2nd Week in Surrey
The Surrey League returned to Longcross this Saturday for the second race organised by London Dynamo. Two weeks’ ago was a lot of fun and I managed to convince a few other guys in RPR to race with me at Longcross by describing it as ‘a shorter Regent’s Park‘. The roster took some time to fill, but by the Tuesday before, 4 others had signed up to get involved: Rob, Dan, Big Mat and Yoda.
This would be my first time racing properly as part of a team, and armed with the knowledge of the brilliant Pat Shaw and Cycling Maven, I was really looking forward to playing the team role. I’ve raced for myself, but I really enjoy the thought of helping someone else succeed too. There’s a lot more to think about, more things to do and also things definitely not to do. I’ve always been interested in the tactical side of racing as it adds another dimension to the race and Longcross was a good place to try some things out. Having a team full of hitters was just another bonus – I was confident that any one of us could get in a break and make it stick.
Race planning took place on the 1020 to Virginia Water, where we chatted about the course, who to watch and strategy over some caramel shortbread (a.k.a rocket fuel). Finally, the tone was set by Big Mat vowing to end himself. Everyone was reporting extreme freshness (smashcamp is next week after all…), except Rob who’d not got the memo and done a huge week of training instead. Strong.
The race had a quiet beginning under somewhat cold, cloudy and damp conditions that were a long way away from two weeks prior. The wind had swapped around too, with a North-Easterly blowing a steady cross-tail from right to left on the finishing straight. RPR stuck close together early on and this was the view – four teammates in front of me ready to race (#foreverbuttphotos):
The first 15 minutes or so were pretty quiet and uneventful. I sat mid-way back in the bunch, got a feel for the grip on the track and kept my eyes open for potholes and ruts that were hidden by water (one almost took my front wheel out on lap 2).
At the beginning of lap 5 I found my way into the first 15 riders. Yoda had just ridden onto the front when BM flew around the bunch on the right with Dan on his wheel. Yoda soda bottled the rest of the group, dutifully sitting up to let a gap go out, and the racing began. I moved alongside Yoda, to block the breakaway from view from those further back in the group. 1 RPR in the break is a good move, 2 guys is crazy, BM and Dan up there is ridiculous.
The Race Begins
The bunch panicked and a frantic chase brought them back coming into the finishing straight. The break and chasers sat up, so I countered hard into the gutter @1200w on the downwind (left) side to make it a 1-2 attack. Counter attacking is awesome, but it’s even better going over the top of your teammate and making everyone chase RPR again. When caught, I let Dan through, casually sitting up behind him to give him another gap and force another chase. When that move came back a small group with 5th and Army Cycling rolled off the front and Rob attacked to get across. Dan was at the front and sat up, giving a 6-7 man break a gap from the field which stayed away for a lap or so. Giving an easy gap from teamwork lets the guys out front settle down easier and recover from the attack made to make the break. If they are brought back after their attack, they can hold position that bit better and be ready to go again that little bit quicker.
Sitting on a teammates wheel and then letting a gap go was the most effective tactic I used in the race. Big Mat came up to me after about half an hour and asked how long we’d done and how long was left. After hearing it was under 40 minutes (and less than his daily retreat to zwift island) he promptly went to the front with me on his wheel. And, you guessed it, I sat up.
A couple of other guys joined BM through the snake section and coming into the steep ramp in the middle they still had a good gap. I was rolling slow on the front and Dan came up on my inside. This was a great opportunity to exploit our numbers at the front with one up the road already – I told Dan to go,threw out yet another anchor and the race winning break began to form.
There was a flurry of activity as riders went to make the move. Coming into the finishing straight, there were 10 riders ahead of me, 2 of which were BM and Dan, and a load of other guys who’d been chasing. Get a big anchor ready. 30 minutes in and the break was made.
I did this a couple more times to the chasers. I’d let 2-3 guys come through, then I’d jump on the wheel and either stop the rotation when I got to the front or let the wheel go and let someone else fight to close it. A couple of moves bridged up to the break, notably a Wyndymilla rider and a guy from ASL360, but many more were spat out the back of it. Everyone else who’d missed the move was in for a terrible time chasing as a group of 4 (1 RPR) quickly moved to above 20s ahead.
