Milton Keynes Youth National

The milton keynes national had moved location, from the city center road circuit, to the MK Bowl. it was a quick circuit with tight turns, and a draggy, shallow climb that would shake of a few, but it wasn’t steep enough to fully sort out the pack.

I did a couple of laps around the circuit in the wet, so knew what to expect in the race. I made sure to check all corners and straights so I had confidence in the course, as in the wet corners are more sketchy, and despite the forecast for the weather to improve, it was best to have knowledge.

I stayed calm during the day, and made sure I ate and drank, and covered any nerves by talking and having a laugh with friends. This helped, and I made sure I wasn’t rushing at any point.

After my warm up I felt strong, and on the start line I was in a much better mental state than any previous national, as well as physical condition. I was well prepared, and knew I could do well today.

I started well, and was able to make my way up the pack a bit so I wasn’t directly at the back.

I was still feeling strong up to about 1/2 hour in, where I could tell my legs were starting to feel the race. The race was much longer than any other national I had done, and at about 1/2 hour to go I could really feel the pain in my legs, but I knew that I had to hang in the group, as i was doing well and was on target for a high placing.

Towards the end of the race several strong riders were going backwards, and unable to keep the high tempo that we were racing at. In the end there was only a small pack of 40 riders or so, from around 100 starters. The speed picked up, and the race lined out, which was made worse by riders not being able to hold the wheel, meaning I had to close several gaps to stay in contention. In the final lap I was caught behind a couple of crashes, ending my hopes of a high position in the sprint, but nevertheless i came across the line for 35th, which was a massive improvement from the MK National last season.

The race could have gone better, but it was still an improvement, and that was key. It gave me more confidence in bunch racing, and reassured me I could compete with the best in the country, and have the endurance to do it. It was a great day apart from the rain in the morning, and everyone had finished the race safely.

A Weekend of Racing

This weekend was a double race weekend, on the Saturday it was the Bristol GP, hosted by my own club BCDS, so it was a given that I was going to do that due to it being my own club. Then on the Sunday, it was trip down to the seaside town of Seaton, for the town cycle fest. The nice thing about the weekend would be that i would always have teammates in the race, especially in the Bristol GP, where the majority of the academy would be taking part.

The day of the Bristol GP was very nice weather, which definitely helped draw in crowds, making the racing have a great atmosphere. I was able to do a few laps of the course before the race began, and before my warm up, just to get to know the corners, as there were several tight turns, with quick approach speeds.

The race soon split up due to these corners and speeds, which I was able to make the front bunch, due to my recon before the race. In the front bunch were several of my teammates, so we were able to have a small bit of control on the race. I had a couple of attacks, but they never came to anything due to the strength of the riders in the front bunch, and the cornery nature of the course. I really enjoyed the race, and coming into the final laps I moved up through the group, finding a good wheel for the final sprint. Unfortunately i ended up being swamped from all side from riders moving up last ditch, something that I should have been alert and aware of, so i went backwards in the group. With the final turns it was hard to move up, but nevertheless i managed to find positions, and came across the line in 6th. An improvement from the Winchester Crit, much more aggressive riding, but I just got caught out at the last.

With that race done, it was time to cool down and head for home, and prepare for the second race of the weekend at Seaton.

The drive to seaton was horrendous. The weather was foggy, wet, and the sat nav decided to send us down lanes, which only exaggerated the bad weather. Once there it was just thick fog, and riding a few hundred meters to sign on got the bikes dripping and clothes wet.

Luckily by the start of the race the weather had cleared up, and it became quite pleasant, which was a nice surprise, as it made the course much safe and better to ride. The race set of fairly quickly, and the first time over the climb killed off a lot of the riders, as hills are rare in youth racing.

On the fourth lap the race completely split, a strong attack was made up the climb, and only me and another rider could follow it, with another group of three behind us. From racing yesterday, I was the weakest of the group, and was really feeling the effort of being away in the break, constantly extending the gap. Eventually I fell away from the break, and then I just had to get my head down and time trial to the end, but even with feeling awful I was still able to hold off the chasing pack, and came across the line for third, which was a great result, and showed that I was definitely heading in the right direction.

It was a great weekend of racing, one that I really enjoyed, and one where I got some very good results, especially on the second day, when I was most tired from the previous day’s efforts.

Winchester Criterium

The Winchester Criterium, the south region championship. This was one of the biggest event in the south region, with over 30 people in my race, which was just under 16 boys. Id done the race previously, but never came away with any great result, as I was weaker, and hadn’t been racing for that long.

I was a bit nervy before, and could tell this as on the rollers, but this was masked by warming up with friends and sharing jokes as we awaited our race. After the warm up I was feeling prepared for the race, and ready to give it my all, there was a jersey and title on offer after all.

There was a slight delay before our race, as there was an incident in the Under 16 girls race, so we all had to wait around for the course to be clear. In wait before the start I made sure I stayed hydrated and sheltered from the sun, as it was a scorcher of a day.

I got away well, but fell backwards a bit in the turns. I made the front bunch, but for the first few laps I was on the back of it and couldn’t move up. When I did move up I got mid way through the group, and then on a corner had a rider chop across my wheel as I was turning. This spooked me, and then the crash that happened in front of me meant that I ended up chasing the pack for the rest of the race due to the cornery nature of the course and back markers.

I got on in the final lap, and out of the final corner gave it my all, and came across the line 6th and completely empty, the hardest race of this season, with the average speed of our arce comparing closely to the elite adult race.  

I was pleased with the ride, although knew that if I had got over nerves I would have been higher up, but nevertheless it was a good day out, and something that i could build on for the rest of the season to improve my riding and results.

