Sunday, 14 July 2013

June + July

So after my podium in the regionals I was looking to build on it with some more good results and hopefully some wins! I headed out to Belgium for two weeks from the end of May through to mid June with my team-mate Lawrence. We were based on a lovely lettuce farm about 15km from Gent, perfectly situated for both racing and leisure! Belgian cycling culture never fails to amaze me, and this happened again when we turned up to our first kermesse of the trip in the pouring rain, yet still there were a couple of hundred people lining the barriers cheering us on every lap, and this is just an amateur evening race in the week!!

The first few races were a mixed bag, I had a few digs in breaks but nothing was ever sticking and I wasn't getting any decent results due to a couple of incidents on corners, and tired legs of course. The last two races were a bit better, and on the final race I spent a lot of time off the front in various little moves, and I was really starting to feel like I could make something stick, however on the final lap I gave it everything to get away and it didn't happen so again no result. All in all Belgium was not entirely succesful, but by the time we left I was starting to feel like I was getting my legs back!

So back to the UK for some more domestic racing, and immediately I bagged a criterium win in my first race back, result!! Very happy. On the road racing scene I secured 8th in a National B race (Nick Clark Memorial Road Race) in a sprint finish which was pleasing, and then 2 weeks later I bagged another win down in Portsmouth.

Amongst these, I also rode the Tour of Dorset, a race consisting of 4 stages over 2 days, I managed to bag 5th and 7th on stages 1 and 3, and secured 15th overall in the race, slightly disappointed to have missed the top 10 overall as I felt very strong on the final stage but could not escape the bunch in a very fast race on a fairly flat circuit.

I also rode the Stockton GP Premier Calendar last weekend, that was an experience! I messed up my positioning halfway through the race and found myself on the wrong side of a split, this meant I was out of the race after 65 miles, slightly gutted as I could have definitely finished that race had I used my head more!! Nevertheless my legs are feeling really strong now and I am hoping to end the season on a high with a load more results and points!! Bring it on!!

Huge thanks to my sponsors BDL and Houston Cox Central for their support, without them I wouldn't be able to race abroad or travel around the country racing big UK races, massive thank you guys!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Central Region Road Race Championship - 19th May

Firstly a litte catch up on the last couple of weeks! Stockbridge Down was a frustrating race on 5th May, legs great, tactics rubbish. Rolled in 21st with a face like a slapped arse thinking I could have done so much better! Lincoln GP on the 12th May was great fun, my first premier calendar with thousands of people lining the streets up the infamous Michaelgate climb. I was however not prepared for the step up in class from National B racing and was pulled out 60 miles in.


So onto today! Central Region road race champs. This was an 89 mile race around my local course, the Great Milton circuit which is widely regarded as a fairly flat course with only a couple of short hills and lots of long gentle sections. That said, a race is only as hard as you make it and I had every intention of making this race incredibly tough! Seeing as I live so close I rode over with my team-mate Lawrence for a gentle warm up, so I was ready to go from the gun... That is exactly what happened! I followed a few early moves that came to nought but after about 10 miles a group of us had made a gap from the bunch, and pushed hard to get away. Another small group rode up fairly quickly and soon we had a group of 12 off the front pulling out a significant gap. I was lucky to find myself with a team-mate in the break, Ken Buckley rode himself into the ground in only his second road race ever and never once missed a turn at the front, and this was a great help to me all race. The break worked smoothly for 4 laps with everyone pulling their fair share at the front, and we found ourselves with a gap of 4m51s at one point, it was now that it became clear we would stay to the finish.

