My Year so far

I’m sat here writing a quick Blog about how my year has been racing for the Holdsworth Zappi Team up until now.

After a great 2 months getting some good training and some sun in Calpe we headed off to Italy to get the racing year kick started.  I was excited to see how I would fair in my first year being a full time cyclist along with jumping up to the U23 category. 

The first race for me would be Montecasiano which would take place at the back end of March.  Here I finished 21st after crashing I was happy with the result for my first Italian race. 

Following this my first UCI race would be Trofeo Piva after a hard and long race, much longer than I raced the previous year, I finished 16th with team mate Tim in 17th.

After this I would focus on Reccioto which was a big UCI race said to be one of the toughest 1 day races of the year for the U23’s.  I was happy to finish 12th in a pretty stacked field. 

The next race would be an Elite Italian National called Monte Urano where I finished 8th and first young rider.  Shortly after this we would go to altitude camp to focus on the Giro.

We spent a little over 2 weeks there getting in some good miles before returning to the house which was near the start of the Giro. 

Then the next week was about preparing everything and freshening up ready for the race.  The Giro would start on Thursday.  I finished the Giro in 20th on GC and 7th in the Young Riders classification and 14th on the stage up to Monte Amiata. 

After that I travelled home to prepare for Valle D’Aosta.   Valle D’Aosta didn’t go quite as well as I wanted it to having maybe picked something up on the flight over and being fatigued following the Giro so I helped Callum as much as I could on the final few stages but I did finish 21st on stage 4 after being in the break.  

It’s been a great year up to now and living and working as part of a Team has been an amazing experience.  I appreciate the support which has got me to where I am now and I look forward to the rest of the season and next year with special thanks to Barnett and Ravenscroft. 

 

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Mason Hollyman
Valle d'Aosta

The next race after the Baby Giro was the Valle d’ Aosta.  It was an unknown to me as to how I would come out of the Giro as it had been my longest stage race by over double. 

So, I set off a few days before the race started to try and acclimatise a little before the race started.

After a few days of training and getting a little more used to the heat we headed over to Aosta where we would be staying not too far down the road for the next week or so during the race. 

The first day would consist of a short 2.7km prologue starting in the evening which would kick the race off.

After somehow missing the start I was a way down the standings but still not half a minute down on the lead which I was sure wouldn’t make a huge impact on my overall result.

Stage 1- This was a really tough stage on the cards going up 2 major climbs both around an hour long. I didn’t feel great this day so it was just a case of getting as far as I could with the group and limiting loses. This meant I was dropped on the 2nd long climb from a reduced bunch. With a big mix up on the valley after the decent the race was stopped and the break then allowed to go off early, with the bunch then cruising into the finish as they were unhappy about the situation (getting sent the wrong way). 

Stage 2- I was hoping the legs would be feeling better with it being another hard day on the cards. The stage started off fast through the narrow roads on the valley.  Then coming into the first climb there was a big crash which messed up my race as I had to sort my bike out and then I never reached the bunch again meaning a 4 hour solo ride to make the time cut.

Stage 3- This was the longest stage with it being 180km in the mountains so it would be a long day out, unfortunately the legs still hadn’t come round for this day with me doing some stem chewing from the start. As I was already a long way down on GC from the previous days I went in the gruppetto to try and save a little legs and hope they could come round a little for the next few days.

Stage 4- Another really tough day on the cards possibly being the queen stage with there being 5 climbs, 3 of them being backloaded at the end of the stage all being over 30 minutes long equating to over 4000m of climbing for the stage. Today my legs finally felt something like what I’d hoped with me attacking as soon as the flag dropped on the 25 minute climb, the pace was on for the whole climb with lots of riders trying to get up the road. I was able to get in a move over the top of the climb forming a break of around 14 riders after the decent. Once we’d finished the decent we hit the next climb which was a lot shorter but quite steep. We rode this really hard to get the gap out to the peleton then settled down in the valley with some riders not wanting to work. Once we hit the first of the final 3 climbs the gap was quickly closed down with people starting to attack each other. After using a lot of matches at the start I wasn’t able to follow the leaders and was caught from a group with Calum. We worked until the top of the climb with me then setting a pace for the next 2 climbs playing a domestic roll for Calum who was up there on the GC. I finished the stage in 21st which I was reasonably happy with having done a good amount of work and being in the break. 

Stage 5- The final day, I knew I’d be tired for this stage having done a lot of work the previous day also feeling a little under the weather. Coming into the final climb of the race I went up at my own pace to finish 40th.

Overall I was pretty disappointed with my results in this race having felt in good shape going into the race but not everything can go to plan and I was happy to get through a seriously tough race feeling a bit under the weather meaning the legs weren’t where I’d hoped.

 

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Mason Hollyman
Baby Giro

Baby Giro 

 

I thought for my next blog I’d give a short stage by stage run down from the Baby Giro (U23). I can safely say for every stage much rice was consumed!

 

Prologue- For me the prologue was mostly about limiting loses as well as not taking too many risks around the technical corners. I finished under 20 seconds down which I was happy with knowing that it wouldn’t be a gap which would make any difference to my final GC position once we hit the mountains.

