Race date: 17/02/16
Back at HCC for the second week in a row. Getting serious about this now, especially since I realised I’d only raced 10 times. And as I mentioned in the last post, I like this course and race so I'll compete here more regularly.
I signed up for the race on the Monday, and at the time I felt quite confident; if I could keep an eye on any breaks and either join them or control them, I reckon I could win the sprint up the hill. However, throughout the Wednesday work day I was beginning to feel rather sluggish and lethargic. I had to recruit the motivation of a few friends (Keat, Quinny, JLamb & Swifty). They told me to drink some concrete and harden the fuck up. Surprisingly that’s all it took. So I quickly changed my mentality, psyched myself up and set off. I’d had a couple of hard training rides so the legs were feeling a little fatigued and heavy on the commute over. This made me feel less confident again...
I arrived at the race, pinned my number on and emptied my bladder. Thus saving every ounce of weight for that hill. I was then standing around, waiting, when a lady approached me and sold me a raffle ticket. I can’t remember what it was for, but it seemed like a good cause, and I figured the karma couldn’t hurt. I haven’t heard back from them so I can only assume I didn’t win.
The race was called pretty shortly after I’d finished filling in my details, so I actually didn’t get chance to do a warm up lap. In fact all this cheating by trying to get some karma meant I was rushed in my preparation, and so I hastily put everything I didn’t need for the race into a musette (a small satchel cyclists get given during races full of food).
When I was on the start line I quickly realised that I hadn’t done a very good job of preparing! I still had two bidons (water bottles) on my bike. That was a monumental waste of weight, a bidon full of water can weigh around 800g, which would decrease my power to weight ratio significantly, so I chucked the full one to the side and kept a half full one on the bike. Phew, I’ll grab it back later. Then I realised my lights were still on my bike, so I removed those too and popped them in one of my back pockets. I was more aero now. Okay, now I was ready!
The race started, as usual, with the lap and a half under control and B grade overtook us pretty much right before the end of our neutral laps. They had built maybe a 50 metre gap in front of us, and to my surprise a guy attacked straight off the front. Maybe he wanted to overtake them and really cause a split? He did look pretty strong, so I thought I’d better chase after him.
As you can imagine—actually, no you can’t because we shouldn’t have—the two of us caught up to B grade pretty shortly after our attack. Well, his attack, I simply caught him and sat on his wheel. We weren’t really able to overtake them, and were discouraged from doing so by the race marshalls. We stayed about 10 metres behind them, to avoid drafting and being DQ'd, for about 2 laps. It wasn’t easy work keeping up with B grade, and in hindsight a pretty stupid waste of energy.
We were told to slow down, and then we were caught by the bunch. After that, I decided I wouldn’t do any more attacking until the end. But that wasn’t going to happen, was it? Instead I attacked a few times, but nothing came of them.
With about five minutes to go I attacked again, but there was a theory I wanted to test with this one. I had no intention of getting clear. So, there was a strong headwind on the back straight, and I wanted to see how hard it would be to get into an aero position and cut through it. With my slender frame, I believed I could cut through it and offer minimal protection to anyone trying to suck my wheel. My theory was proved very accurate, however there was an even bigger bonus, which was that it didn’t even require that much energy to distance the field. I think I've just cracked racing. Maybe.
I let them catch me, I did, honestly. And then when the three laps to go sign went up, I remained firm. I was going to wait until the last lap. One guy went off the front with about two laps to go, but I let him go. I had confidence in my plan. The bunch didn’t even chase him in fact, but he never got more than say five bike lengths ahead. He was hung out to dry for an entire lap.
So, here we are, on the final straight. The wind hitting us from the front. The solo breakaway within sight. Time to make my move. I moved out to the right, tucked into my aero position, and pushed hard on the pedals. Really hard! No jump, just a big gear and me grinding away at it.
I overtook Mr. Solo pretty quickly, and even he didn’t manage to jump on my back wheel. This was amazing. I flew around the hairpin corner that led into the uphill sprint and put everything into my sprint. Just to make sure.
But horror struck! I was hit by cramp, in m left calf. No no no. I had a good lead at this point and just tried to ignore the pain. I pushed right through it and with about 20 metres to go, I glanced back and saw the bunch chasing me, but I was well clear. I eased up and crossed the line. The image at the top is of that easing up with a pretty decent gap.
This might be my last win at the Hawthorn crit for a while as I have been promoted to grade C now. The next time you hear from me, the story might be a lot different.