Portsmouth Easter Circuits

15th April 2017

A race in my hometown, comprising 30 minutes plus 3 laps at the Mountbatten Centre velodrome – it had to be done.

The sun was out, and while the commissaires were checking the track surface, I took some time to figure out the wind direction and made the usual mental notes about where attacks were likely to happen, where I’d need to shelter and noticed that there was a tailwind on the finishing straight. This was going to be fast until the bitter end.

Having signed on, it was time for the safety briefing and some unfamiliar rules.

Firstly, no bidons allowed for any races less than 50 minutes, meaning I needed to hazard a guess about how much to drink to keep me hydrated.

Secondly, Garmins or computers had to be removed or covered with tape, apparently for safety reasons as there had been a few crashes caused by riders taking their eyes off the race. I was going to have to ride this on feel, and potentially with a dry mouth.

Garmin safely taped over, it was time to get warmed up and get a feel for the track. I went round a few times, the banking wasn’t too steep, this was going to be fine as long as I could hold on…

Quite a few teams had several riders in this race, and the guys from Poole Wheelers were bossing the bunch from the outset. I sat mid pack for a few laps and decided to follow the wheels for a while.

Coming past the grandstand, two riders went up on the banking, about to drop down and launch an attack, but they only succeeded in almost taking one another out.

Conscious of the fact that I needed to stay clear of any crashes, I pushed forward and sat around 4th or 5th wheel for a couple of laps, holding on as the pace ramped up, and able to follow the next couple of attacks fairly easily.

A third attack followed and the pack was split. Struggling to hold the wheel, I dropped back and was in a second group with Nic Ullett (Royal Navy & Royal Marines CA) before we, along with another rider, were unceremoniously dropped and then subsequently lapped by the oncoming breakaway.

This was the shape of things to come and I ended up holding Nic’s wheel for several laps before offering my own for as long as I could. The pack then lapped us again, along with a small group ahead who had also been dropped.

We formed a small grupetto, but I was spent by this point and lost contact as the commissaries indicated what would be our final lap before the main pack were left to contest their last 3 laps.

Joining the 5 others at the side of the track, we watched the final laps and witnessed 2 riders have an extremely unpleasant crash as they cornered. It didn’t look good at all and an ambulance was called.

All in all, I had mixed feelings about the race. I still have some way to go as a racer, and the overall standard was a lot higher than I had expected, so I suffered and can’t really say that I enjoyed this one. I’m just thankful that I managed to stay rubber side down and it’s all good experience that I can learn from.

I’ll be back in action next weekend for the Westerley Spring Crits at Hillingdon, a 3/4 race which I’m expecting to be tough, but I can’t wait to race on a familiar circuit and see how things go!

Justin Berman

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WDMBC Specialized Crits #3, Hillingdon

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Justin pinning on his Numbers.

 

1st April 2017

My words to Josh before heading off to Hillingdon were something along the lines of not getting into a break after 3 laps and exhausting himself. I added that if I managed to last the race and could get into a decent position then I would do my best to help him get the point he needed to get up to 3rd cat.

Some of this happened.

Another Saturday and again, slightly windy conditions but a sunny day overall and no sign of the thunderstorms that had been forecast, thankfully.

 

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Photo by Nathan Bond

 

Determined to have a better race this week, I warmed up, and decided to find myself a good wheel to follow for the first couple of laps, taking note of
where I needed to be sheltered from the wind and sussing out any dodgy riders to be avoided.

A couple of laps in and I was sitting mid pack, feeling good and aware of Josh who was placed further up the pack but wasn’t showing any signs of going for a breakaway.

It was a packed field and the pace was a lot faster this week, with the peloton averaging around 40.5kmh for the majority of the race. It wasn’t particularly hard going, but some riders weren’t taking good lines around corners and one or two were moving around the pack dangerously, with a certain rider being called out repeatedly.

 

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Photo By Nathan Bond

 

There were quite a few hairy moments throughout, a touch of wheels, some close calls with the ladies’ race and a lot of shouting, so the need to remain focused was key. Riders were getting boxed in or forced into the gulleys at various points but thankfully everyone appeared to stay upright.

Passing the 25 minute mark, I was chuffed, I’d managed to better last week’s effort, had avoided any mishaps and I still felt good. Having positioned myself on the outside of the pack about 20 places back, I was able to corner well and wasn’t having to continually chase like the previous week. I was also able to react to any changes in pace, holding the wheel in front and feeling a lot more confident.

