Race Report – Pearl Izumi Tour Series Woking – Men’s & Women’s

 

Tom Stewart leads Madison Genesis to double success in Woking
On the evening one Pearl Izumi Tour Series Yorkshire favourite bowed out for competition, another star from the same county was firmly launched in the Series.

Pre-race the news may all have been about five-time race winner and former Champion Dean Downing making his final appearance in the Series, but post-race the talk was of 24-year-old Tom Stewart, who clinched an impressive first victory in the Series.

Madison Genesis rider Stewart was to the fore throughout, first partnering NFTO rider Adam Blythe in a two-up move before being part of the race winning break, from which he flew with teammates Tobyn Horton and Andy Tennant keeping a watching brief that would ensure team victory too.

With a handful of laps remaining Stewart went clear from the small leading group, building an advantage he’d hold until the line.

The final two laps saw Blythe and George Harper in fast pursuit, but it was too little too late, with the only consolation for the latter being second spot individually, and third on the night for his Node4 Velosure team.

Stewart’s first win was also Madison Genesis’ second individual win on the bounce, following Horton’s Canary Wharf victory, with the Guernsey rider being another, along with Tom Scully, Madison Genesis rider prominent and aggressive throughout.

Their performances and the combinations of Stewart’s win with Horton’s fourth and Tennant’s sixth gave Madison Genesis the team win, their third of this year’s Series, but with Rapha Condor JLT coming second the deficit is still 16 points.

The Pearl Izumi Tour Series heads to Jersey for its final round on Friday as a part of the Jersey Festival of Cycling, with an individual hill climb and circuit race posing a double-header challenge for teams.  With 24 points left to score, only an unlikely disaster seems to be between Rapha Condor JLT and the feat of becoming the first squad to win the Series overall twice.

NFTO’s Jon Mould did enough in Woking to wrap-up the Sprints Jersey with a round to spare, sitting on top of a 22 point lead over Kristian House, with Graham Briggs a further two points in arrears.

Briggs himself was also a winner in Woking, taking the Costa Express Fastest Lap with a 1’43.298, in what is likely to for the second year in succession have been the Series’ fastest race, with at the halfway point the race having an average speed of almost 45 kilometres per hour.

For Downing, racing for the first time in the Series as teammate to brother Russell, who made his comeback from injury in Woking, there was to be no fairytale finish at the circuit where he was victorious in 2009.

There was one final top ten finish though to round out a six year spell in The Pearl Izumi Tour Series that has made him one of the stars and most feted riders, in a Series which focusses on the team.

Five wins (Exeter and Woking in 2009, Exeter and Peterborough in 2010 and Colchester in 2011) plus the Series title with, the then, Rapha Condor Sharp team in 2011, are what Downing leaves behind, plus a legion of fans at venues impressed by his showmanship and results over the past six editions of the Series.
 
Downing follows NFTO teammate James McCallum into Pearl Izumi Tour Series retirement, as the next generation of stars begin to make their mark, led by the likes to Woking one-two Stewart and Harper.

Highlights of the Woking round of The Pearl Izumi Tour Series are on ITV4 at 8pm on Wednesday 11 June, with a repeat at 12.50pm on Thursday 12 June.  All of the highlights programmes are also available to view online and catch-up via the ITV Player.

The Pearl Izumi Tour Series
Tuesday 10 June 2014, Woking

Round Nine Team Result
1) Madison Genesis
2) Rapha Condor JLT
3) Node4 Velosure
4) NFTO Pro Cycling
5) Team Raleigh
6) Starley Primal Pro Cycling
7) Pedal Heaven Colbornes 
8) Metaltek Kuota
9) Great Britain

