Thomas Armstrong

Tom 2015
Hi Guys I’m back in Belgium again for my 3rd season with the fund, and I’m hoping for a good one. After what seemed like a very short winter at home relaxing and seeing family/friends my season has begun. I started with a small team weekend in the Ardennes training and generally just riding each other into the ground with everyone trying to prove their early season form to make selection for the early races.

 

1 week later was the first race on the team’s calendar and my first race of the season. It was the Brussle – Oprijk 1.12 with the usual field, a mixture of world tour development teams, continental and local club teams. It was a very fast and nervous start as always in the Belgian classics style races, with everyone anticipating the upcoming cobble sections and small bergs. Before the race I had no real idea of my condition all I knew was that it was not a race to suit a rider of my weight so I expected to spend the day just bouncing around on the cobbles surviving.

Riding my new Pinerello team bike that I had collected the previous weekend I surprised myself. I kept finding myself with the front split after all the cobble sections which was a nice feeling as I must have been the smallest rider there. Coming into the last cobble section the race was all back together ready to be torn apart for the final on the finishing circuit. I was well placed before we hit the first of the 2 main sections until I hit a hole in the road and the new Campagnolo lever on my bike slid down pulling the cable tight and locking up my front brake, which brought me to a standstill. I fixed my bike and got back in the peleton just before the start of the cobbles, but it wasn’t enough time for my legs to recover so I ended up in the second split and then took 4th in the sprint to earn 75th place. Nothing special but a positive feeling in the race can only mean when we get to the hills I will be good.

The following week was another race with cross winds and cobbles. with only 1 section of cobbles after 50km out of the 165km of racing. After the first 20km we had 2 riders in the break away with a gap of 2 minutes so I set to covering the moves trying to go across, 5 km or so later I found myself in a 2 man break in no-man’s land between the peleton and breakaway. I did not have to ride as I had team mates in the break so I just followed. After 10km dangling in front we sat up and I was back to the job of covering the front. Just after that it was the cobble section that was supposed to be a decisive point in the race. I rode my nuts off to make the front split on 20 or so riders just before the 40km of cross winds to the finishing circuit. I found myself in the company of some quality riders. I may have got a little bit excited and tried to dish out some pain and force the group away from the chasing fragmented peleton. Inevitably I ended up getting caught in the cross wind and spending a good 30km suffering just trying to hold the wheel in front. In the final I led my team mate out for the best of the rest sprint I think it was around 50th place and cruised in myself somewhere in the bunch.

The following week was a week of Kermesse racing both pro and amateur. Again not really stuff for me but it is great learning and I always give it a good crack. In the pro Kermesse I scrapped around 50th and the amateur Kermises was not a pleasant race for me a lot of wind and riding in the gutter. I tried to go for the breakaway but I was not able to escape. In the last Km I lead out our team sprinter for the bunch kick again (which he won).

The week after that was Mol inter club, it was my first race last season so I knew the roads and how the race would play out. Team order’s was to get into the breakaway for the day as it normal hangs on very close to the finish. After some skirmishes a group went with a team mate in it. My job then was just to relax and let the teams who missed out ride, which I did. As we entered the local laps the peleton was very nervous with riders risking far too much just to gain one place in the bunch, unfortunately one rider did so right in front of me and it didn’t pay off as me along with 5 or 6 other riders ended up tasting some tarmac.

I got up dusted myself down got a new wheel (after seeing another rider rip the spokes out of mine as he pulled the tangle of bikes apart) and started the long chase behind the team car to come back to the convoy and work my way back to the peleton. I got back and took a breather and some food and again just waited for the final laps. With 25km to go the break were coming back and me and my team mates got news that our team mate was suffering in the front, so it was time for us to chase the attacks and try to get across the 20/30 second gap to the front. I moved up to the front and started to chase groups of riders attacking, I found myself just of the front with a group of strong riders and decided to attack from the back of it to weed out the riders who wanted a free ride across, as I pushed down on the pedals I heard a massive crack as my chain just snapped in two. Unfortunately our car had not been pulled back from the break so I had no spare bike and it was race over for me. Very much a day to forget. In the end my team mate in the break got dropped and the group still had 5 seconds on the finish line.

