Thruxton Series Round 11 – Cat 2/3 Race 25th July 2017
Tuesday night race report by Steve Marchant
After a 2 week break from racing, tonight I was back at Thruxton competing in my first Cat 2/3 race since gaining my Cat 3 license. It was a sunny, warm evening at the circuit with a very stiff breeze which was blowing straight off the chicane and down the incline. My aim tonight was 1) Finish the race, 2) Not get blown out the back of the Peloton, & 3) Try and finish in the top 40.
After signing in and picking up my race number, I started my pre-race warm up. Before long it was race time and I lined up on the second row on the start line. I soon realised that tonight’s field for the 2/3 Race was going to be a big one……88 Riders strong to be exact (I asked the British Cycling commissionaire after the race). This was the largest Cat 2/3 field of the Thruxton series so far this season!
This was a 12 lap race and the race started as expected at a fast pace, with a breakaway happening within the first 200 meters. This was soon reeled in once we got around the far bend, before the incline up to the Chicane. It was here that the pace slowed slightly due to the stiff head wind coming straight down the incline. Over the course of the next 9/10 laps the breakaways kept coming, 2 or 3 times each lap. And nearly every lap a breakaway happened as we went up the incline to the chicane. This pushed the pace and I know I for one, by the latter laps, was starting to feel it in the legs. There was no ‘doing my bit’ up the front this week. The closest I got to the front was about 6 riders back!
I remained in the middle of the Peloton for most of the race, getting caught out a couple of times by quick breakaways, which made me work hard to make sure I didn’t lose touch with the pack. There were a few coming close calls with riders nudging each other throughout the race, but luckily no crashes. The bell sounded for the last lap and this is where the pace ramped up and you had to be on the ball not to get dropped. Luckily I was, and managed to stay with the pack near the front, but I can tell you it was hard work. Coming up the incline the pace was quick and I was working hard to make sure I was still in the main bunch. Safely through the chicane, I was on the left hand side and with spent legs I managed a bit of a sprint and I think I came in the top 40.
There were some fit, strong, fast riders in this race tonight, and for me it was a great lesson in racing tactics. Most importantly for me was that I finished the race, and I didn’t come last!
Thruxton, Behind the Bike Shed summer series – Round 9 4th Cat Race
Tuesday Night race report by Steve Marchant
The weather this week was certainly better than that of last week, a sunny 24 degrees with a stiff wind which was blowing straight off the chicane and down the east facing incline. Lining up on the start line I saw that TeamSpy once again were present with a 5 man team, Hart Evolution had a 4 man team and Venta a 3 man team. After seeing what teams were present my tactics were to use them to my advantage where possible. My aim tonight was to get a top ten finish.
The race started as usual approx a minute after the 1/2/3 Cats. To my surprise the 1st lap started off at a leisurely 22/23mph and even around the faster back part of the circuit, remained at a steady 26/27mph. However as lap 2 started, a single rider broke away, and the Peloton let him go, although the pace then started to quicken. We gradually reeled him back in, and coming up to start lap 3, 2 riders went off the front. This time everyone reacted and we gave chase. I was using Hart Evolution to my benefit, forcing my position and drafting behind them as they were up near the front. At the start of lap 4 I decided to take a turn up front, doing my bit for about 300/400 meters before joining back into the Peloton.
The race in my opinion was still not as fast as previous weeks which I didn’t mind as hopefully I would have stronger legs for the sprint, should I be in the running for some points at the finish. Lap 5 saw a number of fast breakaways off the front by single Hart Evolution and TeamSpy riders, all of which were soon brought back in. As we came out of the chicane onto the finishing straight for the start of lap 6, I decided to go for a breakaway off the front. I thought I would have had a few of the stronger riders follow me but to my surprise I looked back and realised I was on my own and had made a gap off some 100/150meters. I remained out front for the most of lap 6 before being caught and settling back in the Peloton for a deserved rest.
