Robin Parker writes…
30th June. LVRC Region 9 (London & SE) Criterium Championships at Gravesend Cyclopark.
Earlier this week I forecast that I would be a marked man at the LVRC London and SE Crit Champs. I got that right. I also forecast a large field. I got that wrong. Just eight riders took the start for the B Cat (45-50 year olds) race. Perhaps everyone had gone to the seaside to enjoy the sun or something?
These small fields can make for a difficult race. If there’s a split and you’re caught at the wrong end, it can be impossible to get things back. And with 4 or 5 strong riders in the group who I figured wouldn’t want to deliver me to a sprint finish, I was expecting to be attacked.
I decided that I needed to be vigilant and not let anyone get away and if necessary that I would take responsibility to cover any moves. The pace was pretty stop-start as people tried to break up the group. I made a few attacks myself hoping that by taking the initiative that I might force a split. At one point I found myself away on my own for a mile or so – but I was careful to measure my effort. The last thing I wanted was to be caught out by a big counter attack that I couldn’t follow.
And so it was that arrived at the 5 laps to go with seven riders still together (we lost one guy fairly early on). Former Grinstead rider Andy Seltzer had a dig down the back straight but was not given any slack and was closed down immediately. Coming through the finish line with 4 to go, Andrew Bates put in a big acceleration. Knowing that he was a danger man, I immediately covered the move. When I looked back, we had a gap. Andrew pressed on really hard. It took me a while to recover from the initial acceleration before I was able to start taking turns. With 3 to go we held a reasonable lead, but the rest of the riders were chasing hard in pursuit.
I was starting to wonder what might happen if we got caught, as my legs were starting to hurt from the two-up effort. But as we took the 2 laps to go, the elastic back to the group seemed to break and our lead eased out. As we took the bell, it was clear that we were going to stay away. Andrew eased me into the front with half a lap to go. Confident of my sprint, and not wanting any last minute surprises from behind (you always worry!), I took the lead and cruised around to the now familiar long finishing straight.
Keeping one eye backward to avoid getting jumped, I rolled up the drag toward the line. Around 200 to go I jumped first, changed up and then stamped on the pedals as hard as I could. 100 to go I glanced back to see if there was to be any challenge from my breakaway companion. I already had a good gap and so was able to sit up and get those hands in the air once again. Yes!
This win was rewarded with a nice medal. I think that this is my first gold medal since winning “the Divvies” back in 1994. Good grief was that really 19 years ago! Hopefully it won’t be that long before the next one