3 June 2013

From Aberystwyth With Love

In case the previous entry was a little too subtle I've been getting irate with the attitude towards racing up north so Wales ward I've been recently and to Wales I shall return soon. There's a lot of ground to cover in this entry so I'll cover each race in brief.

I raced Aberystwyth a few years ago with limited success, It was Ben Simmons who stole the day wearing the colours of Welsh Crit champion after a lead group of 3 got away owing to a crash on the neutralised lap. I picked up a single point for 10th despite being on relatively good form and later that night found out I'd got food poisoning. This year was markedly better, the interest from the Tour Series pulled a great crowd even for the 2/3/4 race. Some late alterations to the course due to high wind made for some technical and tight additions to an already twisty circuit.

Not being in the front 2 lines at the start meant you didn't make the cut. Then again not being on the start line 15 minutes before the advertised start time wasn't a great use to NFTO's John Wood and Matt Rowe as the race rolled away without them. The race blew apart from lap one with the leading group of 15 being whittled down to 11 come the final 5 laps. Had the commentator not got involved in the lap count that evening the results would have been very different. Celebrations from one of the West Wales Racing Team turned out to be premature and he was swallowed by the bunch only for the order to be shaken up again before the real finish. I'm kicking myself a little, I watched a perfectly good gap appear and disappear up the left hand side of the bunch on the seafront just before the final corner. I'm honestly not sure if it was lack of will or lack of legs as the previous 40 minute swing fest took it's toll on my upper body so much I'm not sure I could have sprinted at all. So a deserved 11th place is all I'm getting from a frenzied 3 hour drive and a poor warm up.

The Calender for the next 2 months is looking pretty intense. Despite working full time I've managed to wangle 5-days of work during June to compete in the Ras De Cymru, truth be told I'm hitting it in better form than I ever have before and all I have to improve on is near dead last finish from last years sorry attempt. Surrounding the 5-day is my first ever premier calender race in the Grand Prix of Wales which, with any luck, I'll be racing with the new and improved Josh Lawless fresh from Brittany. Along with the British National Circuit race Championships, Welsh Road Race Championships (massive thank you to Hannah Pole for organising the event and congratulation on finding us a new course to ride it on, I know it's hard finding courses now-a-days and we all appreciate it.) and a handful of E/1/2/3 or 2/3/4 races through June. Should be a right laugh.

19 May 2013

A 4th Cat's Guide to Racing in 2013

Not a standard blog entry this week. After my experience of the North West Road Champs I've decided to post a "How to guide" for the uninitiated masses that are turning up to your local road races nation wide.

Let's go through the motions. Bike, Entering, Starting, Racing, Finish.

The Bike:

So you've mostly been riding Sportifs with great success so far (strava says so, so it's got to be true). So you must already have a bike. That bike will not do. Buy another, exactly the same as the Sportif bike but with Lightweight, Zipp or Mavic deep section wheels (the deeper the better). As a rule this bike must be in the £5000 to £10000 price point, after all you are going to be riding the regional equivalent of Flanders / Paris Roubaix / Strada Bianchi (delete as appropriate depending on which one you have recently had an all expenses paid trip to watch). Bikes popular with 4th cats of 2013 are Pinarello (Wiggins has one), Cervelo (Millar has one), Colnago (Voeckler has one) or the poor mans option; any S-works Specialized.


4th Cat only events aren't for you, you've KOM'd every segment on your weekly commute (while only using the cheapest of your 3 Cervelos) so why on earth would you start at the bottom rung. No no no. You should always select 2/3/4 or E/1/2/3/4 races.


The riders briefing is optional, instead opt to lean against your Range Rover / Pourche while pondering which Rapha gear goes best with your bike. The chief commissarie is, after all, here for fun and requires none of your respect and attention as almost every word he spouts is purely for his own pleasure. Certainly remember at all times that any advice that the (locally based) race officials have regarding the course can be found on your Garmin 810 so again this part of the race briefing is totally masturbatory for the bloke in the GB Race Official Fleece that everyone else is looking at intently.


