Archive | July, 2012

Corri Dorri 2/3

22 Jul

After a week of not a lot of riding, and a lot of work enforced drinking I wasn’t looking forward to this one too much. And was glad of the course it was being run on, as its pretty easy going as far as they go, I did it back in May and although a fast pace, I found it fine.

After a fairly late night due to my car deciding to spit out its wheel bearings on the A3 and nearly pull me into the central reservation, I had to muck about with recovery vans and ended up getting home pretty late, eating a curry, deciding at 12.30 that my gears needed re-indexing (sure the neighbours were well pleased with that). I wasn’t ‘that’ fresh when I was waiting outside the front door at 07.30 for a club mate to kindly give me a lift down to Henfold.

We got down plenty early enoug, and did a little warm up, I felt OK as it happens, and the weather was (and as I type still is) fantastic, finally. So was feeling pretty good about the race. And was hoping I could do something. I knew there were a couple of very strong guys in the race, Elliot Porter who’s team were the race hosts, he was pre-entered but is now a 1st cat rider, and is obviously very strong, also Will Pratt who will follow a similar route soon no doubt was another face to watch (go off onto the horizon more than likely)! after his solo destruction of the field two weeks ago.

So we got going, and I could tell it would be one of those days when someone locked up in the neutral section and nearly caused a pile up!! We got going, the pace was quite high, but given the course is quite flat its not hard to whizz along at 28 mph. To be honest I can’t remember what came first, the first break, or the first crash…So I’ll talk about the latter first.. I had just moved to the front and Colin saw that as his chance to go for one, he did so and created a split, about 8 riders in total got into a move and as I didn’t chase it down (obviously) or up the pace, they got a gap quite quickly. I think all the major teams had a rider in the mix, so it was a decent proposition for Colin to be part of. The first crash I think was just down to poor spacial awareness, and a few people went down, one chap ended up in a ditch I think. Everyone seemed OK…But these constant crashes really do make you wonder what you’re doing…well, firstly what you’re doing not sitting in the top 10, and secondly, how annoyed I would be if I smashed my bike/face to bits. The latter is just part of the risk but the former really needs to be beaten into me I think. It isn’t difficult to sit at the front, I don’t find the pace hard to stick, so really still not sure why I can’t get into my head that its the place I must be. Will be writing lines on a blackboard “You must stay in the first 15 riders to stand any chance” maybe repetition will get it into my brain!

Anyway, we carried on, and break had about 30 seconds or so, they seemed to be working quite well. Andy and Seamus tried to bridge across, Seamus put in a big dig and they were doing well, but with the bunch flying along it was always going to be a big ask, and sure enough they were reeled back in.

A short time later we were stopped, and told to pull into a car park, not had a race before so was interested to see what the craic was. I had a lurking suspicion that it may be something to do with the police that seemed to be spending their entire morning, and half of Surrey’s Force (oh OK, we counted 4 vehicles of various types) following us, and essentially trying to catch us doing something wrong. Now this is obviously fine, they may have responded to reports of poor riding, or whatever, its their job to keep the peace and all that. My first issue with this is the main officer who seemed to be the most irritated by the whole thing drove his Land rover (Well it is Surrey dontchaknow) down a pretty narrow lane, at over 40 mph, obviously some riders were edging over the white line, as it is most weeks due to the size of the field and size of the roads, but I thought driving at what I consider a high speed in a vehicle of that size/width on that kind of road (and he was almost on the white line himself, seemingly taunting the bunch in my mind) was fairly risky, and not really acceptable behavior from a police officer.

Anyway, warning heeded, we set off again under the promise that if our riding didn’t improve then we would be stopped and sent home. About a half a lap passed and Elliot seemed to lose control, maybe a puncture, not sure, and a fairly large pile up ensued, he went down hard, so hope he’s alright, saw he was up and about being tended to, so hopefully just flesh wounds. Anyway, we carried on, and the pace went up a bit, and the bunch seemed to be strung out for a lap or so, we kept being ushered around the crash point where the ambulance stayed present for a fair time (so not sure if someone else had more serious injury?)

And then we approached that familiar pub and were pulled in again, this time it was obviously the beginning of the end, 36 miles into the race it was, we stood around for a bit while our friendly officer chatted to the race officials, the decision came about ten minutes later. The race was to be called off as we were too dangerous. Great. What a way to spend a morning. People were generally a bit pissed off, and it was agreed that it was incredibly rare, and that the officer in question had little idea of the cycling scene at all.

