A good nights racing last night for David Price and myself.
Nearly a full field for the Endurance events saw us racing in the Elimination races, 5th place for Dave in the C category and the normal hopeless for me in the B category. I’m really struggling with the fast start to the evening in the Elimination races, but one member of the Peel household is storming them. Oscar Peel from Lyme RC riding to a fantastic 5th place in the B category.
Next event up was the points race. I managed to win the sprint for the second set of points and finished 4th overall in the Points race.
Final event of the evening was the Scratch races. A solid race for Dave in the C category 4 lap scratch rounded off a good night.
The B category 14 lap scratch race was a tactical affair with plenty of ‘looking at each other’ until 2.5 laps to go. I made a mess of positioning myself to follow the move and ended up chasing from the back of the field, eventually coming home in 5th position..
A good nights racing, the last one for the season under the floodlights as the league now moves to Sunday afternoons for the rest of the season..
Just Graham representing the club today at Newcastle Track league.
Moving to the Sunday afternoon slot gave more time for an additional event for each category.
Starting with an 8 lap scratch race suited me, it was pretty quick from the off with one rider dangling off the front trying to tempt breakaway companions. Nobody bit though so it became a race for second. In a reasonable position with 2 laps to go the sprint started. I held my position but didn’t have the legs to come over the top. 4th place just outside the points.
New depths of Sh*teness were plumbed in the elimination race. Oscars run of beating dad in the devil continues.
Then the rain came and all was cancelled..
Myself and David Price this week
1st race was scratch race, 8 laps for my group. A pretty quick race this week, good speed all the way through, 5th place for me with Oscar pipping me on the line for 4th.
A 6 lap affair for Dave’s group. A very tactical race with nobody wanting to take the work on. Dave got into a split of three with 2 laps to go but nobody wanted to work to the finish. 5th place for Dave in the sprint.
A 6 man pile up halted the Youth Elimination race. All riders walked away after paramedic attention..
Next up was B category elimination. Another quick race, I managed a 6th position this week so a marked improvement from last week. Still beaten by Oscar though as he was taken out in 5th position
In the C category race Dave Price came home in 4th..
A couple of failed attempts in the Course Des Primes saw a few 2nd across the line point less efforts for me.
Final race was a quick starting then tactical 17 lap scratch race. A few failed efforts that didn’t come to much and I was off the back on the last lap watching Oscar cross the line in 4th.. An awesome ride..
Another great race at the Newcastle track.
Last one for the season ☹️
First up is an 8 lap scratch race for the B riders. A couple of efforts from the younger lads trying to get the race going. Echelons in the straights and second bank started to form from the cross winds. After that it went to a cagey race to see who would blink first. It was me, blinking too early and trying to get a group of 2 away with 3 laps to go. Joined after a lap we became 3. Bell lap and the none of us were committed and get swapped by the peloton going for the sprint. 5th place. Nil points.
In Dave’s 6 lap scratch he was off the front from the start, maybe without even realising it…
All back together and the pace was kept high until the sprint. 5th place for Dave.
Next up the Devil. A quick race from the off.. Trying to balance being near to the front, not on the front in the wind but not being boxed in. I did ok until I got boxed in with now where to go. 5th place..
In the C category race, Dave rode brilliantly. Always in the top 4 but never on the front. The devil was taking the hindmost lap after lap until there were 5 riders left. Nowhere for Dave to go. 5th place.
A 9 lap Points Race, points every 3 laps. Lining up on the wall I tell Oscar to follow Andy Bonnets wheel. As soon as the whistle blows Oscar sprints straight past him.
First sprint and I’m on Andy’s wheel. Problem is that Andy is penultimate rider in the line. Second sprint and a rider is away with a lap to the prime. I sprint out of the bunch from the top of the banking and come within 2 metres of catching him on the line. I’m tempted to carry on but that’s stupid so I swing up. The race slows down which gives me a chance to get my breath back. The sprint for the final points launched and I come third across the line. Not too bad, last, 2nd, 3rd.
A fast race for Dave with Laura Trott’s dad soloing away for the win.
To finish an 8 lap scratch race for Dave. A good pace and all together, nobody wanting to stick their nose out into the wind. One long line of riders. The sprint started and it was 2 laps too many for Dave.
Onto the B’s scratch. 16 laps. Very cagey, a couple of moves but nothing that stuck. There was a lot of looking at each other and swinging up the track. 2 laps to go and the riders to watch were forming together. It was on! They went on the bell, I was with them but couldn’t come round at the line. 5th place. Again.
The Tour of Flanders (De Ronde), one of the most historic events on the cycling calendar and one of the monuments of the Sport. The entire Spring Classics season builds up to this event on the first Sunday of every April. For a Belgium it is their national championships.
When Tom Boonen won the actual World Road Race championships in 2005, it was too good a chance to miss seeing him in the rainbow bands riding around Flanders, and with the surge in Sportive rides in the UK it was a good chance to see how a proper Belgian Sportive is run. Trip booked. Ride the Sportive over the course on the Saturday, watch the Pros on Sunday to see how it should be done.
