This is a reproduction of an article first published at: http://www.raphacondor.cc/blogs/tom-staniford-s-2010-season
This is my first season riding for both Rapha Condor CC and GB Paracycling (Talent Team) and it’s been a great success.
The season began in the deep end with some able-bodied crits to test out the gains I’d made over winter. After a tremulous end to last season as I dipped a toe into the National B crits I’m pleased to say that the increases in strength and power I’d gained meant I was ok this time round. Whilst for many finishing safely in the bunch in a National A and B (E/1/2 and E/1/2/3) crit may not be much, but for a Paracyclist it is strangely pleasurable. Obviously the other riders may have a bit of an advantage in many ways, but it is terrific training and really pushes me on. Also, if I can get in a solid break or really make a change to how the race progresses and still finish in the bunch then I feel it’s been well worth the effort.
After establishing my confidence in able-bodied competition, I launched into racing in the National Disability Circuit Race Series nationwide. Operating on a factoring system to accommodate different disability classes, I was rubbing shoulders with Paralympic gold and World champions. The first race, however, remains the highlight with a hard-fought 3rd place.
In the RTTC Rudy Project TT Series I saw some good improvements over the year, and was pleasingly close to Simon Richardson (the double Paralympic gold paracyclist, not the pro) to him in Bath, only 3-4% off his time over the 40-odd mins of racing. I do appear to be getting quite a relish for the time trial as a discipline- ending my season with a 10-mile Time Trial best on an undulating course of 22 mins 18.
This year saw my first experiences racing on the continent in GB colours. A tentative start at theUCI Paracycling World Cup Series race in Bilbao, and then Bayonne, unfortunately saw me spend a month off in June with stitches in my knees and face, but luckily no broken bones or bike(!). It was a truly awesome fortnight, my first representing the country.
After a few weeks off the bike due to the knee stitches, I finally returned to some gentle training before 3 weeks spent in London. I was catching up with the lovely people at Rapha and earning some much-needed cash to fund a custom shoe project I’ve been working on with Phil at Cyclefit in Covent Garden. (www.cyclefit.co.uk). A huge amount of thanks must also go out to Nick Threlfall, Rapha Condor CC member and ride leader- who was a ceaselessly generous and genuine host for my stay. An utter paragon for Club camaraderie and friendship.
Whilst in the big smoke I did also at last get the chance to ride with other Rapha Condor CC members. Regent’s Park chaingangs, Sunday club runs, and small-group midweek jaunts exploring the locale were my regular riding for 3 weeks, with the club-organised Onze Bosses ride being a particular highlight and success. Thanks must go out to all the guys who I rode with- an extremely welcoming bunch who I hope to get back to soon.
On the track I’ve been fairly quiet as my focus so far has been on the road, but I rode in Rapha colours at the British Track Champs as a term of my application to the Academy (more on that shortly). Personal bests in the kilo (1:18) and 3k pursuit (4:05) left me feeling strangely deflated as I’d hoped for better, but British Cycling seemed pleased with it considering I have severly limited track experience and was unable to ride on the track for 6 months prior to the champs!
The deadline for the British Cycling Paracycling Academy Applications has been and gone. Competition is very fierce, of course, so I genuinely have no idea of knowing if I’ll get in or not. Fingers crossed.
Tomorrow I’m going into hospital for a skin graft on my ankle- long overdue treatment for an arterial ulcer which simply refuses to heal. A few weeks recovery and then I’ll be hopefully be returning to training late November to hit it hard at full health from mid-December onwards.
Tom rides for Rapha Condor CC domestically and GB Paracycling (Talent Team) and GB Deaf Cycling on the International Elite stage. He is currently awaiting feedback on his application for the British Cycling Paracycling Academy, which seeks to support the riders targetting the 2012 Paralympics in London.
Reproduced from the original article here: http://www.roadcyclinguk.com/guest-blog/delusions-of-coureur-6-bunch-engine/5146.html
Well, readers, I left you in Delusions…5 having completed the first two stages of the Para Tour of the Basque Country and first day of racing. A solid TT had left me with a good feeling but also a near bottomless stomach.
The hotel we stayed at in El Regato is accustomed to catering for a cyclist’s needs (well, the nutritional ones anyway… nothing kinky) having opened its doors to international cycling squads for many years.
So, allow me to divulge the heady volume of comestibles we quaffed each night. On arrival at table, proceedings began with a large bottle of water and baskets of bread. These were dispatched pretty quickly, with most people eating between 4 and 8 chunky slices of baguette. Then came the starters: generally a very large bowl of pasta or rice in a simple cream or tomato sauce. Then, the main: invariably steak and chips or lean chicken and chips/rice/pasta. To finish: fruit salads, cake or ice cream. Then, coffee.
Then back to the rooms to polish off a protein shake and energy bar or three; Team Sky and British Cycling are both supported in a partnership with CNP nutrition products (more info and details on www.cnpprofessional.co.uk), which, as sports nutrition goes, are actually very nice. The meal replacement protein shakes make a welcome start to protein-loading and the energy bars are amongst the very best I’ve had. (Reviews of part of the range to come soon).
A somewhat confusing attempt to decipher the controls of the superawesomepowershowerdeluxe generally follows, before stretching and bed.
Day 2, and a 5-lap RR round a 13k(ish) circuit.
All the C classes (explanation for disability classes given in Delusions…5) would be racing together, but with the C5s lining up at the front, C1s at the back and all other classes fitting into their respective divisions.