AW Cycles riding hard in the break

In the break

On the 5th lap there were some fireworks up Clare Hill which saw us shell 4 riders from the break before the lead group of 8 came back together and continued to work together. As we heard the bell on the last time over the line there was an attack which saw 2 riders gain about 10 seconds and dangle for around 3 miles before we brought them back. As we caught them I put in a big push and rode away with Mike Wragg, we got a decent gap and I pushed on hard, I soon realised this was futile though as Mike refused to come through for a turn, deciding that I wasn't going to waste my efforts dragging someone round the course I sat up and rejoined my companions. It was all cat and mouse and a few more futile attacks went, but as we reached the final drag before the finish it was an 8 man group together, all looking at each other waiting for someone to start the sprint. It was Pete Wager from Felt who started to wind it up from the front, however there was a coming together with two other riders which resulted in the three guys hitting the deck with 200m to go. The sprint carried on up ahead and it was Mike Smith from Corley Cycles who kicked hard past me, I tried to get back on terms but couldn't match his turn of speed, I started to catch up to his wheel in the last 50 metres but by this point he had his arms up and the win in the bag. I rolled over in 2nd, very happy with the result, this was definitely the best road race result of my career, you do however always get a bittersweet feeling with 2nd place... Regional Champion would have been a nice title to have, nevermind! Massive well done to Ken Buckley who despite getting shelled with a lap to go managed to hold off the chase group and take a brilliant 9th place. A brilliant day for AW Cycles Road Team with two in the top 10, a podium, and a strong finish from Lawrence finishing just ahead of the main bunch.

 Mike jumps away...

Mike Smith 1st, Me 2nd, Mark Baines 3rd


I am so happy to finally get a result to show for my hard work, hopefully this is the first of many bigger results to come this year. I have the SERRL 3-Day stage race in Kent next weekend and then its destination Belgium with Lawrence!! Bring on the rest of the season!


Monday, 29 April 2013

April Races

On the 7th April I made the long trip down to Yeovil, Somerset for the Ham Hill Road Race. I was finally starting to feel like myself again in training and thoroughly looking forward to this race. The 2.5 hour journey was a good laugh with my team mate James but by the time we got there we were psyched and ready to go. I was right at the front before the start and set off right behind the lead car... for all of 1 mile. Punctured out before the race had even started, thanks to the organisers not bothering with a neutral service car, despite having 3 cars following the bunch nobody thought to put wheels in them. Fuming doesn't describe how I was feeling after that, waste of time and money. It wasn't an entirely wasted day for the team though as James rode strongly to make the break and bag a top 10!

The weekend after was a 2-day race down in Kent, the Toachim House GP, which consisted of a TT, a criterium, and a long, hilly road race. I borrowed a TT bike for the weekend and despite having not ridden the bike before rode fairly well to bag a top 20 on stage 1 less than a minute down on the stage winner over an 8 mile course, possibly lost some time through the corners but happy enough with that result.

For stage 2 the weather changed and the rain came down heavily making the course extremely wet. Due to recent accidents I seem to have lost my old confidence through corners (which I am working on again), so kept dropping the wheel in front on corners, and after 1 hour I got fed up of chasing the wheel in front after every bend so I sat up and rolled around at recovery pace saving myself for day 2 and accepting that the GC had gone. I ended up 12 minutes down on the stage winner.

Cornering badly in the Criterium

So after a lonely night in a travelodge I was ready to smash up the opposition on stage 3, a hilly 90 mile stage ending on a 1.5 mile climb to the finish. A few attacks came and went early on, but nothing looked like staying away. At 30miles there was a group at 1m30 and a quartet chasing these guys just in front of the bunch, with most teams represented it looked like a strong move to go with so I soloed across to the chasers and we rode up to form the winning break of the day. I rode as tactically as I could trying to make the stronger teams work harder to stay away, but did more than my fair share of work in the break and after 60 miles off the front I had very little left for the final climb and rolled in 11th on the stage. A good result and I was happy to spend a day in the break after my early season bad luck, things are finally looking up. The time gaps back to the remaining riders were large but not large enough to offset my deficit from the previous stage so my final GC placing was a mediocre 29th.

Attacking up to the break

Riding in the chase group
My last road race in April was to be my biggest race of the year, the Rutland-Melton International CiCle Classic, a UCI 1.2 race with 12 continental teams and a field of almost 200 riders. I was feeling comfortable in the bunch for the first 50 miles until I hit a large pothole just before the feed zone and my bars twisted down in my stem making it impossible to ride. I stopped to get it fixed by the service car but couldn't chase back on through the off road sectors and was eventually pulled out. A disappointing way to drop out but as the race went on it became clear I wasn't the only one with problems, lots of mechanicals and punctures, along with the nature of the course meant that about 40 riders finished the race out of a starting field of almost 200. The race was a great experience and a taste of a higher level of racing, it has definitely shown me where I need to be in terms of ability. Time to get there!

