Site update

If you’ve visited this site in the past couple of months you probably found it offline. I had a bit of a hosting disaster and in the process of changing companies managed to delete all my content. After using some internet archives and some patchy backups, I’ve managed to piece it back together, albeit with a load of missing links/pictures. Everything prior to this year is largely complete, however I’m missing quite a few races from 2016 which is pretty frustrating. 

Will aim to go back over the site in the next week or two adding back what I can, and will obviously update things going forward, as well as backing up regularly! 

Handicap Champs

I was in the 5th group on the road of 8, along with Andrew Davis, Paul Hone, another addiscombe who just sat at the back of the bunch the entire time despite some kind words, and a couple of other reasonable riders who were all doing their fair share. We worked OK together, organised, but not that quick and I was conscious of not really pushing all that hard on the front and getting out of the wind quickly. I’d done a 10 the day before, and wasn’t really sure how the legs were feeling, given I’m not used to that sort of effort at the moment, didn’t feel achey, just a bit wooden. Very quickly we were caught, with one of the Nuun guys absolutely belting past. I jumped on to the fast moving train and settled in, again trying to avoid sitting in the wind too much. For the next few laps it was just preservation and keeping in the bunch until the rest were caught. I did end up on the front several times, and by this point my legs had turned up, so was feeling decent. I did give it some gas on one lap up the climb just to see where things were, and if I could create a gap. Then a few more laps in another split in the bunch occurred, which I bridged across to, stupidly burning another match, but after half a lap the rest of the bunch just closed the gap anyway. After this I was trying to keep a watch on Chris M and trying to follow his moves after Rob had mentioned he would be in, or have a hand in making the final selection

I knew Rob and Chris were planning to go on the hill, possibly on the last lap, as it turned out, coming up for 2 to go Rob came past and gave me a nod, at about the same time as Chris absolutely launched up the hill with Rob in tow. I had to move out of the bunch a bit and then kick hard, peak power 1200w, followed by 900w for 20s and then another 430w for 3mins just to follow the attack, but as we came up the second kick of a hill I was completely cooked. I sat up a bit to regain some breath and attached myself the the remainder of the bunch and sat in for the next 3rd of a lap. Rob’s group seemed to be gaining ground, and it seemed to me any chance of a result hinged on getting into that group, as it didn’t feel like it would come back together. A couple of others had the same idea, a young VCL and another who I can’t recall and were attempting to bridge. I sprinted past the bunch, and used those guys as drafts, slingshotting past to try and get myself to the front group, but the effort was one too many and after coming within a 100m or so I just couldn’t make it, so sat back up and drifted back to the bunch once more, before sitting in again. Then on the bell lap up the hill the pace surged once more, but all the efforts so far had me cooked, and I fell off the back of the bunch one final time. Slightly frustrating, maybe if I’d have been following the wheel for the attack with 2 to go I’d have been able to hold on, but that’s a pretty enormous maybe still.

Kind of glad the season is over now, doubt i’ll race again until maybe winter series, looking forward to getting back to some solid blocks of training.

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WLCA H10/3a

For a while I’d been wanting to get back on to a TT bike, especially after the Richmond Park TTs and having developed a few more watts across this year I was keen to see what that would transfer to in some proper time trials. In my previous life as a triathlete I had a nice Cervelo P3, which was a good bike, but several sizes too big, so after the triathlon thing finished, and I was in my early days as a road cyclist, I decided to sell it on, also knowing it was ideally too big for me. See below, hanging off the front of the saddle, all the way forward!

Anyhow, fast forward to the end of this year, I’d narrowed my search down to a fast frame like another appropriately sized P2/P3/P5 or a speed concept when a P5 frame came up for sale at a good price, I couldn’t refuse. It was a 51cm, but with the right components I was confident I could make it fit. I started building it up a few weeks ago, and had entered the WLCA 10 as its first outing. The H10/3a course is on roads I used to train on, so know them fairly well. Fairly quiet from traffic, lumpy and grippy, but pleasant roads. Not a “fast” course by any stretch, but a good test nonetheless. I was still missing quite a bit of kit I’d wanted to sort, like a proper TT helmet and skinsuit but it would be a good test of the bike/position anyway.

