Archive | August, 2012

Parham Park 2/3

25 Aug
Today was a race I was a bit sceptical of, mainly because looking at the course map, it looked like one big featureless square course of around 3 miles in length. A crit pretty much! How wrong I was (kind of, it was more like a crit)…
Leading up to this race I’ve done a lot of volume, I had a day off yesterday, but before that I had ridden every day since the Wednesday before, it was a new approach I was trying to see if I responded well to less rest, the results were mixed. I was flying on Tuesday night and was easily able to ride the climbs at a high pace, and had the better of a couple of guys I normally can’t get near to, so it was a promising start…On Thursday night I did an hour of hard threshold stuff, which was actually quite useful for today in terms of power watching, so to speak.
I accidentally left an hour earlier than I needed to today so was there nearly 2 hours before the start, lovely though it is, Storrington certainly isn’t a buzzing metropolis, I wandered round Southdown Bikeshop and killed some time, nice shop if you’re in the area! I went to sign on and this is when I learned a little more about the featureless circuit (so I thought), they ran a 3rd cat race in the morning, which one can only assume took the brunt of the bad weather. Of the 40 starters (wise people who stayed in bed!) around 10 finished, the rest all punctured. Apparently part of the course was like a dirt track and it had just destroyed the field with flats!Oh and there was a cattle grid too, for good measure.
Anyway, I knew a few people riding today, and obviously the man to watch was the Southdowns Bike man ex pro Steve Calland, he had won on this circuit for the last 3 years, mainly with his killer sprint I’d been told. With no other KW riding I was a free agent again, so my aim was to try and follow the moves and make sure I kept an eye on him. I did a quick ride of the course, the finish was at the top of the hill you can see in the below shot (where the pic was taken from almost), there was a stint on a main road, and then there was the bit that everyone was worried about, about a mile through the forest along a path that was a cross between a pavement (in surface and in width, it was about 8ft wide) and a fireroad. because it had so much standing gravel and what not. It was AMAZING fun, I now am going to b even more jealous when they send the Giro peloton up one of those gravel track mountains! Also Paraham Park House is quite a spectacle, and it was something special racing through the grounds, I’d certainly rather look at an Elizabethan specticle than Sunrise Plaza – the delight of the Hillingdon Skyline! Also being a private estate the road was free of cars! Which was a huge bonus.
Anyhow, we lined up, maybe 40 of us due to the crap weather I assume a load more had given it a miss, and were told about the risk of flats etc, and that there was no service vehicle, in hindsight it would have needed to be a lorry to sort all the punctures out! We were neutral for a whole lap, but at 6 mins or so per lap it didn’t take long to get back to the start where we began the race, over 12 laps. The first lap saw probably 5 punctures, it was no joke, the surface and the rain that had fallen earlier in the day made it a road tyre graveyard. It was very crit-esque in that it was sprinting out of every corner, and every 6 mins you had a nice little climb to do ( similar to Dark Hill in Richmond Park for those that know it) luckily ,the mother of all tailwinds was shoving us up the hill so it didn’t feel too bad at all.

A couple of moves went but nothing noteworthy, and at points you just couldn’t do anything as the track was so narrow. Another couple of laps passed and probably another 5 riders went out to flats, and slowly the field was becoming manageable in size. It was around 1/3 of the way through when I think a couple of guys got clear, I wasn’t going to chase as I thought two guys (neither were any names I knew) wouldn’t last long in the headwind through the forest. Then after a lap or so more a group of 5 got away, I did want to be in this move but was not i ideal position to do so, but again I thought they were probably not going to get too far…

Probably about half way through the race, and the bunch (if you can call it that) was maybe 15-20 strong, myself, and two Dynamo riders were the only ones willing to do any work to try and pull back the riders out front, the front two had amassed a two min lead, and the group behind them were over a minute in front, it was now or never really…I sat in and planned my attack! I hit the hill at a manageable but hard pace, the bunch were being a bit lazy anyway, and I saw that I had got a gap over the top of the hill, so I just drilled it, knowing they had been reluctant to chase anything all day, surely they wouldn’t mind if I got away ;-)…

I got a decent gap, and going hard on the downhill on the main road, before the turn into the forest I look back, can see the bunch in the distance, and a lone rider is trying to bridge, I have my ideas about who it will be, about 20 seconds later he’s on my wheel, and it was indeed Steve Calland (who was obviously local hero as everyone was shouting his name at every corner!), this was good, I knew I could work with him, and that we could probably make it stick. At this point there was 40 mins racing left, up to this point I can now see that I’d averaged around 240 watts, I was going to have to work harder than that to stay away and heopfully catch the next bunch!

