Keen to keep the impetus up after last weekend’s great Battle on the Beach, Saturday saw me re-enter the grimace filled world of racing ‘crits’, this time at Preston Sports Arena. One hour long road races on fairly short closed circuits where the pace is high, the race plan is “give it everything” and your nearest competitors are usually no more than an inch or so away from you.
I’d not raced one since 2012 so was slightly worried about the whole elbow to elbow ‘close racing’ that comes as standard but, oddly, the terrible weather that turned up meant the field was reduced to around 20 die hard, highly experienced, more dedicated racers (and me, obviously). All of whom were on their best behaviour while hurtling round the very wet 1km track.
As the race progressed and the speed began to ramp up I found myself on the wrong side of a ‘break’ – with a gap opening up between the few riders I was nearest to and a second group who had picked up the pace. With only an hour between start and finish, these gaps can often make the difference between a high finishing place and ending the race far back or even being lapped, so I had to put my head down and give it everything to get across to the leaders. Once out of the slipstream of other riders it was hard work against the wind but I managed to work my way up to the back of the front group and, after hiding at the back for a lap or two to recover, get stuck in taking my turn at the front to set the pace.
A lack of racing experience showed as I got caught out, leading the group round the final lap and in effect being used by the remaining riders as a wind block while they prepared for the inevitable sprint for the line. I gave it everything I had as we raced to the finish and narrowly missed out on a podium finish, in 4th place.
Despite the awful weather (the race was actually shortened by a couple of laps due to it beginning to hail – a fact I was grateful for as my fingers were nearly numb by the end!) it was great to race something different to the endurance events I’m used to. I’m looking forward to fitting a few more in over the summer!