My first road race today, in fact it was my first competitive outing other than our Peak Bike Hub shop rides....and it was an absolute blast!
Nicko and I travelled up together to the start at the Pig and Whistle Pub at East Trentham. Upon arriving we saw P-Train Paul Muldowney in his winter clothes and understood why as soon as I lowered the window, it was bloody freezing with a chilly southerly was blowing. Time for a mug of HTFU, but I did don the arm warmers and wind vest!
I'd been placed in the 11 minute group with Kiwi Kevin and George G from our Tour de Eltham rides, whilst Nicko was in the 14 minute group, a little harsh I thought given he's injury interrupted start to the year. The P-Train was in the chopping block group just 1 minute ahead of scratch. This was going to be interesting and some pre-reading on how to ride scratch races from the CyclingTips website would hopefully help me ride a good race.
After a short warm up and multiple trips to the loo - nerves or the cold wind??? - our group of seven assembled at the start line outside the Pig and Whistle Pub, got our briefing and were summoned on our way. With the wind on our backs there was no time for pleasantries and we were straight into it, with Kevin ramping up the pace from the outset and barking instructions to get the rolling turns going.
My introduction to Newtons Lane wasn't kind as I misjudged the turn a little, recovered, lost a heap of ground and wasn't in the right gear. Oh, there was also a bump...or 163 or more of them, and some loose gravel was an obstacle to contend with whilst not getting pushed over to the right side of the road by the wind. The five or so rolling climbs reminded me of our shop ride towards St Andrews, so I was thinking this terrain would be to my liking.
The short stretch on Trentham Rd was thankfully a lot smoother but it was into the wind and was tough going. I was at the front of the group when we turned onto Pearsons Rd and was greeted with a short but still imposing climb of about 5% with the wind across us again. I kept it in the big ring and rode a solid pace up the climb, only for Kiwi Kevin to tell me we'd dropped the rest of the group.
With not even a lap down it was way too early to for any bravado so we sat up until the rest of the group were back on.
The downhill stretch and left hander back to the pub were a hoot and off we went to do it all again. One lap down and three more to go, and I don't think my HRM had been below 80%.
The arm warmers were by now scrunched down to my wrists and I was lamenting my decision to go with the wind vest. But I was having a great time and felt comfortable taking my turns and encouraging the others in our group to do so.
By this stage we'd lost two of our five riders. For the next two laps Kevin, George and I took the initiative and did a fair bit of the work, with the other two guys helping out where they could and pulling turns also. On our third lap we picked up Nicko on Newtons Lane and got within seeing distance of the riders ahead with nobody breathing down our necks.
Kevin and I decided we'd put in a big effort on our last trip up Newtons Lane to see if the rest of the guys were going to hang on, work or drop off. The two of us absolutely buried ourselves, rolling turns up Newtons Lane, into the wind on Trentham Rd and then up the hill on Pearsons Rd.
On this last climb we picked up quite a few other riders and I just kept pedalling deep in the drops despite feeling like I was going to blow, swapping turns with Kevin to ensure we did our best to keep the chasing riders at bay. Finally we reached the downhill section and could see the finish line, what a feeling!
I went with everything I had in the 53/12, my Garmin's 100 cadence alarm bleeping away...too bad, I had scratch riders to keep at bay. With the wind from my right I motioned for Kevin to go on my left and together we put in one last effort, Kevin crossing the line with me right behind him. Later we discovered this was for 5th and 6th place respectively!
We'd kept scratch at bay and chased down about 30 other riders. If this is what racing is like then I think I've found my calling.
Thanks to everyone for making me welcome, to Kevin for his guidance and to everyone for a great race. Well done to the P-Train on a magnificent effort, he missed the fastest time by a mere 9 seconds to Paul Logan off scratch, and well done to Nicko for getting another tough ride under your belt on your comeback.
Lastly, Luke did warn me that it was a pretty rough course. He was right, my sit bones feel like they've been pummelled and I'm trialing a wider saddle for the week.