Archive | April, 2012

Thames Velo 3/4 Support Race

22 Apr

I’d been looking forward to this race, the course looked good, and it wasn’t too hilly, or too flat. The week has been decent, had a nice warm up ride yesterday and a few hard commutes in the week with the powertap. I felt quite positive. Although the race was a 3/4/w/j there were over 50 3rd cat riders out of the 80, not many if any women, and a few decent jnrs, so not an easy race even if it looked like it could be on paper, especially as I said with a field of 80!!

My first racing outings led me to think that I would be more suited to pan flat courses, but the more I race undulating courses and such (not proper hilly 😛 ) I am tending to prefer a little hill or two to make things interesting. I had only put this course into Bikeroute Toaster so could see it wasn’t totally flat, but there wasn’t much in the way of hills.

So I got up there in good time, lovely part of the world, and being half 7 there was nobody stupid enough to be on the roads as they were all sleeping 🙂 got up there with plenty of time, signed on, had a quick natter with my 3 teammates who were also good prospects for the race as they have all been riding strong of late, so it was exciting!

We set off and as usual I found the first few miles hard going, I really must start warming up for these things! The pace was quick, though, and it seemed that there were plenty of strong riders around. Being a fairly flat part of the world the wind was ever present, and did mean that getting away with a small group or on your own was always going to be tough. The section where the HQ was, should, in theory be a 35mph+ 2 miles, but with a stonking headwind it certainly wasn’t anything like that!

First time up the ‘climb’ (its not much really, similar to Dark Hill in Richmond Park, but with another little ramp after) was easy enough, and it was easily a big ring job, nothing like the 25% beast in Milland the other week. The course then shot downhill with a slight tailwind, this made for interesting riding, and on the first lap a chap from Zappi’s hit a nasty bit of road (there were a few holes out there) and ended up on his back in a ditch, he looked OK, but hope it wasn’t too serious. So yes, that part of the course was fast, I found out that this was my best chance of moving up the bunch as I seem to go downhill like a stone.

So the usual middle bit of the race ensued, stuff happened, but nothing of note, the long and short of it was that anything that tried to get away was brought back, or they ran out of steam in the wind. The prime was interesting, it was the second time over the line, and I was actually on the front (as I was later…) up towards the line, and probably could have contended it, but decided to save my legs a bit for the main event in a laps time, but its interesting to see what people will do for a pair of legwarmers!!

The bell went for the last lap then, normally the sound of the bell does just inject a bit of pace into the race, so I was keen to see what would happen, and most importantly, I was keen to sort my position out as it wasn’t great. So by the time we were a quarter of the way through the last 15 mile lap I was in the top few again, and at this point a few people went, nothing looked too serious, so nobody chased at first. We then approached the hill, now as we said it wasn’t too tough, but after 35 fast miles (which isn’t a lot either, but for us mere mortals) it was certainly going to split the pack a bit more than it had done previously…at this point a couple chipped off the front, and one lone guy followed. I led the pack up the hill, and towards the top really put an effort in to tire some legs as mine felt alright. As it happened I got a gap and joined forces with the chaser. However we both knew the bunch was just behind us, and in the fast 35-40 mph section we were not going far, so we joined back into the bunch. For some reason though I joined back to the bunch and was almost immediately back on the front, so as we came up the last long road to the finish I was sat on the front for what seemed like a long time, however, we were catching the break, so given I felt OK I just kept on.

Eventually after flicking the elbow a few times and nobody coming through I really sat up and had a drink, eventually someone took up the helm, by this point we had caught the lone two, and it was shaping into a bunch sprint, initially it looked like there were probably 10 in contention, of which I was one. We came to the 1km to go and the pace went up, I got into a good wheel and carried on, probably 500-600m to go I put in a real dig, now it was strong enough to string things out, but not strong enough to go clear (which might have been the problem with the efforts in this last lap, as looking at the speed at the line I know I’m capable of plenty more) so I dragged the bunch with me as we came to the line, I tried to shake the AW cycles chap from my wheel but he was stuck like glue. Eventually with my legs burning and my HR at max he came round, another then tried to come round, but I wasn’t about to let two come by, so I put in my last and final effort…

The AW cycles chap held on for the win, I managed to stay about half a bike away from the other chap, but someone had come up the outside at pace to take 2nd, and I took 3rd in the end. So a good race, some nice goodies for placing. I learn every time I race, but this time I don’t know what more I could have done really, perhaps done a bit less on the last lap, but then potentially I would have been in a mid bunch position as it was hard to actually move up due to the field size and plenty of cars. So all in all a good race, I did plenty of work, still placed and know that I’m able to ride at the sharp end of 3rd cat as I’ve top 10’d the last 3 road races. Which is probably a good thing really as I’m now not far from going to 2nd cat, and the gulf between a good 3rd and a good 2nd is huge so I really need to keep upping my game!

