27th April. LVRC MSTina Series Round 1, Thaxted
Robin Parker writes…
For many riders this was the first race of the season. Although I’ve done a few Crits, this was my first Road Race (on open roads) and first event of over 2 hours in duration. Seven laps of the Thaxted circuit making a total of 56 miles.
The first few miles had a bit of a “first day of term” feel about them and were run off at a steady club run pace. The first attack of the day was a bit of a speculative and half hearted affair, but had the effect of lining out the bunch a little.
When a few guys rolled over the top of this initial move it didn’t look to be anything serious, but more through habit and instinct I decided that I ought to close it down. Fortunately Martin O’Grady (winner of the C age class series last year – a strong rider) had similar thoughts, and the two of us set off in pursuit. It wasn’t a big gap – maybe 50m, no more. I figured that a good turn from Martin would take us straight across. But after a couple of turns each it became apparent that we were making slow progress. When I looked back, the bunch was lined out and maybe 100m back.
The break was really gunning it. This was starting to look serious. We needed to get across. And we needed to get across quickly as you don’t survive long in the no-man’s land twix break and bunch. I stuck in a couple of real hard efforts and that was enough to bridge up to the 5 leaders. Now we were seven – and although there was no Yul Brynner present, this particular magnificent seven were a pretty strong bunch.
Having missed a couple of turns to recover from the effort of getting across, myself and Martin started to come through and our harmonious groups set about establishing a lead. No one missed a turn, but I was finding it very hard going. We kept the pressure on conscious that for the first lap or so we were still in sight of the bunch on the long open sections. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to maintain this pace for much longer, but there was no way that I could sit up as it was clear that at this pace the bunch were never going to this break again.
Fortunately things gradually eased back a little after a further lap or so and I figured that ought to be OK, at least for another lap or two. But I was still finding it tough. Indeed, shortly after the 3 laps to go board came out I was very suddenly and unexpectedly sick from the effort. Now I’ve been physically sick a few times following some particularly vigorous hill sprint training sessions. But never after a sustained effort like this; never before in a race and never so completely without warning! The end result up my left arm was an interesting rainbow splattering of murky orange yuk mixed with the bright pink of undigested energy gel. Nice.
Anyhow, although my legs were still hurting I did start to feel a little better after this. And still we relentlessly rolled on. By now we’d had time checks of over two and a half minutes clear of the bunch so it was clear that the podium placings would be coming from our break. Two laps to go and my legs were starting to show the unmistakable early twinges of cramp.
By the time we took the bell, I was unable to get out of the saddle because my thighs were cramping so badly. When Vince Devine (winner of this event for the last few years – and probably the strongest guy in the race) took off up the climb into Thaxted, I had to respond the best I could sitting in the saddle and clinging grimly to the back of the group.
At this point a few of us started missing turns. Vince was gone although not out of sight and it was touch and go for a while whether we would get him back. I missed as many turns as I thought I could get away with without upsetting my breakaway companions. Not because I mind upsetting people per se, more because I didn’t want anyone else to attack! I figured that if I got dropped my legs might cease altogether and I might not even make it to the finish.
Fortunately for me, we stayed together to the end. Vince took a well deserved solo win and ever the optimist, I moved into position for the sprint. But as we reached the yellow flag, everyone surged forward and my legs cramped – terminally. I found myself “sprinting” for sixth place. I say “sprinting”. It was the most pitiful thing you ever saw! Unable to get out of the saddle and with legs seizing up, I was pedalling uncomfortable squares. As I crossed the line in seventh place my right thigh locked solid. I rolled to a halt and just about managed to unclip my rigid right leg and then had to stand for several minutes while I waited for the muscle cramp to release so that I could bend my knee again!
Definitely not the sprint result that I would have liked. And to add insult to injury, it transpired that the break was stacked with B category riders and so I wasn’t even in the top three for my age category. On the other hand I’d given it everything that I had. You can’t do any more than that. And that was the kind of workout that, once I’ve recovered from it, is going to really move my fitness on a notch. With target races coming up in May and June, this is just what I need. But I’d better get that jersey washed first!