Tough few weeks…

Since the BUCS Hill Climb, things have been a bit messy – training mixed in with uni work has been interesting…

However, got a piloting spot with Martin Gordon as stoker for the International Paracycling Track Cup in Newport! This meant a few days spent in Newport to familiarise myself with riding with Martin and riding a tandem on the velodrome. A rather addictive feeling that, zooming around on a 53-13 training gear, 53-12 on race day, odious buzz! Didn’t do too badly overall in the kilo and 4km pursuit on race day, so it was fun!

Coming from 32C+ inside to -2C outside was interesting though, and opened me up to the mumps virus that’d been going round the uni – I’ve had MMR jab though, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it has meant being off the bike for a few weeks… A right pain in the backside! Especially now given that the paracycling track world champs have been announced Mexico in April… Probably won’t get a spot on the squad, but I’ve plenty of solo targets to aim for – just need to get this virus fully shifted over Christmas, while working on the farm, and see where things go!

The winter series races at Odd Down will be an opportunity to get some decent tempo work in the legs, with the aim being to work for some of the 4th cat riders (if possible as a 2nd cat) and bring some of the other Bath Uni CC guys up to 3rd cat, making them eligible for the BUCS road race (if it happens this year…). The TTs (3-up TTT, 10 and 25 mile) will still be hit hard, and they’re in April, so if I don’t get to the champs I’ll be hitting them in a pretty good vein of form all being well! Should be on the first team for the TTT this year, so I shouldn’t be pulling 2 other guys round most of the way (sorry Bri and Harry, but it’s true)

Looking good though, needed these few weeks off to collect my head and focus on revision for my January exams, ones I really need to do well in if I’m to meet or exceed my predicted final classification… Who’d have thought Engineering would be difficult?

Onwards!

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Hill Climbing and beyond…

Being the light person I am, climbing hills is generally seen as being something I should be good at, hence my desire to win the hillier races in the surrounding area next season. However, before the entry opens for them, there’s the obvious route of Hill Climbs.

The first one gone was the VC Walcot climb up American Museum Hill from Claverton to Bath University. Being our local HC, we collaborated (asked them really nicely) with VC Walcot to get a Uni sub-category. With the strength of the roadie side of things increasing massively in the year I was away from Uni on placement, strong competition was expected. I managed to crack out a fairly decent 3:06.53 to claim the sub-cat win and 9th overall.

VC Walcot Hill Climb 2013
VC Walcot Hill Climb 2013
VC Walcot 2013 Hill Climb – Uni sub-category winner

That was the first, the second entered one was the Bristol South CC one, which I was unfortunately rather unwell in the run up to, meaning I was a DNS – BUCS the following weekend was taking priority, so resting up until the illness had passed was essential to ensure the avoidance of a chest infection.

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BUCS came along – there’d been a lot of hmmm-ing and haaa-ing about whether the 3h30m drive there-and-back to Curbar Gap in the Peaks for the event was worth it, but in the end we decided to make the effort and got 7 riders (2 female, 5 male) to pay up and enter the fray. A relatively early start (6am leaving time) meant loads of time to get there and recce the climb. We did so, with the conclusion being that it wasn’t as hard as expected – that conclusion changed after everyone had been up it under race conditions!

George Schweining was our first rider off, immediately smashing out an incredible benchmark time of 7:15.6 for the rest of the 53 strong women’s field to match – in the end only 3 bettered her time, 3rd place being only 0.5s ahead. A tremendous effort, including that little taste of blood in the mouth after a maximal effort! Rose Osborne also put in a cracking time of 8:44.1 to finish in 27th.

