Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Braveheart Blog - Basque Racing


In July, I travelled over to the Basque Country to do some racing and make the most of my good form when there is not much on back in the UK. It was a brilliant trip, well worth it. I really loved the terrain, the people and the racing.

I stayed for two weeks with an U23 rider, Ander Barrenechea and his family in Galdakoa. They were very kind and generous. They took me to see two stages of the Tour in the Pyrenees which was awesome! I would like to thank them very much for everything they did and for letting me stay with them.

At the races I was riding for Ander’s team, Ibaigane Opel. The managers were really helpful, sorting out all my entries and licences I needed and during the races where they would support me for feeding etc.

I was really happy how I got on in the races especially in the two elite races I did, where I got 10th and 14th.They were fast and furious going up and down, and had a lot of strong riders from many different countries around the world.


My first Elite race was the day after my U23 race. It was a hilly 95 mile Classic in Beasaingo, on a cool, really wet day - similar to Scotland!

It was a really big event as there were lots of Elite teams from across Spain, many of them feeder teams for the professional teams like Caja Rural and Andalucia.

It was really fast from the gun, similar to a Premier calendar. After the first two climbs, the bunch was down from 150 riders to only around 40. After that, on the fourth climb, a break of 8 got away and I bridged across to it on the descent.

We worked well together and got well clear of the bunch. By the time we hit the last two climbs my legs started to struggle as everyone was attacking each other. The last one in particular was a killer.

I finished 10th, 2nd U21. Really happy considering the riders I was competing with.

The winner, Jose Belda, drives the bunch on first climb and rides away from everyone on the second - I'm in the green/blue jersey second from the right

The bunch gets decimated on the 3rd climb 

I made the break after the fourth climb and we gained a good gap from the rest

The Finish


My 2nd elite race was the following weekend on much better day. It started in Bayonne, France and finished in Pamplona, Spain which is on a high plateau.

Caja Rural, one of the best teams in Spain, dominated the race. On the main climb that goes up to 800 m altitude, there was 9 of them drilling at the front. The bunch got whittled down until there were about 40 of us left.

The last 30km were very fast as they were trying to catch a lone French elite who was a minute ahead. Surprisingly he survived to win. I finish 14th after my legs went 400 m to the line

In my two U23 races I got 16th then 8th place. They reminded me of my Junior racing as they were non stop attacking all day.

My experience in the Basque Country was brilliant. It gave me a good insight into racing abroad other than Belgium and the system of progression in the Basque country. I definitely want to go back in the future.

My next target is the last two premiers at the end of the month, Twinning PRO-AM tour and especially the Richmond GP as the course suits me well.


The publicity caravan comes past us as we wait for the riders on the Luz Ardiden

We made the most of the free jersey's as it was freezing 3km from the top!

Sanchez and Venendert are the first to arrive - the Basque fans were going mental at this point!

I messed up taking a pic of the favourites but here's George Hincapie..

Luis Leon Sanchez and Jens Voigt

Robert Gesink

The Grupetto

Me and Ander at the border on the way home

Stunning views of the Pyrenees


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Braveheart Blog - East Yorkshire Classic Premier


Sunday was the East Yorkshire Classic Premier Calendar in Beverley.

I was feeling really fit and strong as I had just come back from some brilliant racing during my trip to the Basque Country. I’ll write about that in another blog.

July’s been a great month, form and fitness wise, so much better than I was in the spring. This race was full of power climbs, a bit different from the long climbs I rode in the Basque Country.

The first 20 miles of the race was on big wide, fairly flat roads, so it suited the big guys of the bunch more. My plan was just to keep myself out of trouble until a crucial turn off at the 23 mile mark, where I had to be at least in the top 15 as it goes into single track, undulating, country roads, which is a magnet for bunch splits. I have to thank the guys in my team for their help in doing that.

Further on, the race went into the 3 hilly laps, the highlight of the race with some sticky climbs and fast, technical descents to contend with. I did my best to be in as many moves as I could. It was only a matter time before the bunch whittled down to around 30 riders with the attacking pace being set. I was in there making sure I didn’t use too much strength and energy.

During lap 2, I made it into the winning break of the day. It contained most of the strongest riders in the race. More importantly, all the top teams were represented so there was little chance of us been chased down by the bunch. There were 14 other riders with me and 3 each from the Endura, Rapha and Motorpoint teams.

Guys like Tiernan-Locke and Bibby stepped up the pace on each of the last two major hills. Everyone was suffering and on their limit. Cramp was starting to set in my legs and I was forced to pace myself on the climbs, I was dropped with a few others but we were able to chase back to the group on the descent.

The 2nd hill, the 16%
Nunburnholme climb at 70 miles, was the most severe of the whole race. As soon as we hit the climb, I knew my legs wouldn’t keep up with the top guys. 4 or 5 of us got distanced from the leading group.  I did the best to limit my losses and I pressed on as hard as I could after the summit.

I grouped up with Andy Tennant of Rapha, Gallagher of Cycle Premier and Yanto Barker of Pendragon. We held the group ahead at 30 secs for 5 or so miles but after that, the leaders went well out of sight.

We had over 4 mins over the bunch behind, but we had 30 miles of racing still to go so we had to keep ploughing on as fast as we could.

After reaching the finishing circuit, two and a half laps to go, we were starting to toil. The laps don’t look much but when you’ve been flat out for 20miles, they were a killer. The finish couldn’t come any quicker.

During the last lap, a motorbike guy came up and warned us the bunch was chasing hard about 45 secs behind us. After so much effort I had put in, no way was I letting myself be caught. I gave it everything.

By the finish, I crossed the line 3 secs ahead of the pack. Close one!

Jeremy Hunt of Team Sky comfortably won the sprint for first place and I finished 15th, 2nd U23. Completely gubbed but happy with my performance.


Video of the race: 

Link to Endura's report: