a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday 13 May 2018

Two 'Tours' - A big one in Worcestershire and that other one in Yorkshire.

The Tour of the Abberleys is the most prestigious race for veterans in the UK and a flagship event on the LVRC calendar. The Abberleys has been going for twenty years and is a three day, four stage race in Worcestershire with an opening time trial followed by three fairly tough road stages.

Above the start of stage three, it was my first time in Worcestershire and what a beautiful part of the country it is. Tough, undulating roads for bike racing though and stage four of the Abberleys is particularly difficult with two really big climbs on the finishing circuit.

I am not going to write an I did this and then this happened post on my Abberleys weekend, partly because to be honest after a distinctly average opening time trial I went on to trail in at the back of the race on all three road stages and appeared near the bottom of the results every day. But that didn't stop me from having a brilliant weekend and really enjoying the race from start to finish, of course the best May bank holiday weather for years helped a fair bit.

To take on the organisation of any bike races is a big job so to organise four races over a bank holiday weekend is a huge task, however Mike Amery and his team of over seventy helpers ensured that the whole weekend went without a hitch despite the appearance of some last minute road works. Thanks to the glorious weather Mike was able to conduct his pre-race safety briefings outside the Great Witley village hall race HQ and with invaluable help from the Midlands Bike Marshalls the racing felt really safe all weekend.

I stayed at the Premier Inn in Kidderminster for the weekend which is about twenty minutes drive from Great Witley where the Abberleys is based. I mention this only because I had not realised until recently how bike friendly the Premier Inn hotel chain is Bikeswelcome. They don't just tolerate cyclists, they actually want our business and are more than happy for you to keep your bike in your room, unlike some places I have stayed.

Above another glorious morning in Worcestershire before the start of stage three with fellow north east rider and winner of the 'Abberleys' in 2003 and 2011 Paul Stubbs. There was a great atmosphere all weekend and as with all LVRC and TLI age related events the racing was extremely competitive  but everyone remains friendly and supportive with plenty of advice and encouragement on offer.

Above Neil Baxter and John Cann of completed the north east contingent in the race and both were competitive in all four stages. I met loads of people over the course of the weekend and one of the first I got to know was Craig Moody (Giant Halifax) who was really strong riding in my race but in the 'C' category. Craig and I got talking on day one and soon realised that our sons knew each other and had raced together as Juniors, its small world cycling. It was also really good to meet blog reader and fellow cycling academic Doctor Mark Corbett from Worcester University riding for Worcester St Johns CC. Mark is an authority on the relationship between cycling bio-mechanics and muscle fatigue, a really nice guy and an excellent bike rider, click on this Link DocCorbett for more on his work. Someone else I got to know and who I took some advice from that helped me during stage four was Sean Kilroy of Cambridge Vets another classy rider who went on to finish 2nd on the final day - thanks Sean.

An impressive display of trophies for the overall and category winners at the Abberleys on display in the village hall. In my category 'E' for riders over sixty we had a race within the race and I finished 7th out of the 14 who started which I was pretty happy with to be honest, although it was more to do with my dogged determination to finish all four stages when some of the other old boys didn't, rather than anything else.

While I was away enjoying my tour in Worcestershire the sun was also brilliant for the riders and spectators at the Tour de Yorkshire. I watched the highlights every night in the Premier Inn and while it doesn't really compare with the Abberleys the TdY also looked like a well organised little tour ...

After I got home from Worcestershire I had the opportunity spend some time chatting with Tour de Yorkshire stage one winner and local hero Harry Tanfield and what an entertaining cafe stop it was. When I say 'chatting with' it would be more accurate to say 'listening intently to' as Harry was on great form and he came out with so many fascinating details and insights that I wish I had taken notes or recorded what he was saying.

Harry had us in stitches with stories of loosing his phone (during a stage), loosing a wheel after puncturing (left it in a hedge) and chasing back on for 50k after loosing contact with the peleton after his puncture while wearing the blue leaders jersey. The crash for Alex Patton in to an on-coming car while helping Harry back to the race didn't sound quite so funny, in fact it sounded horrendous.

A couple of things stood out for me from listening to Harry's often extremely detailed and sometimes hilarious account of the TdY, one is that power and knowledge of power is everything at the top level. Harry is one of those people who have that uncanny ability to accurately recall the details of a race almost moment by moment as it happened and watts were a constant theme throughout the conversation, how many he was producing at a particular time, how long he could sustain it for and what he needed to produce at some specific and crucial moments in the race, absolutely fascinating stuff.

Not only did Harry talk about his own power numbers but he is also able to accurately assess the power capabilities of other riders, this was particularly useful during the break on stage one which as we know stayed away and from which he went on to win and wear the leaders jersey. The fact that Harry was determined to be in the stage one break and made it happen illustrates this. In his own words: "It wasn't a case of floating in to a move, it was me who initiated it from the start, got it going, drove it and got us the gap". Which leads to another thing that struck me about Harry's attitude to the race and to the World Tour 'stars' that he was racing against - he was not phased to be racing against and beating the biggest names from the biggest teams in professional cycling ... not phased at all ! Well done 'H' absolutely brilliant mate.

Equally enjoyable for me was watching #theteamthatrock the girls from BoomPods/Edco/NRG competing at UCI level for the first time in the Asda Womens Tour de Yorkshire. A brilliant performance by the team and great to see another of my friends Ellen McDermott produce an outstanding ride to finish 18th on stage one. Something tells me that we will be hearing a lot more about Ellen in the future.

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