Portsmouth Easter Circuits

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!

Justin Berman

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East London Velo: Winter Series #3

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Photo courtesy of ELV CC

21/01/17

The racing has begun!

Round 3 of the ELV Winter Series at Redbridge Cycling Centre was the first outing for TheDomestiqueCC as a race club, but also for myself as a racer.

I used the ride from Ilford Station to Redbridge as a part of my warm up, and was growing increasingly nervous as I got closer to the start line. Not only because I didn’t know what to expect but also because of the amount of ice on the pavements. Thankfully the track is on top of a hill and is open to sunlight all day round which made out for perfect conditions to race. Be it a little cold.

After pinning on my number I headed out to the track for a couple of laps just to keep warm before I heard the sound of the whistle in which we all lined up.

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Photo courtesy of ELV CC

The field of 35 riders lined up across the start line and I felt the nervous tension in the air and just like that, we were off.

It was a fast start with a group of 4-5 riders going clear by 50 meters almost immediately.

After 2 laps sitting in the pack watching the front group slowly gain a few more meters on us. I decided to try and close the gap myself. I attacked on the right hand side of the road just before the infamous Hog Hill and managed to close the gap just over the start/finish line. After this I was hurting a fair bit and clinging on to the group and was soon to realize my attempts had been in vain as the pack closed in within the lap anyway!

Maybe I was a bit nervous in my first race and didn’t want to not be in with a chance within a lap of the race beginning. But this is something I will certainly remember in my next outing. RELAX!

Once the field was back together the race settled down.

It was a fairly high speed throughout the race averaging 36 kph. Which when ascending Hog Hill 10 or so times, can hurt!!

With 5 laps to go the speed dropped a fair bit and I thought why not test the legs and lead the pack up the Hog. And so I went again. Half way up  I looked behind me and so the group of 20 or so riders on my tail, I wasn’t pushing to hard as I wanted to make to over the line, but I certainly felt a bit of a buzz upon leading out a group of riders.

Upon cresting the climb the field once again swarmed around me and I fell back to my more familiar position at the back of the peloton catching my breath.

In the final 2 laps of the race the speed picked up a fair bit. Which dulled any chances of anyone attacking. At this point I was only clinging on.

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Photo courtesy of ELV CC

With a lap to go the I was still there! Sitting in the mix towards the rear of the peleton. We sped out of the final corner towards our final ascent of the Hog. The speed was really high at this point.

I was right at the back of the group and as soon as the road started to ramped up, I got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had left. And was surprised with my output! I went past quite a few guys on the climb and crossed the line in 12th.

For a first outing I was fairly happy with my performance. I mananged to stay in the front group and even lead them up the climb. But I certainly learnt a lot! First of all to relax a bit at the beginning of the race.

And secondly, positioning is everything!

I think If I had asserted myself in the group better and been towards the front of the group coming into the last climb I could have broke into the top 10. But hey ho, its all part of learning the ropes and is certainly a reason to race next weekend!

Massive thanks to ELV CC for putting on a great race. Look forward to seeing you next time!

Joshua Page