Guido Reybrouck 2018 – The Hardest Race of My Career… So Far

Saturday

Having decided at Kuurne Brussels Kuurne to go back to my old faithful breakfast of overnight oats, for Guido Reybrouck I decided to mix it up a bit –  I created carrot-cake-overnight-oats. As you can imagine I hardly got to sleep Friday night because of the anticipation of this new concoction.

I woke up Saturday morning ran downstairs and tucked-in. It was seriously good.

We headed out to pick up Zach Bridges from The Coldra in Newport en route to the best motorway services in the UK – Cobham Services – where we were to pick up Matt Shaw. Not sure which I was looking forward to more, seeing Matt or visiting Cobham Services again. Close call.

The majority of the journey was bike chat, with Zach going into detail about every time trial bike he knew.  But what was impressive was that at the same time he was DJ’ing – and my Dad approved of the music and the quality of the DJ’ing which is rare.  But Zach was deliberately playing to the crowd with stuff he knew my 50-something Dad would like. He even played “Men At Work” – which 17 year old would play “Men At Work”  – worse in the Karaoke competition later he even chose that as his song!!

When we arrived at the Eurotunnel we followed John (Barclay) through to the pre-loading bit… and were right behind him but somehow, we ended up on a train that was 30 mins later which then ended up being an additional 20mins late leaving, so by the time we got to Calais we were an hour behind schedule.

As we were driving along the autoroute in France Theo (Modell), Jim (Brown) and Ben’s (Tulett) bikes flew up off the top of Dave Story’s car. Fortunately, Dave does “belt and braces” and so Jim’s bike (still clinging on by the fork mount) saved the other two but it was fairly scary. We eventually got to the race HQ which was in the village of Damme just outside of Brugge. Every other building was a café !!!

After spending the whole journey thinking we were going to go to some nice pasta or pizza restaurant it was a massive anti-climax when we all realised that we were eating some spaghetti made by the race organisers. Now at the end of the day it’s just fuel but it was quite demoralising. When we arrived at the accommodation we all headed up to the rooms and sorted out our beds before Theo, Matt and Zach went for a walk around Brugge. Which left Jim, Ben and me in the hostel (meanwhile my Dad, JohnB and Dave Story had gone out for a NICE meal). Before long the lads had returned with water and biscuits, two very important staples when racing in Belgium. For the rest of the evening we were playing cards which is definitely something Ben needs to work on, but then I can’t really say that much as I was pretty shocking as well.

I think it’s important as a teenager that you get at least 2hrs TV per day, if not more. And that day I had watched none – it’s no way to treat teenagers.  I knew if I didn’t watch any it would definitely affect the way my race went the next day. So, after I’d lost another game of cards, and solely in the interests of top performance, I went to my top bunk and started watching Baby Driver, which is seriously good and I would defiantly recommend.

Sunday

After a good night’s sleep, we headed down to breakfast where I had my standard overnight oats and peanut butter, which went down seriously well.

We packed our bags and the cars before heading out to the race HQ. We did get there only slightly early (approx. 5hrs), but this gave us time to find a nice café and the changing rooms. Ben introduced us all to these rice cake tart things which were really good to be fair. Then we were taken to the changing rooms.

Team South East Sowing Circle (Zach Bridges, Theo Modell, Matt Shaw, Ben Tulett, Jim Brown, me)

Before we knew it we were on the start line waiting to race in the freezing cold.  But hey, only -2oC, as opposed to KBK’s -7 oC, balmy. Heading in the right direction at least.

The Race – The Hardest Race of My Short and Very Sheltered Life

Guido Reybrouck Start Line – Its COLD !!! Most of Team South-East in shot

The neutral section was the same as any other neutral section; so not very neutral at all.

However, I was near the front and out of trouble – all’s well. We came to a pinch point over a bridge and I was squeezed back along with Theo, Zach and Ben. Suddenly we turned into the cross-winds and a Dutch team nailed it on the front. Clearly a plan well executed.

It was a bit of a shock to the system as we hadn’t ridden the day before.  I thought “oh my god this is hard”. In my head I was like “s#*t I’m not in a good place here”. I made a massive effort to move towards the front but by that time the break had gone with 13 riders moving clear of the peloton.

