Sunday, October 30, 2011

Three’s a Crowd……And Lots of Fun

Ride Day 4 – Ride through Gorge de Nesque to Sault
Distance – 70 miles
Conditions – Glorious sunshine, no wind and hot

Yesterday I ended up doing a ride on my own as the weather wasn't too good, Mike was having a rest after a long day yesterday and we swapped the days around slightly to sink with the weather forecast. I didn't really have a plan as such so I simply whipped out the map and pointed to a village somewhere that looked like would make for a descent ride out, the village that I found was Grignan and somewhere out to the north. I set out in full wet gear as I saw it was spitting and the skies looked threatening but as it was, after 3 miles in to the ride I had to pull over to remove most of my kit as the weather had made a sharp turn or the better and this carried on or the rest of the ride.

All the way to Grignan I was treated to a glorious tailwind which made for a consistent ride but was then faced with a stiff headwind all the way back. To cut a long story short, the ride was a lot further than I thought, the headwind made it take longer than I had estimated and in the last 9km I could barely turn the pedals anymore. A lack of food and constant grovelling saw me bonk like I have never bonked before and I literally had to roil the last 5km before arriving at the front door. Not a nice experience but I have only myself to blame.

A New Day

There is only one thing that makes cycling more enjoyable than cycling alone and that's cycling with friends, family or both at the same time. This is what we did on Wednesday which would be my 4th day if riding and the mid-way point through the holiday, we woke to clear skis and headed out on the bikes with spring kit on in order to keep the early morning chill at bay. The rout e we had planned would be a spectacular one and would see us ride out along the renowned Gorges de Nesque which links Villes Sur Auzon to Sault via 28km of asphalt draped heaven with views to match.
We were extremely lucky with our location as the road starts literally out of our village and climb's at a stead 3-4% for almost 20km, passes through tunnels cut in to the mountain side and swoops rounds many edgeless hair pins with sheer drops to the side. Amazing.

For the 90 minutes that it took to ride along this road we never saw another sole except for one of two opportunists taking snaps of the rock formations that sat across the gorge. We soon began our descent in to the market town of Sault which is where the 3rd and easiest ascent of Mt Ventoux begins. The climb from side is the longest of all 3 at 26km but most of it is at a comfortable gradient of 5% or less, it's only when the climb meets up with the road from Bedoin at Chalet Reynard that it kicks up as it used the same last 6km as the most well-known ascent which the tour uses. As we began the climb I decided to ride at my own pace up until Reynard, once I reached the Restaurant I descended back to meet Dad and Mike and ride back to it with them.

It is at this point where we began our assault on the last 6km; I took a picture off of the first corner and mike pushed on with a spring in his step. I saw this as an opportunity to push the legs a little and I set off in hot pursuit. As it turns out, Mike, who was fresh from a day of rest and fully fuelled on heaps of pasta, was setting a furious pace and I took me what felt like an age to catch up with him. When I did I sat on his wheel just trying to hold the pace of this man possessed, we finished the climb side by side and was treated to spectacular views across the plain of Provence, with the Alps to the north and the coast to the south, these views have to be seen to be believed and seem all the better after you have pedalled your way to the top.
After a short break taking in the views and waiting for the old man, who did a great ride up the climb, we togged ourselves up in our extra layers and began our descent down the north side which would take us in to the town of Malucene.

We knew that the descent would be cold but god, not this cold. It was like being hit in the face with a frozen sledge hammer and I had to adopt the system of descending one handed in order to use my spare hand as a face shield to stop it freezing. After reaching the bottom safely we made our way back homewards via the Col de Madalene, no not that one but a smaller version which links Malucene and Bedoin and is a piece of road that has become well known by me and my dad as we had to ride it every time we wanted to ride the mountain when we were staying in the other village in years gone by.

Soon we were on the home stretch and had 9km to go when dad began to feel the effects of a hard ride in his legs, it is at this point where me and mike hit the front and tried to shelter him whilst keeping the pace up in order to get him home. Well, this is how the plan started out but soon it began to turn in to a 2 up team trial as me and mike drilled the front and I took the chance to practise my Fabian Cancellara style invisible aero bar position. Dad hung on for as long as possible and enjoying the pain, he dropped off the train with about 1km to go but we all rolled to house together which completed what was a stunning and memorable ride for us all.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rain, Wind and more Rain and Wind

Ride Day Two - Ascent up Ventoux and back along the northern road
Conditions - Dull, Raining and extreamly windy
Distance - 83 miles
Total time - 5.34 hrs
TSS - 301

Waking up at a 9.30, again the longest lie in i have had for about 10 years, I checked the weather from the bedroom window and was pleased to see the sun and dry ground, although the wind was blowing an absolute gail. But considering the forcast the previous day said heavy rain I was quite pleased with what we had been given.
The aim of todays ride was to do another 5 hrs or so and rack up a total of 300 TSS which would see us with a great training stimulas and some quality base miles. As for the route, I had planned to ride out to Malaucene and complete the ascent of Ventoux which starts in the town, we would then descent from the summit  down in to Sault and take a right which would see us head west along the back of Ventoux on the D942, D74 and the D40 which will bring us to Entrechaux. From here it would be a ride back south through Bedoin and home again which should give us a good 5 hrs on the clock.

As we headed out of the village we soon realized how windy it actually was and when Ventoux finally came in to view we cringed at what we saw; Big black clouds whirling around around the summit and sitting so low that you couldent even see the white stone that has made the mountain famous, it was a like a scene from a Count Dracular movie where you get the first glimpse of his Castle with clouds circling above. We agreed that we would ascend as far as it was sensible and if we had to the we would head back down and change the route.

We hit the climb after about and hours worth of riding and was thankful that the mountain side was sheltering us from the wind. After a couple of kms we meet a mountain biker who was holiday from his home of St Tropez, he asked if we minded if he stuck with us for as long as he could which was fine by us. We had a nice chat for a while which made the miles tick by but it didnt hide the fact that the air was getting colder and the summit was still looking pretty horrid. I told Mike that i would plough onwards to Mont Serein and see what the conditions were like and whether it was worth carrying on to the Summit. I accelerated off and let Mike keep the french man entertained, It suddenly became very hard work with the hardest section of 2 km at 11% infected with a super strong headwind, it didt make the ascent any easier. When i did eventually reach Mont Serein I was literally blown over and very close to being blown off the side, I quickly whipped my awseome Gortex coat out and descended back down to meet Mike. I told him that it was a pointless task trying to reach the summit and it would only end with us in trouble if we did get to the top, at this point we turned around and began the descend bact to the town during which we almost had a Tour de France moment when 2 stray dogs were running around on the road and we only just manahed to get past with out a massive accident.

Up on finishing the descent, we changed the route plan and decided to ride the otherway round to sault on the same road but simply doing it backwards. Mike however had had enough and decided that he would head home as he was feeling pretty tired. We shook hands and went our seperate ways, although i have to admit i was a bit unsure about leaving him to find his own way back as he is known as the James May of Stratford CC as his sense of direction is pretty bad! Sorry Mike. I kept to the plan and headed towards to D40 which would take me to Sault and soon it was clear that it would be a tough ride, the Wind was easily blowing at 45-50km and it was directly against me and would be for the next 40 miles. I settled in, had some more food and just dug away. The wind was draining the life out of me and no matter how much I ate or drank i was slowly getting more and more fatigued and things only got worse when the hevans opened up with 10km to Sault. Thankfully i had my handy Gortex rain coat which i have to say is one of the best peices of kit i have ever brought.

Finally i reached Sault and was completely drained, 2 hours in to the head wind had proved hard work and i was greatfull that i was changing dirction and heading west back over the Col de Les Abeilles which desends straight in to my Village. With the rain still falling i got going immediatly and felt a bit better than i did earlier on and started the climb with a spring in my step but soon enough the wind was back in my face and i was back to crawlng speed and being robbed of my last reserves. Over the top of the climb I didnt have far to go but my body had decided it wanted to finish now and i was soon treated to the feelings of the dreaded bonk; Tingly fingers, numb legs, tunnel vision and dizzy spells. I pulled over to compose my self and down my last bit of sustinence; a CNP Cola flavoured gel, boy did it hit the spot. It gave me the enough fuel to get over the last few rises which finally saw me start the descent, one of the scariest descents i have ever done. The road isnt steep or technical, the complete opposite in fact, it was due to being battered from the left by a hurricane force wind and having my front wheel lifted off of the floor whist doing 50 mph, Pretty fucking scary.