Round Nine Individual Result
1) Tom Stewart, GBR, Madison Genesis
2) George Harper, GBR, Node4 Velosure
3) Adam Blythe, GBR, NFTO Pro Cycling
4) Tobyn Horton, GBR, Madison Genesis
5) Graham Briggs, GBR, Rapha Condor JLT
6) Andy Tennant, GBR, Madison Genesis
7) Matthieu Boulo, FRA, Team Raleigh
8) Chris Opie, GBR, Rapha Condor JLT
9) Morgan Kniesky, FRA, Team Raleigh
10) Dean Downing, GBR, NFTO Pro Cycling

Round Nine Costa Express Fastest Lap: Graham Briggs, GBR, Rapha Condor JLT, 1’43.298
Round Nine Sprint Winner: Jon Mould, GBR, NFTO Pro Cycling

Overall Team Standings, post-Round Nine
1) Rapha Condor JLT, 106pts
2) Madison Genesis, 90pts
3) Team Raleigh, 82pts
4) NFTO Pro Cycling, 73pts
5) Node4 Velosure, 61pts
6) Metaltek Kuota, 45pts
7) Starley Primal Pro Cycling, 39pts
8) Pedal Heaven Colbornes, 38pts
9) Great Britain, 36pts

Overall Sprint Standings, post-Round Nine
1) Jon Mould, GBR, NFTO Pro Cycling, 69pts
2) Kristian House, GBR, Rapha Condor JLT, 47pts
3) Graham Briggs, GBR, Rapha Condor JLT, 45pts

 



Win for Roe seals Matrix Fitness GP Series title in Woking
Eileen Roe clinched the 2014 Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series title in style, winning the final race in Woking to head compatriot and best friend Charline Joiner at the top of the standings.

Roe outsprinted Redditch winner Amy Roberts and Grace Garner on the long drag to the Woking finish line to ensure she finished 13 points clear of Joiner at the top of the standings.
Joiner could only come in sixth, despite the best efforts of her Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International team, who worked tirelessly for her in the front group.

Roe, who has held the Series lead since her victory in Round Two in Peterborough, now moves on to the Commonwealth Games, where she will represent Team Scotland in Glasgow this Summer, alongside Joiner.

Consolation for the Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International team came in the team prize, having led the classification throughout the Series, thanks to the two victories of Katie Archibald and string of consistent placings from Joiner, Dame Sarah Storey and Gabriella Shaw.

After their first winless campaign in the Series, Matrix Fitness – Vulpine drew some consolation from taking the Sprints Jersey, with Helen Wyman winning the Sprints prize in Woking to seal victory in the classification over Archibald.

In a fast race, averaging 39 kilometres per hour, the front group was consistently whittled down until only a dozen or so riders remained.

Most notable for her aggressive riding was Tamiko Butler, riding for local Surrey squad WyndyMilla Reynolds, who enjoyed noisy partisan support in Woking, with the Combativity Award falling the way of Butler post-race.

Come the final sprint though it was Roe heading to the line first in a messy affair, as the leader caught a trailing group coming out of the final bend.  Behind Roe it was Roberts, whose second place on the night helped her into third overall in the Series, and Grace Garner, enjoying her best ever Matrix Fitness GP Series result at the circuit where elder sister Lucy has twice won.

Fourth spot on the night for Katie Curtis, who worked throughout for her Starley Primal teammate Roe, gave her fourth in the standings, with Clemence Copie fifth before Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International duo Joiner and Shaw.

Highlights of the final round of the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series will be shown as a part of The Pearl Izumi Tour Series highlights on ITV4 at 8pm on Wednesday 11 June, with a repeat on Thursday 12 June at 12.50pm.

Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series
Tuesday 10 June 2014
Round Five, Woking

Race Result
1) Eileen Roe, GBR, Starley Primal Pro Cycling
2) Amy Roberts, GBR, Wiggle Honda
3) Grace Garner, GBR, RST Racing Team
4) Katie Curtis, GBR, Starley Primal Pro Cycling
5) Clemence Copie, GBR, Team MuleBar Girl – Sigma Sport
6) Charline Joiner, GBR, Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International
7) Gabriella Shaw, GBR, Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International
8) Laura Greenhalgh, GBR, Twickenham CC
9) Lydia Boylan, GBR, Velosport – Pasta Montegrappa
10) Jo Tindley, GBR, Matrix Fitness – Vulpine

Round Five Sprint Winner: Helen Wyman, GBR, Matrix Fitness – Vulpine
Round Five Team Winner: Starley Primal Pro Cycling

Final Overall Individual Standings, post-Round Five
1) Eileen Roe, GBR, Starley Primal Pro Cycling, 104pts
2) Charline Joiner, GBR, Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International, 91pts
3) Amy Roberts, GBR, Wiggle Honda, 69pts
4) Katie Curtis, GBR, Starley Primal Pro Cycling, 69pts
5) Helen Wyman, GBR, Matrix Fitness – Vulpine, 69pts

Final Overall Sprint Standings, post-Round Five
1) Helen Wyman, GBR, Matrix Fitness – Vulpine, 30pts
2) Katie Archibald, GBR, Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International, 20pts
3) Katie Curtis, GBR, Starley Primal Pro Cycling, 18pts

Final Overall Team Standings, post-Round Five
1) Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International, 227pts
2) Matrix Fitness – Vulpine, 169pts
3) Starley Primal Pro Cycling, 136pts
4) Team MuleBar Girl – Sigma Sport, 88pts
5) Velosport – Pasta Montegrappa, 73pts
6) RST Racing Team, 64pts
7) Epic Cycles – Scott WRT, 49pts
8) WyndyMilla Reynolds, 46pts
9) GBcycles.co.uk, 3pts

The London Bike Show 2013 (Review 2)

Hopefully this will add something to the great article written by Tony here.

Last week was tough for cycling, hitting the national headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yet help was at hand with the start of the pro tour season in Australia and Argentina and perhaps even more exciting;  4 days of the London Bike Show to cheer even the most cynical of fans.

IMG_0615

Bradleys Wiggins’ Pinarello Dogma in Malliot Jaune Livery

Having never been to an event like this before, the first thing that struck me was the sheer number of people in attendance. OK, tickets included entry to three additional shows within the Excel but the exhibition centre was positively throbbing. As the glitz and glamour of Wiggo mania wanes it was heartening to see continued excitement surrounding cycle sport in general.

Kudos goes to the new Madison Genesis team, managed by ex Garmin-Cervelo rider Roger Hammond, who held their team presentation on the Saturday of the show. Hosted by the delightful Ant McCrossan it was a chance to see some of the team’s extremely youthful looking riders like Alex Peters and Brendan Townshend which have combined with elder more experienced riders like Dean Downing, Ian Bibby and Andy Tennant.

The Madison-Genesis Continental Team being presented on stage

Arguably the most interesting aspect of this team is their promotion of the Steel framed Genesis Volare bike. Equipped with a Shimano Dura Ace and Pro finishing kit, the team bike is a delight aesthetically. Extremely classical, yet with modern touches. The downtube is wider than traditional steel bikes pandering to the modern trend for oversized tubing.Indeed the team is making a big deal out of the specially developed Reynolds tubing made in Birmingham.

The prevelance of Carbon Fibre as the go to material for high end road bikes may yet be challenged and as Genesis themselves argue; they have looked to banish those 80’s misconceptions that Steel frames are heavy flexible steeds. Instead, suggesting that they have combined the durability and comfort that is usually associated with a steel frame, with the race weight and stiffness of modern bikes.

Bibby, Downing, Jack Pullar, Chris Snook and Sebastian Baylis proved the bike was no slouch when they took part in the Elite Men’s Criterium after the presentation. The speed of the peloton around the tight, twisting 500 metre indoor circuit was astonishing to watch. With Bibby coming out on top beating UK circuit regular teams likes IG-Sigma Sport and Hope Factory Racing Team it was the perfect start for the new team. The folding bicycle race was also great to watch as a prelude to the main criterium. The ‘Le Mans’ style start meant that riders had to unfold their bicycles before setting off. Keith Henderson’s huge, race winning attack on the penultimate lap was very impressive. The Animal Bike Tour with Martyn Ashton, Blake Samson, Luke Madigan and Billy Atkins was also a joy to watch. Whilst Ashton was undoubtedly superb, Billy Atkins at the age of 17 pulled off some outrageous tricks on a scooter.

