On Wednesday 2nd May I headed over to Bristol after school to begin the travelling for racing a French Junior National event on the north-west of the Alps, with the finish for the final stage previously used for the Criterium du Dauphine.
On Wednesday both me and Laura were racing the DB Max 10 mile TT at Castle Combe, which was the first time we’d done an official time trial at Combe, having done a few unofficial ones last year during Andy Cook’s Tuesday rides. But with decent conditions and a track clear of little kids, it had the potential to be a quick night and hopefully a few Pbs to be broken.
We got there a little later due to bike issues and technicalities for Laura, so was in a bit of a rush to get signed on and into kit, luckily I’d realised this on the way over and had time to change into kit, especially putting on Velotoze, which was great entertainment in itself listening to Laura trying to get them on for the first time!
After signing on I ended up riding round the circuit to warm up, as there was no way I was going to take the disc and deep section down a country lane to get from the car park on to the road, and with time against me, 30 minutes or so on the circuit warmed me up well, also giving me an opportunity to see what conditions were like, and do a couple of short efforts.
From the set off I went out quite hard, and after looking down at the numbers told myself to reign it in a bit, but the legs didn’t seem to listen so I kept pushing, and just hoped I wouldn’t park up too much later on. was still surprised with how well I was going towards the mid point, with not slowing down and going even faster, doing the calculations in my head as I rode, anything to distract from the pain!
Inside the last half I started to die, and the last couple of laps became very tough. Normally when I time trial I have enough to ramp it up, but this wasn’t an option. I was just trying to hold the same level, which was proving increasingly difficult.
Going into the final lap I was properly on the edge, knowing I was on for a decent ride and time, although the legs were falling off. in the final part of the time trial where normally I can up it I was unable to push more power out, and my final sprint for the line was very laboured, nothing left. Splits later showing what I thought, the last two laps I’d parked up quite well, losing 5 seconds a lap over my quicker laps!
Think i then did my slowest lap of Combe, taking around 9 mins, not even able to power a energy efficient light bulb most of the time!
I ended up winning the junior category, and placing third overall, but more pleasing was doing a 40 second Pb and also a Pb for power significantly, proving that i just need to ride harder!
Last Sunday I met up with my team mates from Giant CC Halo Cycles to compete in the supporting event for the BUCS TTT on a tough rolling course near Castle Combe. It was around 22 miles and not a quick course either.
Driving there the fog was heavy, but luckily the sun came out and cleared this away, and when we rode the conditions were good, with less wind than before when I had ridden this course solo. As not everyone had a working TT bike we did it on the road bikes with junior gearing to replicate riding a break away in a road race.
We set off well and were shifting big time down the A420, with each of us working hard together, doing 3 minute turns as I found this was good in the last TTT I did. On the big climb I lead up and then did a double turn over the top as the other two were flagging a little bit, so i gave them more rest and recovery in the wheels.
We were on for a very good time, and although we were caught by the team that set off behind us, who ended up winning the event, we were still working well as a collective unit and managing everyone’s levels. the back straight was good as it wasn’t too windy and we were ramping up to finish strongly.
However with around 4 miles to go i pushed down on the pedals on my turn on the front and when i lifted up i found that the pedal was on my shoe! So i ended up doing the last few miles one legged with help from team mates giving me a push on some of the climbs, although 20% wasn’t fun with one leg!
We lost time, i think we’d have done a 54/55 minute time, but we ended up doing 59, which was disappointing because we were going so well, and no prize money! Grateful for the help from team, I’ll just make sure that pedals are tight when we next ride!
On the 7th and 8th of April I raced over on home roads at the Junior Tour of the Mendips, on roads and hills I’d been training on all winter with Tav and co, so i felt well prepared going into it, and also having carried out a reccy of the course in the week with team mate Jamie who was going to be racing the event for the first time.
The race consisted of the standard format, a prologue round Chew Lake, a longer stage on the top of the Mendips, and then a final stage on the Sunday incorporating Burrington Combe, Blagdon and finishing up West Harptree. All set for a weekend that constantly changed race by race.
I was one of the first off in the TT, a bonus in that I would have more recovery for the afternoon stage, a disadvantage as it meant getting there earlier, although compared to normal this was a short journey! With plenty of time to get ready I was able to take my time, and didn’t have to rush to make the start of the TT, ariving in plenty of time.
I didn’t go well in the TT, despite the reccy allowing me to ride the best effort I could, and despite getting it all out on the road I didn’t do a great time, losing 40 seconds over 4.5km, so not very good and down on GC, leaving it all to do on the road stages. I was disappointed with this result, I knew I’d lose time but didn’t think it would be that drastic, so was a bit down, but needed to pick up and go again for the afternoon race.