Lap 7 was much the same, a few single riders making quick breakaways but nothing coming of it. On lap 8, four of the Hart Evolution riders made a break off the front; luckily I saw it and jumped on their wheel. During this lap I again took a turn on the front before the Peloton caught us and the pace settled again. Lap 9 and the pace sped up a fair bit, my game plan still going well, keeping out of trouble and remaining up near the front. As we came up to the incline before the chicane to go around for the bell, a single rider made a break off the front. Nobody panicked and we let him go. As we came through for the sound of the bell and last lap, I was in a good position at the front of the Peloton where I wanted to be. The pace really stepped up a gear now and we made chase for the single breakaway rider. As we came around towards the incline 2 riders went for a breakaway, I managed to see this and jumped on their wheel, the rest of the Peloton were close on our heels. At the start of the incline the single rider who broke away, faded and we caught and passed him with ease, his race was over. At this point there were a line of 5 of us powering up the incline and I was aware that I was starting to get engulfed in riders each side, thankfully the line of 5 realised this and put the power down, my legs were feeling strong this week. I managed to get through the chicane in a good position, clear of trouble. As we came out of the chicane on to the finishing straight I remained disciplined and didn’t go for the sprint too early. At this point I got overtaken by 4 or 5 riders, but I was still in the top ten. I then made my move and started my sprint, I powered past those riders that had just overtaken me, as they were fading due to possibly sprinting too early. I was gaining on the 1st and 2nd placed riders by each meter but unfortunately ran out of track, as the finish line approached. A 3rd place finish and good points for me this week, my tactics worked a treat and this is a very happy rider.
Gillingham Wheelers Summer Series, Henstridge Airfield, Round 6 (Final) – 4th July 2017
Tuesday Night race report by Ady Short
It was a 4am start to the day for me as I was working in Chertsey this morning so all my kit was in the car last night ready for the early start. After starting actual work, the driving to Chertsey bit doesn’t count apparently, at 6am I was able to make a swift exit from my client’s office after a presentation and get down to Henstridge by 3pm in the afternoon and enjoy watching some of the small planes coming and going as well as the air ambulance a couple times, during the race this time we were fortunate not to have the air ambulance landing so avoided the accompanying blast of headwind we got last time out.
So as is usual it’s all about your routine and 45 mins before the start of my CAT4 race at 7am, I was on my rollers warming up, trying hitting my warm up peak which is around 150 – 160bpm which is sustained for a couple of minutes and I hit that three times in the course of my 30 min warm up. It’s critical to get your HR up in your warm up and to my mind it’s often the difference between staying with the front group or being spat out the back when your cardiovascular system is suddenly shocked at what’s being asked of it, so you need to remind it what’s coming.
With that out of the way I rolled up to the entrance with 10 minutes to go but we were delayed a bit again for the start, not as bad as last time when we had to wait for a place to land, but we’d probably cooled down a bit too much this time as well, ideally you want to be jumping off your warm up session and heading for start line but you can’t have it all. This circuit does a one lap warm up which is very useful, however, and somewhat inevitably, it kicked off as we went over the start/finish at the end of the sighting lap, there’s always someone in the group who wants to rip your legs off, but there was a slight headwind heading North off the straight between the hangers so it bunched up down through there on each lap and allowed us to regain our composure, aside from a couple of times when there were a couple of suicide attacks that were unsustainable for the instigators who then found themselves struggling to hang on to the group. This time out I was playing it safe and made no attempt for a lap on the front, I was looking for points today and I was racing tactically. I figured out that being to the left side leading in to the hanger turn put me out of the headwind and I stuck to a plan that involved a minimal amount of effort and drafting at every opportunity, which given my height is probably a bit easier than for some of the others, the trickiest part of this course was the hairpin at the start of the main straight which is followed up by a flat out acceleration on each lap, it’s fair to say that there were a few guys there tonight who could not corner effectively or with any consistency, I don’t have any issues in that department and found myself able to make up half a dozen places on each lap through the hairpin if I wasn’t blocked, one particular guy caused quite a few problems in this turn a few times, it was somewhat cringe-worthy to observe, he went round the bend like he was on stablisers, and subsequently meant that anyone caught behind him had to sprint out of the saddle to get their speed back up down the straight to keep with the front group and there are only so many times you can do that, such as it was I made sure I was ahead of him each time we came to that hairpin for the last third of the race. As the race progressed I found myself in a group of about 15 that had dropped another group behind as we went along, we even started lapping a few as we approached the final five laps, it’s a lonely and arduous task to plough through on your own without a draft, a good workout but not much fun, chapeau for those guys who stayed the course and finished even after being dropped.
