Junior Tour of Ireland 🇮🇪 stage 4

By Logan McLean.

Stage 4 junior tour of Ireland
127 gruelling kilometres was what faced the ERC team as we set our place on the start line. Stage 4 was one of the hardest stages in the race with a category 1 climb standing tall 70km into the stage. The corkscrew was notorious for its switch backs and steep gradients.
When the race began an American team called Hot Tubes, who also had the yellow jersey went to the front and began to raise the pace making it hard for riders to break of the front.
10 km into the stage, three Holowesko Ctadel riders broke of the front dragging with them a race favourite riding for the American Dornier team. The four riders quickly built up a lead of 30 seconds. I just felt that it was time to go, to counter this attack and try to bridge across with Mark Smith from the Leinster team, a rider from the national Irish team and a rider from Lux Specialized.
Within minutes we had reached the first breakaway group and now formed a group of 8 riders, we all began to push on. It was an amazing feeling being in the break as we were getting constant time gap checks from motorbikes and we were also being filmed.
40 km into the stage we manged to get a time gap over minute meaning team cars from the convoy where able to race up the road and support us as we tried to lengthen the gap.
Hot Tubes were chasing hard pushing the peloton to the limit. My teammates took advantage of Hot Tubes doing all the work and settled in to the bunch.
When I and the breakaway reached the “The Corkscrew climb” I put in a bigger effort on the front to try and collect some KOM points which were on offer at the top of the climb. I managed to sprint my way to second on the KOM collecting 12 points putting me in 3rd place in the KOM classification. I wish now that I had started chasing KOM points the day before.
Over the climb and after a quick decent the breakaway had thoughts of could we go all the way to the finish. The breakaway started on the Cat3 climb and again we took time out of the chasing peloton.
I picked up 3 more points after coming second over the cat 3 climb at 85km. Now it was a race to the finish, 2 riders from the breakaway where dropped and this left 6. We were racing as hard as we could go.
With 10km to go we had 33 seconds on the peloton with Hot Tubes and now Team Swift taking up the effort.
Sadly with 5km to go we were caught which caused great frustration and sadness, now I know how the tour riders feel, I was beyond gutted. I then jumped on to the peloton and rolled in with the sprint finishers losing no time.
Chris and Louie sitting middle of the peloton also got the same time as the winning Team Swift rider.
After the stage I learnt that Ciaran was feeling unwell and had to abandon after bravely starting the stage in hope that he would feel better. A really brave effort for Ciaran who isn’t as experienced in Tour races as Chris, Louie and Myself, Ciaran did himself proud. He then became part of the Jack and Victor support team looking after his team mates
I look back at this stage with what could have been if Hot Tubes weren’t as strong as they were, but I rode 110km with a small group at an average speed of 43.48KPH/27.04MPH on a lumpy course with 2 big hills, I did ride out of my skin.
I think possibly this was the hardest/fastest I have ever worked in a race and NOW I am really proud of what I achieved today and can appreciate all the training I have done.
I can’t keep thanking my support team enough, Aileen, David and Ali for what you did for Team ERC and Jarlath from afar.

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Junior Tour of Ireland: Day 3

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Today’s Stage(3) was a 105km road race that took the field up the cliffs of Moher which consisted of a category 2 climb. The race started fast with many of the riders trying to break away from the peloton. With 30km to go the cliff of Moher loomed with USA based team Hot Tubes setting the pace. When the climb started I had an unfortunate mechanical meaning I had to chase for 30seconds onto the group. Thankfully legs where strong and managed to make my way back through the peloton all the way to the front.

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The rest of ERC managed to make it over the climb and make it through the convoy to catch back on before the finish with all of us finishing comfortably in the bunch, ready to go for stage 4

Race Report by Logan McClean

Interesting coincidence! Today Dan Martin won a stage at the Tour De France……. Back in July many years ago he also won a stage of the Junior Tour of Ireland

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Junior Tour Of Ireland: Day 2

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Update on Junior Tour of Ireland – Tuesdays 6.2km prologue went alright considering I had come down with some sort of illness on Tuesday morning; Top 100 😂😂. Today’s road stage was the ‘west Clare’ stage of 95km went around the South coast of county Clare. After a proper sketchy and nervous neutral zone we started and unfortunately me and a few other riders came off after a very fast compression and my handlebars ended up at 90° to the front wheel. Luckily support was quick to fix it and I was chasing back on within a minute. I lost 3 of my gears and couldn’t spin fast enough through the convoy to chase back on. I chased solo for 20k until having to change bikes. Eventually me and a few other riders formed the grupetto and had a laugh mostly the rest of the stage. Finished just outside 100th place – yas 😨😂. The rest of the boys finshed in the front bunch, but Ciaran just got dropped at 40km to go. Tomorrow is another day though and 105k’s.

