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….

P881 and H10/8 10 Mile TTs

After a pretty packed few weeks of racing I had a couple of easier weeks planned in with no racing, just some shorter 10m time trials. After setting a big PB at H10/22 earlier in the month I was keen to see what form I could take from the May 3 day into a few TT’s. Hopefully better watts would yield some decent improvement.

P881 – May 6th

This one was the weekend after the 3 day, so decided to take it pretty easy during the week, just doing a few easier rides and commutes along with some primer efforts the day before the TT. This was a new course for me, straightforward or so I thought as just an out and back DC course. I’d heard anecdotal evidence of it being a fast course, and the profile/surface certainly seemed like a decent one. The weather looked ok for it too, a big overcast, headwind out up the slight hill, then tailwind back, although the late 7pm start time was not ideal, I was happy as my first seeded start time. After feeling like I could have done more at the end of the last TT, I was keen to really try and empty it this time and get all the watts out.

After warming up typically the legs didn’t feel amazing, I even stopped once to check my brakes weren’t rubbing such was the sluggish feeling. Did a few big sprints and hard efforts to warm up and then hoped for the best before riding to the start. Once off I quickly settled in to trying to keep the watts down, always tough at the start, doing 407w for the first minute, much less than I’ve done previously. Once settled in the legs really started to react well to the effort feeling really strong. Uphill into the wind I felt like I was rolling a big gear, and things just general felt decent. After just under 11 minutes I reached the turn with an average of 367w, and still feeling good, looking forward to the return knowing it would be quicker.

Now I’d checked the course quickly on the map, looking at the exit for the turn, but had assumed the re-entry to the DC just involved following the road back down, not so. As I crossed the bridge across the carriageway I failed to notice the enormous signs, and marshal flag waving at the left turn back to the carriageway! Instead I carried on along the road, before the marshal caught my eye at the last minute. Bollocks!!! Hammering on the breaks and shoulder checking I u-turned in the road, and headed back for the correct turning, before re-entering the DC. I knew this had cost me, but I’d figured maybe 15-20s.

Thankfully I was able to mentally park the fact I’d just blown my race and get my head down for the finish. With the tailwind and downhill things got pretty quick, and at points I was flying along in 55-11 hitting a good chunk over 40mph. I was able to continue the watts and pushed hard to the line still. I thought a 19 could still be on, but in the end crossed 3 seconds shy, in 20:02, averaging 33.2mph for the last 4.5 miles at 362w. Overall I was just shy of 30mph average, but managed a nice wattage pb of 361w for 20mins which I was more than happy with, and the only consolation was that thankfully I now didn’t have a pb as a result of a wrong turn.

Looking back I’d have been on for around 19:30 without the wrong turn, and so potentially a short 19 which was pretty frustrating. However, at least I now know I’ve got that in my locker. More watts and less CDA on a quicker course and I may well be on for an 18 this season yet. I’m off to see Aerocoach at Newport velodrome in June, so hopefully that will yield a good drop in CDA enough to really push my pb’s on, and get toward the sharper end of some of these results.

Pat and MattW of Paceline were also riding with Pat putting in a 19.09 and MattW a short 21, which was enough to bag 2nd in the team classification too and £10 each for our efforts.

Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/973902258/overview

H10/8 – May 20th

After the P881 debacle I made a firm vow to myself to always detail check on streetview at the least, if not drive the course to know where the turn was, something I should have done as a matter of course. However, not needed for the next TT as I was back on the H10/8 course I’d ridden as a part of the Xmas 10. That time out I’d had multiple helmet issues and recorded a pedestrian 22:19. I hoped for better this time, but prep was less than ideal as I ended up off work Monday-Wednesday with some sort of virus. I started to feel ok again on Thursday and so persisted with the race hoping to be back to strength, and reasonably fresh. I was also off for a week in Greece the next day with my bike, so was at least keen to get some work in prior to a day’s travel.

The prep continued to be less than ideal with big traffic delays on the way to the HQ adding to stress levels, and eating into prep/warm up time. Eventually I arrived not too late, but in the midst of rain showers which appeared to be getting heavier, which did not bode well. Anyhow, I stuck with it and got ready with some assistance from my girlfriend who had come to spectate, if that’s at all possible at a TT! Span up and down the road a few times to spin the legs and get warmed up in the ever increasing rain.

After the P881 race I knew I was at least getting some form in terms of watts in TTs. Today would again be a headwind out and tailwind back. All things considered I wasn’t too hopeful given the prep, as a result I kind of thought at the start I was just going to go out as hard as possible and just try and hold on to the end, hoping to up the average to something approaching 370w. The first five minutes I spend at 387w, which in hindsight must have been a pretty big anaerobic effort, for which I would pay later. Over the course of the next five minutes the average dropped down to 358w, and it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to hold the same watts as P881 a few weeks ago. As it worked out, I’d gone out much harder than I could handle. Perhaps if I’d have religiously stuck to 365w or so I might have made it stick. Anyhow, it may well have worked out ok, as I had the tailwind home to look forward to.

