Robin Parker writes…
1st March. LVRC Criterium at Gravesend Cyclopark
My first race of this season was the LVRC criterium at the Gravesend Cyclopark. A reasonable field of 30 or so A&B category (40-50 years young!) riders turned out on a chilly, but bright and (amazingly for 2014 so far!) dry day. As befits our mature outlook and the early season date, the race got off to a steady start as everyone eased their legs back into racing mode.
After 10 minutes or so, I managed to infiltrate a dangerous looking 6 man move. Unfortunately the bunch recognised the danger and we were soon reeled in. However, as junction was made I persisted with the move, and with another rider we forced a gap. We were quickly joined by a 3rd rider and the 3 of us pushed on. We never had more than 20 to 30 seconds or so but I was hoping that if the peloton failed to organise themselves that we might get away with it. But alas, it was not to be and after maybe 15 minutes or so we were finally reeled in.
As the bunch sighed a collective relief after bringing us back, a rider from the Crawley Wheelers launched a well timed a solo attack and quickly built up a 30 second lead. At this point the 5 laps to go board was hung out and that was pretty much that for the bunch. A few riders kept a reasonable pace at the front of the bunch, but we never made any impression on the lead.
Into the final lap and I was reasonably well positioned about 5th in line and remained there onto the uphill and tailwind finish. But I must have been snoozing as the rider 2nd or 3rd in line launched his sprint early to the left. I was caught napping and had to go the long way around the outside and to the right. I never got back on terms and with the tailwind, ran out of road to close him down. That was a dumb mistake as the tailwind always shortens the sprint and gives the advantage to he who jumps first (within reason obviously!). I’d love to use the fact that I’ve not raced for 5 months as some kind of excuse for being a little “ring rusty” – but this is the same for everyone. Grrr, just have to take that one on the chin then!
1st March. British Cycling Criterium at Gravesend Cyclopark
But no time to dwell on such things! I had also entered the next event on track, the British Cycling 3rd Cats race. I had just 15 minutes to change numbers, take a “nature break” and stuff some food and drink down before the start of the next race. This slick change was somewhat hampered by confusion at the signing on desk where, having more than the maximum 70 riders turn up to ride, the organiser very nearly gave my race number to one of the eager “reserve” riders who turned up on the day hoping to bag a ride. After a bit of a delay while I was issued with a new number I just about made it to the back of the bunch before the start. “Still, at least you’re already warmed up” I was helpfully informed!
Now 70 riders on a circuit with a couple of tight corners suffers from some drastic “accordion” effect as riders at the back of the bunch have to break hard into the corners and then sprint like, err, well they have to sprint pretty hard out the other side! Everyone knows this and wants to be at the front right from the off. So my late arrival at the back of the bunch wasn’t ideal. The organiser, perhaps anticipating what was to come counted down the start 10, 9, 8…. 3, 2, 1, go! And it was pretty much – Blast Off! The guys at the front clicked in and I could see them out of the saddle sprinting for all they were worth while in front of me they were still clicking in.
Now I’m not sure if it was the effects of having already raced; the effects of being too far back and having to sprint out of the corners or if it was just plain fast – but the pace felt very fast. As mentioned previously it was a tailwind up the finishing hill, and when the pace eased off enough that I could glace at my computer, it told me we were doing 28mph. No wonder I was puffing a bit!
The bunch did thin down a somewhat over the course of the event, but I never got close enough to the front to see what was going on (or who was doing the damage). Instead I contented myself that I was getting an excellent workout and was happy to follow around and keep out of trouble. And so it was. I rode around, safely enveloped in the bunch and rolled over the line pretty much last of the bunch finishers. So no BC points, no placing, but more race miles banked