With the trip booked I spent all of the winter practicing being cold, wet and riding into a headwind. I even found few cobbles to clatter over in training. To supplement the training, I spent hours poring over maps and websites detailing the route and the climbs on the RVV course. I was prepared. To supplement the research, I watched hours of Spring Classics cycling DVDs, the common theme in these DVDs was shite weather, rubbish roads and riders in white oversocks. I was well away with the roads and the weather, an order on Wiggle sorted out a pair of brand new Assos sparkly white oversocks, mid-calf length.. I was all set.
The idea of spending a weekend in Belgium with its predictably wet and cold weather, watching men in lycra cycle over cobblestones didn’t capture the imagination of Mrs P as much as I would have liked it to. I was going on my own. The travel company offered a deal where they would ‘pair’ you up with another guest whose wife had more sense so that you could share a room and save the single supplement fee. As Mrs P waved me off from Sandbach services, I was into the unknown, the realisation that I could be sharing the room with anyone hit me.. As we chugged down the M6 the bus was playing Cycling DVD’s on its 14” screen, all Spring Classic races, having watched all of them and knowing most of the words of commentary, I looked out of the window as we arrived at the Birmingham motorway services.
Laurence got onto the bus with a married couple and sat next to me. He seemed OK and we got on fine. Fortunate really, as the three of them were stuck with me until Monday night. The three of them were not cyclists but came to watch RVV every year. They knew the ropes and also the good restaurants in Ghent..
After an uneventful trip to Dover, we got on the ferry for a pint. Within 2 hours we were cruising into Belgium and onto Gent. Arriving at the Ibis Gent, we chucked the cases into the room. Being someone who likes a good system, I had already packed my cycling gear into a separate bag within my case so that I knew exactly what I needed in the morning. Once I had arranged the bags from within the bag out into the order I would need them in the morning, including clothes in the order I would put them on, I was ready for a drink at the bar.
The Coach for riders would be leaving at 8:30 for the 45-minute drive to the start in Ninove. After stuffing myself full of croissants, yoghurt, dried meats I was back in the room. My roommate was still asleep so I crept around without making too much noise, my system working a treat until I realised that the tap in the toilet was too small to allow me to fill my water bottle. Five glasses filled with water then transferred into the bottle and the problem was solved. Walking out of the hotel room, dressed in full cycling gear, with a sports bag full of spares, drinks, helmet, shoes, course notes – I felt like a pro. Luckily, as I approached the Sporting Tours bus, the throng of fans waiting for autographs and sound bites from the riders pre-race had yet to materialise so I just got on and sat down. As we were getting closer to the start area my nerves became worse. This wasn’t a race or an important event in the grand scheme of things, however, I’d spent the last 6 months thinking and training for this, to me it was a big deal. Luckily there was a toilet on the bus which I made use of.
Pulling up in Ninove, the fans had still not materialised so I unwrapped my bike from the bike bag that it had been in for the last 30 hours. Obviously, I had a full toolkit with me, just in case I felt the need to complete a full strip down and rebuild before the event. Luckily, the bike had survived the journey and just needed its tyres pumping up. Next thing to worry about, tyre pressures. It was dry now, it looked like it was going to rain, I was going over cobbles, I wish I had bought 25mm tyres with me.. I settled on a pressure, then messed with it a few times… Back on the bus, I donned the rest of my clothing, it was dry now, it looked like it was going to rain… The final items to go on, after sunglasses, were the sparkly white Assos oversocks. Lovely. Off we go, I start my cordless cycle computer, the zenith of technology before Garmins. I rode down to the start and picked up my number and route card, without any fuss we were off. I’m sure in the UK they made us queue up for half an hour before the start??
I ride the first few Km’s with a guy from the coach who was telling me how he normally rides the infamous Donny Chaingang every Saturday, so this was a nice change. I don’t really join in with this conversation, mainly because I couldn’t, this guy is quick and I am struggling to breathe never mind converse!! Luckily, we get split up at a junction and I carry on at my pace..
The first 30kms’ is a loop out towards the Molenberg climb, followed 10 km later by the Wolvenberg. The roads are OK, the weather is now wet and I had a headwind. Then it snowed. I reach the bus stop that signified the Molenberg turn was approaching, I can see a crowd at the base of the climb even in the rain. Belgium loves cycling!! Right onto the wet cobbles and I tip toe up the climb, trying not to fall off in front of the crowd but not pressing too hard to wheel spin on the greasy stones. Over the top and I have survived the first wet climb. The weather is now wet but looked like it was going to be dry. Along the plateau (no descent off the Molenberg, my DVD research was paying off) and onto the Wolvenberg. A tarmac road. This climb has a decent down to Kerkgate, a 2km long cobble drag, not actually a climb but feeling as steep as Mow Cop. During my DVD research I have watched the Pro’s rattle over these cobbles at 45km/h, I’m struggling to hold 25km/h. The effect of the cobbles is incredible, my hands ache, I can’t take my hands off the bars, water bottles line the side of the road having been bounced of a riders bike, every cobble kills your speed and I need a constant pressure on the pedals just to keep moving forward. Past the church and the road drops to Oudenaarde. The cobbles remain. Descending on cobbles could actually be classed as harder than ascending on them. I keep my speed at 30km/h, my legs aren’t the limiting factor this time – it’s my cowardliness. I’m terrified, a few riders pass me, by their style and language they are Belgians. Belgians learn to ride a bike on cobbles, I can hear them laughing..
