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

SL May 3 Day Stage Race

This was a race that had long been in the calendar, having been entered quite some time ago. The race is open to category 2 and 3 riders, and features 3 stages, Alfold/Dunsfold, Bletchingly and Lingfield. Teams of 6 are permitted to enter. I had put my name forward for Paceline and was going to be riding with Pat, Gareth, Dom, Adam and Jon.

The week before the race I had Cutmill, which really showed up my climbing ability in 2/3 races, so was even more worried about the race, with Bletchingly a very difficult circuit with two main climbs. I was also most nervous about how I would recover between stages, but as it turns out this wasn’t a huge issue.

Stage 1 – Alfold/Dunsfold – 69 miles

With stage 1 at Alfold and Dunsfold circuits my main aim for the day would be to just finish in the bunch and try not to lose much time. I was being realistic in that I knew I wasn’t in contention for any GC leaderboards, but thought I could maybe sneak into a stage result if I was lucky, failing that just be of help to the team where at all possible. The stage was always going to be interesting as Gareth had decided he would only be riding Day 1, and so could ride aggressively.

As everyone gathered in the car park ready for the stage I was shivering and probably the most nervous I’d been before a race for some time. There was a strong field and not knowing the circuit also made me nervous. We set out, and with no neutralised zone to ease us in the pace was immediately fast from the off, on what was a shocking surface to begin with. Having not had great legs all week I was pushing quite hard in terms of perceived effort just to keep touch with the bunch. I was concentrating most on avoiding dropped bottles and potholes, and trying to take in the course as well as watching when I could. Something which I failed to do as Gareth formed a break with several other riders and got up the road without me or several others in the team noticing.

At around the 20mile mark I noticed the pace slow, and could see Wyndymilla at the front marshalling things. I was pretty glad of this with my legs feeling as they did and took the time to sit in. After quite a while I could see several attackers trying to get up the road, I was feeling ok by this point about 40 odd miles into the race, so decided to move up and get near the front for a bit. Mostly as sitting in waiting for potholes to run through was becoming tiresome, not to mention dangerous. It was nice to sit on the front for a bit choosing lines and it not being as stressed. I was looking around at this point and could still see several other paceline riders in the bunch.

I began to struggle the last 20 or so miles, until I spotted Gareth coming back through the bunch. A quick chat at this point revealed he’d been in a break for most of the race, and had been working to the point of being spent. His break got reeled in, only for Pat to join on and have it extend back out again by 30s or so. After speaking he said I should get up to the front to try and slow the chase. By this point we were on the final lap and things were getting choppy. Riders were moving up any way they could and using the whole road. I was getting nervous, but managed to force my way up to get on the front.

May 3 Day

Once there I made a nuisance of myself and tried to disrupt the chase, which I hopefully did. After not too much further I began to slip back as I tired and found myself mid bunch again, on the way up to the finish hill.

Things began to get faster as people jostled for position, I wasn’t too keen on getting into a full on sprint by this point so just tried to move with the bunch. Coming up the last hill, two riders went down in front of me and I narrowly managed to avoid clipping them, a quick dig for the line using what I had left and I had finished mid pack. 45th out of 80 odd starters. Not too bad. Looking back I probably could have put in a decent finish here, as the short sharp hill and false flat may have suited. But not knowing much about the course meant I didn’t really know how far away the line was, my fault for not recce’ing any of the race.

Overall was pleased to finish in one piece, but was worried about how much it had taken out of me. Pleased for Pat who got a 3rd place finish!

Pat Sprinting

Strava: https://app.strava.com/activities/296643977

Avg/NP Watts: 242w/269w

Avg. Speed: 25.2mph

Stage 2: Bletchingly – 70 miles

I rolled across to Adam’s house early in the morning after another 6:30am alarm call. I was slightly worried as I soft pedalled the 9 miles that my legs were feeling terrible. In normal circumstances I’d have been tempted to bin off a recovery ride, let alone sign on to a 70 mile road race on one of the toughest circuits in the league. We began the drive as did the rain, as we got on the M25 it was getting seriously heavy, and was becoming difficult to see cars in front of us. Grim conditions to say the least.

Got to the HQ which was at a nice golf course and got prepared. I was changing wheels today to alu clinchers as I didn’t fancy a carbon braking surface in the wet, especially on a course I didn’t know. After yesterdays action the jerseys were handed out and Pat was in the green points jersey.

Then the commissaires stood up and began the usual briefing, however they really put a big emphasis on the descents being dangerous, especially in the wet. They had decided to end the neutralised zone before the descent and let us race it first time. A couple of guys stood up and challenged this suggesting it should be neutralised. Now I feel confident in my bike handling usually, but this really made me nervous for some reason, on an unknown course descending in the wet was really worrying me, and other riders expressing concern only made it worse.