 

Stage 1- A few of the guys had raced the giro the previous year so they had an idea of what to expect, so they warned us that it would be a hard start. So the start began fast with lots of teams trying to get away in the moves, after a good hour on the gas the pace eventually eased with a break going away. Then the final 40km was on as the GB team were chasing and everyone was trying to get up to the front for the final climb, which after the decent was only a few KMs from the finish. Going onto the climb I was decently positioned in about 30th after a bit of help from Jason and Calum. With everyone fighting for position there was a crash unfortunately right in front of me which meant I lost a fair few seconds meaning I had to make a big effort up the remaining part of the climb to get back to the front. Once we got to the bottom of the climb the run in was reasonably straight forward so I just rolled in safely in the bunch.

 

Stage 2- This stage was a weird one with it being a sprinters stage due to the long section of flat after the 2 mountains but with there being mountains to begin with it would still be a tough stage! Also it was 200km which meant it was the longest race I’d done. For me the majority of the race was quiet with not much happening until with 8km to go there was a big crash which I was involved in, breaking my rear wheel! Thankfully Jason was able to give me his bike which took a while for him to get it to me as he had also hit the deck. Luckily the legs were in a pretty good place so I was able to chase full gas for the next few KM to lose only 8 seconds.

 

Stage 3- This day was a stage that I was worried about, due to it being the strada stage. Due to the amount of things which are out of your control when on the gravel it was a nervous stage for the GC guys. Early on in the stage I got a puncture which meant a bit of legs were used to get back on but thankfully it was before the strada sections had begun and I was able to get back on reasonably quickly because Calum had given me his wheel. Going into the first gravel sector the pace was FAST mostly because of it being a long straight downhill ha ha. But it made moving up difficult, this meant I hit the sector a bit further back than I would have hoped. After fighting to move up positions I got into a decent place with the pace on at the front. After a tough day I managed to bridge across to the main group with most of the GC contenders on the final few KMs. Unfortunately there was a break which had got away earlier in the day and built up a substantial gap with a few riders finishing nearly 5 minutes up the road. But I was happy to get this day out of the way not really losing any time to the main GC guys.

 

Stage 4- I was looking forward to this stage with it being the first proper test for me. The stage started off hard straight out of the neutral into a climb. This meant the group instantly splintered leaving around 40-50 of us in the lead group. Once the pace had eased a little I changed bikes back to the road bike as the spare bike had some more hard wearing tyres on for the gravel sector at the start (which never came). It just turned out that as soon as I’d changed bikes the front group had started to splinter with lots of breaks going up the road. I managed to make my way up through the cars with the help of Charlie before having to go a little harder to make it back in. After I’d had a few minutes to take a breath I followed a break which dragged us up to the front bunch. This then swelled again which stayed together at around 50 riders until the final mountain top finish. I was unsure how I’d fair against the field but gave it a good go to finish 14th on the stage. It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for but a solid result which I was pleased with. 

 

Rest day- The majority of this day was spent travelling up North.

 

Stage 5- Passo Maniva! This was a flat stage with a big mountain to finish. With there being a bit of wind some of the bigger more powerful guys were able to have some fun on the flat sections before the mountain started. Today I really didn’t feel great coming into the climb I knew I’d just have to pace my effort as best I could and not go into the red too early as it was a long climb, for me with not great legs it was about limiting loses. I was disappointed with my result as it was a climb I felt suited me quite well but under the circumstances I felt I finished quite well in the 30s not dropping too much in the GC. I was told it’s always an unknown how you will be going coming out of a rest day. So hopefully the legs would pick up for the next days.

 

Stage 6- Today was a stage which I’d had my eye on as soon as the route had came out. It was the double Motirolo stage which was sure to be a savage day out. The race began really quick on the gradual decent down into the first side of the climb I was in a good position at this point a few KM from the bottom of the climb. But in those final few KM leading into it I found myself along with a few others getting swamped. This meant I hit the climb +50 riders back which really wasn’t ideal, I moved around a good few riders still trying not to go over the line knowing the size and length of the climb. Due to this I missed a decent sized group which went up the road with the bunch splitting, I kept going at a good pace picking off riders. A few KM from the top I caught Calum and he was able to set a good pace giving me a bit of a rest before the hard last 1.5km. After a technical decent we were onto the second side this is the most famous side likely pictured with Contador alongside Landa and Aru in the 2015 Giro! Also this year saw Nibali attacking the climb alongside Hugh Carthy. It’s fair to say it’s an iconic climb, I tried to do it and myself justice still fighting to catch as many people as I could. Just a time trail trying to get to the top as fast as possible. As the gradient gripped I kept pushing with more riders in sight, slowly resurrecting my day. Once I crested the top i found myself in a group of 4 riders we shared the pace over the testing 10km surfing along the top of the mountain. The final decent was fast we kept the pace on, I rolled across the line in 32nd I couldn’t deny I was disappointed with this result as I’d really wanted to put in a special result on this stage but looking back it wasn’t a bad result.

 

Stage 7- This was a flatter stage, not expected to cause too much of a shake up on the GC. This was a good day for the team with Charlie bridging across to the break to finish 3rd on the day! Me and Calum finished safely in the bunch, not losing any time on the GC.