The weather was suitably grim for September, chilly after days of 30c at around 15c with a strong northerly wind, meaning the outward leg would be fast downwind, then the race for home into the wind. I tried to factor this into my pacing, but that didn’t seem to work particularly well. I went out fairly hard, trying to keep a lid on it, but ultimately failing to do so, completing outward leg in 11:17 (29.2mph at 328w) 7 seconds faster than anybody else on the day. I was hopeful I could ramp the watts up for the way back in, but was starting to get restless in the TT position for whatever reason. Still haven’t got the setup quite right, and think I may have been a bit cramped up. Anyway, the watts started to come down a bit, and into wind, back up the inclines things slowed and I was struggling to keep the watts. A descent half a mile before the line gave me the respite I needed, and I was able to do the remaining half mile at 360w to cross the line in 22:22, 13 seconds down on 1st place. Had I not faded, or paced better I may have taken the win. Long ride back to the HQ to give my number back, then I had to dash off before properly seeing the results to pick up my mother, who’d come to watch/photograph and was still out on the course.

In the end my time was good enough for 2nd, given the actual 2nd best time was placed in the vets category. Pleased with that given its my first proper open TT of the year, not including RP TTs. Bodes reasonably well for next year when I’ll aim to do more TTing. Hopefully by then I can sort position and kit, and be a little faster.

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Cyclopark – Crits at the Park 2/3

Just 1 point stood between myself and maintaining my 2nd Cat licence for another year, so I was keen to get it knocked on the head before the race season finished proper. A crit at cyclopark seemed like a great way to do this, with what looked like a fairly small field with just 20 entered. I’d not raced cyclopark all year, despite it being one of my favourite places to race. The course seems to suit me very well being technical, but requiring a good sprint, as well as enough power to get up the modest start/finish incline. I was looking forward to this, as the legs were starting to feel better again, and suited to crit riding rather than longer road race type efforts.

Things kicked off to a fairly subdued start, with the wind typically blowing a tough headwind down the back straight, plenty of riders were keen to avoid getting their nose in the wind. After a lap or two settling in I decided to put a dig in out of the left hander at the end of the back straight, stringing things out down all the way up to the hairpin. The next lap, looking back we were one rider down, with the pace proving too much. One less rider to take points from! A few more laps and things started slowing a bit, before a lone rider made a break. The bunch didn’t seem interesting and he hung off the front at 30 seconds for several laps before eventually sitting up.

At the halfway point and a few more riders having succumbed to the effort things were looking good, and I was making sure to ride in the wheels and conservatively, knowing this was a great opportunity to bag the last point in the sprint. Looking round the bunch was down to just 13 riders, with the top 10 paying points. A couple more riders tried to get moves up the road but things were largely being well marked so I continued to sit in the wheels, with the effort feeling tough but manageable.

The laps ticked down and with a couple to go two riders chipped off the front and were gone, with nobody really interesting in committing after them, least of all me I sat in waiting for the bell. Eventually the bell lap came and things weren’t as fast as is typical with the reduced bunch. I knew I likely wasn’t aiming for the win here, but as long as I could beat a couple of riders to the line I was happy. In light of which I positioned myself much further forward than I would have otherwise for fear of being boxed in, however unlikely due to the amount of riders. Into the last couple of corners and I was second wheel. Round the last bend the rider ahead kicked fairly hard up the initial climb, so I followed starting a fairly long sprint, which kicked up a gear round the final kink. I was being mobbed slightly by other riders, but in the last couple of hundred metres was making ground, and able to take several places back to cross the line in 8th and 3 points. Had to be happy with that.

So finally I’ve been able to race a bit more sensibly rather than constantly going for the win, usually solo, which resulted in a decent few races and my 2nd Cat licence for another year. Not quite the second year performance I had in my mind’s eye, but I don’t think I can be too disappointed given the amount of riding/racing, and especially my weight, which has been more of a hindrance this year as I’ve managed to gain a few kg! Still, at least that leaves me with plenty to accomplish for next year.