Elsewhere at the show you could not move for visual delights. Cervelo, Pinarello, Willier and Specialized all in attendance. Yet what struck me in

Stealthy looking Wilier

Stealthy looking Wilier

particular was the range of bike brands on offer. Canyon, Team and Time amongst others. Canyon in particular were exhibiting a range of road and MTB frames all at varying price brackets. The Ultimate CF was a particular delight with perfect geometry and presence at a great price, along with Joaquim Rodigruez’s Giro d’Italia customised Aeroad CF lavishly decorated with pink decals to match the Maglia Rosa he spectacularly lost to Ryder Hesjedal in 2012. This spectrum of bikes although dizzyingly confusing can only be a good thing for the continuation of top end cycle sport. And with the news that Pinarello is looking to stock frames at selected Halfords stores, we are now more than ever, spoilt for choice.

Amongst other products on show, Nanoprotech was perhaps the most innovative, like nothing I’ve seen before. Whilst Sportful where exhibiting an extremely lightweight waterproof jacket. Hope continue to produce beautifully engineered bike products, contact points and accessories whilst Schwalbe’s extensive range of tyres was mind boggling. Last word goes to Clif Bar whose Builders Bar was very tasty in a variety of flavours along with their electrolyte shot in Citrus and double espresso was easy on the palette.

The London Bike Show 2013

LondonBikeShow

I was delighted to receive two tickets to the London Bike Show last weekend and rather gutted to find out I couldn’t go. As an ex-pro who still cycles every day, my Dad was of course, more than happy to pop along. Here’s Tony’s account of the bike show on Saturday…

*****
The moment I stepped off the Docklands Light Railway on Saturday morning I knew it was going to be busy.  The snow that had fallen copiously in the London area the previous day meant I had to use public transport although I have never been totally comfortable travelling on a driverless train and leaving everything to a computer.  I had assumed that the weather would keep a lot of people at home but I was so wrong.  The masses propelled me towards the entrance and looking around at my fellow visitors I couldn’t help but notice how well prepared they were for bad weather with a good selection of beanie hats, stout boots and several in what appeared to be rubberised jackets.  All was to become clear.

The queue at the entrance was at least 50 deep but moved quickly. My ticket was snatched away and I found myself inside the ExCeL centre – but oh no, the overhead banner proclaimed  “Welcome to the London Boat Show”!  My inner chimp panicked, how would I retrieve my ticket and get back out? Then I heard someone say “the Bike Show is in the hall at the end”.  Tickets gave access not only to the Bike Show but also to the Boat Show, The Outdoors Show and the Active Travel Show.

It wasn’t yet 11 a.m. but it appeared that the Bike Show was drawing in well over 25% of the visitors and so my slow shuffle down the first isle began.  The sheer volume of people attending in such bad weather is a fine testament to the popularity of cycling, however, on this occasion it did make it difficult to have a chat with stand attendants.

Even though progress was slow, what struck me straight off was the number of stands showing complete road bikes for sale.  Pinarello had the largest stand, right in the centre, displaying a wide range of complete bikes from entry level sportives at around £1,000 to their top end time trial machine coming in at £14,000.  If you can only manage £11,000 then you can pick up a nice little track number.  Boardman was also there in force at the far end, close to the Animal Bike stunt track where Martyn Ashton (four times British Bike Trial Champion) and Blake Samson were performing mind boggling acrobatics and aerial manoeuvres.

