So I have a bit of a backlog of write-ups (the road races will soon be up), part of that is down to getting involved in a lot more racing and part is my computer nearly destroying itself (and almost losing my entire ride history on Golden Cheetah).
This season I’m placing much focus on road races and events in the Surrey League, so crits have taken a back seat. I’ve come to really enjoy road racing because of things such as the additional length, variety in courses and things like tactics.
Anyway, some of us in RPR are making an effort to race and learn as a team this year and that means heading to races to help others to get a result, sometimes riding with no care about my result. In a weird way, I actually feel I can get more out of racing when helping others to get a result than racing for myself – I like seeing the team win, I don’t care who on the team takes it.
So, to the races:
The roster – Myself, Arlen, Dan and Damo.
This was a tough race last year at the Cyclopark but this year was moved back to the Velopark. The field wasn’t *as* stacked as 2016 but was a decent field nonetheless with representation from teams like Richardsons-Trek, Catford and Nuun-Sigma, amongst others.
Richardsons-Trek were like that guy who’s swinging at everyone in a bar fight, with constant attacks going all through the race. Our tactics were to try and get Dan or Damo into a bunch sprint (both were coming off of the Hillingdon winter series), or if that failed either Arlen or myself up the road to represent in any moves. I soon realised Nuun-Sigma were on to similar tactics when their riders made it into the breaks but refused to do a turn. I spent most of my race sprinting after attacks and then sitting on as the moves would have 2 Richardsons-Trek riders (at least) and it wouldn’t be a great idea to work with them. The result was moves would get about 10-20s and establish, before being gradually brought back by the group.
The final hour was full of attack-chase-regroup situations and the race stayed together. 1h @ 187bpm and 326w Normalized were the stats for how hard it was. Once we hit 5 laps to go and it looked like it was going to be a sprint I trusted Dan and Damo to position themselves, and I sat on the front for those laps and emptied the tank. One Richardsons-Trek rider attacked, which made me think that’s what I should have done instead of dragging the bunch around, but it kept the group strung out (sort of) and ensured the sprint would happen. I had nothing left to rejoin the bunch when I blew up on the last lap so I circled round to watch the finish – Damo hit the front into a cross-head finish with about 70m to go but got swamped in the end.
He got 6th against some very fast guys in a dicey sprint and that was pretty good for a first Nat B crit. Frank Longstaff (Richardsons-Trek) won and Tom Hargreaves (Nuun-Sigma) got 3rd.
Dan wanted to target the Spring Archer 1/2/3 so I thought I’d go and race Hillingdon for the first time ever to learn the circuit, the dangers and how races are won (and lost). I’d initially gone down to just spectate but once there I fancied an EoL and pinned on some numbers. The organisers had somehow got the best part of 90 riders on the circuit and so began the least enjoyable crit I think I’ve ever done – the riding standards were truly appalling.
Riders inexplicably hit the deck within a couple of laps and there seemed to be no safe place in the bunch as people came to grief on every straight. The racing wasn’t frantic (27mph is below average for Hillingdon) but riders were still managing to have a ‘near-miss’ out of every corner and on every straight each lap.
Dan and Damo began attacking about half way through the race and a Sigma guy countered at the perfect time with one other to form the race winning break. They got a decent gap of about 40s and were riding very well together. Once I got to the front to begin chasing it back, I did 370w for 10 minutes swapping turns with some others and only managed to hold the gap(!). The break wasn’t coming back and the bunch would sprint behind for 3rd place – Damo took 5th while Dan was caught up behind some more crashing.
It was fun to ride on a new circuit but the riding was worse than at RideLondon’s bunch of ~200. Guys were still competing 60 wheels down in the sprint which was just stupid.. I’d managed to set a few season power pb’s trying to chase down the break which I was happy with, but otherwise it was a terrible race and an experience to forget.
The Spring Archer brought back good racing after the previous terrible experience at Hillingdon. There was a terrible crash in the 4th cat race beforehand so the race was shortened to an hour + 5 instead of being ~1h50 long. A couple of teams had good representation and some decent 1st cats stacked out the field.
Our tactics largely followed those of the March Hare, with Dan and Damo interested in a bunch sprint and myself and Arlen either aiming to set that up or get into the winning break. The race started off fast and attacks kept going off the front – there was a lot of action for the premes (£20 a pop) which were much more often in a shortened race!
Damo started moving towards the front for the premes and won one after being beaten for another. The bunch tended to sit up after the sprint for a brief recovery period, which was interesting to note. Coming into the 4th preme, Arlen had been up the road in almost every move, just hammering away. The bunch reeled in one of his breaks coming in to the final straight on the preme lap (at 3 laps to go) and I countered on his inside, going after the sprint and won a nice £20 for my efforts.
