Toachim GP Stage Race

15 Apr

Toachim GP Stage Race

This was to be my first stage race, and certainly wasn’t going to be the easiest as rather than give myself an easy in to the world of multi day events, I decided that it would be wise to do a National B race with all that it entails. Lots iof teams of elite riders, the likes of Felt, Corley, Pedalheaven and a few very strong club riders, Rob Moore, Jake Martin, Elliot Porter of Rapha and a fair few other guys who are certainly strong riders and a cut above the field you’d find at a 2/3 race. But this was part of the fun, I’d noticed that the feeling of ‘hanging on’ was gone from my racing, and I could afford to make mistakes in the 2/3 races and it wouldn’t make much difference, I wanted to have the feeling of really having to try to hang in there, and have a bit more risk attached to my racing. And this was certainly the place to do that, as the 2nd and 3rd stages are testament to. The format for those not aware was 3 stages over two days, the first day was an 8 mile TT – 5 laps of the Cyclopark in Kent (great place, really good to see so many kids etc making use of the facilities). This would sort out an order for the GC, a couple of hours later there would be a 90 min crit around the Cyclopark, then the following day there would be a tough road race finishing up a tasty little hill to finalize the overall, this was in deepest Kent with the HQ in Challock.

Stage 1 – TT

I was fairly confident that I could turn in a decent TT, not last because I certainly wasn’t wanting in the kit department, I had everything someone would need to go quickly so it was up to my legs to hold up their end of the bargain. A couple of things worth noting that I quickly found out – brakes on Treks Speed Concept are not that great, god knows how Cancellara fly’s round those city streets at 30 mph with the stock brakes, it would have been nice to have ridden the course at least once before having to TT around it!

It was quite warm for once which was nice, to skinsuited up etc, I took to the line, I knew from previous times that TT bikes were proving quicker, despite the corners and high winds, I set off and got into a rhythm truth be told I overcooked a couple of the corners on the first lap (though the first was still the quickest according to the numbers) but I knew I was going ok, the power was decent, and I was passing riders up the long drag without too much hassle (which is probably the section that flattered the TT bikes the most). I was dripping sweat at one point, Giro’s ventilation on the Selector isn’t up to much IMO. I saved a bit in the legs for the last lap and really drove it hard, I crossed the line and paused my garmin (thankfully…) and had 18.17, which if my electronic transponder had not had a dead battery probably would have been rounded down a bit as I started it a few secs early and a few secs after the line. Thankfully the Comm was in a good mood and said he would honour my garmin reading which clearly showed the time, the distance and when it was done etc. Looking up at the board this put me in 11th place with a Corley Rider doing the fastest ride of 17.50, so I was quite pleased with the result 25 seconds over 8 miles sounds like a lot, but this is no dragstrip and I think with a bit of practice I’d have been able to get a bit quicker, but it was a good first result.

Stage 2 – 90min Criterium Cyclopark

This was held the same afternoon as the TT and because I was one of the last off in the TT I didn’t have too long to wait before it was time to line up again for the crit. The weather had turned from fairly pleasant to cold, and raining, not ideal. I made sure to line up near the front, but had a bit of a faff clipping in which saw me near the back of the field, which really wasn’t ideal. The number of corners at the cyclopark that finish with sprints out and uphill doesn’t reward poor positioning. And with the wind absoloutley belting it, it was clear that this wasn’t the time to miss a wheel or not be in a good position. A split happened very early on which smashed the field to bits, and there were two big groups, and later a smaller breakaway group with Jake at the helm. I was in the second group and really struggling with the wind and corners, it must have been around half an hour of hanging in there with this one, gradually slipping back. Eventually the elastic snapped and I was out of that group and into a new one with other riders that had not managed to keep pace with the front lot. We were about 7 strong, and slowly but surely it was whittled down, cornering was an issue, and with it now being wet one person taking a corner a bit too slowly meant a huge sprint every few seconds just to get back on the wheel in front (this was like interval training on acid! Lactic acid!). By the halfway point our group had moved away from a group behind us and a lot of dropped riders, and sat behind the main group and the break. I could see the break was now just two, Jake and George from Felt, impressive riding in those conditions for sure! It was now a case of just minimizing losses and getting round, myself, 2 Pedalheaven riders, Lawrence from AW and a Sigma rider tapped it out for the last half an hour and sadly just about got lapped by the front bunch (and Jake+George). Jake went on to win the stage. There was later an issue with the GC which was due to some people doing a lap less than others, so initially I was placed 8th which I thought sounded a bit too good to be true! When the results were sorted out I was put in my rightful place at 26th, which wasn’t great, but given the amount of people that had packed, and the amount of strong riders around and behind me wasn’t the worst outcome. That 90 min crit taught me a lot about positioning getting the wheel and riding more economically. Upon riding back to the car I noticed that my back brake was rubbing quite a bit (solid excuse 😉 ) which certainly wouldn’t have made it any easier, but even without that I think with the way I rode I’d not have been up the front anyway, so certainly will know how to play that next time! Jake now had a 45 second lead going into day 2.

