One hit with little wonder…

It’s a very different me who is sitting down to evaluate my 2022 cycling season. Read my personal 2021 review here.

Work, travel and things opening back up post covid 19 mean that I have attached a number to my jersey and bike only once in the whole year.

That’s still a bigger total than some campaigns when I had tiny children or was moving house. But’s its still less than both of the lockdown seasons where I at least managed to get five or six socially distanced club 10s in (see below in April 2021)

The training has been the same, if not harder and better. But the time to make it just 6 miles down the road to join up with Fenland Clarion on a Wednesday just hasn’t been there.

That might change in 2023. We will just have to see.

The positive news for this year came back in May.

Knowing that my midweek trips to Leeds would last most if not all of the midweek racing season I took the plunge and entered the ‘Rutland Border Epique’ sportive.

This is neither the time, nor the place, to debate the definition of sportive. For me though its a mass participation timed event.

So for some the time matters and, like me on the day, riders will look to get around the course as quickly as possible.

That I did, as you can see from the picture above closing in on the 100km mark.

Rutland is not terrain you can just go hard at from the first metre although I sure as hell tried. The suffering you can see above is the manifestation of that after over three and a quarter hours in the saddle.

I loved it though. It was a proper days riding in proper hills and with great riders round me pushing my level up.

I blew spectacularly on a 20% climb just after this picture was taken and coasted in (but with the 11th fastest time ;0) ) before heading home for a well earned pint of something Belgian.

I have written on my website in the past about how my riding should be best targeted. This is the chart that I keep coming back to..

Ride what you want when you want and somewhere in the middle of the mix you will find your cycling self!

So in short 2022…

Weather – Glorious

Riding – Brilliant and challenging

Competitive events- not enough but the one I did was great

Outlook – More time trials and sportives to come

Can’t wait.

“The climbs were harder than you’d think and longer than you’d hoped”…

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and after spluttering into the mic of the friendly chap on the finish line about how most Clarion clubs share the red black and yellow colour scheme, I rode away wishing I had something profound that I could have said.

Something, that after the Rutland Border Epique could drift on the strongish wind over the nearby market in Melton Mowbray to get shoppers to stop and think “he sounds clever“.

I have thought of those words and they are the post title.

Apologies that I have been so tired that it’s taken me until the following Thursday for them to come to me though.

But now the quote has formed in my mind… how apt it is.

I know Southern Rutland well especially the area near Oakham and the south shore of the lake which are regular roads for me to shred my legs on.

This event intrigued me as it started in Melton Mowbray before heading north towards Nottingham ahead of a right turn towards Belvoir castle and Grantham. The route then headed into the stiff southerly back to Oakham before a sting in the tail heading back north to the finish.

The final hour came with its challenges

After being part of a decent hard working group from the start, I hung back behind a car and a big group on the way up to Belvoir. I got back on during the descent, but there were a couple of riders missing having headed off up the road.

I formed an alliance with new riding buddy for the day Paul lasted over the lumps and bumps ahead of the feed. But that last 8kms before refreshment had me struggling and despite thinking I should stick with someone as long as possible, I urged him to go ahead and not wait for me.

Due to a bit of traffic and a motorcycle club run I managed to miss the feed and found myself pressing on towards Cottesmore and Greetham alone and with the wind really starting to punish my legs.

The sight of my wife and kids cheering me on from a layby got me back towards Oakham and then the dream scenario of a tail wind started to come to fruition.

But I guessed that the toughest climbs were to come when we arrived in Wymondham and took in the sharp steep drag past the bike shop and up towards the Colsterworth – Melton Road.

The family had made it across to that point but could see that I was fading fast with 80km in my legs (in one ride for the first time since 2016).

I plugged away on the last couple of climbs unzipping my jersey and snatching off my arm warmers. But I was literally and in the cycling sense cooked.

A couple of riders came flying past, Paul included after a sugar filled cake stop, but I wasn’t in a position to tag on to any trains.

Even the downhill back into town and the finish in Melton was now back against the wind so I just hung in and made it to the line as best I could.

My mind was scrambled and my legs like jelly. That explains my boring chat to the finish commentator, I suppose.

What I have to say is that this was a first class event. Brilliantly organised and marshalled. I saw no trouble from horse riders or motorists, some achievement with the start and finish in the centre of a busy town on market day.

I will be back in 2023 with hopefully more adequate climbing legs and a time to beat.

The raw detail and a new pb for relative effort !

Beautiful Brittany – despite the current weather

I always feel that despite being hillier than Rutland, Brittany has a lot in common with my local region.

There is an exposed coast that we dont have here, but the short punchy climbs do have plenty in common and the ribinou farm tracks sit nicely alongside those sectors of farm track we use in our own Rutland CICLE classic.

I noted in a post recently that I was in mid flow about how Tro Bro Leon, a single day classic that showcases this area and its off road culture, was the best days racing of 2021 to date.

Then the Giro went over the Strade Bianche on a chilly Tuscan day and I had to take some time to reset.

However, I am still at pains to highlight the wonderful nature of Tro Bro and talk about the fact it had a British winner in Connor Swift.

Not only were there up and down hill off road segments to race, there was windy exposed coast line and far from living up to its unofficial tag as “the Hipsters classic” the race was proving to be a hard mans classic.

Swift was joined in a breakaway by local rider Olivier Le Gac of Groupama/FDJ and they drove on through the mud and past lush green hedges to fight out the finish.

Piet Allegaert, a Belgian with Cofidis was also in the move and despite clearly being the strongest, our lad Connor launched his sprint early to make sure.

This saw off Le Gac who was out of it but as Swift threw his hands of the bars to celebrate, Allegaert threw his bike forward leading to a close photo finish.

It was a dramatic end to a brilliant race that had weather, terrain and the riders making it so enjoyable a watch.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 SWIFT ConnorTeam Arkéa Samsic2001255:18:38
2 ALLEGAERT PietCofidis, Solutions Crédits15085,,
3 PLANCKAERT BaptisteIntermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux12560,,
4 LE GAC OlivierGroupama – FDJ10050,,
5 TILLER RasmusUno-X Pro Cycling Team8545,,
6 DEGENKOLB JohnLotto Soudal70400:26
7 NAESEN OliverAG2R Citroën Team6035,,
8 WELTEN BramTeam Arkéa Samsic5030,,
9 LAPORTE ChristopheCofidis, Solutions Crédits4026,,
10 GENIETS KevinGroupama – FDJ3522,
from procyclingstats.com

We haven’t even mentioned Phillippe Gilbert attacking from the chasing group late on but not being able to make the top 10.

It’s one for my bucket list to go and watch and ride the course. I can’t wait.

Canadian pro team Rally Cycling posted this gallery which captures the mood perfectly…

Rutland CiCLE Classic joins an ever expanding list…

British Cycling has put a post out cancelling all forms of bike racing for the foreseeable future and that includes our own local “Flemish Classic” just up the road in Rutland.

I am particularly devastated as I have a long relationship with the race and its associated sportive.

So whilst I understand and accept wholeheartedly the reasons for this. I want to express my support for the organisers and hope against hope the event will be back next year.

Fingers crossed.

Elsewhere the actual Flemish classics appear lost for 2020 with Paris-Roubaix now offically postponed.

Stay safe all and speak soon.