Sunday, May 20, 2012

Divisional Road Race Championships

Ridden and Written by Dan Bill

Every year on a weekend in May, the countries regions become a hive of cycling activity as each one holds their own Divisional Road Race Championships where winners are crowned and titles are defended or passed over to a new king. This year the Regional's fell on the 20th and Team RPC would be represented in two Championships; Tony Kiss, Dan Bill and Adrian Bird would contend the title for West Midlands Regional Road Race Champ and Mike Kiss would single handily take on the best in his Region to challenge for the South West Divisional Road Race Championships. Here's the low down on what happened on that Sunday in May.

West Midlands Regional Championships.
Tony in the Elite break
Organised by Wolverhampton Wheels and held in Bridgenorth near Telford, the West Mid's Champs had been talked about for weeks as the build up to the event grew and news that Olympic hopeful and Rapha Condor Sharp Pro, Andy Tennant would be starting the event along with other big name riders including last year winner, Liam Hollahan of Team Raleigh who would be looking to defend his title and also a host of Cycle Premier Riders and Node-4-Giordana riders. There’s one thing for sure, everyone who would be the main riders to watch.

Having ridden the course many times before in both the Circuit of the Wrekin and this very same event last year, I knew exactly what to expect and where the decisive moves would be made. The bunch rolled out of the HQ at 9.30 after briefing and began the neutralized ascent of the 13% gradient of Hermitage Hill, the worst neutralized zone in the history of UK road racing! As soon as the flagged dropped to mark the start of 5 laps of the course resulting in a total race distance of 85 miles, Matt Gee and Metalek-Scott attacked along with Andy Tennant. I watched from the bunch hoping to god that this wouldn’t be how the whole race played out. My legs were not feeling good at all; in fact my whole body felt pretty rubbish. With my health issues I can wake up some mornings and feel great and other I can wake up and just feel terrible for no reason, looks like today was going to be one of those days!

Dan struggling at the back on the climb!!
Our team tactics were to make an early move in order to get up the road and then way for the big boys to attack from the bunch and catch us up. This would mean that we would already be up the road waiting for them rather than having to bridge up later on. So I did what I could to get up the front and did actually manage to get in a little 5 man break which I thought might be allowed to get away given it was so early but.......No, this wasn’t the case! Next thing I knew, all of the big favourites attacked past me whilst I was on the front but thankfully Tony was on it and bridged up with a mammoth effort to get in to the break. So now after only half a lap a break of about 12 containing all of the best riders in the field was up the road, all of us in the bunch assumed that this was race over and of course, as we had Tony up there, me and Adrian did nothing to contribute to the case and tried to do what we could to disrupt any chase.

Adrian Bird
After about 2 laps in I was feeling like death, to the point where I was struggling to hold on to the bunch on the climbs and almost considered packing! However this isn’t my style so I just kept plugging away. Despite the break having all of the races talent, it didn’t ever seem to get that far ahead and we could always see it on the longer straights, this kept most of the other riders motivated to chase and so for almost 3 laps that’s what a happened, the bunch just kept chasing and the break just kept hanging there like a dangling carrot. Eventually on the 3rd lap, somehow, unbelievably, the bunch made the junction and caught the break. Me, Adrian and Tony all looked at each other and couldn’t quite figure out how that actually happened. I felt sorry for Tony because he had made a great move to get in what should have been the decisive move and now it had been neutralized yet had used most of his energy. For the next lap of so a few moves tried to go clear with Adrian Bird getting involved in the Acton and being pretty active on the front. I was feeling a bit better having had a Caffeine Gel, the only thing which I can actually feel working.

Dan working with the break after making the move
with 1.5 laps to go.
Opportunity Knocks

With one and a half laps to go the bunch powered along the back straight down a small descent before slowing massively just as the road kicked up slightly, I was coming down the outside of the bunch as it slowed so was carrying loads of speed. As this happened a move went off the front made by Matt Clinton of Mike Vaughn’s Cycles and Kairan Frend of Node 4 Giordana. I carried my speed through and found myself off the front with a few others and so we just began to tap through not really thinking much of it. Before we knew it we had a gap and were joined by Russell Falder of Cycle Premier who incidentally I brought my wheels off a few months ago! So know the race looked like this; 2 rider off the front with about a minute over the chasing group of us 7 who had a gap of about 40 seconds over the bunch. We got our selves organised and drilled the through and off, keeping as tight and as tidy as we could. Matt and Kairen were drilling it up the road ahead and were soon 2.5 minutes head of us, the 7 of us were now 1.5 minutes clear of the bunch with only a lap remaining of the race.

Tony was doing a great job back in the bunch and sitting second wheel to Andy Tennant who was now doing all of the work. Thanks to him we managed to keep clear up to this point but we were all getting tired yet still had half a lap of long draggy head wind ridden straights ahead of us before the final climb. Soon we were told that the 2 leaders where almost 4 minutes ahead but we had lost time to the bunch and was now only just over 60 seconds ahead. Now I was nervous and worried about getting caught so I cracked another caffeine gel and tried my best to rally the troops and get back to constant through and off. Soon we were heading down the descent towards the final climb and as we turned on to the rough single track road I knew that our break consisted of quite a few big sprinter types so I though "Fuck it" and just attacked at the bottom of the climb. I had nothing left as it is a gave it my all to turn the gear over on the steepest part. As I Crested the top I could see that Russell and Dave Griffiths of Paramount were hot on my heels but behind them the others were quite a way back. As they caught me I stayed on the front and just drilled the pace as I knew I wouldn’t stand much chance in a sprint so this was the best options. They both started attacking which saw me drop off the pace, I kept digging and managed to get back on but as we came in to the closing 100m I had nothing left as they opened up the sprint so I rolled in head of the other to claim 5th place in the Regional champs which I was ecstatic about.

