Thursday, October 11, 2012

RPC Has Moved!

The Rapid Performance Coaching Blog has now moved on to another site just to freshen it up a bit as we go in to the new year.

Follow this link to head over to the Blog now:

See you all over there and hope you all keep enjoying it. Oh and remember to become a follower, its gonna be a good year!

Ride safe,

Dan and Team RPC

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Change of Pace – 105 mile Great Shakespeare Sportive.

Well I suppose I should start of by apologising to all those out there who have been enjoying my posts over the course the course of the year because its been an age since I have posted anything. This is down to a factor of reasons and many of you regular followers who have read my previous posts may have picked up on the fact that as the year wore on I began to fade physically. This is unfortunately down to a fairy unusual medical condition which I wont bore you all with but basically it has destroyed my racing performance. Thankfully, after months of waiting, I should begin some form of treatment later this month which will put me back on a level playing field for next year and if all goes to plan, I will be stronger that I have ever been. Up until that point, I decided after the RAS that I would knock the racing on the head for this year so as I could have a break from it all and enjoy the bike with no pressure.

This doesn't mean that the team has stopped racing though, oh no! After his awesome victory in the RAS, Tony has been on winning form since and has taken 2 more wins in the weeks proceeding the race. August is typically a quite month on the racing front but the team should be back in action come September and then soon after that we will be back in to the offseason, re-jigging the team slightly and maybe even bringing in some new riders!

Although I have not been racing my bike I have still been riding it and I have also been hitting the gym to work on a few problem areas and also give myself a new focus. I have been really enjoying just going out and getting in the miles in an old skool fashion. As it was, I found out only 2 days before the start of the event, the Great Shakespeare Sportive was back in town with its 100 mile and 100km rides to choose from. Well what better way to enjoy the miles than with a massive group of cyclists of all kinds of abilities and take in a new route with some killer climbs. Perfect.

Winchcombe Highstreet
Before the day of the race, Oops sorry, Sportive! I went out for a good 4 hr ride with some nice climbs but on reflection i maybe did a bit too much considering my plan for the following day. My grand idea was to not only ride the 100 mile route in a decent time but to also ride to and from the event. Since I have now flown the nest, another reason why the posts have been scarce, the ride from home to the HQ would be 12.5 miles and the same again on the way back. This means that if all goes to plan I should finish the day with 130 miles on the clock, this will be the most I have ever ridden in a single day. I’m game for that!

With pockets over flowing with food and treats including Fruit loaf with Jam, Malt loaf, Muesli Bars, Fig Rolls and the French Version of “B’N” biscuits, I headed out the door in to the some what clear skies and rode the 40 minute route to the HQ. Arriving at the HQ I was quite amused with what I saw; Teams of riders setting up the bikes which were placed in pro style bike stands, A couple of guys applying embrocation and a couple of pre event tactic discussions. I’m used to seeing this all the time at races but at a Sportive? Oh well, fair play to them, they take it seriously and they ride as hard as they can, they are after personal glory and what wrong with that?

The village of Snowshill
After fixing a pre ride puncture I headed out after waiting for the mass start to clear. I set myself the task of working my way through the hundreds of riders and join my mate who started at the front of the bunch. After about 2 miles there was a massive crash which thankfully i didn't get involved in but this dis encourage me to keep my wits about. After departing from the Stratford Manor Hotel of the Warwick Road, the route heads over in to Kineton and it was a great site seeing all of these cyclists taking over the whole area and then when I came to a few of the early climbs it just looks like carnage as hundreds of riders all bunch up and struggle to keep in forward motion. I opted to ride on the opposite side if the road to avoid any problems and pushed on edging closer to to the front which was still along way off yet.

After heading through Kineton and brushing past Sunrising Hill, the route point in the direction of Stow on the world but it takes the very scenic route! Passing through some lovely villages and some nice descents mixed with punchy climbs, tis was shaping up to be a great route. Also on the way towards Stow riders were faced wit the split whereby going right would take you down the 100km route and going left would keep you on track for the 100 miles. I bared left sticking with my plan but as I would later find out, my mate who I was chasing and still continued to chase after this point actually took the right option which meant I was never to catch him. The big Girl!

After reaching Stow on the Wold, the highest town in the Cotswolds, another challenge arrived to make the ride that little bit more interesting; The Rain! for the first 30 minutes it just trickled from the sky but it did make some of the steep twisty Cotswold descents pretty hairy. After stow I rode with another chap all the way Winchcombe, this was nice because although I had been passing riders for the last 3 hrs I was essentially on my own so a bit of company was nice. As we rode along the ridge high above the town of Winchcombe, the roan began to hammer down which made the descent in to the town a very nasty experience. Although my companion was beginning to suffer, i thought it best to stay with him until we had made it to the bottom, this way if one of us had an off there would be another rider there to help. As it was we both got down safely and pushed on through the town centre, passed the feed zone and turned right to take on the first main climb of the day; Castle St.