As it was, we would race the descent first time out. So we rolled out of the HQ and made a right turn onto the high street. Things were neutralised for this drag up to the first left hander then we were racing. I was already near the back of the bunch and immediately there were gaps appearing and things were splitting apart. Onto the descent and I was taking it cautiously thanks to the briefing, and so got gapped further. First time down I was fine, and it wasn’t even that bad despite being very wet. After the descent I was now well off the back but still hopping wheels moving past other dropped riders. Eventually a sizeable group of 7 or so riders got together including me. At this point the main bunch were coming back into sight and it was looking like we could catch them. We started a decent little paceline going with people doing strong turns, however as more and more riders were shelled the paceline broke down, as people either weren’t coming through, or were a couple at the time, and in no order. I got a bit annoyed, and so powered down the descent for the second time realising this time that no brakes were needed for the descent despite the several blind turns on the way, which I began to realise was really good fun. I hung out in front of the grupetto for half a lap before getting swept up again and spending the remainder of the lap with them. The climbs on each lap were really taking it out of me though, and I was finding it hard even staying with out slower group. I was almost crawling up in my largest cog at the back in the small ring.

It was around then I passed the yellow jersey who’d stopped with a puncture. A little while down the road Alex Tinsley had stopped waiting for their teammate to get his puncture fixed. Then another 10 mins or so later three twickenham riders including yellow, and a couple of others came up behind us. I tagged onto the group and got involved in their paceline. They were working quite well, and were barking orders at each other. I had to work hard to stay with them, before getting dropped on the climb once more. Familiar story.

As I drifted further back I found Adam and a Maison du Velo rider. So I attempted to stay with them, by which time we were well off the back, and soaked. I stayed with Adam and the MdV guy for another lap or two before struggling so much I was dropped again. I was really pedalling squares at this point and was lacking any energy or motivation. I passed the 1 lap to go board and was so ready to quit. Had a sharp word with myself and carried on telling myself it was only another 10 miles. Grovelled the rest of the distance back to HQ by which point the weather was improving. Rolled over the line after just 6 laps (dropped riders get pulled out with a lap to go to stop them interfering with the finish) just in time to watch James Lowden power up the finish hill solo, and with a very healthy time gap to the next riders. With Pat finishing in 5th things were still looking good for his GC position.

Watts were very average this race, but perceived effort was way higher than the figures let on.

Strava: https://app.strava.com/activities/297319869

Avg/NP Watts: 219w/253w

Avg. Speed: 20.9mph

Stage 3: Lingfield – 67 miles

The alarm went off at 6:30am once more and the temptation to stay in bed was huge. The legs were hurting and the last thing I wanted at that point was ride another race. I got up and after getting ready and drowing myself in coffee I was feeling better about things. I was even more surprised to get out on the bike on the way to Adam’s and feel that my legs actually felt reasonable., things were looking up, and the weather was also playing ball. A much warmer day with sunny spells. I was careful not to push, but was now mildly optimistic at what the day might bring. From what I’d heard Lingfield was a much nicer circuit that the previous days. Still plenty of climbing but more rolling, and nothing as steep as Bletchingly. I was hopeful!

Got to the circuit and the weather was the nicest of the three days with sunshine and a decent temperature. After the presentations and briefing everyone was ready to roll out, for the first day without knee warmers and overshoes! After a brief neutralised section we were on the circuit. The surface seemed decent, as we made our way towards the first climb. First time up it wasn’t too bad and I was pleased to remain in the bunch throughout. The remainder of the lap featured some rolling fast road, a big fast descent into another climb, then another descent back to the start of the lap. With some smoothish flat road in between for good measure.

As we came onto the second lap it looked like Bradley the Twickenham CC rider had aims on the overall points jersey as he attacked with two other riders and went clear, looked like they had a fairly decent gap as well. James Lowden of Neon Velo (GC Leader) was still in the bunch but sat at the very front. We flew down the big descent second time round, and the bunch were moving fast, back into the climb the other side, and two riders tangled in front of me and went down. I had to all but stop to get in a decent gear in order to get going again, by which time the bunch were 150m+ down the road. I shouted at myself in frustration as at this point I thought it was game over and I’d be dropped for good, so annoying when I felt fairly strong. Spent the next couple of minutes chasing in vain at well over threshold, but couldn’t seem to gain on them. Looked back and saw an Army CU rider coming up the road, so sat up a bit and waited for him. He looked to be going well and we started a really good two up to get back on. Both putting in strong turns we were soon closing the gap, and despite having to overtake a few cars we eventually made it after half a lap. Also picking up a London Phoenix rider, who was also going ok along the way. I rested in the bunch for a minute before we were at the climb again, but I still felt ok at this point, and stayed with eveyone going up it, before taking most of the rest of the lap fairly easily. Coming back in towards the 3rd lap I noticed Pat going up towards the front in order to try and close down a break that had gone, so I put myself in front of him to try and protect a bit and put in a couple of decent turns with a Dynamo rider who also had similar ambitions of catching the guys up the road. This clearly took its toll on me as the next time up the climb I slowly drifted back through the bunch and by the top had lost contact.

