When I arrived at the race track, Bourne rider James gave me some disturbing news; a couple of UK Youth riders had turned up to chase end of season points, necessary to make their 1st cat licences. Wayne was there too and stepping up his race preparation with rollers. Tim arrived while I was signing on and, by contrast, was snoozing in his car. Tonight’s race was the last in the series and, as I’ve raced the lot, organiser Rowland kindly me gave a REGOF (work it out) on this, the twelfth and final race. Something to remember for next year…
While I was getting ready for the race, gossiping/talking tactics with James in this case, one of the UK Youth riders asked if he could borrow my track pump. I obliged, but was surprised he didn’t have his own; I guess he normally has a team mechanic to rely on for such things.
For the evenings race we used the original infield course, but in reverse. The handicapping also stuck to the traditional format, but with a longer time gap between my 3rd cat and Tim’s 4ths. We had a large 3rd cat group, but despite this we set off working reasonably well. True, a couple of riders insisted on applying more pressure as they came to the front, but wiser heads eventually won them over to a more controlled style of riding. That’s not to say the bunch was perfect, far from it. Corners frequently presented problems, making the lines unfathomably ragged and some riders sat at the back caused some confusion as to who exactly was meant to be rotating through at the back. Nevertheless, after last weeks shambolic efforts, our amateurish bunch effort had a more capable feel to it.
We caught the 4ths halfway into the race and although we tried to push straight through, most of them managed to jump on. Tim was there and looking strong, but disappointingly so was Wayne, back where he had started the season having being dropped earlier by the 2nd cats. However, I’m not sure how many riders progressing from 4th to 2nd cat in their first season could hang on for long against the strong and seasoned point chasing racers determined to reel us in.
With the 4ths in our ranks the front end of the group was still working well although a few attempts to break off the front were made. I followed them, but was suffering a little pain from my left knee so didn’t try to initiate anything, and neither did I do my full share of work at the front, but in that respect I wasn’t alone.
The 2nd cats caught us with 5 laps to go. My knee was feeling OK which was just as well as the 2nd cats, especially the UK Youth riders were attacking more or less non stop. Onto the final lap and James launched a brave, if doomed attack. A couple of weekends ago I had been chatting with one of my club mates, Geoff Smith (scroll to the end), about my weakness in the sprint and what to do about it. Tonight I had planned to follow his advice, so with a third of a lap to go I put the tactic into action. I went to the right hand side of the track, away from the main bunch, and started a long sprint. I drew level with the front and for a moment our parallel lines were matched at the head of the race, one lead by me the other by a youthful UK Youth rider. My legs were at their limit, but he still had something in reserve and surged forward. My challenge against the peloton was over. I finished in the bunch with Tim ahead of me.
It had been a good fast race, much better than last weeks and I learned one very important lesson. The next time I loan my pump to a rider from a UCI Continental Team, be sure to ask for a lead out in return.
After the race, there were a few presentations to clear up. Throughout the season, the race winners have been getting series points and tonight the winners were announced. the series was won by Maxifuel’s 2nd cat rider Jamie Scott, not surprising, but still very well deserved. In 2nd place was St Neots’ very own Wayne Tunnah. Bourne Wheeler’s James Gelsthorpe was in 4th. For progressing from 4th to 2nd cat, Wayne was also presented with an award for most improved rider and a free bike fitting from Core Cycling Solutions – well done Wayne, it’s well deserved!
Finally, a very big thank you to all the NCRA and club organisers who have made the Rockingham race series possible, especially Rowland Summerlin and the Raceway. Even if I haven’t done as well as I would have liked, I have certainly enjoyed the racing. So, hopefully the series will continue next year, and if it does, I and other St Neots riders will be there to support it.