RACING & new bike – Surrey League 3 day, Watford Velo, H25/8

2 May

New bike, pants TT’s and a road race win!

Been 6 weeks or so since my last entry so thought it was a good time to update on recent races and such. There’s been a fair bit going on recently, new bikes, great results, terrible results, cheap PB’s and all sort of other bits and bobs.

First up then – I got a bit twitchy bike wise, what with riding the same one for a whole two years, and while browsing Canyon’s site I decided to buy one of their Aeroads. I had avoided an aero bike when buying the Tarmac mainly as the Cervelo it replaced I felt was really not very responsive at the crits I was doing. The tarmac of course is a very stiff bike, and it certainly wants for nothing. However I’d probably been a bit unfair on ‘aero’ bikes and tech has come a long way since the Cervelo S3 I had which is probably 10 years old now, so thought I’d plump for the Canyon. It looks good and had been spoken highly of by a few people I know and obviously doesn’t slow down the Katusha/Movistar teams!

The bike is stealth black and came with Di2 and Reynolds carbon clinchers, my boss said “Its the bike batman would ride” and he’s probably exactly right it does look remarkably stealth, like a bike version of the Lockheed SR71 (Blackbird). I’ve ridden it a fair bit and I really like it, not sure I’ve got my position totally right yet, but my legs might just not be loving me as I did ride a 9 hour audax on the day after I got it. For the money, it seems like a great buy. And the service from Canyon was good also, the bike was physical when I bought it so it arrived in about 3 weeks.

 

canyon

 

Time trial wise I’ve done a few and had some great results, as in, I finally managed to do an 18 minute 10 mile time on the Bentley course. It required 407W for 18:50 which was the best I’ve ever done. Since then I decided that I could probably try another spacer out at the front, this turned out not to be the case and caused quite a few issues power wise in subsequent events. I’d been pretty pants in a couple of TT’s right after this change but put it down to tired legs, but it was confirmed when I travelled up to the fast E2 course and put out the worst power I’ve done for years. Laughably I still came away with a PB of 40 seconds (47:29) but it was a shocking ride and I was obliterated by many people who wouldn’t normally, which is always a bit disappointing. I have put the spacer back in but have since changed the saddle which led to problems of its own, so hopefully the next event will be back to normal. I know the legs are there which makes it all the more annoying when you just can’t push the power you are used to.

The road season took longer than ever to kick off for me this year but I have done a couple of events, first one was a bit pants, though I did try and follow every single move and then still expect to be able to sprint up a hill at the end, it turned out that was not possible. I then entered another race this Sunday gone in a bid to make sure I got some race time in ahead of the first target of the year (the May 3 day stage race). Watford Velo ran a race on the TMG Horizon circuit, only a 2/3 but was nice to get onto a new course in a very nice part of the world.

I actually had done a pretty pants TT the day before at Bentley with a long 49 to John Dewey who smashed me again by two minutes, so was not sure how the legs were going to be. But as is common the day after a shortish TT they actually felt really good, which was another tick in the box for something just being positionally wrong on the TT bike vs me being shit.

The circuit had one smallish climb in it which I attacked both times through, the first of which saw me set up a 3 man group, which sadly came back. And the second of which worked, and I got away from the bunch and then rode over to a break that I’d decided probably would stick. I knew straight away I was probably the strongest in the 7 man move so waited and ensured we got to the finish and then jumped them on the hill to win by a fair amount. Someone recently asked whether I ever consider going solo, (Declan) and actually when I was riding away from them on any rise I thought now might be a good time, but the finish being as it was – my ideal finish is a drag of 30-50 seconds as my power profile massively suits that – I thought it was best to play it safe on this occasion. It was all mainly in prep for the May 3 day stage race the following week, which actually had a few finishes fairly similar.

May 3 day

Generally I’ve had pretty bad luck with stage races, I’ve done 3 prior to this, won one of them, and led the other two only to lose the jersey on the final day on both occasions, one to a ridiculously audacious attack from now clubmate James Hayden, and the other to a bust wheel in the closing stages of this exact race last year.

Each time I had won the first stage and then had to protect the lead with the team, and each time it had failed, and was very hard to maintain. So this year the plan was not to do that, and rather keep a lid on it and make it count where I could. The general standard of this race is quite high vs many Regional A races that we do, it has a lot of well drilled teams, and many promising juniors among the old hands that have still got it.

