So its been a while since my last update and a lot of things have happened since the last round in Hengrove. Work getting in the way mainly, illness and a new bike!
My first race back was Rd 8 of the Western League at Purdown, having not raced for a little while and I’d heard rumours about the course and its ‘hill’ I was a little apprehensive. The ‘hill’ didnt disappoint, also the fact it was about 300yds after the start was pretty emotional on the first lap! Legs fully loaded with lactic acid after about a minute of racing wasn’t ideal and as they say ‘what goes up, must come down’ which we certainly did further round the lap. A tight corner leading into a steep off camber grassy downhill section was the scene of many a crash. Fortunately for me they happened all around me but didnt affect me in any way. As the race progressed I got stronger and managed my self well around the lap. My result of 21st was a pleasant surprise but also a bit disappointing just being out of the top 20.
Due to work commitments I was unable to race in the next Western round, but was able to enter the Welsh League in Abergavenny. This coincided with the 2nd Rd of the HSBC National Series. The course was amazing, very professionally laid out and taped off and TV towers dotted around with full commentary. Some familiar faces from the Western League were amongst the starters, which gave me some targets to aim for. I really enjoyed this course which was fast and technical with only 1 large open field exposed to the wind. A result of 23 in a large and strong field with people from all over the country racing was very pleasing, especially beating some of the usual ‘league’ suspects by some margin on the day. The other benefit of living only 5 mins away from the venue was coming back to watch Tom Pidcock the reigning World U23 champion, school everyone the following day by riding away from the field and doing his now infamous victory wheelie across the line.
The next race was back in the Western League, Rd 10 at Lockleaze. Not my best! After a couple of reasonable results I was hoping to crack the ‘20’ barrier and get into the teens. How wrong I was, I went back wards from the start pretty much. I got away well and was about 12th going into the first corner, but as soon as we hit the open fields I had no power to keep with the group. The race turned into surviving not being lapped which I did by the skin of my lycra shorts! The last rider to make it over the line before the leaders finished! Very disappointing and a massive dose of reality that I’m not strong enough or fit enough to be competitive, finishing 26th!
So the next and final race of this blog update was back in the Welsh League, again due to work commitments. So up the heads of valleys road I went not sure what to expect. What I found was an absolute mud bath! Along with tight technical trails with steep climbs and fast rocky sections, with people suggesting in the paddock that you’d be better off on a MTB! Due to the parking being to far away for me to change the tires on my bike I had no other option but to ride on intermediate tires along with not being able to ride the course due to access it was a complete lottery how this was going to turn out! Well by far this has been my best race! Finishing 10th overall, which could of been 6th if it wasn’t for the dropped chain halfway round the last lap which allowed 4 riders past me, which I’d worked so hard to pass in previous laps. That said the course was definitely suited to me, with technical riding and risky descents, and no long fields requiring loads of power!
So I’m still learning in my first season, I’m also picking up a couple of injuries which are either from running into other bikes when dismounting or picking up aductor strains from swinging the leg over the bike during the race and probably not cooling down and stretching enough after the race! All things I can work on and improve over the winter and into the spring!
My next 2 races are going to be in the Welsh League again due to work commitments and the 2nd one will actually be the Welsh National CX Championships. So if you want to know more about my exploits in CX and fancy giving it a go then catch up with me on a Saturday club ride.
*Sorry no pictures as I cant work out how to upload them at the moment!!!*
I was able to get a warm up lap in before the start, there where a couple of parts that i was a little worried about and they where the double dips going into the wood and a small log towards the end of wooden section.
I was right at the back of a large group for the start, the group did seem to get strung out quite quickly and i found myself right at the back so when we made it round to the double dips we where at a complete stop but did manage to get going again, i did take it quite steady through the woods, still trying to find the legs if you like. I was now towards the real back of the race, i then manged to move a few p[laces up the field on the start finish start and back round. I had managed to move a couple of places back up the field. On the nest visit to double dips i did manage to ride through them which was good, i was now in a small group[ behind one ride who did over cook it on on the corners in front of me, i was unable to stop it time and might have ridden over his back wheel, at least it wasn’t him. Again i was able to catch another couple of riders and over take them on the start finish line, but i had now a very large gap between me and any one else to chase, 30 mins in the race the race leader came flying pass, which did give me a point to try and chase. The now to the finish was just me riding and getting slightly quicker times as well.
So for my first daylight cyclo cross race a position of 52nd and 62 i think not a bad result. After seeing how friendly it all was i might if i can get my kids to come along and i can get a few more races in as well.
