Saturday, 27 August 2011

A short update, back to the Prems.

7 weeks. That's what it is has been since my accident and it has been a mental effort knowing I've been missing out on a great deal of racing, particularly the local scene which I love. The local scene also means I can race without the expense and effort of travelling all the way to the north of the country!

So what's happened since? The first few weeks were forced rest, followed by surgery, followed by some more forced rest. Not ideal. A bit of spinning on the turbo, finally back on the road as I was just going out of my mind not feeling the wind in my face and the blood pumping through my legs. Back on the road, the fitness was lost but the sensations were good. After piecing together some solid rides I took on the Worcester News RR 2 weeks ago, a 125km race in the flatlands. Bit of a disappointing performance there, but to an extent it was to be expected.

Present day, and tomorrow I will be racing a Premier Calendar race, the inaugural Twinings ProAm. A 160km road race alongside the best professionals in the UK, with all the usual teams such as Rapha Condor, Motorpoint, Endura et al. This means some tough racing, on a tough course (apparently multiple times up a 15% climb, nice) to test my fitness. Shall we see how the sensations are in real racing?

Monday, 25 July 2011

A rather big hiccup compared to a tragedy.

3 weeks ago 2 things happened. First of all the greatest cycling race began, Le Tour de France. I had hoped to be inspired to better race performances during this time, along with the trials and tribulations of the greatest riders in the world. It wasn't to be, I was knocked off my bike a few days into the race breaking my collarbone in the process, along with a heavy case of road rash!
Wiggins with a broken collarbone, stage 7
Oddly enough Britain's best hope for a podium position on the GC, Bradley Wiggins was involved in a crash that broke his cllarbone also just 3 days later. The same man I'd be racing against just a couple weeks earlier at the National Championships, where he had won. He went for surgery to get it plated, his Tour de France over. I too went for surgery, believing my racing for the time being was over.

Okay, this is bad. Devastating for both him and I but I have come to a realisation these past couple days. In Norway a 32 year old man went on a shooting and bombing rampage which killed over 90 people. Whatever personal sadness my accident has given me, it is nothing in comparison what these people and their families have gone through. What a reality check. It is difficult to put into words what to say about such a tragedy performed by a clearly sick and twisted man, although it is cliched my heart truly goes out to those affected.
Memorial ceremony in Oslo for the deceased
Amy Winehouse is a singer who divides opinion, with her off the rails lifestyle of drugs and alcohol. She wouldn't go to rehab, and has passed away also. It would appear that her death has become bigger news than a mass murder, which in some ways is a bit of a shame. However, we shouldn't be ranking one tragedy over another. Some say she brought it upon herself, whereas those in Norway were innocents who had no choice in the matter. All I can say is one one life lost is just as tragic as another, but the internet is a place of opinions and there have been arguments that her death is nothing in comparison. I don't admire her choices in life, but at the same time it's unfair to be hurtful to those who have passed, no matter the circumstances. My heart goes out to all those that have lost their life this week.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The longest day in Yorkshire.

Driving my way up to Yorkshire to hit the dales at Ryedale Grand Prix, the 3rd round of the Premier Calendar series. At 181km it is the longest race I have yet done. Okay, it's not anything in comparison to Milan-San Remo but it's the 2nd longest single day race in the UK (The longest being the National Championships this year, at 190km). This combined with the fact that I'll be racing against the best cyclists in the country made me feel just a little apprehensive, but a little nervousness is healthy right?

Looking over the course it seemed to suit me, with lots of dragging hills (I would prefer them a little steeper and longer, but I'm happy it's not flat all the same!).

On the right, alongside eventual winner Jon Tiernan Locke.
Early on in the race I found myself in a breakaway split of about 20 riders, made up of riders from the various teams and I secretly hoped it would stay away. However a few kilometers later we were reeled back in, obviously those who can dictate the race were not happy with the riders in this particular break. About 60km in and the significant large break of the day went ahead, sadly I found myself too far back in the peloton at this point to have a chance at being in it which was a shame, but there was still a race to be run.

After some heavy chasing that wasn't making it across, the race settled down and continued to ride toward the finish, accepting that the top 40 or so positions were gone. I continued to use the race as practice, the pace was still fairly high but it becme rather uneventful.

