Moving out of the 2015 season which is certainly now done, its official that I’ll have slipped from 1st category to 2nd, namely due to being less bothered about the racing and of course by only amassing 84 of the 100 points needed. It followed a similar pattern to last year really, I didn’t race half as much as I did in my 2nd season where I went from 2nd to 1st winning a few races along the way and I only started to think about doing a few more races later in the season.Certainly on paper my decrease in road racing as come as I’ve done more time trials, oddly this hasn’t been intentional really, I do still really enjoy the road racing, but crucially, I only really enjoy it when I’m doing it, the lead up to a race is a strange feeling, not unlike a Sunday evening before heading back to school – though certainly school wasn’t enjoyable whilst I was doing it either, a difference – I think this has partly come since I’ve moved to doing the harder races, knowing its going to be tough to get a result makes me feel a bit meh about the whole thing. The only race I’ve really looked forward to all season was the Handicap champs ( I am not counting the midweek crits in this as they’re just a bit of fun), and I’ve thought at length about why that was the case. I think I finally cracked it, I was looking forward to it as I knew it would be hard racing, but I knew I could contend the win – had to settle for 2nd on the day mind you. That is a feeling that I rarely have in the Nat B road races, and a spate of bad luck with flat tyres and the like this year probably compounded that. First proper race of the season was the Les Ingman which is a tough race at the best of times, but I had come top 20 the year before in what was a fairly normal field. This year it was really a pretty tough field and though I wasn’t ready fitness wise, climbing off with two laps to go was a bit of a mental hit, it never really got much better than that either, I felt strong enough but just bad luck time after time.
Obviously 1st cat is beyond the reach of most 2nd cats as 200 points is not easy, but when I did get there in my 2nd season, I found out it was exactly as most folk said, just a number, now means you cannot do 50% of the races out there, and you’ll ALWAYS be lumped in with the elites which makes it quite tough. Now elite is not all that it seems probably, there are elites, and then there are elites, I’m fortunate in that without sounding too cock sure, if I raced 2 or 3 times a week every week and ditched the TT stuff I think I’d probably be able to get that ticket, but it would be a one time thing as there is no way I could be arsed to race that much two seasons in a row. The upshot of that is that on a fairly standard course I can still hold my own with many of these guys. But frequently there are more and more young riders who have all the time in the world to train, and are really hungry to race and win, makes it hard, I mean, even if I didn’t have a job I probably still wouldn’t train much more than 15-18 hours, but its making me realise that probably my level of racing would be better suited to 2nd cat.
I know what you’re thinking, is there any excuses this guy hasn’t sold to his own mind to make himself feel better about not being able to scrape together a lousy 100 points to retain 1st cat – truth is, I’ve had 20 points to go for about 2 months, in that time there have been around 20 races I could have reasonably done – but the enjoyment of that last race is something I want to get back. Anyone who knows me with riding or racing will likely know the shine of achieving something doesn’t last long and its the need for the next milestone, so going backwards in category was something that didn’t sit easy but I’m looking forward to racing again next year, which I could not honestly have said in regards to the road stuff this time last year.
While I’ve not had a proper think about goals yet, I am looking forward to being part of the team more, the way Paceline are means that we’ve had little representation in the E12 stuff, and a very healthy and strong showing in the 2/3 stuff, especially in the last few months of the season as a few promising riders found their feet and started to strike out in races a bit more. I’ll be the first person to have a joking dig at someone racing well below their station, but honestly with the standard of the 2nd cat scene I think while I should still be one of the stronger riders around, its not like I will be expecting to win everything under the sun. The stage races excite me however, stage races as a 1st cat rider are pretty sparse in the SE, especially with the reduced SERRL schedule, and with not doing the RAS again this year (maybe next year?) it meant there was little multiday racing to be had – but some of the best fun I had in road racing was at the Tour of Sussex and the Tour of the Milburys a couple of years back- so looking forward to being part of a strong team and having fun with it. I won’t be that guy who stops on 199 points though, if it looks like I’ll go up, what will be will be!
Of course I’ll also be trying to sharpen my pencil in the time trial side of things, been a pretty good year and I think I’m fitter now than ever, just a matter of reducing drag a bit more, I hope to be able to push on next year and break into that very top few in the UK and be challenging for the medal places. Always tough in the popular distances, but I’ll try, and I may try a 50 or two also, I think this may suit me quite nicely.
This was a bit of a ramble really, or just the musings of someone who’s been pretty well racing every weekend for the last 4 years – I’ve come to realise that chasing categories is all well and good and something that is almost pre-programmed into riders when they’re just starting out given the emphasis placed on getting out of 4th cat, its like bootcamp, but you may find as I did that eventually you get to a point where you may not enjoy the hobby as much as you should. Of course if you’re more talented than I am then the level that occurs at is likely a lot higher than Nat B road races, but as someone said, (many people) its about winning races, not worrying about scraping together enough 8th places to move up a notch or retain it.
Next up is the famous Bentley Xmas 10, hopefully I can get that elusive 19 in late December after missing it by 13 seconds last year.