Time for a mid season update on the Cross season. School report card, managed to improve handling, health a bit ropy, fitness pah, needs to focus more on cycling than the rest of life. It has been busy lately so sorry not much time for many things, work and non-cycling life just gets in the way.
Finished the Supermarine series, and was joined by Myles who added to challenge. Second last race I went off on a flying start and dived for what I thought was a great opportunity to get tangled in tape, lost lots of places. Managed to adjust bike position and get good tyre pressure so I had confidence to corner, great feeling when you can feel the grass rip but not loose grip. near end struggled with breathing due to cold and lost out to Myles as he blasted past using his strength. Last race change of tactic. Safe but slower start, picked up places, went past Myles as he slid wide, he powered passed me again, went past him as he slid wide, and once again he later powered past me. Tried lining him up for mid corner pass, thought better of it but next corner he went wide so dived through for him to give me a friendly nudge from the rear. Held on for photo finish with another cyclist. When Myles sorts out his cornering I am toast ?
Western League, three races. Stroud a race that felt like it was all uphill, cold was fully in chest so lungs not good. On last practice lap I tried to take a quicker line through some man made humps to take a flying crash to ground in front of crowd. That did me and the bike no good, and from that point on it kept on trying to drop the chain. My first ever experience of being gridded was good and someone kindly pointed out I had shipped my chain, before the start. It was a long ride uphill and the bit through the woods was interesting and dusty. In the end I did manage to ride all the course, even the tight uphill part. I did not like the boards being on a downhill and the chicane to slow us down just meant my line was never correct. 12th from memory.
Next race, Bristol Purdown. Two fields separated by a fairly big steep hill with a muddy climb. And just to make it harder they put boards at the bottom of the muddy ascent. Good start (being on the front row helps) and I spent most of the race keeping just ahead of the winner of the ladies race. A trick off camber descent was fun, the possibility of tumbling the whole way down was there and I did have a trip through the brambles one time on the way down. But that hill was a killer, it took me most of the lap to get my breath back. Phil was there going well and he shot past me as I wheezed around still suffering from that cold. 13th from memory.
Last race Bristol Lockleaze. At last my cold was gone and I enjoyed this course last time out. Second row at the start but I was swamped and on the first few corners got boxed in so fell down the field. A quick dive into a ramp then corner was not appreciated by one rider but there was space and a clear gap. From then on it got better, with a chance to grab spaces on the way. I was feeling good and passed the leader of the ladies race then the rear of the bike was all over the pace, the tyre almost flat. I limped to the pits to find the tyre was soggy so spotting a track pump I blew it up as hard as I could while a member of the public quizzed me on try pressures. I set off to at least get some exercise from the day. I felt terrible skipping and thumping over bumps but we were moving. I stopped next lap as I thought it was flat again, the opposite it was so hard it was thumping and skipping over bumps. Gethin kindly rushed over and offered to help but I decided to ride on. It survived all the way till I got home, next morning, flat again. I was not last but 28th of 38 felt like a waste. Oh and once again Phil lapped me.
I am going to have a gap from racing now, I have nearly doubled the points I have ever scored already, but lets be honest I am no race star and midfield on a good day. Also I miss things like club rides, at the weekend due, only time for one cycling thing at the weekend. Training has re-started with an FTP session. And some pictures.
Trying not to fall off at Stroud
The boards it felt elegant it looks Benny Hill
Getting up that hill
Walking up the hill, look I was ahead of Pete for a few nanoseconds
I went for a warm up ride around the coarse, it was a circuit i had not ridden at the airfield before so i was glad i did go out and not ride on a turbo by the car.
The long back straight was going to be really fun with quite a fast right turn on to it and it to wind and a small distance after it a large landing light in the middle of the landing strip which was to be marked with a cone and Marshall.
I got to the line shortly before the 9 start, and we had chance for another warm up lap due to it take slightly long for everyone to get out to the start line. This gave me a chance to see how everyone else would be looking at taking these corners.
The organisers requested that we had some break this week to make the race a bit more exciting as they where going to be filming some of it.
Right from the start there where a few breaks through, i was just mainly try to hang on in the group. It was within the first few laps the right hand turn onto the long straight did prove to be a bit tricky for everyone with lots of white lines as well turning into the wind, one time a rider just in front me forgot about the cone and marshall hiding the landing light and grabbed his brakes which was a bit of panic moment but all ended up ok. Coming down the straight it did seem like there was now where to hide from the wind.
