domingo, 7 de septiembre de 2014

John and Dulcie Walker Trophy 3/4 Race (my second road race)

I was in the waiting list for this race but I was so eager to get back to try myself after my holidays that I took my chances and I decided to drive about an hour to get to the HQ early enough to make sure I was the first in the reserve list.

The race had 80 entries so I was quite sure I was going to get a place. So I decided to go for an early warmup; I wanted to ride the final straight, it wasn't clear in the profile if the finish line would be just at the top of the hill or if there were going to be a flat section leading to the line. The later was the case, in fact about 300m mostly flat from where the climb eased to the line. I rode the climb once and finalized my plan. Sit on near the front the whole race, try to get to the top climb in the top 10, hold a wheel until the last 150m and sprint.

With that plan in mind headed the HQ to get my number and there is where I met Paul, a fellow Kingston Wheeler. We chat a bit and he went for a warmup while I headed the car to get ready for the race.

After the usual words from the commissar off we went.. and first surprise of the day. I was expecting a super fast pace from the gun and it was not. True the road was mostly flat or downhill, there were not that many bends and only one turn in the first few kilometres (this circuit is an almost perfect square of 24 kilometres, only 4 left turns per lap!!!) but it was a clear contrast with my first road race experience where I was in the red zone from minute one.

In this one the pace was quite pedestrian, I averaged 189 watts in the first 15 minutes. Yes, part of it was that I was well hidden near the head of the peloton, Paul a few bikes ahead, but still not challenging at all.

It was about 15 minutes into the race when Paul gave it the first go. There was a rider ahead and he tried to bridge. Got a gap with the peloton but very soon a steep nipple appeared and the bunch caught Paul as we were riding over the top.

The pace was still quite manageable but that changed as soon as crossed the line for the first time. Up to 8 surges I can count in my power file in the following 10 minutes. I took mental note that was probably going to be a mined terrain in the last lap, too away from the line to attack, too easy to push it hard to drop whoever is caught in bad position.

The attacks stopped as soon as we started the main "climb" (2km uphill) but very soon Paul jumped again. There were two riders away with a gap between them. Paul managed to bridge the gap to the first one, from my position it seemed like they were starting to work together so I moved to the front of the peloton and eased a bit. As soon as someone passed me I jumped on his wheel and when he moved right I eased again. It was not long until I took some verbal abuse, but hey, seven years in the Spanish air force gave me a thick skin for verbal abuse and, honestly, I couldn't understand half of what they were saying (advantages of having a terrible English), so I didn't care.

Unfortunately the peloton ended up catching Paul and his companion and very soon the rider that was ahead. Back to square one and the pace eased again.

A few kilometres before the bell a rider jumped, put himself in TT position and got a decent gap. Part of it was that the pace in the peloton was not that fast but at some point Paul moved to the front had a look at the two riders that were leading and he came to the conclusion they were blocking and so he said out loud. A pace line formed and a chase began. I took a few turns in the pace line but at some point I changed my mind. The rider was not that far away, say 15 secs. he was alone and still had a few kilometres to go with three "climbs". I got to the conclusion he had no chance to make it so I moved out of the pace line and sat.

Eventually we caught the guy and we were all together again. I had a quick look back and saw a lot of riders. The pace was not that high but I was still surprised of how many riders were still in the game.

I was very concious of the importance of positioning at this point and be assured I managed to stay in the top 10 most of the time. Funny enough Paul was doing the same and we ended up riding two abreast quite often in the final kilometres.

The final climb came I moved towards the central part of the road. Half of the climb is gone and I feel I am well positioned with legs not feeling that bad. And suddenly, about 250 metres to the top of the climb, 500 metres from the line, the guy in front of me raises his hand and moves slowly to the right. My front wheel touched his rear wheel once, twice and thrice as I was easing up trying to keep myself on the bike and slow down. When I looked at the race again half of the peloton had passed me so eased up and soft-pedalled to the line. I think I was last in the main group, which very easily still had 40 riders (update 8/Sept/2014 it turns out I did 27th, not that good at guessing bunch numbers).

The no sprint
Camera in the line, at 00:57 you'll see me (Paul at 00:31)

Anyway I finished very, very happy.

I think I did a good race from the positioning and strategic point of view and I felt in great from. More importantly I had a great time not only riding but also thinking during the race. I want more.

Also this is a great event, very well organized and marshalled. The course is easy to navigate and most of the roads are wide enough. I'll try to be back next year.

The ride in Strava

10/9/2014 It seems there was a cause for the punctures during the race.

Take care
Javier Arias González

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