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Sunday, 16 September 2012

High Wycombe 2/3/4 RR

After battering myself a couple of weeks back, this week was intended to be an easier week, and I've not really ridden that much. So understandably I felt pretty fresh for this race, and was hoping that I'd come back a bit stronger!

This race was run over the same Thames Velo Course than I was 3rd on back in April (in the 3/4) so I knew it quite well, and knew that it suited me fairly well. I also thought I had a fairly good idea of whether a break could stick on this course or not. I initially thought no, long straight roads, at times, mega winds, all of these things really don't lend themselves to a break making it stick. What a pearl of wisdom that turned out to be!

After a massive debacle with the numbers, the race was set off about half an hour late, and slightly shorter than it should have been, but it still promised to be around 60 miles. There were plenty of good riders riding, Henry Latimer was pointed out to me, he is now a 1st cat I think, but was racing anyway, and is clearly an accomplished rider. There were a few other people that a mate of mine knew to be strong riders too. To be honest with it being a bit of a way from home, I only recognized a few riders from the Surrey based races, Richard Prebble was racing again too, so I knew there were a few people to watch, at least.

The race got underway and it was quickly obvious that the wind was pretty strong, but it never felt like a headwind really, just huge gusts come accross you. The pace was high right from the start, and attacks were going all the time. I really wanted to make sure I was in the move today - one of the biggest things I've noticed in moving up to these races over the 3rd only and 4th cat affairs are just how often breaks stick, they almost never did in the former races, so I'm still getting to grips with going with moves, and trying to pick which ones look good. Not an easy task, unless you're fit enough to follow everything, which I tried to a certain extent.

After a lap or so and a few failed attacks and moves, a large group had gone clear, but it could not really be called 'clear', they were dangling off the front. I thought about trying to bridge, but I honestly thought that given we could see them just ahead that they wouldn't be away too long. I was forewarned by a mate riding that there were indeed some strong riders up there, including Henry, I think. Anyway, with the bunch playing silly buggers, they did pull out a small lead of around 1 minute. The fact this was a large bunch was important, 6 people would have got battered by that wind, but 10 or so was perfect, if they could get it together...

With two laps to go (its a long old circuit at around 15 mi) we got our acts togther and started some through and off, it was going well, and at one point we had maybe 10 riders doing turns (including a few sprinter types, so vested interest no doubt!) and we quickly brought the gap back down, and they were again now visable just up the road. At this point everyone seemed to stop working together, maybe they felt the work was done and the catch would obviously now be made, maybe they didn't want to be on the front when we did catch so as not to be gassed for an attack? Whatever the reason was, it was quite odd to me, that we had worked for 30 mins, hard, and now we were about to be rewarded with the catch everyone lost interest and again the lead group pulled away again!

I don't think at any point this lead group had more than 50 secs on us, and on the long roads we could see them ahead. With the final lap approaching and the lack of interest now stronger than ever (there were now maybe 6 of us doing turns) it was clear that something else was going to have to be done. It was at this point that Prebble tapped me on the shoulder and suggested that I save myself a bit, and we would attack the bunch just after Little Milton, leaving us with around 10 miles to go to make the catch (if we could manage it). I agreed that it was probably the only option and he was a good be to go with given his previous, that or sit bored in the bunch, anyway. I told Ed who is the pvt member I knew what our plan was, and he was game. We waited, about 15 mins passed and Richard moved up to look like he was about to take a turn, I followed his wheel and he went, and he went hard, I was right in his wheel, and Ed was right in mine. We immediately started some through and off, and it was quickly obvious that following an accomplished tester is hard work, I'm certainly not bad in this respect, but his turns were solid, and he didn't look to be suffering either. After maybe 5-10 mins of hammering it, we had one other rider join us who had been active in the bunch, this wasn't a bad prospect as he was strong. We worked well together for the next few miles. As we approached the only hill of the course, there were a few more people that had got away from the main bunch and we joined forces, over the top of the hill there was probably 12 of us again, slightly too many really, because only 5 had any interest in working to try and get back, the lead group were now in sight again, 20 secs it must have been.

On the final drag it was obvious that we wouldn't catch them,  despite them being so close, the pace went up and at this point I was pretty spent so just rolled in with this group, given another 3 miles we would have caught them. We had smashed the bunch apart though, and they were some way back, so I'm glad that we did it, even thought nothing came of it, as it was a great bit of training.