Going in to the penultimate i ended up on the front for nearly the whole lap i think i lost concentration as i was getting excited about actually finishing a race, i lead our now small group onto the long straight and i then came back to thinking sensibly and did slow a little which was quite easy with the head wind, think if it was to slow someone else would go and i could jump on the back, after the others had gone in front, one of them did ask if i had another rider in the group head. I should have just said i did want to bury my self this close to the end. As we came on the start/finish line for the last time i did feel my legs go about 200 meters from the finish i managed to keep them going as i did i di see another couple of riders do the same thing and just manage to finish in front of them. After finishing and feeling quite good that i have now managed to finish a race with the a group, i had turned around and was now heading back to see another few riders still coming along up to the finish, So really did do quite well. A good end to the 2017 season. Started off a long long way behind a CAT 4 race and now finishing in a group of a CAT 3 & 4 race.
Let’s backtrack a bit, and try and answer that question – what the hell am I doing here!!
Well, for the last few years I’ve been trying to find something to give me the kick I need to get back on the bike and do some riding – the problem being (and this sounds very big headed!!) having done the Etape twice with no training, I needed to find something to scare me into doing some training for it, otherwise I just won’t bother!! That, and it was about time I found out what all this “triathlon” fuss was about!!
So in late 2016 I got my entry in for the Cotswold 113 – a locally based 1/2 ironman distance event run by Graeme Hardie of 113 Events in Swindon. His events are known for being really relaxed, and the perfect event for a total novice like me!! Albeit for people that have actually done some training!!
So, 1st January and it was time to start doing some training, and it started off OK – I got in the pool a few times and realised I couldn’t swim very well!! I couldn’t do 100m, let alone the 1900m I’d need to do come June 4th!! Thankfully local open water swim coach (and fellow 113 first-timer) Jason Tait from South West Swim was on hand to give me some (for that read A LOT!!) of pointers – and make sure I didn’t drown!! I event got in a few runs and the odd bike ride, so all was looking good.
Then, the Cotswold Spring Classic sportive started getting near – and when that happens everything goes out of the window and I focus on getting that event right for those taking part. It didn’t help that I picked up a knee injury from trying to start running with a 5k run – rather than building it up slowly!! So that meant swimming, cycling and running stopped – completely!! Any improvement I had made had been un-done very quickly!!
Before I know it, it’s mid-April (6 weeks out from the event) and I’ve not done anything for over five weeks – apart from the odd ride to work (10 miles each way!). I’m in trouble!!
Time to get in the lake and give this open water swimming a go – I’ve got a wetsuit (thank you Orca!) and I’m ready to use it!! What a disaster!! Down at Lake 32 there’s a 400m course marked out – it took an age to get round, most of it breast stroke rather than front crawl!! Not good!!
Over the next six weeks I got in a good number of swims, trying to build up the distance – and a few bike rides too. But no runs – there was no point buggering my knee up again, so I’d just leave the running till the day!! Afteral, I’ve been walking for 36 years – how hard can it be to jog / walk 13 miles!!!!!!!!!
Four weeks out from the event, and I thought it was time to get myself checked out to make sure I can make it through the event!! So I booked myself in with Sarah at Synergy Sports Massage for a once over – and the result, I’m in a mess!! Tight ham strings, buggered hip flexors and a bad back & shoulders. This is going to be interesting!!
Two weeks out I do my longest ride by far – a whole 54 miles, and the full bike course for the event!! Hardly big training!! It’s not going well, the swimming is still a massive struggle and although I’m doing more swimming than anything else, I’m still not able to go any real distance front crawl before having to stop for a break / switch to breast stroke!!!
10 days out – enter Jason Tait (South West Swim) who’s doing the event as well, and I get a swimming lesson in the lake from him. A bit of help with sighting, and a lot of help with pacing – even to the point we change my stroke / breathing rotation!! Nothing like leaving it a little late!! Jason is doing the 113 as well, and hasn’t done much cycling – although he’s done more running than me. Will be interesting to see if I can catch him on the bike, as he’ll be out of the water in about 1/2 the time I am!!!
Final week, and there’s not much point doing any more!! Might as well leave it till Sunday now. Haven’t practised transition yet – how hard can it be!! Let’s leave that till the day, I’ll just make sure everything I’ve got is in my bag and make sure I put it on before I get on the bike!!
Sunday 4th June 2017 – 4am, alarm goes off. No backing out now!! Get up without waking the kids (or dog!!), have some breakfast and head off to the race.