The afternoon race was ok, I missed the breakaway again, although being aggressive early on and looking to go with moves nothing was happening, it seems the one I didn’t chase stayed away, always learning! The race went up West Harptree and we raced up it this year, and I had some fun on it, completely in my zone, and loving every minute of it, seeing riders who put time into me in the tt going backwards. On the circuit I kept myself near the front, although drifted backwards at points, which was silly of me. Coming into the final lap the break had 2 minutes, and with a quick lap from the bunch that came back to 17 seconds on the line, and with a change in GC leader I ended up losing no time at all, so still 40 seconds back going into the final stage. The main aim of the stage was to stay upright and not lose more time, so mission accomplished.
Day 2 rolled round, excuse the pun, and i was feeling ready to go. Warming up the legs felt good, and I knew what I needed to do, get in the break and then win, easy!
In the lead up to Burrington I was too far back, and had to fight a bit on the lower ramps to move up the pack so if something went I was there. Part the way up I had some ‘encouragement’ from Tav and Stefan, which consisted of ‘Attack’ and ‘Go on’! Some great tactical advice! Later on was Dad shouting ‘come on’ which pushed me towards the front, coming over the climb in the top 10 with it all strung out behind, no KOM points but feeling good on the climbs.
Over the top of Burrington attacks started to come, and no-one was interested in chasing them down, I was boxed in initially mid pack, but managed to get out when we hit yesterdays circuit, and hit out, to see what I could do. I smashed it down the climb and realised I had a gap that was worth pushing on. Coming out of a focus turn I was joined by Alex, a strong rider who had ridden a good tt the day before, so I realised this could succeed. We pushed on and caught riders, making gains on the leading riders, which we managed to catch as a group of 8 on the lower slopes of Blagdon, where we had over 2.5 minutes on the bunch. This allowed a steady climb of BLagdon, although looking around everyone was struggling, and I still felt good. over the top we pushed on again, looking to maintain the gap.
It was looking good, felt strong and guys were dropping. I was admittedly riding clever, pretending to eat and drink to save energy and not pull through, any gain I was going to take. Felt I could win the stage, and with that close to the overall.
Then it all came tumbling down, literally! With around 10km to go, with the pack in arrears, a rider unintentionally moved across my front wheel, causing me to come down hard. Adrenaline kicked in and after quickly checking over the bike, I got back on and tried to get going. I couldn’t get a tow back to the break and with the group approaching I went to sit in, but the legs just couldn’t push, so I went out the back, and ended up coming in around 10 mins down, quite a contrast to where I thought I’d be!
Over the line, collapse off the bike and then into the back on an ambulance to get patched up, not how I envisaged ending the race, but ah well, that’s just how it is sometimes.
However it proved to me that I am strong enough to race at this level and spend the day in the breaks chasing the win. I would like to thank the ambulance crew for sorting me out, and all those who have helped me leading up to the Mendips and since, and to Stefan for making Burrington easier, “it will never get as hard as hanging onto my wheel up Burrington”! Its been a journey, just need to get to the line in one piece! Also my thanks to team and personal sponsors for helping this season to go and race with confidence in equipment, the bike and glasses were superb, and I could always see where I was going, which helps unless its down on tarmac!!
And cheers to BCDS for putting on a local junior national event, makes a change!
Well this was by far the worst weather I have ever had to race at Castle Combe, massive respect to all those who worked with Andy Cook cycling to put on the event, cold riders and volunteers at an epic days racing. This year I was racing in the E/1/2 race, a planned 90 minutes plus one lap for a bonus, with three primes throughout the race.
Due to my sister racing I was at Combe from the early morning, so was seen as very keen by people in the sign on when I signed on over 3 hours ahead of the race! Due to the nature of the day we went out for lunch after Laura’s race, then back to the circuit in plenty of time.
I got kit on ahead of time and went for a ride on the roads as an extended warm up, and did a couple of loops of a local road circuit, before returning to the circuit to see what the state of play was. The racing was delayed by about half an hour, so instead of standing around for more time I just went for a longer ride, getting in another road circuit!
With that rideI got fairly wet, so then went back to the van to change into dry kit, have two massive numbers pinned on me, and then out to race.
The race set off and pretty much stayed at 30mph for the duration, despite the horrendous conditions. With the weather the bunch riding was very good, with everyone realising that dangerous riding would just leave to crashes.
