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Club Championships 2015

The annual Kingston Wheelers Club Championships took place on the 3rd of October with two races. The first was a Go Ride race, was for people interested in racing and learning from more experienced riders. Followed by a second a “full fat” 1/2/3/4 race for first claim Wheelers. Here are the accounts of a number of riders, as well as the race organiser.

Hans Stiles (race organiser)

As a 4th Cat after several seasons, with a plethora of excuses for my lack of success and points, I’m exposed to racing that, let’s say, lacks a certain panache. I first raced in the Club Champs last year and loved it. The race was fast, safe and tactical. You couldn’t ask for more. So when last year’s organiser, Will Nicklin, sent out a request for someone else to assume the reins I thought I’d have a go.
The 2014 Club Champs also featured a Beginners’ Race which proved to be a springboard for a successful Winter season for Emma Flattery, so we all agreed it would be good to keep the format, with another Go Race event and E1234 handicap race.
First step was to book a venue. Given our location and the cost of certain circuits, the logical choice was Hillingdon. The track was booked for an afternoon in early October and the process was underway. Next up, the painful bit, namely registering the event with British Cycling. The Club Champs are a Regional C event, which means no points. However, I wanted to use the BC online entry system to simplify matters. Having submitted the event for approval and sat back and waited. And waited.
By August I was panicking a little, so gave them a call to discover that, due to a change of policy, they didn’t allow the use of their online booking system for closed events, mainly due to people signing up and then complaining that they had been charged a pound. Fair punishment I say but hey ho. So, £22 fee paid, the event was accepted and, most importantly insured.
I then posted the usual request for volunteers and had enough people to safely run the event in two days.
Given the constant complaints that we can’t get people to volunteer. I thought this was a pretty good result!
Finally, we needed to agree a prize pot and decided on cash for podium places in each race, but intermediate sprints in the handicap, with cash prize for first place only in each.
I press-ganged my son into bell and chequered flag duties on the day, loaded the car with signs, flags and numbers and headed off to Hillingdon. The track is used by the Hillingdon Slipstreamers Saturday mornings, so I didn’t even need to put out the signs. Result. My son and I did a quick lap of the course in the car to check signs were in the right locations and the track surface was safe, then it was back to the clubhouse to get marshals, finish line judges and other volunteers ready for duty.  It was now 1:45 and only a few minutes until rider briefing for the beginners’ race.
At 2pm, the Go Race event started. I asked a couple of experienced racers to join in, police the bunch and put people at ease. This did the track and the first few laps were quite restrained.  Then the attacks started. After 25 minutes of racing, the bell rang for the final five laps. Gary Wyatt took the race in a sprint, which was impressive considering the amount of time he had spent on the front.
An hour later, the rest of the racers assembled at the start line for the main event. The format was 60 minutes plus 5 laps, with primes (intermediate sprints) at 30 and 40 minutes. The Cat 4 racers set off on the hour, and the Cat 2/3 guys followed them 90 seconds later.
The finish line judges immediately started making their predictions. Who would win? Would it be a sprint or late break? Who would take the intermediate sprints? Would Phil Barella launch a Kamikaze attack 10 minutes before the end?
A couple of the 4ths clearly thought it wiser to save themselves for the finish and waited for the bunch to catch them. Unfortunately, one of them mis-timed it, didn’t accelerate in time and was promptly spat out the back. Race Over! However, two of the 4ths managed to stay away from the chasing pack long enough to allow Henrik Persson to take the first sprint. Almost immediately, TY Hsia and Andrew Snook launched an attack, with TY taking the second sprint 10 minutes later.
The race was really speeding up now. TY launched another attack, only to suffer cramp and abandon. Soon after, true to form, Phil launched an attack (11 minutes to the second from the final bell).
The final sprint was hotly contested, but Nick Davis crossed the line first, closely followed by Andrew Davis and Harry Bunnell, who practically threw his bike across the finish line. Then it was back to the clubhouse for awards, a bit of cake and home before the havoc of the Rugby World Cup Road closures.
All in all, a great day out.

