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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Racing Fatigue


its strange, the race session is the time of year when a riders weekly volume is at its lowest yet the build up fatigue, tiredness and exhaustion can be at its highest. Racing takes its toll on your body no matter how good or experienced you are as a rider. we do all the leg work in the winter months and in pre season training, riding hundreds of hours every month in order to develop our endurance, power and speed as well as our resilience to fatigue. Yet even with all of this work and riding in our legs, racing can still destroy a body which was at its peaks only a few weeks earlier.

A race period should really last no more that 2 months at a maximum and in my opinion this should only be if you have 1 race period throughout the year. If you have 2 peaks in the year then these should last no more that 2-3 weeks. The thing with racing is, as stated in my “Racing is Training” post a few weeks ago, the demands which are actually placed on the body are just so hard to replicate in training. However, the other thing that comes in to play is the mental side of things. Racing as just as mentally exhausting as it is physically and this can have huge effects on the way you feel. Emotions and feelings run very high when we have a number pinned to our backs and this can be extremely draining. Finally, lets not forget that we cyclists are a competitive bunch and typically we will always dig deeper and go harder when we are in a race situation as opposed to just training. So when you end up racing 3-4 times a week for 2-3 months and you consider all that of that, no wonder you end up feeling absolutely wrecked and this is kind of how i am feeling at the moment.

i have been racing every weekend and in the week for the past number of weeks, i have loved every second of it and had some great results and even better performances but in the last 2 or 3 races i have notices that my legs don't posses that same punch that they did a few weeks ago and its taking me longer to get over the races that I'm doing. I feel the time has come to schedule a mid season break to allow my body to recover but before that can happen, its time for some more races!!!!

Last night i went a rode the first round of the Stourport Circuit series which consists of 4 mid week cat 1/2 races put on by different local clubs. Having finally made the decision that i did want to race, i knew that i was feeling tired and still had a wee bit of a cold so decided that i would race by how i felt and do what i could do. Which a pretty turn out of pretty handy riders i knew that it wouldn't be slow so i decided to place my self in the draft for the first few laps to see what the pace was like. initially it didn't feel to bad and then about 15 minutes in the main move started to form, a break of 4 began to ride away and i was in the perfect position to jump on to the back of it but i didn't. I didn't because i felt it was to early, i didn't know really how i was feeling and i was playing it cautiously. Bad Move. Is have just went for it but i hesitated and that was it, the 4 rode hard and increased there gap and before long they were a quarter of a lap ahead.

We had some strong riders in out group including 2 of the Qoros boys but once again it was only me and a few other doing any work so the chase never really happened and there lead just increased. Adrian Bird for Worcester CC was racing and riding strong, we both adopted the same idea of wearing the other guys down before trying something. Adrian attacked with about 15 minutes before the 5 lap count and i went with him. He rode a lap on the front and then i did my turn, coming out of the far hair pin i accelerated, looked behind and saw i had gapped Adrian who still had a small gap over the bunch. Rather than try to figure out what had happened i just got my head down and went for it. So began my 15 minutes of Fame and Pain.

I pulled out about 20 seconds on the bunch and closed ever so slightly on the leading group, i drove hard on every straight and every corner but the course just really wears you down. Its so hard to be out on your own as there is just no recovery, you power one straight, hit the corners fast, power out of them, in to the next corner and back on the gas. Its really demanding stuff. I never managed to make the gap any bigger but it wasn't getting smaller either and soon the laps boards were out and i was beginning to think that i might be able to hold on for 5th. As it was they started attacking each other back in the bunch which de=rove the pace up and with 2 laps to go i had been caught but they had also dropped a few riders so i joined the group which was now4 big as well. With 1 lap to go the first 4 crossed the line with the winner coming from that group. Half a lap later we came in to the last corner and i was positioned on the back and although i was dead due to my earlier exploits i was hoping i could sling shot round and still get 5th. As the sprint opened up and was in the slipstream but my legs refused to go and i finished in the position where is started sprinting which was 8th.

A tough and tiring race but again one where my performance didn't reflect the result. I'm pleased that i raced and pleased that i made the efforts that i did, now though i thinks it time for a rest before i hit the big races of the season.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Newport Shropshire Road Race


West Midlands Road Race League 9


6o miles

5 laps of an undulating course with one main climb

Sunny conditions


Beep, beep, beep, beep. 6.15am. Alarm goes off and i wake up to the feeling of a clogged chest and a sore throat, yes folks, i have a little bit of  a cold which has gradually crept on over the last few days. I was hoping it would miraculously disappear before todays race but its hasn't and under normal circumstances i wouldn't dream of racing but as todays race is part of the WMRRL i need to be in it to keep my chances of overall series victory alive. Mike Johnson is also racing today when he shouldn't be as he is still recovering from is horrific crash only 2 weeks ago, i tried to convince him  not too but he is way to egger! We struck a deal in the end that if i take him he has to get through both his bottles by the end of the race and if he feels slightly odd then he must pull out. They were my terms and conditions and he agreed. Sat Nav set we hit the road and on to the motorway which is only the second time i have driven on it so that woke me up for sure.

