A Triple Race Week
You know that saying about buses? You wait all day and then three come along at once? Well yeah, that.
For various reasons such as clashing dates, travel, family, work (as well as a real cooling off of racing in the South West that has seen fewer races put on, races cancelled and off-puttingly small turn outs) I haven’t raced quite as much as I have liked to this season. I mean, I’ve still raced – I tackled my first ever road race (having previously just stuck to crits on my road bike), fitted in several fixed gear crits such as Red Hook, Minet Crit and Thundercrit and the rest but it’s been quieter than usual. Until last week.
Regional Road Championships
I kicked things off with the Regional Road Championships near Oakhampton, a race I was slightly apprehensive about due to it’s length and location. Though I hadn’t raced the actual route before my friend Nikki had done a recce and warned me of several significant hills. I’d also previously raced from the same event HQ in Hatherleigh so I was fully aware of how little the hilly route would suit my particular skillset. It was also 95km and historically I’ve always fared better on shorter, flatter courses, hence my love of crit racing.
The start sheet showed a relatively small field, which was disappointing for more than one reason, but largely because I was worried that I’d have less chance of finding my place in the race and a group to ride with should I get dropped on a hill. National Champion (Emma Cockcroft) was on the list but there weren’t a great number of teams, mainly just individuals. It was going to be an interesting race.
Nikki mentioned she’d like to stay with the leaders for at least the first lap and that seemed like a reasonable target, knowing I’m not much of a climber, so I nodded in agreement. I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with going into a race with realistic ambitions but that attitude drives Dave mad as he thinks you need a positive mindset to shoot for the stars. I don’t feel I was being negative in realising the course didn’t suit me and having goal of just hanging on for as long as I could, rather I like setting the bar low as it feels so good when you outdo yourself!
Photo: Huw Williams @Hatherleigh RR)
And that’s exactly what happened. After dropping riders within the first lap I was really, really pleased to still be with the lead group as we passed the start line/finish line and began lap two. Sure, the hills were tough but I’d gone way past the moment where I wanted to give up and been rewarded. In situations like this, I always talk myself up so I was riding along saying to myself ‘You’re still here! You’ve done it, you rule!’
70km later I was still in the lead group and things began to get spicy. There were attacks, solo riders going off, gaps to close and the usual short of shenanigans, all of it right about when my legs were starting to hurt. Another 10km or so later we hit the most horrible hill of the entire circuit for a second time and I gave it my all but didn’t stay on. The final 13km were therefore a brutal solo TT, my pace fuelled by a fear that any people behind me would catch up, overtake and beat me. In the end, no one caught me and I finished alone, behind the lead group in a respectable 8th place.
Haldon Summer Series Cross-Country Mountain Bike Race
A few days later it was time to swap the road bike for the cross-country bike. I’ve not done as many mountain bike races as I’d have liked this year, for the reasons listed at the start of this blog so when I found myself unexpectedly free last Wednesday evening I jumped straight in my car and headed for the local trails.
I really love riding up at Haldon Forest Park, it’s a great little trail centre with a small but really fun selection of official marked trails for riders of all abilities plus an extensive selection of ‘off-piste’ or unofficial tracks. The race was being put on by Steve, a member of my cycling club Mid Devon CC and I knew the course would be really good as I entered one of this races last year.
I turned up in reasonably good time but then somehow managed to lose the keys to my new SKODA Kodiaq (that had only been delivered the day before!) so I spent the time that I should have been doing a practice lap and warming up scuttling around in a panic in pursuit of my keys. Thankfully I found them but it was pretty much the worst race prep you could imagine.
Last minute XC race this eve at Haldon. I’ve already noticed the evenings getting shorter so I’m making the most of them whenever I can. Also making the most of racing with three different disciplines this week – finishing up this Saturday with the Regional Crit Championships. Don’t let me down little legs!
As I’d expected the course was a very friendly mix of fun flowing singletrack, rooty segments that sapped your energy and some longer fire track climbs. The descents were not particularly technical so it was super fun to just let rip and have fun without having to concentrate too much.
Unfortunately, that lack of concentration came back and bit me on lap three when I found myself on the Blue Trail enjoying a segment I’d ridden numerous times before… but not in this particular race. It took me a minute to realise I’d definitely gone the wrong way – I’m pretty tired at the moment so I wasn’t sure. I then had to ride back up the trail the wrong way and rejoin the race.
Despite having felt pretty good on the first couple of laps by my final lap my legs were struggling anyway, so I don’t think I’d have finished that well even if I hadn’t gone the right way. But who cares – I had fun trying and I 100% prefer spending my money and my evening getting my butt kicked as I fly around a forest than idly drinking in a pub.
Regional Crit Championships
I finished up the week with the Regional Circuit Race Championships at Torbay Velopark. As I’d finished second in the same race a year previously I was gunning for the top step.
After a few digs in the opening laps of the race, many of us were riding tactically, trying to figure out who was a threat and what their plan of attack would be. Several of us from different teams combined forces and tried a few moves to whittle down the numbers at the head of the race, the plan being we’d later try and ditch each other!
Things slowed down in the last few laps. With no teams working together and no one rider able to solo off the front it became like a match sprint, with everyone warily watching their opponents and trying to work out what was going to happen. I was feeling good and ready to attack out of the last hairpin, subject to what everyone else was up to.
In the end I messed things up after one girl went early. I chased her down then went over the top, hoping my jump would see me past her whilst opening up a gap. It was a bit daft, as thinking about it now I don’t think she would have won so I should have just let her go and bided my time. What happened was, rather than opening up a gap, I chased her down then dragged another rider, Charlie with me giving her the perfect lead out. So it was second for me in the race. But 1st in the region as Charlie is from the south. It feels good to be Regional Crit Champion!
Photo: Richard Treen
It was such a fun week of racing – a real treat, both because I’ve not ridden as many events as I wanted to but also due to the expense involved… racing doesn’t come cheap! But racing being my favourite hobby (along with riding dirt jumps and downhill/enduro mountain biking) I’m more than willing to sacrifice dinners in restaurants to fund it! A big thanks to all the organisers and volunteers without whom none of us would be able to race.