Sunday, 2 May 2010

Bedford 2-day Stage Race, day 1

Quick report on the first day of the Bedford 2-day race, pics to come later.

This year we put together a team of five Surrey League riders quite complementary to each other in ability and experience. It seems the Team Series is getting a bit more serious with every passing year, with Sarah Storey's Horizon Fitness team topping quite a solid list of contenders. With our team lacking any elite or near-pro riders, our plan was always to do our best to hang in there and well, do our best. And enjoy ourselves as always. At least this year I felt like I knew all my teammates pretty well, which made it a lot more interesting and fun.

The weather, unlike last year, was rainy, cold and windy, but also unlike last year, I managed not to fall apart completely. Our TTT this morning looked and felt quite a bit better drilled than last year, but we finished only 8th out of 17 teams, a full 2:22 behind Horizon Fitness (who finished 1:34 ahead of everyone else). The stiff headwind and lack of TTT practice couldn't have helped, but I couldn't help feel a bit disappointed and wondering if we could have done better.

With that on my mind, I went into the afternoon race feeling less than optimistic for a strong GC placing in this stage race, but kept reminding myself that I just needed to stay in the front group to mitigate the morning's results. High hopes to get in a break if I played my cards right, though with the strong winds and relatively flat course being a "big girls' race", I wondered if that would be possible. The first lap started out hard with Horizon keeping the bunch at a manageable pace: hard enough to shell the less-fit riders, not hard enough to string it out too badly. My legs felt okay, but not great. Good enough to hang in, good enough to be near the front to watch everything unfold, not good enough to make any real go of it on my own. Second lap, more of the same though with the hill and sprint primes thrown in, things were getting tougher. On the third lap, Natalie Creswick from Twickenham attacked and the bunch let her ride off to a maximum gap of about 20 seconds. After nearly a lap on her own, another rider tried to bridge across and shortly afterwards I decided to try and follow; nothing doing. Legs were just not enough for me to attack into a headwind! I was brought back, leaving two riders out there hanging. And I decided that would be the extent of my attempts to hurt myself today.

And yet, a few minutes later after a third rider had gone off to join them, I found myself in a promising position near the front of the slower-than-expected bunch as former pro Catherine Williamson from Rapha and her teammate Ang Mason took a flyer. I saw this potential six-woman break as something that could be big, so despite my previous agreement between brain and legs, I found myself flying off after them. I caught them and we began to work well towards bridging to the other three. But alas, before we could really reach them, the bunch strung out behind four Horizon riders -- they had none in our would-be group of six -- and we were all reeled in. It stayed this way for the rest of lap 4.

Then coming over the lap/finish line hill for the bell, I made the crucial error of finding myself too far back in the bunch as an attack (containing two Horizon riders) went. And to compound it, I had to take a hastily-timed bottle hand-up that nearly spit me out the back of the dwindled bunch. Luckily I got back on without a problem, but the five riders in the break were well gone, and after a few minutes of spirited chase, the rest of us more or less gave up and they were gone for good.

So the last lap was ridden in a group of 25 or so, and we lost a few of those to a bad crash during a moment of inattention once we had sat up. Coming into the final miles, a few early attacks went off the front for the finish but I managed to keep them close until the final few hundred metres up the hill when my legs finally cried out for mercy and refused to stop working. After what seemed like forever pedalling through wet cement, it was over and I had finished 13th overall. I later heard that the winning break of five consisted of Sarah, her teammate and top rider Dani King, the former pro Catherine, and one top-ranked rider each from MaxGear and Halesowen. Had I been in that break, I would have been hard-pressed to do much work without being shattered! So in that sense, I can't be disappointed with how I did; I finished about halfway in the front group behind the break, and ended up 18th in the GC at the end of the day.

Our team had a strong performance by Rachel -- who ironically rides for Rapha these days, but not in the Team Series -- as she hung on until the bell when the attack went and she dropped off the back. She caught a few other riders on her solo lap and finished well. Leona and Emily were in the next bunch and Claire came in a lap down but still in the top 2/3rds overall.

Tomorrow is the ITT, promising a 10-minute session of pain and suffering, followed by a hilly road race that probably suits me better than today's wind-fest. And hopefully my creaking old legs will let me play a bit harder!

British Cycling's report on day one is here.

Today's power numbers:


Duration: 16:49 (17:02)
Work: 223 kJ
TSS: 30 (intensity factor 1.035)
Norm Power: 243
VI: 1.1
Pw:HR: -8.73%
Pa:HR: -2.75%
Distance: 9.115 km
Elevation Gain: 150 m
Elevation Loss: 146 m
Grade: 0.1 % (5 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 481 221 watts
Heart Rate: 105 182 166 bpm
Cadence: 54 141 95 rpm
Speed: 6.8 45.9 32.6 kph

Road Race

Duration: 2:07:54
Work: 1329 kJ
TSS: 159.2 (intensity factor 0.864)
Norm Power: 203
VI: 1.17
Pw:HR: -3.15%
Pa:HR: -1.46%
Distance: 79.398 km
Elevation Gain: 586 m
Elevation Loss: 596 m
Grade: -0.0 % (-11 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 697 173 watts
Heart Rate: 114 183 159 bpm
Cadence: 39 182 100 rpm
Speed: 15.2 65.7 37.2 kph

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