Following the SERRL Race, the build up towards the end of the season began. The nights draw in and it becomes a mad rush to get things you still want to achieve out of the season.
For most people it was now points and as many as possible, but at this moment in time I was also looking at the goal in mind with an event. In later years these goals would focus a little less on points but for now, I had the time to invest in taking more risk and putting most of my eggs in one basket rather than spreading them across the season.
This meant pre race rides were not really pre race rides if the race was on a Sunday. Saturday’s would usually be well over 50 miles. The race on Sunday was purely a training exercise with points being the bonus. Riding like this you can accumulate well over 15 hour weeks and sometimes creeping towards 20, but don’t expect to turn up on Sunday and be your best. In fact, sometimes it really could be a painful experience for the legs. Also bearing in mind rides during the week were becoming a minimum of an hour and a half on top of work 5 days a week!
Most rides were easy with intensity coming from the races. It had to be like this to allow recovery as it would all be too much otherwise and I did not have the advantage of being a full time rider.
The Pedal Power Race was up next which was around the Harby Hill Circuit. The initial move was brought back but the eventual escapees were Dion Black, Will Corden and James Hedley Smith, all making well timed jumps. Up the road Will Corden took the win meaning my race was now for 4th. On last climb of Harby I held on for 10th. Stuart Marshall and Joe Clark were the ‘in form’ guys, at the time at that level, and they jumped early leaving me to make the best I could. James Moore managed 7th. To make the move initially I had to put out 374w for 5 minutes up and over Harby Hill, that’s a lot for my weight and that’s the maximum I could do at the time. I don’t think I have done that much harder until that point. It was very useful for me learning the circuit better though. As would be proved later. This race was a good practice run for my targeted event planned later in the year as all 4 stages would be held in the same area with two on the same circuit I had just raced on.
A mid week Rockingham then followed, and as I was still riding there and back, the miles were getting stacked in! This was the last race at Rocko for the season and after working very hard to get into the move for the first 10 mins I missed it. Phil made it though with 5 others including eventual winner Jordan Peacock. After 20 minutes of the break being away, a strange event occurred in which myself and Marcus Partridge were literally allowed to ride off the front. Not much effort, just keep going. We thought it was just us two for the rest of the race and if we pulled turns we would stay away and have a sprint amongst ourselves.
The break messed around and with 1 Lap to go we caught them. As soon as we got across Rory Havis asked us if we are the only ones or if they need to think about anyone else! I replied it was just us and at that moment Jordan attacked. That was it and nobody wanted to chase him or let anyone else go. Coming in 7th and Marcus in 8th was probably the right result for us as we had to work hard to get across. The break had a lot of time to mess around and recover before we got there as was proved as they all beat us. It’s a race that Jordan and I still talk about now!
On the start line of the last 2014 at Rockingham. Lots of characters including Marcus Partridge, Jamie Scott, Joel Lewis, myself and Jordan Peacock in Rugby Velo Kit.
My next races were all scheduled in for September and were the run up to my targeted event which was the last weekend of the month. Everything was tailored to suit.
On the list were a series of double weekenders with a slightly lower training load during the week:
The Spirit Bikes Road Race, (06.09.14). I finished 32nd. I put in a big solo attack with 5 to go and held off with 3 to go. The race wanted a bunch sprint and that is what happened. Mike Cowland won with clubmate James Moore in 2nd.
Next was the EMRRL Buzz Cycles Windley Road Race (07.09.14) in Belper, Derbyshire and is arguably the toughest circuit in the East Midlands. Dion Black won going solo with over a lap to go. The bunch sprint was for 2nd and was taken by Joe Clark. I finished 7th in what was a tough sprint on the final climb. This was a good opportunity to get to know some riders.
After that it was the End of Season Points Chaser Gerry Thulow Cup Annual Road Race (14.09.14). It was the only race available on that weekend and was a pan flat course near Lincoln. I traveled with Phil for this one and had disappointment as on the first lap I hit a pothole very hard! This basically blew my tub up and it was the end of the race for me. I hitched a lift back to point where I could walk to the car. I had actually brought spares in the car but there was no service available in this race unfortunately. However, I was determined to get something from the day so I went straight back out with the spare on and rode around the other way doing 4 x 10 intervals. I would have loved to have still been in the race but it wasn’t to be on that day. Stuart Marshall prevented a bunch sprint and stayed away solo. Everyone else sprinted for 2nd.
The week after was the EMRRL Websters Cycles Road Race (20.09.14). The final weekend before the big event. I attacked hard during this race. I had started to taper by this point but everything was during the week. This weekend was the big session and a final chance of preparation. The race was on a circuit was literally on my doorstep, I ride it most of the time. I intended to take full advantage but not everything that happens on your ‘patch’ goes to plan. Usually it is because you have underestimated the competition or just that luck isn’t on your side. In any case, after a race on the front attacking at every opportunity, I finally got away with Will Corden on the last lap. We tried our best and made the most of the tail wind but were caught with 1km to go! Still determined I opened my sprint early but was passed and Joe Clark sprinted well on to victory. I managed 10th which was still good but I then knew that it was going to be struggle to get past 200 points which I was subconsciously after.
