National Series and a Discussion on What Categorises a "Hilly TT"
This month marked the start of the National Road Series with rounds 1 and 2 on consecutive weekends as well as two other races for me.
Upton Road Race - 1st August
On the 1st August was Upton road race, a wet and fast road race the day after the Crown Cup RR in which a very hard, late bridge to the break may have affected my legs for the following day. This wasn't a great race for me as I missed the moves that went up the road in the mid portion of the race so ended up just rolling round in the peloton and attacking only to be brought back.
Lancaster Grand Prix - 15th August
At this point I was still on the way back to fitness after my time off so had no expectations, not to mention that it was my first National A road race and first elite national series race. It was held on a relentless course that was either up or down and very little space to rest if you went too hard too early. In theory the course should've suited me but as mentioned before the legs weren't on top form coming into it.
During the race I experienced bloating from 40 minutes in after having my first gel of the race and from then on it was incredibly uncomfortable to eat anything else. This was probably caused by eating too much before the race and not giving it time to digest so when I ate for the first time in the race I couldn't stomach it. I was in the front group up until just after 3 hours in, which wasn't bad on 2 gels but then I couldn't follow the acceleration of the group when the deciding moves started to happen with 1 hour to go. I came in 49th and was surprised to have even finished given the circumstances. Not a great experience but one I could learn a lot from in order to get it right for the next rounds.
Ryedale Grand Prix - 22nd August
Finally at the end of a 3 week block of training and racing with the aim to get some load back in legs I came into round 2 feeling better than I had been previously but still fatigued from the block. I had tested some fuelling strategies throughout the week on longer rides; trying to digest more grams of carbs an hour in order make longer races sustainable while also avoiding bloating.
I was feeling much better than I was at Lancaster for the first two and a half hours however I got to the main hill on the small loop for the second time and the legs seemed to just fall off. My heart rate skyrocketed and my power dropped off massively; I went from being in the top 10 for the first 400m of the climb to out the back by the top which may have been due to my saddle slipping back. Whatever the cause, I then struggled from that point in the race until the finish on every climb and then would get back to the group on the descents. Finally I got distanced for good on the last time through the grounds of the Abbey before the finish and took the final lap at my own pace. I came in 24th in the end which was a decent result and things were heading in the right direction.
VE Day Memorial Stage Race - 28th-30th August
This weekend was the only stage race on the calendar for us this year at a 3 day in Bedfordshire. National B category, teams of 4 and 2 team time trials would make the racing interesting throughout. The 4 of us that went were Will Harding, James McKay, Ewan Mackie and myself along with team manager Dave Coulson there to make sure we survived the weekend away.
The first day was 2 stages with a 16.8km TTT in the morning and a 95km road stage in the afternoon. We lost a bit of time on stage 1 but still were very happy with how we rode with very smooth changes and we'd all given it everything at the end. Stage 2 was defined by a big crash which thankfully all of us avoided coming down in and soon afterwards a move slipped up the road while people were calming down in order to help people get back on. I took 8th in the bunch sprint with 3 up the road so 11th on the stage and a bit of time shipped to the breakaway.
The second day was two TT's, an individual in the morning and team in the afternoon so I was looking to maybe get a place on stage 3 as it was described as "hilly" and I was feeling good the day before. Whether 100m elevation gain in 11km is classed as hilly everywhere or whether it's just a southern thing, I'm not too sure. Anyway, I continued to feel good and came joint 5th with the leader on GC however because of his higher overall placing I was demoted to 6th. We rode another strong TTT later in the day and came 7th again which put me in 17th on GC coming into the final day.
On the advice of Dave I rode the final stage (a 142km road race) like a one day race and let the GC drama play out without getting involved. A huge shift from Ewan in the first hour and a half covering every move meant I was able to sit in and save my legs. Then, fortunately, one of the big threats to GC got up the road so two teams burned all their guys to bring it back and when the gap got to 30 seconds I bridged across with 2 laps to go with another rider. Behind, a group of 15 or so escaped the peloton since no one had any riders left to chase and 3 more riders countered us just as we crossed the line for the final lap and I was the only rider from the previous break who managed to follow that move. The final lap hurt and I was struggling to pull turns (and missed a fair few) but produced a good sprint at the end up the final kicker to win the stage and move up to 5th on GC, taking 45 seconds on the second group and 2.5 mins on the peloton.
Overall the racing was good and the living aspect of the weekend went much smoother than expected. The stage results were as follows:
Stage 1 TTT - 7th
Stage 2 RR - 11th
Stage 3 ITT - 6th (Joint 5th on time)
Stage 4 TTT - 7th
Stage 5 RR - 1st
GC - 5th
Next up is Team JRC's day of racing at Darley Moor next weekend and then the 3rd and final round of the national series at the Beaumont trophy towards the end of September