This weekend sees myself & Ed take on our first circuit race of the season. It will be Ed’s first ever road bike race & my first race in what will hopefully be a full season of circuit racing. We’ll be racing alongside a couple of other Bristol South boys & we’ll all be sporting the awesome new BSCC kit, designed by our good friend Ade Ridley. Here’s a peek at how great this new kit really is:
Wednesday evening saw the first of many Bristol South midweek time trials. It was to be my first TT of the year, I was reluctant as to whether I was going to race or not, but as the opener is only a 5.2 mile out & back I couldn’t not do. I opted for racing on the geared road bike, rather than the fixed gear TT build I rode last year. This was firstly because I had a 20 mile ride planned before the race, and secondly because I hadn’t bothered to get a bike together.
I had no idea whether the gears (without TT extensions) would make me faster than last year or not. I dug out my time from last year & was aiming for a PB. When we arrived at the meet point it was apparent it would be a hard night for everyone as the headwind on the way out was next level, and average speeds on the way back were 3-4mph faster. Mad on such a flat course. My time came along, I battled the wind on the way out with my average speed being less than 20mph, I was not happy with this so knew I needed to up that drastically on the way back. Luckily that crazy headwind was now a major tailwind giving everyone a physical & mental boost on the way back. I spent most of the time in My biggest gear & out of the saddle, I felt super human for those 7 minutes. I chased down our good friend Adam who set off a minute before me on his first ever TT, and I managed to catch him literally just before the finish line.
I put in a time of 14:20, not a PB but decent in the conditions. Ed bagged himself a 12:28 in his new red garms. A big shout out goes to Adam, Dan, Cuff & Hana who were all riding their first ever TT is the least favourable conditions. Here’s to many sunny races this summer!
I took advantage of being oop North at the weekend to go watch the National Hill Climb and give a bit of support to club members PJ and Glyn.
As I nipped out for breakfast in the morning the Manchester weather was cold and damp, with the incessant drizzle that it seems to hold so close to his heart. Ominous for those attempting to ride extremely fast up a hill. Especially when the hill in question is ‘The Rake’.
The Rake is pretty steep. The event program (a glorious DIY photocopied thing by the host club Lancashire Road Club) gives the key facts of; ‘The Rake climbs 321 feet in 947 yards giving and average gradient of 1 in 8.8′, this translates into new money as averaging around 11 % for 0.9 km. The real savage parts comes with the 20% start and a 25% kick with plenty of tarmac left before the finish line. As you would expect I chose to situate myself just after this part for most of the race, it was good for pain face spotting but also the part where the competitors needed the most encouragement which I duly helped provide. There where plenty of people out despite the inclement weather and it made for a good atmosphere.
I was astounded by the age range of competitors, yes I expected a smattering of juniors and some vets but an age range of 12 – 68 blew my mind a little. Amazing that people of these ages can even ride up the thing but some of the juniors where super quick with James Knox even breaking the top 10!
There were some incredible bikes on show, the majority of people rode carbon road bikes but a few purists where riding fixed (PJ included), this included a Cannondale Track!
Choice of gear for fixed seemed to be in the 54 – 57 range, though the top end of that seemed a little too large. As the excellent commentator, event secretary and winner many moon ago Peter Graham pointed out to PJ as he worked hard through the steepest section ‘He DEFINITELY looks oooverr geaaared thurrrr’.
This beast had a drilled out saddle and shows all the elements of what is generally thought to make a good hill climb bike for the short steep stuff. Single front ring, base bar/bar ends with a tt shifter and weight savings made wherever possible (drillium saddle!). Around 85 psi seemed to be the tyre pressure of choice for keeping traction in the wet conditions.
PJ and Glyn both had excellent rides, carding 02.51.2 and 02.37.5 respectively. Giving them 37th and 8th positions. Cracking ride by all and Glyn finished a long season by breaking the top 10.
The event was won by hot favourite Jack Pullar with a 02.21.3 giving a 5 second winning margin over his closest rival (and defending champion) Gunnar Gronlund with 02.26.0, Matt Clinton rounded out the podium. He was one of the few riders I watched at the finish and his speed over the line took me aback.
The very top is where the brutality of the climb is most evident. I spoke to PJ up there who proclaimed he had ‘gone deep into the death zone’ and kept touching his chest as if to make sure his heart wasn’t going to pop out.