Found Army CU guy again at the back of the field but this time it would prove too much to get back on. At one point we were within touching distance just before the bunch accelerated again and the gap went back out. He made it known that he would be going back to HQ at the end of the lap, and feeling cooked at the time I stupidly followed. Looking back now, wish I had just rolled over the line to complete the distance, but for whatever reason I didn’t.

Strava: https://app.strava.com/activities/298016138

Avg/NP Watts: 228w/279w

Avg. Speed: 23.4mph

Closing Thoughts

Overall I enjoyed this experience a huge amount, its not often you get the opportunity to take part in something like this, and get a small taste of what it takes to compete on a stage race. The team element was great, and was good to ride with the other Paceline riders, each of which did themselves proud. Looking at my own development, I think it really stretched me mentally as well as physically, so I’m hoping I can push myself further in the future as a result. I’ve also gained a lot just from spending so much time racing. By the end of the race I felt I was moving in the bunch at will, and was using far less mental capacity just staying upright than I was at the beginning of the race. Hopefully in upcoming races this will mean I can observe and watch things way more.

I guess it will also help me to address my weaknesses which I think for the most part is my climbing ability, which is really driven by my weight. I need to put a concerted effort in to lose another 5kg. I think I might stand a fighting chance at staying in the bunch on most of the climbs then. Even so, I think Bletchingly is still out of my grasp, as its brutal for me as a bigger rider.

Interested to see what fitness impact this will have on my riding, as it was a lot of volume in a short space of time. My CTL went from 80 at the beginning to 90 at the end, so a great bump up there, almost like a mini training camp!

Surrey League – Cutmill 2/3

Been looking forward to this as my second proper road race for some time, especially after Kirdford was cancelled a couple of weeks ago. Having not raced for a week or two I was really keen to make sure I was in good shape. I’d had a strong week too with new power pbs across the range by quite a margin, so felt confident within reason.

I had arranged a lift over to Elstead with Benoit, a guy who was interested in joining Paceline after having been a member of a tri club with only a very small bike racing contingent. On the way to the race we chatted about what might happen, talked tactics and the like for a fair while and discussed the circuit. Having heard the course was one of the toughest in the Surrey league I was pretty concerned about it, but was also confident I had some decent form.

After arriving fairly early Benoit and I rode up the course to check out the finish, where the main climbs were, on arriving initially I had thought how much less steep the climb was than I had anticipated, but that’s pretty easily said when cruising up a hill two up.

We rolled back to the start and began the usual number pinning ritual whilst chatting to all of the other Paceline guys, of which there were plenty! Good to see so many people in the team colours for sure.

After getting ready eventually we rolled out and started the short neutralised zone towards the circuit. After a short while we took the right hander onto the bottom right hand corner of the circuit (This would become a sharp left hander on the circuit.)

cutmill

Once onto the circuit there is a series of curves on a tight lane, littered with potholes which was pretty dodgy to say the least, the road then opened out up towards the first left hander. After which the road then kicked up in several varying inclines, with one noticeably steeper section before the finish, followed by several shallower inclines, and some other steeper bits thrown in for good measure. The hills are followed by a very quick descent then the road steepens again, before a very sharp left hander, and then some more descending back to the start.

The first time up towards the finish hill I was having to dig pretty deep as the pace was pretty meaningful from the off. There were some strong riders as well, and I guess most are probably lighter than me anyway meaning they’re going to be faster up the hills. Looking at the power I was doing up near 400w for several minutes on the steeper parts. I purposefully put myself towards the front before the hill, and found myself near the back towards the end of it! Need to lose some bloody weight!

The descent was pretty exhilarating at 40mph+ in a bunch, but it was also very dangerous, with oncoming traffic, catseyes, big potholes, and the odd bottle to contend with I was really having to keep myself sharp, but it was a big buzz.

For the first lap or so the pack seemed to stay together, second time up the hill felt better than the first as I’m sure I had warmed up a bit by this point, but I was still having to go much deeper than I’d have liked this early on in a race. It was becoming fairly clear to me I wouldn’t be getting in any breaks on this course, I just wasn’t quick enough up the climb, I could descend well and make up a bit of time there due to my weight no doubt, but it wouldn’t have been much help. My aim would just be to finish with the group.

We rounded the sharp left hander at the bottom right of the course and back through the tight lane with the pace still high, I purposefully moved up towards the front before finding myself in clear air at the very front, hoping to set myself in a reasonable position for the climb once more. However just as we rounded the top corner onto Littleworth Road I felt that familiar bouncy feeling in my rear wheel, as it began to go soft. Up went the hand and I slowed to a stop. Neutral service stopped to ask if I had a wheel in the car, to which my reply was no, so they were off up the road and I was soon on my own about 2 miles from the HQ. So I began walking back. Passed numerous riders off the back of the main bunch, who had either been dropped or punctured as well.

