Velopark 2/3 Cat 25/08/16
This was the last Velopark race of the summer season, promoted by CS South Hams. I had to attend a corporate dinner in London for work the night before, so was going to skip it, however I managed to get the train back for 5:30. Since I’d needed to get a training ride in anyway it made sense – despite nursing a hangover – to head down and use the event as my training for the day.
The race boasted a good field with ex-National Circuit Champ Martin Smith visiting, in- form Joe Saunders, Exeter Wheelers rising star Josh Croxton together with most of the SW’s strongest 2nd cat’s.
The evening was baking hot with, unusually for the Velopark, barely any breeze. Predictably the race started fast. With no wind it seemed as if everyone was willing to have a go and the entire race was a succession of attacks. I’ve always taken the view that breaks work in still conditions and are much harder on windy days – however Matt Langworthy recently mentioned to me that Velopark breaks tend to work on windy days, when the peloton will often give up chasing.
Halfway in, I seemed to have sweated off my hangover and started to feel okay and was drawn into having a couple of digs myself. I couldn’t manage more than 2 laps away – I was having to pull 28mph to gain a gap and that pace simply wasn’t sustainable. It seemed that without a wind everyone felt strong enough to close a gap, or jump across, making a break nigh on impossible. Once I’d observed this I realised an attack wasn’t going to work – Matt was right – so I decided to stay off the front and save my legs for the sprint.
Another phenomenon of Velopark races is that riders spend the first few laps working out how fast you can take the hairpins, before sticking to that limit for the rest of the race. However in many of the races it seems that a rider or riders will decide, despite having observed those limits for the entire race, that they can take the hairpin 2 mph faster on the final lap. For this reason, when everyone fights for position on the final lap hairpins, I always opt to take the inside line as a rider who overcooks it and crashes always slides outwards.
As expected, on the first of the two hairpins, a rider did just that. My inside line meant I was able to retain my place close to the front as other riders took to the grass. In the commotion Jo Saunders attacked and a group of 7 or so of us went clear with around a kilo remaining. Jo attacked again into the final hairpin, I covered him but his entry into the bend looked a little too quick and his bike ‘bucked’ as he exited the corner. I had eased expecting him to go down, but through some excellent bike handling he kept it upright and pushed on. I closed onto Jo’s wheel into the final curve, as Josh Croxton opened his sprint passing me as we entered the bend. I hesitated a moment too long and whilst I was able to pass Jo, I couldn’t overhaul Josh finishing half a length behind him for second place – a good result for a ‘training ride’
We finished with an average speed of 26.2 mph – no wonder the breaks wouldn’t stick!