In the morning I was lucky enough to have a lie in. With 3 small children this is a rarity, and was very much needed. But upon finally getting up I was unsure of how I was feeling. My legs felt tired following 2 evening TTs during the week, but I wasn’t fatigued as I had knocked back the volume of my riding. After a relaxing start to the day, and one too many pancakes, I got to the Cyclopark and signed on. I was putting my number on when one of my cycling buddies Neil came over to say hello. I was really glad to see him racing. We’d been on a few rides together, but although we had talked about it in the past, we had never raced before. James Drain from Gemini then turned up too, always good to have a couple of friends racing with you.
The race track took ages to clear, so all we got was one warm up lap. Some guys had been warming up on turbos and rollers, but the weather was warm, and I’d ridden to the circuit, so I wasn’t too worried about my lack of prep. I knew Neil would work with me to bring back an early attacks should any get away too.
The race started at an easy enough pace. A couple of people tried to break away in the first lap which amounted to nothing – maybe they needed to warm up more 😉 My buddy Neil then took to the front and took control, I rode up alongside him and he told me to go for it. I put in a very soft attack and surprisingly found myself with a gap. I didn’t fancy 50 minutes solo, so after a lap off the front I sat up. Just as I was caught I felt like I’d warmed up all of a sudden, so after the hairpin I put in a more concerted attack and spent a further two laps off the front. I waited for someone to bridge to me but nobody did. As my average speed didn’t seem too great I sat up, recovered, and let myself get caught. After that I sat on Neil’s wheel as much as possible. For a lot of the race Neil was on the front and I was in second wheel. Neil was able to sustain long efforts at just the right intensity – easy enough not to hurt me, but hard enough to put off any attacks. He’d also ramp up the power really smoothly which suited me and helped save my legs. After my solo adventures early in the race I thought it best to sit in and wait for the sprint and tried to avoid going into the red. I was still doing some work on the front, but after a few turns Neil suggested I’d be better saving my legs for the sprint. I agreed so stopped with the heroics. Everyone else seemed happy to chase all attacks, so a sprint was very likely. With 3 to go people started trying to get nearer the front, and I decided to let them whilst recovering as much energy as I could. I drank the last dregs of my water, but was still very thirsty, not long to go now though, should be OK. I continued to sit in with 2 to go, and at the start of the bell lap I started making my way back to the front. Going round the hairpin I took the wide line which let’s you carry more speed, then gave it a good dig up the little rise coming out of it. I went past a few people but then the guys on the front sat up and moved over blocking any attacks. I had nowhere to go. Not to worry, I saw Neil further up the bunch thought I’d try to make it to his wheel when I could. Going into the bottom of the circuit I’d managed to get to the top 10 and that let me take the racing line around the bends, carrying more speed and saving energy. Heading up the finish straight I found myself stuck behind a few riders as a bunch of people ramped up the speed on the right going past me. I managed to find some space to the left just as the sprint kicked, I started my sprint just over 50m from the line and in about 20th place. This was all new to me, usually I like to pull the trigger much earlier from the front of the bunch. It was a big bunch and I was quite far back. I thought I’d left it too late. To my amazement, however, I started overtaking people and had the left half of the track all to myself. I knew that the finish line was a little further up the track than everyone thinks and I saw I was catching 1st place so utterly buried myself, my back wheel bouncing in the air with every pedal stroke, heart rate redlining at 189bpm, speed over 50kph, and nudged into the lead just as we got to the line.
I knew I’d taken the win and managed to punch the air with my puny cyclist arm. After years of trying, I’d finally gone and won a crit!
During the warm down lap and after the race a few other riders came to congratulate me which was awesome. My wife and kids had come to watch and were at the finish line when I rolled off the track, but it turned out that they had missed the sprint.. They hadn’t got a clue that I’d won!! Luckily Luke from Gemini was there with his family watching and had filmed it, thanks again Luke.
I went got my winnings and treated everyone to some cake and tea from the cafe. Then Corben asked to ride home with me which was the highlight of my day 😀