Finally i pulled up outside our residence and have rearly been happier or more releaved to be home. The first thing i did was sit down and gulp a recovery drink, closley followed by a cup of tea, cosley followed by a bowl of cereal, closely followed by anothet cup of tea. The shower fely like a dream and the 3rd cup of tea after it tasted just as good as the first. Well, i ended up doing what i planned; 5.5 hrs on the clock and just over 300 TSS, job done. Oh and remeber Mike who headed home as he decided he didnt want to do a long ride? well it turns out he did end up getting lost and arrived only 5 minutes before me with 75 milles on the clock! Hard core.

Epic Numero Uno

Ride Day one – Sunday 23 October 2011
Conditions – Sunny with patchy clouds, 13 degrees at sea level
Distance – 85 miles
Ride time – 5.10 hrs.
TSS – 305
Total Ascent – 2600 meters
Rise and Shine
Today saw a late rise for me, especially when a long ride is planned. Well I suppose 9am isn't too late but there was no way that I was going to set my alarm after the knackering day of doing nothing yesterday and it was so nice to sleep in a comfortable bed and get a good solid kip. Opening the French shutter revealed a pleasant looking day; calm, bright and a light covering of cloud in the sky, basically perfect cycling conditions. After a quick toilet stop we headed down stairs to feast on a breakfast of muesli with chopped banana and a chunk of fresh baguette with the cyclist favourite smothered all over it; Nutella!!! Mikey decided he would just have a mammoth bowl of muesli which he soon regretted as he has to force it down with a slightly sick looking expression on his face. Bless him.

With our pockets crammed full of food, oversized Ortlieb saddled bag stuffed full of extra cloths and extra food we were pretty much set to go. I didn't really have any idea of our initial direction but I had a basic game plan for the ride. Firstly we would get in 2 hours or so and head in the direction of the place that we stayed for the last couple of years which is the village of Seguret. This village has been classed as one of France's most beautiful villages and built in to a hill side which back on the to the vast forest of the Dentaeles. We would then loop back round and headed towards Bedoin in order to start the most used and most recognised ascent of Mont Ventoux. Depending on how we felt when we reached the summit we would either descent back in to Sault and take the longer way back home or we would head back in to Bedoin and take the shorter way home. Whatever we did we wanted to get a good solid 5 hrs in and take in the climb.

As we set of it was a bit chilly but the sun was soon pocking nose out and we could feel the warmth on our backs. The first initial miles brought back floods of memories from holidays gone by, some of amazing rides and some of terrible bonks but all in all it was like coming back home to where I belong. It's funny because the first thing you realise when you ride in this part of the world ids how slow it all feels, the roads just seem to grab hold of your tyres and it can feel like riding in syrup. Also, there seems to be a head wind all of the time, I know we say this most of the time but in France it really does feel like it and no matter which way you turn the wind is always pounding your cheeks and never seems to be pounding your other cheeks, if you know what I mean!

We headed out toward Carpentras and had our first reminder that we must look to the left when we enter roundabouts, the sound of an angry horn made us remember for the rest of the ride as the next 5 hours went off without a hitch. I was improvising the route as we went along which is good fun as you can't really get to lost because you simply use Ventoux as a homing beacon in order to find out where you are. We made our way northwards towards Vaison la Romaine, the medieval town which to distinct districts; one side of the river is the new town which hosts a grand market on various day and the other side is the old town which is built in to the hill side and is still home to many residents and businesses. From here it was a couple of kilometres till we reached the Seguret which again brought back more memories, we made our way up to the house where I preceded to hug the side of the building, rummage round the back to view the garden and then get going again.

Onwards and soon upwards
It was at this point where I programmed Bedoin in to the Garmin and headed toward to legendary climb. As we pedalled there was a slight feeling of trepidation in the air from both of us. For Mikey it was due to feeling of uncertainty as this would be the first time he has ever done anything like this and it has been made all the harder as we have done 3 hours before we have even reached the foot of the climb. For me it was because I knew what was coming having done the climb about 30 times before and I had no idea how I would fare as I have never done it after 3hrs either. It wasn't long before we were pedalling through Bedoin and turning right on to the D974 which marks the start of the climb. After a quick picture next to the Mt Ventoux sign we began our ascent of this epic lump in the ground. If you have ever done Ventoux you will know how easy the first few kilometres are which simple lull you in to false sense of security before the road really kicks up and once it does, it doesn't let up again for the next 18kms.

It all went quiet and soon the only sounds that could be heard were those of shifting gears and deep breathing. It was very strange doing the climb in October compared to August as there was barely another soul on the road apart from us, typically I would pass about 100 other cyclists on my way to the summit but today I passed 1, just 1, no because I was hideously slow but because there was no one else stupid enough to do this climb in late October when its shrouded in mist! WE were about 45 minute in to the climb when I turned to mike and asked him how he was feeling, the reply didn't sound too good, "I feel like shit and I think I'm going to pass out"!! Not how you want to be feeling when you still have 11km of 9% to go. I told mike that Chalet Reynard was not too far away and that he should stop if he needed and I would carry on but descend back to him once I had reached the restaurant. This is what we did, Mike had a breather whilst I chugged on and with every pedal stroke I noticed it was getting colder with every meter of vertical ascent that ticked off. When I did reach Chalet Reynard I decided that I would just keep going as I knew that if I started descending now I would just freeze and wouldn't be able to get warm enough to start climbing again.
Its only 6km from Reynard to the summit, just a measly 6km! Trust me, this can be the hardest 6km you will ever do and with over 4 hours on the clock it was indeed pretty tough. Not as hard as I have found it but no exactly comfortable and as it was now getting toward zero degrees, even my effort climbing couldn't keep me warm.

As I rounded the last bend which is hideously steep I barely managed to rise out of the saddle due to the cold and as soon as I crossed the finish line in a pretty casual time of 90 minutes, my best being 75, I quickly stopped, grabbed my new Gore Tex coat out of my handy saddle bag and slung it on before starting the descent. I had decided that when I saw mike I would tell him that the top was a long way off and it was freezing so we should just head back home and he can try again another day. However, to my surprise I only managed about 3km of descent before I spotted mike standing at the side of the road. I was amazed that he had managed to get so far and that he was so near the top, there was no way that he would stop now so we would carry on to the top and let him conquer this beast. He informed me that he had about 2 minutes rest when I let him at which point his anger pushed him onwards and he set out to chase me down. He had one or few stops on the way up but had still made amazing progress. We had one last little stop before the straight where I told him to put on his coat in preparation for the summit and ploughed onwards. Upon reaching the top we had a manly hug and then quickly realised just how freezing it was so we got the fuck out of there and started our descent.

We decided that as we had almost 5 hrs on the clock we would head the direct way home by descending straight back down towards Bedoin. I think it's fair to say that although we thought we were prepared we really weren't. It was absolutely freezing and soon it was my turn to start feeling dizzy. The cold was almost unbearable, my hands were beginning to fail and I could barely feel my legs. It just seemed to go on forever and no matter how far we descended back towards sea level, the air just never seemed to get any warmer. We finally hit the bottom of the main climb and I pulled over to see how mike was, he pulled alongside me with a ghostly look on his face which was also very blue. He was worse than me so I gave him a manly rub for a few minutes in order to get some warmth back in to his torso which seemed to do the trick. We too the signs for the village and headed for home, it was so hard to try and pedal as the cold had all but killed my legs and I could hardly turn them. It was a nice feeling when we rolled in to the village and finally began to feel a bit warmer. We stopped off at the local drinking hole for a quick cappuccino to get some real heat back in to our system and drink to a job well done.
So with day one out of the way and some experience gained ready for the next day, we headed back to the house where we walked in to the glorious smell of beef casserole cooking in the oven, a well-earned one at that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The French Expedition

If you were to ask me where my all-time favourite place in the world is, I wouldn't have to think about it for too long. For me the answer is a simple one; the top of Mont Ventoux looking northward towards the southern tip of the Alps on a clear day. Perfect. For the last couple of years our family holidays have all been to the south of France and twice they have been to a small village called Seguret which is situated in the department of Varcluse in Provence and sits just a few miles west of the legendary Ventoux. Both of the times we have been we have journeyed down in early august, just me, my sister, my folks and of course the bikes. I have always used this time as a kind of training camp and took it up on myself to put In some hard long miles and prepare myself for an end of season peak, this has meant that although the riding was fantastic I never really took the time to savour the enjoyment and realise how great the riding actually was as there was always an sense of pressure to get the training done; I spent more time looking at my Garmin head unit and the watts than I did looking at the amazing scenery.

