September – Full gazzzz

Enforced rest killed off the second half of August. It wasn’t entirely unproductive though as I watched the first season of Game of Thrones and ate too much whilst off work. Good times! I wouldn’t like to make a habit of falling off though. The smashed up shoulder was one thing, but jeeeez road rash is nasty. Still, I feel like I’ve got good value for money out of the NHS this year.

CC Sudbury 3/4 – 23 August

No racing on my part despite having an entry for this one. Strict instructions from the Physio and (more importantly) the future wife relegated me to bottle duty.

Ollie, Justin, Danni and Andy were in for VCR and young James had got entry on the line too. Man, what a race to miss! Still, an afternoon spent in the sun watching others suffer isn’t a bad way to spend a Sunday.

A rolling course and a windy day kept the bunch together until the last half lap. Justin got away with 4 others  and held on for a stunning 3rd place and 3rd cat with it. My last lap bottle pass was, of course, the difference. Marginal gains and all that.

Easterly  Falling Leaves RR 3/4 – 6 September

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I’m not really sure how I ended up racing this one. I’d not managed many miles at all since the crash and with the Ronde trip a week away I thought this could be the ideal tune up. Jamil and Matt were going anyway so I had a lift over and the possibility of a race or a lumpy training ride home. Despite 12 reserves I got EOL somehow. By this point I was kind of looking forward to suffering on my own terms riding home.

No warm up at all (grateful now for long neutralised sections) and we were off. I’d spoken to Ben and Danni literally on the line. Ben loves the course, Danni hates it. Go figure, I was going to hate it too. The course profile reminded me of this picture. I really don’t feel like I spent much time descending. There was a draggy climb before the line, then an uphill kick over the line and another deceptively long drag over the top of the hill followed by a stonking short descent.

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First laps I felt terrible, I mean really terrible, like my legs were encased in concrete. Amazingly, that passed and by mid distance. I was feeling pretty good. Hurrah! The course was hurting people and it was encouraging to see that I was hurting no more than anyone else. Maybe the enforced rest had done me good? Inevitably something had to go wrong.

And it did, with half a lap to go I hit a rock the size of a house brick (where had that been the previous four laps!?) on the descent and pinch flatted the front. Frustrated doesn’t begin to cut it. With no neutral service and no tube I was grateful to the Marshall from Newmarket CC that gave me a lift back to HQ. 10 miles is a long walk in cleats.

  • Strava
  • Avg: 187 watts
  • NP: 230 watts
  • Avg speed: 37 kph

Cyclopark 3/4 – 10 September

Back here again with the dream team. Ollie had the prospect of making 2nd cat with 5th place or better. Justin had the potential for another great result if he could get away solo. I’m not sure what I was doing here really, especially as I was off to France for a 115 mile epic in two days time.

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With the season winding down the numbers were probably in the thirties. A bit lower than ideal for sandbagging. Thankfully this one was considerably more civilised than the last 3/4 I raced here, or at least it felt that way. Average power was similar, but a lower average power for a higher average heart rate suggests I’d lost some of my top end. I hung on for the duration, shorter thankfully due to fading light, but got gapped at the start of the finish straight and sat up. Ollie took the win and 2nd cat with some style and Justin bagged 9th. I remained upright. A good day out for VCR.

  • Strava
  • Avg power: 247 watts
  • Avg speed: 40 kmh

La Ronde Picarde – 12 September

‘It’s not a race’ is a phrase I’d heard countless times in the build up to the Ronde. Firstly, someone needs to tell the French this, and secondly I think for everyone it deteriorates into a personal battle against cross winds, cramp and generally paying the price for going waaay too hard too early.

For the record, I bloody love this event. Gran Fondos on the continent are absolutely nothing like sportives in the UK. They are timed, held on partially closed roads (bit like a UK road race) and typically mass start. Sadly this year the local authorities had cracked down a bit and the mass start had been downgraded to large waves. Either way, the first 10 miles was basically a road race and totally full gas. I dropped out of the lead group from our wave and ended up riding a team time trial with five french guys. I tell you, their bunch riding skills are something else. Probably the smoothest through and off I’ve ever ridden.

After about 20-30 minutes of chasing back on we sat up (one of the chaps adopted the role of road captain with the air of a retired pro. He was still in control 60 miles later in the larger group that we fell back into) and waited for the next group to come through. We had picked up about five to ten other guys on our travels but frustratingly none would work, well, except for a legendary old boy that had the legs of an ironman triantelope. At this point I had a good chat with another of the french guys. He pretty much perfectly summed up the Ronde as somewhere between a race and a sportive. If you feel good, you go for it, if you don’t, you sit up and wait for the next group.

Soon after we were caught by the next bunch on the road. This had clubmates Phill, Brett and Andy in it. We stuck together until the split which left Phill and I mad enough to continue on to the forest and another 40 miles. I had good supplies this year, going so far as to stuff a third bottle in my jersey pocket as well as enough gels to choke an elephant. The third bottle paid off a treat I might add. I stuck with that group for the rest of the ride and got round in 5 hours 14. I’d set a target of 5 hours 30 so I was pretty chuffed with that. Next time, sub 5 hours.

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Strava

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