Robin Parker writes…
18th May. LVRC National RR Championships, Basingstoke
Another warm sunny day with a full field of 50 riders and as befits a National Championship, a real quality field. Five laps of a tough circuit that included a short sharp climb and a longer, but gentler drag up to the finish line. I have ridden this circuit before and it is always a bit of a war of attrition. With my legs somewhat “pre-exhausted” from the previous day’s exertions my tactics today were to sit in and hide for as long as possible and then see what I could steal at the finish. If I was going to come away with any kind of result today then I needed the big name favourites (that’s not me!) to tire each other out first.
The first lap was run off at a brisk but steady pace. That is, apart from the short sharp climb which was attacked full gas! Fearing a split in the bunch, I had to break cover and go with that move although nothing was to come of it. The next lap passed fairly uneventfully for me as I concentrated on keeping tucked away and eating and drinking. But I could tell that the course was starting to wear everyone down.
The next lap a group of about 8 riders eased off the front. In itself this move didn’t look too dangerous, but it was stacked with most of the strongest guys in the race. And this made it extremely dangerous. Thankfully for me, the bunch lined out in pursuit and I tucked in to see what would develop. The gap stuck at around 15 seconds and it started to look as though they weren’t coming back. Fortunately the short sharp climb loomed and I knew that this was going to be the last chance to get across.
Again I got lucky as 3 other riders had obviously come to the same conclusion and I was able to follow the wheels (as much as you can when stomping out of the saddle at full power) as we bridged up to the break. This made the break a somewhat unwieldy size of maybe a dozen or so riders. But all the serious horsepower was in this move and we pulled away from the bunch. I did as little as I could get away with and concentrated on eating and drinking and counting down the laps.
As we took the bell there was an acceleration that split the break. Unsurprisingly given that I had been lurking towards the back of the break as often as I could, I was badly placed when this move went and I found myself in the wrong half of the split. Once again I got lucky as the guys in my half of the split got themselves organised and slowly dragged us back to the front – while I sat on and watched.
The final time up the short sharp climb, 3 riders attacked. They were the strongest guys and the 3 that had been doing a lot of the pace-setting all day. I don’t that I could have gone with them even if I had wanted to. And I still didn’t fancy it. For a while the remnants of the break pegged the 3 escapees and I thought that my wild gamble of keeping everything I could back for the finish might pay off big style. The 3 powered on up the finish drag to sprint out a well deserved win.
Meanwhile, back in what was left of the break, I manoeuvred myself into position as we passed the kilo to go banner. A rider went for a long one kicking on with about 400m to go. I followed closely and as he started to fade just inside 200 to go I jumped mercilessly past him. 100m to go and I was hurting. But a glance back revealed that I had a good gap and I was able to measure my effort to the line and to take 4th place.
4th place and no medal. But actually I am not at all disappointed with this result. I made it into the move that mattered; I stuck to my race plan and marshalled my resources well. Given the way that the race developed, I got the best result that I could have on the day. And who knows, if that last move had of come back then I could have been sprinting for the win. Obviously races aren’t won by if’s and but’s and I think that the strongest guys on the day took the medals. But this is my best result in an LVRC Road Race Champs and I’m getting closer to that podium!