After a tiring April and strongly lacking in the will to ride my bike, I took a week off training and visited by little bro in Berlin along with my older bro and dad. My little bro is ‘studying abroad’ for a year, which basically means he does no work, drinks a lot, travels around Europe and generally has a banging time. Jammy. It was cool to see what he’s been up to and what Berlin is like. We spent the first 2 days walking everywhere, which royally screwed my foot up with my plantar fasciitis making an unwelcome return. For anybody visiting Berlin, get a scooter. We did it for the final 2 days and it’s perfect for getting around, and general drag racing at exactly 49kmh.
After getting back I felt a lot better, more motivated and much stronger on the bike. I had some very encouraging sessions the first week back and was really looking forward to Wiltshire GP that weekend. It would be my first race with new team mate Will Haynes, plus my first race of the year with my housemate Ken Buckley, who rides for Eden Verdana Accutek Racing. It was also his first Prem, and with my great run of not finishing one yet, the pressure was on. I’ve known Ken for years and this year he’s made a big step up in his training and preparation….I was genuinely nervous. I got a reasonable position behind the lead car and moved up well in the neutralised section with Will stopping riders from sliding up the side of me. A break of around 8 riders quickly went, but the peloton didn’t let them gain much time. I kept myself comfortably in the top 10, following wheels and keeping my powder dry. I hit the first climb reasonably well positioned and feeling fresh. Over the top I went to throw it in the big ring, nothing. Looked down, still in the little ring. I pulled over and tried to throw it up by hand, but quickly realised something wasn’t right with the front mech as it wouldn’t shift up. Broken cable maybe? I pulled over again and waited for neutral service. They adjusted the front mech to fix me in to the big ring but I’d already lost a lot of time, they shot off and left me to chase on. 10 minutes later the broom wagon made its way past me and that was my day over! A whole lot of effort for 28km. Great! I checked the bike over back at HQ and realised the front mech cable outer had split so I’d lost all cable tension. I’m putting it down to routing my cables too tightly. Luckily I’ve got world tour bike mechanic Ollie Turner living round the corner who kindly recabled my bike later that week (euro style, just to screw with my head), along with a lovely new 140mm -20 degree stem and some 38cm bars, swish!
Off the back of that slightly annoying race I decided to reignite my 2016 TT campaign. I haven’t got myself a TT bike sorted yet so went for the trusty Planet X EC-130E. The course was the Reading CC HCC259 course. A sporting course that takes in an ascent of the legendary Pishill, which I’d spent around 95% of the previous month’s riding going up and down. The course record was a nippy 42:40, set on a TT bike 2 years ago by my very own housemate Ken Buckley! The day was spent with me telling him I was going to smash his course record. Unfortunately, he couldn’t race it as he had previous commitments. I had a good warm up on the ride out, despite somehow getting lost. The turnout was low, only around 15 riders, probably due to the heavy rain forecast. I was last off and started my ride well by having to sit up and clip my helmet strap back together after taking my helmet off at the start and forgetting to clip it together! The first section was an uphill headwind section so I put in a big start, catching my minute man by the first roundabout 6.5minutes in. The descent down to Henley was smooth and fast, and I spent a good amount of it hanging over my top tube. Then the fun began as the rain really started to pour at the bottom of Pishill. I rode a steady 370w up the climb, missing out on the KOM by just 8 seconds, it will be mine!!! I crested the top of the climb on pace for the course record, with a tailwind descent down to the finish I opened it up and my average rocketed up. On the final stretch in I just caught the first off and managed to be the first man across the line! 41:00, a course record and a very pleasing ride.
I took this newfound confidence in to the big weekend coming up: Saturday was a Nat B circuit at Darley Moor and Sunday Lincoln GP. I rode Darley a lot more conservatively than I normally do; no solo breaks, no ridiculous attacks or silly moves. I covered moves and made reasoned decisions on who to follow and who to let hang. With 5 laps to go I found myself leading 3 others including Ben Joughin (always wary of Ben, he’s improved a ton since last year) with a gap out of the hairpin. I didn’t need asking; I just put the hammer down. We established a small 100m gap. One other bridged over to us, but we were riding on the limit and just about holding a 10s second lead. With 2 laps to go the break stopped working for a few moments and it nearly cost us. I wasn’t willing to lay it all down to sacrifice my race, I was here as a warm up so if it came to a bunch kick then so be it. We just about held the 10s gap going in to the bell lap but early in the lap there was a moment when a couple of riders peeled off without really taking a turn. I fired through with my head down and hammering the pedals as hard as I could. I got a gap on the break, albeit very marginal. I hit it hard out of the hairpin and saw Rich Jennings of Army CC bridging to me. He got to me with around 800m to go and after a brief turn was flicking his elbow for me to come through. I was making a calculated decision on whether the 3 chasers or the pack might catch us, 800m was too early for me to attack from, Rich is bloody strong! I went to the front and rode as hard as I felt sensible without taking too much out of my sprint. As soon as we rounded the last bend and hit the short drag Rich came round me at full gas. It was a big effort to get on to his wheel but once I did I thought he’d played his hand too soon. Through the final chicane I followed his wheel and gave it everything on the final 100m run to the line. I snook past him in the final 10m, with a good dive just taking the win! Probably a harder Lincoln warm up than I’d planned but a good points haul and some cash is always nice.