Adam D’arcy (first time racing, in the Go Ride race)

As it was my first ever race, I didn’t really know what to expect. Things like personal preparation, signing on, a recce of the circuit and the race itself were all new experiences. But the friendly atmosphere from all involved made the day an enjoyable one and has definitely motivated me to participate in racing in the future. A big thanks to everyone who played their part, especially the bakers!

David Shelton (5th place in the Go Ride race)

This was my first ever race and the pre-race prep went like a dream: cars and pedestrians melted away as I rode from Kingston to Hillingdon on a sunny Saturday afternoon; my confident signature decorated the sign-on sheet next to my printed name and my number was pinned perfectly to the left-hand side of my Wheeler jersey. I enjoyed a brief spin round the track and pulled up in total control to the Start line to await Hans’ rider briefing. The podium beckoned.
Then something happened. Hans was talking but I couldn’t hear what he was saying; his mouth was moving and he pointed at the track and the lap counter and the bell and the Start-Finish line, but I was lost. I looked at the other Wheelers but saw only finely tuned athletes; each one perched with complete oneness on their glinting bikes, in a zen-like state of rapture and concentration. By contrast I found myself trying to clip my huge clumsy shoes into the tiny pedals that span mockingly away with each stamp of my foot. The bike lurched to the left and hop-hopping along to regain my balance, Hans stepped smartly out of the way and the race was underway.
Then something else happened. All the pre-race self-talk of “taking it easy”, “not going into the red”, and “sitting in” went straight out the window. Within four laps I found myself at the front of the bunch trying to bridge across to Number 5, who seemed to be attacking off the front for fun. Fighting to keep my breathing under control, I eased onto his wheel, only to see Number 7 ride effortlessly past, disappearing fast up the road. 8 laps gone and my lungs felt like detonated airbags. 12 laps gone and Number 7 had been joined by Numbers 5, 4 & 3. Oh yes, and Number 8. I felt like a bingo number yet to be called: “All on its own, Number 2!” At this point there was me and a couple of others who had to choose: bridge or consolidate? Or go home. In my infinite wisdom I decided to bridge and attacked on the long slope at the back of the circuit. Except that something magical had happened in between laps 12 and 13. What had been a short, gentle slope on lap 12 had transformed itself into a never-ending ribbon of tarmac that had tripled in steepness. Alas, a bridge too far.
Back in the riders’ HQ, I tersely congratulated the many who finished ahead of me, and heartily hugged the few who finished behind me, batting away trivial questions like “Where did you come?” with a shrug that meant to convey ‘Who cares?’, but that probably came across as bitter, bitter disappointment.
And then something else happened. I destroyed a Belgian bun and a cup of tea and watched the E123/4s race, and I found myself watching with admiration as the pack went past for the umpteenth time with pain etched all over their collective faces. For a split second I knew what that rider off the back was going through, manfully trying to bridge across. There was something gutsy and admirable about hanging on, about digging deep just to maintain his position. “You know,” I said as the bunch galloped towards the line, “It’s not always about the podium”. But my words were lost in the cheering and clapping that accompanied the winning rider.
Oh well, maybe next time.

Gary Wyatt (Winner of the Go Ride race)

