2019 Round up & Chasing Cat 1
Updated: Oct 12, 2019
My main goal for my first year as a Junior was to gain my Cat 1 licence. I had to try and do this in 2019 as 2020 is my A level year and the chances of getting the racing in to get the 240 points required would be hard so I’m determined to do it this year. I still had to lay off mid season for my A level mocks but thought Cat 1 was do-able.
My other goal for 2019 was to race in as many of the Junior National series and European races as I could to get the experience of racing over longer distances and multi-day races and hopefully pick up some points along the way.
I started the year as a Cat 3 so the first job was to get the 40 points required to move up to Cat 2. This meant starting racing as early as possible and my first race of the year was on the 5th of Jan at the cold East London Velo series where I picked up 2 points for an 8th place on what was a hard circuit.
Through Jan, Feb and March I raced in the Woolly Mamil and Wakefield series' 3/4 races picking up a couple of wins and taking second overall in the Woolly Mamil series.
The Eddie Soens Memorial race was attended by the whole team and I thought it might be worth a cheeky attack from the gun in an attempt to lap the field since it was a handicap race; so the Cat 3’s were set off before the 2’s and 1’s/Elites. A few others also had the same idea but the plan didn’t quite come off as the Elites were set off just as we were rounding the final bend about 200m off the back of them but it was a great experience to race in such company.
By mid March I had picked up the 40 points I needed for Cat 2. Now I just needed 200 more.
I continued racing as much as possible the rest of March and April in Nottingham, Manchester and York to get points. I had also started to enter longer 60 -70 mile road races to get the experience and race distance in my legs.
One of these longer races was the SB Hub road races and coming up the final climb I was with the main group of contenders and had great legs only to try and make a pass on the inside when the gap wasn’t there and I dropped off a curb and crashed out 100m from the line . Not only did I lose out on a top 10 finish and the points but I’d scratched the Giant Propel that Giant Sheffield had given me to race on this year. I spent the following day worrying about what to tell Andy at Giant Sheffield but he couldn’t have been more supportive.
While I’m on the subject of the bike the Propel has been fantastic and not let me down once this year. Jacob and Pete in the workshop have helped me out in preparing the bike (and my Giant Trinity TT bike) for races and the bikes have performed faultlessly every time ensuring I have the best chance of a good result.
May saw the first Junior National I had been selected for in the Isle of Man , and having missed out on selection for Junior Tour of Mendips and Hatherleigh Junior National races in the early part of the season I was looking forward to going the IOM and racing against some strong competition.
I had a great opening TT placing 8th in the uphill TT and 13th on a hilly stage 2 and finishing with the peloton on stage 3 giving me an overall placing 10th on GC.
I was also selected to ride the Cadence Junior National in May. Based in Powys, it was going to be a good test again against the best UK juniors on a hilly/rolling course. The race went ok but I finished just outside the top 20 in 22nd.
June was a mixed bag of results. I came 4th in the Yorkshire road race championships just not quite having the legs in a 4 man sprint against 3 second year juniors. This was followed by two more junior national races – the Junior CiCle Classic where I proudly represented the Yorkshire team but finished 32nd after losing the wheels on a hill towards the end and then it was back to Wales for Monmouthshire Junior Grand Prix where I was 24th dropping just outside the top 20 after cramping on the final climb.
On to July and I got my first opportunity to guest ride in a race in Europe with the Spokes Race Team at Sint-Martinusprijs UCI 2.1 in Kontich, Belgium. This was a fantastic race with a fantastic team and was my first real taste of racing in Europe which I really enjoyed.
July is also City Centre criterium racing season and it was great to get back to something more fast and furious. I had a good 4th place in Barnsley having been involved in the 3 up sprint for second but missing out as I had a puncture when following the winning break that then sealed and left me with about 40 psi in my rear tyre at the finish. Still, the tubeless tyre sealant did its job and got me across the line.
One race I was really looking forward to was the Sheffield City Centre Grand Prix. This is my home race and one I had done well in the previous year as a Youth so had high hopes for a good finish. I managed to avoid the crash at the front of the pack on lap one and was well positioned all race but missed the final crucial move towards the end finishing up in 8th place. Still it’s a brilliant event and the atmosphere was great as so many people I know were there watching and supporting.
The British Junior Mens National Road Race rounded out in July down in Bassingham. It was a wet day on a narrow course and one that didn’t really suit me as coming from Sheffield I prefer some hills. I rolled in with the main group in 44th deciding to save my legs as once we finished we had to jump in the car and drive to Northern Holland to start the Junior Tour of Assen the following afternoon.
This was the second year I had done Assen and had my ups and downs, finishing 5th in the Criterium and 13th in the Omloop but crashing twice in the Classic and finishing 21st on GC just 1 second off a top 20 placing.
Following Assen, we had a weeks family holiday in France and while there I got a mail from Craig at Spokes Race Team asking me if I wanted to guest ride again, this time in Brittany – of course I said yes. So after spending only a couple of days at home it was back to France racing at Ronde des Vallées.
Unfortunately the race didn’t go as I had wanted and I suffered the worst hunger flat (bonk) I’ve ever had and lost somewhere in the region of seven and a half minutes on stage 3 and dropping me right down GC..
Then it was on to Wales for the final Junior National of the year. Again not my finest work finishing 46th after a series of mistakes and bad legs but all learning for next year.
Full write ups of Assen, Ronde des Vallées and Wales can be found in my blog posts
Since Wales I've been focused back on circuit races picking up 26 points at Leeds and Wakefield and followed this up with a weekend of racing at Ennerdale 2/3/4, picking up 15 points for the win and the following day back in Hull again at Wold Top E/1/23 finishing 11th and securing another 15 points.
So after a long season of racing I've earned my Cat 1 licence and completed my major goal for the season.
Writing this post and looking back over the year has helped me realise I have achieved all my goals I set myself at the start of the year; racing in Junior Nationals, racing abroad to gain experience, and securing my Cat 1 race licence. Overall a successful year.
My final event of the year was the Monsal Hill Climb in Derbyshire. Hill climbs are not really my kind of event but this is a local race and an institution that has been going for 89 years so its great to turn out and give it a go. It’s a great event with a strong atmosphere on the hill.
Once the road season is over I will take a couple of weeks break and then turn my attention to winter training and my first attempt at racing on the track. I will spend some time reviewing the year with my coaches Huw Spacey and my S&C coach Byron Spence at Vitfor and planning for next year. I already have a clear idea of what my goals for next year will be in terms of what I want to achieve.
Big Thank you to James and Claire and everyone at Team JRC, the Giant Sheffield team for all their support and help, to Huw Spacey , Craig Stevenson and Byron Spence at Vitfor for their coaching, support and guidance and Chris Sidwells at the Tom Simpson Memorial Fund for their support this year.