Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ras De Cymru 2014

The Ras De Cymru is the 5 day/6 stage road race which takes place each year in South East Wales. It's a hotly contested race open to 100 riders - 26 teams of 4 cat2/3/4 racers. The race hub and HQ is situated at the University of South Wales just north of Newport. This provides a great stage race atmosphere, with all the team accommodation, meals and after race socialising happening on the campus. I was really keen to have a crack at this one and there was talk early in the season of Mid Devon CC fielding a team. Unfortunately this didn't happen so me and three other South West racers (Calum Croft - Mud Sweat & Gears, Charlie Revell - Somerset RC and Scott Gurnett - Tanks Direct Cycling) decided to enter under the composite team of Wessex RT.

photo:  Wessex RT composite

Stage 1 - 10k Pan-flat team time trial

With the teams being set off in alphabetical order we were the last team off. Having never really ridden together as a team we managed a pretty good time of 14:54. This placed us in 7th position out of the 26 teams, 19 secs down on the GC to Team Wiggle.

Stage 2 - Rolling road race with a flat finish

Following a neutralised roll out the racing kicked off hard with the first 10 miles covered at over 30mph. I managed to get in quite a few breakaways but nothing was sticking as the race was being heavily controlled by a few of the stronger teams. Riding in the bunch was really dangerous with 100 riders along fairly narrow roads. It was a battle to maintain your position in the peloton with riders crossing double white lines for sustained periods and overtaking on blind corners on the wrong side of the road...

A small break managed to clip of the front on the run into the finish, I led out Calum to contest the bunch sprint but unfortunately he got boxed in and we both finished in the main bunch with no real time loss on the GC.

Stage 3 - Hilly place to place road race with hill finish

Almost from the start the race began to split over the first hill but it all came back together again on the descent. However, on the next hill, the pace was pushed up a notch in an effort to establish a breakaway. With around seven of us forming the break we quickly began to work together to open up a gap. This lasted for about 30 mins before being ridden down once again by the stronger teams who were hunting for Sprint points. The remainder of the stage was a fast paced dual carriageway section followed by a bunch sprint for the line. Hampered by not quite knowing where the finish line was I once again I finished in the bunch on the same time. Back to HQ for some food and rest before attacking the TT in the late afternoon.

photo:  Stage 3 Bunch sprint

Stage 4 - Individual time trial with a hill finish

A case of damage limitation for me as time trialling is not something I currently do so is definitely not my strongest discipline. Being both small and light the first half of the course didn't suit me at all as it was a gradual descent into a headwind. However, I pushed on and managed to make up some time on the final climb to come in around 40th place. So not great but didn't loose too much time in the GC.

photo:  Stage 4 Individual TT

Stage 5 - Rolling road race with a hill finish

This stage was billed as a rolling/hilly stage with a hill finish and looked ok in the race manual. Sadly, in reality, it was pretty pan flat and the hill finish was way too short to split the field. A small break managed to slip away but the gap to the main bunch was not really significant with most of the main favourites for the GC, including the yellow jersey, still in the main group. As we approached the climb for the final time I began moving up through the field to finish in 15th. At this point in the race I was in 24th place in the GC so had a lot to do in the final stage.

photo:  Stage 5 Mid race

photo:  Stage 5 Finish

Stage 6 - Rolling road race with a mountain top finish

Having reccied the mountain top finish after stage 5 the previous day I knew I could do well here and hopefully claw back some positions in the GC. The grand finale, coming right at the end of the 75 mile stage, was the awesome 4 mile 7% climb up to the summit of Llangynidr Mountain.

Now this would surely blow the race apart and potentially create some interesting time gaps. I was just hoping that the race would all be together when arriving at the base of the climb.

Sure enough, the first 70 miles were as I'd hoped, fairly pacy but steady with some attacks but no breakaway so we all arrived at the foot of the climb together.....Then it all kicked off when a select group of nine of us went clear straight away. Steadily the nine became six as the unrelenting pace continued until three riders got a slight gap which I was unable to close but held all the way to the line to come home in 4th.

As predicted, a significant amount of time was made up during this stage and I ended up with 8th spot in the GC. Pretty happy with that as there were some strong teams racing hard for the win. All in all a fun week of racing and a great experience. Big thanks to my team mates Calum, Charlie and Scott and to Mark Dolan at Epic Coaching for getting me on some good form!

photo:  Stage 6 Mid race

photo:  Stage 6 Cresting the 6k climb

photo:  Stage 6 Finish

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Just one day to go.....Ras De Cymru

Can't believe it's almost here now....just sorting all my last minute prep for the five day/six stage race that is the Ras De Cymru - really looking forward to this one!

Sadly, there were not enough Mid Devon CC riders to make up a team so I'll be racing under the composite team banner of Wessex RT with team mates Calum Croft (Mud, Sweat n Gears), Scott Gurnett (Tanks Direct Cycling), and Charlie Revell (Somerset RC _ Bicycle Chain) - bring it on!

