The big update

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.


5th Stage Beachy Head RR

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.”

Summary

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.


Richmond Park TT 2 – Road Bike Category –3rd

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!


SL Handicap – Kitsmead Lane – 28th July

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. 


SL Kirdford 2/3 – 7th August

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.

Summary

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!

Springting for the line at RideLondon

London Nocturne 2/3 and SL Lingfield 2/3

London Nocturne 2/3

I entered this after a club mate reminded me about it on the forum. I had watched last years race highlights on TV and a crit in the middle of the city seemed like fun, added to which racing in front of a crowd etc.

This year’s course was a new one, going right past my work along Cheapside, past St. Pauls before taking in some tighter back roads and plenty of 90 degree left and rights before emerging back onto Cheapside again.

In the race notes we were informed the race would be 30mins + 5 laps, but this gradually got shorter each time they made contact with us, and on the start line it became 20 + 5 laps so it was always going to be frantic. I had advice from Maryka of Paceline which seemed very sensible and revolved around a good placing at the start and trying to close gaps.

I was late to the start after they sent everyone up early and ended up lining up a couple of riders deep which was my first error. The comms then tried to send the riders round the course for a sighting lap, half the riders, me included pedalled off on the lap, while the remainder secured themselves a much better position on the start line than before! We circled back round the course and I lined up even further back.

Thankfully it wasn’t wet which would have made things worse, but I can safely say this was the most nervous I’d been pre-race. I knew what I was letting myself in for, it was set to be a Palace-esque pace littered with crashes which set my nerves going a bit, but doing it all staged in front of hundreds of people made it a lot more nerve racking. Eventually they set a timer going for us and before too much longer thinking about it we were in motion.

Within the first 10 metres there were 4 or 5 riders on the deck having taken each other out trying to clip in. Great. I managed to stay clipped in but had to wheel all the way around them, by which point there was an enormous gap to the front group and a string of riders following behind. And that was essentially my race, following the wheels, moving up on the main straight where I found my sprint a lot more effective than most, but dodging the inevitable crashes every lap or so and trying to close gaps.

I wasn’t feeling strong enough to attempt to bridge any huge gaps, and was pretty much on the limit a lot of the time so just hung on for the most part to cross the line 30th out of 80 starters. Not a bad effort all things considered I guess but a little disappointing. Glad I remained attached and upright at least, as there were more than a fair share of DNFs.


Not sure if I’d bother to do it again, £30 for 25 minutes racing is a bit rich, and despite being a good experience I’m not sure it’s worth the risk, especially given the likelihood of a result seems almost entirely based on the first 5 metres of the start.


Watts were also fairly underwhelming as was the NP which wasn’t what I expected given it just felt like sprint, sprint, sprint.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/598339594

Avg Power: 286w

NP Power: 328w

Avg Speed: 22.7mph

 

Lingfield 2/3

I went into this having done some decent numbers in the week prior. I’d known in the past few weeks, post May 3 day I had some strong wattage pb’s in the legs but just hadn’t found the time or place to get them out. Monday I managed what I’d known I was capable of for a while, a near 370w ACW lap of Richmond Park, which yielded a 15:16 laptime. A pb in watts of 15w over last year, and 19 seconds in terms of time. More to come there in terms of time, perhaps not so much in terms of watts though. Still, always nice to get some strong pb’s and moved me closer to one of my goals for the year of a sub 15 minute park lap.

Socially/work this week also happened to be one of my busiest of the year having been out almost every night too, so after the Monday lap I had Tuesday and Wednesday off the bike, before squeezing in some time on Thursday, which also happened to be a strong session with 20mins at 317w and 309w, the latter being a bit held up, so would have ideally been higher, with my FTP now set at 340w it was nice to realise another strong improvement year on year. Which looking back from when I first started measuring power in 2013, I’ve pretty much added 100w to my FTP!

Anyhow, I took it easy Friday Saturday so was hopeful of some good sensations in the legs for the race Sunday, the course the same as the last stage of the May 3 day. I knew the circuit well based on this, and despite being fairly hilly and a little selective I was reasonably hopeful of a good showing. The weather was looking pretty abysmal in terms of rain too, which is usually a good sign for the race breaking up even more so than usual which I’m all for!

As seems customary nowadays things got off to a pacey start, even behind the lead car neutralised I was putting out 400w just to stay involved. Eventually after the first of a few climbs they dropped the flag and let us at it. A couple of guys tried to get away on the next climb, but the bunch were still keen and the pace was kept very high. I decided to move up after this, keen not to be stretched out at the back, possibly getting dropped after seeing gaps constantly opening up as riders were trying to leave themselves more than usual room on the soaking descents.

The legs were feeling reasonable by this point and so decided to go for a bit of a tester and punched it up one of the small rises, fairly quickly getting a gap and keeping it for half a lap before getting brought back, I’d been hoping some of the stronger riders may bridge across, but no such luck, so I sat up when it became obvious it was a futile effort.

For the next part of the race I just hung around the front of the group watching what was going on, and tried to slow things a bit when Adam Stone of Paceline tried a move for himself, a well-timed attack which had him out of sight quickly, but was eventually brought back with the bunch still riding quickly. The next lap or so a couple more guys tried their luck but nothing looking too dangerous. 

The next time up the climb about 6 or 7 guys went clear and with the bunch seemingly starting to tire a bit looked like a really strong move, even if there still was about 30 miles still to ride. I pushed hard up the climb getting a bit of a gap before getting my head down along the main road, with James Bonham of Hoste Taap having come with me. We bridged the gap after a minute or so’s effort and joined the back of the new group. Frustratingly they weren’t working too well, so I immediately took up the front and tried to pick things up. I felt sure if we worked well we could quickly build a gap.

However, shortly after we passed a couple of horses, no issues for us, but the main bunch behind had them spooked and so the flag was dropped out of the window to slow us down, neutralising things, so the gap died not long after that, but still managed to remain at the front of the bunch. Sadly at this point Damien, who looked to be climbing well was dropped, as he slowed more than the bunch, and failed to get back on.

We continued to ride as a bunch, albeit fairly reduced with the rain taking its toll. Turns out Pat DNF’d on lap one from a puncture among others as the main group felt a lot smaller than it started. I was still feeling good by this point and was keen for a break, not being keen on a sprint given the conditions.

On the next big descent, as a weightier, fairly aero rider I drifted off the front, and seemed to open up a bit of a gap so decided to give it a go. I hit the lap on the Garmin and just aimed for about 320w, fairly quickly I was out of sight of the bunch, before briefly being joined by a Bigfoot CC rider, who subsequently got dropped on another of the descents. I had 17 miles to go, which was 1.5 laps, and felt ok, but was hoping I would be joined by another rider or two I could work with. No such luck and after a few more miles the gap kept opening up. Slightly frustratingly I wasn’t getting any time gaps from the cars, but after a few more miles two of the cars dropped back into the gap, so I knew I was still extending it. I’m told it was up to a minute at point.

Trying to keep aero!

