I’ve been very lax updating this blog this year, mostly as I have a fair bit less free time at work than I did last year! I’ve also been lazy as well. In any case, here’s an update on various races I’ve been doing.
Tour of Sussex 2/3 – 30th June
I’d entered this earlier in the year as probably my main focus of the year, the profiles probably didn’t suit me overall but I was hopeful of a result in a stage and of being assistance to one our guys for the overall. The format was a four day race spread across five stages. An 8 mile TTT day 1, a 30 mile crit stage day 2, a 50 mile rolling RR followed by an ITT on the Beachy Head course on day 3, culminating with the Beachy Head road race on the final day.
With the circuits being so far away I’d booked a hotel in Eastbourne with Gareth, and the rest of the team also staying fairly close by.
1st Stage TTT – 2nd.
This was always going to be tough, but having some of the best TTers in Rob and Pat, as well as Gareth things were looking decent. However we got off to a dodgy start after Pat’s Di2 gave up 15mins before the start, leaving him stuck in the small ring. We decided the best bet was to have him in the bunch still, to come through where cadence allowed! Gareth and I had driven the course which was very rolling, finishing with a fast steady descent to the line. I was on the front for the start, which with hindsight was a big error. We took off and after hearing everyone had clipped in, I settled into a strong turn, Rob was behind me, which meant the bunch were moving very quickly as I had to sprint to rejoin the train of the other 5. The first 5 minutes ended up being a wattage pb by over 30w at 450w! (Wattage pb’s from 2mins through to 15mins) Too much, I was badly in the red and suffering. Things only worsened as the profile headed up, and I was drifting away at the back of the bunch with Sam during the couple of climbs, absolutely on the LIMIT. Pat to his huge credit was coming through with big turns at a cadence of close to 1 million rpm, so it seemed to my oxygen debted brain. Things began to settle a little as we turned onto the final road, and I was able to assist with a turn or two again before crossing the line. I was absolutely fried after that effort though, so I slowly soft pedalled back to HQ.
Average watts of 350w for the 19mins we clocked. The results were read out for the podium and jersey presentation with PL coming in 2nd place. Happy days and not too far behind the leaders, a youth development squad named DFL. Game on for the rest of the race, or so we though.
2nd Stage Lewes Crit Stage – Bunch
It turned out after a bit more digging we were up against some seriously tough competition. This DFL squad had some serious talent putting a minute into us during the TTT, with VCL also having the junior British RR champion in their midst. Competing with this guys, from their track backgrounds on a crit stage was always going to be a big ask.
Things started off in the cobbled town centre, with a LONG neutralised section to the course. With DFL in yellow and green I assumed they’d be riding conservatively. I couldn’t have been more wrong, they seemed to be unable to even control themselves and looked to even be attacking each other, with the green and or yellow off up the road at any given opportunity, gunning for the primes. Both Pat and I had early digs off the front, but the long back straight into the wind put paid to that, with huge effort required to hold off the bunch, more than I had at my disposal. With two laps to go, Rob give it the full beans and took off up the road pulling out a decent 30s gap with a lap left. However it wasn’t to be as the bunch caught him with a couple of miles to go. The sprint was hectic with Junior pushing mad cadence flying all over the show; spread the entire width of the road. I tried to move up, getting a lead out of sorts from Pat, but we felt a little uneasy rounding a blind corner fully on the other side of the road, only realising after it had been closed and we probably could have done more. In any case, a fight would have been for the very minor places, as I crossed the line well in the bunch. Rob was a bit further up, still fighting for a place, and managing to cross the line in 12th, not losing any time to the leaders. With Jake Vaughn taking the stage.
3rd Stage Ladies Mile – Off the back of the bunch.
The legs weren’t feeling the greatest today, with the TTT effort and crit stage weighing heavy my hopes weren’t high. I knew the juniors and climbers would be pushing hard on this fairly hilly little circuit. The lap is short, with a rapid descent into a climb, a short flat twisty section immediately followed by another climb, onto another false flat road before the fast descent again. Not a lot of flat easy riding by any stretch. My main aim was to hold on for dear life, so I could hopefully be of assistance later in the race. A circuit that suits Pat, he was very active trying to get away and ended up in a strong break looking good. Unfortunately it didn’t stick and he drifted back to the bunch close to the end. I was just hanging on by this point. The finish was off the circuit on a longish climb. Gareth who was surfing wheels at the back of the bunch moved up on this last section managing to bag a 5th place finish with Rob and Pat another few seconds back in around 10th place. Still in a good position for the GC. I rolled in another minute back, not a course that suits me.
4th Stage Beachy Head ITT
Again I wasn’t much looking forward to this, with it basically being two hill climbs joint by a bit of descending and flat. The weather was extremely windy, with a headwind out to the turn, then a big old tailwind all the way to Beachy Head at least. I just wanted to finish with an at least respectable time, by now knowing my race was all but over. Legs weren’t the best, but I paced it ok crossing the line with a time of 22:05 and 42nd position, a full 2:23 back on the winner, again Jake Vaughan with a time of 19:42. Rapid. Pat and Rob both finished 26 and 32 seconds down respectively, meaning they would need a superhuman effort on the final stage to be in the running. Gareth ended up with a 20:40, a minute down on the GC after this stage.