The way back took just under 10mins and was done at 344w with the tailwind I crossed the line in 19:57. Happy to clock up another sub 20 ride, but unhappy with the watts and the way I went about it. As I already mentioned, in hindsight I may have lucked in slightly going out as hard as I did due to the wind, but I’m sure a steadier outbound effort followed by slightly less but steady watts on the way back would have been faster, but I’m still learning.

Anyhow, I rolled back to HQ to find I was tied with another rider on 19:57. Only one other went faster to mean I finished tied 2nd, and my best TT finish to date, so I was reasonably pleased with that.

Strava : https://www.strava.com/activities/996849579/overview

Up next: I’ve just got back from a week on holiday in Greece. I took the bike so managed to get a good amount of riding in over there, in great conditions. For June I have the aerocoach session which I’m looking forward to. Then both Richmond Park TT’s, a 10 on F10/11 (Fast course) then a road race at Cutmill, the scene of my debut RR win. So hoping for a good few weeks with those.

H25/8 TT, Watford Velo RR, and the SL May 3 Day

H25/8 – April 22nd.

After E2/25 (Billiard table smooth drag strip) were I managed just 309w despite a decent time, I was keen to push on and bring the watts up. I’ve averaged 320w for an hour in the past, so I clearly know I can do more. Maybe I’m not quite there yet, or maybe the TT position I have is too constrictive. The H25/8 course is reasonably quick, a bit lumpy with three roundabouts to negotiate.

Anyhow, the weather oddly picked up for the Saturday and it was around 18c when I set about warming up in the car park.  The wind was looking reasonable too. I’d had some gastro issues the night before, so I was slightly concerned that may have taken something out of me. Decided to use the rollers to warm up in the car park too, instead of my usual up and down the road. I had a bit of a ramp warm up planned out, progressively building the watts. Previously using the rollers I could get enough resistance to hold up to 350-400w. Maybe the TT bikes wheels and tyres, but they didn’t give any resistance and so holding 300w meant silly cadence. Still, even after 20mins and a few spinouts I was sweating buckets.

One of the things I’ve found with being coached this year is that my legs always seem there or thereabouts for races, with preparation obviously much better. I’ve had some absolute howlers in the past where I’ve turned up and barely been able to hold any watts whatsoever. Which is in itself great, but I now find it difficult to feel whether its going to be a good day or an OK day.

Off the start I settled in and seemingly felt OK. I’d put a target of 320w in my head, knowing I can do that – or at least have done in the past. 330w for the first 5 minutes, and legs still feeling fine. I reached the first of the roundabouts and at this point kind of realised it was going to be a long day, my legs were really hurting, and I was desperate to come out of the extensions. But the roundabout was big enough and fast enough for that not to happen, my average watts were then down to 322w. Back up the course to the next roundabout I was clearly starting to struggle. I found the bumpy cracked road hard to ride with any sort of rhythm and the watts were just falling away. I had a slight hold up at the next roundabout, but eventually got round. By this point I was almost giving up the legs felt so grim, and after 45mins of riding the average was down to 303w. As 50mins passed I knew I wasn’t on for a great time, still being a couple of miles out from the finish. I tried to finish strong but all I could manage for the last two miles was a paltry 288w, to finish in 53:19 and 302w average.

Clearly something wasn’t right with the legs to see that much drop off, so I was pretty dissapointed with that performance. Paceline RT also had Benoit on the road bike, who went under the hour which was pretty decent, Phil Ember who managed a 54, and Rob who still managed a 49 despite being about 30w down on his usual. All in a pretty average day on the bike. With the only positive being that my legs felt a LOT better post race than they did the last time, so I think I’m possible adapting to the bike and position slightly better now.

Watford Velo RR – 23rd April

Rob entered this as he wanted another race as prep for the May 3 Day. I decided to get involved too figuring it was probably a good idea to test the legs, especially a day after a long 25. The race was a part of the central road race league, which I’ve never raced before. The field looked pretty good, with mostly 2nd Cats. The course profile looked nice too, with just one climb up to the finish each lap, which was probably made for Rob and my power profiles. The race was also only 50 miles, over 3 and a half laps.

We rolled out pretty quick for our first lap of the course. Nice open roads for the most part, with good surface, and most noticeably compared to Surrey, courteous oncoming drivers who actually fully pulled off the road. It was also generally pretty quiet traffic wise too. Much nicer environment to race in than Surrey for sure.

Anyway, racing was fairly quick with several riders pinging off the front to try and get an early break. A couple of riders stuck out front for a lap, but were eventually brought back. I tried to bridge to one forming break, which was also brought back. Then on the first descent I had another go, but 400w for almost 5 mins later, things were back together at the top of the finish climb.

The next time up the climb Rob hit it and was joined by several other riders. In hindsight I wish I’d have been positioned to go with them, but as it was I was around the middle of the pack. For the rest of the race pretty much I just marked the odd attack and sat in. With 1 to go the bunch steadied as there were quite a few teams represented in the break. The pace picked up with a few miles to go as everyone tried to position themselves for the sprint. I was stupidly content to just sit near the back. Into the last mile the road opened up a bit and I managed to move up, but I was concerned not to use much power before the finish, so didn’t really get far. When the road started to kick up I began to gas it, picking my way through the bunch, dodging a crash. I crossed the line in the top 6 or so of the bunch, before rolling up the road to see Rob had taken the win from the break. Good result.