I have completed many sportives and even the John Bornhoft Memoral Hill Climb a couple of times but I have never competed in a proper race before. Doing a running race is easy – you just turn up and run against all the other competitors but cycling is different and much more intimidating. You need a license, to have some skills in bike handling and there aren’t many places you can race on a closed circuit.
I love competition and have been thinking for a while about trying cycle racing, so the Go Race was the perfect introduction – no license required, a small and friendly field, and the knowledge that everyone has some experience and would not want to be responsible for wiping out a number of their club mates.
The day itself was great. I was slightly distracted before the start going to the wrong car park, which was littered with broken car window glass, so was pleased to bump into Damien who had made the same mistake. We finally found the right place but, after registering, I realised I had left my cycle glasses at home.
With hindsight this was probably a good distraction from thinking about the ride! After a couple of laps to get a feel for the course we lined up on the start for the briefing from Hans and then five minutes early we were off.
After a couple of steady laps when everyone was getting a feel for the ride I thought I would test my legs and made a little break. I hope it woke everyone up, as it was certainly hard being out at the front on your own and soon everyone had caught me up. There were a couple of other breaks during which were was some talk of tactics and alliances. I tried really hard to lose everyone about 4 laps from the end but I could not believe how hard it was to make a successful break.
There were four of us who came back together for the last lap and then there was the inevitable sprint. Mike started early and I caught his wheel and decided to go hard about 150m from the end. Sensing that I might have a chance of winning I pushed as hard as I could and managed to just hold off Damien and Mike but not without pulling the most ridiculous face, which was captured in a series of photos! I need to work on crossing the line as coolly as Nick Davis. This is the first race I have ever won, the closest I came before this was coming second in the loser’s race at sports day when I was 8. It just shows anything is possible if you are patient.
The main event followed which was fascinating; the breaks, the tactics, the thinning of the field, and the final sprint. I tried my hardest to capture some half decent photos, which only made me realise how difficult that is. Congrats to Nick, Andrew and Harry for their race. You never know I might be challenging you next year (in my dreams at least)!
All in all a great event and I would thoroughly recommend it to get a taste for racing. I now need to decide whether to bite the bullet, get a license and start racing properly. Gulp!
Even if you are not racing it is a great day to see what racing is all about, chat to your club mates, practise taking photos or just to eat some cakes.

Henrik Persson (highest placed 4th Cat and Winner of the 1st prime in the 1/2/3/4 race)

Well, I didn’t win, but what a cracking day out. As a first year Wheeler, knowing not many of the faces in the club, never before having ridden at Hillingdon or raced with the big scary boys of the Cat 2 and 3s, and knowing that I’d have an Ironman in the legs from the weekend prior, it was with a little nervousness and pretty low expectations of my own performance that I signed up to the Club Champs. I am, after all, not one to knowingly pass up the chance of cheap, homemade and delicious, cake. Little did I know that it was even better than that: the cake was free and plentiful, and that in a wicked twist of fate, that the dentist would have forbidden me from eating anything but clear foods for the weekend.
After having negotiated the circus of mad driving and mad pedestrian-ing around Hillingdon and a friendly Wheeler in a car having given me a toot as I missed the entrance to the circuit, I realised on arrival how misplaced my nerves had been. An easy-peasy sign-on staffed by Luca (gorging himself on cake), lots of smiles and nods between club mates, and after having caught the tail end of the Go Race and failed to find a track pump, we cracked on with a less-than-Team-Sky-esque perfunctory warm-up in the delightfully sunny autumn air. Pretty much perfect for racing.
The start line was an impressively photogenic sight of 20-ish matching Kingston kits. Hans gave a rousing speech as he prepared to set us off (“the race is an hour long and then 5 laps, the winner is the first across the line, there’s two intermediate sprints, please don’t kill each other, oh and by the way, yeah, welcome”). The merry band of five 4ths were allowed a 90sec head start over the snarling, bloodthirsty peloton. I imagine we were set off by a cannon or klaxon about the loud cheering of a crowd. Probably weren’t, but I can’t remember, so let’s leave my imagination alone.
Knowing the chances of winning this were similar to those of a mule ridden by Jonny Vegas at the Grand National, I thought that the most fun would be to see how long I and we could keep away from the horde.
Luckily the others in the group: Jeremy M, Phil B, Mark T and Luca had similar ideas. We kept together and worked well as a group for about 15mins, before Jeremy and I looked back and realised that it was only us left. Obviously, this got us fairly excited and the only sensible thing to do was to notch it up a little bit. And so we continued together for a good while longer, seeing the peloton inching closer each time we crossed the lap line.
I was delighted to slip away to grab the first prime after 30mins, and from there, I continued to ride alone for a few more laps, imagining that I looked as graceful and courageous as Boonen at Flanders. The reality, of course, was that I was gasping for air, chewing stem, and doomed. After 35-40mins or so, I was eventually caught and given a good kicking by the two-man bullet train of Snook and TY, and some seconds later, by the peloton as a whole. I slipped into the back for a few lazy laps. Or so I thought…. The peloton revved up to catch the Snook/TY Express shortly after TY had nabbed the second prime, and then the taking of turns marking of each other began. Some notable attacks kept flying off the front: Nic Rowe’s kamikaze attacks on the back chicane on multiple occasions which, for whatever reason, I felt obliged to try to chase down; Phil B grinning madly to himself as he launched a surprise charge from behind everyone’s backs, through the front and stealing a few seconds before slipping back having made his point; another dig from TY (caught beautifully in the photos), amongst others.
As the bell went to mark the start of the final five laps, the race continued to be exciting to ride: riders kept trying to slip away, or perhaps more poetically, launching brave suicide attacks. Again, I thought my only hope of taking anything from the race was to try to keep the pace high at the front and see if any of the whippets would fall away. This was, of course, a really, dreadfully bad plan and as we neared the finishing straight, the group swarmed past me and it was as I rounded the final bend that I, saw Nick Davis nabbing the win from the clutches of Harry Bunnell and Andy Davis.
Then it was back to the club house for battle stories and prizes, and cake for those without an evil dentist. I had a banana, thanks for asking, and some water. The video really captures how impressive a sprint it was by Nick, and I’m sure Sagan has spent his first weekend in the rainbow stripes watching it on repeat. Massive well done to the podium, and thank you so much to Hans and all of the volunteers who put the day on.
The day drew to a close, a few wrong left turns later, with beers (or house whites, thanks doc) by the river as the sun set. A phenomenal way to end a great afternoon, and I went home with a glow of pride/alcohol to tell a completely indifferent wife how much fun this crit racing lark is when people are riding hard and strong, and fair and straight.
Bring on next year!