For some reason we got no three lap warning as we were told we would and surprisingly got the bell for the last lap, a mad panic ensued and the speed ramped up considerably for the last lap, this is only an 800m lap and it was all going to be down to that last hairpin and the sprint up the main runway/straight to the finish, I made my way forward and managed to get a good line through the hairpin, there were probably 8 ahead of me at this point but I caught a good draft from a Hargroves Cycles sponsored rider and started to overtake people towards the line and with a final surge made it a very close call on the line between about three of us for 6/7/8 places I believe, I won’t know for sure where I came until the results are up (editor: 6th place confirmed) but I’ve checked my Training Peaks analysis and saw a peak of 1099 Watts in the sprint which I think is the highest I’ve hit this season going for the line, all in all it felt pretty good tonight due to the better strategic choices I made, and it’s probably thanks to Ewen Lewis for the match burning analogy which was in the back of my mind for this race.
So fingers crossed and hopefully I’ll have some more points to add to my tally. It was then a quick exit off the track after a warm down lap, then off with the race numbers and getting my license back followed in short order, I literally threw everything in the back of the car and left to enjoy the 90 minute drive home, unfortunately this week my luck ran out as a lot of the journey back was behind a huge grain lorry, you win some, you lose some. Now after writing this I’m off to bed where another 4am start awaits me tomorrow for a lovely trip to Nottingham. #livingthedream
Behind the bike Shed’s summer series round 8 – 27th June 2017
Tuesday night race report by Ady Short.
Well what a difference a week makes, last Tuesday evening we were racing in 30 degree heat and scorching sunshine, Steve Marchant at this race and I was down near Yeovil. Tonight couldn’t have been more different, a low pressure system had settled in for the evening and proceeded to do it’s thing over us making for a very wet race, seemingly with Thruxton at its epicentre. One of the organizers was talking to me about possible lightning, airfields aren’t generally the best place to be when there is a risk of thunder and lightning but I consoled myself with the fact that we were racing on rubber tyres, not that they’d stop millions of volts finding a way to earth via me I suspect but I brushed all thoughts about electricity to the side and set my rollers up in one of the pit garages to warm up in the dry, one of the benefits of racing at Thruxton it would seem.
I was joined tonight not only by Scubasteve Marchy and Keith Rawlings, both fast becoming veterans of this circuit and series, but also a guest appearance by our very own Brian Fred, who after a few weeks of cajoling had decided, some may say unwisely, to turn up on the wettest Hampshire evening possible. Brian was playing his cards close to his chest and waited a bit to make a final decision about signing on, eventually we convinced him to enter and we were set for four racing for Swindon Wheelers in the same race, all in club colours, probably a first for 20 years by my reckoning, if not longer, I think the last time SWCC saw any numbers in races were when Richard Clewes (a Solid CAT2), Jeremy Read and Mark Stenning were racing around 2003/2004 or so.
On to the race, as per usual here the 2/3’s go off a minute before us in the CAT4 only race, which works well along with the motorcycle race control which is excellent. So off we went in to a drizzly wet evening, I think there were around 30 or so in our race, certainly enough numbers to keep the pace up and for a few interesting accelerations to occur as we raced, however, given how wet it was and with everyone dropping tyre pressures slightly, the speed was down on what we’d normally expect here. I set out my stall early and moved to the front 5 within the first lap, I think on lap two I took a turn on the front for around 200m, not very far but I didn’t want to over do it, a couple of attacks went off with one containing two guys going about 250m out front for quite a while but with the slight rise to the last chicane on to the start/finish straight they are usually doomed and they all came back eventually. At some point in the proceedings Steve dropped his chain, couldn’t pedal it back on and had to stop to sort it, by then being out the back of the pack he had no chance of getting back on so made an early exit, bad luck for Steve. I wasn’t aware of this until afterwards and did wonder towards the end where he was as he’d have been up towards the front with us normally. We had an informal agreement for a lead out of sorts to happen, my legs were trashed after the Bridge and Wales rides at the weekend so I was happy to provide an initial lead out if I was anywhere near the front, staying left into the chicane and taking a slightly wider line out to give them a shot at a drafted lead out, it would have worked as well but more on that in a bit.
