Robin Parker writes…
Fired up by not being happy with my Good Friday ride, I decided to head to Hillingdon and enter on the line on Saturday. I knew that my legs would be a little tired from yesterday’s efforts, but I just wanted to race well regardless of the outcome. It was another cold day, but thankfully the snow held off and the race was held in dry conditions.
It was a big field (50+ riders?) and heavily populated by FYTs (Fit Young Things) who can make these early season 2nd/3rd cat races especially hard as they fight tooth and nail to make their way up to 1st cat just as soon as humanly possible. I remember being there myself many moons ago. Funny how you get a perspective on these things with the passing of years.
Anyhow. In an effort to curb my recent overenthusiastic opening laps, I elected to start right at the back of the bunch. This had the desired effect as it took about 5 laps to work my way up to the front. Moving up a fast moving big bunch at Hillingdon is not easy. But at least I avoided the temptation to try anything dumb from the gun.
I remained towards the front for the rest of the event getting properly involved in the race. However the pace was so fast that nothing stayed away for longer than half a lap. But I was there. I was in the moves, bridging gaps and part of the race. I was pleased with the performance.
Generally speaking, I tend not to get involved in the big bunch sprints at Hillingdon. I can still remember being 19 and genuinely believing that I was indestructible. Despite my skin now being pale and wrinkly, I still happen to think that it looks better on me than painted down the tarmac (although I do concede that there is some debate about this )!
The last 5 laps where hard as everyone is desperate to move to the front. I had to dive for gaps that were barely there and make use of all of the circuit (and a bit of grass on one occasion) to stay at the front. I was well placed about 4th in line at the bell. But as they FYTs trying to affect a lead-out for their racing team buddies died into the headwind on the back straight, I found myself on the inside as a fast moving mass of riders came up the outside on my right.
It was do or die at 250m to go and I needed to get out of the box I was in. I had to move off my line to the right. I felt a bump on my hip as I obviously caught someone. There was a shout, but thankfully no clatter of metal/carbon on tarmac – and nothing twanging in my back wheel. Phew, I’m out and sprinting. I was too late to make up any places – but also too late to lose any either.
7th place in a big bunch sprint at Hillingdon. I am well chuffed with that. Even more pleased that I felt that I raced well. I know that I couldn’t have competed in that event last year. I would have been trundling along down the back of the bunch somewhere. Now if this weather would just warm up a bit, I can start looking forward to some summer racing!