Season so far...
Back in February I flew out to France to start a training camp with my new chums at Endura Racing. It was a great way to get to know everyone, in particular our film star team mate Jack Bauer (from 24). When I arrived there was plenty of shiny new kit and bike stuff waiting for me. It all looked really smart and when I had built up my LOOK bike and donned my new Endura cycling suit if felt that I really looked the part.
But all too soon, it was time to set the ball rolling as I opened my account with a ride in Tour du Haut Var. Only a year ago, I had been riding for a local bike shop in local 2/3/4 category road races. So I was really going to hit the ground running with the stages being much longer than I’d ever ridden before and the riders much more tactically astute. I knew that the bar had been raised and I’d really have to step up to the plate just to finish the race. The race, however, didn’t go to plan. I was feeling good on the first stage and climbing comfortably in the group, but had a nasty crash in the feed when I attempted to take a musette at speed but failed miserably. Despite being a little shaken and cut to bits, I remembered that I was a Yorkshireman and manned up and got back on with the job, finishing the stage. The second day, a 200km hilly stage, proved too much after such an eventful first day and I climbed off after 150km with plenty of other riders to end my first professional race. A great experience and a lot learned.
Following this I got the chance to ride the OCBC Criterium in Singapore which was a fantastic opportunity for me and the team. The temperature was unbelievably high and I suffered for the first half hour, flapping around like a frog in a sock, trying to hold the wheel in front. The race settled slightly and I realised that the open circuit would prove too hard for a break to stay away so I conserved my energy for the last few laps. With lots of money up for grabs, the last laps were hectic but I held my position well and performed a textbook dive-bomb into the last corner to slide into the top 20. I’m not really a great sprinter but it seemed that everyone was sprinting at the same speed so I pretty much held my position to the finish, just getting pipped on the line by Haylesy for 20th.
Back home I started the usual routine of meeting the local lads from the Leeds area (Tom and Sid Barras, Jack Codsforth, Damian Sharp and Steven Warm amongst others), with the occasional guest appearance from Tom Murray. We have a good group of elite riders mixed in with some of the older generation who are always willing to share their knowledge. I think that I owe a lot to Sid & Tom Barras and Keith Lambert in particular for the advice they have given me over the last year. It has certainly played a part in my development as a rider. The group is great for keeping up morale and means that I can always get a good ride in, no matter what day of the week it is. Recently we have been putting in more structured work along with the steady miles in preparation for the crits. Oh and we always stop at a café, often the Cavendish Pavilion in Bolton Abbey as it provides good coffee and great scenery both outside and inside the café.
I haven’t raced much domestically yet, just the Tour of the Reservoir, where I was pleased to get in the winning break and get 6th overall but slightly disappointed that my legs went near the end and I was unable to help Wilko get the win. Tour Doon Hame is the other race I have done which was tough and an unlucky weekend for the team having our fair share of punctures and crashes. But I felt I was strong and gained confidence by staying in the group over the climbs on the 2nd day when there was only 20 riders left over the top.
So am I looking to draw a line under the first few races (some successful, some not) and take with me the experiences and knowledge gained. With the lion’s share of the racing still to come I am hoping to continue with my good form and really get stuck in to the meat of the season in June and July, where I am hoping to do well in the Tour Series and Elite crit Series.
Over and Out