Junior E3 Harelbeke, Belgium 23rd April 2017

Saturday – Travel and Recce

The plan was to meet up with John Barclay and the rest of the South East Cycle Team at Maidstone Services at 11:50, quick unloading and reloading of cars.  Then off to the Eurotunnel and then finally to the bottom of the Teinenberg, where we would do our recce of the last 20km of the race.

The Team
Photo Credit:Jens Morel

After arriving at the services I had my lunch – a quinoa curry my Dad had made that morning.  Shortly after John arrived with the rest of the team – Jacob, Ollie, Theo, Louie, and Charles and we set off for an uneventful journey to the Eurotunnel and Belgium.

When we arrived at the bottom of the Tiegenberg we got changed and started to ride the last 20km as per the plan.  I only lasted about 3km before my infamously small bladder meant I had to stop for a waz behind a Belgian bus stop. The recce was going fairly smoothly up to the point where we started to ride to the Hostel, when Charles and me ended up riding an ‘alternative’  way home to the others. When we eventually arrived it wasn’t long until food, and I was starving so was looking forward to it.  To my utter disappointment all that was left by the time we got to the dinning room was mashed potato and a very small amount of chicken (we were limited to one small piece only).  Unsurprisingly I was quite hungry after tea, but at least had my massive bowl of overnight oats that I had brought with me to look forward in the morning.

After watching a couple of episodes of The Grand Tour, it was time to go to sleep.

Sunday – Race Day !

The race wasn’t until 14:00 so we had plenty of time in the morning to chill out.  I delighted in my big bowl of overnight oats for breakfast. That is totally the best pre-race breakfast.  Bit more watching of The Grand Tour to take my mind off the race, and before I knew it it was time for our pre-race meal  of pasta which the hostel had provided.  I wasnt actually that hungry but forced it down me as I knew I would need it for the race.  In the mean time John was getting our numbers and signing us on at race HQ.  When he returned we all headed towards the race HQ to get changed and ride the last 3km of the course a couple of times.

Crunch time ! The beginning of the race was fast but fairly safe on the 20k of wide road that took us out to the much narrower roads the wind their way around and over the hills.  However about 5k into those narrower roads there was a big crash.  I avoided it thankfully,  but ended up unclipping which then led to an extremely hard chase for the next 20km. There were 5 of chasing at first, working well together, and that group gradually grew to 20.  Eventually I got back on.

For the next 40km of the race I tried to stay near the front and out of trouble as we went over the climbs and a couple of cobbled sections. The main cobbled section of the day came as a bit of a shock to me and I found myself too far back.  I ended up chasing again.  At first I absolutely hated the cobbles, but then I got the hang of them and was able to ride them much better (the metal bottle cages helped a lot here)  As the race progressed my legs felt better and I was nearer the front ( where I should have been from the start).

Thats when we hit the Paterberg. one of the reasons why i loved the race so much.

 

I steadily worked my way to the front, and by the time we were at the bottom of the decent I was there. The group stayed together for the next two climbs. I had a bit of a dig going over the second from last climb but nothing came of it.

With 20km to go a couple of attacks started, but came back quickly.  But with just under 3k to go 3 riders just seemed to ride clear of the peloton.

A moments hesitation meant they got a gap and stayed away.

I found myself finishing 22nd in the front bunch of about 35 riders.

E3 Harelbeke was by far the most fun race I have ever ridden – just the whole experience was so good. Learnt lots like making sure I had good bottle cages, definitely liked the tubeless tyres on the cobbles, staying near to the front of the race and being confident in my ability.  I will hopefully get to put the lessons that I learned into good use for the next big race.  Although it was such a good race it did mean that I missed out on Will Tidballs B-day down in Exmouth – sorry about that bro 🙁

Onwards to the Isle of Man Youth & Junior Tour this weekend.

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National Series Road #2 – Tour of the Mendips 2017

Saturday

Team Wales
Photo Credit: Alex reed

After waking up early packing the car and shovelling a bowl of overnight oats down me, I was on my way to Newport velodrome, where I would meet up with the rest of the Welsh Junior Team for the weekend’s racing (James, Sam and Joe), along with the DS (Director Sportif) Anthony O’Boyle  ( “Boyler” as he’s known by many).  Once again I’m proud to be representing Wales.

It was about an hour’s drive to the race HQ so we needed a pretty swift transition of kit bags to the Welsh cycling car. However my bladder thought otherwise, requiring me to make an emergency pit stop a couple of minutes before we were supposed to leave.

On our way down to the race most of the conversation consisted of who we thought was going to win the senior Roubaix on the weekend, along with Anthony’s plans for his next tattoo. When we arrived we went straight to sign on and gear check and then started to get ready for the first race of the day –  the 7.3km TT.