Stage 3 – Road Race 90 miles (advertised as 75…)

It was a bit of a drive down to Challock, but the one saving grace of getting up at 6.50am on a Sunday is that no other bugger wants to and it meant the roads were clear, also the weather had perked up, and we were due to have the hottest day of the year so far, so I was pleased with that. Sadly as I got deeper into Kent the weather declined and when I arrived it was actually raining again 😦

My main error today in hindsight was fueling I thought it was only going to be a 75 mile race, which I normally would only have a gel and some energy drink, but it actually was just under 90 in the end. I hugely regret this, and it kind of shaped my race to be honest. Nobody to blame but me there, I’ve since been onto the web and bought a TON of gels!!

Race got underway and despite the warnings from the Comm of a big puddle on the first fast downhill the pace was HIGH, I felt ok, and kept in the wheels, and we properly nailed it down that hill, and I think it was the first lap that people got gapped and that was it for them, so it really shows how fast this was. I was pushing on ok today and legs felt fine, I positioned myself quite well, and though I didn’t go with any breaks at this stage I was fine with the pace etc. It was quite a quick pace, and people were pinging off the front all the time trying to get a gap. Jake was very active and without a team it was going to be a hard day for him as every move he made was marked by literally everyone. Eventually a small group got up the road, and went clear, lots of people pinging off the front, and at the 60 mile point I commented to Francis from PH that I should have brought some more food as there was still two 12 mile laps to go (and actually a bit more in the end). We hit the exposed windy section which caused more issues than any of the hills really, and I was running on nearly empty trying to ration my drink, at this point a move went and I just had not a lot to give, it was here that my race was over, had I made that move then I’d have been a lot better off in the overall, but there we are. Lots of others missed this move too of course, and it was clear people were suffering, the last lap came and a chap from PH had the right idea, just tap out a rhythm with everyone taking a turn to get the stage over and done with. But seemingly people still had aspirations of glory and nobody wanted to work, so one by one people pinged off the front to get away on their own, I was spent by this time and couldn’t care less about riding away. I rode in to the finishing hill with a group of about 6 others, the last hill was really hard going, 7 mins or so, and our group split up a bit (not that it mattered at this point) and I finished over the line literally dead on my feet. I later learned that everyone that got into that earlier move did make contact with the front break, and Francis had gone on to take 4th in that stage and give himself a bump up the GC, so it was clear that it was the move that cost me a half decent placing, but I’m happy that I managed to stay the course, LOTS of people DNF yesterday, and my final standing was 22nd overall. Its not the best result but all told its not too bad, plenty of good riders finished behind me, and there were not too many 2nd cats in front of me, perhaps just one actually. So it was a great weekend where I learned a lot about myself and my riding, and it taught me a few hard lessons. The winner in the end way Roy Chamberlain from Corley who took home the £1000 first prize, great ride from him given his standing initially. Will add some pics to this when they come into circulation.

However it has whet my appetite for multiday racing and I may enter the SERRL 3 day which is a proper 4 stage affair, but this one will certainly set me up well for the couple of 2/3 stage races I’ve entered in the next couple of months. I also have reassured myself a bit that as long as I don’t ride like an idiot I can keep pace with these sorts of fields, so the nerves of doing so have been settled somewhat. The Les Ingman next week will be interesting, a tough 85 miler over the Bletchingley Course, that will certainly be a test of the legs!

In the meantime I have a club 10 in the week, so hopefully can do a decent ride there and go after the club course record.

Prologue
Crit
Road Race

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