Several times I tried to get across using the bends in the roads and short tail-wind sections as a spring board, but when you’ve got 13 riders going flat-out it’s hard to get across. Around 40 km in there must have been only 50 riders left in the peloton.  Decimation – I can’t remember such an attrition rate in a race before – and that continued to the end.

Video: The Break of 13

Theo, Ben and I attacked and pulled out a 45s gap on the peloton, and were about 1’ 30” to the leaders. Three others joined.

Video: The Chasing Six

After battling with a head wind we ended up getting caught by what I thought was the peloton but as it turned out it was only about 20 riders at the most. Meanwhile the gap to the leaders went up to well over 2 mins.

I knew that the group of 20 that just joined would be tired and my legs were feeling good, so after a few kms of rolling through and recovering I attacked through a village using the tight turns and chicane to break away. I turned around and the bunch was strung out but I kept my head down as I knew no one would commit to chasing down one rider. An Acrog rider came across and I could tell he was struggling, initially I had wondered if he was bluffing, but I kept driving hard into this relentless head-cross wind.

Jim Brown, Matt Shaw – Leading Bunch Pressing On

After about 15km of head cross wind we finally had a tail wind and I knew that would be in our favour. Sure enough we opened up a bigger gap – we had the tail wind all the way to the finishing circuit  (4 x 7.6km). On the circuit I looked behind and could see two riders coming across the gap they eventually caught us with 3 laps to go. I kept looking round at the other riders in my group and I could tell the two Acrog riders were spent, but anther Belgian was strong.  With 12km to go I attacked into the cross-wind section and me and the Belgian geezer broke away. I knew the last 400m were cobbled, and I knew I didn’t want to come to the finish with this guy and have to sprint on the cobbles. That lap it was obvious the original break was fragmenting and blowing because we picked up 3 riders.

As we hit the cross-wind section again I knew I had to attack the two riders from the original break.  Finally they rolled through and took a turn, but they were fried, and I took my opportunity to attack.  After about 30s of giving it gas, I looked behind and could see the Belgian kid about 20m behind me, now 30… 40, he’d gone.

jjjuddderrring ooovvveerr thhheee cobbblesss on the ffffinnisshing cciiirrrcuit – 2 to go. Just two of us chasing the break

I kept my head down and came into the finish in 10th. Without doubt the hardest fought 10th place of my life. And although I know I lost the opportunity to win the race at that pinch point right at the start of the race, I was really proud of how I raced from that point on. I raced to win in the hope that fate might twist in my favour.

Crossing The Line – Spent !!

Definitely the grippiest race I’ve done – cobbles, freezing weather strong cross winds, echelons, and a smart Dutch team who had a strategy –  it really did feel like a Classic – well as close as you could get to one. I finished  just over a 1 min behind the trailing edge of the break in which Jim, Matt and Ben Healey finished,  about 3 mins behind the podium positions. Results

I know there isn’t a race for the “rest of the bunch”, and I know I missed an opportunity, but I was proud that out of the what was left of the Peloton I was the first to roll in.

After having a nice warm shower, we all headed back to the cars before we started our journey back to the UK.

The journey back was uneventful but great.  Zach was DJ’ing and, Matt and me were in the back of the car talking about something like Rick and Morty, and my new theory for school, revision and home work.

Oscar’s Candle Theory.

You will understand why I called it the Candle Theory in a minute. Let me explain.

When we’re born we all have this candle (obviously it isn’t real, it’s metaphorical). This metaphorical candle represents your motivation to revise and work hard at school. Now everyone’s candle is individual to them, so some are longer than others (no euphemism here for those of you with smutty minds). When we all start school in Year 1, a little bit of the candle is burnt off, and this continues throughout one’s school career, every time you do a bit of homework or revise a bit more candle is burnt off. Until eventually you have no candle left,  which is the position that I’m currently in and with my A’Levels coming up its not great but what can I do I have no candle left so it is virtually impossible for me to revise. I should have paced myself better and not worked so hard earlier in my life.

I’m going to have to prepare for the inevitable feeling of opening the exam paper and thinking “… what the hell is ‘studentification’ I thought I was doing maths” 😉

But my point is if you try too hard too soon you won’t have a candle left by the time you are in Uni or Sixth Form, so on so forth.  And for this reason I think that the government should not allow homework in schools until year 9 and possibly year 10 this way everyone will be motivated when it comes to revising for their GCSEs and A’Levels .