Junior Tour Mendips – TT
Photo Credit: Alex Reed

Not having ridden the course before I was a bit unsure where I was actually meant to be going, but a very detailed description of the course from Joe quickly gave me an inch by inch lay out of the course.  I was scheduled to go off at 10:43, about half way through the rider field. After a quick warm up I was on my way down to the start line.  I knew the effort was going to be hard and that I would have to get my pace just right as you could easily go out too hard. As soon as I started I knew I was feeling good  – my legs felt as if they were floating – that was until I realised that I still had over 4km to go :). I just focused on staying on top of the gear and pushing on to the finish.

Photo Credit:Alex Reed

Once I had ridden back to the Race HQ I turned my focus onto recovering for the afternoons road stage (105km on a rolling parcour).

Meanwhile in the TT,  James got held up by a farmer in his tractor which effected his time massively.  Anthony came over to me and said I was leading, and I was like “Seriously?!”. That was quite a cool feeling.  However, there was still another race to focus on. Being in the Leaders Jersey I understood that I was going to have to protect it. Never having been in this position before I was a bit unsure as to how I was going to do that, but I just thought I’m only going to focus on my race and ride it the same way had I not been in the jersey.

After an interesting 10km neutralised section the race was underway.  Straight away there were lots of attacks but many of them came back. This was predominantly down to the work of my team mates Sam, Joe and especially James. All three  were riding above and beyond. With about 20km of racing left a group of three riders slipped away consisting of Harry Yates, Josh Price and two Spokes riders. The break was strong and looked as if it was going to stick to the end until George Wharton, one of the Spokes riders in the break, unfortunately crashed. The next time round the commissaires decided to neutralise the race, and unfortunately when restarted the break wasn’t’ given the gap it had originally. That was a shame as the break looked strong and would have made the race interesting.  Shortly after the restart we were told that the race was to be cancelled due to the condition of the rider still on the floor. Thankfully later that night we found out that George was ok, which was a relief to everyone I’m sure.  This meant Stage 1  would have no impact on the GC. However the sprint points were still counted meaning Sam Tillett was to go into the sprinter jersey with James just behind him.

Sunday

Calm before the storm – Stage 2
Photo Credit: Alex Reed

Today was a big one. The Queen stage of the Mendips, with 3 major climbs. The time gaps after the TT were small,  meaning the race was going to be very active.  For breakfast I had another “mahoosive” bowl of overnight oats to get me ready for what was ahead.  We met up with Anthony and the rest of the team in Newport and headed up to the race HQ as a team. On the way up to the race in the car we were all relaxed, with James offering us entertainment recounting his weird dreams about breakfast. Once we arrived we all went to sign on and got our bikes prep’ed and got a good team talk off Anthony – ” just ride boys ” – nice and simple, not too hard to remember. Despite the position we were in we all felt relaxed and comfortable with what we needed to do and were just keen to get the race underway.

Straight from the start when we hit the first climb a couple of riders started to attack, but James, who had done a ridiculous amount of work for me on Saturday, was already on them covering the moves and getting into the early breaks so I didn’t have to do any chasing.  Over the top of the climb Dylan Hughes (Spokes Race Team) and Theo Hartley got away and had a 20 second gap on the peloton ( they were in 4th and 2nd place on GC respectively). I knew this was a dangerous move and as a result Joe, Sam and James went to the front and started to chase along with a few of the Catford team riders.

Blagdon Climb
Photo Credit: Alex Reed

Sam was still positioned high on the overall so understandably pulled off early to prepare himself for the Blagdon climb. Sam, with his “Road Captain” head on came back to reassure me that they would come back on the climb and I didn’t need to panic. Meanwhile James was on the front continuing with his monster turn, he dropped back and looked smashed but somehow about 5km before the bottom of Blagdon he hit the front once again and brought the gap down from 20 seconds to about 10, turning himself inside out for the team – showing what a selfless person he is (on and off the bike) – massive respect bro.

I was positioned near the front of the bunch when we hit the dead turn and went up the Blagdon climb straight into very steep gradients. Almost straight away Dan Coombe put in the first dig causing a split in the peloton. By this point Theo and Dylan were just ahead of us. After Dans attacked I hit the front keeping out of trouble, after the twisty steep section through the houses I put in an attack just as it plateaued. I didn’t look round, just got my head down until I hit the KOM line where i gave a quick glance back and could see I had a gap. Going over the top of the climb into what was now a moderately strong headwind, the Coms car told me I had 25 seconds on the group of 5 behind me.

Junior Tour of the Mendips – Stage 2 – Attacking at top of second climb
Photo Credit:Swarbrick.com

I pressed on the pedals but could see that the group was coming back to me. Eventually Dan Coombe bridged across by himself and for a moment I thought we would stay away, but the group that was just behind continued the chase,  eventually catching us.