Ras De Cymru

On paper at least, the stages look pretty challenging - so let's just hope they will be hard enough to make the racing interesting...

Sotonia Summer Road Race

Race report to follow...

Rollin' out through the neutralised zone to the start

photo:  Attacking over the top of the climb

photo:  6th overall - 3rd in the bunch sprint

Friday, 4 July 2014

Torbay Velopark - Thursday Series Race 3 and Exeter Wheelers Westpoint Criterium No.1

A couple of mid-week evening crit races so far this week...

First up on Wednesday evening was the Exeter Wheelers Westpoint Criterium No.1 E/1/2 race. I really enjoyed this one as although there was not many racing the quality was high and the racing was fast and fluid with plenty of attacking from the get go.

The race was continually changing pace with relentless waves of attack and counter attack which meant keeping vigilant.

The pacy race meant a few were shelled out the back and with several laps to go it all looked like it would come down to a bunch sprint with the remaining riders. With this in mind I attacked with 2 laps to go and got a reasonable gap to the group but sadly I was caught with just half a lap to go with nothing left in the tank to contest the sprint. I think I maybe managed to scrape into the top 10, so not a great result, but great racing none the less!

Thursday evening saw a return to the newly built Torbay Velopark for Race 3 of the Thursday evening series. This race was in complete contrast to the fluid racing of the previous evening at Westpoint as every single move got chased down by the bunch before it had a chance to develop.

Only a handful of riders where willing to go on the attack or spend any time off the front - most were happy to sit in for the hour and save everything in the hope of contesting the bunch sprint.

Nevertheless, I got in a few of the doomed breakaways with some of the other riders who were willing to work and put myself in a good position towards the conclusion and ended up contesting the sprint with a solid 3rd place.

Heading further afield for some road racing action at the Sotonia Summer Road Race near Winchester on Sunday - can't wait....bring it on!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Stockbridge Down Road Race

Full race report to follow.....

Rolling out in the neutralised zone

photo:  bridging to the breakaway

photo:  established breakaway of 15



photo:  finish line sprint

Friday, 20 June 2014

Torbay Velopark - Thursday Series Race 2

Another beautiful sunny summer's evening and we headed down to the Torbay Velopark for Race 2 of the summer crit series.

I was hoping for better things having been mugged once again by a strong Bikeshed - UEX team the previous evening at the Perranporth crit...still managed to hang on for 6th so was worth the trip to scrape a few more points.

Determined to put in a good show I worked with Mid Devon team mate Andy Hitchins to put in plenty of early attacks to try and get a breakaway established.

Around 10 mins in I managed to break clear and found myself with a reasonable gap so decided to press on and hope that others would bridge over. It wasn't long before Charlie McFadzean (CS Dynamo) came across and we immediately began working together to open up the gap to the main bunch.

A rider from Somerset Road Club then tried to bridge over so Andy Perkins covered the move. Andy put in a strong turn and dropped the rider and realising he was in clear space he then soloed on over.

Now a strong team of three we worked really well together to ensure the break was going to stay away. We continued to lap consistently, eventually lapping the main field with around 10 minutes of racing remaining.

Team tactics then came into play with Andy and I attacking Charlie until Andy broke clear to ensure a Mid Devon win. I then sat on for the last couple of laps before sprinting for the line to take second place.

A big thanks to my coach Mark Dolan of Epic Coaching - I'm definitely getting stronger on the flat!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Team Tor 2000, Race 4, Ilton

Headed up to Ilton again on Thursday for Race 4 of the Team Tor 2000 series. The weather was mint, a lovely and sunny evening with very little wind.

Warmed up and then headed over to the start line for the E/1/2 race. A break was quickly established with 6 riders getting up the road and pulling a gap on the main group. I'd had a tough week including a three hour ride in the morning so sat in the bunch and kept a watching brief on the action.

It was a pretty boring race really and although there were a lot of attacks throughout the race, all were brought back by the bunch. The lead group were never caught so me and Charlie Revell rolled the dice on the last lap and went off the front. We established a reasonable gap from the main bunch but eventually this was also brought back.

To knackered to contest the bunch sprint we sat up and rolled in after the main bunch. A good training workout if nothing else!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Torbay Festival of Cycling Criteriums, Velopark, Paignton

Yesterday was the grand opening of the new Torbay Velopark purpose built outdoor cycling circuit in Paignton.

The £800,000 circuit consists of a 1.5 kilometers of ridge and rut free tarmac in a horseshoe shape which can be configured in one of three ways.

The opening day included an afternoon programme of racing and I was racing in the 2/3/4 race right at the end of the day.

A strong breeze had picked up by the time my race got underway and a headwind up the start finish straight meant a fairly slow starting pace.

As the race started to gather pace various attacks began but were quickly neutralised. The pace got higher as the riders got used to the circuit and the race began to split. 

At this point I found myself off the front in a break of four strong riders. Once we all realised we were away we began working well and opened up a considerable gap on the chasers and it was looking like a very promising move.

