1st race

4th Cat, crits at the park #4 23/05/15

For my 38th birthday I finally took the plunge, bought myself a race licence AND entered a race. I’d read up a fair bit and got some great advice from some club members. So I had a rough idea of what to expect. Leading up to race day I tried to take it easy and eat and drink only good stuff, but illness, family and work commitments meant that I actually had no idea how I was going. On the day though I actually felt good, and wasn’t nervous at all. Upon arrival at the cyclopark I took in my surroundings and saw much of the competition warming up on turbos and their boutique bikes with deep section carbon rims. Whilst my bike isn’t particularly low end (a carbon Felt F5 with Fulcrum 5 wheels) I still felt like I was going to have to work that little bit harder than my peers to keep up. I had actually decided to race with my old Fulcrum wheels as my new Campag rear wheel was slightly out of true, and I took the opportunity to fit them with some nice new Michelin Pro 4 tyres I’d been saving (for over a year) for the occasion. I signed on and went to watch a bit of the 3rd cats. I got chatting to a couple of chaps who were watching the action, one fellow 4th cat and another chap who was watching his mate. The guy watching his friend wasn’t watching his mate though – due to dodgy riding his mate had pulled out! Apparently there had been a fair few crashes and this chaps friend didn’t want to jeopardise his upcoming riding holiday in the Alps. Eek! I decided to go and warm up…

I did a few circuits of the car park, then the circuit. To be honest I had no idea what I was doing, but there were a few other guys doing the same thing so… I pulled up to the start line halfway through the prep talk, right-at-the-back. 53 people were racing, money prizes, blah blah blah, on my whistle… …PEEP!

I had planned to have a gel at the start, but that went out of the window and I didn’t even have time to take off my arm warmers. Pace was quick to begin with, but not horrific. I’d been worried about so many riders of differing abilities (especially me with my limited experience) getting round the first hairpin, but all went OK. It was at the second big breaking zone that someone directly in front of me punctured and lost control – queue lots of shouting, couple of insults, but no crash. Towards the end of the first lap I was concerned that the pace was a bit quicker than I would be comfortable with. I probably hadn’t warmed up sufficiently. But on the incline going up to the finish line the guys at the front sat up and took it easy, I gasped a sigh of relief. So I settled into the race, and after a couple of laps managed to get my arm warmers off. I tried to move up when I was near the back, then take it easy when I got near the front. One of the things that left an impression was the burning smell of many bicycles with carbon rims braking at the two sharpest corners. Another moment that sticks in my memory was rubbing shoulders with another racer at around 60kmh, exciting stuff!

After a few laps I worked out the best place to be in the race track to avoid the headwind, but couldn’t always get to it. I also worked out that on the back straight the tailwind meant, if there was an opening, it was easy to move up a few places. In the second half of the race the pack split a couple of times. Both times I was near the back, but was determined to stay in contention, so put the effort in to bridge the gap. At the 5 laps to go mark I had managed to keep up with the bunch and was wondering how much I had left in the tank. I was worried that the pace was going to pick up and I’d be dropped. Over the next few laps a few people tried to make individual breakaways, but the guys at the front upped the pace and all attempts were quickly reeled in. On the last lap I was feeling good. I put in some effort on the climb out of the hairpin and carried on putting the power down on the back straight, moving up quite a few places. Then there was a mid-effort sprint out of the next slow bend which I made sure to keep in touch with, and a gap formed behind me. I counted that I was about 12th, I could smell my first British Cycling point! Knowing there wasn’t anyone behind me on the next bend I took a wide entry and when I saw the riders in front of me run wide I went up the inside and put some big cranks in, moving up to a points scoring position. I kept position on the last two bends and found a wheel for the sprint. I wanted to go full gas, but was worried that nobody else was going for it yet. Then it all kicked off, I emptied the tank and to my amazement started going past people! I had left it too late though, as my progress was blocked by 4 riders in a row in front of me. When a gap did open up it was all too late – I didn’t have the chance to use it. I rolled over the line without a clue where I’d placed, but knew I was in the points – as it turns out 5th place!!!

Finishing in the bunch sprint was my main goal. To score points, and know that I could have placed higher if I’d pulled the trigger sooner was a big fat cherry on the cake.

Distance : 38km (23.6m)
Speed (avg) : 38.6km/h (24m/h)
Time : 59 mins
Strava link.

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