After about 30minutes riding solo I was starting to pay, and the watts, particularly on the climbs started to dampen from where they were previously with the legs feeling fresh. I was constantly being stalked from behind by one of the lead cars, and was sure that at any moment the car would be accelerating to pull out of the gap. Eventually that time came with a couple of miles still to ride as well as a punchy climb.

I kept looking back but still couldn’t see anybody until I approached the climb, I was still going ok, but looked back to see all 55kg or so of Tobias Dalhaus dancing up the climb behind me, with the bunch looking to be another 5-10s behind him. After believing I could make it to the finish with some sort of a gap it all came crashing down as Tobias quickly closed the gap I had and came past on the climb, I briefly tried as hard as I could to hold his wheel but the pace was just too much after 40 minutes solo effort and shortly after the bunch came past leaving me in pretty much last within the last half mile. Just the top of the climb and the left turn to the finish, which I just span up to cross the line a short while after the main group.

I bit of a disappointing end, but glad I gave it a go, and happy to have been able to ride a solo break in front of a 2/3 race on a hilly’ish course. Something I would not have been able to do last year. Strong power Pb’s out from 20mins to the duration, most of which where 20w or so better than anything from last year, 320w for an hour was a nice number to see too, pretty much validating my recent FTP increase as well, and 300w for over 90mins. Good training. Maybe next time I’ll be able to finish the job.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/606957937

Avg Power: 274w

NP Power: 335w! (for 2:42)

Avg Speed: 23.3mph

SL Kirdford & SL May 3 Day Stage Race

SL Kirdford 2/3

After a feeling fairly strong at Longcross, a sensation I’d not really felt too much this year I was looking forward to Kirdford. I felt in pretty decent condition and the course was fairly flat with just one rise up to the finish which would help to spread things out a touch.

Only Pat and I were entered in the 2/3 for Paceline, so there wasn’t much in the way of team tactics to speak of.

We rolled out with the weather dry, but a bit cold, and windy. Not ideal conditions, but far from the worst I’ve raced in. For the first laps I pretty much sat in just getting used to the course. Although I’d ridden it before, it’s a bit odd in that there is absolutely no distinguishing features, and so it’s very difficult to work out where on the lap you are.

In the mean-time Pat got up the road a few times, but relatively quickly things were being shut down.

Eventually I got a bit bored at the back and worked my way up toward the front before having a dig. Managed to get a fair way clear of the bunch on my own a few times, before being shut down again, then thought we were onto a winner when I got up the road with 3 other strong guys, one Meudon, a Southdowns and a TCC guy. We were working well together with solid turns but still it got shut down after about a lap.

After this it seemed pretty obvious it was going to come down to a bunch gallop, a finish which still suited me so all was not lost. However, the run into the finish hill was very tight, and I got squeezed badly on the left hand side, ending up right towards the rear of the bunch.

I tried to pick my way through people, and must have made it round about 30 riders to finish 19th. Watts for the last minute only 487w, miles away from what I would be doing full gas on that finish.

Still, I came away fairly happy in that I could spend an entire race trying to attack, and still have plenty in the tank for a sprint, even if it didn’t go my way.

On to the next one.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/555610486

Avg Power: 254w

NP Power: 308w

Avg Speed: 25.5mph

SL May 3 Day Stage Race

I expressed an interest in this, having done it last year, but ultimately there were other riders in the frame that hadn’t done it before, and I was down for Tour of Sussex as my main race so didn’t enter.
However, unfortunately for Jon Freeman, he’d had a nasty crash in the weeks leading up to the May bank holiday and so I took his place as reserve.
I was a little nervous going into it, as last year I’d really struggled, particularly on the 2nd Stage a very tough climbers circuit where I got dropped on the first lap, I knew I was stronger this year, but still wasn’t sure if it would be enough.
On paper we had what I would say was easily the strongest team too, so I’d be happy as long as I could at least help toward the greater good! Entered were Pat, Rob, Rich, Benoit, Dom and I.

Stage 1 – Dunsfold

Tactics for the first day were just to ride and see how things went, it seemed hard to imagine big breaks forming due to the relative flat nature of the circuit, so seemed likely to come down to a sprint.

Things got off quickly as usual and straight away there were riders attacking. Again I spent the first lap cruising around near the back of the bunch just getting into it before eventually working my way up toward the front. Not the easiest on the course as its often narrow, and fairly twisting. A couple of early attacks began to look a bit troublesome so put in a few efforts to close them down before Pat got up the road on his own for just over 2 laps. The Paceline guys marshaled the front a fair bit to attempt to slow things down a bit but no such luck, and before too long the race was brought back together.

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With a lap and a half to go Rob attacked with a few others and had a decent gap. The rest of us tried to block the front, and despite looking like the break would be caught, and having gotten seriously close they eventually extended out again and with half a lap to go it was clear they weren’t being caught with a strong lead.

I was keen to try and fight it out for the remainder of the positions on offer knowing the sprint hill suits my power curve so made sure I stayed on the front for the last half a lap, also knowing it’s tough to move up. I also had Rich on my wheel for company. With 1km to go things began to get a bit dicey and despite sitting on the front at 350w riders began to swamp me on the run down to the base of the finish hill. We jostled for position a bit, but I found myself about 10 riders back at the bottom of the hill, before beginning the sprint. Somehow managed to pick my way through several riders to hold some half decent numbers to the line, 1000w for 20s, slightly frustrating as I know I’m capable of more. But managed to cross the line for 6th place and 4th of the main bunch. Rich had chain issues on the finish hill and finished just outside the top 10, with Pat, Benoit and Dom rolling in with the remainder of the bunch, all level on time as a fairly nasty crash had happened further down, on the run into the finish.

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In the melee
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Crossing the line for 6th

I crossed the line, and rolled up the road to see Rob who’d easily taken the win by a good margin which was great news. We now had a superb chance of the GC with Rob leading into the second day by 47 seconds including the win time bonus of 30s. I was also fairly happy with my own performance, good team work and I’d come away with 6th. All to play for on Stage 2.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/560907382

Avg Power: 236w

NP Power: 298w

Avg Speed: 24.1mph

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Rob in yellow

Stage 2 – Bletchingly

After yesterday’s stage I was still nervous about this one. It really is a tough circuit and certainly not one suited to an 85kg rouleur/sprinter type. I just hoped I could at least be of some assistance before I went pop and couldn’t take the pace any longer. The circuit begins with a climb up the high street, before a left turn and a very quick descent towards the bottom of the circuit, another left turn before a several more tough climbs, then back up to the high street once more.

The first lap I just wanted to survive and assess how the legs were feeling up the climbs. I made sure each time I rolled through to the front of the group for the two main climbs, and to my surprise on the first lap I was largely managing to hold position near the front, rather than sliding backwards through the group as I had expected. The climb up to the high street was still difficult though, and a real drag with the legs still burning from the steep climb up toward Bletchingly high street.

