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A weekend of improvements

I had a slightly easier week of training this week so I was able to go into this weekend’s racing quite fresh. I spent most of this week getting back into my normal routine, after my family had left.

Saturday I had a criterium style race which was very testing. A circuit under 4km done 29 times, which was simply up a hard climb, a short period of flat terrain, then a fast descent. This was a category 123 race which ensured it would be full gas from the start, and with such a high calibre of competitors, I was happy enough to sit in and conserve my energy when possible.

From the start there were attacks, and I was just sitting in the peloton, saving my energy as much as I could. I decided to stick with a rider from the Vendée U team, since I knew he was very strong, and if I could keep up with him I would be in for a great day. As a few riders got up the road and had a growing gap, our peloton was being reduced gradually, since the pace was staying high, which made it very difficult to stay with the group, since there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to take a drink or rest. I followed the Vendée U rider for a couple of attacks, but unfortunately nothing came from it. He then attacked again, and I assumed he would be caught again, but that was the last time I saw him, as he got away with 2 other guys. This was a bit gutting to see them go because I knew I could’ve kept up with them, but unfortunately I missed the opportunity and that’s just how it is. The laps started ticking down, although it was almost demoralising to realise you still have another 12 laps to go on such an unforgiving course- a course that has been described as ‘one of the most selective courses in the region’ which is quite telling considering this region is home to some of the hardest races.

In the final few laps, I was thinking of doing an attack to get away from what was left of the peloton (the group I was in), but I wasn’t sure if anyone else had the same idea, and I didn’t want to attack on my own, I would’ve preferred to have someone to help me keep the pace up. To my luck, one of the riders in the group was on the front leading us up the climb, and he was going a bit too hard for some of the riders, and got a gap. I made a small effort to join him, and we started working well in creating a gap to the group we had just left. Although soon after we crossed the line with 3 laps to go, he stopped. I was a bit confused as to why he suddenly stopped, but this meant I had to do the last 3 laps on my own, trying to maintain the gap to the group behind me. I just had to keep up the pace and make it to the end, which I managed to do! It was such a relieving feeling to cross that line, and not having to endure any more pain on that hard course.

I ended up with 15th, which I was happy enough with. Looking at the results list, there were some very strong riders there and it was a course where there was no hiding, where strengths were shown, and weaknesses exposed. This result is a very good sign for things to come, rubbing shoulders with riders from teams I would be looking to join by the end of the season!

Sunday’s race was looking like a great opportunity- local roads, nice rolling course, and an easier field than Saturday- category 3 only. It was an average field of about 130 riders, so positioning, as usual, was important. I was staying around the front for the first 30km, looking out for any big attacks to follow, but it was all pretty average, and stayed together. I put myself on the back foot a bit about 40km in when I was having a drink and snack, and moved to the back half of the peloton, just before a technical descent where a few crashes happened. I stayed far back and took it easy on the descent to ensure I stayed upright, but this left me on the back-foot when we got out of the tricky descent. I had a clear view of the road ahead, where I saw a lot of splits happening in the peloton, and it was a long way to the front of the race. I knew I had to move through these fractured groups as quickly as possible to rejoin the front of the race again, so I begin to put some effort in to make up ground. I was able to get to the second group quite quickly, but there was about 30 seconds to the front group. I then attacked the second group and started making my way to the front group, however I got stuck in the middle a bit, and so I then waited for a few other riders to join me in chasing back to the front. Eventually, I was back on the front of the race, after 55km.

My little group rejoined the front of the race just before we hit an exposed highland right by the coast, so we were riding quite tentatively because no one wanted to put effort in, but we didn’t want to get caught by groups behind us either, so we just maintained a pace strong enough, but not difficult.

I was trying to put as little effort in as possible, and save myself for the end, where I was thinking there would be a breakaway to join. After 80km we entered the circuit where we would do 7 laps to finish. The small laps were technical and sketchy, but was a good course for a breakaway to get away, because as soon as you got a small gap, you’d be out of sight, and out of mind. I knew a breakaway would happen, so that was what I focused on.

I started feeling a bit sluggish on the circuits, and I was positioning myself towards the back of the group so that I wouldn’t have to do any extra work, however on a course such as this one, it would’ve actually even easier to be near the front, which I only thought of after the race. There were attacks happening every lap, but none of them lasted, until one which went with about 4 laps to go, and it had my team mate in. As soon as I saw that move go, I wish I went with it, because I sensed it was going to stay away, with the way they rode strong from the start. It was quite gutting that I didn’t go with the move, but I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that happens sometimes. It was great that my team mate got 2nd, and I sprinted for 7th. A very successful race for the team, as we also won the 1st team prize, which was great!

Overall it’s been a great weekend of racing, with some really good feelings and lots of positives to take from these 2 races. I’ve got some good races coming up, and many opportunities, so I simply can’t wait to do some more. Now time to get some solid training in, before 2 races this weekend, and then I’m heading back to England on Monday to do a couple of bits over there- including picking up my new bike! More to talk about next week, but I am feeling very excited to come home for a couple of days. It’s a bit of a weird feeling to think I’ll be back home but I look forward to it.

Also on another note, I spent Wednesday following Le Tour de Bretagne with Trinity Racing, which was a great day out! Really cool to see how these teams work behind the scenes, and all the graft that goes in to making sure the riders are able to relax as soon as they stop racing. Big thanks to Trinity Racing for the day out!

Full gas now this season, lots of races coming up from now until the end of the season! Feeling incredibly lucky to be spending the time here, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the following few weeks/ months!

Will be getting some photos when they come through, I’ll add them in later this week.

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