The last time I raced at the Naseby circuit I attacked on the course’s climb early on. Tim and two Rutland riders joined me and we stayed away almost to the very end. We were swept up and our efforts achieved us nothing save perhaps a little respect. So, for that reason it is a course I like, one that I feel a need to do well on. But, this was also my first race of the season. I never do well in my first race of the season. Still, I’ve been looking forward to the 1st Saturday of March since January – racing is addictive and lately I’ve been feeling a very real need to compete, and, despite being knocked off a couple of weeks ago, the last few days I had been feeling pretty good. Perhaps this year I could finally banish my first ride gremlin?
I met up with Tim, Wayne, Joe and Lewis at HQ. Joe and Lewis were doing their first race and as we rode out to the start, Tim, Wayne and I dispensed the inside knowledge and tips of the average amateurs that we currently are. Lewis would be in the 2nd group off, Tim and Joe 3rd, I believe I would have been in the 5th group but, following my crash Rowland had shown compassion in the handicapping to put me in the 4th. Wayne was in the 6th group (scratch).
Our group set-off disorganised and mostly stayed that way. There were a couple of efforts to get the group working but none lasted more than a few rotations. Eventually a few attempts were made to split the group, the reasoning being that a smaller number would work together better. I had a dig after Sibbertoft, following after a rider who had been dangling off the front for the last half mile. At the end of the first lap I did a stupidly long turn at the front, from the bottom of the first hill to half way up the finishing climb. I took it a little easier after that doing just occasional turns.
On the second lap, even though we were picking up a few strays from the lead groups I was beginning to doubt we would make the catch. We caught Lewis and another rider just over halfway; I’m not sure how long they stayed with us. Soon after though, we did catch site of the merged leading group and, as we started the final lap we joined together. Two riders had bridged from the 5th group, but of the rest of the chasing groups there was no sign. Tim was riding well while Joe seemed perfectly natural at the front, even if this was his debut race, mind you, to any one who’s ridden with him before, that probably doesn’t come as a surprise.
The narrow and lumpy road to Sibbertoft was fairly controlled with the bunch staying together, however once we got onto the better surfaces and wider roads heading to the airfield an inevitable attack went – I had been thinking of having a dig as it was launched, so I was well placed to slip into the 3rd wheel behind the attacking rider. The attack failed but it succeeded in stimulating the pace and hopefully shed a few riders, working on the principle of the fewer the merrier. The pace stayed high to Welford and the final, hillyish straight.
As soon as we turned left out of Welford, and onto the first climb, the leaders accelerated. Hardly a surprise as there is nothing like a gradient, except may be a crosswind, to force the issue of selection. As the road levelled off I looked at the half dozen racers ahead of me, Joe included among them, and thought, I’m in the group of riders likely to win this. It was definitely a satisfying position to be in, knowing the finish was on a slope and that I had kept pace with the leaders. The pace stayed high and a few riders, dropped on the climb, fought their way back. Approaching the decent to the final draggy climb folk started jostling for position. I wasn’t too happy with mine, but Joe was very well placed. Close to the finish line the gradient eased off, but the pace didn’t and the final sprint started.
Joe took 4th place, an excellent result for his first race, I came in 9th with Tim somewhere in the bunch, or what was left of it. Lewis finished further back while Wayne watched from the sidelines, having been dropped earlier, but I guess if you’re going to do a sportive in the morning you should expect some negative pay back.
Overall a good start for the club and a good start for me – I dropped my first race gremlin and bagged a couple of points.
Anyway, that cautionary tale. In the morning, before the race, my bike preparation involved transferring cassette and tyres to my new wheels. As with many new bike related objects they were a direct to garage purchase. I know this behaviour is not unusual among cyclists and I don’t think of it as being especially devious, cunning or underhand, just…unmentioned – we don’t talk about the garage.
So, in my excitement, I tweeted about setting up my new wheels (my wife isn’t on twitter), got a bit of interest back from club mates on there and thought no more of it. As we got ready to ride off for the start. My phone chimed a text message. My wife. “You left your twitter account open on the laptop…”.