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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Abellio-SFA RT Spring Crits #2

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Photo: William Dunk @wpdunk

04/03/17

With the East London Velo Winter Series drawing to a close its time to draw my attention elsewhere and gain some experience on other circuits.

This weekend saw some fast racing at the Cyclo-Park, Kent, for the 2nd round of the the Abellio-SFA RT Spring Crits.

Another good field of around 40 riders lined up on the start line of a dry, but windy track as the British Cycling Commissaire reminded us to ride safely and not to take drugs!

It was a slow start to the race as there was a a lot of new comers to the track (including myself) and didn’t know what to expect from the corners. After a few laps the pace gradually increased.

Around 5 laps in, Thomas Frost (Sunday Echappee) rode of the front of the group and I seized the opportunity to inject some pace into the race. Myself and Chris Martin (Rapha CC) bridged across to him and gained a gap on the field of around 20 metres.

Unfortunatly, the break wasn’t to last long with such an excited field chasing us, and we decided to sit up and not to waste our energy. With the pack swallowing us up within half a lap.

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Photo: William Dunk @wpdunk

For the following laps the 3 of us continued to work on the front of the group as we noticed a lot of the field were dropping away at the pace we were holding. Also noticing that you didn’t really need to brake into a lot of the corners if you were at the front of the group, and therefore not wasting energy chasing back on, like you would if you were were towards the back of the pack (its also, as you probably know, A LOT safer).

We continued to work between us until 5 laps to go when a few riders tried to break clear but nothing stuck for much longer than a few 100 metres. I had learnt from my previous mistakes and let the field do the chasing this time.

With 4 laps to go the field was down to 15 riders and there was a lot of ‘looking around’ going on.

I continued to try to sit at the front of the group and follow the wheel of Thomas as I knew he was a strong rider from previous races at Redbridge.

With half a lap to go there was a a solo attack and the pack were fast to react and real him back in. This really scattered the group up and I lost my desired wheel.

Coming into the 2 last corners, which are pretty much flat out I was at the back of the group and boxed in.

We come over the crest of the small rise and I thought it was now or never. Thomas (the eventual winner) was already way up the road and I was fighting for the minor places.

But I launched my sprint anyway and was pretty happy with the outcome! I managed to come round a few riders, right on the edge of the track. And sneak into 7th.

Leaving me with 1 point of 3rd Cat and m 3rd successive top 10 finish.

Yet again the weekend leaves me wanting more and more, but I’m continually learning the ways of racing and always excited for the next race.

Until next time,

Josh

Results

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Photo: William Dunk @wpdunk

Massive thanks to Abellio-SFA Race Club for a great event, to all the volunteers on the day and to William Dunk of Sunday Exchappee for the photos.