3 minutes and 55 seconds earlier, Kairen Frend took the top spot after riding away from Matt Clinton who took second spot and a well earned one at that. About 30 seconds after I crossed the line, the bunch came in and Tony managed about 10th in the sprint which saw him take 19th overall, Adrian was only 2 places further back in 21st. Today was a real team effort and RPC gained great exposure in today’s race with Tony out in front for 3 laps and myself out infront for the reamianing 2.

Dan in the background crusing in after
attacking the break on the final climb.
1 Kieran Frend (Node 4-Giordana)
2 Matt Clinton (Mike Vaughan Cycles)
3 David Griffiths (Paramount CRT)
4 Russell Falder (Cycle Premier-Kovert)
5 Daniel Bill (Rapid Performance Coaching)
19 Tony Kiss (Rapid Performance Coaching)
21 Adrian Bird (Rapid Performance Coaching)

Meanwhile Down South......
Mike Kiss had no such team support for his race but despite that and despite an equally string field Mike managed a fantastic result. With an openeing lap of 55 miles before moving on to 4 laps of 7 miles, a strong group of 3 riders went clear on the very first climb of the race. They began putting serious time in to the bunch but Mike kept his cool and waited for the right moment. With 3 laps of the 7 mile circuit remaining, Mike attacked hard and spent the next lap out in front of the bunch on his own. Soon he was joined by a Mid Devon rider but as soon as they hit the next climb Mike ended up shelling him out the back because he was just to strong. Mike spent the next half a lap on his own again before being joined once again by the same Mid Devon rider and two others.

With only 1 lap remaining, Mike and his trio of campanions drilled it as hard as they could to keep clear of the bunch and see if they could bridge the gap to the leaders. With 1km remaining, Mike attacked again managing to unhinge one rider in there break away. He was then joined by the remaining 2 who worked to catch him but rather than sit up Mike just kept drilling it on the front in order to keep themselves clear of the bunch and any possible sprinters.

The first 3 places were contested the the original 3 break away riders who managed to stay clear all race. Mike, who had done pretty much all of the work for the last half of the race had nothing left in his legs for the sprint but still took an unpressidented 6th spot from this elite level field. Amazing result and clearly one of the strongest in the race.

Overall, this single weekend in May helped to cement RPC's ability as a team and we have once again proved our worth against some of the best riders in the country. Its only early days for this squad but already we have developed a CV of results which most, more established teams would be pleased with. Bring on next year!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Front Loading

Racing is known to form a solid part of any training plan, ultimately its what we are training for but it can also be used as specific training to target bigger races that we have planned later in the season. It can provide us with the opportunity to work on race specific fitness as well as tactical awareness and race craft. However, There is no doubt that a high structured training program comprising of specific workouts , adequate recovery and carefully analysed training sessions can lead to continued development in targeted areas. Training is a year round priority, it must be done in the off season, throughout the winter, in to spring and also throughout the racing season as this will allow us to peak for certain events and maintain enough base fitness to see us through the whole year in decent form.

So what happens when the very likely situation arises where an athlete is looking to maintain a large training load in the week in order to continue building fitness ready for big event later in the year yet still wishes to be fresh for a race on Sunday, this could be another A or B priority race or it could even be the qualifier for the big race you aiming for in a few months time.

This athlete now has two priorities to take in to account; 1) Maintaining his or hers current training load in order to continue bringing about steady progression and 2) arrive at Sundays event in a fresh and recovered state both mentally and physically so as they can race to their current potential and achieve a good result.

Front Loading Explained:
Thankfully there is a way in which one can tick both of these boxes and it includes something called front loading. Front Loading is essentially a mini over load or crash block which is crammed in to the first few days of the week, hence the term front loading i.e front loading the week. This then leaves the later part of the week free from heavy training which will allow you to recover from the overload which you placed on your self in the first few days, reach a fatigue/freshness equilibrium and the finally enter the stage of race freshness the day before the event.

If the works in the manor it should then a few things will happen. Firstly you will complete a great overload block in which you create a fatigue deficit for yourself but also a whole heap load of quality training stimulus. Over the next few days during the recovery stage of the week, appropriate rest and proper nutrition take place, you body will enter the stage of super-compensation. This means that it is quite likely that you will not only arrive at Sundays race fresh but you have also broken through to an new racing level race at a much higher level than you thought.

Potential Problems.
This is essentially a crash block of training, albeit a much smaller version. However, its still means that you will be putting your body under a huge for a period of time and like all types of crash or overload training there are potential problems which can arise.
The first and most likely is over reaching. Over reaching the stage you reach before full blown over training. It is unlikely that you will reach full over training just from front loading period but is you were to keep up the training whilst you were in a state over over reaching then this is when you would likely develop full over training syndrome. In short, over reaching is a toxic place to be and you don't want to be there for very long. It is necessary to enter this realm once in a while in order to bring about overload but you need to ensure that you back away soon after entering and then recover fully before any other training takes place.
The way I tell my clients to treat a front load is to think of it as a training camp. This means that for theses 3-4 days of training you live like monk and do all that you can to aid your recovery, stay heathly and eat right. This way you will not only be decreasing the chances of getting ill or over training but also increasing the positive effect that training will have on your performance

How It's Done:
So now that you know what it is and what to watch out for, this is generally how you would look to time structure and execute an Front Load.

