This Sunday was the Surrey League VC Revolution category 2/3 road race at the Barcombe circuit in East Sussex. Tom and I would be racing to represent RPR. After an extended break from racing and a build up in training over the past 8 weeks this was going to be my first race in a while. Tom had also been racing less in recent weeks and we were keen to get a good result.
For a few weeks before Tom and I had scoped the circuit. 60 miles, 7.5 laps of 7.5 miles, most flat or rolling terrain with a punchy 5% rise for arounf 800m up to the finish line.
Driving down to the Newick Village Hall Tom’s pre-race nutrition was typical. Haribos and a can of Coke. After signing on and fitting into the most rediculously tight skinsuits we were ready to go. It was a mild morning with fairly strong Westerly wind and mid/low air pressure. After rain the night before there were sections of damp road and with Autumn drawing in some fallen leaves to watch out for.
9:30 start time, ready to go. The neutral section up to the circuit was about a mile and a half, it was far from neutral with riders hitting it hard from the go. Once on the circuit the race was underway and we settled in, I was mid-pack Tom to the back. There was a lot of early race activity up the front with a handful of guys repeatedly attacking and trying to get away. As an example Paul Hart was very active, picking up 30 seconds on the bunch a few times in the first hour.
There were a few sketchy moments the first hour. The circuit is on very narrow roads with no markings and required careful marshalling on pinch points and corners. On two occassions the bunch approach horse riders. Being cautious and slowing to prevent any issue everybody did the best they can. The first time the horse reared and almost bolted. I think the race was neutralised and that may well be the point on the graph above where Paul and a few others had 30 seconds and were very quickly brought back.
The first few laps offered the ability to learn the circuit and become familiar with how to race them. The short rises useful to attack on, the long, flat and fast sections in the wind and the final 800m rise to the finish. Tom was way at the back throughout, enough so that early on I thought he had flatted out or something, it took me a while to spot him. I was mid pack for the first hour or so before moving up and moving to the front a few times, however not pulling turns.
After 30 miles one of Paul Hart’s attacks seemed to be sticking and over the coming 5 miles or so he gained a minute on the bunch. Tom decided after a further 5 miles it was time to go, with roughly 20 miles still to play out Tom chose the perfect moment to move up from the back to the front. Perfectly timed, the bunch sat up and a nice gap on the right meant we didn’t need to put an effort in, it just happened. Amazing. Tom picked his moment and surged off the front, at this point I was second wheel. For a few seconds I stayed on his wheel and let the gap slowly open, moving slightly to the right to block other riders view and cover anyone jumping onto Tom. Initially everyone relented and let Tom ride away leaving me on the front. This part of the section was flat so I could sit at 250w and maintain a relatively high speed as to not hedge too hard. After a while a couple of riders fired off to catch Tom. This was probably the toughest decision point. How many do you let go? The answer in this case was 2, one of which was Len from London Pheonix, a friendly face in the Surrey League. After that anyone who kicked, no matter how hard I was on their wheel. I’d sit there until they either looked back and gave up or flicked the elbow signifying my turn. When they did the later I didn’t react. There is nothing more powerful in this situation then the trusted ‘I have a teammate up the road’. No ability to call BS on me, Tom was still in view, just about. Whilst no one was firing off big attacks I would just sit on the front at a managable pace, if a rider came through I would sit 2nd wheel blocking others and then when it was my turn on the front, sit up somewhat. Not too much.
From the moment Tom went I covered a total of 11 attacks in the next 20 minutes. This signifying a kick of 750w+ followed by freewheeling or <250w soft pedalling.
Using Strava’s FlyBy feature we’ve been able to map Tom’s attack from the bunch and see that his patience and timing were almost perfect. The point where Tom attacked Paul and the others up the road had been pulled back from 60 seconds to 20 seconds, so Tom had far less distance to bridge. Paul and the breakaway signified by blue, Tom in red.
Tom took a couple of miles to catch the break and clearly had a positive effect, pulling the gap back up over the coming 5-6 miles.
Now the pre-race goal of an RPR win is firmly in Tom’s hands and based on the fact that the others have been attacking all race and been away for longer I had every faith. So what to do? Well by assisting Tom’s escape my work was done. They were far enough up the road we couldn’t catch sight of them and based on their strength combined with the lack of consolidated effort in the bunch we weren’t going to pull them back. At this point I’m still covering attacks, when at 48.8 miles Cameron Judson from Paceline RT kicked hard, as expected I was right onto him, however this time when we looked back we had 100m or so on the bunch. I told Cameron to go and away we pulled, this time when the elbow flicked I pulled a turn. Before long we were away and when Cameron came through I suggested we pull one big turn each to build the gap then settle down. He nodded. As I pulled through I sensed I had legs on him, I pulled hard and was almost riding him off the wheel, I made the decision it would be better to ride with Cameron at a slightly reduced effort then continue solo. As we approached the finishing climb I pulled through and again sensed Cameron was suffering. Right on cue he shouted that he was cramping, I decided to go and work solo for the last lap. I still felt pretty good and the bunch were out of sight by now, FlyBys shows us that Tom and the break were around 60 seconds up on us and we were a further 50 seconds on the peleton.
Now it was time to settle into my own rhythm and time trial it home for the last lap. I reset the lap counter on my garmin to get my solo power average and rode on. It was pretty enjoyable being able to hit all the apexes and slam it along the flat on my own and a nice way to gain my own result out of the race. It’s always nice to have the legs left at the end of the race and be able to perform.
Visualising the time gaps for the last lap shows that Cameron and I were around 45 seconds up on the bunch and Tom and the breakaway were a further 60 seconds ahead of us. I quite quickly picked up 10 seconds on Cameron then continued to put time into him. With around 5 miles to go I was 70 seconds down on the break, this time gap was shouted to me as I passed one of the marshals so I knew catching the break was unlikely, I was just racing my own race trying to stay away from the bunch.
I was completely unaware of how many guys were in the break with Tom but suspected I would be on for a top 10 place if I stayed away from the pack. FlyBys shows that over the next 4 miles I gained 40 seconds putting myself just 30 seconds behind the break before the final climb. I also steadily held a minute or so on the main bunch. The final 500m shows that both the break and the bunch raced the final climb to the finish much faster, both around 20 seconds faster. That makes sense as they both had riders to compete against whereas I was on my own rolling in. They must’ve ridden it pretty hard as I rode it at around 500w. Unfortunately for Cameron it looks like the bunch caught him right on the final climb. Bad luck! He’d done lots of work in the race attempting to break multiple times.
The final 20 minutes were ridden at 373w Avg / 393w NP.
Happy that I’d gauged the lap well I got to the top of the the climb to join Tom and the other successful breakaway riders happy to hear Tom took the win!
A successful day out and on the whole an enjoyable race. We’ll be back for more soon!
Distance 60 Miles
Duration 2hrs 28m
Avg Pw 285w
Normalised Pw 353w