Junior gearing made the race fun, from the start it was straight into the 52-14, and I didn’t change gear again! partially due to freezing in the rain, wind and spray and partially due to not having the need to, spinning the gear out on occasions.
As the race went on i started to get colder and colder, and despite riding up and down the bunch to keep warm, i was starting to shiver on the bike. Having just come back from a cold I didn’t want to push it, and definitely didn’t fancy a bit of hypothermia, so after a few laps of shivering I pulled myself out of the race, and then tried to undress in the van… zips are impossible when you can feel your hands and are shaking like a leaf!
Whilst the result wasn’t there, this was definitely a learning moment, where I realised that when conditions aren’t good I need to increase they layers and take extra precautions, such as a gilet under a skinsuit, or even racing in a warm winter training top! Just a bit of learning for the future, and some quick riding, all looking good for the next couple of weeks racing, next up a TTT on Sunday!
This was the first junior national series event of the season, and it was a very early start for me and Mum, made even earlier by the clocks going forward, so even less sleep. Waking up at what was 5am felt like the middle of the night!
We arrived in plenty of time, even having enough time to make a few phone calls after someone might have forgotten a race license, and then forgot all about driving instructions! And a good time to make it on a road with no turning point for 5 miles, which was just great.
Warmed up and felt ready to go on the new bike, felt fast and was looking forward to racing it. After a lengthy rider briefing with numerous mentions of no crashing, bit of an omen, and safe riding we were set off.
Neutral zone was carnage, lots of nervous riders fighting for 5-10 places at the front, as that is where the race is won, doesn’t matter about the next 70 miles. Despite the briefing we had 4 crashes in 4 miles, even one on the climb! The race was then re-neutralised over the climb, and we were given a commissaire warning for riding, with those that crashed allowed to get back on to the pack.
I was at the front for opening parts, and it took me a while to get used to pack again and the movements, but I had it sorted after a bit of riding. I missed the break, despite being sat at the front and seeing it go, but there was still 50+ miles of racing to go, and I just didn’t think it would last the distance. Of course the pack sat up due to big teams having riders up the road, and despite efforts from myself and others trying to attack to bring it back it just wasn’t happening.
I then stayed near the front, but then got caught in a mass pack pile up! I wasn’t far back at all, with those riders at the back able to get off, walk through the crash and get back into the bunch! I then spent laps chasing but just losing time.
I completed the race, although died with 1.5 laps to go. I was pleased with my effort in the race, but know I had good legs and it could have been massively different if i hadn’t thought too much about the break or had been in a different place in the pack! A good opener to the season despite the result, definitely have some good form to take into the next few weeks and sustain into Junior Tour of the Mendips on home roads in a fortnight.
With 2018 just around the corner, it’s time to bring things up to date, and add in news for the start of the new season.
The big news is that I will no longer be riding for BCDS, instead racing and riding for Giant Halo CC, the same team that I guested for in the junior Tour of Ireland. Giant Halo is a team I have always aspired to ride for as I have progressed through the age groups, and hope I can live up to the succcess that the team has experienced with National Series Overall wins as well as individual rounds and foreign nationals. I’m looking forward to riding along side strong riders of which are already good friends, and under the leadership of team manager Peter Georgi. I’m also looking forward to riding the team bike, a Giant TCR Advanced Pro, and getting some top results on it.
However I have thoroughly enjoyed my time riding for BCDS, and am very much grateful for the opportunities that the team has given me to race at national levels with a well respected and known team, not just as an individual rider. The set up has brought me on as a rider massively, and I can only thank the club for providing that opportunity for me to develop my skills, individually and as a team rider, where previously I have raced alone. The team dynamic also allowed me to create some great friendships, that are sometimes rare in cycling, where riders are focused solely on their own aims, instead of for the greater good of those around them.
With 2017 now coming to a close, it’s time for me to reflect upon what has been an eventful year on and off of the bike, with big changes, but importantly always moving forwards and progressing.
The year started off with early season crit races at Odd Down, the circuit that I first started to ride on when I’d have been an under 12, and now racing around it as a junior, a bit scary thinking how quickly times change. My early season targets were to pick up points, and in the early season crit races I just never seemed able to get it right, coming away with 10th places, where it should’ve been more.
I had a brief spell of track racing, concluding in the first Icebreaker, a day that was bipolar to say the least. I had a really good scratch race, which was rare as I’m not the sharpest tactically, and track isn’t totally natural, so to place where I did was pleasing to say the least. This was then followed up by… last in the elimination race! Proud of how that happened! Best bit definitely being interviewed by the BCDS reporter after coming out early, what can be said! Got back into things in the points race, but a day I’ll remember for a while!