 

Stage 8- This was the final long stage it was going to be a tough one! The rolling start and wet weather meant for a fast and hard start with the pace on for the first hour. A puncture in the first hour didn’t help with a hard chase back onto the bunch, thankfully making my way back into the bunch. The wet weather made a testing stage even harder with you constantly having to concentrate. Going into the first climb of 2 I was well positioned, Cal was not far back, this used a bit of legs for me to get into a good position but it was needed as the climb would be hit hard from the Colombians. As soon as we hit the climb the bunch began to split, I crested the climb in the 3rd group on the road including the break. We worked pretty well together with no real let up going into the final climb. I finished the stage in 38th with a big break up the road. I was pleased with this stage with the legs feeling pretty good and me being amongst some pretty big names. 

 

Stage 9- Final stage! This was going to be a tough day for sure, only 40km but it wasn’t to be taken lightly with it being up to a summit finish at 2043m up! Also the accumulated fatigue was to make it even tougher. The stage set off as expected, been really fast with everyone racing to hit the first 5 minute climb in front. Me and Calum managed to position ourselves what we thought was in a decent position just outside the top 20. The pace was on, on the climb as we hit the top. The decent was sketchy with a few riders having problems which split the bunch. Unfortunately I ended up in group 2 on the road with the gap quickly going out to the leaders. Calum did a great job for me going into the climb and on the climb allowing me to rest a little in the wheels. The last 4km was just all about leaving everything I had on the road. It’s fair to say they hurt a lot, I got my head down and went deep to try and hold my GC position. I finished the stage 35th and 20th on GC. 

 

It was a great race and I’d like to thank everyone who was part of it for helping out. I’d gone into the race with a bit more in mind but can’t be too disappointed to roll a top 20 on GC and 7th in the young riders in my first year as a U23. 

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Mason Hollyman
Monte Urano Italian National
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The next race on the Calendar after Recioto was an Elite Italian National, ‘Monte Urano.’ Going into this race I had good legs and confidence coming out of Recioto with a 12th place. It was also just a few days off the back of a big block of training with the team so I was carrying a little bit of fatigue into the race but was feeling strong. We set off on our way down south late Friday morning and after a few hours we arrived. A nice hotel’s always good for the pre-race morale. Once we’d unpacked and had a bit of something to eat we set off on the usual pre-race ride around some of the course. The race would be around 160KM and included 8 laps around a course with a 4 to 5 minute climb into a rolling section then into the town where the race would be finishing.  After this it would drop back down into a few KM of flat before starting the climb again. Then on the final lap after the climb the course would drop straight down to run into the finish climb which we would turn a right hand corner to begin the climb. This climb was just over 5 minutes and had steep ramps before flattening off repeatedly and then carrying on until the finish. The race set off after a few KM of neutralised. Starting on a wet decent made it quite sketchy with some crashes happening on the decent. Eventually the race settled down, while being controlled by some teams. Like most Italian races on these tough courses it was quite attritional with people going out of the back every lap. In the final few laps the pace picked up more and more until there was a reduced bunch of around 40-50 riders hitting the penultimate climb. The pace was high here with everyone trying to get up to the front of the bunch before the technical decent into the finishing climb. I managed to position myself well into this decent with the help of Calum on the penultimate climb meaning I crested the top in around 10th position and managed to move up a few places on the decent leading into the final climb. Once we turned the right hand bend to start the climb attacks instantly started which strung out the bunch, after a few minutes the bunch eased up then I saw the chance…I attacked up the harder part of the climb and looking over my shoulder there were 2 riders who were able to get onto me after the effort, with both not wanting to come through or attack themselves, the race eased off again allowing people to get back up to the front. This then meant that another attack was launched which made others go over the top. Sadly, I wasn’t able to follow the first 5 who went up the road which meant I was left chasing with 4 or so riders. Coming into the final bend I was positioned 3rd wheel in our group and I wasn’t able to make up any more places so finished in 8th which I was pleased with from an Elite field.  I also was pleased to win the white jersey for highest placed first year U23.   It was good to see Tim finish in 14th and the other Zappi guys riding strongly.

