Surrey League May 3 Day and Bournemouth Jubilee Wheelers 2 Day

Bit of a stage race themed update this time.

When I set out at the end of last year I had a number of key races and targets I’d discussed with Tim, one of those was my main target again for the year, the May 3 Day. Coming in toward the race it seemed like I was pretty much peaking at the right time, I’d had a decent showing at a few races and probably felt the best I’d felt racing in the Staple Hill Handicap the week before.

The week of the 3 day though, I ended up taking Thursday afternoon off work as I just felt completely fatigued, then come the weekend I woke up with a horrible feeling dry throat and just felt generally under the weather not strong enough to be riding well. To make matters worse, I had put off getting ready for the race so I was rushing around in the morning getting generally stressed, and to compound it further couldn’t find my race license. I ended up leaving late, and on the way down to the race I considered turning around and going back to bed more than once. I persevered and drove on to the HQ, but for the first time driving toward a race I could tell I just didn’t want to be there, I didn’t feel present and everything felt a bit weird, almost as if I was on autopilot or operating in 3 person, all a bit odd. The usual mild nerves and anticipation just wasn’t there, I just wanted to get it done with the hope I could maybe last stage 1 and possibly feel a bit better the next day.

Anyway, I got to the HQ and signed on which I managed to do with a pdf British Cycling had sent me a while ago, luckily the comms accepted it and I got my race numbers to pin on. I carried on getting ready and rolled up and down the road feeling very average. Paceline had just myself and Pat, which in itself was disappointing enough. Pat normally does well and it’s a shame to not have a proper team out to help him. Before being ill I was hopeful of a good showing in stage 1 at least. As it was things got underway and I was just about fine sat in the bunch but I definitely wasn’t going anywhere else fast. A few riders got up the road and got a good gap, so things slowed in a the bunch a bit and I just kept hiding in the wheels, trying to keep my average as far under 200w as possible.

Photo credit: Gary Wyatt

After a few more miles the race was stopped for riding standards, at which point a fellow rider pointed out the tyre sealant all up the back of my frame (I’d switched to tubeless for the race with the aim of avoiding punctures). The tyre seemed to have sealed so I left it at that. In hindsight, with the race stopped I should have got a new wheel from neutral, but as it was I left it. 1 lap later the wheel went soft and was losing pressure. I pulled over for neutral, who were a long wait away helping another rider. Eventually got a new wheel and got going, with a bit of help from the neutral van, but I was half a circuit away from the bunch so after 10 mins at threshold I sat up. With motivation and a will to be there at an all-time low, I rolled back to the HQ and just packed up and went back home to bed, one season goal in the bin after a good few months training. Quite tough to swallow. Still, it was a bank holiday weekend and the weather was sublime, so I took the rest of the weekend as rest and went back to see my parents with Saima which was nice and relaxing. I did ride once, but still felt completely empty so just left it there for the rest of the weekend.

After a week taking it pretty easy, I was back to full health and riding again looking toward the weekend of the 12th-13th. I’d booked in another stage race, this time a 2 day affair with 2 stages on day 1 (a hill climb and a road bike TT) and a hilly road race on day 2, this time down near Bournemouth. Pat and Benoit also signed up.

I was a bit concerned running into the race that after peaking toward the 3 day, and having spent a fair amount of time racing rather than training that I’d lost some fitness, and especially so after not having ridden the previous weekend. The sessions before the weekend my legs felt like they weren’t really responding and any big effort felt beyond me. I wanted to start anyway as the first two stages looked very well suited to me.

We got down there early Saturday and Benoit and I rode the stage 1 hill climb. The course couldn’t have really been any more suited to me if it tried. Just 0.7miles in length, 2/3rds of it a fast flat run into a short hill at the end. Basically vo2 max followed by a 30s anaerobic sprint up the hill. We rode it twice before going to wait for our start times. As I queued up I felt relatively confident I could do something useful. I set off and got tucked in whilst holding onto a high tempo towards the hill, conscious to hold back before the road kicked up, as soon as I rounded the bend and saw the hill I basically just sprinted for the line, finishing in 1.49. eventually this would turn out to be good enough for 2nd place, 3 second behind the leader. A good result for me! Pat was a little way behind in just over 2 mins, as was Benoit.

Photo credit: Eamonn Deane – local riders local races

The next stage was a 9.4mile road bike TT, riding the course as a recce before the race it was a little bit rolling but with nothing too steep and so again looked fairly well suited to me. Benoit and I stopped off at a pub near the start to have lunch and refuel before getting ready for the TT. I rolled around and watched a few riders finish whilst warming up, only to see one of the main contenders (number 4, zach bridges) come in behind number 8, meaning he’d lost a chunk of time. Eventually it was my time and I set off getting low as possible, the course felt pretty quick in places, my watts weren’t great. I’d managed over 365w for 20mins this year so far, but I could only seem to hold onto about 350w today. In any case eventually passed my minute man, and tried to hold something back for the finish which kicked up a bit of a hill, crossing the line in 21:03. It turned out that Zach had arrived to the start 4 minutes late, but had gone almost a minute quicker than anyone else in 20:07, two other riders had broken the 21 minute mark with 20:40s, then I was tied with George Skinner at 21:03. Remains to be seen how they treat the results but I’m classing that as joint 3rd given zach should have been given a 4 minute penalty.

The comms deliberated on the penalty, and in the end decided to give him a 1:45 penalty, reasons for this time specifically seemed difficult to fathom, but that’s how it went. So as it was, after two stages I was fourth on GC, with Pat in 10th ish after he’d done a longer 21min TT with Benoit a fair way further down. All to play for for the 3rd stage. Realistically I had hopes of just getting round. The circuit was seriously tough looking with now flat, just up of down.

As it turned out after a neutralised period the first time up the hill, the race started fast and was lined out pretty much from the gun. The descents were fast, and the climbs pretty sharp and at pace. I knew I was out of my depth unless the race would slow up a bit which never seemed to happen, then on the 3rd time up the hill I just couldn’t hold the wheel in front, despite getting out of the saddle several times to try and sprint to hold it along the false flat. I was done. I rolled another lap and then headed back to HQ with Benoit, who had basically been off the back from the gun. A bit disappointing to end that way, but realistically without being 5kg lighter I hadn’t a hope. I’d got some good results and points on the earlier stages so I had to be reasonably happy.

Photo credit: Eamonn Deane – local riders local races

Pat managed to stay in the bunch, and then made a selection of 10 or so on the last lap, a decent ride on a circuit pretty well suited to him, which I believe put him top 10 in the GC, so a fairly good weekend for him too.

Next up I think I need a period off from racing to regroup and do some more quality training rides and consolidate a bit. But as it stands I have another Central league race on the 20th, and a road bike TT on the 16th this week. After that hopefully a reasonable period off racing for a little while.

Lingfield 2/3, Staple Hill Handicap and H10/22

A bit has happened since I last wrote about the lovelo-cinelli race and it feels like the season has kicked off properly now. After that race which was pretty grim weather wise I realised I went pretty deep during the race and sure enough picked up a cold in the days immediately after. Annoyingly it wasn’t the sort of cold that was gone in a few days, but seemed to linger on for a long time with a horrible chesty cough. I ended up taking 5 days complete rest which was hard enough, but in hindsight may have prolonged it a bit by not resting more, but given the form I felt in that RR I was keen to not let all of that fitness fall away. I then managed to get a reasonable weeks riding in before the next race the Lingfield 2/3. I’ve written a fair bit about this race before as its one of my favourite circuits to race on, where the circuit really does have a bit of everything.

Lingfield 2/3

After the Lovelo-Cinelli race I was a bit nervous for this Surrey league one. I knew the field was going to be a bit stronger, but also knew I should be feeling good too so wasn’t too sure what to expect. Paceline had a good number of riders, although a lot of them won’t mind me saying they were just hoping to “get round”. Pat was in attendance though and seemed likely to be up there toward the end. After a longish neutral things kicked off and we were lined out straight away for a half a lap before on one of the false flats the bunch split completely in two. I was one of the last riders across and was confident enough to let the gap open before jumping across and looking round there must have been around 30 or so riders left in this group such was the pace. I then used one of the following descents to shoot through the pack to the front where I was carrying enough speed to get out on my own, so I got my head down and had a go at building a gap, which managed to get up to a few seconds, before I saw the lead car pull over. Someone in the bunch had scraped a car and the whole race was paused which allowed everyone back together. In a way although a good number of Paceline riders were in the group, sure would have been interesting to see the race unfold like that as I’ve never seen such a big group get gapped like that. As it was, after the stoppage we eventually got going.

