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When in doubt, attack!

Road cycling
by Phil S - BBC Sport (U8520575) 24 December 2007
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Phil Sheehan

BBC Sportís Phil Sheehan is keeping a weekly 606 diary of his experiences of amateur racing as he attempts to make the step up from 2nd to 1st Category racing.

Following his 19th-place finish last week, Saturday 22 December saw Phil at Round 4 of the Hillingdon Winter Series.


Well, itís that time of year when itís a bit hard for us roadies to stay as svelte as weíd like. Apparently the average Brit will consume enough food around Christmas to fuel them for the entire Alpine (and in some cases Pyrenean as well) sections of the Tour de France. At least while Joe Public struggles to fit into their clothes after the festive period, we have a chance to burn off those extra calories by hitting the road. Iím already a kilo and a half heavier than I was about three weeks ago so Iím determined to stem the damage right there. Especially with a succession of races on Boxing Day, Saturday 29th, New Years Day and the Saturday after.

Talking of races, round 4 of the Hillingdon Series was the best yet. There were some pretty tasty top riders there Ė defending champion Jason Streather was back, Paul Pickup (aka The Motorbike), series leader Chris Moores, and there was a cameo appearance from one of the classiest riders I know, Matt Seaton, whose beautiful book The Escape Artist got me into racing in the first place.

Matt, incidentally, has been taking a different approach to me for his winter training by doing cyclocross, something I believe our own Alex Murray has also been indulging in. Itís a branch of the sport that involves mud, bunny hopping, and running with your bike. If you want to know more about this strange form of torture you can get a taste from his cyclocross blogs.

After a bit of a nightmare the previous week, when I felt Iíd ridden a strong race only to get boxed in at the end, I wasnít in the mood just to sit in the pack so I attacked often. The first serious effort was when The Motorbike and I got away for a lap around half an hour into the race. Nobody obliged us and we were reeled back in. A few more digs here and there came to nothing until Matt got a very good gap with another 1st cat rider, Ian Paine and Mick McManus. I sensed a move coming from behind me on the back straight and when I saw it was Colin Parry I shot out of the pack and both of us worked our socks off to get to the break.

As usual, snapper Dennis Sackett was there to document our pain (page 5, middle row, middle picture). Anyway, Colin and I bridged the gap after two laps and immediately started contributing to the work but we ended up getting caught.

The whole race had been very aggressive and my heart-rate monitor and speedo bore the evidence with some interesting spikes. In the end, a move by 3rd-cats Rob Jeffroy and Ian Lowe provoked a furious chase in the final few laps, the last two of which were totally strung out.

A great finish Ė a painful one Ė saw me take 13th overall and 5th in the 2nd/3rd Cats. Moores, Steve Golla and The Motorbike took the top spots, and just in case any of you looking at that Garmin data are wondering why I slowed down and then sped up in the final 60 metres, a couple of riders swung in front of me and I lost vital speed. Even so, the top three riders had the race in the bag. Chapeau! Chapeau also to Adam Currie, who grabbed a fine victory in the earlier 4th Cat race. It would be interesting to hear from him how he perceives the transition to his next race with the big boys.

Before I go, I would urge anyone who hasnít yet done so to read the latest edition of Procycling magazine, which is guest-edited by Tour legend Greg Lemond. Itís a cracking issue and his ideas on training are really worth a discussion Ė hopefully I can kick that one off for the first week of 2008.

In the meantime, merry Christmas to you all and thank you to all the race organisers who make all this possible for us. Happy pedalling!

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posted Dec 28, 2007

smiley yes, the tongue. An affectation from my basketball days when I'd try and emulate Michael Jordan in every way - the tongue is a habit that has stuck with me and Dennis always seems to snap me when it's hanging out.
You're right about weight, really. Do the right training and the weight takes care of itself. I'm just slightly frustrated with myself as I'd got to a pretty good point at the end of November/start of December where I felt lean and spritely on the bike only to throw all caution to the wind in the past three weeks or so. It's no big deal reallyas it will be easy enough to lose.

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posted Dec 29, 2007

I'm interested in racing in those events at hillingdon, I was wondering if you have to be in a team or club and if not would it be a bad idea to wear a jersey that promotes my local cycling shop?

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posted Dec 29, 2007

Hi fasthorrox, by all means come along and get a taste of the racing at Hillingdon. 35mins plus 5 laps for the 4th Cats is a good way to ease into the competitive side of the sport. By all means promote your LBS, but at the end of the day it's a good idea to join a club/team that puts something back into cycling at grassroots level. Our sport depends on volunteers and on clubs promoting races.

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posted Jan 2, 2008

Phil_S, I've been through the photos and it looks like you were in fine form. It is hard to tell how the race broke into bunches or indeed which group you ended in. It does looks like you attacked straight from the start which may be a little optimistic. Aggressive tactics seem to pay off at Hillingdon especially if there is a wind.

What do you think makes a break successful? All too often I find only a few members seem willing to put in the effort to make it stick. I wonder if people should communicate more, demand everyone does their turn. I'm not a natural leader by any means and I'm not bold enough to shout at other riders, but should I?

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posted Jan 2, 2008

Hi Alex, I have indeed been in okay form (more on that in my next article). Boxing Day I felt terrible, but I attacked from the gun and then did the same the race after. Boxing Day worked out well in the end, but the race on the 29th I knackered myself for the moment when the real splits came. That saw me end up in the third group and I really thought it was race over and that we'd be lapped. I ended up working very, very hard with two or three other guys and unbelievably we pulled ourselves back. However, I really hurt after that race.
There were lots of guys not co-operating with the chase there and a few of them heard about it. I'm not afraid to spur people on, and I think that's the way it should be.

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posted Jan 2, 2008

Hi Phil,

I've been keeping upto date with your articles and they are very interesting. The only problem is your racing in the winter like you would in the summer. Due to the cold weather your body can't recover from exertions quick enough which may be the reason for missing the splits.

I've never raced over the winter as i always see it as a bit of chill time due to racing from late February to the end of Setember or early October.

Currently am working on base miles. As the longer races require them. My intencity won't start until the end of this month more than likley. All depends on how your body works though.

Also going blocks won't do you much good, I've only seen a few people pull it off. Also maybe thinking if you hadn't you might have had the energy to be futher up the field and made the split, hence you wouldn't have had to have chased as hard. Then you would have had more gas at the finish.

Adam

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posted Jan 2, 2008

True enough, Adam, it's harder to get over the exertions in quick succession in the cold but a good tactical lesson. Each race I've done has seen me learning something new, or picking up on something I hadn't before so it's very useful in that respect.
Unfortunately I don't have the option of a full summer of racing as I'm covering the Tour and then going on holiday so that's two months out. That's why my season runs from December to about mid-June now.
On Sunday I did a nice training ride out near where I imagine your new team trains a bit - Ingatestone and the surrounding lanes. No real big hills but most of the roads appear to be enough of a drag to make you work.

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posted Jan 3, 2008

when in doubt attack? ok ill take this advice winkeye

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posted Jan 3, 2008

LOL, that's the sub-editor's artistic licence, nothing to do with me smiley

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posted Jan 3, 2008

Thats fair enough about having to go and cover the tour and then go on holiday, i no i wouldn't mind having to do that. All thats sunshine (and beer). Oh nice. The roads are ok around that area. But as you said they are draggy with a few real small steep climbs if you no where they are.

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