Firstly you need the event which you want to be fresh for, lets assume that this will be an 80 Mile road race taking place on Sunday 21st May. ideally you will want all hard training to cease at least 3 full days before the event or if you are unsure of you ability to recover then 4 days. Now you don't want this front load interfering with the previous week to this one so the block needs to start on the Monday, in this case Monday 15th. However, this only gives us 3 days in which to train so what you would generally do is class the Sunday as part of the block as well, For most will also be a race but it could also be a training session. This will give you 4 days of training.

Here is case study of week comprising of a front load of 4 days, a recover block of 3 days and then a race on Sunday. This will give you an idea of the workouts to include and how to structure it.

Sunday 14th - 75 Mile Road Race, Energy systems mainly targeted were Lactate Threshold and Anaerobic Capacity. Time = 3 hrs, TSS = 270.
Monday 15th - 2 hrs Level 2 Endurance and Level 3 Tempo. 30 mins Level 2, 1.5 hrs upper level 3 with fatlek sprints. TSS = 150
Tuesday 16th, Club Chain Gang Night.- 3 hrs Total, Complete 4-5 x 10 mins at 100-103% of FTP prior to meeting up with the chain gang which consists of hard though and off for the total of 1.5 hrs
TSS = 240
Wednesday 17th - 2-2.5 hrs, Ride mainly at level but include 4 x 3 mins at 110% of FTP and then finish the ride with 20 mins @ 90-100% of FTP. TSS = 200
Thursday 18th - Rest Day, Massage and stretching
Friday 19th - Active Recovery - 45 minutes Level 1
Saturday 20th - Active Recovery - 45 minutes Level 1
Sunday 21st - Race Day

As you can see from the way the week is structured, It is still clear that a hard/Easy format is used during the block as evidence from the TSS and the level of work required in each training session. This means that you will still be having hard days and easy days, its just that the easy days are not quite that easy! This hould be enough to ensure that you do actually get through the 4 days and still achieve some high quality training session.

You can also see that it is still possible to include anchor workouts with in this block. Anchor workouts are sessions where the start and end time are out of your control such as a club run or a club TT. The 18th, 19th and 20th are all dedicated to recovery and I would encourage you to do all that is in your power to aid that recovery process i.e massage, compression clothing, hot/cold water therapy, nutrition, sleeping/napping. Again just think of it like training camp and you should arrive at Sundays race feeling fresh and race ready.

Give it  try sometime, start with 3 training days initially in order to see how you recover and then if all goes well try 4 days. Just alter things as you need to and eventually you will find a work/recovery load which works best for you.

Train smart, Train safe.
Dan Bil

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Halesowen Road Race 2012

Ridden and written by Dan Bill

If there's one race in the whole year which I look forward to racing most or if someone asked me whats my favorite road race within the season then I would have to say its this one, the Halesowen Road Race, promoted every year by Halesowen Cycling Club. I can only congratulate the organizer for the event which he puts on each year and every time I am amazed by how well its organised and carried out. If you want to know how to organize a safe and spectacular road race then come and see how these boys do it and this year was no different.

The first thing to congratulate them on was the fantastic kitty for the prizes, the winner would walk away with £200.00! with second pace taking £100.00 and 3rd £50.00. Prizes continued down to eighth but also included cash prizes for 1st 3rd and 4th cat as well as primes for every lap of the race. Nice.

The main reason why I love this race however is because of the course. In my opinion this is the best course which the West Midlands has to offer and think most people would agree. It has everything, exposed cross wind sections, horrible drags, fast descents, technical twisty lanes and a few punchy climbs. This course is made for one thing; Breakaways. For the last two years I have ridden this race it has played out pretty much the same; A break has gone and been about 6-10 riders big which I have been included in. Mike "the Rhino" Jones has come out on top in both the 2010 and 2011 editions of the race and I have placed 6th and 4th respectively. They have been those "epic" feeling days when you out in front of the bunch, pulling out a gap, working together as a break and then attacking the hell out of each other on the last lap.

This year would be different for a few reasons however, I was going in to the race after a bad start to the year due to a few pressing medical issues which hopefully will be behind me in a few months time. These have meant that I have not being able to reach the level which I should be at so my form is no where near where it has been at this time of year in previous seasons. Also Mike Jones was telling me that he is also lacking form and was doubting himself as to whether he could pull out the hatric. The biggest difference coming in to this race was that I would be riding with a proper team and proper team mates. Me, Tony and Mike Kiss and Adrian Bird were once again out in force and ready to take  it all the way.

The night before this race was the first night in a long time where I struggled to sleep because of a toxic mix of excitement, anticipation, nervousness and dread! In my mind I was determined to win it and if not that then at least crack the top ten and if not that then at least be in a break away. Mentally I was ready for this but physically my body was still lacking what would be normal for everyone else. It would just be a case of do what I can and give it hell!

