Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tour Doonhame & Update

Hi everyone

We’re well into the road season now! With the British Premier Calendar Series now kicked off. It holds my main focus for the first half of the season.

Since my last update, I had a dodgy March when a throat virus forced me to rest up for a couple of weeks. However, I managed to get myself backup to strength and fitness for the Tour Doonhame at Easter there. On the final stage I finished in the winning break for the first time at Premier Calendar level.
I was 11th in that Stage and on the GC, 41 seconds down on winner Johnny McEvoy (Endura) and joint in time with 7th place overall.

The week before was Round 1 at Dengie Marshes, which was off road in parts. It didn’t go well for me as my race ended with a mechanical.  I won a Nat B crit in Middlesburgh which was a nice and to get some points.

My crit win at Middlesburgh, top rides by the two guys with me. Great closed circuit to race on.
Tour Doonhame

This year’s Doonhame was only 2 days of racing instead of the normal 3. It was still as tough and fast as ever with all the best British domestic teams and riders competing. The traditional Girvan weather proved difficult too!

Three of my team mates joined me for this race; Kit Gilham, Andy Coupe and Jamie Shirlaw, who are all going really strong. The rest of the team were racing the Tour of the North in Northern Ireland.

As it is the home Premier Calendar race, I was looking forward to getting stuck in. I know on the flatter terrain it would be tough to compete with the tactics of the bigger teams, so I had to make sure I gave it my all on the hills.

I also wanted to better my 18th overall from last year.


Stage 1 on Sunday consisted of an 85 mile road stage from Castle Douglas to Girvan featuring the long draggy climb at Tairlaw.

It ended in a bunch sprint with 3 riders just 6 seconds up ahead, so our team were still in the running. Andy Coupe was best for us, sprinting to 15th. Endura’s Rowsell was 1st, and went into Yellow.
I was pleased that I was feeling back to my usual levels of fitness.

Winner Erik Rowsel, Endura, 6 secs on the bunch

Bunch sprinting to the finish at Victory Park Girvan

Me finishing in Bunch

Stage 2 Criterium

For Stage 2 in the afternoon, it was a 40 minute Crit race round Victory Park. The rain was hammering it down and made the racing that bit more intense.

On the start line for the afternoon's Stage 2 criterium .

I got a good start as I made sure I was right at the front, and managed to stay in the top 30 for most of the race. It was really hard to move up places because of the constant high pace but it was really easy to lose them!

I was happy that I didn't lose any time for tomorrow's big stage. Andy and Jamie finished in the pack also but Kit was unlucky with a mechanical in the last 5 laps which meant he couldn't take a lap out.

The bunch was stretched out for the whole race

Roads were slippy...

Winner Endura rider Thwaites

Stage 3

Stage 3 on Monday was the one I was looking forward to. I rode it earlier in the week. It was 107 miles and it had some hilly terrain such as the 20% climb near Talla reservoir. With the nasty weather and rough roads, it was going to be a right tough race, just the way I like it.

I was determined to achieve something today since yesterday’s stage was so controlled. I knew it would kick off on the climbs so I had to make sure I was up there.

The bunch on the Moffat Laps before the KOM.

Nothing got away on the Moffat laps and it was on the long Devil’s Beef Tub climb, around 25 miles completed, that I found myself in a really strong attack of 11 riders. It had 3 Endura riders, two each of Sigma and Raleigh, one each of Vanilla Bikes, Rapha and Node 4.

We all chain ganged it down the shallow descent and gained a minute over the pack. At 35 miles, we turned right on a single track road towards the Talla Reservoir then further on to the big climb of the day.

UK Youth missed out on the move so were driving it to get us back before the climb.They brought us back to 30 sec’s which gave the opportunity for Thwaites (Endura) to bridge across to us over the climb.

The Endura guys went tempo up the climb keeping us together. I went for KOM but just got pipped by a Raleigh rider, Sulzberger.

Me and the break at the top of 20% Talla Climb before the KOM. (Pic by VeloUK)
The bunch spliting behind (Pic by VeloUK)
We took the descent flat out. I nearly came a cropper a couple of times on the corners trying to slow down...

We opened the gap over 3 minutes once most of the hills were done. It was great being up ahead in the break.

In the run-in, with 15 miles to go, the head wind was strong and terrain was rolling. We lost a couple of riders before Langholm and Raleigh tried a couple of attacks but Endura were quick in closing them down. We worked together as we needed to keep the 2 minute gap. I was feeling strong and wanted to slip away with an Endura rider, since the finish was downhill, which isn’t ideal for me.

The Break of the day passing Megget Reservoir, around 50 mile mark.

Me in the break of 13 

5 mile to go, the attacks started again, but with 4 riders, Endura were dominant in neutralising them. There was a lull, I attacked on an uphill corner and got a gap on them, but the headwind was brutal. McEvoy bridged across to me and counter attacked immediately. I couldn’t respond and had to dig deep to get on to the rest when they blasted past me.

McEvoy stayed away to win, while the rest of the riders continued to attack each other. I let myself recover until a mile to go when I had another attack. Rowsell towed the rest back to me and we headed into Annan Sprint finish.

I finished 11th after sprinting too early; I will learn from the experience for the next race. Really happy though, to see my improvement from last year, as I finished in the winning break and felt as strong as the guys that were in it.

Winner McEvoy taking the win and the GC.

The rest of us sprinting into Annan 26 seconds back

Wet and tired!
The team rode great, getting 6th in the team rankings. Kit and the guys were getting up there in the moves. Jamie placed well in the bunch gallop, getting 16th on the last stage and Andy was 15thon Stage 1 into Girvan.

This weekend I couldn’t ride CDNW Old Hutton because I recently picked up a chest infection. So my next races are the Drummond GP, after that the Cicle Classic UCI race, then the Tour of the Reservoir Premier which I hope to get up there in.

Thanks for reading

More Pictures below

British Cycling Video Coverage of the Race: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOibhQ6nrGA&feature=relmfu

More Picures of the Race:

Me before the start of the first stage.
The bunch rolling out of Castle Douglas

Stage 1 break

The bunch working to bring it back

Start of the Crit

Bunch on the downhill section of circuit

Team mate Andy Coupe finishing

Our break on Stage 3 passing Megget Reservoir, bunch splinter groups in distance.

The front chasing group

Team mate Andy Coupe in the Rain

One of the bunch groups passing in the rain
The sprint for 2nd

The bunch finishing in Annan

Team mate Jamie Shirlaw on the right, sprinting strong to 16th, 5th in bunch sprint.

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