Last week’s 2nd place at Hog Hill got me thinking a lot about confidence. Finishing 2nd in a race with strong 2nd cat riders was something I didn’t think was possible 6 weeks ago, so I now believe that I can actually compete at this level (and others tell me higher still). At the same time, I could have won last week if I had enough confidence in my sprint and had launched earlier!
Lesson learned – back yourself. I tell it to other people all the time, but never myself.
This week, for once, I arrived with plenty of time before the race. I had everything ready to go 25mins before the start time and had time to cheer on the RPRs in the 4th cat race. Arlen and Danny swept up decisively with a 1/2 finish, breaking away solo and winning the bunch sprint respectively. No pressure for me to deliver a result then…
The conditions were absolutely awful. It had begun raining once the 4th cat race finished and got progressively heavier throughout. Flandrian conditions I was later told. The wind was strong and gusty from the WSW, meaning a headwind up the hill, tailwind on the back straight and crosswinds on the finish (and basically everywhere else).
The first lap was taken chilled and easy as everyone checked out the grip in the corners. Except this one guy who dive-bombed me at 35mph into the first 90° right hander for no reason after the downhill. Check the very end of the YouTube video. Needless to say, he didn’t last long in the bunch. The first 6mins were @ 218w – when will the race start?
The question was answered abruptly over the next 10 minutes of racing – insane doesn’t really do it justice.
This would be the decisive move of the race. The strong guys were smashing it up at the front and everyone else was trying to hang on. I was gapped initially, but worked my way back up to the front and tucked in to recover.
The group settled in for a few laps and began debating who should do the work. I hung out near the back and took the chance to recover. The hardest 30 mins of the race were done at 350w NP, which broke through what I thought was the ceiling for a 2/3/4. I may have even tried a few digs to get rid of some people too…
The group whittled down to some 15 riders. The brutal start to the race clearly took its toll on riders who began to fall off in 1s and 2s each time over the Hoggenberg. James O’C from RPR dropped away about 40 minutes in after beginning to yo-yo off the back. He fought back to the wheel again and again for several laps. I could’ve done a 10minute GoPro suffer reel of his efforts alone from this race! He’d come home 7th, finishing the best of anyone outside the first group.
A few more riders dropped, some were unlucky to puncture, but we were left with 6 riders to contest the win. It was a very strong group of the usual suspects with Colin Ward, James Jenkins and Alex Richardson, who’d all won at least one 2/3/4 race in this series. The race had been hard throughout – Golden Cheetah had me down for 32 matches @ >2kj for 145kj+ of w’ work. Our group had so much time on any chasers that there wasn’t any incentive to work. Marking moves and not letting 2 or more guys get away was the focus.
It became apparent that no-one was getting away with a late escape and the sprint seemed more inevitable as the laps to go board ticked down to 1. I was feeling really good at this point – thinking about the best positioning for the final sprint and trying to wring as much water out of my saturated clothes as possible.
Harold Bradbury (NTFO) and Alex Richardson went early and got a gap as the rest of us hesitated. A quick burst to 600-700w saw the group spring into action and begin the wind-up for the final hill. Last week I waited until halfway up the hill to go – which was too late. This time, despite the headwind, I jumped at 200m to go, just after rounding the corner.
Launching early risked leading out someone else, which is exactly what happened, but I had the confidence that I still had the power in the legs to kick again and get rid of anyone on my wheel. I’d been testing this out in training, but never thought it would actually happen (or be possible to execute) in the heat of a race. Anyway, I kept the pace about 700w until the road steepened and turned around the corner. The headwind turned to cross, and the gradient gets to above 14%. I kicked as hard as I could and gave it everything I had to the line. I could see the two leaders just ahead and they were slowing down a lot. I was perfectly geared, enough to stay on top of the gear as the road got steeper, but also hard enough to accelerate once the gradient lessens just before the finish. I had a brief struggle to get around one of the guys drifting across the track, but then I was clear to run to the line and throw the bike at it, followed by an arm into the air as I realised I won!
It’s a first win in a 2/3/4 race, the 4th win of the season and a move from 4th cat to 2nd cat in 5 races (which I understand is the fastest possible by doing regional C+ crits). It’s put me up to 4th in the ELV Winter League having done only 3 races of the 7 and it’s possible I could move up to 3rd in the final standings which would be great! 199 points to 1st cat…
It’s also worth noting some funny superstitions I have about lockers. I always picked the same locker at Redbridge after winning my first race, but this week it was taken. I picked locker #17 instead. RPR finished #1 and #7 in this race. Another RPR was also #17 in another race on the same day and had their best result this season…
I’ve got to thank Arlen and Danny for cheering me on and getting some great pictures of the finish. Credit also to Redbridge CC on Flickr, who provided the great pictures, despite the atrocious weather.
Cat 234 Race
Pos/ No/ Name/ Club/ Lic. No.
1 110 Tom Percival Regents Park Rouleurs 1077645
2 93 Harold Bradbury NFTO Race Club 1150469
3 52 James Jenkins Southend Wheelers 947303
4 130 Alexander Richardson Pedal Heaven RC 1160906
5 114 Dominic Spear VC Meudon 1024512
6 50 Colin Ward Essex Roads 721639
7 122 James O’Connell Regents Park Rouleurs 1170338
8 2 Benjamin Allen Westerley CC 971050
9 79 Timothy Torrie LVYCC 874525
10 103 Alex Jones Sigma Sport UK 887087
11 120 Dylan Thomas VC Meudon 920638
12 140 Joe Clark I Team CC 819925
13 195 Thomas King Cycle Club Ashwell 1011356
14 37 Colin Peck Chelmer CC 895537
15 115 Edmund Bishop VC Meudon 1039255