A trip packed full of racing in preparation for the Junior Tour of Wales. As many of you probably already know how the team got on via the Facebook page I’ll give you some of the behind the scenes information from the cooking stories , ping pong competitions and all round good vibes between the lads.
However my journey to France started on the 19th of July on my Girlfriends family holiday, enjoying the beautiful weather on the beaches, relaxing from a busy period of our lives ( Done with Sixth form and A-Levels) it was great to have this time to reset and create some more amazing memories whilst focusing on my weaknesses in my training on lovely smooth roads in the heat.
My last night with the family was sadly not straightforward at 10 o’clock at night, I received an email saying the train had been cancelled… a brief phone call home seeking some advice in what I should do ? it was left to me to sort out, Luckily It was fairly straight forward and I used my excellent French communication skills to get on all my trains (including my cancelled one…) after my enjoyable train adventure I was able to meet up with Mark and Ann Walsham and wait for the team to arrive at their house. When the lads arrived it was time for a 25 mile spin before tea!
The next part of the trip was a further drive to Montpellier where the heat was kicking off….(Since I’ve been the UK seems to have gone into winter already..)
When we arrived we were faced with this monastery, I think some the lads didn’t know what to make of it but I though it was mega , we had our very own climb to our accommodation! The heat was pretty unbearable at it was still pretty late in the afternoon we got out kit on and headed out for a spin around the lanes. The roads were awesome the scenery was to match also! We took a few minutes going through on off on the bike to loosen the legs before stopping for an ice cold drink.
The following day was the last day of preparation of the trip and junior stage race including 3 stages over 2 days , stage 1 a rolling with a summit finish up to the castle , stage 2 a flat tt and stage 3 in mountainous terrain. However the day before was a chance to recce the tt course and check out fastest lines. An hour of riding round was followed but a dip in the local river, it was nice to chill of the legs and the core body temperature!
Arriving to the Race HQ we were greeted by Helen and David of Eco Team Ne Jetez Plus – Haute Route they kindly set up a gazebo to protect us from the sun whilst we prepared for the stage ahead, Helen and David previously ran a racing team and provided us with a team car and extra bottles for the race which we definitely needed! Before the race started we were treated a pre race meal ( take note UK race organisers)
The race started super fast so positioning at the front was very important incase of splits. It was vital to drink lots during the race so that was a big focus of mine, a little tip from my coach was to pour water on your arms rather than your head to cool you down as the water you pour on your head stays warm in your helmet, it does work so cheers Guy . The first stage went well for the team with Sam getting up the road and finishing 8th and GMK going in the chasing group , I was happy with my finishing effort up the climb but I was out of GC hopes. That evening GMK put together a shrine to give us good luck for the following day see the last picture .
Stage 2 and 3 were a big disappointment for me with 16th in the tt (which certaintly helped bump the team up the team classification and a dnf on stage 3 , my legs and had disappeared and it felt like I riding through treecal , I got dropped on the first climb then got back on through the cars and went out the back again on the climb and got back on again through the cars on the decent and went straight to the front of the bunch to allow my self some slipping room but this did not help and my day was destined to be a short one. A day I did not expect…
The next part of the trip was in the Cantal region which was a series made up of Criteriums , Kermesses’ , Road Races and Nocturnes. Most of the races average around 50 miles with plenty of laps , ( some times only 1km.. ) and usually incorporated a substantial hill. Just like going out training and doing between 50 and 75 hill reps… By these challenging circuits set up for fast and hard racing.
Along with a new region we had one night in a hotel on transit but also a new house which was very traditional!
After 4 days of racing it was time for the rest day (Wednesday) the rule in the house was leave @ 9:30 for a morning ride so the keen lads ; Me , Morgan and Sam went out for a gentle hour spin up a mountain rode, with a café stop to then return home to give the bikes a good clean after the wet race the day before. The best part of the ride got to be the decent makes riding up in so worth it , apart from when you feel that gravel under your tyres on fast corner. Lovely … Sent it though #crossskills. On our return home we only discovered Toby Perry who had just been finishing his 10th stretching session of the morning (toby’s alternative to doing a recovery ride..) meriting his nick name for the week ”10 times Toby.” The others lad followed big D.S Russ on his ride (gate crashed? ) by the time they returned home It sounded like they’d been on a bit of a smash fest.