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Rest of the season plans.

I only have one further road race in the calendar at the moment, which is the handicap championships, which is on a course that suits, but remains to be seen how the handicapping will work out. I’ve also recently picked up a new TT frame which I’m building up, and have entered a few late season TT’s with a view to competing against the clock a little more next year. Something I’ve previously enjoyed, and now with more watts at my disposal should be slightly faster at too.

Parham Park 2/3

This one is a bit of an oddity in the Surrey League calendar and labelled as a Kermesse, slightly longer than a Crit, but not a full road race, run on a particularly interesting course. The course runs through the Parham Park estate, with 2 of the 3 mile course in the grounds on closed roads, and the remaining mile on a wide B road. The park grounds have two main sections, one of which is a very gravelly rutted road with two main wheel tracks and then a smoother section with a sharp climb with the finish line at the summit. A great fun little course.

The field was small by Surrey League standards just 30 entered. Things kicked off, and having not raced or been riding particularly well lately I was optimistic but not expectant of much. My legs felt ok, and in theory should suit me but it was very quick to start and I was hanging on more so than I was doing any of the animating. Still first time up the climb I felt the need to test the legs and stretched the bunch out a bit. Quickly a couple of riders were attempting to break, I knew based on recent rides that I just didn’t have the FTP or firepower for anything long so was happy to let them go and just follow the bunch’s lead . Only having tallied 12 points so far (25 required to maintain 2nd Cat), I was more keen on trying for the sprint and hopefully picking up some points that way. One Southdowns rider quickly got up the road and was extending his lead to over a minute. The rest of his team, the only real team present were managing the peloton well and disrupting any real chase efforts. After several more quick laps several more riders got off the front up the road so there were now 4 ahead of the bunch. Apparently the southdowns rider punctured but had enough time to change, and was joined by a VC Meudon rider.

In the bunch and after an hours riding on the tough little course, the bunch was slimming down due to many punctures from the gravel a crash and several dropped riders. By this point the lack of race fitness was showing and I was propping up the rear of the bunch just holding on hoping for no big surges. The laps were coming down, and eventually we took the bell lap, I still knew I wasn’t going to have the legs to last for anything more than the sprint so just tried to maintain a position for that. I got a bit mobbed on the last 2 miles, but eventually managed to follow a Maison du Velo and Dec of KW who were making a long effort for the line. Dec eventually popped with less than 1k to go with the MDV rider having gone clear I was left near the front of the bunch into the last tight left hander. After the corner I upped the pace towards the hill following a Dynamo. The Dynamo went early and so I decided to start my sprint, closing him down and holding off several others to finish first of the bunch in 6th. 12 more points toward the 25 needed. Fairly pleased with that effort given the state of fitness I think it was probably the best I could have hoped for.

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The Big Update – August 2016

The Big Update. I’ve been very lax updating this blog this year, mostly as I have a fair bit less free time at work than I did last year! I’ve also been lazy as well. In any case, here’s an update on various races I’ve been doing.

Tour of Sussex 2/3 – 30th June

I’d entered this earlier in the year as probably my main focus of the year, the profiles probably didn’t suit me overall but I was hopeful of a result in a stage and of being assistance to one our guys for the overall. The format was a four day race spread across five stages. An 8 mile TTT day 1, a 30 mile crit stage day 2, a 50 mile rolling RR followed by an ITT on the Beachy Head course on day 3, culminating with the Beachy Head road race on the final day.

With the circuits being so far away I’d booked a hotel in Eastbourne with Gareth, and the rest of the team also staying fairly close by.

1st Stage TTT – 2nd.