In hindsight, I should have been much more aggressive in the final. I’ve realised I can do a lot more aerobic work before still being able to launch a big sprint. Something I was a bit more unsure of previously. Still, it was a decent finish, and was nice to be relatively unknown as a team. In Surrey every man and his dog would have been trying to jump on Rob’s wheel up that hill, or trying to ride that break down.

Something the race made me look at as well was getting a W’bal app on my Garmin. For those that don’t know, this looks at threshold power, and your total KJ of power, to give you a percent reading. 100% at the beginning of the race, with anywhere below 10% being race ending effort. The advantage is being able to have measure of when you’re able to make an effort, and when to throttle back and try and recover, rather than just having to rely on intuition of when you’re going to blow.

Avg Speed – 24.6mph

Avg Power – 231w

NP Power -321w

Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/954210673/overview

May 3 Day – Stage 1 – Dunsfold

When I began the year I had this down as a key target. Last year we came very close to Rob taking the win, only to lose it to a broken wheel, so the aim was clear this year. Annoying the courses were changed last minute though, so instead of the usual:

  • Stage 1 Dunsfold – Easy circuit, sprint finish
  • Stage 2 Bletchingly – Very tough climbers circuit, definite splits on GC
  • Stage 3 Lingfield – Also pretty attritional, sprint finish, likely breaks.

It was changed to the below.

  • Stage 1 Dunsfold – Easy circuit, sprint finish
  • Stage 2 Barcombe – Hard circuit, chance for breaks and splits, but nothing on Bletchingly
  • Stage 3 Wivelsfield – Fairly easy circuit with a sprint finish.

Obviously this changed the dynamics a lot, still the likelihood was that stage two was where the overall win would be crystallized, but an easy circuit on the last day could mix things up, with the overly generous 30s win bonuses available.

The team was Benoit, Sam, Pat, Ed, Rob and Myself, and we felt reasonably confident we could force a result, for either Pat or Rob, our realistic GC hopes. There were quite a few other strong teams:

Adalta who’ve previously done well, and appear to ride well as a team

London Dynamo who had a number of strong riders

RPR who have been taking quite a few wins recently, on paper appear to have the stronger of the teams, and have appeared to be tactically astute (more on that later)

Twickenham and Meudon who also seem to work well and had solid riders.

For me the weekend was going to be about trying to get a result on day one (managed 6th last year) then turning my focus to the GC to help the team for the remainder of the days.

Stage 1 kicked off relatively quickly as you’d expect, a couple of early breaks tried to get up there before finally three riders slipped away. Ian Paine of Dynamo, Leon Stoneman of Army CC and Andy Critchlow of Wyndymilla. The bunch were pretty happy to let that go, knowing it could have been brought back at any time. Their gap got up to 90s at times, but the bunch was not riding too hard. I spent the majority of my time watching the front of the race and trying to stop more riders from joining the break.

33500046774_a88e65b758_o

 

All was looking fairly good, and it was useful to have the W’bal information on screen to look at, as a couple of times it made me knock it back and recover slightly. However with about 5 laps left to ride coming up the small rise at the end of the lap my chain dropped. My chain catcher didn’t do its job, then jammed the chain between the bottom bracket and chainset. The chaincatcher then meant I couldn’t get the chain back up and out back into place. I lost 2 minutes fixing it at the side of the road, cutting my fingers in several places in the process. Eventually back on the bike I settled into a pointless TT effort to get back on, whilst my hands were pissing blood all over my bike and my legs. Eventually the bleeding stopped, and after a lap at 340w I realised I wasn’t getting back on. It was tough to swallow. I was livid. Four months training, then for this it was immensely frustrating. I spent the next several laps just sitting about 230w to try and get round the distance in a reasonable time. After a few laps I was joined by a twickenham rider, who had suffered a puncture and also ended his race. On the last lap we were pulled out and told to go to the finish, just as the bunch loomed behind us. We pulled off and let it go past, to see Rob in a good position.

In the kick that followed Phil Glowinski of VC Londres took the win, with Rob taking out second place. Game on for the rest of the weekend, and not having Rob in yellow we assumed was a good thing.

34210880951_e5c40b9c29_k
Big kick from Phil to take the win

Avg Speed – 23.2mph

Avg Power – 247w

NP Power -315w

Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/962888302/overview

Stage 2 – Barcombe

With Rob in a good position, and with some time on the rest of the group thanks to the time bonuses, the plan for S2 was realistically going to be mark the early moves, then try and help Rob get into a split and build further time. Its a suitable finish for him, so we’d be confident of more time if he was in the selection. However the way it unfolded was very different.

