Won a race once. AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT

  • No rest for the wicked…

    …apart from the last two weekends, where there’s been no CX races, obviously.

    After a brief hiatus, during which I grew to love the whole “not having to pack everything / spend hours cleaning and fixing everything” routine that a gap in the league calendar provided, the NW races leapt back into action last weekend with a return to Blakemere Village. I’d enjoyed the previous round held there and had high hopes of another fun course. I may have been getting a bit fed up with all the faffing before and after racing, but once on the bike, I was still as enthusiastic as ever to go flat out.

    Last time round the course could be summed up with the phrase “never more than 3ft from the next corner”, this time round it was dominated (to my mind) by a huge straight section taking you from the far side of the course back to the pits at warp speed. A rare opportunity to slam the chain onto the big ring and hammer along. Cool. Don’t get many of those, especially at this time of year when you’d expect ground conditions to be somewhere between “mud” and “doom” – somehow this time round the course seemed even drier and grippier than last time.

    As expected, the speed off the start line was fast. Within a few seconds Rob and Tyler had managed to open a gap on the rest of the field – me included – but I got my head down and paced myself back up to them, trying to use the strong tailwind giving us an extra boost along the stright to my advantage, while keeping steady when we turned to ride back into it as a headwind. No surges in speed, just a constant effort to close the gap gradually.

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    Myself and Martin made contact a lap or two into the race and, wile I contemplated “sitting in” behind them for a lap, Martin seized the initiative and immediately attacked. I wasn’t sure if either of the lads would be able to respond after their lightning quick start, so realised I’d have to go with him. I jumped to stay on his wheel and heard Rob do the same. The 3 of us hung together for one more lap, with Martin setting a pace fast enough to eventually shed Rob. And then there were 2…

    As we hit the – as I called it – hill reps section, I decided that my legs seemed to be happy enough with the race so far and I’d have a dig to see what happened. Well, as the hill reps section involved 3 stomps up the same slope, each with a tight bend at the top and drop back down between each, I decided to have 3 digs in a row. I knew Martin would be able to close down one attack with the greatest of ease, but what about 3? If he managed to stay with me there were enough laps left for me to recover from the attacking and if I got a gap I had a slightly tailwind assisted straight immediately after to push on and build on it, so off I went.

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    To my delight, a gap opened up, so I set about burning a few matches before turning to face the wind – get as much space between us as I could before it became harder for him to get back with me. Approving noises coming from the pits as I rode past them spurred me on and I set about pacing myself round the course like I had for the first lap or two, balancing my effort as much as possible in case Martin got back to me. For a few more laps I kept everything as similar as possible – same line through each corner, same gear shifts at the same time, metering out and surges on the climbs and riding steady through the corners.
    It had started raining quite heavily but he course was holding up well, so the levels of grip on offer remained good, with everything staying rideable. The bike didn’t seem to be clogging up with mud so I decided I wouldn’t swap to the spare unless I had a mechanical issue. More approving noises from the pits told me I was opening up the gap steadily with each lap. Just stay steady, don’t start mucking about trying to rail round the corners or sprint up with e hill reps like a mad man, was the order of the day.

    The last lap bell started ringing a bit earlier than I expected. I took a few glances around to make sure there were no counter attacks coming, saw that my lead was – barring disaster – good enough to get me round safely and started to worry about what to do when crossing the finish line.

    Maybe you’ve never thought about this before. Maybe you’re so used to winning races you barely even notice it. I don’t win that many bike races (and you can stop shouting “that’s an understatement!” right now, thank you very much…), so what was I going to do to look awesome rolling over the finish in 1st place? It’s a contentious issue – cyclingnews.com has a good article dedicated to the best and worst finish line salutes – and I ended up getting so stressed about it I eventually settled for a simple “one hand in the air”, rather than anything particularly memorable. Maybe I should add some “finish line celebration” practice into my training (oh stop laughing).

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    Thanks to Ellen for all the pics!

    And that was that. With just one race left as a member of the senior category (officially), I’d got my first win. Bit last minute, but hay ho, better late than never. On to the final round next Saturday, then it’ll be time to think about SUMMER! Woo!

     

    12:58 pm on January 28, 2019 | No Comments | # |

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