Mason Hollyman
58th GP Recioto

So the weekend began with a drive up to Negrar where our hotel was.  After a few wrong turns we arrived mid to late-afternoon to get sorted and go out on the bikes to have a look at the course.  We did a few laps of the circuit before getting back and ready for tea.  It’s fair to say that waiting to eat felt like a long time.  So once the rest had arrived from a days racing at Belvedere we had our tea just the standard pre-race pasta and washed down with the usual sparkling water.  Then it was time to get ready for bed and have an earlyish night after the usual pre-race stretch.  The next morning came around after a decent nights sleep and with the clouds dark and ready to burst it was race day, nothing like a bit of mood to add to the race.  We went down for breakfast which consisted of mainly biscuits which I’m sure the race supporters didn’t mind.  Then we decided to go for a drive up the final climb of the day where the race would then finish after the decent.  Then it was time to get back and have our 10 o’clock rice.  I went big with the rice knowing that a fair few calories were needed for the race.  Once that was finished we went back up to the room to finish packing the bags and sorting ourselves out before leaving to the race.  Once we arrived we got ready and prepared ourselves for the swimming race and with the weather making me feel at home.  We went to sign on and then go for a quick warm up, straight into a 20% climb ha ha.  With the legs feeling warmed up we went to get lined up and the race began, (nice to see a few familiar faces).  It began fast with lots of teams attacking and trying to stay at the front, this meant it was quite sketchy.  Later seeing it must have been a sketchy race in the convoy too with a car crashing through a fence and over a wall.  The race then settled down a little with a strong break of around ten riders establishing itself at the front of the race.  Colpack then began to control the race and tried to drag the break back.  After a hard few laps a good number of the break had been brought back but still some riders were out front.  This meant that going into the final big climb the pace was still on as Dimension Data were trying to bring the race back together.  This meant that only 20-25 riders were still in contact with the bunch going into the climb.  Then the pace was kept on by Dimension Data with people quickly getting dropped out of the bunch until cresting the first part of the climb there were only around 15 riders left in the bunch which I managed to make it into.  After this there was an up and down section with some twisty turns with the pace still on as we hit the final part of the climb which was around 5 KM long.  This is where the pace was ramped up and riders quickly began to lose the wheels.  Unfortunately I was a few riders back from the front so as a few riders lost the wheel in front I didn’t have the legs to close it down which meant the groups behind including me, around 6 of us not working as full on as the group in front the gap quickly went out.  Once the flatter section had hit the steeper part I began to get into a good rhythm which meant I was able to get clear of the group and now commit to an effort of around 2KM to see if I could catch anyone before the decent.  I managed to catch sight of a group of 4 riders, a few turns ahead, this spurred me on to catch them and as I turned onto the beginning of the decent I was only 50 or so metres from the back of the group which I managed to close on the decent.  With everyone descending as fast as they could I managed to pass a rider who was losing the wheels and then once the descent flattened out a little I go straight onto the front seeing if I could get closer to the riders ahead as well as keeping the gap on the riders behind. As we came into the final KM no one wanted to take up the front so I rode at a hard enough tempo to make sure no one from behind was to come back.  Turning round the sketchy wet cobbles I started my sprint with the finishing straight lasting what felt like an eternity I was passed by 3 of the riders and finished 12th place.

Mason Hollyman
Italian Racing

First Italian race
So last weekend was my first big one of the season being the first one in Italy.  The race was called Montecassiano. The race was set to be 165KM starting off with 6 smaller laps of around 10KM each which would finish on a 1KM or so climb up into Montecassiano (the finish town) then it would go onto 5 bigger laps which would also include the smaller circuits but with the added loop of a similar distance also with a steep 1KM climb into the town (so the course was a figure of 8 shape). The neutral started, sketchy as expected, once the flag dropped it was a fast start as the race got underway. The pace then settled down a few attacks went on the smaller laps but were all reeled in, the most significant break including team mate, Nick. We then made the transition onto the bigger laps, the race had already started to whittle down the bunch lap by lap but now it was quicker as there was now another climb which was fairly steep. Coming into the second lap I took a bottle which then caused me to have a tangle and have a quick lie down on the floor. I was quickly able to get back up and off after finding my Garmin haha! Unfortunately this broke my shoe dial so after getting back onto the bunch I had to go back to the cars where Calum had some tape for me to do a mid race fix…. was pretty impressed with this one ;). I then got back into the bunch and moved back up before the next climb. Lap by lap the race was getting whittled down until on the final lap the bunch only contained around 40 riders. This is where it then began to split up with some groups splintering off the front. Coming into the final climb the pace was kept on with me starting to cramp in my left hamstring, with the legs still feeling pretty good I managed to get round a fair few to finish in 21st. A good way to kick off the racing here in Italy.  I was pretty pleased with the result considering the bad luck with the crash. Onto the next one! Thanks to Pedal Potential for the support.