The circuit itself was tough, winding small lanes for a lot of it, with a longer climb to the finish, followed by another climb just after. It was always going to be the hardest day, with 8 laps on a sapping circuit. My gameplan was just to help out where I could. I spent the first half of the race just marking strong looking moves out with Sam and Ed’s help. An early break eventually got away with Pat in it which seemed to be going well. However near halfway the race was stopped due to riding standards, which neutralised that gap. In the next part of the race, I saw Arlen from RPR moving up so decided to jump on his wheel. Knowing he’s a strong rider with a few recent wins. However, he proceeded to just drill it on the front for no apparent reason. Not in an attempt to get away, just to ride which I thought was a bit odd, so I just sat on. They didn’t have anyone up on GC, so their only hope was for a break. Which was why gassing it on the front seemed strange. Eventually he gave me the elbow, at which point I rolled through easy, to be asked why I wasn’t riding??

In the next couple of laps Rob tried getting off the front, but the entire bunch was not interested in letting that happen and he was thoroughly chased down. Even to be told by RPR that they wouldn’t/couldn’t ride with him. Bizarre considering getting up the road with our strongest rider, was also probably their best hope of a good GC placing.

After a few more laps of hard riding there was a brief lull when a split happened and 12 or so riders slipped off the front. Pretty much one from every team including Pat from Paceline. Initially we were happy to let it go, as there didn’t seem to be many of the properly strong riders involved. As were the bunch, and we soft tapped it round letting the gap build. Looking back at this point, we should have shut the gap down but that didn’t happen.

Fast forward to the finish, the last lap was a bit faster. Coming into the finish Rob took the hill early and was first of the bunch to finish, followed by Percival of RPR. I was 8th or so of the bunch. After crossing the line it turned out a Twickenham had won, with Pat 7th and so 30s down on GC. Rob was now 2:50ish down due to the break. A slightly odd and frustrating day. Still I was happy to get round and be of use to an extent.

Avg Speed – 23.9mph

Avg Power – 249w

NP Power -332w!

Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/964348819/overview

Stage 3 – Wivelsfield

So the situation as it stood was as below:

Pos Name Surname Club/Team Overall
1 Edmund Bishop VC Meudon 05:21:57
2 Oliver Richardson Twickenham CC 05:21:59
3 Wayne Beba Adalta CC 05:22:20
4 GARY BRIND Southdowns Bikes CASCO 05:22:28
5 Ian Bray Addiscombe CC 05:22:28
6 James Stannard Dulwich Paragon CC 05:22:31
7 Ray Wilson London Dynamo 05:22:32
8 Pat Wright Paceline RT 05:22:35
9 Chris Nicholls Regent’s Park Rouleurs 05:22:35
10 Keith Watson Adalta CC 05:22:38
11 Andy Critchlow WyndyMilla 05:23:25
12 David Murrell London Phoenix 05:23:26
13 Ian Paine London Dynamo 05:23:28
14 michael coyle Brighton Mitre 05:23:36
15 Philip Glowinski VC de Londres 05:24:33
16 Rob Sharland Paceline RT 05:24:42
17 Michael Guilford VC Meudon 05:24:56
18 Tom Percival Regent’s Park Rouleurs 05:25:02
19 Jack Freeman VC Meudon 05:25:04
20 Paul Hollingsworth London Dynamo 05:25:04

Realistically, Pat, who I hope won’t mind me saying doesn’t have a sprint. So with Day 3 a flat circuit, it was tough to imagine him moving up the GC by anything other than a solo 30s break. No small ask. RPR we’re in the exact same situation with a rider in 9th. All other teams had a GC hopeful high up the ranking. Now this meant, that all other teams would be protecting their riders, and probably riding fairly negatively. Rob was over 2 minutes down, so for him to force a result he needed to make up that time on the stage, in a break, with no other GC hopefuls around him. Another huge ask. In which case you’d have thought RPR would have been keen to work to get up the road with us….

So out we headed to try and force something of a result. The first lap was pretty leg stinging. RPR sat on the front drilling it again for some unknown reason, until they almost went the wrong way at a roundabout and things slowed up a touch. Not long after a Dynamo and a Morvelo chipped off the front. After half a lap and a few attempts Rob managed to split off the front and got after them. The right sort of situation was forming, we just had to be a pain in the bunch and give them the best chance of building the gap. So that’s exactly what we did, got in the way of the chasing bunch, and set false tempo to try and let the gap build. Dynamo, Twickenham, Adalta and Meudon were all fairly active in trying to bring the race back together, but we were doing enough that the gap got out to 1:30.

18216800_1439663206055362_7315171253876430899_o
The day’s break. 

Unfortunately it wasn’t going out past that. After another few laps of following everything that was going. RPR came to the front and repeatedly set a pretty good pace to bring the gap down, and or try and chip off the front. Again slightly bizarre considering their GC position. Dynamo were also trying similar, again odd attacking one of their own up the road. In hindsight perhaps we should have let an RPR or a dynamo go, in order to strengthen the group up the road. However, given yellow and green were never far behind, they were always there to jump with them. So shutting them down was also required, and then it was all back together again.

With 2 to go, after a lot of work chasing my legs were toasty, so I headed out the back, riding the penultimate lap solo, before stopping at the finish to see the sprint. It was fairly obvious at that point that Rob’s gap was reducing, and sure enough, it was all together before the sprint. Southdowns tee’d up their rider well for the win, with Ed Bishop of Meudon taking the overall. Pat was in the bunch, which obviously meant him maintaining his top 10 GC place.

