Two write ups for one!
As the summer nears its end, and the days grow shorter, the 2016 race season too draws in. At the start of the week I was sitting on a haul of 29 BC points. I had set it as my goal to see if I could achieve 2nd Cat status this year (40 points). The week after these two races I am/was due to start a new job, so wanted to put in a concerted effort to get the 11 points I needed in two races, the first on Thursday night and then the second on Saturday early afternoon. My form has been relatively good this year, however the last few hard rides and races I’ve done I have suffered, and I’d not managed to get much in the way of training in, in fact recently all I’ve managed to fit in recently has been evening 10 mile TTs. I thought that I should be able to score 11 points, but wasn’t taking anything for granted.
Cyclopark Summer Race Series #5 3/4
The summer series are on Thursday nights at the Cyclopark. The circuit is a shorter, faster loop. And it starts at dusk, so its floodlit – exciting! On top of the shorter circuit, there are three races on the circuit at the same time, the E12s, 3/4s and the women’s 234 race. So I was expecting it to be fast, and it to be carnage. The E12s set off first, then the 3/4s, then the ladies. To keep track of the chaos the organisers were using transponders, which meant the start finish line was a bit further up the finish straight.
I had been out for a short ride in the daytime to test the legs, and it was very hot. The evening was a bit cooler, but still hot. I knew one of my biggest challenges would be to stay hydrated and avoid cramping, so I started the race with two full water bottles. On the warmup lap I was happy to hear someone say “Is that James Hawkins” behind me. It was Ben who I sometimes ride with in the Bigfoot level 1 group. Always nice to have a familiar face around when you’re racing. The pace was quick from the off. The first few laps I sat in the bunch, but 10 minutes in there was an attack by 2 riders. I took it upon myself to chase them down, and led the chase on the front of the bunch for a couple of fast laps. “That was stupid” I thought to myself. At the pace we were going a breakaway would never be able to make it stick, so to burn a match doing all the chasing on my own was tomfoolery! Pretty soon we had caught the E12 race, which Ben rightly pointed out was hilarious. We were also having to negotiate our way around the womens race regularly. Not sure how many times we lapped the other two races, but it was a few. Due to the speed, low light, constant squeezing past other races and the heat there was a fair bit of wobbly riding going on. I took notes of who looked risky and kept an eye on them. In the last half of the race the race commissaire signalled for us to slow down, not sure why, maybe he thought we were racing too fast?! So we had a lap where everyone had a chance to recover a bit, which, with hindsight, was like trying to put out a fire by throwing petrol on it. Soon after this the lapboard showed 5 to go. 5 short laps was the equivalent of 2 or 3 full length laps, and the pace started ramping up even more. I started moving up as and when I could. I knew the last lap was going to be frantic, the first 10 into the last corner would probably be the 10 to score points. So I made sure I was in the top 10 with 2 laps to go. On the last lap I moved up a couple of places, and going into the last sweeping fast bend Ben was in front of me. As we came out of the bend I went past Ben and jumped on the wheel of someone starting their sprint early. As this happened we were passing the E12 race again, so we were bunched up on the right of the road and they were on the left. However, as the sprints started all Hell broke loose. There were 3 riders in front of me blocking my way, but I saw a gap open up to the left of the track and managed to put enough power down to get through it. Going the long way round and on the slower side of the track I started my sprint a proper. I managed to make it up to 3rd position over the standard finish line, but had forgotten about the transponders and the different start/finish line. I lost 2 positions just before crossing the line to finish in 5th. Looking back at my stats my HR was well and truly in the red at 197bpm, not sure if that’s a good thing or not!? Ben had not managed to follow through the gap with me, seems a rider in the E12 race had veered into the path of another rider in our race and caused a few people to slam the anchors on during the sprint – better luck next time Ben!
This left me needing to come in 4th or better in my next race to get enough points for 2nd cat. Worth noting, despite the chaos I didn’t see any crashes – first race for ages!
Crits In The Park #8
I had a pretty relaxed start to the day. Got to the circuit and registered. Put numbers on but on the warmup lap a pin came off so on the start line I was readjusting the pin situation and I forgot to take my saddle bag off. Dufus. I managed to fit in a little warmup, got the heart going a bit, probably not enough, didn’t let it worry me though. The race started and the pace was fairly civilised, lack of proper warmup not a problem then. Early on there was an attack from a rider from Addiscombe CC. The riders on the front and I decided to let him hang out there for a while, before reeling him back in. He tried it again a bit later and one other rider and I were taking turns on the front to keep him in sight. I said to the other guy “either he knows something we don’t or he’s a bit stupid” to which he replied “nah mate, he’s strong, don’t let him get out of sight”. So we slowly reeled him in. After that there were a few more attacks, anything more than 2 guys I chased down. A guy riding in Windymilla kit made a few attacks, but didn’t get far. In the second half of the race the peloton split and I was in the front group of 5 or 6 riders. I accelerated past them all and said “we’ve got a gap, whose coming?”. Only the Addiscombe rider came with me, but after my turn he went around me very hard and I couldn’t stay on his wheel. Yup, he was strong. I let the bunch catch up and tried to recover. I told everyone to let the Addiscombe guy hang out there again. After I’d recovered I started the chase to reel him back in again, thankfully sharing the work with another chap. Soon after this the 5 to go board was out, the pace dropped. “Ah great, this means more late attacks” I thought. Sure enough there were a few, and I chased the first couple down with another strong rider who’d been saving himself up until now. Then the Addiscombe rider went again with 2 to go, but this time I was a few wheels back, boxed in and in the red. I shouted something like “don’t let him go” but nobody else was willing to chase at this point in the race, instead opting to save themselves for the bunch sprint. We kept him in sight, but on the last lap he went for it. Although one other guy and me did some work on the front neither of us were willing to sacrifice our chances of a points scoring position, so only gave it 90% each. Coming into the last corner I was second wheel when everyone sat up and looked at each other. I stuck to the wheel in front of me like glue and waited for the sprints to start. Halfway up the finish straight everyone went all at the same time. All of a sudden I had guys going too hard too soon passing me on both sides trying to cut in front of me. I accelerated and kept level with two riders, got my elbows out and shouted at them to give me room. At this point there was a row of riders in front of me, but a gap opened up just after the first person went full gas. I managed to accelerate past 2 riders just before the finish line to finish 2nd in the sprint and 3rd overall.
Very happy with my result. I managed to control the race a fair bit, and made sure I got the result I was after. Although, I wish I’d managed to stay in contact with the Addiscombe rider, or on the last lap taken a chance and put in more of an effort to reel him in in an attempt for the win. Ah well, theres always next time… in the 2nds… erm maybe not then!