It's now late October and we are making the same trip down to Ventoux as we have made in previous years only this time a few things will be different. Firstly we are going at a different time of year, autumn, and I have no idea what the weather will be like which could prove interesting. Secondly I am heading down with my mum, my dad and my best mate Mikey, yes the same Mikey that broke his collar bone only a few weeks ago! Lastly, although I will be putting in some long miles it will not be hard focused training but will instead be about getting in some early winter base miles and actually taking the time to take in the scenery and enjoy being on my bike, my power meter will be present but I won't be drawn to the numbers this time.

Day 1& 2 – The Long Way Down

The south of France is long way away and we don't take the easy quick option of flying down, oh no, we like to do it the long and uncomfortable way of driving it. 800 miles from Stratford upon Avon to the Village of Villes Sur Arzon where we will be staying. In the past years we have just done it all in one go but this time we decided to break it up a little in order to make it a bit more bearable.

At 5.36 pm sharp we had the car fully loaded with 3 bikes, 1 week worth of food, clothes and essentials, various bits of equipment including 4 smart phones, 1 laptop, 3 Garmin's, 1 Tom Tom, 2 cameras and about 10 different chargers., Oh and 4 people! After a quick stop at a post box to post a letter which I forget to do we set off on the first leg of the journey, rather than drive straight down to Folkestone, get on the train and then continue down to France, we decided we would stop at a Travelodge about 10 miles before for the tunnel and get a few hours kip before boarding the training at 5am the next morning. We got the Travelodge at about 8.30 on the night and after sneaking 4 people and a bike in to a 3 person room, we had a quick cuppa, a bit to eat and then hit the sack before an early rise.

As expected it was crap night's sleep for everyone except for my old man who kept us all awake with his intoxicating snoring!! Teeth brushed, clothes on and beds somewhat made, we headed out the door at 4.20am and made our way to the tunnel ready for our depart and the start of what we class as the real journey. Thankfully we got on the train without a hitch and 35 minutes later we were in the gran land of the Frenchies and faced with a further 600 miles of driving ahead of us. The first 100 miles were easy as I made up for the sleep that I lost the night before and woke up at around 9am and was greeted by thick fog and a temperature gauge that read 2 degrees!!! A bit of a change to when we head down in the summer. I have to admit that I detest long car journeys but thankfully I had a few things to keep me entertained such as angry birds on my phone and writing this blog, I hope that these simple pleasures would help the journey go a bit quicker.

After getting 200 miles under our belt and breezing on past Reims, we decided to stop at service station and get some breakfast and fill the car up with fuel. It's crazy, every country is the same when it comes to motorway services, they know they have you by the bollocks and will charge extortionate amounts for anything they can. The petrol is twice the price and a couple a panachocolates, 3 bottles of drink and a pack of biscuits came to 14 euros. Filthy bastards! Anyway, breakfast consumed we are back in car and hurtling out way down to Lyon with 300 miles to go and the weather still looking grim.

600 miles later and finally we pulled up outside Le Maison Juane, out temporary home for the next week and what an amazing place. Right in the centre of the village, the house is 3 stories, full of character and has a real homely feel. It took about 20 minutes to unpack all of the car and get ourselves sorted, soon we a were sitting down in front of the TV with sore tired eyes, drinking tea and rifling through a box of roses whilst watching X Factor! Nice. It wasn't long before we were all in bed after a long exhausting day and looking forward to the first ride of the holiday just the very next day.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Transition Time

With the season done and dusted and no more racing planned apart from a few fun races and a couple of cross races, my focus now shifts to the winter and laying the foundations ready for the new season. This is true for most road cyclists who follow a structured training program, yet many forget one vital part of the structure; The Transition.

Most cyclists and athletes for that matter have such determination to better themselves for next season that they dive straight in to long hard winter training after only just calling an end to an even longer and harder season of racing! Many riders I know will finish there last race on the last weekend of September and will then be riding a 25hr training week starting on the following Monday, This will led to one thing; Burnout, overtraining and a poor start to the coming year. I can say this with first-hand experience, for 2 years I raced a full season of road racing and then competed in Cyclocross through the winter which started before the road season had even ended. This lead to me starting the following road season fatigued both physically and mentally and lacking the motivation and desire to compete that had been present in previous years. Last winter I decided that enough was enough and I needed a break so I didn't race the cross season, however I made the other mistake of diving head first in to tough structured training comprising of hours and hours of hard riding and this started before my last race of the season so once again I had no lay off period. This is what many cyclists, runners, swimmer and multisport athletes do and yet deep down we all know that it's the wrong thing to be doing. So why do we allow ourselves to do, why is the urge to get on with it so strong?

I think that most athletes will agree that to be successful in high level sport you must have something about, something that keeps your pushing on and pursuing sporting excellence. I also think that it's fair to say, and I'm sure most will agree, that many top level athletes have obsessive compulsive tendencies and it's this mind-set that allow for such driven determination and self-sacrifice. However, this does come with its problems and the one key issue is the worry of losing what has being gained, the worry of getting slower and not fitter, the fear of slipping back and not striding forwards. This is the main reason why many athletes will rush in to hard training after the season end and be busting out eye popping intervals before Christmas. It's all down to the fact that they don't want to think of themselves undoing all of their hard work and that if they keep up their race fitness through the winter then they can just keep building on that going in to next year. Unfortunately this is not how it works.

Athletes can only maintain peak race fitness for so long as the base on which this speed and power is built on begins to crumble, eventually this foundation will give in and that when you know it's time to back off, rest, recuperate and rebuild an if you have done your season right then this should happen just as your last races are taking place. He aim then is to rest up and allow your body to return to equilibrium, only then can you start laying down the foundations again. You wouldn't build a house straight on to a muddy swamp or crumbling piece of rock so why would you want to build your pyramid of fitness on the same kind of thing. So before we begin building our house we need to lay a solid foundation, but before laying the foundation we need to clear the weeds and rock from the land and level it nice and flat. So how do we do that I hear you ask, well it's simple; it's called a Transition period.

So what exactly is a transition period? A transition period is the interim between the end of your racing season and the start of your sport specific winter training. Why is this period so vital? A transition period allow you to ease back, re charge your batteries and re fill the tank which means that you will go in to your training topped up with energy, focus and motivation. It's also a time to reflect and review your racing season and look at what went well, what needs work, where were your strengths and weakness, did you achieve what you set out to do? It also gives you the chance to set new goals and targets for the coming year and begin to plan the training that will take you there. Most importantly though its about letting your hair down, spending time doing things that you have missed out on during the race season, eating few "bad" foods, lying in, staying up later and enjoying life without the stress or pressure of training and racing. Some people may do this full on and not touch the bike for 2 weeks, others such as myself will keep riding their bikes but will put away the gadgets and gizmos and ride with the aim of seeing the world and enjoying the view, something that many of us don't do due to staring at our Garmin's!

This year I am doing my transition period in the right way, I had planned what I was going to do a few weeks before the season ended. I arranged the things that needed to arranged in order to accommodate my plan and went out and made a few new purchases as well. This is how my end of season transition period is going to look:

The Transition period will last a total of 4 weeks and will begin at the end of my last race which was on the 18th of September (as you read this I will already be in the 2nd week of my TP). It will end the day before we go away to France for a family holiday, this holiday will mark the start of my Base training, something which I will discuss as I enter that phase. My personal aim for my TP is to firstly break my routine which I have been stuck in for the last few months and refresh my mind and allow my body to freshen up and recover. I will also use the reduction in training as a way to aim my weight gain, this is something that has been a real challenge and has caused me many problems over the past few years. My aim is to increase my weight from 53kg to 58-60kg; this is where my sweet spot is and where I need to get back to. Finally, this period will give me the chance to work on any physical niggles or injuries that have cropped up during the season, the main one being a long term back issue and now a trapped nerve in my right shoulder. These will be a priority during the first few weeks of my TP.