The well know sight of
Broadway Tower
I rode this climb for the first time few weeks ago a suffered like a dog but on todays rid it would be quite so long because after the steep section the route turns left which shortens the climb up somewhat. As I hit the climb I waved good by to my companion of the last few miles as I power on. The amount of water that was flowing down the road was unbelievable, it was a waterfall, not like one but actually was one, If you rode in the current you could actually feel it impeding you forward progress! Once over the top, rain still pouring, the arrows took us over to Stanway which is another great climb but today we would be going down it.

At the bottom of Stanway, heading toward Broadway High-street, I meet a rider in Node 4 Giordana kit. I rode with him for a while and talked about al sorts but he was mainly asking me about racing as he was looking to start racing for the first time next season. Scott if you reading this, Go for it, you'll rip it up! As it was he was suffering from cramps and when we hit the 2nd main climb of he day, Snowshill, which is one of my favourite training climbs, I waved goodbye to him and pushed on on my own. Now with a good number of miles on the clock I was beginning to feel it my legs but i was determined to keep a good pace and finish in a respectable time.

After passing through Chipping Campden and right past the RPC Headquarter, we were lead over to Hidcote Manor and eventually to the foot of the last climb of the day; the infamous Marmite climb that is Larkstoke! you either love it or you hate although i don't know to many people that love it that's for sure. Its a real Cotswolds climb which takes place on a deserted road which is very rugged and has some crazy steep pitches and drags on forever over the top. I should mention that a few miles before this climb, the 100km and 100 mile route join back up so now there were lots more riders around. When i turned on to the climb I looked up and it was like the cycling equivalent of WW2! Masses of riders lying at the side if the road, loads opting to walk and other swerving violently  across the road.  To be fair it is a really tough climb and coming after 80 miles I also found it hard going. I grappled the tops of my bars, pulling hard as i thrusted my legs downward in an effort to keep the bike moving forward. Actually it wasn't as bad as I though and one at the top the route pointed you back in the direction of he finish.

The view from the top of Larkstoke looking back towards Quinton
The next 20 miles of so were a bit of a haze because but I know i was riding pretty hard to keep under the 5:45:00 marker and with a bit of Fabian Cancellara invisible TT bar style riding i did indeed make it back to base in a time of 5:43:00 which I was pretty happy with. The whole event was amazingly well organised, a lot of people think that the entry fee for sportives are expensive but bearing in mind what you get; Timing Chips, 3 food stations, perfect signage and marshalling the whole way round, a medal, a BBQ and massage, its not really that bad and its all for a good cause.

So at this point I had 117.5 miles on the clock and all i had to do now was ride the 12.5 miles back home. Sounds easy but my god was it far from it. Hungry, tired and faced with a headwind, I had to ride most of the way back in the small ring and after what felt like a life time I pulled up outside my converted Wagon Shed (yes you read right!) and was filled with content after looking at my Garmin; 130.9 miles in a time of 7hrs 20 minutes, the longest I have ever ridden and not exactly the easiest of routes. For the next 3-4 hrs after finishing I don't think i actually stopped for breath whilst munching my way through my entire houses contests of food but it was worth it. I’ll be back next year, I might even officially enter it as well!

Ride Stats:
Total Distance - 131.0 Miles
Total Ride Time - 7:22:17
Ave Speed - 18.0 mph
Ave Power - 184 watts
Norm Power - 205 watts
TSS - 395
Energy - 4722 Kcal

Time taken to complete Sportive - 5:50:00 (Gold Medal, Get In!!!)
Sportive Ave speed - 18.1 mph.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ras de Cymru Stage 6 – The Climb to Glory

I will be completely honest, I and sitting here in front of my laptop wondering how I am going to be able to express in words the feats that took place as a result of the final stage of the Ras de Cyrmu 2012. Well I suppose I could start by setting the tone a little; 5 days ago we were about to start the biggest amateur stage race that the UK has to offer, riders and teams that have won this race in the past have gone on to become or already were well established teams with big rosters, sponsors and support. We all wanted to well, not only for ourselves or for the team but also for everyone who has been supporting of our ventures this year. We thought that maybe we would stand a good chance of taking the Team Prize and maybe even getting one or two riders in the top ten. If these goals came off then we could walk away happy and satisfied.
Race Leader Adrian Bird and 4th Placed Mike Kiss discussing
race tactics before the start of stage
5 days later and we find ourselves sat on the starting line of the final stage of this years Ras with the very realistic possibility of securing not only the team prize but also 1st, 2nd and 4th spot on General Classification and already we would have bagged a stage win in the TTT and Adrian won a most aggressive rider award on stage 3. A lot was on the line and we knew it, we had a plan and we thought it could work and help us to hold on to our potential glory. It was now or never, be the hammer or be the nail, it was all up to us.

