Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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David Hewett Blog – Full Steam Ahead

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Welcome back, hopefully I’ll manage to keep this month’s blog post update reasonably brief for once as there’s no real drama to talk about.

Instead, I’ve just had a solid month of pretty consistent training and racing, with one or two decent results thrown in for good measure. The form has been a little bit patchy, with a handful of days of slight fatigue balancing out periods where I had great legs, but on the whole it has been a relatively successful month.

With no racing for me on the first weekend of July, I have three races to report on: the Stockton Velo29-Altura Grand Prix (the second round of the HSBC UK Grand Prix Series – a.k.a. a Premier Calendar event), the London Dynamo Summer Road Race (a National B event) and the Hoops 3 Day Stage Race (a National B event comprising four stages).

David Hewett
Photo©Jason Nind

Stockton Velo29-Altura Grand Prix (51st place)

After travelling up late the night before, I lined up feeling good and hoping for a decent result, but it turned out the course was far more unselective and in favour of a bunch sprint than I had realised.

There was a 8 km stretch of main road out of the city centre, taking us onto 10 laps of a 13.3 km circuit that was ‘rolling’ at most, before returning along the same main road back into Stockton for five technical town centre criterium style finishing laps – 180km in total.

After an early break established itself, the race was tightly controlled throughout by JLT Condor, who rode on the front all day setting a steady tempo.

Aside from a couple of crashes in the bunch, it was a pretty easy and uneventful three hours around the large circuit, and it was just a case of eating and drinking well and rolling round for me.

As we hit the last lap of the large circuit before the run back into town, the pace began to be lifted more and more, a trend which continued all the way to the finish.

Having been fairly relaxed towards the back of the bunch so far, I moved myself to the front and tucked myself in amongst the lead out trains that were forming, and held position in the top 20 riders or so throughout the last lap and the incredibly fast and furious run back into the town centre.

David Hewett
The JLT boys control things. Photo©Phillip Carr

With lots of roundabouts and big roads, coupled with a reasonably strong tailwind, it felt like we were inside the last 5km going full gas, but were in fact just fighting for a good position going into the town centre finishing circuits.

As the bunch began the finishing circuits and closed in on the remains of the breakaway, I slowly began to slip backwards unfortunately, despite having good legs.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not the best at criteriums, both in terms of my physical attributes and skills/experience, and this was being demonstrated. Hopefully it’s something that will improve and I’ll get better at this discipline with time and more experience (I’ve never done a National A level criterium before, and only a few National B level ones).

In the end, I rolled in at the back of the bunch sprint in 51st place, a little disappointed especially as the legs still felt fresh and I didn’t feel at all like I’d just emptied the tank racing a Prem!

I was, however, pleased with how I fought for and held position near the front throughout one of the most intense and challenging parts of the race where it was crucial to be in a good position, even if I didn’t hold it through towards the finish. Every race is an experience gained, even if there’s no result to write home about.

London Dynamo Summer RR (8th place)

I’d had a few days of feeling quite tired leading up to this race, and on the day my legs felt pretty horrendous. This wasn’t a course to have bad legs on; having raced here two years previously, I knew just how hard the steep finishing hill was, especially when wet which makes it very hard to keep traction on the back wheel.

I spent a large part of the race at or near the back, really struggling to move up, and having to chase back on or close gaps on numerous occasions.

Luckily, however, as I predicted before the race, a strong headwind on a long straight section of main road after the decisive finishing climb meant that any splits or attacks that tried to go away on that part of the course were coming back on the main road every time, so I wasn’t too concerned that I was going to miss a move my being positioned further back in the bunch.

David Hewett
Photo©Paul steadman

As the race went on, my legs didn’t improve. Whilst they felt sluggish though, through this I could feel that I wasn’t really actually tiring over time, and I knew the other contenders had been burning matches all day trying to get away up the road, whilst I had been sitting in just keeping an eye on things, reasonably confident that the bunch should stay more or less together despite the selective course.

I knew that I had a chance of a decent result if I saved myself and was able to get out a single strong finishing effort on the climb.

Approaching the finish for the last time, there were a couple of riders still dangling just up the road who had chipping off the front earlier. I managed to fight my way towards the front on the drag into the steep part of the climb, and as we neared the foot of the steepest part, I found myself in perfect position. Max Stedman was the first to jump, and as George Wood followed I slipped myself into 3rd wheel, with the two leaders within touching distance just ahead.

From here, it was about 30secs to the crest of the climb, before about 200 metres or so downhill to the line, so it was a case of going all in on the climb, getting on top of the gear over the crest, and then hanging on for grim death to the finish!

As George began to let Max’s wheel go slightly having been active all race, I came round and launched my sprint to the top, passing Max as well who I think got bogged down slightly just before the top, and so I led the bunch to the top of the climb in pursuit of the two riders ahead.

With 3rd place more or less in the bag (I’d say the nature of the finish meant that the order at the top of the climb was the order at the finish – it was difficult for anyone to come around you after the crest), it was at this point that I royally ballsed it up!

During the sprint, I’d tried to focus on keeping my weight as far back as possible without pulling a wheelie, but just before the crest I think I got a bit keen and shifted it too far forwards as I tried to pick up speed as the gradient levelled.

My back wheel completely slid out from underneath me and I lost all my momentum, almost coming to a complete stop and having to unclip. Other riders had been having some bad back wheel slip on the previous ascents of the climb, and I fell foul of the same problem at the worst possible moment.

I managed to get going again in the saddle as quickly as possible, but five guys passed me on the crest, and I rolled in 8th place. Pretty frustrating and disappointing to say the least, but it was completely my own fault and is probably something I’ll never do again now after that experience. It was nice to know I was comparatively strong on such a hard finish at least.

Hoops 3 Day Stage Race (2nd overall GC, 3rd stage 1, 2nd stage 2 TT)

I managed to get a last minute entry for Sarah Hooper’s 4 stage / 3 day stage race based around Milton Keynes, and drove myself up there for the weekend, staying at a friend’s house near Cambridge overnight.

Stage 1 (Friday): What should have been a 70km ‘kermesse’ on the Cranfield triangle (20 laps) starting at 7pm, but was shortened to one hour due to heavy rain and fading light.

Bad traffic meant I arrived just over half an hour before the start – not ideal. No warm up, but just enough time to get the Velotoze on to save myself from having to endure damp shoes the next morning. The legs felt terrible as they often do when I don’t warm up thoroughly, and I found myself once again at the very back of the race, chasing on and closing gaps… not a great start all in all.