Next race is likley a crit, as the next RR is is the 13th of May!

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Westerley Crits 2/3/4 Hillingdon

14 Apr

Been a good week on the bike. Got some good miles in, and have ridden most days, and hard. This week I had tried to get into a Roadrace, but they were either full or too far away, so having not raced at Hillingdon for a few months I thought I’d go up there for a blast.

It was a 3/4 that ran on its own, so it potentially could have a massive field! I went up and met Jason there (he came 2nd there midweek) and another wheeler, there was a line of people out the door when we got there (an hour early) so we knew the field was going to be epic. We signed on, and were delayed a bit by some junior racing. I noticed just before heading out onto the track that a bloke wandered past us with number 81 on his back, so there were well over 80 people in this race. Which for somewhere like Hillingdon is massive, the limit is 100 riders, but I’ve only ever seen this amount when the fields are separated by half a lap, never one big bunch!

Anyway, we rolled up to the line, and got the race talk. This week I’d borrowed a clubmates powertap wheel to do some investigation into my power, and where I might be able to improve. So it was always going to be an interesting race for me, as I was keen to see what my numbers would be in the inevitable bunch sprint etc!

We got off, and to be fair with a couple of exceptions, the riding was OK, a few hairy moments, but for the amount of people it was not too bad. Jason and I tried to move up to the front, but it was hard work as the sheer number of people made it tough to get a look in. One team from Jersey (they had come over in a bus and were racing both races, and probably tomorrow too! Hardcore.) were driving well on the front. And about half way through the race a few digs went in. I’m not totally sure when it happened but 4 blokes got away from the pack, it was always tough to tell what was happening as there were a lot of lapped and dropped riders around, but still.

Time went quite fast today, and before I knew it I looked down at my garmin and we had done nearly 22 miles, and I’d not seen the lap board, sure enough it had been out and there were 3 to go. I set about trying to get close to the front, and made my way up as we crossed the line with 3 to go. Round to the fast downhill section I found myself actually on the front. So I carried on round at pace as I wanted to string it out a bit if we were going to sprint. I noticed that a gap had started to form by the time we hit the home straight (where the headwind was lurking, it had been killing the bunch all race, slowing to about 20 mph sometimes!) so I put a big effort in. I gained on the bunch and went clear, I kept digging and before I knew it I was clear of the pack by some distance. One other chap had come with me, a young rider from the Jersey team I think.

We had 1.5 laps to make it stick then, I was on the front a lot of the time for that 2nd to last lap, I waved him through when we went through for the bell lap, he came by me, panting, I was at a new Max hr so I was panting too! I let him carry us round the fast downhill and he waved me by on the 2nd to last straight by the clubhouse…Obviously at this point I thought we were leading as I had no idea about the break, so knowing I had the power advantage I drove hard into the wind (900w according to the wheel) and he was gone, I crossed the line arms aloft like a chopper thinking I’d won it.

Got back to the clubhouse and Jason broke the news that there were 4 up the road haha! Still, it was a good race, and I was pleased with my effort for those last 5 mins. The race not only had a huge field, but it was quite fast too, averaging just under 26 mph for the duration. Most pleasing was that the two laps I was away were the 2nd and 3rd fastest of the race for me with the highest power output too.

So now that leaves me needing around 15 points till I upgrade and am forced to ride with the seriously fast people, my season goal of Cat 2 is getting closer!

Milland Hill 3rds

7 Apr

After last weeks poor show I was keen to try and have a good race today. Done some decent miles during the week, and am back to full health (which helps!)

Today’s race was down in Petersfield, where I have actually lived and worked in the past, so I am familiar with the area, but I was never into cycling back then, so it was a different kind of blast from the past. Todays race was the 3rd cat only, I still fairly sure on a flat race I could cope fine in a 2/3 but with hills in the mix, I thought for now best to see how I get on in my own category – there were 3 other wheelers racing today, strong guys too, we had a good team.