Next up, part two of zero to 113 in six weeks – race day (at least doing some swimming / cycling and running with a number on!!).
The race was going to be the opposite way round to last week. I was on the start line with the PC Ben Parker have chat and all things seem really good.
The organisers on the line made a point of telling everyone to be careful on the bends and look after each, then we were off. It was only about 15 meters or so from the start line and a rider in front cut across in front on me it looked like he was have a problem clipping in, he managed to cut across straight in front of Ben and bring him straight down along with another rider i believe, the race was brought back to a halt at the end of that lap. I could see Ben trying to fix his handle bars to get back in a and race how every it was then noticed that his frame and cracked and so was unable to carry on.
The race re-started, with lots of people cutting over in front of each other, i found the best place for taking the corners was wide and i didn’t have to slow down as much and i was able to start pedalling again sooner and i was finding this race a really good race and i was able to stick with everyone quite comfortably as well, i did have a couple of near miss with people nearly coming in to the side of me but did manage to stay clear.
After 36 mins we came into the 2nd to last bend i was wide as i was normally and about half way along everyone came over to the outside of the track and couple of riders managed to touch wheels and quite a large crash started i grabbed by brakes and skidding quite a way i did manged a small endo and just missed the rider in front by about 1″. The front of the group have made it through and had carried on. I did get started again but i was now a little way back. As i got onto the start finish line i put my head down and went for, by the time i was getting back to the 2nd to last corner again i had caught the group back, by now half the circuit was being blocked off as a rider was still down. I had managed to get my breath back and was comfortable again in the group when we came back to the 2nd to last corner and the race was then black flagged as a Ambulance was on it way.
39 mins out of 45 mins completed and still in the ground the best ride i have done to date all be it not actually finished but then again no one finished. A big improvement for myself.
I only have a couple of photo’s of me on my own for change as i was in the group for the rest of it.
During my couple of warm up laps i did noticed that it seem a little slippy but didn’t really think anything of it at the time.
I did make quite a good start and thought it was all going well until going thought the bends just after the finish line i slightly over cooked one of the corners and my wheels gently slid away from under neath me and there i was laid the middle of track, for my first real crash i was presently surprised at how little it hurt hitting the floor, i was able to jump straight back up and carry on. For the next couple of laps i was definitely taking the corners a lot easier after coming off. It wasn’t long before i was getting some sort of speed going, by now i has John Simmons behind, who after the race did mention how surprised he was that i didn’t come over again sooner. I got one of corners completely wrong and came to a complete stop went to get going again and manged to nearly take John at in the process. Sorry John.
After this i really started going again on to over cook it again and go down a bit harder than the first as i was getting back up i noticed how my front wheel was pointing one way and the handle bars another as i was straighten them up John came flying past. I manged to get both wheel and handle bars almost pointing the same way and jumped back on but wasn’t able to quite catch up with John again before the flag.
I did learn quite alot on riding cyclocross during this race maybe i should try a daylight one and see what happens
So another 2 rounds of cyclocross have happened and I’m starting to see a bit of a trend! It hurts every time I ride and I don’t mean in the saddle area! I knew it was going to be physically demanding on the legs but the lungs are getting the real workout.
Round 4 at Cheltenham wasn’t my best, unbeknown to me I was competing with a viral infection and as I just mentioned, lung capacity goes a long way in this sport. My legs were heavy and I just went backwards from the start which ironically was my best ever. I was probably in the top dozen riders going into the first turn but faded from there… Eventually finishing in 27th out of a field of only 43 riders in my category, disappointed and wondering why the engine hadn’t worked and I felt completely wiped out. The following day was a write off and so began a 2 week layoff due to illness. Not ideal prep for the league, so Round 5 came and went as I was too ill to compete.
Round 6 at Hengrove was a better result and even though I’m still not 100% I can see a little bit of improvement creeping in. Maybe the 2 week lay off has done me good? The course at Hengrove was flat with only a small section of technical riding in the woods for about 200m. I normally don’t like these courses as the stronger riders tend to power away from me on the flat parts of the course and I catch them in the technical areas due to my mtb skills. That said I did alright and seemed to hold my own on the flatter sections of the course this time even using the tarmac section leading into the woods as an ideal place to take some places. Arguably I had my worst start this season, getting swamped into the first corner and coming out of the melee somewhere in the 40’s! The first lap then consisted of being caught up in bottlenecks at every corner. This resolved itself after the first lap and a bit of space was starting to appear allowing for easier overtakes (more of this later)! The next couple of laps went without incident and I continued to pick places up as we lapped round.
