Technically I've only ridden 2 races this month, but with 9 race days it still wasn't an easy one, this month has seen me race the Tour of Britain and the Primus classic. There's a lot I could say about the Tour of Britain but I'd like to keep it short and not go through an in depth stage by stage guide. First let me tell you that my month of racing came to a holt after Primus Classic, there were a few horrible days in Britain but the last day was far from ideal both mentally and with the weather, my immune system was low but I needed to ride Primus classic the weekend after, of course this lead to a few issues the last couple of weeks with a virus, and has seen my time racing in Belgium come to an end this month, there simply isn't enough time to find my full fitness back and aim for the result I want, of course I'm a little unhappy about this, but if I think how long I've held a good level for the last months and how my body has coped for the length and races I wanted it to I can't be too disappointed.
So Tour of Britain, I started saying I wanted to be in the break away and see where that took me, a jersey for me in the points or Mountains (small bumps) classification was a realistic goal for me, so in the break away I went, and it was a pretty good feeling to be the one who kicked it off, and not just left chasing the guy in front of me and waiting to see if that was the move for the day, the first day, the first attack I made, the first break away of the tour, honestly it left me thinking "that came a little to easily no?) with some points along the way I thought I wasn't going to be going up the road that easily again. The next day I'm in my second breakaway and I've now drawn level with the leader of the mountains classification, day 3 I took a day in the peloton, and it left me thinking that to be up the road was easier, just go one pace most of the day, sprint a few times and see what the end of the day brings, but my biggest effort all week came from this day, it was a move for the last classified points of the day, I jumped away from the peloton with the aim of catching the leaders and taking full points which would see me move in to the jersey, I only however took 1 point on the (small bump) but that one point was worth the effort as with no contenders in the break away the next day on stage 4 apart from me I was able to take maximum points and move in to the mountains classification lead by 1 point, it was like a massive game for me, trying to work out where people are, what I need to do and where I need to be and then doing it, personally I enjoyed it, more so the first 4 stages where the legs felt like they were only getting better and better every day.
The 2nd half of the tour wasn't as brilliant for me it has to be said, the TT was about saving as much energy as possible for the following day for me, but it was still a long day sat in the camper waiting for other riders and then waiting for the podium etc. Stage 6 was also another easy day for me, this day my legs felt good, there was no one in the breakaway to worry about and I made the front split in the end of the race, I knew the last 2 days had being easier for me and stage 7 was where I can do something again, and I did, I made the break away after riding across with one of my rivals, but he was not so close on the classification and I knew I was faster than him, unfortunately he did come to be the overall winner of the classification, but this day on Stage 7 after taking the first points on the climb more than convincingly he didn't wish to fight for the next and rolled over the line 2nd behind me, we were then caught before the last categorised climb of the day by the peloton. If your thinking like I was on this day "it's all gone rather swimmingly up to now, I have a strong lead in the classification, I know I'm strong, my competitors can see that and they know I'm ready to fight" then you'd be right. So stage 8, this was the where my leading position turned in to a chasing one, I was busy from the start, my game of chess some might say had back fired on me, I knew I had to watch 3 people with 18 points up for grabs on this day, and I could only let one of them go in the break away, but he was the leader of the sprint points and was being watched closely by his rival in 2nd place which was also 3rd place in the mountains points, it turned out that this wasn't going to be the move I had to watch for though, I was beaten in the end by having to jump across to a small group at the bottom of the first climb where the race eventually split because I thought it was possible to make the move and take more points that day, but when you enter a climb already on the limit you can't go much faster, and when the top guys start to attack and you can't barely follow with your legs from the last 7 days that is when you see a jersey disappear, and that's what happened. I worked hard for that jersey but I was beaten on a day where I thought attacking would be the best form of defence and it didn't work out for me, to go there with a realistic goal and lose it on the last day was a big upset, but I proved to a lot of people in a race that didn't suit me for an overall or stage result I was still able to aim for something and target an opportunity, and in the end I can look back on it and think, it's disappointing yes, but it was a flaming good week.
So after divulging in a few treats after Britain and feeling a little bit not at full strength I stood on the start line of the Primus classic the following Saturday, with very little training the last 6 days I had already said in the team meeting before hand that I would sit in the peloton, wait for my legs to get going and then see what happens in the end, the thing about this race after never riding it before is that the last 40/50 km are on my training roads, and so were the climbs, so I already had a small advantage. On this day I achieved my most confident riding of the year, I was up there on every climb, and when I missed a dangerous move close to the end I never panicked, it was one of my best ridden races of the year, but with the lack of training I had no punch left for the end and finished in a very reduced peloton. Following the virus that was diagnosed 2 days after the race I have being only riding easily the last 2 weeks, a big change from the start of the month.
I can say now that I'm pleased with this last year. Not the beginning perhaps, but when I let a lot of the stress go later on and took more responsibility and raced with a view for my own result it turned out good, and I started to enjoy everything more, now I know I can do it, it's about working for next year to follow this from beginning to the end.
First however I will return home for a couple of cyclocross races to bring my season to the end and shorten my winters training a bit. A massive thank you once again to the Dave Rayner Fund, Pedal Potential, and AnPost Chain Reaction, with out whom I would have not have being able to do what I've done the last 2 to 3 years in aiming to make a professional career possible. Now to see what next year will bring.