Jon Woolrich - Mid Season Racing Report 2019
4th July 2019
Mid-season race report
As most of you know, I'm not a big fan of posting on social media so rather than being
drip-fed race reports in the form of bite-sized chunks over the course of the season,
you're going to have to digest this rather lengthy document. Sorry, but blame Colm. As
he's the one who asked me to write this report on my season to-date racing in the UK.
Or you could just stop reading. I won't be offended; if I were you I'd nip out to the
garage and fix that creaking bottom bracket that's no doubt been annoying you for
weeks. That would be a more constructive use of your time.
If you want the speed-read version of this report, the gist is that I've raced in the UK a
lot this season. You can nip off now, that bottom bracket beckons…
Racing in the UK
If you're still reading, this season I'm skipping Jersey races so that I can focus on events
in the UK, predominantly at National B level but with some Regional races thrown in.
UK field sizes are typically around 30 to 50 riders (crits) and 50 to 70 riders (road races),
so it's very different to Jersey racing. Positioning and moving around the bunch are
really important skills to develop, as is judging which moves to follow.
For those of you not familiar with how UK races are categorised, and how licence points
work, I've set out a summary at the end of this report. I've tried to make the summary
a bit easier to digest than British Cycling's technical document on the subject, but it's still
not exactly riveting. I've therefore thrown in some completely pointless emojis. I've
observed that people seem to like emojis.
My season started in February. I can't remember why I thought that was a good idea.
Perhaps I needed to be in London for work and bolted on some races. Or I might have
thought it was a good chance to earn some early season points to secure my 2 nd cat
licence for next season. I probably just wanted off the rock.
Things started well; I won my third race of the season, a Regional crit in Brighton. My
reward was a 10 mile cycle from the finish to a Regional A road race (unsurprisingly I
finished just outside the points given I wasn’t exactly fresh at this point), followed by a
further 20 miles back to my hotel at Gatwick. I rode nearly 120 miles in total, so it was
a pretty solid day's training.
Jack Rebours, Dave le Roux and I competed in a Regional A stage race near Poole. I
picked up some points by coming 10 th in the hill climb and 9 th overall. Jack had been on
course for a good overall result after the hill climb and TT, but he punctured in the road
race. Dave's weekend started badly as he punctured during his warm up for the hill
climb, but he put in a good ride in the road race to make it into the points in the overall
standings. I didn't puncture. I was using Conti GP 5000 tubeless tyres. Take heed.
April saw me compete in two National B road races. The first was near Preston. You've
probably never been before, but it had some great pubs and a good record store (it
happened to be Record Store Day, which sadly isn't what it once was). The race had a
couple of local pros in it and I had a good ride, finishing in the chase group alongside
some good riders, but just outside the points in 22 nd place. I was happy with how I went
given the course was far from ideal for me.
April's second race went less well, I did too much work early on and was atrociously
positioned before a climb and got dropped near the top as a result (the bigger guys like
me need to get to the front before climbs so we can drift back through the bunch as we
ride up them to avoid having to dig too deep). On the plus side the wee town we stayed
in has a cracking record shop, one of the best I've visited; the basement comprised three
rooms packed to the rafters with second hand vinyl of every genre imaginable.
First up in May was a Regional A road race in Scotland where I got in the lead group of
10 but got boxed in on the sprint and finished 8th . It was a really well run race on a great
course. The highlight though was getting to race with Lou; very unusually men and
women started together, so for the first few miles I had great fun moving Lou up through
the peleton on my wheel to the front of the race. It was a completely different experience
for her, and nothing like racing with guys in Jersey – she had to contend with over 60
men and women (mostly men) fighting for position, and the position they all wanted was
her spot on the wheel of the "big yin" at the front. Sadly the race split going through a series of roundabouts and Lou lost my wheel; I couldn't afford to drop back for her so she settled into the chase group and finished second women overall.
Later in May I competed in another Regional A stage race near Poole and performed fairly
consistently; 4 th = in the hill climb, 5 th in the TT and 6 th overall. I warmed up with several
reps of the hill climb. Turned out I was riding up and down the wrong hill.
The month finished with a National B road race near Bedford. It had the strongest field
I've encountered yet; nine Elite riders started alongside a large number of 1 st cats. On
one lap I worked with some of the top riders to try and establish a break which resulted
in me almost getting dropped a lap later as I was deep in the red by that point. I didn't
have the legs to contest the final sprint so rolled over the line at the back of what was
left of the peleton. The hardest thing about the race was doing over 80 miles without
anyone to hand up bottles to me – I had to start with two 750ml on my bike and a
further one in my jersey pocket! The day after I entered a National B crit, where I rode
very aggressively but missed the winning move having been in a few unsuccessful ones.
