End of Season and an Adventure
Following on from a strong performance at the VE Day memorial race in late August, September has been more relaxed in terms of racing. I was still rebuilding through August after the knee injury and virus; only feeling I was back to my previous level at VE day. September was therefore about building towards Beaumont trophy and onwards in to mid October for the National championships in Lincoln where I rode the U23 TT and the Road Race. Training was going well and I continued to set some power PB‘s in training.
I went in to Beaumont hoping to get a top 20 place as this would continue my progression in the Nat A races but I knew this was going to be a tough test, firstly due to the length of the race and secondly there were going to be a lot of guys from the UCI Conti teams in good form with stage racing in their legs coming out of Tour of Britain.
The race was 4 large laps of 40km and a final small lap of 25 km for a total of 185km or 114 miles. The race was on from the start with a group of about 8 or so very strong riders going off the front on the first lap. They built a lead of up to 2 minutes over the main peloton early. A second group of 12 then got away off the front of the peloton and by lap 4 had bridged across to the 8 up front to make a group of 20.
I made several attempts to use the climb of the Ryals to get away on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ascents but each time a good working group couldn't get away for more than a couple of km's. I made a final push to get away toward the end with 7km to go but was reeled in by the St Piran team driving the front of the peloton with 5 riders.
In the end I came in with the main group sprinting for 9th but having attacked late in the stage, came in 29th place overall and 12th U23. Not quite what I’d hoped in terms of placing for but happy to have finished my hardest and longest race to date. It’s positive I got my nutrition right which was a problem in my first National A and finished with a lot of riders on form from ToB.
Return to Uni
The following day from Beaumont I returned to Uni for the start of my second year. Lectures are face to face this year and predictably I picked up a cough and cold that saw me off the bike for a week or so feeling rough. As a result of the cold I had to pull out of the 91st Monsal Hill climb. This is such a great event and it was a disappointment to miss it but I still went out to watch and support and had a good time with the YBC.
Missing Monsal impacted my chances of getting selected for the National hill climb championships at Winnats which I was really disappointed about.
National U23 TT Champs
So it was onwards and upwards and refocus onto Lincoln u23 TT on the 14th and the Road Race on the 17th. I've been doing some more work on the TT bike in terms of equipment set up and position that was hoping will pay dividends in the race.
I went to recce the course a few days before with the team which was time well spent as it was not just a pure power course that favoured the big powerful riders. I was a good sporting course with a balance of flat roads and a long hill before the finish each lap.
The weather for the TT was good and I was off early on the start list. I had a clear plan on how I wanted to ride the course; steady on the first lap, pushing on when the hill started and then recover on the downhill. Coming through the start area for the second time I planned to up the pace again and treat the top of the hill on the second lap as my finish line so that I would empty the tank before the descent to the finish.
I ended up with a 41:18 which put me in 12th overall and 3rd against the other first year u23’s. I’ve still got a lot more work to do on the TT bike and plan to spend a bit more time on this area of my riding over the winter and into the early season of 2022.
National Champs Road Race
I was excited to be selected for the National road race on the Sunday and to ride with some world tour pros and Pro Conti riders. The day was rainy which meant the fight for position before the cobbled climb of Michealgate would be even more sketchy than usual.
The first lap was intense and I had already hit my max heart rate trying to stay on the first ascent and this set the tone for the rest of the race to come. I spent most of my time on the limit to try and hold position in the group and wishing I had an extra 30W or so to make life a bit easier. I wasn't very well positioned for any of the climbs so I struggled to hold on to the group over the top and then didn't have the energy to move up when the pace settled down. Unfortunately our group got pulled 20km from the finish after having been distanced about 6 or 7 laps in which was a shame. Overall I felt like the illness from the return to uni two weeks prior had impacted my fitness although it was still a great experience to be lining up against some of the riders who are at the top of the sport and I learnt an awful lot from suffering round 140km of Lincoln roads.
Riding to Edinburgh
Since Lincoln was my last race and winter training begins soon, I decided that it'd be a good time to join the University CC on their ride following the Bummit hitchhike which this year went to Edinburgh. We were riding to raise money for Colitis UK and Young Lives against Cancer which are two charities that helped Nick Clayton, who was a member of the Uni CC, and his family.
The ride took 14.5 hours and covered 378km starting at 7pm on a Tuesday, riding through the night and arriving in Edinburgh at approximately 1pm the following Wednesday.
The hardest part I found was staying awake between the hours of 3am-4am and then again from 6am to 9am. The hours of 4am-6am however were great since I'd had a load of caffeine to try and wake me up but unfortunately that didn't last as long as I'd hoped and I had to wait until we got to a subway in Jedburgh to have a little 20 minute nap at 9am. After the nap however I was feeling refreshed and that saw me through to the end of the ride.
When we got to Edinburgh I went and had a little look round the city, then came back to the hostel to wake everyone up so that we could go and eat enough McDonalds to feed a small village (a small Italian restaurant was not going to cut it after that much riding).
As of Tuesday it has been announced that I am staying with Cycling Sheffield for the 2022 season. I'm delighted about this since I've spent this year learning about racing in the senior and U23 categories and hope to implement what I've learnt in races next year. Hopefully I can get some more results and race experience in what is, fingers crossed, a more normal season.