It's business time, you're out of the neutralised zone and the pace over the opening 10km is already a bit quicker than those Sportifs you've been doing and the break away is long gone. Yet the angry looking bloke in front of you is asking you to do something called a "Turn" and "Chase", thus far he's only been flapping his elbows and has swung to the far right of the road. Oh wait! You remember this bit from last years Tour. It's this kind of behaviour that Team Sky were displaying right before Cav explodes out of the pack to win... there's nothing else for it, you must emulate Cav.

You're off the front of the pack a making good ground on that break away and what's more the pack behind isn't chasing, they seem to be shaking their head indicating that they've all blown due to your amazing kick. Look at the Garmin. It says there's in excess of 60km to go. Ignore it and continue channelling your inner Cavendish. You've completed Sportifs three times that distance it'll pass in a flash.


So the solo break away attempt didn't work. In fact it rather hurt. You've recovered enough sat in the bunch to have another go but you should be feeling that the energy can be better spent elsewhere. The half dozen guys at the front seem to be playing a game where they try and impersonate a conveyor belt while riding in two lines. You should get involved in the game. Your roll is to play the part of "spanner in the works". You're aim is simple; stop the smooth operation of the conveyor belt without once helping out by "doing a pull on the front" as has so often been requested of you. If done correctly there will be shouting. Return to the comfort of the bunch and await the final kilometer.

When the final kilometer arrives you should be safe in the knowledge that, placed as you have been for the last 20km at the rear of the bunch, everyone will have forgotten who you are, what you look like and maybe that you even exist at all. Your chance for a sneek attack should be within the last 200m. When you cross the line ahead of everyone you've been riding with remember to congratulate yourself for taking 21st place overall and tell everyone who asks that you were "Just outside the points"

A proper report is to follow mid next week I'm just finding it difficult to remember details over the annoyance this race has caused me. It was beautifully run and well marshaled with a strong field and truth be told I've never felt stronger on the bike than I did today. The quality of racing in the UK has slipped alot since I were a lad and on a serious note the above sarcastic jab is more a method of venting my frustration at that fact. For a better written and concise article on the subject I'd invite you all the check out the link below, It's done the rounds already but the more people that read it the better.

Cyclingtips.com.au: The Lost Art of the Group Ride

I've also been trying out a couple of newish products to the market thanks to my current job which some of you may be interested in. Namely nitrate gels and Rotor Q-rings both seem to work to a greater or lesser extent but It's more a question of cost vs improvement.

13 May 2013

Lesson in Pre-race Nutrition

This hasn't been the best of weeks. Fortunes have been rather mixed, lost a job, finally got my 2nd cat licence, found a job, missed out on some big training miles and finally I managed to thoroughly ruin my chances at the 2013 Brenig Road Race.

The less said about the job situation the better, suffice to say it's weighed rather heavy on my mind this week and, beyond a couple of crits, the miles have been sorely lacking over the last week. But to find a silver lining the free time left a gap in the calender that was neatly filled by the Palatine Circuit Race in Blackpool which was graced by the presents of Laura Trott OBE. I picked up third thanks to a solo attack that remained un-chased for the last 500m although the Wiggle-Honda Jersey was rather close behind as I crossed the line. So about 2 weeks later than planned my 2nd cat licence is on its way to me.

On to Brenig and if ever there is any worse an example of pre-race nutrition it could only be found in this photo...
For the record missing two meals, replacing gels with fig rolls and trying to home-make isotonic energy drinks using salt, sugar and orange juice (made to an exacting recipe my dad concocted after "bonking" near a McDonald's) doesn't make for a great race. The first half of the race consisted of a 30 mile loops up to 450m which actually went rather well. Apparently the pace wasn't quite as hot as it has been in previous years but none the less I'm happy (given the above mentioned problems) to say I was at or off the front at some point during the climb. It wasn't too long before the poor preparation kicked in. After cresting the first main climb the bunch strung out thanks to the cross winds on the moors and I found myself slipping further and further back down the bunch. Paying due punishment for an already large catalogue of school boy errors. Trying to eat became a monster task, fig rolls aren't the easiest race food. And guessing the unseen course to come using only a Garmin upload was almost impossible and twice left me with a mouthful of fig roll while trying to sprint up the steeper climbs. All the while the dehydration and hunger were creeping in making my concentration patchy at best.

