Ciclos Uno Road Race and Hoggenberg Classic

Road Race update - the racing season is now well underway with a number of events being held over the last two weeks.

First up was the Ciclos Uno Road race on 31 May.  The course was mainly undulating with a few twisty descents – which required care in the wet weather.  There were 2 races - ABC (56 miles) and DEFGH (48 miles).  Competing in the ABC for Verulam was Matt Pumo, Gavin Bench and Jared Millar.  In this race a few riders got away early, but after that, the rest of the pack largely stayed together.  As usual, the pace increased on the final lap and a small group of riders managed to break away; however the bunch remained largely intact until the final mile.   At this point the pace lifted again as riders lined up for a sprint finish.  It got a little heated up front with a few ‘moments’, but with a clear run to the finish, it was a game of position and timing.  Millar came 9th overall (2nd in A grade), Pumo 13th overall (4th in A grade) and Bench 19th overall.

The next race was the Ciclos Uno Hoggenberg Classic, which was held at Hog Hill.  For those that haven’t been to this venue before, essentially it is a purpose built closed road with a lower circuit and an upper circuit, which incorporates a punchy hill climb to the finish line.  The racing here is close and fast!  The race was mainly run on the lower circuit, with an occasional loop of the upper circuit during the race and for the final lap – creating an uphill sprint finish.  Verulam was well represented in the ABCD race:  Matt Pumo, Paul Caton, Dennis Antippa, Johnnie Hall and Jared Millar.  Apart from one superhuman rider who literally rode off the front on the first lap and a small breakaway near the end, the bunch stayed together for the duration of the race.  The final lap was intense with a crash up the front taking out Caton (who managed to somehow stay on his feet and rode ‘Lance-style’ cross-country back onto the circuit - rejoining the race).  The uphill drive to the finish line was an all-out sprint, with Millar coming second in the bunch and 7th overall (1st in A cat), Caton 16th overall (4th in C cat), and Pumo 19th overall (5th in A cat).

The overall series standings for Verulam riders after 5 rounds in the LVRC Toachim Vets/PS+ Cyclewear Series are below. 

·         A Cat: 2nd Jared Millar, 4th Matt Pumo
·         B Cat: 9th John Jones
·         C Cat: 4th Paul Caton, 9th Gavin Bench
·         F Cat: 6th Tim Gray

Finally, Paul Caton and Jared Millar lined up (with tired legs after racing that morning) for the Masters race in round 1 of the Hertfordshire Summer of Cycling Series.  This was held on a tight and rutted course in an industrial area in Bricket Wood.  It wasn’t ideal and it required a high degree of concentration, but it did make for close racing.  The race lasted for approximately 30 minutes and no one was taking it easy.  Riders took turns swapping off the front for the first half, but thereafter we were happy to let other riders take the wind when they seemed intent on staying there.  The tight course meant that overtaking was very difficult – so positioning coming into the final laps was crucial.  The more experienced Caton was well placed into the final corner and was able to cross the line 2nd, holding off Millar who had made up 2 places on the last lap, but didn’t quite have the legs.


LVRC National A&B Road Race Championships - 24th May

Three Verulam riders were in action in the National A&B Road Race Championship races this past Sunday.  Jared Millar and Matt Pumo rode in the A age category, with John Jones riding in the B cat race.

It was hilly course near Worcester - nothing too steep, but very few flat sections.  The relentless rain during the first part of the race made for a difficult start to the day.  Some of the top riders in the country had travelled to the race and, given the hilly course, it looked like a strong breakaway would go early. 

The A race saw many attacks and a few breaks nearly formed.  But everyone was keen to get in on the action and every break was quickly chased down.  After a few hours of frenetic racing a handful of riders managed to escape off the front, with the main group coming in for a bunch sprint.  Jared chose a nice line for a strong sprint finish, coming in 12th place, with Pumo following in 16th.

In the B race Jones was not so lucky.  Half way through the race the rider in front of him went down.  Given his position and the speed there was no way he could avoid the fallen rider and he came down himself.  Fortunately no major injury to person or bike and with his race over he used it as a good opportunity to practice his time trialling, as he frantically chased the bunch for 30 miles....

A mixed day out for sure, but our heroes felt strong most of the day and they are satisfied to have held their own against some of the top riders in the country.

