Reminiscing: 3rd Cat to 2nd Cat

Following my last post I wrote about the early days in cycling, I had steep learning curves and many other stumbles along the way.

This year was very different, with some very big ups and some very big downs both on and off the bike. In many ways it was a big burst onto the local scene from somewhat nowhere wasting little time in progressing up to 2nd Cat, (something I achieved in June 2014).

This year on the bike was far more successful than unsuccessful and all of which was done and made in the winter. Obviously I still had to ‘turn up and perform’ but the hard work really was laid down in foundations beforehand.

Unlike the a little sporadic training and many turbo sessions in the car park beneath my flat, I was out on the bike almost every night working to my power meter. The milder winter to 2013 also made it easier to get out, I don’t recall touching the turbo!

Most nights were spent with Phil Rayner on the Bruntingthorpe/Gilmorton Circuit, a place well known to locals. December through to January was spent mostly working on threshold, and then in February I vividly remember Phil saying to me, ‘ok lets try something different, tonight we will do some 5 minute efforts, first 30 seconds to simulate an attack, the rest as hard as you can’.

This was pretty much a key moment and my first introduction to some seriously hard and painful training, (not that threshold is not hard enough). This followed through February to set me up for the races ahead.

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The race season started with two Time Trials, the Kings Cliffe Flyers 12 (29:56 – 7th) and the Kettering Hilly 20m Mark Bell Memorial TT (50:04 – 12th). Good performance in both led to a confidence boost.

Following the TT’s I then had a block of road racing. Everything was planned out back then. Apart from work and the odd meet up with friends it was just me and the bike so I had a lot of time to plan.

The first was the Spring Chicken Road Race. A 50 mile Road Race around Buckinghamshire. Before the start the evening before, I was kindly sent a message by Dean Barnett which contained the numbers of some riders who would likely be contesting the finish or who were to look out for. This was actually key to the success of the day as two or three of those numbers were in the winning break of 5. It was also a fairly big gamble to take at that level with 33 miles still left of the race when I bridged over so knowing this information played a big part in making the decision to bridge across. Ecstatically I came away with a 3rd after we spent the rest of the race away with the winner clipping off with a couple of miles to go (Callum Grieve), the break was blown apart. It was then a two up between myself and another (Chris Limberger) after dropping two others. We nearly caught him in the last few meters but had to settle for contesting for 2nd. I came 3rd.

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The Breakaway. In the background the bunch can be seen around the corner. It was like this for most of the race.

Walking away with this result was very much like, ok I can do this, with some belief something good might happen. I cannot describe how pleased I was at the time.

Apart from a Darley Moor a couple of weeks later though it was fairly quiet on the results front through the rest of the early season though March and April.

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The Start line of Darley Moor. I cam away with 8th place in this race. Chirs Limberger won after staying away for most of the race. Phil Rayner is with me in Welland Valley kit.
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Pictured in this is Chris Limberger, Phil Rayner and Myself. Early on we tried to establish a breakaway. We nearly did it however it didn’t come off as we couldn’t make it stick. After we were pulled back Chris attacked straight away again. This turned out to be the winning move.

Following Darley Moor there was the Bill Jinks Memorial Road Race. I went with Phil and Rob Moore. The race was in Corley just outside Coventry. The race was going well for us however unfortunately there was a bad crash and the race was abandoned at around the halfway point.

The riders involved went to hospital (I believe from memory they had broken bones but otherwise ok).

Another race was scheduled in the afternoon. It was a Regional A. It had better riders. The temptation was just too great. I entered with Phil and a few others who had decided to wait until the start.

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The Bill Jinks Regional B Race, Photo taken before the crash.

Races were slightly different a few years ago. It was a very tough day and I seem to remember at the time it was over 90 miles worth of racing that day!

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The Regional A race later was something I just managed to finish. I think I was on my own when I crossed the finish line.

I traveled to the Mickleover Circuit which is just outside Derby. It was a East Midlands League Regional A race and I maybe got a top 20 but what ever it was I was outside the points.

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The East Midland Road Race at Mickleover.

I also traveled to Wales which was one of my A Races. I went on Saturday evening and stayed over.  The next day the race was at 10am. I was really looking forward to this. I had all the numbers to look out for from Phil. Early on George Rose attacked and I went to. We got a big gap early on. I felt good and he was going well and hard enough so I assume he was too. For a good 10km it was just the two of us. Then we were joined by a big split. At least 15 riders. I then had well over 7 or 8 of the numbers Phil had gave me so in my mind this was it, the move! Buzzing. Then not long and one of the riders shouted something at me. Full of experience this break and I could feel it so I wanted to know what they said. Then next time they past me in the chain he said your skewer has come loose! Looked down and couldn’t believe it! It had. Disaster, gears weren’t clicking right. I had to stop and tighten it. Watching the break go up the road was heart breaking. Especially when I was kicking myself for what had happened. I was taught to make sure everything is tight, especially skewers on the road because of pot holes. By the time I sorted it the break was well up the road and the bunch literally just coming up behind me. All I could do was sit in and wait. See what happened. To be honest I really didn’t think the move was coming back. After 50 miles and on the last lap of the race though, riders started coming backwards from the break, ones and twos at a time. Counting them it was a case of ok, maybe that move was not going to last till the finish. Five miles to go and almost everyone was bought back. I still had my legs so I felt like I was back in. It was a big climb at the finish and I felt it would suit me. ‘I could get my first Regional A points today’ were the thoughts.