I’ve survived the descent but the laughing is ringing in my ears. The route now joins the long straight N8 road, linking Oudenaarde to the base of the Oude Kwaremont climb. Typically when the Pro’s are racing down this road, there is a general regrouping, with riders taking time to feed and remove any early morning layers of clothing ready for the final 2 hours of racing. In my event, a huge chain gang had formed, so big that in the 4 mile long road I didn’t even get to the front. Through the village of Grijkoort and the group splits, over the climb and the group disintegrates. Its everyman for himself. A decent crowd on the climb cheer us over the top again. A short descent takes us towards the Paterberg, trying to get back into the group I overshoot the LH turn and end up on the grass verge. This is the final straw for my white oversocks. I regain some composure and get rolling back onto the road. I have picked up a tailwind now that will push me back to the finish. The climb up the Paterberg feels quite comfortable with the wind behind me. The group has gone now, but there are bodies everywhere. My Belgian language skills are improving I’m fluent at shouting “on the left or on the right”, I’m pretty sure I’ve picked up a few swear words in the process too.
Onto the famous Koppenberg climb, the climb where Jesper Skibby was ran over before the climb as banned from the race for a number of years. Apparently, the cobbles have all been replaced and levelled. I can’t see any evidence of it. The Berg climbs up through trees, these trees have blocked any attempt that the sun may be making to dry the road out. The initial section of the climb is pretty steady until you hit the tree line, at which point the rider in front of me stops. I’ve no option other than to unclip before I hit the deck. From there onwards I’m walking to the top.
Over the top and past the hospitably tents ready for the main event tomorrow, I descend to the Marriaborrastraat. Having watched this sector on DVD I’m well aware that the Peloton scream along here at 50kph, I’m even more aware that I’m full gas at 20kph. The gradient and cobbles really take their toll on any speed that I have.
From here the cobbles and climbs pass by at a steady rate until I get to the Berendries, I recognise the straight road climb up through the houses. I know now that the next stage is down to Geraardsbergen.
The gradual drop towards the town combined with the tailwind make for a quick few km’s before I reach the edge of the town. I can see the top of the climb, the Kapel Muur. Instead of going straight through town we hang a left and bypass the bottom section of the climb, joining halfway up. Only 1km of 10% to get up then. Maybe I’ve had too many gels, maybe it’s the tailwind, maybe its just excitement, but I climb up to the Kapel with relative ease and then fly down the other side to the Bosberg – the final climb of the day. The gels/tailwind/excitement have worn off and I crawl to the top. Its all downhill from here. A 15km run down to the finish line in Ninove.
Across the finish line and I head for a beer and a hot dog, I’m pretty sure that’s what Quick Step do after most races? I find my way back to the bus and pack my bike away ready for its journey home in the trailer. Next job is to remove my formally sparkling white over socks and to chuck them into the nearest bin. They’ll never be anywhere near white again.
Back at the hotel I’m ready for bed. Laurence has got other plans, they are in the bar already and we’ve got a table booked in 10 minutes at a restaurant around the corner. I’ll get a quick shower then..
Sunday morning. Race day. Let’s see how it is done properly.. Its rained overnight and is still light rain as I get onto the bus on route to Bruges, if I was riding I wouldn’t but smiling like I am now. Today is going to be a proper Ronde Van Vlaaderen.
The square in Bruges is packed, any chance of seeing Phil and Paul commentating are out of the window. I had down the road to watch the riders cruising down to sign on. I manage to buy a Quick Step cap for the day as I head back towards the bus ready for the off.
As the peloton roll past in the neutralised zone, I’m amazed how big it is. I’ve never seen such a big field of riders all together.
As the end of the race convoy rolls past, we are running for the bus. The first stop is 50km into the day. We are on a dual carriageway bridge, parked next to a T Mobile team car, marvelling at how clean all 9 bikes on the roof rack look to be. The first police outriders approach on the crest of the bridge all screaming along at more than 80km/h, a few official cars and then the mass of the peloton is in sight. Spread across the road in an echelon, they are tanking along, riders are trying to move up the gutter to make a breakaway – no chance in the wind. As the team cars start to pass there are pockets of domestiques dropping off unwanted rain wear with the team car and swapping them for fresh bottles and gels. The normal chaos that you rarely see on the TV is awesome to see up close and in real life.
Back onto the bus. Buzzing!! Next stop is Ronde Van Vlaaderen Straat, the road inbetween Oud Kwaremont and the Paterberg. Luckily, the coach parked up next to the pub. Straight in we go, the race is on the telly and real Belgian Stella is on tap. What more could you ask for? After the second pint the peloton is approaching the town of Kwaremont, we watch them on the telly until the first police outrider screams past. By now the peloton is splitting up. Tom Boonen has put in a huge effort on the climb and people are trying to follow him. As they come past the group is approx. 25 riders strong. Boonen has a couple of team mates in there to do the work for him. He stands out straight away in the Rainbow Jersey. Obviously he must recognise the Quick Step Cap I am wearing too but he doesn’t wave at me….. The race is spread out over a couple of minutes now. The Oud Kwaremont has done some damage. Riders are dropping off after doing their job for the first 160km. Early shower for them, maybe even a rear Belgian Stella and a hotdog?