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Dom bossing the bunch

In the next few laps there looked to be a few riders attacking on the hills, but as a team we were now riding for Rob and so closing most of those down. 3rd time down the descent the race was stopped and riders given a warning due to dodgy riding, we soon got going again and as we did a lone rider went up the road as the bunch got back up to speed. The gap opened up and the time gaps of over a minute began to feed through, and so the threat became a bit more serious. After the climb up through the high street I moved my way to the front, knowing I could drill it down the descent and hopefully begin to close up on the attacker, superb fun full gas down the descent with the bunch in tow. Rich and I then went to work on the front sharing turns, and after 20 mins at 320w we’d got the attacker back in sight. I continued to drill it up the climb towards the finish line, and managed to take 2nd in the hot spot sprint before eventually catching the lone Army CU attacker. Felt great to have worked so well with Rich to close that attack down, and hopefully go some way to protecting yellow.

On the subsequent climb I made sure I was near the front, but was beginning to drift backwards through the climb towards the high street. On the next lap I just about had enough to help Benoit close another meaningful looking attack, but the last time up the main climb I lost contact before the high street and was well and truly cooked, 2hrs 30 at 320w NP was probably the most watts I’ve done for that period of time. I averaged 216w for the remaining 18mins to the end of the race. Managed to latch onto a group of HR Owen riders and we rode fairly steadily back to the finish, eventually crossing the line 5 minutes down on the main bunch.

Overall pleased to have lasted as long as I did, and proof I could have probably held on for the duration had I not been helping to bring attacks back for Rob. One of the more enjoyable days in the saddle as a result though, I was empty at the finish line. Rob had held on for a 9th place finish with the rest of us at different time gaps behind having worked super hard all day. After all of this, Rob’s yellow jersey lead remained by just 7 seconds. All to play for going into the last stage still.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/562019647

Avg Power: 234w

NP Power: 312w

Avg Speed: 23.0mph

Stage 3 – Lingfield 

Legs were certainly feeling a bit weary today, and brain was also a bit frazzled from the mental effort of 3 hours a day spent with eyes on stalks while racing. Tactics were to be largely the same as the day previous, and I was confident that I’d be of a bit more assistance today with a course that was a only slightly less demanding. A 15 mile lap, with a couple of climbs, but some seriously fast sections of road. 45mph+

As is customary things got off quickly after an unusually long neutralized section behind the lead car, well into the first lap. After being let go it was immediately obvious that several of main race protagonists, Stanley Kennet of PMR, and Richard Jennings of Army CU were keen on attacking to try and overhaul Rob’s lead, but the bunch seemed reasonably motivated and nothing got away straight away. Pat was keen on having a crack at some KOM/Spring points and so was up the road with 3 others in fairly quick order after a lap or two they had a seriously big lead of over 1:30 so we were being told. Given a win bonus of 30s the move began to look a little bit dangerous.

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Pat and his fellow break riders

Then in what felt like a proper Team Sky train moment myself, Dom, Rich and Benoit moved to the front and proceeded to bury ourselves to bring the move back. After just a lap we’d completely closed the gap after some epic riding by everyone in the team. I think at which point the rest of the peloton seemed to get a bit frustrated, and I heard on more than one occasion other racers talking about Paceline bullying the group. Music to my ears. It was now game on with the bunch as one again and just over 20 miles to the finish.

I started the climb on this lap at the front and drifted backwards, after the big team TT to close the gap I was sure my race was over, I was feeling completely cooked at this point. When suddenly I saw a commotion in the bunch, assuming someone had crashed, only to see the yellow jersey at the side of the road, surrounded by other Paceline riders. Nightmare scenario, as Rob’s rear wheel had broken a spoke. As it became clear Rob was stopped, shouts of “attack” were heard from the bunch, and they paced it up the road.

The whole team stopped to wait for the wheel change, and after just over a minute we were all rolling again. Everyone in the team then proceeded to bury themselves for to try and get Rob back to the bunch. For about 35 minutes we team time trialed, but on the run into the finish hill it was clear we weren’t making up time and weren’t going to make it. We made the left hand turn onto the finish straight all still together and pedaled across the finish line as one. Fitting way to finish as a team given the huge effort by each and everyone, but certainly not the end all of us had envisaged and after all that work, it was hard to stomach.

We talked through the race on the finish line with Keith who’d come to spectate, and even managed a smile for the camera. Certainly not the end all of us wanted. Without doubt the hardest, most rewarding and fulfilling weekend’s racing I’ve done to date. I think the whole team can be rightly proud of our performance, and I was certainly very proud to have been a part of it, even if, like I say things hadn’t panned out the way we wanted.

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Team photo

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/563062677

Avg Power: 254w

NP Power: 314w

Avg Speed: 23.2mph

Very impressive riding by all of the guys in the team, Rob obviously big kudos for the 1st stage win, top ten at Bletchingly and helping to organise us when it mattered. Pat of Parceline, who its been said, always delivers :lol: rode like a train all weekend did a huge amount of work, seemingly never tired. Dom and Benoit who also played a massive parts in closing down breaks and getting stuck in when it really mattered, and Rich who rode a very impressive weekend given he is so new to road racing, impeccable positioning and was always there to put the hammer down when required.

SL Longcross 2/3 

After the last two races and false starts I was really keen to just get some race miles under my belt. Although I’d seen some OK numbers in training I felt as if I was unproven, and had a big doubt as to whether I’d built enough fitness during winter to really feature in races, or whether I still had top end work to do. Anyhow, couldn’t have asked for much better whether for an early season road race, bright sunshine and 16 degrees, only a slight head wind down the main straight. With a large field of 70ish riders a break was always going to be tough, but I was keen to give it a go pending how my legs were during the race.

Things kicked off to a fairly steady start as the bunch got up to speed and the comm car went up the road. I was feeling decent, and right near the front. First time through the rolling corner section, and on the final steeper hill I gave a good kick to get over then down through the fast chicane and onto the main straight and into an aero position. Quick glance back and I had quite a good gap already, feeling OK I decided to dig in and keep going, in the hope that some others may bridge.No such luck and after 3/4 of a lap the bunch was back on me, so I slotted back in at the front of the pack. In the next few laps there were constant attacks, that were generally getting covered before much distance opened up or brought back in fairly short order.

Dom got up the road in the mean time and so I made sure I was at the front being a bit of a nuisance to any chase. Still fairly amusing to watch the pedal heaven rider in front giving it the big elbow flick to me, despite Paceline clearly having a rider up the road. 😕 Managed to get on the front a few times and slow things down to 260w in an attempt to help, but inevitably with the amount of people on circuit it didn’t last too long before somebody else was sprinting up the other side of the road.

I had spoken to a Barnabus of Dynamo before the race who mentioned he was keen for a break, so was happy to see him slightly off the front after about 40 mins of racing. I sprinted across in the approach to the corner section and we immediately had a small gap which opened up a bit onto the main straight. A turn or two each I thought I was onto a winner with Barnabus knowing he is a super strong rider, having had some impressive results recently. We seemed to be working well together, but then after another lap things were brought back again.