Beeline Bicylces Road Race (21.09.14). The final race before the Fin Del Verano. I finished 8th on what was a very hard finish climb which turns off the circuit. To be honest this race is a bit of a blur and with a early morning start it wasn’t made any easier. It was also the day I first met my, now wife, Kathryn so this day is remembered for different reasons!!
This was it, the last event before my ‘A’ race which I had been targeting since June when I arranged with James Moore and Joel Lewis. As you can see I primarily used races to train in and this has often been the case even since this. I was quite willing to turn up with legs that were not maybe going to give the best performance. It was only later on that I would start mini peaking for every race which essentially makes everything you ride in a ‘B’ event but can be effective, if points is what your after because it means your eggs are spread more across the season than in one event. For the Fin Del Verano though I was all in.
On the first day it was a morning Team Time Trial at approximately 5 miles, and then an afternoon 50 mile Road Race. Sunday morning was a 65 mile Road Race and in the afternoon there was a 1/2 mile Hill Climb. After tapering for 3 weeks I was hoping my legs would show up!!
We got to the HQ in Woolsthorpe at about 8ish. Sun rising over a beautiful view of Belvoir Castle. The Team Time Trial started at 10am and we started well. A 6th place left us in a very good position for the road race. An average power of 324w (337NP) suggested my legs had definitely turned up. All I had to do was get the tactics right.
On the first climb of Harby I attacked chasing a small break up the road that had gone from the gun, knowing what sort of effort I needed to put out from previously, I got there. However, on seeing their faces and where the bunch was, I could see it was going to be over before it began. I carried on for a few more metres but unlike the previous weeks where I would just put my head down and carry on I had another look and opted against it. It was not the right time to go! Even though the legs felt great.
I waited for the rest of the race not being to active at all doing just enough all the time on every ascent of the climb. Then on the final ascent all of a sudden it paid off without trying. Following some of the best guys, who had come to the front of the race like the cream rising, we had a small gap! Myself, Adam Gascoigne, Paul Cox, Stuart Travis, Daniel Watts, Jonathan Morris and Corey Ashley got together after a few words and put the hammer down. It was about 7 or 8km to the finish so another Team Time Trial effort but not with our teams from earlier on. We were relying on trust and an alliance to get through. A mega effort by us all kept the chasing bunch at bay. It took a through and off effort of about 290w (332NP) at 26.8mph with the climb to stay away and get a gap of about 40 seconds and once over close to 30mph. A great effort that saw me take 5th finishing next to the now race leader Adam Gascoigne in 4th. Corey Ashley took the sprint but the most important thing for all of us was that we were now clear overall with a bit of a GC shake up breaking the normal deadlock that inevitably happens in the earlier Team Time Trial.
I went home buzzing for the next day and when we came to take the start line in the morning race I was slightly nervous. The circuit was a shorter variation of the day before with a different climb. Stathern Hill and it was a bit more of a windy road compared to the Harby’s slightly shorter but steeper at the start. I had in fact done a recce on the drive home the day before to see what it was like and therefore was expecting the race to break up on the climb at some stage.
The race though was pretty much a stalemate with only one rider allowed to go up the road and thus taking all the KOM points. Not a concern for the GC though so nothing happened until the last lap which needed control from attacks. Even at this level it is difficult to control a race but alliances are powerful. Myself and Stuart Travis, resigned to our positions in the GC, and helped Pedal Power bring any riders back that had decided it was a last roll of the dice.
Coming into the final climb and around the bends at the foot of the climb it suddenly became a free for all and I attacked at the bottom. Stuart Travis followed me and we had one Derby Mercury rider ahead of us remaining. Stu was never able to get back on my wheel and on the final left hand bend where the road flattened off before kicking up again to the finish I still had a couple of bike lengths overtaking the last rider away. I still remember how much the pain was but good legs meant that I was able to power through and hold on till the finish doing 500w for 2 minutes which is not easy, even for a heavy rider.
My first road race victory ever and a good place to do it as well. Not only that but more time gaps going into the final stage of the day meaning I could consolidate 5th place overall.
In the last stage we were set off in GC order and I finished 6th. It was testament to show that I did get it right in the weeks leading up to the event finishing inside the top 10 in every stage of the race.
My result also meant that the Team WVCC of me James and Joel finished 3rd and took a medal for the team competition. Pedal Power took the Overall Team and Individual Win. I could have finished the season on this result with this success but the show went on!
Looking back and knowing now what it takes racing a couple of levels up it’s hard to believe I can make a regional event sound so serious but that is what the road is. At the highest regional level this is what to expect and people turn up wanting to win. Riders are very good. Its more about what your doing off the bike when you go up to National Level. I didn’t win but the others guys who beat me were better and maybe or maybe not had put more into the race in one way or another than me.