My best early season performance was for sure a 2nd at a junior race at Odd Down, where I managed to do everything right… apart from win the final sprint from the breakaway! Definitely showed me I just need to believe in myself, make the right decisions and the results will come.
Onto the road races, starting with Primavera and Betty Pharoah. My first ever road races, nervous but much looking forward to them, as the roads were where I wanted to make a career. They both taught me a lot, of how positioning is crucial, and showed how a moment of concentration loss can have massive effects. I managed to come away with 5th and 4th respectively in the two events, which told me what I kinda knew, hills and road racing are my friends. Although the downside from Betty Pharoah was an injured knee which prevented riding, the perfect prep for upcoming Junior Nationals.
Cadence junior national was an experience, having only done a 40 mile ride the day before I wasn’t expecting to get round, just learn about junior racing for the next event. It was great fun, apart from nearly being taken out by a motorbike, cheers for that, and I managed to last longer than I expected, even deciding to follow attacks up the climb, a mistake that was regretted a lap later!
The Mendips, home race so important for a good showing. Prologue was alright, nothing special, but not a million miles off the pace, still in contention for the second day and climbs where the time was really important. The home event feel of racing on training roads was great, and on both days I was able to be with the front, just falling off the pack on the final climb up west harptree at the last, but a good weekend out, made even nicer by winning the local rider prize!
After that the big races died down, and it was back to crit racing with the occasional road race. The easter classic was nothing special, in fairness a lightweight like me was never going to do brilliantly, but still not the result I was hoping for. Another second place at Odd Down after going off the front in the last lap with my team mate who got the win was a highlight, it was a good dominant ride from both of us, and to get the 1-2 was even better, going into the joint lead in the series, despite not riding all of the rounds. Had a hit out a thruxton, a circuit I am yet to master, and where I’ve thought so many times that breaks would go, but never happening and then just badly positioned sprint, but attacking display that led to nothing this time, no last lap break! The best result in my eyes was the chitterne road race, where I raced well, got into the break of the day, then lost the wheel, went back to the pack, and was able to help a teammate to finish just outside the top 10, one of the hardest races I’d done, but it showed me what I could do.
My task was still to get my 2nd cat license, and my plan was to do this before pesky GCSEs got in the way, but this never happened, I came close, and had it not been for riders refusing to work with me to pull an early break back a fourth place could easily have been a second place and points achieved, but it wasn’t to be. Happily though I raced mid GCSEs in a junior race at odd down and got the points needed, despite, interesting to say the least, riding styles and straight line sprinting from competitors.
Now how to celebrate finishing GCSEs, I know, ride the Monmouth GP, obviously! No… just me! For a first proper race after decreased activity on the bike I wasn’t expecting to smash off the front and win, the target more just get round, which was accomplished. Not the best placing but lots never finished, and I know I made errors in final positioning, probably due to just being tired and the mental drain the race involved. Still happy to be on the bike getting smashed to bits instead of being in an exam hall writing about Shakespeare! This ended a hard week for me off the bike, with my guinea pig having to be put down, although just another reason to ride hard, his memory lives on.
My next event was the biggest of my cycling career yet, a week long holiday in ireland, oh and apparently there was a junior tour going on! Ireland was such a great experience, like nothing I’d ever done before, teaching me loads about the life I wanted to have, from the highs to the lows. The best bit will be stage 5, the famous Gallows Hill finish, where I was able to come in the front bunch, just missing out on a top ten finish for the stage, another positioning error and better legs a different story. This much better than the low of a previous stage where i went down after 12km, fighting for 90km to finish the stage, get plastered up, and live to fight another day. Best experience I’ve ever had, and plan to go again next year with the target of winning it, so nothing too big! The highlight of the season for sure, nothing could ever follow it.
Then in the year it was scarborough national, never raced there before, didn’t go well, in fairness taking a family holiday and working on a friends farm the week beforehand with minimal riding probably wasn’t the best prep in the world, just sometimes it goes wrong. It was also changing times for my development as I left EPiC Coaching, and went to Halo Coaching with Peter Georgi. I would just like to say thanks to Mark and all at EPIC for looking after my training and developing me as a rider over the years of coaching, as without that I would never be where I am today.
I then had my biggest disappointment of the season on the bike, I was declined a ride in the junior tour of wales, in fairness and looking back I had no national series points, and with aiming for riding the Tour of Ireland, and not racing due to GCSEs, I wasn’t high on the list for a ride. Nevermind, just more time to train, get stronger and come at it next year, although after riding Ireland, I wanted to do another tour.
