Archive | June, 2013

SERRL Biddenden 2/3

23 Jun

Its been a strange week really, I felt like though I missed any decent results last weekend (well I suppose I did get 2nd in a TT) I was thinking my legs were coming together. Monday I took it super easy for an hour as I was heading to Palace on Tuesday, I started, and was REALLY finding it tough, thankfully after 3 laps my seat-post slipped down making the bike un-rideable, which was a blessing as I was about to be out the backdoor anyway I reckon. The bike felt like a wet noodle, no responsiveness. I took the wheels into a local guy and he said the back hub was very loose and indicated that this would give the feeling of instability and wobbliness. Anyway, with that sorted I had a test ride yesterday and it felt fine which was a relief as I was lining up some Enve’s 😉

This morning I wasn’t really up for it to be honest, I’d been out quite late last night for a mates birthday and purposefully limited myself to only a few drinks as had this race to do. Early start, got down there with plenty of time, I started to feel more positive about it when I was there. I think part of what gives me the pre-race blues is knowing I have to drive down there on my own for 90 mins, its pretty dull. Today’s race was to be held on one of the circuits near Biddenden, which was in rural Kent, lovely. It was a rolling circuit with a few fast downhills, and a fairly poorly surfaced drag up to the finish maybe half a mile long at 4% or so with a couple of ramps and a drag up to the finish line. I did have the company of Andy Lack today, a previous SERRL winner and a teammate for the stage race in a couple of weeks, he gave me a good heads up on the course and said that it held a rich history for KW as Damien had won here before from a break.

The race got off to a start, there were probably around 50 riders today, a long neutral zone and we were off, the pace was predictably quite high, and for the first lap or so nothing much of note happened. I noted that the best line up the finish hill was probably up the right hand side where the road was bad, but not the worst. A couple of laps passed and Keith Lea of Addiscombe came through and we had a little dig, it was early days and nothing was being allowed to stick just yet so we were brought back. Another lap or so passed with a few little things here and there before we (or I) found ourselves in a familiar position …. Flying down one of the fast bits of the course we come across two horses, as per exactly what happened last time (last year), they went mental at the sight of 50 bikes, a few people went by them and the rest of us stopped, they eventually calmed down and took another route, not sure if more can be done to prevent this because its certainly not an ideal situation and in such areas of the country its going to happen more and more often. Anyway, the front group slowed to let the race come back together again.

Shortly after this with a couple of laps to go an Aprire rider (possible Michael Barnes)got away and nobody seemed to interested in chasing him initially, he must have been out front for a fair time because while he was away I tried to get away another 2 times, once again with Keith which amounted to not a lot, and then again with Paul Sewell and another, which looked more promising and we brought Michael back in sight before we were caught and it all slowed down again for half a lap. This was just before we got the bell lap, so it was now on for him to ride away solo as he had around 35 seconds on us, we went down the fast hill and took the sharp left hander and this is when the decider happened…I was about 10 wheels back on the inside, and Paul Sewell flew up the outside with two riders in tow, by the time I could get anywhere near a position to move out they were up the road. Instead of chase it right away which till that point had always resulted in the bunch reacting and chasing me down, I thought I would chance my arm a bit. My legs felt good, and I was confident that I could ride over to them if needs be, so I waited a minute or two and they were gaining quickly, then two others chipped off the front, a Paragon and another chap, it was at this point that I thought I had to move or I’d be sprinting for 6th, and with good legs, that is not what I wanted. So I nailed it up the road, hard, and only one followed, and we got a gap (hurrah I thought, first time that day!) I took the wide line and we went straight past the Paragon and other and carried on, I was driving the pace, looked down and strangely 400w felt perfectly sustainable, which was proof that my legs were playing the game. I waved the London Phoenix rider through, nothing, I then waved him through with a bit of encouragement and got a 10 second turn, I thought if I let this chap do turns like that then we will not get over, so back on the front and nailed it for all I was worth, we had got a good gap and were closing on the 3 who had now caught Michael Barnes so 4 lead group. Phoenix did another turn and then I carried on and really buried myself up the drag into the headwind and finally with about 3k to go we made the juncture. Paul said afterwards he was quite surprised to see me there!

