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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East Surrey Hardriders 2016

14 Mar

The East Surrey Hardriders was yesterday, 27.25 miles (taken down from a previous 29.9 due to roadworks) of fast single track, dual carriageway, and finally country lane fun over a rolling course. I’ve written about this event before, so if you’re interested go back to March in the previous year archives on the right hand side.

The upshot is that I’ve done this event 3 times, the first time I was 11th, last year I was 2nd, and this year I won and set a new course record for the course that has been used since 2014, and I think having looked I may well have taken the standard length CR had we raced it, looking at previous data. The attraction to this race goes beyond a generous smattering of prizes (£180 cash and £80 in vouchers better off after the win!), its about getting my name among some strong and well known riders not just locally by nationally, its a bit of a who’s who of testing in the UK, Prebble, Hutch (4 times!), Sean Yates, Sybrandy, Gethin Butler, Tim Stevens, Matt Bottrill and Steve Berry, (who set the CR on the normal course) plus many more – a lot of national champions in the list!

The lead up to this race was, as usual, less than ideal, the previous weekend I had been to Madrid for a mates stag do, of the 48 hours I spent there, I think I slept 8 and drank 35 of them, there are numerous photo’s of me smoking too, not ideal to be honest but there we are – I can confirm the gin and tonic they do is something to behold!I thought I would be ok but I didn’t feel normal until midweek really, getting old it would seem. I’d recently had another session at the velodrome with Xav so was confident that my position on this fairly quick course would be improved from previous years and even with similar power to previous years I may still go quicker.

On the startlist were many of the usual suspects, sadly owing to a team camp, last years winner was not present (Chris McNamara), but there was Maybank (past winner), Tadros (past winner), C.Yates, Paceline’s own Pat Wright who had a few wins under his belt already this year, and John Dewey who beat me into 2nd the other week on a sporting course. I knew I’d have to do a very good ride to beat an improved John, and of course stay ahead of the rest of the guys. I had a vague idea of what sort of pacing I would look to employ as its easy to get this one wrong being fairly long with a nasty sting in the tail with a hill at 22 miles.

Anyway, I got warmed up, had a bit of a chit chat to Connal who was complimentary of my progress, I put it all down to the aero gains, and joked they were likely harder to come by when you’re as tall as he is! Got up to the Heath and got off to a start – last year no sooner had I set off than I was stopped by a dithering driver costing me a few seconds, and then again at the next rbt, none of those dramas today mind you, clear run was the order of the day, lovely, save for the straining of my neck to see the huge amount of serious potholes between reigate and Dorking, very poor condition for what is a main road.

It was a tailwind start, and as far as I was concerned the race proper began after the climb from the ‘cock’ roundabout just outside of Dorking, I’d wanted to ride to this point at about the same power I’d managed last year (about 340W) – I’d basically done that to witin a watt or two, from there it was game on, push on until the top of the hill at 22 miles where the remaining few miles were quite quick (well, as quick as going through small Surrey Villages can be) and I’d just hang on. I’d passed many people, my minute man I think I passed within 5-10 minutes which is always a nice boost, and then was concentrating on pushing on until I could see another.

With the bulk of the quick part of the course done at the 20 miles point, I had avg speed over 28.5 mph, with the hill and a rolling finish I was confident I would beat my time from last year (26.9mph avg), I hit the climb, and had to get out of the saddle, 42-23 not ideal up there, low cadence, 500w, and creaking bike, not the best! Got back on top of the gear and carried on, soon after that I caught my 9 minute man – Dave, who I regularly see on my commute, he shouted something which was appreciated, even if he was cursing me haha! I knew I was going to get under the hour, which would mean I was nearly a minute faster than last year, I stopped the clock on my garmin with 59.43 – and was awarded that exact time, despite me starting 1 sec early and stopping after the line, but it didn’t matter too much. I later learned that Dewey had not started, I think it was best I didn’t know actually as I put it all on the line wanting to win. I think John would have gone well, but think I’d have stood a good chance with the time I did.