Arriving at the race in one piece i began to get the strangest feeling of day ja vu. I didn't recognise the name of the course but when we got to the HQ i realised that i had ridden the course before a year or 2 ago. It hosted the Regional Champs in 2009 where i was racing the 3/4 cat race, i remember it well as i had a great race by getting in to a 2 man break which was out all day before we got caught in the run to the finish but i still managed 8th. Now i knew what was in store i was more relaxed but my body was noticeably tired from the cold so i was unsure how i would go.

The race rolled out and started fast, it took my legs an age to get going, even longer that usual. once they did though i made my usual mistake of getting jumpy and excited too early and kept trying to chase down or bridge up to all of the stupid little moves that would never amount to anything. What i should have been doing was marking the 2 riders who were closest to me on point and waiting for there moves but nope, that's just me. When the favourites did attack i was struggling to go with them, both because of my cold and lifeless legs and also because i was tiring already. At one point, Mike Jones, who is the rider i couldn't let get away, managed to get in to a break with the other rider i should have been marking. This was not good and i ended up flogging myself to death to bring it back which i managed thankfully but boy, did it take a lot out of me.

One big problem in the race was that me and Mike Jones were very heavily Marked. everyone knows that mike is the strongest and now everyone' knows my racing style and that I'm a contender, they just would not let us go. When mike attacked i had no choice but to respond as well because A) i could not let him get away and 2) i knew that if me and him could get away together then would be able to stay away. However, this was proving frustrating for both of us and if neither one of us attacked then nobody would do anything but sit there and wait for us to do something.

At the half way point the race had split to pieces and there were maybe 30 or so riders in the leading group. A break of 6 did get away after me and Mike had initiated a flurry of attacks which had been chassed down and the counter was just allowed to go. By this point i was feeling rough, tired and annoyed. I was not strong where i should have been which was on the climb and i was unsure what i could do. On the last lap with the break about 40 seconds up the road. Mike decided to try one last move on the main climb where he was followed by Adrian Bird in an attempt to bridge to 3 riders who were just slightly up the road. I saw that no one else had jumped as we were all suffering but i knew it was now or never. I dug deep and accelerated away and up to Mike and the others. It was so painful it was crazy, when i got there Mike was struggling also and then Adrian just accelerated away on his own. He looked mega strong.

The 5 of us that were left just stuck at the same pace and worked together, we only had a few miles to go so we rode hard, really hard. Adrian was 20 seconds up the road and the original break was about 15 further ahead. The winner came from the front break who happened to be Mike Jones’s Team Mate and Adrian didn't quite catch them but came home in a well deserved 6th. The 5 of us were in the home stretch and beginning to mess around which was a bad idea as we had a hard charging peloton in sight of us. Nobody wanted to take it up as they too concerned about sprinting for 7th so i decided to drag them to the finish. I decided that i would rather come last in our group than be caught by the bunch and come nowhere. I opened up the sprint at the bottom of the hill with my legs already screaming, 2 riders slung round me and mike managed to just pip me to the line but it was pretty close, the final rider rolled in just behind me. A few seconds later the bunch gallop crossed the line which just shows that my decision was a good one.

On reflection the race was very hard for me as i was nowhere near my strongest yet i still managed to pull something out of the hat and against all the odds did manage to get away with mike in the end to secure some more points to the overall. Plus, by coming in only 1 place behind Mike, The gap from me to him remains small. With 3 rounds to go it anybody’s game.

Mike Johnson did the best thing that he could ever have done in todays race which was pull out after 2 laps. He had kept his promise and said that his kidneys were giving him grief so he called it a day. I am really proud of him for being man enough to do that as we all know how hard it is to make the sensible choice. Chapeau.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Racing is Training


It took me a while to realise that no matter what you do in training, training is always to structured to really replicate racing. You can replicate the intensities and the durations and event the terrain but you just can simulate the feel of a road race or criterium. Those little micro bursts of acceleration, the times when you have to close a gap and you simply forget to change gear and your legs end up spinning at 150rpm, these are the kind of things that you just don't get from structured solo training rides. The one key thing for me that stands out as being very different is pain of the efforts. For example, i can push myself very very hard in  training doing things like 4 minute intervals but I'm able to push that hard because i know that after that 4 minutes i know that i will be able to rest before going hard again. In a race you simply cant do that, if you go all out for 4 minutes to catch a break you might end up getting on to the tail end of it only for another attack to go which you have to respond to. The whole principle of having to “go” when you are not ready to is something that most riders just don't force up on them selves in training and that is why racing can well be one of the best forms of training. After all you cant get more specific race training than racing its self.