On getting back to HQ caught up with a couple of Paceliners several of who’d had punctures or had dropped out. Managed to fix my wheel and rode up to the finish with Paul to catch the end of the race.

Got up there with one lap to go and watched a breakaway group of 6 come through with a very strong gap to the main bunch. Pat was in the break so at least the team would get something out of the race. As the break came up the hill for the last time James Lowden of Neon Velo went long and nobody trouble him for the win, with Pat shortly after in 5th. Seemed like a really impressive ride from Pat who I’m told was in every break. Also impressive ride from Benoit on his road race debut, bit of a baptism of fire on this course, but a good effort nonetheless.

All in a pretty shit weekend of bike riding. The more I thought about it when I got home the more it annoyed me. Even though in honesty I wasn’t going to be troubling anyone for any points, and probably wouldn’t have even finished in the group, its still that unknown that’s niggling, knowing that I didn’t even get the chance to try!

I have the May 3-day stage race coming up now next weekend so am now even more concerned about that. Especially given that Stage 2 (Bletchingly) is also known as one of SL’s toughest due to its climbing, and the field looks pretty strong.

Hillingdon Evening Time Trial Series – Event 2 (Road Bike)

So this was the second of these I’d entered after doing the April 8th event on the TT bike in 24:41 I decided I wanted to have a crack on the road bike, to see what power/speeed differential it would have. It was probably the most pointless experiment ever as I wore my new Paceline skinsuit this time, and the conditions seemed much faster. Hardly the direct comparison I was after.

Anyway, I rode over there fairly easy, was really surprised to find my legs actually felt well despite probably one of the toughest training sessions I’ve done on Monday. I was close to the limit for quite a portion of it and my legs where like lead on Tuesday, when I just did one easyish lap of RP.

After chatting to the other guys entered I had my numbers pinned on and was ready to roll. Went off the line hard and settled into a good rhythm up the slight hill, round the corners and back on to the main straight, and it was clear that without a headwind down that straight it was going to be quicker. Legs continued to feel ok, and although my pace probably dropped slightly in the middle I kept at it. I wasn’t specifically aiming for any power goal for the most part, just going at what I thought I could hold.

Stupidly I changed garmin screens to check average power and at the 15min mark was very shocked to see 342w! This kind of spurred me on and was desperate to keep that up. Went through 20mins at 340w, which is a pb by over 12w, so I am really pleased with that. Especially considering when I started training it was around 260w!!  

  
With a lap left to go I was really struggling but cracked on and gave it all I could down the last straight to come across the line with a time of 23:57 and 4th in the road bike category out of 23 runners. Really pleased 🙂

Gareth came 3rd with 23:36, quite a margin ahead, as he looked to be flying. I’m sure Sam won’t mind me saying I was pleased to finish ahead of him, with 5th in 24:06. I think its probably fair to say he is probably my closest match of the Paceliners in terms of w/kg.

Overall a really good evening considering I didn’t really go in with any specific targets other than to ride as fast as I could. Has me thinking whether it is worth keeping the TT bike though now as it seems only very marginally quicker :/

Looking forward to Cutmill on Sunday now.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/290668683

Avg Speed: 26.2mph (TT bike last time: 25.6mph)

Avg Power: 339w (TT bike last time: 324w)

Full road bike results

Pos No. Name Name Class Laps Time
1 43 George Brisco Road 11 23:07.8
2 46 Callum Clarke Road 11 23:24.7
3 37 Gareth Thomas Road 11 23:36.0
4 39 Thomas Whatley Road 11 23:57.0
5 54 Samuel Andrew Road 11 24:06.0
6 56 Josh Copley Road 11 24:26.9
7 42 Matthew Evans Road 11 24:38.5
8 50 James Riall Road 11 24:40.3
9 35 Paul Moore Road 11 24:58.7
10 41 Jack Hudson Road 11 25:11.3
11 53 George Wells Road 11 25:25.8
12 47 Joe West Road 11 25:42.3
13 45 Giles Porter Road 11 25:57.4
14 2 Jon Train Road 11 26:26.0
15 48 Jennifer Crouch Road 11 26:30.8
16 52 Jasper McCrae Road 10 26:50.3
17 44 Therese Coen Road 11 26:54.3
18 51 David Morrison Road 11 27:29.2
19 49 Tom Yates Road 11 27:38.5
20 36 Mike Hindley Road 11 28:56.0
21 4 Dave Morrison Road 11 29:56.6
22 38 Seth Kanaris Road 11 31:31.8
23 15 Dinesh Karunarthne Road 11 32:56.9

Hillingdon Evening Time Trial Series

Not a huge amount to say about this really, my second time trial of the year was just a 10.3 mile affair, or 11 laps of Hillingdon circuit.