I looked back and pack was out of sight, so I knew it would be down to this 6, I fancied my chances against Phoenix chap, Michael as he had been out so long, and I wasn’t sure of the others. I knew from previous that Paul has a big kick (he beat me to 1st in our club race if you remember) so I was calculating (insert Sean Kelly joke here) what was my best bet for the win…

We slowed and took the sharp left into the last 0.5 mile drag to the finish, I quickly positioned myself on the right side where it was smooth(ish) and watched, everyone was waiting, it was still early, at that point I thought, do I want to risk a bunch gallop on this surface, or do I make the best of what I’m good at (30-40 sec effort) and gun it from here…Predictably option 2 sounded better to me, so with a clear path I nailed it seated and went clear with nobody on my wheel, I just kept it pinned and tried not to look back, it felt like an age, but in reality was 30 secs, I looked back and I had 20m on Paul who was the closet, I eased off as I approached the line and took the win. A quick look at the numbers shows 1150w peak in the saddle which is one of my better efforts for this, and it works so well as its not as obvious – kind of like a poor mans Cancellara as he attacked Boonen on the Muur, or even Sagan this year – it has its place on crap road surfaces.

I was really pleased with the result and it really bodes well for the Tour of Sussex in 2 weeks time what with most of the would be contenders for that race also racing today.

A pic here courtesy of Dave Hayward – http://www.davehaywardphotos.com/ (I will be purchasing to add to the collection of self indulgent pics I have in the living room 😉 )

Win

And race here – http://app.strava.com/activities/62309731#

I may try Palace again this week, then have a couple of TT’s next weekend as I want to try and put right last weekends outing at the first of the Richmond Park events 🙂 Was starting to doubt whether getting up to 1st cat was going to happen this year as last couple of races I’ve just felt a bit crap – but in hindsight I’ve not arrived fresh at a race since the Div’s, last weekend I’d done a TT just beforehand and as much as I don’t think it makes any odds, today proved that it most certainly does. So a quick bit of maths and I think I’m almost 3/4 of the way there now with a good few races left, so I reckon it could be on the cards if I can get some more strong results in the bag which of course is the main goal.

Richmond Park TT

19 Jun

This weekend brought the Richmond Park TT (1 of three events this year, organized by London Dynamo with Martin Williamson being the main man – who happens to be a pretty quick tester). I’d done it last year in the road bike category and won the event. I was feeling confident that I would be in the running this year, though it was always going to be tough with riders like Martin, and also Steve Irwin in the mix as he has been going very well recently.

The only thing I don’t like about these events is setting my alarm so early on a Sunday, but I shouldn’t moan too much, I live closer than most! I got the TT bike together and trundled up to the start point and used the 4 miles there as my warm up. I had a quick chat with Steve, and learned that a team mate Aaron had won the road bike category as I had done. No surprises from me as he is a strong rider. My legs were feeling ok, I had done a 10 mile TT the day before and was pleased with the power but not so much the time, thankfully it wasn’t too windy today. I was 3rd from last man, and had Stu Spies behind me for 30 secs, and Steve 1 min back, and Gavin Francis (who’s son Jamie put in a strong performance to win the junior category) as my carrot. I set off and was mindful not to go too hard right away, in hindsight this was the right thing to do, but when it came to the steep ramp on Sawyers Hill I took the approach of stay aero and keep going at a steady pace – what Steve did was out of the saddle and batter it up there as quick as possible, as such he took 4-5 secs out of me up there, and for once not because he is more aero!

