It was much colder than previous races, confirmed by the moment rain turned to snow about 10 minutes before the start. Oh good.
This led to a last minute clothing panic in the clubhouse. Thick Winter gloves, or lightweight ones? Just jersey with base layer, or put the winter windproof jacket on underneath too? Remove overshoes?
Ended up wearing pretty much everything I had, and was glad I did as I started and finished the race soaked and unable to feel both hands and feet.
The race started in usual fashion, and was fairly unremarkable for the first 20 minutes. The pace was a tad lower than previous races, presumably a consequence of the worse weather and riders avoiding taking too many risks as a result. Still, we averaged over 39kph by this point, so it wasn’t a complete potter.
Things then got a bit interesting. Coming around the final bend with 200m to go I was sitting in around 10th position in the peloton alongside Tomo. I then saw, in what felt like super slow motion, the Watford Velo rider in front start to slide over. His wheels were disappearing from beneath him and he was only heading one way, into the tarmac. This brought with it a chain reaction of riders being wiped out all around me, as if a grenade had been dropped. Some went sideways, one flipped over his bars and plenty hit the deck. I swerved late to avoid the bike flying across the floor in front of me, having considered a Sagan style bunny hop (before remembering I didn’t know how to do that). I then looked right to check Tomo had got through unscathed, but instead saw him upside down at the top of a muddy bank nowhere near the circuit. At this point human instinct was imploring me to stop and see if I remembered any of my DofE first aid course from 2002(ish), but I decided there would probably be some medical professionals nearby and I should crack on.
And that I should probably refresh my first aid knowledge.
Next lap, approaching the scene of the crash we were greeted with a man in a jumper waving at us. It wasn’t really clear here, or for the next 3 laps, quite what we were meant to do. The rider from Watford Velo remained motionless on the floor, clearly having suffered a nasty injury, whilst several others were hobbling around with a lot less Lycra and skin than they had 10 minutes previously. The pace definitely dropped 10% whilst the injured riders were on track, but having spoken to riders at the time and after the race, nobody really knew if the race was ‘neutralised’, if we were just being warned to avoid the injured riders or if it was ride as normal. Slightly surprised there wasn’t some kind of F1 style flag system to help with this situation. Several riders, understandably, took this lull in pace as an opportunity to move from the back to front of the peloton.
Anyway, the race went on and a couple of laps after the track was cleared, we were given the 5 laps to go sign.
The pace really ramped up at this point, with everyone presumably feeling pretty fresh thanks to the race interruption. With a couple of laps to go, Tomo came flying past, caked in mud but much to my surprise both alive and on a fully functional bicycle. That was good to see. His effort here also helped really string out what was left of the bunch behind.
With one lap to go, I was sitting around 10th, with the top 20 pretty much lined up in single-file behind the leaders. It felt fast and I wasn’t sure I had enough in the tank to get round the riders ahead, but kept the wheel in front to make it as easy as I could until the final (Sean Kelly voice). After the clubhouse turn I found a good wheel and saw a couple of riders from the front tire and drop back. I went over the 200 to go point in around 8th spot and realised I was still in the mix, and crucially, not boxed in. Feeling pretty spritely still, I got out the saddle and dropped what watts I had left in me, and managed to pick up a couple of spots and crossed the line in either 4th or 5th, I think (results not usually published til Wednesday).
So, points on the board. Hurrah. Shame that the race was so badly affected by the crash, must have been 5 of the top 10 or so on the road who were taken out which both diluted the quality at the finish and changed the dynamics of the race thereafter. Hope to see as many of those involved back at the track as soon as possible.
This was also the first race I’ve done with a power meter. Lots of numbers and not a huge amount of meaning currently, but it’s already giving me some pretty interesting insights into how I ride and how I should be training in the coming months.
This is what my final lap looked like today, c/o TrainingPeaks. Interesting to see that my improving but still slightly iffy left knee is leading to a 46/54 left/right balance.
This is what it looked like on Strava.
Back for more next week. Hopefully without the crashy bit.
One thing I have picked up from analysing the data from the race in TrainingPeaks is quite how much time I spent coasting. Whilst average Heart Rate was around 160 for the ride, with most of the race spent in Zone 3, I spent a solid 21 minutes of the race in Power Zone 1 or lower. This included a full 8 minutes at 75w or under, essentially coasting. I did consciously spend more time in the bunch this time and spend less energy chasing breaks, but didn’t quite expect the data to show so much time not doing a lot. That’s definitely useful knowledge for coming races, as I felt pretty fresh at the end of this one. Maybe too fresh…?