Avg Speed – 24.9mph

Avg Power – 255w

NP Power -302w

Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/965930196

All in all a pretty disappointing weekend, and not the result we had envisaged, especially after last years nearly moment. Personally I was happy with how I rode, the legs were there all weekend, and never really felt bad on Day 3 as they have done in the past. Not sure whether that’s the higher training load, better prep or just better conditioning, so I was happy from that perspective. And this should also provide a good amount of race training to set up the rest of the year. From a team outlook I think we generally worked and communicated pretty well with everyone pulling a turn or two. I think we should have been more decisive on day 2, but that’s very easy to say looking back. Making that call on the road is a lot more difficult. The way things landed with virtually all of the teams except RPR and ourselves with decent GC placing after day 2 should have meant them being able to, or wanting to ride with us. But apparently they were seemingly more interested in riding to not let others win, rather than making a race of it, and in so doing really cut off their nose to spite their face. Next year maybe.

I’ve got a couple of upcoming events now. A fast 10m TT on 6th May where I hope I can lower my Pb. My first seeded start too, so I’m one of the later riders which I hope will help. Then after that I’m hoping for an entry to the tour of the milburys on the 20th May, which is a shortish TT as Stage 1, followed by a RR as Stage 2 on the same day. After that I’m off to Greece for a week. Taking the bike too, so should have a good week training out of that, in good conditions, and so come back in solid shape is the plan!

 

 

 

 

Season Goals and H10/22

One of my season goals this year was as per the below:

Short 20 min 10TT – Had a TT bike for the end of this season, and now have some more of the right gear, skinsuit etc. Just need to sort out a disc wheel, then start playing with positions. Fairly sure I can start to be reasonably quick if I’m able to repeat/improve on the watts I had this year. Best 20min was 350w in 2016 (held that for 25mins, so room for improvement anyway), targeting 365w for 2017 with a stretch goal of 370w. – As above shows, right course, right day, right kit, I should be quite a bit above my most recent results, but we’ll see.

I sorted myself out with a disc wheel, and have made my bike a bit tidier too, but the main improvement has been the additional watts that have come with training. At the Bentley Xmas 10 I managed a 22:19 in not the worse conditions. However I’d only managed 319w, I held a terrible position on the bike owing to not being able to see out of my helmet, and I was on 60mm carbon clinchers as opposed to something quicker. So there was clearly bags of time on the table. Then last week with the bike more in order, I managed 309w for a 50:40 25m TT, albeit on a very quick course. Clearly a step up from the Xmas 10, so things were coming together.

So Good Friday was the H10/22 a supposedly pretty quick 10 course just near Marlow. On paper it didn’t look too quick to me with a roundabout to be navigated in the middle of the course, but previous times showed otherwise. The weather was looking ok, cold early in the morning, so not especially quick. Owing to a very average pb (22:19 as above) I was among the first riders off, at 7.07am. Unfortunately this meant a 5am alarm clock as well, so wasn’t sure how the legs would react to that, but good practice for the RP TTs for sure.

In any case, the roads were clear and I made it to the HQ in good time to get setup. Got all my gear on and headed out onto the roads to warmup. My Garmin (Edge 820) has been giving me issues where it fails to turn on. Garmin logo comes up, then it just goes blank. Bit of a gamble, but usually eventually it comes good. Don’t know what causes it but its very frustrating. Obviously being race day the garmin decides to play up, and I aimlessly ride around for about 20 minutes trying to get the bloody thing to fire up. Eventually about 10 minutes to the start it comes on, annoyed I go and bang out a few sprints to get the legs ready. By this point my hands are ready to fall off, no gloves and 5 degrees was unpleasant to say the least.

Onto the start line a minute before. I’m called up, and before I know it heading onto the course. First couple of minutes at 370w+ and the constant struggle to keep the power down. I’d mentally put a figure of 340w in my head as a target, I’ve done more in the past but was starting to feel stronger than earlier in the year. Anything more than this and I’d be pleased. By 5 minutes in the power average had come down to 353w, having negotiated the roundabout. I don’t have average speed on the garmin, but it felt pretty slow thanks to the uphill grind, but I felt pretty on top of my gears so just kept it going.

Things settled down from there to the halfway point, with a bit of downhill to give the legs some slight respite, however getting onto the roundabout I looked down to see over 11 minutes, and an average of 335w. At which point I was immediately disappointed as it felt like a 20 minute time had already gone, which looking back was pretty stupid given the return leg should have been a lot faster. Back onto the DC and I managed to park that thought, hoping for a faster return. After the brief rest of the roundabout, and a chance to come up out of the extensions I felt renewed, and settled back into position. Looking back at the race now, I didn’t really know what power I was doing at this point, I just was tucked in and trying to hold a big gear, but I’m surprised to see for the 5mins after the turn I did 357w at 30.1mph! A minute later and up to 40mph, I was fast approaching the rouandabout, traffic was clear, but I came out of the extensions and tried to carry as much speed as possible through.