Heading down towards the turn at Kingston Gate after negotiating the latest utterly pointless offering from Royal Parks (2 more hideous speed-bumps) Gavin was in sight, I wanted to get past him before the turn so put in an extra effort to do so. It was at this point where I was starting to panic, Steve was NOT far away at this point and I think was about to pass Stu himself. It gave me a shot in the arm and I dug in and tried to get up the long drag as quick as possible and round the corner (Cancellara corner no less) as quick as possible. As it turns out I was probably a little too hasty, as I passed round the roundabout banked over I started to pedal a little bit too early, and bang, I was on the deck. Pedal had struck the ground and the bike had kicked out from under me and I’d landed quite heavily on my right side (again, the same shoulder I battered in March). I could see blood on my knee, elbow, coming through my skin-suit on my hip but all I could think was to jump up and get on the bike ASAP. In my haste it took an age to clip in, and I was furious with myself, Gavin came by me, and also another chap I’d passed did too, but not Steve or Stu, but they were now NOT fat behind at all. I eventually got clipped back in and began again, I gave it a big effort down the hill (though barely any quicker than Steve if at all who freewheeled most of it haha!) and passed Gavin again, I made the right hand turn into the last straight and made damn sure to do it safely, I caught a glimpse of Steve and knew it was touch and go as to whether he would pass me. I had already accepted that my fall would put paid to winning, but I didn’t want to be passed by him. Though at this point I think he was unaware I’d come off, so must have had his suspicions about catching me so early. The final right hand turn into the finish drag and I could see Steve was now pretty close, I gave it everything I had left and was hurting by this point, I managed to cross the line without him coming by but stopped the clock at 24.29.

Got back to the HQ and surprised to see Martin had done a short 24, Stu Spies came in with almost a dead 24 and Steve had obliterated everybody with 23.31, so I was 4th – not terrible all things considered, but not what I wanted at all. Having looked back at race data I was ahead of Stu by 5 secs at the point I fell, but he did go very well in the second half, and though my power was good for the second half, I had to sit higher up as my shoulder was really hurting, so I think without the fall I could have got ahead of him but it would have been close. Still, that isn’t the way it went, and for Stu to beat Martin showed that he did a good ride, and I think he may have even surprised himself.

http://app.strava.com/activities/60692092

A few things

15 Jun

Been a while since I updated this, mainly as I’ve been doing lots of different things, none of which I felt warranted a post of their own, so will just mention them all in one here!

Crystal Palace E12

Firstly, I made my first ever visit to Crystal Palace 3 weeks back, I met a fellow wheeler in town and we cycled through the nice and not so nice parts of South East London down to Palace. I must say, Ed was a bit keen on the way down, and trying to put a brave face on up the big hill near Palace meant I did almost 5 mins at 400w! NOT IDEAL warm up, but that is obviously how Ed likes to do it!

It was sure to be a good night there were lots of in form riders on the startline, Jake Martin, Rob Moore, Will Pratt and the unstoppable Mike Debney probably were the danger men. I’d always been told how hard a circuit this was and that it was like nothing other, and also that the race generally explodes very quickly. I was feeling ok, only thing I’d preferred to have changed was the wheel/tyre combo I had, sticky crap wheel bearing on the rear and two cheap tyres (which I later found were at 70 psi, not idea when you are a big lad)! but other than that it was sure to be a good evenings racing. We got going and the pace was very high, and sprinting out of corners every few seconds really took its toll very quickly. I clung on to the front group for a while, it then split and Rob Moor made a big effort to get over and I just couldn’t, along with about 5 others we formed a group behind the front group of 4 (Debney, Martin, Moore and possibly Pratt?) and got into a rhythm. To give some context as to how hard it was in the opening 10-15 mins, I averaged 370 watts for that period, which is pretty much a TT effort for me, and given that the high power was made up of 1000w+ sprints every 10 seconds it really does take it out of you.