Some teams started chasing the move really hard. Eden Veranda and Dynamo were on the front and I was doing 350w in the wheels! This brought the gap down to under 15s. The break looked very organised up the road and I was happy to do anything I could to sandbag the chase and disrupt the momentum. A lot of teams had missed the break and actually, they hadn’t been paying attention so didn’t even know who was in the break. I took a lot of flak during the race (someone from Southdowns was particularly pissed off) for not riding and disrupting moves from a lot of riders, but in what universe do you spend any energy to help bring back a teammate? Or go out of your way to make it easy to bring him back?
The breakaway would stay away for some 40minutes until the end of the race to contest the win. The RaceShape shows the chase was taking back time steadily at certain points where the pink lines trends negative. More importantly, the pink line jumps up very quickly in parts as the RPR team efforts slowed the chase.
Eventually, the chase burnt out a lot of teams and this left the strongest guys at the front, now attacking to get away as their only option to race for a win. The race entered a new phase, as some serious escape groups started to form. My job changed from sandbagging to marking every move so that either 1) nothing gets away or 2) I would be carried to the line in an escape. Well, until Big Mat attacked repeatedly and gave me the opportunity to set false tempo and drop a few more anchors…
Barney from Dynamo then kicked off a big counter attack (see the break’s margin fall rapidly at 23mi and again at 29mi, above) and everyone was instantly on his wheel. Word was clearly out about the wattage bazooka. Amazingly (or perhaps, unsurprisingly) this didn’t stop him getting away and he dragged a select group off of the front – I was ready to respond with 10s @ 900w to join the move. I tried to just sit at the back when the escapes got a gap on the bunch to let them be able to rotate – after all, they were taking me to the line for free and the lead group were safely away. I made every group in the final 4 laps of attacking, but with 1 lap to go it was all together and time to get involved in the bunch sprint.
Taking the bell lap gave me a big adrenaline rush as I’ve not been in a fast, flat bunch finish before. I was feeling good and it’s always a race to bring your group home. I started the lap in 4th wheel, behind two Dynamos forming something of a lead out – a little close to the front for 2miles to go I thought. I rolled onto the front @0w and copped a bit more stick for not working throughout the race, just as Big Mat launched a great move while everyone else was looking around. He got chased by two Eden riders, but he still executed the aforementioned ending of himself, by stringing out the field and putting me at the front into the final chicane. GOTFOFO he said.
With the long finishing straight, this is definitely a bad position so I swung to the left gutter and waited for someone to come through. Two Eden riders came flying passed (one on each side!) and a quick reaction @1300w+ got me on to 3rd wheel as the pace ramped up with the finish line in sight. Or rather, the banners at the side – the straight is (probably) long enough for the curvature of the earth to hide the finish line..
This still felt a little too close to the front, particularly as the lead out man on the front was about to blow up at some 400m to go. I had no choice and would have to go long. The cross-tailwind meant a long sprint wasn’t such a bad move and I tried to jump on the downwind, left side of the Eden guy now sprinting all out on the front. The space to his left suddenly shut down and I was back to behind his wheel, being led out and I had to lift off slightly to get some space to launch to his right. Once the gap opened, I kicked as hard as I could around the Eden rider and onto the front. I drifted to the left in front of him to get anyone out of my draft. After sprinting for what seemed like ages, I looked up to see the finish line still miles away! I sat down, spun it as fast as I could and on looking back under a shoulder, I had a big gap of a few lengths to the chaos behind and I rode it to the line, winning the bunch sprint for 5th (and under Greg holding the chequered flag for this very cool shot).
The last 53s of the race averaged 661w, with the final sprint being a long 17s @ 900w with a peak of 1226w. It was a very long sprint, but very good experience of positioning and timing the final launch. Hopefully it will serve me some use in the upcoming crit series!
Dan got 3rd up the road behind Ian Robins (quote: ‘a proper sprinter’) and Peter Allan for a great team result. It was a very cool experience to race as a team and even better that we got some results from it. There’s always things we can improve on, but for a first race as a large squad I think it went pretty well and we represented the RPR colours in all the important parts of the race. I asked Dan before the race about what the number 35 (his race #) might mean to him. Nothing came to mind, but he got 3rd and I got 5th.
I can’t wait for my next race, but can’t help feeling that my next post will be a different kind of report… In that regard, Golden Cheetah has made a timely suggestion that my CP has apparently increased…