The learning continues, despite not getting any kind of result, it was a good race, it was hard at over 300w NP and 275 AP for the race, and I also had a taste of a proper attack. It was fun, if not a bit too much like hard work :)

Some numbers

AP 275W NP 301W (the last 12 miles which was when we broke were done at 315w, not far short of a TT effort)
Distance 57 mi
Avg Speed 26mph

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Crawley Whlrs 2/3 Rusper RR

After last weeks marathon of riding this week wasn't much different to be honest. I wanted to do a good solid back to back block of riding, and 2 weeks today since my last day off the bike I can safely say I cannot wait to go to work on the train tomorrow :D

I probably didn't help matters by going out and doing 2-3 hours of fairly hard riding yesterday but as I said above, it was all for the greater good I hope. As we all know this week has been amazing weather wise and it really was shaping up to be a great weekend, although if I see another paper run the title 'Indian Summer' I'll go mad!. However with great weather comes great heat, and the same old issue of my bike only having 2 bottle cages like most! I had no helper with me today, so I knew it was going to be a struggle, and it didn't disappoint!

I rocked up nice and early, the 3rds race had just finished, two Wheelers were present, Robin Kirk, whom I raced with last week and Nick Griffths who was doing his first road race! Exciting times! Robin came 5th and made 2nd cat and Nick stuck with the bunch on what was, IMO a fairly tough course despite not having any proper hills in it...There were meant to be 4 from KW today, but for reasons unknown it was only me on the startline (probably something to do with the awesome weather!).

There were many familiar faces, I was looking to be involved today, that was the aim, be in everything, not to miss the definitive move. Richard Prebble was riding, as were many from Meudon again, and a strong chap from Cannondale Racing, and another from vo2. So they were certainly a few riders riders to keep an eye on.

The race got off to a fast start and I almost immediately felt the last two weeks in my thighs, that lurking ache, the one I never normally have because I'm totally fresh! Anyway, the first lap was full of attacks, and I was covering them, going with what I thought looked good, and just trying to follow the above peoples wheels when they made a move. I was confident that if a move did go then it would have them in it. The course was a strange one, it was pretty windy too, lots of false flats, a fast downhill, and a horrid kick up to the finish line which was 400m over the top of this never ending drag on shite road (actually the whole course was on shite tarmac), so it was very wearing. When you sit mostly in the top few wheels you don't tend to get the same wind free environment that you do when you're mid pack, so it was taking its toll on me after only a few laps. Added to that the weather had really hotted up, and was probably getting up towards 28/29 and every 2 minutes my mouth was bone dry, I supped my drink (which was warm, and bloody rank) slowly as I knew running out of juice 20 mi from the end would mean curtains.

A couple of laps had passed, the race was quick, around 25mph and I glanced down at my garmin and saw my average power was around 250w which is higher than normal, but shouldn't have really posed an issue but it did, today. And then something quite odd happened. We were flying down the fast section, in the drops pushing 40mph down a windy lane, and we came round a sweeping corner to be faced by two young girls on horses...This wasn't going to go well, that much was obvious.

The horses bolted (as they do when alarmed, and you can't blame them when 60 bikes come hurtling toward them!) and I thought someone was going to get trampled, I just put the hammer down to get away from them as I could hear the horses behind running down the narrow lane alongside the riders, what you forget (or I did) is that you can only out sprint a horse for a very short amount of time before it catches you... I was off the front by this point with Luke Farren from Brighton Mitre, I shouted we should pull into someones driveway before the horses came flying into us, we pulled in, and the two horses flew by with terrified young girls aboard (still not sure how sensible it is to send out a 10 year old on a horse with her 14 year old sister without adult perversion, I'm sure that might change going forward...) shouting "please help me!!" I must say it was quite distressing, but there's absolutely nothing she or I could do. I'm told the horses later stopped around a mile up the road (after leaving a trail of crap on the road, they must have been more scared than the riders!).

So we slow pedaled round and the race was temporarily stopped, at this point there was a small group up the road, of maybe 6 or so, this was the move I'd missed earlier. We set off and they were given their gap again, a few riders went off really hard to try and get into it, but it didn't work, we caught a couple of them, but obviously they were going really well, and with Richard Prebble in there I knew it had a good chance of staying away...We continued to work hard, with the occasional lapse of concentration which was quickly cured by Dean from Meudon (he's very close to winning the whole Surrey League, so obviously wanted us to get into gear!) shouting at people to get a move on.

The laps counted down, and a few of us tried to get away a couple more times, and a couple of others did slip away and got a little gap, but it always looked like we would catch them, and by this point I was suffering so just sat near the front and waited for the catch and tried to recover enough to go for the sprint for 5th (possibly 6th, not sure how many were up the road) as it was clear we wouldn't catch the first lot of riders, which was a shame, but I doubt I'd have been able to hack the pace anyway, in my state. The last lap bell rang, the pace went down a bit while everyone caught their breath, there was then the same old issue, position, I was concious that I didn't want to be on the front and needed to get some easy time to get back to a reasonable state for the last gallop.