The final stage was set to be the big show down with a 50 mile road stage held on tight, narrow, twisty lanes before finishing on a 6km mountain top finish that could be the cause of both ecstasy of devastation. which ever it would be we knew it would be a sufferfest! On the start line Adrian received his new Yellow Jersey as race leader and stage was underway quicker that he could get it on! The race headed out through the neutralized section and on to the first section of narrow twisting lanes. We all knew that we had to be up towards the front in order to keep out of trouble and react to any moves. Soon enough a break of 3 riders did go clear but none of them were a threat to our leaders so we let it go.

As the race progressed the break began to gain upwards of a minute and we weren't quite sure of how far back on GC they were, Adrian decided he wanted to keep the gap at around a minute just to be safe. Thankfully but all so quite annoyingly, today I was finally feeling good and as I had nothing to loose on GC because I was so far down, It was up to me to support my team mates and do the domestique duties. I was ordered by my leader to get to the front and bring the gap back down to a minute. I moved up to the front of the bunch when the road widened and and pressed on keeping the pace high and consistent. At this point we had finished our stint on the small roads and now we were on the open dual carriage ways again, I kept plugging away on the front as riders attacked out of the bunch and as they did I maintain my place on the front and in my world of pain and slowly dragged them all back. I had no help from any one else but I didn't care, In a stage sort of way I was really enjoying it.

Soon riders began to attack around me which allowed me to slip back in the bunch to get some food and some recovery. Soon enough though the pace had dropped again so just as before I headed to the front in order to pull for my leaders once again. This stint was hard work, on a slight up hill and in to the wind, I was really beginning to fade but I just kept thinking of doing the best job I could for the team. Soon we began to near the start of the 2nd king of the mountains prime and as I knew I needed to get over this in the bunch i slipped back in to the peloton. I was riding next to Tony who concerned that the pace was slowing way to much, I informed him that I would get on the front and pull towards the final climb one we had gotten over this one but tony decided to attack in order to raise the pace. This worked perfectly and Tony lead the bunch over the climb with me, Ade and mike all in contact. With this now out of the way i could once again think about bringing the gap back down to around a minute as it was now just under 2.

"I Ho, I Ho, Its Back To Work I Go..........."
We headed back down the same twisty lanes which we started on which would bring us the foot of the final climb. The pace was already high but I knew I needed to be at the front because Adrian was up these and was getting exposed to the wind. I shot down the side of the bunch and back on to the front where myself and a Mid Devon rider worked hard to ramp the pace up. We were flying, the bunch was lined out and we must have been riding in excess of 30 mph. I took my final big pull just before the Turing on to the climb where Tony and Adrian  took over from me just as I popped. My work was done, we had managed to get the gap down to 30 seconds at the foot of the climb and after all of my exertions I had nothing left, all i had to do now was drag my exhausted body 6km up in to the clouds and to the finish.

Tony, Adrian and Mike disappeared i to the distance along with the rest of the leaders. This select group stayed together until 2km to go when Tony attacked off the front, this was what he told me he would do and fair play to him, he did and he went balls out to the finishes line. Despite a final charge from the group Tony stayed away and took a magnificent stage win. Adrian rode away from the rest of the field in the closing meters and took second with mike finishing in the group of leaders. I crossed the line 3 minutes later and was greeted by hugs of success from my teams mates.

All of this was amazing but there was on thing that was now apparent; Tony was only 9 seconds down on Adrian at the start of the stage, he gained a 15 second time bonus by winning the stage and Adrian took a 10 second time bonus for 2nd. This means that there was no only 4 seconds that separated them but no of us knew for sure how much time tony actually won by over Adrian. If it was 4 seconds then it would be a draw for 1st place, if it was 3 then Adrian would win but if it was 5 or more then tony would win! It was an exciting drive back to the sports centre in Newport where we would find out.

Total Domination.
Back at the sport centre we were treated to a buffet lunch as we went through the prize presentation, Here are the results that we gained from this years Ras De Cymru:
2 Stage wins; Victory in the TTT & Tony’s 1st place on the final stage (and a second place from Adrian)

Most Aggressive rider - Adrian Bird stage 3,
1st - Team Classification by over 4 minutes,
3 riders in the top ten on Overall Classification
4th place overall – Mike Kiss
2nd Place overall – Adrian Bird
1st place overall – Tony Kiss

So as it turn out Tony won stage 6 by 6 seconds which means he won the overall and snatched the leaders jersey by 2 seconds from Adrian, 2 seconds!!!! After 400km of racing, countless hill and descents, rain, wind and numerous crashed, the winner was decided by a measly 2 seconds. I don't think that we could have asked for or even dreamed of a better Ras if we had tried. For our first ever stage race as a team and our first ever stage race of 5 days as individuals I think its fair to say that we did pretty well, In fact I think its fair to say we dominated.