The race rolled out at 9.30 with the sun gleaming in the clear skies and the heat beating down on a race ready peloton. After crossing the start/finish line behind the neutralized car, the flag dropped and we had 5 laps of the course to complete resulting in a total race distance of 113km, one of the longest of the West Mids RR League.
I had a game plan, this was to follow the moves for the first 2 laps and if nothing had gone clear by then I would start thinking about making my own moves. 4 miles in the race and on the first climb however, the plan went out the window and I found myself charging across a gap up to an early break which contained a lot of good riders including my team mate Tony Kiss. We had a gap over the field but we also had about 14 riders in the break and I don't think anyone expected it to come to much.Usually with a break this big everyone expects someone else to work and eventually it all just slows and then you get caught. Today was different though, 14 riders formed a chain gang and drilled it blood sweat and tears around the first lap leaving the bunch in its wake and eating up the road ahead. Phase one was already complete, I had made the break and it looked like it was gonna stay away.

Although there were 14 riders, my god it was hard work for the first 2 laps. I consider myself a late race attacker as my endurance capacities trump my big power capacity hands down so when when all the power houses are flagging in the latter stages that's when I come to the fore. Today though this was not the case, it was a case of gritted teeth and pull when you had too, I think most people were feeling the same though. As we approached the finish to complete the first lap, Tony sprinted away for the prime and won it from Cheltenham CC's Ian Alexander. Her repeated this feat on the second lap so already he was £24.00 up, nice work.

As we began the second lap we had a time gap from the car and already we had pulled out over 2.5 minutes on the bunch. Either we were charging, the bunch was cruising or a healthy mix of both. However with the start of the third lap the frustrations began. Riders began missing turns and not coming through when they should have. This meant that the speed of the break began to reduce and I became increasingly worried that our lead would soon fizzle down to a handful of seconds. At this point Tony began to feel the prime efforts in his legs and he found he could no longer come through, I was one of only a handful in the break which was pulling on the front and this was the same with the 4th lap. Still very concerned that we were going to get caught I asked for a time gap as we began the fifth and final lap and to everyone amazement we had a gap of just under 5 minutes, 4 minutes and 49 seconds to be exact. This took the pressure off of everyone and now we all began to think about our own glory. We still had a full lap to complete and with in that lap there are lots of opportune moments for one to launch an attack and soon riders where doing just that.

As is the norm for me, I began to feel great on the last lap which was possibly helped by the caffeine gel which I had! I followed the attacks as they went and then took the chance to launch my own as the bunch slowed. I sprinted of the front and took a leisure lakes rider with me, we were happy to work together but the others didn't want us going clear and soon we were brought back. Over the next few miles the attacks went and come back and it all looked like it was going to come down to a sprint finish. However, on the final climb which is roughly 5km from the finish, a light hearted attacked was followed on the lower slopes and as we all eased up, James Notley of Planet X seized his opportunity and attacked off the front. We all looked at each other waiting  for someone to take up the chase but by the time we did he had a descent gap.

Over the next 4km we jostled between chasing Notely and not flogging ourselves to death on the front as this would reduce our own chance of glory. We slowly ate away at Notleys lead but by the time we reached then final kick, Notley was already oven the top and across the line. As the sprint went I was positioned quite far back but managed to put in a good sustained kick passing Tony and a few others to cross the line in 7th with Tony following closely in 8th. For me this was extremely pleasing and finally it feels like I am back in the game, however the best bit was yet to come.

As we waited for the bunch to come in, Mike and Adrian poped in to view riding side by side, hand joined and up in the air just like Lemond and Hinault many years back on Aple d'Heuz. It turns out that they both attached with a lap to go and rode clear of the bunch, this meant that they came in the top twenty but in the best possible way. Awesome work team.
This ride puts us all in good vibes ready for what will be a huge suffer fest next weekend when we tackle the West Midlands Regional Road Race Champs in Telford. Last year me and Tony both managed great rides which were very similar to today's feats so hopefully now we are all riding well we can do better as a single united squad.

Happy Riding.

1. James Notley (Planet X)
2. Tom Marshall (Cadence Cannondale)
3. Matt Clarke (Halesowen CC)
4. Rob Turner (NFTO)
5. Jonathon Pain (Leisure Lakes
6. Philip Mason (Climb On Bikes)
7. Daniel Bill (Rapid Performance Coaching RT)
8. Tony Kiss (Rapid Performance Coaching RT)
9. Ewan McDonald (Mirmil CT)
10. Ross Clayton

Friday, May 11, 2012

Nigel Meason 2 Day Stage Race

Ridden and written by Dan Bill

With last week’s stage race a complete wash out, most of the UK’s stage race enthusiast were all looking forward to making up for the cancellation of the 2nd day of the Totnes 2 Day by racing the Nigel Meason 2 Day over in Leicestershire. Again RPC were there with the same riders as last week which included me (Dan Bill), Tony Kiss, Mike Kiss and Adrian Bird. Joe Page is still out of action due to his thumb but he will be back on the bike very soon by the looks of things.

