3 races 3 records

I’ve been pretty slack with my racing updates, so to those of you who like to follow the clubs racers I apologise for that.

After a steady, but strong start to the year I had a bit of a wobble with health. Initially my father was the one taken ill in Spain, which appeared to send my RA into overdrive for a few weeks, which meant I had to duck out of racing for a few weeks, and as soon as that subsided I started suffering with neuralgia. I did the typical bloke thing of just ignoring it to start with, as it was just a bit of toothache (albeit hideous), but when that manifested into my ear, behind my eye, and below my jaw I decided I’d actually go and see a doctor. Thankfully a course of medication had a pretty instant affect, and I was right as rain in no time, and it was back to business.

1st up was the ECCA 100. This year I’m trying my hand at something new. I’d ridden my 1st 100 last year with success; winning the Welsh title, and I was curious how much room for improvement there was.  My concern was not the distance, or the power required, but the heat. My helper Simon drove me the 5 hours up to Cambridge on the hottest day of the year. Several stops on the way up saw his car thermometer pushing 38 degrees in the sun, and despite throwing water down my neck I felt drained, despite just sitting there.

A few restless hours sleep in a boiling Travel lodge and a 3:30 am alarm call isn’t the greatest prep for a race, but my fears were realised when we left the hotel, for the short drive to HQ at 4:15 and it was 22 degrees already.

I knew what power I could sustain for around 3.5 hours, if I could stay fuelled and hydrated. I’d taken 2 litres of fluid, along with 4 isotonic gels for energy. I’d decided on a 21 min 10 schedule for the 1st 50 miles, and then see where I was energy wise.

Out on the road it was hot and getting hotter, despite being off at 6am. I paid good attention to hydration and fuelling, and went through 50 miles in just under 1:45 and I had loads (well maybe not loads) in reserve. The next 10 was ticked off in 20:50, then 20:40, and miles 70-80 in 20:30. Legs were great, energy was good, but I was starting to get in trouble with heat.  My helmet has no ventilation, and was causing my head to pound and my core temperature was through the roof. I’d seen Simon at around 75m and sat up briefly to shout for him to hotfoot to the turn, and empty water over me, which he duly did.

At 82 miles I stood up to ease over a rise and I cramped badly in my hamstring and glute. Not just a little warning, but a full on lock up that saw me spend the last 18 miles alternating pedalling gently, freewheeling, stretching, pedalling to the finish.

I crossed the line in 3 hours 33 minutes and a few seconds for a 28.2 mph avg speed and club record. I was gutted. I’d worked a schedule to go sub 3:30, and it was all fairly straight forward, being on sub 3:28 pace at 82 miles before the cramp set in. I learned a lot from the experience though, the main 1 being the helmet is a poor choice when it’s warm, but also 5 hours sat on my arse even the day before is poor prep for a bike race, but is always going to be an issue to ride national events.

2 weeks after the 100, and with 2 more morale boosting wins, including my 50th open win, since 2013, in between, I travelled to S Wales with Harrison, to ride the course for the National 25. I’d set the club record of 47.50 on the old, quicker , but no longer used, version of the course, which started ‘up the hill’ and finished at the bottom of the hill, but I was confident that I could get near it despite the change of course and fairly breezy conditions.

Again it was a warm day, and so I was careful to use my power so that I didn’t get too hot too soon. A cross wind on the course, meant I had to work the whole way round the course, with no gifts, but equally it was never really hard anywhere. I was going well, picking off riders on the course and on target to beat the record. At around 21 miles I started to struggle with the heat a bit, not to the extent of the 100, but enough to make me sit up out of the tuck a few times, to get some air under the visor and onto my face. I passed Harrison on the last roundabout, with 3 miles to go, and yelled some encouragement to him, as he was on one – you’ll have to ask him what I shouted J. I dug as deep as I could, and despite my power starting to drop a little I held on for 47.46 to sneak inside my old mark, and take 3rd on the day, behind Hamish Bond, Kiwi, unbeaten, and ex Olympic Gold medal winning rower, who is taking the TT scene by storm. Mr Wood was agonisingly close to 30 mph with a frankly outstanding 50.02, riding Ian Cullens bike for 6th overall, scalping some quality riders.

Next up it was the District 50 champs in Cornwall. I’ve won the 50 title on 3 successive years, and despite a big training volume ahead of my next objectives, I was keen to give a good account of myself.

Conditions were great. It was fairly muggy, but a very light breeze was just enough to take the edge off, but not enough to offer much resistance out on the course.

My course record here was a 1:46, set in 2015, and I was confident I could knock this out of the park in good conditions.

After the first, conservative 10 miles, I thought I may be able to push 30 mph, and dip under 1:40. I rode entirely on feel, and the only thing I looked at on my Garmin was speed. My avg speed was gradually increasing the further into the race I got, but funny old thing so was my temperature.  I got to around 22 miles, and I’d had enough, and threw my visor off into the verge (gone for good). The relief was instant, but the noise of an aero helmet with no visor is pretty annoying, so it encouraged me to keep my head tucked in where it should be, and the noise was a convenient reminder to hold position correctly.

At around 34 miles I had a brain malfunction. I’d passed a rider, and then inexplicably taken the wrong slip road. I recognised my error straight away, and circled the roundabout at the top, retraced my steps down the grass verge, and rejoined the race. It took me a little while to ‘re catch’ the rider I’d previously passed, so I’d lost some time, and looking at my avg speed I’d dropped from 29.8 to 29.6 mph.

I was angry with myself, and the red mist came down a bit as I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity of a 30 mph 50 – especially in the South West.  A 19:20 final 10 miles saw me finish with 1.39:45, the fastest ever 50 (50.2 with extras) in the SW, and a 4 minute beating of my club record. I’d say that ranks right up there with my personal cycling achievements.

Next up National 25 and then National 12 hr……