Where you at legs?

This is the start of my 3rd season road racing. Which means by now I’ve realised that I always go like a bag of spanners at the start of the season. Always. Some people seem to be able to just jump straight back into racing. Not me, oh hell no. I need to drag my legs kicking and screaming back to some sort of race fitness. Particularly after nearly six months of only racing for the club run sprints. I checked, I last raced in July! Wowsers. It’s not just the legs mind, It takes me a few races to get my race head back and stop cornering like a granny. Last season it took 3 or 4 races to get up to speed. I was hoping this year would be the same, few races and then boom, points galore. I covered the first race of the year here so this kind of brings you up to date in the world of Pete’s winter racing exploits.

Race 2 – Hillingdon E/1/2/3 – 11 Feb

I went back to Hillingdon a week later despite a stinking cold. It took me 4 hours to get there and back from Colch and it was snowing. I should have listened to my wife (standard) and stayed at home. Anyway, I got there literally just in time, having tried to divert to the nearer Velopark and missed sign on there by about 10 minutes. Thank you M11. I probably should have gone home after missing sign on at Velopark but I’m stubborn and I’d already invested 2 hours in this daft caper. So I made sign on and got changed quicker than Superman in a phone box. The legs felt pretty good despite the world’s shortest warm up but I was producing snot at an alarming rate. I got round ok, kept myself towards the front of the 3rds. I thought I’d finished better than the week before. Probably not troubling the points but progress you know. Hilariously I ended up 18th, again. I really hate that last corner and it pretty much makes or breaks your race. This was only race 2 though and another E/1/2/3 so no drama. Some deets of the race below:

  • Strava
  • Time: 73 minutes
  • Avg: 214 watts
  • NP: 238 watts
  • Avg speed: 42 kph
  • Points: Gold star for consistency…

Race 3 – Cyclopark 3rd cat – 25 Feb 

So, on to the 3rd race of the season and this time it was a 3rd cat only at Cyclopark. Very definitely my favourite circuit. Pretty much all my points from last season were scored here too. Having raced Hilly in an E/1/2/3 bunch I figured I’d go alright in a 3rd cat only, maybe pick up some points and get the season going. Cue day dreaming of podiums and finish line celebrations. I won one round and got 2nd in the other as a 4th cat last year so I had high hopes. Didn’t quite turn out as I planned…

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Firstly, Hilly in an E/1/2/3 is like a stroll in the park compared to a mega windy Cyclopark. There were 25 starters in the 3rds, not ideal as I’d rather have a few more bods to hide behind. By the finish there were only 9 left in the bunch, oh and I wasn’t one of them. The rest of us were strewn across the circuit in various states of ruin having run out of gutter to hide in. I finished 16th despite getting dropped twice and then DNFing with a puncture. It’s some race when you are placed (and not placed last!) despite pulling out 4 laps from the end. It turned out to be a bit of a Colchester day out with 3 Rovers in the bunch plus me. Mixed fortunes I guess as 3 of us were stood on the sidelines whilst the other won the race!

  • Strava
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Avg: 238 watts
  • NP: 275 watts (rip)
  • Avg speed: 36 kph
  • Points: Starting to regret this line….

So I was pretty bummed with getting dropped. Like “this isn’t fun any more” bummed. After a few days of comfort eating (I’m pretty much the Bridget Jones of cycling) I had a look at the data and the numbers weren’t bad to be honest. I could see when the bunch imploded in the data and the next 10 minutes were at circa 280 watts! So chalk it down as a “Meh” and move on.

Race 4 – Cyclopark 3rd cat – 4 March 

Fast forward a week. A pretty mental week to be fair. February/March is always crazy busy at work so I was pretty wrecked. Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions had gone really well. I’d skipped Thursday’s Z4 session as I was practically a walking zombie by then. Initial thoughts for Saturday were bail, just bail, eat more ice cream and hammer around the Rovers RT instead pretending its a road race. Given the several days of eating anything and everything I wasn’t expecting watts per kilo to look pretty, but I did have fresh legs, it was sunny and it wasn’t windy. Huzzah!

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I made a point of warming up really well on the rollers this time, rather than just doing a couple of laps of the car park, a sprint or two and a few laps of the track. The temperature was in double figures so not only were the legs out, but the arms too. Amazing really in March. I’ve not experienced vitamin D since about September though and I’m not sure Kent was ready for the milk bottles coming out. There were more starters this week and less wind. Both good. The same dude that tried to grind off the front at about 50 rpm last week did the same again this week and like last week we left him to it for a few laps.

A couple of the London clubs had mega numbers in the race so I was half expecting some coordination and a good chance of a break going. It wasn’t to be though and there was only ever one attempt that got far enough to be a worry. I saw spots as we chased that one down. One thing I’ve noticed in 3rd cat vs 4th cat is that when an attack goes it really goes and its usually followed by an immediate counter attack. It settled down a bit as the board came out and people started to watch each other. Given how quickly the bunch was rotating there was no point sitting 5th wheel as the front was becoming the middle and rotating back through pretty quickly. A few crashes, a few excursions on to the grass and at least one pedal strike later and the bunch was on the finish straight. I was determined to stay out of the wind even if that did mean being a little far back, I guess I got greedy as the guy in front of me sat about with about 70 metres to go and blocked what was basically a sheltered clear run to the line. 70 metres, who does that!! That pretty much killed my sprint but it looks like I still managed to bag 12th. Bit gutted to miss out on getting a few points to be honest. Still, the form is coming and its only March I guess. Found a cool video of the finish. Waaaaay out of it.