My weekly plan for next 4 weeks is as follows:

Monday – 1.5 – 2 hrs. Resistance training

Resistance training will play a big role in my entire winter campaign but the focus in this period is building a foundation of strength and work on any muscular imbalances. The session will be a fully body workout with some time spent on lower body and some spent on upper body.

Tuesday Morning – 60 min swim

Yes I know what your thinking, why the hell am I going swimming!!! Well, no I'm not becoming a Triathlete, it's simply a form of cross training that provides a different physical stimulus and keeps my mind fresh and invigorated. I am also aware that my upper body is in a very poor state so tis will begin to engage the muscles that rarely get worked, it will also help improve my core stability and breathing rhythm.

Tuesday Evening – 1.5 hrs. Club Run

This will be a nice steady ride out with the local club in order to keep my legs used to pedalling and also for the social aspect of cycling, something that many of us competitive lot have long forgotten about.

Wednesday – Pub Run

Even more social that a normal club run, this is a nice easy ride out to a pub, a drink and then a poodle back home. What could be better?

Thursday - 1.5 – 2 hrs. Resistance training

This will be my second resistance session of the week and will mimic the first

Friday Morning – 60 min Swim

Saturday – 2 hrs. on the Club bash

Sunday – 2-3 hours nice and easy with the lads or if I don't feel like doing much I will just chill with a day off the bike.

In this time I am also seeing a Chiropractor in order to get my back and trapped nerve sorted out; this is something that may be on-going for as long as it need to. This structure will set me up nicely for my Base period and will allow me to get my body back to equilibrium and make it strong and resilient ready for the hard work that is to come. If there is one thing I would encourage all athletes to look at doing right this year is the Transition Period, it will set you on the right road going in to the new season.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

End of Season Antics – Derby Mercury RR

Derby Mercury Road Race

Hosted by Derby Mercury CC


Regional A

65 miles


Any that's a rap folks, well almost. Today was my last pre-entered BCF race of the 2011 season, I have a TLI stage race that I'm doing in October and a few cross races but apart from that I'm all done. I feel that on reflection I have a pretty good season considering that I came into last winter having suffered a broken collar bone and then broke it again in March after my first race! Plus one of two other things during the season that have been hard for me so overall I'm contempt and I know that if I pull my finger out next year, get a good winter behind me and do some mid-week circuit races I should have no problem obtaining my first cat license.

Anyway, right now I have to think about this race and I have to say it's one of the more unusual road races I have done. The course is just over 5 miles and apart from few little undulations its pan flat; this means that we would be doing 12 laps of the circuit. It sounded more like a circuit race or a Belgium Kermese than a road race but hey, I'm open minded and always up for a challenge. Arriving at the HQ which was extremely plush for a HQ, the sun was shining although the morning was cold and a base layer would be required without a doubt. Winter was defiantly on its way but it looked as though there would be no threat of rain during today's race which was always a good thing, plus the wind was down to a gentle blow which would make the speed of the race pretty high.

Although I have been saying for the last few weeks that I have been looking forward to getting my last few races out of the way so as I can reset my focus towards winter training and begin laying down my base, I was really looking forward to today's race and even more so after seeing the start sheet. Most of my racing buddies were down to race, many of which I have shared long breakaways with, attacked alongside, chased down, out sprinted and been out sprinted by during what has been an eventful 2011. There were also a few guys I have never raced and one guy I never even knew did road racing! That chap was Matt Botrell of Team I-Ride, 3rd placed finisher in the 2010 British Time Trial Champs and One of the best Testers in the country. He would be one to watch for sure.

After a chilly briefing which was held in the car park in the shade, we set about getting the race underway. In the same style as the course, the race went off like a Kermese as well with a super-fast opening few miles. This pace set the tone for the rest of the race which was generally ridden at a very high average speed and with little in the way of actual breaking during the lap there wasn't a fat lot to slow us down. With it being the last race of the season I kind of had my September head on and spent the first lap dangling at the back just chilling out, I had convinced myself that given the nature of the course a break would not get away and it would end in a bunch sprint. Low and behold, as I said that a break began to go clear which was about 10 strong and I was stuck at the back unable to get up towards the front due to the narrow roads and high speeds. It was my own fault for not paying attention and neither did I realise that the break contained Botrell and a few other race favourites.

Work Begins.

After a couple of laps it was clear that something had to be done or we would not be seeing those riders again, the break was at about 30 seconds so I knew that we could bring it back. I eventually made it to the front and began working hard to bring the riders back, I felt good and I put in some really hard, long, fast pulls on the front with other riders helping up the speed of the bunch. At one point, about half way through, I was on the front doing a hard effort when the Motorbike out rider told me that the break was at 25 seconds. This didn't seem right as I could see the group of 10 only a few seconds up the road, after a bit of thought I realised that that could only mean one thing; Botrell. After a quick calculation; Botrell + Solo Break + Flat Course + No Wind + Peak form after British TT champs = A good chance of the race being over!!!!

Nonetheless, there was still prize money up for grabs and now we had caught the break of 10 we could still race for minor places and possibly even bring Botrell back although this was a tall order. Just as we swept up the break, a counter attack began to make its move with Michel Thelwell of Qoroz being the main instigator. Unfortunately in true Mike style, he managed to pull his foot out of the pedal and careered across the road taking some riders with him and going down hard. I was a few riders back and managed to miss the chaos but the poor chap looked in a bad way as I passed him. Thankfully I later spoke with him in the HQ and other than a few cuts and bruises he was alright. Back to the race and with the laps ticking down, nothing else had gone clear, a few little moves went away but were brought back pretty quick and I was beginning to think it would be impossible to get away due to the constant high speeds.

With about 2 laps to go and Botrell now about 90 seconds up the road, the pace on the front was high coming in to one of the harder section which contained a little hill. The stronger riders were at the front and it was slightly splintered as we crested the top of the rise, Flavio Zappi (Ex Italian Pro) had a gap with few others including Connor Ryan who, a guy who I have accumulated a lot of time with in breakaways this year. To my right I saw Paul Dring, ex Echelon team mate and good friend, drift up to the riders a head so I decided to latch on, we had a gap and we managed to quickly organize in to through an off and began hitting it really hard. We worked like a dream machine, every rider pulling through and contributing well to the pace setting. If a rider missed his turn due to being tired then someone else would jump in to take over, allowing them a quick breather before they jumped back in to start working again. We knew we didn't have long left and we knew the bunch would be riding fast so we didn't mess around; we just got our heads down and rode hard. It was poetry.

With a lap to go we had reduced Botrell's lead but not enough to bring him back and he crossed the line the clear winner and well deserved it was too. The 6 of us who had broken away were now far enough in the lead to know that we would finish ahead of the bunch. As we hit the last little rise before the last mile or so, a rider went for an early move which briefly split the 6 of us in to equal goups of 3 but this was soon nutrilized. Connor was second wheel coming up to the finish, I thought I had made a perfect choice as Connor is a plucky rider and a handy sprinter, so when he opened up his sprint about 100 meter from the line I thought I was being gifted to a perfect lead out but then, to my right I saw Paul attacking down the other side of the road passing both me and Connor. I had gone from the perfect position to the worst with about 50 meters to go and the whole road blocked by the other rider who had had to swing to the left after Paul blew his Trumpet. I tried my hardest to come back around but it was no good and I came across the line in 6th just behind Connor and Paul just behind me. The bunch came in not long after with a good old sprint.