So we had about 30 mins to stay away from the groups behind which to be honest I had no idea on their gap, it was carnage, dropped riders, women, etc all over the track, quite amazing how fractured it was so soon. We worked fairly well together but the inevitable attacks out of the corners came, and a few gaps started appearing, I won’t lie I had to dig very deep to hang on at times (I blame the wheels 😉 )but I did. And into the last couple of laps it was looking like it was going to be a sprint, which I was happy with. We got the bell and reeled back an Aprire rider who had tried to get away, and we rounded the final hairpin, I was 4th wheel I think, out of the corner everybody nailed it as its only about 150m to the line from there. Obviously I nailed it too and came up the outside and passed the rest of the group to take 5th………….Or so I thought, we all slowed right down and it was at this point someone shouted that they thought we may have 1 more lap to go…I saw some of the guys put it back in the big ring and get going again, I was totally spent, I’ve given everything in the sprint and was NOT about to do another lap and sprint again so I turned round and rode back to the finish line to have a word with the comm, he had indeed given us the bell a lap early. At the time I was pretty annoyed as I’d worked hard for that race and I’d have liked some consolation, but there we are. Human error. It happens. I am back there this week with my race bike so hopefully have a bit more luck this time round!

France Trip

Until this trip the biggest/longest hills I’d ridden had been 20-40 min in Mallorca, so it was going to be an eye opener. We were staying in Sainte Foy, which is near Col D’Iseran, Bourg St Maurice etc, so it was a fairly good place to be. My dads friend had a chalet and he was heading over for a walking holiday, so myself and my partner also said we would go, she likes walking and I thought it would be a good chance to get some good riding in. The first thing that struck me about where we were (aside from the beauty of the place) was that we were staying at 1600m at the top of a hill, NOT ideal because every ride you do is capped off with 5 miles at 6% back to the chalet…It really was hard work, and made harder by the fact that I had not bothered to change my gearing, so the smallest gear I had was 40-25, which is fine for 20 min climbs and obviously anything you find in the SE of England, but when you had a 21km climb like La Plagne, it really wasn’t enough. I was suffering with a cold too annoyingly which progressed into a really bad chest over the week, so it wasn’t ideal when I was on my knees!

As you would have seen in the Giro this year, the snow was still lying very late in the year, so much so that most of the Col’s around us were shut, which is very rare for this time of year I understand. That said on my first day I went to tackle Petit St Bernard which is a nice steady climb. On the run in to the summit there was a huge drift of snow that meant I had to get off and walk the bike over the snow, it was quite surreal cycling between the carved snow walls! I eventually got to the top and it was baltic, and there was nothing to see either as it was covered in snow. So I went straight over the border down into Italy for lunch in one of the few things open.

The following day I had earmarked Cormet De Roseland, which again is a LONG old climb from Bourg St Maurice right to the top and then down into Beufort where the most stunning lake sits. This was a hard day out, I was in the hairpins about half way through and the garmin was telling me it was 30 deg! I was stopping at the various mountain streams to douse myself in water in an attempt to cool down. It was tough, and then suddenly you break through and into the open and you see a long winding road that leads you up the valley to the summit. You dare not take your eyes off the road for too long though, as the Marmottes were pretty mad and ran out in front of you if they felt like it! It was an amazing climb, and I went down a little bit the other side and sat and ate my lunch overlooking the lake, it was quite incredible.

Nest day I had an easy ‘spin’ of around 15 miles over to Villaroger and La pri, and even in that 15 miles by the time I was home I had climbed 2500ft…There was NO easy ride to be had here, no flat at all. Hard work. The next day I was feeling pretty shit, but thought I had to try to get up a few more before I went home, so had planned to tackle La Plagne, which is quite a famous TDF climb which has hosted a fair few mountain top finishes over the years. Now this was a big climb, just under 11 miles from the Macot down in the Valley to the top, taking in the 1992 Winter Olympics Bobsleigh track as you go. I was finding it tough, undergeared, ill and seeing the signs by the side of the road that read ’15km to summit, next 1k 10%’ doesn’t make for great reading if you’re not up to it!

