If you’re reading this, don’t worry, April was a much quieter month on the racing front so not such a big novel to be read this month!
April kick started with the Full Gas Spring Rumble at Lee Valley Velopark. The race went out hard and stayed that way. With a head wind on the start/finish straight most attacks were easily shut down. A group of 3 got away about 20 minutes in but never got more than 30 seconds on the peloton. Then begun the most negative race I’ve been in. Every man and his dog wanted to be in the bridging move, but nobody wanted to take a single turn. Some tactics between myself and Rory got us away for all of one lap before we were shut down by his ‘team mate’ at the PH Academy and a few others. With nothing sticking a group of about 5-6 of us started riding hard through and off to try to bring the break back, but with a lot of guys sitting on and spoiling it despite having no team mate in the break, it just wasn’t going to happen. I kept myself well positioned until the bell lap where I was mugged coming on to the start/finish straight then caught behind a crash, unclipping and having to get round a pulled up rider. I put a big effort in and just about got back on by the hairpin, where two more guys went down and I got caught again. The next minute was a max effort whilst jumping across wheels to move up back to the pack for the sprint, coming out of the final hairpin I was still 50m off the back but a solid sprint meant I picked off about 3-4 off the back, just finishing outside of the top 15. Happy despite being as good as dead last over the finish line a lap earlier.
A week later involved a lovely long trip over to the Isle of Man. The Manx International hadn’t been ran in over a decade, and my team mate Martin Ford had actually ridden the last one in 2003 I believe. Yes, he is that old. The trip over was good fun, living it up in the premium lounge with teammate Tim. My good friend Sam Brand is a Manxman and his parents had kindly offered to put us up for the weekend. Sam’s dad Ian was super accommodating; taking us to sign on the night before, driving a lot of the course for us, feeding us up, sorting out a car to feed us in the race and much more, practically our director sportif for the weekend! Huge thanks for that Ian! The race itself was bound to be tough with the big Mountain climb in it, a combination for 15 minutes of hard climbing at about 8% followed by 10 more minutes of 3% with plenty of crosswinds! I’d built up a bit of self-confidence going in to the race but knew getting up the climb was going to be a tough challenge. I’d come prepared for a chase back on with a 56T outer ring. The team plan was to try and get somebody in the break and up the road. I followed a few moves and made a few of my own, but nothing was coming of any moves, even over the small first climb. A few kilometres after which, a two-man group was allowed to go clear with Tristan Robbins from Madison Genesis and another rider from Saint Piran. The peloton immediately sat up and rolled along at 25kmh. I even had a piss stop in a prem. The climb started 20 minutes later, I wasn’t perfectly positioned but was okay. It went out hard but I jumped across wheels and held in there until the final 200m before the KOM where I dropped off the back. Once it’s turned in to a drag I threw it in the big ring and rode back on. The crosswinds on top of the Mountain weren’t fun and I burnt a few matches trying to improve by pack position. The roll down the Mountain was pedestrian and I ended up in a 5 man move with PH, JLT and NFTO at the start of the 2nd lap. This all came back together soon after, and then an 8-man group went up the road at the bottom of the small climb. At this time, I was sitting 3rd wheel a certain Ben Swift and Peter Kennaugh, who at the base of the short climb looked at each other, said something then proceeded to blow it up. I held their wheels for about 20s, but a quick look down and seeing 800w was a bit scary. I slipped back in the 2nd half of the climb, despite still doing >500w. Over the top I realised the race has split to pieces with the crosswinds really picking up. I was in a group of about 10 guys, with maybe 5-6 of us working to pull us back to the main group. I took some big turns and 30 minutes later we had caught the convoy and worked our way back in to the peloton, with a nice two minute rest before the second ascent of the Mountain. Yay. I tried to move up but a JLT rider nearly forced me in to a railing, and I quickly lost a lot of the positions I’d made up. The climb begun and in no time most of the chase group I was in packed in and sat up. I kept riding but I couldn’t maintain the power of the first ascent. Near the KOM point I spotted a group of 6 guys around 30 seconds ahead and realised that must be the back of the race. I put in a bloody big TT effort over the top and then down the Mountain. Making up all of about 10 seconds, not enough, day over. I sat at the finish feeling pretty crap. I chatted with Max Stedman and Ollie Maxwell, both pretty decent on a climb, and both had been shelled, so I didn’t feel too dejected. Just another prem I haven’t got round…
The Tour of the Reservoir was due to be my next race but some dodgy food the Thursday before killed me off, so I didn’t ride. Instead spending the weekend trying to recover. Two other teammates were struck down with illness which left Tim Home to rep PX-Northside. Tim goes up a hill bloody quick, so the Res should have suited him, had he not been caught behind a big crash early in the stage.