This Sunday once again reminded me why I love riding bikes & living in Bristol. Almost every Sunday myself & Ed will go for a ride, and are sometimes joined by 1, maybe 2 other riders to put in a few miles. This Sunday was the Bristol South CC hill climb at Burrington, so we had a little round up via the social networks & managed to get together a group of 9 of us for a ride out to support close friends & local riders as they battled with the infamous Burrington Combe climb.
The ride out was foggy but fun, then we joined the largest crowd on a corner to watch all the riders compete, including Christian, Dan B & Mark, as well as eventual winner Paul Jones aka PJ (winner of last week’s Hell Climb). There was a great atmosphere & there were spectators of all ages, it feels great to be part of what is such a good cycling community.
Once the prizes were handed out we set off for the ride home in what was glorious sunshine, taking on a hill challenge of our own, in form of Wrington. I took a bunch of photos thoughout the morning & they are all below in glorious iPhone quality. Now grab some friends & go ride!
2 months ago I rode the Interclub 10 mile TT at Dursley, I came away with a time of 25:07 which was fairly respectable, for one of the first 10 milers I’d ridden. Tonight all 3 of us attended the final Interclub race at Dursley, although only myself & Christian raced, with Ed taking to the sideline as directeur sportif/team driver/photographer.
Since my first attempt at the Dursley course I have changed a bunch of things on my bike, usually in between weekly races at the lake, and my times have slowly been improving. I have swapped my seatpost to an aero carbon job, saving a vital second or two.
I’ve also upgraded my shoe/pedal combo from a flexy MTB set up to a super stiff road combo. My gear inch has slowly grown in the past couple of months too, and tonight I rode on a 101GI, the biggest I feel I could push on a course as undulating as this one. My slack chain is also a talking point.
Now whether all these upgrades have made a difference, or just the fact that my legs have gotten stronger but I did managed to put in a PB at Dursley tonight, albeit by a marginal 10 seconds, from 25:07 to 24:57. I’m happy with the fact that I broke the 25 minute barrier, but in fairness I would like to have gone even faster. But a 14th position overall makes up for this. All of these component upgrades have helped with my progression at the races, and I certainly don’t feel as destroyed after races as I previously did, so I guess I am getting better at this TT thing, I just need to get some more races under my belt & put down some faster times!
Elsewhere out on course tonight, Christian smashed an awesome time of 24:02 on his road bike with TT extensions, you’d have mistaken him for a triathlete if it wasn’t for the presence of his sleeves & socks!
It was the first time he’d ridden the course, ever, so this is an excellent result, real proud of the boy, who will be racing again tomorrow night at Castle Combe for a circuit race.
Friends of the wheelers Sam L & Ed P both continued their domination of the Bristol South TT circuit by coming away with insanely fast times of 22:18 & 22:33 respectively. These guys have been smashing fast times throughout the year & showing us how it’s done.
Sam is too fast to be caught on camera, but he gets a shout out for being first BSCC rider tonight. The conditions were spot on & I’m fairly sure we all took home PBs. Generally another good fun TT, and the last Wednesday night race of the year, hopefully I’ll get to another few races before the season is up, and possibly beat my PB on the Dursley course again. Enough of my rambling, here’s one last picture by Ed of Derek Smetham, the TT bad man who most definitely took the win today with a sub 22 minute ride. Full results from tonight are here.
Last week Christian joined myself & Ed at the lake for another (just over) 8 mile TT. I was, as always in search of a new PB, and knew that putting in even more effort for the first couple of miles was the only thing I could do to beat my previous best time (disclaimer: Photos in this post extracted from the interwebs).
The conditions on the day were more than perfect, with it being fairly warm & quite humid, the higher temperature making the air less dense, therefore creating less drag & generally giving us potential to go faster than ever before. See this graph for scientific research:
I managed to put in a big effort at the start, which made me feel more destroyed than ever at the half way point & I even had the stupid thought of dropping out of the race. I’m glad I didn’t, and I stuck at it, beating my previous personal best by 6 seconds! I felt like I was spinning out on my 94 gear inch at times (something I thought wasn’t possible) so this week I will be upping my GI to over 100! As well as this I will not take my arm warmers off mid race, this must have lost me vital seconds once again! My aim is 21 minutes, which is 42 faster than my PB of 21:42.
