Race 5 – Hillingdon

14 Jan
Another cold day today, after the last few weeks of warmth it was a real eye opener to wake up to -4! But the flipside of this meant no wind. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Hillingdon when there was no wind.

I’ve done a fair amount of riding since last week, last Sunday after the race I went out and did another 70 odd miles with 5k of climbing at a fair pace with the club, its safe to say that come Monday the last thing I needed to do was play an hour of football at work, but I did and paid for it! My legs were a mess until Thursday. I had a day off the bike on Thurs and they felt ok yesterday for a commute, so its been a good 200 miles or so since my last race.

Only two of KW signed up today, myself and Jason (the smiling guy from my first race), so we met up and trundled up to Hillingdon together. We got there pretty early as per, had a chat with some of the guys in the 4ths, this week I decided it was probably wise to wear a jacket as despite the rest of London being wind free there was still a breeze from the east at the track.

For the first time I actually felt a bit nervous today, I think the sheer amount of spills I’ve seen and been in really has made me a lot more cautious (which worked against me again today). We set off and as per the pace was up and down, but I thought it was a good pace, and it felt comfortable as long as you managed to keep out of the wind. I wasn’t really paying much attention this week to the time and was just going to mix my position up throughout the race till the board came out. This was fine as it happened, I found myself at the back a couple of times and in a higher CAT race I’d have probably found it hard to get back into the mix, but today it was a matter of just picking your moment and riding up the outside of the pack.

We passed the 4ths without incident, which was nice, and everything was going ok. The board came out and I think this is where people as per started getting a little silly, there was a fairly large sounding crash near the end but as I’d done all race, when it got tight and I thought it looked dodgy I held off a bit, this isn’t a great tactic, but for the purpose of saving my skin and bike I was happy that I missed that crash by being the other side of the track. And a lap or so later another happened, which again I missed.

With 2 laps to go I was concious that my position was terrible, near the back somewhere, not where I wanted to be, but because it was so sketchy going through the corners I’d missed two crashes by being nearer the back (I did have a few times on the front, I wasn’t at the back all race). Next thing I know we’re going up the home straight and there is a rider on the deck on the right, we are being waved in to move left which I think might have caused the second crash…?

With a lap to go I made an effort to get nearer the front, and probably got into the first 3rd of the field, at this point we were on the dodgy corner by the clubhouse so I took it steady as there was some silly moving in front of me, we came round the corner and I was again aware that my positioning due to being cautious wasn’t going to give me a win today. So I gave it a big effort, passed a few people, then remembered that there was now an Ambulance on the track tending to the fallen rider, this was a strange one, I mean the guy obviously needed care, but was it safe for us to be sprinting for the finish with an ambulance blocking half the course? Not sure, probably not, I know other riders were not happy about this.

As per last week when sprinting everything goes slow motion as I move through the pack, I can see the leaders just about to cross the line, I think I can probably get something not too bad, I keep pushing and pass Jason just before the line for 8th. Not setting the world on fire, and slightly annoyed at myself for not putting myself in a position to actually win with my sprint, its probably my only gift in cycling, and I keep wasting it, but at least I can say I held off today to keep it safe for me and others, for £10 there is little point risking causing a pile up.

Some things I hope to take into the next race will obviously be positioning, it is difficult to make sure you’re at the front all the time, and by virtue of being near the front you take more wind. Still happy that I’ve got the beating of a lot of the field with my sprint, just need to safely make it count as the last couple of weeks its really been a bit scary on the last 2 laps…

Hope all the guys who went down recover and the bikes are not too buggered!

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