Eventually the elastic snapped and as the bunch fragmented in the windy wet descents I found myself in about the fourth bunch on the road. Not a great position but truly deserved. Jumping group to group seemed like a good idea but dodging the riders dropping from each bunch became a struggle, the temptation to sit in for a second or two to recover became too hard to resist. Eventually I found myself alone dangling 10 seconds off the 2nd group on the road. But having been on the rivet chasing for near 20 minutes now I'd had enough. The bunch ahead slipped up a short sharp climb as I ground to a crawl. This allowed the small group I'd been unknowingly giving a free ride to also slip past and reconnect with the bunch.

Limping onto the finishing circuit like a wounded dog, I shed what even semblance of pride I might have had left, collected my licence and went home. I'd really recommend the Brenig RR to anyone who's game for a bit of hard mans racing and given a better day I'd like to think I would have been capable of greater things but I got what I deserved in the end I suppose.

It's alright though, last night I hit the internet hard are ordered in excess of £100 of race nutrition. Come at me North-West Road Champs!

1 May 2013

The curse of retail

So I've not been blogging much recently. I'm not loosing interest or becoming disillusioned with this whole blogging thing, I actually really enjoy the process. It's relaxing, and gives a nice little retrospective for me on the previous few days riding.

Unfortunately the curse of working in retail finally hit home last week when 2 pre-entered and paid for races had to go unattended because duty called. It was bound to happen eventually. The pluses still out weigh the minuses though. Getting parts, nutrition and accessories at massive discount and having a full workshop at my disposal most days makes the life of an aspiring cyclist a little easier. But the main draw back is having to be in work while everyone else isn't. Missing out on Saturday and Sunday club and the mad rush from a late closing shop to a mid week crit is a struggle but still worth while.

The two races in question above were pretty important ones too. The Out of the Saddle Road Race and Shrewsbury Sports Village Evening Race. "Out of the Saddle" was hugely over subscribed this year with the organisers forced to run two events on the same course on the same day both with full fields of 60 with 10 reserves each. Sounded like a cracking event and I'm very sorry to have missed it. I think the reason the DNS's are bother me so much is because I had this plan in my head that a 2nd cat licence before the end of April was well within reach. For the last two weeks (give or take) I've been within 7 points of that aim. Alas it's now the 1st of May and I'm having to console myself with taking another bunch sprint for 5th at Litherland. Still, only 2 points to go now.

I don't want to bore anyone with a long wordy report of an evening crit, we all know what they're like. Lots of attacking, came down to a bunch sprint, some prat tries to hit the last hair pin corner and 48kph up the inside and ends up sideways being sworn at by the rest of the bunch. Done and dusted. See you all next week.

The big news of this week has been that, for the second year running I've managed to sneak and entry into the Ras De Cymru, Wales premier 5-day stage race at the 11th hour. I'll be riding for Cadence Cycling (the organising club/team) with a couple of Welsh riders, one of whom is making a trip back from the luxurious setting of Southern France. God knows why.

Last years Ras saw me in a team called Student CC which, despite its name, contained no students. One University drop out (that's me), two recently qualified students and a giant of the Welsh Time Trialing scene Richie Harris. Safe to say I played the part of rolling parts waggon for the team for most of the 5-days but I finished and that's whats important. This year though it's not going to be hard to improve on the "almost lantern rouge" I achieved last time. Ideally I'd love a stage win but we'll see how things go.

Finally my cousin,Chris Deeley, is doing the London Triathlon to raise funds for the mental health charity Mind this July. This will be the 2nd time Chris has competed in the London Triathlon and from the sounds of things he's been training in one discipline or another everyday for the last couple of months. Donations can be made through the link below and will be greatly appreciated.

Chris Deeley

21 April 2013

Wales 1 - Ireland 1

...alright maybe the scores aren't quite as even as the title would suggest but what I lack in a Pro contract I made up for in celebrations today.

First off a massive thanks to the organising club Pendle Forest CC and to event organiser Margret Roper. I've not seen such a smoothly run event in a long while. I can see why the event proves so popular with the local clubs.