It was the first time that Christian had TTd at the lake this year, after weekly training rides & road races throughout the year, but he’s got a TT event coming up so he thought he’d try his hand at the our local weekly race. The conditions were on everybody’s side & Christian came away with a great time of 21:22, just a second ahead of our good friend Mark. Both of these boys were on road bikes without TT extensions, so hats off to the 2 of them!
Ed has been getting closer to the 20 minute mark over the 8.2 mile distance all year, and with his times in every race getting faster, it wasn’t going to be long until he hit that target, and you guessed it, he beat his PB & the 20 minute barrier with an awesome time of 19:53! The boy has been smashing TT times all over the shop & has upped his gear inch to 111 this week, as well as upgrading his shoes to some ridiculously stiff carbon numbers. We only have 2 weeks left at the lake, with next week being an Interclub event. Keep an eye on the blog to see how we get on at these races.
This was an interesting one. It was essentially a bunch start hill climb up Haytor Vale, a three mile race organised by Mid Devon Cycling Club!
4 of The South attended, including bang in form Sam Larkham, on the verge of moving to second cat. Tom gave me and Mark a lift down there as Sam was making a day of it in his old camper van.
Setting of for a race at 5 on a Saturday had me totally out of kilter. I did not know what to eat when, I also did not get my bag ready the night before. This, coupled with the fact that in my mind I was doing a hill climb meant I forgot my helmet. I was fairly comfortable that as this was coupled with a sportive the day after (a pretty beastly one) I would be able to borrow a helmet.
About that sportive, the start list email said ‘sign on in the event village’, this was mad. We had to queue to get into the car park which was full of cars with snazzy bikes on top. Once in the village we were greeted with a lot of stands, including a pop up masage parlour and live music. Martin Johnson was spotted outside the Specialized tent. A bit grander than the usual village hall. There is certainly plenty of money in these things. In the sign on tent after asking a few people we finally got directed to the race sign on. There were 2800 people entered into the sportive (75K turnover by my maths!), hence the traffic at the carpark and a total of about 35 people in the BC race across all categories……
We signed on, I had a conversation with a chap that went as follows; Me; ‘is there a helmet I could borrow, I stupidly left mine in Bristol’. The guy I asked eyes lit up; ‘what size’, Me; ‘About a medium/large’, Guy; ‘I have just the thing’, the following was presented to me;
Low amount of vents, check. Fluoro colour, check. That is the current trend for helmets right?
After my fellow team mates had laughed a lot we headed out to warm up. Stumbling upon a suitable hill after following a lady from Zappis (who went on to win the women’s race). That was pretty lucky. We then headed back for the briefing which meant we warmed down, but then warmed up again as we rolled 4 or so miles neutralised to the bottom of the climb. We subsequently warmed down again as we waited about 10 minutes to start. I also did about 6 pisses before we started, this seems to happen from time to time.
From the off the pace shot straight up, courtesy of aformentioned Mr Larkham. The young kid in front of me had trouble clipping in so me and Tom scrambled round him. We were already strung out in a long line. I tried to get into a rhythm as quickly as possible, in my mind I had already decided to ride at my own pace if it went off. A group of about 6 broke up the road as the elastic snapped after only half a mile. My heart rate was already high so I just kept it that way, settled into a nice cadence and started to pass the 5 or so people in front of me that had tried in vein to hang on to the group of 6. One other guy came with me and quickly came past me. He was making ferocious breathing noises, this convinced me to just pick my time to move past him as he popped.
The middle section of Haytor is pretty vile, it has a nasty kick that broke a few people for sure, to bad for me they were all behind me. I looked back and there was a decent sized gap to the next man on the road.
As we entered the downhill section the person in front of me really pushed on, reinforcing in my mind that he would pop on the finishing section which kicks up again, I kept it under control. Keeping in mind what resident BSCC hill climb expert PJ had said about what was to follow; ‘It has a downhill. You’ll be reaching for the big ring – I guarantee it. You must not break your rhythm or overcook it, in fact, you have to bear in mind that as soon as you pass the car park on the left the road pitches up again for another really steep bit, and it’s horrible because you can see the finish. The last section, around 500 metres or so, is absolutely revolting, not because it’s unduly steep, but because it comes at the end of some serious effort. If you’re riding with someone at this point and you’ve got something left in the tank you can kill it.’
