5th March. LVRC San fairy Ann Crits at Gravesend Cyclopark
Work hard, play hard they say. Personally I don’t really recommend it. Not for any duration anyway. The last couple of weeks have been really busy at work as I prepare for a major systems upgrade this weekend. It has been a struggle just to fit a couple of rides in this week and some nights I have been working till mid-night. But with the techies starting the upgrade early this morning, I had a small window of opportunity to get to the LVRC race at Gravesend Cyclopark – handily not far from our Bexleyheath offices for a swift return to work in the afternoon.
The weather was suitably grim for the beginning of March, but I was just pleased to be able to be there and was looking forward to whatever would be thrown at us. Unsurprisingly, due to the conditions there was a slightly smaller field than last week. But last week’s winner, Sheridan Bridal, was once again present and I made a special note not to let him escape me this time out.
Fortunately the sleety-rain had pretty much stopped by the time we rolled away from the start. Less fortunately, once you’re in a bunch of riders being showered by cold and muddy water flung off or wheels you really can’t tell if it’s raining not. It’s just wet. And cold.
The pace however was much hotter right from the off. It was evident from the first corner that there were some riders nervous in the wet corners. In wet conditions I run my tires slightly softer and with the surface at Cyclopark being pretty grippy, I wasn’t feeling any need to back off. So I contributed at the front to keep the pace high. Within a couple of laps we’d split the bunch and we’d already whittled it down to maybe 10 or so riders.
Many of those left remained very reluctant to get near the front, so I decided to stay on the front foot and keep pushing. I got away and was joined by Martin Ryan one of two rides from Ford CC. We forced a reasonable gap and for a while I wondered if maybe we could make this stick, if enough of the riders behind proved reluctant to chase.
But Sheridan Bridal was paying too much attention to let that happen and he forced his way up to us working with Charlie Scott (CC Hackney) and with the other Ford CC rider in tow. This was to prove the decisive split and we weren’t troubled by the rest of the field after this.
Initially the 5 of us worked reasonably well together to establish our lead. But with over half any hour still to race, the Ford riders decided to take it in turns to start attacking us. This felt a bit early to me but I guess if you’re going to make it tough, you may as well get on with it. And maybe they were hoping to split the group further rather than to go it alone from that far out. Whatever, it didn’t work with myself, Sheridan and Charlie working together to real the attackers in. None of these attacks lasted longer than a lap, and seemed to succeed only in tiring the Ford riders out.
As we took the 5 laps to go board, the attacking form the Ford riders had subsided and a truce of sorts ensued. However, I knew that an attack from Sheridan would be coming as he wouldn’t want to leave it to a sprint. He was already cagily missing turns and not wanting to let me get behind him, so I knew it was just a matter of time.
As we rode up the climb towards the 3 laps to go board, Sheridan launched. It was a good move up the right hand side of the road. I didn’t hesitate and jumped straight after him. It took me most of the climb to claw him back, but claw him back I did. As rolled around the corner at the top, Charlie and Martin joined us but the other Ford rider was gone. I rolled through to keep the pace moving, pleased that that was one less rider to think about.
Up the climb towards 2 laps to go. Was Sheridan going to try again? Charlie moved to the front, and set a good tempo and that seemed to dissuade any further moves. As we take the bell we have slowed right up. It’s a proper cat and mouse game now. Down the hill and then round to the final bend. Charlie has taken the front position, I’m on his wheel and Sheridan is glued to my back wheel.
As we round the final corner, Charlie kicks hard and starts his sprint right from the bottom of the hill. It’s a tailwind so I know I needed to sprint early, but that has taken me by surprise. I have to jump really hard to close him down. It takes me till about half way up the climb at the point the gradient levels off a bit to finally close him down. I glance back and see that Sheridan is still gapped and trying to get back in contact.
I hang tight, waiting for the final bend and sight of the line. As we round the corner I select a bigger gear, get back of the saddle and lean into the pedals to move swiftly round Charlie. At this point I’m not sure if Sheridan made it back to my wheel before I accelerated so I keep the power down just to make sure. As I near the line, I grant myself a glance back just to be sure that I am safe. I’ve gapped them and I have time to sit up and wave an arm in victory salute!
A win! Excellent. It’s nice to take an early win, kind of settles the nerves down for the rest of the season. But no time to dwell. Back to the office to finish off the upgrade. That’s gone well too and we have all the systems back up by 9pm. A good day! But not one I’m overly keen to repeat. I am instead looking forward to taking some time off work and catching up on some sleep!