Wrong Place, Wrong Time Part 2
June has been a busy month of racing away from home in Ireland and Scotland but to start off the month post exams, I did a 10 mile TT on the Hatfield O10/1 course. This was originally supposed to be a 25, however it was shortened to a 10 due to a sportive. It was a very windy day and it was a cross headwind on the way out so I spent a lot of energy trying to keep the bike upright. I came in with a time of 20:15 which I was relatively happy with considering the conditions.
The next day was Yorkshire regional champs. This was a rough day out for me as I'd been struggling all week with legs that felt super fatigued whenever I was on the bike. In the race it felt like I had no sustained top end power and so when moves were going up the road, I couldn't follow as I was already at my limit. I spent the rest of the race TT'ing round with a couple of others and finished 15th. The next issue was how I was going to clear this fatigue by Wednesday for the start of the Rás Tailteann.
I'd been looking forward to this for a while and was hoping to bring home some results, my legs had seemed to make some sort of a recovery but weren't brilliant and that was playing on my mind a little. Even so, I thought that I had 5 chances to produce something. This was also my first experience of a proper stage race, hopping from hotel to hotel every night and racing point to point. The first stage was fast and good fun; I tried to get in a couple of moves and stayed nicely positioned despite putting a big hole in the side of my shoe early on. It ultimately came down to a huge bunch sprint and without wanting my race to be over on the first day I stayed out of the way and came in on the same time as everyone else.
The second stage was one I had looked at before the race and thought it suited me well because there was a 1.6km hill, averaging 8.6% that crested 6km from the finish. However, the day was won by a breakaway that slipped up the road about half way into the stage. This left the peloton to fight it out for minor placings. I was feeling good but when the climb began it was full gas from the bottom and I couldn't quite hang on to the top guys. I had a gap on the next group behind however a headwind on the descent made life difficult and groups kept coming together before the finish. Our group was sprinting for 11th and I was 22nd. For the team it was not a good day; we lost James and Will to crashes and they would both have to abandon the next day.
The third stage was pretty grim. The longest day, with the most climbing and it was tipping it down all day. Jimmy spent 150km in the break and came away with 4th which was a huge shift whilst Joe and I came in with the front group after splits late in the race caused some people to lose some time. The next couple of days were mostly flat, and with a cross tailwind heading back across Ireland towards Blackrock, stage 4 was the 9th fastest race this year to date with an average speed of 48kph for 155km. I tried a lot with Jimmy to get up the road and we got in a couple of promising moves but people started working to bring us back whenever we tried so it was a second bunch sprint. My last attempt to get up the road with 5km to go meant I had no legs to contest the finish.
Onto the final stage and it was a hard one because everyone was tired but wanting to get something out of the race. I couldn't stomach any food after the 4 days of all out racing so completely ran out of legs with 40km to go. I was hanging at the back the whole time on the finishing circuit except for the final lap where I took the opposite way round a roundabout, subsequently avoiding a crash, and finding myself in the top 30 coming into the sprint. I gave it a go and came away with 19th, my best stage finish of the race.
I can say it was a fantastic trip with the team and a load of experience gained for the coming races despite not necessarily getting out of the race what I initially wanted.
National Championships - Dumfries & Galloway
The TT was held on a largely flat 21.9km course that was fast and all about power and aero. I didn't produce the power I was expecting to but I held my position well. 19th was the best I could do on the day so for next year, some more time in position will get me a lot closer to where I want to be.
The road race was held a week after Ireland, I had mostly recovered and my legs were feeling good. The weather was bad but it did dry up after about an hour of racing and it wasn't too cold. I was much further towards the front than I expected to be and I was getting in the mix, following moves. An hour in and I was still up there, had avoided a couple of crashes and was on the right side of splits in the high winds. After 1 hour 45 though, I hit what must have been a sizeable pothole, although I didn't see it, whilst trying to move up on the right hand side of the bunch. This landed me a double puncture and not slow ones either. Both tyres blew out completely and I had very little control over the bike. Given that I was on the edge of the road, there was really only one place I was heading - into the gutter and then crashing into a ditch beside the road. The wheelbase car, who kindly took our wheels, stopped and gave me a wheel change but I knew that quite soon after getting back on the bike my knee was going to swell and I wouldn't be able to pedal so unfortunately had to abandon the race. A real shame as I had good legs for the first time in a while. Nonetheless it was a great experience and I can take confidence from my level against some of the top guys.
I have had to pull out of Otley GP this week with my knee still not quite right but I am aiming to be at Ilkley on Friday and then Stockton GP (the second National series race of the year) on Sunday. Hopefully I can carry the legs I had at nationals forwards this week