15th April 2017
A race in my hometown, comprising 30 minutes plus 3 laps at the Mountbatten Centre velodrome – it had to be done.
The sun was out, and while the commissaires were checking the track surface, I took some time to figure out the wind direction and made the usual mental notes about where attacks were likely to happen, where I’d need to shelter and noticed that there was a tailwind on the finishing straight. This was going to be fast until the bitter end.
Having signed on, it was time for the safety briefing and some unfamiliar rules.
Firstly, no bidons allowed for any races less than 50 minutes, meaning I needed to hazard a guess about how much to drink to keep me hydrated.
Secondly, Garmins or computers had to be removed or covered with tape, apparently for safety reasons as there had been a few crashes caused by riders taking their eyes off the race. I was going to have to ride this on feel, and potentially with a dry mouth.
Garmin safely taped over, it was time to get warmed up and get a feel for the track. I went round a few times, the banking wasn’t too steep, this was going to be fine as long as I could hold on…
Quite a few teams had several riders in this race, and the guys from Poole Wheelers were bossing the bunch from the outset. I sat mid pack for a few laps and decided to follow the wheels for a while.
Coming past the grandstand, two riders went up on the banking, about to drop down and launch an attack, but they only succeeded in almost taking one another out.
Conscious of the fact that I needed to stay clear of any crashes, I pushed forward and sat around 4th or 5th wheel for a couple of laps, holding on as the pace ramped up, and able to follow the next couple of attacks fairly easily.
A third attack followed and the pack was split. Struggling to hold the wheel, I dropped back and was in a second group with Nic Ullett (Royal Navy & Royal Marines CA) before we, along with another rider, were unceremoniously dropped and then subsequently lapped by the oncoming breakaway.
This was the shape of things to come and I ended up holding Nic’s wheel for several laps before offering my own for as long as I could. The pack then lapped us again, along with a small group ahead who had also been dropped.
We formed a small grupetto, but I was spent by this point and lost contact as the commissaries indicated what would be our final lap before the main pack were left to contest their last 3 laps.
Joining the 5 others at the side of the track, we watched the final laps and witnessed 2 riders have an extremely unpleasant crash as they cornered. It didn’t look good at all and an ambulance was called.
All in all, I had mixed feelings about the race. I still have some way to go as a racer, and the overall standard was a lot higher than I had expected, so I suffered and can’t really say that I enjoyed this one. I’m just thankful that I managed to stay rubber side down and it’s all good experience that I can learn from.
I’ll be back in action next weekend for the Westerley Spring Crits at Hillingdon, a 3/4 race which I’m expecting to be tough, but I can’t wait to race on a familiar circuit and see how things go!