  • Strava
  • Time: 61 minutes
  • Avg: 219 watts
  • NP: 267 watts
  • Avg speed: 37 kph
  • Points: Tantalisingly close!

 

To finish, I’ll just leave this photo here. In between the winter crits its also been reliability ride season. This weekend rounded off the winter miles with a grim 50 miles of cross winds and torrential rain. I’m not sure how the Rovers always manage to order such grim weather but they always get it. I spent most of those 50 miles in a 7 man paceline so we were pretty wrecked by the time we got back. So much so we couldn’t even face the ride home from the HQ. Thank you Mrs Starmer for collecting 2 rather damp, wet dog smelling empty shells of men and for driving home with the heater on full. That Rocky Road in my hand was totally worth 50 miles of misery.

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Skin suit to wedding suit

So typically life got in the way of blogging. That’s no bad thing, I cycled a lot, worked too much, holidayed a bit, ate perhaps a little too much. More importantly though, I got married. A big year! And big years need to be lived in, except the work bit, I would happily not live that bit.

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Anyway so i’m ill, cruelly struck down with man flu, which is a perfect opportunity to type up something that doesn’t relate to pensions, tax legislation or levels of pension income that my generation will never see. I pretty much lucked out with illness this year which is pretty sweet. I also stopped my annual tradition of throwing myself at the tarmac for which I (and my ever concerned wife) am pretty stoked about. Here’s a picture of an echelon. No reason, I just like echelons.

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I had a pretty great season by my standards, actually make that really great, so I thought I’d pick out a few races from the summer that I at least found interesting. I ended the year a 3rd cat on 24 points having hung up the race numbers in August, roughly about the time a collar bone takes to heal before the wedding…She’s a smart one that Mrs Shaw.

Ken Wright Memorial RR – 2/3/4

So this was my club’s home road race, on home roads and this year NOT the regional champs. Result definitely possible for VC Revolution, or so we thought. Didn’t turn out that way but I had a blast covering moves, doing some work and generally not being pack fodder. Support from the club and friends of VCR on the road side was great as we (Ollie E, Andrew H, Tom S, Andy E and Grovesy) went round which really does make a difference. Anyway, we missed the break of 15 (all the points in a 2/3/4 Reg A) and I finished 27th, about 12th in the gallop which was half decent. Bah! Loved the course though, looking forward to next year already.

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  • Strava
  • Time: 2 hours 52 minutes
  • Avg: 178 watts
  • NP: 235 watts
  • Avg speed: 41 kph
  • Points: Up the road
  • Sock game: Strong (see below)
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VC Revolution, taking socks seriously since 2007

Abberton Road Race – 3/4

Call this one my second home road race. It’s on the same course as the Jock Wadley (see actual Wadley report here) and also put on by the Colchester Rovers. Organised this year by my good buddy Matt who stepped up and took it on. It was a target race for sure but I wouldn’t say that I had really trained specifically for it other than by putting a big block of racing ahead of it in May. Being a 3/4 I fancied my chances for this one much more than the Ken Wright. VCR had good numbers in the race (Tom S, Andy H, Ian F and Trevor) and we worked hard to make sure we didn’t miss the break this time. In the end no break stuck but one guy did get up the road solo and put 3 minutes on us. He was joined on the last lap (i think!) by another guy that I swear teleported off the front. I can remember realising he was gone when I couldn’t see his fluro polkadot socks near the front any more, no idea when he went. So the rest of us were left fighting for 3rd.

Teammate Trevor hit the front with a lap to go and put in a monster turn to string the bunch out over the bumps on the back side of the circuit. That effort really made the race for me as it kept the bunch together. The other half of the course isn’t hard enough to attack on unless its windy. Rolling up the New Road the wind was from the right, it wasn’t of Flandrian proportions but most of the bunch was busy fighting for the left hand gutter. The finish is sheltered though so I used this as an opportunity to move up. I ended up on the wheel of a lad from Ipswich BC, about 4 or 5 from the front and right on the edge of the bunch. Still not really sure how I managed that. I mean I often planned this, but it rarely worked in road races.