I know I’m an oldie, and call me old fashioned if you want but much of the roadie’s off season pleasure used to be gained from reviewing and selecting the various components that were to be built onto the coming season’s new frame.  Now the pressure of volume production versus price directs most of us towards pre-configured complete bikes built around a mass produced monocoque carbon fibre frame, 99% of which are manufactured from one of four or so factories in the far east using carbon fibre spun from one of three Japanese facilities, Toray, Toho Tenax and Mitsubishi Rayon.  Time and time again I asked where the vendor’s frames were produced and got the same answer.  At Canyon Bikes I asked again if their frames were made in China?  “No” the proud German lady proclaimed, I was momentarily excited – perhaps it would be Dusseldorf or Nuremburg, but alas “….ours are manufactured in Tie-van” (she meant Taiwan)!

I could only find three suppliers displaying custom carbon frames.  Sigma Sport were offering a hand built custom carbon frame from the iconic Italian Colnago house using preformed carbon lugs bonded to the tubes.  I was told Signore Colnago strongly believes this is the right way to do it.  You would need £3,000 or more to have one made to measure but I can’t help thinking that these are like giant Airfix kits – preformed pieces glued together and very quick to assemble, although I must admit the multi-stage hand paint process is fabulous.

Le Beau Velo, distributor for the Italian Fondriest brand were offering a bespoke carbon fibre ‘layup’ frame, where the joints are held together with cut-to-fit carbon fibre sheets bonded with epoxy resin rather than preformed lugs.  I was told no UK fabricator does this.  These frames are hand made in Italy and again have a price tag north of £3,000.  Their tubes are constructed from Toray carbon fibre from Japan but they claim the actual manufacturing of the tubes is performed in Italy, presumably by ATR who also supply Colnago and are one of the very few non-Asian manufacturers of monocoque frames.  Equally as strong, stiff and responsive as a carbon monocoque, Le Beau Velo’s typical custom frame customer is a gentleman of a certain standing who can afford something that looks special…that is special, whilst still young enough to ride to its full potential (or most of it anyway),  “a top end racing frame that is seldom used for racing”.

The Extra stand was also displaying carbon lugged frames manufactured by Time.  Time is a French company who obtain a lot of their revenue from contracted carbon fibre work at the Airbus aircraft factory in Toulouse.  This has enabled them to become another of the very few non-Asian manufacturers of carbon fibre weave, although their volume in comparison to the far east manufacturers is very small and the number of frames they produce is also small in comparison.

Independent steel and titanium frame builders were noticeable by their absence and I saw only a handful of non-carbon frames for the serious rider.  There was no Bamboo construction in evidence at all, which is surprising given the ‘green’ momentum these fabulous machines have been getting.  Perhaps the cost of renting a stand at the show is prohibitive to all but the largest suppliers and distributors.

One final note; I happened to be ushered by the masses out of an isle just in front of the Jaguar Performance Theatre as the newly formed professional team sponsored by Madison Genesis was being presented (video below).  First up was Dean Downing followed by 8 or 9 fresh faced professionals all hoping to be part of this year’s UCI Continental team under Roger Hammond’s stewardship.  They also announced that Genesis has been working with Reynolds to develop a new ‘953’ steel-alloy frameset.

Overall, a hugely enjoyable and educational experience, if hampered a little by the sheer volume of visitors.  I stopped on the way back to meet my wife at the newly built Westfield-Stratford shopping mall.  It was empty by comparison!

 

 

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Out of the Saddle Gets Ready for Evening With The Stars

This weekend, professional cycling brothers, Dean and Russell Downing, will host “Out of the Saddle – An Evening with the Downing Brothers” on Saturday 20th October 2012 at the Carlton Park Hotel in Rotherham.
Last year’s event saw numerous stars from the cycling world join the Downing brothers, and this year is no different. Team Sky rider Ben Swift and new teammate, as of next season Cycling Shorts very own Jon Tiernan-Locke, the overall winner of the Tour of Britain are amongst the stars.