This was always going to be tough, but having some of the best TTers in Rob and Pat, as well as Gareth things were looking decent. However we got off to a dodgy start after Pat’s Di2 gave up 15mins before the start, leaving him stuck in the small ring. We decided the best bet was to have him in the bunch still, to come through where cadence allowed! Gareth and I had driven the course which was very rolling, finishing with a fast steady descent to the line. I was on the front for the start, which with hindsight was a big error. We took off and after hearing everyone had clipped in, I settled into a strong turn, Rob was behind me, which meant the bunch were moving very quickly as I had to sprint to rejoin the train of the other 5. The first 5 minutes ended up being a wattage pb by over 30w at 450w! (Wattage pb’s from 2mins through to 15mins)  Too much, I was badly in the red and suffering. Things only worsened as the profile headed up, and I was drifting away at the back of the bunch with Sam during the couple of climbs, absolutely on the LIMIT. Pat to his huge credit was coming through with big turns at a cadence of close to 1 million rpm, so it seemed to my oxygen debted brain. Things began to settle a little as we turned onto the final road, and I was able to assist with a turn or two again before crossing the line. I was absolutely fried after that effort though, so I slowly soft pedalled back to HQ.

Average watts of 350w for the 19mins we clocked. The results were read out for the podium and jersey presentation with PL coming in 2nd place. Happy days and not too far behind the leaders, a youth development squad named DFL.  Game on for the rest of the race, or so we though.

2nd Stage Lewes Crit Stage – Bunch

It turned out after a bit more digging we were up against some seriously tough competition. This DFL squad had some serious talent putting a minute into us during the TTT, with VCL also having the junior British RR champion in their midst. Competing with this guys, from their track backgrounds on a crit stage was always going to be a big ask.

Things started off in the cobbled town centre, with a LONG neutralised section to the course. With DFL in yellow and green I assumed they’d be riding conservatively. I couldn’t have been more wrong, they seemed to be unable to even control themselves and looked to even be attacking each other, with the green and or yellow off up the road at any given opportunity, gunning for the primes. Both Pat and I had early digs off the front, but the long back straight into the wind put paid to that, with huge effort required to hold off the bunch, more than I had at my disposal. With two laps to go, Rob give it the full beans and took off up the road pulling out a decent 30s gap with a lap left. However it wasn’t to be as the bunch caught him with a couple of miles to go. The sprint was hectic with Junior pushing mad cadence flying all over the show; spread the entire width of the road. I tried to move up, getting a lead out of sorts from Pat, but we felt a little uneasy rounding a blind corner fully on the other side of the road, only realising after it had been closed and we probably could have done more. In any case, a fight would have been for the very minor places, as I crossed the line well in the bunch. Rob was a bit further up, still fighting for a place, and managing to cross the line in 12th, not losing any time to the leaders. With Jake Vaughn taking the stage.

3rd Stage Ladies Mile – Off the back of the bunch.

The legs weren’t feeling the greatest today, with the TTT effort and crit stage weighing heavy my hopes weren’t high. I knew the juniors and climbers would be pushing hard on this fairly hilly little circuit. The lap is short, with a rapid descent into a climb, a short flat twisty section immediately followed by another climb, onto another false flat road before the fast descent again. Not a lot of flat easy riding by any stretch. My main aim was to hold on for dear life, so I could hopefully be of assistance later in the race. A circuit that suits Pat, he was very active trying to get away and ended up in a strong break looking good. Unfortunately it didn’t stick and he drifted back to the bunch close to the end. I was just hanging on by this point. The finish was off the circuit on a longish climb. Gareth who was surfing wheels at the back of the bunch moved up on this last section managing to bag a 5th place finish with Rob and Pat another few seconds back in around 10th place. Still in a good position for the GC. I rolled in another minute back, not a course that suits me.

4th Stage Beachy Head ITT

Again I wasn’t much looking forward to this, with it basically being two hill climbs joint by a bit of descending and flat. The weather was extremely windy, with a headwind out to the turn, then a big old tailwind all the way to Beachy Head at least. I just wanted to finish with an at least respectable time, by now knowing my race was all but over. Legs weren’t the best, but I paced it ok crossing the line with a time of 22:05 and 42nd position, a full 2:23 back on the winner, again Jake Vaughan with a time of 19:42. Rapid. Pat and Rob both finished 26 and 32 seconds down respectively, meaning they would need a superhuman effort on the final stage to be in the running. Gareth ended up with a 20:40, a minute down on the GC after this stage.