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Photo credit: Natural photography

Ipswich lad went, I followed and we had a monster drag race for the line. Literally side by side, it was awesome. I didn’t dare look behind but we finished half a wheel apart and held off the bunch, Erin was at the finish cheering me on. Best. Race. Ever. Ipswich lad took 4th, I got 5th. Turns out our drag race had produced a monster lead out for Tom from Interbike who took 3rd by a clean 2 bike lengths. That wasn’t part of the plan…..Sure, a podium would have been perfect but I was so chuffed with 5th. All my points prior had come from 4th cat crits so it was a pretty big deal for me. Plus I got a decent cheer at the HQ from the guys which was sweet and I knew I had nailed my tactics so I couldn’t really be disappointed losing in a drag race when I knew I’d given it everything.  The finishing sprint was 720w for 20 seconds. Not earth shattering in isolation but that came halfway through 470w for 75 seconds and after 59 miles! Boom!

abberton-2016

Colchester’s 2016 bike gurning contest

  • Strava
  • Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Avg: 186 watts
  • NP: 238 watts
  • Avg speed: 39 kph
  • Points: 6

Cyclopark – midweek 3/4

I did a fair few mid week crits this year and seriously they are some of the most fun you can have on two wheels. No-one is peaking for these or taking them too seriously. Generally the strong guys try to beat up the weaker guys and see what’s left at the end. Rads (Paul R from the Rovers) and I had trekked down after work and this race stands out because the wind was exactly across the circuit. As the main straights are parallel this made both directions a complete slog and led to a fight for the gutter twice a lap.

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40 odd started, within a lap there were less than 30. Attack after attack kept reducing that number and eventually 4 got away 20 minutes in. We worked a bit and maintained the gap until about 2-3 laps to go. Inevitably people started looking at each other and another 3 got away. In hindsight THAT was the move! Being lazy I had hoped someone else would close it down. Nope! Roll forward to the final lap and the field was blown apart with 7 off the front in groups of 3s, 2s and 1s. I sprinted to 10th, 3rd in the gallop just behind the remnants of the break, and picked up a solitary point. I’ve marked this one down as a favourite as it was a complete sufferfest. Sometimes you don’t come away with much but you know you gave it everything and that in itself feels pretty good.

  • Strava
  • Time: 55:34
  • Avg: 228 watts
  • NP: 267 watts (rip)
  • Avg speed: 38 kph
  • Points: 1

Berkhamsted Castle revolutions – 2/3

The Tour of Hertfordshire series has been around a year or two now I think and they have done a great job of getting local councils onboard to run a series of festival like crit races on closed roads in town centres. I grew up in Hemel Hempstead and Berko is only minutes away from my parent’s house by bike. In fact, I ride through the course every time I meet up with the guys back home for a ride so it was a must do race. The circuit did laps of the Berkhamsted castle ruin and has the start/finish alongside the old castle wall so spectators could look down on the racing from above. Being a street circuit it had tight corners, not to mention a short climb and a fast descent into a tight 90 degree left hander before the finish. Tough circuit for sure. There were food stalls, lots of beer, music, a few bike companies and an awesome atmosphere. Did I mention there was beer?

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I was signed up for the 2/3 and a couple of mates (Jules T and Dan R) were racing the 4th cat. My parents had come down and a few of the other guys wanted to witness the suffering too. No pressure, particularly as the last time my parent’s spectated they ended up taking me to A&E…. Anyway, the guys had a mega race in the 4th cat with Dan picking up a couple of points in only his 2nd crit. Jules was committed to the hero move. Inevitably he was brought back but I’d say the committed cornering photo totally made it worthwhile.

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My goal for this one was simple. Survive. Street circuits are definitely not my thing (see Ixworth) and this one had added 2nd cat, plus I’d invited half the world to watch me. I was racing out of region but there were still some familiar (strong) faces in the races. The Fast Test boys had taken a hell of a day trip over from Suffolk and would definitely be a team to watch. I lined up near the front (Ixworth lesson learnt!) and kept top 20 for as long as I could. Someone went down about 2/3rds in which split the bunch, I was just about on the right side of this but slipped back as a result and suffered. Oh man! It was like watching the Jack Bauer’s 24 clock ticking down in the corner of my vision. Every lap I could hear Matt shouting “move up” from the castle wall as I passed the finish line. Whilst useful advice it was pretty much outside my control by that point! Anyway, I finished 27th, so not last. Wahey! Hella good fun but such a kicking. I’ll give it another go next year for sure. Heart rate graph below for lols.

berko_hr

  • Strava
  • Time: 40:34
  • Avg: 234 watts
  • NP: 269 watts (rip)
  • Avg speed: 40 kph
  • Points: 0 (but not last)

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VC Barrachi road race – 3/4

This turned out to be my last race although I didn’t know it at the time. The CC London road race, which would have been my last, was cancelled the night before, shame really as I was feeling really good. Strava was filled with angry hard rides that day, think a few others were feeling good too.

The VC Barrachi course was fairly flat and pretty fast due to a lack of wind. Being way up in deepest darkest Suffolk it was well attended by Strada Sport, Iceni Velo, VC Barrachi (obvs) and Great Yarmouth so if a combination of them went that would be it! Grovesy and I had made the trip and my plan was simple, don’t miss the break (again) and attack the prime. It would give me a feel for the finish and given the lack of wind would probably be the best shot at a break.

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Photo evidence, occasionally I do some work

Well, I was right. The finish was fast and on a very short uphill after a gradual descent. The race strung out for the prime and a strong looking break got away on the one wind exposed section after the prime. I ummed and ahhed a bit too long and eventually went when I realised the composition was right. Cue my best 3 minute power ever (350w for 3:30ish). I got so close but ultimately blew up (hello max heart rate) and dropped back to the bunch. The course turned left, picked up a tailwind and the break was brought back pretty soon after. All for nothing but thats road racing.

barrachi_hr

After that it was all staying up the front and seeing what was what. There were a few of us committed to getting away and never really got anywhere. We made the race tough though so I had a laugh. It was my hardest race power wise which on a flat course was going some. I really did get stuck in. I ballsed up the finish and it came up faster than I remembered from the prime. Think I finished 15th-20th or so. Defo had the legs but wrong place wrong time! A definite favourite this one, bit like chess at 40 kph. More races like this please.

