I drove a long way South on Sunday to participate in the TMG Horizon Road Race, near Leighton Buzzard. This was due to be a long race, over 160km on “rolling” roads, and combined with a different crowd of riders from who I’m used to racing against, I was ready for a good challenge.
At 1300 we were ready to start the race. The wind was fairly strong, but fortunately the sun was shining. As the race was so long, and on unfamiliar roads with a strong wind, I gave myself some good advice: stay in the bunch and save my beans at least for the first two laps (approx 1 hour). Obviously I completely ignored my own advice, and on the first lap I was already attacking!
As ever, the first few moves never work. But I was at the front of the pack and ready to tag along any wheels that shot past me. It was on the second lap that I took an opportunistic move on a fast section passing through a village. I gunned it, and picked up a few riders, and we managed to jump on the back of another group who were already up the road. There were now about 10 of us, and we proceeded to work together to pull out a gap. With the strong wind, this was really really hard work, and for the next few laps our gap on the pack was only around 1 minute. We needed to press on.
Around half way through the race (4th lap of 8), on a particularly gnarly section of the course, my Garmin decided to eject itself from my bike. This was pretty bloody annoying, as I had no numbers to look at, no idea what power I was doing… and I felt a bit blind (terrible I know)!
Another few laps passed, and a group of 5 riders bridged across to our group. Around the same time, some of the existing riders got dropped, so our group remained around the size of 10, but it soon became obvious that too many people were tagging on the back not doing any work. It came to the penultimate lap, and it was time to do something about this. The pace was too low, and we all knew this. One of the stronger riders in the group made an attack on a draggy uphill section. I nailed myself to get onto the back of this, but quickly realised that after 3 hours of racing my legs were pretty smashed. We hit the windy section, and pushed on, but it hurt like hell, and didn’t feel like we were making much progress. We held off the riders behind until the start finish hill, and I ramped up the pace, hoping that the hill would split the riders behind and a few individuals would join me. This didn’t work. I got caught, and I was almost completely done!!
Now the attacks continued. I tried my best to tag along with them, but I had to resign to letting others do any chasing. I knew I could do well if I could make it to the uphill sprint finish, I just had to get there in the front group. Amongst the attacks, Joe Clark (Team Giant Sheffield) and 4 other riders got off the front. Even if I wanted to, I didn’t have the power to chase this group. I sat in with the remaining and waited for the uphill finish, hoping we’d regain contact. As we got closer some more riders clipped off the front. With 1km to go I attacked the group I was in, managed to pass a couple of riders on the hill…. and rolled home in 8th place. I was hoping for more, but on such a long race, in conditions that didn’t really favour me, I had to be pleased with my result.
Huge congratulations to Joe, who took a great win.
Thanks to TMG Horizon for putting on a great race.