Bit of a stage race themed update this time.
When I set out at the end of last year I had a number of key races and targets I’d discussed with Tim, one of those was my main target again for the year, the May 3 Day. Coming in toward the race it seemed like I was pretty much peaking at the right time, I’d had a decent showing at a few races and probably felt the best I’d felt racing in the Staple Hill Handicap the week before.
The week of the 3 day though, I ended up taking Thursday afternoon off work as I just felt completely fatigued, then come the weekend I woke up with a horrible feeling dry throat and just felt generally under the weather not strong enough to be riding well. To make matters worse, I had put off getting ready for the race so I was rushing around in the morning getting generally stressed, and to compound it further couldn’t find my race license. I ended up leaving late, and on the way down to the race I considered turning around and going back to bed more than once. I persevered and drove on to the HQ, but for the first time driving toward a race I could tell I just didn’t want to be there, I didn’t feel present and everything felt a bit weird, almost as if I was on autopilot or operating in 3 person, all a bit odd. The usual mild nerves and anticipation just wasn’t there, I just wanted to get it done with the hope I could maybe last stage 1 and possibly feel a bit better the next day.
Anyway, I got to the HQ and signed on which I managed to do with a pdf British Cycling had sent me a while ago, luckily the comms accepted it and I got my race numbers to pin on. I carried on getting ready and rolled up and down the road feeling very average. Paceline had just myself and Pat, which in itself was disappointing enough. Pat normally does well and it’s a shame to not have a proper team out to help him. Before being ill I was hopeful of a good showing in stage 1 at least. As it was things got underway and I was just about fine sat in the bunch but I definitely wasn’t going anywhere else fast. A few riders got up the road and got a good gap, so things slowed in a the bunch a bit and I just kept hiding in the wheels, trying to keep my average as far under 200w as possible.
Photo credit: Gary Wyatt
After a few more miles the race was stopped for riding standards, at which point a fellow rider pointed out the tyre sealant all up the back of my frame (I’d switched to tubeless for the race with the aim of avoiding punctures). The tyre seemed to have sealed so I left it at that. In hindsight, with the race stopped I should have got a new wheel from neutral, but as it was I left it. 1 lap later the wheel went soft and was losing pressure. I pulled over for neutral, who were a long wait away helping another rider. Eventually got a new wheel and got going, with a bit of help from the neutral van, but I was half a circuit away from the bunch so after 10 mins at threshold I sat up. With motivation and a will to be there at an all-time low, I rolled back to the HQ and just packed up and went back home to bed, one season goal in the bin after a good few months training. Quite tough to swallow. Still, it was a bank holiday weekend and the weather was sublime, so I took the rest of the weekend as rest and went back to see my parents with Saima which was nice and relaxing. I did ride once, but still felt completely empty so just left it there for the rest of the weekend.
After a week taking it pretty easy, I was back to full health and riding again looking toward the weekend of the 12th-13th. I’d booked in another stage race, this time a 2 day affair with 2 stages on day 1 (a hill climb and a road bike TT) and a hilly road race on day 2, this time down near Bournemouth. Pat and Benoit also signed up.
I was a bit concerned running into the race that after peaking toward the 3 day, and having spent a fair amount of time racing rather than training that I’d lost some fitness, and especially so after not having ridden the previous weekend. The sessions before the weekend my legs felt like they weren’t really responding and any big effort felt beyond me. I wanted to start anyway as the first two stages looked very well suited to me.
We got down there early Saturday and Benoit and I rode the stage 1 hill climb. The course couldn’t have really been any more suited to me if it tried. Just 0.7miles in length, 2/3rds of it a fast flat run into a short hill at the end. Basically vo2 max followed by a 30s anaerobic sprint up the hill. We rode it twice before going to wait for our start times. As I queued up I felt relatively confident I could do something useful. I set off and got tucked in whilst holding onto a high tempo towards the hill, conscious to hold back before the road kicked up, as soon as I rounded the bend and saw the hill I basically just sprinted for the line, finishing in 1.49. eventually this would turn out to be good enough for 2nd place, 3 second behind the leader. A good result for me! Pat was a little way behind in just over 2 mins, as was Benoit.
The next stage was a 9.4mile road bike TT, riding the course as a recce before the race it was a little bit rolling but with nothing too steep and so again looked fairly well suited to me. Benoit and I stopped off at a pub near the start to have lunch and refuel before getting ready for the TT. I rolled around and watched a few riders finish whilst warming up, only to see one of the main contenders (number 4, zach bridges) come in behind number 8, meaning he’d lost a chunk of time. Eventually it was my time and I set off getting low as possible, the course felt pretty quick in places, my watts weren’t great. I’d managed over 365w for 20mins this year so far, but I could only seem to hold onto about 350w today. In any case eventually passed my minute man, and tried to hold something back for the finish which kicked up a bit of a hill, crossing the line in 21:03. It turned out that Zach had arrived to the start 4 minutes late, but had gone almost a minute quicker than anyone else in 20:07, two other riders had broken the 21 minute mark with 20:40s, then I was tied with George Skinner at 21:03. Remains to be seen how they treat the results but I’m classing that as joint 3rd given zach should have been given a 4 minute penalty.
The comms deliberated on the penalty, and in the end decided to give him a 1:45 penalty, reasons for this time specifically seemed difficult to fathom, but that’s how it went. So as it was, after two stages I was fourth on GC, with Pat in 10th ish after he’d done a longer 21min TT with Benoit a fair way further down. All to play for for the 3rd stage. Realistically I had hopes of just getting round. The circuit was seriously tough looking with now flat, just up of down.
As it turned out after a neutralised period the first time up the hill, the race started fast and was lined out pretty much from the gun. The descents were fast, and the climbs pretty sharp and at pace. I knew I was out of my depth unless the race would slow up a bit which never seemed to happen, then on the 3rd time up the hill I just couldn’t hold the wheel in front, despite getting out of the saddle several times to try and sprint to hold it along the false flat. I was done. I rolled another lap and then headed back to HQ with Benoit, who had basically been off the back from the gun. A bit disappointing to end that way, but realistically without being 5kg lighter I hadn’t a hope. I’d got some good results and points on the earlier stages so I had to be reasonably happy.
Photo credit: Eamonn Deane – local riders local races
Pat managed to stay in the bunch, and then made a selection of 10 or so on the last lap, a decent ride on a circuit pretty well suited to him, which I believe put him top 10 in the GC, so a fairly good weekend for him too.
Next up I think I need a period off from racing to regroup and do some more quality training rides and consolidate a bit. But as it stands I have another Central league race on the 20th, and a road bike TT on the 16th this week. After that hopefully a reasonable period off racing for a little while.