  • Strava
  • Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
  • Avg: 194 watts
  • NP: 247 watts
  • Avg speed: 42 kph
  • Points: 0

Just ride your bike

Last up of my favourites wasn’t a race at all. Once the racing was done I did a few stupid things that I couldn’t do in the season. I rode around 250 miles in 5 days commuting from Colchester to Ipswich for the hell of it. Rude not to in sunny August when you have no races to taper for. Erin’s hen do was at the start of September and would leave me on my todd for a weekend. Cue, daft cycling adventure.

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Beautiful misty Summer’s morning

After a bit of excited messaging Jules and I came up with the brainwave of cycling from Berkhamsted to Ipswich via my wedding venue (conveniently near the Blue Egg, a popular destination cafe and occasional haunt of Alex Dowsett), skirting Colchester, meeting up with Matt for a few miles and crossing the Stour via the foot ferry from Harwich to Shotley. Approx 134 miles. My Dad (also on his todd as my Mother was on the hen with Erin) provided a late night taxi service so Jules drove over to Ipswich, dumped his car and rocketed back to Herts with us at about midnight on Friday. We set off at about 6 am Saturday after practically no sleep (Neither of us are renowned for our time keeping so I have no idea how we made it), spent a quality nine hours chatting shit, getting lost, ripped the side out of a GP 4season offroading on a road bike and got a tan on only the right side of our bodies. It was a mega day out!

Strava

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So that was the summer of 2016, mega year. Promise i’ll update this more in the future, maybe. Thanks for reading!

Rest of my year can be found below if you are bored, ill or can’t sleep.

#3rdcatproblems

So, it’s been a while. I haven’t done much racing since the Wadley but I have managed to keep the training miles up. Mostly in the mornings before work as it’s the only free time I’ve had. I made myself a pretty decent 35 mile route chasing every gradient on the way to Ipswich so now that the season proper is getting closer I’m making my efforts shorter and harder. Once I got my head around waking up at 5:30 am the sunrises made it totally worth it.

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I mentioned last time that my #4thcatproblems had become #3rdcatproblems but didn’t quite get round to writing about it. Mostly because I can’t find one single piece of media recording the momentous occasion. Typical really, as there’s always someone around to jump out of a bush and photograph you getting dropped at Hog Hill! I took my first trip to Cyclopark as a 3rd cat last weekend so I thought I would have a look at how 4th and 3rd cat compare.

San Fairy Ann CC Spring crits – Final 4th cat race (5 March)

I was like a kid on Christmas eve in the week running up to this race. In my mind 3rd cat was a certainty (only needing 6th or better), it was just a question of whether last week had been a case of the stars aligning perfectly or was there potential for another decent result? I’m not sure how I got any work done that week to be honest as I kept replaying the last race over in my head looking for ways to change the outcome. Kind of like a lycra clad Groundhog Day. Tactics obviously play a part in racing, but sometimes the other guy is just stronger. In hindsight I reckon I rode my race perfectly and 2nd was the deserved reward.

So rolling back to this race. I’d bumped into last week’s winner before sign on and we got talking about the rematch, I mean race. He and his team mate were keen to get away with a few laps to go so after the usual polite conversation charade (whilst secretly trying to figure out each other’s fitness) I expressed my interest in joining said break. In reality I’m much more suited to a bunch sprint but I would go with them if it looked like we might get away. In the last race we had caused some damage when the field split with 5 to go so I was all for making other peoples’ legs hurt. I’d found in 4th cat races that you often had a few protagonists that were clearly stronger than the rest of the bunch, a fair size mid field that could get a result if the race played out as they wanted and then a pretty big remainder that would get dropped somewhere between the start and finish. I’d realised at the Hillingdon crits that I had gradually moved from the mid field towards the pointy end of the pack. Not that I had managed to convert any of that form into results! If we and a few other strong riders got away at Cyclopark there was no way we were going to get brought back. People would shout in the bunch, but no-one would commit to the chase. Such are 4th cats. This time the wind was up the finish straight though which changed the dynamics of the race completely. It would be a much less selective race as the wind would counteract the drag to the line, not entirely, but enough to knock some watts off the effort each lap and that adds up over an hour.

The race was pretty nondescript for the most part.The graph below tells the story. Average watts of around 210 (Strava has overstated slightly), and average heart rate of around 161. Heart rate uncomfortable but not unsustainable. Nothing ever looked like a realistic prospect for a break so I spent the race holding position in the bunch and doing zero work, which is reflected in the watts. Loads of guys say they do a good job of staying out of the wind but I reckon I was deserving of a degree in wheel sucking such was my lack of contribution. The usual steady increase in pace occurred when the 5 lap board came out. My legs felt pretty good so I was confident at this point that I could get a result. I tend to be fairly passive in the bunch but once a race gets into the last 5 I try to switch off my club run manners and fight for wheels. It takes a while to become utterly ruthless in a bunch but every time you help someone out by letting them in (or out) is an opportunity for them to take points from you. It does still make me chuckle that there is always at least one chopper that shouts “slowing” coming into the tight corners or “on the left” as he dive bombs up the inside. It’s not a club run!

