Monday 17 March 2008

Weekend Round-Up......Sunshine and Rain


These races are always a good season opener. Run on a handicap basis where the fast group (scratch group) have to catch the slower groups for one lap these races have proven to be a good test of where you are compared with your peers. They show how fast you can ride compared with others in your handicap group, and even those in other groups, should the groups end up merging during the race (which often happens). Unfortunately, the results don't really illustrate much.

With the "slow" group sometimes consisting of youths who have never raced on the road, but spent most of their winter on the track, it kind of gives a false impression of what the level of speed will be. So the scratch group can have a hard time catching the slower groups.

Saturday was the third and final round of these starter races. So luckily these type of anomalies were largely ironed out.
We started the race in glorious sunshine and that was how it continued throughout - which is always a bonus at this time of year. I started in the middle group. Things went well for a time, until the scratch group caught us - typically, just when I was finishing a big turn on the front and up the steepeest part of the drag. They shot past out our group out of the blue, and I was too out of breath to react. A few women in my group, mainly the rested ones managed to jump in with the fast girls. I just stayed where I was and worked with my reduced group until we were caught again. This time I was more ready for them and we managed a bunch sprint for the line. Not sure who won, but I suspect it was one of a sizable clutch of frisky youth riders. (Shouldn't she have been at home revising for her GCSE's ??)


Well, what can I say : Wet, wet, wet - oh and maybe wind, wet, wind, wind, wet wet !

I was determined to make the journey down the M3 to this race. I'd paid my money and I wasn't going to let a bit of rain get in the way. Anyway, I've raced in the pouring the rain before - at Hillingon, in the lanes in Surrey, and Kent. What difference would there be. Well, actually the difference was that those races took place in July and August. This was March, with 30mph winds sweeping across the aerodrome !!
Even getting out of my car in the car park had been a job. I simply resigned myself to the fact that this would be a wet one and got on with things. Ok, so I was going to have to wear some of my after race wear during the race just to be sure of keeping warm, and eat some of my after race food as well. But hey, I'd deal with those consequences after.
Needless to say the field was drammatically down compared to last week's. Actually the total number was down, probably by 60%, but the women's field had stayed the same - 10 just like last week.

The race began very tentatively, with people taking it easy on the wet corners. After a couple of laps people became more daring and the pace picked up. I and a group of others got dropped when we went up the drag into the head wind. We worked together for a time, but then as things were just too gusty for me I was off the back of this gruppetto. I had thought I could sit up and wait for the people behind me so I could work with them. But there was no one else - just an old guy came past. I was sure there'd been others. Had they dropped out ? We did some turns together. After one big turn I'd done into the wind, I swung off hoping for him to come through, but there was no body there. Riders were rapidly disappearing away. Hey, ho - I then just soldiered on round the course on my own. The rain wasn't too bad at this point. What had earlier been torrential rain, had just reduced to steadily pouring rain. The wind was ever present though, and a couple of gusts nearly took me down.

Fortunately, with all the casualties that were steadily crawling back off the circuit during the course of the race, the commissaire reduced the number of laps and brought the race to a premature end. I was pretty relieved too as I was getting sick of my feet squelching about in my shoes.

The results show that I came 7th - which means 3 of the 10 girls dropped out - including some pretty speedy riders. I think half of the men's field dropped out too. I may have been dropped, but I am just glad that I got through the race, and also I know that I will be able to get through these conditions in the future - hopefully this won't happen for a while. It's a shame I haven't entered the Tour of Flanders. This would have been ideal preparation !

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