Steve and I worked very well together, both doing strong turns, (he later said he felt he was slowing me down, I’ll take that as a compliment, but it certainly wasn’t the truth!), slowly we were reeling in the group of 5 who were slowing down slightly, we did maybe 3 laps together and got away from the bunch totally, I was pleased as it was a hard slog through the forest, but it was nice that we had got away and that my tyres had held up. Another lap or so (after maybe 25 mins of riding together) and the time gap to the next group of 5 was now under 30 seconds and when we came into the open part of the course we could see them on the far side of the grounds hitting the hill. It was starting to look possible that we would catch this group (at this point I thought they were the only group, I didn’t know the other two were well off the front). Another lap of hard riding I notice Steve’s turns get shorter (for which there was good reason…) which made it hard work for me. However, I kept going until we hit the bell lap, now its clear we’re definitely not going to get caught, and the next 5 are in sight most of the time. We push hard into the forest and I’m doing most of the work now, I ask Steve if he wants to join the group in front or go straight past them, at this point it all becomes clear..he has two teammates in this group of 5 and isn’t going to harm his own chances of a sprint to help me get in the mix (especially after I robbed a 2nd place from him last week!), fair enough I think and just keep riding, as the last thing I wanted was to get so close and then not catch them!!

Coming out of the forest into the horrid headwind section, we pass one rider who’s been shelled out of the 4, its going to be tight with less than a mile to go, but we catch the front 4 just before the last 1k or so (tailwind!), I sit on the back waiting for a move to go, and then it does, Steve comes flying up the outside as we hit the climb, its too strong for me as I’ve just worked hard for the last 3-4 mins, then the others go, I still have enough in the legs to follow them onto the start of the hill, and then really stamp the pedals, and pull away from them to end up finishing about 4 bikes back on Steve for 4th place (thinking I’d come 2nd again as I wasn’t aware of the two up the road 😛 )!
Quite a good ride, worked hard, and the second half of the ride where we were alone was done at 270 watts ap, as opposed to the first at 240, and the last 20 mins I did 300w average which is a result of Steve’s shorter turns I think. Managed 20 seconds at 825 watts to get clear on the last hill, which is far from my best, but after a tough race still not bad. A pleasing result and it certainly bodes well for next season when there are plenty of chances to go for the points. 4 more races left, still wanting the elusive win, but I’m happy that I am showing consistency at this level at least.
Race stats
AP 248W NP 285W
Distance 37 miles

Average speed – 23.8 mph (interestingly we were 1 mph quicker 2 up than when in the bunch!)

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iTeam 2/3

19 Aug

With the weather finally picking up a bit over the last week or so, it looked like we might get some racing done in the sun again. After doing the Python race I took the view that I should be more aggressive, or at least try harder in these races to get the results. On paper its more than possible, so really it was just making it work and THINKING about what I’m doing.

The weeks riding has been pretty good, certainly made the most of the good weather and had a good mixture of riding in my legs from this week, around 200 miles before the race, and maybe most notably was the TT I did yesterday, which I did put a full effort into, so I was thinking about how my legs would feel today. Luckily the course was fairly straight forward with only a couple of tiny inclines as opposed to any notable hills so even wit not fantastic legs, which they’re weren’t, it was possible to get round.

Today’s race was run on similar roads to our club race, down in Dunsfold, its a fairly quiet area, and with a couple of exceptions everyone seems more than happy to wait while we go through, which is nice. Oddly I was the only KW rider in the race today, not sure what the other chaps were up to, but it does mean that you can attack/follow anything you want without worrying you’re doing the wrong thing for your teamates. I arrived nice and early, and I’m pretty sure it was already well over 20 deg when I arrived in the car park!!

