Image courtesy Dave Hayward more pics here
4th March. LVRC Abellio San fairy Ann Crits at Gravesend Cyclopark
Back to Gravesend Cyclopark for the second instalment of the Abellio San fairy Ann Crits. One of the things that we learn from the Hollywood movies is it is never a wise move to return to the scene of a crime or to attempt that one last heist. However smart and well prepared the arch criminal is, there is always some small thing that goes wrong, unravelling the best laid plans and ending in disaster. Ah well, I’m going back anyhow…
The weather this week is a little warmer and a lot less windy. However, Cyclopark being Cyclopark you can still feel the cross wind bite down the back of the circuit, while the finish climb has slightly more tailwind about it.
As the race gets underway I am tempted to ask for a mirror to check the back of my jersey. I’m pretty sure that I only pinned on my race numbers before the start, but I have a nagging suspicion that perhaps I may have accidentally pinned on a big target as well. Every time I move, I get a gap but when I look back there is a long string of riders clawing their way back up!
After the opening skirmishes come to nothing I ease back a little to assess the situation and take a look at the rest of the bunch. There seem to be a lot of people prepared to chase things down, but not a lot of appetite for attacking. After about 20 minutes I decide to have a go at breaking it up. For a couple of laps I attack repeatedly. I get a gap. I’m brought back. Bunch fans across the road. Bosh! I go again. Bunch lines out, I’m brought back and everyone pauses for breath. Rise and reapeat!
After a couple of laps it is obvious that I’m not going to be able to force a break this week. At least not without going too deep and risking getting caught by a surprise counter attack. I don’t need to risk that. If today the peloton wants a bunch finish, then that’s fine by me. I ease off again to keep my power dry for the sprint.
As the 5 laps to go board comes out there’s a lone attack from Sean Kilroy of Cambridge CC. And there is little reaction. I go to the front to encourage others to do a turn and help out, but everyone is very reluctant. Not overly surprising! If I was in their position I would be looking to me to do the work also! Damn these masters racers and their tactical nous! And then worse, before we get a chance to get properly organised we are caught and passed by the leading breakaway group from the AB race. Being caught by a group from another race always adds a bit of chaos into the mix. We have to ease off to let them through, but they don’t seem to be pressing overly…
This is not good. If we leave this too long Sean will happily time trial away with this one. There is only one thing for it, I have to try and bridge or close him down. It has to be done quickly before the gap becomes unmanageable. And it is going to be all down to me. As we swing back onto the climb, I attack hard from the bottom and settle into a powerful rhythm. No point looking back to see what’s happening. I know I have a gap and no one would give me a turn anyway. I just have to focus on catching Sean.
Ahead I can see that although Sean was caught by the AB group, he has subsequently repassed them. I push hard all the way up the climb, round the hairpin at the top and back into the cross-headwind decent. I catch the AB breakaway. Time to pause and assess. Behind the bunch isn’t too far back but is under serious pressure. Ahead Sean is plugging bravely away. But this AB group is already playing cat and mouse for their finish. There is no time to loose – I press on past the AB’s and down the hill. No breaking for the 90 left at the bottom. Just a few more stomps on the pedals and I catch up with Sean.
I press on immediately. We swap a few turns, but the bunch has us in it’s sight. But as they close in on us round the next 180 turn I hear the unmistakeable sound of bike on tarmac. Riders down! I have no idea how many but there is a mad scramble behind as riders finally bridge up to me and Sean.
When the dust settles, the AB group comes back past us and our group eases back to give them space for their race – and to draw breath. Looking around I can see that our bunch is reduced in size. By the crash? By the chase on? I don’t know. But whatever happens, no one else is getting any more gaps on me! The last couple of laps are run off at a steady pace with no further serious efforts to break away.
We take the bell and roll down to the bottom of the course. As with last week, everyone seems happy to let me control things from the front. I lead round the final bend and up the climb. With the wind blowing from behind and to the right, I hug the left hand gutter. I already know where I am going to launch my sprint from. I will go longer than last week, launching before the final kink at 150m.
Watching over my right shoulder I see someone taking a flyer at around the 300m mark. I accelerate hard and am on his wheel as he comes past. Seeing that I’ve taken his wheel he seems momentarily unsure whether to push on or ease off. But he has committed. He has no choice. In that situation you can ease off and have half the bunch fly past or you can hang on for grim death and hope for the best. He wisely opts for a grim death…
My legs are good. I am getting a lead out and I feel like I am having to hold back – like a coiled sprint just itching to ptwang. I wait for my mark and then let it rip. Within about 4 pedal revs I’m past my lead-out and into the right – left kink with my nose in front. 100 to go and glancing under my elbows I can see nothing but clear air. 50 to go and I have time to look around just to be sure. Hands in the air. Yes!
Two from two. Awesome! That’s my best start to a season ever. Am I in my best shape ever? No, I think probably not. But I am obviously going OK – and the racing brain seems to be functioning fine after its winter hibernation. But these last couple of races have been against the 50+ age group. At next week’s event at Hog Hill we’ll be racing with the 40+ “youngsters”, so I’m not expecting this purple patch to continue.
But what else can we take away from today? Well it turns out that maybe Hollywood can learn a thing or two from LVRC masters races. You can return to the scene of a crime and pull off a repeat heist. And I even managed to pick up the correct prize envelope afterward!