Last Week (and a few beers..)
After last week’s breakaway success at Hog Hill, I had a few days off work in the week to do a solid block of riding. By Friday, I’d made the most of it getting in 20 odd hours and I was feeling suitably fried (just about 140ATL/-15TSB for those familiar). This wasn’t a problem because (again) I didn’t plan to race – I had drinking plans on Friday evening and I was still really happy with winning last week anyway.
However, Friday’s crowd were very persuasive and after a few pints I was convinced to race again on Saturday at Hog Hill by the RPR crew. Yoda would be there to support and capture the action, and Kingpin was entering his first crit. The three beer (+1) taper was executed and we met up the next morning at Choa’s for the ride to Redbridge. Skeletor delivered the news that the UCL boys would have an eye on me this week.
Arlen and I arrived in good time to sign on, get changed, pin numbers, knock back a Lucozade etc. Most importantly though, I was able to settle any nerves by securing the mighty locker number #55, which I’d used the week before. We somehow still almost missed the start of the race (the organisers started the race 10 minutes early).
I started the race chilling out at the back of the 37-rider strong field. The race started quickly as always, but was far more controlled than last week’s chaos. The first 15 minutes were at an easy 230w average power (278w NP). I’d been trying out ‘drifting’ – moving up the bunch just before the hill where it was easiest, and drifting backwards through the bunch on the climb – to conserve more energy as I was unsure on how I’d feel later in the race because of the week’s training in my legs. The race reached a détente after 3 laps and the only action was the attrition of the field’s numbers from Hog Hill’s infamous puncture rate in wet conditions. And someone’s crank fell off… Awkwardly, I asked the guy who came 2nd last week if he had plans to break away later in the race and 30s later he had punctured too.
The organisers decided to mix things up and called an intermediate sprint / prime on the 6th lap. I hadn’t realised this was happening. I was moving up the bunch on the hill as people launched off the front. I followed the move (20s @ 700w) over the top and saw the two guys ahead of me throw their bikes at the finish line whilst wondering what on earth they were up to… Once the penny dropped, I realised I had wasted a match ‘marking’ their sprint for no reason and saw the 2 guys ahead had sensibly sat up. Instinct told me this was the perfect time to counter attack and I had a wry smile on my face as I dived (@1000w+ on the opposite side of the track) past the guy who won the prime cash setting up the winning break for me to the roars of approval from some nearby spectators. 2 UCL guys had been following me all the way and also made the gap. Kingpin almost made the break, but hit trouble in a fast, tight corner. After drilling it down the descent, I started to think about how I would play a 2 v 1 against these guys.
I let them work and drive the break initially. I skipped a turn or two while sussing out their strength and started working only when it was of most benefit to me – up the hill where the draft is the least for them and after I’d got the maximum benefit from their draft. I think I then hurt one of the UCL guys on the hill and he dropped from the break the next time around.
This left me in a 2-up with Michael Evans of UCL. He was riding strongly and we had 15-20s on the bunch after working hard for a few laps. I looked back briefly and saw Kingpin on the front of the bunch, unsure if he was riding or sandbagging. I asked Yoda to tell him to drop back into the bunch either way to save his energy and the next laps the bunch got further and further out of sight. I then did a bit more of the work in the break and Yoda would confirm each lap that we were getting further out of reach.
At 5 laps to go, I started thinking how I was going to win the race and where I would make a move. I thought my break mate was suffering on the hill, so 2-3 laps to go was my aim to attack him there. Right after this thought, and after passing 4 laps to go, he disappeared out the back on the descent as he had punctured. This was crap because 1) he’d ridden well and deserved something for his effort, and 2) I wanted the fight for the win.
I was then alone and I went back to last week’s routine; I reset my garmin lap for a fresh power reading, put my head down and solo’d home. Yoda would reassure any doubts with more shouts of time gaps and encouragement. I’d win by a minute and it felt awesome to cross the line, hands in the air again. This was a much more fun race than last week because of the tactical side of the race that came out and the (sort of) battle with UCL. I’ve also upgraded to 3rd Cat!
There was also an awkward moment after the race where I was summoned to see the commissaire – they had spotted my GoPro – and they said they ‘could’ relegate or DQ me. The commissaire said don’t do it again, then congratulated me and that was that.
Thanks for reading.
Total race 42m30 @ 276w AP / 320w NP / 182 average HR
Total breakaway 26m @ 309w AP / 339w NP / 192 average HR
Of which I was solo for 14m30 @ 307w AP / 329w NP / 191 average HR
The ride – https://www.strava.com/activities/476496196
The video – https://youtu.be/flaM4ILBi-g
Yoda’s pictures – https://flic.kr/s/aHsksuzhfC
Ian Lambert’s pictures – https://flic.kr/s/aHskt7wHwS