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.
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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Cycling Shorts turns Paparazzi at the Revolution.
Words by Anna Magrath, Images by John Allen
The crowds started spilling in to the velodrome, and with just 15 minutes to go the velodrome was packed. A really excellent turnout for the first Revolution of the new year and, considering there was another major cycling event taking place on the same weekend [British Cyclo-Cross Championships], it was great to see a sell out crowd.
Tonight we’d see the Revolution debut of Luke Rowe in his new Team Sky colours and a tantalising tandem omnium between GB and the Netherlands, I think I recall a distant memory of tandems competing within a Revolution, but if it happened it was a long time ago…. it was going to be great to see them in action.
There was a slight hitch in the proceedings for Cunga as they were missing all three of their élite riders, so the pressure was on their Future Stars riders. It just so happens they have the current DHL Girls leader Emily Kay and strong riders like Adam Lewis and Emily Nelson in their ranks, but it was a tough evening for the team in their half empty pen.
Heading into the 35th Revolution the overall standings were led by Team UK Youth with 370 points followed by Maxgear racing on 341.
The yellow jerseys in the DHL Future Stars Championships were still being held by Emily Kay and Jake Ragan, Emily will win the championship now by a huge margin, she’s won every race of the season, lets see what treats tonight holds in store…
The first race of the evening was the Elite 10km Scratch Race, spread out over 40 laps of the track the riders got off to a fast but evenly paced start Luke Rowe went off the front of the pack to test everyone and was joined by a Team UK Youth rider for a while, but both decided not to persist and rejoined the peloton. With 1km to go Luke put in another attack, this time with Jon Mould of Howies, this looked more promising, but in the end Jon couldn’t match the pace so Luke was left on his own.He took victory in 11:46.581 soaking up championship points, with Marcel Kalz of CHEP rolling in in second place and Russ Downing taking 3rd for Howies.
Luc Hall And Chris Lowsley Williams of Maxgear Racing - ©Copyright John Allen/Cycling Shorts.
In the DHL boys competition there was a lot to play for. Ollie Wood was snapping at the heels of Jake Ragan in the overall standings, Ollie with 122 points and Jake on 143. Ollie showed throughout the evening that he had no intention of letting Jake out of his sight! In the DHL 5km boys Scratch race Jake led out towards the finish line but Ollie pushed on. Ollie came over the line first in 6:05.144 with Jake having to settle for 2nd and Owen James 3rd. It was a fast paced race from the start, everyone was eager to make an impression early on.
In the boys elimination scratch race Oliver Wood was the last to be eliminated witch was costly. It left Ragan and Chris Lawless to fight it out for 1st and 2nd respectively. Maybe Ollie pushed too hard in the earlier race, but elimination races are tough.
Adam Lewis got the boys points race off to a good start taking 5 points in the first sprint, Jake Ragan looked attentive to all the moves but got caught out and Chris Lawless, Owen James and Gabriel Cullaigh got away and tried to take a lap, in the end that was the order they came in with Jacob Scott taking 4th thanks to his early scoring.
All in all a very exciting night for the boys. The points have been shared around a bit and the fight will be on at the last Revolution for the championship podium. Jacob Scott and Ollie Wood are tied on 184 and Jake Ragan has 218, Chris Lawless is on 167.
Tandem Sprint Omnium
The tandem Sprint omnium got underway with the sprint flying lap. Four teams took part, two GB and two Netherlands.
Representing GB were Barney Storey & Neil Fachie and the punchy Craig MacLean with Anthony Kappes. The Dutch teams consisted of Patrick Bos & Rinne Oost and Yorick Bos & Bonnhof. The dutch riders finished in 13.535 (P Bos/Oost) and 13.898 (Y Bos/Bonnhof), but with the GB pairing of Storey & Fachie knocking nearly half a second of that time it was obvious that Maclean and Kappes who were the final pair on the track were going to grit their teeth and try to power round, and they didn’t disappoint. They came in over a second faster than the slowest pairing at 12.830 averaging 70kmph. A great start to the proceedings.
Match 1 – Both the British teams won their races against the Dutch Rabobank riders, Storey and Fachie being the fastest in 10.644.