Our team possibly wasn’t quite as strong on paper as last year,  but it was still a strong 6 riders, and the course was easier than last year. Which if you asked me last year I’d have jumped for joy at, but I feel at the minute I’m stronger and lighter than ever and crave a harder course to really make something happen (I would soon get found out on a harder at b mind you – Les Ingman for example I think will always hurt me). The first stage was the same, the second was originally meant to be one of the hardest in the SE, but got changed to a pretty easy one, and the final stage again was pan flat. Tricky. Pat had been going very well, in recent times, but probably would have preferred a harder circuit to suit his style, but we as a team I think felt that we had two options for GC in myself and him.

Stage 1

This is a circuit I know well, and I’ve generally always done ok on it, I think I’ve raced is now 4 times and either won or come 2nd three of those times (the other was my very first road race – 9th that time). It really is quite an easy circuit with one tiny rise out of a corner, though I’m loathed to even credit it as a hill really. My plan was to watch moves with anyone really strong in them, and let nearly anything else go initially as we could control is later on if needed be.

Last year

 

win duns

 

As it happened a move did get away very early, and Ian Paine who I’d identified as one of the target riders was in it, along with Andy Critchlow (not to be missed in his day-glow pink get-up) and an Army rider. They quickly got a decent gap which hovered around 1 minute. I knew it would be hard to make it stick on there from so early on. And though two riders chipped off, I never really thought it would stick as the bunch sped up, and I’d mentioned to the others, and a couple of other strong riders that we should begin to ride it down probably if it was still out there with 2 to go. But I think things gradually came together towards that point anyway. A crash put a few people out of the back, and the pace on the last lap was frantic. Nearing the finish Regents Park Rouleurs (RPR from here on in) put an attack in with one of their riders (Damien) with about 3 miles to go, which was mostly downhill. It was a good move to be honest, I knew that really they had likely 3 of their 4 riders who could easily contest the GC, so really I had no choice but to go after it.

I kicked hard away from the bunch out of the corner and settled into the effort to catch him. I was gaining slowly, I glanced to see another one of their team riding on the front, I must say I was amazed at the time, one of the strongest riders getting away and getting into a two up with me with 2 mins riding to the finish you would think was ideal. Anyway, I basically caught Damien just before the bunch was on my tail, now was a difficult situation. I’d just ridden 3 minutes at 450W to get over to him, and now to have any chance really of getting up the finish kick with a shot of keeping time I was going to have to do a max effort sprint straight off the back of it. I let a few riders go round me from the bunch as we hit the bottom of the hill. I was a bit gassed to be honest, and at that point Phil Glowinski (little Phil as Brad Wiggins branded him) who would win the stage kicked hard, really hard and got a big gap. I was boxed in by a another rider but managed to get round everyone and get 2nd and a 20 sec bonus. It was literally the ideal situation, I had not wanted to win this stage, but having some time on everyone was a great place to be, I was pleased to see Phil win also, top guy. I was also now wearing the green jersey as Phil had the yellow (he won both but can only wear one).

finish

Credit Gary Wyatt – https://www.flickr.com/photos/135753036@N02/sets/72157683101365816/ 

 

green

 

 

Stage 2

This stage was to be the hardest of the 3, but to be honest, it wasn’t all that difficult, it had a circa 1.5 minute climb (at bunch pace) to the finish, and a couple of other draggy bits and some fastish downhills. All on very narrow lanes. Quite sketchy, I wouldn’t rush back to it. My knee was hurting quite a lot after stage one, I have no clue why, and as I type its really very painful. So I was dubious of how it would feel during this stage.

Anyway, the results from yesterday meant I was in 2nd, 10 seconds back on Phil. The plan for today was to really get a lye of the land and then try and make something happen later in the race. Lots of activity in the first few laps, but nothing much was sticking until Pat got into a move that got some time but was slowly being reeled in before the bunch was stopped for dangerous riding. To be honest I think the course is mostly unsuitable for racing, it’s too narrow. RPR looked to probably be the strongest team in the race, but numerous times I would try and get something going only for it to be ridden down, I was a bit confused really, the race could have easily split apart if we had a few willing parties. I attacked, follow moves, counter attacked and generally was just trying to force something. It got a bit comical in fact as I would attack, get something going only for people to not ride. It was clear to me that maybe my only option was to let something form and then bridge over with a big effort vs going while nothing was up the road. Having spoken to those riders since I think perhaps if we had a re-run it would have gone differently, but it was how it was.

