Big fat drops of warm summer rain. That’s what started to fall as I loaded my bike into the car for the drive over to the Rockingham Speedway. By the time I got on to the A6116 it was pouring. The track was soaked, but as the race approached the rain began to ease. Riders ventured on to the track in a vain attempt to warm up, but the sensible ones had rollers with them and stayed under shelter.
A small group of women riders were first off, followed 30 seconds later by the 4ths. Our group was 2 minutes behind them. There were only three 2nd cats and they were not far behind us. From St Neots, Wayne and I were in the 3rd cat group, Steve and Alasdair (in only his second race and first at Rockingham) were in the 4ths.
Starting off, I did a couple of long turns at the front (it was better than sitting in and being sprayed by a wheel in front), however, there seemed to be little appetite for a determined chase. Perhaps because of the slippery conditions, the group set a pedestrian pace and the corners were taken with care. An approach vindicated when, at the end of the first lap, we passed a crashed rider from the women’s group.
The 2nd cat riders soon caught us and the pace did start to lift. Our pack was now being driven mostly by a 2nd cat Maxifuel rider. At some point he must have got bored and so decided to attack. A Peterborough rider went with him. I tried to bridge across to go with them, but ended up leading the chase. It came as a relief when other riders took over the work and pulled the pair back. Things settled down after that, for a while. Wayne and I were riding near the front when a rider slid and crashed on a bend (the same one as the earlier crash).
Bit by bit we gained on the 4th cats and, as they came into sight the Maxifuel rider attacked. He got away and punched through them, although a couple did manage to stick to his wheel as he exited the bunch. A few attacks started to come from our group. I had a go, but was reeled back in. As I was caught another attack went, only this time the bunch eased up and the rider managed to stay away for a couple of laps. That was galling. I had another go later, and thought I had got away, so was surprised when Alasdair went by in his Oxford Uni colours. For his first race at Rockingham he put in a big effort and I was happy to sit on his wheel as we rode into the wind.
Into the final lap and the Maxifuel rider, James from Bourne Wheelers and, I think, a St Ives rider, were away with little chance of being caught. On the far side of the circuit, where we turned into the wind, there was a strong attack. Annoyingly I had let myself get boxed in, and from the attack three riders had made a gap. However, as we approached the windy drag leading to the circuit’s final ‘U’ bend, before the finish line, the pace eased. What the hell, I went round the outside of the leading riders and tried to slip across to the three ahead. I thought I could make it, but in the end I just didn’t have the legs. The space I had opened was closed just before the final bend. A handful of riders, Wayne among them, went past. I managed to get a wheel as we went around the bend and the pace was high enough that my position wasn’t too badly eroded. For the 3rd time this year I finished a race in 13th place. Over the next races, that’s a level of consistency I want to break.
Despite being soaked through I enjoyed the race. I had been aggressive, attacking rather than responding. It feels like the right the direction.