Race Report : By Louie Doig

 

Senergy Criterium- What a feeling!

Hi! I’m Ciaran McSherry and this is my first season of racing and couldn’t ask for better teammates or a club to race for! Here’s a little bit about me and how I won my first race.
Wow! That really felt amazing, after a very tough couple of years it was such a brilliant feeling to get my hands in the air. The last 2 years have been very up and down for my family and I, with my little brother Reon (now 13) being diagnosed and battling with Leukemia. To this day the battle continues but he’s in a much better position now than he was 2 years ago. All of this has obviously impacted our lives greatly and especially with exams at school happening it didn’t make it easy to train. On the 25th of October 2016 Reon needed a bone marrow transplant and I was a perfect match so I donated over a litre of bone marrow to him which seemed to be the cure for him until exactly a year later when he relapsed. Since October last year I’ve donated over 7.5 million stem cells and another couple bags of lymphocytes, none of which have completely cured him but the new treatment he’s on seems to be working well and he’s back to being a cheeky little brother.

After poor conditions and mild hypothermia at Gifford forced me to abandon and a mechanical on the second last lap of Stirling’s Crit On the Campus cost me a good place (I think a win), I was really looking to finish this race without anything else hampering me! With the new kit from the club and Endura I was excited to start what would only be my third ever race. Before the race started I took a couple laps to get a feel for the course and I knew it would be fast and sketchy with some of the other Cat 4’s not being the best bike handlers (to put it nicely). I managed to get myself to the front of the group for the start but managed to miss my cleat which caused me to drop a few places. UGH! The first corner caused a couple of riders to come off the track as they took it too quickly, I managed to navigate myself up to the top 10 places for most of the race meaning I wasn’t going to get caught out by an attack or a crash. Someone attacked off the front about 7 laps in and I went to follow but Rafael De Giacomo Araujo, who’s in the ERC race team, came up in front of me and paced me up to the attack. The group weren’t letting anyone go though and we soon called it and waited up for the bunch. Rafael continued to help me by attacking to tire out the strong riders and make them work in our favour, he also did an excellent job bringing attacks back. When it got down to the last 2 laps though it was all down to me and my legs felt great, no-one really attacked in the penultimate lap but as soon as we crossed the line for what would be the second last time an attack came and I was quick to get on his wheel and sit in the slipstream for about two-thirds of the lap until he tired. Another attack came, I jumped onto his wheel and sat in until just before the final sweeping left hander where I nailed it around the corner (thanks for the advice Logan) and up the slight rise to the line. I managed to open quite a big gap which gave me enough time to celebrate.

As you can see I’m quite happy to take the win and wasn’t just going to do a little celebration. Nah. I went all out. full thing, punch the air and the classic arms aloft in the air. Everyone was so nice after the race too with people coming and saying, “well done!” and “nice one!” but it felt amazing to see my teammates after the race giving Rafael and Steven ‘man’ hugs. Chris also came and said well done at the end, but I didn’t recognise him till I saw his bike, that’s the problem with only seeing your teammates in their kit! (sorry Chris). Finally, to have my Grandad, Dad and Girlfriend there to watch, it was great to win in front of them and hopefully this will be the first of many, now on to the Junior Tour of Ireland with Chris, Logan and Louie!

Signing off for now, Ciaran.

Gifford 3/4

Myself, Logan, Louie, Ciaran and Aiden were all racing at Gifford this weekend on the undulating course near Edinburgh. It was myself and logan’s first race in ERC Kit, so we were looking to make a good first impression in it.