5th Stage Beachy Head RR

Story of my race this stage, survive try and help where I feasibly could, but after all the hype, I was barely expecting to survive the climb up to the circuit from Eastbourne town centre. Pat and Rob were the only ones in the team left with a reasonable shout at a result for the overall but would require a very big effort.

Things weren’t quite as bad as expected at the start and I remained attached up the first climb, having started at the front, allowing myself room to slip back through the bunch. Pat as expected was quickly off the front of the bunch, so I took the opportunity to get towards the front after the big descent into East Dean, managing to follow a couple of attacks, stopping them from getting away before the main climb up beachy head. By this point Pat’s bunch looked like a very well established break. I was beginning to pay for my early effort up the main climb and began to drift backwards. I crested the climb well off the back, and chasing to get back on, eventually managing to work my way back through the cars, to the bunch, before the fast descent once more. Back round toward the beachy head climb I sat in the bunch and tried to rest but on the way up the climb I knew I just didn’t have it in my legs, with zero to be gained from flogging myself to the finish I drifted off the back, and after the climb took the right turn back to Eastbourne, to my car and the end of my race. Went back to get my licence and hand the number in before driving back up to the finish line to spectate the rest. The remainder of the race, all 9 or so laps of it was a pure attritional battle to the end, a battle of survival. Pat’s break still looked good, but began to get brought back. With other riders falling like flies and small grupetto’s all over the road. An extract from Gareth’s report sums up the remainder of the race nicely:

“The surges were prolonged on the false flats and hills as the yellow and green jerseys attacked. Eventually the elastic snapped and they formed a G3, chasing Pat down who had 2 minutes on the yellow jersey!

Sharland was gapped on the climb, and we two-upped back on. With no way to influence the race, and nothing to gain, Sharland said he’d bail next lap, which was music to my ears as we DNF’d half way through. Dom continued on in G4, the largest group.

4 lap to go: Pats group of 4 had 60 seconds on a solo chaser (Josh Haasz of VCL I think), and about 20s back to a group including the yellow jersey, and a further 30s back to Doms main group.

3 laps to go: Pat had 30s now on a group of 6-7 including Adalta, Southampton uni, but mainly VCL and DFL. Main group with Dom about 30s back.

2 laps to go: Pretty much as above

1 lap to go: Still away, Pat was looking tired with gaps appearing in his group. Jacob Vaughan over the top of Beachy head attacked.

Finish: Tom Easeley of ASL360 took the win. Can’t remember who was 2nd now, and Jake Vaughan got across to finish 3rd. There must have been about 10 other finishers or so as Pat came in with Dom, which should have Pat gaining some BC points from the GC (down to 15th).

Massive ride from Pat to be in a small break for 3 hours. Ultimately though, these juniors totally upstaged and outclassed us. (it felt like they were just messing with us at most points). Sprint wins, ITT wins, TTT wins, winning uphill etc.”

Summary

So to summarise, we were pretty much outclassed (me more than most!) by a group of very talented young riders, some of whom I’m sure will go on to be elite professionals making a decent living from riding. Looking back, even with a normal 2/3 SL bunch I’m not sure I’d have been much more in the mix just due to the parcous, but a fun weekends riding nonetheless. Would I go back, probably not. It’s just not suited to an 85kg fat sprinter type. I’ll stick to the May 3 Day, plenty hard enough!

RP TTs, Kirdford 2/3 and SL Handicaps

Richmond Park TT 2 – Road Bike Category –3rd

The second of these events I was slightly more prepared for, having got hold of some latex inner tubes and some velotoze I felt confident after last time out. Despite entering the road category I’d somehow been placed in the start order with the TT riders, so revelled in the extra 30 minute lie in! The legs didn’t feel as good this time, but I was still hopeful of repeating the watts I’d done last time. However it wasn’t to be as I ended up with an average of 341w (9w down on previous) but with a time 21seconds quicker of 25:07, good enough for solid 3rd, having beaten Gareth by just a handful of seconds. The extra aero kit obviously helped, and I was super chuffed, having been nowhere near the podium the previous year, it was obvious I’d made a big improvement this year. Great fun and I look forward to next year!

