Glad to finally get on the podium at Westpoint after a difficult few weeks following a bout of food poisoning which has really knocked me off my stride.
I love racing at Westpoint, it’s probably my favourite circuit. The start/finish line is halfway up a drag, which kicks up for 100m or so after the line, followed by a left hander which, if you get it right, you can pedal around or which affords a second or so’s respite if you choose to freewheel. That corner takes you into a further 150m drag followed by 100m flat and then another left into a slightly technical downhill section before a very fast left hander often taken at 30mph. This leads to the only bit of flat for 250m which takes you into another fast left hander and 150m back up the drag to the finish line – you get the picture hopefully. A quick lap is in the order of 1:05
The trick is to attack the drag/climb, carrying that speed into the left hander, freewheel for a couple of seconds to recover before nailing the next drag (this is where you really do the damage) and attacking the start of the descent so you can then carry your speed into the fast section and hopefully recover on the downhill. It’s almost like doing sprint intervals – but for an hour!
Racing there always starts very fast……tonight was no exception; the fast initial pace got rid of 15 or so in the first 5 laps, riders leaving a core bunch of 30. Attacks were constant, Ashley Towey was extremely active and showing excellent form, David Noakes put in a couple of stinging attacks and Kenny Parker was always prominent in the first third of the peloton. I put in a number of digs on the climb that saw me off the front for a lap or two, but the weather was against us. As you turned left off the finishing straight, onto the second drag, you hit a block headwind which meant the bunch then drew you back. Attacks were constant, but nothing lasted more than 3 laps.
When the penny finally dropped, I figured it was best to take shelter in the bunch and save myself for the finish. Worryingly, I started getting twinges of cramp with 10 minutes to go – a regular feature of racing for me. Ash, doing a great impression of the Duracell Bunny had yet another dig with 3 laps left, but was dragged back – I planned my launch for the penultimate time up the climb, I know my 1m power is pretty good, so figured if I could get the jump, I’d be able to hold off the bunch.
Unfortunately Alfie Peters of Team One Diabetes has the same idea, but his 2 minute power must be good because he went with two laps left, taking Adrian Reynolds of Somerset RC with him. The pair got a great jump on us and with the finish looming, no-one wanted to damage their sprinting legs. Ash again picked it up, but the other riders were reluctant to come through and the gap went out.
I started my move on the downhill section with half a lap remaining, moving up the inside to take a fast line into the penultimate corner and starting my sprint early on the flat section moving up the left side; the two leaders still had 8 lengths. I rounded the last bend 3rd wheel but was carrying far more speed than the riders ahead so quickly moved past them closing in on the leaders. I got out of the saddle to make my final effort but instantly cramped in both calves! I pushed through but eventually had to freewheel the last 30 metres, finishing 3 length behind Alfie and 2 behind Adrian – and left wondering whether I could have overhauled them. Kenny was close at hand in 5th place, with David delayed by a crash on the final corner.
Hats off to Alfie and Adrian,who timed their move to perfection, a late attack can often work as riders preparing for the sprint don’t want to ‘load’ their legs before the finale – it’s ballsy though, because if it doesn’t work, you’re spent before the finish – perfect timing and strong legs saw them deliver.
A special mention must go to Ash – he had his first senior win last week and was one of the dominant riders tonight – he’s displaying loads of confidence, riding at the head of affairs all night long and looking very dangerous each time he attacks despite having to ride on restricted junior gears – now his exams are out of the way, I suspect he’s going to get even stronger!