For me its a funny situation, a mix of utter exhilaration but also deep disappointment and frustration. Of course i am over the moon with the result and the efforts of the team but I just wish that I could have been up there on GC and could have done more in the first few days to help the team more. I have a long way to go before I am back to normal and my condition doesn't effect me anymore but I am very hopeful that come this time next year It will be a 1, 2 , 3, 4 clean sweep by RPC/SubZeroBikesCo. Well done boys, it was a pleasure to race with you and a pleasure to on the same team as you. Thanks for a great experience.

I would also like to take this chance to thank the selfless efforts of those involved who make this race a possibility. This is the only 5 days stage race w have at this level in this country and its also one of the most well organized events I have ever been involved with. Thanks a million and see you next year.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ras de Cymru Stage 5


Defend and Conquer.

55 mile Mountainous point to point Road Stage.

Today would be a big big day for us 4 RPC riders, we had not only the Team GC lead to defend but also 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th on Overall Classification. This stage could prove decisive and could see some huge time loses due to the fact it contained two long hard climbs early on in the stage, then 2 long exposed sections of dual carriage way and finally a punchy 500 meter climb to the finish line. We had a rough game plan and knew what we needed to do in order to hold our positions.

This was all good and well but once again I was not in good shape, although this time I really wasn't. I'm not sure if it was something that I ate last night but the whole evening was spent not far from the loo and this morning was pretty much the same. I was in two minds about even starting the race but as stage start approached I decided I would at least give it a go and see how i faired, for the team if nothing else. As we grouped up at the start, Adrian was presented with the Leaders yellow jersey, a proud moment for both Adrian and the team.

Finally we started a stage in the sunshine and as we progressed through the 7 mile neutralized zone I realised I was way too over dressed, off came the arm warmers and down came the zip on the gilet. The flag soon dropped and the race began, with only a few miles before we hit the climb all of the top riders were keen to get near the front, I was feeling ok up to now so I also headed up towards the head of the race. The climb began and the pace at the front was dialling in to one speed; Fast! After 500 meters of climbing, half of the field had already been gapped. I was finding the pace hard going and dangling off the back of the lead group. The rest of the team were up there and looking good ready to defend Adrian's yellow jersey.

Stage 5_1

The climb went on and on with more riders pinging off the back in to no mans land. I was just about hanging on but as we approached the summit, the riders at the front of the group shifted in to another gear and upped the pace considerably, I can only assume this was because of the riders who were sprinting for the King of the Mountains points. Unfortunately I didn't have this extra gear and I began to loose contact, It was only when I passed our road side supports with there very own RPC banner that I was informed we were at the top. This spurred me on to sprint back to the group but just as I did I was hit with the headwind and I was going nowhere. As the leaders began to pull away, I settled in to a small group of bunch fodder that began to try and chase back on, As some of our rivals for the Team GC were in this group I decided to leave them to work and so I just sat on and waited to see what would happen.

As we descended the first climb we did eventually make contact with the front group and it was at this point that I decided to remove my gilet and hand it to the official in the car following the group. As i did we hit another rise and the group began to pull away, this forced me to chase hard to get back on, which i did, but just at the same time we hit the start of the second climb. This was not good and as the pace once again put me in the red I decided the best thing i could do was to let them them go and ride my own pace otherwise i would be dead on my feet with a long way to go until the finish.

Just as before I ended up in a small group of riders, all of which had also been put in to difficulty with the pace at the front of the leading bunch. We rode a steady though and off and just kept plugging away hoping we might get back on. Up in the lead group, The other 3; Adrian, Tony and Mike were defending well and chasing every move that was being made, sprinting after both small and large attacks and nullifying them as they were being made. The boys really were doing the team proud, I only wish I could have been in the position to help but at the moment with my physical issues it’s just not going to happen, thankfully though they are proving to be strong enough without me.

