SL Alfold 2/3 and Crystal Palace Crits 3/4

Been a while since my last couple of races so here’s a write up of what I’ve been up to recently.

SL Alfold 2/3

Since the May 3 day I’ve been a bit wary of entering the 2/3 races, especially if there has been a 3rds only alternative. I guess I just don’t think I’m quite there to compete at that level yet. However, Alfold is a pretty flat circuit, and there was no alternative for this weekend.

The weather was pretty much as good as it gets for racing, warm, not much wind, and perfectly clear. Paceline had a particularly good represntation with 7 riders on the line. Cameron, Pat, Gareth, Paul, Keith, Jon and myself. In discussions prior to the race Gareth and Pat were both keen to get in a long break from the start. I didn’t think I had the strength for that so my plan was to wait until nearer the end to either try and bridge, or form a break of my own.

Sure enough things got off to a fast start. Gareth had already drafted in a number of other strong break riders on his break plans, so they were trying to put things to action, with constant attacks. However the bunch wasn’t so keen and despite a couple of attacks briefly getting gaps, things were always brought together by a pretty commited peleton. As this was going on I was just surviving toward the back of the group, trying to keep an eye on what was going on up the road.

After around an hour of racing an incident with a learner driver meant the race was stopped to give everyone a talking to. Things picked up again after a brief break and the game was back on. Still attacks were attempted but still nothing got away. The course and weather was making things a touch dry.

With 20 miles to go I noticed Pat towards the back of the bunch and moving up. There was a couple of dangling off the front at this point. Pat looked like he was still keen to get in a break, I was feeling decent at this point, and though he would have much more chance in a break than I could at this point, so I got up beside and said to follow my wheel. As I got toward the front of the bunch I jumped and then settled into 350w for a couple of minutes to bridge Pat onto the guys out front at which point he could attack again. Seemed to work well as Pat was soon up the road with several others as I drifted back to the bunch.

Over the next lap Pat’s break consolidated and had a strong gap to the group, several others maanged to bridge across so it seemed there were 7 or 8 up the road by this point.

With about 4 miles to go I was still feeling ok, and with Pat’s break now all but secure I thought about an attack of my own. Rolled up to the front of the group then jumped hard, doing around 1000w for about 15 seconds to get a gap, then settling into as near to 400w as I could manage. I daren’t look back and just kept driving, knowing I only had about another 5 minutes of effort. After a minute or so I chanced a look back and saw I had a promising gap. After another 30 seconds or so it looked like two others were bridging across having also escaped the bunch. My effort was slipping to 350w when eventually the two others came past, Stuart Spies of Dynamo and one other. I tagged on the back, and then came through when the others had done a turn, we still had an ok gap, but things seemed to close up on the climb through Alfold, after another minute or so we were nearly at the HQ, and looking back the bunch was catching fairly fast, looked like the game was up.

As I passed the HQ (Still 500m from the finish) we were caught, at which point Declan Egan, sprinted like a bullet past, a couple of seconds later, as the bunch were passing to the right, all hell seemed to break loose and there was a heavy crash. Seemed as if 5 or 6 riders down, with others all over there place. I ended up in an opening in the hedge just behind Jon and Keith who had narrowly avoided the worst of it, only for Jon’s frame to have taken a hit and cracked on the chain stay.

I rolled over the line to pick up the finish and 31st place.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/370290269
Avg Power: 238w
NP Power: 301w
Avg Speed: 25.8mph

Thoughts post race.

Overall I was happy to have been able to finish with the main group, having been unsure of my fitness for 2/3 racing at the beginning. Looking back though I’m slightly annoyed I didn’t make a bit more of an effort to get in the break with Pat, as I think I could have potentially got stuck in there, and potentially got a result, should have backed myself really. Always easy to look back with hindsight though, and I’m glad I at least ahd the strength to attack towards the end, just wasn’t quite strong enough for it to come off. Looking at the watts as well, 301w NP for 2:25 is quite easily my best performance in terms of power, so pretty pleased with that.

I was also reprimanded for riding on the wrong side of the road without moving up, a second talking to after my DQ at Kitsmead. Really dissapointed with this, as I’ve always thought (DQ Aside) I’ve been a pretty safe rider. So I need to take a look at my riding on the road, and make some better decisions there in the future.

CP Crits

My third attempt at the infamous South London Crits series, with the track to be raced ACW, my prefered direction. I noticed one particular name on the start list being Iain Paine. A previous winner, from a very strong solo break. We lined up, and again I made the mistake of not getting to the line sooner, immediately being one of the last in the bunch.

The pace was brutal from the off and after a few laps there were a lot of gaps opening up all over the place with riders unable to hold the wheel in front. This made for tough work in keeping touch, or trying to move past slower riders. After a couple of laps I tried to move up into the hairpin but was soon back towards the back third as I just couldn’t quite maintain the pace.

After about 15 minutes of racing there was a big split, with the peleton dividing pretty much exactly in half, with me in the second group. The second group was clearly tiring as nobody seemed interesting in working. After a lap like this I made a big dig to attempt to bridge. Eventually caught up to the first bunch into the hairpin, but had gone deep enough that I was struggling to keep up out of the bottom corners. Gapped again going up the hill, only to catch back on at the hairpin, then to get dropped going up the hill again.

The game was up and the pace and bridge had been too much for me, so I rolled off the back and was passed by the next group, I rolled around another lap solo before being ushered off the circuit to clear things for the finish of the ladies, and 3/4 race.

Was always going to be tough with fatigue in the legs from Sunday, even so the pace being higher than usual just made things even worse. That’s the last one for this year, so perhaps next year!

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/372053792
Avg Power: 303w
NP Power: 391w (!!!)
Avg Speed: 24.2mph

In other news, I managed to pass my Stage 4 Track accreditation at Lee Valley, so have to build up another 10 hours track time, then I can enter the winter track league, in a hope to maintain some race fitness through winter. Treated myself by picking up a second hand Dolan Pre-Cursa to ride on track. Just need to sort some new chainrings/sprockets and Garmin/cadence sensor mounts.

SL Kitsmead Handicap, SL Cyclopark 2/3 and Crystal Palace Crits 3/4

Couple of races since my last update on here, a Handicap, a RR on a circuit and the infamous CP Crits.