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With half a lap to go a dude from North Road CC took a punt on a long one and attacked into the headwind on the back straight. The crucial corners at Cyclopark are the two left handers at the end of the back straight. Get through them in the first five wheels and you should be on for a result. On to the finish straight and I was probably a little further back than I should have been (no obvious excuse springs to mind), I was sheltered though and had a decent line out of the bunch so no biggy. North Road was still dangling off the front but the long drag to the line looked to be taking its toll (first rule of Cyclopark, don’t go too early). I can’t remember who went first but I jumped hard out of the bunch with a dude from Oxted (interestingly last week’s winner’s team mate), he was on my left and slightly ahead with perhaps 20 seconds to go. Ahead of us North Road started to veer over to the left (from the far right) in slow motion, kind of like a drunk walking home from the pub. I found myself headed for a closing gap between him and Oxted. My first thoughts are not repeatable but despite the gap continuing to shrink, so much so that I had to get back in the saddle to squeeze through the gap, I got through. I think we brushed as I went past but a final acceleration once clear was enough to pip Oxted by a bike length or two and win my first bike race! Holy shit!!!!!! A year of hard work, frequent disappointment and much suffering had finally paid off. And no bugger took a photo or recorded a video. There wasn’t even a podium. Sob. In the absence of proof otherwise I’m pretty sure it looked exactly like this.

 

The final sprint had only been 12 seconds at 770 watts (see below). Of that, 3 seconds was the final gas to the line at 890 watts after squeezing past North Road. Crucially though the last lap had been at near 300 watts, a threshold effort for me, so that 770 watts came after 3-4 minutes of suffering. I’d also made an earlier 900 watt kick to get onto the right wheel out of the hairpin before the back straight. You can see that the pace jumped up nearly 4 kph on the last lap and its this change in pace that strings out the bunch and weeds out the optimists. I’ve realised that once the 2 lap board is out the finish is usually less than 5 minutes away. How ever much you are suffering here its going to be short lived. The other aspect is confidence, so often last year I doubted myself and missed an opportunity by hesitating. If you have a half decent sprint taking the initiative could be enough. Remember the guy that goes second will have to put out more power in a shorter space of time to come round you. Equally, anyone that is behind you when the sprint kicks off has more distance to cover and will likely be gassed by the line. If you can’t see them when you go forget them! Seems obvious but it took me a season to put that into practice.

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  • Strava
  • Avg: 202 watts
  • NP: 242 watts
  • Avg speed: 37 kph
  • Points: 1o (6 carried over towards 2nd cat)

I’d promised myself #sockdoping last year if I made 3rd cat and that’s exactly how I rewarded myself. Someone had linked me a photo on Instagram to these bad boys and despite the need to pay for air mail from Australia it just seemed meant to be! Who can say they have their surname on their socks? 3rd cat Pete had arrived!

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Crits at the Park – First 3rd cat race (16 April)

So roll on five weeks and I headed back to Cyclopark as a 3rd cat. I’d been ill for most of the week beforehand and hadn’t really touched my bike for a week. Needless to say I didn’t have the same confidence as my last outing, hell I didn’t even know if my legs were going to show up. Before the illness I’d been going pretty well though so I was hoping that I would at least get round and I was curious to see how a 3rd cat bunch compared to 4th cat. I had no real aspirations in terms of results, especially after losing a week to illness. It was a big bunch, a good 50+, and we were missing the top hairpin due to a circus being set up. The comm said because of dogs on the course, “dags” if you’ve seen Snatch, I have no idea if he was being serious.

The race started with a dude faceplanting off the line after missing his cleat. More than a little embarrassing. He took someone else down with him and the resulting hold up took a fair few out of the race from the start. The wind was up the finish straight again and the lack of the top hairpin actually made the circuit harder. Now the pace up the finish straight was carried around the top bend straight into the headwind on the back straight. Compared to 4th cat there was a noticeable increase in pace, not a Trinity Park when the scratch group comes through increase, but 4 kph more was enough to make it much harder to move up. I spent the first half of the race just about hanging on to be honest. Despite a decent warm up the lack of miles made my legs feel wooden. I don’t think I’ve seen a full 50+ bunch strung out before but I looked up more than once to see my teammate Tom doing just that. That didn’t help my suffering legs. He had several cracks at getting away but it seems 3rd cats are no different to 4th cats in terms of not letting breaks go. Plenty would bridge over to him only to sit on his wheel. Tom sensibly disappeared back into the bunch for the remainder. The rest of the race was pretty nondescript for me. A dude that I raced with as a 4th cat last year nearly, so nearly, got away with a couple to go. Didn’t quite make it stick though. Tom offered lead out duties which I duly took up but I didn’t have the legs left to hold his wheel. I rolled in about 35th or so but generally I was pretty happy to have survived. As well as my team mate, Tom, there had been Mark (the dude that nearly got away) and another local dude, Andy, in the race so it was pretty cool racing as a 3rd cat with guys that I had raced and watched move out of 4th cat last year. Tom falls into his own special category as the 3rd cat that loves to suffer. “Remember, you’re having fun” being the catchphrase that usually comes with a complete and utter kicking. A few more weeks training and I reckon I’ll be tip top for the start of the road season. First though, Ixworth town crits on the bank holiday weekend. I’m expecting this to be unpleasant.