I signed on, and we got going, the notable thing about this particular circuit was that it had a flat finish, I don’t think I’ve done a SL race where that has been the case. Usually the finish is on a flat just after a hill, with that in mind I was interested to see how it went as it’s a finish that certainly wouldn’t hinder me. The neutral section was only about 500m before we were off and ‘racing’. The pace at first wasn’t that hard really, I was just sitting in wheels waiting to see what might happen. I knew a couple of names on the sheet, and I knew that the Node4 Rider Richard Prebble was strong and that his style based on past races was to break away near the end on his own (I think he is a former national TT champ, so certainly a man to watch), so I wanted to be near him to make sure if a move did go, that I was also in it, or at least saw it 😉 ! I’m sure there were many other very strong riders, but having one of the worst memories of anyone I certainly can’t memorize more than a couple of riders, helps when the kit is bright orange!

Anyway, back to the race, the pace was fine for the first couple of laps, not that quick, just getting a feel for it, despite the course being pretty safe, it was quite narrow and twisty at certain points, and the gutter was just that, a trench of mud and crap, and the tarmac wasn’t much better in places. About half way through the race a group got away, it had a few guys that looked strong, nobody looked to want to bridge to it, so I thought I’d just go on my own, always easier said than done…I went hard and got a gap, then quickly realised that yesterdays TT was making me ache a bit and the dilemma after 3 mins of full effort is whether to sit upor not, I thought that I’d already invested a lot of effort so may as well make it count, I managed to bridge them, but by the time I got there the bunch were not far away. However we proceeded to break again, straight away, I did a turn, then just blew up, I couldn’t do it given the 5 mins I spent chasing, the others were less than impressed when I shirked my turn! Still, not much I could do. We stayed in limbo for a while just off the front, until we got caught and we all sat up maybe half a lap later.

I think a couple of laps passed without too much to mention, I was in the top 20 nearly all the time, which is the place to be, although, with these races because the courses are generally not too taxing, people are quite fresh, and in the blink of an eye the who field can go up the inside/outside! I dropped back for a bit to get a bit of rest as I thought it likely we would have a sprint finish. A bit later I noticed the Node 4 rider went off the front with one other, we started to chase it down knowing how dangerous it could be, he stayed away for quite a while but we made the catch eventually. The last lap came and everyone was back together, the usual lot where near the front, the pace slowed a bit, then picked up a lot, then slowed down again, then as we were coming towards the finish and the only ‘hill’ of the course (which was slowly knackering me each lap even though you could probably do it in 20 seconds) the pace exploded and two guys came flying up the outside and more followed, this was it, it was the point that I either dug in to get a good position for the sprint, or did the usual and ended up 30th wheel firefighting for a spot. I opted for the former, in power terms it was pretty tame, but my legs were feeling it, and it was now very warm (30 odd), I managed to go with them, and down the other side managed to catch my breath a bit.

In the confusion etc one chap had got off the front, I don’t think anyone was paying much attention really because a few had done similar and been swallowed up within 5 mins,  but at the point he went it was a good move….One other notable thing at this point was me almost coming off at 30 mph…I’ve fitted a new cassette and because my back mech is a bit shit the shifting was not 100%, I thought I was in gear and fine, so sprinted out of a corner, only for the chain to jump down a cog and my knee hit the bar throwing the back wheel in the air! I managed to keep hold of it, but it was close, another rider said he thought I was ground-bound.

This part of the race is often the point where the riding goes a bit sketchy as people jostle for position etc, and today was certainly no exception, we approached the dogleg left turn onto the final straight which was maybe 500m to the line. I was probably in the top 10 of 20-25 contenders, but not really in a wheel, Richard Prebble was on the front at this point drilling it, we came round the dogleg and he started sprinting almost straight away! I was on the outside so had a good view of who was doing what,  I knew I couldn’t get a wheel in that mess so stuck to the outside (on my side of the road if you were wondering! but near the outside of the lane) where nobody wanted to be it seemed. I saw people coming on the left, I just decided to go for it and take the wind for a few seconds as there wasn’t another option, if I had enough then surely it would be OK, if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have been any better in a wheel. Meanwhile someone went by Richard (Steve Calland I later learned) and really got a good gap on ever the group, I really dug in here, out of the saddle at first then as it was so far to the finish I got tucked and just went as hard as I could, I went past the group and it was just myself, Steve, and the lone escapee, I was gaining on Steve, I dug a bit deeper (no idea where I found more from really) and caught him, just (results are still pending but two marshals saw it my way too) before the line before making the pass… the lone rider was about a bike length in front, great ride from him! So I got a 2nd place, which is pretty close to achieving my season goal of another win (Hillingdon doesn’t count! 😉 )

