I’m sorry to report that August has not been much quieter on the racing front, cue the same length waffle blog. Enjoy…

The month kicked off with 3 hours of riding around Palmer Park velodrome testing helmets for Cycling Weekly. Having done this so many times it does start to drag but it was actually quite informative and I found a faster helmet! Winner winner. We tested 5 TT lids and 3 road lids. Not sure when exactly the results will be released, but they were quite clear cut.

Python RT Nat B road race was next up.  It couldn’t be much more local, only 20 mins away on roads I knew quite well. The finish was a little sketchy, taking a blind 90 degree left in to a side road to sprint for an unknown distance to the line. I scouted it out a few days before and nearly came a cropper with a car approaching the junction on the lane. Noted. There was only Will and myself repping Planet X. Our pre-race plan was to follow wheels for a few laps then start hitting it up. This lasted for the first of 8 laps. Will ended up off the front in a group of 4, I was sitting 2nd wheel behind Rory Townsend (Pedal Heaven) who just straight up attacked off the front, and I was the only one who held his wheel up to the break. We passed an NFTO rider on the way up who didn’t seem keen to get involved. Unfortunately for him pretty much every other team was represented in the break of 6 and we rode away never to be seen again! I managed to miss every single bottle until 2 laps to go I practically came to a stop to ensure I got a bottle. Rory and Will were on the front at this time and the rest of the break didn’t seem to want to come around me, those two got a gap and away they went. It made my race a lot easier, I could just sit in to the line, or so I thought. We soon got word a group of 4 were bridging over and the gap was around 2 minutes. With 20 miles to go and everyone fairly tired from 2.5 hours in the break I got pretty nervous and started to ride. I soon started to cramp up every time I eased off the pedals (probably dehydration), so I guess I had to keep riding! Will and Rory were long gone and I later learnt Rory had gapped Will in the final few miles. In our small group of 3 remaining from the break we all started to look at each other from a mile out. I was happy to get on the front. Having scouted out the finish I knew if I railed the final corner and opened it up straight away then it was unlikely anybody would come around me. I did just that, the finish line seemed to be miles away and I was churning it in the final 100m but held off Henry Latimer (PMR@Toachim House) and Andrew Harrison (Finchley Racing Team). 2-3 for Planet X, solid result and a good points haul.

Next up was my final assault on the Pishill KOM before I move back home. Reading CC were running the summer edition of the HCC259 Pishill Nettlebed TT. This is a 28km TT course that takes in the Pishill climb. I’ve had a few attempts at the KOM (9.4km, average 2%, gradually increases to peak at 10% in the final 200m, 15:25, 36.5kmh, Mike Simpson) but I’ve always missed out by a handful of seconds. The TT course doesn’t give you the fastest run in to the climb, and being mid-TT isn’t ideal but I reckoned with the right conditions I might sneak it. The right conditions were not that night, cold and a fairly solid headwind up the climb. I rocked up on the TT bike with my new Drag2Zero skinsuit and put in a solid ride to break by own course record by 1:20 but with one of my slowest ascents of Pishill. Mehhhhh. And as of last week the KOM has been absolutely shelved by Paul Elcock in 14:17 (39.5kmh), which is actually unreal. Funnily enough I bumped in to Paul a few weeks ago and he asked when I was having a go at Pishill, now he’s gone and made it impossible! Kudos Paul.

I had planned a double weekend of Hog Hill then Winchester Park & Ride, but my dire performance at Hog Hill soon changed those plans. I’ve raced Hog Hill before but never up the Hoggenberg. It is well documented that I am an absolute mountain goat so yea, no probs. I felt fairly rubbish from the off, this was confirmed when moves started to go and I was not enjoying how hard I was having to work to follow wheels. One by one riders went up the road, and a group of 4 including Trek Richardson and Nuun Sigma Sport finally stuck. Now or never I guess…myself and Barnabus Purbrook (mostly Barnabus) worked to get over to the lead group. After some tough laps we bridged the gap, and by then I was cooked. I tried to sit in to recover but with the Hoggenberg coming so quickly it wasn’t happening. With 15 minutes left I got spat out the back door and that was my race run. I rolled in for 10th. 10th in a Reg C+, not my proudest result but it bloody hurt. The form is definitely not good.

I entered the National 10-mile TT Champs a few months back when I finally managed to get my hands on a TT bike for this season (thanks Jered!). I was properly excited at the thought of knocking out some quick times and having some new targets to smash. This lasted for around a month, including an 18:30 10-mile TT and a 46:52 25-mile TT. After which my training dropped off, my motivation hit an all-time low and I was struggling to get much out of my legs in any efforts. The week before the national I was toying with whether it was even worth racing but with 3 other team mates entered and having put so much effort in to getting a bike and sorting out my position it would be a big waste to just cop out. The morning didn’t start off too well…. I drove to the event secretary’s house rather than the event HQ. I really should read the manual properly, although I’m yet to figure out why I might need the event secretary’s address? I rocked up an hour later than planned, no course recce in the car then! I’d gotten my pre-race prep and warm up fairly dialled by now and managed to get on the rollers 40 minutes before I was off, probably a record for me. A decent warm up and then off to the start. The course wasn’t your typical 10. It had far too many hills and not nearly enough traffic assistance. My outbound pacing was good but the watts weren’t looking too exciting. I got to the turn at 350w and set about hitting the climb at >400w. This lasted for all of a minute until my legs said no. The next 10 minutes were a battle with so much surging to keep the power on. It wasn’t happening and I rolled across the line in 22:17 for 22nd place with a measly 348w. I actually think that was my worst time trial of the year and probably for a long while before that, but after my lacklustre training the past few weeks it was expected. I gave it everything I had but was quite disappointed. I’ll come back next year much better prepared.

