Seems like I’ve been waiting ages for this race, as my first proper road race, on the actual road!
Since Monday I’d had a pretty good few days training, it has seemed like the last block of training, including that done in Spain, is now coming through in terms of numbers which is pretty cool to see. New FTP based on a 20min power number, backed up by a hard hour, with an NP the same as my FTP number. So I was all set for the weekend, however it seemed the weather forecast wasn’t reading from the same hymn sheet, with the forecast rain and strong winds. Not the best conditions for a road race, let alone a first.
So Sunday arrived and thanks to the clocks changing I was effectively out of bed at 5am to get down to Tooting where I was meeting Gareth, who would then drive us to Dunsfold. I rolled out, and the weather seemed pretty good, no rain yet, and not a great deal of wind. Eventually got to Tooting, and met Gareth and we proceeded to the HQ, with the weather gradually deteriorating.
Got the the HQ and signed on, and chatted to some of the other Paceline guys while nervously watching the weather outside gradually get increasingly grim. Eventually it was ready to roll out. Initially wearing just a jersey and base layer with shorts and leg warmers I was pretty cold, the perceived effort showed and it was difficult to make power. We had a couple of miles neutralised behind the car to the circuit, which was a 6ish mile loop, which was for the most part fairly flat. Once there the flag dropped and we were off, immediately I felt the pace was ok, and I could easily hold the group. However, I was pretty nervous as I didn’t know the course/road at all and the weather was making it even more sketchy. I’m told, although stupidly I didn’t see it that as soon as the flag dropped a group of 3 went off up the road in an attack, and stayed away the whole race, which in those conditions is mighty impressive.
As time went on a couple more futile attacks seem to be attempted before Pat attacked up the road, initially he seemed to get a really good gap and was soon out of sight, however he must have made limited progress after that, as after not too long he was brought back. It was around this time I started to need the toilet quite badly, to the point it was beginning to hurt! I even considered going off up the road, stopping and then catching back on after, but I thought better of it.
It also must have been around this time that another group had split as the bunch I was in seemed to be getting much smaller. Another example of me not paying enough attention to the race! However, other than bladder issues the legs still felt pretty decent. I did try my best to undo all that by coming up to the back of a slower rider on one of the small ramps, before I knew it I was half wheeling him but was balanced in a way I wanted to cross over his wheel, I managed to recover it after unclipping one leg, which was a bit dodgy as well, looking back I think it was just a lapse of attention.
At around 48 miles it seemed clear that the ever shrinking group didn’t really seem to be going anywhere, it was also around then I realised that hard efforts seemed to make my toilet situation better, so after not much thought I decided to put myself out there and attack to see if I could make it up the road to one of the next groups. I sprinted hard from the back of the group and slingshotted myself off the front, which as soon as I had done I thought was a mistake as there was sharp corner just up ahead, whoops. I rounded the corner and sprinted hard again and commited myself to a hard effort. After a short while I checked over my shoulder I was surprised to see I’d actually made a sizeable gap which seemed to be increasing, so I dug in more and settled into a 300w solid effort. I wasn’t really sure at this point how far the finish was, but thought if nothing else this would be good training!
I carried on solo for another 10 miles before I began to start to struggle, I kept looking back on the long straights though and couldn’t see anyone which made me crack on! It was around then I passed the bell, which meant another 6 or so miles. I was getting more worried about keeping this pace up, but seemed to have a good gap still so went with it. Another two miles later, I was really starting to struggle, and after looking back once more I could see a group coming up the road. As they came closer I could see it was only a small group of 5 or so, and not the whole bunch which made me feel a bit better. I sat up a touch in order to try and jump on the back of them to use what I had left in the legs, and try and get to the finish with them. As they passed they seemed to have a good little paceline going so I managed to jump on. I even managed a few turns on the front, and it was too long before we were coming up on the finish.
The finish was straight on, where normally you would take a left to continue the lap, and was just 1km long. By this point my legs were totalled. I still managed to chase down one of the group attempting to go up the road, but that would be my last effort, as after that I couldn’t hold the bunch. I let them go with about 300m to go, and after checking behind basically crawled across the line to come in 22nd. My legs have never hurt so much on a bike before!
Overall happy with that performance, feel way stronger than earlier in the year, and comfortable in a road race. Pleased to have tried some solo action too, even if it was largely pointless, it was good training, and even resulted in a couple of power pb’s 🙂 Also my new bike performed flawlessly, and was a joy to ride.
Need to work on paying more attention to what’s happening in the race as a whole, which means I probably need to hang around at the back less. I think I also definitely need to recce courses in the future, just for my own comfort and confidence.
Avg Power: 231w
NP Power: 258w
Avg Speed: 23.6mph