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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Looking back at year 1

So nearly a year since I started this blog, and I've decided its the end of my racing for this season, there are a couple more races left in the Surrey League that I contemplated doing, but truth be told I'd rather make the most of the semi decent weather before proper winter sets in and do some club rides and have a few lie ins!

Its been an interesting season in that I came from almost total novice (although had some miles under my belt, but nothing of note) to being competitive at 2nd cat level and putting in some respectable performances in a handful of TT's. Although I'm no Nick Noble/Baker I certainly got further than I thought I would as my ever growing clothes bill will tell you as I chuck out endless pairs of 36 inch waist jeans to make way for 31's!

 I've learned a lot in the last few months racing, and I really think it will help next year to push on for the next level. I was always told that there was much to learn by more seasoned riders, and having the engine is one thing, but knowing what to do at certain points, who to go with in a break, when to work etc is stuff you just can't know until you've done it a few times (and done it wrong in my case - best way to learn right?) and seen the outcome. So I'm thinking that with my spectrum of possible race scenarios now a lot more broad than it was, I hopefully will be able to make more right decisions than wrong next season - I hope.

The results (I've included all events just for ease of memory) I've had are as follows, not bad, certainly not as good as they could have been in hindsight, nothing much changed between me being at the sharp end of the 3rd only races to being in the same place for the 2/3's apart from mindset, this could have been done a lot earlier!


1st  x 2
2nd  x 1
3rd x 1
4th x 1
5th x 2
6th x 2
8th x 1
9th x 2
10th x 1


1st x 2
2nd x 2
3rd x 1

As I may have mentioned in the earlier threads I have some plans for next season, they're still fairly 'rough' in terms of times for TT's due to not having done many - but there's always someone to aim for.... But I know that I want to get to 1st cat, and that will be the priority, I'm well aware that I can race most races I could as a 1st, as a 2nd, but I am quite competitive, and I want to achieve for the sake of achieving, I would much rather have got to 1st cat and raced a prem calendar than do it as a 2nd (pipe dreaming, but for argument sake). So the goals look a bit like this :

Get to 1st cat
Win a 2/3 road race
Top 10 a Nat b
20.xx on club 10 - sub 20 on fast course
Sub 54 min 25 (that might be a bit easier a sub 19.xx 10, so maybe revise this after a few 25's)
Get to 75kg from 79k
Up FTP 5-10% (optimistic maybe)

I've thought about them and certainly on paper they're mostly possible, however I'm only too aware of how hard work some of that will be, especially given the nature of the sport is mostly geared around suffering and sacrifice, although the fact I think losing the weight will be the hardest thing to do, maybe means I feel a bit confident. Anyway, I'll give it my best shot and who knows, I might meet them all, I might meet none of them, but hopefully now I'm in a position that I know why I do a good or bad ride, which is quite useful information. To help with the TT goals I'm purchasing a TT bike off a fellow club rider, hopefully given the bike will end up looking very similar to the pic here given I've agreed to take the wheels too he won't mind me borrowing his picture :

I've also bought a Kurt turbo, so I'm thinking ( I know I said this about 8 months ago) there isn't much left to buy now (apart from a few aero goodies for the above - pointy hat etc), which is a relief...I am planning to be a bit more structured this winter, and will obviously be making good use of the constant environment offered by the turbo and using power more effectively than I have been thus far. Might well do a few of the winter series again after xmas to sharpen up and then will start the season on the road in March time. In the quest for the above goals I will hopefully be doing a few more midweek crits/handicaps/TT's to get that time down and hopefully pick up a few points.

Cheers for reading so far, hopefully some of the posts are useful to the no doubt huge amount of people planning to start racing next year (Cheers Wiggo!). In an ideal world I'd love to be able to post in Jan saying I've managed to take my FTP up 5% but don't hold your breath on that post ;-)


  1. Hey Robert,

    As someone who is returning to cycling after a couple of years out and who is looking to start road racing your blog has been a great read.

    What is quite clear is just how important position into the last corner is and how it is vital to stay in the top 15 riders. I also thought it was pretty interesting to get the heads up that when racing in the 4th - every break will be chased down without question.

