18 laps to go and I find myself on the front. One guy is sitting on my wheel. The rest of the pack of 30 or so riders are half a lap behind. They’re bound to hunt us down. Surely there’s no way we can stay away for more than half the race? Surely…? Maybe…?
My first bike race at Wakefield’s new circuit was a cat 4 British Cycling race organised by Barnsley Road Club. My plan was to start near the front and try and stay there, hopefully avoiding any crashes. However, I didn’t know where the start line was and so I ended up in the middle of the pack! Oops.
Anyway, after making sure I didn’t blow up in the first few laps, I gradually worked my way to the front. By that time we were riding single file and two guys had got away in a break. A bit early for that I thought but plenty of time and I’m not going to kill myself catching them on my own at this stage. My heart rate was already near its maximum. So I had a few words with the lads to share the turns and five of us reeled them in. That also dropped the rest of the riders in the big bunch. Seven of us.
I figure out that I can carry a lot of pace down the hill and around a bend into the final straight. That plays to my strengths I think. Hmm, I’ll bear that in mind.
One guy gets a puncture. Six of us. Next lap, I’ve just done my turn and am fifth wheel when the guy on the front hits the deck as he goes around a tight hairpin. Everything runs in slow motion as the second guy hits the tarmac… then the third… then the fourth! I move to the left and slowly pick my way around the bikes and bodies strewn on the track.
Next turn, up the hill, quick look around. Two of us. Carbon and flourescent jerseys picking themselves up. “This is it mate”, I say. “One-two for us if we work together”. He nods. We cross the start line again as the counter says 18 laps. Quick mental calculations. One minute 30 secs per lap so that’s 27 minutes or so we need to stay away. Jesus! The others are on their feet now and surely they’ll be working together to catch us. Surely, they’ll catch us. Surely…
The bikes behind us formed a swarm and gradually gobbled up the stragglers and anyone trying to make a break. Except us. One-two. If we can stay away. If…
Big turns, big digs as the laps count down. Half a lap each. I notice the peloton hasn’t closed us for a few laps now. Maybe they won’t catch us. Maybe…
How do I win this? I need to either drop this guy or know I can beat him in a sprint. I’ve got the downhill and I have a good chance there but why not try and drop him before then? He seems to be flagging a little and he’s gone quiet. You alright pal? No answer. Hopefully he’s fucked.
Four laps to go and I decide to make a break. I reckon that if I can get a bit of daylight and drop him then I can recover while he has to work hard to get back on. If he does catch me I’ve still got time to make it up. And there’s always the downhill sprint finish.
Off I go down out of a corner and along the back straight. There’s a gap. A very small gap. But enough. Make him chase but don’t burn out.
Two laps to go and the gap has gone. This is it. Sprint finish. We slow slightly, coiling the spring each of us on different sides of the track so neither gets a drafting advantage from the other. Round the final hairpin. Just a hill and two corners to the finishing straight.
Ok pal, have the lead. No problem. Tow me along for a few metres but I’m ready. I feel confident now. I approach his outside, half a bike behind, but just enough. Just waiting. Stalking. He’s got the inside line, but that’s fine.
We both crank it up as we climb the hill but he can’t get away. Wait. Wait. Don’t go all out yet. One corner to go and he’s sprinting. I’m still on the outside but it’s downhill now and I hit full gas right around the outside. Done him. I pull over to the inside as we enter the straight. No way is he coming through after that. I look back and see a gap. Done it. First!
Thanks to Barnsley Cycling Club for organising and the nice cheque. 🙂