 

Barnabus and I trying to build a gap

The following a fairly sizable gap seemed to open up in the peloton and I thought it may have been a bit of a split in the race so jumped across, with a group of about 8 it looked like it could have potential, and after a bit of shouting we had some through and off organised, but again didn’t last long before it was closed down and I moved back into the group to get a gel and some water with about 20 mins of racing left to go.

 

Trying to get a move going

A few more laps went by, and I had largely resigned it to a bunch sprint so was sat mid pack. Soon became clear that Barnabus and another rider had got off the front in what looked like a strong move. I didn’t think I had the legs to go with and had seen the move too late to really do much about it, so sat in for the last few laps. Last time through the corners, I though my best chance of getting something out of the race was to go a bit longer than most, and try and dodge the bunch gallop. Gave it some watts through the corner/rolling section, but it was too much on the last steep section and I slowed to join the back of the bunch through to the line.

Probably worked too much early on to try and force a break which I paid for at the end, but ultimately as my first race of the season I came away really happy that I actually got some race miles in, and that it seemed like I was in good shape, enough to actually animate the race a bit, rather than just sit in. Not sure what race I’ll be doing next, possibly another crit or two before any road racing, but we’ll see.

Also worth mentioning I was pretty happy with my power for the race of 327w NP for 1:18, suggests I need to review my original 320w FTP. Something which I had been holding off, even after having done 352w up a mountain in Spain for 20 mins. Good to validate similar numbers there though, and above anything I did last year by a good margin.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/533465706

Avg Power: 290w

NP Power: 327w

Avg Speed: 26.9mph (Fast)

Milland Hill 2/3 RR and James Atherton 2/3 RR

Milland Hill 2/3 RR – 13th March

So its been a little while since my last updated, but seeing as I’m back racing again now, updates should follow a little more frequently! I entered this one a while back as it was supposed to be at Cutmill, the scene of my debut race win. The course in general doesn’t suit me too well being of the fairly hilly variety, but the finish does suit. An uphill finish which suits a decent long range sprint. Not a bad place to open my account for the season I hoped.

Sadly due to roadworks the race, instead of being cancelled (great work Surrey League) was moved to the Milland Hill circuit, which I’d not raced. After having spoken to a few teammates it seemed like a nice course with the exception of a super steep hill every lap c.25%! Not ideal after having only returned from a training camp in Spain the week prior.

Got to the circuit for the 1pm kick off just as the 3rd race was finishing. Great effort by Jon Freeman to win that by going solo at the end for 2 laps. Chapeau.

Thankfully it was a great day for racing, blazing sunshine, even if it was still base layer temperatures. Only Rob and myself were representing Paceline in the 2/3, and Rob was feeling slightly tired after having taken a TT win earlier that day. My aims for the day were just staying attached.

We rolled out with the neutralized section up a mile long hill towards the circuit, I averaged 360w just to stay attached and I could still feel fatigue in the legs from the week before last in Spain.

Eventually a downhill followed by entering the circuit, which was pretty much steady descent all the way to the main 25% hill. Things were fairly quick, but still manageable by this point.

It felt odd to be back racing again though, my first race since 2015. We rounded the turn at the bottom of the course as the road started to head upwards for the main climb, with riders jostling for position as the road narrowed I started to move backwards. Just as the climb kicked up my back wheel slipped into a pothole at the edge of the road and instantly pinch flatted, not a great way to start the season.

Neutral service were quickly on the scene, getting me a new 11sp rear to replace the puncture. After having been stationary for what felt like forever, but was only actually 2 minutes I was able to set off again forgetting I was in the big ring, and so had to grind up the 25% hill. Not my brightest idea as it meant doing about 700w to get up and over. Once at the top neutral service tried to tow me back, and on the dual carriageway gave me a great tow. Only for another rider to have a mechanical half way along, which meant they had to stop for him.

I was on my own then and tried to TT to the bunch, but was finding it difficult to main FTP watts. I tried for the rest of the lap to the hill again but seemed clear I wasn’t making ground on the fast moving bunch so I packed it in and headed for the HQ. Race over after just 6 miles riding. 18 miles in total for the day.

Watched the rest of the race with Rob, who also pulled out after several laps after his morning TT efforts. Impressive solo victory by James Boyman who put well over a minute into the bunch in the space of a lap.

Hoping for better things in upcoming races!

James Atherton 2/3 RR

After last week’s showing I was a bit more hopeful for this one. No 25% hills but a rolling circuit, and being so far from home a lot of other unknown teams and riders. Just Pat, Rob and myself entered from Paceline. I was feeling a lot better this week having had another week for the Spain training effect to take hold.

Things got off to a nervy start with riders all over the road. A short neutralised section and we made the right turn onto the circuit. Up the first climb feeling quite decent, then down a short descent and back climbing again when I hear the rear tyre pop, again….. ridiculous luck.

Neutral service are there in no time again, and the change takes just a minute this time before I’m back up and running. No tow from neutral this time which is frustrating as 5 minutes down the road I see them giving another rider a tow. I felt like at points I may catch the bunch, but after the rest of the lap at well over 300w I wasn’t much closer and didn’t feel like I was making ground so called it a day again.

Massively frustrating start to the season, and not sure where to go from here.

Looking back I’ve gone into both races feeling average, and still think I’m a long way from form, despite already having taken quite a few wattage pb’s from last year’s best I still don’t feel like I’m anywhere near my best, which at this point is quite frustrating given the training so far. Hoping I just need to get some race miles under my belt to give myself a good kicking, so am looking at doing some crits for the next couple of races, before some RR’s in another months time. Here’s hoping the only way from here is upward!

Paceline RT in Alicante – 2016 Training Camp

Still with a bit of 2015 remaining discussion around a 2016 training camp began. Having visited southern Spain Xabia/Calpe in particular last year I was keen to come back to this part of the world. A large amount of pro teams also visit, albeit earlier in the year but its clear to see why. Great weather, and largely perfect roads with some fantastic climbing. In 2015 we stayed in a self catered villa with 12 riders, which was great if a little hard work at times with all the cooking/cleaning etc. All of which meant down time was a bit too much of a premium after a long day’s training.

This led to us looking at something a bit more organised/structured and catered. Which is when a team mate posted us this link for Cycling Holidays Spain – http://www.cyclingholidayspain.net/  After doing a bit of reading 8 Paceliners decided to book on for the first week in March. We decided on this due to the ease of being fully catered for, along with the promise of support car on rides, daily massages, post ride recovery shakes and all the bars/gels you’d need on a ride being provided.

We arrived on the Saturday evening to Alicante airport and were greeted by Noz. Soon our bike boxes were packed up and we were on our way up to the villa in Callosa den Sarria, about an hour away by car. Once at the villa a warm welcome awaited us with teas and coffees at the ready. A quick tour of the great facilities and bedrooms were decided upon before a bit of food then bed.