My chain snapped however and those thoughts were over in a second. It happened as quickly as I have described it, hope into dust straight away. Couldn’t even pedal forward and literally had to walk to move anywhere. Six miles from the finish and five miles from Usk where the HQ was. Gutted, and I hated to admit it at the time but I was a beginner and that was a beginner mistake not fitting your chain properly. I looked for other excuses at the time but there are none. Other than wearing your chain to the ground or a manufacturing error that chain is just not going to snap! The only other thing is poor fitting and I had done it myself that week, or the week before. Whenever it was it was recent though. I am sure I had rode it before the race but that really counts for nothing. I had walked a mile and seen no Marshalls. The Commissaries car had driven past me and as he past he gave me a very funny look, maybe as if to say what the hell are you doing here. The race was over so it was going to be a long way back walking with the bike. I was lucky a very nice welsh guy on the way to the shop from a campsite he was staying at offered to pick me up and take me back to Usk where I could pick up the car and get myself home.

Probably a low moment on the way up though the categories that!

Then the next week, on 11th May I turned up to race in Oxford where I had every intention of making something out of the race. Before the race I really knew I had good legs and I had got someone a little more mechanically minded than me to fit a new chain. From the flag drop from the lead car I literally went from the off. By this time I new what characters were around locally as well so it was easier to form collaboration with riders to instigate a break, knowing who is going well and who isn’t can have a big impact. However although it was a positive race, the peloton was not keen to let anything go and with one climb and the direction of the wind that day it made it easy to keep things at bay.

I tried ever so hard to make things happen but no joy was found, that was until the last lap where I was allowed to go on my own attacking in a tail wind getting a 10 second gap. That was enough for when the race took a sharp turn left and went into what was a cross headwind.

I was away and remember being very surprised at the gap I had, I thought to myself well this is it now. I need to carry on. I remember thinking at the time I really hope I can hold this I have a great opportunity. Then after a long straight stretch of the circuit just before the start of the climb I heard the sound of deep section wheels, and was almost shocked to see someone beside me. He said: ‘come on lets go, lets work together’.

I had to follow him up the climb and struggled to hold the wheel but to be fair to him he pulled out a long turn for me, before peeling off and saying ‘I know your tired, just roll through for me’. That was the deal and we continued back down the descent and took the last turn left onto the finish straight. I looked behind us, and no one was to be seen so this was it. It would be between us.

The finish had a slight incline and then a flat 100-150 meters until the line. At that moment I thought I will not out sprint him, he is fresher so I will try and go long and get a bit of a jump. It didn’t come off and I was just to tired to hold it. I got passed just before the line. At the finish it was a good 30-40 seconds ahead of the bunch so we worked well!!

I did get a special mention afterwards picking up my prize and I remember the winner James Waters saying to me on the line ‘I seen how much work you did on the front today’. It was a great performance but I was to be honest physically drained from the performance.

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Myself in 2nd beaten by James Waters.

Something like this shows how you can turn things around after a self imposed error the week before.

After Oxfordshire I went to Rockingham during the week and Harby Hill the week after and finished 15th where my legs hurt the whole race. The planned peak was almost over and I needed some recovery. I seem to remember a slightly less hectic week on the bike leading up to the weekend after (31st May/01st June) where I had a double race planned and needed just to get a bit more from the form I had in Oxford, just to see if I could eek it out for one more week and see what happened.

Saturday was an NCRA event at the Sawtry Circuit. It was a fast race and it came down to a bunch at the end, Phil took the win, 2nd was Freddy Pett and I was 3rd. Started the weekend off very well.

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Phil Rayner winning the bunch sprint, Freddy Pett 2nd, and myself in 3rd place. 

Next it was the AA Brown on Sunday. Another day with little wind and it was glorious sunshine rather then clouds the day before. I remember on the start line just before we got going the commissaire at the time said ‘it will come down to a bunch sprint anyway, prove me wrong’. He was right it was going to be difficult, but not impossible.

After a few laps in a small group established at the front and I decided that I wanted to be a part of it. Jonny Unwin came with me and it was almost left it to late. I remember the bridge being so hard to get over it took ages and I very nearly didn’t make. It took a very big effort on the front from Jonny to get us finally get us over otherwise we were in no mans land for the rest of the race!

We did get there in the end and we all got into a rhythm. I don’t remember how big the break was but we lost a few before the finish. Apparently the average race pace was 26 mph so we were shifting a bit. Towards the end we even had the lead car giving us time gaps to the peloton, and time gaps being shouted from the side of the road.

We got there and with me going early in the sprint (way to early) I was out for the win which was took by Graham South. Oli Bates finished 2nd and Jonny took 3rd. I took a 5th which is what I needed to get my 2nd Category Licence at the time.

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Myself and Hans Van Nierop riding in the bunch at the AA Brown 2014.

There are far to many stories during this year to put into one article but that is just a part of the taste of what happened. Up and down and a tremendous roller coaster. It carried on which will have be followed up on and wrote another day 🙂

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AA Brown Road Race. Myself and Jonny had a very hard bridge to make to get over to the break.
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The breakaway.

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Myself and eventual winner of that day Graham South riding behind me.

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Finish of the AA Brown. Clubmate Jonny Unwin in 3rd place. I came away with 5th and my 2nd Category Licence.

 

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