After the rest day I knew that it would be really key for preparation for Tour Wales four days more of consecutive with body starting to return to normal I was able enjoy the last few races I had in France and try get the most out of it for racing experience and results. The final day of the Cantal week was held on a 1km circuit which we did 75 time up and down a hill side in this race I was able to take a lap on the bunch and be competing for the win, my main in the aim was to go for primes for the boys but it ended up in a good result for myself finishing 4th.
The last race of the trip was a stand alone race, so there were some fresh faces and fresh legs. I believe a few of the lads had switch off due to the heavy program but I still had the JTOW in mind as I knew the last would be important. The circuit a reasonable stiff 5 minute climb which we instantly went up from the start! The race developed quickly seeing my self get into an early break on the decent. The group were working nicely however there were some odd tactics behind in the bunch deciding it would be good to bring a team mate back, then bollard on the climb. The then entered a rhythm with a break gaining a small advantage. On the final lap I attacked the bunch bridging to the reminders of the break who weren’t able to go with leaders I went to straight by and was able to work with another rider to the finish. The sprint was interesting with cars across the line but I was happy to finish 7th after a tough block of racing with the lads.
This trip was only possible due to hard work and kind will of people investing into youth and junior ranks of cycling so a big thank you to everyone who made it possible, BIG RUSS and to the sponsors an supports of the trip, Hub Cycle works , Prendas Ciclismo and BC South Region . Personally I’d like to say thank you to Pedal Potential and Bristol Physio for there continued support and belief.
Time to enjoy the closing stages of still being a junior with a week away representing the south region in Frane and also in the prestigious junior tour of wales before preparing for the U23 ranks .
However let me give a summary of my national championships and how I stopped metres from the line along with two others…
My week building into the championships had good signs of form with a 3rd at my local crit in bath with a big turn out on beautiful evening with me and fellow club mate sneaking away with two others to the finish . then taking a minor win at the local dursley road club tt and a pb along the way . However the national championships were not to follow the same trend.
The journey up seemed to be seemless and fairly brief compared to some of my journeys this year arriving at the hq the day before to rece the cours. I was met with a very grand prep school which looked more like a stately home than a school. After a quick change into my kit the course rece posed no defining factors on the circuit apart from a few small drags dotted around the lap and the final kick 3km from the finish.
Later that evening a small carry on occurred whilst searching for our air bnb due to a set of poor directions however this was made up for with a great Room and a great menu for breakfast.
The morning of the race was blue skys which turned into a beautiful day to be racing for the national Stripes . After parking up it appeared we were next to some good friends, always a bonus . A warm up completed on the road along with a good set of jokes shared it was the all important pre race briefing , shoes off in the hall please. Then it was like a triathlon transition, everyone rushing to get their shoes on . The race started and a solo rider went away (GMK) . The race continued to feature large groups going away then being brought back within a lap . I wanted to save my energy for a move within the last lap and thats it played out after narrowly avoiding two crashes . One large and one stupid mistake as a rider past a bottle to another… then on the flat before the final a group of 4 us got across to the final break but shortly followed by the bunch as some of the favourites had been able to sneak away (i must of been a favourite 😉)the final climb posed desicive as Ben Tullet and Askey got away whilst the bunch hasitated… I then thought of the sprint and positioned my self to the front and fast coming towards the line until I saw a rear wheel bouncing in front of me and a rider snaking across the road with no rear wheel. Slamming the breaks on to the avoid the crash and Tumble into a hedge ripping my shorts gutted.. luckily the damage was a flat spot on my tyre. However I was extremely gutted to be taken out metres from the line as I was certain to be in the top 15 and possibly challenging for a top 10 .
On Wednesday the 1st I will be catching 3 Trains and a bus to meet with the south region for 12 days of racing in preparation for the tour of wales .
