Some Things Don’t Go To Plan, Some Things Do
Italy is a long way to go for 45 mins racing! Sometimes you can do all the planning and organising you like but something comes out left field to take you down. In this case it was a rider I had to avoid (not his fault) , it was a rider in front of him who took him out leaving me no where to go.
In my last blog I quoted Dave Brailsford saying how, after months of work, it can all go wrong in a split second. Well this was a case of being in the wrong place in the universe at that split second - but that’s bike racing. Learn to accept it and move on.
But let’s wind back a bit - the schedule was:
Travel down to Stanstead airport Friday evening
03:30 wake up on Saturday to be at the airport for 04:00
06:20 flight to Venice, Italy
Travel to hotel 1 hour north
Unpack and rebuild bikes --> Get called a rookie for not having a tape measure in my bike box by a mechanic who was stood next to the biggest tool box you've ever seen.
Acquire tape measure from friendly Germans
Recce course with 2 significant climbs and descents which was all good
73rd Trofeo Piva , Col San Martino run by A.C Col San Martino
I was offered a guest ride for my old team JRC in this race, James had a spare place and offered it to me. Dave was kind enough to let me go so that was that.
On race day, despite a lunchtime start, it was freezing on start line (about 2 degrees) and the race was shortened by 2 laps due to weather conditions. About two minutes from the start, it got delayed. By which time we had handed all our warm clothing over and the helpers had gone to the feed leaving us to freeze on the start line for a while longer.
This was my first race in Italy and my first senior UCI 1.2 so I wasn’t sure how the race would unfold or how it would be raced. It was going to be good to see the level of the other guys. A lap and a half in I had started the main climb a bit out of position towards the back but a good descent put me back up the front in perfect position in the top 20, then on a wide , flat road, out of nowhere I’m off the road avoiding the crash, trying to get myself and my bike between a hedge and a metal post, which I can officially confirm didn’t fit.
With the damage to the bike, the Boa on my shoe and a bash on the leg that was race over.
To say this was a massive disappointment and source of frustration would be an understatement. The legs were almost back and I was looking forward to the opportunity to race some of the best u23 conti and pro conti riders to gauge my level.
I was confident a top 20 place was in my grasp but it wasn’t to be.
I've reflected on what could have been better. I got way too cold at the start as we were standing around too long in race kit. This made the legs very sluggish to start so it was made extra hard until I had warmed back up.
But ultimately that's the way it goes, disappointing when I was happy with my prep and I'd gone a long way to race in Italy. I just need to get over to Europe more often.
I’m hoping this isn’t my only opportunity this year to test myself on the U23 European race circuit at this level. It’s races like this that will help me grow as a rider more quickly and work towards my goals.
Yorkshire Classic - Round 1 of the U23 National Series
Onto the next goal of the season and it's Rd 1 of the U23 National Series. This race was held on the Upper Debby circuit where I was 3rd last year at Big Dogs return to racing so I knew the course well and knew I could do well.
The racing was odd to say the least. An early break of 3 got up the road but by lap 4 they were back. Then a group of 7 formed off the front. The gap to the break kept yo-yoing from 2 mins to 15 secs then back up to 2 mins each lap as the bunch chased down then sat up then chased again but no one wanted to finish the job and close the last 15 seconds so the gap would balloon again.
I tried to get away and across the gap when others jumped as we had one of the team in the break so I couldn't instigate anything however this was on the last lap and I'd been following a lot of moves all day so a moments hesitation was enough for me to not get on the wheel and end up in no mans land before returning to the bunch.
With about 3km to go I clipped off the front with a group of 4 and we held the gap to the finish. I took 2nd in our group sprint and 7th overall behind a depleted breakaway. Happy with how the legs felt and how I raced.
CiCle Classic - redemption
This was my first UCI 1.2 on home soil and, from what I could gather, a bit of a lottery with all the potential for crashes, punctures and mechanicals.
I had done my preparation with the team and reconned the course a few days before. I also managed to blow the sidewall out on my tyre on the only rock on an otherwise smooth bit of road - maybe it's something about the roads round there. I had also put a lot of thought and prep in to my equipment choice for the race day as while you can’t plan for the unforeseen and bad luck, you can plan for everything else.
It was one of the hardest days I’ve had on a bike so far and at 185km (115 miles) it is the longest race I’ve done to date.
The first section of the race saw a lot of crashes around the top of the course because people were nervous and ready to get racing. This made for a frantic first 60km and I got held up by 3 crashes but managed to avoid coming down. Once we hit the technical stuff in the middle of the course when coming off the secteurs I found myself closing a couple of gaps. I was very pleased with my nutrition and drinking plan that kept me going through the race as this is an area I’ve been working on over winter. I pulled out the sprint of my life to win the kick for the line in my group. I was super pleased to pull out such a sprint after nearly 5 hours of racing and excellent sprint numbers sustained for a good period.
In the end, I finished up 20th overall and 8th U23 rider in a race where being significantly under 70kg is not an advantage. Reflecting on the race I spent the first 50km too far back and not able to move up on narrow roads and fast racing. So I probably used a lot of extra energy in accelerations and didn't see the winning move go after about 80km. Better position might have allowed me to go with the splits deeper in to the race but I stayed out of trouble and avoided punctures.
This race confirmed for me that I have got the performance back post covid, and what's more, I'm starting to see the pay off for the winter training. I do have what it takes so I take a great deal of confidence from it.
As the Future Tour of Wales - Round 2 of the U23 series has been postponed I thought I would enter a couple of Nat B’s back to back to simulate stage racing. I‘ve entered Oakenclough in the Forest of Bowland on Sat 30th and Tim James memorial raced on 31st.
I’m also going for my physiological testing at Vitfor with Craig and Huw in early May that had to be postponed due to catching covid so I’m looking forward to seeing where my figures are at. Following mid week testing, it’s another big race on the calendar - Lincoln GP. Can’t be as hard as the Nat champs was in 2021 (surely?) especially as I've now ridden the course before.
Thanks to Pedal potential and everyone else for their support. This month I want to make a mention of Paul Hood of Fellas hair in Sheffield. He's been supporting me quietly in the background for a few years now, getting me looking sharp as well as some great chat while I'm in the chair.
Thanks to everyone who take the time to read my blogs. I hope you find them interesting, informative or entertaining.