Three groups and a new circuit tonight. Tim was in the lead group with the 4th cats; 2 minutes behind, Alasdair, Wayne and I were in the middle 3rd cat group along with 14 other riders. 2 minutes 45 seconds behind us were a dozen 2nd cats.
The course took us out onto the speedway oval for the first time, and we made good use of its long sweeping tarmac to quickly establish a paceline, something race organiser Rowland had been keen to encourage us to do. A couple of times, mostly coming through the tighter corners, the organisation became a little fractured, but the riders came back together and our chain gang powered along. Each pass of the finish line and we were told we were holding the 2nd cats, on a couple of laps we put time into them. The group was working and it was paying dividends.
Twenty five minutes in and we caught the 4th cats. A few of them jumped on to our train but I do not think too many did. After the race, Tim reported they had been working pretty well, but by the time we caught them they were ragged, broken line. Our swelled numbers did start to affect the organisation; some riders were either starting to sit in, thinking of the sprint ahead, or else fatigue was setting in. Still there were enough of us cooperating at the front to keep up the groups momentum and it was good to see Wayne and Alasdair riding strongly, like 3rd cats ought to. We were still holding off the 2nds with a comfortable margin.
There were not really any attacks, rather as stronger riders, and I count myself among them, took up the pace making, we lifted the pace just a little. At times there would be perhaps 7 or 8 of us working together, while the rest of the group formed a suffering tail behind us. Sometimes we would splinter off by a few bike lengths, but the rest of the group wasn’t quite weak enough to be dropped – someone would always make the effort to drag us back. Then, for a while, the organisation would return with a fuller, more participative paceline.
With two laps to go and with no sign of the 2nd cats, one rider jumped off the front. On the final lap a couple more riders bridged across, but we reeled them all back. I was well positioned for the sprint, but despite Wayne offering a lead out, I just didn’t have the legs. I am comfortable being a stronger rider in our bunch, driving it along or going on the attack, but when it comes to that final burst of acceleration to the line, right now my legs just don’t have the sprint in them. So I lost a few places while Wayne shot forward to take 4th.
It was a good fast race, I enjoyed it, and, barring the sprint, rode strongly throughout. Considering I hadn’t been on the bike since last Thursday, not to mention a 3 day family break to the Norfolk coast, complete with holiday booze, nutrition and a distinct lack of exercise, I was pleased with my race.
As Wayne and I walked back to HQ to return our numbers, we chatted about whether or not he should go for his 2nd cat licence, he only needed 1 point. Given this was his first year racing, he was a little nervous and knows full well it will only get harder. I told him he’ll regret it if he doesn’t, and besides what’s the use of racing in comparatively easy races? It turned out the discussion was academic. One of the three finishers ahead of Wayne was a lapped rider. The video evidence was incontrovertible and gave the confirmation; Wayne had finished 3rd and with it gained his 2nd cat licence! Chapeau and good luck with the chase next week…As for the rest of us, I had digital evidence of yet another 13th place, while Alasdair and Tim finished further back.