Either way, eventually we got back going again and as I was in front with the lead car I turned up the pace to see if I could force the gap again which seemed to work, but I did it leading into the bottom of the climb, which was followed by one of the Southdowns riders putting in a big attack. For some reason I decided to go with him, which for me meant 540w for 2 minutes which is 1w off a pb. What’s interesting this year is firstly basically a power pb up a climb, secondly in a road race, and thirdly backed up by 5 minutes at 400w which are all best numbers for the year. The last time I did 541w for 2 minutes was a standalone 3 minute hill climb… Needless to say I was feeling fairly strong. However, despite having a good gap at the top of the climb we were slowly brought back by the bunch and after a good chunk of work with the attacking and getting nowhere I decided to just sit back in the bunch for a bit as I was burning matches for nothing as it stood. Pat was having a go at the same time so sat on the front and set a bit of false tempo whilst watching Onyx attacking each other.

On the next lap on the back half of the circuit I countered a move which had just come back. Instead of getting up and doing the big sprint to try and jump a gap I decided to switch to the other side of the road and have a bit of a seated effort which saw me slip away pretty effectively and start building a sizeable gap. I was hoping for strong company to bridge up, and not long after had a southdowns rider come through and give some good turns, but I ended up gapping him on a descent and subsequent hill so he sat back up and let the bunch catch. By this point I had a good gap and couldn’t see the bunch behind. After a few more miles an Onyx was bridging across so I sat up and waited for him, only for him to blast past. I said to him lets ride together etc, put in some solid turns and build the gap. Not sure what this meant to him but for me it meant steady on the hills where we aren’t going to be making up time on the bunch and then good pace on the flats/descents where hopefully we are. Instead he insisted caning it up the inclines, which after a few miles saw me going too far into the red, which basically meant with 10 to go, and the bunch back in sight behind us I pretty much exploded on the climb and sat up, letting the bunch past. I rolled round the remaining miles and cruised in the finish with Max of Paceline.

In all, bit of a shame when I felt as strong, in hindsight I should have known solo wasn’t going to work and gone back to the bunch to wait for a stronger group, but that’s easier said than done. I’m fairly certain I’d half been there at the end had I not gassed myself mid race as the finish hill kind of suits. There’s another Lingfield race mid season so another chance to have a go.

Staple Hill Handicap.

The next race was a bit impromptu, I hadn’t planned to race but after feeling good at the weekend and coming away with nothing I was keen to have another go. The course was supposed to have been Kitsmead lane, but due to roadworks was changed to Staple Hill a course I’m not hugely fond of, as it’s around a 6 min lap with a couple of minutes climbing each lap which for me really takes it out of me after a few times.

Again there were a good number of Paceline present, however most got seeded in the group ahead of me.

Three groups went off before mine, and I was with Isaac Pucci (winner at Lingfield) and a few other strong looking riders. After the comically large gaps we got let go and Pucci absolutely let rip which out of the gates was quite hard to follow, but I closed him up and as a group we worked fairly well riding very fast. Annoyingly and I’m not sure whether it was purposeful or not but Pucci kept surging through ridiculously, to the point where he’d get about 2 or 3 bike lengths up the road before being dragged back by us. Up the climb the group were strong and I was on the limit to stay with them, but able to put strong turns in elsewhere. After 3 or 4 laps we closed on the big group, and so there was just one group up the road. Annoyingly this slowed our group up as we sat in a bit, but then we decided to just pull through. However all this meant was our group of Pucci and the other two/three guys pulling big turns and about 10 others including a few Paceline just sat on unable to come through. The next few laps I tried to force it a few times and get the gap but everything was being closed, despite no proper turns being pulled by the train behind. Eventually the last lap came and still no sight of the final group, and so Pucci took a flyer and went solo to end up finishing 2nd. I was right on the limit with my HR up at high 180s I couldn’t follow and so stayed in the group. On the final run down toward the finish hill I had another try at getting a gap to help on the final hill but nothing was getting away. Not that it mattered too much anyway, as I rounded the last corner and then started what felt like the longest sprint ever, up the hill. By this point with 1k to go the final group were in sight and I was closing on a few. I managed to hold the rest of the group behind me and round a few stragglers from the lead group to cross the line 9th.

Although by itelf not a stand out result this was by far and away the strongest I’ve ever felt in a race. Sounds a bit odd but while I felt on the limit I also felt I could go over the limit to chase and close when required but also able to get enough micro recovery when needed. A feeling of fitness I’ve never quite gotten to before, and one I hope lasts! Was pretty chuffed to have ridden that hard and come away with at least something of a result and a whole BC point! In the end I’d averaged 330w for just under an hour and 371w NP which I was happy with, and bodes well for upcoming races. The power curve was close to bests across the durations for 2018. I can confidently say that in any other year I would have absolutely been binned a couple of laps before that finish such was the pace, but with my current fitness I was able to pull through which was pretty cool. Anyway, I’m not sure if I’ll bother doing any more handicaps. They’re some of the hardest racing I’ve done which is good, but they just aren’t honest enough in the sense you’re entirely at the mercy of the handicapper which I’m not really a fan of.

🤔

H10/22

The weekend after the Thursday was due to be another crack at the H10/22 TT, the same course as the good Friday race. Unfortunately the weather was set to be pretty poor. Windy, cold and just generally not quick conditions. I was still keen to race as I’d made a number of not insignificant changes I wanted to test. I arrived in better time this race and warmed up for a good 15 minutes which also had to include a few emergency saddle height changes which wasn’t ideal as I tried to keep warm in the single digit temps.

Eventually I set off from the start and as I entered the DC at the start and saw four stopped cars on the road and something in the road. Was ready to stop assuming the worst, a rider down, but turned out to be a duck and five ducklings crossing the road 😂 After a good chuckle to myself I cracked on, but once again my power meter seems to be allergic to the requirements of TT and had given a low battery warning before just not reading. I knew the legs felt good so I just tucked in and tried to ride as hard as I could. I got to the turn in around 10 minutes but wasn’t really sure whether I was on pace or not as the weather was set to be tailwind out headwind back. On the way back in the power seemed to come back to reading numbers like what I was expecting, but I wasn’t really sure whether to trust it or not so basically I just tried to ignore it. Normally on this course the last two miles is super quick, but into wind it was a really sufferfest after the roundabout. I just about clung on to finish in 19.58. In the conditions I wasn’t too upset with that, and ended up being good enough for 3rd. I’m sure in decent conditions I can get closer to an 18 on this course having found what I think was another 20s recently with hopefully a few more changes to come.

All in not a bad few weeks racing. Upcoming is the May 3 Day, followed the weekend after by another 2 day stage race (hill climb, TT, and road race) in Bournemouth. With my current fitness I’m fairly sure I can at least get something out of both, but with just Pat and in for the 3 day it may have to be raced a little differently than years previous. Still, looking forward to it.

Good Friday H10/22 and Lovelo-Cinelli 2/3/4 Road Race

Good Friday H10/22

As mentioned in my last update I had this H10/22 Good Friday TT marked down as my first proper DC event of the year. I did the event last year and it ended up being my first 19 (19:55), so I knew the course was pretty quick on the right day. The weather however had other ideas, and the forecast looked ropey all week. In the end despite driving up to Marlow through the spray all the way the conditions on the road looked OK, and rain was set to hold off until later in the day. My alarm was a bit late and I ended up rushing to get up, thankfully I’d gotten for the most part ready the previous night so just had to load up the car and get on the road. Still, I arrived with just 40 mins to the start, so after getting dressed in the usual garb and getting on the road I didn’t have a lot of time. Warmup therefore consisted of a few times up and down the road, where its customary to have at least some sort of bike/kit issue. Sure enough today was no different and the PM wouldn’t pair. Eventually it did, but idiotically on my behalf I calibrated while still clipped in, and so there was a nagging doubt in my mind that the power numbers were going to be off as a result.

I didn’t have much of an aim, knowing a pb would be long out of reach, but I knew a mid 19 should be possible, given how many watts I’d found since the same time last year. I’d averaged 345w last year too, so knew on a good day I should be +20w to that. But given how the legs have felt recently I was by no means sure what I could do and being 20-30w down wouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

I rolled off the start, onto the dual carriageway and into the tuck. Initial impressions were of fairly average feeling legs. The road felt ok though and I cracked on, passing my minute man fairly quickly. The road was damp and so after reaching the turn I was overly cautious. I’d ended up averaging 344w to the turn which was a bit below expectation but not the end of the world, with the average speed at 30.5mph. Things felt a bit faster on the way back in but the legs didn’t seem to want to respond, in the end averaging 31.7mph for 349w, of which the last 2:44 was done at 391w and 32.4mph. In the end crossing the line in 19:35. I was pretty nonplussed with this as it felt pretty as per expectation. Really I should have been faster, more watts and more speed but early season and the legs seemingly still left in Spain I couldn’t be too upset.

Back at HQ the time was good enough for 5th after Ed Bradbury, Liam Maybank, Pat Wright and Haydn James. Andrew Bradbury of Paceline was also 6th so we picked up the team prize. I also picked up a spot prize and so left with £65 in prize money and three easter eggs which was a pretty good haul!

