Brentor Road Race: Custard Classic

I mentioned at the end of my last race review that I was looking to try out a road race, with them being slightly longer, and in theory, safer than the crazy (but fun) crits I had been doing at Hillingdon and Lee Valley.

With Easter weekend in Devon already in the diary, we had a quick search on the BC site in the off chance there was any racing to get stuck into whilst we were down there. Fortunately enough, there was one on the Sunday. It was a Cat 3/4 road race run by the Tavistock Wheelers and was still accepting entries. Sweet, me and Tomo were IN.

Some pre-race Googling of the course revealed that we were to complete 8.8 loops of a 8.3km circuit comprised of three roads making a triangle. These were described somewhere online as ‘one flat one, one downhill one and one slightly uphill one’. That sounded basically flat. Fine with me.

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Looks harmless enough, right?

The race manual came through via email on Tuesday and contained the best thing I’ve ever seen in such a document. The race was sponsored by Ambrosia, the Devon creamery, and there were Prime prizes on offer in laps 3 & 7 of Ambrosia products. Yep, win an intermediate sprint and you win custard. I bloody love custard.

We turned up on the day in Brentor, which is a spectacular place on the edge of Dartmoor with a famous 900 year old church perched atop a hill looking out over the moor. It was a bit nicer than Hillingdon high street, that’s for sure. Numbers were pinned, and we watched on as per usual at fellow racers with £5k bikes and £2k Zipp 808s warmed up on rollers/turbos.  There was some nice kit on show.

After the chief commissaire’s briefing (which was both funny and insightful) we all (70 riders) lined up behind a car with a chap waving a big red ‘race neutralised’ flag. There were 3 other cars and a few NEG motorbikes. The format of the rolling road closures remained a bit of a mystery to me right up until the start.  The first few hundred metres were neutralised, but once we got round the first corner, all hell broke loose and the racing was under way.

The first part of the race was on the downhill side of the triangle and was bloody quick (3km @ 52kph). I managed to work my way from the rear to front of the peloton down this stretch, and entered the first corner in around 5th wheel. The next section was the uphill drag to the finish line. This was no small bump. It was 1km @ 5%, way more of a climb than I was really expecting. I unwittingly did what the crap climbers do in pro-races, and started the climb at the front and by the top was in the back third of the peloton after being passed by around 40 riders. That would be great if I could do that another 8 times.

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Doing this 9 times at race pace is not easy.

The next couple of laps passed in similar fashion. The rolling road closures were working a dream, with Marshalls on each junction stopping traffic coming towards the race, allowing us both lanes to race in (most of the time), and motorbikes + race cars keeping us safe and under control. I really enjoyed this format.

However, each slog up the climb became a little bit harder than the last, and by lap 4 I had not been able to enter it at the front of the bunch. This meant I was playing catch up on each corner, sprinting harder and faster than the guys at the front to get back into contact, and halfway up the climb the elastic snapped. Along with another 5 guys we were spat out the back. That was the end of that. We worked together for the final 5 laps pretty well, but came in around 6 minutes behind the main peloton. It turned out a fairly large group were actually dropped on the first lap, and several others were shelled out during the race.

No custard for me then.

Post-race we were all given some free Velofresh wipes, which seem pretty handy, and there was a stonking selection of cakes which were consumed whilst lounging around in the sunshine, which was nice. One chap who rides for the Novo-Nordisk development team cleaned up on both of the Ambrosia Primes, he must like custard even more than I do. It was an all-round friendly, well organised and fun event which sat nicely with both the fact it was Easter Sunday and the amazing place we were racing in.

This race is part 1 of a 2 race series, and I think various other races take part on this circuit across the year. It’s the kind of circuit that you could imagine Edvald Boassen-Hagen winning on, but maybe a bit hilly for Kittel and not quite climby enough for Valverde. If you get where I’m coming from. Although the locals would have you believe it’s not climby at all. Which to them it probably isn’t, to be fair.

Some power analysis reveals that I stuck with the bunch up the climb doing 2m @ 410w (5.3 w/kg) for the first couple of laps, but my 370w on the next was not enough to keep up. I put out my max power of nearly 1100w to try and get on, but was to no avail. Doing 150 hilly km 48hrs before probably wasn’t ideal preparation, but I doubt it would have given me more than another lap or maybe two in the bunch before cracking.

It was reassuring to see a load of seasoned local racers at the end say that it was a tough race, and the fact we were climbing significantly faster than the likes of Kwiatkowski and Blythe in the Tour of Britain would suggest we were going at a fair lick.

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Tavistock Wheelers Brentor Road Race: Officially harder than the Tour of Britain.

Below shows data from the first half hour of the race when I was with the bunch, and then the whole 73km including the 90min slog in the ‘Gruppetto’. I was lucky and glad that these guys wanted to share the work and finish the distance, as it would have been all to easy to chuck in the towel once we were out of the race convoy. We did just over 1000m of climbing during the race.

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Tough day out, but once more my collar bones live on to fight another day. Next up is a trip to Yorkshire at the end of the month and then a brief hiatus in my no-more-sportives policy for the Fred Whitton up in the Lake District.

Race file on Strava:

https://www.strava.com/activities/944634249/overview

150km loop that may not have been ideal prep for the race:

https://www.strava.com/activities/941906743

Few more pics from Tavistock Wheelers FB page:

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