Thursday, 24 October 2013

Spanish Racing Wrap Up

Hi everyone

That's me back from racing in Spain for this year. It has been a great experience and have really enjoyed the hard racing there.

Attacking in the Oiarzun RR, the World tour San Sebastion Classic uses this climb in the final part of the race.

After my last blog, I had a great final couple of months racing in Spain with my team, Ibaigane Opel.

For most of August I was having two or three hard road races a week which was great for keeping good form. In meant life in Zeanuri flew by and it was my most enjoyable month of racing in Spain.

From July onwards, I was amazed at the difference a few weeks made as I was climbing and beating most of the strongest riders I have been racing against over the season and also getting into the crucial moves of the races. I was regularly in the top tens and came very close to the win many times.
In the race long break in the Lemioz RR, really fast climbs.

In particular, two big races I had were the Lenhendakari 3 day Challenge and the Vuelta Valencia which I competed in last season.

The 3 day Challenge consisted of three individual road races around the Basque Country with an overall GC which I found myself fighting it out for. I felt strong and was lying 4th overall by the start of the final day. I came down with a cold and suffered through out the day but I survived and clung on to finish 6th overall.

The Vuelta Valencia was a 4 day Elite International race, with national squads from as far afield as Japan, Israel & Holland, as well as the best Spanish teams. It was an very tough race, average speeds of 27mph, long steep climbs with 17% ramps, rough roads, cross winds and the searing heat made it a wearing down process. I was really happy with my performance as I climbed well on the big mountainous stage 2 and managed to get 2nd overall GC in the U23 category.

I will go into the story in more detail in a future blog.
On the attack with 15km to go in the Geirnica RR, held on with a couple of others until  the Argentine team pulled us back with 1km and half to the line.

Sprint finish in the Escalante Road race in the region of Cantabria.

I want to thank everyone for the support and encouragement this year including my team, Ibaigane Opel. They have been very welcoming to me the past two years I have raced with them and the managers have been very kind and supportive as well. I would like to thank the Braveheart Fund for their support and to everyone who kindly donates. It has helped a big part to race abroad this season.

I'm glad I spent the year racing in Spain, I have learnt so much on and off the bike by committing myself abroad for the year. Learnt a lot more than I have any other year by far. It has gave me more experience, confidence and drive to give it my all next year.

Thanks for reading my blog this year and see you at the Braveheart ride and dinner if you are there!



More Pictures:

Winning the best team prize in Egiobar, first three across the line.

Large race long break in the Egoibar race, before we hit the last climb of the day.

Waiting at the start line


On the 2nd last climb in the Zegama race, 3rd day of the challenge, suffering with the cold but hung on for 6th overall GC.
The village of Zeanuri, at the foot of Mountains, where I lived for most of the season. Friendly community.

Local historic church, just up the hill

Team ride the day before the first stage of the Tour of Valencia

The first stage of the Vuelta Valencia started in the famous Valencia Moto GP racing circuit.

The team, the manager of the team Gartzi (left) and the president Juan Mari (right).

Blog also of the Braveheart Fund Website:

Friday, 2 August 2013

July Spanish Racing

Hi everyone

I returned to Spain after the British Champs and Beaumont GP (my blog here), to rejoin my team mates in Opel Ibaigane.

The weather here has been scorching all month, a 44 degree training ride the other day was an extreme. But the humidity in my races has been the biggest challenge, With the hot air from the south, the rivers and forests, the mixture can be an absolute killer, racing in it at times. Although now I feel I am acclimatising better.

Village roll out in the Antzuola U23 race

My first weeks were dodgy as a certain family member passed me on a stomach and kidney virus which meant I could barely eat for a whole week. I lost a bad few kilos and when I did feel better to race the next week end, it was a waste of time. The legs were so depleted I could barely ride 20 mins of the race. Difference a week makes when I felt strong doing the 90 mile Premier Calendar.

However, by mid July my appetite came back and I regained strength and my results picked up.

I was able to attack in the Soplana race which is a race I have done the past two years, and get 16th. I didn't quite have the strength for the steep uphill finish but it was a confidence booster that I could attack and climb into the lead groups.

On the attack in the Soplana RR

At the front of pack as the pace steps up in one of the many climbs in the Beasain Classic

Nearing the top of the last mountain climb of the Antzuola RR

High pace in the Soplana RR
My most recent race in Cos, Cantabria, the Trofeo Santiago, a Spanish federation elite race, proved that I am now reaching my best from of the season. I was 10th in a strong field of many top ex pros and strong teams.

I made it into a small select lead group as we climbed the second big mountain of the day reaching 700 metres (2,300ft). Team Lizarte were pressing on to get their man Dayer Quintana, younger brother of Movistar's Nairo, the win. The climbing was hot and long but the descents were just as challenging. Some of the most technical we have come across, sharp corners with plenty of mud and gravel thrown in. I got down them safely but a few of my team mates behind came off nasty down them.

On the first climb mid way through the Cos Elite race in Cantabria

The final big climb, Quintana and the leaders full gas

Flat out trying to get bridge back up to them, really warm!

