You hear a lot of excuses in bicycle racing as to why it didn’t go to plan, with people often ruing luck. In my limited experience of road racing so far I can only see it comes down to one, or a combination of two things; the head and the legs. Which leaves variations of two reasons; ‘I didn’t have the legs’, ‘I wasn’t smart enough today’, it would be refreshing to hear those muttered a bit more. I’m still working on both, today it was the legs that proved the problem…..
Last Thursday myself & Adam were the only 2 of the BSCC gang stupid enough to brave the wind & the rain up at Castle Combe for the second in the summer circuit series. I thought I’d ridden in bad conditions before but this was something else. The wind was unbearable.
The race is for cat 3 & 4 riders, my first as a cat 3 & our first race with cat 3 riders this year. The bunch split early on, the pace was pretty fast & the crosswinds even faster. The front pack got smaller & smaller over the first half of the race.
The conditions got the better of Adam & he was back with the second group, I hung on the the back of the lead group, literally hung on with everything I had. A 3 man break left us in their dust (water) & about 12 of us raced the remainder of the 17 lap race together, battling with the elements.
The bell went for the last lap & to my surprise I was still in contention. Sprint finish time & I fought the finish line headwind, coming 5th in the bunch sprint so 8th in the race. Another couple of points in the bag for me. Fingers crossed the sun shines for our next race.
This week us Cat 4 warriors took on the battleground that is Ilton for the first Team Tor circuit race of the year. Conditions were a whole lot nicer than our last visit, with full visibility in the evening sun. This report isn’t as lengthy as my usual ones, but it gives a brief overview of my best race so far.
Ed & Adam rode strong at the front of the pack throughout the race, with Ed keeping the pace high especially towards the end with a couple of solo breaks.
Myself & Mark sat in the bunch most of the race, I had a pop at the intermediate sprint lap, maybe got a top 5 in that.
Coming into the last lap & Mark hopped onto my wheel, we bossed it through & around the bunch all the way to the last turn. It seems some riders got a little sketchy when they saw the red & gold train steaming through.
I looked back & Mark was no longer on my wheel, I realised I was the first of the BSCC boys coming in to the final straight, so I did what any aspiring sprinter would do & put in a final effort for the last hundred metres to pull away from the bunch, and turns out nobody else kept up. I’d won the race!
Words can’t describe how happy I am with this, hence the short-ish report. A massive thanks to Ed, Mark & Adam for all their help & motivation through this race. I’ll be a Cat 3 rider next time I race, sh*t just got (a little more) real.
2 weeks ago myself, Ed & our friends Mark & Adam took part in our first circuit race of the season. It was Ed & Adam’s first race on road bikes & they were understandably nervous about what lay ahead of them but we were all pretty excited about the first race, especially after the fun I had last year.
The conditions for the race were without a doubt horrible. It rained the whole way down to Ilton & this put a downer on the whole situation. We kitted up & got on our bikes for some sort of warm up about 10 minutes before race start.
The first half of the race was pretty messy (for myself at least) with my only goal being to stay towards the front of the bunch & finish with the masses & I’d be happy. I kept towards the front for the most part, which I was happy with, but any plan to ride as a team seemed like an impossibility in the conditions with the number of riders (around 60).
Coming in to the last lap & I felt like I had a little something left in my legs, a 4 man break had gone earlier in the race but 2 riders had dropped off this & I managed to bridge to them. We rode as a 3 man group for the first half of the last lap, I eventually got boxed in by these 2 riders, with the main group catching us soon after. I knew I had to get out of this situation or my race would be over. I managed to squeeze through a handlebar-width gap & got on to the front of the bunch, not ideal but it was better than being trapped. After a short time killing myself on the front the bunch caught up. Luckily at the front of this group was Mark, who had Ed right on his wheel, I tagged onto the back of Ed’s wheel & we rode the last couple of corners in a train, as a team, after an hour of us each riding on our own. After some amazing riding from Mark, coming in to the last corner I broke away from Ed’s wheel. I came out of the last corner in front of everyone, the 2 man break was just crossing the line, but I knew if I kept up the speed I had I could possibly have a chance of doing well in the sprint finish.
I actually got out of the saddle & pedalled almost certainly harder than I ever have before. Crossing the line with a feeling of elation & desperation. I say I crossed the line but due to the conditions I don’t even know where the line was. Anyway, 4 days passed & the results were posted online. Turns out I had won the bunch sprint & come in 3rd place after the 2 man break. Result. 7 points in the first race of the year. I’ll take that. All thanks to the brand new BSCC skinsuit no doubt.