1 Matt Bottrill (I Ride RT) 2:30:00
2 Andy Eagers (Derby Mercury RC) @ 1:30
3 Flavio Zappi (Team Zappis)
4 Paul Bell (Peak RC)
5 Conor Ryan (VC Montpellier)
6 Daniel Bill (Cult Racing)
7 Paul Dring (Team Echelon)
8 Neil Edwards (unattached) all @ same time
9 Tim Allen (Cyclesport) @ 2:00
10 Paul Bennett (Cycling Bargains) @ same time

Results Courtesy of British Cycling

6th it was then, not bad considering the course exploited all of my weaknesses and I was convinced I would not be able to get away. I fact, do you know what? I was mega happy, I had had a cracking race, found it to be one of the most enjoyable races I have done all year, got in a well drilled break with some good friends and walked away with £30. Job done. Job done on two fronts in fact as I can now say that my official race season is over and I feel I ended it on a high. Although I felt quite sad as I drove out of the once busy and bustling HQ, I felt sad because I knew it would be a good 5 or 6 cold, long, hard months before I would see many of my good race buddies again. Thankfully I have some very exciting things taking place at the moment which could make this winter the best ever and make 2012 twice as good as 2011. But for now I will take my £30 and buy myself an ice-cream which might also be the last one of this season as well.

Cheers all.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Grand Finale

Tour of the Wrekin
West Midlands Road Race League
Regional A
70 Miles
3 & ¾ of an undulating loop with a steep climb a few km from the finish

September. A time when the nights begin to draw in, the weather begins to turn, leaves begin to rust and the UK road racing season begins to draw to a close. Sunday 11th September marked the last round of the West Midlands road league, in which I am currently 4th or 5th overall due to my cock up in the last race. However, today I could rectify the situation and claw my way back up the standings providing I get a good result, I would also be marking the current leader, Matt Clarke, in an effort to try and finish ahead in order to relight my chances of winning overall. First we had to see how this race played out and one things for sure, everyone knew that the weather would play a vital part. Gail force winds and the chance of rain is what the forecast predicted and milling around the HQ it was clear that I would be a gusty one!

The race started off pretty brisk which has now become a fairly standard affair in these races and I made sure I was near the front but sheltered from the elements. To be honest, I cant really recall to much of the first part of the race, I know that I didn’t feel great and that a break was up the road but generally not much happened. It wasn’t until the 2nd time up the bank where the race really heated up, with the break in sight a few of us drilled it on the climb and I helped contribute to the pace which was savage and continued all the way along the drag until the roundabout on the main road. Reviewing my power data it showed that I managed my best 5 minute power during that effort with a 329 average and a 351 normalized power, this was definitely on of my matches burned that’s for sure.

With the break now brought back, all hell broke loose as we hit the headwinds and riders tries to counter and go clear. I was struggling with the wind and getting battered around the place even though I in the bunch. After a few attempts to get away, all of which were marked and chased down, I settled back in the group just a Tony Kiss who I went down with rode off the front in a very casual way and somehow was left alone to go clear with a few other. During the next lap a few riders bridged up to the group before it gained its maximum advantage of 2 minutes. I have to confess that a lot of that time gap is due to me and my efforts in disrupting the chase so as to give my mate the nest possible chance of winning. This was hard enough but the wind made it savage and a few times I had to really dig in order to stay with the group.

After the 3rd time up the climb we had managed to whittle the field down to half of the amount that started and continued to ride hard. As we begun the last lap it was clear that the break had a big enough gap to stay away even though they were also down to just 3 riders. With this in mind I decided that it was time to try and do something for my self but again, every move that I made as marked and brought back but at the same time, all of these little digs were beginning to tire the field and the head wind just exacerbated that fact. With half a lap to go and my chances of getting away looking slim, I was dropped a life line when Adrian Bird, ex elite rider and good friend, made his move on a very difficult section of road. I was in the right place to go with it so latched on to his wheel even though I was trying to recover from an effort that I had just made. I gritted my teeth to stay in contact but as we crested the small ride I looked back and was surprised to see that we had ridden away from the bunch and all the favourites and already had a substantial gap. And so it began, after catching a straggler from the break the 3 of us drilled it in to the ever strengthening head wind. Although it was mainly me and Ady doing the work as the other chap was suffering big time.
I knew that we didn’t have too long before the descent which lead to the foot of the climb but the head wind was making it take a lot longer and lot harder. I sensed that Adrian was also beginning to tire but I also knew that we needed more time going in to the climb as it was inevitable that the bunch would hit it hard and take chunks of time out of us. With this in mind and the other 2 not really doing any work, I took it up on myself to drive the pace and I hit the climb on the front. I had told myself before the race that if I was in a good position on the climb on the last lap I would make an effort to attack a go for a solo victory! Well, victory might have been out of the question but a solo ride to 4th was still on the cards so that what I did, I put the hammer down on the steep part of the climb and rode away from my 2 companions, kept the pace going over the top and settled in to the pain. Amazingly, as I crested the climb I could see Tony and his break away companions literally seconds up the road, I dug in still pulling clear of the other in an effort to catch them before the line. The problem was I, apart from the fact I was at my limit, there was also a hideous head wind all the way to the finish and in the end it proved to much and I didn’t quite get them back. Tony had to settle for 3rd after being out sprinted by the bigger riders but still a fantastic result non the less, I rolled in literally seconds after to secure 4th with Adrian coming in 6th.

After what started off as a frustrating race having being stuck in the bunch and feeling that I had no prospect of getting away, I had managed to pull out what I would class as one of my best rides of the year and soloed to 4th after making the kind of attack I knew I was capable of and almost catching a break that was 2 minutes clear. Not only that, you cant beat the feeling of you and your mate both doing very different but just as impressive rides and finished 3rd and 4th. Awesome.

It also turns out that my result had indeed allowed me to claw my way back up the overall standing and I have ended up 2nd overall in the lead only a hand full of points down on Matt Clarke who ended up 7th today. Not to shabby considering I missed the first 2 rounds due to my broken collar bone!!!

So, with only one or two more races left on the calendar for this year, my attention now turns towards the winter. I’m looking forward to winter training as I do every year at this time of season, I look forward to a few weeks of moseying around on the bike and having a laugh, Chomping on Banana and honey sandwiches during epic winter training rides on new roads that I have not year ridden and the prospect of a hot coffee and bean stew on my return. Plus, I am also looking forward to announcing a very exciting that is currently been put together ready for the new season.

Thanks fro reading.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Crit 'n' Crash

Litchfield Town Centre Races

Promoted by Litchfield CC


60 mins + 5 Laps

Its been a good 2 years since i have done a proper town centre crit. The last one i did was the Warwick Town Centre races on 2008 when i still a 4th cat, It was good race as i had managed to break away with one other rider and pretty much lap the rest of the filed but on the bell lap as we came in to the first corner i got put in to the barrier by a lapped rider and couldn't finish due to the damage to my bike. This was the last time i raced this kind of race as there just arn't that many of them around and in general, its not really the kind of race which plays to my physical strengths although i can do well in these kind of races due to my cornering ability. I can make the courses a lot less stressful on my legs due being able to hit corners and hold my speed as i exit which means that i haven't got to sprint back up to speed. If you think how many corners there are in a typical 60 min Crit race, this amounts to a lot of saved energy.

I hadn't planned to race the Litchfield races even though they had been well advertised over the last few weeks, it was only when Tony told me that he was going to do them that i decided i would head down with him and give it a crack. Our race, the E/1/2/3, was due to start a 4.00pm so in the morning of the race i headed out first thing on my bike to spin the legs and make sure all was ok with my race machine. I then had a few hours to kill before Tony came round to pick me up at 1.30pm. Soon enough he did arrive and we began loading up the car with all the kit, as we did this i thought to myself how strange it is that you end up taking more kit to an hour long race than you do for a 3 hour race; Bike, wheels, spare wheels, clothes, spare clothes, Rollers, Turbo etc etc, just so much bloody kit for such a short race.

When we got the Litchfield the heavens opened with our arrival so we ended up doing our course reconnaissance in the driving rain which didn't help our confidence at all. The course was typical crit style with many tight corners, about 1km long and had quite a few cobbled section. Oh and of course it also had the typical course barriers with the big metal legs sticking out about a foot on to the course. Love it!!
45 minutes before the race we broke out the rollers and began warming up. To many riders don't appreciate how vital a good warm up is before a crit, the races start so fast and if your legs arnt ready to work then your race can be over before the end of the first lap. I have a warm up routine which i have used for a while and works every time, not only does it prepare my legs but it also prepares my mind for the hard efforts to come so it results in me being much more relaxed as i head to the start.

