How to destress with a weekend in Saltburn by the Sea
June is always an important month in the cycling calendar with Regional championships first and Nationals at the end of the month. The end of June marks National Championships in most countries around the world so that winners can hopefully wear their respective jerseys in the biggest races like the Tour de France.
I am all done with University as of the 8th June. As mentioned in my last blog post it was a stressful period of 2-3 months leading up to and sitting the exams. Lots of late nights to complete project write ups for coding and my research project coupled with revision didn't make for the best rest and recovery from training and racing.
The stress, while you don't realise it at the time, does play a big part in how you recover from training and racing. I would get back home from a race like Lincoln on a Sunday evening and then have to sit down and do four or five hours study or project work finally finishing at 1 or 2 am. Even waiting for results has been a more drawn out affair than normal because of the marking strike by lecturers. This prolonged the wait for the final result and the well intentioned "have you had your results yet?" question I've had to endure on an almost daily basis from mum and dad.
Long story short I got my results the other day and I've passed with a 2:2 so now I am able to focus on cycling full time. Given balancing the degree and cycling as well as how hard I found the course content I'm super happy with the result. I will however continue to study something to maintain and build my knowledge and skills and also to provide a distraction from cycling; just not at the same intensity and pressure as the degree.
Maybe if I had been full time cycling from 18 and not gone to University I would be further on in my cycling career (or maybe I would have been too young, hated it and packed it in) who knows but to be racing at the level I am now and to see my level at Nat Champs in relation to guys who are currently at the Tour de France tells me if I work hard over the next year I can close some of that gap. I know I have more headroom to grow physiologically and psychologically.
I'm really looking forward now to fully committing to the bike and training and racing. Craig (my coach) and I have already started on the plan for the next phase of my development and I'm excited to see how this reflects in a jump in my numbers over the coming months and winter. Even this month I'm managing to put in some power personal bests so the improvements keep coming steadily. The major area that I can now focus more on is the rest and recovery. Doing this better will help me to both stay healthy and allow me to work harder in my sessions allowing me to absorb more workload and progress all under the watchful eye of Craig.
The Yorkshire Regional championships were combined with the North West Regional Champs which made for a lively race. Out of only 50 odd starters, 13 finished. It was a hot and humid day and maybe that had something to do with the race being so attritional and it was a relatively tough course but nothing out the ordinary for Bowland. As it turned out I was 8th overall and 5th in the Yorkshire champs. Jimmy won the Yorkshire champs and was second overall and his great season continues.
Prior to the U23 TT I'd managed only to jump on the TT bike and squeeze in 2 10 mile TT's post exams. These were my first TTs of the season so to get second at Hull and first at Witham was a positive outcome and gave me some confidence going in to Nat Champs.
I got 13th place in the end. I delivered a good ride on a course that was a bit flat and a bit windy for me and more suited to the big guys who can push high power (as shown by the winners in both U23 and Elites). I was pleased with my ride as it showed me the work I had done on position and equipment delivered the gains and I was making the most of every watt I was putting out in position. I just need to work on putting out more watts!
The result hopefully helps secure me a place for next years U23 TT selection which might be a more lumpy course.
I've still got a few more ideas and tweaks to work on with kit and position that should allow me to squeeze a bit more out of my power and coupled with the performance jump I'm hoping to see from riding and training full time I'm aiming for a better result next year as a final year U23. Maybe even a top 5 or podium depending on what the course looks like.
Road Race - Saltburn By the Sea
What a location! The circuit itself wasn't super hard but when you combine 10 laps, 189km, no flat, 4000m of either up and down, 30+ degrees of heat and torrential rain, it was hugely attritional and the hardest race I've ever done. Having finished it gives me confidence in the races that are to come in the second half of the season as they cannot be harder than that.
The past 2 attempts at Nat Champs have not gone to plan. At Lincoln I was black flagged with about 3 laps to go having got stuck in a group that was racing negatively and just chasing attacks down every time anyone tried to push on to stay in the race. In Scotland last year I hit a pothole, double punctured and ended up over the bars, in a ditch and couldn't continue due to knee swelling. So this year was all about just finishing.
The field was stacked with some of best British riders from the pro peloton and who had no doubt been at altitude camps and were preparing for / hoping for Tour de France selection. Below them were some really good pro conti and conti riders. So the field was rammed with talent and it was going to be tough to survive the time cut.
The first 30km was flat out. I felt terrible for the next 100 km and was in a group that was riding round collecting riders coming back from the front of the race. At 140km the legs came good and I attacked the group I was in as I'd heard we were 9 minutes behind the front of the race and was determined to do everything I could to finish inside the 10 minute time cut. I did a lap solo before being joined by 4 others who would form the last group to be given a place. In the end I finished in 20th place. I was the last finisher across the line out of 160 odd on the start list. I was 16 minutes down on Fred Wright, the winner, and the World tour guys but only about 4 minutes down on the group ahead of ours who were mainly full time conti riders.
Wales U23 National Series (Round 3)
I had a bit of a knee niggle that was affecting me while riding after nationals that I needed to get sorted. Thankfully a trip to see Matt Thompson, who squeezed me in to his packed schedule l, sorted it as always and got me going again.
Coming off the back of going so deep at Nationals, I was hoping once I had absorbed the effort and recovered I'd have good legs for some upcoming races. And so it proved.
We had both Jimbo, Taylor and myself out front in moves on laps 1 and 2 with some promising looking groups but they ended up coming back, only for a 3 man move to form on the third lap. We built a lead of about 1:30 over the chasers and 3 mins over the group. A crash in the group took out a few riders and I hope everyone that crashed is ok and recovering. In the second group on the road we had Jimbo and Taylor sitting on and in the second chase group we had Wordy sitting in policing. So it was a perfect performance from the team to be in all three groups off the front.
On the final lap the chasing group had cut our lead to about 25 secs so it was time to move. I attacked the other 2 on the hill and got a gap then got my head down and pushed on. I've never been out solo before at the front of a race and it was a strange mixture of excitement and panic in equal measure. Excitement as I've always wanted to win a race this way and panic because I really wanted the win and didn't want to get caught so I pushed on with everything I had. I took my first win of the season solo by 53 seconds and that puts me in the joint lead of the U23 National series.
A massive thanks to the JTOW organising team who put the race on. They had some real issues trying to get racing back on and it's great that this one happened. I know they have even bigger plans next year for a stage race which I hope happens.
The dragons were an excellent thought too.
Next stop: Lancaster GP - National A