by Neil Wood.
After years of steadily plugging away at time trial racing, this year I have decided that as a part of the team I should be contributing a bit more to the team effort than just time trialling. One of the driving forces for this decision is the encouragement from the rest of my team mates telling me that I would love road racing. To this end I have booked myself on to a few road races towards the end of the season. In the meantime rather than dive straight into road racing, I decided to enter a few criterium races in order to build up my experience and confidence.
Whilst the Criterium, or “crit” race is different to a road race there are a lot of similarities. The crit is a short course race on a closed circuit. There are several in the North West, and I have been competing at the Tameside and Barrowford circuits. The event duration is considerably shorter than road races, but the average speed and intensity can be appreciably higher.
In my first event at the Tameside circuit I had a mechanical issue so only lasted a few laps before the wheel bearing noises and resulting loss of power forced me to retire early. Not the best start, but the following week, I got off to a better start and finished in 9th place. The race was very exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable. I found it a very similar experience to the through and off training, or “chain gang” that I usually do when training with the team throughout the winter months. Whilst the work at the front of the pack is difficult taking the impact of the wind, I limited my time working on the front and took refuge in the peleton to conserve energy, just as we do in winter training. The through and off that we organise in winter training is more structured though with every person obliged to take their turn on the front for a given time. However, I noticed very quickly in the crit races, that a lot of riders did no work whatsoever on the front, they just sat in for the duration and then suddenly and miraculously found strength to sprint for the finish in the final lap!
The experience of racing in the crit, again was very similar to chain gang in terms of riding in very close proximity to the rider in front and to either side, so from early on I was feeling pretty confident in this kind of race. In addition coming 9th in my first race without a mechanical issue was an added confidence boost.
Fast forward a few similar races at Tameside and Barrowford, I sometimes came outside the top 10, but as confidence increased and tactics learned, I was gaining higher places and regularly coming in the top 5. In securing these positions, I have been awarded points and now gained my 3rd cat racing licence. As well as the points enabling my promotion, the points are also added to the team points, which help us to increase Team Chronomaster position in the overall regional team rankings.
I am under no illusion that being promoted to 3rd cat the level of intensity is set to increase twofold so there is a lot of hard work to be done. But still I am greatly looking forward to more crits and the road races later in the season. I am also very pleased to say, that I have finally listened to the advice of my team mates and delved in the road racing arena as I am loving every minute of it.
Thank you to the following:
Anthony Ives for the photographs
Fred Hewitt and the Tameside organisers
Peter Boast and the Steven Burke Hub Circuit Series organised by CDPP