Entering the final 3km of the race I was still feeling okay, and a few riders wishing to test their mettle to beat the bunch in. All were unsuccessful as the final kilometre drag pulled back the final rider, the front end raising the pace for a bunch sprint into the grounds of Duncombe Park, where I came about 5th in final push. It turned out that the pace had fractured the group up the drag so the bunch 'sprint' was now no longer so much of a bunch.

Checking out the result I had come in the top 50, not bad for a Premier Calendar although disappointing that bad positioning at the right time had cost me a better position. All in all it's experience for the future rounds of the Premier Calendar, next up is Tour of the Reservoir on the 19th June, but first is my debut into the Tour series at Oldham. Looking forward to it!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Adaptation, it's never easy.

Bike racing. It's a team sport.

Yeah, I realise this is the essence of our great sport. A lone rider against a sea of well drilled cyclists is always fighting a losing battle. I know I've upset one or two people in my team switching recently but I felt it was the best move for me, especially when you seem to be falling out with a friend over your hobby. Strange turn of events but that's how it goes I guess.

So with a couple weeks in limbo I've moved to Pendragon - Le Col - Colnago. Definitely very happy about this, and I seem to have repaired most of the bridges once more. Still need to chill out sometimes though! I know sometimes my temper in a race gets in the way and I end of dishing out a few comments that are short-sighted at best. Would just like to let anyone I've offended know that I generally don't mean it!

Anyway, forget the negative because there's no need to look back, just forward. The South West Road Race Championships was fun, some nice hills (gotta' love a gradient!) combined with a wind meant it was never going to be easy. An early break of 12 stayed away all day, myself and Chris Opie representing Pendragon. Was hoping to form a small breakaway myself but it wasn't to be, and after lots of attacks in the closing stages gave Chris and I 4th and 5th respectively.

Thursday night was the 2nd round of the Halfords Tour Series, held in Aberystwyth. A disappointing 1st round in Durham was remedied by a stellar performance from the team. Chris Opie pulled off a 2nd place, and the team coming 3rd overall - very strong result against the all the country's top teams.

Last night was great, staying local and becoming a spectator instead of an athlete was welcome change for once. The Shred Classic up on the Plymouth Hoe tested the best of the South West's 2/3/4 Cats in a heat/final format, in much finer weather than last year's event! Great race, unfortunately marred by a few crashes. My best wishes to those that are recovering with road rash today. Jake Durant won the final heat after a lone breakaway, great race from him. The post-race party...well, the least said the better! A very good night, but too much drink meant headaches in the morning from a few of those involved!

Monday I'll be racing at Totnes, for our local version of the technical town centre racing found in the Tour Series. I can't wait to try out a different style of racing!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Bad Luck Strikes!

The past few weeks have seen me raising the level of racing. First off racing in my 1st UCI race (Rutland-Melton), followed by my 1st Premier Calendar (Tour DoonHame) meant I would be working much harder to be competitive.
At the start of Rutland-Melton UCI 1.2
Rutland-Melton was just one of those days where being in the wrong place at the wrong time can end your race. The 1st hour consisted of every team trying to get their riders to the front before entering the narrow roads reminiscent of the Belgian cobbled classics. Seemed to be doing pretty well but found myself behind at the crucial moment, followed by getting caught behind a crash meant the front 80 riders pulled away whilst I made my way through the fallen riders. Tried to chase back on but just burnt myself out, race over. Probably should have finished but after suffering 2 weeks with a cold I just wasn't feeling my best.

Rain soaked peloton just behind in Scotland
Tour DoonHame was interesting, great weather preceeding but Stage 1 was greeted with heavy rain and temperature in single digits. Here I found myself much more in tune with what the peloton was doing, 85km in and I was comfortable in the front 30 riders. Suddenly I hit a rut and my front tyre was running flat, all I could do was stop and wait for the neutral service car. However it wasn't until the very last car in the convoy that I was given a replacement. Disappointing, but somewhat expected when you are riding for one of the minor teams in the race. Being 2 minutes down on the bunch already I had a depressing 50km ride back to the finish, soaked through to the point I was shivering so badly I could barely keep my bike straight! Stage 2 didn't get off to a great start, again my body was feeling the effects of the previous day. Combined with another puncture I lost heart in continuing to race. I finished the stage but decided not to sign on for Stage 3.