As the race progressed Keith was comfortably within the top ten as was I, Brian doing well to come up the outside and slot in front of me, when offered, on the fastest section, he was taking a bit too much of the outside wind but it’s always the case when you start racing as it takes a while to work yourself in to the middle of the pack and get comfortable with it. I took a massive turn on the front, probably 3/4’s of a lap but nothing too stressful and I managed to wipe the screen of my very wet Garmin to make sure my power was at an ok level, it was only around 297W, about my FTP level so easily sustainable, the others riders were happy to sit in behind until the slight rise where there was a massive acceleration and Keith came flying by offering a wheel which I gratefully accepted and managed to jump on, just, it was hard work to speed up and catch that as they were going by, just like a Chaingang when you need to get on to the back after doing a turn, but no pain no gain.
I think then there was another lap and the bell went, the pace slowed initially then ramped up, a single line forming, then adjusting to two round the back of the circuit, Brian had drifted back a bit but Keith and I were still towards the front, I stuck in an acceleration to move forward in to the top 10 or so with Keith very nearby to the side and just behind I think, I didn’t realise it but a Mickey Cranks rider had gone off the front by this point as we were going towards the chicane, it was a clean move though the chicane for everyone with me staying slightly left on exit to make sure I didn’t move off line, I was hoping Keith was on my wheel and I managed to accelerate out of the saddle then sitting down as my legs started going but still managing to overhaul a couple of guys claiming about 8th spot, so another couple of points possibly. All the while I was waiting for Keith to come by me but I think his legs were also bit trashed from the hard ride on Sunday through the hills as well, Steve who was spectating by this point, said Keith came in a couple of places back from me with Brian coming in just a bit further back.
A very positive race due to having other Wheelers there and with some more defined strategy work I think we’d have come away with more places, something we can practice on the Chain-Gang for sure but week on week we are getting more comfortable and when we are in the same race we work well together with a willingness to work for the others. It’s a great place to be and only getting better, hopefully Brian will be back for more and the horrible weather hasn’t put him off.
Andy Cook’s Summer Series, Castle Combe race track round 8, 22nd June 2017
Thursday night race report by Ady Short
Tonight it was back to a windy Castle Combe, wind has been the recurring theme for this season it seems and it makes so much difference to the strategy we all adopt, especially at this track given that the main straight is usually slap bang into the horrible head wind.
If you race a lot you’ll know that it’s all about getting your routine down and the repetition provides some familiarity to the proceedings, you’ll find that people like to park in the same place, get changed at the same time, go to the khazi at the same time, warm up the same way and for the same amount of time, it brings a bit of predictability to what’s about to follow. So I got on to my rollers for my warm up at 6.50pm like I always do for a 7.30pm race, I do ten minutes increasing speed and work my HR up to around 130bpm, after 10 minutes I get on the drops and push the HR up to around 150bpm for about 2 minutes, then back off back to 130 for 5 mins, then go again back up to 160, then back off, then go again for a final 2 minute push at around 85 to 90% of my on bike max – weirdly tonight I couldn’t get my HR up to 150 without really going for it so I knew I was in for a bad time – not being able to hit your zones is an absolute indicator of fatigue and given that I raced hard on Tuesday this wasn’t something unexpected.