I decided to keep going as the bunch was idling behind and one other (can’t remember the team) jumped across to start a little breakaway. I was feeling pretty cooked after the sprint but pushed on regardless, working well with the other guy. We held a 10s gap at 2 laps to go. I made a little mistake coming in to cross the line for the one lap to go as it was actually a preme sprint and I’d *just* finished my turn *just* before the line so that the other guy (who I think also didn’t realise) rolled over to take the £20. Honestly, I was hurting a lot so didn’t realise until after the race…oops.
Our gap evaporated on the last lap and being swarmed by a full speed bunch of 60 was nothing short of terrifying. We didn’t have enough to stay away, but it might have been possible with one other and/or some blocking done behind. I’d done 380w for almost 5 minutes in the final break but it wasn’t close to being enough. In the end, all RPRs were caught out behind a crash in the final laps so our best results were 29th/30th (and Arlen bike-threw me for 34th…).
The final half hour or so was funny for the average heart rate (190bpm) and my w’bal bottoming out in the breakaway (showing I didn’t have much left). It was good to have a crack and be in the action at the end, but unlucky that no-one else had the chance to sprint for the win at the end.
Similar to Hillingdon, I went along to this race just to help out the team where I could. Dan and Damo were both racing and I fancied joining in on the day as I didn’t fancy 2-3 hours riding around in Kent instead. For the first time ever I rolled up to the start and was right at the front. Jose from VCL joked that I should attack as soon as the race started… so I did – 600w from the start to the first corner (into the headwind). Not smart.
The race had a strong headwind on the finish straight, with a few gusts coming off of the velodrome from the side. People tended to attack right into the headwind which made it pretty easy to sit on the wheel and get carried along. The majority of the first half of the race was spent getting into moves with one guy from Latchem and an assortment of other riders. Latchem got a bit annoyed as RPR began to put our riders up the road and then sit up when he wanted us to work because..chasing down your teammates…in 2017…? He had some choice words for me, but made it clear he was a rider to watch as he had the strength to bridge up to any move that got away.
Damo and Dan were both up the front and all of us took turns getting into moves and following the counters. Eventually the elastic snapped and the bunch sat up, letting Damo get away with Adam Cotterall and a Catford rider. They dangled just up the road for a couple of laps but we shut down any chase and set some false tempo. Because of this, in one lap the break gained 20s. A couple of flyers went after them but everything that went was chased down and followed up with sitting up in the bunch, letting the break become the winning break.
Damo rode a solid break to take it into the final lap, where the Catford rider attacked up the drag passed the velodrome, not wanting to leave it to a sprint. It didn’t drop anyone and Damo launched his sprint from the final corner, winning by a wheel.
The break had ~40s with 2 laps to go and the bunch started to get really nervous – there were almost some crashes as everyone swarmed forward to try to get to the front. I decided I didn’t want to sit around waiting for a bunch sprint as there were plenty of better sprinters around (and I didn’t fancy the risks of a final lap bunch either). The bunch had sat up in the final tailwind section before the last corner and I hit it on the outside and jumped away. I’ve done this a few times (in the Primavera last year actually – GoPro footage) so I was prepared for the effort and know if I can get a gap on the bunch I can then hold the effort for 2-3 minutes. I like the move because it puts makes everyone think about whether they want to respond or wait for the sprint, and hopefully by the time a decision is made, I’m away and they aren’t in my draft! There was also a headwind discouraging any immediate chase..
I took the bell, looked over my shoulder and saw a couple of riders coming across but couldn’t worry about being caught. I drilled it all the way (scared by the sounds of all the freewheels through the corners) just hoping I’d timed and paced my effort well. 2:30 @ 476w was enough to stay away for 4th and look back to see a bunch sprint unfolding 5s behind me.
Dan took the bunch sprint so we had an RPR win, 4th and 5th to end the day. A much improved performance compared to the earlier crits. Dan and I had also got the best results that were possible given the break up the road – something we haven’t necessarily done at previous races (e.g. Dunsfold RR I was smoked by a Dynamo and Declan from Kingston when I should have come 2nd). This is something we want to work on so everyone is racing for the best results available on the road.
So it has been a fun month with some crits done for fun and/or training but now it is back to road racing. April 22nd is SERRL and April 29th sees the beginning of the Surrey League May 3-day stage race. There should be some very interesting racing coming up..
Thanks for reading – next up should be some road race write-ups, another ‘rebuild’ update and then the May 3-day Surrey League Stage race.