Sunday, September 18, 2011

End of Season Antics – Derby Mercury RR

Derby Mercury Road Race

Hosted by Derby Mercury CC


Regional A

65 miles


Any that's a rap folks, well almost. Today was my last pre-entered BCF race of the 2011 season, I have a TLI stage race that I'm doing in October and a few cross races but apart from that I'm all done. I feel that on reflection I have a pretty good season considering that I came into last winter having suffered a broken collar bone and then broke it again in March after my first race! Plus one of two other things during the season that have been hard for me so overall I'm contempt and I know that if I pull my finger out next year, get a good winter behind me and do some mid-week circuit races I should have no problem obtaining my first cat license.

Anyway, right now I have to think about this race and I have to say it's one of the more unusual road races I have done. The course is just over 5 miles and apart from few little undulations its pan flat; this means that we would be doing 12 laps of the circuit. It sounded more like a circuit race or a Belgium Kermese than a road race but hey, I'm open minded and always up for a challenge. Arriving at the HQ which was extremely plush for a HQ, the sun was shining although the morning was cold and a base layer would be required without a doubt. Winter was defiantly on its way but it looked as though there would be no threat of rain during today's race which was always a good thing, plus the wind was down to a gentle blow which would make the speed of the race pretty high.

Although I have been saying for the last few weeks that I have been looking forward to getting my last few races out of the way so as I can reset my focus towards winter training and begin laying down my base, I was really looking forward to today's race and even more so after seeing the start sheet. Most of my racing buddies were down to race, many of which I have shared long breakaways with, attacked alongside, chased down, out sprinted and been out sprinted by during what has been an eventful 2011. There were also a few guys I have never raced and one guy I never even knew did road racing! That chap was Matt Botrell of Team I-Ride, 3rd placed finisher in the 2010 British Time Trial Champs and One of the best Testers in the country. He would be one to watch for sure.

After a chilly briefing which was held in the car park in the shade, we set about getting the race underway. In the same style as the course, the race went off like a Kermese as well with a super-fast opening few miles. This pace set the tone for the rest of the race which was generally ridden at a very high average speed and with little in the way of actual breaking during the lap there wasn't a fat lot to slow us down. With it being the last race of the season I kind of had my September head on and spent the first lap dangling at the back just chilling out, I had convinced myself that given the nature of the course a break would not get away and it would end in a bunch sprint. Low and behold, as I said that a break began to go clear which was about 10 strong and I was stuck at the back unable to get up towards the front due to the narrow roads and high speeds. It was my own fault for not paying attention and neither did I realise that the break contained Botrell and a few other race favourites.

Work Begins.

After a couple of laps it was clear that something had to be done or we would not be seeing those riders again, the break was at about 30 seconds so I knew that we could bring it back. I eventually made it to the front and began working hard to bring the riders back, I felt good and I put in some really hard, long, fast pulls on the front with other riders helping up the speed of the bunch. At one point, about half way through, I was on the front doing a hard effort when the Motorbike out rider told me that the break was at 25 seconds. This didn't seem right as I could see the group of 10 only a few seconds up the road, after a bit of thought I realised that that could only mean one thing; Botrell. After a quick calculation; Botrell + Solo Break + Flat Course + No Wind + Peak form after British TT champs = A good chance of the race being over!!!!

Nonetheless, there was still prize money up for grabs and now we had caught the break of 10 we could still race for minor places and possibly even bring Botrell back although this was a tall order. Just as we swept up the break, a counter attack began to make its move with Michel Thelwell of Qoroz being the main instigator. Unfortunately in true Mike style, he managed to pull his foot out of the pedal and careered across the road taking some riders with him and going down hard. I was a few riders back and managed to miss the chaos but the poor chap looked in a bad way as I passed him. Thankfully I later spoke with him in the HQ and other than a few cuts and bruises he was alright. Back to the race and with the laps ticking down, nothing else had gone clear, a few little moves went away but were brought back pretty quick and I was beginning to think it would be impossible to get away due to the constant high speeds.