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:
Last night was the 15th & final circuit race in the Castle Combe Summer Series. Being the last race, and being a sunny one, we knew it was going to be fast & everyone would be aiming for high placing & a few vital BC points. I rode along side BSCC team mates Christian, Kieran & Tom, I don’t have anything major to report on my own part, but Tom got 2nd place with a sprint finish & pushed himself up to Cat 2 in his first year of road racing! An outstanding result in a fast race with large number of riders. He admitted he rarely gets in the drops, but even he used them at the end of this race, and it all paid off! Ed was also in attendance to take some snazzy photos.
Christian had decided we were going to go hard from the off, I wasn’t so keen as I’m never strong enough to keep up with his pace, but I had a go anyway, and for the first couple of laps Christian & Tom rode the front of the pack, with myself just behind. My personal goal for this race was to stay towards the front of the bunch as much as I could, and to make sure I was in some sort of position to try & get a good place on the final bunch sprint.
I managed to stick to my goal for pretty much the entire race, doing whatever I could to keep high up in what was the fastest race I’ve taken part in (average speed of 27.4mph!), there were a couple of times I felt I had nothing left in my legs, but I kept it going until the last lap.
When that bell rings for the final lap the mood instantly changes amongst the riders, and you can sense that every rider steps it up a gear with the intention of placing high. I knew that if I had any chance of getting a top 10 finish I would need to stay towards the front & push harder than ever whilst the rest of the riders did the same.
I slowly weaved my way through the snaking pack through the chicanes, and into the final corners I was up in around 7th place, with Tom smashing it in the top 3. I stuck to the right of the pack for the final ‘descent’ into the finishing straight, and put the power down hard, only to be over taken by a number of riders down the left hand side. I went for some sort of sprint finish but this only gained me a couple of places, bringing me within the top 25 I’d say, but it’s hard to judge in such a big race. BSCC got some glory though in the fact that Tom’s solo finish bagged him 2nd place & those all important points. Christian brought up the rear with a puncture gained on the final lap, just 4 days after his best ever result. You win some, you loose some.
*Warning – This post is long & may take up a lot of your valuable day at work.*
On Thursday evening I decided to have a go at my first ever ‘road’ race, ok, strictly speaking it wasn’t a road race, but everyone rode in a bunch, on a number of snazzy road bikes, so for arguments sake I will call it a road race.
The location was Castle Combe, the length of the race was cut slightly short due to the intense rain from the off & was 24 miles in total, which I completed in almost exactly 1 hour.
Now I’ve never raced on a geared bike before, or at these speeds, let alone in torrential rain, so I knew from the start it was going to be no walk in the park.
The first couple of laps got underway, I got used to the course, and my (borrowed) Giant TCR, and all was good, I kept up with the pack & was impressed by some of the quality of riding going on, there were riders that kept their place in the bunch, as well as those moving about the pack, pushing to the front, dropping back & generally taking control of the situation. I have the utmost respect for those that know what to do in a closed circuit situation, I was totally clueless. I especially enjoyed watching Christian bossing all over the shop like the Sheriff Of Bossingham.
Christian’s obvious experience at this bike racing game gave me a boost & made me feel a little invincible, and I stupidly followed him on a break he made, the 2 of us riding at the front of the pack for a good lap or so, resulting in my legs giving up & dropping me to the back of the race. I really should have learnt this lesson from my experience at my only other circuit outing, The Hunt.
After falling to the back of the pack I felt my legs slowly fading, and the race slowly moving away from me, this devastated me mentally & at the point where I was 100 yards behind the bunch I had already decided that this blog post would be titled ‘My first & last road race’. From here I would ride a solid 2 laps a good distance behind the race, with just one other rider, and this is where I expected my race to end, DFL.
I love riding bikes, but at lows like this i feel like giving it all up. Now I am certainly not built like a TT powerhouse, and nor do I have the physique of a hillclimber, but something I have bags of is determination. If there’s something to be achieved from a situation then I’ll do my damned hardest to make it happen, and when it comes to racing bikes this is all I have to fall back on when it all goes to pot. Heck, I even rode 13 miles in torrential rain just to get to this race as I was determined to give it a go. This was a good warm up to say the least!
Being at the back of a race is probably one of the worst feelings I’ve had on a bike, but I knew if I pedalled harder than I had all night there would be a chance of catching up with the pack, and some how, after a good 2 laps of being way back I had managed to catch up with the pack! This was the point where I knew all I had to do was stay with the pack, protect myself from the wind & I would finish this race with a better than DFL position.
