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St Donan, and Sevignac

Last weekend I had 2 different races on Saturday and Sunday, St Donan on Saturday and Sevignac on Sunday.

I had a really positive mentality going into this weekend, with some good feelings in training and I’ve seen my form starting to come through. I know I’m getting stronger and its a really nice feeling, being able to push further for longer. The main focus I had for the weekend was just to race, and not fixate too much on winning. Racing is what I do best, and I know that.

Saturday came around and I was really excited to race! All I knew before arriving to the race was that it would be a hilly 7km circuit, which we would do 14 times. After arriving and getting to ride the course beforehand, the nerves started kicking in as it was quite a testing circuit and it was quite a high calibre of riders, being a cat 2-3 race. Positioning was important in this race because there was a mix of punchy climbs, quick descents, and false flats open in the wind. I knew the race would split up a lot so being in the front would be important so that I don’t miss the main moves of the race.

As the race got underway, I was keeping an eye out for attacks, but not chasing anything, and letting the others do all the work. After a few laps I noticed the peloton was getting really stretched out on the climbs and riders were nearly able to get a gap over the top. It was only a matter of time before a few riders would attack and stay out.

A group of about 4 escaped from the peloton, and got a gap quite quickly. They looked strong enough to stay out, and the peloton weren’t doing an efficient job in catching them, so I helped form a chase group. A small bunch of us, maybe 6-8, broke off from the peloton and worked hard to catch and join the breakaway. We gradually caught the breakaway, but after that, we stopped working well, and unfortunately a fairly big group of 20 riders joined us. So I was now in a group of about 30 riders, which would be called more of a reduced peloton. I was expecting some moves to happen and maybe a small group to go up the road, so I made sure to keep near the front. However, not much happened, and in the final laps it was looking more and more like a sprint finish. There were some moves that I went with, but nothing lasted. As we approached 2 laps to go, everyone started to become more tense and want to save energy. Over the second half of the race we were attacking so much quite a few riders got dropped, as the pace was quite high and we would be going hard up the hills.

It was inevitable a breakaway was going to be established at some point, and I was predicting after about 4 laps. I was dong everything to ensure I stayed in prime position to join any strong moves, and make sure I was at the right place for when anything happened. My predictions turned out to be correct, as I found myself working in a small group on lap 5, and we were working well in increasing a gap against the peloton. One of my old team mates, Guy Tucker, was active in helping getting our group established, however unfortunately he had a mechanical which led to him getting dropped. Although, after a few laps, Guy rejoins our group as he made a big effort in chasing us back, along with a few other riders to help him. By the time this happened, my small breakaway had eased up and allowed more riders to join my group. By this point our group was about 30 riders big, and this was around lap 8.

In the last few laps, my group of about 30 riders was quite aggressive and lots of attacks were going up the road. I got myself in a few moves but nothing came to it. The last couple of laps came around quite quickly, and we had a handful of riders now, since all the attacking had shaken off most of the rest. I was heading into the final lap with a select bunch of riders, no more than 12. In my mind I had planned out a few scenarios for the finish, one of which was the typical sprint finish with the group, another was following an attack from another rider who wants to go solo to the finish, or for myself to attack and get away from everyone else. Lots of attacks happened in the final lap, but nothing came to them. There was a technical part of the course which I thought I could use to my advantage, by carrying more speed through it, and therefore getting a gap quickly. I launched my attack in this technical part of the course, and it looked successful at first, but was unfortunately short-lived. However, at least I was able to return to the small group and prepare for the sprint, which was about 1km to go by now. I knew what I had to do, and it was actually really exciting! I was very dominant all race and well within my comfort zone, so I had good feelings going into the sprint. With 500m to go, we’re all jostling for positions and it gets quite frantic. I made the mistake of being too far back, although I was making ground on the leader- I was just a bit too late.

Rolling in for 3rd was a good feeling. My best result so far this year. I rode the race very well in terms of strategy, and also I had very good legs, so it didn’t actually feel all too hard, considering the standard. I learnt a lot this race, particularly on my finishing technique, but also understanding why I was able to ride so tactically, and ensure I was in the right place at the right time- it’s very important that I understand the positives like these, so I can replicate it for future races.

I know I was capable of the win, and it’s just reassuring to feel that strength coming in at the right time. Once I gain more experience in sprint finishes, I’m sure it will come naturally.

Now moving onto Sunday’s race.. Sevignac.

I was fortunate enough for my family to come and stay with me from Saturday night, so I’ve been spending some valuable time with them whilst out here. Sevignac was there first opportunity for them to see me race in person, which I was thrilled about! It was a fairly simple race, going round a 4.5km loop 20 times, so they would get to see me come round frequently.

I had an excited feeling for Sevignac, considering my performance on Saturday, showing I was in a good position. I didn’t quite realise how big this race was, over 180 riders! So positioning was paramount, especially on this circuit since it had fast technical parts, and was quite narrow for some of it. I made sure I was near the front for the start.

It was pretty vigorous from the get-go, with everyone wanting to be at the front, but not enough from for many to be at the front. I made sure I stayed around the top 20, which ensured I was safe. There were some early attacks but nothing really happened. However, there was a group of 6 riders which got a gap quite early in, maybe after 10-15km, and they were consistently increasing their distance from us. One of my team mates was in that group, which is always good, because this means we at least have a chance of winning if they were to stay out in front. I started to realise that they could stay out until the end, and I took my chances. I attacked the peloton and got a gap quickly, although it was far from easy to maintain speed with some open stretches of road, exposed to the wind. I looked back at some point to see one of my team mates trying to join me- I eased up a little bit to allow him to catch up so we could then work together in catching the breakaway together. Soon after my team mate (Thibaut) gets to me, we pass 2 other chasers who were trying to reach the breakaway, but got stuck in the middle. Now we have a solid group of 4, all working in sync to reach the breakaway.

After a short while, we reached the breakaway, which now had a total of 10 riders altogether. My team were in a good position, as there were 3 of us, which is great as it means one of us is more likely for the win, as we can work with each other, and not against. Once the laps are counting down to the few, our group start to think about the sprint finish. As usual, there were some riders trying to attack and make it solo, but it all came together for the final sprint. One of my team mates (Malo) told me he wasn’t feeling great, and so he knew his position would be to keep the pace strong, to make it harder for attacks to get away. Thibaut came alongside me and asked me to do a leadout for him, which I agreed. I was getting pretty excited for this sprint finish, and I started going for it quite early. I could see the line in front of me, and I felt like I was about to win for a moment! About 100m before the line, the others overtook me, and I was able to see Thibaut get the win! It was great seeing him win, and to be a part of it is a special feeling. I rolled in p6, which is not at all bad out of 180. I feel really glad to be part of such a successful team, and to play a part in that success is fantastic. It’s exciting to feel so much more able in these races, and so many positives to take away from the weekend.

This coming weekend I have 2 big races, both with some of the top dogs from around the country. On Saturday I will be competing in Noyal, a 135km road race. On Monday I will be competing in Circuit du MenĂ©, which has a TimeTrial in the morning, followed by a 137km road race in the afternoon. I’m really looking forward to competing in these big races, a great opportunity to bag some top results!

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