Cycled over to Hillingdon early, which felt really odd on the TT bike, having ridden almost exclusively on my road bike for the last few months. Legs were pretty fatigued too thanks to a Crit a few days earlier, and no real rest days. 

 I was a bit concerned when thinking about this TT that the full on TT bike might be not so much of an advantage here due to the corners, but actually riding the circuit once I was there put that to rest as I could happily stay in the extensions on all of the corners bar the sharpest hairpin, so seemed there was at least some advantage to be gained.

Pinned my number on with the help of Paul who was riding in the road bike category, and made my way to the start line. Thankfully the weather was sunny, so again it was out with the shorts 🙂 However, there was still a bit of wind as there always seems to be at Hillingdon, especially down the main straight.

Kicked off the line hard and quickly settled into the extensions up the small rise, and before long found myself settling at 380-400 watts up to the hairpin, round the hairpin with no power, then up the hill using quite a bit of power, round the long sweeping corner where the wind seemed to assist and onto the main straight where it was a tough headwind, again settling into a rhythm well over 300w. The legs felt pretty grim, but I kept pushing. Only this another 10 times!

Found it particularly tough due to the rhythm of the circuit, pushing pretty big (for me) watts in several places, then kind of recovering through some of the corners again. I faded a bit and didn’t really push for the line at the finish as I was mentally quite tired by the end, which is a bit annoying looking back but eventually I crossed the line in 24:41 to get a 6th place in the TT bike category out of 27 riders, so not too bad considering. Also set new power pb from 8mins through to 25. With 20 minute power at 328w, an all time best for me, which has meant a slight bump to my FTP number as well. All in all pretty chuffed with that, although I still think I can better that number with less fatigue in the legs!

Looking forward to Sunday now and my second road race. This time a 3rd Cat only race on the Kirdford course again.

Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/281701926

Avg/NP Power: 324w/324w

Speed: 25.6mph

Full TT Result

Pos   No. Name Class Laps Total Tm Avg. Speed Best Tm
1   19 Sam Henning TT Bike 11 22:24.360 27.689 1:59.088
2   1 Ben Allen TT Bike 11 23:06.057 26.856 2:03.113
3   7 Malcolm Woolsey TT Bike 11 23:20.461 26.580 2:05.227
4   23 Peter Stuart TT Bike 11 23:48.446 26.059 2:08.432
5   18 James Griffin TT Bike 11 24:27.640 25.363 2:07.930
6   20 Thomas Whatley TT Bike 11 24:41.098 25.133 2:11.566
7   46 Martin Winter TT Bike 11 24:43.972 25.084 2:11.311
8   16 William Wallace TT Bike 11 25:06.460 24.710 2:08.949
9   10 Wayne Meek TT Bike 11 25:07.796 24.688 2:06.585
10   3 Ian McNally TT Bike 11 25:35.365 24.244 2:16.099
11   24 Danny Bellion TT Bike 11 25:39.797 24.175 2:12.808
12   26 Jamie Wimborne TT Bike 11 25:46.463 24.070 2:16.043
13   17 Jamie Crust TT Bike 11 26:23.729 23.504 2:21.517
14   11 Richard Burton TT Bike 11 26:40.765 23.254 2:23.294
15   6 Dan Noraika TT Bike 11 27:08.803 22.854 2:22.862
16   15 Vince Dey TT Bike 11 27:26.149 22.613 2:27.484
17   30 David Morrison TT Bike 11 27:35.110 22.490 2:24.757
18   21 Alex Jones TT Bike 11 27:49.247 22.300 2:29.309
19   27 Peter Hewson TT Bike 11 28:38.174 21.665 2:27.475
20   25 Nathan George TT Bike 11 28:54.869 21.456 2:33.577
21   22 Christine Meek TT Bike 11 29:36.812 20.950 2:36.778
22   8 Tom Newman TT Bike 11 29:58.172 20.701 2:37.451
23   5 Chris Parrott TT Bike 11 30:16.224 20.495 2:34.133
24   28 Savannah Hewson TT Bike 11 30:29.394 20.348 2:36.040
25   47 Jessica Henning TT Bike 11 30:45.405 20.171 2:37.125
26   29 Cameron Still TT Bike 11 30:46.987 20.154 2:41.020
27   12 Paul Barker TT Bike 11 31:09.133 19.915 2:45.550

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.

Surrey League – Kirdford 2/3 Race

Seems like I’ve been waiting ages for this race, as my first proper road race, on the actual road!

Since Monday I’d had a pretty good few days training, it has seemed like the last block of training, including that done in Spain, is now coming through in terms of numbers which is pretty cool to see. New FTP based on a 20min power number, backed up by a hard hour, with an NP the same as my FTP number. So I was all set for the weekend, however it seemed the weather forecast wasn’t reading from the same hymn sheet, with the forecast rain and strong winds. Not the best conditions for a road race, let alone a first.

