Maddy Lee-smith writes…
Driving to Crystal Palace for my 2nd ever closed road race I felt more apprehensive than the 1st time but slightly more confident knowing the course and some of the nasty corners. Within minutes of arriving and seeing the juniors race my confidence was shattered as they were going to opposite way round! The lap round CP is about ¾ mile long and has a hairpin bend, a flowing right and left and a nasty (on this occasion) left hand bend, it also has a climb which this time round would be over in one hit but steeper.
Pre start is pretty relaxed with everyone just sitting around on the grass chatting then a quick warm lap and ready for the start. The E/1/2 men go first followed by 3 /4 cat men a few seconds later and then the women straight after. Last time the start had been fairly straight forward but last night it was an outright fight straight down to the hair pin bend. After a hectic few laps trying hard to stay as near to the front as possible whilst thinking what the hell am I doing, things calmed down with a group of 5 of us in the 2nd bunch with 3 or 4 girls clear in the front. There was a lot of tactics with sudden pushes up the hill and a lot of jostling for position. I pretty soon figured out that I had to stay no further back than 3rd to keep in touch with any attempted jumps, particularly on the hill, not my strong point and was already fearing a last lap fight up the hill to the finish line just after the top.
A few negative thoughts crept in after about 5/6 miles knowing that the race was approx. 16 miles long and another 13x times up the hill was going to be tough but having been pushed to the front a few times and noticing that the girl I took over from (having led for a few 2 laps) was ‘foaming’ at the mouth I figured I wasn’t in that bad a shape and this helped me feel better.
All the while there were screams from the rear ‘keep left, keep right’ as groups of men came flying round the course but we didn’t seem to be being lapped as many times as the previous race and I worked hard not to let the men disrupt the group I was in and split it to my disadvantage.
Had one scary moment on the hair pin bend one of the girls tried to push through on the inside, she went in too hot, touched her brake which very nearly caused her and me to crash. She did say sorry lots of times but I think it shook her more than me.
With 3 laps to go there was a big group of 3/4 cat men who came through but weren’t travelling too fast and we found ourselves all on the hill together – half way up the hill there was suddenly a scream of ‘keep left’ which I realised was one of the girls going for a break. It was going to be a red line moment – but I picked up and stayed with her and we broke the group into 2. 3 of us left fighting out for 5th position. On our last lap (the men still have 5 laps to go) the men kindly stayed clear and I knew it was going to be as I feared, a race up the hill and who could push off the top to the finish – all 3 of us were pretty much in line up the hill but I somehow managed to keep the inside line round the top corner and in my best time trial mode knocked it up as many gears as possible and just pushed. Managed to cross the line first and took 5th place for another 5 precious points. If I understand the points system I now have my required 10 points to take me to 3rd cat. All the girls that beat me were 2nd cat and the girls I was racing with were all 2nd cat so pretty pleased with the outcome. Total distance was 23 miles (last time was 18) so either the men took it easy or the women were racing hard.
Am I looking forward to the next one?? Sort of …but if you need a bit of excitement in your life, I can’t recommend it enough!