Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Double Race Weekend

 I’m back once again with another essay of my time riding (racing) my bicycles.

Last week I staged my own 2 Day Stage Race with a 19mile timetrial on Saturday and then a 33mile Circuit Race up at Castle Combe.
It was a shock to the system and hopefully has shifted my fitness up a gear ready for another testing weekend involving a 10mile TT and 100mile sportive.

The timetrial was the 2nd Round of the WTTA Hardriders series which runs throughout the season over ‘sporting’ courses that generally are on the hilly side of the gradient spectrum. They vary in length from between 19miles to 30+ miles. Everyrider in each event scores points that count towards a season which is calculated using the cumulative score of an individual’s best 6 results. The 1st place rider at each event gets 120 points 2nd 119, 3rd 118 etc. so that all riders receive some points. With this in mind my main season goal is to complete 6 events and aim for a total score of 600. This will require a consistent 20th place position at each event  throughout the year.

Debuting on my new Cannondale Slice TT bike with the sunlight fighting through the cloud was a pleasant change from the recent cold, damp, freezing weather we have had recently. I have put in some time on my TT bike riding my turbo trainer during the winter and found a relatively comfortable position on it, venturing out onto the road now and again to some tweaking gave me reassurance of going out with some anger during the race without worrying about tumbling off a la Denis Menchov Giro D’Italia 2009.

Warming Up in the Sun :)

I have also developed a stunning warm up routine which almost worked too well on Saturday (contact me if you are interested in my finely tuned warm-up plan, I am sure we can come to some financial arrangement in return for the transfer of my ever growing bike wisdom).

The U303 course starts and finishes in Bruton south of Bath. Organised by the Gillingham and District Wheelers the event began with a 1 mile climb averaging at around 5% straight off the start line. My finely tuned warm up paid dividends and I rocketed off up the hill feeling ace and caught my minute man before the top, surprisingly still feeling ace. The course rolled south over the gentle terrain towards the A303 and roughly followed it before turning North and into a gentle but taxing headwind and a long drag of false flat before turning westwards and a fast 4 mile decent to the finish.  I kept what I thought was sufficient reserves in my tank for the headwind drag but I think my warm up gave me such a confidence boost I slightly over exerted over the first half of the course and began to slow down as the lactate in my legs began to accumulate. By the time I hit the run for home I had lost the red mist from my eyes and coasted in a racing fashion to the finish as I did not know the decent at all and I also slightly bottled it hurtling down at 40+mph still tucked up on the aerobars. I was in hindsight delighted with the performance of the Cannondale at this speed, it was magnificently stable and feel reassured that with a bit more time before the next event I can recce the course and go all out for the duration, hopefully picking a handful more places and improve on the 24th I achieved, top 20 is a realistic but challenging goal.


The weather changed for Sunday, the wind got up and I knew that the Circuit race at Castle Combe, which is renowned for its wind when the rest of the world is still, was going to be tough. Living in Colerne the 6 mile ride to the race track was the perfect warm up, and so wrapped in lasagne of Walcot kit I made my way over. Thankfully I was not alone today as Paul Fergusson, a recent Cat 3 graduate, would be joining me and safety in numbers would be the name of the game.

Our prerace tactics for the 19 lap 33 mile race was to stick together, stay near the front and if it looks like the race was splitting up in the wind work hard to make it happen and make sure we end up on the right side of the split.

The race started as normal with a few guys jumping off the front and being brought back again. Me and Paul where right in the thick of it and tried to bridge to 2 guys after a couple of laps. Stuck in no man’s land and about to head into the headwind I called to Paul ease up and wait, it seemed fruitless. If only we could of made it to those guys, who somehow managed to stay away and take the 1-2, we could have been in on that action and smashed an amazing result. Unfortunately we didn’t make it and continued in the trenches working hard, and far too early in hindsight. I almost got dropped out the back of the peloton after an ill-timed over exuberant effort and only just managed to climb back into the bunch. Seeing Paul tearing it up at the front, once I recovered I moved back up to keep the pace going and try to bring back a couple of small groups up the track. I don’t recall when, where or how, but it did slowly dawn on me that I could no longer see Paul and went looking for him through the group and realised he must of succumbed to the same problem I did earlier in the race and never made it back on. Self-preservation time. Stupidly I anticipated the race lasting no more than an hour with the British Cycling website saying the race lasted 50mins + 3 laps and so didn’t bother with taking a drink or any food for the race. At the start the commissaire said that the race would last 19 laps and not thinking at that point still continued without any refreshments for the journey. In self-preservation mode I started to calculate the maths and realised with the decreased speed because of the brutal easterly wind and 19 laps the race was going to take nearer an hour and a half. Only 50 minutes had gone and I was feeling sick, my blood sugar was low and I was beginning to feel the top end speed dissipate from my legs after the timetrial effort the day before. Hanging in the top 15 or so it became a game of avoiding the wind at all costs digging really deep to hold the wheel in front and not worrying, or able too, inflict that same pain onto the rest of the bunch. Who had given up chasing down the 2 leaders with a gap of nearly 3 minutes. With 5 laps to go I was feeling ok, and was more active at the front but unable to go with any moves that jumped every now and again. With the laps ticking down a small group of 3 went and I still don’t know if they stayed clear. The last 2 laps I was positioned perfectly but I knew full well that sprinting was out of the question. The bell went for the last lap and it was a relief to hear. Still in a good position I managed to avoid a guy go down on the back straight and found myself in a really good position and I began to find some more belief. As the swang around the back corner the speed went through the roof and all I could do was hold on in there. Another crash before the finishing straight meant going onto the grass and watch as the group sprinted to the line.

It was probably the hardest most intense hour and a half I’ve had on the bike and furthered my racing experience. It was a big step up for Paul too from the Ludgershall series races which last around 40-50 minutes and I think he learned a lot from the cold air. Back to the turbo for both of us, there is a long season ahead.

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