So instead I entered local races, and tried to race them. I say try, and I literally mean it! I think I raced less than 5km across the three races, with them being called off for all sorts of reasons, from no traffic stopping signs, a horse jumping a gate and landing in the pack and a safety risk in adjoining fields, it was an eventful period of trying to race. After the third cancelled race, although as riders we then held an unofficial race around the course instead, I decided that maybe this was trying to tell me to call it a year. So I did and took my off season break, allowing me to rest over my birthday, and get into A levels, so not the worst thing to happen.
Back to training, and just for the fun throw in a hill climb, the only one I want to do every year, and something I insist on racing. The VC Walcot Hill Climb, up one of my
favourite climbs, Claverton Hill. A win in my age group, and 12th overall was a great end to the year, especially in front of what I consider my home crowd and team who got me racing and follow what I’m doing avidly, a club I will always be a member of.
Several months of winter training later and here we are today, a lot stronger, fitter, experienced rider than a year ago. Sunday rides with Tav and the local strong riders building me up nicely, and with Peter’s work numbers are all much improved on last season, so onwards to 2018, hopefully wins and big things to come.
Also I need to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported me, from the sponsorship from Sunwise providing me excellent eyewear for the year, to family for support on the roadside and at home, for picking me up after crashes and the bad times, to friends for their support of what I’m doing, think it’s started to set in now I’ve managed to stay upright more! Also thanks to school for letting me ride my bike, and massive thanks to parents for feeding me, taking me all over the country to do what I love, and for just being them! On a personal note, thanks to Patch for being the biggest legend a guinea pig could be!
Really pleased to have Sunwise on board as a sponsor and supporter for 2017.
I’ve enjoyed a few training rides with the LatchemSunwise team, and big thanks to Lee for this support for the season.
Can’t wait to get racing in Sunwise cycling glasses 🙂
I got to Combe and signed on in the E/1/2 in plenty of time, so that I could prepare. I asked other riders about it, and got some advice for the race having never done it before.
I was a bit nervy, but this went away during the warm up, where by the end I started to feel quite good. I made sure that I didn’t rush.
Once underway I made my way to the front early on, and stayed there as long as I could. The gearing was my main issue, I was able to keep up, but when the speed hit 55kph, it became difficult, and it felt like I was sprinting.
I tried to hide from the wind, and stay concentrated throughout, although sometimes I had to be in the wind.
When it slowed I moved up through, and held my own when it sped up.
A break went, and I was at the front, so ended up trying to bridge it. I ended up with a rider, but I was unable to close the gap, and it was stupid to try and do so and stay out in the wind.
I then returned to the pack, and clung on. This was the hardest part, and there was no let up in speed until the break was caught with 2 laps to go.
When it settled I moved up, and into the final lap I was in a decent position. By now I felt like I was close to being out the back. In the run up to the sprint I kept moving up, but the final sprint on youth gearing was amusing, and a few riders came past me.
By the end I felt like I couldn’t have kept doing that for much longer with that gearing, but I was extremely happy with my ride. I received plenty of help during the race, including another rider giving me a push to get back onto the wheel, and advice generally, which was much appreciated. It was a good ride and other local riders recognised that, and it was a massive confidence boost ahead of the national race at Hillingdon at the weekend.
On Sunday 10th June it was the Youth National Championships, held at Hog Hill circuit, in Redbridge. As the name indicates, there was a hill, and every lap of the course we would go up it, for a total of 1.5 hours, around 30 ascents of the climb, which peaked at 20% in places. It would thin the starting pack of over 120 riders out for sure.
Due to Laura racing earlier in the day, I was there about 6 hours before my race was going to start, which gave me plenty of time, so I inspected the course, especially the climb, as there was no opportunity to do a recon before the race. After that all that I was able to do was stand around, chat with friends and watch the racing, whilst hiding from short rain downfalls.
The volume of riders made the eventual sign on a lengthy process, and it being close to race time it was essential to be near the front of the queue. Once changed and with numbers pinned, there was time for a decent warm up, a chat with my coach, and then it was time to go racing.
The gridding system was annoying, with a lottery style draw, with my number being drawn out right at the back, making life hard from the start, but nevertheless I got going, and moved up on the climb, as even on the first lap riders fell away.
As the race wore on, the front pack narrowed down, and whilst it wasn’t like a steady family ride on holiday, it wasn’t unmanageable. The length of the race killed off riders, and with the warm temperatures it was essential to stay hydrated.