Next up were the men, including Gareth Turner, Jake Hollins, James Whateley, myself and Liam Glen. That was the start order, with everyone who’d finished providing generous support and/or heckling of the other riders! Things started well and progressively got better, with Gareth putting in a time of 7:21.3 (132nd), Jake 6:49.7 (80th) and James 6:17.9 (38th). I went up the climb in 5:42.1 and Liam went up in 5:45.7, times which left us in the top two positions in the Southern Division, something of a shock for us all considering Liam is prepping for a racing season in Belgium next semester. In a field of 205 riders, all of the Bath Uni squad had finished rather strongly, but Liam, James and myself had put in times fast enough to bag us the TEAM GOLD by 10 seconds from Leeds! Final individual results were myself in 3rd and Liam in 6th. First BUCS medals for James and myself, another gold for Liam and respectable times all round, so overall a more than respectable outcome to an event we’d almost not gone to! Oh, and Team of the Week in uni as well, additional bonus!

Annoyingly though I’ve had no luck whatsoever finding photos of us on the climb, just this one James took of Gareth, so next year’s plans include an official photographer and heckling squad!

Gareth Turner off the start line
Gareth Turner off the start line

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Full results for BUCS are available at this link (links to .doc file) Hill Climb Results 2013

Next up is the winter training miles, with the possibility of some winter series racing and some Para-Cycling Ireland stuff – watch this space!

It’s been a while…

A lot has happened since my last post on this blog, but I felt the need to bring it back into existence to write about the latest of my cycling adventures.

Towards the middle of June (2013), Doug informed me of an opportunity to apply to pilot a tandem as part of the Para-cycling Ireland squad. I thought I might as well, so I fired in the filled out application form and thought nothing else of it… That was, until I got a phone call from the coach in the last week asking if I was free that weekend to meet up with James Brown (the stoker who was without a pilot) for a spin to see how I got on. Arranged with James to meet up on the 1st July in Bath, as I was moving all my stuff over from placement in Peterborough that weekend. 

So we met up, went for a spin and James seemed happy enough with it to ask if I was free on the 7th to race the 10 mile TT up near Ballymena. So we did that in 20m08s and got a phone call on the Monday to ask if I was free to go to the training weekend in Wicklow in 2 weekend’s time (19th-21st July)… Thinking it was still only me being helpful and making sure James could get some time on the bike, I went along to find that the weekend included 2 selection trials for the upcoming World Cup and World Championships in Canada. James and I smashed them both with the fastest times, despite only having been a ‘crew’ for 3 weeks! 

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Those performances meant that the phone call came to say that we’d been selected for the squad going to Canada… needless to say I was over the moon about it! The RideLondon100 and another training weekend lay in between, before heading down to the CI HQ to pack up James’ tandem and fly to Canada from Dublin on the 17th August. 

2 weeks followed, the first in Matane for the World Cup. This was going to be rather useful for me, to get an idea of racing at international level against tandems. The TT could have went better, but 12th place in it was a good start, not hugely far outside of the top 10 and still learning about how much faster you can corner on a tandem.

Next up was the World Cup RR – the plan was to sit in and see how the dynamic worked within a bunch of tandems, the reality was spending 106km of the 108km race in the break! The race kicked off, with James and I first into the first corner, but not hammering along. Put a wee bit of pressure on into the first climb, with nothing much happening. This then descended a bit before heading onto a flat and windy section, which was where, joined by the Australians and one of the Canadian crews, we broke away. Within 3 laps we’d built up a 2m45s lead and just kept it ticking over. That was until the Dutch and Columbians bridged across with 3 laps to go and the attacks started. A combination of poor fuelling and too much work early on meant that with one lap to go, after the Aussies and already kicked away, when the Dutch crew kicked we’d nothing left with which to follow. We still finished in 5th, well ahead of the main bunch, so James was pretty happy with that (his best RR result!)

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So that was the World Cup over and done with, some vital experience gained and the slot for the Worlds TT gained (only one slot for the two Irish male tandems that’d been brought over), it was onwards to the World Championships. These were a different ball game altogether. Two stupidly hard courses for the TT and RR lay ahead, with 3 laps of a reasonably hilly TT course and 9 of a ridiculously tough RR circuit lying ahead, it was going to be a big ask for results.