On the final climb of the day, our small group disintegrated and everyone had to go their own pace.

The race started at 4pm in the afternoon, the hottest time of the day, but it got cooler as race and the terrain got tougher so you were still needing lots of bottles. The team cars were miles back behind groups of riders but luckily the commisaires gave us a few small bottles of water to keep us going. Over the top and on the descent I was with three other riders and the leading few were just up the road.

We had a short run in back into the finish in Cos however it felt like it had kept dragging on and on. There was a big chase group gathering behind so I had to press on.

Two of the elite riders broke clear and I beat the other rider in the sprint to claim a top ten. Much better result and shows good progression. Looking forward to the next race!

More pics of the Cos race here.

I will be racing here for the next two months. There is a lot of good races on at this time of year, sometimes three in a week. I also have the four day Vuelta Valencia in early September which will be good.

Thanks for reading


More pictures:

On the attack in Soplana

Flat circuits before hitting the mountains in the Cos race

Start in Soplana

Waiting to Start in Soplana


Hurting in a Hill time trial in Altzo

Training, highest mountain in the Basque Country in the distance

Back living in the village of Zeanuri

Traveling back from a race

Unpacking at team HQ in Igorre

British Championships and June

Hi everyone

My big races for over the past two months have been the British Elite & U23 Road Championships in Glasgow, the Beaumont GP Premier and then I rejoined my Spanish team mates of Opel Ibaigane to contest the mountain races of northern Spain. (Next blog for that here)

Setting off at the start

 After completing the 8 day Ras at the end of May (my blog here) I stayed in Scotland to recover and focus my training on my next goal, the British Champs in Glasgow.

Entering this years champs was a bit of unknown for me form wise. Also since the city centre circuit was very much different to what I had been used to racing in Spain, I tried to suit my training towards its short sharp accelerating nature. Having a chest infection and my allergies killing me at the time meant I felt terrible in a couple of Scottish races before it. It was good catching up and seeing friendly faces in them though. Luckily it rained over the weekend which helped me big time.

At the start line in Glasgow Green

It was great that such an important event was only 15 miles from my house and I was able to ride a traffic dodging recon of it...

A front line start made it a bit easier when the race went full pelt half a lap later. As expected, the world tour men turned the gas on and it didn't take long for riders to lose the wheel and gaps to appear.

Short but steep incline of Montrose Street

The world tour men ride away
When Cavendish, Millar and Team Sky rode away, the peleton slowed and more attacks started to get clear.

On the fourth time round through Glasgow Green, I felt strong and I attacked and rode half a lap myself till a group of 6 or 7 joined me. I wished I had gone earlier but my confidence in my ability was low and I didn't want to blow up by attacking earlier like I did the previous two years I have done the British.

But I was feeling good and pressed on with my group for most of the remainder of the race.

I attacked the peleton and rode in one of the chase groups for the rest of the race

I was still fighting it out for an U23 medal. However in the latter part of the race, my legs were cramping prematurely, a sign I hadn't fully got over my allergies and the medal slipped away.

I managed 25th, one of the last few to get a place as the world tour guys blitzed the race. Proper inspirational seeing their power and ability.

David Millar 

I really liked the course on day. Surprisingly it suited me well. It’s tough, the corners and hills meant there was not much time to recover and was a wearing down process. The support through out the circuit was immense and hearing the home crowd each lap was amazing.

A week later I did the Beaumont GP, I felt stronger and fitter. I attacked many times and made the front split over the Ryals, the main climb of the day, but the UCI teams’ control over the race meant it eventually stayed together to finish in a downhill bunch gallop where I finished 19th.

Two days later I left for Spain, here's blog for that... 

Thanks for reading


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Vuelta Bidasoa and the An Post Ras in Ireland

Hi Everyone

Here’s my story about two big races I have done recently in May. The 4 day Vuelta Bidasoa in Basque Country, Spain, which is a top U23 stage race based in Irun near the border with France. Then a week later I was racing for Scotland at the An Post Ras, the tough 8 day stage race round Ireland.

Vuelta Bidasoa

The bunch at the start of stage 3 
I was going good coming into the Vuelta Bidasoa in the first half of May. I finished the Spanish Cup Series on a good note, getting up there in the last round and climbing well.

Bidasoa is the river that forms the border between Spain and France. All the stages were in and around that area. I knew a few of the roads on the route from one day races I had done the year before. We had typical Basque Country weather, 2 days of heavy rain then 2 decent sunny days. My folks flew over to watch the race which was great, they were a bit unlucky with the weather though, but it meant I have some decent photos!

It had all the top pro/am teams in Spain and surrounding countries that competed in the Spanish Cup races and a couple of foreign teams like the Russia Squad.

It was a very mountainous race. Even the flattest stage on Day 1 had a few stinging climbs in it. It ended in a bunch sprint as I geared up to make Day 2 my day to get up there.

That stage ended up being a day of ups and downs...

Throwing of my gillet at the feed zone

I started the day climbing great and getting into a good position for the climb. It was pouring with rain and low cloud, one of those grim days. I felt good and attacked from the bunch to bridge across to six others going up main climb of the day.