As the back of the race passes, the road opens up again. We need to get to Geraardsbergen now to see the riders climb the Muur. The only problem is, the race is also heading that way, the roads are narrow and most of Belgian is heading that way too. After a longer than normal trip to Geraardsbergen, we park up at the far end of the town. First job is to recycle 2 pints of real Belgian Stella and to find a bar with a telly. The telly shows the riders to be 25km away / at least one pint away from where we are stood. 5km /1 pint later and we head half way up the final section of the climb waiting for the riders. The buzz of the helicopter above signals that the lead riders are not far away. 2 Police outriders come past, no cars up this climb as its too narrow. A wave of whistles and noise is coming towards us from the lower slopes of the climb. Around the corner and 2 riders are away. Boonen and Leif Hoste. 2 Belgians, the home fans are going to love this. The riders rattle over the cobble stones, the helicopter is directly above us, the Belgians and anyone else stood at the side of the road are screaming at the riders. The noise is phenomenal, I’ve got goose bumps.
A minute passes before the next group can be heard and then come past us. Visibly slower than group Boonen. The helicopter is long gone now, but the noise is still awesome. This group is maybe 10 riders strong, they are working together, but not too much. Each one with aspirations of the final podium place. Over the next 15 minutes riders roll past. The weather, the roads, the distance is all showing on their faces. If you stood outside of a coal pit at home time you would see cleaner faces than some of these guys. They’ve done their job though, it’s up to the team leaders and the heroes now to do what they are paid for.
As this was before the days of iPhone, we watched the last 2km of the race back in the bar. An easy win for Boonen. Belgium has a new hero.. The reporting of the race on Belgium telly was unreal. Every single channel had a picture of video of Boonen either crossing the line or in his post-race interview. The entire country is watching the race, it’s almost a national holiday.
Back on the bus for the hour-long trip back to Gent and the hotel. By this point, the toilet on the coach has given up the ghost and is well out of bounds. I knew this before I got to Geraarsbergen and stopped drinking accordingly. One of the guests on the bus hadn’t noticed this and rushed back to the bus fully laiden. After 30 minutes he couldn’t take it anymore, we watched him slide further and further into his seat, desperately trying to cross his legs harder and harder. It wasn’t working. Up he gets, waddling down the bus to the driver trying not to uncross his legs. After nicely asking the driver if he would mind stopping on the motorway for him to have a wee, the drivers response was obviously not the desired answer. At this point he had 2 options: 1, to wet himself, 2, to have a hissy fit, make a scene, shout scream and declare to the entire bus that if the bus wasn’t stopped in the next 30 seconds he would wet himself..
The driver considered his options for 29 seconds and eventually pulled up at the side of the motorway.
All in, an awesome trip. To ride the course and the climbs of such a legendary course is something else, to see the Pro’s do it the next day is even better.
The RTTC National Team Time Trial being 11 miles down the road was too good of a chance to miss. Being a TTT, it wasn’t likely to be fully booked so there was a decent chance of getting a ride.
Rob and Al agreed to form a team and away we went. Like most teams I imagine, we had a plan that we should maybe train together before the event. Also like most teams, we didn’t end up doing this till the warm up on the morning. A bit of WhatsApp strategy talk was as good as it got. We also managed to recruit a second Crewe team on the start list, Brandon, Ged and John F we’re lining up too.
I arrived at the HQ early knowing the small amount of concrete parking and how wet the grass would be after 4 days solid rain. Timed almost to perfection as I ended up parked next to Rob on one side and Al on the other.. I picked up my numbers and souvenir mug and started to get sorted..
We had agreed before that we would change from the back I.E the third rider comes to the front and then we all rotate. We knew the shouts we were making at junctions, for holes, if it’s too fast etc and we knew that whoever for the lead rider on the line would take us around the first turns. With that we were ready to roll for a warm up and into a practice.. Within 5 minutes we were up to speed and starting to rotate. It felt fast and smooth. Perfect.
We made our way to the start. The start road fully closed to traffic to allow riders to line out across the road.
The 3 minute gap between each team, with teams seemingly seeded slow to fast in the start order meant that there was little chance of us catching or being caught..
With the 30 seconds to go any nerves were gone and we were ready to go. 3,2,1, Go! I lead off which meant I would take us to through the first junction and get us up to speed. Through the first turn and immediately we hit traffic, another team slowly riding the course. FFS. We navigate through them and stay together as a team. 100 metres before the second turn and I was second in line. Al leads us through the turn at full gas. Over the M6 dodging the shite road surface and we were shifting. First passage of the Three Greyhounds and already a decent crowd had gathered complete with cowbells. As we approached the end of Penny’s Lane onto the A556 we were working well together, averaging over 28mph. It was pretty obviously a tailwind. As we turn left onto King Street this was confirmed, a strong breeze coming onto our right shoulders. Slightly shorter turns into the wind. Half way down King Street a tractor pulled out on us. Trundling along at 26mph. Not much we could do. If we overtake it he would be trying to get past us. Me and Al sit up behind it. The power and HR drop but our speed is no different than before. Mr Tractor’s destination is half a mile before the turn off King Street. We get back upto speed under our own steam, steady, don’t sprint away from cold legs.
Through the finish line for the first time and onto lap 2. The left turn at the Greyhounds again, superbly marshalled and still with cowbells. I’m third rider around and I’ve let a gap go, I’ve got some work to do to get onto Al’s wheel. I get back on and use my momentum to get to the front. Towards the end of Penny’s Lane Congleton CC catch us. I kid myself that they are fresher as they are still on their first lap. In reality the would still kill us on their third lap.