Just 1.5miles left to ride, and looking down at the clock I could see I’d obviously gone a lot quicker on the return. I could see a long 19 may well be on. Knowing I was pretty safe from blowing up I tried to just empty the tank to the line, holding on to 400w for the last 2 and a half minutes. The finish board came up faster than expected, and after crossing the line I immediately looked down to see a number beginning with 19, and so my first 30mph TT! I’m slightly embarrassed I actually yelled “yesss” several times after rolling back toward the HQ. I was hopeful for a good time, but to smash the season goal and pick up a 19 felt superb. Just had to hope the timekeepers were on the same time to my Garmin now.

I rolled back to the HQ and packed away before heading in to sign out and try and see my official time, which had come back as a 19.55. Only Jamie Pine of Nuun had gone faster, with 19.38 at this point.  However, in the fullness of time 5 others went faster still, with the winner recording an 18:41. Paceline RT also had James Hayden (19:46), Keith Lea (20:16) and Adam Stone (21:46).

So looking back now, obviously very pleased to have knocked one goal on the head so soon in the season. Looks like the goal itself may have been a bit soft, but when I set it only having done 22 minute 10s it didn’t feel like it was. Given the early start, I’m hopeful on another fast course/day I can shave a bit of time off that too, added to a better aero position and more watts I’m not sure if a long 18 might be on the table this year. With regards to power this still wasn’t a wattage PB, having held 350w for 25mins in the past. Given the nature of how I put the power down in the race too, I know I can do more. More training as well, and I’m sure I’m capable of 360w+ this year, the aim was always 370w but that feels like a big stretch at the moment.

All in, very chuffed with the time and looking forward to more TT’s. Next race is H25/8, a 25 on the Bentley course, followed by a road race near Watford. The following weekend is the May 3 Day, one of my season main goals, so I’m hopeful of a good showing the next couple of weeks!

Staple Hill 2/3 RR & E2/25 TT

A couple of events I’ve done of late, on RR and one TT.

SL Staple Hill 2/3

After coming in 8th at Kirdford (hanging onto the winning break for 30 miles) the legs started to feel like they were coming into form, the camp in Spain was starting to show some of its value, and I think the coaching side of things is really starting to come through as well. In previous years I’d have ridden a fair amount less (250 miles (30 something hours) less 2016 vs 2017 this year so far), added to that the rides I did do would have involved mostly just smashing myself trying to hold threshold for longer periods, chaingangs or other harder group rides. More targeted training has meant I can hit intervals a lot better when required, and when I do need to do longer rides my legs aren’t in a complete state and are able to handle the training load. I think I’m also better prepared in terms of effort recovery too, which seems to have shown during the Kirdford race.

I was a bit sceptical/nervous going into this Staple Hill race. As per the name, the race finishes on Staple Hill, a fairly shallow several minute climb, with a section of false flat, followed by some faster downhill/flatter sections before looping back to the hill. 17 times… Being of the more sizeable nature you can see why I was a bit nervous. Especially after having been binned here midway through an Ottershaw series race. Luckily the wind direction was to be helpful with a tailwind up the climb, but still.

Rolling out of the HQ

Anyhow, the race kicked off at speed, and while steak dinner and few beers the night before weren’t the best prep my legs were feeling ok. Plan of action for me was to just hold on as long as possible, and take it from there. Paceline had Rob and Benoit racing too, Benoit’s plan I think was similar, while Rob had plans on going for the win.

The first lap was just under 7 minutes and an average of 252w, which I was more than capable of holding sitting in the bunch. However the circuit was fast and tight, and reasonably busy with approaching cars, which meant moving up at the best of times was tough. After a lap the race was stopped as a result of people being stupid and all over the road, with a couple of riders called out and warned. Which led them to promptly being sat at the back of the race for a good while.

After the race was restarted I spent the next couple of laps with Benoit sat at the back of the pack. Until on the exit to one of the fast corners a mono guy veered direction from the right to the middle of the left lane, taking out a Southdowns front wheel and from the sound of it all the spokes. He promptly went down in front of me, at which point I had to wait for him to settle slightly while sliding down the road at 30mph, before taking evasive action myself. All with oncoming traffic coming down the road. One of the dodgier moments I’ve encountered while racing. Unfortunately for Benoit, the crash meant he was caught behind, and despite best efforts couldn’t get back on to the bunch.

After this event I sat on a bit more and tried to move up a bit into the bunch. All the while at the front attacks and groups were constantly chipping off the front and or being chased down and brought back. The circuit didn’t immediately seem selective enough for a break to stay, given the relatively easy nature of the wind blowing people up the climb. After a couple more laps I started to move up on the climb, and while doing so a pretty big break had formed with about 6 riders. This looked and so I decided to try and bridge across. Managed to get a reasonable jump on the bunch on the climb and set about trying to get across. 400w for just shy of 3 minutes saw me onto the back of the group where I could take a bit of a breather, but before we knew it, back down the other side of the circuit we were closed up by the bunch once more. Took me another lap to recover, sliding backwards once more on the climb.

