James Atherton RR / High Wycombe 10

28 Mar

I’ve been a bit slow in writing a report about the James Atherton road race that I did on Sunday, I was waiting to do the Good Friday time trial on H10/22 hosted by High Wycombe, two birds and all that, so you’ll find a review of that below the road race also.

There was a bit of a toss up between races to do on the Sunday, the options were the Wally Gimber which is quite a well known race down in Kent on a circuit I don’t mind, but have had bad luck on, mechanical and puncture the last two times. Or there was the James Atherton which was a 2/3 category road race, only about an hour away on a tough circuit around the Meon Valley. This is an area I know fairly well having lived down there for a bit, and in fact also winning the Tour of the Milburys a few years back, which is held on a very similar course, almost the same roads in fact. I was confident I would have some team mates for this race vs the WG where I’d almost certainly be racing alone. The icing on the cake was knowing that there were at least 2 if not 3 more races on the Atherton circuit over the course of the year, including the Tour of the Milburys which had moved since I did it to be on this circuit exactly, that swung it for me and I entered. With me were Pat, and Tom, who by now should be feeling the positive effects of the week they spent with Paceline down in Southern Spain.

The field was fairly unknown to me really, I’ve not raced in 2/3 races for 2.5 years now and it being a different region, it attracted riders that might not often do the Surrey League races and such. This was refreshing though, nice to not know how something will go – or so I thought at the time! I drove down and noted the temp readout on the car slowly dip from 9c in sunny Surbiton to just over 5c in the small village the race HQ was situated. As such, I was kitted up for it, gabba top, leg warmers etc etc, I didn’t want to get cold. Imagine my surprise when I saw Pat on the startline in a skinsuit, nutjob.

The race was 60 miles over 6.5 laps of the circuit, there were no big climbs in the circuit as such, a couple of slightly steeper ones, and one long drag up to the finish, the upshot was that over 60 miles, we climbed 6000ft, which for south in a 2/3 road race is actually quite a lot, and looking at the profile I don’t think there is any more than a few hundred meters of flat road, a tough day out then. I said to Pat and Tom that we should be well aware of moves going, and to look to try and get into as many as we could as there was no way this would come down to a bunch sprint.

As we got off to a start my legs felt pretty good, I’d been feeling good for some days actually, and had fully loaded myself with carbs the night before, maybe too much, felt a bit sluggish at first! I was looking to wait a while and see if anything went that looked good was worth going with, and if not use my energy in the latter part of the race to try and make something happen myself. Because my memory is a little faded I’ll try and cover in short what happened : Firstly, Tom punctured about a mile from the start, so that was race over after the service car wouldn’t pace him back – a real shame given he had done the same the week before also!! There were a number of moves I tried to get into in this race as a general theme, and one looked really good in the 2nd lap, I followed Ken Buckley who is known to be strong, and we got a group of about 6 or 7 working through and off including the eventual winner Will Haynes, we pulled out a lead, and kept it going well. I thought this was the selection to be honest, it was early but I knew I had the legs to ride steady for 40 miles as I’d done it the other week in the SERRL and it looked like the group had the firepower to make it stick.

Alas, it was only 10 minutes later that it came back together, at this point a couple slipped off the front, my legs sapped a bit I sat in, some time after, another 2 jumped off to chase, this would go on to form the lead group of 5. At about the half way point, maybe just before, Pat had gone off on his own in pursuit of the lead 5, he must have been between us and them for maybe 2 laps on his own, at one point he almost came back to the bunch only to extend the lead again when the bunch lapsed, a solid ride, but a really tough circuit to get over to a bunch on your own. While this was happening, a move that again looked good formed, it had a few riders I had noted looked strong so I followed. I was basically sitting on as I thought it might still be possible for Pat to get over, but soon it was clear that would not happen, and he was absorbed, then after getting a gap with this bunch it began to come back together. Due to not having done a vast amount in this move I felt fine still, I thought this was a good time, Mike Lancaster had attacked a few minutes ago and was now in the distance, I thought I could get over and perhaps we could work together, and I knew that just at the top of this climb everyone would be blowing and it was a good time to hit it…