SL Kitsmead Handicap

After the 10 on Wednesday wasn’t expecting too much from the legs for this Handicap. The circuit however is all but flat, so usually not too much in the way of big watts needed expect if attacking. I was in the second group, with the first given a healthy lead. Our group seemed to work ok, with the exception of one unattached rider who was barely strong enough to come through each time, he was still trying though so fair play to him, and one Maison du Velo rider who just didn’t want to work. A couple of laps in I was feeling pretty good, and was getting a bit frustrated at the lack of some people’s work, so sprinted up the road, to get a couple of seconds gap and try and catch the first group. I managed to stay away working hard for a lap before the group behind were closing, so I sat up and joined them again.

Eventually everything came together on the penultimate lap, and we spent the next lap working in no particular order with people coming through everywhere. I was concious to try not to do too much, but an hours hard racing was taking its toll anyway. Onto the second last straight section, and it was getting lairy, I tried to move up but ended up on the right hand side of the road with a car oncoming, not clever. Then it happened again just before the final left hander.

Round the corner and I held position, but was probably 20th or so at this point. Managed to find James Bradley’s wheel, who’s a strong sprinter, but I had to sprint hard up one of the small rises towards the finish, at which point I popped. Couldn’t hold on anymore and went backwards through the field and through to the finish.

An average race, feeling ok, and considering against Elite and 1st Cats at the end, I was probably never getting a result.

Anyhow, none of that mattered as I was Dq’d for going on the wrong side of the road when I did. In hindsight a really stupid thing to do, and something I’ll certainly not repeat.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/357596358
Avg Power: 282w
NP Power: 320w
Avg Speed: 25.9mph

SL Cyclopark 2/3

This was always expected to be a tough race, I think its a fairly selective circuit, with several points that require a pretty strong sprint on every lap. It was due to be 90mins plus 5 laps. Got to the circuit late, but managed to sign on, pin my number and get a lap in round to queue up at the start. Pace was pretty high from the off, but ok. As always here hanging around at the back requires much more work due to the concertina in the sharp turns, so I tried to get towards the front third which I managed to do after a couple of laps.

It was clear that I wouldn’t be strong enough to attack though, as there was a strong wind on the back straight and I was working hard enough to stay attached to the accelerations. After around 40 mintues Dom of Paceline (only teamate this race) attacked and it looked a good move, so I worked my way up to sit on the front and try to slow/disrupt any chase by the peleton.  After a lap on the front a couple of chasers got away and Dom was joined by two of them to form what looked like it could be the winning move. After several more laps, and just before the hour mark I felt like I couldn’t take anymore sprints, and so sat up.

I hadn’t felt great going into the race, so wasn’t too dissapointed, but never nice to throw in the towel. Looking at the numbers, my power was way down, so potentially carried way to much fatigue into the race after the 10 and Kitsmead.

Dom went on to finish 4th, another great result for him.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/358892580
Avg Power: 248w
NP Power: 305w
Avg Speed: 24.6mph

Crystal Palace 3/4

My second attempt at CP, and a new direction to the circuit with it being run ACW. After a decent sweet spot session on Monday the legs felt decent riding to the circuit, although I was keen to ride easy all the way there.

Rolled up to the start on the last row, which is not the wisest thing to do at Palace given the chances of getting dropped, and after the whistle almost didn’t get clipped in. Eventually got the pedal though and got into the bunch round the first hairpin. This was my first time in this direction, so the first couple of laps were tentative, but I quickly found rhythm, and was able to commit to the corners, which helped carry speed. There was a tough headwind down the finish straight, so looking back it breaks would be unlikely, not that that seemed to occur to me at the time stupidly.

After a couple of laps, and the legs feeling really decent for a change, I decided to get toward the front, which I managed pretty much in one corner, with the majority of the bunch seeming to coast into the hairpin, I just kept pedalling up to the inside, and got to the corner first. Decided to have a dig at this point to see if I could jump the group, and immediately had a couple of bike lengths after a hard sprint. Easy enough to keep the gap around the next couple of turns, but back onto the main straight the wind came into play and bunch was back on.

For the next couple of laps I couldn’t seem to get off the front, I didn’t want to sit up and let them all fly past and be spat out the back, so was probably working far too hard at this point.

A couple of laps later the bell went, which really caught me by surprise. I had expected an hour of racing, and it was only about 35mins at this point. I tried hard to move up, but the pace was now a couple of notches higher, and coming up the last ascent I was near the back. Made up a couple of positions sprinting up the hill, but wasn’t going to be in the mix for a placing as I crossed the line mid pack.

Pleased to stay attached throughout though, especially as it was my first time riding the circuit that way, and pleased to actually feel strong in a race, which I haven’t properly had for a long while now. Just don’t seem to have the tactical side working, as I’m sure had I not have worked so hard in the middle of the race I could have been well placed to contest the sprint. More attention needed on the lap board next time. Numbers look a bit more appropriate too compared to what I know I can do, which I was happy about.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/361283254
Avg Power: 292w
NP Power: 359w
Avg Speed: 23.7mph

Looking forwards, no real big aims in terms of racing until the end of August. I’ve got London triathlon on the 8th where I’m doing the bike leg as a relay team. Should be a good chance to try out my power for an hour, as I’ve not done a proper hour effort for a while. Then on the 9th have my Stage 4 Velodrome accreditation, so here’s hoping I can pass that, and be a step closer to getting into the winter track league.

After that its a SL Sharpethorne 3rd Cat race on the 23rd, followed by SL Seale 3rds the weekend after. Looking forward to those, and hoping I can forge some results before the end of the season!!

Velopark 3rds and Richmond Park TT 2 

Things started to look up a touch after my last post, following two days complete rest at the beginning of the week. I went out on the bike Wednesday morning at about 8am and was greeted with the hottest day of the year, a few brief efforts but an overall easy ride, I felt ok, still a bit average. Thursday harder ride and attempt at an FTPish lap, which was well short of what I’m capable of. Should have been paying attention and backed off again at this point.

Friday easy, then Saturday a 3rds race at Velopark, a circuit I’ve not raced before.

