Ride bikes. Have fun. Feel good.

LVRC National Criterium Championships

Robin Parker writes…

So, Sunday 19th June 2011. LVRC National Criterium Championships.
Redbridge
(Hog Hill) Circuit. This was the one that I wanted to do well in this
year.
The one that made me go out in the cold and the dark over the winter. The
one that I’ve been practicing hill sprints for every week since February.
The one… well you get the picture. So no big deal then 🙂

Modern technology is great. We were able to find out en route to the event
that Steve Dennis had once again pulled out a fantastic ride to claim 4th
place in the National 50 TT Champs. Not the age/decrepitude categorised
version. The real deal, accept no substitute, pucker national champs. The
guy is a phenomenon. Awesome! Now it’s my turn to do my thing.

I was as nervous as anything all morning. But I could hear the voice of my
Dad telling me “it’s the National Champs, the big one, if you’re not
nervous
then you might as well go home”. Well, I’m nervous, so that must be OK
then!

When we arrived, the circuit was dry but there was a killer wind howling
down the hill and across the finishing straight from left to right. We
were
early enough for me to see the finish of the C Cat event (50 – 55 years
old). I think about the first 5 came over the line individually. A big
bunch
sprint was not looking likely on a tough circuit and tough conditions like
this! Point noted!

As ever, the nerves evaporated once the race got under way. The race
started
pretty quickly and I was careful to place very close attention at the head
of affairs. We were maybe only 20 minutes into the 1 hour plus 5 laps and
I
could already feel that the field was being stretched – with gaps starting
to appear over the top of the climb. And then after the next fast ascent I
could feel the peloton about to ease. That little road-race voice screamed
from deep down (where it comes from I have no idea, but it calls to action
all the same) “go now”. You don’t stop and think when you hear the voice,
you just go. Bang, I was gone and away into the tail wind winding the
53×12
to good effect.

A quick look back under my arm and I can’t believe it. I’ve got a gap, and
a
good looking one at that! Press on, but not too hard, it’s too far on your
own. Round the bottom of the circuit and look back across the corners. I
can’t believe my luck. There’s a guy bridging on his own. He catches me,
takes a breather and then presses on. And presses hard. Blimey, this guy
is
super-strong!

We quickly settle into a rhythm. I am absolutely flat out. My breakaway
companion introduces himself as Rob. I can barely grunt my name. Rob does
the lion’s share of the work into the worst of the wind. I’m taking over
to
pull us over the crest of the hill and for a section round the back.

The gap hovers around 20 seconds for what seems like an age. Jen is giving
us time checks and the girls are shouting their “come on Dad!”
encouragement
ever more excitedly. Eventually the elastic broke (the mythical elastic
that
stops a break-way from stretching out too far from the bunch) and our lead
shot up to 40 seconds. But what’s this? A lone pursuer dressed in red. Was
it one of Beelzebub’s sqadra come to haul us in? He certainly rode like
the
devil to finally catch us somewhere around the hour mark.

Fortunately for us, our new companion from Team Virgin Active had given
his
best to get across to us. I am sure that he was as relieved as I
undoubtedly
was to finally see the 5 laps to go board hung out. We continued to work
together to ride out the remaining laps. With a lap to go, another lone
break-away had left the bunch and was in pursuit. Our “devil” was having
none of that and lead us round the whole of the last lap (ensuring that we
stayed clear) with Rob on his wheel and me ideally placed bringing up the
rear. This is it. The finale. No room for errors now.

Rob jumped early at the base of the climb. 150m to go, I’m on the wheel
and
feeling good. My god, I might actually do this. Rob is in the right hand
gutter as be make the final right hand sweep up to the line. I have to go
now. Now is the time to unleash everything left in the tank. I start to
pull
up along side Rob. But he is watching, he is not yet flat out and he knows
what he’s doing. Damn. He sweeps me gradually across the track, into the
wind and into the left hand gutter. But there’s just enough of a gap – and
I’m there and I’m going for it. I give it the max, but at the line I
finish
just a wheel down. He was just too strong.

It pains me to admit it, but the best man won. I would have happily nicked
it off him on the line of course! But it wasn’t to be.

It’s a little disappointing to be sooo close to the jersey. But can’t be
anything but pleased with a silver medal at a national champs! And there
is
plenty of time to plan for next year…