As the race wasn’t too far away, we all decided it would be cheaper and easier to just drive down in the morning. Unfortunately the drive to the HQ wasn’t quite as simple as usual due to the Postcode being wrong on the start sheet! After much faffing around we all got to the HQ safe and sound and ready for action. The race was categorised a regional A with E/1/2/3 Licences holders eligible to race. The start sheet looked packed with some pretty handy riders including herbal life and there GC rider, Tom Bustard who was fresh from his overall win in last week’s Totnes 2 day, “cough” one day “cough”!! Planer X were also out in force with a big squat, NFTO were riding with a full team as were  Spin Rotor with various other well drill teams and some very handy individual riders.  The format of the race was a typical British 2 day stage race; A Morning Prologue of 2.7 and an afternoon Road Race of 63.2 miles on the Saturday and then a 73 mile Road Race on the Sunday. The weather forecast was looking descent so everyone was up for a good weekend of racing.


I have to say, Prologues really aren’t my thing. I’m full of slow twitch muscle fibres and don’t have any short distance punch so I always suffer big time in very short TT’s like this one.  However, if we’re going to be targeting stages races then I need to get used to them. I was first off at 35 minutes past 10, then Adrian at 36 minutes, Tony at 37 and finally Mike at 78. Mike was so far back because the organiser messed up and didn’t have him on the start sheet so he ended up as reserve. My plan for the Prologue was to pace it from my Power meter so as not to repeat last week’s episode where I blew up after about 45 seconds. I know that I can hold around 315 watts for 6-7 minutes so aimed for this figure. After holding the power well and gritting my teeth I soon came round the final bend where I spotted the finish flag, I was pretty bummed because I thought it was further than it was and if I had known then I would have begun winding up sooner but as it was I had to put in a quick final spurt and finished in a respectable 7.17 and put out 20 watts more than last week.

Adrian did another great ride and put in a 7.01, Tony proved he is the best at this sort of thing and pulled out a 6.54 finishing in 11th with his taped up helmet and 100mm deep rear wheel even though he had been suffering all week with a cold and not feeling to great, Mike who was off much later managed a 7.12 which meant that we were all in the same ball park as most of the others. The winner of the Prorogue, Jamie Shirlaw of Herballife-Leisure Lakes Bikes managed a blistering time of 6.30 to take the stage and the overall on GC.

Stage 2

After a few hours of chilling in HQ after the prologue the road stage was soon up on us as was the rain!! Black clouds had been rolling in as we were waiting for 2 o clock and just as we had started getting ready the heavens opened. Every one dashed to get there jackets and take to the start. The winds were howling which made for some grovelling cross wind sections over the open plains. The race was 9 laps of a 7.2 mile flat circuit with not too much technical stuff to worry about. The race went off fast as expected with riders trying to break away ASAP. On the 3rd lap a break went away initiated by the breakaway master, David Starkey of Fred Williams Cycles who is always up for suffering away in an early long break in order to make everyone suffer even more. This break went clear and it wasn’t until about 5 to go where the bunch split and a big break of around 15 got away, Adrian managed to get in this move so after realising that it was pointless trying to shut it down we decided to not chase and hop Adrian could do something on his own. Back in the bunch I tried to make a solo break with about 2 laps to go, I was out on my own for a few miles but was brought back and as I was I attached again with a Derby Mercury Rider and managed to get a gap. We drilled it with through and off before being joined by 5 other including Mike who had made it out of the bunch too. After a few miles of disorganisation we finally managed to get in to a smooth rhythm and began to put big time in to the bunch.

Up ahead, the 15 man break had caught most of the original break apart from a couple who stayed clear and ultimately went on to contest the win. Adrian came in with his bunch just over a minute down on the leaders and me and Mike came in around 2 minutes later with the bunch coming a few more minutes after us. I personally found the race hard work due to being battered by the winds and having to make a break after being out solo on my own for a while, my feet were cramping up as I came across the line. With day one over, Adrian was our man on GC lying in 28th overall, Mike was sitting in 32nd, me in 38th and tony a few places further back. Looks like we would be riding for Adrian on the following day’s road stage. The winner of the road stage was another Herablife-Leisure Lakes rider, Tom Bustard who was clearly still in good form from the previous weekend.

Day 2

Stage 2

A new day and a new HQ only this time we had the right postcode! The weather was looking glorious which was a good job because we had a hard 73 miles of racing on tired legs ahead of us. The stage was again 9 laps of a circuit only this time it was more up and down with nasty looking exposed drags which I knew would begin to hurt as the race went on. The race went out pretty fast like yesterday race with a few riders trying to make an early break, the big surprise was that the yellow jersey was making most of the moves. At one point he was out on his own just dangling out on his lonesome and then when he got brought back he would attack again and then try to go with other moves. Not what you would typically see form the leader of a stage race.

With 5 laps to go we got the word from Adrian that he would be looking to attached in around a lap or two, this is where the race got fun and we really felt like a team for the first time this year. With the order given from our captain, we rallied round our leader in order to protect him from the wind and aid him to safely move up through the bunch towards the front. As there was still a break out front, we thought I best that we wait until it was brought back before the rocket was launched. With 2 laps to go and the bunch approaching the slow uphill drag, Adrian seized his opportunity and attacked taking one rider with him, they soon formed a gap and were away. Myself, Tony and Mike then set about slowing the bunch and disrupting any chase, I was beginning to feel drained as I had been with each successive lap and at one point after chasing down an attack on a sharp rise, my legs just gave up and I began to go backwards pretty quick, thankfully a helping hand from David Starkey helped me back up to speed which was much appreciated. This is why it’s good to have friends not foe in the bunch!