Towards the end only the strongest riders were left, and there can’t have been more than 40 of us, a massive decrease from the 120 starters. The race was crash free until this point, so people just couldn’t handle the speed.
In the final laps I lost concentration a bit, and ended up near the back of the pack, not the place to be going into the latter phases of the race. There was a small break up the road, which were being wound in by the minute.
The final lap came, which surprised me a bit as I didn’t think we had been racing for that long, and in the run up to the final climb i knew where I wanted to be, on the outside, as the inside was even steeper, and would just sap speed like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately the was a crash on the side of the climb i chose, and ended up going into the back of it, losing all speed, having to slam the brakes on, but still going into it. It meant having to get out of the carnage, and then try and get going, eventually coming across the line in 37th. Not a bad result, but it could have been improved so much without a crash and through having more confidence.
A good day out nonetheless, and it was pleasing to see that my endurance was there, even if the confidence wasn’t totally there. I knew I stood in good state for the rest of the season, and for the following year as a Junior with the long stage races.
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.
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.
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.
The final regional omnium of the series for the southern region was held at Newport. The omnium series hadn’t gone brilliantly for me, the first one was rained off, I didn’t perform massively well at Maindy, and I had been unable to ride the one at Palmer Park due to a crash the Thursday before. So for this one I aimed to do well, whilst I knew I couldn’t qualify, it would be important to prove myself. The events would be 1km Pursuit, Elimination, Scratch and Points race.
On the rollers for the warm up for the pursuit, at the start I was feeling great going into the pursuit. I got away well but the rear wheel slipped and sliced all over the track. From here on in I was fighting to make up for that, but towards the end I died off, and came across the line knowing I couldn’t go for much longer. I was disappointed with my run, I couldn’t help the start, but I knew that I should have gone quicker.
Start of the scratch was comfortable, I made sure I was on the right wheels throughout. This payed off, as when it went I was able to jump on the back of the strong break away. I then spent the rest of the race out there. I came across the line dead, but happy with my final placing.
By the elimination I was feeling a bit tired, so I used my knowledge to shelter and do as little work as possible. I was able to remain in it for a long time, and towards the end I was having to come over the top every time. I should have come down onto the front instead of having to sprint each time. I couldn’t get around a rider, so I went out 8th, but I was happy with this, although I knew it could easily be improved.
In the points race I made an attack off the front before the first sprint, as I saw two strong sprinters stalking each other high, so saw a chance. I was joined by a rider, and we got an advantage. Going into the bell lap I committed the crime of looking backwards for the pack, instead of focussing on the sprint. I was about to come out in the final banking, but was swamped, so finished an agonising 5th. From there on in I was just surviving, and staying with the group. I gave it my all in the final sprint, making sure I was high up in the end of the race. I didn’t get points which was annoying, but I was glad to have given it a go rather than sit in the pack for all the time.
It was my best omnium by far, and a shame that they had to end there, as I felt that towards the end of the day that I was coming into a good track tactics head. I was pleased with how I’d ridden, and knew without issues in the pursuit I would be a lot higher up in the standings.
On Tuesday 19th April we went racing at Maindy track, but this time on road bikes! Before I had only ridden the track bike there, but the organisers had created a technical course with lots of tight bends and corners using the centre of the track.
We ended up arriving early – a couple of hours before our race, as traffic was good on the way down, and the racing ended up being delayed slightly. This gave plenty of time for getting ready to race from the sign on and change into kit to the warm up itself. It also allowed time to pin my Garmin into the skinsuit, as the comissaire didn’t want units on display for distraction reasons.
I didn’t get away at all well, I messed up clipping in, and without thinking I started at the bottom of the track, so didn’t have any height as extra speed to get going with. Due to this I got swamped from above, and I managed to clip in half a lap later.
It meant I was at the back of the line, so I spent the next laps moving up through when I could. Unfortunately it split when I was one bike behind the last rider who made the split. Once I saw this I engaged in a chase, although moving though the group had taken an effect on me.
I kept chasing, and on one lap the gap would shorten, the next lap it would slightly extend.
I was doing well at closing the gap and all the while putting time into the chasing pack behind me. I then got stuck behind two back markers on the technical part of the course. This slowed me, the leaders got further away and the chasing pack closed in. I was starting to tire now, and shortly after this I was back in the chasing pack.
After a couple of laps in the pack, I launched again, as I was recovering in the pack, and it was making no inroads into the break.