Recovering from injury , Recovering from crashing and recovering from A-levels… all woes aside it has been a busy time recently during an important academic time of year with some great races on the calendar also. After managing me knee injury with the great help of @BristolPhyzio I spent a week in Worcester with my Auntie in preparation for my first Exam and for a change of scenery. I did some research in local cycling clubs around the Worcester area and found some local tt’s , chain gangs and ‘social club rides’ . I went with the chain gang on the Tuesday with Malvern Cycle sport ( hoping to ride with Liam Killeen) the chain gang was slightly different to the one I am used to at home. There were 3 separate groups, I went with the ‘A’ group which was the smallest, a mere 6 riders. It was pretty much a 25 mile ttt , anyway it was a great ride which I enjoyed. The next day I went out with Worcester St Johns cycling club on their social ride. It was a damp day but I was looking forward to getting a long ride in, although I was the youngest on the ride by a fair bit , I was able to get some good steady miles in with some friendly cyclists , I think they were fairly pleased I came along for the ride. I had good time in Worcester , exploring the local areas whilst preparing for my exams, from there I travelled up to Melton for the Junior Cicle classic my first race after two weeks away from racing.. I was unsure on how my form was going to be but I was still really looking forward to the race.
Thank you for the great photo David Partridge whilst on the Somerberg!
Looking back over the race I do have some regrets but at the time I was very pleased to have finished such an epic race! I believe I did have enough form and depth to go with the moves but I hesitated as I had a large amount uncertainty in my fitness due to my time away from the bike. My next week on the bike was a great week of intense training using my extra time whilst continuing to study , as I had two exams on the Monday I decided to not go to the spokes national and race a local league race to avoid hours of travelling.
Sadly in the race I found my self flying through the air head first towards the ground. This was my first crash whilst road racing and certainly was not ideal for two A-level exams the next day. I won’t bore you with to much with the crash detail as it comes with part of being a cyclist. I took a few days off and then back with some gentle riding, I then completed my last two exams, finishing this Wednesday the 20th of June. The relief was unreal especially with the circumstances.
On the 23rd of June I celebrated my 18th birthday with my family then the following day It was time to race the Brutal Monmouth junior national. My Dads side of the family had came to spectate and celebrate my birthday after the race. One of my processes of the day had been to get in the early break , at one point I was In a chasing group which was short lived as a favourite for the race followed the move causing the bunch to react, there were some big crashes which I was happy to avoid narrowly.. However on the finishing circuit I quickly found out my current level whilst going backwards on the Grossmount climb. No Hiding on that day. I finished 52nd in the end a disappointing result as the race suited my attributes as a rider.
It is now time to prepare for the end section of the season where I hope to have some positive results after having an enjoyable start to the season, with a big dip in form In the middle due to circumstances out of my control. As my coach tells me ”the quality of the life you live will only be defined by 10% of what happens to you – the other 90% will be defined by how you react. ” – GW .
These hard times only make you keener.
Something else that race was…
All the boys arrived early Wednesday evening to pack the van and car , some of us had known each other from racing but there were a few new faces for all of us , packing the van was a good ice breaker as it was a puzzle fitting eleven bikes and the rest into a ford transit and hoping everything stayed in one piece…
The bikes done it was time to try some kit on, courtesy of the south region and personalised team t-shirts from Bristol RC member Sarah West. A New design for the south region since the last time I wore it at school games and track inter regionals. We then opened a box kindly sent too us from Bill Temple of Primea sports a massive thank you for the Jells , bottles and hats it was a great start the trip and it had just started. We then strolled up to the local pub ‘THE SIZZLER’ cheap and cheerful but a good chance for some conversation between us lads as we were then treated with another gift bag from Go-selfdrive and Prendas Ciclismo thank you for pulling together a great selection of treats for us riders including a personalised bag to use at the end of the stages!
Food demolished, time for a few hours of kip , everyone staying at ours for the night . As a good team mate I gave up my bed and got a couple of hours of sleep on the floor before waking up at 1am to start the journey down to the ‘Chunnel’ me and Sam W took the front seats of the van, keen reader Sam decided it was light enough to start reading ‘The world at war’ at 2am on the motor way… yeah it wasn’t , go to sleep boy.
