After the mishap on my debut race I’ve had to wait a month to race again, training has been going well, long rides, short rides and everything in between despite having about 10 days off due to the injuries I sustained. Thankfully though everything is now pretty much healed and as I arrived at Mallory park last night I felt in good shape.
After what seemed an eternity waiting in the cold to sign on we had four SNCC team mates on the line. Myself, Dave Holmes, Tom Medley and Matt Bagshawe. I know Dave has been going well, I’ve ridden with Matt enough times to know he’s got some good form and with Tom (and his supportive Mrs) it was nice to have familiar faces at the venue. The only time I’ve been to Mallory park was for a driving day about 25 years ago, before half of tonight’s peleton was born probably.
It was cold evening but after a few laps my legs felt in good shape, I was quietly confident that this being a cat 4 only race that I’d go ok, although with a slight nervousness due to my crash at Darley. After a briefing from the commissionaire we set off, to be honest we set off quite calmly, so much so that I thought we were doing an outlap, but as we got to the finish line I realised the race was very much on.
The circuit was much nicer that Darley but the lines of the corners and a couple of chicanes really took some working out, a few laps in I think I’d experimented enough to know how each line worked out, but so far so good.
Dave and Matt were going ok, as I’ve heard on the tv many times the peloton is like a living organism (or some crap like that anyway), essentially what I’m saying is that you move around a lot, sometimes you’re at the front, sometimes you’re near the middle, or left or right, it’s almost impossible (well for me as a novice anyway) to stay in the same place all the time, but fear not I was happy and also learning how this organism worked.
On the front
As you can see from the picture I spent some time on the front, not with any expectation of making a break but just to test my legs and sometimes just to get a clear run at the corners.
To be honest this is a bit dumb, rookie error, call it what you want, the objective really should be save as much energy as possible. What I was finding though is that the pace got knocked off quite a bit, continual regrouping occurs so it’s then you really need to get a breather, refocus, take a drink and assess what’s going on.
Near the front
Throughout the race I was always in the top 30 or so, determined not to go backwards, often, like Dave I’d be up in the top 10 but trying to measure the effort. Despite the continual efforts that need to be made and the quite steep 300-400 metre drag towards the finish line each time my legs were recovering and in good shape. Pretty much every time we came around the hairpin I moved up nicely as I spun my legs up and stayed seated, this meant I never lost many, if any places, mostly I gained. So far so good.
Dave on the left, Matt top right, Tom bottom right.
The only minor niggles were getting stuck behind people heading toward the line, I seemed to always pick the wrong wheel, particularly when I compounded that by being on the outside, it was something I tried to guard against but a couple of occasions it happened, all part of the learning.
The business end
With around 6-7 laps to go I was pleased with the progress, I was in the mix, the aim was to make sure that remained the case until the end. As each lap counted down you had to fight harder to keep your place, up until this point there hadn’t been much complaining but with things hotting up people were taking a few more risks, not holding their line and it was clear that numerous riders felt they were getting blocked, that’s racing I’m afraid.
Race situation, Tom had retired (bad chest), Dave, Matt and myself were all in the mix, the peloton was still large, about 40 riders (from about 70) all in with a chance, the battle for position was now paramount.
As the bell went I found myself in a good position, within striking distance of the front, Dave was in front of me, I knew Matt was also close by. With the uphill finish I wasn’t as nervous about how it would play out, but I needed to get there first. We flew down the back straight at 35mph plus, although in the wind I kept wide as this seemed my best line, it was at this point it got a bit mental.
A few expletives were heard as we entered the tight chicane, but I was still ok, Dave also, but as we came around I was impeded a fraction, my speed dropped a bit so I had to make a big effort to remain in position. Knowing Dave was on form I aimed for his rear wheel as I came around a few riders pushing about 500-600 watts to get where I needed to be. On reflection now, I should have been going balls out to get in the top 10 two corners back, this would have allowed a bit of recovery and put me where I need to be, something I’ll try to remember for next week.
We now swung left then right and then it was the uphill drag to the line, I was in about 15th place but now about 5 metres from the very front, the chance of winning and points were evaporating and that last push to get onto Dave’s wheel meant my sprint was compromised, so much so that I remained seated as I gave it my all up the hill, net result I was 14th, Dave was a few metres ahead in 12th, Matt just behind but in the top 20.
I’m on the extreme right about 10 metres back, Dave on the left at the line.
As we regrouped I was a mix of emotions, one happy that I’d come home safely, two happy because I’d been in the mix but three wondering what might have been. Dave was disappointed, better positioning and he’d have been contesting the points, maybe the top 3, but we all did pretty well and will surely learn from it for next week.
All in all though a great event, thanks to all the organisers who selflessly put on these events. Thanks also to Mick Bown for the photos.