The year's end-part two
After a double weekend of racing I was feeling pretty strong in the week leading up to the next race. Only a 2/3/4 but if I've learned anything this year is that you can't come to any british race and be complacent. Raring to go, on the Saturday night my spirits would be dampened by the customary pre race weather forecast check. only one word can describe it: abismal. I was to travel to the race with another good friend of mine Jeremy Perks and we both thought it wise to give what would turn out to be a cruelly cold and wet race a miss. Later that day the weather improved for what I imagine was a far more pleasant training ride and though you may consider me soft for avoiding the conditions, I felt justified seen as it wasn't an especially big race and I wouldn't usually give myself the option of not starting. But in this incident seen as my lift to the event wasn't going I felt riding to the race and then racing then riding home was a little excessive. I would soon get another opportunity in what seemed like the busiest road racing part of the calendar all year!
Sunday 30th, Team on form Writtle college races. Never underestimate a 2/3/4 field. Always race switched on. As Mark Barry always said, the first rule of bike racing: "don't [mess] about". I got the event very wrong indeed. The biggest error was falling foul of my own excessive thought drifting from the focus of the race. Primarily down to my own naïve assumption that it would be an easy race. No race is easy until you've done what you set out to do. I set out to make the pace hard from the start however in what would seem to be becoming a trend as soon as I lifted of the gas the attacks began to fly and it seemed everyone except me was allowed to go up the road, becoming overly frustrated and berating myself rather than merely focusing on the race at hand a group of 5 was allowed to go and gain 2 minutes and for the next 50Km an exciting battle between bunch and break ensued. The gap was 20 seconds, then a minute, then 30 seconds, then 10 seconds, then 40 seconds and so on. then into the final 10km some very concerted bridging efforts went away but they would come to nothing, in the final 2km the gap was agonisingly close and I launched a last effort on the final rise before the finishing run in, but I didn't commit as I should have. the bunch slowed and the break regained a few vital seconds. We were bearing down on them in the final hundred metres. As they must have been able to feel our breath down the backs of their necks their fatigued and ragged sprints were opened up insight of us and still we waited and waited. Only too late I launched my final effort to pick up some breakaway stragglers. Finishing the best of the rest in 6th. A fantastically entertaining race. One also full of simple and hard lessons which could be employed in the next event.
Maldon holds fond memories for me, on the same roads around steeple have I won multiple youth Time trials and last years Maldon Road race was a very enjoyable race. This year was to be no different. Despite the events of last weekend I opted to forgo planning any tactics and just rely on brute force. Which next year will be something I will have to avoid. I travelled to the race with my friend Colin Peck once again; he, having beaten me in our previous race together gaining his 2nd cat and being forced against his will to race the Nat B, was unhappy about the task ahead of him. I tried in vain to reassure him. I am confident that he is strong enough to win a National B on the right day, even though he doesn't believe it at the moment. So we both had opposing ideas for our approach to the race. Perhaps, if we were both to adopt a portion of the others race tactics we would be more effective! We lined up in the somewhat dilapidated cark park of steeple village hall. I was surprisingly chatty and excitable, concentrated caffeine chewing gum coursing through my veins. Infused with this adrenaline and buzz I went straight to the front as soon as we began to roll out. I sat myself directly behind the lead car, and as soon as the flag dropped I went like a bat out of hell and to my own astonishment gained an insignificant gap but a gap nonetheless (it feels good to get a gap!). Though my initial breakaway didn't last long it meant I didn't have to pay anyone £10 for the first attack, which I had offered up in my caffeine fuelled excitement. Once I was back with the group the attacks truly started. Within maybe 9km there was a group of 3 up the road I then jumped away with Jordan Peacock to seek out the break. As we chased the 3 leaders they appeared to be suspiciously close to the lead car. At this point the bunch was out of sight behind us and we couldn't have been more than 15 seconds off the lead. From my point of view with still 110km to go the sensible thing would have been for the 3 leaders to wait and have 5 at the front. Sadly logic didn't prevail; they too may have been consumed by a caffeinated craze! To add insult to injury my breakaway companion then missed the next left turn as I frantically shouted at him to turn left he powered straight on! A quick escape from our no-mans land position? This took the wind from the sails of my chase and I drifted tranquilly back to the peloton to settle in. Yet the course does not lend itself to going easy. As Simon Alexander put it "you have to pedal the whole lap". The wind on the long straight also meant staying close to the front was easier than being further back. Although I may have taken this to extremes being on the front a lot of the time. The typical flurries of attacks continued from the bunch for the rest of the race. Then the decisive second group broke off with 2 laps remaining. And yes you guessed it I missed it! I was not responding to moves fast enough leaving gaps to accelerating riders. Then 8 guys were clear. it was now or never so as one rider sat up after trying to bridge to the chase I opened the throttle and went. I didn't look back until I realised I had company of another rider and Hell! YES WE HAD A GAP! This was effectively the first attack I'd made successfully for what seemed like an age! Spurred on, I drove across to the chase group. We then began to work well and flew up to the leaders.
