After a injury over the winter period and getting stuck into my training a good 2 months late, I was a little apprehensive heading into the opening races of the season, very much unsure of how I would perform.
The first few are usually a shock to the system. You have guys who have become winter world champions and come out in March flying, also others who are race fit already having bashed winter crit series or races abroad. My aim is to be consistent across this season in the prestigious National B races, so I need to keep an eye on the big picture but it can be difficult.
The first race for me was the Angela Davies Memorial in the motherland that is Wales. Although still inside Wales, being down in Aberyswyth meant it was fair from local, with a 2.5hr drive first thing in the morning.
The race was bitterly cold, hilly and windy, a good all round test. This is a race that I should revel in as it featured a good hard climb on each of the 3 laps and then a long climb on the finishing circuit.
Its fair to say the field was very strong, myself and my teammate Lee Baldwin thought the climb would see a decisive break form, however the break of the day formed virtually instantly and caught us both by surprise! The main hitters of the race were in that and it wasn’t coming back. I was feeling the pace early doors, I simply don’t have the leg speed early doors being 2 months behind most people in my training. I do however have a lot of strength and base fitness, so as the race wore on and other fatigued I didn’t! The rest of the peloton stayed together despite Lee either trying to get away numerous times or trying to get a chase formed.
Coming into the base of the climb on the finishing circuit, myself, Lee and the Team Elite boys hit it pretty hard and ripped a few groups away. The groups joined together on a 12 man run into the finish but unfortunately Lee and I couldn’t quite get up into the top positions in the group and came home 11th and 12th. Still a good way to kick the season off and some good training in the legs.
The next event for me was the Holme Valley Wheelers 2day.
This was a big 2016 target for me, however the decision to move the event to March meant I was thinking that this is probably too early for me to challenge, but I still went there hopeful for a top10 overall. However with another top quality field with a number of well represented teams and full time pros meant this would be tough.
The event had a 10m very lumpy TT to kick things off followed by a 52mile RR on the first day and a 62mile RR on the final day.
A pretty hectic winter which involved going back to basics post injury as well as a house move meant I had barely had a chance to touch my new Shark TT bike and I certainly under-estimated the commitment needed to get out a good TT time. I thought I’d be ok, few steady rides on the TT mid week prior would be enough….. it wasn’t! I learnt a lesson the hard way…… 34th place in the TT and almost 2 minutes away from a top10! Wow bit of a shock. More work needed on the TT bike and in the position.. I was pretty gutted. My team mate Michael Ashurst put in a much better showing that the awesome Shark frames deserved with a top20 placing
That afternoons RR was largely controlled by the yellow jersey’s team (Ryan Perry)- Metaltek Kuota, and despite a lot of attacks, many from Mike, the end result was a bunch gallop. Myself and Mike finished in the bunch on the same time.
The final stage was on Sunday morning and on the same course as day1 but with 1 extra 11 mile lap. The course was best described by the northern lads and Mike as (reeeeeeaaaaal grippy) with some fast descents and a really long big ring drag up through the finish.
A break went early doors without the yellow jersey in it but a couple of his team who were sitting on and letting the Achieve lads in the break to smash themselves. Again I was feeling pretty crap early on and had no gas to go with the moves. Mike was going well though and got a gap with a few others a couple of times but ultimately came back each time. I was just sitting in the bunch trying to save what legs I had. I knew I was going to have to be canny in the early season races to get a result without the top end power initially. With the break at 1m30s on lap 4 of 6 the race leader, Ryan Perry decided to SMASH it up the big ring drag. This basically split it to bits and there were only a select group that could hang on and go with the move. Thankfully I just made it onto the back over the top along with Charlie Tanfield, Hamish Graham was possibly the most unlucky person in the race who literally just missed out on making touch with the group before another clip up on the course. My team mate Mike had also missed the move, he had just been brought back after being away when Perry decided to attack.
The group of us was around 10 strong and we caught the break very quickly to make a lead group of 15ish. I had gone so deep to make the front move but I could see so had everyone else and there were some very tired legs. The final 1.5lasp were a real grind for myself and some others. Coming into the finale for the stage Adam Kenway soloed from the group to take an impressive win and the overall from his teammate! I don’t think I touched 400W in the final big ring drag to the line but it was a testament to how tough the race was that this was good enough to give me 9th on the stage! I was pretty chuffed, to have got something out of the race after a dis-heartening day1.
The result of the tough race and the final attack meant the race behind was in bits and people lost a lot of time on the GC. Finishing in the front group resulted in me taking 11th overall on GC. Wow over the moon with that after the Time Trial, and in such a quality National field. It did leave me ruing what-ifs howver and has given me food for thought moving forward.
All I am very happy to be so close to the top10 in my first 2 races of the year at National B level, given my pre season prep and the fact I haven’t really started the top-end work in my training. All bodes well for the rest of the season.