As the circuit is only 10 miles away from home I rode there right through central which was pretty cool early in the morning, being all but deserted. I headed over early to help marshal the 4ths who were racing earlier, in return for a free race.

The 4ths race passed without incident, and the bunch stayed together. Mostly I expect due to a strong headwind on the main straight.

Time for the 3rds to have a go. Clipped in and off the line, the circuit is a fairly simple design, with basically three hairpins, and 90 degree corners in between linking it up, almost a T shape, and several very brief elevation changes. None of the corners are sharp, and can be pedalled through unless really gunning it into the corner at speed. All of this adds to a not very technical circuit, which is largely quite fast, although it still feels slightly narrow at points, especially the main straight.

As the race was underway I was feeling ok, but didn’t expect much in the way of breaks to actually be successful, so probably rode quite negatively as a result, I knew I certainly didn’t have the legs for a meaningful break, so rode for the sprint. Several riders did try to get away, in particular a Dulwich rider who went with 20 mins to go, and had a good 20 second gap, but after a couple of strong laps from the group he was brought back before the end.

The headwind down the main straight meant it would have been particularly tough solo.

With 4 to go I worked my way up the bunch on the right hand side and tried to stay there, I was feeling very average by this point, but wanted to at least try for the sprint. With 1 to go I had slipped back down the bunch, but tried again to work my way up on the right hand side. Into the corner before the last hairpin and some dodgy riding a rider ahead had everyone shouting, and slowed me up onto the right hand side. I tried to make up a few places round the outside of the last hairpin, but onto the mainstraight must have been back in around 30th. At least I had plenty of shelter from the wind for the sprint.

I wound it up for a pretty average sprint for me 1000w for 5seconds before all hell broke loose, in that time I’d made up several places, but ahead about 5 riders had gone down. As I was rapidly approaching at 36mph I honestly thought I was going down too, but somehow I managed to slow a bit, and ended up bunny hopping and or dodging my way out of trouble, really not sure how I made it out upright, and definitely one of the scary moments I’ve been caught up in.

Ended up crossing the line in 18th after all the mayhem, not the most enjoyable race, and or circuit.

The figures also read as good evidence for overtraining as they are very average for a crit for me.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/338820307
Avg Power: 259w / (For comparison, last Cyclopark race – 268w)
NP Power: 299w / (vs 321w)
Avg Speed: 25.3mph / (vs.24.8mph

A good 20w down on NP, cyclopark is more sprinting out of corners, but still. Perceived effort was relatively high for those watts as well.

Grant and I moving up

Sunday was the second edition of the Richmond Park TT, and conditions looked to be decent. True to form my legs still felt smashed though so I wasn’t hopeful. I’d finally replaced my HR monitor for this as I’d been without for a while, so was looking forward to that data.

I was off at 6:50, and due to the pleasant day, the park was a lot busier. I sprinted off the line and tried to settle into an effort. Last time out I’d averaged 326w, so this was the rough aim. My legs were burning throughout, but pushed on and began to feel ok up Sawyers, where I passed my 30second man. Down to Kingston Gate I began to feel worse, and struggled to get the watts out downhill, careful on the u-turn and back up the gradient to Richmond Gate. I began to deteriorate up the hill, and at times was down to 280w. I headed back down Sawyers toward Roehampton, and after taking a bit of respite down the hill eventually came across a bunch of deer halfway across the road, which cost my a bit of time.

Back towards Robin Hood Gate and I was really toast now, I couldn’t keep the watts up at all, before the turn to Pen Ponds. I took a long “sprint” for the line and finished in 26:32, a whole 79 seconds slower than 2 weeks earlier.

5th July / 21st June

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/339335942
Avg Power: 315w / 326w

NP Power: 331w / 337w
Avg Speed: 23.8mph / 25.1mph

More notably, my avg. HR was 170bpm. 10-15bpm down on what I would expect for a 10m TT. I think yet more signs of fatigue. So on what should have been an easy week, I ended up doing a Crit, and a TT, and a total of 8hrs riding.

I’m planning a week full rest this week, which will be hard, but I think I really need it if I hope to find some form for the second half of the season.

SL Accom. Road Handicap / Crits at the Park – 6th / Richmond Park TT – 9th Overall

After reflecting on my last relatively succcessful outing at Cutmill, my next big target was the next SL 3rds race at Dunsfold. I’d had a bit of blip in terms of CTL numbers prior to Cutmill so really wanted to have a big week of training the week after, to try and breakthrough the mini ceiling I feel like I’ve found at the moment.

Went out on a club training ride on Tuesday and made sure I really gave it to myself, ended up with some decent power pb’s from around 3mins up to 7mins. Also some good sprint practice. Wednesday the legs were still feeling it but did some fairly strong intervals round Regents Park, which was not ideal prep for Thursday’s SL Handicap race.

This was my first Handicap race, and while familiar with the concept from reading others race reports etc, I was still a little unsure how it would end up. As it would happen I was seeded in the second group off, setting off quite some time after the first group containing some 3’s, 3v’s and ladies.

My group worked reasonably well to begin with in terms of the chainganging, but most of the riders either weren’t trying very hard, or just were not very strong. This continued for a couple of laps of the rolling course until the next group behind caught up. Things started to get a bit more ragged with around 5 laps to go and a big bunch. There were spats of good chaingang movement, followed by sections where riders would move up the road and it would all break down. Shortly after a few laps to go the scratch group caught us, and the pace picked up quite noticeably. I was now working fairly hard to remain in the bunch or move up, still I tried to get at the front and move the pace on.

Into the final lap and it was clear we weren’t going to catch the first group as they had around 2 minutes by now. I thought I’d at least try and position for the sprint, but I was so concerned with staying near the front for the final sharp left hander, that I worked pretty much half the lap hard on the front. By the time we took the last corner I was spent. Had I been fresh I probably would have been at least contesting the sprint, but the volume in the days before finished me and I rolled over the line behind the bunch. Not too bothered as the main reason I was there was for the training, and I would have been sprinting for very minor placings anyway!