As we approached the final climb, which was a bit of a leg sapper, I was in a good position, I was watching the wheels, I saw Dean in front of me, knew he was a decent option, and also Luke from Mitre, who has a good kick on him, so I followed them, they dug hard and I went with it, I looked back and a group of 8 of us had gone clear from the rest, I put in another dig, and slowly moved up the outside. I then remembered the finish was a long way over the top so reigned it back a bit, then as it flattened off I dropped a few cogs and upped the pace, I then saw the 500m sign, so it was still a bit early, but people started moving  and I wasn't confident I'd win a 150m drag race today, so I went. I went as hard as I could to try and get clear. I drove hard for around 15-20 seconds and had a quick glance back, I was 20 bikes ahead by now so just sat up and crossed the line gasping for breath, and being rewarded only with hot soupy air!

Turns out Prebble had attacked his breakaway and won solo, classy. Everyone knows what he is going to do, they just can't stop him!

Race stats were a bit messed up with the horse debacle, and the fact my powermeter was being a bit shit due to a low battery, but I've had a look and found a few figs that look about right

AP 240W NP 285W
Average speed - 24.5 mph
70 miles

Two races left,  hope to be a lot more fresh for them and hoping I have seen a training gain from the beasting I've given myself!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

25 mile TT, 12 mile hilly TT, 2/3 Surrey Road Race

After reading a chap found my musings to be soporific , I'll try and keep it upbeat, wouldn't want to upset the masses ;-)

This week has been pretty good, had a good ride in the hills on Monday, a few commutes, a couple of laps of the park, and I was approaching a weekend packed with cycling. Joyous. I usually try and plan my weekends around a race (riding wise I mean) so that I have one almost rest day leading up to a race on Sunday. This is usually quite straight forward and I either have Saturday off totally, or just do something very easy to prepare for the race to come.

This weekend though, I signed myself up for quite a lot of potential pain, I had a 25 mile TT down in Bentley on Saturday, then Sunday morning before the race I had entered a club event (hosted by Kingston Phoenix, but had many wheelers riding) which was a 12 mile hilly TT, which included a climb of Box Hill, and then came half way back up from the other side, the twist being that the last 900 yard hill would be timed as its own section and then run as a hillclimb within the TT - so there was no taking this one easy. I then obviously had a road race, which was meant to be on the Seale course, put on by WyndyMilla (turned out to be run on another course due to roadworks, but still a 60 odd mile race over rolling roads).

25 TT

I signed up to this as I've done a few 10's, and did the sporting 10.4 Richmond Park TT, and its fair to say I've done OK. Not amazing, but not bad by any stretch, almost to the point where I need to spend another fortune on a TT bike ... ;-)

This was run on a course called H25/8 in the murky world of TT'ing, it essentially is belting up and down the A31 between Alton (where I went to college, grew up nearby) and Farnham, with the HQ in Bentley (somewhere I lived for a while when I was younger, and home to the Scout group I was a member of, very briefly!). So it was fair to say I knew the course (and I've worked in the Hen and Chicken, forgot that bit!), but I've never ridden it, only ever driven. It was meant to be quite a quick, safe course, so I chose to sign up.

Race day rocked around, lovely weather, bit windy on the outward leg, but not too bad at all. I was there with a few other wheelers, notably Paul Clarkson, who was setting off 3 mins in front of me. Being an unknown entity in terms of TT's I was 24th off, of a massive field. Little warm up and I was on my way, I had made a rough guesstimation on pacing with the powermeter, and was going to stick to around 300 watts for the first half, then up it slowly to 320, and then aim to do the last 5 miles at 350 or so, which was roughly all in line with what I've managed in training rides.

I went off a bit harder than I planned, and by the time I had got to the turn, and back to the start on the other side of the road (which is almost exactly 10 miles) I was at around 320 watts and went through the 10 marker 2 seconds down on my 10 PB. Carried on, and all was going well, I came back by the start-point, at roughly 15 miles, feeling good, and looking forward to the last 5 mile stretch which was mostly downhill and had a tailwind, it was shortly after this point at around 17 miles I caught Paul, my 3 minute man, this was promising as he said he'd do a 1.0x, so at this point I was on for a 57 with 8 miles to go (as he did indeed do 1.0x), and then disaster struck, just opposite the Hen and Chicken, a pub I'd spent many hours of my life scrubbing pots, I hit what must have been the only hole on the course. Back tyre went down with a pinch flat almost straight away! Bollocks! Back to the HQ it was, I was very annoyed. But my own fault I suppose.

Since then I've done some calculations and had a look at the file, and assuming I'd have done the rest of the turn and back in at least the same power I'd have done a low 56, but I was planning and was able to put more in I think, so I would imagine I'd have done a high 55, which would have been a great start. But not to be, will have to go back another time and do it and try for the 55 again.