North West Youth Tour

On Friday 27th of May we headed up to the North West, for the national youth tour based around Lancashire and surrounding areas. It would be the biggest competition I had ever been in, and I was looking forward to it, especially as there was a hilly stage, where I hoped to perform well.
The journey up wasn’t the best, we seemed to hit the half term and bank holiday traffic, and the M5 and M6 were chock a block, with queues of traffic. We eventually arrived at our home for the weekend after over 8 hours in the van travelling. Once unloaded, we headed to the nearest town to pick up some supplies and get some tea. We ended having fish and chips, followed by a short activation ride at about 10pm! After this it was leg shaving time and then time to sleep, luckily not an early start the next day!
The first stage was a time trial along the Morecambe sea front, in an out and back loop that was just over 2km long. I was one of the first to leave the start ramp in my category, and put in a decent ride, although I would have liked it to be about 10 miles! I ended up placing 60th on GC at the end of the day, not the best result, but I had given it my all and was only a few seconds off a much higher placing.
Post stage it was a trip to the local shops, and a stir fry cooked by dad to fuel us for the following day, the hilly stage that would create the GC splits. It would be an earlier start in he morning! Joy!
Stage two was located in a cattle market car park, with the animal auction site visible, and on the other side of the car park was an abattoir, happy settings, and a lovely smell, as could be imagined. With an early sign on and a race later on in the day, there was time to chill out and find shade, with the BCDS and Backstedt contingent in the back of the van! Once changed and warmed up, it was time to race.
We had done a ride of the course after yesterday’s stage, so I knew what to expect. The first couple of times up the climb were rapid, and hitting speeds in excess of 40mph on the fast descent, before going straight back uphill. After that it settled down, but the bunch had thinned out massively, with the hill taking its effect on some riders. I was able to stay in he front bunch, most of the time comfortable, but when strong attacks came I was able to react but it hurt! At the halfway point I started to feel the race, so had a gel, followed by another a couple of laps later, and I was glad I had put them in my pocket! With hot weather drinking was vital, as I needed to avoid dehydration. Unfortunately with two laps to go I cramped up, it hurt to free wheel, and it hurt to pedal, but I had no option about the latter as I was still in the front bunch. I had run out of fluids, so just had to push through it. With one lap to go I started thinking about the finish, and prepared to move up on the climb. Now the group was only about 25 riders strong, and on the steepest part the speed was put on, and gaps opened up. I got past riders, and finished 21st, which I was extremely pleased with. I would have liked to have been higher placed, but I had given it everything. This ride moved me to 23rd on GC, a massive increase, putting minutes into near riders.
After my ride and cool down, I couldn’t even get off the bike! Once recovered though, I then walked all the way up the climb to watch others race, and give support to them, on a brutal course.
It was a good day for the BCDS riders, with Laura placing highly despite dropping her chain on the climb whilst in the lead group, Charlie performing well on his less favoured terrain, and Sam doing well on his less favoured terrain as well.
After the finish of the day there was a reward in the form of a barbecue hosted by the Thatcher’s, followed by packing up our things that we bought, with it being our last night and another early start ahead.
A decent sleep later, it was time to leave and head to the final couple of stages, hosted at the Salt Ayre Race Circuit, a narrow twisty circuit, renown for fast races and sprint finishes. We ended up in the middle of the circuit, able to view other races from both sides of the circuit, and near a crossing point. Once signed on for the final time, time to change and prepare for stage 3, 22 laps of the circuit in a clockwise direction, a total of 28km. Due to my performance yesterday, I would be gridded for the stage, meaning that I avoided the mad rush, and could take extra time preparing.
The race was quick, and due to the narrowness of the circuit almost impossible to move up in the group. I ended up towards the back of the group, and avoided a crash at close quarters to me, but still meaning I had to give chase to get into the front group again, but it only took a matter of a straight. There wasn’t much let up in the pace, and this increased towards the end. I was content with finishing upright, after realising there was no real way that there would be any GC splits, or ways I could move up in general classification. Stage 3 finished, still in 23rd on GC, and still upright.
A cool down later it was time to change into normal clothes, eat, rest and then get ready for stage 4. This was again on the same circuit, but anti-clockwise this time, and due to time constraints on 20 laps, about 25.5km. Another sprint was expected, and a change in GC leader could make the race a whole lot quicker and harder.
It was set off, and within the first 100m a rider had hit the deck, and we had to restart. After the restart the race was quick, and it became apparent that there were a lot of tired minds in the pack, as some of the riding was dubious. Towards the end it got nervy, with riders being pushed onto the grass in some corners, and some swerving and back wheel locking! Towards the final laps the pace picked up, and in the final corner a big crash happened, with lots of riders hitting the deck in front of me. It was a case of getting out the way, and then sprinting for the line. I finished about half way down the pack, which I was happy with, as it meant no GC splits and since I had got caught behind the crash.
The final line marked the end of the tour, and due to a rider having to pull out mid race after a mechanical incident, I was up to 22nd on general classification. I was happy with this result, and knew that in every stage I had given it my all, although a bit more clever riding could have placed me even higher. Nonetheless I was pleased since it was my first tour, and gives me confidence for future road races as a youth and a junior rider. An enjoyable weekend spent with good friends and some great racing across the categories.
All that was left was to load up the van, and begin the journey home, which thankfully had better traffic than the journey up.
A big thanks to the organisers of the North West Tour and the sponsors and volunteers who made the event possible. Also a massive thanks to Dad for driving us there and both Mum and Dad for constant support over the weekend, along with our friends.