Bikes built and ready to go

With the forecast for Sunday looking a little doubtful we spent the morning building up bikes before assessing the weather side of things. Once everyone was built up the weather was looking a bit brighter with the temperature in the late teens. The wind was blowing a bit and the skies a little cloudy with the potential for rain later in the day.  We decided to roll out anyway for a couple of hours and headed towards Tarbena, up to Castell de Castells then along a fast section of road through Benigembla to Parcent, and the foot of the Coll de Rates. For anyone not familiar with the area the Rates is a great climb of about 6km in length. Think Box Hill type gradient, for a lot longer, with some stunning views to boot.

Looking up from the bottom of Coll de Rates

Last year my best time up the climb was c.20:30 at around 280w, so with a years worth of progress in my legs I was pretty keen to give it some stick, if a little concerned at going so hard so early on in the week. Anyhow, I followed Pat up the first part of the climb, before dropping off his wheel around half way and solo’ing the rest of the way to the summit of the climb in 17:49 at 352w, which I was fairly chuffed with! After a quick top up of fluids and food from the support vehicle we set off again back down the back of the Coll de Rates towards Tarbena, and back the way we came to Callosa. Just as we did it began to rain, which put paid to any thoughts of doing another few miles. 43 miles for the first day, 210tss and 18mins 352w (+7w on anything I did for that length of time last year) left me fairly satisfied. After getting back and getting fed and massaged we chilled out for the evening and looked towards Monday, our first full days riding.

The rest of the week was pretty much spent doing 5 hour rides each day, with a welcome rest day in between. Having given the Rates a good going on the first day there weren’t anymore wattage pb’s to come through the week, but getting the miles in the legs was what it was all about. The camp itself was superb and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, but will hopefully go back next year too. Noz and the guys look after their guests so well, and clearly put all of their effort into it, which really shows.

Support car during the lunch stop
A rare event, me off the front, up an actual hill. Fantastic roads
Dom and Pat at the top of the Aitana.
A quick top of water, and briefing from Noz about what was to come.

During the 6 days of riding I managed to clock up 365 miles and over 1300tss which is massive for me. I was definitely feeling it on the last morning, and chose to take a rest rather than head out as the weather wasn’t looking the best, with really strong winds.

I packed up the bike and while I was genuinely happy to be leaving and getting back to the UK and life other than riding bikes, I was also a bit gutted to having to go back to crap weather and traffic clogged roads of London!

All in all it was a superb week, which I’ve definitely not done justice to on here!

First Season Review

I began the year with the below set of aims, having essentially no experience of road racing.

  • Get to Cat 3
  • Start to be in the mix in Cat 3
  • Get some TT’s under my belt and improve on my 23:28 10 time from 2014
  • Race the relay bike leg of Outlaw Half (Entered solo, but switched to relay entry)
  • Race lots and have fun!

Looking back at those just highlights to me how little I really knew at the time, even after several races as a 4th Cat, the dizzying heights of 2nd Cat racing seemed as if it was on another planet altogether. Thankfully with the help and support of a fantastic club and bunch of people in Paceline I was able to knock off all of those aims and much much more. And I’m almost certain that without the club, I would probably given up long before the end of the season.

My first racing season started fairly quickly after the start of the year. Having had the majority of the winter off the bike thanks to the hangover of triathlon, my then chosen sport, fitness was fairly hard to come by. I worked reasonably hard by my then standards through December, and by January the numbers were improving.

My first couple of races showed me I was in at least reasonable shape, and I quickly felt that I was ahead of the bunch so to speak in 4th Cat, which showed as after 3 races I was promoted. A 36th in my first race followed by 8th, then 2nd, and exactly enough for the 12 points required. All from within the confines of the Hillingdon winter series, and within the month of Jan my first aim for the year ticked off.

The rest of the season was where the learning really began though, and I started to try and take notice of race tactics, something which was pretty much absent from 4th Cat racing.

Without going into each race individually I think my season can largely be summed into three parts.

4th Cat into 3rd Cat

A lot of trying, failing and learning as a 3rd Cat

Eventually learning enough to compete as a 3rd Cat.

The middle of those periods was roughly across the summer, where I had a distint lack of results, certainly not through lack of racing. But I think I was pushing myself pretty hard, and had been building CTL since November ’14. This was starting to show and I was turning up to races tired and struggling. Eventually it all came to a head at Dunsfold where I didn’t even last a lap. Following this I took a week off, and began to feel better following this.

Despite feeling better I still had a couple of tactically stupid races, Sharpethorne springs to mind as does one of the Hillingdon 3/4 races I did with Sam.

The next couple of races into September seemed to run a lot better, and for me, began the next phase of the year.

Cutmill again, and my first ever win. I knew the circuit and knew I could certainly contest the sprint. Although tactically could have been better, I think I raced well, and certainly felt strong. Despite having been in a break either alone or 3 up for the majority of the race, I still had the legs to outsprint my group of 5 as it was at the end, and hold off the bunch for the win. Definitely a highlight of my season, and probably of my sporting acheivements so far.

This was backed up by a further win a week later at Hillingdon. A win which had been alluding me there, but done so in the manner I’d always wanted to win, a 20min solo break to cross the line first. Such a great feeling. Suddenly my season changed from having been average results wise, to having learned/trained, gained enough confidence to start getting results. This also brought with it the idea that a 2nd Cat licence was within reach, as after my two wins I was only 8 points adrift.

I had high hopes for the next couple of races, being that it seemed I’d turned a corner but they weren’t really playing to my strengths. An E123 at Lee Valley, and a 3rds only at Lee Valley. The latter of which I could have had a result, but being hesistant to sprint on that circuit with 40 others put paid to that.

Which brings me up to date with my latest races SERRL 2/3 at cyclopark. 2nd place and my 2nd Cat licence bagged. Very pleased to manage 4th to 2nd in one season, as I was conscious I was only getting one chance to do it, and with a month to spare! I’m still actutely aware it was from a race with a small field, most of which were 2nd Cats. I’m inclined to think I’m still not going to be at the sharp end of 2nd Cat races for a while to come, but we’ll see.

The following day was an Ottershaw E123 RR, and I was not feeling the best, following drinks the night before as well as the SERRL crit in my legs. I just aimed to get round, but ended up being dropped after 90 mins hard racing. And so the end of my racing season.

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS?

My first win at Cutmill, then my further win a week later at Hillingdon. Also a big highlight was the early season training camp in Spain.

SEASON LOWLIGHTS?

Turning up to one of my target races for the year completely overtrained and fatigued (Dunsfold 3rds). Only lasted a lap before DNF’ing. Really disappointing.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY?

Hillingdon 3/4 race which Sam and I entered late in the season. Went into the race with tactics set to firm against a relatively weak field. Had we attacked from the start and worn the bunch down, I’m almost certain one of us could have won.

BIGGEST LESSON LEARNT?

You can be the strongest rider in any race and still come last if you are tactically poor. Plenty of times this season I’ve raced in a way which has been stupid tactically. Something which I improved upon late in the season.

All of which leads me nicely onto my aims for 2016. I ticked off all of my 2015 goals, so here’s hoping these are resonable and acheivable.