At some point I moved further up and remember riding alongside Josh, he was also on my wheel during the race for a few laps and I could see later on that he was holding a good position, no suicide missions this time, it was looking good.

 

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Photo By Nathan Bond

 

5 laps to go passed, 4 laps to go, then 3 and I was still holding on. I wasn’t in contention, but I was happy, this was a big improvement on the previous week, but as I took the first left turn with 2 laps to go, I started to feel sick, retching slightly and repeatedly. As you can imagine, this made me lose my concentration, and I was gone, dropped, chasing as the gap grew, and the elastic well and truly snapped.

The pack sped through for the final lap and shortly after, the commissaire waved me in, so it was another DNF.

I managed 53:02 of racing, covered 35.2km and averaged 40kmh (thanks Strava for rounding it down to 39.9kmh when I uploaded from my Garmin) and I’m more than happy with that for now.

 

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Sprint Finish, Photo by Nathan Bond

I watched the race come to its conclusion and it was great to see Josh in the top 10, finishing 9th and making the move up to 3rd cat as a result.

This means the end of us racing together until I’m ready to try out a 3/4 race, but it was a big result for Josh and another cracking day of racing.

I’ll be back racing in the next couple of weeks and am hoping that I see further improvement as the weeks go on!

Justin Berman

Race Results

WDMBC Specialized Crits #2, Hillingdon.

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Justin’s first race outing.

 

25/03/17

After being spurred on by Josh’s performance at Redbridge a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to pop my racing cherry. I’d read that Hillingdon was a straightforward, fast and flat circuit so I felt that would suit me.

The conditions were sunny but windy, although I didn’t notice just how windy it was until I did a couple of laps of the circuit. I made a mental note of where the wind was at its worst and took a decision to stay as sheltered as possible.

The circuit, as expected, wasn’t too technical – just a hairpin, a short, punchy lump to climb and a couple of spots where it looked like it could get congested. As I’d read somewhere, it was easy to pedal through the corners and provided I kept my wits about me, I felt confident that I would be alright.

After the briefing, we rolled out and the first couple of laps felt easy as the bunch stayed together. I found myself on the wheel of a London Dynamo rider and took the decision to stay on his wheel and shelter for a few laps.

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Justin sitting in. Photo by Nathan Bond.

This was my first experience of riding in such a big group, completely different to our regular club rides or the sportives that I’ve done, so I was pleasantly surprised to be freewheeling at 40kmh plus speeds and was still feeling good 10-15 minutes in.

It must have been around this time that Josh formed a 2 man breakaway and started to build some distance from the peloton. I did my best to move up a few places, conscious of the fact that the pace was likely increase and I didn’t want to get dropped so early into the race.

Around 25 minutes in, I found myself starting to drift back as I lost the wheel in front and now the wind felt really strong.

A rider from Gregarios had also been distanced so I glued myself to his wheel, hoping that I could shelter and get back on but it quickly became apparent that wasn’t going to happen so I dropped him and gave chase. When I looked around again, he was gone and I later discovered that he’d abandoned.

I must have chased for around 3 laps, but the gap grew and I knew that I was done for when Josh and his breakaway companion lapped me, with the pack following moments later.

I took the decision to bow out at this point and sat at the finish line to cheer on Josh. I was pleased to have made it through 35 minutes, much better than I had anticipated.

 

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Josh and Doug Heynderickx in the Break. Photo by Nathan Bond

Josh’s breakaway was eventually reeled in, a strong performance, and he sat in the pack for the remaining laps, finishing in 20th position.

All in all, I loved the experience from start to finish. Having heard a few stories, I’m pleased that it wasn’t the crashfest that I had expected it to be (with the exception of one crash in the last few laps) and I can’t wait to do it all again.

TDCC will be back at Hillingdon this coming Saturday for the final race in this series. Bring it on!

 

Justin Berman

Race Results

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Team Wagon!

 

Thanks to West Drayton for putting on a great race and to all the volunteer’s on the day.

Abellio-SFA RT Spring Crits #2

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Photo: William Dunk @wpdunk

04/03/17

With the East London Velo Winter Series drawing to a close its time to draw my attention elsewhere and gain some experience on other circuits.

This weekend saw some fast racing at the Cyclo-Park, Kent, for the 2nd round of the the Abellio-SFA RT Spring Crits.

