Off to the sun
I started writing this while on a trip to northern Italy for a week in the Dolomites with team principal Craig Battersby, Majorca comrade Steve Berry and Biketreks Academy rider Rob Richardson. I am finishing it while sat by a pool in the Greek sun, trying to get rid of the cycling tan lines that are generating funny looks. The Italy trip was a reward to myself for what I would consider a successful first season as a road racer, and I thought I would share in this blog why…
I caught the cycling bug about 3 years ago now, after buying my first (ever) road bike. Previously I rode a mountain bike to work and back, but that was pretty much it. The switch to cycling happened at the business end of a battle against the bulge, and having run off the best part of 33% of my body weight (I used to be 18.5st ‐ a fat lad as Lee Bevan effectionately described in a local rag), my knees were shot and I needed a sport better suited to a rather more skinny, but very floppy skinned 35 year old.
It didn’t take long for me to catch the cycling bug and, soon enough I was hooked, and the wife was widow to yet another obsessive compulsion. Last year 2012 was my first proper taste at road racing. I was riding in my Weaver Valley club colours, and having sat in the bunch for a dozen or so TLI’s, I was slowly gaining confidence. I’ve always been fairly strong, so staying with the field was never an issue, but holding position in the top 10 was new to me, and pretty daunting, but I soon got comfortable. The last race of the season was WVCC’s Autumn Road Race, a 3/4 race at Great Budworth. My first BC race. The club road race trophy was up for grabs in this race, and with 3 others from the club signed up, I also felt pretty competitive ‐ a first for me. Race went like any other ‐ a break of three went early on, and we never saw them again.
As we approached the penultimate lap, I still had fresh legs and decided to have a go at minor glory, so I attacked up the Dark lane climb. Two others came with me and soon we were away. We lost sight of the group fast and, as a trio, we pushed on. As we went past the bell, we caught a single rider who I assumed had attempted a solo bridge and failed. He tagged on and, on the back straight we caught two others on the climb. We flew past them, one managing to keep our wheel, the other spat out the back. You see, we had just caught and overtaken the break, unbeknownst to me. At the final Dark lane ascent, I attacked again, and two stayed with me, holding onto my wheel but not coming through. This riled riled me as I really wanted the club trophy and did not want the bunch catching us. We hit the final straight, I dropped a couple of gears and went for it. I stayed away and, thinking a got a well deserved 4th, gave a mock celebration. It wasn’t till my mate Woody, driving the lead car congratulated me, that I realised I had just won. It later dawned on me that I was on a provisional licence, so no points were awarded, but I had a £50 winners prize and I was happy. But after a bit of appealing to the BC license office, they agreed to honour my win with a 3rd cat license for next season. Club road race champion, with a tally of zero points :‐)
So it was time to think about what I wanted to do with new found fame (I got a half page article in the Northwich Guardian where they spelt my name wrong). I decided to set some goals: 1. Ride 13000 miles in 2013 2. Achieve second cat 3. Ride some European grand tour climbs Riding 13k would be easy I thought. I ride to work 3‐4 times a week, and I knew this would motivate me through the winter. Achieving my second cat would be a bit more challenging. It meant riding a Lot more BCF races, something WVCC did no focus on. It also meant getting results, and I couldn’t help thinking my win was a fluke. 40 points. In my mind I knew I needed help doing this, but did know what to do.
Joining Leapfrog I first met Craig at a Majorca training camp in march 2012 ‐ he was riding for bGlobal at the time, and it was my first taste at riding with the road racing elite. I found it hard keeping their pace, being dropped several times from the chain gang. This served only to motivate me even more, and anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t do things by halves. I wanted to be at that level. After Majorca, I didn’t speak to Craig again until late October when he announced he was starting his own racing team, funded by his employer Lee Bevan, owner and CEO of Leapfrog Group, and another recent convert to cycling. A workmate, Dan Hurran, pushed me into mentioning that, if there was a space, I would love to have a go at riding for a team. So I sent a tentative FB message to Craig, and after a few formalities, he agreed to go me a shot. I cannot tell you how chuffed I was! Kris Zentek, ex roly poly, WVCC road race champion (zero points), 3rd cat next year, and now a member of a racing team. OK, so that was a long intro, but I just wanted to give you insight into where I have come from. Now lets get onto the season summary. I’ve picked a few milestones to talk about…
So the pressure was now on. I wasn’t doing this for pleasure any more, I had a commitment to deliver results. I knew I had to knuckle down and get fit over winter, but training was alien to me. So I set about training the only way I knew, and that was miles miles miles. Between November and march, through all weathers, I managed to average over 1000 miles a month, riding to work and back. On bad days I swapped the winter bike for my MTB with spikes for the 50 mile round trip. I filled in any gaps with regular sessions at the local gym ‐ back to back spin classes, and some core weights. Through winter I managed to get down to 70kg and emerged pretty fit.