3-May-15 GS Vecchi Spring Road Race: The Verulam Racing Team was in action again on Sunday at the GS Vecchi Spring Road Race in Hampshire.  John Jones, Jared Millar and Matt Pumo hit the AB race, with Gavin Bench flying the flag in the CD race, and Tim Gray in the F cat race in the afternoon.  With three VCC riders walking away with prize money it was a good start to the season.

AB Race Report

50 riders set off in the torrential rain.  It was a reasonably flat course and tough for a break to get away.  All three Verulam riders did a good job of staying towards the front and covering the early breaks.  About half way through the pace really picked up and a few attacks stuck with a small group of 5 or 6 riders staying clear.  The bunch got reasonably organised for a chase but as the breakaway got closer they lost their enthusiasm and the chase was off. 

On the penultimate lap, a strong Neil Wass of TMG jumped off the front as we approached the climb.  Pumo set off and bridged the gap as the two of them worked together up the climb.  A strong group of riders had also managed to escape the peloton and soon joined the two attackers.  Jones was in this group but Millar was absent owing to a poorly timed puncture.  The strong group of 8 chasing riders had two Verulam riders, who both worked well to keep the pace high for 2 laps of through and off.  Although they didn't manage to catch the earlier escapees, they did manage to hold off the chasing peloton to ensure a favourable finishing position.

As the small group approached the final finishing climb the machine that is Jones upped the pace, with Pumo on his wheel.  For a short period our Verulam riders thought they might be given an easy route to the finish line.  But soon enough a few other riders from the small group came past and the uphill sprint was on.  Jones got on a strong wheel and managed to race to the line in a group of three, with Pumo picking off a few wheels and finishing about 10 meters behind in 4th. 

In the end Jones bagged 5th B and Pumo got 5th A, both picking up an awesome £5 in prize money and a handshake from the event organiser.  It was a really well organised race and great fun, despite the torrential rain.  Millar was unlucky to puncture but the team was reasonably pleased with both tactics and form.  It bears well for the rest of the season.

CD Race Report

C’s and D’s lined up just behind the AB race in very nasty conditions. Bench was the sole Verulam rider in this race, Paul Caton of TMG (second claim Verulam) was the only ally in sight. The race started off fairly tamely. The neutralised zone seeming shorter than expected. The pace was pretty quick from the off, although the pack was being careful to allow for the horrendous conditions, lots of standing water and spray. A few attempts to make a break came and went, with nothing forming for the first few laps. Eventually a lone rider managed to get away, the pack seeming to let him go. Then a while later a small group (including Caton) made a very strong surge to get away from the pack, on the climb which proved to be the main attacking point in the race. They were too strong and stayed away till the finish, taking the top finishing spots behind the lone leader.

With a lap or so to go, Bench and a couple of others formed a break, to be joined by one more. They worked well together, riding through and off, gaining a couple of hundred metres on the pack. The climb just before the flat finish was where Bench managed to put in a big effort and gapped the other riders, staying away to cross the line unchallenged for strong 7th place in the C cat.  Caton was a strong finisher in 3rd placed C.

EFG Race Report

The 6 x 6.2 mile circuit only had one real challenge, the half mile climb topping out at 7% just before the lap end and finish line. Sure there was a nasty headwind on two sides of the otherwise nearly flat triangular course but if you could persuade others to share the pain any decent 'rouleur' could hang in there without too much trouble until the climb at least.

In the end there was always going to be an attack on lap 1 before the climb to 'clear the air' and get the break and sure enough at 5 miles out the real men put the hammer down with a vengeance. A vicious attack on the flat by the most powerful riders just before the 1st lap climb left lesser mortals struggling to hang on and then the climb saw them off the back.

Quite a few of the field were off the back at the top of that 1st climb and I thought that all was lost. 4 miles into a headwind trying to pull back the peleton seemed a pointless task but then the descent and ensuing flat revealed that the lead group was breaking up and was only 200 metres ahead. We soon had a group of poursuivants. In the event they were unwilling or unable to chase down the lead group and I found myself pulling 5 riders along into a headwind at a tantalisingly few hundred meters behind the main bunch. The main bunch were within clear site for the next 3 laps, regardless of the climb, and had our group worked we would have been back in there. By lap 4 I could neither loose my support as they wheel sucked my every move nor get them to do any work so I fell back and put them on the front so I would be fresh enough for a good finish - worked well as I pulled ahead of them on the final climb and sprint.