My next race was one I’d had set in my calendar for a while and was thoroughly looking forward to, Rutland CiCle Classic. For those that don’t know, it’s a 180km one-day race around the rolling roads of Rutland with 11 gravel sectors thrown in for extra measure. It was a UCI 1.2 race, so was a stacked field with many European conti teams making the trip over. I’d had a good week of training for once, and my dad was back from Egypt, where he lives, and had come to watch so I was determined to have a good ride. I’d prepared for the gravel with some fresh Veloflex Masters, Panaracer puncture belts and latex tube sealant. I didn’t want my day wrecking with a puncture. The roll out was pretty standard, everybody wanting to get in to the early break but nothing sticking. It was hard work trying to move up even a couple of wheels, let alone right to the front. Around 15 minutes in there was a nasty crash on a corner, with around 5 guys going down. Joe Harris of Spirit Bikes looked the worst of, just lying there, bloodied face, not moving. It wasn’t a pleasant sight. I also clocked my team mate Jonesy propped up against a fence with his bike upside down and wheels still spinning. I made my way through and got forced in to the gutter on the other side, 1 minute later….BANG. Front tyre puncture. Great. Rob Orr rode by and let me know it would be a long wait for a wheel with Jonesy getting sorted out. I carried on riding with the flat but there’s no way I was going to stay on the group. I sat up, got the wheel off and waited. A few minutes later the team car arrived, a quick swap and away I went. The next 30 minutes were a bit nuts to say the least. A lot of high speed chasing and dodging between cars and the convoy. I got back on just as the race was getting neutralised. A bit of wasted energy. My first 45 minutes were >370NP. A bit hard. The neutralisation was a welcome rest, although I soon got pretty cold. The race rolled out and I’d moved myself up to a good position at the front. Rolling past the entrance of the reservoir, I had a clear path off the front and a good run. I made the move but it inevitably came to nothing. Sitting back in for the next 10k, keeping an eye on the distance covered as the tight single track road was coming up. I’d heard from a few people that if you weren’t at the front going through there, then your race was as good as over. I was sitting behind Thomas Traviss-Pollard of Metaltek-Kuota about 2km before the tight turn. Three NEG bikes were moving up the right side of the pack Tom hopped on to the 2nd one and shot off the front, I got on to the 3rd one and tried to follow him. I hung 20-30m off his wheel for the next couple of minutes, not making any inroads. About 300m before the turn I was swallowed by the pack and ended up moving backwards too quickly for my liking. This continued on the single track road and I got spat over the berg at the end. I rode on with about 5 other guys for the next 20-30km, determined to at least try. I think realistically I just wanted to ride some gravel, that’s what Rutland is about, right? When I saw a Team Wiggins rider and my team mate Rob riding the other way to head back to HQ, I called it quits and headed back to the HQ. The broom wagon had been following our group for far too long, it was inevitable. Not a great day. As I put on Strava, I hate cycling sometimes. Unfortunately, most of the team had bad luck with both Ben and Charlie puncturing near the end of the race, I think Ben even double punctured?
April finished off with a bit of a break from riding and racing, as I’m now out in Berlin visiting my little brother who is studying over here. It’s nice to not have to think about training. I haven’t felt at my best in any race so far this season, and my numbers have been down on what I was putting out throughout winter. I can’t pinpoint why and a lot of things I’ve tried haven’t been successful in sorting it. As anybody that knows me will know, I’m a bit keen on data analysis and keep an eye on many things like HRv, weight, sleep quantity/quality etc, but nothing really stacks up. I’ve had a lot of friends giving me advice and a rest was what 99% of them said would do me good. I guess we’ll find out soon!
Thanks for reading, here’s hoping May is more successful.
2016 and a New Generation This year’s race though will see a new generation of riders and only two who rode the last one in 2003, David Clarke and Martin Ford, are entered for this one 13 years later.