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Back in contention

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, been a busy start to the month, but very successful!

First week of August was my first week where I finally put more focus on racing, and instead of training to just improve my fitness, I am now training to hold my fitness and prime myself for racing. All of June and July I have had a primary focus on training during the week, and using the weekends to race. As I mentioned in previous blogs, my fitness has plummeted since February, and I only started to pick it up again in June, so naturally I am now quite where I should be in terms of fitness, but there is nothing I can do now. I have done all the training I can do, and now I just need to race, and make the best out of a bad situation.

August is feeling like a good month, last weekend I had 3 races: one on Friday evening, one on Sunday, and Monday. Friday evening was very rough, after making a silly mistake of eating too soon before the race, it made the race very difficult to handle. After an hour I began to get stomach cramp, and it only got worse. I was doing well until 90 minutes, when I just couldn’t put any power out. I was in a good group ahead of the peloton, but I then dropped back to the peloton and took things easy.

Sunday I was hoping for a better result. It was raining, which is a bit of a rarity in August, but the rain was very welcome! If I look at my race record, I tend to perform quite well in the rain, so if that’s anything to go by, it’s a good sign.

I wasn’t feeling at all good before the race, but I just made sure I warmed up well and did good preparations. At the start of the race, I felt much better, I was able to sit on the front of the peloton and follow any moves which I thought would be dangerous. There were many breakaway attempts, I was part of a few, including a 3 man group with myself, and new team mate Bradley. We stayed out for a couple of laps but when caught, I made sure to rest up and stay safe. I was very sure a breakaway would go in the final few laps, so I prepared for that.

With 6 laps to go, I get myself towards the front, as the peloton was getting strung out, and it looked like a breakaway could be formed very soon. There was a technical bit to the course which was a very useful springboard to get up the road and create a breakaway, and I used this part of the course to get myself up the road with 5.5 laps to go. Before attacking, I noticed the peloton was just 1 long line, and it would be harder for them to catch me when they are like this. I got a reasonable gap fairly quickly, with 1 guy right behind me, we worked well together before being caught by a group of 6 with just under 4 laps to go. I looked back and saw the peloton were far behind, but not too far, so we still had to work hard to keep the peloton away.

I began to feel tired with 3 laps to go, so I started taking it easier, and did less work in the breakaway. I was wondering if I should risk it and attack in the final laps, but I just didn’t feel energetic enough. We got through the final few laps quickly, and in the final couple of kilometres, everyone eases up and is wary of everyone else. I was waiting for the sprint, but I was also looking at everyone else, seeing if they were preparing for an attack or a sprint. The final lap was so tense, everyone looking at each other. My team mate Thomas ended up attacking with 500m to go, and no one chased. Everyone stalled for a second, and that was all it took to realise the win was slipping away from them. Thomas got a gap very quickly, and had no trouble holding it to the line. That was such a nice moment. I then begin to see who’s going to sprint first, but everyone is still so tense, and no one wants to go too early. I ended up launching a sprint, but went too early, and my legs became stale in the final 100m. I ended up finishing 5th, but a very successful day by any means. It felt great that I was finally back in the pointy end of races, feeling competitive for the win. A good feeling, despite not winning, I knew it was getting closer.

Monday I had yet another circuit race, which I didn’t know much about until I turned up, and got to ride the course etc. I was feeling optimistic after yesterdays result, but I knew the field was higher than Sunday. The course was 3.7km, with 25 laps, and pretty flat.

Unfortunately I didn’t have any team mates on the roadside to hand me bottles during the race, so I had to carry a bottle in my jersey, which isn’t ideal when racing. The first few laps of this race were very hard, I was just staying in the peloton, trying to keep my heart rate down and not over work. The breakaway eventually got established after 5 laps, and things calmed down. I felt good after a few laps, once my legs were loosened up. Myself and Bradley are getting in most of the moves, and also testing the peloton. The peloton eventually always caught up with us, but would then lower the pace again, meaning more attacks would go. The pace was like a yo-yo, constantly going fast, then easing up.

In the final 10 laps, the peloton was getting strung out a bit again, and the breakaway which was up the road all race, was getting in our sights. I was desperate to close the gap to them, but I didn’t want to do all the work myself, because I would just open things up to everyone else for attacks, which would backfire on me. I’m staying close to the front of the peloton, but without doing unnecessary work. I felt like a chase group was going to form soon, so I was watching people ahead closely, and making sure I was in the right place. I turned out to be right as with 2.5 laps to go, I saw gaps happening at the front of the peloton, and I joined the front quickly as it looked like a group was forming ahead of the peloton. I turned out to be spot on, as I joined the group at the perfect time, and we got a gap ahead of the peloton. I was feeling great, I rode very smart so didn’t do anything unnecessary, which really paid off towards the end as I felt relatively fresh. While I could’ve tried going solo in the final couple of laps, I just didn’t have the confidence, and that’s one of my lessons I took away from the day. I just rolled with this chase group, as we were trying to catch the final 2 riders up front, who only had 10 seconds, but we didn’t work efficiently enough so the 2 up front stayed ahead. With half a lap to go, I tried going solo with another guy, but the chase group kept such a high pace and they caught me again. When I was caught, it was with 1km to go, so I made sure to try and stay near the front, but not too near the front, for the sprint. With 400m to go, we go round the final corner, and gear up for the sprint. I was simply positioned too far back, which was gutting because I felt so strong, and I was just being blocked behind other riders in the sprint. I finished 7th in the sprint, 9th overall, which is not at all bad, but I just felt like I had more in the tank, which is not the feeling you want after a race. You want to feel like you gave it everything. I feel like I could’ve won the sprint, but that’s racing, and it shows how important positioning is.

It’s such a nice feeling to be back in contention for the win again, feeling on good form, with good power numbers and data. Got a great few race opportunities coming up for the rest of August, really looking forward to it!

Few pictures below, from the last 2 weeks.

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