The rest of the easter weekend was dedicated to getting some decent miles in. I had entered the Saturday crit at Hillingdon, but with the road race bike in the same state as previous it was all but pointless so decided the time would be better spent training. The legs felt very poor throughout though, and I was beginning to get pretty worried about how they would feel for my first proper road race of the season at the central league on the 7th so much so that I was talking to Tim asking what might be the issue.

Lovelo-Cinelli 2/3/4 Road Race

Cycling has a funny habit of giving you a kicking before a payback when you least expect it. Post Spain, March had been an odd month. Despite a few TTs I never felt great on the bike, certainly not as good as in January, and much worse than I had expected by now post camp. In the past it had taken a bit over two weeks to start feeling really strong post training camp, when the training benefit really seemed to kick in and the fatigue wash off. However I just felt pretty ragged through the whole month. It got to the point where I was starting to think about just jacking the RR season in and doing a few TTs instead. It was hard to hit the prescribed intervals I was getting,  and even just riding around at 200w felt like a lot harder work than it should have done. I managed to put some decent miles in over the easter weekend despite the weather, which included the good Friday TT, but still felt very average on the bike, then as mentioned earlier, just when you think you’re at your lowest ebb cycling has a funny way of turning around.

In this case it was post Easter weekend, I rested Tuesday after the weekend miles, then Wednesday had a tough looking 2*30mins at 300w to do in the evening, something with the current form, I was dreading. However, I got on the bike after work and suddenly felt like a different person. I got to the park where I was planning to do the intervals, and my legs felt like nothing I’d ever felt before. 300w felt entirely inconsequential, that day I felt like I could hold those numbers forever. The foul conditions didn’t seem to matter either, nor could the fact I couldn’t feel my feet due to the wet. It was great, I reveled in the intervals and rode home to bank a 50+ mile day. To say I felt like I had turned a corner was an understatement. I was now looking forward to the weekend more than ever where I had a 10m TT and my first road race of the year, a Central League RR. As the weekend approached, it turned out my TT bike would be out of action. I had a chat to Tim about considering doing it on the road bike, but made it clear I wanted to do well in the RR, so we decided to DNS with apologies the TT and go into the road race feeling well, which definitely turned out to be the right decision.

Declan of KW offered a lift for Sunday’s race which was very much appreciated, but it still meant a 5.45am alarm to get up and out to Buckinghamshire for the 8.30am start. The race ended up being delayed by 30mins due to a locked village hall, which thankfully meant getting ready and warmed up was a bit less rushed. Warm up consisted of 10mins up and down the HQ road. I could feel the legs still felt strong so I was quietly pretty confident of getting something from the race. Now, I’m not a superstitious person but at sign-on I was given the number 77 which immediately reminded me of last year’s Nat 25, where I had a very good day, funny coincidence maybe, but it certainly didn’t dent the quiet confidence.

Anyway, the race would be a bit different to Surrey League races (These are usually held on 5-10mile circuits with a few left hand turns at small junctions where flag bearers aim to give the field safe passage). This course instead was across a 25 mile lap, involving a number of both left and right hand junctions, and so traffic would have to be stopped entirely. The upshot of this was firstly the majority of riders wouldn’t know where on the lap they were, secondly there were numerous spots to attack and get out of site and thirdly things were generally just a bit more interesting than knowing every inch of a 5 mile lap after 15 odd laps.

The race kicked off after a short neutralised section and it was immediately apparent the circuit in places was a potholed mess. The org did a good job of marking the holes with paint, but in the bunch at times it was hard to avoid the worst of it as they were spread across the width of the road, and a few seemed like full on bike breakers, never mind puncture causing. Fairly early on there was a big crash with 15 or so riders down, in ditches and all over the road. Having been at the back I managed to watch it all and pick my way through the carnage to chase back on. The race was then neutralised again for what felt like an age. Annoyingly though it was done so at a fairly quick pace, so it wasn’t exactly just sitting on. Eventually the flag was dropped again and the racing began proper. Still feeling good I was keen to get into a move, but it felt early. Despite this I saw a few strong looking attacks and either joined or tried to jump across, but at this point things were quickly being brought to heel by the fresh bunch. In hindsight I probably did too much at this point, as I retired to the bunch for a bit of a rest after feeling the lactic build up a bit much. This meant that after more miles of attacking the bunch seemed to be getting a bit more tired and had let a group of three gain a good gap. Given the feelings I was getting from the legs after a bit of time I kept asking myself how I could get a result out of the race, and given this break the only option seemed to be bringing it back, or trying to get across to it without the bunch in tow. Interesting to start thinking like this during a race, as a lot of times previously the mental effort has mainly been full of thoughts on survival, and maybe when to attack.

Anyway, after a bit of rest I tried a few more attacks and the elastic just wouldn’t seem to break, until just as a move was being brought back one rider rolled through looking strong, which turned out to be Myn. We had a very small gap but I could see he was riding strong so we worked together and just drilled it. I shouted encouragement to just keep going as I could see and feel the bunch starting to let up. Slowly but surely we just edged away from the bunch riding very hard. We were joined by one other and the three of us pulled good strong turns where I was comfortably rolling through at around 370w+ to help build the gap about 35 miles into the race.

After about 5 miles of riding we had the break within closing distance and after a few big turns we were up with them which gave us a bit of a chance to have some micro recovery. I was pretty confident at this point that with the 6 of us joined up this was the winning move so I was putting in some pretty big turns as were the others to try and make it stick. After the initial catch the group started working well together after a bit of shouting we were all rotating nicely and building the gap. We had one hanger-on who promised he wouldn’t contest the sprint, however after the one hill on the circuit he was binned as I thought I might be at one point given how hard we were working.

At this point we still had 23 odd miles to ride, but I couldn’t work out the distance remaining at this point, thinking that the race being 2.5 laps would be somewhere in the region of 62 miles. But this mark came and went and no sign of the finish. I had added some segments on the garmin to try and remind me where we were on the course but these didn’t seem to work. We were still working well as a 5 until on a small rise I had a bit of a gap open up, so I just tried to get my head down and ride on at a hard tempo and see if I could roll away knowing the finish was close and I had nothing to lose given how I felt still. Eventually I was joined again by two of the others, having dropped a couple of guys who were unable to close up. Perfect I thought, with the finish to just be contested with three. Eventually the garmin ticked across 70 miles, and with no food or drink left I was getting desperate to see a finish line, but while the legs still felt like I had power I just kept driving the pace. Myn was still putting in good strong turns too, but the other rider was really sat on now, and no matter what I did I couldn’t get him in front of me. I even let Myn open up a gap, but stupidly he just let me close it up again. In hindsight I should have sprinted the gap to try and bin him but you live and learn. After what literally felt like an age, we rolled past the 500m board and thoughts turned to how/if I could get an edge.

But try as I might I couldn’t get the two riders in front of me, to the point with about 400m to go I ended up with a gap of 10 or so metres, so in the end I made the decision to just go long and try and hold on, but a few seconds into a pretty pathetic sprint I was passed by both riders. I tried to follow and close back up but ran out of road and before we knew it we were across the line. Still, 3rd place in the first road race of the season, and my best result in a 2/3 race. I had to be pleased with that and raced in a pretty convincing manner as well. The three of us congratulated each other on good strong rides. Each of us had put in a shift, and we rolled back to HQ together.

In hindsight I should have played the game a bit more, we had a big enough gap for me to really slow up and try and jump from behind, but I was confident of a longer sprint and so went early. But hadn’t anticipated just how grim the legs were after 40 miles of hard riding, so didn’t have much if anything of a sprint for the final. But all in I was very happy with 3rd and a bit of prize money. Unfortunately no photos from the race either as yet.  Encouraging set of numbers though with near to 3hrs at 320w NP and having averaged over 300w for near 1hr 40.

Next up is the Surrey League Lingfield race on the 22nd April, I like the circuit so hopefully I can hold onto these legs! Then a few weekends later is the May 3 Day stage race which is one of my main goals for the season, so looking forward to that.

Redhill 18 and Hillingdon West Drayton 2/3/4

Redhill 18

A few things to update since I last wrote here. My previous event was the KW14 which went pretty well. The week later it was the second of the usual winter sporting TTs, the Redhill 18. The course in my opinion is a fair bit tougher than the KW, with a bit more climbing and obviously more distance. I wasn’t all that hopeful of a great result, even though the field was fairly light of top riders. No Pat this week and no Pro’s in Ed Bradbury to eclipse any course records. The favourite therefore had to be Maybank, with Jamie Pine, Si Macnamara and Keith Lea of Paceline who would all be up there. The weather was a fair bit colder than the previous week, with temps knocking on the door of zero early in the morning, but having felt pretty warm in the xmas 10 (also close to zero) I decided summer attire was going to be good enough.