Mason Hollyman
Round up for the 2018 season and going into the 2019 season

So ....... just an update as to where I’ve got to so far. So the season ended with the final 3 races being the Junior Tour of Wales. Trophio Buffoni and the World Championships in Austria. At the beginning of the season the Junior Tour of Wales was one which I wanted to win, obviously with a busy calendar sometimes you can’t go well for every race. I trained hard going into the race but picked up some illness going into the race and didn’t feel at my best which meant after having some days off before the race I didn’t have the legs that I wanted to. So I finished 4th on GC and 3rd on the Tumble Queen Stage. I left the weekend feeling disappointed but it was made better by reading a tweet saying that I had won the Series overall. Straight after the race I trained hard as I was motivated to finish the season well whilst still waiting to see if I’d got into the Worlds line up.  After 2 weeks of hard training we went over to Italy for the final team race of the season.  But this was not to be the last as I found out that I had made the World champs GB team. Me, Ben and Lewis all met at the airport as we would all fly out together and meet Callum once we arrived in Italy (Jamieson and Tom would not be at this race due to it only being a four rider team). Once we got on the plane we realised that Ben has drawn the short straw and that he would be sitting on his own for the flight. Once we arrived in Italy we met Callum (after he’d been waiting for a while) and Paul and Patrick drove us over to where we would be staying.  We built the bikes up … eventually after losing many bolts on the grass, (not sure which muppets decided to build their bikes up in the grass) and after a scare from Callum Macloed that he forgotten to pack his seat post we set off on a recce.  Luckily our hotel was on the course which meant we didn’t have to drive anywhere. We did a few laps of the finishing circuit before going back to the hotel for tea and then we were getting ready for the race.  Flávio had already told us the race was going to be a fast one with lots of strong Italian and other European riders wanting good results being seen as a prep race for the Worlds but also a big race in itself. The race started fast on the flat loops with it being quite sketchy due to a big number of riders and the pace. Ben managed to get into a break away and just before the hilly finishing laps someone crashed into the back of me on a corner which meant my top three gears wouldn’t work. I got back on my bike and after a short bit of pacing back on by Flávio I reached a decent place in the convoy and was able to move back up into the bunch. I got on the back of the bunch just as we hit the climb and was able to move up. Bens breakaway was caught. There were lots of riders going out the back and a breakaway formed before I managed to make my way up to the front.  I then stayed in the bunch until 1 1/2laps to go where I saw a rider sprint out of the bunch and bridge across to the break away which was 30 or so seconds up the road. I did the same and managed to get across to the now break of 8/9 after some had been dropped I the previous climb. We worked together for a few km before hitting the final climb where some attacks went up the road I was able to stay with these. This whittled the break away down another few riders. Meaning there were now 7 of us going into the final few km. The chase back on along with the hard race and not having all the gears had taken its toll and I was 6th. I was happy with this result considering the circumstances and the quality of the field.  It was a great way to end the year with the team! Then there was just one race left to finish off the season! …..
The World Champs was an awesome race to be part of and a mint way to end the year. It was a fast and hard race from the gun with everyone racing to get into the first climb in a good position this meant it was also very sketchy, so after around 40/50km there was big crash which I came down in, thankfully not bad due to me landing on a bike haha which meant I was able to get back on quickly and start chasing. After a fair chase I was able to get back across to the now whittled down front group where I started to move up.  Shortly after we took a right turn onto a fast decent under a motorway tunnel, there was a touch of wheels which meant another crash which I was caught up in. Getting through the carnage again it was time to start chasing hard as there was only a few KMs until the first climb of the day which was sure to split the bunch. Alfie had come down in the crash so we were able to work well together into the bottom of the climb this meant I hit the climb not too far back, around a minute, thanks to Alfie’s tows. The climb was about 10 minutes long so I knew I would have to pace the effort well but at the same time not hold much back as the race could be going away in front of me. As soon as we hit the climb there were riders everywhere which meant I was able to work my way through the riders, until I eventually made my way to the second group on the road and we were able to make our way up to the front group to make a group of around 15 riders. On the long steady downhill into the finishing circuits in Innsbruck the third group on the road was able to make contact after the Belgian team had chased hard. This made a group of 30-40 riders left in contention. On the first long climb I felt fatigued as the race and chasing back on had taken its toll on me until just over half way up when the field was ripped apart due to an attack. I just missed contact with the second group on the road which meant I was now in a group with Ben and a few others. We worked well for the remaining lap and a half until the sprint where we finished 17th and 20th I was disappointed with the result but couldn’t be too disappointed with the circumstances and racing the World’s best.
It was a mega way to end the season representing GB in Austria!

Thanks to Pedal Potential for their continued support.

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Mason Hollyman
Aubel-Thimister-La Gleize and Ronde des Vallees

Aubel-Thimister-La Gleize

Thursday

The trip started off with a very early get up before the long drive down to Folkestone for the Euro Tunnel that morning (thanks to the Dave Rayner Fund for the loan of the van).  So we boarded the Tunnel and got on our way to Belgium where the racing would be starting Friday afternoon.  Once we met up with the others we got our kit on and went out for a spin to loosen the legs.  Once we got back we got ready for the following day.

Friday –Stage 1

We got up and had our breakfast before setting out for a TT recce.  After the recce we got back and got ready for the first stage to begin.  Aubel is notoriously known as one of the toughest Junior stage races in Europe.  The racing started off faster than expected with everyone fighting for position then around 50 KM in when the pace was on I was taken out which left me with an injured shoulder and hip.  After straightening my handle bars and jumping back on the gap was already a big one.  I chased hard hoping to be able to get back on but the racing was fully on at the front with the race now splitting.  I had to keep going hard but knew I wasn’t going to make it to the front of the race.  I had to keep racing in order to make the time cut and race again the next day.  After finishing the race there was a quick visit to the Ambulance to get patched up and I was on my way.

Saturday – Stage 2a and b

This was a split day starting off with a TTT (Team Time Trial) and we were hoping for a decent result as it was sure to have an impact on the GC for the guys in contention.  We set off well and secured 3rd Team which was a good result as we were only a handful of seconds from the win against a lot of strong teams.  The second stage was scorching hot and many bottles of ice were shoved down our backs in order to keep us cool whilst we waited for the race to begin.  This race was set to be another tough one with the race starting fast and a break- away of 4 or so riders going up the road.  This meant the race stayed quite fast with the break staying till the finish and me picking up 7th in the bunch sprint which gave me 11th on the stage. 

