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.”
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!