My next race is the Stockbridge Down Road Race near Southampton on 5th May, hoping to put on a good showing in this race and kickstart the rest of my season with a strong result. Then the next big race is the Lincoln GP, part of the UK Premier Calendar series.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Winter & Early Season

Over the winter I had a lot of ups and downs, two different knee injuries put paid to over 3 weeks worth of winter training, but by the beginning of 2013 I was starting to get to where I needed to be. I had put in ~3,000 miles of winter base training and my knee injuries were being well treated with massage and stretching sessions. A solid two week training camp in the canary islands saw me move closer to race fitness and make big gains in the build up to the season, I was losing my winter puppy fat and getting towards race weight, and I felt more powerful than ever before. Two weeks back in the UK continuing with steady miles saw me continue to build towards the season, I did a small race in Essex and felt very strong coming in 2nd place, a good start to my racing in 2013.

In mid february I was once again boarding a plane and getting ready to spend 2 weeks in Spain to fine tune my top end speed ready to hit the early season at full speed. I did a huge first week riding for 32 hours in 8 days, and in hindsight this was too much. On the 9th day I began to feel rough and couldn't finish the long ride we had planned and was struggling to breathe on the climb up the Col de Rates, I took an early loop home and that was my last ride in Spain. I couldn't ride for the next week and felt very ill, this was incredibly disappointing in the build up to my first race. On return to the UK I saw the doctor and got diagnosed with a Chest Infection, got put on antibiotics. Next week diagnosed with Tonsillitis, put on antibiotics... then had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics! It seemed like this wasn't going away and finally the doctor took some blood tests and it transpired that I had Glandular Fever the whole time. By now I hadn't trained for 3 weeks and was still feeling tired, but beginning to see improvements in my throat and the swelling was going down.

After a whole month off the bike I finally began to ease back into training, and my first race back was a complete disaster... I lasted 20 minutes and it was clear to see the fitness I had lost. Nevertheless I have been training hard for the last two weeks and my fitness is improving quickly, I can see the gains being made and I am looking to be competing at the sharp end of races by the end of April, hopefully in time for the Rutland-Melton CiCle Classic on the 21st.

I am now back on track, looking forward to hitting the races hard and showing people the gains I've made over the winter.

I am proud to be representing AW Cycles Road Team for the 2013 season, we are a small elite team looking to score highly in the national rankings and surprise a few people with some big results in national b races. I will be riding a brand new Wilier Zero 7 for the year, a fantastic race bike and by far the best bike I have ever ridden. The team are supported by High 5 nutrition, exactly what we need to fuel us for the big races this year!

I am also very happy to be personally supported by BDL Group and Houston Cox Central, these guys are supporting me through my race calendar and I am very grateful for this. I am keen to repay the support from these businesses and will be promoting them throughout the season. Check out my sponsor page for full details.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to keeping you regularly updated throughout the season!


Monday, 5 November 2012

End of season update

It's been a long time since my last blog when I was in Belgium, I've had some great late season results, had a few weeks off training, and am already getting stuck in to winter training.

My last race in Belgium was a roaring success in a fast flat race, 75 miles at over 27mph and the last 30 miles spent in a break of 12 at the head of the race driving the group. I tried to attack the group but due to the sheer pace of the race there was no getting away and it came down to a sprint, I started well but cramped badly and ended up 8th. My best result of the season and I was over the moon to have finally made a break stick in a kermesse!

I headed back to the UK much fitter, much leaner and with much more race experience and wisdom which I was hoping to put to good use in my last few races of the season. My first race back in the UK was a Regional A race in Stratford Upon Avon, the GP Bicicielo Pinarello. It was quite a short race at 56 miles, and an early crash put paid to the hopes of over a dozen riders. I got in a move on lap 2 that was away for 10 miles but couldn't stick. With 15 miles to go, 6 riders attacked the bunch and built a lead of 1 minute, I knew I needed to react to this, and with 7 miles to go I followed an attack on the drag through the village of Inkberrow, nobody else came with us and I was suddenly away with one rider for company. We had to push incredibly hard with a minute gap to bridge up to, and time was running out! with 1 mile to go we still had about 10 seconds to get across, after a couple of hard pushes we finally got across with no more than 500 metres to the finish line, my breakaway companion was on the front and put in a huge dig to go straight past the guys in front. I then came round him and lunged for the line beating him by about a wheel length. Arms aloft, job done, win number 2!

