First, the waffle…
My first race of the season was a journey into the unknown. Last year I’d got enough points to make it up to 3rd Cat relatively easily, but then failed to gain any points in the two 3rd Cat races I entered. Looking back I was fatigued. When winter came I got every illness going. I was ill for all of December and January and not right for February either. So instead of carrying some form through winter I was forced to take it easy. I was beginning to think I’d wasted my money renewing my British Cycling race licence. But I managed to get myself better, and as soon as I started feeling punchy I entered this race.
As I didn’t have a clue if I was even race fit I decided to panic buy some latex inner tubes and some new Conti tyres. Think they helped, I certainly noticed the ride was smoother on my way home over the rough surface of the cycle path, and the tyres made a very pleasing hum. I also made sure my bike was working at 100%. I’d replaced the headset, BB bearings, chain and all the cables in the weeks leading up to race day. I’d also roughed up the brake blocks and thoroughly cleaned the drive train the night before. Everything was tight, dialled and clean – a first for my bike. As I’d been feeling some discomfort on the bike for a long time I also adjusted my position. Lowering the saddle made a massive difference, it’d been way too high – what was I thinking?!?!
As far as the engine prep, I changed things up there too. Instead of trying to do as many of my 50 mile commutes as possible I cut that back and have been just trying to fit a long hilly ride on the weekends when I can, or going out for a quick blast. Basically I have been trying to give my body a chance to recover and managing my fatigue. I’ve been paying more attention to my heart rate too, as it seems to be a good early warning of any illness. I was planning to wear the heart rate strap for the race. As I didn’t want to have it beep at me, which it tends to do a lot, I turned the HR alarm off on my computer.
So race day…
In the morning I had an early pasta lunch with a strong coffee followed by a banana. I pumped up the latex tubes pretty hard – in two nights they’d lost loads of pressure. Left for the Cyclopark with enough time for a short warm up, sign in and have another coffee and banana. The weather was nice and sunny, but fairly windy – its always windy at the Cyclopark. I had forgotten to pick up a gel again, oh well. In my warm up I worked out where the wind was blowing from, right down the finish straight. Any breakaways were going to be very hard work. The family came to watch and they were meant to be looking after my stuff, they turned up about 5 minutes before race start, so there I was undressing in the carpark, rushing to get ready for the race. Got to the start line just in time. Just as the commissaire was finishing his prep talk I heard from behind “look theres Daddy. Hello Daddy” and the voice of a 4 year old boy shouting “HELLO DADDY!!”. I looked round to see the family waving at me from the bridge behind the start, I waved back just as the race started. Panicked, I failed to clip in for what seemed like a long time. When I finally did get underway I was plum last with a gap to bridge… Wasn’t too bad though. So the first few laps I spent gathering myself and trying to move up the bunch. There were a few pretty dodgy riders, two in particular who were all over the place I wonder how they made it into 3rd Cat? “I must get up to 2nd Cat as soon as possible” I thought. Not sure which lap, but 2nd or 3rd there was a crash just in front of me, a rider on his back on the grass on the finish straight, everyone else got round safely. I wasn’t feeling too great for the first half of the race, was probably still warming up – next time I must spend more time on the warm up!! I spent a lot of time wondering if I was out of my depth. Twice the bunch split and I found myself in the wrong group. The first time I managed to break away from my group to join the break, but as soon as I bridged the gap they sat up and waited for the peloton. The second time I only just about had enough steam to bridge the gap but not enough to pull away from the riders behind me. I told myself off for spending all my energy and giving everyone else a free ride. As we got to the 5 laps to go point things calmed down. I half expected a break to happen, but any escapees were only able to put half-hearted efforts in. It looked like everyone was resigned to a bunch sprint, which was what I was hoping for myself. I gradually sneaked my way up to the front of the peloton and was in the first 10 riders. The speed seemed to notch up slightly. Just when I’d managed to get into a decent position there was a coming to just in front of me. Everyone stayed upright, but the guy in front of me in a Wigmore club kit had nowhere to go and had to slow to a near stop. I was boxed in too and also had to stop. I shouted “come on mate lets go go go” at the Wigmore rider, but I was in last place as I went over the finish line with 4 to go. I had gone from the perfect position to the worst, disaster! I managed to work my way up again, and in doing so I began to grow in confidence because lots of people seemed to be in bad shape as I put in measured efforts to go past them. I managed to get up to the front half of the peloton for the last lap. The boys on the front did a decent job of keeping the pace up and the bunch strung out, which suited me. As we went round the last bend I was probably in about 10th position, although I’d had to burn some matches to get there. I was amazed and for the first time that day I thought I might actually score some points! The bunch was all over the place. A few guys went for a long sprint, I was tempted to join them, but was unable to get on to their wheels as I was on the wrong side of the track. So I stuck with the lead out I was getting and as soon as I could see the finish line I went full gas and started passing people. Seems my sprint still holds up at 3rd Cat level! I really should’ve gone sooner, if I had been on the other side of the track I’d have probably managed to stick with the top 3 guys who’d just gone past me. At the time I hadn’t a clue what my position was, thought I might’ve come 5th or 6th, but actually came 8th. Ah well – next time!
As I didn’t know what to expect, and would’ve been happy just to not get dropped, to come away with some points is a result. 2nd Cat here I come, well, I now believe it’s achievable at least 🙂 Worth noting as well; good job I did turn off my heart rate alarm, my max heart rate was 192bpm on the final sprint. Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, not bad for a 38 year old I guess?!!
Time 1 hour