My result: Group F, placed 4th

Observations: Fantastic fun. With more VCC riders I could have pulled back the lead group and been in the main group - just needed decent support. 1st climb was off the back but thereafter no problem. So much better than chasing your mates on a club run.

The Verulam Racing Team was in action again on Sunday 10th May at the Swindon RC Road Race, with 10 VCC riders racing.  John Jones, Jared Millar, David Perry and Matt Pumo hit the AB race.  Gavin Bench, Mike Edmunds, Nick Coe, Dennis Antippa and Johnnie Hall raced in the CD race, with Tim Gray competing in the F cat race.

AB Race Report

Riding conditions were ideal with dry roads and mild temperatures - much welcomed after last weekend's mud and rain.  The race involved 3.5 laps around an 11 mile circuit, which was quite unremarkable except for a couple of punchy climbs.

'Directeur Sportif' Pumo identified the key riders to watch and the race plan was to cover all breaks involving those on the list. From the get-go, Pumo and Jones rode strongly at the front, chasing down a number of breaks and also launching a few attacks.  It was however a day when breakaway groups struggled to form.  Millar tried mixing it at the front for a while, but soon found the pace too hot and settled in the back of the pack to recover for a few laps. Perry had a tough day at the office and unfortunately missed a poorly sign-posted turning and ventured over 2 miles off-course before realising his plight.  Not the start to his racing career that he was hoping for...

The race followed a familiar pattern for most of the event, with the pack surging as it hauled in breakaways, followed by lulls when everyone would gather their breath and wait for the next attack to be launched.  This continued until the final mile where the pace picked up and 3 riders finally managed to break clear.  Pumo, Jones and Millar were able to work their way through the pack, but struggled to find a clear line as the front-runners spread across the road and charged up the hill to the finish.  The Verulum crew however still managed to finish strongly with Millar crossing the line in 11th, followed by Jones in 12th and Pumo closely behind.

The team were happy with their performance and felt that they had put in a competitive effort.

The next AB team race is the LVRC National Championship Event on 24 May.  This will be a tough race with the best riders from across the country competing.

CD Race Report

The CDs race plan was somewhat "looser" than the ABs, however, the broad plan was to cover breaks, stay with the bunch until the later part of the final lap at which point it was EMFH.  The race started quietly with the exception of a horse box blocking the road on the first lap which brought the field to a standstill.  Half way into the second lap VCC were much in evidence at the front of the bunch with Bench and Big Johnnie Hall leading the charge.  Three riders had pulled clear of the bunch, Edmunds forced his way to the front and then began to chase down the 3 leaders, he was joined by a rider from another team who then worked together to bridge over the gap.  The bridge had almost been achieved when the 3 riders about 20m ahead missed a left hand turn, this left Edmunds ahead, he was joined by a 3rd rider and they held a 40 second lead going into the 2nd climb of the hill.   However, it was not to be, as the bunch reeled them in fairly quickly after the top of the hill.

The pace continued to be variable as various surges were reeled in by the peloton.  On the final lap 3 riders pulled clear, the pace picked up and stayed high for the remainder of the race.  All 5 VCC riders were still in good touch, together with Caton.  At one point with about 3 miles remaining the VCC riders were in one seamless blue and yellow block, a photo at this point would have been good.  The road turned onto the poor surface for the final 2 miles or so, which made it difficult to get good position for the final sprint up the hill.  Rounding the final corner back onto good road, Big Johnnie rose from the saddle and powered towards the line followed by Bench and Antippa.  Johnnie was best placed VCC rider with 5th (and £5  prize money) in Cat D, with Nick Coe 8th.   Cat C.  Paul Caton was 4th Cat. C.  Bench, Edmunds and Antippa all finished strongly in the bunch a few meters behind.

EFGH Race Report

The first strike was by the climbers at 8 miles on the 1st lap climb up to Brinkworth. The climb wasn't long enough for them to get a decent break and the 300 yard gap was closed down with hard work by the peloton.

Lap 2 and the big guns felt the opposition out with a series of aggressive attacks on the flat. A persistent head wind and fresh legs in the peloton closed them down and none of the 'big wheels' stayed off the front for too long. The 2nd lap climb up to Brinkworth was a relaxed affair with everyone realising that there was no gain in attacking on this climb just yet - better to preserve energy for a scrum ahead.