Winning the GP Bicicielo Pinarello in Worcestershire.

Next up was a midweek national b crit in Portsmouth, not a big race but with a few decent riders turning up it was looking to be a tough race. That it was. Spent 30 minutes in a break of 6 trying to take a lap on the bunch, we were lapping at well over 30mph, which showed in the eventual race average of 31mph! We eventually took the lap with 5 minutes to go and Felt-Colbornes took up the lead out for their sprinter Justin, who duly took the win, I managed to cling on behind for second place and clinched my 1st category licence, my main aim for the season! Fastest race I have ever done and one of the most fun, a complete smashfest!
I now only had one big race left, the National A road race in Essex, the Jef Schils Memorial. There were a lot of big name riders from big teams on the startsheet, and it was looking like it would be a veyr hard race. At 93 miles it would also be the longest race I've ever done, which I was relishing as I often come good at the back end of a race. A group went away early on, 3 riders building a couple of minutes on the peloton and staying out for a long time. The race was fast and exposed so it was important to pay attention. I stayed largely out of trouble for the first couple of hours, made my way to the front for a while but the race was too fast for anything to happen. Eventually with 20 miles to go I initiated an attack by attacking on an exposed crosswind section, we ended up in a group of 12, with another 10 riders ahead of us, we worked very smoothly together until about 5 miles to go, when we had a clear advantage over the bunch and it all started kicking off, however nothing stuck and our group was together until with 1 mile to go I put in a massive dig on the drag before the finish straight, I gapped my companions and drove for the line, however with less than 100m to go 4 of the group sprinted past me and I ended up in 15th place. Another great result that made me very happy, and put confidence in me that I am ready to step up next year and compete in Premier Calendar races.
And that was that, a couple more small races but I wasn't training much and got no results to speak of. My season ended on September the 23rd and I was relieved to be able to rest. It had been a long hard season and I was ready to take some time off and kick back for a while. It was a very successful season for me, I achieved most of my goals for the season, took two victories on the road, and gained my 1st cat licence. I would like to thank all the guys at Dream Cycling for their help in 2012, without whom it would have been a very different story.
What will 2013 hold for me? Who knows, but I have some big aims both in the UK and in Europe, some serious training and lifestyle changes planned, and a new team to ride for. I can't wait, but for now the excitement goes on hold as I start to build the foundations for 2013... Base miles and lots of them. Long rides, wrapped up warm, getting fit again.
Until then,

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Learning some tough lessons

Hi guys,

So as I mentioned in my last blog I am currently in Belgium, staying near Gent in the Oost-Vlaanderen region, and trying to gain some much needed experience of racing on the continent. My first two races were mentioned in my previous post, but just to recap they went very well, bare the mechanical in the 2nd race. My legs were feeling good and I was excited for my next race.

Next up would be my first U23 kermesse, these are apparently even faster and even harder than 1.12B category races... oh joy. Kruishoutem was the latest Belgian town to be gripped by cycling fever as the townspeople came out in force, blasted their music, and cheered on a bunch of random guys in lycra. The Belgian attitude towards cycling and the atmosphere at races is simply incredible, something the UK could really learn from. Kruishoutem was a tough course and with strong winds it was bound to split the race as the strong guys 'stuck it in the gutter' to try and force gaps. This was more or less how my race went, I wasn't feeling fantastic, but being me I obviously had to have an early dig off the front of the bunch, bridging across (almost) to the break... I spent a few minutes off the front at 30+mph on my own trying to get to the lead group, got about 20 metres from their wheels... and my legs went pop. This would be the break that stayed away for the entirity of the race, so good tactics, bad legs. I managed to hang in the bunch for another 25 miles but eventually packed after 30 miles of furious racing. The race proceeded to break up completely and out of 108 starters, only 55 were placed, and less than 20 guys completing the full race distance. My legs weren't up to it today, but nevertheless a fun day out and a great atmosphere.