In the end the next best time was Pat’s who was 1.01.02 – so there was a bit of wriggle room, but I was pleased to have won and got my name up there. No pics have come to light as of yet, but I’m sure they will in time, I’ll edit this as they do. Rather stupidly I had entered a 70 mile road race in Petersfield after this event, it had a short 25% climb in it, I lasted 5 laps of 9 and called it a day with screaming muscles. I was barely out of breath and my legs were in agony, I did enough to not call it a wasted trip and then stopped to watch James Boyman win in impressive style riding away on his own for the last two laps to win by over a minute, more than just a tester it would seem…!

Next race is one down Winchester way next weekend – the James Atherton with Pat and Tom, so hopefully we can animate that race, I decided to skip the Wally Gimber and having seen the startsheet, that might have been wise!
https://www.strava.com/activities/516246046

10 TT & SERRL Race

29 Feb

Bit of a combo again this weekend – Saturday with a practice run at this years National 10 mile course, which as I was to find out was more than just a little tough compared to the usual. And a return to road racing after a few months out with an event down in Kent on Sunday.

Been going better and better in recent days after finally getting mostly over the ankle sprain, I was feeling good for riding the TT, but was still in two minds about riding a road race on it with all the accelerations and changes of pace, but decided to make a call after the TT.

TT

I’d had a fairly solid (by my standards) week of riding, few intervals, no rest day etc, with the idea of rather than tapering for the event just getting a feel for it, but as ever, I want to win every time I ride, so I was still very much going to give it my full effort. The course which can be found here https://www.strava.com/activities/503711674 is the P886 which is down near Petersfield. I used to live and work in Petersfield as a youth so knew the road fairly well, but only had I driven it in my chavved up 306 GTI rather than cycle a time trial bike down it. So I wanted to get a good look from the bike in prep for August. As you’ll see, its pretty rolling, I’ve done the first bit in a road race, and the big downhill is actually part of the p885/25 course which I set a course record on last year, so I felt like I would find it ok, but either way you look at it, with nearly 700ft of climbing it is far from ‘rapid’.

On the day, everyone else I knew through cycling was riding then drinking beer while watching Omloop; with a biting East wind I was tempted to join them, but thought I better go and see it given the relative lack of events on the course between now and August, had there been another in 2 months I’d have certainly binned in. Competition was going to be tough, Pete Tadros who is no slouch on a flat course, and even quicker when it goes upwards was riding, also John Dewey who I’d ridden against many times previously was riding. I don’t think I’ve ever been beaten by John though we were always very close, but I thought if there was a time he would roll me, it was likely to be here, he packs plenty of watts and weighs a fair bit less than me, and with the newly formed Team Bottrill next to his name, I was sure he would be training hard under Matt’s horrible sessions (if all his people and their tweets are to be believed, that is). Anyway, got up to the start, and noticed it was actually really windy – I’d had another aero session with Xav the previous week but was wondering just how easy I’d find it to settle into position for any length of time on this course. I took it pretty easy for the first few miles and then tried to keep the effort up down the hill, but I was in 55-11 and at 45+ mph and didn’t feel like I was on top of it. I approached the bottom of the hill and had to freewheel while a car caught another rider and had to wait to overtake, I was also a touch cautious about cars not seeing me when waiting at junctions, it was late at 4.15pm and light was not amazing, probably over cautious, but better safe than sorry. For the first time I wondered whether a 90mm front was the best option, few crosswind moments, which at 45mph are not as easy to deal with as at 30, lets hope for typical summer weather for the big event.