  • Train all the way through winter, build more consitency and volume
  • Justify my 2nd Cat licence with a 2/3 win
  • Sub 21 min 10TT
  • Ride better tactically, feature in more sprints
  • Pointless one – Sub 15min RP lap
  • And should probably be looking to lose 5kg, but I tried and failed that this year, so we’ll see.

Hoping I can be a bit more structured and sensible with training, I don’t want to be in an overtraining situation next year, but I do want to up the volume. I’m hoping the base of this year will help me through that.

This is also a good opportunity to say some thanks to Paceline. Without the club I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have gotten my 2nd Cat license. The winter training sessions, and training camp pushed me further than I ever thought I could go, and must have been invaluable in my training. I just wouldn’t have gotten near that level on my own. Also just for the knowlegde gained. The club is full of very experienced racers, and just tapping into their knowledge, whether thats for information on circuits or tactics has also proved invaluable. Something which would have taken me years of trying and failing to come up with on my own, again I’d have probably given up long before this!

So this winter I’ll be trying to build my CTL up as much as reasonably possible, and building consistency. In terms of racing, I’m tempted to enter some winter crits at Hillingdon for Jan/Feb, but we’ll see. Following that I’m booked on another training camp in spain early March so am really looking forward to that.

Seems like a good time to give myself some aims for next year as well which are below. No excuses now!

  • Train all the way through winter, build more consitency and volume
  • Justify my 2nd Cat licence with a 2/3 win
  • Sub 21 min 10TT
  • Ride better tactically, feature in more sprints
  • Pointless one – Sub 15min RP lap
  • And should probably be looking to lose 5kg, but I tried and failed that this year, so we’ll see.

Thanks for reading!

SERRL Cyclopark 2/3 and SL Ottershaw E123

I’d raced a couple of times since my last win at Hillingdon, but nothing I’ve really found of note to write up. Both were at Lee Valley, which if you’d read this blog much you’ll know I’m not a particular fan of. One an E123, and one a 3rds only. Both ended rolling in. Should really know better than to go back there, but I guess its still a good (albeit expensive) training session.

After having been away for a superb week in the US for a friends wedding, I came back to the UK probably several kilo’s heavier having lost plenty of watts amongst the endless beers, and american culinary offerings. Incredible fun at the time, but quite literally sobering when it feels like you’ve lost 100w on your first ride back.

Still, I had a week to get some sort of form back before two races at the weekend. Surprisingly it took me all week to even feel reasonable amongst the jetlag. I barely trained owing to a busy week with work, so just rode the commute a few times and managed a handful of Regents Park laps. Probably helped in keeping the legs fresh for the weekend.

SERRL Cyclopark 2/3

Benoit of Paceline asked if anyone else was up for this one on the forum, being my favourite of the London circuits, and a good opportunity for some late season points I entered with him. We arrived at the circuit in good time, with the weather forecast for rain, it looked like it was going to hold off, conditions aside from this were reasonable. Not too cold, or windy for the time of year.

It was set to be a small field with just 7 entered online, and a further 7 EOL, certainly a good chance to place well. The 14 of us lined up and set off with the race set to be an hour. Pace was initially fairly quick with a couple of attacks going off in the first few laps, several of which I chased down, with the rest of the bunch not too interested. After a couple of laps I heard the unmistakable sound of an innertube going, and unable to look round couldn’t tell who it was, the next lap round I saw Benoit walking his bike back to the start, which must have been gutting. The next lap I saw a couple of other guys dropped off the back so we were down to a bunch of about 9 now, obviously just a finish now would guaruntee points.

The pace continued pretty strongly for the next few laps, thanks to a couple of strong attacking riders. I tried to economise my effort and sit in a little more, conscious I probably didn’t have much in the way of endurance, having done nothing long recently. After 30 mins of racing the pace slowed noticeably, and varied between an absolute cruise, and all out attacking. At this point everyone was essentially just watching each other, managing any attacks, and waiting for the sprint. I felt ok with this given the finish kind of suits me here.

Over the next 10 mins the rain really began, and the dry track soon turned fully wet, so I was being mindful not to bin it on any of the fast corners, and generally keep out of trouble, while trying to avoid a face full of spray.

With 5 to go the pace unusually remained steady, as it did until 1 to go when two guys attempted to up the pace and drop everyone, I was moving between sitting 3rd or 4th wheel so seemed well placed. Into the last couple of corners with a good placing, I was feeling good for the sprint. The pace really picked up the through the last corner, and up over the bridge, then a couple began their sprint as soon as the track fully straightens. I was initially passed by a few riders before starting my sprint properly, I knew then I was making good ground, and a reasonable placing looked likely. The sprint was longer than usual with the line near the crest of the hill. My legs were burning now, but I kept smashing the pedals and managed to pass the 2nd and 3rd riders a good few metres before the line to just take 2nd place, and exaclty the number of points needed to get a promotion to 2nd Category! Very pleased with that. (Some good sprint numbers too, 614w for the last minute, and 1100w for the last 14s to the line).


Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/419277297
Avg Power: 258w
NP Power: 319w
Avg Speed: 23.2mph

SL Ottershaw E123

The very next day was my first race as a 2nd Cat (albeit unofficially). Prep was particularly poor having been out for several drinks to celebrate the 2nd Cat result. I woke with just enough time to get ready, but not enough to grab any gels or food for the bike. In my mind I knew the race would be seriously tough given several Elites would be there, and a strong field overall. My first aim was to just stay in touch for an hour, and anything after would be a bonus I figured.

Typically things got off to a seriously fast start, with the race being held on the short Kitsmead Lane circuit (10 laps) followed by 8 laps on Staple hill circuit.

I knew straight away I was going to be hanging on, as the sprints out of each corner were seriously tough, and I was maxing out just to stay in the bunch. With 20mins of the first half hour averaging 26mph I knew I couldn’t take too much more. Thankfully at this point a break of 5 managed to get away, with Lewis Atkins of PedalHeaven involved. As such the pace was managed by PH and things slowed down enough to get a small amount of respite. The next half hour was a bit slower as a result, but with some big surges as others tried to get up the road.

I was beginning to feel better. I saw Pat attempt a split and jumped across and past him to try and bury myself in the hopes of getting him up the road, we managed a small gap for half a lap with Andrew Davis of KW also coming across, but coming up to the roundabout at the top of the circuit, a PedalHeaven rider closed the gap and went past us as if we were stood still.

I went back through the bunch and decided to conserve and sit on for as long as I could. After the 10 laps we moved onto the Staple hill circuit after a couple of fast sweeping turns. Things picked up a bit again, and the bunch was strung out on the way down to the hairpin at the bottom of the new circuit. Having not raced it before this was all new. We rounded the hairpin safely, and looked up the road to see it incling up out of sight. I feared the worst that was about to be shelled. After 1000w out of the hairpin, settling into 350w for the several minutes up the hill I was feeling blown at the top of the hill. I managed to stay just about attached at the top, but the bunch accelerated again out of the next few corners and I was gone, out the back, race over.