I kicked hard just as it came back together, it was a fast section and I was well over 30mph, I got a gap straight away, and nobody had jumped to follow, this was at mile 49 of 60, some tired legs perhaps. I went round the corner and tried to go hard up the steep climb, and push on over the top, this hurt, but I then was able to recover on one of the many fast downs of the circuit, I glanced back and could see someone coming over, with nobody behind. I kept it steady and slowly on the climbs this rider got over to me as he proved to be quicker up hill than myself – Matt Buckley I think of Andover Whlrs, it was immediately clear that he was strong on the hills, not a lot of him and perhaps had been waiting for the right move. I did suggest we keep it smooth as I could offer more on the rolling and down sections perhaps, we worked together for half a lap until we came into the finish hill. I glanced back and could see a chase group, maybe 8 riders, Pat was in this 8, at this point Andover went through pretty hard and I just didn’t have the legs to stick with it, not when I knew there was a mile of hill left. I kept pushing on as I knew I could catch him again if I stayed steady until the down, I glanced back again and could see that Pat had attacked that bunch and was coming over solo, no chasers – ideal I thought, at least with a team mate we would work to try and get both of us over to the break rather than trying to drop the other one, as its quite clear Pat probably could have ridden straight past me and I would have really had to dig in to keep with him on the climb.

As it was though, Pat and I were working well, pay probably doing 65% of the work as he was so much stronger up the climbs, I gave him what I could on the other parts, and as we switched turns I could see in the distance the lead car, and also the Andover rider who had gone ahead, I put in a big turn to get back the Andover rider, and then we were 3 up, this was a good situation. I think the gap to the front bunch was well over a minute when I had attacked with 11 miles to go, with now about 5 miles remaining we had halved it. We worked well, and with maybe 3 miles to go, just before we turned into the long finish hill, we made the junction with the lead group. By this point however, the eventual winner had buggered off up the road and was gone (Haynes), so it was a race for 2nd place with 3 miles to go. However, given the effort Pat and I had put in, and not just in that lap, but over the course of the whole race, I think we perhaps were feeling it. Its clear the break had been working hard initially then settled into a tempo that wasn’t super hard hence we closed such a big gap. As we came together there was a big acceleration, 3 riders went, inc Andover who looked still strong. I couldn’t follow, and I don’t think Pat could either – the two others who stuck with us came in the shape of Will Ranoe, who was a big strong rider who I hoped had felt it in his legs as much as I had being less whippet-esque, and another chap who looked in not bad shape, but again clearly didn’t have it to go with that 3.

With maybe 1 mile to go it got tactical, Pat accelerated and got a gap, Ranoe went out of the back momentarily, and I came to the front to try and let him get away as I felt he deserved the best result of us. Sadly though he never quite got the distance and the other rider closed it down, Pat tried again, and this time Ranoe was out of the frame. I knew I could probably win the sprint of the two, and with Pat looking like he was not able to go solo, and he will be the first to tell you his sprint is his weakest point, and the other guy swinging a bit, I waited until we got closer to the finish and rode past them to take 5th, Pat managed to win the drag to the line for 6th, and the other two came in next, followed by perhaps two more chasers then the bunch.

While this was only a 2/3 cat race, it was the highest normalised power I’ve ever done over 2.5 hours @370W, which when I have my FTP set at about 380W (for road bike, its a bit lower on TT before anyone wonders – due to the position etc) tells the story of how hard I had worked. I felt it, no doubt. While I think I’m a few kg heavier than when I won the TOM on this circuit, I think my attitude to these races is very different now, I’m happy to race without care, previously I was always worried about blunting my legs for a sprint, but now, I am doing it more because I enjoy it, not because I’d set some silly goal to make x category this year. The other aspect of this is that I actually need to at least stay a 2nd cat until July when we race the Tour of Sussex, and with 35 points of the 200 already, its entirely likely I could make it back to 1st cat this year without really being too focussed on doing so, but ideally I’ll stay in 2nd as its much more fun I think, and 2.5-3 hour races suit my training time a lot more than the 3-4 hour races that you do as a 1st cat.