On the start line i was in the second row so had a pretty good starting position but in typical Dan Bill style it took me an age to get clipped in so come the first corner i was 2nd from last. Not a good start. After the first lap the race was already beginning to split and i was stuck at the back, is started making my way up through the field, taking riders on the straights and then using my cornering ability to close down the next group and so on. It was very frustrating when i did catch a group as i was always so much faster through the corners that riders just ended up slowing me down so i had to really try and pick the right times to make my passing moves. Soon enough i was the the front of the 2nd group which was basically a chasing group as the big boys had already broke clear and were a good 40 seconds up the road. I kept driving the pace hard making sure that i never fell back further than 3rd rider from the front. The reason for this is simple, the closer you are to front of a group, the less the conseteener effect from riders braking in to corners effect you, meaning that the less of a sprinting effort i have to make on the exit. By keeping the pace intense for a good 20 Min's we had managed to whittle out group down to about 5, the front group of about 8 had also split in to 2 groups and at just over the half way point the leading 3 riders which contained 2 Corley Cycles riders and Will Penn from Mammoth had managed to lap the field. As the y cam round our group i was on the front and so i did what most would do, i latched on and held the wheels for as long as i could!

To my surprise i actually had no problems matching there pace, in fact for me it was easier following the elite boys as they could corner as well as i could so when on there wheels the whole lap was much more consistent and flowed much better. Soon we also began lapping other groups, including the group containing Tony Kiss and his friend Steve, a National level track rider riding for Litchfield. With 5 laps to go lapped riders began to get pulled out and our group of 5 were instructed to drop of the leading 3 in order to allow them to contest there own race. I settled at the back of our group in order to watch the moves and conserve energy ready for the last lap dash. On the bell lap i began moving up and was in 4th as we came in to the penultimate turn, the rider in front was unfortunately not to good at cornering and i entered the corner with more speed than him i soon realised i was about the hit his back wheel as he slowed so much. This forced me to try and change my line mid corner which meant shifting my weight, as i did the front wheel lifted and that as they say was they end of that. SMASH!!!!!!!

Yep, just like in 2008 at Warwick i hit the deck on the last lap. I was ok other than some nasty gashes to my left leg. The marshals lifted my bike over the barrier but i realised that i could still be well with in the top 15 as we had such a big lead over the groups behind. I asked for my bike back and began to ride towards the finish but realised the bike was un-ridable. I then  proceeded to remove my brand new Sidi shoes and held these in one had, grabbed the bike with the other and ran the last few hunded meters in nothing more that my blood stained, bright yellow Mavic sock and crossed the line to a hero's welcome (kind of).

So, was i disappointed? well no, not really. I was very happy with how i had ridden, i proved i was strong and i proved i was capable of matching the pace of the leaders. Its just that next time i need to make sure that get a better start and am up at the front on the first lap and not working my way up from the back. The Corley boys ended up taking a 1-2 with Will coming in for a well deserved 3rd. I still have no idea where i came but will let you know as soon as i do.

The Tour of the Wrekin is next on my race calendar so keep a look out for that report.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Sting in the Tail – WASP Road Race 2011

The WASP Road Race
Port Talbot, Wales.
Hosted by Ogmore Valley CC
65 Miles
80 Riders

After a solid week of quality training mixed in with good fuelling and rest, I as looking forward to a good ride in today's 65 mile Regional A Road Race down in the deepest of Wales, well not quite but it was in wales and wales is known for its hills and this race included something that I have never experienced before; A mountain top finish. Yep, the UK actually has a race with a proper mountain in it and is another reason why I was looking forward to today, finally a chance for my lack of weight to come in to play and hopefully work in my favour for a change. The climb of Bwlcy-Y-Clawdd comes after 3 laps of an out and back circuit taking place on very rough narrow roads. The climb is just over 6km long and is the closest thing to a continental alpine climb I have come across in the UK. The first 400m are the steepest at just over 10% before settling in to a constant gradient of just over 5% and contains 2 switch back before a long drag to the finish. Awesome.

During the drive down with my racing buddy Tony Kiss, we began to discuss tactics and the best way to ride the race. With the climb being such a decisive factor I had already decided on my pre-race plan. I would stick in the shelter of the bunch and only go in a break if the race favourites were in it; the rider in my mind was Luke Dunmar from Qoros as he is a very strong climber and a great tactician. I will then go with pace setters at the start of the climb watching out for the moves and hopefully be in contention for the win after tackling the climb. I had made the decision not to go in any other breaks as I was sure these would not stay away till the finish die to the sting in the tail in the form of a mountain at the end of the race. I feel this was a pretty good plan and one which I was hoping to stick too.

At 11.00am the race took to the roads and began the 5km neutralized section before the flag dropped, I was mid bunch and meandering along before getting the shock of my life when the race started proper. The pace was super-fast, I'm talking Crit like speed, and already riders were strung out and curb crawling through the cross wind sections. Nobody could work out why the pace was so fast but soon enough it began to settle, as it did a few riders began to ride off the front and establish a bit of a break. Sticking with the plan, me, Tony and Mike (Tony's Brother) all stayed in the bunch thinking that nothing would come of it. Mile after mile the bunch road at what can only be described as club run pace and before we knew it the break had a minute and a half. I was beginning to think that we had really made a hash of things and the break would get a big enough gap to stay away on the climb.

Even with a good number of teams in the race, the break was not coming back. Every time the bunch made a sustained effort and put in some pace it was followed by a massive lull in speed, sometimes almost coming to a stop. It was very frustrating but I was sticking to my guns and waiting until the climb to make a move. As we finished the last lap we had a 5km ride back towards the HQ before hitting the bottom of the climb. Positioning would be essential as we had to tackle a tight roundabout which leads straight on to the 10% part of the climb. A few little attacks went in the run in but I managed to maintain my top 10 place in the bunch as we hit the roundabout.

Race Favourite Luke Dunmar hit the climb and put the hammer down, 3 riders were only able to go with this initial pace; Me, Tony and Connor Ryan of VC Montpellier. As the steep section ended we consolidated the gap we had over the bunch as we hit the narrow downhill section before hitting the main portion of the climb. I sensed that of we didn't keep the pace high then the bunch would come back and I was not prepared for that to happen, especially considering to my amazement we were passing riders from the original break. With thisin mind and the knowledge that only 4 riders were ahead, I hit the front and began setting the pace. I flt good and this was my terrain and I was prepared to urt a bit to try and do something special. Luke came through once or twice to do a bit of pace setting but I was doing 90% of it and putting in huge chunks of time to the riders behind us whilst closing the gap to the riders ahead. It was a pretty special feeling being able to ride all but 3 riders off of your wheel and not something I have expienienced in a race before.

As we rounded the first hair pin I had pulled us well clear of the bunch as Luke took to the front. Tony and Connor were beginning to suffer and were soon dropped as Luke upped the pace in an effort to catch the leaders. I went with him and stuck to his wheel as his pace increased. I soon began to cross the line and plunge deep in to the red, the last thing I wanted to do was blow o this climb as I would lose loads of time. I done the sensible thing and backed off slightly settling in to my own max sustainable pace still managing to put time between all those behind me. As we hit the final hairpin, Luke had bridged up to the 2 riers ahead with another 2 riders from the orinal break still about a minute clear. I was slowly gaining but with a KM to go and a stiff head wind I knew that my chances of catching them were slim yet I still pushed on riding at the max I could manage and already feeling pretty ecstatic at the ride I had managed to pull out of the hat. As it was, Luke suffered in the final push to the line and ended up 5th with me crossing the line only a few seconds down in what as a very rewarding 6th place. Connor managed to hold on for 7th with Tony putting in another awesome ride to finish 9th.

After congratulating each other I sat atop the climb at the side of the road realising how strong I actually can be when I'm fresh, fuelled and riding on my terrain. Only one rider was faster than me up that climb and that was the rider I had already picked out as the strongest. I knew that if the break had hit the climb with 30 seconds less that I would have been up there contesting the win for sure. However, I was not disappointed as I couldn't have ridden the race better given the situation and the freak break which went away. The only thing that did annoy me was that for the 3rd time this year I missed out on the prizes by one place, but to be honest, with the performance I feel that I put in today was reward enough for me.
Now I just need to find more races with a mountain top finish, maybe I should move to France

1 Giles Drake (Team Elite) 2:55:00
2 Mike Simpson (GS Henley) @ 30sec
3 Luke Grivell-Mellor (Mid-Shropshire Wh) @ 1:00
4 Dan Pearson (Port Talbot Wheelers)
5 Luke Dunbar (Team Qoroz)
6 Daniel Bill (Cult Racing) @ 1:10
7 Conor Ryan (VC Montpellier)
8 Joe Harris (Reading CC)
9 Tom Kiss (Stratford CC)
10 Glyndwr Griffiths (Team Cyclemart)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Result or Performance??