I got to the turn at 31mph, which I thought was alright, but knew it would be dog slow on the way back, and sure enough, it was, from that point to the finish I did close to 400W for 12 minutes and went 23mph or something silly, it look my average down into the 26’s, which I’d not ever done in a 10 mile TT before, I’d even gone faster on my road bike on G10/42 than this as my very first attempt I think. I finished in 22.40 which I thought was ok considering, it was about as quick as Seb Ader had done to win an event there in years gone by, but I thought John would beat it. Got back into the HQ to find I’d come 2nd to Dewey, by quite a large margin, but given some of the events during the race I kind of accounted for that. John had done 22.18, which was a great ride in those conditions I thought. Pic from Eamon Dene of Local Riders – webpage here http://www.localriderslocalraces.co.uk/

Road Race

In times gone by I’ve noticed that my legs always feel pretty good after a 10, so I was hopeful of being in good shape for this race. It is my first race at 2/3 level for over 2.5 years, so cockily I thought it would be fairly easy to get round, and had a good chance of making something happen – that was based on me winning them 3 years ago at far lower base of fitness than I have now, so not total blind arrogance.

This was part of the SERRL down in a pleasant part of Kent called Benenden, 65 miles over a gently rolling circuit with 60 riders, the wind was much like the day before but stronger, I opted for some warm clothing, I even brought out the GABBA to tick the spring cycling cliche box. I’ll be banging on about Belgium and Kermesse next! Recognized a fair few faces which was nice, I had no team mates present because they’re all in Spain ticking the Calpe cliche box. I was a bit out of touch about who was who, but saw Declan who had been getting good results, James Hayden who had beaten me to the prize at the Tour of Sussex 3 years ago (still not forgiven), a couple of others such as Barnabus from Dynamo who I’d seen was getting some good results and had a reputation of being a strong man. And then what seemed like a lot of PMR team and numerous other Kent based teams along with Rich Cartland who I’d done the RAS with, who is always strong.

Idea at the start of the day was to get into a move and then try and go solo near the end. Idea almost changed after going up the first hill and thinking ‘blimey, this is harder than I remember” – the legs thankfully came back to life after a while and I felt pretty good. Barney was aggressive early on, I kept an eye on that and joined a couple of moves that looked good, with no luck straight away, but I knew he’d be involved with whatever did happen. After a bit of a telling off about bunch conduct we were back on our way, leading into the 2nd or 3rd time up one of the decisive bits of the circuit I drove through and really hit it over the top – I’d noticed in the last lap everyone was breathing hard here and that it led into quite a fast section, so would be good for a go – I kept on the gas and looked back to se it strung out, carried on for another 20 or so seconds, looked back again, same story, pulled off and noticed it was actually that there was now a bunch of ten of us away with a gap, happy days. All of the people you’d want involved with few exceptions. We were working pretty well together, got a time check, 30 seconds, carried on riding well, 50 seconds, and then just kept it steady – I noticed a few people were sitting on at times, but rather than worry about it I just tried to concentrate on riding steady to get the gap out. We went at about 25 miles, so had a good 40 miles to ride as a group of ten.

As the clock ticked down we’d lost James, and I was plotting how I would finish this race, I felt like Barney, one other in plain kit (Alex Richardson I later learned) and myself were strong in this bunch but knew we had a couple who’d be fresh. With just over one lap to go I accelerated over the top of a climb just to get an idea of how people were feeling, I got a gap but didn’t think I had it to go from here, I noted down how far it was from there to the finish, just under 2 miles, I was thinking that on the last lap, I would go here – we now had 4 minutes on the bunch so it was job done on that front. However, we got to the same point where I’d split the bunch initially and I had another go to see what would happen, it was looking like the same result had happened, we lost Declan, and got a small gap on the rest with Barney and Alex, but not enough, Richardson then went solo now and dangled out in front for a while. As we came up the climb near the finish, instead of doing what I had planned, I decided that in this number (8 or 9) I felt I could win from the sprint – I still think this was an error. We all but halted on the way to the finish drag, not ideal, it even allowed Declan to get back on, who I knew would end up beating most of them, silly on their part, I prefer sprinting from speed, but too late to worry about that now as we basically were in a track sprint situation, one of the Adalta lads who had been perhaps keeping his powder dry hit it first followed by Alex, and Dec and then me, BANG went the noise, rear spoke gone, and wheel all over the place. I kept on but not at full gas and came in 4th. Quite annoying, but good to have it happen now than at the beginning of another race I guess. That’ll teach me for not going through with what I had planned. Anyway, was fairly pleased with my ride, felt strong and 300w average for 2hrs45 is about as good as I’ve ever done in any race, so think I’m going alright. Next events in a couple of weeks, East Surrey Hardriders, then another 2/3 road race a few hours later…may live to regret that.
https://www.strava.com/activities/504541292