So in conclusion a first month full of hard racing bad luck and bad weather, but now there is some hard racing coming and suited to me. Despite a lack of results in the first month my condition is really good and I have every intention of putting everything into the coming races and having some success.

19th April  2015

Liege – Bastogne – Liege U23 Race

So Liege-Bastogne-Liege under 23 race yesterday, a bit of an epic day out really, 182km and 2600 metres of climbing.

I got caught up directly behind a nasty crash just before the Cote de Wanne, which was not ideal, then a puncture at the start of the Rosier which meant a nice chase to get back up to the front, only to find I had no back brake because of the new wheel ! This led to some ‘interesting’ descending 😉 Despite that I managed to get over La Radoute reasonably placed but was dispatched on the last climbs coming in to the finish. Still a lot to work on but 2 minutes behind the winner is a lot better than last years 9 minutes so I suppose I’ll have to take that and work on that final part of the race for the next one.

A big thanks to the team and LBTF for giving me my chance to race. I’m sure I’ll get there with a bit more work.

Tom

Liege bastogne Liege skinsuitPS: I should have known I would have a hard race

 

 

 

 

May – June

Since my last blog I have been pretty busy. A lot of racing and training. The last part of june has been abit of an emotional roller coaster with a spell of bad form and a head full of doubt and also the tragic death of my team mate and friend  Jonathan Barratto.

Flèche Ardennes was the first objective that arrived after the first part of the season. a solid 175 km in the ardennes, hitting all the big climbs and some more with a high quality field of world class cyclo cross pros and top U23 riders. After 150km it all kicked off with 4 guys up the road and 90 riders left of the 170 or so starters the team wallonie-Brussels (continental pro team) decided to start the chase and ripped the race to peaces. I made the second group and finished a fairly solid top 45.

In the middle  of may I had tryptique Ardennes 3 days of fast racing on the border of Belgium and Germany. Each stage around 165km long, we ran each stage off at around 3 hours 30. The racing was as the Belgians say a-blok (full gas) with all the top cyclocross riders there and development teams it was a hard weekend and every day was a sprint from a large group. I made front group everyday but had nothing in the way of a sprint at the finish.

After these few races there was a stint of cobbled races lots of wind flat and gutter action. First up was paris roubaix U23 I was excited to make selection for this race because of its history. Unfortunatly I crashed 5 times before the first cobble section which wasn’t so bad seeing as there was about 10 or 12. On the third sector I dropped my chain just at end of the cobbles whilst chancing back to the front group of about 40 riders and ended up alone for a long time chasing in the wind and rain. After a long time alone passing other riders, and being passed by groups of riders holding onto team cars, I was picked up by a very full broom wagon with only 25km to go. There was only 60 riders made it to the finish on the day and I was 65 or so when the wagon picked me up. A disappointing day.

A week later I had a 1.2 top competition in Belgium a fast and furious race a lot of the day spent looking at the wheel in front and then finished up on a final circuit with a 2km section of cobbles every 10 km. after stuffing at the back for most of the day with 2 laps to go I was caught up behind a crash just before the cobbles and couldn’t come back my small group was pulled out so another DNF which lead to some low moral.

The next week I had a few days visit from charlotte(my girlfriend) which was very refreshing and motivating. But just 2 days before the next race I received news of the death of my team mate Jonathan, he was hit by a car out training. It was a shock to the system and hard to accept at first as it didn’t feel real. But at the pro race the following Sunday we had to go up on the podium before the start without him and hold his number up for a 1 minute silence in his memory. Which was when it hit the whole team very hard I think.

The race was mentally very difficult for the whole team and unfortunately no one from the team could finish.

I will have motivation back In my next blog I will have a been on a small training camp to prepare for Tour de Liege and some other races with hopefully more success.
Tom