Finals and Finales
As I write this, I've just finished my University finals. I've had 4 exams and only have a viva left to do, essentially an interview about my final project, then I am done and focused full time on the bike. The last 3 years at University have been hard work. The degree itself, the course content and particularly the maths has been a real stretch for me. So it has not been without its stresses, trying to balance all the work with the training and racing.
The last couple of months or so has been really tough because as well as the standard training and racing hours, I've been finishing off major projects for my finals at university. I've had my research project to complete and write up plus a python coding project. This has meant some very late nights and early mornings which are less than ideal for recovery and performance.
I nearly got thrown off the course in the first year as I struggled with motivation to work since there was no engagement or enjoyment during covid. Needless to say I didn't and my 3rd year has been a lot more engaging and enjoyable. So it turned out to be a good decision to stay at home and attend University in Sheffield so that I could still ride on my local roads where the training is excellent plus I finish university with half the student debt.
I'm pretty sure I will continue to do some form of study on an ongoing basis to keep my mind occupied and have something to focus on away from cycling. While I didn't like python coding to start with, I've grown to find it ok now so maybe I will continue to learn and develop this as it's something I can do while sitting in a hotel room at races and develop useful tools for cycling data analysis.
I know that if I can be competitive and perform at the UK domestic level that I've been racing at for the last 3 years whilst balancing cycling and University, then I know I can make a big performance jump to the next level in the latter part of this year and over the winter once I get back 30-40 hours a week. I'll be giving all aspects of cycling my full commitment and attention from now on.
Thanks to Pedal Potential
This is my final post on behalf of Pedal Potential as I turn 21 in June so I want to take this opportunity to thank Mark and the team for their invaluable help and support. What they are doing to support young athletes across cycling and Triathlon on their journey is invaluable.
So a massive thanks to Mark and the team for their support.
Yorkshire U23 Classic
Early break antics in the second round of the U23 national series. After about 15 minutes of racing 3 of us got clear and rolled turns for a few laps until a group of 9 came across to us. I felt good and was waiting for someone to make a move in the final couple of laps however no selections were made. I waited until the first kicker about 2km from the line to make an all in attack but could not get away and so it came down to a sprint. I got 3rd in the uphill kick and so that now puts me second overall in the series, just 4 points off the leader.
Afterwards I chatted to Larry. The interview can be found here. I was a little disappointed with my sprint and the fact my attack got neutralised immediately after the race but I had a good race up the front all day.
AS with every year, Lincoln was super hard once again. I wanted to make the front group to be in with a shot of getting a top result. I raced aggressively, bridging across to the front 45 mins into the race but that group got caught not long after. Almost immediately after though, and without me realising it at the time, the group split again and I was the right side of it since I was just following attacks and surfing wheels. This was the group that would decide the top 10. Group cohesion was terrible however because st piran had 2 guys there who were waiting for more teammates to come across and were disrupting. I was having a tough time and wanted a few minutes to regather myself for the final part of the race. This rest would not come though and after 2 hours of constant attacks in the front group, there was a split that Jimmy was in with a few other guys. I didn't want to chase this so sat on looking for someone to do the work to bridge but it looked as though no one had the legs. I had to attempt a solo bridge of the gap when it was about 15 seconds but I couldn't get across. 30 mins later and I was caught by the group I had left which was then joined by a few more groups to reform the peloton. At this point I had very little in the way of energy left and so could only muster 40th from the final climb.
I don't have regrets about the way I raced however it did come down to one split second decision that determined the outcome of my race and next time I shouldn't make the same mistake again. Jimmy got 4th for the team which was another great ride.
Another interview with Larry about my race, a bit more positive this time.
After Lincoln I changed my nutrition strategy ahead of the Ras after a conversation with Craig my coach at Vitfor
Stage 1 - Navan to Birr - 154.8km at 44 kph
The break went after a heavy crosswind section when the group was lined out and Jimmy towed me and Jimbo into the right position to make the split. The final was decided by a tough 5km climb topping out 20km from the finish. 3 guys went up clear on the climb from the 25 man break. I was 5th over the summit with one other but were caught by a group behind in the run in due to the headwind. The leaders had about 10 seconds at the finish and with bonus seconds Jimbo and myself were 20s down on GC.
For an interesting and amusing take on the Ras stage 1 listen to the Escape Collective podcast team.
Stage 2 - Birr to Ennis - 154.5km at 45 kph
This stage was spent trying and failing to get up the road. The climbs were back loaded on the stage but were not hard enough to make any significant moves on. Trek were pacing mostly since they had the leaders jersey and so it came down to a bunch sprint.
Stage 3 - Ennis to Castlebar - 150km at 47 kph
Again it came down to a sprint and we were on lead-out duties for Jimbo. I did an initial pull for the team in the final few km and just managed to avoid a big crash approximately 3.5 km out that took out last years winner and could have seen the end of my race and certainly any U23 jersey or GC hopes.
Stage 4 - Charlestown to Monaghan - 175km at 47kph
A break was allowed up road and got over 3 mins before the yellow jersey team of Richardson Trek started chasing to bring it down and brought them back for what was another bunch sprint.
Stage 5 - Monaghan to Blackrock - 133km at 46 kph
I had my best legs on the final day. I got in the break with 13 riders after 40 mins of racing and as soon as it went the gap went out quickly. At the entrance to the finishing circuit with 40km we had 3 mins and there was a chance of a win or podium. The group make up made it very very difficult for me to make moves since there was a lot of riders who had sat on all day thanks to teammates being on GC, and multiple teams with 2 or more riders represented. This meant I had to do a lot of chasing moves down but was heavily marked when trying to attack myself. A group of 5 went with riders who didn't have GC ambitions, riders who were fresh and riders with teammates in our group and there wasn't anything I could do about it. Now hindsight says that the best thing to do in this scenario would have been to ride on the front and TT my way to the finish to secure the GC position and gain time on the peloton however, this is a very difficult situation to recognise in the race and one that completely contradicts most race strategies so I was getting more and more frustrated with riders not wanting to work to stay ahead of the peloton even when they had personal reasons to. In the end, we were caught with 1km to go and I finished in the bunch having been marked out of the race.
Overall the stages, while raced in a fast and highly unpredictable manner, were not selective or attritional enough for a rider like me. It was essentially a sprinters race besides the first day. I put myself in good positions and raced well all week but it just didn't work out this time around.
Overall I finished 10th on GC and 3rd U23 joint 2 seconds down on the white jersey.
The race was very enjoyable, it's very well organised and it's great to be racing point to point everyday, staying all around Ireland. A massive thanks to Dave, Dougie and Rob for all the work they put in throughout the week to keep us off our feet; must've been worse than riding.
We got back at 4:30am on Monday and I had to sit the first of four 3.5 hr physics exams at 11:00. It was ok though and definitely worth spending the time at the Ras rather than revising.
North West and Yorkshire RR champs - 11th June
Hull RC 10 mile TT - 14th June
Witham Wheelers 10 mile TT - 17th June
National U23 TT Champs - 21st June
Nat RR Champs - 25th June