Bletchingley take 2

5 Aug

Today was my return to the Bletchingley Circuit, last time I rode it was back in the Spring (extended winter as it was) and I found it very tough and lasted about 2 laps. Today was different in that I didn’t find it too bad, looking at the numbers today’s fastest lap was quicker than the one back then, which given the weather, shows people were going for it, but its still much harder for me than any other SL circuit I’ve done so far.

I’ve had an OK week on the bike, and even set a few new power bests in training, so I know I’m going ok at the minute. However I might have undone all that hard work when I went to Cowes with work on Friday, much drink was had, and suffice to say, I was in no state for a spin on Saturday. Anyway, got there nice and early and the weather was lovely. Was glad of this, as the weather really does make something that can be fun, into something pretty shit as per the race in Staplefield a few weeks back…

We set off on the first lap, and it probably took about 10 minutes for the rain to start, not too heavy at first, however. We did a complete lap of the circuit and I remembered why I found it tough…its a tough course with little to no flat in it. We came up passed the finish line and I saw a friendly face or two which was nice(cheers Pete). Then the heavens opened. The phrase “never seen rain like it” gets branded about a lot, but today (actually there was worse rain on the way home in the car) was as heavy rain as I’ve ever seen and there were points where I couldn’t see more than 8 ft in front of me. Cycling through it was tough, as within moments the road was 2 inch deep in water. Added to that, the fact that we were about to tackle the steep downhill part of the course didn’t fill me with confidence!! It was at this point that many people just quit there and then (Andy Edwards of my club being one – sensible head, keep that c59 clean and in one piece!). However I carried on as I thought of the effort I’d made to race, so it was worth giving it a go, and I knew that the weather would have a big effect on the bunch. The first time down the steep hill in that rain there were huge splits, the bunch probably was broken into three groups of 20 or so riders with some stragglers. The result of this was quite a large effort to get back on as I was nearer the back going into the downhill, I can see it was 340w for 10 minutes to get back on the bunch. Not really the kind of efforts you want to be making 10 miles into a 70 mile road race, really.

A couple of laps passed and slowly but surely people were getting dropped on both the climb (more often the long drag past the HQ) and the downhill, sadly it was at this point that Damien departed as his rear wheel slowly went down. I kept going, and often found myself in pretty poor position as I wasn’t as confident as some of the others at going down the hill at that speed in those conditions. But slowly the rain held off for a bit longer, and the course was beginning to be rideable again. The strange thing was how localized the rain was, one half of the course looked like a waterpark, the other like a fine summers day (well, if you can look past the huge cloud formations looming!).

The race neared its conclusion, at about 45 miles I was talking to a mate of mine who drove down for EOL (he’s well versed in shite weather, he’s from Newcastle, but seems to thrive when racing in it! Odd bugger) and we were discussing what would happen on the last lap, and whether the lone rider who had gone earlier on would stay away, we approached the first of the hills back up to the village and BANG…suddenly I could feel myself rolling on my rim, superb. There is a slight backstory to the tyre, I had gp4000s on there and they have been fine, not one flat so far (bought new in Feb so around 1k miles probably) but on a training ride the rear had developed quite a cut, so to be safe, I put on an Ultremo R1 that was almost new. Ironically it was indeed the rear that blew up, and looks like someone has shot it!To be fair to Schwalbe, I was one of probably 15 flats today, nothing much you can do against a rogue flint etc.

I then realised that my spare tube wasn’t in my jersey, but in the car. Great, 5 miles from the car, nobody to give a hand …I started walking. I probably walked for about 40 minutes before a lady who’s husband had been racing took pity on me (he was riding for East Grinstead, and had punctured earlier!) and gave me a lift back to the HQ, so a massive thanks to her, I’d still be walking otherwise!

The bunch was apparently 17 strong at the finish (from over 70!) and that chap did stay away, so kudos to him, hell of a ride. Bit annoyed as I’d have liked to have finished given the circumstances, oh well, lets hope next year we get a summer.

Avg Speed 23.5 mph
Power AP 240 NP 295
47 miles
50 mph top speed

And to cheer myself up I just had a look at the start list for the Python Summer RR which I’m doing next weekend (thought I had to try an elite race soon, and its quite flat ) – its certainly got some names in it! eek. Goal is to finish, nothing more.

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