TY Hsia (most attacking rider and winner of the 2nd prime in the 1/2/3/4 race)

The pace was high from the start, but only a few were taking turns up front. Harry was giving me stick so I did my share. I think Andrew Davis did one turn then disappeared (the bugger!). We were all together and I was quite comfortable. When the bell rang for the first Prime, I decided to go for it not realising that there was still 2 guys from the Cat 4 group!
So I attacked the peloton, got what I thought was the first Prime, and then decide to go for broke since I got a gap. I was then suffering by my lonesome until Andrew Snook bridged over to me, then we went to work.  I think at one time I heard we had 45 seconds.
My initial euphoria that Andrew was with me quickly dissolved into despair was he was super strong and I was barely hanging on so wasn’t contributing well. But I did take a cheeky little lead-out and took the second Prime, which was at 45 min.
After we were reeled in (thanks to Harry, Nick Davis et al), I sat in to recover in time to chase down Andrew Davis’ attack, so I was quite happy and still feeling good. Right before 2 laps to go in front of the HQ, I attacked one more time and GOT A GAP with 1.5 to go! So I thought “hey maybe I got all you buggers for a change.” Then bang! Left calf cramp going up that false flat bit before the turns and that was it.  I sat up, let the group go, and heard Phil telling me to latch back on.
But my day was done and I stopped to watch the finish. Good fun, totally bummed out about the cramp because I had good sensations in the legs today.
It was a wonderful day and probably safest I’ve ever felt in a race at Hillingdon.

Phil Barella (Raced in the 1/2/3/4 race… and survived!)