On to the race, numbers were down a bit with probably only around 40 pre-registered but I think some signed up on the night and numbers were up in the 50’s for this race, the first lap was very slow until the back part of the course where it sped up quite drastically with the tail wind and I was struggling at this point right at the back and was honestly thinking about pulling out not having the legs and feeling quite bad, as I had felt I would when warming up, however as we came round the long sweeping corner at the Eastern side of the course called Kent’s Bottom, running into the headwind caused the pack to grind to slow bumble as people tried to avoid being on the front, phew!
This formed the same old pattern, a few tried to go off the front at various stages but we generally caught them as they hit the head wind, the bunching up again caused a few nervous moments, squealing brakes, skids and the usual burnt rubber smell drifting back through the pack but given the lower numbers it was a well behaved race. You do tend to get to know who the bad riders are to be near and you find yourself avoiding being near them, these are the guys that switch lines without looking almost taking people out when they do this or people who might be a bit twitchy and brake too reactively as well as the ones that pinch you in as they try and get off the side of the pack, you have to give them a nudge or shout to make sure they know you are there. So making sure all these guys are avoided and you are focusing on what’s going on to make sure you don’t miss an acceleration makes for a very tense hour, we got to the final 5 laps and somehow, unbelievably, I’ve ridden myself in and I’m able to make a decent move up the pack and start positioning better, I wasn’t feeling too bad by this point and sprint efforts weren’t feeling too bad off the second chicane as the pack accelerates. I wasn’t going to be in contention for a top ten but I was starting to enjoy the race, with two laps to go a couple of guys used the headwind to get a break and made a 100m, they stayed there for the next lap and another guy tried the same, the pack accelerated hard for the last lap after the start/finish straight and it was lined out as per usual for a full on run up to the finish, coming out of that sweeping left corner though about 300m from the finish the pack backed up, and I could see the usual suspects not wanting to go to early, the break was about 50m in front with the other guy about 30m in front, at this point we were doing about 20mph, slow for this point, so I just took a run at the line and shot off to the left and overtook the first guy with about 100m to go but then in a mirror of Steve’s Thruxton race on Tuesday I’d obviously gone too early and wasn’t serious about it so blew big style and sat up, I think the whole pack that was left, about 30 of the original 50 or so, went past me about 20m before we got to the line but I actually enjoyed having a go, albeit knowing I’d be swallowed up so probably around 30th I reckon but given how I felt at the start it was a great race for me coming in with the pack.
Behind the bike Shed’s summer series round 7 – 20th June 2017
Tuesday night race report by Steve Marchant.
It was a hot evening at Thruxton for the Series 7 race, reading 32.5 degrees when I arrived there. The race started at 19.45pm with the 2/3 Cat riders going off first, shortly followed by us 4th Cat riders. Our race started as usual at a fast pace for the first lap, then settling down at the beginning of the 2nd. As we came out of the finishing straight to start the 2nd lap we passed a 4th Cat rider, one which had been blown out the back of the group on the first lap. Was this the first casualty of the hot weather! The 2nd lap saw the first break away by 2 riders which was soon closed down after about 2/3 of a lap. Early on in the race there were a few tense moments as a few riders came together on the bends, resulting in ‘Hold your line’ being shouted quite a few times. Thankfully nobody came off.
Due to my bit of bad luck at being taken out the previous week I decided on different tactics for tonight’s race. My aim was to keep within the top 10-15 riders during the race. The first few laps were going as planned, even taking a turn up front on the 5th lap. I also kept to the outside of the pack to avoid any confrontations, however this tactic did make me work harder due to not drafting behind anyone and would take its toll on me in the latter stages of the race.
The pace was still kept at a high tempo due to the presence of a couple of teams of 4 riders, TeamSpy Cycling & DHC Cycling, who were working well together and trying to break off the front. The constant breaks off the front made us all work very hard in the evening heat and this eventually took its toll on some riders who were blown out the back. I managed to keep with the breaks, though I admit my legs were starting to feel it at this point by lap 9. The bell for the last lap soon came around and again the pace quickened and I went with the pace. With about ½ mile to go about 5-10 riders broke off the front (TeamSpy & DHC amongst them!), unfortunately I got boxed in on the inside and had no room to go on the outside. Suddenly a gap appeared and I powered through and went on the chase of the breakaway. By the time I made up the ground and caught the breakaway, we had hit the incline coming up to the Chicane and I was blowing hard and my legs were screaming. I made it safely through the Chicane and around the bend onto the finishing straight, but due to my earlier efforts of chasing the breakaway I was done and my legs just didn’t have it in them. I made a half-hearted effort at a sprint but got overtaken by quite a few riders. I’m hoping I came in the top 20!!