After the slippy warm up in the rain on the rollers and the cosy briefing the race neutralised section started with all the ERC riders huddled right behind the lead car in the near biblical conditions until the flag dropped. Ciaran did a good job of bringing back some of the early attacks on the first climb, so I could take the first KOM, then it was attack after attack until the 3 riders who filled out the podium broke clear around lap 2 where the pace of the chase, mixed with coldness (and cramp in Louie’s case)  shed most of the bunch so only a small group of around 11 including me and Logan were left to chase. Joe Wilson won with myself coming 2nd in the bunch sprint to take 5th overall with Logan close behind.

It took 30 minutes after the finish to stop shivering and we all wanted to do was go home to have a warm shower. The brutal rain and bitter coldness lead to quite a few riders pulling out. I have been racing for almost 5 years and have never been in conditions as bad as that so respect to everyone that finished. It was a fantastic race so thank you to all the marshals, organisers and commissaires that made it possible.

The fantastic photos from Jarlath Flynn photography

Lancaster salt Ayre Crit 1

E/1/2/3 race and 3/4

With the beast from the east battering Scotland with its cold and snowy conditions, it was time to go west and then a big way south all the way to Lancaster for my second race of the season. I was competing in the 45minute long cat 3/4 race and also the hour long E/1/2/3 race. With a tough day of racing ahead I made sure to get my rest the day before the race. With the car packed me, my dad and fellow teammate Chris travelled down to Lancaster with our first race at 3:15pm. There was a slight change in music taste for the drive down, instead of Iron Maiden it was the Notorious B.I.G which got us hyped for our race. When we arrived the excitement soon began to build as I spotted the large number of cyclist collecting there numbers for the race. Me and Chris quickly got changed into our cycling kit and made our way to sign on.
Salt Ayre is a purpose built closed circuit cycle course 1500m long and about 4.5m wide. It was very nearly flat all the way round.
Once the numbers were pinned on, we set out our rollers and began to warm up for our imminent race. The car park next to the race circuit was filled with the sound of roller rev outs, cyclist bantering wither sram or shimano is the better group set and also the spectators walking round discreetly picking who their favourite for the race win is. With 3 minutes before the race began I took my spot on the starting grid on the front row. I looked behind just before the race set off but was unable to see the back of the grid. It was a fair sized field. The first couple of laps went by really fast as the riders jostled for position. Me and Chris stayed close to the front and took turns in chasing down attacks. In the middle of the race 3 riders managed to escape and got a 30 second advantage over the peloton. I decided to try and bridge across but when I got into arms reach of them they decided to attack which meant I was unable to follow them because of my effort trying to catch them. I eventually made my way back into the peloton and prepared for the sprint.

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One of the riders in the group of 3 got dropped and then swallowed up by the peloton meaning that whoever won the sprint to the line would claim the last spot on the podium. With one lap to go me and Chris had placed ourselves well near the front of the bunch for the sprint. with 200metres to go I was boxed in both sides and had to push my way out, thankfully with 150m to go I was out in front and was able to start my sprint. I managed to win the sprint and finish 3rd overall in the race

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Chris also put in a strong performance and finished 7th.

No podium, as there was no podium and I had about 10 minutes to recover before having to make my way to the start line for the E/1/2/3 race.
After grabbing a fresh bottle and gel I was once again on the start line. This race was 1 hour long which was going to hurt already tired legs. The race was extremely fast with a lot of the elite riders constantly trying to attack of the front. With 3 laps to go Chris put in a strong attack alongside Elite rider Cameron Jeffers who has plenty of experience in last minute breakaways, unfortunately Chris was caught just before the last lap.
I was preparing for the final sprint but soon realised it was not going to be easy as I got pushed off the track by a much bigger rider than me, I bunny hopped back on and tried to move my way up the field some more but only for someone to slam on their breaks in front of me which meant I was unable to execute my sprint.
However both me and Chris finished in positions which meant we could gain points towards our cat 2 licenses, I finished 14th and Chris finished 11th. Overall it was a brilliant day of racing and we both achieved good positions in both races.