This leads me nicely on to a bit of race report from last nights Circuit Race at Stourport Sport Centre. This is first time i have ridden these races and i was extremely impressed with the venue and the track itself. Its fast, twisty and consists of lots of sharp turn and banked hairpins, in fact it reminded me of the my old BMX racing days. Tonight's race was simply a training race for me, i still look to get a result in a training race but it usually comes from chance than tactics or race craft. I have always found Crits tough due to the continual high force acceleration out of corners, something that my build doesn't really cater for. But i also know that because this is one of my limiters its something that i know will improve my overall riding if i improve at it, hence the reason for doing these races.


I done a really hard training session on Tuesday and was expecting to feel it a lot in this race although during my warm up i felt pretty good so was really up for some aggressive raining tonight. The main aim of tonight's Racing/Training was to work on my confidence when attacking and also attacking when tired. This is something that i don't do as much as i should so i decided to focus on that. I often get worried or even scared about making full bore attacks in races due to giving it my all only for a counter attack to happen and leave me getting shelled out of the back, the only way i am going to over come this is by doing and almost hoping that it happens. Again this is why training races are so good.


So to cut a long story short, the race was 45 minutes plus 5 laps which equated to a total race time of just under 60 minutes and for the first half of the race i did nothing but attack! I attacked here, i Attacked there, When i was fresh, when i was tired, when i was dying. I got away solo for a few laps, i bridged up to some breaks and chased down many others. Basically i was flogging myself to death on the front trying to get over my worry of attacking. And then guess what, after i had made a string of attacks i sat up to take a breather and low and behold a counter attack went which ended up being the move that split the race in two. Bloody Typical, my fears had been realised but then its only what i was expecting to happen.


So for the last part of the bunch were split in to two groups, one being the leader and the other being the chase group. unfortunately the guys in my group were all riding pretty negatively meaning that they didn't want to do any work. So in the end i took it up and pretty much dragged them round until i had nothing left. That gap stayed as it was, we couldn't close it but the couldn't gain much. #as we rounded the last corner the group started getting excited and a crash was inevitable so i moved to the back out of the way and opened my sprint, managing to take a few riders i ended up 10th but game my position to the guy who came 11th as he was desperate for the point.


So in conclusion, this was terrible from a race prospective but from a training point of view it was perfect and i ticked all the boxes on my check list. This should put me in good stead for the road race at the weekend and will be back here next week for another bash.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Steve Taylor Memorial Road Race

Welland Circuit
60 miles
6 Laps
Rolling course with the finish at the top of a mile long climb
80 riders
2/3/4 category
Very, Very hot.

I only found about this race when I was riding last week at the Gerry Hughes, I never saw it at all on the BCF website and when I was told that it was on the course down the road and finished on a big hill I wanted in. I contacted the organiser, Graham Denny and asked if I could get in with a late entry but with a full field the only thing he could suggest was to send a late entry and he would put me down as first reserve. Graham was a big help and I am very grateful for his rapid communication the week before the race.

After a hard fought race on Friday night I knew that I would be feeling a wee bit tired today but when I woke up I didn’t feel too bad, I had my usual breakfast and loaded my bike in to Tony Kiss’s car who was giving me lift to the race. Then, as soon as we started moving, I started feeling a bit odd. My head went all light and my stomach began to churn, as the journey wore on I was not feeling good at all and was trying very hard not to be sick. I was very grateful to get there, get out the car and run straight to the toilet. I signed on and was informed I was in the race, this was great news but typical that on the day I have a race with a finish climb I feel really ill. As I thought this I realised that I would need to head in the direction of the toilet again.

After 5 trips to the toilet we were ready for the off and as soon as the neutralized zone was up I went backwards straight to the back of the bunch. I was feeling really lethargic, queasy and generally rough, I was feeling tell tail signs of a bit of a cold coming on. I decided that I would go against my usual race tactic of trying to break away and instead sit in the bunch, hope nothing get away and see if I can make a move on the final climb. This usually works for most people but typically for me, on the second lap a break of 16 riders went clear and started drilling it!!!

