BUCS HILL CLIMB
The University Hill Climb Championships were held on Mam Tor in the Peak District. It's around a 7 minute climb so it suited me rather well. Despite this being my first 'official' hill climb, I had, of course, ridden many climbs full gas in the past. Hill climbs aren't particularly interesting, you ride a hill as hard as you can. However, what makes them special, or at least this one special, is the atmosphere on the climb. All the students who have already ridden their race position themselves on the climb and cheer everyone on. Whilst it doesn't make the climb any easier, it does lead to some good pictures.
I thought it would be a great idea to ride a few cross races to help improve my bike handling. I was also very naive as I thought I'd be able to do quite well in them since they often include a bit of running. Anyhow, I acquired a cross bike and entered a few of the local league races. Sparing you the details of each race, I took out my fair share of barriers and course tape, crashed multiple times, buckled my wheel and 'rode' half a race with a rear wheel essentially seized by mud. It was good laugh and I approached it as more like riding round a park with friends than racing. I'll definitely be doing next years cross season.... although I do hope to be a bit more competitive than this year.
Track is what most of my Winter has been revolving around. I was roped into it by Ollie in early October and after a few sessions of acclimatizing I was hooked. We had one goal to begin with: BUCS track champs team pursuit. We first had to establish the team of 4 that were going to be riding. After a couple of weeks our coach (Bryan Steel) had decided it was going to be Michael, Ollie, Joe and myself.
Team pursuiting on the surface is simple, 4km, 4 riders and the time is taken on the 3rd rider to cross the line. But beneath the surface there are so many aspects that go into a fast time. Aside from equipment, the logistics of the best way to utilize 4 men is the biggest area for improvement. This involves figuring out the length of turn on the front each rider should do. There are thousands of different iterations you could have, making a pursuit of the perfect order which engrossed us all. Every time we went to the track we were excited to try a new plan we had devised the previous day. Most would fail, but occasionally something would work and we would have a 'breakthrough'. We would all be thrilled until we were reminded us that this 'breakthrough' was probably worth less than half a second. Regardless, we had great fun as a team having a common goal to work towards. We trained hard and fortunately got the result we wanted. At BUCS we were able to qualify fastest with a 3:10 3k and we were up against Derby in the final. We ended up catching Derby which meant we won the Gold! We were on for a 4k time of 4:11 when the catch was made. A week after the event we began discussing what we wanted to do with track for the remainder of the season. We knew we had a good team and we were doing competitive times so we decided to enter Nationals under Nottingham University. Nationals was more of an afterthought than a long term target and our training and preparation reflected that given we already had other commitments e.g. exams, work e.t.c. Despite this, in training we had knocked out some decent times and we were expecting to be competitive, aiming for a time of ~4:11. Unfortunately this did not materialize on the day. We had 2 bad rides as a team and we were way off the pace. Whilst we were all gutted we knew it just had to be used for fuel for the fire next year. Nationals was a great experience nonetheless and I will look back on my first track season very fondly.
PERFS PEDAL RR
Perfs is a National B road race in Portsmouth with a rich history and some notable past winners including Sean Yates and Alex Dowsett. The race is 46miles and is raced on a circuit that has everything to test a rider: climbing, exposed crosswinds and technical sections. In true February fashion it had rained all last night and continued to rain throughout the race which led to some very sketchy riding.
Kick off was at 11am and the pace was high from the start. Every rider in the 85-man field wanted to show their Winter form which further increased the twitchiness in the Peloton! My focus for the first few miles was to stay upright and remain at the pointy end of the race. Fortunately, the race began to string out after the first climb and the following long exposed drag on top of Portsdown hill came as the first test and began the whittling down of the field. On the 2nd lap of 5 a split lead to a break of 5 getting away. Since 2 Canyon riders were in this move, the rest of the Canyon team were neutralising all moves and then trying to break away themselves. I chased down a fair few attacks and tried many times to get away myself but few people were willing to work. On the penultimate lap we took a tight hairpin and 5 riders, myself included, attacked out of the corner and pressed on down the descent that followed, establishing a gap to the bunch. We all worked well as group apart from the Canyon rider who sat on as his team had 2 riders up the road. The miles quickly ticked down and before I knew it, we were on the finishing circuit. Due to my lack of experience I found myself on the front for the last 2km and I couldn’t make anyone come through. We all left the sprint till quite late and I managed to hold onto 4th in the group giving me 9th overall. A result I am very happy with and it gives a good starting point for the road season ahead. A big thank you goes out to everyone involved in putting on the event, It was superbly organised!
I've worked hard and improved my cycling significantly this winter I'm exiting it with a very fresh mindset which is something I haven't before achieved as I normally feel somewhat drained after a winter's training. This year has taught me a lot in this regard, especially about trying new things when you have the opportunity. It helps keep things interesting and exciting and therefore the hard yards feel 'less' hard when you know it is something you want to be doing. And right now, riding my bike is all I want to be doing.