Thank you to Ellen Isherwood at, https://www.flickr.com/photos/100713057@N05/ for the awesome photos

Thanks Logan

VELO29 – CROFT CIRCUIT E/1/2/3

Post by ERC Junior Logan MacClean
Hello,
First off a big thank you to ERC and Jarlath for accepting me and welcoming me to the club.
After a hard winters training it was my first race of the season at round 4 of the Velo 29 winter series at Croft racing circuit. Me and fellow team mate Chris Hordon entered the E/1/2/3 race in hope of getting points towards our Cat 2 licences. On Friday night Chris Mum and Dad took us to Newcastle so we were able to stay the night and not have to travel so far to the racing circuit the next day. Sadly we were unable to go to the night clubs and pubs as we were too focused on our race the next day. After a good night’s sleep we set off on the Saturday morning to Darlington where the race track is. When we arrived it was the usual race procedures that followed, collect numbers and race chip, greet other fellow cyclist, listen to a couple Iron Maiden songs and most importantly setting up the rollers at the finish line so we can catch a glimpse of the sprint finish of the race before ours. With 10 minutes before our race started we completed a recon of the course so we never got caught out by any dodgy pot holes or tight corners. The race started very fast with attacks happening constantly by Cat 1 and 2 riders. Chris and myself where always close to the front of the race and where able to follow majority of these attacks however none of them were able to stay away. When the race began to settle down two cat 1 riders where able to escape the peloton and they got a big enough gap and eventually took 1st and 2nd place. With the race speeding up again with 4 laps to go Chris had a dig of the front to test the legs. However the peloton wasn’t letting anyone else away, but with two laps to go Chris and myself quickly began to weave our way through the bunch to put ourselves in a good position for the sprint. The home straight had a block headwind so the race would often slow up by 3mph. Chris and myself read the race well and knew that there would be attacks coming on the last lap. I took advantage of this and just as the bell rang for the last lap I did a last gasp effort and was able to pull away from the peloton and stay away to the finish to finish 3rd with the rest of the peloton breathing down my neck at the finish line.
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I am really looking forward to racing for ERC this year and hope that I can get on the podium again but this time wearing the RED and BLACK of ERC.

Thanks
Logan

ERC Juniors: 2018 Pre-Season Update

Hi, Jarlath Flynn here, I am the coach for Edinburgh RC’s u18 junior race squad.

With the race season starting in a couple of weeks it is now perhaps a good time to give an update on what the squad have been doing this winter

Firstly some good news regarding previous and current ERC Juniors. Congratulations to Calum Johnston making the jump to the u23 Zappi race team based in Italy and Stuart Paterson moving to RT23. Joe Agnew also continues his progress with a bike deal from Red Chilli bikes.
Sean Flynn, (British Champion at everything!) of ERC and British Cycling continues to show face on the international Junior scene. Good luck Sean, the club is very proud of your achievements.

So to the 2018 Juniors

Firstly let me introduce the squad.

The Girls
Alison Bryce
Estelle Fuller
Hollie Begg

The Boys

Aiden Foulner
Ciaran McSherry
Christopher Horden
Eduard Stocia
Finlay Middlemiss
Logan Maclean
Louie Doig

This year we welcomed a few out of towners to the squad. Christopher and Alison joined the club from West Lothian Clarion, Ciaran from North Berwick , while Logan has come from Stirling.

Our winter programme began In mid-October with the squad meeting as a group on Tuesday evenings for 90 minutes around Arthur Seat.
The purpose of this session was to get the riders together as a group and to bond a s team.

Last summer I was part of the Scottish Cycling coaching team that took a the Scottish schools Cycling team to the National School games. I saw how there was a big gap between the “best” and the “rest” when it came to racing. Looking back at the races I realised that the main difference was raw speed. The riders that were winning were used to cycling faster in training than their peers. With that in mind a large part of our Arthur’s Seat session was to incorporate fast speed drills. The idea was for me to act as a derny and build up speed approaching 50kph with the riders drafting and attacking at high speeds. In Jan and Feb. we have moved the speed drill to the Innocent railway tunnel where the riders can hit 60kph over 400 meters.

Our winter training program also involved rides getting a physical check-up by Team Sky’s Morgan Lloyd at James McCallum’s M.E.T.A facility. This was to ensure that the riders had no under lying issues that would stop them taking part in our winter strength and conditioning program.
Now that we are 16 weeks into the gym programme it’s great to see how the riders have become stronger and more co-ordinated.

Over the past few years we used to have twice monthly group rides but for 2018 these have been mostly ditched so that the riders could experience the speed of the weekly club runs from the Commonwealth pool. Getting to know club members is also a large part of being part of a club and building up a social network can only benefit the riders going forward.

