Photo credit: Stuart Weatherley
My biggest weaknesses are probably cornering and bunch positioning. I think I’ve got to grips with bunch positioning but the cornering still needs some work. So what better race for me than 30-40 laps of a 60-70 second street circuit with 90 degree corners, street furniture and drain covers right? I don’t think I can say I was looking forward to this one but there was a 3rd cat crit and I figured it would force me to work on my cornering. Ixworth village crits have been a feature on the Suffolk race calendar for nearly 20 years and everything I’d heard suggested it was even more horrific than Trinity Park. But crucially the circuit did laps of a closed village centre on a bank holiday and that sounded like a laugh. My legs were nicely rested after three days off the bike. Unfortunately the rest of my body was a ruin after a 13 hour wedding related drinking session which involved some terrible attempts at dancing and far too little sleep. Fantastic wedding though! I feel I should point out here that for anyone taking this racing lark (very) seriously a rest day is a day spent on the sofa with their legs in the air. For me, it’s usually the day I drive to work…..
So preparations went well. I got my numbers, personalised with my name and club (so cool!), got my kit together and did 5-10 laps of the track to get my eye in and warm up. Matt, having broken himself riding a stupidly long distance for charity, was my Director Sportif for the day and a damn fine one he was too! Although now I expect Twix milkshakes after every race which is going to leave me disappointed. There was a proper hard copy race programme which had my name on the start sheet. Whilst staring at my name in print I’d spotted the names of several strong riders from the cyclocross circuit on the start sheet that clearly fancied a day out circuit racing. Dougal Toms, Ross Tricker and Sean Dunlea to name a few. With cyclocross being their main discipline they were lowly 3rd cats on the road like me despite being nationally ranked juniors and seniors in cyclocross. Oh sh*t. And that’s before I realised just how many pesky juniors made up the rest of the field. I say pesky because they weigh about 50 kgs, are literally full of energy and completely fearless. I keep hearing that they will all be knackered and fed up by June so there is hope that someone over the age of 17 might score some points soon.
Guys started gathering on the line pretty early. So early in fact that the Commissaire sent them round again. The first two corners were to be neutralised behind a National Escort Group moto. Great I thought, I’ll get another couple of laps in just to make sure I was nicely warmed up seeing as the start wouldn’t be the usual sprint from the line. Oh wow, how wrong was I! So in fact the neutralised start just became a motor paced start with the moto leaving us sprinting into a block headwind. One lap before the start there had been a handful of guys on the line, next lap there were 50 (i.e. everyone else….). Oh pants. My race was pretty much decided before it had even begun. First rule of crits, don’t start from the back. The video at the bottom shows just how aggressive the start was (around 2 mins in) and on a circuit like this that leads to an almighty elastic effect further down the field.
Moving up was practically impossible with the sharp corners and narrow roads. There were places to be made up by diving up the inside but on a narrow circuit like this with bumpy braking areas I wasn’t going to push it too hard. No-one wants to be the guy that ends up upside down in the fence on turn 2. I narrowly missed getting tangled up in two guys taking themselves out by touching wheels on the back straight but other than that the race was pretty tidy, surprising I thought given how tight the circuit was. Unfortunately for the second guy in that crash there was no run off so it was the fence for him. We nearly wiped out the bicycle paramedics that tootled round the track to get to him in the following laps.
My cornering is coming together it seems. I was carrying speed through the corners so that’s something but every corner was followed by a full on kick. This hurt, a lot. If you want to see just how much, the table below shows the proportion of the race I spent in each power zone. I spent over a quarter of the race in zones 6 and 7. That’s not unusual but have a look at how little time was spent in zones 2 to 5. Basically I was passing right through those zones going full gas, soft pedal, brake, corner, full gas and repeat every 20 seconds for 40 minutes.
That doesn’t tell the full story either, 20 minutes in zone 1 you say, that can’t be too bad? Whilst my legs were back in zone 1 after each kick my heart rate was anything but! Basically my heart was doing a hilly TT whilst my legs were doing sprints every 20 second. We road racers have a strange idea of fun.
Having started at the back my head told me to move up but when you are already pushing 800 watts out of the corners its kind of hard to find that extra zip on the guy in front of you. I closed a few early gaps but when another bigger gap went after five or six laps I had nothing (extra) left to get round the guy blowing up in front. I ended up in a group of 6-8 guys fighting for 30th place. At this point we still had at least 25 minutes of the race left but we toughed it out and kept working until the flag and finished about a lap down on the leaders. So all in all a thoroughly unpleasant experience you might think.
Er no. Actually it was one of my favourite races simply because the atmosphere was fantastic! It’s not often that as a 3rd cat you can race on closed roads with an actual crowd the other side of the barriers. I could hear Matt, Bernard and the Rethmans, amongst others, shouting for me each lap and that really does give you a boost. Not to mention the cow bells, the cheers and the David Attenborough-esque commentary over the PA. Although the commentary was kind of like hearing the narration of my own eventual demise. I felt like a wildebeest being chased by a lion.
Photo credit: Bernard Morrison
West Suffolk Wheelers have put together a decent video of the day. My race is from 2:00-3:40ish. I hadn’t realised how loud the crowd was! I will most definitely be back next year. Hopefully my legs will have forgotten what it felt like by then. I’ll be the guy camping on the start line the night before.
Next up for me, the road race season kicks off. Woop! Starting with St Ives CC in Huntington, then my own club’s road race, the Ken Wright the week after. A return to the Crest circuit a few weeks later before the Rovers Abberton Road Race in June. The Ken Wright and the Abberton are on circuits less than a mile from my house. Can. Not. Wait. I’m not sure what my ambitions are yet for the road season, well, I do but I’m not telling you until I know where my form is at! I would like to feature though, none of this rolling round worrying about getting dropped. Time to go big, or ermm, well get dropped.
- Avg: 241 watts
- NP: 268 watts
- Avg speed: 37 kph
- Points: Hah!