This is all good experience for me and lessons learnt. I tried a different tactic and for me I think I got it wrong. I used to much effort by not drafting in the pack, I also made the mistake of getting boxed in at a crucial time in the race which again cost me dear, and made me use a lot of energy to catch the breakaway. However if myself, Ady and Keith can get in a race together, I think us working together we can get top 10 finishes.
Gillingham Wheelers summer series round 5 – 20th June 2017
Tuesday night race report by Ady Short
Tuesday Night race report – tonight was my first time down at Henstridge Airfield for the Gillingham Wheelers events there, my race was the CAT4 only which was 30 mins plus 3 laps. First of all I wanted to wax lyrical about the journey which for me today, driving from an office in Reading, was a two and half hour drive, where I’d started work early so I could get out of the office for 3pm and get down to Henstridge on time to race. Anyone who does a commute on the M4 knows all too well the joys of that particular trip but once you get past Warminster on the way down to Somerset, where Henstridge is, you get to enjoy the beautiful views across the ancient landscape of southern Wiltshire with its rolling hills which drop away to the west once you traverse the Dorset/Somerset border skirting around Shaftesbury only to see the Somerset levels revealed from high before you as you head due west, altogether a wonderful sight on this particularly sunny evening, mind you it only takes an Iceland delivery lorry or two to make that journey a somewhat more miserable affair, this evening my luck was in. I wish I could say the same for my lungs and legs though!
On to the race, Henstridge is an active airfield, we were delayed to the start by the landing of a single engined mash up of what I can only describe as a plane someone had built in their back yard, it didn’t look too comfortable to me and you would not catch me in one of those, I like extreme pursuits that I have a semblance of control over. We lined up and got briefed for the circuit, as it’s basically on a runway the route goes half way up this and bears off right between some hangers, routing back on to the runway in the opposite direction and then negotiates a coned out hairpin, the entire lap is probably around 1000m, so short and sweet. We did a one lap rolling start and then the bell went to go for it, at this point I should mention there were only about 18 signed up for this race being CAT 4 only, the 3/2/1’s get a much bigger field. The first lap was fast and I took a long turn then backed off by going wide as we turned towards the hangers which allowed the others to come through and I could take a breather. There were a couple of guys from TRI UK who teamed up to try the old one two, one would put in a hard effort down the runway straight and as he backed off his colleague would put in an effort, we pretty much kept together but these hard efforts had the effect of dropping a couple of guys early on, I did notice my HR was overly high tonight, this was probably due to a combination of the early start to get out of work, the heat and just being generally knackered and old, it would come in to play a bit later. I had one exciting moment where I grounded my crank going through the hairpin, generally you wouldn’t pedal through there but too many years riding a fixed gear with a high BB I tend to pedal through when I shouldn’t, however on this occasion I didn’t get spat off which I think is a testament to how hot and grippy the tyres were tonight so there was one blessing in having a hot race, soon forgotten we carried on and some hard efforts as people were testing the group saw my HR elevate too much for comfort almost maxing on a couple of occasions, with such a small field this was a hard race as there was not a lot of draft to be had and that probably factored into the perceived effort I was seeing and feeling, regardless I took another turn on the front and again maxed out, then just as I was recovering the 3 lap board went out so my timing couldn’t have been any worse really. As I was trying to get my HR under control a guy shot off the front and no one went with him, I hung on to the group of six or seven behind him for about a lap all at a horribly high heart rate and then myself and another guy drifted off the back of the small pack, I went past him as he blew just after the last lap bell and managed to overtake one of the TRI UK guys who’d sat up after giving his colleague a fast wheel and had also blown, I went through the hairpin for the last time looking behind and realising the others were too far behind to catch me and drifted through the finish for 7th or 8th about 200m behind the guys ahead. Totally knackered and breathing like a one lunged life time smoker, type 2 fun for sure in that it doesn’t feel like it was fun until about half an hour after you’ve finished. This event was grass roots racing at it’s finest, nice short circuit, good surface and very well run, again I can’t fault the organisation. It’s a bit of a trek but for a CAT4 only I would heartily recommend this race if you can make the trip, there were no hairy moments aside from of my own making so it would be an ideal entry in to the racing scene if you are interested. And do please let me know if you are interested as there is one more event to run in this series so I’d be happy to point and guide you in the right direction.