Another good field of around 40 riders lined up on the start line of a dry, but windy track as the British Cycling Commissaire reminded us to ride safely and not to take drugs!

It was a slow start to the race as there was a a lot of new comers to the track (including myself) and didn’t know what to expect from the corners. After a few laps the pace gradually increased.

Around 5 laps in, Thomas Frost (Sunday Echappee) rode of the front of the group and I seized the opportunity to inject some pace into the race. Myself and Chris Martin (Rapha CC) bridged across to him and gained a gap on the field of around 20 metres.

Unfortunatly, the break wasn’t to last long with such an excited field chasing us, and we decided to sit up and not to waste our energy. With the pack swallowing us up within half a lap.

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Photo: William Dunk @wpdunk

For the following laps the 3 of us continued to work on the front of the group as we noticed a lot of the field were dropping away at the pace we were holding. Also noticing that you didn’t really need to brake into a lot of the corners if you were at the front of the group, and therefore not wasting energy chasing back on, like you would if you were were towards the back of the pack (its also, as you probably know, A LOT safer).

We continued to work between us until 5 laps to go when a few riders tried to break clear but nothing stuck for much longer than a few 100 metres. I had learnt from my previous mistakes and let the field do the chasing this time.

With 4 laps to go the field was down to 15 riders and there was a lot of ‘looking around’ going on.

I continued to try to sit at the front of the group and follow the wheel of Thomas as I knew he was a strong rider from previous races at Redbridge.

With half a lap to go there was a a solo attack and the pack were fast to react and real him back in. This really scattered the group up and I lost my desired wheel.

Coming into the 2 last corners, which are pretty much flat out I was at the back of the group and boxed in.

We come over the crest of the small rise and I thought it was now or never. Thomas (the eventual winner) was already way up the road and I was fighting for the minor places.

But I launched my sprint anyway and was pretty happy with the outcome! I managed to come round a few riders, right on the edge of the track. And sneak into 7th.

Leaving me with 1 point of 3rd Cat and m 3rd successive top 10 finish.

Yet again the weekend leaves me wanting more and more, but I’m continually learning the ways of racing and always excited for the next race.

Until next time,

Josh

Results

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Photo: William Dunk @wpdunk

Massive thanks to Abellio-SFA Race Club for a great event, to all the volunteers on the day and to William Dunk of Sunday Exchappee for the photos.

East London Velo: Winter Series #4

28/1/17

Another Saturday in Hell.

No that’s not fair.

Another Saturday of full on, brutal racing at the East London Velo Round 4!

This week the field was slightly bigger with 36 people starting although it felt like a lot more upon looking round at the start line. Luckily the rain held off, although the track was damp all round which made for slightly wary cornering.

 

Once again, it was a fast start right from the gun. Which I don’t really mind. It helps to break the pack up pretty quickly which means the riding tends to be slightly safer.

I wanted to improve on my positioning in the pack this week. Firstly to save energy, stopping me constantly chasing on and secondly, enabling me to be in better position in case of any attacks on the Hog.

After a few laps the field was very much still together until Benjamin Cross (RCC) attacked off the front of the pack half way up the Hog.

He got a pretty decent gap quickly and it took a full lap for the peloton to bring him back.

A few laps later it was my turn!

 

The field was rolling into The Hog fairly slowly with an Imperial Racer off the front, looking back for a someone to go with. Stupidly I decided to join him. So I made my move to catch him.

Just cresting over the Hog I had a gap on the field and the guy from Imperial on my wheel.

I was hurting at this point and breathing heavily coming down the other side. So I flicked my elbow for a bit of help. Thankfully he came through but I made a bit of a hash of the following corner and lost his wheel. Sprinting to catch on allowed a couple of riders to gain on me and just before the end of the lap it was all back together again.

Thankfully the next 4-5 laps settled down to a steady pace. I was conscious of positioning, trying to stay mid pack, just catching my breath on the wheels before the last few laps.

With 4 laps to go the rider from Imperial caught a wheel and suddenly came clattering to the ground right in front of me. I braked and swerved to left just missing his bike by what felt like millimetres. Luckily he didn’t seem to be to badly hurt as he was up and chatting to a steward on the next lap.

With 3 laps to go the pace really picked up. I was caught out at the back of the remaining 20 riders as the pack split in half.

 

7 or so riders went clear by 20 metres.

The gap didn’t really grow but it wasn’t getting any closer. I decided I needed to make the junction my self.