I met with a few at 12:15 and trundled over to the track at Hillingdon, and pretty much immediately got into my marshal vest, ready for the first race, the Go Ride race. Six wheelers and two wheelers that were helping them out for a bit of the race were on the grid. This saddened me, as I’ve seen a lot of people that have the capability of racing at cat 4 level in the club, and there is a fear factor, which when you are racing with club mates who are aware and decent riders, you realise how safe racing can be….
But, it was a good race with a stronger group of four breaking off the front leaving two others stranded, and alone. To be fair to Adam and Dave they never gave up, and both finished. The race was epitomised by strong riding by Gary Wyatt, who often dictated the pace/ broke off the front of the group. The others sprinted too early by the looks of it leaving Gary to win by a few bike lengths.
As for my race, well I’ll get the excuses out first. Recently I’ve had Cellulitis, I had three weeks off the bike and only 2 weeks of properly effective riding before the club champs. So I was fat and slow (though I have known that for some time).
Five of us 4th Cat riders started 90 seconds ahead of the main group of 3rd and 2nd Cat riders. We started well with a fairly brisk tempo, with Henrik, Jeremy, Luca, Mark and me all putting stints in on the front. We worked well together for 15 minutes when Mark suddenly disappeared, obviously using tactical discipline rather than knackering himself out… then five minutes later my QR started acting as if it was loose on my front wheel, and I had to actually stop and reseat the wheel. By this point Luca was also off the back of our group and we worked together for a bit before the peloton scooped us up, but Luca was spent and tailed off. In the meantime Jeremy and Henrik were still out in front and for the first half an hour the main group had still not caught them, showing they were working very well together. Henrik got the first sprint prime as Jeremy was tiring and proceeded solo for a couple more laps before being overtaken by the TY and Andy Snook train.
These guys were motoring with a reasonable gap, but once Henrik was installed near the front the group, he recovered and then helped the many other riders near the front keep the tempo reasonably high. I was still having minor front wheel issues ( more to do with confidence in the wheel than anything) so was hanging on at the back, not being able to take the s bends flat out as I usually do and thus wasting energy recovering position after the rise out of the S bends.
Once TY and Andy were in sight, the second prime bell rang and TY jumped and nabbed it. They then sat in the peloton recovering whilst several half-hearted attacks went off. The race ebbed and flowed at this point, with Tom, Matt, Nic and others all going off then being recovered. Of course none of them did what I did, which was to jump right from the back of the group into a head wind at high speed (too high to maintain for even a lap it works out), and get around 100 metres on the group, then look round for someone to work with hoping that someone would jump across, no bloody chance. So I shut right off, and soft-pedalled back into the group all within a lap. Ho hum, some things never change. Burnt a zippo and 2 boxes of matches on that one (will I ever learn!).
So, the next few laps ahead of the finish, were the usual with people jumping, then realising no one was going to work, and being knackered we all didn’t want to burn that last match. The only problem was in a bunch sprint for me there was only one winner, Nick, he’s got a very useful kick, and with the group launching up the hill, I moved up a couple of places but because of my handling issues, I lost the places on the hairpin, and then had to go red up the next rise just to stay on. Once I’d recovered I made up two or three places, but too little too late. All the same it was great fun and a very safe environment to race in. Shame a few of the racers DNF’d, but the tempo was pretty rapid, so it was understandable.
Afterwards we had presentations and cake… very nice and happy that everyone raced well and showed that they have plenty to offer. A big thanks to those that came along to spectate, help and generally get involved. I just wish more were involved!

Nick Davis (Club Champion 2015)

