In true Spring Classics style, 50 or so riders set out in pouring rain down a gravelly, pot-holed farm track towards the start line.
The race was clearly going to be a test. A strong field on a tough, but brilliant course, with the added danger of torrential rain.
Slippy cornering, standing water hiding sinister holes in the road, zero visibility when on someone’s wheel and greasy drain covers meant that full concentration was required.
Planning lines and positioning was key to avoid, or simply reduce the risk of, the aforementioned hazards that could end your race.
The race was fast in the first few laps and blew away a handful of riders. There was no opportunity to look over your shoulder to see what the field looked like so you just concentrated on your own game and ensuring only a small bunch was ever ahead.
Just after the half way mark I found the elastic about to break as we went through the start/finish line, slipping off the back as the pace notched up a few critical watts. I buried myself up what would usually be an innocuous short climb to reattach myself to the bunch. Phew. Race still on.
From then on I made the tactical decision to sag climb each ascent to give myself the best chance of not losing the bunch.
The pace was furious at times, coming down the hill into Seale, praying that you and the field in front of you had all picked the correct line as we banked left, entering into a pan flat full gas time trial up to the Binton Lane 90 degree left turn.
My bike felt ideal for this race. Aggressive enough for an efficient time trial position, nimble and responsive for the short, sharp climbs and tetchy descents.
The Repente Alena 4.0 saddle provided comfort despite bouncing around on it thanks to Surrey’s ‘finest’ tarmac. It was also perfectly comfortable when I used more of the nose to get into the TT position when required.
In hindsight I probably would have used carbon hoops with aluminium rims as the Miche full carbon wheels provided little braking when tethering but kicked in with a firmer squeeze when required.
It was impossible to avoid a few holes in the road and I prayed that the gentlemen at Epoca had layered up the R60 with enough carbon to ensure both me and the bike came away unscathed. Ticks in the boxes all round!
Each corner was an opportunity for the field to split. Those too far back would have to put in a big effort to regroup and I’m sure that’s how the field was whittled down to only about 25 finishers. Plus a few crashes.
On the final climb starting at the Barley Mow pub, the difference in ability was evident. The stronger lads notched up the pace, leaving me and a few others to finish the last half a mile or so without a wheel to hang on to.
I emptied the watt tank to steal a couple of places in the final few hundred yards to finish 12th but it was finishing at all that felt like the biggest achievement.
I’m aiming to peak later in the season but I’m sure this race will boost my numbers as well as my confidence going into the next race.
Normalized Power was 332 watts which is representative of the relentless nature of the race that last around 2 hours 20 minutes.
Real Bike Racing
On the same day as Peter Sagan showed the world how it’s done at Paris Roubaix, it was an exhilarating race in our own little amateur world too and was a race that rewarded the confident bike handlers.
The course is fantastic, requiring riders to dip into a wide array of skills. Resilient mental strength was required on a day that many might not have ‘fancied it’ and determined physical application in digging deep was the only way to go home with a point. Which is what keeps you coming back for more…
Big thanks to Windymilla on hosting the race and also to my club team mates from FCCC for standing out there on junctions in the pouring rain to marshal the race and ensure oncoming traffic was stopped.