With moving back home (for a number of reasons) I managed to time doing a big drop of random crap back home with the local Stone Wheelers 5-mile TT. I’d been wanting to smash this TT for a good few years but I’ve never been able to get to it for one reason or another. The course had changed slightly due to road works but I was far too keen to get out and smash it. Thursday evening rolled around, I put my filthy tester trip socks on and was about to roll out when my brother shouted up saying it had been cancelled due to rain. Ideal. No course record for me tonight then. I decided to go ride it anyway but my heart wasn’t in it by then. I went out too hard and rode pretty poorly from the turn back. 8:36, which would be a course record had it actually been on. Oh well, I’ll wait another year I guess!

The Victor Berlemont Trophy was the next up, 170km Nat B on the local Woodcote course with 9 ascents of Flint Hill. Local legend Patrick Kavanagh has been organising it for a few years now. He tried to convince me to race it at the start of my cycling career 2 years ago. 100 miles seemed far too long back then, but I had a pop at it last year spending 80km off the front in a 2up with Luc Hall of Team Wiggins. After getting a pretty big gap we both proceeded to blow our doors off, get caught and promptly spat. This year the plan was not to do that. 1 lap in and I was bridging over to the 6-man break. Here we go again! Thankfully many others made the trip across and the break soon swelled to round 20-25 riders and with some smooth and consistent through and off we built up an 8-minute lead on the peloton. A few attacks came and went in the second half of the race, including a couple from my teammate Will which made life in the break much easier with some casual pack surfing until he got reeled back in. I’d been eating and drinking well, not doing any silly efforts and generally riding with my head, but going in to the final hour I knew I wasn’t going to have a good time when the hammer went down. I expected it to go on the final KOM with 3 laps to go. With Mikey Mottram (HR Owen Maserati) away nobody bothered to have a go for the KOM points until just before the line. The race stuck together until just one lap (~20km) to go. I got distanced at the bottom of the climb after getting caught behind a marshal bike in a corner, my fault for sitting at the back. I lost more ground up the steep section of the climb but managed to ride myself back on up the following drag in to Cray’s Pond. 12 guys were now away and I was in a group of 6. The next 30 minutes was quite sedate with everybody in the group just counting down the miles to the finish. Rhys Howells (Richardson Trek) popped off the front with a few kilometres left. I went to follow him but my legs said no. The remaining 5 of us rode tempo up the steep climb and started looking at each other in the 300m run to the line. I was slightly boxed behind Mikey but as he started to make his move I managed to slip up the gutter and put the hammer down (relatively speaking, think my peak power was 1000w….). I gapped the guys and rolled over in 14th. A long, hard, wet and surprisingly warm race. Patrick had done a top job of organising the race, there wasn’t a single issue to speak of. It’s good to race over that kind of distance without the pressure of 6-8 strong Conti teams making it a battle for survival. I think other National B organisers should follow suit and increase the distance of their races, it’s definitely a good stepping stone towards Prem level racing.

The joys of bank holiday weekend racing meant a tasty town centre nocturne race in Cirencester on the bank holiday Monday. My mate Ben had been staying over for the weekend, racing and helping out at the Berlemont. He was racing the 234 at Cirencester, his first town centre crit. He put in a good ride, sticking in the front bunch until lappers started to screw everything up as per usual with every town centre crit ever. Surely if you’re going to get lapped then sorry mate, game over, you should be pulled so as not to interfere? Anyway, Ben got 17th and I think learnt a lot. By the time the E12 rolled around at 9pm the light had well and truly gone. Sighting laps were more about feeling what potholes you were riding in to rather than actually seeing them. The first corner was pretty scary with zero lighting, potholes on the racing line and a good few photographers firing their flash right in to your eyes. I got a decent position on the start line and came out of the first corner alive in 5th place. Hank (NFTO) went out HARD, I fired in a dodgy divebomb on the 2nd corner to overtake George Pym (Raleigh GAC) and get up to the lead 3 who were hammering it. My divebomb had split the field a bit and we had a slight gap. It was soon shut down and we settled in to a rhythm of riding pretty hard followed by a sprint up the hill in to the first corner each lap, hoping to keep it upright and not lose too many positions. I only had one close call when I got forced wide and rode straight over the foot of a metal barrier. Kept it up and didn’t lose too many positions. Most of the race I held myself in the top 5 with a few pops off the front but nothing was sticking. 3 laps to go and I got mugged big style in the first corner, dropping out of the top 10. A few kamikaze sprints got me back in to 4th going in to the final lap. Jon Mould (JLT Condor), Hank (NFTO) and George Pym (Raleigh GAC) led it and I knew there was pretty minimal chance of making any places up in the sprint with such a short tight run to the line. Jon was ramping the pace up and moving up wasn’t really an option without a full bore sprint. Looking back, I probably should’ve had a go. My legs were good and I had the corners nailed but I fluffed it thinking at the time I might have a shot in the sprint. I didn’t put the hammer down soon enough going in to the final right hander and was left with a bike length to close on the final straight. I got most of the way there but not enough. 4th place behind some hitters after yesterday’s 170k RR, happy and some prize money to boot!

That pretty much wraps up August. I’m moving home tomorrow with the plan of targeting the track over the winter and peaking for National Track Champs in January. September will be relatively quieter with some downtime and just a few fun races. Thanks for reading yet another ridiculously long blog, and thank you again to all of my sponsors for their ongoing support, help and advice!