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Friday, 22 March 2019

Kicking off 2019 'bit late...'

Sorry guys it’s been far too long since I’ve kept you in the loop of what I’m up to. I’ll kick things off from the start of 2019 where I headed off to Girona to get some good consistent training in the bank to take into the rest of the season. I had a great time out there riding with a good group of lads and I had a fair bit off fun off the bike there too. On a rest day, I had a super cool day out in Barcelona looking round the Sagrada FamilaMassive thanks has to go to Sophie for putting up with me in Girona and making the stay ace. 

I got back to Wales in early February to what was a ‘mini heatwave’....well for the U.K. anyway. It was good to get training with the Wales Racing Academy boys once again with some grippy weekly group rides where Rob tested us, whatever the weather! So managed to continue some good quality training heading into the first few Nat B’s of the year. My legs were feeling good in these but I was a bit race rusty. 

Last weekend saw the Betty Pharaoh Memorial Road Race which had a stacked field of conti riders along with other strong guys. I was real chuffed to come away with 2nd place to Connor Swift, the current national road race champion,especially on local roads. 

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season with the team as we’ve got great European race calendar that’s been put together. 

Promise I’ll keep the updates more frequent from now onwards into the race season.

Friday, 21 September 2018

End of Road Season round-up

Since the last blog I've been here, there and everywhere....

My last race in the UK was The Ryedale GP in Yorkshire. All the elements were thrown at us on this day - just atrocious conditions. I spent the majority of the day riding between the break and the bunch with good mate Reece Wood and Lawrence Carpenter. Reece and I were discussing in the race how  different this was to where we started our year together in Sunny Girona.! However, frustratingly we were reeled in by Canyon....I finished this race a little disappointed as my legs had felt good.

After a tough Training camp with the Academy and the Wales Juniors I headed to Pembrey to wish Phil Jones MBE and James Golding good luck as they set off on the first leg of the 'Tour of Britain 1 Day Ahead' Challenge. I was accompanied by my teammate Ranggar Roberts and Rob Partridge. It was good to support their cause and to be in Pembrey 1 day ahead of the Tour of Britain.

A week later, I headed out to the last race of the season - The Olympias Tour in The Netherlands. It was an International Race with 10 Nationalities competing including The Wales Racing Academy.

To be honest with you, I cant tell you too much about this race as I spent most of it chewing my bar tape in the ferocious crosswinds edging nearer and nearer to the gutter... The parkours didn't suit me personally but I was out there mostly to help support Rhys and Joe in the mental 'bunch kicks'. All in all, it was a successful race for the team with a rider in the top 20 in 5 out of 7 stages. For me personally, I was most pleased with my stage 5A result getting away with a select group and getting 13th on the stage. However, right at the back end of the race I came down with a cold so wasn't feeling 100% and ended up DNFing on the last stage. A bit of a downer to end the season on. This race although not suited to my dynamic as a rider, I took a fair few lessons from it to roll into 2019.

On that note, this is my 2018 road season finito. It's been a smooth year on the whole with only a few rough patches. I am very ready for a bit of 'down' time now before the build into next season.

I'd once again like to thank the Academy for the fantastic calendar they have provided us with. Also a big thanks has to go to Rob who has been Epic in getting me in shape and keeping me on track during the year.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Geraint's homecoming/ Welsh Champs

I'm on track, actually getting the blogs out ahead of schedule for once!

Photo by Huw Fairclough
 Last week I was fortunate enough to be involved in the Geraint Thomas 'home coming'. This was pretty special and I was super happy about being approached to be part of the day. I didn't know what to expect with regards to turn-out as I wasn't sure how knowledgeable the general public would be about Geraint's Tour de France achievements. I was blown away by the 8000 odd people that showed up in Cardiff to welcome G home. It was nice to see how widely recognised G has made the sport of cycling in both Wales and the UK. From my position, personally, it's very inspirational and shows what's possible when you put the hard yards in. This was proven even more so after riding with G a few weeks prior to the Tour when he had to diet so hard whilst training in order to get down to the weight needed to ride the Tour. He wasn't even going in as the leader then; its just crazy to see the difference now. He's definitely the highest achieving Welsh Sportsman in my opinion.
Photo by Huw Fairclough
In other news, personally, I have been doing a fair few local TT's and the local Llandow circuit race. I am happy to keep up my 100% record at Llandow this season (be it only racing here twice....). These local races are just good for the confidence and the condition ahead of the last push to the end of this season with Rydale and The Olympias Tour on the horizon.

 On the weekend I raced the welsh championships up in mid-Wales with the Time Trial on Saturday and the Road Race on Sunday. Both days featured fairly rolling courses which I enjoyed. Thanks to Will Pring, the organizer and his team, for putting on these events as they provided great racing on both days. I was happy with my performance on Saturday in the TT coming away with 4th place behind some solid TT specialists. Big well done to George Evans winning convincingly. Then Sunday proved to be an exciting Road Race with plenty of attacks and groups getting up the road. Once again I was happy with my performance. With 2 laps remaining I bridged across to the winning move with Gruff Lewis. Then helped to wear the group down on the last climb to try to play to my strengths.
Photo by Gary Main
I attacked right at the end within the last 1km only to get caught on the line and pushed down to 3rd place (it needed a photo-finish to establish who had won 2nd.......).