I could not believe it, Tony was up in the break along with most other favourites, I knew this was a dangerous move so I had no choice but move up and start doing some work. For the next 4.5 laps only 5 off us out of the remaining 64 riders were working to bring it back. Frustrating but that’s racing, we had no choice and I knew that if I was going to make any kind of move on the final climb I would have to work hard. As I couldn’t really eat or drink due to my dodgy stomach I was beginning to feel even worse. Eventually we managed to get the gap down to 20 seconds but then it went back out to 45 seconds, morale was low in the bunch I the guys who were working were beginning to tire. To make things worse the guys who were sitting on whilst we chased then started attacking our group, there was no way with the amount of work I had done was I letting them get away. The next 10 minutes were so hard I didn’t really remember then, the attacks just kept coming and I just had to keep chasing, somehow in managed to neutralise every one and amazingly due to the increased pace we actually caught the 16 man break with a lap and a half to go. I was so grateful when the we reached them and it eased up for a bit.

I resigned myself to the back of the bunch again as now I was feeling really bad and very tired, a break went away again but was dragged back, then with half a lap to go another break went away and this one stayed away. After 6 laps we turned off of the course and on to the Hollybush which is the name of the final climb. Moved up to the front but stayed in the wheels, the break wasn’t to far ahead, and I stayed near Tony and Joe Page from Team Echelon as I knew they were both strong riders on this terrain. I was really annoyed as this is one of the few races with a hill finish and I just proved how good I could be on this finish as even thought I wasn’t putting out anywhere near the power I was capable off, riders around me were just blowing up and popping off. Joe let off a grown and went bang, then Tony went bang and I just kept moving up. A move was made by Adrian Bird from Worcester St Johns, I followed as did some other and I managed to claw a few final places in the last few meters before crossing the line somewhere in the top 15 before almost collapsing as the side of the road.

I was devastated but very happy with the effort I had given during the race and how well I did on the final climb especially given how ill I felt. I have no idea where i finished but I will update as soon as I know, i think it was top 15 anyway. What I do know is that as I am writing this I am struggling to keep my eyes open, my legs hurt, my stomach feels odd, my head is killing me and all I want to do is go to bed. But the Tour is on so I’m watching that first J

1 Duncan Jamieson (Leisure Lakes) 2:15:05
2 Matthew Ullmer (Team Qoroz) at 4sec
3 Simon Healey (Andover Wheelers) @ same time
4 Rob Lyne (Giant CC) @ 7sec
5 David Saunders (Climb On Bikes)
6 Matt Jennings (1 Optix)
7 Richard Cleaver (VC Montpellier) all @ same time
8 Ian Alexander (Cheltenham & County CC) @ 23sec
9 Adrian Bid (Worcester St Johns CC) @ 28sec
10 John Holt (Bynea CC) @ same time

Here is my power file from todays race as well as the course profile

Ride safe

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Leisure lakes Circuit Race 2

Cheltenham Race Course 01/07/11
1hr plus 5 laps
50 riders
Warm and sunny
A week after I almost suffered full blown hypothermia from racing in terrible conditions, I was back at Cheltenham Race Course for the second race in the Leisure Lakes Circuit Series and also the last one for this year which is a real shame. With the weather looking much better for this evening there was a much better turn out for the main race of the day and looked like it would be a very hotly contested race given the calibre of riders and teams which were in attendance and of course most of team Qoroz showed up looking to put on a good show.  I had no team mates racing as such but I would be riding with some very good friends who I hadn’t seen since last year. My mate Kyle turned up looking to put in a good ride and he brought with him Mike Lawton who I had some fantastic races with last year but hadn’t raced for 6 months. Now he was back and I was really pleased to see him looking fit and in good spirits so what ever happened tonight I knew I would have some fun.

I had had a sensible week in the lead up to this race, I completed one hard training ride early in the week and the just done some easy rides so I was feeling ready for this race and hoping for a good ride. After my usual long warm up I rode round the course just to test the surface and realised they were all lining up at the start so when I got there I was already at the back. Worse still was when the set us off and I couldn’t get clipped in on the uphill start so ended up right at the back.

So the first few laps I had to work my way up to the front of the field which I managed in about 3 laps, the group was big, much bigger than last week. Once I was up at the front I aimed to stay there for the rest of the race and ended up never slipping back further than about 15 riders from the front. In this position I was close enough to react to any attack which took place which as it happened were pretty frequent. This was a much attackier race than last week but I knew I was feeling good as I was able to close the gap on any attack that took place,

Mid-way through the race with the main field losing one or 2 riders every lap, a small group of 3 went clear which looked pretty dangerous as it contained last week’s winner Duncan Jameson. I sensed this could be the one that stayed away so on the next lap I launched of the front on the climb and left the bunch behind me, after half a lap I was on the back of the break and very excited at the prospects of staying away. I was more pleased at the fact I had managed to attack and catch a break as I seem to have a history of getting away but getting stuck in no man’s land. Anyway, the break never really wanted to work together so what could have been a race winning move ended up getting caught after about 2 laps which was really frustrating. However I wasn’t a frustrated as Kyle who was looking really strong but once again plagued by bad luck, this time with his chain coming off again and again. Eventually he had to pull out as his bike just wasn’t playing along. On the other hand, Mike who hadn’t raced for 6 months looked like he hadn’t been off the bike at all. There he was alongside me looking good, it’s just when he kept asking me how long is left did I suspect he was beginning to tire.