Luckily we didn’t have to go through the stress of a car search and headed straight on the train, arriving in Calais with no other sign of the other team car.. A lack of phone service or data didn’t help the situation either and we resorted to the old map and compass to navigate the length of France… Good fun that was. We were then able to rendezvous at the lunch stop we then pushed on through for the final 2 and half hours , the terrain gradually started to pop up around us. We’d finally arrived at 7pm French time and it was a quick unpack of the van, kit on for a 40 min spin up and down the road, back in time for our pre cooked vegetarian chilli and time for bed. Out like a flash I was…
The next day it was time for our pre race course rece, the plan was to do a few hours in the morning and a full run through on the tt rigs in the afternoon just to ensure we didn’t get caught on race day however we managed to fit it all into one ride, including the final climb of stage 3! The scenery was amazing and there was hardly any cars so made for great riding . DS Russ Bazley popped out also to show us the ropes but still managed to embarrass himself by toppling over after a team photo and blaming us riders for pulling away to quick. None of us left any sympathy for him and treated him with a barrel of laughs…The ride home included a fun descent from the top of the climb and back along the tt course which proved no real risk . Back at home it was time to sort out the tt bikes and make sure they were all positioned to the uci regulations.
Stage one- Start @ 14:30 – 55miles – and a fair amount of hills
On arrival we had plenty of time to get ready for our team presentation and sign on. Fair play to the French bloke on the micro phone he’d done his research and set up a good atmosphere for the South team as we were on the podium as signing on ‘ 3ème dans le tour de la Mendips’ getting a cheeky mention also. Rated that massively.
The team had a little warm up gradually on a climb out the back of the little village then rolled down for gear check where we then penned on a ‘right good’ wooden bridge. Only 30minutes of waiting whilst French lads attempted to take a nature break off the side of the bridge into the flowing river below ( straight into your Eau minérale naturelle) I went into the race with neutral expectations of the level of riders and let the race shape my opinion . I also gave the riders plenty of respect just in case they wanted to light the race up early on, so positioned myself up to the front in the climbs and descents. The climbs were great and the speed was a nice tempo on the flowing roads. The first few k.o.m’s were like intermediate sprints as it flattened out on top, i didn’t contest as this was never the plan. The first 20miles took us to the bottom of the 3rd cat climb which then continued to the highest point of the race the 2nd cat climb. This was the hardest section of the race as the group was splitting as riders were challenging for k.o.m points this was the first time I looked back to see another south rider near the front and Morgan passed the simple words on to me ” this is bloody hard” I Jokingly agreed with him and started to move up over the top of the climb as there were some dangerous looking moves going off the front. Two riders who popped off for the k.o.m , were then caught by what was remaining of the main group which must of been at least 30 riders. The descents were super fast and I really enjoyed them, they seemed safe enough to fully commit but it was always important to look up the road as the descents were twisty. The final laps saw 3 riders break away and take a maximum advantage of 40 seconds come the final their advantage was 12 seconds, a small group of 27 rolled in behind seeing me finishing 21st … one place out of the prizes on the day…
Stage two start @ 10:34 – 5.5miles ITT
A key stage to help settle the GC coming into the final stage later that afternoon the time trial had been spoken about a lot before the trip, ensuring bikes , wheels , helmets etc … met UCI rules , I was feeling relieved it was finally the day to test the clock. As I finished in what was left of the main bunch my tt start time was a bit later than fellow team mate Rowan. So me and Morgan hopped in with Brandon and followed him in the car to add a few motivational cheers and to have a bit of a better understanding of the course in race mode. I was surprisingly nervous for him…Rowan did a strong ride seeing him catch his minute man after the turn onto the hill. This put him in the lead of the stage for a bit, good lad! After previewing the course it was time to do the final preparations for the race, a bit of shine on the legs , overshoes on and then hop onto a set of rollers. The bike felt super fast (thanks to the lend of equipment Krispin , Rowan and Sam) and another big thank you to John for the lend of the helmet! The start of the TT was super fast as it went straight down a widening piece of road with a fast right hander, I knew some time could be gained in this section . Quote from live Facebook video ” Cawh No f*cking about there” -Sam. He was right I was on the edge! But I had to if I wanted to compete in the GC battle. The road to the turn was ever so slightly downhill but also had a slight head wind until the turn right where it started to climb , I stayed seated, in a Rhythm but I could feel my legs. I knew I just had to squeeze it all out. 1km to go and the road headed down again and then a nasty kick to the finish . Luckily for me the majority of the team were on the side of the road giving me encouragement . Great stuff boys! After the tt I’d moved up to 15th on GC.