Chasing at Kruishoutem

So after a poor showing at Kruishoutem I was keen to jump straight back in to it, so the following day I was heading off to nearby Evergem for a 75 mile 1.12B kermesse. This was a smaller field than usual with only about 50 riders taking to the start line, but the field was insane, 2 national champions and about 20 of the top riders from Belgian teams. This was going to be tough. The race started fairly sedately for the first couple of miles, then a few attacks started going and the pace rocketed. A 10 man move went off the front after about 10 miles and got a gap that stayed just under a minute for a long time, the bunch were rolling through keeping them pegged, but eventually a few guys attacked and I followed their wheels, and a group of 12 of us escaped the bunch. We worked tirelessly for 30 miles to bridge the gap over to the lead group and at around 50 miles we linked up forming a 22 man break... unfortunately this is where my race ends, after working my arse off for 50 miles I lost contact sprinting out of a corner and was pulled out with 5 laps to go. We had averaged 28mph and this was by far the toughest race I had ever been in, I was placed 22nd and got my first bit of prize money out here in Belgium. Pleased with that. Gediminas Bagdonas won the race... he rode at the olympics and will be at the Tour of Britain in a few weeks time.

Just one more race to speak of now, a really fun course at Wambeek-Ternat that took in a sharp 500m cobbled climb no more than 13 times. Ouch. This was also by far the hottest conditions I have ever raced in, 35 degree heat is not fun for racing. Needless to say I didn't make it up the cobbles 13 times, but I did take in 7 laps of the circuit and was pulled at 35 miles, placed 52nd out of about 80 starters. I was dissapointed at not making the full distance, although only 15 riders did...

In the bunch at Wambeek

I figured after this race that I am doing too much out here, the dilemma is that I want to race as much as I can in the 2 weeks that I am here to gain experience of these races, but it seems by doing so much I am tiring myself out and not able to complete the full distances. My plan now is to rest for a couple of days before having a double day of racing before I go. Overall I am happy with how it is going out here, I am getting a feel for how good you need to be, and it is motivating me to train harder, for longer, and I am already looking forward to coming back next year, hopefully in much better condition!

Wish me luck for my last 2 kermesses!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Moving ever closer to 1st category

The last few weeks have been about going through the motions and getting my form back, which has largely been working. I have slowly been picking up points, getting some good placings in road and circuit races. I have been putting in more training time and really aiming to finish the season on a high, so far this has been going very well. The results are coming much more easily, as they were at the start of the season when my form was good.

The late season begins for me with 2 weeks in Belgium, I have been here almost a week now and have done 2 races so far. Now I have heard a lot about Kermesse racing in Belgium... mainly that they are bloody fast, bloody hard and bloody good fun! My first race was exactly this... the Merelbeke 1.12B Elite/U23 Omloop was around a 4k circuit with 3 straights, and 3 sharp bends... one of which was a dead hairpin... Oh and a cheeky chicane thrown in for good measure. It was flat out from the gun and lined out in the gutter along many stretches. At one point I managed to break off the front after about 30k, bridging across to the lead group, but they then stopped working and after a lap we were brought back by the bunch. I then sat in the line for the middle part of the race as those at the front kept the pace high, but as we moved into the last 15k I moved towards the front and tried a few digs, all of which got a small gao but never lasted more than 2k, with about 1500m to go I went for a flyer to the finish with a couple of others, sadly I got caught with 500m to go and led out the bunch sprint. I finished 50th out of 80 riders, but this was irrelevent, I had finished my first Kermesse... 110km at over 44km/h, fast and furious... and I LOVED IT! Mixing it up near the front and generally feeling strong!

The second one was not so successful... my freehub broke after 75k... so I had to hop straight in the broom wagon!! That's racing right? Nevermind.

Next race is Wednesday evening in nearby Kruishoutem, I can't wait to get back amongst the cobbles and in the infamous Belgian gutter!

Until then,