Pic from Team Bottechia here of the break (myself on the left in the woeful gloves as I’d managed to leave my black ones at the TT the day before)

Kingston Sporting 14 – season opener

15 Feb

I generally start racing at the same time each year, the Kingston Wheelers Sporting 14. Its always an internal debate whether to enter Perfs which always falls on a similar day, but I’ve never raised enough enthusiasm to drive all the way down there and race for 45 miles. The Kingston event is always a good one, its really close as events go, its on roads I know, and obviously having ridden with the club for many years before the creation of Paceline it promises lots of familiar faces.

Quick recap on what this event is, 13.6 miles, two laps of a circuit that has a long uphill drag, bit of DC, then a shallow downhill back towards finish line, it always gets a pretty decent field with all sorts of folk having ridden in the past, and while I’ve won it the last two years, I only managed to take Wouter Sybrandy’s course record by a single second in 2015, there are lots of very strong testers on the trophy, Paul Pickup and Ben Instone to name a couple from past years. I have the trophy and it looks like no rider had won it two years on the bounce, and certainly not 3 years on the bounce so I was keen to put a showing in.

Typically the winter was not without issue, I’d been going really well and showed great promise in the Dec time trial, but all good things come to and end! And in Jan (almost exactly 1 month ago today) I hit a wandering pedestrian (London is full of them!) and went down and badly sprained my ankle, the usual black bruising on the foot and huge swelling etc pointed to it being a fairly nasty grade 2 sprain. At the time I thought little of it having done it before as a kid and it not posing too much issue. But as time went on it became clear it was going to be a slow recovery. I’ve had a lot of days off the bike, and riding at anywhere near normal level has been a slow old process, finally now its starting to feel more normal though I cannot run on it yet. With this in mind I thought that it would be quite touch and go whether I’d be ok to ride this and I was going to make a call in the days leading up to the event.

With a couple of days to go I felt like it was OK to ride given the event is only about half an hour. Conditions looked ok, cold but not a terrible wind, though I thought winning would be tough given some strong riders on the startsheet, including serial bridesmaid in this event Pete Tadros and clubmate Pat Wright who had beaten Chris Mcnamara and Tadros to win both of the Southdowns Sporting events last weekend with his new TT bike. So certainly it was going to be tough. I knew Pat would probably be my closest rival, but you never know who can do what on the day.

I got down there and quickly realized that in my attempts to change stem on my bike, which is a total faff on a Trek Speed Concept, I’d overloaded the headset and it barely turned, I’d not been outside on the bike so didn’t realize. I panicked, knowing how long it takes to yank the bike apart I got back to the car and set about dismantling the aerobars as quickly as possible, I found the bolt that needed adjusting and set about it. It stressed me out a bit as it only left me with about 20 mins to warm up. I got up to the startline to be told me Alice Lethbridge (ladies CR holder from 2015) that she had taken two mins from her record, and I had to do the same, she had switched to a TT bike but whichever way you cut it taking 3 mins in total from the 2014 CR to now is impressive.