Stage 3 start @ 2:30 – 40 Miles – and a few more climbs!!
Lunch was organised by the race today and was an enjoyable atmosphere with everyone in one room. I was suffering a little with the heat but who wasn’t ? This was the deciding stage of the race with a Cat 1 climb at the end.
The race instantly rolled out up hill this was an interesting start to the race as the break pretty much formed in seconds with the K.O.M leader in it. The race went along similar roads in different directions to the day before on widening roads. It was 2 laps of an up , down circuit then finishing on a climb. I positioned myself to the front to stay out of danger, the first time down the long descent was rapid and the bunch was splitting. The last time round I wanted to ensure I was to the front. One of my favourite memories of the weekend was during this stage as Morgan was desperately trying to grab some water from the side of the road but to no avail until the white leaders jersey grabbed one and past it over , the bottle was shortly passed between riders to poor over hot heads. Eventually that rider went and won the GC , great rider. On the last time down the descent a small group had formed of about 30 riders after a crazy race down the last hill. As we turned right to the final climb my legs instantly began to grab. This was not a good sign. I was able to take one last bottle off Sam before the last accent but this was damage limitation at this point or in my case temperature moderation… With nothing left in the tank I was happy to loose only one place on GC to 16th but I was disappointed as it would of been great to hold or move up on GC in a race which I was enjoying the chance to ride such an amazing race. Chapeau to teammate Morgan who rode a great tempo on the final climb to take 15th on the day Sam and Rowan for finishing with more chances next year as juniors and other Sam for being a legend and taking it on the chin after having bad luck on the first day! I was proud to represent the south Region and to be the highest place British rider on the General classification after two days of tough racing and suffering some bad form on the last day. The team spirit on the last night was great ! A final last game of UNO between all of us which could of gone on all night! Although we went away as a group of individuals I think we definitely we came back as a team as we all experienced highs and lows throughout the weekend.
Finally a massive thank you to DS Russ and Brandon for looking after us riders whilst out on the race and completing 1500 mile round trip! Wouldn’t of been possible without you guys. Russ B pulled together a great trip which I know took him a massive amount of time and he went beyond what was expected to make it a trip to remember! Thank you again to the previously mentioned businesses for the great goodies and BC south region for the lend of the new kit and their contribution for south region riders and as always @pedalpotential for the continued support.
Now it is time for a slight ease off , as my final A-levels exams are just round the corner, looking forward the rest of the season of racing and hopefully some more trips abroad with the bike!
It’s been a busy few weeks, in fact I’m writing this from a BNB in Torquay whilst competing in the long running Totnes 2 day, But more on that another time. Easter was also busy with a lot of travelling and a 3 day block of racing in Belgium with my old BCDS mate Charlie Kelly. We were right on it with the travel as it was a busy holiday weekend.
Belgium was pretty hectic as the Tour of Flanders was on and it also seemed like every junior from every corner of Europe had turned up to race. Estonians, Lithuanians, French, Dutch and most of Scandinavia. By far the strongest were the Norwegians who really took it on. I was more than happy with my riding and was active over the 3 days, but saved my best for the last day by getting into a chase group and catching the leaders with 2 laps to go, 11 th in the finale and a few points, so very pleased. The other interesting thing was that the front door of the digs was in Belgium and the back door in Holland.!!
Big event for me was The Screentec International Tour of The Mendips. Organised by BCDS ,with the start headquarters at my school in the Chew Valley. Extremely pleased with the weekend, went into the race with no expectations after a disappointing result last year, ending up with 3rd on GC and 3rd on the last stage this time around!
The 10 minute journey to the event will probably be the shortest journey I have all year. Having the local knowledge didn’t help me too much as I sailed past the new TT start to the one from last year. I wondered why I was the only idiot stood there waiting around, however I still had enough time to have a nature break , sprint back up the hill to the proper start by the garage outside of Chew Stoke with seconds to spare. Dad claimed I hadn’t read the race manual in enough detail but I just claimed I was in a supreme state of focus,leaving me 11th on GC.