Stage 5_3

Back in the second group on the road we had just started the main descent off of the second climb, this was a proper descent, just like what you get on real mountains. I was following second wheel but decided that the guys leading us down didn't know too much about descending fast, I decided to take up the reins and show them the way. I engaged the 53x12, tucked in low to the bike and threw it round the various hairpin corners, over taking a few cars and chasing a couple of motorbikes whilst I was at it. At the bottom on the descent there was a really nasty left hand corner which everyone hit way too fast, I locked up the rear and drifted round that bad boy and thankfully everyone else stayed upright as well. We were now about to begin the first of two really long, boring stretches of dual carridge way and as luck would have it we were joined by another group of riders who had been chasing us since the top of the second climb. This was really good news because now we had a nice group of about 12 rather than 6, this would make the dual carridge way sections much more bearable.

We all worked really well for the next 60 minutes or so and survived both of the 8 mile stints on the dual carridge ways. We had a nice chaingang going but a few times i did have to shout some orders about. I kind of took it on myself to be the instigator of the group, maybe because i was best placed on GC at the time who knows but it kept the group working well and everyone was pretty happy about it. I had to tell two riders to stop going through so fast because they were creating gaps which was counter-productive to our cause, I also had to tell another rider to sit on the back and don't do any turns because he was just slowing us down. Cycling is know for its strange make-up and how rivals can become companions to each other when they are in a break away, this was evident today when I done an “on the fly trade” with a rider from another team who had ran out of fluid. I traded my remaining bottle for a gel which saved him from dehydration and bagged me some more caffeine injected syrup. Bargin!

Stage 5_4

7 minutes up the road and back up with the lead group which was about 45 riders big, 2 riders broke clear from the bunch on the last dual carridge way section. These riders were no threat to the Adrian's yellow jersey so they decided not to chase. These riders managed to just about stay clear of the field and contested the sprint after cresting the final 500 meter sting in the tail. It would be Simon Ernest of the “Lost MTBers” team who would take the win with ex-race leader Gly Griffiths of Urban Cyclery in second. Ade, Tony and Mike all finished in the group and rode up the final climb at a stead pace as they had tomorrows stage in there minds and wanted as little of todays stage in there legs.

And so, back to my group who were now tackling the last stretch of road towards the finish. Everyone was pretty drained both physically and mentally after the hills and dual carridge ways and as we hit the final climb we the group splintered but i was strong enough to crest the climb in 3rd and claim back another spot before the line. I finished in 54th position on the stage and a mammoth 7.09 minutes back on the stage winners time. However, I may have lost a big chunk of time but we were still the second group to finish and there were a lot of groups still minutes behind and some riders lost as much as 35 minutes on todays stage!

Stage 5_5

So with the stage over and the results in, this is how it stands in the rankings; I have now dropped from 7th all the way to 50th on GC, bad times but not much I can do about it. As a team we are still leading the Team Classification by 3 minutes 13 seconds which is great and Adrian still holds on to the yellow jersey with Tony sitting nicely in second overall. The best development after todays stage however is the fact that Mike has now moved up to 3rd position on GC!!! This means that RPC/Subzero not only lead the team GC but also hold 1st, 2nd and 3rd (and 50th!!!!) in the overall classification. Its so crazy its like the race has been fixed!! its fair to say the RPC are dominating the RAS.

So at first we thought that today would be a big day but now it looks like tomorrow will be a huge day for us. If we can maintain all of our current positions and I can pull something out of the hat to move back up in the GC, RPC will walk away with an immense result. However, there is one hell of a parcours that stands in our way; A 50 mile point to point race which finished at the summit of 6km long climb! I am hoping that I will have some good fortune and actually be able to climb as well as I should be able to but i don't think realistically I will be in that kind of shape, but you never know. I suppose we will find out soon enough. Watch this space.

Ras de Cymru Stage 3 & 4


BANG, SMASH, CRASH!!!!! This was how stage 3 of the Ras started and this was all in the neutralized zone! With the weather looking grim once again and it already spitting with rain, the stage began with 3 miles of neutralized and with in that 3 miles there was absolute chaos as a rider punctured and went down in the middle of the bunch. As the riders around him reacted to the crash, a few riders swung out in to the opposite lane, at the same time a Motorcycle outrider was coming past the group and the rider collided with the motorcycle which flung him and his bike back in to the bunch which the caused another series of crashes. Thankfully none of our team were involved and after a bit of extended neutralized so as the race would regroup, soon the actual race was underway.

Stage 3 AdeStage 3 mikeStage 3 Tony

I had been feeling bad for a few days but this morning it was a whole new level for me, I felt terrible. The legs wouldn't work and my lungs were tighter than a play girls corset!! This was bad new because stage 3 was a 60 mile Road Race which consisted of 3 laps of a circuit which contained a very steep, punchy climb which kicked again as it crested the top. For the first lap I was sat towards the back as usual dreading what was to come, the rest of the team were up towards the front ready for action. This is very frustrating for me because all I want to do is be up there helping the squad but with the situation I’m in at the minute I just cant, hopefully next year things will be different.

