Parham Park 2/3

25 Aug
Today was a race I was a bit sceptical of, mainly because looking at the course map, it looked like one big featureless square course of around 3 miles in length. A crit pretty much! How wrong I was (kind of, it was more like a crit)…
Leading up to this race I’ve done a lot of volume, I had a day off yesterday, but before that I had ridden every day since the Wednesday before, it was a new approach I was trying to see if I responded well to less rest, the results were mixed. I was flying on Tuesday night and was easily able to ride the climbs at a high pace, and had the better of a couple of guys I normally can’t get near to, so it was a promising start…On Thursday night I did an hour of hard threshold stuff, which was actually quite useful for today in terms of power watching, so to speak.
I accidentally left an hour earlier than I needed to today so was there nearly 2 hours before the start, lovely though it is, Storrington certainly isn’t a buzzing metropolis, I wandered round Southdown Bikeshop and killed some time, nice shop if you’re in the area! I went to sign on and this is when I learned a little more about the featureless circuit (so I thought), they ran a 3rd cat race in the morning, which one can only assume took the brunt of the bad weather. Of the 40 starters (wise people who stayed in bed!) around 10 finished, the rest all punctured. Apparently part of the course was like a dirt track and it had just destroyed the field with flats!Oh and there was a cattle grid too, for good measure.
Anyway, I knew a few people riding today, and obviously the man to watch was the Southdowns Bike man ex pro Steve Calland, he had won on this circuit for the last 3 years, mainly with his killer sprint I’d been told. With no other KW riding I was a free agent again, so my aim was to try and follow the moves and make sure I kept an eye on him. I did a quick ride of the course, the finish was at the top of the hill you can see in the below shot (where the pic was taken from almost), there was a stint on a main road, and then there was the bit that everyone was worried about, about a mile through the forest along a path that was a cross between a pavement (in surface and in width, it was about 8ft wide) and a fireroad. because it had so much standing gravel and what not. It was AMAZING fun, I now am going to b even more jealous when they send the Giro peloton up one of those gravel track mountains! Also Paraham Park House is quite a spectacle, and it was something special racing through the grounds, I’d certainly rather look at an Elizabethan specticle than Sunrise Plaza – the delight of the Hillingdon Skyline! Also being a private estate the road was free of cars! Which was a huge bonus.
Anyhow, we lined up, maybe 40 of us due to the crap weather I assume a load more had given it a miss, and were told about the risk of flats etc, and that there was no service vehicle, in hindsight it would have needed to be a lorry to sort all the punctures out! We were neutral for a whole lap, but at 6 mins or so per lap it didn’t take long to get back to the start where we began the race, over 12 laps. The first lap saw probably 5 punctures, it was no joke, the surface and the rain that had fallen earlier in the day made it a road tyre graveyard. It was very crit-esque in that it was sprinting out of every corner, and every 6 mins you had a nice little climb to do ( similar to Dark Hill in Richmond Park for those that know it) luckily ,the mother of all tailwinds was shoving us up the hill so it didn’t feel too bad at all.

A couple of moves went but nothing noteworthy, and at points you just couldn’t do anything as the track was so narrow. Another couple of laps passed and probably another 5 riders went out to flats, and slowly the field was becoming manageable in size. It was around 1/3 of the way through when I think a couple of guys got clear, I wasn’t going to chase as I thought two guys (neither were any names I knew) wouldn’t last long in the headwind through the forest. Then after a lap or so more a group of 5 got away, I did want to be in this move but was not i ideal position to do so, but again I thought they were probably not going to get too far…

Probably about half way through the race, and the bunch (if you can call it that) was maybe 15-20 strong, myself, and two Dynamo riders were the only ones willing to do any work to try and pull back the riders out front, the front two had amassed a two min lead, and the group behind them were over a minute in front, it was now or never really…I sat in and planned my attack! I hit the hill at a manageable but hard pace, the bunch were being a bit lazy anyway, and I saw that I had got a gap over the top of the hill, so I just drilled it, knowing they had been reluctant to chase anything all day, surely they wouldn’t mind if I got away ;-)…

I got a decent gap, and going hard on the downhill on the main road, before the turn into the forest I look back, can see the bunch in the distance, and a lone rider is trying to bridge, I have my ideas about who it will be, about 20 seconds later he’s on my wheel, and it was indeed Steve Calland (who was obviously local hero as everyone was shouting his name at every corner!), this was good, I knew I could work with him, and that we could probably make it stick. At this point there was 40 mins racing left, up to this point I can now see that I’d averaged around 240 watts, I was going to have to work harder than that to stay away and heopfully catch the next bunch!

Steve and I worked very well together, both doing strong turns, (he later said he felt he was slowing me down, I’ll take that as a compliment, but it certainly wasn’t the truth!), slowly we were reeling in the group of 5 who were slowing down slightly, we did maybe 3 laps together and got away from the bunch totally, I was pleased as it was a hard slog through the forest, but it was nice that we had got away and that my tyres had held up. Another lap or so (after maybe 25 mins of riding together) and the time gap to the next group of 5 was now under 30 seconds and when we came into the open part of the course we could see them on the far side of the grounds hitting the hill. It was starting to look possible that we would catch this group (at this point I thought they were the only group, I didn’t know the other two were well off the front). Another lap of hard riding I notice Steve’s turns get shorter (for which there was good reason…) which made it hard work for me. However, I kept going until we hit the bell lap, now its clear we’re definitely not going to get caught, and the next 5 are in sight most of the time. We push hard into the forest and I’m doing most of the work now, I ask Steve if he wants to join the group in front or go straight past them, at this point it all becomes clear..he has two teammates in this group of 5 and isn’t going to harm his own chances of a sprint to help me get in the mix (especially after I robbed a 2nd place from him last week!), fair enough I think and just keep riding, as the last thing I wanted was to get so close and then not catch them!!

Coming out of the forest into the horrid headwind section, we pass one rider who’s been shelled out of the 4, its going to be tight with less than a mile to go, but we catch the front 4 just before the last 1k or so (tailwind!), I sit on the back waiting for a move to go, and then it does, Steve comes flying up the outside as we hit the climb, its too strong for me as I’ve just worked hard for the last 3-4 mins, then the others go, I still have enough in the legs to follow them onto the start of the hill, and then really stamp the pedals, and pull away from them to end up finishing about 4 bikes back on Steve for 4th place (thinking I’d come 2nd again as I wasn’t aware of the two up the road 😛 )!
Quite a good ride, worked hard, and the second half of the ride where we were alone was done at 270 watts ap, as opposed to the first at 240, and the last 20 mins I did 300w average which is a result of Steve’s shorter turns I think. Managed 20 seconds at 825 watts to get clear on the last hill, which is far from my best, but after a tough race still not bad. A pleasing result and it certainly bodes well for next season when there are plenty of chances to go for the points. 4 more races left, still wanting the elusive win, but I’m happy that I am showing consistency at this level at least.
Race stats
AP 248W NP 285W
Distance 37 miles

Average speed – 23.8 mph (interestingly we were 1 mph quicker 2 up than when in the bunch!)

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