Another few laps passed with yet more riders attacking, Rob in plenty of the moves, but nothing still sticking. I felt comfortable I could make the end of the race now with the legs still feeling strong despite the repetitive climb efforts. So from this point on I pretty much sat in, holding onto hope for a strong finish. However with a couple laps to go a rider went down hard on the hairpin corner, screaming in pain as he hit the deck. The next time round the bunch had to filter through two by two as the ambulance and paramedics were in attendance. This didn’t fill me with confidence for the finish so I pretty much just sat back during the final lap.

Coming into the final corner the pace wasn’t that rapid and I was holding on fine. Up the climb people were blowing up all over the place, so I made a strong effort for the line overtaking 20+ people. However so crap was my original positioning I only crossed the line 24th, and only having done 500w for the last 90seconds of the race, knowing I’m capable of MUCH more. Somewhat annoying as the legs still felt pretty good after the race, and I really should have backed myself a bit more for the finish, but I wasn’t really that confident owing to the tight, dodgy nature of the circuit.

Race was won by a Pearson, followed by an RPR and a Dynamo.

Still, some positives to take in that I held on, even feeling strong at the end, something I’m not sure I’d have managed as well at this time last year, so the coaching definitely seems to be helping that regard. Looking forward to the May 3 day now at the end of April, with just one more RR the weekend before. Watts continue to grow, and body mass continues to fall so hoping for a good showing there.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/923363941 

Avg Power: 248w 

NP Power: 322w

Avg Speed: 25.4mph


Lea Valley E2/25 TT

Had been looking forward to this one for a little while given TT entries seem so far in advance. The course is known to be fast, with about 10 miles of the course essentially motorway, a proper out and back dragstrip. The only downside was the 2 hour drive to get there. 

I left London about 11 o’clock and was at the HQ just after 1pm. The weather looked great, sunny and about 20c with a headwind out and tailwind back. After doing a bit of reading online it seemed conditions wouldn’t be the quickest but would be ok. Still, anything was likely to be a PB so it didn’t bother me too much. I just wanted to get a feel for it on the TT bike and see what sort of watts I could hold for a 25. I got set up, when I realised I’d left one of my trip socks at home… which was probably a good 5w or so immediately lost. I’d also ordered some faster tyres and latex tubes, which had also not arrived in time to add to the slight frustration.

Anyhow, I rolled out and down some of the local roads to warm up before getting to the start line. Still haven’t really got a process here, and just do a mix of target watts with a few harder, higher cadence efforts to get the legs opened up. I was off at 3.13pm, set off down the ramp and onto the carriageway, immediately getting settled but with watts too high, spending the first 5 minutes at 342w. I tried to hold back a bit, with the aim to try and average 320w, but even after 10 mins I was at a 333w average. The legs felt ok, not exactly good or bad, just in that odd zone in the middle where it’s not a “bad” day, but where I know I’m capable of more.

Slight odd, coming out of position pic at the turn

I arrived at the turn after just over 27 minutes, the average had now slipped to 318w with the average speed at 28mph. I knew the return should be faster given the tailwind, so I was keen to crack on and try and keep the watts up. Back onto the slip road I was extremely glad of the time out of the saddle and extensions as a bit of respite. The return was noticeably faster, holding a much bigger gear, with regular sections at well over 33mph, but the watts were starting to fall away, and it was a constant battle to keep an eye on the power numbers to try and dig deeper to hold them up.

As time wore on I was starting to get an idea of what sort of time I might end with, somewhere around 50mins, vastly better than my c.53/54min expectations. Into the last couple of miles the watts started to come back as I could empty the tank properly, spurred on by the thought of a 49. However, that came and went eventually as the clocked ticked into the 50s as I was still about 0.3miles shy of the distance. Still I managed a good 340watts for the last 40 second to cross the line with a time of 50.40.

Initially I was disappointed to not have had the trip socks, faster tyres/tubes and a potential shout of a 49, but a 50min time isn’t too bad for 310w average still. Plenty more to come there I’m sure. Still, it was obviously a very fast day as the team 25m TT record was broken four times over, with the winner, John Dewey setting the fastest ever amateur 25 time, a short 45, and the 3rd fastest UK competition time (Second only to Alex Dowsett and Marcin Bialoblocki), very impressive stuff indeed.

Impressive also were Pat and Rob from Paceline who managed 46 and 47min times respectively. Although I think Rob was less than happy with his ride due to a late position change and 25w less than usual. Pat’s efforts got him 3rd, so great ride there. Looking forward to a couple more TTs across the next few weekends now. A quickish 10 course on good Friday. Interested to see if I can hold 340w or so there, then another 25 the following Saturday.

Stravahttps://www.strava.com/activities/933462306

Avg Power: 309w

NP Power: 310w

Avg Speed: 29.6mph

Surrey League – Kirdford 2/3

So this weekend was the first road race of the season for me. In years gone by I’d typically done a crit or two in the run up to the new season, but having started from almost zero this winter after quite a long layoff I chose to wait a bit longer, and stick to some TTs instead, which I’ve also enjoyed. The watts/form just hasn’t been anywhere near where I’d like until after Spain and a couple of months of coached training. Fast forward to the end of March and the numbers are starting to approach where I was for a good chunk of last year which is pleasing to see, but still a fair way off from where I want things to be. I’ve managed to shed 5kg since the beginning of the year, but aiming to lose the same again to be in much better shape as well.