From the HQ we rode, neutralised, straight up the finishing climb de-neutralising roughly at the Start/Finish. I say roughly because my initial attack nearly saw 2 of us leave the front of the bunch only to come to a screeching halt on the bumper of a quickly approaching lead car. Never mind the "from the gun" tactic rarely pays off and is more often than not a way of compensating for a poor warm up. Either way it’s always a right laugh to hear the groans behind as "Some little sh*t" thinks it's funny to make everyone work for the first 5km. Most races you'll find me on the bumper of the lead car for that exact reason although from a more practical point of view; I didn't know the 18km circuit or the final climb and there's no better way to learn it quickly than leading the bunch round.

A good look at the final climb left me something to think about on the opening lap. First impressions: not my kind of climb, starting with a 8-10% kick which levelled briefly then kicked again, leading onto the second half of the climb (which was more my cup of tea) a 4-6% drag roughly 1km long to the finish. The plan: keep close tabs on any punchy attacks going away on the lower slopes then and TT the gap on the shallower section to win.

The main contenders rapidly identified themselves as being Ilkley CC's strong 4 man team, Ben Jacobs (Dirty Wheels) and Stephen Stoneman (Bott Cycling Team) along with a few others whose names I didn't catch. The pace was set pretty high in the first laps with Stephen, Ben and I trying to make a successful break away firstly on a solo basis then in pairs or all three of us as we successfully marked each other out as the strongest riders. Ilkley CC was having none of it. Almost every time a break established a 10 second lead Ilkley would organise a three man chase at the front of the bunch and close things down. The first angered ride of the courses main climb shed half the peloton immediately to leave a lead group roughly 25 to 30 riders strong. Ben, looking like a strong climber made himself a prime candidate for attacking the climb hard to loose a few more riders.

The following two laps passed pretty quickly, each time the bunch weakening both on the main climb and the harder sections of the rolling course. The frequency of attacks died off for a while as the bunch calmed down. On the final lap Stephen made attacks with a regularity that would put most juniors to shame and barely spent more than a minute in the bunch before punching away each time. On one occasion causing concern for me when a series of shallow bends and crests put him out of sight of the peloton, just for a couple of minutes he would appear through a hedge or disappear round the net corner. Eventually he tired, returned to the bunch and left the attacking to the rest of us for the final 5km.

A twisty, potted and narrow approach to the final climb meant jostling was expected and on more than one occasion the sharpened elbows had to be deployed to encourage riders to keep their line. Tom Canaway made a valiant "Gilbert style" attack on the final climb followed by one other rider, they stayed clear for the entire steep section of the climb and then some. I waited, pulled to the front of the bunch and, perfectly on queue, slipped a gear. The front 5 riders engulfed me. We caught the 2 leaders now 7 riders littered the road curb to curb in front of me. The 200m flag came into view, there was no gap, and the gear shifting around me was increasing to the inevitable crescendo of the winning attack being made. Ben was leading the bunch at a high pace up the left hand side of the road with the echelon reaching the right hand side in front of me, Ben waivered slightly to the right. That'll do! I punched hard and kicked through the gap at the 200m to go mark. It was a long sprint given the gradient. Looking down under my arms there were wheels dancing either side of mine. I kicked again... Looked down... no wheels. No one around me. Another quick check... I was clear. Up went the arms. Race win number one of the year and to cap it all off I get to sit on the sofa with a cuppa and watch Dan Martin win at Liege Bastogne Liege this evening. Cracking day, I'll have a few more like that please.

19 April 2013

Coffee, Cross-winds and Cycling

So things have been a little frustrating recently, I'm feeling pretty fit, not on top form, but pretty fit but there are no suitable road races within half a tank of petrol of me that I can actually compete in. It seems the choice is between the, previously mentioned, narrrow 2/3/4 crits or getting put in world of hurt by the local Elites. I'll take the latter with a side of cross-wind. Last weekend I was over in Sheffield doing another E123 race which featured 25mph wind, 40mph gusts and a very stong field. On the finishing straight of the 5.5km circuit we were in the right hand gutter trying to find shelter from the wind, God knows how the organisers felt after the pre-race breifing featuring the line "Anyone consistantly using the right hand side of the road will be pulled out." Within the first 10 seconds of racing after the neutralised section we were, as a whole peleton, hugging the right hand curb. Thankfully the traffic on the circuit was light and the NEG and Marshalls went above and beyond to make the race as safe as possible. So a massive thank you is in order for everyone involved in organising the Sheffrec Road Race last weekend.