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/328268498
Avg Power: 273w
NP Power: 319w
Avg Speed: 24.6mph

I reluctantly took Friday off the bike after a busy day, then I had a Cyclopark Crit on Saturday afternoon. Arrived at the course nice and early and in the rain, the circuit was wet, but drying rapidly thanks to the recent warm weather. As it happened by our race start it was bone dry. Bonus! Things got off to a very steady start which was unusual for these races. After a lap or two I decided to move to the front and try and do some work to string things out a bit, which seemed to work as I noticed us dropping several riders off the back. I was still feeling the weeks training but at no point felt like the pace was too much, in fact at times it felt positively pedestrian and I was able to take drinks and scope competitors out a fair bit.

Several attacks were attempted but either myself or others shut them down, a couple of times I attempted to jump clear out of the hairpin, but never seemed to make much ground, as others behind me seemed to also have a good jump. After about 30minutes it seemed fairly clear it would all stay together for a bunch sprint, so I backed into the bunch a touch and tried to keep fresh.

With 4 to go the pace turned up a touch as people starting thinking about the finish, but no meaningful attacks still. Through the bell lap and the bunch still altogether if a little strung out. I was midpack by this point, so through the finish line moved up all the way on the left handside to second wheel. First wheel then put in a strong dig out of the hairpin to get clear. I didn’t fancy burning a match going after him, so settled into a TT effort down the back half of the course, confident I could make up the ground, which began to close up. Through the corners and back up towards the finish straight all the way pushing a reasonable effort and catching until he seemed to blow before the finish hill kicked slightly.

At this point I felt the bunch behind me pick up gears, and the sprint was on. I was obviously slightly late to the party and got swapped both sides with riders going past. A gap opened on the left hand side and I was able to open up for the sprint, not my best effort as I think I was concerned at the other riders so close, but managed to take back several of the places and came across the line in 6th.

Pleased with that effort considering the miles I had in my legs. Wish I’d held back a touch and been a few wheels further back into the finish straight though, if I’d have kicked at the right time with space fairly sure a podium place could have been on the cards.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/329288545
Avg Power: 268w
NP Power: 321w
Avg Speed: 24.8mph

All of this again was not ideal prep for the Richmond Park TT, but good fun nonetheless. I was due to be off at 6:52, which despite the event being the most local I’ve done still meant a 5am alarm call in order to get the TT bike ready, get breakfast and sign-on nice and early.

I felt grim being up that early. The weather was overcast and a touch windy, but not too bad conditions considering the rain that had fallen the night before. I signed on and watched a couple of the Paceline guys in the road bike category come over the line as I made my way down to the start.

Sprinted hard off the line and was soon into the extensions and making my way towards Roehampton. Legs felt surprisingly ok at this point, and I was aiming at around 330w. Wasn’t confident turning towards Sawyers in the extensions so came up and made the turn before settling back.

Reasonable headwind up Sawyers drag made things harder than usual, but I was fairly quickly past my 30 second man. Sprinted the steep section then took a bit of rest in the dip towards Richmond gate, steady round the left turn I then sprinted out of the roundabout down towards Kingston. Felt decent doing 30mph+ down the hill, where I overtook the next 30 second man.

Slowed up for the u-turn at Kingston gate which I think I negotiated fairly well, and got back up to speed for the drag back to Richmond gate. I was starting to hurt here and was struggling to keep to my 330w target. Made the roundabout turn back towards Roehampton, and was looking forward to the downhill, where the speed was soon up to 40mph+. Was nice to be able to really push it in the park which was reasoably empty at this time. In hindsight I eased back here too much, as I find it harder to get the power out downhill, but I think the tiny respite helped as I was able to keep the watts up after the downhill.

Back towards Robin hood, feeling as ok as you can in a 10m TT, and almost had a horror moment, as a rabbit ran out across my wheel while I was in the extensions. No time to even consider moving, as luckily it was faster than my reactions, and dodged my wheel.

The adrenaline spike probably helped me in the last section as I climbed the draggy road up to the finish at pen ponds. The legs were on fire at this point and I sprinted across the finish to end with a time of 25:13.

Bit of a disaster with the timings meant not knowing the outcome until later but was 8th in TT bike category which was pleasing, and the watts (326w) were ok too. Think I’m around 20w down on the TT bike so that points to c.350w for 20mins on the road bike, which is positive.

Some awesome rides from all the Paceline guys, especially Rob Sharland to win TT bike with 22:58! Gareth Thomas for 2nd in the road bike category with a 25:23 (only 10secs off my time!) and Maryka for winning the ladies road category with 27:12.

Conditions weren’t the greatest so there’s more time there. I was also only running training wheels and an Evade helmet, so hopefully I can get in for the next one, be more aero and pick up some time.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/329715808
Avg Power: 326w
NP Power: 337w
Avg Speed: 25.1mph

TT bike

On the way up Sawyers.

Really enjoying riding my bike at the moment whether its racing, TT’ing or training, and I think thats showing in my results.

West Thames Crit Series E123 – Hillingdon

The less said about this one the better I guess. Cruised over to Hillingdon into a fairly strong wind, complete with legs feeling worse for wear after no rest day on Monday. Signed on and headed out to the circuit to get some laps in. The first time I’d raced on the circuit clockwise, which felt a bit odd at first.

As a 3rd Cat my hopes for the race were just to stay in touch with the bunch for as long as possible. We started off and I immediately found the pace ok, sprinting out of the corners was a given, but I was for the most part riding within myself, and moving well in the bunch towards the front third of the pack. There were numerous attacks going off, none of which I was going to be in, I was never going to be that strong. After a short while a group of four got a decent gap, with a Twickenham rider and a Pedalheaven guy too. After about 20mins I started to feel my rear wheel going soft in the corners, which felt odd. Up the back straight asked someone to look at it, and sure enough it was punctured and going down, albeit reasonably slowly. But the last thing I wanted was to roll it off the wheel on a hard corner, so I sat up and completed the lap before exiting the circuit. Gutted as I felt I was going well up until that point, which had surprised me.

Managed to inflate the tyre then hammered it home which was at least an ok workout, and the tyre stayed relatively ok until I got home, but was quickly flat after that.

Overall pleased to have been able to keep up for the time I was there, although I wonder if Pedalheavan and other teams with people in the break may have been slowing things down a touch. However the average speed is way higher than anything I’ve done before so perhaps not. The wind also probably helped slow the bunch up at certain points, which would have helped me stay in the mix. 

