So I am roughly half-way through my season 2018 and I am going pretty well. So well in fact that a few of my team-mates have been asking how I've done it.
I spent several seasons with the team as a third category racer, I moved up to second cat once and was beaten soundly in every race. That was my reality and both my team-mates and I got used to that being the case.
This season however I have moved quickly up to second category and even managed to win a couple of races featuring Elite, first and second category riders. I have also managed a National Title. So how did I do it?
I'll start with the most important 2 points. First this is what has worked for me, it might not work for anyone else... Secondly consistency is the most important thing. There is no point making a positive change unless you are going to continue it.
FIRST THING So early January it started with the discovery of a piece of software called Zwift. Zwift is an online virtual cycling world with climbs, sprints, volcanoes, group rides and races. That last format is the most important one for me. I love racing more than (almost) anything. Training is boring but racing boils my blood by igniting a fire in me and pushes me to go deeper than I ever thought I could. Especially on Zwift, there is a benefit to drafting in the online world but it doesn't stop everyone just nailing it as hard as possible the whole event! It is sooooo hard! Inadvertently I was building an aerobic fitness and lactate resistance that I had not had before.
So I went into some early season races actually pretty fit and got some decent results including a win at Abingdon's winter series and a second place at Thruxton. I got to the half way point to my second cat license in just 4 races.
SECOND THING Then some things at home went badly wrong with a ten year relationship ending badly. It fired me to my most dominant performance on a bike where I dragged 5 riders clear of a third cat race single handed before being forced off the track in the sprint to finish fifth. I was an angry man in that race and if any of the riders or spectators of that race see this I am sorry for the aggression I showed.
With that behind me I can now say with some authority that everyone should just be able to do the things they love with the people they love behind them 100%. Obviously don't be a douche about it but if it matters enough to you they'll back you.
Get the support around you that you need. I now have mine...
Third thing Believe in yourself. I can attribute a great deal of success to team mates who have given me quotes I'd have tattooed on myself if I was inclined to do anything like that... First is Phil O'Connor who, in finishing second in the Tour of Ayrshire Gran Fondo, said to me that "its just a matter of not giving up, over and over again". This is so true and has helped me to stick with the pointy end of races when its got really hard, putting me in a position to contest for the big places. Next is Justin Belcher who said "If its hard for you, the chances are its hard for everyone else too" which goes with Phil's quote to keep me in races that I'd previously have given up on. Just as it gets really really hard and I have to slow down, everyone else does too. Lastly was Keiran Munday who in my first E12 race said to me "Just race it like you would a third cat race...". I did, I came 4th.
The difference between the front and back of an elite race is just self belief. If you don't have the legs, keep doing it and you soon will. Put yourself in there and don't give up.
Fourth Thing Do it a lot. If you want to be good at something you have to do it all the time. It also helps if you love it too.
Last Thing Get yourself surrounded by people who want it for you as well. I wouldn't love racing as much as I do with out the people who support me. A small selection of whom are featured below. If you ride for Shutt Ridley RT you can count me as one of these. Also if you show yourself to be a selfless committed racer I'll be there for you too.