Sometimes, especially in the world of competitive cycling and even more so in the discipline of road racing, the result that you come away with doesn't always reflect your performance during the event. I feel that road racing is best example of this as its its a very open discipline in that the strongest riders seldom wins. Road racing is very much a lottery in which luck plays a vital part along with the luck that you make yourself through the application of strategy, tactics, team work, grit and determination. All of these factors come in to play during a road race and you may well be the strongest rider by a country mile but that doesn't mean that you are always going to cross the line first. Many riders will judge the success of there day on the overall result and if things haven't quite gone to plan and you don't get the result that you expected then this can leave you depressed and frustrated, whereas what we should focus on once the race is finished is our overall performance.
By reviewing you overall performance during the road race you can look back and focus on the points or aspects of the race which your rode well or performed beyond your expectations. Its unfair for the last 10 seconds of the race to over shadow all the of the amazing positives which you may have experienced during the race and you may also learn to realise that a great performance can do more for you and your cycling that a great result. Sunday's race was a prime example of this as i will now explain in the following race report.

Sun, August 14 2011
Worcester News Road Race
Kinnersley Circuit, Worcestershire
Elite Category
90 riders

Result - 17th

The Worcester News RR is a well known road race in the UK, its got a good slot on the calendar meaning the weather is usually good and its targeted by many elite riders and high profile teams. This would be my first time tackling the 6 lap road race which takes place on the out skirts of Worcester. The course is a typical rolling UK road course with a steady ascent up a gradual bank and a few short steep kickers.
The race saw a good turn out, many or my usual racing buddies as well as many riders i have never raced which included a good number of elite and 1st cat riders, there was also a strong team presence which included Qoroz, Rotor Colbert and Forme Impsport.

As we rolled out from the HQ the sun was shining and the temperature hot, apart from the near crash as we exited the HQ all was looking good, my legs didn't feel to bad either. As the flagged dropped it was clear that this race was going have one theme: Speed. The pace was fast from the gun and with the cross wind along the first stretch of road, riders were already grappling for wheels. Team Qoroz were looking like they meant business and there presence was made well known. I used the first lap as a course reconnaissance and come the second lap i was ready for action.

I moved my way up towards the front of the bunch as it it began ti splinter with different riders getting ready to make moves. As we hit a small rise which took us over the motorway, a Qoroz ride attacked and gained himself a small lead. As i was at the front of the bunch and feeling good i decided to attack as well and set off in pursuit of him. My recent attempts of bridging gaps hasn't proved to successful yet i managed to close this one down in a few minutes and went straight past him in order to keep out pace high. We rode a very hard through and off before seeing that a group of 4 were also bridging up to us, as the caught us and we got organised i really thought that we might stay clear for a bit but then i looked round and the other teams were dragging us back in at a supersonic rate. After they caught us i settled in to the bunch to recover, down some fuel and get ready to try again.

On the 3rd lap i managed to sense a big move getting ready to go clear, i managed to accelerate from the bunch and get in to this move as well. It was a big group, about 10-12 riders or so, yet we were working well together and we soon had a good gap. We were riding hard with many riders on there limits and unable to come through every time, i made a real effort to grit my teeth and pull as much as i could but again, the teams were on the front of the bunch and dragging us back. it was clear that some of the squads did not want a break to go clear and they were making it very hard for us break away bandits to make a move that would stick.

Come the 5th lap, rider were tiring and the bunch was beginning to split. At one point there were 3 groups on the road but each only a few 100 yard apart. I had a feeling that the front group might manage to do something, at the same time Ben and Tom Stockdale from Qoros came down the outside of the bunch, they must also have sensed this could be a break that stayed away. I jumped on to the back of the 2 of them as the powered off the front of the bunch, bridged up to the first group, attacked again and then bridged to the second. I was on my limit as we closed down on the leading group. The qoroz boy in second dropped of the pace which left me with a gap to his team mates wheel. I dug in and put in all the power i had to close the gap but was really struggling. He had made it to the safety of the leaders with me a few meters of the back and then his team mate that left me the gap attacked around me to also get on the break. I dug deeper still feeling that i could close this gap a thankfully i did but i took one hell of an effort. I was exceptionally happy that i had made this successful move but what was now becoming routine in this race, the teams closed us back down and it all came back together. Very frustrating.

Now we were on the last lap and it was clear that the big teams were not going to let a move go clear, not even a move with there own rider in. Local rider and ex-national hill climb champion, Matt Clinton, decided to try his luck and broke away solo, dangling off the bunch for a few mile before getting reeled back in as we approached the final road before the finish climb. I knew that positioning would decided the out come of the race, i made my way towards the front and did my best to stand my ground as we came towards the bottom of the bank. However, the teams were riding so hard on the front in order to try and wrote each other off, the bunch became manic and with my small size and the cross winds, i was forced back down the bunch as we hit the climb. The sprint started as soon as the road went up yet it was still quite away to the finish. I had to sprint round the out side of the bunch trying to claw my way back up the field but the front was already split up and strung out up to the finish. Will Fox of Forme Impsport took the win with Ben Stockdale of Qoroz taking second. I managed to drag back a few more places in the run up to line to secure my 17th spot.

So, going back to what i talked about at the start, i would typically be a bit disheartened by 17th, even though it was in an elite road race with a big field. However, looking back at the race and picking it apart i can say that i rode a great race and one which i am very happy with. I was in every move that went of the front, i shut down and bridged some biog gaps, i worked hard and put in my pulls when i was off the front and generally i felt good. In summary, i feel that my result did not reflect my performance and my performance was, to me, a winning one.

Just think of that the next time you don't get the result you hoped for.

1 Will Fox (Forme Impsport) 2-49-00
2 Ben Stockdale (Team Qoroz)
3 Andrew Udall (Mammoth Lifestyle)
4 Martin Ford (Mammoth Lifestyle)
5 Jess Wieckowski (Team Nemesis GB)
6 George Moore (CC Giro)
7 Dan Harris (Halesowen A&CC)
8 Dexter Gardias (Forme Impsport)
9 Glyndwr Griffiths (Team Cycle Mart)
10 Philip Borrett (Team Tor 2000)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wyre Forest Circuit Race

Stourport Circuit


45 mins + 5 Laps

Well, it's been a pretty difficult week or 2, physically I have been feeling pretty wrecked. Unfortunately this is not down to the typical mid-season burn out that many riders come across at some point during the year, instead it's the combination of various personal issues that have been plaguing me for most of my life. I will save you the despair of having to read about all of these and just say that there pretty hard to deal with but thankfully, as I write this report I have finally gotten myself set up to sort myself out once and for all both with the realisation that I need to and with the professional help of the National Health Service. Things are finally beginning to look up.

Anyway, cutting a very long story short, these issues have resulted in my physical state deteriorating over the past few weeks and I have been really struggling with recovering from racing and from general day to day activities for that matter. I raced at the Solihull Crit the other week and felt so terrible that I didn't even bother doing a report on it. So I decided that I need a few day of my bike in order to refresh my body and set my mind straight, I have a few big races coming up that I want to do well in so I need to be ready for these. I decided that I would have 3 days off the bike and then race at Stourport on Thursday night in order to wake my legs and lungs up in preparation for the Jean Baker Memorial Race which is taking place on Sunday 7th, this is one race that I know I can do well in.

The 3 days that I was off the bike were basked in glorious sunshine, yet Thursday saw the weather turn and I was in two minds about racing. Thankfully the weather came good and with the encouragement from my Facebook chums I was back up for racing. As it was there was a good turn out with about 25 starters including the regulars such as Joe Page, Scott Law and Adrian Bird, I also took Mike Johnson from Stratford CC along who was fresh from his maiden with at Solihull in the 4th cat race. I was very unsure how I would fare in the race after being off the bike for a few days but I was looking forward to it which is always a good sign.