Back onto King Street. Slightly slower this time as the wind and distance take their toll.
Through the finish line and onto the last lap, I’ve managed to chuck a gel down me but I’m feeling it now. The process of sitting on the front, Rob coming past, accelerating slightly to match Rob’s speed, sitting in his draft, Al going past me and then having to accelerate to get to the front again is taking a lot of concentration, but makes the miles tick over quickly. The final acceleration takes a lot of willpower to get out of the draft, the temptation is to hit the ‘snooze button’ and stay in the draft for just a few seconds longer.
Third and final time past the Greyhounds. Much better this time. A mile past the pub and the squad of Sarah Storey with the Backstedt girls fly past us.
Final time down King Street. The wind is stronger and we are all feeling it. At least 1mph slower than last time. At the junction we are baulked by a car. Left and into final 2km now. We fly down to the bottom of Byley bank, steady up to stay together and the full gas to the line. We even manage a team pursuit like line out across the road. 1.12.35. Pleased with that. 25.5mph around Cheshire.
We slow down over the line. Al comes to a complete halt, I roll to the next junction and we all regroup. BIG smiles all round..
The second Crewe team finished in 1:18:01, a solid performance.
Looking back on it, there wasn’t many points we could improve on. We would never get anywhere close to Team Ribble with their 57:45, but we were all more than happy with our performances..
A week riding around Centre Parcs with Mrs P and the kids was a great break from work and training but left me with 2 pretty heavy feeling legs on Sunday morning riding to the start line at Prees. I had tried to spin them out on the Saturday morning but it didnt really make much difference. I pretty much resigned myself to riding around and using this morning as a training ride..
From the top of Prees bridge I was off, my power meter was straight on this time so no high speed messing around with a Garmin. By the first turn at Press my minute man was in sight. As my garmin beeped for 5 miles I over took him, just at the exact moment my minute man – scratch rider Joe Dobson caught me. He flew past rock solid in his position and was gone into the distance. I on the other hand, barely made any more time up on my minute man for the next 5 miles.
Turning right at Ternhill, the headwind to the Espley island was fierce, enough to flatten the long grass at the sides of the road. Eventually reaching the turn, a horse tethered to the side of the road was doing a decent job of marshalling. With the wind pushing me back to Ternhill I was soon off the bypass and back towards Press. The wind from there on didnt really offer any assistance, more crosswind than anything else. I crossed the line with a 1:00:22. Reasonably pleased with that, despite feeling pretty flat all of the way around. The times on the board suggested that it wasnt the best of days..
Fastforward one more week to the WCTTA 10 on the quick D10/15 course. Last time I rode this was in damp conditions, making the start through the industrial estate sketchy. This year, sunny with dry roads.
With a my new Bioracer skinsuit back from Nopinz I was as fast as I could expect in the clothing arms race. Lets see if it made any difference. On the start line, exactly the same as last time I rode, my minute man was Paul from Chester RC, we seem to be pretty well matched so it would be good to see how I am going against his time. He sets off with his disc wheel echoing along the road and I start my Garmin. Exactly 1 minute later and I am on my way. The start is fast as I approach the first roundabout, straight round and I pick up the slight tailwind. Coming to the next one and I straight line it all the way through, much quicker than last time. Onto the A55 now and I can feel the headwind, its not much but enough to slow you. From Mywindsock.com I now to expect a wind from my left shoulder on the way out. The sheltered sections of the course are a big bonus here.
Despite riding the course previously, I had forgotten the small drags on the course. Enough to slow you down and then speed you up on the other side. Despite this, the outward leg feels pretty quick, when I get the tailwind coming back this could be a good day, maybe just maybe I might get that ’21’.. I come down the turn slip road at 33mph, the marshall tells me it is all clear and away we go. Climbing back up the return slip road and any speed I had has been lost – the first mile or so back from the turn on this course is slow.. down the other side of this drag and its clear that the tailwind is not there. Keep the power on and keep going. As I pass the Marble Church my minute man catches me and pulls away up the final turn slip road. Straight around the roundabout and sprint for the finish. 22:46, 3 seconds slower than minute man Paul. The return leg killed any chance of a 21. Its not very often that a tailwind section is slower than a headwind section.. Overall, I’m pleased with that, its my fastest time on this course and I was fastest Crewe rider, the new skinsuit is comfy and I think I am finally happy with my position, for now.
A nice steady week this week and then its onto the National 50Km TTT…
My first trip to a fast course for the year. Not really a target event for the year, today was more about setting a benchmark, seeing where my fitness was.. plus, it’s always good to get on a quick course. I submitted my entry not really expecting to be fast enough to get a ride, however the acceptance came through and I was in.. The start sheet followed with a 19:57 start time..
Leaving Crewe in warm sunshine it looked a promising evening, I’d been watching the weather forecast all day and rain was predicted in the Lake District this evening, it was confirmed by a text and a picture of the course from Mike already up there on holiday.. As I got further up the M6 the rain got heavier, almost to the point of me expecting the event not to happen. Arriving at the HQ/layby I heard the word Mizzle more than once but it was on. After picking up my number and signing on the early starters were arriving back, some saying it’s fast, but an equal number saying it’s not.. Emily Meakin has come back with a short 20.. A course record..