Going down the roads leading to the finish our group of 5 began to grow as riders caught back on. At this point the Wheel Base team began to attack with Dan – going one after another.  I didn’t want to risk anything getting away so I made sure I was following the moves. With about 5km to go I found myself off the front of the bunch with a little gap. I decided to keep riding to see what happened,  but I got reeled in.  Soon we were at the bottom of the final climb. I think I got a bit over excited and hit the front straight away pressing on. As we hit the final straight Tobias and Mason Hollyman came round me and contested the sprint for the stage win.  As I came across the line at the back of our small group I could see that there was only 5 of us, and very importantly for me personally there was no sign on the other GC contenders.

When the rest of the team finished it was such a good feeling as we got the win.  And demonstrated how well we can work as a team. Very proud.

My first Junior win. In fact, my first ever National Road Series win at any age group.

Awesome race. Great organisation. Beautiful location. Awesome hills. Loved it. Thanks for all the support and for taking me Welsh Cycling.

I had great legs all weekend (thanks Pete Georgi @ Epic Coaching).

Thanks BCDS for organising it. Thanks to the Commissaires. And of course thanks to all the volunteers and marshals.

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Cadence Junior Road Race (National Series Round #1) – 2nd April 2017

 

Me and Tom Pidcock riding away – Cadence 2017 (Photo Credit: Alex Reed)

Today was the first round of the Junior National Series, kicking off at the Three Cocks course near Brecon, Wales. After having my obligatory Overnight Oats we set off to the race with an extra passenger; Will T’s Dad better, known as Tids.  We took pity on him having had problems with his van the day, we rescued and fed him, and gave him B&B. The alternative was leaving him on the side of the road at the mercy of the welsh sheep somewhere near Brecon.

When we arrived the first thing I did was take a look at the course in the car just so I had some idea of what was in store for the next 115km.

Welsh Team Warming Up – Proud to be wearing the Welsh jersey !

After the course recce I met up with the rest of the welsh team James, Rhys, and Sam before heading swiftly to sign on to collect our numbers and get changed. We then had a quick warm up, leaving just about enough time for Sam to oil his arms (???), Rhys to slap on Majorca in a bottle (as he calls it) on his legs, and James to put more oil on his legs than popcorn chicken at KFC, before heading to the start line for riders briefing. The weather was looking good and we were all ready to go.

The flag dropped and the race had begun. To begin with the race was rolling along staying together until the race commissars pulled in front of the race forcing riders to stop suddenly in a lay-by at the bottom of the of the climb.  The Commissaires laid down the law, telling us that if we didn’t start ridding properly the racing would be cancelled.  Adam Kelly, having come all the way from the Isle of Man, didn’t seem too impressed with that proposal.

Eventually we got going again. Quite quickly a couple of moves started to go up the road. The most significant a group of two riders containing Dylan Hughes (spokes) and a Brother NRG Driverplan rider. They stayed away until the main group squeezed on over the top of the climb and started to roll through and off until we caught them on the lanes leading to the main climb. Charlie Calvert and Josh Price from Backstedt Cycling countered the move but were brought back. Going over the Top of the climb Jake Wright of Zappi Racing Team attacked it looked like it was coming back as a couple of riders bridged across in ones and two’s. The bunch then eased up and I knew I had to go.

Off the Front. (Photo Credit: Alex Reed)

Eventually a group of seven riders formed: Jake Wright (Zappi Racing Team), Mark Donovan (Zappi Racing Team), Matthew Shaw (WHEELBASE CABTECH JUNIOR RT), Stephen Dent (Spokes Racing Team), Theo Modell (Team Corley Cycles), Thomas Pidcock (PH-MAS/Paul Milnes/Oldfield ERT) and myself. We were all working well together riding through and off and built a maximum lead of 1 minute over the peloton. I felt good but knew if I were to win I’d have to be clever. With a lap and a half to go I could see the group was gaining on us, at this point Tom attacked through the chicane and pressed on up the climb, I followed.  When i looked round it was only Tom and me left, with the rest of the bunch about 15 seconds behind us. I knew from this point it was all in. Tom and I worked well together and pushed the gap back out to 44seconds with about 7km, maybe 8km to go.  Over the drag on the back half of the course, I pulled off  after a turn and Tom attacked. I pressed on the pedals to try and catch him but wasn’t making any inroads. I just kept ridding, holding the bunch, eventually finishing in second place behind Tom, with Jim brown finishing off the podium.

Unfortunately a few riders got caught up in an incident with one of the escort motorbikes, and there were a couple of other crashes. Fortunately no serious harm done, other than to bikes.  Let’s hope we don’t have any incidents in the rest of the series.

Podium – 1st Tom Pidcock (middle), 2nd Me (left), 3rd Jim Brown (right)

Overall it was a really good race, getting lots of positives and learning points to take with me onto the rest of the season. Really enjoyed it and looking forward to the Mendips next weekend.

Thanks to the organisers and volunteers, as always your time and effort is greatly appreciated.

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