A number of Dean Downing’s teammates from Rapha Condor Sharp will also be there on the evening, including the winner of the Tour of Britain mountains classification, Kristian House, Olympic Gold Medalist Ed Clancy and Directeur Sportif John Herety.

David Harmon, the voice of cycling, will be the MC for the night, interviewing guests as well as announcing the raffle and charity auction. All proceeds from the charity action will be going to support Brothers on Bikes (http://www.brothersonbikes.org.uk). Sam (aged 15) and Ollie (aged 14) have recently completed the John O’Groats to Land’s End ride in memory of their Uncle Malcolm, who passed away with cancer in November 2011, and will be in attendance along with their father Andy Turner.

Other professional cyclists of note include James McCallum, Graham Briggs and Pete Williams. Endura Racing team manager, Brian Smith will also be there on the night, along with Matt Stephens, former pro cyclist, now cycling television presenter.

Dean Downing said: “It’s great that our friends in the cycling world come and support our event. It makes it even better that most of them are current or ex team mates of mine and Russ’s, so I know it’s going to be a bit of a party.”

There will be a charity auction on the night with some very special prizes. Amongst the items on offer are various cycling jerseys including Jon Tiernan-Locke’s signed Tour of Britain gold overall winners jersey, Kristian House’s KOM winners jersey, Chris Froome’s signed Vuelta jersey, and Ed Clancy’s signed Olympic kit. Also up for auction is a signed Olympic photomontage of Tour de France winning Bradley Wiggins and a Jeff Banks bespoke suit. A raffle will also take place on the night, with the first prize being a pair of Festina ladies and men’s watches from Festina UK.

 

Tickets to the event are now sold out for the event itself but you can show your support by purchasing from the Out of The Saddle range at: www.outofthesaddle.org.uk

 

 

 

 

Tour de Taiwan

This is my first blog for a while and I think it comes at an appropriate time of my season. My last blog took us up to the end of our second team training camp. This point marked the end of my winter training and the beginning of my 2012 racing season. I had already spent 3-4 weeks away with my new team mates and as the start of the season drew closer, the exciting talks of racing were growing evermore common. Personally I couldn’t wait to take off the legwarmers and get stuck in.

My season started relatively quietly with a local 25 mile TT. A very cold Sunday morning in Sussex marked my first race, where I was entitled to proudly pull on my Rapha Condor Sharp skinsuit for the first time. Although the TT itself was hugely uncomfortable and not particularly quick, it felt good to lay down a definitive marker and I can now monitor my improvement as the year progresses. More importantly it meant the season had now officially started.

My first big race for the team was the UCI 2.1 classified Tour de Taiwan. But before I jetted off to the other side of the globe, I was looking to fit in a few more races to help ease the always painful transition from training to racing. I was lucky enough to be given the offer to stay up North with my team mate Rich Handley – I got to know Rich quite well after sharing a room with for the duration of our first training camp in Lanzarote. It appears I didn’t annoy him too much first time round, so he was willing to accommodate me at his home for a weekend of training and racing. Along with a few of our other team mates, we raced in the Eddie Soens Memorial and CDNW Pimbo circuit races. I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt in the season openers and picked up 6th on the Saturday and 9th on the Sunday.

Tuesday afternoon I was dropped off at Manchester Airport to meet the members of the team I was travelling to Asia with; Luke (Mellor), Andy (Tennant) and Pete (Taylor). You can always sense the disappointment of the person behind the check-in desk at the airport who has to deal with us and this time was no exception as we had quite a large entourage of baggage to stow away on the plane; 7 bike bags, 8 suitcases and 1 very lanky rider. Our flight plan would add a few more pins into the chart on my wall with the journey taking us from Manchester to Amsterdam to Bangkok and finally to Taipei.