So Sunday arrived and thanks to the clocks changing I was effectively out of bed at 5am to get down to Tooting where I was meeting Gareth, who would then drive us to Dunsfold. I rolled out, and the weather seemed pretty good, no rain yet, and not a great deal of wind. Eventually got to Tooting, and met Gareth and we proceeded to the HQ, with the weather gradually deteriorating.

Got the the HQ and signed on, and chatted to some of the other Paceline guys while nervously watching the weather outside gradually get increasingly grim. Eventually it was ready to roll out. Initially wearing just a jersey and base layer with shorts and leg warmers I was pretty cold, the perceived effort showed and it was difficult to make power. We had a couple of miles neutralised behind the car to the circuit, which was a 6ish mile loop, which was for the most part fairly flat. Once there the flag dropped and we were off, immediately I felt the pace was ok, and I could easily hold the group. However, I was pretty nervous as I didn’t know the course/road at all and the weather was making it even more sketchy. I’m told, although stupidly I didn’t see it that as soon as the flag dropped a group of 3 went off up the road in an attack, and stayed away the whole race, which in those conditions is mighty impressive.

As time went on a couple more futile attacks seem to be attempted before Pat attacked up the road, initially he seemed to get a really good gap and was soon out of sight, however he must have made limited progress after that, as after not too long he was brought back. It was around this time I started to need the toilet quite badly, to the point it was beginning to hurt! I even considered going off up the road, stopping and then catching back on after, but I thought better of it.

It also must have been around this time that another group had split as the bunch I was in seemed to be getting much smaller. Another example of me not paying enough attention to the race! However, other than bladder issues the legs still felt pretty decent. I did try my best to undo all that by coming up to the back of a slower rider on one of the small ramps, before I knew it I was half wheeling him but was balanced in a way I wanted to cross over his wheel, I managed to recover it after unclipping one leg, which was a bit dodgy as well, looking back I think it was just a lapse of attention.

At around 48 miles it seemed clear that the ever shrinking group didn’t really seem to be going anywhere, it was also around then I realised that hard efforts seemed to make my toilet situation better, so after not much thought I decided to put myself out there and attack to see if I could make it up the road to one of the next groups. I sprinted hard from the back of the group and slingshotted myself off the front, which as soon as I had done I thought was a mistake as there was sharp corner just up ahead, whoops. I rounded the corner and sprinted hard again and commited myself to a hard effort. After a short while I checked over my shoulder I was surprised to see I’d actually made a sizeable gap which seemed to be increasing, so I dug in more and settled into a 300w solid effort. I wasn’t really sure at this point how far the finish was, but thought if nothing else this would be good training!

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I carried on solo for another 10 miles before I began to start to struggle, I kept looking back on the long straights though and couldn’t see anyone which made me crack on! It was around then I passed the bell, which meant another 6 or so miles. I was getting more worried about keeping this pace up, but seemed to have a good gap still so went with it. Another two miles later, I was really starting to struggle, and after looking back once more I could see a group coming up the road. As they came closer I could see it was only a small group of 5 or so, and not the whole bunch which made me feel a bit better. I sat up a touch in order to try and jump on the back of them to use what I had left in the legs, and try and get to the finish with them. As they passed they seemed to have a good little paceline going so I managed to jump on. I even managed a few turns on the front, and it was too long before we were coming up on the finish.

The finish was straight on, where normally you would take a left to continue the lap, and was just 1km long. By this point my legs were totalled. I still managed to chase down one of the group attempting to go up the road, but that would be my last effort, as after that I couldn’t hold the bunch. I let them go with about 300m to go, and after checking behind basically crawled across the line to come in 22nd. My legs have never hurt so much on a bike before!

Overall happy with that performance, feel way stronger than earlier in the year, and comfortable in a road race. Pleased to have tried some solo action too, even if it was largely pointless, it was good training, and even resulted in a couple of power pb’s 🙂 Also my new bike performed flawlessly, and was a joy to ride.

Need to work on paying more attention to what’s happening in the race as a whole, which means I probably need to hang around at the back less. I think I also definitely need to recce courses in the future, just for my own comfort and confidence.

Strava: https://app.strava.com/activities/275902556/overview
Avg Power: 231w
NP Power: 258w
Avg Speed: 23.6mph

A New Steed (Cervelo S3)

I arrived home late on Saturday and pretty much went straight to bed after arriving home. Woke up Sunday to watch the Grand Prix while unpacking the bike box from my trip to Spain. Didn’t bother reassembling as I was due to pick up my new frame today! Taxi’d down to Sigma Sport in Kingston to pick it up, whilst getting the steerer cut and bottom bracket installed. Just ordered frameset as I wanted to build it to my own spec with various parts. Basic spec below, still waiting on a few parts however.