I span my way back up to the finish line and watched the remainder of the race unfold. A super strong 5 man break had several minutes on the bunch by now, with a break of 3 somewhere between them and the main bunch. The 5 stayed away, with Atkins taking the sprint and Barnaby taking a super impressive 3rd place. The group of 3 split after Rob Moore went solo for an impressive 6th, and the other two just about staying ahead of the bunch, which was now a sprint for 8th place. Kudos to Pat who looked as if he was trying to get up the road several times, and to Benoit for staying in the mix until the end. Much better than I managed! Overall not too upset considering the prep and racing the day before, but I’ll need to seriously buck my ideas up for next year if I want to be competitive in those sort of races, at least I’ve got a whole winter ahead in order to make that a reality.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/420104589
Avg Power: 231w
NP Power: 288w
Avg Speed: 24.1mph

Hillingdon 3/4 – Win!

Wasn’t expecting to add another win to my results this year quite so soon, if at all!

Was planning to race the Handicap Champs Sunday, but getting a lift down there was looking unlikely, so made the decision to do a Hillingdon 3/4 on the Saturday, to at least get some racing miles in this weekend.

Arrive on time at the circuit, only for the race to be delayed an hour due to one of the Junior’s coming down, with a head injury, waiting for an ambulance. Both surprising, and concerning the length of time it took to arrive.

Eventually we were off, with our race being run at the same time as the E12. Things got off to a much faster start than last time I was here, with several attacking straight away. My legs weren’t feeling great, and so I was planning on waiting towards the end, for a late attack.

After a couple of laps I got impatient though and started attacking as well. It was quite literally strong attack after strong attack, and I was making a point of attacking every time a different attack was shut down to keep the pace high. Seemed fairly clear the bunch was tiring as the attacks seemed to stay away slightly longer each time, with the bunch really strung out for a lot of the race.

Eventually I countered another move coming out of the corners and immediately a decent gap opened up. I got my head down and drove the pace up the main straight, back through the corners, after a lap I still had a decent gap, so cracked on. Eventually after a few laps I couldn’t see the group all the way down the main straight so seemed like I had a good 30 seconds. After 4 laps on my own the 5 lap board came out. Which was a bit annoying as the briefing had told us it would be a 3 lap board and total race time of 45 mins. Nevermind. I continued to drive my pace, and got stuck into a really decent rhythm. Had a bit of a mental wobble with 4 to go as to whether I could really continue the effort, but was soon past it.

With 1 to go I was fairly sure the win would be mine as long as I kept upright, but I didn’t want to drop the pace in case. I rounded the last turn and on to the main straight still with the bunch out of sight. Approached the line and managed to get two arms in the air. Happy days. Hopefully someone took a picture of the finish this time too!

Really pleased to finally get a win at Hillingdon, as I’ve raced there a bunch, but never bettered 2nd before now, and especially pleased to win in that way, after 20 mins solo. Also quite happy with my race tactics for once, as I think I was choosing pretty opportune moments to attack.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/395547461
Avg Power: 300w (335w for 20 mins solo)
NP Power: 329w (345w for 20 mins solo)
Avg Speed: 26.4mph (26.2mph for 20min solo)

Didn’t manage to get a lift to the Handicaps, so rode down with Damien to watch the finish which was a good 82 miles in the legs. No racing next weekend, potentially a race the weekend following, but we shall see. Now have 32 points, needing 40 for 2nd Cat, so certainly within reach. Tempting to really push on and try and get it as well, as I’ll only have one chance to go from 4th to 2nd in one season, which would be an achievement.

SL Cutmill 3rd Cat – Win!!

So, if you’ve read my last couple of blog posts you’ll know I was looking forward to this race, mainly as I’d finished pretty well here last time out (10th), my best road race finish to date. That and as my last proper road race of the season, I was really keen to get a result, as I’ve had plenty of non-points scoring results so far!

For anyone that isn’t familiar, I think it’s fair to say Cutmill is one of the more selective SL cicuits. A 7 mile loop with one main climb, and the rest of the circuit pretty much rolling with very few sections of flat road.

cutmill

The curcuit starts with a gentle twisting ascent, before a flat section towards the finish line, then kicks up before the line for the main climb. After a few false flats/kicks descends through The Sands, to the hairpin at the top of the circuit. Followed by a few more rolling sections when you feel like you least want them, and a fast descent back towards the Youth centre, before turning left and starting the circuit again. 7 miles in total.

Sam and I set off to Cutmill with anticipation of what was to come. The forecast was looking ok, with potential for rain late in the race.  Still skinsuit and baselayer weather. We discussed rough ideas we had for what might happen. I mentioned that after last time out having spent a lot of energy trying to break, unsuccesfully, that I would try and conserve for the sprint. Which should suit me in theory. Sam mentioned he was keen to try and attack hard with just less than a lap to go, and try to stay away until the end.

We arrived at the hall and met up with the rest of the team, a decent contignent with Benoit, Andy L, Damien, Sam and myself. Briefly we discussed tactics, and I reiterated my vague plans. The briefing got underway, and we were warned about traffic/people on the course due to a running race that was being held, we were told things might be neutralized each lap if it was severe. Not ideal, but soon we were shuffling outside, into the cold once more.

The race got off to a steady start with just a short neutralised section to join the main loop. Things wound up a touch as we made our way towards the main climb, but the pace was managable.  First time up the climb hurt more than I expected, and my legs filled with lactic acid, but the pace slowed noticably as we crested and I was soon back on top of things again. I remember thinking though, if all of the climbs were that pace, I wasn’t sure I’d have been able stick with the bunch.  Owing to my plans, I was hanging around the rear of the group, and as we descended through The Sands for the first time, things began to get pretty hairy. There were a lot of people crossing the road as we approached, and much more traffic than usual. We were briefly neutralized, and being at the back of the bunch was made even more dodgy by the braking going on up ahead which didn’t make for a pleasant ride.

Things settled down a bit more after this, and several attacks went up the road, with nothing looking too dangerous. I tried to remind myself of my plans, as there was still a long way to go. The bunch also seemed to be descending pretty steadily, particularly on the Waverley Lane junction, which solo, would be flat out, in the bunch we were almost stopping! We were soon on our way back up the climb for a second time, the pace was a lot more manageable this time, and I actually felt able to move up the bunch on the climb, something new for me! I could also hear others breathing a lot heavier than me for a change. Second time through The Sands and yet more disruption and slowing for traffic, which was starting to seem pretty dangerous. A Southdowns rider and I mentioned how dangerous the situation seemed, and that we wouldn’t be surprised to see it abandoned.

The third climb seemed more comfortable still, and things really slowed at the top, as it seemed people wanted to catch a breath. At which point Damien attacked again, which was eventually closed up towards the village. I was keen this time through to be on/near the front, as I’d had enough of the concertina braking effect at the rear, a crash was waiting to happen in my mind, and thought the front was probably the safest place to be. Much more pleasant through the village on the front of the bunch, despite having my nose in the wind.