I entered as soon as I’d seen Hans advertise this year’s Club Champs on the forum – this is one of the most fun days with the Wheelers and definitely the most run race of the season so I was looking forward to it for weeks.
It was nice to have a slower start to the day as opposed to having to get up at the crack of dawn for most other races so I was nice and relaxed on the way over to Hillingdon – maybe too relaxed as it took me well over an hour to cycle the 15 miles across London to the circuit. Unfortunately this meant I arrived just as the Go Ride event was in its final laps, but from all reports it was a great experience for the new-comers to racing.
Having trundled my way over in the day’s sunshine I was running slightly behind my usual pre-race schedule so I first went over to Luca for sign-on/number pinning. The Go Race riders all then came into HQ increasing numbers and atmosphere with their race stories whilst stuffing full of cakes, tortilla and more, which only increased the excitement for the upcoming race.
Not much time for a warm up, just the once round the circuit and then we all lined up – facing anti-clockwise in the usual fashion at Hillingdon. There were about 17 of us on the start and a mix of 4th, 3rd and 2nd cat racers (albeit only four x 4ths and 1 x 2nd). Hans gave us a good briefing and there were plenty of spectators to wave us off as the flag dropped.
Having known the start list a few weeks before I had a game plan to keep an eye on certain people as I knew they were break specialists and power houses and that if they got a good gap then it would be hard to chase them down in a smaller field. There was also hardly any wind which is very unusual for Hillingdon – further increasing my worries of a couple of strong break-away riders going clear.
I should probably mention at this point that the format of the race was a handicap, in that the 4th cat riders started first and, in this case because Andrew Davis was the only 2nd Cat, 3rds and Andrew off together. We started with a fair deficit as it was a quite a while before we caught the 4ths – but more on that shortly. I tucked myself in at the back as I usually like to do for the first lap or so just go get a feel of the grip and corners as it has been nearly a year since my last visit to Hillingdon. Having got comfortable I thought I’d get to the front and give it a few turns, nothing too hard – just to wake my legs up and keep the pace high enough to enable the chase to the 4ths to continue.
We worked well as a group, most of the time keeping the pace consistent. Not only were we chasing down the 4ths for the catch but there were 2 primes (at 30 minutes and 40 minutes in) that we were going for – if the peloton didn’t catch the 4ths then we weren’t in with a shout of the prime prize money! Something I was keen to have a go for. However, both the group and I didn’t account for the mammoth effort from the 4ths up the road and especially Henrik who went for it from the gun and held off the pack until after the first prime – very impressive! The group only managed to catch the 4ths shortly after this.
From the packs perspective it was still a rather cagey affair at this stage with most not willing to risk a break with half the race left – that is until TY and Andrew Snook decided to fly out the bunch. I didn’t actually see them go but it must have been with more than 25 minutes of racing still to go. These two diesels managed to pull out a good gap and despite the group trying to manage it TY and Andrew held out to fight for the second prime – with TY just getting it.
Now that the primes were contested and with only two guys up the road the group felt slightly more relaxed at which point I the pace became more consistent, except for when Harry or Tom decided to jump off the front – both of which I was worried about bridging the gap but I thought ‘no, wait, bide your time’. It paid off and eventually the group caught what looked like a very tired TY and Andrew but kudos as they both managed to join the group as we went passed.
We must have had less than 15 minutes to go when I realised something hadn’t happened yet that I was fully expecting too – that being a big dig by Andrew Davis. I knew he was going to go at some point so from here on in so I didn’t let Andrew get more than two bikes lengths away. I told myself that if he was going to jump then I’d go with him. Sure enough, a few laps after the catch Andrew went coming over the start line – impressively TY still had the energy to go second wheel and myself third. However, due to the high stakes of the biggest race of the season, no one else was going to let a break go with 10 minutes left so it came back together quickly. There were a few more attacks over the remaining five or so laps but to no avail at which point the pace began to ebb and flow slightly as people prepared for a bunch finish.
I was slightly surprised that a break hadn’t stuck during the day but this suited me as my game plan was, as I say, to watch the stronger guys and go with them if possible, but ideally contest a bunch finish. The lapboard counted down from five and it still stayed together, each lap going by I was thinking ‘which move is going to be the winning one’. I placed myself in the top 4/5 for the last 3 laps and stayed there in the hope that I could get onto a flying wheel if it came past – there were a couple but each was covered by someone.

So, we all took the bell together, me in 4th position and feeling. I managed to hold the inside line on the corners without getting blocked in, past the club house and up the hill – still waiting, waiting, waiting (I knew Pete H. likes to go from here on this circuit so was looking out for him to go by). Then it came, the big move from Andrew Snook, he went up the hill and towards Brian’s Bends, this was it! I wanted to go with him but not second wheel as this would have put me on the front coming round the final bend for the sprint finish, so I waited and then Harry went for it, immediately jumping to Andrews’s wheel. I followed Harry into 3rd position and with Andrew Davis 4th as we rounded the final couple of bends. Not wanting to get boxed in if someone started their sprint early I sat off Harry’s wheel slightly and to the side so I could pull off to the right is need be. I’m never sure of when to start sprint so I usually look for others to make the first more and then try and follow. However, on this occasion we came round past the bus stop and with the line coming into sight I thought I couldn’t wait any more so I came off Harry’s wheel and went for it down the middle – luckily holding out for a first win. No time or space for any celebrations though, all too tight.
Super happy to have won, but even more so to have an awesome day out with the Wheelers again. It was great to be able to race without the pressure of other clubs fighting for position every lap and in the comfort of friends – something that has to be credited to Hans and the many other Wheelers who volunteered on the day as well as prior.