The bell for the final lap came as a great relief if I’m honest, but at the same time I knew it was the time that the power had to go down & the last lap was understandably faster than the rest of the race. Coming in to the last corner I wasn’t in too bad a position, and I knew I had to do one of two things – make a break for it & potentially get over taken at the last moment; or tag on to someone’s wheel & make a last minute dash for the finish line. I had no experience of either of these, so I guess I tried a bit of both, picking a time to squeeze through the bunch & turning the power up to 11 for the final straight, chasing the 2 riders between me & the finish line. The feeling of being third wheel at the end of my first race was insane, I was on a high for the first time all night, I knew it couldn’t last though & I was overtaken by a handful of more experienced racers. It turns out I crossed the line in 11th place, just out of the points but a good performance if I do say so myself.
Remarkable & unbelievable in my eyes, seeing how much my legs had given up on me much earlier in the race. I was just happy to have not finished last, and to have placed this high was incredible, I couldn’t have done this without the inspiration of my team mates Christian & Mark, they were all that kept me going through that race. Big shouts to them & the rest of the riders for attending such a disgusting race in probably the worst conditions I have ever ridden a bike in. I finished off my first race with a soggy 19 mile ride home, taking my evening total up to a cool 55 miles.
A few things I will take away from this race:
-Clear lenses in your glasses are advised in dull, wet condition, black iridium was a stupid idea.
-2 bottles & 2 gels was way too much to carry, I managed half a gel & about 3 mouthfuls from my bottle.
-Chasing your team mate’s wheel for 2 laps is fun but will leave you chasing the race for 2 laps, solo.
-A change of clothes after a wet race is advisable.
-Getting out of the saddle at times will probably make you go faster, probably.
-Changing gear every now & again helps, riding fixed this long makes me forget this.
-A a mild case of hypothermia.
So to round 4 of the Bath Cycle Races, this time organised by VC Walcot.
These races have been a blast so far, probably something to do with actually picking up some points in them. This kind of adds to the pressure with racing as well, knowing that I can get in the mix. I rode over solo from Bristol as the majority of the club had been lured to the lake for the club TT series.
In a bid to do better then my 7th place last week I consciously decided to ride higher up the bunch, so when I calculated there would be roughly 5 laps to go I moved up to third wheel. My usual position in past races has been tenth – fifteenth wheel. The more advanced position did not work out for me.
Essentially what it meant was that I ended up on the front way more then I wanted to and the urge to chase down the frequent break aways by Bath Uni CC (again, when they come in numbers they use them wisely) was too much for me. So much so that on the penultimate lap I chased one down out of the hair pin and with one other guy we had a decent gap. I figured seen as I had expended so much energy anyway I might was well try and drive it up the hill. We got sucked back in easily and I just slotted in. The end result of all this was that I went backwards on the climb during the bell lap, my legs cursing my brain for the needless effort on the previous lap, I rolled in 18th.
I did a few other daft things as well like spend too much time on the hoods early in the race. You live and you learn….
It’s worth a note to say that two people got disqualified for fighting, FIGHTING at a bike race. What is that about? £100 fines for the pair of them. I am not sure if it has anything to do with the guy in a sleeveless skin suit and no socks who was being a bit lippy in the bunch early on. This is the first time I have heard words exchanged at these races, the general attitude of everyone is race hard but fair and nothing ridiculous has happened before, there is no place for it.
Thanks to Jez, Noddy, Leary and Ferris for coming out to watch. Double thanks to Ferris for the pictures. Any support is always appreciated. Much like these guys off the hairpin;
It’s the last one in the series next week, it’s a shame it can’t go on longer, will be looking to switch up my tactics again!
I entered 2 races this week. Given the intensity of the Bath races i figured it would be a good test to ride the Team Tor 2000 Circuit Series Round 2 afterwards. I had done no racing the previous weekend so topped up base miles with some climbing in the Mendips and the BSCC club run.
The race followed a very similar pattern to previous weeks. I moved up after a couple of laps on the climb to sit around the top ten. PJ who was in his first bunch start race was looking comfortable near the front, his report is here and is well worth a read (along with every other post on there), you will get an idea why from the picture below, he was on the attack with Mike Kiss when this happened;
During the commisaires briefing we where told to keep an eye out for an old lady who had gone missing from a nursing home and enjoyed visiting the park. I reckon PJ spotted her, took his eye off the corner and decked it….
I found it much more comfortable to sit in the bunch again this week, it really does get whittled down quickly as the elastic snaps so if you are towards the back you will be made to pay for your positioning.
I was in a good position on the bell lap and as per it always goes bonkers. Kudos to Bristol RC ride Matt Franklin, he took a flier out of the hairpin but was passed by a few people on the climb, a brave tactic to try. Also kudos to him for riding the 3/4 and the E/1/2/3 races every week, thats a serious work out.