With about 2 laps to go and Botrell now about 90 seconds up the road, the pace on the front was high coming in to one of the harder section which contained a little hill. The stronger riders were at the front and it was slightly splintered as we crested the top of the rise, Flavio Zappi (Ex Italian Pro) had a gap with few others including Connor Ryan who, a guy who I have accumulated a lot of time with in breakaways this year. To my right I saw Paul Dring, ex Echelon team mate and good friend, drift up to the riders a head so I decided to latch on, we had a gap and we managed to quickly organize in to through an off and began hitting it really hard. We worked like a dream machine, every rider pulling through and contributing well to the pace setting. If a rider missed his turn due to being tired then someone else would jump in to take over, allowing them a quick breather before they jumped back in to start working again. We knew we didn't have long left and we knew the bunch would be riding fast so we didn't mess around; we just got our heads down and rode hard. It was poetry.

With a lap to go we had reduced Botrell's lead but not enough to bring him back and he crossed the line the clear winner and well deserved it was too. The 6 of us who had broken away were now far enough in the lead to know that we would finish ahead of the bunch. As we hit the last little rise before the last mile or so, a rider went for an early move which briefly split the 6 of us in to equal goups of 3 but this was soon nutrilized. Connor was second wheel coming up to the finish, I thought I had made a perfect choice as Connor is a plucky rider and a handy sprinter, so when he opened up his sprint about 100 meter from the line I thought I was being gifted to a perfect lead out but then, to my right I saw Paul attacking down the other side of the road passing both me and Connor. I had gone from the perfect position to the worst with about 50 meters to go and the whole road blocked by the other rider who had had to swing to the left after Paul blew his Trumpet. I tried my hardest to come back around but it was no good and I came across the line in 6th just behind Connor and Paul just behind me. The bunch came in not long after with a good old sprint.


1 Matt Bottrill (I Ride RT) 2:30:00
2 Andy Eagers (Derby Mercury RC) @ 1:30
3 Flavio Zappi (Team Zappis)
4 Paul Bell (Peak RC)
5 Conor Ryan (VC Montpellier)
6 Daniel Bill (Cult Racing)
7 Paul Dring (Team Echelon)
8 Neil Edwards (unattached) all @ same time
9 Tim Allen (Cyclesport) @ 2:00
10 Paul Bennett (Cycling Bargains) @ same time

Results Courtesy of British Cycling

6th it was then, not bad considering the course exploited all of my weaknesses and I was convinced I would not be able to get away. I fact, do you know what? I was mega happy, I had had a cracking race, found it to be one of the most enjoyable races I have done all year, got in a well drilled break with some good friends and walked away with £30. Job done. Job done on two fronts in fact as I can now say that my official race season is over and I feel I ended it on a high. Although I felt quite sad as I drove out of the once busy and bustling HQ, I felt sad because I knew it would be a good 5 or 6 cold, long, hard months before I would see many of my good race buddies again. Thankfully I have some very exciting things taking place at the moment which could make this winter the best ever and make 2012 twice as good as 2011. But for now I will take my £30 and buy myself an ice-cream which might also be the last one of this season as well.

Cheers all.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Grand Finale

Tour of the Wrekin
West Midlands Road Race League
Regional A
70 Miles
3 & ¾ of an undulating loop with a steep climb a few km from the finish

September. A time when the nights begin to draw in, the weather begins to turn, leaves begin to rust and the UK road racing season begins to draw to a close. Sunday 11th September marked the last round of the West Midlands road league, in which I am currently 4th or 5th overall due to my cock up in the last race. However, today I could rectify the situation and claw my way back up the standings providing I get a good result, I would also be marking the current leader, Matt Clarke, in an effort to try and finish ahead in order to relight my chances of winning overall. First we had to see how this race played out and one things for sure, everyone knew that the weather would play a vital part. Gail force winds and the chance of rain is what the forecast predicted and milling around the HQ it was clear that I would be a gusty one!

The race started off pretty brisk which has now become a fairly standard affair in these races and I made sure I was near the front but sheltered from the elements. To be honest, I cant really recall to much of the first part of the race, I know that I didn’t feel great and that a break was up the road but generally not much happened. It wasn’t until the 2nd time up the bank where the race really heated up, with the break in sight a few of us drilled it on the climb and I helped contribute to the pace which was savage and continued all the way along the drag until the roundabout on the main road. Reviewing my power data it showed that I managed my best 5 minute power during that effort with a 329 average and a 351 normalized power, this was definitely on of my matches burned that’s for sure.