We got a good gap as we hit the top but on to the descent more groups joined us till we had a big group of 40 riders. I got away a few times but didn't get the luck to stay away. Disaster struck when we went through a dark 4km tunnel where I hit big cat eye in the bunch at 35mph and lost the front instantly and down I went...

I was sliding for ages and got up before I stopped, my whole left side was ripped to shreds and I had a hole in my knee. Dropped riders and team cars were whizzing by me, nearly running me over in the near darkness!

I had still a bit of downhill before the last climb of the day and I made it back to the group. I was pretty raging from my crash and I attacked and got away from the group on the final ascent but a few teams pulled me back before reaching the summit, not wanting riders escaping.

The fast and wet run into Stage 2 finish

Plenty of pain

I went to hospital and got patched up and started the next day's stage which included the famous first Category “Jaizkibel” climb, which the pro race, the San Sebastion Classic, goes up.

Recovering from crash had taken a big bit out me, not the same power as I had the previous day. The legs didn't have it. When on the limit, the hairpin turns are a killer as there is always an acceleration or a steeper ramp at the exit of them.
I limited my losses the best I could on the big 1st cat climbs on stage 3 and 4. The latter stage had 3 of them!

On the Jaizkibel climb

Hard pace in the front group

Final climb of the Vuelta, steep and it was never ending!

It was a great race to do, savage racing on savage climbs. Me and a couple of my team mates from the race, did another race the next day to make it 5 days of racing. Another mountainous day, with laps of different climbs. I was pretty burst racing with fresh guys but hung on in there.

The race the next day, very tired.

The An Post Ras

I came home after over 2 and half months of racing in Spain to race for Scotland at the An Post Ras. It was an awesome race to do. I've never had much opportunity in the past to race for Scotland so it was great to get the call up. I have wanted the chance to race the Ras for a couple of years now. My injuries from Bidasoa were healing up well which was good. It was my first week long tour so I was in the unknown on how I would perform over 8 days.

The rest of the squad were Evan Oliphant, Ben Greenwood, Alex Coutts and Michael Nicolson. The team rode well, always at the sharp end of the race and Ben finished high up on GC. I want to thank Dave Brandie and Kenny Riddle for the great support they gave the team.

At the finish of the first stage, Dave Brandie handing out some coke. L to R: Ben, Michael, Evan, Alex and me.

We had great weather for the Ras but the road surfaces were awful, I would say even worse than the west of Scotland... Very bumpy at times and hard to get a decent rhythm. In the end you just had to power over it, takes a bit out the legs and a big change from the super smooth roads I was used to in Spain!

The first stages went well for me. After a pretty straight forward stage 1, day 2 was a brute. Over 100 miles nearing 30mph average! Quite undulating at the end as well. It was constant attacking the whole race. I made the split of the day after 120km to keep me up there in the GC, and after the end of day 3, I was still only 42 seconds down.

Up hill drag finish of stage 5

Typical bunch of the Ras, starting to get stretched out...

Unfortunately that night, I came down ill so I had to battle through the next day with a fever and sore throat, lost some time that day. It was the first time we had hit some Irish mountains roads like Moll's Gap and Healy's Pass in the south west of the country. The descent of that was a tricky one, many riders crashed out there.

The descent of Healy's Pass, very techinical..

The bunch on the first climb of stage 5.

I managed to recover from illness in the days afterwards. The legs though had their on and off days plus growing fatigue but I had a great final Stage on day 8.

I went for the win on the final stage, breaking away with Canadian National rider, Stuart Wight. We had to ride the first 20km flat out to get the gap. Brutal effort. When we had over a minute, two other riders joined us followed by one more, Azerbaijan Synergy Baku’s Christoph Schweizer.

In the front of the race with Stuart Wight, stage 8

UK Youth and the Belgium National team leading the peloton.

We worked well, getting over two minutes on the bunch. After 110km out the pack, the others had dropped away leaving it down to me and Christoph to drive it to stay away..

With less than 15km to go, on the finishing circuit at Skerries, along the coast from Dublin, UK Youth, the GC team riding for the winner Marcin Bialoblocki, and sprint team An Post Chain Reaction caught us.

It was great getting out in front in the race, the support from the side of the road when you get out there is great, even the police were encouraging us: “Keep it going on lads!!”

It was awesome riding my first Ras and longer stage racing like this. I would love to do more of this level of stage racing. 

Presentation of finishing the An Post Ras 

Good write up of the last stage here:

Good highlights of the final stage here: 

Thanks for reading


The route of the An Post Ras
Before the first stage

Irish roads in the south west

Moll's Gap Climb

Bunch on Stage 6

Bunch on stage 6

Picking up a bottle at the feed on Stage 8

Great support through the villages 

The overall GC winner, Polish rider Marcin Bialoblocki, UK Youth

Getting ready for Stage 1, Vuelta Bidasoa

Stage 1 finish in Irun

At the finish of Stage 1, fast day in the saddle.

The team riding back to the digs after the stage.