On about lap 4 an individual tried a rather optimistic overtake on the inside of a 180 degree corner, pushing his way up the inside, failing to stop and then falling over right in front of me. All momentum lost we both lost places which we’d fought so hard to gain. The choice to overtake there was ludicrous and also the shout of ‘rider right’ when there was only space for 1 rider was also ridiculous, but some believe that by just shouting, riders should automatically move out of the way (more of this later).
So once I was back on and riding again I steadily picked up a couple of more places over the next lap, then I was aware of a rider behind who was sitting on and he had another rider behind him as well. So for the next lap or so I dragged these 2 around, I could see them on the switchbacks and they were evidently lining me up for an overtake on the last lap. We entered the last lap and I was waiting for the overtake, maybe I could sit on them for a lap (1 of the riders poked his wheel up the inside of a couple of corners which I shut down immediately and then took a defensive line into the next corner or so). As it happens as we entered onto the 300m tarmac section before the final technical tree section I was still ahead and I could see a rider just in front of me. This was my chance to get into the trees before my 2 followers and get the slower rider in between us. I timed it to perfection hearing the shouts of ‘rider left’ and ‘rider right’ behind me followed by ‘not here mate its only big enough for 1’… I thought you’ve got this, but I’d put myself in the red trying to get into the woods first so had to try and recover knowing that once out of this section they were both going to be gunning for me. As we entered into the last 400m, the rider who had been sitting on us both shouted ‘rider left’ and tried to come up my inside (there was no space as I was riding on the racing line next to the tape). He shouted again and next thing I knew he was elbowing me and leaning on me in order to get me out of the way! This I wasn’t happy with and followed him over the 3 wooden boards before remounting and turning up the inside of him and overtaking him (off the racing line in the thick grass and without shouting ‘rider left’ ) getting into the last corner first and sprinting 50m and beating him to the line.
It felt like a victory (it wasn’t) but at the time I’d won my little battle to finish 24th out of 53. The interesting thing was that the rider who’d muscled his way past me didn’t hang around to shake hands, but the other rider who was sitting on for a lap said he saw the incident and was in agreement with me that I hadn’t done anything wrong.
On reflection the race was a good one and I really enjoyed the tactical element, however I still believe that when you’re racing for position (regardless of whereabouts in the race) you shouldn’t just have to give up the racing line just so another rider can move past (different if you’re being lapped by the race leaders). I believe that if they want to pass me then pass me fairly on the outside (or inside as long as you stay upright). In no other sport would you see another competitor move out of the way to allow another rider, runner, car or motorbike past so why would you expect that in cyclocross!
So I’m learning with every race and if I look at the results from Round 4 and see the individuals who I am now competing against and beating I would of been inside the top 20 in that race. That said conditions vary as do the courses and so do the riders and thats why cyclocross is fun!!!!
I did manage to start the race up at the front but a bit to far up at the front and turning into the head wind on the back straight on the inside, my power went up as i slide back through the pack, i did managed to hang and work back up the through the pack on the finish line straight. For a couple of laps i did mange to get on the protected side of the group on the back straight but i did also get on the wrong side a lot as well which did take it out of me. Well it was around half way through the race i was dropped. The back straight almost became my friend as i stuck my head down and just rode catching others that had been dropped as well, i was lapped right on the 45 min and for the second race in a row i took the bell and managed to finish, This race is only placed up to 10th and with it being a cat 3 & 4 i think i will really struggle with a this point in time.
I have noticed that i must be entering the wrong races as after most of the races i have entered everyone alway mention “how it was much faster than normal today”. I must find these slower races.
Lets see what weather next week brings on Rd3
Everything ended up a bit of a rush getting over to Supermarine for this race after finishing later than expected from work, i did make it on time which was a good start.
I had a couple of warm up laps which both did feel quite weird with the low tire pressure and the bike feeling quite wallowie around the corners. I thought for the 1st race i would follow Mr Simmons round , on the start line i managed to mess my front light up and some how managed to get if flashing which made it just a Little more fun in the dark woods, after the 1st couple of laps 2 others riders got in between myself and John and he made quite a distance between us. I then managed to get around these 2 and catch John back who i stayed with for the rest of the races until last few bends where it was a bit lighter and could make out what i was riding into, then manged to overtake John and finish just ahead of him, so a big thank you to John for his help on my 1st race.
Just need to have my brakes looked at and work out how to use my front light and i will be good to go for Rd 6.
Thanks again John