Some of our juniors also managed to get on Scottish Cyling’s iDevelop sessions which were held once or twice a month and involved group riding, track and roller sessions.

With some of our team unable to make the weekly session due to their out of town locations we have inclusive Skype chats to discuss training, nutrition and anything else the riders needs advice on. To be honest though, we mostly talk about when the next kit order will be 
Over Skype we have planned our target race schedule which involves regional and national races as well as the annual trip to the Junior Tour of Ireland.
Later this month, level 3 coach Andy Kirkland is lined up to give the riders a talk over Skype about what it takes to be the best you can be.

So it is with excitement that we look forward to see what thrills and spills the 2018 race season brings.

Thanks for taking the time to read about what has been happing with the Edinburgh RC u18 race squad. Do keep an eye on this bog , @EdinburghRc on Twitter, @jarlathflynn on Twitter and other social media for updates on how our season is progressing.

Bye for now and as always thanks to the ERC membership and our sponsors that support our young riders.

Lets cycle faster then the rest!

First year as a competitive cyclist

Its been roughly a year since I started taking road cycling seriously, and let me tell you it has been a fast one.  A lot of the past twelve months have consisted of many achievements and unexpected turns.  This blog will be a long one, updating about my season as a first year junior.

 

From January to March 2017 I continued attending the gym weight training sessions, followed by an hour of rollers every Thursday evening at Meggetland gym.  These sessions helped me become stronger and prepared for the race season ahead.  I continued to go out every Saturday on the club runs (unless I had a race) which helped me meet new people every week – a lot of who still help and train me to this day.  I have found these great fun and very useful as I can familiarise myself with the routes for when I decide to go out during the week.

 

Kames Criterium – 23rd April 2017

Kames, based in Muirkirk, Ayrshire was my first race as a junior.  Like always, your first race never goes to plan, you don’t know what you are going to or the ability of others that day.  The main goal for me was that I finished it – which was well achieved.  I was not expecting to be racing around a tight windy circuit at speeds of 30-40kmph for half an hour.  I had been so use to doing long road rides at slower speeds, so I was definitely not prepared.  There is no time to have a drink because you are constantly having to think about attacks etc, but also no time to take a rest.  On the bright side, there was only two of us in the junior category that day, so I got a second place.  Thanks to my team mates and friends, it was a great day out.

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Back to training

After this particular race, it was a sign I needed to up my training – which did not last for very long due to exams approaching and I was in school most of my time (which i do regret).  The motivation of others, and having organised training sessions that kept me going.  Every second Thursday, I would go along to the rides with my coach Jarlath and some of the ladies from ERC, and we would do about 40-50Km down to Temple and back.  On these rides were various intervals and challenging hills which made it more competitive and interesting.  This made me get my bug back for cycling as it showed taking time out of revising to go a cycle helps mentally, but also I realised I would rather be going through pain from climbing hills than revising at a desk.

 

Harts Criterium Series – May 2017

Unfortunately I could not attend the first crit of the series due to having an exam that day, but I strongly attended the other three.

The series was well organised and a great experience as I was able to see what racing in a women’s bunch was like.  However, not the most successful of races as I did not get the standings I hoped for, but I kept in mind that this was only my first season racing and it was not the time to give up.

 

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Track

It was also around this time I wanted to start track, so I looked into it more and found track sessions at Meadowbank Velodrome every Friday evening.  By the end of my first session I was riding above the blue line and going around the top of the bankings – which was a nice accomplishment.  I got very keen with track and wanted to start racing, but due to the closing of Meadowbank altogether I had to find an alternative way to do this.  By the end of summer there was no option but to stop track as I did not own a track bike and had no access of getting to Glasgow frequently.  So back to road it was for good 🙂

 

During my rest week in summer, I went on a family holiday to Italy.  During my stay, we did one day of cycling down the Amalfi Coast, which I have to admit was really hard and tiring, but equally a great experience.  So hopefully when I get to ride abroad in the future I will know what I am going to.  Once I returned from my holiday, I took advantage of the hot sunny weather to do lots of base miles, and also threw in some cafe runs in the pouring rain.  So it looks like I spent my school break productively 🙂

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Kames Criterium – 26th August 2017

On this date I returned to the Kames circuit to see what improvement I had made in the past four months.  For sure I had made improvement, I had greater speeds and faster recoveries, however it was another unsuccessful race.  It could have been lack of sprint training, the wrong diet, not enough sleep, but it could also mean that the circuit just is not my type.  Again, due to there only being two juniors in the race, I got another second place.