Next up road race wise I think will be a 1/2/3 cat event at Hillingdon, which are quite rare, then either the Thames Velo road race, or one of the Surrey League events before tackling my first stage race since the RAS in 2014 – the Surrey League May 3 day, 3 days, 3 60 mile road races over mixed terrain, should be fun, we have a strong team and I am keen to see how I go.

https://www.strava.com/activities/522154217

High Wycombe Ten

Next up was a ten mile TT on Good Friday, to be honest I was looking forward to it, to see how I was going after the early season sporting events. The course is part of the Nat 25 that I did last year. I knew that Adam ‘Tops’ Topham had won a fair few times with various 19 minute rides, I also knew John Dewey was riding who had been going really well, and looked to now be making the most of his power. I felt confident that I could put a good ride in, afterall, last time I raced Adam he’d been 22 secs back on me, which is about the exact same time John had put into me in the last race we did together. Could be tight! I was hoping I might be able to crack another 18 and push for a win – wind was a bit higher than we would have wanted which meant the times were probably not as fast as they could have been.

Without boring on too much, I felt pretty good,but I feel rode the out leg like the start of a 25, i.e. not really pushing it enough in hindsight, rode the third quarter harder and the last 3 minutes as hard as I could. The upshot of that was 375W out with a tailwind, a bit at 400 and then the last 3 minutes at about 440, which I think paints the picture that I just went out too slow and had too much left at the end. On the day it was clear that with a lovely tailwind out I needed to have made more of it than I did. I clocked 19.34, Tops did 19.24 and John broke the course record with 19.11 – I wasn’t too worried about it, its early season, but I think its clear how things are always evolving. The next step in a ten is to just try and go out at 400W and see what happens in the latter half, I think perhaps I’ve been taking it a bit too easy in a fair few tens I’ve done, so time to see if I can get over the mental barrier of breaking that 400 number!

https://www.strava.com/activities/526146980

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3 Responses to “James Atherton RR / High Wycombe 10”

  1. Martin Sigrist March 29, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    Well done , some seriously scary power numbers there,,, 370W for a cat 2/3 race!!

    I know what you mean about mental barriers, I have the same though at the far more humble 300W level. One way I’ve got round this is to stop looking at power numbers but instead set up a target zone on my Garmin. So threshold is zone 4 and each time I do a hard effort in a zone but think I could have done more I nudge up the limits a bit, I don’t actually know the watts numbers until I download the file later and pretty much always I have surprised myself and put out higher numbers than if I was watching actual figures…

    Good luck with the racing and please keep posting..

  2. Martin Sigrist March 29, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    PS. I was interested in your comment that your FTP on a TT bike is a bit lower than the road. For me the gap is quite large, between 10-15%. One main goal this season is to reduce this, through a combination of working on flexibility and just spending a lot more time training in a TT position.

    I am aiming to reduce the gap to 5%. Can you say from your experience if this goal is realistic and, if I get there, I should be looking to reduce it further?

  3. sharland123 March 29, 2016 at 9:09 am #

    Hi Martin, yes 370W NP certainly very high, but in hindsight I attacked more than I probably ever have done in a race before, ironically I used to be quite cautious, but I did at least win quite a few races as a 2nd cat, but I’m sure that will come, I think the standard has gone up a bit over last 3 years too. Or I am fatter than I thought!! With the watts, I don’t look at them for anything other than time trials really, or training rides where I need to be in a zone or hit an interval etc. But having come from fairly small numbers years ago its still quite hard to get into my head that I might be able to do 400W for a 10 mile TT, but I need to get that out of my head!

    I think you’re right in your assessment of how to narrow the gap, I would imagine for me the difference is more like 5-7% – I’ve managed 360W in 25 mile TT’s a few times which if we think road is about 380 is about 95% – the goal for me this year is to spend more time in position and do more general riding on the TT bike, which can be a pain given a lot of my riding is to work and back which is not suitable for a TT bike (despite the fact some people do!!). I am quite lucky in that I am flexible, so I think whenever I’ve changed my position it has not taken any time to adapt, but for sure I know that others have just done more in position until their body was used to it. Good luck with it.

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