26 February, 2013

Melrandaise & Route Breton

I had a couple of races last weekend which were rather different in style and outcome, but both were similar in temperature: cold. The race on Saturday was Melrandaise, quite a good race that finished in a nice place called Melrand, hence the name (I'm not sure what the -aise bit is all about though). It was ruddy freezing so I started off the day wearing a fair amount of kit to try and keep the frost out.

It snowed intermittently on the way there and during the race, and being a contender for 'World's Scrawniest Man' means that I'm not a huge fan of temperatures below three degrees anymore. I did warm up a little bit with the help of several riders needlessly spanking it on the front though. The early breakaway went, and as my plan was to sit in and be as canny as possible to save energy for the finishing circuit I was fine to stay in the bunch. "They'll be back..." I cackled evilly to myself, "the early break alllllllways comes back!" 

Well, it didn't. It turns out they managed to eek out a lead of over five minutes at one point and that was never going to get shut down. I got in a chasing split and we rode around the finishing circuit fairly hard, until the end. I felt strong and clipped off to catch a few stragglers in the sprint but we were racing for 20th place or so.

Sunday was a bit more of a big deal in race terms. Route Breton is an Elite National race and as such had some decent teams there like Lille Metropole, BIC2000, Sojasun Espoirs and various others. An early break went again but I had been told that the finishing circuit was quite tough so I did some ducking and diving  until then and got in a few important splits, particularly in the crosswind section. Having raced in Belgium last year it was a bit of a homecoming for me when we turned a corner onto a big wide road and suddenly there was a crosswind and everyone was in the gutter. I almost enjoyed it.

I hit the finishing circuit in the chasing split and after a few gap closing efforts I was in the front group. All good so far, although my legs were beginning to tie up at this point. Unbeknown to me, a rider from Sojasun clipped off the front over the top of the hill with 16km to go and rode impressively to solo to the win.

Coming into the final corners with 1km to go I thought I was racing for the win, but in fact it was for second. It didn't really make any odds as I followed a wheel and made the mistake of going way too early. Sprinting from 400m reminded me that I'm not Gilbert, and six guys came around me: 8th place.

I got onto the podium/into the car for being the first 2nd category rider which is always good for the team. It's a solid result and I'm pretty happy with how I rode to get there. I was relatively clever and managed to use people a bit, but when it comes to the final 20km everyone is pretty dead so it's just seeing who's got anything left, and you have to go quite hard. I'll give you a lowdown on the races to come this weekend later in the week. Bonne journée!

19 February, 2013

Mon premier course en Bretagne

Sam Allen and I, hanging about.

I had my first race here in Brittany on Sunday and it went well. It was a local affair and my team, Hennebont Cyclisme, turned up en masse: I think there were about fifteen of us! Due to this and I suppose it being early season the racing was very intermittent with breaks going and coming back regularly, although a group did form early on and stayed out front for most of the race.

There were several of my teammates in that group so I just sat back and followed a few moves throughout the race. As the group's gap dropped I did get a little excited and spent about 8km off the front on my own, trying to bridge across, although that came to nothing. Eventually the race split and I was in the front as we caught the group up the road, but not before my compatriot Thibault Jeannes had shot off the front. It was a brave but ultimately wise move attacking with 15km to go. He won alone, and I bludgeoned my way off the front with 2km to go to get second, and very nearly caught him. A great day for the team, and the way I felt on the bike was very encouraging for me.

I've got a couple of bigger races this weekend to look forward to so here's to finishing with my hands in the air!

Yeah that's right, celebrating 2nd. What a goon.

12 February, 2013

Bad decisions and carpet burn

So I raced Perf Pedal RR on Sunday and got very wet and cold indeed. I cannot say I enjoyed it all that much. My biggest regret is taking my waterproof off before the start, nooooo! Here is me shivering and looking pretty miserable.

Picture courtesy of SportivePhoto

The picture below shows the moment when Marcin launched his winning attack, miiiiiles out may I add. I did give chase for a bit but then thought better of it muttering something along the lines of "He'll get dragged back..." I was so wrong. The rest of the race was a convincing whitewash by UK Youth with them getting 1-6 in the standings which is pretty impressive! I was tenth.

I'm writing this blog from my sweet new crib in France! I got the overnight ferry on Monday, arriving in on Tuesday morning feeling quite stiff, and with some carpet burn going on. I did my best to sleep on the ferry floor but spent over an hour of the night trying to block out the awful awful words of a flirtatious drunken man... (not to me may I add!)

"Let me say something..... I REALLY like you"
        "It's not your looks I'm into, it's your personality. You've got a beautiful personality!"
    "If I asked you, would you marry me?"

                            "I REALLY want to see you again. Do you know what love is? I'll explain..."

Good God. Oh and when I say sweet new crib what I mean is; from a mobile home in the garden of the very kind Mills family. Our apartment isn't available yet. Still, I'm alive and it's about eight degrees here so pretty pleasant compared to England.

I'll keep you in the loop people!

03 February, 2013

South Downs Bikes time trial

First race done, and hopefully the first win of many! Here I am warming up in the car park before the start. It took me about 15 minutes to actually get any feeling in my legs as there was a pretty cold wind. (I'm afraid that same wind forced me to race in leg warmers so negative man points to me!)

I felt a little bit awkward on the bike, as apart from the spin I went for the day before it was the first time I’d ridden a time trial machine in four months. Coupled with the fact that the legs are always a bit iffy in the first few races of the season I was a little nervous about how I’d get on. I really felt like I was crawling up the hills on the course but I guess I must have been going better than I thought!

Thanks to Clive Jarman (@CliveJarman) for this picture

I shaved 47seconds off the old course record in the process of winning the event and it definitely made it worth dragging my girlfriend Emily out of bed at 7:30 on a Sunday morning (at least I think so)! Thanks to the guys at South Down Bikes for a great event and a great prize fund! I will be back next year.

Check out these links yo!