So after 2 races at Mallory Park, Thursday night was the 3rd and final 4th cat only race. It’s not been an ideal week with my son having chicken pox but I felt like I could take advantage of what I’d learned in the last two races and bring home some good points. In the first race I was certainly naive, in the last few laps I was too far back to contest for points and ended up 14th, race 2 went much better, I put myself where I needed to be but on the sprint a combination of tactics and awareness (or lack thereof) meant I finished a lot closer but 11th and still no points. Last night I was determined and confident to deliver what I feel I’m capable of, fight for the win or at least get some good points.
The warm up
Thankfully the anticipated rain had held off, we had 3 SNCC racing myself, Chris and Matt and I spotted a few faces from the first couple of races including Josh who would be aiming for more points and his 3rd cat. With only 30 minutes riding in the last 3 days I ensured I had a good warm up, the course layout was altered slightly but I felt it suited me even more than the previous week as bike handling was less of an issue than fitness, it was going to be a clear run for the line.
After a few laps and with a headwind on the straight the race got into a pattern but unlike last week there appeared to be more riders attempting a breakaway, this quickly changed my plans of hanging near the middle so I purposely moved up and besides it’s much easier near the front and less chaotic.
Matt leading the way
A couple of mini breaks went off then were pulled back and with 7-8 laps completed I was feeling really good, I was recovering well from the changes of pace, cornering safely and maintaining my position. As we took the climb up to the finish I got out the saddle to stretch my legs and immediately felt a twinge in my troublesome left calf, I sat back down pretty quickly. I’ve always thought this issue to be cramp but I now know it’s muscular, usually under heavy loads or fatigue, it’s perhaps no coincidence that the highest power I recorded on the night was at that point. But anyway it settled down and with no time to think about it I continued on.
The ladies having fun
Chris and Matt were having a really good race, both near the front, always good to have familiar faces around you. Josh was racing well again, I ensured I kept close as form wise he would be one to beat. A few more riders attempted breaks and although needing to be watched I measured my effort to remain near the front rather than panicking every time and burning too many matches. On occasion I purposely went to the front myself, usually after the climb of the start finish line, reason being you can get some recovery down the hill and dictate the pace for a while, I certainly felt this worked for me.
SNCC boys side by side, Josh Mee being stalked by the eventual winner
The pace is on
With 3 laps to go, everyone seemed to focus, the stress got higher and now it was all about being near the front, last week I’d been in about 11th going in to the final corner, the plan this week was to be top 3 or 4 as we came into the straight, I’d expect a few might come past on the straight but I could then sprint for the line and hopefully get by them again as we hit the hill. 2 laps to go and I was holding my own, I was generally out the wind, the pace backed right off a couple of times as people regrouped, I just kept myself ready, downed the rest of my drink and mentally prepared for the last lap.
Chris from SNCC having a very solid race
As we took the final few corners I pushed hard to keep my position and I was in or around 4th or 5th as we headed up the home straight towards the climb to the finish, it was at this point disaster struck. The pace was going up and sensing riders coming up behind I accelerated hard so as not to get swamped and leave myself too much to do on the final lap, sadly the acceleration put too much strain on my calf and it went bang.
As painful and debilitating as a cramp I started going backwards as we hit the climb, I was struggling to pedal and almost just pulled off the circuit but I figured I’d have the downhill to see if I could continue so although I lost a few places and was now around 15th and in pain I gritted my teeth and did what I could. Another factor was that it had also started raining so if I was braver in the corners I may make up some places.
Having negotiated the last few corners the pain had subsided enough to push but it was clear the power had gone from my leg, the slightest over exertion now would just stop me in my tracks but having got onto Chris’s wheel I just hung on for grim death on the straight determined not to lose any more places. Chris did a great turn up the hill but it was getting tight, I was getting squeezed and having to slow down when I needed to be doing the opposite. But recalling it now I remember having a moment where I thought yes this is looking good, not for the win but certainly for points, despite being hampered physically, the fact I was out the wind meant I was being dragged toward the line.
Unable to push, so frustrated at this point
Frustratingly I just couldn’t push though, I’d be expecting to hit around 1000W going up the final climb, looking at my power file I managed 550W, so slow that I was actually counting the riders ahead of me, I’d put myself in 10th and be scraping my first point, that would be a nice consolation for being lame and for not seeing my boy, something which I never like doing. After a warm down lap where the pain in my calf persisted myself, Chris and Matt pulled up at the finish, having made the points I rolled over to then be told I was 11th, (AGAIN!) this was because someone had won solo, Solo? Really?
He thought he’d won (he missed the solo break as well)
As I type this now I’m still not sure how this happened, I can only think the rider went away on the last lap after the start/finish line while I was screaming in pain and going backwards (update, he did exactly that). I was now pretty pissed off, I’d be going home with nothing apart from a strained calf. Racing eh.
With racing costing the best part of £20 for entry, petrol and also time I’ll now take stock for a few weeks and find some more races to build myself up for. My calf is pretty sore today but tomorrow (Friday) I’ll get a few miles in and hopefully do some decent miles on Sunday and get back in the swing of the club rides. These 3 races despite not getting me any points have been really enjoyable, the circuit itself is great, the racing has been respectful and a great learning experience. I’ll now have to enter some mixed category racing with 3’s and 4s as 4th cat only races are a bit thin on the ground, most likely at Darley Moor (where I was brought down), I’ll probably not get chance to be contesting the sprints but it’ll be good experience all the same.
Thanks again to the organisers, Mick Bown for the incredible pictures and well done to everyone taking part.