The Eddie Soens ‐ all category handicap First race of 2013, and for Team Leapfrog was the famous (infamous?) Eddie Soens at Aintree. 250 riders of all cats, on a crit. The pace was very fast, and with an early crash I decided to sit out of trouble (Majorca was round the corner). Many riders were getting spat out the back through the corners, but I managed to hang on. Avoiding the second crash by diving onto the grass, I stuck with the increasing pace as the pro teams took the front and pressed on. Crossing the line, I felt relieved to have got round without any problems, but didn’t feel like I had pushed myself. Final place, 65th
CDNW Saighton ‐ 3/4 First race proper, and this I mean with the new team, was the CDNW at Saighton. One of my goals for this year, and my reason for wanting to join a team, was to learn tactics and strategy. This race gave me a good dose of both. We had a strong contingent, and early attacks were constant. First by Mark and Jon, then by Daz and myself. Each time we were caught, the other pair would counter and we would defend. The last attack by mark and Jon, along with Tony Workman from LRC, stuck and as we lost sight of them Daz, billy and myself slowed up the group to give them a lead that lasted to the finish. I joined in the bunch sprint up to the finish, and felt good about earning my first ever points, and also for helping Team Leapfrog with a great start. Final place, 7th
Kirby 2/3/4 I signed up for this race as it was local primarily. On the day the sn was shining, but there was a cold wind that chilled the bones. I struggled to warm up as I was shivering so much (at one point I almost went home as I couldn’t feel my hands). But once we set off, the pace and regular attacks soon warmed me up. I won’t bore you with the details of this race as I wrote a report on it, which you can find on the blog, but this race will stay with me as it was a big result for me. My first podium finish, from a break I really pushed to create, and only losing out a win by mere centimetres. Disappointing in one aspect, but I chose to take the positives. Final place, 2nd
Bad run of luck The next few races didn’t go so well for me. At Cdnw Nateby, I made the silly mistake of putting my chain on the wrong way after a clean (and not testing it), which meant any pressure caused it to slip. I had to survive the race sat in the saddle, in a high gear which, with several sharp corners stringing out the group, was not easy. I got to the finish in the bunch, disappointed and frustrated as I felt really strong that day. Then I had two races on the Great Budworth course, a CDNW, followed by a TLI. The CDNW ended for me about half way round with a rear wheel puncture. I had been riding aggressively, but everyone stayed together. I limped back to the finish line and waited for the race to finish, and to see Mark win in absolute style! Solo attack from the bunch to bridge to the only sticking break, and then taking the sprint ‐ the man is a machine! The next race at budworth will also stick in memory, but for the wrong reasons. Inspired by marks win the week before, I decided to attack on the main road, heading to the first climb of Dark Lane. Two came with me, but as I got to the top and the left turn ,they had sat up. I could have too, but I pressed on for a while. I was now heading to the bell and I was still on my own up front, my advantage of 1:30 had come down to 40 seconds, but I was motivated by the ringing sound and on my second wind. As I approached the main road, 4 miles from the finish, a front wheel puncture ended my ride. Gutted does not justify how I felt.
CDNW Bole Hill ‐ 3/4 So after a run of drop outs and a run of bunch finishes in various 2/3/4′s in the midlands, I arrived at my next CDNW at Bole Hill, Buxton. A challenging course with two climbs, one on the finish line. The team several riders were here; billy, Jon, new signing Adam, Craig in the E12′s, and Daz was on marshalling duty. I felt nervous about the race and the jibes at this being for the weight weenies didn’t do my confidence any good. But I knew I could press on the climbs and thought as long as I could stay at the front and survive, I would be stronger on the other sections of the course. So that’s how I rode the first two laps. Every hill, made sure I was at the front, and stayed with the attacks. I actually found it easier that I thought and, getting to the top, felt strong enough to keep pressing on. By beginning of the third lap the race had been smashed to pieces and I was in the front group. I kept riding my own race, and before long found myself up front alone. I kept pushing for another couple of laps before I was joined by two others who had attacked the bunch. The three of us worked well and had soon put a commanding lead in. There is a left hairpin at the top which gives you a good view behind, and we could that the nearest riders were a good 2‐3 mins behind, with no sign of the peleton at all. From here we all realised we were the top three and agreed to ride strong but steady, no messing about. The games could wait till the last climb to the finish. We were passing riders from the E12 race left right and Center, and e dry time we did, they would be retired by the NEG support. This in itself was VERY motivating as I knew I would be going up a cat if I could take 1st or 2nd, and this was a confirmation I could ride the next level up. The road into the finish climb is a short but fast and challenging descent, with a sharp right over a bridge. Each lap I hit this first, and with each go I got more and more confident. But the last lap I decided to sit back and go for the attack. This was a bad move in hindsight as Harry Shackleton, from team elite hit the corner hard and the second wheel eased up, leaving me no choice but to ease up too. Hitting the climb Harry already had 20 yards on me which I failed to close. A deserving win, but I couldn’t help feel that was my last chance of a win down the drain. Final place, 2nd.
Part 2 to follow…