Patrick Bos & Rinne Oost -Tandem Sprint - Revolution 35 - ©Copyright John Allen/Cycling Shorts.
Match 2 – In the second of the omnium matches we saw the GB teams up against each other – Maclean and Kappes took the win over Storey and Fachie. In the Dutch battle Patrick Bos and Oost beat their fellow countrymen.
Match 3 – Maclean & Kappes beat Patrick Bos & Oost, while Yorick Bos & Bonnhof jump Storey & Fachie but the GB team take the long way round and it pays off. The overall winners of the Tandem Sprint omnium were Craig Maclean and Anthony Kappes.
Ronnie O'Sullivan - Image ©Copyright John Allen @Cycling Shorts.
John who was with me on photography duty had been A.W.O.L. for about half an hour and turned up camera in hand, “I’ve just papped Ronnie O’Sullivan” I looked at him puzzled since I thought he’d been in the team enclosure snapping away, I didn’t think he’d quite make it down to the Crucible or the nearest snooker hall and back, but I remembered that earlier I’d told him of the delights of the Dutch pancake stand so it was feasible he’d taken a detour of some sort and got lost, after all we had just spent the past hour being teased and tormented by the visual and aromatic feast laid on for the VIP’s, their 3 course meal always gets delivered and served from the edge of the media enclosure (I’m convinced it’s done deliberately to torment us with our packed lunch style nibbles). I certainly didn’t recall Ronnie being a cyclist or a fan. “Erm… Are you sure?” I said, “Well I think so, he was a long way off but this character with a cap on caught my eye. At first glance I thought it was Dean Downing watching his brother on the track.” (this did seem a more logical conclusion). I looked up and there was Ronnie, talking to Steve Peters of Team Sky under the scoreboard! So dear readers that is Cycling Shorts first ever paparazzi moment, it will probably be the last. So thank you John!
Emily Kay & DHL Future Stars Girls - ©Copyright John Allen/CyclingShorts.
Meanwhile back on the track…
DHL Future Stars Girls Points Race 5km
The girls competition was a lot more divided than the boys, everyone was chasing Emily Kay and throughout the evening she knew she wouldn’t have allies in the peloton or in a break away but she never let that bother her, she knows when to conserve her energy and she has a strong sprint ready when she needs it, Emily is always very focused cool and calm.
The rest of the top girls were bunched quite tightly together in the championship points so 2nd place is where the competition will be.
In the points race Emily let a few points slip, Rebecca Hunt pushed for a well deserved 5 points on the 3rd sprint of the race but Emily charged back for the finishing sprint to the line. Emily 1st with 18 points, Rebecca Hunt 2nd with 8 points and Ellie Coster 3rd with 6.
In the girls scratch race Melissa Lowther left the pack early on and managed to stay away, but with just 6 laps to go they were all back together and Emily Kay pipped Ellie Coster, Rebecca Hunt and Megan Boyd to the post.
You may be tired of my repeating her name but you don’t get tired of watching her. In the girls Elimination race Kay does it again with an amazingly fast finish over Rebecca Hunt, Emily Haycox takes 3rd.
By the end of the evening Emily’s domination was obvious, she could have been on a different scoreboard. There wasn’t much separating Megan Boyd, Rebecca Hunt, Melissa Lowther and Ellie Coster, but Emily has 78 points over her nearest rival Ellie Coster. All the girls at the top of the rankings have great strength and talent and obviously have great futures ahead of them but the fight is on for the 2nd & 3rd Championship positions now.
Elite Riders Elimination Race - Revolution 35 - ©Copyright John Allen @ Cycling Shorts.
Elite 1km Madison Time Trial
The Madison was one team short (Cunga) so the remaining seven teams fought it out. All eyes were on former Madison Champion Luke Rowe with partner Andreas Muller for Sky but the CHEP UK pairing of Jon Dibben and Marcel Kalz came in with a blistering 58.422 pushing Sky into 2nd with 58.537.
Elite Team Elimination
Rapha and Maxgear Racing fought it out for the crown. It was quite an edgy race with a number of teams struggling with riders bunched at the back of the peloton dangling in the danger zone. Maxgear pushed hard and true to their name maxed a rider out in order to get the other two over the line in first place. There was quite a gap between them and the first Rapha rider across the line.