Really need to start taking spare wheels to races (tough when you ride there) or just start using gatorskin tubs or something.

Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/303247612

Avg/NP: 276w/285w

Avg Speed: 27.7mph

Crits at the Park (Cyclopark) Cat 3 Race

Had this one in the calendar for a while but wasn’t sure if I would race it or not, as I wasn’t sure how I’d be after the May 3 day. As it happened after a fairly easy week I felt like I’d be going well, the other reason was the weather, as being a pansy I didn’t fancy racing in the wet again 😮

The weather was ok on Saturday but really windy, so I got the train over to Gravesend and rode over to the circuit to sign on. Guessing there were a lot of other races on this weekend as the field was probably the smallest I’ve been up against since starting racing this year.

After the womans racing had finished I got out on circuit, the finish straight/hill drag was a nice tailwind, but after the hairpin at the top it was an almighty headwind all the way down to the bottom of the circuit, the only advantage of which was that no braking required into any of the turns bar the hairpin.

Lined up at the start which was only two riders deep, immediately got a decent start and was up near the front, one guy in orange was going hard from the off so followed him, out of the hairpin and he was going for it, tried to stay with him but was concious of doing too much into the headwind, looked behind me and the whole bunch was strung out. Stupidly assumed we’d catch the guy later in the race, but lap after lap he was pulling an advantage, and nobody really seemed to want to do any work into the wind. I stayed on/near the front just as this seemed nicer choosing a line into each corner and carrying speed. Was working hard up the finish straight, but the whole bunch would just sit up into the wind most laps, and I’d be doing barely 200w.

Towards the last half of the race a couple of guys started trying to get away, each time I’d either chase or try to go with them, but it seemed like everyone wanted to go solo, as soon as anyone would get near they’d just sit up.

IMG_8539

I was beginning to tire towards the end from all the time spent attacking/chasing, but was keen on trying for an attack in the last two laps, tried, but couldn’t get away and so sat in the bunch into wind again trying to conserve a bit of energy to go for a sprint. Last lap and into the hairpin I clipped a pedal on the ground which threw my back wheel into the air, when it landed hard it buckled but thankfully I didn’t go down. The wheel was out of true, rubbing on the brakes and felt like I had a bulge in the tyre each time it rotated, which did nothing for cornering confidence. Managed to stay with the bunch through to the finish straight but wasn’t able to go with anyone when people started winding up for the sprint so rolled in.

A disappointing race, I’m just not tactically astute enough to really know what do in these situations. Looking back I should have worked to get on the super strong guys wheel who solo’d off from the start to win. Could potentially have two upped and hung on with him but he did seem stupidly strong. Otherwise should have probably tried to team up with one of the stronger guys to attack together, although in that wind with my power I think you’d probably need 4 guys to stay away. In which case it may have been more sensible to just sit in and try and bag the sprint. Still so much to learn!!!

Pleased to at least had good power for the race, and also a nice pb sprint powering out of the chicane. One day I’ll put myself in a position to use it on a finish line i’m sure!

Strava: https://app.strava.com/activities/301088812

Avg/NP Watts: 283w/303w

Avg. Speed: 24.2mph

SERRL – Cyclopark 3/4 Criterium

I was due to do a TT on Good Friday, but I was feeling like I’d done a lot of threshold work recently and was concious to not try and overdo it. That and the weather looked like crap with it being an overcast drizzly day requiring an alarm of 6am again. So I binned that idea and decided to cycle home to see my parents in Swindon on Friday, back on Saturday, rest day Sunday then this race on Easter Monday.

Thankfully the race was scheduled at 11:45 so no stupid alarms. Woke up early enough to get sorted and get my stuff ready to cycle over to St Pancras to get the train to Gravesend. Arrived at the circuit in gorgeous sunshine, even in a baselayer and jersey I was overheating. So it would be my first UK ride of the year in shorts and a jersey, great weather for the beginning of April!

I signed on, then wandered over to the circuit just in time to catch the end of the 4ths race, which was about to finish in a bunch sprint. For anyone who doesn’t know the circuit, Cyclopark has the finish at the top of quite a long drag I guess in the hope to slow finished down a touch. However in the 4ths race two guys still went down in the sprint, which looked/sounded quite bad. Although I think they were both up again eventually. Hopefully they’ll be back riding again soon. So that did nothing to make the circuit seem very appealing.

It was my first time at Cyclopark so I rolled out onto the circuit and was immediately struck by how smooth it is, really nice surface, and seemingly pretty grippy too, although wouldn’t fancy it in the wet. So recce was a couple of laps warm up, but it didn’t really seem too difficult a circuit to ride, made up largely of hairpins or 90 degrees corners, with the drag up to the finish another major feature.

Clipped in ready to go at the start, and after listening to the briefing we were off. The pace seemed pretty manageable at the start and I even found myself on the front a couple of laps in. It seemed apparent that the cornering speeds are high here, and to be in contention you have to be quite committed, which is no bad thing, it made me think though that it seems to be quite rare that you get to actually commit fully to corners like these, knowing its smooth and there’s no traffic, so was good fun to really get stuck in to some of them at serious speed. A couple of laps passed with no drama, I was slightly worried about staying in touch on the hill due to my weight, but I needn’t have worried as it was OK. After a few more laps a couple of attacks were attempted, with one guy trying to breakaway on the finish hill, only to crash at the first hairpin. I think he was fine and carried on though.

The wind was beginning to play a bit of a part in the race, with a headwind on the main straight  also slowing things up a touch, which probably helped me to keep touch with the bunch there. At just over half distance, and after chasing down a couple of sprint attacks on the finish straight, I decided to give one go myself just to suss out when to try and go, and where. So I kicked hard coming up to the line and immediately got a good sized gap which I held without much effort to the bottom half of the circuit.

So following this I decided that if possible I’d attack there with a lap to go and try and hold off the bunch. 

On the front coming back up to the line

I know I have good 5 min power so thought this would be best, given that I’d likely get beaten in a bunch sprint. However all that was spoiled after a split in the bunch with just over 2 to go. I didn’t manage to go with them due to positioning and before long I thought it was too late, so decided to stick to the original plan.

