At the beginning of the year I had no intention of doing any racing, but figuring it was now or never I decided to have a go at some circuit / road racing. I’ve not committed fully to it this year and once I got going I haven’t raced as much as I’d liked but I’ve certainly got the bug for it now so will be looking to enter a lot more races next year, the aim being to win at least 1 race.
A smashing start
First up was Darley Moor, I’d heard all kinds of horror stories about this place so it was always going to be a baptism of fire and so it proved. After a few laps I was unlucky enough to be brought down by another rider who crashed in front of me, it was quite a hard impact. After being patched up I felt like I’d come off OK, a bit of skin loss but no major damage to bike or me. As the day wore on, the injuries got worse, I also noticed I’d smashed my helmet (not that one) which explained the grogginess. In short though, my enthusiasm, unlike my helmet (no not that one) wasn’t dented and I just focused on getting back on the bike and looking for a suitable next event.
I signed on for all three of the 4th category only races here, they took place on consecutive Thursdays and despite mixed results I enjoyed the racing. The circuit was super smooth and the racing seemed a little less mental, perfect for a novice like myself.
Race 1 – 13th April. There were two things I didn’t have on the night, my best legs and tactical awareness, I wasted far too much energy at various stages of the race and as the final lap approached I was too far back having not anticipated the effort required to move up. From memory I came about 15th, my team mate Dave Holmes coming 11th or 12th. In short though some good lessons learned and knowledge of what I needed to do next week.
Race 2 – 20th April. Although a change in track layout I felt good on the night, I was still wasting too much energy riding on the front but as the race progressed I was in a much better position come the final lap. Coming out the final bend I had put myself pretty much where I had aimed for, but in the sprint a combination of not being quick enough, going from too far out and not following the wheels left me in the wind eventually coming in 11th. Although no points gained, this had been great fun.
Race 3 – 27th April. With two races back to back I was confident going in to this final 4th category race, the legs felt good and I’d learned a huge amount in the last 2 weeks. The race was progressing nicely and with the final corner approaching I was in around 5th position heading up the home straight. Sadly my calf went bang and I eventually grovelled over the line in 11th again.
Plungar 24th May. My first road race and no longer just racing against 4th category riders this was a tough race but again I was more than fine with the pace. A hot night resulting 35 miles at nearly 27mph. The final lap saw me help to bring the break back but again calf issues prevented me from finishing strongly, I placed in the top 20 but I was annoyed that again my body had failed me.
Durham Ox 21st June. Not as nice a circuit as Plungar but a tough race on the night. My calves let me down again, I’d also made a mistake thinking I was on the final lap when there was one to go, I ended up around 20th place. Hard lesson learned.
Plungar 26th July. Finally I had a team mate to help me out, Dean and myself worked really well, the pace was slower overall due to the headwinds but as we came around the final bend we were 1 & 2. On the long straight to the finish Dean was in the lead but I’d made a mistake and got boxed in meaning I had no chance to sprint. I’m not saying it would have got me in the points but frustrating that I couldn’t really even try, net result about 15th.
Lime Kiln – 2nd August. A new circuit to try and back flying solo, this race was about putting all I had learned together and seeing what the result could be. I felt the circuit suited me more than Plungar, there weren’t as many big efforts to be made and when efforts were required I learned to dial down the watts a bit and protect my fragile calves.
Having jumped across to a two man break I eventually found myself in the top 2 with 3 laps to go. This was a tremendous buzz, it took a while to believe the peloton wouldn’t catch us and with a half a lap to go my co-escapee sprinted out of my slipstream to eventually take the win, I held on comfortably for 2nd place, my first points, all 12 of them moving me up from 4th category to 3rd.
I raced 8 times this year, I had to cancel another 2, but all in all it’s been a really positive start. With an incredibly steep learning curve I eventually finished the season off with a great result, I would have hated to have come out the season with no points at all but having saved the best until last this also helped me to move up a category. Apart from the Darley race everything I have been involved in has been contested pretty fairly and safely so I’ll certainly be coming back next year for more.
Aside from the consecutive Mallory events I have only raced once per month, I’ll be looking to do two per month next year to keep in the swing of the racing. Thankfully this year I’ve also ridden quite consistently (apart from the last 2-3 weeks) and have felt the difference from doing so. Now I know when the races are on and what circuits they are at I can plan things in from early next year and work towards them a little, this year I’ve done no specific training so I should see some improvement there.
2018 – A new race bike?
If I can get a decent price for some of my body parts I would really like to get myself a race bike. Thankfully, unlike TT bikes you don’t have to spend the earth so maybe something will be possible next year.
Canyon £1,490 or £2,000
Cannondale from Cycledivision, a snip at £1000, bung on some decent wheels and for £1,500 I’ll have a great setup
Or a Specialized at £1,200
Bowman Palace R – £695 frame only
So that’s it, bike to riding my bike and then probably entering a few hill climbs later on in the year. If you’ve never raced before and unsure about giving it a go then don’t worry, just get stuck in!
Thanks for reading.