June was a big month and began with a specific target of mine, the Anderside Classic in
Scotland. It's a point-to-point National B road race (rather than laps of a circuit) which is
very unusual in the UK. It's unbelievably hard (John Archibald won last year), involving
climbs, a range of roads from fast A-roads to narrow, gravelly and pot-holed single lanes,
and of course brutal winds (they like their wind farms in that part of the country). The
winds decimated a third of the field before the major climb of the day, where I missed
the winning move over the top; it was into a head wind, so if you were gapped as the
road flattened out (as I was) it was nigh-on impossible to catch what remained of the
peleton. 17 riders made the selection, and I eventually settled into a chase group of
about 12. I tried to use the cross winds to split the group, and whilst no one got dropped
I think it did wear some people down. One of our group (clearly the strongest of us)
managed to ride away on the final steep climb with about 10 miles to go. After a flurry
of late attacks with about a mile to go there were only 5 or 6 of us left in the group, and
I attacked with a few hundred meters to go and stayed clear. I finished 19 th , which is
just inside the points, so gained my first National level points of the season. Back at race
HQ there was a big spread of free grub; Scots really don't deserve their reputation for
My next race was at Goodwood on the motor-circuit. It was supposed to be a 90 minute
National B crit, but it was shortened on the start line to 1 hour 15 minutes for no obvious
reason (probably something on the telly the commissars wanted to get home for). I got
in an early break of 6, and eventually 5 more riders bridged. I felt really good, and could
tell I was one of the stronger riders in the group so I turned my mind to how I could try
and win the race. A few of us tried to get away in the closing laps to no avail, and then I
made a complete mess of the last lap. One rider went with about 1km to go and no one
reacted (first mistake, whilst he timed his move perfectly I should have reacted faster
and jumped on his wheel as I had the legs to do so), then I tried to attack with about
400m to go (second mistake, I selected far too big a gear overestimating the strength of
the tail wind so I didn't accelerate quickly enough and the others therefore had no
problem getting on my wheel). That was my chance blown and I rolled in last of the lead
group, 11th overall. At least I'd tried for a podium finish, rather than settle for perhaps 5th or 6th in a bunch sprint given that's not my forte.
My penultimate race for the first half of the season was a National B road race around an
industrial estate north of Liverpool. For some reason I thought it was short, around 90
minutes, but it turned out to be 100k. Whilst it couldn't exactly be called a scenic race
(the organiser seemed perplexed that Lou and I wanted to travel up for it), the roads
were deserted and one way so it was effectively on closed roads. The race consisted of
30 laps (about 2 miles a lap) and after about 3 or 4 laps a dangerous looking move of
four riders had formed off the front. As the main teams were represented I knew I had
to get into the move, so I started surfing the front of the bunch. When Ed Hopper from
Ribble Pro Cycling (one of the Elite riders in the race) attacked I went with him and
together we bridged across. One guy dropped out of the move leaving five of us to try
and team trial the remaining 25 or so laps. The first hour was horrendous as we tried to
establish the break, and we only started easing back a touch once the time gap stabilised
at about a minute. A chase group had formed by then which meant we couldn't take our
feet off the gas, even though we eventually lapped the main field. I only had two gels
with me so I bonked with four or five laps to go and had to tell the others that I'd sit on
and not contest the finish. It would have been good to know how I'd have fared with
enough fuel (probably still only 5 th given the break comprised two Elites and two good
first cats!) but I was still delighted to come 5 th in a National B road race out of a field of
around 60 starters. Lou and I enjoyed tucking into some Mexican food and a few beers
later that night in Liverpool, and better still on the way back to the hotel we stumbled
across a bar that had a record store and an open mike on, with a guy performing what is
quite possibly the best song I've heard for years – a bluesy number interjected with
some narrative in broad scouse that a "mackhead stole my bike". Genius. Pure comedy
and musical genius.
As I was over in the UK anyway with work, at the end of June I entered a Friday night
Regional crit in Brighton held at the same venue I won on earlier in the season. It was
by far the smallest field I've raced in this year at only about 20 riders, and a number of
us lapped the field early on at which point it became very difficult to work out who was a
lap up. I didn't play my cards right on the final lap and finished 5 th .
The season ahead
My total points tally currently sits at 75, 21 of which are at National level, which I'd have
taken at the start of the season. There's very little chance I'll get to the 200 points
needed for a 1 st cat licence; I prefer to focus on entering challenging events (or events
where both Lou and I can race at the same venue on the same day) rather than target
easy races for the sake of picking up points.
I'm off to Gibraltar shortly to support Lou and the other Jersey riders (good luck in
particular to the VSJ contingent of Dave, Flo, Becky and Lou), where I'll get a decent five
day block of training in under the Spanish sun. As soon as I get back I have a National B
road race near Cambridge, but that's really just a sharpener for my main focus of the
season, the Scottish National Road Race which is on a hilly course in Perthshire later this
month. I haven't planned much beyond that, although Dave le Roux and I are mooting
entering the National Masters Road Race in August.
I've been coached by Tobyn Horton since November last year, and he's been doing an
excellent job – the improvement in my power output has been significant, as has my
ability to recover and repeat efforts. So big thanks are due to him.
I should also mention Colm in particular for all the support he's given over the years, and
Lou for being patient with my constant trips away with work and for races. And lastly to
my parents and in-laws for being my swannies, cooks, innkeepers, drivers and general
dogsbodies when I'm racing in Scotland.
Over to you
I'd encourage you to give UK racing a go. If you have any questions about the UK racing
scene, or would like suggestions of races to enter, don't hesitate to contact me. There
are frequent crits held in London at a number of purpose built venues; you could even tie
in a crit with a taster session on the boards at the London velodrome.
Thanks for reading if you made it this far. The gluttons for punishment and masochist
amongst you (you're cyclists, that should be all of you) can read my summary of British
Cycling's race categories and points bandings on the next page. Or there's that bottom
bracket to attend to.
P.S. The squeaking's probably not the bottom bracket. But clean and replace it just in case. Then clean and
replace everything else. The last component you clean and replace will be the culprit. It's called sod's law.
*Credit for all photos goes to: Ellen Isherwood