With the break now brought back, all hell broke loose as we hit the headwinds and riders tries to counter and go clear. I was struggling with the wind and getting battered around the place even though I in the bunch. After a few attempts to get away, all of which were marked and chased down, I settled back in the group just a Tony Kiss who I went down with rode off the front in a very casual way and somehow was left alone to go clear with a few other. During the next lap a few riders bridged up to the group before it gained its maximum advantage of 2 minutes. I have to confess that a lot of that time gap is due to me and my efforts in disrupting the chase so as to give my mate the nest possible chance of winning. This was hard enough but the wind made it savage and a few times I had to really dig in order to stay with the group.

After the 3rd time up the climb we had managed to whittle the field down to half of the amount that started and continued to ride hard. As we begun the last lap it was clear that the break had a big enough gap to stay away even though they were also down to just 3 riders. With this in mind I decided that it was time to try and do something for my self but again, every move that I made as marked and brought back but at the same time, all of these little digs were beginning to tire the field and the head wind just exacerbated that fact. With half a lap to go and my chances of getting away looking slim, I was dropped a life line when Adrian Bird, ex elite rider and good friend, made his move on a very difficult section of road. I was in the right place to go with it so latched on to his wheel even though I was trying to recover from an effort that I had just made. I gritted my teeth to stay in contact but as we crested the small ride I looked back and was surprised to see that we had ridden away from the bunch and all the favourites and already had a substantial gap. And so it began, after catching a straggler from the break the 3 of us drilled it in to the ever strengthening head wind. Although it was mainly me and Ady doing the work as the other chap was suffering big time.
I knew that we didn’t have too long before the descent which lead to the foot of the climb but the head wind was making it take a lot longer and lot harder. I sensed that Adrian was also beginning to tire but I also knew that we needed more time going in to the climb as it was inevitable that the bunch would hit it hard and take chunks of time out of us. With this in mind and the other 2 not really doing any work, I took it up on myself to drive the pace and I hit the climb on the front. I had told myself before the race that if I was in a good position on the climb on the last lap I would make an effort to attack a go for a solo victory! Well, victory might have been out of the question but a solo ride to 4th was still on the cards so that what I did, I put the hammer down on the steep part of the climb and rode away from my 2 companions, kept the pace going over the top and settled in to the pain. Amazingly, as I crested the climb I could see Tony and his break away companions literally seconds up the road, I dug in still pulling clear of the other in an effort to catch them before the line. The problem was I, apart from the fact I was at my limit, there was also a hideous head wind all the way to the finish and in the end it proved to much and I didn’t quite get them back. Tony had to settle for 3rd after being out sprinted by the bigger riders but still a fantastic result non the less, I rolled in literally seconds after to secure 4th with Adrian coming in 6th.

After what started off as a frustrating race having being stuck in the bunch and feeling that I had no prospect of getting away, I had managed to pull out what I would class as one of my best rides of the year and soloed to 4th after making the kind of attack I knew I was capable of and almost catching a break that was 2 minutes clear. Not only that, you cant beat the feeling of you and your mate both doing very different but just as impressive rides and finished 3rd and 4th. Awesome.

It also turns out that my result had indeed allowed me to claw my way back up the overall standing and I have ended up 2nd overall in the lead only a hand full of points down on Matt Clarke who ended up 7th today. Not to shabby considering I missed the first 2 rounds due to my broken collar bone!!!

So, with only one or two more races left on the calendar for this year, my attention now turns towards the winter. I’m looking forward to winter training as I do every year at this time of season, I look forward to a few weeks of moseying around on the bike and having a laugh, Chomping on Banana and honey sandwiches during epic winter training rides on new roads that I have not year ridden and the prospect of a hot coffee and bean stew on my return. Plus, I am also looking forward to announcing a very exciting that is currently been put together ready for the new season.

Thanks fro reading.