The race started fast with a big break going early, I missed it as I was towards the back but decided that I would try and bridge so I attacked and went on the chase. I was closing it down until we got on the head wind section where they pulled it out again, riders from the bunch were using me as carrot and attacking up to me and then launching again up to the break. It was so annoying; here I was taking the early initiative to close the gap and now getting exploited after being stuck in no-man's land. Bloody typical. Anyway, it all came back together eventually but I had put in such a long sustained effort that it took me ages to recover and in this time there were more moved that went off that I had to chase down. This delayed my recovery even more and really having to work hard.

By mid race, 10 riders or so had been dropped due to fast aggressive pace. I had made a few little moves and made a few counter attack but I had also had a few scary moments were I was exposed and very close to going out the back. In fact, many thanks to Scott Law who gave me a much needed push to supply me with enough momentum to get in to his draft as we chased back the bunch. At this point, the super sneaky, super smart Adrian Bird launched one of his perfectly timed attacks which only one rider went with. As it was this was the decisive move and these two stayed away till the finish with Adrian getting piped at the line by his slightly punchier companion. Back in the bunch of around 12 riders more attacks and moves were going off the front but it all pretty much stayed together until the last lap. As we came in to the penultimate turn I was in a good position as set up for the sprint. Unfortunately, as we hit the final corner a rider on the inside rolled his tub and went sliding across the track right in front of me which put an end to my chances. I didn't come off but I pushed off course and unable to contest the finish. Bit annoying but at least I survived the incident!

At the end of the day, I had a good race, felt pretty fresh, enjoyed and thrived off of the pain again and was able to suffer. Hopefully this will have put me in a good physical and mental position for the race at the weekend. I guess we will soon find out


Monday, July 25, 2011

4 Hills and lots of Suffering

Race Report.

Colin Carfield Memorial Road Race - Sunday 24th July
Regional A
65 miles
Course - Hilly with 4 main climbs including a hill finish.

I don't go to many races where i feel nervous due to the nature of the course but this race was different and there are very few like it in the UK. The Colin Carfield is known to one of the hardest and most savage road race on the UK calendar, it puts the fear of god in to a lot of riders and most who have ridden the event one year will not enter again the next as they know just how tough it is. When i found all of this information out i was a little worried about how hard this race might actually be but i was also very excited at the prospect of going in to a race which suits my climbing ability. However, as i have been feeling pretty exhausted due to life's issues recently, i was more worried than excited!

I traveled to the race with Tony Kiss form stratford which was great as he rode the event for last year and was able to supply me with some good inside information. When we got the event we drove the last 2 climbs just to check out what we would be up against and the answer was some very long and very steep climbs. races like these play out completely different to your typical UK road races which generally don't have much in the way of challenges. This means that the winner can usually spend the whole race sitting at the back of the bunch, letting others drag the breaks back and then sprint with fresh legs at the end. I have nothing against this and agree that this is a very intelligent way to race but it does mean that not always does that rider deserve the win or in others words, that rider has nor really earned there win. With the Colin Carfield race things are different. The winner is the rider that is the strongest, simple. Breaks are not made in this race they occur through natural selection each time the race goes up a hill. Only the strongest can stay at the front and everybody else gets shelled out the back. If you want to win this race then you have to grab it by the horns and want it cuz there's no such thing as a free ride in this race.

The race rolled out of the HQ at the gentlemanly time of 10.30 and on to the course, the course its self is very well thought out. Essentially its 4 ever decreasing laps which take in a new climb over the same ridge, so although you ride some parts of the course 4 times, each hill is new and other bits you only ride once. This makes a great change to the usual repeated laps of many courses. As we headed of in the direction of the first killer climb i concluded that i felt OK, not great but just OK. Having not ridden the course i had no idea where the first climb was so each time we hit a little slope i began to shit myself thinking this was it. The reason for this nervousness is because i was told that the winning group of leaders is always decided on this first climb and if you ain't in it then you can kiss your race goodbye. When we did hit the first climb i was pretty far back in the group and i could see the strongest riders if the race hit the front to lift the pace, these included ex nation hill climb champions Danny Axford and James Dobbin. The pace was intense i had made it harder as i had to accelerate through the bunch just to get up to the pace. The sound of laboured breathing and physical plain was crazy and already the race had split apart. I managed to grit my teeth and hang of the back of the 15 leaders as we crested the top, it was painful to say the least but i was there and it felt good.

On the ridge we began to ride a good steady through and off and at this point i thought that we had seen the last of any other riders. However, as we got to with in 5 miles of the second climb everyone just stopped working and would not take a pull. The problem lied in the fact that everyone was thinking so much about the climb that they wanted to save there legs. With this drop in pace came the expected catch of another few groups so our bunch was now a good 30 strong.  again i had no idea where the next climb started and i had already slipped myself to the back of the group when low and behold we took a left hander and the road kicked up to 14%. Enter climb number 2. Apart from the fact i was still in the big ring i was well down inn the bunch again as the strongest hit the front and ramped it up. Once again i had to fumble around slowing riders and sprint up to the back of the leaders which now only contained about 10. I was just off the back as crested the top yet the pace continued so i had to keep my head down and ride myself back on to the wheels, one of which was Tony's who, it was fair to say was riding extremely strong.

Over the top the same scenario as last time took place, we powered along in organized through and off and then sat up with a few miles to go before the climb. It was really annoying as riders kept bridging up to us but i can understand the reason for it happening and I'm almost glad it did as it gave me chance to rest a bit. One problem i was having today which i suffer with sometimes is nasty stomach cramps, not something i wanted in todays race and every time i got out the saddle i just wanted to sit down again. This was not an option as we hit the 3rd climb and finally i found myself in a good position as we began the ascent. The oace rocketed up as the favorites began to throw in some acceleration in order to expell the weakest riders. I was gripping on with my finger nails, punching the pedals round as hard as i could, trying to overcome the pain of the climb aswell as my gut! Once again i ahd survived the climb and was over the top, this time the pace was so high that only 10 survived and no one was coming back to us this time round.

As the loop was getting smaller with each lap there was not long before we hit the final climb. There was a bit of an incident with some horses which split up our break a bit and caused us to loose some time. Thankfully no one was hurt and we all regrouped and continued. Not long after that one of the riders in the break turned to me and said "how far away is the final climb", "No idea mate" i replyed. just as i turned my attention back to the road we rounded a left hand corner and there we was, starting the final climb. Is shouted to the rider "I think i no where the final climb is........its under you wheels my freind".
This was it, 3 hills down and 1 to go, last big effort to make it all worth while. The climb kicked up at the half way point where Dobbin and Axford dug in and put the hammer down, only one other went with them as they gained tim over the rest of us. Tony couldent go and setled in to his pace with another rider on his wheel. A bit further back was 3 more including me, there were agps between our whels as we all ground towards the top. Behind me were the rest of the break which were dropping of the pace. Dobbin scored the win with a final sprint effort with Axford in second and the Qoroz rider in 3rd. Tony out sprinted his companion to secure 4th and i managed to drag myself up another position by catching one of the riders ahead to finish in a very pleasing 7th.

Crossing the finish line i high fived Tony for an awsome ride and felt quite compelled with the race that had just taken place. It felt Epic, like a proper race, more reminisant of what you would expect to feel if you had just ridden a stage of the tour through the alps or pyrenees. It felt like i had earned my place, it might only have been 7th but given the caliblre of the field, my stomach problems and general tirdness i was more than satisfied. I had hung on, clung on, dug so deep that i felt strain in part of my body i never new had nerves.

Will i be back for next yeart, dam right and this next time i will know where the climbs are, where i need to be and what to expect. Nect year this race will be mine for the taking.

Tony Kiss (Right) and his brother and ex pro Mike
enjoying a well deserved peice of cake!
1 James Dobbin (Adeo Cadence RT) 2-14-00
2 Danny Axford (Arctic Premier RT) @ same time
3 Luke Dunbar (Team Qoroz) @ 2sec
4 Tony Kiss (Stratdord CC)
5 George Harper (VC St Raphael)
6 Karl Hine (Adeo Cadence RT)
7 Dan Bill (Cult Racing)
8 Ben Pedley (Cheltenham & County CC)
9 Conor Ryans (VC Montpelier)
10 Rowan Marshall (Team Cyclemart) all @ same time