So over the last two weeks I have been soaked through and through around about seven times. That’s a whole week of practically underwater cycling! None the less I still managed to bash out plenty of hours on the road. I still maintain the fact that I haven’t touched my turbo for the whole winter!
Right so lets get down to racing. Last week was the last round of the Hillingdon winter series, which I had been competing in since the first of January. I managed to get three second places, one win and three other top ten rides. That in the end secured my 3rd place in the overall series and due to my recently dubbed “mental” style of racing I won the “Most Combative Rider” prize of £100!! Bringing my total winnings up to £400!
The last race of the series was meant to be a nice easy roll round before my first real road race of the season on Sunday, but with there being a small chance of Vince Halpern stealing my podium spot from me the race started off with a few attacks from him which I had to mark. After twenty minuets a group of four, including myself, overall series winner Lewis Atkins and two riders from the Sigma Sport team got away with an ever increasing lead. With attacks from our group all coming to nothing, we all prepared for the sprint. I hit the last corner in first wheel, and pedalled as hard as I could, lunging for the line. A photo finish had to be used to determine who came 2nd and 3rd with Lewis the clear winner of the race and the series. The bunch sprint being taken by Tao Geoghegan Hart, a very talented youth rider who has a lot of potential to show this year.
1st Lewis Atkins. 2nd Tom Smith. 3rd Jake Martin
Sunday’s racing was a bit more serious. I wanted to perform well, as it was my first real road race of the season and the first test to see how I’d cope with the climb after a winter of hard training.
The weather was abysmal, with the hardest corners on the circuit being flooded which ultimately caused the crash which in turn screwed up my race. The race started steadily with no real attacks coming until two or three laps in with Magnus Backstedt going away on the climb. Their lead grew to a reasonable gap. I bridged across to them with four or five other guys at the top of the climb. I then attacked from that group in hope of gaining more of a gap but I was chased down and our group swelled to twenty five riders. I had planned to attack on the last lap on the opposite side to the finish on the smaller climb and with some help from my team-mate I’d hoped to stay away to the line. But those dreams were cut short just before two laps to go.
I hit a hole. I was surprised to come back out of it. Shortly after going to the centre of the earth and back my front wheel flatted. I was stranded in the middle of nowhere waiting for the neutral car to turn up. I got bored after five minuets of waiting so I started to walk down the road I was on, ever being passed by people who had not made the front group. Finally after ten minuets a car appeared out of nowhere, and I got a wheel change, I was even asked if I’d been waiting long…I rode one more lap catching and passing a number of riders and eventually finishing 32nd. The first lap down rider. I was pretty disappointed to have such bad luck on the day, but with Yanto coming 4th it didn’t seem too bad. The race was won by Ben Stockade who battled on up the finishing straight to claim the win.
On Tuesday we had our team launch, which was in Abergavenny, Wales. This meant a very early start and a long car journey with Yanto to get there on the day instead of staying the night in a hotel somewhere. On arrival to the place we were launching from the weather was just as bad as it had been on Sunday, if a little colder. We rode for around 2.5 hours in the mud and rain. It seemed that the weekends racing had taken a lot out of me as I was pretty shattered towards the last legs of the ride. Pictures were taken and interviews were spoken. Lots of food was eaten and then we were on our way back home.
On the same night as the team launch I got the tube to the “Look Mum No Hands” Cafe in Old Street, London for the last round of the Rollapaluza Winter League. By the time I arrived I’d already been awake for fifteen hours, survived the bonk in Wales and managed not to get stabbed on the Northern line. In other words I was shattered. And then I was told I had to ride flat out a couple of times for just over twenty seconds. I qualified in second but after more and more people rode my time got pushed down. But I managed to get another ride in. But I was knocked out in one of the closest heats of the night, just missing out by a fraction of a second. To be honest I was quite glad I didn’t have to go again! A special mention should go to Lydia Boylan of the Look Mum No Hands RT who was gracefully beaten by 0.03 of a second to Anna Glowinski in a very close Women’s final.
This weekend saw another two days of racing. On Saturday I raced at the MOD Longcross circuit. One of the few circuits I haven’t raced at. I was told there was a small rolling hill on the rear of the circuit, turns out it was about 15% and 100m long!! The race was a handicap and with the weather being once again inclement the gaps between each group weren’t too large. After 4 or five laps of flat out racing the scratch group that had originally started as six but was down to four caught the main group of riders. I decided to press on and head to the front and keep the pace high just in case some riders got shelled. The racing was quite negative but with 12 laps to go I took off on one of the longer breakaways of the race, staying clear for nearly 3 laps. On the final lap, I led into the final corner but didn’t fancy a 900m sprint so I swung off to 8th or so wheel. Turns out the majority of the people in front of me had planned to sprint a tad dangerously and I came in with 5th. Marcel Six of the Twenty3c-Orbea team took the win after staying well clear of any other riders.
Looks like I have a mudguard...ha
Sunday’s race looked to be much more exciting with the race categorised as a National B event, the field was a mix of elite riders and first category riders. The racing started ferociously with riders pushing the pace right from the gun. I have to say the race felt much more like a track race than a crit. With forty five minuets remaining a group of six riders lapped the field, I was boxed when the move went and tried to chase but the race was shut down my “Team UK Youth” who had riders in the break.
Half and hour into the race I’d written off getting back up to the leaders. But I managed to get into a move that had a number of the leading riders in so we got away. We hammered along until we caught the bunch, so then I too was a lap up. But with four riders two laps up we had to gain another lap to be in contention. So straight after getting the first one a group of us took off and buried ourselves to get our second lap.
One lap to go Magnus Backstedt took to the front and raised the pace so high there wasn’t a chance for any late attackers to try their luck. With James Stewart tucked on his wheel and me one wheel back from him just behind Justin Hoy. Smack on the 250 line Justin started the sprint, hoping to take Magnus and James by surprise. Just as he made his move Backstedt swung up slightly to give way to Stewart, this caused us both to falter before going full gas. I swung high and used the track’s banking to my advantage and blasted down towards James who was a good ten meters clear of me. Once I hit the line in second he was less than five.
So you’d think I came 2nd in the race. Wrong. Two guys, Simon Brooks and Tim Elverson had gained three laps after reading the moves very well and making the splits when it counted. The win went to Simon Brooks who was the better placed in the sprint of the two riders with three laps up. I was fourth. Not bad seeing as that was the most confusing race of my life.
If you made it to reading this far, you deserve a medal! Well done.