Robin Parker writes…
7th September. LVRC GS Vecchi Road Race. Dunsfold circuit.
And so to the penultimate round of the MSTina point series at the Dunsfold aerodrome. I confess that I wasn’t overly looking forward to 15 three mile laps of this completely flat circuit, part of which is most famous as the Top Gear test track. But at least with the series won this year, I could at least ride without stressing over the result.
A relatively small bunch of A and B cat riders took to the start and there was a bit of an “end of term” feeling within the peloton with riders chatting as we rolled off. I wondered if this meant that people would be inattentive and so I attempted to leisurely roll off the front – hopefully without anyone noticing. I was joined by another rider and we put our heads down, swapping a few turns. But we didn’t get more than a 30m gap as the bunch demonstrated that they weren’t asleep after all! Ah well, it was worth a shot and I settled back into the bunch to watch how things developed.
With a gentle headwind blowing down the finishing straight, it was tough when you put your nose into the wind but easy tucked safely in the wheels. Early attacks of one or two riders were simply left to dangle and die in the wind before being reeled in by the compact bunch.
Eventually after about 5 laps a dangerous looking break of four riders managed to force a gap of around 20 seconds. These were followed a lap or two later by Vince Devine, Steve Dring and Marco Coppola – three strong A Cat riders. At this point, Series tactics came into play. With me having already won the B cat series (and not feeling overly “up for it” today) I was happy to sit back and watch. But the A cat series still hangs in the balance with 4 or 5 riders still in contention. And so an extended pursuit developed with the current A cat leader, Mark Daly, powering the front group of four riders. Vince, Steve (currently 3rd and 4th in the series and both looking to move into 1st and 2nd following this race) and Marco followed in no-man’s land seemingly powerless to close on the front four. The peloton followed, driven by Sean O’Regan who had been A cat series leader and was now fighting to hold on to his second place overall.
At first I thought that the three A cats would catch the leaders and then disappear into the distance. But after a lap or two it became clear that the three amigos were not making any ground and when they dropped Marco the tide turned in favour of the chasing bunch. At this point I was sitting pretty, following wheels in the bunch and thinking that this could work out quite nicely as this pursuit would be sure to tire all of the main contenders.
Vince and Steve hung on bravely for a further few laps, but eventually they were overhauled by the hard chasing peloton and with the front four now dangling only a few seconds ahead, it all looked set to come together again.
At this point, Gianiuca and Darryl Rice (current 2nd and 4th in the B cat series) attacked from the leading four, suspecting correctly, that the chase had been organised to catch their A cat former breakaway companions. With Mark Daly and the other A cat riders brought to heal, the steam went out of the chase and Gianiuca and Darryl quickly pulled out a minute and a half lead. With just 3 laps remaining, there was no way that we would be seeing them again.
As the laps ticked down, I readied myself for the sprint. As we took the bell I moved up into the front 10 of the bunch. With the headwind finish I knew that I needed to be near the front, but not too close to the front. Half a lap to go and I am happy with my positioning and my legs are feeling relatively fresh. But what’s this? My rear tyre is feeling squishy. Will I make it to the finish? Within seconds, the dreaded thud, thud, thud of tyre valve on tarmac gives me a resounding “no” to that question. I put my arm in the air to warn other riders and drop back through the bunch to stop by the road.
And that was my race done. To be fair, I’d done very little in the race and so didn’t feel at all hard done by. I think having already sewn up the series probably helped also! If I was still chasing points, I doubt that I would have been quite so chilled about it.
It was at this point that it dawned on me that although I had my spare tube and pump in my pocket, I had forgotten to put bring the valve extender that I need for my deep section race rims. Oh well, it’s only about a mile round to the finish – I’ll just walk that.
I’d not walked far when Gianiuca and Darryl came past on their cool down lap having taken first and second in the race. They stopped to check that I hadn’t crashed and I congratulated them on their excellent ride. Then on discovering that I had punctured, they refused to leave me walk back myself. Gianiuca insisted on giving me “a backie” back to the finish area while Darryl pushed my bike back for me.
That’s what I love about cycling and the LVRC races in particular. You can be “deadly rivals” in the race (as Gianluca and I have been in the past few MSTina series) but as soon as the race is over, there is a comradeship grown out of a shared experience between all riders in all age categories. Road racing can be a brutally savage sport. But we are not brutal savages. We are cyclists…