Generally the C5s and C4s, as faster riders, will smash the first lap or section of the race, in order to break up the group and hopefully provide a division of the classes on the road. The lucky few C3s and C2s who stay with the front group are pretty much allowed to draft to a high placing for their class, whilst their competitors meander in a smaller C1/2/3 bunch off the back.
So, tactics for the day were certainly to hit the first lap hard, sit in and just hold onto the faster C4/5 peloton before the pace settled down.
However, in practice this was not to be. A C3 rider some four lines ahead of me messed up his clipping-in procedure, holding up a large proportion of C1/2/3s whilst the C4/5 main group slipped away at high speed.
A minute or so later, when we were finally able to get rolling and the front group was well down the road. I notched it up a few gears and settled in for a long and painful drive onto the back, but nobody else in my group wanted to play ball. After several minutes of red-lining it and passing riders who had already been dropped, I was not really making much progress. As predicted, the C5s were really caning it at the front, and everyone around me had pretty much given up trying to get back on, preferring to accept the boat had sailed and to settle back into their own pace.
It was with heavy heart and frustration, therefore, that I slowed and insinuated myself into the group forming around me.
Although we were supposedly ‘dropped’ riders, this was by no means a group of pretenders. Company included C1 world pursuit champion Michael Teuber and C1 world RR champion Pierre Senska.
And at last I was treated to my first taste of Continental road racing. And what an experience it was. Closed roads, marshals, crowds on the route, cheering, sunshine. People worked together, alliances were struck, tactics were played out. It was, in short, pretty awesome- and I loved every second.
In the UK I generally limp around in the E/1/2/3 crit in a state of constant suffering, just hanging on for dear life as somebody smashes it at the front. Here, though, I was racing on a far more level playing field. It was still hard at times, but it was also a lot easier to handle. In short, it felt like how I’d always imagined RR-ing should be.
Myself, Teuber, Senska, and a few Spaniards worked hard, rotating the front for a few laps and whittling our group of 30 down to around 12. A hard effort from Teuber going into the final lap, and there were now four.
And now the fun really began.
Tactically I’d never been in a strong position for the final lap of a crit in UK. Yet here I was in a breakaway, the front-runners of our little group of dropped riders. With two world champions. I can tell you, it’s bizarre to look across to the side whilst riding and be met with the rainbow bands of a world champion. It is even more bizarre to see that he is hurting as much as you.
So; pursuit world champ, road world champ, anonymous former Spanish pro (you can tell the ex-pros because they generally ride for trade teams, not national teams) and myself, in my first ever international Para event. At this point I was thinking… how cool is this? Swiftly followed by ‘God, I’d love to get one over on Teuber’. No idea why, probably because he won two gold medals in Beijing. He is a strong rider, however, and has a teammate in Senska, so I knew I’d have to time it just right.
On the course there is a short climb 1k from the finish, before a few-hundred-metre descent, over a roundabout, before a flat final 500m to the finish. Having watched how others were doing on that climb each time we mounted it, and tried some exploratory efforts myself, I felt I knew it quite well.
I can’t sprint for toffee, and I know Senska can, so I decided I would try an Ekimov-styled attack. Watch on the climb, wait for Teuber to go (and I suspected he would), draft him, counter-attack over the top, and smash it track kilo-style down and long to the finish.
I can’t hold a very good sprint, but I do punch well above my weight for short TT-style efforts- something enhanced by the track camp the previous week. I had also been trying out different lines on the roundabout each lap, and had a fairly good idea of what line to take to get out fastest, minimizing any loss in speed.
So… the climb. Teuber went, I followed. When they looked right I attacked down the left, and I was away. No looking back to see if anyone was there. Nothing but 53×12, 110rpm, and a great deal of pain. Took the roundabout at 32mph, and burned it down the back straight. And then, tragedy. Somehow, a car had managed to infiltrate the course. Pulling out into the road, it caused me to swerve and momentarily slow my pedalling. Bad idea. Lactate hit. Can’t get back on the gear. Dying. Ouch. Fuzzy black spots on vision. More ouch. Check behind me, Senska is there. Our eyes meet. He nods, as if to say ‘well done’, but also ‘good luck next time’. He mocks me with his half-smile, a rictus of drafted pain.
I can’t sprint, so I just have to try to hold him off. I’m dead though, so we just continue at the same hard pace to the finish. And then, 10 metres from the end, he comes round. A few kicks, and he edges it. I knew it was coming. I’d planned for it not to happen.
We roll on past the finish, bleary-eyed and lost in our respective agonies. I’m not really sure if I’m breathing or drowning in air. It’s tasteless, pointless, ineffective. I try to breath through my ears- my mouth isn’t enough.
I stop rolling by Senska. ‘Wie gehts?’ I gasp. ‘Ja. Gut.’ he’s lying but also completely serious. ‘Good work’, he says. I shake his hand, the sweat of our mitts mingling in a sodden embrace. I turn to leave.
’Hey’ he says. I turn awkwardly, my legs are locking up. He looks at me, tight-lipped, sunken cheeks embalmed in sweat and road grime. Tarmac detritus. ‘the car…’ he says, leaving the rest of his sentiment hanging loosely in the silent and darkening gloom. I nod. He nods, gulping as though it was an effort to admit. I know. Without the car, I’d have got it.
But coulda shoulda woulda. I sit heavily on the saddle and roll back to the BC pit area. I’m pleased for Senska, and pleased for myself. But that’s not what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking Teuber.
I’m thinking I just dropped a World Champion.