I got away and established the gap well, and it was a big effort. I then pulled two riders back from the break who had dropped off, and I went straight over the top of them. I was able to keep the gap to the pack, and was extending my advantage. But I was feeling the effects of my work.
Again I got caught behind back markers in the technical part, which took distance out of my lead. I then got another bit of bad luck, as the chasing pack were now being towed to me by a lapping rider that they sat on the back of. Due to this, my advantage diminished greatly, and in a few laps I was back with the smaller chasing pack.
I then stayed on this pack, but made attacks whenever I could, but I didn’t manage to properly open a gap.
With three laps to go, I started thinking about the finish, as I was now feeling like I had a bit more in the tank for the final sprint. With two to go I started to move up to my preferred second wheel. As I was moving up and there was a lap to go, the lead rider was finishing, and where we crossed the line at the same time, that was the end of the race. I didn’t know this, so did an extra lap, as when approaching the line I saw 1 to go.
Due to this I ended up finishing 6th, but felt good and could have probably been 4th. This was annoying, but I was glad of my moving up, otherwise I would have been even worse off. I had given a good effort throughout the race, made some good long attacks, but it didn’t go all to plan after a bad start, but that’s racing.
Now all that was left was a cool down, get my race license back, change and then head home again to rest and recover for the next day of riding.
On Sunday 17th April, Dad and I were taking part in a three up team time trial organised by Bath University. We were taking part in the open event that ran in the morning, with the university competition in the afternoon. I was riding with my BCDS teammates; Charlie and George, and Dad with Charlie’s dad Simon, and George’s dad Russ.
We had attempted a course recce on the Tuesday, but 15 minutes in to this my rear tub exploded after hitting a nasty pothole, so that was the end of my ride, with the others continuing to ride the course after it became apparent that I was unable to continue.
We arrived in plenty of time, and met up with our teammates and got sorted out in terms of signing on and getting into kit.
All of us warmed up together doing the same, so got the team spirit going. By the end I was feeling good, and ready to go hard. We made our way to the start, and were soon away.
We started hard, and got away and up to speed well.
The first time up the sharp climb I was on the front, and kept it together. Once over the top I got it up to speed, and then changed.
Coming onto the A420 I was on the front, and I changed as I’d just done a turn and Charlie was going to pull it up to speed and along. Once at the speed we kept it up, changing when we started to fade. I ended up doing a shorter turn, as the climb was coming and I was going to pull up it, so we got changes in to give me a short recovery, going into the bottom of the climb in the best place possible.
Once on the climb I kept a steady pace, making sure my team mates kept together. Over the top I stayed on the front until we were up to speed, before changing. After a few more turns I began to feel the effects of the long effort up the climb.
Towards Castle Combe I missed a turn, as I was suffering and wanted a bit more recovery, as I thought it would be better to do it now rather than later.
Once I had recovered a bit, I was able to go hard again, and do long turns maintaining the speeds.
Near the end of the run I was feeling tired but strong, and I was confident that I could last at a high intensity. We were able to do the same stretches of road on the front as when we started, and we knew that worked.
Going up the final climb we stayed together. I then stayed on the front, as we went up the climb hard. I thought the finish was closer to the top of the climb, so I was emptying myself too early.
I was able to keep increasing the speed, and when I could see the finish I was relieved. The message was shared, and we all fanned out and sprinted for the line.
I was absolutely dead once past the line, and we had done a great ride that we were all pleased with.
We ended up riding a 54:27 for the 36Km, which was good enough for fourth overall and the quickest juvenile time by a fair distance. The dads team did a 58:48, which was a good time as they were plagued with technical difficulties.
On Sunday 3rd April, it was off to Enstone and Zappi’s Crit number 5. A number of teammates were also racing, and as a team we were going to try and make plenty of attacks in the race. We got there early, as my sister Laura was racing before me, giving me plenty of time to get ready, into kit and warmed up. A couple of recon laps as a pack and we were ready to race.
I got an ok start, some riders “jumped the gun” and once clipped in I got to the middle of the pack. This remained for the lap, and then a lap later when pace was added, I had to make my way up the pack. Once there I sat myself in towards the front.
A teammate attacked as planned, and then once he was back, I prepared myself to launch the next attack.
When I went I opened up a gap, and then kept pushing even though the pack were close, it strung out and gaps started to open. The strongest riders got to me half a lap later, but they all sat up. I looked back and saw gaps, so I decided to kick on again. No one followed straight away, and I opened up a large gap, and I kept pushing.
I got into TT mode, and kept going, and the distance back to the chasing bunch grew.