Stage 2: After short visit home for relaxing, rest and food, I put my race manual knowledge to good use, aware this years race would be de -neutralised before the climb of harptree hill Positioning would be key coming into the early Kilometres, although I knew the climb well it was still a brisk pace going up to the KOM point. I aimed to ride a conservative race but to stay in contention in the GC battle. The race was a wearing down process and I only had to follow a few GC moves which could of been dangerous. I managed to stay out of trouble rolling in for 26th (again..) just behind a 5 man break . 13th overall after the first day.
Stage 3 : This was the queen stage of the race run over a tough circuit which I know well. Bike check and sign on done , 20 minute warm up done and trusty bit of newspaper shoved up my jersey as it was bit nippy. (old school or what?) I then headed up to rider briefing, which was in my school hall. Race on, last year I took the opportunity to sit on the bumper in the roll out, but this time I sat at the back, had a little chat with some guys up North and The Isle of Man, witnessed a crash within the first km… Think he was alright. The tempo was fast as people were trying to get positioned. I managed to get myself towards the front by the bottom of Burrington Coombe and I just kept my attention on who was going up the road. As we headed towards the cattle grid I was sitting in the top 5 and I saw my family friends, which was motivating, we exchanged some cheers between us for a brief few seconds.
The racing then started for the KOM, I followed with no intentions of challenging. The pace dropped as 3 riders rolled off the front , IOM , Spokes and Team Wales. 5 riders got together in a chase group and were working well. I knew Alex Haines was up there on GC and would probably take the GC if the move stayed clear. I put my all into bridging across to another two riders and formed a third group on the road, the “chase” was on. We were able to make the junction to the group of 5 by Chewton Mendip , I just about squeezed past lead car 2 and the wall.. working well together we made the junction to the front 3 by Blagdon. I rode tempo up Rhoydate Hill from Blagdon and felt relaxed , a massive change to last year when I was out the back. We had a 2 mins gap on the bunch, but they were motivated behind and were munching time on us. With 12 km to go the gap suddenly reduced to 40 seconds.. unfortunately we lost some fire power when ex team mate Morgan Curle came down (speedy recovery mate). Our group was reducing, and so was the gap, 17 seconds with all the support vehicles removed from the gap. We kept our nerve and continued working together extending the lead back out to 40 seconds by the bottom of the finish climb, a lead we were able to maintain . I was super happy to finish 3rd on the stage and 3rd overall. Especially as my close friends and family were there to witness it.
Big thank you to Pedal Potential and especially to BCDS for their support since the start of my racing career. Certainly felt super happy at the end of the weekend.
With a few stage races coming up on my race calendar, I took the opportunity to race 3 days back to back in Belgium over the Easter weekend.
I went into the race with high confidence as I had raced over there as 1st year so I knew what to expect. The first race had a large Norwegian presence who had also travelled to race over the Easter break.
My first race I suffered some bad luck, with my foot pulling out whilst following a move, in the process my cleat snapped and my race was over. I was disappointed but I knew I two more opportunities. To make the most of the day I went back to the van got my spare shoes and went out for a ride.
Sundays Race was a super short lap(20 times around), but fast and flowing with little wind. It was super fast ride I was riding to get in the break but it didn’t happen for me, after that point I was trying to force a chasing group as the break was only 17 seconds up the road but with a bit of team tactics coming into play the break was extending its lead. With a big bunch gallop on the cards for the minor placings I was thinking through alternative ways of finishing first of the bunch. On the last lap I attack with 1km to go to head into the final left hander with a lead on the bunch but was swamped on the line for 26th place (again ).
Monday was the toughest of the 3 with a twisting circuit which had some strong cross wind sections. My legs were feeling the fatigue from the day before but I continued to stay at the sharp end of racing, a small group of 3 snuck of the front. The following few laps saw a lot of people trying to bridge the gap but nothing was sticking. Then next lap saw a group of 11 riders or so forming a chase group we then worked well to pull the break back with 2 laps to go. However come the end I had little for the sprint. Finishing 11th.
I really enjoyed the trip (cheers Dad) with some really aggressive racing and lessons learnt for big races coming up.