Entering lap 3 the climbers had a go at building a lead with some serious small groupings taking the strain on the flat as they tried to build a gap that would catapult them over the lap 3 climb with a workable break. The peloton had softened up at some stage leaving a sizeable lead group of about 20 riders still in contention. The lap 3 climb was 'full on' but by now the lead group had the legs to easily control things over the climb.

The final 8 miles was a nervous affair with no one in the 20 strong lead group seriously getting away and with everyone jockeying for the inevitable mass sprint finish on the 1st rise up to Brinkworth.

In the event that is what happened and Tim now knows were his training has to concentrate - he lost 8 places in the last 50 yards and came 17th out of a 37 strong field.  He did come 3rd in his group and won £15 in prize money!

18-April-15 Virgin Active Road Race: One half of the Verulam Racing Team was in action on Saturday for the first race of the season.  Jared Millar and Matt Pumo raced in the AB race, while Denis Antippa, Johnnie Hall and Mike Edmunds hit the CD race.

AB Race Report

Jared Millar and Matt Pumo rode in the AB race.  The race was 58 undulating miles and consisted of a very strong field of 33 riders.  The plan was to either get a rider in the winning break, or set up for a bunch sprint.  Jared was the designated sprinter, with Pumo tasked with covering any dangerous breaks.

The race started out fairly easy.  That lasted 2 miles and then the attacks started.  It was a fast course in places, and the field of 33 was strung out single file as teams tried to get away.  When the first hill came a few strong riders jumped off the front and managed to get a gap.  Pumo bridged across and a group of 6 looked to be in a fairly promising position.  But with a tailwind the bunch soon reeled them in.  After a string of attacks over the next 30 miles, a group of 3 got up the road, followed soon after by a group of 5 or 6 riders.  After 40 miles of hard work to cover breaks and stay towards the front, our Verulam riders just didn't have the early season legs to follow the winning move.  With most teams represented in the break, organising a chase proved difficult, with the peloton preparing for a bunch sprint for minor places.

With 3 miles to go a strong Luton CC rider shot off the front and Pumo and Millar managed to stay on his wheel.  The peloton had run out of steam at this point and there was just enough left in the Verulam riders' legs to stay at the front and finish 2nd and 3rd in the bunch sprint.

It was of course disappointing not to get a Verulam rider on the podium.  But both riders hit the changing rooms pleased with their performance - both in form and in tactics - and look forward with confidence to the next week's race.

CD Race Report

In the CD race Verulam was well represented by Jonnie Hall, Denis Antippa and Mike Edmunds, all looking resplendent in the new team kit.  Additionally, Paul Caton (second claim rider) was representing TMG Horizon.  The race was 43 miles, which consisted of 2.75 laps of a  15 mile circuit around the undulating countryside near Aylesbury.  There was a very experienced field of 26 riders.

This was Mike's first road race and he admits to feeling a little apprehensive as the lead vehicle pulled out of Botolph Claydon.   The plan was to work together as a team, cover any breaks that went up the road and assess the situation at the start of the final lap.  After about a mile when the race was neutralised, the lead car sped up and the race was on!  Mike showed his inexperience after about 2 miles when the race hit the first slight incline. He put in a short acceleration which saw him go clear of the field in the race's first solo (unintentional) break.  This break was relatively short lived and the peloton remained intact up the first ascent of Pitchcott Hill, as the heart rates hit maximum everyone knew this would be a tough race.  Not far into the second lap, three riders shot clear and were joined by six more, including Caton.  Mike tried to bridge the gap, making a valiant effort for about 3 miles all out but when the route turned into the stiff easterly wind the do or die effort was doomed.  Mike was relieved to say the least, when the second group containing Dennis and Johnnie caught him at the base of the climb.

From then on the Verulam team worked well together, each taking their fair share of the wind.  On the final lap Denis got into a mini break to attempt to chase down the leading nine riders but alas this came to nought and Denis rejoined Jonnie and Mike and the three of them plus one other rider rode towards the finish.  The VCC team debated if they should cross the line together in comradeship.  As the line approached, the answer came as Denis, Jonnie and Mike lifted out of the saddle to sprint for the line, after all it was a race!  Caton had stayed in the front group and finished on the podium in 3rd in a bunch sprint won by his TMG team mate.  The Verulam team had put in a sterling performance and although no prizes were taken, they finished in the top half of the field of 26.   Mike was pleased with his debut performance as the plan was purely to finish in the bunch and start the process of learning racing technique.  Both goals were achieved.