As the sprint started to unfold I held off abit, the previous weeks some people had gone far to early and got reeled in. I sat by Kieran from VC Bristol as I know he has a strong and fairly long sprint. When he went he punched through such a small gap that closed so quickly I could not get his wheel. Once he had gone everyone started to go for it. He had 4 bike lengths and looked behind somehow got himself in a tangle and hit the deck hard.
This split the remaining riders two ways round him and I held on for 7th, more points!
You can see the crash happen in the video;
Kieran broke his hand (possibly from his rage hit of the floor?) so I wish him a speedy recovery.
First off apologies for the lack of pictures here, I only read books what gots lots of pictures so I sympathise with the lack of in the following essay.
I had tried to convince myself during that day that I would sit in the bunch and pick my moment to attack. As a team we had a goal of Mark gaining intermediate sprint points as he came first in round one, Tom was also riding. Due to the wind direction we went anti clockwise as opposed to clockwise round the circuit like the previous race (this is to stop ridiculously fast twitchy 4th cat sprinting, like below).
Turns out I didnt convince myself very well, got pretty bored of sitting in after 1.5 laps so I bridged to a two man break in the cross wind and Mark joined me, we drove out a decent gap but the bunch is so keen in the tailwinds there that we got reeled in as more tried to join.
As soon as we got sucked in I went again. Joined again by Mark and a chap from Team Tor who appeared to have a similar attacking attitude to me. This was a much shorter break and was easily shut down by the peleton.
On the intermediate sprint lap I bridged to a solo RU Training Today rider who had been out for about half a lap, Mark came with me again as did the Team Tor rider. We had about 3/4′s of a lap to go to the intermediate sprint and Mark got 2nd, goal acheived. As people began to sit up after the sprint I looked behind and the gap was massive, half of the breakway was cooked but we pushed on anyway and where away for quite a while.
As we got caught on a tail wind section again Tom rode to the front of the bunch and said ‘dont worry not chasing you down this time’ (as he has done previously). I told him now was his chance to make a break as other people had been working pretty heavily to get us back. He went with one other rider as me and Mark sat up into the bunch. Big respect to Tom as he really drove the break for 1.5 laps, working harder out of the two, but in the end but got pipped on line. He gained enough points to make it to 3rd Cat, a great effort.
As the sprint started on the final corner I satup and drifted back through the bunch, domestique work done in a 4th cat circuit race?!?! I definitely got a good work out from it.
It was essentially a perfect team race, not entirely pre meditated but formed on the fly as the race unfolded. Probably my most enjoyable race to date.
Next week is Bath Races Round 4 and the club road race, 9 BSCC take to the start line, I guess we had best try and light it up….
At last I got some points on the board. Even if it was a solitary, lonely, single point.
The atrocious weather forecast seemed to reduce the numbers with a field of 41 starting in Cat 3/4. Aformentioned weather was not forthcoming during the race. With a damp course but nothing worse. The briefing from the Commi made specific reference to which part of the finishing line was the finish, after the incident in round 1, just to ensure there was no further doubt for anyone.
As with last week, the pace was furious. Splits formed from the off and having learnt from then I started in a much more advanced position (with no water bottle).
Again my weak point was coming into the two corners at the bottom of the hill, damp ground made my cornering even worse. I’m sure its just a confidence thing and I can push my bike a lot further, I just need to MTFU!
After around 3 or 4 laps I had a look around and was in a group of around only 15 people. I made all the splits and rode more advance in the pack. Bath Uni CC did a great job of controlling the race with superior numbers, sitting on the front, keeping the pace high and letting their guys go if they fancied a breakaway. Coming round the corner into the climb I chased down one of these efforts and proceeded to go instantly backwards at the top. I just sat on the back of the group to recover, as it was so small anyway I was not to worried about not being able to move up again.
This time on the final lap bell I did move up in the pack (again learning from last week) and was sat around 8th wheel coming out of the hairpin. When the sprint went I did not have the legs to go with it and came across the line in no mans land for 10th spot. 7 seconds from the first guy and 7 seconds from the person behind me.
Though the specatator numbers were reduced from last week, it was a much more enthusiastic bunch. A group of people on the hairpin banging pots and pans and in the same location a dude with a Dirk Hoffman Motorhomes sign. Great stuff.
I was also encouraged by a few shouts of ‘come on Bristol’ and ‘keep it up Bristol South’. Despite not having a clue who was shouting out it does really help having even the smallest bit of encouragement. So thanks for that, whoever you were.
The worst part of the night was riding home in the pissing rain down the cycle path and getting absolutely sodden. Grim.
Goal for next week is to finish in the 10 again, only 9 points to go….