Anyway, the legs felt pretty decent on the warm up and so I was hopeful I could turn out some decent watts. As mentioned the course is tough, and will punish if you overcook the start as there are several miles of uphill, draggy headwind roman road to contend with close to the finish with, so I was mindful to try and really pace it, something I think I’ve gotten a lot better at recently. I had in my mind my previous years stats, so just wanted to get a good bit ahead of those and see where I turned out. (2017 – 44:16, 291w) The start is pretty quick, then into a sharp hill named Coast Hill, sadly no coasting here averaging over 6%, but peaking at what must be over 10% and with a 58t chainring meant a bit of a grind at close to 500w for the steep bit and down to 60rpm. I was mindful not to punch it too hard here for fear of going into the red. Thankfully after the hill there is a bit of respite in a downhill before a left hand turn, all of which is single lane road, which when averaging 35mph means traffic. I had a bit of a hold up behind a slow car but didn’t lose too much time, then just before the left hand turn up into the hills was when I first lost my chain. Now, I’ve been running a single 58t carbon chainring since the middle of 2017, with no problems to date so wasn’t really expecting to have any problems here, especially since the KW course is by far more bumpy, and yet no problems there. But either way the chain shipped and I couldn’t do anything but stop and put it back on. I pulled up just after the left turn and quickly put the chain back before setting off up the hill and just tried not to think about it.

Up the longer climb, which extends for about 2.5 miles the legs started to feel really good, I was keeping the watts at 340w mindful to put a bit more in the steeper sections. After this section a quick downhill with speeds north of 40mph again, and so the chain after being in the 11 cog, came off once again. This time the stop cost a lot more given it was on a fast section, then had to get back up to speed again. Again I tried not to think about it too much and just ride on for the best time I could.

The rest of the ride I just tried to shift as carefully as possible, conscious to not go near the 11t. The legs heldon and still felt pretty good into the finish ending the ride with a 43:37 and 319w. I rode back to the HQ feeling pretty gutted, faster than last year and decent watts for me, but having lost what turned out to be 1 minute due to the unscheduled stops.

In the end having got back to the HQ it turned out Maybank had worse mechanical luck than me with a jockey wheel having come loose, Keith probably had the worse of the luck with a double puncture and long walk. Si Macnamara had won with a time a minute quicker than mine…. I was second followed by Jamie Pine 7s back on me. All in a good result equalling my best, but disappointing in that it could have been my first Open win. The kicker was that looking at my bike at the end I had tubeless sealant all over the back wheel too, so thankfully that at least did its job and I avoided a puncture!

After this there where no more events scheduled until mid March. First up though was a weeks training in Spain, with CHS once more.

Not a huge amount to say aside from a great week with some of the Paceline guys racking up some solid miles most of which in the sun. Some decent wattage pb’s to boot as well.

Next up was supposed to be a 15 mile TT on the drift road course, followed on Sunday by my first road race on the suitable Kirdford course. In the end though the british weather prevailed with the forecast snow arriving which meant both were cancelled frustratingly.

Given there were now no road races in Surrey due until mid April I decided to firstly enter a couple of crits at Hillingdon, one on the 24th and the other on the 31st March as well as a Central League RR on the 8th April (2 laps of a 25 mile circuit should be interesting!)

Specialized West Drayton 2/3/4 – Hillingdon

The first of the Hillingdon races was this weekend just passed so a few words on that. I’d not raced at hillingdon other than TTing for what seemed like a few years. Being a pretty featureless place its not the most inspiring racing, but I was keen to have some race type effort in the legs before the season kicks off properly. I turned up fairly early and got ready to see a pretty full sign on sheet, only 20 or so pre registered but the field size must have been close to 70 ish on the line which is as big a group I’ve ever raced there.

Things as is customary kicked off to a quick start and we were averaging 29mph or so. The legs felt fine, and sitting in was no issue, however the big issue with was with the bike. Out of the saddle and applying watts anymore than around 700w or so meant that my chain was slipping, despite a new chain, new cassette etc. (still haven’t quite got to the bottom of why this is happening yet). Anyway, all of the above meant I wouldn’t be sprinting, and even keeping in the bunch on the small rise was a bit more difficult in the saddle. Either way, my only hope of a result was to get off the front. I moved up a few times and attempted to go, but I had to pick my moments as with no kick to get an initial jump away it was even harder. I did manage to pull a good gap at one point, and was joined by one other, but we ended up getting caught pretty quickly after just a lap clear. I tried again but with no luck, but ended up just rolling mid bunch which was pretty annoying really. Nice to get race miles in the legs (hit a new max hr for the year) but kind of a waste of time at the same time. I’m undecided whether to race the next one, I may do if the field size is a bit more appropriate, and at the very least I get my bike sorted out.

Aside from that, as mentioned the Central League race on the 7th,  and before that a TT on 30th March which should be good as the first “fastish” 10 of the year.

 

2018 Update and Kingston Wheelers Sporting 14 TT

Not written much on here for a long while. A little bit has changed since the back end of last year. I finished the year of scraping some enough points together in a Cyclopark crit to retain my 2nd cat license. The race itself was pretty grim but I felt ok throughout and was fine in the sprint to come 7th or something which was fine points wise. It did remind me how much I enjoy cyclopark, but it’s such an effort to get to. Anyway, after a holiday and a few months of taking it pretty steady I was starting to think about 2018 and the plan for next year.

2017 had been OK, great in terms of TTing improvement, but pretty shoddy on the road. I really wanted to change that for next year so many of my goals are around doing a better job there. I decided a change of coach was needed as well to help me refocus, with someone a bit more geared up to changing plans on the fly and that really understood the UK road scene. I ended up moving across to be coached by Tim Kennaugh (brother to Pete) and coach to a seriously impressive list of riders, as well as now working for the EF cannondale world tour team. I’ve really no excuses left now!

Anyway, December was an ok month of training, I was just trying to keep things ticking over and maintain at least something of a chronic load. Which was just about doable amongst all the birthdays and work Christmas do’s. I was trying to avoid the same thing as last year when I fell into a hole of non training, then had a hard time getting back into in Jan.

So January this year ended up being a really strong month. Tim was giving me a lot of hard but fairly enjoyable intervals during the week, nearly all of which was below or just beneath FTP, then long rides at the weekend. By the end of the month I’d racked up 50 hours, close to my highest of any month ever, and felt really good on the bike on the longer rides. Hopefully plenty to come in terms of FTP and anaerobic stuff but that work is to come. A few sprint sessions saw some nice pb’s as well.

So after January things started to look towards the first few events of the year with the standard pairing of the KW 14 and the Redhill 18, both sporting (hillier) TT’s held mid-January. Training into Feb was still going pretty well, but I think I was getting close to overload as I started to get very tired quite easily, so had an easier week and took a few days off in a row to try and avoid picking up any illnesses, which touch wood I’ve managed to avoid this year. So the first event, the KW14 I was starting to get pretty nervous for. Early Feb I had an FTP test booked in, where I managed to do an all-time pb of 363w (previous best of 360w, mid 2017) things were looking very positive. I’d also managed to shift some weight, down from 91.7kg at the very beginning of the year to 84kg. So in terms of the training aspect things were looking strong, especially compared to last year where I had a pretty poor January and only slightly better February. Despite this I finished 9th at the KW 14 in 2017 with average watts of around 305w and on kit much slower than I have now. So, as I mentioned I’d built myself up for it a bit, in that I was definitely expecting to be considerably faster for 2018, even potentially, aiming towards a podium.

So to 2018, handily I had time to recce the course. I know it well from having ridden it numerous times, but revisiting it each year is definitely worthwhile as a lot seems to change each year in terms of where the holes are, where to avoid things etc. So the Saturday prior I headed up with the TT bike as a bit of a shakedown and pre race ride and managed 4 laps of the course before my rear brake started to come loose (one of the aero improvements I’d made for this year was a change to the brakes, so glad I’d had time to check they were working properly and find issues like this). I promptly fixed the issue and headed home for a decent night’s sleep. Race day, the weather was forecast to be clear and dry, so was a bit annoying to have raindrops on the windscreen on the way down to the race. Thankfully the rain held off, but the course was pretty damp in parts, despite definitely not being as cold as previous years. I chatted to a few riders beforehand then set about a pretty makeshift warmup. I couldn’t be bothered to setup the turbo specifically so just rolled up and down near the start trying to open up the legs a bit, which felt pretty good, holding 300w+ didn’t feel terrible as it sometimes can. Eventually my start time also rolled around so I made my way to Hungry Hill lane, and got into the queue to get going. I was quite surprised to feel pretty nervous still as usually I’d have settled down a bit, but my HR was still up above 100bpm.

Eventually I had the 30s call, and I clipped in and was held by the starter before being let off. I immediately hit a damp patch and had a bit of a wheelspin before gaining grip again which reminded me how slippery the course was likely to be. Starting on a hill is always difficult too as its all to easy to set off at 400w+ so I attempted to keep a lid on it setting myself target watts for the hills, and lower watts for the flat/downhill sections. All the way up to the main road I felt pretty good and the course was clear bar one slight hold up of a van pulling out into the road. Then down onto the descent back towards Ripley things got pretty quick, and it was hard to keep tucked in, but aware of exactly what was coming up in terms of road surface.