I’d had a reasonable weeks training through the week, a good tempo session Thursday, easy day Friday, then planned a couple of hours Saturday, but when out on the bike felt extremely weak, with 250w+ very difficult which worried me quite a bit, not felt that bad in a while. Went home ate a good meal of pasta in the evening, loaded up on electrolytes and hoped for the best.

Slightly annoyingly the race was at 9.30am, on the morning after the clocks going forward, which meant effectively a 6am alarm call. Not the usual for a Sunday! Ended up at the HQ pretty early still and got set up and signed in. The race was full up with 60 riders and a fair few teams with strong representation, namely Paceline with 9 riders! Dynamo, Southdowns, Meudon and RPR all with reasonably strong looking teams. RPR had been cleaning up at races of late, so knew they were ones to watch very closely as well. A few Paceline riders seemed keen for breaks, I mentioned I’d go for the sprint if it was all together at the end, but was keen to try and get away on the 2nd last, or last lap over the finish hill.

We rolled out together, into the sunshine, cold, but a lovely day for early season, with a reasonable easterly wind. 2.9 miles neutralised to the circuit reminded me the sketchy nature of following the lead car closely, with people surging and breaking all over the place. I was feeling pretty nervous, not having raced since September last year, and unsure of how the legs would be after Saturday, and more importantly in terms of overall fitness. We turned right onto the circuit, and as the lead car accelerated off the pace really kicked up. Quickly down the hill towards the finish straight, with the pace over the finish hill feeling quite hard to my legs. In that first lap a couple of attacks went and the pace settled a bit. I tried to sit well within the bunch, keen not to use much early on, as a long one seemed pretty much doomed to fail with so much power in the main group, 214w for the first lap.

On the second lap I saw a couple of Paceline heading up the road so decided to move up and try and set a bit of false tempo on the front with Paul and Colin.

17545511_10155158962646487_5572248911187827710_o (1)

Riders up the road seemed to have a good gap, with I believe Damien of Paceline up the road at this point I think with up to a minute on the bunch, so appeared to be going well. I was hoping the race would stay this way for another lap at least, as lasting in a break 30 miles long would seem unlikely. However, on the finish hill with 3 laps left to ride I noticed two RPR riders moving up on the right. I was toward the front of the group and so luckily they were at the start of their move. I quickly jumped into their wheels, and sure enough they kicked hard up the hill. I followed, which took a good amount of watts, 800w for 30s to hold on, then I came round on the second kick of the hill to put in a strong turn to try and secure the jump away from the main bunch. A few others managed to follow, so the 6 of us put some reasonably good work in to get up the road. In fairly short order we closed on a few others up the road, some of who held on and some who didn’t. After a lap of hard riding we were joined by a couple of dynamos, but our gap looked solid, going up to about 90seconds I believe at one point, with most of the teams represented I guess the bunch would have slowed slightly, helped by some good false tempo.

The second lap away felt harder, with plenty of riders starting to miss turns, and the organisation of riders failing slightly. 4 Southdown’s riders had managed to get in the break, so they started to try and get away from this group on their own, while the rest of them sat in in the remainder of the group, which made things all the more tough chasing them down or trying to follow.

Over the finish hill with 1 to go I was really starting to feel the effort, and ended up a good few bike lengths off the back of the group. I struggled over the next rise, hoping I could nail the descent and find a wheel to follow, luckily the group seemed to slow just a bit at the right time and I re-joined, attempting to hide in the wheels a bit to recover.  Again for the remainder of the lap a few riders attempted to get up the road again, but I was in no position to chase and largely just held on, having to get out of the saddle several times, working hard just to keep contact. Eventually after what felt like forever, we made the left turn onto Plaistow road, and a bit of downhill. The group slowed a lot as the rest of the attacks failed and people started to look at each other ahead of the sprint, so the group of 15 or so of us rolled toward the finish. The pace picked up a bit toward the final left hander, but I’d had a small breather. The guys at the front of the bunch hit it early and were a fair way up the road already, I used what I had left and tried to sprint for the line, leaving a few others behind to cross the line in 8th, just behind the first bunch of finishers. RPR finished 1 and 2, impressive riding from them considering the 4 riders from Southdown’s in the break. Damien finished in the next group down from me, with everything having split up on the finish hill, with the rest of Paceline rolling in with the bunch.

17546838_1397312953623721_4308358871856280799_o

Overall fairly pleased with placing, considering my first race of the season. Hopefully plenty more of fitness to find, and a bit more endurance to last a bit longer in the break. Happy to have made the race winning selection though and to have held on, where in previous years I may well have thrown in the towel. I’d ended up with 319w NP for the 2:20 of racing, which I think is reasonably comfortably the highest I’ve done for that length of time. Average watts look ok with about 295w for an hour, still quite a bit down on what I’ve done in the past. Sprint watts not great with peak at 1122w and 860w for 20s, but considering I’ve not done a huge amount of sprint efforts yet this year, I suppose not too bad.

17434808_1397311683623848_8271009260182900332_o