Anyway, long and short is that I got off to a decent start but noticed there were a lot of cars on the circuit making it a bit sketchy at times, an the corners were super greasy, but I got round the first lap above CR speed, so I was looking OK. On the final lap I got stuck behind a car for what felt like ages, but probably wasn’t and just had to freewheel, very irritating! I hit the line in 30.31 which was 18 secs faster than my previous time despite only managing about 360W this time vs 370 last year, though I am a bit more slippery now. I got back to find Pat had beaten Pete to 2nd place by 3 seconds to finish in 31:10. Paceline 1>2 and team prize owing to Keith Lea who I think was closely behind also in the top 5. For my troubles I ended up with a great print from Dom Trevett, £180 odd quid, and the trophy for another year, which I should really go about getting engraved this time round..!

Next on the menu usually is the Redhill event, but sadly its been cancelled due to roadworks, so its a practice run at this years National 10, which is pretty meaty with a fairly large climb, so will be interesting to see how I go there – and then I’ll see if the ankle is up to some road racing and the East Surrey Hardriders, hopefully can get everything back on track and go about ticking some of this years goals.

https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xtf1/v/t1.0-0/p600x600/12734218_10208745009441419_8340081006891569394_n.jpg?oh=e2e5cdea33e6bb56466b92d4ddda74b6&oe=5732E60C

https://www.strava.com/activities/493257806

Weights that make you faster

21 Dec

Just kidding.

Been training fairly well in recent weeks, had a spate of 4 day weeks at work which have allowed me to get some more riding in. I’ve certainly put a couple of KG on but seem to be going alright for it, no illness to speak of, and generally its all been quite positive, including the weather. The last few years I’ve generally entered and come 2nd in the FCC Xmas 10 on the Bentley course, naturally this year was no exception, and the man with the sword this time was James Boyman.

Typically this event comes at a time when the booze is in full flow, and sadly this year was no exception, but I gave myself two days off the drink leading up to this (tough when you have client lunches, they don’t understand why you wouldn’t be tucking in…) and felt in generally good shape. Did a bit of a sharpener session on the Weds, I almost fainted as I did it at 7am and it was pretty intense, but the numbers were comparable to when I did a similar session leading into the National 10. I had a feeling that this could be my year…

While it wasn’t a goal as such to win, it was a goal to do a 19 which is usually the mark of a very good ride at this time of year, however, it was 14-15 deg on the day, not really Dec temps, but the wind was strong and it IS December, so even having seen the conditions I felt like 19 was still a good goal though just scraping it wouldn’t likely win it with riders like Boyman and Topham in the startsheet. To be honest, these guys have always been pretty close to me this year, and as James has got into full flow after a lay off he’s gotten pretty strong, Adam is always going to go quickly, and I knew that it was going to be a tough day and I predicted that all 3 of us would do 19’s.

Anyway, I did the usual warmup with Xav also present riding his huge fixed gear (nutter), I started off and the legs felt good, I got to the turn at about 28mph and it felt draggy, I did however have AP at over 380W which was good as I knew I could turn it up on the way back, in hindsight we both think I went out too easy as we didn’t realise my legs would be in quite so good shape at this time of year (though I think I’ve just been getting stronger and stronger on the roadbike in recent times, so did correlate), I did the return at 400w and about 34-35mph, I finished in 19.32 with 390W AP which is almost identical to what I did at the national 10. I packed up the car and saw James fly through the finish and keep going, Xav asked me what he was doing “getting a 20 minute number” was my response, we both knowingly nodded, he looked fast. I got into the HQ to see Adam Topham had done 19.51, I was pleased to turn my 15 second defeat to him into a tidy margin the other way. There was that lurking feeling that Boyman would have done something silly fast, and sure enough, 19.08 was his time. To put that into context, almost nobody has gone under 19.30 on that course, and those times are usually summer when its 10 deg warmer, people are in shape and the wind is not gale force. Sometimes you get annoyed about how close it was, but there was nothing but respect for that, I knew it was coming, but I saw Adam just shaking his head in disbelief. James later told me he had gone full time with a team doing the bigger road races next year and has indeed been doing 20+ hours a week, I’ve been getting myself thrown out of bars for being too pissed, I only have myself to blame for that level of deficit 😀 – but joking aside I was really pleased with my ride for this time of year and I think there is more to come next year, where 400w will hopefully be the ‘normal’ number for these and with Xav’s help in Feb in the velodrome I can get a bit more aero to make it count.