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So comparing this to the 4th cat race that I won…….did I mention that I won a bike race? You can see from the chart above that my heart rate was much more consistent in this one than the previous 4th cat races, reflecting that the pace was faster but more consistent without the stop/start bunching of a 4th cat race. So much so that you can make out the finish straight drag spiking my heart rate each lap. Average heart rate was higher by about 10 bpm, partially due to my lack of fitness and remaining illness, but also because of my poor positioning in this one. I would have got an easier ride at the front of the bunch. Interestingly normalised power was pretty much the same as the last 4th cat race. Average watts were 10 watts higher over the race, not a huge difference but enough for your legs to notice.

  • Strava
  • Avg: 209 watts
  • NP: 241 watts
  • Avg speed: 40 kph
  • Points: 0

I thought I’d summarise the differences I spotted between 3rd and 4th cat crits. Probably repeating myself a bit but it might be of interest having them in one place.

  • Faster pace, seems obvious right, but a more consistent pace too. If you slip back it will be harder to get back on, but stay near the front and I dare say you’ll get dragged round quite comfortably using less watts than in 4th cat.
  • Riding standards weren’t the step up I expected. Quite surprised by this but there were still plenty of choppers and guys that can’t hold a line through a corner. They’ve just got a little faster.
  • Much more confident and vocal bunch. Don’t be intimidated (see above).
  • A break is just as unlikely to stick here as it would in a 4th cat crit. You will get chased down and very few will work with you.
  • Less bunching (when the bunch compresses quickly due to a slowing of the pace on the front) than a 4th cat race, but when it happens boy does it compresses fast!

My final pointer for 3rd cat crits is this, if you are going to rock up on a Tinkoff branded Specialized Tarmac, wearing a Tinkoff branded Evade (because it matches your club kit) don’t shout your mouth off in the bunch. Especially when you seem to spend more time off the track than on it….

 

 

 

 

#4thcatproblems

 

image1 (2)

Photo credit: Dave Hayward (DaveHaywardphotos)

Through January I’d been doing my best to put Fat Pete back in his box and turn this flabby excuse for a cyclist back into some semblance of a road racer. Part of the plan was kicking off my season in January and returning to East London Velo’s winter series at Hog Hill. At the time I figured I was lighter than last year, not to mention stronger and smarter with it, so I thought I’d just plod around for 40 minutes and then hammer it off the front to victory and a triumphant escape from 4th cat. Right? Errr no, It didn’t quite work out that way….. I got dropped, not once, but twice. Cue much head scratching and a return to the drawing board. I’m not sure what was more embarrassing, getting dropped or explaining at HQ that I’d raced this series last year and yes, this was my second go at it. Without realising it I’d become an elder statesman of the 4th cat ranks.

  • Strava
  • Avg: 252 watts
  • NP: 283 watts
  • Avg speed: 34 kph
  • Points: 0 (12, still)

Like any good road racer I’ve come up with several excuses for my shocking early season form but I’ll come back to those and my training plans another day. The plan for February was pretty simple to be honest. Keep racing, 2 x 20s (shudder) to bring threshold power back up and turn myself inside out on the winter club reliability trials.

image1 (3)

Serious training is serious (VCR RT)

  • Strava
  • Avg: 221 watts (slightly up on my 2015 peak for 2 hrs, so higher than any RR last year)
  • NP: 230 watts (inc there and back)

Whilst back at my parent’s one weekend I decided to take a trip over to Hillingdon rather than get another kicking at Hog Hill. Its a fast circuit, narrow, not technical really but the finish is tricky (racing anti-clockwise) if you wanted to stay near the front. Crucially, it does not have a berg in the middle of it. The race was terrifying to be honest, 60 odd guys on a narrow track tooling round at a pretty comfortable pace,  which means questionable lines, prolonged conversations (seriously!) and far too much bunching. It made me realise that I really needed to focus on my positioning within the bunch if I wanted to get results. If you’re outside the top five on the final lap here points are pretty unlikely. I raced here three times in all and whilst I didn’t trouble the top ten I learnt a lot about my bunch skills, what I needed to work on, which wheel to follow and getting a feel for who is likely to feature at the end. Still not smashing off the front to 4th cat glory but I’d been far more active than ever before, animating the races, trying to get in breaks and generally playing around to see what would work. The fitness was clearly there and I was beginning to feel that I was racing on my terms for once.