I set my bike up on the turbo and covered it to keep the rain off for now.. After chucking some sandwiches down me and watching the riders around me warm up in the rain it was time to get myself sorted.
I’ve started doing a turbo trainer warm up this year, the Levens HQ is perfect for it, less than a mile from the start line. As I got on the turbo I was wrapped up, gilet on, cap on all in an attempt to keep the rain off me. The problem this gave me was overheating, I’ve never done a warm up where I’ve been steaming before.. in the end I stripped off my cap, gilet and base layer thinking how warm it was.
With 15 minutes to my start I was off the turbo, swapping my disc wheel in and setting off for the start. Within a minute I was back at the car to put my base later on.. it was freezing!!
Encircling the large roundabout twice on the way to the start to kill a bit of time I was soon ok the line and waiting for the countdown.
With 10 seconds to go I notice that my garmin is not picking up my power meter. There’s not much I can do in 10 seconds so off I go, hoping it will kick in. I was straight up to speed, over 35 mph down the start bank and heading into the wind. No power meter. I fiddle with my garmin and it kicks into life.
Mentally I try to split the Levens course into 3 sections – dual carriageway, single carriageway and dual carriageway to the turn. Then repeat coming back. I was onto the first single carriageway section already, the wind was cold on my left hand shoulder and my visor made seem like it was dark. I passed Kimroy Photography stood in a lay-by then hit the second DC section upto the turn. The roundabout is on me quicker than I thought and I have to force my way over to the outside lane with the traffic. Nice and steady around the roundabout, not leaning it too far over in the wet and then head back for the finish..
The tailwind I was expecting wasn’t really there. It was quicker than the outward leg but not by much. Onto the SC section and I’m certainly trying, my 192bpm HR confirms that. My 3 minute man comes flying past me. His bike almost whistling through the air it was making such a noise. I recognise the rider from the CTT website but don’t know his name..
I hit the last DC section, I know that I should be flat out now and indeed I am. The only problem is that flat out effort isn’t really translating to flat out speed, my legs are done.. I hang on for the last mile and cross the line, quickly slamming my brakes on to stop at the slip road junction.. The garmin says 22:33. I’m pretty sure it’s less than that but not by much. I crawl back to the HQ, a mile journey that takes well over 5 minutes. I cross paths with Dan Bigham as he is heading to the start.
22:27 is the time on the board. Ok, it’s close enough to my season target of a 21 to know that it’s feasible on a decent day..
I give all my gear a wipe down and pack the car ready for the drive home.. As I give my number in, I see my 3 minute man (Chris Fennell) has done an 18:19, good enough for the win and a time that would have been comp record in 2001..
One of my first targets for the year. I won the Foster Cup last year at this event as fastest Crewe Clarion rider, my aim this year was to keep hold of it.. Its been close this year between Tim and me so the pressure was on..
In my normal style I managed to pick up a cold on the Monday before the event.. A few days off the bike (most of the week), sorted it. My first ride of the week was on Saturday with 45 minutes on zwift to see how I was going.. I started some hip flexor stretches during week as I wasn’t feeling particularly fluid on my TT bike. With my new flexible flexors and no cold, I felt quite good!!
The early morning sun as I left home we bright but wasn’t providing much heat as I scraped the frost from my car.
After a chat with Rob at the HQ I set up my bike on the turbo and had my number and kit on. New socks and a new front tubular were this weeks attempt to make myself quicker..
I had volunteered to helped out Andy with some of the organising, taking on the co ordination if marshals. All of the marshals knew where they needed to be and by what time so I had nothing else to do on that part of my job.
I set off for the start after 20 minutes on the turbo. I had another 20 minutes ride to the start so I would be warmed up by then despite the cold that was nipping at my fingers..
A gel and a drink and I was in the start line. Ged asked me if I was feeling good? “Not too bad, we’ll see in a bit I suppose”
Garmin reset, my minute man is a DNS. I’m on the line and away, a steady start before turning after 300 yards. The rolling roads to Audlem should be a headwind and do seem to be a headwind. My power is where I want it to be and I’m spinning a low gear on the drags. I catch my 3 and 2 minute men after 4 miles or so and head into Audlem. A good traffic free passage through the town and the narrow walled section, the only exciting incident is me pushing too hard around the last corner and having to bunny hop a grid by the kerb.
The steady drag upto Woore now. I know that the sections from the start to Audlem and Audlem Woore are where the biggest advantages can be made, my power is good still, probably higher than it should be but I think I can manage it. The slight tailwind is gently pushing me up the bank. As I come into Woore my legs are cooked. I know the descent past Bridgemere would give me a breather, I pass Caroline on the descent and try to maintain some pace on the flatter roads. It’s not happening. Through Checkley cross roads and I know I’ve got less than 5 miles to go, all I can do is keep turning the pedals over, my average power is dropping but I’m making progress still. Around the corner to the finish and I’m done. I stop my Garmin in a 41:44, slower than last year but i didn’t really have much more to give so I’m pleased with that.. My garmin beeps a new power record at me so I know I’ve gone hard enough!!
I was off as number 11 so when I get back to the HQ I’ve got a bit of a wait to see if I’ve kept my trophy. Nothing for it but to fill my face with cake and a cup of tea. With all the times in I’ve done a 41:46, good enough for a mid term position, fastest Crewe rider and member of the winning team.. A good morning out and some silver wear for the prize presentation in January.