Story of my race this stage, survive try and help where I feasibly could, but after all the hype, I was barely expecting to survive the climb up to the circuit from Eastbourne town centre. Pat and Rob were the only ones in the team left with a reasonable shout at a result for the overall but would require a very big effort.
Things weren’t quite as bad as expected at the start and I remained attached up the first climb, having started at the front, allowing myself room to slip back through the bunch. Pat as expected was quickly off the front of the bunch, so I took the opportunity to get towards the front after the big descent into East Dean, managing to follow a couple of attacks, stopping them from getting away before the main climb up beachy head. By this point Pat’s bunch looked like a very well established break. I was beginning to pay for my early effort up the main climb and began to drift backwards. I crested the climb well off the back, and chasing to get back on, eventually managing to work my way back through the cars, to the bunch, before the fast descent once more. Back round toward the beachy head climb I sat in the bunch and tried to rest but on the way up the climb I knew I just didn’t have it in my legs, with zero to be gained from flogging myself to the finish I drifted off the back, and after the climb took the right turn back to Eastbourne, to my car and the end of my race. Went back to get my licence and hand the number in before driving back up to the finish line to spectate the rest. The remainder of the race, all 9 or so laps of it was a pure attritional battle to the end, a battle of survival. Pat’s break still looked good, but began to get brought back. With other riders falling like flies and small grupetto’s all over the road. An extract from Gareth’s report sums up the remainder of the race nicely:
“The surges were prolonged on the false flats and hills as the yellow and green jerseys attacked. Eventually the elastic snapped and they formed a G3, chasing Pat down who had 2 minutes on the yellow jersey!
Sharland was gapped on the climb, and we two-upped back on. With no way to influence the race, and nothing to gain, Sharland said he’d bail next lap, which was music to my ears as we DNF’d half way through. Dom continued on in G4, the largest group.
4 lap to go: Pats group of 4 had 60 seconds on a solo chaser (Josh Haasz of VCL I think), and about 20s back to a group including the yellow jersey, and a further 30s back to Doms main group.
3 laps to go: Pat had 30s now on a group of 6-7 including Adalta, Southampton uni, but mainly VCL and DFL. Main group with Dom about 30s back.
2 laps to go: Pretty much as above
1 lap to go: Still away, Pat was looking tired with gaps appearing in his group. Jacob Vaughan over the top of Beachy head attacked.
Finish: Tom Easeley of ASL360 took the win. Can’t remember who was 2nd now, and Jake Vaughan got across to finish 3rd. There must have been about 10 other finishers or so as Pat came in with Dom, which should have Pat gaining some BC points from the GC (down to 15th).
Massive ride from Pat to be in a small break for 3 hours. Ultimately though, these juniors totally upstaged and outclassed us. (it felt like they were just messing with us at most points). Sprint wins, ITT wins, TTT wins, winning uphill etc.”
So to summarise, we were pretty much outclassed (me more than most!) by a group of very talented young riders, some of whom I’m sure will go on to be elite professionals making a decent living from riding. Looking back, even with a normal 2/3 SL bunch I’m not sure I’d have been much more in the mix just due to the parcous, but a fun weekends riding nonetheless. Would I go back, probably not. It’s just not suited to an 85kg fat sprinter type. I’ll stick to the May 3 Day, plenty hard enough!
SL Handicap – Accomodation Road -7th July
Decided to go along to this Thursday night handicap on a whim wanting to get some miles in. 40 mile ride there and back plus 26 odd racing miles. Should have known better with no rest days following the ToS. Ended up getting put in the scratch group which is a first for me, with Pat and Rob and a few others. Legs felt average to begin with, but got tired very quickly and was finding it more and more difficult to come through for a decent turn. We picked up the next two groups fairly easily, but after 40 minutes my legs were done and I dropped off the back, with some very average watts and 90% intensity for the race telling the story, despite feeling like I couldn’t have ridden any harder.
Richmond Park TT 1 – Road Bike Category – Joint 3rd
These events are one of the highlights of the season for me. I probably spend about 70% of my training miles in the park, so have come to know the roads round it very well. So it’s always a pleasure to pin a number on and race around the park, mostly before it fills up with cars and other cyclists. Although my results haven’t shown the same, I really feel like my riding has come on strong this year, it’s certainly been reflected in my power curve, so I was hopeful of a decent showing at the least, with the RP TT a decent bell weather for actual power. I set out with a target of 350w, aiming to ride the first part of the course hard, knowing I would need the watts to get up Sawyers, a little bit easier down the hill to Kingston, then using what I had left for the climb back to Richmond Gate. Even after a stag (albeit for me a sober one) the night before, late night, not much sleep, 5:30am alarm, the legs seemed to be responding and felt decent out the gate. Watts were high and as I climbed Sawyers I felt good. Concentrating on keeping as aero as possible. Round the Kingston roundabout and back up the hill I still felt ok, but was struggling to keep the watts up slightly. I used the Sawyers descent a bit for rest, before kicking the watts back up for what was left of the course. I really began to die back along priory, and up to pen ponds, before sprinting for the line in a time of 25:28 and an average of exactly 350w J I didn’t have a clue where that would put me, but knowing I’d done a 25:13 last year on the TT bike for 326w I had to feel fairly pleased with that in what I felt were slightly tougher conditions. Added to which, no deep section wheels, no overshoes and straight butyl inner tubes.