I was actually quite excited for Lincoln. Yes, there was 13 ascents of a dirty cobbled climb to deal with, but the rest of the course was actually pretty flat. My coach Tom kirk had set me a lot of Lincoln specific sessions over the previously 6 weeks so I was fairly well prepared for the efforts to come. I started the race off in my usual way, with a stupid early attack to put myself in the red. 10 mins at >400w, wise. Caught at the bottom of Michaelgate, I was actually reasonably well positioned! The climb was as grim as I expected, but I got over in the bunch. 12 more, yay. Can’t wait. Third time up I managed to catch a cobble badly and threw my chain at the bottom. I’d been right at the front so by the time I’d got it back on and been given a kind push I was only mid pack. The next 6-7 laps went pretty quickly, nothing too eventful. With 3 to go I ended up off the front with my team mate Ben and another guy. The break had long gone, they had over 2 minutes and most teams were represented. After a lap of hard riding we caught Conor Dunne (JLT Condor) and a few others who were trying to bridge to the break. As soon as we caught them we were on the climb. I rode hard to get my fat ass up but got distanced and no amount of aero positioning and watts was getting me back on. I rode the penultimate lap solo, thankfully getting over Michaelgate by myself before getting swallowed up by the peloton. We rolled round the final lap, then inevitably everyone hit Michaelgate hard. I was done and rolled in for 59th. Finally, a prem finish. Pretty relieved would be an understatement. It’s a good monkey off my back. Now I can put my head in to actually racing rather than just getting round, as a few people have said, don’t try to run before you can walk.
The next weekend was spent just out enjoying the lovely weather. Sunday was a good 6 hours of zone 2, so I rode down to the Surrey hills with my old uni mate, Sammy ‘Some Watts’ Calder. He led me out for a couple of bashes up Box Hill. I managed to place 22nd on the Strava leaderboard with a 5:07, 4th quickest >75kg. Not too bad for a ‘big un’. Cheers for the lead out Sam!
The next Reading CC TT rolled round after the last one of the super quick Ewshot 10 course was cancelled. This one was on the H10/1, a reasonable course but not rapid. The CR is a 19:46 by Nick English. With this having very little climbing, breaking the course record was unlikely but I whacked my clip ons and skinsuit on and rode over. My uni mate Gav Newman came along to have a go too. The last time I saw him TT was in a very tight fitting GB skinsuit on a TT bike with far too much stack. Joe Harris was also having a go on his roadie, so quick times to be had. The course was slightly uphill out, downhill back, tailwind out, headwind back. I went out at about 370w, hit the turn at 47.6kmh, hammered it right out of the turn, ambitiously aiming for 420w. That lasted for about 3-4 minutes before the grovelling started. I pulled myself in for 20:11 at 375w. Not too far off the course record, and a solid time for being on a roadie with clip ons. Joe pulled in a super respectable low 22 on a roadie with no aero gear at all!
Shrewsbury GP was next on the calendar and the last race of the month. I raced here last year, finishing 12th I believe. I was looking forward to stepping it up. The field was noticeably stronger this year, with 4 Raleigh guys, as well as Liam Holohan, a few Pedal Heavens, Metalteks, Neon Velos etc. We had a 3 strong team of Will Brown, Will Haynes and myself. The plan was to get in the front bunch, stay there and hopefully get active near the end. With some sneaky roller usage in the grid area I managed to get myself on the front row for the start. After the usual neutralised section at 30mph and some ridiculously sketchy moves, I settled in at 7th wheel with the 4 Raleigh guys drilling the front. 10 minutes in we were down to about 12 guys and this trickled down to just 9 of us by 30 minutes in. By now we’d started to catch lappers and I wasn’t too comfortable on 9th wheel. Heading in to the twisty back section I got caught behind 2 guys who hadn’t realised how long the lead group was and had cut back on to the racing line. I lost the wheel and spent the next 2 laps going full bore to even maintain the gap. Not to be. I settled in to a good rhythm with the commentator spending the next 20 minutes going on about how I was the only one on the lead lap not in the lead group; motivation of sorts I guess. With 10 minutes to go I was finally lapped by the leaders and settled on to the back of the bunch with Jack Escritt of Raleigh who had been dropped earlier and lapped, and a Mammoth Cycles guy who I was sure we had long since dropped and must’ve been lapped too. It later turned out jack was a lap down on me, but the Mammoth rider wasn’t as he’d been towed back up by the bunch. When attacks started to go in the final couple of laps I sat off and let them battle it out, until both Jack and the Mammoth riders had their go at getting past me. It made for a fun sprint but I stayed ahead and took 9th overall. 20 points and some cash was nice. Will Brown picked up 8th and Will Haynes 12th, so a really good team performance in a National A. My housemate Ken had also raced, although his stature probably isn’t so well suited to a course with a lot of short sharp climbs and accelerations. He pounded round, finishing just outside of the top 20, pretty solid result. My older bro raced the 3rd cat race and decided he didn’t like my advice of getting near the front for the start and backed himself to move up from near last. Surprisingly it didn’t work and he enjoyed a good hard beasting mid pack, maybe he’s in to that?
Next month is pretty busy, with Stoke Tour Series, Divs, Nationals and a load more. Looking forward to it! Thanks again to all of my sponsors, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without all of the help and support you’ve given me!
And a special thanks to Rob Orr for a comfortable pre-race bed and terrible banter at every weekend.
This evening we got wet indeed, annoyingly the rain only started after we all did so we were all committed. Dan Bigham showed up, some kid on a road bike as far as I was concerned and despite his evident confidence I didn’t fancy his chances of defeating Ken Buckley’s 42:40. Which only shows how little I know for Dan has destroyed the course record with a 41 dead. Off number 10 he was first back to Brian Perry and there were some good rides tonight.