 All in all, I'm really happy with my race and it bodes well once again for the remainder of the season.

I shall update you once again after the last few races are finished.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Summer roundup

I appreciate it's been a little while since the last update. There has been plenty of racing including crits, time trials and a few National Road series. To start off with, after the Belgium racing we headed back up to the north east of England yet again for the Tour of the Reservoir. This was a bit of a disappointing race for me. It had been one of my targets but just didn't go to plan with 2 crashes and still carrying fatigue from Belgium. I felt a bit 'down' after this race but my morale quickly improved when Rob told us he had managed to get us a ride in Omloop Het Neiwsblad - a cobbled classic! With my legs feeling a bit more recovered I managed to get round the pounding of the cobbles and a pretty hot race in 51st place. This race was just a great experience to be a part of, even though I'm not exactly suited to cobbles...
Omloop Het Niewsblad

Next up, the team had a couple of weeks of criterium racing. I enjoyed racing these a fair bit as I just like railing corners (but not necessarily the horrible repeated kicks out of them...). My favourite crit out of these was Abergavenny. I have been racing at the annual Abergavenny Crits since my Youth days and the Town knows how to put on a fantastic Event. It's always a great atmosphere and I superseded my expectations in this Crit bagging a top 25.
Stockton Crit

Abergavenny 2010...

Abergavenny 2014.... 
 Another race that I really enjoyed over the last month was the local Llandow where I was pretty happy to take home the win. It was good to get stuck into such a short aggressive race. Then after this, it was back up to the North East yet again for a bit of a bizarre/cut short Stockton GP. It was a good race however trying to support teammate, Will in getting 13th, his best National result.

In recent weeks we've all had a good solid block of training including Time Trials. I've been very happy taking a few wins in these. It's just a good morale boost. It's also been great to be able to get some solid hours in on some great home roads to set up the last part of the season. The biggest ride of which was an epic 200+km loop including most of South Wales most iconic climbs.

I'm now looking forward to the racing in the coming weeks with Welsh champs and Rydale on the Horizon.

Finally I can't not mention this really....but a massive congratulations has to go to Geraint Thomas for a phenomenal and truly inspiring performance in winning the Tour de France...…..

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Belgium Kermesse racing

On 5 June I travelled to Belgium with Wales Racing Academy for a bit of Kermesse Racing. On the trip were six riders, DS Rob Partridge and big Sam our soigneur. We were staying in a hostel in Nokere along with 3 Australians and an American rider.

The Academy had a heavy schedule with 7 races over the 9 day trip. However, on our easy rides we had the opportunity to check out some of the cobbled bergs from Flanders such as the Kwaremont. This was pretty cool.

Kermesse races are super popular in Belgium where you can find a race practically every day.Races are usually 90-140K. The race is a set distance and number of laps over an established Course. Very often though not always the Kermesse is held on the same day as a town festival. There is usually prize money for the top 20 finishers and often special prizes awarded during certain laps known as primes.

There are so many differences racing in Belgium and they become apparent even before the start. Locals bet on these races.... Before our first race the locals wanted to know whether we were a safe bet for their money! Our odds changed during the trip as I'll explain a little more in a minute. Other differences were closed roads, no parked cars, people lining the streets in towns, techno blasting over the PA system.... Overall a good atmosphere.

The courses on the whole were as flat as you can get with 90 degree turns and also cobbles - classic Belgium. These races are fast and the riders know how to fight for their position. Average speeds of 26- 30mph are the norm. Considering that sometimes the bunch was braking to about 15mph into corners, that average is high! Also in kermesse racing if you're out of contention, you're out of the race. A race official will wave a bulk of the field off the course before the riders finish the full distance.

It's fair to say that I'm not best suited to kermesse racing being small and better suited to lumpy terrain. I needed to be a fair few kgs heavier to be more competitive. In contrast, teammate Willo took home 2 wins and a second place. This was a great feeling for the Academy to get our first win after a lot of hard work over the season. After Will's first podium the locals were not able to get such a good return on us boys! It was also good to see James get two top 10s in the process of working for Will and also getting a 2nd place in the final race. This was the icing on the cake for the team.

Personally, although not best suited to this style of race I got stuck in aggressively and managed three top 20s. It was good to take myself out of my comfort zone to work on my weaknesses. I felt like I improved race by race.

Now home in Wales, I'm looking forward to racing the Tour of the Reservoir next weekend.


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Ras

A couple of years ago I raced the Junior Tour of Ireland and really enjoyed the experience. When I saw that the Ras was on the Wales Racing Academy Calendar for 2018 I was well happy! The Ras certainly didn't disappoint....