I was pleased with that, it showed that I had the legs in a sprint again, and that I can certainly get the results at this level (I don’t even think the easy course made much odds, I just was more concious of making it count and gettting the positioning nailed(ish) ) and it bodes well if I want to push on next season and go for 1st cat. 3 or 4 more road races this year, a couple of TT’s (my first 25 in a couple of weeks!) and a couple of handicaps before I buy a turbo, bury myself in the training with power book and try to increase power in the crap dark weather!

Some numbers  :

AP – 198 NP – 240w (easiest yet! – did take nearly 800w for 30s at the end though)
Avg Speed 25 mph
Distance 62 mi

Python Summer e123

12 Aug

After not managing to finish the race last weekend, I was looking forward to giving this one a try. It was to be my first race at National B standard, and that meant a tough field, and 85 miles of racing as opposed to 60-70 which I usually do.

The first thing to note about this race is that its on a very easy going course, its pretty flat with only a few draggy bits, but they’re nothing much to mention, certainly nothing like last weekends course. Its also mostly very straight and quite wide which made is quite safe (no spills today). The outcome of all of these factors isn’t that it pootles along at 24 mph, but it fly’s along at 27 mph!

I’d have a decent week of riding, and have kept in mind the distance of today, so I didn’t do anything too OTT. I did a 10 mile TT on Wednesday which was a good test of the system. It was probably that morning that the startlist for todays race got sent through on email. It was somewhat surprising that it was packed with decent riders. The Sigma Sport team were out in force, Metaltek Scott had a few riders, there were lots of Felt Colbornes, plenty from Team Corley Cycles, Pedal Heaven, Node 4, and many other riders who were obviously a cut above the usual crowd I race with (and a cut above me might I add as I was one of maybe 10 2nd cats)

I got down there nice and early and it promised to be a dry day which was great as I’d had just about enough of riding/racing in monsoons! There was only myself and Andy Edwards from KW racing today, and a couple of other club riders I spotted warming up, with the majority as I mentioned being from proper racing teams, it was fairly clear the first lap was going to be fast (just under 10 mile loops per lap) as everyone stretched their legs, and it was, over 28 mph for that first one. However although the headline figures sound very quick, it wasn’t too tough to sit in really, a nice tailwind down Drift Rd certainly helped. However there were a few corners that were sprinted every time, so that was something that gradually wore you down.

To be honest, the aim for this race as I mentioned last week was just to get round, as it happens I managed to stay near the front, even get in a few moves that didn’t go anywhere for various reasons, but it does mean that I wasn’t massively bothered about what was going on up the road. As it happens a group of 9 riders or so got clear early on, and the winner from the Sigma Team came from this group. I think later in the race Wouter Sybrandy also of Sigma slipped away with one or two others.

The final lap was again quite quick, I’d already thought about the finish and given there were so many up the road, sprinting was pointless, so I sat back and rolled in mid-pack in the end. Its actually about as far as I’ve ever ridden anyway, so to do it as part of a race that over the duration averaged over 26 mph, I was very pleased to still be there at the end.

 The riding style is very different to a 2/3 race, and when one of the elite guys attacks, he attacks properly, I hit 1500 watts following a move, something I’d never do in a 2/3 race I don’t think. Also the pack is a lot more confident, and aside from being shouted at once (my fault for going through a gap that was a bit smaller than I am) I felt OK amongst these guys, but its clear I’ve got a lot to learn about how to ride in a elite bunch in terms of getting in move, coming through, closing gaps etc.  I never felt like I was dying, and my legs felt pretty good for the duration although I do need to think about fluids as I was running a bit dry towards the end.

I’d like to think it translates well to the 2/3’s, but we will see on that front today was very flat afterall. There are about 5 races left of this season so maybe I can still place in one of those, if not then the concentration will be on TT’s and Hill Climbs over the next couple of months before going for it properly next season (now I am a bit more familiar with how it all works). I will try to add some pics as and when they appear on the web.