110psi I put in my front tub. 110psi, what was I thinking of. I spent 1:02:27 riding around the J2/9 pothole stricken course with permanently sore shoulders or wrists. I hate the course on the best of days, but the Easterly wind made Twemlow Lane seem double it’s normal length for the Macclesfield Wheelers 25.
On the plus side I set a new FTP. So I got one positive out of the event.
Onwards and upwards, literally in the case of the Birkenhead North End Hilly 22.
Setting my alarm too early meant I was sat around the event HQ at Farndon with nearly an hour and three quarters before my start time..
After a chat with Mark and then Tim I was set up and spinning for 20 minutes warm up on the turbo, jumping off, swapping my disc wheel in and then the 4 mile ride to the start.
Rolling up to the line I remembered that I didn’t like hills and also wasn’t overly keen on this course either. The start is a 25 metre roll down to the Broxton roundabout before turning left into a 10 mile slog upto Whitchurch. Mywindsock reckoned the leg to Whitchurch should be a cross headwind, it seemed like headwind to me. I was riding at a higher average power than I had planned but it seemed to be ok so kept with it..
Turning left at Whitchurch and heading to Ridley Green have a good descent and a sniff of tailwind, as the road gradually curved to the right, the tailwind disappeared back to a cross wind. After the initial descent the road started rolling again making it seem harder than it should have been..
The left turn back towards Broxton means that there are less than 4 miles to go, but, 3 off these of uphill… I don’t do hills..The last mile is a fast downhill effort to the finish, as I crossed the line I stopped my Garmin with a mid 54 – a course PB by nearly a minute. My garmin beeps at me again with another FTP increase, only 1w but progress..
My initial idea behind riding this event was as a recon for the National Team Time Trial course, when the organiser changed from the Byley, King Street course to the Byley, Toft course that plan went out of the window, any chance of a half decent time went with it..
Having trained all winter on zwift, my first event a couple of weeks ago felt strange to not have any power figures in front of me, I felt lost. With that in mind I bought myself a set of Garmin Vectors. My first outside ride on these was to be this event.
From a recent test I did I had a decent idea in my head what power to aim for – all I had to do was pedal hard until I hit that number and then maintain it. Easy. All week I had been plugging this number into the mywindsock simulations and all week my predicted finishing time was getting slower. The gale force winds that were forecast were slowing me down before I had even started..
Race day dawned and the forecast looked pretty much spot on, a massive side wind from left on the way to the turn and then swapping to be on my right shoulder on the return leg.. Watching live videos of the Eddy Soens race in the morning highlighted how windy it was, I bottled it and took my deep section front wheel out!! The old school mavic Aksium would have to do. I kept the rear disc on as that had 13 stones weighing it down in the cross winds, that wasn’t going to get blown anywhere.
Arriving at the HQ parking spaces were already limited to on the grass. I get my number and signed on. The rear number was fine in the new Nopinz pocket, the arm number was still a pain one handed.. I got on with my warm up on the turbo trying to figure out getting my garmins to talk to each other.. With 20mins to go I set off for the start still trying to figure out the garmin situation.. The wind was blowing now and bringing with it cold air. A few sprints on the way and I think I know what I’m doing with the garmin.
I roll up to the line with 5 minutes to go, the timekeepers assistant wants to take my gilet off me, I’ll keep hold of it for a bit longer!! As I shuffle forward to the line I hand over my gilet at the last possible moment and reset my computer, hoping I’ve not turned of my power meter too.. With the countdown and off we go.
I’m up to speed pretty quickly thanks to the tailwind start, within 1/4 of a mile there is a blind junction so i take it easy past that, once that’s clear I get down into the tuck position. Looking at my power I’m higher than I was planning but it feels ok so I keep it at that mark, as I turn left at the end of Byley Lane the power spikes as I get back upto speed. The crosswind starts from now. In fairness it isn’t too bad, not as gusty as I expected, be mindful past any gateways or sections without a hedge and it’s fine..
Coming up to the Whipping Stocks bend the wind feels as though it might even be of assistance slightly on the way back, as soon as I turn at Toft I realise it isn’t. My speed drops to just above 20mph even with a slight descent.. The last 3 miles are hurting, I think I pushed too hard on the way out, chasing too many watts. The line comes just in time. 25:01, not fast but about what I was expecting on this course. Interestingly, i was 1 watt higher than the prediction I put into mywindsock and 5 seconds away from the predicted time.. I’ve got a fair bit to learn with watts, CDA, TSS and probably a lot more, but every day is a school day!!
I crawl back to the HQ for a brew and a cake, there are four other Crewe riders on the start line so let’s see how we have done..
First one of the season. Last year’s event was ran off in sub zero temperatures, I put in my postal entry this year with the thought of DNSing if it was anywhere close to them temperatures. Ultimately, it was a balmy 14 degrees.
After 3 months of Zwifting I was keen to see;
1. Would I start the season any fitter?
2. Could I still ride a real bike outside?
No.2 was answered the weekend before with a couple of hours out on the Sunday morning.
Back into the routine of packing the car and driving to obscure Village Halls or car parks, I arrived at Broxton picnic area to see familiar faces. I signed on and collected my number. My intention in November when I ordered my new skinsuit was to have a new skinsuit for the season with a Nopinz pocket in the back for my number. In the end, after numerous phone calls and emails to Pro Vision, I didn’t have a skinsuit. I was in my old Crewe suit trying to pin my number on myself, not an easy task on your own.
