Tour of Cambridgeshire 2019
Tour of Cambridgeshire Road Race 2019
My main goal of 2019 was to race the 161 km road race at the Tour of Cambridgeshire, and to qualify for the World Championships like I did in 2018. So, Sunday 2nd June, I lined up on the start line ready and willing to give it my best shot. The race was longer than last year which was about 130 km, and having experienced the World Championships in 2018 in Italy, I knew I had to up my game and train harder and turn up with a higher level of fitness. This I duly did, but sometimes things don’t pan out, and I didn’t qualify. I’ll be honest - I was disappointed, but I gave it absolutely everything and drove myself into the ground. I’m proud of how I rode, and couldn’t have done anymore. Here’s my report on what happened and the lead up to the event.
After racing the Worlds at Varese, Italy, back in September 2018, it was apparent I would have to up my fitness level, and work harder. So after an easy week upon my return, I duly set about this. Twice weekly MIET sessions followed and over a period of months, my FTP rose to 4.0 W/kg. Historically, this was very close to my best as a young adult and I knew I’d have issues pushing it further. From February onwards I made a concerted effort to increase my MAP, via a combination of short (30-secs efforts) and longer efforts of 4-mins. This I did. All was good. The Wednesday before the race I did a 20-min fitness test and recorded my best power in 11 years (4.18 W/kg). Happy days. I felt well prepared.
We turned up the day before the race, registered for the event, met with friends and then carb loaded in the evening :-). On the morning of the event, we drove over and warmed up. Then lined up for entry to our start pens.
With such a long race, there’s absolutely no way that every rider wouldn’t have a story to tell, or a mishap. I was no exception. I was in the 50 - 54 age category, which I’m told was the largest of the event. The winner of our age category, was just a few minutes slower than the overall winner (who came from the 19-34 category). I’d imagined, pre-race, that I would need to be around 4 hours to qualify and this had been my strategy, that and be in the lead group (of my age category!).
Once we got going, the speed was up and I occasionally saw we were riding at up to 60 km/hr in the first 30-mins. In the first 10km there were a few crashes, some of which I was caught behind, and although I stayed upright the chase certainly started to take it out of you.
At some point, either just before or just after the route split for the short/long routes, there was another crash which delayed me and some others from my group and this caused a split for us. All hands on deck it was a major chase to keep the speed up. However, we arrived at the first checkpoint (about 50 km) a couple of minutes down. However, I knew we were going well, because we were catching lots of riders from younger age groups, we were flying.
Not long after this, we turned down a narrow country lane and were at full speed. Data is showing (if I’ve selected the correct section, and frankly a lot of the race was a blur, so I’m really not sure) that I was travelling at 68 km/hr down a slight dip, when I hit a pothole. I stayed upright, but felt (and heard) ‘stuff’ leave me and the bike. I checked my pocket to make sure my iPhone was still there (it was), so I continued chasing with the others. Unfortunately, as I discovered very quickly, I’d jettisoned some gels and a full water bottle. No worries, I would continue riding as is.
This worked perfectly for about 100 km of the race. The issue was I had about half a bottle of energy drink and just a couple of gels to last me for about 100 - 110 km. Could I ration my food and drink? As it turned out, the answer was a resounding no. At about 100 km I blew and found reverse gear. It wasn’t pretty. I was the left floundering by myself, and riders I’d dropped previously would start to come past me. Eventually, I would make it on to the back of a group or two for a few minutes at a time but with no drink, hot weather, and insufficient food, this was an absolute grovel. At about 130 km into the race, I saw a kid at the side of the road offering water, so I stopped and filled my bottle up and crawled back to the finish.
I made it back in 4:58 including my stop for water. Way down the result. It happens. It just wasn’t meant to be on Sunday. But there’s no point brooding about it, you accept it, move on, and then start building up for next year. So, no Poland for me this year!
Take Away Points
There were some great aspects of the race. Firstly, I really enjoy the race — it’s a great way for me to race, as it’s all on closed roads. When I commit to a race I don’t want to have to think about traffic that I’d undoubtedly have to deal with in a regular road race.
It’s great to see so many people on the bike enjoying themself. I don’t know the exact figure, but I’d think there were more than 10,000 people there riding either the road race, or the sportive challenge.
For me, I’ll be down the shops this week to find some grip tape to better hold my water bottles.
And, the biggest plus for me, is that I took my first top 10 Strava segment anywhere (3rd place!) - which obviously happened before I blew up!
One of my riders, Peter Nix, (Rockingham Forest Wheelers) did a superb ride to qualify in 4th place in his 65 - 69 age group. Great ride Pete :-).
Here’s to next year