No racing for me for at least another 6 weeks now, so should probably try to keep the training load up and look forward to seeing how I can go. Will do some of the sporting TT’s, early season Nat B’s and a few 2/3 races too with the team, main goals next year I think I outlined elsewhere but I hope I can make another move up the chain, had a crap year on the road this year, so that will be good to get back into and I hope I can push for a decent placing in the Nationals – even though the 10 this year is uphill, so I may have to look at losing some weight, or accepting my fate, as it were.

https://www.strava.com/activities/452664588/overview

Thoughts on rider categories – namely my own

21 Oct

Moving out of the 2015 season which is certainly now done, its official that I’ll have slipped from 1st category to 2nd, namely due to being less bothered about the racing and of course by only amassing 84 of the 100 points needed. It followed a similar pattern to last year really, I didn’t race half as much as I did in my 2nd season where I went from 2nd to 1st winning a few races along the way and I only started to think about doing a few more races later in the season.Certainly on paper my decrease in road racing as come as I’ve done more time trials, oddly this hasn’t been intentional really, I do still really enjoy the road racing, but crucially, I only really enjoy it when I’m doing it, the lead up to a race is a strange feeling, not unlike a Sunday evening before heading back to school – though certainly school wasn’t enjoyable whilst I was doing it either, a difference – I think this has partly come since I’ve moved to doing the harder races, knowing its going to be tough to get a result makes me feel a bit meh about the whole thing. The only race I’ve really looked forward to all season was the Handicap champs ( I am not counting the midweek crits in this as they’re just a bit of fun), and I’ve thought at length about why that was the case. I think I finally cracked it, I was looking forward to it as I knew it would be hard racing, but I knew I could contend the win – had to settle for 2nd on the day mind you. That is a feeling that I rarely have in the Nat B road races, and a spate of bad luck with flat tyres and the like this year probably compounded that. First proper race of the season was the Les Ingman which is a tough race at the best of times, but I had come top 20 the year before in what was a fairly normal field. This year it was really a pretty tough field and though I wasn’t ready fitness wise, climbing off with two laps to go was a bit of a mental hit, it never really got much better than that either, I felt strong enough but just bad luck time after time.

Obviously 1st cat is beyond the reach of most 2nd cats as 200 points is not easy, but when I did get there in my 2nd season, I found out it was exactly as most folk said, just a number, now means you cannot do 50% of the races out there, and you’ll ALWAYS be lumped in with the elites which makes it quite tough. Now elite is not all that it seems probably, there are elites, and then there are elites, I’m fortunate in that without sounding too cock sure, if I raced 2 or 3 times a week every week and ditched the TT stuff I think I’d probably be able to get that ticket, but it would be a one time thing as there is no way I could be arsed to race that much two seasons in a row. The upshot of that is that on a fairly standard course I can still hold my own with many of these guys. But frequently there are more and more young riders who have all the time in the world to train, and are really hungry to race and win, makes it hard, I mean, even if I didn’t have a job I probably still wouldn’t train much more than 15-18 hours, but its making me realise that probably my level of racing would be better suited to 2nd cat.

I know what you’re thinking, is there any excuses this guy hasn’t sold to his own mind to make himself feel better about not being able to scrape together a lousy 100 points to retain 1st cat – truth is, I’ve had 20 points to go for about 2 months, in that time there have been around 20 races I could have reasonably done – but the enjoyment of that last race is something I want to get back. Anyone who knows me with riding or racing will likely know the shine of achieving something doesn’t last long and its the need for the next milestone, so going backwards in category was something that didn’t sit easy but I’m looking forward to racing again next year, which I could not honestly have said in regards to the road stuff this time last year. 