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Kilmarnock Criterium – 24th September 2017

My next race a few weeks later was at Howard Park in Kilmarnock.  From the minute I woke up, I could tell it just was not the day for a race, not because of the pouring rain, heavy wind weather conditions – but because of the incidents lying ahead due to these.  But I turned up, had a good warm up and made my way to the start line.  The race had started and I managed to get comfortable in the bunch for the first few laps.  But after bunny-hopping over wheels of those who got taken down, avoiding potholes with cyclists all around me, I decided the safest option was to pull off the back and finish the race myself.  During the race, I watched almost every rider go down, one by one.  It was basically as slippery as an ice rink.  I clearly figured that road tyres don’t mix well with water logged tarmac.  I managed to finish the race and not come last, but also made it across the line with no broken bones 🙂

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Scottish National Circuit Championships – 30th September 2017

After my previous race at Kilmarnock I had one more to go and that would be the road season over 😦

This meant I had one week to get my head down and train hard as I wanted to end my first season on a high note.  I have to say, this was the best time I have probably had on my bike in my life.  It was competitive, fast, but successful.  I have a great liking to the Ingliston east circuit as it fits me well, it is flat, has wide corners, and a smooth surface.  I had a decent enough warm up, the right fuel in my body, and a good mindset – those are the three key things you need prior to a race, as well as spending time with those in the race too before-hand.  As the whistle blew, the competitors were off the line within a second, and automatically i made it for the leading bunch.  At first I had doubts whether it was a good idea or not as I could burn out any moment, but I took the risk and stayed.  Within a few laps some broke away, so there were a good number of us left to make it a chasing bunch.  Due to it being a fast, technical race, time flew by quickly and round came the ring for the last lap.  Instantly myself and another junior broke away from the bunch and raced for first place – I missed that top step by a few metres, however I am very pleased with how I performed that day, second junior and sixth overall.  I could finally see from this race that my form was starting to come together!

 

 

Winter

Now it was back to the winter season again, training harder than ever as next season was going to be a challenging one.  I luckily enough got the opportunity around November to be part of a Scottish Cycling programme “idevelop”.  This means I can get back into track cycling again, but this time at Glasgow!  So every second week I head through to the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, and sessions such as road rides, turbo, track, and various workshops are held during the time I am there.  The coaches there have been amazing so far and have taught me to become more strict on my training and diet – which I have taken into account.  What makes it an even better experience is that I am there with my team mates, but also other junior racers from across Scotland.

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The final thing I would like to mention is that I got awarded the Junior Women’s Road Series Champion 2017, for the East and Central region.  I attended the awards ceremony at Heriot Watt University, which was also interesting as Evan Oliphant gave out the awards, but also held a Q&A.  So this was good to hear some tips from a commonwealth bike racer.

 

My goals for the 2018 season

For the 2018 season, I would like every race to be a successful one, as the experience I have gained can now be put into serious practice.  I will continue to do criteriums, but as I am now a second year junior, I will also compete in road races/stage races, and hopefully some track.  I hope to also achieve better standings at the end of the season.  I am also very excited to now be part of a junior race team, as last season there were only two of us in ERC competing as juniors, so it will be good to have a lot of us training and racing together.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and to those who have helped me come this far in order to be able to write a blog as a bike racer.  Thank you to my coaches from Edinburgh Road Club and Scottish Cycling for putting in the effort to make training worthwhile, thanks to my team mates for being great training partners and race partners to come 🙂 and finally thank you to my Mum and Dad for driving me around the country to races and for helping me get kit when I need it.  It has been a great journey so far and can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Happy pedalling

Hollie Begg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BELLA ITALIA…Learning the ropes in Italy

