Robin Parker writes…
17th May. TLI National Crit Championships, Rhyl
I made the long trip northwards to Rhyl on Friday ahead of the first event of a weekend National Championship double. Saturday dawned warm and sunny, and when I arrived at the Marsh Tracks circuit, there was a fairly brisk breeze blowing. The circuit is more narrow and “twisty” than most of our local purpose build cycle tracks and this makes for some excellent aggressive racing.
I lined up in the A & B category race. A Cats wearing white numbers; B Cats wearing orange numbers – run as one race but with medals awarded for the first in each category. I was pleased that I warmed up well as an Isle of Man A Cat attacked literally from the “go”. He was quickly joined by another white number and then another jumped across. I watched closely to see what would happen, and sure enough a number of the other A cats organised themselves in pursuit. It took about 5 minutes, but the trio were eventually brought to heal.
This was my cue to test the waters. I soon as they were caught, I rolled over the top and off the front hoping to drag a few riders with me. Unfortunately I found myself away on my own, and glancing back, I could see the bunch fanned across the track not quite sure who should lead the chase. It was too early to really try and press home my small advantage, but I rolled on hoping that others might be tempted to jump across. I hovered off the front for about 2 laps, waiting for someone to join me. But it was not to be and I was soon swallowed up by the bunch. My biggest fear at this point was a strong counter-attack – but fortunately for me no one did.
The next quarter of an hour or so settled into a pattern of attack and chase, with nothing too serious looking developing. As we neared the half hour mark, there was a particularly violent outbreak of attack and counter attack. As the bunch prepared itself for a well earned breather after these exertions, I chose this moment to launch my next move. This time I was joined by 3 other B cats and a lone A cat.
We set about trying to establish a lead and quickly pulled out a bit of a gap. After one of my turns on the front I swung back to the tail of the line. The guy in front of me left a bit of a gap going around one of the corners. I wasn’t sure if he was messing me about or if he was genuinely in trouble. I left him out front to see if he was going to close the gap. But as the gap started to grow, it was apparent that he wasn’t going to make it. When he turned to ask me for some help, I jumped him as hard as I could. I cruised back up to the break – and I never saw him again! Down to 3 B cats with our sole A cat interloper.
We pressed on and the gap stretched out to about 20 seconds on the peloton with a lone A Cat rider in trying to bridge across to us. I recognised this rider as the A Cat winner from last year and as an extremely strong rider. We didn’t wait and maintained our relay sharing the effort. Eventually our pursuer made it up to the break – but one look at his face and I could see that he was completely cooked.
By the time that the 5 laps to go board came out, our lead over the bunch had stretched out even further and we knew that the medals would be shared amongst us. As we took the bell everyone started to freewheel, unsure of how to play out the finish. Having seen the previous event won with a late last lap attack I decided to see who was still awake and put in a bit of a dig. I quickly got a gap, but could see that I was being chased. I didn’t press it and was soon reeled in. But by this point we were approaching the final bend.
Stuck on the front, I should have taken charge of affairs and jumped first into the final bend. But I didn’t. I hesitated and before I knew what was happening, one rider then another was up my inside and into the turn. I tried to cut back in to take their wheel, but there was another rider already there. I had to wait until I was round the corner before I could start my sprint. By this point I was a good 3 lengths down and moving slower than the guy on the front with only about 150ms to the line. I jumped as hard as I could. I had to weave between the riders in front of me and was gaining fast on the man first through the corner. But I ran out of road before I could overhaul him.
Second by half a bike length or so. A silver medal. My third Crit Champs silver medal (two TLI and one LVRC). Silver definitely sucks! I am gutted to have made a mess of my best championship winning opportunity to date. In my head, if I had jumped first then I would have won for sure. Obviously this nothing but speculation because I didn’t. And maybe I still would have been beaten. But the fact that I made an error at a crucial time means that I’ll never know.