August has been a little bit of a disappointing month (see my previous post for more details) for me in some ways.
It started with me messing up a big target race, and has ended with two races heavily disrupted by illness. Having said that, these sandwich a road race win so there’s been some success, at least.
I’ve been taking things a bit easier over the last few weeks (in addition to time off the bike due to illness), not training as much as I have been and just generally trying to relax a bit and start to look ahead to the off season. I have two more races left now (Jef Schils RR & Southend Wheeler’s Andrews Trophy RR) before hanging up my wheels for a few weeks and going on holiday, so hopefully there’s something left in the legs for a couple more good results this season.
It’s been a good year for me overall to date, a massive thank you goes to The Lewis Balyckyi Trust Fund for their continued support.
Ryedale Grand Prix (37th place)
As soon as I’d come back to the UK, this was the big target race of the year for me. It’s traditionally regarded as the hardest premier calendar road race course of the year, so I was hoping for a super hard, attritional day out that would whittle the bunch down to a select group.
The race wasn’t as long as I would have liked, but it would still be a tough ride. I’d built towards it over a number of weeks, training hard and getting my weight down.
After a bit of a taper, I was absolutely pinging, exactly as planned, when race day arrived. I genuinely believed I could get a top 15 at the very least.
After a savage first hour, the breakaway established and the pace settled. It was then just a case of getting round and waiting for the inevitable fireworks to begin as we approached the final laps.
I was pretty relaxed and confident, happily sitting in the bunch, aware of how many others seemed to be really suffering on the climbs whilst I was finding the pace comfortable or, dare I say, easy.
When an attack went on the main climb at one point, I was able to respond to it quickly, aided by my position very near the front, and followed the wheels as splits appeared, though the move ultimately came to nothing.
With just over three laps to go, I began to think about moving up and positioning myself towards the front ready for the real race to start, expecting it to kick off the next time up the main climb of the circuit.
However, cards were played just a few moments later as we went through the feed zone and up the Ampleforth Abbey climb, with me still sitting towards the back.
The big teams had hit the front and were drilling it, and continued this all the way to the foot of the climb, setting up the selection. I was completely caught out and had let myself down with positioning.
On the climb, I was passing countless riders and roughly riding at the same pace as the front group, but had started far too far back and so having been caught behind the splits, I ended up in a small group just behind the leaders.
Two laps of rolling round and I finished 37th. Not the result I had hoped for and knew I was capable of. I was bitterly disappointed and frustrated with myself, but it’s another tough lesson learned and another race experience done.
Islington CC Road Race (1st place)
After a week of being grumpy, I headed off to one of the ERRL National B road races, perhaps with a bit of a point to prove.
Things didn’t get off to a great start.
On the first lap, as the breakaway of the day was beginning to form with riders chipping off the front, I was sitting second wheel when the rider in front missed a left turn and I couldn’t react in time and followed him. Most of the bunch made it round the turn, so it was a case of turning round and chasing back on.
I made it back to the tail end of the bunch pretty quickly, but the breakaway was establishing and going up the road with all the big names in, so getting to the front as soon as possible was a priority.
As I was moving back up, there was a crash that I got stuck behind and narrowly avoided. More chasing back on ensued – it took a bit longer this time and I’d definitely already eaten into my reserves quite considerably before we’d even completed the first lap! By the time I made it back on again and back to the front, the breakaway was comfortably away (in sight with perhaps 30 seconds) and working well together so it wasn’t looking good.
I knew I had to join it urgently, so the next hour consisted of repeated attempts to bridge across to the group, all of which failed. As the race entered its latter stages, I got some recovery in the wheels and made one final attempt to bridge what was probably a 30-45 second gap.
I ended up solo, and quickly made it to within 50 metres of so of the break after putting my head down and really going for it, at which point the doors fell off and I couldn’t finish it off. The break began to slip out of sight again and I started to get glimpses of the peloton behind – oh dear.
I sat up and had resigned myself to defeat, but then having caught my breath I seemed to find a second wind and ended up going for it again, and this time just about made it across to the breakaway of seven riders on my own, over half an hour and 1.5 laps after I first attacked!
I was absolutely on my knees now, and needed to miss some turns before contributing. The group rolled round, before the attacks started with about 5km to go.
I followed the wheels, letting things develop, before putting in a single hard counter attack with about 1km to go, which stuck.
I won solo with no-one else in the finish photo, which was a great feeling – and a first for me.
It was good to be strong in the finale after getting to the break the hard way with so much time spent with my nose in the wind.
South East Regional Road Race Championships (4th place)
Three days before the race, I came down with a virus which wasn’t ideal – sadly when you have great form, you’re only one small step away from overdoing it and getting ill. I spent a couple of days almost entirely in bed, getting as much rest and sleep as I could.
On the morning of the race, I was still not really with it at all, with muscle and joint aches, dizziness and general fatigue still making me feel very much worse for wear. I was determined to start though, even though when riding the 30km to the race I’d pretty much decided that starting would be stupid based on how I was feeling.
As the race got going, it became apparent that my legs weren’t actually so bad and it was mostly just a case of feeling a bit dizzy and not completely lucid with regards to other riders and corners. Somehow, I ended up off the front solo, where I stayed for a whole lap (>30mins) – an interesting tactic, but after hearing what others said afterwards it may have worked out well, as it sounds like the break establishment was very tough so it was better for me to already be up the road and let the break catch me.
We rolled round in the breakaway for the rest of the race, and I began to feel pretty terrible, unsurprisingly. I just didn’t have my usual strength with the illness, so it was challenge enough just trying to do my fair share in the group.
Three riders attacked the group individually on the final lap, which I didn’t feel like I could follow, before the selective finish up White Hill. Soon after the rest of the break hit the foot of the climb, I chipped off with one on my wheel and just time trialled to the top at my own pace.
The rider on my wheel attacked me with a couple of hundred metres to go, but I let him go a bit and I waited, knowing the climb quite well, before starting my own finishing effort. I caught and passed one of the riders who was already ahead, and was coming back at the rider who had attacked me with a lot of speed, but I’d misjudged the distance ever so slightly and just ran out of road, even with a lunge. I missed 3rd place by about a rim’s width, rolling in 4th place.
I have no idea how I even finished in the condition I was in, never mind getting 4th place in a race that finished up a 6-7min climb!
Victor Berlemont Road Race
I was hoping to go well here, and I was feeling reasonable in the first 90 minutes or so despite not being able to follow the pace on the first ascent of the climb when the breakaway was established.
I put in – and followed – a load of attacks to try and get up the road, but the efforts caught up on me and it all came crashing down on the fourth or fifth ascent of the climb when I was dropped.
Even as I write this blog post, I still seem to have signs of lingering viral illness, and my legs were definitely not right on race day. I felt ever so slightly better watching the race unfold, as it became apparent just how attritional the day was.
There were small groups spread out all over the place over about 10 minutes on the road, and in the end fewer than 25 riders finished.
A bit of a let-down, but these things happen and there’s not a huge amount you can do about it.