All in all, it was a brilliant weekend, with great company and a hard race. Big thanks to John Barclay, Dave Story and my Dad for taking us.  Thanks to Pedal Potential and all  the sponsors of Team PH-MAS Paul Milnes Cycles for the financial support. Now onto the first round of the National series this weekend in Wales.

Life’s pretty good.

3+

Kuurne Brussel Kuurne – 25th February 2018

Saturday

After getting up fairly early to watch the men’s 50km Cross country skiing race in the winter Olympics (which was pretty exciting to be fair – so many parallels to cycling) I packed the car and got myself some breakfast and a cup of tea before starting our trip to Belgium. The drive down was smooth and uneventful with a short coffee and pee stop just before we met up with John Barclay and the others. We got on the train no problem and once off the other side John announced that he needed to stock up on wine and coffee at the local supermarché.

After we’d collected John’s supplies we continued the journey, with the intention of stopping short of the Hostel to ride. It was seriously cold and blowing a gale – and unfortunately it was a cross head wind all the way to the hostel. I made sure I was strategically missing turns pretending I needed a drink to keep the legs fresh for the run to the pasta restaurant later 😉

After a quick shower we headed to the restaurant for tea. As is standard at this pasta place the cheese comes with optional pasta not the other way around. When we got back to the hostel I watched some of the new series of the Grand Tour before heading to bed.

Sunday

Race day!!!

I decided to try a different version of my overnight oats which ended up being a bit of a disappointment. I will be returning to the usual overnight oats next time but never the less it had peanut butter on it so it was all good.

After breakfast we packed our bags and headed downstairs before heading in convoy to the race start. It was COLD. We had a while before the start so I took the time to look at the wind direction and the course to see where it might split up.

Time to get changed. After changing my mind on what to wear a couple of times, I finally came to a decision – that consisted of 5 layers which was just right. Soon we were lining up at the start.

As always the neutralised section wasn’t very neutralised at all but I stayed near the font out of trouble.

Km 0. The race had started with the first part of the course being into a head wind no one really wanted to take up the race with a few people getting off the front but coming back pretty quickly as the kms ticked down to the first climb I was near the front in a good position. We hit the first climb and I was about 10th wheel I worked my way to the front and over the top we hit the first cobbled section I was now about 3rd wheel as we came off the cobbles I looked behind me and the field was in a very long line with gaps appearing. Tthe bunch pressed on again to try and split the race up a bit more. Over the next couple of climbs it was a similar story until we hit the 4th climb, a 2km drag on a nicely tarmac peace of road. I was about 8th in line and could see Remco sitting in 3rd wheel click down the gears I followed the rider in front as he reacted to get on his wheel but he started to fade about 500m before the top so I jumped off his wheel and bridged over to Remco. When I got across he kept driving –  at this point I knew my legs were good. I came through and pulled a turn when he came through again I looked behind and could see we ha about 15-20 seconds I came through to do a turn again. S**t! I then realised that there was a right turn that went round further than expected I had to scrub off a lot of speed and came to a standstill. Remco who was behind me made it round and pressed on as I was getting back up to speed I looked behind and could see the main field only about 80m or so behind I kept pressing on but with the cross winds as strong as they were I eventually came back to the bunch. I was really frustrated as I knew I was in a great position.

Never the less I kept focused. I knew the Kweremont was coming up so made sure I was near the front. We hit it and the bunch split up loads – afterwards there was a main peloton of about 30 riders.

As we stared heading to the finish we had a tail wind which I knew would play into the hand of Remco as the bunch wasn’t really making any effort to chase. As we hit the finishing circuit I decided to make my move. I kept getting off the front but the bunch would bring it back none the less I persisted as I thought eventually the bunch would sit up and with the tail wind I would be able to open up a gap quite quickly. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and coming into the last km I was spent. But made a big effort to move up the group. I ended up finishing in the bunch. But I felt proud about my approach which had been to force a winning (well 2nd place anyway) break, rather than just sit in the wheels – it will pay off at some point.