Anyway, the time is now and and soon enough we hit the climb for the first time, I went straight to the back of the font group giving it everything to hang on, Tony and Ade were looking good at the front, Mike was at the back with me but i think this is because he had a mechanical. I got gapped slightly at the top but I managed to get back to the leaders on the descent. The second time we hit the climb it was pretty much the same situation with me getting gapped and then managing to claw my way back to the group. I was feeling it at this point and was not looking forward to the third and final time up the ascent.

Stage 3

As we approached the climb for the final time I tried to make my way up towards the font so as to allow myself some slipping room on the climb. I was climbing with the main group and not feeling to bad but as we crested the top our very own Adrian Bird attacked and the group accelerated over the top. Although i was feeling ok a few riders up ahead let the wheels go which meant that all of us behind had now lost contact as well. We formed up in to a group which then set to Ade Stage 3work in order to get back to the main field. I was just tapping through and not doing much work because i had no need as RPC still had 3 riders in the main filed. Eventually the group i was in did make contact with the leaders and it was then that i was informed that Adrian was still up the road.

The last few miles were all on draggy dual carridge ways with a nasty head wind, Adrian held a gap of about 15-20 seconds on the group with another rider out in front about the same distance ahead of Adrian. The bunch were speeding along and eventually they scooped Arian up but undeterred by this, Ade kept drilling it on the front all the way to the line. We all finished up in the main group and none of us lost time on GC which was pleasing. I think most people were just happy to get through the stage given the crashes that took place in the early stages. It was clearly a tough stage because there were a umber of riders which finished outside of the time limit but even so, these were allowed to continue on due to the fact that stage 2 was cancelled.

Stage 4 – The Team Time Trial, 11.8 Miles

We have all seen it in the Tour de France and other big stage races and know how crucial they can be to the overall standings, a Bad TTT can ruin the chances of even the strongest GC contender. This would be the first time that we had ridden a TTT as a team and apart from a little practise the other week after a race, we had done no specific training. However, we knew we were all descent testers and knew that this would be our chance to to make a statement on the GC and hopefully put some of our riders up there in the top 10 in the overall standings.

aero helmetIt would be an interesting stage for every team having ridden a hard 60 mile stage in the morning. We were off 3rd out of all the teams which meant that we had a short recovery period compared to the teams that were off much later in the day. After a 45 minute warm up trying to get the legs working again we headed off to the start ready for action. We had decided to take the Team Sky approach to this stage and considered the impact of marginal gains as we all decided to tape the vents in our helmets in order to help us achieve the best time possible.

We lined up on the start and realised that we had to self push for this TT where as in usual time trial you are held by the starter so you can get clipped in and set straight off. As we set off the inevitable happened and I couldn't get clipped in to my pedal, This lead to some panic which made things worst but thanks to Adrian's push I managed to get clipped in and we were off. Tony took the first pull with me in second, I was immediately put in the red trying to keep with Tony and then i had to come through and do my turn! The TT course was on a single carriage main road which was pretty much dead straight with a roundabout at one end which acted as the half way turn. The way out was super fast as we had a tail and wind and it was downhill, We all worked really well as a team and employed perfect communication in order to keep us all together. Tony and Adrian were putting in some big pulls and me and mike were giving it everything we had. We hit the roundabout and headed back up toward to the finish, this was now the really hard part as it was all in to a savage headwind and the last mile and a half was up a real beast of a drag, it wasn't steep but it was enough to cause big problems and see some massive time losses.


Up to the point where we hit the drag I was managing to put in some good pulls despite not feeling particularly great but as soon as we hit the drag I blew to pieces and I had to sit on the back of the train and let the others do the work. I was in so much pain; spitting and screaming my way to the line and I was beyond relieved when we had finally crossed it. The last few miles we had ridden in the rain and at the same time the had wind picked up, We were pretty sure that we had some of the worst weather as it seemed to brighten up in time for the later started. We had no idea how we had done until the results were printed on the evening but we though that given the bad conditions during our ride we had still done enough to get about 5th or so.


Hitting the big Time!

As we headed down to the sports hall after dinner to get the results we were shocked at what we saw. We had absolutely smashed the TTT and won by so much time that they had to use the time adjustments in order to keep us from getting too much of a time advantage over the rest of the field, this is the first time they have ever had to do this in the history of the Ras which just shows how hard we had ridden. We were now also leading the Team GC by over 3 minutes which was fantastic for us. But the best new was that Adrian was now leading the GC and was in the leaders yellow jersey, Tony was in 2nd place overall, Mike was in 4th and I was in 7th!!!! All 4 of us were now in the top 10 and sitting pretty.

