13th March. LVRC Ciclos Uno Crits at Hog Hill (Redbridge)
The beautiful weather brought out a sizable field for the first of a series of four spring LVCR criterium races. With perennial fast man Anthony Wallis on the start line there was never any doubt about where the winner’s spoils would be heading. As ever, Anthony attacked form the gun not to be seen again – until he lapped us at about the three quarters distance mark. The guy is a phenom. So what about the rest of us…
From the gun a couple of riders looked like they fancied chasing Anthony. I rode on the front of the bunch to get the pace high and to encourage others into the chase. And that pretty much set the scene for the next hour. The pace was high throughout. I kept attacking and going with anything that moved – but nothing was allowed to escape. It was the same 7 or 8 riders attacking and animating the race with the rest of field intent on bringing everything back.
As we approached the hour mark, I could sense that people were tiring from the incessant pace, but it was starting to look like we would be in for a bunch gallop. Then the whistle went for a final prime (whistle indicating prime next lap). This last prime was a fairly hotly contested affair with the pace upped for the lap and with 3 guys sprinting it out for the prime. I hung just off the sprint pace, but on the front of the bunch. As the guys who sprinted eased to catch their breath from the effort of the sprint, I looked around and sensed an opportunity. I pushed hard up the small climb and got my head down.
I was in luck, the bunch hesitated and I had a gap. I was delighted to be quickly joined by Charlie Scott (who came second to me last week and had been another of today’s race long animators) and we set about establishing a lead. As we came back around past the prime line, the 5 laps to go board came out. Round the hairpin after the finish line and you have a chance to look back at the chasers. There are two guys at about 10 seconds and maybe another 10 seconds to the bunch.
With just five laps to go, I know that if we can hang on for another couple of laps the bunch will inevitably slow at some point as thoughts turn to the bunch finish. And I am fairly confident that whoever the pair are between us and the bunch won’t have the firepower to catch Charlie and me on their own. This is looking good…
Charlie and I have a good rhythm. I lead up the hill and round about two thirds of the lap. Charlie takes over drives the shorter leg into what has become quite a stiff head and cross-wind to the foot of the hill.
4 laps to go and if anything the gap to the bunch looks to have increased.
3 laps to go and it’s holding steady at around the 30 seconds mark. I reckon it’s in the bag now. But we must keep pressing. As Charlie swings off, he’s breathing heavily. This is good as I can tell that he’s not sandbagging – and unlikely to be able to spring any nasty surprise attacks on me. My breathing is nicely under control, but I can feel that climb in my legs every lap now.
2 laps to go. The pair between us and the bunch as still dangly precariously off the front of the bunch, but the bunch still isn’t making any headway on us. That should be enough. I keep working because I want Charlie to keep working. But I’ve eased off just a touch and trying to relax. I am already preparing for the sprint.
As we take the bell, I stick to the same routine taking over from Charlie and leading around start of the lap. I wonder if I can persuade him to take that last turn into the wind. My turn complete, I flick my arm and swing over. He takes the bait and pushes on one final time into that head wind. Perfect. I am exactly where I want to be, stalking my prey from behind.
Charlie eases as we approach the final bend as if realising that he is in the wrong place. He soft pedals and weaves across the road a few times. I decline the offer to come through. Once we’re round that final left hander it will be a tail-wind sprint to the finish. I know that I can go early and I am in a decent sprint gear ready to pounce. I note that Charlie is still in “headwind” lower gearing as he is watching me over his shoulder.
As we reach the turn, Charlie looks forward and then down ready to make a final gear change. That’s my invitation to launch my sprint. I am past Charlie and accelerating up to full speed before he knows what’s hit him! When a sprint goes well, you can just feel it your legs. The gear is right, the cadence is right and it just “feels” fast. And this one feels perfect! There was no way back for Charlie now and I take the sprint to claim 2nd place overall behind Anthony.
So another pleasing ride and another pleasing result. I still don’t feel like i’ve got the “zing” in my legs yet. But the base fitness is feeling really good this season and I have another 9 weeks to find the zing before the National Crit champs. Plenty of time. So far so good…