With no apparent signs of jet lag on arrival, the few days we had before the start of the race flew by. A few short rides, lots of Starbucks coffee, birthday cake purchasing, press conferences and probably too much twitter were what filled my time. After receiving our race programme it quickly became apparent that we weren’t going to be waking up any later than 6am at any point during the race. I generally don’t have a problem with early starts and here was no different but I did find myself struggling to stay awake past 9:30 most evenings.

Stage 1 was a short, very wet 55km crit around the centre of Taipei city. The short distance, bad weather and tight corners suited my style of riding quite a lot. I was pretty nervous before the start – as John picked up on when I couldn’t stop fidgeting – as I didn’t really have any idea how I was going to compare to the highest ranked field I’d ever raced against. I was fortunate enough to be given a nice initiation into this level of racing with a fast but comfortable first stage where I picked up 4th in the bunch sprint, which was good enough for 10th on the stage. However, the following few stages weren’t as kind.

The next 3 days involved me suffering, wheel sucking and trying my best not to get dropped from the main group too early. Even after a nice first stage, in my head I knew I was going to take a bit of a kicking. Last year whilst stage racing, although I experienced some good stages I also experienced a lot of bad days where I was struggling from the start to the very end of the stage. Naturally, taking a step up from the racing I did last year I expected it to be harder, so I think not underestimating how hard it was going to be was what helped me get through those first few days. I wasn’t panicking about my performances at night and wasn’t dreading getting up for the race in the morning – quite the contrary as although I wasn’t performing as well as the rest of the team, I was still loving the racing.

After a tough 5 days and my personal goal of reaching the finish of the race nearly complete, I was given the opportunity of trying to get in the days break away. Stage 6 was my best chance, when the break was let go within the first couple of km’s. This marked for me, personally my worst day of the tour. Sitting in the bunch steadily riding along knowing I could’ve been in the break wasn’t a nice feeling and to top off a very long drawn out day, I got burnt to a crisp by the sudden heat wave shortly after the start – 35 degree sun and pale Irish skin without any suncream is a terrible combination. After the disappointment of not capitalizing on my role of getting in the early break-away on stage 6, I was determined to rectify that on stage 7 and must’ve followed over 10 attacks within the first hour but to no avail. The not too shabby average speed of 49 km/h probably had something to do with that. The end of the race was tarred with an unfortunate event. A fast technical finish looked to be the perfect end to our tour, with Deano [Dean Downing] and Ben (Grenda) both up well within the top 10 with 500m to go but some bad dangerous riding from another rider saw Ben being taken down and bouncing down the tarmac on his ass. Not a nice end to Ben’s tour, especially after his solid performances taking a 5th and a 6th.

Looking back now I am pretty satisfied that I got through the race. I loved the experience and it felt great to finally get involved in some racing after months of excitedly anticipating lining up with my new team mates. International stage racing has definitely become one of my most favourite aspects of the sport in the last few years. I relish the way the team comes together throughout the race to help each other achieve the best results possible and to get each other through the lows as well as the highs is something that I haven’t yet experienced anywhere else. Although in the Tour de Taiwan I was at times disappointed that I wasn’t able to help my team mates more, I think the experience gained there will stand be in good stead for the rest of the season.

From this moment I have quite a busy 4 weeks ahead of me. This Saturday (24th March) I’m racing for the first time since Taiwan in a short hilly circuit race in East London. I then move to my next race with the team the following Sunday – the Dengie Marsh classic premier calendar. After that I fly to Belfast for the 4 day stage race: the Tour of the North. Finally, I fly out to Holland to compete in the ZLM U23 Nations Cup event, where I will be riding my first race of 2012 for the Irish National team. A busy, but very exciting few weeks ahead and I can’t wait to get racing again.