ResultsThis was the best result we could have hoped for and now we are in the position to win both the Team GC and also the Individual Rider GC. The next 2 stages will be all about defending the lead and keeping ourselves up there in the top spots. Bring it on!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ras de Cymru Stage 2

Brecon Beacons
59.8 mile Rolling Road Stage
3 KOM primes, 3 Sprint Primes.

After what can only be described as a hot nights sleep, the team awoke to what looked like a fairly decent day. With breakfast being served between 7 and 8 we hot tailed it down to the Fecky for some pre race grub. Just like dinner we were treated to a big selection of cereals, toast, cooked breakfast, pastries and much more. However, knowing how bad we all felt after last nights pig out, we all took caution as to how much we piled on our trays, we all basically stuck to one bowl of cereal, except for Adrian who had 2!, a Couple of slices of toast and a few cups of coffee. With breakfast done we headed back to the dorms to pack our race bags and headed off north bound towards the Brecon beacons which is where todays race would take place.

It was around an hours journey from the Uni to the race HQ and after leaving Newport in the rain we arrived at Brecon Ruby club under sunny skies. After the race briefing we set off to complete the 5 mile neutralized zone before the races begun proper. It has to be said that this was the most dangerous neutralized zone I have ever ridden, what the driver of the official car was playing at I had no idea but he kept speeding up forcing the bunch to chase him and then slamming on his brakes which caused chaos in the bunch, along with a ton of road furniture this made for a sketchy experience. With the rain now also beginning to fall, many riders including myself had a few scary moments.

As the flag dropped at the start of the race, the paced expectedly picked up pretty quickly and it was at this point that I realised I was pretty far back in the bunch. With 101 riders all jockeying for position, moving up was not an easy task. Thankfully I managed to get some what near the front as we approached the main climb. It was at this point that two things happened; Firstly i realised that I was feeling really quite bad, my lungs felt constricted and my legs wouldn't work. As soon as we hit a small rise I would have to ride at such a high level of perceived exertion it felt like I was attacking! I guess I am going through a “bad patch” at the minute with my medical issues and when these happen it really effects my riding. Thankfully I have now received good news as to when I should be getting treatment started so in a few months time hopefully things will be different.

Stage 2 Adrian

The second, more concerning event that took place as we hit the hill was the weather, or more specifically how the weather decided to turn against us. I think the gods may have decided that bike racing isn't hard enough so they chose to test our willingness and our courage all in one fell swoop. And so began the worst down pour I have ever had the misfortune to witness, let lone race in! At first it was just unbelievably heavy rain that fell from the skies, this caused the bunch to fracture as riders began to struggle for vision. Next came the worst part, the hail!!! It was like something from a movie, it was coming down that hard and that fast that it was causing many riders to bleed from there exposed skin. I took to effing and blinding as I made my way down the descent which I would say helped, although others may not agree! It was not long after this point that the race was called to a halt just before the start of the second lap, as we all bunched together and tried to work out what was going on, the rain eased off and the sun came out! The commissaries decided to resume the race with a neutralized section before getting on to the bigger roads but as soon as we got going we were faced with flooded lanes and debris.

At the top of the next climb we were once again order to stop and pull in behind the lead cars. It was at this point that the race officials very fairly and understandably deemed the race to unsafe due to standing water and Stage 2 was officially cancelled. Bummer. Having said that, they only ever call the race off ifthey really need to. At the end of the day they want us to race as much as we want to race, they have put in months of planning and given up there free time to help organize and run the event so the last thing they want to do is call it off. This means that cancelling a race is a very last resort and I think its fair to say that it was the right decision, someone could have been very seriously injured had we continued to race.

So after making our way back to the HQ we loaded up and decided to recce tomorrows road stage, the afternoon TT and the finish of stage 5 so we knew what we would be facing. Its looks as though it could be an interesting and tough few days ahead, even with out the added weather effects. Keep tabs as there will be plenty more action coming up in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Ras de Cymru

Ras de Cymru 5 Day Stage Race
Newport University, Newport, South Wales

Wednesday 27th June – Sunday 31st June

Its been 6 months since we first decided as a new team that we would make the Ras de Cyrmu our main goal as a squad for the 2012 season and after hearing only a few weeks ago that our entries had been accepted, the time has now come for our assault on the UK’s only 5 day amateur stage race. Everything so far this season has been pretty much ridden and raced with this event in mind and its no lie that we hope to do very well here and cement our stake in the ground as one of the best amateur teams in the UK.

With all of us looking to be in our best possible form for this race, we have taken the last week or two nice and steady, or tried to at least! and apart from the TT I did on Sunday I have been trying to keep my legs fresh in the hope I would come in to this race in the best shape I could. Tony and Myseelf headed down to the race in his car on the morning of the first stage and arrived at Newport University Campus at just gone 11 in order to sign on for the event and also attend the compulsory safety briefing, First though we had to get the keys to our “digs”. The Ras is a combination of hard work by both British Cycling and Newport University, together they put on what can only be described as a mini Tour de France, it really quite brilliant.