Totnes-Vire stage 2, prior to mechanical issue
Back home for Totnes-Vire the following weekend...well we won't talk about that one too much. A good start in the opening 8km hilly TT where I came 8th in a time of 9.36. Stage 2 and 3 were marred by mechanicals, probably not the best reflection on myself and somewhat embarrassing. Still I will take away from interesting experiences from the same! This weekend it's off to Lincoln GP (Premier Calendar) to take on the infamous cobbled climbs.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Who knew Wales could give you tan lines?

Last weekend saw me racing on the South Wales coast. With the weather being great (around 20 - 22'C) taking the caravan enabled us to stay overnight on the circuit, allowing us to take advantage of a pre-race reconnaissance of the 4 lap course. It was going to be both fast and tough with nowhere to hide! Our race plan was to stay near the front to keep an eye on any breaks. In the early stages a break of 6 found itself away over the top of the longer climb, with Wayne plus 2 others joining us later. Unfortunately with only one member of both Wilier and UK Youth, the make-up of the group meant it was obvious we wouldn't stay away - it was soon reeled in.

The 2nd breakaway
2 laps to go and another break of 7 created a gap, 2 members of each of the major teams (Wilier/, UK Youth and Cyclepremier/Metaltek), plus me. This group built up a lead of 2 minutes, but the pace through the drinks station was high, I missed the opportunity to take on more water, a fatal mistake which caused me to suffer in the last 30km.

Steep uphill finish, being chased by 2 Wilier riders.
In the final 7km the attacks kept coming with 1 of the UK Youth riders staying away. Being against such strong teams I was blown out the back, however fought back tenaciously to rejoin them 2km from the finish. With the final kilometre being a steep ascent it was free for all, despite my dehydrated state I clawed back for 5th place. 
Post race, pretty smashed
A tough day, good result bearing in mind the strength in number of the opposition. Wayne Coombs also came in the main bunch and achieved 1st Vet.

This weekend is the Rutland-Melton Classic. New territory, racing in a UCI 1.2 event. As the only international single day race in the UK, it will be the highest level competition I have ever raced. Time to rub shoulders with the big names!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Change always leads to optimism.

With my last post being a bit of a downer, I've been soul-searching to find out where I've been going wrong. First things first was to re-connect with the team, and through a few thorough talks I feel we are going in the right direction once again. Discovering what type of training it was I really needed to be doing was a biggie, when you really think about it it's all well and good doing lots of hours on the bike but it's a waste of time if you aren't getting the quality! I've re-evaluated my schedule and now I know what's to be done, much more confident now!

As well as the training side I've been trying to balance things out by socialising with more than just cyclists! Managed to head out with Rich and the TFS lads for a random day out round Plymouth and of course the obligatory trip to Spoons! Class banter guys. Plus some football out in the sun with Matt & Megan was an ideal way to chill out, no need for me to get so worked up over such trivial things.

Motivated head is back on my shoulders, it needed to! This weekend I'm heading up to South Wales for the Betty Pharoah Memorial race, some strong riders including Team UK Youth, including Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt, plus Wiler/GoSelfDrive and Cyclepremier/Metaltek. Nice lumpy course so should be a fun race, ideal for getting my love of racing back! Will keep you updated.

Rough times and learning how to avoid an argument.

The past few weeks have been rough times, with a mechanical at the Severn Bridge RR and just generally not feeling very well at the Evesham Vale RR morale hasn't been the best. A 5th place at Ilton was satisfactory, if unspectactular. When you make a break of 5 and come 5th it's not exactly the best result!