A few of us decided to do a couple of laps of the course to make the morning slightly more worthwhile before we headed home to watch Cav smash it up again. So not all bad!

Till then the race felt easy as the stats proved :

avg speed 25 mph (last time on this course it was over 26)
avg wattage 210 or so

This article has since been published – http://ukcyclesport.com/all-news/82-latest-news/6326-surrey-league-rr-stopped-by-police – seems to be a case of one man on a mission.

On to the next one then, the goal now still to win one of these races, I think its still possible, but I’m running out of chances to do so. Going to try and get in some E12 crits and more handicaps in where I can. The next race is two weeks time on Bletchingley circuit, the one I got spat out on earlier in the year. It will be a real test to see if I’ve improved enough to get round. Personally I think I will get round, but it will still be tough!

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Brighton Mitre 2/3

15 Jul

firstly, let me apologies for any grammatical errors or typos. I do write these ASAP so I can try and get stuff accurate, but as my partner was only to happy to point out (finally putting that English Lit degree to good use) it’s a far cry from Wordsworth, and does have a few errors here and there!

At last a sun appeared on the ever pessimistic iPhone weather app, and as luck would have it, it was for Sunday! I was still skeptical as when I first saw the prospect of riding in the dry, it was Wednesday…! However, true to its word, today was much more pleasant than most of the last 3 weeks. Dry, sunny at times, and plenty warm enough. No Complaints from me!

Week leading up to has been fairly normal really, just commuting due to the weather, made arrangements at work to allow me to ride the club 10 on Wednesday. After all the effort of making it happen, I got down there and the heavens opened, hail the size of gravel, rain like I’ve not seen it, and thunder. Not TT weather IMO (plus I’d just cleaned my bike :P)

After last weeks race I was feeling quite confident, I knew last week was a hard race in terms of the course, not to mention the weather. So having asked around the club, I was told that the circuit for today was fairly easy, flat pretty much. With the obligatory SL uphill drag then flat to the line. Not got a problem with these, but there are some issues, which I’ll come onto. There were 3 other wheelers riding today, Seamus, and Steve, who were present last week, and Colin too. So although we were heavily outnumbered by Dulwich who had around 10 I think, I was pleased to have some support.

We were told that the course was fine, no holes etc, just a couple of large puddles which had not quite dried out from the weeks rain. No issues however, I was still enjoying riding without getting mud fired into my face by the wheel in front! We rolled off and the pace was quite high, but it wasn’t hard to maintain, the course was pretty flat, and with the exception of the finish, and a couple of tiny rollers there wasn’t much to speak of. Quite a few left turns, most were fine, a couple were quite tight however.

We were rolling along then, and nothing much was happening, people were attacking every now and again, pace was up and down. The first main event came I think on the 2nd lap, I was behind a rider, we were approaching the huge puddle and a car was coming the other way (a common theme today, part of the pitfall of racing at midday) everyone bunched in, this chap panicked I think, pulled his brakes, and his wheel locked up, he went down right in front of me, I narrowly missed it by going through the deep puddle. It was an eye opener as the roads today were very narrow and you rarely could see much more than 200m down the road, yet people were still firing up the outside like we had closed roads! Mad.

I tried to get into a break on the 3rd or 4th lap, I motored hard to make the bridge on my own, and as soon as I got there everyone sat up. Seems to be a bit of a theme with the breaks I try to join. A couple more breaks were going and coming back, Seamus was in probably the best one of the day, they stayed away for a lap maybe, but it all came back together. Into the last lap I was feeling fine, if not a little thirsty, I was on the front for a lot of it, at a medium pace, I was waiting for a group to come by, and they eventually did, I was planning to get into position for the last hill quite a way before we were approaching as I knew it would be bloody tough to get up if I wasn’t in the first 10 riders. However quickly I found myself swamped by all the seemingly fresh riders that had been sat in all day, I was panicking a bit, I was probably 30 riders back, I managed to get my way towards the front, but still come the bottom of the final climb I was probably just in the top 20. As we turn up the pace, I put some power in and start moving up, then the first of 3 moves that mean I have to perform massive evasive actions to not go down, this did happen 2 or three times, and meant that I had to stop, then get back on the power, and repeat that, it was hard work. I think there was one Dynamo off the front who was the bait for the bunch, I heard someone go down behind me (later saw him lying in the road, poor bloke, had a proper wound on his arm, think he was OK though) and I tried to keep it together and go forward, but it was just so tight, so many people, so many risks were being taken. The issue with these finishes I think are that riders go full gas and look good, but die half way up, they then become yet another obstacle to go round, so I was in and out of these blown riders making my way over the top. It flattens out and I am probably at this point lying back at 15th or something, but I remember its a fairly long drag to the line, so I hammer it, I’m passing plenty of people, but the next bunch have just got too far clear. I think I might have grabbed a top 10 just, although wouldn’t be surprised if its another 11th!

