It feels like a long time since I rode the first race of the year: intimidated by all those skinny blokes at the sign on, then gasping around a circuit in Northamptonshire, wondering if I really was too old to compete. Looking back, I haven’t raced as much as I’d wanted to, just as much as life allowed. Last week I raced for the final time this season. I was pleased with how it went, though I had hoped to finish higher than 13th. By the end of the race it was obvious to me that I’ve learnt a lot from racing this year and that I have enough fitness to cope with a 3/4 Category race. So what have I learned? What have I achieved?
Well, I won a race, that’s what I achieved. I didn’t think I would ever win one, even though I lined up on the day knowing I had a good chance. It was a great feeling, though I have never experienced so much lactic acid pain. My tactics were nothing more than accidental, finding myself in the right place at the right time, realizing that, then blasting off the front as fast as my stumpy little legs would let me.
I had to think about tactics last week. My club started the weekend with a slim lead at the top of the local Race League but, as our only representative, I was outnumbered by riders from the second place club. I worried about it all week but realized there was little I could do but be vigilant to them going en masse in a break. That’s all very well, but you need to be in position to react, near the front. I did go after two of them at one stage, but in the end, they kind of destroyed themselves without putting me under too much stress. The 13th place was down to the hill 1 kilometre out.
Positioning is key, and I’m getting better at it. You need to be aware of where you are in the group and invest some energy in getting and staying in the correct place though only when the time is right. Be aware of the wind and the geography and take action to get the best out of it. I’m no climber, but I’ve also worked out that I can go up hill a little better than I thought, though only if I haven’t spent the last three miles sitting in the wind. Positioning again.
I’ve found myself backing off the wheel in front going into bends and on descents, this can’t be allowed to happen, that gap needs to be made up which uses energy. As a race goes on my confidence builds and I stay closer, but I need to work on that.
During a couple of races this year my only ambition has been to finish, but when I have, I’ve been disappointed, convinced I could have done better, not the normal “I reckon I could have done this if...” but absolute certainty. Again, had I maintained a good position, that ambition could have extended to getting a place.
Thoughts are now turning to next year, the possibility of a new bike and an ambition to score some league points for the club and licence points for my pride. In the mean time I’m reluctantly enjoying a period of enforced non-riding, but not the cold and sore throat which arrived. I’ve got a new set of rollers in the garage which I intend to master, and I’ll get out when I can, I just won’t be so obsessed for a while. I do miss the freedom, the solitude and solidarity. I look forward to the exertion, the lactic acid in my legs and the burn in my lungs. The feeling of sacrifice and health. But I reckon I’ll still be intimidated by the skinny blokes at sign on.
|Off the front...|