Early start today, 7.45 out the door, had some spectators, my parents and my girlfriend were watching today which was nice. The course is fairly spectator friendly, mainly because there is a 25% hill just before the finish line every lap!! It isn’t very long, but its certainly enough to make you glad you stuck a big block on the back when you see people doing their chains and spokes all over the shop 😀

The race kicked off, the first half of the circuit is downhill really, so we got into our stride at a gentle pace, when the car lets us race it was a fair way from the hill, and we carried on at a decent lick round towards it. I was feeling ok for the first few laps, there was no doubt the hill was hard work, I’m so glad I did change the cassette as I think I would have broken something on a 39/25 (probably the chain), and it allowed me (a fairly average climber at best) to stay in contention most laps because I could spin up it seated. This was nice in two ways, one because it saved my legs, and two, the hill was very damp and whenever I got out of the saddle my rear tyre would spin fairly easily, so seated was the way forward (and indeed up! it was bloody steep!)

After a few laps a couple of things happened, mainly I could feel my slight aching back coming back to haunt me, so a bikefit is the nest step.Firstly a teammate had got away, Colin went quite hard and got a gap, but it didn’t last that long with a rapid bunch and the hill rapidly approaching we swallowed him back up.Another teammate, Damien mentioned that the break that I had barely noticed slipping away had got a minute on us! And that we should do some work, sadly I thought that if I put major effort in then my back might not last the course. Damien did put a few digs in, as did Robin.

As the race went on the hill was hurting more and more people, Robin got away for a decent period, but the same eventually happened to him on the penultimate lap, after the hill on that lap the bunch was smashed apart really, and a pack of 7 maybe got clear, in this were Robin and Damien, we were trying to work to get away, but a combination of the bunch gaining and others not wanting to work meant that as we came into the fast downhill section we were all back together again.

I had noticed that on the downhill I was finding it very easy to move up the bunch, probably because I was heavier and had an aero bike, but this gave me the idea (a foolish one!) to go for it on my own, so I sprinted off the front, and quickly got a good gap, at its best it was probably 20 secs, it was at this point that I saw the break of 2/3 riders who had been gone all race. They looked a bit tired (as anyone would be), so instead of bridging to them I sat up and let the bunch catch me on the other fast section. By this time we were flying down the back of the circuit, I was over 40 mph a number of times, and peaked at 48mph at some point, so it was not for the faint hearted. We came into the start of the hill much quicker than before too…

After the first drag up towards the ‘wall’ it was a high pace, higher than the other laps, I was thinking that I could possibly make up some places as I was about 20 back, but the thought in the back of my mind was that the climber types would rip it up so I’d be a bunch finisher, so I did try to move up, but wanted to conserve my energy – my only chance of gaining chances was on the hill, it was steep, but short enough to be a power hill which helped me. Coming up to the hill I had to pass someone who had obviously forgotten the hill was there and was in totally the wrong gear, I could see Damien and Robin shooting off up the hill, but they are both far quicker up hill than I regardless of power, so I kept churning, as it ramped up, so did I putting in some big efforts, at the crest of the hill I even for some reason made an odd roar/grunt as the effort was so much (sorry for anyone I scared), I came over the top of the hill in 5th place (the front 4 were well gone by this point) the clang of people switching back to big ring was in my ear, I could see people behind me, so I just gritted my teeth and pushed as hard as my lactic ridden body would allow, it was enough to keep me out the front of all but one chap, who did very well to come round me at the last minute (S.Gerrans would be proud 😉 ) to pip me into 6th – having looked at the data I still got back up to 36 mph for that, so fair play to him. I was elated, as I had not expected to get anything on a course like this. I rode down the way and collapsed on a verge with exhaustion, knackered.

Turns out Robin got 3rd, Damien 4th, and me letting the 3/4/5 down got 6th. A great Wheelers result, and a strong showing from all concerned. I’m pleased with my form, and am just waiting for some slightly flatter finishes again and hopefully I can maybe bag a win this season? Half way to 2nd Cat now, so lets hope it happens before then, as the standard goes up a vast amount when you start getting the 2nd’s in there!

Race stats – 48 miles – 22 MPH avg – Max speed 47.8 mph

Next Race – 22nd of April Thames Velo RR (but I might do some crits before then, so will update as and when)

Happy riding!