As I passed the 1 to go board I rounded the hairpin then kicked hard again, used some riders to shield the wind and moved up to the front. Then went into a hard effort to try and catch the group of 8 or so ahead. I could see them but I wasn’t making much ground, although I had now gapped the main group by this point. Round the last couple of corners and up towards the main straight I decided to go for a long sprint, and just about managed to pass one of the guys who had been up the road before the line to finish in 8th, and to collect my first points of the season as a 3rd Cat.

I rolled round the rest of the circuit, absolutely spent. In terms of average power not the hardest although I averaged 285w, which is actually equal my best for that duration, but it was just very sprint based. A lot of sprinting out of corners and up the hill meant my NP was 314w. Not sure if that means I need to bump up my FTP of 300w now or not. Annoyingly got a 1 second anomaly in the peak power data of 2002w which is just plain wrong, so I can’t see my actual peak, and so not sure if the rest of the sprint data is correct. I have a feeling it was pb territory though, which is obviously encouraging.

Overall pretty pleased to get my first proper “result” as a 3rd Cat, but also slightly annoyed I missed the break go, as I think I could have got a much better result had I been a part of that. Still it was quite good fun, but its made me realise how much more I enjoyed racing on the road, even in the dreadful weather we had last week.

Roll on next week when I’ve got my next SL Road race at Kirdford again, just 3rd Cats this time.

Hillingdon IWS E123 – Race 9 of 9 (First 3rd Cat race)

So after having been ill most of last weekend I was looking forward to getting some decent training in and giving my first race as a 3rd Cat a good go. I ended up taking Monday and Tuesday off training for further recovery. Then went out with Paceline and some KW guys for a winter loop session. These are pretty much an hour at threshold or just below, depending on where you sit in the pack. I felt ok, so did sit in a bit, but power was still up near 260w NP for the hour so it wasn’t an easy session. Did some sprints Thursday and set a couple of Power PRs in doing so which was good. Took Friday off in readiness for Saturday.

Woke up pretty early and got all my gear ready for the race, which is held an hour later than the 4ths so I had some more time to chill at home before swinging a leg over the saddle and spinning over to the circuit. The weather seemed decent at around 7 degrees it was way warmer than it had been the last few weeks, there wasn’t too much of a wind either. Eventually got over to the circuit in time to watch some of the 4ths race. Met up with Paul Moore from Paceline, and we had a chat about what to expect from the race. I’d been expecting the 3rds to race separately, but was told it was 1sts 2nds and 3rds in one race! After waiting around for what seemed like age, we set off out on the circuit for a couple of laps warmup. Legs felt decent by this point and I was ready as I’ll ever have been.

Just as we lined up for the start the heavens opened and it started absolutely pissing it down. Perfect. We set off and the pace was immediately high. I was pretty much straight away at the back, and don’t think I was ready for just how much power I needed to use to stay attached. About 4 laps in the pace kicked up a notch again and I was getting spat out the back. I tried in vain to pace back on but it was game over. Race over after 4 laps! I slowed and waited to get lapped to join the back of the pack, just to see if I could stay on-board to the end as a training session.

So I jumped back into the back of the pack, and into a mouthful of spray, and that was my race. I managed to stay in the bunch to the finish but at points I was still quite close to the limit. I needed over 400w just to stay with the bunch coming out of the last corner where it all strung right out. Then on the back section of the circuit as the small incline began, the pace would jump up then settle down again, which was hard to maintain.

All in all an average day. Average speed was up at 26.5mph for the hour, compared to around 23.5 for the 4th Cat races, which illustrates the speed difference! Not all bad though, good just to get a feel for it and as a training session with a couple of things to think about, which in no particular order are:

  • Warmup  – I’ve found in my 4th Cat races, the legs felt much better at the close of the races than I ever did at the start, probably due to having been adequately warmed up. In all the races to date I’ve ridden the 10 miles to the circuit, then got changed and sat down until the race, with a couple of laps before the race. Not a good warmup, so where the pace was sky-high from the off I wasn’t in a good place.
  • More w/kg – Still need to work on being more powerful (obviously) Also trying to drop a bit more weight, and am now close to 79kg, from c.85kg at the beginning of the year. So that’s going the right way but needs more work.
  • Being more aero – I’ve got broad shoulders and at my weight I’m about as aero as a brick shithouse, this isn’t helped by my bike either, which is essentially a sportive frame with a pretty huge head tube. I’m running a -17 degree stem which is slammed, but with a race specific frame I’m sure I can get lower/more aero.

The rest is just training I guess, and hopefully the rest will come.

I stuck around after the race for the prizegiving which was cool to see, there was a raffle too, and I managed to pick up a prize of some bike cleaning fluid which has been put to good use today. Both road and TT bikes got the treatment which was needed. The road bike rear derailleur had mud/grime clogging the bottom jockey wheel which must have been sucking up a few watts. So I’m vowing to be a bit more efficient at cleaning, especially pre race, as it’s just lazy otherwise, and I’m giving away free speed.

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Nice and clean!

The next few weeks.

I’ve got a week off racing next weekend before another 3rd Cat race at Longcross (on 28th Feb) as a part of the Surrey League which I’m looking forward to, less of a crit as its much more distance, and it’ll be a new circuit which is good, as I’m just about sick of Hillingdon. Its a 2/3 race so I’m sure it will be equally fast though. I’m then off on a training camp on the 7th March to Alicante, so really looking forward to pretending to be a pro for a week, and getting out in some sunshine hopefully. Should be able to get some big volume, and plenty of climbing which will make for good training!

Hillingdon IWS 4th Cat – Race 7 of 9

I went much easier on training in the run up to this race, having had a really hard week the week before, and feeling so down on power in the actual race. Just a couple of rides, and intervals, no huge miles. Although, I did end up going out on the Friday, and the legs felt so good I ended up doing a lap of Richmond Park at a little below threshold which was probably slightly stupid.

I got up on Saturday and prepped as usual, despite the weather being pretty vile, 4 or so degrees and rain/sleet. Got on my bike and cycled the 10 miles or so up to Hillingdon, stupid garmin tried to direct me onto the M4, but a quick check of googlemaps had me going again and was there in plenty of time.