    Do you think there are any other big learning points from your first season?

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for that, its been interesting to write, and interesting how I've moved through various phases.

    Obviously positining is always important, somewhere like Hillingdon for instance is ALL about positioning, its impreitive you're in the right place, otherwise there simply is not enough room for you to come through the crowds, I suspect even Cav would struggle to navigate his way through if he was 20 back!

    What I've since learned is that possibly its not that every break will be chased down without question, more than very few riders are strong enough at this level to hold off a pack, the pack is usually pretty disorganised and the pace is quite random, but even this is usually enough to bring back a couple of would be breakaway riders. The other issue (that I was guilty of) is that riders are scared to go for it because they don't want to knacker themselves for the sprint where potentially they can get points. In hindsight I should have been more attacking, I think I would have got far better results, and worst case is you get brought back, you sit in and recover. I don't have much power data for Hillingdon, but sitting in a 4th cat bunch requires a wattage level many riders will be absoloutley fine with.

    Other big learning points I suppose come with time, when I had done a few Surrey League races, it was very useful knowing who the riders were. For instance, I knew that if a certain few people went for it when a break went, then it was probably a good move to go with it, this happened week in week out, and I only got wise to it in the last few races, and even then sometimes it didn't work, but if you don't try?

    However, eventually you'll become known yourself and if you attack you'll find people will follow, starting these moves to me seemed like a good idea to me, I did this at the Southdown Bikes race, only one rider came accross, he was a strong rider, and we stayed away, seems like a safer way to points than the standard bunch gallop! So study that startlist, take numbers of known riders and if they attack and you feel good, go with it!

    Good luck with it.

  3. Rob,
    I have followed your blog all year and have enjoyed it immensely.
    Congratulations on your progress through the catergories.

    Anyone who has been considering taking up racing only needs to read your blog to understand that although talent is a must linked to that is the huge amount of work put in along with racing intelignce.

    Once again conratulations on a great season and I am looking forward to your progress to Cat1 and the Elites.


  4. Cheers, glad you enjoyed it.

    There is an amount of hard work involved for sure, interestingly I've recently taken a look at my 'riding' and a lot of it is mostly useless so you could (assuming you were not overweight, I maintain the amount of miles I've done have helped me to get to a weight that is OK, still could be better) get similar results on a lot fewer hours I'm sure. But I'm no coach, I have just read what I can and will now use the winter to try and build the figures that matter for my races and the TT's I would like to do.

    Cat 1 will be a big ask, its a lot of very strong results, or an awful lot of average ones to get there, so I will have to race a fair bit, and hopefully actually do well at the same time! Elite I think is probably beyond my ability/time to train but lets see what happens I guess.

  5. Hi Rob, great read. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

    Any chance you can put up a post with some background on how you got into cycling and how you find the time to train please?

    Good luck for next season's races. Look forward to reading more.

  6. Cheers!

    I did do a quick entry on background etc, so I think most of that is in there (under 2011 tab on the right).

    With regards to time to train, I obviously ride 35 miles most days in the week going to work and back, which helps with having a base as it were, then two evenings a week in the summer we did a 32 mile loop with two hills at full on pace, then as it gets dark we have a 23 mile chaingang loop that we do at full on pace too. So I try to do two of those a week after work, I've also just bought a turbo and all the gubbins so when I can't make the evening loops I'll be doing sessions on that instead. Then at the weekend I'll either do one long ride or 4 hours or so, or a couple of 2 hour rides, again at a decent pace.

    The way I see it is that I get enough boring dull miles in the week, so when I have the chance to get out for a good few hours, I see no point in trundling round at 16 mph. Also now I train with power its quite obvious to see the benefit of a ride, and a lot of the 'endurance' base miles style rides that our club do would be pointless unless I wanted to just ride the bike for enjoyment, as they would be recovery efforts for me and I'd get no actual training benefit from a lot of them.

    However one thing I am concious of is that riding 10-12 hours a week is fine, but I want to cut down on the junk miles, hence the turbo, and powermeter, commuting is junk, but I figure if I use it as my base stuff (and to save £2000 a year) then it has a place.