  • Strava
  • Avg: 227 watts
  • NP: 244 watts
  • Avg speed: 38 kph
  • Points: 0 (12, still)

I had to wait until the end of February for a 4th cat race at Cyclopark. Without doubt my favourite closed circuit in the South East. It also seems to suit me as I scored 9 of my 10 points here last season. By now I had a good number of races, turbo sessions and winter RTs in my legs so I was feeling pretty good. I’d retested my power mid way through February and leaned out a bit so I knew I was in better shape now than I had been at any point last year. Not quite at that elusive 4.0 w/kg but well on my way! So off we go, a fairly gentle start whilst the bunch figures out the wind direction (cross/headwind down the finish straight like pretty much every other time I’ve raced here). The pace stayed pretty steady for the first 35 minutes, a few digs here and there but it was only really with 5 to go that the pace picked up when a good size break nearly got clear (with me in it I might add). That photo up the top shows my one turn on the front. The race had blown apart behind us so I was keen to keep the pressure on up the finish straight and suss out the headwind for later. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from the heavy breathing and coughing noises coming from over your shoulder at moments like this.

Roll on 4 laps and we are on the bell lap. Cyclopark has an almighty run to the finish, uphill slightly and its a long way out with a head wind. The temptation is to go early but you will be punished if you don’t have the legs to go all the way. I got round onto the bottom of the circuit about 6th or 7th wheel and on the sheltered side of the bunch as we came up to the bottom of the final straight. I think I’ve got Hillingdon to thank here as I’d fought hard for my position on the last lap. Last time I’d been somewhere like this in the final I’d got on the podium so I was keen to go first this time, but not too soon given the headwind.

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That hesitation saw me get beaten to the jump but the pair of us caught the rest of the bunch off guard it seems as we were well clear by the line. All in, it was a 24 second sprint but it seemed like an eternity, especially mashing away for an average of 750 watts. Not my best, but I’ve yet to see any sprint power PBs at the end of a race. I got up to about a bike’s length behind but couldn’t quite finish the job. Second place though, 8 points and a massive confidence boost with it. Totally stoked. I’ve also finally got that photo I’ve wanted almost more than the points. Just look at it, it’s magnificent! I’ll bore my future children with this one for decades. Did I tell you about that time I nearly won a bike race?

  • Strava
  • Avg: 210 watts
  • NP: 247 watts
  • Avg speed: 36 kph
  • Points: 8 (4 to go)

 

2015 – A season in numbers

 

Abberton 1

Photo courtesy Matt Wing

 

Rather than the usual Strava video or whatever I thought I’d take a slightly tongue in cheek look back at my season.

54,887 – Number of cakes consumed, wait, no, that’s metres climbed

9,197 – Distance covered. In km, because its pro. Maybe also because the number looks better…

299 – Hours spent on the bike.

261 – Number of individual rides. Excluding commutes, as they’re not on Strava they don’t exist right?

197 – Max heart rate. No two ways about it, you can’t get a decent result without suffering.

191 – What I thought my max heart rate was. See above.

184 – Longest single ride in kms (Ronde Picarde).

150 – Number of minutes spent hanging on for dear life and wishing that the Divs (Regional RR Champs) would end.

145 – Number of minutes spent secretly enjoying racing the Divs as a first year 4th cat. I didn’t last, but then I wasn’t expecting to get beyond the first lap anyway. Nat B as a first road race anyone?

24.45 – Best 10 mile TT. Note, taking the right turns can be conducive to good times.

16 – Number of races finished.

10 – Total points scored.

3.82 – Watts per kg at threshold. Power not bad. Little more weight loss required though. More to be done on 1, 3 and 5 minute power too.

3 – Best result of the season. Woop!

2 – Trips to A&E. I’m calling this the ‘Thrasher ratio’. Hoping to not improve on this particular stat in 2016.

0.25 – Watts per kg lost due to ‘slight’ overindulgence at Christmas.

 

Desperation crits – Part one

So then, eight points, that’s seven more than the goal I set myself at the start of the season. Back then I just wanted to be strong enough to get round a 4th cat crit without getting dropped. So that’s all good, mission accomplished you might think? Errrr no, not quite.

As ever, goals change and ambitions grow. I’d said earlier in the year that I wanted to earn #sockdoping. I’m more than capable of looking all the gear no idea without the socks so that meant 3rd cat. Joking aside I was keen to get my 3rd cat license so I could stop worrying about points and start racing for decent results.

sock doping 2

Maldon CC Road Race 3/4 – 4 October

First up though, my last road race of the year. I’ve not ridden many road races but I’d felt like it was coming together at the Easterly Leaves in September. A road race is a totally different beast from a 1 hour crit, not least because of the length, but also because they are almost like a chess game on wheels. I’d just been trying to get round them really and gain some experience for next season but it would be good to end the road race season with a decent result.

The course was fairly flat, even for the Eastern region. It had one nasty sharp incline that felt like your legs were turning in treacle when you hit it. The usual early attacks meant that the first lap flew by. A group got a gap on the second lap and started working together. I had flashbacks to the Mid-Suffolk where the early break was never seen again and with it the prospect of any points so I bridged over with another lad. I had just about got past stuffing my lungs back down when the bunch brought us back. It had been worth a punt.

Next thing I knew the bell was ringing. Why am I so far back? The final mile or two went nasty hill, fast gradual descent, tight 90 degree left, then a short sprint.  By the turn I was still too far back (as ever) but I had a clear path to the line which came up far quicker than I expected. Arse, I really must start moving up sooner. I think being new to the road there is almost a nervousness about going too early and blowing up. In reality most of the other guys are in the same place and often those that make the first move gain an advantage that requires everyone else to go that much harder to mark it. At least I got Jamil on the line though so it wasn’t all for nothing!