On the back straight – photo credit: breakaway photography

Then before I knew it I was back down to the start and heading up Hungry Hill again, I hit the lap button and attempted to treat this like a new race all over again. Thankfully the legs seemed to feel good again while I was trying to hit 380w or so on the steeper bits of the climb, the latter part of the climb though I began to suffer a bit, and through the lanes before the main road I tried to take a bit of a breather. Then onto the main road, where looking back at the data seems I made the mistake of riding a bit too easily. Easy to look back with hindsight, but I think I lost around 10s here just by having backed off too much after the climb and not fully going for it, anticipating the small respite of the descent.

Either way, I was soon on the descent, and this time took the bottom corner in the extensions at full tilt which took a bit of a leap of faith, before the blast to the line, where I managed to put out 390w for the last two minutes, which definitely suggests I was holding back a bit too much, and probably could have done a bit more in the latter part of the race despite crossing the line gasping for air.

Said leap of faith corner. Photographer well positioned in the ditch

The garmin said something around 31:16, which initially I was a touch disappointed with, but on quick reflection was over 2 minutes faster than my time the previous year, a wattage pb (despite it being feb) as well as being 26w up. After getting back to the hall and chatting to both Pat and Liam, who were both much faster, unsurprisingly (despite Pat having slid off on the start/finish corner!) and then seeing Ed Bradbury (JLT Condor Pro) having done a 29min time it was a bit difficult to still be pleased, but my time still netted me 4th overall, 1st team and team course record winning just over £50 total, so I had to be fairly happy with that.

So all in, a good start to the season so far. Next up is Redhill 18 on the 25th, although the weather doesn’t look great. Then to try and keep the training volume up before heading off to Spain for a week’s training at the beginning of March. After that the road season….

P881R, HC Champs and season review

HC Champs

I only did one Handicap race this year when I was fairly out of shape, needless to say on a bad day I ended up getting binned. For anyone unaware, the basic premise is that groups of relevantly matched riders are set off in equal sized groups with slowest off first. The idea being that the race comes together towards the end and riders contest from there. This hinges on the handicapper giving relevant gaps and grouping riders well, as well as riders actually paying their dues and working within the group. Often there is a shirker who aim to be carried to the finish in better shape than the rest of their group, which usually makes the whole thing fall apart. “normal” handicaps are on weekday evenings and last around an hour or so, being raced like a crit.

Once a year the HC championship comes along and is the same format as above but across a longer, road race distance of 60-70 miles. This usually attracts a decent field, and is a pretty fun race with Elites down to 3rd Cats contesting the win. I raced last year, where the race came together pretty quickly and then proceeded to play out like a more typical road race. I narrowly missed making the key selection, so with a better prep I was hopeful of getting something from the race.

After signing on we were grouped up, most of the groups looked ok, with a couple of outliers, including a few strong riders in groups very close to the front. Myself and Paul were in the second last group, with Rob and Pat in the scratch group. Our group also had some strong riders, notable for the wrong reasons Tom Percival and Dan Cooper of RPR. There were plenty of other contenders across the rest of the groups. Rob had won last year, but Tom Hargreaves and a couple of other Nuun riders would be dangerous as would quite a few others.

As mentioned earlier, and I’m not sure if RPR got the memo, but handicaps tend to fall apart quite quickly if folk don’t work, and it kind of takes the fun out of it given that the gaps are based on the assumption people will ride. Eventually our group was up, and so we headed out of the car park. Immediately rotating through each rider in our group, with the exception of the two RPR. After rolling through I asked them if they planned to ride at all, to which they both happily said no. This meant the rest of the group were less than willing to really flog themselves to drag these two round.

This meant we were caught in not too much time by the scratch group, were there was another non-working RPR in Arlen. The rest of the group seemed more content rolling through so we started to pick up time on the groups up the road. After a while of riding, and having only picked up a few groups up the road, we were about halfway through the race when several riders started attacking, which was a bit bizarre given the amount of people still effectively up the road.

In the end those “attackers” we left to ride, who reached the front group, then a fairly small front group contested the finish. I forget now who even won, I watched the finish as I punctured with two to go. Nevertheless the race was probably one of the most boring I’ve done this year, frustrating for what is usually one of the most enjoyable, a shame really, again caused by the racers of RPR who I can only assume believe they’re outsmarting everyone else. Go figure.

P881R Paceline RT 10

I’d targeted two 10’s toward the end of the season as close out races, with the hope of a pb given that conditions are usually pretty settled during September. The first of which was the UTAG race, which ended up being cancelled due to the severe rain, with the second of which was Paceline’s own promotion. The weather looked very touch and go with extraordinarily heavy and very localised showers passing through the area. In the end we got away with it weather wise, and despite the rain in the area conditions looked quick. I’d made a few more tweaks and so was hopeful of recording something decent, given the PB was still 19.18 from F11/10 which was a less than perfect run.

Off I went into the gloomy weather, legs felt fine, but with the garmin having been changed position slightly I was struggling to keep on top of tracking where my watts were exactly. The way out still felt pretty quick, with my watts at 331w, not really the greatest, but not the worst. I was held up very briefly on the roundabout but nothing much to worry about. Still feeling alright and with the weather holding on I set about the return, looking at the time a 19 looked on which I was ok with. The feeling of headwind never really came, and the watts were still there. Eventually, after the midway roundabout I realised I was on for a good time as I’d already gone 8 miles in under a few seconds 15mins. Now stupidly, in my head during a TT I’ve still never managed to work out how long a mile takes at just over 30mph. But doing 2 miles in under 4 minutes seemed doable to me at the time (As it happens a 30mph mile takes 2 minutes, who knew). Anyway, this spurred me on, the thought of a long 18, so I tucked in and got my head down for the last couple of miles, averaging 340w and doing it in 3:50 at 31.6mph to clock an 18:55 which I was very very pleased with. In the end the entire home leg I managed 340w which I think is the first proper negative split I’ve really done which was also a big plus. I rolled back to the HQ to see a host of other quick times. My 18:55 was good enough for 8th, with Rob 2nd to Boyman with 18:20 (pb) and Pat not too far behind in 6th with 18:45, also a pb. This was the probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to Pat too. Those times also meant we just pipped Nuun to the team prize. All in all a great event, and great way to sign off TTs for the season. (Xmas 10 excluded).

End of Season review:

Train all the way through winter, build more consistency and volume – I kind of missed the boat on this one a bit. As my performance management chart shows I took it pretty easy through the back half of 2016, especially November to December where my CTL dropped by 20 points down to 50.  This meant I had to really ramp up in January through to March in order to get ready for training camp and then the rest of the season. This was derailed when I tried to do too much too soon and picked up a really niggling knee injury. Not the most simple of issues at the best of times, but not helped by having already had an ACL reconstruction, meniscectomy and a few other minor keyhole knee surgeries on the knee in question. I’d also started the New Year with a coach, which wasn’t being put to much use now! Through Feb I began to be able to increase the volume a bit, and the knee was just about healed again by March and the training camp which went well, even though I was still quite a bit down on CTL year on year, which pretty much carried through until early April. So, in summary, goal definitely not achieved, and I was bitten for trying to make up for lost time as well. Aim to be a lot more proactive this year, and have set out a plan to pick things up in November this year, after having a very light month in October.

Justify my retained 2nd Cat licence with a 2/3 RR Win – Definitely missed this one, best result was the beginning of the season 8th I managed which was disappointing. I raced a lot less on the road than I anticipated and wasn’t in great shape for most of the season, but was realistically never really in danger of troubling the podium. Stage 1 of the 3 day was a target but a mechanical put paid to that. Again in summary, goal not achieved, must work harder.

Short 20 min 10TT – My first major success of these goals. As talked about through the year I picked up a TT frame end of 2016 and started to build it up doing a couple of early season races where I placed ok. The breakthrough came early in season when after getting the bike how I wanted it I got close to going sub 50 on a fast 25. This was my first TT approaching 30mph and showed me that I was already fairly aero and should be aiming for sub 20 realistically. A further breakthrough came on H10/22 where I managed an early season 19:55, blowing apart my own expectations and setting me on a course to chasing pb’s through the rest of the year, and really concentrating on TTing in general. Through the year I gradually improved position most notably after a visit to aerocoach, eventually recording a 49:26 and massive wattage pb at the National 25 to finish 39th. Not long after, I then managed to get down to 18:55 on P881R. So from targeting a short 20min 10TT, I ended the year on both all-time fastest lists for 10 and 25 mile distances, which is probably my best achievement of the season.

I plan to carry on with the TTing next year, using what I’ve learnt this year and targeting some new pb’s. I’ve set out a plan of changes which have isolated a further 20w I think I’ll be able to save, with more watts I’m hopeful of a better placing in the National events (Hopefully the 10 will be nearby this year) and some strong open results. I’m still yet to win an open too, so that’ll form one of next year’s aims.

