Surrey League Handicap Champs

16 Sep

Today was the last proper race of the season for me, and I use the term proper loosely as it was certainly not the usual format. This was the Handicap Championships no less, which in layman’s terms is a 60 mile handicap race with a bigger field than normal. The field was 80 riders, ranging right through from 4th cat riders to elites (Elites in this case were the Pedal Heaven team who fielded 7-8 riders I think), there was a strong showing from KW with a similar amount of riders spanning the categories, also a large team from VC Meudon and London Dynamo. So it was sure to be an interesting race, and given the usual Handicap races are only an hour long it would be interesting to see how this one played out.

Proceedings kicked off and the groups were being read out, there was to be 18 groups, which to me sounded a bit much, especially given some of the groups were only 2 riders…, however most of the groups were 4-8 riders, we learned that the gap between the scratch group and the first group was to be 14 minutes, which on a course like this one (fairly rolling and quick) was going to come down pretty quick…Everyone got going, and I was put in the penultimate group, myself and two PH riders plus one other, Pete Allan, the scratch group was the rest of the PH team, and it was clear that we were just going to roll through until they caught us, then we would hop on and become one big 8-9 rider chain. It took around 10 mins before I caught a glimpse of the PH group who looked quite daunting with matching kit and all the rest, but I knew it was a good situation to be in as they were all strong riders and had an agenda, there was not going to be any messing about, they wanted to win this race and therefore catch everyone up the road.

As they joined us it was quickly decided that everyone would do a 30 sec turn on the front and fall back into a pace-line formation, this suited me, I wasn’t about to do zero work, but equally it wasn’t too taxing and we made good pace averaging 27 mph or so, it didn’t take long before Pete Allan was dropped and it was just me and the PH lads, we continued to work well and after perhaps 30 mins we caught the next group who were about the catch the group in front of them, so our 9 became 25-30 quite quickly. This was the time to catch a little bit of rest before the next groups came together and the inevitable attacks came. It was clear that PH were working for their sprinter Lewis Atkins, the finish was a drag then false flat sprint to the finish, it probably suited him pretty well so I was keen to keep an eye out for anything that had him in it.

We carried on bringing people in, and eventually it looked like we had caught everyone just before the bell lap, I noticed we had plenty of riders in the bunch, Gareth had made his way up from the back where he had been loitering previously, and Damien was right in the mix too, everything looked positive at this stage. With around 10 miles to go I saw what I thought might be the move to go with, Jake had gone up the road with another in tow following another small group of 3 with 2 PH involved, I sprinted out of the bunch and set about getting onto Jake and the other chap, I got to them and it was clear Jake wasn’t about to help me bridge over to the front group, so I had to keep going despite what my legs wanted, after a minute or so I did get over and Jake was over too. It got going and we caught a couple of others, and suddenly this break had become 9 riders with Damien and Gareth both in it, Gareth did a good ride to get over as he could see the potency of this move, sadly Damien didn’t quite have the legs after a big acceleration near the front and it was down to just Gareth and I and 4 others, 3 PH and Mick Coyle of Brighton who is always partial to a break.

We worked fairly well together though I was reluctant to do too much as I knew with the numbers they had that they would play us for all we were worth towards the end, so there was a bit of shouting as is always the way, it was clear that with a couple of miles to go this was going to contain the winner, Mick started launching attacks, which were chased down, but in a way that meant we had to close some of them down too to ensure 1 of the PH guys and Mick didn’t get away, as we approached the finish hill I was starting to feel the days effort, Rory lead the other two PH guys up the hill at some pace and then Jake jumped hard, Lewis was in his wheel and I was just behind, they played it well as it was an early move, some 35-40 secs from the finish, I jumped on and went hard, but after about 30 secs my legs began to say no, and with the line in sight it was clear they had enough left to push through, I sat up and watched as Lewis took it just from Jake with me 4-5 bikes behind to claim the bottom step on the podium, Gareth had attacked Mick on the climb and rolled in for 4th which was a great result, we also had Pat who had got away with Keith Lea to claim the 10th spot, so 3 in the top 10 at the end of the day, not bad at all.

I was quite pleased with how I rode, and I think on another day I’d have been challenging for the line in the last few meters but I just didn’t quite have it today, but more importantly for me was that I’d made the right move, actually managed to get over to it without blowing up like last time, and stuck the pace with the elite lads (just about) to get into a position to be there at the finish. It bodes well, and I’m some way over where even I was in March race weight wise, I think with a bit more strictness over this winter and some proper thought to training which may or may not come in the way of a coach I am fit enough to be in the mix in local e12’s next year.

The only things left this season are the club Hill Climb which I will do awfully at, but should be fun, and then the KW Club Championship race at Hillingdon which also will be run as a handicap, so that should be interesting, at that point I’ll make a call whether to ride the Ottershaw Series in October or whether to commence winter training in prep for next year.


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