Leicester Castle Classic
The previous week in the lead up to Leicester was spent on a very lovely holiday, or as I like to call it, an opportunity to train on some different roads. We visited the isle of Wight and my Grandparents who inhabit the island. I spent a large amount of time exploring the fantastically undulating roads. I never climbed less than 1000m in 2hr rides. The tendency to come to the coast and the end of a road during a 15 minute interval was somewhat pleasant if not conveniently inconvenient. Though I am certain the tougher terrain resulted in a leap forward in terms of fitness in preparing for the Leicester Castle Classic and Rydale GP.
Concerning the race, where to start, who would think that so much could happen in 80km or rather 83.9km according to Strava. There certainly was no lack of entertainment value in the relatively short and fairly technical 4.5 km circuit which was covered 20 times. Liam Davies and I warmed up together on the circuit and it was immediately apparent to us that this was a race where it was not an option to be away from the front. We hatched various plans for the race to endeavour to stay out of trouble and as often happens these were jettisoned as soon as the 'neutralised' zone. This supposedly calmer period of the race demonstrated that it would be even more chaotic than either of us anticipated (this was not helped by an unnecessary, if not dangerous, varying of pace by the lead vehicle when the race was neutralised).
It was clear to me within the first 5 minutes that I was too far back and slipping ever further from the front of the race. This was engendered by the typical first lap crashes generated by the fight for position and common risky cornering speed used by riders in their efforts to move up and maintain position. These incidents also have a tendency to occur exactly where I was positioned. Despite this less than ideal start I found myself in a group- which I later discovered was the second group, demonstrating that I wasn't as far back as I had previously thought, yet still too far back to be in the front split- that began to work well and at multiple points throughout the race closed on the leaders but never quite made the junction despite everyone's best efforts. The pace set by JLT and the two man break meant that regaining contact was always going to be a hard challenge.
We went arduously to the task at hand, continuing to work and only really started to falter and think of placings into the final 3 laps. Our group had become severely reduced in number, as had the lead group as we had been picking up the 'spat' riders as a constant stream of ones and twos from the lead group. We were eventually among the first 30 riders which I found as a pleasant surprise after finishing! Sadly I mistimed everything on the last lap. Will Harper of Saint Piran had launched a perfectly timed attack after we had just followed another strong attack. So he was able to take the bragging rights and various other riders manged to slip ahead of me in a period of brain malfunction, I was content that I managed to squeeze through in the reduced sprint to take 27th, but ideally I would have liked to have been able to comment on how the race for first had unravelled in more detail. Upon arrival at the line it was clear that some freak accident had occurred and it was so dramatic that we had in fact heard the clash of bikes and bodies as we had passed the finish line on the back straight. In the front groups surge for the line Chris Latham had clipped the Pedal of Gabriel Cullaigh and subsequently careered into Rob Scott and Andrew Tennant resulting in a dramatic pile up in the barriers, I don't think the injuries were serious!
Crashes apart, I was very content with my ride; it was a big confidence boost even if it was only an 80km race. The first finish in a british Elite race and my first top 30 which is a double day of positives. There were clear errors as always though it is nice to have some more positive results and the hint of things finally coming together for the final part of the year and the last big race. Rydale GP!