The year's end- part one
It's a big one this time. Following Ryedale GP there were a multitude of events as I sprinted for the end of the season. It's certain to say that my racing calendar was well and truly backloaded with events. This was to make up for the sparse start to the year where I was hampered by illness and academic commitments. In September I raced every weekend which is the first time I've had such a block of road races since 2017. It was a great feeling to be back in the swing of things and doing what I love. There was also my first madison event with the Dave Creasy event, which in truth didn't go to plan but was great fun anyhow. The racing then wrapped up all of a sudden with a final 2-up with a twist TT; the Chelmer GP des Gentlemen. As quickly as it hard started the year was over in terms of racing and it happened all too quickly for my liking! Yet what a year, how much I've learned and the improvements I've made and the people I've got to know, it has been to say the least incredible. I wouldn't change any of it if I had the choice.
Starting from the beginning, Ryedale GP was the final Elite national series race of the year, which I imagine must leave a whole host of British based riders frustrated each year who have experienced set backs, injuries or illnesses. It is perhaps a flaw in the british racing calendar when compared to the European races which continue late into October. Nevertheless I was fortunate in that there were plenty of local national B races (high quality races just below the level of the elite national A's and often shorter distances) in the eastern region to get my teeth into. The first of these was the Jeff Schills Memorial Road Race. That followed an intriguing, if not slightly confusing route that twisted and turned around Abberton reservoir. The race went out at a fast pace and it was quite possibly the fastest first hour of any race all year. The full field and flat circuit, on top of the race's prestige, meant that the field was fully motivated and willing to be aggressive. This lead to the breakaway forming especially late and always being within reach, just. In typical fashion of this year, as you might have guessed I missed the move, and spent a lot of time messing around in the peloton trying to get a bottle in what I found to be an extremely challenging feed zone; at one point I even ended up behind the crowd as I attempted to grasp a bidon on the bend only forgetting to turn the corner! Towards the end of the race various splits occurred as tends to happen after 100km of racing. There was only one which seemed as if it might have got up to the leaders, but the group was too large and the cohesion of the chase broke down leading to a regroup with the chasing group and ending with a bunch sprint for minor places. 19th was my final place and all things considered it was a positive outcome when I couldn't even ride 3 laps of a race of the same level in March!
The following weekend would see me pair up with Liam Davies for the Dave Creasy; both of us, being madison rookies, had little idea of how we would fair in a very high quality field. Liam clearly having the better legs between us was understandably getting frustrated with me. Like with everything I could only do my best and sadly when it comes to switching from track to road my ability to transition is poor. On the second day after a Jersey change to avoid the confusion which had resulted from similar looking jerseys of different teams on the previous night, we began to pick up. Although I still had some issues as I pulled my foot out in the team elimination. Despite our improvement we were still struggling to make an impression as a team. Though we were not last, which was a small conciliation to a fun but somewhat disappointing weekend. To add to the hurt I had to lumber a bike bag and kit bag back across London late which resulted in two very sore shoulders and some very bizarre glances from onlookers!
An unforeseeable outcome of the 2 day event was that my scarred and deformed finger becoming extremely swollen and irritated. The doctor prescribed me a course of antibiotics. The hand slings had clearly put my deformed joint under strain resulting in an infection of some kind. If anyone knows how antibiotics make you feel you'll understand that training whilst on a course is an entirely unpleasant affair!
Next was the closest I would get to a stage race all year. The Southend wheelers Andrews Trophy and Islington Road race would provide me with 300km of racing in two days. I rode to the Southend wheelers on Saturday, fortune was seemingly against me from the off . I punctured on my rear wheel before reaching the HQ. Regretting the choice to ride tubs immediately. Fortunately Mark Richards was on hand to lend me a very nice eastern wheel! only I didn't do up the quick release tight enough. So I had to stop at the side of the road, quickly do up the mechanism, then get back on and catch up. The first sequence of unfortunate events behind me and once again missing the key breakaway it was time again to rally some friends and chase. 4 of us got together to chase the breakaway; myself, Tom Fitzpatrick, Matt Nowell and Barnabus Purbrook were rolling through efficiently and gaining for 4 laps until disaster was to strike once more. We were within 20 seconds when the peloton crossed paths with a horse rider, causing the horse to career into the road, causing chaos and confusion which fortunately led to only a few riders coming down when the result could have been far worse. To arrest the affects of this incident the race was neutralised, only the gaps between groups when we restarted were not equal to what they had been before the incident, which ruined the race to a degree. It was still a nice thought that without the incident we probably would have regained the front of the race. The first race in a while where I had actually gone racing for the full 3hrs. The result another step forward for 14th.
The next day arrived unpleasantly quickly, being an early start of 9am juxtaposed with the previous day's pleasant 1:00pm start, it was a challenge to kick my body out of bed at 6am to consume the necessary breakfast to fuel the day's endeavours. I travelled to the race with my good friend Colin Peck. we arrived at the HQ in the middle of the empty north Essex fields in good time. The competition was composed mostly of riders who had raced the day before so it was amusing to hear my complaints of the early start echoed! The race once again began hard from the gun, though that was partially my doing. Once more, yes you guessed it, I missed the early break. In the conditions it wasn't too much of a worry on a circuit of 25km with just about every kind of terrain. A long drag, a short sharp hill a fast decent and roaring crosswinds. This lead to open flat out racing where the strongest prevailed and the weaker riders disappeared. The results confirm that as only 21 riders finished of 50 or so starters. The race itself was another step in the right direction for me as I got into the chase group once again but on this occasion reached the leaders. Then, when this group split, I jumped too late to follow the winning move, got myself stuck in no mans land, blew my doors and then died a thousand deaths on the last lap! 18th was my final placing though perceivably worse than the previous day I felt my performance was all the better and my form improving day by day.
with 4 weekends left of competition I was getting anxious to get the first and probably final victory of the year. In my next post you'll find out whether I achieved the goal...to be continued...