P.S. I neglected to mention that an Air Ambulance landed whilst we were racing and that was by far the worst headwind I’ve experienced in a while even with these few weeks of high winds, it woke us all up that’s for sure.
Behind the bike Shed’s summer series round 6 – 20th June 2017
Tuesday night race report by Ady Short
Wow what a beautiful evening at Thruxton and barely a breath of wind thankfully after a few weeks of racing in very windy conditions, for those that don’t know Thruxton it’s probably one of the more scenic circuits that winds itself through the nice Hampshire countryside with some beautiful views over the fields, well sod that we’re there to race and you don’t get much chance to take any of that in as you flog yourself round this course!
Both myself and Scubasteve Marchy turned up for this race, with pre-entries down, I counted only 30 on the sign in sheet, it looked to be a small group but due to the weather there were many on the line entries and I saw about 20 hand written entries so we had around 50 for the CAT4 race this evening and potentially more for the 1/2/3’s as it was covering a larger group of Categories.
We rolled up to the start a minute after the 1/2/3’s set off and away we went, initially quite slowly but a break went off towards the tail end of the first lap as the circuit drops down a slope, the layout of the track around the farthest section means speeds are high and approaching 30mph if not a bit more so it’s very difficult for a break to stay away, the pattern with this circuit, and with no wind, was for the attempted break each time after the couple of corners beyond the start/finish, however these all got brought back. Steve and I both had good legs, on lap 3 Steve took to the front and pulled probably 1/3 to half a lap on the front, with me taking over from him to give him a rest for another 1/3 of a lap and as we climbed towards the final chicane he pulled me over to take a rest telling me to let some others work so we let the others swallow us up and took an earned draft, it was timely as going through the start finish I was knackered with my HR thresholding up that slope. This was more or less the same each lap, mostly single guys going for a break, but around lap 6 or 7 a group of five got away which was potentially dangerous so I wound up the chase on the front and again around the back of the circuit had the legs to bring that group back with the pack consuming them going up the slope to the final chicane, I told you my legs were good, don’t know where that came from! I should mention that this CAT4 only racing is much less aggressive than my usual Castle Combe race, a few shouts on the various corners but you can sense there is much less experience in terms of the ability to go through the pack and manoeuvre people out of the way and I didn’t find it too difficult to work my way through the pack straight up the middle rather than going around the edges in the wind, the guys being a bit more timid.
Anyway the bell went for the final lap, just after the start/finish there was a bit of a lull and some posturing which lasted about 30m and then it kicked off into a high speed line out which made the corners at the back of the circuit much safer, it was all gearing up to a final assault on the last chicane. Coming up the slope to this final set of turns, a very sharp right, then left, then right chicane it bunched a bit as people were prepping for the sprint, the finish line is probably only 150m beyond the exit from the turn, both Steve and I were in good positions he was level with me, we were about 3m apart virtually side by side, me being left side on the entry which, more by luck than judgement on my part, was the better line for the exit, unfortunately someone straight-lined the chicane, an absolute no no, you have to ride an S shape to keep your line, and took Steve’s front wheel out at speed, I heard more than saw but Steve’s shout went up behind to the right, directly followed by a massive, and a not unfamiliar, clatter as bikes hit the deck. However for myself, racing makes you fairly mercenary when there are points at stake, I was able to get good speed out of the turn about 15 back and managed to overhaul about 5 guys on the way to the line so ended up around tenth I believe, we’ll know tomorrow when they post the results. Obviously a good position but somewhat tainted by the knowledge that Steve had gone down, I circled back down the pit lane to find Steve up and walking with his bike on his shoulder, bloodied, bruised and a bit battered he lives to race again, his bike looked ok on inspection with the rear brake binding but sortable and he was in need of some new bar tape. We had an informal arrangement for the finish that if I had been in the position to I would have given him a lead out as his jump is much better than mine, with this in mind and my final position I think he could of gotten another top 5 this week if the cards had fallen in our favour, unfortunately there isn’t really any lesson to be learnt here aside from the fact that some idiots shouldn’t be racing.