Podium again at RPTT – This year after the relative TT success that had been seen to date I chose to do the TT bike category on these in favour of the road bike. I managed 3rd in the first, behind Pat and Rob. Then 2nd in the second event after just Pat, with Rob having chosen to do the road bike category. Pretty chuffed with that, but think I should be able to go one better next year.

Pointless one – Sub 15 Lap of RP – Had a couple of runs at this in some less than ideal conditions, but managed a 14:26 midway through the year. The leader board is now populated mostly with group riders as quite a few seem to be chainganging their way round, so this seems to have lost some its shine.  I think getting close to the current KOM is very possible with some further aero work, but it also starts to feel pretty sketchy. Some of the speed needed in some of the parts of the park during open hours is very risky, and with more speedbumps this year, I’ll play this one by ear for next year.

Once more will be looking to lose 5kg, but I tried – I did ok on this one, managed to get as low as 81.5kg, from 90kg at the beginning of the year, but didn’t hold this for long. It did however coincide with peaking for the Nat 25, so I’ll be aiming to get a bit lighter still across winter.

Season Highlights: Nat 25, and P881R, for obvious reasons. Setting PB’s is always nice. Getting on the all-time fastest list for 10 and 25 TTs is also pretty cool. Surrey league TTT was also great fun, I’d done a few TTTs this year. This one was a bit more of an even though, across a grippy technical 34mile course. Keith Lea, Pat, Rob and I all rode. Keith punctured within the first few miles then I just about hung on to Pat and Rob to win from Nuun by a fair margin.

Season Lowlights: Mechanical at May 3 Day was incredibly frustrating after targeting the stage as getting a good finish, to lose it to mechanically was pretty galling. The HC Champs was also pretty disappointing for what is usually a season highlight. Taking a wrong turn at P881 was a low point as well, especially is it would have been a then PB. At least it taught me a few lessons about ensuring I know the course prior to the start.

Will be having a think about season goals for next year soon, in the mean time I’m planning to do a few late season crits to try and grab some points.

RTTC National 25m TT

I never really set out this year to concentrate on TTing, more I thought it would provide a welcome distraction from road racing. However, since I put road racing on ice after Cutmill, and I was getting some OK results in TTs I figured it may be worthwhile entering the National 25 this year. As mentioned previously it was being held on a quick course, and so not only opportune for a PB but also interesting to see where I could stack up against some of the UK’s best, and at the “marquee” TT distance of 25 miles.

My prep in the weeks running up the race wasn’t outstanding, but I had been plugging away hitting most of the sessions I’d been prescribed. I did a TTT the week before the race at Bentley with a couple of other Paceline riders and a KW rider. We won (small field) with 51 mins or so, but it was good to feel really strong on the TT bike for a change, the last turn I tried to empty the tank but still felt like I had quite a lot left, and the numbers looked ok too. The last event before the national was supposed to be a 10 on P881, but it was cancelled with the weather looking utterly dreadful.

Pre race – Quick test of a new helmet

So the weekend eventually arrived. I’d arranged to go down to visit my parents in Swindon, and my Sister and Nephew as it was his 1st birthday which was nice. Luckily it also meant a stop over and days training before heading from there to Wales on the Sunday morning. Much less of an early start than having to leave from London! After the drive there I’d arrived in pretty good time, and started to get ready. I’d made sure (learning from previous experience) to google streetview all of the junctions, so had a fairly good idea of the course as well, despite not having ridden it. Before I knew it I’d run out of warmup time and I was waiting for the start. I was actually pretty nervous for this one which makes a change for most races, especially TTs that I do. I’d built up the expectation a bit, and I really wanted a decent ride. The legs had not felt great the day before, and I’d probably ridden harder than I should have. Riding and warming up near the start the legs didn’t really feel anything. Neither good nor bad, which I think may have been a good thing funnily enough.

I’d had anecdotal advice that the course suits a hard start, due to it being rolling road, then big downhill where you can recover, then resume the remainder of the ride. This was good as typically this season it’s all I’d done, gone out hard and just about clung on. As expected I took the first mile or so pretty hard, and the legs felt very good despite numerous times looking down and seeing numbers beginning with a 4. I averaged 349 to the bypass which was just over 1.2miles, but a fair amount of freewheeling thanks to two roundabouts, removing the roundabouts sees that number closer to 365w, which is pretty much about 10m TT pace. Onto the A465 where the main of the race was I started to notice the road heading downhill but kept the power on as I really wasn’t too sure how steep it got having not ridden the course. There was a bit of a headwind which I could feel, then eventually the road really pitched downhill. Soon enough I was pretty much spinning out the 11 sprocket. Surprising given I’m on a 58t front. At this point I consciously came off the power a bit. I wasn’t exactly spinning out, but 105rpm at over 40mph was enough, and I didn’t seem like I’d be going much quicker. So I just used the time to recover slightly.

The next section of the race was largely flat with a roundabout to negotiated, not made easier by the fact that just after the hill I’d hit a rain storm and was getting soaked. The legs were feeling strong by this point, and I kept looking down to see numbers far in excess than I usually see during a 25. The next 17mins to the turn I averaged 325w, bearing in mind my best 25 mile watts to date were 309w, I kept asking myself whether it was right and whether I could maintain it, but the answer kept coming back that it felt like I could just about hold it, so I just went with what the legs said. Eventually I passed through the other side of the rainstorm to the turn at the end of the course near Neath. The roads were still fairly wet so I had to take the turn fairly slowly, but probably nothing that would cost a huge amount of time. At this point I was bloody glad of the google street viewing, and felt like I knew exactly where I was heading despite never having been there before.

Back onto the A465, this time heading back towards Aberdare, but now with a reasonable tailwind the speed started to come up slightly. The legs still felt very good as so I just concentrated on holding as much power as felt ok to. I kept looking down to see how far I had left to ride, and I kept thinking about how I only had one chance to ride a National event and to put everything into it, which was probably a pretty healthy thought in terms of power as it seemed to be working. The next 7 miles or so felt quick, and the watts had actually improved to average 328w across this section. Passing back over one of the roundabouts I saw there was a rider down which wasn’t nice, but I didn’t have time to think about that. A white Audi dithered in front of me at this point, before letting me enter the roundabout, which was kind, but also slightly annoying given I had to slow more than if he’d just driven on, again maybe a second or two hold up.

With 3 miles to go I started getting that empty feeling before you’re about to blow, but I couldn’t let that happen so just tried to think again about how I only had one chance to have a go at this and just kept my head down. I kept concentrating on the distance to go coming down, while trying to calculate what sort of time I might finish in. Sub 50 was my big marker, I felt like I was on target for this, and the speed was above 30mph which was also good. The last 2 miles I knew I was pretty much home and dry, so started to pick the power up as much as I could, then the last mile I just tried to fully empty it, doing 360w for the final two minutes to cross the line in 49:26, and my first sub 50 minute 25 mile TT.

Immediately after crossing the line I just wanted to get off my bike, so I managed to roll to a bit of Armco where I stopped and sat against to just catch my breath and recover. I didn’t feel that wave of celebration like I did when I did my first sub 20 minute 10; possibly as that was a bit of a surprise when it happened. I knew it was on the cards here, but after thinking about it I knew I’d done a fairly good ride. Watts were +10w on my previous best, and I really felt like I couldn’t have given it anything more and so I had to be satisfied with that.

Eventually I got back on the bike and had the long ride back to HQ up the hill. Having a 58t chainring for this was not pleasant, as it meant a 50rpm grind up the hill for 20minutes, which post big effort wasn’t that fun, but it meant a good opportunity to watch most of the back end of the field come flying down the hill on the other carriageway. Eventually got back to the car and packed up before driving back to the HQ to get my official time and sign out. On reaching the HQ and the results board, it was fairly evident that it certainly wasn’t the fastest of days. It was also evident that those around me (with similar qualifying times) had all ridden times longer than 50, with my ride standing out slightly which was encouraging. Eventually the results sheet came through and I’d finished 39th, which I was pretty chuffed with all in.

So that was that, my first RTTC National event, and an not bad showing all in. The 10 this year is absolutely miles away in the North, I’d like to have a go at that possibly next year. Other than that I’m now going to concentrate on getting down to a better weight for the last few road races of the year. Then Paceline have a team in for the Surrey League TTT champs which I’m also looking forward to. Feels like the season is beginning to wind down now though, so hoping I can maintain what form I have until mid Sept, and work on maintaining my 2nd Cat licence.

TTing update

It’s been a while since I last wrote, mostly for that fact that writing about TTs I find is a fairly dull affair. By looking at the start sheet you can usually tell with a fair degree of accuracy where you’re going to place, and then it just becomes about going out an executing a decent ride. The reason for such a concentration on TTs since Cutmill was a vow to try and shift some weight before racing on the road again, where I mentioned “I’ve decided to knock RR’ing on the head until I’m under 80kg again” as of writing I’m now down to 81.5kg, from 89kg at the beginning of the year, so I’m hoping I’ll be in a good place for my next RR which is Parham Park at the end of August. I’m sure that change will also benefit TTs to a degree as well. Anyway, rather than writing in massive detail the last few events I’ve done, I’ll try and just summarise for my own benefit.

