With the Haute Route quickly becoming a distant memory and my legs fully recovered, this was a good opportunity to see what form I had brought back from the Pyrenees. The field was mostly made up of 3rd Cats, so I didn’t expect to set the race on fire, but was quietly hopeful and optimistic that I might be able to stay with the front runners and maybe even get involved with a break.
I was also looking forward to racing with a bunch of ELV guys – Wayne, Alex, Ollie and Vince were all on the start list too. Vince gained his 2nd Cat a few weeks ago so he would be a strong ally to have in the bunch.
The pace was pretty hot from the go. I soon settled in and made an effort to conserve energy wherever possible – in a 3/4 Cat road race the guys who do well are always likely to be the ones who are quiet early on and save something for the final third of the race. I did feel I was having to hammer out of every corner just to hold the wheel in front, but soon realised that the bunch would inevitably slow up again within a few seconds so I tried to keep the power consistent and smooth through corners, knowing the gap would close without a big effort. Conserve, conserve, conserve…
The weather was good (dry, not too windy) and the course was ok. A few sketchy surfaces here and there but nothing major. The big stress was riding etiquette – guys were taking huge risks rushing down the outside of the pack, often crossing the white lines and sometimes getting too close for comfort to oncoming traffic. It quickly became stressful; no one wanted to miss a chance to move up but it was risky business. Cue lots of shouting and a nervous vibe.
With a lap to go, the field was pretty depleted. Vince and I nudged off the front a couple of times, but I didn’t have the confidence to really commit, knowing my chances of getting away were slim and I’d only be wasting energy for the final showdown (mental note: need to address this negative thinking). We stayed in the top 5-10, out of trouble, occasionally forcing the pace but essentially resigning ourselves to making the most out of a bunch finish.
The pace ramped up with 750m to go and I kicked to move up into about 7th or 8th, narrowly missing what turned to be a pretty big crash to my right (maybe 10 riders down, thankfully all ok I think). One final dig with 250m to go and give everything to stay on top of the gear up an incline finish… don’t go backwards… even managed to nick a place on the line to finish 5th.
Really pleased with my ride and great to bag a few BC points. My endurance from the Haute Route translated well onto a 60 mile race and I was surprised to hold my own in a proper sprint finish. This bodes well.
Caught up with the others over tea and cake at Race HQ afterwards. Vince missed out on points as he was caught up by the crash, and the others rode strongly but just about snapped as the race wound up. A good showing from the ELV 3/4 Cats and I’m looking forward to racing more with these guys next year.
The gap between average power (AP) and normalised power (NP) just goes to show how much of a road race can be spent coasting/soft-pedaling, yet frequent big efforts are needed when responding to surges, hammering out of corners to avoid losing a wheel, and of course sprinting for the line. I really need to focus on building a more well-rounded power curve and improving my watts up to 60 seconds – if I can do this over the winter then hopefully I’ll be well placed for crits and road races next season.