Some figures from today

85 miles
Avg speed 26.5 mph for the race
AP 230 watts NP 280

Bletchingley take 2

5 Aug

Today was my return to the Bletchingley Circuit, last time I rode it was back in the Spring (extended winter as it was) and I found it very tough and lasted about 2 laps. Today was different in that I didn’t find it too bad, looking at the numbers today’s fastest lap was quicker than the one back then, which given the weather, shows people were going for it, but its still much harder for me than any other SL circuit I’ve done so far.

I’ve had an OK week on the bike, and even set a few new power bests in training, so I know I’m going ok at the minute. However I might have undone all that hard work when I went to Cowes with work on Friday, much drink was had, and suffice to say, I was in no state for a spin on Saturday. Anyway, got there nice and early and the weather was lovely. Was glad of this, as the weather really does make something that can be fun, into something pretty shit as per the race in Staplefield a few weeks back…

We set off on the first lap, and it probably took about 10 minutes for the rain to start, not too heavy at first, however. We did a complete lap of the circuit and I remembered why I found it tough…its a tough course with little to no flat in it. We came up passed the finish line and I saw a friendly face or two which was nice(cheers Pete). Then the heavens opened. The phrase “never seen rain like it” gets branded about a lot, but today (actually there was worse rain on the way home in the car) was as heavy rain as I’ve ever seen and there were points where I couldn’t see more than 8 ft in front of me. Cycling through it was tough, as within moments the road was 2 inch deep in water. Added to that, the fact that we were about to tackle the steep downhill part of the course didn’t fill me with confidence!! It was at this point that many people just quit there and then (Andy Edwards of my club being one – sensible head, keep that c59 clean and in one piece!). However I carried on as I thought of the effort I’d made to race, so it was worth giving it a go, and I knew that the weather would have a big effect on the bunch. The first time down the steep hill in that rain there were huge splits, the bunch probably was broken into three groups of 20 or so riders with some stragglers. The result of this was quite a large effort to get back on as I was nearer the back going into the downhill, I can see it was 340w for 10 minutes to get back on the bunch. Not really the kind of efforts you want to be making 10 miles into a 70 mile road race, really.

A couple of laps passed and slowly but surely people were getting dropped on both the climb (more often the long drag past the HQ) and the downhill, sadly it was at this point that Damien departed as his rear wheel slowly went down. I kept going, and often found myself in pretty poor position as I wasn’t as confident as some of the others at going down the hill at that speed in those conditions. But slowly the rain held off for a bit longer, and the course was beginning to be rideable again. The strange thing was how localized the rain was, one half of the course looked like a waterpark, the other like a fine summers day (well, if you can look past the huge cloud formations looming!).

The race neared its conclusion, at about 45 miles I was talking to a mate of mine who drove down for EOL (he’s well versed in shite weather, he’s from Newcastle, but seems to thrive when racing in it! Odd bugger) and we were discussing what would happen on the last lap, and whether the lone rider who had gone earlier on would stay away, we approached the first of the hills back up to the village and BANG…suddenly I could feel myself rolling on my rim, superb. There is a slight backstory to the tyre, I had gp4000s on there and they have been fine, not one flat so far (bought new in Feb so around 1k miles probably) but on a training ride the rear had developed quite a cut, so to be safe, I put on an Ultremo R1 that was almost new. Ironically it was indeed the rear that blew up, and looks like someone has shot it!To be fair to Schwalbe, I was one of probably 15 flats today, nothing much you can do against a rogue flint etc.

I then realised that my spare tube wasn’t in my jersey, but in the car. Great, 5 miles from the car, nobody to give a hand …I started walking. I probably walked for about 40 minutes before a lady who’s husband had been racing took pity on me (he was riding for East Grinstead, and had punctured earlier!) and gave me a lift back to the HQ, so a massive thanks to her, I’d still be walking otherwise!

The bunch was apparently 17 strong at the finish (from over 70!) and that chap did stay away, so kudos to him, hell of a ride. Bit annoyed as I’d have liked to have finished given the circumstances, oh well, lets hope next year we get a summer.

Avg Speed 23.5 mph
Power AP 240 NP 295
47 miles
50 mph top speed

And to cheer myself up I just had a look at the start list for the Python Summer RR which I’m doing next weekend (thought I had to try an elite race soon, and its quite flat ) – its certainly got some names in it! eek. Goal is to finish, nothing more.