This is the start of my 3rd season road racing. Which means by now I’ve realised that I always go like a bag of spanners at the start of the season. Always. Some people seem to be able to just jump straight back into racing. Not me, oh hell no. I need to drag my legs kicking and screaming back to some sort of race fitness. Particularly after nearly six months of only racing for the club run sprints. I checked, I last raced in July! Wowsers. It’s not just the legs mind, It takes me a few races to get my race head back and stop cornering like a granny. Last season it took 3 or 4 races to get up to speed. I was hoping this year would be the same, few races and then boom, points galore. I covered the first race of the year here so this kind of brings you up to date in the world of Pete’s winter racing exploits.
Race 2 – Hillingdon E/1/2/3 – 11 Feb
I went back to Hillingdon a week later despite a stinking cold. It took me 4 hours to get there and back from Colch and it was snowing. I should have listened to my wife (standard) and stayed at home. Anyway, I got there literally just in time, having tried to divert to the nearer Velopark and missed sign on there by about 10 minutes. Thank you M11. I probably should have gone home after missing sign on at Velopark but I’m stubborn and I’d already invested 2 hours in this daft caper. So I made sign on and got changed quicker than Superman in a phone box. The legs felt pretty good despite the world’s shortest warm up but I was producing snot at an alarming rate. I got round ok, kept myself towards the front of the 3rds. I thought I’d finished better than the week before. Probably not troubling the points but progress you know. Hilariously I ended up 18th, again. I really hate that last corner and it pretty much makes or breaks your race. This was only race 2 though and another E/1/2/3 so no drama. Some deets of the race below:
- Time: 73 minutes
- Avg: 214 watts
- NP: 238 watts
- Avg speed: 42 kph
- Points: Gold star for consistency…
Race 3 – Cyclopark 3rd cat – 25 Feb
So, on to the 3rd race of the season and this time it was a 3rd cat only at Cyclopark. Very definitely my favourite circuit. Pretty much all my points from last season were scored here too. Having raced Hilly in an E/1/2/3 bunch I figured I’d go alright in a 3rd cat only, maybe pick up some points and get the season going. Cue day dreaming of podiums and finish line celebrations. I won one round and got 2nd in the other as a 4th cat last year so I had high hopes. Didn’t quite turn out as I planned…
Firstly, Hilly in an E/1/2/3 is like a stroll in the park compared to a mega windy Cyclopark. There were 25 starters in the 3rds, not ideal as I’d rather have a few more bods to hide behind. By the finish there were only 9 left in the bunch, oh and I wasn’t one of them. The rest of us were strewn across the circuit in various states of ruin having run out of gutter to hide in. I finished 16th despite getting dropped twice and then DNFing with a puncture. It’s some race when you are placed (and not placed last!) despite pulling out 4 laps from the end. It turned out to be a bit of a Colchester day out with 3 Rovers in the bunch plus me. Mixed fortunes I guess as 3 of us were stood on the sidelines whilst the other won the race!
- Time: 45 minutes
- Avg: 238 watts
- NP: 275 watts (rip)
- Avg speed: 36 kph
- Points: Starting to regret this line….
So I was pretty bummed with getting dropped. Like “this isn’t fun any more” bummed. After a few days of comfort eating (I’m pretty much the Bridget Jones of cycling) I had a look at the data and the numbers weren’t bad to be honest. I could see when the bunch imploded in the data and the next 10 minutes were at circa 280 watts! So chalk it down as a “Meh” and move on.
Race 4 – Cyclopark 3rd cat – 4 March
Fast forward a week. A pretty mental week to be fair. February/March is always crazy busy at work so I was pretty wrecked. Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions had gone really well. I’d skipped Thursday’s Z4 session as I was practically a walking zombie by then. Initial thoughts for Saturday were bail, just bail, eat more ice cream and hammer around the Rovers RT instead pretending its a road race. Given the several days of eating anything and everything I wasn’t expecting watts per kilo to look pretty, but I did have fresh legs, it was sunny and it wasn’t windy. Huzzah!
I made a point of warming up really well on the rollers this time, rather than just doing a couple of laps of the car park, a sprint or two and a few laps of the track. The temperature was in double figures so not only were the legs out, but the arms too. Amazing really in March. I’ve not experienced vitamin D since about September though and I’m not sure Kent was ready for the milk bottles coming out. There were more starters this week and less wind. Both good. The same dude that tried to grind off the front at about 50 rpm last week did the same again this week and like last week we left him to it for a few laps.
A couple of the London clubs had mega numbers in the race so I was half expecting some coordination and a good chance of a break going. It wasn’t to be though and there was only ever one attempt that got far enough to be a worry. I saw spots as we chased that one down. One thing I’ve noticed in 3rd cat vs 4th cat is that when an attack goes it really goes and its usually followed by an immediate counter attack. It settled down a bit as the board came out and people started to watch each other. Given how quickly the bunch was rotating there was no point sitting 5th wheel as the front was becoming the middle and rotating back through pretty quickly. A few crashes, a few excursions on to the grass and at least one pedal strike later and the bunch was on the finish straight. I was determined to stay out of the wind even if that did mean being a little far back, I guess I got greedy as the guy in front of me sat about with about 70 metres to go and blocked what was basically a sheltered clear run to the line. 70 metres, who does that!! That pretty much killed my sprint but it looks like I still managed to bag 12th. Bit gutted to miss out on getting a few points to be honest. Still, the form is coming and its only March I guess. Found a cool video of the finish. Waaaaay out of it.
- Time: 61 minutes
- Avg: 219 watts
- NP: 267 watts
- Avg speed: 37 kph
- Points: Tantalisingly close!
To finish, I’ll just leave this photo here. In between the winter crits its also been reliability ride season. This weekend rounded off the winter miles with a grim 50 miles of cross winds and torrential rain. I’m not sure how the Rovers always manage to order such grim weather but they always get it. I spent most of those 50 miles in a 7 man paceline so we were pretty wrecked by the time we got back. So much so we couldn’t even face the ride home from the HQ. Thank you Mrs Starmer for collecting 2 rather damp, wet dog smelling empty shells of men and for driving home with the heater on full. That Rocky Road in my hand was totally worth 50 miles of misery.