Sunday – Stage 3

This was the Queen Stage and a very tough day out.  It began as expected very fast with everyone wanting to get up to the front before the first climb of the day.  I hit the first climb around 20th position with the pace being full on.  10 or so riders got a gap which I then jumped across to on the climb before getting caught again in the transition between the other climbs.  On another of the climbs the pace was pushed on and another spilt happened with me managing to make it into the group of 12ish.  The gap began to grow over the next climb before Remco managed to go clear on his own.  There was a few dropping off from our bunch meaning there was now only around 9 of us left.  We worked together reasonably well meaning we were not caught by the reduced peloton behind, with a few riders having team mates in the group a few attacks went which were not all followed so I rolled in 8th on the stage with only 50 or so riders finishing the stage.

 

Ronde des Vallees

After a short holiday in Brittany we drove over to the Mur de Bretagne on the Friday which was about an hour away. I then met up with the others and we went for a pre-race ride, (it’s fair to say morale was high in the sun). After this we got back to where we would be staying for the next few nights and got ready for stage one which would start the following day.  Following an interesting meal with unusual concoctions it was time to head back to the boat house.  If it was a good nights sleep we needed this wasn’t about to happen without a few choice words to the Danes below who appeared to be in the party mood.

 

Saturday- Stage 1

We got up in decent time to get ready for the first stage. The stage was 110km and set off fast and was fairly sketchy with numerous crashes in the first 20km.  After this a break of around 6 riders established itself off the front but it wasn’t allowed a huge gap, then just over half way into the race on a long drag I decided to bridge across to the break which was around 30 seconds up the road, but the peloton then picked up the pace meaning when I bridged it was all but back together. I decided to keep pushing and went over the top of the break as the bunch was strung out and I was away for a few km solo before getting joined by 4 strong riders, we then worked well together until getting caught 20 or so km later. Once we hit the finishing loops another little break was able to go clear and small groups kept bridging across to this meaning there were 10 or so riders up the road by this point. Coming into the closing few km the break had around 1 min 30 and the gap wasn’t going to be closed so I attacked and soloed to the finish to finish 14th on the day. Losing a bit over a minute on the day which wasn’t the best! 

Sunday- Stage 2a and 2b

After eating breakfast with 5 other Zombies who were struggling to open their eyes after the early start we set off on our way to the time trial.  The first stage of the day was an individual TT which was around 12km I finished in 10th which I was pleased with as TTs aren’t my main focus and strength.

The final stage was 97km this set off also quite quickly with it being pretty wet and technical at the beginning of the race there were a few crashes and it was quite strung out as there were a few hills with the pace kept on. Eventually a group of 10 or so riders managed to get away including Ben which meant we were not going to chase this down. After a 10km I saw the chance to try and bridge across with a few other riders who had a little gap but the bunch didn’t let the gap go so we sat up and the pace slowed so the gap quickly grew out. Coming into the finishing circuits which we would cover 5 times, the pace was kept at a decent speed with the gap slowly coming down, once we got onto the final lap and I knew the break would stay away so I decided to press on hard up the short climb into the cross wind and I managed to get a gap with Ben Tulett so we carried on working together for the next three quarters of a lap to roll in 13th and finish around 20 seconds ahead of the bunch.

Mason Hollyman
Junior Tour of the Basque Country

 

The Junior Tour of the Basque Country was a race which I wanted to do well at due to it being a race that I really enjoyed the previous year and felt that the parcours was one which suited me well.

So the week started off with a fair bit of packing before the flight which was on Tuesday it was fair to say it took a while with me making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.

Once Tuesday morning came around I put my bags and bike box into my grandad’s car as he was kindly taking me to the airport. We arrived at the airport nice and early and after a short wait for Ben we went through to the departure lounge where we decided to go and get something to eat. I went for a mango smoothie and a kind of Mexican breakfast wrap which I’d definitely go for again! Ben went for an omelette which got thumbs up. After around half an hour we were joined by the other lads who had managed to track us down on Snap maps Cal and Jamieson ordered some food and Tom decided to get his packed lunch out ha ha did order a coffee though ;). Then it was time to board the flight. Somehow me, Tom and Jamieson were sat on seats next to each other having booked our own flights. This meant the flight across wasn’t bad at all as I had some dece company. Once we arrived we got our bags then set off over to Durango which was where the hotel was where we would be staying for the next 6 nights. Then it was time to get the bikes unpacked before heading off for a little spin. We got back had a shower then went down for Tea before going to bed.

We got up on Wednesday morning to have breakfast then get ready to go out for a pre-race ride before the first stage which would start the following day. Once we got back we had a nice little café stop before heading over to the supermarket to see what took our fancy. Then we went back to the hotel to chill for the rest of the day.

Thursday morning came around and the race didn’t start until later on in the afternoon so we had a chilled morning after a decent lie in before heading off over to the first stage. This stage was 93.3km long and included 3 categorised climbs. The stage started pretty fast with lots of attacks going, Tom attacked after one but was quickly chased down so Jamieson went over the top and was able to make the break which would stay away until the finish.  Cheers to Chief bottle grabber Tom for grabbing me a bottle.  I rolled in, in the bunch around a minute down.  This was following a hard chase back after having a puncture at a bad time with the cars being a long way back due to the bunch being split up.