We managed to enter the event early so we had the option of booking the on campus accommodation, this means that all four of us who would be racing; me, Tony, Mike and Adrian, would all be sharing an apartment, each with our own en-suite rooms and a communal kitchen. I missed out on the whole Uni thing so this is the first time I have stayed in the typical campus dorms and on first impressions they seem to be pretty good, small yes but hey have all the necessities; fridge, internet, bathroom, complementary biscuit's you name it.
Once all of us had unloaded and got ourselves sorted it was off to the briefing where after we had been given the low down on the rules and all the usual safety stuff,we were treated to a lunch buffet at the back of the hall. Its this kind of thing that makes it so great, how they manage to put it all on for what is actually a pretty cheap entry I have no idea but i love it. Lunch done it was off to sign on and get our race number and then back to the rooms to pin up and get ready for the first stage!

Day 1, Stage 1 – Prologue, 4.7 miles

As with most half descent stage races, the event begun with a lung busting, leg searing, heart crushing short distance TT in order to establish a race order and seed all the rider in there own position with there own overall time. Now although I am a pretty handy tester when I have good legs, I am suited only to the longer distance TT’s, 25’s and 50’s are my thing, anything short and I just lack the raw power that the bigger guys can call up IMAG0141on to help them achieve a good time. So with a sub 5 mile TT awaiting us I was not looking forward to it, worst still was the fact it finished on a 1km climb to the finish, something that should suit me but not at the end of this kind of distance.

Heading out to the start I wanted to get a good solid warm up under my belt so I rode Tempo for about 30 minutes and then threw in a few hard efforts to open up the lungs. With the first rider off at 15.16, our team was off pretty early as we were numbers 9 through to 12. Tony was off first with his 100mm deep rear wheel and taped up helmet for the aero advantage, mike was off second also with a taped up helmet, I was off 3rd and Adrian was off 4th.
The course was pretty flat and draggy all the way up to the turning where you were faced with a 180 degree turn off of the main road and straight on to a 10% gradient, The turn was horrible and the climb was a nasty little sting in the tail. As I began my ride I tried to hold back knowing that there was the climb at the end which could see some huge time losses, yet when ever I get going I always panic that I'm going too easy and push harder on the pedals. Its soon became apparent that although I thought I was holding something back I really wasn't as I found myself needing to recover on the smallest of downhill's. I approached the lethal turn and changed down in to the small ring before the corner and, as riders get penalised with a 10 second penalty if they cross any white lines on the road, I cautiously turned in way to early and began to drift very wide on the exit. I came so close to crossing the line that I had to slam the brakes on, come to a track stand, hop the front wheel round and then get going again all in an effort to stay on my side of the road. This standing start along with legs that were already blown to pieces made for a very painful climb.

Adrian 1Dan 4Mike 1Tony 1

I threw the bars from side to side in an effort to help my weary legs turn the pedals over, The finish line couldn't have come sooner. When I did complete the course, although I had crossed the line the hill kept going and I could barely turn the pedals. I could have done with my team helper come running up to me and push me onwards from behind! Every one found the hill hard work and quite a few riders were penalised for crossing the lines but pretty much everyone got round unscathed. Upon seeing the results this is where we lie after stage 1;

Adrian 9th with a time of 11.35 and 17 seconds down on the leader. Tony was 19th with 11.44 and 26 seconds down, Mike 23rd with 11.48 at 30 seconds and rubbish old me in 40th with 12.10 and 50 seconds down. In the team standing we seem to have done really well and are currently lying in second only 32 seconds down. The good news is that the team that are leading the team GC are mainly testers so once we hit the hills we should be able to move our selves up in to the top spot.

Dinner Time.
With the racing done and the showers tested, we headed off for dinner which is all included in the entry fee as is the breakfast. We didn't really know what to expect, a bit of pasta maybe, a dribble of sauce? oh no, It was enough food to feed a village!! Our trays couldn't hold the amount of plates we had; A bowl of salad, soup, bread, pasta with chicken and tomato sauce, vegetables, Jacket Potatoes and finally a bowl of rice pudding. After 40 minutes of plugging away we all finished and sat here holding our stomachs, struggling to move, we were crazy full. What breakfast will be Like I have no idea. Eventually we shifted ourselves to the bar where we had a quiz to take part in but I think we did pretty bad.

So now its off to the “digs to get some rest in before the 60 mile road stage tomorrow, lets see if we can nab that top spot on the Team GC!