  • 2015 Cervelo S3 54cm Frameset
  • Ultegra 11sp Di2 Gearset
  • Internal Di2 Battery
  • Ultegra Brake Calipers
  • Rotor 3d+ Power2Max chainset (Rotor NoQ Aero Semi-Compact Rings to follow)
  • 3T Arx stem and ErgoSum Carbon Bars (waiting on either Specialized Aerofly, or Zipp SL-70 Aero bars)
  • 60mm Carbon Tubulars, not sure if I’ll race these at the moment, have some other wheels on order to use for training/racing.

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Then after an afternoon of building… Still waiting for some bits though.

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Spain Training Camp Report

Being a member of Paceline RT (http://www.paceline-rt.co.uk/) allowed me the opportunity to get involved in a team training camp in Spain for a week in March. Thanks very much to Jasmijn for organising! I’ve never done anything like this, but was keen on the idea of some good weather riding, on some great roads!

So 12 of us flew off to Alicante on Saturday afternoon, all bike boxes and luggage arrived in tact and we made the hour drive across to Xabia, just up the coast from both Alicante and Benidorm. We arrived at the enormous 14 person villa in the evening and were given a tour by our host. (Villa details at the bottom). There was more than enough room for everyone, including secure car and bike storage. There was a nice communal lounge type area which opened up out onto the pool deck area. A great escape from the crap weather of London!

We woke early Sunday and set about building bikes. Luckily no real issues came up in doing so and everyone was ready and raring to go before long. The weather was getting up to 15 degrees or so but was slightly overcast to begin with, still, a great contrast to back home and warm enough for shorts and jerseys, which was a treat. Once everyone was good to go we set off on our first days ride. Some of the others on the camp had planned a nice 50 mile route to kick things off.

Day 1 – https://app.strava.com/activities/264911068

It soon became clear the amount of climbing that we would be doing, over 6000ft in 50 miles was a lot compared to what I had been used to! The scenery was sensational though, and the views sublime. Before going on the trip I was slightly concerned about being able to keep up with everyone on rides, but for the first day at least this wasn’t a problem, and I was conscious not to push too hard so I didn’t end myself before the weeks riding proper had started!

Day 2 – https://app.strava.com/activities/265499193

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Coll De Rates Descent. Utterly brilliant

A slightly longer 80 mile route had been planned for Day 2, taking in some more climbing, and one in particular called Coll de Rates a 4 mile long ascent climbing just over 1000ft, or for me about 20 minutes solid effort. I was still in the mind of not killing myself, so just tried to pace myself up the climb in the little ring with a 25 tooth cassette on the back. Still ended up doing 291w though. I struggled to keep touch with any of the other guys, but everyone gathered at the top of the climb to admire the view, and stop for a cafe stop. Sadly the cafe stop here is very anti cycling, and were extremely rude, so I’d avoid there in future! The rest of the ride took in the descent over the other side of the Coll de Rates, then back to Xabia.

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Working hard up Coll de Rates

Day 3 – https://app.strava.com/activities/266016092

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Almond Blossom

Today’s ride was a mammoth 105 mile route that took in another large climb named the Col d’Ebo then some pretty rolling terrain across to a large man-made lake with a damn, before heading back to Xabia. I was certainly a bit apprehensive on heading out for this one as usually I’d aim to be fresh for a distance like this, not having done 50 and 80 miles prior, so I just concentrated on trying to pace any harder efforts and just plug away all day. The ascent up Col D’Ebo was fantastic though, a nice steady grade all the way to the top with some sensational views. The next section of the ride to the lake was mentally very hard work though, as it was very rolling in nature and I found difficult to find any rhythm let alone the right gear for the varying terrain. The weather was superb at over 20 degrees, and once again the views and countryside superb! We stopped for lunch at a tiny local cafe, and ate omelette baguette and chips (top cyclist food!), quenching our thirst on coke, coffee and water, all for the unreal price of 7 euros! I began to feel better after lunch and just worked on steady effort all the way back home. Not helped by the fact our villa was on top of a large hill, and so required a steep ascent of a couple of miles at the end of each ride. All good training though! We arrived back fairly late, safe to say I was shattered.6623372E-430D-42A5-9D9C-13C6C5D72A7D_zpstpjmsqus

Day 4 – (Recovery)

Today was all about recovering from the previous days huge ride, we pootled out for about an hour for a cafe stop by the beach and a sandwich, before cruising back to the villa. Really easy effort. I needed it as my legs were in bits.

