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Jul 23

Team Cystic Fibrosis Road Race – A return to the good old days

After a couple of weeks away from racing open events, I returned to the saddle for the Team Cystic Fibrosis RR on 19 July, with a chance to redeem myself.

I’d entered two open events since I returned form injury, the Pete Taylor Memorial Road Race in June and the Albarosa Road Race just two weeks prior to today’s. Usually I’d do a report regardless of the result (see Ilkley 2-day last year) but my performances were so bad I just couldn’t bring myself to doing a write up. Pete Taylor was perhaps forgivable due to a lack of base fitness and endurance, but Albarosa’s race was just embarrassing. Supposedly on good form I lasted just 3 laps before being dropped on a hilly course meant to suit my abilities. I was depressed to the point where I was seriously considering stopping road racing – open events anyway.

After some encouraging rides in training, a new PB in a time trial at Little Weighton, and a strong ride in Road Race League at the same village, I was in perkier mood than I was a fortnight ago heading into the Cystic Fibrosis event. My aim? A simple one. Just finish with the bunch. A small goal, but something I’m yet to do in an open event in 2015. In order to finish first, first you have to finish, I thought.

The course was 11 laps (50 miles) over hilly terrain up near Penistone and the weather was bleak to say the least. The drive out there was very wet and the wind up on the moor where the circuit was, was gusting strongly. I wasn’t at all confident as a result.

After a short roll out, we started the main ascent just before the start of the 4.5 mile lap. The wind was blowing right in our faces here so the pace was almost pedestrian. That soon changed once we crested the hill and took a left turn beyond the finish line. The pace went from a steady 15 to 45mph. The other obstacle on the course was all the potholes on the back section in particular, and it wasn’t long before riders having hit them at full speed were puncturing. Some riders even had difficulty staying on the road, as one competitor ended up riding in a ditch for about 200 metres, struggling to get back on the tarmac. I nearly had a incident myself, as exiting a fast left-hander I was met by a car. I avoided the car, just, but I’d had to unclip and was gapped. I couldn’t then clip in and all I could see was the pack getting away from me. I eventually got clipped in and sprinted after the bunch making contact some time after. It was a scare, but I was still in the race and keen on just settling down.

After saying to myself not to do anything stupid, like get in a break on lap 3, to ensure I made it to the finish, I ended up getting in a break – on lap 3! Following a rider form 3RT I was pulled off the head of the bunch and joined by 4 other riders. This group of 6 weren’t hanging around and I was struggling to do any turns.

“C’mon get a f***in move on”, I was told. “I’d love to mate, but I’m breathing out my rear end at the moment, so no.” I thought, especially with so long left to race.

We did establish a gap rather quickly and after a moment of struggle, I was now feeling comfortable and taking turns were no issue. As if the gods weren’t looking down on me already, the guy who shouted at me hit a pothole and punctured. He was out, but this was a worry to the chances of surviving with the firepower down a little and over 5 laps still to go.

We kept on getting time gaps as we passed the finish line, ‘a minute’ then ’50 seconds, 40 seconds’. We were slowing down and getting caught. Yet when I looked behind on the long slow straight there was no one behind. ‘What are these marshals on about’ I thought. In fact, what they were on about was not the riders behind, but a rider up front. Unbelievably there was one rider going it solo and in this wind that was some effort. He then started to pull away not long after getting him into sight for the first time, as if he was teasing us from afar.

Our gap over the bunch was well over a minute and with 3 to go we were told that the pack had no chance of catching us. However with that the others then eased up. I had to remind them not to be complacent and the race isn’t over until you cross that white line at the end. They soon got back into it and by the last lap I was feeling good enough to try and get a 3rd or 4th. There was one rider who I knew would dump us before the end but I was confident of beating the others.

By the time we hit the climb for the last time a rider attacked, the favourite closed him down and I followed. I felt good here but in unfamiliar surroundings I panicked. Thinking I could drop them into a head wind by riding them off my wheel was a stupid idea. I was completely exposed, and the others pounced. I got to within a few metres before the legs went. I was then passed by the heavier riders behind me, so not only was I not going to get 3rd, I was now going to be lucky to get 5th. And so it proved as I came in just a few seconds behind the 5th place rider in 6th. However I couldn’t care less at that point. After an up and down year, I was just thrilled to get into the points again and contribute to the massive total the teams gathered throughout the year. I was also reassured after some rather shocking performances in open events of late, knowing I can compete for points. I’m certainly looking forward to my next event now.

A word for the organisers, Team Cystic Fibrosis for putting on an excellent event and it was nice to hear that the majority of the entry money was donated to charity too.

And finally a word too for local rider Billy Robinson of Squadra RT. Although technically a 2nd cat, he was still listed as a 3rd for the event due to an error with BC not putting points on from an earlier race. There was no doubting it now though, as his 7th place today was enough to get him over the 40 point mark and claim that well deserved 2nd cat licence. Good effort lad!

 

Mark Walker
HTRC Road Race Secretary