As the race reached its half-way point the front group had whittled down to about 15-20 riders with more dropping off every lap. I  was still feeling good and found myself making attacked again and again but I wasn’t really picking my moment right so was just wasting my reserves. I decided that as there wasn’t long left and the group contained some pretty strong determined riders, I would sit about 5-10 riders back keep an eye on things and wait for the big hitters to make a move. Soon enough the 5 lap board was showing and the pace began to hot up and within the next 2 lap the bunch was ground down to about 13-14 riders as the pace was consistently high. Bell Lap was soon up on us and I was feeling good for the sprint. I made sure that I held my place at the front well and worked to make sure that nobody came up my inside going in to the final turn. As we exited the chicanes and on to the finish hill I began to open up my sprint as a rider came over in to my line, I had to dab the brakes which lost me some momentum so had to start again. This cost me some speed and as I crossed the line in about 7th or 8th I concluded that it possibly cost me some places but to be honest I didn’t really care as I ha d such a fun race, I mean a really fun race. I also feel that the result didn’t reflect the performance as I feel that I rode a very strong race and also felt very string racing it.

I knew it would be a fun race riding with all my racing buddies and I was right for sure, I am really looking forward to future races of us lot are all racing together again. Bring it on.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gerry Hughes Road Race - WMRRL rd 6

West Midlands Road Race League Round 6
Welland, Malvern, Worcester.
65 mile
Flat Course
Very, Very Hot.

Somehow I woke up this morning feeling half descent which came as a bit of a surprise given what I put my body through on that awful night at Cheltenham but i wasn’t complaining.  I was looking forward to today for 2 reasons: The hot weather and getting to take mike to another race, I’m trying to take him under my wing a bit and give him some guidance to exposure to racing. The guy has real potential so just needs the experience to allow him to develop in to a race winning machine!

We set of nice and early in order to get there with plenty of time to spare, when we pulled up we ended up parking behind another club rider and friend, Tony Kiss, who was also racing today and eager to make some crazy moves in today’s race. We set off from the HQ following the lead car through the neutralized zone whilst we trundled up the common. As the flag dropped, Tony kept his word and attacked straight away just as he said he would, as I suspected it didn’t come too much and was soon dragged back.

The course isn’t the most exciting as its generally flat and not very technical, this is a shame given the location in the Malvern Hills and what terrain could be used for road racing around these parts. During the first hour not much happened but it was pretty fun watching Tony’s incessant attacking, that was until he punctured and got left to fend for himself after he was given a spare wheel and never managed to get back with the group. As expected given the course, the day consisted mainly of attacks that didn’t stick and got dragged back, but by the half-way point I was getting annoyed at the lack of co-operation from others riders as I tried and tried to initiate a break and get this race going. I found that I was a pretty marked man during today race as I am fairly well known in these races, especially for being a breakaway specialist. Every time I attacked I was followed by the entire peloton yet when I was caught nobody could be bothered to counter and make the race interesting, instead they waited for me to attack again and in the end I was just attacking over and over trying to get one over on the bunch. Once or twice I did get a gap and took some riders with me but then they didn’t want to work so as soon as we hit a head wind we got dragged back. Typically, after I made a series of about 5 attacks and self-counter attacks I sat up and tried to have a tactical think, as this happened 2 riders attacked and were let go, I couldn’t believe it. After all the times I tried, they ride round me on the off chance and are away and once again it’s down to me and some of the other contenders to take the initiative.

My nice shiny new shoes, all yellow in there glory

The last lap comes around and the 2 are up ahead and out of sight, a few more go off the front but get dragged back. I resign myself to not getting away and instead decided to sit in till the finish and see how my sprint holds up. Whilst sitting about 15 riders back and preparing my sprint legs, shouts come travelling down the bunch warning us of an ambulance at the side of the road, as we pass my worst nightmare is realised. Mike, who I hadn’t seen for a while was lying at the side of the road been attended to the medics, I could not believe it was him but had no idea what had happened. As it turns out there was a crash only a few riders back from me on the previous lap where 5 riders went down with mike being one of them. At first they were concerned that he had broken his collar bone and damaged his kidneys so the carted him of the Gloucester Royal Hospital.

In the last 5 km coming in to the finish with the 2break still clear, I was trying to get my mind focused on what is a notoriously dodgy sprint but all I could think about was how mike was doing.  Still, I was holding my place at the front of the bunch well and feeling pretty good, as we came in to the long finishing straight, a few riders took some do or die moves off the front, I stayed where I was and went with the main sprint as it opened up. I managed to power past a fair few and managed a respectable 12th over which gave me 4 more points towards the overall. I crossed the line, caught my breath and then sprinted back to the HQ in desperate need of finding out what had happened to mike.