The Ras is an eight day international Stage race around Southern Ireland. (By the way, the locals pronounce it like 'Sauce' but replacing 'S' with an 'R'..). This epic race began in 1953 and has a worldwide reputation of being a gruelling challenge in the International calendar. This year the race began in Drogheda and each day we raced to a different town or village staying in various hotels along the way. Varying from basic 3 man rooms, to some mint hotels. In Bantry I had a double room with a balcony overlooking the sea! Some of the scenery along the way was stunning too so I'm told; I just wish Id had the opportunity to admire it!

Racing for Wales Racing Academy were Sam and James Tillett, Dan Combe, Will Roberts and myself. We were supported by the A Team - Manager, Rob, Archie on spanners and Jodie our Soigneur.

It was a truly international line up with teams from Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, USA, GB and of course Ireland.

The first 2 days were flat sprint stages. However, a breakaway stayed away on the first stage with a swiss rider taking the win. This swiss rider stayed in yellow until the last stage. Stage 3 was the first GC test with 2 notable climbs in it. The swiss team were incredibly strong and controlled the race and this formed the pattern for the rest of the week. During this stage the race split and thankfully I was in the front split so moved up to 21st on GC. The next few days were undulating but controlled once again which meant each stage ended with a sprint finish. Throughout these days the lads did a brilliant job with getting in moves and protecting my GC position.

The penultimate stage was the toughest of the race. This is where I really needed to make my move to shoot myself up the GC. Early on in the stage a dangerous move went and I missed it. The lads then did a super strong chase to put me in a position to bridge across to the break. I managed to do so. This looked to be the move of the day which would stick . However,again the Swiss team split the race and brought a group of riders across to us. We had another crack up the climb to split the Group but sadly it wasn't to be...

Moving into the last stage what we thought was going to be a fairly simple day turned into a fight at the end. There was a massive turnaround of the GC standings with a Delta (Netherlands)rider snatching the overall from the Swiss by just 1 second! I ended up 13th on GC which I'm pretty happy with. I had a good crack at trying to gain a few more positions on the penultimate stage but it didn't quite pay off...

All in all I had an excellent week away with the Team. The organisation of this race was class and transfers between stages were next to nothing which made it easy going for both riders and staff. I would love to do the Ras again. I was super proud of how the lads helped me throughout the race. I'm now looking forward to travelling with the Team to Belgium in the next week or so.

I'll keep you updated.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Spring Cup Series / Team Launch

Team launch

I'm finally able to write about my 2018 team as we've now officially been launched. So to start off with, I have to give a massive thanks to our supporters/sponsors without whom our season of racing wouldn't be possible. It's probably a good idea to mention at this point who I'm actually racing for....Wales Racing Academy. We have a team of 7 riders headed up by Ex-Pro Rob Partridge, who is providing invaluable experience to aid our progression in the sport. I see this as a great stepping stone in my ambitions to become a professional bike rider. I'm already feeling the benefits of a solid and consistent winter of training under the wings of Rob. I don't like going too nerdy on numbers as its not really my style but to numerically put it, compared to May last year, I have improved my FTP (functional threshold power) by 55watts. To put it in non-numerical terms, in all ways I feel in a lot better place to get stuck into bike racing than I did last season. This brings me on to the next paragraph nicely.
Team Launch

Spring Cup Series

4 days after I returned from Australia I was on the road again. I was straight back into racing at the Cicle Classic in Rutland. This is a bit of a crazy race with many gravel sectors which makes the racing both exciting but unpredictable. In the Saturday recce I had 2 punctures and I was praying that this didn't happen during the race! I wanted to get myself up the road to try and avoid the dog fight and inevitable carnage that would unfold on the gravel sectors. Very early on in the race I attacked  and was joined by another 3 riders and thus the break was formed. It was a long and wearing day out hacking away with only 3 out of the 4 of us working. At one point we had a gap of almost 4 minutes but sadly we got caught by the bunch with 30km to go. By this point I had used up all of my coals and was running on fumes. My day was done but I took it as a bit of success getting the Academy's name out there and spending around 130km up the road.
In the Break for 130km at Cicle Classic

In the Break for 130km at Cicle Classic

In the Break for 130km at Cicle Classic

The Next race on the Calendar the following weekend was Klondike GP in Guisborough, North Yorkshire. This was a deceptively challenging course with no real flat, just up and down, little rises all day, with 2 key climbs on each lap. I rode this race a bit more conservatively than the last because it was more 'my cup of tea' with the nature of the course. To cut a long story short, with about an hours worth of racing to go, the break was caught and the front of the race ignited up the short hairpin climb of Saltburn. A group split over the top of this then continued to splinter all the way to the run in. I ended up finishing in 13th which I was pretty pleased with.

The final race in the Spring Cup series was Lincoln GP. This race is famous for its short steep cobbled climb in the run in to the finish. I was looking forward to the race but it didn't quite go to plan for me for a few reasons. Mainly I made a few tactical errors that made me use up a lot more energy than was ideal. Also my legs weren't entirely 'there' after a hard block of training in the week leading up to this. (This training was in preparation for my first big goal of the year which is the Ras in Ireland - an 8 day stage race). So in the end,
I just rolled in with the main bunch. That's racing!
Cobbles at Lincoln GP

Onwards to the Ras.....I shall keep you posted.