So things today that I’ve learned, POSITIONING!!! there’s just not enough room on some of these courses to make your move any later than half way through the last lap I think, so I must get this sorted, as looking at my power numbers I was going very well up the hill and over the top, so must make it count.

Other than that, pleased that I’m still in the mix, nothing was too hard today, nobody was too strong that I couldn’t pull back, or hold wheel, it does bode well, and with around 8 of these races left, I think I can get some proper results.

Race numbers then :

Distance 70 miles
Avg Speed 25.2 mph
Avg/NP power/Max – 241 watts / 282 watts / 1369 watts

vo2 2/3

8 Jul

Where to begin…Well, being British maybe the weather is a good starting point, amazingly, despite racing through the winter, today was the first race I’ve done in the wet, and what an intro it was to wet weather cycling…

I’ve been riding quite a lot of late, trying to improve up the hills, which is tough work, but I’ve been getting better over the last month. I was feeling pretty good, then went on Holiday for a week and did nothing, came back and my legs felt very weird after the first ride! Like they’d never done any work before. That first ride was a week ago today, so I thought the best thing to do would be to ride myself back into some kind of form. Which resulted in me doing a fair few miles in the passed week, and despite them feeling like they’d been attacked with a lump hammer on Thursday evening, a day off on Friday and a gentle day yesterday saw me in pretty good shape this morning, I felt good. And yesterday’s spin was good too (shame I couldn’t quite do the same 20 second effort at today’s finish that I managed fresh in the Park yesterday, but there we are) I’ve recently got a powermeter, so I can see what I’ve been doing, see where the effort is, and I suppose most importantly, see where I can improve things.

As with most things cycling, its the weight that is the issue as opposed to the power in my case, still, today would be a good test of that as the circuit is a tough one. I’d asked a few wheelers who had ridden it in the past what they thought about it, the general opinion was that it was hard, and not that different in difficulty to Bletchingley, which if you’ve read back is where I got dropped like a stone 20 miles in a few months ago. And actually one chap (who went on to be the clubs most successful rider of late by making 1st cat) said it was the hardest course in the Surrey League. Great!

So as I said, we all know the weather has been total rubbish for about 2 months now (thankfully I got my fill of sun on Holiday, but still!), and predictably today looked no different on the forecast. I woke up and it was raining, I drove to the race, and it was raining, and you can tell where this is going, it was an on-going theme. I arrived nice and early to sign on and find somewhere to park etc. I caught up with Francis, who rides for Vo2, and thankfully for the rest of us made 1st cat the other week, so he was just marshaling. He told me to watch number 78, and that was about it (William Pratt of Dulwich – in hindsight it was a good call from Francis, not that I could do anything about it…).

So we set off in the pissing rain, there were 3 other wheelers, Stephen who’s recently done the RAS and found his wings (also won a Surrey League race about 8 weeks ago), Andy Lack, who soloed his way to amateur stardom a couple of weeks back in an SERRL race, and Seamus who is or resident Irish hard man, rides with an average cadence of 6, and doesn’t seem to show any effort whatsoever, also rides what can only be described as the most lairy bike I’ve seen, flames and all! So I was in god company, if not slightly lacking in numbers compared to Dulwich who had a good 6+ riders including the above who has had very good results of late.

We roll down to the start of the race and the roads are sodden, its not pleasant, but being July its not really that cold, so I don’t mind too much, but the crap from the road in your face made it quite hard to see. We got going and I felt ok, first time up the climb was fine too, but I could tell that doing it 5 times would takes its toll (maybe it was 4? either way). There were a couple of rampy parts that could easily generate a split, and there were also points for people to get back on with fast downhills.

