult to make sure you’re at the front all the time, and by virtue of being near the front you take more wind. Still happy that I’ve got the beating of a lot of the field with my sprint, just need to safely make it count as the last couple of weeks its really been a bit scary on the last 2 laps…

Hope all the guys who went down recover and the bikes are not too buggered!

Race 4 – Hillingdon

7 Jan

Race 4 – Winter series Jan 7th

I’ve got into the habit of putting a new post on as soon as I get home from the race, as otherwise I find I give duff info as my memory is terrible!

My cycling this week was really dictated by the snapping of my frame last week. I didn’t hang around and promptly snapped up a Raleigh Avanti frame from Bikeradar, cheap enough, looked OK, near me, in my size (ish 58 vs my last bike that was a 56) so I picked it up on Bank holiday. I was excited to get it all up and running, but those plans were soon scuppered after I ruined the gear cables taking them out of my old bike and also found the seat post was a different size. Balls.

So that led to a week of commuting, on this…

To be fair it wasn’t that bad, its heavy, flexy, and obviously made for women but it still got me the 18 miles to work in a little over an hour, for three days, into gale force winds…!

A couple of days later and a few irate twitter rants about Wiggle and their ‘priority’ dispatch, I finally got the final bits and went about building the Raleigh. It was a bit of a pain in the ass with indexing etc, but got there in the end, about 11pm last night after a few glasses of wine… So that meant I had not ridden this bike at all before this morning which makes my eventual result a little more pleasing, a few blasts up and down the road got the rough setup right. The shifting still isn’t perfect and today I needed sometimes to shift down to and shift up one to get the gear I wanted, annoying to say the least…

Anyway, onto the racing, you know, the point of my ramblings! Today I cycled up to Hillingdon alone, and I managed to remember the way, so that was a good start. I arrived pretty early, and met up with some guys who were in the 4ths race, and also two chaps (well one young chap) that were in the 3rds with me!

We got out and as per it was windy as sin and pretty chilly, despite being 9 deg or thereabouts! We lined up and I was just thinking to myself that I wanted to stay on my bike this week as despite the sterling job my girlfriend had done stitching my skinsuit back together I wasn’t keen on the whole bike building nonsense. So would today be different?

I started the race and felt good, a slight dull ache in the legs from the commuting, but it was fading as I was getting warmed up, right from the off there was a lot of erratic movement from some of the riders, and I was trying to be as vocal as possible to let riders know I was on their left etc, and actually it worked well, when someone knows you where you are they are certainly less likely to swerve across your wheel!

I sat mid group for the first 35 mins, and then something starting to raise concerns on my bike. Every time I would stand up to pedal, or put any power down the rear wheel would hit the brake blocks, and it was rubbing fairly constantly, despite me opening the callipers.

For those who saw me at the back, I got dropped from the main bunch twice and passed the 4ths probably 5 seconds back on the last person, this probably happened for about 5 laps, I was close to calling it a day to be honest. I slogged on however and thought instead of a sprint my only chance might be a long beak, I knew something wasn’t right, I was putting effort in and people were still going by me, that doesn’t normally happen quite to the extent it did today, I knew something wasn’t right. So I stopped, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop in the last 5 so stopped just before the last lap board, I had a look at the front wheel, it was fine, had a look at the back, it seemed fine, I lifted the rear to spin the wheel and to my horror the wheel almost fell out of the frame, the quick release had come apart and it was only in the frame by the weight I was putting on it, so at any moment my rear wheel could have come out of the frame, it would have been a huge crash if it had done that at 28 mph!

After being told “you should make sure it doesn’t do that” by someone by the start line (one of the most inane comments I’ve ever been witness to) I waited for the group and got back on the track, I soft pedalled round the corner to let them catch me as it would have been totally unfair to blast it with my man made break!

The pace hotted up, and the riding got worse, a particular gentleman was riding VERY aggressively, at one point going on the grass in order to get by me and then cut back in and also generally being a complete nightmare, I hope not to see or race with him again! With about two laps to go we were going round the long sweeping bend after the finish line and someone caused a pileup, I saw him wobbling and slowing, I think his tyre might have gone and instead of turning the corner he obviously had no control and went across two or three others causing a crash. I hope everyone is OK!

With one lap to go the pace really hotted up, Nick Baker from Zappi’s (who had looked god for most of the race and gone on small breaks a couple of times) looking strong and clearly the man to follow when it came down to it, I felt OK, and now the bike was fixed I was keeping up no problem and had half an eye on what he and co at the front were up to

Sadly the next big event was a negative one; we got to the corner of last weeks smash, the combination of (and also the 1st race) the pace, the natural want to cut in, and the wind, caused a big pile up, as with the first race I ever did, I missed it by inches, literally inches (I heard plenty of swearing so someone had obviously done something silly), I had to go on the grass for about 20 meters to avoid it, I thought the bike was going to fall apart as it rattled me to death!

This really put paid to my hopes of winning as Baker et all had got up the road, and when I got back onto tarmac by the clubhouse, they were round the corner and on the way up the hill! Anyway, I thought I’d suffer a little and put a dig in, I started this dig before the last corner and so probably a good 400-500 m from the line and I could see I was gaining on everyone, and was passing people left right and center, I knew I couldn’t win as there was no space even if I did get to them, but I kept pushing and I reckon I probably went from 25-30th place by the clubhouse to possibly scraping a top 10/12 on the line.

I was pleased with that as it re-affirmed that I was quicker than most when I really wanted to go for it, and more importantly I stayed on my bike! I will be really happy if I got in the points this week as it looked impossible at one point. Not sure who won but I’d imagine Nick was up there as he looked like he had the legs on most people.

All in all a pretty different race for me, getting dropped from a bunch was an eye opener (obviously I know why now!), avoiding two crashes by a few inches was a bit of a rush, in a macabre sense, and I felt like I got a good work out, especially when I was trying to chase back on when I was geting dropped.

4 more races to go, still in two minds whether to do anymore as it seems the chance of coming a cropper is VERY high, but result depending today (series points depending really) I might keep plugging away to try and get to the highest position I can for the series.

Hope everyone is OK after the spills and the bikes aren’t as fooked as mine was!