Avg speed at time of fail 26.3 mph
avg power 312 watts
39 mins

Hilly 12 Mile TT

Run on the GS/281 course - - hosted by Kingston Phoenix

As I mentioned, and as you can see, it was a hilly TT, and involved going up Box hill, back down it, then most of the way back up it to finish. The twist being the last half a mile hill which was going to be timed and then used as a Hill Climb within the TT. So most people probably saved a bit for it as its always nice to have a shot at two things in one ride!

I've done most of the course before, and I'd opted to leave my TT bars on my road bike for the effort, and I was pleased with this decision when I found out at the last minute that our club TT expert and record holder over nearly all distances, Steve Irwin (19.20 10 mi and sub 50 min 25 - man) had taken a late entry.

I was set off mid field, which suited me as it potentially saved me the embarrassment of being caught! I started and was quickly into my groove. I was about 2 miles in (the start is mostly downhill to the foot of Box Hill) and was about to take the left turn into ZigZag Rd, I saw in the distance about 25 riders had just turned up there, I flew in, and quickly got into the bars and got on my way, luckily these riders were pleasant enough and I just went up the outside.I was making good time, and did a 6 min Box Hill effort (possibly just under, will see when I have fixed the strava file) which was a good sign. I went over the top of Box and into the last 3rd of the course. As I hit the bottom of the final long 2 mile drag up to the finish (where the last Hill Climb bit really kicks up) I was on a 23 mph avg, and feeling OK.

This draggy road was just that, I felt like I was cycling through treacle, and had it not been for the powermeter I would have been livid with myself as it felt as if my legs had given up, but they hadn't I was just needed to put out nearly 400 watts to go 10 mph, it wasn't even steep! I made sure I had a bit left in the legs for the last bit, however. I went down the dip which then led straight into the timed section and really motored at the beginning and tried to carry on as best I could, in and out of the saddle with whatever I could throw at it, I saw the line and lunged for it, stopped the clock with 32.22 (which would have won me last years event). However the lurking feeling was always that Steve would come in very forward 5 mins or so I see him coming, and he says he's done a 31.40 or so. Very fast, but as expected from one of the most aero men out there!

Anyway, the results came in and the top 5 for the overall (of 29 starters) looked like this :

1 Steve Irwin 31-40
2 Rob Sharland 32-22 (315 watts avg - 335 normalised)
3 Phil Ember 33-43
4 Damien Breen 34-05
5 Stuart Pearce 34-14 

And a few hours later the 900 yard hill climb results were released :

1 Rob Sharland 1-33.13 (avg power 495w)
2 Gareth Thomas 1-42.35
3 Phil Ember 1-43.10
4 Damien Breen 1-43.19
5 Steve Irwin 1-44.00

So a pleasing start to the day, for sure! Maybe one day I'll catch Steve, but it will take a lot of aero work given he did the above time with 30 less watts!

WyndyMilla Road Race 2/3

Christ, I'm sick of typing now! So I'll try and keep this one short.

This ended up being run on the Cutmill Circuit due to roadworks on the Seale one. Slightly less suited to me I would say, Cutmill is quite rolling, lots of the course is uphill, and although the gradients are pretty tame, it does wear you down. I actually felt pretty good  considering the mornings events, so tried to stay in the right place. I only had one teamate in Robin Kirk today, and wit 9 riders from VC Meudon, they surely were the ones to watch. I knew Dean Corney was quite a handy rider, and was in the break that we caught right at the end of Parham Park, so he was one to watch. The laps started off quite quick, and I must admit I wasn't banking on a break staying away for long on this circuit today, people were going, and coming back, I tried to get away a couple of times and got brought back, the best time to go was clearly after the climb as it was really knackering people out. I was trying to keep myself in good shape, but I did go into the red once on the climb, so it was certainly making a few people puff!

Anyway, about half way through, quite a large group got away, I think around 6? They got a decent gap, and by the 45 mile mark they had 2 mins on us, I was trying to work on the front with a couple of others to bring it back, but I must say the bunch (those that were not Meudon as they had riders up the road) didn't seem interested, there were a couple who were willing to do some turns, but most wouldn't. So after a lap of trying to push on, and not getting anywhere, I called it a day, and sat in for the last two laps, I think another group got away and in the end, what was left of the bunch was sprinting for 15th or so, needless to say there were riders making fairly rash moves for 1 point, I wasn't interested and by this point the weekends riding (and indeed week before, as its been 7 days with no rest day) had caught up with me and I was happy to just roll over the line. Bit disappointing all in all as I know that I have the legs to place in these races, so really poor form of me to not get into that break. Still, even with all those miles in the legs it was certainly not an issue at any point today, so maybe in the next 3 I might be able to do something.

Looking forward there are 3 more RR's left, one on this circuit again, so hopefully I'll be a be more on the ball and will watch the contenders a bit more closely. Interesting that the High Wycmb Race is on the same circuit I came 3rd on up in Oxford earlier in the year, it suits me well, so looking forward to that.

Race Stats

62 miles
23 mph avg
230w ap 280 np