Nothing much happened for the first lap or two, a few people tried to get off the front, but nothing stuck, I was watching the Dulwich rider, and he indeed was right near the front, so it was clear that he wanted to do something this race. On lap two I think, he went, and went on his own, which was strange really, as it was not so blistering that people couldn’t have bridged, but I don’t think anyone wanted it. Probably thought he’d get brought back (you can guess where this is going)… So we cracked on and at times the rain was torrential, worse than being in the car on a waterlogged m25. A crash happened almost straight away, I THINK his wheel came out, or maybe he hit some traffic calming measures and it was forced out, either way, it made me think about how dangerous it could be today. About half way through and I’m still feeling decent despite being soaked, another crash had just happened in front of me and I managed to dodge his falling bike to make it round, each time this happened we got distanced and had to chase back to re-gain position, not ideal. Still, things are going OK, I’m able to keep the pace up the hills, and as usual am able to cruise downhill faster than nearly anyone else which is nice when you need to get a decent position back.

Then probably 2/3’rds of the way through Andy Lack has a dig, and he gets a gap, I think he might be able to do something, so try and get to the front to slow things down, but people swarm, and before too long he’s back with us again (I’m probably not doing Andy’s break full justice here, I have a hazy memory of most of the race). The pace is going up, we enter the last 12 mile lap of the circuit, by now William Pratt has about 3 mins on the bunch and is clearly going to win in a fantastic solo effort on a hard course in shit weather, he is clearly a very strong rider, not long for cat 2 I doubt. Then Seamus has a go off the front, this was a fairly short lived move as the bunch were just going too quick now really, so with Seamus back in the bunch, we approached the downhill section before the climbs, I was feeling quite good, so went for it, got a gap, not a huge one, but I was away from the bunch, kept drilling on, but the hills soon came, and my lungs were not having it (couldn’t get my heartrate up at all today, even at the end I was 3 bpm down on max)  and slowly but surely they reeled me in after maybe 5 mins of being on my own (5 minutes haha, sounds utterly pitiful when you think of the rides some people do on their own to victory etc) and I settled back in to the front of the bunch. With the hills out of the way there is a good 3 or so miles of fast section which is downhill and has a couple of rollers before the final kick up to the finish, Seamus is on the front drilling it along, and I’m 3rd wheel, I eventually go through after trying to get a drink for about 30 secs and sit on the front to keep the pace decent as we head into the last 1.5km… Now given this finish probably suits me quite well, you’d be well within your rights to ask me WTF I was dong on the front a mile from the end, to be honest, I don’t know either, it just felt right , even thought it clearly wasn’t…

We approach the final ramp and I’m still on the front, as we make our way up, we catch a rider, maybe a dropped rider, not sure (we learn that there are two more up the road now, I must admit I never saw them go), so I prepare for the inevitable as the whole bunch fresh from sitting in wheels like I should have been comes round me to leave me in 30th position. They come, and I let about 4 riders or so come through then put a dig in to make the wheel (I’m suffering by this point) and I keep the wheel, putting in a big effort, breathing like a mad man, I am gaining on some people, but there are others also approaching, we cross the line which is much closer than I thought it was, and I think I may have scraped a 10th if I’m lucky (so 7th or so within the bunch), Stephen I think pipped me at the last minute, but other than that it was just a mass of bodies!

Given my positioning the whole day and that it in hindsight despite all the negatives, weather etc etc, it did actually suit me at the finish , if I could get there, so a bit of a shame to not place a bit higher, but that’s what will happen when you do a turn and then try to win too, its very difficult to do that, and I must learn from it.

On the other hand, this course was very similar to Bletchingley, the pace was quite high, and not only did I not get dropped, I managed to be amongst the top few for most of the race, so the improvement is coming, just need to work on a few things and try to drop another couple of kg and I might be able to do something at this level if the stars align. Pleasing progress for the season, its been quite a rollercoster from 45 min crits to 3 hour slogs in the rain, but I am enjoying it and despite having to be a bit more conscious of binge eating/drinking its certainly great fun!

Race stats then :

Distance – 66 miles
Avg Speed – 23.5 mph
Average power – 221 Watts
Normalised power 280 Watts
Max Power – 1130
Max HR – 193

Races thick and fast all the way through till September/October time now, next week down in Kirdford for Brighton Mitre’s race!