Ciao! Calum here and this year was my first year as an U23. This is my second year on ERC racing team and will be my last. Throughout the past two years I have raced around Britain representing the colours at national level and even in Spain whilst at my training camp in February. The past year has been up and down for me personally. I am rather discontent with the way that it has went, you see, the racing in Scotland and in Britain in general does not suit me, I am only 51kg and most races are flat with the odd power climb added in. I was getting very frustrated during this season as I wasn’t getting any results, the odd top 5 in a regional A, but that’s nothing to brag about. But at the same time my career has changed massively this year thanks to Zappi Racing Team. I’ll start from the beginning…around 3 years ago I was scrolling through Facebook as it’s the normal thing to do these days lol, and I came across a team called ‘Zappi Racing Team’ so I clicked on the link and it took me to there home page where I found a whole bunch of videos and photos of the team in action. They are a team from Oxfordshire but are based in Italy, Cervia on the east coast to be precise. Now as many of you may know, I have this odd fascination of all things italy, something I feel I was born in the wrong country. Everything about the place appeals to me, the food, climate, the people, and especially the cycling as it’s Italy’s national sport. The team is U23 riders only so I knew I couldn’t join then. I noticed they had a large number of followers and supporters on there Facebook page so I knew for sure it was legit. At the time I was just beginning to realise what kind of rider I am and what my strengths and weaknesses are. The racing in Italy or Spain suits me far better to the racing here because of the long climbs and hot weather, I feel I perform alot better in the soaring heat! So I chanced and thought what the hell, what’s the worse that can happen and I went ahead and contacted the team. I pretty much asked what it took to be on the team and where I needed to get too, to be considered for the team. To my amazement, 10 minutes later, they replied back. Basically saying that I need to get good results at a national and international level. I knew straight away this was going to be a challenge as the racing is not my cup of tee here in the UK. The team is managed by Italian ex pro, Flavio Zappi who I can tell you, is some character. So I started talking to him and telling him about my style of riding and how I’m getting on etc etc and he was replying, giving me feedback, advice, what I should be eating, how sleep is one of the most important things, I couldn’t appreciate this enough as he could of easily just ignored it as he probably get’s it quite alot. So over the past two years it’s just been a case of keeping him updated with how I’m doing and what my future goals are and actually just trying to keep in contact with him. It’s sounds silly but two years ago that was my short term dream, to make it onto Zappi’s, to be seen in there kit, and to live and race in Italy and across Europe. It gave me something to work for and I’m glad I chased it.

At the start of every year the team have a pre season training camp which takes place in the Costa Blanca, Calpe in the south of Spain. This is from the very start of January to the middle of March.  Flavio had put a post on Facebook asking if anyone would like to trial and stay a week in the team house and train with them as a chance to impress him and hopefully be awarded with a spot on the team. I jumped straight in and showed my interest. He replied asking me what dated I would be available, fortunately me and my two very good friends Stuart and Danny were out for 2 weeks for a training camp and I thought it would be ideal that instead of going home with danny and stuart that I could stay for an extra week to stay with zappis and all Flavio would have to do is pick me up from my hotel. I honestly couldn’t believe I was about to be training with a team that I followed for so long and that I was getting to work alongside Flavio. The training days went really well and I felt reasonably strong throughout the whole week. I got to see how they live and learned what the ‘Zappi Routine’ was all about. Let’s just say it’s an eye opener! From that point Flavio started showing interest in me and led to him wanting me back out on many occasions to guest with them in Italy. Now, Flavio wanting me back out meant alot to me as this was my ‘short term dream’ and what I worked so hard towards. I knew myself that I was in my element with all the long climbs and warm weather and made me realise how much I want to do this and make a living out of it. Fast forward to the end of April and I’m out in Italy about to race around the streets of Rome for Zappi Racing Team. The race was 140km round a 7km circuit with 200 of the best riders in the world competing. It was my first taste of Italian racing so I was absalutely bricking it, especially as it was a UCI so alot of the bigger teams not only from around Italy but teams from across Europe showed up. It was  not a race for me but I wanted the experience, not many people can say they have raced around the centre of Rome so I was just trying to absorb it all in and really just do the best i could do. Unfortunately I only lasted 75km out of the 140km but I was actually content with that because if you got see how many riders were left by the end, it wasn’t that bad. This was a real eye opener and made me super motivated to crack on and improve. After that the next three races I competed by guesting for zappis went really well. Trofeo Corri La Mamma, Trofeo Matteotti and Bassano – Monte Grappa were all its ian national and I managed to finish every one and doing so, being in the first quarter at the end. It’s frustrating as the Italian federation only put up the top 10 or sometimes top 20 but I believe I was around top 40/50 in these races so already there was a massive improvement.

