A very wet, very windy and predictably cold Hillingdon Cycle Circuit was the venue for my first race of the 2018 season.
Full Gas Winter Series Round 9
This was the first time racing with my new SD Racing team mates. I was in good company with team mates Paul, Simon and Johnny all taking the start line for our Cat 3 race. We had briefly floated some tactical ideas around during the warm up the tricky conditions and fact this was our first race together made it difficult to agree on a plan.
I thought it might be a good day to try and get away from the pack, due to the tailwind down the straight, while others felt the strong headwind around the back of the circuit would make that too difficult. Nevertheless, we lined up on the start in good spirits, confident and agreed to ride towards the front of the race and let things play out.
From the very first lap it was obvious just how tough the headwind was going down the straight at the back of the circuit. Nobody wanted to be on the front of the pack at this part of the circuit which caused the group to slow to below 15mph on several laps.
These constant slow-downs helped one (very strong) rider get away and stay away for the rest of the race. It wasn’t long before we realised we were all racing for 2nd place.
The SD boys and myself did more than our fair share on the front in the early stages. My average power 30 minutes into the race was 266w which is a little below my threshold. I wasn’t on the limit but being one on the guys sticking my nose in the wind was not making this easy.
It was just after 30 minutes that I decided to test myself and the group a little. Sitting on the front of the pack going into the headwind section (where I knew everyone was trying to conserve energy) I decided to snap and see if I could open a gap. I pushed just over 1000w into the wind for a second or 2 and then an average of about 400w down the remainder of the straight into the last bend by the clubhouse. I glanced back over my shoulder going into the bend and realised that no one had gone with me. I had a gap of a few seconds. I settled into a rhythm just above my threshold and pressed on. The gap grew over the next half a lap but peaked at around 15 seconds. After 3 minutes off the front I could see the pack reeling me back in again so I lifted of the gas and joined the bunch again. Hardly a race winning move but good for the Instagram at least! 😂
The remainder of the race was similar to the first half. Simon, Johnny, Paul and myself continued to be at or near the front of the group. Unfortunately the group was now a race for 4th as 2 more guys had managed to break away (controversially latching onto the E/1/2 race as it came past…)
A failed sprint
One more rider tried to get away from the pack with 2 laps to go and was allowed to dangle a bit before Simon and myself led the effort to reel him back in on the last lap.
We entered the back straight (into the wind) on the last lap with myself soft pedalling on the front of the group, looking behind me waiting for someone to go. Nobody wanted to be the first to make a move. Eventually someone from behind obliged. I thought I had my right hand (inside) line covered going into the last bend but one rider managed to squeeze up the inside of me knocking my bars and almost sending me down. The sprint was suddenly on but my wobble distracted me momentarily and I dropped his wheel as he clattered past me. I stepped on the pedals to try and close the gap to his wheel but was always a bike length behind. We were in the final straight now and I was in no man’s land. Not close enough to the wheel ahead to get in the draft and come around, and basically leading out a train of riders behind me in my attempt to get back on. Unsure whether to go full gas and move forward, or allow someone to come round me so that I could find another wheel, I ended up doing neither and half-heartedly ‘sprinted’ to the line, never putting out more than 750 watts and eventually losing 4 places right at the flag.
Final position: 9th
Average power: 271 watts or 4.1 w/kg
Photo credit : Mick Hodges