I’ve tried to take on board some advice recently – essentially to not be intimated when you race. It starts in the car park, you see the thin bodies, deep carbon rims and stern faces; you can be beaten before you even start. As you race you follow wheels, play it safe, you settle for less than the win. This doesn’t lead to success, no doubt you’ll make higher categories but points is nothing, it’s wins you look back on, you’ll even look back on those days you tried and tried to win but got caught late on. So what. At least you gave it some. A local rider told me you never go to a race to train, you go to win. I’ve noticed the quality local riders go for the win each time they race. So with this in mind I signed on to the Cat 4 criterium style race in Hetton, near Sunderland. It’s a series and no doubt I’ll be back over the next few weekends.
The race started at 1230, and as is the case with Cat 4 races it was a some what nervous affair – nobody is allowed to get away. I tried to work with others to make things hard, and I followed the wheels when I had to. The course is quite hilly, which is good for me, the finishing straight is also up hill although it plateaus at the top. The two primes mixed things up and thankfully increased the heartrate, although it was clear what was going to happen. It was going to be a sprint finish. Although I’m often regarded as weak (given my weight), I know in my mind I can sprint fast uphill – due in part to aerodynamics, and also in part to my high power to weight ratio. Ever since I stepped onto a bicycle I’ve felt that I can really fly up hill if I want to – and as I’ve got stronger this has only improved (I’m not world-class…just yet).
And so there we were, the final lap. 35 minutes for a race is hardly long for me so I wasn’t too tired, and most importantly I was lucid, I followed wheels right, I cornered well, we were upon the finishing straight. Adam Lee of EMC went quite early on. I’ve hesitated in sprints before but not here – I stood up and went for it, my back wheel lifting off the ground as I put every ounce through the bottom bracket. It was here that I had a little word with myself…you have to win here, you will win here, you are the best today. Wham the power went down, I knew I was going to win (one of those few moments in life). I noticed during my sprint duel with Adam that he was sat really upright – I got as low as possible, I maximised my aero advantage. He leaned into me, I leaned back. We crossed the line. I’d won by no more than a tyre width but you can win by less. It wasn’t perfect, my technique for sprinting isn’t right yet, it requires less panic and more thought.
I noticed soon after that my good friend David Jones had come third, I was over the moon. We got to step on to the podium together – I recieved the winners cash of £25. More than that though, I’ve now got something else in the bank – confidence. Until you win, you wonder if you can win. I’ve been out since the win and I can feel some energy on the bicycle that I’ve never had before – I’m ready to smash it with better riders because that’s where I belong. No more intimidation – you’ll see me right at the front giving it everything until I either cross the line or am dropped. I’ll look back on it all and smile.
Race Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/174983726