Crit Race #2: 5 Things I Learnt

I’m writing this whilst nursing a swollen knee and slightly dented pride having crashed on a narrow, greasy bend avoiding an oncoming car on my ride today. Bike fine, I’m fine (a little sore).

Anyway – this post is called Crit Race 2, and that was yesterday, so I’ll stay on topic. You know writing is ingrained in your heart and mind when you finish a race that didn’t go your way, but feel secretly excited because you’re sure it will make a nice write up.

Yesterday was an E1234 Women’s race at Cyclopark – it was a London Women’s Racing league event, and so there were quite a few Cat 3 and 4s, and just a handful of 2s. It was my second race after Hog Hill the previous weekend (I’m ignoring my failed attempts in 2013 as I didn’t get very far!)

It went: ok. Since it was E1234 (really 234) I’d expected to lose contact with the front group, but what I didn’t expect was that it would happen on the very first hairpin, or that I’d be kicking myself for not even giving myself the faintest chance of being in that group. Of course it’s highly likely that my fitness wasn’t there and I wouldn’t have been able to stick with, but it’d be nice to know!

As with all topics, if you want to engage a modern day audience, you need to chop it down to 5 to 10 insightful points, and add pictures – so here it is…

Start where you mean to continue

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All images: davehaywardphotos.com

There I am in yellow – sitting right close to the back of a 30 strong crowd. Which means at the unavoidable moment when the whistle blows and all the more experienced racers get up and go, I’m stuck almost at a standstill as a couple of riders struggle with the pedal meets shoe contact action.

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On-the-line clipping in is also not something I’m very good at – but in the last race I discovered it’s actually quite easy to rest your foot on the pedal, get into a decent position – THEN sort it out – once you’re moving you can spin the pedal easily and do what you need to do.

Anyhow, there were still plenty of riders between me and the front of the race, so I relaxed, found a wheel and waited for the race proper to start. How very naive!

Don’t relax

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All images: davehaywardphotos.com

Unknown to me (not even in sight here, somewhere on the other side of the hairpin!) was the fact that the front of the race was off. The (pretty incredible overall winner) Aoife Doherty from 5th Floor (pictured is her team mate at the front of the next group, I expect doing a good job controlling them) had broken off and the rest of them were charging after her.

As far as I could see, there was a comfortable number of riders ahead – I’d made a terrible assumption that we were all together and there was no gap in between. WRONG.

A minute or so later and the penny dropped – the rest of us were soon strung out in a mish-mash of chasing whilst about 10 riders were up the road and gaining. I’m not pretending it was all just bad luck – it’s highly probable that front group was just going way too fast for me, but I didn’t give myself much chance of finding out.

Do set up a chase group

All images: davehaywardphotos.com

All images: davehaywardphotos.com

It took a while, but I did eventually catch up with a few riders also in hot pursuit of the front, with some more joining us to create quite a good sized groupetto. We stayed as one, and sure enough watched as the first group got closer… and then further away. Around twenty minutes in it was clear that there wasn’t much hope of catching them – but with a few splintering off ahead of us, we did have the chance to scoop up a some along the way.

Unfortunately not everyone was working. That’s not just my comment – I distinctly recall one other of our actually helpful riders shouting “c’mon guys – there’s only three people doing any f*ing work here!” – and it’s true – there were 3 of us working. I did try the “look if we all work we might actually do ok” nice guy approach, but no one listened and eventually the minority of us just worked the front and tried not to get too angry. Come to think of it, some of them might have had team mates up the road, so they were doing the right thing, but it wouldn’t have been the case for all. Those of us that were working had a good time at least.

We did scoop up around three extra riders along the way – good, helpful riders who hadn’t quite stuck with the main group, my favourite being Lesley Pinder from Elite Cycling who did a great job keeping everyone working hard. There were 2 to 3 more riders between us and the front so it might have been nice if we’d managed to get them all on board.

Put it all in even if there’s no points

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All images: davehaywardphotos.com

I took my final turn on the front up the last nasty bump in the road, and prepared to be swamped in the sprint. To be honest, there weren’t any points up for grabs, I knew the results weren’t going to be recorded past top ten, so I wasn’t sure there was much point.

And then I passed Cat and Rosie (who took 3rd and 2nd!! congrats!) shouting at me from the side of the road, so I got the hell out the saddle and tried to remedy the situation. I was still swamped, but I finished my race with my heart thumping through the roof and my legs screaming, which is exactly what they should be doing – and what they’d have been doing if I’d been in any sort of contention.

What I’m learning is that every race is different, every race is practice, and even if there aren’t points to be had, it’s worth racing like there are – if anything in preparation for the time when there will be.

Don’t pedal on the damn bend

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All images: davehaywardphotos.com

Housekeeping. This one actually goes back to my initial chase when I was trying to reach my would-be-groupetto. In a panic to get to the riders ahead, I committed the actual cardinal sin of Cyclopark. There are two technical bits – the hairpin at the top and the double left hand bend at the bottom. You do not pedal when leaning your bike on the left handers. Or, if you’re me, you do – and instantly regret it as the bike jumps and skits and very nearly throws you off. I then spent the rest of the race not pedalling at all until clear of the bend, probably a little excessively.

At the end of the day…

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I genuinely had a great time. Yes, there was frustration along the way, but it’s all racing miles in the bank, and lessons learnt. On to the next one – hopefully Thursday – if my bruises and bashes aren’t too awful in the morning.

The event was the second in the London Women’s Racing league, and without them I don’t think there would have been so many women racing in such a lovely atmosphere. Organised by the Full Gas League, it was smoothly run, and all pictures come from the fantastic Digi Dave Hayward, who spent his weekend sitting in a ditch at a windy cycle track, so a massive thank you to all involved.

 

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