In the Australian pursuit Chris Opie of Team UK Youth put in a sterling effort from the gun but Luke Rowe fought back and took the win over Robert Bengsch and Chris Opie who started to fade towards the end got 3rd.
Points race 15km
With 6 laps to go Jon Mould of Howies was leading on 15 points with Luke Rowe on 10. Jon added to his lead and won with 25 points over Luke’s 20 after the two of them lapped the field, Marcel Kalz (CHEP) got 3rd with 8 points.
I spoke to professional cyclist and Cycling Shorts writer Tom “Minty” Murray to get his thoughts on the evening, “The atmosphere is always great at the Revolution but tonight seemed a level up, maybe it was the added excitment of those tandems, they had me on my feet watching anyway!”
“My focus now is firmly on the up coming road season, I haven’t done as much track this winter, tonight was my first time on the track since the October Revolution so as to focus more time on getting ready for the road for 2012. Next up I am away for two important training camps with the rest of the IG-Sigmasport team and away to Italy in February”.
At the end of the evening I caught up with Revolution favourite Christian Grasmann who rides on the Revolution Maxgear team and played a major role in their success during the evening particularly in the Team Elimination win where his skill and experience shone through. Maxgear are now leading the Series Championship.
Revolution 35 - Maxgear Racing lead the Championship - ©Copyright John Allen @Cycling Shorts.
Cycling Shorts: How did it go?
Christian: I really enjoyed myself tonight I love racing in the Revs. I’ve done it a lot over the years and I’m always amazed at how great cycling is doing in the UK, the hard work that’s put in by the Revolution organisers and by Team GB.
CS: How is cycling doing in Germany as a sport?
Christian: We are so far a way from this level in Germany – and I’m dreaming that this same feeling will come back to German cycling, it would be nice for both countries interest in the sport to be at the same level in public popularity at the same time. So that’s my aim to help bring this same experience to German cycling while also racing well myself. I’d like to continue to do the Revolutions in the coming years. My team Rudy Project Racing Team is now in it’s 3rd year. I try to bring the same style and experience to the spectators and supporters that the British have, but we still have a way to go!
CS: You must be pleased with the team tonight…
Christian: My Revolution team Maxgear and I could now win the overall championship so it was a great race day for us. The youngsters did a super job. For me. Revolution and racing in the UK is the biggest motivation and a reason why I love this sport so much.
Dont’ forget the Revolution highlights are on ITV4 at 7pm on Monday 9th Jan 2012
For more information on the Revolution Series and to book tickets please click here.
10km Scratch Race – Luke Rowe Team Sky
DHL Future Stars 5km Scratch Race – Boys – Ollie Wood
Revolution Tandem Sprint Omnium Round 1 – flying lap – GB Maclean & Kappes 12.830
DHL Future Stars Points Race – Girls – Emily Kay Cunga Bikes
1km Madison Time Trial – CHEP UK
DHL Future Stars Elimination – Boys – Jake Ragan Maxgear Racing
Revolution Tandem Sprint Round 2 – Match 1 – Heat 1 GB Storey & Fachie 10.644 Heat 2 NED P Bos & Oost 11.497
Team Elimination – Maxgear Racing
DHL Future Stars Scratch Race – Girls – Emily Kay
Revolution Tandem Sprint Round 2 – Match 2 – Heat 1 GB Maclean & Kappes 11.136 Heat 2 P Bos & Oost 11.211
Australian Pursuit – Luke Rowe Team Sky
DHL Future Stars Points Race – Boys – Chris Lawless Maxgear Racing
Revolution Tandem Sprint Round 2 – Match 3 – Heat 1 GB Storey/Fachie 11.683 Heat 2 GB Maclean/Kappes 11.293
Points Race – Jon Mould Howies
DHL Future Stars Elimination – Girls – Emily Kay
Revolution Tandem Sprint Round 3 – Team Sprint – GB 33.328
Overall Points Leaders after three rounds:
Team Championship Leaders – Maxgear Racing
Future Stars Girls – Emily Kay
Future Stars Boys – Jake Ragan
For full results of the 35th Revolution download the pdf here.