Racing through April

Dave Cuthill’s journey to racing glory continues as he recalls his experiences in April…

The last month has been my most active racing yet with many 2 race weeks. I have certainly been operating out of my comfort zone and even though results have not been matching my pre-season ‘dreams’ I am doing alright.

Strangely enough the month started with me learning a valuable lesson about not resting enough. After my Road Race debut (See previous blog) I decided that seeing as though I was not racing the week after I would literally blow myself apart to then come into the busy schedule flying for the Oakenclough RR 0n the 14th with a lighter week beforehand. In reality fatigue kicked in, training results were terrible and then I got ill by being run down. Lesson learnt!

10/04/19          Litherland Crit (20th out of 29)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2280303119

The 10th was my birthday so my pre-race build up consisted of visiting Knowsley Safari Park and eating lots of……..everything basically, then a mad dash home to get the bike, drop the family off and get to Litherland for round 1 of the new Cat 2/3/4 50 min race. Unsurprisingly this shambolic preparation led for a great birthday but rubbish race that saw me dropped after 10 laps. I TT’d around after that so I at least earnt the crackers and cheese supper but basically one to forget.

14/04/19    Oakenclough Cat 3/4 Road Race (30th out of 62)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2289857758

This I was looking forward to, hills I can do and the first half of each 10.5 mile lap was indeed uphill and into a headwind just for good measure. After waiting around for the ambulance to clear the remains of the earlier cat E/1/2 race we rolled out behind the lead car for the neutralised rolling start, then BOOM! The race started and immediately the attacks started, the race was blown to bits inside the 1st 5 miles. 1 group of strong riders went up the road, 1 group went backwards very quickly and me not being positioned properly was stuck in a middle group. The majority of the 3rd group was pulled out on safety grounds by the commissaire at the end of the 1st lap and the rest went at the end of lap 2 for being too far back.

I was left slightly frustrated at this stage by my group as the majority did not want to work but eventually a small group formed who would and this saved our race whilst the others were dropped and eventually pulled/dropped out. We worked together and kept a decent pace and either passed or recruited members dropping off the lead group and for 1 lap were the fastest on the road (According to the commissaire in the safety car). Unfortunately, we were too far back from main group after the initial time wasted getting organised to effect the race but we finished when half the field did not. Even though I may never see my 2 ‘mates’ again it was a great feeling of camaraderie working together.

All in all I was happy with my form as I proved fairly strong for the whole race and could now swallow gels faster than the addicts in NWV! (Thank you Scott for making me rethink the no fuel strategy, I would have been found in a ditch otherwise singing about Pink Fluffy Unicorns dancing on Rainbows!) Speaking with people at the end of the race the general feeling was if I learned how to position I would do alright going forward and I had completed one of the hardest races on the calendar.

17/04/19          Litherland Crit (18th out of 24)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2297661596

This time I managed to hang on for 14 laps after a proper warm up and eating properly. Not much to report though except I need to improve my race craft, hanging on the back of these fast lads just increases the effort required until the inevitable drop happens. My biggest achievement tonight was catching up the people who had dropped me as part of the group when I was putting a decent TT training effort in after being dropped.

19/04/19          BNECC Hilly 22 (24th out of 85)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2301341061

This was another chance to see how much I had improved from last year when I completed event in 56:46. I had a late start so the NWV support crew gave me a very enthusiastic wave on my warm up to the start as they were heading for syrup covered waffles. (With their usual pinpoint planning they managed to miss Robin and Mike as well but at least the thought was there boys!) The race itself went reasonably well for me, I managed to hold my HR at 180 bpm as planned and a cadence of 85+ rpm. I have been working on increasing my cadence since riding the 2 Up with Robin last year and am starting to feel the benefit as I can now hold a constant higher power for longer. When I got back to the HQ I was given an initial time of 54:00 so I was a little disappointed as I had absolutely emptied myself, got a dedicated TT bike and only finished 1:46 better off. On my way home I realised a mistake had been made, contacted the organisers’ and it was changed to 52:00. An improvement of nearly 4 mins had me feeling much better about life and the wrack of PB’s on my Strava was nice. On the TT’s I am climbing well but need to improve on the long flat sections to really start getting somewhere, event though my power and position have improved more work is needed.

24/04/19          Litherland Crit (15th out of 15, due to the crash)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2316280710

A different Litherland tonight as it was wet and cold but initially saw a big turnaround in my fortunes. I not only held on to the main bunch, I was right in the thick of the action and doing well. Unfortunately, 2nd to last lap I overcooked the hairpin and lost the back wheel when racing for 7th. This was very frustrating as I had been particularly good on the hairpin all night and had just got a little gap to take into the last lap that would have boded well for the sprint. On the plus side it was a massive improvement and I had managed to jump up and unsuccessfully tried to catch up meaning me and my bike escaped unscathed. This felt like somewhat of a turning point even though I was dead last. One comment from my fellow racers also made me smile, “You looked like you were circling the plug hole with a bike attached to your feet!”