I rolled back in to the HQ to see the results, joint 3rd with Gareth. Very happy with that, despite Gareth having been at his own stag the night before.
The second of these events I was slightly more prepared for, having got hold of some latex inner tubes and some velotoze I felt confident after last time out. Despite entering the road category I’d somehow been placed in the start order with the TT riders, so revelled in the extra 30 minute lie in! The legs didn’t feel as good this time, but I was still hopeful of repeating the watts I’d done last time. However it wasn’t to be as I ended up with an average of 341w (9w down on previous) but with a time 21seconds quicker of 25:07, good enough for solid 3rd, having beaten Gareth by just a handful of seconds. The extra aero kit obviously helped, and I was super chuffed, having been nowhere near the podium the previous year, it was obvious I’d made a big improvement this year. Great fun and I look forward to next year!
Another handicap evening, I was a little more prepared for this one having worked from home that day, although not enough to realise I’d not charged my Garmin! I rode out with Paul and Grant, with my legs feeling ok for the 20 mile ride out. Put in the second last group on the road things got off to an ok start, and it was more than interesting riding on feel. I felt like I was being much more conservative, doing only the required effort coming through on turns. We closed the rest of the groups in good time, so it was clear it was coming down to a sprint. I felt very strong and hopeful for the finish, and was in an ok position for the final corner, however got a little over run here, and then had to avoid an oncoming car in the run up to the line, losing yet more position. Following which I was completely boxed in to the line, not even being able to get out of the saddle to give any sort of a kick. Most frustrating as the freshest I’ve probably ever felt at the closing phase of any sort of race. Ah well. Paul came away with a strong 7th place, with Grant also rolling in.
After what so far this year has felt like a very average season in terms of results I was a little more hopeful of coming away with something this race. So far this year I seem to have either had punctures, or been tactically stupid, favouring racing in a more fun (to me) way with break attempts, such as Lingfield, or having been riding for others at tour races. My tactic was to be to sit in, and try something either last lap, knowing I can hold decent watts for 5-10mins, or just hold on for the sprint, on an uphill finish which kind of suits. Other PL guys racing were Pat, Paul, Benoit and myself.
Pretty much from the start Pat was trying to force a break, but with limited luck. After a while a group of 6, Pat not included forced the break and got a good gap of a minute out fairly quickly. The bunch seemed pretty disorganised and no real chase effort being made.
30 miles I was having Di2 issues, (for those Di2 sceptics reading, bike has covered 10k miles with limited issues, never having had to be re-indexed, this was (I think) my first racing Di2 incident). So my bike became a 53×14 single speed. Not a bad gear to be in during a flatish RR, but certainly not the best, and with the finish on a “hill”, ruled me out. I rolled around for a lap at the back, but was keen to at least finish the race, so moved up on the hill, having to grind a 45rpm gear up the incline. I was expecting to be spat out the back, but to my surprise was more than able to hold my own. With the 6 up the road having edged their gap out to 1:10 I was keen on trying to bring it back, even if just to give another PL a good crack at a result. I got to the front and drove the pace for a bit, but my one gear made it very tough on the legs, and I wasn’t able to give it good pace for that long, after half a lap dropping back to the back of the bunch. But at least it looked like the break was being slightly brought back. With a couple left Pat and one other Dynamo guy made a very strong bridge to the bunch up the road, and in the end Pat finished with a great 6th place. Frustrating to say the least, but not sure I’d have had the legs to do much even if I had had functioning gears.
So to summarise, not a huge amount of racing, and not very much in the way of results. I’ve got a few more races coming up, so here’s hoping I can at least get some results before the season completely disappears. As it stands I think I’m on 12 points, with 25 needed to retain my 2nd Cat licence. To be quite honest, I’m not that fussed on either outcome, but it would be nice to at least get some semblance of a result this year. I think despite being far stronger this year than last, it just shows I’m probably not racing smart enough to be a decent 2nd Cat yet. Either that or this is just a side effect of much less racing compared to last year, having barely done any crits, which is where I scored a fair amount of my points last year. I have a feeling I’ll get a bit stronger towards the end of the year, having had a couple of good non-racing rides of late. I was in the team entry for RideLondon which we did in 3:59. Chuffed to have “won” the sprint to be around the 20th overall to cross the line! Great fun riding on London’s closed roads, and good race training! Here’s hoping it yields some results for the remainder of the year!