Thames Velo 3/4 Support Race

22 Apr

I’d been looking forward to this race, the course looked good, and it wasn’t too hilly, or too flat. The week has been decent, had a nice warm up ride yesterday and a few hard commutes in the week with the powertap. I felt quite positive. Although the race was a 3/4/w/j there were over 50 3rd cat riders out of the 80, not many if any women, and a few decent jnrs, so not an easy race even if it looked like it could be on paper, especially as I said with a field of 80!!

My first racing outings led me to think that I would be more suited to pan flat courses, but the more I race undulating courses and such (not proper hilly 😛 ) I am tending to prefer a little hill or two to make things interesting. I had only put this course into Bikeroute Toaster so could see it wasn’t totally flat, but there wasn’t much in the way of hills.

So I got up there in good time, lovely part of the world, and being half 7 there was nobody stupid enough to be on the roads as they were all sleeping 🙂 got up there with plenty of time, signed on, had a quick natter with my 3 teammates who were also good prospects for the race as they have all been riding strong of late, so it was exciting!

We set off and as usual I found the first few miles hard going, I really must start warming up for these things! The pace was quick, though, and it seemed that there were plenty of strong riders around. Being a fairly flat part of the world the wind was ever present, and did mean that getting away with a small group or on your own was always going to be tough. The section where the HQ was, should, in theory be a 35mph+ 2 miles, but with a stonking headwind it certainly wasn’t anything like that!

First time up the ‘climb’ (its not much really, similar to Dark Hill in Richmond Park, but with another little ramp after) was easy enough, and it was easily a big ring job, nothing like the 25% beast in Milland the other week. The course then shot downhill with a slight tailwind, this made for interesting riding, and on the first lap a chap from Zappi’s hit a nasty bit of road (there were a few holes out there) and ended up on his back in a ditch, he looked OK, but hope it wasn’t too serious. So yes, that part of the course was fast, I found out that this was my best chance of moving up the bunch as I seem to go downhill like a stone.

So the usual middle bit of the race ensued, stuff happened, but nothing of note, the long and short of it was that anything that tried to get away was brought back, or they ran out of steam in the wind. The prime was interesting, it was the second time over the line, and I was actually on the front (as I was later…) up towards the line, and probably could have contended it, but decided to save my legs a bit for the main event in a laps time, but its interesting to see what people will do for a pair of legwarmers!!

The bell went for the last lap then, normally the sound of the bell does just inject a bit of pace into the race, so I was keen to see what would happen, and most importantly, I was keen to sort my position out as it wasn’t great. So by the time we were a quarter of the way through the last 15 mile lap I was in the top few again, and at this point a few people went, nothing looked too serious, so nobody chased at first. We then approached the hill, now as we said it wasn’t too tough, but after 35 fast miles (which isn’t a lot either, but for us mere mortals) it was certainly going to split the pack a bit more than it had done previously…at this point a couple chipped off the front, and one lone guy followed. I led the pack up the hill, and towards the top really put an effort in to tire some legs as mine felt alright. As it happened I got a gap and joined forces with the chaser. However we both knew the bunch was just behind us, and in the fast 35-40 mph section we were not going far, so we joined back into the bunch. For some reason though I joined back to the bunch and was almost immediately back on the front, so as we came up the last long road to the finish I was sat on the front for what seemed like a long time, however, we were catching the break, so given I felt OK I just kept on.

Eventually after flicking the elbow a few times and nobody coming through I really sat up and had a drink, eventually someone took up the helm, by this point we had caught the lone two, and it was shaping into a bunch sprint, initially it looked like there were probably 10 in contention, of which I was one. We came to the 1km to go and the pace went up, I got into a good wheel and carried on, probably 500-600m to go I put in a real dig, now it was strong enough to string things out, but not strong enough to go clear (which might have been the problem with the efforts in this last lap, as looking at the speed at the line I know I’m capable of plenty more) so I dragged the bunch with me as we came to the line, I tried to shake the AW cycles chap from my wheel but he was stuck like glue. Eventually with my legs burning and my HR at max he came round, another then tried to come round, but I wasn’t about to let two come by, so I put in my last and final effort…

The AW cycles chap held on for the win, I managed to stay about half a bike away from the other chap, but someone had come up the outside at pace to take 2nd, and I took 3rd in the end. So a good race, some nice goodies for placing. I learn every time I race, but this time I don’t know what more I could have done really, perhaps done a bit less on the last lap, but then potentially I would have been in a mid bunch position as it was hard to actually move up due to the field size and plenty of cars. So all in all a good race, I did plenty of work, still placed and know that I’m able to ride at the sharp end of 3rd cat as I’ve top 10’d the last 3 road races. Which is probably a good thing really as I’m now not far from going to 2nd cat, and the gulf between a good 3rd and a good 2nd is huge so I really need to keep upping my game!

Next race is likley a crit, as the next RR is is the 13th of May!

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