He was right on all counts. I wasn’t riding with anyone but my man still out in front was on a piece of elastic, I closed the gap but he didnt come back fully. I crested the top in 8th place. Pleased to be in amongst the points. It hurt quite a bit, I borked a lot. Tom was slumped over his bars on the verge of being sick. I am still convinced I can hurt myself more when it comes to the cunch.
Completing a strong showing for BSCC Tom had finished in 5th and Sam in 4th. Mark narrowly missed out on his first pointed, being pipped to 10th by around 2 inches after a rider worked him over to come round at the finish. Strangely, we were all spaced by about 30 seconds. Project Cat 2 was complete for Sam, congratulations mate!
The weather was coming in at the top so we headed down as quickly as possible, kindly directed back to the HQ by a MDCC who was tonking along. When you descend hills, it really brings home how long they are, and we were assisted by gravity for a fair while.
To top off the successful day I was allowed to keep the helmet, chuffed to bits! If you are the guy that gave me this, you cannot comprehend how happy this has made me, as well as everyone else who has laid eyes on it since.
Finally I must apologise for writing a thousand word essay on a three mile race, maybe I remembered more because it was shorter than usual?
Last Sunday we headed into deepest Dorset to race the Lloyd Coward Memorial Road Race (3/4 Cat) organised by CC Weymouth.
It’s a good job we build a bit of time slack into our plans. Tom was running late, and we had to strap the bike rack to the top of his car when he got to us. This combined with a lack of petrol meant we had a bit of rally drive to get there. We arrived with about twenty minutes to go which meant we would be using the first lap to warm up. Luckily nobody turned the screw from the off so we were fine doing this. After the shoddy weather of the previous week it was great to have some sun at the start line. For some reason I still raced in arm warmers though, got a bit toasty.
Coming into the race I knew Kieran had good legs. He had been smashing me all over the previous week which was my first lot of riding after a full week of doing absolutely nowt. My legs felt like they were coming back to life through the week though so I was not too worried.
Looking at the course profile I expected it to be similar to the Brentor race earlier in the season. After the first lap it was apparent that there was essentially no climbing. This suggested we would be heading towards a bunch sprint at the end. The places have some crazy names down there, Puddletown anyone?
Throughout the race all five of us communicated really well. Letting people know if someone was in the break and making team decisions to chase moves down or let them go. This was normally helped by the fact we had someone in the break. Kieran was really marshalling things at the front and Tom had a couple of goes at getting away but nothing stuck. It was pretty windy on the downhill section which did not help matters when you were out there alone.
Kieran got himself into what looked to be a big move with about 8 riders, unfortunately he paid for his earlier efforts and after a little time away he dropped off the back of the break. After a quick word with Sam and Mark we moved to the front to pull the break back. Tom eased up slightly to try and get Kieran on to his wheel and keep him near the front of the bunch. Great use of the numbers we had.
As we crossed the line for the final lap Sam bridged to another rider who had made a move. He got there and they opened up a decent gap pretty qucikly, I think it went out to about 40 seconds. As this happened Mark and Tom moved back slightly in the bunch. I rode up the outside and pulled Mark to the front as with Sam out it meant we would have an armchair ride to the finish. We sat around 5th wheel in the group and did not do one stint of work. A few people got a bit pissy and where shouting at us to do work but we were completely entitled not to do so.
Rounding the final corner Sam was still away, only on his own now with the gap coming down quickly as everyone started to move up for the sprint. I really should have tried to register where the finish was on the previous laps but I had a complete memory blank and had allowed people to swamp around me coming into the final straight.
Sam held on by about 50 yards. A sterling effort to stay away for the lap, afterwards he said he had done about 80% of the work when there was two of them. He really employed all his TT skills for that one. Staying out for a lap in a 40 kph average race is ruddy good going.
For the sprint I could not find a path through even though I felt like I had the legs, everyone had spread out to fill both lanes of the road so I passed a few people but got blocked from anything else by the numerous people in front of me. This is my one regret of the race! Tom managed to move up to about 7th. The two lads from Bristol Uni CC had strong sprints and took the remaining two podium places.
Overall it was a really good day out and the entire team had a buzz off Sams win. It was his first outright win in 10 years (on and off) of trying, everyone was chuffed! A few people commented on how we raced it well as a team which is always nice, we headed home satisfied.
At the weekend I have some bonkers bunch start hill climb race up Haytor Vale that sets off at 5pm, not sure how that ones going to work out but I have done plenty of climbing early in the week and also the club TT so hopefully I have set myself up for it as best I can.