Adrian was gaining time all the time as they came up to one lap to go, soon however, as the bunch slowed up,  a Planet X rider went hard off the front taking 5 strong riders with him. No one had the legs to go with it and soon this was also up the road and gone. The Herbal Life boys took up the chase in order to protect the yellow jersey lead but they were just as tires as everyone else. We could see the break up the road and we could also see that Adrian had been caught by the other 5 which now made the lead group 7 as the came in to the final bend. The however had kicked up the pace in the run up to the finish and were closing the gap on the break but didn’t catch them before the line. Adrian managed 7th and took some more time out of the riders ahead of him on GC. the stage was won by Steve Golla of High-Wycombe Cycling Club.

Myself and Tony were up for a good sprint and we both found good positions on the narrow roads. I was just behind tony as the sprint went and we both went cruising through other riders as we came to the line, I was carrying so much speed that I had to break before the line to stop myself ramming tony in front of me who was also blocked by the front line of riders. Just a shame that the roads weren’t slightly wider otherwise Tony might have won the bunch sprint! In the end he he just scraped top 15 finishing in 4th with me 2 places further back

The Overall title went to Tom Bustard who managed to keep his lead despite a the break gaining sometime on him on the last stage. After an fantastic and hard fought performance, Adrian moved himself up it 11th thanks to his late attack on stage 3 with a our good Friend David Starkey just ahead in 10th.

One thing I can confirm is that this weekend proved a real stepping stone for our team, this is the best we have ridden as a squad and the team’s best placing in a stage race which bodes well as we continue our preparations for the every looming Ras de Cumru which is due to take place in the last week of June.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Planet X N2A Review

Ridden and written by Dan Bill

Cycling is a sport in which equipment is just as much a focus as the riding and the competition. Equipment can also have a huge effect on how we feel, ride and perform and let’s face it, a nice bike can also make you feel proud when you roll in to the car park before the club run or lean it up against your car at the race HQ. It’s nice when other riders complement you on you nice ride and enquire about the cost, how it rides and everything else. This is why it’s the norm to see riders of all categories riding £7000 bikes with all the latest bits hanging off them even if there ability doesn't warrant that sort of equipment and rightly so, who says you have to be a first cat to ride a super bike, if you want it and you can afford it then go for it that what I say.

ImageHowever for me I see it like this; I'm a second cat racing cyclist in the UK where I am racing against more experienced and less experienced cyclist through the year. These races can take place on fast courses with oncoming traffic, quick descents and slippy corners. I have to fund my cycling which is ultimately a hobby and I have to buy my own bike and equipment. This is why I have always lived by this very simple motto; I will only race what I can afford to replace. So long as my bike doesn't put me at a distinct disadvantage, is safe and functional then it will do me. I know that I can make up more difference by improving my physical performance than a £4000 set of wheel ever will and only when I have reached my limit for physical improvement will I even begin to consider this sort of crazy spend.

 This is why for the past year I have ridden a bike which offers the best performance to value ratio that I know off, this bike is the Planet X Nanolight Highmodulus which you can see my review of in an earlier post. This bike provided me with a pleasant surprise when I compared it my Trek 5.2 which had previously and the best part was that I knew every time I entered a race if I had a smash then I could go out the next day and buy a new one. So, when I heard that PX were bringing out a new, more developed and more refined version of the Nanolight I was eager to get my hands on their latest model.
 After a few months of looking at the pics on the Internet and visualising my new ride, finally I can now tell you that my new Planet X N2A is now fully build and has already been ridden and raced.

I was very lucky to be one of the guys who got the mitts on the very first batch of frames in to the UK, even the Planet X teams riders are still waiting for there. So, now that the bike is tries and tested I suppose I had better let you guys know what it’s like just in case you were looking to buy one yourself.

 The Build.

As with all of my Planet X online buying experiences, the service was second to none. All of my enquiries were answered quickly and efficiently and even though they got the shipping date wrong, they were quick to inform me and keep my updated. When the frames were delivered to the UK, I had mine in the office the very next day in a well packaged and secure state. No signs of damage of tampering were present other than a tiny little mark in the paint work on the top tube which is barely noticeable and something which I can more than live.

Image The build process was simple and easy, all I had to do was transfer all of my components from my old frame over to new one. Everything fitted perfectly and the BB30 adapter which I had used went in tightly and securely. The frame has internal cable routing which can sometimes be notoriously tricky to work with but not this bike, all of the routs come guided with a plastic sheath running through the frame which you either leave in or remove depending on you preferences. The weight of the frame is an impressive 975g which is amazing consider the robustness of the frame and also the price; £799.00 for the frame, fork, headset and seat post!!! Pretty amazing value for money I think you will agree.

My only negative at this point is the paint job. As lovely and smart as it is, the matt finish does seem to mark very easy and is pretty hard to keep looking gleaming due to water marks ect. Just make sure that you use some bike shield where your cables rub the frame and along the chain stay otherwise this will start looking shabby pretty quick. I also used some on the seat post where by saddle bag fits.

The Ride.

The first ride I did on this bike was a level 5 V02 max Hill session consisting of 8 x 4 minute seated efforts, this I knew would allow me get a real feel for the bike and how it feels when riding it hard. The very thing I can confirm after pedalling this bike for the first time is that it is designed for racing, pure and simple. If you want a bike to ride in out and out comfort all year long then look at their other more sportive orientated frames, the N2A is bred for competition and aggressive riding and that’s where it’s most at home.

