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Ras De Cymru Stage Race: Return of your Average 3rd Cat

ToksToks Posts: 1,143
Background Info
Ok so back in Feb/March this year Paul Richards (Mosquito Bikes) asked if I fancied doing a five day, 6 stage Road Race in Wales. I must have said yes at some point but to be honest I can’t remember. So Team Han was formed. Adr Rocco (Rapha Condor), Phil Murrell (Finsbury Park), Paul Richards (Mosquito Bikes) and of course me, Toks Adesanya, (Addiscombe CC). So that was it. A four man team of fair- middling 3rd cat racers in a 2, 3, 4, Women and Juniors stage race. None of us were pulling up any branches race result wise so it was gonna be interesting but hopefully not embarrassing.

Stage 1 (Prologue: Llangybi-Llanhennock)

Description: a 4.3 mile rolling course ending at the top of nasty 8-10% kilometre climb.

So Team Han: Paul.R (Mosquito Bikes), Phil. M (Finsbury Park), (Adri (Rapha Condor, and me - Toks. A. (Addiscombe.CC) got going at around 3.45pm and like most TT’s we were separated by one minute intervals.
I wasn't particularly psyched about this short TT effort (11-14mins with ya tongue hanging out) but nevertheless was full of nervous energy. I kept telling myself not to go too hard at the beginning so of course that’s exactly what I did. It wasn't helped by the fact you rolled down a short descent then came up a short draggy bit which immediately had the heart panicking to match the oxygen requirement from my legs.

With a minute gone I quickly realised I'd pushed things too hard and but trying to control the effort was proving to be futile. Yes despite a fairly aerodynamic position on my road bike I was puffing and panting like a 50 a day smoker. 2 mile in I had other worries. The dark clouds that had loomed all afternoon couldn’t contain themselves any longer and in full on power-shower mode came down the rain. Oh and just to spice thing up a bit more, lots of painful hailstones. I couldn't see at one point so panicked a bit; a slight loss of balance due to the swirling wind and the fact my wrists were on the bar tops and I was nearly a goner.

I reached the turn off for climb suffering slightly and quickly found on the climb my rhythm wasn't what it should be. The night before during a recon myself and Adri had attacked the climb and felt pretty good ‘big ringing it’ to the top. During the actual event things weren't the same. Regardless I arrived at the finishing point in a disappointing 13.04. Not having all the TT kit made things a little harder, sure; but coming 57th out of 66 riders certainly wasn't good for my morale. Phil came in 20 secs ahead of me, Adri a few secs behind and Paul about a minute behind me.

Stage 2 AM (Abergavenny-Raglan-Usk…Abergavenny)

Description: 53miles; censored Hilly


We rolled out from Abergavenny Tennis club for a short Neutralised section and Stuart Stanton the race commentator was in full passionate vocal action - name checking all the racing pros - local girl Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley, Jo Rowsell etc. On route we rode past lots of school kids who had lined up near their school to cheer on Nicole.

The pace in the bunch was as you'd expect in your average 2/3 cat race fairly steady’s but pretty lively up drags and in response to attacks. Just as we hit the most significant climb of the day I saw Emma Pooley (Team GB) pull over with a puncture. The climb was a real stinker, I was mid bunch when riders started to loose wheels, gaps formed and those with the better power to weight ratios took full advantage. The climb wasn't too dissimilar to Toys hill out the Kent. The road surface was a little rougher however but in length and steepness they were almost identical.

So what do long climbs create? Tension? yeah of course, suffering no doubt. But most importantly - a split. There were around twenty guys in the front group and it contained the GC contenders, Cwmcarn Paragon boys, most of the Bike Hut girls and Team GB. The last man at the back of the front group was Dave Andrews (London Dynamo) I was sat just behind Dave when there was a slight surge in pace.

At this point the sensible thing would've been to jump out the saddle and hammer it across the gap. Oh no sir. I had one of my infamous knuckle head moments - trying to close the gap by spinning a low gear. Doh! Oh dear bad move. The gap grew to 40 metres and I was now in the land of no men. Jo Rowsell who had been alongside me for a good chunk of the climb was now no where to be seen. It was time to get my act together so I chased for around a mile and a half by myself; once the bunch had crested the hill I rejoined on the descent. A few miles later Rowsell and some other also crossed the gap.

The damage had already been done for at least half the field and no amount of bunch magnetism would be bringing them back. After the long descent the course had numerous wet twists and turns. Now I'd rather eat two jars of marmite (I absolutely hate the stuff) than descend in the wet. I don't know how Nicole Cooke feels about that brown salty gooey mess some people love on sandwiches but like me she was being overly cautious and also started slipping back through the field.

Once at the bottom of the slippery climb (Phew!) typically I was last bloody wheel. There was no chance for bunch safety because things became seriously stretched out and your safety line was the wheel right in front. Slowly but surely though I began to haul my skinny censored back up front. censored !!Once again things headed skyward and in my out of the saddle dance I could almost lick the words Cateye off my cycle computer. I was chilling 2/3rds back close to Jo Rowsell again. I made some remark about Palace and she proffered a polite smile. No question about it this course had more lumps in it than a bowl of milk deprived porridge.
One more kick up shook off the hangers on and Jo Rowsell went AWOL with around five others. Things eventually flattened out and I asked if there were any escapees upfront. Nicole Cooke’s calmly told me that three were away with around a minute and a half on the bunch.

As we headed back to Abergavenny on the A472 a truce appeared to be called and we seemed to riding at club run pace into a head wind for around 5-6 miles. Nevertheless two guys gave it large and slipped off the front and one other also tried to get across. I too was tempted but sadly hesitated. Out of nowhere the 1k to go sign appeared and we all put the hammer down for the bunch sprint

Stage Winner: Joe Hemmant (London Dynamo)

Stage 3: PM (Abergavenny/Raglan)

Team Time Trial;

Description: gentle rolling 15 miles

Unlike the morning (stage 2), the TTT stage held in the afternoon morning was lovely and sunny. Each team went away at 3 minute intervals. Only Phil had the full TT regalia, Paul had Tri bars so myself and Adri would be spending the best part of 35 mins on the drops. We lost Paul within the first few miles and managed to take fairly regular turns right up to the roundabout which was the half way point.

However it was quickly apparent that Phil on TT bike etc was much stronger than Adri and I so being a genuine tester on the return leg he took longer pulls. I continued to take pulls but not for as long and Adri took even fewer turns at the front. The rules stipulated that the clock would be stopped after the 3rd man so it was important to stick together. Interestingly most four man teams finished with only 3 guys. We knew we weren't gonna set the world alight and we didn’t. 18th out of the twenty teams.

If you want, read about stages 4, 5 and 6 in my blog link below

Posts

  • nolfnolf Posts: 1,287
    Great write up, a really good read.
    Well done on finishing let alone achieving 43rd in GC as well,

    Tried to talk my uni team into entering this, but we agreed it would be mutually embarassing for all. :) Maybe next year...
    "I hold it true, what'er befall;
    I feel it, when I sorrow most;
    'Tis better to have loved and lost;
    Than never to have loved at all."

    Alfred Tennyson
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