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Richmond Park TT 1 – Road Bike Category – Joint 3rd

These events are one of the highlights of the season for me. I probably spend about 70% of my training miles in the park, so have come to know the roads round it very well. So it’s always a pleasure to pin a number on and race around the park, mostly before it fills up with cars and other cyclists. Although my results haven’t shown the same, I really feel like my riding has come on strong this year, it’s certainly been reflected in my power curve, so I was hopeful of a decent showing at the least, with the RP TT a decent bell weather for actual power.  I set out with a target of 350w, aiming to ride the first part of the course hard, knowing I would need the watts to get up Sawyers, a little bit easier down the hill to Kingston, then using what I had left for the climb back to Richmond Gate. Even after a stag (albeit for me a sober one) the night before, late night, not much sleep, 5:30am alarm, the legs seemed to be responding and felt decent out the gate. Watts were high and as I climbed Sawyers I felt good. Concentrating on keeping as aero as possible. Round the Kingston roundabout and back up the hill I still felt ok, but was struggling to keep the watts up slightly. I used the Sawyers descent a bit for rest, before kicking the watts back up for what was left of the course. I really began to die back along priory, and up to pen ponds, before sprinting for the line in a time of 25:28 and an average of exactly 350w  I didn’t have a clue where that would put me, but knowing I’d done a 25:13 last year on the TT bike for 326w I had to feel fairly pleased with that in what I felt were slightly tougher conditions. Added to which, no deep section wheels, no overshoes and straight butyl inner tubes.

I rolled back in to the HQ to see the results, joint 3rd with Gareth. Very happy with that, despite Gareth having been at his own stag the night before.

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SL Kirdford 2/3 – 7th August

After what so far this year has felt like a very average season in terms of results I was a little more hopeful of coming away with something this race. So far this year I seem to have either had punctures, or been tactically stupid, favouring racing in a more fun (to me) way with break attempts, such as Lingfield, or having been riding for others at tour races. My tactic was to be to sit in, and try something either last lap, knowing I can hold decent watts for 5-10mins, or just hold on for the sprint, on an uphill finish which kind of suits. Other PL guys racing were Pat, Paul, Benoit and myself.

Pretty much from the start Pat was trying to force a break, but with limited luck. After a while a group of 6, Pat not included forced the break and got a good gap of a minute out fairly quickly. The bunch seemed pretty disorganised and no real chase effort being made.

30 miles I was having Di2 issues, (for those Di2 sceptics reading, bike has covered 10k miles with limited issues, never having had to be re-indexed, this was (I think) my first racing Di2 incident). So my bike became a 53×14 single speed. Not a bad gear to be in during a flatish RR, but certainly not the best, and with the finish on a “hill”, ruled me out. I rolled around for a lap at the back, but was keen to at least finish the race, so moved up on the hill, having to grind a 45rpm gear up the incline. I was expecting to be spat out the back, but to my surprise was more than able to hold my own. With the 6 up the road having edged their gap out to 1:10 I was keen on trying to bring it back, even if just to give another PL a good crack at a result. I got to the front and drove the pace for a bit, but my one gear made it very tough on the legs, and I wasn’t able to give it good pace for that long, after half a lap dropping back to the back of the bunch. But at least it looked like the break was being slightly brought back. With a couple left Pat and one other Dynamo guy made a very strong bridge to the bunch up the road, and in the end Pat finished with a great 6th place. Frustrating to say the least, but not sure I’d have had the legs to do much even if I had had functioning gears.

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Summary

So to summarise, not a huge amount of racing, and not very much in the way of results. I’ve got a few more races coming up, so here’s hoping I can at least get some results before the season completely disappears. As it stands I think I’m on 12 points, with 25 needed to retain my 2nd Cat licence. To be quite honest, I’m not that fussed on either outcome, but it would be nice to at least get some semblance of a result this year. I think despite being far stronger this year than last, it just shows I’m probably not racing smart enough to be a decent 2nd Cat yet. Either that or this is just a side effect of much less racing compared to last year, having barely done any crits, which is where I scored a fair amount of my points last year. I have a feeling I’ll get a bit stronger towards the end of the year, having had a couple of good non-racing rides of late. I was in the team entry for RideLondon which we did in 3:59. Great fun riding on London’s closed roads, and good race training!  Here’s hoping it yields some results for the remainder of the year!

