Race number 1

10 Dec

Here we are, one week after I put pen to paper (in a virtual way) I wake up after on race day after a week of 170 miles mixed riding, mostly commuting, and the midweek chain gang. Its 0c outside, my garden is covered in frost and I’ll be honest, I’m not that keen to go outside and fetch the bike for its much needed maintenance!

Two hours later the bike has had the treatment it needed, I’ve picked tiny bits of flint from the tyres to make sure I don’t flat, and I’ve checked my my club mate that he’s still on to meet me for the gentle ride up to Hillingdon. I set off and realise that I’ve dressed well enough and its not too bad, I’m not a big fan of full tights, so you’ll see my almost always wearing shorts and knee warmers, or 3/4’s, much to the dismay of other commuters in the morning as they question my sanity.

We arrive at Hillingdon circuit a good 40 mins early, which is ideal, my mouth is on the floor at all the bike porn, its like Richmond Park on a sunny day! We sign on, sort out a locker, get our stuff together and hit the track for a couple of laps, its a good day, low wind, clean and dry track and my legs are feeling decent. After a few laps of gentle pacing, we line up, and I am scanning peoples numbers to see whether the guy I’m next to on a Tour level spec Cervelo is really a 4th cat rider, he has an SRM crank? Apparently he is a 4th cat. So now I’m nervous, I’m well used to people having all the gear and little idea, but an SRM crank made me think he meant business!

The way Hillingdon works is that the 3rds and 4ths are on the track at the same time, but are staggered starts, so off the 3rds went, half a lap (or more like 3/4’s really, which was an issue later) later we were off. Pace was fine, 23-26 mph with the odd bit of 28 or so on the downhill, plenty of shelter made this fairly easy though, I was conscious not to do too much (or even any) work on the front, as there was one goal here, win. Cocky as it sounds, I came to win, and I wasn’t about to tow the bunch round and be happy with 22nd in the bunch or similar. About 20 minutes in the first crash takes place (the rumors are true!), I don’t see it but I’m told it takes a couple of riders out, it did feel cramped at times, and truth be told there was some woeful bike handling on show. I was plenty vocal enough about this if it was occurring in front of me, or even near me.

Pace is still fine, I take the front for half a lap and keep it steady, just to get a taste. With roughly 15 mins to go before the bell goes, I hear a shriek and some metal on metal noise as one of my clubmates (a lady) has a tumble with another guy, its starting to make me a bit nervous now as I didn’t want to be coming off, so I tried to hold my line as best I could and stay out of trouble, but some riders were intent on riding like idiots it seemed.

As mentioned earlier the 3rd cat issue was one that meant they were not far enough ahead of us and our race met the back of theirs, we were not allowed to go through, and thus were subjected to a fair number of laps of subdued racing, nevermind, its all about the last 3 laps anyway I think to myself (like an ebay auction as I put it afterwards). Thus far nobody had tried anything special, and at this level it would be caught fairly quickly one would imagine, so I suppose nobody was too keen on a break! With three laps to go, we’re starting to pick up the pace, and as we go round one of the longer sweeping corners a huge crash happens in front of me, inches, I manage to avoid the riders that go down by going on the grass, at this point a lovely person shouted attack and some riders did indeed up the pace on the front, on the grass at this point, I was starting to panic, I needed to be in the mix!

I mange to get myself back into the main pack with some proper turns in the wind for the final lap, we pull down the 2nd to last straight, and a break goes, two riders, they look initially strong, I’m in two minds, do I leave it and risk not catching it with the main bunch or do I go and join them? What did do is probably the worst of everything, I made to go for the break, realized I wasn’t going to catch it without using a ton of energy , so then sat up and waited to be caught by the group again. Must have looked like a total idiot. Still, I had enough in the tank to slink back and stay at the front of the group, we go round the crash corner and two other riders go for it, I decide to wait until the last straight (which is about 400 meters from corner to finish line)

Tucked in, giving it everything, I fly past the two riders out front probably going 6 mph faster than they are (roughly 33 mph), I can see the finish but am feeling the lactic also, with gritted teeth I dig in and go for the line, I can sense someone coming up, I glance and see another Wheeler, its Jason (the guy I travelled up with) he’s approaching fast and I’m fading (that’s what happens when you don’t do a normal sprint like Jason did, you run out of energy before the line!) I am sure he is going to make it, but by about a bike I cross the line, hands semi aloft, having reached a max speed of 34 mph up the hill to win my first race! Jason is 2nd, and 3rd place is some 25 bike lengths back, a Dynamo.

Things I’ve learned from this :

  • The training has worked (Jason has been doing it too)
  • Other riders cannot be trusted to hold their lines
  • I have a good sprint and probably will have the beating of guys at a slightly higher level with it

So on to Cat 3, I’ll probably do a few more Winter Series races to see how I fare, and then prepare for the warm season, my goal of getting to 2nd cat this season just got closer, at least I can now justify splurging on some Zipps and a new bike 😉

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