Day 5 – https://app.strava.com/activities/266945167

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Coll D’Ebo

Gareth had planned to do 3x reps of Coll de Rates today as part of some slightly more structured training. I was quite looking forward to it as the legs felt good for this sort of 20min effort, and I really liked the climb. I was also looking forward to having a good go of the descent as well, which seemed like it would be pretty exciting! We got to the climb after a fairly nice ride there in the once again great weather, and I started my effort. I’d done just over 290w last time up, and felt good so aimed for 300w for the 20 minute effort. The climb has some shallower sections near the top so felt I could really crack on here, which was great fun. I held some of the other guys in my sight, and even managed a sprint for the top overtaking Keith who was doing his own steady effort, pointless, but felt good. Stopped at the top for a rest as the others were descending, and in pausing my Garmin I managed to delete my ride so far! To say I was unhappy was an understatement, as all the power data was now gone. Pissed off I just decided to sit and watch the others doing their reps. I eventually got over myself and descended the climb, taking a few liberties with some of the corners on the way, but it felt absolutely incredible. What a road bike was made for! Such a great piece of tarmac. I stopped at the bottom, and tried to take a couple of photos of the others coming down, but it was getting so busy by this point that it was largely in vain. We all caught up for a coffee and some cake at the bottom of the climb, before heading back to Xabia. I was still slightly annoyed so channelled the frustration into a hard effort up the final climb, in doing so managed a new 5min power pb, a couple of watts shy of 400w, and a pb by over 40w which felt good!

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Bike by the man made lake, just before the lunch stop. Was scorching hot here.

After Coll de Rates I was having some bike issues, one of the spokes on my front wheel was clicking horribly, and I’m sure pissing the rest of the group off, not to mention me! I took a look at it on previous ride, and tightened a nipple which seemed to help, but took a proper look at it on the morning of Day 5. It was at this point I discovered the whole rim had split in about 5 separate places on the nipples! Remind me never to buy 3T wheels! It got even worse, as looking at the rear it was the same story, both wheels totalled. I was pretty thankful to have discovered at the villa rather than out on the road, especially considering the descent the day before.

Another of the Paceliners, Jim, kindly let me borrow his wheel set for a morning ride with the group, and so we set out on Day 6 for what was supposed to be a 80 mile route taking Coll de Rates and Col D’Ebo once more. The weather had taken a slight turn and was slightly overcast and pretty windy. The planned route took in a couple of nasty little inconsistently climbing roads which were hard work, and it was fairly clear my head wasn’t really in it as I was getting pretty frustrated. It seemed Gareth felt the same, as he decided to turn back just before we got to Parcent, and I made the decision to go back as well. Mostly because motivation was at a low, and also because I didn’t want to be out all day on Jim’s wheels, stopping him from riding as well. So Gareth and I paced back to the villa, even started to enjoy it a bit on one of the straight flat roads, where we got in a good little two up rhythm at a decent speed back home.

Following this I packed the bike away, as frankly I’d had enough of the sight of it, I was shattered, and the weather forecast was for rain on Day 7. Took the afternoon just chilling, and wandered down to a supermarket a couple of miles away to get some time away from cycling! It was quite apt that at this time Gareth and I mused about how pro cyclists could do this for a living, as frankly I couldn’t handle much more!

So in all from Sunday to Saturday I totalled a distance of 352 miles, 20 hours 40 minutes and over 34,000ft of  climbing. I’d also spent some time with a great bunch of very experienced riders, so just listening to all of them chatting about cycling and racing, as well as riding together has I’m sure furthered me as a rider as well. Not to mention it being more than double my usual weekly miles and far beyond anything I’d ever done before in terms of climbing. My CTL bumped almost 20 points, and I’d even come away with an unexpected 5 min power pb. Really looking forward to the next couple of weeks training and racing now to see what comes next. Next race is the Alfold circuit on the 29th of March.

For further details on the villa and to book:

The villa is located in Xàbia, approximately here, and quieter than Calp. Alicante is the local airport, and it takes about 70 minutes to drive from the airport to the villa. The villa itself is served by numerous local supermarkets at the bottom of the hill; a large Consum, Aldi, and several small supermercados, all within 25 minutes of walking. On the hill is a bar named Cannibal, and ProCyclingAgency, with a bike mechanic. There are several seasonal restaurants such as an Indian, only 5 minutes walk away.

The local beach is the cove of Platja l’Arenal, which offers a typical tourist seafront promenade of shops; lilos, buckets, spades etc, plus lots of cafes, restaurants. This is less than a 10 minute drive, and offers free parking on the seafront.

There are local hills, 5-8 minutes long within 5 minutes of the villa. Heading further inland towards Coll de Rates and Vall d’Ebo is a flat 19 miles or so, so approximately 60 minutes riding time away. For cyclists, there are plenty of opportunities to cycle some lovely climbs and descents. Peter, the villas owner, is more than happy to rent out to groups of cyclists, and the villa itself is ideal for catering for groups. For more details, see the following links below:

http://www.neetesonvakantiehuizen.nl/vakantiehuis-el-nido
https://www.facebook.com/NeetesonVakantiehuizen (he also has a villa in Czech republic)
https://twitter.com/VillaElNido
Further photos of the villa