Unfortunately whilst cornering hard at one of the hairpins one of the riders from the group rolled his tub off the rim and went down hard. This reduction in firepower, in conjunction with some Mid Devon CC riders actively chasing the break down........meant that everything got dragged back together :(

The pace slowed and the race plodded on until another breakaway formed, without any Mid Devon CC riders, a couple of laps from the end. The three riders stayed clear to secure the podium with everyone else trailing and fighting out the bunch sprint.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Team Tor 2000, Race 3, Ilton

Another great evening of circuit racing at Ilton completed.....

Weather was awful with a lot of rain just before the race started but still a really good 1hr + workout against some powerhouse seasoned crit racers in the E/1/2 race - thoroughly enjoyable!

A three man break managed to get away around the half way point but this was almost caught on the line and I came in 11th in the sprint finish so pretty happy with that :)

Monday, 19 May 2014

2014 South West Regional Road Race Champs, Hatherleigh, Devon

Super stoked to get 5th having initiated the attack which became the winning breakaway that stayed away for the rest of the race! Especially following a week of illness after the Totnes-Vire and the possibility of not even starting the race.

A full race report to follow shortly....

photo: RU Training Today

photo: RU Training Today

photo: Falco Racing, 5 man breakaway

Begining Lap 2 of the finishing circuit with the breakaway reduced to 4

The Torbay Herald Express newspaper race report can be found here.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Totnes-Vire 2 Day Stage Race, Devon

This past Saturday and Sunday saw the annual Totnes-Vire 2 Day Stage Race take place in and around the South Hams.


Saturday's racing kicked off at 1pm from South Brent with a 60 mile road race stage around a 10 mile rolling circuit. High winds and very heavy rain meant a gnarly race from the off. As expected, it all kicked off quite early with a strong NFTO team continually attacking the bunch until one rider got up the road.

He managed to build over a 2 minute lead with no one really working hard in the bunch to pull it back. The harsh condition began taking their toll with riders getting dropped from around 20 miles in, as well as a couple of big crashes.

photo: Falco Racing
A few more splintered attacks eventually managed to get away and the race started to fragment, especially on the last time up the climb, when the bunch split with around 12 of us going clear and holding out until the finish line where we all finished in a bunch with the same time.


Sunday morning began with slightly better weather (although still heavy showers and strong winds) and a 4 mile time trial climbing out of Kingsbridge. I was one of the last to go and departed at 10:12 and rode a solid stage to try and stay in the GC.

12:30 and the final 75 mile road race stage departed under neutralised conditions from Kingsbridge High Street and climbed up to the race circuit where NFTO immediately controlled the race tempo to protect their leader. Very early on an opptimistic junior rider made a lone break for it and pulled a gap of around 40 seconds to the bunch. Knowing this was never likely to succeed, considering the fire power within the bunch, I stayed calm and conserved energy.

A rider from BH-Solidor then bridged over to the breakaway rider and they maintained their gap to the bunch until the BH-Solidor rider attacked and began pulling out a lead. Ultimately this was doomed as both riders were caught by the bunch.

I knew the NFTO race leader was starting to struggle on the climbs so on the forth lap I decided to attack on the second climb and was joined by a group of around 8 riders. We worked pretty well together but never quite got enough distance to commit so the move failed.

Another lone breakaway followed with Scott Gurnett quickly getting clear by around 40 seconds. Going up the second climb for the last time a group of six of us pressed on to try and split the bunch catching the breakaway rider half way up the hill.

This was the final selection which stayed together to sprint it out for the finish where I came home in 5th place - pretty stoked with that!

All in all a very tough weekend of excellent racing in adverse weather conditions against some pro riders from top UK teams. Thanks to all concerned at Mid Devon CC for laying on a great event.

Tom Hawkins Classic Road Race, Uffculme, Devon

10:30 am on Sunday 27th April saw me and another 79 riders depart out of Uffculme for the start of the Tom Hawkins Classic Road Race. The start was neutralised for the first 15 minutes as we headed over to the race circuit.

photo: Ann Owens
Once underway the pace was fairly leisurely at the start with a few attacks coming to nothing until Scott Gurnett soloed of the front. On the next lap a few riders bridged across and maintained a gap of around a minute and a half to the main group.

I knew it was going to be a fairly long race and with several strong riders amongst the main group I was quite happy to sit tight and see how it unfolded.

Things stayed fairly constant for the next few laps with the breakaway maintaining the gap until I put in a big effort on the second to last time up the main climb to begin to split the bunch and form a select group.

photo: Ann Owens
As a result a strong group of around six riders began working well together and we caught the break just before the final climb. I pushed the pace up with the ride-24-7 rider and we begin shelling the members of the original breakaway out the back door until only one of the riders remained.

We kept working well together and pressed on to keep ahead of the main bunch before the seven of us sprinted out the finish.

photo: Ann Owens
In the end I came in in 6th so pretty happy with that considering the distance of the finish line from the main climb.

Thanks to Exeter Wheelers for hosting a really great race and to Ann Owens for the photos!