We approached the hairpin at the top of the circuit, Damien at the front of the bunch, while I was in second wheel. Damien kicked fairly hard out of the hairpin up the small rise, so I followed, but ended up misjudging a bit and going right past. I maintained the effort, just to keep the pace up and stay towards the front, all the way on the rolling parcours towards the left turn onto the main road back towards Elstead. I took the turn flat out and kept the effort up. After which point I noticed I couldn’t hear the usual noise of the bunch, so glanced back and couldn’t see anybody immediately behind. Despite my better judgement I picked up the pace towards a threshold effort, and began an attack proper.

Really not sure what I was thinking given my sprint plans,  but seemingly having a gap already I was keen to try my luck at least, stupid really, considering we were 18 miles in, with a further 33 remaining. I didn’t fancy drifting back to the group to go through the melee at The Sands again, and the thoughts of the race either being shortened, or the bunch being slowed through the village spurred me toward giving it a proper go, so I settled into a proper threshold effort. Occasionally glancing at the Garmin to see around 320w on the flat.

Coming up on the climb for a fourth time I was expecting to see the bunch bearing down on me, as happened last time I tried to break on this course, but looking back I couldn’t see anyone, which really made me push to build the gap further. The effort continued, and I was able to hold the pace much better through the village on my own. Soon after I had one lead car drop back into the gap, which was a first for me, and was a great motivation to keep going, as I knew it meant I had a decent gap to the bunch. This soon followed by another car dropping into the gap gave more reason to continue. But I was beginning to tire, and holding this level of effort was going to be too much all the way to the end.

Soon one of the cars pulled back out of the gap, and told me that a break of four were coming up the road, I was really tiring by this point, but knew holding onto the break was my only chance for a result besides completely sitting up and waiting for the bunch.

I looked round to see them coming up the road, and tried to meter my effort to wait for them a bit, so that I was a touch fresher as they came through. However, it happened at the worst possible time as we started the climb and I had to go pretty deep just to stay attached. I was missing turns, and just about hanging on for the first few minutes. My new break companions I’m sure not appreciating my work ethic! Soon one of the 3 bridgers dropped off to the comms car, never to return. Not sure what happened to him. So we were left with a Team Moore and a Maison du Velo, both really well represented teams, so I hoped the rest of their guys and Paceline were trying to disrupt any chasers for us.

Struggling with a gel

 

I was still finding it tough, with thoughts of a result going some way to helping, I decided to try and take another gel. Not the easiest thing in a break, which was proved when half of it ended up on my left hand rather than in my mouth. Made for changing from drops to tops exciting as whenever I tried to move my hand it would stick to the bars and pull them left! Soon I was feeling a bit more useful, and was able to come through and do my fair share on the front. Team Moore and I worked the downhills, as the Maison du Velo guy was on Junior gearing, and so spinning out. We seemed to be working fairly well together.

Penultimate time through the small lane before the climb the three of us encountered two horses, I knew this was potentially a good thing, as we passed with minimal disruption. A chasing peleton would have much more trouble passing as easily, so I hoped this would help us consolidate further!

We were given a time check of around 35 seconds, which seemed pretty meaningful. I was making sure I did my turn well before the climb began so I was as fresh as I could be for that effort, and managed to stay attached, at which point we were slowed up to keep the gap to the peleton, due to them being held up by the horses.

Round the hairpin one last time and the effort was really showing on all of us, despite having been given a gap of 45 seconds, our pace was slowing to such a degree I was beginning to get concered that we’d hold off the bunch for the remaining 5 miles. I was having to really concentrate to pull a turn on the front, and get us down to the winding lane at the bottom of the course. Once through the twisting lane section, I was confident the impending finish would spur me to find some energy. Soon the other lads in the group shouted we were about to have company. I feared the worst and assumed it was going to be the bunch. I quickly glanced round and saw Sam, and Benoit coming through, and assuming they were with the bunch I couldn’t bring myself to look round fully. I couldn’t face all that effort having been for nothing, thinking we were about to be swamped. At this point I could only concentrate on the wheel in front.

Benoit and Sam were quickly at the front of our group, and being fresher showed as the pace picked up noticably. I just pushed myself to stick as near to the front as I could, and as we rounded the last junction towards the finish I worked to hold Sam’s wheel as he put in a solid turn on the front. All I could think of was to try and hold something back for the climb and the sprint, as I just couldn’t take going home empty handed after so much effort.

Sam leading us into the last mile

 

Chasing Group

 

Sam flicked his elbow, but I really didn’t want to be on the front leading up the climb so maintained my effort, at which point the Junior came to the front to lead the group. Soon out of the saddle I felt ok, and could easily match the MdV’s pace, I was just keeping one eye/ear behind me just waiting for someone to come flying past, towards the top of the climb I was still feeling like I was holding back for the sprint. I shifted a couple of gears, and opened up initially doing around 700w building to 1000w as I was shifting more gears to pick up speed still. I could feel a gap building, and with Benoit shouting encouragement I glanced a look back as I approached the line to see a good amount of clear air. Enough time to cross the finish line with an arm raised, while giving a cheer, more in relief than anything else! Promptly followed by collapsing into a heap at the side of the road. Followed closely by the rest of our bunch with Sam and Benoit close behind, followed even closer by the rest of the peloton.

It couldn’t have been any nearer to getting caught but I’d done it, I’d actually won a race!

The usual post race chat ensued, but I couldn’t have been happier to have finally got a proper result from a race after seemingly so many attempts this season. My first win, and to do it in a fairly convincing way felt awesome, that and being able to share it with the rest of the Paceline guys, knowing that without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.

Which leads me nicely to being able to say thanks to all the other Paceline guys racing, I’m sure you all did a good amount of disrupting the chase which meant the break could work. And massive kudos to Sam and Benoit who’s successful bridging move was in all likelihood the difference between us getting caught or not. That injection of pace came at exactly the right time. In all a great result for the team. One of the comments on my Strava feed really summed it up and made me happy, especially to hear from another competitor, which read “You and the Paceline team really showed the peloton how it’s done today. That’s a great team effort. Planned or not you guys should be very proud. The break won it today!” Proud, and couldn’t be happier with that result, and the break did, just about hold on. Even better that both Sam and Benoit were in the top 6, with Andy and Damien rounding out the top 15.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/391267139
Avg Power: 257w
NP Power: 312w
Avg Speed: 23.0mph

Tough race in terms of power numbers, 311w for 30 mins while I was on my own. Those 2×20 sweet spot rides must be doing something!

What’s next? My racing season isn’t fully over yet, but it’s certainly drawing to a close. So much so that sensibly getting enough points for 2nd Cat is probably out of reach at this point, not that that’s a bad thing. I think I’d probably get a better start next year going in at 3rd Cat, rather than potentially being out of my depth with the 2nds. Next week is the SL Handicap Championships, can’t see I’ll get much of a result, other than being of assitance to the other Paceline guys, and getting some good training out of it, but we’ll see. After that I’ve not got any further races planned, but may do some crits if I feel like it. Aside from that I’m still hopeful for getting into winter track league, but again, we’ll see.