The UCI World Masters Championships 2017

Albi, France.

Phil Giles Report
BCC Race Captain

Race Day
The race was due to start at 8:44 so we needed to be in Albi for 8am.
I unfortunately overslept with 2 bad nights sleep. On the road for 7ish with 37 degrees forecast for the race so I was drinking all the way to the Expo centre. The race had volunteers support with 3 feeds zones.  We were told they would provide isotontic drinks and gels at the mid and last feed zone. 

We rolled into Albi following a stream of cyclists forming a large line of approx 700 cyclists on one of the town’s narrow streets and we spent a few minutes chatting to other riders, taking photos. We even had a quick visit and chat with Tom from Godfrey Sport who wished us well We arrived at the front of the group of riders to see a barrier across the road. The marshal was calling for blue group and looked shocked when I said vert. He quickly opened the gates and Steve Abbott my GB team mate and I joined the back of the race with just 2 minutes to spare, just enough time for a final quick stretch, take our gels and we were rolling out.

The Race
Steve has spent some time racing in Belgium and he know how to get the front of a road race. We used the pavements and bunny hopped on to the kerb and shot passed 50-100 riders in one go.  Within 2miles we were near the front without burning much energy, then the attacks started. Steve and I tried to get away. Nothing was going as the bunch was moving at a good average speed of 25-30mph. Everything seemed to be going to plan.

After 20 miles the peleton hit the second significant climb, 1km of 7%. We weren’t aware of this climb because the gpx route wasn’t sent out so all we had were mile markers on a piece of paper to determine when the climbs / feed zones where.  The field was stretched and I felt good on the climb and just tried to hold position. By the top the alarm bells went off as I noticed the field was in a long line with many big gaps. I needed to go and put in a few efforts bridging to not one but two groups before joining back onto the main field.

After a few more miles the pace went up with lots of jostling for position in the lead peloton as we approached the first of the major climbs of 6 miles of 5/6%. At the bottom there were 3 technical hairpin bends before the road stretched out. As the temperature  and the pace increased I worked passed slowing riders who were loosing wheels, working at 94% MHR and putting in a full 10mile TT effort to hold the lead group, unfortunately they gradually went away. I was joined by some other riders who were climbing well sitting on their wheel I received some shelter from the head wind. At the top of the climb the lead group was gone. The bunch didn’t seem keen to push despite my encouragement which meant that the race for us was over. However as we entered  the Albi race circuit I was able to launch a good sprint and finished 2nd in my bunch. I finished 74th overall, earning 7th best placed British rider in a very large field with 230 riders finishing.  The race covered a distance of 155 km with over 7,000 feet of climbing in very hot conditions.

Despite not winning I am pleased with my performance in a race that was suited to pure hill climbers. It was great to see so many fans encouraging us on the roadside and a speacial thanks go to the people at the  feed zones. Lastly I want to thank my fellow Beeston Cycling Club members, race team and sponsors for their support.

To celebrate I drank a bottle of wine and 3 pints of lager. I ate pizza and some sweets. I weighted myself on my return and I was 75kg. I have discovered a new diet! One that’s far more enjoyable.

I hope to be joined by more BCC riders next year. Hopefully we can have riders in all age groups and both genders with our up and coming contingent of fast female racers from our successful ladies racing team.

Arriving in France
I flew from Luton Airport a very pleasant 18 degrees at 6pm to land at Toulouse at 9pm in 28 degree heat. The hotel was a short 800m walk with just hand luggage thanks to Tom at Godfrey Sports who offered to take my race bike and spare wheels with him in his transit van. Once at the hotel I met Steve, a stocky Elite category rider from Preston a strong rider and who also worked hard to get to France.

We had booked a hire car for two days to ferry us from Toulouse to Albi some 50miles away. Saturday we were off to go to the Godfrey Sports social ride with other Team GB riders. The original prediction was that 30 riders were going to ride the first and last 15miles of the course. The out and back sections being subtly different as the start was from Albi Cathedral and the finish was on the Albi racing circuit. As it happens, 130 plus riders rolled up. It was a great little ride. Some interesting points noted on the loop with some sections of tight roads / switchbacks where positioning could be important. We rode the first significant climb with its long drag. Not hard but if the wind is up and the pace is high it could tell those who hadn’t
warmed up.

