Well, the time came to test my legs in a 4th category criterium style race. As it was the first time I was heading into a British Cycling race I wanted to just finish in the bunch – you have to be realistic about your ability.
The race was held at Croft Racing Circuit – not too far from Darlington – about an hours drive from Newcastle. Conditions could of been better, it was quite windy and as a result bitterly cold. I signed on, paid, and subsequently visited the toilet a couple of times – we’ll put that one down to pre-race nerves – before heading out on to the track for a 20 minute warm up. This was a great idea as it gave me knowledge as to wind directions, tight corners, fast and slow sections and how the road surface was – it also helped calm the considerable nerves.
And so the time came, the dreaded start – I placed an energy gel at the back of the throat, gulp. A short briefing and we all headed onto the track, much like a group of cattle – I made sure I started on the front as I was expecting riders to tear it up from the start. Go-Race riders started 45 seconds before us, the tension built during this time, in much the same fashion as it does when you are about to start an exam…hopefully the work I’ve done pays off! 3…2…1…we were off, and actually at no great pace, no attacks, sensible – I guess that everyone was as nervous as me.
I rode in the front 10 riders for the entire race, and positioned myself well, out of the wind when I needed to be, on the shoulder of riders who looked strong. We rode 9 laps, each lap being about 2 miles long – it became quite monotomous as the laps drifted by, with little to no action – I was expecting it to be much more physically demanding and yet I didn’t have the courage to make it harder for the other riders. First race, lets be sensible.
The bell for the last lap signified that the building ache in the legs was almost at an end, the pace increased. It was actually at this point I felt most comfortable, I like riding hard, fast, on the ragged edge. We finally seemed to have a purpose. Ultimately, I should of tried something at this point, slipped away – if it had worked I’d have won, if not, it wouldn’t have taken anything from my sprint – my five minute power is decent.
There was some pushing and shoving to get into position round the final corner, and I was in a decent position, about 3 back. However, straight out of the corner the riders in front attacked and started their sprints – far earlier than I expected. It left me alone, in the wind, and I hesitated – never actually giving everything into the sprint. I was 4th, briefly, right before the line a number of riders came over me. A slightly disappointing 10th – I’d wanted less to start with but the ease of the race meant I should of taken more from it. I will go into the next race with a better idea of what to expect and how much I can give.
Garmin statistics: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/150484259
And finally a great photograph of the sprint pain…