After 3 races at the Mallory park circuit, my next race was a road race in and around the village of Plungar in Leicestershire. Mallory park was 4th cat only, this time I would be mixing it with 3rd and 4th cats, but with some consistent riding I knew I was in good shape so had been looking forward this, especially now that the weather had turned. Having gone straight from work I arrived 2 hours before the start so decided to continue the hydrating with a diet coke at the Anchor Inn which was doubling up as the race HQ. Having got my number I decided that even though it was really warm I needed to get a recce of the course done so I kitted up and did just that. The course was really nice, some sharp turns and only one major concern with some gravel on one corner.
The only name I recognised on the start sheet was Jean Christophe, he’d won the first 2 mallory park races and then came in the top 10 of the 3rd cat race last week, I figured he’s be a good one to follow but the major concern was the number of riders from the same clubs. OVB and Beeston were well represented, I was flying the SNCC flag by myself this time.
After a race briefing we began with a neutralised start behind the car and then bang we were off. The race started quickly but then settled down as all 50 riders settled in for the 5 laps (35 miles total) of the circuit. I found myself in the middle of the peloton so although not wanting my nose in the wind I made sure I moved up by the time the first lap was completed. The pace was high but I was feeling good and had no problem holding my own. Around the end of lap 2 a break of about 7 riders had formed and had begun to pull away, it was clear this was planned as other riders from the same teams seemed to be slowing the pack down and before long they had about 20s gap. I was concerned initially but holding over 40 riders off for 3 laps would take some doing so I kept calm and stayed near the front, ready for any other attempt to join them. If the group swelled anymore it would be time to think about bridging over.
After 3 laps another rider attempted to get across, I was fearful this gap was getting too big so I decided to get on his wheel and join him. We initially worked well to get across but I sensed the other guy was tiring so I put in an extra dig to reach the breakaway. I was concerned I would go too hard and had perhaps made the mistake of trying this when on the front rather than sling shotting out the bunch but I was gaining on them. I was within about 4 bike lengths of the 6-7 riders when I looked over the shoulder to see that the bunch were gaining. I figured the breakaway would get caught so decided to get a mini recovery on the downhill section, I backed off, waited for the bunch but then accelerated to ensure I would remain near the front.
Frustratingly though, most of the bunch appeared to back off and the gap grew out again, tactics were being played out but I was now annoyed I’d not put in that dig to reach them, I’m sure I could have then recovered and then reassessed the race but anyway, no time to dwell, keep pushing on.
Even before the last lap I had it in my head that the bunch had conceded and we’d be racing for 7th or 8th, but as we came onto the last lap it was clear the pace was picking up, so I decided to get back to work with Jean Christophe. On the long run up to the gravel corner we both put in big efforts, I just had it in my head to go for it and bring back the break, the details of all this are a bit sketchy but I think I did a good job as although we’d been 25s behind as we came around the final corner they were insight and possibly within reach. I pushed hard out the corner to maintain position but I was really feeling it at this point, those big efforts were now telling. Again I attached myself to Jean’s wheel, well when I say attached one rider literally became attached to him, for a split second he looked like he was going down, I’d no doubt go down too but thankfully even though a loud ping was heard everyone was shiny side up and barreling down towards the finish.
Just before the line is a short, sharp hill so getting in prime position before it is key or you’ll no doubt get blocked, in fairness you need to be on the front about 30 metres before this as otherwise it’s not going to happen. Before that though I’d made one big effort to keep near the front, I was in about 20th, so a bit further back than I’d hoped but was recovering quickly and hoping I could do something up the hill. But then bang, my right calf cramped or pulled badly, yet again I was in agony with a calf muscle as I approached the end of a race, all that work for that to happen. I tried to pedal but couldn’t really get any power down, being in the bunch meant I wasn’t going backwards but at this point I should have been going forwards. The break was in touching distance now, but as we went over the hill they hung on, just. I was in agony but got over the hill to finish in the top 20, Jean Christophe grabbing 9th so a good reward for him and the work put in.
As I rolled back to HQ I was absolutely exhausted, it’d been well over 20 degrees and I’d done a lot of work, 26.6mph over 35 miles is no mean feat, add to that the pain of my calf and despite having a chat with a few of the lads all I wanted to do was get back to the car and drink some milkshake, thankfully it was still cold as I downed it in one.
Although out of the points I was happy with the race, I was as strong as anyone out there tonight and that was really pleasing, but for some different decisions and my body holding up better things would could have played out better, but that’s racing.
Thanks as always to the organisers, the volunteers for giving up the time and DS Cycling Photos for the images. Roll on the next one.