Was so glad I bought a change of base layers, socks and shoes when I got there as I was sodden already. Got changed and ready and headed out onto the circuit for a couple of recon laps and to try and warm up. The wind was blowing pretty strong, and for anyone who knows Hillingdon, it was blowing down the small rise up to the corners, so if you were at the front of the bunch here it would be tough. Then it would string right out down the start/finish straight with it being downwind.

We lined up at the start and off we went after the usual briefing. I’d never raced in the rain, but imagined it to be pretty grim. It was, think constant face full of spray and grit when sat in the bunch. I was soaked again after the first couple of laps, and was starting to lose the feeling in my hands. My legs felt reasonable though, although not as good as they did the day before annoyingly. I sat in the bunch for the first half, just scoping things out, where would be best to attack from, and just working on moving around the group, which I was feeling way more comfortable doing.

Did a couple of turns on the front but was keen to save my juice for the end. Managed a couple of attacks when required as well, but nothing looked too dangerous, especially with that headwind going up the hill.

Eventually the hands started to come back to me and I started feeling a bit better, just before the lap board came out. I consciously got myself in the front group, but was keen to not be taking the wind all the way up the hill each time, so let the first couple of riders come past me and cheekily sat in up the hill which seemed to work well. With 2 laps to go a couple of attacks went off but again, nothing that looked dangerous, and I helped to manage the gap to them without working too hard until we came round for the last lap. One guy had a couple of seconds on the bunch, and another was just off the front.

Again I positioned myself nicely out of the wind up the hill, and by this point the two up front were struggling into the wind. I knew I have decent power for a lap at full gas, but wanted to wait until half a lap, which took a fair bit of discipline. As we got half way up the hill I kicked hard, I was sat about fourth wheel in the group by this point, so used them to hide from the wind and slingshot past, I was out of the saddle and sprinting up the hill, I used the first and second riders slipstreams and past both before the corners, I gained a bit of breath back through the first hairpin, and then was out of the saddle and sprinting for the line clear of everyone. Quickly looked back and I seemed to have a good gap so I sat back in the saddle but kept the power as high as I could, before rounding the last corner and sprinting for the line!

In my head I was sprinting for the win, until I rounded the last corner and saw another 4th Cat rider up the road!! I rolled up to him past the line and apparently he’d been in a solo break since 25 mins in! Very impressive given the conditions

Felt a little disappointed not to be able to win, but 2nd had meant I still had enough points to move up to 3rd Cat so I had to be happy, so I suspect my first win won’t come for some time yet, as I have no doubt in moving up a category the standard will be much higher. This allows me to enter some proper road races though, which I’m really looking forward to. I’d set myself the goal of becoming 3rd Cat within the first half of the year, so to do it in January alone after 3 races, I was pretty happy with.

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Me in the background, sprinting for what I thought was 1st!

Strava ride – https://www.strava.com/activities/248557859

Avgerage Power – 247w

NP – 267w

As an aside, I’ve also managed to drop 5kg since Christmas to put me at 80kg, meaning the w/kg is starting to look a bit better. Looking to ideally get down towards 75kg in the next couple of months.

2015: The beginning of a cycling focused year.

Feels an age since my last post after Ironman UK 2014!

Quite a bit has changed, I’m now living in London, and have decided to concentrate in 2015 solely on my cycling. Cycling has always been the aspect of triathlon I’ve enjoyed the most, and its always been by some margin my strength. So it kind of sense to me, especially as I was struggling to come up with goals that would keep me really engaged in triathlon training.

So I moved to London in October, and soon after I started looking for a club to join to get out cycling with, as the only place I’d been riding to date was round Richmond Park. I asked at a few, most of which had waiting lists! Not only that but required you to be getting out on a “newbie run” to get used to riding close to others. That was until somebody recommended me to a group of cyclists called Paceline RT. Their ethos was to race hard but also give as much back to the sport in terms of organisation volunteering as possible, which I really liked. I’m now a member, and have been on a couple of rides, which have been great, and the people have been really welcoming!

I started training again proper late December as I attempted some of the Rapha Festive 500, weather conditions and fitness meant I only did around half of it but it got me out the door. Training since then has ramped up a fair bit and I’m now doing around 8 hours a week and my watts have started to increase nicely.

My aims for the year are as below

  • Get to Cat 3
  • Start to be in the mix in Cat 3
  • Get some TT’s under my belt and improve on my 23:28 10 time from 2014
  • Race the relay bike leg of Outlaw Half (Entered solo, but switched to relay entry)
  • Race lots and have fun!

So some fairly simple aims, hopefully all of which I can accomplish. One of the benefits of being a cyclist rather than triathlete is the frequency of races, I’ve already pinned a number on twice this year, and its not even February. I was waiting until April last year to get my first triathlon in.

So onto the races that I’ve done so far, both of which have been at Hillingdon cycle circuit, as a part of the Imperial Winter Series.

Hillingdon Cat 4 Race – 17/01/15

The circuit is a 10 mile ride from my house, so I set up a route on my Garmin and trundled off to hillingdon, being as light on the power as I could. I’d done a fast club run the week before and my legs felt the best they had in a while, so I was hoping to hold onto the bunch at least. I’ve only raced cat 4 once before, and I ended up getting dropped from the bunch a couple of laps before the end. So I just wanted to gauge fitness.

I got to the sign-on an hour early and got my number, which was stupid on my half as I ended up sat there shivering prior to the race! I busied myself with checking out all the competition and looking at the other people’s rides, there was some nice bikes there too. Eventually it was coming up to 1 o clock and all the Cat 4’s starting heading out onto the circuit. I did one quick lap to familiarise what is a fairly simple circuit. The conditions were ok bit the circuit was damp and I was nervous into the corners. There was a stiff headwind blowing onto the last corner and final straight as well, which we were told was slowing the bunch up a lot.

I pulled up to the bunch right at the back before the start and waited for the flag to drop getting pretty nervous at how I would fare at this point. We were off amongst a throng of cleats clipping in. The pace started and was a fair tempo, but I quickly realised I shouldn’t have a problem holding on, and began to settle in and feel comfortable in the bunch. I also quickly realised the last corner was a great place to close on the group if needed due to them being slowed by the wind. The first couple of laps were tentative as I was a bit nervous at the speed of some of the cornering, but it felt OK.

