Robin Parker writes…
31st August. LVRC Dulwich Paragon Road Race. Brenchley, Kent.
This week I returned to the same Brenchley circuit as last week for the next round of the LVRC MSTina points series. One of the things that I love about Road Racing is that no two events are ever the same. So although we raced on the same circuit as last week; in similar conditions; with the same finish after the same nine ascents of the 1.2km Brenchley climb and competing against a very similar field of competitors – this week’s race was very different.
Last week’s race started in fairly relaxed mood; the break went the second time up the climb and that was pretty much it until the finish. By contrast, this week’s race was nervous from the outset with attacking starting on the first lap before we even reached the climb. Riders not confident of their climbing ability but wanting to force their way into the break, launched numerous attacks trying to steal a march on the bunch ahead of the feared ascent. But with the bunch paying close attention, no one was allowed any leeway whatsoever. With the strong riders to the fore, we hit the bottom of the climb at speed and the first ascent was taken at full gas.
By the time we crested the summit a group of ten of us had forced our way clear of the bunch and set about establishing a lead down the descent. Although the group wasn’t working as smoothly as last week’s break we were moving at quite a pace and so I was somewhat surprised to find that following a furious chase, the bunch reeled us in after about half a lap or so.
The paced eased back temporarily as everyone prepared themselves for the second ascent of Brenchley hill. The lower slopes where taken at an easier pace but following some violent accelerations, the upper sections were taken at full gas. The pace was sufficient to once again force a split in the peloton, this time taking eight of us clear. After the chase back the previous lap, there was more urgency in the break this time as we fought to establish our lead. We dived down the descent and hammered along the flat sections with each rider taking their turn to battle into the wind before easing aside and allowing the next rider through.
Surely this break would succeed. But alas, as reached the foot of the climb we were joined by the front of the marauding peloton. The third ascent was taken at a more moderate pace and as we took the left hand turn at the top of the climb and to start the descent there was a brief lull in hostilities as everyone took stock of the situation. As he pace eased, it was a chance to reach into pockets for food and to take a well deserved drink.
I had not long commented to another rider that with everyone now anticipating attacks on the climb that the successful break would likely escape on the flat – when 3 riders detached themselves from the front of the bunch and made good their escape. With the pace of the bunch up until that point, I didn’t fancy their chances much. But they were quickly out of sight around the twisting flat parts of the course and I think quickly out of mind also. Turns out that they were 3 strong riders and we would not see them again…
The fourth ascent of Brenchley was again taken at pace, and when Vince Devine (the winner from last week) attacked from the front no one was able to follow him. Our race then settled into a more settled pattern with Vince dangling a minute to a minute and a half in front of us. With three laps to go our pace increased and we moved to within about 30 seconds of Vince – it started to look as though we may bring him back. Around the back of the circuit a couple of riders took advantage of a momentary lull to set off in pursuit.
Again, these guys didn’t appear to be pulling away but instead dangled tantalisingly in the distance. I set the tempo up the climb hoping to pull back some time and to encourage others to help close things down. But it had been a hard race and by now the peloton was down to maybe 20 or so guys. We would not catch any of the escapees.
As we approached the climb for the ninth and final time I decided that with my legs feeling good, I should take control of affairs. As we took the right hander and swept onto the climb, I went to the front and set the tempo. With the wind blowing slightly from the right, I sat myself in the left hand gutter to minimise any shelter offered behind me (and ensuring that I would be able to ride on the sheltered side of any rider that drew alongside me). I set a pace that was hard but not blistering. But as the climb wore on I gradually cranked up the pace, bit by bit. I knew that there would be tired legs behind me and so I just kept turning the screw.
300m to go I click up a gear and up the pace once more. As I pass the yellow flag at 200m to go I hear the whooshing of tyres behind and to my right – someone is thinking about making a sprint of it. I accelerate hard. At a 100m to go I click up another gear and push on again. 50m to go I check back over my shoulder. I am in clear air and safe. Just focus on maintaining form and keep pushing onto the line. I take the bunch “sprint” and with it 3rd place B Cat rider.
Today’s result is enough to clinch the overall B Cat win in this year’s MSTina points competition. I can enjoy the last two rounds now!