After not managing to finish the race last weekend, I was looking forward to giving this one a try. It was to be my first race at National B standard, and that meant a tough field, and 85 miles of racing as opposed to 60-70 which I usually do.
The first thing to note about this race is that its on a very easy going course, its pretty flat with only a few draggy bits, but they're nothing much to mention, certainly nothing like last weekends course. Its also mostly very straight and quite wide which made is quite safe (no spills today). The outcome of all of these factors isn't that it pootles along at 24 mph, but it fly's along at 27 mph!
I'd have a decent week of riding, and have kept in mind the distance of today, so I didn't do anything too OTT. I did a 10 mile TT on Wednesday which was a good test of the system. It was probably that morning that the startlist for todays race got sent through on email. It was somewhat surprising that it was packed with decent riders. The Sigma Sport team were out in force, Metaltek Scott had a few riders, there were lots of Felt Colbornes, plenty from Team Corley Cycles, Pedal Heaven, Node 4, and many other riders who were obviously a cut above the usual crowd I race with (and a cut above me might I add as I was one of maybe 10 2nd cats)
I got down there nice and early and it promised to be a dry day which was great as I'd had just about enough of riding/racing in monsoons! There was only myself and Andy Edwards from KW racing today, and a couple of other club riders I spotted warming up, with the majority as I mentioned being from proper racing teams, it was fairly clear the first lap was going to be fast (just under 10 mile loops per lap) as everyone stretched their legs, and it was, over 28 mph for that first one. However although the headline figures sound very quick, it wasn't too tough to sit in really, a nice tailwind down Drift Rd certainly helped. However there were a few corners that were sprinted every time, so that was something that gradually wore you down.
To be honest, the aim for this race as I mentioned last week was just to get round, as it happens I managed to stay near the front, even get in a few moves that didn't go anywhere for various reasons, but it does mean that I wasn't massively bothered about what was going on up the road. As it happens a group of 9 riders or so got clear early on, and the winner from the Sigma Team came from this group. I think later in the race Wouter Sybrandy also of Sigma slipped away with one or two others.
The final lap was again quite quick, I'd already thought about the finish and given there were so many up the road, sprinting was pointless, so I sat back and rolled in mid-pack in the end. Its actually about as far as I've ever ridden anyway, so to do it as part of a race that over the duration averaged over 26 mph, I was very pleased to still be there at the end.
The riding style is very different to a 2/3 race, and when one of the elite guys attacks, he attacks properly, I hit 1500 watts following a move, something I'd never do in a 2/3 race I don't think. Also the pack is a lot more confident, and aside from being shouted at once (my fault for going through a gap that was a bit smaller than I am) I felt OK amongst these guys, but its clear I've got a lot to learn about how to ride in a elite bunch in terms of getting in move, coming through, closing gaps etc. I never felt like I was dying, and my legs felt pretty good for the duration although I do need to think about fluids as I was running a bit dry towards the end.
I'd like to think it translates well to the 2/3's, but we will see on that front today was very flat afterall. There are about 5 races left of this season so maybe I can still place in one of those, if not then the concentration will be on TT's and Hill Climbs over the next couple of months before going for it properly next season (now I am a bit more familiar with how it all works). I will try to add some pics as and when they appear on the web.
Some figures from today
Avg speed 26.5 mph for the race
AP 230 watts NP 280