After a solid performance last week at Mallory I arrived at the circuit confident and more clued up on what it takes to be at the sharp end. The plan this week was to stay in the top 20 all the way but be switched on for the last few laps so I could contest the sprint and at the least get some points. After a brief chat with the SNCC boys, Dale, Matt and Chris and also Josh from Sherwood Pines Cycles who had taken 7th last week I kitted up to get some laps in.
The race this week was being run in an anti-clockwise direction with the finish on the main straight so familiarity went out the window but having done a few laps I actually preferred it this way, it was also warmer this week which always helps. After a couple of steady laps I began going full speed into the corners just to find the grip levels and also the best lines, my legs felt good all I need do now was put in a good race.
We are racing
The first few laps took on the same pattern, pretty quick for the most part but with a general slowing down on the finishing straight which was into a headwind, then an effort to climb up through the chicane to hold your position. If often got a bit tense going around this bit but in general, like last week the racing was pretty respectful with people only going off line due to lack of skill as opposed to being an idiot, (I did so on one such occasion myself). I figured a good option would be to keep near Josh and also near Jean-Christophe who took the win last week as these guys would likely be in contention again.
As the laps progressed I was always near the front, probably a bit too much, Josh, myself and another guy almost went for a breakaway but decided to knock it off and keep things in reserve. On the long straight and climb up to the chicane I was in the wind way too often but my legs felt good so I didn’t make any sudden moves but just kept composed and made sure I didn’t go too hard. Chris and Matt were always in amongst it in the early stages, I didn’t see Dale but I was to learn later that he’d had to take to the grass and then couldn’t get back on, no damage done though.
Josh Mee in the chicane, me stalking
The boss of SNCC – Dale Lane
Around half way I was feeling good, my lines through the corners were getting better with less braking enabling the speed to be carried through the bends, things were looking good for another strong finish. With what I thought was about 7-8 laps to go I almost got carried away again and went a few metres off the front but I quickly decided that would be futile with a big bunch still in contention, Matt also had some fun with a long turn on the head of the peloton, that picture will be great for the grand kids!
Chris from SNCC
I kept sipping my drink and having eaten better than last week there was no sign of any left leg cramp when I pushed hard on the pedals. All I need do now was stay up near the front and be ready.
Attack, no wait.
As we passed the finish line again I could see that the lap board still didn’t show 3 laps to go, this was odd because we had done 21 miles of the planned 25 already. As we climbed the hill to the chicane I put in an attack to try and thin the bunch but then realised my brain had thrown a wobbler and there wasn’t 3 laps to go we had more, no idea why but we did.
The final lap
Having maintained my position and despite my legs now feeling the efforts that had preceded in the last 30 miles I was ready for the fireworks to go off. On the backside of the track I moved up and was around 11th as we approached the final chicane, much better than the 20th or so position than last week. I was right on the wheels and with only a long left hard curve and the finishing straight to come I felt sure I could grab a good position and some points.
As the pace really wound up I felt like I was where I needed to be, I was out the wind with 10 people in front of me, these included Josh and last week’s winner Jean Christophe. As we all entered the straight I was still out the wind, the bridge was insight and I whilst my sprint was never going to yield my best power I thought I could get past a few riders.
Now in full on sprint mode and unlike last week I wasn’t stopping until the line, the bridge made me misjudge the finish meaning I’d gone a bit too early and as the guys in front of me went to the right it left me fully in the wind for about 100 metres and unable to get any shelter as my legs gave it everything. Try as I might I could not make up any places and as I lunged for the line I thought I was 11th, 1 place out the points. Despite the organiser telling me I was 10th, she then changed her mind and put me in 11th, better, but not what I wanted or felt capable of. Josh took a great 3rd, Jean Christophe making it 2 wins from 2 moving him up to 3rd Cat, both decent lads and well deserved.
Next week is the final 4th Cat only race so I’m really hoping I can maintain my form and with no Jean Christophe to beat I’ve got every chance of improving my position once more. Thanks as always to the organisers for putting some on great racing, thanks to Mick Bown for the great images.
Last weekend a cycling friend of mine Dan Farrand lost his father Ian unexpectedly, I knew Ian having chatted with him many times at time trials or hills climbs, a thoroughly decent bloke with a huge passion for cycling. RIP Ian, you were a gentlemen and will be sorely missed by those who knew you.