On that matter – I went to collect Steve’s license for him but the process for a crash is that they Marshall that pinch point quite closely and had noted the race numbers involved so we were told to go see the commissare about the incident as they hold the license until the rider has been debriefed. So off we went to see Tim from BC, interestingly their observer had described the incident to him already and I could see from Tim’s drawing that number 25 had cut the racing line causing a 3 bike pile up after taking Steve out, Steve got his wounds dressed whilst we were there and I believe that number 25 was going to get a talking to about the incident, so if anything makes us feel better about this it’s the fact that the marshalling and the way the racing and track management was done was excellent, I can’t fault it.
A great race, a good circuit, good strategy from Swindon Wheelers, not a bad result but we can’t help thinking what could have been as I think we’d have had two top tens this week for sure, commiserations to Steve but I know he’ll be back for another one.
Andy Cook’s Summer Series, Castle Combe race track round 6, 8th June 2017
Blimey it was a windy one tonight and this wasn’t the baked beans I’d had for tea. The recent bad weather meant the sign on sheet was down on pre-booked entries with many choosing to enter on the line, I had entered late as I was down to race at Henstridge on Tuesday but as you’ll know that was cancelled due to wind and rain so I entered this race late to get my weekly fix and was still No. 29 showing how the weather had affected the entries. Anyway with the sun out this afternoon many decided to turn up and sign on so the field for Cat3/4 was probably around 60 or so I think, again with a few ladies entered in our race, it’s always good to see the girls mixing it up with us and often coming out better. On to the race, the wind was a very strong south westerly so although the first lap was fairly slow the speed built on to the start finish straight and I was caught on the inside of the group which meant I had the full force of the wind into my chest and it almost blew me out the back, I was out of the saddle sprinting to get back on for about half the start finish straight but as soon as the group turned fully into that wind at the end of the straight they sat up and we bunched up, what was the fuss about, I think my Heart rate was beyond max at that point so I was thankful to get back on. This was basically the pattern then for most of the race, there would be an attempt at a break as soon as we got a tailwind, the group would thin out into a single line all the way across the back of the circuit with speeds hitting 37mph at one point and I learnt my lesson by staying on the right side of the group as we came around the corner on to the start/finish straight with everybody fighting to echelon and avoid the cross wind, right up against the side of the track it was very tight and I had an unpleasant trip across the rumble strip on one occasion which I absolutely do not recommend if you value your cojones. Towards the end of the race I snuck up the outside on the start finish following one of the Elite ladies and took a trip off the front as four guys went for a break, I managed about 600m in no man’s land with my HR maxing out in to the head wind and sat up to let the pack swallow me up again and settled in about 12 from the front. At 2 laps to go a group of about six went off the front, no one really wanted to chase for about 1/3rd of a lap but then it kicked off and it was a single line fun run through the next two laps slightly bunching as we came in to the last corner before the finish, the group of six were still off the front but we were gaining, not quite quickly enough, and we all started to sprint a bit too late to catch them, it was another mass finish behind that group and I had good legs managing to come past a few, I got checked once when someone sat up but managed to finish somewhere in the top 25 again. Very tactical tonight and positioning was crucial which meant you had to plan your position at least half a lap before you got to the head wind.