 
 
 
 

Benidorm – Training Camp II

After the success of the previous camp, I had high expectations for our second camp of the year and it didn’t disappoint. It was my first time meeting the 3 new international additions to the team for 2012; Ben Grenda, Rich Lang and Chris Jennings. The 3 guys fitted into the team immediately – probably helped by the ‘Twitter banter’ which started before we’d even met the guys and has kept everyone entertained both at home and whilst together on camp. Our stay in Benidorm was scheduled by the boss to get us race fit, just before we kick start our racing season. The harder efforts were a bit of a shock to the system, in contrary to the laid back steady riding I had become accustomed to over the winter and whilst out in Lanzarote. This time around I wasn’t nervous about the camp, but I had a small amount of doubt at the back of my mind about how I was going to perform after training was interrupted when the UK skies decided to snow. I’m writing this now about 10,000 feet up in the air, wedged into my Ryanair seat (thankfully I’m on the shorter side so I have some leg room, unlike a few of my longer team mates), flying towards London Stansted (or knowing Ryanair, somewhere within a 50 mile radius) in preparation for our team launch at Sharp HQ. Our mechanics and soigneurs are currently driving north through Spain heading towards the French border. With our bikes being driven back home, it means each of us only has to worry about getting our suitcases and a pair of sore and heavy legs back home to the UK, sometimes easier said than done.
 
With a total of 9 training days, the camp was split up into two four day blocks with one rest day. This alone was going to make the camp harder, and with the added bonus of specific TT, hill and leadout efforts it was destined to produce; aching legs, stiff backs and tired bodies. Along with the different style of training, we had our team nutritionist Mayur over for a few days, examining our meals and checking our skinfolds – which always brings competitiveness from everybody. We’ve decided that Luke has to be removed from the competition as he puts us all to shame! The presence of an all you can eat buffet meant that Mayur was definitely necessary to keep us in shape and to make sure we were getting the most of what we were putting into our bodies. The combination of Mayur’s advice at the dinner table and the support from Science In Sport, every rider has got through the tough camp without picking up any illnesses and we’ve all seen the ever welcome improvements in our skin folds.
 
The setup in Benidorm was different to the self-catering apartments we had out in Lanzarote. We had smaller rooms with 2-3 people in each, which I think suited this type of camp a lot better. There was also the huge bonus of having free wifi in every room. Having access to wifi always make for a more relaxing stay – the ability to lie in bed, flicking about the interweb after a hard days riding is priceless. This time around I was rooming with Mr Deano Downing. I learnt a lot throughout the week just from chatting to Dean about the upcoming season, and the expectations this team has. All of the talk of racing throughout the week, has every rider on the team chomping at the bit and super excited about pinning our first set of race numbers on the back of our Rapha Condor Sharp jerseys.
 
Along with the other stuff going on, we had the Rapha film competition winner Andrew with us for the duration of the camp. He’s producing a short film of the team, which will show the ins and outs of a Rapha Condor Sharp training camp. After seeing some of the shots he’s picked up over the week, I can’t wait to the see the finished product. A few of the days involved Andrew filming out the back of the Skoda team car with the boot open, whilst we chased him down one of the particularly fast and windy descents. All good fun!
 
Training throughout the week was kept simple and we made sure we got some essential race prep work done. I won’t bore you with the specifics but as I said earlier we worked on a 4 days on, 1 day off schedule. The first 3 days were each between 90-100km, with the first day working on TT efforts, the second day working on threshold hill efforts, the third day – my favourite of the block – was leadout/sprint day and finally we ended with a steady endurance day. We each worked on our efforts individually as it was clear from the beginning of the camp that we are all different in our abilities in certain areas – as expected with our age gaps and variety of different types of riders. The steady (sometimes not so steady for me when the Aussies got to the front) endurance day took us on a nice loop around the surrounding mountains, allowing us to clock up 160km in 5:30 hours with 3000m of climbing. Each ride was always a good laugh and with a few coveted ‘Strava segment sprints’ being contested there was always a good flow of conversation between everyone – saying that I was communicating considerably less on some of the climbs… not out of choice.
 
All in all, another highly successful camp. All of us are buzzing for the start of the 2012 racing season and judging by the way a lot of the guys were riding it won’t be long until we have a few wins under our belts either.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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