Andy Sheridan photography: Maldon and District CC road race Cat 3/4 15 &emdash;

Latest edition of ‘Where’s Pete’. He’s there, somewhere in the distance…

  • Strava
  • Avg: 195 watts
  • NP: 224 watts
  •  Avg speed: 40 kph
  • Points: 0 (26th)
  • Points needed: 3

Cyclopark 4th only – 10 October

So then, round 1 of what Matt and I had dubbed the desperation crits. Earlier in the season you could avoid the chaos by riding in the first ten or so wheels. By October the chaos seemed to be everywhere. I’d only ever seen one break get away in a 4th only crit so I was taking a punt, call it an educated punt, by loitering at the back of this one. Matt was doing the right thing and staying in the first 5-10 wheels and doing as little as possible. Fast forward 15 or so laps and we had made it to the 5 lap board. Along the way I’d been overtaken on the grass and Matt had near been forced off the track by some dude trying to ride out the side of the bunch. I mean wtf? Can you see why I want my 3rd cat license? Anyway, the pace picked up and we had a race on our hands rather than a disorganised club run.

On to the final straight and I was near the back of the bunch (there’s a theme developing here). I had moved up on the back straight so I’m not too sure how I ended up here again. A chap ahead of me panicked and gave me a great lead out so I made it back to the pointy end of the bunch by the last 100 metres or so. Nice! The bunch was beginning to spread out ahead so I picked the sheltered right hand side and nailed it. I found myself alongside Matt in the final 10-20 metres with a narrowing gap in front of me. If it had been anyone else I would have bailed but I knew I could trust Matt not to do something daft (could have been an awkward drive home!). We crossed the line practically side by side. Matt was a wheels length ahead and got 7th, I’d managed 9th. Somewhere in the bunch there had been a wheel between ours on the line which is pretty crazy. I left Cyclopark a bit frustrated thinking I could have got a better result, but also encouraged that I’d managed to get a point despite my terrible positioning. Matt was happy, this ended a terrible run of luck for him and a points drought that went with it. He only needed 6th place now to reach 3rd cat. I needed 7th.

  • Strava
  • Avg: 229 watts
  • NP: 252 watts
  • Avg speed:38 kph
  • Points: 1 (9th)
  • Points needed: 3

Up up up!

The Ronde was followed by a few days bumbling around Paris with the future wife. I even managed to fit a few miles in between the patisserie, baguettes and crepes.

fat tire tour

Obligatory strava

With the Ronde behind me and fresh legs after a week or so off the bike I was keen to get back to racing. The crash in August had set my fitness back and also knocked my confidence a bit. I’d felt fine at the Easterly Leaves but I’d found it difficult to relax at Cyclopark even though it’s a track I know well. Road races tend to be calmer, partially due to the distance but also I think due to the fact that they are held on open roads and people look out for each other. There’s something about a closed road/circuit that makes people do daft things (yes, yes, myself included).

Cyclopark 4th only – 26 September

Jamil and I had trekked down together and devised a master plan. It was hardly rocket science but moving up early would be key.The race started pretty steadily and stayed that way due to a strong headwind down the finish straight. It’s always windy at Cyclopark but I think this was the strongest wind I’d raced in here. It did a good job of keeping the bunch together as any breaks ultimately went pop by the end of the straight. A few attacks stayed away longer but they all came back.

With 3 laps to go I moved up a bit, crossing the line on the last lap I was probably 3rd or 4th wheel. I stole a glance at my heart rate and wished I hadn’t, note to self, ignore data whilst racing. When we hit the back straight a mountain of a man jumped on the front and proceeded to inflict some serious damage. This was good though as we were strung out for the second half of the lap which tends to take away the opportunity for silliness and weed out the weaker guys at the same time. I managed to stay fifth or sixth wheel into the bottom corner before a pedal strike in front of me followed by a massive high side for the poor chap promoted me to fourth wheel. Good example as ever of why it’s so important to get in the first few wheels.

At this point I was starting to think “Hang on, nothing has gone wrong yet”. Mountain man went early and put us in the gutter, does this man ever tire?! With no shelter from the cross wind it was hard work just staying on his wheel. Looking at the data it took 750 watts just to get back on his wheel. A chap from Dulwich Paragon got the jump with about 50 metres to go, I followed and found myself in clear air but unable to get round mountain man before the line. 750 watts for the final 15 seconds wasn’t enough but it got me 3rd place. Yes!!!! Jamil bagged 8th too so a good day all round.

cyclopark_data

Power had been unremarkable, perhaps because of the 6 bpm I found above what I’d thought my max heart rate was? 7 points in the bag though, maybe 3rd cat could be doable this year? Clearly though more suffering was required to make that happen. 186 bpm for a lap proved that points don’t come easily.

  • Strava
  • Avg: 225 watts
  • NP: 253 watts
  • Avg speed: 38 kph

Bonus points for anyone that makes the link to cycling from the photo below?

Berties