The TT came first, preceded by lots of course recon and pacing planning. We executed the pacing to almost perfection, but finished in 13th, 0.2s off of 12th… this was gutting for me, as it was almost as close as we could have got to missing out on funding for James… you can probably tell I was in a pretty bad mood that evening, but hearing from my cousin’s wife that my Granny had been constantly talking about me, rather than my other, older cousins (they’d been her golden boys for many years), was a massive boost! So, taking that feeling and pushing on a wee bit on the Saturday recovery ride, we’d felt good going into the RR.

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Full results for the TT found here: http://www.uci.ch/Modules/BUILTIN/getObject.asp?MenuId=MTU3ODE&ObjTypeCode=FILE&type=FILE&id=ODkwNDg&LangId=1

Then the RR came around, and the first lap provided me with an idea of just how hard it was going to be to complete the full 9 laps of it towards the front! 3 laps from the end the Pizzi brothers, Italian pre-race favourites who’d defended their TT title, put on the power and dragged away the 2 Spanish and 1 Polish crew. A group of 9 formed behind this, including ourselves, and tried to bridge back across. This didn’t really happen that easily as the other Italian crew we just sitting in 2nd wheel every time disrupting the chase. 2 laps to go and 2nd to last ascent of the big hill, the pace was starting to take it’s toll on us… we got dropped and managed to get back on on the descent, but not without working ridiculously hard to do so, my legs had started complaining LONG before then so the red zone was called for. Then we got dropped again shortly after the last lap started, resulting in us TTing our way around the 11.3km circuit, crawling up the final climb (James thought we’d be getting off to walk given how wrecked we were!) and dropping down in for the flat to the finish. 13th place again… however, that 13th place was hard fought and came after both of us had completely blown up. Let’s just say, I’ve never cried after finishing a race, that’s how empty I felt! Missed the funding point again, but finished 3m38s behind the first place finishers (the Poles!) so we’re happy enough!

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Full Results for the RR can be found here: http://www.uci.ch/Modules/BUILTIN/getObject.asp?MenuId=MTU3ODE&ObjTypeCode=FILE&type=FILE&id=ODkwOTQ&LangId=1

All in all, a pretty crazy 2 months, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens going forward…. World Champs 2014 in Greenville, SC anyone? 🙂

Ilton…

Ok, so maybe that’s not the most exciting of titles, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is what happened.

Not quite as early a start as it was for Ludgershall, nice wee 8am meet with Doug Hall for the road trip down to Ilton, or Merryfield Airfield for the first of Somerset Road Club’s circuits… Being there early meant being able to watch some of the junior racing, complete with the stereotypical parents trying to live their dreams through their kids. Funny to watch, but what kind of pressure must they be under? Scary…

On to the main events though, and the 4th Cat race with Felix… looked comfortable throughout, with a wee solo dig off the front (or so he tells us) and a pretty decent finish, he didn’t crash this week… Chapeau! However…

3rd Cat racing is a step up from 4th, both in terms of speed and tactics. I had been expecting the speed difference, but the way in which people were conducting themselves round the circuit was a time infuriating… I personally ended up doing a bit of cyclocross after being forced off the road by people trying to move up too close… irritating, but there was more. Having successfully made it to the last lap, things went mental… like, properly mental. People trying hard to get up towards the front to be able to compete for the finish, people going backwards and all over the place trying to and not being successful in sticking the pace…

