Friday, April 06, 2007

Back in business

First race, back in the money. Gotta love that. And on my Ridley Noah, which is a very, very nice machine. As I hoped, it has the same smooth handling that the Damocles had, but it's also very stiff. No wonder McEwen likes it.

Weather perfect: 19, sunny, not much wind. It should stay like that over Easter too. Pre-race preparation: going to the Porter until midnight but not drinking beer. That was a significant break from the activities of the previous 11 days.

The race was at the Castle Combe motor racing circuit, which is about 3km around, very wide, non-technical and has some slight undulations. The finish straight is gradually uphill, which I was told is hell when there was a strong south westerly blowing.

I procured a Chippenham Wheelers jersey and pinned three lots of numbers on it. I made the mistake of putting warm-up balm on my legs in the canteen area. They didn't like it. I love it though - it always reminds me of the start of a Belgian kermiskoers.

We had 54 starters for the Elite/1/2 race (they tend to chuck all the top divisions in together) and two others from Chippenham: Andy and Ben. My plan was fairly simple: sit at the back and get some training in, and maybe have a couple of digs. That's exactly what I did, too. I love it when a plan comes off.

Our race was 17 laps (51km), with three primes. I knew it was going to be hard to get away on this circuit, so I just assumed the position (last) and watched little breaks go and get caught in the opening laps. After about three or four laps, the whistle blew. I know what that means: there's money on the line at the end of the next lap!

Instinct took over and about halfway through the lap, I decided I'd better move up to see who was going for the prime. Towards the end of the lap, there were a couple of small groups off the front, so I decided to test my sprinting legs for the second time in six months and took off. Caught the first group, which sat up, so I continued on to the next lot of three. They were urging each other to roll through, with the finish line about 300m away.

Bugger that! I put in my third sprint in six months, and no-one came with me. Big gap. Well, if that was a prime, then I'd definitely won it. Cool!

After that I got sorta carried away with the moment and kept going instead of sitting up. Two others came across, and we stayed away for the next couple of laps. But I knew it was going to be rather hard, and the bunch came back to us.

Soft pedal to last position, wait for the heart rate to get back down to 150 and enjoy the lack of scenery.

A few laps later, nothing had gotten away. My ears pricked up when I heard the whistle go again. I was a little cooked from the first effort, but the lure of lucre was too much and I started to move up with about 1km to go. This time, there were three or four guys serious about getting the prime, so I jumped across to them with about 500m to go. They started sprinting from fairly early, so I stayed on the wheel of the quickest guy, undergeared myself a bit, but still got around him in the last 50m.

It hurt a bit, but I was chuffed. I didn't expect to win two primes at all. Andy and Ben said well done as I drifted past them to the back again, feeling a bit knackered. It probably wasn't the best place to be to get in the winning breakaway of 13-14, which went a couple of laps later. Oh well, I didn't expect to get in that anyway. Andy managed to, and ended up a very creditable fourth.

Once I recovered a bit, I had a go at getting across what looked like too big a gap. One other guy came with me, but he couldn't do strong turns. We got within 5 seconds before he blew, then I blew and that was that.

I moved up for the sprint for nothingth place (they don't pay top 30 here) - more for the practice than anything else - and got 6th for about 20th in the race. 43.5km/h average, which is not surprising on this circuit.

It definitely feels good to be back.

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