While I’ve not had a proper think about goals yet, I am looking forward to being part of the team more, the way Paceline are means that we’ve had little representation in the E12 stuff, and a very healthy and strong showing in the 2/3 stuff, especially in the last few months of the season as a few promising riders found their feet and started to strike out in races a bit more. I’ll be the first person to have a joking dig at someone racing well below their station, but honestly with the standard of the 2nd cat scene I think while I should still be one of the stronger riders around, its not like I will be expecting to win everything under the sun. The stage races excite me however, stage races as a 1st cat rider are pretty sparse in the SE, especially with the reduced SERRL schedule, and with not doing the RAS again this year (maybe next year?) it meant there was little multiday racing to be had – but some of the best fun I had in road racing was at the Tour of Sussex and the Tour of the Milburys a couple of years back- so looking forward to being part of a strong team and having fun with it. I won’t be that guy who stops on 199 points though, if it looks like I’ll go up, what will be will be! 

Of course I’ll also be trying to sharpen my pencil in the time trial side of things, been a pretty good year and I think I’m fitter now than ever, just a matter of reducing drag a bit more, I hope to be able to push on next year and break into that very top few in the UK and be challenging for the medal places. Always tough in the popular distances, but I’ll try, and I may try a 50 or two also, I think this may suit me quite nicely.

This was a bit of a ramble really, or just the musings of someone who’s been pretty well racing every weekend for the last 4 years – I’ve come to realise that chasing categories is all well and good and something that is almost pre-programmed into riders when they’re just starting out given the emphasis placed on getting out of 4th cat, its like bootcamp, but you may find as I did that eventually you get to a point where you may not enjoy the hobby as much as you should. Of course if you’re more talented than I am then the level that occurs at is likely a lot higher than Nat B road races, but as someone said, (many people) its about winning races, not worrying about scraping together enough 8th places to move up a notch or retain it.

Next up is the famous Bentley Xmas 10, hopefully I can get that elusive 19 in late December after missing it by 13 seconds last year. 

2nd place – 1st loser

21 Sep

This weekend was pretty much the end of the season for me, kind of good as I have a lot of weddings
/stag party fun etc coming up, and after the last one a couple of weeks back it took me a good few days to feel normal again, not conducive to good performances on a bike!

This weekend promised a lot in terms of potential, there was a 10 mile TT on the Saturday on a quick A3 course, and then the Surrey League Handicap Championship on Sunday which I’d done the previous two years with mixed success.

First up was the 10, the weather looked freakishly good for both days over the weekend, almost no wind on the afternoon of the event, warm at around 20 deg, everything was looking promising. From this event I wanted one thing, to do an 18, I’d not managed to thus far this year, mainly as I don’t live near Hull, but I’d come close on Bentley and done a few other 19’s along the way. The other goals would be less important given I’d decided to go for a few beers the day before, but I’d want to try and keep my new found nemesis, James Boyman at bay, and win the event. Having seen the startsheet I figured I’d only really need to beat James to likely win, but there was a strong field with Kevin Tye, James Lowden, Liam Maybank and a few other fast men riding, so it would not be a cake walk.

While warming up I saw Liam first who said it was really fast and he had one a 19.20 or so, which was a great ride. I then saw James Lowden who yelled at me “you’re going to do a 17” – I was beginning to get nervous having had all these people say how fast it was! He had done 19 dead he thought, I was trying not to think about the usual gaps between us all and what I might do. Anyway I got down to the start, and got off to a steady start, annoyingly my legs felt a bit shit, maybe owing to riding the single speed most of that week on the commute, I think its a bit overgeared for hill starts etc, but they soon started to feel alright. It was indeed quick, my avg soon was north of 30 mph, I knew what I needed for an 18, so tried to keep the power as high as possible, I thought I should be able to do around 385W so was trying to hold it around there, but it was tough, at the first rbt I got a clear line from the right, but someone pulled out on me and then did not accelerate at all. My mum was actually standing on the rbt and snapped this photo of me gesturing the bloke to get a move on. It was pretty annoying, but on the way back I was back into good speed, but again at the same rbt on the way back almost the exact same thing happened, I again gestured they get going, but this almost certainly wasn’t an ideal way of going as quick as possible.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CPShN0aWoAAb8RG.png