About 2/3rds into the race something got away that looked good, and I waited for Tom to be on the front to hit it hard and bridge over, it had another RPR rider in so I thought maybe it would be let go, but not to be. Eventually later on a move got away, ironically with the rider who had come 3rd in the stage 1 who was allowed up the road without anyone caring seemingly. Lots of people made this move including Pat. I was not interested in getting over to it, and just sat in while it went up the road. I figured If I went for it I would be chased down again and Pat would potentially then have me dragging the bunch over to him, which isn’t ideal.

A few of the guys asked me what they thought we should do, and I said we should let it go, it had the right composition and it was now getting time quickly, and we just had to hope Pat could roll a few of them and sneak a time bonus potentially, this was fairly crucial in hindsight, and I don’t think the finish hill was quite long enough. The break got about two mins on the bunch as it sat up, a few people pinged off trying to get to it, and some got quite close. I think really the best option would have been to try and get over to it regardless.

It turned out Pat got 6th or 7th on the stage which was a tricky situation. I had the idea of going hard up the finish climb to at least try and get a few seconds in case some miracle happened the next day. So hit it right from the bottom and nobody managed to catch me, though Tom from RPR was close. It was a bit of a tricky one because while we had someone right up the GC now, the 3rd stage was so featureless that it would be very difficult to really do much about it. I think the best bet would have been for a few of us just to ride together so as that we were at least fighting it out among ourselves vs putting ourselves out of contention. Though I was happy to ride with anyone that was strong enough to help something get away, so not sure I really could have played it much differently.

 

green2

 

 

Stage 3

By this point my knee was very very painful but my legs were fine, I joked to the guys that it had felt like I’d just done two days commuting prior, but the reality was that, I felt great. But the knee was very bad now and I debated riding at all. It was set to rain, and looked grim which didn’t buoy my mood. We got off to a really fast start with the RPR team drilling it on the front for whatever reasons, perhaps to split it, which it did a couple of times but with the yellow jersey now on a rider who had a full team in VCM (unlike Phil who was a lone wolf) it was always going to be tough as they would chase everything they could. 40 minutes passed of me rubbing my knee, and I saw Pat near the front, I said it may be a bit early to do anything yet, and at that moment I followed an attack, that got brought back and I went again, and then something amazing happened, I finally got a bloody gap!

Prior to this a Dynamo and Morevlo rider had gotten up the road, so now I settled in to the effort to get over to them, I estimate they were probably about 45 seconds up the road, maybe 1 min. Oddly the harder I pushed the less pain my knee was in, so I just kept riding. Took me about 7 minutes at 400w to get over to the move about 50 minutes into a 2.5 hour race. I sat on for a rotation and then started pulling turns. We quickly got the gap out, and I think at its best it was 1min25, we were fading a bit and the Morevlo rider did say that he was nearly done and would help all he could (decent of him). With 3 to go and 1 min gap I thought it might be possible. Annoyingly I had taken my garmin off because the mount was coming loose, so from 25 miles in I was riding blind with only the lap board to go by.

 

break

 

 

In hindsight this probably resulted in me doing less than I was capable of in terms of lengths of turns. I felt strong. We then got a time gap which was 28 seconds, it had literally fallen 30 seconds in no time at all, I still tapped through thinking they might get bored, but once you’re in sight its tough. Annoying as I was likely going to attack through the finish line and go solo for the last lap to try and make as much time as possible but it wasn’t to be. And not long before the bell sounded we were absorbed.

I settled in near the front of the bunch thinking I could probably still win the sprint if I could get into a decent position as the finish was right after a tight corner. But as time went on the riding got very fast, and I just didn’t have the ambition to risk binning it to get to the front, my legs also were probably not up to it, so I rolled in dead last. We had been away for a good proportion of the race, gave it a go, there wasn’t really many other options I felt.

All in all it was a strange race, I still enjoyed it, and before I destroyed my knee I felt like I was one of the strongest riders in the race. I had little issue covering counter attacks from key riders, if only we had got moving when I did. Hopefully the knee pain subsides, as I’ve got a thirst for more road racing now, got a few coming up that I like. Tour of Milburys in 2 weeks, see if I can get close to winning that again like 2013. And then a few other bits and bobs. All rides on Strava as per, thoughts soon turn to the other stage race I enjoy in The Tour of Sussex, think I might go a bit better this year, hopefully.

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