I eventually got to the top and as per everywhere else, it was a ghost town with nothing open and nobody about, so I went straight home. It was the 3rd long ride I had done, all the longer rides were 60 miles with almost 9000ft of climbing in them, I knew I had to have a day off as I was feeling terrible, but I still had got some good climbing in etc. On the last day I attempted to go hard up the hill up to our chalet which is probably a 15 min climb if you go hard, its 3 miles of switch backs at about 7%. But About 5 min in I was struggling with breathing so crawled home pissed off! Bloody lurgy had been hanging over my head for two weeks but was still pleased to se some great sights and ride some famous climbs albeit much slower than I’d like!

Surrey League Handicap

After France and the lurgy I had taken a couple of days to try to get better before I raced again, and it was fair to say I felt about 85% for this, I rode out to the Chertsey circuit with a fair few other KW’ers, also riding was Francis Cade from Pedalheaven so it was going to be an interesting race. When we got there it was clear there were lots of beginners and many groups. The first group was set off and was given a decent gap, and eventually after a few other groups were set off I was put in a group of maybe 8 riders with a couple of other KW 2nd cats. The scratch group was Francis and another chap, it didn’t take them long to get over to us, and it didn’t take us long to absorb the group ahead of us. We were now around 20 strong and gaining all the time, taking in dropped riders and spitting others out the back. I was finding the sprinting out the corners fine, but the top end efforts to come through and close gaps up the drag quite hard, I think my lack of any vo2 stuff in France and the illness had knocked a bit of my top end away, anyway, after a few attempts to get something together Francis went alone and was looking good. Eventually after a few surges he was brought back and it was clear we would not be able to catch the front 8 or so left out there so it would be a sprint for 9th (though I didn’t know it was actually 8, assumed it would be less). We came out of the final corner and up the drag, Colin from KW led it out but blew I think with a bit to go, I could see my gap was to his left, but it wasn’t very wide and I prayed Colin would not veer left, he didn’t and I got the gap and went clear, the only other person challenging was Luke from our club who has a good sprint on him but I managed to keep him at bay and take the gallop for 9th place haha.

Kingston Phoenix 10 TT

I had planned this one in as I have the Richmond Park TT tomorrow so wanted to get the TT bike dialed in ready for that. This TT was being held locally on our club ten course so I thought it was a perfect chance to go and have a spin to make sure the bike is ok etc. And upon seeing the startsheet I thought there was a good chance I could win, I was last man off, too, so always a little bit of pressure!

The weather today as I’m sure many of you will agree has been a bit mad, gusts of heavy wind, lots of torrential rain and just generally not great bike riding weather and CERTAINLY not the best conditions to be riding an aero bike with a disc and 90mm front wheel down a dual carriageway, but that is what I did.

I knew that I would have a nice tailwind so my plan was to bury myself for the first half and then just try to hang on in the last with an assisting wind – I executed my plan well, and with the exception of the foggy visor and dripping sweat I was going ok (power wise) the speed wasn’t the best due to the wind, but got to the turn in OK time and then just buried myself for the last few miles, eventually stopped the clock at 21.41 which is 30 secs down on my best on this course, but with the wind it seemed ok. I’d done just under 380 watts too, which is the best I’ve done for a 10 mile effort so I expected my time to be competitive! I got back to the HQ and there were a few other 21’s, I was just ahead of Nial Digby from La Fuga who I think had a good ride as he was much closer to me than usual, and I was 20 secs behind the eventual winner Steven Kane from Brighton Excelsior who did a great 21.20 on a tough day to take the win. So I didn’t quite get there, but we was 2nd and we took the team prize too, so a nice ride, and I stayed DRY!!

So tomorrow the Park TT and a crit too in the afternoon, should be good!

Cheers for reading, all rides on strava as usual, and a few pics of the snow and conditions on my twitter from France!