I had far less anxiety leading up to this race. Finally, I am starting to get used to the build up. Coming 4th in my last race helped. Having said all this, the night before, and during the morning, I did get a bit jittery. I’d not been out on my bike much in the week, and wasn’t sure if I had prepared sufficiently. I did get the bike running nicely again though. I promised myself that I’d train harder in the future.
The weather on the way to registration felt cold, the headwind didn’t help. Once I neared the Cyclopark it warmed up a little, but the usual strong wind was still in effect. I got my numbers and went to attempt a proper warm up. I went for a little loop of about 10 miles, and after I’d gradually ramped up my effort I executed my plan of really getting my heart rate going for 15-20 minutes. In doing so I got a KOM on Strava – I probably overdid it.
Got to the track with plenty of time, too much probably, but I wanted to make sure I got a decent starting position in case the pace started high. Got away OK, and yes, as per usual, the pace was high from the off. I managed to stay at the front of the bunch for most of the race; I’d planned to ride a much more active race this time around. I’d been a hanger on for most of the last two races, and had just been lucky that I’d managed to get a decent position on the last lap. So I thought I could probably manage to be a bit more punchy this time around, and maybe even control the race a little. However, this race turned out to be a little tougher than the last two. Lots of strong guys turned up with lots of expensive bikes. There were a couple of guys who obviously felt even more punchy than myself and between them they attacked repeatedly, with the odd attack from others having a go. About 20 minutes in I had a turn on the front down the back straight, and, as I was feeling good at this point, decided to try and hurt everybody else. I put some power down, got on the drops and strung everybody out behind me. I started feeling tired very quickly though, and by the time we’d made it to the end of the lap half the peloton were passing me. There was almost no time for recovery, and it was like this for the whole race. After my little experiment I worked my way up again and tried to stay in the front 10 riders. 5 laps to go and the pace picked up a notch, one attack split the bunch. I was on the edge of my endurance but didn’t panic and kept in contact down the finish straight, knowing that I’d be OK as long as I wasn’t too far off come the hairpin at the end. As had been the case throughout the race, the bunch in front of me didn’t take the hairpin very well, and I flew around it carrying a lot more speed, not just catching up, but taking places too. Phew! Things calmed down after that as the stronger riders recovered. 3 laps to go and the pace ramped up again, and this time I knew it wasn’t going to slow. I hid from the wind and tried not to drop back too much. 2 laps to go and I’d fallen back a bit too much, so started trying to take places again, got a handy tow down the back straight and went past half the peloton. Phew! 1 lap to go and I was in 2nd or 3rd wheel, when, going down the back straight a solo rider attacked. Nobody wanted to chase him down, it did seem he’d gone too soon. This caused the last rider in front of me to pop. OH NO!!! We’re here again, with half a lap to go, on the front with an attack going off the front. What to do? Better chase him down I guess. So I put an effort in down the straight and took the 90 degree left hander at 52km/h. I heard a few shouts from behind as the peloton jostled for position whilst trying to match my speed. “Phew, that might have saved me” I thought. I was running in the red, and desperately needed someone to take over. I flicked my elbow and eventually one rider went past me. I jumped on his wheel, only he slowed as we went around the last corner. “Come on mate, lets get him!” I shouted, but the attacker was too far up the road. At this point other riders started their sprints early on both sides of the track. I tried to jump on a wheel, and went at 90%. As I got to the last slight bend before the finish line I went 100% as two riders, one either side of me, tried the same. The three of us made it round the bend rubbing shoulders and I don’t know how I stayed upright. I didn’t quite have enough though and they both nudged ahead of me as we went over the line. I counted, less than 10 riders in front of me, I might have some points coming my way?! I was absolutely spent, and the warm down lap was a very slow affair. I found out that I was provisionally in 9th, so just the one point then, better than nothing I spose.
Chatted to a couple of the riders afterwards. There had been a nasty crash on the last lap when a rider had clipped a pedal on the floor, but everyone was OK. Other than that I think the riding was very good, but a lot of riders at this level really can’t corner . I chatted to the winner and helped him take his race numbers off his skinsuit. He’d used about 20 (of his own) safety pins to make sure they weren’t flapping about, said it’d taken him half an hour to do. He also had an aero helmet and told me his Garmin mount was aero too which would’ve saved him 8 seconds – he was serious about his marginal gains. Fair play. Also, he was 16 years younger than me, probably helped him a bit too. He also boasted that he’d taken the left hander at the end of the back straight at 52km/h which is how he’d won. However, mate, if you’re reading this, I was chasing you down and I also took the corner at 52km/h – you were just stronger, and actually I was smoother 🙂 I need me an aero helmet and some aero wheels if I’m to stand any chance of making a break work. I also need to train a bit harder and race a bit smarter. More lessons learnt.