SL Handicap – Kitsmead Lane – 28th July

Another handicap evening, I was a little more prepared for this one having worked from home that day, although not enough to realise I’d not charged my Garmin! I rode out with Paul and Grant, with my legs feeling ok for the 20 mile ride out. Put in the second last group on the road things got off to an ok start, and it was more than interesting riding on feel. I felt like I was being much more conservative, doing only the required effort coming through on turns. We closed the rest of the groups in good time, so it was clear it was coming down to a sprint. I felt very strong and hopeful for the finish, and was in an ok position for the final corner, however got  a little over run here, and then had to avoid an oncoming car in the run up to the line, losing yet more position. Following which I was completely boxed in to the line, not even being able to get out of the saddle to give any sort of a kick. Most frustrating as the freshest I’ve probably ever felt at the closing phase of any sort of race. Ah well. Paul came away with a strong 7th place, with Grant also rolling in.

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SL Handicap – Accommodation Road -7th July

Decided to go along to this Thursday night handicap on a whim wanting to get some miles in. 40 mile ride there and back plus 26 odd racing miles. Should have known better with no rest days following the ToS. Ended up getting put in the scratch group which is a first for me, with Pat and Rob and a few others. Legs felt average to begin with, but got tired very quickly and was finding it more and more difficult to come through for a decent turn. We picked up the next two groups fairly easily, but after 40 minutes my legs were done and I dropped off the back, with some very average watts and 90% intensity for the race telling the story, despite feeling like I couldn’t have ridden any harder.

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May 3 Day Stage Race – 2016

May 3 day. May 2015

I expressed an interest in this, having done it last year, but ultimately there were other riders in the frame that hadn’t done it before, and I was down for Tour of Sussex as my main race so didn’t enter.

However, unfortunately for Jon Freeman, he’d had a nasty crash in the weeks leading up to the May bank holiday and so I took his place as reserve.

I was a little nervous going into it, as last year I’d really struggled, particularly on the 2nd Stage a very tough climbers circuit where I got dropped on the first lap, I knew I was stronger this year, but still wasn’t sure if it would be enough.

On paper we had what I would say was easily the strongest team too, so I’d be happy as long as I could at least help toward the greater good! Entered were Pat, Rob, Rich, Benoit, Dom and I.

Stage 1. Dunsfold

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

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

 

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

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

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

Stage 2. Bletchingly

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

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

 

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

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

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

Stage 3 – Lingfield.

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

As is customary things got off quickly after an unusually long neutralized section behind the lead car, well into the first lap. After being let go it was immediately obvious that several of main race protagonists, Stanley Kennet of PMR, and Richard Jennings of Army CU were keen on attacking to try and overhaul Rob’s lead, but the bunch seemed reasonably motivated and nothing got away straight away. Pat was keen on having a crack at some KOM/Spring points and so was up the road with 3 others in fairly quick order after a lap or two they had a seriously big lead of over 1:30 so we were being told. Given a win bonus of 30s the move began to look a little bit dangerous. Then in what felt like a proper Team Sky train moment myself, Dom, Rich and Benoit moved to the front and proceeded to bury ourselves to bring the move back. After just a lap we’d completely closed the gap after some epic riding by everyone in the team. I think at which point the rest of the peloton seemed to get a bit frustrated, and I heard on more than one occasion other racers talking about Paceline bullying the group. Music to my ears. It was now game on with the bunch as one again and just over 20 miles to the finish.

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

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

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

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

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

 Milland Hill 2/3 RR – 13th March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hoping for better things in upcoming races!

James Atherton 2/3 RR

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

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

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

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

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

Paceline RT in Alicante – 2016 Training Camp

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

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

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

Bikes built and ready to go

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

Looking up from the bottom of Coll de Rates

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

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

Support car during the lunch stop

A rare event, me off the front, up an actual hill. Fantastic roads

Dom and Pat at the top of the Aitana.

A quick top of water, and briefing from Noz about what was to come.

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

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

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