Friday’s stage was 79.6km long and also included 3 categorised climbs with the biggest being in the middle. For this stage the aim was for me to get some time back on GC, the coastal roads at the beginning were a good opportunity as it was undulating along with it being technical and fast so the bunch was strung out. Ben made a break on this part with around 6 others I then saw the opportunity so soloed across to the move but as the course opened out again onto the bigger roads the peloton was able to get us in sight and close us down. After this I knew there was another good opportunity coming into the first categorised climb so Jamieson set me up well by attacking into it which strung out the group well. I kept the pace on and eventually managed to drag myself away solo before catching a rider who was up the road, I stayed on the front until the summit where I saw Harrison Wood wasn’t far behind on the decent so eased up a little which made a break of 3. We worked together well and saw a group of around 5 others coming across.  So we eased up and let them get across we then worked well together, this meant we had a decent group coming into the biggest climb of the day. We stayed together with me trying to keep the group going well. Once we crested the climb the run in was quite long where we kept the pace going well, then I turned around to see Ben had bridged across the gap which was about a minute, fair play. With there now being Zappis we worked hard to keep the gap until the final climb where the pace went out of the group a little as everyone knew we had the gap to stay away. In the final few KM Ben attacked and was able to get away with one other where he rolled across the line in second, I came across the line third a few seconds back after winning the group sprint.

Saturday was a day which had two stages with the first one being 69.4km with 2 categorised climbs. I remembered this stage from last year with it being the same stage as the penultimate one in 2017. It was on circuits which featured quite a tough climb which was done twice along with a steep climb up towards the finish, last year the race split with a reasonably big break getting away so I knew that there was an opportunity for the same thing to happen again.  The race started with quite a few attacks going due to it being a short stage it was raced aggressively it then calmed down a little with around 30km to go.  So once I hit the bottom of a non-categorised climb which was also a decent climb I attacked hard dragging away 6 or so other riders with me including Wessel who was the race leader at the time.   We all worked well together on the fast run into the bottom of the final climb before Wessel attacked hard at the bottom, a few riders from the group were getting dropped so I moved up before attacking around the outside but was passed by a rider in the last 100m and rolled in second gaining around a minute on the bunch.

Then the second stage was a 7km hill climb (Uphill TT).  I vaguely remembered this climb as it was the final climb from the first stage the previous year. But to refresh our memories we went up there again in the car. Then it was time to get a warm up on the rollers before what was sure to be a hard effort. Then it was time to get lined up after having my gears checked and bike weighed. I started off at a good pace making sure I didn’t go too deep too early as it was going to be a long effort.  I kept it going before the short decent inside the last 1km before the last little ramp up to the finish. I crossed the line with the fastest time before getting beaten by the next rider after me, so I finished second on the stage.

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The final stage was 88.7km and included 4 categorised climbs, this was my last chance to try for the GC as I was lying in 3rd. Once the stage began Ben went on the attack with another rider before going solo on his own, this forced the Contador team to work which was a good situation to be in, coming into the first climb Ben was caught around half way up which meant no one really wanted to take up the pace setting, so we crested the top of the climb in quite a big bunch.  Then on the decent I saw the opportunity to attack, I managed to get a little gap with Wessel but we were quickly brought back. The race then slowed down again meaning Ben was able to get up the road before being caught up the next climb. I then gave it a go dragging away three others but yellow was one of them so I sat up. Another group was then able to get away containing Ben again, once we hit the bottom of the penultimate climb Cal went full gas which set me up for another attack. I went hard for a good few minutes and cresting the top of the climb I’d just caught the group of 3 containing Ben with just the yellow jersey on my wheel. We descended down the other side but with it not being technical the race was able to come back together. Cal then gave it one last try for me by setting me up again but I wasn’t able to get the gap on the leader with the slopes being fairly shallow. Coming into the finish Cal was able to get a little gap with one other where he was narrowly beaten to 2nd I lead the sprint out from around 500m out with it being a fast seated finish just one rider came past me meaning I finished the stage in 4th getting just enough points to take the win in the Points classification.

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Bizkaiko podium.jpg

Thanks to Pedal Potential and Dean Downing for the continued support.

 

Mason Hollyman
Spokes Kingdom Classic and Monmouthshire GP

Spokes Kingdom Classic

So the weekend started by driving up to Glenrothes (somewhere in Scotland), the drive was around 5 hours but wasn’t too bad as we went through the Scottish moors so the views were nice. Once we arrived it was already quite late as we didn’t set off until the evening so we pretty much unloaded some bags into the room then went to bed.