The past two months have been one massive roller coaster but the best two months of my life. This was going to be my longest time away from home which was rather nerve racking but I knew this is what it takes and these are the sacrifices that you need to make to become a professional athlete. I was about to experience what it’s like to be a full time Cyclist travelling Italy and racing in the highest level of U23 Racing in the world. I was ready to learn the craft and put some blood, sweat and tears into this. Whilst out in Italy we stayed in Domenico Garbelli’s house who if you don’t know, was a professional himself in the 60s and was Flavio’s old coach…he has introduced around 70 riders to world tour including the likes of Fabio Aru and Diego Rosa so he definitely knows his stuff. Both Flavio and Domenico are your classic stereo typical Italians. They are both very old school, for instance Domenico doesn’t let you use stock cubes for dinner, they don’t believe in protein shakes or caffeine gels and it’s only caffeine coffee before races. The routine is pretty straight forward…7.30am wake up and straight out for a 30 minute walk. This improves metabolism and increases testosterone levels. Then it’s breakfast which is the same every day, Muesli with a yoghurt, a really hard boiled Egg and little bits of crunchy, toasted bread with jam. Then it’s training so whatever is planned whether it’s a 5hr ride with efforts or gym and swim. After training is completed we all have a ‘nice’ big salad to look forward to with a choice of tuna, sardines or mackerel and beans for our prote, and no, they weren’t heinze beans…lunch is finished and it’s off to bed for 45 minutes to an hour for a nap. This really helps recharge your battery. In the afternoon I would usually go to the local cafe for wifi and to relax as the house has no wifi so the cafe gave me the oppurtunity to catch up on social media  catch up with friends and family. Having no wifi in the house was refreshing as you could just get out of the real world and socialise with your team mates. You wouldn’t have a clue what is going on in the world which was nice for a change. So this was the routine every single day except races. We would normally travel to a hotel which the race organiser would sort us out with. Go on a shirt activation ride, have a nice dinner and head to bed. During my time over in Italy I competed in 12 races, 4 of them being UCI and the rest being Nationals. The UCI races where unreal and on another level, we were up against team such sort BMC, Lotto Soudal, Orica Scott, Gazprom, Ag2R, of course these were all the U23 teams but it was pretty much like the U23 World Tour lol. The UCI races were a real learning curve and eye opener and im glad I got them under my belt. The National races where bit more bearable but still super hard. Alot of the teams such as Colpack, Zalf and Palazzago would dominate, alot of the riders from these teams are either going World Tour or Pro Conti so we are genuinely against the best in the world. I managed to get semi descent results in some races. See what you all probably don’t understand is that to just finish these races you’ve had a good ride. I was happy enough to finish most whilst I was out there bar a few nationals and UCI races. The last race of the season was the ‘Piccolo Giro di Lombardia’ an U23 monument which I couldn’t wait for. This was the biggest race of my life. I felt like a World Tour pro for the day, signing autographs and handing over bottles to the youngsters was pretty cool because that used to be me asking for a signature and bottles so it was a super special moment. Throughout the two months I loved every single moment of  my time I had there. I learned so much not only about cycling and riding your bike but everything that comes with it e.g the diet, recovery, how to manage social media, stretching, yoga, I can even get by in Italian now which insurance pretty cool. The racing was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, premier calander seriously  have nothing on these races. I was offered a contract by Flavio and I did not hesitate to accept. Next year I will embark on a new journey and the next step in my career. I honestly can’t wait to learn so much more and really get my head down and focus. Next year we have races such as Liege – Bastogne- Liege, Strade Bianchi, Tour of Austria and the biggie, the U23 Giro d’italia so that gives me something to work towards! I want to be able to say to myself that I gave it a try and if it doesn’t work out at least I gave it a go and my all and if it does work out then megaaaaaaa! Three years ago one of my dreams was to be on Zappi Racing Team and to be able to travel around Italy doing what I am most passionate about, in 4 or 5 years time my dream is to make it to World Tour Level, i don’t see why not that can happen. A big thanks to everyone at ERC for making me feel at home the past two years and I strongly believe it’s one of the best clubs in Britain. Hopefully I can see you all again some time on the road! Stay safe but most of all Enjoy it!

Ciao Ragazzi!