Altogether, one lap to go at the head of the race. One very excited Tim.
Marcus Burnett was clearly strong. He rolled the dice first. He was joined by a second rider from our group. Alarm bells! In the moment when it pays to stay calm I lost my cool and went all in to chase a counter punch by James Jenkins, oh the agony when I realised I'd given a little too much in that moment and had to slow to breath! As the group reformed, strung out in a long line the wheel was slipping away from in front of me. 1 metre. 2 metres. "come back, come back!" Too late the train was gone and I was spent, I offered up a token to the riders behind me who would suffer as a consequence of my misjudgment. A hand sling back to the wheel. I slumped on the bars as I saw the race vanish ahead. Marcus Burnett went on to win from a sprint! A strong and clever ride. I hadn't seen him at all until the final third of the race (probably something to learn from that). I finished 12th but to my joy it was the first time I had finished solo in a national B close(ish) to the front. For all I cared I had won my own personal battle to finally make the winning move. All that's left to do now is win one (or stay at the front!)!
The subsequent week I took easy in training. I came to my final road race feeling absolutely prepared and chomping at the bit. Jeremy Perks had offered to take me this time and we braced ourselves for what looked like was going to be a biblical day. I opted for the tough (stupid I really mean stupid) clothing choice of just a skinsuit. I wanted to go and empty the tank. Once the flag had dropped I went straight to work trying to prise myself clear. why didn't I wait? I went hard for the initial few kilometres, underestimating some of the riders who were present . Namely Jack Barton who, once he saw that I had pushed on for a little too long, went on the attack and we didn't see him for another 50 miles! Various breaks were let up the road but they returned in dribs and drabs. with 3 laps remaining it was time to sort the race out and I began to pull hard with 3-4 other riders. we caught Jack at the start of the final lap. the race switched off, everyone evidently hoping for a sprint. At this point there were only around 20 guys left of a 50 man starting field. punctures and cold had claimed numerous victims, my friend Jez included.
He punctured 40km into the race and with a neutral service run off their feet it was game over for him. I was just praying that he didn't drive off and leave me! those worries aside we faced the final few kilometres. Then Barton seizing the initiative jumped on a downhill section. Whether it was because I was too slow to respond or too dumfounded I reacted a few seconds too late and the gap was established. Try as I might I couldn't get up to him. Then I was caught, the impetus slowed giving the solo rider a vital few seconds. into the final corner he had 7 seconds I risked the bend flying in on the inside moving up to 3rd for a sprint. He hit the penultimate ramp slowing all the time. Someone kicked. I instinctively followed being sure to stay to his right to shelter from the wind coming from the left. 600m I waited. 500m. Still waited. 400m waited. 300m he was metres from the line. I went. Too late. 2nd. Once again beaten by my own complacency and a very strong performance. It can't be too hard on myself. It is my best result in a british road race to date. The lessons learned throughout this year of road racing will no doubt stand me in good stead for a strong 2019. Now with the physical strength that I lacked at the start of 2018 I can go about executing the plans that will lead to the results. Onwards. Upwards.
I seriously underestimated the volume of words that I would require to describe these final races. there is still one more event to cover before 2018 is wrapped up and 2019 will be on the agenda...to be concluded...