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!

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