Ben Hardisty writes…
The Crystal Palace Circuits kicked off last night (Tues April 20) at Crystal Palace Park in South London.
In cool but dry and sunny conditions a huge field assembled for the season’s opener. Easily over a hundred riders turning out for 4 races: Juniors, Ladies, 3/4s and E/1/2s, with the last three groups riding at the same time on the circuit. This number of riders ensured for a chaotic, fast and frantic evenings racing.
I was riding for the first time on the circuit and had been warned that I’d do well just to stay with the bunch in my race (3/4). At 7.15pm or thereabouts the E/1/2s were let off first, with the 3/4s just behind after a short gap and the ladies off last.
After half a lap I was hitting the short climb on the eastern side of the circuit and I was now in severe oxygen debt, breathing very heavily. Two laps later my race had already been split wide apart and I estimated my position about three quarters back in the field (there is a hairpin that makes it easy to check who is behind). The circuit is so narrow and twisty, with its drops and climbs, that the large field was always going to spread itself right around the circuit.
On about the fifth lap the E/1/2s came steaming past on the climb – I still hadn’t got my breath back – and then a couple of laps later the ladies caught me, again on the climb. I spent the rest of the race trying to find my second wind and picking off the odd straggler as the groups ahead splintered. I did end up in a personal duel with Mr Davitamon-Lotto who was better on the climbs but I could make up ground on the corners.
I was eventually caught by the lead 3/4 group and I tried to hang on as much as possible without getting in the way. Finally I heard the bell and I put in a big effort on the final climb gaining a few places, crossing the line utterly spent and out of breath.
What a brilliant evening !