F11/10

Post P881 I’d been looking forward to riding this course for a while. It’s renowned for being pretty fast given the “gift” hill halfway through the course (You go down a big hill, but not back up), so I knew a PB was likely. Thoughts of an 18 had crossed my mind, but would need the best of days realistically. Either way, my 19:55 pb to date looked sure to fall. In terms of kit I’d not really changed anything for this ride. It was a seriously hot day with temperatures getting close to 30c, so power was likely to be down on my usual. It really was like riding in an oven, full sleeved skinsuit and TT helmet made it hot work, and after 7 or so miles I was really suffering for the heat. The course itself didn’t feel as quick as I expected with a few roundabouts, but I managed to clock up a 19:18 which I was pretty happy with, and my first 31mph avg speed in a TT. Recovering was all the more difficult due to the heat! Watts were down to 333w I expect due to the heat, and my time was only good enough for 10th which was OK I guess.

H25/1

Next up was a course I’d not ridden before, a 25 on the A4, a single carriageway road near Reading with a couple of roundabouts thrown in. Not a fast course by any stretch, but a good test seeing as I’d not done a 25 for a while. Again it was a scorcher of a day with the temp up around 27c. Legs felt pretty good on the day, but the heat made me suffer in the last half and the watts dropped off to 296w average for a time of 53 flat. The field wasn’t the strongest so that was good enough for 2nd on the day and a £20 prize.

Other TTs I’ve been occupying myself with in the meantime have been some of the Hillingdon evening 10s, basically laps of the 1 and a bit mile circuit for 10.5miles or so. They run a road and TT bike category every other Wednesday night, a nice opportunity to get some traffic free TTing on the go. Due to having a bit of a rebuild on the TT bike the first I did was in good conditions on the road bike. I clocked a 22:53 and placed 2nd overall, and 1st in road bike category which I was fairly happy with. Watts still not fantastic, but the circuit really doesn’t lend well to consistent power output with quite a few corners at the top of the track.

The second I managed on the TT bike, and while faster in 22:20 the conditions were much slower but I managed to record the fastest time. Was slightly odd riding on the TT bike as it meant smashing up the hill at over 400w, coasting through the corners and then smashing the back straight again. As a result the watts were low at 317w, but with NP closer to 350w. It was also a first chance to try a new saddle for the TT bike, the same one I use for road bike, but I think it meant saddle height was slightly too high, which could have also cost some wattage. It was also the first chance to try a new chainring. I’ve now moved across to an Aerocoach ARC single front ring in 58t size. It’s fairly massive but means improved chain line and means I can ditch the front mech. Which I’ve now done, and at the same time moved back to a mechanical dura ace rear mech. All of which should mean >5w of aero saving and quite a bit of weight saved too. Too early to say if that yields much of an improvement until I get on a proper TT course.

Mens National 25

I decided fairly early on I was going to try and ride this year’s National 25. It’s being held on one of the faster courses, the famous R25, with another gift hill. My E2 time of 50:40 was enough to comfortably qualify and so I’m down mid start sheet. Hopefully I can give a good showing there and with decent watts I’m somewhat hopeful of being able to get a good amount under 50mins for a 25, and so a good opportunity to get on the all-time fastest list, and see where I stack up in the grand scheme of things UK wide, hoping I can at least be in the top quarter or so. But we’ll see how that goes, and whether or not that is realistic.

RP TT 2 and Surrey League Cutmill 2/3

After last time out at the RP TT I was pretty chuffed to get 3rd on the podium in the TT category. This time out the field was minus Rob (2ndPlace in TT last time). He’d elected to have a crack at the road bike category for this week. It was therefore clear that in theory I should have my eyes set on 2nd Place. Pat, the previous winner is realistically far too strong for me to compete with on such an undulating course. So that was the mindset going in, realistically nobody else looked too dangerous. Stuart Spies of Dynamo is strong, but perhaps not as aero, and my recent times were faster. My 30s man Neil Grunshaw looked ok too, but having put over a minute into him last time out I felt more than comfortable that all being ok, I should in theory be nailed on for a podium at the very least.

The week’s training leading up to the weekend hadn’t been ideal. On Wednesday I ended up too tired after a longer than usual day at work to hit some good intervals. Then Thursday was a rare day in Richmond Park with great conditions for a fast anti clockwise lap. One of my pointless aims for the year had been a sub 15 minute lap which I’d managed with a 14:47 earlier in the year, which was still standing as fastest lap of the year. A few other Paceline lads had been out in the morning, and in a chaingang had gotten to 14:49, which was pretty close! So given the better than last time conditions, I decided it was worth another TT effort. I’d also changed position since last time so was keen to see if that had made any impact. Anyway, long story short I managed a 14:28. Into 9thon Strava out of 40,000 or so. Only two of those ahead are solo laps I believe as well, so that’ll do for now. No doubt Sharland will be along soon to kick that into touch.  The upshot of that was though, that I’d done the same watts as previously (prior to position update), so there was a thread of hope I’d recovered lost watts.

RPTT.

As usual the early alarm went off, 5:30am. Too early to think about eating, so it’s just case of getting up and out with a coffee and a gel. Legs felt pretty nice on the way to the park and 250w or so felt very easy which is always a good feeling. The conditions weren’t as good as two weeks ago, with a bit more wind, overcast and with a few wet patches on the road. I got prepped and warmed up then headed down to the line thinking I had plenty of time, ended up I’d arrived just as Neil, my 30s man was setting off, so about as perfect timing as it gets, but a bit close for comfort!

I set off and quickly settled into the bars. I tried to maintain about 340w but was quite hard to keep the watts down at the start. In towards Sawyers hill the going felt a bit tough, with less than ideal wind. A dawdler at Sheen gate cost me a few seconds as he was making a VERY slow turn, such that I had to come out of the bars and sprint back to speed. Still, the legs felt good so I just kept my head down. Onto Sawyers hill I could already see Neil clearly in front of me which was good bait to chase. By Richmond gate I was on him, I was tempted to stick it round the outside but decided on using some discretion so slowed a lot into the roundabout. He ended up going very wide into the middle of the road towards Kingston so I just nipped up the inside of him and got back in the bars. After having passed him, I was surprised to watch him float past coming back in front, especially as looking down I was doing 370w or so. I decided to let him get on with it, knowing I would re-pass soon enough. Sure enough I regained the ground and went past at a reasonable speed down towards Kingston. Thankfully no deer this time and a clear run all the way to Kingston gate and round the roundabout there.

Pat, my 30s man was clearly on my tail and fairly close at the roundabout. I just tried to keep the effort on all the way up back toward Richmond but the legs were feeling the pace now. Again no deer to contend with this time which was welcome and before I knew it I was at the roundabout. Pat passed by just before at speed, so I knew he’d be at least 30s ahead. Back onto Sawyers, and with a tailwind blowing pretty hard the speed really went up and about 40mph+ for over a minute. I gained slightly on Pat down the hill, but he soon regapped me.

The last drag back to Robin hood felt like a headwind and by now, after the respite down Sawyers the average watts had fallen off to 330w. Again I emptied it to the line doing almost 400w up spankers for the last minute or so. Pretty happy with that overall and 23:47, 14s down on previous, most likely due to the weather. Would have liked to do slightly more watts, but I guess they just aren’t there at the moment.

We hung around at the sign on tent for a while until the presentations. Sure enough Rob smoked the road bike category, and I think breaking the course record there. Then it was our turn. Spies had taken a clear 3rd, myself 2nd and of course Pat on the top step. Nice to take £50 prize money (I think my biggest yet) too.

After this Rob, Matt and I went off for Breakfast, then off home to try and get a bit of rest before another race in the afternoon, Cutmill 2/3.

Cutmill 2/3

Now I appear to have a bit of a love/hate with Cutmill. It was one of the first RR’s I did as a 2/3 where I got dropped, I then won it as a 3rd Cat only race. Going back for a 2/3 was always going to be tough as it’s a pretty attritional circuit, especially following a TT. Rob, Pat, Mucci and I were entered from Paceline. Other teams looked ok, with RPR and Dynamo of more notable strength. I didn’t really go in with a gameplan as such. More just aim to survive then see what I can do in a sprint finish. After a quick warm up the legs still felt pretty good despite the early morning and TTing.