At the finish I had mixed emotions as I knew if I hadn’t have messed up that corner I am confident I would have been with Remco at the finish.  But one of the big positives that I took away from the race was just how good my legs felt, the fact that I was able to follow Remco over the top of the climb and then have enough to keep attacking the bunch at the end has given me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season.

At the end of the race Richard Moore from the cycling podcast came over to me to ask me about John and how my race went.  This was a really good end to a decent day out on the bike. Shame I didn’t get the result I wanted but that’s bike racing.

A massive thank you to John Barclay and Dave Story for taking us out, and to Pedal Potential to help me paying for it. Looking forward to Guido Reybrouk in a few weeks’ time.

1+

British Cycling Awards Dinner – 10th February 2018

I started the day bright and early before heading out on the bike for a quick spin, making every effort to avoid what I call “Flanders field” on the route back home. I’d just cleaned my bike and there was no way I was going to drag the poor thing through 3ft deep mud for about a km stretch of road where they are building these new houses. I can tell you now I failed because I left the house late and knew I had to get back quickly. So unfortunately the only route I could take home to get back in time was Flanders field. To make matters even worse it had been raining the night before. Worse still my new Ridley (complements of Ridley and Paul Milnes Cycling) is of course gleaming white…. As soon as I got back I hosed the bike down to make it more recognisable as a bike, let alone a white bike. I threw all the kit I needed into the car for the Woolly Mammal race at Stourport en route to the the British Cycling Awards Dinner at the NEC in Birmingham.

I  got to Stourport with my Mum and Dad on time. I layered up and before long I was in my first race of the season.  I decided to test my legs early in the race, so rode hard to begin with and found myself sitting off the front of a chasing group of 4. After sitting there for a while and not getting very far I dropped back to the chasing group. We all worked together really well. Unfortunately I messed up my finish, getting third, but I enjoyed it, and it was great to be racing again.

Woolly Mammal, Stourport

We then headed straight off to the awards evening at the NEC. When we arrived we met up with a few friends and had a good chat while we waited for the awards ceremony to get started. I was up to receive the Peter Buckley Trophy for winning the Junior National Road Series. This really meant a lot to me for a couple of reasons.  First, it is a very prestigious award, reinforced by the list of previous winners engraved on the trophy (for a more complete list see Peter Buckley Trophy Past Winners)

Previous Winners of Peter Buckley Trophy

Second, Pete Georgi and I had set winning the series as my main goal for 2017, and I am only the third first year junior to win the series.  At the time that goal seemed crazy – so the lesson is dream big, aim high. If someone had told me at the start of the year I would have podiumed in 5 / 8 national series races I entered I wouldn’t have believed them. It has given me a lot of confidence going into this season.  Lots of people to thank for the achievement obviously – Pete Georgi who was my coach and Mr Motivator, Welsh Cycling for all the support and guidance, Pedal Potential for the financial support (which helped me get a really nice set of race Wheels) , Cyclopaedia for the unquestioning last minute fixes to my bike, Sunset Cycles for helping me out with some great kit, John Barclay for all the Belgium racing experience.

Anyway back to the ceremony, they called me up and as I stepped onto the stage I saw the size of the trophy –  there was no way I was going to be able to hold that let alone walk back with it.

Picture courtesy of Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com

Fortunately, all the gym work over the winter payed off and I was able to bring it back safely.

Pete Georgi & Me

We then went for the meal, we were sat with Alex Haindes and his family. We talked about Belgium and other things cycling related. By this time I was absolutely starving and I would have preferred it if the food came out all at the same time and possibly if they had increased the portion sizes by maybe 100000000 😉 but it was really nice. Time to head back home.

Anyway, very proud moment. Enjoyed it. Goal achieved. Now moving on to 2018.  Can’t wait for it to get going.

 

The background on Peter Buckley (source: Wikipedia):

Peter Buckley (Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Peter Buckley (2 August 1944 – July 1969) was a Manx and British racing cyclist. He was a gold medallist in the road race at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica. Buckley died in an accident whilst training in July 1969 when he hit a loose dog. The Peter Buckley Trophy was named in his honour, and is presented annually to the winner of the British junior national road race series winner. If you’d like to know a little more see  Peter Buckley

 

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