The more I race the more I realise how far I have to go to get to the level I want, that said the more I race the more I learn which in turn makes for a more enjoyable experience. But sometimes it is just hard and I knew it was going to be one of those days. I Arrived in London fairly late on friday evening and was pretty excited to race, but the problem with this is; it means I just can’t sleep, I tossed and turned until about 4am until I eventually drifted off before waking at 7am.
So obviously I was feeling nice and refreshed for the race, this is something that always seems to happen to Juliet and myself before races. Far too much excitment mixed with a bit of nerves equals a pair of space cadets on race day. It’s amazing how a good coffee and some sunshine can perk you up a bit. It’s hard to feel bad when the sun is out and there’s are a bunch of nice people to hang out with and it’s race day.
The organisers had decided to change the format slightly this year, there would be 2 qualifying rounds and I think it was the top 15 from each round that progressed to the finals. I was in group 2, a pretty tough one but I had a bunch of NLTCBMBC team mates and felt confident that I would easily make it through. The pace was high from the start, we had a bunch of riders in the heat so a few of us immediately set a fast pace the aim of which was to cancel out chances of people trying to break away.
Well, the inevitable attacks happened and my hopes of having a chilled one followed by a bunch sprint went out the window. Constant attacks kept the pace high, Rob Borek from Das Rad Klub was on fire with multiple attempts to break away and the dude has some serious bike skills! After shutting down a few attacks I found myself stuck on the front, no amount of elbow wiggling or swerving was enough to convince someone to come through; although as was pointed out to me later I did have a bunch of team mates to help me so there wasn’t much chance of anyone else coming through.
The pack stayed tightly together for the final few laps, the last lap of the heat was quick, people jostled for places, gaps shut, small gaps opened and I made the costly decision of choosing the wrong wheel to follow. The guy I was following maxed out early and I had to waste a lot of energy and time coming around to finish my sprint, I ended up in 9th which wasn’t where I wanted but good enough to keep me smiling. The average speed for the qualifier was 27mph which I knew would be a good indicator of what we had instore for the main race.
There were a couple of hours before the main race so I forced myself to eat some food I had prepared earlier, by prepared I mean boiled some pasta, added salt and put it in a carrier bag (couldn’t find any Tupperware). I did feel tired but I very seldom feel great and fresh before a race, the more I do it the more familiar it feels. I knew the main race was going to be tough, there were a lot of guys that I knew would want to push break whereas I wanted a sprint so the plan was to try to keep it together.
That plan was quickly halted, the first lap was a prime lap and I wasn’t sure whether I should go for it or not, then I heard a voice from behind say ‘it’s yours Dave’, how could I not go for it? I knew there was a chance someone would attack just as the prime lap finished…I have done in the past and I certainly didn’t want to get caught out. After a half arsed sprint I think I crossed the line in 3rd, as expected Germain Burton came flying up the outside. I certainly didn’t have the legs to follow but Chaz (NYVARK) and Andrea (IRD CARRERA SQUADRA CORSE) managed to get on his wheel.
It took me a lap or two to recover from the first prime, soon enough Rob (DAS RAD KLUB), came past and wanted to bridge, unfortunately I was still feeling crap and it just wasn’t going to happen. I thought the best and safest way would be for the peloton to work together to pull them back in.
The idea was great in theory, the only problem was NYVARK and 1LIFE CYCLE had riders in the break and they worked hard blocking the field to keep their team mates ahead. There was surge after surge, as soon as someone started to pull it was quickly jumped on by the defending teams. I really enjoy this aspect of racing, it is tactical and you have to be smart and strong to do well, I am still learning but I can notice a visable improvment.
The field eventually caught dropped Andrea and he was absorbed into the bunch, Chaz followed soon after and it would take another couple of laps to reel in Germain. In all honesty I think he decided to come back to the field and take his chances in a sprint rather than we chased him down, this dude is crazy strong! With the field back together and with half the race done the pace steadied out a bit, the course was extremely open and flowy, there were no sharp turns a pretty much everything could be taken flat out.
As we reached the final 5 laps the attacks recommenced, there was no way the peloton were letting anyone away this late into the race. Every attack was covered and shut down, occasionally a rider was let up the road a bit but only because we all knew there was no way it would stick with the pace we were pushing. As the laps counted down the group started to string out slightly, then it slowed as everyone at the front was not too keen on just leading the pack out, the final sprint tactics started.
Someone next to me sketched out on the last lap, I had to brake a bit which pushed me quite far back. I couldn’t miss Rob’s (DRK) bright pink and blue skinsuit come storming past so I immediately jumped on his wheel, he dragged me pretty much to the front of the group until the gap I was aiming for just disappeared and I had to back off. I could maybe have bullied my way in but I’m just not that kind of rider, Rob however timed it perfectly I watched him slot nicely into the front of the pack whilst I had to squeeze in further back than I wanted.
As we entered the last corner I was in a really crap position, I gave it my all towards the line, then backed off as it seemed fruitless, then went again as I couldn’t not give it everything. But the surges and a bit too much work had left my legs ruined and there just wasn’t enough left in the tank. I rolled through in a modest 16th, definitely not where I wanted but I enjoyed it and I got to race with a bunch of rad dudes. It was definitely worth the 10 hour round trip! I can’t wait until next year!
Photos courtesy of WMPhotography and Jess Morgan.