To the race. After the flag dropped the pace was pretty relentless, and quick up the first hill. It felt ok though and I made sure I was in the middle of the bunch. It settled somewhat after the first lap, during which Pat tried to get away. Second time up the climb felt ok too. Stupidly I decided to mark a move of Arlen (RPR) which really hurt. I went pretty deep up the hill still sat in the saddle, and only just managed to recover before the descent. Stupidly I then (while feeling pretty good at this time) decided to try and get a gap going by attacking up the right hand side up one of the drags, before the main descent. I put in a chunk of effort in (c.1000w for 10s or so) followed by another 20s of 450w, but looking round I saw Bonham in my wheel shaking his head! Enough to know to knock it off. The bunch however didn’t fancy that and I didn’t have much of a chance for recovery as the bunch flew past down the descent. The next time through the lane toward the climb was rapid, and then up the climb felt pretty tough, but manageable. I decided from then I’d just sit in. The legs felt ok still, but that effort to chase Arlen, and then attack had taken its toll unnecessarily.

After another lap I pretty much knew I was destined for the bin. The group was getting lined out on all the drags towards the other side of the circuit and it was hard going staying attached in the wheels. The climb itself wasn’t so bad, but the subsequent drags were ruining my legs. Having nothing left to give after 5 laps I pulled the pin. I did another lap solo to pick up a bottle I’d lost on the bumpy roads then finished my race on the hill. Which gave me time to watch the last couple of laps which was interesting in itself. Arlen rode off for 1min 20 at the finish. Damo of RPR took the sprint from a break of 10, Rob 4th and Pat 6th with Mucci rolling in. A decent showing from those guys, and Mucci for his first proper RR. Suitable terrain for him too.

Frustrating race for myself. Looking back it was clearly never going to end well, and being endlessly optimistic clearly isn’t enough, especially with a TT that morning (did I mention that yet?..). I’ve managed to shed some weight this year, but am still around 85kg, which with the current watts just isn’t really good enough to be capable at 2/3 races, especially not hilly ones. Looking back at when I was winning 3rd cat races I was even then around 80-83kg, so I’ve decided to knock RR’ing on the head until I’m under 80kg again, which is going to be hard work. If that means losing my 2nd Cat license this year then so be it, but at the moment I don’t feel like I’m of the required standard for 2/3 road racing, and it’s no fun entering races with the hope of just staying attached. I’ve only got one more RR in the calendar at the moment, late August, so will keep that in and see if I can shed some mass before then. I may do a few crits before then which I’ve not really done this year, I could do with the top end work, and aside from that crack on with a few TTs.

Aerocoach, P881R and Richmond Park TT

Aerocoach

So I’ve been TT’ing more properly this season since building up a nice new TT bike during August ’16. I’d bought a fair amount of new kit, mostly on recommendation from various other fast guys which has allowed me to get much closer to the head of affairs during various TTs. In 2015 when I previously had a TT bike I was doing around 22-23min 10m time trials. With better kit and around 40w more than previously I have been able to get down to 19.55 as a best so far this year, which is a fairly chunky improvement, and course depending has seen me pick up a few podiums, which has me quite chuffed, as I certainly didn’t expect to be that competitive this year.

However, most of the really quick guys have been at it a lot longer than I have, and have either had aero work done, or have spent a lot of time testing. Something I’ve missed out on, and also don’t have time to put together a stringent test protocol on a deserted windless track with the right conditions needed to test accurately.

As such I booked in for an Aerocoach session in Newport, for which I have been looking forward to for a while! For those that aren’t familiar, the basic premise is you ride around a closed velodrome trying various bits of kit and different positions. The impact on aero performance is tracked live using software, so you get real time feedback on how aero you are or are not being due to changes. I managed to find a good chunk of extra aero through various changes, so the hope is that that transfers to the road in terms of results. It’s possible that the changes may take a bit of time to grow accustomed to in terms of power output. However, it was great to be able to fire various questions at Xav in order to get a definitive yes/no, you’d need to test this answer, as opposed to trying to work out various effects.

Midweek P881R

So with the Aerocoach session done on Tuesday 6th June, I’d booked in a TT for the day after on the 7th, a midweek race down on the A3 on the supposedly quick P881R 10m course. The course was just up from the P881 race I’d done a few weeks prior (wrong turn incident). I was pretty keen on doing the race primarily to check out whether Aerocoach had made in impact, and to try and bag a new pb given my 19.55 is now clearly very soft.

The forecast was not looking like playing ball though, and on Tuesday it was looking like a complete washout, however on the day the rain largely held off, the wind however did not. Looking at the direction it was looking like a headwind out and tailwind back (usually an ideal scenario) however, this ended up not being the case.

There was also a bit of fuss about the race as a highly decorated, world champion kiwi rower by the name of Hamish Bond had chosen today as his first UK race. He’s decided after a rowing career to take up time trialling with the aim of making the Tokyo Olympics, and what better place to improve than the UK TT scene, so it was always going to be interesting to see how I stacked up to him! 

After arriving pretty early, and with no rollers I got the bike set up and went out to warm up on the roads. I found the same road I used as when I did the P881 and proceeded to spin up and down. The legs didn’t feel ideal, but I’ve been fairly used to ignoring the warm up as a sign of potential during the race.

I set off aiming to hold target watts of around 360w. Due to the new position I now couldn’t see the garmin too well, so was slightly blind in that regard, but an occasional crane of the neck to glance told me what the legs already knew, the watts were well down and just didn’t feel as if they had the top end. When I did the P881 and 361w I just felt as if I could smash the pedals as hard as possible, but today the legs just felt completely wooden. Disappointing. The headwind on the outward leg was also tough, and was cross carriageway at points which made riding pretty hairy.

By the time I got to the turn at around 11mins I knew it was damage limitation, with the average watts down to about 335w. I rounded the turn and headed back, hoping for a big tailwind and at least a new pb to offset the terrible watts. The tailwind never seemed to arrive and going felt just as tough as the watts continued to fall. In the end I crossed the line in 20:10 at 331w. My worst time for a while. Immediately I was pretty pissed off. I went straight back to the car and packed up before going to sign out. I hung around a while to see the results. To my surprise the conditions meant that only two guys went sub 20. I’d finished 7th, and close to quite a few guys that I’d previously finished a fair amount behind, despite the terrible watts, which in hindsight was encouraging.

The clear outlier was Hamish who put almost a minute into the rest of the field.

Richmond Park TT 1.

Another event this year I’d been looking forward to for a while, I do about 80% of my training in the park and so know the roads pretty well, so it’s always fun to race there. After two 3rd places last year I was hoping of another good showing. This time would be my first time in a while on the TT bike though. After checking the start sheet I was hopeful of another podium spot, however knowing the top two spots would pretty much be a dead certainty for Pat and Rob of Paceline. In which order who knew as Rob, the winner for most of the last four years or so has had a bit of an injury and some time off.

During the week leading up to the race I wasn’t feeling great, but had managed some more time spent on the TT bike, so was at least getting used to the position a touch more. Conditions on the morning looked fast, much warmer than last year and seemingly a bit less wind. What little there was ended up being slight tailwind up the hill to Richmond gate which also seemed helpful.

I set off, and instantly the legs felt alright, I didn’t really have a wattage number in mind but I knew somewhere around 340-330w was likely. I settled in and prepped myself for the first test, Sawyers hill. Tried to stay in the bars as long as possible before giving it a good punch up the steep part. Over the top I was back in the bars and with a little respite still felt ok.

Down towards Kingston the speed really ramped, and I managed to negotiate the couple of speedbumps staying in the bars, which felt a bit dodgy but manageable. Flying along in the high 30s a deer decided to cross the road in front of me at speed, I narrowly avoided which gave me a nice adrenaline bump. Round the dead turn at the bottom and back up the hill towards Richmond the effort really started to bite. I felt pretty quick though, another deer decided to use my approach as a good excuse to attempt a road crossing, and then decided against it at the last minute. I grabbed a bit of braked which took some momentum but hopefully not too much. Back through Richmond roundabout and down Sawyers, which I decided to use as a bit of respite. The drag back to Robin Hood was felt achingly slow due to the headwind, but I managed to keep my head down and plugged away at it, then Spankers and back up towards Pen Ponds I managed to empty it, doing 400w to the line, again possibly suggesting I could have gone a little harder throughout. Nice to finish strong nevertheless.

After rolling back to the car park I was pretty happy with the ride, watts were ok, but I didn’t really know where my 23:30 time would stack up. It was clear that both Rob and Pat would be faster. As it turned out Pat had broken the CR with a superb rider of 22:37, and Rob just behind with 22:50ish. I daren’t look at the board for fear of being beaten to 3rd by somebody else, and instead passed the time chatting until it was time for the podium presentation. Of course the Mens TT was the final result to be called, but they called my name first so I had to be pretty chuffed with that, and £25 of Sigma vouchers. All of which meant an all Paceline podium too which was pretty cool, and certainly a first for Richmond Park TT, as well as knocking off another of my season aims.

Next up is F11/10 10m TT, this coming Saturday. The weather is looking decent, hot with not too much wind, although high pressure, could still be fast. The course has a bit of a gift hill in it as well (descends the hill, but doesn’t go back up) so I’m hoping I could be on for a PB, especially given the whole P881 wrong turn thing. The following weekend is another RP TT so hopefully I can improve there, then followed by the Cutmill RR in the afternoon. Will be interesting to see how that one pans out….