Managed to redeem myself somewhat 2 weeks ago at Portreath, where I gained a 3rd place. A few team issues in the race meant the possible 1st or 2nd a failure. However it's undertandable, in the early season there can be miscommunication between the team riders so I'm not too worried. The issue was post race there were words said, mostly in the heat of the moment. With the adrenaline rushing it's never the best time to start voicing your opinion...arguments ensued and I became quite mentally strained, lacking motivation with all that was going on. The details of personal issues are best kept to ourselves, but I will say these weren't the best of times.
Portreath, eventually came 3rd behind 2 Pendragon riders.
Dengie Marshes was to be the next race in order, but with more arguments meant I didn't make it up there. Massively disappointed with this as it would have been a high level competition and a very tough race, but I usually prefer a race where the pace is kept high. Currently in talks with how best to sort our issues, my mediocre performances haven't helped my position. We shall see how the next few days go.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A catch up, beginning the race season.

I admit I've been a little slack when it comes to writing a blog, although I intend to update far more frequently once I'm up to date.

My trip to Calpe was a successful one, making the most out of the winter and meeting riders from across Europe. My 1st experience of doing so in the cycling world, where things are done very differently from triathlon. One such meeting was with the Ovyta-Eijssen-Acrog team, a high level amateur Belgian team which included the Belgian junior road race and time trial champions amongst others. Impressive stuff. A few long rides over the mountains with them led to their Team Managers inviting me to be coached by him for the season, which I felt was a good move considering some of the cyclists currently being coached by him.

Upon returning to the UK it was straight into the early season races, the Springtime Pursuits. Standard. A 9 minute gap to the junior riders up front seemed like a mammoth task for the scratch group over 33 miles. Anything for a challenge right? By the time we crossed the finish line the gap was just 30 seconds for the remaining 5 riders in front, a good effort by them which meant fighting for 6th place. Yanto Barker pulled off the sprint with myself not too far behind in 7th. Not a bad day, and well done to Brennan Townshend for getting the win.

The following weekend was at Ludgershall, a criterium race. The very flat course didn't suit me as much but regardless I had some practice getting back into racing mode, a group of 6 made the breakaway and I pulled off a 3rd place in the sprint, Grant Bayton of Wilier/Goselfdrive taking the win.

I will update the last couple weeks in my next post, keeping you up to date with the race season.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Out the snow and into the frying pan.

Winter in the UK isn't exactly a time or place you want to spend a holiday at, let alone training. Punctures, icy roads, heavy rain and frozen temperatures all make for tough, even depressing training. For this year I made the best of it for as long as I could, although some days looking out the window was a test to my motivation.

So when I had word of some friends going to Spain for a training camp it was too good and opportunity to pass up. 4 weeks in dry weather is a good prospect, so upon arriving the weather quickly dropped from 20'C down to 10'C, I pretty much brought the bad weather with me! However it's still better than home so I couldn't complain. Calpe is just up the road from Benidorm...sadly no drinking and clubbing to be done on this holiday ;)

2 weeks on and the weather finally got to a stage of being warm, ditch the arm warmers up the climbs combined with the dry days and I'm now feeling alot more positive about the forthcoming season. Plenty of long mountain climbs and low traffic rural roads made for some ideal riding, loads of the ProTour teams come out here for the early part of the year so it must be good! In fact we've seen plenty of them about on the roads, Astana, Rabobank, Saxobank, Quickstep, Radioshack, BMC and more have all been spotted training in the area - sadly they won't let us ride with them but the feelings of grandeur are still there!

Of course in between training we've got to chill out in between our big rides, and the best way to do that is through humour to get us through the pain. I'll let you know about our biking banter soon, the Forme team riders have all been a great laugh in keeping the spirits up!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

2011, New Beginnings.

Hey there and welcome to my brand new blog.
It's that guy, you know the one. The ex-triathlete turned cyclist. Junior "The Heff" Heffernan.

I figured since the lifestyle of a cyclist is a colourful one I would put some of these experiences into writing. Or blog in this case. It's 2011, my 2nd season in the cycling world and things are already going great. New team, new license and a new lease of life after leaving triathlon well and truly behind. Am I sad to let go of it? Not really, it was an interesting foray into international sport but one or two things just kept me in a state of going in reverse, most notably injury. I suppose in some ways I've come into cycling quite late, but I plan on making the most of what I've got and moving forward at as quick a pace as possible. Cue a frenetic pace of going forward? Let's hope so.

I'll keep this intro brief, more updates to follow soon on what's going on in my world. Look out for pictures, videos and all sorts of crazy stuff coming this way...