On the way back I really gave it my all up the long drag as the speed slowly dropped, my legs were gone, nothing left, I saw the avg power was below 380 and I knew when I crossed the line with 18.44 – a new PB by 2 secs that it would not be enough to beat James, my only surprise was that it was so close at only 7 seconds, with my normal power and a clear run it would have been a large PB, but these things happen, and it was a great ride by James who PB’s by a huge amount, though only because he only rides Bentley, he’d have managed a short 18 in Hull earlier in the year otherwise. Anyway, we were the only two who managed to go sub 19, which was nice. A fast course for sure, more to come on there if I can get it all right on another good day next year.

https://www.strava.com/activities/395640134

Next up was the road race, I knew that I would have good legs, I don’t have shit legs two days running usually, and though a ten is a deep effort, it does help open everything up (cycling cliche!). There was a big field of around 70-80, a 4 strong team from Pedal Heaven inc Lewis Atkins who has won it the last two years I think, I came 3rd in 2013 and was crap last year with 11th. The handicap format made it much more fun than a normal road race IMO, and in the last group it was a blast, flying round the lanes with 15 other strong riders, we were averaging well over 27 mph for the first ten mile lap. Race distance was 60 miles and the gap to the very front group is around 15 mins with many other groups in between them and us.

Its not an easy race as you have to ride or you will not catch the rest, with 2 laps left to go there was still a fair gap and people started attacking, bit odd, but I think it was a good thing as it gave the group a bit of impetus. It was clear that the only hill (which is where the finish is) on the final time through was going to be the point where something had to happen, sure enough Chris Mac of PH drilled it up there, Lewis on his wheel and Jamie on his, then me, then probably Tom Hargreaves not far behind. This came back together, and then I think Lewis went again, with Tom on his wheel and possibly another rider or two, I decided that this was the one given Lewis and Tom probably were best suited to the finish and looked strong. We started working well together but I found it hard to come through as Lewis was riding so strongly, though his surging through made it hard work, I tried to take as many turns as I could without totally burying myself and making sure we stayed clear. With maybe half a lap to go it looked like it might all come back together, but people carried o working and instead, another bunch of riders came over to make the group about ten strong, I couldn’t see the bunch behind and now Rob and Jamie were present, this was good as they would be working for Lewis. Other finishers now in the group were Declan who I used to race at KW with, and Rich Cartland also who I knew could get up a hill pretty quickly.

Rob led us into the foot of the hill, I was a bit boxed in at this point, but Tom decided to put a sting in early, I read this as “right, they’re sprinting already, you have to go” so I did, up the other side, straight past – initially I thought I had done it, I had got a gap and was still pushing the pedals, but I came round the corner to see Pat cheering, and the line about 50m further than I remembered haha! I looked back to see Tom with Lewis on his wheel, he opened it up again having played it perfectly and overtook me with enough room to get his hands up, as he did so I tried to go again but had nothing, only just holding off Lewis to retain 2nd. I was pretty annoyed with myself having done the hill 6 times in the race, but sometimes the heat of the moment gets the better. And the only way I thought I could beat Lewis or Tom was going long, like I had done at Palace to take a win from him in the summer. I think it was still the right option, but I went too early, no doubt. I managed around 840W for nearly 55 seconds, which is a fair bit more than I’ve managed previous. Still, 2nd wasn’t a terrible result in a good field of riders.

https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xat1/t31.0-8/12010591_10153901251536487_1178709283232447266_o.jpg

That pretty much sums up the year, I think I need around 15 points for my 1st cat, but I’m not sure I can be bothered now. But I have the option to go to some late season races if I have a change of heart.

https://www.strava.com/activities/396222438