The officials were great and told me exactly what had happened and where he was, but I was unsure whether I should go to the hospital of head home. On the advice of the officials I headed home with his bike and smashed helmet and tried getting in contact with his family. After no luck, I contacted the hospital who were very helpful in telling me how he was and was also informed that he would be good to go home soon. Poor guy was in hospital for a good number of hours with no food and no proper clothes; he also had no way of getting home so I went down with my close friend and emotional coach, Tom Heenan to pick him up. It was not a pretty sight but other than severe road rash he had no long term damage which is very lucky, oh and his bike was fine.

It just reminds you what a dangerous sport we compete in and just how much concentration and safety precautions we should maintain whenever we ride. Oh, and whatever you do, never ride without a helmet, mike would have been a lot worse of was he not wearing his as its now in about 4 pieces.

Ride Safe

Leisure Lakes Circuit Race Round 1

Cheltenham Race Course
1.2 km Circuit with a sharp hill every lap
Raining and very cold

Friday saw 35 riders line up on the start line of the first of two circuit races to be held at Cheltenham Race course hosted by Leisure Lakes. Over the last 2 years I have raced these events and had some great experiences, great results and gained a lot of race craft along with vital BCF points, I enjoyed the aggressive racing as well as the fantastic training that these races also provide.

I would like to be able to say that I felt the same about this year’s first round but unfortunately I can’t as what I experienced was sheer hell that thankfully I do remember much of. Typically as we were given the go ahead to start the race, the rain continued to fall and the temperature began to drop as the night wore on. For the first 20 minutes I was feeling pretty good and managed to aid in pushing the pace up to stupid levels in order to thin the group out. By the time we came round for the 5th lap, the race winning selection of 13-15 riders had already been made and we were already lapping riders.

As usual with this race, every lap saw an attack on the infamous hill that riders face every 1.5 minutes during this 60 minute race. For the first half I was finding the hill no trouble, I was able to close gaps well, respond to attacks and even attack on my own. However, after the half way mark things began to change, the hill was becoming unusually hard, I was now sitting towards the back of the group rather than the front and I wasn’t quite as sharp as I should have been. I was struggling……The reason? I was getting cold, very cold. In fact I was beginning to freeze, literally.

With the constant rain and falling temperature I was really starting to suffer due to the cold, this is not helped by the fact that I have a very low body weight and fat percentage so I feel the cold much easier than most. Every time we went down the hill on the course it was like getting thrown in to ice cold water, enough to make me struggle to catch my breath. My legs began to numb to the point where I was almost unable to get up the climb. Things began to get really bad when I started to black out during the race whilst entering some of the corners. How I never pulled out I don’t know but I didn’t as I wasa still with the main group. I eventually dropped of the pace with 2 laps to go and also began screaming in pain as I went down the descent for the last time.

I crossed the line and fell in to the arms of my good friend who had come to watch. Thankfully he gave me his coat to wrap myself in and carried my bike back to the car. I couldn’t feel my body and don’t remember much about the race, what I do recall is trying to walk back to the car like a drunk and falling over. I sat in the car with the heaters on full for a good 30 minutes shaking violently with my lips and face ice blue. It was horrible.

I don’t remember driving home but I guess I managed it as I woke up in my bed the next morning feeling pretty rough. My legs felt like they had been hit with a sledge hammer over and over again.
I will be back for the 2nd round next Friday in the hope of a better experience but if its raining I think I will keep my race cape on.


Stratford CC Road Race - WMRRL round 5

West Midlands Road Race League Round 5
Stratford Cycling Club Road Race
65 miles
Inkburrow Circuit.
Windy, Dull but the rain held off

Nothing But The Win.
The next 4-5 weeks are what i consider the main part of my racing season, this is what all of the training has been done for and all of the sacrifices were made for. This is my peak race period and the time of the year when i shift my focus from racing and training to only racing, its also the time where i want to put in my best performances, get some points but more importantly; Win some races!

The race that marks this period is one of the most significant to me, The Stratford Road Race, this is because its my home race and all the club riders i know will be there in support whilst putting on there usual fantastic event. With this in mind, i woke up this morning, looked at my self in the mirror and made an agreement with my self that i would race with the aim to win and not settle for anything less. This pressure usually leads to a crap result but today i didn't care, anything less than first would not be good enough so no matter what happens in the race i told myself i would do as much as i could in order to give myself the best possible chance of taking the win.

