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