The corners on the circuit were as wide as you could ever ask for, but people were still braking for them (silly people who don’t understand just how much grip they have on their tyres on a smooth surface, no gravel or anything) and for the 3rd to last corner there was a ridiculous decrease in speed by the rider two in front of me, which I hadn’t been expecting. This decrease rippled back through, and when someone in front brakes, the person behind brakes harder etc. etc. this meant that I got way too close to the rider in front, forced to go to one side of his rear wheel… He then moved in the same direction as I had to avoid the rider in front, so our wheels touched and forced my front wheel out further than I’d liked… Unfortunately this caused me to completely lose control and as a result I ended up crashing, landing on my face first followed by the rest of me. Brought down about 4 other people, only 1 of which was able to continue… One, Ben Hall of Bristol Road Club, stayed with me to make sure I was ok, another had to walk back with his S-Works Venge in 2 pieces and the final one trying to continue but ending up stopping and collapsing onto the side of the track in shock with a suspected broken collarbone (recover quick and strong, sorry mate)…

Result of the crash? Few grazes here and there, knees, right hip, hands, left shoulder, sprained left thumb, and a nice adornment for my chin and lip… I’m a very lucky guy! The blood on my sleeve is from my first ever nose bleed…

As for my bike, literally just had to straighten the right hand lever up and it’s grand. Only needs some new bar tape and I’ll be right as rain again! Well, I hope… student budget and all that!

Gone on for long enough, looking forward now to recovering properly from this, healing fast and getting back up to speed again before the big months of April and May come flying around!

25-2-2012 – ‘Welcome to my Pain Cave’

Managed to persuade Pierre with a few simple words to join today’s Ludgershall spin, and it was a bit mental… We’d decided on the train there to smash out the first few laps, relax a little, not too much, then go absolutely flat out for the lead out, with Pierre finishing the move off and me finishing within the top 10, meaning that we both move up to 3rd.

Getting to the circuit, we found that the 4th’s race was significantly shortened (30mins+5 instead of 45), making it more possible for a breakaway to work. The start went exactly as planned, with the pair of us going off the front for the first couple of laps. Pierre eventually dropped back into the bunch to conserve a bit of energy (his fitness isn’t overly great yet) while I stayed up there and continued to make efforts in an attempt to either break away with little effort, or keep everyone on their toes, sapping their legs for the finish.

About 8 or 9 laps in, there was quite a significant crash, meaning the race was neutralised for 4 laps while the guy was checked over and the course cleared again. During the last 2 of these, we slowly worked the pace back up again… the race restarted with the 5 laps to go signs up, so things got a bit hectic, people trying to make sure they were at the front for the finish. We managed to stay up at the front, with Pierre sitting on my wheel. 1 lap to go, people started edging their way around as the pace ramped up again, so the shout went up from Pierre to go… I floored it… never induced as much pain in my body, ever, but I kept pushing, round the top corner and beyond. With the way the course was, after the top corner it went down then slightly back up again, which is where I kicked again, splitting the bunch and setting Pierre up for an easy finish, killing myself, only to realise I might get swamped and not get the top 10 I needed, so had to do it again to the finish line… Like I said, never felt in as much self inflicted pain, but looking behind and seeing the pain in everyone else’s faces was enough, I had, ‘Welcome to the Pain Cave’, on my back! All in all, a fantastic bit of Bath Uni CC domination!

And then there was the ride to get to the train on time… again, more of what I enjoy, just working off the front!

18-2-2012 – Ludgershall Winter Series 6

So, having been for the first of the Ludgershall Winter Series, finally got round to getting again (cheers James for the lift). I’d really only intended to see if I’d got any faster, but it turned into trying to smash people off the front for the first half hour… pretty standard for me, staying behind people all the way isn’t much fun! Having got caught by the 3’s, they immediately came to the front and started to really shell people out the back… fortunately I managed to find wheels and in the last 10 or so laps split time between working and just sitting in… Last few laps, I tried to work for James Bailey in the 3rd Cat race, but ended up going around the outside on the last corner and nailing it as hard as I could… I don’t have the same jump as most of the guys there, but was still accelerating on the way to the line when others had already hit their top speed, pulling myself up through about 10 places before the line. Can’t complain with that, that cheeky wee second place out of it puts me 1 point off 3rd Cat, so hopefully it’ll be an upgrade this weekend when it happens all over again!