9.30am, Race briefing over, 90 riders roll out of the HQ and on to the course. The wind is picking up but today i don't care about the weather, my mind is focused on the race. I realise quickly that i feel pretty good for a change but after hitting the first main bank for the first time i find myself in the wrong position, too far back again. Thankfully the little gaps being to seal back up and i make my way towards the front. Soon enough i find myself at the front and in a good position as we hit the second main climb, i feel strong so i put the hammer down and get a gap along with another rider. Heads down and legs pounding, we work hard to consolidate our lead and soon we have a good gap. However the next turn takes us in to the Savage head wind section and half way down this road the inevitable happens and we get caught.

Back in the bunch i find my self getting swallowed up and once again i am too far back and as fate would have it a strong group of 5 get away off of the front. I make my way back up, egar to bring it back so for the next lap i attack, attack and attack again, pushing hard in order to establish a chase group but all of my aggressiveness is coming to nothing so i tell my self to remain calm. Then i notice something, Race favourite and series leader Mike Jones has stopped attacking and is instead controlling the group and he tries to let one of his team mates go up the road for a change. I sense that this could be an opportunity as most riders only chase when Mike goes of the front. I sneak round mike, ride up to his team mate, take one of 2 with me but low and behold we have a gap. I shout at the other in order to establish what must be done; "DRIVE IT, DRIVE IT", With this kind of gap we can do something so long as we keep the pace high and consistent. We are soon classed as a chase group containing around 7 and we set to work with but only 2 aims; 1) get a gap over the peloton and 2) chase down the riders who are out in front with a big 2 minute lead.

I'm feeling good and driving the break hard, i shout commands and words of encouragement to my fellow breakaway companions in order to keep the pace consistent and keep riders rolling through. Soon we are working like a well oiled machine, pace high, rhythm consistent, we are on our way!

Victory Is Back On the Cards.
For 2 laps i have been the commander in this break, when riders haven't gone through i have done it for them, when riders have looked tired i have encouraged them to keep driving. I have done a lot of work in this race up to now and I'm not about to let it go to waste. We cross the start finish line for the last time, with the officials bell signalling the last lap still ringing in our ears we get a time check that the leaders are only 40 seconds up the road, i hit the front again using hand signals to those behind to come through and keep the pace up, again we are working like a military unit charging in to battle with our weapons at the ready. Half a lap to go and finally job done as the break is caught, we are now a group of 12 strong, maybe more but i can be sure. Soon the inevitable begins to happen, the group becomes disorganised and lazy, everyone wants someone else to do the work yet they for get that we still have half a lap to go and the peloton are still hungry for our blood. With this in mind i hit the front and soon i hit the main climb before the finish. I know i am in a vulnerable situation by being on the front and recognised as one of the strongest in our group. A Wolverhampton Wheeler sees this opportunity and attacks, i refuse to let him go so i chase but after being on the front for so long my lags don't give much punch. I shout for riders to come through and chase but its his team mate on my wheel so he does nothing but sit there with a grin on his face!

Another rider attacks and joins the lead man, as i still pound away on the front no body else will come through, i soon realise i am flogging a dead horse so i sit up, tell them what a great job they have done by letting the win go so easily and slip back in to 3rd place. A few moves are made and i react immediately, the game of cat and mouse begins to start yet they don't realise that the leaders are only a few yards up the road with a long up hill spring still to come. By this point i have had enough of waiting and my mind flashes back to what i told my self in the mirror this morning:

"Today i am going to race for the win.
2nd place is as good as last and i must do what ever i can
in order give myself the best possible chance of winning"

"Don't be scared, you know what you must do so make it happen,
Make it happen,
Make it happen,
Make it happen,"

It all comes down to this point, 300 meters to go, still a chance of glory. Fuck it.........SPRINT. I charge of the front of the bunch, the line is still a life time away, the road funnels in to the huge tunnel of support on the finish straight. This is the definition of a suicide move but i either go for the win or die trying. As it was it was the latter! Sprinting up hill in to the wind i gave the guys behind the lead out they wanted but i still made it fucking hard for them to come round me. By the time i crossed the finish line i was seeing red and black and my legs felt like the devils red hot pokers which he uses to bring misery to his victims in the deapest realms of hell its self!
In the final few yards i was passed by 4 riders and came home in 7th. My feelings as i spun my weary legs were a mix of disappointment, regret, joy and proudness. Disappointed as i didn't get the win i craved so much, regret as i know that if i would have waited in the group i could have gotten 3rd, joy because it was an amazing race and proud because i did what i set out to do; i rode the best race of my life, attacked like i have never done before, done more work that anybody in the break and made a last ditch effort for glory. I would rather have finished 7th by trying win the thing than not have tried at all.
337AaronCaseleyLichfield CCC02:35:01
417OliverDaviesDinnington RC02:35:02
514RobTurnerClimb on Bikes02:35:02
716DanBillCult Racing02:35:02
844RichardWatsonParamount CRT02:35:02
956MatthewBonehillStafford RC02:35:03
1073JoeCharleyWolverhampton Wheelers02:35:03

Today was a fantastic race, i feel i have made some great improvements since the start of the season and from what i felt today i know that a win will come soon. All i can say is, if all the races in the next few weeks are as good as this one then man, its going to be the best couple of weeks of my life.

