Images courtesy BIG Events
Robin Parker writes…
26th July. Hog Hill. 3rd Cat event promoted by BIG Events
Result = 2nd
The weather was baking hot (30 degs C). And is if that wasn’t unusual enough for a British summer’s day, today’s 3rd Cat race at Hog Hill (also known as Redbridge) was run in the reverse (clockwise) direction with the “wiggles” added in for good measure. I’ve never seen this done before! This meant that the run into the finish now came up the hill; then about 70m before 180 degree bend 1; then another 60m before 180 degree bend 2; another 50m and 180 degree bend 3 and then about 50m to the finish line. Having never raced this configuration before I wasn’t sure how the finish might play out. But I reckoned that on the last lap I wanted to be second wheel up over the hill; then make a dash for the first 180 bend. I figured that there wouldn’t be enough time between the bends to get past anyone and that I might then be able to hold first place all the way to the line. So that was the plan – but first I would need to get to the last lap in contention…
Bit of a disappointing turnout for this well run event. Only 12 riders lined up. So pretty much everyone was going to be in the points. These smaller bunch fields tend to be a bit slower overall than a larger bunched race, but more tactical and just as hard due the wild variations in pace as the attacks fire off.
For the first 40 minutes of the race the bunch pretty much stayed together. We lost a few guys; there were plenty of attacks; but everything came back together. I had my eye on a guy from Kingston Wheelers who was obviously strong and was trying a lot of moves. At one point I was away with him and this guy in unmarked clothing bridged up to us very quickly. So I had my eye on him too after that!
Eventually Mr Kingston finally got a gap and as everyone looked at each other it seemed to stretch out really quickly. I knew that we couldn’t let the gap grow too much or we’d never see him again. I put in a strong attach up the climb and quickly gapped the bunch. By the time I was around the wiggles and up to the finish line, Mr Undercover Guy had made it up to my wheel – but there was a small gap to the lined out bunch. We hammered it down the hill and started swapping turns.
When we got back around to the climb, Mr Undercover Guy was strong. Very strong and I was having trouble holding his wheel. This sequence was repeated for 3 or 4 laps. As a consequence we were taking good chunks out of Mr Kingston’s lead every lap – but I was thinking that I was going to have trouble with this guy come the finish.
Another lap or so and we finally made it up to Mr Kingston and I was pleased to see the 5 laps to go board come out. By this point the bunch had long since decided that they were racing for 4th place and we had a good half a lap lead on them. The victor would be one of our trio.
With Mr Kingston brought to heel, our pace also eased. I knew that there was no way that I had the strength to drop either of these guys. My best chance was for it all to be together for a sprint finish. So I kept tapping through to keep things moving, even leading up the climb to keep it at my pace and dissuade any nasty attacks. We took the bell and Mr Undercover Guy took the front position around the bottom of the circuit. I tracked him in second place.
Up the climb – steady, steady. Then bam! Mr Undercover Guy jumped hard. I tried to match him, but he had a bike length or so on me as we crested the top of the climb. I looked back to check on Mr Kingston – he’d been distanced by the acceleration. Just the two of us duelling out to the finish now.
I had no chance of enacting Plan A. It was all I could do to get back to Mr Undercover Guy’s wheel by the first 180. As we took the right hand turn, Mr Undercover Guy touched his pedal on the ground. He held it upright, but it unbalanced him for a second and I didn’t need a invitation – I dived up the inside to take the 2nd 180 left in the lead.
I might just steal this yet. I dived into the final right hand bend but ran out a little wide on the exit and then found that I was slightly over-geared for the final uphill dash to the finish. I jumped as hard as I could, but Mr Undercover Guy was just a bit quicker than me out of the last bend. As he drew alongside I lunged my bike towards the line. But it wasn’t enough. I lost it by about half a wheel.
Still second place isn’t bad and I think that the strongest man won. Plus I reckon he was about half my age! And when I checked his results this evening, I discovered that this is his 4th win at Hog Hill this year – and one which moves him up to 2nd Cat.
This result leaves me just 5 points short of 2nd Cat myself. That wasn’t originally a target for this season, but now that I am so close, I might see if I can sniff out some events to try and gain promotion. Assuming that British Cycling promote Masters National Championships again next year (and I hear that they will), a second Cat license will pretty much guarantee my entry – 3rd Cats can get left on the reserve list and that just adds stress on the day. So it is worth having despite the fact that mixing it up with 2nd Cat youngsters is a step up in suffering levels!
The guys at BIG Events who promoted today’s events did a great job. I’d recommend any of their promotions. They took loads of pictures (https://www.facebook.com/pages/BIG-Events/100453923468256) and even had a remote control drone videoing some of the event. How cool is that!