After the ride, conscious of the heat which was over 35degrees, we decided to go into the Expo centre and sign on and collect race packs, after lunch we went into the race briefing. We then headed back to the hotel to rest, plan tactics and fuel up for race day.

Prep For the Worlds
This season has seen me moving from being  a regular British Cycling East Midlands Road Race League event racer into the League of Veteran (Masters) Racing Cycling competitor. The difference as the name would suggest is primarily grouped by age rather than race licence category.

UCI Gran Fondo Masters World Championship qualification round
In June I raced in the qualification round, otherwise known as Tour Of Cambridge. In 2016 I won the 40-44 year group but this year I managed 9th in strong national field. Which was enough to qualify for the finals in Albi, France.

After remembering the feeling of missing out on going to Australia last year  signed up, ordered my Team GB skinsuit and booked my travel plans.

Since June my form picked up with a training expedition from Lyon to Nice. The six days riding across the alps, carrying a 4kg bag of luggage up some famous cols such as Croix Der Fer, Galibier, Telegraph and Bonnet really built some strength into my legs. Since then I competed in a few Mallory Park races and LVRC races where my results and performances improved in the lead up to Albi.

The increased form grew with the arrival of Craig Barton an experienced racer who joined BCC. The opportunity to race with another equally experienced rider always seems to bring out the best in me. You can’t let the side down!

LVRC Critirium National Championships
My first big race since my return from France was the LVRC Critirium Championships at Milton Keynes Bowl in Bedforshire. This is a regular venue for cycle sport and holds two races a week throughout the season. Craig and I went on the Tuesday before the champs to suss out the circuit and potentially the opposition. We raced well as a team. Multiple attacks from both of us. Joining forces to launch each other and lead out the final sprint with both of us finishing in the top 10.

For the finals the race was very cagey, the field didn’t seem as strong as the Tuesday night. Either that or we were going better.  Unfortunately I punctured with a big nail in my rear tyre mid race so it was up to Craig. With one rider to cover the multitude of attacks its impossible to go with all moves. Craig did well and came home in the group.

British Cycling’s Masters Critirium Championships
Then I moved on to British Cycling’s Masters Critirium Championships at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby. This venue was a last minute change but served up some good racing. With Craig and I both in attendance we were confident we could mark all the key players.
The race started and as expected with attacks in the opening laps and then a very innocuous group of 4 riders rode away 15 minutes in. After various breaks that broke down I got away solo for a lap after I tried to tempt a number of riders out the bunch for a dig. Then 4 laps from the end I went with Carl Sturgeon. He gave up after his initial effort and I carried on and joined on the back of the older age group bunch we were sharing the circuit with. I was joined a lap later by a rider and we cut through the older bunch and forged on ahead. On the last lap we were all together again. In this messy mixed age bunch finish I grabbed a great 5th which placed me in the top 10

East Midlands Regional Championships
The divs. A few years ago I finished 3rd. The best finish for Beeston CC rider. This year I just wanted to finish in good shape for France. Unfortunately just Craig and I in attendance here. It was going to make marking big names like Joe Clark, Ben Atkins, Sam Lowe, Elliot Harrison, our former BCC rider David Ogg and last years champ Rob Orr impossible. Similar to the national masters a small group went away without a bunch response. Then a series of small splinter groups tapped off in 2s and 3s. The bunch let them go. Eventually, those groups joined up and the 20 riders pulled out 4 minutes on the bunch.

For me I felt better than I have on a bike in ages. Slightly revised race day diet and a good nights sleep may have helped. I was going with some moves. Although none of the early ones that mattered for placings. With 2 laps to go I attacked on a climb to catch a Clay Cross and LLB rider. We worked well and pulled away. Coming to the final ascent to the finish a small bunch joined us including Joe Clarke and others. The bunch were just behind them. I was toasted but I manage to claim a few scalps. I finished outside the points but improved my race legs for the World Championships.

I hope you enjoyed my journey to France.

Posted: 03/09/2017   By: .John McCay

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