Robin Parker writes…
18th June. LVRC evening criterium at Gravesend Cyclopark.
In cycling, some days you’re the hammer and some days you’re the nail. On Sunday I got nailed. But I was resolved to get back to the plan. And the plan for this week shouted “rest week” loud and bold. I dutifully followed this instruction on Monday, avoiding touching my bike altogether despite my legs feeling remarkably good for the day after a race. And I was resolved to do the same on Tuesday. Right up until the point on Tuesday morning when I inadvertently sneaked a peak at the race calendar and spotted this LVRC evening event at the Cyclopark.
If you’ve not been to the Cyclopark yet then you should make the trip. It is an excellent purpose built cycling facility. There’s a BMX track, some free-style bike adventure park type thing (I’m too old to understand) and a mountain bike trail. And of course the main event (for me anyway), the road circuit is a couple of miles long with not a pot hole (or car!) in sight. Best of all the circuit runs up and down a slight incline. There is a 90 right hand turn onto the finishing straight which drags up maybe 600m to the finish line.
It was a bright sunny Tuesday evening at the Cyclopark. As the bunch rolled away from the start, I am gripped by a sudden urge to just get on and race. So I’m up on the grass at the edge of the track, accelerating up the side of the bunch and clear. I’m joined by three others and we power away. The break lasts a few laps, but I know that it’s been a hard chase behind as the pace slows considerably as the bunch breathes a collective sigh upon our recapture.
Things settle down after this. There are further breakaway attempts. But nothing gains much of a hold. We appear to have a small entourage of, umm how do I put this politely, of chaps of a time trialling persuasion who are intent on chasing anything that moves. Fair play to them. They are very strong and succeed in keeping things pretty much together. I am more than happy with that state of affairs and my legs just feel better and better as the race progresses.
With about 5 laps to go, two guys held a small lead with our bunch pacemakers holding the gap at around the 10 second mark. 3 laps to go, another rider leaps from the peloton and quickly bridges up to the leaders. I don’t panic and wait to see what happens. And the answer is a reassuring “not much” – one of the lead 3 was dropped to be consumed by the bunch and the gap to the leaders remains pegged around the 10 second mark.
There was a small flurry of activity coming up to the bell which I countered easily and found myself second wheel as we descended down to the far end of the circuit. By this stage I was already completely clear in my head that I was going to take this race by the scruff of the neck with a 2 stage sprint. A blast out of the last corner to bridge to the leaders, ideally catching them before they launched their run for the line and then a second blast with whatever I had left.
Round the last corner with the bunch nicely strung into a long single line. Bang. Stage 1. I launch out of the corner and bridge to the leaders. In fact I’m on them way sooner than I expect. My arrival triggers the hoped for response and they start their sprint. One rider is spent and he peels off immediately. The other gives all he has left. But he’s been away for 5 laps and I feel like I’m coasting in his slipstream. I can feel riders coming back up to my rear wheel. It’s time to move.
Fire stage 2 rockets. I surge clear. There’s 200 to go. I’m heading straight up the middle of the track and straight for the finish line. Mental check – nice big gear; cadence is good; legs are feeling awesome. I’ve done countless hill sprints tougher and longer than this in training, so I know that there’s no way that I am going to fade before the line. Now it just depends on whether anyone can lay down more watts than I can. I can sense a rider on my wheel…
100 to go and I can sense the rider moving out to my left to see if he can make a move. This is it. Crunch time. But almost as quickly I can sense that the rider is not making any ground and the danger has passed. I sprint right through the line just to be sure. A win! But then the doubts. Was there someone else away? I don’t think so, but I circle back round to the judges. “Was there anyone away?”. “No, you won”. “Yesssss. Thanks!”.
A win! It feels like it’s been a long time coming but maybe it’s feels all the sweeter for the wait. And while this doesn’t make up for Sunday’s result – it sure is fun to be the hammer for once