Tuesday, 22 October 2013

western league round 4 (autumn/winter series) 2013

last sunday saw round four of the western league autumn/winter series take place at hengrove park on the outskirts of bristol.  as i have previously mentioned hengrove is a space that was, many years ago, the site of an airfield.  this was the third time i have raced on what is one of my favourite western league circuits.

the course itself flows well over grass, dirt/mud and tarmac allowing racers to unleash the throttle over a virtually flat topography with the exception of a handful of tiny inclines and a smattering of twists, turns and a couple of hurdles.  with nearly seventy riders, not including u12 and youth, turning out to race i may not be the only one who has a liking for this the course.

as is always the case at category b western league races seniors, veterans, juniors and women all took to the start line together (u12 and youth race separately) on what was a windy changeable day.  although it did not rain during the race a fair amount of rain had fallen over the previous couple of days making the grass sticky and the dirt muddy.  back to the start line and there were sixty eight riders taking their last deep gulps of breath ready to hammer it down the disused runway.

velo club walcot club mate phil thompson was again on the start line with me for a second successive time and even managed to get a seeded call up to take his place on the second line of the start in only his third ever cyclocross race, not sure how he wangled that one!  as for me i started way back in the middle of this great mass of riders.  it was my own fault i guess for not ensuring i was further forward in the fight for the free for all positioning.

as the signal was given to start everyone raced down the wide runway and along the tarmaced right turn which narrows drastically funnelling the riders into a long line.  within seconds i could see the lead ten to fifteen riders snaking out in front as they sped around what is a u-shape that leads to the first grass section and a left turn to the first hurdle.  by the time i arrived at the hurdle there was a mass jam and enough time to catch breath and make jokes about forming an orderly queue (well i did anyway).  once over that hurdle racing proper started.

the next section was the most technical with a few twists and turns on grass and around trees and over a few hillocks. on a couple of mild off camber sections i played safe and unclipped one foot to to stabilize myself.  we then continued racing up and over more hillocks which became my least favourite part of the course due to the nasty energy sapping head wind.

i was enjoying myself though, being able to hold a bit in reserve whilst being able to pick off a handfull of riders ahead is a good, if rare, feeling.  over the first half of the race i must have overtaken at least ten riders, maybe more but whenever i got to the headwind section i tried to tuck myself in behind at least one rider and sucked wheels until we exited the headwind.  i maintained this tactic for most of the race with a few exceptions towards the latter of the race when everyone was really spread out.

someway towards the middle of the race, or soon after, i finally caught up with club mate phil who was struggling, i shouted to him to keep pushing on then passed by.  i then managed to get into a micro race in the last half or so, made up of four riders including myself.  this lasted for two or three laps before the elastic snapped with me dropping one but getting myself dropped by two others.

the first two thirds of the race were really good for my confidence, having not been overtaken much whilst overtaking plenty.  however, like my last race i weakened in the final couple of laps and could not maintain the same pace or at least I could not keep up with two riders who flew past one after the other, they had obviously held more in reserve than i.  i tried to keep up with the latter of the two but it was no use, i just did not have enough power in my muscles.  maintaining a high top end speed until the end is something i need to work on.  i would love to be able to hold just enough in reserve to make my last couple of laps the fastest, negative splits are the holy grail.

overall i was satisfied with sundays race and what is more i had a great time pushing myself to my modest limits.  i caught up with phil after, he was disappointed with his race.  he felt he was going backwards which was the opposite to his previous race.  a sore pelvis did not help matters for him.  win some you lose some I guess.  phil will no doubt be back to put in some performances he will be satisfied with over the coming weeks.  I place 33rd and phil 39th from 68 starters so we both did ok. for full results list click here.

next up for me though is round five this coming sunday and a brand new course for the western league at netham park in bristol.  i have heard it is fairly technical with a few short sharp hills so sounds like it will provide a good test to those who can race.  lets hope for a another big turnout again.

i must keep my weight down, must sleep better, eat better, train better and improve technique.  i have a lot to do to fine tune this aging body of mine!

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