On the penultimate climb I attacked my group and clawed my way on the last wheel of the front pack. Luckily I didn’t bring anyone across with me. As I glanced back I saw that the group had really split up and dropped away. Leaving me in the front group with 7 other riders.

I was pretty happy at this point as I knew I would finish better than last week although my face was probably telling a different story.

I was still hurting half way round the last lap and was just clinging on for dear life. Just before we had headed up the Hog I looked to move up the group, ducking off the wheel in front I quickly realised I had nothing and decided to stay where I was, and leave it to the line.

We hit the bottom of The Hog.

This was it, time to lay it all out. Jumping out of the saddle I gave it everything I had, gained a few positions immediately at the bottom of the climb and kept to the inside of the corner. A rider moved across, sandwiching Ben and almost pushing me off the track.

I stayed strong and held my line, but Ben had to drop back putting me in 4th position! I heard him shouting behind me trying to get past. But I didn’t close and gaps. He came up fast next to me as we both went for the line. My lunge was pathetic, but Ben executed his like a seasoned track cyclist.

And that’s it, I had lost my 4th place. But what a race! If you lost a wheel than that was your day over.

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Lunge for the line

 

It was a massive improvement on last week and has given me a lot of confidence going forward.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to make the next couple of race meets, but aim to come back stronger in a few weeks time.

So until then!

Also a big thanks to Matt Ben Stone for providing the images of the day. You can check out his work here along with more pictures from the day below.

Thanks for reading!

Josh

Race Results

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East London Velo: Winter Series #3

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Photo courtesy of ELV CC

21/01/17

The racing has begun!

Round 3 of the ELV Winter Series at Redbridge Cycling Centre was the first outing for TheDomestiqueCC as a race club, but also for myself as a racer.

I used the ride from Ilford Station to Redbridge as a part of my warm up, and was growing increasingly nervous as I got closer to the start line. Not only because I didn’t know what to expect but also because of the amount of ice on the pavements. Thankfully the track is on top of a hill and is open to sunlight all day round which made out for perfect conditions to race. Be it a little cold.

After pinning on my number I headed out to the track for a couple of laps just to keep warm before I heard the sound of the whistle in which we all lined up.

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Photo courtesy of ELV CC

The field of 35 riders lined up across the start line and I felt the nervous tension in the air and just like that, we were off.

It was a fast start with a group of 4-5 riders going clear by 50 meters almost immediately.

After 2 laps sitting in the pack watching the front group slowly gain a few more meters on us. I decided to try and close the gap myself. I attacked on the right hand side of the road just before the infamous Hog Hill and managed to close the gap just over the start/finish line. After this I was hurting a fair bit and clinging on to the group and was soon to realize my attempts had been in vain as the pack closed in within the lap anyway!

Maybe I was a bit nervous in my first race and didn’t want to not be in with a chance within a lap of the race beginning. But this is something I will certainly remember in my next outing. RELAX!

Once the field was back together the race settled down.

It was a fairly high speed throughout the race averaging 36 kph. Which when ascending Hog Hill 10 or so times, can hurt!!

With 5 laps to go the speed dropped a fair bit and I thought why not test the legs and lead the pack up the Hog. And so I went again. Half way up  I looked behind me and so the group of 20 or so riders on my tail, I wasn’t pushing to hard as I wanted to make to over the line, but I certainly felt a bit of a buzz upon leading out a group of riders.

Upon cresting the climb the field once again swarmed around me and I fell back to my more familiar position at the back of the peloton catching my breath.

In the final 2 laps of the race the speed picked up a fair bit. Which dulled any chances of anyone attacking. At this point I was only clinging on.

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Photo courtesy of ELV CC

With a lap to go the I was still there! Sitting in the mix towards the rear of the peleton. We sped out of the final corner towards our final ascent of the Hog. The speed was really high at this point.

I was right at the back of the group and as soon as the road started to ramped up, I got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had left. And was surprised with my output! I went past quite a few guys on the climb and crossed the line in 12th.

For a first outing I was fairly happy with my performance. I mananged to stay in the front group and even lead them up the climb. But I certainly learnt a lot! First of all to relax a bit at the beginning of the race.

And secondly, positioning is everything!

I think If I had asserted myself in the group better and been towards the front of the group coming into the last climb I could have broke into the top 10. But hey ho, its all part of learning the ropes and is certainly a reason to race next weekend!

Massive thanks to ELV CC for putting on a great race. Look forward to seeing you next time!

Joshua Page