Unfortunately the quality of the field at Sheffrec was a little too good and despite leading the race in the opening laps eventually I settled into the pack and found that gaps started appearing all over. After 5 laps I found myself chasing wheels, filling gaps and generally in alot of trouble. The decisive break was made with over half the race left to go containing Dean Downing, eventual race winner Tom Bustard and a fine collection of Prem Calendar jerseys. I found myself in one of the many groupetto's. For some reason alot of my companions felt the need to attack each other with no really wheels to chase and no prospect of catching the lead group which was fast coming round to lap us.

After being lapped the officials, rightly, pulled us out and I got to watch the final few laps wind-swept, in relative comfort from the finish line with a bowl full of pasta. Not a perfect finish I'll admit but the right thing to do for the safety of the race. A brave and risky attack from Bustard at 3 laps to go worked out in his favour. As the remains of the break watched each other taking turns to surge and sit up he pulled out a convincing lead of around 30 seconds and upon finishing collapsed in a heap on the, until recently unused, left hand verge. Downing convincingly won the bunch gallop with Tom Murry rounding out the podium.

On a less racing based note I'm really grateful to everyone who reads this blog especially the people I've had giving advice and offering a place to stay in France. Dave Bees deserves a mention in particular, thanks to his first had account of racing over in Brittany I've found some big motivation to train harder than usual this year. For those who haven't seen or heard Dave is currently endvouring to open a cycling orientated coffee shop called "Cafe Velo" (does what it says on the tin). Can't wait to see how it turns out.

Everyone knows cycling wouldn't work without coffee so it's looking like a banging idea already. Best of luck.

11 April 2013

Grass is greener on the Welsh side.

Midweek crit season is here! It's actually the reason for my later than usual entry on the blog, I thought I'd hold out a few days because there was bound to be some crit action to report on... not so unfortunately .

I've been searching in and around Manchester for some midweek crits to keep myself occupied on my days off work. Having grown up with Llandow less than a half hour ride from my parents home in South Wales I had some pretty solid ideas of what midweek crits looked like. I've had to redefine my interpretation of a crit circuit this week. Tameside and Litherland are the nearest tracks to me in Manchester. The 2 circuits are relatively newly built cycling specific tracks. Both turned out to be 2 to 3 meters wide, 1 km long ribbons of tarmac tightly wound around a field with worryingly close football pitches.

Tameside, although well run and a great little track for the kids, was a little too narrow and I ended up finishing somewhere in the bunch having failed miserably the whole race to make any progress up the bunch. The only tactic that seemed to work was barrelling up the inside into the hairpin corner. I'll give Andy Nichols a mention, pulling off 6th on the line the first time round the track ain't too shabby.

Litherland was an utter farce. In true British Cycling fashion entry was a rather high £20 for a 50 minute crit including league affiliation. The 2/3/4 race started late and thanks to a collection of lazy organisers the race was given 5 laps to go after only 10 minutes of racing. Granted only 11 riders turned up to race but if you've advertised you're running an event you bloody well run it. Once the lap board came out there was a genuine air of confusion among us there was no mention of cutting the race short on the start line. In total we raced just under 15 minutes totalling just over 6 miles. to find a silver lining we all scored points on the line, I ended up finishing 6th (after running for 4th in the sprint) thanks to another rider pulling a foot in the last 100 meters.

So thats it, a pretty boring week in total and yet again the form of race organisation in this country showing its true colours with one race official at Litherland being heard to say the words "shall we knock off early then?" On the other side of the coin Forza have a been organising crits at Llandow like its going out of fashion. The full Summer Series is up on the British Cycling website and the accompanying facebook page can be found bellow. Might have to make a few trips back to the valleys for some proper racing this summer.

Sheffrec RR this weekend, another chance for me to show Dean Downing what a really cyclist looks like.

Forza Cycles RT Summer Series