The first this people always think with cheaper Chinese built smaller brand carbon frames is that they are like riding a stick of butter and assume that the grade of carbon is cheap and laid with no thought resulting is a horrible flexy and unresponsive frame. This is far from the truth with the N2A as it was with the Nanolight; in fact the N2A is noticeably stiffer in all areas compared with its predecessor. It has a huge bottom bracket junction and Chain stay as well as a massive head tube all of which translate directly in to an extreamly stiff and responsive ride. Whether sprinting or climbing the power is going straight to the back wheel and no amount of pulling on the bars with unship the front end.
All this stiffness is perfect for the aggressivness of road racing a certianly wont let you down in a sprint. However, this extra stiffness does mean that you lose a bit of compliance which was characteristic of the Nanolight. This doesn’t bother me because I much prefer stiffness over comfort but please don’t misinterpret this remark as me saying that this frame is hideously uncomfortable and after 10 miles your back will be in agony. No, no, no, this is still a comfortable bike and the extra harshness is translated in to road feedback father than fatigue educing discomfort. You could still ride this bike 100 miles and feel fresh providing you are used to the racy position.

Speaking of position, again this is designed to allow for a more aggressive racing position but I can tell you that if you do what a slightly more back friendly riding position then this will allow for it providing you get the right stem length act.

Race Performance.

After only 3 training rides on this bike I had the opportunity to try it in a race situation, not only just a race but a stage race which would allow me to see just had well it proved in all aspects including fatigue reducing properties.

When I rocked up to the HQ on the first day then one thing it did do well was gain huge amounts of interest and as I was probably one of the first consumers to actually race this bike no one had really seen one in the flesh. Other riders were commenting on how well great it looked and what amazing value for money it was. Tis is also where I showed the Planet X team up due to the fact they were still waiting for the N2A's to arrive in the second batch which are yet to be delivered.

ImageOver the 2 days of racing the bike proved faultlessly and didn’t put a foot wrong. It responded to every pedal stroke which I made and coped admirably with their rough UK roads even shrugging off a couple of big hits when a pot hole or 2 popped up from nowhere. The racing also allowed me to see how it tracked in the corners at real pace and as one of my strengths is my cornering ability I was hoping that it would allow me to ride on my usual limit through the turns. Thankfully it tracked perfectly thanks to the stiff front end and carved a smooth line through the fastest corners on the circuit.

The one thing that was noticeable during the first day of racing which took place on a pan flat, exposed circuit was that it is noticeably more susceptible to cross winds that the Nanolight due to its deep tube profiles. This did make for some sketchy moments during the gutter grovelling, strung out side wind sections of the race but a lot of this is because I am so light anyway.


ImageIf there’s one area where this bikes scores beyond category in the review stakes then its value for money. As I mentioned earlier, the full carbon frame, full carbon fork, FSA headset and full carbon aero seat post all come in at a grand total of £799.00 including delivery! As I stated at the start of this post, I want a frame that I can race and know that can go out and buy a new one the next day if the worst should happen, this bike marks that box with a big fat tick!


Basically Planet X have once again outdone themselves and proved that they are the benchmark setter when it comes to cost effective, high performing carbon frames. If you want a light, stiff, responsive and smart looking bike which doesn’t break the bank and will provide you with a suburb platform for bolting on high spec parts and will do all that it asks of you in all kinds of races then the New N2A may be the bike you need.

Just to finish, I would like to make it known that I am in no way endorsed by Planet X in any shape or form. I pre ordered this frame when they became available for pre-order and paid the full retail price of £799.00. These views are my own and were not influenced by anything other than my own thoughts and opinions.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Totnes-Vire 2 Day Elite Road Race

Stage races, they are what people think of most when you say road cycling. Most of the general public think of the Tour de France when you ask them about cycling and so do most keen cyclists. Stage races are big business on the continent and are common place in the pro tour. However, they are few and far between in the UK with only a handful of stage races in one year. Even then we’re not talking about big week long events, generally most of them are just 2 days over a weekend with the exception the RAS which is a 5 day stage race which takes place in Wales.
The village of Drewteignton.
The one thing I love about stage races apart from the fact that you get race your bike over a couple of consecutive days, is the fact that in stage racing and rare component comes in to play which doesn’t usually feature in most one day events, Recovery. How one recovers between stages can make or break their race and could be the deciding factor. I would bet that if you ask any Tour de France cyclist what the most important thing is during the gruelling 3 week event, most would says that it’s their ability to recover, to be able to go hard day in day out and not have a bad day no matter what happens. This component can wreak havoc among the bunch and can ultimately mean that a lesser cyclist can win if his ability to recover is better than the strongest guys in the race.
The compact accomodation
Last week end saw Team RPC/SubZero compete in their first multi day event of the year, the Totnes-Vire 2 Day which took place in south Devon not far from Oakhampton.  The layout of the race consisted of a 3.1 mile prologue at 11.00am on Saturday morning followed by a 67.5 mile road race in the afternoon which started a 14.00. Sunday was a single road stage of just over 70 miles. This was an E/1/2/3 category race with some big team present including Primal Europe, Herbal Life-Leisure Lakes, NFTO and Corley Cycles amongst others. This would mean the racing would be fast hard and consistent which would really put everyone’s recovery to the test on Saturday night.

