Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Crits at the Park #1 (3rds Only) - Saturday 28th March

I was planning to abstain from racing until the end of April, and subsequent end of the squash season, in order to get some decent training done. However, when a team-mate announced he had entered a race at the purpose built Kent Cyclopark, and had space in the car, I couldn't resist! It worked out quite well, as I'd had two tough squash matches Monday and Tuesday, including the world no. 140, so a couple of easy days pre-race were welcome.

Magic KT Tape!
Come Friday I felt a bit sluggish, so I went out for a tempo blast for 90mins or so, with nearly disastrous consequences. The previous Sunday. I developed quite a harsh pain in the hamstring/entry to inner knee, which went away with squash on Monday, leading me to believe it was just a bit tight. However, after Friday's ride, I could barely walk with the pain, not good! An evening of ice, ibuprofen and kinesiotaping followed, in the hope of a quick fix. I also decided enough was enough, and that it was time to abandon my new saddle, which has given me nothing but problems, despite being nigh on identical to the old, albeit with a cut-out.

Saturday morning arrived, and there was a slight improvement in the leg, so I figured I'd chance it, taking the camera just in case I had to pull out. The drive down went well, with minimal traffic, and a crossing of the impressive Dartford bridge (although I've always been crap at structural engineering, I still marvel at such structures!), and we arrived in plenty of time. Sign on done, peanut butter and banana bagels consumed, we set out to check out the track with the womens race in progress. Having watched a few YouTube videos, the track looked a lot narrower, and the hairpins a lot tighter! Being on the Dart estuary it was also windy...really bloody windy!

Getting cold, we decided to go and warm up. I'd foolishly not brought the rollers, as I couldn't be bothered lugging them out of the shed. Resistance rollers are great, but a lot bulkier than regular. A few laps of the car park it was. The first few pedal strokes were hesitant, but something magical had happened with the advent of my new old saddle! Everything felt right, better than 6 weeks of faffing with the new one!

Cyclopark - Top left is the exposed twisty section
Buoyed by this, we headed to the track, where fortunately there was time for a few familiarisation/warm up laps. The hairpins really were quite tight, and the wind was ferocious! 50mph gusts apparently, which was late to be my undoing. Overall though the track was great, smooth surface, plenty of runoff space, and decent straights.

The race was off, and immediately strung out as we tentatively approached the first hairpin, regrouping on the downhill straight. A series of tight right-angles corners at the bottom of the circuit made for tricky riding, as we entered them from behind an earth banking, the full force of the wind hitting us halfway round the first! It also made for a big effort to get on a wheel on leaving the corner. Still, I managed to keep a half decent position. The final straight was nice, with a slight incline and a tailwind, the place to make up ground I thought.

As the laps wore on, there were some...let's say interesting...manoeuvres, with people darting up the inside, into non existent gaps, and a fair bit of resulting cyclocross! After about 5 laps, I decided to try and move up, taking the opportunity on the straight. This went well for the most part, until I got stuck on the inside approaching the first hairpin, having to slow right down and take the inside line. I lost a few places, but overall had gained. I stayed about mid field for a lap or two,or so I thought, until I looked back, to see a distinct lack of people behind! I thought I'd lost places, but it turned out about 20 had dropped off! I'd made a move at a good time.

I'm sure mine was this impressive...
Feeling good, I carried on, near the back, but comfortable. However, I was soon to become victim of the vicious wind! As I mentioned, the first exposed corner led to gusts of wind halfway round, and on this lap a particularly fierce gust blew me off course a little. This would have been ok, apart from someone on my inside was sporting 50mm wheels, which acted like sails, blowing him towards me. Evasive action required, I ended up on the grass. It was possibly the worst section of the course to have a stumble on, with 4 windy corners meaning in was impossible to catch the disappearing bunch. Watching Gent - Wevelgem on Sunday, I can compare my off to Geraint Thomas's...give or take the spectacular acrobatics of his, and the speed, and...well that's enough!

I was a bit disheartened, as I was feeling good, and riding a lot better than the other week, but I figured it wasn't the end of the world. I considered dropping out, but decided getting a position was better, and who knows, a pileup might even mean I could get back on! This didn't happen, but I did pass probably another 10 - 15 other riders, which was a good mental boost, as my endurance was looking better. In the end, it turned out to be 50 odd minutes riding at over threshold HR (avg 179), so turned out to be a decent workout if nothing else!

Race day socks (short of pictures...)
Out of a field of over 60 riders, I finished 31st, not too bad all things considered, and Andy finished
34th after a similar push round. Interestingly, over 20 people dropped out of the race, and comments bounding round on Twitter and Strava suggested the wind had made it a really tough day. In summary plenty of positives!

Next race:

Not too sure yet. Possibly a Crit at Tameside if I head North for a few days, otherwise a month of training and a return to racing in May!

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