You can’t get it till you’ve tried it and after a few weeks of talking the talk, getting everything in place and looking for races it was time to try and walk the walk, baby steps anyway.
There are only so many bragging rights you can earn from Strava and with this in mind I got the game face on and rolled out to Hillingdon crit circuit for the 3/4 summer series. A windy in parts, flat, 0.9 mile go-kart track for cyclists, open to the wind and with a nice long straight to the finish line it comes with tales of many a crash.
The pace was quick from the go and the first 15 was spent sucking onto the back of the bunch, a group of about 40 people. Much of the race was spent trying out different things included a solo attack, the end result a lap of airtime for the kit sponsors before being sucked back in, heart and lungs on fire. Sadly it all ended rather prematurely when*clunk* the chain fell off and before I could get it back on the bunch was gone. 10 minutes was spent in hero mode but to no avail.
Duration: 1 Hour
Avg Speed: 25mph
It was a good first go and I’d recommend that for a first race you get out there, try different things and learn your limits, just don’t expect to gallop off the front like seabiscuit.
I returned to Hillingdon a week later with a slightly wiser game face. From the outset it was a calculated plan of mix it with the front of the bunch, stay safe, find wheels, chase breaks and save the legs. Still I wasn’t wise enough and a lack of experience showed as it came to crunch time. The bell rang for the last lap and the 3/4th gallop begun. The confidence to attack on time wasn’t there and too much ground was lost going into the penultimate corners.
Duration: 55 minutes
Avg Speed: 24.6mph
Next up: improve on the final laps, attend some C+ ranked races and start working on Cat 3 status. For other novices out there here is just about everything you need to know to get started, correct me if I’m wrong!
Before race day
Club ride. Can’t emphasise this enough. By all means race solo but learning to ride with a quick bunch is a must and some team mates on race day adds to the mix.
Registration was quick and easy but give yourself time to take on some food, sign on and do a few warm up laps. Get a feel for the course and think about those open sections where the wind might make life difficult.
This is a weakness of mine born from riding fixed. Don’t focus all of your attention on the wheel in front, look further ahead and you’ll take a much smoother line. If you are on the inside watch out for being squeezed and vice versa. Make your presence known.
Mixing with the bunch
Don’t change direction without looking. Some people indicate before moving into a space, some shout, up to you but don’t let others bully you, hold your line.
Plug the gaps, if there is a space in front, move into it.
If a teammate is in a break don’t chase it down and if you do, make sure nobody is on your wheel.
Advice is somewhat lacking on this but if you’ve not found yourself in a break make sure you are near the front. Try to avoid getting boxed in and look for a fast wheel.
If you are organised enough try and start a lead out train for a team mate, all part of the fun.
Spend some time out on the front & make sure there is someone there with a camera. This is the most important thing.
What do you need to race?
Most closed circuits accept a provisional racing licence, you can get this with bronze membership from British Cycling. If you want to earn points you’ll need silver member to purchase a full licence.