A few laps later I became aware of a rider who was bridging across. Once he had made it we worked together, and I quickly realised that we were likely to stay away. The gap grew out which I was glad about because I was starting to run out of energy. Even when Nathan launched off the front of the pack he wasn’t making any inroads to us.
With the lap board indicating the countdown from five laps I was delighted, as I was really starting to feel the effort, as the race had been full gas from the off and I had been out front for the majority of the race. It was during this lap or one later that through the chicane I lost the wheel of the rider I was working with, and was too tired to chase back on.
I then had to keep going, and it was more a mental thing, I told myself that I had to keep pushing for 4 laps, after all I had been able to push for the previous 30 minutes! This got me through the laps, and I kept doing the countdown, which helped me. I knew in the final lap that I would be second, and it was extremely pleasing. I kept pushing until near the line, where it was nice to finish not in a sprint and secure with my placing.
At the end I was really happy with my race, and where I had come. I had given it a a couple of attacks and been able to get away for the break, and was able to keep pushing through the pain. My tactic had worked this time, and I had got a good result. I know it is a case of varying tactics in future races, but you never know, next time it may be a win.
After a cool down, it was time for food, in particular Dad’s birthday cake, although I’m not sure of its nutritional value for recovery!
Another early start beckoned, as for Laura’s racing in the morning we had to be at Newport for 7:30am! This time though I was a lot less nervy, although I thought that yesterday’s efforts may have taken it out of me. Once unloaded it was a quick walk to Aldi to pick up some bananas that we had left at home, before returning to the track.
Once back I went and set up camp, and as soon as I started to get nervy I listened to my music loudly, which helped this as it blocked out the track atmosphere.
Once changed I prepared to go, and kept the music whilst warming up, and this blocked out my nerves. I got warmed up, and was well prepared for the first scratch qualification, with a plan in mind.
During the scratch I felt good, and was able to react to speed changes well. Towards the half way mark I began to move up, and I ended up on the front with 3 to go, so I moved up and back down shortly after, so that I wasn’t leading it out. This meant that I could stay sheltered and near the front, so I would qualify for the final, something I hadn’t done before.
In the final I used the same plan, although at the end I was high up the track following Charley Culvert, as I knew that it was better to be high on the wheel of one of the quick sprinters. This worked, and I was pulled down towards the front when it kicked off, and then I was all out to maintain and improve the position. I started to fade a little with half a lap to go as it was a very long sprint, and I had to dig deep to keep going. I was pleased with my scratch, as I had done well in it and I was still, despite yesterday, feeling good.
During the time between the next race, I spent time on rollers and also rehydrating. I thought about the next race, and knew what I needed to do. I had a gel to boost energy levels.
After the roll out at the start of the points race I sat in for the first sprint and let people fight over the first set of points. After that had passed I came to the front end, and when an attack rolled off of the front without a chase, I decided to get across and go, as I thought that this move would stay away. When I jumped out of the group I was followed by a couple of riders, and we were able to work together to chase down the lone rider. I could see we were going at a quicker speed, so I gave the call to go straight over the top. This happened, although the lone rider was able to join us. Once I saw we had a good gap I started thinking about the sprint, as I knew I just needed to beat one rider. On the sprint lap I was third wheel, and in the final banking I came over the top and picked up 3 points after just getting rolled on the line, but I had enough points to qualify. After this I immediately sat up, dropped to the pack and rolled around in it for the rest of the race knowing I had guaranteed qualification for the final.
Due to the last half of the race, and then cool down, food, drink and a warm up I was still in a good place going into the elimination.
I ended up at the back at the start of it, but remembering last time I made sure as soon as the opportunity arose to move forwards, and I moved into the front 6 riders, where I found a wheel and came out to defend my position in the sprints. However I was out when I was boxed in by a rider above me, so darted down the track, hoping that they wouldn’t have the legs to go over the top, as it was all I could do in the finish straight. The rider had the legs though, however I was pleased with the efforts I had made and I came 8th in the elimination, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite events.
Once off the track I cooled down and took a gel and fluids in prep for the next race, so that I’d get the energy hit during the points final.
The points was quick and my previous efforts caught up with me, so I hung in and then went for it, emptying myself in the final sprint, but I couldn’t score points. I tried to go off the front but it wasn’t happening, I was just too tired.
At the end of the racing I was absolutely drained, and had nothing more to give. I was pleased with my efforts and that I gave it my all in all races. I came 10th overall on the day, which I was even more pleased with as it was the first time that I had done that well in a national track field. It was also pleasing after the hard race that was the Easter Classic on the previous day.