I was mindful only about 3 laps in that I was pretty much just hanging at the back of the bunch, and from everything I’ve read about others road racing, was that if you’re not moving forward your going backwards in the group. So I decided to try to work my way up to near the front for a bit, using the last corner as a slingshot when the group slowed, I swung round the outside, and was quickly coming up on the bunch leaders. Before I knew it I was putting in a proper effort, and was off the front. Stupidly I thought I could stay away and put in a pretty big effort, in the hope that some others would bridge across but nobody seemed to, and after a lap and a half the bunch was catching back up so I wound the effort back down and waited for the group to catch, before I quickly ended up back at the rear of the bunch. The effort felt great though, and the feeling of getting out in front of the bunch was electric, I loved it.

I decided to measure my effort a bit more across the next few laps, but ended up being more naive and attacking a few more time to no avail. The racing felt good though, and was clean, plenty of communication in the group, and nobody seemed to be riding too wildly. 5 laps to go and I still had in my head a vision of me soloing to victory. I blame idolising Tony Martin, and some of his insane solo breaks! So with one lap to go I gave it everything and got past the front of the group and round the first two corners, I was clear, but the group were chasing hard, and I was getting caught by the time the track started to pitch up slightly. By the corner complex I was back on the front, and by the last corner I was spent, and sat up. Ended up rolling across the line in 36th.

So a fun experience for my first race, and I was most pleased with the fitness level, especially knowing that I still have so much more to give in terms of besting last years peak fitness. Managed to get a mention in the post race results report, and even won a spot prize of a full bike service worth £100 or so. Awesome!

I trundled back home, happy in the knowledge that I’d left it all out on track, something which I never really got from triathlon, and the buzz and adrenalin of racing was brilliant. Looking back at my power file, I’d also made a couple of Pb’s which was great too.

The next couple of days I took some advice from the Paceline guys, and had a think about how I wanted my next race to go which was to be the following weekend. In summary, less futile attacking (a lot of last weeks was just me wanting to test myself and see my level vs the bunch) and I wanted to sit in a bit more, and observe the race, follow any attacks that look good, and potentially feature in the sprint.

Hillingdon Cat 4 Race – 24/01/2015

The week up to the race had been training heavy, and I’d covered around 90 miles. This was despite carrying a bit of a knee niggle, which I’d realised had been down to bad cleat position. Hopefully this wouldn’t affect the race. Conditions were better today than they had been all week. A sunny, clear but slightly windy day. I set off to Hillingdon into a headwind, and straight away my legs felt awful, totally blocked, and putting any power down felt seriously tough, and I felt lethargic. Bad news. My head wasn’t really in it as soon as I felt this, but I just kept my head down and carried onto Hillingdon. Good training riding with a bunch if nothing else I thought.

I arrived at a more sensible time, and just had enough time to sort myself before heading out onto the circuit. I’d also brought a change of base layer and jersey to change into before the start, to try to keep a bit warmer which seemed to work.

We set off and the first couple of laps the tempo felt the same as last week, the wind was blowing slightly differently though, and the bunch was fast down the back straight, but slowing climbing the small rise into the corners. I was feeling abysmal by this point and was just hoping to stay in touch of the bunch all race in tact. The riding was a lot more ragged this week, and I saw 3 separate crashes, which worried me a bit. I pretty much sat in the bunch the whole race up until we got shown the 5 to go board. I decided to use this opportunity to at least try to move up to the front a bit. My legs had started to feel a bit better by this point. I’d scoped a few places on the circuit to move up, and executed these nicely on the 5 to go lap nicely, to find myself very near the front. When suddenly I felt myself going clear, and stupidly decided to dig and give it a proper go. The watts came up and I put in a proper effort, I was way faster through the corners using what I had learnt last week, and quickly had a small gap on the bunch, I went through the 3, and 2 to go lapboards clear, but on reaching the corners the bunch had closed, so I used the opportunity to sit up and recover a bit. Which luckily worked as I was able to hold near the front of the bunch on getting caught.

We flew through the last lap board with the pace much higher. I almost got completely squeezed on the straight, and for the first time actually touched bars on both sides with two riders trying to close up, I held my ground and we started to come up the back straight. I put in a bit of a dig and made some more ground on some other riders that were now up at the front. Through the last complex of corners and I was in position to contest the sprint. I felt I launched at a good time, and didn’t appear to go backwards at least, but my legs were shot from the earlier big 8 minute effort. I sprinted across the line and was fairly sure I was at least in the top 10, so had secured some points, I hoped.

My legs were absolutely on fire with lactic acid as I rolled back to the clubhouse building. I quickly got changed and started to spin back home. My legs were completely shot by this point and I was struggling to even get over 150w. But once I again, I had to be pretty happy that I’d given it everything. Despite attacking accidentally off the front again, and too early. At least I’d hopefully salvaged something from it.

I’d smashed a couple of power pb’s notably 10 min power which was 50 watts higher than previous best, due to giving everything on my futile attack! 20 min power was also 10 watts higher than my 2015 best, but looking at the curve, this wasn’t even really a representative effort. I know when fresh now I can best that for certain.

The next few weeks

I’ve got another Hillingdon race coming up on the 31st, so will aim to be fresher for that, and again, aim to either attack at an actual opportune moment, or contest the sprint properly. But I guess it depends on the race, conditions and suchlike. But I’m please with current fitness and form.

I’m also dusting off the TT bike for the 8th Feb, for the KW Sporting 14. The course which I recce’d earlier this week. The course takes a steady rise for the first half of the lap, followed by a fast rolling A-road, and a fast slight decline section back to the start. Its two laps, so should be interesting to see how I go there.

In addition I’ve got some Novice racers training days at the Cyclopark, which are necessary if I want to compete in the Surrey road race league later in the year.

After that, I’m off on a training camp to Alicante at the start of March, so am really looking forward to that. It’ll be my first, and I’m a bit anxious as to whether I can cope with the volume, but hoping by then fitness is further improved!

So far I’m loving it, racing is fantastic, and I’m way more engaged in training than I have been for quite a long while.

 —-
EDIT
Just got my results through for the 2nd Cat 4 race, and managed to finish 6th! So thats 4 points in the bag. Just another 8 needed now until I can get to Cat 3.