Once I had made a hash of fitting my number and sorted my bike and gear out I was onto my turbo. A decent 20 minute warm up, 10 mins steady then slowing ramping up to threshold by 17 mins. Never done it before so let’s see how it goes.
With 15 minutes till my start time I was off it, sweating in the sun.. Disc into the back wheel and aero helmet on. I drained the last of my bottle and stuffed a gel down my throat. A trip for a pee, ride around the car park, get a bollocking off Christine Roberts for the state of my number, get a warning from Phil Guy about a set of potholes on the a41 that had brought him off, another pee and then I was on the start line.
With the familiar 5,4,3,2,1, Go in my ears I was off. Left onto the a41 and I had one objective. That was to hold off my minute man until Platts Lane. The start was quick, picking up the tailwind and I was soon over 30mph. Through Milton looking out for the potholes I could see Mike my minute man in the distance behind. I as approached the turn into Platts lane I was still in front of him – but not by much. Within 100 yards he was past, telling me to get my finger out..
My HR was pretty much where I needed it to be now, Platts Lane felt surprisingly fast too. Left turn out of this lane and I overtake my minute man just before the junction. A change in direction now started to hint at a headwind, I tucked into the hedge the best I could whilst dodging the rough surface.
Left past the Grovesnor Arms pub and the headwind and dragging gradient wiped a lot of speed off, down to 20-21mph, the next 2 miles weren’t nice, a case of limiting time lose.
A change of direction at Farndon and back towards Broxton and the 2 climbs of the day. My 2 minute man had just caught me and was flying. The first climb passed Cock’O Barton felt ok, I picked up speed past Carden Park only for a truck to pull out on my right at the bottom of the final long climb. Nothing I can do, I lost a lot of momentum – 30mph straight down to 15mph. I made the most of it and sat right behind him until he built some speed up. The rest of the climb felt hard but in control coming over the top and I floored it in the 12 sprocket upto full speed again, only for the road to raise again just before the finish. Crossing the line in 35:28. Pleased with that, I had a 36 in mind so more than happy with that. Great to be racing again.
Last one of the season, another 2up, this time with Tim. The weather looked pretty promising until the very second I picked Tim up and he said the same. Literally within 10 seconds, it was raining.
Arriving at Farndon Sports club, I’m faced with my worst nightmare, a nearly empty car park!! After parking up twice, I finally settle on a spot around the back of the building, ideal, no cars anywhere close, plenty of wall space to lean bikes against. Tim’s laughing at my indecision asking how I go on at Aldi every week??
We pick our numbers up and sit back in the car watching the wipers clearing the screen. We have an hour until our start time as we discuss how short a warm up we can get away with.. We reckon 15 minutes should do it.. Bikes built up and leant against the wall. We marvel at a car to our right, pulling out a full size gazebo. An impressive warm up tent we think, only to realise that it is the sign on area for the local dog agility show that is sharing the HQ.
20 minutes still start time and we are both good to go.. Rolling out of the HQ and it’s freezing. Ride 7 minutes down the road and then ride back is the extent of the warm up. We arrive at the start line slightly less cold than when we set off.
We had already discussed changes, start order, who was going to give the ok on turns etc.
Onto the line for that countdown for the last time this year. The pusher off tells me it’s clear behind and off we go. Nice and smooth, taking the long line around a huge pothole. I look over my shoulder and and Tim is tucked right onto my wheel. Building the pace up and it’s pretty clear how much spray we are going to get from the road. As Tim comes past, I aim at his back wheel and get a face full of spray. I’m thankful to have kept my visor on. We work well together for the first couple of miles. Past Holt Lodge and the road starts to climb, I’m having to press hard on the pedals just to hold Tim’s wheel. There’s no point in trying to come past so I shout and sit in his wheel. At the first turn the road levels out and I can get past, a decent stint to the turn and I lead us around the greasy 180deg turn roundabout. Back to the first roundabout and a left turn, the road ramps up again and as Tim comes through I have to tell him to keep it steady.
Top of the bank, 180deg around the roundabout and we are heading back. Our speed has picked up with the assistance of gravity. Straight through the original roundabout and we are back working well together. Crossing riders coming the opposite direction and it’s not just us that was struggling up the drag, the speed difference between us and then is obvious. Into the last mile, crossing the border back into England and the finish board is in site. Full gas but it’s not getting any closer. Tim comes though and I just about get onto his wheel as we cross the line.
24:36 my garmin says. Neither of us are happy with that time. The effort certainly felt faster than that time. The HQ is within 200 yards of the finish so we spin the legs out for a few minutes before returning to the car. Both still not particularly pleased..
Around the result board, our moods improve. A long 22 is winning upto now so maybe we are not too far off the pace.. In the end 22:49 wins the Grand Prix Des Gentlemen event. We are 6th overall with 24:27.
The organiser gives the awards out and starts a Spot Prize Bingo.. Picking rider numbers out of a box, he manages to pick most of the non starters for the day and the draw takes a while!! It was worth the wait though to come away with a new wheel bag..
All in all a great event on a slow wet course. We will certainly be back next year..
Now it’s time to relax for a bit and enjoy a few months off racing..