Friday Leave
We decided to head up on the Friday night in order to save us having to get up stupidly early on Saturday morning. Tony arranged the accommodation which was in a pub in a village called Drewsteignton which was around 10 miles from Exeter. Me and Adrian travelled up together in his car whilst mike travelled down on his tod from Bristol. Tony on the other hand managed to borrow an Aston Martin from his place of work so powered down with the privilege of free fuel, lucky devil.
Adrian and myself arrived at the pub at around 7pm and after checking in to our compact room we headed back in to the pub for some grub and very nice it was too. Later on Tony and Mike rolled up who had met at the mother who lives in Taunton; they both had their fill there. At around 11pm we hit the sack and was kept awake most of the night by the sound of the cooling system outside so most of us had a pretty poor night’s sleep but it was enough.

Race Day
Tony and Mike chilling
Saturday was soon upon us and given the terrible weather forecasts that we had all heard leading up to the week end, we were all dreading what the day would be like. After opening the blinds we discovered that it was indeed raining but they had forecast that it would actually stop so we all had our fingers crossed. A bowl of Muesli later and we were all ready to rock and roll so of we went to the HQ which was around 40 minutes away and based the other side of the national park.
The first race was the prologue and no TT bikes were allowed, however, this didn't stop Tony bringing his new 100mm deep rear wheel in an attempt to gain as much time as possible. As we all expected the3.1 miles were savage. Dead straight road, undulating, draggy and in to a head wind, oh it was pretty grim. The good news however was that the rain had stopped and it seemed to be drying up. Tony was the first of the team to go at 20 minutes past, ~I was second at 27 mins past, mike 3rd at 49 minutes and finally 2nd from last was Adrian at 78 mins past.  Tony managed the best time of the team with a 7.36 which put him in 38th spot and in a good contending position for the over all. Adrian was managed a 7.44 and Mike a 7.52. I managed what one would expect from a 58kg climber; a pretty rubbish time! Well it was ok, 8.06, not last bit not far off!
Stage 2
Tony got all his kit in this!!
As 2pm rolled around, we all lined up out side the HQ ready for the road race. The rain was holding off but the wind was picking up and the temperature had dropped. everyone was shivering to death on the start line and desperate to get going. The race was contested over 67 miles and would be races on a loop of which we would complete 6 times in total. After a quick start, the bunch took of down the first couple of lanes which were pretty narrow and full of potholes. The bunch seemed very twitchy and was not helped by the wind . As we hit the fist main descent it seems everyone was pretty cagey so took it easy, it was on the first climb where a touching of wheel occurred and some riders went down. A break if around got away on the first lap and managed to gain around 2 minutes with 3 laps to go. The team was riding well, keeping close to the front and covering what moves we could. Adrian put in an awesome effort on the front on the last lap which he later explained was done to make everyones legs hurt more tomorrow!
As we begun the last lap, the break was a bit bigger after a few rider had bridged the gap. The bunch was now a bit smaller after the savage pace caused a few riders to pack. on the final stretch of road which we all knew well due to having ridden it for the TT, the bunch had the break in sight who now only a handful of seconds up the road. We didn't catch the however so we set ourselves up for the sprint. Tony was looking strong so I tried to help move him in to a better position by driving down the side of the bunch. Unfortunately this just lead to us getting boxed in again but Tony did manage to jump to the other side of the bunch which allowed him and bother Mike to put in great sprint which saw them in the top 10 of the bunch. I got boxed in during the last 250 but still managed about top 20 whilst Adrian came in just a few rider back

Dinner Time.

With the first day of racing out the way, the recovery began. First was the recovery drink, then the compression tights and then........Stomach Cramps! This is something which i seem to get far to often, I was bent over in agony during the drive back to the B&B but thankfully after lying on my stomach for a bout 30 minutes they seemed to disappear. Tony and Mike had decided that they were going to head back up to Taunton and stay over at his folks due to the bad nights sleep they had, this left me and Adrian to fend for ourselves and find some recovery fuel. After a quick drive in to Exeter we came across a Pizza Hut, perfect. A fine dinner of 2 bowls of free salad and a cheese free, thin crust, chicken, mushroom and sweetcorn. Lovely. Back at the room we discussed tomorrow race tactics and then hit the sack at around 10.30 and both of us had a grand night sleep!

Day 3

We awoke to the expected sound of rain, rain, rain as well as an slightly more unexpected chill in the air. This lead to the usual discussion of what to wear for the race; too little and we would freeze, too much and we would cook! Its one of cycling's dilemmas that everyone has been through time and time again. However, as it was we didn't have to worry about because as we arrived at the HQ and met up with Tony and Mike, we were informed that 2 outriders had rode the course and deemed it too unsafe to race on and therefore stage 3 would be cancelled. TO be fair I think most of us expected it and due to the debris and the floods the option of shortening the course wasn't even possible. Most of me was disappointed that it had being cancelled due to the fact that yesterday was so fun but then a very small part of me was relived because the conditions were volatile.

After packing up, saying our goodbyes and watching Tony wheels spin off in the Aston, we headed home and the driving rain and began planning for next weeks stage race. Lets just hope that the conditions are a bit more favorable.