28/04/19          Fibrax Wrexham RC Horseshoe Pass Mountain TT (24th out of 47)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2324959456

My entry into this was met with some surprise by Robin and Scott, Robin in particular with his “Are you mad?” This race was very tough, starting from slightly lower down than the Britannia Inn this was straight up the ‘Shoe’, over to and down the Nant Y Garth towards Corwen before heading back to Llandegla and back up the ‘Shoe’ to finish at the cafe. In reality this means 32 miles of pain. I actually climbed well with 12th best time up the main climb on the day and descended bravely but was slightly apprehensive on the wet roads after sliding on Wednesday, next time the Nant Y Garth is being given full gas all the way! Never having done this long a TT (or this hilly) I was not completely sure how to pace this and also next time I will probably race with pockets so I can neck a few gels. Again, the flatter rolling sections of the course were where I lost time. This is not lack of effort as HR shows but I need to find power from somewhere, possibly just more riding in the TT position. Next year I want to improve on my 1:35:20 (I was quicker than my official time as I got to the start late like a T*T!) but will have some practice runs on what is actually a really nice route. Afterwards I said this was one of the hardest things I have done on a bike, but I am keen to do again and not sure it was as hard as the Oakenclough in hindsight. What I definitely do know is I need a different saddle!

02/05/19          Halton 10 (10th out of 44)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2336938188

Still feeling the effects of the Shoe TT, I gave Litherland a miss to allow another day of recovery and did the Hatton TT hosted by Runcorn CC and Frodsham Wheelers with Mike Stanley. This was a great little course with some technical parts that made it interesting. Apart from being a bit too brave (Stupid) on the first corner and nearly ending up in a forest I had a good run to finish 10th with a time of 23:55 and HR 183 bpm to prove I left it all out there. Anyone thinking of giving TT a go should have a go on this event, a well organised and enjoyable night. Special mention to Dougie Turndodger for a very impressive debut even though the upstart beat me!

05/05/19          Aughton Road Race (33rd out of 42)

https://www.strava.com/activities/2343507048

This race saw me completing 8 laps of a 6.3 mile course above the Lune Valley, a simply stunning part of the world. Leading up to the race I was still struggling with a hamstring injury so was feeling very apprehensive as even walking was causing me pain. After much stretching Friday/Saturday I decided to dose up on painkillers and hope for the best, I have a week off racing afterwards so can deal with the consequences then. 7:00am Sunday, car was loaded, both breakfasts consumed, and I was off.

Signed and numbered up I decided a lap recce and few sprints were more worthwhile than the turbo before the rider briefing and the views alone where vindication of this. The recce of a slightly hillier course than I was expecting also had me thinking ‘What am I doing?!’ with Oakenclough still fresh in the mind! Having learnt a little about position I got straight behind the lead car for the neutralised start and despite the drivers’ best efforts we set off safely.

From the off I felt much better in this race, the pace was high but even though I was working hard on the flats I felt alright and as soon as it kicked up, I naturally started to move up. My pre-race apprehension dissipated until shooting pains started down the hamstring. This had me thinking I might pull out after lap 1 but like a hero I pushed through (Mainly as it was a 90 min drive to get there) and amazingly the pain went completely after me really kicking up a hill in a last ditch effort to test it! Pain free and feeling like I belonged I got more aggressive and tried a few attacks and followed any that went off the front when I needed. My ‘attacks’ really only succeeded in tiring me out, but one had potential when I bridged a break. I got over but then sat up as no one else looked interesting in going on, in hindsight I could and should have gone again but caution got the better of me. With how I felt even if it had failed, I would have been able to recover in the bunch.

The rest of the race was pretty straightforward with all moves covered until one slipped away on the 45 mph descent of the 2nd to last lap. I had chased another break straight before and missed the one that stuck annoyingly. Even though I missed it I was starting to read the race a little more. Eventually, I rolled over the line at the back of the main bunch after attacking too early on the last lap (I got my hills mixed up) but it was a good if mistimed move that if done 2 hills later would have had me finishing much higher than my eventual 33rd. 33rd sounds rubbish but when it was obvious I had blown my chance of top 10 I sat up in the last 50m to stay safe and with better timing I would have been properly up there. The legs were definitely up to the job if the brain is somewhat lagging behind!

Overall, I am pretty happy with how my racing is going, alright the results do not look great written down but I feel I am definitely moving forward and am really enjoying the TT’s and Road Races. Road Races in particular feel like a proper event so I will be looking to do as many as possible the next few years, I might even be able to string a complete race together in that time so that podium better watch out!

TT’s I have to find more power on the long drags to catch ‘Robin and the Hitters’ but the great thing here is it is as much competing against myself so there is always something to aim for.

The new format at Litherland is not helping my results in the Crits as it is generally a Cat 2 race, the lads racing have a lot of racing under their belts and are very strong. I may have a decision to make of whether saving £15 a week and fitting another training ride in is better than racing or even TT instead each week. I will see how I feel as the season progresses, but it has also made me realise I need to work harder/smarter to get to be a true Cat 2 whilst still ensuring it stays enjoyable as that is the real reason we all ride the bike!

Anyway, today I got an email from Barnsley Road Club asking all competitors if they are fit enough to ride their race in the Holme Valley in 2 weeks’ time that I have entered, guess that will be another easy one for me if I make the field!

Stay safe, tarmac down and get those miles in!

Dave

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