Big thanks to all of Stratford Cycling Club for putting on a safe yet fantastic event and also for the support.
Great job.

Dan Bill

Derby Mercury Road Race

Derby Mercury Road Race, 05/06/2011
West Midlands Road Race League Round 4
Location - Burton upon Trent
Course - 4.5 laps of rolling loop with 1 main climb and a steep climb to finish
Weather - Cool Start but soon warmed up during the race.

With my target events for the season only a few weeks away i am currently in a build period and piling on the training stimulus with pretty intense sessions every week. Some have been maybe a little to intense as i have been struggling to recover from some of the savagely hard intervals i have been subjecting myself to and have to had to re-jig my weeks in order to allow for a little more recovery. The fatigue is set deep in my legs at the moment but soon it will be taper time and all of that underlying fatigue will be shed in favor of freshness, that will be the big pay off and worth all of the suffering.

At the moment however i am trying to do 2 things. one is to keep up the training stimulus is order to promote gain in fitness that are much harder to come by theses days, and two is to keep racing my scheduled events and try to win a few and gain points towards series events such as the WMRRL which is what today's race, The Derby Mercury RR is part of. After a very tough session on Thursday did everything in my power to recover as best i could before Sunday's race, i stuck to a solid post session recovery plan, rested Friday and then did a tune up ride on Saturday, however i could tell during this short ride that i was still feeling Thursday in my legs without a doubt.

Well, there was nothing on i could do about it now as i was on my way to the HQ and trying to remind myself of the route from last years race. The key part of this race is the very end as it turns off the main course and finished on a very steep and narrow climb which suits me down to the ground, well on a day when i have good legs anyway. As we rode off through the neutralized zone at 10am i some friendly banter between me and some fellow races before the flag dropped to signal the start of the race. With the first few accelerations of the bunch i could tell that my legs just didn't want to play along so i kept in the bunch for a while hoping that i would loosen up a Little. As we completed we continued round the first lap i realised that this was in fact a completely new course and ended up making a very silly mistake early on. As it was this course had a pretty big hill in it which just seemed to appear and as it did i was at the back trying to wake my legs from the dead, whilst i was doing this all of the strong riders were at the front as we hit the slope. Typically the bunch began to split and i was floundering at the back getting boxed in, as we crested the top the peloton was i two and i was in the wrong group. I had to dig deep, go around some of the weaker riders and bridge the gap to the front group, thankfully i closed the gap and brought the race back together in doing so. That was to close and not a mistake that i would make again although the climb was a lot harder for me than it should have been due to my terrible legs!!

The pace throughout the race was generally high and not one move could get a big enough gap to stick, even with the climb. The series leader, Mike Jones, began to make some committed moves on the final 2 laps but he was a marked man and these came to nothing. I began to feel better on the last lap and almost got a break going with Will Penn from Mammoth Cycles as he put the power down on the final climb and i went with him, i rolled through in order to keep the pace up but again it all came back together. So it looks like it would be down to slog out on the final climb which was now not to far away.

The thing i remembered most about the climb from last year was that i was very narrow and i got boxed in as i was to far back, i was going to do make the same mistake twice. I managed to hold my position at the front of the bunch really well for the entire last lap and i turned on to the finish road about 10 back. as the climb began the pace remained brisk whilst Matt Clarke of halesowen took a suicidal flyer off the front, its the kind of move that i had thought of doing as did most others in the bunch , but to be honest, i was to scared to throw away a chance by doing it and risking coming no where. As the climb reached its steepest point my low weight came it to its own and i managed to keep the momentum up as other began to flounder, i was only a few bikes lengths behind the 4 riders in front and i was closing the gap fast but it was little to late as i crossed the line. However, it was to little late for us all as the crazy Halesowen rider, Matt Clarke who took the flyer, defied the odds and held on to take one of the most deserved wins i can thing off. At the end of the day, i knew that i was strong enough to win the race had i made such a move but like i say, i was to scared, Matt wasn't and it payed off for him, big time.

I'm happy with my result which was officially 6th and even more so given that i felt i was one of the strongest on the final climb even though i knew i was far from my best and my legs felt terrible. I cant wait until i go in to a race tapered and in top form as i know i will feel like a different rider.

Many thanks to Derby Mercury CC for putting on a great race and to all the Marshall's who made it so safe.

Ride safe
Dan Bill