The next day we woke in decent time to go and have a good breakfast. Then it was time to get the bags from the room and set off over to St Andrews where the race would be starting. After a short spin on the rollers it was time to get lined up and set off for the neutral zone. The race started and after a few little attacks which were quickly marked, the pace slowed down until 2 riders got away on the starting circuits before they were caught around 15km later. Coming into the first KOM I was positioned well so thought that I might as well go for the points and rolled across the line first. After this there were a few little attacks but nothing stuck before one rider attacked and the bunch sat up meaning the gap quickly grew out to around a minute, then another few riders went away. I then decided to attack a few times to try and get a gap but I was quickly followed so I tried to get some people to work with me to try and get the gap down a little. Then with around 15k to go I hit a proper Scottish pot hole which was basically a crator this ended in me getting a flat (3rd tub of the year)… after a quick change from the HMT car and a good tow back on, by Mark Barry, I made my way through the convoy and back to the bunch, to then find out another 3 or 4 riders had gone off the front. With no one really prepared to work I attacked a few times but they were both followed quickly so it was then just a case of riding into the bottom of the final climb to see what I could do. I decided to limit my losses so I attacked as soon as we hit the climb. After a little glance around I found that I had a bit of a gap so carried on pushing hard to the top of the climb getting a few break away riders now in sight, once I caught a couple I crossed the line in 4th not the result I wanted but it could’ve been worse. The gap to first was around 2 minutes so I had my work cut out to get this back on the following stage but was going to give it a go. After a nice Italian, where Joe couldn’t hack the spice, we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

I woke up the following morning and had my breakfast before heading off over to the start of the stage 2.  This stage had 3 decent climbs in it but was a flat run into the finish. The stage started off with people trying to get in breaks and with the Spokes team controlling the race once we hit the first climb I attacked at the bottom and managed to get away with one other meaning I took the KOM points.  We kept going over the top but were brought back a KM or so down the road. Not much happened until the next climb where I attacked again getting the KOM points then carried on over the top before being caught a few km down the line. After this a few attacks went but the race was still controlled until 3 went up the road containing the ‘Road captain’ aka Lewis (well he thinks he is anyway). So the gap was allowed to go out to around a minute coming into the final climb, Lewis was then distanced by the break which meant I attacked to see if I could gain any time and get up to the leaders but was followed by the rest of the bunch coming into the long final run in to the finish. No one was willing to work meaning the gap to the two leaders hovered the same and they stayed away meaning I slipped down to 6th on GC and finished in the bunch.

At the end of the weekend I finished 6th and won the KOM competition.

 

Monmouthshire Junior GP

The weekend started with a quick trip on Saturday morning going over to see how Darren and Graeme were going on with the ‘Neverest challenge’ where they were kindly raising money for my cycling  (thanks a lot guys, much appreciated). Then we started the trip down to Wales. Once we got into Monmouthshire we went over to find the course where the little loops were. I got changed and went to do a loop or two with Joe and Sam. Once I got back we headed back over to the hotel to get changed before heading out for a meal. After some nice, slow service and being full after the lasagne and a course of the general ‘banter’ we drove back to the hotel and got ready for bed as it was knocking on by this time… the people in the hotel had clearly lost the plot when the fire alarm went off literally just as my head hit the pillow. Then it was time for a nice catch up in the carpark with half of the field that would be racing the following day. Once we were allowed back in I went to bed ready for the next day.

So the morning started with a trip over to breakfast to have some proper get round food. I’m not saying what I had but one clue is you wouldn’t expect to be having it for breakfast. Once we went back to the room to get the bags we set off over to the HQ ready for sign on. I met up with the rest of the team then we went to get signed on. When we were signing on we saw 1 set of numbers where one was normal sized and the other big enough to cover my whole back, yeh you’ve guessed they were mine, at least the others had a good laugh out of it ;) after some pro folding skills (basically origami) I went on the rollers for a little bit before it was time to line up. Once we set off there was a few KM of neural before the flag dropped. A few attacks went but nothing stuck due to there being such a fast section on the dual carriage way which was a bit sketchy to say the least. Once we got off it there was a big crash, I somehow managed to avoid a flying bike. Soon after this 4 riders went up the road including my team mate Callum, who was riding for central for the weekend. The bunch knew it was a strong group so the gap was only allowed out to around a minute where it hovered for a while. Coming onto the finishing circuits the gap had come down a little to the leaders. A few of us tried to push on in the reduced bunch but we were followed so the race sat up a little until the next climb where the race went hard again, this is where we made contact with the leaders. The race then eased up a little which meant another break of 3 or so riders went up the road with Callum in. With a few laps to go the pace was kept on in the bunch so the gap was only allowed to grow out to around 40-50 seconds, coming into the final lap I knew the gap had to be closed soon so I attacked just after the finish line bringing 5 or so others with me as the road still dragged up towards the top end of the course. I stayed on the front going hard as I didn’t want to risk the group coming back together, once we hit the next climb the group was working reasonably well together as we now had the 3 leaders in sight. We caught them up the climb meaning there was now a group of 9 of us but not knowing what the lead was back to the other group I tried to keep the group working as there were a few attacks going. We stayed together into the bottom of the final climb and I waited until 300m to go before launching my attack, thankfully no one else was able to get back up to me so I crossed the line with the win by a few seconds.

I was really happy to get my first Junior National series win and it put me into the lead of the National series! I’m now looking forward to Junior Tour of the Basque country in a few days time.

Thanks to Pedal Potential, Dean Downing and Darren for the continued support.

Photo: Alex Reed

Photo: Alex Reed

Mason Hollyman